Bob Rae, PWOPA’s & Other Words I Invented

9 06 2012

The intertoobz have been awhirl with proclamations and castigations since it was discovered that the Liberal Party may change their rules and let Bob Rae run for leadership. This revelation was, coincidentally, on the same day that we became aware that Tory wonk Dean Del Mastro was being investigated by Elections Canada. So aligned were the gods of political opportunity for HarperCons on this fateful day that the Minister of Education may as well have announced that Bob Rae’s name would forthwith be spelled D.I.V.E.R.S.I.O.N.

Nonetheless we’ve all been there, done that and, dare I say, even got the t-shirt (which was promptly stripped off our backs). Nothing about these HarperCon tactics is new or even surprising. Harper drew a line in the sandbox a long time ago and he’s been hurling Tonka toys at anyone who disturbs it with such ho-hum regularity that I find myself stifling a yawn even describing it.

If you would indulge my whim, I’d rather talk about something that WAS surprising. It lies not within the folds of Liberal party mechanics which may reverse course on the Bob Rae ticket because this is, after all, politics. “It’s politics, duh!” – the new and improved iteration of “It’s the economy stupid!”. The surprise, for me at least, is in the vehemence with which non-Liberals are decrying the potential Rae run. Akin to someone yelling fire in a crowded theatre, I almost believed, but only for a fleeting moment, that the end of the world was going to chase me down the street, into Harper’s sandbox and hold me down until I cried uncle – though I’ve never understood why calling the word uncle was ever able to satisfy a bully’s need for dominance, but that’s just me. (Oh and I’d like to apologize to the old man I knocked down when I raced in abject terror from the theatre. Sorry dude. My bad.)

These “People With Other Party Affiliations”, or PWOPA’s™ as I affectionately call them, have dusted off and trotted out talking points that until now had been neatly stashed away in their petticoats. Someone please pass them the smelling salts quick before they faint again at the outrage of it all! Bob Rae running for Liberal leader! Harrumph!

These aforementioned petticoats remained perfectly unruffled when Bob Rae was doing a powerful job in opposition during the time of up-for-grabs leadership in the NDP. But like a wild-west gunman’s fingers twitching just above the holster, so did their talking points fidget to be freed.

Talking points: 1)“Bob Rae lied” … 2)“He used his position as interim Liberal leader to advance his agenda of becoming permanent leader” … 3)“He wasn’t able to change the needle on Liberal Party popularity during his tenure as interim leader”. In reality these are all non-issues. To adherents of talking point number one I say he did not lie, he said he would adhere to party regulations which he is doing. On the second point I counter that he was a strong voice on behalf of Canadians and progressivism – would they have found it more acceptable if he’d been a shrinking violet in an especially divisive House of Commons, I wonder? But more than that why does that mean he shouldn’t run for the top job? I don’t care if he used his position as a springboard for a leadership run (it would have been foolish to have done otherwise), I just want to choose the best possible leader. On the third talking point put forth by PWOPA’s™ I would argue that polls are not the political overlord that we are led to believe. In fact, don’t even get me started on polls or I may have to get out my sombrero and do the Hat Dance on a Nanos poll and, believe me, that would not be a pretty sight. Suffice it to say that three years are an eternity within the Canadian political aperture.

But here’s the nutshell: So what? So what if he didn’t move the poll numbers, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have the right to have him included in the pool of candidates. So what if he had a higher profile due to his position as interim leader – in fact, more reason to have him in the pool. There’s no smoke without fire… unless you include dry ice, which I won’t since it would render my adage meaningless.

None of these detractors has shown even a spark of appreciation for the work Rae did in standing up not just for Liberal values but – hold your breath while I tiptoe onto a limb here for a moment – progressive Canadian values. So, fine we have party politics as usual – you demean my leader and I’ll demean yours and we’ll all feel good about ourselves after. What bothers me, intensely, about this twaddle is the implied limitation non-Liberals feel they need to impose on my choices for Liberal leader. The Harper arrgle-bargle and fog of politics is spreading to the progressives of this country and making them behave in a HarperCon kind of way (read cynical). It has permeated our mentality so much so that some are now able to pronounce on outcomes before the empirical data is in. In fact before these outcomes have even ‘outcomed’, so to speak! (Science! Huh-yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again!)

Let me give you an example: it has been suggested by these modern day prophesiers and PWOPA’s™ that the new mechanics by which the Liberals propose to choose their next leader have failed. Wait! What? It hasn’t even happened yet, has it? Has Stephen Hawking been throwing tachyons of providence into our political mix? Let’s calm the hyper-partisan spin down and stick to the facts, when we get them in the future after the Liberal leadership experiment has been tried and tested.

My puzzlement about the wrath of non-Liberals over a potential run by Rae centres on why they are so passionate about the Liberal choice for leader. Why are they, seemingly, intent on limiting our choices? Most of us prefer to squeeze the fruit and pick the most delectable before throwing our money in the till and so it should be with those who we choose to represent us in government. I say give me options, give me all the options, tell me your plans and values and let it percolate and only then will I throw my money in the till. Only when I have squeezed your fruit, so to speak. But don’t expect me to believe that an apple is rotten when I haven’t squeezed it for myself. I don’t know who my vote will go to in the Leadership convention for the simple reason that no one has even officially thrown their hat in the ring and no platforms have yet been heard. The assumption that Liberals will vote based on celebrity as opposed to policy is a miscalculation and is immediately revelatory of a shallow understanding of core Liberal values.

I don’t know if Bob Rae is the best choice for the Liberal party going forward. I don’t care about poll numbers, particularly since an election is three years away. I don’t care about age or celebrity because in the end excellence is the great unifier. I do care about core values and policy. I do care about preventing the slow and painful erosion of my country due to the ideologically driven HarperCon agenda. And I do know that Bob Rae has done a great job for all progressives as interim leader and for that I am grateful. Bring on the leadership race and allow us to choose from a pool of strong, varied and interesting candidates, a pool which would be all the poorer were Bob Rae to be excluded.

P.S. Guys I was only kidding about the ™ symbol on PWOPA – I just thought it would make it look all academic and thoughtful.

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The Liberals Are The Best Managers Of Our Economy

7 05 2012

The Liberal Party is the only party that knows that a strong economy requires both a strong business sector and a strong workforce. Only the Liberal Party knows how, and has the experience, to put forward policy that ensures the health of both sectors.

The kind of policy that drives our economic health recognizes that fiscal and monetary approaches must ensure that people are educated with the necessary skills, that people are healthy, that there are necessary safety nets available should they lose their jobs, and that their children are provided the same opportunities afforded to their parents. At the same time, fiscal and monetary policy must be managed and balanced to support business confidence and growth.

The Liberal Party ensures that policies on the environment, trade, infrastructure growth, and health and safety, are implemented in a manner that is also supportive of economic growth. The Liberal Party makes sure that focus on short term profits do not impede the long-term basis for economic health, while also ensuring that conditions for the business sector promote sustained growth through sound fiscal management.

The Liberal Party is the only party that can manage economic policy to ensure that a healthy business sector is developed and encouraged by ensuring a fair and optimal balance of taxation and government spending to provide a healthy workforce that enjoys clean air and water, and by ensuring the infrastructure necessary for sustained economic growth is in place. Appropriate arrays of regulatory approaches are tailored to provide optimal conditions for sustained business growth, and for a healthy, strong, and well compensated workforce.

Over time, in this country, and in Western civilization generally, history has shown that only with this type of balanced policy approach, centering equally on both sectors of the economy, have our economies performed optimally over a sustained period, generating wealth that is shared justly. Experiments with neo-conservative or socialist policies have consistently proved detrimental to our economic health each and every time they are implemented.

Policies that promote both a strong business sector and a strong labor force working together are the essential wealth creation engines. Economic history has proven this time and time again. By these means, only the Liberal Party has the value system, knowledge base, and skill to manage our economies to the optimal benefit of every Canadian.





‘Twas The Night Before Question Period

27 04 2012

‘Twas the night before QP when all through the House
Not an MP was stirring. Not even Head Lout!
The underlings were hung by their ankles with care,
In hopes the Greyhound soon would be there.

The Tories were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of strong mandates danced in their heads,
And Steve-O in his sweater vest with Rob Anders on his lap
Had just settled their brains for a long QP nap,

When out on the Hill there arose such a noise
Bev Oda spilled OJ all over the ^Savoy.
Away to the heliport McKay flew like a flash,
And off he was gone to a lobbyist’s bash

The cellphone in the hands of the now-fallen Sona
Gave rise to some bluster from Baird and pal Rona,
When, what to their wandering eyes should appear,
But a tweeter called Carroll, disrupting their cheer.

Over coals did they drag this lone tweeting Grit,
And in front of committee they forced him to sit.
But this bold Vikileaker was so lively and quick
They knew in a moment they were knee-deep in it.

With jowls all atremble Del Mastro did shout,
He jumped and he hollered and then did he pout,
When more rapid than eagles Carroll’s answers they came,
As he chuckled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dean! Now John! Now Peter and Tony!
Your smears are entirely made of baloney
Just hold up a mirror to see what I say
For B.S. on your side has always held sway”

And then in a twinkling they heard from below,
The prancing and pawing of a media show.
As they stared at each other, dumbfounded all round,
Down the chimney a new scandal came with a bound.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with the Opposition, mount to the sky,
Up to the House-top the F-35’s they flew,
With a fistful of hidden costs and an extra zero or two.

And then, in an instant, they heard on the roof,
The banging and clanging of a political spoof.
As they stared at the pilot, making the motor go round,
The F-35 got stuck on the ground.

He was grumpy this pilot, a right sulky old guy,
And we shuddered when he turned on us his evil blue eye!
A hiss from his tongue and a twist of his head,
Soon gave us to know we had much to dread.

He spoke many words, that made little sense,
“Fight me on this, and I’ll abolish your dear Cent”.
And holding his middle finger up in front of his nose,
And giving a nod, to the clown car he goes!

He slunk to this car, to his team gave a shout,
And away they all clugged, like an old man with gout.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“You guys are all Nazis!…Hmmm, think I’ll prorogue tonight!”

HUZZAH!!!!





Three Reasons Affirming Quebec Assent to the Canada Act

24 04 2012

Thirty years later, we still hear from some parties the myth that Québec did not ratify the Constitution known as the Canada Act, 1982, and then use the myth to political advantage.  The record needs to be set straight once and for all.

First, during the publicly televised constitution debates before the nation, all of the Canadian Premiers and the Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, signed the agreement, including René Lévesque when he used an asterisk as his “mark” on the agreement.  A “mark” such as the René Lévesque asterisk on the Constitution would, in any court of law in the land, serve as legal tender as an instrument of ratification of the agreement.  The fact that the Québec premier chose to use a mark instead of his signature is immaterial in legal terms.  A mark is recognized as such in our laws, including the laws on the books at the time.  In a challenge before the courts in this matter, the challenge would likely fail, and the courts would recognize that Québec did sign the constitution.

The fact that a few months later, René Lévesque tried to say that he didn’t sign the constitution when he put his mark on it, is no different than someone signing a contract or any other legal writ in such a manner, and then trying to extricate himself from the contract or writ by saying his mark on the contract was not a form of legal assent.  In law, the witnessed mark would serve as legal assent and signature to the contract or writ.

Secondly, the courts of the land, including the Supreme Court of Canada and Québec courts which constitute the judicial branch of our government, have accepted the Canada Act, 1982, as the supreme law of the land as duly adopted and promulgated.  We stress that the Québec courts, the judicial branch of the Québec government, fully recognize the legal validity of the Canada Act, 1982, and by doing so, has given their assent to the Act.

Thirdly, as the framers of the Constitution have repeatedly insisted, the large representation of federal parliamentarians and senators from Québec at the time voted to affirm to Canada Act, 1982.

It’s time to stop playing political football with the myth that Québec did not sign the Constitution.  René Lévesque himself ratified the agreement with his mark.





Seriously Canada, This Is Who We Are?

16 04 2011

A quiet panic clawing my throat, barely held at bay by the frequent and deliberate redirection of my attention, grew to a fevered pitch this morning with the rash of mainstream media headlines proclaiming Harper storming to a majority. I guzzled some Bromo Seltzer, tuned into Judge Judy for half an hour and my world began to morph back into the craggy, slightly psychotic but comfortably familiar mien I have come to know. There are some stragglers still stuck in my craw though. I keep coming back to one pulsating question: Seriously Canada, this is who we are?

This man, Stephen Harper, is who we select time and time again to represent our values, aspirations and ideals? Are we no more than a mean-spirited, fear-guzzling, self-centered, xenophobic, reactionary, nation of apathetic tv watchers stuffed to the gills with sound bites and outright lies, whose favourite past time is the stalking and capture of the almighty dollar? Have we become such middle class gourmands that we can afford to carry the cellulite Harper world view around our midriffs in all its spare tire glory? Be damned the clogging of our arteries!

Yes, the economy is important but for very different reasons than the corporatists, who now hold sway, would have us believe. Their concern for the middle and lower class is fickle, superficial and ephemeral; were their need for labourers to disappear tomorrow, all but the very elite would find themselves soon kicked to the curb. A strong economy is important because it allows us to surpass the hard-scrabble battle of survival and to give of ourselves, to our families, our neighbours and strangers. This is why we join in the struggle to better the economy.

The Harper mantra for this election is “economy”.  I can almost see him reclined in the lotus position, his tantra opens in his mind’s eye and he starts his chant, “E…connn… aummm…y…E…connn…aummm…y“. Well, you get the idea. Oh, a quick aside to any real right wing readers, just because I mentioned the lotus flower does not a Maoist of me make. In any case, it’s almost as if Harper’s relentless chanting of this basic mantra has swept the nation into a transcendental, robotic state of acquiescence. We all nod in rhythmic, automaton agreement, “Yes master, the economy is supreme”. But we should stop and consider why the economy is important to us on an individual and national level. It is not an end in and of itself, rather, it is a means to an end. A strong economy lets us fulfill our better instincts; to feed and educate our children, to ensure that every citizen has equal access to healthcare and education, to offer refuge to, both, citizens and foreigners in distress, to improve the world we leave to future generations,  to promote universal human rights, to facilitate and maintain peace amongst individuals and nations and to ensure that justice is applied in an even handed, non-discriminatory fashion. These are only a few of the jewels in the crown of a thriving economy but each one has far greater value and longevity than any accumulation of wealth could ever aspire to.

Despite this, the Harper Tories, given their druthers, would pry out the gems, melt down the gold and divide it all amongst corporations and the wealthiest few, while attempting to convince the rest of us, who have been left to wrestle over the slag, that this is all doable due to some previously untapped alchemical process. Jets, prisons, corporate tax cuts – no worries! We can haz it all! Just eat your slag and shut up. Huzzah!

Harper’s Tories want us to believe that we are on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, hunted by the Balrog and that they alone can fend off the monster. “Fly, you fools”, Harper shouts as he wrestles the great, unearthly economic undoing into the abyss.  I fervently believe that we are better than that. We still have it in us to be the nation we were building towards when we abolished the death penalty, introduced universal health care, led the way in peacekeeping and threw our doors open to refugees and immigrants. We have it in us to be that nation because that is the country we inherited from our forefathers whose footprints, albeit somewhat faint these days, are, nonetheless, indelible .  It is the spirit of Canada and though it may be dormant now, the time for hibernation always comes to an end.  When that slumbering beast awakes, rubs the sleep from its eyes and gathers its wits, it will find it has an insatiable hunger for the progressive, fair and kind Canada that once filled its belly. If only the progressive centre-left would take its hand off the self-destruct button, that beast might have a chance of finding much needed sustenance.

Looking at you Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May.





Does Polarization of Political Discourse Hamper Good Public Policy?

2 03 2011

To what extent does the polarization of political parties and of the political culture of Canada hamper the ability of government to frame and develop public policy to best serve the needs of the entire community?

The general political culture of North American democracies has usually revolved around two polar opposites on most major policy issues.  These polar opposites are usually described as left-wing versus right-wing policies.  This polarization is not limited only to socioeconomic matters, but also such issues involving church versus state, sexual mores, business and labor, environmental matters versus economic growth, national security, etc.  The reality faced by policy makers and government officials, however, is that determination of policy conforming to an ideological slant often may not be practical or in the best interests of the community, although policy statements catering to core areas of support may win elections.  In fact, policy decisions crafted to cater to the interests of one polar segment of the political culture may result in destabilizing political conflicts within the whole community.

It is a general facet of all democracies that divisions in beliefs and values arise, sometimes permanently, in the nation’s political culture that result in severe political conflicts between political élites.  Public policy arising from this dynamic is framed to serve the specific interests of a sector of the political culture represented by the political élites currently holding power, and may often be detrimental to non-represented groups if not to the community as a whole.  The result is a political discourse that often engages the public through angry attack advertisements, “sound bite” sloganeering, and rigidity in government positions that may produce non-optimal policy decisions.  Lost in the rhetoric is the fact that these policy measures may favor a few special interest groups rather than the public at large.

The conceptualization of right-wing versus left-wing approaches to policy making should likely be rejected, treated instead, as an anachronism of early forms of liberal democracy. In its place a more effective approach for good government and public policy would be to frame issues of concern in such a way as to identify the societal issues at play and apply a problem solving technique.  This would include extensive consultation with constituents including greater reliance on government and academic research studies, enhanced consultative processes between government and its constituents, impact assessments, determination of regulatory burden, and benefit-cost assessments, to ensure an optimal policy framework for the affected community as a whole.  It could be stated that such an approach to policy making is mandated by the Canada Act respecting legal powers and mandate for “peace, order, and good government.”

The focus of political discourse on public policy should be shifted to promote problem solving and issue resolution strategies for effective policy approaches.  Issue resolution should rely less on the atmospherics of political rhetoric, personal attacks, and “sound bites” that misrepresent or distort public perception of the issues.





A Plea to the Canadian Centre-Left

15 10 2009

Dear Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May,

Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the country and form a strong opposition party.  Canada cannot afford to have Mr. Harper form a majority government. The world cannot afford  a majority Harper government. Tories are desecrating our international good will and reputation as a leader in the fight for human rights and the eradication of poverty. They are attempting to sweep climate change science under the rug while lauding ownership of the Arctic. We have abandoned Africa, we have abandoned peacekeeping and we have abandoned a fair and balanced approach to Middle East politics most especially with respect to Israel and the Palestinians.

On a domestic level we are experiencing the most secretive approach to governing ever in the history of Canada.  The Harper approach is at once hypocritical and opportunistic. I will not begin to list the issues here which raise my hackles, suffice it to say their domestic agenda has never wavered from their Reformist roots and this, most certainly, is not representative of the majority of Canadians.

The Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives were able to overcome differences in their effort to unify and it has paid off for them. At this point in history there are four parties in Canada who are centre and left of it while there is only one party that sits firmly to the right of centre. The writing is on the wall. Unless the centre-left parties unite the Tories will continue to dominate the political scene while in actuality representing a minority. Therefore, I am pleading with you, nay begging you, please look to the future, please consider uniting under one party banner in order to give the majority of Canadians the voice they deserve in parliament. Only you can stop the fractured left from living in the fringe. Even you, Mr. Duceppe, would serve your province more beneficially by combining with parties whose platforms and ideologies are more akin to your own than to remain in a relatively minor role with a party in power whose very essence contradicts so much of what you stand for.

It is with great expectations that I anticipate your thoughtful consideration of this proposal and I look forward to recapturing the country that used to make me proud under a unified centre-left government.

Michelle Matthews