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.





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.





CETA and Toronto “Reasonableness”

18 03 2012

Free trade agreements between countries are made with the intention of boosting trade by broadening markets which then, ostensibly, increase output and employment. Such a scenario would be a net economic benefit to trade partners, despite the fact that there might be initial growing pains and job losses which are a natural result of a shift toward economic specialization, a by-product of trade agreements.  On the other side of the debate, anti-free trade proponents argue the net economic result is one in which factories and jobs are exported to countries with lower minimum wages and production costs. The reality is much less stark  than either of these two views suggest.

The Council of the City of Toronto has asked for a permanent exemption from the Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA) that the federal government is currently negotiating because it felt that too much autonomy over its economic and environmental decisions would be sacrificed. Since trade agreements are legally binding on signatories, municipal governments do not have jurisdiction for agreeing to or even complying with such treaties.  Municipalities operating outside any such agreement would be in violation of the treaty and probably result in countervailing trade sanctions or penalties.

The Canadian government has not included municipalities in the negotiations assuming them to be represented by provincial Premiers (whose agreement to the treaty is mandatory). Toronto clearly feels this not to be the case.  With the backdrop of a massive manufacturing decline when NAFTA was enacted, it has been argued the net economic outcome would leave Toronto in the red – a result of manufacturing job loss. The agreement would end the ‘Buy Canadian’ policy for public purchases – a policy which has bolstered local businesses – since it would require municipal governments to consider bids from European companies when contracting with the private sector.

Unions and environmental groups have joined their voices to the anti-CETA coalition arguing that the deal could lead to the privatization of Canadian waterways, increased drug costs and foreign limitations on environmental policies. Officials of the European Union have admitted that Europe will be able to export more than Canada.

It is clearly reasonable that Toronto has serious and legitimate reservations about CETA, particularly since it has not been involved in the negotiations and since elements of the agreement will have a negative impact not only on its autonomy but also its economy.  Toronto is the manufacturing heart of Canada. With a resultant balance of trade favouring Europeans on this playing field the fortunes of Toronto will take a hit. But is it reasonable for Toronto to ask for a permanent exemption from CETA?  While the answer to this may well be in the affirmative it must be admitted that it is also not realistic. Neither the government of Canada nor the EU will agree to a deal that excludes Canada’s manufacturing centre. Since CETA will be binding on the city, the request for a permanent exclusion must be viewed as an effort to have some influence on the negotiations, to have its voice heard. From this perspective CAW President, Ken Lewenza, is correct in describing the Toronto Council move as “reasonable”.





Can We Engage the Private Sector in Joining Governments in Funding Programs for Energy and Infrastructure Programs?

30 10 2011

The Canadian approach to funding energy and infrastructure projects should include, in future, investment funds jointly funded and managed in cooperation with the private sector.

To date, in part because many provinces in Canada generally power their electricity grids by means of government owned power utilities, the burden for raising equity for investment in the electrical power generating sector has fallen in large measure on the tax revenues accrued by provincial governments, and by the rate-payers. Strategies for electrical energy sector investment have also been developed in large measure by provincial government energy ministries which then must vie with competing budgets in other ministries, and market forces. Capital outlays for needed new electrical power developments can easily result in severe effects on government fiscal policy where those outlays are paid for by public debt instruments and tax revenues.

Some provincial governments have made the electrical energy sector more open to development by private investors, most notably in Ontario. However, huge capital investment is still needed in the province to meet forecast demand loads, which will place great pressure on the governments’ ability to manage and meet all the demands on its fiscal policy. Similar considerations apply to most other provinces in their energy sector strategies.

Ontario has also led the way in providing an overall government agency to promote and advise on investment strategies for electrical power generation, including investment in clean energy producers. This agency, the Ontario Power Authority, advises and directs the government and business leaders in matters of developing and allocating investment programs.

While this policy approach has resulted in meaningful improvements to the development of diverse and clean electrical energy supplies, huge capital outlays are still required for sustaining and building base-load power generation. It may be possible to address these funding issues by engaging private investors in a government sponsored investment fund to build capital reserves for new electrical developments, including base-load power generators.

Such a fund, structured along the lines of a mutual fund, would provide a source of capital for power generator providers where the private and public investors would be compensated by dividends arising from the revenues accruing from the new electrical power generation. It would have the advantage of funding provincial and private investments in the sector by providing a source of equity otherwise not available. It would also address impacts on the debt load on the provinces that otherwise would accrue from current approaches to funding new power plants.

Certain tax credit mechanisms may be included for private investors to apply against other capital gains and taxable revenue streams. Equity raised by the funds would be done on a “just in time basis,” and electrical power developers would be required to make interest payments on capital obtained from the fund, in advance of dividends arising from revenues that may later be realized by power generation from new power plants. In this manner, investors would be compensated in a reasonable and timely manner for capital investments in power plant construction that would take many years to complete. Companies, including government owned companies, that borrow capital from the funds would be held to strict financial guidelines to ensure that the companies are on a sound investment grade structure. Any investment capital provided by the funds would be done as a secured debt meeting applicable provincial legislation, or through other ad hoc means of reciprocal equity financing by providing direct and proportional ownership of the new plants by fund investors.

In a time of fiscal stress now impacting provincial and federal governments, new financial strategies will be necessary to address demands and impact on government’s fiscal policy. This would be true, as well, for infrastructure projects generally.

Joint government and private sector investment strategies for infrastructure investment may be just what the doctor ordered in these times of fiscal stress.





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.