So today there has been some breaking news! Wiebo is back (I am not going to blog about that yet). Stevie and Mikey are exchanging blows once again. Only this time it seems like Mikey may be making the most sense. The CBC was reporting today that the Harpie is justifying proroguing parliament again because he needs to reset Parliament in order to deal with the pressing issues of 2010. Apparently the ‘reset’ will help Harper to focus on the economy. Now, please correct me, but haven’t we been focusing on the economy since late 2008? How could all that stimulus money have been approved if Parliament was not focused on the economy? I guess this explains why things have not improved.

Now, to Michael Ignatieff. He seems to have learned his lesson and toned down the rhetoric. He has stated that the Liberals will be back in Ottawa conducting ‘public consultations’ in Ottawa on ‘issues important to Canadians.’ At least they will be in Ottawa. I wonder where the Harpie and the Cons will be? Perhaps in box seats at “Owe-lympics?”* I am sure the federal Liberals are just pissed that they are not in power for the games.

So, to sum up, the Liberals will be in Ottawa trying to conduct fact-finding missions in Ottawa in the dead of winter. I am sure this will be very successful for Mikey. If nothing else it will give his handlers more time to fine-tune his image while no one is looking. It is unclear what Stevie and the Cons will be doing. No doubt they will be drafting a new Throne Speech wherein they will try to focus the Canadian Parliament on the economy. This further shakes my confidence in this government.

The really sad thing about the state of Canadian politics is that it is boring. Not only is it boring, it is also irrelevant. Completely and utterly irrelevant.

*I completely stole this word from the Wandering Coyote. Check out her blog, it is great!

Proroguing Again…?

One has to wonder if proroguing parliament at the end of the year is going to become a new Canadian tradition. After all when you have pesky investigations, which are not going well, looming on the horizon it seems wise just to shut the whole thing down. We certainly wouldn’t want the negative results of an investigation being released during the Olympics, it might sully Canada’s reputation.

It is unclear why Harper would have any concern about our reputation. We have been given the ‘fossil of the year’ award at the Copenhagen climate change summit. We have likely handed over Afghan detainees who were later tortured. The RCMP tasered Robert Dziekanski to death because he held up a stapler and committed the ultimate sin of not speaking English. This really does not bode well for the thousands of tourists who are going to descend on Vancouver in a little over a month.

Working on substantive issues is far more important than being able to strike new committees in the Senate. Apparently, the Conservatives, who are close to a majority in the Senate, think that it is appropriate to prorogue Parliament so the committees can be re-formed. Personally, I think it is far more important that all the work that has been done on various bills, and by committees completing investigations be preserved. Does the government actually think that the Opposition would let the issues go?

Proroguing Parliament again will demonstrate to Canadians that Stephen Harper is afraid of democracy. Harper does not want the findings of the Afghan committee to be released. Proroguing once to stop a confidence motion was one thing, this time there is no overt threat to his minority government. There are no coalitions in the wings threatening to take over.

Even though Ignatieff has said that the Liberals would no longer prop the Conservatives up, they are in no position to bring them down. It would also be foolish for the Liberals to do so at this time as they are in disarray and have no chances of forming the government. It is in their best interests to take time and rebuild and potentially find yet another leader.

I have said it before and I will say it again – we need a leader! There are very serious issues that need to be handled by someone with vision and the leadership skills to pull it all together. We may not always like the decisions a government makes. Many people were against Chretien’s decision to keep us out of Iraq. However this decision not only proved to be correct but prescient. It feels like eons since Chretien resigned. I miss him.

Ignatieff’s Error

Before the summer, Michael Ignatieff threatened to bring down the government over changes it wanted to EI. He went into negotiations with Harper and came out with a promise of a ‘blue-ribbon’ panel to study the issue over the summer. Citing his great concern for ‘ordinary working Canadians’ Michael Ignatieff seemed relish his role as the champion of unemployed Canadians.

Parliament is now back in session and it seems that Ignatieff has done some ruminating over the summer BBQ scene. He has now decided that he and the Liberals can no longer continue to support the Harper Conservatives. Ignatieff is now threatening to bring down the government over proposed changes to EI that would see benefits flow to some workers for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to ensure that ‘ordinary working Canadias’ receive extended benefits he has decided that he would rather bring down the government.

The NDP have looked at the proposed legislation and has decided to support it. This legislation will pass with the support of the NDP and the BQ. It is doubtful that the NDP would be supporting this legislation just to prevent an election. The NDP would not be blamed for bringing down the government – that would fall on the Liberals. So there are really no political consequences for the NDP if there is another election. The NDP cannot really afford another election right now but I doubt that is why they are supporting the proposed legislation. The NDP is supporting the proposed legislation because it is good for unemployed Canadians.

The Official Opposition is very important to our democracy. Without it governments would run amok. However, oppositions have to be careful that they are not opposing things for the sake of opposing them. Carole James and the BC NDP learned this lesson the hard way when they opposed the Carbon Tax in BC. By opposing the tax and making it a central tenet of their campaign they alienated key supporters of the NDP. They bled a lot of votes to the Greens and allowed the BC Liberals to win again.

Ignatieff seems poised to make the same mistake. If he and the Liberals are really concerned about ‘ordinary working Canadians’ and ensuring that EI benefits are flowing to as many as possible, for as long as possible then they will get off their metaphorical high horse and support the legislation. If they are succesful in triggering an election then we may well be saddled with a majority Conservative government.

Federal Election?

So Michael Ignatieff has decided that the Liberals are tired of propping up the Conservative government and is threatening to table a motion of non-confidence at the first opportunity. I am no fan of the Harpie and his merry band of Cons however, Ignatieff’s ‘reasons’ for the motion of non-confidence are spurious at best. There isn’t a big issue, like say a budget, to hang their hats on. Instead they are looking at the entire Harper record and deciding that they should force an election. When the Coalition threatened to bring the government down over the budget I supported that action. There were serious problems with that budget and they deserved to lose control of government. However this time it is different.

If the Liberals force an election it is going to be seen for what it is: a grab for power. I am not sure who is advising Ignatieff but calling an election now would be a really bad idea for the following reasons:

1. There is no galvanizing issue. Saying that the Cons have provided bad government for 4 years is not going to cut it. Those people who would support the Liberals would likely do so and those who support the Conservatives would probably still vote for them. It is the undecided voters who would need to be convinced. It is unlikely that the Liberals could command this group.

2. Generally speaking the party that forces the election is usually punished at the polls.

3. We just had an election. Frequent elections are a de-stabilizing factor on democracies. Given that our economy grew by a slight amount in the last quarter, an election may derail this nascent recovery.

4. I dare say that most voters are not really convinced that Ignatieff can actually lead the Liberal party. Personally, I find him ‘smarmy’, a bit like a used car sales person (no offence to used car sales people). I think he is a rush to fulfil his own ‘manifest destiny’ and Canada will not benefit from this. He should take a lesson from Paul Martin’s playbook – wanting to be prime minister just to be prime minister is not a really good way to lead a country.

I sincerely hope that Ignatieff changes his mind. I believe that if he forces an election now the Liberals would likely lose seats and then he will bring us one step closer to a Cons majority – a truly scary, scary option.

Thankfully it is summer!

No, I have not become a fan of summer. Actually, truth be told, I detest by summer. But summer has some advantages. Right now, the biggest advantage is that parliament is no longer in session, which means we are not going to be forced to put up with the machinations of the idiot talking heads who have been elected to run this country or not as they see fit. The big election threat last week over changes to EI was absolutely ridiculous. It is all scaremongering and brinksmanship politics which does nothing to provide stability to the country in the midst of a recession. What exactly did Michael Ignatieff get? He got a ‘panel of six experts to look into it.’ I am sure he could have held his breath and at least had Stephen Harper agree to a Royal Commission. It would have given them something to do over the summer and employed a lot of bureaucrats.

In all seriousness we need some leadership here. We are being subjected to brokerage politics in the extreme. No one has any ideology. They seem to disagree for the sake of it and have nothing new to offer. Where are the bold plans? The new ideas?

Budget Rant!

I have tried to avoid listening to much budget coverage today as, frankly, I cannot stand the Conservatives trying to save their government by putting us more deeply into debt. As I mentioned in my other budget related post I support stimulating the economy through increased transfers of money to individuals. The last time I checked the Conservatives ideology was one steeped in rugged individualism and the free market economy. How can they justify bail outs to large companies in the private sector? Here are only a few of the budget’s problems:

1. EI – the Conservatives have increased the number of weeks someone can collect EI by five. Yes, folks, that is right, five more weeks of EI – if you qualify. If you don’t oh well. The rules remain the same meaning a great number of the unemployed do not qualify for EI. What could have been done you ask? Well, for starters, they could have made EI more accessible. They could have raised the rate of benefits. Currently, you earn a maximum of 55% of your income. However, the highest rate one can get on EI is about $800 every 2 weeks. It is not a lot of money. By raising the rates of EI more money flows to people who spend it. People who are not working or who are living on paltry sums do not spend money.

2. Increase the Child Tax Benefit – by doing this the Conservatives would have put more money into people’s hands who would then spend that money. Families need to survive and they can only last a short time before they must make necessary purchases. By ensuring that families with children have money to spend they will do so and stimulate the economy. This was one of the major tenets of the Family Bonus when it was started in the 1940s. The Family Bonus was issued to mothers as they were seen as the ones making the purchasing decisions for the family.

3. The Conservative’s infrastructure programs are a huge joke. By making the provinces and municipalities match funds before any federal dollars flow ensures not much is going to happen. Provinces and cities don’t have money for projects or they would already be doing them. This measure will force other levels of government to also borrow heavily. Plus there is a built-in escape clause for the Conservatives: If the package doesn’t work it is because no one matched their funds. They can say they tried and then offload the blame onto other people. I can almost hear Stephen cackling here in frozen Maple Ridge.

The bottom line is this government is trying to save itself. They think we are all stupid and don’t see their tricks. I am beyond disgusted. I only hope that Michael Ignatieff does not buy into this charade. This plan is not a ‘quick’ way out of the recession. The Conservatives have no interest in helping average Canadians, they are far more concerned about their corporate friends and their shareholders. We need a different plan from a different leader. Bring on the Coalition.

Don’t blink…

Well it seems that blinking or turning your eye from the news for a few hours means that you will be woefully behind with regard to the latest shenanigans in Ottawa. I was fairly sure the Coalition would not last with Dion at the helm but I certainly did not predict the speed with which he has been dispatched to the political wilderness. Stephen Harper succeeded in making sure that Dion will go down as one of the worst leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada, ever. I think he deserved more. Yes, Dion had many faults. Mostly though his problem was that he was too smart for those around him and he chose not to conduct himself accordingly. When your entire party does not understand one of the main planks of your election platform you have a problem.  The fact that kept on pushing through, with the same strategy, shows his hubris. This should not have come as a big surprise to Liberals – after all who could say that they *understood* the Clarity Act.

Now, that brings us to Michael Ignatieff. I am not sure he is the best choice as leader of the Liberal Party of the Canada. Like Dion, he is an academic which could pose the same kind of problems. My sense of Ignatieff is that he knows he is right and he is going to make damn sure that everyone else knows it too. I have not seen any leadership coming from him at all since he first burst on to the federal political scene. He does not inspire confidence for me. He is the slightly better choice but only marginally.

On to Bob Rae. I have always liked Bob Rae. I lived in Ontario when he was premier and he was hammered from all sides. It is really hard to be an NDP premier during a recession when you need unions to give you some concessions. Unfortunately for Bob, ‘Rae’ days will haunt him forever. He would never be able to win enough seats in Ontario to form a government. The Liberals would be foolish to elect him as their leader.

So, who would be good? Well, the Liberal Party of Canada is at a crossroads. They need to morph into a party that speaks to people. To do this they need a charismatic leader. Hell, even a leader would do. The reason they have been so unsuccessful since Chretien left is because they have not yet had a true leader.

Brian Tobin is a leader – I am not sure why he has not run. He would be great. The man made fish exciting during the Turbot wars with Spain. I am positive he could turn around the Liberal’s fortunes. He must have a really good gig going on in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Deb is convinced that Frank McKenna could do something but he has also not put his hat into the ring. Again, not really clear why.

Clearly, what the Liberals need is the next generation. The current generation is old and tired and ready to retire. Pierre Trudeau burst on to the national scene and snatched the Leadership away from Paul Martin Sr. (which is why Junior needed to be PM so bad). I think what we need is Justin. Yes, he is young and has just been elected. Nothing was handed to him in the last election. He electrified Canadians with his eulogy for his father and he showed that he has every bit as much charisma as Pierre. Justin may be inexperienced in Parliament but he grew up in a political household. He has received a political education unlike any other. Perhaps he will be our Barack Obama.

Is something in the wings?

Ok, I am seriously wondering what the Liberal Party of Canada is going to do in reaction to the election results. I think it is seriously telling that Stephane Dion had a press conference scheduled for today and he cancelled it. The Liberal Party are mercenaries when it comes to having power and they are currently sitting in the political wilderness with a leader who can’t connect to people and no chances of resurrection and no heirs apparent in the wings. Justin Trudeau is too young and too untested to get the leadership and do it justice. This does not sit will for the ‘natural governing party’ of Canada.

My point, because I do have one, is I think they are going to do some bold. I am hoping they are engaged in talks to bring back Jean Chretien as an interim leader until the party can be rebuilt and a new leader can be crowned. This scenario is not outside the realm of possibility. Pierre Trudeau retired and came back. Jean Chretien is very similar to him in terms of leadership style – after all he served with him for many years. As far as I know, Chretien has no pressing reason not to do this for his party. I would love to see Jean Chretien mop up the floor with little Stevie Harper and his sweater vests.