Michael Ignatieff – Perhaps a Leader?

Depending on when you read this Michael Ignatieff may be the interim leader or not. I have not had a lot of faith in Ignatieff. His story does not have command respect in the Canadian pantheon – after all he is a well-educated Canadian who left for the US for most of his adult life. Now, as he is approaching retirement (perhaps needing our health benefits??) he has come home and seems to want to tell us all what is good for us. He is an academic and has come off as out of touch with Canadians when he first burst on the national scene.

Fast forward a couple of years. As we are mired in another Conservative minority government, Ignatieff is poised to take over the Liberal Party of Canada – at least in an interim way. The current political crisis demands action and when Harper shut the door on the Coalition by having Jean prorogue parliament the Liberals needed another escape hatch. So, Dion is being forced to leave earlier, Dominic Leblanc and Bob Rae are dropping out, clearing the way for Ignatieff. I am not sure having the caucus vote to elect an interim leader is the most democratic but it seems like the circumstances demand it.

I listened to the Sunday Edition podcast with Michael Enright from the CBC. If you have not heard it I strongly recommend it. Michael was interviewing Ignatieff and I have to admit that I was impressed. While Stephen Harper may have understood Machiavelli only to the point of the ‘ends justifies the means.’ Ignatieff has a much more nuanced approach. When talking about the Coalition, Ignatieff described it as a ‘means’ and as an ‘end.’ This is a very interesting approach. As a ‘means’ he indicates that the Coalition has served a purpose. It has forced the government to reconsider its position on several key points. The Coalition may also be an ‘end’ in that it may end up forming a government.

Ignatieff also seems to be bringing some leadership to this point as well. He is saying (don’t forget this was on Sunday before he knew he would be leader by Wednesday) that it would be irresponsible to bring down the government without actually looking at the budget first. Wow, what a breath of fresh air. I am all for the Progressive Coalition but only if it is reasonable and all other avenues have been followed and exhausted.

Ignatieff made anther great point around rhetoric. Particularly, he was quite hard on Stephen Harper’s (and rightly so) casting duly elected members of Parliament as ‘traitors’ and ‘separatists’ because the Coalition was going forward with the help of the Bloc. I fully understand the purpose of the Bloc and so do the Quebecers who elect them. But the Bloc is about more than just protecting Quebec’s political and nationalist interests in Ottawa. They are also a left of centre party who hold seats in the House of Commons. They are every bit as ‘elected’ as everyone else. To cast aspersions on them and other politicians who work with them is inappropriate.

At this point I am cautiously optimistic about Ignatieff’s leadership. I don’t think it can be worse than the non-leadership of Paul Martin or the muddy style of Stephane Dion. I was also impressed that Ignatieff was pledging his support to Dion as late as Sunday even when other members of his caucus were sharpening their knives. In the party that had the big leadership battle between Chretien and Martin this was a bold stance. It would seem that Mr. Ignatieff has integrity – which will serve him well.

Oh, and he is a brave, brave man: he called Michael Enright ‘Mike’ more than once!

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.

Little Stevie…

If Stephen Harper received a report card for his recent behaviour I am sure it would read: “Little Stephen does not work or play well with others.” Harper is a bully plain and simple. He talks the talk about working with others but he is completely without skill or desire in this realm.  What does he do when no one else agrees with him? He closes the sandbox. What kid should have that power? There is a reason we have a system of government complete with rules and conventions – it is so that politicians need to work together or they will be defeated. I think little Stevie needs to put down the Machiavelli and pick up the Ghandi.

Now, on to the rhetoric. I am so sick and tired of the Conservatives misinformation campaign. If I were a Quebecer I would be downright angry that he used the word ‘separatists’ when he spoke in English and called them ‘Sovereignists’ en francais. It is disingenuous. Does he think that no one in Quebec can speak, understand or read English? I am also sick to death of hearing that the Coalition is trying to steal power. They have conducted themselves correctly within a parliamentary democracy. All the scare mongering the Cons can muster is not enough to overrun the rules of Parliament.

I am worried for the Coalition. Some Liberals are sharpening the knives and they are all aimed at Dion. If the Coalition cannot stay together and agree on a leader then we are all in trouble. A bully running amok without someone to push back is a recipe for disaster. The Liberals need to unite behind Dion as he has government experience and will be very effective in government. Really, governing is what Dion does best. He is only the leader until the Leadership Convention in May and he is the Liberals only real opportunity to govern in the near future.

I am not sure how Harper convinced Jean to prorogue parliament. I will refrain from GG bashing as it is inappropriate. However, I believe this decision is bad for Canada and bad for democracy. It creates a dangerous precedent where a sitting prime minister can duck his/her responsibility to maintain the confidence of the House. Canada needed the confidence vote – after all Harper used to love to make everything a confidence vote to force the Liberals to abstain. Then his other tactic was to poke fun at Dion for abstaining.

Harper has made a serious political error. Dion has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He either goes down in history as the worst leader the Liberals have ever had (although I think that dubious distinction belongs to Martin) or as the bold, innovative leader who was able to build bridges with the NDP and the Bloc. In short, Dion is everything that Harper is not.

What Canada really needed the GG to do was to put Harper in a time out – perhaps with a dunce cap.

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.

Federal Election 2008: Thank you Quebec

Thank you Quebec. We have you to thank for preventing a Conservative majority government. Thank you for saving us from 4 (or perhaps more depending on whether Stevie decides to follow his own law) years of an arrogant, right-wing dickwad running roughshod over our rights. Stephen Harper has proven that he has the ability to control his candidates – no one really said anything too nutty. This time the gaffes were left to his Highness and his staff.

So, what did we learn? Well, we confirmed that Stephen Harper really is a control freak. How else do you keep the rabid right-wing nutbars from saying something stupid other than keeping them under your thumb? The CBC was reporting earlier that many of the Cons candidates were very hard to talk to at anytime. They singled out Dona Cadman as one of the most elusive candidates. Clearly the Conservative candidates were kept on tight leashes and party ‘stalwarts’ were trotted out to spew the doctrine according to Stephen. Lucky for us he made some key mistakes in Quebec particularly around funding for the arts.

What did we learn about Stephane Dion? Sadly, nothing. He can’t lead. He is a policy wonk who cannot speak perfect English. Someone pundit pointed out that it is acceptable in Canadian politics for English speaking leaders to get away with bad French but not the other way around. It is too bad that Stephane cannot express himself better in English and that we English speakers are not patient enough to listen. I suspect he has great things to say but his message is lost in the delivery. The backroom henchpeople are no doubt sharpening the knives to a very fine point even as we speak.

If there is one bright spot it is Jack Layton. The man is charismatic and he has something to say. He is passionate about Canada returning to a peace-keeping role, strengthening families, medicare and pharmacare. The NDP has increased their number of seats and are now within striking distance of the 43 won by Ed Broadbent at the NDP’s height. This is the best showing for the NDP in many, many years. I am buoyed by this result.

So, at the end of this very costly election what has changed? Not much. Just as I predicted we still have a Conservative minority government (I bow down to Quebec in gratitude) and the NDP made gains. The Cons made some gains too but not enough to put them in majority land. Merci bien Province de Quebec!

PS: Thank you Vancouver Central for re-electing Hedy Fry and sending Lorne Mayencourt packing back to his hell hole. Plus, to make Hedy’s victory even sweeter, Mayencourt had to resign his provincial seat to run!!

Federal Election 2008: Don’t forget to Vote

Tomorrow is the election. I hope everyone remembers to vote. I suspect when all is said and done there will be little difference in the make up of the new Parliament. If there are gains made, I suspect they will be for the NDP and not the Liberals or Conservatives. At the end of the day, this was an election we did not need nor want and in fact it was against the law passed by the Harper Cons fixing election dates. I guess he figures he can ignore laws as well as Canadians.

I also think that once the US election is over a lot of this financial turmoil will die down. It seems somewhat contrived to me.

Quick Update

Well, it is the night before I start my new job. I am very excited. I have purchased a new Roots briefcase thing – you can see it here. I also purchased a new lunchbox and I am being mercilessly mocked for it! I also have a new zippered portfolio thing so that I can look professional!!

Blogging may be light over the next bit as I adjust to a new schedule.

One more election update: The Green Party has better signage in Maple Ridge than the Liberals – what is that about? Does anyone have any insight into why it appears that Stephane Dion wants to lose the election? Is it a case of being promoted to your level of incompetence?

Federal Election 2008: Planet Liberal

Ok, I don’t know about you but I am really frustrated with the Liberals. It seems like they want to lose this election. This morning, on the radio, I heard a very excited Stephane Dion talking about injecting funding into the arts at a time when the economy is on the brink of recession. His reason? We need to have more movies, books and theatres so we can have fun! This doesn’t work for me. There are valid reasons for injecting money into the arts, for example, it keeps people employed and helps to generate spin-off benefits. Yes, it may be a bit about having fun but a leader of a major political party should not be justifying policy in that way. Memo to Stephane: sounding like a 12-year old boy who just got a new toy is not going to win you any votes.

Stephane has other issues he needs to deal with immediately if he has any hope of not being banished to the political wilderness.  He needs to understand that not everyone is a policy wonk like him.  Even those of us educated in Canadian political history and political science can’t understand what he is saying half the time. He needs to slow down and give people real information upon which they can form an opinion. Presenting policy ideas without explaining how and why he has arrived at them does not educate the public. We need to know why he thinks a carbon tax is a good thing in language the average voter can understand.

I have been following the Liberal Tour updates on Twitter. I really think they are living in an alternative universe. It sounds like their campaign is going great and Dion is speaking to very large groups of voters. They seem to think they are making gains. It does not seem this way on the ground. They (I am not sure who is doing the posting) post things like: “700 people! Standing room only! Everyone proud of responsible, costed Liberal platform. Dion performed brilliantly” and “Candidates are joining Dion on the train.Lots of laughs.By far, we have the best team. Politics is about working together, not a solo effort.” They got that right that it is not a solo effort but has Dion figured that out?

In my riding, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, I have not seen one Liberal campaign sign. Not one! I don’t even know who the candidate is or even if they are running one. I see Cons and NDP signs but that is all. So where are the Liberals?

Dion and the Liberals need to pull it together and quickly before we are saddled with a Cons majority.

Federal Election 2008: Harper is a fruit

Well, Stephen Harper shows he has a sense of humour. While at Winnipeg produce terminal he was asked what kind of vegetable he would be and he responded that he would be a fruit. Now that is funny.

In other election news a little earlier in the news Harper announced that the Cons were running one campaign. He said this in defense of accusations that he was not allowing his candidates to speak to the media until later in the campaign. I believe he is trying to limit the potential for off the cuff right wing nutbar comments that could potentially derail his campaign. Just as he has kept most of his cabinet ministers on a tight leash to kept everyone on ‘script’ (the little despot that he is) he is now doing the same thing with his candidates. One would think that anyone who has been vetted as a candidate should be allowed to speak her or his mind on the issues, as they understand them.

Harper has also had to apologize to Dion for an ad that ran on the Cons party website. Apparently, they had a graphic of a bird defecating on Dion’s shoulder. Some (overly enthusiastic) staffer put it up and it was not vetted by supervisors. It would seem that the little despot has his work cut out for him as potential saboteurs are everywhere! This could be one very interesting campaign!