Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Conditional Support

The Liberal party had a choice to make today and I'm certainly reading a lot about it. I know many thought that Ignatieff made the wrong choice. At the risk of being lambasted, I don't.

The idealist in me wanted him to push more amendments. Specifically I would like to have seen more 'green' and I think changes should have been made to the EI program and obviously the pay equity issue. Will some issues be tackled in Committee? I hope so. Overall I thought the budget lacked a clear focus and was scatter shot in it's approach.

That said, it's the Conservatives budget. They own it and will be judged on it's ability to do what they say it will. They were forced into writing such a budget and in that sense, the coalition did work. It's hilarious to hear Conservative MP's insist they would have come up with this on their own. They apparently believe that the country hasn't been paying attention. They have that part dead wrong and here is where the pragmatist in me comes forward.

What Ignatieff laid down today was clever. The reporting and deadlines are beside the point really, but to Canadians watching, he was doing the responsible thing. We who stay glued to this stuff tend to forget about the vast majority of people who simply want government to get on with things. Tired of the brinkmanship, most polls suggest that people were neither interested in an election or a coalition. They are worried about the economy. So, the Liberal party decided to allow the budget to pass while holding Harper's feet to the fire.

Now, it could be said that minority governments have that kind of scrutiny anyway and that there are checks and balances already in place. While that is true, Harper isn't one for sticking to the rules is he? So, Ignatieff lays down a marker insisting that the government be held to account, in the light of day and in a timely fashion. Will Harper follow these rules? Time will tell but there is a difference here.

In the past when Harper stepped out of line, we would respond and that was it. The media would be on to the next thing. Here, if Harper flouts the deadline or obscures the facts, there will be a procedure in place that will keep his transgression in the news cycle. That's no small thing. Harper doesn't like the spotlight being shone on him unless he is directing the drama. Will he play games? Time will tell.

So, the idealist in me would have put forward more amendments, but I doubt they would have been accepted. Furthermore, I doubt that would have been enough for Layton either. As much as it is nice to think that we had Harper in a corner the pragmatist in me knows that the Conservatives were ready to frame the issue and go to an election. There was too much in the budget, accepted and applauded by too many quarters, for any opposition to stand any real test. Could the GG have turned to the coalition and prevented an election? I suppose, but outside of the changes I mentioned and I suppose a few others, would the public have really bought the fact that our budget was sooo different that it required a shift of power? I doubt it.

As much as I want to see the back of Harper, I think we did what we had to today and in the end, I think it will pay off. Journalists are suggesting that there won't be an election until the next budget. I disagree. I think there will be an election this year and I think we will be glad we waited.

Idealism is a wonderful thing, but it holds little sway in modern politics. The Liberals had to re-establish themselves. This move, while not ideal for some, will help us do that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Last Ideologue Standing

It's been an interesting couple of days watching Obama methodically dismantle what Bush and co. put in place. It won't all happen overnight of course, but still, it's heartening to see that country with some adults in charge at last. In fact, I suspect that relief is being felt in most quarters and that 'sense' is going to migrate across our border. I mentioned this a while back, but it was more difficult to see. I think it will become clearer with time.

Yesterday I watched the civil service that will be reporting to Hillary Clinton greet her on her first day. It was remarkable really to see so many people cheer and express absolute delight at her arrival and her brief comments concerning how things were going to change. Far from vindicating those who would claim that the civil service is all 'left' leaning, I think their reaction was based on knowing that their country will once again abide by the rule of law and regain some credibility in the world.

Similarly, when Obama passed the executive order to end torture, end the phony trials at Guantanamo and finally close it, there was a sigh of relief around the world. Except here. Well, more specifically, that relief was not shared by Harper.

No, it would seem that Harper is oblivious to what is right, let alone aware of the shift that is occurring. I find that odd really, because for all my dislike of his policies, I've never thought him to be a stupid man and still don't. So, if he's not stupid, why would he maintain his ridiculous stance re' Omar Khadr? Why wouldn't he recognise that we are the odd country out in putting any faith, whatsoever, into the process developed for Guantanamo?

In my view, it's because he's an ideologue. All the nasty language and rhetoric that comes from his back benchers when the adults are trying to discuss serious issues has never been stifled by him. To the contrary. If he's not making idiotic proclamations himself, he's inciting them. Here's his most recent claim about Guantanamo and Khadr:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday he rejects the premise that Omar Khadr was a "child soldier" because the young Canadian was not a member of an army when he was accused a lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier.

Really? This is the stance that the Government of Canada is taking as it relates to Khadr? After flouting parliamentary procedure and making up the rules as he goes along as it relates to running the government, he becomes pedantic on this important issue? Really?

He goes on:

Harper said he shares Obama's concerns about the military process at Guantanamo Bay, but that doesn't mean Khadr is not being treated fairly.

"Everybody is concerned about that process," Harper said. "The biggest concern about Guantanamo Bay is that most of the people there weren't charged with anything and weren't facing any kind of legal process. That is not the case with Mr. Khadr and, obviously, we have to see what the U.S. is going to do in terms of moving forward on that."

Wow. He really doesn't get it does he?

I suppose I should take some comfort in the fact that the real Harper will now stand out a bit more. This because there are no other leaders with their groups on the airwaves making similar noises. I think it was easy for some of his ideology to get lost in the mix because the chorus was being sung by so many choirs. Now that he's alone for the most part, his voice will be discordant.

Perhaps as a result, more Canadians will take the real measure of the man and we'll finally be rid of him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


We all have expectations, don't we? We have expectations of governments, corporations, religions, even sports teams. Perhaps we hold our highest and lowest expectations for specific people. We expect certain things from people we know and people we've never met. Of course what we hold them to, has entirely to do with us, not them, yet we blame them or at the very least they become diminished in our eyes when they fail to meet our imaginings of what they should be.

That said, I expected more from Michael Ignatieff as it relates to the horror we are seeing in Gaza. I of course expected him to denounce Hamas and their tactics just as I fully expected him to state that Israel has the right to defend herself. Given his background though, especially as it relates to human rights, I expected that he would tactfully comment on what we have seen in Gaza, if only to mention the claims made by the UN and to be more forceful in calling for a ceasefire. I had also hoped that he would ask that journalists be allowed into Gaza, given his past exploits. I expected the quintessential Canadian quip by the honest broker. A statement of fact but one that also articulated more balance. My expectations were not met and I think Ignatieff was wrong.

It's my impression that the reason he did not do so was at least in part due to the drubbing he received when he last spoke on these issues. His comments were condemned as ill-considered and worse and of course there was a backlash in some communities, for him and for the party. I don't think that is a compelling enough reason to not expand on his thinking about current events. The response he gave was facile and what we sadly have come to expect of politicians. No depth, no thought, no nuance, just a dumbed down, typical political response. He gets no points from me with that reaction because I expected more.

I'm not entirely convinced that he doesn't have more to say on the issue though. My hope (expectation) is that he does, based on his past. We shall see.

I had other expectations too. I expected that belonging to an aggregator that purports to be made up of a group of bloggers that support the Liberal party would be a place where a wide range of diverse opinions would be welcome. Of course in such an environment, not everyone will agree and that in itself makes such a group interesting. Rather than reading blog after blog, saying exactly the same thing, such an aggregator should be a place that would conceivably incite debate. Apparently my expectations on this count were also wrong. Debate appears to have ensued, but it seems that it was not entirely welcome.

It's my understanding that a couple of bloggers either asked to be removed from the site, or were removed by the administrators, (I'm still unclear to the actual facts). To the best of my knowledge, the only rationale for these bloggers leaving was that they disagreed politically with the administrators. Now, there continue to be bloggers who disagree that have not been removed, so why some and not others is a bit of a mystery and not one that sits well. It seems that some posts were also removed at the whim of those who run the site. Odd that when the 'about us' section states:

It is important to note that the only "editing" is to ensure that Libloggers are not either members of other political party blog lists or clearly misusing the list to mislead readers. There is no guarantee that Libloggers are actually Liberals and there is no editing of their comments.

If bloggers are going to be held hostage to the opinions of the site owners, what is the point of having the aggregator in the first place? Isn't it enough that we have a political party running this country that demands everyone sing from the same song sheet? Haven't we dumbed down every argument in society today to the point that it is often futile to even engage on an issue? Hasn't a good portion of the media replaced insight and fact with simplicity and trivia?

Differences of opinion, should be championed, not choked. That is both my opinion and my expectation.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, New Rules?

Liberals have someone new at the helm. Whether you supported him in the past or not, if you are a Liberal this is the face that will lead us forward. Deal.

If you are not a Liberal but want to see a change in this country, not just a change of government but a real change in terms of how information of importance is disseminated or perhaps how real information is decimated, this is the person you should insist do it.

2008 in political terms, in Canada, was replete with lies and out and out propaganda. There are tactics in politics that I suppose are fair game, in that we'll never again be free of them, but we all should really draw the line at lies being repeated so often that they somehow infiltrate conventional thinking.

I know it's not good form for politicians to call out a foe on a lie. I'm not clear why this word, lie, should not be used when it is apt, but here we are. There are other ways however of pointing out the obvious and it is my hope that in 2009 we start doing this. Doing it clearly and swiftly. As soon as the inaccuracy passes the lips of whomever is uttering it, call it out for what it is. My expectation is that Michael Ignatieff will do just that. We all should remind him when he doesn't.

Here's an example of what I mean:

"You have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on it's almost embarrassing to listen to you." ~ Zbigniew Brzezinski

Refreshing isn't it?

Yes. New Year, new rules. No more lies or at least no more lying and getting away with it.