I’m a longtime Liberal but I’m going to say it — I like the looks of Stephen Harper’s new cabinet.
The Prime Minister has framed a government he hopes will be able to deal with the big economic problems that lie ahead.
I like its youth. I like the new MPs the Prime Minister has brought on board, helping boost to 11 the number of women in the cabinet. And I like the way the Mr. Harper has shuffled poorly performing ministers to less critical posts. Most of them, anyway.
Since the election (and maybe I’m just grasping at straws in the wind) it seems to me the PM has displayed a more reasonable and less partisan tone. True, we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to judge how he’s reacting to the fact he didn’t win a majority, but the signs so far are promising.
A few words about what I like about the cabinet.
Youth. Eleven of the 38 ministers are under 45. The youngest, James Moore, was given the important Canadian Heritage portfolio. He’s a former broadcaster, and handled several difficult tasks well in the last House. I have a hunch the Harper government may try hard to make amends for the anti-culture streak it showed in the campaign. This probably cost Harper his majority, considering how negatively Quebec reacted to the Tory undermining of the importance of culture.
Another young member, Jason Kenney, gets his reward with Citizenship and Immigration. This figures, as he led the Tory push into the ethnic communities.
The new members. There’s a clutch of them. The new women include Leona Aglukkaq, the Inuit MP from Nunuvut who goes to Health after having served as health minister of her home territory. That’s a big step-up, but those who know her have confidence in her ability to grow into the job. I’m also impressed by Lisa Raitt from Halton, the former CEO of the Toronto Port Authority. She should do well in Natural Resources and mark my words, she’ll get a more important portfolio the next time round.
Peter Kent, the ex-broadcaster elected from just north of Toronto, should do well as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Americas. He’s world-traveled and knowledgable and a fast learner.
The Stand-bys. Jim Prentice , the former Industry Minister from Calgary, steps up to Environment. Before anyopne asks how an MP from Alberta can give a damn about the environment, let me make an important point. Prentice may have it right when he ties the environment and the economy together as a single challenge. We can’t neglect one for the other. The right use of economic tools offers the most effective means of protecting the environment. As long as he doesn’t use the economy as an excuse to do nothing.
I’ve never been a big booster of Jim Flaherty, who stays in Finance. But he’s been talking common sense since the election. Promising not to download Ottawa’s problems to the provinces. Realistic in terms of being “responsible” if it ever becomes necessary to budget for a deficit. Which it probably will. Almost sounds like a Liberal!
Lawrence Cannon, the former Transport Minister from Quebec, was an inevitable choice for Foreign Affairs. Of all the ministries, this is the one that Stephen Harper will control most closely. With Peter McKay staying at Defence, “steady as she goes” will be the watchword.
It’s good to see Steven Fletcher, the Winnipeger who hasn’t allowed being a paraplegic to hold him back, given new responsibility: Minister for Democratic Reform. Now if Mr. Harper would only add proportional representation to his yen to shake up the Senate. At least for the Upper House!
I’m disappointed, however, in the PM’s choice for Industry. Putting Tony Clement in that job at a time when every industry in Ontario is looking for a hand-out from a hard-up Tory government, is a guarantee of trouble. He didn’t accomplish all that much at Health.
Yes, the cabinet’s too large at 38. But if Mr. Harper will let his ministers manage their portfolios without his constant interference, we can expect a less ideological, more reasonable approach than we saw in the first Harper cabinet.
My friend Michael Callaghan sent me an email about the state of today’s political speech-making, and Barack Obama’s campaign speeches. Michael doesn’t agree that Obama is a great orator. He wonders if his campaign is “stuck.” I thought the two minutes we saw of his Orlando rally on the 30-minute “Obama Show” last night were quite stirring. But here’s what Michael told me:
I heard a lively discussion on CBC Radio about the speeches of this presidential campaign. One of the participants was a writer who had worked on the script for The West Wing. Something he said seemed to fly in the face of all the punditry about today’s politics. We are supposed to be living in a time of “the five-second clip.” The Age of Slogans. What politician today gives a formal oratorical addresses?” That, at least, is the “received wisdom” as Galbraith would put it.
Today’s speakers do not open with a hypothesis and close with an epilogue, or “peroration” as the Greeks would say. Gone are the rousing calls to action and brilliant imagery, like that of Martin Luther King. That aside, what the CBC writer said that intrigued me was this, “you can’t remember anything Obama has said, nor McCain.” And it is true! I had heard that Obama was a great orator, and tuned in eagerly to his Convention speech, and then to the debates, and I was bemused. Where was the soaring rhetoric, or even any language that was memorable, or, beyond his shopworn call for a change, any important or fresh idea? Where were the magic-carpet words to carry us to new heights? Nothing!
A friend explained that debaters these days dare not say anything startling or memorable for fear of offending someone. Thus, in their mild way, they just slang each other.
It is said that Obama’s campaign is now stuck. But what is he stuck on? Why are so many impressed with him, as others hang back? What is it about him that is impressive? At first, it was rumored to be his speeches. His enemies claimed it was just rhetoric, that he was a contemporary Hughey Long with little substance to his talk. Yet if you listen carefully to his words it isn’t much of a speech. Is the effect from his appearance, a physical style, a carriage, an expression, what is often called “stage presence?” Does he just look presidential?
In a witty and observant book, “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell describes a “Warren Harding Effect.”
Some say Warren Harding was the worst president ever, even though he was elected by the greatest ever percentage of popular vote, and did a few fine things, such as getting the vote for women, and he was a cautious and even reluctant warrior. However, many of the friends he put in Cabinet went to jail. And Harding was a rumbling and grandiloquent speaker. But Gladwell’s book, Blink, is about judgements we make before we think, such as “first-impression” judgements of people. Gladwell coined the “Harding Effect” to explain why Harding had been so instantly and widely popular. It was his “looks.” He was a “lady killer” who looked presidential.
I suspect that Obama generates the “Warren Harding Effect.” It is so powerful that people don’t hear what he says, and don’t care. Or is it enough that a black man is running for President? And that is the change. Yet, if they listened they might find little difference between Obama’s thinking and the attitudes of G.W. Bush. And I believe that is why his campaign is stuck. At first glance, he’s a great idea – a black man in the White House. And many think “that says it all.” While others wonder what else there is to say.
But people aren’t listening to those dull speeches, and don’t remember anything Obama’s has said. They like his “stage presence” or Harding Effect. I’d rather call it the “John Wayne Effect” because Harding brought a lot of scandal with him, and I don’t know much at all about Obama’s cast of characters. (There was a scandalous association with a developer in Chicago, but not too serious. But who else?)
But if you listen to what the man has said, he is another American who would strike first, and ask questions later. So there’s no change there. And he is for Israel Big Time. Netanyahu will be back in power while Obama is president, and the Road to Peace is already ditched, and Obama has agreed with Netenyahu that Jerusalem must be a new undivided capital of Israel, and there will be no more talk of withdrawal from settlements. That’s Obama! And he approves of unilateral attacks into Pakistan and Lebanon (or anywhere). He’s another “man of action.” Obama went to Harvard, and Rumsfeld went to Yale as did G. W.
My thanks to Michael for letting me post this.
Frank McKenna, the highly regarded former premier of New Brunswick has decided, as I predicted he would, to pass up the race for leadership of the Liberal party of Canada. He made the announcement this afternoon.
Last week, I wrote that I did not expect “McKenna to give up a cushy bank job to begin an uncertain political task.”
Meanwhile, the New Brunswick MP, Dominic LeBlanc, became the first to jump into the race when he announced yesterday that he’ll run.
Dominic, son of Romeo LeBlanc who served as Governor General in the 1990s, comes to the race with some very senior support, both inside and outside caucus. He’s fluently bilingual, personable, but will have to overcome the Liberal tradition of switching between French and English leaders.
They say John Manley is also testing the waters. If you thought Stephane Dion lacked charisma, wait until you hear Manley’s announcement speech, if he ever makes one.
I’d give LeBlanc odds of 3 to 1, and Manley 5 to 1.
I’d say the odds favor Michael Ignatieff as the front-runner as of this moment. Bob Rae can’t be far behind.
The big knock on Iggy when he ran last time was that he’d been out of the country for 35 years, and he seemed to think we’d open up the pearly gates to welcome him back. Also, he’d shown the poor judgement to support George Bush’s war in Iraq.
All that’s now a thing of the past. Iggy performed well in Parliament, showed loyalty to Dion in the election, and has twice won his Toronto Etobicoke Lakeshore seat.I give him even odds.
Similarly, Bob Rae has been an impressive MP but it may be that he carries too much baggage from his days as Premier of Ontario during the 90s recession to be a comfortable choice at this time. My odds: 3 to 2.
The absence of Frank McKenna from the race ensures there will be no left-right split at the convention. The former NB premier would have come in with major support from Bay Street, but that doesn’t carry a lot of credibility these days.He made a wise decision in staying out.
There’ll be a range of second-tier candidates. I’m waiting to see if Martha Hall Findlay opts to give it another try. She impressed last time out, and to continue with the horse racing jargon, this is a filly who could surprise the field.
For years, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has been ranked as the No. 1 gathering place for the smart and the powerful in business, politics, and the media. The annual sessions attract the creme de la creme, all vying to put forth their ideas and burnish their images before an eagerly awaiting world.
Now, it turns out that the WEF has amounted to little more than a glorious public relations exercise for the investment bankers, hedge fund wizards, and insurance gurus who paced the halls of the Swiss city’s fancy hotels, competing to put on the biggest parties to impress prospective clients.
“We gave them a soapbox. It was all political,” confesses Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer of the WEF.
“They were told that we were in an unstable condition,” adds WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab. “But the financial community didn’t listen.”
The tragedy, according to Bloomberg News, was that Davos organizers opted to accept the funding of financial industry barons ($750,000 a year per company) and “let them turn Davos into a rave-up for Wall Street excesses.”
This revelation is just one more example of the failure of the management class to practice responsible stewardship of the companies on whose fate rests the welfare and prosperity of millions of people.
The game that the Davos boys have been playing is all about debt. The greatest debt binge of all has been the sub-prime mortgages into which millions of Americans were lured, it being quite evident that most would be unable to meet their payments when interest rates were ratcheted up.
For a disarming but thoroughly readable assessment of what debt means in our society, one can do no better than turn to Margaret Atwood’s new book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. The book is based on her Massey Lectures. They combine personal reminiscences with economic theory, political history, and literary commentary, delivered with the readability of a great novelist.
The organizers of the World Economic Forum could benefit by reading Atwood before the next Davos meeting. They’ve announced the theme of their January 2009 conference will be “Shaping the Post-Crisis World.” Does that mean they expect us to be out of crisis by then?
As far back as 2003, the over-leveraging of the financial system was a serious topic of conversation at Davos. The WEF’s corporate members never had an understanding of how big a problem it was, adds Kevin Steinberg. “We had assembled the world’s greatest economic experts to confer with them, and the financial community was not aware of that expertise.” Most passed up the key sessions.
The Bloomberg report is one of the most devastasting take-downs of hubris and egotism one can read. Basically, the senior executives of the financial world were too busy partying and prepping their sales pitches for big clients to listen to dire warnings.
The first World Economic Forum on Central Asia starts October 30 in Instanbul. It’s advertised as a meeting that will concentrate on how to “overcome the challenges brought about by the recent financial crisis.”
There’s to be no “merry-making,” Schwab promises. Let’s hope not.
My local press in Orillia, Ontario, is all full of stories about a police raid on a massage parlor, one of ten carried out in the past 16 months in the area north of Toronto by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Not a word in these papers about the local impact of the global economic meltdown. Not a single question about the probity of spending tax money (something likely to be in increasingly short supply) on the pursuit of girls who give body rubs.
I’m not a patron of massage parlours. Too old, too unmotiviated, too poor. But I resent my taxes being used in the pointless pursuit of the sexual proclivities of a few women and their customers, carried on anonymously, behind closed doors, with no inconvenience to the public.
In this latest raid, one obviously planned with considerable relish, police arrived in “tactical gear” (guns and body armour, no doubt) but this was “more for identification purposes than any real threat of violence,” according to Orillia Today.
Not to be outdone, the Orillia Packet & Times also has extensive coverage. It reports that “Laid out on the table in the Orillia OPP Crime Unit are the spoils of Wednesday’s raid on an alleged bawdy house: massage oils, piles of Canadian and American money, a log book and some less-than- official looking certificates.”
The papers explain that these raids are carried out by something called MIST (Major Investigation Support Team), made up of specially trained officers. Reminds me of SMERSH, the nemesis of James Bond.
The Orillia raid followed weeks of close observation by the local OPP detachment’s Street Crime unit. The upshot was that two women were arrested and a 71-year-old man, a patron, was nabbed leaving the joint.
I find it interesting that while police were barging in through the front door, others were waiting at the back door. One of the two women arrested was nailed as she tried to flee in pink high heeled shoes, but according to Detective Constable Dave Felstead, “she was no match for the officers waiting in back.”
The second woman was arrested when she returned to the establishment from a shopping trip.
It’s been forty years since Pierre Elliot Trudeau observed there is “no room for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
Somehow, we’ve never gotten around to applying this principle to commercial bedrooms, where women are able to offer consensual sex for money, in a safe and non-threatening manner. Our public policy, as set out by Parliament, appears to hold that it is better such women be forced onto the streets where they have been known to become victims of serial killers.
The law against “bawdy houses” continues to be applied in a grossly unfair manner. Only the women are charged. The men, without whose presence there’d be no crime, “are given a free pass,” according to Orillia Today’s interview with Det. Felstead.
As justification for the raids, the police insist that these establishments are fronts for “organized crime.” Yet, according to Det. Felstead, after ten raids no evidence of such a link has been uncovered.
It would be interesting to do a cost/benefit study of these raids. Measure the expense in salaries, overtime, car costs, etc., against the presumed benefit of closing up one of these places, or the fines paid.
I’m sure that Det. Felstead and his colleagues are dedicated officers, sincere in the belief that they are rendering the public a valued service. They are not the ones who wrote the laws, but they are charged with the responsibility of enforcing them.
Why is it that public officials are unable to deal with sex in a realistic, rational manner? Is their fear of public opprobrium so great that all sense of sanity escapes their minds when confronted with this subject?
For my part, I’d love to be able to cast a ballot for any politician who could summon up the commons sense to call for an end to this pointless waste of money, this invasion of people’s personal lives and the violation of their rights, and the continuing hyprocisy of the way we deal with these cases.
“The market is there, and the clientele is there,” Det. Felstead states. Exactly.
I voted for Stephane Dion when I attended the Liberal leadership convention as a delegate from Toronto Danforth in December, 2006. I do not regret the choice I made, given the conditions and circumstances in which the party found itself at that time.
Now that Mr. Dion has led the party in a failing campaign and has given notice of his resignation, Liberals need to reassess what kind of party they want, before they choose a new leader.
Mr. Dion’s upset victory came about because rank and file Liberals were tired of being dictated to by a narrow elite who had led them to disaster through vicious infighting between rival camps.
In Montreal, delegates were offered as their main choices, two men who at the time simply didn’t deserve to be considered for leadership.
Michael Ignatieff had been out of the country for most of the past 30 years. He’d also supported the war on Iraq. Most Liberals felt deep gratitude to Jean Chretien for having kept Canada clear of that fiasco.
Bob Rae’s history was with another party. That and his spectacular flame-out as Premier of Ontario (under admittedly difficult circumstances) combined to make him unacceptable to many.
Liberals wanted a true Liberal who hadn’t been compromised by the sponsorship scandal, and Mr. Dion was our man. He’d crafted the Carity Act, a key weapon against separatism. Even those who voted against him recognized his intellectual capacity, his sincerity, and his unquestioned integrity.
The fact that Mr. Dion possessed other qualities which would ill-serve him in the leadership needs no elaboration here.
This morning, he has distributed an email asking financial support for the Liberal party. “Between now and when the next leader is elected, you and I must ensure the Liberal Party has the financial resources to counter Conservative attacks. Every single time.”
I thought Mr. Dion’s finger-pointing at unfair Tory attack ads a little disingenuous. What else could he have expected? Trudeau did it to Stanfield (“Zap, you’re frozen!) and Lyndon Johnson did it to Barry Goldwater (the daisy ad of the little girl and the H-Bomb). Debasing as such messages are, they’re nothing new.
Now the Liberal party needs to decide where it fits on the Canadian political spectrum. There’ll be pressure to move to the left to better capture votes that went to the NDP and the Greens. That can only open up the centre to the Harper Conservatives.
There must be a message in the fact that while the Liberal vote fell to its hard core base of 28% last week, the Conservative vote could only make it to 38%, counting every “loose fish” floating out there among four left-of-centre parties.
MP Ruby Dhalla on cover of multicultural magazine
King Louis XV is said to have warned, “Apres moi, le deluge,” and this expression was often applied to France’s prospects after Charles de Gaulle. After Dion, can we expect a flood of would-be successors?
It’s likely to be a wide open contest. Ignatieff and Rae will be there, both better qualified than last time. I don’t expect Frank McKenna to give up a cushy bank job to begin an uncertain political task. John Manley burned his bridges by taking on the Afghanistan mission for the Conservatives. Gerard Kennedy and Brian Tobin are doubtful starters.
Martha Hall Findlay is sure to return. She’ll be the most prominent woman, but not the only one. Ruby Dhalla, the Canadian-born South Asian MP from Brampton Springdale, will likely run. She told me she’d been asked, then rhymed off a number of qualities needed in the next leader. “The face of Canada is changing and a new leader will have to be able to connect.”
Another newcomer spoken well of is Dominic Leblanc from New Brunswick, son of Romeo, who went from Liberal MP to Governor General in the 90s.
It’s to be hoped the candidates, whoever they are, will spell out clear positions on the important issues facing Canada. The Liberal leadership is still a valued political prize. By the time the next election rolls around, Canada will have likely suffered a painful recession, and Ottawa is likely to be back in deficit. Shades of 1935 and the doomed Conservative govenrment of R.B. Bennett!
Anybody here seen Passchendaele, the Canadian movie about this epic World War I battle, one of three fought for the little Belgian town which cost a total of 600,000 lives? The film opened across Canada Friday night and my partner Deborah and I saw it at the Varsity theatre in Toronto on Saturday.
The Passchendaele battles summon up the horror and futility of World War I trench warefare and the mass slaughter of men who died from machine gun fire, bayonets or artillery shells trying to take or retake a few miles of godforsaken land. The battles went on through most of 1917 with much of the worst fighting taking place in the rain-drenched summer when men died as frequently from drowning in water-filled shell holes or from disease, as from enemy bullets.
The film Passchendaele deals with the Second Battle, in which the 10th Batallion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force — “the Fighting 10th” from Calgary — captured the village and went on a few days later to take the strategically important Hill 52. Hundreds of thousands of British, French and New Zealand troops had earlier tried to take Passchendaele, and had failed. The Canadians took 16,000 casualties.
The making of the movie is an epic in itself. The Canadian actor, writer and director, Paul Gross, spent a decade raising the $20 million needed for the film. He wrote the screenplay, directed the film, and plays the lead role of Sgt. Michael Dunne who Gross modelled on his grandfather, who had taken part in the battle. There’s also a book based on the screenplay:
Passchendaele opens with a horrific scene, based an actual incident involving Gross’ grandfather. It then switches to Calgary when Dunne is invalided home and plunges into a romance with his nurse. This may sound formulaic, and I thought it was until I realized I was watching the movie with too literal an eye. My father served with the Canadian Mounted Rifles and took part in the capture of Vimy Ridge.( He was a very young soldier and I was not born until he was well into middle age.)
At this point in the film, I realized I had to give Passchendaele the benefit one gives any movie — to suspend disbelief and allow oneself to be caught up in the story. From that point on, Passchendaele became for me an engrossing, fascinating study of human reaction to the pressures and emotions of a brutal, dirty war. It is reviewed here.
It’s not a great movie, but it’s well worth seeing. If it has any shortcoming, it is perhaps that too much of it bears the stamp of just one man. Gross is a fine actor, a sensitive writer, and a discerning director. But one man shouldn’t try to do it all. Passchendaele needed a good editor.
Seeing this movie just after the federal election — in which four out of ten failed to exercise their democratic right to cast a ballot — makes one wonder whether Canadians appreciate the liberty for which our parents and grandparents gave their lives.
I think most of us do. In their own way, those who did not vote were also expressing a choice. I think they felt so ill-served by all our party leaders they could vote confidence in none of them. The level of political discourse has become so banal, its tone so demeaning (strikingly more so in the United States than in Canada) that one is repelled and discomfited by the tenor of the campaigns. Our politicians are failing us, not the people.
Passchendaele, by the way, was recaptured by the Germans after a few months. They held it until the end of the war on November 11, 1918.
Stephane Dion gave his best speech of the election on election night. His English was very good, he spoke forcefully and with clarity, and he addressed the most important issue facing Canadians: the problems of the economy.
It’s an irony of politics that his remarks came in a concession speech. Had he been able to carry his message as effectively during the campaign, the results might have been less disastrous for the Liberal party.
“We will work with the government to ensure that Canadians are protected from the economic storm. My top priority will be the economy,” Dion said.
As it is, Dion has led his party to its worst defeat since Confederation — 76 seats of 308 and just 26.2 per cent of the popular vote. His future as leader seems limited to months, if not weeks.
How Dion Got There
Dion was chosen by Liberal delegates who were tired of being dictated to by the the top brass of the party. They couldn’t stomach the other choices they were given: a man who’d been the NDP premier of Ontario (Bob Rae), or a guy who’d been out of the country for 30 years and had supported the Iraq war (Michael Ignatieff).
Whenever the Liberals gather to choose a new leader, these two figures will likely be there again. Ignatieff has earned grudging respect for having twice won Etobicoke Lakeshore, and having been an effective party spokesman. Same for Rae, in Toronto Centre.
While they’ll be the leading contenders, don’t overlook other possibilities: John Manley, Frank McKenna, Gerard Kennedy, and of course Martha Hall Findlay who distinguished herself in the last leadership race.
The main features of the election are fairly clear: the Liberal stumble with Dion’s failure to sell his Green Shift; Conservative blundering on culture and youth punishment that cost them Quebec support and in the end, Harper his majority; failure of the NDP to bulk up outside of Ontario and B.C., despite winning one seat in each of Alberta, Quebec, and Newfoundland; and the disappointing finish for Elizabeth May and the Green party.
The saddest part of the election was the poor turn-out: just 59 percent, the lowest on record. It means Mr. Harper is Prime Minister on the votes of not many more than one in five adult Canadians. His 143 seats give him a stronger minority, but not his much sought after majority.
The results present another good reason to dump the first-past-the-post electoral system, in favor of some form of proportional representation. It’s not acceptable that one party gets 50 seats with 10 percent of the vote (the Bloc) and the Greens get none with 7 per cent.
Maybe that low vote was due to two things: First, there was no real reason for Harper to call the election. In doing so, he violated the principle of his own law for fixed election dates. Second, none of the party leaders effectively addressed the very real global economic crisis that Canada now finds itself a part of. If our leaders don’t offer up solutions, how can people vote for them?
Less importantly, whoever dreamt up that bizarre studio set the CBC used last night? It made Peter Mansbridge look like the condemned man seeking mercy from his Lord High Executioners, all ensconced in their elevated thrones. And over on CTV, all I could see whenever I checked in there was Lloyd Robertson’s tired face. Did Canadians really have to suffer all that and Harper too?
It’s Election day in Canada — and what a difference a couple of seats might make!
At the Democratic Space site, the prediction is 126 seats for the Stephen Harper Conservatives and 128 for the Liberals and NDP combined. That sets up some interesting possibilities. Let’s suppose, as the site forecasts, that the election gives the Liberals and the NDP more seats than the Tories.
First, Harper’s failure to significantly improve his party’s position would put his long-term leadership under a cloud. He almost quit in a hissy fit after the 2004 vote. The knives could be out — except that Harper’s kept such a tight grip on his erratic crew that he’s really got no rival at this point.
Second, all the pronouncements of a Liberal wipe-out will have proven vastly overstated. Ninety-two seats isn’t that far off the 95 the Liberals held when Parliament was dissolved. Dion’s performance in the last two weeks of the campaign will have earned him another shot at 24 Sussex.
Third, Jack Layton’s “I’m running for Prime Minister” is taking him down a long road, judging from the miniscule progress he’ll have made (six more seats according to Democratic Space).
What effect will a combined Liberal-NDP edge over the Conservatives have on the next parliament? As I’ve written before, that’s all it took in Ontario in 1985 for David Peterson to oust the front-running Conservatives under Frank Miller.
The Liberals and the NDP also won more seats than the Tories in 2006. But with Paul Martin’s resignation, there was no taste for an accord with the NDP.
Now, with two-thirds of Canadians having voted for a candidate other than a Conservative, Dion and Layton will have a responsibility to consider how their two parties together could best serve Canada in this time of economic crisis.
Both will know full well that even with a free hand, the change in the economy means they’d not be in a position to fulfill their election commitments. This would force Layton to tone down his spending plans, and Dion to reflect on his Green Shift priorities. Factor in these considerations and you have two parties that could work together in a “Crisis Coalition.”
What other choice would Dion have? He certainly wouldn’t want another election right away. How long could he survive by allowing Conservative legislation to go through unchallenged?
In a House of five parties (or four and maybe one Green and a couple of independents), a Liberal-NDP fusion, accord or call it what you want, would still be a minority.
There’s only one issue that greatly separates the Bloc from the Libs and the Dippers — separation. But even Duceppe admits that’s not on the table.
On culture, social justice, Afghanistan, healthcare, economic security — there’s very little difference. Gilles Duceppe wiill have no hunger for another election. He may well have run for the last time.
A Liberal-NDP “Crisis Coalition,” supported by a two-year commitment from the Bloc to let the pair govern, no longer looks as far-fetched as a couple of weeks ago.
What a difference a couple of seats might make!
It’s a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend and Orillia sparkled as the neat little city it is when Stephane Dion and two busloads of national media drew up to the Farmers’ Market behind the Orillia Opera House for a noontime rally.
I’d come along to see what kind of reception Dion would receive from small town Ontario Saturday shoppers. He got a warm, even enthusiastic welcome, as a horde of Liberal volunteers surrounded him with placards and cheers as he made his way through the crowd.
Stephane Dion with Barrie candidate Rick Jones, left, and Simcoe North candidate Steve Clarke, right, showing appreciation for young musicians
Dion gave a good stump speech. He appealed for the “progressive vote” and told NDP supporters that they and the Liberals share the same social values but only a Liberal vote can stop Stephen Harper. That’s certainly true in this riding, at least.
“Stephen Harper is building his campaign on a lie. He will lose on a lie,” Dion told the audience.
He was referring to the oft-repeated Tory charge that Dion’s Green Plan will hurt Canadians because it includes a carbon tax. The fact the Green Shift includes income tax cuts is never mentioned by the Tories.
Dion threw in a good word for Elizabeth May, expressing the hope she’ll be elected in Central Nova.
Asked about whether the trembling economy would hold up implementation of Liberal promises, Dion said his party has a four-year plan. He committed himself to carrying out all its goals, including child care and a catastrophic drug plan, within that time frame. But there may have to be some delays in the first year or two, he said, depending on economic conditions.
The Liberals know their only chance of forming a minority government is to stop the siphoning off of left-of-center votes. The Greens have probably been the major factor so far in the Liberals having dropped in the polls from their 30 per cent level in the 2006 belection. The Conservatives are down also, but if only one voter in three marks their ballot for a Tory on Tuesday, Harper will have won.
Won what? That’s the question. He’ll have to take more seats than the Liberals and the NDP combined, in order to withstand an immediate test in Parliament.
From the looks of the campaign in Simcoe North, one of those close Ontario battleground seats, it’s going to be a squeaker between Clarke and Tory incumbent Bruce Stanton. The 1,200-vote edge by which Stanton won in 2006 (out of 60,000 votes) is no assurance the Conservatives can hold this seat. That’s why Dion was here today.
I saw Green party candidate Valerie Powell hanging around the edges of the rally. She managed to snag an interview with a couple of the national media. Powell could be the king-maker in Simcoe North on Tuesday, depending on how many people are resistent to Dion’s plea for a united “progressive” vote.
“I’ll be the greenest prime minister Canada ever had,” Dion likes to tell his rallies. He repeated that claim here today. Will it be good enough for those tempted to vote Green?
We’ll know Tuesday night. Clarke is a popular local businessman. He runs the Brewery Bay cafe on Orillia’s main street. Stanton’s case for re-election rests in part on the funding he says he’s been able to bring into the riding for public works. A good example of old fashioned stump politics. But as of right now, I’m calling Simcoe North to switch to the Liberal column when the votes are counted.