Sunday, December 08, 2019

No Rosy Future

There is a way to lead a political party after a defeat. Robin Sears writes that Tommy Douglas was a master of the art:

Having lost more elections than any other contemporary political leader — 1962, 1963, 1965, 1968, and his own riding twice (!) — it is a little staggering to reflect that Tommy Douglas never endured a leadership challenge until 1971. His success was grounded in an evangelical skill at persuasion, but even more importantly, his ability to rebuild confidence and conviction even on a losing election night.
His election night speeches became a cliché, but to hear him deliver it, to a room full of hardened farmers and tough factory workers, many in tears, was always a stunning moment. He would start slowly and then his voice would rise to a crescendo: “My friends. I am hurt, but I am not slain … I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile, and then … I’ll rise and fight again.” You believed him and you immediately felt better.

Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau  have taken a couple of lessons from Douglas. But

then there is Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
He has broken most of the rules of tribal leadership following defeat, already.
Older Conservative clan leaders have not felt consulted or respected. Defeated and depressed former MPs and candidates have not been given a persuasive call to arms. The media — always suspect in contemporary Conservative circles — have been given no believable narrative about his path to rebirth, leaving a couple of savvy Tory operatives license to magnify and exaggerate the extent of open rebellion against him.
It did not need to be this way. It may not be too late for those who want him to survive, to mount a counterattack. But Scheer himself will have to decide and declare a change in his thinking on cultural issues and climate. Even many Conservatives who wish him no ill are gloomy about his willingness or ability to so do.

Mr.Scheer's future does not look rosy.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Waging War On Education

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has declared another one day strike for next week. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

A one-day strike in public high schools is a declaration of warning.
A second day is a declaration of war.
With this week’s province-wide warning shot, and next week’s targeted strike planned for Toronto schools, it’s tempting to conclude that Ontario’s Tories and teachers are fighting to the finish. Right down to the last student and parent in the province.

We've been here before. Back in the Mike Harris years, the premier -- a failed elementary teacher, who spent three years in the profession before he dropped out to become a golf pro at his father's golf course -- appointed a high school dropout, John Snoblen, to the Ministry of Education. Snoblen immediately declared that he was going to revolutionize education in Ontario. And the best way to do that, he said, was to "create a crisis." He proceeded to do just that.

And now we have another education crisis:

Yes it’s about budgets, because billions of dollars are at stake. But the undeniable reality is that this time, it’s not just about money but pedagogy.
The Tories have grudgingly admitted as much — by backing down on their pre-emptive moves against teachers which seemed designed to provoke the latest strike action. Even before both sides sat down at the bargaining table, Doug Ford’s Tories set it to blow up:
Ahead of negotiations, the government announced thousands of teaching jobs were out the window, thanks to four mandatory online courses for students (an untested innovation never attempted on that scale); and major increases in class sizes (an unwanted degradation that the government falsely claimed was welcomed by employers and parents).
In the ensuing uproar, Ford replaced his first education minister, Lisa Thompson, with rookie politician Stephen Lecce, who quietly walked back the regressive and provocative moves. But it was only a tactical retreat, in which the government tried to split the difference.
Instead of pushing average class sizes up by roughly six students, the government countered with three; instead of four online courses, it recalibrated to two. This wasn’t so much a concession as an admission of contrition for failing to think things through in the first place.
Lecce now complains the unions won’t meet him halfway. But if the government cuts its cuts in half, that’s not much of an improvement, as the opposition New Democrats keep pointing out. They have a point.
Reacting to the strike action, the government is casting teachers as money-obsessed: In fact, the Tories obsessed over money before talks even began, announcing a one-per-cent wage freeze across the public service (the OSSTF wants only a cost-of-living increase).

Teachers are asking for a 2% raise. Not unreasonable, considering that "the provincial government’s own statistics bear this out, showing the average collective bargaining increase in Ontario was 1.9 per cent so far this year — and even higher in the private sector, at 2.1 per cent."

No. What this is all about is what it was all about twenty-five years ago: In Ontario, the uneducated are waging a war on education.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Friday, December 06, 2019

Gaming The System

Ontario's auditor general is giving Doug Ford's government a hard time these days. And, in particular, she's mightily unimpressed with Ford's emissions reduction plan. Tom Walkom writes:

A new report from the auditor general suggests that on environmental matters, the numbers don’t add up unless you double count them.
Double trouble. Problem made, problem persisting.
“The plan double counts some emissions reductions that are targeted by more than one program,” according to the annual audit released Wednesday. “This resulted in an overstatement of total emissions reductions.”

Put simply, Ford is cooking the books:

Doubling up closes the gap when you’re caught short. Until you’re caught out, in which case you contract out the numbers to an industry association that tells you what you want to hear.
The government didn’t just double count, miscount and misstate, it tried to misappropriate stateside: 40 per cent of our municipal solid waste is disposed of in the U.S., where it generates greenhouse gas emissions on the American ledger; future plans to divert that waste will indeed reduce emissions, just not in Ontario, yet the government wrongly claimed credit for it.
Perhaps the most brazen overreach is on electric vehicles, which could help reduce emissions from transportation, the biggest source of greenhouse gases. The government kept clinging to ambitious estimates of 1.3 million electric vehicles by 2030 — up from 41,000 today — that were based on generous incentive programs that the Tories cut upon taking office.
There is method to their madness: They had a target, and then reverse-engineered the inputs to make it add up, thus gaming the system.

Gaming the system is an old story. So none of this should be surprising -- if you were paying attention.

Image: Science News

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Of Course They Laugh At Him

Collective horror is sweeping the press. The leaders of NATO were caught laughing at Donald Trump  behind his back. Susan Delacourt wonders what it's all about:

Did you hear the one about the world leader behaving badly at the NATO summit?
In what truly is a sign of just how much Donald Trump has disrupted the rules of political diplomacy in three tumultuous years in office, the punchline to that joke is not Donald Trump.
Instead, the bad diplomatic behaviour award at this week's NATO summit is being given to the world leaders — including Canada's own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who made the mistake of reacting to the perennially outrageous, unpredictable U.S. president.
That's just how things seem to work around Trump — he yells, and those who whisper about him are deemed to be the problem.

In the United States, late night comedians are having a heyday doing the same. And, in Washington, he's being impeached. Did we really think that world leaders didn't mock Trump behind his back?

There is another way to see the conversation at Buckingham Palace — as a totally sane, normal reaction to a politician who breaks all the rules of standard political behaviour, both at home and on the world stage.
The snippets of conversation overheard from that cocktail encounter were not that much different from observations being made Tuesday night on CNN (granted, Trump's least favourite media outlet) when hosts such as Chris Cuomo remarked on the president's highly unusual and undiplomatic behaviour at the summit.
Diplomacy, of course, dictates that world leaders don't laugh at each other — unless, of course, you're Trump, who thought the funniest thing about the whole incident was the name he called Trudeau after hearing about the video.
"That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced," Trump said Wednesday.
This is, we'll remember, a bit of a repeat of what happened after the G-7 summit in Quebec in 2018, when Trump got annoyed at how Trudeau talked about him after their meeting. On that occasion, the president called the prime minister "weak" and "dishonest."
What did Trudeau do to incite Trump's wrath back then? He spoke out against U.S. tariffs against Canada — which is what you would expect a Canadian prime minister to do. But that story quickly became one about Trump taking offence, rather than one about what prompted Trudeau to make the remarks in the first place. Excuse the seasonal reference, but apparently this isn't like that scene in the Christmas film "Love Actually," when the British prime minister is lauded as a national hero for calling out the bully president.

Pompous asses should be laughed at -- pompous fools even more so.


Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Guilty. It Couldn't Be Clearer

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee released its report into Donald Trump's shenanigans in Ukraine. Senator Richard Blumenthal -- a former federal prosecutor -- writes that Trump was bribing the Ukraine. And bribery is an impeachable offence:

President Trump solicited a bribe. And the Constitution makes clear that a president who engages in bribery “shall be removed from office.” In fact, along with treason, it is one of only two crimes specifically mentioned as conduct that would necessitate impeachment and removal.
Before I joined the Senate, I spent decades in law enforcement deciding when bad conduct rises to the level of illegality. Any good lawyer starts with the legal text, and when the Constitution was drafted, bribery was defined broadly as any “undue reward” for a public action. As illustrated during the House impeachment inquiry, which moves to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a political investigation ginned up to reward Trump for providing needed military aid would certainly fit the bill.
But even under the narrower definition of bribery currently in the criminal code, Trump’s actions clearly qualify. Federal law defines bribery as the solicitation of “anything of value personally” by a public official “in return for” an official act. It also specifies that a bribe can be a reward for an act the public official would have done anyway. In short, merely soliciting a bribe is bribery.

The entire Republican Party -- in the House and Senate -- offers two defences of Trump:

First, they argue that Trump can’t be guilty of bribery because Ukraine never conducted the investigations he demanded and because the country still received military aid. Of course, the money was released only after a government whistleblower exposed the president’s plans. As a law enforcement official, I prosecuted criminals whose illegal schemes failed because they were caught red-handed. None had the gall to say they were innocent because their crimes did not achieve their goals. Ineffective criminals are still criminals.
The bribery statute makes clear: Soliciting a bribe is illegal even if the bribe is never paid.
Second, Trump’s defenders argue that no one has testified they directly heard Trump order anybody to demand a bribe. Apparently, they want us to believe that Giuliani — a private citizen — ran a shadow foreign policy to secure political benefits for Trump without Trump’s knowledge or support. The fact that Trump specifically told foreign leaders to contact Giuliani is simply an unfortunate coincidence.
That no witness heard Trump utter the words “please solicit a bribe from Ukraine” should not be shocking. Anybody who has watched a mob movie knows criminals don’t spell out their illegal plans to every subordinate. More importantly, individuals who might have heard Trump say those words may have unlawfully refused to testify, at Trump’s request. When a defendant improperly withholds evidence, courts instruct juries to assume that the evidence would not help the defendant. Americans should make the same assumption here.

But simply, Trump solicited a bribe -- an impeachable offence -- and he was caught red handed. Any other criminal would be sent to jail. But, because he's the president, Trump will probably get off.

Is this "Truth, Justice And The American Way?"

Image: Hartford Courant

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

So What Was That All About?

Yesterday, Canada's premiers gathered in Mississauga. Martin Regg Cohn writes that it was a strange meeting:

For a moment in time Monday, Canada’s premiers all pledged fealty to national unity.
No more disunity, not until further notice. They put their best faces forward collectively even if, as a country, we’re not much further ahead.
How did they achieve their new-found harmony? By putting their old discord on hold.
Pharmacare? Not ready.
Pipelines? Not really.
Pricing carbon? Not in this or that province.
Preventing religious discrimination? None of your business (if Quebec bans articles of faith for some, it’s not for others to weigh in).

They did, however, agree on one thing. They all needed more money from the feds:

Ahead of a first ministers’ summit next month with Justin Trudeau, it called for more money from Ottawa for provinces in need, notably Alberta and Saskatchewan. More money from Ottawa for health care. More money for infrastructure. You get the idea.

And that, Ford says, is a sign of national unity. But Cohn is sceptical:

Never mind. “What’s good for Ontario is good for Canada, and what’s good for Canada is good for Ontario,” Ford keeps saying, revelling in the role of Captain Canada.
It’s an interesting saying. But it only means something if the premier of Ontario has something interesting to say.
Without a voice, or a vision, the premier’s musings on national unity mean everything and nothing.

As Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, California, "There's no there there."

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, December 02, 2019

Trudeau's Future

Chantal Hebert writes that the future of the Trudeau government  may well rest on what it decides to do about climate change:

The makeup of this Parliament should translate into impetus for more decisive environmental action. But on that score, the message from the realignment of the cabinet was muddled — presumably as a result of Trudeau’s determination to not ruffle more feathers in the Prairies.
Thursday’s throne speech will provide more insights as to whether the Liberals will embrace the opportunity to raise their climate change game or resist it.
It is a sign of the times that Trudeau’s minority government may be the first whose actions — or inaction — on climate change could determine its longevity.

Jason Kenney and Scott Moe want to build pipelines to both the West and East -- something Andrew Scheer committed his party to. He and they lost the election.

Trudeau wants to put the next election as far off as possible.

Stay tuned.

Image: Vox