Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Tough Row To Hoe

Progressives in the United States and Canada have a leadership crisis on their hands. Michael Harris writes:

In both countries, the progressive parties are in a crisis of leadership. For very different reasons, the parties themselves are deeply conflicted about their incumbents: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau here, and President Joe Biden in the United States.   

The polling and approval ratings for both leaders are abysmal. They are so bad, in fact, that even though they are incumbent leaders of governments, they have each been invited by members of their own party to step down.  

After nine years in power, the Liberals are dealing with the public’s “Trudeau fatigue.” The Democrats in the United States are saddled with a wobbly president deemed to be too old for a second term by two-thirds of Americans. 

Another similarity? Both beleaguered leaders have not only refused to resign, but insist they will carry the party banner into the next election.

Grit or denialism?

That depends on your point of view -- and timing:

Those who support the president—including the panicked staff in the White House, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and much of the Democratic leadership—talk about colds, jet-lag, and all the wonderful things that Biden has done over his long career. They are on the loyalty train, possibly of the misguided variety.

Then there are those who “love” the president, but think he is too old and diminished for the job, include a growing chorus of elected representatives, pundits, and celebrities. Actor and Democratic fundraiser George Clooney made that case in a guest essay in The New York Times on July 10.  

Trudeau is another matter:

Trudeau is not Biden. He is mentally sharp, still youthful, and formidable on the campaign trail. But there is no pretending that the Liberal Party in Canada does not have a major leadership issue to resolve.  

Based on how the Democrats have fractured their party by ignoring Biden’s age and competency issues until that became impossible; based on the fact that this has happened just months away from what might be the most consequential election in U.S. history; the Liberals should resolve their leadership issues now.

There is word today that Trudeau is bringing Mark Carney into the Liberal caucus.

Stay tuned.

Image: The Hill

Monday, July 15, 2024

Good Businessmen?

A decade ago, the government of Ontario replaced our LCBO with a much bigger building. It does a roaring business, particularly in the summer. These days, there's a long picket line outside the building. Almost a decade ago, Doug Ford rode to power, promising a "buck a beer" and wider access to booze. He also made it clear that he was convinced that profit made the world go around.

That's what makes what's going on so strange. The LCBO is very profitable. Linda McQuaig writes:

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), a crown corporation, has been doing a fine job selling alcohol — not exactly a risky enterprise requiring a lot of innovation — through its 677 outlets across the province.

And since it is publicly owned, its healthy annual profit — $2.5 billion in 2023 — goes into the public treasury, where it pays for things like health care and education.

Those profits have been invested in healthcare and education.  But Ford has been cutting off revenue streams to the province's treasury. Ontarians no longer pay to renew their license plates. And Ford wants to cancel the contract with Ontario's Beer Stores at a cost of 225 million dollars:

Like so much this premier does, the basic animating force appears to be a zealous desire to privatize, to hand over ever more of our province to private interests, to further cannibalize Ontario’s strong tradition of public services and public enterprises that have served the province well.

Ford is following the path of former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, whose needless privatizations produced some disasters for Ontario.

Harris’ privatization of Highway 407 has cost us billions, his water-testing privatization was a factor in seven water-contamination deaths in Walkerton, and his privatization of long-term care homes worsened the COVID crisis, with death rates four times higher in private homes than in public ones.

Both men claimed to be good businessmen. Right.

Image: Niagara At Large

Friday, July 12, 2024

Get Real

Americans are tearing themselves apart over Joe Biden. Nobody's talking about Donald Trump. Dana Milbank writes they're focusing on the wrong guy:

The heavy-handed attempt to force Biden to quit the race after his disastrous debate has, predictably, backfired. Biden has dug in, pitting “elites” against the people. Democrats are fighting among themselves. George Clooney is diagnosing Biden’s mental competence (he played Dr. Doug Ross on “ER,” after all). And Republicans can hardly believe their good fortune, as they portray Biden as a zombie — with no good answer to their attacks.

Trump’s Doral rally was full of endless variations on the “Weekend at Bernie’s” theme. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), now in the final round of auditions to become Trump’s running mate, warmed up the crowd by identifying a “conspiracy” to hide Biden’s mental condition. He went on: “We know he’s not calling the shots. … Look, the guy’s a figurehead for a shadow government of leftists that are propping him up.”

Then came Donald Trump Jr. “We’re running against a party that wants to take away your AR-15, but they gave a vegetable the nuclear codes,” he began. He tried another: “If Joe Biden showed up to pick you up in an Uber, would you get in the car? … Would you let your worst enemy get in that car? Maybe. Maybe. Dumb ways to die, right folks?”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba sampled a line on the crowd: “He cannot spell ‘Bob’ backwards.”

And Trump himself made Biden’s purported feeblemindedness — always an element of his stump speech — the dominant theme. He mockingly challenged Biden to another debate. Pretending to be Biden struggling with a golf club, he also challenged the president to an 18-hole match, offering Biden a 20-stroke lead. “They all knew this guy was grossly incompetent, and every Democrat in the House and the Senate was in on it,” he alleged. “It was a scam. The American people can never trust this group of liars ever again. They put our country at great risk and danger.”

Trump joked about Biden taking naps and struggling to lift a beach chair. He floated the idea that “Hunter is in the White House running government right now, they say.” Seizing on an Axios report that Biden is only “dependably engaged” between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Trump claimed: “He can’t work because he’s mentally no good. He’s shot.”

This is nuts. The moron is in plain sight. And it's not Joe Biden.

On another note, some comments have been disappearing from this blog after they have been published. Apparently, this is a long-standing problem with Blogger. I have not found a way to recover them. I apologize.

Image: New York Daily News

Monday, July 08, 2024

Don't Buy The Image

Pierre Poilievre claims he's a man of the people. Linda McQuaig isn't buying it. She writes:

Poilievre has managed to pass himself off as anti-elitist and populist largely because Canadians have heard little about all the time he spends — when the cameras aren’t rolling — courting the country’s business elite.

Even as Poilievre has attacked corporate lobbyists — vowing they won’t be able to shape policy under his Conservative government as they have under the Liberals — he’s been consorting with a wide range of corporate lobbyists at about 50 extravagant private fundraising events across the country since being chosen party leader almost two years ago.

Details of these interactions have come to light due to investigative work by the online outlet The Breach, which has documented the presence of more than a hundred active or recent corporate lobbyists at Poilievre fundraising galas held at private mansions and swanky clubs, by carefully combing through the records in Elections Canada’s registry.

For instance, Poilievre was the central attraction at a lavish Regina fundraiser last November hosted by Saskatchewan’s wealthiest family, the Semples, owners of the Brandt Group of Companies, with major holdings in real estate, mining, construction, agriculture and pipeline equipment.

It didn’t seem to bother Poilievre that the Semples have a reputation for being anti-worker. In addition to serious health and safety violations, one of their companies was reprimanded by a labour tribunal for trying to impose its own collective agreement, which eliminated more than 50 pages from the existing agreement and added “unreasonable clauses” that gave the company extra powers.

Not exactly the friend of the working man:

But Poilievre has constructed a whole political persona for himself around the notion that he’s different, claiming recently that he’s visited 110 shop floors and five union halls while largely avoiding speaking to business groups.

Indeed, he’s warned business that they shouldn’t expect a warm welcome from government under his watch, that he plans to revamp the cosy relationship the Liberals have had with business.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Poilievre seems receptive to the corporate crowd.

As The Breach noted in an earlier investigation, the corporate set is heavily represented on the Conservative national council, which includes lobbyists representing major oil, pharmaceutical and real estate companies, as well as retail giants and others opposed to unions and minimum wage hikes.

None of the members of this 20-member Conservative council appears to represent workers.

Just a small heads up.

Image: The Walrus

Thursday, July 04, 2024

King Donald

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declared that the American President -- and they were writing about Donald Trump -- is King. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. held: “We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of Presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office.” He continued: “At least with respect to the President’s exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute. As for his remaining official actions, he is also entitled to immunity. At the current stage of proceedings in this case, however, we need not and do not decide whether that immunity must be absolute, or instead whether a presumptive immunity is sufficient.”

They are preparing the way for King Donald:

The notion that any illegal action could be draped in the cloak of “official conduct” should alarm all Americans. As the dissent points out, if as commander in chief Trump were to order Seal Team 6 to assassinate political opponents, what is to stop him? Given that the next president could be an already convicted felon, the prospect of an imperial president with a get-out-of-jail card should be terrifying. And to make matters worse, the court may not inquire into the president’s motive to determine if he was acting in an official capacity.

That's the key: the president's motives can't be questioned. What kind of court excludes motive in the commission of a crime? Two of the six justices have connections to the insurrection Trump staged. The last time he ran, he had no platform. This time he has a nine-hundred-page tome, declaring what he will do. His intention is to declare himself king.

Clearly, the highest court in the land is on Trump's side. Only American voters can save themselves.


Monday, July 01, 2024

Canada Day 2024

We're grumpy these days. Mr. Poilievre tells us that "Canada is broken." It's Poilievre boilerplate -- over the top and mean. There is much to fix and improve. But there is much to celebrate.

Happy Canada Day.

Image: Britannica

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Why Stay?

A lot of people are suggesting that Justin Trudeau should go. Martin Regg Cohn writes that Justin should talk to Kathleen Wynne:

Kathleen Wynne has been there, done that — and didn’t go.

After a bitter byelection defeat for the federal Liberals in Toronto–St. Paul’s riding this week, Wynne has been asking herself the same question anew. As premier, she stayed to fight another campaign in 2018, paying a high price in the election defeat that followed.

History also suggests that changing leaders is no panacea for unpopular premiers or prime ministers. After Wynne left, the Ontario Liberals under Steven Del Duca lost badly again to Doug Ford; after Brian Mulroney quit as PM in 1993, his successor Kim Campbell was wiped out; same with Pierre Trudeau’s successor, John Turner, in 1984.

Consider what Wynne is saying:

“I think what’s going to happen now is there’s going to be a lot of internal soul-searching,” Wynne told me. Over the next few weeks, MPs will be “trying to figure out now how to have the tough conversation with him,” because “he’s going to have to make a decision.”

Wynne predicts Liberal MPs across the country will be going door to door this summer hearing their constituents say, “We love you, we hate your leader.”

That’s what happened to Wynne in her last years, and it’s the fate befalling Trudeau now.

“I lived through that and it’s tough.”

MPs have to decide whether they can stand it. And the PM must determine if he can withstand it.

Wynne thought her situation would improve -- and so did Cohn:

Back then, I thought if Wynne could reintroduce herself to voters and somehow rehabilitate her image, she had a better chance to eke out a narrow victory in 2018 than any of the other pretenders to the throne. But as readers know, I’m always wrong — and as it turned out, the downside risk of an unloved leader was a massive loss on voting day.

Similarly, Trudeau may be the best bet for a longshot Liberal minority victory in the federal election due in late 2025. But by virtue of the personal hostility he engenders — akin to Wynne — he could very well be the worst bet if things don’t go their way, leading to even bigger losses.

It's not a simple decision. Stay tuned.

Image: CTV News