Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Emperor Of The North

There is only one way for Stephen Harper -- his way.  It's been that way from the beginning. His treatment of the dissident members of his caucus underscores that point yet again. But, Andrew Coyne writes, he can only get his way when the mob rules:

This isn’t a team. It’s a mob: mindless, frightened, without purpose or direction except what the leader decides, and unquestioning in its acceptance of whatever the leader decrees. What we have been watching these past few days is an exercise in raw power politics, designed as much to humiliate the individual in question as anything else. And let it be noted that a good many members of Warawa’s “team” were more than willing to take part.

A significant number of those MP's who Harper slapped down last week have, until now, been members of the mob in good standing:

I don’t want to make the dissenters into heroes. As others have pointed out, they have been only too willing to run with the pack in the past, to repeat the same fatuous talking points and otherwise follow instructions.

Their timorous behaviour in the past has made what happened last week possible. They are a pathetic bunch:

This is what has become of MPs, then — the people we elect to represent us, the ones who are supposed to give voice to our beliefs and stand up for our interests. They may not vote, in the vast majority of cases, except as the leader tells them. They may no longer, as of this week, bring private member’s bills or motions, except those the leader accepts. They may not even speak in the House, unless the leader allows.
Pretty much the only role left to them is to read out statements or questions written for them in the leader’s office, to parrot talking points on TV panels, and to jump to their feet at regular intervals to applaud whatever tedious attack line the leader repeats in Parliament. If they do all these in perfect obsequiousness, they may be rewarded with a seat in cabinet, though even these have grown so numerous and thus inconsequential that most will find themselves with little to do but ride around in their ministerial cars all day.

Stephen Harper didn't get to where he is without his enablers. But the lesson from last week is that he treats his enablers with the same contempt he treats his enemies. For Stephen Harper, everyone is expendable. He is the Emperor of the North.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Recent Additions To The Newspeak Dictionary

Carol Goar writes that three buzzords have recently been added to the Newspeak Dictionary:

The first is governance, an amorphous word that covers everything from the way a leader wields power to the way a small charity accounts to its donors. The term encompasses laws, procedures, standards, ethics and expectations. Its meaning varies with the user. Its criteria are ever-shifting. Yet politicians, bureaucrats, business executives, non-profit leaders and pundits use the term as if everyone knows — or ought to know — what they’re talking about.

But, the truth is, our masters make it mean whatever they want it to mean:

Here is an example: “Concluding an agreement with N.W.T. will be an important and positive step in the evolution of northern governance.” The speaker is former aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan, heralding a yet-to-be announced deal that would shift responsibility for land use and resource management from Ottawa to the government of the Northwest Territories. Duncan would not provide details of the negotiations.  

The word lacks context. There are no clues -- no details -- to support meaning. In truth, there is nothing there. The most recent exercise  in making something of nothing is the latest Harper budget. In fact, Paul Wells writes, Stephen Harper doesn't do budgets anymore.

Then there is another term -- which the Harper government throws around with abandon -- diligence:

Here is how Julian Fantino, minister of international co-operation, used it in a recent letter to the Star. “While I am cognizant of the space limitations in the Toronto Star, to leave out much of what the Canadian International Development Agency provided, puts into question Jessica McDiarmid’s due diligence in representing Canada’s exemplary work in Afghanistan.” The minister was responding to a story detailing how $10 billion of the $50 billion Canada spent to build a dam in Afghanistan went to security contractors facing allegations of corruption.

He did not refute a single fact in the story. (Everything was backed up by government documents obtained through Access to Information). Nor did he challenge any of the figures. Fantino’s objection was the writer’s focus: she didn’t present a full picture of Canada’s aid to Afghanistan and didn’t explain how much good the dam would do.

That kind of publicity is his job — not hers. Yet by using the term “due diligence,” the minister was able to insinuate McDiarmid had behaved unprofessionally.

And, finally, there is that term austerity. As used by conservative politicians, it is supposed to be a virtue. David Cameron claims that what the world needs is more austerity. Yet austerity, as he defines it, has put his nation into recession for a second time. And it keeps Europe on the brink of economic collapse.

George Orwell knew that politicians twisted language. War became Peace. Ignorance became Strength. And Freedom became Slavery. Not much has changed since he wrote Politics And The English Language.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Conservative Coalition

This week's revolt in the Conservative caucus has exposed the government's fault lines. Tom Walkom writes that the Harper Party is split three ways:

Over the past eight days, three of those factional fault lines have emerged into full public view. The first is economic. Some Conservatives are true market zealots who view any interference with the workings of demand and supply as anathema.

It was these Conservatives that Small Business Minister Maxime Bernier was speaking to last week when he publicly chastised Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for asking mortgage lender Manulife Financial to raise its bargain-basement rates.

The second great fault line in the party is moral. On one side are social conservatives. These tend to be anti-abortion, suspicious of gay marriage and favourable to capital punishment.

Harper himself has always been uncomfortable with social conservatives. But in the past he managed to keep them on side — partly by emphasizing law and order and partly by promoting what he has called a moral foreign policy.

The third great fissure is over populism. Harper makes no secret of his distaste for populists. He has argued that a political party that panders to the whim of voters ends up standing for nothing.
Yet the Reform Party that eventually became the Harper Conservatives was very much a populist movement, one that believed MPs had a duty to represent the interests of their constituents over the diktats of party brass.

Harper is a dictator.  However, his government -- like most Canadian conservative governments -- is inherently unstable. Up until now, he has been able to convince the three wings of his caucus to bide their time. But, clearly, the natives are restless.

John Diefenbaker's caucus imploded. So did Brian Mulroney's. Joe Clark wasn't around long enough for things to fall apart. But fall apart they will. The only question is whether or not Stephen Harper will be around when they do. My bet is that the man who prorogued parliament twice rather than face defeat will head for the exits before the cataclysm -- leaving someone else to pick up the pieces.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fear Of The Public

Edward Greenspon -- who edited the Globe and Mail before it became a cheerleader for the Harper government -- occasionally writes a column for his new employer, The Toronto Star. On Monday he wrote:

I've been giving some thought in recent days to the term public servant. It contains within it an elegant and necessary tension. For the “public” half or the “servant” half to be accorded undue weight skews the proper functioning of the kind of permanent, non-partisan public service that characterizes Westminster-style systems like Canada's.

The problem is that the Harperites have put the emphasis on "servant" and erased the notion of "public." Consider the case of Kevin Page:

Whatever its nature, the government's attack on an office it created for the simple reason of it having become an inconvenient check speaks to the propensity of the executive to want to tilt the balance toward servants. Efforts to defang the PBO are especially disturbing when others in the traditional ranks of government appear increasingly constrained (economists, scientists, diplomats) in the information they are allowed to provide the public. The legislature is a representative extension of the people; it requires the tools to meet its institutional responsibilities.

In recent days, we have also seen the odd attempt to shift the balance from public to servant of government librarians and archivists. Who would have thought this particular class of quiet professionals could pose a danger, but some of their activities have been described in a new Code of Conduct as high risk. What are these activities, you may wonder? Teaching, attending conferences, speaking in public - even in personal time. Though it's hard to imagine them being privy to any governmental secrets, they must seek permission up the ladder before engaging in any of these high risk activities. They are, after all, servants. 

The Harperites came to power knowing they are a minority. They now possess a majority of seats in the House of Commons. But they are painfully aware that those seats were won -- while skirting Canada's election laws -- with a minority of votes.

The greater Canadian public is still against them. They live in fear that the public is waiting to take its revenge. Therefore, they cannot afford to have "public" servants. That is why Linda Keen, Pat Strogan, Munir Sheikh, and now Kevin Page are no longer around.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Death Of Television News

The late Edward R. Murrow understood the great potential of television. He also understood that it could merely propagate ignorance. In 1958, he told the Radio and Television News Directors Association:

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.” 

He would not have been happy with the job done by television journalists in the run up to the Iraq War. Television news died, Chris Hedges writes, as the United Stated prepared to invade Iraq:

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. 

Now television news has become part of the corporate juggernaut:

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns.

And it's not what TV news reports that's the real problem. It's what it doesn't report:

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street.

And so viewers sit in self satisfied somnolence, content in their bondage. The man who challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy understood what mischief could be managed while the people slept. "A nation of sheep," he said, "will beget a government of wolves."

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Can See It Coming

Michael Harris writes this morning that his support for native issues is meeting some strong resistance:

Consider this response to my last column on aboriginal issues, which predicted that unless the federal government abandons the status quo, there will be big trouble in the land of peace, order and good government — and sooner rather than later:

“What you fail to grasp Michael is the widespread support Harper has amongst the white majority in Canada regarding the natives. The vast majority of Canadian whites are fed up with the natives. The natives may be fed up with us as well. However, that doesn’t matter, we have the population, the money and the guns.”

Recent polls suggest that the commenter isn't alone:

A recent Ipsos-Reid poll found that 81 per cent of Canadians were against more funding for aboriginals unless the monies were strictly audited; 66 per cent believed that natives already receive enough funding; and 60 per cent thought that aboriginals have brought their problems down on themselves.

So, if Stephen Harper continues to treat Canada's First Nations with disdain, he would appear to have white Canadians on his side.

But, as I read the reaction to Harris' last column, I was reminded of a meeting I attended forty-five years ago. I was a young student teacher, a rube from Canada, preparing to enter the public schools of North Carolina. We neophytes met with a group of young black activists. For three summers American cities like Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington had burned. One of our number suggested the African Americans were hopelessly out numbered. "There are 280 million of us," he said, "and only 22 million of you. And we have the guns."

I have always remembered her response. "Shit," she said. "I'd rather die standing up than on my knees."  You could see the storm coming before it broke.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Employment Insurance In The Maritimes

Ralph Surette has been around a long time. He has seen politicians come and go. And, for him, Stephen Harper cannot go fast enough:

Environmental and fishery laws, our international reputation, the integrity of Parliament, relations with the provinces, and more, have been junked; scientists have been gagged, information snuffed under a pall of non-transparency, and so forth. Virtually every week, for years now, there’s been a new outrage; they have become so routine that they’re hardly reported.

And, from the perspective of a Maritimer, Harper's "reform" of EI really means the destruction of the system:

As of now, by some calculations, only four out of 10 people who pay into the system can actually collect, thanks to its accumulated dysfunction. If so, the present changes, in my estimation, will drop that to 30 or even 20 per cent. Much has been said about having to take any job within an hour’s drive and the inspectors going around sniffing out fraud. More to the point is the closure of the regional EI offices and the demand that everything be done by computer, including being on standby as Ottawa emails twice a day on job openings “in your area.” Meanwhile, the conditions to be met (competency evaluations, attending job fairs, networking and others) are geared to big city conditions.

Canadians may have forgotten that

these changes, like everything else in the Harpersphere, were never debated. They were part of last year’s budget omnibus bill, a violation of democratic process in itself. The argument that EI is a support for seasonal industries, not unlike subsidies for the auto or oil industries, never entered the calculation.

Perhaps, Surette suggests, the prime minister believes he doesn't need the Maritimes -- just as he doesn't need Quebec -- to win the the next time around. Those regions are disposable. In fact, if he only needs 39% of the vote to win, that means the majority of Canadians are disposable.

Given those kinds of numbers, Surette writes:

The real point now, I suggest, is how much damage is yet to be done by this government before its number is finally up in a couple of years.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

They Really Believe We're Stupid

Jim Flaherty's budget is an extraordinary feat of legerdemain. He boldly claims there are things in it which simply aren't there. Take his claim that his government will invest in infrastructure. David Macdonald, at The Progressive Economics Forum, writes:

One the most amazing things about this budget is that one of its three focuses will actually be the opposite of what it’s touting.  You’ll likely hear that $14 billion will be spent on infrastructure over the next 10 years (actually you may hear much bigger numbers but they just re-announce existing programs like the gas tax transfer).  What you won’t hear is that 75% of that money is going to spent on or after 2020.  In fact, there will be an affective $1 billion cut to infrastructure transfers to the cities in 2014-15.

There are at least two good arguments for investing in infrastructure. The first is that it improves national productivity. The second is that it acts as an economic stabilizer which injects money into a floundering economy. But, as economic growth is slowing, Mr. Flaherty will cut infrastructure spending next year. Now you see it. Now you don't.

And then there is Flaherty's proposed  Canada Job Grant. Tom Walkom writes that it is actually Flaherty's "dirty little secret:"

And while Flaherty wants business to chip in $5,000 per worker as well, his scheme remains very much dependent on public largesse.

However, aside from a few vague mutterings, the Conservative government does not seem prepared to seriously scale back temporary worker programs that allow business to cherry-pick cheap labour from abroad.

If companies knew they couldn’t import, say, skilled pipefitters from Europe, they might put more effort into training domestic workers to meet their needs.
But employers know they don’t have to train. Instead, they need only wait until the last minute and then complain of labour shortages.

Canada has always imported workers. Immigration built this country. The difference now is that, under the Harper government, the workers must be paid 15% less than the going rate -- and then go home. The rule used to be that, when we imported workers, we offered them citizenship.

The Harper government has always been rooted in cynicism. This week's budget was another case in point. Our masters really believe we're stupid.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's About Selfishness

"The modern conservative," John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, "is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." He might have added that modern conservatives take extreme measures to hide that exercise.

That is why, in yesterday's budget speech, Jim Flaherty didn't mention that CIDA was being folded into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nor did he mention the change in the agency's mission. CIDA will now tie foreign aid to Canadian business development abroad. Aid will not be given on the basis of need. It will be given on a simple criterion: leveraging Canadian corporate profits.

Tonda MacCharles writes in the Toronto Star that:

The budget plan says the Conservative government will continue “to make international development and humanitarian assistance central to our foreign policy” and that “core development assistance will remain intact.”

But non-governmental organizations like Oxfam raised concerns that Ottawa’s allocation of aid “will be driven by Canada’s self-interest in foreign policy, and the government’s economic and trade agenda rather than poverty alleviation.”

“Foreign Affairs is not in the business of reducing poverty,” said Anthony Scoggins, Oxfam’s director of international programs. “We risk losing the expertise, focus, effectiveness — and results — that CIDA staff brought to this goal.”

The Harperites worship at the corporate altar. Salvation lies in profit. Is it any wonder that our international reputation has fallen so far -- like our ranking in the Human Development Index?

It's all about selfishness.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lectures From Hypocrites

Jim Flaherty's lecture to Manulife caused the company to reverse its mortgage rate -- and it caused a kerfuffle in the Conservative chorus. Mad Max Bernier publicly disagreed with his cabinet colleague. Even Stephen Harper's favourite economist -- Jack Mintz -- says that mortgage rates are not Flaherty's business.

What Flaherty's intervention showed us is what we have known for a long time. The prime directive in the Harper government is, "Do As I Say." This is the government that has told native peoples that pipelines will cross their land. If they disagree, they will lose their federal funding. This is the government which has told the premiers what they will receive for health care, and which refuses to meet with the Council of the Federation to discuss it. And this is the government which lectures the rest of the world on how it should manage its finances.

The problem, of course, is that lecturers should practise what they preach. On that score, Andrew Coyne writes, Flaherty is no paragon of fiscal virtue:

But then, as long as we’re talking about bad credit: Is it not just a little galling, having to listen to lectures on the evils of too much debt, from the man responsible for adding $150-billion to the national mortgage?

But it's all part of a pattern. This is the government whose first piece of legislation was the Accountability Act -- and which has done everything in its power to avoid accountability -- from refusing to make spending plans public to proroguing parliament.

In the end, nobody believes anything a hypocrite says.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Propagating A Lie

Truth is always the first casualty of war. But, on the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Richard Gwyn writes that truth died before that war started:

In Bush’s version of the maxim, it wasn’t the fact every war once begun makes lying inevitable: each side always blames the other, minimizes its own misdeeds and claims that God is on its side.

Instead, the purpose of these lies was to manufacture a war that otherwise couldn’t have happened. As a result, there was no limit to the lying.

And George Bush told some whoppers. He claimed:

  • That Iraq had an armoury of nuclear weapons. It had none.

  • That Iraq provided Al Qaeda with the base it needed to stage its terrorist attacks. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq.

  • That the invasion, by deposing the dictator Saddam Hussein and bringing him to justice, would make Iraq a democracy. Today, elections are indeed held, but the killings continue (nine Iraqis were killed on Monday) and the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are as far apart as ever.

  • Newspapers like the Great Gray Lady -- The New York Times -- bought the lies. Gywn admits that, for awhile, he bought them, too. So did that august public intellectual, Michael Ignatieff. Things did not work out so well for him.

    But, for the Leader of the Opposition, Fortune smiled. Stephen Harper wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Canada's refusal to join the Coalition of the Willing was "a serious mistake" and that disarming Iraq was "necessary for the long term security of the world."

    Who says that propagating a lie doesn't reap benefits?

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    No Progressive

    The Harperites -- not surprisingly -- accused Thomas Mulcair of traitorous behaviour when, during his recent Washinton gambit, he did not give his full throated support to the Keystone XL pipeline. He was, they said, damaging Canada's international reputation.

    But four of Canada's former prime ministers have recently suggested that Stephen Harper is doing a superb job of trashing our international reputation without any help from Mulcair. Consider Jean Chretien's terse comment:

    "I'm travelling the world. The image of Canada today is not what it was," Chrétien told Global News on Sunday.

    Then we have Paul Martin's assessment:

    Paul Martin said that Canada was no longer "well-positioned" to be a player on the international stage and put the blame on Harper.
    "[The United Nations is] going to be looking for countries that have a role to play internationally," he told Postmedia.

    "Well, if you have walked away from Africa, if you have walked away from climate change, you’re not going to have a great deal of influence in the rest of the world."

    The bad reviews, however, don't just from former Liberal prime ministers. The most stinging assessment comes from Joe Clark. He says that Harper has abandoned the "strong and positive traditions" which were the bedrock of the old Progressive Conservative Party:

    "It's certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade," he [told] the McGill Daily.

    "Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

    "Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated."

    Even Kim Campbell opined that, "We have pulled back a little from our effort to be serious players, and I’d like to see us do more."

    Clark and Campbell were Progressive Conservatives. The first thing Harper did when he assumed the leadership of his "new" party was to drop the first adjective. As Stephen Harper stands naked before the world, it's obvious that there is nothing progressive about the man.

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    The Escalating War on Labour

    We hear that Ontario's ongoing dispute with teachers is about extra curricular activities and the deficit. It's about neither. Tom Walkom writes in the Toronto Star:

    At its heart, this fight is about work. It is about the implicit deal struck between governments, employers and employees more than 50 years ago to make the workplace a fairer place.

    It is about the unravelling of that deal.

    Fifty years ago, a carefully constructed set of rules applied to labour negotiations:

    Ontario’s law established criteria under which unions could organize a workplace. Employers, in turn were required to at least talk to a union that had met this threshold.

    Each side was allowed to use the ultimate sanction, a work stoppage. A union could strike. An employer could, by locking out its employees, bar them from working.

    But there were rules to this game. Bargaining had to be conducted in good faith. Strikes and lock-outs could take place only when a collective agreement had lapsed. A government board was established to act as umpire.

    Employees deemed essential, such as nurses and police officers, were barred from striking. In return, decisions on their wages and working conditions were set by neutral arbitrators.
    Throughout, the legislature always retained the right to end, through back-to-work laws, any labour dispute it deemed harmful. In virtually all such cases, though, those ordered back to work received wages and benefits decided by a neutral arbitrator.

    But, last year, the McGuinty government trashed that system. The man who billed himself as "The Education Premier" decided that Ontarians could no longer afford the rules:

    The Liberal government of Wynne and Dalton McGuinty changed all that. Its Bill 115 gave cabinet alone the right to set wages and working conditions for teachers — without letting bargaining run its course, without neutral arbitration.

    This settlement, whether agreed to or not by teachers, was deemed a legal contract. Any action to protest that contract by withdrawing paid labour services through a strike is therefore, by definition, illegal.

    Stephen Harper has taken the same approach at the federal level. Government has declared war on labour -- and decreed that labour must bail capital out.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    The Disposable Citizen

    Several years ago, the American educator Henry Giroux moved to Canada to take the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. From there he has continued to write about the land of his birth. His criticisms have been clear-eyed and stark. Writing yesterday about Paul Ryan's proposed budget, Giroux had this to say:

    It is a story that embodies a kind of savage violence that makes clear that those who occupy the bottom rungs of American society - whether they be low-income families, poor minorities of color and class or young failed consumers - are to be considered disposable, removed from ethical considerations and the grammar of human suffering.

    Giroux then expands on Ryan's -- and the Republican Party's -- notion of the disposable citizen:

    At the heart of this account is an ideology, a mode of governance, and a set of policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and to abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness. In the end, this is a story about disposability and how it has become a central feature of American politics. Rather than work for a better life, most Americans now work to simply survive in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which a growing number of groups are considered disposable and a drain on the body politic, economy, and sensibilities of the rich and powerful. What is new about the politics of disposability is not that public values and certain groups are now rendered as excess or redundant, but the ways in which such anti-democratic practices have become normalized in the existing contemporary neoliberal order. A politics of inequality and ruthless power disparities is now matched by a culture of cruelty soaked in blood, humiliation and misery. Private injuries are not only separated from public considerations in Ryan’s story, they have become the object of scorn just as all noncommercial public spheres are viewed with contempt, a perfect supplement to a chilling indifference to the plight of those disadvantaged because of their class, health, race, age and disability. There is a particularly savage violence that fuels Ryan’s account and that violence has made America unrecognizable as a democracy.

    What is truly chilling is how many people have bought Ryan's story. Canadians, by the way, are in no position to feel a sense of schadenfreude. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is implementing the same agenda north of the border. For both Ryan and Harper, citizens are disposable.

    Their agenda has moved from policy to pathology.

    This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

    Saturday, March 16, 2013

    Aboriginal Anger

    Stephen Harper must feel he has dodged a bullet. Theresa Spence has left the island; and all appears calm along the banks of the Ottawa River. Now, as he did with the premiers on healthcare, Harper is dictating terms to Canada's First Nations. Michael Harris writes:

    Senior Idle No More sources have told iPolitics that bands are in turmoil over a debate about whether to sign this year’s contribution agreements with the federal government. The issue is an appendix of conditions attached to the documents.

    The appendix allegedly requires the bands to support federal omnibus legislation and proposed resource developments as a condition of accessing their funding. Some bands have already signed the funding agreements out of necessity, noting that they did so under duress, and at least two others allegedly did not. “As of April 1, 2013,” one source said, “they will have no funds because they did not sign the agreement.”

    As has been the case all along, Harper wants to turn back the clock. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who watched Harper tear up the Kelonwa Accord, says:

    “The great tragedy of Kelowna is that the fundamental problem has only gotten worse as Harper has gone back to the old way of doing things that has been failing since the 1920s … There is great tension now because the Harper government has reversed wheels on the issue.”

    Consider what has happened since Harper burned the accord:

    • Two of the key people Harper once depended on to guide him through the issues on the table with Canada’s First Nations, Senator Patrick Brazeau and former political mentor Tom Flanagan, are in disgrace.
    • The high level meetings that were supposed to jump-start the new relationship are still just a gleam in a bureaucrat’s eye.
    • The Harper government has taken the Metis to court to argue that Ottawa is not responsible for them after a lower court ruled that it was.
    • The Harper government fought a case in the federal Court of Appeal to sustain the current system of child welfare underfunding on reserves.
    • The Harper government has been taken to court for refusing to provide documents by its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into the residential school tragedy.

    Canada's First Nations have learned what Quebecers learned early into Harper's tenure: When he says he has their interests at heart, he is totally insincere. What drives Idle No More is the movement's totally accurate take on the prime minister. You can't believe a word he says.

    And that is the reason why, if Harper thinks he has put native unrest to rest, he is sadly mistaken. Aboriginal anger continues to grow.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Life In The Land Of The Muzzled

    When Hugo Chavez died last week, Stephen Harper said, “At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Mr. Harper likes to lecture the world on the meaning of democracy.

    But the Toronto Star reports that, among the world's scientists, Canada's lectures ring hollow. They know that when it comes to freedom of speech -- one of the cornerstones of democracy -- Canada is full of hot air:

    But one researcher with well over a decade of experience in the civil service, who asked to remain anonymous because he said both management and his union have told him he could face penalties for speaking out publicly, called the situation “absolutely embarrassing.”

    “All of my colleagues around the world know about this, and they simply can’t understand what is going on in Canada,” the scientist said.

    And the people who populate our newsrooms also know what is going on:

    Newsrooms nationwide are familiar with the unusual restrictions Canadian government scientists face when attempting to communicate their work.

    For a story last December on how climate change is affecting the Arctic and Antarctic, The Star contacted scientists at NASA, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
    Emails to the U.S. government scientists were personally returned, usually the same day and with offers to talk in person or by phone.

    Emails sent to Canadian government scientists led to apologetic responses that the request would have to be routed through public relations officials. Public relations staff asked for a list of questions in advance, and then set boundaries for what subjects the interview could touch upon. Approval to interview the scientists was given days later. In all cases, a PR staffer asked to listen in on the interviews.

    Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is about to take up the issue. Like Kevin Page, the retiring Parliaamentary Budget Officer, she will probably get no cooperation from the Harper government. But this story has moved beyond Canada. And you can bet there are sources outside this country who will give Legault and earful.

    The rest of the world is beginning to cotton on to how things work in The Land of the Muzzled.

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Conservative Snake Oil

    For thirty years, neo-conservatives have been selling a myth. From Ronald Reagan, through George W. Bush to Stephen Harper, they have pitched the idea that they know how to manage government finances. Berating the "tax and spend" heresy of a previous generation, they have claimed that they will lead their fellow citizens to the Promised Land.

    The problem is that facts invariably prove them wrong. The latest example of conservative bunk is the recently released Alberta budget. Alberta -- the  Land of Milk and Honey -- will be running a deficit this year.

    It's not all Alison Redford's fault. Albertans have been raiding the Heritage Fund for decades. Frances Russell writes:

    Alberta has deposited just 5.4 per cent of its resource revenues in the fund since its inception, a fact that has gone largely unnoticed by the province’s population. Almost all the money was spent helping successive Conservative governments party hearty on above-Canadian-average levels of public services while boasting long and loud about Alberta’s status as the nation’s lowest-tax jurisdiction. Albertans not only don’t pay a sales tax but also enjoy a flat income tax, the latter another gift from the ebullient [Ralph] Klein and his provincial treasurer, former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day.

    That's certainly not what the late Peter Lougheed intended when he established the fund. Its purpose was to “provide prudent stewardship of the savings from Alberta’s non-renewable resources by providing the greatest financial returns on those savings for current and future generations of Albertans."  But those who followed Lougheed disregarded that mission.

    According to a report recently released by the Fraser Institute:

    From 1977 to 2011, the Alberta Heritage Fund’s cumulative net income was $31.3 billion. But the amount transferred out of the fund was $29.6 billion — “meaning virtually nothing was set aside for inflation-proofing to keep the principal intact in real terms,” the report’s authors say. “Despite Alberta’s tremendous natural resource endowment, the Fund equity (valued at cost) as of 2011 was a mere $14.2 billion.”

    That's not what the Norwegians, those pie eyed and socialists, did. They banked their oil revenues:

    The Norwegian Ministry of Finance forecasts that the fund will reach NOK 4.3 trillion ($717 billion) by the end of 2014 and NOK 6 trillion ($1 trillion) by the end of 2019.[4] In a parliamentary white paper in April 2011 the Norwegian Ministry of Finance forecast that the 2030 value of the fund would be NOK 7.4 trillion ($1.3 trillion). A worst-case scenario for the fund value in 2030 was forecast at NOK 2.7 trillion ($455 billion) and a best case scenario at NOK 19.6 trillion ($3.3 trillion).[5]  

    It's truly amazing that conservatives are still selling this snake oil. But what is more amazing is that so many people are still buying it.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Getting Tired And Tiresome

    Lawrence Martin wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail that those who predicted Justin Trudeau would be this decade's Kim Campbell may yet live to eat crow:

    When the poll numbers first came out last fall showing that Liberals led by Mr. Trudeau would beat all comers, no one took the numbers seriously. It was name recognition stuff. Voters weren’t paying attention. No big deal. In the ensuing months came the same polls and the same understandably dismissive reactions.
    But now there’s been about half a year of it, and Mr. Trudeau has made some mistakes and he hasn’t put forward innovative policy. But his fantastically good numbers still stand. 

    Being a soothsayer is a difficult business. Nine times out of ten, you're wrong. But there is still one axiom about Canadian politics which remains true:

    The big story of Canadian politics is its consistent pattern. Canadians generally hold to moderate values and vote pragmatically. They throw parties out and they bring them back when they get tired of their alternative.

    While Justin's future is murky, the Conservative present is dim. The economy is stagnating. Those Conservative senate appointments are beginning to smell like fresh manure. And the F-35 debacle has blown a hole in Stephen Harper's claims that he and his confreres are paragons of fiscal virtue.

    The truth is that governments eventually do themselves. Despite all of its preening, the Harper government is beginning to look tired and fat. Martin may well be correct in his contention that:

    Those who say Justin Trudeau is nothing special are probably right. He hasn’t shown much. But what the soundings suggest is that it may well be he doesn’t have to show much. It may well be he need only present a decent alternative and let Canadian politics – which is about dissatisfaction with incumbents more than excitement with new faces – run its course.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    Co-operatism Vs Corporatism

    Paul Adams writes that it will probably take another election defeat before the Liberals and the NDP decide there is good reason for them to work together. Each party has its champion of cooperation:

    Like Nathan Cullen in the NDP race last year, [Joyce] Murray has presented a credible progressive version of her party’s traditions while also arguing for party cooperation. And she’s attracted significant support — even though leadership races are when party supporters are at their most partisan.

    Of course, we all know she won’t actually win. 

    The old ways die hard. And co-operation does not appear on either party's radar screen. That said,

    there is a very slight possibility that there will be yet another opening to the idea before the 2015 election. If the Conservatives were to start polling quite a bit stronger — say nearer the 40 per cent mark — and the Liberal and the NDP were deadlocked in the mid-20 per cent range for long enough, there might be internal and external pressures for Trudeau and Mulcair to temper their intransigence about cooperation.

    Regardless of polls, the first step in a progressive restoration is for the Liberals and the NDP to stop firing at each other:

    A good starting point would be to look at the agreement signed by Jack Layton and Stéphane Dion when they tried to dislodge the Harper Conservatives in 2008. That would at least get the parties working together instead of against each other.

    The Liberals and the Dippers don't have to re-invent the wheel. But they do need to realize that, rather than one party co-opting the other -- which was what happened when the Reform Party captured the old Progressive Conservatives -- they have to come to some detente.

    Stephen Harper is betting that they won't. And, so far, his bet has paid off.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Manning's True Colours

    After attending the 1993 Reform Party Convention, the late Dalton Camp wrote:

    "The speechifying gives off acrid whiffs of xenophobia, homophobia, and paranoia—like an exhaust—in which it seems clear both orator and audience have been seized by some private terror: immigrants, lesbians, people out of work or from out of town and criminals."

    The people who support Manning and his star pupil -- the Prime Minister of Canada -- still believe the same swill. If you doubt that, remember that the keynote speaker at this year's Manning Conference was Dr. Ron Paul. Besides being a former presidential candidate, Paul has left a long paper trail. Francis Russell reminds her readers of some of the gems contained in that pile of verbiage:

    Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the John Birch Society, Paul said the society was “a great patriotic organization featuring an educational program solidly based on constitutional principles … Anyone who has been in the trenches over the years battling on any of the major issues — whether it’s pro-life, gun rights, property rights, taxes, government spending, regulation, national security, privacy, national sovereignty, the United Nations, foreign aid — knows that members of the John Birch Society are always in there doing the heavy lifting.”

    That would be the same John Birch Society which claimed that Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist agent. And then there was Paul's reaction to the Rodney King Affair:

    The Ron Paul Political Report, published an editorial in June, 1992 in the wake of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. It suggested that the looting and rioting was an inevitable consequence of the federal government providing blacks with “civil rights quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black TV shows, black TV anchors, hate-crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda … Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare cheques three days after rioting began.”

    The editorial was entirely consistent with Paul's statement that he would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act because "government should not dictate how property owners behave."

    Then there was the problem of some of Paul's supporters, people like former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, David Duke. When Duke threw his support behind Paul, David Frum wrote:

    “Paul has just gained David Duke’s endorsement. This week, the former KKK Grand Wizard telephoned into the radio show hosted by Stormfront founder Don Black to announce his support … Mr. Black is a former Klansman and member of the American Nazi Party who founded the ‘white nationalist’ website Stormfront in 1995. He donated to Mr. Paul in 2007 and has been photographed with the candidate …

    Paul was the man Preston Manning chose to keynote his conference. I note that Manning is an unapologetic Christian.

    Friday, March 08, 2013

    Imprisoning The Disadvantaged

    Howard Sapers, the ombudsman for Corrections Canada, released a report yesterday on the aboriginal population in this nation's prisons. His findings should disturb all Canadians, native and non-native. The lead editorial in today's Toronto Star repeats some of Sapers' findings:

    Sapers points out that the 3,400 First Nations, Metis and Inuit prisoners in federal prisons account for 23 per cent of inmates, up from 17 per cent a decade ago, even though aboriginals are just 4 per cent of the general population. And the trend shows no sign of abating any time soon.

     While Canadian law provides for native communities to take custody of offenders in Healing Lodges, far too few inmates qualify, barely one in 10, and there are too few lodges to house any more. Correctional Service Canada and native communities run eight lodges, with fewer than 300 spaces. And there are none at all in Ontario, British Columbia, the Atlantic provinces or the North. As a consequence there has been no progress in closing the large rehabilitation and reintegration gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders.

    In fact, the gap has grown -- a gap that is mirrored in the staffing of Canada's prisons:

    He also notes that of the federal system’s 19,000 staff, just 12 are aboriginal community development officers tasked with planning prisoners’ release into the wider community.

    Sapers gives the details on Stephen Harper's "tough on crime" agenda. Like Kevin Page and Michael Ferguson, he exposes the lie behind the rhetoric. When the prime minister talks about being "tough on crime" he really means "imprisoning the disadvantaged."

    A quick note: My wife and I will be away for a couple of days. I'll be back at the beginning of next week. Spring is on the way!

    Thursday, March 07, 2013

    EI Backlash

    Stephen Harper does not play well with others. Chantal Hebert writes:

    Under Harper, the First Ministers no longer gather and the unsolicited input of the premiers usually falls on deaf ears.

    The adoption without compensation to the provinces of a potentially costly law-and-order agenda; the imposition of a new funding formula for medicare and the implementation of an EI reform that stands to transform the seasonal economies of parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada are all cases in point.

    Now Harper proposes to claw back funds that are used by the provinces for job training. There has been no discussion about the proposal. The prime minister conveniently ignores the fact that Canada -- from the very beginning -- has been a federation. The concept implies co-operation between constituent parts. But, Hebert writes,

    In a previous life Stephen Harper advocated the creation of a provincial firewall to shelter Alberta from the policies of the federal government of the day. The concept must have stuck with him. As prime minister, he has presided over the building of an increasingly thick firewall to insulate his government from the input of the provinces.

    Not only does he ignore the founding fathers, he also ignores recent Canadian history. He assumes that Quebec will live quietly in its own parallel universe, even as he gives Pauline Marois the ammunition she needs to argue for Quebec's independence:

    But this comes at a sensitive juncture — with the Parti Québécois in power but also against at a time when a major backlash against the latest EI reform has been gathering steam.

    The issue is gaining traction weekly in Quebec and mobilizing opponents right across the political spectrum in a way not seen since the 2008 culture cuts.

    In the House of Commons on Monday, former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion read out a list of former Quebec Conservative candidates who have added their voices to the chorus that is calling on the government to rethink its EI reform. 

    Atlantic Canadians are as infuriated as Quebecers by Harper's EI reforms. Just as the prime minister didn't foresee the meltdown of 2008, he doesn't see the perfect storm which is headed his way.

    Wednesday, March 06, 2013

    Real Economists

    Jim Flaherty dances to Stephen Harper's tune. Flaherty, after all, is merely a lawyer. Harper likes to remind everyone that he possesses a master's degree from the University of Calgary. And, during the last election, he promised Canadians that his government would balance the budget by 2015.

    A real economist knows that, in a world dominated by economic uncertainty, making that kind of a promise is economic folly. That is why Harper and Flaherty have taken such pains to make sure that Parliament and the public do not and cannot know the state of the nation's finances. The National Post reports that, in this month's Inside Policy, former finance department officials Scott Clark and Peter Devries write:

    During the 2006 election, the Conservative Party promised greater transparency and accountability in budget planning,Unfortunately, this has not turned out to be the case. Budget documents now contain less economic and fiscal data than in any budget over the previous twenty-five years. For some reason the [finance] minister seems more intent on not providing the public with information, rather than engaging Canadians in discussion on critical policy issues.

    We live in a culture where either the baldfaced lie -- think Lance Armstrong -- or the cover up -- think Richard Nixon -- have paved the way to success. Harper learned more from Richard Nixon than he did from Lance Armstrong -- although Harper's recent defence of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin suggest that he has been taking advice from Armstrong.

    The budget process, like the government itself, is completely devoid of integrity:

    Detailed annual spending estimates are now introduced in Parliament before a budget, making them less accurate and leading to a situation where MPs don’t really know what they are doing when they vote to approve expenditures worth billions of dollars.

    In the 2006 election, the Tories promised to create a parliamentary budget office. But once in office, they refused to provide the PBO with the data it needs, and have attacked its leader, Kevin Page.

    For his 2012 budget, Flaherty introduced two controversial “omnibus bills” that were each several hundred pages long and contained policy changes which critics said had nothing to do with the budget. Flaherty was accused of trying to jam contentious changes throughout without sufficient review by MPs.

    With Page set to retire at the end of the month, the Harperites will be sure to make the PBO their mouthpiece. The numbers will be what they say they are.

    A real economist deals with real numbers. Apparently, possessing an economics degree from the University of Calgary doesn't make you a real economist

    Tuesday, March 05, 2013

    Too Old Or Too Rigid?

    The Pope's retirement led Gautam Makunda to write that it's dangerous to allow the old too close to power:

    Power itself has profound, and usually toxic, effects on those who have it. CEOs are so pampered that comparing them to babies is surprisingly illuminating. What is true for a CEO is, in this case, even more true for the men and women who lead nations and can literally have power over life and death. Over time this authority is likely to have profound effects on most people’s personalities. It would be remarkable indeed for any person treated with deference and pampering for years, even decades, to not be affected by it.

    Lord Acton's maxim still holds true. Power corrupts. And the longer one has it, the more it can corrupt. However, as the current Senate controversy suggests, you don't have to be in power long to be corrupted.  More importantly, while youth usually has vigor, it does not always possess wisdom. As proof, I offer the Honourable Pierre Polievre, who has a lot to say, but who says very little that is either useful or wise.

    Polievre  thinks in terms of categories, not people. He -- like so many of us -- has forgotten what Atticus Finch taught Scout:

    "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

    To Kill A Mockingbird is all about walking around in someone else's skin -- not just the martyred Tom Robinson's or the feared Boo Radley's, but also the tragically ignorant Mayella Ewell's.

    What matters is not whether a person is too old or too young. What matters is whether or not he or she is too rigid. Getting  inside someone's skin teaches us to think beyond categories and stereotypes. We learn to see the infinite variety in nature and not to fear people who are not like us.

    And, finally, we come to the realization that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

    Monday, March 04, 2013

    Feed The Hungry

    The United Nations Right To Food Envoy, Olivier De Shutter, has taken the Harper government to task for its cavalier treatment of the hungry:

    The United Nations right-to-food envoy says the Harper government's controversial decisions to scrap the long-form census and negotiate a free trade deal with Europe will make it more difficult to fight poverty in Canada.

    Those are among the many cutting observations made by Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to food, who will release his report Monday in Geneva at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

    In a twenty-one page report, De Shutter:

    calls on Ottawa to create a national food strategy to fight hunger among a growing number of vulnerable groups, including aboriginals and people struggling to make ends meet on social assistance. It says the strategy should spell out the levels of responsibility between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

    The problem is that Harper's policies make such a strategy unlikely:

    The report essentially serves as De Schutter's rebuttal to the bitter and personal public criticism he faced from Harper cabinet ministers during his 11-day fact finding visit to Canada last May.

    The Harperites will not be happy. There will be a storm of disdain from Ottawa. And our international reputation will continue to erode.

    Why should they feed the hungry?

    Sunday, March 03, 2013

    A Nation Of Men, Not Laws

    Last Wednesday, Stephen Harper made a Sherman statement about those he has appointed to the Senate:

    “All senators conform to the residency requirements. That is the basis on which they are appointed to the Senate and those requirements have been clear for 150 years,” 

    That's a bit puzzling. As Tom Walkom writes in The Toronto Star:

    That puts someone like Sen. Mike Duffy in a bizarre position. Duffy has acknowledged that he doesn’t live in Prince Edward Island, the province he was appointed to represent. That’s why he’s repaying more than $42,000 in housing allowances that he received to defray the costs of his suburban Ottawa home (which, Duffy admits, is where he actually does live.

    All the rules require, says Marjory LeBreton,  is that a senator own property in a  province. By that logic, any absentee landowner can be a senator.  Lebreton's statement is a broadside against what an adviser to George W. Bush called  "the reality based community." The truth is what I say it is:

    In effect, as Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton explained to reporters Thursday, senators are deemed to live wherever they say they live — at least for the purpose of collecting their $132,300 sessional salaries.

    No one is accusing any senators of fraud. But this government is most certainly accusing E.I recipients of  that crime. And, when they discover that fraud, rest assured that the offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Oh, the privileges of power. You get to make the rules, then declare who is breaking them.

    We live in a nation of men, not laws.

    Saturday, March 02, 2013

    Not Very Bright

    The Harperites will troll for votes wherever they can find them. That includes immigrant communities. But, at their core, they fear "the other" -- those who don't see the world as they do. That attitude is most evident in their attitude toward refugees and their access to health care.

    Carol Goar writes, in The Toronto Star, that a group of Canadian doctors and lawyers have decided to confront the Conservatives on their policy of denying healthcare to refugees:

    This week, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers joined forces to ask the Federal Court to declare the government’s action unconstitutional. To provide real-life evidence, they were joined by three men — Daniel Garcia Rodriguez of Colombia, Ahmad Awatt of Iraq and Hanif Ayubi of Afghanistan — who escaped persecution in their home countries only to be denied life-saving drugs and treatment in Canada.

    Immigration Minister Jason Kenney saw the action as a mere annoyance:

    Kenney brushed off the court challenge summarily. “This is a dog-bites-man story,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “We have no legal, moral, political obligation to give taxpayer services to bogus asylum seekers, rejected claimants — people who are effectively illegal migrants.”

    Like Tom Flanagan, he refuses to see the victims his opinions create. But the doctors and lawyers know medicine and the law, subjects on which Kenney -- a university drop out -- is ignorant:

    Dr. Meb Rashid, who heads the Crossroads Clinic for Refugees at Women’s College Hospital, made the medical case. “This is far below the standard any physician would hope to provide to his or her patients,” he said. “Ultimately these reductions will cost the health-care system as much or more in emergency care — and have already caused a great deal of suffering.”

    Lorne Waldman, lead counsel, made the legal case. “It is also far below the standard any democratic country should provide for refugee claimants or any other human being under their jurisdiction,” he said. “These cuts are inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s international obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.”

    Once again, the Conservatives are coming to another reckoning with the Supreme Court.  Each time that happens, they wind up on the short end.  They're simply not very bright.

    Friday, March 01, 2013

    The Second Coming

    The word on the street is the Harper government has informed Washington that, if it doesn't approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, there will be a catastrophic rupture in Canadian-American relations -- "the biggest deep freeze in Canada-U.S. relations ever."

    Now, there's a threat which must have caused panic in Washington. Iran is going nuclear, North Korea is going ballistic, and Canada is going -- blue. If the U.S. doesn't want our sticky oil, what are we to do? It's looking more and more like the pipeline to Kitimat is a non-starter. Perhaps the Harperites will have to settle for a pipeline to New Brunswick. Lawrence Martin writes:

    The days of Canada having the handy U.S. market to take care of almost all of its energy exports are over. As observers like our former American ambassador Frank McKenna have been pointing out for a long time, market diversification is now the paramount priority. Though a Keystone rejection certainly would be unwelcome, it would help stir a move in that direction. It would hasten pressures to build the infrastructure to transport energy resources to our east coast.

    Wouldn't that be the National Energy Program with a new name? Call it Canada's Economic Action Plan. Consider the irony. It's of Greek proportions. A prime minister is pathologicically committed to destroying the Liberal Party of Canada. In his manical quest, he manages to re-institute the very program which the man he reviled first conceived. And, then, the son of that man is elected leader of the Liberal Party.

    What a legacy!  It would be the Second Coming -- times two.