Thursday, October 31, 2019

Lousy Republicans

As the Conservatives analyze the reasons for their defeat, Duncan Cameron writes, they will have to confront a fundamental question: Who, exactly, are they?

Scheer is not a Canadian Conservative -- indeed, Scheer and the CPC have little in common with the former Progressive Conservative (PC) party, familiarly known as the Tories after their British counterparts, and incarnated by leaders such as R.B. Bennett, John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield and Joe Clark.
Historically, Canadian PCs have been wary of U.S. domination of the economy, loyal to principles of British cabinet government, protective of institutions such as the courts, universities, banks, churches and military, and anxious to protect the weak and vulnerable from the excesses of liberal capitalism.
Successful PC premiers from Peter Lougheed in Alberta to John Robarts in Ontario believed government spending could prevent the worst and bring out the best in people; that they as leaders had a duty to the less fortunate in society, providing security for the future for young families and elders alike.

The roots of today's Conservative Party are planted in the soil Ernest Manning -- Preston's father -- plowed. That soil:

bear[s] the imprint of Preston's father, longtime Alberta premier Ernest C. Manning, whose political fortunes were buoyed by the 1947 big oil discovery in Leduc, just south of Edmonton.
In his book Political Realignment: A Challenge to Thoughtful Canadians (1967), Manning père called for the formation of an explicitly right-wing social conservative party to offset the centre-left movement in federal politics by Tories and Liberals that culminated in the adoption of medicare.
Just like the United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta and the Doug Ford PC party of Ontario, the CPC ran a campaign mimicking U.S. Republicans: presenting themselves to voters as a low-tax, anti-government party, comfortable with a social conservative agenda.

Stephen Harper, Andrew Scheer, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford are Northern Republicans:

The unpopularity of Ford was widely credited for undermining Scheer in Ontario. Indeed, Ford's unpopularity extends outside Ontario to Quebec and Atlantic Canada, where government is recognized as positive and necessary, not just as too expensive and a target for cutbacks.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney waited until after the federal election before introducing his dramatic budget cuts to essential services, cities, cultural industries, the arts, public universities and colleges (but not Christian private higher education). Had he revealed his plans earlier, the Trudeau Liberals might have kept a foothold in Alberta.

Jagmeet Singh is returning the NDP to its roots. The Conservatives should also consider that path. They make lousy Republicans. And Canadians know it.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ford's Second Thoughts

Doug Ford is having second thoughts: Tom Walkom writes:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is busy backtracking. He would be wise to backtrack more.
The extent of the Progressive Conservative premier’s policy reversals is breathtaking.
Ford has given up the idea of reforming Ontario’s regional government system.
He has backed away from controversial changes to the way families with autistic children are funded.
He has dropped plans to take over the Toronto subway system.
He has come up with a sex education scheme for Ontario schools that is eerily similar to the Liberal one he once trashed.
He has reversed some cuts to social services.
He has signalled that he’s willing to compromise on plans to increase class sizes in the schools
He now wants to fund a French-language university in Ontario, an idea he once dismissed.
His government has even changed its mind on vaping. Ford had opposed former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s proposal to regulate the display and promotion of e-cigarettes. He now favours it.

While he's at it, Walkom suggests that Doug take a hard look at Ontario's labour laws:

One area badly in need of regulatory reform involves the rules governing work. Ontario’s laws on employment standards and labour relations are out of date. They were developed for a time when full-time work was the norm and unions relatively easy to set up.
These conditions no longer hold. Employers prefer part-time workers because they can pay them less per hour. Many employers pretend their workers are independent contractors in order to avoid paying Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums.
Typically, workers in the new economy must hold two or three low-wage, part-time jobs to make ends meet. They have no control over their schedules — which makes it near impossible to juggle these different jobs.
They are always on call — meaning they must come into work, at short notice, if their employer demands it. But if, at the last minute, their employer decides he or she doesn’t need their services, they can be sent home without recompense.
Usually, they work in parts of the service sector — including fast-food franchises — that are notoriously difficult to unionize.

Kathleen Wynne had introduced labour reforms:

One would have required employers to pay most full-time and part-time workers at the same hourly rate. Another would have made employers pay at least three hours worth of wages to workers whose shifts were cancelled less than 48 hours before they were due to begin.
Yet another would have made it more difficult for employers to pass off employees as independent contractors.
One of Ford’s first actions was the repeal of most of the Wynne labour reforms.

Doug Ford is no friend of labour.  But he would be wise to have second thoughts about workers, too.

Image: Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

An Open Question

Michael Harris writes that Andrew Scheer will have to go. Canadians know he's a fraud:

I don’t know what Scheer’s vacuous grin was supposed to convey during the campaign. But if it was to give the impression of the benevolent guy next door, the one who would help you shovel out after the blizzard, or look after your cat when you were out of town, it flopped.
Scheer was slippery as an eel on the abortion issue, adrift on same-sex marriage, sneaky about his dual citizenship until he was outed by the Globe and Mail. He also failed to convince voters that he wouldn’t take a chainsaw to social programs if elected — just as political cousins Doug Ford and Jason Kenney have already done in Ontario and Alberta.
And then there was the devious way he released his costed campaign platform — after the TV debates. Even the day he chose was sneaky, the Friday before Thanksgiving. You know, the day everyone is obsessing about whether it will be broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

But Scheer isn't the biggest problem the Conservative Party faces. The number one problem is the party's platform:

So Scheer has to go if the CPC want to rise from the ashes of the 2019 election. But that is a small part of the job, and by far the easier part. There will be no shortage of replacements waiting in the wings but it can’t be the darkest part of the right wing. It can’t be Peter MacKay, who lost his progressive credentials ten years ago, or John Baird, who never had any. And it can’t be the man they both served, Stephen Harper.
As Philippe J. Fournier notes in Maclean’s, “among the 60 electoral districts with the highest population density in Canada, the Conservatives won a grand total of zero.” In other words, the route to victory these days is by appealing to the educated, urban and socially progressive, not a cabal of gun-loving, climate denying, xenophobic, northern Republicans who have never seen a social program or a foreign aid plan that they didn’t want to cancel.
Stephen Harper used that group as his base for the near decade his party was in power. Even then, the only time the CPC could produce a majority government was in 2011, when the NDP pulled off the Orange Miracle, copped 30 percent of the popular vote, and got more than 100 seats in parliament. Without a strong NDP, the CPC is a regional party constantly brushing up on its skills at undermining democracy at every election.

The man who is the godfather of the Conservative Party -- Preston Manning -- knows how the party needs to evolve:

Preston Manning understood the need for policy renewal when he told me that the two key issues that move millennial voters are social justice and the environment. The man who founded the Reform Party and gave Stephen Harper his first job said that these should be “sword” not “shield” issues for Conservatives.
Which is another way of saying that the absolute worst thing the CPC could do is conclude that the path back to respectability is merely about changing the messenger, not the message.

Will the Conservatives follow Manning's advice? That's an open question.

Image: The Tyee

Monday, October 28, 2019

Our Undoing

The EU has granted Boris Johnson another extension on Brexit. But, however long Brexit takes, Neal Ascherson writes that the ugliness of it all has destroyed the United Kingdom and the bonds between Britons:

It’s commonly said that the Brexit years have made the English more xenophobic, less tolerant, more angrily divided among themselves. The first is clearly true. Non-British Europeans confirm a new nastiness, even just a new coldness. So, even more emphatically, will migrants from Somalia, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh.
But the deepest change since 2016 is the weakening of the United Kingdom’s inner bonds. Theresa May went around preaching about “our precious, precious union”. This puzzled me, given massive English indifference. Ask somebody in Durham or Exeter why the union matters, and you get a blank stare, a shrug and perhaps a mumble. Then I understood: it wasn’t Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland that was “precious” to her, but “the union” in the abstract – a sort of legitimising halo hovering over Westminster’s anointed. It’s a cult confined to Britain’s ruling caste and, of course, to Scottish and Irish unionists who genuinely have something to lose.

The biggest division is between London -- which after the break will still remain a vibrant city -- and "the great rest of England:"

The change now is that two streams of bitter resentment – at London’s unfair wealth and privilege and at Westminster’s unfair refusal to “obey the people” – have converged into a single torrent. London is the most spectacularly diverse metropolis in Europe, which even after Brexit will go on sucking in the money of global oligarchs and hedge funds, and the location of new British institutions. London as an independent city state, like Singapore, would prosper.

The great destruction of liberal democracies continues apace. The refusal to share our wealth, in the end, will be our undoing.

Image: Odyssey

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Highly Selective

The day after the election, Jason Kenney set his sights on Ottawa. Linda McQuaig writes:

Only a day after Monday's federal election, the Alberta premier was in full battle mode, honing his mission to defend the oil industry, stir up Western resentment and stick it to Justin Trudeau's freshly wounded Liberal government, now reduced to minority status.
Keen to depict anyone not swearing fealty to the oilsands as a traitor, Kenney will paint Canada as a country plunging towards disintegration if Ottawa fails to expand pipelines and end the carbon tax.

But Kenny ignores some uncomfortable facts. The first is that Alberta has been giving the oil industry an easy ride for a long time:

Certainly, Alberta politicians have found it effective to blame Ottawa, thereby directing any popular resentment away from themselves -- for their failure, for instance, to drive a tougher bargain with the multinational oil industry, as Norway has done.
Although Norway and Alberta both have generous oil deposits and small populations, Norway has driven a far tougher bargain with Big Oil, demanding a much larger share of oil revenues for its people.
As a result, while Alberta has built up a heritage fund for Albertans worth $18 billion, Norway's heritage fund is 60 times larger -- worth $1.3 trillion. That translates to about $260,000 per Norwegian, making recent declines in international oil prices -- and the world's eventual transition away from oil -- less worrisome in the Nordic country.

The second fact is that not everyone in Alberta and Saskatchewan voted blue:

30 per cent of Alberta's popular vote (and 35 per cent of Saskatchewan's) went to candidates who weren't Conservative -- which would have resulted in numerous non-Conservative seats under a proportional representation system, which many Canadians thought they would get after Trudeau promised electoral reform in his 2015 campaign.
The appearance of provincial unity helps Alberta's politicians make the case that they speak for an aggrieved province, unified against Ottawa.

Neither of these facts makes Trudeau's job any easier. But, as you listen to Kenney rage, remember that his memory -- like his use of facts -- is highly selective.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Whither The Conservative Party?

Since Monday's election, Andrew Scheer's continued leadership of the Conservative Party has become an open question. Chantal Hebert writes:

Since election night, Scheer has tried to cast the result as a first step back to federal power for the Conservatives. To listen to him, an electoral rematch would be too imminent for his party to consider a leadership change.
But he is really clutching at straws in the hope of consolidating a potentially untenable leadership position.
Scheer’s days as leader may be numbered, but a change at the top will not alone fix the Conservatives’ post-election woes.

It is the Conservative Party itself that is in trouble -- mainly because it has been enthralled by William F. Buckley's definition of a conservative as  someone who "stands athwart history yelling stop." That definition is driving politics in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Jason Kenny and Scott Moe believe they are in a life and death struggle. But each man refuses to recognize an inconvenient truth. Energy no longer has to come from out of the ground. And they refuse to recognize the multi-party consensus that has developed in the rest of Canada:

On Scheer’s watch, the Conservatives have deliberately broken away from what has evolved into a multi-party consensus.
The party’s base in the Prairies has come to equate the drive to more seriously address climate change with an existential threat to their region’s aspirations.
Scheer and his provincial allies have fostered that perception every step of the way. That stands to come back to bite the federal party.
If the Conservatives are to expand their narrow base, they will have to find a way back to the climate change mainstream.

Scheer said that his first act as prime minister would have been to scrap the carbon tax. It was simply the wrong message. And the majority of Canadians didn't buy it. Doug Ford says he will continue to fight the carbon tax in court. He still hasn't figured out why he's booed at public events. And Scheer hasn't figured out why he lost the election.

Image: CTV News

Friday, October 25, 2019

Doing Whatever He Wants

The King can do no wrong. That's a ancient legal maxim which has no place in a democracy -- because democracies aren't ruled by kings. But, Ruth Marcus writes, Donald Trump has twisted that maxim to new and absurd levels. He believes that:

The king can do whatever wrong he damn pleases, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This approach, aggressive to the point of outlandish, was on florid display in a federal appeals court in New York this week, as the president’s private lawyer asserted that, yes, Trump could actually shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue with impunity so long as he is president.

You'd think that Trump and his lawyer would have been laughed out of court. But his lawyer -- who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- was serious:

Trump lawyer William S. Consovoy was not only asserting that the president is immune from being criminally charged while in office. He was claiming that the president cannot even be investigated.
To understand the radical nature of this claim, consider the setting in which it arose. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is seeking documents — not testimony, just information, including eight years of Trump’s tax returns. He is seeking them not from Trump himself but from his accounting firm. They would be protected from disclosure by grand jury secrecy. Apparently, however, the king’s business can do no wrong either.
Second, consider the difference between Consovoy’s assertion and the approach taken by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Complying with Justice Department policy, Mueller accepted that Trump couldn’t be indicted. But Mueller explained that it was not only permissible to conduct an investigation while Trump was in office, it was also important to collect evidence while it was still fresh. Indeed, the very Justice Department memo on which Mueller relied made clear that a “grand jury could continue to gather evidence throughout the period of [presidential] immunity.”
This is an astonishing departure from settled law. In U.S. v. Nixon in 1974, a unanimous Supreme Court upheld a subpoena for tapes of the president’s private conversations while in office, rejecting “an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances.” Vance’s subpoena, by contrast, calls only for Trump’s private records; it would not chill his ability to receive candid advice from aides.
In 1997, again unanimously, the court ruled that another sitting president, Bill Clinton, could be sued for sexual harassment in federal court. Although the decision did not address the question of state lawsuits, it is hard to imagine how a civil lawsuit could be allowed while a grand jury subpoena for his records would go too far. Which is a greater distraction for a sitting president?
The dangerous audacity of Trump’s position becomes clear: Whatever information his adversaries are seeking, whether in a lawsuit or a congressional inquiry, they can’t have it. And he is making the claim everywhere.

Parents recognize the behaviour. It's another example from "the terrible twos."  Two year olds throw tantrums when they don't get their way. Some of them step out of their diapers and spread their excrement everywhere. That's precisely what Donald Trump and his enablers are doing.

Image: Envisioning The American Dream

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Ford Factor

Some pundits -- including Bob Rae -- are suggesting that Andrew Scheer's decision to keep Doug Ford under wraps during the election was a mistake. Bob Hepburn writes:

In Scheer’s case, he appears delusional about how he fared in Ontario, telling reporters on Tuesday that “we made significant gains throughout the GTA and throughout Ontario.”
In fact, the Tories didn’t win a single seat in Toronto, failed to increase their seat total in the 905 area, saw the Liberals’ seat total in Ontario drop by just one to 79, and witnessed the percentage of votes the Tories won slip to 33.2 per cent from 35 per cent in the 2015 election.
How can Scheer believe all that negative news constitutes “significant gains?”
In reality, the Conservatives lost the election because they failed to increase their number of seats in vote-rich urban areas of Ontario, the key battleground where the progressive voters that Scheer needed to attract were fed up with Ford. Ontario was the only English Canada province where the Tories’ vote percentage actually dropped.

The simple fact is that many Ontarians didn't vote for Scheer because Doug Ford had persuaded them not to:

Polls clearly showed most Ontario voters took Ford into consideration when deciding which party to support. An exit poll conducted for Global News indicated more than half those polled said Ford “had at least some impact on their vote.”
Also, Vote Compass, a civic engagement app distributed through the CBC, showed 51 per cent of some 24,000 who took part said they were much less likely to vote for Scheer because of Ford’s policies.
In addition, Conservative candidates knocking on doors across the province spoke candidly about encountering countless voters with a visceral hate for Ford, who told them that because of Ford there was no way they would vote Tory.
Scheer hurt his own cause by running a campaign dramatically out of touch with where most Ontario residents are these days, especially on issues such as climate change. But he would have hurt it much worse if he had bowed to siren calls to set Ford free.

There's a clear message in Scheer's failure to win power. It's a mistake to take the road Doug Ford has taken.

Image: SlidePlayer

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Their Alternate Facts

Tom Walkom writes that voters punished all the parties in this election. But that reality hasn't set in yet. All of the leaders seem to be living in an alternate reality:

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer treated the Liberal minority win as if it had never happened.
He made no mention of the fact that his party had failed to oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. Instead, he treated the election as a way station on the road to an inevitable Conservative victory sometime in the future.
There was no talk from Scheer on how to make a minority parliament work. Rather, he suggested that any attempt to do so would be somehow illegitimate, noting that his party won marginally more of the popular vote than the victorious Liberals.
Referring to his Conservatives as the government in waiting, he said that his work would not be over until he demolished the Trudeau regime.

Justin Trudeau sounded like a man who had won a majority:

The prime minister made no explicit reference to the fact that Canadians had deprived him of his parliamentary majority. Instead, he insisted that voters had given him a mandate to continue governing as he had before.
His only concession to the reality of his new situation came in two brief references. He told Quebecers who had switched their votes from the Liberals to the Bloc Québécois that he had heard their message. He said to voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who on Monday booted the few would-be Liberal MPs still extant in those provinces, that he understood their frustration.
Like Scheer, he seemed to treat Monday’s election results as a minor interruption. He said he will continue doing what he has done — although he did note that it is always possible to do better.

And, even though Jagmeet Singh ended the night with far fewer seats than he had at the beginning of the campaign, he sounded triumphant:

An excited Singh treated the election as a huge victory for the NDP. In fact, the party suffered devastating results. It was wiped out in Saskatchewan and almost wiped out in Quebec.
It won no seats in Toronto or the so-called 905 suburban belt around the city. In Ontario, it went from eight seats at dissolution to six. Nationally, its seat total went from 39 to 24.

There was lots of hubris in the air -- and hardly any humility. A minority parliament will only work if leaders begin with a realistic assessment of their situation. It appears that each leader has his own set of alternate facts.

Image: Chilliwack Progress

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

You Can't Hold Back The Future

So here we are. I had a hunch things would end like this. In fact, that was the bet my wife and I made. I realize that many readers here will be angry when I write that we both voted Liberal. But we thought very carefully before we cast our ballots. We would have preferred to vote Green. But everything came down to the riding we live in.

The poet Al Purdy wrote that our neck of the woods has been "Conservative since the Stone Age." John A. Macdonald used to practise law in our town. This is very blue country. In the nearly thirty-five years that we've lived here, we've only elected Liberals four times -- twice under Jean Chretien, and twice -- including last night -- under Justin Trudeau.

Unfortunately, the Green Party was barely on the radar here. The NDP has a presence, but the party has always had far from the kind of support it needs to carry the riding.

Finally, as angry as I was about Trudeau's failure to deliver electoral reform, the stark fact was that we were voting under the same old rules.

We bet on a Liberal minority and that's what we got. On climate change, will last night's decision be enough, soon enough? Probably not. But we are being overtaken by events. That became clear to me this spring when I saw the flooding around the western and northern shores of Montreal -- places I know well.

And events have a way of forcing your hand. Perhaps the NDP and the people in the streets will force Justin's hand.

Who knows? All I know for sure is that you can't hold back the future. One last thought: Both Ralph Goodale and Lisa Raitt showed true graciousness last night. We desperately need more of that.

Image: Global News

Monday, October 21, 2019

Making A Minority Work

It looks like it will be a minority government. And there are a couple of ominous signs in the wind. The first is the divide shaping up on the Ontario-Manitoba border -- Conservatives to the west, Progressives to the east. Perhaps the conservative dominance of the west will end at the B.C. border. The other troubling sign is the resurrection of Quebec nationalism, which -- let's be frank -- never goes away. But, Robin Sears looks to history to prove that minority governments can work:

When Robert Stanfield and Pierre Trudeau went to bed on Oct. 30, 1972 neither knew who had a future as prime minister. In those days, B.C. polls stayed open until 11 p.m. Ottawa time and there were too many seats too close to give a final count. It was also the first election in which 18 to 21-year-olds were allowed to vote, two million of them.
The happiest man that night was David Lewis, the veteran NDP leader, whose “corporate welfare bums” campaign had ignited the party and many voters. The NDP elected the largest caucus in its brief history with 31 MPs — and the balance of power. The Creditistes, the Bloc Québécois of its day, came back with the same 15 seats.
The minority government pact Lewis worked out with Trudeau — and it was very much a personal project between them — with only a few other MPs and staffers invited to offer a view, was a success. It led to the creation of Petro Canada, restrictions on price rises at a time of raging inflation, and Canada’s first election expenses legislation among many other legislative changes. Allan MacEachen, the Liberal sage of Cape Breton, and Stanley Knowles, the pension champion of many a parliament, were the two back-channel leaders who kept the often tense partnership afloat for almost two years.

It was "a more civil time." Things are a lot uglier than they were. But there are three principles which underlie a successful minority government:

The first is that both an agenda and a time frame are essential. The legislative content needs to be agreed up front, and so does the delivery date — to fail to do so makes freelancing and backsliding inevitable.
Second, the project list must be short. A lengthy shopping list lets the bigger party do the easy bits first, and leave the harder important ones too late. The items need to offer some benefit to each partner, and they must matter to Canadians.
Finally, there needs to be a backroom process for managing the relationship, chaired by party elders with a small number of elected and staff members from each side. No partisan bomb throwers permitted. It was Ontario’s great statesman, Robert Nixon, who played that role in the Peterson/Rae accord. The bellowing was done over wine-soaked nights, not in front of reporters.
If voters declare they want a minority government, the party leaders had better be able to point a path to a stable government of at least two partisan flavours by the end of next week.

We'll have a better idea of what the future holds tomorrow morning.

Image: CBC Archives

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Caveat Emptor

Throughout the election campaign, Justin Trudeau has been linking Andrew Scheer to Doug Ford. Scheer's response has been to keep Ford under wraps. But Trudeau's comparison isn't frivolous. When it comes to policy, Bob Hepburn writes, Ford and Scheer are twins:

First, they both want to kill the federal carbon tax and replace it with incentives, and in some cases fines, for polluters to clean up their dirty emissions. Ford is fighting the carbon tax in the courts and has ordered anti-tax stickers on all gas pumps. Scheer has vowed to repeal the tax and instead invest in more green technology.
Second, they both propose massive reductions in government spending — and all the time trying to insist that cuts worth billions of dollars won’t actually hurt anyone. Scheer plans to cut $18 billion from much-needed infrastructure spending, slash foreign aid by 25 per cent, cancel government help for struggling businesses, freeze government hiring and cut unspecified “nonpersonnel operating expenses.”
In his first months in office, Ford took a similar approach, slashing everything from student aid to child-care funding, legal aid and tree planting.
Third, they both oppose a national pharmacare plan. Scheer believes a better way to ensure Canadians have access to necessary drugs is to plug coverage gap for people without provincial or employer plans. Ford has already killed a provincial plan that provided free prescriptions drugs to young Ontario residents up to the age of 24.
Fourth, they both aren’t keen on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Ford has already cancelled a planned hike in Ontario and Scheer prefers tax breaks for lower-paid workers.
Fifth, they both oppose a national ban on handguns, suggesting a better way to fight gun violence is to get tough on gangs with stiffer jail sentences for convicted criminals in gun-related cases.
Sixth, they both love oil pipelines. Scheer has pledged to revive the Energy East pipeline proposal, which would carry oil from western Canada to eastern Canada. Ford has publicly declared support for pipeline projects, including Energy East.
Seventh, they both want to crack down on irregular border crossers and enforce a more vigilant immigration policy. Scheer wants to hire more border guards, close “legal loopholes” dealing with refugees and focus on suspected organized crime members, although there’s little evidence that’s a problem. Ford has attacked “illegal border crossers,” slashed government funding on legal support for refugees and has suggested Ontario has to “take care of our own” before pushing for immigrants to move there.
At the same time, the ties between the pair go even deeper. For example, both relied heavily on evangelicals and anti-abortion groups in winning their respective leadership races.

Those of us in Ontario know what's on Scheer's menu.

Caveat emptor.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, October 19, 2019

They're Having A Hard Time

The outcome of the election is uncertain. But one thing is certain. Like the Phoenix, the Bloc Quebecois has risen from its ashes. Alan Freeman writes:

From holding caucus meetings in a large phone booth not long ago, the party is now nipping at the heels of the Liberals in public opinion polls and could even end up with more seats in Quebec than the Liberals in Monday’s election.
Credit is given to the strong performance on the hustings by Yves-François Blanchet, a previously relatively obscure cabinet minister in the government of Parti Québécois premier Pauline Marois, who long had a reputation within the party as “a goon” for his aggressive demeanour.

But the story goes well beyond Blanchet. With his gruff exterior and blunt delivery, Blanchet has been hitting themes which go all the way back to the Quiet Revolution:

Blanchet, who remains an unrepentant separatist, is going back to a mantra familiar to Quebec nationalist politicians for decades. Ottawa is good for two things. Cash and jurisdiction. If the federal government can’t pony up more money for equalization or Bombardier or whatever, then at least give us the jurisdiction. And then throw in the cash as well.
By the way, jurisdiction always trumps policy for Quebec nationalists. Quebec would rather have no pharmacare than pharmacare with a maple leaf. Quebec Premier François Legault claims that the province’s carbon credit policy makes it green but you’ll notice that Quebec recently joined the court challenge against federal carbon levies led by Alberta and Ontario. “We want to protect provincial jurisdiction to fight climate change,” he said.
If the challenge is successful, a national carbon levy would die and GHG emissions would grow across the country but Legault doesn’t care because what’s more important to him is autonomy for Quebec, not saving the planet. Expect more of the same from the Bloc.

Over the years, the federal government has worked out a detente with la belle province. It has not always been easy. Justin Trudeau's intervention in the SNC Lavalin saga was another attempt at detente. That didn't work out so well.

And immigration and pipelines have become flash points in the dance between Ottawa and Quebec City:

If you watched the debates, Blanchet kept on talking about Quebec’s jurisdiction over immigration. Not once did any of the federal leaders explain that Quebec may have a role to play but it’s a junior role, that immigration and citizenship are primarily the purview of the federal government and that we can’t have two citizenships within a single country. And it’s nice to make all sorts of demands on newcomers but if they don’t like it in Quebec, they have the right to move where they wish in Canada.
The same with pipelines and the environment. It’s as if federal leaders are embarrassed to tell Quebecers that the federal government has important responsibilities to protect the nation’s waterways and shorelines and to make sure that there’s unfettered interprovincial trade, while balancing local and regional concerns.

Pierre Trudeau knew when to tell Quebecers what they could have and what they couldn't have. Today's leaders have a hard time doing that.

Image: Montreal Gazette

Friday, October 18, 2019

One Hundred And Seventy Years Later

What's really behind Brexit? Owen Jones writes that it's all about Margaret Thatcher's attack on workers:

Seven years ago, a group of Tory MPs published a book entitled Britannia Unchained that argued that Britain “rewards laziness”, that British workers were “the worst idlers in the world”, and that “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. Businesses were deterred from hiring people, they claimed, because of employment laws that made them fear “taking a risk and hiring new staff”. The solution? Repealing those laws – or what should more accurately be described as rights. Three of the book’s authors are now in the cabinet: Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Liz Truss.
Boris Johnson himself  . . . declared that “the weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking”, singling out “the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers’ directive, the working time directive and a thousand more”.

Karl Marx wrote in 1852:

“The Tories in England had long imagined that they were enthusiastic about monarchy, the church, and the beauties of the old English Constitution, until the day of danger wrung from them the confession that they are enthusiastic only about ground rent.”

One hundred and seventy years later, for the Tories, nothing has changed.

Image: Peoples Democracy

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Here's The Real Take Away

Andrew Scheer says he'll balance the budget by 2024. Until then, he's quite prepared to run deficits. But the question every voter should consider is this: What do those deficits accomplish or not accomplish? Andrew Jackson writes:

Despite his past claims to be a fiscal conservative, Scheer promises to balance the federal budget only at the end of the next Parliament, in 2024. That means he is, like US President Donald Trump, prepared to run deficits to finance a package of poorly thought out and regressive tax cuts.
There are good reasons to deficit finance investments which boost the economy and our future well-being – such as the investments in clean energy and pharmacare proposed by Jagmeet Singh and the NDP. But it makes very little sense for the federal government to borrow to fund tax cuts for middle and upper income Canadians.
The key Conservative promise is to phase-in a so-called Universal Tax Cut.  This involves cutting the bottom federal personal income tax rate, which kicks in at a personal income above about $12,000, from 15% to 13.75%.
As David Macdonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has shown, the maximum tax saving – about $375 per year for an individual – will go to almost every person earning more than $47,000 per year, which is where the second tax bracket kicks in.
Individuals earning less than $47,000 per year will not get the maximum amount, and low income earners will get very little. A person earning $25,000 per year will get less than $50 in tax savings per year.

More than that, the Conservatives plan to give corporations a better tax break:

They propose to allow private companies pay the low small business tax rate on investment income of more than $50,000, which means assets of more than $1 million (assuming a rate of return of 5% on passive investment income.) This means that a wealthy lawyer can pay a small business tax of about 15% on investments, not the much higher top personal income tax rate.
The Conservatives also plan to allow owners of private corporations to pay lightly taxed dividends to their spouses, even if that spouse plays no active role in the corporation. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that 97% of the tax savings will go to families with annual incomes of more than $150,000, and one third will go to families with annual incomes of more than $500,000.
Add it together, and the plan is to deliver tax savings of well over $500 million per year to wealthy owners of private corporations. It is often claimed that they need these vehicles to save for retirement, but they are being used on top of RRSPs and TFSAs which already shelter retirement savings.

And Scheer will pay for those tax savings by cutting foreign aid and infrastructure spending.

Here's the real take away: In Scheer's Canada, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Losing Their Grip

The pollsters are saying that this election is too close to call. But Michael Harris writes that the pollsters have a sullied record of prediction:

I’m here to argue that the pollsters aren’t reading the chessboard very well. There is no way for Scheer and the Conservatives to win this election, if winning means governing. Barring an asteroid hitting the Liberal campaign, the winner of the election will be Trudeau. There is my limb, and now I will climb out on it for the explanation.

Harris goes on to explain why he believes Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives will not be able to govern this country. They simply don't know how to play well with others:

So, here’s why Scheer can’t triumph in this election. Even if the Conservatives were to win the most seats, Scheer will still require a partner in order to govern. And that is the problem. There are no partners, especially in the long term, for the Conservatives.
Scheer will lead Vancouver’s Gay Pride Parade in leopard skin tights before either the Liberals or the NDP agree to sustain a Conservative minority government.
Both Trudeau and Singh have signalled that they are willing to work together, but not with a PM who is a de facto climate-change denier.
Singh has gone even further, declaring that he will not support Scheer under any circumstances because of the “values” abyss between the NDP and the Conservatives.
Reviving moribund pipelines like Northern Gateway, as well as espousing new ones like Energy East, as Scheer has done, means that the Conservatives will still have a lock on the world’s Fossil Award. With Greta Thunberg casting a long shadow over this election, neither the Liberals nor NDP will touch the Conservative climate position with a barge pole.
So who is left to get a potential Scheer minority government through its first Throne Speech?
Although Elizabeth May initially said she would try to work with any party, the Greens would be a dreadful philosophical fit with the Conservatives. Besides, May killed any possible collaboration with the Conservatives when she declared that her party would not support anyone who stood for more pipelines. That would be Scheer.
Even if the Greens were to support the Conservatives in exchange for Scheer committing to a better climate policy, pollsters tell us that the party won’t have enough seats to sustain a government. The current projection for the Greens after Oct. 21 sits at four seats.
That leaves just one political party that will have the numbers to potentially allow a minority Conservative government to survive; the Bloc Québécois. How likely is that?
For the Bloc, there is only one interest to consider, that of Quebec. Scheer has already offered new goodies to Quebec, like his pledge to allow a single form tax return overseen by the provincial government. In order to govern in a minority situation, Scheer might be tempted to offer even more.
From the Bloc’s perspective, even though it is ideologically left on the political spectrum, the party might be able to land a few prize concessions from the Conservatives in return for propping up Scheer. They have nothing to lose in trying.
But from Scheer’s point of view, it would be quicker to down a goblet of hemlock than to embrace Monsieur Blanchet.
How would the West, the Mecca of conservatism in Canada, feel about dishing out more special rights to Quebec?

So you see the problem. Scheer and the Conservatives start from the proposition that they must deal with the world of their dreams -- not the world as it is. That principle -- if you can call it that -- has left the party as a refuge for those who can't deal with the world as it is.

Any successful political party must have a firm grip on reality The Conservatives have lost their grip.

Image: Thinwah

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Middle East Gets Messier

A week ago, Donald Trump gave Turkey the green light to invade Kurdish territory in Syria. Tom Walkom writes:

By withdrawing American military forces who had been protecting the Kurds, Trump has left them to the not-so-tender mercies of Turkey, their sworn enemy.
It’s an appalling way to treat America’s most valued allies in the fight against Islamic State terrorists. Trump, as usual, is explaining it in a most appalling fashion.
His latest rationale for deep-sixing the Kurds is that they didn’t help the Allies storm the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

It's all typically Trumpian. While the House of Representatives moves to impeach Trump for endangering American national security, Trump provides a monstrous example of precisely that.

It didn't have to be this way:

Theoretically, it didn’t have to work out this way. Theoretically, the U.S, could have established a no-fly zone along Syria’s northern border and shot down any Turkish warplane that entered it.
But to have two NATO allies fighting one another would put the entire alliance at risk.
Theoretically, the U.S. could embrace the notion of an independent Kurdistan carved out of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Rewarding valued allies for their role in the fight against ISIS might be the just thing to do.

But that would require Trump thinking things through -- something he's incapable of doing. So the messy Middle East keeps getting messier.

Image: Orange County Register

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trudeau's Vest

Justin Trudeau is now wearing a bulletproof vest. Susan Delacourt writes that there has always been a nasty side to Canadian politics. But something has changed:

No prime minister, in recent memory at least, has experienced such a drastic, public mood swing between elections. All successful leaders accumulate some baggage between their first election and their next try at re-election, but the backlash against Trudeau in this campaign seems particularly vicious.
What makes it even more curious is that the nastiest attacks are focused on who Trudeau was before he became prime minister — almost as if his opponents have stored up material that failed to work in 2015, when all of the “not ready” ads and ridicule against the Liberal leader bounced off a seemingly bulletproof public image.

Trudeau isn't the first prime minister to have ugly rumours circulated about him:

To be clear: ugly rumours circulated about Stephen Harper and his personal life all the time he was prime minister too — Ottawa reporters were repeatedly peppered with “tips” about the alleged breakup of the Harper marriage (which still endures, by the way.) Brian Mulroney, in his late, unpopular years in office, was alleged to be drinking on the job (also very untrue.)

What Delacourt is referring to is what happened after last week's French language debate:

Representatives of right-wing publications lined up first at the media microphones to grill Trudeau about ugly slurs circulating with regard to his personal past as a teacher in B.C. There’s no need to dignify the slurs by spelling them out again here; the Star’s Marco Oved did a thorough forensic analysis last week of the manufactured smear campaign, which nonetheless lived on at the postdebate scrums.

This isn't who we are or who we have been. Politics  -- in the Age of Trump -- has become malevolent. But there is no reason for us to join the March To Oblivion.

Image: Quote HD

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Platforms

I enjoy reading the analysis of Scott Clark and Peter Devries.  From the standpoint of economics, they're not happy with any of the party platforms. They've given the Liberals a "bare pass." The NDP also got a bare pass; and the Green Party got an F. They give the Conservatives a C. But it's a shaky C -- because it recycles so many failed Conservative policies:

Mr. Scheer finally released the Conservative platform on Friday afternoon. On the front cover, there should have been pictures of Stephen Harper, Doug Ford, and Jason Kenney. What Mr. Sheer and these three gentlemen have in common is that they hate deficits, no matter what their cause.
Mr. Scheer is promising to eliminate the deficit by cutting government programs and services without providing much in the way of details. Doug Ford and Jason Kenney did the same thing.  In their election platforms, they also proposed to cut government spending but didn’t indicate how these cuts would be achieved. Residents of Ontario found out the “ bad news” after the election. Residents of Alberta will find out the “bad news” in the province’s upcoming budget scheduled for later this month.

Not only does Scheer want to get to a balanced budget -- something all politicians claim as a goal -- he wants to introduce balanced budget legislation. But emergencies happen -- remember 2008? -- and it's not wise to face them with your hands tied.

What runs throughout Scheer's document is the phrase "tax cuts." Clark and Devries write:

This is not the first time a government has tried an across the board cut in operating costs. They weren’t successful before and probably won’t be successful now. They are very difficult to implement because spending on government operations is very complex. The only time a cut in government operations was successful was under Paul Martin in his 1995 budget. This required an intensive “program review” of spending in every government department. This was required because at that time the federal government was facing a fiscal crisis. There is no fiscal crisis today that would warrant this.
Several of the proposed tax reductions are recycled from the Harper era but were eliminated by the Liberals.  These include the Green Public Transit Tax Credit, the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, and the Children’s Arts and Learning Tax Credit.  They were eliminated as studies showed that they failed to meet their stated objectives.
These are non-refundable tax credits and only benefit those who have taxable income.  This excludes many low-income Canadians.  In addition, the aggregate benefit is reduced by the lowest tax rate.  Mr. Scheer claims the Fitness Credit will be increased by $1,000. However, as a non-refundable tax benefit, its value is only $137.50, once the lowest tax rate of 13.75% is applied. Anyone who has a child in organized sports quickly realizes that this tax credit is of little benefit.
The Age Tax Credit is also a non-refundable tax credit, which means low-come seniors will receive no benefit from this credit, if they are non- taxable. The proposed reduction in the lowest tax also reduces the value of all non-refundable tax credits, which will now be valued at 13.75% rather than 15%. Mr. Scheer has been misleading Canadians.
The Conservative Platform lacks transparency and credibility and the cover should be stamped “not as advertised”. Even strict fiscal Conservatives should feel let down.

Something to think about when you go to the polls.

Image: SlideShare

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Minority -- But For Whom?

Chantal Hebert writes that a minority government looks more and more likely -- largely because of the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois:

From a Quebec perspective, the argument that the Bloc is not a valid option because it will not have a seat at the government table is little more than a variation on the contention that a vote for the Greens or the New Democrats is — for the same reason — a wasted one.
The Conservatives went into the campaign looking to gain ground in Quebec. They may have to consider themselves lucky if they manage to keep the dozen seats Scheer inherited from Stephen Harper.
At this point, Quebec is more likely to split the bulk of its support between the Liberals and the BQ than to divide it four or five ways.
With Canada’s second-largest province potentially poised to take as many as half of its seats out of the battle for government, the victor on Oct. 21 stands to be determined by the outcome of scores of closely fought battles in the rest of the country.

And, in the rest of the country, Jagmeet Singh is a wild card:

That being said, it would be risky to overstate the NDP’s potential to split the so-called progressive vote in favour of the Conservatives.
In Ontario, for instance, a Léger poll done after Monday’s English-language debate showed NDP support hovering at or around its 2015 election mark.

So, at the moment, it's hard to see either the Liberals or the Conservatives gaining a majority of the seats.

Where does that leave the Greens? Stay tuned.


Friday, October 11, 2019

A Political Pickle

Susan Delacourt writes that a majority government for either the Liberals or the Conservatives could deepen fissures in this country:

Start with a Liberal majority win, which is far from the certainty it once seemed when Justin Trudeau was still basking in his 2015 victory. Remember when everyone was wondering when the Trudeau honeymoon would ever end?
It will be a huge relief for the Liberals if Trudeau does pull off a re-election majority. But after a polarizing campaign, much of which turned on Trudeau’s personal record, the celebration won’t be countrywide, to say the least.

Jason Kenney is leading the charge against Trudeau:

The re-election of Justin Trudeau would be absolutely devastating to my province,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned last weekend during a tour through Ontario. “This is, for us, almost existential that we have a change in the federal government.”

Trudeau bought a pipeline. But it bought him nothing in Alberta. And should Andrew Scheer win a majority, it would set off loud protests on the left:

What if Scheer wins a majority, though? Again, the celebration would not be universal.
It would be a government with no natural allies in Parliament — not that it would need them to get legislation through. But with four leftish-leaning parties on the outside of government, the cacophony of outrage from the opposition — not to mention environmental and social activists, as well as many Indigenous communities — will make Monday’s night’s leaders’ debate sound like an easy-listening radio station.
Moreover, if Liberals are knocked back into opposition, could Trudeau survive? Would he even want the job of opposition leader? The party hasn’t been kind to its non-winners in the past couple of decades. In fact, John Turner is the last Liberal leader who was allowed to stay on after losing an election and that was in the 1980s. Every other losing Liberal leader since then — Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff — exited immediately after their defeat.

The only leader whose prospects seem to have improved is Jagmeet Singh:

At the moment, the New Democrats are looking like the only party that may escape turmoil after Oct. 21, mainly because of the kind of campaign that Leader Jagmeet Singh has run. Starting from low expectations, Singh has breathed some life into the party and enhanced his image with his debate performances.

And, if there is a minority government, it's still hard to predict which party would hold the balance of power. That's a political pickle.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Nothing --That's The Policy

A recent report concludes that the Government of Ontario has done almost nothing to achieve the goals set out in its environmental policy. Mike Crawley writes:

Premier Doug Ford's government has done almost nothing on the bulk of the promises in the greenhouse-gas reduction plan it introduced last November, according to a new report by an environmental watchdog group. 
The report published Thursday by the group Environmental Defence examines the seven key actions pledged by the government to cut Ontario's carbon emissions, and finds that little or no progress has been made on all but one.  
The actions were laid out in the Ford government's plan called "Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations," unveiled after the Progressive Conservatives scrapped the Wynne Liberal government's cap-and-trade program.

Ford borrowed a line from Donald Trump. He was going to "repeal and replace" Wynne's environmental policy. However, all he did was repeal that policy:

The Environmental Defence report says the government is already "not on track" to achieve its own emission reduction targets, in part because of decisions that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel.  
"So far, we haven't seen any meaningful steps to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change in Ontario," said Sarah Buchanan, the clean economy program manager for Environmental Defence. 
The signature piece of the government's plan — an emission performance standard for large industrial polluters — will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions rather than decrease them, according to the report.
It says the system is too lenient and offers too many exemptions to big polluters, and there's no evidence to support the government's forecast that the standard will contribute 15 per cent of the province's overall target for cutting greenhouse gases.  
The report says the government has taken no action on two programs that together account for one-third of its emission-reduction target:
Expanding conservation programs to reduce natural gas consumption.
Supporting innovation, such as energy storage and low-carbon heating fuels.
The report says the government has taken minimal action on programs that account for another 40 per cent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) target, such as: 
Increased use of green vehicles.
Cleaner fuels.
Establishing an emission-reduction fund for businesses.
Electric vehicle sales in Ontario during the first quarter of 2019 were down 55 per cent from the same time period the previous year, after the government scrapped all rebates for purchasing electric cars.
The government's plan relies on greater adoption of low-carbon vehicles for one-sixth of the province's overall target for cutting GHGs. Without incentives that help cover the higher cost of electric vehicles, the report says it's "extremely unlikely" that enough such cars will be on Ontario's roads to significantly reduce emissions. 
The government is proposing to boost the minimum ethanol content of fuel at the gas pumps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the timeline is slow, with no changes proposed until 2025, and a gradual phase-in after that.

But all of this doesn't surprise you, does it?

Image: North99

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Chaos Everywhere

Rebecca Solnit accurately describes the Trump Administration:

So at the top there’s corruption. But down below there’s dismantling and disarray. The Trump administration’s has a habit of firing or sidelining federal employees whose work is politically inconvenient. In 2017, Joel Clement, formerly head of policy analysis at the interior department, wrote about being taken away from his work on the impact of climate change on Native Alaskans and reassigned to “an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.” There are numerous stories like his, of employees doing valuable work told to move across the country to keep their jobs, a maneuver that at best burdens them or renders them ineffectual, but often drives them out of their positions. The country is hemmorhaging people who provide oversight and keep key systems working.

Jeb Bush famously called Donald Trump "the chaos candidate." And he correctly predicted that, if Trump were elected, he would be "the chaos president:"

President Trump and the upper echelons of the executive branch are at war with the legislative branch, the rule of law, the constitution, federal civil servants and the American people. It’s a conflict that pulls in many directions, and if the president threatened civil war the other day as something that could happen if he doesn’t get his way, we can regard the ordinary state of things as a low-intensity civil war or a slo-mo coup that’s been going on from the beginning. Tuesday’s White House refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry only escalates their defiance and their chaos.
The chaos takes so many forms. Innumerable stories have made it clear that even the president’s own aides and cabinet members treat him like a captive bear or a person having a psychotic breakdown – like someone unstable who must be kept from harming himself and others. They have done that by heaping on the flattery, and by warping and limiting the information he receives, and often by doing their best to prevent his directives from being realized.

Jeb Bush was right. The question is: Can the United States Constitution withstand The Chaos President?

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Who Will Be Third?

Chantal Hebert concludes that last night's debate makes a Liberal minority government more likely. Having six leaders on the stage tends to muddy the waters:

With six leaders on stage — a record in a Canadian federal election — and almost as many moderators, the opportunities to size up the two men most likely to become prime minister as a result of the Oct. 21 vote were, to put it mildly, too few and far between to really set the stage for a decisive match.
Overall, viewers were treated to a cacophony that saw the various leaders spend more time speaking over each other than articulating coherent ideas. Substance was sacrificed to a cumbersome format.
Given the time constraints they were operating under, all six strove for clean clips liable to endure beyond the evening’s broadcast. They all worked hard to make their rivals’ comments unintelligible by interrupting them every step of the way.

Trudeau didn't knock out Scheer and Scheer didn't knock out Trudeau. The real question is which of the four other parties did the best. Cross the People's Party off the list. Maxime Bernier offers few and simple solutions.

Jagmeet Singh did well. His supporters will be pleased. The race is now between Singh's NDP and Elizabeth May's Green Party.

But, as an old Quebecer, I'd keep an eye on Mr. Blanchette. He hit a number of themes last night which will play well with a significant number of Quebecers. Elizabeth May predicted that the final result will be either a Liberal majority or a Liberal minority.

If the result is a minority, the party which holds the balance of power will be absolutely critical.

Image: CP24

Monday, October 07, 2019

Selling Their Souls

If you've been puzzled about how Donald Trump has got to where he is, consider the many people who sold their souls to him. And then consider how many of the sellouts used to bitterly oppose him. Frank Bruni writes:

There’s no way that Mike Pompeo actually venerates Donald Trump. I doubt he even likes the president much.
Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point decades ago, a feat that suggests enormous reserves of discipline, a profound respect for tradition and a talent for self-effacement when the circumstances warrant it. Trump possesses none of those qualities.
Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, steeped in the very dictums that Trump has spent a lifetime mocking with both his words and his deeds. And Pompeo has long believed in the importance of American military intervention abroad, the kind of activist role that Trump railed against during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

But Pompeo isn't the only sell out:

I’m looking at you, Lindsey Graham, who somehow decided that Trump was the new John McCain, which is like deeming tripe the new tenderloin. Hell, I’m looking at most of the Republicans in the Senate. I’m not so much looking at Attorney General William Barr, odious as his behavior has been, because it’s clear in retrospect that he never made much of a pretense of rectitude, at least not in the context of Trump. He also wasn’t on record trashing Trump, not the way Pompeo and Graham and so many others who now dutifully echo him and gaze beatifically at him were. They must have broken necks from their moral whiplash. Barr’s neck supports that big head of his just fine.
Kellyanne Conway was a respected, reasonably mainstream, uncontroversial Republican pollster and strategist. Just months before she joined Team Trump, she correctly labeled him “vulgar,” said that he wasn’t presidential, called him a liar and demanded his tax returns. Then he offered her the lofty job of managing his presidential campaign — and all the television airtime that came with it — and she turned herself into a kowtowing cartoon. She’ll never be seen the same way again. Was the ride really worth it?
And what was Mick Mulvaney thinking when he agreed to be Trump’s third chief of staff, having witnessed the tortures of chiefs Nos. 1 and 2? Before Trump was elected, Mulvaney called him and Hillary Clinton “two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country,” and lest you think Trump was merely collateral damage in her disparagement, Mulvaney separately called Trump “a terrible human being.” Now he calls him boss. Amazing how revulsion crumbles when relevance is in the equation.

It's another retelling of the Faust tale -- or, for Americans, The Devil and Daniel Webster. When you sell your soul, the devil always shows up to collect on the debt.

Image: You Tube

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Self Destruction Is In The Air

In Washington, the subject is impeachment. In London, the subject is implosion. And the leaders in both capitals are looking for someone else to blame. Andrew Rawley writes:

Very often, what matters in politics is not how you play the game, but how you place the blame. No one knows this better than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. His career would have been terminated long ago did he not possess a talent for wriggling out of responsibility for his behaviour in both his personal and political life. The biographer of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore, who once employed him as a journalist, sometimes refers to Mr Johnson as “the greased albino piglet”.
We are now entering the most intense round of the Brexit blame game. For three years, Remainers have pointed infuriated fingers at Mr Johnson and the other frontmen of the Leave campaign for flogging a bogus prospectus that Brexit would be a painless “piece of cake”, not never-ending agony. Since it cannot be the Brexiters’ fault that their promises have not been fulfilled, they must find someone else to blame and that would be intransigent Europeans, obstructive parliamentarians, quisling civil servants and meddling judges. With less than a month to go before the Halloween deadline, and an election hovering on the horizon as well, the issue of culpability is going to become even more fiercely contested. We approach the endgame of the blame game.

Boris Johnson finds himself in a bind of his own making:

He has repeatedly declared that Britain will be leaving, with or without a deal, at the end of October, “come what may”, “whatever the circumstances”, “do or die”. Repeats of that pledge, delivered under the slogan “Get Brexit done”, won the loudest applause during his speech to last week’s Tory conference. Except that the Benn Act, passed by parliament in September, makes it illegal for him to pursue a crash-out Brexit and requires him to ask for a further extension in the event that there is no agreement. How does the greased piglet wriggle out of this one?

In Washington, the text messages which were delivered last week to three committees of the House of Representatives were the 21st century version of Nixon's tapes. Donald Trump will howl, blaming everybody but himself for his impeachment. And Boris Johnson will squeal like a greased piglet, blaming everybody but himself for his implosion.

Self destruction is in the air.

Image: Twitter

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Scheer And The Environment

When you look at Andrew Scheer's plans for the environment, Stephen Maher writes, there's not much there. Consider what happened during this week's French language debate:

Moderator Pierre Bruneau asked Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer if he would cut a federal subsidy for electric vehicles as Doug Ford cut a provincial program when he took power in Ontario.
“We have assured Canadians that we will continue this program until the end of the schedule,” Scheer said. “But we must recognize another fact. The most popular vehicle in Quebec is the F-150. Quebecers are going to continue to buy gas. And I prefer, I have made my choice. I prefer our own gas to gas from the United States. It doesn’t make sense for money from Quebec to leave Canada for the economy of Donald Trump when we have reserves.”

But it really doesn't matter where the gasoline comes from. Gasoline is the problem. More important was Scheer's pivot from electric vehicles. Say what you will about the Liberals, they do have a plan to encourage electric transportation:

The 2019 Liberal budget, which included a $5,000 subsidy for every electric vehicle. Scheer’s plan says nothing about electric vehicles except for some happy talk about improving charging technology. [Moreover, they propose to] promote electric vehicles, including $130 million on a program to build charging stations, partly to fill in the gaps on the highway system so electric cars are more practical for long trips. 

It's not a pipe dream. Consider what's happening in Norway:

In civilized Norway, plug-in electric vehicles have already overtaken gas burners. To encourage rapid uptake, Norway has offered electric motorists free parking, tax breaks, access to bus lanes and exemptions from road tolls. It is also easy to charge electric vehicles there. There are 7,632 charging stations. In massive Canada, there are only 5,841.

And then consider what happened when the Ford government was elected in Ontario:

The previous Liberal Ontario government offered rebates for electric vehicles and had made changes to the building code that would have required that new homes be built with 200-amp panels, so that it would be cheaper and easier to fit them with electric vehicle charging stations. Home builders objected, complaining that the change would add $500 to the price of each new home, so in May the Ford government quietly removed those requirements from the building code, which means that it will be much more expensive to refit buildings later to install charging stations.
Graham Inglis, who runs a Mississauga company that installs charging stations, says it typically costs $1,500-$2,500 to upgrade electrical service after a home is built, so the changes to the building code don’t make sense. “It’s a short-term solution that might not have the home owner’s long term interest in view,” he said in an interview on Friday. “It might save them a little bit of money now, but in the end they’re going to need a service upgrade.”

Ford’s changes to the building code do nothing to encourage the adoption of cleaner technologies. But Ford went further than that:

The Ford government also killed Ontario’s cap-and-trade system and cancelled contracts for renewable energy, including a nearly finished $100-million wind project in Prince Edward County, at an as-yet-unknown cost.

We live in Prince Edward County. And, at the beginning of the month, the task of taking down the windmills got underway.

There are all kinds of falsehoods being spread in this election. The choice will not be easy. But, when it comes to Andrew Scheer's commitment to the environment, the choice seems pretty clear.

Image: Consumer Reports