Sunday, December 31, 2023

The New Year

The dying year has been difficult. Let's hope that we can collectively do better in the New Year.

Best wishes to all.

Friday, December 29, 2023

You Can't Go Home Again

Recently, some well-known progressives -- like Russell Brand, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and Matt Tiabbi -- have switched sides. Michelle Goldberg writes:

Part of the answer is probably that the culture of the left is simply less welcoming, especially to the politically unsure, than the right. The conservative movement may revel in cruelty toward out-groups — see, for example, the ravening digital mobs that descended on the podcaster Julia Mazur for a TikTok she made about the pleasures of life without children — but the movement is often good at love-bombing potential recruits. “People go where people accept them, or are nice to them, and away from people who are mean to them,” the Marxist Edwin Aponte, one of the founders of the heterodox but socially conservative magazine Compact, told [Kathryn] Joyce and [Jeff] Sharlet.

But I think there’s a deeper problem, which stems from a crisis of faith in the possibility of progress. Liberals and leftists have lots of excellent policy ideas but rarely articulate a plausible vision of the future. I sometimes hear leftists talk about “our collective liberation,” but outside a few specific contexts — the ongoing subjugation of the Palestinians comes to mind — I mostly have no idea what they’re talking about.

People are deeply suspicious of progress these days. The advent of Donald Trump and the Israel-Hamas war are two reasons one might wonder just how far we've come. And the Right takes advantage of events like these:

The right has an advantage in appealing to dislocated and atomized people: It doesn’t have to provide a compelling view of the future. All it needs is a romantic conception of the past, to which it can offer the false promise of return. When people are scared and full of despair, “let’s go back to the way things were” is a potent message, especially for those with memories of happier times.

The wise among us know that you can never go home again. That's an idea that offers no comfort. But it does allow you to see things realistically.

Image: QuoteFancy

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Will They Convict Him?

Donald Trump doesn't read books. He probably doesn't even read memos. But he does read polls. And the polls are saying something interesting. Norm Eisen, Celinda Lake and Anat Shenker Osorio write:

The negative impact of conviction has emerged in polling as a consistent through line over the past six months nationally and in key states. We are not aware of a poll that offers evidence to the contrary. The swing in this data away from Mr. Trump varies — but in a close election, as 2024 promises to be, any movement can be decisive.

To be clear, we should always be cautious of polls this early in the race posing hypothetical questions, about conviction or anything else. Voters can know only what they think they will think about something that has yet to happen.

Yet we have seen the effect in several national surveys, like a recent Wall Street Journal poll. In a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump leads by four percentage points. But if Mr. Trump is convicted, there is a five-point swing, putting Mr. Biden ahead, 47 percent to 46 percent.

In another new poll by Yahoo News-YouGov, the swing is seven points. In a December New York Times-Siena College poll, almost a third of Republican primary voters believe that Mr. Trump shouldn’t be the party’s nominee if he is convicted even after winning the primary.

The damage to Mr. Trump is even more pronounced when we look at an important subgroup: swing-state voters. In recent CNN polls from Michigan and Georgia, Mr. Trump holds solid leads. The polls don’t report head-to-head numbers if Mr. Trump is convicted, but if he is, 46 percent of voters in Michigan and 47 percent in Georgia agree that he should be disqualified from the presidency.

So much depends on whether the legal system will catch up with Trump in time.

Image: Newsweek

Friday, December 22, 2023

Merry Christmas

This has truly been a year when we -- as the song says -- "need a little Christmas." We need the promises of hope and peace that come with the season.

Happy Holidays to all.

Image: Facebook

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Big One

The next election, Michael Harris writes, will be the most consequential in Canada's history:

It will be a choice between today, and all the tomorrows the planet may or may not have; between the cost of living, and the cost of saving what scientists warn is a planet being suffocated by carbon emissions.

Advantage Poilievre. Politics is not known for its long-term thinking, intellectual honesty, or factual reporting. It has become a string of self-serving narratives. Think of Poilievre’s absurd take on housing to deliver that point. He actually said that Canada has the most dirt, so housing should be dirt cheap.

Another comment from the shallow end of the pool. But this is the TikTok age, and Poilievre’s bumper sticker sloganeering resonates, especially if you happen to be living in a tent in a major Canadian city.

Justin Trudeau appears to be at the end of his run:

According to the polls, 58 per cent of Canadians have had enough of Trudeau. The dissatisfaction with the once shiny pony has shown up in poll after poll.

But his record is pretty good:

It is worth noting that public opinion seems to be impervious to the facts. When it comes to inflation, for example—perhaps the hottest of hot-button issues in today’s domestic politics—Canada has one of the lowest rates on the planet.

It lands in the top 10 countries in the world in fighting cost-of-living increases. Within the countries of the G7, Canada is right there with the U.S. and Japan with the lowest inflation rates. Canada is close to the top of the list of best countries in the world to live in.

But the way Pierre Poilievre tells it and sells it, Canadian kids are writing Santa Claus to ask for food, not toys, and the busiest bank in the land is the food bank. Farmers can’t afford to grow crops because of the carbon “tax,” and the media cheerleads for the elites, and death to the CBC, and don’t forget that Poilievre was a reliable paper boy.

According to the polls, while the prime minister rates a negative-33 on the favourability scale, Poilievre is in positive territory at plus-four. As for his party, the Conservatives are leaving the ruling Liberals in their vapour trail. According to the most recent Angus Reid polling, the Conservatives have a massive 17-point lead on the Liberals. At this moment, that is.

With such a huge lead in the polls, it will be in the Conservatives’ interest to get to an election while Trudeau remains yesterday’s political rock star, and today’s political liability.

This kind of data leads to one question:

Does the Liberal Party have a problem, or does it have a Justin Trudeau problem?

What would happen if Trudeau opted to leave on his own terms, rather than be fired? According to Angus Reid, 44 per cent of the soft Liberal vote would be less likely to consider voting for the Conservatives if there were a new Liberal leader.

Something to consider in this week before Christmas

Image: The Hill Times

Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Blood Feud

Not since the days of Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker has there been so much animosity between the leaders of the Liberal and the Conservative Parties. Susan Delacourt writes:

To state the obvious, they really don’t like each other.

Poilievre follows what he believes to be a winning formula, laying the blame on Trudeau personally for all the bad economic news. The Conservative leader darts from one sad tale to another, uniting all the disparate developments with some stock, repetitive slogans — “not worth the cost” and “axe the tax,” among others.

The Conservative MPs around him enjoy the barbs immensely.

Trudeau, who has made a habit of fielding all questions every Wednesday through all of his eight years in power (that’s three Conservative leaders and two interim leaders) also seems to be having a good time batting back the Poilievre digs.

Though it’s definitely been a more bruising year for Liberals than for Conservatives — if polls are any indication — both leaders are headed into the break believing they’ve landed some hits on the other.

For Poilievre, those hits are more on the sustained front — day after day of withering, biting criticism. For Trudeau, the past week has appeared to inject some energy into Liberal ranks.

Liberals also appeared to be taking heart in new polling from Abacus Data, showing a five percentage point drop in support for the Conservatives and an increase in negative opinions about Poilievre.

What will be the end result? I'm making no predictions.

Image: Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Monday, December 11, 2023

Democracy On The Ropes

In Canada, democracy is on the ropes. Michael Harris writes:

Judging from the public’s view of politicians, especially incumbents, there is more than a little evidence that democracy is more than just running a fever.

The most unpopular provincial leaders in Canada are the premiers of the country’s two biggest provinces. Ontario’s Ford has an approval rating of 34 per cent. His counterpart in Quebec, François Legault, sits at just 31 per cent.

At the federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has an approval rating of 25 per cent, while a whopping 58 per cent disapprove of his performance. That adds up to a net -33 rating for the prime minister—a political death warrant in most circumstances.

But federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre isn’t exactly setting records for personal popularity. Although the Conservative Party is a cab-ride ahead of the Liberals in popularity, just 37 per cent of Canadians had a favourable view of the leader of the opposition, against 33 per cent who held a negative view, according to recent polling.

So that means a modest plus-four favourability rating for Poilievre, but with a large block of Canadians still undecided. In other words, a lot could change between now and election day.

But at this moment, it appears as though voters are prepared to punish incumbents, particularly the ones in power during the COVID-19 pandemic, without being crazy about the alternative. The candidate they dislike the least is the one they will apparently be voting for. It is hardly what could be called robust democracy in action.

People are in a very foul mood:

It is actually anger bordering on rage with a touch of despair. Canadians are angry and despairing about the cost of groceries, heating their homes, getting a house, and running their cars. Poll after poll shows Poilievre with a huge lead over Trudeau in all but two files: climate change and affordable childcare.

With very little policy detail, Poilievre is the resounding choice to lead the way on bringing down the cost of living and reducing the tax burden. Poilievre is betting the farm that Canadians are willing to give up the fight against climate change in exchange for cancelling the Trudeau government’s carbon tax.

It's the same mood in the United States:

As in Canada, Americans are not overly enamoured with either of their presumptive presidential candidates in 2024. They are showing every sign of being tired of democracy, angry, and electorally vengeful.

U.S. President Joe Biden is caught between the same rock and hard place that is squeezing Trudeau towards the exit.

Faced with widespread anger over inflation, interest rates, immigration, and the sense that his country is somehow headed in the wrong direction, Biden faces a disapproval number even worse than Trudeau’s—a crushing 63 per cent. A mere 37 per cent approve of his performance as president. The only number that is going up for Biden is his age—and at 81 years old, that is a problem for his campaign.

But here is the burning issue. The question that will be answered next November is how much are Americans prepared to give up to have their grievances dealt with and their prayers answered?

How voters answer that question will make all the difference.

Image: CNN

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Getting Nastier

As Conservatives rise in the polls, their nasty streak gets wider. Susan Delacourt writes:

The fierce polarization between the governing Liberals and opposition Conservatives has put Canada’s support for Ukraine in the crosshairs — puzzlingly so, since Conservatives have not until lately shown any sign of wavering on that all-party support.

But to the surprise of many, Conservatives voted together late last month against a bill to implement a Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his team insisted they didn’t object to trade with Ukraine, in practice or in principle -- they just didn’t like the way the agreement includes words promoting carbon pricing.

The Poilievre Party is sounding more and more like Republicans:

Day after day, Justin Trudeau and key cabinet members have been sending up flares over what they see as Republican-influenced backtracking on Ukraine by Canadian Conservatives.

“We owe it to the people of Ukraine to support them today and not betray Ukraine as the Conservatives have done,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is herself a proud Ukrainian-Canadian, said in the House this week.

Again, though, in their crusade against the "carbon tax," the Conservatives took another poke at Ukraine this week. Canada’s Parliament was plunged into an all-night voting marathon on Thursday as Poilievre vowed that Conservatives would hold up all business with “thousands” of amendments and motions.

At around 5 a.m. on Friday, the House was asked to vote on an item in the supplementary estimates to finance what’s known as Operation Unifier, Canada’s mission to provide training to Ukrainian forces. One by one, in the House and virtually, Conservatives voted “nay.”

Liberals and New Democrats flooded social media with incredulous outrage.

Heather McPherson, the New Democrats’ critic for foreign affairs, said this on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter:

“Unbelievably, the Conservative Party has voted against support for Ukraine AGAIN! The Conservatives are hoping no one notices that early this morning they voted against $500 M to support the delivery of equipment and services to Ukraine in the defence of its sovereignty. Shame!” 

The country is tired of Justin Trudeau. But replacing him with Poilievre would be a grave mistake.

Image: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Not Mortal Enemies

Time changes things. Consider the picture that appeared a couple of days ago. Lawrence Martin writes:

The image leaped off the screen a couple of days ago. A photo of Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien grinning like lifelong buddies in each other’s presence.

“Always wonderful to catch up with a true gentleman and friend,” wrote former prime minister Harper, who posted the pals pic on X. The Conservative warrior obviously wanted his close ties to the lunch-bucket Liberal well known.

Mr. Harper’s protégé, the hyperpartisan Pierre Poilievre, probably wasn’t too thrilled. Mr. Harper, he knew, despised Liberals. Few could doubt that. David Emerson, the floor-crossing British Columbian who served in the cabinets of the Liberal Paul Martin and Mr. Harper, once told me that one of the big differences was the degree of contempt Mr. Harper had for Liberals. It was visceral, he said. “Sometimes it was just startling to me.”

So what was he thinking, giving a former Liberal prime minister a shout out while Mr. Poilievre, headed for an election, works to paint the Liberals as destroyers of the country?

These are, indeed, different times:

What’s pleasing about the Harper-Chrétien photo is that it is such a departure from the temper of our times, which sees polarization at a brutal level and many complaining that the country has never been so divided.

The perennial gripe about Canadian disunity gets a little tiresome. Yes, there are fissures, some of them serious. But when hasn’t there been? And why wouldn’t there be? Given our giant sprawling land mass, given the differences between east and west, between French and English speakers, between Indigenous Peoples and others, between right and left – what is to be expected? That there shouldn’t be divisions is irrational. That the divisions won’t endure is a pipe dream.

The new information age that gives vent to all the yellers and haters makes conditions seem worse. That they are worse than ever, as some claim, is delusional. As I have previously noted, we need only go back to the early 1990s, when we had a separatist party as the official Opposition, when the Reform Party was staging a rebellion in the West, when there was a deep recession with third-world debt levels, and when a Quebec referendum put the country on a knife edge.

That was when Mr. Chrétien was in power and Mr. Harper was soon to be. They were on opposite sides; their ideological differences mirrored those of the country and still do. But despite the differences, they maintained respect for one another.

Their good rapport is driven by a number of commonalities. They were tough-minded, fiscally prudent, problem-solving non-visionaries. They were suspicious of elites and passionate about the Canadian North. Historian Arthur Milnes, who has been in meetings with them, said: “What I witnessed in private is that both men are very funny behind the scenes and simply enjoy each other’s company. I recall them meeting privately at the late Ralph Klein’s funeral in Calgary. With their funny stories about him, they had each other, and me, in stitches.”

That doesn't mean that differences disappear:

Their camaraderie doesn’t mean there’s been a narrowing of the philosophical divide. Mr. Harper chairs the International Democratic Union, a global alliance of right-wing parties. Mr. Chrétien wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole.

But they remind us that political opponents don't have to be mortal enemies.

Image: National Post

Monday, December 04, 2023

Kagan's Warning

Robert Kagan is not optimistic about the future of the United States. He writes

Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. In 13 weeks, Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination. In the RealClearPolitics poll average (for the period from Nov. 9 to 20), Trump leads his nearest competitor by 47 points and leads the rest of the field combined by 27 points. The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense — he is tied or ahead of President Biden in all the latest polls — stripping other Republican challengers of their own stated reasons for existence. The fact that many Americans might prefer other candidates, much ballyhooed by such political sages as Karl Rove, will soon become irrelevant when millions of Republican voters turn out to choose the person whom no one allegedly wants.

For many months now, we have been living in a world of self-delusion, rich with imagined possibilities. Maybe it will be Ron DeSantis, or maybe Nikki Haley. Maybe the myriad indictments of Trump will doom him with Republican suburbanites. Such hopeful speculation has allowed us to drift along passively, conducting business as usual, taking no dramatic action to change course, in the hope and expectation that something will happen. Like people on a riverboat, we have long known there is a waterfall ahead but assume we will somehow find our way to shore before we go over the edge. But now the actions required to get us to shore are looking harder and harder, if not downright impossible.

Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. When that happens, there will be a swift and dramatic shift in the political power dynamic, in his favor. Until now, Republicans and conservatives have enjoyed relative freedom to express anti-Trump sentiments, to speak openly and positively about alternative candidates, to vent criticisms of Trump’s behavior past and present. Donors who find Trump distasteful have been free to spread their money around to help his competitors. Establishment Republicans have made no secret of their hope that Trump will be convicted and thus removed from the equation without their having to take a stand against him.

Trump will not be contained by the courts or the rule of law. On the contrary, he is going to use the trials to display his power. That’s why he wants them televised. Trump’s power comes from his following, not from the institutions of American government, and his devoted voters love him precisely because he crosses lines and ignores the old boundaries. They feel empowered by it, and that in turn empowers him. Even before the trials begin, he is toying with the judges, forcing them to try to muzzle him, defying their orders. He is a bit like King Kong testing the chains on his arms, sensing that he can break free whenever he chooses.

Given the way the Electoral College functions, there is a good chance Trump could win again. If he does win, he'll not only be a problem for Americans. He'll be a problem for the world.

Image: The Washington Post

Friday, December 01, 2023

Perfectly Clear

Donald Trump announced this week that, when he's re-elected, he'll kill Obamacare. He tried that once -- and he almost succeeded. Why is Trump obsessed with Obamacare? Paul Krugman writes:

Much of it, no doubt, reflects the general hostility of the modern Republican Party to any program that helps less fortunate Americans.

But it’s hard to escape the sense that there’s also something personal involved. In his rambling speeches, Trump often seems to believe that Barack Obama is still the president. Regardless of whether Trump is actually confused about this, the Affordable Care Act was Obama’s biggest achievement. And everyone still calls the program Obamacare.

Is Trump vain and petty enough that he would take health care away from millions simply to demolish his predecessor’s legacy? You tell me.

Well, let's be clear: Trump is vain and petty. But there's more to it than that. Not only was Obama a much better president than Trump. He is a much better man. Trump proves that every time he opens his mouth and makes it -- as Richard Nixon used to say  -- "perfectly clear."

Image: Clear As Mud Second Thoughts 

Monday, November 27, 2023

We Know Who He Is

Last week, we got a good look at who Pierre Poilievre is. Michael Harris writes:

After jumping to the conclusion that the tragic accident at the Rainbow Bridge on Nov. 22 was a terrorist attack—a thesis which quickly proved to be patently false—Pierre Poilievre was asked by a CP reporter if it was responsible of him to make that public declaration before the facts were known. 

Instead of answering the question, Poilievre went on the attack, accusing the reporter of getting her facts wrong. He said he was citing a report from CTV News when he made his comment about the incident.  

Poilievre went on to trash CP itself, pointing out that the outlet had been forced to make three corrections to a single story—which he characterized as a possible Guinness Book of Records magnitude of error.  He also suggested that the CP reporter was questioning the integrity of the CTV report, when in fact it was his own integrity that was in question. 

Poilievre doesn't have the temperament -- and thus the judgment -- to be  prime minister:

As subsequently reported by The Globe and Mail, Poilievre first claimed that the Rainbow Bridge explosion was a terrorist attack before CTV broadcast its report. In other words, the reporter was totally justified in asking her question. Poilievre’s answer was nothing but a public relations flapdoodle to cover up the fact that he had been caught with his pants down around his ankles.

But that is not to say that there were no media reports claiming a terrorist attack before Poilievre made his incendiary comments.  

In the United States, several Republicans, including Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, said that the false claim that the Rainbow Bridge accident was a terrorist attack. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas added to the drumbeat of fear-mongering to make U.S. President Joe Biden look weak on the national security file: “This confirms our worst fears that the explosion at Rainbow Bridge was a terrorist attack.”  

Whether Poilievre got his misinformation from Fox “News” rather than CTV, and just didn’t want to say so, no one should be surprised at his sophomoric response.  

He carries the American Disease. And, therefore, he attacks the media:

When another female reporter had questioned Poilievre’s position on vaccine mandates in 2022, a position which amounts to public health Russian roulette disguised as protecting civil liberties, he attacked her, too. Poilievre said Rachel Gilmore, who was with Global News on the Hill at the time, was “smearing” him with her question, and went on to describe her as a “so-called journalist.” 

The fact is the CPC has made a cottage industry of trashing the free press since it first came to power as a united Conservative Party. Then-prime minister Stephen Harper demonstrated time after time that he would rather go to the NDP’s annual picnic than sit down with serious journalists and take questions. The CPC has repeatedly shown that it believes that journalists are not here to inform the public, or to exercise free speech, but to do the Liberal Party’s “dirty work.” This could be why Poilievre is vowing to defund the CBC.

Caveat Emptor.

Image: The Hill Times

Thursday, November 23, 2023

We Know How This Story Ends

Recent polls suggest that Pierre Poilievre will be our next prime minister. Bob Hepburn writes that's because neither the Liberals nor the NDP have figured out how to deal with Poilievre. But it's also because the media is giving him a free pass:

The biggest reason is that the media has failed in its role of providing Canadians with a clear picture of what a Poilievre government would look like.

With rare exceptions, and I include the Toronto Star among the exceptions, the national media has given Poilievre a free pass when it comes to his policies — or more accurately his lack of policies.

Instead, they focus on Poilievre’s recent moves to improve his image by ditching his glasses and updating his wardrobe. They focus on the size of his crowds and on polls, the horse-race aspect of politics. They also seem fixated on reporting about what they see as the pending demise of Trudeau.

Canadians deserve better from their media. They deserve to know where Poilievre stands on major issues of the day, rather than having their media merely parrot, unquestionably, his criticisms of Trudeau.

That doesn’t mean being seen as shills for the Liberals or giving up any sense of journalistic fairness, which in itself might be a fresh concept for the National Post and Toronto Sun, both of which are openly hostile to Trudeau, filling their pages and websites with pro-Poilievre pieces. The Globe and Mail, CTV and even the CBC aren’t much better on some days.

But it’s the media’s job to lay it all on the line with readers and viewers about Poilievre. That’s because Poilievre has played many different roles during his career — from political attack dog for Stephen Harper to champion of “freedom loving” trucker convoys — and because many of his past views and actions have been disturbing, if not outright dangerous.

Here are a few questions that require answers:

As prime minister would Poilievre still embrace the controversial use of bitcoin, which he has in the past? Would he still march with anarchistic truckers blocking streets and highways? Would he ignore medical experts on the need for vaccine mandates if COVID rears up again? How would he deal with Quebec’s demands to give it more special powers?

How would he balance the budget while reducing taxes? What programs would he cut? How would he fix grocery prices? What would he do about housing, the economy, climate change?

Poilievre has watched Donald Trump rise to power and he's taking pages out of Trump's playbook. We know how this story ends.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, November 20, 2023

Anger And Wisdom

The tide is running against Justin Trudeau. Michael Harris writes:

Poll after poll has shown that a lot of Canadians are stomping their feet for the current prime minister to resign right now before the next election. There is an impetuous push to see the back end of the man who has led the country for eight—often turbulent—years, including through the crushing COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest Leger poll, an online effort that cannot be assigned a margin of error for that reason, found that 50 per cent of respondents want Trudeau to resign before the next election—including one in four respondents who identified as Liberals.

There are lots of reasons for that sentiment:

For a young couple these days, they must win the lottery to be able to buy a house. Even with the government’s interest-free saving accounts, and other measures announced by Housing Minister Sean Fraser, home ownership seems a distant, fevered dream.

For many Canadians, the monthly grocery bill has become a mortgage payment. Food banks across the country are reporting record demand. Some estimates claim that 10 per cent of Canadians have sought assistance in putting food on the table. They used to deal with big banks, not food banks. 

Health care, once the signature accomplishment of Canadian public life, has turned into a hospital waiting-room where your name and number is never called. After Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had her recent stroke, she wrote a poignant piece in The Tyee about what it was like to go through that traumatic experience without a family doctor.  

But caution is required. Six years ago, Ontarians left Kathleen Wynne's government with nine seats in the legislature. Two years ago, they reduced that number to seven. Today, the majority of Ontarians regret their decision to hand over the reins to Doug Ford.

Anger and wisdom make strange bedfellows. They should sleep in separate beds.

Image: The Hill Times

Friday, November 17, 2023

What Sane Person?

The Republican Party is a collection of vile and incompetent people. Leading their parade is Donald Trump. But close behind him is Marjorie Taylor Greene. Dana Milbank writes:

After eight fellow Republicans thwarted her attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, one of them said Greene lacks “maturity.” Greene responded by telling her 2.8 million followers on X that the man who called her immature was a “p---y” who does not have testicles.

The week began with Greene’s failed attempt on the House floor to impeach Mayorkas. It continued with a failed initial attempt to bring a temporary spending patch to the floor to keep the federal government open for another 60 days. And it ended in a yet another failed vote on the floor, in which 19 Republicans blocked GOP leaders from beginning debate on the annual Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. In the past, it was unheard of for lawmakers to defy their own party leaders on such routine procedural votes. This year, it is commonplace.

A Cabinet-level officer has not been impeached since 1876. House Republicans would very much like to change that, but they don’t yet have the votes. That might be because they haven’t produced evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors by Mayorkas — only evidence that he is implementing President Biden’s policies, which they do not like.

Greene used a “privileged resolution” (a maneuver seldom used in the past but also commonplace in this Congress) to force a snap vote on Monday night on impeaching the secretary without completing an impeachment inquiry. As lawmakers carried on conversations, the House clerk read Greene’s venomous resolution about “willful admittance of … terrorists”; “the invasion of approximately 10,000,000 illegals”; “border crosser[s] who have invaded”; “gotaways”; and even “illegal people.”

One has to ask: What sane person would put these people in office?

Image: Roll Call

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Carbon Folly

Politicians are chipping away at the carbon tax. Pierre Poilievre wants to "axe the tax" entirely. The situation upsets former environment minister Catherine McKenna. She writes:

Life is full of ironies. Using pricing to change behaviour is a strategy drawn from any conservative playbook. By setting a price, a market can work its magic and people can make the best choices for their businesses and families.

This is the logic at the heart of Canada’s approach to meeting its climate commitments and driving carbon pollution out of our economy and environment.

But because I’m not a conservative and know that markets often hurt people who can least afford it, I made sure that the federal approach to carbon pricing had a special protection built-in: it’s revenue neutral. This means that the money raised by putting a price on carbon is transparently rebated in the form of a quarterly Climate Action Incentive rebate made directly to Canadians’ bank accounts.

This can seem complicated but it’s not. Yes, the price of fossil fuels will rise, but most Canadian families are better off with rebates and the choice really is theirs: use the money to offset rising energy prices or use it, alongside other government incentives, to save more money long term by switching to less costly forms of heating and transportation.

This isn’t something I expect our political opponents to advertise, but it doesn’t stop it from being true. Nor does it change the fact that Canada’s carbon pricing system follows the same approach successfully pioneered by conservative politicians.

Think Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and acid rain or Premier Gordon Campbell who created Canada’s first carbon pricing system in British Columbia. Quebec Premier Jean Charest made common cause with the all-American Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to set up a carbon market that, despite opposition in Quebec and California, propels both economies forward.

Mr. Poilievre and his party claim to be Conservatives. However,

on one hand we have today’s Conservatives who refuse to take lessons from their own. On the other, let’s remember that while we are in a fossil fuel climate crisis, the oil and gas industry is playing a double game. They are generating massive profits that they return to their shareholders while charging consumers exorbitant prices. At the same time, they are demanding huge public subsidies to clean up the pollution they cause, while walking away from their already modest climate commitments.

This, incidentally, is why an oil and gas windfall tax is long overdue. It would address the climate crisis and improve affordability by helping families transition to lower cost, clean energy. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, if the same windfall tax currently paid by Canadian banks and insurance companies was paid by the largest Canadian oil and gas companies, proceeds would reach $4.2 billion in just five years.

Let’s not lose focus. The problem here isn’t carbon pricing. It’s our reliance on outmoded carbon intensive technologies, including home heating systems. As Clean Energy Canada has made clear, “fossil fuel inflation is the culprit for skyrocketing heating oil prices.”  The sooner heating systems relying on oil and gas are switched out — everywhere — for cold-climate heat pumps, the better for consumers and for the planet.

A windfall tax can help Canadians get it done.

Unfortunately, the political courage to do that is nowhere to be found. It's hard to find courage anywhere these days.

Image: Wikipedia

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Remebrance Day 2023

In a world increasingly obsessed with Imperial Dreams, we must remember the cost of those dreams.

Image: Saugeen Times

Friday, November 10, 2023

Will It Be Carney?

People are talking about Mark Carney. Max Fawcett writes:

Over the last week, two things have become abundantly obvious to anyone watching Canadian politics. First, Justin Trudeau is in deep, deep trouble — deeper even than the SNC-Lavalin scandal or the revelation of his Blackface photos in 2019. And second, Mark Carney’s interest in his job is much more than just a rumour. As Carney told the Globe and Mail, running for Trudeau’s job isn’t a decision he’s ruled out. In the dialect of aspiring political leaders, that’s as close an answer to “hell yes” as you’re going to get.

You just can't walk in and take over a political party. Michael Ignatieff proved that:

Carney is no Ignatieff, though. For one thing, his stint as governor of the Bank of England was a blip compared to the decades Ignatieff spent living and working outside Canada. More importantly, his field of expertise just so happens to align with the Trudeau Liberals’ Achilles heel: the economy.

As a recent Abacus Data poll showed, 43 per cent of respondents think Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is better at managing the economy, with just 28 per cent saying the same about Trudeau. And Poilievre’s steadfast refusal to talk about anything other than the economy reflects what the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt describes as “the core belief among his inner circle that the next election will be fought and won on the economy and little else.”

Justin could do for Carney what Lester Pearson did for Justin's father:

By breaking in Carney the way Lester Pearson did with his own father back in 1965, letting him run for office and then appointing him to a key cabinet role (like, say, finance minister), Trudeau can benefit from his economic gravitas without having to hand over the reins. That would protect his party’s base of support in Quebec, without which re-election is impossible, and allow the Liberals to start pushing in Ontario, B.C., and other key parts of English Canada. He could let Carney take Poilievre into the deeper end of the economic pool and see if he actually knows how to swim. If it works, the leadership question will eventually answer itself — just as it did with Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson.

It would all take some careful choreography. Stay tuned.

Image: Financial Post

Monday, November 06, 2023

Post Trudeau

Justin Trudeau is in trouble. But so are the other leaders of Canada's three major parties. Michael Harris writes:

Canadians are getting the picture: none of the major leaders can be taken at their word. 

Canadians know that things are not as rosy as the Liberal government claims, not as bad as the Conservative Party complains, and not as easily solved as the NDP naively declares. 

So we have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7? Groceries and gasoline are still way too expensive.  Increasing competitiveness in the grocery business won’t change that in a hurry. Message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: free heat pumps are not the answer to the anger in the land.

So the carbon levy is too onerous and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre wants to “axe the tax?” Poorly timed sloganeering after a summer of massive wild fires and floods across the country. Making polluting free again doesn’t deal with climate change. Message to Poilievre: time to get a coherent policy on this existential file, and put aside the “apple a day” politics.

So NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wants to drop the GST for all home heating, not just oil? Here’s the rub. That would seriously reduce federal revenues at exactly the time the NDP is pushing for more social spending. Fighting climate change aside—and that is a huge aside—how is reducing government revenues while shelling out major money on a national pharmacare program fiscally responsible?

Still, Trudeau is in the public's crosshairs. Pierre Poilievre has been very successful at putting him there:

Poilievre has skillfully focused the general grumpiness in the country on a single person: Trudeau.  Everything is broken, and it is all Trudeau’s fault. 

At least that is the mantra. It has been an undeniable hit at the political box office. The polls not only have the Liberals looking at the Conservative vapour trail as it zooms ahead of the government in public popularity. Not only do Canadians apparently dislike their former prince of politics, a majority of them would like Trudeau to resign before they get a chance to give him the boot. 

Poilievre has been so successful in scapegoating Trudeau for all that is wrong in the Canadian universe that even Liberals are getting nervous that the current leader may be about to lead them over a cliff. 

But what would happen if Trudeau exited from the stage? Harris suggests a couple of people who might replace him:

What would happen, for example, if someone like Sean Fraser became Liberal leader before the next election? 

Fraser is articulate in both English and French, impressive on his feet, and without the peronsal baggage that is dragging down Trudeau. He has also performed credibly in one of the toughest portfolios a minister can draw: housing. It is also worth remembering that Fraser pulled off the monumental feat of ending the MacKay family dynasty’s Conservative hold on the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova.

And what would happen if the Liberals chose an estimable new leader from outside caucus, someone like Mark Carney?

Unlike Fraser, or anyone else drawn from caucus, Carney could not be criticized as a Trudeau cabinet minister who propped up all the dubious policies and would serve up more of the same. Carney would start with a clean political slate. 

Carney would also be uniquely qualified to deal with what the Conservatives themselves insist is a pressing priority: Canada’s burgeoning national debt. Who would Canadians want in charge of that process: Kid Bitcoin, or the former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England?

Who knows what will happen? Stay tuned.

Image: VICE

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Another Self Inflicted Wound

The cost of living is on everyone's mind these days. In an effort to make things a little easier, the Trudeau government decided to remove the tax on home heating oil for three years. For a government that has been trying to ween Canadians off oil, it was an extraordinarily stupid move -- because millions of Canadians now heat their homes without oil. Susan Delacourt writes:

When Justin Trudeau announced a partial rollback of his carbon levy last week, the happiest politicians in Canada appeared to be the gaggle of Atlantic Liberal MPs who stood beaming beside the prime minister at the podium.

The second happiest politician was Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who has been treating this move by Trudeau as an embarrassing retreat, and has been running victory laps ever since. He is now calling for a “carbon tax election.”

Certainly Poilievre has reasons to see this as a political win for him. Not only has this announcement given him evidence of Liberal vulnerability, but it’s created some rare unity on the right across Canada, with conservative premiers also calling out Trudeau for regional favouritism and unfairness.

One of those premiers, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, is even threatening a populist tax revolt.

Alberta’s Danielle Smith said she would do the same thing if her province’s energy regime was set up the same way, but it is privately run and the premier can’t force a private business to withhold taxes.

It's true that nothing Trudeau does will please Moe or Smith. But Trudeau's decision gives both premiers a chance to light a fire. And it gives Poilievre a cudgel which he will use every day until the next election.

It's true. Governments defeat themselves.

Image: the deep dive

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Big Question

We have lived with a catastrophic myth for a long time. We have believed that we live outside nature. Derek Lynch writes:

Globally, we have entered the Anthropocene, with humans the dominant force driving change in all ecosystems. Through our overwhelming influence on the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, no ecosystem anywhere is sheltered from our influence.

Whether it be through colonial redistribution of species, habitat loss, the diverse forces of climate change, overextraction or pollution by plastics, forever chemicals, and reactive nitrogen and phosphorus, there is no unaltered ecosystem. As some of these forces of change combine, ecosystems are being pushed past tipping points of collapse at a faster rate.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, incidences of reverse zoonosis, in which humans became the reservoir and source of infection for domesticated and wild animals, emphasized how the fate of humanity and all creatures sharing the biosphere is linked.

There is a new vision rising:

Ecologists are recognizing that “othering” the natural world is meaningless, and the study of natural processes has to include those modified by humankind. Indeed, the idea of ourselves as distinct from all non-humans is considered by some to be the fundamental driver of our current planetary crisis.

Given such deepening understanding, is it now the time to go beyond “nature” as a concept external to humanity? Instead, we could promote a deeper understanding of biodiversity and community as the shared long history and future fate both of humanity and of non-human life.

Such revised paradigms are closer to Indigenous viewpoints of community, in which land management is conducted in partnership with our relatives within all ecosystems.

Will this new paradigm save us? That's the big question.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Best People?

The Republicans finally have a Speaker of the House -- someone they all voted for, someone nobody knows anything about. The internal communications of Republicans reveal a lot about who they are. Dana Milbank writes:

“Let’s get our poop in a group, people. We’ve got to figure this out,” Rep. Bill Huizenga (Mich.) admonished his GOP colleagues in a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday. (The remarks, naturally, were immediately leaked to reporters.) “I don’t want us to go out there and, in front of the entire world, puke on our shoes again. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

Grouping poop? Puking on shoes? The Chaos Caucus had finally found its new digs: in the sewer. Huizenga’s was an unpleasant (if reasonably accurate) gastrointestinal diagnosis for what ails House Republicans. But it was arguably preferable to the urological diagnosis being offered by some of his colleagues.

Then, of course, there was this from the ever-eloquent Marjorie Taylor Greene:

The evening before, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), asked the panel of nine men then running for speaker whether they would impeach or otherwise harass various Biden administration officials. “I want to know which one of you have the balls to hold them accountable,” she said, as relayed to the indispensable Olivia Beavers of Politico.

This was the second time in a week that a woman in the GOP caucus had raised doubts about her colleagues’ testicles. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), irritated that Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) blocked her on social media, posted: “This is exactly what’s wrong with this place — too many men here with no balls.”

Actually, the problem is almost certainly the opposite: A toxic overdose of testosterone, resulting in aggressive behavior and excessive risk-taking.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), from the Houston area, blamed the Republicans’ latest disarray on the outcome of the American League Championship Series. “I told people there would be problems if the Rangers won, and that’s exactly what’s happened,” he said.

“Congratulations Speaker-designate @SteveScalise!” she posted on Oct. 11.

“Congratulations Speaker-designate @Jim_Jordan!” she posted on Oct. 13.

“Congratulations Speaker-designate @GOPMajorityWhip [Emmer]!” she posted at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

And finally: “Congratulations Speaker-designate @RepMikeJohnson!” she posted at 9:54 p.m. on Tuesday.

Donald Trump calls them, "the best people."


Image: National Review

Monday, October 23, 2023

Truth And War

Truth has always been the first casualty of war. The journalists who cover a war have a difficult task. Michael Harris writes:

War triggers a tribal impulse to take sides, to live in a world of black and white, to kill rather than communicate, and to turn on anyone who’s not on your side.  

Telling the truth is a dangerous occupation. It grows more perilous every year. In 2022, 67 journalists were killed, 35 of them in Ukraine, Mexico, and Haiti. Whether they are covering a war or uncovering corruption, theirs is a life-and-death occupation. 

Reuters video journalist Issam Abdullah was killed, and six of his colleagues from Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse were wounded, when Israeli rocket fire rained down on them at Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13. The group was huddled together for safety, with their press identification prominently displayed.

No one is saying that this was a deliberate act, but neither side in a war welcomes impartial observers with cameras. That’s because there are always two wars going on in every conflict: the military battle, and the fight for the hearts and minds of the world. 

Winning the information war is just as important as winning the military contest. Supportive press is seen as good, critical stories as skewed, and unwelcome propaganda as aiding the enemy. 

That battle is going on in the present conflict:

When it was reported that Israel had bombed a hospital, killing hundreds of people, the coverage caused outrage, not only in the Middle East, but also around the world.

In an unheard of move, leaders from Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority cancelled an in-person summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. Deadly protests were triggered in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, and there were even some drone attacks on U.S. forces in the region.

Even after Israel and the U.S. furnished some evidence to suggest that the hospital strike was actually an errant missile fired by Islamic Jihad, the narrative didn’t sell on the Arab street. Nor did it play much better on the international scene. 

China accused Israel of going beyond defending itself with its unprecedented aerial bombardment that has caused more than 4,000 civilian deaths in Gaza. Iran warned of consequences if the expected land invasion of Gaza takes place. Even in the United States, where the president has just asked for $106-billion to fund wars in Ukraine and Israel, there were large, pro-Palestinian protests outside the White House. 

The public-relations war over Gaza now has a new twist. The Netanyahu government has just approved measures that would temporarily shut down foreign news channels in certain “emergency” situations.

The last thing Israel wants the world to view is the brutal reality of what invading Gaza would actually look like. It will look like a blood-bath, and a lot of that blood will come from innocent men, women, and children who are not combatants. 

That’s why CNN, Reuters, the BBC, and Al Jazeera need to be there, along with as many news agencies as possible who have the resources to cover the war. 

Showing the horror is often the only way of stopping it.

In the coming weeks, we will all want to turn away. We must not do that.

Image: AZ Quotes

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Will We Get Pharmacare?

Last week, at the NDP Convention, the delegates insisted that the Liberals deliver a pharmacare program by 2025 or their deal was off. Susan Delacourt writes:

Their arrangement clearly states that a “Canada pharmacare act” must be passed by the end of 2023, and that deadline is looming ever closer with no sign of legislation on the horizon.

“We have now the leverage given to us by our convention and our members,” Singh told reporters this week, using a bit of megaphone diplomacy to warn of tense negotiations to come with the Liberals.

Don Davies, the NDP health critic, is also ramping up the public pressure on Trudeau’s Liberals, calling pharmacare the “red line” that could spell the end of the supply and confidence agreement.

The gurus in the Finance Department -- who have Chrystia Freeland's ear -- are warning that the present economy can't support pharmacare:

Behind closed doors at the cabinet and caucus retreats in August and September, Freeland essentially warned her colleagues that while Liberals will continue to be Liberals, investing in existing large spending programs, this government can’t do everything. Here’s how she put it when talking to reporters last month:

“We are Liberals. We believe government has an important role to play in supporting Canadians, in building a social welfare net that supports Canadians and in putting in place programs that help our economy to grow.”

There was a “but” there, though. “We also understand that government is able to deliver for Canadians when government operates on a responsible fiscal footing and that, by the way, is a profoundly Liberal conviction. It was Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin that did the very hard work of fighting to get the triple-A (credit) rating that Canada currently enjoys. And what we are committed to is doing the things Canadians need us to do and maintaining that responsible fiscal foundation, and we are doing that. Canada has a triple-A rating, notwithstanding the great investments we’ve made in Canadians.”

Freeland and her Finance Department officials are said to be worried that a new pharmacare program would affect those credit ratings. It didn’t help either that the Parliamentary Budget Officer came out with a report last week, putting the cost of national pharmacare at $11.2 billion in the first year and $13.4 billion in five years.

You can bet that Singh and Trudeau are trying to find a way to finesse the deal.

Image: The Council Of Canadians

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

At Our Worst

The Israel-Hamas War is a case of humanity operating on its worst instincts. Eric Ifill writes:

I am embarrassed by the leadership of this country who have polluted what it means to be a human being, and it’s up to us to push back at the one-sided nature of their performative empathy. Who gets to be the victims of the Israel-Hamas war is directly connected to whose aggression can be excused as legitimate.

The attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians was barbaric:

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a co-ordinated attack against Israeli military bases and civilians living near the border of Gaza. These victims experienced a horrific chain of events including Hamas militants murdering and kidnapping many Israeli civilians. As CNN explains, “Hamas gunmen killed more than 1,400 people, including civilians and soldiers, and took 199 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.” This strike at Israel was unprecedented in scale and tactics, and has been called the worst attack on Israel since its formation. CNN concurs that “Israel has not faced its adversaries in street battles on its own territory since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.” The operation, “Al-Aqsa Storm,” as Hamas named it, was, according to the militants, “a response to what it described as Israeli attacks on women, the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege of Gaza.”

These are horrendous crimes that unleashed a spiral of violence from which victims will continue to suffer. There is no doubt about that.

But there are thousands of innocent victims on the other side. Note the language the Israelis are using:

This dehumanizing language paints Palestinians as sub-human, and therefore builds a narrative for their disposal. And like animals are how they are being treated.

The Palestinian residents in Gaza are under siege, and had only been given 24 hours to flee when the IDF bombed their only escape to Egypt, the Rafah Crossing. The Washington Post confirms: “Israel bombed areas of southern Gaza where it had told Palestinians to flee to ahead of an expected ground invasion, killing dozens of people.” This has created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions for a people who continue to pay for crimes they did not commit. This is what is called collective punishment, and it is contrary to international humanitarian law. Médecins Sans Frontières, in its reprinting of the Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law by legal director Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, highlighted: “International humanitarian law posits that no person may be punished for acts that he or she did not commit. It ensures that the collective punishment of a group of persons for a crime committed by an individual is also forbidden, whether in the case of prisoners of war or of any other individuals.”

There is a reason Mark Twain called us "the damn'd human race."

Image: CNN

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Going Your Own Way

We live in difficult times. The Israeli-Hamas War is only the latest in a long series of crises. Susan Delacourt asks:

What happens to a government that’s constantly in crisis mode? There are a couple of obvious answers, none of them great: burnout, distraction and exhaustion. Trudeau and his government, not faring so well in the polls right now, can certainly lay some of that unpopularity at the feet of the big and controversial things they’ve had to manage. As well, there’s a real risk of a public growing weary of hearing end-of-times talk from their leaders, a crisis fatigue mentality that sets in, both within and outside government.

The answers are uncertain. But there are lessons to be learned:

In discussions with people who have been doing that crisis management, it is possible to see some ways in which each big world-shaking development has taught some lessons for dealing with future ones.

Trump’s existential threat to free trade taught the Trudeau government the value of networks abroad, using other relationships at the state level or in other countries to leverage Canada’s interests with the U.S.

Those networks came in handy when Canada had to shut its border with the U.S. during the pandemic, but also keep business and trade moving. The pandemic, in turn, forced the Trudeau government to put new programs and procedures in place quickly, with what one adviser described as “high-risk tolerance for implementation.”

So when war erupts in Eastern Europe, or now in the Middle East, Canada has some practice in putting out a suite of quick-response measures.

What you learn during constant crisis management, [an] adviser said, is that “you can’t operate in a zero-risk policy environment.” So when the next crisis comes along, the government knows there are new levers to pull, ways to speed up its notoriously slow bureaucracy.

In sum, while Trudeau’s government might have preferred to avoid the constant-crisis mode, each one has given it new ways to deal with the next one. And what should be clear by now: there will be a next one. That may be the only safe prediction to make in a world where each week brings a new crisis

 In an uncertain world, one thing is certain. Those international connections are vital. Anyone who claims you can make your own way in such a world is a fool.

.Images: United Nations Development

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Wisdom In That Notion

Taking her inspiration from Rene Levesque, Danielle Smith suggests that Alberta should separate from Canada. Max Fawcett writes that -- for the rest of Canada -- that might be a good idea:

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada will rule on the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act that was triggered by a reference case filed by the Alberta government in 2020. While the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the federal legislation — better known as the former Bill C-69, or as conservatives like to call it, the “No More Pipelines Act” — intruded on provincial jurisdiction over the development of natural resources, the Supreme Court is expected to view the federal government’s appeal of that decision more favourably. If it upholds the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act, as most legal scholars expect, we’re going to see a nuclear-grade meltdown coming out of Alberta.

It’s a safe bet people like Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her various proxies in the local media will start by going after the court, which they’ve long complained has a supposedly Liberal bias. Never mind, of course, that its chief justice was appointed by one Stephen Harper — for them, this will be another opportunity to undermine its legitimacy and politicize its judgments. That’s especially true given that Russell Brown, the most Alberta-friendly of the nine Supreme Court justices, stepped down from the bench earlier this summer after the Canadian Judicial Council began looking into his disreputable conduct during a recent vacation. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

It’s an even safer bet the Alberta separatist movement will use the decision to add fuel to its long-simmering fire. Witness Take Back Alberta’s David Parker, who tweeted recently, “Alberta will not obey Ottawa’s draconian climate virtue signalling. If they attempt to enforce it, we will separate. If you don’t believe that is possible, just watch us.”

Separatism -- whether it emanates in Quebec or Alberta -- has always been a pipedream:

The notion Alberta would be better off on its own ignores everything from basic geopolitical realities to the historical example of Quebec, never mind the risks associated with being heavily dependent on fossil fuels right as the world is transitioning away from them. But after years of being a very vocal critic of the movement and its obvious blind spots, I’m starting to have some pro-separation arguments of my own.

An independent Alberta, for example, would put an end to the tiresome and tedious debates around equalization, most of which are informed by a fundamental misunderstanding of how the program actually works. This has been a cottage industry in Alberta for years now, one that’s aided and abetted by politicians and pundits who profit from the confusion. Without them around to chum the waters, the rest of Canada would have more time and opportunity to talk about issues that actually matter.

An independent Alberta would also be forced to bear the full brunt of the global energy transition, one that it has about as much control over as you might over a passing locomotive. For Canada, this would almost certainly be a very good thing. After benefiting from Alberta’s resource-driven wealth and the surplus contributions they’ve made to the federal income tax and social security systems, the country would be free of any downside associated with the global transition away from burning fossil fuels. And the more than $200 billion in unreclaimed environmental liabilities which the oil and gas industry is supposed to pay for and the Alberta government seems utterly uninterested in collecting? That would be an independent Alberta’s problem — and it would be one of many.

No longer would the rest of Canada have a province, and a substantial subset of its population, that’s actively working against its shared interests and priorities on climate change. The citizens of an independent Alberta would also benefit since its political leaders would no longer be able to blame Ottawa and the federal government for all of their woes. As masters of their own destiny, they would suddenly be accountable for their choices and the consequences that flowed from them.

This alone might be enough to deter any provincial or federal conservative politician from taking the idea of separation too seriously. They’ve been dining out for more than 40 years now on a sense of victimhood and injustice perpetrated by shadowy eastern elites, which they use to distract the public from their own political failings. To give up that familiar crutch would mean they’d finally, for the first time, have to stand entirely on their own merits. They, more than anyone else, might prefer to keep the status quo intact.

In the end, Quebecers decided to stick with the devil they knew. There is wisdom in that notion.

Image: The National Post

Monday, October 09, 2023

The Party Is A Fraud

The Republican Party can't do anything right. Ruy Teixeira writes:

What is with the Republican Party? At a moment when they seem to have so much going for them, Republicans again are working overtime to throw it all away.

By the numbers, this should be their moment. President Biden is scraping the proverbial bottom in polls that measure his approval rating. A recent NBC News poll found that voters prefer Republicans to handle the economy by a shocking 21 points, the largest lead for the GOP in over 30 years. Similar margins hold for Republicans on border security (30 points), handling crime (26 points) and immigration (18 points). Democrats have only a 2-point lead over Republicans on “looking out for the middle class” — a measure that has historically yielded double-digit leads for the Democrats.

The party has shifted its appeal to the working class -- particularly under Donald Trump:

Initially, Republicans were able to take advantage of the breakup of postwar Democratic voting blocs by promulgating an anti-welfare, anti-tax agenda that, along with an aggressive cultural conservatism, appealed to many working-class voters.

But that sales pitch will only get you so far:

Working-class voters, as many of their communities continued to deteriorate, lost faith that lower taxes and less government were really the solution to their problems — however much those principles might appeal to business supporters of the GOP. It was Trump’s genius to break with orthodox Republican economics, particularly on trade, entitlements, deficits and corporate priorities. In other words, he leaned into the working-class tilt of the GOP instead of simply exploiting it when it overlapped with standard GOP priorities.

For decades, the Republicans were known as the party of wealth and privilege. The pitch changed, but the policies didn't:

The economy under Trump did perform well until the pandemic hit — better in wage and income terms than it has under Biden — and working-class voters give Trump credit for that. But in terms of policy, he did very little. The big economic policy achievement of his presidency was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was unpopular with working-class voters and provided them with little direct benefit.

In part, this reflects the fact that Trump is not interested in policy issues and knows little about them. But it also highlights the lack of unity in Republican ranks about how to appeal to working-class voters. Some Republicans want to stick to traditional GOP approaches (such as cutting taxes on the wealthy); some want to press the accelerator on economic nationalism; some want a pro-worker industrial policy that breaks decisively with the legacy of Reaganism.

But there is no agreement. You can see it in the dueling manifestoes of the Freedom Conservatives and National Conservatives, who disagree about how strong a role government should play in supplementing and regulating the free market. You can see it in the complete lack of a party platform when Trump ran in 2020, which could well be replicated in 2024. And you can see it in the shambolic debates among the Republican presidential candidates that have been held so far this year — and the shenanigans of the Republican House last week, which now have left it leaderless.

The lack of a policy center leads Republicans to over-index on cultural issues, especially anything connected to “wokeness,” to the point where they seem extreme even when Democrats have adopted clearly unpopular positions. That obsessive focus on culture limits Republicans’ ability to capitalize on working-class economic discontent. The culture wars will get you only so far.

Put simply, the party isn't delivering for its voters. Republicans, like their leader, are a massive fraud.

Image: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post