Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Road To Hell

Canada and Canadians are deeply embarrassed. The applause a former Nazi received in the House of Commons has left us all red-faced. Michael Harris writes:

Yesterday Justin Trudeau apologized for unwittingly honouring a former Nazi in Canada’s Parliament.

He apologized to the Jewish community, the Ukrainians, the Roma and everyone else who suffered from the scourge of Adolf Hitler and his mad-dog fascism. But it was a day late and strangely hollow. 

Harris is usually supportive of Trudeau. But not this time:

Justin Trudeau’s no-show in Parliament on the day House Speaker Anthony Rota resigned in disgrace, is the story here. It marks a new low in the PM’s political career, even though he took every question in question period today.

Instead of standing up to the barrage of insults, demands and denunciations that he knew was coming, he sent House leader Karina Gould into the fray to take the heat. In a voice sometimes reduced to a whisper, Gould did her best to take one for the team.

Gould admitted that honouring someone in Parliament who had fought with an SS unit against the Russians in the Second World War was shameful and unforgivable.

There is a story behind how the 98 year old Ukrainian got to the House of Commons:

Hunka’s own son was the person who contacted the Speaker’s constituency office to suggest that his father should be invited to Parliament for Zelenskyy’s speech.

For one thing, Hunka was Ukrainian-born. For another, he had fought the Russians as a teenager. On paper, it must have looked good — widely separated generations standing up to the Russian Bear. Except, of course, for the Nazi thing.

The law of unintended consequences claimed a few more victims. Hunka’s son wangled the invitation to Parliament during Zelenskyy’s visit to garner praise for his father’s war record, and to show common cause with the embattled Ukrainian president.

Instead, Hunka has now been outed as a Nazi collaborator, who was part of a unit that swore allegiance to Hitler. The standing ovation he received in Parliament after being recognized by then-Speaker Rota has turned into something very different. He may now face extradition to Poland and retroactive justice for alleged war crimes.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies alleges that Hunka’s unit “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”

Even Zelensky himself now faces major headaches over the bungled guest list that has captured the world’s attention. Remember, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said he invaded Ukraine to rid it of neo-Nazis. Canada’s face plant has empowered him.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Image: TheTimes Of Israel

Monday, September 25, 2023

Dancing To A Madman's Tune

Donald Trump just skipped the second Republican debate. He figures the nomination is in the bag. E.J. Dionne explains what is happening:

Trump wants his foes to stay weak. By not showing up, he reduces them to squabbling bit players trying to bring each other down while the major contenders offer pale imitations of his own message and values.

Republican voters once open to someone other than the former president are concluding that if they’re going to get Trumpism, they might as well go with the guy who invented it. And they’re getting little useful advice from party leaders who — as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told his biographer McKay Coppins — see Trump as a disaster but are too timid to say so publicly.

All of this was not inevitable:

It didn’t have to be like this, because the strength of Trump’s lock on the party is vastly exaggerated.

Sure, Trump has an unshakable base, those who would stick with him if he were indicted a dozen more times. But that hard core accounts for no more than about 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate. There really is (or was) room for someone else to break through.

But not one of them has inspired real excitement, and the politician who once seemed best placed to take on Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has had a miserable year.

As a result, Trump has been able to combine his base with a fair share of the largest group of Republicans: those with a more or less positive view of the former president but willing to support someone else.

The sad news for the country is that Republicans let a real chance to end Trump’s career slip away. The opportunity might not come around again. Critics of the GOP enjoy observing that the more Trump is indicted, the more Republican voters flock to him. The timelines of his growing lead and his expanding list of felony counts do overlap, but there are better explanations for his comeback.

Republicans have simply not shown the courage to take Trump on. They're cowards. And, as a result, they're dancing to a madman's tune.

Image: Pinterest 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Clouds In The Future

Politics isn't just about elections. It's also about what happens between elections. Doug Ford made that abundantly clear yesterday when he reversed his decision to build houses on Ontario's Greenbelt. Despite the change, the editors of The Toronto Star were not impressed:

Let’s be crystal clear. There is no redemption in doing the right thing only under extreme duress and after all excuses have been exhausted. By his own hand, Ford has done massive, perhaps irredeemable, damage to his credibility and government.

“It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt,” Ford told reporters in Niagara Falls as he announced the scrapping of a land-swap plan to remove 7,400 acres from the protected area in a plan that stood to make billions for developers.

His foray into Greenbelt development was not, as he put it, “a mistake.” To call it a mistake implies inadvertence.

Rather, his Greenbelt gambit was a conscious decision to reverse a previous commitment he had made to Ontarians not to open the protected zone for development.

 He did it not out of error or ignorance, but because he thought he could get away with it.

 He couldn't and didn't. I see clouds in Doug's future.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

We Should Be Ashamed

The news services are abuzz with Justin Trudeau's accusation that the Indian government was involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen. But, on that subject, something happened in the House of Commons yesterday that should concern us all. Erica Ifill writes:

On Monday, Trudeau rose to address Parliament and inform the nation that Canadian security agencies had been engaged in a weeks-long investigation of the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which, The Globe and Mail confirms, “can be linked to Indian government agents.” Nijjar was a Canadian citizen who was gunned down in Surrey, B.C., this past June. He supported Sikh separatism, which raised the ire of the Indian government, so much so they labelled him a terrorist. That may be India’s viewpoint, but here in Canada—unless our constitutional rights were taken away from us in our sleep—we can politically support who we want. And one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; it’s all a matter of power and perspective. This revelation should expand our lens in analyzing issues of foreign interference, as global powers rearrange themselves amid the breakdown of the post-Second World War international order and the rise of authoritarianism; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi encapsulates the latter, as described by the Financial Times: “Modi has cultivated an image as a macho man—boasting of the size of his chest and of his willingness to use violence against India’s enemies.” As Trudeau stated unequivocally: “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” (The Indian government has denied the allegations.)

Following the prime minister, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rose to address the House, attempting to match the PM’s stateliness, and instead face-planted his unseriousness into a puddle of anti-Black racism. In expressing regrets to Nijjar’s family, he slipped over his last name and said the N-word. With the hard “r.” He quickly corrected himself and everyone pretended that it didn’t happen and proceeded to continue with the issue at hand. The Conservatives didn’t blink, particularly Leslyn Lewis who was sitting adjacent to him and seemed to be accepting of that language, since she didn’t immediately object. And neither did the so-called anti-racism Liberals. And neither did the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

The silence was deafening. It says something about us and our politicians -- and we should be ashamed.

Image: AZ Quotes

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Mike Roman

In Georgia, a guy named Mike Roman has been indicted in the case involving Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the election in that state. Michael Harris writes that Roman has been a Republican dirty trickster for decades:

Roman’s backstory is a tangled tale, but one worth telling. That’s because in today’s politics, borders mean nothing. What happens in the U.S., and elsewhere, doesn’t stay in the U.S. All politics, like commerce, is globally linked.

After dropping out of the University of Miami, Roman found a career in politics, first as a fixer, later as a dirty-trickster.

Roman became something of a backroom boy wonder. He went on to work on the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush, John McCain and Giuliani.

Despite his claims of being a political researcher and consultant, he was actually a sultan of scaremongering. In the 2008 presidential election, he promoted a video of two alleged members of the New Black Panther Party standing outside a polling station in Philadelphia. One of the alleged intimidators was holding a nightstick.

The video was played on a loop on Fox News. Richard Hasen, a professor at the University of California and an expert on election law, made this comment:

“The video was certainly used by political operatives to create this false impression of voter intimidation and fraud being a major problem.”

But here's the thing. Roman is connected to the Conservative Party of Canada:

As busy as Roman was with his Republican machinations, he found time to help out the Conservative Party of Canada. On April 11, 2019, Andrew Scheer, then-Conservative leader and leader of the official Opposition, was the keynote speaker at a closed-door event held at a luxury resort in the foothills of Alberta.

At that meeting, the leader and Conservative party strategists talked to oil company executives about political campaigns. Not energy policy, but campaigns.

At the same meeting, Roman had some ideas of his own about how to deal with opponents like environmentalists. He talked about “countering such groups with opposition research.” It was a euphemism for something he was very familiar with — digging up dirt on your opponents. What the Russians would call “kompromat.”

The Republican operative was closely associated with an organization named the International Democrat Union. Roman first shows up as the organization’s treasurer, later as assistant chairman. The chairman of the IDU was then, and is now, Stephen Harper.

Eighteen months after resigning his seat in Parliament, on Feb. 21, 2018, Harper became chairman of the International Democrat Union. Founded in 1983, the IDU is dedicated to getting right-wing governments elected around the world. Influence or interference? It is a very fine line.

Since its start 40 years ago, the IDU has expanded dramatically. It now has 84 member political parties, some dedicated to increasingly harsh versions of right-wing politics. India’s ruling right-wing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, joined the IDU in 2016, and Israel’s Likud followed suit in 2018.

One of the IDU’s members, Victor Orbán’s governing party in Hungary, has been criticized by the European Union for the steady erosion of democratic institutions. The EU has even openly questioned if Hungary is still a democracy.

Human Rights Watch has accused Orbán of sustained “attacks on rule of law and public institutions” by undermining judicial independence and putting journalists under surveillance.

Something to keep in mind as Pierre Poilievre rises in the polls.

Image: The Tyee

Friday, September 15, 2023

Don't Be Fooled

Global News reports that in 2018 Doug Ford instructed his Environment Minister, Rod Phillips, to make environmental legislation ineffective:

When Ontario Premier Doug Ford first took office in 2018, his first environmental minister was given a simple yet central task: get climate legislation out of the way of business.

The mandate letter written for the province’s minister of environment, conservation and parks suggests his task was to remove environmental and climate legislation, not to create more of it.

Rod Phillips, the first in a string of Ford’s environmental ministers, was told to scrap the province’s cap-and-trade program, fight the federal government on the price on carbon and review environmental laws to make sure they weren’t cumbersome for voters and didn’t obstruct business interests.

Phillips was asked to work with other ministers to look at “various pieces of environmental legislation that impact businesses” and make sure the laws and regulations are “as flexible and nimble as possible.” He was instructed to make sure environmental assessments — a complicated set of studies designed to predict the impact of new projects on the areas around them — could be completed within a calendar year.

In October 2018, months into its first term, the Ford government officially killed cap-and-trade — triggering the federal carbon backstop that added a surcharge to the price of fuel in Ontario.

To combat that, the environment minister was also told to work with his colleagues at the attorney general’s office to fight the “imposition of a regressive carbon tax on Ontario’s citizens” and to use legal action to “stop this carbon tax in its tracks.”

Now, Pierre Poilievre is touring the country promising to "axe the tax." Neither man is a friend of the planet. Don't be fooled.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, September 11, 2023

Not New And Improved

Their convention is over and the Conservatives are riding high in the polls. Given the policies they adopted on transgender kids and race-based hiring, Canadians should be wary of the party. But, Michael Harris writes, they should be even more wary of the party's leader: 

Poilievre presents as the champion of regular Canadians. In fact, he is a privileged creature of the Centre Block, someone who entered Parliament in his early 20s and never left. His entire resumé is politics.

For almost all of his nearly 20 years in Ottawa, Poilievre didn’t feel the need to sing Canadians a lullaby about what a sensitive, new-age guy he really is. He was too busy being Canada’s answer to Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a partisan attack dog ready to do his leader’s bidding, biting, or bullshitting.

On the policy side, the unreconstructed Poilievre fronted the dubious Fair Elections Act. As an answer to the robocalls scandal and illegal voter suppression, it was absurd. It made voting harder and cheating easier. Instead of strengthening Elections Canada, Poilievre’s legislation hobbled it. Much of it was dumped when Trudeau came to power.

During the three-week illegal occupation of Ottawa in 2022 by truckers who were against mandatory vaccinations against COVID and wanted the government to resign, Poilievre sided with the truckers. Two of the he occupation’s leaders are currently on trial for criminal mischief.

Not only is Poilievre himself not new, (he has been in politics longer than Trudeau) but, according to The National Post, the team that is coalescing around him is deeply connected to the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper.  

Jenni Byrne was a key Harper staffer; Shuvaloy Majumdar worked for Harper and Associates, as well as Harper-era cabinet minister John Baird; Arpan Khanna worked for Jason Kenney; Melissa Lantsman worked for several Harper cabinet ministers and Doug Ford’s 2018 election campaign; Adam Chambers was executive assistant to Harper finance minister Jim Flaherty; Sean Speer was a senior adviser to Harper; Carl Vallée was Harper’s chief spokesman when Poilievre was the PM’s parliamentary secretary; Paul Taillon worked for former Harper cabinet minister and ex-Alberta premier Kenney; and Brooke Pigott was Harper’s director of public opinion research.  

The Poilievre Party or Harper 2.0?

This is not the new and improved Conservative Party. It's the party that still hasn't found its way out of the ooze.

Image: Winnipeg Free Press

Saturday, September 09, 2023

For A Long Time

The Greenbelt scandal has become quicksand for Doug Ford. It has exposed the "man of the people" for what he is. Emma Teitel writes:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford must assume us “folks” aren’t too bright. How else to explain the premier’s lame excuse that he wasn’t aware of alleged biases in the disastrous Greenbelt land swap process because he doesn’t “believe in micromanaging” his ministers?

There’s no question: whether you’re loading a dishwasher, or trying to build housing on a mass scale, micro-mangers are annoying and bad for morale. But in order to be a micromanager one must attempt to manage, period. And Ford appears to have done nothing of the sort.

A halfway decent manager, never mind a micromanager, would stop this project in its tracks, not steer the thing in a marginally different and likely harrier direction. But once again, we’re not dealing with a good manager, or a manager period. We’re dealing with a premier embroiled in a potentially career-ending scandal, whose usual shtick cannot and will not save him now.

Ford pretends to be just a regular guy. He isn't:

“I meet with the common folks,” he said. “Do you know what I do? I want to find out what the people are doing. I go into the local Walmarts, the Home Depots, the Sobeys and the Loblaws and the Metros to talk to people. I go into the Canadian Tires. That’s where you get how people are feeling.”

Unfortunately for the premier people aren’t feeling very good about his government at the moment. According to a new survey from Abacus Data, overall support of Ford’s Progressive Conservatives fell two percentage points in the last two weeks — to 27 per cent. Even worse for Ford: the government’s support among committed voters has fallen seven percentage points since July, a shift Abacus’ chief executive called “significant.”

Throughout this scandal Ford has all but scoffed at reporters for hammering him on the land swap scandal, characterizing it as a non-issue in the minds of regular folks who just want housing built. But clearly it is an issue, one that is probably made worse by Ford’s insulting invocation of “regular folks” to distract from his government’s arguably low moral character.

Regular folks — a.k.a. the people of Walmart, Sobeys, Canadian Tire and every big box store Ford didn’t mention — are perfectly capable of reading a report indicating that their housing minister did a horrendous job managing the province’s most critical file.

Regular folks are perfectly capable of seeing in the news that the premier initially stood by that minister and when asked about this fact by reporters, shot off a string of non sequiturs about the common man.

Doug has never been who he pretends to be. Some of us have known that for a long time.

Image: Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Thursday, September 07, 2023

We've Been Here Before

The owners of Big Tech are the new Robber Barons. Linda McQuaig writes:

Like the Railroad Barons of the late 19th century, today’s Big Tech giants strut around, acting like they own the world (which they mostly do). Among their many imperious actions, they’ve taken to blocking Canadians’ access to our own news.

This is their high-handed response to Ottawa’s attempt to force them to pay Canadian publishers for news content, which Big Tech giants Google and Meta link to on their social media platforms.

Without some crackdown by Ottawa, Canadian publishers will have trouble staying in business, as Google and Meta (which owns Facebook, Instagram, etc.) are managing to scoop up billions of advertising dollars that used to support the Canadian media.

So, it’s easy to side with the Canadian media business — even though it’s largely dominated by corporate chains. (Torstar, which owns the Toronto Star, also owns a half-dozen smaller Ontario newspapers. The largest Canadian newspaper chain by far — owning about half of Canada’s newspapers — is Postmedia, which has a strong right-wing bias and is owned by a U.S. hedge fund.)

But the battle with Meta, Twitter, and all the rest isn't just about advertising revenue:

Ottawa’s intervention on behalf of Canadian media — important as it is — doesn’t even attempt to achieve what Canadians really need: more control over the digital universe that increasingly dominates our lives.

The core problem is that the technology that largely determines our access to the news — and just about everything else we do online — is controlled by a few Big Tech giants that are highly sophisticated in extracting money from us, governing how we search for information and, in the process, shaping public discourse and much else about the way we live.

What we need is a public digital infrastructure that is not beholden to private interests.

As James Muldoon, a political scientist at the University of Exeter, puts it: “I don’t think access to humanity’s collective knowledge should be controlled by a for-profit company.”

An open-source digital system — which would be publicly funded — could enable democratic governance, allowing independent media to flourish. And a public search engine — a publicly financed version of Google — could ensure us all access to the vast trove of human knowledge and information, without being routed in ways that limit our control and benefit private interests.

This may sound too wildly ambitious, but it’s really just an updated version of the wildly ambitious public takeover of the key, emerging market in the early 1900s — for electricity.

They wanted to create a new public infrastructure for hydro power, wresting control from the mighty private interests — dubbed “Water Barons” — who had taken over the transformative new power source.

This pitted them against the likes of powerful Toronto business mogul Henry Pellatt, who headed a syndicate pushing for rights to develop Niagara Falls power. (Pellatt is best known for the massive mansion he built for himself, which he called “Casa Loma.”)

But the popular movement for “public power” triumphed.

Shortly after his 1905 election, Conservative Premier James P. Whitney created Ontario Hydro, turning electricity into a public utility and declaring that water power “should not in the future be made the sport and prey of capitalists.”

This public takeover of electricity, ratified overwhelmingly by municipal voters, proved crucial to the province’s development. By ensuring low electricity rates, it enabled Ontario industry to compete with larger U.S. businesses.

Creating a public infrastructure for the digital world today could be just as transformative. But it would require the Trudeau government to be truly bold and innovative and actually challenge Big Tech’s power and control over our lives.

We've been here before.

Image: Institute For Cultural Evolution

Monday, September 04, 2023

Those Who Seek Scapegoats

Canada has a housing crisis. And some are blaming immigrants. Susan Delacourt writes:

If politicians in this country are going to be seized with housing in the coming months — as they are all promising — they’re going to have to learn to tread carefully around the minefield of immigration.

Blaming immigrants for the housing crisis in Canada is something that all political parties say they’re keen to avoid, yet there have already been risky remarks on that score, across the board. And there will probably be more.

New Housing Minister Sean Fraser embarked into that perilous territory a few weeks ago when he said Canada might need to crack down on universities attracting foreign students without the means to house them properly.

Fraser, to be clear, said he wasn’t blaming the students and indeed stressed: “we have to be really, really careful that we don’t have a conversation that somehow blames newcomers for the housing challenges.”

That didn’t stop Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre from accusing Justin Trudeau’s government of whipping up resentment against immigration.

And Doug Ford has hopped on the bandwagon:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford continues to pin the housing crisis in his province — not to mention his Greenbelt scandal — on the desperate need to accommodate Ottawa’s abrupt increase to the number of newcomers to Canada.

“I didn’t know the federal government was gonna bring in over 500,000 (newcomers),” Ford said at a testy news conference this week.

“I didn’t get a phone call from the prime minister saying, ‘Surprise, surprise. We’re dropping these many people in your province and by the way, good luck, you deal with them.’”

To hear Ford tell it at that news conference, most of the unhoused people in his province are people who weren’t born in Canada. He talked of a phone call he got from a new Canadian in danger of losing his house and about the refugees and asylum seekers sleeping in church basements.

As my Queen’s Park columnist colleague Martin Regg Cohn put it, “if tolerance is truly his goal, the premier is playing with rhetorical fire … It’s not a dog whistle. It’s a bullhorn being blown from Ford’s bully pulpit.”

The housing crisis has been a long time coming. It began when, under the neo-liberal economic policies of the 1980s, the government got out of the business of housing its citizens.

Beware those who seek scapegoats.

Image: Linked In

Thursday, August 31, 2023

They're Expendable

If there's one thing modern conservatives have trouble with, it's the truth. Max Fawcett writes:

Sometimes, it pays to read past the headline. That’s certainly the case with a recent National Post story titled “Trudeau’s Law Society,” one that suggested “it’s no coincidence that more judges who donate to the Liberal party are brought to the bench than Conservative donors.” The Investigative Journalism Foundation, a news organization that partnered with Postmedia on the story, went even further by tweeting that its story “shows that the federal Liberals appear to be stacking the courts with their supporters.”

Thirteen paragraphs down, the reader — if they make it that far — discovers that only 18.3 per cent of the Liberal government’s 1,308 judicial appointees made a political donation, with 76.3 per cent of them having donated to the Liberals. That means 13.9 per cent of their appointees donated to the Liberals, with 86.1 per cent either not donating or donating to one of the opposition parties. “I’m not saying the data is a problem,” former Trudeau economic adviser and policy consultant Tyler Meredith tweeted, “but when 4 out of 5 people appointed aren’t contributing at all, to anyone, the favouritism angle looks far less than sensational header (sic).”

Ironically, this matches reporting from Postmedia back in 2010, which showed 66 of the 270 judges the Harper Conservatives had appointed at that point had made political donations, with 41 of them having donated to the Conservative Party of Canada. A further 25 had names that matched political donors — mainly Conservative ones — but couldn’t be verified as the same people. If you include them in the list, that’s 33.7 per cent of judicial appointees who were political donors, with 72.5 per cent of them donating to the CPC.

Postmedia’s editors clearly didn’t agree. Earlier this week, they published the second story in this ongoing collaboration, one that highlighted six Superior Court justices who had attended Liberal fundraisers “shortly before being appointed.” It beggars belief that any government would appoint someone to the bench because they attended a $1,625 fundraiser, and the reporting again ignores the pattern of appointment under the previous government, one that included former justice minister Peter MacKay appointing the best man at his wedding and an old friend of his father to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. As Press Progress reported back in 2015, MacKay had personal and financial ties to six of the nine appointments he made to Nova Scotia courts.

Mark Twain understood how statistics could be manipulated.“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics,” he wrote. Conservatives aren't the only politicians who lie. But, since the rise of Donald Trump, facts have become expendable.

Image: AZ Quotes

Monday, August 28, 2023

Monumental Cowardice

Today, a judge in Washington will set the date for Donald Trump's trial for attempting to overthrow the government of the United States. Instead of being appalled by what Trump did, Republicans are stumbling over themselves to defend him. Consider what happened at the recent Republican debate. Michael Harris writes:

Six of the eight presidential candidates raised their hands to indicate that even if the former president were to be convicted on any of the charges, they would vote for him in 2024. A couple of them went on to say they would pardon Trump if they became president. 

Reality check? They were a pack of zombies following the leader over a cliff.

Think about the enormity of what every one of the GOP presidential candidates, with the exception of Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, had done. The so-called party of law and order was declaring to millions of people watching the debate on television that even if Trump were to be found guilty of one or several felony offences, and of breaching his oath of office to uphold the constitution, they would put him back in the White House. 

They were signalling to the debate’s audience that it was okay to put a felon in the White House. 

The United States has descended into national insanity:

It is beyond absurd. How could anyone vote for the Republicans as lawmakers, when the leadership of the party had just confirmed that it was okay to put a convicted criminal in charge of the whole show? 

How must women feel watching this travesty, with Trump’s sexual abuse of E. Jean Carroll already on the record in civil court? This is the party that criminalizes abortion, but whitewashes Trump’s behaviour. 

For one of the zombie-candidates who raised his hand to endorse Trump last week, the humiliation was total. If anyone should know just how low Trump can go, it is former U.S. vice-president Mike Pence. 

Remember those “Hang Pence” signs brandished by the pro-Trump mob during the Capitol insurrection? According to congressional testimony, Trump told his staff that maybe Pence “deserves” it. He certainly did nothing to quell the riot he had inspired, which placed a lot of other lives at risk besides that of Pence and his family. 

Just days before the first GOP debate, Pence told CNN in a direct reference to Trump that anyone who put themselves above the constitution should never be president. Yet a few days later, Pence affirmed that he would in fact vote for Trump. That flip-flop would break the back of a grizzly bear. 

Trump got to where he now is with lots of help. All those who helped him were -- and are -- cowards.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Lot Depends On The Alternative

The conventional wisdom is that Justin Trudeau is in the twilight of his political career. Michael Harris doesn't believe it. He writes:

The way most pollsters and pundits and all Harper-Cons see it, you can put a fork in Trudeau; he’s done. But they can put away the cutlery for now. The chances are better than even that the current PM will defeat his fourth Conservative leader in a row — assuming he sticks around for the next electoral tilt.

Yes, the polling looks bad. But there are few things less relevant than a mid-summer poll with no election in sight.

But consider other polls:

After eight years in power, Trudeau is polling higher than both Stephen Harper and Pierre Trudeau at the same point in their careers. In fact, only former PM Jean Chrétien had higher numbers after eight years in office than Justin Trudeau.

And according to a recent Nanos poll, there has been no rush to make Pierre Poilievre voters’ preferred choice for prime minister. Trudeau and Poilievre are in a dead heat in that category, both at under 30 per cent.

Lots of Canadians just don't like Trudeau -- with reason:

None of this is not to say that Trudeau, who assumed office with not much more than a famous name and photogenic smile, isn’t carrying some pretty heavy baggage now. That’s what eight years in office does to all politicians. Making things worse, most of the prime minister’s best-known blunders were self-inflicted, what in the tennis world would be called “unforced errors.”

After accepting a Christmas vacation on the Aga Khan’s island, news of the furtive trip inevitably leaked out. That’s how Trudeau became the first prime minister in history to be found in breach of federal ethics laws, violating three provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act.

The political optics looked worse than the violations. Vacationing with billionaires on their dime, even if they are family friends, is not the best way of convincing middle- and working-class voters that you feel their pain.

In 2018, the Trudeau government stumbled through the SNC-Lavalin affair, which led to the departure from cabinet of then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and health minster Jane Philpott, two female stars of the party led by a self-avowed feminist. A low point for the PM.

Wilson-Raybould claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered in a decision her department had already made concerning the huge engineering firm. In August 2019, the ethics commissioner agreed with her, finding that the PM’s team had breached ethics rules by trying to get the justice minister to reconsider granting SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement, instead of a criminal charge.

In other words, Wilson-Raybould was dumped for being right, which is why Philpott followed her out of cabinet. That injustice cost the prime minister his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who was forced to resign, and his majority government in the next election.

Justin has scored more than once on his own goal. But Stephen Harper's government was always ripe with scandals. Harris enumerates them and comes to this conclusion:

The bottom line in looking at both Liberal and Conservative scandals is that there is no ethical dividend in electing the Conservative Party of Canada. When it comes to scandals, neither of the two mainstream parties can lay claim to the high ground.

Pierre Poilievre can bloviate all he wants about the Trudeau government’s sins and misdemeanours. But he can’t erase the fact that for almost 10 years he was an integral part of a government that spent a lot of time in the political sewer.

And on the positive side of the ledger, Justin has wracked up an impressive legislative record:

Here is a partial list of what has been accomplished under Justin Trudeau:

After a couple of kicks at the can, Canada has gun control legislation banning the worst of the weapons that are wreaking havoc in the United States.

The Liberals created the Child Benefit for low- and middle-income families.

The government negotiated the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau created an over $82-billion multi-year national housing strategy, overseen by the popular Nova Scotia MP and cabinet minister Sean Fraser.

The government legalized marijuana and assisted dying, areas fraught with so many emotional downsides that no one else would touch them.

Canada answered the call in desperate times of war, admitting 40,000 Syrian refugees.

Trudeau cut middle class taxes and increased them on wealthier Canadians, while increasing CPP benefits for retirees.

And at a dire time in world history, with Maui burning, coral reefs dying and water wars about to break out in Central Asia, the Trudeau government passed and doggedly defended a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

Trudeau’s greatest initiative, or worst, depending on whether you believe COVID restrictions amounted to a public health necessity or an assault on civil rights, was the government’s massive response to the pandemic. According to the conservative C.D. Howe Institute, the government’s policies saved 35,000 lives.

Joe Biden is fond of saying, "Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative." A lot depends on the alternative.

Image: The Canadian Press

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Conservatives And Conspiracy Theories

Pierre Poilievre continues to strengthen his ties to conspiracy theorists. Max Fawcett writes:

It’s not exactly a secret that conservatism has made more room in recent years for conspiracy theories, whether they’re about vaccines and COVID-19 or the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its apparently nefarious influence over the Canadian government. But a recent fundraising email that included mention of “globalist Davos elites” caught the eye of Canadian Press reporter Mickey Djuric, who covered the CPC’s ongoing flirtation with the language of dog-whistle politics and conspiracies. The response from Poilievre, along with past and present Conservative MPs and its director of communications? Gin up a new conspiracy about The Canadian Press and its relationship with the CBC and other “legacy” media outlets.

Conspiracy theories are the mother's milk of Conservative politics:

Former CPC leader Andrew Scheer decided to join the fray. “No wonder Trudeau wants to censor all but four or five Liberals [sic] news sources: they all coordinate in attacking Poilievre with the same false headline,” he tweeted. “Collusion?” This did not sit well with National Post columnist John Ivison, who clapped back at Scheer’s uninformed paranoia. “It's a wire story, with a suggested heading everyone used. Every political rookie knows that — and you're a lifer. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that you are deliberately trying to stoke conspiracy and disinformation. You need to give your head a shake, Andrew.”

Ryan Williams, an MP from Ontario, tried a different tack: pretending the conspiracy theories that kicked off this raging inferno of nonsense aren’t actually conspiracies at all. “The problem with the WEF is that elected officials are trying to implement its policies without being transparent about them in an election, or otherwise,” he tweeted. “Ideas like 15 min cities, digital ID, and Klaus Schwab below. Run these ideas in an election and see what happens.”

The godfather of all this baloney is, of course, Donald Trump:

Donald Trump turned this into an art form, albeit a vulgar one, when he became U.S. president, and his Canadian imitators have been doing their best to mimic him ever since. In his outgoing speech as CPC leader, Scheer blasted the mainstream media and its “narrative” and tried to boost alternative right-wing sources like the Post Millennial and True North.

Conservatives are good at attacking their opponents. But when it comes to thinking critically? Well, that's another story.

Image: Red Deer Advocate

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Blood On Trump's Hands

Jack Smith has charged Donald Trump with crimes he's committed throughout his life -- fraud and conspiracy. But he does not hold Trump responsible for the violence behind January 6th. He writes that Trump "took advantage of " the violence. Fani Willis puts violence at the centre of her indictment of Trump. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The indictment describes defendants traveling to Freeman’s home to mislead and intimidate her. Willis alleged Trump defamed Freeman to Georgia officials (claiming she was a “a professional vote scammer and a known political operative” and saying that “Ruby Freeman, her daughter, and others were responsible for fraudulently awarding at least 18,000 ballots to Joseph R. Biden at State Farm Arena in the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.”) Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that Freeman had stuffed ballot boxes.

Trump tweeted references to a conspiracy about Freeman to his followers, which we know included those who were menacing election workers, making threats and endangering the lives of Freeman and others.

Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is also accused of bantering about lies concerning Freeman (who he falsely stated had been “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine”). These lies reverberated through social media, putting a target on Freeman’s back and helping escalate threats against Georgia officials.

The indictment works to refocus our attention on the mob Trump and Giuliani allegedly tried to incite, to the threats the MAGA horde lobbed toward election officials and others, and to the gripping testimony from Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, at the House Jan. 6 hearings. From everything we’ve seen, these Georgians’ lives were made a living hell.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present” and an expert on fascism, told Insider that Trump resorted to inciting the crowd to violence when his other schemes failed “because he truly believes that violence is a way you can change history.” She added, “The thing about autocrats today is that they’re all corrupt, but they’re also violent. They use all of these tools at the same time. So, we can’t isolate one and say that Jan. 6 was just about this or just about that. It was everything. It was a process of months and it culminated in violence.”

Willis' case will probably conclude after the election. Trump has blood on his hands. And Willis is determined to make Trump pay for that blood.

Image: The New York Times

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Even Worse

The Canadian Press reports that Pierre Poilievre is selling conspiracy theories:

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been hitting the summer barbecue circuit with ramped-up rhetoric around debunked claims that the World Economic Forum is attempting to impose its agenda on sovereign governments.

It is, some experts suggest, another sign that some conspiracy theories are moving from the fringes of the internet to mainstream thinking, as people's distrust of government grows.

In speeches to Conservative supporters across Canada, Poilievre has promised that none of his ministers will attend the international organization's conferences, including the annual meeting typically held in Davos, Switzerland.

"It's far past time we rejected the globalist Davos elites and bring home the common sense of the common people," said a Saturday fundraising email.

The Conservative party also recently sent out mailers with a poll asking people to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who they think the prime minister should stand with: working Canadians or the World Economic Forum.

The wording implies Trudeau's cabinet is beholden to the latter.

The nutbars have moved into the mainstream:

Duane Bratt, political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said some people have long embraced conspiracies, but now they have moved into mainstream politics.

"The big shift that we have seen is that it is now being promoted by someone who could be prime minister," said Bratt.

Poilievre peddled the WEF control claims during the Conservative leadership race in 2022, and it has emerged again as a regular talking point following the federal byelection in southern Manitoba, said Bratt.

In that contest in Portage-Lisgar, the Conservatives were looking to beat back a growing challenge from the People's Party of Canada.

Maxime Bernier, the leader of that party who has long accused the WEF of having a globalist agenda, ran in the byelection. The Conservatives attacked him for having attended the Davos summit when he was Harper's foreign affairs minister in 2008. Bratt said Poilievre's embrace of conspiracy theories could be because he's attempting to steal back votes from the PPC.

Poilievre was the man who suggested that Bitcoin was the way of the future.  His vision wasn't very good when he wore glasses. It's even worse since he took them off.


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Something's Out Of Joint

In a blistering report, Ontario's auditor general has skewered Doug Ford's government.  Rob Ferguson and  Rob Benzie write in The Toronto Star:

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives “favoured certain developers” in a controversial $8.28-billion Greenbelt land swap rammed through in a fashion the premier admits was “wrong,” the auditor general found.

In a searing 93-page report to the legislature Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk concluded Ford’s opening up of 7,400 acres of environmentally protected land last fall “cannot be described as a standard or defensible process.”

That process was run by Ryan Amato, the chief of staff to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, without proper input from independent bureaucrats or land-use experts, she said.

But the premier and Clark, who took media questions for more than an hour, vowed to continue with the land swap — which will benefit Tory-connected landowners — despite the auditor general’s push for them to reconsider.

Ford has always been about transferring public wealth into private hands. The same was true of former premier Mike Harris. Paul Kahnert writes:

During the time the Mike Harris Conservatives were in power from 1995 to 2003, a record amount of public wealth was transferred to the wealthy. Just what is public wealth? Public wealth is our education system, our healthcare system, our water system and was once our hydro-electric system. It is our provincial parks, forests, lakes, rivers and the green is also the collective total of all our tax dollars in the provincial treasury. There is much more to public wealth when you add in things like long term care, community centers, hockey and curling arenas. The sum total of our public wealth is quite massive and the wealthy want it.  

Harris privatized Hwy 407 for a paltry sum. In a far worse deal Harris privatized the Bruce nuclear plant, where again the profits were privatized but the debt and risks remained public.  

Harris cut taxes massively for the wealthy and their corporations. In order to pay for those tax cuts, Harris slashed healthcare spending to the point where Ontario lost more than 10,000 nurses. Education was slashed by the education funding formula which to this day is still shortchanging the education system causing a crisis there. 

Harris changed the entire Hydro System from a non-profit at-cost system to a for profit corporate system packaging it up to be sold. Unbelievably after going fishing with Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, Harris installed an Enron designed electricity market which also is still plaguing us to this day. The list is much longer and includes a long list of a removal of laws and regulations that were designed to protect the public, including the removal of a law requiring a binding public referendum anytime a public asset was to be sold.

It seems like every day and every week; Ford is hell bent on breaking Harris’s record transfer of wealth to the wealthy. Long term care was privatized where thousands died during the pandemic, many from neglect. Given the horrific record of private long-term care, Ford gave these owners 30-year licenses and is allowing the building of more private long term care homes. 

On top of shortfalls caused by the funding formula, Ford is cutting education funding more. It certainly looks like he’s creating a crisis again so that education can be privatized by charter schools or online education services. 

We've known who these people are -- and we've known it for a long time.

Something's out of joint.

Image: TVO Today

Monday, August 07, 2023

The Trump Of The North

According to a recent Abacus poll, a large number of Canadians don't like any of the party leaders. Michael Harris writes:

Here are the numbers: 33 per cent Liberal; 22 per cent NDP and 19 per cent Conservative. According to pollster David Coletto, it is this group of people who don’t favour any of the leaders that will decide the next election. If Trudeau can hold on to the Liberal vote in this group and add it to the 20 per cent who want him to remain PM, there is a realistic chance he will win a fourth term.

The same Abacus poll that showed an overwhelming majority wants a change in government also found 31 per cent of respondents didn’t like any of the politicians on offer. This group was then asked how they would vote if there were an election tomorrow.

It's clear that Justin Trudeau is in trouble. But so is Pierre Poilievre:

The sticking point is Pierre Poilievre’s slavish adherence to the kind of Trumpian nastiness that is rotting the heart of the Republican party in the Indicted States of America. Poilievre specializes in put-downs, not lift-ups. It is usually the latter that inspire Canadians.

With former PM Stephen Harper’s public endorsement, Poilievre won the top job by dragging the CPC further to the right. And he has maintained that Freedom Caucus-style political stance as leader of the Opposition.

Gut the CBC, fire the chairman of the Bank of Canada, close safe injection sites, and keep the drill bit turning to the right while the planet is deep in a fossil-fuelled fever.

That approach may have gotten Skippy the clip of the day from question period, but it didn’t make more room in the CPC tent. Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction, and so far, Poilievre’s has got the arithmetic backwards. Great at subtraction, a flop at addition.
In the wake of Donald Trump's third indictment -- a fourth is on the way -- it's truly strange that Poilievre keeps insisting that he's the Trump Of The North.

Image: Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Indicted Again

Donald Trump has been indicted for a third time. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Trump has spent his life evading responsibility for his conduct; within the space of a few months, he has been indicted three times in criminal court and held liable in civil court for defaming and sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll.

What’s most notable about the legal filing? Smith did not overcharge nor clutter the indictment with repetitive charges. He appears intent on keeping the case relatively simple. Simple does not mean unserious, however. Choosing not to bring the dicey charge of sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition, Smith nevertheless captures the enormity of the crime — the assault on our democracy.

There are three things that need to be understood:

For starters, if Trump ran for president under the mistaken notion it would protect him from prosecution, it was a colossal miscalculation; instead, his decision forced Garland’s hand, drawing into the case an incorruptible, aggressive and determined prosecutor who, in roughly eight months on the job, filed two mammoth criminal cases against the former president. Had Trump not declared his candidacy, the Justice Department might still be “working its way up the chain” in its Jan. 6 investigation. Trump remains his own worst enemy.

Second, Republicans have a fundamental choice: Do they nominate a thrice-indicted criminal defendant who sought to overthrow our democracy? General election voters will not avert their eyes from the blizzard of facts or the seriousness of the charges. If Republicans proceed with Trump, they become the party of insurrection and deceit. The GOP will be stained for a very long time by sticking by Trump’s side.

Third, Smith has done his job — faster and more completely than even his most ardent supporters expected. The judge and jury will be expected to follow their oaths. But it is up to the voters to make certain an abjectly unfit character never assumes power. There is no shirking that obligation, no matter what the results in court.

Even if Trump is convicted he could still be re-elected. The indictment separates the realists from the fools. We will soon know how many Americans are fools.

Image: Black Star News

Monday, July 31, 2023

Intellectually Dishonest

A cabinet shuffle offers us an opportunity to conduct our politics differently -- something, Michael Harris writes, that we desperately need to do. But Pierre Poilievre is having none of it:

When it came time for Pierre Poilievre to offer his reaction to the government’s facelift, the leader of the opposition proved once again that he will have to do a lot more than take off his glasses to improve his image with Canadians. Not even a ski mask could conceal the meanness of his response. 

Politics is not Sunday school. No one—including yours truly—expected Poilievre to offer any bouquets to the ministers, old and new, of what will likely be Trudeau’s election cabinet, whenever voting day comes.  But there wasn’t a pinch of civility, a drop of statesmanship, or a scintilla of decorum in his response, just a dreary litany of the government’s alleged failures. Poilievre claimed that after eight years of Trudeau, the sky is falling. It sounded so old.

Despite his age, Poilievre is an old man yelling at the neighbours' children:

Canadians, he claimed, have to choose between heating their homes and eating. The carbon tax, you see, is to blame. Immigrants can’t work. Housing is unaffordable. Mortgage payments and rents have doubled. Housing costs in Canada are the highest in the G7. There is disorder in the streets. Every town and metropolis has tent cities, and violent offenders roaming the streets who have been released from prison. And, of course, Chrystia Freeland is not the minister of finance, she is the minister of deficits. Bottom line? After eight years of JT, everything is broken. Only PP can make Canada great again.

It is one thing to cast the appropriate lights and shadows over your opponent’s record. Every politician does that to some degree. But it is quite another to paint a portrait in black of every single thing that any government, including the one to which Poilievre used to belong, does or did.

And it is something less than honest to offer such a blanket condemnation of your opponent without offering anything by way of explaining how firing Trudeau and hiring Poilievre would leave Canadians better off.  

How would Poilievre make housing cheaper? How would he control food and energy prices, the main drivers of the kind of inflation that everyone feels? I take it he is still a free-market guy, so wage and price controls aren’t the answer. So what is? No real substance from Poilievre beyond “common sense” solutions.  

Like ditching the carbon tax while the planet is alternately drowning or burning? Like not regulating the energy industry, as the Harper government chose to do when it was calling the shots? By firing the governor of the Bank of Canada? By using bitcoin as a hedge against inflation?

In blaming Trudeau for everything that is wrong in this upside-down world, Poilievre never comments on a remarkable thing. Trudeau is not the president of the United States, the prime minister of Britain, or the chancellor of Germany.  

Yet all of these countries—and many more—are facing the same problems as Canada: inflation, high housing costs, large deficits, and worried citizens. In a global environment, Poilievre remains a parochial thinker.  

The plain truth? A lot of the problems in Canada are not made in Canada. And it is intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise.  

And that's the point: Poilievre is intellectually dishonest.

Image: Quote Fancy

Friday, July 28, 2023

Uncommonly Stupid

Donald Trump will be remembered for many things. But, most of all, he will be remembered for his monumental stupidity. Ruth Marcus writes:

If the allegations in the latest indictment of Donald Trump hold up, the former president is a common criminal — and an uncommonly stupid one.

Everyone knows, as the Watergate scandal drove home: The coverup is always worse than the crime. Everyone, that is, but Trump.

Monday, July 24, 2023


If you really want to know who Doug Ford is, consider what Linda McQuaig has written:

There will be no cheapness on the part of the Ford government when it comes to providing for customers visiting the private spa to be built at Ontario Place.

On the other hand, the Ford government is exhibiting plenty of cheapness when it comes to providing for children getting an education in Ontario. (Those would be our children, by the way).

And so it is that our “populist” premier will spend $400 million building a parking garage for the convenience of well-to-do spa users, while scrimping on the most basic educational materials in Ontario’s schools.

That scrimping — education funding has dropped by $1,200 per student under Ford (in inflation-adjusted dollars) — explains why classroom shelves are empty after teachers remove the learning materials they have provided, and schools increasingly rely on fundraising drives to pay for technology, libraries and classroom supplies, leaving schools in lower-income areas at a disadvantage.

The government’s miserly approach to funding our children’s education seems curious in such a rich province.

It's not that Ontario doesn't have the money:

The government is actually swimming in money — even as it hollows out key public programs, underfunding schools, shutting down hospital emergency wards and doing nothing for the homeless beyond allowing developers to build ever more condos that are quickly sold to high-income buyers.

While underfunding our public programs didn’t start with Doug Ford, his government has raised this sorry practice to a guiding principle.

For years, we have been told by provincial business and political leaders that we must cut government spending to keep deficits under control — or international investors will cut us off.

That threat was always grossly exaggerated. Our deficits were always manageable; there was never the slightest risk international investors would cut us off.

The notion that we cannot afford a strong public sector has always been a scam.

But it’s particularly a scam these days. The Ford government’s own numbers show a sea of surpluses — not deficits — over the next four years.

And the government’s finances are even better than it likes to admit. The province’s Fiscal Accountability Office — an independent government agency — reported last month that Ontario is on track to collect $22 billion more than it plans to spend on its public programs.

That’s $22 billion that is not being used to adequately fund our education, health care and other vital public programs that determine the quality of life for millions of Ontarians.

If you're a rich land developer, Doug Ford's your man. If you're an ordinary citizen of Ontario -- or the child of one of those ordinary citizens -- he'll do nothing for you.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Things Will Be Different

Many people believe that the next election in the United States will be a replay of the previous two elections: the Democrats will win the popular vote, but the election will be decided in the Electoral College. Celinda Lake and Mac Heller write that won't be the case:

The candidates might not be changing — but the electorate has.

Every year, about 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. In the eight years between the 2016 and 2024 elections, that’s 32 million new eligible voters.

Also every year, 2½ million older Americans die. So in the same eight years, that’s as many as 20 million fewer older voters.

Which means that between Trump’s election in 2016 and the 2024 election, the number of Gen Z (born in the late 1990s and early 2010s) voters will have advanced by a net 52 million against older people. That’s about 20 percent of the total 2020 eligible electorate of 258 million Americans.

And unlike previous generations, Gen Z votes. Comparing the four federal elections since 2015 (when the first members of Gen Z turned 18) with the preceding nine (1998 to 2014), average turnout by young voters (defined here as voters under 30) in the Trump and post-Trump years has been 25 percent higher than that of older generations at the same age before Trump — 8 percent higher in presidential years and a whopping 46 percent higher in midterms.

Similarly, though not as drastic, we have seen a 7 percent increase in voter registration among under-30 voters since Gen Z joined the electorate. In midterm elections, under-30s have seen a 20 percent increase in their share of the electorate, on average, since Trump and Gen Z entered the game.

What distinguishes Gen Z voters is not their support for a particular candidate, but their support of specific issues:

That policy-first approach, combined with the issues they care most about, have led young people in recent years to vote more frequently for Democrats and progressive policies than prior generations did when of similar age — as recent elections in Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin have shown.

In last August’s Kansas abortion referendum, for example, women under 30 turned out at a rate of 41 percent and helped win the contest. A similar Michigan abortion referendum brought youth midterm turnout to 49 percent — and 69 percent of voters younger than 30 voted to put abortion rights protections in the state constitution compared with just 52 percent of voters 30 and older. Michigan voters elected Democratic majorities in both state houses for the first time in years, and reelected their Democratic governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

The same phenomenon will affect our politics.

Image: Olga Fedorova / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via AP 

Monday, July 17, 2023

What We've Got Here Is A Failure to Communicate

If there's one thing the Liberals don't know how to do, it's to communicate. Max Fawcett writes:

After nearly eight years in power, one thing has become abundantly clear about Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government: it can’t communicate to save its increasingly vulnerable political life. From the carbon tax to COVID-19, its otherwise good policies are consistently undermined by a total inability to explain them to Canadians. And for some reason, it seems determined to add its response to Canada’s housing crisis to this list.

Witness the op-ed published last week in the National Post under Minister of Housing Ahmed Hussen’s byline that almost seemed designed to irritate young people in Canada’s biggest cities. It began with the patronizing suggestion that housing “is not a political issue,” one that was undermined almost immediately by a lengthy political attack on Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre. But as Matt Lundy, an economics reporter for the Globe and Mail, noted on Twitter, “I assure you, we think it's political!”

It's a lot more than political:

Yes, the Liberal government implemented a national housing strategy in 2018, an $82-billion plan to build more social housing and help first-time buyers get into the market. That’s more than the Harper Conservatives did while they were in office, and it marked a welcome return by the federal government to the table. But so far, it’s been insufficient to meet the growing challenge housing poses for so many people. It’s like trying to fight a house fire with a water gun — sure, it’s better than nothing, but it’s not doing much for the people in harm’s way.

That doesn’t seem to have gotten through to the Liberals. In his op-ed, Hussen wrote: “We are putting Canada on track to double housing construction over the next decade. And we are just getting started.” But after eight years in power, and with a housing market that is more treacherous and less affordable than ever, Canadians don’t want to hear that the government is “just getting started.”

Canadians don't want to be lectured to. But the Liberals like to lecture:

The fact that younger voters in Canada’s big cities and suburbs are more open to Poilievre than they’ve been to a Conservative leader in decades should be a huge, flashing warning sign to the government. That support, after all, has nothing to do with his habit of posing with anti-LGBTQ bigots or non-existent climate policies, and it’s definitely not a product of his charm or charisma. It’s a reflection of the fact that he’s the only federal leader who seems to be taking this issue seriously. If the Trudeau Liberals don’t start doing the same, they’ll deserve to lose the next election.

As readers of this blog know, I'm no fan of Poilievre. But political malpractice from the Liberals could assure his ascension. The movie Cool Hand Luke popularized the phrase, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

That's precisely what we have here.

Image: YouTube

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Canadian Constitutional Chaos?

The United States is in constitutional chaos. In Canada, we could soon find ourselves in similar circumstances. Max Fawcett writes:

It’s been clear for some time now that when faced with a choice between democracy and power, Republicans in the United States will almost always opt for the latter. It’s why their elected officials at the state level continue to aggressively gerrymander congressional districts in order to favour their candidates, why their elected senators hold up Democratic nominees for the Supreme Court while rushing theirs through, and why so many of them tried to pretend the 2020 presidential election had been stolen — while actually trying to steal it themselves.

For years, Republicans have been trying to establish minority rule:

Now, that anti-democratic strain of Trumpism is starting to show itself north of the border, albeit in an appropriately Canadian way.

Recent polls put Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative Party of Canada well ahead of the governing Liberals, but none of them show a path to a majority government. Instead, if he wins — and that’s far from certain given Justin Trudeau’s obvious gift for campaigning — it’ll take the form of a plurality of seats, one that will require Poilievre to find a legislative partner willing to support him. That won’t be the New Democrats, for any number of reasons, and it’s hard to imagine the Bloc Québécois siding consistently with the CPC if the combined Liberal-NDP seat count is higher. In other words, there’s every possibility Poilievre could win the most seats in the next election and not become the next prime minister.

This is, by the way, an entirely acceptable — if unusual — outcome in our political system. The party that governs in a parliamentary democracy is the one that can command the confidence of Parliament (or the legislature at the provincial level), and we’ve seen situations where the party with the highest number of seats isn’t the one calling the shots. In 1985, David Peterson’s Ontario Liberals won four fewer seats than the long-governing Tories but formed a coalition with Bob Rae’s NDP to force it from power. In 1987, the Peterson Liberals were rewarded with a crushing majority win. More recently there was John Horgan's NDP, which won fewer seats than Christy Clark's BC Liberals but reached an agreement with the BC Green Party that allowed it to govern. Voters there also rewarded Horgan with a big majority in the next election.

But, if that situation occurs, expect Mr. Poilievre to claim that the government is illegitimate -- which, of course, would be a lie:

There is nothing in Canada’s Constitution or its political conventions that suggests the party with the most seats should automatically be the one that governs. Indeed, as Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders noted, it’s progressives who have been disenfranchised by Canada’s first-past-the-post system and its habit of producing false majorities. “In every election since the 1980s, 60% have voted for a left-leaning party. Yet right-facing parties have governed half the time because the liberal/left parties have a tribal resistance to governing together.”

Now is the time for Canadians to truly understand how their political system works.

Image: CHEK News

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


We are about to discover just how crazy Republicans in the House of Representatives are. Eugene Robinson writes:

I’ll admit I was surprised when Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) got the House to approve a deal on the debt ceiling that takes the threat of default off the table until early 2025, eliminating the possibility of election-year brinkmanship on that issue. He and President Biden reached a reasonable compromise — far too reasonable, it turns out, for the anti-government zealots in McCarthy’s fractious ranks.

Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, outraged at the notion of meeting anyone halfway about anything, are trying to renege on the spending targets set in the debt ceiling deal and instead force much deeper cuts. They don’t have the power to get what they want, since all the other actors (Biden, House Democrats, a bipartisan majority in the Senate) are determined to honor the terms of the agreement. But looney-bin GOP radicals can make McCarthy’s life miserable and perhaps even oust him as speaker. And there is a good chance they can force a government shutdown at the end of September.

Like the leader of their cult, many Republicans are insane:

Pulling such a stunt would be dumb and self-defeating. The historical record is clear: When Republicans force a shutdown, they end up hurting their own party politically and helping the Democrats. But logic and pragmatism no longer appear to be getting through to the outer-planet far right in the House.

How far into the wilds of extremism have these GOP radicals wandered? Members of the Freedom Caucus have reportedly voted to oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from their club. Her perceived sins include having supported McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal and generally being too cozy with the leadership. But the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” Freedom Caucus member Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) told reporters, came late last month when Greene called another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a “little bitch” while both were on the House floor.

Greene and Boebert once looked like potential BFFs; you will recall how they previously teamed up to heckle Biden during his State of the Union address. But each seems to want to be recognized as the GOP’s loudest and most telegenic provocateur. Greene was hopping mad because Boebert had filed an unserious, publicity-seeking resolution to impeach Biden — jumping the gun before Greene could file her own unserious, publicity-seeking resolution to impeach Biden.

Other prominent House Republicans are busy performing such vital legislative tasks as investigating Hunter Biden; investigating the Justice Department investigation of Hunter Biden; threatening to impeach Attorney General Merrick Garland; threatening to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; threatening to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who was appointed by Donald Trump; complaining about “woke” capitalism, as if they think Wall Street has somehow repealed the profit motive; and now, in a weekend flurry of official statements and Fox News appearances, vowing to get to the bottom of who left a small bag of cocaine at the White House.

Amid all this nonsense, however, the House Appropriations Committee is working on spending bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 with funding levels about $119 billion less than those set in the Biden-McCarthy compromise. This attempt at changing the rules midgame was blessed by McCarthy after Freedom Caucus members staged a tantrum, blocking the House from getting any work done, to protest the debt ceiling deal.

There's only one word for all of this: Crazytown.

Image: The Sobor Curator