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