Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Tough Row To Hoe

Progressives in the United States and Canada have a leadership crisis on their hands. Michael Harris writes:

In both countries, the progressive parties are in a crisis of leadership. For very different reasons, the parties themselves are deeply conflicted about their incumbents: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau here, and President Joe Biden in the United States.   

The polling and approval ratings for both leaders are abysmal. They are so bad, in fact, that even though they are incumbent leaders of governments, they have each been invited by members of their own party to step down.  

After nine years in power, the Liberals are dealing with the public’s “Trudeau fatigue.” The Democrats in the United States are saddled with a wobbly president deemed to be too old for a second term by two-thirds of Americans. 

Another similarity? Both beleaguered leaders have not only refused to resign, but insist they will carry the party banner into the next election.

Grit or denialism?

That depends on your point of view -- and timing:

Those who support the president—including the panicked staff in the White House, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and much of the Democratic leadership—talk about colds, jet-lag, and all the wonderful things that Biden has done over his long career. They are on the loyalty train, possibly of the misguided variety.

Then there are those who “love” the president, but think he is too old and diminished for the job, include a growing chorus of elected representatives, pundits, and celebrities. Actor and Democratic fundraiser George Clooney made that case in a guest essay in The New York Times on July 10.  

Trudeau is another matter:

Trudeau is not Biden. He is mentally sharp, still youthful, and formidable on the campaign trail. But there is no pretending that the Liberal Party in Canada does not have a major leadership issue to resolve.  

Based on how the Democrats have fractured their party by ignoring Biden’s age and competency issues until that became impossible; based on the fact that this has happened just months away from what might be the most consequential election in U.S. history; the Liberals should resolve their leadership issues now.

There is word today that Trudeau is bringing Mark Carney into the Liberal caucus.

Stay tuned.

Image: The Hill

Monday, July 15, 2024

Good Businessmen?

A decade ago, the government of Ontario replaced our LCBO with a much bigger building. It does a roaring business, particularly in the summer. These days, there's a long picket line outside the building. Almost a decade ago, Doug Ford rode to power, promising a "buck a beer" and wider access to booze. He also made it clear that he was convinced that profit made the world go around.

That's what makes what's going on so strange. The LCBO is very profitable. Linda McQuaig writes:

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), a crown corporation, has been doing a fine job selling alcohol — not exactly a risky enterprise requiring a lot of innovation — through its 677 outlets across the province.

And since it is publicly owned, its healthy annual profit — $2.5 billion in 2023 — goes into the public treasury, where it pays for things like health care and education.

Those profits have been invested in healthcare and education.  But Ford has been cutting off revenue streams to the province's treasury. Ontarians no longer pay to renew their license plates. And Ford wants to cancel the contract with Ontario's Beer Stores at a cost of 225 million dollars:

Like so much this premier does, the basic animating force appears to be a zealous desire to privatize, to hand over ever more of our province to private interests, to further cannibalize Ontario’s strong tradition of public services and public enterprises that have served the province well.

Ford is following the path of former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, whose needless privatizations produced some disasters for Ontario.

Harris’ privatization of Highway 407 has cost us billions, his water-testing privatization was a factor in seven water-contamination deaths in Walkerton, and his privatization of long-term care homes worsened the COVID crisis, with death rates four times higher in private homes than in public ones.

Both men claimed to be good businessmen. Right.

Image: Niagara At Large

Friday, July 12, 2024

Get Real

Americans are tearing themselves apart over Joe Biden. Nobody's talking about Donald Trump. Dana Milbank writes they're focusing on the wrong guy:

The heavy-handed attempt to force Biden to quit the race after his disastrous debate has, predictably, backfired. Biden has dug in, pitting “elites” against the people. Democrats are fighting among themselves. George Clooney is diagnosing Biden’s mental competence (he played Dr. Doug Ross on “ER,” after all). And Republicans can hardly believe their good fortune, as they portray Biden as a zombie — with no good answer to their attacks.

Trump’s Doral rally was full of endless variations on the “Weekend at Bernie’s” theme. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), now in the final round of auditions to become Trump’s running mate, warmed up the crowd by identifying a “conspiracy” to hide Biden’s mental condition. He went on: “We know he’s not calling the shots. … Look, the guy’s a figurehead for a shadow government of leftists that are propping him up.”

Then came Donald Trump Jr. “We’re running against a party that wants to take away your AR-15, but they gave a vegetable the nuclear codes,” he began. He tried another: “If Joe Biden showed up to pick you up in an Uber, would you get in the car? … Would you let your worst enemy get in that car? Maybe. Maybe. Dumb ways to die, right folks?”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba sampled a line on the crowd: “He cannot spell ‘Bob’ backwards.”

And Trump himself made Biden’s purported feeblemindedness — always an element of his stump speech — the dominant theme. He mockingly challenged Biden to another debate. Pretending to be Biden struggling with a golf club, he also challenged the president to an 18-hole match, offering Biden a 20-stroke lead. “They all knew this guy was grossly incompetent, and every Democrat in the House and the Senate was in on it,” he alleged. “It was a scam. The American people can never trust this group of liars ever again. They put our country at great risk and danger.”

Trump joked about Biden taking naps and struggling to lift a beach chair. He floated the idea that “Hunter is in the White House running government right now, they say.” Seizing on an Axios report that Biden is only “dependably engaged” between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Trump claimed: “He can’t work because he’s mentally no good. He’s shot.”

This is nuts. The moron is in plain sight. And it's not Joe Biden.

On another note, some comments have been disappearing from this blog after they have been published. Apparently, this is a long-standing problem with Blogger. I have not found a way to recover them. I apologize.

Image: New York Daily News


Monday, July 08, 2024

Don't Buy The Image

Pierre Poilievre claims he's a man of the people. Linda McQuaig isn't buying it. She writes:

Poilievre has managed to pass himself off as anti-elitist and populist largely because Canadians have heard little about all the time he spends — when the cameras aren’t rolling — courting the country’s business elite.

Even as Poilievre has attacked corporate lobbyists — vowing they won’t be able to shape policy under his Conservative government as they have under the Liberals — he’s been consorting with a wide range of corporate lobbyists at about 50 extravagant private fundraising events across the country since being chosen party leader almost two years ago.

Details of these interactions have come to light due to investigative work by the online outlet The Breach, which has documented the presence of more than a hundred active or recent corporate lobbyists at Poilievre fundraising galas held at private mansions and swanky clubs, by carefully combing through the records in Elections Canada’s registry.

For instance, Poilievre was the central attraction at a lavish Regina fundraiser last November hosted by Saskatchewan’s wealthiest family, the Semples, owners of the Brandt Group of Companies, with major holdings in real estate, mining, construction, agriculture and pipeline equipment.

It didn’t seem to bother Poilievre that the Semples have a reputation for being anti-worker. In addition to serious health and safety violations, one of their companies was reprimanded by a labour tribunal for trying to impose its own collective agreement, which eliminated more than 50 pages from the existing agreement and added “unreasonable clauses” that gave the company extra powers.

Not exactly the friend of the working man:

But Poilievre has constructed a whole political persona for himself around the notion that he’s different, claiming recently that he’s visited 110 shop floors and five union halls while largely avoiding speaking to business groups.

Indeed, he’s warned business that they shouldn’t expect a warm welcome from government under his watch, that he plans to revamp the cosy relationship the Liberals have had with business.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Poilievre seems receptive to the corporate crowd.

As The Breach noted in an earlier investigation, the corporate set is heavily represented on the Conservative national council, which includes lobbyists representing major oil, pharmaceutical and real estate companies, as well as retail giants and others opposed to unions and minimum wage hikes.

None of the members of this 20-member Conservative council appears to represent workers.

Just a small heads up.

Image: The Walrus

Thursday, July 04, 2024

King Donald

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declared that the American President -- and they were writing about Donald Trump -- is King. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. held: “We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of Presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office.” He continued: “At least with respect to the President’s exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute. As for his remaining official actions, he is also entitled to immunity. At the current stage of proceedings in this case, however, we need not and do not decide whether that immunity must be absolute, or instead whether a presumptive immunity is sufficient.”

They are preparing the way for King Donald:

The notion that any illegal action could be draped in the cloak of “official conduct” should alarm all Americans. As the dissent points out, if as commander in chief Trump were to order Seal Team 6 to assassinate political opponents, what is to stop him? Given that the next president could be an already convicted felon, the prospect of an imperial president with a get-out-of-jail card should be terrifying. And to make matters worse, the court may not inquire into the president’s motive to determine if he was acting in an official capacity.

That's the key: the president's motives can't be questioned. What kind of court excludes motive in the commission of a crime? Two of the six justices have connections to the insurrection Trump staged. The last time he ran, he had no platform. This time he has a nine-hundred-page tome, declaring what he will do. His intention is to declare himself king.

Clearly, the highest court in the land is on Trump's side. Only American voters can save themselves.

Image: Salon.com


Monday, July 01, 2024

Canada Day 2024

We're grumpy these days. Mr. Poilievre tells us that "Canada is broken." It's Poilievre boilerplate -- over the top and mean. There is much to fix and improve. But there is much to celebrate.

Happy Canada Day.

Image: Britannica

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Why Stay?

A lot of people are suggesting that Justin Trudeau should go. Martin Regg Cohn writes that Justin should talk to Kathleen Wynne:

Kathleen Wynne has been there, done that — and didn’t go.

After a bitter byelection defeat for the federal Liberals in Toronto–St. Paul’s riding this week, Wynne has been asking herself the same question anew. As premier, she stayed to fight another campaign in 2018, paying a high price in the election defeat that followed.

History also suggests that changing leaders is no panacea for unpopular premiers or prime ministers. After Wynne left, the Ontario Liberals under Steven Del Duca lost badly again to Doug Ford; after Brian Mulroney quit as PM in 1993, his successor Kim Campbell was wiped out; same with Pierre Trudeau’s successor, John Turner, in 1984.

Consider what Wynne is saying:

“I think what’s going to happen now is there’s going to be a lot of internal soul-searching,” Wynne told me. Over the next few weeks, MPs will be “trying to figure out now how to have the tough conversation with him,” because “he’s going to have to make a decision.”

Wynne predicts Liberal MPs across the country will be going door to door this summer hearing their constituents say, “We love you, we hate your leader.”

That’s what happened to Wynne in her last years, and it’s the fate befalling Trudeau now.

“I lived through that and it’s tough.”

MPs have to decide whether they can stand it. And the PM must determine if he can withstand it.

Wynne thought her situation would improve -- and so did Cohn:

Back then, I thought if Wynne could reintroduce herself to voters and somehow rehabilitate her image, she had a better chance to eke out a narrow victory in 2018 than any of the other pretenders to the throne. But as readers know, I’m always wrong — and as it turned out, the downside risk of an unloved leader was a massive loss on voting day.

Similarly, Trudeau may be the best bet for a longshot Liberal minority victory in the federal election due in late 2025. But by virtue of the personal hostility he engenders — akin to Wynne — he could very well be the worst bet if things don’t go their way, leading to even bigger losses.

It's not a simple decision. Stay tuned.

Image: CTV News

Monday, June 24, 2024

Very Consequential

Canadians aren't impressed by their political leaders. Michael Harris writes:

Federal politics has entered a “none-of-the-above” phase.  

The same polls that show Justin Trudeau taking his party over the electoral cliff if he remains leader also show something else of importance. Canadians are deeply unimpressed with the current crop of federal leaders.  

The latest Angus Reid poll nicely captures Trudeau’s emphatic unpopularity, but also the striking unpopularity of his rivals. The prime minister is viewed favourably by just 28 per cent of respondents in the Angus Reid poll, and unfavourably by a whopping 67 per cent.  

The Conservative Party has a commanding 20-point lead over the Liberals amongst decided voters, a staggering, double-digit lead they have had for months. 

But according to other key findings in the poll, 50 per cent of respondents had an unfavourable view of Pierre Poilievre and Jagmeet Singh.  

That makes predicting what will happen in the next election difficult:

While most observers have counted Trudeau out, based on persistent documentary evidence, [Nick Nanos] came up with another number that puts the Conservative “juggernaut” factor in an intriguing context.  

“Although the Conservatives enjoy a comfortable advantage in vote intentions, their pool of accessible voters—that is, the proportion of Canadians who are open to voting Conservative—is not much larger (45 per cent) than the group of voters accessible to the Liberals (43 per cent).”

In other words, the next election will not necessarily be decided by today’s polls, but by tomorrow’s, next week’s, next month’s, and next year’s political gamesmanship. And happenstance.

Things can change radically over a short period. Like climate change, political change can be swift and very consequential.

Image: CTV Nrews

Friday, June 21, 2024

On The March

 


Authoritarianism is on the march. Michael Harris warns that we should keep our eyes on Europe:

Across the world the hard right is moving toward centre stage. The latest sign that liberal democracy is in decline comes from an ocean away. But we in Canada would be fools to believe ourselves safely distanced from that tide.

Earlier this month Europe conducted the second largest democratic vote in the world. Four hundred million voters were eligible to choose who sits in the EU Parliament. The most stunning result was a far-right surge — with immediate and dramatic consequences.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo resigned in the wake of the results. His party, Open VLD, won just seven seats, while the two right-wing parties each picked up 20 seats in Belgium’s 150 seat federal parliament. De Croo was left with a one-seat advantage in the seven-member coalition he led and decided that was unworkable.

French President Emmanuel Macron called a snap legislative election for June 30 after his centrist party lost heavily to Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally party.

Le Pen’s party captured 31.37 per cent of the vote and Macron’s centrist Renaissance coalition only 14.6 per cent. National Rally took 30 seats compared to Macron’s 13. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pronounced: “This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic.”

Although the centre-right European People’s Party will remain he largest party in the European Parliament with about 186 of the chamber’s 720 seats, the right is now positioned to be in the running to form governments in France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

Post-pandemic, the world is taking a nasty turn:

None of this accidental. It is, in part, blowback from inflammatory political rhetoric. Donald Trump, for example, refuses to rule out violence if he loses the November election. That moves him from being a polarizing figure to an instigator, just as he was on Jan. 6, 2021. He has warned that there will be “death and destruction” if he is jailed over his recent 34-count criminal conviction in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case.

It is a dangerous message. A study released last year showed one in four Americans thought political violence was justified to “save” the country. Among just supporters of Trump the number jumped to four in ten.

Thanks to social media platforms, found another U.S. report on the growing embrace of political violence, there is a great deal of “anonymous rage” out there.

Not only is a convicted felon, sex assailant and tax fraudster positioned to win back the White House, his iconoclasm has apparently turned the GOP into the Lawless and Disorder party.

We're in for a rough ride.

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Pig In A Poke

Pierre Poilievre claims that he's the working man's friend. But the policies he promotes reveal that he's on the side of the working man's overlords. Linda McQuaig writes:

Pierre Poilievre often calls Canada “broken,” but he rarely reveals that his dream Canada is an austere place that few Canadians would recognize or want to live in.

However, in an unscripted comment last month that received almost no media attention, the Conservative leader briefly provided us with a glimpse of the bleak vision he has for Canada.

“I’m very hesitant to spend taxpayers’ money on anything other than the core services of roads, bridges, police, military, border security and a safety net for those who can’t provide for themselves. That’s common sense. Let’s bring it home,” Poilievre told reporters during a campaign stop at a Vancouver gas station.

This suggests an agenda of cuts that goes well beyond axing the carbon tax.

So what is he really talking about?

Poilievre didn’t even mention — among his list of things he considers worthy of taxpayers’ money — Canada’s major social programs including health care, education, pensions and family supports, which are central to the lives of almost all Canadians.

Now, I doubt if Poilievre is planning to cancel or completely stop funding these programs. (Health care and education are provincial responsibilities, although they rely on funding from the federal government.)

But his comment at the gas station indicates a desire to redesign Canada in a profound way — as mostly a supplier of “core services” — infrastructure, police, the military.

As for the social dimension, he favours a bare-bones, U.S.-style “safety net” aimed only at the poor, with the rest of the population forced to provide for themselves and their families in the marketplace.

If he gets a majority, he’s likely to be swift and ambitious in cutting and privatizing. As The Star has reported, the Ford government’s apparent interest in calling an early election is partly driven by its desire to hold the election before a Poilievre government produces a first budget with deep spending cuts, tarnishing the Conservative brand.

Poilievre presents himself as a friend of the working person — but a Canadian government supplying only “core services” would mean cutbacks that hurt working people.

His agenda seems very much in line with the far-right Fraser Institute.

These are very old ideas. They brought about the Great Depression and the Great Recession at the beginning of this century. You'd think that, by now, we'd recognize a pig in a poke when we see it.

Image: English Stack Exchange

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Another Departure

Some long-time politicians have simply had enough. The latest departure is Shannon Phillips. Max Fawcett writes:

At some point, even for the toughest of cookies, enough is enough. After years of enduring threats, harassment, and even an illegal surveillance campaign by local police officers — one that never resulted in criminal charges — Alberta NDP MLA Shannon Phillips announced last week that she was resigning from politics. “I’m the next in a line of woman politicians who are taking a pass,” she told the Globe and Mail.

“Yes, I'm mad,” McKenna said on social media. “We are seeing the deterioration of politics on our watch - allowing attacks on politicians especially on women — by right wing politicians & their mouthpieces. This toxic workplace would never be tolerated anywhere else. It's democracy that's at stake, folks.”

The price she paid for her political involvement was high. And while she switched to the opposition benches in 2019, that price just seemed to keep getting higher. “These conditions are not improving,” she told the Globe and Mail this week. “The right is only getting more crazy and more bonkers, and disinformation is just getting worse. And that is going to have an effect on people’s desire to do this work.”

To be a politician these days you have to live with constant harassment:

"In 2019 there was approximately eight files we opened up on threat behaviours, either direct or indirect threat towards an MP, and in 2023 there was 530 files opened," [Patrick]McDonnell said. Worse, it’s now increasingly happening in real life instead of online, with people showing up at the homes of MPs and MLAs. As RCMP deputy commissioner Mark Flynn told the Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles, “we’ve seen a shift from people protesting or appearing…at Parliament Hill, minister’s offices, constituency offices, et cetera, to where we are now seeing people go to their residences and start taking actions at their residence.”

While the MPs involved are reluctant to talk about it, some of them have already had their windows broken and buildings vandalized. If the ongoing escalation here doesn’t stop, at some point soon this is going to lead to something far worse than property damage or threatening behaviour. Someone is going to get hurt, maybe even killed, and that puts the families of every elected official at risk. Is it any wonder that people like Phillips and McKenna, progressive women who take the lead on issues that most rile up far-right agitators, decided to leave?

It is time to make some changes:

First and foremost that means dialing down the rhetoric about a political opponent’s supposedly nefarious intentions and treating them like a human being with a difference of opinion rather than a threat to anyone’s livelihood or existence. It means significant additional resources for the offices in both the House of Commons and provincial legislatures that are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of elected officials. And it means finding ways to ensure both the police and courts are taking these threats more seriously.

We have become very nasty in the way we practice politics.

Image: I Stock



Monday, June 10, 2024

A Clear And Present Danger

Some countries are messing with our democracy. Michael Harris writes:

Canadian democracy has been weakened this past week by a signal failure of transparency, a dire error of priorities. On an issue of monumental importance, the public was informationally dealt out.

What makes that harder to take is that the Trudeau government never misses an opportunity to take a bow for its openness in governance. The PM talks the talk, but sometimes doesn’t walk the walk.

Thanks to the work of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), Canadians have learned that some Members of Parliament have been helping foreign actors to interfere in this country’s politics and elections.

The NSICOP report released on June 3 said that certain elected officials “began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election.” The key word is “wittingly.”  

The committee members said that they had seen intelligence suggesting that some MPs worked to influence colleagues on behalf of India, and that they had provided confidential information to officials with the Indian government.  

In one case cited in the report, that relied on information from CSIS, a then-sitting MP had a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer.  

According to the report, the MP even tried to arrange a meeting with a senior foreign intelligence officer in a foreign country. 

Several counties are facing this kind of threat. But if we don't know who is working for these countries -- and not for us -- they represent a clear and present danger. And unless we know who they are, we can't vote them out.

Image: Radio Canada

Friday, June 07, 2024

The MAGA Mob


Michelle Goldberg writes that Donald Trump's Maga Mob has embraced criminality. She refers to a recent interview with Peter Navarro from his Florida jail cell:

This week, Breitbart interviewed the former Trump official Peter Navarro, one of many criminals in the ex-president’s orbit, from the Miami prison where he is serving four months for contempt of Congress. While life behind bars is difficult, Navarro boasted that his stint has been smoothed by his ties to Donald Trump, which make him something of a made man. The former president, said Navarro, is beloved not just by the guards, but by the “vast majority” of inmates as well. “If I were a Bidenite, things would be a lot tougher here — and yes, they know exactly who I am and respect the fact that I stood up for a principle and didn’t bow to the government,” he said.

The entire Republican Party has embraced lawlessness:

One of the more unsettling things about our politics right now is the Republican Party’s increasingly open embrace of lawlessness. Even as they proclaim Trump’s innocence, Trump and his allies revel in the frisson of criminality. At his rally in the Bronx last month, for example, Trump invited onto the stage two rappers, Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, who are currently facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder and weapons possession. (They’ve pleaded not guilty.) During Trump’s recent criminal trial, his courtroom entourage included Chuck Zito, who helped found the New York chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and spent six years in prison on drug conspiracy charges. (The Justice Department has linked his Hells Angels chapter to the Gambino crime family.) Trump, who has his own history of mafia ties, has repeatedly compared himself to Al Capone. MAGA merchants sell T-shirts — and, weirdly, hot sauce — showing Trump as either Vito or Michael Corleone from “The Godfather” movies, with the caption “The Donfather.”

A fascinating new book by John Ganz, “When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s,” offers a useful way to think about the value system undergirding MAGA’s romance with the mob. Ganz’s book excavates a prehistory of Trumpism in the angry, cynical period between the end of the Cold War and the full flush of the Clinton boom. You can see, in the rise of figures like David Duke, Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan, Trumpism in embryo. (The chapter on Duke, and the cultish loyalty he inspired, is particularly illuminating.) But the most revelatory section — some of which Ganz has adapted in a post for his Unpopular Front newsletter — involves the mystique around the mobster John Gotti and the Buchanan-style paleoconservatives who saw, in the mafia, an admirable patriarchal alternative to the technocratic liberalism they despised.

It's been a long time coming. But it's the symptom of a very sick society. And it's not new:

Societies fetishize Mafiosi to the degree that they lose faith in themselves. Writing about the ideology embedded in the classic crime films of the 1930s, the Marxist social critic Fredric Jameson noted that gangsters “were dramatized as psychopaths, sick loners striking out against a society essentially made up of wholesome people (the archetypal democratic ‘common man’ of New Deal populism).” When, in the 1970s, gangsters instead represented a fantasy of family cohesion, it was a response to a broader climate of social dissolution. It’s a sign that a culture is in the grip of a deep nihilism and despair when moblike figures become romantic heroes, or worse, presidents.

I'm sorry to  end on such a pessimistic note.

Image: Wikipedia

Monday, June 03, 2024

Why Is He Sticking Around?

Justin Trudeau is in trouble. Lots of people wonder why he's sticking around. Michael Harris writes that two new books deal with that question:

Whatever the answer may be, two [books] have just been [published] — a full-length book by Stephen Maher, and a slim volume by Paul Wells. Both ultimately paint the picture of a leader who is washed up.

Maher’s book, The Prince: The Turbulent Reign of Justin Trudeau, is already a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in the Kindle edition. And the Wells 96-page essay, Justin Trudeau on the Ropes: Governing in Troubled Times, has been reviewed as a skilfully written psychological assessment of one of Canada’s longest-serving prime ministers. Neither work will put many smiles on faces in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Wells also portrays the PM as a man who doesn’t deal well with opposition. It’s his way, or the doorway.

“For all his pedigree and physical grace the work of politics has never come easily to him,” Wells writes, adding that “his judgment is often terrible. He has not surrounded himself with great talent; in fact, he has discovered a real gift for chasing talent away.”

Considering what happened to Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott and Gerald Butts, Wells has a point.

The Maher book is much bigger and more extensive:

Maher’s book, at 385 pages, is the first full-length biography of Justin Trudeau, the interest it has already sparked is not surprising. Based on 200 interviews, including one with the PM himself, The Prince offers a trove of inside information that one would expect from the talented journalist who was part of the team that broke the robocalls scandal surrounding the 2011 election.

While Maher was writing the book, I visited with him in his home, a converted boathouse on the back harbour of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Over beer, we talked shop about the challenges of taking on a big book about a Canadian prime minister. I had one piece of advice for him about the complex business of getting a book from concept through to publication, a process in which an author is pushed and pulled in many directions: “Stick to your guns.”

I was struck that day by Maher’s sense of fairness in his assessment of the prime minister. He was not interested in writing a “hate Trudeau” book, although by doing so, it would be easy to cash in on the PM’s plummeting popularity.

When Maher began his work on The Prince, he thought the current PM was a more consequential figure than either Jean Chr├ętien or Stephen Harper, a high-impact leader who changed the country more than his predecessors.

It was the author’s opinion that history would look kindly on Justin Trudeau. Although that impression changed as his research progressed over 18 months, Maher’s book has been received as a fine example of a traditional journalistic deep dive: exhaustively researched, fair and balanced.

Maher's opinion of Trudeau is now more nuanced. There are two Trudeaus -- the Prince and the Entitled Snob:

Which Trudeau is the real one? The earlier version full of hope and hype, and some big-ticket accomplishments; or the Prince, who can’t get over his own sense of entitlement, even as his tired government seems to have lost its way?

Whether we will ever know the answer to that question depends on what the PM decides to do: walk off undefeated into the lucrative sunset of the speaker’s tour and the corporate boardroom, or stand his ground and fight, despite dismal polls and relentless journalistic epitaphs.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Maher shared a momentous quote on how the PM himself sees his political future. They are fighting words.

“I just see it as such a fundamental choice in what kind of country we are, who we are as Canadians,” Trudeau told Maher. “That, for me, is what I got into politics for: to have big fights like this about who we are as a country and where we’re going.”

Stay tuned.


Friday, May 31, 2024

Finally

 


Yesterday, the law finally caught up with Donald Trump. Dana Milbank writes:

After the jury convicted him Thursday evening on 34 felony counts in the hush money case, he stood in the dingy green hallway on the 15th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, huddling at length with his lawyers and aides.

Reporters who had been penned in the hallway all day waiting for him to appear called out questions to get a rise out of him:

How does it feel to be a convicted felon?”

“Are you worried about going to jail?”

The former president lumbered around the metal barricades with downcast eyes, then said … not much.

What he did say was his usual, tiresome litany:

“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial,” he said.

“It’s a rigged trial, a disgrace,” he added seconds later.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” he said, a third time.

Furthermore, he said, “our whole country is being rigged” and “it’s just a disgrace.”

This was not the trial that carried the most severe consequences. Trump's enablers are working overtime to put those off. But this was the trial that exposed Trump as the bottom feeder he has always been -- and as the stupidest man who has ever been elected president.

If Americans re-elect him, they are truly the stupidest people on the planet.

Image: ABC News

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Trumpification of Language

 


Donald Trump is a vulgarian. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his use of language. Michael Harris writes:

Language is the basis of how societies mediate differences of opinion. The give and take of sweet reason that produces compromise comes in words.  

Language is the foundation of diplomacy, that, to paraphrase the late British prime minister Winston Churchill, substitutes words, words, words for war, war, war.

Words are the magic ingredients of books that give delight and breathe life into culture. In the hands of masters like Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and Farley Mowat, they offer glimpses into worlds we would otherwise never see.

But these days it is not the language of reason or culture that dominates the national conversation. Everywhere you turn, you hear the angry, implacable, language of intolerance. That matters. The degradation of language is the degradation of society.

Trump hasn't just affected the language Americans use. He's affected our language as well:

During the “Freedom Convoy,” Canadians got a good look at the new vulgarity that is fast becoming the signature across so much of our politics.  

It is one thing to protest a particular government policy. That is a treasured right in any democracy. But carrying “Fuck Trudeau” signs has nothing to do with airing grievances. It is about promoting hate.  

Gumming up the national capital for three weeks, upending the lives of thousands of people in the process, is not protest. It is pandemonium.  

And when a national political leader takes doughnuts to the very people who wanted to change the government without the bother of an election, it endorses and reinforces the politics of confrontation and intimidation. It guarantees more “Fuck Trudeau” signs, more gravel-throwing, and who knows what else.     

Nor did Pierre Poilievre enhance his image as a statesman when he recently called the prime minister “wacko.” That language got him tossed out of the House of Commons, and forced a later apology. “Wacko”, by the way, is one of Donald Trump’s favourite pejoratives when he attacks his opponents. Just name-calling you say? Childish, but no big deal? Think again. 

It's not just that the language is vulgar. It has consequences:

A case in point. Trump and the GOP’s merciless verbal abuse of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a deranged, hammer-wielding, Pelosi-hater into the politician’s San Francisco home. When the attacker found out that the former Speaker was in Washington, D.C., he fractured the skull of Pelosi’s husband of 60 years, Paul Pelosi.

Intolerance, with violent overtones, has shown up in the strangest of places: American libraries. Language is at the centre of this unlikely development.  

It began with a very old story—the effort by some to segregate or remove books with “offensive” or “obscene” content from public libraries. That means anything dealing with sex or gender issues. Viewing culture through that horrible moral squint is what got To Kill a Mockingbird pulled from the curriculum by a British Columbia school board. As the saying goes: great books read you, you don’t read them.

“We had people threatening to burn down our building,” librarian Maegan Hanson said in an interview. The librarians think that the threats will only get worse now that Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed library content restrictions into law. The intolerance is increasingly becoming official.

Our salvation lies in not imitating him.

Image: Amazon.ca

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Merrily We Go To Hell

Linda McQuaig writes that Canada is still in the grip of Big Oil:

The opening of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion this month — widely celebrated in the media — reminds us that Canada is still very much in the grip of Big Oil.

That $34 billion expansion was financed by Ottawa and it amounts to a massive public subsidy for the oil industry — at a time when we should urgently be financing renewable energy, not fossil fuels.

The renowned U.S. climatologist James Hansen famously said the oilsands were such a “dirty, carbon-intensive” oil that if they were to be fully exploited, it would be “game over” for the planet.

We have been warned. Each summer brings more and more devastating forest fires -- While the cost of renewable energy plummets:

Renewables keep getting cheaper. The price of solar power has plunged by 90 per cent, yet Big Oil remains dominant.

That’s because, with its long-established monopoly and extensive government support, Big Oil is far more profitable — and therefore more attractive — to major financial investors than the struggling, competitive firms that make up the budding renewable sector, notes Brett Christophers, a political economist at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Governments must become a lot more involved and they have to switch their loyalty from Big Oil to renewables.

Over the past four years, Ottawa has provided $65 billion in financial support for oil and gas, but only a fraction as much for renewable energy. Its main program for subsidizing renewables provides less than $1 billion a year, says Julia Levin, an associate director with Environmental Defence.

Now Ottawa is planning to spend $10 billion, possibly much more, subsidizing Big Oil’s futile but costly efforts to reduce its carbon emissions through “carbon capture and storage” — despite ample evidence the technology is highly ineffective at reducing such emissions.

This enables Big Oil to pretend it’s serious about reducing emissions, lulling Canadians into believing we’re making progress on climate, when we’re really just spinning our wheels and wasting a lot of public money in the process.

We keep pretending as merrily we go to hell.

Image: Green Queen

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Abortion And A Rogue Supreme Court

In the United States, abortion will be on the ballot this year. Jennifer Rubin argues that the Supreme Court should also be on the ballot:

This year, abortion remains a powerful issue for Democrats. And the focus on abortion might also make the Supreme Court itself a top issue for Democrats in a presidential campaign for the first time in a generation. The radical Supreme Court that reversed Roe v. Wade is increasingly unpopular and scandal-ridden.

The importance of abortion — and, in turn, the Supreme Court responsible for overturning Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — marks a dramatic shift in the political landscape. In election after election going back to the early 1980s, Republicans used the Supreme Court to gin up their voters on a variety of issues, but especially on abortion. Democrats never really expected abortion access to disappear, so their presidential nominees did not rely as much on the Supreme Court to turn out their base. Now the tables are turned, at the very time the court has made a spectacle of itself.

Angst over the Supreme Court’s serial ethical blunders remind Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that the problem is not just abortion but the court itself. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — who authored Dobbs and also committed arguably the worst ethical lapse on the court in memory — helps connect the dots for voters.

The court is clearly out of step with American voters:

This month, NPR reported on a Public Religion Research Institute poll showing that abortion rights remain extremely popular in the United States. “Nationwide, 64% percent of voters said abortion should be always or mostly legal; 35% said it should be always or mostly illegal. In most states — including states with Republican-controlled state governments — a majority of voters support legal abortion, and very few favor total bans.” Pro-choice advocates have won every abortion referendum since Dobbs, even in red states such as Ohio and Kansas. 

Like the court, the Republicans are clearly out of step with American voters. Understanding their problem, the Republicans have populated the majority of the court with their sympathizers. Like the upside-down flag that flew above Alito's house in January of 2021, it's clear there is a large number of Americans who believe that democracy is a quaint -- and useless -- idea.

Image: Democracy Now

Thursday, May 16, 2024

An Age Of Nay Sayers

 Canada's political leaders are having a hard time. Lawrence Martin writes:

The Angus Reid Institute put out an analysis last week saying the leaders of Canada’s major federal political parties have never been held in such dismal regard. It was based on an analysis of 50 years of public-opinion data.

It’s the first time that all three major federal party leaders, the survey said, have garnered net ratings of negative 12 or worse at the same time.

The minus-12 rating – meaning the disapproval percentage is that many points higher than the approval one – belongs to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. By today’s standards, that’s actually a good rating. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh scores his worst ever ranking at minus-14. And, the study noted, “Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval has dropped to its lowest point at just 28 per cent, with a net approval of negative 38.”

Justin Trudeau's rating is about a lot of things. His "low standing stems from the housing crisis, inflation, immigration and his government’s incompetence as seen, for instance, in the ArriveCan app scandal. As well, there’s the fatigue factor, with his being in power almost nine years."

But for him and other leaders, we’re forgetting the elephant in the room: the burden of being at the helm in the online age. It’s often mentioned but not highlighted nearly enough. Owing to the internet and social media, political leaders are under bombardment from a gazillion more voices than they ever faced in the predigital era.

For the pall of unparalleled negativity that hangs over our politics, look to the naysayers, cynics, vilifiers and haters who have been handed microphones by virtue of this communications revolution. It’s been the catalyst for the disinformation epidemic, the rise of far right and left fringes, the debasement of the dialogue, the extreme polarization, the discrediting of the mainstream media, the erosion of trust in institutions.

With the comms system gone rogue, national leaders – provincial and civic leaders don’t have it so bad – can no longer influence, shape or control the message as they did before. Against the torrent of abuse, they have become more and more defenceless.

Compare the environment Justin Trudeau faces to that of his father. In Pierre Trudeau’s time, there was no internet, no relentless social-media attacks. The hard right barely existed, conservatives being of the more moderate Tory stripe. The more liberally inclined CBC had a far greater audience share. The right-wing Sun chain had yet to expand and conservative Postmedia had not yet been born.

Post-pandemic, we are in a very sour mood. Our darker angels are ascendant.

Image: Linked In

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Who He And They Are

Yesterday, Donald Trump crossed the river over to New Jersey and held a rally. Marianne Levine reports:

 Donald Trump on Saturday insulted the prosecutor who has charged him in his ongoing New York criminal trial, speaking at a large rally on the Jersey Shore filled with personal attacks, coarse language and vulgar expressions from the former president and his supporters.

The presumptive Republican nominee called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “fat Alvin.” He described New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who is presiding over his trial, as “highly conflicted.” And he reprised his accusations that both are “doing the bidding” of President Biden, even though there is no evidence they have coordinated with Biden or his administration.

The attacks were the latest show of defiance against judges and prosecutors from a candidate who is facing 88 criminal charges across four indictments. They were part of a flurry of broadsides or baseless claims that Trump and his backers launched during a beachside rally that marked a return to the campaign trail after at the end of another week when Trump spent much of his time in a courtroom.

He said he was indicted on “bulls---” prompting some in the crowd to repeat “bulls---” in response. He attacked former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, winking at the audience, “you cannot call him a fat pig.”

As Trump berated the Biden administration, he asked the crowd: “Everything they touch, turns to what?”

“S---!” the crowd responded.

At another point, as Trump complained about the news media, one rallygoer turned to the workspace for journalists, yelling: “You guys suck. F--- fake news. Go f--- yourselves.”

In Canada, we can do nothing about this looming disaster. Let's hope that Americans recognize who and what Trump and his supporters are.

 Image: The Washington Post


Friday, May 03, 2024

Championing Canada

It's easy to paint Pierre Poilievre as the Trump of the North. His "everything is broken" meme is right out of Trump's playbook. But Robin Sears writes that turning Poilievre into a mini-Trump cheapens Canadian politics:

Justin Trudeau must avoid the temptation to paint Poilievre as a Trump mini-me. It only cheapens our politics, ironically, in a pure Trumpian manner.

Far better to champion Canada, surely. Not only is Canada not broken, we this week succeeded at getting the world’s first serious draft agreement on reducing plastics near the finish line. Our role was central, professional and won global praise.

Federal NPD leader Jagmeet Singh and the prime minister would be better off declaring they are proud Canadians. They are proud of how well we have defended our institutions; those with a greater investment in their personal grievances — premiers and their backers — than in securing democracy.

We are proud of what Canadians have pioneered in immigrant integration, AI and quantum technology, in climate change, in progress on indigenous reconciliation, and on and on.

Trump is all about denigrating his country:

In Canada, it has not been about denigrating the country — until now.

It has not been about adolescent vulgarisms in personal attacks — until now.

Coming from a man whose life achievement is limited to a few weeks as a junior minister in the cabinet of a dying government and two decades as a publicly paid opposition MP, it is somewhat galling.

While acknowledging all our deficits and the work remaining to do, we are proud of Canada. Most of us do not want to hear it described as completely broken. 

The goings on in Trump's New York trial reveal just how sleezy a character Trump is. 

Let's not go there.

Image: The Toronto Star


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Who Would Replace Him?


There's lots of talk these days about Justin Trudeau resigning. Michael Harris writes:

With Trudeau having notched three electoral victories since 2015, nobody is going to push him out — at least not yet. After all, with a handsome face and a famous name, he took the Liberals from political oblivion to a majority government in 2015. But confronted with his own deepening unpopularity, will Trudeau himself step down?

That is what the summer of 2024 is all about — whether Trudeau will take a walk in the sand, as his father famously took one in the snow before resigning. Will Justin decide that for the good of the party, it’s time to make room for a new leader?
There is every reason for the PM to feel conflicted. Trudeau prides himself on his toughness. Remember how everyone thought that Sen. Patrick Brazeau would knock the stuffing out of him in their boxing match? It would be personally difficult for Trudeau to walk away from a fight with a man for whom he has so little respect, a man whose values mirror those of Stephen Harper.

There is precedent for resigning for the good of the party:

After nine years in power, for the good of that same party, all signs point to the wisdom of a Trudeau resignation sometime this year. That way, the new PM would have a chance to showcase his abilities before heading into an election in 2025.

The Liberal house is on fire, and the task at hand is to save as much of the furniture as possible. Trudeau must decide if he is the one to do that at a time when he personally trails both Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the polls.

The bottom line here? Justin Trudeau is not nearly as bad as his detractors claim, often in personal and reprehensible ways. But politics is not Sunday school. Perception, not reality, governs the game. Messaging and narratives, rather than the facts, ultimately carry the day.

Once the electorate sours on a leader, as the evidence shows it has on Trudeau, all faults are amplified and all accomplishments largely ignored. We have all but reached the anybody-but-Trudeau point in national politics, thanks to a relentless personal attack on the PM that goes well beyond policy differences and politics.

Who would replace him? Dominic Leblanc's and Mark Carney's names are being bruited about. But nothing will happen until Trudeau resigns.

Image: CTV News

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Who He Is

You know a man by the company he keeps. Consider this from Althia Raj:

Perhaps Poilievre thought he had little to risk when he decided to stop and say hello to an encampment at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, where a group of citizens, surrounded by weathered Canadian and “F— Trudeau” flags, was protesting the carbon levy.

In videos made by the protesters and circulated on social media, you can see Poilievre come out of a trailer with the flag of Diagolon — a far-right, white nationalist group described as “extremist” by the U.S. State Department — drawn on the side.

Poilievre may not have known what he was walking into when he stopped for a sunset visit. (In 2022, after he was criticized for posing for a handshake photo with Diagolon’s founder Jeremy MacKenzie, he complained to police the group had discussed sexually assaulting his wife, Anaida Poilievre, on a podcast.)

But after arriving on site, speaking to demonstrators, and seeing their symbols, Poilievre assured them that, “Everyone is happy with what you’re doing.”

This kind of stuff isn't new:

It recalled moments during the Conservative leadership race when former Quebec premier Jean Charest tore into Poilievre’s support for the so-called “Freedom Convoy.”

“You cannot make laws and break laws, and then say, ‘I will make laws for other people.’ I’m sorry, but that is a question of basic foundation of principles in my life,” he told Poilievre.

Charest was loudly booed. But he likely represented a mainstream view. You can believe the Liberal government went too far with mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, or oppose its use as a divisive wedge during the last campaign, but supporting a group that takes over the capital’s downtown, shuts down businesses, and puts thousands of people out of work so the protesters can party in the streets, intimidate residents, and blast truck horns at all hours of the night for weeks, is not something that should be tolerated, let alone encouraged or celebrated by political leaders.

Poilievre and his followers are telling us who they are.

Caveat emptor.

Image: Press Progress

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

An Intergenerational Battle

 


A battle is brewing between Canada's generations. Max Fawcett writes:

Young Canadians can be forgiven for being a bit confused by the latest federal budget. For the first time in their lives, they’re looking at a budget that explicitly tries to cater to their needs and interests — and listening to politicians fighting for their votes. If their growing political power wasn’t apparent to them before, it should be now.

As Generation Squeeze noted in its analysis, “Never before has the Government of Canada formally acknowledged that hard work isn’t paying off for younger Canadians today the way it did for previous generations. Budget 2024 labels this sad reality as the starting point for a new economic framework to achieve ‘Fairness for Every Generation.’” At long last, young Canadians are getting their moment in the political sun.

The problem is that the budget doesn't do enough:

While the Liberal budget does more to address intergenerational inequality for younger people than any in Canadian history, it still doesn’t do nearly enough. According to Generation Squeeze, Budget 2024 increases spending for Old Age Security by $31 billion and sends an additional $17 billion toward health care, which is used disproportionately by those over 65. But it only allocates $2 billion towards housing, with an additional $8 billion for measures aimed at building a clean economy. The intergenerational balance is still badly skewed, in other words.

It may yet get worse, too. As more boomers exit the workforce and the ratio of working-age residents to retirees continues to decline from the high of seven-to-one in the 1970s to just three-to-one today, the pressure on today’s taxpayers will only continue to grow. Young Canadians are paying the price for the failure of previous generations to properly plan for this demographic inevitability, and it’s one the Conservative Party of Canada seems determined to ignore. As Generation Squeeze’s analysis concluded, “Any party promising to balance the budget easily without tax increases or gutting spending on retirees ignores this hard truth.”

The result seems to be that no one is happy:

Derek Holt, the vice-president and head of capital markets at Scotiabank, went even further than that. “[Justin] Trudeau and [Chrystia] Freeland are ripping off Canada’s youth who will be the ones left to face the bills for many years to come,” he wrote in a recent column in the Globe and Mail, one of many he’s written of late attacking the government. “It’s an insult to portray such a budget as being in the best interests of Canada’s youth who have fled from the Liberals in droves.”

The bigger insult, though, is older Canadians using the supposed long-term well-being of young people as a stalking horse for their own near-term self-interest. Conservatives have been doing this for decades, of course, talking up the risks associated with deficits and debts while studiously ignoring the ever-expanding price tag associated with climate change.

How will this be resolved? I confess I don't know.

Image: Quote Fancy