Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Question

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump's claim for complete immunity. What's important, Jennifer Rubin writes, is how the court has framed the question:

The court determined that the only question to be addressed is whether a former president enjoys absolute “immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” The language is telling in a number of respects.

Had the court entertained the possibility the answer would be yes (e.g., yes, he can order Seal Team Six to kill his enemies; yes, he can exile his opponent in his reelection bid), it would have had to address subsidiary questions such as “Was the president engaged in an official act?” or “What is the ambit of an official Furthermore, if the court’s order is limited to considering official acts, then special counsel Jack Smith almost certainly could effectively argue that Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election for which he has no constitutional role must be deemed “unofficial” at the tact?” Only if the answer is “no” — that is, affirming Judge Tanya S. Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit’s unanimous ruling — would there be no need for further inquiry. The presence of the single question tells us where the court is heading.

Furthermore, if the court’s order is limited to considering official acts, then special counsel Jack Smith almost certainly could effectively argue that Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election for which he has no constitutional role must be deemed “unofficial” at the trial court level. That would allow Smith to proceed to trial. In other words, if the Supreme Court wanted to spare Trump, it simply would have asked, “Is a president immune from criminal prosecution?”

The problem is with the court's timing:

Whether a trial could begin and finish before Election Day, we most certainly will have a decision addressing what is essentially his only defense: “I cannot be punished for official acts. Interfering with my own election was an official act. Therefore, I go free!” At the very least, if my analysis is correct, heading into an election, voters will know that this cannot possibly be the law. Voting for him would amount to allowing someone going to trial (or already on trial) for serious crimes to waltz into the White House.

Let's hope American voters can see that distinction. H.L. Menken would tell you that they can't.

Image: Supreme Court

Monday, February 26, 2024

Time For A Walk In The Snow?

Michael Harris has supported Justin Trudeau pretty consistently. Now, he writes, it's time for Trudeau to go:

Nothing is clearer in Canadian politics than that the next federal election is Pierre Poilievre’s to lose.

According to the latest Nanos poll, the Conservative Party of Canada has a 13-point lead over the governing Liberals. Poilievre has a 10-point lead over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the choice for PM, though according to the polls, neither man is the rage.

There is no mystery about why Canadians are unhappy with the current government. Times are undeniably tough. Canadians still have a COVID hangover, feel angry about affordability issues on everything from homes to groceries and worry about the stalling economy.

A lot have also developed a visceral dislike of Trudeau. There are a variety of reasons for that, from deficits stretching out to a distant fiscal horizon, to his occasional lapses of personal judgment. You don’t feast on caviar when a lot of your fellow citizens are staring into stone soup.

So what about the alternative? He's big on grievance but short on details:

Poilievre is currently mopping the floor with his political opponents. And he will keep doing that until they come up with a better approach to dealing with his relentless and consequential attacks.

The Conservative leader has a daunting list of grievances. And they resonate profoundly with Canadians. But he remains decidedly thin on solutions.

Poilievre’s greatest vulnerability is on how, or even if, he would fight climate change. He might rage against carbon pricing, but he has so far declined to flesh out the Conservatives’ policy, promising to release details later.

That is textbook opposition politics. The longer you delay revealing your policies, the less time your opponents have to pick them apart.

What the Liberals need is change. And Harris suggests that change should start at the top with a leader who can pick Poilievre apart.

Image:  Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Fraud


Pierre Poilievre is a piece of work. Linda McQuaig writes:

So let me get this straight. Pierre Poilievre is going to make life more affordable for Canadians. Yet he’s going to ramp up our military spending wildly, as demanded by Donald Trump.

Trump isn’t even yet the Republican nominee (and still faces 91 criminal charges) but already our putative future prime minister is bending to his will.

Last week, Poilievre indicated support for boosting Canada’s military spending to 2 per cent of GDP, right after Trump told a rally he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any NATO country that doesn’t meet NATO’s 2 per cent target.

Of course, bowing and scraping to the MAGA boss-man isn’t the image Poilievre wants to project to Canadians. He wants us to see him as a scrappy tough guy who fights to make our lives more affordable.

The problem is he doesn’t come up with any ideas that would actually make our lives more affordable. Sure, he talks about “axing the tax” (very scrappy) but always leaves out the kicker: eliminating the carbon tax would also mean eliminating the rebate that leaves most Canadians better off (not so scrappy).

Consider the nonsense he's peddling:

Axing the tax certainly appeals to Big Oil boosters who want to keep us hooked on fossil fuels, but it won’t help with affordability.

Meanwhile, raising our military spending to 2 per cent of GDP — from its current level of 1.39 per cent — would cost us an extra $25 billion a year, according to Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office. That would please Trump (at least for a moment). But such a massive spending hike would inevitably result in spending cuts to things we really need — like health care, transit, housing — making our lives worse and less affordable.

Poilievre takes his cues from the Magnetic Moron to the South. Americans may re-elect that moron. We should steer clear of our own frauds.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, February 19, 2024

More Damage

The damage from the ArriveCan debacle is spreading. Once again, the Trudeau government is paying the price. Michael Harris writes:

Apart from the Canadian public, the obvious loser in the ArriveCan scandal is the Trudeau government.  

After all, it takes a special kind of incompetence to turn an $80,000 project into a $60-million boondoggle of epic proportions.   

Thanking the Auditor General for writing what could be your political epitaph isn’t fooling anyone. Neither is the promise to accept her recommendations. Or protestations that you are committed to handling taxpayers’ money responsibly. In the light of the AG’s findings, that is all nonsense.

But the Liberals are not the only ones paying a price:

There is a second victim in this hot mess: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh placed a high-stakes bet that his supply-and-confidence agreement with the Liberals, which would allow the Liberals to remain in place until 2025, would benefit the NDP in the long run.

In return for keeping the government in power, the Liberals pledged to give special attention to the NDP’s policy priorities. And in the case of a public dental care program—or at least the baby steps towards one—that is what happened.  

Pharmacare is another matter. The Liberals have already missed one deadline in doing something about this NDP priority.  

The new deadline is now March. But the government has already made clear that whatever it might come up with, it will be far short of a single payer, universal program. That, government ministers have said, is far too expensive. 

Parsing that response, the Liberals will try to substitute a “framework” for pharmacare, rather than legislation that would actually create it. 

Things are falling apart. Governments defeat themselves.

Image: AZ Quotes

Thursday, February 15, 2024


Danielle Smith believes that the future is in oil. Max Fawcett writes that she is misinformed: 

Alberta’s UCP government may like to pretend it sees the world differently than Saudi Arabia but when it comes to their biggest industry, they speak the same language. Both have said the International Energy Agency’s predictions about the imminent arrival of peak oil demand are massively overblown and that consumption will remain strong for decades to come. That’s why the kingdom’s recent announcement to abandon plans to increase its maximum sustained production capacity should have gotten Danielle Smith’s attention. The explanation that Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman offered at a recent industry conference, meanwhile, should have stopped her cold.

“I think we postponed the investment simply because … we’re transitioning,” bin Salman said. “And transitioning means that even our oil company, which used to be an oil company, became a hydrocarbon company. Now it’s becoming an energy company.” They might not ring a bell at the top of a market, as the saying goes, but his statement is about as close as it’s going to get for fossil fuels.

So far, Smith has refused to reckon with this reality. In a world where global demand for oil is in the process of starting to roll over, she actually seems to think Alberta can double its production by 2050. As she told Tucker Carlson (during his brief stopover in Alberta en route to his date with Vladimir Putin in Moscow), “I think we should just double down and decide we’re going to double our oil and gas production because truly, where else does America want to get its oil from?”

And she's selling that idea to the Americans:

She tried to play this card again during her recent visit to the United States, where she met with some of the most notoriously retrograde Republican senators in an apparent attempt to drum up business for Alberta. “Serious question for America,” she posed on Twitter. “Would you rather get your energy from Iran and Venezuela or your friends in Canada?” Here’s one serious answer: America currently imports almost no oil from Venezuela and has only registered imports from Iran in six months over the last 32 years. There is, in other words, almost nothing for Canada to replace here.

This wasn’t the only aspect of America’s energy system she doesn’t seem to understand. In a video posted to social media, Smith suggests the United States is actually behind Canada when it comes to climate policy, and we should avoid getting too far ahead. “I know that there are often proposals for what decarbonizing might look like on a number of fronts,” she said, “but I’m not seeing that America is moving as quick as Canada. That’s one thing I’m hoping we can bring in sync.”

She's not the sharpest tool in the shed. But, like the guy to the South, ignorance does not slow her down.

Image: CBC

Monday, February 12, 2024

They're Shafting Ukraine


American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives are shafting Ukraine. Michael Harris writes:

The politicians whom the Ukrainian president trusted to have his back in his country’s existential struggle against Russian invaders have betrayed him.  

While European countries have ponied up 54-billion euros for beleaguered Ukraine, the dysfunctional United States Congress is withholding $60-billion.  

In what should be an all-hands-on-deck moment in the West, the Republicans are instead wallowing in a twisted version of domestic politics. While Vladimir Putin pounds Ukrainian cities, killing civilians and destroying the country’s infrastructure, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is complaining about border security. 

The Republicans’ bottom line? No border security, no money for Ukraine. The consequence? No money for Ukraine, no Ukraine—at least not as a democracy, rather than a vassal state.

It’s worse than it looks.  

The Conservatives are no better:

Here in Canada, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains steadfast in his support of Ukraine, not everyone agrees. The Conservatives recently voted against the refurbished free-trade deal with Ukraine.  

Far more troubling is the recent Angus Reid poll that shows that amongst Conservative voters, support has plummeted for supporting Ukraine two years into the invasion. 

Those Conservatives are not only losing interest in the conflict, but they also believe that Canada is doing “too much” to assist Ukraine. Coincidentally, similar polling results are showing up in the America. Republican voters are also showing attention fatigue with the Ukraine War.

They're paper tigers -- full of hot air and nothing more.

Image: The Hill Times

Friday, February 09, 2024

Proportional Representation Now

This week, the House voted down a resolution to establish a citizens' council to study proportional representation. Max Fawcett writes:

On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted against a motion calling for the federal government to establish a citizens' assembly to “determine if electoral reform is recommended for Canada and, if so, recommend specific measures that would foster a healthier democracy.” Those voting against the motion included a majority of Liberal MPs and most of the Trudeau government’s cabinet. But that doesn’t mean electoral reform is dead — or that it couldn’t still happen before the next election.

After all, a citizens' assembly would have taken time we probably don’t have. With Donald Trump poised to win the next U.S. presidential election despite trying to overturn the results of the last one, we no longer have the luxury of pretending democracy is somehow invulnerable or unassailable. There are even those in Canada who very much wish to assail it, albeit by less crude and crass means than Trump.

The merits of a more proportional system of representation are no secret at this point and require no further study or debate. British Columbia formed a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform more than two decades ago and its conclusions were clear: "Election results will be fairer, reflecting a balance between votes and seats, voters will have more choice and candidates will work harder to earn their support," the assembly’s final report argued.

So is electoral reform dead? Of course not. The Liberals and NDP could make it happen. But they would get no support from the Conservatives:

Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives would come out swinging against any attempt to change the electoral system, even if it would actually benefit them in a bunch of different ways. By electing a more geographically diverse slate of MPs, they wouldn’t necessarily be so beholden to their Prairie base. And in the last two elections, a more proportional system would have given them more seats — maybe even more than the Liberals. But with polls now showing the Conservatives poised to benefit disproportionately from first-past-the-post’s math — some projections have them winning 65 per cent of the seats with less than 45 per cent of the vote — they’re not likely to listen to these sorts of arguments.

And the Liberals also have reasons for turning the idea down:

Some Liberals might not want to hear them either, since implementing a more proportional system would almost certainly mean they’d never form another majority government. But they need to ask themselves what matters most: some potential future government or the next one that Canadians will elect. That one, after all, could easily unwind some of their most important achievements, from climate policy to childcare. It could even throw the door more widely open to the sorts of culture war nonsense that has so thoroughly infected American politics. And with conservative provincial governments in seven provinces, most notably Ontario and Quebec, it could even take a run at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But proportional representation is an idea whose time has come. The only people who don't want to see that are our politicians.

Image: Fair Vote Canada

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

They're In Trouble

This week, the American Supreme Court will decide if Donald Trump can be kicked off the primary ballot in some states. Nathan Vanderklippe writes:

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the Colorado decision, which has been stayed pending the higher court’s ruling. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have warned that, if the decision stands, it could disenfranchise tens of millions of voters and “unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots.”

The efforts to erase Mr. Trump from the ballot are part of a much broader erosion in support for the partisan power structures that underlie American democracy. It’s not simply that some conservative voters want nothing to do with the former president. Their legal action against him comes at a moment of widening disaffection with Republicans and Democrats alike.

The American electorate is now marked by “disgust with both parties,” said Norma Anderson, a former member of Colorado’s state legislature who is another of the petitioners. “Parties don’t work anymore, in my opinion.”

One party has become the plaything of one man -- and the whole country is in deep trouble:

For some, the Colorado lawsuit marks an attempt to stake out ground for those who continue to reject the extremes. If Republicans are defeated in the coming election, “it will be essential to have a rebirth, and in a more responsible, ethical way,” said Claudine Schneider, another petitioner, who served in the U.S. Congress as a Republican representative from 1981 to 1991. She said she felt a moral obligation to oppose Mr. Trump. She also hopes to “have some voice, perhaps not today in the Republican party – but definitely tomorrow.”

But the current party leadership shows no sign of listening. A county wing of the party formally censured several of the lawsuit petitioners. The party has added [Republicans who brought the lawsuit] to a RINO – “Republican in Name Only” – hall of shame.

One of those Republicans is Norma Anderson:

Ms. Anderson [is] one of the state’s most accomplished Republicans, who spent nearly two decades in the Colorado legislature. Her living room is decorated with a framed flag that was flown over the U.S.Capitol in honour of her service. She regularly thumbs through a paper copy of the Constitution.

And she was sitting in front of her television on Jan. 6, watching events that she is convinced amounted to an insurrection in which Mr. Trump played a role. “I just couldn’t believe what was happening,” she said.

Will the Supreme Court support Trump's insanity? The smart money says yes.

Image: The Globe and Mail

Saturday, February 03, 2024

The Irony Behind Conservatism

Modern Conservatives don't conserve anything. Max Fawcett writes:

Of all Pierre Poilievre’s familiar slogans, there’s one that stands above the rest: Canada is broken. There’s no shortage of irony there, not least because what little we know of his proposed plans and policies revolve almost exclusively around breaking things, whether it’s the CBC or Canada’s climate change policies. But the most ironic thing of all is that while Poilievre pretends Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are breaking the country, its conservative premiers are busy doing exactly that.

Consider what Conservative premiers are doing:

Take the federal government’s childcare agreement, one that provinces like Ontario and Alberta seem determined to undermine with deliberate mismanagement of the money they’ve been given. While Ottawa will send $3.8 billion to the Alberta government over five years to support its childcare ambitions, the provincial government hasn’t put in a single additional dollar of its own.

That's not all. According to Krystal Churcher, the chair of the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs, the Alberta government is effectively asking childcare providers to lend it money every month. “Asking operators to carry 85 per cent of their revenue and wait 40 to 45 days to get it back is putting them in the position where they can’t pay rent on Feb. 1,” she told the CBC’s Matt Galloway. If you wanted to deliberately undermine the federal government’s goals here, this would be a pretty good way to do it.

There’s also health care, where the Ford government has been consistently underfunding Ontario’s system, which appears to be ever more precariously perched on the brink of total collapse. That might suit the Ford government just fine, given its obvious interest in bringing more private-sector activity into the system. Other conservative governments across the country, from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Maritimes, appear to be following similar playbooks.

On housing, the provinces (outside of British Columbia) keep adding fuel to a fire the federal government is desperately trying to extinguish. In 2023, Ontario saw 85,770 housing starts, a seven per cent decrease from the previous year and just 78 per cent of its stated goal of 110,000 new homes. That’s because, according to a number of Ontario municipal leaders, the province has effectively set them up to fail by not supporting the infrastructure needed to actually enable growth and new construction.

They’re not helping on the demand side of the equation either. By admitting an ever-increasing volume of international students — 240,000 in each of the last two years in Ontario alone — they’re adding another source of demand for housing, one that’s putting even more strain on rental markets that can’t handle much more of it.

So the next time Pierre Poilievre tells you that Canada is broken, remember that he and his brethern in the provinces want to accelerate that process.

Image: The National Observer