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J.J. McCullough


Media Bites: Will Electoral Reform Ever Be Sexy?

Posted: 12/03/2012 2:46 am

And now, like the nation of bored teenage babysitters we are, it's time to check in on the Liberal leadership race -- if only to make sure no one's swallowed the scissors.

Last week's big news was of course the entry of aging '80s icon Marc Garneau into the contest, a man whose famous name will no doubt bring some much-needed substance to a race otherwise far too dominated by men with famous names.

All the Canadaian editorial pages seems to be pretty unanimous that Marc is super-great, with phrases like "welcome addition" and "glittering resume" hurled about like so much cheap confetti. Granted, as we've discussed previously, there's a strong possibility that this current outbreak of Marcmania is born from nothing more than a brief phase of press boredom with the otherwise smothering omnipresence of the Justin Trudeau Show, and is therefore not something that will ultimately leave much of an impact on the contest itself -- beyond, of course, a bunch of cheesy space puns.

But don't get down, Marc, there's still plenty of opportunity to be more than just the "insurance plan" candidate, in the words of the Toronto Star's Chantal Hebert. The key is to forge a dynamic identity born from an able mastery of substantial ideas, rather than merely belting out "Houston, we have a problem" for the 1,657th straight time.

And what should those ideas be? Well, the punditocracy has some suggestions!

"Where are the clarion calls for democratic reform?" demands the inescapably syndicated Michael Den Tandt. If you ask him -- and Lord knows, we all should -- the Tory government's most glaring "weakness is democracy," what with all the proroguing and omnibusing and stuff. So why are the Grit leader wannabes wasting so much time on snoresville junk like the economy?

Yes, yes, we all know that in ordinary times taking a lecture from the Liberal Party on respecting democratic institutions makes about as much sense as taking a lecture on chastity from Paulina Gretzky, but the Grits are so unpopular right now Dan thinks "they can say just about anything" and get away with it -- so why not this?

At the National Post, meanwhile, Andrew Coyne also thinks there's much Liberal hay to be made with an aggressively pro-democratic agenda, but in his world, this involves championing the mummified issue that no one ever gets tired of hearing about -- electoral reform.

Since the Libs clearly keep losing elections due to split-vote syndrome, Andy thinks "there's some merit" in "a one-time-only electoral pact" between the Liberals, NDP, and Elizabeth May where the three would jointly run a bunch of candidates, win a majority government, and then "pledge to govern just long enough to implement electoral reform" that would permanently rig -- er "change" -- the voting system to guarantee a future of endless left-wing victories. The only hurdle would be if the Tories find some way to put a negative spin this selfless scheme -- but what are the odds of that?

I notice the Canadian commentary class has a marked tendency to constantly promote the cause of "democratic reform" as a surefire vote-getter, despite the fact that it polls terribly as an issue of national importance, has been repeatedly rejected in referendums, and played a significant role in the downfall of the last Liberal leader who tried to be its preachy champion.

But then again, these are the same people who've been predicting a Green Party "breakthrough" for about a decade now, so let's not look too shocked.

Blog continues below slideshow...

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  • Liberal Leadership Race 2013

    Here are the remaining candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

  • Justin Trudeau

    Age: 40 Occupation: MP for Montreal-area riding of Papineau <a href="http://justin.ca/en/">Website</a>

  • Joyce Murray

    Age: 58 Occupation: Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, former B.C. Liberal environment minister <a href="http://joycemurray.liberal.ca/">Website</a>

  • Martha Hall Findlay

    Age: 53 Occupation: Former Liberal MP for Willowdale and 2006 leadership candidate <a href="http://www.marthahallfindlay.ca/">Website</a>

  • Martin Cauchon

    Age: 50 Occupation: Lawyer, former Montreal Liberal MP <a href="http://martincauchon.ca/">Website</a>

  • Deborah Coyne

    Age: 57 Occupation: Lawyer, professor <a href="http://www.deborahcoyne.ca/">Website</a>

  • Karen McCrimmon

    Occupation: A retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian forces and mediator. <a href="http://karenforcanada.ca/" target="_hplink">Website</a>

If doing what's right is the opposite of doing what's popular, then Canada must totally have one of the rightest foreign polices in the world. Or at least one of the most right-leaning.

Thursday saw the United Nations General Assembly vote overwhelmingly to grant something called "nonmember observer state" status to the Palestinian territories in a resolution opposed only by Canada and eight of our closest -- I want to say allies? -- including America, Israel, the Czech Republic, Panama, and a powerhouse gang the Associated Press simply dubs "several Pacific island nations."

But if our vote proved unpopular in the Court of World Opinion (motto: "We'll get the Middle East right one of these centuries!") the domestic reception has been considerably more favorable.

This was a resolution Canada "was right to forcefully argue against" says the Ed-Board of the Globe and Mail. "We agree with our government's stand," echos the National Post. Dumb unilateral resolutions "don't really help the peace process," concurs the Montreal Gazette, all they do is encourage "further unilateral moves."

This being Canada, the editorial boards are also careful to make a big show of cautiously moderating their support with polite clarifications that they're "not anti-Palestinian" (Gazette), still support "a two-state solution" (Globe) and find Israel's recent retaliations "short-sighted" and "peevish" (Post).

And then there's Ezra Levant.

Bah, stupid United Nations "giving this moral victory to terrorists" and the "terrorist compound" they call a country, he harrumphs, kicking over the end table. But whaddya expect? The UN's basically the world's "greatest force for modern anti-Semitism."

In fact, he continues, Canada should probably just "leave the United Nations, and be part of a new league of democracies."

I think we can all agree this is a supremely logical and well-thought out plan. The only challenge will be finding countries willing to join.

Is eight enough?

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  • China: In Favor

    China's foreign minister reaffirmed support for Palestinian aspirations at the U.N. during a meeting last Friday with a Palestinian envoy. <em>Caption: Bassam al-Salhi (L), the general secretary of the Palestinian People's Party, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry building in Beijing on November 23, 2012. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • France: In Favor

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made the announcement before parliament. "In any case, it's only through negotiations – that we ask for without conditions and immediately between the two sides – that we will be able to reach the realization of a Palestinian state," Fabius said Tuesday. <em>Caption: French president Francois Hollande (L) welcomes Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for a meeting at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on July 6, 2012. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Austria: In Favor

    Martin Weiss, Austria's foreign ministry spokesman, said the country decided to vote for the resolution after it became clear there would be no common EU position. <em>Caption: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) shakes hands with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on November 28, 2011 in Vienna. (DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • India: In Favor

    <em>Caption: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) after a joint press statement in New Delhi on September 11, 2012. (RAVEENDRAN/AFP/GettyImages)</em>

  • Russia: Probably In Favor

    Russia supported Palestinian membership in the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the country "believes that the Palestinians have the right for such a move" but it added "we hope that the Palestinian leadership has well calculated possible consequences of such action." <em>In this handout image supplied by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO) Mahmoud Abbas (R), the President of Palestinian authority and Vladimir Putin, the President of Russian Federation, speak at the Presidential Palace, on June 26, 2012 in Bethlehem, West Bank. (PPO via Getty Images)</em>

  • Norway: In Favor

    <em>Caption: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JANUARY 12: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere during a meeting on January 12, 2012 in Ramallah, West Bank. (Mohamad Torokman - Pool/Getty Images)</em>

  • Denmark: In Favor

    <em>Caption: In this handout image supplied by the Palestinian President's Office (PPO), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt on September 26, 2012 in New York City. (Thaer Ghanaim-PPO/Getty Images)</em>

  • Switzerland: In Favor

    The Swiss government called a change in status "both constructive and pragmatic." <em>Caption: Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (R) speaks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas during an official visit to Switzerland on November 15, 2012 in Bern. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Spain: In Favor

    <em>Caption: Madrid, SPAIN: Leader of opposition Popular Party (Partido Popular) Mariano Rajoy (R) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas during his overnight trip to Madrid, 27 January 2007. (PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • United States: Opposed

    <em>Caption: In this handout provided by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) on November 21, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)</em>

  • Canada: Opposed

    Canada is a staunch ally of Israel. Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada's foreign minister, said any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both states. Roth said any unilateral action is ultimately unhelpful. <em>Caption: In this handout photo from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper March 2, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)</em>

  • Germany: Probably Opposed

    It's "very certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Officials aren't saying whether that will translate into a no vote or an abstention. <em>Caption: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the Chancellery in Berlin April 7, 2011. (FABRIZIO BENSCH/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Netherlands: Probably Opposed

    "Lasting peace in the region can only be reached if Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table to reach a final agreement over a two-state solution," according to a letter the foreign minister sent to parliament this week <em>Caption: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) listens to Dutch Queen Beatrix during a meeting at Huis ten Bosch Royal Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands, on January 19, 2012. (ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Britain: Possibly Abstain

    The foreign secretary said Britain could support the measure only if there were a clear commitment by the Palestinians to return immediately and unconditionally to negotiations with Israel. "While there is no question of the United Kingdom voting against the resolution, in order to vote for it we would need certain assurances or amendments," said William Hague. <em>Caption: Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague arrives at a Range Rover dealership in Berlin October 23, 2012 to unveil a new Range Rover model. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Australia: Abstain

    According to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Her government is divided on the issue, but Gillard told Parliament "bipartisan policy across the major parties in this parliament to support Israel, to support peace in the Middle East, to support two states in the Middle East." <em>Caption: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attends the naming of Queen Elizabeth Terrace at Parkes Place on November 10, 2012 in Canberra, Australia. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)</em>


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