The Harper Conservatives have turned their backs on facts-based policy -- on research, data, and reality -- in favour of ideology to a degree not seen in decades in federal Canadian policy-making. There are seemingly countless examples of policies that are unreasonable -- downright illogical -- often followed by attempts to demonize, even stifle, dissenting voices.
Proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal seem hell-bent for leather on conducting what may be the most inept natural resource project application in B.C. history. Their place in the Canadian business school textbooks is assured, under the heading "Enbridge to Nowhere."
This week, the World Francophonie Summit was held in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bi-annual summit provides a forum for States and governments of countries who utilise the French language to engage in matters related to the linguistic ties that bind. Stephen Harper attended the conference despite his dismal record in defending the langue de Molière over his tenure Prime Minister. Harper has demonstrated neither appreciation nor respect for French-speaking Canadians, although we form almost a quarter of the Canadian population.
Canada has long been a country with a high degree of sensitively -- and astuteness -- about status in the world. The sharing of some embassy services between Canada and the U.K. has already received a lot of attention. In geo-political hierarchical terms, the main risk of Canada cutting rather than building diplomatic infrastructure is that it plays to an image of decline that is contrary to the desire of the Harper government. An agreement with the U.K. then risks displaying not strength but a double image of weakness.
One can certainly understand why Trudeau and his supporters might prefer a coronation to a true leadership contest. Leadership races can be brutal and very costly in time, effort and money. With a coronation Trudeau will have the added bonus of not having to present a lot of policy options Everyone likes to win, but Trudeau should welcome a tough leadership race and that is what his talk points should be saying. Should he win such a political challenge, then he will have put to rest the whispers that he is a policy light weight, or just a pretty face or just living on his father's name.
This coming week, Parliament will vote on my amendments to Bill C-299, Conservative legislation that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on people who kidnap children. It would seem as though this would be just the kind of issue on which members of all parties could collaborate in good faith. Instead, however, this bill has become a prime example of how excessive haste -- and an uncooperative attitude toward parliamentary opposition -- can make for bad law and bad policy. It should be deeply troubling to Canadians that the laws governing our criminal justice system are being altered quite so nonchalantly. Surely, despite our differences on principle and policy we can at least agree that any proposed changes to the Criminal Code should be the object of serious scrutiny and debate.
On Canadian Thanksgiving Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a major foreign policy address to the faculty and students of the Virginia Military Institute. He did not mention Canada once despite the fact that his vision of U.S. global leadership is like the Hollywood-budget version of Canada's indie foreign policy sensation. Should Romney become the 45th president of the United States, it will be essential, though, for him to recognize that U.S. leadership must be exercised in a spirit of partnership for it to be successful. The message to Ottawa in January can't be "Thanks Canada for doing the right things in world affairs -- we'll take it from here."
Ministers, their staff and individual MPs often find it almost impossible to get PMO to move away from a position or talking point that they have adopted. The micro-management style worked initially because in 2006 most staff and ministers were new at what they were doing. Micro-management and message control also worked because of the minority situation the government found itself in. Majority rule has changed that dynamic. All in all, there are Interesting times ahead if you sit on the backbenches of the government side.
After her first year in Parliament, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, is already being hailed by English-speaking media as the real opposition leader. When we look at our institutions filled with Conservative backbenchers, who are as quiet as they are ignorant of high profile national issues we can only rejoice at the sight of Elizabeth May ploughing away with ease outside the traditional trappings of conflicts of interest where the Conservative majority has taken up residence.
For Rob Anders, who on Monday told an iPolitics reporter that Thomas Mulcair was in some way responsible for hastening Jack Layton's death, controversy is nothing new. He was once removed from a veteran's affairs committee for frequently falling asleep and showing disrespect for our veterans and was the sole member to speak out against Nelson Mandela's honorary Canadian citizenship.
If there is any basis to the speculation that Liberals and other Canadians are calling on Mark Carney to enter the public arena by seeking the leadership of the party, count me among them. I believe in talent and the power of ideas. Carney has both. This guy would be a game-changer in all the right ways, not only for the Liberal Party, but also for Canadian democracy.
If Pauline Marois' government decides it wants to lead Quebec out of Canada, to my mind she's simply following the logical path that has been laid down (intentionally or not) by our Federal leaders over the past 145 years. If it turns out Quebec wants a divorce we should grant it and move on. It seems evident there wasn't much of a family to begin with, and we don't seem to want to start building one now.
There's an aura growing around Trudeau, or perhaps there has always been one, that gives liberals (I use the small "l" intentionally) hope for the future. Especially in the face of Stephen Harper's quietly draconian governing style rising up again in the form of a new omnibus bill as the fall session starts. "Can Trudeau reignite the flame of the centre-left?" Canadians wonder. Trudeau's aura brings with it a halo effect to liberal/Liberal politics that's been missing since, well, I don't know when. Yesterday, for example, I got an accidental phone call from a disaffected NDP supporter in Montreal (which is odd, since I'm based in the provincial Liberal office in Edmonton). She was upset that the NDP in Quebec were drifting toward what she termed "soft nationalism" and she didn't want to remain with a party that supported separation, no matter how softly. Toward the end of the conversation she asked whether I knew if Trudeau had officially declared his nomination. "Ah, there it is," I thought.
In Parliament, the one-minute Standing Order 31 was designed to give MPs an opportunity to highlight something of importance in their riding. By 2008 there was increasing pressure to use more of the SO 31s as attack pieces (sometimes all of them) to get the government talk points out. Today, this has become pretty much standard practice. In my opinion this has been one of the contributing factors to the caustic atmosphere you now see on a daily basis in the House of Commons.
With Pauline Marois now officially inaugurated as the sixth separatist premier of everyone's favorite French-speaking province, you might reckon that our nation's gigantic, months-long Quebec politics bender would finally be coming to an end. Also, you might be an idiot. Speaking of not-so-smart ideas, Harper's plans to reform parliamentary pensions aren't going over so well in the media...
It likely didn't occur to the strategists in the permanent Conservative Party war room that they would be mounting a push against the NDP and carbon taxes at a time when the severity of the impacts of climate change would be on such full display. So now this is all going on at the very same time as story after story tells us how much trouble humans are in as a species.