Tag Archives: Canada

Monarchy, meh.

I think I am where most Canadians are on the Monarchy. I don’t really care about them. I don’t like it when people are fervently pro-Monarchy. Conversely, I don’t like it when people are zealously anti-Monarchy. There are many advantages to Canada being a Commonwealth Country (we are also a member of la Francophonie) so I don’t really want us to leave it. The Queen, Prince William and Princess Kate all seem like nice people.

Maybe we should take a page from “Game of Thrones” and crown Prince William “King in the North.”

My Liberal Christmas Wish List.

It’s Christmas Time, so here is my list, of things I’d like the Liberal Party of Canada to do in 2011:

1. Add separate “Crime” & “Infrastructure” areas to the “Issues” section of the Liberal Party website.

In his end-of-the-year interview with the CBC, Michael Ignatieff said he was ready to challenge Stephen Harper on his dumb-on-crime policies. The Liberal Party is also the party of sound infrastructure policy. Mr. Ignatieff has been looking for a grand national project to unite Canadians and bring them into the big-red-tend, how about high speed rail? The Liberal Party needs to provide a solid alternative to Harper’s policies. On crime, the Conservatives have ineffective, evidence-ignoring policies so the Liberals should really be turning their strength into weakness and  infrastructure provides jobs and new technologies.

2. Appoint a “Education” critic.

The Liberal Party has made the knowledge economy the centerpiece of their jobs platform. With this in mind, why not appoint an education critic and promise to make a Federal Ministry of Education when in government. The census issue opened up an even larger gap between the Conservatives and Canadians with post secondary education and raising the issue of education nationally is not only good politics, it is great policy.

3. Liberal merchandise.

The Liberal Party has so many great Prime Ministers in its history and needs to improve its branding and fund-raising. The LPC should add a “merchandise” section to its website. This is one of many great ways to engage younger Canadians, bring together Liberal Canadians and, above all, get me a Liberal Party t-shirt.

4. Dispel any Coalition-related doubt.

During the end-of-the-year “At Issue” Panel on the CBC, Andrew Coyne made a great point. He said that the fact that Michael Ignatieff/the Liberal Party has yet to publicly/emphatically declare that, going into the next election, there is no coalition between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc, has scared off many right-of-centre Canadians from the Liberal Party and given left-of-centre Canadians an excuse to vote NDP in the knowledge that they are also semi-supporting the Liberals. I wholeheartedly agree. In the New Year, the Liberals should make a video highlighting the fact that we are already a coalition (which would help popularize the phrase “Big-Red-Tent” which isn’t yet part of the popular culture) and making clear that there is no pre-election deal between the Liberals and any other party. This would have added benefits. The Conservatives are going to keep lying and repeating the word “coalition” over and over no matter what the Liberals do*. If the Liberals did remove all doubt about any pre-election coalition, it would be a national news story, and after that the Conservatives would look like quite the fool with all of their scaremongerin and bloviating.

Those are just a few suggestions (I have been prescient about this kind of thing in the past.) The Liberal Party has a lot of work ahead of it, but we are the party of ideas, we are the party of real leadership, we are the Big-Red-Tent at the centre of Canadian politics!

Thank you so much for reading my blog this year. I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy and blessed New Year!

*Dramatization.

On lowering the voting age to 16.

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates Christy Clark and Mike De Jong are both advocating for the lowering of the voting age in British Columbia from 18 to 16. I think that is a great idea that should be adopted federally, here is why:

  • It would increase voter turn. 16 and 17 year-olds of this generation are growing up in a fully globalized Canada and the majority of them are enthusiastic and wanted to be engaged. The turnout for the 2008 Canadian Federal election was 58.1%, the lowest in our history, bringing more energy into the Canadian political process would be a positive step.
  • We let 16-year-olds drive, hold jobs and make other important life decisions (like going to University.) The age of sexual consent in Canada is 16, and there is no age of surgical consent, meaning that Canadians even younger than that age can choose to have/refuse to have an operation. There are so many benchmarks already set by the Canadian Government and Canadian society that say that 16/17-year-olds have the capacity to make important decisions, voting should be one of those decisions.
  • The habit of democracy is formed young, lowering the voting age would help instill the sense of civic duty that seems to be declining with the level of voter turn out before Canadians go off to University, College or enter the workforce and have so many things going on that they push the obligation to vote out-of-the-way.
  • Young Canadians have to attend our public schools, drive on public roads, and inherit the environment and economy that politicians have the potential to shape, denying them the right to choose those politicians runs counter to the Canadian democratic tradition.

There are many changes that desperately need to be made to the Canadian political system (electoral reform, campaign finance reform, parliamentary reform, senate reform, etc.) so it is tempting to dismiss the idea of lowering the voting age because you insist on putting the perfect ahead of the good. This is counter productive and ignores the fact that change in increments can lead to larger more sweeping change.

The debate on lowering the voting age shouldn’t be limited to British Columbia.

Welcome Peter Tinsley


Mr. Tinsley is the Liberal nominee in the federal riding of Price Edward-Hastings. He was chief of the Military Police Complaints Commission but, like many other members of the Canadian public service, came to blows with the Harper government over his investigation of the Afghan detainee prisoner abuse issue. Prince Edward-Hastings is currently represented in Parliament by Conservative MP Daryl Kramp.

From the Globe and Mail: Rather the former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, whose probing of the Afghan detainee prisoner issue is believed to have contributed to the Conservative government’s decision not to reappoint him, is worried about a “pattern of governance” and a “deterioration of democracy.”

Peter Tinsley is a Liberal Party Star candidate, but he is a star because of his resume and qualifications as well as the context of his joining Liberal Party. Stephen Harper won the support of 37% of Canadians by campaigning on integrity/accountability and has failed to deliver.

Today, the CBC reports: Former integrity commissioner, who was appointed by Stephen Harper, Christiane Ouimet behaved unacceptably for a public servant and allegations of wrongdoing against her are justified, an audit by Auditor General Sheila Fraser found. The AG concluded that the ironically named “Integrity Commissioner”:

  • Had inappropriate conduct and interactions with staff at the Public Service Integrity Commission, or PSIC.
  • Took retaliatory actions against those she believed had filed complaints about her.
  • Failed to perform her mandated functions.
  • Taking retaliatory actions against independent parliamentary officials and failing to perform a mandate are pillars of Stephen Harper’s governing strategy.
    I welcome Peter Tinsley into the Big-Red-Tent and pray that Linda Keen and other watchdogs who were attacked by the Harper Conservatives for doing their job, come on in.

    Julian Fantino Vs. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    Yesterday I discussed how Julian Fantino, Conservative Party candidate for the Novermber 29th Vaughan byelection, is an advocate of the death penalty (a barbaric practice banned in 1962.) Today, I want to highlight Mr. Fantino’s opposition to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In many ways “Duty: The Life of A Cop” is a polemic against the Charter as it is an autobiography. Fantino goes after The Charter on pages: 89, 95, 135, 181 and 291. The denouement of his anti-Charter argument is pithily stated on page 96:

    Who has reaped the greatest benefits from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I would argue that if it isn’t common criminals, then it must be the Hells Angels.” – Julian Fantino. Duty. Chapter 6. Fighting the Mob.

    Mr. Fantino immigrated to Canada from Italy, he didn’t have The Charter in 1953, but immigrants/minorities, like a large segment of the population of Vaughan, have benefited from the protection of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Women, have benefited from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the form of equal pay (though Stephen Harper slashed funding for groups that ensure women are paid a fair amount for their work.) Freedom of expression (Article 2) and Mobility Rights (Article 6) are what makes Canada a functioning democracy. One only need look to the G20 in Toronto (where Mr. Fantino played a role) to see the chaos of a Canada where the Charter is ignored.

    In Canada, there is often an overreaction about protecting people’s privacy in the public domain. Frankly, I don’t understand why any person wouldn’t want to co-operate fully with the police in a case like this. Yet, some people seem very concerned with an already overworked Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. – Julian Fantino. Duty. Chapter 12. Two Little Girls and a Trail of Broken Hearts. Page 181.

    Julian Fantino seems to have a problem with Article 2 (c,d), 8,9 and 10(a-c) of the Charter. He faults the constitution, instead of the police officers who sometimes make mistakes. In the concluding pages of John Ibbitson’s “Open and Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama” he recommends adopting the American practice of having politicians swear an oath to defend Canada’s constitution when they enter office in Ottawa. He acknowledges that there would be difficultly in Bloc MPs swearing such an oath, but with the Charter being part of Canada’s constitution would Mr. Fantino be able to swear an oath to defend something he so despises? Would Prime Minister Harper be able to do so? He is famously quoted as dismissing Pierre Trudeau’s accomplishments as “Hippie B.S” (Harperland, 269.) does this phrase also summarize PM Harper’s views of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

    Fantino and Harper appear to be in lockstep on many issues, though Mr. Fantino is trying to run a campaign without answering any real questions. The majority of Canadians see the Charter as a great document that helps establish and preserve our free and democratic society. Fantino sees it as an inconvenience at best and something to be ignored at worst.

    This scene from “A Man For All Seasons” is what the arguments Julian Fantino makes in “Duty: The Life of a Cop” calls to mind:

    The unlikely pair who changed my mind on Senate Reform

    I am currently reading William Johnson’s fawning biography of Stephen Harper, “Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada.” It is an interesting read though I feel a little bit like Harry Potter researching Tom Riddle’s past. Early on in the book (after a disenchanted Stephen Harper left the PCP because of his contempt for Brian Mulroney’s deficit spending and culture of deceit) the author summarizes a document drafted in 1988 that was written by Preston Manning and 29-year-old Stephen Harper. The document was a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a “Triple-E Senate.”

    The plan would call for the election of Senators divided as such:

    • Alberta: 10
    • British Columbia: 10
    • Ontario: 10
    • Quebec: 10
    • PEI: 10
    • New Brunswick: 10
    • Manitoba: 10
    • Saskatchewan: 10
    • Nova Scotia: 10
    • Newfoundland: 10
    • Yukon Territory: 4
    • North West Territories: 4.
    • TOTAL: 108.

    Elections would be held every 3 years with 1/2 of the Senate being elected.  The elections would be province/territory wide and the top candidates (top 5 or top 2) in terms of the vote would be elected. Senators would maintain their current powers but would not be able to serve in cabinet.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————

    This is not a post where I decry/mock Prime Minister Harper’s complete 180 on Senate Reform.

    For a long time I have been a staunch opponent of an elected Senate of any kind. I like the spirit of our current Senate (sober second thought, free from partisanship, yadda yadda yadda) while condemning the current state of affairs in the Red Chamber. However, reading then rereading this proposal has caused me to rethink my position.

    Obviously the Harper/Manning model would need to be updated (would you just add 4 more for Nunavut? I’m not certain) but I do think that this type of Senate could work. Part of my opposition to an elected Senate has been logistical though grounded in democratic fairness. An American style Senate in Canada would be silly, every province having two Senators would be extremely unbalanced. Why then am I content with a model that gives Alberta 10 Senators and Ontario 10 as well (clearly people from Alberta are not at all worth more than my fellow Ontarians.) It all comes down to John Rawl’s concept of a “Veil of ignorance.” We have to design a Senate not knowing what the future Canada will look like and with the growing population out West things will eventually balance out.

    Canada needs a sober second thought and while I believe that the Senate could be modified to become more accountable while remaining appointed, this is a democracy we all live in and it appears that the majority support an elected Senate. I am in no way saying that leaders should always follow opinion polls. There are many circumstances where the minority opinion is the best one. Canadian political parties should all pragmatically support changing the Senate for fear of opposing a pro-democratic tide (though they should place the health of Canadian democracy before political concerns I am not naive enough to believe that politicians are that virtuous.)

    Triple-E stands for Elected, Equal and Effective. All three “E”s should be balanced but our current political culture (where the NDP has thoughtlessly advocated for abolition of the Senate while the Prime Minister has been slowly delegitimizing the Senate) puts 100% of the emphasis on the first. That needs to change.

    Let’s Not and Say We Didn’t.

    Like it or not in the span of one week a group high level Liberals (Samuel Lavoie, Scott Reid, Jean Chrétien, Warren Kinsella and Paul Martin) have all publicly discussed the notion/possibility of a pre-election deal between the Liberal Party and the NDP. All of this was precipitated by the mainstream media’s pre-summer boredom and an article Bob Rae published on his website on the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Liberal-NDP Accord in Ontario. Calgary Grit and Morton’s Musings did an excellent job commenting on this concept, and I am in agreement with them both.

    The Equivocator’s thoughts on a pre-election coalition/merger between the Liberals and the NDP:

    • Michael Ignatieff has been ambivalent on this since he became leader of the Liberal Party but he finally set the record somewhat straight. His position is reasonable, let’s have an election first. During the 2010 U.K. election all of the major parties did the mature/right thing, they said they would wait and see and just like Cameron/Clegg, Ignatieff wants to wait for the voters to elect a parliament before making any deals. He has referred to any pre-election deal as “absurd.”
    • Stephen Harper loves all of this talk of coalition/merger. The Conservative Government has done its best to cultivate ignorance (from falsely telling Canadians that they directly elect their PM to interfering with access to information requests) and they will be working hard over the summer to conflate the concepts of post-election coalition with pre-election merger. When Conservatives tell members of the press that they “fear” how “formidable” a united Canadian left would be I have this feeling that we are Ted Mosby and they are trying to get us to dye our hair blond. It would be a good idea to spend the summer giving Canadians a civics lesson (starting with Harper as he so badly needs one) but the Liberals would be better off getting their organizational structure and policy platform together.
    • The Liberal Party shouldn’t want to have Jack Layton and his ilk: It was Jack Layton who caused the 2006 election that brought the Conservatives to power just so he could pick up a few seats. It is the NDP who are willing to end the Gun-Registry. The NDP are anti-free trade and advocated for a “Buy Canadian” policy that would have decimated our manufacturing industry in the name of saving it. The New Democrats are dominated by unions. And they are completely bereft of a substantive foreign policy. As a centrist-Liberal living in Trinity-Spadina I would not feel comfortable voting for Olivia Chow. I also live in Whitby-Oshawa which is a moderate riding, a merger or pre-election deal would hand Minister Flaherty another win. I have volunteered for candidates in past elections and I will be volunteering for the Liberal Party before and during the next election. As a loyal Liberal merger would be worse than Lucius Andronicus allying with the Goths for me.
    • Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has been terrible. Canada has fallen behind on the world stage, failed to engage China and India for four years, has done basically nothing to combat global warming and the government would rather build a fake lake than a high-speed train. It is perfectly understandable to be impatient but selling out all of a party’s values just to win power would make the Liberals the same as the CPC/NDP.
    • If you look at the polls going back months and months you will notice that the Liberal Party would gain seats if an election was held today and the Conservatives would go down.
    • Ask Stephen Harper how well merging the right-wing parties went. He has yet to win a majority, the consensus is that if he loses another election he probably wont remain party leader and he has sold out every single “conservative” value his party had (more Senate appointments than any other PM, huge deficits, complete lack of accountability/transparency, attacking the government of British Colombia over the province’s right to administer health-care, etc.) Any merger/pre-election coalition would result in the Liberal Party losing what makes it great in the name of “compromise.”
    • Warren Kinsella has argued that there is an advantage to formulating a deal before the election as that would take away Harper’s ability to recycle the lie that “coalition = coup.” This is actually a solid point. The Liberals need to reframe the coalition issue from now to election day as “Stephen Harper doesn’t want parliament to work. His ministers make the HOC committee meetings into a joke, he prorogues when the opposition is doing its job and he doesn’t ask for help from the other parties.”
    • The Green Party is who the Liberal Party should be looking at. Not for a deal of any sort but to poach their voters. The Liberal Party should work hard on the environmental/pro-small business part of their platform as that is where the centrist voters are.