Friday, July 30, 2004

We Stand on Guard for Thee

Watching the Democratic Convention this week, I am left with one observation:

John Kerry fought in Vietnam!

No, really. He did. I know it wasn't obvious to most viewers, but the guy's a war hero. Sure, the Dems were modest about it and rarely brought it up but if you listened closely, you could hear them hinting at it every now and then.

Now, I'm not sure how well sarcasm plays on the net so I'll just come out and bluntly say that they sure did stress his war background a lot. And I don't see why it should matter. Clinton is probably the best post WW2 President and he didn't fight overseas. If you're a Republican, you might give that title to Reagan and his fighting was all fictitious. So was Dubya's, but for different reasons. But who cares? Well, American voters seem to. If you look back, the majority of their Presidents have military experience. Kerry got nominated because of his military history (it certainly wasn't because of his charisma, speaking ability or clear ideas) and General Wesley Clark looked like he might win for a while despite his lack of political experience.

Now, let's look at Canada. I read a Pearson bio recently that mentioned he was the first Canadian Prime Minister to have fought in the army overseas. And since I'm fairly sure Trudeau, Clark, Turner, Mulroney, Campbell, Chretien and Martin haven't worn many military uniforms in their lifetime, that leaves Mike Pearson as the only soldier PM. Out of 21. And that guy was famous for peace keeping.

I guess it shows you the different mentality our country has on war. It likely also explains why the military is never a huge priority.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Reality TV

There's a lot of hype building over the Health Summit in September and I tend to think that's a bad thing for those of us who want to see a Health Deal reached.

First of all, while it might have been smart to do during the election, running around saying that he was going to "fix health care for a generation" and "shorten waiting lists come hell or high water" may not have been the wisest move for Paul to make. Since, you know, if he doesn't fix health care for a generation, he's going to look like a complete tool. And since all that will likely come out of this summit is a few extra billion for health care and nothing more dramatic than Chretien's Health Accord of last summer, I fail to see how the Incredible Martin and his side-kick Ujjal the Health Crusader will cure health care for a generation.

That's mistake number 1. Mistake number 2 is waiting so long for this Health conference. Yes, I know Ujjal the Health Crusader needs time to get his cool privatization fighting weapons ready but he's just giving his enemies, the League of Evil Premiers, time to join forces. As we speak, Dalton the Fork tongued, the Incredible Martin's sometime foe, sometime friend, depending on the situation, is traveling the country banding the League of Evil Premiers together. Sure, Trudeau broke up the gang of 8 but Paul Martin ain't no Trudeau and this ain't the constitution. With the League United, it's going to be very hard for the Incredible Martin to crush them and get what he wants.

Mistake number 3 was letting cameras into the bedroom. By doing so, Martin has turned the conference into some sort of low-budget CBC reality show. Hell, why not have Canadians vote out a Premier after each day? The problem with the cameras is that the entire purpose of the conference becomes appearing like you are on the side of health-care, not actually fixing it. It becomes more about showmanship than ideas. Everyone will try to make sure it looks like someone else's fault that no deal could be reached and because of that, failure will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In negotiations, you need to be blunt and say things you'd never ever want the public to hear you say. Sure, there will still be behind the scenes negotiations but if that's where the deal is reached, why bother with the cameras in the first place.

So there you have it. Three mistakes. Oh well, like most Reality TV shows, people enjoy watching a good disaster. That's likely what they'll get.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Girl Power

Warren is all over the women in Cabinet issue. I don't find it that surprising given Martin failed to get the record number of female candidates he promised, appointed men ahead of women in some ridings, has an advisory team made almost entirely of white, English, males, and whacked Sheila Copps. 

However, with all the emphasis on having candidates from different regions represented, you think he'd try a little bit to get female representation in Cabinet. But 9 out of 39 spots in 23.1%. There were 33 female Liberal MPs elected in a caucus of 135 members - or 24.4%. So forget the population as a whole, women are under-represented in the Cabinet from the caucus. Stephan Harper meanwhile was in a worse position with only 12 female MPs elected. Yet his shadow Cabinet features...are you ready...9 women! The same number as Paul who had nearly 3 times the talent pool to choose from (and Harper wisely left Cherryl Galant off the list). It's still not great and it's shocking that the Conservatives only elected 12 female MPs but at least Harper is making an effort to help the cause of the ones who did get in.

And then there's the quality over quantity argument. Anne McLellan is a big shot. Liza Frulla got Heritage. Can you name a single other female who got a real Cabinet position? Well, Albina got the ever-thrilling Veterans Affairs, Robillard was demoted to Intergovernmental and Karen Redman is the whip (which means the only way she'll make a name for herself is if she counts wrong and the government falls). The rest got a few token Secretary of State portfolios. Even though Chretien was rightly criticized for not promoting women, the Anne McLellan/Sheila Copps/Jane Stewart trifecta all had power positions in government (with others like Robillard in high profile posts too) . Now? Well, let's just be thankful Landslide Annie squeaked out a win or else things would really be ugly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Pancakes with the PM
Paul Martin was in town on Saturday at the Calgary Stampede to flip some pancakes for the media. Given the enjoyable irony of holding a Liberal breakfast smack in the middle of the biggest "cowboy" event of the year, I figured it would be worth getting up a bit early and showing up (besides, free breakfast and free admission to the Stampede was too much to pass up).
I showed up at 8:30 and there was a monster lineup. I think this was somewhat intentional for the media since they were letting people in a lot more slowly than they needed to. I also found out later that they gave away 1700 tickets and then sold an additional 300 - for a room with capacity 1500. Since they sold some tickets, they couldn't really turn people away at the door which led to a very crowded tent and far too few pancakes and sausages for the late comers. While in line outside, I did see David Herle wandering around with a bit of a dazed look on his face (I was tempted to shout out "What are you looking for David? The 40 seats you lost? You sure aren't going to find them in Calgary!").
Inside, McLellan gave the opening remarks (the emcee introduced her as "Minister of Finance Anne McLellan...oops not until Tuesday, har har". I guess he was a little off the mark, eh?). I didn't really listen too closely since I was trying to find a seat and get as many pancakes as I could before they ran out.
Then, Paul spoke. As usual, he was mad as hell - this time about BSE. This drew the largest applause from the crowd. He didn't mention the past election at all which was likely a smart thing. Apart from that, there was a lot of sucking up to Mayor Dave Bronconnier (who wisely turned down an offer to run for the Liberals) and to, surprisingly, Ralph Klein.
Seriously, it was as if Paul had joined the "I love Ralph" fan club. He congratulated him on erasing the debt and on doing a great job as Premier. Now, I know Paul owes a lot to Ralph for practically winning him election but it still seemed weird. I mean, a Liberal Prime Minister speaking gushingly about the dean of Conservatism in Alberta. And with a provincial election around the corner too. Weird.
The rest of the speech was the usual stuff about Canadian values, health care, yada yada. The crowd was very friendly and afterwards Paul went off to meet with the defeated candidates before watching some of the Stampede with Darryl Sutter. The media reaction was fairly favourable and it was nice to see the PM making an effort of help out the local Liberal cause even if it's a cause lost beyond hope.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Femme Fatale

One of Warren's readers astutely points out we're down 2 women in Cabinet. Throw in the fact that Robillard was demoted from Industry to Intergovernmental and we're left with Anne McLellan and Liza Frulla as the only females with meaty portfolios. And that's calling Heritage a meaty portfolio which is being generous (although it seems like an unwritten rule that the Minister of Heritage being female is being followed. Sort of like how the Justice Minister must be from Quebec).

Remember this winter when Paul said he wanted a record number of female Liberal candidates? Well, they failled to match Chretien's record in that departement. Now, once again, women are being overlooked. It's not like there weren't any choice - Rubby Dhalla and Marlene Jennings were rumoured to be Cabinet bound. And then there was this chick from Hamilton who was run out of town by Martin and his new House Leader; I think she would have made a fine Cabinet Minister.

I'll be interested to see if Carolyn Bennett, who criticized Jean Chretien for not including more women in one of his Cabinet shuffles, opens her mouth now that it's Paul who dealt the deck. And now that she finds herself in Cabinet. I'm guessing she won't speak up this time.

The West Wants In?
I think John Ibbitson hit on it best this morning - The West and Martin's friends get rewarded while Ontario is taken for granted. Deputy PM, Industry, Finance, Public Safety, and the Treasury Board all come from the West. Wow. This is without a doubt the largest Western representation in a Liberal Cabinet in this country's history.
Another thing which stands out is how experience didn't seem to matter much in the shaping of this Cabinet. David Anderson, who's been around forever and ever is gone, while David Emerson gets tossed into Industry his first month on the job. The turncoats also made out very well. We have an NDP Minister of Health, a Conservative Minister of Public Works and a Bloc Minister of Transport. All the while, long-time Liberals like Don Boudria were once again ignored despite the incredibly large asset he could have been as House Leader in this government.
Here are a few thoughts on the Cabinet:

Stephane Dion is back! One the brightest guys in Ottawa gets a richly deserved Cabinet portfolio. It'll be nice to see him try his hand at something other than Intergovernmental Affairs too although it's interesting to see such a strong Academic wind up in Environment. With Martin all but giving up on Kyoto, this will be an interesting one to watch.
Goodale stays in Finance. Smart move. Keep the stability at the top and give him a bit of time to find his stride in the position.
If Brison had to be let into Cabinet, they likely picked the best spot for him. After all, what's the best way to avoid the appearance of Liberal friendly firms getting benefits from Public Works? Answer: Put a Conservative in the position. Glad to see Dryden get Social Development. And it's good to see McCallum back in an Economic Portfolio after he inexplicably found himself in Veterans Affairs last December.
Tony Valeri as house leader? This one makes no sense to me.
Reg Alcock keeps his position? I know the guy was one of the very few Ministers who did something during the 6 month build-up to the election but, well, what he did wasn't exactly good. Alienating the civil service, mixing up figures on Adscam and threatening opposition members in the house? And Paul sees this and says "good work Reg!". Whatever.
I'm surprised Emerson got Industry right away. I know Paul has a soft spot for businessmen turned politicians but I would have thought they'd try to ease him along. And remember, just as you don't need to be a doctor to be Health Minister, you don't need a business background to run Industry.
Jean Lapierre as Minister of Transport? Oh boy. Hey, I'm not a big Lapierre fan by any means but giving him a big Cabinet portfolio and keeping him as Quebec lieutenant is going to spawn a few hundred quality posts by Paul Wells over the next year in his blog.

 All in all, not a bad Cabinet. I'm still undecided on the whole Graham/Pettigrew shuffle - I like Bill Graham in Defense but I really can't name one good thing Pettigrew has done in any of the 70 portfolios he's held in Cabinet.

UPDATE: Oh, and can someone explain to me why Ujal is such a "star candidate"? I mean, if Ernie Eves decided to run would he be welcomed with such wide arms?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Ancient Ruins

Is anyone else just a wee bit concerned about the summer Olympics. I mean, they just had a major blackout, drug rumours are swirling around athletes from all countries, we know the heat will be unforgiving, there are terrorist threats, and there's that little concern about the fact that they haven't really, you know, built the buildings yet.

And now, most bizarre of all, comes this news story, courtesy of Pierre Bourque.

It sort of reminds me of February through May this year - watching Martin whistling along knowing that the election would be a complete disaster. Maybe Greece will salvage it just like Paul did...but I have my doubts.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Sounds Like an Election Call to Me

So Alberta is now debt free. And yet, Albertans still feel the need to whine that they're left out and Ontario is screwing them over. Weird.

The Alberta government has been given a huge jackpot. Because a few really old guys, over 130 years ago, decided that natural resources were a provincial matter rather than a federal one, we now have a golden opportunity. Klein can either build up a Heritage fund, slash taxes and encourage business. Or he can create a dream province. He can create a health care system which works, make sure Alberta has the best schools in the world (both undergrad and post-secondary), and make sure that the underpriviledged are taken care of and given a chance to succeed. In short, he can make Alberta an incredible province to live in.

But gee, which do you think he'll choose? The fact that he sees the need to introduce health care premiums at the same time that he announces the province is debt free is beyond ridiculous.

Monday, July 12, 2004


This blog was named one of the Top Blogs at BlogsCanada for June. Must be those damn Ontario voters!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

A Look in the Cabinet

It will be interesting to see how Martin handles the cabinet. Here are a few haphazard thoughts on the Cabinet.

1. Give Stephane Dion a spot in Cabinet. The guy has gone to the wall for Martin, despite their obvious differences and it would be foolhardy to ignore him. If Paul wants to keep playing to the soft separatists (since that worked so well this time), then fine - stick Dion in an economic portfolio. Have him take over for Stan Keyes in Revenue.

2. Make Don Boudria House Leader. Bring him and Dion back and the Chretien guys will feel a lot better (shelving Herle and friends would help too but that's not going to happen). The guy gets along great with the opposition House Leaders and has tons of experience. You need someone like this in what will be a very sticky minority government to manage.

3. Ken Dryden would make an outstanding Minister of Heritage in my opinion. Although, in all likelihood, Liza Frulla will get it.

4. If you MUST put Jean Lapierre in Cabinet for whatever reason, only give him a junior portfolio. Pick a spot where he can do the least damage.

5. Have Emerson take over for Pagtakhan in Western economic diversification. Yeah, it's a boring Junior Post, but the guy needs to get his feet wet before moving on to something bigger. Might get combined with a few other minor positions.

6. I guess Dosanj will end up somewhere. My preference would be to shelve Judy Sgro (knock her down to a PS) and give Dosanj immigration. Or maybe he gets something like Social Justice. A lot of possibilities.

7. Minister of Defense will be a tough role to fill. Scott Brison is a candidate and some people are throwing Anne McLellan's name around, although this would mean finding someone else to take over for Homeland Security (or whatever they're calling it). Honestly, McCallum's had to suffer enough from being forced to heckle Harper that he might deserve to get it back as a reward. The likely winner in all this will be Albina Guinari.

8. My guess is Ruby Dhalla will wind up in Cabinet, since she has the benefit of being female, a visible minority and a Martinite. Anita Neville's a possibility too since they're short a Manitoba Minister. Marlene Jennings is another candidate given her prominence on the Adscam committe.

9. There was some speculation that Lucienne Robillard was just a filler in Industry but I'd keep her there. With Scherrer down, it'd be shame to demote another female Quebec Minister. Groom Emerson or Brison in another junior post for the time being and keep her here for another year or two.

Monday, July 05, 2004

This Week in BLOGS

One week later, it's interesting to see what sort of spin everyone else is puting on the election results.

Freethought: Picks the winners and losers and starts up the first government collapse pool.

Warren Kinsella: After a bit of I told you so, Warren reminds everyone that negative adds work. But anyone who's read Kicking Ass, already knew that, right?

Paul Wells: Some great observations on how Martin should exactly be giddy with excitement over the result.

All Things Canadian
: As always, Don takes the opportunity to trash David Herle.

Andrew Spicer: Talks about the importance of Jack Layton winning his seat and breaking up the Liberal hegemony in Toronto. Also, like myself, is upset Valeri squeaked it out.

James Bow: Reveals the results of the James Bow Election pool. Man, I suck.

Just in from Cowtown: Tells each party why they should be happy with the result.

Living in Society: Matthew gives out the perspective from Belinda's riding.

On the Fence: Scroll down to the 29th and there's some great stuff about the stupid, stupid NDP "strategic" voting which went on.

Peace, Order and Good Government: Not election related, but has some good stuff on DND and Arar.

Revolutionary Moderation: I'm still waiting for the results from this election's most interesting contest but there's some good venting on the NDP results.

Sean Incognito: Sean has a whole wack of comments on the election here. Definitely worth checking out.

The Middleman: In the best line of the post-election coverage, the Middleman Had Sex with a gorgeous hooker.

Vancouver Scrum: Has a great breakdown of what happened in key BC ridings.

Vote out Anders
: Finally, one last link to the gang at Vote out Anders. I noticed the entire Calgary West riding full of their Vote out Anders signs. The riding had the highest turn-out in the city and the Liberal candidate got more votes than any other Liberal candidate in Calgary. Give these guys credit on raising awareness of a terrible MP and for running a spirited campaign.

Browsing through the blogs, there's not a huge concensus out there. I guess when you get "meh" results, it's hard to get a huge concensus. I imagine if Harper had won, the net would be buzzing. As it is, NDP voters seem pretty pissed but everyone else is looking at little points and generally in agreement that no one (save Ducceppe) can really be seen as having "won" or "lost".

My guess is the next election throws us for a majority one way or the other. Should be interesting.

Friday, July 02, 2004

On the Healthcare Wagon

Ralph's health care reforms are definitely a lot less scary than anticipated. In effect, it amounts to health premiums and user fees. And a cut in funding.

And this makes them all the more bewildering.

While I'm adamently against private health care, at least the argument can be made that it's something new and might maybe possibly kinda make the system work a little better. Maybe. But these reforms? It's just new taxes.

And it's one thing to add new taxes when you're in an economic mess like Ontario finds itself in right now. It's another when it comes the day after Pat Nelson announced the province has gotten a 3 billion dollar windfall due to higher oil prices than expected. So, for those keeping track, the surplus will be over 7 billion dollars next year. Gosh, is it really so important to control health care spending when you've got a 7 billion dollar surplus (for a province of 3 million)?

Don't get me wrong. Ralph will never lose an election. But I think he's going to get a bit of a wake up call this fall. Both the Liberals and NDP have very capable leaders and Ralph has really been looking bad over the past few months. Look for a strongly reduced majority.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Predictions Revisited

I'm just going for forget my disastrous June 27th predictions and focus on the pre-writ campaign. Since, I think a lot of people in the Conservative camp are losing focus here. I wrote a hockey and politics post a while back and concluded that, as go the Calgary Flames, so would go Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Like the Flames, no one gave the Tories a chance of being in the show even 6 months ago. At the start of the playoffs (or the campaign), few thought they'd win the whole thing - maybe a round or two. But when the Flames blew a 3-2 lead the fans were still upset because they'd come so close to something they hadn't tasted in a long time. It's the same thing. At the start of the campaign, this would have been considered a strong showing. Back when the merger was announced, this would have been unbelievable. Remember the talk about getting Belinda as leader since this election was a lost cause? She could then get experience for 2008. Well, the Tories had a great result, but since they came so close, it still hurts. Sort of like blowing a 3-2 series lead, eh?

Anyways, here are my pre-election predictions:

Lib 123
Con 100
NDP 30
BQ 55

Pretty much bang on, except for the strategic NDP voting (in fact, these are almost a mirror of my little strategic voting experiment below)

I did regional breakdowns as follows:


Lib: 18
Con: 9
NDP: 5

I seriously underestimated the effects of "culture of defeat" here. I wish there were some more Atlantic Canada bloggers out there (anyone know of any?) because I'd like someone from the region to explain to me why these comments stick. Martin and McKenna have said similar things yet Harper is still vilified for some reason.

Lib: 20
BQ: 55

Pretty much bang on here. Quebeckers always rally to the Liberals when they hit the voting booth.

Lib: 68
Con: 30
NDP: 8

Once again, these are fairly close to the final results. Like Paul Wells said, the Ontario results are a near carbon copy of the provincial election. This in itself is surprising since the McGuinty ran a much smoother campaign than Eves and is a much better politician (but then, I like McGuinty. I'm sure some would disagree). On the other side, the Liberals had scandal and a weak campaign. And yet, they still matched the provincial results.

Lib: 8
Con: 12
NDP: 8

OK. I did really bad here. I think the strategic voting played a big role in the Conservative romp here, but I think I just plainly called it wrong. I should have seen the Prairies staying Tory.

Lib: 1
Con: 27

Pretty obvious. Although I have it on good authority that the top Martin organizer in Southern Alberta was predicting 9 Liberal seats in Alberta at the leadership convention. And Dave Brody apparently thought 5 seats for the Liberals was still feasible at the start of the campaign.

Lib: 6
Con: 22
NDP: 8

Toss one Lib for Cadman and these are bang on. A lot of people think the Tories did poorly in BC but at the start of the campaign, Martin was expecting big things. Remember the "my time as Prime Minister will be a failure if I don't win BC" speeches?

So, what's the point of this? Not much really. I just wanted to bring back some predictions I did fairly well on after seeing myself near the bottom of James Bow's Election pool. And, you know, after calling the election two weeks ago.

I think it's also worth putting things into perspective. This wasn't the terrible loss for the Tories everyone is making it out to be. For their sake, they should hope Harper stays on.