Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Summer Reading

The Blogging Tories have a reading room up on their site (featuring...yes...Adam Smith).

Since I don't intend to read a ton of Milton Friedman anytime soon (unless the government makes me), I felt it might be a good idea to toss up a Liberal reading room. These are all books I've read over the past few years and enjoyed quite a bit. Feel free to recommend any others since I could use a little summer reading.


Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics by Warren Kinsella

From the Chapter's Review Page: "A complete waste of time. Kinsella is clinically insane." If you're Paul Martin or Stockwell Day, you might tend to agree with that review. Otherwise, you'll find it a fun read and you might even learn something about Canadian politics.

Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken

Absolutely brilliant! Franken turns the words of the American right against them...with hilarious consequences. The "Supply Side Jesus" cartoon is still one of the best pieces of political satire I've ever seen.

The Big Red Machine by Stephen Clarkson

Clarkson charts the Liberal Party's dominance from 1968 to 2004, through a series of election essays. Even Tories may like this one since Clarkson is often critical of the Liberal Party, and is downright vicious towards Turner and Martin.

Juggernaut by Susan Delacourt

This one makes for a more enjoyable read in 2006 than it did in 2003, because you can look back and try and find the signs and hints for all that went wrong during the Martin months in power.


The Antagonist by Lawrence Martin

One of the best political biographies I've ever read. Martin delves into every facet of Bouchard's life and comes out painting him as a mentally unstable individual with delusions of grandeur.

Straight from the Heart by Jean Chretien

A not too surprisingly folksy book which gives a lot of insight into what makes Jean Chretien tick. People often forget everything Chretien did before becoming PM and, truth be told, it's probably more interesting than what he did as Prime Minister.

Chretien: The Will to Win by Lawrence Martin

Martin also penned "The Iron Man" as a sequel and both are good reads although, as a Chretien fan, I'm partial to the first of the two.

My Life by Bill Clinton

If you have a few hundred hours to kill, the book makes for a fascinating read and you can learn a lot about American politics in the 80s and 90s. I'd recommend skipping the first 300 pages unless you're really curious about what lessons Bill Clinton learned in Grade 9 band camp.

Pierre by Nancy Southam

There are a million books about Trudeau the politician you can read and, truth be told, none of them have ever stood out to me above the rest. The reason I include this one on my list is that it looks into the personal side of Trudeau's life and has anecdotes provided by a wide range of people from Jimmy Carter to Barbara Streisand.


Fights of our Lives by John Duffy

Far be it from me to speak glowingly of any members of the Board, but John Duffy does a good job charting key elections in Canadian history. The pictures and battle plans he includes add a lot to the book.

Bastards & Boneheads by Will Ferguson

Trudeau was a bastard. Clark was a bonehead. I'd say the jury is still out on Harper, but he's looking more like a "bastard" so far. This book is just funny and a good way to read up on Canadian history for those who aren't big on academic reads.

Egotists and Autocrats by George Bowering

Another piece of non-fiction which makes for an enjoyable read. Bowering's prelude to the Mulroney chapter where he tells the story of wanting to replace the entire chapter with "the less said about this, the better", is hilarious and he does a good job mixing in poems, jokes, and anecdotes. Bonus marks for giving equal ink to the Mackenzies, Tuppers and Bowels (that one came out kind of wrong...d'oh) of the world.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Afghanistan - 2

I posted a while back on why I felt it was foolish to read too much into what was, for all intents and purposes, a meaningless vote on Afghanistan. However, it's becoming more and more apparent that this is a very politically charged issue that will play a major role in both the Liberal leadership race and the next federal election. This has been the first topic nearly every Liberal I've talked to this week has brought up and most people have very strong opinions on it.

And since we're now locked in until 2009, it's certain to be a major election issue in the next campaign. So I'm going to do what every politician does, but always self-righteously tell others not to do, and "play politics" with this issue.

From a purely strategic point of view, I think it would have made a lot more sense for the Liberal Party to come out strongly against to the extension of the mission. We've fulfilled our original commitment which was only agreed to on the understanding that we could open up our troops for deployment elsewhere. There's a very good chance that troops will be needed in the Sudan within the next three years and it's obvious that we won't be able to help there with ground forces because of the Afghanistan mission. The majority of Canadians oppose the extension of the mission and you can't beat a government in power by taking the exact same position as them (unless, you know, their party is under RCMP investigation and the subject of several corruption inquiries...). 70% of Quebecers oppose the extension and it's my opinion that Quebecers will be more likely to vote for a party which shares their values and policy opinions than one led by the leader with the most perfect French.

With that in mind, I think Michael Ignatieff (and Scott Brison, to a lesser extent) are going to be hurt by this issue if it becomes the defining issue of the leadership campaign (a la Meech 1990).

That's not to say that Michael Ignatieff was wrong to vote in favour of the mission. Voting "no" would have gone against everything he's ever believed in on foreign affairs. But by voting yes, he'll be tying himself up in the John Kerry knot if he takes a different position in the next campaign. With Ignatieff at the helm, the Liberal party would effectively be taking the issue off the table during the next campaign.

And this brings me to the one thing about the whole Ignatieff candidacy which really perplexes me. Given his background, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Iggy's policy expertise is in foreign affairs. That's what he's studied his entire life and that's what he feels most passionately about. Yet on foreign affairs, very few Liberals agree with him. He was for the Iraq war, he was for missile defense, and he's now for the Afghanistan mission extension. During the last election campaign, he wrote the following:
Ignatieff said that Republican foreign policy, focusing on promoting democracy, is better suited to the situation in the Middle East than what he termed the cautious, pragmatic neo-isolationism offered by the Democrats. "The times require real vision in the Middle East," he said.

I know very few Liberals who'd agree with this (but, then again, there aren't a lot of Liberals in Calgary for me to agree with). Given his lack of experience on domestic issues, I have a hard time understanding the paradox of how a "vision and policy" campaign which focuses on foreign affairs can be so successful when hardly any Liberals agree with the candidate himself on foreign policy.

I'm not trying to throw mud here because if there's anything which is fair game to criticize other candidates on, it's their policy positions. I'm just generally perplexed on this one.

Monday Leadership News

Let's start off with the race on everyone's mind - the Green Party! Centrerion has scored interviews with David Chernushenko (slogan: easier name to spell than Bevilacqua) and Elizabeth May. And he's open to suggestions on what questions you'd like to see the two contenders asked. So if you have any burning Green Party of Canada issues you'd like to see raised, head on over to the site and suggest them. Personally, I'd like to ask the candidates if they're open to changing the colour of their signs to orange so that passers by can see them better.

On the same vein, I had a chance to interview Carolyn Bennett last week and will post that in the coming days. It also sounds like I will get the opportunity to sit down with another candidate later this month so if anyone has any questions they'd like to see me ask them, be they serious or not, I'm open to suggestions.

In Liberal leadership news, Gerard Kennedy had a big event in BC over the weekend, announcing Raymond Chan as his BC co-chair.

The Globe is also buzzing about endorsements this week, highlighting the teams which have lined up behind Kennedy and Ignatieff.

I don't think it breaks any rules so I didn't mention the Volpe business over the weekend. Still, it's good to see that Joe Volpe inspires youth to such a large degree that they are willing to donate over 5 grand to his campaign - each.

And, finally, this isn't leadership related, but someone needs to remind Ricky Williams that Harper has killed the pot decrim laws...

UPDATE: I've added a "Related" link to the permalink section which will take you to similar topics of posts on Canconv. If you find this really annoying or think this is a brilliant addition to the site, let me know via e-mail or in the comments section.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Saturday Snippets

Gerard Kennedy was in the news talking about immigration this week. There's also got a new front page up on his website with Gerard in an Oilers jersey (this might make the Calgary campaign a bit more challenging...).

TDH Strategies has an interview with Michael Ignatieff up. What TDH Strategies does not have are permalinks so you might need to scroll down a bit to catch it.

A BCer in Toronto is actually a BCer in Seattle this week and he has a review of Seattle urinals. I mention this only because if I ever close this blog up, I always thought it would be interesting to do a website with reviews of public washrooms. I'm telling you, it's a million dollar idea.

I've already blogged about this before, but I'm all for fixed election dates. And even though we obviously won't make it to 2009 with this Parliament, it'll make it harder for Harper to pull the plug himself so I give him full marks for bringing in this sort of legislation.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Ralph Klein has announced Alberta will opt out of equalization if Alberta's oil revenue is included in the formula.

My source in Klein's office has also let me know that Ralph Klein intends to opt out of the following as well:

-The off-shore accord
-Canada's mission to Afghanistan
-The Ontario teachers pension plan
-The Treaty of Versailles
-The United Federation of Planets

UPDATE: Check out BBG for everything you wanted to know about equalization but were too afraid to ask. I must admit, I agree with his analysis.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fair and Balanced

Diefenbaker's ghost lives on.

For what it's worth, reporters actually laughed at Paul Martin a year ago when he was introducing Belinda Stronach to the media. They'll eat anyone alive, regardless of political stripe.

Mid-Week Musings

-There's an interesting post on Policy Watch about the Conservatives breaking copyright laws on the government of Canada website. Well..."interesting" if you find discussion on copyright infringement laws interesting.

-Is there anyone who knows of any articles on how demographics (ie. Census data) are related to voting patterns in Canada? Send me an e-mail if you know of any out there. Thanks.

-Political Staples links up to the Tom Flanagan article in Saturday's Globe on rebuilding the Mulroney coalition. Is it just me or does anyone else think the break-up and coming together of Canada's right wing would make for a fascinating book? Maybe even a CBC mini-series (let's hear everyone's suggestions for actors to play Stockwell Day, Stephen Harper, and Joe Clark right now!).

-I was happy when I reached number 2 for google "David Herle" searches. But nothing can match the pride and certain traffic which will come from reaching number 1 in this search.

-An 11 candidate debate? Good grief. I think we'd probably learn more watching the 11 duel it out in a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. The one bright spot in the debates should be the random one-on-one matchups. Some people say they'll lead to odd pairings but I for one think it would be kind of fun to watch Stephane Dion match wits with Hedy Fry.

-The Nova Scotian election is on, featuring Darrell Dexter against Rodney MacDonald .

I wish I had some insightful comments to make about this race but I just can't get past the names: Rodney MacDonald versus Darrell Dexter.

-Garth Turner is holding an on-line town hall on June 1st. Cool.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Go West Young Man

The main leadership news from over the weekend is that Gerard Kennedy is musing about running in Western Canada next election. I for one think this is a gutsy move on Kennedy's part and good news for the Liberal Party. Yes, he has what should be an easily winnable seat in Parkdale ready for him, but the Liberal Party needs to reach out to Western Canada and this would be a small step in the right direction. The mind frame among many Liberals that this party should write off the 125 ridings outside of Ontario and Quebec is self-destructive and I think there are as many seats to be picked up in the West as in Quebec.

Now, speculation will obviously turn to what riding Gerard should run in. BC makes the most electoral sense but I think Manitoba or Alberta would be better choices due to Gerard's roots in those provinces. Running in Vancouver (say, in Emerson's riding) might lead to more "parachute candidate" complaints and comparisons to John Turner.

Here's a look at some possible ridings:

Winnipeg South: While there are, quite literally, big shoes to fill in this riding, Rod Bruinooge's 110 vote win certainly makes this riding a good bet to return to the Liberals in the future.

Winnipeg South Centre: Anita Neville is 63 so I wouldn't consider her a sure bet to run again.

Charleswood-St.James-yada yada: Glen Murray had a tough time here in 2004 so another parachute star candidate might not be the wisest move.

Edmonton Centre: This one would obviously be contingent on Anne McLellan not running. The riding has shown a willingness to elect a Liberal heavy hitter time and time again. On the downside, Anne was beloved in the riding and still lost last election.

Edmonton Strathcona: The Liberals only got 18% in Strathcona last election, but Jaffer never wins it with more than 41 or 42% of the vote. This University riding has always had the potential to go Liberal or NDP if either party ran a strong candidate and Kennedy is certainly an individual who could appeal to NDP voters. But like Edmonton Centre, this one would be very difficult to win unless Kennedy was the party leader.

Crowfoot: This riding is ripe for the taking! A mere 800% increase in the Liberal vote and we'd be competitive here!

I Feel Pretty! Oh so Pretty!

This story in yesterday's Globe & Mail on men who paint their toe nails is just...weird.

The 25-year-old self-professed "hard-core heterosexual" says wearing foundation "seems to go a long way. You get a lot of compliments."

Then there's Roz Weston, a 31-year-old reporter with Global Television.
"I find it relaxing. I sit on the deck with a cocktail listening to AC/DC and paint my toes bright red. Celebrity Bash is my favourite," he says.

Maybe it's just a Toronto thing, because I'm fairly sure that a "male makeup store" in Calgary would be one of the worst business ideas ever.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

One on One with Ken Dryden

I got a chance to sit down with Ken Dryden for an interview when he was in town earlier this month. After being kidded by Michael Ignatieff for my lack of a technology, I came armed with my brand new mini tape recorder. So, in his own words, here is what Ken Dryden had to say about everything from Reggie Leach to the state of the Liberal Party:

For the sake of my Calgary readers, I feel I must ask you this: what the hell went wrong with the Flames this year?

I get so little chance to see games, I don’t know. When you have a goalie like Kiprusoff, you know you’re going to be in it – you know you’re not going to be more than a goal behind. I didn’t follow it closely, and I gather they had trouble scoring this year. I see the highlights but the highlights only tell you so much – you can’t see the pattern of the game, you can’t see what’s going right and what’s going wrong.

On that same theme, you’re seen as “the hockey candidate” to many. And you’ve played this up yourself with hockey cards at the LPC(O) convention and by going on HNiC the night you declared. Is there a fear that Ken Dryden the all-star goalie will overshadow Ken Dryden the politician in this race?

The odd part is that when I was playing hockey, I was a person who wasn’t just a hockey player. There were lots of goalies but there weren’t many goalies who went to law school and worked for Ralph Nader, so people understood me in hockey as somebody “outside of hockey”. When you play in the NHL for as long as I did, people get to know you and they don’t stop knowing you because you stop playing hockey. People will always connect with what they know best. I wouldn’t say people know me as a hockey player but rather they know me through being a hockey player and that’s a different thing.

They see you let in a goal from centre ice, they see you in a terrific moment, they see how you handle things - they get to know you seeing you do something. They expect you as a politician to be the person they came to know 30 years ago.

You’ve developed a reputation for being a bit wordy. So, to practice, I’d like to hear the quick sound byte answer to the following question: Why did the Liberal Party lose the last election?

Because when you’re a government that long and you get battered day after day, you start to lose confidence in yourself and you start to not be so certain of what you believe in. You’re not sure of the things that made you so proud and how you got there.

After the election you observed that it’s “only when you lose that you start to learn.” What can the LPC learn from the last election?

The first part is that you win an election, you don’t get the other guy to lose it. We have to earn our way back, find the coherent story that is us and offer it to the public. The public is waiting for it, they were waiting for it the last election and they waited until time ran out. It’s up to us to come back and present it to them.

When a hockey team’s season ends, they must decide if they’re going to tinker with the roster or do a massive rebuilding. What kind of shape is the LPC in? Is it just a matter of picking a new face and refining policy, or does the party need a dramatic philosophical shift?

I think it’s between your extremes. A massive rebuilding never really happens; you’re always taking what you’ve got. A lot of what’s there is strong - we’re a party that’s always been really successful. The question is what are the other things that aren’t.

Part of it is that this party needs to broaden itself. In terms of ideas, it has the broadest base of support across the country, but it has the narrowest funding and the narrowest power base. That’s something that needs to move along with everything else that happens. You have leadership which is the big exposure before the next election but these other things need to happen and they don’t stop on December the 3rd. They’re ongoing.

The other thing is the policy process because that’s where any party’s energy comes from. It’s what you believe in common, why it matters to you and why you feel strongly about it. That’s the on-going process. If you start to run short there, the whole energy of the party passes on down.

You’ve talked about “Big Canada”. Obviously child care is a part of that but what other national programs fit into the “Big Canada” theme?

The central part is the understanding of ourselves. Businesses talk about having the right culture and teams talk about having the right tradition. But what’s the right story for this country? It starts that we’re in an immensely successful place and we didn’t get there for no reason. We have all the bases to be even more successful in the future. If you don’t understand that, you set your ceilings way too low.

Our biggest achievement is probably that we’re a live and let live country and there’s probably not one other in the world that is that way so much as we are. In a global world that’s the way you need to function if you’re going to be successful. We lived it out with the early French and English experiences. That’s why our multicultural society works. It’s an important base for us to take on our future.

The blogs have been talking a lot about some comments made by Bob Rae at the LPC(O) convention. Do you see anything wrong with Bob Rae comparing the softwood agreement to the Munich Pact?

I was beside him when he said it and I’m not sure if that was the exact nature of his comments. He did talk about Chamberlain and how the appearance at one moment may not be the reality later. I’m not so sure that he wasn’t just questioning the impact of the softwood deal. But I don’t know if he’d come to the final conclusion that this deal was as misguided as Munich.

When the CBC ran their “Greatest Canadian” series last year, Tommy Douglas came out on top. A pair of hockey people, Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry, cracked the top 10. Who do you think is the Greatest Canadian?

(huge pause) Obviously, it’s who’s had the biggest impact on how we live and if he or she hadn’t existed, that would be the biggest change. Hmm…let me come back to that one at the end.

Finally, who is the most difficult right winger you’ve face in hockey, and in politics?

The first one that comes to mind in hockey was Reggie Leach. He killed me, he just seemed to score at will. The worst part about it was that I knew exactly what he was going to do and he knew that I knew what he was going to do. But there was no way I’d cheat on him or move ahead of his shot because I was sure the next time I’d be quick enough to stop him, and I never was.

Now, in terms of politicians…I think it is Stephen Harper. The other voices are voices that moment to moment you have trouble with but Stephen Harper is the one who sets the tone and carries the day. The tone that he sets and the day that he carries, to me, is the converse of what we talked about before with a Big Canada. His understanding of the country is not mine at all. This is a place where we have benefited greatly from big national endeavors and there is a big future role for Canada in Canada, and I don’t think that’s how he sees the country.

Now…the greatest Canadian…

The key is, if Tommy Douglas hadn’t done what Tommy Douglas did, would there have been a Tommy Douglas who would have come pretty quickly thereafter? I think probably yes. The achievement may well be our greatest national achievement but I’m not sure that that makes him the greatest Canadian.

It’s funny because usually you get a question about who would you want to meet and I’m much more comfortable with that answer. I’d want to meet somebody of another time who lived an average life to find out what that average life in another time was like. Tell me about your day to day? When you wake up? What you imagine for your kids? What about your parents? How do you imagine your own future? What are those things that give you your biggest satisfaction and worry you the most? Because I’m not going to understand 1880 unless I understand you.

Somebody who lives the special life of any time is disconnected from life at that time. You only get the highlights - it’s just like getting the 11 o’clock sports highlights.

I am going to ask you this question: Who do you think it is?

CG: I voted for Trudeau because I’m a big fan. But I think you could make a strong case for Terry Fox on the inspirational side. And Banting obviously accomplished a lot for the world.

Actually, I hadn’t thought of Terry Fox. I think that was such an unbelievable achievement. I remember when he started we were living in Ottawa and when he stopped in Thunder Bay, we were living in England for a year. And it was a tiny little note in the International Herald Tribune that Terry Fox had stopped in Thunder Bay because of a recurrence of his cancer. A tiny little story.

I thought: that is unfair, that is just utterly unfair. Things happen to everybody but that’s not just. When you think of the Terry Fox stories that are told today, there’s nobody from 25 years ago who is referred to as often.

After the interview, we talked a lot about the campaign and he really turned the tables asking me a lot of questions. You really do get the sense that he is genuinely interested in listening to people and talking to them. It must drive his handlers who are trying to keep him on schedule insane.

As for his candidacy, in a perfect world, Ken Dryden is the sort of man who should be Prime Minister. I don’t think I know of any individual who has given as much thought to what it means to be Canadian, how Canada works, and where the country should be taken. Could he win an election? Could he handle the cynical partisan nature of politics if he did become party leader? Does he have the neccesary political experience? It’s hard to say. But the Liberal Party is certainly a lot richer by having him in the race and he would probably be one of Canada’s most intriguing party leaders in a long time if he did win.

Friday, May 19, 2006

We Are Family

I'm still a little undecided on the whole issue of Liberal Leadership candidates attacking each other. Apparently, so too are the candidates. It's interesting to see the two strategies being used:

Exhibit A
Volpe suggested that Ignatieff would give the U.S. government more influence in Canadian foreign policy than is warranted.

Exhibit B
From Carolyn Bennett's blog:

Congratulations to Minister Pupatello in Ontario for funding the Lifesaving Society's 'Swim to Survive' program for grade 3 students. [...] Well done... And thanks too to Gerard Kennedy who got the ball rolling last summer as the Minister.

With the debates approaching, I'll be curious to see which candidates come out swinging and which candidates continue to play nice.


I think I must be the only person who really doesn't care very strongly one way or the other about the Afghanistan vote the other night. Everyone I've talked to, in person and on-line, has been incredibly vocal:

"The Liberal Party is hopelessly divided!"
"Harper is a warmonger!"
"The Liberal Party is full of cowards!"
"Michael Ignatieff and Scott Brison lost the leadership race!"
"Michael Ignatieff and Scott Brison showed they should be co-Prime Ministers of Canada!" (Note: There's a sitcom I'd definitely watch)
"Liberals don't support our troops!"
"Harper is a Bush puppet! A shrub! A buppet!"
"I've lost complete respect for Harper/Ignatieff/Dion/Yasmin Ratansi!"
"Harper/Ignatieff/Dion/Yasmin Ratansi have no morals!"
"I can't believe Elliott got kicked off American Idol!"

Personally, I find the controversy around this vote about as exciting as the controversy around The DaVinci Code (It's fiction! FICTION!!!). Yes, I think we should be in Afghanistan and I think Jean Chretien made the right decision to send troops there. But, at the same time, I don't see the need to show our support for some nebulous undefined future commitment (I like Afghanistan, but I'm not ready to pop the question). I agree our troops might be better served in Darfur, but there isn't a mission to Darfur on the table right now.

The bottom line is this was a rushed vote where no one really knew what they were voting on. And it was a vote Harper said he would ignore.

It was brilliant politics on Harper's part - he makes the Liberals appear divided and sets up every Liberal leadership contender for the eventual "John Kerry quote". And it's hard to look bad when you're "supporting the troops". But personally, I just can't get worked up over what was, for all intents and purposes, a meaningless vote.

UPDATE: Jason Cherniak has a scoop on Stephane Dion's op-ed which we'll see in the Saturday papers. In it, he explains why he voted against the motion.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Guest Blogging - Carolyn Bennett

Liberal Leadership candidate Carolyn Bennett has offered to guest blog on this site and I thought I'd take her up on the offer since it's far too nice outside for me to actually think up and write a post myself. I gave her the topic of democratic reform and how technology is affecting the political process. If any of the other 11 candidates want to tackle either of those topics or something similar, I'll gladly toss their posts up here too. And now, over to you Carolyn:

Prescription for the Democratic Deficit

I remember once in a national caucus meeting complaining how unacceptable it was that for many, their first experience with partisan politics was to sign a box saying that they had paid for their membership themselves - when they hadn't! I remember then saying that when we go and teach democracy in the third world, we don't teach this!

We have to practice what we preach. We have to regain the confidence of Canadians in our democratic institutions - our party, our parliament, and our electoral system.

I was at the breakfast at the National Press Club this a.m. with Rick Anderson and his Fireweed Democracy Project, Fair Vote Canada and Susan Pigott from the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in Ontario. I was very impressed with the fireweed initiative, particularly the Demokistan Case Study that beautifully asks: "if the fictional ‘Demokistan Charter' is not democratic enough for Demokistan, is it good enough for Canada?"

Last weekend at the LPCO AGM, we hosted a dialogue for those with a thirst for democracy. We served smoothies - drinks with substance!! Had a great turn-out and lots asking for more! There are 4 components....Citizen Engagement, Parliamentary Reform, Party Reform and Electoral Reform. We must move forward on all four.

The prescription for a democratic deficit begins with one thing...a true belief that we will get better policy and be better able to implement great policy if we include the people affected. We must never be seen to be consulting when it is clear that we have already made up our minds - some sort of obligation to public occupational therapy. It only stokes the destructive forces of cynicism. There must be what Frank Graves at EKOS has called 'assured listening'. Participants must know that they've been heard even if the decision taken is not what they had asked for. As Stephen Coleman, the guru of e-democracy has said, people don't want to govern they just want to be heard. It must engender 2-way accountability.

Those of you who participate in online dialogues on these blogs are already incredibly engaged citizens. Thank you. Over the next few weeks I will be launching a robust online policy discussion, please stay in touch.

We need to begin a process that will become central to a modern Liberal party that will be connected from sea to sea to sea ... Allowing great public policy to bubble up from the trenches, find consensus and resonate with Canadians.

Allons Y !!!

You can also take a look at the paper I wrote in 2003 during the leadership race -Rx for the Democratic Deficit.

UPDATE: Carolyn jumps into the Lion's Den in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Progreeeeeeeeeesive Conserrrrrrrrrrrrrrvative

Preston says no.

Jim Dinning breathes a sigh of relief that he won't have to fight a real race or debate ideas.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Deadly Bullet

Sheila Fraser's report on the gun registry is set to land tomorrow and early leaks are that it will say that there were a lot of problems but that things are reasonably under control now. So, of course, the logical conclusion the Tories will jump to is to...axe the gun registry. Huh?

Yes, CTV is reporting that Stockwell Day will be saying "yes, guns kill people, but not shotguns or rifles". That's despite the following:

Despite controversy and cost overruns, the gun registry has supporters. Police consult the firearms databank approximately 5,000 times every day and officers say limiting the types of guns listed will not help law enforcement.

"Our last six or seven police officers were killed with long guns," said Tony Cannavino of the Canadian Professional Police Association. "That's very sad."

Now, I'm sure some people will jump over the last line as "proof" the registry doesn't work, but the fact of the matter is, there will always be gun crime. The registry should help decrease the amount of that crime by choking off the supply of guns. By keeping the registry in place for shotguns, the Tories are conceding there are benefits to registering weapons. So, why then give out free passes to certain types of guns which we know are used in crime?

Police use the gun registry. Criminals are prosecuted using the registry. You need the registry to show if a gun is stolen or legal. You need the registry to encourage responsible gun ownership and to track the transfer of weapons.

Problems in the past does not justify killing a program. There wouldn't be many government programs left if we simply killed any program which had growing pains. This is simply about Harper playing to his base - people who can't be bothered to take a few minutes and dollars to register their weapons.

UPDATE: There's an article in the Globe about police support for the gun registry. I didn't mention this point in my main post (although I have touched on it before), but the registry helps keep 3,000 guns out of the hands of the mentally ill every year.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Call Me David

It sounds like David Orchard was at the Bob Rae event in Saskatchewan yesterday and was clapping quite enthusiastically. It's a fairly safe bet that no one saw that alliance coming a year ago - at least not in the context of a Liberal leadership race.

In Other News...

NDP MP Nathan Cullen has apologized for saying he feared police retribution after criticizing the RCMP. When you piss off Dudley Do Right, Dudley always gets his revenge!

And David Emerson has said that provinces will have to vet any changes to forestry policy through the United States government. Considering the Premiers don't like the Canadian government interfering with their policy, I tend to think this won't be very popular. But despite the negatives to the Softwood deal, it will certainly be good for anyone with a Canfor pension. We must look at the positives, after all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lost in Translation

There's a lot of buzz on the blogs about the Globe & Mail front page story on bilingualism among Liberal Party candidates. Even the "friends of Joe Volpe" sent me a copy of the article (how I got on that list bewilders me).

In typical Globe fashion, the front page screams "Six Liberal contenders don't pass as bilingual". According to the Globe's language expert, over half the Liberal leadership contenders aren't even bilingual. Pretty damning stuff.

If it were true.

Oh yeah, apparently, Norman Spector has a new candidate for correction of the day:

Editor's note: Due to an error in the article, Gerard Kennedy and Maurizio Bevilacqua were misidentified earlier as failing to meet the requirements for a bilingualism certificate. Anyone receiving a grade of 2 or more would be deemed bilingual. Both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bevilacqua received a grading of 2.

Oops. So yes, according to the Globe's language expert, Gerard Kennedy is bilingual (and Maurizio too, for that matter). Obviously, he's not at the same level as Rae or Ignatieff, but the language expert also observed that he had the most potential for improvement since his main limitation was vocabulary which is the easiest to learn. And given that his wife and kids speak French and that the Kennedys will be living in Quebec for much of the summer, he'll certainly have lots of time to practice.

Yes, bilingualism is a job requirement for being Prime Minister. Stephen Harper understood that and has dramatically improved his French over the past few years. Hopefully the Liberal candidates who still need to work on their second language will put in l'effort necessaire.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Even More Mid-Week Musings

1. It's a very complex blog.

2. BBG calls it "whack a Liberal day". First we get news that the Tories plan to sue the Liberals. I may be the only person in the Liberal Party who isn't a lawyer so I don't want to comment but I have a very hard time seeing how this lawsuit could possibly be successful. I guess if it keeps Adscam in the news, it certainly is a smart political move for the CPC (although one wonders about the timing, given this).

There's also a leaked copy of the AG's report on the gun registry floating around which has Sheila Fraser mad as hell. And, from my memory, Sheila Fraser is right up there with Bruce Banner, as people you wouldn't like when they're angry.

As for the report itself, it's certainly going to make the Liberals look bad. No denying that. But, at the same time, it's going to say that the program costs are now under control which should make it harder for Harper to kill the registry. Good.

3. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in polls right now, but after his incredible election night predictions, Nick Nanos has earned a few free links. The poll numbers pretty much show everyone right where'd you'd expect them to be.

4. Although it physically pains me to praise Joe Volpe and knock Monte Solberg, I was disappointed to see Monte talk about lowering Canada's immigration targets. There's a good article in the Globe today about declining birth rates and Canada's shifting demographics. With an aging population, dramatically increasing Canada's immigration totals should be a top priority for any government thinking about the long run.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mid-Week Musings

1. Stephen Harper has his first casualty as Maurice Vellacott resigns. It may not be as exciting a way to go as over Romanian strippers, but I'm sure it still hurts.

2. If anyone can find a picture of Diane Finley with the horrifying glasses she keeps wearing to QP, I'll be forever grateful. (UPDATE: Apparently Diane has a medical condition requiring them which I wasn't aware of. Now, as for Stockwell Day's rainbow coloured tie he wore on Monday, I wonder what message he's trying to get across)

3. Not only does Bob Rae's site avoid the use of the word "Rae", the main banner seems to be devoid of Bob himself. Or maybe it's pictures of people named Bob. Or people who like "What About Bob?". I'm a little confused.

4. In fairness, I'm finding the unexpected attack of the pdfs on Gerard's site a little annoying.

5. Paul Wells is back blogging and his post saying that Jean Chretien Tony Blair should sack Paul Martin Gordon Brown has spawned a few comments among Libloggers. For the record, I think Chretien was in the right to fire/quit Martin - no Prime Minister should be expected to tolerate someone actively campaigning against him. That said, it's very much debatable if that was the right strategic move since it allowed Martin to be even more overt in his plotting.

6. Anyone want to take bets on when Andrew Coyne ends his hiatus?

7. The race for the right to complain about the Green Party's exclusion from the leader's debates is on.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Race for Stornoway: Martha Who Who

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

Age: 46

Background: Martha won a silver medal at the 1976 Canadian Ski Championship. If she'd been an NHL goalie, we'd all know who she was but, unfortunately, skiing doesn't get a lot of media attention in Canada. Still, Martha worked her way through law school and if there's one thing the Liberal Party loves more than Toronto leadership candidates, it's former lawyer leadership candidates. Martha has run several businesses since graduation.

Political Experience: While having never been elected would be considered a drawback in most races, Findlay isn't too far behind the rest of the field in terms of political experience. She came within a whisker of defeating Belinda Stronach in 2004 and one imagines that had she won, she'd be considered a very legitimate candidate. Of course, it would have also made Canadian politics a lot more boring over the past two years. Speaking of which, following Belinda's waltz across the isle, Findlay stepped down to allow Stronach to run in Newmarket Aurora.

Rejected Campaign Slogan: "Newmarket Aurora's finest"

Rejected Campaign Theme: Anything by The Who.

Pros: Great bio, young, female.

Cons: Has never held elected office. No one knows who the hell she is.

In Person: She's not as polished as some of the other politicians in the race but chatting with her at the LPCA convention last month, she certainly seemed like she had a good grip on the issues and the political process. I even know of one young Liberal, at his very first convention, who was so impressed he decided he'd support her in the leadership race.

My Take: Andrew Coyne says that Findlay has "possibly the single most impressive resume" he has ever seen in a political candidate. Admittedly, running for leader is a different ball game than running for MP and, while others obviously disagree, I do think political experience matters.

Martha is running to make a name for herself and to raise her profile. In that respect, she's probably already achieved her goal. Given that she declared so soon and was simply known as "the lady who ran against Belinda", Findlay faced the very real risk that she would become the punch line of this campaign. But that has certainly been far from the case and she has mounted a surprisingly credible campaign thus far. Given the lack of females in politics, I really hope Findlay finds her way into a Cabinet position sometime in the future.

Chances: none < chances < slim

Friday, May 05, 2006

The New Leader of the Opposition

With the Liberals in the midst of a leadership race, it appears that it won't so much be Bill Graham who is Stephen Harper's biggest foe. Rather, Dalton McGuinty seems to have taken on the role of opposition leader to Stephen Harper. It makes sense; with Ralph Klein neutered and Jean Charest being courted, an Ontario-Ottawa confrontation was almost inevitable.

While McGuinty has been critical of the PM, Stephen Harper made it personal yesterday by introducing John Tory as "the next Premier of Ontario". At the same time, Dalton must be growing a little bit jealous of Jean Charest who appears to get weekly dates with Harper, photo ops, a voice in foreign affairs, you name it.

It's hard to say where this feud will end, but with Harper musing about redefining confederation, the next year should make for very interesting political theater.

In Other News...

Stephen Harper has "flip-flopped" on the release of the Prime Ministerial agenda. If there is anyone out there who:

a) understands this issue
b) knows why we should care about it

I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mike Klander's Long Lost Brother

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation have joined the blogging world. Maybe it's just me, but does this post by the Federation's Saskatchewan director, David Maclean, rub anyone else the wrong way?

"Yet in 1938, according to both William Shirer and John Toland, the Nazi regime held no more than 20,000 political prisoners. Political executions up to the time might have reached a couple thousand, and most of these were of renegade Nazis themselves during the indiscriminate butchery known as the "Night of the Long Knives." The famous Kristallnacht that horrified civilized opinion worldwide caused a grand total of 71 deaths. This in a nation of 70 million."

It seems to me that when trying to win an argument, downplaying the negatives of Nazi Germany is never a good way to make your point.

Small Fry

Some may disagree, but I do think it's good to see Hedy Fry in the Liberal leadership race (and not just because of the comic material it will provide). If people are going to complain about a leadership contest featuring white men from Toronto, Fry's presence is a nice contrast. And, contrary to most, I'm of the opinion that there's a lot more room for growth in Western Canada than Quebec for the LPC, so having someone raise British Columbian issues can't be a bad thing (assuming she stays away from the cross burning issue, of course).

Everyone has Five Priorities these Days

Scott Reid has advice for the Liberals on how to win back power. Yes, that Scott Reid.

And, no, there's nary a word about hiring a better communications director.

Hat Tip: LLC

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Results for People

Remember last election? Remember how Jack Layton told everyone to "elect more NDP MPs"? Remember how he promised this would create "results for people"?

One hundred days in, let's take a look at the results Jack has generated. Since, as a Liberal, I might be somewhat partisan, I'll let a completely unbiased person judge the results for people achieved by this government. This completely unbiased person will be...Jack Layton.

Results for People

1. A "made in the Oil Patch" environmental program which has killed Kyoto and "abandoned the environment".

2. Nothing to create a National Child Care program.

3. "Nothing for EI, precious little for training." In short, Canadians have been given "a lost opportunity for working families".

4. A budget with "nothing for post-secondary education". This country will be full of "empty libraries because students won't be able to afford to use them".

5. An "arrogant and rigid" approach to Canada-US relations, leading to a "rather dramatic extension of military integration with the United States".

6. Massive corporate tax cuts; "an imprudent action that takes us closer to a deficit".

I'd say the Liberal TV ads meant to appeal to NDP voters next election are going to write themselves. Or, more precisely, Jack Layton is currently writing them.

And if he can't talk about "results for people" or name drop "Ed Broadbent" eight times a day, Jack's going to need a new pitch to keep the Liberal votes he "borrowed" last time.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Budget Day

Unless you want to go the route of feigned surprise (either in the form of outrage or delight), there's not a lot to say about a budget like this which was oh so predictable. Even though we didn't get any major leaks (aside from the fictional ones on Garth Turner's blog), the entire election campaign was about this budget so it's hard to be genuinely surprised about anything (gasp! tax cuts!).

A lot of commentators are calling it a pre-election budget but it's very much a post-election budget. The Tories absolutely needed to follow through on their election promises since next election they'll be running on their record, rather than against Adscam or the "time for a change" wave of momentum. If Harper can develop a reputation as someone who follows through on his promises, he'll be unbeatable in the next election campaign. In that respect, he did a good job following through on a lot of his major promises today. And the targeted tax breaks for things like textbooks and transit are certainly aimed at winning seats in the cities where the Tories are still weak (pretty much all cities besides Calgary and Edmonton).

The most interesting thing to come out of the day is the promise for a meeting with the Premiers in the fall to deal with the "fiscal imbalance". That meeting could very well prove to be the make it or break it event of this minority government's life which will decide how long the government survives and how Harper does comes next election.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Race for Stornoway: Carolyn Bennett

“If you want something said, ask a man; If you want something done, ask a woman.”
-Margaret Thatcher

Age: 55

Background: There may be a few Doctors in the race, but Carolyn Bennett is the only one who got that title from medical school, graduating from U of T in 1976. Bennett has twenty years as a family physician in Toronto, so one presumes she’s well qualified to diagnose what ails the Liberal Party.

Political History: Bennett ran provincially for the Ontario Liberals in 1995 and it is interesting to note that she supported Gerard Kennedy for provincial Liberal leadership in 1996. In 1997, she ran in St. Paul’s and, as virtually every Liberal candidate in Toronto has done for the past decade, won. Bennett criticized Jean Chretien for not appointing enough females to Cabinet and in 2004 she became 11% of the female representation in Paul Martin’s first Cabinet, as Secretary of State of Public Health. She is currently the opposition critic for social development.

Rejected Campaign Slogan: “Finally! A voice for Toronto Liberals!”

Rejected Campaign Slogan II: “I am not Carolyn Parrish”

Rejected Platform Policy: No compensation for Hep C victims.

Pros: Female. Relatively experienced in politics and the Liberal Party.

Cons: Not a lot of name recognition. Not a great speaker.

In Person: I got a chance to meet Carolyn Bennett at the LPCA convention and we chatted briefly. Much like Ken Dryden, you certainly get the sense that she’s very sincere and genuine, even if it doesn’t translate well to the media. She also seemed to have a good idea of where she wanted to take the Liberal Party and the country.

My Take: As I mentioned above, Carolyn Bennett is a very comparable candidate to Ken Dryden…minus the Stanley Cups. And, at this point, lack of name recognition is really the biggest obstacle for her to overcome. She also has difficulty stringing her thoughts together when taking questions so it will be hard for her to “wow” a lot of delegates over to her side.

That said, when it comes to substance, she can certainly compete with the big boys. She’s adamant about reforming the Liberal Party, and she’s certainly the type of leader who would help to rebuild the party and reach out to the grass roots. She’s also championing a very progressive vision of Liberalism and seems to have a good grasp on most policy issues, especially democratic reform.

Chances: Bennett won’t win, but it’s really important that she stay in this race. She’s an accomplished female candidate with crucial issues she wants to raise and this contest will be a lot better by having her in it as a candidate.

Monday Morning Round Up

1. From this week's Hill Times comes the annual threat that the House could sit into July, and whispers of a Draft McKenna movement.

2. Cerberus is hard at work tracking Liberal blogger endorsements. Still no one for Joe Volpe yet, but the race is still young.

3. Tomorrow is budget day! However will I sleep tonight...

4. James Bow has a good article up on his site about Canada's shifting demographics.

5. Blue Blogging Soapbox has taken to reviewing the Liberal Leadership websites.

6. Time has an eclectic list of 100 People Who Shape Our World.

7. Wikipedia has updated their endorsement page for the Liberal Leadership Race. Least surprising endorsement? Frank Mahovlich has backed Ken Dryden.

8. Flash Point Canada has set up the preferential ballot again, with all ten candidates on it. It's completely unscientific, but kinda fun.