Thursday, November 19, 2009

Party Like It's 2009

Everyone went list-crazy in 1999, but the end of the aughts is fast approaching with little fanfare or retrospective.

So, since this December figures to be a lot less interesting than the last, this is the perfect time for a Calgary Grit mini-contest. So, what I want from everyone are suggestions for the “top Canadian political moment of the decade”. You can define that however you see fit, but the general gist would be to find a good balance between what was exciting at the time and what would make it into a Canadian political history textbook 30 or 40 years from now (assuming we still have textbooks).

I’ll give everyone a few weeks to suggest nominees (either in the comments section below or via e-mail), before putting it to a vote. Nominees could be important policies (i.e. legalizing gay marriage), big elections (federal or provincial), shocking scandals (AG’s Adscam report), or just those moments that made average Canadians tune in (coalition threat, Belinda crossing the floor, Paul Martin leaving Cabinet).


  • Although I'm not sure if it will make the top 10, I think Warren Kinsella pulling barney the Dinosaur out of his bag on TV during the 2000 election should be on the list somewhere.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 p.m.  

  • Definitely the coalition issue. The Byng-King crisis is still standard fare in Canadian history/poli sci textbooks, even in high school. It will certainly have very important long-term ramifications.

    By Blogger The Fwanksta, at 11:09 p.m.  

  • For sheer drama: the week the coalition came together, and the Prime Minister fought back. I haven't seen anything else like it during my 25 years in or around politics.

    By Blogger The Pundits' Guide, at 11:09 p.m.  

  • In Canadian politics? The PC-Alliance merger, the sponsorship scandal, 2006 election of the Conservatives and the 2008 Parliamentary Crisis should get in into the top four.

    I cannot think of any really notable stuff on the provincial scene: the 2003 Ontario election, 2003 Quebec election could be up there, given they brought an end to governments which will probably go down as particularly important to history, also the various referenda on electoral reform (2005 BC, 2005 PEI, 2007 Ontario, 2009 BC) which have probably killed the idea of a while.

    By Anonymous Christopher, at 11:16 p.m.  

  • I agree with Christopher's top four inclusions, but I'd throw in Dion's astounding leadership win, some Klein moments, Campbell's drunk driving conviction, "evil reptilian kitten eater," and if we can actually go with the year 2000, Trudeau's death and the CA members that jumped ship for that little while. Oh, and Mackay's betrayal. :D

    I'd say that there are some notable Green moments, but nothing spectacular.

    By Blogger Kyle H., at 12:02 a.m.  

  • Oh, I have an excellent one too - Craig Cheffin's 2007 by-election win, when half of Canada's pundits were holding their breath and predicting the demise of the Alberta Tories at the hand of the Liberals.

    By Blogger Kyle H., at 12:05 a.m.  

  • I think it was the announcement of the RCMP's Income Trust investigation in the middle of the 2005/2006 election. It sideswiped the Liberal campaign and began a trend in campaign numbers that ultimately resulted in Harper becoming PM and Paul Martin resigning.

    Perhaps the Liberals would have lost anyway, but the election would have been closer and Martin might have stuck around to fight another day. Imagine if he had won, or lost a second time with the 2006 leadership election ocurring in 2009 instead with a more seasoned Michael Ignatieff and a more bilingual Stephane Dion.

    The one event of the 2000s without which political history could not have been the same is the income trust scandal. In saying that, I take the view that the sponsorship scandal and the resulting AG report is really based in the 1990s.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 12:12 a.m.  

  • I'd say Martin's takeover of the LPC. I get dating that to his dropping out of cabinet. You could also list the Valeri-Copps clash in Hamilton for its symbolism or the forcing of Jean Chretien's hand in retiring in 2002-2003. Martin's leadership was a catalyst for the creation of the new CPC and the lack of direction in the current LPC (removal of rivals like Rock, Tobin and Manley + short leadership=1 lost party) and thus shaped the last seven years of Canadian politics.

    The only other event that could hold a candle is the ousting of Ralph Klein if the Wildrose Alliance ends up taking over Alberta.

    By Blogger Aaron Ginsberg, at 12:40 a.m.  

  • The 2008 Constitutional Crisis was the most exciting thing in years, but the Reform-Conservative merger will actually affect our politics for years to come, so that has to be it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 a.m.  

  • Adscam, no doubt about it.

    The Liberal loss, the unification of the right and the Conservative victories wouldn't have happened without it.

    By Anonymous crocker jarmon, at 9:07 a.m.  

  • Provincially, there's not a lot there. Charest, McGuinty and Campbell winning were big - you could add Wall (since NDP were there forever) and maybe Danny Williams.

    There has to be some Chretien-Martin stuff in there. Not sure about what moment really stands out there; maybe Martin leaving cabinet.

    I'd forgoten about all the good Stockwell Day moments but barney, mercer petition, rebel breakaway mps were all big moments. Was the wetsuit this decade?

    By Anonymous Mackenzie Bowell, at 10:17 a.m.  

  • Ginsberg: I don't see Klein's outster as being overly important, since it just sped up his departure date by a year. He'd already said he would leave before the next election.

    The Stelmach win is interesting (it happened same day Dion won by the way). But in the scope of national politics, I don't know.

    By Anonymous Deb, at 10:25 a.m.  

  • Iffy's incompetence and never ending screw ups.23%,do I hear 22,21,20? Going,going,gone!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:37 a.m.  

  • (a lot of the good ones are taken)

    Soldiers with guns

    We didn't get it done, Stephane.

    Martin's putsch against Chretien and purging of Sheila Copps from the LPC.

    The Orchard-MacKay deal.

    Harper's Quebec city speech.

    Dumont as leader of opposition in Quebec (or Charest's comeback).

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 1:17 p.m.  

  • Wow, do the Liberals ever have the wrong leader for making any ground in the wake of our own home grown Abu Ghraib.

    The overarching theme of the last decade in Canadian politics has certainly been the complete disintegration of a once powerful and efficient political machine and the growing importance of the other four parties. Take your pick from the countless moments that illustrate this, I'd bet money the next decade offers the nail in the coffin sooner than later.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:17 p.m.  

  • I think it was the announcement of the RCMP's Income Trust investigation in the middle of the 2005/2006 election.

    I also think it was the 2004 sigened letter to the then Ms Clarson GG coalition attempt of Harper signed by himself, Layton and Duceppe that they had no trust in Martin and wished too combined to form the new government.

    By Blogger marie, at 5:25 p.m.  

  • Coalition Crisis 2008 (For the win!)

    By Anonymous Irritable Canadian, at 7:45 p.m.  

  • Cadman vote through to vote of non-confidence, 2005.

    By Anonymous Shirley U. Geste, at 9:19 p.m.  

  • Chretien announcing Canada would not join the War in Iraq.

    By Blogger Tom, at 2:40 a.m.  

  • To my mind, the political event of the decade is less an event and more a phenomenon.

    It's the diametric shift from a national political scenario under which a divided right was structurally incapable of successfully contesting national elections to one where the left faces an identical, but even more dangerously fractious handicap.

    In ten years, the core ideological frame of reference in Canada has shifted 180 degrees.

    If one event does have to be cited as being of ultimate historical significance, clearly it's the unification of the right under their new banner. This, not the Liberal sponsorship scandal or... more bizarrely, the obscure Income Trust announcement, explains most of the nation's current predicament.

    The truth is that any credible analysis of Jean Chretien's tenure as PM, or the 1990s as a whole, shows his majorities to have been artificial or at the very least exaggerated by this core split on the right and an unforgiving electoral system.

    It is of note that, sponsorship or no, it effectively took the new Conservative movement one (two, I guess) election cycles to win power following re-unification.

    Let's all recall that when the Martin jugger-not took over, everyone viewed him as invincible in political terms.

    As a New Democrat, I'm more skeptical of the Liberal Party than most on this forum, but the reality is that without the right's reunification all the events cited above - and our nation's broader history in the last decade - would be radically different.

    Just as the story of the 2000s was the right's eventual, torturous determination that winning power and implementing their values in Government was more important than the deep but often superficial schisms which divided Conservatives, the story of the coming decade will be how progressives react to a similarly daunting challenge.

    Thanks for the space, CG, and great ideas all!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:37 p.m.  

  • There are small things that have shaped our political scene over the past decade. Chretien handing his succssors a poisoned chalice due to Adscam, western alienation and changes to party funding. Elizabeth May, through stupidity or design, undermining the Green Party. The NDP slowly rebuilding and winning seats in the eastern provinces in general elections.
    The biggest change will happen at the end of the decade and early in the next, that is the creeping irrelevance of the Liberal Party.
    The Conservatives will soon have a majority in the Senate. The 30 some seats being added to the House of Commons will cancel out the safe Liberal seats in Montreal and the Atlantic provinces with Conservative or swing ridings. The "natural governing party" is getting 14 per cent of the vote in some by-elections and is being beat by the Green Party in federal elections in some ridings.
    It's going to be harder for the Liberals to attract star candidates, get donations and hold seats in have-not provinces if their chance of governing is slim.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 5:27 p.m.  

  • definitely when Ed Stelmach won 72 of 83 seats last year and the media said he was going to lose to the Liberals. In Alberta. Right.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:50 p.m.  

  • - The merger of the PC and Alliance Parties.
    - Paul Martin's notwithstanding clause moment in the 2006 leaders debate.
    - The attempted rehabilitation of Brian Mulroney.
    - The putsch against Ralph Klein at the 2005 Alberta PC leadership review.
    - Ed Stelmach defeating Jim Dinning in the 2006 Alberta PC leadership race.
    - Mario Dumont has to fit somewhere in this contest too.

    By Blogger daveberta, at 10:28 p.m.  

  • Also, how about Gordon Campbell's Liberals landslide in 2001. 77 out of 79 seats, wasn't it?

    By Blogger daveberta, at 10:32 p.m.  

  • Long Term
    -The Merger (PC+CA)

    Short Term
    -The ADQ nearly winning an election, then being killed off

    Attention Grabbing

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:47 p.m.  

  • The "Natural Governing Party" appointing a leader without a vote, or any say from the grass roots.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:35 a.m.  

  • Dion crossing the floor to the NDP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:09 p.m.  

  • I agree with others who have said the Cadman vote in 2005. Some things in Canadian politics are inevitable: that wasn't.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 6:49 p.m.  

  • PC-CA merger
    Stronach floor crossing
    Chretien-Martin internal fight
    Bloody overuse of the term "gate"
    Conservative MPs voting against motion expressing full and complete confidence in Elections Canada.
    Federal Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott blaming the deaths of aboriginal men found frozen outside of Saskatoon on a mysterious drinking shack.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:22 p.m.  

  • The Chretien-Martin feud does warrant recognition but the fact that Chretien shocked the world (well, ok, the party and the country) on August 21, 2002 when he announced he would be stepping down in 18 months rather than face a leadership review that both sides had already begun mobilizing for is quite something.

    The CA-PC merger and Martin's inability to turn a successful leadership machine into a governing one, even after the near death experiences of the 04 election and 05 confidence vote are also very notworthy.

    The fall of Bernard Lord is also a good story - from winning 44 of 55 seats in 1999 to being the undisputed front-runner in PC and CPC races in 2002 and 2004 he didn't seek to winning by only one seat in 2003 and being defeated in 2006 is one of the best tales of a fast rise and fast fall we've seen in this country in a few years.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 7:38 p.m.  

  • I think the Clarity Act will be in there. It was a bold move that had all of the opposition parties running for their lives and Quebec media "experts" predicting the end of the world for Liberals in Quebec. As we now know, it instead was generally supported in Quebec, led to a drop in support in separatism (Liberals would later lose support in Quebec for other reasons), and may have set guidelines that other countries will use in similar situations.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:21 p.m.  

  • I think all the Ed Stelmach/Jim Dinning/Ralph Klein comments will only be deemed historically significant if the WRA were to sweep to a victory. So although they may be the seed for something major in the future, I don't think we will know for many years yet.

    By Anonymous mecheng, at 10:58 p.m.  

  • I'm looking forward to some red-hot political gridiron action in the very near future, that could be added to this list. Or at least a really good punch line.
    (claps hands enthusiastically)

    By Blogger lyrical, at 1:49 a.m.  

  • Jean Chretien telling the HoC that Canada will not go to Iraq.

    By Blogger James Bowie, at 9:08 a.m.  

  • Stephen Harper's return to politics. No other Canadian Alliance leader could have/would have achieved the merger with the Tories, and it all really falls out from there.

    By Anonymous Andrew in Calgary, at 11:30 a.m.  

  • Stronach crossing the floor and leaving McKay in the rearview was the biggest scandal/newsworthy item in my mind. It looked as though Martin's government might fall and Belinda's move was a shocker. Of course Cadman followed with a similar move later.
    I agree that the unification of the right and the demise of the Liberals will be the biggest political phenomenon written about 30-40 years from now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:27 p.m.  

  • 1. Adscam

    2. Harper breaks 13 years of Liberal governments.

    3. Constitutional crisis / coalition

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:05 p.m.  

  • No-one has yet mentioned the first NDP government in Atlantic Canada, and a majority government to boot.

    It's significant in that a part of the country which to that point had been viewed as a two-way fight, is yet one more region the Liberals can no longer take for granted.

    By Blogger A reader, at 3:29 p.m.  

  • My top 3 moments

    1. Coalition Crisis
    2. Belinda Crossing Floor/Cadman Supports Government
    3. Canada Saying No the Iraq War-if we said yes it would be no.1 moment of the past decade

    By Blogger, at 1:37 p.m.  

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