Posts Tagged ‘Dion

Michaëlle Jean, the immigrant Port-au-Prince born beauty and later tele-journalist who now holds Canada’s highest government office, has, as nature thankfully intended for her good looks and graces, no balls.
In fact, to verify such recognition of her official potential pin-up status, early on as Governor-General she declared, “I am hot!” to an Ottawa MP-press annual dinner where the government officials almost ritually make fun of themselves.
This past week the reins of government were thrust into her small hands to determine if a just-elected prime minister’s government will live or die.

One option provided her- in banana replublic style- just shut down parliament altogether to the PM can avoid a vote of non-confidence. Another option- grant a tri-party coalition of the second-best (declared so in the national election just six weeks ago) get to run things.

Not to second guess Her Excellency, but it was an opportunity to show the importance and necessity of a strong, wise and precedent-aware Governor-General.
First, no prime minister should be able to shut down parliament to avoid a vote of non-confidence. Now that it has been done, and G-G Michaëlle Jean has granted the prorogue sought by Prime Minister Harper, future prime ministers can use the same tactic citing historical precedence. Not a good thing in a parliamentary democracy.
There was, however, no doubt that Michaëlle Jean would grant his wish.
Her Exellency is hot indeed, but strong-willed she is not.

Her eyes are light as a bird, searching for safe perches of approval. In one photograph of her with Harper, she looks more nurse than Governor-General, her eyes full of compassion and concern.
Her role was to tell Steven Harper to face his music.
She should have gathered all the leaders at Rideau Hall, and read her decision sprinkled with history and precedent so future G-Gs, hot or not, will have a blue print to go by.
Her third decision to be made was whetherto grant the tri-party coalition the government benches.
That’s a tougher decision.
The sitting prime minister of Canada is a trained economist and disciplined leader who has just lead one of the longest-lived minority governments in Canadian history. Not a bad choice during a world financial crisis. The alternative is an opposition leader who has already declared he is leaving the leadership of his party, and who would lead, only for an interim period til March, two left of centre parties with the support of a third party whose sole purpose is to promote the independence of the only province it runs in. The coalition announced plans to spend millions right away as an national economic stimulus package.
The recent announcement that 71,000 jobs have been lost in Canada includes Southern Ontario’s automobile manufacturing woes and Elections Canada layoffs. Take away those elements and Canada looks like an oasis of economic stability compared to the United States. Why the hurry? Why not wait for the January budget?

The mother of all G-Gs, the aging Queen Elizabeth II, is filmed as she visits her horses, a kerchief ’round her hair and tied up under her chin. She wears a longish unflattering coat. She doesn’t look like a queen in this garb. She looks very ordinary, like a charwoman, more dressed to clean the stable than to rein it. But as a Queen, day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, she does a remarkable job at the pointy end. Her decisions are right. History will be kind.

Meanwhile, her representative in Canada, Michaëlle Jean, has reduced her Governor-General’s role to charwoman. She has declined to take a strong stand that would provide a historical corner-stone of precedent. Instead she cleaned up after Harper made his mess, an unelected official shutting down Canada’s elected parliament, following the opposition outcry to Harper’s attempt to take away millions of dollars in government grants away from federal political parties. A good idea, but the timing and lack of consultation revealed him to be a mean and petty man. It was an observation made long-ago by the opposition, now apparent to all. The actions of the opposition leaders following that decision (that was certain to provoke) has destroyed Harper’s once statue-like image of a strong, disciplined leader. He is wounded, and so is Michaëlle Jean, and in fact, so are they all.
There is a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps it is this. Never tell a socialist they can no longer have free money. You’ll damn well pay for it, and Harper has.

And perhaps one more lesson. If we continue to have a Governor-General, and it is an old post, older than the presidency of the United States by more than a 130 years- going back to Augustin de Mesy who began his term as Governor General of New France in 1663- it should be an elected position if the powers include shutting down an elected House of Commons. Ten years before the term of de Mesy began, the original House of Commons in England was shut down by a man named Oliver Cromwell, whose ambition included replacing even the monarch. The shutdown in that instance lasted seven years. The shutdown in this case will last seven weeks. You’d think parliamentary democracy would have evolved somewhat more in 355 years.


I can write about the candidates, but here’s the question- who am I going to vote for?

First, in this election I don’t give a damn who the local candidate is. I haven’t attended a single discussion on the candidates, not a single forum, haven’t met them, haven’t gone to their campaign office to pick up literature.

Let me first say how much a departure that is for me.

Two federal elections ago I actually arranged a local forum of federal election candidates. (I went into the Liberal campaign office just set up and noticed a large calendar on the wall. It was almost filled but one day was free of meetings and forums. I picked up a marker, wrote in “forum” and the place, and phoned the other candidates saying the Liberal candidate had already committed to that date. (Which he had without my asking, because during a busy campaign, everyone is just going to go with what’s written on the calendar.)

So it’s very different for me not to seek out the local candidates and talk to them.

Why don’t I give a damn about local candidates in this election? They don’t matter. They are interchangable. Once in a while you get a great one, like our MP just leaving. No one is going to be able to fill his shoes.

So I’m voting for the party.

First to eliminate some choices. Bloc is out, of course. I’m in Alberta.

I just love Elizabeth May but, sorry Green Party, I’m not sending a vote your way.

Okay, that leaves the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats. That means, for the first time in my life in an election, particularly at this late hour- just two days before the vote- I am officially undecided.


I’m one of them.

CTV Halifax interviewer Steve Murphy, in a sit-down interview with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, asked if he were prime minister today, what would he do differently than Prime Minister Steven Harper on the economy.

Much is being made of Dion’s not understanding the question. The beginning of the interview is shown above courtesy of Youtube.

Six days to go before voting day.

As the stock market plunges- the TSX had its first positive day today after five days of negative numbers- so do the fortunes of Prime Minister Steven Harper. The Conservatives are seeing their once-strong lead in the polls slip.

The news I caught in the last three days- I was far from a television- included a CBC radio interview featuring a woman decrying the Conservative’s lack of an emergency plan. Harper, in another interview, attempted to explain his record is his plan.

It seems he’s right. Hold the course, stay calm.

While the USA attempts to bail itself out while sailing the stormiest seas in 80 years, and Europe is nationalizing banks, while Iceland is so fearful of bankruptcy they have asked Russia for a $7.5 billion loan to keep the country afloat (no Western country took them up on the request), Canada appears to be weathering the storm just fine, thanks– other than our stock markets dropping like a bucket of mud along with every other major stock market in the world. No bank bailouts needed here.

Years ago I once went into a bank for a $5,000 loan. I got it, but had to put $5,000 into an account first. Yes, Canadian banks are that stingy. They are as tight-fisted as Scrooge. Unlike the USA, there have never been mortgages in Canada for no money down, no assets, no questions asked. It’s not the way Canadian banks do business. Now we’re seeing the benefits of conservative stinginess.

Harper also upset a lot of people by saying it’s a good time to buy stocks. It’s a wrong thing to say, however, when anyone who has anything invested in the stock market is seeing dimes shrink to a pennies and investments people are relying on disappear. It makes him sound cold and he always had a reputation of being cold.

“I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most emotionally expressive guy..” Harper said in answer to a question by CTV’s Craig Oliver (who looks like a taxidermist has stuffed him) about whether he cared at all. Good God. If Oliver smiled his face would crack. He looks like an unblinking human bald eagle and he’s challenging someone about their expressiveness?

The majority may be slipping our of reach of Harper who really tried to come across as a warm guy with those soft sweaters and soft words in those soft-music interviews when the campaign started. But the Conservatives also had attack ads- something the USA commonly uses but we’re new to it- for the Liberal leader Stephane Dion. Well, guess what. When Dion emerged from the debates everyone realized he didn’t have two horns and a tail, the man was smart and he cared. Naturally his poll numbes would climb.

I guess Harper might dust off that sweater again. Only six days to go before the vote.

I missed both debates and I so wanted to write on them. Had to travel during Thursday evening. Not fun. So I have to rely on news links. I’ll pop those in later. It is now the very early morning and I’m writing this before I rush off.

First, to comment on our debate then the American vice-presidential debate.

My impression- in the little I heard- first our own debate- I’m glad Elizabeth May was on stage. She did raise the bar for the debates. Although she is grating in her views at times, she presents well, she is prepared, and she speaks well. She has the ability to hold the audience interest.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion spent a lot of time on the defensive. I wish I spoke French, as the pundits and polls indicate he did very well in the French debate the night before, besting Prime Minister Steven Harper, who, reportedly, did come off looking calm- which impresses in itself to look unflappable under pressure.

Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party, sounded aggressive. In the short time I heard the debate- on radio yet, I never saw it- Layton sounded the same each time. It gave the impression of an attack dog on a leash. It was not a leader-like impression. The New Democratic Party has the reputation of a caring party- it’s been called “the conscious of the House”- it started our medicare (Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan), it has been the impetus for so many of our adopted social programs, but those days are gone, it seems. If Layton were an American, you’d say “Republican” instantly, just in how he looks. If he wore plaid work shirts, I’m sure it would look funny. In debate Layton sounds more like the guy with the pitchfork on your shoulder. He should address the audience more. He got lost in the wallpaper on radio sounding strident each time he spoke. He needs some variety in tone. Maybe it was there, I didn’t hear it.

Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc Leader. I remember when in college a political science instructor actually called the Bloc office in Ottawa and asked for their policy platform. He said they fell over themselves with surprise- a person from Alberta calling about their platform. That request would still register surprise. They are a Quebec-only party. Duceppe has a great voice on radio. Unlike Layton, Duceppe’s voice registers concern. His questions, though, seem to be not pinned to anything that can resonate with the average voter here. Um, they are not even pinned to reality, actually.

Prime Minister Harper. The man is good, you gotta give him that. He speaks well. He is Prime Ministerial. He knows his facts and can produce them instantly. He can go on the attack without breaking his monotone. On the attack he never sounds bitter, harsh, or mean. It sounds even policeman-like, as in someone saying, these are the facts, ma’am. When attacked- and he was constantly, everyone wanted a piece of him- he was unflappable, never broke stride. A damned good performance.

Now the American debate.

Remember I am listening on radio, driving down the Queen Elizabeth Highway (the Calgary-Edmonton Trail, renamed after Queen Elizabeth’s visit here in 2005), rushing to a meeting that took place while the debate was on.

Sarah Palin transformed. On radio she shone. She had a thin grasp of issues but she had good lines, good jabs. I was so impressed in the little I heard I thought she was winning- that is not a joke.

When I got back I flipped through news items on the debate and apparently one of the former Alaska governors Palin beat warned Joe Biden not to underestimate her. Good advice.

Biden was polite, never demeaning, presented his facts well.

But Biden does not have something Palin has. She has star power. I never realized that until I heard her on radio. I could not for the life of me understand what people saw in this woman. This blog actually gets a huge rise in hits when I mention Palin. No other subject I write about can affect my hit counter so dramatically. Americans are hungry for news of her. Mudflats, the Alaskan blog that follows her is one of the best-read blogs on WordPress. I thought Americans were hungry for news of her because they had no idea what she was all about and wanted to know more. Now I think she has a sort of Trudeau-mania about her. Palin-mania. Go figure.

She tripped only once that I heard, confusing “main street” with “Wall Street”. She appeared to see the crisis as triggered by Wall Street excess and near-criminal behaviour. I can see how voters would like that.

Palin sounded Reaganesque even. (“Well, Nancy and I..”) She has a similar casual-executive style of speech- a similar cadence. Her voice, once she gets going has a definite rhythm. It is not hesitant. She can absorb facts (unless she had giant cue-cards and I was fooled) and can shoot them out at just the right time. She has what should be an irritating habit of dropping the “g” in her words ending “ing” but it doesn’t sound irritating. It brands her as working folks. She even used a line to make sure that was emphasized- it was during her speaking on Obama’s tax proposal to cut taxes for everyone making less than $250,000 a year. It was a risk (if she is just folks the tax break would include her) but she took it. She said “Todd and I” were middle class all their lives, then told Biden the tax cut wouldn’t include some small businesses and explained that would hit jobs. It was not only well-delivered, she was developing a constituency as she spoke- a brand. Her people are working people.

In the short radio time I heard the debate I was surprised as Sarah Palin turned Joe Biden into wallpaper and shone as she jabbed and danced while promoting her brand on a national broadcast.

Another point here. Forgive this if you’re American, but the impression of the average American is not being among the brightest of bulbs on the world chandelier. I enjoyed a PBS documentary on the day-to-day life of an aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz. But I was genuinely appalled by how little the average sailor knew about politics, geopolitics and history. Here they are, on one of the greatest warships in history, a key military tool representing the policy of the United States of America, our key ally, and the most of the crew gives the impression they are one brain chromosome short. It was not reassuring. It is those people, I think, that would adore Palin. She is them- working people, just folks people, down-home people whose families have never done well and never will, who view Washington and corporate America as foreign territory. I understand now how Sarah Palin’s view of Washington and politics would genuinely resonate with these people. These people would feel very comfortable with a President Palin. God help us.

Okay, I saw it. A week into the general election campaign, finally I see Stephane Dion on television (on CBC News Sunday hosted by Evan Solomon and Carole McNeil) explain his Green Shift tax plan. He used six words. “Cut income taxes, shift to pollution”. Okay, I get it. Why did it take a week into this election before I saw something on it?

Here’s a You Tube clip of Dion on the plan, addressing the Canadian Club of Toronto. This is from May 15, 2008. Here he proposes “lowering taxes on things we want more of, income, innovation, savings and investment.” At the same time, he proposes “shifting” the tax burden “on the things we want less of, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, smog and waste.”

Before this, I have heard a number of discussions on this plan without hearing a word from Dion about it. I did not understand the details of this plan. It sounded complex and I tuned it out.

Tonight I was determined to understand it. I found this link to the Liberal party website for information.

Okay. My red neck is showing. Here is my first impression of the page-you can click on thumbnail photos on the left of the page to listen to recorded video opinions on the Green Shift plan. At the top of the list is a photo of a guy named Rob Baker (never heard of him) from the Tragically Hip (heard of them). Give me a break. I mean, what the hell do you expect a long-haired hippie musician ( I was an amateur one almost 40 years ago) say about a plan that taxes polluters? A word from him is supposed to help convince me?

As I read it, there is an $850 tax credit that will be targeted to lower income Canadians. But if I’m not a “lower income” Canadian, what’s in it for me? (Environmentalists would say at this point- It’s the Planet, Stupid.)

I read more taxes so far. Gas today is $1.34 per litre for regular. A tax on top of that?

Of course David Suzuki, Canada’s most notable environmentalist, would have some comment on a carbon tax. This CTV interview with Suzuki, added below, was made a week before Dion’s address, shown above. This interview also sounds like it was made before the Green Shift details came out. It’s general to the idea of a carbon tax, not detail specific to what became known as the Green Shift. Here we see a frustrated Suzuki being interviewed, saying the Swedes are paying a carbon tax of $150 a tonne, and British Columbians howl at at $10 per tonne carbon tax. (Dion’s plan is a $10 per tonne carbon tax to be eventually increased to $40.) Put on You Tube May 23, this interview with Suzuki was also conducted long before this election was called. He is however, well aware, even at this time, that federal politicians are readying for one.

Gosh, what a surprise. An election call. For Tuesday, October 14.

Is it called foreshadowing, all those advertisments in the past two weeks composed of clip smatterings of bad actors pretending to be real people praising Harper on what seemed, for each, to be the umteenth take to get the fake sentimentality right, and saying they’d vote for him?

Harpers’ shots wearing a blue sweater vest while purring soothing nice-guy words means only one thing. The Conservatives are deadly serious this time about getting a majority.

Meanwhile, back in the Liberal camp, all those green concerns have melted a little since Stephane Dion rolled out the Liberal Party Green Shift. It’s not going to be a top of mind issue for this election, you can feel it. The National Post has an editorial for tomorrow, rightly calling the Green Shift a Liberal albatross. The Maple Leaf Foods issue (13 dead eating cold cuts) is a serious issue the Conservatives should answer for, after planning to reduce federal meat inspections. Dion should run with that.

Jack Layton and the New Democrats rolled out their campaign bus and I note in no photograph of Layton does he look like a socialist party leader. Jack Layton looks like high school football coach that also preaches, instead of teaches, business administration, and sells mutual funds on the side, so never, ever, ever, takes his tie off. I’d buy mutual funds from this man.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has a blog. Pretty sparse blog, though. For those paying attention to the Liberal Green Shift plan and the Green Party concerns about global warming- a news story today is out about open water at both the North West and North East passages.

Update: from the Green Party threatening legal action if leader, Elizabeth May is excluded from the debate and from what, apparently, was three parties opposed the Green Party being included, the Conservative Party appearing to be the leader in that opposition. The Conservatives may have threatened to pull out of the debates if the Green Party was included, forcing the other parties to fall into line- all except the Liberals. Dion was the only leader who supported May’s inclusion. Now the Green Party being included in the television debate. The argument is quite strong, after Member of Parliament Blair Wilson joined the Green Party as their first M.P., that there was no good reason for the Green Party to be shut out of the debate.

Harper’s view was the Green Party and the Liberal Party were one and the same. Harper said in a September 8 campaign stop in Richmond, B.C.,, “…I think it would be fundamentally unfair to have two candidates who are essentially running on the same platform in the debate,” The Bloc, which was included in the television debate plans from the beginning, runs candidates only in Quebec, while the Green Party is running candidates in every riding throughout Canada.

Thank you for reading Aardvarkcola


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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence