Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Will the real Romney please stand up?

While, in general, I favour the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, in the upcoming election, I got to thinking after watching last night’s presidential debate: which Mitt Romney are we likely to see after the election—assuming, of course, he’s elected president?


Over the past three years or so, I’ve seen, at least, four versions of Mitt Romney.

Firstly, we saw the reasonable, middle-of-the-road former governor who was proud of his moderate—dare I say, liberal-like—agenda as governor of Massachusetts, including a government healthcare program that seemed to become the model for so-called Obama-care.

Secondly, when the nomination process got underway formally, we saw a middle-of-the-road presidential nomination candidate, still proud of his liberal-like agenda as governor, though insisting his healthcare program was not at all the same as President Obama’s.

Thirdly, as the nomination process progressed, we saw in Romney a Regan-wannabe battling to secure the Republican nomination—he had shifted to the hard right to appease Tea Party and social conservative supporters. This was the social and economic conservative Romney—nothing middle-of-the-road about this Romney—battling the likes of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, et al to see who would wear the mantel of “real conservative,” in the Ronald Reagan mould, of course.

Fourthly, having secured the nomination, we saw Romney gear back down and revert to more of a moderate politician, but with the baggage of all that had transpired and been said and claimed during the heated nomination race.

So which Romney did we see last night? He certainly was restrained, but was he moderate? Does his non-confrontational approach last night signal he is again the moderate who governed Massachusetts or was that demeanour just a sham to cover the hard-right Romney we followed last summer.

And that’s a problem for Romney supporters on Nov. 6. Will they be able to tell which Romney they’ll actually be getting, should he win the vote?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

What goes around comes around

The one thing most politicians and political pundits seem to have in common is a penchant for hypocrisy. Take as an example the reaction to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s proroguing of the Ontario legislature.

Since McGuinty’s announcement that he is closing down the legislature, I’ve read and heard all sorts of high sounding reasons why this is such a bad thing—mainly from conservatives.

These are many of the same voices who staunchly defended PM Stephen Harper’s proroguing of parliament in 2008—to avoid a confidence vote and almost certain defeat in the House of Commons—and again in 2009 amid the parliamentary dust up over the Afghan detainees issue.

But, of course, liberals never have to take a backseat to anyone when it comes to hypocrisy. Readers may remember the outrage—much of which, I believe, was feigned—expressed by Liberal politicians and their media supporters over PM Harper’s federal prorogations and note the general support they are now giving to Premier McGuinty’s recent suspension of the Ontario legislature.

To me, prorogation is a tool to be used by a prime minister or premier as he or she sees fit.

While prorogation is especially useful to end a secession of parliament so the government in power can begin afresh with a throne speech and new agenda, there are the less seemly cases in which prorogation is used for strictly partisan political purposes.

It all depends on the particulars of the situation facing the government at the time. And the leader of the day must make the call and face whatever consequences accrue to that decision.

If a government were to prorogue to shield itself from criminal activity, we do have our police and regulatory agencies which are free to carry on their own investigations even if parliament/legislature is not in session.

As for scandals—the real, not the politically manufactured kind—they’ll sit and fester and be there to stink up the offending party’s next election campaign, for, ultimately, it is left to voters to decide whether or not they believe the government that prorogued acted responsibly, ethically, lawfully and so forth.

PM Harper, apparently, “got away” with his prorogations—having won a significant majority in the last general election he faced. Time will tell how well the Ontario Grits will fare as a result of Mr. McGuinty’s attempt to dodge the political fall-out on the floor of the legislature and in the committee rooms, not to mention the resulting adverse media coverage.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

End of the McGuinty era

After 22 years as a member of the Ontario legislature, Dalton McGuinty resigned as premier and leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario. He has spent sixteen years as Ontario Liberal party leader and has been premier since 2003.

The best I can say about Dalton McGuinty’s years as Ontario’s premier is they could have been worse had Gerard Kennedy been premier. Kennedy, readers may remember, challenged for the Ontario Liberal leadership in 1996 and led on all of the the first four ballots, but was defeated on the fifth ballot by Dalton McGuinty, marking the only time I cheered a McGuinty victory.

According to a story in the National Post, McGuinty told his caucus, “It is time for the next Liberal Premier of Ontario. It is time for renewal.” Imagine that. I don’t remember him telling the voters of Ontario during the 2011 general election that the Liberal party needed “renewal.” Moreover, wasn’t it just the end of last month that his party reviewed his leadership and gave him 86 per cent support.

But then McGuinty’s term in office was marked by him saying one thing before an election and doing another after winning. Remember how he famously pledged in 2003 not to raise taxes, yet did so after winning his first majority. That was but one in a series of broken promises over the last decade.

More recently, McGuinty has insisted his government plans to get the province’s $14.4-billion deficit under control, yet Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, only just delivered a fall economic update in which he said the province has a $14.4-billion deficit even after benefitting from higher-than expected revenues stemming from increased corporate and personal income taxes. Incredibly, this projected deficit is higher than the last year’s $13-billion deficit.

Some might say McGuinty’s governments have been economical with the truth and have strained Ontarians’ credulity.

And even as he leaves office, McGuinty thumbs his proverbial nose at us all by proroguing the legislature to buy time for his party to deal with what the National Post calls “the ugly backlash, the scrimping, the saving, the strike threats, the cutbacks,” not to mention his attempt—again from the National Post—to “shelter his energy minister from contempt of Parliament charges for dawdling over the release of 36,000 pages of documents related to the two transferred power plants, only to have the minister reveal Monday that another 20,000 pages had somehow been ‘found’.”

I, for one, am not sorry to see him go.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Nanos poll has the federal Liberals ahead of the NDP

For the first time since April 2012, the federal Liberal party is ahead in, at least, one poll, Nanos National Tracking. The Grits have gained 5.5 points over the past month to move ahead of the NDP and into second place and almost into a statistical tie with the pacesetting Tories.


Conservative 33.3% (+0.9)

Liberal 30.1% (+5.5)

NDP 27.9% (-2.5)

BQ 4.7% (-1.1)

Green 2.9% (-2.1)

Undecided 17.8% (+1.6)


These results represent only a snapshot in time, of course, and aren’t necessarily the start of a trend. For those who see a Quebec-dominated socialist party as a threat to future Canadian prosperity and economic security, however, it’s a good-news story.

Also encouraging is that Stephen Harper continues to lead all party leaders in the four categories tracked by Nanos. Moreover, he leads with a substantial margin.

See the whole story here.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kinsella’s Fight the Right, a sharply hit triple

The self-styled “arch-Liberal attack dog” Warren Kinsella has a new book out, Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse. It’s no home run, but I’d rate it a solid triple.

Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse
By Warren Kinsella
Random House Canada, 288 pp, $22.95

Fight the Right is really two books. The first third is a vindictive screed of anti-conservative sentiment not worthy of someone who seriously wants others to better understand the nature and strengths of conservatives and Conservatives. The rest is a well-written political commentary that includes bits of insider information and political anecdotes and some reasoned analysis of campaign tactics. Would I recommend Fight the Right to other political junkies? Yes.

It seems not in Kinsella’s nature to temper his words when describing conservatives in general or the Conservative Party of Canada in particular. His readers, though, would have been better served had he showed a modicum of respect in the earlier parts of the book. But then, the book is “A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse,” it says so right on the cover.

I once made a living writing manuals and found they proved more effective when they were more clinical and objective rather than emotional and filled with personal bias. But who am I to offer advice to Kinsella.

The author writes, “I don’t necessarily hate conservatives” and generously allows that “not every conservative is evil. Not every conservative lacks a soul.” Notwithstanding this admission, he implies throughout that the exceptions are only slightly less rare than unicorns and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows.

At times, he accuses conservatives of being racist, offering mostly innuendo and conjecture, such as when he writes, “They [Conservatives] didn’t openly define foreigners as people who were black, brown or yellow, but they didn’t need to, Everyone knew who they meant.” No proof at all, just innuendo—everyone knew? Really? How about all those brown-skinned folks who voted for Stephen Harper’s Conservative in 2011?

The rancour of that paragraph was capped with Kinsella stating that he “detested the Hudak Conservatives.” [emphasis mine] I don’t like words like “detest,” they smack of ugliness and hate.

Kinsella also labels the “Hudak Conservatives” as “far-right.” If true, where, I wonder, would Kinsella place the German and Italian fascists of the 1930s and 1940s? Has he, in fact, left any room on his political scale for those extremists, or is he implying that the Ontario Conservatives—which, I suppose, includes this writer—are to be included in the same category? Or is his labelling simply hyperbole?

In his book, Kinsella calls conservatives “shitheads” and uses the word “hate” to sum up the last Ontario PC campaign. Yet, with him present, there would seem to have existed hate enough for all in the Liberal war room—what with how he “detested” Hudak’s PCs and all. He also likes to characterize conservatives as “angry”, but he comes across plenty angry himself, and that weakens his cause.

Kinsella time and again groups Liberals and NDP members and supporters as progressives—as though there were little or no light to be found between these political groups/movements—and he points out they make up a majority of Canadians who do not support the federal Conservative government. But so what? When Liberal Jean Chrétien won his majority in 2000, he won about 41 per cent of the vote, leaving a hefty majority of Canadians sadly disappointed.

Moreover, Kinsella slips back and forth, figuratively, across the U.S.-Canadian border lumping together conservatives, Republicans, Ontario PCs and Canadian federal Conservatives as if they were one homogenous group politically, philosophically and otherwise. At one point, he refers to what he labels as “the North American Right” as if such a thing really exists in any meaningful way. In fact, rifts and disparities the size of truck-lanes exist between these groups/movements.

Furthermore, unexplainably, Kinsella tells us that Canada’s news media is “overwhelmingly conservative.” The folks at the country’s largest TV network, the CBC, and at its largest newspaper, the Toronto Star might disagree—as would most conservatives.

But perhaps I’m quibbling too much over semantics.

Fortunately for readers, as one moves through Fight the Right, one finds that it evolves from propaganda-like prose to talented political commentary with useful analysis, anecdotes and interesting insider-stuff. Nothing too revealing or surprising, but interesting nevertheless.

Even here though, the man demonstrates his War room chutzpah. He labels MP Frank Valeriote a “Liberal legend,” and points out that the RCMP is investigating “fraud by the Conservatives” in his Ontario riding of Guelph.

Perhaps, to be fair, I should give Kinsella the benefit of the doubt that he did not know at the time of writing his book that Liberal MP Valeriote’s own riding association has been fined by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission $4,900 over a robocall violation in the last general election, but I’d rather view this as an example of the pure audacity of the war room warrior.

Fight the Right makes good points about the Occupy movement, a group too quickly dismissed by many conservatives. And the book is refreshingly frank in assessments of some Liberal party policies. For example, he describes the Liberal party’s decision to allow non-party members to vote in their upcoming leadership election by saying, “It wasn’t just dumb, it was insane….”

Kinsella pays tribute to former prime minister Jean Chrétien heaping credit and praise on the former prime minister—much of it deserved. Perhaps, though, he’s a bit too generous in the latter. It was the same Jean Chrétien who as finance minister presided over some of Canada’s darkest days of ruinous fiscal management in the Trudeau era—run-away inflation, record-high deficits and low Canadian dollar. And it was the same Jean Chrétien who, in opposition, fought so hard to derail the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. The FTA and its successor, the NAFTA, has worked out remarkably well for Canada.

Chrétien might have been a formidable man and politician, but he had serious flaws and made monumental mistakes. A more balanced political commentary might have pointed this out.

Kinsella makes some excellent points about the need for authenticity in politicians. He also offers such kind words about Ronald Regan one wonders whether Kinsella believes the former president was a secret progressive. Or perhaps even he found his anti-conservative rhetoric tiresome.

I found the sections dealing with the formation and launch of the Sun News TV network balanced and informative, and the book ended rather well with an excellent concluding chapter.

In summary, flaws and all, Kinsella’s Fight the Right is a good read.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Political tit for tat?

The problem with political stunts is the potential for future payback—a tit for a tat, so to speak. The then Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken set off a series of events in March 2011 that led to the opposition-dominated procedure and House affairs committee ruling that the Stephen Harper government was in contempt of Parliament. This in turn triggered a confidence vote in the House of Commons that saw the minority Conservative government fall.

The contempt of Parliament charge stemmed from the Liberal-led opposition’s charge that the Conservative government had not fully disclosed the cost of its crime policies and the cost of new F-35 fighter jets.

Many believe it was purely a political stunt meant only to embarrass the government and sully its reputation. With the opposition outnumbering the Conservatives no amount of detail, many thought, would be enough to satisfy the opposition enough to avoid losing the contempt vote.

The political tables, of course, are turned in Ontario with the provincial Liberals holding power with a minority of seats in the Legislature and the Tories’ provincial affiliate, the Tim Hudak-led Progressive Conservatives, in opposition. And Ontario’s opposition parties have now voted to send a contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley to a legislative committee.

This contempt motion stemmed from the government not releasing documents on the full cost of cancelling two power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

The question now is whether a finding of contempt could lead Ontario’s opposition parties to move a non-confidence motion in the Legislature. Should there be is a non-confidence vote and the Legislature passes it, the minority Liberal government will be obliged to resign.

Tit for tat. And so the political stunting will have come full circle.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Omar Khadr back in Canada

As predicted a couple of weeks ago, convicted murderer and terrorist Omar Khadr is back on Canadian soil, or, at least, in prison here.

A question being asked (see here for example) is whether, now he’s under Canadian jurisdiction, will Khadr be charged with treason? Should this occur and should he be found guilty, Khadr would be liable to a sentence of life imprisonment.

As Alberta Ardvark blog has pointed out, the Criminal Code of Canada, Sec. 46-1 states, inter alia, that a Canadian Citizen commits high treason if, while in or out of Canada, “he assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.”

And Sec. 47-1 provides that, “Every one who commits high treason is guilty of an indictable offence and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.” And that “the sentence of imprisonment for life prescribed by subsection (1) is a minimum punishment.” [emphasis mine]

In my view, there is a prima facie case to be made against Omar Khadr, since in October 2010 he pleaded guilty to five charges against him—as part of a plea agreement with U.S. military commission prosecutors—including the murder of U.S. Army combat medic, Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, who was fatally wounded during a skirmish in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002.

It is now a matter of public record that:

“On October 25, 2010, Khadr pled guilty to murder of [SFC Christopher] Speer in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying in the United States.” [source]

If he is not guilty as charged in the U.S., then he is now unlawfully imprisoned in Canada and must be released immediately. But if he is guilty, then Canadian authorities should charge him with high treason and he should then stand trial in Canada.

In my view, therefore, the debate should be over what contradictory evidence exists that could be presented at trial to explain why Khadr’s actions do not constitute high treason.

The only such evidence I’ve heard is the matter of his age at the time he committed the crimes. Instead of the—some not so well informed—opinions of journalists and various others who favour the release of Khadr, I’d surely like to hear what a real Canadian court has to say about this.

Was Omar Khadr—at 15 years old—really a child soldier under Canadian law, and, if he was, does that exonerate him? After all, youth aged 14 to 18 may be tried and/or sentenced as adults under certain conditions. I am looking forward to a definitive answer to these central questions.

If Khadr is unlawfully imprisoned, release him immediately. Otherwise, I expect to see him stand trial for high treason.