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Tory minority in jeopardy as opposition talks coalition. Will there be another election?

observor 69

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If people don't want to buy your cars it doesn't matter how low auto worker salaries are.
The big three are already giving the cars away if the prices I see in the paper are to be believed.
 

Zell_Dietrich

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E.R. Campbell said:
• Stephane Dion’s leadership looks even worse. (Editorial note: is that even possible?) If Mr. Harper is correct, the Bloc and NDP leaders saw Mr. Dion as a weakling who could be manipulated into supporting the crisis they planned to provoke, and were proved correct. Dion leapt at the coalition so fast he caught his own caucus by surprise, and never did catch on that he was teetering on a cliff edge.

• The outlook for the coalition becomes even bleaker. (Editorial note: is that even possible?) Mr. Ignatieff is unlikely to be as easily manipulated as poor Mr. Dion, nor is he as likely to sign on to a strategy he didn’t devise himself.


Dion was put in a bad spot,  oppose that which he couldn't support or force an election.  Layton knew Harper would pull the same tricks of brinkmanship so he set things up to give the grits more options than caving in or having an election they couldn't afford.

Ignatiff inherited a rather nice position,  he has authority that Dion never had -  he can hold Harper's feet to the fire.  Watch for the budget to contain a lot of really nice goodies,  things so good the grits would be hard pressed to oppose it.  So Layton will get help for the down trotten,  the Grits look effective again and  Harper stays in Power.... everyone get allot of what they want - Merry Christmas.

 

Infanteer

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Re: Big 3 Bailout.

Rule #1 of Depth.  Never reinforce failure - exploit success.
 

Kirkhill

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Flip said:
They will more likely find themselves in a totally new line of work - "would you like fries with that sir?"- Toyota already will have a pool of employees and the last bloody thing they want is a bunch of former union members coming in and poisoning the air. 

Just as this should mean the end of the UAW as we know it, we should also see the end of executive hyper-salaries.

If people don't want to buy your cars it doesn't matter how low auto worker salaries are.
The big three are already giving the cars away if the prices I see in the paper are to be believed.

I seem to be missing my mark.

People may not want Big 3 cars at the prices the Big 3 charge but people want cars, in particular Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas, Hyundais.....

Consequently, if the Big 3 goes under then the residual demand for their product will be filled by increased demand for the others.  They will have to create and staff new capacity making vacancies for new/old employees. 

Frank Stronach will continue in business making brake assemblies, transmissions, engine castings and whatever he makes but he won't be making them for the Big 3.......although actually I think he will still be making them for Ford.

Ford seems to be the least at risk - note that they are not asking for money, just a line of credit.  Not quite the same thing.
 

Kirkhill

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And then there's this -
Shared in accordance with the Fair Dealings Provision of the Copyright Act.

Canadians want compromise, not coalition: poll
Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service 
Published: Friday, December 12, 2008

OTTAWA -- Almost two-thirds of Canadians say they want Michael Ignatieff, the new head of the federal Liberal party, to seek a compromise with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to keep the Conservatives in power instead of joining the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois early in the new year to defeat the minority government, according to the findings of a poll released Friday by Ipsos Reid.

Results of the poll, conducted exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National, showed 65% of those surveyed said they believe Mr. Ignatieff should try to find a compromise with Mr. Harper, compared with 27% who said he should "stick with the Liberal-NDP coalition." Eight per cent said they didn't know how Mr. Ignatieff should proceed.

The only place the coalition had majority support was in Quebec, were 62% gave the idea approval. Opposition was strongest in Alberta where 80% were opposed.

Poll results also suggest Canadians are so uncomfortable at the prospect of a Liberal-NDP coalition government, backed by the Bloc, that a majority -- 56% -- would prefer going to the polls again early in 2009 if Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is forced to choose between the two options. That number is unchanged from a similar poll conducted last week, prior to Mr. Ignatieff's promotion to the Liberal leadership.

The poll also said the Conservative party would garner 45% of the vote and score a majority victory if an election were held today.

"All of a sudden, Stephen Harper's hand has got a lot stronger," Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos Reid, said on Friday. "There is no reason for him to fear an election."

The survey results said the Liberals have not improved their electoral prospects -- so far -- by picking Mr. Ignatieff this week to replace the unpopular Stéphane Dion. Those surveyed favoured the Conservatives over the Liberals by 45% to 26% when no leaders' names were mentioned. The 19-point gap was repeated when the question was rephrased to name Mr. Ignatieff. The New Democrats trailed at 12% and the Green party came in at 7%. The Bloc scored 39% in Quebec, and 10% nationally.

Mr. Bricker said he is surprised the Liberals didn't get a bump from Mr. Ignatieff's selection, and that the result don't bode well for the future of the proposed coalition.

"The Liberals have played their one big card, which was changing their leader," Mr. Bricker said. "At the end of the day, it turned out to not be about who their leader really was. Really, it continues to be the whole concept of the coalition that bothers Canadians."

Mr. Bricker said the poll results suggest the public is not looking for tough talk from Mr. Ignatieff, who said after he was acclaimed leader Wednesday that he is willing to defeat the minority Tory government if the federal budget, to be unveiled Jan. 27, is "not in the national interest of our country."

Mr. Ignatieff also made clear he was keeping the coalition deal in his pocket if the Conservatives are defeated and the Governor General asks him to try to form a government.

The poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, was based on telephone interviews with 1,001 adults. In a sampling that size, results are considered to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

Off hand I would suggest: no election unless Harper calls it.

If Jack anticipated this then I am truly confused.



 

Reccesoldier

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Kirkhill said:
And then there's this -
If Jack anticipated this then I am truly confused.

I'm willing to bet he didn't... he was probably blinded by the froth spilling out of his mouth at the thought of an actual cabinet post.  That would have been quite a feat for the leader of the party that placed fourth in a national election.
 

john10

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Thucydides said:
Not to mention the oversight of things like the Sponsorship program to ensure they benefit the sitting Government and the Party's electoral success.
No, Martin had no role in the sponsorship program, and the role of the Minister for Québec is not to audit or do oversight of sponsorship spending in the province. It's not even an official position as far as I know, more of an informal title to an MP who can give insight about Québec issues at the cabinet table.

Thucydides said:
Face it, there was ample evidence that Martin was aware of something; go back and start researching and you will see that there were Liberal MP's who wrote letters warning that something was amiss with the Sponsorship program.
Firstly, no, there is no evidence that Martin was aware of what was going on. And second, even if he was, it wasn't his job, as Finance minister, to do oversight of spending by Public Works or PMO discretionary funds. There are mechanisms and staff in place to do oversight; it's not the job of the Minister of Finance. The Auditor General did her job investigating the program, and the day after she gave her report on the mismanagement, PM Martin called the Gomery Commission to investigate the program in more depth.

Thucydides said:
As collateral evidence, Paul Martin Jr's "Venetian Blind" trust, his non-arm's length sale of CSL to his sons and the exemption to tax laws that allowed one company to evade $700 million  dollars in tax liabilities (engineered while he was Minister of Finance; guess which company got the exemption?) tells me the man was a very smooth operator, not that he didn't know or wasn't aware.
You're trying to build a presumption of him being a liar based on your own basic ignorance of ministerial functions and who is responsible for what. Sorry, but that doesn't pass.

You're claiming that Martin is a liar based on presumptions that are simply not true, and by digging yourself in, you are displaying your ignorance of ministerial duties (i.e. the notion that the Finance minister is supposed to know how small increments of tens of millions are spent, is supposed to be aware of the real value of contracts signed by ministries like Public Works, that the minister for Québec is supposed to know about any contract that is signed with a Québec firm, is supposed to do oversight of money spent by the PMO).

It's quite clear that the only reason you keep insisting on this, regardless of facts, is that you like the Conservatives and you don't like the Liberals. My advice, respectfully, is to grow up a little bit.
 

Edward Campbell

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is what I think hope is the last word on the abortive coalition:
--------------------
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081212.wcomurphy13/BNStory/specialComment/home

And what of this coalition now?

REX MURPHY

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
December 12, 2008 at 10:27 PM EST

Just 12 days ago, on Monday of the past week, there stumbled into life what all of us now remember as the coalition.

Three men - two leaders of national parties, one leader of a Quebec separatist party - held an official "signing ceremony" for the coalition.

The coalition was all ready to become the government. Stéphane Dion would be its prime minister. Jack Layton's NDP would have six of its cabinet ministers. The Bloc was guaranteed something called a "formal consulting mechanism" during the promised 18 months of the agreement between all three. Only the delay of an imminent confidence vote, and the subsequent prorogation of Parliament, stayed the coalition's swift and lofty ascent to power.

I'm summarizing what everyone already knows, because in the hectic, stormy politics of the last two weeks, events of 12 whole days ago feel like something you might catch only on The History Channel. It really does seem like years have passed since those two or three days when Mr. Dion really looked like he was going to become prime minister after all. But it was only just last week. As T. S. Eliot once sagely observed, "History has many cunning corridors," and as if by way of illustration of this maxim, last week's PM-to-be is this week's backbencher. The Governor-General had barely finished sipping tea with an imploring Stephen Harper before the Liberals jettisoned Mr. Dion and placed Michael Ignatieff in his job.

Where are we now? Last week, the coalition had everyone in the country mesmerized. There was talk of nothing else. Open-line shows, comments on web pages, editorials - there was a wave of popular and media response of a volume unseen since the wrangles of Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord.

And where is this coalition now? What is it? Does it even still exist? Mr. Ignatieff hems and haws about "a coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a coalition," which is what a really fancy mind comes up with when it wants to say yes and no to the same question. Equivocation in a tuxedo, but pure equivocation nonetheless.

One would think the brand new leader of the Liberals could give a direct answer on something as plain as whether his party still has an agreement with the NDP and the Bloc; that all three are, like the fabled musketeers, all for one and one for all. That, as per the agreement between them, and the signing ceremony that announced it, come Jan. 27, when Parliament returns, it's out with the Harper imperium. But on the few occasions that Mr. Ignatieff has been pushed to clarify the most central question in all of Canadian politics - is the agreement to bring down Stephen Harper still in force? - the most erudite washing machine in Canadian politics goes into full spin cycle.

And out tumbles yes, no, and maybe as if they were synonyms.

Even the NDP, which I think has the first claim to pride of authorship in this matter of a coalition, seems more than a little hazy on its current status. Its most dulcet-toned deputy leader, Thomas Mulcair, reminds Mr. Ignatieff that he was "one of 161 MPs who signed a letter to the Governor-General asking to form an alternative government with the NDP."

But when pressed on the matter of whether his party and the Liberals are still in concert, still determined to do what that coalition was set up to do - form that alternative government - out comes the tepid, "I have every reason to believe in his sincerity and in the sincerity of his Liberal colleagues."

Let's try that again: "I have every reason to believe in his sincerity and in the sincerity of his Liberal colleagues." There's a trumpet blast. More "let's do lunch" than "give me liberty or give me death."

Are the Bloc still in this thing? No idea. Do they still have that wonder, detailed in the signing ceremony, of a "formal consultation mechanism?" Is Michael consulting with them? Is Jack mechanizing? Haven't heard. This is all very strange. Just 12 days ago, we had the boldest, most dramatic parliamentary manoeuvre in a generation, a formal alliance between three opposition parties, a signing ceremony of their leaders giving birth to a new entity and an "alternative government." This week, the once explosive notion of a coalition is a shimmer in some phantom zone of yesterday's politics. No one who had anything to do with it wants to admit it's dead. They want it to fade away all on its own. If it wasn't for that signing ceremony and the wonderfully retentive powers of videotape, I'd almost bet some of its backers would deny it ever existed.

There won't be any more rallies for the coalition. It was the fevered product of a moment's opportunism, a political house of cards. Five years from now, it'll be a good question for Trivial Pursuit.

--------------------

The coalition was, and a coalition remains a good, solid, legal and democratic ‘solution’ to a dysfunctional minority parliament. The Layton, Duceppe and whats’isname coalition was doomed by Jacques Parizeau and Canadians' sure and certain knowledge that Layton et al were/are lying through their teeth when they claim(ed) the economy/stimulus was/is the problem. It was 100% obvious to all but the mentally defective that Layton, Duceppe and whats’isname were driven mad by fear of losing their political pogey. They, especially the BQ and Liberals, are political welfare bums (Pace, David Lewis) – sucking from the public teat that which they are unable to raise on their own; they are flaccid, in every respect.


 

Old Sweat

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I would think the lying through their teeth bit is not as serious in the eye's of the public as is the implied handing over control of the government to the Bloc. Dxxx it, it combines the worst features of Meech and Charlottetown with the bartering of the national interest in a blind lust for power. It is an illegitimately conceived solution to a side issue, while much larger challenges are left to fester on. Even if it results in a constitutionally correct solution, the methodology is wrong, wrong, wrong. Therefore the coaltion receives a failing grade.

 

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Stumbled across this interesting piece by Leo Knight who hosts the Prime Time Crime's - Crime & Punishment. Reproduced with the usual caveats under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act.


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2008

The last Rae Day

As much as he tried to be conciliatory and magnanimous, the angst on the face of Bob Rae as he reluctantly let go of his passionate, all-consuming ambition to be the Prime Minister of Canada was all too evident.  And, so too must have been the angst in the boardroom of Power Corp, where Rae's brother, John, is part of the ruling class, oops, sorry, senior management.

But wait, Michael Ignatieff is still part of the ruling elite "entitled to their entitlements" class of the Liberal Party of Canada isn't he?  Well, that's a little hard to say.  He's been absent from Canada for much of his adult life.  On the surface he seems more centrist than the former NDP Premier of Ontario could ever claim to be.  And whatever ties to Power Corp. he may have, it seems to be only a friendship to the Raes.  Well, so far.

What is clear is that, with the notable exception of Stephen Harper, every Prime Minister in office longer than the time to have a cup of coffee in the past three decades, owes his allegiance to Power Corp.  Then, add the likes of Maurice Strong (he of the UN Oil for Food scandal) and Paul Volker (former chair of he US Fed and current Barack Obama advisor) to the mix and their influence – dare I say dominance - over North American government is complete for the last 40 years.

And there's the rub isn't it?  There is no ability to control Stephen Harper is there?  Oh sure, Brian Mulroney, another Power Corp. alumni, was an adviser in the early days, but that too failed.  So how to continue the run?  Obviously Harper has to go. 

But how?  He was just elected a few weeks earlier.  Albeit to a minority government as the Libs were reduced to their lowest vote tally in living memory.  In the last minority Parliament, Lib leader Stephane Dion supported the Harper government against all of his pet causes in a twisting, hypocritical, mind-numbingly theatrical performance to avoid an election, all the while saying he was against what Harper was doing.  It's a wonder his dog, Kyoto, didn't bite him.

No problem apparently though after the next election forced by Harper.  The Libs did exactly what they said they would never do and crawled into bed with the NDP and the separatist Bloc.  Well, as threesomes go, I doubt there has been another dripping with more sleaze and hypocrisy than that one.  Or as Mulroney once mused, "There's no whore like an old whore."  And I suppose he is an authority on that subject.

What puzzles me is the concept that Rae, and by extension his supporters, or more accurately, string pullers, tried to peddle that the Governor General had an obvious choice to make if they, the combined opposition, simply said they had no confidence in the sitting government and she should appoint them as the government.

It not only defies logic, and law and tradition, but speaks to the unadulterated ego and sense of entitlement possessed by the Liberal Party of Canada.  That Jack and Gilles jumped on the train is really of no import.  Neither will ever get close to the Prime Minister's office in any way, shape or form save and except as an invited visitor.  Canadians, as apathetic as they can be in their "I'm all right Jack" existence, would never be so stupid as to let them close to the levers of power.  So Layton signed on to his only shot and is still trying to milk out the dry udder of that cow while Duceppe is still sniggering at the door those idiots opened for him and the separatists.

And at the end of the last Rae-Day, the worst Premier Ontario has ever seen will not have the opportunity to become the worst Prime Minister Canada has ever seen.  His brother, John Rae, who ran the campaigns of Jean Chretien and is a central, dominating part of the power brokers of Power Corp. will not have a direct pipeline into the Prime Minister's office.

Or will he?
 

Infanteer

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Ahh...good old Power Corp - it was about time we pulled out the Canadian Illuminati again....
 

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It is too bad that only a very, very few Canadians will read Leo Knight or even Rex's piece. Even then, less will understand. My sister and her husband are excellent examples of the last two statements. That's why this country is in trouble. The Canadian Greatest Generation tried, but the politicians, mainly the Liberals, squandered Canada's promise. And here we are.
 

Edward Campbell

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I suspect that this report, reproduced here under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is a signal that Stephen Harper is not done with the idea of making parliamentarians and political parties ‘share the pain’ of the current economic crisis:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081213.wrcmppay1213/BNStory/National/home

Government rolling back scheduled pay raises for RCMP

The Canadian Press

December 13, 2008 at 9:07 AM EST

OTTAWA — The federal government is rolling back planned pay increases for members of the RCMP by 0.5 per cent over the next two years, CTV News reports.

The Mounties were expecting pay increases of 2 per cent in 2009 and 2010 as well as a 1.5 per cent market adjustment in 2009. Instead, the pay increases are being decreased to 1.5 per cent and there will be no market adjustment.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott broke the news to the force members in an e-mail sent Friday.

“We have now been advised that on Dec. 11, 2008, (the) Treasury Board modified its previous decision dated June 19, 2008, on RCMP member's compensation,” he said.

Treasury Board did so by amending the rates of pay for the second and third years of the most recent three-year compensation arrangement to limit the previously approved increase to 1.5 per cent, Mr. Elliott wrote.

The CTV News report said cabinet was not informed of the Treasury Board decision.

Under Canadian law, the RCMP cannot engage in collective bargaining and pay is determined by the Treasury Board. According to the RCMP website, a constable with three year's experience is paid $74,539 a year.

The force is planning to hire 1,700 new cadets each year for the next few years as many officers are hitting retirement age.

In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that RCMP cadets would start being paid for their 24 weeks of training in an effort to entice recruits.

--------------------

I doubt PM Harper will want to reintroduce the end of the pay for votes scheme until he has a majority, but he may want to reduce the amount paid out by a token amount – say 10%/20¢ and he may ask MPs to forgo a pay raise or even to roll back their last increase, for a while, at least.

If, as appears likely, Iggy wants to avoid a coalition that is approved by Jolly Jacques Parizeau and gives Taliban Jack Layton a hand on the economic levers then he will, probably, accept a bit of punishment IF Harper provides sufficient stimulus (mostly wasted, as I point out here) to require him to support the budget and allow Harper to govern until mid/late spring when the GG will have no choice except to allow another election as soon as Harper engineers his own defeat in the HoC. (Sorry, that's a long, convoluted sentence, but I'm sure you get the point.) That will begin to undermine Ignatieff: he'll be seen as keeping Harper in power even when Liberal's are hurt, because he's afraid of a general election - as he should be.

 

Edward Campbell

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s National Post is a commentary by Conrad Black (Lord of the Realm and convicted felon):
--------------------
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2008/12/13/conrad-black-harper-and-ignatieff-promise-a-rivalry-for-the-ages.aspx

Conrad Black:
Harper and Ignatieff promise a rivalry for the ages


Posted: December 13, 2008, 9:30 AM by Kelly McParland

Despite appearances, Canadian political life (at least from this distance) seems to be working out sensibly. The arrival of Michael Ignatieff as leader of the opposition returns the Liberal Party to what was, for nearly a century, the principal factor that kept it in office through three quarters of that time as the democratic world’s most successful political party.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, W.L.M. King, Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau were all party leaders called from obscurity, or late to politics, who had not sought political leadership before. They all lost at least once, but on balance, they were all winners, and won 17 of 25 general elections they fought.

John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were all Buggin’s Turn: Each was the surviving runner-up from the previous leadership convention. Add in Stéphane Dion, who was a gesture to alternating English and French-speaking leaders, and who won his party’s leadership as the beneficiary of tactical errors in Ignatieff’s leadership campaign. Despite the disintegration of the opposition for a decade, this quartet won only four elections, while losing four.

The earlier method of leader-selection was, I have long thought, the most unpredictable, ineluctable, process of choosing a leader of any important organization in the world except the Holy See -- and it worked.

Michael Ignatieff is the first Liberal leader not of Anglo-Saxon or French ancestry, and has spent even more of his life outside Canada than did Pearson or Trudeau. His intellectual standing could only be rivaled, among his predecessors, by Trudeau, and, in a stretch, King. His writing, which is a worthwhile body of work, reveals an affecting connection to his country all through long periods outside Canada.

One of his problems three years ago was that his rivals managed to portray his return to Canada to enter political life as condescension rather than the closing of the ring that it really was. He was responding to the equivalent for him of “the cry of the loon and the dip of the paddle,” as have many others in different fields, from Peter Munk to Mordecai Richler. The original Thomas Wolfe was not entirely correct: In Canada, you can go home.

In policy terms, the only area where Ignatieff seemed to be in a time warp three years ago was his concern to resolve outstanding issues with Quebec nationalists. They don’t want to reach agreement; and their strength, in both relative and absolute terms, is withering. The constitutional anomalies can be eliminated when the Quebec federalists are strong enough to make an arrangement with Ottawa without fear of nationalist reaction. The time will come, and fairly soon.

Taking psychological liberties with public figures is hazardous, and often odious, but there may be a matter of finishing off some family business here. George Ignatieff, the new Liberal leader’s father, was a prominent contender to be governor general about 30 years ago, but was passed over. He and his wife would have done honour to the position. If this weighs in Michael ignatieff’s ambitions, and his writing reveals a lively interest in his ancestry, it is certainly creditable to set right the short-changing of one’s forebears.

Michael Ignatieff removed any lingering doubt that he had the character to lead when he did not scheme against the hapless Dion, and kept his distance from the hare-brained exploration of a coalition government with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. Canada needs, and surely deserves, deliverance from the sort of nasty, hyperactive political adolescents who confected that mad enterprise.

Michael Ignatieff will be only the 12th federal Liberal leader in 142 years of Confederation. As all but Edward Blake and Stéphane Dion have served as prime minister, his chances of doing so are good, although the Liberal hammer-lock on Quebec following the 1917 conscription controversy for 67 years until the rise of Brian Mulroney, cannot be resurrected. The Liberals are not the sure thing in almost three elections out of four that they were between the death of Sir John Macdonald in 1891 and the retirement of Pierre Trudeau in 1984.

The joust between Ignatieff and Stephen Harper should be an interesting one; as well-matched, and surely more coherent, than the nine-year, four general-election battle between John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson (1958-1967).

Perhaps because of the brilliance of the Florida summer sun, compounded by the foibles of my American hosts, I have been conducting a completely unnoticed, rear-guard argument in favour of the theory that Stephen Harper is something of a Mackenzie King, an ungalvanizing public personality but a cunning political operator.

It is conceivable that there was an element of calculation in his suggestion of ceasing to finance political parties, reviewing some of the rigidities of pay equity, and revisiting the right to strike in the public service. These are all respectable policy options, and my impression is that the country was more offended by the absurd opposition response than by Harper’s heavy-handed, yet sneaky and reckless introduction of these thoughts in a financial message. This episode should be out of mind when the budget is presented in January, but Harper can still revive these issues more promisingly, later.

Harper showed great tactical skill in putting the opposition back together at the start of this decade, and in making inroads in Quebec. It is obvious now that he was astute in provoking the last election when he did. This distances him from the ineptitude of many previous Conservative leaders, but it doesn’t make him a Mackenzie King.

King made a virtue of indecision, timidity, hypocrisy and obscurantism. As Frank Scott wrote of King in a moment of exasperated brilliance: “He blunted us. He never let his on the one hand know what his on the other hand was doing. The height of his ambition was to pile a parliamentary committee on a royal commission. Postpone, postpone, abstain … Always he led us back to where we were before.”

He was also a political genius who held the country together with what Scott called “the smokescreen of his politics,” and struck like a leopard when he had the chance to extend his own incumbency (an astounding 22 years as prime minister).

Stephen Harper will not abase himself, as King often did. He may be authoritarian and seem a bit wooden. But he too makes it as a comparative intellectual, and he is now a proven political strategist, notwithstanding the events of the last few weeks. The ideological gap between the main parties should be quite narrow, so it should be a good hand-to-hand combat between the most apparently intelligent pair of alternative prime ministers Canada has had since the young Laurier and the old Macdonald, (1887-1891).

National Post

cbletters@gmail.com

--------------------

A few days, maybe a week ago, one of our members, here on Army.ca, posited that Harper had a deep and devious plan to provoke the Liberals and NDP to overplay their hand and fall into the lap of the BQ. Black gives credence to that idea in saying, ” It is conceivable that there was an element of calculation in his suggestion of ceasing to finance political parties, reviewing some of the rigidities of pay equity, and revisiting the right to strike in the public service. These are all respectable policy options, and my impression is that the country was more offended by the absurd opposition response than by Harper’s heavy-handed, yet sneaky and reckless introduction of these thoughts in a financial message.”

Would the person who made that suggestion please provide a link to it? Thanks, in advance.

I agree with Black that the ‘ideological gap’ between Harper’s Parliamentary Conservative Party and Ignatieff’s Parliamentary Liberal Party are quite narrow. The gaps between the party bases, the rank and file in the riding associations, are wide and deep: the Conservative base is far to the right of where Harper knows he must be to win elections and the Liberal base is far to the left of where Ignatieff wants to position the Liberal party. The battle is for the mushy middle and both leaders must reject the siren songs of their respective bases and fight for the only ground that matters – the middle ground. Iggy will have a harder time because while Harper’s hard right wing has nowhere to go, right now, the hard left of the Liberals are being invited into Taliban Jack Layton’s NDP. 

 

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Would the person who made that suggestion please provide a link to it? Thanks, in advance.

Going to take a liberty here.

A couple of us have opined on that issue but I think the strongest, earliest defence came from Thucydides here.
 

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I think Roy McGregor may have it (Canadians’ penchant for driving in reverse) just about right in this column reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081215.wmacgregor15/BNStory/politics/home

The bully Prime Minister, the uncertain G-G and that silly coalition seem to have woken us up

ROY MacGREGOR

From Monday's Globe and Mail
December 15, 2008 at 4:18 AM EST

In Canada, you usually have to go in reverse in order to get anywhere.

Perhaps it's because we spend so much time stuck in snow, perhaps it's because we're forever looking through the rear-view mirror in search of something to apologize for, but it's there, and it's real.

Canadian voters, it is well known, seem happier tossing out than grudgingly putting in. Sort of voting backward, if you like.

It is rather curious, then, to see recent polls being interpreted as support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper - "record support," certain majority if an election were held today - when, in fact, they are no such thing.

What the polls really show - if you use the reverse rule of thumb for Canadian politics - is a near-total condemnation of the coalition formed by the Liberals and New Democratic Party and formally approved by the Bloc Québécois.

The Canadian way, again countervailing, is to embrace those we first denied office - think of it as the RLS syndrome, in recognition of the political career of the beloved Robert Lorne Stanfield - but before we all start saluting Stéphane Dion for his statesmanship, grace and sacrifice, let us remember for a moment the ineptness, the inability to communicate and that embarrassing hissy-fit performance during the coalition's first appearance in the House of Commons.

For those who may have forgotten, that is where duly elected members of Parliament once met in public.

That coalition could hardly have been presented more poorly to an astounded Canadian public. Canadians were invited to watch a televised signing ceremony in which the Bloc signed with a flourish, and then were expected to accept that the Bloc was in no way part of the coalition. Dion then met with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and let her tell Canadians that she might be named to the Senate so she could join him in his work - this, at a time when the combined actions of the Prime Minister and the various elected opposition parties were sending out signals that democracy no longer had a place on Parliament Hill.

No wonder one of the polls found that nearly three-quarters of Canadians were "scared" silly by all this.

They had a coalition composed of a dud Liberal Leader, an NDP Leader seemingly more full of himself than even his detractors had imagined, and both supported by a man with the surprised look of someone who has just pulled a winning lottery ticket out of the trash.

Then they had a Prime Minister who basically declared martial law without the guns.

Surely even those politicians involved begin to see how repulsed - perhaps more so than at any time in this country's history - Canadians have become with their federal politics.

While the coalition deserved widespread condemnation, so, too, did the Prime Minister. His behaviour, from the heartless economic statement to the sadistic wing-plucking of the opposition to his increasing problems with the simple truth – no flags at the signing ceremony? no responsibility for the chaos? - had Harper looking far more like Richard Nixon than Sir John A. Macdonald.

This disconnect between Parliament Hill - or wherever government is to be found these days - has been so complete that it seems impossible that so many tin ears could have been sent to Ottawa at the same time.

The Prime Minister, having railed at the coalition for being undemocratic and having spent his political career vowing Senate reform, now proposes to name 18 Conservatives to the Senate in order to "balance" things out.

While tens of thousands are losing their jobs, he sends 18 pals off to the great "taskless thanks" at $130,400 a year, not including perks.

The major thing that can be said of such rampant madness is that it has angered people to a point rarely seen in this country. Never has a non-sitting Parliament been talked about so much. Never has the easy condemnation of politicians formed so much of the national small talk.

Is it possible to fix this mess?

"We know what to do, Canadians, when we're stuck in the snow," Jean Chrétien once said of a previous Canada-threatening crisis. "You don't get excited. You don't spin your wheels. You just go forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards - and eventually you're back on the road."

If that is still possible, then perhaps we should thank the coalition for its good work, even if accidental. After all, the coalition did expose the Prime Minister as a man never to be trusted with a majority and did force the Liberal Party to dump Dion. Thank it, and then kiss it goodbye - at least in its current formation.

Looking ahead, it is arguable that the silly coalition, the bully Prime Minister and the uncertain Governor-General have awakened Canadians in a manner far beyond their pitiful 59.1-per-cent level of interest on Oct. 14.

Perhaps, as well, it has awakened those who need to be poked to the reality that there is more to politics than gamesmanship. A possible depression, for example. And certain war.

Looking back, as Canadians so love to do, we may even one day agree that this was a necessary madness.

One that ultimately forced the country to return to its senses.

--------------------

Being a Conservative partisan I hope McGregor is wrong when he says that the coalition exposed ”the Prime Minister [Harper]as a man never to be trusted with a majority,” but I fear that he may be right. If we have an election in spring 2009 we can certainly count on the opposition – political and media – to remind Canadians, over and over and over again, that Stephen Harper is a bully (true enough) and untrustworthy (not proven but, as we all know, lies work).

 

GAP

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The Coalition Christmas Story

T’was three weeks before Christmas, when all through the house
The opposition was stirring, even Layton - the louse.
The dealings were waved in front of noses in the air,
In hopes that a Coalition soon would be there.

The Blocs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of separatism danced in their heads.
And Jack in his ‘kerchief, and Stéphane - the sap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.
When all across the country there arose such a clatter,
Dion insisted, it didn’t really matter.
Away out the window, he threw with a flash,
The results of the election, amid the backlash.

The moon on the breast of Elizabeth May,
Suggested she might still be able to play.
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But a weasely Frenchman with promises dear.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it was Jack Layton, the dick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name

"Now Dion! now, Duceppe! Now Mays - you vixen!
Let’s get together, It’s time to Listen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Let’s unite! Let’s unite! Separatists and all!"

And then, in a twinkling, they heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of Canadians, not aloof.
They drew in their heads, and turned around,
And down the chimney St Harper came with a bound.

He was dressed all in gold, from his head to his feet,
Letting them know he wouldn’t be easy to defeat.
A bundle of Tories he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a King, with nothing to lack.

His eyes-how they glared! his fists, how clenched!
He stands for democracy, and won’t see it trenched!
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a sneer,
For the governor-general soon would appear.


The promise of dissolving he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it caused encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a stern face and a little round belly,
And wanted to bury Dion in a bowlful of jelly!

Harper was elected by Canadians, voted in fair,
Not a Weasel, not a Separatist, not the guy with no hair!
With them getting together, it will have to be said,
Canadians will face the future with dread.

Harper spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Shook his head in disgust, then turned to the jerk.
And laying his middle finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a shout,
Trying to teach Canadians, what this is about.
And I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"This is the end of democracy, C’mon lets fight!"

By Wendy Heuvel, with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, author of the original.

 

Kirkhill

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Then they had a Prime Minister who basically declared martial law without the guns.

While the coalition deserved widespread condemnation, so, too, did the Prime Minister. His behaviour, from the heartless economic statement to the sadistic wing-plucking of the opposition to his increasing problems with the simple truth – no flags at the signing ceremony? no responsibility for the chaos? - had Harper looking far more like Richard Nixon than Sir John A. Macdonald.

The Prime Minister, having railed at the coalition for being undemocratic and having spent his political career vowing Senate reform, now proposes to name 18 Conservatives to the Senate in order to "balance" things out.

While tens of thousands are losing their jobs, he sends 18 pals off to the great "taskless thanks" at $130,400 a year, not including perks.

After all, the coalition did expose the Prime Minister as a man never to be trusted with a majority

Permit me to disagree with the histrionics.

I do sense, however, an attempt at creating a story line to counter the intention of 55-60% of Canadians to vote for Harper in light of the Coalition effort and despite the Coronation of Iggy.

 

McG

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It would have been interesting to take this one step farther to see if ignorance/cognizance of our political system affected one's perception of the coalition or of the proroguing of Parliament.  It's also a little frighting to think that so many election day votes may be cast by the ignorant.   
Canadians don't understand political system: survey
Updated Sun. Dec. 14 2008 4:26 PM ET
The Canadian Press

TORONTO -- D'oh Canada! We hardly know you.

The prime minister is not our head of state. We are not a representative republic. We do not elect our prime minister directly.

A new survey for the Dominion Institute taken in the aftermath of this month's political crisis in which the word "prorogue" was dusted off political science textbooks suggests a woeful ignorance when it comes to our system of government.

For example, results of the Ipsos Reid survey show 75 per cent of Canadians asked believe the prime minister, or the Governor General, is head of state. Bzzzz -- wrong.

It's actually the Queen.

Only 24 per cent managed to answer correctly, according to the poll provided exclusively to The Canadian Press.

Marc Chalifoux, executive director of the Dominion Institute, said he decided to commission the survey in light of the furor caused when a coalition of opposition parties threatened to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government.

Harper's defensive strategy was to ask Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to prorogue, or shut down, Parliament until late in January to avoid what likely would have been a vote of non-confidence.

With such unfamiliar words such as "treason" and "coup d'etat" entering the Canadian political lexicon, Chalifoux said he wanted to gauge the understanding people had of what had transpired.

"Canadians certainly were interested by what was going on in Ottawa, but lacked in many cases the basic knowledge to form informed opinions," Chalifoux said.

"We found a lot of ignorance."

The institute drew up four basic questions:

    * Who is the head of state?
    * How can Canada's system of government best be described?
    * Do Canadians elect the prime minister directly?
    * Can the governor general can nix a prime minister's request for a new election?

"These questions we're asking aren't just trivia," Chalifoux said.

"These are part of the basic tool kit of knowledge that citizens need to function in a democracy."

Given a choice how best to describe the system of government, 25 per cent decided on a "co-operative assembly" while 17 per cent opted for a "representative republic."

Canada is neither.

Only 59 per cent correctly picked constitutional monarchy.

In a similar vein, 51 per cent wrongly agreed that Canadians elect the prime minister directly.

In fact, Canadians elect local members of Parliament and the leader of the party with the most members by tradition becomes prime minister at the request of the governor general.

"Our school system needs to be doing a better job of training young people to be citizens," Chalifoux said.

One question that did elicit close to unanimous agreement was about the Governor General's power to refuse to call an election at the request of a prime minister who no longer enjoys majority support in the House of Commons.

A full 90 per cent responded -- correctly -- that the Governor General does have the power, which Jean may yet be called on to wield if the opposition coalition does defeat the government with a vote in the Commons.

Overall, the survey found the lowest levels of knowledge in Quebec -- 70 per cent of Quebecers, for example, wrongly believe Canadians directly elect the prime minister. Only 35 per cent of Atlantic Canadians made that mistake.

The survey of 1,070 Canadians done Dec. 9-12 is said to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
 

McG

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Oops.  Forgot the lnk: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081214/survey_canada_081214/20081214?hub=QPeriod
 
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