Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

The Globe’s endorsements: a litany of facepalms

Is this catharsis? Penance? The Globe & Mail has decided to offer up every single one of their election endorsement editorials of the past thirty years. I mean, none of it’s even redacted.

It puts stuff in an interesting context. Canada has very little in the way of a diverse national media culture. The Globe was the only national newspaper in the country until Conrad Black thought he’d shift the narrative further to the right by launching the National Post in 1998. This essentially gave us one Progressive Conservative paper, and one Reform Party paper. And nominally-independent city dailies which have long been, in the main, localist subsidiaries of the national outfits like Southam/Hollinger/Canwest/Postmedia.

Compare Britain, where there are four “quality dailies” and five more “tabloid dailies” printed nationwide,* and speaking from every point on the political spectrum (more than one in the lunatic fringe, it must be said).

Looking through the Globe’s archives, we see that they shunned the Liberals solidly, in every election from 1979 through to 1993, endorsing Clark over Trudeau twice, and Mulroney in both ’84 and ’88. And even in 1993, their endorsement of Chrétien’s Liberals was unashamedly begrudging. They declared “firmly for a minority. We do not trust the Liberals to govern unguarded.”

And why didn’t they? Because, they were convinced that:

[I]t is clear that a majority Liberal government would make no serious attempt to rescue the nation’s finances. Indeed, it’s a safe bet the Liberals would not get the deficit below $30-billion. It would be five more years of the same desperate game of catchup with the debt, just keeping pace with the remorseless growth in interest payments by nickel- and-diming spending – and raising taxes. In the same vein, the Liberals’ expressed willingness to let inflation rise again only guarantees the country will have to endure another recession before long. What that will do to the debt we can only guess.

And, they eat their hat.

Even in 1997, with budget surpluses on the books, and Québec separation averted, the Globe said, you know what, Jean Charest’s Tories look pretty good right now. Seriously? 1997’s Progressive Conservative leader, presiding over a parliamentary caucus of *two* MPs, was deemed best fit to take the reins of government in the midst of Chrétien/Martin actually balancing the budget? Wowza.

In 2000, they endorsed Paul Martin for Prime Minister despite the fact he wasn’t the leader of his party. The Globe, however, pretended to perceive Martin as simply a better political animal, cleverer, a better speaker, and uncorrupted by a lust of power for power’s sake (lolwut?). At the heart of it, Martin was further to the economic right, and the newspaper liked it. Reaganomics has always been the Globe’s North Star.

What’s so surprising in all of this is not that the Globe can admit that, since pretty much the end of the George Brown era, it has been a decidedly dyed-in-the-wool Old Blue Tory rag. The curiosity here is that, by way of setting up this new interactive editorial timeline, they are essentially declaring how wrong they’ve been. Habitually. Relentlessly. Wrongy McWrong.

Will John Stackhouse and co. be as scared of the prospect of a Liberal budget in 2011, as we wallow in historic depths of Conservative deficit? Will they deem Flaherty’s thunderous spending sprees to be “sober investments”? Will the perceived arrogance in 1997’s Liberal “Red Book” be translated into perceived arrogance in the tinted-window cloisters of Harperland and their heavily redacted “No Book”?

It shouldn’t matter. The abysmal accuracy rating and the bungled political priorities of the G&M editorial board over the course of the past thirty years should be enough to render their endorsement without real value. The problem is that this is Canada. There aren’t many newspapers. There isn’t a great, diverse, representative debate going on. Even television – there will be one televised debate (in each language), compared to the U.S. and the UK where there are normally three.

And that’s the greater shame about this election, like all Canadian elections – it happens in a stilted press environment that (aside from some provocative and engaging online outlets) is mainly dull, conservative, and more often than not, wrong.

* just for reference, the main national British papers, and who they tend to trump for. Wishing the Canadian press universe were as wide-ranging (keeping in mind that the UK Sun’s headline today is “I Eat Sofas: A Mum’s Deadly Addiction”):

Qualities: The Telegraph (Conservative), The Times (Labour/Conservative), The Guardian (Labour/Liberal Democrat), The Independent (Liberal Democrat)

Tabloids: The Mirror (Labour), The Sun (Labour/Conservative), The Daily Mail (Conservative/UKIP), The Daily Express/Daily Star (Conservative), The Morning Star (Socialist)

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Playing politics out loud

This doesn’t quality as a gaffe, perhaps, but the Liberals best avoid being quite this frank.

The Liberals had also worried coming back to the Commons in January that Stephen Harper would cancel the $6-billion tax cuts, deciding the country just couldn’t afford them. It would deny the Liberals their big issue – and the spending envelope for their programs.

Their entire platform would have been in jeopardy had Mr. Harper changed his mind. “Our biggest fear coming back in the New Year was that he would think twice about the corporate tax cuts,” a senior Ignatieff official said Monday. “But he didn’t do that, he is stubborn, he is ideological and he didn’t do that.”

When you say that you feared Harper might roll back the corporate tax giveaways because it would make campaigning against him tougher, you’re pretty much saying that the issue itself is secondary to the competition.

As always, Jane Taber doesn’t reveal her “senior party sources,” but whoever she/he is, please – we get enough hyperpartisan spin from Team Harper. Let’s stick to the bottom line: corporate tax cuts are inappropriate, full stop.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

It’s hard being a swinger

My girlfriend would insist that I elaborate on that.

Elections force decisions. For those in a “base” of any description, it’s not so much the case – and part of me envies it. Loyal partisans can dedicate their considerable energies to converting wavering voters to the cause, to plugging their predetermined messiahs, and they don’t have to spend quite as much time wondering to themselves who it is they want to vote for. It’s called loyalty for a reason.

I’m afraid I’m a fiercely disloyal, oscillating left-wing cruiser, who’s voted for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the UK, and for the NDP, Greens, and Liberals in Canada over a range of elections. It’s nice to come into a new campaign with fresh eyes. But there’s a struggle as well – perhaps I’m less disloyal, and more multiloyal. Every potential choice feels like a betrayal to the consequent non-choice. Hence a deep loathing for FPTP!

However addled I may be by indecision at this early stage, I thought I’d like to review the parties and leaders so far. Rather than Twitter’s 140 character shackles, let’s nonetheless be brief – 140 words per party! A few ruminations on how the campaign appears so far…

Greens: A funny place to start, since there’s nothing of import I’ve been able to glean about the Greens so far. Nor am I especially likely to vote for them. I feel for the party’s struggle to be heard on the national stage – a party that can command around 10% support deserves coverage. But, as they command around 0% of the seats, they just don’t get it. I fear for May’s prospects in Saanich – Gulf Islands. The hippyish Gulf Islands part I get, but Saanich? Wealthy retirees with monster homes do not strike me as fertile territory. It’s frankly a disaster of a riding for anyone. I do want to see May in the debates again, though; if she can’t demand the national stage normally, she can at least get the chance to hold her own in front of her rivals.

Liberals: I know I’m living abroad, but what I can tell, Ignatieff is actually doing brilliantly – as is the party write large. No gaffes yet. Quick, sharp rebuttals to dumb Harper policies like a “tax break for families, maybe, in five years.” He’s pouncing on Harper’s reference to “ethnics” as “you people.” He’s drumming away at key ethics slogans, and chipping away at the “prudent economic steward” garbage that Tories try to own. Liberals seem organised, serious, competitive, believeable, innovative and frank. The university grants scheme is smart. Would like to see it promote cross-provincial study, frankly. It blows my freaking mind that they aren’t yet 10 points ahead. Despair a bit at Ignatieff ruling out a coalition, but recognise his rationale. It’s just toxic in poor Canadia. If an election were held in five seconds, I’d vote for Iggy.

NDP: Layton’s the best leader of the lot, and the nicest, classiest, and most natural by far. I’m pleased he’s campaigning in Edmonton and Saskatchewan, and they need to keep it up. Would like to see other prominent NDPers taking up some campaign work too (are they?). Mulcair, Martin, Davies all out there, illustrating the “team” dynamic to contrast against Harper-authoritarianism. I feel “Jack Layton” branding on everything over-eggs his charm, and is slightly offensive to the depth/breadth of the party. Like many, I want NDP to grow, but not at expense of Liberals! Painful. Where’s it likely? Prairie urban centres, the Far North, much of B.C., and Quebec. I want them going whole hog in those areas. “CPC taking prairie voters for granted” is brilliant. Policy so far a bit middling. Credit card limits? What’s this about?

Conservatives: Regardless of Ibbitson’s praise, I honestly find the Harper campaign so far to be an embarrassment. I’m trying to see it from the perspective of loyal, or potential, CPC voters. Does yammering on about coalitions, like some sort of dysfunctional 1970s robot, when Ignatieff has gone so far as to rule it out explicitly, not reek of desperation? It’s not only dishonest, it’s pathetic. They seem to have no Plan B narrative to coalition-fear-mongering. “Ageist” and “you ethnic people” optics are nasty little bumps in the road for them. “Family tax breaks if you’re lucky in 2016” is a joke, and they know it. No convincing defense of their record so far – I thought CPC was a well-oiled machine? Doesn’t seem at ease, and will fail badly in debates, I reckon. What will “real Canadians” think, eh?

Bloc: Sigh. Ballsy and clever to trot out the 2004 coalition letter. Nice way to put Harper on the back foot. Otherwise, what can you say? No sovereigntist talk, just “Quebec is great” talk. Am frankly glad Parizeau emerged from sarcophagus to call for big separate Quebec state, as it flummoxes Duceppe plans to morph BQ into a fuzzy regionalist social democrat party without any serious separation leanings. I think he’s been a useful thorn in Harper’s Quebec ambitions, but that’s perhaps a bit of spiteful glee on my part. What I’d love to see is Duceppe campaigning cross-Canada trying to explain his vision of the universe and, specifically, the Canadian federation. Wouldn’t that be in Quebec’s interests too? To show the softer, gentler, cuddlier side of Quebec nationalism? Oh well, perhaps he is not ballsy after all. Ha ha.

O.K., the “ha ha” may not be the cleverest way to get to 140 words on the Bloc, but anyhoo, it’s no less clever than some of the analysis we’ve seen on the Globe and Mail so far.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beautiful day

Happy Friday, Canada – here’s the soundtrack to a collapsing Conservative government :-)

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Enough Harper video

A clever new one from the Enough Harper people. Peter Donolo needs to subscribe to these folks asap!

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A Liberal dream ad?

How fast can Ignatieff speak? If he can say the following in 30 seconds, it’s pretty much exactly the kind of Liberal ad that I’d cheer for.

You can tell a lot about someone by how they talk to you. We have a Prime Minister who has nothing positive to say about his record, and nothing for Canadians to hope for. All he does is talk about the Liberal Party, and he tries to make me out like a monster. Well, I’m not.

If I were him, I’d be scared to talk about the Conservative record too. He gave Canada our biggest deficit in history. He wants to spend billions of dollars on fighter jets that aren’t fit for purpose, dozens of supermax prisons that we don’t need, and huge corporate tax giveaways. Fake lakes and PR. And peanuts for seniors and everyday families across this country.

He has a record of contempt for Parliament, and contempt for Canadians. That’s why he wants to change the subject, and won’t take Canadians’ questions. He takes us for granted.

I’m proud to be a Canadian, and to be a Liberal. We’ve been there to fix big Conservative messes in the past, just like after the Mulroney years. Well, after five years of Harper, we’re ready to do it again.

(Borrowing healthily from Jean Chrétien’s LPC 2009 conference speech in Vancouver – it’s good material, and should be used!).

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♪ ♪ It’s now or never ♪ ♪

The tension is incredible. Even from across the big salty pond, I can hear the soundtrack to Canada’s Election-That-Might-Be ringing in my ears like so many high-strung violins.

Lots of things to watch between now and tomorrow morning. Much attention focusses on Jack Layton, though I find it unfair that, simply because he didn’t choose to nail the NDP’s flag to the mast before the budget was even produced, the media now portrays him as ultimately responsible as to whether or not the writ is dropped. Conservative obstinance? Liberal ambition? These haven’t contributed as much to the development of a 2011 election as NDP budget considerations?

Like it or not, the optics have conspired to put the NDP in the hot seat. Whatever the details of the budget, their main consideration has to be: Is now a good time for an election? And if not now, when?

It’s incredibly hard to read. On the one hand, there appears to be a perfect storm of scandal and abuse, whirling the narrative out of Conservative control. Contempt is a big word, and CPC complaints that the Commons committee was stacked with Opposition members only calls further attention to a democratic fact: the Opposition is the majority.

Couple the ethical transgressions and the abuse of power characterisations with a seat-of-the-pants economic plan (how on earth the “fiscal conservative” and “prudent economic manager” labels stick to Harper is head-slapping stuff. Is it simply because he speaks in calm monotones? Is it the glasses?), and one would think the Conservatives are in about the most dangerous electoral territory they’ve been in since coming to power.

On the other hand – the Cons continue to defy gravity, despite everything. None of their ethical or economic disasters have produced a significant quotient of outrage outside Official Ottawa. It leads some pundits to opine that Canadians mustn’t be paying attention to politics if Conservative support can possibly rise under these circumstances. I can’t help but think along Rick Mercer’s lines: it’s not that Canadians aren’t paying attention – it’s that nothing surprises us anymore:

Apparently our opinion of politics and the people who practice the art is now so low that no matter what the behaviour we’re no longer surprised. It’s like going to a family wedding. Why bother getting upset because uncle Jerry has too much to drink and makes a holy show of himself out on the dance floor? It’s uncle Jerry, that’s what he does.

And so, if Harper abuses that cynicism, he does not necessarily do so at his peril. Infuriating as it may be.

Where does that leave decisions on whether to provoke and election, or not to? Clearly, Harper’s comfortable poll position must be a source of infinite frustration for the Opposition parties. But there are three convictions that stand out to me:

1) These circumstances may be as good as they get. Why wait for even more scandals to amass, while running the real risk that the existing scandals will then have time to fade into the abyss of forgotten yesterdays?

2) The cut and thrust of a campaign may well render the whole of the last year’s polling obsolete as parties and their policies get serious attention. Ignatieff may be who he is, and his leadership indices are not enviable, but he’ll draw a sharp contrast with Harper on the campaign trail, as will Layton (and, as an aside, LPC/NDP vote-splitting is not a new thing, and an election later rather than now doesn’t diminish that age-old danger, unless Big Things Happen).

3) Progressive voters (and we’re a big group, eh?) are so eager to get the chance to have a kick at the electoral can that, should one of either the NDP or the Liberals’ decide to deny an election and support the CPC now, you would hear the stampede of support rumbling away to the other federalist Opposition party in an instant. Neither Ignatieff nor Layton want to see that.

Top it off with bittersweet memories of the NDP “rewriting” Paul Martin’s budget five years ago. It was a source of triumphalism at the time, but all for nought when that hung parliament fell, taking that NDP budget with it. What of a repeat? Layton could support this Flaherty budget today (tomorrow), and come to Canadians afterwards, saying he’s made Parliament work, he’s got some good initiatives locked in for everyday families, the NDP have punched above their weight again, etc. All fine. But who’s betting such measures will see actual light of day? Jack would be naive in the extreme, I think, to accept half-measured promises which the PMO will almost certainly forget about from next week.

An election won’t simply feel good: it’s deserved, and it just might work. If not now, when?

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

New ads: is it Nike, or is it Harper?

Can you tell the difference?

image

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Is this the beginning of the end?


The Conservatives, leading most polls for the best part of the past couple of years, have always maintained an aloof confidence in their capacity to win a third straight minority government. “We don’t want an election, but bring it if you dare” seems to have been their general refrain.

Now, we see them scrambling. They know that their opaque, secretive, and cronyist approach to governing causes Canadians more than a drifting malaise. The Cons’ behaviour now has a name. Contempt.

Contempt is to Spring 2011 what Prorogue was to Spring 2010. It’s a hook for voters to hang their unhappy hats on. In the heat of the prorogation furore, the Liberals came as close as they’ve been in a long while to outpolling Team Harper. Having suddenly crashed into that realisation, the CPC are throwing ballast out of the balloon as fast as they can, and without any hint of their legendary coolness.

Here’s the crime bill budget, fine, take it and read it. Alright, we’re happy to call for an RCMP investigation into illicit manoeuvres by Tory staffer Sebastien Togneri, who to stymied press rights to Freedom of Information. O.K., fine, while we’re at it, here’s David Carson, Harper aide who’s peddled his influence for business dealings, and yes, maybe there’s a connection to an escort. Take it all. Don’t say we never did nothing for you.

It’s a hectic week for Team Harper. Flipping aloofness into a semblance of concern. Flipping denial into admission. But you can’t express genuine contrition by just scatter-gunning multiple confessions of wrongdoing and abuse, all of a sudden, only under the most extreme duress of democratic procedure, in what is gearing up to be the final week of the 40th Canadian Parliament.

It smells like election panic.

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

The Liberal ads

After much discussion in recent days and weeks, the Liberal Party have come out with some harder-hitting advertising. We’ve got:

Abuse of power

and Economy

What do you think of them?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , ,

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