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

Omnishambles: the Brits dump the F35s

It’s contagious

The Brits have made just as big a dog’s dinner out of the F35 file as the Harperites have.

Whereas Canadians are fond of the word “boondoggle” to describe the government’s hopeless mismanagement of money and priority, the term in the UK right now is “omnishambles.” Both are beautiful in their own special way. 

Boondoggles and omnishambles aside, the biggest difference in approaches to this file, unsurprisingly, is that Westminster have now admitted that the programme is simply not viable, and they’re now pulling a difficult u-turn. Ottawa, in contrast, hedges and hides and lies and pretends all is well, when it is blindingly obvious they have already gone much too far down this broken road.


How long will it be till the F35 programme itself is wound down? And will Peter MacKay still be posing in the cockpit when they fill it with mothballs?



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

Ignatieff: free advice!

It had to happen eventually, and now finally, EKOS is polling a dead heat between the Tories and Liberals. Crack open the champers!

Conservatives: 29.7%
Liberals: 28.5%
NDP: 17.4%
Green: 11.1%
Bloc: 10.4%
Other: 2.9%

Or….. maybe not yet.

Given how the past month has gone down, the Liberals can’t really party the night away on news that they’ve reached a mid-summer statistical tie with the Conservatives. Ignatieff has been on the bus, crossing the country, wearing ball caps, flipping burgers, drinking Molsons, and saying “darn” a lot. Harper, conversely, has been deep underground in his bat-filled lair, avoiding the press and the public, while his small cluster of trusted minions announce dreadfully unpopular measure after dreadfully unpopular measure.

With the stage set thus, most self-respecting Liberals should be at wit’s end that they aren’t at least five, six, seven points clear of the Tories. Liberals might take some comfort in the trend, of course. But whither the momentum of summer trends?

I do believe that Ignatieff’s “Liberal Express” tour (while boringly named) has been a necessary project and a good one, and it’s basically been a success in terms of what it set out to do. The hokey flannel shirts and folksy demeanour are going some way to naturalise him in the public’s company, and while I cringe at his forced “darn it to hecks” when we know he is actually kind of articulate, I can’t fault the effort to get his ear to the ground.

The thing is, it’s not enough. Mastering small-town Canada isn’t just about mimicking it. It’s about earning its respect by showing you can fight and win, not get bullied, and not appear to get out-smarted or out-muscled.

The Tories have inflicted upon themselves a perfect storm of cock-ups this summer, and it’s a chance that may not come again soon. Ignatieff needs to go for the jugular a bit. The EKOS poll reflects a real measure of disenchantment with Stephen Harper. But when Canadians feel that disenchantment, and they look to Ignatieff as a prospective alternative, it doesn’t do for him just to keep flipping those burgers.

While manning the BBQ, Ignatieff should also be confronting this summer’s events with some assertive, quoteworthy, concrete answers to what he’d do differently and better. It can be topical and still fit into the whole party vision thing. We should hear stuff like:

    The Census

The decision to axe the long-form census demonstrates Harper’s disregard for evidence-based decision-making, and his disinterest in preparing for how our country is changing. If we were in government, we’d re-implement the mandatory long-form while removing the jail threat for non-compliance. I think enough communities and organisations in Canada have made clear that’s in their interests.

    The Jets

No one goes and buys a car without first shopping around. Truth is that the untendered purchase of these F-35 is bad economics, and moreover, I don’t believe these jets are fit for purpose. Neither the Afghan mission nor Canada’s Arctic sovereignty will benefit by this. We’d equip our armed forces for what they need, not just what other countries need. And as always, we’d do it with a sound, prudent, Liberal approach to spending.

    The Economy

We’ve gone from surplus to record deficit in no time flat. A lot of this is down to the global economic crisis: but once in deficit, you don’t spend billions on new prisons when violent crime’s going down; billions on jet fighters that aren’t fit for purpose; millions more on a PMO communications budget when the simplest and cheapest way for the PM to communicate would be to go out in public and face the press. We’d end this reckless, spendthrift Conservative Party approach to the economy.

This would just be a start, but it’s a topical start. I think by hammering the Tories on their weak points, the Liberals will look not only folksy and friendly, but ready to govern. And by debunking the idea that the Tories are “good with money,” you remove the only leg they’re trying to stand on, no? It’s at least worth a shot, especially while Canadians are desperately grasping out for some good reason to vote Liberal again.

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

The trust gap

Despite that unexpressive, grey-play-dough demeanour about him, Stephen Harper doesn’t make life easy for himself.

Mainstream Canada’s biggest problem with Harper isn’t even his policies, but it’s the distinctly untrustable air about him. 45% of Canadians find him “secretive” – this is his highest scoring attribute, just edging out “arrogant” and “out of touch.”

This being so, why does he continue to believe that the best way to implement policy is to do it outside the scrutiny of Parliament?

Two controversial decisions in the past two weeks – 1) an untendered purchase of $18 billion state-of-the art fighter jets which we never knew we needed, and then 2) the axeing of the long form of the national census.

It’s not just that the decisions were both bad – though they were – but it’s also the summertime, extra-parliamentary situation in which the government announced the decisions. It’s that unmistakable stench of sneakiness.

The census move was a clear and simple sop to his hard-core, anti-government, Reform Party base. And we can’t be surprised he’s going to appeal to them anytime he can, because he comes from that base. He isn’t a moderate trying to woo the right-wing fringe: it’s absolutely the reverse.

But wherever one sits on the debate as to whether a compulsory census is good or bad, there is a wider issue: that of accountable, consultative policy-making within earshot of critical Opposition parties. The government miscalculated in thinking that this is a risk-free time of year to reward the nutbar fringe without mainstream Canadians noticing. With it being summertime, and no Parliament in session, there must have been a logic in the Tory war room that Canadians in the centre and in the majority just “won’t notice” these decisions. Any mild controversy will die alone, while Canadians book flights and go camping. Why not procure billion-dollar stealth jets without any competitive bidding while we’re at it? Voters won’t notice or care.

But, as Team Harper does so often, this has been a real miscalculation and misreading of the public mood. Canadians are already fairly sensitive to the view that Harper will try to slip fast ones by us at any opportunity – proroguation set that image in stone. So now, any big, sudden policy shift, outside the scrutiny of a sitting Parliament, actually rings real alarm bells for Canadians.

The very fact that Harper prefers making big decisions quietly and out-of-view hardens Canadians’ view of the PM as a secretive, arrogant, and out-of-touch sort of guy. And to think he was only going for “ordinary.”

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,


July 2020

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