Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thought for the Day

With the coalition looking more likely, a thought crossed my head. Any chance of Elizabeth May getting appointed to the Senate and serving in cabinet? The NDP's hostility towards the Greens (not to mention the Senate itself) would be a big roadblock, but a Green in cabinet might further give the Coalition a boost to the all-encompassing progressive image it will seek to send. Ironically given the Greens failure to win a seat, Elizabeth May, who has long promoted coalition politics and cooperation between progressive party, May's ideas may turn out to be the long run winner of the election.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Public Finance Shmublic Finance

Gotta love how well the Tories headline grabbing move to eliminate subsidies and MP's perks has worked on changing the channel on the economy and the upcoming deficit. A look at the blogs today demonstrates this success. Bloggers, we cannot be part of this game. I thought about what I was going to write today to help get us focused back on issue number one, the economy, and I think this sums up what we, as bloggers, should be talking about:

Deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit no long term economic plan.

Deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit no long term economic plan deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit skyrocketing spending and pointless tax cuts which did nothing to help the economy eliminating surplus deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit no long term economic plan deficit deficit.

Deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit surplus destroying deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit deficit.


Clear enough?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who knew an economic crisis could be so boring?

Look at MacKay sleep like a little baby on his tax-payer funded jet. I understand how being the deputy leader of the party which will take Canada into it's first deficit in an decade might not be the most exciting thing in the world, but one would figure he might have a little more spring in his step then this. The Conservatives told us during the election that a steady hand was needed in order to maintain economic stability, that the Liberals would plunge us into deficit and crisis.
Well, with Flaherty and Harper about to proudly unveil the centre-piece of 2 and a half years of Conservative economic policy, a $30 billion deficit after inheriting a surplus, we see now that the Conservative hand on the wheel was asleep, and the car has crashed. Seeing MacKay slump down in his chair only brings one thing to mind: how low can the Conservatives take us?

CUSA flip-flops

So all it took was becoming a national joke eh? A good step, but the relevant councillours should still make a public apology for putting forth a blatantly false and discriminatory motion.

CUSA makes Carleton an international laughing stock

I've heard reports of the CF story getting airtime in Germany and on CNN internationally, and if you do a google news search, you'll find an Australian reference. Good job CUSA!

EDIT: UK Australia Reuters, international

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CUSA lives up to its reputation again

As CFS Local number 1, CUSA is prone to being ridiculous, usually making at least one totally boneheaded move a year, and CUSA has not disappointed:

This is what happens when you have an under 20% voter turnout rate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Learning from the Lib Dems

Now that the Green Shift sadly seems to be a thing of the past, I think looking at this:;show example of Green Liberalism is worth doing.

The Lib Dems under current leader Nick Clegg have taken a refreshing turn towards economic liberalism, away from trying to copy "Old Labour" policy ideas. This over-arching economic liberalism is reflected in the "Green Tax Switch", which while in terms of actual policy, is quite similar to the Green Shift, but is presented quite differently. My personal favourite parts:

It's about using taxes in a new way to change behaviour, not to simply raise money for the Government.

This is why the Liberal Democrats have argued for fairer and green taxation, but not for higher taxes overall.

Green taxes will continue to yield substantial sums to the exchequer if they do their work properly, and there must be a clear understanding that this revenue is handed back to the taxpayer in tax cuts on activities that we are not trying to penalise such as work effort.

The plan is presented as one of a tax cut with environmental benefits, not vice versa. I think in selling the Green Shift that is an area in which we allowed the Conservatives to paint us into. Any future policies which build Green Liberalism have to be based, first and foremost, around helping individual Canadians save money and helping build a free-market economy for the 21st century. Note that when it comes to actual implementation, the very first thing mentioned is:

We will give everyone a green income tax cut of 4p giving people more of their hard-earned money in their pocket.

Not a lecture on how great the environment is, not how Canadians have to look into their hearts and social conscience, but telling people you will have more money in your pocket. The plan is presented as part of the overall package of less government intrusion in your affairs, responsible spending, and building towards tomorrow. We Green Liberals in Canada can learn much from our liberal cousins in the UK

Green Liberalism, not a bail-out.

Interesting and true words by McGuinty. While the auto-sector is obviously not in the best shape, the best way to deal with it is in dispute. McGuinty is correct when he talks about not wanting to take Ontario deep into a structural deficit. But the most interesting thing he says is this:

But McGuinty said taxpayers and governments also have to be realistic in demanding carmakers switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, noting that five out of the top 10 selling vehicles in Canada are trucks and minivans. "If we want them to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles we need to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles," he said.

A simple observation of supply and demand economics opens up some deeper examination. One, is that I believe the environment is subject to something of a "Bradley Effect". People, when asked if they believe the environment should be a high priority, or they want governments to take action on the environment, etc, will say yes. After all, who wants to say they are against the environment, or believes that no action should be taken? However, when an actual cost is associated with the environment, or a more important issue like the economy develops, support for environmental action drops dramatically. The other big examination is that we do, in fact, not buy a whole lot of fuel efficient cars. I believe these factors are somewhat linked, and that Green Liberalism can help solve it.

Rather then writing a giant cheque to the auto sector, the McGuinty government should use this opportunity to implement and help build the 21st century economy, and develop some of the ways Green Liberalism can move past an implementation gap. The Ontario government should look into things like tying in private sector relief with introducing environmental standards, while at the same time, increase tax credits for people buying more fuel efficient cars. Simply dumping more money into the supply side will not guarantee increased demand. Green Liberalism should be about using free-market tools to help the economy and fight climate change, not interventionist corporate welfare or redistributionist ideas.

Harper and the Economy
Gotta love the dance Harper has done around his economic management record. Remember during the campaign when he said The Green Shift would create the worst economic hit since the Great Depression, and that those spendthrift Liberals would put Canada in deficit? At APEC, Harper said:

"The world is entering an economic period unlike, and potentially as dangerous as, anything we have faced since 1929," he said, in a speech to business moguls in Peru's capital for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

Canada now faces "the classic circumstances under which budgetary deficits are essential."

Harper created deficits are evidently what Canadians get for trusting in his strong leadership. When Harper says the deficit is a result of factors beyond his control though, I guess he has a point. It isn't like he destroyed a huge surplus which could have helped sustain both social programs and economic competitiveness in a time of global downturns by implementing meaningless tax cuts which not a single major economist agreed with, and delivered no real savings to Canadians or helped stimulate the economy while crippling the fiscal intake of the government. It isn't like he ramped up spending on pet vote-buying projects while drastically cutting government intake. It isn't like he broke his promise on income trusts and made Canadians savings vulnerable in a time of economic downturn. It isn't like he railed against the very same Liberal maintained banking regulations while in opposition that have now prevented a wide-scale credit crisis. It isn't like his government discouraged investment in the province most hit by an economic downturn.

So really, not much Harper can do other then plunge us into deficit. Interesting to see if they will run on their record next election or try and even more inane "Leadership" based campaign. If they had a 44 page platform with 23 pictures of Harper pre-deficit, the next platform will probably just be a scrapbook of Harper in better times.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Idle Curiosity

Does anyone know where I could find the riding-by-riding results of the "Super Weekend" delegate election results from last leadership? I'm just curious at doing some number crunching to see how much MP's endorsements of a particular candidate actually affected how the riding membership elected its delegates.

OYL should oppose proposed youth driving law

As someone who only has a G1, I do admit I would not actually be affected much by this new idea, but I still believe that this is the type of legislation that the OYL should be against, even if it is proposed by a Liberal government. Chris Selley wrote this in the Macleans blog:

"19-through-21-year-olds are not “older children.” They are “adults,” and the government should restrict their freedoms, if at all, with the same caution as any other adults’ freedoms."

It will be interesting seeing how youth position themselves around this issue as it develops.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ontario NDP Leadership

While the federal Liberals go through a leadership race, it is also important to note another leadership race going on right now, that of the Ontario NDP. The provincial NDP here in Ontario is an interesting organization. Since the end of the Rae government, the NDP has struggled to get back into the spotlight, and under Howard Hampton it has failed to reach it's traditional level of support. After the centrist Rae, Hampton brought and has kept the party firmly to the left, but also saw the party's fortunes damaged by strategic voting, and the rise of the Greens. Hampton's "left, best, and last" strategy stands as an interesting contrast to the NDP in other provinces in which it has formed government, (with the exception of BC) as the Manitoba and Saskatchewan NDP have been successful by sticking in the centre, and polarizing the electorate between them and the various conservative parties. Now, that the provincial Liberals are weak in both provinces (2 seats in Manitoba, none in Saskatchewan) probably helps this strategy a lot, but one of the main questions the provincial NDP is facing is one of direction.

With an economic downturn looming, the Ontario NDP is in an interesting position. With the Conservatives in power federally, and the Liberals provincially, the NDP has an opportunity to potentially make gains, if they can escape the Rae shadow which would inevitably be used against them in case of an economic downturn. It is notable that so far none of the declared candidates have any real ties to the Rae government (Gilles Bisson is the only one who was elected under Rae, and only served as a PA to a non-vital ministry).

Gilles Bisson seems to be running a fairly traditional campaign, talking about the same issues and style his fellow Northerner Hampton did, so I would assume that Bisson would probably maintain about the status-quo, not moving the party to the centre or taking it further left. He has experience, but status as a Northerner like Hampton and his party vet status might make it difficult for him to present himself as a leader of the future.

Andrea Howarth is an interesting candidate. A former Hamilton city councillor, and of course, a woman, Howarth has the potential to be able to both claim a connection to the NDP's working class roots, and present herself as a "change" candidate (on her website, she describes herself as a "community organizer") with possible appeal to Southern Ontario, an area the ONDP sees as a prime growth target. After Hampton announced he was stepping down, pundits and some within the NDP said the NDP needed a Toronto leader to broaden it's appeal past northern Ontario. However, with the two Toronto candidates (Tabuns and Prue) now being described as maybe being "too Toronto", (besides, Davenport is the only seat the city the ONDP has a shot at gaining) the focus has shifted to broader Southern Ontario. I can see Howarth gaining some big momentum, particularly if people are turned off the percieved front-runner Peter Tabuns.

Speaking of Tabuns, he is seen as the initial front runner, with a strong organization, close ties to Jack Layton, and the endorsement of Cheri Di Novo, who is widely popular amongst the parties grassroots. Tabuns has some environmental cred, serving as an executive director of Greenpeace, but when it comes to politics, his friendship with Jack Layton shows again, as he comes from the Jack Layton school of environmental politics; making grand annoucements and policies about how great the environment is, how governments must pay attention to it, etc, but then when a non-NDP party unveils an environmental plan, attack, attack, attack. From what I have heard, Tabuns also risks the potential of being the Ignatieff of this campaign, having the most support in a plurality, but perhaps having difficulties bringing people to his side (of course, that the NDP uses a non-delegate system might alleviate his problem somewhat). Tabuns apparently was actively campaigning for leader before Hampton officially announced he wasn't running again, which angered some. Tabuns would probably bring Jack Layton style rhetoric and policy, so expect to hear lots of talk about working families etc, and making a rhetorical play for the centre yet continuing left-wing policy. Given that while the federal NDP did gain seats in Ontario under Layton in the last election, but actually declined somewhat in share of the vote, it is unclear if the ONDP would want to follow that route.

Micheal Prue has the deepest political resume of the contenders, serving as a councillor and Mayor of East York, and a councillor in amalgamated Toronto. Prue raised eyebrows when he openly discussed rethinking the NDP's position on funding Catholic schools, as the NDP was unable to make any gains out of John Tory's faith-based funding debacle, with the Green Party's call for totally secular public funded schools giving them a big leg-up, and the Liberals positioning themselves as the defenders of the public system, while Hampton failed in his attempts to work around the issue, with the NDP's "status-quo" position not exactly galvanizing voters. This potential to take policy risks, and his political experience has somewhat given Prue the image of the centrist in the race.

Given that Prue and Tabuns have probably the highest profiles of the contenders, and have scooped up most of the early endorsements, they are probably the intial front-runners, with Howarth being an interesting dark horse and Bisson running decently, but not lighting things up. Prue vs. Tabuns is interesting, as if things develop as I have predicted, it could turn into a battle between the more leftist elements of the party rallying around Tabuns, and the centrists rallying around Prue, with Howarth perhaps having cross-appeal and being able to come up the middle. We'll see how things play out.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes, Yes, and Yes again

I agreed so much with this article I was nodding while I read it:

Some parts I particularly liked:

The overarching promise the Liberals make to Canadians at election time is actually not about left or right but about delivering sound and pragmatic government. Competence has been the core of the Liberal brand, wherever the political winds have blown their policies.

The Liberals' humbling in the 2004 election under Paul Martin, and their subsequent defeat in 2006, were in no sense results of an ideological splintering like the one that Canadian conservatives suffered. The Liberals were brought down by the erosion of their reputation for sound governance, rooted in the sponsorship scandal, and abetted by the sluggishness that afflicts parties too long in power.

Still, a significant number of people said they had voted Liberal in 2006 but were switching to another party this time. Where did they go? Nearly 44 per cent of them said they were moving to the Conservatives. Thus, the Liberals' largest loss in the last election was to the Conservatives — not to the NDP or the Greens.
Now, consider this: The Liberals may be in a five-way fight for votes, but they are in a two-way fight with the Conservatives for government. That means that votes shifting directly between them and the Conservatives are more valuable.

This article shows the importance of building and renewing from the centre, and defining ourselfs as a resposible centrist party, one who can do more then just critize Harper, but can replace him.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The Canadian Federation of Students had the annual "National Day of Action" recently, and I kinda of accidently was there. I have proudly boycotted the ultrapartisan, misleading campaigns of the CFS the previous two years, but this year I just happened to stumble upon the Human Rights Monument during the protest. The rhetoric was same old, same old, "Students United", "You are either with us or anti-student", etc. The rally served also as the effective kick-off of the campaign to get the U of O student union to join the CFS in an upcoming referendum. The Charlatan, Carleton University's newspaper, did a fact check on the CFS lit, showing the kind of things U of O can expect if they vote yes:

A collection of mis-represented stats, unbacked up claims, and bald faced lies. As the CFS is basically the twin organization of the NDP Youth, it is hardly shocking for them to use such tactics and rhetoric, but it is important for people to know that the CFS does not speak for all students.

In Ontario, The CFS-O has lobbied for years on behalf of “lower tuition fees”, claiming that only big loud protests, angry partisanship, and "solidarity" can bring about change in this matter. Despite the rhetoric of “The Students, united, can never be defeated”, the CFS-O has failed to deliver on being able to have lower tuition fees. Yet year after year, CFS councils pat themselves on the back for "standing up for students" and ask for higher student levys for themselves. The CFS in its campaigns set student groups and faculties against each other, students against administrators, students against governments, etc. This divisiveness only further prevents students from making real positive gains. By promoting such negative and childish projects such as the F**k Tuition Fees campaign, the CFS reflects poorly on the potential maturity, capabilities, and and prevents student movements from being taken more seriously. Childish rhetoric? Overheated partisanship? Claiming to be standing up for those they represent yet never actually accomplishing anything? Wow, I never would have guessed the CFS and the NDP are in bed together.

A look at BC shows the real CFS. When several schools had referendums on leaving the CFS, documents got leaked showing the CFS formed a secret plan to counter and influence the referendums, which allegedly included bringing non-students from outside BC on campus, including fulltime staffers of other organizations including the NDP. A document also contained lists of known and prospective CFS supporters at schools across Canada graded according to their perceived campaigning ability, (including Carleton's CUSA, shockingly enough, last years CUSA prez who got an "A" now has a CFS-O position) as well as the names of several individuals the organization evidently planed to secure employment for at various student unions. The CFS also intended to both hire and train all poll clerks for the referendum vote, as well as personally design and print the ballots.

The CFS: Proudly united (unless you aren't a rabid Dipper, in which case we will do all in our power to limit your influence on campus) for Students (as long as you support us wading into social issues that have nothing to do with education, and again if you are a rabid Dipper) since 1981.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Reform Partyization" and re-thinking "Progressive"

I have been somewhat reluctant to blog about American politics during the last few months, because I believe as a Liberal blogger, my main concern should be the state of Canadian politics, and the Liberal Party. However, with the script seemingly written for tomorrow's election, I believe some interesting Canada-US parallels can be drawn.

The Republican Party, and the conservative movement in the US in general, is going to undergo a period of "Reform Partyization". While I don't mean this in the sense that a 2nd conservative party will emerge in the US, an offshoot of the Republicans, I do believe that the right will enter into an ultimately unhealthy period of navel gazing, with the result being an overriding sense of "We lost because we abandoned our conservative principles!" rather then "wow, American conservatism needs to adapt to the times again." The liberal movement in the US had the same problems in the 70's and 80's, with uninspiring liberal Democrats getting smashed by Nixon, Reagen, and Bush (Carter gets a post-Watergate exception). Rather then try and recapture the centre, the Republicans, like the true-believing Reform Party of the 90's, will proudly remain outside the mainstream. This process will be helped as the Republican Party looks to be reduced to a socially conservative Southern and Prairie rump, with incumbent moderates in now-friendly Democratic areas like New Hampshire and Oregon (Maine's locally very popular and moderate Susan Collins will buck this trend, and Minnesota's Norm Coleman should hang on thanks to a strong third-party candidate, however) and Democrats making gains in at all levels of voting in newly purple states such as Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico, etc. The lack of moderates within the party will further push the party away from the centre and the new mentality of the swing states. The GOP will suffer internal struggles as the remaining moderates in the party are pushed out by the remaining true-believer conservatives, damaging attempts to re-build and re-new in the short term.

What Liberals can learn: As much as Liberals obviously will be rooting for Obama, the sad fact is that right now, we resemble the Republican Party in too many ways. Like this election will do to the Republicans, the last election reduced us largely to our strongholds of the Maritimes (although suffering slightly there) and urban and suburban areas in Ontario (again, even taking some losses) with a lone bright spot being a mini-revival in Quebec, including a psychologically important second seat off the island of Montreal. Additionally, Liberals do not need any more internal personality or policy splits, regardless of who emerges as the Leader. What we as Liberals must not allow is for us to go through a "Reformization", focusing only on concerns, issues, and polices that appeal to a base that is no longer large enough to win an election solely on its own. Lots of Liberals have talked about building on Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, and how Liberals must focus on every election, in every riding, to build a nation-wide base. What many of the people who would copy Dean's rhetoric and planning is why many internal Democrats opposed the plan. They feared that Dean was the product of the leftist activist part of the party, and that the 50-state strategy would attempt to shove New England liberalism down the throats of every congressional district in the country, which would only further hurt the party (Here we have shades of Democrats worried that Dean represented a "Reform Partyization" by dragging the party to the left). However, rather then simply export New England liberalism across the country, Dean tailored the Democrats as a national party that would listen to local concerns, and would run candidates reflective of local concerns and politics. If this meant running more moderate candidates in moderate areas, then so be it, a Democratic victory is a Democratic victory. Efforts to renew and rebuild the party around the lines of the 50-state strategy must realize this, that in order to win in places we have either traditionally lost, or win back areas which are traditionally ours, be must expand the Liberal values and big-tent to fit local concerns, rather then export GTA liberalism to places like rural and northern Ontario, where we got hammered this election. The bright spot of Quebec, and the skill of the Quebec team in the last election serves as an example of this, as they ran a campaign focused on local issues, and were able to take advantage of the Conservative drop in the province to establish ourselves back in many parts of the provinces as the federalist alternative (arguably more important then winning seats in Quebec in terms of long-term rebuilding of the national party is that we had more second place finishes to the Bloc then the Conservatives did across the province) particularly as I have read many blogs the past few days suggesting that the LPCQ is either being too nationalist, or is making too many policy demands, etc. While I do not want to diminish the concerns of these bloggers about the need for coherent national policy across all provinces, rather then be overly critical of hard-working Liberals, I suggest we examine the LPCQ campaign this election to see the things they did right, and learn from the lessons of localism.

The concept of "renewal" is not merely one of energizing and re-building local associations, it is one of having the right policies and ideas to get the Liberal Party firmly back in the middle of the Canadian spectrum, having a strong "progressive" centrist answer to the big questions of today. I put progressive in quotation marks because I believe as Liberals that we need to re-define our own use and meaning of the word. "Progressive" in the past few years has too easily become just another way to use the words "centre-left", and the inability of the Liberals to define progressivism, rather having progressivism define us, is a big problem. Progressive public policy and politics to me, is not simply a way of saying "leftist" without saying left-wing. To me, any policy that looks to moving society forward, advancing towards tomorrow with new ideas, is progressive. It should not be associated with any particular wing of political ideology. Under my definition, for example, I would not hesitate to ideas associated with the right-wing such as Thatcherism and the Common Sense Revolution. These ideas are progressive because they were rooted in looking towards the future and finding new solutions, rather then simply re-using old ideas for new times. In this regard, I would define both the NDP and Conservatives currently as unprogressive, as the NDP continues banging the same drum on economic policy (while admittedly being ahead of the curve on some social issues, such as gay marriage) it has for 70 years. Under Jack Layton, the parties bad habits of declaring itself the "holier then thou, above Liberal-Tory mudslinging, social heart" of Canadian politics while at the same time having no problem voting down Liberal minorities which promoted NDP friendly policies on child-care and aboriginal affairs and standing arm in arm with the Conservatives attacking forward-looking Liberal policies like the Green Shift. For the Conservatives, Harper's view of the role of public policy doesn't go beyond ways he can use it to re-create the Mulroney coalition and re-cycle old Liberal and PC ideas to an effort to be moderate (at least until he gets a majority), while offering little in the way of forward-style thinking that could be deemed "progressive" under my definitions. We must not be merely a "progressive party" in the old style mode, Canada already has 3 of those more then eager to steal our votes, be must be a new-school party of the progressive centre, offering new ideas and policies, with an ear for local concerns and politics. Renewal must take place from this main plank of new progressive centrism, and be unafraid to examine ideas and policies we have previously rejected as being not "progressive" enough. To restate what I said earlier, if the Liberal Party has any hope to rebuild and renew in a real way, we must take bold steps to define our progressivism, rather then let progressivism define us.