LRC Watch -

LRC Watch


The Literary Review of Canada has apparently just obtained charitable status, which is great news for the publication.

My most recent charitable work is now available online; it’s a set-up piece of sorts for the Liberal big thinkers conference coming up at the end of March. The piece expands on some stuff I’ve written here and in the Ottawa Citizen about the Liberal party’s struggle to find a new identity. I suggest that what the party needs is not so much one or two Big Ideas, but a better brand in which to fit a number of sound policy ideas into a coherent narrative.

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LRC Watch

  1. Great article in the LRC. I really need to start picking up the LRC more.

  2. "The theme of the conference itself is pegged to Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, and it promises to address nothing short of the question of just what kind of country we want to be at that point."

    Seriously? I assumed the 150th anniversary theme was focus on how we would progress as Nation after 2017, not before. What policies does Iggy propose that would fundamentally alter Canada within 6 years. How different a Nation can we become over a six or seven year period?

    "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." Benito Mussolini

    "Port Hope in 1933, Kingston in 1960 and Aylmer in 1991."

    I think the first two conferences were important exercises from Liberals point of view but Alymer was little more than marketing package, like Iggy's Thinkers conference is going to be. I would argue that Libs fundamentally changed their ideas about the role of State at Port Hope and Kingston but Alymer was just election platform that did not change party all that much.

    I think Liberal malaise is because they have won the big argument in Canada and brought fascism to Canada. The State is in control of everything, micromanaging our lives from cradle to grave, and Libs are not going to change that. Liberal problems started well before Chretien quit because Libs have not beaten united right in election since Trudeau era.

    I think Liberals focusing on social justice ideas would be mistake. Most Canadians already think Canada is one of, if not the, most progressive countries in the world and I don't believe Libs saying we are not progressive enough will resonate with non-liberals. And Libs need to grow their support, they are having trouble get above 30/32% in polls and I would be mighty surprised if they manage to grow support by being even more Statist than they already are.

    I always wonder about your political views, Potter. Coyne described himself as socialist who believes in markets, Wells is big government fan, and I would guess Wherry is progressive Liberal. I think of you as a Liberaltarian.

    • "The State is in control of everything"

      I cannot remember the last time I had any direct interaction with the State, in any form whatsoever. It's true that I owe the city some Spring property taxes, but I presume you don't object to paying for firefighters, police, garbage service, etc. I feel far less micromanaged than I felt when I lived in the USA for six years. It's just beyond folly to describe contemporary Canada as a fascistic country (!!!) because you . . . what? What is your personal gripe, jolyon? Whence all the inarticulate rage?

  3. Really? No need for health care, no need to renew your driver's license? Haven't gotten married, haven't ridden public transit? Haven't applied for a passport or tried to cross the border with it?

    • Hmm, I got a passport 4 years ago, driver's license 3 years ago, getting married this year but procrastinating on getting the license . . . So it's been a while since I asked anybody permission for anything. Rode public transit today but it wouldn't have been any different as private transit — it wasn't the Long Arm of the State, Backed by the Gendarmerie, it was just the subway.

      • But you don't see anything vaguely off about the government controlling things to that level? I'm not saying "fascistic", necessarily, just "sub-optimal".

        I recall in Victoria a few years ago, there was a teachers strike, they picketed in front of the BC Transit bus depot, and the bus drivers didn't cross the line meaning that, without warning, Greater Victoria had no transit for a couple of days. Now, this isn't the oppressive comptrollers cracking our skulls with their batons. But it's an example, of which there are several, of the public sector looking out for itself first. and unlike when Air Canada loses our luggage, we can't fly WestJet.

        • Hey, I just paid $100 to own book. I'm not in a union-loving mood right now.

          Still, I might also point out that the transport problem in Greater Victoria was not the result of the State but of there being a monopoly and a union.

          I'm just saying that my own life has not been inconvenienced, or even consciously affected, by the State in several years. And when it's been affected even without my being aware, it's usually been in ways that have not changed since, oh, the 18th century (like the fact that I can't smuggle liquor over the borders, or that my consumption of beer is overtaxed). I don't get money from the government and I don't earn enough to pay a very high percentage of my income in taxes. So when "small-government" people start ranting about how intrusive government is, and I compare that to my experience, I perceive that what they're really complaining about is the fact that they pay higher taxes than they would in Texas and their various principles are just greed dressed up in a fancy cocktail outfit.

          • But a state-sponsored monopoly, such as transit, is awfully difficult to compete with. BC Transit, like most public transit systems on this continent, loses a tonne of money. Fares are artificially deflated and tax revenues are used to top up revenues, while the state pays the largest chunk of large capital purchases.

            If I want to start Lord Bob Buses Inc., assuming that the government which also owns the roads is amenable to competition, how am I going to compete with an adversary that can stick its hand in our pockets every time there's a shortfall? Improved standards of reliability and service only matter so much in an industry where most of your customers use your service because they can't afford anything better.

            It's amazing how much this comment was to the Literary Review of Canada.

          • Eh bien, monopolies are bad, whether public or private; they both erode the quality of service and inflate consumer costs. Victoria has nothing to teach Toronto about the miseries of a public transportation monopoly.

            That said, my trip today was just what it would have been if a private corporation had been running the Toronto subway. I don't use it to get to work so I only experience it occasionally. It does cost a bomb but so does Starbucks coffee: something as competitive as the coffee business has not kept the price (or quality) of a latte in Toronto within reasonable bounds. We're talking big principles here, not ordinary experience. Private or public, a bus is a bus and a coffee is a coffee, good or bad for a dozen other reasons before we get to ownership. Just think of how many truly terrible small businesses, often thriving ones, are out there. Think of popular music. If popular music were a State monopoly and produced the kind of execrable sap you hear on private radio stations today, we would all be citing it as the PRIMO example of why public anything sucks. Yet the absolutely brainless state of our popular culture is the product of the Holy Market, to the point where some people presume it must somehow be 1000x better than it is just because people buy it.

            I don't understand your final sentence.

          • I don't understand my final sentence either. I'm not sure it is a sentence.

    • Or attended public school, bought a car from GM/Chrysler, went to grocery store looking for unpasteurized cheese ….. the list is endless. Try to think of one aspect of your life that is not regulated by government one way or another. I would argue the Conservative Party of Canada is closer ideologically to Socialist Workers Party than it is to Con Party of Canada pre-Trudeau era.

      • Haven't attended public school, don't own a car, I get unpasteurised cheese from my nearby cheese shop anyway . . . Nope, I really don't seem to be affected by the State in any way I'm aware of — and the key point is the awareness, not the fact that the State affects me. The Market affects me too but I don't resent the very fact that it affects me. In terms of effects of the State I'm conscious of, I'd have to say the price of butter is the main thing — I've started cooking with butter recently and you do rather pay through the nose for that delicious stuff. Also my Internet bill, but that's inflated only about 50% from what I used to pay in the States — a lot but not a crippling amount.

        • Julia Child says you can't use too much butter.

          • And I am using the Julia Child cookbook (the original)! I find it downright liberating. Still on soups but I make a mean French Onion by now.

        • "Nope, I really don't seem to be affected by the State in any way I'm aware of ….. "

          "Rode public transit today …."

          Think harder.

          And the butter you use would be even better if you could sell raw milk in Canada. You are fortunate to live in area that lets you buy unpasteurised cheese because most of us in Canada aren't allowed to.

          • "Think harder."

            I see you noticed got my point and misinterpreted the irony as stupidity. I award you one steak knife.

            What is your theory as to how we should encourage competition on subway operation? Parallel tracks? Individually owned trains on the same track?

          • Individually owned trains on the same track

            That would be interesting to watch, from a distance.

    • Curious about where you are headed with most of your list….how about driver's license to start….do you disagree with the need for driver's licenses in general or do you see a larger role for the private sector in issuing them? Other?

      I have never really had an issue with the system as it is today, and have never really thought about non-state alternatives; it seems that you might have some alternatives in mind, and I would like to read about them.

  4. Obviously I would advocate the Scientific Development Concept fundamental to Hu Jintao Thought, building towards a Harmonious Society guided by the Eight Honours and Eight Shames.

  5. " Liberal big thinkers conference" – does it not occur to these people how incredibly pompous they sound?

    • Does it ever occur to you how juvenile you sound? Like a morose teenager.

      Cheer up.

    • I think the CPC has a lock on small thinking.

    • srsly what is the problem with big thinking Gaunilon?

  6. Andrew, how can a person be grounded, and post-modern at the same time? Unless they only want to give the impression that they are grounded. For, as the people who have spent more than 2 seconds examining what post modernism is, it is heavily reliant on the Henry Ford face of history. Life is tumultuous and random, leaving only room for one constant: Tolerance.

    Well, there happens to be more constants in the universe. One of them is that truth is not dependent upon anyone accepting it.

    So, the LPC is waiting for a leader that will not show up.