Shuffling towards liberty
Who will be in Stephen Harper’s new cabinet? And will they be allowed to speak?
Sun Media’s Greg Weston believes it’s “safe to say that [PMO communications director Kory] Teneycke has achieved more for his boss through improved relations with the national press in three months than his predecessor did in three years,” and he suspects that newfound spirit of (more) openness will translate into Harper’s new cabinet as well. It’s not just that the PM is softening up, of course. Part of it, an unnamed insider tells Weston, is that his ministers simply have more experience. So those who “know how to conduct themselves and their office,” in the insider’s words, will have more wiggle room. Implicit in that statement, it seems to us, is that there will still be ministers who don’t know how to conduct themselves and their offices. We can’t wait to find out who they are.
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin says Jim Flaherty is a lock to stay at finance and wear the goat horns for what seems sure to be a significant deficit. Continuity is a good thing in troubled times, he argues, but it’s also just desserts, since Flaherty’s the one who “whittled down the inherited Liberal surplus to where he sits now on the film of a bursting fiscal bubble.” Harper himself “is notorious for calling the shots,” of course, so Flaherty may not be entirely to blame. But given his “quibble-worthy performance” overall—notably slagging off Ontario repeatedly, apparently just to satisfy a personal grudge—it’s difficult to muster much sympathy for the guy.
“I’m reluctant to put it this way to my leftie friends,” Norman Spector writes in The Globe and Mail, “but sooner or later they’ll have to find their own Stephen Harper” and form a centre-left colossus. His dismissal of Frank McKenna as “a vice-chairman of a big bank who speaks Diefenbaker French” and of Michael Ignatieff as “a repatriated intellectual whose every word and gesture exude elitism,” and indeed the entire tone of the piece, suggests to us Spector takes considerably more pleasure than he lets on in urging his Liberal and Dipper friends to swallow their bile and join hands.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe attempts to apply the precepts of Thomas Friedman’s new book—in which he advocates a massive clean energy shift in the U.S., including a carbon tax—to Stéphane Dion’s failed Green Shift and concludes it may be impossible for any politician sell the electorate on such big ideas when his opponents are willing to pander to our baser instincts. We say, let someone other than Dion try it and then get back to us.
Yet again, the Globe‘s Murray Campbell reports from Queen’s Park—where Ontario attorney-general Chris Bentley traded witless barbs with opposition leader Bob Runciman over the murder of Bailey Zaveda outside an east-end Toronto watering hole—Canadian politicians have failed utterly to address an eruption of gun violence without embarrassing themselves. These exchanges, Campbell quite rightly argues, “leave behind the average person who doesn’t care which level of government is responsible for the growing problem with gun violence,” and they illustrate just how much trouble the ruling Liberals have in fighting crime while claiming the province is a peaceful place to live.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer is impressed by B.C. NDP leader Carole James’ five-point riposte to the ruling Liberals’ 10-point plan to lead the province to glory. Not only is it full of juicy promises like axing the carbon tax, he notes, but “her sense of responsibility showed as she avoided the temptation to try to pay for her priorities with money that had already been poured down the drain by the Liberals.” Instead she promises to fund her platform by cutting government spending on travel, salaries and consultants—that latter apparently constituting nearly $800 million in the provincial budget! The NDP’s plan is “a work in progress,” Palmer stresses, especially given the tanking economy, but it is nonetheless “bold.”
One might expect Mario Dumont to be down in the dumps, considering the defection of two ADQ MNAs and his generally miserable poll numbers. But luckily for him, the Gazette‘s Don Macpherson reports from Drummondville, “as much as when he was its only MNA, Dumont is ADQ, and vice-versa.” So on the weekend, when Dumont unveiled his new “autonomie” strategy for Quebec—autonomy for Quebec within Canada, autonomy for schools from school boards, and autonomy for individuals from government—he faced no discontent, but rather “500 grown men and women whack[ing thundersticks] together in the gleefully frenzied manner of overstimulated children at a birthday party.”
The global financial crisis may be a “manufactured” reason for Jean Charest to go to the polls in search of a majority, L. Ian MacDonald writes in the Post, but “it’s not made up.” We don’t understand the difference, but never mind that. Gorge yourselves on this sumptuous feast of mixed metaphors! “He means the tsunami that has swept global equity markets in the last month, following the collapse of the financial system that has led Washington to nationalize Wall Street in the blowback from the subprime mortgage fiasco. This isn’t really what anyone meant by globalization, but it’s a version of it, and Quebec is highly vulnerable to nasty aftershocks in exports, as well as potentially devastating effects on new investment and job creation in a global credit squeeze.”
Canada in the Age of Obama
The Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson wonders what the anti-American faction of the Canadian left will do when they “don’t have … George W. Bush to kick around any more.” The answer seems fairly clear to us: they’ll do just what they did before Bush, i.e., be anti-American in the way best befitting contemporary politics. And while the prospect of Obama asking Canada to postpone its withdrawal from Afghanistan is a somewhat intriguing prospect from an anthropological point of view—what will the Obama-as-messiah types say then, eh?—we somehow suspect the anti-American types will have long since found an excuse to lump him in with all the fascists who preceded him.
In the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Cohen devotes four entire paragraphs to praising “European furnaces,” which are apparently better than those cheap, inferior, backward-looking furnaces you find in North America because they turn on automatically when the outside temperature drops, rather than the interior temperature. You can relax: it’s not another of Cohen’s “why can’t we be more like Luxembourg?” columns, so you needn’t bother asking why in holy hell you’d want a thermostat geared to the outdoor temperature rather than the indoor one. In fact, he’s just comparing Obama’s political instincts to a very sensitive thermostat—any thermostat, mind you, indoors or out, so those whole four paragraphs were a complete waste of time, but never mind. “He has demonstrated his toughness, his self-discipline, his equanimity, his audacity,” Cohen effuses. “He has revealed a temperament as sensitive to politics as a thermostat, a psychological divining rod.” Look, we get it. He’s run a good campaign; we dearly hope he wins. But in honour of Frank‘s latest demise, we have to go ahead and call that what it is: drivel.
The Toronto Star‘s James Travers thinks an Obama presidency would be a great thing, but it’s going to be difficult for him to pull off all the things he wants to do, let alone all the things his supporters think him capable of. There—we just saved you 800-odd words of reading.
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford concedes David Frost may well be found not guilty because it’s not illegal to arrange an orgy with the teenage hockey players you coach and their teenage girlfriends, or because it’s impossible to convict him based on the testimony of the girls (now women) involved, who acknowledge the sexual activity but insist it was consensual, when the boys (now men) involved insist nothing happened at all. (An aside: we can hardly think of a better argument than this trial for raising the age of consent.) Nevertheless, Blatchford feels perfectly safe in declaring Frost, at minimum, “a perverse creep.” We support her in that declaration.
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno reports from the same Napanee, Ont. courtroom in a far more squirm-inducing manner, and we won’t judge the appropriateness of that. Frost is a squirm-inducing guy, and his trial is worthy of squirm-inducing coverage. We are somewhat stunned, however, to see the Star name the female witness in question, who was 16 at the time of her alleged contact with Frost, when the Globe—even after winning the right to name her after opposing a publication ban—chose not to.
The Post‘s Jonathan Kay declares he won’t be taking on any more 9/11 truthers until he reads the 9/11 Report and Popular Mechanics‘ deconstruction of the various conspiracy theories, and generally bones up on the subject. Say what you will about the truthers, he concedes that, like most conspiracy theorists, they know far more about the subject matter than most of the people who dismiss them out of hand. And while in the past he’s refused to dignify them with a response, in truth he says he’s simply been incapable of doing so.