Casualties of the bailout
In which Stephen Harper prepares to abandon conservatism for good, and Bob Rae weeps openly into his Pinot Grigio.
Sun Media’s Greg Weston predicts tomorrow’s Speech from the Throne will “be little more than a terse statement of the obvious”—which is, in the words of a PMO official, that “the primary focus of this Parliament will be the economy, and other areas [we] committed to during the campaign … are secondary.” This likely means that measures such as the diesel fuel excise tax cut and even “the Conservatives’ hallmark crime-fighting measures will probably be pushed to the back-burner,” Weston agues. After all, hitting up “Canadian taxpayers … for billions of dollars to help rescue the economy from a tsunami of red ink” is a full-time job on its own.
The Calgary Herald’s Don Martin gets the same PMO briefing as Weston and adds tax credits for seniors and “for kids’ piano lessons” to the list of election promises we should not expect to see fulfilled in the near future. But breaking such promises pales in significance to the “horrifying” overall optics of Harper’s situation, Martin suggests. The Prime Minister “is on the record as opposing ‘Band-aid’ financial assistance for companies while insisting deep tax cuts were the way to keep corporations in Canada and defiantly declaring there would be no deficit under his watch,” Martin writes, and he’s in danger of abandoning all three in incredibly short order. That’s not necessarily his fault, of course; Canada can’t very well zag when the United States zigs. But with MPs returning to the House of Commons—and without Peter Van Loan’s silver tongue to protect him, we’d add—his life will nonetheless become increasingly difficult.
The Toronto Star’s James Travers examines the unlikely political beneficiaries and casualties of the global financial crisis. Beneficiaries: Gordon Brown (who has forestalled a full-scale caucus revolt “thanks to his quick support for British banks”) and Michael Ignatieff, whose chief Liberal leadership rival’s résumé is a little light on fiscal stewardship. Casualties: Bob Rae, naturally, and Stephen Harper—or, at least, Conservative partisans in general. “Jurassic” Tories “now know they will have to wait longer, perhaps forever, for this Prime Minister to make the hard right turn they want and expect,” Travers observes. And for Canadians in general, the emergence of the G20 leaders as a political force just highlights how Canada’s role in the world is diminishing.
But at least Paul Martin is probably getting a kick out of the whole G20 thing, Jeffrey Simpson suggests in The Globe and Mail. Oh, you laughed at him when it was his idea, didn’t you, world? The Italians didn’t want other European nations hogging the limelight; the Japanese didn’t want anything to do with China. But now, “the little club has been broken open, just as Mr. Martin suggested in the late 1990s when he was finance minister.” Of course, like Travers says, none of this is particularly good news for Canada. The Harperites have steered relations with China towards “cool,” with Brazil towards “distant,” with India towards lackadaisical and with Turkey towards antagonistic. And indeed, Simpson suggests, we’ve recently re-elected “a government that boasts about putting Canada ‘on the map’ without any evidence to support the boast, except in Afghanistan, from which Canada has signaled its departure.”
The Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington wants no part of an auto industry bailout—“craps” to the notion, his headline declares!—unless and until “American (and Canadian) auto workers … lower their wage rate” and “executives forego obscene bonuses” to top up their already “large” salaries. “In no other industry do high school graduates earn an average of $100,000-plus a year,” he complains. “Without revamping the excesses”—whatever that means—“a series of $25-billion bailouts will solve nothing.”
News from the coast
The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer looks at B.C.’s rogue pollster, Angus Reid Strategies, which continues to show the NDP narrowly in front of the Liberals even as the better established Ipsos Reid has the Liberals “well ahead”—i.e., by 44 per cent to 35 per cent. This calls for a conspiracy theory, we’d say, but Palmer is too much the pro to oblige. Sigh. Instead, he simply advises we wait for the Mustel Group poll to break the tie—or, which we think would be far more entertaining, to have the Greens out in front. Is it possible British Columbians are just messing with the pollsters, en masse? Well played, if so.
“Supportive housing is the only true answer to homelessness,” Gary Mason argues in the Globe, and if Vancouver’s new mayor, Gregor Robertson, is really serious about tackling the problem, he’s going to have to build thousands of units, not just a few hundred. Unfortunately, he observes, the Lower Mainland’s well-known penchant for NIMBY-ism is likely to rear its ugly head, and quickly, once Robertson’s efforts begin. Mason suggests concerned residents consult a new study of New York’s 20-year-old supportive housing program, which has been shown not to raise crime, lower property values or bring about any of the other plagues people typically fear will befall their neighbourhoods.
On the 10th anniversary of Tara Singh Hayer’s assassination, the National Post’s Jonathan Kay suggests the fearless anti-extremist Sikh Canadian journalist “deserves to be remembered alongside such famous martyrs to their craft as Daniel Pearl and Anna Politkovskaya.” And it would honour his legacy, Kay suggests, if “cynical politicians” stopped “rubb[ing] elbows” with the “less reputable” elements of Sikh society who haven’t rejected violence.
The Montreal Gazette’s Henry Aubin understands it’s more difficult in a parliamentary system than in a presidential one to reach across party lines when forming a cabinet, but damn it all, he’s altogether taken with Obama’s commitment to “go beyond a token show of political diversity and … give his administration a bipartisan cast.” As such, he suggests that heads of all levels of Canadian government find some way to adopt this spirit within the confines of our own flawed democracy.
“Vivaldi and the rest of us think in terms of four seasons; les Canadiens think in terms of a hundred,” Andrew Cohen writes, in all seriousness, in the Ottawa Citizen, suggesting Le Tricolore is an exemplar of, ahem, “thrusting” Canadian ambition and excellence. “And how magnificent they were! Hockey is winter, yes, and spring and fall, too, but for les Canadiens it has always seemed like summer—a languid, long, endless, golden summer.” Holy crow, what absolute twaddle. But hang on, there’s more. “The faces still stare down at you from the Heavens,” he writes of the impossibly sterile Bell Centre: “the incendiary Rocket Richard; the tentacled Ken Dryden; the craggy Henri Richard; the mercurial Yvan Cournoyer; the mellifluous Jean Béliveau. They are demi-gods on Olympus. Les glorieux.” Someone, please! Our insulin!