Must-reads: Rosie DiManno on race statistics; Lawrence Martin on finding a new Speaker; Doug Saunders on waiting for a European Obama; Greg Weston on Jim Prentice’s new job; Jeffrey Simpson on bailing out the Detroit Three; David Frum on the GOP’s bleak future; Don Martin on Elizabeth May.
Change we don’t believe in
Sure, the Liberal party will soon “change.” But neither it nor Canada, the pundits lament, will Change.
Ignatieff vs. Rae vs. LeBlanc is precisely the leadership race the Liberals needed, L. Ian MacDonald opines in the Montreal Gazette. For one thing, he says, “it will keep costs down at a time when the party is broke.” But more to the point, it means “amateur hour is over.” The only two legitimate candidates understand their goal is to “unite the party, fill its campaign coffers, and win the next election,” and nothing else. No young people; no new ideas; no funny business.
The Gazette‘s Don Macpherson also handicaps the race for the leadership, suggesting—weirdly, in our view—that “because of the unfortunate timing of the current leadership race, Ignatieff starts off his second run risking unfavourable comparison with the charismatic [Barack] Obama.” This is particularly true in Quebec, he argues, where election fatigue has set in and there’s nothing remotely novel about Charest vs. Marois vs. Dumont. Fair enough, but who’s Ignatieff up against? Rae and LeBlanc, and then Harper? Which of those three juggernauts is going to out-Obama Iggy?
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald‘s Dan Leger pines for Canuckobama, and lays out two possible explanations for his Sasquatch-esque elusiveness: one, that Canadians are afraid of or uninterested in change; two, that the federal political parties simply “have no clue how to provide it.” His rather shambolic column doesn’t really bring us any closer to deciding which is more accurate.
The Globe and Mail‘s Doug Saunders explores an intriguing crisis of conscience he says is underway among European politicians, who have suddenly realized it’s impossible for any Obama-like figure to succeed in politics anywhere on the continent. It’s not necessarily a matter of overt racism, he argues, but “a political system, much like Canada’s, that is deeply resistant to leaders who actually represent their people.” Particularly in countries like France, Austria and Italy, whose leaders very deliberately play off the divisions among the population—and who propose solutions, such as focusing on integrating immigrants, that themselves highlight those divisions—Saunders believes the Obama phenomenon will look particularly foreign.
The Globe‘s Lawrence Martin restates his long-held contention that the Speaker of the House of Commons has the power to enforce order among MPs, and, if you’ll please refer to the Standing Orders, even to “call a member to account if he or she persists in repeating an argument or in addressing a subject not relevant to the question.” (Just the thought of such an admonishment practically moves us to tears.) And, Martin reiterates, Peter Milliken, the current Speaker, clearly isn’t up to the task. There’s no guarantee one of the current candidates to replace him wouldn’t succumb to the same pressures and leave the monkeys in charge of the pavilion, he concedes, but at the very least “it’s time someone else was given a chance” to Change the lower chamber.
The Green Party is no better off today than it was before the election, observes the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin, despite having increased its vote share. And they should have been better off, he insists, to the tune of one elected MP, namely, Elizabeth May. If a Dipper can win in Edmonton, Martin says May “should be able to cakewalk into the Commons” if she finds a “friendlier” riding. Yet as of their conversation last week, she “seemed determined to stick with her game plan to re-tackle [Peter] MacKay on turf she cannot win,” he reports. “She must reconsider that position.” Sage advice, that.
Anyone who thought Jim Prentice’s appointment as environment minister would bring about a new green era in the Harper government will be disappointed by his interview with Sun Media’s Greg Weston, in which he assures Canadians his first goal is not to inflict any economic harm on companies or the economy as a whole. Anyone can say and do that, of course, “but it was not for nothing that the PM gave the environment portfolio to a smart guy like Prentice,” says Weston. U.S. opposition to Alberta’s “dirty oil” and the various environmental initiatives President Obama might launch—to the consternation of Canada, of course, which distrusts Change—will be a huge challenge. “I don’t see the oilsands at risk,” Prentice shushes. “I see it as part of the overall discussion.”
The Toronto Star‘s James Travers sees the Prime Minister’s speech at the party convention over the weekend, in which he hailed his interventionist response to the financial crisis as “a solid marriage of fiscal necessity and Conservative principle” and warned the gathered delegates about the “dangers of dogma,” as a sort of coming out party for The New Harper. No more low taxes and small government, Travers declares (sticking to his deeply flawed contention that Harper’s first term was a masterpiece of laissez-faire economics). “Whether personal growth or political flexibility, the change reflects the tainted prize Conservatives won a month plus a day ago. Harper’s new reality is the new reality for Canada and the world.”
The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe argues “Conservatives were wise on the weekend to savour their good times,” because they’ll soon be ushering in a new era of deficits, the Liberals will soon be under new and more effective management, and Tories are going to shoulder the blame once “the impact of climate change becomes more salient.” (Don’t worry, you’ll know it when it happens—there’ll be a burning sensation.)
The Herald‘s Don Martin understands the mortal terror you now experience when opening your monthly investment statements, but he has 11—count’em, eleven!—pieces of good news for you. On the roads, for example, he notes that “the glut of unsold cars in the U.S. is being dumped into Canada,” meaning “that mid-life-crisis Corvette is about $9,000 cheaper than last year,” no doubt at zero per-cent financing, and the massive quantities of gas to run it cost 40 cents less per litre than five months ago. Our tanking loonie “is a godsend for export-driven industries,” furthermore, and the windfall from the wireless spectrum auction will likely keep us out of deficit this year. And seven more! It’s the feel-good column of the weekend!
Do not under any circumstances buy a Corvette, says the Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson, because it’s an environmental hate crime and he’ll be absolutely furious with you. Okay, we’re paraphrasing. He does want you to know that oil prices are going to rise again, however, “perhaps even very sharply in the form of a slingshot effect when heightened demand hits tight supply.” But his real target is the American automakers and the Canadian government that might bail them out. “Not one penny should go to the auto sector that is not traceable to green technologies and production,” he argues. “No more money for stupid projects such as the Camaro.”
The G20 leaders didn’t “establish an effective international financial regulatory regime,” at their meeting, nor did they “map out a co-ordinated response to the collapsing world economy” or figure out how to address the United States’ trade deficit or China’s over-reliance on export markets, Thomas Walkom observes in the Star. But simply by meeting, and agreeing to meet again, they have effectively announced themselves as “a new body to oversee the international capitalist economy” and committed to “avert[ing] another ’30s-style Depression.” And that, Walkom enthuses, is “something.”
The National Post‘s America
David Frum provides three practical reasons to doubt Karl Rove’s optimism that the Republicans will be resurgent in 2010, and one overarching reason: the “collapsed intellectual state” of the party. “The dominant wing in today’s GOP is the ‘say it louder’ wing,” Frum notes, shaking his head (or so we imagine). “Rush Limbaugh tells his audiences that the way to win in 2010 is by returning to the template of 1994 and 1980—campaigns 15 and 30 years in the past! It would be as if the Democrats had responded to Ronald Reagan by returning to the good old themes of Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson. (Which come to think of it, they did—with dismal results.)”
George Jonas chalks up all of America’s problems in Iraq to its decision to abandon realpolitik and embrace “moralpolitik,” incomprehensibly—to Saddam Hussein anyway—”ally[ing] itself with the weaker powers in the region against the stronger power” in demanding Iraq withdraw from Kuwait, and then, 13 years later, pulling the trigger when Saddam, “with all the prudence of a juvenile outlaw … pointed a fake gun at the police.” (We’re fans of Mr. Jonas, but pretty soon his contributions to the Post are going to have to come with their own Coles Notes.)
Conrad Black admits his error in predicting a John McCain victory, but is still determined to augment his “track record as a political seer.” To wit, he predicts Obama will implement “help for the unemployed with a Roosevelt-style public works program that would address decaying transport and other public-services needs; a financial transaction tax to raise revenue; and some sort of non-protectionist fiscal incentive to sophisticated manufacturing.” He would also like to clarify that he does not think Obama is a “practising Marxist,” blaming this misunderstanding on “no-frills editing” applied to an earlier piece, and he wishes the new President well.
On free speech
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui argues that free speech proponents in Canada are guilty of hypocrisy because they routinely support the rights of people to vilify Islam but haven’t charged to the barricades to defend a Somali mosque in Toronto that publishes “anti-Semitic and anti-Western messages on its website.” Until they “separate themselves from such racism,” he argues, the “free speechers … will continue to be seen as defending only those mocking Muslims and Islam.” The two biggest problems with this argument that we detect are as follows:
- Nobody, to our knowledge, has yet launched proceedings against the mosque in question, so there isn’t really anything to defend them against.
- This argument implicitly accuses groups such as PEN Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association of being racist, which is insane.
Rex Murphy, writing in the Globe, finds it odd that the Canadian Human Rights Commission chose to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day, considering that by investigating and punishing freedom of expression, it and its provincial counterparts “are diluting and trivializing and thereby offending the very core concept that gives them their name.” Rights like freedom of expression “are ours from the beginning,” he argues, and not for government agencies to grant or circumscribe. Rights such as not “wash[ing] ones hands wile working in a fast-food restaurant” or “not to be offended by a Mark Steyn article … may have merits,” he concedes, but they have no business being adjudicated by the same people or agencies that protect our fundamental freedoms.
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno implores Ontario to reject the idea of collecting great reams of race-based statistics, as advocated by Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling in their report on the causes of youth violence in the province. The root causes of crime have been “studied to death,” she argues: children are at risk when they “start out with overwhelming disadvantages that rarely ease up, [are] raised in neighbourhoods where violence is the default resolution to conflict, and [are] convinced early that their choices are severely limited.” Black children might suffer disproportionately, in other words, but not because they’re black. Thus, DiManno sees “no value in further stigmatizing troubled youth by distinction of race. … Whatever the underlying reasons, the cumulative effect will be to render skin colour a disability, a pejorative typecasting, invested with perceived validity by statistical documentation.”
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the Ottawa murder trial of “S.M.,” where a witness described the altercation in which 22-year-old Michael Oatway was stabbed to death aboard an OC Transpo bus, allegedly after he wouldn’t give up his borrowed MP3 player to the accused. The most depressing detail yet? For our money, it’s the fact that the accused didn’t just own an MP3 player; he had it with him.
The Post‘s Terence Corcoran accuses CTV’s W-Five of ignoring a vast quantity of easily-available evidence suggesting that the residents of Port Hope, Ont. aren’t actually being killed by uranium poisoning and other nuclear-related ailments, in an effort to produce a scaremongering ode to junk science.