Let the games begin

Why solve Canada’s woes, writes Paul Wells, when there’s politics to play?

by Paul Wells

Let the games begin

And now for your monthly forecast. On Jan. 20, on a bright, sun-dappled Washington mall, millions of Americans will watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office. Backed by solid majorities in both houses of Congress, advised by a formidable cabinet that includes a Nobel prizewinner, and supported, for now, by millions of Americans who didn’t even vote for him but who admire his spirit and see no reason to wish him ill, the young new president will embark on a serious program of reform to his country’s economic policy, its social programs, its war craft and its relationship with its allies abroad.

Six days later in Ottawa, your members of Parliament will reconvene for yet another high-stakes championship round of Hey, Pull My Finger.

Our poor neighbours to the south will be bogged down in the tedious search for real solutions to real problems. Up here it’s just empty calories. Fun! When Michaëlle Jean reads the government’s latest Throne Speech—the fourth in three years—le tout Ottawa will be poring over the print version for hints of Stephen Harper’s latest poison-pill attack on the opposition parties.

“ ‘My fellow Canadians’—what the hell does he mean by that?”

“Lloyd, the speech didn’t mention infrastructure. Sources say the PM wants to lure the opposition into criticizing him on that so he can sneak around back and bushwhack them with a surprise infrastructure bill that—if it’s defeated—could lead to a surprise election call or . . .”

Every time Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton wander to within three feet of each other, teams of crack semioticians will swing into action, scrutinizing the duo’s body language for hints about the future of the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition government-in-waiting/agony (pick one). Folded arms! Awkward small talk! Oh my God oh my God they’re wearing the same watch . . . Anything—absolutely anything—could be the telltale tipoff announcing an imminent bloodless coup/election/prorogation/new Liberal leadership race/devastating round of negative pre-writ TV ads/fiscal stimulus/constitutional overture to Quebec/carbon tax (choose one or several).

In this heady environment there is little danger that anyone will mistake Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s Jan. 27 budget for a plan to allocate $220 billion worth of spending in pursuit of long-term goals. Where’s the fun in that? No, instead we’re all going to treat Flaherty’s budget as the trigger for a brand-new confidence crisis. We haven’t had one since December, after all, and we’re starting to jones. So here’s the deal. Budget Day is a Tuesday. If we can’t get the headlines “CRISIS” and “NOBODY COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING” onto the front page of the Globe by Saturday at the latest, then by God, we’re just not trying hard enough.

Meanwhile, in Washington, that killjoy Obama will be sitting down for a bunch of “meetings” with his “advisers” to look for “solutions” to “problems” that can be addressed with “legislation” in the hope that citizens’ “lives” will “improve.” BORING.

Here in Canada, we got over all that solutions-to-problems crap way back in the summer of ’02, when Paul Martin changed our politics forever by announcing that he might have to quit the Chrétien cabinet over something Jean Chrétien might have said, but that he couldn’t bring himself to decide. This led to a weekend of wild speculation and rumours that was so much better than sex—especially Ottawa sex—that nobody in the capital has been able to kick the rumours-and-speculation habit ever since. Absolutely nobody. Government, opposition, reporters, hairdressers, cabbies, the mayor: here in the 613, we are all stone deaf on the What Just Happened because we’ve got the volume knobs turned up to 11 on the What Do You Suppose Might Happen Next. I’m telling you, this city is a trip. The guy who runs my local magazine shop greets me with a hale, “So d’you think this coalition thing is gonna fly?” People at the cineplex debate the relative worth of Michael Ignatieff and Ken Dryden. (“This new Liberal guy,” somebody on the train back to Ottawa after Christmas was saying, “I can’t even pronounce his name.”)

As we said above, empty calories. All this babble and breathless what-if is like talking about politics, but it’s not really talking about politics because in sane societies there is, bound up in the who’s-up who’s-down of political gossip, some attempt to diagnose a society’s problems and their potential remedy. We’re so far past that in Ottawa I’m not sure how we get back to a politics of high-minded concern for public-policy issues, if indeed there is anyone left who wants to. This is because the government’s opponents remain mired in incoherence, while the Prime Minister seems to prefer it.

These things have a lag time. The Conservatives’ supporters have been slow to notice that nothing Stephen Harper says on anything is credible anymore. Once they notice it will take longer before they begin to care. Any leader of any stripe can get by for a while on his supporters’ shared disdain for his opponents. The Liberals have worked hard for half a decade to ensure that disdain for Liberals remains potent fuel.

But if you’re for Stephen Harper these days, what else are you for? Smaller government? Just wait until you see that budget. Fiscal restraint? Only on Thursdays. Remember, Budget Day will be a Tuesday. An end to regional pork? We’ll all be swimming in rivers of pork by Easter. Letting companies sink or swim by themselves? Please. Stock Day was in Lévis, Que., the other day offering $380 million in loan guarantees for the Davie shipyard, because that’s what a 21st-century economy needs. Deficits? Harper campaigned against them, then sat smiling while his finance minister promised there’d be no such thing. Wrong both times.

Fixed election dates? Parliamentary vetting of Supreme Court appointments? Senate reform? Staying in Afghanistan? It was all so clever and exciting the first time Harper did the opposite of what everyone thought he believed, way back when he was merely poaching David Emerson for a cabinet seat. Chess to everyone’s checkers, or so it seemed. But by now it is clear enough that Harper is playing dodgeball, not chess. Does anybody really think the principles in the Throne Speech, whatever they are, will guide the Prime Minister’s behaviour in the months ahead?

So, do I believe a many-headed Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition thing would be better? No, actually. I don’t think Michael Ignatieff believes it either, even though the Liberal sort-of-leader a) was present at all the meetings leading up to the creation of the coalition beast, b) signed a letter to the Governor General asking for her support for the thing, c) still maintains he will lead a coalition government “if necessary.” Ignatieff has watched Harper survive on a diet of incoherence, and he watched Stéphane Dion fall by advocating the Green Shift, a clear policy for the long term (and, as a bonus, a policy Ignatieff championed before Dion did). The lesson Ignatieff has drawn is that coherence is deadly. He will compete with Harper in the arts of misdirection and contradiction. Ignatieff has always been a diligent student of his surroundings. He took one look at today’s Ottawa and decided it is a place where one must not say what one thinks.

We laugh about these things to keep from crying. The endless frenzied paralysis of political Ottawa is soul-destroying because there are important things our politics could be about but isn’t: our energy-wasting households, our improving but still second-rate universities, our increasingly incoherent attempt to run a 21st-century economy on 19th-century infrastructure. You might draw up a different list from mine. I think we can both agree that nobody’s list is getting serious attention in Ottawa lately.

That’s why Barack Obama’s inauguration will grate, even on those Canadian spectators who are relieved to see the back of George W. Bush. That ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will bespeak a seriousness of purpose—heck, just a presence of purpose—that has no match in Ottawa.

There is no need getting too jealous. Obama’s task and much of his project amount to repair work after Bush drove the U.S. economy and foreign policy so wildly astray that it will take years to mend the damage. The frivolity of the current Ottawa moment is an indulgence, a sort of luxury: we can afford a few years of careening idiocy while we coast on the benefits of a decade’s relative fiscal virtue.

But by now we’ve had those dumb years and more. We have been lurching from crisis to crisis, from incoherence to broken word, for years now. Stephen Harper won more scraps in 2008 than in his entire life up to then. And it is harder today than ever before to discern a reason why he wants to be in politics. Beat the Liberals some more? Sure. Fine. Great. And then?




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Let the games begin

  1. Paul

    You seem really disheartened with Canadian politics recently, hopefully your faith will be restored soon.

    I think you have rose-tinted glasses when it comes to Obama and his team. You seem to be focusing on his words, not actions, and it’s also not entirely fair to compare Obama to our pols. Obama has no formal role in crafting legislation, he sits on the sidelines and proposes things, but in the end he has no say over what’s in the next budget. I think a better comparison with our Parliament is Congress and our system comes off looking pretty good compared to Congress. How many billions of $$$ in earmarks for dubious projects will be in the next US budget after they done wrangling?

    However, I do agree with you that our political reporters seem to have lost the plot over the past few years and that’s reflected in dropping newspaper sales and the minuscule amount of people who watch the broaadcaaast or duffy live. A recent example of some msm members dropping the ball was the lack of coverage of Cromwell to Supreme Court. That’s a very important appointment, he will play a significant role in setting the law of the land, but I am willing to bet most Canadians are entirely unaware that he was appointed at all, never mind any coverage about his former decisions and how he might rule in the future.

    • I mostly agree, although I was under the impression that legislation can be introduced by any of the House, Senate or Executive/President, & must be approved by all three or by the House & Senate with a high enough majority to override a presidential veto.

      But absolutely no disagreement that our political coverage is a lazy & sloppy in comparison to that in down south.

    • “Obama has no formal role in crafting legislation, he sits on the sidelines and proposes things, but in the end he has no say over what’s in the next budget.”

      Careful, jwl, your ignorance might obscure your observations.

      The President proposes the budget, and when both legislative chambers are in his party’s control, he has enormous say over what’s in the budget. The President can also veto a budget which requires a 2/3 vote in both chambers to override. The White House is intimately involved in the process, especially in the House/Senate reconciliation process.

      Stick to cheerleading for Harper, jwl. That requires no thought or knowledge.

      • ““If Obama steps over the bounds, I will tell him. … I do not work for Barack Obama” Harry Reid

        What ignorance? You just wrote exactly what I did, talk about no thought or knowledge. Obama can propose whatever he likes but Congress writes the actual budget. Obama says yes/no once the budget is done but President has no formal role in putting the budget together.

        And if I am considered a cheerleader for Harper, he’s got bigger problems than I thought.

  2. This piece amounts to a lament that the people have elected minority governments in the last couple of elections.

    Minority governments result in political compromises: that’s the name of the game. Does it cause policy incoherences, sure, but again that’s the name of the game.

    • Could you please enumerate some political compromise that has been negotiated these past couple of years? I’m agog.

      The PW point, I would assume, is that precisely no effort is made north of 49 in coming together on important issues.

    • how does the kool-aid taste?

    • We didn’t elect a minority government. Minority government was just one (an unusual one) of the possible choices when no party formed a majority. In other democracys, in this situation, coalition is almost always the order of the day!
      Lots of canadians do not look outside their own borders. Take a look.
      Coalitions are quite normal. Germany lives by the coalition. Ireland has been governed by coalitions through their entire economic boom.
      Do not let ignorance of the posibilities ruin our future.
      Brian

  3. Our poor neighbours to the south will be bogged down in the tedious search for real solutions to real problems.

    The cri de coeur of Canadian pundits: “Dear Diary…Nothing ever happens!”

    The Americans are looking for solutions to problems they themselves created. I’m getting a little bored by our elite thinking that that’s supposed to be some impressive achievement.

  4. There’s an interesting parallel between your piece, Paul, and an article in the New Yorker last year by George Packer, called “The Fall of Conservatism: Have the Republicans Run Out of Ideas?”

    It essentially argues that conservatives liked winning elections, but turned out to have little interest in actually governing after they’d won.

    After all, why bother governing when that only serves to show that the state has a legitimate role to play in solving problems affecting people’s lives.

  5. I wonder if pundits have a small list of topics that gurantee a response and that each item will have the US of A in it comparing it with Canada (unfavourably of course) .. I can see it all now a new age is dawning in america where polticians no longer compete and where consensus and cooperation rule. Please … How much do you want to bet that the first act of Obama will not be removing troops from Iraq or signing a new trillion dollar loan = nope. The first 2 acts will be a meeting with the joints chief and then the setting up of a committee to ‘ Re-Elect Obama in 2012 ‘ and that every other poltical wannabee will start updating their rolodexes to start preparing for the next election as well the politicians new and old will slowly start taking their gloves off .. quietly at first then slowly but surely louder and louder = Hey Pull My Finger?

  6. I would have found this rant more stirring if you hadn’t thrown Stéphane Dion under the bus recently. After all wasn’t Dion a politician who “said what he thinks”. Didn’t he run a campaign based on serious policy proposals? Didn’t he have a vision for this country – balancing economic growth, social justice and environmental protection – quite close to what Obama is projecting? Isn’t that exactly the kind of politics you seem to be longing for?

    As for comparisons between Canada and the U.S. Yes Obama and his team are a breath of fresh air and seem to have a lot of promise. Now let’s see how far that goes in the meat grinder of money, special interests, and divided government that is the American political machine.

    I still think on balance that the Canadian system is actually a better model for effective government. What’s messing it up now is all of these smaller parties that can’t get elected but are also placing us in permanent electoral limbo. This is very destructive in a first-past-the-post system. Either we change that system or there has to be some rationalization (i.e. merging or disappearing) of these smaller parties.

    • “I would have found this rant more stirring if you hadn’t thrown Stéphane Dion under the bus recently. After all wasn’t Dion a politician who “said what he thinks”. Didn’t he run a campaign based on serious policy proposals? Didn’t he have a vision for this country – balancing economic growth, social justice and environmental protection – quite close to what Obama is projecting? Isn’t that exactly the kind of politics you seem to be longing for?”

      Glad to see that I wasn’t the only one to notice this.

  7. Good comments re Dion, Jean Proulx; too bad so many Canadians were bamboozled by those foul attacks on the man, by Harper.
    Re the smaller parties: I dont want to see Canadian politics as fragmented as Italy’s. However, I would think that putting limits on the number of parties, flies in the face of having a true democracy. I have to count on fringe parties always remaining on the fringes and those that might rise up with something of national interest to contribute, find their constituency and thereby their voice in our parliament. I prefer that we finally end the first-past-the-post system in favour of one that’s, in fact, more democratic. Afterall, nearly a million Canadians voted for the Greens in the last election, and not one seat represents their views in parliament. That’s just wrong; those numbers are simply way too significant to just ignore and deny a voice.
    I wish the country would have the alternative system sufficiently explained so that the resistance to this worthy change would evaporate.

    • “Good comments re Dion, Jean Proulx; too bad so many Canadians were bamboozled by those foul attacks on the man, by Harper.”

      Reg, Harper wasn’t the only one doing the attacking. The Ottawa intelligentsia did its fair share of kicking him around and the Liberal caucus was relentless in its backstabbing.

      We say we want integrity and substance in our politicians but the treatment that Dion received is evidence to the contrary.

  8. You don’t like our politicians? We elected them. Its our system. If we don’t fix this we have nobody to blame but us.

    You can’t blame only Bush for the economic disaster that’s unfolding. This mess was decades in the making and there are a lot of people at fault besides the US govt.

    You can blame Bush all you want for focussing on Iraq after the 9/11 attacks when the really bad actors are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But at least Bush knew to hit Afghanistan for habouring Al Qaeda. So the question is what would Gore have done had he been President instead of Bush? Would Gore have had the moxy to face this? Or would he have worn holes in his trousers crawling on his knees apologizing for being alive?

    • How on earth is that even a question? Gore was a couple of elections ago. If your knickers are still in a twist about him, perhaps you need to go have a lie down.

      • Bush is reviled. Gore was the alternative to Bush. Gore presumably would have had a different response to 9/11. You can’t re-write history but you can ask what would the alternative response have been. I’m no fan of Bush. I think Iraq was a waste of resources. But neither am I a fan of Gore and the “blame America first” gang. They revile and ridicule Bush and, given that they’re so smart and because they and their ilk would have been running the US govt, it begs the question. What would Gore have done?

  9. Why are we lurching from crisis to crisis? Is it , as PW asserts merely that we’re resting on our laurels, particularly with regard to the Americans? Is it SH’s incoherence and opposition ineptness; or are we no longer capable of mustering the will to pursue a national vision? Perhaps we were always just a rag-tag bunch of squabbling, and divergent interests? Year by year our vision and the folks who represent us seem to be shrinking in scale, becoming ever narrower and pinched.
    If there is ever going to be a time to put aside petty differences and at least pull in the same direction, to see ourselves in a larger and more generous light then now might be as good a time as any. There endeth the sermon.

    • Amen.

  10. I’m in full agreement with Wells about how lacking Harper is in anything remotely resembling a solid core of leadership. But I have to admit: I loathe the Liberal Party with such fervor after the last two decades that I do want to see them pounded into the political pavement as thoroughly as possible, for as long as possible, and hopefully with enough force to keep them from ever being a force in Canadian politics again.

    • And what precisely will you have gained then, apart from some form of revenge? It’s this kind of petty thhinking that makes me despair for our future. Will you be any happier in yr one party state al la Alberta?

      • I agree with Gaunilon. We have basically lived in a one party state for the past century, kc, and if Lib party disappeared I think we would see more transferring of governing between NDP and Cons. Which would be much healthier than living in the Lib hegemony that we have now.

        • jwl
          ” we have lived…” congraulations. I can understand yr frustration if in fact you’ve personally had to put up with them for that long. As it happens i agree, in part that is. If power had been more evenly shared then we certainly wouldn’t have as many cranky conservatives around. But it did, and it wasn’t all bad. Wishing changes nothing. Besides you had a pretty goood run under Mulroney, not all bad either. Or were his failures the liberals fault as well.

      • We will have gained from having a clear-cut choice between the left and the right, NDP vs. Conservatives.
        A party whose sole aim is to get reelected by slavishly adhering to the center of Canadian public opinion damages the country. This is also what I despise about Harper, but it began with the Liberals. In fact I believe this sort of politics-over-principle is partly the cause for Canadians’ current lack of interest in the political process.

        Also, there is the small matter of justice. The LPC richly deserves complete political destruction after the damage they have done to my country. I hunger and thirst for that justice.

        • Isn’t “adhering to the center of Canadian public opinion” a good thing though? If good government is to govern to the greatest benefit of *all* the citizens, then it stands to reason that this would mean doing as little damage as possible to as many citizens as possible.

          Sticking to the centre does this. Sure, nobody’s ecstatic, but then nobody’s completely dismayed either. This is good for the country, as it’s when people get really unhappy that things start to swing out of control and you get stuff like the FLQ happening.

          • No, it is not a good thing. It is a simple democracy, i.e. the public majority effectively makes every decision. As Plato pointed out, this leads in short order to a tyranny since the majority as a whole neither understands every issue nor votes for the common good.

            In our parliamentary system, as in the republic of our southern neighbors, the idea is to have the public elect leaders whose judgement and character can be trusted. These representatives then choose the course of the nation using their judgement, not public opinion polls. In short: they are expected to lead, not follow. The LPC has so thoroughly distorted this model that the public no longer trusts any politician, and doesn’t even care. I would give my left arm to see that party poltically destroyed, never to return.

          • You’ve confused a republic with a parliamentary democracy.

            The one elects leaders, the other elects representatives.

            We’re the latter, no matter how much you might want to give up your responsibility and be the former.

        • Gaunilon
          Sorry you must have the wrong country. when hasn’t Canada been governed from the centre? i believe it’s largely what we want. I agree about Sh, he stands for nothing anymore. But don’t despair he wont abandon you in yr quest to see justice done on the liberals. Maybe it’s the oppositions job to remind the govt of the day when they have strayed from the principles that best serve this country,

        • come on. you can hate the Libs as much as your heart desires, but aren’t you just doing exactly as well describes above? rather than getting on to serious issues, you are are arguing for retribution via an argument that politics should be reformed to binary choices (right v left) as our best possible future.

          less trees more forest.

  11. When i read this piece again it just makes me mad. Maybe we should simply rise up and burn Ottawa to the ground. Of course we’d have to actually care about it to to that.

  12. The problem started with the electorate. Ever since Mulroney we (collectively) have been voting in the negative, against Meech lake/Charlottetown, against Mulroney himself (even after he stepped down) against the Lieberals or against the CONs or against Ottawa (or against the Wheat Board, CBC, etc.)

    You name it someone is against it, but no one is telling us what they are for, and when they do, they get crucified by their opponents or by the pundits. If we really want politicians to be our servants, then we need to set the example and be more civil and respectful ourselves, first.

    • Yes the electorate”s been cranky and if i”m not mistaken about to get a whole lot crankier.

      • do you think so? sadly i a, not sure that they have not simply turned their back on the project by and large (see voter turnout trends). well i can understand that, pw lays out clearly the disincentive to care, until the electorate gets reengaged i worry this will go on unabated.

  13. Ti-Guy has it right: “The Americans are looking for solutions to problems they themselves created.”

    Not only that, they plan on using the same methods to solve the problems as they used to create them! Easy credit caused the bubble; let’s use easy credit to solve it! Etc. etc.

    I am sorry that Paul is going to be disillusioned by Obama, but that is the certain outcome. The congress and the senate are the same dismal collections of time-servers and political hacks as before. Obama’s cabinet has a smattering of Clinton retreads (not to mention Hillary) so I don’t see he expects this magical change to come from.

  14. I can see in the other side of this article that Paul has just spent too long sitting and thinking about the “Issues”. He has put so much effort into analyzing these and in sifting through the various possible solutions that he has begun to hunger for any kind of active response to them.

    This ways leads liberalism and madness, the madness of believing that you have the solution to society’s ills, or some great plan to fix the economy, or whatever other dream. Paul is approaching the point where he needs to go and sit on a committee somewhere and recommend stuff for other people to do that will improve other people’s lives at yet other people’s expense. This is not an ignoble impulse, but it should be resisted nonetheless.

    • Are you advocating nihilism? what’s the pt? We might as well just all go home. That sort of reminds me of the scene in Annie Hall[?] Where a young Woody decides he’s not going to do his homework anymore, because he’s just found out that the universe will eventually stop expanding and will inevitably collapse in on itself.

      • Er, no. But it is clear that Paul is looking for some kind of large public policy initiative that will do something big, like tackle “our energy-wasting households”. As it happens, I am moderately happy with my own household’s use of energy and I am not craving some new whizz program to change it up.

        Paul has joined up with the “something must be done” crowd and I think that this is not a good thing.

        • I think it’s a false dichotomy to pit “something must be done” vs. “nothing must ever be done.” Paul Wells lists a few issues that might be debated, weighed, acted on or not acted on; you could substitute your own list. But to say “I’m happy with total paralysis and hypocrisy and wheel-spinning” is, as kc remarks, fairly nihilistic.

          • It’s not nihilistic in the slightest; it’s the recognition that we have it good. This was the better side of Chretien – his avoidance of grand initiatives. Wells loves Chretien’s university grants but must be noted that the man made little fanfare about those. What i think is funniest about Wells lately is that after making his name through hilarious put downs of Paul Martin he has now caling for maximum Paul Martinism ie. let’s run around like a chicken with our head cut off, announce tons of half-baked initiatives and generally freak out about all the problems in the world. I also thought it was funny, Bill, that he mentioned our `energy wasting households’ when probably the biggest thing to freak out about is 150,000 southern ontario car workers who are about to get laid off. I guess Sarnia was more of an oil than an auto town.
            Barack Obama’s inauguration will grate on me but not for Wells’ reasons — I don’t know who these people are getting a woody over Obama’s rhetoric and speaking style, which have very little to do with the interesting things this very smart man is planning to implement. Is anyone else creeped out about that new `Office of the President Elect’ logo he speaks in front of? it’s like something from the Simpsons.

  15. I say let them argue, that way they are unlikely to do any real damage.
    Meanwhile, Obama, Paul’s new crush, will be spending America into oblivion.
    You know what they say, trillion is the new billion.

    • Why bother to vote then? After all, it only encourages them.

  16. It’s like a seen from th good the bad and the ugly. Do you remember the camera moving from face to face to face? And like the movie this new cast has it out for the other every bit as much.

    Next time you see a picture of Layton, Ignatieff and Duceppe, think of the theme song, and then think how Iggy is screwing Jack -he has no intention of supporting the coalition- how Jack is screwing Harper-it doesn’t matter what Harper does, Jack’s friends at the CIC have told him how to act-and how Gille is screwing everyone-cold blooded weasel re the rest of us.

    • Who’s Harper in yr epic? surely you’ve mis-cast here. He could only be the man with no brain?Can’t see Steve in a poncho though.

  17. Maybe a poll will be released in the next few days THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!!!!!

  18. What was said about who and how was it said and where? This expounds the limit of Canadian politicians. Making no sense! But thats what we all like. Entertainment not realism. Lol

  19. So, here we have it. On and on and on about Harper’s chess games and strategic genius for 3 years and we’re in a mess.

    I watched CTV new show “On the Hill” and I lost count as to how many times “is the coalition dead – will there be a coalition”? Yawn.

    Over to CBC – will the coalition last….yadda, yadds.

    Newspaper articles about it every day.

    So, who’s obsessed with the coalition? The talking heads and newspapers.

    It’s nothing but constant speculation – about the coalition and elections. They day after each election the media start obsessing as to when the next election will be.

    Boring.

  20. The pressure is on Ignatieff. If he sides with Layton, he may be part of a government which will be short lived as well as a government which will never ever be accepted by a large number of Canadians. This will result in a crushing defeat during the next general election. It would take less strength to side with Layton than to stand on principle and give the government a chance, We will find out shortly just what Iggy is made of.

  21. Unfortunately neither Canada nor Barack Hussein Obama will be tackling the real problems that threaten the US, that is the stealth takeover or creeping of sharia law, not to mention the pro-terrorist supporters, that are becoming emboldened with each protest, each mosque/masjid, and each politician they ‘elect’

    Wells – you forget nearly 50% voted against Hussein Obama, and a good portion of non-voters have no interest in his bullshittt either…the problem is politicians don’t listen to constituent$

  22. “there is little danger that anyone will mistake Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s Jan. 27 budget for a plan to allocate $220 billion worth of spending in pursuit of long-term goals. Where’s the fun in that? No, instead we’re all going to treat Flaherty’s budget as the trigger for a brand-new confidence crisis.”

    Paul, you seem surprised and appalled by something which is on its face quite obvious and easy to understand. The Finance Minister is going to hose billions and billions of OPM at Friends Of The G. The “long term goal”, such as it is, is to enrich their pals, shore up the vote in key ridings, and pave the way for themselves to receive lucrative lobbying, consulting, directorship jobs, etc. upon their retirement. The “confidence crisis” is that the other parties are spitting mad that they and their friends are not going to get their fingers on very much of this new dough, and that the dough is not going to spent in THEIR key ridings buying votes for THEM.

    Everyone in politics knows this, in fact they understand it instinctively. It’s what drew 90% of them into politics in the first place, and trust me on this, the other 10% were taught the facts of life in about 2 seconds after joining, by the other 90%.

    The only real mystery is whether the main political commentators are so naive as to be unaware of the political facts of life, or are they simply playing along, presumably out of a sense of good humour and mischieviousness, the way that TV shows “cover” pro wrestling?

    If your tongue is in your cheek when you’re going on about federal spending on “infrastructure” and “energy efficiency” and other boondoggles – sorry, “priorities” – then you’re doing a good job keeping a straight face.

    • Oh hooray. We’ve found another one who thinks infinite, random cynicism makes him sound sophisticated. Oooh, you’re so hard-boiled…you’re such a champ….

      • PW – i wonder whether pointing out anything to this kind of individual is wise? He may get the idea that someone is listening or paying attention. Better to point them in the direction of the exit and politely inquire if they have enough money for the bus.

  23. “Obama’s task and much of his project amount to repair work after Bush drove the U.S. economy and foreign policy so wildly astray that it will take years to mend the damage. ”

    or, you could write:

    Obama’s task and much of his project amount to repair work after the Democrat congress drove the U.S. economy astray – plus having to react to terrorist attacks – that it will take years to mend the damage.

    Bush caused global warming (or is it cooling?) too, remember. that caused katrina, you know.

    whatever.

    • This is so cute! In your version there’s two timelines and you don’t even know it. “Democrat congress” — there was no such thing until early 2007. “having to react to terrorist attacks” — late 2001. Congress, whatever its stripe, passed every single balanced budget Bush sent it: zero. It authorized every war Bush asked for: two. It’s easy to shut a conversation down with “whatever” when you’re utterly clueless. In fact, I recommend it.

  24. On the Newsworld Politics Programme Jan. 7, Susan Bonner questioned Ralph Goodale:

    Bonner: We heard Ministers today saying that infrastructure sounds like its going to be a priority in terms of spending to stimulate the economy, Mr. Baird saying it’s an immediate shot in the arm. What are Liberals thinking about what they would like to see in terms of more spending on infrastructure?

    Goodale: “Well, Susan, this initiative should have been taken a long time ago. We know that under existing government infrastructure programming there’s a backlog of about 3 billion dollars of projects that have gone through the vetting process as far as local communities are concerned, but the money still sits in Ottawa and has not been disbursed across the country. So there’s that backlog that should never have existed, it goes back to 2006. The government should do its own homework and get its own program up and running and out the door as it should have done over the course of the last two and a half years. Secondly, there will need to be incremental investments over and above what is normally budgetted for for the coming year. What was budgetted for for past years never happened, so . . .”

    Clear inference: they didn’t spend the money they already had in the budget, so regardless what they promise to spend on infrastructure in this month’s budget, why should Canadians trust them?

    Not an argument for Liberals supporting the budget or the government.

  25. As long as a three per cent swing in opinion polls can mean the difference between a parliamentary majority or minority, or between Opposition and Government, the parties represented in Parliament will retain an incentive to (a) angle everything they do in order to generate transient opinion poll swings, and (b) force unnecessary elections in the hope of turning a transient poll move into a major change in their Parliamentary status.

    Harper’s character and style cause problems of their own, but fundamentally, the problem we have faced for the past few years, and can expect to face indefinitely into the future — instability of governance and relentless political gamesmanship trumping long-term policy in the public interest — is a product of the incentives our electoral system generate for the parties. Since the core right-wing vote in Canada amounts to no more than one-third of the population (thank goodness) and the other two-thirds of the voters are now firmly split between four mutually acrimonious little tribes (LPC, NDP, Green, BQ), it is almost mathematically impossible for a Party to gain a parliamentary majority. The current instability will end if and only if Canada’s elite wakes up to the necessity for federal electoral reform and then (contrary to its instincts to never *actually do* anything decisivie about a major issue) enacts reform. The CPC and BQ benefit from the status quo, so they won’t support change. The NDP could benefit from reform, but they lack both power and credible leadership. That leaves the challenge of introducting electoral reform and making it happen to Michael Ignatieff. We’ll see if he decides to take it on. Maybe he’ll see that it’s in the interests of the country and (since the re-unification of the Right and fragmentation of the progressive vote) also of his party.

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