Searching for the Liberal Party. Day 3. -

Searching for the Liberal Party. Day 3.

AARON WHERRY reports from Canada 150: today the party tackles the world


ignatieff at canada 150Greetings from Montreal, where, for the next three days, we’ll be hanging around the Liberal party’s Canada 150 conference. Herein a running diary of the proceedings. Day 1’s diary is here. Day 2 is here.

8:33am. Good morning again. The lights are now blue and the subject is The World. Up first is Robert Fowler, the former Canadian diplomat who spent a few months in 2009 as a hostage in Niger. Mr. Ignatieff is briefing his caucus by phone at noon and is then due to speak here at 2:30pm, with a press conference to follow.

8:39am. I arrived at about 8:15am and the tables reserved for media were empty except for three bloggers. Bloggers are like journalists who’ve not yet lost the ability to be genuinely interested in things.

8:42am. Liberal partisan John Mraz argues, quite rightly, that one shouldn’t make too much of yesterday’s carbon tax discussion. Indeed, he says pinning the policy on the Liberal party now would be “somewhat akin to having held Stephen Harper to account for the maddeningly hateful babblings of Ann Coulter.” Unfortunately, the Liberals tried to do exactly that last week.

8:48am. Mr. Fowler is here, officially, to speak about Africa, but he is now spanking the Liberal party. “I believe that the Liberal party has lost its way … and is in danger of losing its soul.” The Liberals don’t stand for principle, they stand for anything that will return them to power. “It’s all about getting to power and it shows.” He applauds this conference as a step in a better direction.

8:54am. He said from the outset that he owes the current government a great debt—his life, even—but that he would be speaking plainly about his views on foreign policy. And he is now. He’s not convinced we deserve to win a seat on the UN security council. He doesn’t think we have contributed much to world affairs in recent years. “The world does not need more of the Canada they’ve been getting.” We’ve been “me first.” Our reputation and tradition has been diminished. We do not understand what we are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. “We will not prevail in Afghanistan.” We are not willing to make the necessary sacrifice.

8:59am. “Where is the vision thing today? When was the last time a Canadian idea made a difference on the world stage?”

9:04am. He turns on the Middle East and accuses Canada of selling out its reputation for fairness and balance in this regard. He calls out politicians for pandering to various groups and organizations. He speaks in the bluntest of terms about the most sensitive of subjects. If Mr. Fowler has built up a supply of goodwill and respect, he is cashing it in now.

9:20am. Now on to Africa, the great challenges and looming threat of terrorism and violence the continent presents. “Canada should be more present in Africa … a billion Africans depend on countries like ours.” Africa is presented as the challenge and the crisis Canada must address. And with that, he’s done. The audience exhales and applauds.

9:32am. Tim Gartrell of the Australian Labour party is now lightening the mood with his delightful accent and wry observations. If you missed Mr. Fowler’s speech, here is a rough approximation. Mind you, our Andrew Coyne thinks it was “appalling.” I’m of pretty low standards and thus am happy anytime anyone gets up at a political event of any kind and speaks openly and controversially.

9:37am. Gartrell finally gets to the requisite joke about plagiarism.

9:42am. Here is video of Mr. Ignatieff’s interview yesterday.

9:52am. The Conservatives have damned these proceedings as elitist and dangerous and silly. One assumes that Derek Burney, who led Stephen Harper’s transition team in 2006 and was later asked by the Prime Minister to help advise Parliament on the war in Afghanistan and is right now addressing this conference on Canadian relations with the United States, is not meant to take this personally.

9:57am. Mr. Burney just made this weekend’s first reference to Louis “Straight Outta Compton” St. Laurent. Everybody forgets about Uncle Louis.

10:17am. And now a coffee break.

10:32am. We resume with a panel on Canada’s place in the world, including Sujit Choudry, Janice Stein and Jeremy Kinsman. The Liberals have distributed Mr. Fowler’s speaking notes, but an electronic copy hasn’t turned up yet. In related news, our Mr. Coyne has slightly amended his previous position on the speech.

10:48am. Hey look, it’s Justin Trudeau on Skype. Behold, the future.

10:56am. The tearing down of myths continues. Ms. Stein suggests we are not actually world-leaders in development assistance. Pierre Martin suggests we are not a world superpower. Mr. Kinsman suggests our top media outlets are not globally regarded. We’re still quite good at hockey though, right?

11:12am. Here is video of Mr. Fowler’s speech.

11:21am. Peace-making is apparently the new peace-keeping. Adjust your fall wardrobes accordingly.

11:36am. I’ve got to go check out of my hotel before the Hyatt seizes my luggage. One thought before I step away for a moment: you can’t describe this weekend, yet, as any kind of watershed. If, two years from now, the Liberals are in power, this will be regarded as a great turning point. If, two years from now, the Liberals are still in opposition, or worse, this will be a minor footnote. All that said, I don’t see any way this weekend can be described as a bad thing. Taking a few days to think and talk about the country and the world, and the challenges contained therein, seems rather unimpeachable. Actually, it seems like the sort of thing a major political party should be convening on an annual basis.

1:12pm. Business resumes with a speech from Dominic Barton on Asia. Mr. Ignatieff is back in the front row after his conference call with the Liberal caucus.

1:49pm. The last panel of the conference. A collection of eager young leaders in international development. A parting reminder that most of us are quite lazy.

2:05pm. From the Canadian Press account of Mr. Fowler’s speech. If Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff didn’t appreciate Fowler’s frankness, he didn’t let it be known, at least publicly. Ignatieff approached him after the speech, shaking his hand warmly and thanking him for “something this party needed to hear.” “I am very grateful to you,” Ignatieff said.

2:28pm. Right then, enough of that. Mr. Ignatieff’s moment arrives.

2:30pm. The lights go red. Mr. Ignatieff’s glass of water is in place. The podium microphones have been adjusted for his height. The very future of the known universe seems to hang in the balance. And just as soon as the organizers stop boasting about the reaction on Twitter, we’ll be ready to proceed.

2:36pm. And so he takes the stage to a standing ovation.”You’re not applauding for me,” he demures. “You’re applauding for yourselves.”

2:37pm. “We changed Canadian politics this weekend and it will never be the same.”

2:38pm. Requisite prorogation joke.

2:39pm. “We have to focus on what we must do … We need a national strategy.” Respect provincial jurisdiction, but act together. “A pan-Canadian learning plan … we cannot face the future without it. It is essential.” Early childhood education. Aboriginal education. Deal with illiteracy. Language training. Make higher education affordable and accessible.

2:43pm. “We have an aging population. We have costs increasing every year … and we have families that have been completely crushed by the weight of taking care of children and the elderly … my vision of government is we have to be there for those families.” Manage health care costs. Focus on prevention.

2:47pm. Third priority is global leadership, defined by joint action including provinces and civil society.

2:50pm. He’s speaking again without a teleprompter and without much attention to his prepared text. And faster than I think I’ve ever heard him speak.

2:51pm. Invest in clean and renewable energies. He continues to stress the idea of a national strategy, the notion of a common purpose.

2:53pm. Manages to reference Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.

2:55pm. Now talking about the need to rethink government; governance by network. “We’re not a big government party, we’re the party of the network … a Prime Minister is not there to control everything … a Prime Minister is not there to dominate, to centralize … A key part of the Prime Minister is to convene … This is the vision of political authority that we need to speak to and defend.”

2:58pm. “How do we pay for this? We can’t be a credible political party unless we have an answer for that.” Promises realistic deficit reduction target: 1% of GDP within two years of taking government. No new spending unless a source can be identified that doesn’t increase the deficit. Freeze corporate income taxes. “We can’t afford them now. There’s too much we have to do to get our fiscal house in order.”

3:05pm. Here is the Liberal release that sets all this out.

3:07pm. After talk comes “the moment of choice.”

3:08pm. Speaks directly to Quebeckers, calls again for unity and shared purpose. Invokes Expo ’67, looks forward to 2017. “We can do so many things but we have to focus on what we must do.”

3:10pm. “This was a moment this weekend in which I think all of us felt renewed pride in being Canadian … it was a moment where, outside of all divergence, the difference … we have changed politics, but we have also changed ourselves. And we’re better for it. Thank you so much.”

3:12pm. Fin.

3:17pm. There was apparently no prepared text for that. All quotes above should be considered more or less approximate.

4:04pm. The post-game press conference proved relatively uneventful. The Liberals in attendance seem pleased. Back now to Ottawa and the trading of accusation and recrimination.


Searching for the Liberal Party. Day 3.

  1. "network of deciders"

    That's quite the academic gobbledygook. His grand vision appears to be a neveaux chic way of saying he's embracing…….democracy.

    So the big thought is to recast our centuries old system in neato new words. As for substantive ideas? Well that would require staking out a political position amidst left and right parties – an act of boldness and courage.

    Tenured academics, sheltered from repercussions of the real world, aren't particularly known for their courage.

    And so Iggy stays comfortably in his world of platitudes, and meaningless posturing.

    • It was none other than George Bush who coined the term "decider". Iggy says "I'm the decider"

      • He isn't the decider.

        For Green Shift, 2006:

        OTTAWA — Canadians are ready for tough measures, including a controversial "carbon tax" to boost the cost of environmentally-unfriendly fuel, in order to deal with the escalating problem of climate change, Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff said Sunday.

        Ignatieff, the race front-runner who will unveil his full plan in Vancouver today, is proposing a boost in the GST and excise taxes for regular gas and a concurrent tax cut for cleaner fuels made from agricultural products, like ethanol.

        Anti-Green Shift, 2009:

        OTTAWA – Michael Ignatieff used an appearance in Alberta to slam his predecessor's carbon tax plan as the new Liberal leader opened his party's latest attempt to win back the West.

        Not losing sleep over Israel incursions into Lebanon. Then it's a "crime de guerre".

        The "indecider", maybe. Or possibly the "insiders-should-be-deciders".

        Wish he were "the decider". (I liked that about Bush.) It's going to be maddening, come the next campaign. I mean, how do you debate jello-man? ;-)

  2. When the Liberals were in office we saw massive cutting of transfers to the provinces for Health, Education and Social Services, the raiding of the pensions of the Public Service, the RCMP and the Military, the illegal appropriation of some $54 Billion Dollars paid by workers and their employers into EI, myriad scandals involving graft and corruption by the Liberal Party, the most notable being ADSCAM, and one of the most infamous quotes coming from Justice Gomery saying of the Liberal Party, ‘they are criminally organized”.

    The Liberal Party is toast, there is no way back.

    And now they suggest a national carbon tax?

    And when will they pay back that missing $40 Million from ADSCAM?

    What about the $162 Million Taxpayer Dollars Paul Martin's CSL received while he was Finance Minister?

    • Wow, are you paid by the Cons?

    • "The Liberal Party is toast, there is no way back."
      You know – there were some that said the same thing about our first PM after the Pacific scandal.
      Just sayin'…..

  3. "Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the member has raised a very important question about an American commentator who has come to this country with some outrageous comments: comments supporting the Iraq war, comments supporting the use of torture, and comments referring to Israel as a war criminal. But enough about the leader of the Liberal Party. "

    Surely Poilievre's answer was worth highlighting, as well.

    "Indeed, he says pinning the policy on the Liberal party now would be “somewhat akin to having held Stephen Harper to account for the maddeningly hateful babblings of Ann Coulter.”

    LIberals always try this – Conservatives have to answer for other conservatives in their country and around the world for whatever they have done over the past 100 years. It seems to make sense to Liberals but not so much to everyone else. I would like to hear Mraz explain why when Liberal party talking about carbon taxes it's considered beyond the pale to compare them to Dion's failed policy. And how is holding Libs to account for their own failed policies anything at all like trying to tie American Coulter's ideas to Canada's Harper/Cons.

    • The rest of Mr Poilievre's answer, or changing the subject using insults is definitely worth highlighting. Conservatives are continually calling people to account for not dissociating themselves from the words of people they barely know. It is worth knowing that the Conservatives invited Ms Coulter, and that Conservative officials arranged her tour. That makes it pretty clear where they stand, and it's surprising that the press doesn't mention this in stories about Ms Coulter.

      As to carbon taxes, it wasn't just one speaker that referred to it, about half a dozen did, speakers whose politics spanned the entire political spectrum. There aren't a lot of genuine experts who disagree with it. That's because most economists agree that this is the most attractive solution, and it may also explain why politically diverse provinces like BC, Alberta, and Quebec have a carbon tax. The arguments against it are mostly political. When challenged, during the Q&A on proposing such a politically damaged solution, one of the experts replied that his job is not to provide political advice, just expertise.

      • How can you apply a tax to something that isn't real. You might as well be taxing unicorn heads. I don't know where these people come up with ideas like that. We exhale carbon. By taxing that you might as well be taxing all living beings and I find that a very chilling thought. By taxing the very existence of life governments can decide on life itself.

        • Really? Carbon isn't real? Last I checked it was right there along with all the other physical elements in the periodic table… Carbon is at least as real as Gold (another element), and Diamonds (which are made of Carbon).

          The idea is to tax carbon-based fossil fuel use, because they generate a negative externality (pollution) that the market otherwise ignores. The carbon dioxide humans emit are the result of us burning calories of food, which don't count as fossil fuels. The idea that a government could ever get away with taxing the air you exhale is absurd. They'd be punished in the polls to the point that they'd cease to exist as a party. Heck, it would probably never come to that. MPs would rebel and the government would collapse before it could ever implement such baloney. Not to mention it would violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms…

          And the original Green Shift proposal was going to slash other taxes (income, corporate) proportional to how much was raised by the carbon tax (hence the word 'shift')… unfortunately, this point was lost on a lot of people.

  4. I thought the party members figured that out when they tossed him in his first and only leadership test.

    Oh well, the Liberal party "elites" who annointed him despite the grass roots rejection, must surely know better than the rest. Perhaps the rest of us "ordinaries" just can't grasp the brilliance of his ideas.

    It's too bad for the Liberal party there aren't more brilliant Ivy League academics in the Canadian voting populace.

  5. “I believe that the Liberal party has lost its way … and is in danger of losing its soul.” The Liberals don't stand for principle, they stand for anything that will return them to power. “It's all about getting to power and it shows.”

    I've said the very same thing more than once here at Blog Central. It's nice to see Liberals hearing it.

    And Anon001, you have to be a Liberal to say that. Political parties don't exist soley to obtain power. Political parties are supposed to offer competing political programs which allow the electorate to choose which course they want to take the country. The Liberal Party no longer proposes any course or direction for the country.

    What's worse is that political parties usually renew themselves while in opposition (because it's an almost impossible task to do so while in power), but the Liberals, despite more than 4 long years in opposition have shown NO signs of having done so.

    Are the Liberals of February 2006 different from the Liberals of March 2010? I can't see the difference, can you see the differnce?

  6. David Dingwall, "I'm entitled to my entitlements".

    That's the Liberal Party in a nutshell, they can't change and like the dinosaurs that they are, are doomed to extinction.

    It will be a slow and painful suicide when in the next election they'll find that they've lost another 20-30 seats, possibly becoming "da turd pardi" , just as likely the fourth.

    Followed by another long stretch of insignificant bleetings and their brand of cheap tawdry gotcha politics, then finally the end of the line.

    "the natural ruling party", sure……………………..

    • No, that's the state of sound-bite politics. When being grilled on his expenses, Dingwall defended himself — the infamous chewing gum expense being proven to be a blatant falsehood. He also won his case. By definition, he (and you) are entitled to your entitlements.

      It's a sad commentary on the press and on the state of retail politics that someone who says something so clearly true can still be ridiculed for it. (Scratch that — that anyone who says anything so clearly true WILL be ridiculed for it.) Imagine being heckled because you insist that water is, indeed, wet.

      The inverse if also the case… lies will be rewarded in the political sphere. Witness the CPC and their endless droning about Law and Order. They say things that are clearly false (crime is rising; the Liberals in the Senate are blocking their legislative agenda) and are praised for it. Point to stats on crime that put the lie to their assertion and the PM himself will call you a pinhead who just doesn't "get it". Show that, with one early election call and two suspensions of Parliament, the CPC itself killed most of its own crime bills and people roll their eyes. Then, amplifying the lie, they'll comment about how shrewd a chess player this blatant, repetitive liar of a PM is.

      Here's another one for you: The Conservatives are the party of fiscal restraint.

      • Amateur Hour -your handle says it all;

        Canadians shocked by the size of his tab, Dingwall continued, need to consider it in context.
        "If you're travelling abroad … you're going to have expenses," he said. "You know, you're not taking a canoe. You're not getting the train to Montreal here."
        According to the documents obtained under the Access to Information Act by Conservative MP Brian Pallister and made public Wednesday, in 2004 Dingwall and his colleagues spent $130,000 in foreign and domestic travel, $14,000 in meals and $11,000 in hospitality.
        The Mint also appears to have picked up a $1,400 tab for Dingwall's membership in an Ottawa-area golf club, $5,900 in operating expenses for a car he leased, and $1,500 in membership fees in the Nova Scotia barristers' society.
        "He was not only charging for expenses like travel, he was also charging for things like chewing gum, water and newspapers, which obviously became a point of concern," reports CTV's Rosemary Thompson.
        When asked why he would expense a pack of gum — particularly in light of his $277,000 annual salary as CEO of the Mint — Dingwall saw no reason to apologize.
        "Look, I just throw the receipts on the desk, they take after them and they submit them accordingly," he said.

        • On entitlements:

          Dingwall's response to the question was: "I am entitled to my entitlements, and if that includes severance, so be it." But the Conbots just played the first half.

          Are you entitled to your severance?

          On expenses, which was a different issue, two independent audits exonerated Dingwall:

          Independent auditor PricewaterhouseCooper found that most of Dingwall's expenses were legitimate, with the exception of about $2,500. In an interview with CTV's Mike Duffy on Wednesday, Dingwall said he was pleased with the outcome.

          "Now that the Pricewaterhouse review has come back, we're relieved that it's exonerated me," he said, noting the audit found 99.64 per cent of his expenses, "to be appropriate, documented and for business use."

          As for his name being dragged through the mud in recent weeks, Dingwall said those allegations — including spending $5,800 on a dinner and $15,000 on a golf membership — have now been proven groundless.

          The audit did find that Dingwall had indeed submitted a receipt for a bottle of water and the now-notorious packet of gum in January 2005. The expense, however, was covered under his regular $20 per diem for incidentals.

          As for the 0.36 per cent of expenses which PricewaterhouseCoopers deemed were not legitimate, Dingwall has said he intends to repay the outstanding sum "immediately".

    • Bruce…… calm down……. relax!!!
      We don't want you to change into your alter ego "The Hulk", now do we?
      Grrrrrr – Bruce hate Liberals! Bruce SMASH!!!!
      But yeah – you do seem rather blindsided by your wrath.
      Would a Harper cover of "All you need is Love" help soothe you?

  7. Robert Fowler, former Canadian diplomat in Africa, has exposed the elephant in the room. If the Liberal Party`s only reason to exist is for power then they will soon not exist.

    • "Just an appalling speech by Fowler: the Jews control our foreign policy, defeatism in Afghanistan, anybody who disagrees with him is venal" Andrew Coyne, Twitter

      Fowler has also exposed himself as a nutter, if Coyne is at all accurate.

      But I do agree that Lib's need to stand for something, anything at all. Previously, you could always say Libs believed in strong, central/Federal government if you were grasping for straws but you can't even say that anymore. Not after Libs wanted to join coalition with separatists and we have Iggy talking like conservative:

      " ….. and I'm still still trying to formulate it—is a different vision of government, that is not command and control,” Ignatieff said in an online interview on Saturday afternoon. “We can't do it from Ottawa. And an activist government doesn't mean another big, high-ticket federal program …… "Wherry, March 27 2010

      • Coyne isn't accurate. I strongly suggest watching the speech yourself. What he did say was that the parties are using our foreign policy to pander to ethnic groups, whether defending supporters of the Tamil Tigers, MPs showing up at a Sikh parade where people carried large posters of terrorists as heroes, or taking a one-sided position on the mideast crisis in order to pander to those Jewish voters who support an expansionist, settlement-oriented Israeli foreign policy. In short, the parties have been basing their foreign policy on trying to curry domestic votes rather than basing it on principle or Canadian international interests.

    • It's a curious predicament for the party. You need to believe in things, but you also need to win. However, I'm not so sure that liberal parties are that great at telling people what they believe. They usually wait until after elections to raise taxes and enact social policy, or even bypass elections altogether with respect to the latter. Then they turn around and accuse the other guys of a hidden agenda. Quite clever, and sneaky.

  8. Conservatives are the worst. Petulant little children.

    • Wasn't it the Liberals leading the charge to take down the Conservative gov't – were they not the petulant children?

    • Liberals are the worst! Whiny little thieves!

  9. one shouldn't make too much of yesterday's carbon tax discussion.

    That sums up this entire event, in my opinion. You can present controversial ideas, but they will either be met with silence (yesterday's discussion on two-tier health care), or you will be warned not to take such ideas too seriously.

    • If the LIberals came out of this pitching two-tier health care and a carbon tax, I'd concede that they were much more serious on policy than the other parties.

      Don't expect it. Why? Too easy to demagogue. The former being radioactive is their fault (2004 campaign), and the latter is the Tories' (2008 campaign).

      • I fully agree. With this conference, the Liberals have got it half right: It's important to study who we are / where we've come from, to best determine how to proceed into the future.

        There have been great discussions on what Canada currently IS (or was), but when ideas are put forth about what Canada should be (carbon tax, higher taxes, two-tier health care, etc), the Liberals pour cold water over them, with comments like "let's not read too much into any discussions about that." Well, okay then…

        That's why I feel this event is a flop. Unless the Liberals prove me wrong, and they reveal that they'll seriously consider a lot of these "controversial" ideas. I won't hold my breath…

        • Well, it doesn't hurt to talk, anyway.

          The trouble with the Liberals is that they are at heart a brokerage party — never rock the boat. And when they try — Turner in 1988, Dion in 2008 — they get shelled.

          Thing is, if we destroy them for good at the ballot box, their likely replacement, the Conservatives, will probably become a brokerage party, too.

          Really, this is the point at which we should blame not the political class, nor the journalists, but the people. (On the other hand, Canadians' philosophical aversion to risk probably kept our banks sound. So it has its upsides…)

          • Pragmatism. The dominant political ideology of Canadians.

  10. But Jarrid – at least Robert Fowler has some street cred. when HE says it…
    What you conveniently ignore – is that your leader – Mr. Harper – is his own Foreign Affairs minister (even if he has a tame flower pot as a placeholder) – and his understanding about Canada's place in the world and its potential influence is built upon how much oil from tar sands he can sell! And that's about it.
    And when politicized military leaders like Lew McKenzie and especially "Scum Bags" Hillier tried to take the Canadian Armed Forces in a totally useless direction…it made Harper warm inside – but did zero to improve the way the rest of the world (except for Dubya and John Howard) thought of us…

    • Andrew Coyne on Robert Fowler's speech today via Twitter:

      "Just an appalling speech by Fowler: the Jews control our foreign policy, defeatism in Afghanistan, anybody who disagrees with him is venal"

      Street cred with whom?

      • Er – with respect – I have always believed that Mr. Coyne is slightly to the right of Ann Coulter – and deeper into Freidmanism than Dubya! Only street cred. I'll give him is – at least he understands it – the theory – which is more than Dubya was capable of – but that is actually a criticism of Coyne – who should know better than to preach a theory which has been proven time and time again to be a failure!

      • Coyne has since retracted his pearl clutching.

    • How empty your thinking goes….

  11. This was a thinker's conference, not a party convention. It was people putting their take (expertise) on issues – to be "mulled" over.

    What do we get here? Rants about the past that have nothing to do with the conference. Media saying no solutions yet – well, duh. It was about the ideas and expertise – to be thought over and solutions planned.

    We have stupid media to be sure and people who continue to live in the past.

    Well, damn – John A. MacDonald was a drunken slob and was the most corrupt PM we ever had and I'll never get over it. I guess we should all dwell on past. It seems so important to some.


    Time to move on.

    • "This was a thinker's conference, not a party convention."

      Via Liberal-fawner Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star:

      "Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is holding a Canada-wide call with his MPs on Sunday to talk about where the party should be heading in the wake of this weekend's “thinkers” conference in Montreal.""

      It does apear as if the grassroots have been completely shut out. The Liberals are not big beleivers in party conventions. They skipped, probably to their regret, a leadership convention to elect Dion's successor. They skip a party convention on policy. Instead they go straigth from "experts" to the party power brokers.

      The Liberal Party appears more and more to be a party run by elites, for the elites, in consultation with the elites.

      • Well – I guess once in a while – a parrot can interject an appropos phrase into a debate! Bravo jarrid – I think you have it!
        Trouble for you is – if you haven't noticed – the party – internal elites as well as grassroots – have revolted against the current Leadership – both political strategy – and policy!
        They are being dragged – kicking and screaming – back towards the centre left – where they should be.
        This will result in pragmatic (and electorally legal) alliances with other parties – within Canada as opposed to the CPC alliances with a moribund US Republican Party!

      • I agree. The very ideas coming out of the conference were complete UN b.s. from the carbon tax to sending more aid to Africa. It's almost as though last year didn't happen for them. The general public has been wrung through the wringer with the economic meltdown. Global warming has been blown out of the water with the expose of graft and corruption within the UN ranks including the links to Globe International which hasn't hit the press in Canada. Yet to the Liberals and their "decision makers", it was a slight bump in the road and it's business as usual.

  12. The Liberal Party's critics are quite correct when they say that the Liberals need to offer some reason why the Canadian people should elect them. But these critics forget to note that when the Liberals actually come up with policy ideas, the Conservatives unleash a blizzard of attack ads that distort the Liberal ideas into quickly digestible sound bites.

    An example is the ill-fated Green Shift: it might have been a good idea, or it might not, but we'll never know:: the Conservatives proclaimed that it was an Evil Bad Carbon Tax, and used their superior funding to broadcast this opinion far and wide. (And there are hints that the Conservatives may eventually enact similar legislation, quietly, when no one is paying attention.)

    It's interesting to note that no one seems to be asking the Conservatives to come up with ideas to justify why they should remain in power. Do they actually have any plans for how they want to govern? They seem to spend all their time devising tactical manoevures instead of actually solving real Canadian problems, while many of their followers praise them for having successfully wargamed the Canadian political system. What is their plan for the economy, for the environment, or for anything? All they seem to care about is enacting tough-on-crime legislation, which they then let die when they prorogue the House.

    The only real advantage the Conservatives have – besides a devoted core of 35% or so of Canadian voters – is the advantage of incumbency. Maybe that's the slogan they'll run on in the next election: "Vote Conservative – Change Is Such A Bummer."

    • I repeat again – yesterday – in the Edmonton Journal – David (which team am I swinging for today) Emerson – recently appointed by Ed Stelmack to head a commission mapping out Alberta's strategy with Big Oil and Gas for the next 30 years – came out with an article suggesting the time has come for NEP II – of course – it isn't getting much publicity in Alberta (can't understand why?) and I suspect Mr. Coyne won't be jumping on this bandwagon…

      • Hardly NEP II, that communist Trudeau stole from the west like all Liberals aspire to;

        What would a national energy strategy look like? It would reflect the exigencies of an interdependent, carbon-constrained world and the diversification of the energy mix to include renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and biofuels. It would factor in efforts by government and industry to promote energy efficiency through improvements in transportation, building codes, agricultural technologies, appliance standards and so on. Finally, it would take a balanced approach to the sometimes competing demands of the economy, the environment and the need for sustainable enterprises that contribute to the social well-being of the community.

        • Stole from the West? Only a monkey would forget the times when Alberta was on the receiving end of transfer payments. Who do you think protected the fledgling oil industry in Alberta when it was a poor, destitute province? Who paid higher fuel costs because of legislation banning the import of foreign oil in order to develop Alberta's resources.

          Short memory = small thinker.

      • Emerson's write-up is not about an NEP II. Go read it again and try to understand what he's saying

    • It's called "politics." Get used to it. Opponents will criticise your ideas. It's your responsibility to properly defend them. Don't blame the Green Shift's failing on a financial disadvantage.

      • An all-out propaganda blast is not the same as reasoned criticism. It's not as though the Conservatives went through the Liberals' plan and presented logical refutations of the claim that the Green Shift was revenue neutral: instead, they just screamed "It's a TAX!" at the top of their lungs.

        There's no real way to refute that, other than saying "It's not a tax – it's revenue-neutral!" And, if you do that, you're letting the Conservatives define the frame of reference for the discussion.

        • Or you can refute it by saying "Yes, it is a tax — a carbon tax — but we'll lower other taxes to make it revenue-neutral." Instead, we got denials from the Liberals, assuming that the public was dumb enough to believe that a carbon tax was not a carbon tax, as your comment also suggests.

          Admit that it's a tax, then have an "adult conversation" about it, by explaining other components of the Green Shift. Give people the benefit of the doubt: the public is more intelligent and willing to have a discussion about taxes than the Liberals might be willing to believe. Playing into and supporting the Conservatives' vilification of the word "tax" does us no good, just like Jean Chrétien's vilification of two-tier health care in 2000 did us no good – it merely shuts down discussion about a topic, rather than allowing for study and weighing its pros and cons.

          We got denials from the Liberals that a carbon tax was a tax (just as you've done). That got the Liberals nowhere fast. Mis-communication was a key problem with the Green Shift. Hopefully the Liberals will (eventually) learn from their mistakes.

          • One could argue that the Green Shift is not a tax, but the elimination of a negative exterrnality: entities that cause significant harm to the environment are now being forced to shoulder some of the financial cost.

            I agree that miscommunication was a problem with the Green Shift, but

            Given the recent behaviour of the Conservatives, I, sadly, do not believe that an adult conservation is possible. In an ideal world, the Conservatives would offer up a list of policies, the Liberals, NDP and Greens would do the same, and we voters would make a rational choice. But that is not how politics is currently operating in this country. The goal seems to be to play into the irrational fears of a few carefully selected swing voters. (Hence the whole "tough on crime" stance, despite the fact that the crime rate in Canada has been falling for many years now.)

            In particular, I would like to know what the Conservatives plan to do about the environment. My best guess, at the moment, is "nothing" – I suspect that many leading Conservatives don't believe that humans can adversely affect the environment, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary.

    • You give the public precious little credit. The public is wise enough to know that a carbon tax, or "green shift" or whatever the in-style name, means more government, taking more of our liberties and more of our tax dollars.

      Dress it up as saving the world all you like, but at the end of the day its just good ol fashioned tax and spend.

      • Except you've exactly distorted it in the same way the CPC did. The Green Shift was a revenue-neutral shift from income taxes towards carbon taxes. The plan would have lowered income taxes and raised carbon taxes, with no net change to revenues. Without increased revenues, I don't see how that can be fairly depicted as an increase in government spending.

        The Tories distorted it into the Evil Bad Carbon Tax by only focusing on the tax increase, not the corresponding decrease. The Liberals failed to ineffectively defend what the plan was and what it wasn't, and they most definitely paid for it in the end.

        Whether people fell for those distortions, or consciously decided they would rather have their taxes taken off their pay stub instead of their gas bill, I don't know. But it's a shame we did not have a sophisticated debate in 2008 about how we should be taxed (income vs. consumption taxes), and instead just argued about whether or not the Liberals would raise taxes.

        • "revenue-neutral", you actually believe that?

          Do you believe in fairy tales and unicorns too?

          Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated inhuman history.

          • So how exactly is creating a carbon tax and cutting income and corporate taxes by an amount proportional to the carbon tax not 'revenue-neutral'. I'm curious what your reasoning is.

          • Yes Bruce. Focusing on the few portions that were exaggerated/erroneous translates to: Everything it totally OK!
            I really love how your generation approaches problems by denying that they at all exist. Nothing to see here people – move along! This selfish mentality is the bane of conservatism – it attracts people who simply want to cover their own butts, and little more. You remind me of the tobacco industry….

        • The Green Shift might have been presented as being revenue neutral within Canada, but not internatiionally. Not by far.

          The Green Shift was debated widely during the last election. I attended a meeting in Edmonton where Dion presented the Green Shift himself, with a question and answer session afterwards,, and I must say that it was him and the Liberal crowd in the room who could not adequately answer the questions around the Green Shift.

          The notion that everything the Liberals propose is shot down by Conservative negative advertisement is a cop-out for the Liberals and they know it!

          Talk about negative advertisements.The Liberals have used the "Hidden Agenda" negative campaign for years, YEARS.

          • From your experience in Edmonton, I see we're in agreement that most definitely Dion and the 2008 Liberals did a poor job of communicating what the Green Shift was. And if it was presented differently internationally versus domestically, that only further confirms how poor communications were for the Liberals in that election.

            But these are all criticisms of Dion's leadership, not necessarily the notion of carbon taxation instead vs income taxation in and of itself. And as I say, it's a shame that discussion didn't take place in 2008.

          • But the discussion around the Green Shift DID take place. The problem was not only Dion. The problem was that the Canadian voter did not get the answers out of the Green Shift they would have liked. There was not enough within the Green Shift for people to get excited about because the Green Shift proposal WAS flawed.

            Don't say now that it had never been debated and therefor the Canadian public didn't come to stand behind it. That's not the way it went. But if the LPC want to keep the illusion alive that the Conservative negative campaigning defeated the Green Shift, that's fine by me. Whatever the Liberals want to believe is fine by me. I live in the real world.

          • As a Canadian voter, my impression of the Green Shift was once again, Liberals trying to jump onto the bandwagon of a popular idea without truly understanding it. "Just mention green and the public will buy into it!". Of course the public starting asking awkward questions which the Liberals were not expecting. What were they going to do with the revenue? "Uh…Uh…Let me think about that ….social programs, that's it. We're going to use the money for social programs!" Buzzzzz! Wrong answer! And nobody believed that it was revenue neutral. The Liberals sat on the environment portfolio for what, ten years, and did nothing. Now we were expected to believe they were really serious about the environment.

      • So simplistic.

  13. Off topic (but relevant?) –
    "Perhaps this was a project who's time has not yet come. We had high hopes and we had some good times, but alas, for various reasons we were not able to get the data sets for the Stimulus spending. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, if the guy who's job it is to get them can't do it, why did I think we could?"

    • Actually knick, Canada's stimulus has worked – the job numbers are much higher – many jobs and pensions were saved and the balance of the stimulus money registered for works will be spent this year from last years budget. There were thousands of jobs saved in the auto industry which would have gone south and the auto manufacturers are beginning to repay the loans, believe it or not. Perhaps you are looking at the US stimulus which, in many peoples opinion was a farce?_

      • "The federal government has repeatedly claimed credit for Canada's improved economic
        performance in the second half of 2009. However, Statistics Canada data show that government
        consumption (i.e., spending) and government investment (i.e., infrastructure) played a negligible
        role in the economic turnaround."
        From the Fraser Institute report on same.

        I don't believe the GM/Chrysler bailouts were part of the Grand Action Plan – if they even were the success you claim. And as I understand it, the latest numbers show job increases are primarily in the public sector which is an expensive way to muddy the waters among other things; if you take those jobs out, private sector jobs have dropped.

      • My reason for pointing this out has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the stimulus – there's no consensus one way or the other, but many economists agree that it has had little if anything to do with our apparent recovery. It was because, once again, citizens have been denied information by this government that they are entitled to. I began watching Stimulus Watch when it started up as the program got going, but there was never anything on their website about how our money was being spent – where and on what, and when I checked their website today, I found that they were shutting it down. It seems relevant because this weekend's think tank suggests a different kind of strategy from the Liberals may be possible because they're willing to share information with and listen to everyone, even their critics, in public, at their own get-together.

  14. Man, this is not great watching. Such a weird mix of interesting panelists and tedious self-serving single-issue bloviating questioners.

  15. Interesting column and comments. My thoughts – PM Harper has shown the world what a statesman he is and, is highly respected. In Canada he has proven to be the survivor of the fittest no matter what has been thrown at he and his party.
    The Liberals believe it is their divine right to rule having generally been the ruling party. Times have changed – the Liberal talk and love fest will not prove of any value. As far as cap and trade, by the Copenhagen Agreement – the Kyoto agreement signed by the Liberals, is dead. Then, PM Harper saw to it we were in agreement with the US – but, they will never, ever live up to their Copenhagen targets – so that leaves Canada to continue on. If the East hates Alberta so much – why do they accept Alberta's transfer monies? Morality and common sense of the Conservatives is beginning to rule – its depression time across the world and at this point in time Canada stands above the rest of the G7 and the G 20 Better that the Liberals spend their time helping this gov't to assist in making Canada even better instead of planning how to take this gov't. IMHO and many, many others.

    • "In Canada he has proven to be the survivor of the fittest no matter what has been thrown at he and his party. "


      You could say the same for the shark – admirable in more or less the same way. But not someone most of us want to see running the country.

      P.S. the west accepted from the east for many more years than the reverse has been true. Why not be a little more gracious when you get to return the favour?

      • Tit for tat. Good idea.

        For many years we've had appointed senators and the east likes the appointment way.

        The west wants elected senators. When can the west expect to get some favours in return (delivered with grace!)?

    • "PM Harper has shown the world what a statesman he is and, is highly respected."

      I'm sorry, but when you have to make things up in order to prove your point, it generally means you do not have one.

    • I agree completely!

    • "The Liberals believe it is their divine right to rule having generally been the ruling party. "
      Of course my pretty…… the unknown truth about the Liberals is that they are secretly monarchists.
      Really – generalize and exaggerate much? In any case – have you visited Senator Duffy's website and read his amazing essay regarding why he is a Conservative, and their divine right to rule? I'm thirsty – give me Kool-aid!

  16. It's all about getting to power and it shows.

    Well, duh! Isn't that the raison d'etre of a political party?

    • Of course not. Ask the NDP, for one. Or the countless other parties on this planet whose sole reason for existence is, wait for it, believing in something and advancing it within the democratic process.

  17. "He says Canada doesn't know what we are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. He points out only about 10% of the money we've spent in Afghanistan is on development assistance. He makes the point that always hits me when people talk about waging wars for democracy and human rights – we could do exponentially more good with the amount of money we spend on war if we spent it education or other great causes elsewhere"
    That is almost certainly true but you don't score big points with the CPC base with educating foreigners like you do with big military spending.

  18. Well that was a fantastic show, eh.
    It definitely had all the trimmings for the illusion that Liberals are in search of what they stand for.

    But the reality,
    Dippers are only 12 points behind in the polls (sometimes less) and these are borrowed 'stop Harper' votes.

    The Liberals have no choice but to take on the policy that will keep those borrowed Dipper votes ,
    while trying to convince grass roots Libs they are now a principled party.

  19. What is wrong withe crowd. Martha Hall Finlay rolled her eyes. Eizenga looks stone faced, bored, not clapping. Why are they not scintillated by the poetry and passion of Michael Ignatief.

  20. Tax cuts for corporations cancelled. The NDP has nothing on us now.

    • Um, we're at the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year just now. This chart says it will be at 1% at the end of 2012-2013. That's 3 years away, not 2.

      Now, how crucial is it that we be at 1% in two years instead of 1.6%, I don't know. But Ignatieff and Flaherty's targets are not the same.

  21. The Liberal "Think" convention has tanked.

    Now back to reality:

    One week: Liberal MP Derek Lee stood high and mighty to declare Parliament surpreme

    The sedond week:Liberal MP Derek Lee stood behind the curtain, outside Parliament, not wanting to vote on a Liberal motion regarding foreign aid and contraceptives

    Not a peep from G&M about this sort of weakness. Not a peep from the facebook crowd. Not a peep from Macleans.

    Why? Just tell us why! Perhaps the Liberals themselves would like to know, not?

    • If you're not a thinker, I suppose it would be lost on you. Ironic that by having a conference open to the public for discussion, it is open to people to complain if it doesn't address every single point of contention to the pleasure of the complainer.

      Take it for what it is (that the cons don't do): open discussion. Not trying to change the world overnight, just one step at a time.

      • You call this an open discussion? When the media tows one line but not the other? THAT would be undermining democracy. Not because I think so, but because it is. Now, if you would like the wool being pulled over your eyes, well then that is your choice, but don't come complaining you're bumping into things because you can't see! Because the first thing I will tell you is to pull the damn wool off your eyes.

    • Can you clarify….

      What exactly is the correlation between Lee having strong views regarding abortion and the detainee issue?
      What is there really to explore? Does it somehow invalidate things? It appears that the man is willing to stand up for what he believes in. He might possibly even have (gasp) – convictions?

      • You have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. The thing is: the man DID NOT stand up for what he believes. He picks and chooses when it's convenient to stand up.

        • "You have absolutely no idea what I am talking about".
          I would think that was clearly obvious, as my comment began with "Can you clarify…. "
          And to be frank – I don't feel you have done much to answer this request.

          Careful – this type of talk could result in all sorts of name calling.
          "Hey…… you……. you……. you……. politician!"
          "He picks and chooses when it's convenient to stand up. "

          • This is what I resent:

            when people are not capable of understanding a particular concept, they then hide their incomprehension by laying blame on the ones who do understand from the beginning.

            Read my initial post again and again. Eventually you will come to understand what I am talking about. If, in the end, you are still unable to understand, there isn't much more I can do about that.

          • Upon repetitive reading, it's quite possible that the value of your initial post has diminished further.
            I suppose it could have been worse – you could have resorted to the SpenceBC Xerox style of establishing a point. I don't suppose there is any way that your point could be expressed via a "Colour by Number" book? I'm pretty confident the deep meaning behind your observation would then be able to penetrate my limited intellect. If not, I'd settle for a shiny object of some sort.

            In any case – don't let your resent of this post control you Zarathustra….

  22. As predicted, Jack get's his 'no corporate tax cuts' and national daycare,
    let the uniting of the left proceed in public now.

    (seems Jack and Iffy haven't worked out healthcare reform tho,
    not a word from Iffy…guess it's back to demonizing the Reform Cons for 2 tier healthcare )

  23. "Back now to Ottawa and the trading of accusation and recrimination." A better summary could not be coined. Well done on keeping us informed. Very entertaining!

  24. Thanks for the three day diary, Wherry. I could not bare to watch conference or read much about it but your reports were entertaining and gave us idea of what was happening.

    • Agreed. I originally wanted to check out more of this conference, but did not. I settled (in a positive way) for your more concise and enjoyable reports. Well done!

  25. Michael Ignatieff's Liberal "Spenders Conference" has wrapped up and what are the big, innovative ideas that have come out of the weekend?

    On Friday, it was a proposal to hike the GST back to 7 per cent, an idea Ignatieff admits is on the table.

    On Saturday, it was a clarion call to bring back a job-killing carbon tax on everything, an idea Ignatieff took credit for first promoting in his failed leadership campaign against Stéphane Dion.

    And on Sunday, right from Ignatieff's mouth? He called for job-killing business tax hikes to pay for big and grandiose Liberal spending programs. This is just one more step in Ignatieff's plans to raise as many taxes as he can get his hands on.

    • On the last point, it's not technically a tax hike, but a tax freeze. He's proposing we keep the corporate tax rate at the current 18% (lower than the U.S.), rather than drop it further to 15% (even lower than the U.S.). This is still a heck of a lot lower than the 28% it was back in 2000, and 21% in 2005. Considering how well the market was doing way back in 2000 and 2005, I don't think calling this a "job-killing business tax hike" is quite fair.

      And honestly, more tax cuts are probably a bad idea right now because of the deficit. Would you like your tax cut to come at the expense of your (possible) children good sir?

      • Stop calling the con sheep "good sir". Anyone that confuses tax freeze with tax hike has been planted.

      • But c'mon! Uga-buga-TAX! Now run! Run for your lives! The Tax will spare no one!
        Sigh…… the mentality is so…….. taxing! ;)

  26. Oops – forgot a paragraph. Paragraph number 2 should read:

    I agree that miscommunication was a problem with the Green Shift, but it's not as if the Conservatives were refuting the Liberals' assertions logically. Didn't they introduce a talking grease spot, or something like that?

    • We could argue about whether the carbon tax is a tax all day, but I'd rather not.

      My point is that you shouldn't assume the public is unwilling to have an adult conversation on controversial topics. To suggest that a) the Tories have more money so why bother, and b) the Tories won't have a proper conversation on a topic if the Liberals propose one, are both defeatist arguments and, frankly, a little insulting to the public.

      Like I said, assume we have more intelligence, willingness and tolerance for such discussions. You'll never know if you don't try, and you might be surprised by what you find.

  27. I must say – I do respect him for having the guts to call a spade a spade. He raised some interesting points.