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They’re worth taking seriously. Seriously.

Let’s start by acknowledging the considerable achievements of the leaders we’re about to find so lacking


 

There’s going to be a lot to wince about in the coming weeks. Attack ads ad nauseum. Big issues blown off, small ones blown out of proportion. Five weeks of weak rhetoric.

For all that, though, it’s too easy to slip into the faux-sophisticated, eye-rolling, I-see-right-through-it mode that so often passes for political commentary. Better to start off leaning against that lazy tendency by explicitly acknowledging the considerable achievements of the leaders we’re about to find so lacking.

Stephen Harper could easily have wasted his political talent as a mere right-wing commentator. That’s what he seemed to be up to when he exited politics to run the National Citizens Coalition. Instead, he came to his senses, returned to the fray, and created the new Conservative Party of Canada. Even if you never vote Tory, be thankful—we need national institutions, not regional splinters. Obviously that gratitude needn’t extend, depending on your perspective, to all he’s done as Prime Minister. But only a blinkered partisan fails to see his skills. I would mention, for instance, his adroit playing of international politics, particularly in the run-up to last summer’s G20 in Toronto, and his execution at the summit itself.

Michael Ignatieff might never have quit his expat intellectual’s life. England and New England made him. But he decided to contribute something beyond books to his native land. Even if you never vote Liberal, you shouldn’t scoff at that. Too many impressive business leaders, academics, diplomats—you name it—turn up their noses at the drudgery of democracy. If the jury is still out on his political acumen, he’s shown flashes of the real leadership deal. In an era of vaporous policy-making around Ottawa, for example, his caregivers’ benefit idea was pitched with clarity and comprehensiveness.

Jack Layton was no slouch at Toronto municipal politics. A less optimistic politician would never have traded that big city scene for the uncertain task of rebuilding the marginalized federal New Democrats he took over in 2003. Even if you never vote NDP, you have to admit the party looks far more relevant now than it did in the 1990s, sometimes even rising to the role, so cherished by its faithful, of parliamentary conscience. Some of his bolder moves—like calling for negotiations with the Taliban long before the notion was widely accepted—can only be understood as more principled than calculated.

I sketch all this now (and pace, Bloquistes) because I think this campaign might just be worthy of the country. But it won’t be if we go into it assuming the worst, and ignoring the ample grounds for expecting and, if need be, demanding better.


 

They’re worth taking seriously. Seriously.

  1. Bravo!

  2. and his execution at the summit itself.

    Harper was executed at the summit? Surely he was only executed in effigy, outside the summit?

  3. and his execution at the summit itself.

    Harper was executed at the summit? Surely he was only executed in effigy, outside the summit?

    • I read that as he had someone executed. :-)

      • That would be more in character…

        • Alas, the spirit of Geddes article did not last long into the comment section.

    • The mistake was unfortunate, but I did rather enjoy the appropriateness of a preposterous preposition making an appearance in a post about preposterous politicians.

      • Your point about preposterous prepositions appearing in posts about preposterous politicians was pleasingly alliterative.

        • Alliteration adds an absurd aesthetic alongside adduction, and, alternately, admonishment.

    • :))

  4. and his execution at the summit itself.

    Well that explains everything! We're being governed by a freakin' zombie!

  5. and his execution at the summit itself.

    Well that explains everything! We're being governed by a freakin' zombie!

  6. Well said Geddes. This is what is called civility, it's not the usual false civility people claim to use when they make comments like "person X would be good if he weren't so terrible" or "person Y has some great qualities that are obscured by his bad ones".

  7. Well said Geddes. This is what is called civility, it's not the usual false civility people claim to use when they make comments like "person X would be good if he weren't so terrible" or "person Y has some great qualities that are obscured by his bad ones".

    • Agreed. Geddes' blog post is refreshing .

      • Agreed. My earlier post was a bit too unintentionally snarky.

        • Nice new pic, letting loose I see : )

    • That would be a good point, if you weren't such a doofus.

      Oh, yeah, right… sorry.

      • LOL! And I don't LOL lightly!

  8. I read that as he had someone executed. :-)

  9. Agreed. Geddes' blog post is refreshing .

  10. The only thing that you can take seriously about the liberla party of toronto is that in a month or so what we witness is a rare sight – a canadian political party devouring another of it's own – I almost feel sorry for Iggy as I am sure he had good intentions BUT he made a terrible mistake and his own party will be showing him his due penance … by the way have you seen the latest polls just out and hot off the presses they are not ebing posted here, CBC or the TGM – ahahahahah!

  11. The only thing that you can take seriously about the liberla party of toronto is that in a month or so what we witness is a rare sight – a canadian political party devouring another of it's own – I almost feel sorry for Iggy as I am sure he had good intentions BUT he made a terrible mistake and his own party will be showing him his due penance … by the way have you seen the latest polls just out and hot off the presses they are not ebing posted here, CBC or the TGM – ahahahahah!

    • ….. now that's in keeping with the tone and spirit of this blog [insert NOT where appropriate]

  12. Anyway, the ipsos reid poll today was a bit of a milestone, it was the first poll since Dec. 2008, I believe, in which the Conservative support (43) was more than the combined support of the Liberals (24) and NDP (17).

    Actually, this is not quite true – the ipsos reid poll from two weeks ago was the first to reach this milestone.

    Anyway, as things stand now, these poll numbers are unquestionably enough for a solid Conservative majority. Bring on the election.

  13. Anyway, the ipsos reid poll today was a bit of a milestone, it was the first poll since Dec. 2008, I believe, in which the Conservative support (43) was more than the combined support of the Liberals (24) and NDP (17).

    Actually, this is not quite true – the ipsos reid poll from two weeks ago was the first to reach this milestone.

    Anyway, as things stand now, these poll numbers are unquestionably enough for a solid Conservative majority. Bring on the election.

    • “Anyway… ” you wrote, taking the topic off course so you could hear yourself speak…

      You obviously missed Gedde’s point entirely.

      • There's nothing I said that was partisan opinion, except perhaps "Bring on the election" or perhaps the word "milestone" – I'm just talking about the latest poll. And you consider that a lack of civility?

        Please point out where in my comment I make an uncivil comment/insult/innuendo/whatever about the opposition leaders or parties.

        You use the word "obviously" quite liberally.

  14. And remember God invented the mute button for a reason.

  15. And remember God invented the mute button for a reason.

    • As you don't believe in God, does this mean you think the mute button is a mass hallucination?

      ;-)

      • LOL no, but washing windows is against my religion.

  16. And then there's this….

    Decima (March 2011): Con 34% Lib 28% Ndp 17% Grn 9%
    Decima (Election, 2008): Con 37% Lib 26% Ndp 18% Grn 7%

  17. The mistake was unfortunate, but I did rather enjoy the appropriateness of a preposterous preposition making an appearance in a post about preposterous politicians.

  18. And then there's this….

    Decima (March 2011): Con 34% Lib 28% Ndp 17% Grn 9%
    Decima (Election, 2008): Con 37% Lib 26% Ndp 18% Grn 7%

  19. Agreed. My earlier post was a bit too unintentionally snarky.

  20. Interesting point. I admit I'm guilty of focusing on our leaders' shortcomings versus appreciating them for the things they are good at. The Prime Minister is a tenacious manipulator (and I say that as something I have respect for) whose skills could benefit the country greatly. I suspect he'd be doing a better job if only he had smarter people around him? Mr Ignatieff is a very well read and thoughtful man, who looks like he would value reason over passion in policy making. Jack Layton seems very sincere at what he does and Mr Duceppe is nothing if not consistent in his beliefs and has an uncanny way of cutting through the horsehockey. I used to put a BQ sign on my lawn when I lived in Peterborough. There's some part of me that wishes he was a federalist.

    In other words, they're all human, and I need to remember that we need not all think alike to love (our country) alike.

    So keep posting Cats, and chet, and all those I don't agree with, and have a happy campaign.

  21. Interesting point. I admit I'm guilty of focusing on our leaders' shortcomings versus appreciating them for the things they are good at. The Prime Minister is a tenacious manipulator (and I say that as something I have respect for) whose skills could benefit the country greatly. I suspect he'd be doing a better job if only he had smarter people around him? Mr Ignatieff is a very well read and thoughtful man, who looks like he would value reason over passion in policy making. Jack Layton seems very sincere at what he does and Mr Duceppe is nothing if not consistent in his beliefs and has an uncanny way of cutting through the horsehockey. I used to put a BQ sign on my lawn when I lived in Peterborough. There's some part of me that wishes he was a federalist.

    In other words, they're all human, and I need to remember that we need not all think alike to love (our country) alike.

    So keep posting Cats, and chet, and all those I don't agree with, and have a happy campaign.

    • "…whose skills could benefit the country greatly."

      Great. But he's not interested in benefiting Canada, he's interested in making the country match his Dominionist vision of Canada as a Christian free-market republic, along the same lines as the US.

      • Yeah, that's it.

      • Thats the spirit!!

  22. There's going to be a lot to wince about in the coming weeks. Attack ads ad nauseum. Big issues blown off, small ones blown out of proportion. Five weeks of weak rhetoric.

    This will be different from the past three years how exactly?

  23. There's going to be a lot to wince about in the coming weeks. Attack ads ad nauseum. Big issues blown off, small ones blown out of proportion. Five weeks of weak rhetoric.

    This will be different from the past three years how exactly?

    • If this does turn out to be nothing more then a suicide pact between the libs and dippers,[ i don't think it will] then i can't say i entirely blame them.

    • This will be different from the past three years how exactly?

      It'll be far worse.

      • Why will it be far worse IYO SF?

        • Because the parties have had three more years to perfect the art of providing us with attack ads ad nauseum, big issues blown off, small ones blown out of proportion, and… weak rhetoric.

          • A pox on all their houses then?

          • the itching might keep some thumbs away from the berries long enough to allow for thinking twice about next words/positions/proposals.

    • The next five weeks will be shorter than the last three years.

      • But they're gonna seem like 3 years.

        • are we getting into Special Relativity here?

  24. Your point about preposterous prepositions appearing in posts about preposterous politicians was pleasingly alliterative.

  25. I like the general positive tone of this piece, so I don't want to go against that too much, but I found this interesting and worthy of comment:

    "[Harper] came to his senses, returned to the fray, and created the new Conservative Party of Canada. Even if you never vote Tory, be thankful—we need national institutions, not regional splinters".

    That seems a somewhat contradictory message. I agree that having a united national conservative party is arguably good for the country. That said, is not a core philosophy behind the Stephen Harper Conservative Party arguably a drive to turn as many of our national institutions as possible into regional splinters?

  26. I like the general positive tone of this piece, so I don't want to go against that too much, but I found this interesting and worthy of comment:

    "[Harper] came to his senses, returned to the fray, and created the new Conservative Party of Canada. Even if you never vote Tory, be thankful—we need national institutions, not regional splinters".

    That seems a somewhat contradictory message. I agree that having a united national conservative party is arguably good for the country. That said, is not a core philosophy behind the Stephen Harper Conservative Party arguably a drive to turn as many of our national institutions as possible into regional splinters?

    • Harper's Conservative Party still has a core philosophy?

      • Good point. Still, I do think increased decentralization is at least THEORETICALLY a goal.

        And it's at least possible that one day they'll go back to trying to achieve some of their stated goals.

        • Harper thinks bigger than that. Which is a quality deserving of praise, btw.

          His plan was to take that centralized institution and slowly, incrementally, turn it into a regional splinter–without splintering! Not so much bringing the west in to the action, as moving the action in to the west. This wouldn't necessarily even be a bad thing, if 'the west' was prepared to expand.

          Unfortunately, it seems the west was not prepared to do that at all, and now he's lost most of the western people (in cabinet, I mean) and so I'm not sure if he's still committed to that plan.

  27. I have a hard time taking our pols seriously because they don't seem to take themselves seriously. Most of our MPs are well educated, articulate and know how to behave in polite society but you would not know that to look at them.

    MPs behave like Parliament is a freak show and public act/think accordingly.

  28. I have a hard time taking our pols seriously because they don't seem to take themselves seriously. Most of our MPs are well educated, articulate and know how to behave in polite society but you would not know that to look at them.

    MPs behave like Parliament is a freak show and public act/think accordingly.

    • Have you seen the latest committee hearings. Maybe not. And that's actually a good thing. What a shameful performance that was.

      • I agree, the Conservatives on committee were an embarrassment.

      • Have you seen John Baird? doing anything? anywhere? ever?

  29. If this does turn out to be nothing more then a suicide pact between the libs and dippers,[ i don't think it will] then i can't say i entirely blame them.

  30. Thanks for this Geddes, I honestly think this is one of the most important (and difficult) types of pieces that can be put out there in this day. Taking cheap shots, making cheap shots funny, publishing funny photos, etc are much easier but ultimately push us all away from the goal of politics.

    I say a lot of things about Stephen Harper, but I do believe he has the best interests of the country at heart. (Note, I recognize this is a direct contradiction of earlier posts.) Lets face it, these are all talented people: smart, exceptional communicators, principled yet pragmatic. If they were not, the thousands of people behind them would not have pushed them to the fore. The fact that they do not come off as such is more a testament to the challenge of their positions than their inherent capabilities. More concisely, a typical person is judged by their best actions, accomplishments etc: voters make judgments based on a politician's worst day. Frankly, we owe them all a debt of gratitude that they put up with our crap.

  31. Thanks for this Geddes, I honestly think this is one of the most important (and difficult) types of pieces that can be put out there in this day. Taking cheap shots, making cheap shots funny, publishing funny photos, etc are much easier but ultimately push us all away from the goal of politics.

    I say a lot of things about Stephen Harper, but I do believe he has the best interests of the country at heart. (Note, I recognize this is a direct contradiction of earlier posts.) Lets face it, these are all talented people: smart, exceptional communicators, principled yet pragmatic. If they were not, the thousands of people behind them would not have pushed them to the fore. The fact that they do not come off as such is more a testament to the challenge of their positions than their inherent capabilities. More concisely, a typical person is judged by their best actions, accomplishments etc: voters make judgments based on a politician's worst day. Frankly, we owe them all a debt of gratitude that they put up with our crap.

    • "Frankly, we owe them all a debt of gratitude that they put up with our crap. "

      I am trying to think of a sentence that I would be less likely to write than this one and can't think of any.

      Debt of gratitude!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Yes thank you MPs for collecting enormous salaries/pensions for 120 work days per year, making Canadians trust snake oil salesmen more than pols and for alienating 90% of the electorate who now pay no attention at all to day to day politics. Well done.

      • the article was about the leaders, I agree there is considerable deadwood on the benches, but with the leaders,
        A few questions:
        Do you really think Stephen Harper takes over 240 days a year off?
        Is the fact that Canadians punish politicians for providing honest answers to tough questions not part of the problem?
        If a typical Canadian understands that someone has to be selected to make some very tough choices for them, and then proceeds to judge them based on speech inflections, bushy eyebrows, weird hair and whether they lick their lips while under TV lighting… whose fault is it?
        If the public is bored and alienated by every municipal, provincial and federal political leader that comes before it, does occam's razor suggest it more likely that each and every politician is to blame or the public?

        • or which way the Niagra Falls runs……

          • Homer: We'll dig our way out!
            Quimby: No, no, dig UP stupid! (i don't know why your comment made me think of that, but it did).
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VjPNKc0VsU

            Sadly, Quimby's line is missing from this clip.

    • Yes I agree, we can be quite harsh!

    • Usually, I'd agree. However, when it comes to Mr. Harper, unless you think he's playing an extremely long game I really can't see how even he could honestly believe (through such things as Fortier and the census, particularly) that he has the best interests of the country at heart. And even if he is playing the long game, even then it comes down to a case of the ends can't be justified by the means.

      • Mr. Smith doesn't even say that Harper BELIEVES he has the best interests of the country at heart. And I can't agree with that either – there's simply too much evidence to the contrary.

  32. Very fair, John Geddes. Very fair. And I fully understand that you want to direct the debate into meaningful territory (actually I thought I had been doing just that all of this time….)

    But you know, just as well as I do:

    when Canadians keep up a measurement of fairness, it must be said that anyone who had wanted to enter politics after they had seen what had happened to Stockwell Day, it begs the question:

    Why was it allowed to happen then, and why not now?

    Does fairness have a time limit? Are we being asked to play it fair now that the Liberals are in trouble? For it looks that way a tiny teeny little bit…….

    Yes, all of the political leaders deserve respect, but I thought that had always been clear, even way back when Stock was giving it a try……….

  33. Harper's Conservative Party still has a core philosophy?

  34. Very fair, John Geddes. Very fair. And I fully understand that you want to direct the debate into meaningful territory (actually I thought I had been doing just that all of this time….)

    But you know, just as well as I do:

    when Canadians keep up a measurement of fairness, it must be said that anyone who had wanted to enter politics after they had seen what had happened to Stockwell Day, it begs the question:

    Why was it allowed to happen then, and why not now?

    Does fairness have a time limit? Are we being asked to play it fair now that the Liberals are in trouble? For it looks that way a tiny teeny little bit…….

    Yes, all of the political leaders deserve respect, but I thought that had always been clear, even way back when Stock was giving it a try……….

    • I assume, then, you'll be firing off a letter to Conservative Party Headquarters asking them to stop shining a light on Michael Ignatieff's time away from Canada? After all, I mean, what really counts is the man's ideas, right? I'd say what Stock went through wasn't any worse than what Iggy's going through.

      For the record, I think both lines of attack are bullsh*t on stilts.

      • Totally agreed, my friend, that both lines of attack are bs on stilts. That's why I questioned why the media/general public condoned it then and it must not be condoned now.

        I am in agreement of making no difference between the two.

        Let the games begin. When the general media stops coming down on Conservattives unnecessarily, all will follow suit……………….

        • "the general media"? Please. There's no such thing. I have no sympathy for Day, Dion, Iggy, or the six opposition leaders Chretien faced whose names I can't even remember. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader.

    • What exactly happened to Stockwell Day that hasn't happened to other party leaders that weren't cut out of the top job? Day has been a decent minister in a Harper Cabinet. But.. he didn't know how to be leader of a regional party, he had no idea how to unite the Conservative party the way Harper did – and if he had managed to stumble into the job, he would have likely been a mediocre Prime Minister.

      • Totally agree, my friend.

        The reasons you mention are exactly the reason I was no supporter of Day. And indeed, he has served the party and Canada well after he had stepped down as leader.

        But the Doris Day gig and Dino the dinosaur were a lot worse than what Ignatieff is seeing right now.

    • And I fully understand that you want to direct the debate into meaningful territory (actually I thought I had been doing just that all of this time….)

      ***

      YOu don't believe that at all.

  35. And I have one other comment to make on this posting by John:

    Yes, Ignatieff has done well as a writer, but why did he have to turn up his nose at the drudgery of democracy when deciding to go against party leadership elections and decided to be crowned king of his party instead?

    It's a valid question. And it begs for a valid answer in return, being a writer or not!

  36. And I have one other comment to make on this posting by John:

    Yes, Ignatieff has done well as a writer, but why did he have to turn up his nose at the drudgery of democracy when deciding to go against party leadership elections and decided to be crowned king of his party instead?

    It's a valid question. And it begs for a valid answer in return, being a writer or not!

    • No one else was running. Pay attention.

    • Honestly, a political party is a private, closed organization. What they do with their internal organization is frankly, none of my business as I am not a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. If they want to unilaterally declare a German Shepard as leader (careful, careful you Reformatory partisans out there) well, go nuts I say. There is absolutely nothing undemocratic about a private organization deciding how its going to elect or appoint its leader.

      • IF the party members would have unilaterally declared him the leader, hey, Ignatieff would have lived up to his theoretical and supposedly practical standards.

        This is not a question of private or public organisations.

        The Liberal party has a membership, just like any other political orgaisation has its membership. Ignatieff's choice was to be appointed rather than elected by the membership. I don't care why or how they did it; they did it, and Ignatieff made his choice.

        Choices made means one has to live with the choice, otherwise it wouldn't be a choice at all. Then we could all revise history and let real choice disappear out of our human lives.

        • Ignatieff was made leader by the Liberal membership at a convention in Vancouver fully compliant with the rules of the party. No one ran against him. The only "choice" Ignatieff made was to put his name forward for the leadership and then to accept the party's decision. The Liberal Party has moved on and it's not an issue, so it's amusing that it still upsets you to such a degree.

          • Ryan, I fully understand that the Liberal party membership does not want to hear the real version of events, because, just like Ms.Carstairs (Lib Senator) had emailed me back at the time, it was not unanimous to have an appointed leader by the party executives and by the members of the House and Senate exclusively.

            In fact, the Liberal party was set to hold a leadership vote at the convention date already selected for a gathering purpose later in the spring, but because of the coalition mess (a mess the Liberals had brought onto themselves btrw, and a mess which was later used as an excuse as "unforseen circumstances beyond control of the Liberal party" ) it was then decided by the party's select few to appoint a leader rather than having one elected by the party membership.

            At the time, before the appointment of Ignatieff, three candidates had in fact declared themselves, and even Bob Rae had tried untill the very last moment to hold a membership vote on the leadership by means of direct computer voting, or any such direct communication with the Liberal membership.

            Yet, Ignatieff talks about choice now. Yesterday his words were all about Canadians having a choice. Only back then he himself had made the choice to be appointed rather than to be party membership elected.

          • "Do as I say, not as I do"

        • Well, actually it IS a question of being a private organization. If they choose to circumvent their rules for appointing a new leader then so be it. I am not a member of the organization so I have no say in the matter whatsoever. Feel free to go ahead and judge the organization by the standard of whether or not they respect their own rules, but it sure as hell cannot be labeled 'undemocratic'. What they do internally is their own business.

          Brother, in the history of political parties in western liberal democracies, Ignatieff's ascension to leadership is quite on par with the norm.

          • Well, sister :), if the Liberal party wants to return to it's roots, than I will not quarrel with the notion.

            After all, norms are established by the examples given.

            Whereas the Liberal party still thinks in Upper Canada and Lower Canada terms, the rest of the nation is more than willing to move ahead.

            I know it has been very difficult for some within the media to have come to the acceptance of a western leader – some still have significant trouble accepting the fact – but most Canadians will choose for a real modern democracy, one in which leaders are willing to set an example by choice.

          • Except, he's from Toronto.

            :)

  37. That would be more in character…

  38. Alliteration adds an absurd aesthetic alongside adduction, and, alternately, admonishment.

  39. I really enjoy your articles, John Geddes. And this is terrific food for thought as we head into what will be an ugly campaign. Let's respect these leaders who want to lead the nation for their accomplishments and not always scorn them for their weaknesses. And let's try to let that respect filter into our comments here over the next few weeks.

  40. I really enjoy your articles, John Geddes. And this is terrific food for thought as we head into what will be an ugly campaign. Let's respect these leaders who want to lead the nation for their accomplishments and not always scorn them for their weaknesses. And let's try to let that respect filter into our comments here over the next few weeks.

    • I can't show that respect for a leader who hasn't shown any for the rules and procedures that form the basis of our democracy.

  41. "Frankly, we owe them all a debt of gratitude that they put up with our crap. "

    I am trying to think of a sentence that I would be less likely to write than this one and can't think of any.

    Debt of gratitude!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Yes thank you MPs for collecting enormous salaries/pensions for 120 work days per year, making Canadians trust snake oil salesmen more than pols and for alienating 90% of the electorate who now pay no attention at all to day to day politics. Well done.

  42. Stephen Harper could easily have wasted his political talent as a mere right-wing commentator.

    The notion of Stephen Harper “wasting” his “talent” in the relatively harmless realm of corporate shilldom rather than expending it in the arena of active politics is a bit like the idea of “wasting” the radioactivity of spent fuel rods by securing them in deep storage tanks rather than stacking them in the middle of the West Edmonton Mall.

    Instead, he…created the new Conservative Party of Canada…

    …with a little help from the gregarious Peter Mackay, who, breaking a solemn pledge, handed the party over to the Reform/Alliance apparatus in 2003 immediately after having fraudulently captured the P.C. Party leadership.

    …we need national institutions, not regional splinters…

    …and with the continentalist, Western-alienation-based, radically de-centralist, ethnic-pandering CPC, we get both.

    I would mention, for instance, his adroit playing of international politics…

    …do you mean his failure to secure Canada's traditional guest seat on the UN Security Council and failure even to secure American support for our bid (despite having made every effort to be the most sedulously pro-American national leader in the Western hemisphere)? Oh no. You mean…

    … particularly in the run-up to last summer's G20 in Toronto, and his execution at the summit itself…

    …a summit that produced little of objective value except a commitment to fiscal restraint that most major G20 players, particularly the United States, have already violated (that Japan will now be forced to violate even more flagrantly) and that, while the world watched in horror, turned Toronto into Mogadishu for forty-eight hours.

    I think this campaign might just be worthy of the country. But it won't be if we go into it assuming the worst.

    Those sentences carry the bizarre implication that it is the attitudinal complexion of the electorate that determines the quality of electoral discourse. It might be worth keeping in mind that it is the political class that drives our electoral agendas. For instance, I was aware of no urgent public demand for the deployment of odious slander before Harper released his notorious “Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography” press release in 2004, nor do I believe that the CPC's recent absurd attack on Ignatieff's dead father was designed to respond to the deep Canadian yearning for visionary (or at least dignified) leadership.

  43. Stephen Harper could easily have wasted his political talent as a mere right-wing commentator.

    The notion of Stephen Harper “wasting” his “talent” in the relatively harmless realm of corporate shilldom rather than expending it in the arena of active politics is a bit like the idea of “wasting” the radioactivity of spent fuel rods by securing them in deep storage tanks rather than stacking them in the middle of the West Edmonton Mall.

    Instead, he…created the new Conservative Party of Canada…

    …with a little help from the gregarious Peter Mackay, who, breaking a solemn pledge, handed the party over to the Reform/Alliance apparatus in 2003 immediately after having fraudulently captured the P.C. Party leadership.

    …we need national institutions, not regional splinters…

    …and with the continentalist, Western-alienation-based, radically de-centralist, ethnic-pandering CPC, we get both.

    I would mention, for instance, his adroit playing of international politics…

    …do you mean his failure to secure Canada's traditional guest seat on the UN Security Council and failure even to secure American support for our bid (despite having made every effort to be the most sedulously pro-American national leader in the Western hemisphere)? Oh no. You mean…

    … particularly in the run-up to last summer's G20 in Toronto, and his execution at the summit itself…

    …a summit that produced little of objective value except a commitment to fiscal restraint that most major G20 players, particularly the United States, have already violated (that Japan will now be forced to violate even more flagrantly) and that, while the world watched in horror, turned Toronto into Mogadishu for forty-eight hours.

    • I would love to be ruled by Mr. Geddes' optimism, but I'm afraid that what we've seen so far is all we're going to get—because it's all they have.

    • I cannot see how a continuation of the Reform/PC split would have been beneficial to anyone except Paul Martin. The leaders of the Reform Party figured out their mistake in splitting off from the Tories after the 1997 election and decided to undo it. The Progressive Conservative Party (which is now spoken-of as though it were the political vehicle of Jesus Christ by some) responded to this admission of defeat in a way you would expect of an obnoxious child:
      "No! We won't work alongside you, or merge, or anything of the sort! You have to join our party, publicly repudiating your base in the most insulting terms possible, and talk about how right we were all along!"

      Peter MacKay asked his party to get past that stupid intransigence, which, I shall now remind everyone, it did. What was it, 80% in favour of the merger, something like that? The old PC Party's stubborn insistence that it did nothing to push Reformers out of their party and that nothing changed in 1993 retarded the cause of Canadian conservatives for a decade and it should not be romanticized.

      • Please. Let us recount actual history, not the revisionist Stalinist version that the CPC's commissars have enshrined as the official collective memory in order to make the party's paperwork nice and easy.

        Peter McKay won the leadership largely because of his promise not to treat with the Alliance under any circumstances. We now know that this undertaking was given entirely fraudulently. In the real world, away from the relativist refinements of political expediency, this is called “lying” and its practitioners are called “liars”. The fact is that the party's declared wish in 2003 was to enter the next election as the Progressive Conservative Party.

        The “merger” movement was kicked off (mere months later) with MacKay's announcement that he and virtually the whole P.C. management committee favoured the merger; its leader having thus publicly declared absolute no-confidence in his own party, the membership had no choice but to complete the process, rather the way shareholders are wise to sell out as quickly as possible after the CEO declares the company to be on the verge of complete insolvency. MacKay did not merge the party; he assassinated it.

        The “merger” occurred so quickly, by the way, because Bay Street investors refused MacKay's pleas for donations, not because MacKay finally did the math concerning vote-splitting, the numbers for which were available to him long before 2003. The CPC was founded upon the pursuit of cash, not principles.

        Finally, the Reform-Alliance party was an outgrowth of populist Prairie protest (Social Credit redux, essentially) and had little if anything to do with the Canadian conservative tradition; its affiliation with classical American liberalism was (and is), however, respectably close.

        • Bay Street investors refused McKay's please for donations because Bay Street investors know a loser and a dog investment when they see it.

          • Bay Street investors know a loser and a dog investment when they see it.

            Indeed. They are, fortunately, very unlike Wall Street investors that way.

            I do wonder, though, how those investors felt whilst watching that loser and dog get appointed to several senior government portfolios. I suppose they felt as ill as I did.

      • None of this changes the fact that MacKay made a promise to his party and immediately broke it. You may feel that the end justifies the means, but a lot of Progressive Conservatives felt understandably betrayed.

        "…that nothing changed in 1993 retarded the cause of Canadian conservatives for a decade …"

        And now? Sure, people who call themselves Conservatives hold power. How's it going with those conservative "principles" in action? Looks to me like power is the one conservative principle that really matters.

        • Unfortunately, the Hobson's choice in Canadian federal politics seems to be: you can be irrelevant, or you can be in power. Lots of rational people choose the latter. I can't really blame them.

          • That's the sort of absolute SH specializes in. Upon closer examination it's simply untrue. As Coyne said recently there are other ways to make a difference other then wielding power; both the reform and T. Douglas are fine examples of that. I might add, in fairness, this is one lesson the LPC has never learned.

    • "…ethnic pandering CPC." This sentence would have been laughable to most on the Left six years ago. How far we've come.

      • This sentence would have been laughable to most on the Left six years ago.

        Was "the Left" laughing while the Reform Party pandered to frightened Caucasians by arguing for drastically reduced immigration levels (*nudge, nudge, wink, wink*)?

        No Canadian party has ever managed a monopoly of ethnic pandering. Until the early ‘40s, our foremost practitioners were arguably the CCF.

  44. Lovely article Mr. Geddes!

    I personally found a new respect for Jack Layton, he blew my socks off on tuesday and I loved his latest ad, it gave me goosebumps and I wish politicians would work like that.

    I love Michael Ignatieff the writer, and honestly, I ache for him when he is down like this, I hope that this experience has been good for his soul because it has definitely been very humbling for him.

    And I love the genious of Stephen Harper, I do really believe he will make a better Canada, and I hope he gets that kindness and compassion has to be shared with his adversaries, because they deserve it too.

  45. Lovely article Mr. Geddes!

    I personally found a new respect for Jack Layton, he blew my socks off on tuesday and I loved his latest ad, it gave me goosebumps and I wish politicians would work like that.

    I love Michael Ignatieff the writer, and honestly, I ache for him when he is down like this, I hope that this experience has been good for his soul because it has definitely been very humbling for him.

    And I love the genious of Stephen Harper, I do really believe he will make a better Canada, and I hope he gets that kindness and compassion has to be shared with his adversaries, because they deserve it too.

    • I like this idea, to say something nice about all of the party leaders:

      Harper: subtle, soft spoken, not in your face, a deep thinker and forward thinker.

      Ignatieff: classy, dreamy, classical,

      Layton: very passionate, committed, straight-forward thinker

      Duceppe: classy, arrogant (in a good way)

      May: gutsy, driven

      • Harper: gives a great handshake,

        Ignatieff: knows how to seize the opportunity,

        Layton: tough talker,

        Duceppe: wants to start a country! (i mean, c'mon, how many of us will ever aspire to something like that!)

        May: cares about the environment,

        You're right, this is great fun.

    • Liar.

  46. I would love to be ruled by Mr. Geddes' optimism, but I'm afraid that what we've seen so far is all we're going to get—because it's all they have.

  47. Yes I agree, we can be quite harsh!

  48. Nice new pic, letting loose I see : )

  49. the article was about the leaders, I agree there is considerable deadwood on the benches, but with the leaders,
    A few questions:
    Do you really think Stephen Harper takes over 240 days a year off?
    Is the fact that Canadians punish politicians for providing honest answers to tough questions not part of the problem?
    If a typical Canadian understands that someone has to be selected to make some very tough choices for them, and then proceeds to judge them based on speech inflections, bushy eyebrows, weird hair and whether they lick their lips while under TV lighting… whose fault is it?
    If the public is bored and alienated by every municipal, provincial and federal political leader that comes before it, does occam's razor suggest it more likely that each and every politician is to blame or the public?

  50. Nice to see you around Sir_Francis perfect timing and your posts always very welcome and challenging : )

  51. Hey JG, did you bury the lede(r)? Wasn't there five at the last debates?

    Hmmmm…

  52. Hey JG, did you bury the lede(r)? Wasn't there five at the last debates?

    Hmmmm…

    • Sharp observation!!

    • At the time of the last debates though there were technically five leaders who had MPs in the previous Parliament.

    • Three parties with national support sit in the House of Commons. That's enough. If you don't have something nice to say about someone, better not to say anything at all. Geddes is trying to stay civil after all.

      • Last time I checked, the Québecois were a nation, so I'm not sure how the BQ could be without national support to sit in the House…. oh, or were you referring to the Liberals?

  53. No one else was running. Pay attention.

  54. I'd change one word – they *could* be worth taking seriously, we will see whether they will each live up to the potential you so ably identified … I'm hoping but I'm not expecting …

  55. I'd change one word – they *could* be worth taking seriously, we will see whether they will each live up to the potential you so ably identified … I'm hoping but I'm not expecting …

    • That's part of Geddes' point. If we expect better, we might just get it.

  56. ….. now that's in keeping with the tone and spirit of this blog [insert NOT where appropriate]

  57. Just because "a pox on both their houses" is a lame cop-out doesn't mean the reverse isn't as well.

  58. Just because "a pox on both their houses" is a lame cop-out doesn't mean the reverse isn't as well.

    • A house on both their poxes?

  59. This will be different from the past three years how exactly?

    It'll be far worse.

  60. A house on both their poxes?

  61. That would be a good point, if you weren't such a doofus.

    Oh, yeah, right… sorry.

  62. I cannot see how a continuation of the Reform/PC split would have been beneficial to anyone except Paul Martin. The leaders of the Reform Party figured out their mistake in splitting off from the Tories after the 1997 election and decided to undo it. The Progressive Conservative Party (which is now spoken-of as though it were the political vehicle of Jesus Christ by some) responded to this admission of defeat in a way you would expect of an obnoxious child:
    "No! We won't work alongside you, or merge, or anything of the sort! You have to join our party, publicly repudiating your base in the most insulting terms possible, and talk about how right we were all along!"

    Peter MacKay asked his party to get past that stupid intransigence, which, I shall now remind everyone, it did. What was it, 80% in favour of the merger, something like that? The old PC Party's stubborn insistence that it did nothing to push Reformers out of their party and that nothing changed in 1993 retarded the cause of Canadian conservatives for a decade and it should not be romanticized.

  63. I'd much rather watch the "weak rhetoric" in an election than the drivel in Question Period.

  64. I'd much rather watch the "weak rhetoric" in an election than the drivel in Question Period.

  65. Have you seen the latest committee hearings. Maybe not. And that's actually a good thing. What a shameful performance that was.

  66. or which way the Niagra Falls runs……

  67. Good point. Still, I do think increased decentralization is at least THEORETICALLY a goal.

    And it's at least possible that one day they'll go back to trying to achieve some of their stated goals.

  68. I assume, then, you'll be firing off a letter to Conservative Party Headquarters asking them to stop shining a light on Michael Ignatieff's time away from Canada? After all, I mean, what really counts is the man's ideas, right? I'd say what Stock went through wasn't any worse than what Iggy's going through.

    For the record, I think both lines of attack are bullsh*t on stilts.

  69. What exactly happened to Stockwell Day that hasn't happened to other party leaders that weren't cut out of the top job? Day has been a decent minister in a Harper Cabinet. But.. he didn't know how to be leader of a regional party, he had no idea how to unite the Conservative party the way Harper did – and if he had managed to stumble into the job, he would have likely been a mediocre Prime Minister.

  70. Sharp observation!!

  71. At the time of the last debates though there were technically five leaders who had MPs in the previous Parliament.

  72. "…ethnic pandering CPC." This sentence would have been laughable to most on the Left six years ago. How far we've come.

  73. Three parties with national support sit in the House of Commons. That's enough. If you don't have something nice to say about someone, better not to say anything at all. Geddes is trying to stay civil after all.

  74. That's part of Geddes' point. If we expect better, we might just get it.

  75. Totally agreed, my friend, that both lines of attack are bs on stilts. That's why I questioned why the media/general public condoned it then and it must not be condoned now.

    I am in agreement of making no difference between the two.

    Let the games begin. When the general media stops coming down on Conservattives unnecessarily, all will follow suit……………….

  76. Why will it be far worse IYO SF?

  77. Totally agree, my friend.

    The reasons you mention are exactly the reason I was no supporter of Day. And indeed, he has served the party and Canada well after he had stepped down as leader.

    But the Doris Day gig and Dino the dinosaur were a lot worse than what Ignatieff is seeing right now.

  78. "the general media"? Please. There's no such thing. I have no sympathy for Day, Dion, Iggy, or the six opposition leaders Chretien faced whose names I can't even remember. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader.

  79. I like this idea, to say something nice about all of the party leaders:

    Harper: subtle, soft spoken, not in your face, a deep thinker and forward thinker.

    Ignatieff: classy, dreamy, classical,

    Layton: very passionate, committed, straight-forward thinker

    Duceppe: classy, arrogant (in a good way)

    May: gutsy, driven

  80. "…whose skills could benefit the country greatly."

    Great. But he's not interested in benefiting Canada, he's interested in making the country match his Dominionist vision of Canada as a Christian free-market republic, along the same lines as the US.

  81. Please. Let us recount actual history, not the revisionist Stalinist version that the CPC's commissars have enshrined as the official collective memory in order to make the party's paperwork nice and easy.

    Peter McKay won the leadership largely because of his promise not to treat with the Alliance under any circumstances. We now know that this undertaking was given entirely fraudulently. In the real world, away from the relativist refinements of political expediency, this is called “lying” and its practitioners are called “liars”. The fact is that the party's declared wish in 2003 was to enter the next election as the Progressive Conservative Party.

    The “merger” movement was kicked off (mere months later) with MacKay's announcement that he and virtually the whole P.C. management committee favoured the merger; its leader having thus publicly declared absolute no-confidence in his own party, the membership had no choice but to complete the process, rather the way shareholders are wise to sell out as quickly as possible after the CEO declares the company to be on the verge of complete insolvency. MacKay did not merge the party; he assassinated it.

    The “merger” occurred so quickly, by the way, because Bay Street investors refused MacKay's pleas for donations, not because MacKay finally did the math concerning vote-splitting, the numbers for which were available to him long before 2003. The CPC was founded upon the pursuit of cash, not principles.

    Finally, the Reform-Alliance party was an outgrowth of populist Prairie protest (Social Credit redux, essentially) and had little if anything to do with the Canadian conservative tradition; its affiliation with classical American liberalism was (and is), however, respectably close.

  82. Because the parties have had three more years to perfect the art of providing us with attack ads ad nauseum, big issues blown off, small ones blown out of proportion, and… weak rhetoric.

  83. None of this changes the fact that MacKay made a promise to his party and immediately broke it. You may feel that the end justifies the means, but a lot of Progressive Conservatives felt understandably betrayed.

    "…that nothing changed in 1993 retarded the cause of Canadian conservatives for a decade …"

    And now? Sure, people who call themselves Conservatives hold power. How's it going with those conservative "principles" in action? Looks to me like power is the one conservative principle that really matters.

  84. Bay Street investors refused McKay's please for donations because Bay Street investors know a loser and a dog investment when they see it.

  85. Unfortunately, the Hobson's choice in Canadian federal politics seems to be: you can be irrelevant, or you can be in power. Lots of rational people choose the latter. I can't really blame them.

  86. This sentence would have been laughable to most on the Left six years ago.

    Was "the Left" laughing while the Reform Party pandered to frightened Caucasians by arguing for drastically reduced immigration levels (*nudge, nudge, wink, wink*)?

    No Canadian party has ever managed a monopoly of ethnic pandering. Until the early ‘40s, our foremost practitioners were arguably the CCF.

  87. Harper thinks bigger than that. Which is a quality deserving of praise, btw.

    His plan was to take that centralized institution and slowly, incrementally, turn it into a regional splinter–without splintering! Not so much bringing the west in to the action, as moving the action in to the west. This wouldn't necessarily even be a bad thing, if 'the west' was prepared to expand.

    Unfortunately, it seems the west was not prepared to do that at all, and now he's lost most of the western people (in cabinet, I mean) and so I'm not sure if he's still committed to that plan.

  88. I agree, the Conservatives on committee were an embarrassment.

  89. Bay Street investors know a loser and a dog investment when they see it.

    Indeed. They are, fortunately, very unlike Wall Street investors that way.

    I do wonder, though, how those investors felt whilst watching that loser and dog get appointed to several senior government portfolios. I suppose they felt as ill as I did.

  90. The next five weeks will be shorter than the last three years.

  91. Have you seen John Baird? doing anything? anywhere? ever?

  92. Honestly, a political party is a private, closed organization. What they do with their internal organization is frankly, none of my business as I am not a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. If they want to unilaterally declare a German Shepard as leader (careful, careful you Reformatory partisans out there) well, go nuts I say. There is absolutely nothing undemocratic about a private organization deciding how its going to elect or appoint its leader.

  93. But they're gonna seem like 3 years.

  94. A pox on all their houses then?

  95. As you don't believe in God, does this mean you think the mute button is a mass hallucination?

    ;-)

  96. IF the party members would have unilaterally declared him the leader, hey, Ignatieff would have lived up to his theoretical and supposedly practical standards.

    This is not a question of private or public organisations.

    The Liberal party has a membership, just like any other political orgaisation has its membership. Ignatieff's choice was to be appointed rather than elected by the membership. I don't care why or how they did it; they did it, and Ignatieff made his choice.

    Choices made means one has to live with the choice, otherwise it wouldn't be a choice at all. Then we could all revise history and let real choice disappear out of our human lives.

  97. LOL no, but washing windows is against my religion.

  98. Ignatieff was made leader by the Liberal membership at a convention in Vancouver fully compliant with the rules of the party. No one ran against him. The only "choice" Ignatieff made was to put his name forward for the leadership and then to accept the party's decision. The Liberal Party has moved on and it's not an issue, so it's amusing that it still upsets you to such a degree.

  99. Ryan, I fully understand that the Liberal party membership does not want to hear the real version of events, because, just like Ms.Carstairs (Lib Senator) had emailed me back at the time, it was not unanimous to have an appointed leader by the party executives and by the members of the House and Senate exclusively.

    In fact, the Liberal party was set to hold a leadership vote at the convention date already selected for a gathering purpose later in the spring, but because of the coalition mess (a mess the Liberals had brought onto themselves btrw, and a mess which was later used as an excuse as "unforseen circumstances beyond control of the Liberal party" ) it was then decided by the party's select few to appoint a leader rather than having one elected by the party membership.

    At the time, before the appointment of Ignatieff, three candidates had in fact declared themselves, and even Bob Rae had tried untill the very last moment to hold a membership vote on the leadership by means of direct computer voting, or any such direct communication with the Liberal membership.

    Yet, Ignatieff talks about choice now. Yesterday his words were all about Canadians having a choice. Only back then he himself had made the choice to be appointed rather than to be party membership elected.

  100. Usually, I'd agree. However, when it comes to Mr. Harper, unless you think he's playing an extremely long game I really can't see how even he could honestly believe (through such things as Fortier and the census, particularly) that he has the best interests of the country at heart. And even if he is playing the long game, even then it comes down to a case of the ends can't be justified by the means.

  101. Oh man, I was going to write THE EXACT SAME THING!!!!! Weird.

  102. Oh man, I was going to write THE EXACT SAME THING!!!!! Weird.

  103. Alas, the spirit of Geddes article did not last long into the comment section.

  104. LOL! And I don't LOL lightly!

  105. Yeah, that's it.

  106. Homer: We'll dig our way out!
    Quimby: No, no, dig UP stupid! (i don't know why your comment made me think of that, but it did).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VjPNKc0VsU

    Sadly, Quimby's line is missing from this clip.

  107. "Do as I say, not as I do"

  108. Perhaps (I hesitate to say, 'for a change') the media could do its part by focusing on serious analysis/criticism of party policy and the ideas and backgrounds of actual candidates that people vote for (instead of the inane leadership cult) so we can all transcend the pick your partisan horse race horse.

  109. Perhaps (I hesitate to say, 'for a change') the media could do its part by focusing on serious analysis/criticism of party policy and the ideas and backgrounds of actual candidates that people vote for (instead of the inane leadership cult) so we can all transcend the pick your partisan horse race horse.

  110. Mr. Smith doesn't even say that Harper BELIEVES he has the best interests of the country at heart. And I can't agree with that either – there's simply too much evidence to the contrary.

  111. And I fully understand that you want to direct the debate into meaningful territory (actually I thought I had been doing just that all of this time….)

    ***

    YOu don't believe that at all.

  112. Harper: gives a great handshake,

    Ignatieff: knows how to seize the opportunity,

    Layton: tough talker,

    Duceppe: wants to start a country! (i mean, c'mon, how many of us will ever aspire to something like that!)

    May: cares about the environment,

    You're right, this is great fun.

  113. I can't show that respect for a leader who hasn't shown any for the rules and procedures that form the basis of our democracy.

  114. That's the sort of absolute SH specializes in. Upon closer examination it's simply untrue. As Coyne said recently there are other ways to make a difference other then wielding power; both the reform and T. Douglas are fine examples of that. I might add, in fairness, this is one lesson the LPC has never learned.

  115. Liar.

  116. “Anyway… ” you wrote, taking the topic off course so you could hear yourself speak…

    You obviously missed Gedde’s point entirely.

  117. the itching might keep some thumbs away from the berries long enough to allow for thinking twice about next words/positions/proposals.

  118. are we getting into Special Relativity here?

  119. Well, actually it IS a question of being a private organization. If they choose to circumvent their rules for appointing a new leader then so be it. I am not a member of the organization so I have no say in the matter whatsoever. Feel free to go ahead and judge the organization by the standard of whether or not they respect their own rules, but it sure as hell cannot be labeled 'undemocratic'. What they do internally is their own business.

    Brother, in the history of political parties in western liberal democracies, Ignatieff's ascension to leadership is quite on par with the norm.

  120. Well, sister :), if the Liberal party wants to return to it's roots, than I will not quarrel with the notion.

    After all, norms are established by the examples given.

    Whereas the Liberal party still thinks in Upper Canada and Lower Canada terms, the rest of the nation is more than willing to move ahead.

    I know it has been very difficult for some within the media to have come to the acceptance of a western leader – some still have significant trouble accepting the fact – but most Canadians will choose for a real modern democracy, one in which leaders are willing to set an example by choice.

  121. Last time I checked, the Québecois were a nation, so I'm not sure how the BQ could be without national support to sit in the House…. oh, or were you referring to the Liberals?

  122. There's nothing I said that was partisan opinion, except perhaps "Bring on the election" or perhaps the word "milestone" – I'm just talking about the latest poll. And you consider that a lack of civility?

    Please point out where in my comment I make an uncivil comment/insult/innuendo/whatever about the opposition leaders or parties.

    You use the word "obviously" quite liberally.

  123. Except, he's from Toronto.

    :)

  124. Thats the spirit!!

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