Stephen Harper: new ideas, old tactics -

Stephen Harper: new ideas, old tactics

The PM wants to steal Ignatieff’s edge as the leader with an eye on the future, says Paul Wells


New Ideas, old tactics

Michael Ignatieff’s reputation for arrogance, tailored for him with care by his Conservative opponents, never survives three minutes in his actual company. The Liberal leader is genial and accommodating to a fault, if those can be faults, and there are days in his endless battle with Stephen Harper when they probably can.

Ignatieff welcomed a visitor to Stornoway shortly before Christmas with coffee, small talk and a chuckle at the first question: does he have any New Year’s resolutions? “Keep smiling,” he replied. “Work harder.”

He will have to do much of the latter in 2010, after 2009 strained his ability to do the former. He jettisoned much of his senior staff in October and many of his assumptions soon after. He has failed to close the polling gap he inherited from Stéphane Dion. Now he will try again to be relevant. His aim is to be the guy who thinks about the future while the Prime Minister thinks only about tactics.

“I think that Canadians went through a very turbulent year. We’re still living in the after-tremors of September 2008”—the market crash that led to the recession of 2009. “Canadians were told in the first quarter of 2009: ‘The world, as you know it, is coming to an end.’ ” And to some extent, it really did: “The recovery, in lots of parts of the country, wasn’t one at all. This wasn’t a recession, it’s a restructuring.”

The effects of that restructuring are, Ignatieff maintains, the challenges of the new decade. “The markets of growth are India and China and we’re not well prepared.” Harper inherited a healthy economy from Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, but has set about dismantling it. “This government walked away from the remains of Nortel,” Ignatieff said. “It’s selling AECL,” the state atomic-energy agency. He listed a range of challenges related to the demographics of an aging population, the stability of pension plans first among them. “We’re in a new world. And the political question is, who’s going to prepare Canada for that world?”

This is the line Ignatieff has worked out since his new chief of staff, the cherubic Chrétien-era fixer Peter Donolo, joined him on Oct. 27. Donolo replaced Ian Davey, who once helped persuade Ignatieff to leave Harvard for politics in Canada. Soon after, a selection of other senior staffers received pink slips or demotions. Donolo’s crew were on the job in Ottawa in the 1990s, an era when the Iggyites they replace were proclaiming their disdain for politics in a succession of Toronto watering holes or, in some cases, still in high school. “What they bring to the table,” the Liberal leader says of his new helpers, “is they’ve been there.”

What he brings to the table, they say privately, is much the same quality, if only Canadians can be made to see it. “Isn’t it great that we have a leader who knows a bit about the world?” one said. Ignatieff probably can’t be sold as a Chrétien-style “happy warrior,” this person admitted, but he might work as a “cool cucumber,” unmoved by the daily fray, able to see far and plan well.

“People say, ‘You’re being too abstract, you’re being too academic,’ ” Ignatieff said. “But I tell you, when I talk to Canadians, that is what they talk about. ‘Where are we going here? I’ve got a job today, but will I have a job tomorrow?’ ”

Harper, by contrast, “is a funny guy. It’s all tactics, all the time. He governs crab-like, this way, that way.” The Liberal “thinkers conference,” which Ignatieff had promised for the autumn, then for January and will now be held in Montreal in late March, is part of this process. “We need to be seen, and in reality to be, addressing these big issues.”

But all of these conversations took place before Christmas. Even then, both Ignatieff and his new cohorts understood they will not have the luxury of acting in a vacuum in 2010, any more than they did in 2009. Ignatieff spent last year doing a lot of things that seemed bold at the time and wound up biting him on the nose. He put the government “on probation” and gave Harper a licence to brag extravagantly about his “economic action plan.” He forced Harper to spend the summer negotiating changes to Employment Insurance and then faced a choice about what to do when the talks came to naught. He decided to force an election in September and found he couldn’t. He lost support anyway, merely for trying.

Already before Christmas, Ignatieff’s people could spy two ways Harper might wriggle out of their grasp. The first was that he would prorogue Parliament, throttling the current session in its crib a year after he prorogued the last time and starting anew at a moment of his convenience. “When he’s in the Commons, he goes down [in the polls],” a third senior Liberal said of Harper, “and when he’s out, he goes up. He’ll want to be out.” Ignatieff said prorogation, if it happened, would be “a scandal. A genuine, big-deal, capital-S scandal.”

The second danger was still more spectacular: that Harper would figure out a way in March to force the election he spent September avoiding. “It’s quite clear on their side that they’re setting up the budget to have something unacceptable to us,” said the Liberal who noticed Harper likes to maximize his time outside the House. “They’re going to engineer their own defeat.”

Donolo is said to be skeptical of this line of argument. He does not see what Harper could propose that would be unacceptable to the opposition but popular with voters. Surely spending cuts would be as unpopular in the real world as in Parliament. Still, Donolo is less prone than some Liberals to mistake his wishes for reality. The new chief of staff spent the period over New Year’s working hard on a “Plan B” that would have the Liberals at least somewhat prepared to fight a spring election.

There’s a lot to do. The Liberals could use a campaign manager. Don Guy played that role for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2003 and 2007 and was going to do the same if Ignatieff had pulled off that September election. But now Guy is staying close to home while his wife gets ready to deliver twins. The ageless Toronto consultant Gordon Ashworth will probably be on board. He held senior roles for Liberal leaders going as far back as Pierre Trudeau. Toronto consultant Warren Kinsella, whose relations with Donolo have sometimes been frosty, will nevertheless have a prominent role in the next Liberal campaign war room.

For their part, Conservatives close to Stephen Harper insist they have no interest in a spring election. Shifting from a year of extravagant spending to an era of (relative!) restraint will be a delicate operation. There will be a price to pay for getting too far ahead of public opinion, or for falling behind it. Harper learned, perhaps, the cost of excessive cleverness in the fall of 2008, when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced limitations on public funding to political parties and galvanized the opposition parties as never before. The spring will be challenging enough without the added excitement of an election.

But if the good news for Liberals is that Harper prefers to think long term, the bad news may be that he is about to make a great show of thinking long-term. In so doing, he will steal as much as he can of Ignatieff’s cool-cucumber competitive edge.

The prorogued Parliament is not Harper’s excuse to rest but to retool. A Throne Speech on March 4 and a budget the next day are only the visible part of the action. In private, cabinet ministers will receive amended mandate letters, telling them the issues they must concentrate on for the next year. Conservative chairs of Commons committees will be tasked with new subjects of study.

What will the ministers’ and committee chairs’ new mandates be about? Spending restraint and a return to (relative!) fiscal probity, for one thing, but not only that. What else? “Tomorrow’s economy,” a leading Conservative strategist said, and for a second it was almost possible to believe he didn’t know Ignatieff is peddling the same line. “The jobs of tomorrow.”

A Conservative government could follow such an agenda in any number of directions. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s last job in Ontario provincial politics was as “minister of enterprise, opportunity and innovation” in the doomed government of Ernie Eves. Industry Minister Tony Clement has been making more noise lately about building a competitive, entrepreneurial economy. And you’d have to have been blind to miss Harper’s own extended autumn trips to China and India, countries Ignatieff has so far managed only to talk about. The Liberals are beginning to establish a long history of assuming Harper will have nothing to say on a given issue, only to discover he finds things to say that hurt them badly.

So while Ignatieff and Harper seem to agree on a schedule (no election soon) and a terrain (shifting Canada from crisis management to long-term planning) nobody need fear they will agree on much else. Both men are intelligent, intellectually curious, and a hell of a lot more flexible in the positions they take than most members of their respective parties. Admirers of both have hoped they would lead their parties in a genuine debate about the big issues any serious country faces. In 2009 Ignatieff wasn’t able to lead that debate and Harper wasn’t interested. In 2010 the real clash of ideas might begin.

Does that mean our politics is heading into a period of genteel discussion about enduring matters of state? Oh hell, no. The stakes are too high, the ground too unstable, the central protagonists—Stephen Harper and the nationwide support network for wounded egos that is the Liberal Party of Canada—too mercurial. To say our politics is about to change is not to say it has the faintest chance of calming down.


Stephen Harper: new ideas, old tactics

  1. He can announce whatever he wants as far as long term big-issue planning. Right now would be good. Because how will he answer the questions on accountability that inevitvably people will now realise is important. How will he answer the question, will you be at work when its time to enact some of these big ideas? Is there going to be a double-dip recession Mr.Harper, or is the answer no because we would have had it by now? How are Canadians going to believe him when (as I suspect) Mr. Page says there is a bit of a structural deficit, and as well that we are ill-prepared for the effects of our aging generation. I guess the real question is – when he inevitably offers us teh big picture answer of $100/mth for the care of our aging parents/grandparents, will it be $100 per or will it have to cover both Dad & Mom?

  2. Well, if you stay at something long enough, the tide will turn your way. It could happen for Ignatieff in 2010. Sooner or later, Harper will make one too many conniving moves – his bubble will burst. This is a very secrative government, but, in this day and age, secrets can come back to haunt you.

    • Chretien lasted 11 years and was under investigation (AdScam, golf course loan). Harper is no where close to that.

  3. "But if the good news for Liberals is that Harper prefers to think long term, the bad news may be that he is about to make a great show of thinking long-term. In so doing, he will steal as much as he can of Ignatieff's cool-cucumber competitive edge"

    How is it really bad news? We saw what happened when Ignatieff allowed his [ or just as likely his companeros] stuffed egos to threaten to huff and puff all last year. I much prefer Ignatieff having his better ideas picked over by Harper. It's at least creating an impression "you" are helping to set the agenda and more importantly it's good governance, it's what being the opposition should at least partially be about. If last year as a for instance team lib had adopted some of AC's, Simpsons [and lord knows even Ignatieffs at one time] thoughts on preparing the country for bad news ie some spending cuts, instead of chest thumping, they would have been able to have done themselves[and the country] some good. Instead they listened to the geniuses who cry:" we can't plow Harper's fields for him; we'll get crucified if we take that position"?

  4. It takes courage as well as smarts to set an opposition agenda and hopefully a govt one. This kind of thinking is a win win IMHO. You can brag you helped set the agenda if they steal it [plus carp about how it wasn't quite right] or, you can point out sadly how the incompetent govt didn't listen otherwise. Of course this all assumes your ideas were good to begin with – but at least it's proactive…and, it may even improve your standing with the public.

  5. By proroging parliament in order to shut down the Afghan detainee inquiry that was proving very damaging to the Conservatives, the Conservatives have crossed a line that most Canadians will not tolerate or easily forgive or forget. The latest EKOS poll shows the
    Conservatives numbers are continuing to fal:
    (See… )
    Cons 33.1%, Libs 27.8%, NDP 16%, Green 13.4%, Bloc 9.8%.

    • Are you upset? I;m not, the committee was busy painting our Canadian soldiers as war criminals. I don't think they are so I'm glad Harper shut it doen. But if you ask anyone on the street, nobody mentions the Afghan detainees inquiry, they are worried about the economy and trade. Jobs, jobs, jobs!

    • The Talaban kill 139 Canadian soldiers and cripple 3 times that many yet the opposition is shedding tears over possible mistreatment of these manical theocratic murderers. It's no wonder Harper has no respect for this parliament.
      Harper is too good for the unappreciative mobs who storm parliament supported by some lowlife NDP and Liberals. I refer of course to the mob in the gallery shouting down procedure and the Hitler youth who climbed and hung banners on the building itself.
      Harper only can save us from the Liberal – NDP zelots who would bankrupt this country in the foolish attempt to solve the noexistant AGW problem dreampt up by a lying sceaming Al Gore and his ilk..
      Forget about the polls – in a fair election debate Harper will destroy any opposition and even win a majority – just wait!

  6. "But if the good news for Liberals is that Harper prefers to think long term, the bad news may be that he is about to make a great show of thinking long-term"

    It's debateable how much of Sh's long term vision is any good…Witness the FU and the ludicrous statements on the looming dpression/recession that shoulsd – would have already arrived. It's when he 's thinking short term/mid tern he's more of a threat. What's the alternative to him stealing your thunder anyway…how did that go last year? Doing nothing/saying nothing just gets you labelled as having no ideas anyway…and the public do notice that…some bad ideas they can forgive…no ideas cuz your afraid … nada.

  7. The current political question in Canada is intriguing. As a conservative, I have had tremendous respect for Mr. Ignatieff. In some respects I thought he was the most dangerous adversary the Liberals could have fielded. Pity he went to them. Of course it could be no other way, but it is sad a brilliant man with intelligence and vision needs be saddled with that tired old party of the establishment. It doesn't help him in my opinion to be saddled with the likes of Donolo: A vestigial expression of the corruption he needs to rise above. If indeed this phoenix can rise above the ashes.

    This is the problem of the Liberal party. They think that a short trip to the woodshed should allow them to return to the reins of power. That a shiny new, intelligent face is all they need, when in fact they need a renewal from the ground up.
    So long as those old power mandarins are in control, Canadians won't trust them. It really is a pity, because I think Canadians actually like Mr. Ignatieff. What we don't like is that perception the Liberals picked him as a poster boy, imported from the states to teach us to like them again. Even a Harvard professor–especially a *Harvard* professor has a his work cut out for him, if they thnk by him, they can brain wash us again.

  8. Good point Laurie. I don't think Harper appreciates the power of social media and certainly could not have forseen the 80,000 plus members of a facebook group banding together to publicly and online protest his prorougement decision. This group is growing exponentially daily and seems to have struck a nerve in respect to what iarethe acceptable limits of his ongoing conniving moves as you put it.

    • If it produces tens of thousands of people willing to give up a day to do mass demonstrations it will have been considered a success. If it produces, as someone else has said, $20 a head for revenue to the opposition parties, then it will have been a success.

      If it doesn't provide something substantial and tangible in the real world, it is a token gesture at best.

    • Last I checked there were 101K+ members. I know I'll be attending a rally. And I contributed and volunteered during the '08 election, so I'm not just clicking a site to express my disgust. Actually I had never posted on Facebook before.

    • The anti-NDP/Liberal coalition face book page has more members! But you will never hear the CBC or the mop& pail mention it. Bias reporting has made the difference for the proroguing page. Also, not all members are anti-proroguing, read the comments.

  9. Iffy has no edge, cool as a cucumber? I don't think so, Iffy has the political instincts and brains of a cucumber though.

    Iggy has turned out to be an abysmal failure on all fronts, who would have thought back at Iggy's coronation that he'd turn out to be even worse than the hapless Dion.

    Not a leader too and just visiting.

  10. There is only one poll that counts, if you believe that kind of drivel that you linked to I have a bridge that you should buy.

  11. "And you'd have to have been blind to miss Harper's own extended autumn trips to China and India, countries Ignatieff has so far managed only to talk about. "

    This is kind of unfair. Wasn't it Ignatieff who was riding Harper about not engaging with Asia? Then Harper went ahead and did it – so Ignatieff also learned his lesson – don't throw out sensible ideas to the Conservatives which they will then borrow. Much like what used to happen to the poor Reformers who'd have their best policies cherry picked by Chretien and Martin, who would then take the credit.

    • Icky canceled his trip.

  12. Also,

    "“They're going to engineer their own defeat.”

    Donolo is said to be skeptical of this line of argument. He does not see what Harper could propose that would be unacceptable to the opposition but popular with voters. "

    Donolo is right, Harper won't make the same poison pill mistake twice. He's wrong if he thinks that means there won't be an election.

    Harper's just going to plain old call an election. That's it. The last one was called on the flimsiest of excuses – after a summer off, Harper claimed Parliament was no longer working. To top it off, he broke his own fixed date election law. Neither of these had any serious consequences; the lesson for Harper is that he can call an election with impunity and not suffer the wrath of the voters.

  13. Haven't you any other work to do Baird…i'm sure Steve's throne needs polishing or something

    • I thought it was Poilievre. Hard to tell when they all use the same talking points.

  14. Taking a break from your regular job writing ten percenters?

  15. What should be relevant to the Canadian voter is that Harper is always one step ahead of Ignatieff. That fact alone should be enough to decide who should be leading this country. One leader knows where he's going, the other needs to be told.

  16. If Harper is such a bad guy how come he is ahead in the polls.We had Mr personality in P>E>T a total disaster.we wanted our own Camelot.this bias by the eastern media against Harper because he is not Mr Nice Guy and has those little cocktail parties for the press.Wells,Craig Oliver,Travers all Liberal brown nosers trying to put across their opinions as neutral and only based on non biased information.What a laugh!Mansbridge almost found it difficult to be civil in his interview.Typical CBC tax funded crap Luckly we now have the internet and the ordinary persons opinions rate much higher and will soon replace the print media for influence.Harper is no longer scary Iggy is he would be more in character on the Adam's Family

  17. I remember my first beer.

  18. The game here is one of politics. And we have to give it to him: Steven Harper is a politician. A very strategic one at that. Unfortunately, however, that's about all he is. That's what scares me.

    I ask myself these questions: Knowing what I know about him would I feel comfortable having him live next door to me? Would I invite him over to my birthday party? Would I spend a day out fishing with him knowing we probably won't catch any fish? How would I feel if. as a younger version of himself, he started going out with my daughter?

    There are, of course, individuals who I would feel comfortable having as next-door neighbours, inviting to my birthday party, sharing a day of fishing with, and dating and eventually hooking up with my daughter. Some of them are even politicians. None of them, however, could ever possibly be Stephen Harper.

    • I don't see why you'd have a problem with his younger self dating your daughter. His family life seems to be fairly exemplary, and he was just a shy awkward nerd before that. I'm with you on inviting him to a day of fishing or a birthday party, but I can't see any political leader in Canada that I would like to hang out with socially like Bill Clinton, Barak Obama or George W. Bush. As for having Harper as a neighbour, I imagine he'd be okay as long as we didn't come into conflict about something. If we did, I'm sure he would pursue it with the petty vindictiveness that he is known for.

    • Harper would be a good neighbour, leave you alone, help you if you asked, wouldn't park his car in front of your house. Laureen would be wonderful, would make Stephen help you when see thought you needed help, would ask you over for coffee. Even their neighbours in Ottawa like Laureen.

      Icky would have someone pick him up, would complain that you or your kids were too noisy, put up a high fence, and doesn't know how to do anything practical so could never help you, even if you asked. But Zuzu would make him move to a better neighbourhood.

  19. Read Ian MacDonald's article from the Montreal Gazette. See the part about strategy vs. tactics.

    Just because Harper is a superior tactician, that doesn't mean the direction he's taking the country (his strategy) is necessarily the correct one. That's up for debate.

    The best cavalry generals of the 19th century were of little use when the trench warfare of World War 1 came about. The best positional warfare specialists again became useless when mobile armour and close air support rendered trench warfare obsolete 20 years later.

    • The Mongols used trench warfare against the Burmese elephants in the 1300s. The Mongols used cavalry against the Russians and Greeks in the 1400s. The Europeans just took a while to catch on. You have to be flexible and flight on your feet. Icky keeps dragging his.

  20. I wish people would know their facts before they spew….

    Peter K. spewed …"To top it off, he broke his own fixed date election law."
    if you read the law, it clearly states it is the last date within the term to call the election. our system clearly allows the governing party the opportunity to call an early election if they so dare (and at there own risk).

    don't spew garbage, it only looks bad on your lappel.

    • His fixed election law had a handy dandy loop hole in it – rendering it meaningless. Do you enjoy being played for a sucker – I don't.

    • The law Harper broke was his own law! What part of he is a big @!#@$% lier do you not get? I also would like to know why he has gone against every MMAR change that was forced on him by the courts? Fighting your own people is never a good idea, but why waste the money? He has lost every single battle on that front and he is practically in contempt of court. Pesky things like our constitution are things that must be gotten around in order to do what he wants. He does not care who he hurts and/or kills with his retrograde, bush-like, mini-me policies. His battle cry would be " for the children" meanwhile his policies are breaking up families and ruining lives that did not need to be ruined. I do not know how he sleeps at night.

  21. I wish people would know their facts before they spew….

    Peter K. spewed …"To top it off, he broke his own fixed date election law."
    if you read the law, it clearly states it is the last date within the term to call the election. our system clearly allows the governing party the opportunity to call an early election if they so dare (and at there own risk).

    don't spew garbage, it only looks bad on your lappel.

  22. Yeah, but what's of concern is where he's going. Just because he seems to know where he's going is of no consolation to me. It's where he's seems to be headed that has me worried.

  23. The fear that the group has caused the NP editorial page alone has been most delicious.

  24. I have my doubts as well. Harper is content to govern, certainly until post G8, G20. But also, I suspect he isnt afraid of an election either. Right now, thats the attitude that best matches the Canadian public. As that changes I am sure Harper's attitude will change.

    Harper is likely comforted by the fact that he is now facing a more rational opponent, now that Donolo and his team are in place. We wont get rage fuelled bathtub water drinking pronouncements from the Liberals. They arent ready, they werent ready and likely wont be ready till summer or fall of 2010, at the earliest.

    I have said for some time the Liberals need to get their house in order, which means a more rational approach to opposition, which doesnt mean you ignore the outrage du jour, but you dont let it drive your agenda. This means keeping certain individuals aways from the steering wheel, the gas and the brakes. For today's Liberal party, doing that is half the battle.

  25. "ordinary persons opinions rate much higher and will soon replace the print media for influence"

    Well, the National Post is learning that it cannot compete with Facebook, so you might be on to something.

  26. "…it clearly states it is the last date within the term to call the election. our system clearly allows the governing party the opportunity to call an early election"

    Doesn't that negate it being an actual "fixed date election law"? Need a towel?

  27. A fixed election date is a fixed date, not arbitrary. Otherwise, it would be an arbitrary election date law, which is redundant.

    So Peter spewed it correctly.

  28. In a democracy all politicians should be amateurs.

  29. 'gar"…i have often wondered what i sounded like after a two four.

    You should taken the cocktail PW…i hear the brown noser with a liberal twist is quite good…if not taken to excess.

  30. As a bonus, it didn't say that. Clearly or otherwise.

  31. Here's what I'd like to see: Liberals are always yapping about Big Bold New Ideas, and Change, and so on and so-forth: dump the monarchy and parliamentary democracy, "Victorian plumbing in a 21st century condo", as one observer has called it, and let's become a republic. I hear Donolo is republican, Dosanjh, and a few other Liberals. Iggy needs to pull a long eared rodent out of his nether regions if he is to prevent Harper from getting an electoral hat trick, and this would be perfect.

    So, what say gang? Our current system sucks for too many reasons to enumerate. If necessary, one could play the race card and note that the sun never sets upon the raw wounds of the shackles of British colonialism and that as a post-national entity of immigrants it's only natural that we revisit the monarchy. Yes?

    Wellsy, you and Coyne are on a Canadian democracy is broken jag, why not propose a concrete solution?

  32. Do you remember our first Timmies? That's what makes you a real Canadian by gum

  33. "They arent ready, they werent ready and likely wont be ready till summer or fall of 2010, at the earliest. "

    All the more reason why Harper will call an election after the post Olympic feel-goods, before the Liberals are ready.

  34. I'm not interested in debating this with your year-old talking points, ConBot.

    The point is simple – Harper promised fixed elections. Whether he broke the spirit or the letter of his law is really not that consequential, the point is he got away with it.

  35. "The effects of that restructuring are, Ignatieff maintains, the challenges of the new decade. “The markets of growth are India and China and we're not well prepared.” Harper inherited a healthy economy from Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, but has set about dismantling it. “This government walked away from the remains of Nortel,” Ignatieff said. “It's selling AECL,” the state atomic-energy agency. He listed a range of challenges related to the demographics of an aging population, the stability of pension plans first among them. “We're in a new world. And the political question is, who's going to prepare Canada for that world?”"

    Yes, please!! Can we have more of this kind of debate in Canada?

    • Trade has gone up since Harper has been PM. Trade may go up with India since Harper buried the hatchet. We need to work on trade with Japan (our second biggest trade partner), Singapore and Taiwan

  36. "Not a leader too and just visiting. "

    Three years is a pretty long visit.

  37. Harper wasn't the only one to discount social networking tools. The old school media pundits are eating crow too.

  38. "And you'd have to have been blind to miss Harper's own extended autumn trips to China and India, countries Ignatieff has so far managed only to talk about. "

    Whatever… Anyone can buy a plane ticket to go to India or China. What came out of those trips, exactly? Do we have firm and established linkages with those emerging markets? Has Harper/Day opened to new opportunities for Canadian businesses?

    All I saw was a bunch of photo ops.

  39. I don't think that there will be an election till at least the fall (probably the 2011 budget), but this statement is ridiculous:

    "Donolo is said to be skeptical of this line of argument. He does not see what Harper could propose that would be unacceptable to the opposition but popular with voters."

    Then the article goes on to chat about the $2 vote thing.
    The very issue which Donolo doesn't see.

    Its removal would be unacceptable to the Liberals, and it's electoral suicide to bring down the govt. over it.

    As Mr.Wells noted recently, most Anglo-Canadians who look at the BQ fundraising numbers, will be saying "sign me up".

    As I said thou, I think Harper will keep his powder dry in the spring.

    I think he would be wise to be defeated by non-confidence in the fall, before the 2011 budget which may involve some belt-tightening.

  40. Yeah, cons say Iggy's just visiting — but harper's AWOL from his job, and I don't think we're all onside with that decision. Even cons aren't all onside…

  41. EKOS polls be damned, talk to the average person on the street: the only thing less interesting to Canadians than the Afghan detainee stuff, is proroging parliament.

    If you had asked people one month ago for their thoughts on a plan to prorogue, without an explanation of what it was, most would assume that you were talking about some form of a delicious Hungarian potato-based food.

    Detainees and prorogation are such inside-baseball, Beltway topics that other than those of us who comment on these blogs and the political reporters who write them, nobody cares.

  42. Beautifully said.

    If we had Iggy, I'd thow him in as Minister of Defence, or Foreign Affairs right away.

  43. You must have missed the six new Canada trade offices in China

    and the new trade offices — two I believe, though I may be miscounting — in India.

    In 2008 Canada's trade with India increased 22% over 2007. Trade with China has grown at about 14% annually since 2005. The Harper government has continued the Martin government's emphasis on public infrastructure investment in the "Pacific Gateway" (actually the road and transitway improvements reach inland as far as Winnipeg) to enhance Canada's ability to handle increased trade with Asia.

    These are not world-beating numbers, and in fact my hunch is that our share of trade with China continues to shrink as a portion of total global trade with China, a trend that dates back to Chrétien's years as PM if not earlier. But it doesn't look like apathy.

  44. These are huge changes you want. They require a wholesale rewrite of the constitution.

    The last time the country tried to amend the constitution, it almost broke us. Don't you remember? I don't, but I learned it from history.

    Trudeau repatriates the constution. Quebec doesn't sign but it's ruled that it doesn't have a veto. Mulroney tries to ram through a distinct society amendment to get Quebec to sign. The whole attempt falls apart because once you open up that can of worms, everyone wants special rights in the constitution too. The attempt as I recall ended up being filibustered by an Aboriginal from out west. The Quebeckers got insulted and just about left the country.

    So, what part of "Dump the queen and parliamentary democracy" do you think will go smoothly? Why don't we just ask for accession to the U.S. while we're at it?

  45. No, I disagree. Asian cultures are all about relationship building. It's actually a very good thing that Harper went over there – showing up face to face, letting the Chinese score some points on you, it's important. The Chinese may or may not sign trade agreements with us – but they certainly won't if Harper had just kept embarassing them from afar about some Uighur political prisoner that noone cares about.

    It's good governance. It's a political move, yes, but one that actually benefits the country as a whole, instead of just the Conservatives and the West. Unfortunately, Harper doesn't do enough of this stuff.

  46. I don't mean to make light of the fact that this govt finally got around to opening the new trade offices (your count is wrong, btw) but I will. The fact of the matter is that this amounts to very little when one considers the fact that we are way behind in terms of engaging these markets.

    Canadian participation in the BRIC economies remains marginal. In most cases Canada accounts for less than 2 per cent of imports or exports for BRIC countries and BRIC countries likewise are of limited importance to our trade – also representing less than 2 per cent of total Canadian exports and imports. China is an exception as it supplies 9 per cent of our imports.

    Meanwhile, European companies are making major inroads because their respective govts are constantly in China/India's face, promoting their companies. Harper just NOW decided that these countries were worth his time.

    Again, photo ops. Nowhere near what is needed for us to become competitive. We are seriously behind, thanks to this govt.

  47. Your link to the release on China said 4 offices but, whatever. 4, 6… Who cares. The point remains. Harper's behaviour on this file has been nothing short of irresponsible. Considering what's at stake, he'd probably need to open 20 more offices to make up for lost ground.

  48. Toronto consultant Warren Kinsella, whose relations with Donolo have sometimes been frosty, will nevertheless have a prominent role in the next Liberal campaign war room.

    Best news I've heard all week . I was worried we'd seen the last of Kinsella's backfiring war room antics. No Liberal campaign is complete without the circus sideshow that WK provides.

  49. If memory serves me, this is actually the first article I've read that starts out by not sticking knives into Michael Ignatieff. That alone gives me hope that the tide is turning. I've been so longing for a discussion about ideas that I'm near tears by it's absence. I hate what Canada has become under Harper: It's all hollow and meaningless.

    Ignatieff as Prime Minister is exactly what this country needs at this point in our history. I hope the media elites have the wisdom to recognize this and give him a fair chance. Instead of digging your fangs into the opposition, isn't it your job in a democracy to question the direction of government?

    You've done a disservice these last number of years to all Canadians, because you've collectively put your own self-interest above that of Canadians. Bringing us to the brink of authoritarianism and dictatorship is not something of which I would be proud.

    • Easy to spot Wells' bias isn't it?

  50. The actual article contains the information needed to get to six. Reading is fundamental.

  51. hmmm, so you think 'Harper get's to wear the recession' was a mistake.
    Iffy made a similar comment recently, about giving the govt Liberal ideas on the recovery.
    Mistake too?

  52. You mean like setting up a war room on the outskirts of town, and insisting the media attend briefings in the wee hours of the morning that aren't really briefings? Only to lose their interest and have to make changes to woo the media?

    That kind of back firing war room antics?

  53. what OA and AJR said

  54. I agree with everything above, except this:

    "Ignatieff as Prime Minister is exactly what this country needs at this point in our history."

    It's not that we need him. It is more about the fact that he's the only viable alternative we have to Harper. I think Ignatieff is all talk but not substance. That being said, I will have no choice but to vote strategically in the next election because a vote for anyone other than the Libs at this point is a vote for the Harperites.

    My only consolation is in knowing that, unlike Harper, Iggy is actually surrounded by very competent and capable individuals that would make for a solid Cabinet. People like Brison, McGuinty and Dion are what " this country needs at this point in our history."

    • Brison is a weasel. He is a guy who will say that he is for two-tier health care while campaigning for the PC leadership, and then become the liberal health critic and say the completely opposite thing. He only cares about his own position. Likewise Dion is a useful middle manager, but not a leader or the most capable minister the liberals could field. In fact, the most experienced and competent heavyweight on the liberal side is Ralph Goodale, and that's a rather depressing observation. When the liberals accuse the Tories of having empty suits and amateurs in their party, they are throwing from a fairly large glass house right now.

  55. ' I don't think Harper appreciates the power of social media '
    yah, that's why the CPC has such an incrediable networking and large donation base, Harper knows nothing about media.

    'a facebook group banding together to publicly and online protest his prorougement decision'
    yah, Harper really hates it when the Opps go into Coalition mode……

    Just why do you think Harper gave the Opps an extra month of target practice with early prorogation?

  56. Harper is at work in Ottawa,
    and Iffy is in France right now.

    The Government is NEVER off the job,
    it's the Opps that get a holiday from QP.

    • Actually it seems Harper was on holidays at the same time. He wasn't seen during this period. He phoned his holiday request into the GG. And Dimitri made the announcement. Apparently he likes to go to Harrington Lake with his family at that time of year. Ignatieff went to visit his overseas family for what looks like ten days. Seems a reasonable thing to do during the Chhristmas holidays. I'm surprised the family values crowd don't appreciate that.

  57. Iffy cancelled his fall plans to go to China,
    likely when he found out he would be received by someone about 15 pay grades below the really important guy.

  58. No that's just run-of-the-mill Tory bumbling. Conservative backfires are often entertaining, in a "hey, look what those dopes did now" kind of way, but WK's backfires are usually more colourful – involving doorknobs and wafers and such.

  59. You're talking some remarkably good sense here kcm.
    Are you feeling alright?

    Put the good ideas out there where they may do Canadians some good?
    I'm in favour.

  60. Harper is
    not a lawyer
    not an elite
    not an acedemic
    not rich
    not a media darling
    not in search of a fan club
    a hockey nut
    a family man
    …yah, he is a man of the people

    • Yes, I agree Stephen Harper is The Man of the people.

    • He has hair and makeup – how many 'ordinary' men have that?

  61. I dont think any of them are that.Layton isnt, although he jumps about that kitchy coffe table now and then.I don`t think Harper is, and I dont think Ignatieff is. Once they get into power, they àll`change, its always that way and it should not be.I would love to see a Maggie Thatcher run this country, and get rid of useless unions. I doubt there will be two of her in my lifetime.

  62. No need for big change, just a working with the current parliamentary system,
    Jack and Iffy just have to get their coalition agreement ironed out.
    Who runs where, how many cabinet seats etc….

    Maybe the Facebookers can figure it out for them!

  63. He's never held a job outside of politics in his life. That's not an elite?
    He has his Masters in Economics.. that's not an acade.. oh wait, Calgary School, okay, I'll grant not at academic.
    Not rich? By whose standards? Trust me, the man doesn't eat at Tim's unless there's a photo op involved.
    Not a media darling? So that whole piano crap didn't happen?
    Not in search of a fan club? Of course not, he's got the legion of Conservative Fanboys already. He doesn't need to search for it.

    A family man? Mr. Handshake? Seriously?

    A hockey nut? Well.. I suppose you may have a point there.

    So what we're left with is that he likes hockey and hasn't received too much education. And this is the guy you want leading the country. Hm.

    • Icky likes to tell everyone how 'intelligent' he is, how he taught (I don't know what) at Harvard, worked for the BBC, was a journalist (and we all hold reporters in such high esteem!), etc., etc.

  64. '…we are way behind in terms of engaging these markets…'

    perhaps the view from Eastern Canada looks like that,
    but from Western Canada, the land of very little political reporting from the National Media,
    she's lookin' pretty good!

    Oh yah, Western Canada gets the odd nod from the media re: economic power center shifting west,
    and the reason for that is international trade…..

  65. It must be really sad that, as a conservative, everything is always about the Liberals.

    I mean, given the party's current leadership and the contempt it has for the dictates of the party, I can understand the reluctance to discuss your own party's stances and behaviors, and no doubt that contributes to the continual whine and massive attempts at deflection.

    But still.. I pity you guys that you don't think you can concentrate on your own party's behavior rather than obsessing over the oppositions.

  66. It also clearly states that the first election after the passage of the law was to be October 19th of 2009.

    I don't remember going to the polls that day, do you?

  67. Look, if you want to hate Harper, fine, hate him. But for Crissake, to say that someone with a Master's degree in economics "hasn't received too much education" is just a stupid, false statement. Period.

  68. "The new chief of staff spent the period over New Year's working hard on a “Plan B” that would have the Liberals at least somewhat prepared to fight a spring election. There's a lot to do. The Liberals could use a campaign manager. "


    There is only one realistic way to remove Harper from office.


    Join forces with the NDP in the next election.

    There is no other way, especially with Ignatieff as their leader.

  69. So you're arguing he is an academic, then?

  70. I can't believe I once thought Harper was a breath of fresh air…instead he's proven to be the most cynically calculating politician of them all.

  71. "Much like what used to happen to the poor Reformers who'd have their best policies cherry picked by Chretien and Martin, who would then take the credit. "

    LOL! Now THAT's funny!

    Let me see…. was it… criminalizing abortion? Nope.

    Criminalizing sex between teen-agers? Nope.

    Criminalizing jay-walkers? Nope.

    I give up – care to give us some examples?

  72. 'Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's last job in Ontario provincial politics was as “minister of enterprise, opportunity and innovation"

    Isn't that 3 strikes and you're out?

  73. I too was surprised in 2005 that Ignatieff agreed to work under Paul Martin. I couldn't see how an Oxbridg-then-Harvard academic who wrote sensible "right-wing" books such as "Virtual War" could work with the corrupted, intellectually vapid and vehemently anti-American Liberal Party of Canada circa 2005. Luckily for him he was elected the same night Martin resigned as Liberal leader.

    Ignatieff, like David Emerson, would have made an excellent Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs

    • As a conservative supporter i tend to agree with everthing OAbrey said, i too have done some reading on Mr.Ignatieff and he does seem to be much better suited to be a Canadian conservative, it is a pity he is now tainted with the liberal brush and has no hope of ever making it to the top job.

      • As a Liberal supporter, I can see that Ignatieff would have been very comfortable as a Progressive Conservative. Sadly, that party no longer exists. It is now part of the Liberal Party of Canada, and it is how both Ignatieff and I came to be there.

        • Following this thread makes me laugh about my own assumptions…..

          Its clear that the Just Visiting ads were questioning Ignatieff's ability to lead Canada, on the basis that since he had not lived in Canada for all those years he couldn't possibly have the country's best interests at heart and he was just 'in it to enhance his resume'. I extrapolated that to mean that voters shouldn't give him any role in governing the country.

          But here I learn that it might be OK for a 'Visiting Foreigner' to head up Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, and I chuckle because it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

  74. Harper has something better than a majority. By keeping the Liberals continually on the "qui-vive" for an election, they expend energy and money on election preparedness, not rebuilding the party with new policies and approaches that might attract back some of those who have abandoned the party.

    Personally I don't expect an election before 2012.

    The Liberal Party needs to have a majority Conservative government so they can go back into the wilderness and re-emerge as an attractive and disciplined political party that once again resonates with Canadians.

  75. A man of the people–not! Affable maybe–but connected to the unwashed masses? An amateur politician at best……….

  76. Har Har, Last time I heard that I laughed so hard I fell off my dinosour..

  77. fiscal responsibility. Reducing the deficit. The Liberals were completely and openly contemptuous of these concepts until Reform helped put them on Canadians' radar.

  78. Nope, just that your assertion that he "hasn't received too much education" was an idiotic and false statement.

  79. Thankyou sir…i believe i'm feeling ok…nothing really original here, and nohing i haven't said a number of times elsewhere. Many cons have rightly made the point that just waiting to get back into power is no way to operate in opposition…i largely agree with them…hope some libs agree too?

    • I can agree with all of the above, kcm. The biggest problem with Canadian politics today, in my opinion, is the parties are governing to the polls. In spite of them all saying they pay no attention to the polls, it would appear that is all they are paying attention to. Which means that every time Canadians (at this point, almost A Canadian) twitch, or have an itch, an election is imminent–or not.

      Genuinely ignoring the polls, genuinely working on ideas that are good no matter who implements them, will IMO garner genuine votes when they actually matter–but not necessarily when you get some weekly phone call.

  80. You're right OB, reform were a remarkably good opposition on fiscal matters…although i didn't like their social co ideas. That's how principled opposition is supposed to work IMHO…much like the NDP in the 70-80's Trudeau period…though i doubt you enjoyed that one so much?

  81. Has Ignatiefff been in power…your point being?

  82. What was the thumbs down for? It was the walleyed guys distateful metaphor…not mine? :)

  83. I think this statement says it all about the LPC – "This government walked away from the remains of Nortel,” Ignatieff said. “It's selling AECL,” the state atomic-energy agency." The LPC sees Canada as one big company located in Ontario (and that if it fails the government should rescue it!) and a bunch of government run programs. Sorry, that not the Canada I see.

  84. Somewhat like "There will be no recession, because if there was, we'd be in it already," or

    "It is at least now established that the Prime Minister and President will speak about the softwood issue in the hopefully-not-too-distant future. If I were Prime Minister at that time, what would a Conservative Prime Minister say in that conversation?

    First and foremost, I would seek a clear commitment of the United States to comply with the NAFTA ruling. If the Canada-U.S. trade relationship is to remain a fair, stable, rules-based system, then the United States has a moral obligation to return those duties to Canadian lumber companies.

    There can be no question of Canada returning to a conventional bargaining table, as the U.S. Ambassador has suggested.

    You don't negotiate after you've won.

    The issue is compliance.

    And achieving full compliance should be the objective of the Prime Minister."

    That kind of idiotic and false statement?

  85. If anyone was the principled opposition in the 70s-80s Trudeau period, it was the Tories. The NDP was responsible for supporting Trudeau's government after it could only muster a minority in 1972, remember? That ain't "opposition", principled or otherwise.

  86. If Stephen Harper makes an idiotic and/or false statement, that's his problem, not mine. I'm not his spokesperson, or a supporter of his. Call me crazy, but I would prefer it if everyone on this planet — including you and our Prime Minister — would not make idiotic and false statements. But I concede that I too have my lapses . . .

  87. And you noticed this when?

  88. I'd rather have a pm who's looking out for me and the country instead of sitting in his lair, rubbing his hands together and plotting to destroy his opponent.

    • Chretien is retired (although he may be working in the background someplace. I thought he was in Vietnam.)

  89. so is harper a man of the people in your humbe opinion?

  90. Maybe it's your deoderant.

  91. "Toronto consultant Warren Kinsella, whose relations with Donolo have sometimes been frosty . . . "

    I have new-found respect for Peter Donolo's judgment.

  92. So you have no criticism for him, when he makes an idiotic and false statement, though his affect the direction of the country, but you do have them for me, when mine may affect some Maclean's reader's opinion of him.

    Nice kneepads.

  93. Oh, one more thing to give Harper credit for – opening up free trade negotiations with the EU. That's also good for the country.

  94. from the Summary of C-16 (read carefully)

    "This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to provide that, subject to an earlier dissolution of Parliament, a general election must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election, with the first general election after this enactment comes into force being held on Monday, October 19, 2009.
    The enactment also provides that the Chief Electoral Officer may recommend an alternate day if the day set for polling is not suitable."
    full text is at

    So Peter spewed it INcorrectly.

  95. I'm not saying that Harper going over there wasn't important, Peter. I'm saying that we are seriously late in doing so and that what he did should by no means viewed as a major breakthrough. We are behind. Seriously behind.

  96. Pretty good summation Ms. Wells!
    Good job for Mr. Kinsella that Mr. Tory is not going to run for Mayor. Allows him to fall back on election readiness preparation.
    I hope Mr. Donolo's Plan B – stand alone Liberal version – is not dependent on some miraculous uplift for the Liberals in the polls in the short term (2 – 6 months) – because that would be dreaming in technicolour!
    I hope Plan B has emissaries talking to others (whoever?) – with the full knowledge and support of the Iggy brains trust – about Umbrellas and election strategies between Opposition parties – because otherwise – Mr. Harper will engineer his own majority – when he sees fit!

  97. Jesus, Wells!!! Yes. Your count was correct all along. 6 trade offices. Happy now?

  98. It does make the media feel a little better about Wafergate tho.

  99. You're nuts. I called his statement idiotic and false. How could that possibly be interpreted as not being critical? Either get some therapy, or take a course in reading comprehension.

  100. Gee, compared to the positions Iffy has held or earned, in Canada, in a government,
    I'd say Flaherty is in
    and Iffy is out.

  101. There have been consistent and wide spread reports that "the opps" in the FB group include Conservative members, speaking to the across the board representation of Canadians appalled by this self serving decision to prorouge parliament.

    • yeah facebbok is going to rule Canada, are you even reading your own nonsense.

  102. I'm waiting for the Liberals to clearly articulate the fear many people feel about what this Harper Conservative government is doing to our good international reputation, which both Liberals and Progressive Conservatives helped to build, along with other Canadians.

    I wonder how many Canadians agree with this letter, supposedly written by a Conservative MP although it's hard to believe anybody would write such a letter. And I wonder how many people feel exactly the opposite way, that Harper's government are the ones who have created international embarrassment.

    "Prime Minister Harper continues to show the exceptional leadership that he has so capably demonstrated in the past. In a few short years he has restored Canada's pride both domestically and internationally.

    No longer do we have to be embarrassed to call ourselves Canadians as was the case so often under the previous Liberal government." (supposedly written by a Conservative MP)

    • Harper's policies, tactics and political style could be described as the first expression of Canadian Real Politik. If the international community dislikes us; to Hell with them. If this is Harper's intended message, I am once again in complete agreement with him. There is no need for our national interests to be modified to suit the sensibilities of foreign governments, NGO's or media.

      • RickoC, here here, i could not agree more with you and the MP who wrote this letter,i am a very proud Canadian and its people like Diana1976 talking about fear and our reputation being hurt that make me know we are going in the right direction.

    • You don't travel much, do you? Few people in the world even think about Canada. The British newspapers include Canada in with the US (Mexico is separate). The ethnic Tamils and the Roma know that Canada is a soft touch to get into as asylum seekers.

  103. I think you're probably fairly correct. Thankfully, the people who don't care also generally don't vote.

  104. Oh i see..PW thought i miss-quoted him…well i did miss the right reply thingie.

  105. China etc have been coming to us, they want our oil/gas/lumber/minerals.
    Now there are jobs that won't move out of Canada, resource based jobs.

    • natural resources: that's why the congo is such an economic powerhouse. as long as we keep shipping value-added jobs — the true moneymakers — overseas we shall remain hewers of wood and drawers of water.

  106. Busted..

  107. Thanks for sharing those Conservative talking points, Wilson

  108. I agree with your comments. You just have to go with what you've got, and Ignatieff is all we've got. That said, though, if Foreign Policy polled him as one of the globe's 100 top minds, I'm probably less concerned about the direction a Liberal government would take than are you. I still want to discuss grand ideas and a "vision" for Canada. We're rudderless right now, and that's unhealthy. I hope Ignatieff starts articulating his ideas soon to all of us, not just to university students. It would make my heart sing, even if it only lasts as long as Obama's popularity did. I'm desperate for any small crumb from intelligent leadership.

  109. I see too much interest in big government economic engineering in the CPC's plans for the future. You don't create an entrepreneurial economy from some cabinet planning white paper, you give entrepreneurs room to innovate and stay out of their way. Why is it even conservative politicians are a bucn of economic control freaks?

  110. To deal with Harper the opposition has to stop fighting him. That's how they'll win.

    It's like the Romans fighting Hannibal. Every time the Roman Legions went out to meet him on the battle field they would regret it. But when left alone he had no idea what to do. He needed a fight. Politically speaking Harper is like this. He needs a fight.

    Unfortunately the opposition parties keep finding ways to meet Harper head on in the field. They need to stop taking the fight to him. They need to wait him out. The Liberals really need to swallow their pride and take a page from his play book. Stop fighting on his terms.

    Iggy needs to be the oppositions Fabius Maximus….the one who waited Hannibal out and won.

  111. Actually, you didn't. You said "if" he makes such a statement. You carefully avoided saying that those statements in particular were such.

    So do you now say that those statements by Stephen Harper were idiotic and false?

    • (sigh) Look, I'm really not uber-familiar with the history of the whole softwood lumber thing, and I really have no inclination to bone up on that just now, just I'll just have to take your word for it on that one. As for his statement about no recession, clearly that was the sort of self-serving, and patently ridiculous, BS statement that politicians sometimes make on the campaign trail. Anyone with a brain at the time knew it was BS — the global economy was clearly swirling down the toilet bowl at that time. Glen Clark did a similar thing with the whole "fudge-it budget" thing back in the 90s, which was probably a slight notch up on the sliminess scale, but whatever.

      In any event Thwim, it seems like you're spoiling to have a debate/argument/p_issing match with a supporter of Stephen Harper and/or his government. I suggest you take up your issues with such a person. I'm not such a person.

      • You can be voting for the current gov't and object with policies. No government will have support or policies that are supported by their base 100% of the time.

        Some of us voted for the Big Red Book but left after broken promises and scandal.

  112. Harper has something better than a majority. By keeping the Liberals continually on the "qui-vive" for an election, they expend energy and money on election preparedness, not rebuilding the party with new policies and approaches that might attract back some of those who have abandoned the party.

    Personally I don't expect an election before 2012.

    The Liberal Party needs to have a majority Conservative government so they can go back into the wilderness and re-emerge as an attractive and disciplined political party that once again resonates with Canadians.

  113. Ignatieff wants to be PM someday. One of the things that PMs do is decide to prorogue. Ignatieff has to show he understands this. If he condemns prorogation by Harper, he harms his cause because everyone knows he would prorogue when it suited him if he was PM.

    Ignatieff also has to exercise self-discipline and learn to pick his battles while not being distracted by trifles. The current Liberal approach "oh look a shiny object!" for every daily faux-scandal is harming their interests. Arguing about prorogation, like arguing over whether Canadian Forces members turned over Afghan detainees to torturers and who read Colvin's emails in 2006, is a loser strategy because there is nothing to be done about it. It's not 2006. Parliament won't be un-prorogued. Move on.

    The political battleground is the economy. The Official Opposition has a job to do, and that is to not only debate the Government's economic plan and budget, but also to prepare an alternative economic plan of their own. Everything else is a distraction. That is their duty: showing Canadians they are prepared and ready to govern is the only path back to power. To get there, Ignatieff needs focus, determination, discipline, imagination, hard work and, above all, time. The Liberal party is in desperate need of leadership and discipline, and Ignatieff has precious little time to deliver. He is wasting time and energy by inflating procedural trivia into "great crises" and it is diminishing both his appeal and his authority.

  114. His latest trick is give Flaherty the spot light wrt to budget … perhaps they should return to work and give "MACLEANS" the balance sheets for the past 4 years so we can see where the $18B surplus, $3 B emergency fund and the $56 Billion majority deficit money went! OMG what fools the voters (36%ers) were to listen to those words
    " Just give me a chance"

  115. I don't think we should overlook the fact that Stephen Harper has been working in politics for more than 2 decades. Ignatieff has obviously been very successful in the academic and literary/media world, but that is not the same as governing a country full of people who enjoy HNIC and Big Brother.

    Not to say that Canadians are completely unengaged, but clearly Harper understands the methods of politics whereas Iggy is still learning, because he is new. The Liberals didn't even run anyone against him for the original nomination in Toronto Lakeshore. He's not used to opposition, and especially not the brutal kind Stephen Harper loves to unleash.

    Say what you will about Chretien, he knew how to win the war of words. Which is why he obliterated Stockwell Day in no time.

  116. I agree Ted. Hopefully these tangible actions will materialize, setting a base for good things to happen. FB has been an excellent "Vent" for pent up frustrations seeing as it appeared initially the traditional media was giving Harper a relatively easy ride.

  117. wrong calgary for a few days to spend christmas and flew right back to Ottawa

  118. As long as Kinsella is "helping" the Liberals in any election, Harper & Co. have nothing to fear about losing.

  119. It is hilarious reading all the comments by the left-wing loons here. This is just further evidence of how far left MacLeans has strayed.
    Most Canadians couldn't care less if some Taliban got roughed up by Afghanistan police forces it is only the desparate supporters of the lieberal party who are trying to make this an issue.
    I can't wait to hear the howling and the gnashing of teeth when the Conservatives get a majority. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    Enjoy your descent into oblivion you lieberal morons.

  120. Harper knows exactly what Canadians want: Liberal government (more or less) without the corruption.

  121. "Under the Geneva Convention, governments are responsible for ensuring their detainees are treated humanely."

    The only reason conservatives don't care is because King Steve told them they don't care. I think it's clear who the real morons are.

  122. Certainly no one is suggesting FB wil be ruling Canada. It has however become an excellent network where ordinary Canadians are able to voice their opinions and concerns. Like any other medium, newspapers, etc., there will always be those that spew out ridiculous comments generally offensive to most. But I guess one of the privileges of our society, is being able to state your opinions and thoughts, without fear of recrimination or being shouted down or smeared (Mr. Colvin not withstanding…)

  123. Faux bravado. You're really fooling us there whatever your name is.

  124. It would appear our PM (King Steve) may have once have worked as a home inspector because when he does work he runs around finds nothing signs off to those who stand to make the most money from his in decisions and is not Accountable.

  125. Good enough article, Mr Wells, but your association with Macleans' screamers raises one's suspicions rather. Be careful not to wear your bias on your sleeve?

    The big problem I see in current Canadian politics is a particularly vacuous opposition, epitomized by the talking heads both the Liberals and NDP put up regularly in the House and on the media. Sure the role of the opposition is to oppose, but this needs finesse in order to be effective.

  126. I don't condone or endorse what happened to Colvin. But having said that, anyone who goes into politics or public life, and in particular anyone who publicly sticks his/her neck out and makes controversial allegations on a matter of public policy like Colvin did, should reasonably expect to be shouted down and/or smeared. That just goes with the territory. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that's the way it is.

    • I would agree that people like Mr. Colvin certainly do need to expect some backlash and smearing when speaking truth to Power. I would add however, that we have become conditioned to have this expectation, based on the childish behaviors of our politicians, be they Conservatives, Liberals or otherwise. Where are the statesmen and women that offer grounded, seasoned and reasonable debate? Where is the back and forth, the give and take that the rest of us have to exemplify everday to solve real problems in our businesses, at our workplaces and personal lives? Our MPs don't even have the courtesy to look at each other when asking or answering questions. Responses are usually completely irrelevant to the questions asked. Or, as the current reality, debate and accountability is completely subverted by way of an uneccesary, and certainly un-routine prorogement. We as Canadians, deserve and are beginning to expect and indeed, demand better.

  127. Harper has NOT run standard or even acceptable sessions of parliament. He has made THREE controversial and questionable dissolutions of parliament in the last 15 months, starting with breaking his own fixed election law in Sept/08.

    This prorogation was NOT done so that MPs can watch the Olympics. Parliament was prorogued because the special House of Commons committee focusing on the 2006-07 treatment of Afghan detainees had attained such overwhelming evidence that they held an emergency meeting on December 14 and then announced that they would widen the inquiry.

    It is NOT the case that Harper's use of prorogation is the same as the 104 other prorogations in Canada's history. Other than incidents in 1873 and 1926, prorogation has not been used to avoid being accountable to parliament.

    It is NOT true that Chretien's 2003 prorogation was the same as this one. In the 2003 incident, Chretien prorogued when Martin was voted in to replace him as PM, so the parliamentary agenda needed to be reset, which is the purpose of proroguing.

    • Correct.

      Prorogations in perspective: Harper vs. Chrétien

      Stephen Harper's 63 day shutdown of Parliamentary activity brings his total to 148 days over just four years in office, eclipsing Jean Chrétien's 145 days of prorogation over ten full years.

      Jean Chrétien's total includes the only longer prorogation in recent history – 82 days from November 12, 2003 to February 2, 2004 – to allow for the transition between the Chrétien and Martin governments.

      Other recent prorogations:
      • 63 days: Stephen Harper, December 30, 2009 to March 3, 2010
      • 53 days: Stephen Harper, December 4, 2008 to January 26, 2009
      • 32 days: Stephen Harper, September 14 to October 16, 2007
      • 25 days: Jean Chrétien, February 2 to February 27, 1996
      • 24 days: Jean Chrétien, September 18 to October 12, 1999
      • 14 days: Jean Chrétien, September 16 to September 30, 2002

      source: Liberal Party of Canada website

  128. Muster all hands on deck and take this issue c/w those blackened pages Mr. Harper wishes to turn tail from straight to the people of Canada coast to coast to coast the taxpayers have paid in advance for the heat and lights in our H of C so go to work like millions of Canadians do daily.

    Do not let him or his clones try to involve our brave troops into the fires back home. Our brave troops are doing a stellar job in their quest to bring Democracy to Afghanistan the very least PM Stephen Harper and Reform/Conservative MP's and Senators can do is lead by example providing the opposition's request with the truth and to do so they shall show up for work even to the point of overtime.

    Time to remind Mr. Harper "Leadership starts at top" and if he can not stand the heat in the kitchen and must turn tail and run using millions of taxpayers dollars then at least have the decency to resign in disgrace

  129. shut up already Iggy, go back home to provence france and enjoy. you know parliament is out to give time for a real leader of Canada to get rid of the criminal loving liberals in the senate who are blocking the passage of the crime bills to redress the many years of liberal criminal lovers laws which have coddled criminals since the liberal criminal loving trudeau destroyed the fabric of Canadian society.

  130. News from Britain is the their Tories are about to adopt Canada's Paul Martin's Liberal financial plan to save them from the wolfs is clear evidence that Bush, Blair, Howard, and Harper's plan of attack , create War and prolong it is not going to solve the issues of the day nor create wealth for anyone other than the wealthy. ( and boys oh boys did they get rich with that last go around) Not to shabby here in Canada with $525,000 spent on each soldier not counting wages and equipment ! In that sense we need a soft quiet approach to the future producing positive results ….. those shoot em up bang bang days and lock every crook up ( 80-$100K in Canada) is over. Oh yeah and not a government who takes annual extended taxpayer vacations to appoint new Senators! 187,000 and counting facebookers agree! How would you love them buying reading and buying MacLeans?

  131. Took some time to scroll down. There are many arguements about this. I really enjoyed reading it.

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