Counting on a miracle
Who will save the Liberals? Michael Ignatieff? Elizabeth May? Um… Gerry Ritz?
Let’s say the Liberals really are road kill on toast, Andrew Cohen proposes in the Ottawa Citizen—that, after the Oct. 14 debacle, they won’t be a legitimate electoral threat for eight more years, give or take. Not a happy prospect for Stéphane Dion, who has every right just now to feel a bit sorry for himself. But how, Cohen wonders, will history judge him? Well, he had the “guts” to fight for Canada in 1995 “when few others of his ilk did,” the guile to spearhead the Clarity Act, the tenacity to stand up to Paul Martin and the “reformer” instincts to advocate real solutions for global warming. Thus, while politically he will be included among the “failures,” he should rightly be positioned at the vanguard of those failures: Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark, Walter Mondale, Adlai Stevenson… Stéphane Dion.
Dion’s decision not to field a candidate in Central Nova also “begs for a chapter in the book on his leadership,” James Travers argues in the Toronto Star. It “infuriated Liberal loyalists,” cast doubt on his “political instincts” and gave an “upstart party” a somewhat undeserved boost in the national consciousness. But it could still “pay Dion a qualified dividend,” Travers argues, by allowing Elizabeth May to drag “the debates away from the tightly scripted Conservative message”—i.e., Dion will destroy us all! Run!—”and back to the policy choices that drew her into politics.” She could hammer away at just how conservative, and thus terrifying, the Tories are. And, in a best-case scenario, she might provoke the new, cuddlier, cashmere-clad Harper into a purple-faced rage in which, we imagine, he’d declare his abiding hatred for the environment and reveal the entirety of his monstrous hidden agenda.
He must resist such temptations, at least during the French-language debate on Wednesday; indeed, L. Ian MacDonald writes in the National Post, he must “not only … engage as prime minister, but … show a kinder, gentler, even good-humoured side,” to make up for the arts funding, youth crime and Michael Fortier-as-guardian-of-democracy gaffes that have reinvigorated the Bloc Québécois. He must, else reams of MacDonald-brand prognostication about the Bloc’s imminent demise will be ruined!
Based on Michael Ignatieff’s and Paul Martin’s appearances yesterday, the Post‘s John Ivison detects “a conscious attempt by the right wing of the party to take it back to its centrist roots and to play down the Green Shift experiment.” But “voters find their leader neither sensible, nor middle of the road,” he maintains, citing Dion’s low approval ratings, and when part of the centrist appeal involves lionizing Pierre Trudeau’s economic policies, you really know the party’s in trouble. Ivison left Ignatieff’s speech at the Economic Club of Canada “with some trepidation,” he concludes, “face uplifted in case it started raining Grits and brokers.”
“The pinstripes head[ing] off to their office towers to brace for another day of mayhem in the world markets” after Ignatieff’s speech had to have been “imagining the obvious,” says Sun Media’s Greg Weston. “How differently the election would be unfolding today had the erudite Harvard brainiac been leading the Liberal charge.” Weston dismisses the obvious Liberal counterpoint—the idea that Canadians would or should vote for a strong team over a strong leader—given that top-heavy governance is simply the norm in contemporary politics. But given the manifestly enormous superiority of the Liberal team, we’d say voters dismiss it at their peril.
Take Gerry Ritz, for example, whom Don Martin absolutely eviscerates today in the pages of the Calgary Herald. How is it possible, he asks, that Ritz’s only comments on the listeriosis outbreak since the election was called “have been the PMO-written, late-night apology for his ‘death by a thousand cold cuts’ crack-gone-bad [that] he read with headlight-spooked-deer-eyes look before dashing back to his office.” How could he stand at a podium for two hours yesterday without saying “the dreaded word ‘listeriosis'”? The best answer from Ritz’s standpoint is that he’s hopelessly out of his depth, in which case, as Martin says, the blame should shift squarely to the PMO for abandoning him to the sharks. In either case, Ritz’s ongoing refusal to answer questions on “the worst food poisoning outbreak in Canadian history” represents “a blatant abdication of ministerial accountability, the worst kind of broken promise.”
Just 19 per cent of British Columbians feel the provincial carbon tax is the “best way to curb climate change,” The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson observes, even though 54 per cent support “putting a price on greenhouse emissions.” “By all means act, but don’t do anything to me, seems to be the prevailing view,” Simpson observes, and people seem “to believe, quite wrongly, that companies don’t pass their additional costs on to consumers and suppliers.” In part this is down to bad timing, he concedes, as fuel prices soared after the tax was instituted. But the B.C. Liberals are in a bad way overall, too. Simpson believes “the tax has become the receptacle into which people are pouring other complaints about his government.”
“Would a carbon tax mean we’d have to make some sacrifices? Yes,” Gary Mason writes in the Globe. “And on behalf of baby boomers everywhere, I have to ask: exactly how much personal sacrifice have we had to make in our lives?” If Gordon Campbell is willing to go down with his carbon tax, as seems to be the case—despite the public opposition, and despite the ammunition it’s giving the resurgent NDP—then the least his fellow boomers can do, says Mason, is demand the issue be discussed on the hustings and pony up for future generations.
The Post‘s Jonathan Kay suggests the Canadian blogosphere’s role in unearthing various candidates’ 9/11 truther, gun-loving, skinnydipping and otherwise profoundly unsuitable-for-office pasts foreshadows a synergistic relationship between bloggers, who will do “the sifting and stirring of outrage,” and the media, who will “perform the equally important job of forcing the issue during scrums, interviews and press conferences.”
Two premiers, two trajectories
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer has heard Gordon Campbell get emotional in speeches before—upon “the death of a dear friend,” after “the shame of a drunk-driving bust” and during “a moment of triumph at the end of an eight-year-bid for office.” But getting all moist while promising the Union of B.C. Municipalities “to beam television images of [their communities] into the international media centre at the 2010 Winter Olympics” so the world can “see the best place on Earth”? What’s up with that? “Stress? Anxiety? Fatigue? Something he’s been keeping bottled up inside?” It’s all very tantalizing, and promises some kind of revelation, but none is forthcoming. Asked about the incident, Campbell simply explains how doggone lucky he feels to be Premier of such a doggone terrific province. Nobody likes a tease, Mr. Palmer!
The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson suggests Jean Charest has become more comfortable in his own skin, and his party in the skin of nationalism, by “channelling” Robert Bourassa. Not only has Charest “likened his call for control over culture to that of [Bourassa] in the 1970s for ‘cultural sovereignty,'” but he wrapped up his party’s general council in Lévis over the weekend with a “dazzling visual presentation” of his so-called “Plan North ‘vision’ of northern resource development”—”a technologically updated version of Bourassa’s announcement of the James Bay hydroelectric project at a Liberal gathering in 1971,” MacPherson notes. In other words, he concludes, Charest is successfully combining the Liberals’ well-established economic reputation with its newfound appreciation for Quebec nationalism.
The failure of the $700-billion bailout plan in Congress yesterday promises interesting, sweaty-palmed times ahead for both John McCain and Barack Obama, John Ibbitson opines in the Globe. The former theoretically suspended his campaign on the premise he was needed back in Washington, but when push came to shove, sceptical Republicans were no “more willing to pitch in on his behalf than they were on behalf of their president.” The latter, meanwhile, couldn’t persuade a third of the Democratic caucus. And both, Ibbitson notes, “find themselves supporting a rescue package that has little support among voters.”
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford musters all her powers of understatement in reporting from the trial of the altogether loathesome Ajine Stewart, a gang member and drug dealer who claims to have been “traumatized” and “in shock” the night he shot one Dwayne Taylor to death in the middle of downtown Toronto. “Despite pressure from his mother and the mothers of his children to go straight, and a brief stint working in a factory, he always chose the drug dealer’s life,” Blatchford notes—”even selling while he was on bail, and under curfew, for a domestic-assault charge.” The fact he can now attribute his predicament to “where I was living and the people around me” illustrates, in her view, just how “pervasive … the cult of victimhood” has become.