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Archive for November, 2008

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Conservative are telling us that we elect governments. We do not. We are unable to elect our executive, because, under a parliamentary system, all power is vested in the legislature. It is then the responsibility of the Governor General to ask someone to be her Prime Minister – a chief adviser. This person must be able to command the confidence of a majority of the members of the House of Commons.

It is this Parliament that we elect, and I expect it to do its job – namely, finding someone within who they can vest their confidence. It seems clear that the majority of the Parliamentarians elected do not have the requisite confidence in our current Prime Minister, and so it falls to Michaelle Jean to find someone else. The Prime Minister, undoubtedly, will ask for another election, but I think it would be incredibly difficult for him to claim that he initially had the confidence of the House, and thus would be unable to legitimately say that he has lost it. This is also why the shadow cabinet exists – critics are not there to merely criticize, but to take over in case the cabinet dies or something.

I support the actions that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc are taking. I also hope that Stephane Dion is the Prime Minister in this scenario. It would be ill advised of caucus to kaibosh the leadership contest in favour of installing someone – let this contest play out, and let the winner take over when things are good and done. (Is the universe conspiring to make sure that every Liberal Leader becomes PM? I hope so.)

Apparently, this new government will have 18  Liberals and 6 New Democrats in the mix. The NDP will no doubt be looking for some of the choicer ministries, and so the breakdown will be something of importance, and will frame the competitive dialogue between these parties in the next election. The deal will reportedly not see a New Democrat Minister of Finance, or Deputy PM, but I would expect that some notable ministries, particularly Environment, are going to end up in NDP hands.

Stephen Harper might prorogue Parliament, which he has the right to do, but that doesn’t have to stop this from going forward, in so much as the Governor General can do pretty much whatever she likes in this circumstance, and I hope would be inclined to listen to a majority of the voices in the House when Dion, Duceppe and Layton come visit.

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Students! Pay Attention!

Poor Carleton students. One of the reasons that I’m concerned that the turnout in student union elections is so low is that this can happen. The actions of the student society are going to reflect on the degrees of the students, so students should not be so apathetic, and take a little ownership over the actions of their association.

Let me tell you a secret about student politicians – we really are trying to help. At least, most of us are. I can bet that even some of the more Machiavellian tactics that are used in the CASA-CFS wars are justified, at least internally, to be in the interest of the greater good of the student movement. However, student politicians are often wrong. I know, I’m one of them, and the list of things that student politics has taught me through trial (and many, many errors) is a long one.

The value of our degrees upon completion should be a matter of concern. The only university that appears to be taking this to heart is Queen’s, who ran a fairly substantial campaign to dissuade their students from lighting cars on fire.

This should not only be the realm of the University PR department – student have to take ownership and make sure that people who are going to get your university negative attention nationally and around the world don’t get elected. Your student association matters to you, if not for the services and advocacy that it provides, but also because it can hurt you later.

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Bad PM!

So, we’re ending up with a deficit.

Canadians seem to have the same kind of visceral economic reation to deficit spending as the Germans do to inflation. This kind of thought is not so historic or deep seated as it is in Germany, whose central bank’s mandate is singular in its purpose to prevent hyper-inflationary conditions from existing, but it is still there. This is why Canada’s leaders, even that of the socialist NDP, vowed to not run a deficit during the televised leaders debates.

We should create a fund that can be accessed only in the case of a recession, and only by a supermajoritarian resolution of Parliament, a fund that could be used for stimulus. This kind of thing will keep MPs who tend to think only of the next election cycle away from that particular coffer. We need, as a country, to start saving again, and being more fiscally disciplined. It’s through that self control that we’ll be able to ride out this crisis.

The Conservatives were preceived by the voting Canadian public as being better on the economy, and synonymous with that, at least in the Canadian experience, is the prevention of deficits. Even as a Liberal, I would prefer to reduce programs rather than jeopardize the long term economic health of the country. However, it is a betrayal of conservatism, and the principals that Canadians voted for when they entrusted Harper and his ilk with the purse strings. Now, they’re talking about asset sales and allowing a deficit to exist. Whether or not you agree with this policy or not, the fact of the matter is that the Conservatives broke their promise to the Canadian people, and they should not be allowed to get away with it.

They vowed to us that our budget would not be in deficit. Look where we are now. It seems pretty clear that there is no degree of connection in the minds of senior Conservatives between what they say in the campaign and what they actually do when they governed. All I can say is that we should thank our lucky stars that the Tories don’t have a majority – we clearly have no idea what they would do next.

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So, the municipal elections were held last Saturday in BC. In Vancouver, the balance of power hurtled wildly to the left, with the Vision-COPE-Green Mega-alliance obliterating the NPA. While I am not a big fan of municipal political parties, nor the way that Vancouver does elections (with at-large seats elected in a ‘first ten past the post’ system), this does give us a barometer as to how the BC Right is doing.

In short, the answer is probably “poorly”. The NDP are polling ahead of the BC Liberals on every issue right now except for leadership. So the only thing that the BC Libs have going for them is the quality of the man at the tiller, which is, thank god, an established quality nd one that is probably unlikely to be tarnished now after having survived impaired driving in Hawaii and the raids on the Legislature. The reverse side of this coin is the fact that Carole James is not very good as a politician, has failed to connect with people on a visceral level, and is, in my humble opinion, going to have a hard time convincing BCers to send her into the Premier’s Office

The major tsunami that the party is going to have to shift public opinion on is the Carbon Tax, the policy that has already brought down one Liberal party in the country. For one thing, the global economic collapse, and subsequent collapse in gas prices probably helps us more than it hurts. The BCLP is seen as the party of good economic stewardship, and unlike the federal Tories, this reputation is deserved. If the party keeps talking about ability to lead, and what they can do to ‘Keep BC Strong’, the party will have a fighting chance.

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End the Honeymoon

Now, I like Barack Obama as much as the next ex-Hillary devotee, but I have noticed something that is incredibly concerning amongst friends and compatriots who were also in the Obama camp. People are getting ready to give him a free ride.

Liberals elected, finally, a President who sympathizes with their issues. However, they have to make sure that Obama does not do what Clinton did, and drive right to the centre after screwing up the one major liberalizing initiative that he (and by ‘he’ I mean  ‘Hillary Clinton) had in Health Care. I was speaking with one of my friends last night about Obama and the responsibility of people to keep pushing for their issues. It seems that people have taken Clinton’s sarcastic jab during the primaries, that “celestial choirs will be singing …. and everything will be perfect” to heart, and that is concerning. The US has massive problems right now, and they need a good dose of liberalization to help solve them, both economically and socially.

Take same sex marriage for example. I know that US Presidents can’t get too far ahead of the curve on this one, but that doesn’t mean that the LGBT movement doesn’t have the responsibility to make it easier to move forward – that requires pushing. After all, wouldn’t it be hypocritical of Obama to stand there and tell people that ‘separate but equal’ is OK for gays and civil unions versus straights and marriage.  This is not something for the state level – rights are rights, and equality is equality, no matter where you are.

Obama is a smart man. He does not need our coddling. He does not need people to give him a honeymoon. In fact, if he really is the most liberal President since Kennedy or FDR, he needs the left to do the exact opposite – cry out for change. In a Congress dominated by Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans, there will not be much change unless the public demands it. Obama has Rahm Emmanuel to manage Congressional relations for him.

So don’t give Obama a honeymoon from the left. Not even during transition. He is making important policy decisions right now in choosing who is going to be in his Cabinet and who is to fill other important posts. Let him know that the appetite for change is so great that he has to make decisions about appointments with that in mind. We all need to work to achieve the policies that we want. In America, perhaps more than anywhere else in the western world, politics is a war (as opposed to all those places where politics is an actual war), and every inch must be fought for. The American Left has chosen its General, but that doesn’t mean that the footsoldiers can stop fighting.

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Here we go again…

But at least it’s in Vancouver. My adoptive city and environs (like the ever inscrutable Electoral Area A, for which I am running for the MetroVancovuer Board Seat) are lovely in May, and if we can find a way to include people from the local area in our convention (through what means I’m not really sure – I don’t think people would really come out for some rally at BC Place, Barack Obama style), we can start to regain the ground we lost in the last campaign. Our winnable ridings in Western Canada, and BC in particular, are being poached by Tories and NDPers, and we have yet to put up much of a fight.

I don’t know why people are whining about this being a delegated convention. It’s not like the National Executive had any choice in that particular matter – this was voted on at the last convention (I voted for delgated conventions). Beyond that, the spending limit is a little high, and the entry fee is fine. I hope the party knows to put it in reserve for an ad campaign during the leadership. The levy on donations is good, and I can’t see it being an impediment.

The best part of all of this is the part with the Victory Fund. I don’t know much about it, because it wasn’t well explained in the press release, but some kind of reciprocal fundraising agreement would be very, very good for the party, and get people in the habit of thinking of their membership as the absolute least they can do.

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