Tag Archives: Andrew Coyne

What I think I know about the campaign so far

  • After Nigel Wright and then Ben Perrin’s testimony at the Mike Duffy trial, I am pretty confident that Stephen Harper was lying about not knowing about the payment.  The plausible deniability seems less plausible every day.  Or as Andrew Coyne sarcastically suggests, maybe Stephen Harper is a victim in all of this.
  • Far more Liberal lawn signs visible in Saskatoon since 1993 when Jean Chretien swept to power.  In many ways the shift to the Liberals has to be really good for the Conservatives as I think this comes from historic NDP vote.  That being said, I still think Saskatoon West goes to the NDP. 
  • The interesting race may be Saskatoon Grasswoods and Saskatoon University.  Kevin Waugh has been really quiet so far while everyone is asking where Brad Trost is.   Trost doesn’t even have a website (although he has a web domain that goes nowhere).  It’s early but the Conservatives could go 0-3 in the city.
  • I also found it weird that Jason Kenney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Donauer and Block only and not for the east side candidates.
  • I watched Antarctic Edge: Beyond the Ice last night which is on the rapid global warming that is happening in Antarctica right now.  Winter sea ice has declined by three months and temperatures have increased by 11 degrees Fahrenheit, six times greater than the global average.  Yet the NDP and the Liberals seem nervous about talking about it.  Maybe it is an acknowledgement that Canada is indeed what most of the world is calling us, a petro-state (or to throw it back to the 80s; PetroCanada).  Our entire country has become tied to oil and gas revenue.  To tackle climate change in a serious way, it would cause a serious disruption to the Canadian economy and throw hundreds of thousands out of work.  In a day and age where the “middle class” is king politically, no one wants to take a stand that would hurt them, even if it hurts the globe.
  • Interesting interview on The Current with John Ibbitson.  It’s worth the 20 minutes to listen to it.  You may even want to listen to it again.
  • In some way I feel sorry for the political staffers who have to create election material and use stock photos.  They have no budget and are under time constraints and it never turns out wellNever ever turns out well
  • This won’t come up in the election but I tend to give Stephen Harper a pass for messed up military procurement, especially when the Americans who do it better than we do, also have their struggles.
  • Whoever wins, is going to have a tougher go with the Canadian economy.  Oil prices are to stay depressed for another two years.
  • The NDP minimum wage hike makes claims that it can’t back up.  Hey, a NDP populist economic policy that makes no sense, what a surprise.
  • Of course neither leader has the courage to wade into Saskatchewan’s most pressing issue, what’s wrong with the Roughriders?

Andrew Coyne on the Tories slipping poll numbers

Andrew Coyne wonders why the Tories numbers are so low

Let me venture to suggest this is not accidental. If today both Mr. Harper and the party he leads are actively disliked by more than seven voters in 10, it may be because they have gone out of their way to alienate them in every conceivable way — not by their policies, or even their record, but simply by their style of governing, as over-bearing as it is under-handed, and that on a good day.

When they are not refusing to disclose what they are doing, they are giving out false information; when they allow dissenting opinions to be voiced, they smear them as unpatriotic or worse; when they open their own mouths to speak, it is to read the same moronic talking points over and over, however these may conflict with the facts, common courtesy, or their own most solemn promises.

Secretive, controlling, manipulative, crude, autocratic, vicious, unprincipled, untrustworthy, paranoid … Even by the standards of Canadian politics, it’s quite the performance. We’ve had some thuggish or dishonest governments in the past, even some corrupt ones, but never one quite so determined to arouse the public’s hostility, to so little apparent purpose. Their policy legacy may prove short-lived, but it will be hard to erase the stamp of the Nasty Party.

Perhaps, in their self-delusion, the Tories imagine this is all the fault of the Ottawa media, or the unavoidable cost of governing as Conservatives in a Liberal country. I can assure them it is not. The odium in which they are now held is well-earned, and entirely self-inflicted.

I tend to agree with him.  It’s 100s of self inflicted wounds, none of them are that big by themselves but overtime they all take a toll.  The Conservatives may have done a good job on the economy but it’s the other stuff they seem to struggle with and it could cost them the election.

Why do we let politicians lie on television?

Chris Selley is dead on right.

My colleague Andrew Coyne recently renewed his call for political advertising reform — specifically an end to anything even remotely resembling a public subsidy for it, which I could not possibly support more; and a requirement that party leaders voice their own ads, which somewhat offends my free-speech Spidey senses. But as the Conservatives prepare to roll out some Justin Trudeau attack-mailers, at taxpayer expense, featuring an outrageously misleading quotation, I keep coming back to a perplexing question: We wouldn’t stand for the level of dishonesty and deception we routinely see in political advertising if it came from someone selling pickup trucks, hamburgers, underwear or shampoo. So why the hell do we put up with it from people trying to sell us the people who will run the country?

I have heard the justifications for the exemption of political advertising from Advertising Standards Canada standards any number of times, and at no time have they ever made much sense to me.

It’s impossible to evaluate the truthiness of an ad during an election campaign. So? Do it afterwards and report back. Political advertising isn’t just a campaign phenomenon anymore anyway. Not hardly.

Voters understand and discount hyperbole. That doesn’t seem to be what the parties think, or else they wouldn’t constantly rub hyperbole in our faces.

We need unfettered dialogue and debate in politics. Amen, assuming equal right of rebuttal. But then why not afford people selling vastly less important products the same leeway? I’m reminded of an amusing scenario that Allan Gregg recently imagined: Burger King accusing McDonald’s of using beef rife with botulism, and McDonald’s firing back by claiming that Burger King’s product is swimming in E. coli. And just wait until Wendy’s gets in on the act! Why should politicians be afforded this absurd slanderous luxury if burger joints aren’t?

Coyne on the Canadian Conservative movement

From the National Post

Then there is the Canadian conservative movement, which seems capable of convincing itself of any number of conflicting ideas without visible discomfort of any kind. Nowhere is this particular case of cognitive dissonance on better display than at the annual Manning Networking Conference, where the movement’s core gathers every year to congratulate itself on two things: the rightness of its beliefs, and the greatness of the government of Stephen Harper.

It seems to me a health psyche requires one to choose between the two (or indeed neither). But to spend the better part of a weekend reiterating your profound faith in the policies of conservatism, all the while roaring your approval for the government that has repudiated them at every turn, would seem evidence of some sort of pathology.

Oh, there was the odd sign of unease. At a question-and-answer session with Jason Kenney and Maxime Bernier, a woman went to the microphone to ask the two ministers why their government, with the national debt now in excess of $600-billion, was still spending more than any government in our history. (Which is true. Program spending had only once exceeded $6,500 per capita, in constant 2012 dollars, in all the years before the Conservatives came to power. It has averaged nearly $6,900 over the last seven years.) The ministers gave non-committal answers, though Bernier restated his heretical belief that spending should be frozen at current levels.

But soon she was replaced at the microphone by a young man who wondered how to “break through” to those on the left who persisted in the belief that massive deficits were the appropriate response to an economic slump. The ministers nodded sympathetically. Yes, they averred, that was a problem.

There are other problems

Well, no. But it is significant that he neglected to mention “free market conservatives.” Once upon a time these were considered central to the definition of conservatism. Perhaps this was Manning’s concession to reality, for whatever else the Harper government may pretend to believe in, it does not even pretend any more to believe in the free market. The addition of $150-billion to the national debt might have been put down to the exigencies of politics, but the announcements of recent weeks — hundreds of millions of dollars for the auto industry, hundreds of millions more for the venture-capital sector (“venture” apparently has acquired a different meaning lately), billions in loan guarantees to a Newfoundland hydro project, plus that wholesale plunge into 1970s-style industrial policy via defence procurement — all too clearly reflect this government’s most sincere convictions.

As I have said many times before, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives aren’t conservatives.  I am not sure what to label them but conservative is not that label.

“Idle No More”

Andrew Coyne writes on the rhetoric of the Idle No More movement

Ostensibly the movement’s ire is directed at the Harper government, though for reasons that are not widely understood. The four Saskatchewan women whose protests first ignited the movement may have been focused on Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill — notably its provisions relaxing federal oversight of navigable waterways and lowering the threshold of democratic approval needed for bands to authorize development on reserve land.

But as more and more putative leaders have jumped in front of the parade, from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to the Mi’kmaw activist and Ryerson University Chair in Indigenous Governance Pam Palmater, the checklist has expanded to include the whole of the Harper government’s approach to aboriginal issues. Contrary to early media reports, it is not Harper’s neglect that inspires their wrath, but rather his activism.

In Palmater’s writings, the Harper agenda is nothing less than the deliberate “genocide” of aboriginal peoples, in the most literal sense of the word: not merely their “assimilation” or “termination,” in the ambiguous terminology preferred by other native leaders, but their complete elimination, “socially, culturally, legally and physically.” Though her most oft-cited specific evidence of this is the reduction in funding to aboriginal activist groups, she is in no doubt that the Harper agenda is about “getting rid of Indians once and for all.”

Nor is she alone in this belief. Here’s Daniel Wilson, former senior director with the Assembly of First Nations: “Indigenous death and despair serve the government’s purpose … through underfunding and interference with local governance, the current government is starving people off reserves [to] make it easier for the government’s friends in the oil, gas and mining industries to go about their business unhindered.”

How is this murderous agenda being pursued? Among the dozen or so bills activists cite are the following: Bill S-8: The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act; Bill S-2: The Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act; Bill S-6: The First Nations Elections Act; and Bill C-27: The First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Oh, and: Bill S-212: The First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill. Those monsters.

If you are puzzled how providing safe drinking water or recognizing self-government add up to genocide, well, you need to take responsibility for your own racism. But here’s the thing. If you interpret Harper’s motives and actions in such a fantastic light, then it is not just his government you must denounce: it is anyone who collaborates with it.

And indeed, the longer Idle No More has gone on, the more it has become clear it is not so much a dispute between aboriginal Canadians and the Harper government, but between rival factions in the aboriginal community: between modernizers such as former chief Manny Jules, chairman of the First Nations Tax Commission, or Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo, who are prepared to work with the Harper government, and what one might call the fundamentalists, such as Palmater.

The fundamentalists represent the traditional agenda of aboriginal activists, focused heavily on the legal and political arena. In this model, the advancement of aboriginal peoples is at heart a collective matter, based on treaty rights, land claims and reserves under communal property ownership.

The modernizers would not, I think, deny the importance of much of this. But their focus is less on abstract constitutional principles and more on giving individual natives and bands the tools they need to participate in a modern, market-based economy: education, for example, and property rights, a particular concern of Jules (he is co-author of Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights).

While on one hand I respect the fundamentalist’s desire for the traditional way of aboriginal activists, I can’t see it working in a global economy.  The lack of capital which comes from individual property ownership, will limit aboriginal economies indefinitely yet if they give it up, you would see a system where successful and powerful families will one day own the reserves at the expense of other families.  Also if you take individual property ownership to the full extent of the law, some will allow outside investment and eventually lose control.  Maybe a good thing economically but a bad thing culturally.  It’s already happening in some ways with the formation of urban reserves.

Lot’s of questions and it’s going to be a long time before the struggle between the modernizers and fundamentalists plays itself out.

Andrew Coyne speaks the truth

Coyne could be talking about any political party lagging in the polls in Canada right now, including the Saskatchewan NDP.

Can the Liberal party survive? Of course it can. But there is every possibility it won’t. Those who still see the necessity of a third national party in Canadian politics (fourth, counting the Greens) would do well to start contingency planning for that event.

Survival in its present form would require the party to reinvent itself to a quite extraordinary degree.

Indeed, as I’ve written before, it would have to redefine what it means to be a centrist party. This is not so much because the centre of Canadian politics has disappeared — the much-discussed polarization — as that it has been occupied. The Conservatives, whatever their recent initiatives, are well to the left of where they were a decade ago, while the NDP had moved some considerable way to the right even before it chose Tom Mulcair as its leader.

To make space for itself on this landscape, then, the Liberal party would have to show an unaccustomed boldness and sureness of purpose: a willingness to go where the other parties would not go, but where expert opinion and the national interest would advise, whether this placed it on the right or the left on any given issue. That would be its stamp, its brand: the bold party, the tell it like it is party, the party that did the right thing.

The problem with this advice, I now realize, is that it’s a fantasy. There’s just no evidence the party is in anything like that frame of mind, or is likely to be. The premise, that a party with nothing to lose would be liberated to take risks, would seem to have been disproven.

Media cuts on democracy

I follow Susan Delacourt on Twitter but I missed her excellent blog post on budget cuts in the media impacting democracy until Peter Mansbridge mentioned it tonight on CBC News.

Today, with a diminished journalistic workforce on Parliament Hill, handling multiple deadlines and shrinking news space, it’s harder to keep any  story in the frame of attention, let alone a dry, complicated fiscal debate.    Note the revolving controversies of the past few years. Remember the Afghan-documents issue? Prorogation? We’re also told that the public has no interest now in "process" stories — which pretty much describes most political stories. I’m old enough to remember a time when I covered a story for months at a time — years, in the case of the national-unity struggles of Meech and Charlottetown.  Now that prospect seems almost ridiculous.

The panel didn’t think very much of it but  think they missed the point.  They said that the financial crisis isn’t bad enough in people’s minds to require this kind of arrangement again.  In some ways they are correct as Canada has a very strong economy compared to the rest of the western world right now.  At the same time they missed the point in that with cuts to Parliament Hill, they aren’t sure what we stories they are missing.  Of course I didn’t expect Chantel Hebert or Andrew Coyne to admit that because of cuts in the media and a quicker, more intense news cycle that her and her colleagues are missing important stories but the truth is, they don’t really know what they are missing.

Stephen Lewis: The PMO Might Not Be The Best People To Run a Security Council Campaign

From CTV News

Lewis, who also served as the UN’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said the government bungled its campaign.

"I got the impression in this election for the Security Council that the Prime Minister’s Office actually didn’t know what it was doing, that it was too arrogant, it didn’t have a careful plan of what might be done," Lewis told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday morning.

"As a result, our diplomats were largely hung out to dry."

Lewis said when he worked at the UN during Canada’s Security Council campaign in 1989-1990, he worked with seasoned diplomats in the Prime Minister’s Office to address specific issues that were of key concern at the time: apartheid in South Africa, African aid, and the U.S. government’s scheme for nuclear ballistic missile defence, dubbed "Star Wars."

Lewis said this time around, failing to adequately address key issues likely "sealed our fate" at the UN. The Conservative government’s resistance to taking strong action against climate change, cutting back foreign aid and openly lobbying for a seat all likely turned off various nations in the run-up to the vote, he said.

"So what the government failed to understand was that on balance, the policies they had propagated were not well received within the international community," Lewis said.

I was watching CPAC the other night and Andrew Coyne brought up the really good point that while Canada lost, Portugal won.  They ran a long term and effective campaign that courted blocks of votes… basically all of the things that Canada would not do.  While Canada was ineffective, Portugal ran an excellent campaign and did deserve to win.

My own personal theory is that while Canada’s external affairs had something to do with it, the economic meltdown did as well.  Countries are more comfortable with a nation that has been affected like them rather than a country that went through relatively unscathed.