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Brian Mulroney

Beyond Politics: Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney

The End of the Line

I took some time to watch The End of the Line (you can find it on Netflix) this afternoon.

Back in 2003, I posted about what happened to the Newfoundland cod fishery.  It’s worth reading again.

Memories of Mike Duffy from Frank Magazine

An interesting and rather sad profile of Mike Duffy from the publisher of Frank Magazine

Mike was great company. Amusing, affable, a life-of-the-party charmer. He was also needy and driven by a desire to be somebody.

Ever since the mid-’60s, when he was a teen disc jockey at CFCY-TV in Charlottetown, Mike dreamed of a career in broadcasting. Critics told him he’d never make it. Your voice is too high. Lose some weight. Duffy ignored them. “I was going to get somewhere, despite what everyone thought,” he later told the Globe and Mail.
Determined to make his name as a political reporter, Duffy moved to Ottawa in 1971 to work on Parliament Hill. After two years with CFRA Radio, he jumped to CBC Radio, then, in

1977, to CBC-TV’s national news. The jolly DJ from P.E.I. had confounded his critics and made it to the show.

Once he got to the top, Duffy worked even harder, earning a reputation for edgy reporting. He covered the fall of Saigon, won an ACTRA award for his coverage of a terrorist attack on the Turkish embassy in Ottawa, and provoked Brian Mulroney into suing him and the CBC over a story about how Mulroney’s goons backstabbed Joe Clark.

But by 1988, after 10 years as Peter Mansbridge’s sidekick, Duffy yearned to see his name in lights. When Baton Broadcasting offered him a small fortune to host his own politics show, he seized the opportunity.

Now he had a pulpit to sell the “Duff” brand and transform himself into a million-dollar enterprise — the Don Cherry of Canadian politics. He worked the Ottawa cocktail circuit and boasted about partying at “Joe and Maureen’s,” made after-dinner speeches at the Rideau Club, and bragged that he was doing “charity things with Mila.” Friends took to calling him Senator Duffy.

“Mike developed ‘host’s disease,’” says Linden MacIntyre, a Duffy drinking buddy from the Maritimes, now with CBC’s the fifth estate. “That’s where you start to believe all the flattery, believe you’re bigger than the story. The affliction gets worse, the head swells up and anything that threatens your celebrity becomes a problem.”

So what’s the long term impact?

These days, the ruckus over his residency has the embattled senator scurrying out back doors and hiding in hotel kitchens to avoid inconvenient questions from the media.

I remember a time when the old Mike Duffy, award-winning CBC reporter, would barge through those kitchen doors and demand that Senator Duffy explain himself.
But that was long ago.

Rick Perry’s campaign ends right here…

This gaffe rivals John Turner in 1984

David Frum: Trudeau was a disaster for Canada

Frum goes to town on the legacy of Pierre Trudeau.

Pierre Trudeau took office at a moment when commodity prices were rising worldwide. Good policymakers recognize that commodity prices fall as well as rise. Yet between 1969 and 1979 – through two majority governments and one minority – Trudeau tripled federal spending.

In 1981-82, Canada plunged into recession, the worst since World War II. Trudeau’s already big deficits exploded to a point that Canada’s lenders worried about default.

Trudeau’s Conservative successor Brian Mulroney balanced Canada’s operating budget after 1984. But to squeeze out Trudeau-era inflation, the Bank of Canada had raised real interest rates very high. Mulroney could not keep up with the debt payments. The debt compounded, the deficits grew, the Bank hiked rates again – and Canada toppled into an even worse recession in 1992. Trudeau’s next successors, Liberals this time, squeezed even tighter, raising taxes, and leaving Canadians through the 1990s working harder and harder with no real increase in their standard of living.

Do Canadians understand how many of their difficulties of the 1990s originated in the 1970s? They should.

To repay Trudeau’s debt, federal governments reduced transfers to provinces. Provinces restrained spending. And these restraints had real consequences for real people: more months in pain for heart patients, more months of immobility for patients awaiting hip replacements.

If Canada’s health system delivers better results today than 15 years ago, it’s not because it operates more efficiently. Canada’s health system delivers better results because the reduction of Trudeau’s debt burden has freed more funds for healthcare spending.

Pierre Trudeau was a spending fool. He believed in a state-led economy, and the longer he lasted in office, the more statist he became. The Foreign Investment Review Agency was succeeded by Petro-Canada. Petro-Canada was succeeded by wage and price controls. Wage and price controls were succeeded by the single worst economic decision of Canada’s 20th century: the National Energy Program.

The NEP tried to fix two different prices of oil, one inside Canada, one outside.  The NEP expropriated foreign oil interests without compensation. The NEP sought to shoulder aside the historic role of the provinces as the owner and manager of natural resources.

Most other Western countries redirected themselves toward more fiscal restraint after 1979. Counting on abundant revenues from oil, the Trudeau government kept spending. Other Western governments began to worry more about attracting international investment. Canada repelled investors with arbitrary confiscations. Other Western governments recovered from the stagflation of the 1970s by turning toward freer markets. Under the National Energy Policy, Canada was up-regulating as the US, Britain, and West Germany deregulated. All of these mistakes together contributed to the extreme severity of the 1982 recession. Every one of them was Pierre Trudeau’s fault.

While I disagree with Frum that Trudeau was one of the worst prime ministers of our time, I will agree that his economic legacy has impacted the country for over a decade.  Frum’s is an interesting take.

When do you stop spending?

Jim Flaherty said today that he would spend to defend Canada from another recession

Under questioning from opposition MPs, Flaherty said for the first time that the Conservative government would move in with another round of stimulus spending if the world economy suffers a double-dip recession.

“We would obviously do what is needed” if there was a “dramatic deterioration” in the economies of the United States and Europe, he told the committee.

But for now, Flaherty said, the government is not changing its budget plan despite the turmoil on financial markets and debt crises in the United States and Europe. The plan calls for spending cuts of $4 billion a year to eliminate the annual federal budget deficit — now $32-billion annually — in a few years.

Pressed by opposition MPs about how Ottawa would react to a renewed global slowdown, Flaherty said he would change course and develop a pro-growth spending plan as the Conservatives did during the recent recession.

Here is my problem with this problem.  Do any of us think that the United States/Europe is going to fix their problems in the next recession.  I am not saying Flaherty is wrong but does this look like it’s going away.  Jeff Rubin points out that with global demand the way it is, as we come out of a recession, prices will increase and drive the economy back into it which means, how many of these recessions will we be able to afford to ride out until we are looking at Mulroney-esqe debt loads and Devine type deficits again.

We are looking at a default or massive bailouts for Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the too big to fail banks in Germany.  There is a dysfunctional governance system in the United States, and even China has some long term economic problems.  Does anyone think this next recession is going to be a quick one or we won’t be experiencing a triple or quadruple dip recession before this is all said and done?  No, me neither.

I know Jim Flaherty has been seeking out the advice of economic experts like former Calgary Flames captain Jim Peplinski but may the alternative might be figuring out ways to reinvent Canada’s economy to thrive in a world where recessions will be the norm, not the exception.

Column: There has to be more than tax cuts

My latest column in The StarPhoenix.  I’ll add in some extra link later today but for now I need to get some work done for my other employer.

The Star Phoenix Since the end of the Super Bowl, I have been following the National Football League lockout and the litigation surrounding it. I have concluded that the hard-line owners and the players association leaders are the stupidest group of people not working in the National Hockey League’s front office.

That all changed last week, when both the Republicans and the Democrats started to talk openly about defaulting on the debt of the United States – something that seemed so preposterous that I thought I was reading a headline from News of the World.

Sadly it wasn’t. If a deal isn’t struck soon, the U.S. will default on debt – something that neither Canada nor most western nations have ever done – and it will cause economic chaos around the world, again. Why has it come to this? You can blame George W. Bush or Barack Obama, but this one rests with the Tea Party.

Almost everyone agrees that the U.S. budget has to be cut.

Incredibly, President Bush cut taxes at the start of his first term and then, while the world changed after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. tax rate did not.

Rather than raise taxes to pay for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush kept the rates low and borrowed, as if there were no tomorrow.

In case you haven’t taken time to think about how expensive wars can be, the U.S. spent $20.2 billion to provide air conditioning alone in Afghanistan and Iraq last year. By contrast, Canada’s massive Economic Action Plan had just $12 billion in new infrastructure spending.

On top of the wars, the Great Recession hit. Then, to control long-term health costs, Obama brought in health-care reform. It wasn’t universal care, but better than what Americans had. Suddenly people started talking about seceding from the union. Apparently helping people with their health problems is unconstitutional.

Somehow, out of all of this, the Tea Party was formed and has decided to fight raising the debt ceiling.

Conservative columnist David Brooks calls the Tea Party a "psychological protest," and I tend to agree. You would dismiss the partiers as wing nuts if they didn’t hold the balance of power.

In the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party was quite willing and able to defeat any Republican incumbent who compromised on increases to spending or taxes. The result is that Republican Congressmen know they will face a tough primary challenge from the right if they step out of line and compromise.

The result? A possible debt default.

What I find interesting about this is not the politics but the psychology. Tea Party supporters see taxes and government as evil: No tax increase can ever be justified.

I complain about taxes like everyone else. I howl every year when the mill rate goes up, but after 13 years of making weekly mortgage and property tax payments, my payments are now $130, up from $114 a week in 1998. Even if the city reduced its tax rate to the 1998 level, my gain would be about $15 a week. I cheered when the GST was lowered to five per cent from seven per cent, but I haven’t noticed the price go down on anything I have bought.

While I don’t especially like paying taxes, I also know they go toward making our city and our country a better place to live. Even the great icon of conservatism, Ronald Reagan, raised taxes when more revenue was needed. Brian Mulroney’s hated GST was a component that allowed the Chretien Liberals to balance the budget.

Yet to balance the budget the Tea Party demands only spending cuts, which will largely hurt the poor, rather than seeking to close tax loopholes for the rich. They propose gutting Medicare, which could hurt seniors across the nation.

It’s something you hear often and it boils down to: "If I can make it, so can everyone else." It’s based in a deep ignorance of the social, medical and geographic realities of how we are raised, the opportunities we are given or the geography we settle in. In Saskatchewan, where prosperity often has come because of the soil conditions of the homestead, we understand this.

Spending cuts are often deemed to be courageous and noble and at times they are. But so is ensuring the less fortunate are taken care of. We’ve always known that as a city and a province. I hope we won’t forget that, as others have.

Christmas Gift Ideas for the Emotionally Distant Father

A friend of mine/arch-nemesis has drawn her father and father-in-law for this year’s Christmas celebration and demanded a Christmas gift guide for them.  While I am generally compliant towards requests from friends who have incriminating stories about me, this one is a hard one as I don’t have a relationship with my dad * and I don’t have a lot of use for my father-in-law so I am at a bit of a loss.  While I had to laugh at the label emotionally distant father, the problem with too many dads out there is that they don’t exactly excel at communicating what they want for Christmas.  If you have to shop for one, we feel for you.

Lucky for all of us, we do buy Christmas gifts for some hard to buy for people who are fathers and here are some of the ideas that I have come up with over the last couple of years.

Books/DVDs

  • Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics by Warren Kinsella :: If you dad talks about politics all of the time and thinks he knows more than Mike Duffy but in reality has the same leadership instincts as Stephane Dion, maybe it is time to help your dad sound more knowledgeable.  This is awesome on a couple of levels.  First of all it will raise the level of political discussion in your house but if you dad lives in rural Alberta, he will have to explain to his friends why he has a book prominently displayed by the Prince of Darkness and how he is worried his child has become a liberal.
  • Jean Chretien: My Years as Prime Minister While we are talking politics and tweaking dad a bit, I suggest you pick up either a copy of Brian Mulroney’s autobiography or Jean Chretien’s autobiography.  Which one you give him, depends on how he votes.  If he votes Conservative and has a Joe Clark tattoo, give him Jean Chretien’s autobiography.  If he has campaign photos of him and Pierre Trudeau from 1968, you get him the Mulroney autobiography but you do it with a straight face… and then when all of the gifts are given out, pull out the book he wanted from beneath the tree.  If you are American, substitute the book Sarah Palin paid someone else to write for her or something about the Kennedy’s.
  • The War by Ken Burns on DVD and The War: An Intimate History.  The DVD is a masterpiece and I enjoy it every time it comes on television but the book is special in it’s own way.  It moves between the big picture of the war and the intimate details of the conflict with ease and despite telling the same story as the the mini series, has a much different feel.
  • Some books on the War in Iraq.  I recommend Fiasco or the Gamble by Thomas E. Ricks or The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army by Greg Jaffe.  All three books are great.
  • Band of Brothers (book) by Stephen Ambrose :: The men of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, volunteered for this elite fighting force because they wanted to be the best in the army–and avoid fighting alongside unmotivated, out-of-shape draftees. The price they paid for that desire was long, arduous, and sometimes sadistic training, followed by some of the most horrific battles of World War II.  Yes the mini-series is great but this book is even better and is one of the best books on World War II that I have ever read.   If he already has Band of Brothers, he may also like Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany by Ambrose as well.  A skillful blending of eyewitness accounts (gathered mostly from the oral history collection at the Univ. of New Orleans’s Eisenhower Center and from personal interviews) gives the reader an intimate feel of what war was like for infantrymen in the European theater of operations–from the beaches of France to victory at the Elbe River.
  • Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes.  While Rhodes won the Pullitzer for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I found this book to be even better.  Both of these books are epic endeavors of research and writing telling the story of how America started the nuclear arms race, the concerns of the scientists (and why they did it), how the Russians were desperate to find out, and the politics behind it.  All of those topics could be books by themselves and once put together, form the foundation of a couple of truly remarkable books.
  • The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson :: You can read my review of it here.  If your dad in an inventor or just loves to read an engaging story of history, this is an excellent choice for your dad as he takes a break from puttering around in the shop while working on his doomsday device and avoiding the to-do list your mother made for him.

Gadgets for Dad

  • Red AA battery magliteMagLite :: Every man needs their own flashlight.  At the cabin we have a million flashlights, some headlights and battery powered lanterns but everyone wants to use mine.  Mark got me a Maglite for my birthday last year and I can finally say, “Hands off, go drain the battery on someone else’s flashlight.”  Dads enjoy being territorial and petty once in a while, especially with a cool flashlight.
  • Olivetti Manual Typewriter :: The last manual typewriter in production and the perfect tool for dad to write out his autobiography, love notes to your mother or he could just set it up in the living room to pound out a couple of notes to the grandkids who will totally miss out on the fact that their note was written on a manual typewriter.  The other positive that unlike his laptop, DVD player, and home theatre system, he won’t need you to come over and fix this when it breaks.
  •  Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock :: There is a good chance that your dad has some old school music sitting in his closet that he lovingly looks at but has no idea how to play his Best of Olivia Newton John records let alone get them on the iPod that you gave him last Christmas.  This should kill two birds at once.  The bad news is that his old records have found a second life and we aren’t sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but that’s your problem, not mine.
  • Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones Since we are talking about your dad’s bad taste in music, why not give him a nice set of headphones.  Not just any set of headphones but some noise cancelling headphones.  They have long been a must have for frequent fliers but even for those of you whose dad isn’t flying to Toronto every week, they reduces unwanted ambient noise by 87.4%, providing a quieter environment to enhance his listening experience.
  • 23 and Me :: They send you a kit, you spit into a tube and send it back.  They analyze the DNA in your saliva, then tell you about your genetic ancestry, and your susceptibility to genetically linked medical conditions.  If you have a genetically linked condition, you also will know who to blame.
  • Atari 2600 Flashback 2 :: Okay, so your dad’s gaming skills started to fall behind when the Colecovision came out but don’t hold that against him and let him reconnect with the games of yesteryear and get him a vintage game system. It features the same wood grain paneling and look of the Atari 2600, and will capture the feel through two classic joysticks for multi-player competition and vintage controls. The system comes pre-loaded with over 30 classic games. No new purchases are required, just connect it to your TV and play! The system that brought you hits like Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, Combat and Pong now has them all collected on one handy system.

Outdoors

  • The Blue Pod The Pod :: If dad has a camera, he probably has a tripod or two.  If he likes to take photographs out of the house and doesn’t like the hassle of finding the perfect place for his mount, the Pod could be a great option.  Basically it is what happens when you combine a camera mount with a bean bag.  While you are at it, why not get dad a new digital camera?
  • Your dad probably has an old camcorder kicking around but new camcorders like the Kodak Zi8 are so much easier to use.  If you have grandkids, give one of these to dad, set him up on YouTube and let him go crazy or let him film himself out in the wilderness as a Les Stroud wanna be.  He will be amazed at how easy and how high quality Kodak’s camera is.
  • Leatherman :: While most men want one, it is a lot of money to shell out for a multi tool but a the same time it is a iconic brand and tool that your dad will appreciate it as a gift.  While you are at it, toss in a copy of Les Stroud’s book, Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere or the SAS Survival Handbook.  If dad isn’t likely to read, pick up all three seasons of Survivorman instead.
  • Labatt Stubby Beer Bottle Weber Go Anywhere Grill :: Dad probably already has a kick butt grill at home but this is perfect for bringing to the beach or over to your place when you don’t feel like firing up the grill yourself.  It’s also charcoal which will bring back good memories for your father of a time when he could afford to go to NHL games, drank stubby beers, and his sideburns were a fashion statement rather than the foundation for his comb-over.  While you are at it, toss in a cookbook or two about cooking with charcoal to refresh his memory on how to do it.

* The last time I bought a Christmas gift for my dad, I called his wife and asked what she was getting him.  The answer was a Dodge Viper.  I seriously said, “Err, a model one?”  It wasn’t.  So we had my $40.00 gift and her $100,000.00 gift.  I felt like a tool.

You can find more Christmas gift ideas here.  If you have any other suggestions or comments, let me know in the comments.

Archives

Jason Kottke is writing about how the new Whitehouse.gov website doesn’t archive old Presidential websites.  As I have written about before, the Canadian Prime Minister’s website does just as poor job of preserving the archives of Canadian Prime Ministers.

While I was looking around online to see if I could find the archives of the website, I found some of the websites of some former prime ministers online.  The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin and Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney both have websites.  The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark has a website but he uses his wives domain name (insert tired old joke here).  I can’t find a website for Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, Rt. Hon. John Turner or most alarmingly for three term Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien.  Now Library and Archives Canada has a pretty good website but it doesn’t have the electronic archives of the website.  In addition to the removal from public circulation of a lot of photos, speeches, and history, it turns Wikipedia entries into the more of less the keeper of Canadian history.

As I have said before, how hard can it be to keep chretien.pm.gc.ca, martin.pm.gc.ca, or even diefenbaker.pm.gc.ca with their own archives being released to Flickr’s Common project?  When you look at the coverage and excitement over the National Film Board opening up their archives, I think the creation of a permanent historical archives of the men and women that led Canada would add something to Canada’s story as well.