Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kennedy and Dion teaming up against Iggy

No, this Toronto Star piece is not rampant speculation; nor has its authenticity been denied by the Kennedy camp. In fact it's bloody well been put up on Stéphane Dion's own campaign website:
The outlines of a political alliance that could overtake Liberal leadership frontrunner Michael Ignatieff at next month's convention are beginning to take shape.

"There have been discussions between Dion and ourselves, not with Ignatieff," said Holland. "There have been informal conversations about the need to work more closely together. ... Stéphane's strength is in Quebec and it's francophone, Gerard Kennedy's support is more among anglo Canadians. Their policies work well together. It's a natural fit."
The Kennedy camp hasn't yet seen fit to post anything about this on their site, as far as I can click. Nevertheless, this is not good news for Ignatieff. And correct me if I'm wrong, but if Dion was serious about some kind of an alliance with Bob Rae (also mentioned in the Star piece) why on earth would he jeopardize that by posting this story on his own site? I mean, where does this leave Bob?


I'm calling you Bob. Like you said.


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If I was a Liberal, I'd go for Dion

I still can't believe the short-sightedness of the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal party in voting for a resolution recognizing Quebec as a nation last weekend.

In a show of incredibly reckless cynicism, Michael Ignatieff's team filled the room with his supporters bent on passing this resolution to drive a wedge between their candidate and the other front-runners. Ignatieff is the only Liberal leadership hopeful foolish enough to open such a messy can of worms, obviously calculating he'd get the proper knee-jerk response from the populace here, which he did.

And seeing Stéphane Dion later on the TV news berating the cackles of Iggy's supporters when they tried to shout him down was eerily reminiscent of this moment from the last real Liberal leadership race in 1990.
A key moment in that race took place at an all-candidates debate in Montreal, where the discussion quickly turned to the Meech Lake Accord. Paul Martin Jr. attempted to force Jean Chrétien to abandon his nuanced position on the deal and declare for or against it. When Chrétien refused to endorse the deal, young Liberal delegates crowding the hall began to chant "vendu" ("sellout" in French) and "Judas" at Chrétien. Martin continues to state he had nothing to do with the response from the floor, or a similar outburst by his supporters at the convention, in which Chrétien defeated Martin on the first and only ballot. However, his reputation in his home province never recovered.
...especially considering it was over essentially the same argument. But note who won the race and the Prime Minister's chair in the end.

And that's partly why I'm now more impressed with Dion than any of the others. Paul Wells has the translation of Dion's letter in yesterday's La Presse up on his site, and it should remind all Canadians why Chrétien so studiously avoided traipsing down this path (in fact let's just call it the Canadian equivalent of invading Iraq.)
Before asking other Canadians to support such a formal recognition (that is to say, almost certainly, in the constitution), we must first specify what we mean by such a recognnition. Currently the apparent Québécois consensus on this question hides at least three areas of disagreement.

First question: Do we want to be the only ones in Canada to be recognized as a nation, or would we accept that others, encouraged by our example, obtain in turn the same recognition? Would the pressure exerted by an indeterminate number of human groups in Canada, including in Quebec, in favour of being recognized as nations lead us to conclude that our own national recognition has been trivialized or diluted?

Second question: Is this recognition necessary for us or is it, rather, only desirable? Those who say it is necessary must follow their logic to its conclusion: they must say that unless they obtain this recognition, we Quebecers must leave Canada. Indeed one cannot live without something necessary.

Those who say, on the contrary, that this recognition is only desirable must resist putting it at the heart of the national unity debate: indeed, one does not divide a country over something that isn't necessary.

Third question: Do we want the recognition of Quebec to be purely symbolic or do we want it to have concrete consequences, in terms of division of powers, allocation of public funds, and so on? And how does this question work with the preceding question? It is contradictory to claim that the recognition of Quebec as a nation is necessary but purely symobolic. Yet this is the untenable position defended by Mr. Michael Ignatieff.

As in the period when Dion first came to Ottawa and eviscerated Lucien Bouchard with a string of public letters bursting the separatist movement's bubble with irrefutable logic, someone has to tell us Quebeckers the hard truth: that we may think of ourselves as a nation unto ourselves all we like. But in the end, we have to agree to disagree on the "Quebec as nation" question if we want to keep Canada together. In fact, we have already been doing so for, like, centuries.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This week's Peevey Stevie Outrages

My, they can sure pile them on. Though the week be young, our harvest is plentiful. Enough to add three more points to the list of Harper Horrors. It's as if the SSHITs sense their window of opportunity is shrinking; and if they're going to destroy everything good about Canada, they've no time to waste. What busy little expletives they are!

14) We begin with the admittedly unsurprising news that Michel Fortier won't run

...for a seat in the House of Commons. But staying in the Senate means he does still get to run in another way (and run he does, every day) -- running away from the proper scrutiny a Minister of Public Works should be under in a constitutional monarchy, where it is standard practice for a minister to be available and accountable to the House for Question Period.

15) Bad enough that first the cabinet and then the caucus have been muzzled unscrupulously by the PMO, but now it's spreading to the non-partisan bureaucrats?!. Shockingly, it would seem they have been pressured by their political masters not to appear before the Finance committee. Their absence can only serve to impede the work of Her Royal Majesty's government (just to remind you, Stephen, you don't own it yourself).

16) And finally, there was still no apology from MacKay - nor from his boss - after being put on the spot by the Opposition for referring to a woman as a dog. Whatever one thinks of Belinda Stronach, the reference is demeaning to all women and the least MacKay can do is apologise for such misogynistic crudeness. His lack of understanding is appalling and insulting. I find this particularly alarming considering this came from the mouth that represents Canada abroad as Foreign Affairs Minister. "This matter has to do with respect for women, acceptance of responsibility for one's actions, integrity, accountability for the truth and the dignity of the House of Commons," interim Liberal leader Bill Graham said. Well put.

But of course, the buffoonish Harper and his coterie still don't even begin to get it.

When I add it all up, I get it. It's time for the Opposition to pull the plug on this sad excuse for a government. A government whose entire vision of democracy is as something to be dumped on a shelf.

Mr. Harper, you are vile. I fart in your general direction.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Peevey Stevie's Shabby Record

Some folks are downright insulted at Stephen Harper’s line that he was not the one to ditch MP Garth Turner from his caucus. As usual, Scotian’s take on the situation is a good read and well researched. While I agree it's an insult to Canadians’ intelligence to make such a disingenuous claim, I simply can’t muster the same level of outrage. I believe this is a rather minor addition to this government’s growing list of lies and disrespect for democracy that includes:

1) The Emerson affrontery.
2) That and the Fortier appointment.
3) The continuing attempt to hide from the press and stifle dissenting views, no matter how harmless.
4) The cow-towing to Washington on our Afghanistan commitment.
5) The inexplicable $450 million gift to Bush to use as he sees fit (read: slush fund) in a heavily contested election year.
6) The sell-out on softwood lumber that #5 above was a part of.
7) The inaction on the health care proposal they made while on the campaign trail.
8) The refusal to honour our war dead with flags at half-mast and a ban on media pictures when the coffins return.
9) The slashing of funding to environmental groups and women's groups.
10) The announcement of new tax cuts on the heels of #9 above.
11) The plan to scrap the gun registry against the oft-expressed wishes of the nation’s police forces.
12) The cutting of funds for the Court Challenges Program to assist with Charter rights challenges.
13) The cagey "Reverse Onus" proposal.

So a blatant lie about something that is an internal party matter (except perhaps for Turner's constituents) is not a huge surprise to me. I am still more aghast at his government's increasingly horrendous rhetoric and record.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Parking it where the sun don't shine

Today's topic is how to canonize an inept former Premier Ministre du Quebec. The man who panicked and begged the feds to bring in the army and the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. The guy who called in the Canadian army again 20 years later during the Oka Crisis after his bumbling provincial police shamefully opened fire on the Kanesatake Mohawks, escalating a minor land dispute to a tribal war. The only politician to formally set aside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms using the infamous "Notwithstanding Clause" to pass an incredibly silly piece of legislation. Yes, good 'ol BooBoo.

He was a pol who never saw a bit of Quebec society's fabric he couldn't resist yanking on to the breaking point. The one thing he did right - although it disrupted the ecosystem terribly in the process - was to build mammoth hydro-electric projects in the James Bay region, thereby securing our energy needs with a renewable resource for decades afterward.

But that's not enough reason to rename Park Avenue (or Avenue du Parc) as Ave. Robert-Bourassa.

For one thing, we already have a major artery - not far away from Park - named Boul. Henri-Bourassa. Oh sure, it's not the same Bourassa, but tell that to confused out-of-towners who just want to know how the heck to find their way to the Grand Prix.

For another, I used to live on Park and have always appreciated the name for its blessed brevity - especially when filling out Quebec government forms that never seem to provide enough space to write such stuff as "Ave. Robert-Bourassa".

And yet another: Park (or Parc) could be confused as being vaguely english-sounding, as a friend of mine pointed out. No wonder the pencil pushers can't leave it be.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

London (er... Laval) Bridges Falling Down

Over at MyBlahg, Robert questions whether tax cuts have starved our ability to keep USSR-style horrors like this from happening here in Canada. But this is a made-in-Quebec situation.

1) The Quebec Transport ministry has a dismal record. Everyone knows we can't be bothered to build roads properly and, as evidenced by PQ leader Andre Boisclair's recent comment - that he knows an election is around the corner because he's "never smelled so much asphalt poured" - decisions regarding the building of infrastructure in this province have traditionally revolved around political considerations first and foremost. Laval is a perfect example, where Bernard Landry's former PQ government went the vote-buying route with its big-money pre-election decision - still under construction - to extend the orange line of the Metro into Laval for three needless new stations. Buses and trains currently do an adequate job for Laval's commuters, and this decision just encourages more urban sprawl.

2) For decades, we poured craploads of salt on our winter roads (in recent years in Montreal, we've turned to less damaging mixtures consisting of a little salt and a lot of sand). One engineer's perspective in this morning's Gazette was that the steel supports for the viaduct in question may have snapped in a domino effect due to salt-induced rust that took 15 years off its expected lifespan.

3. (Pure non-expert top-of-my-head speculation here): The acid rain factor. I have visited Columbus, Ohio a few times this year and the difference in the state of their concrete is staggeringly obvious. Here, a sidewalk or other concrete structure starts to erode after only a few years, damaged heavily by sulphur-dioxide laden acid rain (thanks in no small part to coal-fired electrical plants in places such as - you guessed it - Ohio).

4) Inspectors for Transport Quebec who are responsible for making annual check-ups on viaducts aren't themselves engineers (again, props to some excellent local reporting in this morning's Gazette). They have some training, but they aren't yet using the kinds of diagnostic tools that could've predicted the evidently sorry state of the viaduct in question. Add to that that it apparently hadn't received its supposedly annual inspection yet this year since Transport Quebec confirmed it was last inspected in 2005.

Now that we have four confirmed dead, a coroner's inquest is unquestionably in order. The big question will be why no action was taken to close off the roads immediately after it was reported by concerned citizens that concrete chunks had fallen from the structure. A precious hour was lost between the first such report and the eventual collapse of the viaduct. Prudence surely dictates that this sort of situation be taken more seriously in future.

This is indeed a wake-up call. I suspect this is a problem rooted more in typical Quebec provincial mismanagement than mis-allocation of tax dollars. When successive governments' attentions are focussed primarily on how to obtain more powers from the federal government to negate seperatists' debating points; or how to attain "winnable conditions" for a yes vote on separation, who does that leave to concentrate on making sure the trains run on time. Or in this case, that the bridges don't fall down?

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