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Irish eyes are smiling

October 4, 2009

Those of you who follow Canadian politics will remember the Mulroney/Reagan rendition of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, the Chretien “fisticuff” and George W. Bush’s less than flattering proclivity for breaking into dance.

This weekend Canada’s current Prime Minister took part in an impromptu performance at the National Arts Centre’s annual gala with Yo Yo Ma.  You can see the video here:

I think this was a masterstroke on the part of Harper’s handlers.  Here in Canada Prime Minister Harper is viewed as a bit distant, cold and calculating.  This performance, an admirable one, shows his human side.  It also won’t hurt with Canada’s arts community.

Enjoy!

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The Liberal coalition

December 10, 2008

Some have suggested that by not supporting the Liberal, NDP and separatist coalition in Ottawa, Canadians are saying its “illegal” or “unfair”.  Some have said we in Canada don’t belive in majority rule, democracy or in decision making through deliberation.  

I don’t agree and here are some thoughts on why.

In Canada we really haven’t had more than 50% of the popular vote support the winning party since 1917 (yes there have been interregnums like Brian Mulroney’s 1984 victory), I don’t believe that by expressing opposition to the coalition assembled by the Liberals, Canadians are indicating it is “illegal” or “unfair”. Certainly this Canadian believes it to be shameful – not unfair, not illegal, but shameful. 
What the Liberals did was give the Bloc Quebecois, a party created with the purpose of breaking up this great country, a veto power over the federal government. And they afforded this separatist party that influence simply as a result of the Liberal’s intrinsic believe in themselves as Canada’s natural governing party. 

None of energy, the environment, the economy, the crumbling health care system, the wars abroad or anything else excited the Liberals enough to threaten to fall a government or to form a coalition. What did get them into a froth? The prospective elimination of taxpayer subsidies of political parties in form of a $1.95 for every vote they secured. 

This coalition is a manifest representation of the Liberal Party’s fervent and excited need for power. 

Canadians believe in responsible government which requires the confidence of the House of Commons – parliament. This confidence in and of itself infers that a majority of the lower house must support the government. It is a characteristic of the first past the post (FPTP) system that permits a party to form government with the support of the majority of parliamentarians and not the majority of the people. Just because we have FPTP does not in and of itself suggest Canadians do not believe in majority rule.

Canadians believe in hiring people, letting them get on with their job, rewarding them for success and reprimanding them for failure. Our system has an inherent job review every four or five years (or every three years in the case of Jean Chretien). Do a bad job, get fired. Do a good job and, maybe, get re-hired. In between, get to it

As an electors we want to have confidence in the people we elect. If we are constantly called up to “deliberate” then why even elect a government? Just leave the bureaucracy in place and have all policy decisions made by internet polls. That is the ultimate decision by deliberation.

Now, I have long preferred the American system of checks and balances – particularly when one party is in the White House and another holds the majority (not a super majority) in Congress. Even though he is the most powerful man in the world, the US President has far less direct power there than our Prime Minister. Through the PM’s power to appoint and fire his cabinet, appoint and fire heads of crown corporations, appoint judges all over the country and, effectively, to push policy through without recourse is too much power in the hands of one man. 

England’s Prime Minister is somewhat less powerful because his or her caucus appoints or fires the leader (and I understand that the leader representing the majority of the lower house and has its confidence becomes the PM). This ensures that the party leader and, in the case of government, the PM must keep their caucus onside.

The disappointment that this Canadian feels toward the parties that didn’t vote for Harper’s economic update is not sparked because they didn’t support him. My disappointment, and disgust, materialized firstly because of what the Liberals, NDP and separatists were voting against (subsidies for themselves) and how they were proposing to express their non-confidence (giving the separatist party veto power over a proposed coalition government).

The coalition that the Liberals put together provides a veto to the BQ and the BQ’s purpose is to break up this great country of ours.  This unacceptable for Canada. 

There are some very bright, well read and articulate people suggesting that, because of the machinations in Ottawa, Canadians believe the coaltion to be “unfair” and “illegal”.  Many of their arguments are throught through very well and communicated in very convincing ways.  

However, I think they are drawing some broad conclusions that are wrong.  Canadians believe in democracy, responsible government and a commitment to run our country that is in the best interests of…our country. These interests do not include giving veto power to separatists with the avowed goal of breaking up our federation.

I see a light at the end of Canada’s political tunnel. Unfortunately, it’s a train coming at us.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc signed an accord that would see the Liberals and NDP forming a minority coalition government for a period of thirty months. The Bloc would hold the balance of power with no formal participation in government, but with a commitment not to vote against the government on confidence measures for a period of eighteen months. The cabinet would be comprised of eighteen Liberal and six New Democrat MPs.

Not only was Harper’s inclusion of party subsidies in his discussion on our fiscal circumstance poor judgment, it was poor government. Canada has been living in an insulated economic bubble, but with oil prices dropping and the US consumer not consuming, reality is quickly setting in for her. Tiny subsidies of political parties have no place in a discussion of our economic strategy. Notwithstanding Harper’s mistake, what the merry band of Dion, Layton and their separatist sidekick are doing is an atrocity. We have tremendous economic instability. Adding this to the mix only creates more uncertainty (look at what the Canadian markets have done thus far this week).

What Dion and Layton are proposing is to replace a party that has formed government after winning in accordance with our first past the post system with a government which will appoint a prime minister who will serve only five months (Dion steps down in May). A government that will stand only with the support of a party which has, as its primary purpose, the objective of breaking up the country. This is nothing more than a power grab by the Liberals. They are the heaviest drinkers of the “Liberals as Canada’s naturally governing party” kool-aid. I’m afraid they’re drunk.

I was impressed with Harper and, on balance, still am. However, Canada needs political leaders that are focused on Canada and not on themselves. This is particularly important at this point in our economic history.

At the moment I’m disappointed in all of them.

My take is that he needs to do three things:

(1) He needs to present a budget on January 26th/27th that shows the Canadian people he has a handle on the economic crisis, has accounted for sufficient stimulus.

(2) He needs to campaign hard between now and then and show the Canadian people that, if the government does fall on the 26th or 27th, the decision in respect of who forms government should be made the people and not by a back room deal comprised of the Liberals, the NDP and the separatists.

(3) He needs to do everything he can to drive a wedge into the coalition. There are numerous Liberals whose support of the coalition is very soft. He needs to show them that getting into bed with the separatists is bad for Canada. Moreover, he needs to show that the coalition would, ultimately, be bad for the Liberal Party (which is what the Liberals have shown themselves to care most about).