Thursday, November 23, 2006

Leadership Bollocks in the Mashed Potatoes

Today is a very disappointing day. Ignatieff should really be kicked hard in the emotional balls for his methods, however I oppose violence of all types.

He got the ball rolling, passed it to the separatists, they chucked it to Harper, he scored... with parliament and maybe "soft-nationalists".

I totally agree with Wells' comments today and Dion's comment BCerinToronto highlighted - what are the rest of us, mashed potatoes?

I don't get it, these motions are not intellectual debate, they are politics, to start playing with them means you want to start playing the political game they are.

Dion does not, why then would he support the motion? I suppose for politics. But it bothers me. He better explain it to me.

The argument that Kinsella puts up that Dion cannot say "it doesn't matter, everyone calm down" is not totally valid for me. HOWEVER, it is not "nothing". It is in the long-run, I imagine. Afterall can anyone remember the "Calgary Declaration" wording which Bouchard didn't sign? Not many.

In the short term, with a week before the leadership convention, the optics of Dion's support do not make sense. I think Dion should explain why supporting this resolution does not detract from his stance on federalism. Or, force us to move on to bigger issues. Prove it is nonsense.

Rae sent out a spokesman to say "no comment", as did Kennedy. This does not show leadership. Rae is so full of hot air you'd think he exhaled straight into Ignatieff's ego.

Did I mention Ignatieff is a complete twit? His antics remind me of his support for Iraq's invasion. He thinks he can invade Canada and fix it. I imagine the only articles he read outside of the country over thirty years were the bimonthly ones in the NYT that state "Canada is still cold, the French Canadians want to separate."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wii: His #1 Choice

Simpson Touching the 3rd Rail? Most Intriguing.

Is this as close to openly saying it?

I have to give it to Simpson, he's a professional. I don't think there is a columnist in the national news that I respect more than Simpson. I was surprised to read today's supportive but balanced spout on Dion.

In previous columns, Simpson has been supportive of Dion and made efforts to highlight his campaign. So, given the weight of these taken with today's column, I'd say this is as close as Simpson will come to touching the 3rd rail and outright supporting a Liberal candidate.

In case you can't get to the Globe column, here it is:

The most intriguing candidate in the Liberal race

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Stéphane Dion yesterday released a modest but intriguing policy on modifying pensions for those who work past 65, an intelligent bit of thinking about the future shape of the Canadian work force.

Will any delegates at next week's Liberal convention read it, and be swayed to join him? Probably not, because the leadership contest is not, by now, about policies, but character, judgment and who can win the country.

Mr. Dion has presented the most policy-oriented campaign. He's focused on three critical issues: making Canada much greener, improving its competitiveness and, of course, maintaining national unity. He's also run a very smart strategic campaign on a limited budget, impressing a lot of Liberals who gave him little or no chance to win.

A string of cards, however, must fall his way for him to become leader. It's unlikely they all will fall, but an outside chance exists that they could. In which case, Mr. Dion would have pulled off an astonishing political upset and defied most of the party establishment who favour either Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae.

The Dion path to victory runs as follows, but be forewarned: The path is complicated.

Mr. Dion finished fourth in the delegate-selection process, about 60 votes behind Gerard Kennedy.

But Mr. Dion slides into third place on the first or second ballot. He does so because he wins more ex-officio support (such as former Treasury Board president Marcel Massé, yesterday) or support from delegates of the four also-rans.

At this point, Mr. Dion's path to victory depends on the deal now being negotiated with the Kennedy camp. The deal is the classic prisoner's dilemma: Whoever is fourth agrees to support whoever is third. So if Mr. Dion is, indeed, third, Mr. Kennedy would go to him. (And vice versa.)

Why might that happen? Partly because of similar policy positions. Partly because too many Kennedy supporters in Ontario cannot abide Mr. Rae, the former NDP premier, and disagree with Mr. Ignatieff's views on Quebec. And partly (largely, perhaps) because if Mr. Kennedy sees himself as an eventual chief, he would want a francophone to be the next leader.

With many Kennedy supporters coming on board, Mr. Dion then jumps ahead of Bob Rae, who was in second place. Mr. Rae then moves to Mr. Dion, who thereby defeats Mr. Ignatieff on the final ballot.

Or, Mr. Ignatieff fades after the second ballot when it becomes clear that he cannot win, so that Mr. Dion faces off against Mr. Rae on the final ballot. Mr. Ignatieff's Quebec supporters largely support Mr. Rae, but his Ontario and Western ones can't abide Mr. Rae and go to Mr. Dion, making the Quebecker a narrow winner.

If, if, if and if. No other candidate has so many imponderables to resolve en route to victory. Yet, it is surprising how many people no longer discount Mr. Dion's admittedly outside chance.

Mr. Dion's strongest asset, and biggest liability, is himself.

He's a man of integrity, courage and intelligence. He demonstrated those characteristics for nine years as a cabinet minister. He survived the grossest abuse in Quebec for his fierce defence of federalism.

Civil servants who worked for him admired his masterly briefs and penetrating questions. He did a fine job on climate change at home and presiding over the United Nations conference on the subject in Montreal.

But, as former cabinet colleagues will attest, Mr. Dion can be dogmatic. He neither suffers fools gladly nor compromises easily. It is significant how few former ministers and MPs he has attracted. He tends to lecture, even hector, those with whom he disagrees. He does not let people down lightly.

He is also from Quebec. His English is good, and getting better, but is not perfect. A lot of Liberals, some of whom would never say so publicly, believe the party has been too long led by Quebeckers.

The movers and shakers of the Quebec Liberal Party, emaciated as it is, don't want Mr. Dion. They think he would be poison in his home province. They are quite likely wrong, but they spread this message outside the province to Mr. Dion's detriment.

With his policy ideas and his ironic positioning as a long-time minister running almost as an outsider against the establishment, Mr. Dion is the most intriguing candidate in the race.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rae 37, Dion 34

I like these numbers, ladies and gentleman, I believe we have a race!

"Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they would vote Liberal or consider doing so if Rae was the leader, compared with 34 per cent for Dion, 33 per cent for Ignatieff and 31 per cent for Gerard Kennedy."

-Toronto Star

Of course, if you read the Decima poll's other numbers, Dion should really be making an appointment to get his teeth glossed up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Garth 1, Lib Leaders 0. Hey, Brison?!

I was disappointed to not hear a peep out of the Liberal leadership candidates regarding Garth's announcement. While woefully difficult to get elected, independents are popular. People like me like the underdog. With Garth in the spotlight, a candidate could have taken the opportunity to comment on how they would rejuvenate the democratic process.

As I've posted before, free-mouthed MPs make for a responsive government. I still believe in the whip system to get things done, but I believe the UK has it right in allowing backbenchers to speak up.

And with respect to nomination meetings, I think it is funny that the guy with the most street cred is Brison. Unlike Dion, Iggy, and Dryden, he wasn't a celebrity or handed a safe seat. Firstly, he can comment with respect to his stepping-aside for Joe Clark. Then, he can talk about how he wrestled with becoming an independent when Mackay screwed the PC's, and Brison's decision to join the Liberals.

For the Conservatives, they've had a few flights as well, remember the DRC. That was an adventure. And the continuing issue of floor-walking is no doubt related, affecting both parties.

I don't think Garth was too far wrong to say '10 to 20 independents wouldn't be a bad thing. It is a democracy, share the wealth.

Too bad the Liberal leaders didn't think it worthwhile talking about.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rae 858, Dion 859

From the Edmonton Sun today:

As of the most recent fundraising reports to Elections Canada, Rae received 858 donations totalling $992,879, for an average donation of $1,157.20.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dion's 859 donors each chipped in an average of $318.50, adding up to $273,611.

Was encouraged to read that.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Canada 19, USA 9

From CBC's Sunday night interview with Dion, after having to wax on about the 'nation' issue, Dion conveys exactly what the average family is thinking:

"But, what I want to say above all, is it’s sad that we have spent minutes about [the 'nation' question] when we have so few minutes to discuss about the real challenge Canada has to face.

Do you [know] in China there are 350,000 engineers more every year in China paid $14 per hour.
Do you know in Canada from any nation you want to choose who will want to be paid $14 per hour?

We need to compete with them, and if we want to make it a priority to count the number of nations in Canada to put in the constitution I will not be this leader."

He goes on to answer the question of Economy vs Environment:

"The truth is our economy is built on waste and we have enjoyed it for more than a century: a lot of natural resources, a lot of water, a lot of space to dump everything. And we have not been careful and up to now it didn’t hurt us too much. I think now it will hurt us. And we need to learn to be energy efficient. The Liberal government has been good under the circumstances.

Don’t forget that 19% of our GDP in Canada is in the hands of what we call the large funnel emitters the big polluters, 19%. It’s 9% in the United States, so I don’t want these industries to leave the country because if they leave the country we’ll loose jobs. But also they will go in countries where there is no regulation and they will pollute even more and the planet will not be in the better situation. I want them to stay. I want to give them demanding but reasonable regulations that meet targets to reach.

I want to work with them, with the market in creating a carbon market in Canada. It’s the best way to proceed. I want to boost the efficiency of the new sources of energy in Canada, to wake up all the innovation that is dormant in this country, to find the solutions.

Let me talk about Alberta. If we reconcile the incredible economic growth in the very, very worrying environmental threat that you have in Alberta to make something sustainable, if we succeed in Alberta we’ll succeed everywhere in the world after. And we will export these solutions and we will make mega tonnes of money with it. It’s what I want to do!"

Actually, a funny read of the transcript is here:

CBC's Evan Solomon: [...] We didn’t hit out Kyoto targets. so, for all the talk, there was no action. How do people trust that Stéphane Dion is talking action and not just more talk?

Dion: When I became minister of the environment? July 2004.

Solomon: 2004, that’s right.

Dion: So one year and a half.

Solomon: And you released the green paper and yes I know about the Montreal Protocol, but…

Dion: But what?

Solomon: Well, I just ask you: was the Liberal leadership record on the environment, in their decade of leadership or more, was it good or bad?

Cute. It shows that reporters are so use to politicians making promises that huge things can be done properly in a short period of time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Oil than Water

Fort McMurray, the town of tar, black gold, and a beautiful meandering Athabasca river. The oil in the sands naturally gives the river water in some pools a rainbow sheen. Scary that.

The above pictures are of the same general area, around the tar sands outside Fort McMurray. You can guess which photo is predevelopment. The projects are incredible, they don't go deep, they go wide. But heck, the area is huge. The problem is energy.

The planned projects taken together will use more water in the river than actually exists. But as these plans are still being developed, well, it's first man built wins. One feels bad for the guys who built earlier downriver; then again, they're already reeling in the cash, and got in when there was no labour crisis.

Dion was on top of the issue that matters most when he went to Ft McMurray today. The place needs energy to function, to work... to fund the government. Things are happening so fast, or slow if you don't consider what's at stake, and the sums being spent are enormous; a half billion dollars on R&D, per project.

Jeffrey Simpson MUST be on his payroll.

Besides being a subtle supporter of Dion, he wrote a series of articles presenting the situation of anarchy in northern Alberta and the challenges faced.

You can read the articles here:

Neutralizing the oil sands' carbon emissions
Mighty sources of energy, mighty big threats
Oil sands vision, red herrings and a sea of platitudes
Fort McMurray gives new meaning to 'boom town'

Like Dryden says of guns, nuclear power scares me. It probably scares me less in Dion's hands if he keeps his word on being able to look voters in the eye when he says "I have a plan for the nuclear waste". Importantly, the alternatives to provide the power are just as dirty, if not more, and guarantee some degree of environmental disaster.

The tar sands are a reality, the world demands the oil. Canada must shine in our development of them. Good for Dion for highlighting this.

(Stephane, don't forget to send Jeff some new glasses for Christmas)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Coyne on Dion... Dean to follow

I look forward to Howard Dean waxing on about Canada for an hour; it will be interesting to see how his speech writers and him present the cross-border relationship, now that he's been DNC Chair for a while (with a nice big win in his hat).

I hope the closing speech of the Liberal convention is made by a triumphant Dion, someone who I hope Dean will acknowledge as a fellow progressive, thoughtful leader who's not affraid of a fight.

Andrew Coyne's Nov.11th National Post column is a nice piece of support for Dion:

The surprising Mr. Dion

Andrew Coyne, National Post
Published: Saturday, November 11, 2006

'For example, you are no doubt aware that France insisted on portioning the island of Mayotte from the Comoros at the time the latter gained independence because the residents of Mayotte unequivocally expressed their desire to maintain their link with France."

Well, it's not quite "we shall fight them on the beaches," but it was unquestionably Stephane Dion's finest hour: the guerre de plume with Lucien Bouchard, Bernard Landry and other separatist luminaries in the tense aftermath of the 1995 referendum, in which the then Intergovernmental Affairs minister publicly demolished the legal and political arguments underpinning their claims of a unilateral right of secession.

It is for that, and the associated Clarity Act, that the owlish Mr. Dion is most renowned. Which makes him a rarity in Canadian politics: a candidate for high office whose rise to prominence was fuelled, not by back-stabbing his colleagues or the patronage of powerful families, but by closely reasoned arguments.

I stress: This is Canadian politics, where nice guys do not even get a decent burial, let alone the chance to finish last. Yet here we are, with three weeks to go until the Liberal leadership vote, and Mr. Dion -- decent, upright, clinically logical -- has as good a chance as any to win.

This was not supposed to happen. "Even Stephane Dion might be in the race" was the exasperated headline in Le Devoir at the news he was considering a run. A dogged adversary, even the nationalists had to concede, and a surprisingly passionate Environment minister, but come on: leader? Yet if Mr. Dion has exceeded expectations in this campaign, it has not been for parading his virtue, as the principled intellectual who floats above the fray. He has not campaigned as an "anti-politician," promising to "do politics differently" and otherwise advertising his disdain for his chosen profession. He has simply demonstrated a practical mastery of it.

"When Stephane Dion spoke, his [Cabinet] colleagues put down their coffees, stopped signing correspondence and listened attentively," Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chretien's lifetime factotum, writes in his just-released memoirs. "He had learned a lot about government, a lot about politics, and a lot about how to get things done." This sounds right to me. Even as a political scientist, Mr. Dion's work had tended more to the applied than the theoretical. In office, his studies continued, only with himself as the research subject. He was learning how to do politics -- not differently, but better.

Or more precisely, how to do politics, while remaining true to himself. Other academics-turned-politician have not managed the transition well. Either they develop into barking partisans, in the mould of John McCallum or Irwin Cotler, self-consciously parodying themselves in the hope that everyone will get that they are playing a game. Or, like Michael Ignatieff, they shrink before our very eyes. The question Mr. Dion faced was how to advance as a politician without turning into a prancing buffoon: how to succeed in politics without becoming really trying.

The way to square that circle was not to play the game of politics, but to learn the art of being politic -- politics, in the best sense of the word. In Summer Meditations, written after he had been president of Czechoslovakia for a year, Vaclav Havel wrote of how surprisingly easy he had found the adjustment from dissident writer to practical politician -- he, who had dedicated his life to "living in truth." All it took, he wrote, was "taste." Or that's the word his translator used. Another word is "tact."

These are the skills Mr. Dion has acquired: of choosing your words carefully; of framing issues to your advantage; of showing different sides of yourself at different times, as events dictate and circumstances allow. Nothing in that requires one to be insincere or inauthentic -- you can be tactful without being guileful -- and so it is that he almost never rings a false note. Even when he boasts -- for example, that he has never had to retract or clarify a statement -- it is matter-of-fact, straightforward, the kind of thing you say in a job interview when asked to name your strengths.

The only question was whether Mr. Dion could attack, when the occasion demanded. We have seen that he can. What was it he said about Bob Rae's tenure as premier? That he had the worst record in the western world? That his disastrous experiment in deficit spending amounted to "giving Monopoly money to the people"? Harsh, yes. But unfair? No.

If there is a politician he resembles, it is Stephen Harper. I think Harper has perhaps the broader strategic vision, and a greater capacity for ruthlessness. But Dion is at least a match in analytical rigor, and far more disciplined. Both men get tagged with that lazy journalistic cliche, that they lack "charisma." But they are the furthest thing, either of them, from the cautious timeservers that would suggest. Both are risk-takers, aggressive in combat, unafraid of being unpopular, determined to prevail. The best minds of their parties, it would be a treat to watch them debate.