Thursday, August 31, 2006

Media begins to help clarify Ignatieff's positions... on everything

Reading the Georgia Straight today helped shed a little more light on the stances Michael Ignatieff has taken on various issues.

WesternGrit has read "Blood and Belonging", and "The Lesser Evil", so I had a pretty good idea of what the non-distorted views expressed by this candidate are... Still, it seems the general public had been getting a lot of blarney from various sources, about what Mr. Ignatieff really stood for. Having read his books, I was surprised at how slanted certain opinions of him are.

It was refreshing today to read the Georgia Straight's editorial. As Liberals we owe it to our party to ensure that no-one who could possibly be leader be desparaged in such a malicious manner that it hampers our party's ability to win an election - or to grow in the future.

As Liberals we need to ensure that we all listen to our candidates carefully, and make well-informed, wise choices. Several of the folks running for our leadership would make better leaders than Stephen Harper. They all paint some part of a greater Liberal vision - be in left, center-left, or pure "centrist". WE - as a party - need to ensure that all parts of that greater liberal/Liberal vision are allowed to be at the table, and are part of a broad coalition of ideas that will lead to the defeat of the neo-Cons and their portly leader.

Be we supporters of Kennedy, Ignatieff, Dion, Dryden, Fry, Bryson - or any other candidate - let's ensure that we consider the party 1st and foremost. A leadership campaign should not do damage to a new leader, or the party. It should, however, create the membership and momentum that is needed to defeat a terrible government.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Surrey Leadership "Debate" & Caucus Retreat/Wonderful Wednesday

Whew! What a week for Lower Mainland Liberals! While the Caucus Retreat forms the backdrop for all events, there were some key opportunities for Liberal "rank and file" members to chat with their favorite MPs.

On Monday night the Surrey Campus of SFU hosted a leadership debate in their yet-to-be-opened center. The venue was packed, and the audience paid rapt attention to the "debates". It really was not much of a debate (as none really have). With 10 candidates these sessions are really more or less "bear-pits" or Q & A. It seemed that each candidate was only asked questions pertinent to their own areas of interest. Not exactly planned to trip anyone up.

The candidates looked much more polished than previous debates. Ken Dryden was much smoother and spoke well. He seemed comfortable with his surroundings, and was looking more and more like a contender. Tony V did his usual "rant". Love his energy. I really like Dion, but it seemed he was running on very little sleep. He is an intellectual, so his sentence structure should be sound (regardless of accent, etc. - which really mean nothing to most of us), but he seemed to struggle with some phrases. Not sure if it was simply the French-English translation. Still, he made a great speech about the environment. Michael Ignatieff spoke well, as usual. If he is to be our leader, we'll need him to stop doing the awkward-looking "chicken wing" thing with his arms. He rests his hands on hips while he speaks, pulling his elbows entirely too far forward... Something that may be OK in a lecture hall - but doesn't fit the podium, or the corridors of power. Still, his speech had a lot of polish.

Scott Brison was clearly the best speaker. He was the most fluid, and his years of experience and polish really stood out. He is very comfortable on stage, and his words flow effortlessly. Everyone WesternGrit spoke with agreed that Scott was on a roll.

After the speeches Ruby Dhalla hosted a function for South Asian Professionals. WesternGrit is a big fan of Ruby, and we certainly had a great time at the get-together. A lot of networking occured, and Michael Ignatieff spoke to the large crowd. The site - a Brew Pub in Central Surrey, right below the SFU Campus - was perfectly chosen. A lot of the bar crowd joined the Liberals in our festive merry-making.

Wednesday saw an Ignatieff "appreciation day" for Lower Mainland volunteers. It was obvious that the crowd was a lot more than just Ignatieff supporters... The Gastown Pub was packed wall-to-wall with patrons looking to meet and chat with the many MPs present. WesternGrit had a very nice conversation with Tony Ianno about the race for the presidency. Tony may well be receiving an endorsement from this Liberal Blogger in the not-too-distant future...

As the heat in the packed bar become too much to bear the loyal Liberals proceeded to the Hyatt for the evening's main event - drinks with all the caucus at "Wonderful Wednesday". Another packed ballroom hosted hundreds of Lower Mainland Liberals, and, of course, another round of candidate speeches. Once again the group was better than before. While many repeated the exact same speech they made at the SFU debates, Brison, Ignatieff, and Dryden all had modified speeches.

A couple of speeches were very appealing: Ken Dryden had a fired up rendition of his greatest hits - and really went after the Conservatives on every major issue of the day. His energy was fantastic. Scott Brison was smooth as usual (impressive speaker, as always). Ignatieff had an excellent theme for his speech - hope. His entire speech was rooted in the word hope. It really seemed similar to Dr. Martin Luther King's "Let Freedom Ring" speech. It seemed that Michael was switching from "Hi, I'm another one of the leadership candidates", to "Why I should be your leader and PM" mode. A very good transition for Ignatieff, and one that will serve him well. I look forward to hearing the "Hope Speech" again (there we go - I just christened it).

All-in-all, it has been a great week in Vancouver, and our party really benefitted from the attention. I personally noticed dozens of "non-political" locals join the Liberals in our festivities.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Liberals Sit On Hands While Conservatives Fail Canadians on Issues: Middle East and World Affairs; AIDs and Africa; Global Warming

Now a couple of months ago I would have said, "sure", if we risk pulling the plug on the government on a major issue of the day, we should be very careful. Still, I always stood firm that on certain issues - even in the days of the large Con lead in the polls - we need to announce our intentions early, and ensure the public knows it would be Harper who would pull the plug on a government.

Back then it was OK for us to justify our timidness with an argument of prudence, and the interests of the party. Bill Graham still sounded lame however.

Since we've started seeing the real Conservative agenda, we've re-attained the lead in the polls - at least part of it.

The Cons have failed Canadians on all the major issues of the day. On any of the wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon) they have abandoned our policy of neutrality.

On foreign aid and AIDs - the "politically correct way" for a conservative to say "no, I have no need for those people", is to state unequivocally that they want to spend their money "at home" first. Of course their fear and hatred of homosexuals causes them to completely ignore the AIDs crisis. Harper skipped the Vancouver Pride Parade, even though he was in town that day. The only minorities the Cons will court are those who can elect some of their candidates (of course minorities typically recognize what conservative policies mean to them).

The most "brainiac" Conservative policy was their abject denial of the existence of global warming. Even though a strong majority of the world's scientists (almost all of them) support the fact that global warming exists, Harper's Cons refused to believe it. They continue to trot out oil industry pseudo-scientists to refute clear evidence. This is entirely too reminiscent of Stockwell Day's belief that the earth was only 6000 years old, and that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans (can you believe "Stock" is one of our top cabinet ministers - there's someone rooted in reality - good enough to manage "homeland security", a similarly fictitious post).

The Conservatives will be conservatives. But where are WE??? Truly, I think we're all a little tired of Bill Graham's clear lack of gumption. Sure he's a bright man. Sure he is respected by the House. But, our lack of a strong public stand on ANYTHING is really disturbing. It is time for someone to TAKE A STRONG MODERATE STAND on the issues of the day. The radical middle needs to speak. Where is the "brat pack" of tomorrow? Right now we could be screaming about every single issue. We could have the Cons blurting out hastily prepared statements, talking themselves into corners. Imagine Con MPs speaking their minds in anger. Instead we are sitting back. This needs to change if we want to show clear leadership.

I urge my fellow bloggers to begin speaking out against the lethargy that has crept into our party. Yes, we're all "busy" with our leadership campaigns. Yes, the Cons are shooting themselves in the foot. Yes, our interim leader may not want to commit to a policy publicly when it may be contrary to a future leaders. Still, we need to speak on issues that are CLEARLY MODERATE AND LIBERAL before we get labelled as ineffective. If we don't, it will be a long winter...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Conservatives Lack "World Awareness": Ergo Wajid Khan Decision

So why would a Conservative PM pick a Liberal MP as his point person on the single most important issue of this government?

A huge part of it is just a simple attempt to patronize the Muslim community. Of course anyone with half a brain can see through all the crap, considering every public view ever expressed by Conservatives on this matter have been skewed strongly in favor of pro-American positions. Its similar to people I've heard in the past saying "I can't be racist because I have a ___ (insert appropriate race here) friend". Right now Harper is trying very hard, in urban areas, to find some "friends" of more than just the middle class "mainstream" rural variety.

Conservatives tend to have a very restricted world view. They typically won't read anything they don't care about. Very few have experienced humanities or a liberal arts education. When they take a stand on world affairs, it is usually measured by what the most capitalist nation in the world would say. Their opinions are always tainted with religious, social, fiscal, and ethnic extremism.

When you're a conservative, and you don't care about a people, or a certain part of the world, you really don't bother learning more about it. Open-mindedness is not a conservative trait. The logical conclusion to this is a party which typically elects closed-minded MPs, who then take closed-minded opinions on any public issue - from the environment, to the economy, to world affairs. The Canadian Conservatives are the result - a party with no link to foreign lands (through a clear lack of visible minority MPs, and party faithful), and very little ability to build diplomatic bridges when needed.

The Cons have no-one who can appeal to foreign powers. Now, in a dangerous move for all those involved, Harper has appointed Khan. Khan will be trotted out in front of the public any time the Cons' stand on the Middle East is criticized. This may have an adverse affect on the Liberals. The best bet we Liberals have, is to say that we want to get Canada out of the mess the Cons have gotten us into, hence we are helping them out of a jam (that's our story - let's stick to it). This may make Harper appear to be a "bridge-builder", but it will make his party appear weak, ineffectual, and lacking key components that would make it a stong government.

Harper's gambits over the last several months have always been poised to make him appear more moderate. The thing that Harper may not be counting on, is that the Liberal assault on the Cons in the next election will not be on Harper, but on the ability of the Conservative Party to govern. So far they have only shown incompetence... A party without any effective cabinet minsters or MPs. We might be at a point where the Cons will try to buy floor-crossing MPs from the Liberals, just to fulfill their glaring lack of ability as a government.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Harper Shuns South Asians - Refuses to Apologize For Komagata Maru Incident

(Surrey - Aug 5, 2006) Stephen "Shrub" Harper spoke to a crowd of several thousand (mostly) Indo-Canadians today, in a callous attempt at buying urban votes. Mr. Harper happened to be in town for the annual BBQ of a Conservative Senator. The quest for a gainfully attained urban seat brought him to a Punjabi festival (Mela) in Surrey.

WesternGrit, and many in the South Asian Community felt that after the recent apology to Chinese Canadians (in another shameless attempt at urban votes), certainly an apology was due to Sikh Canadians and other South Asians who attempted to immigrate to Canada back in 1914. Certainly it was widely known that an apology (as in the case with the Chinese and Italian communities) was coming from the former Liberal gov't. True, the Liberal policy had been not to politicize such situations, but a multi-party committee had been working on a solution.

There are a lot of interesting facts surrounding Harper's sudden interest in the South Asian vote. The most significant being this: When asked about the Komagata Maru incident a few months back, Harper had NO IDEA WHAT THIS WAS, nor did he seem to care. He no doubt received strong urging from his scorned former MP - Gurmant Grewal - to attend this event.

Harper's visit set to work a veritible army of security, including tax-payer funder RCMP officers, and hired ruffians who wandered the crowd rudely asking people to sit down on the damp lawn, since our standing was somehow a "threat" to the PM. I must say that I never noticed such paranoia about security on any Cretien or Martin visit - anywhere in Canada.

Nina Grewal introduced Harper. She shocked many in the crowd by describing Harper's "uniting of the right". She actually stated: "In 2003 Mr. Harper did the unthinkable, when he brought together the two right wing parties of Canada..." Way to hit the nail on the head Nina! She went on to welcome Harper to HER riding. Actually, Newton North Delta (where Bear Creek Park is) is Sukh Dhaliwal's riding. This was one of the few times anyone has heard Nina speak, and now we know why. Hope she gets a few lines in Parliament! No wonder the crowd left the event to find their cars leafleted with info from someone wishing to seek the Conservative nomination against Nina...

Harper took the stage after - get this - Nina (in Punjabi) asked the crowd - no, actually begged us - to stand for Harper and give him a warm Surrey Welcome. Some of the crowd stood. Harper layed on the usual "we love to be here amongst this great group of Canadians" blather. He layed it on pretty thick when he praised Indian Canadians for our current contributions to Canada. He offered absolutely no apology, or even a hint of an apology. Instead, Harper stated, "we ACKNOWLEDGE the Komagata Maru incident... We will look into this further". Oh thank you Harpo! You agree that a documented historical event occurred! Big whoopee! The crowd was NOT happy. Many individuals in the crowd were openly laughing and waving off his comments.

WesternGrit and a group of fellow attendees did a rough poll after Harper's speech, and we were able to conclude that 7 out of 50 people we interviewed felt Harper had any concern for the Sikh community. That's not even 15%. Perhaps Harpo and his clown crew think we look too much like terrorists (that would certainly explain the security). At any rate, Harper did not come off "warm" to the crowd. He clearly looked uncomfortable. The crowd reacted in kind.

I'll have some more pictures posted in the next day or two...

Note to fellow Libs: Harpo and Laureen were presented some expensive gifts (WesternGrit will be posting pictures later). Let's check to see that they are claimed/noted.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Harper to try to Kiss Some More Minority A$$

Being a member of a visible minority, I feel I can rightfully use that title.

Anyways... Word has it, that in his continued attempt to buy minority votes, Stephen Harper may be making a key announcement at a Sikh Festival (Mela) in Surrey BC, today.

A few months ago, Stephen Harper was asked (while commenting on paying reparations to Chinese Canadians), about reparations for Sikh Canadians (or their families) who had perished or suffered during the Komagata Maru incident. Our wise "worldy" PM knew nothing about the incident, or the atrocities committed against East Indian Canadians in 1914 (see link above for details).

For years, members of my community have been asking for an apology, or some sort of reparations. We understand that there are many factors to consider (not the least, reparations for 100s of other groups who also feel they rightfully deserve consideration). We know that this decision has to be taken very carefully, or Canadian taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars.

From what we hear, today our shameless PM - who had no idea what this incident was - is going to try to buy some urban Vancouver and Toronto votes, with the cheap cost of a verbal apology. Shame on the PM for stooping to such a level. Members of his party were the very people who lined up to sign petitions BANNING SIKHS WITH TURBANS FROM SERVING IN THE RCMP. Now this very conservative man - from a party whose policies would never to anything to help the vast majority of immigrants, or assist in their urban challenges - is going to try to buy some votes...

It is absolutely sickening to see this weak attempt to buy votes. Unfortunately, there will be those in my community (Gurmant & Nina Grewal) who will trade pride, principle, and ideology for a few brief moments of backbench ("shut up and speak when we ask you to") glory.

While ridiculous popularity contests of first generation Punjabis still occur in urban areas to this day, thankfully - with the elections of bright young second generation folks like Navdeep Bains and Ruby Dhalla - we will see an end to this "popularity over principles" politics. In the meantime, a community which could never benefit from most conservative policy (especially this brand of neoCon reactionary conservatism) will have to suffer through a few more months/years of the "new Conservatives".

I will be checking out the Mela tomorrow, and may have some pictures to post...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tory Slide Continues - Canadians Learn The Truth

Okay. So you're a portly male politician from the Great White North, with a penchant for homophobes, the "freedom" of anyone espousing intolerance veiled as "free speech", and being a pot calling a kettle black (vis-a-vis Gomery)... Just how do you plan on going about getting elected? What's the recipe to get you into power and help line the pockets of "the man" (the usual conservative fat-cats)?

You start with a smidgen of hired Australian Outback savvy... Mix that with some dumbed down, down home southern "good 'ol boy". Toss in a touch of "awe shucks", and there you have it - the makings of a populist Western neo-Con PM.

Pretty easy wasn't it? Canadians - even those who care about their politics - were easily distracted by "those corrupt Liberals". Anything that went wrong in the first few days of power... "I know, I know, it was those Liberals!" (reminds one of the old Cheech and Chong Corsican brothers script, where the hapless dimwitted orphans pertinaciously blamed the Gypsies for all that went wrong). Conservative MPs reveled in the "security blanket" of the last days of the election campaign (where Shrub could do no wrong), and in the "honeymoon" months of the regime.

Perhaps it wasn't that easy, and perhaps the Canadian voter has maintained a bit more of their concern for this country than first thought... "Little Bush" may have found that Canadians don't really care for neo-Con populism. As Canadians find out more and more about the Conservative agenda they like less and less of the Harper regime.

It started with appointments that went against every word of the "Accountability Act". The Cons followed up with their (non-existent) "made in Canada solution" for the global warming problem (operative word: "global"). The next move was to kill a gun registry that stable-minded Canadians everywhere (including police forces) wanted (a registry which independant UN observers indicate was actually very cost-effective in saving lives). Following these "bold" and very conservative moves - among others - Harper's angry minions decided to tackle an age old Canadian foreign policy position, by siding completely with one side in a Mid-East conflict. Callously toying with throwing decades of world respect for Canada out the window, the neo-Can-Cons have married Canada's position on the Mid-East to that of American neo-Cons like Bush and Cheney.

One really needs to wonder what reality these conservatives live in? It becomes easier to understand when one puts together the general make-up of a typical neo-Con: someone who never travelled much beyond their home town; never cared to learn about the world outside of their immediate scope; typically never study liberal arts of any sort; prefer American media to Canadian; are angry, angry, ANGRY, at anything they fear or dislike; and dislike anything different from what they are "comfortable" with (using buzz words like "tradition" and "family values" to cloak the anger, fear, and hatred).

So... here we are. The Cons are now sitting even in the polls. Neck-and-neck with a Liberal Party that they tried to tar with a scandal that never really occurred the way they tried to paint it. Neck-and-neck with a party without a leader! The Canadian public is now so "in touch with" what the Conservatives are trying to do, that they are leaning towards taking ANY Liberal leadership contender over Harper. Could the Calgary-based Con leader end up exactly like another former Calgary area MP (a much better man - one Joseph Clark)?

The Lebanon and Afghan wars are still at an early stage. The situations should be in full swing when the next session of Parliament begins. Perhaps this land can be saved from the real Harper agenda being rolled out any further. It looks like Canadians are getting sick of the way Harper is "standing up" for Canada - when standing up only amounts to standing above the media on the Parliamentary stairs pontificating to Canadians what our values should be.