Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Vote To Keep Delegated Conventions

Here's a line from an email of a friend who sits on a few Conservative boards, and is a very active politico:

"I'm glad you are opposing Belinda's one member, one vote issue. I've said all along that the liberals have it right in how they elect a leader. You take the drama out of it and it becomes one boring leadership race. Look at this nonsense in Alberta. Any Joschmo can walk up and buy a membership right before voting.........absolutely ridiculous. Democracy should always happen in the ridings where the TRUE members actually show up to a meeting, meet the delegates, and vote on who should be going."

He's right. I don't think we as a party realize the value of a delegated convention, as we prepare to leap into the currently "en vogue" idea of what we want to call "one member, one vote". Let's examine that statement for a second. Is it really one member, one vote? What do we do right now? We allow our grassroots across the country to vote for both a candidate AND a delegate to represent that candidate. We consider many things when selecting our delegates, including their dedication to our candidate of choice, their ability to make a wise decision, and the work they've done for the riding and the party. We send (typically) solid people who can represent us well. Democracy in action.

Now let's look at our proposed idea: We want to let everyone who has a membership vote - no matter how "instant" a Liberal they are, or how ill-informed they are of the issues. These people may not have had a chance to meet any or all of the candidates, or had any opportunity to consider anything more about the candidates than what they hear in the media. This is our idea of a "fair" system? With this new proposed system, the focus of all candidates will quickly go from one of meeting party members and trying to convince them of the merits of their candidacy, to a focus on busing in hundreds of "instant Liberals" to stuff ballot boxes across the country.

So the logistics of the new proposal could get pretty ugly - no matter how much the strongly democratic words "one member, one vote" try to make it seem better. What about the grand spectacle of a delegated convention that we'd all miss out on? Many of us younger Liberals cut our teeth in the world of politics attending delegated leadership conventions. We recall watching in awe as Trudeau was victorious in 68, or a young upstart from Bae Comeau won the Tory leadership in the 80s. We were riveted to our TV sets as Cretien defeated Martin in 90, then swept to power months later. Regardless of political party we have always noticed an upswing in public interest during and shortly after a delegated convention. A party selecting a new leader in a strongly contested delegated convention has often swept into power - often with the momentum of the convention spurring everything. The weeks and months of free publicity leading up to a delegated convention - not to mention the HUGE media and public interest on the convention weekend is not something that can be bought - especially in this day of low cost campaigns (thanks to new campaign finance laws).

I can't say that I always could afford to go as a delegate to all conventions, but I was always able to find senior party members who helped with sponsoring my trip. The campaigns were always quite particular about working hard to ensure they got their people to the vote. This was important, as it really showed an ability to organize - something that is very important to a party thinking about going through a tough election fight requiring a well-organized campaign machine. What I did end up paying "out of pocket" (or out of parent's pocket) was something I felt happy about spending, as it was paid to the Party I love, and for a cause I was passionate about.

To be like everyone else, we could just go "one member, one vote" (in words alone), to make everyone imagine we're being more "grassroots" - just to watch our members suffer as "instant Liberals" run off with the votes to get their candidate out in front. Just talk to Alberta PCers to see what kind of mess they are involved in. Years from now we will lament the destruction of our very sound leadership process if we choose to go this route.

This weekend, please choose to support the existing leadership process.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ideas - What Canada's Best Leaders Have Always Been About

For many months we have closely watched our leadership convention. We have watched a solid campaign, fought with honor. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, and to the Arctic, our membership have had many opportunities to meet each candidate. A solid debate has taken place - if not on stage, then at least in the blogs and via the media.

Looking long and hard at all the candidates I decided I wanted to support those who brought forward new and progressive ideas for our party and our nation. With the large field of candidates we were (not surprisingly for Liberals) delighted by an exceptional debate. From the beginning the fresh ideas and educated opinions of Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion appealed to this voting delegate most. Ken Dryden's affable style and pragmatic solutions to Canadian issues were also high on the list.

As the campaign rolled on we all saw "shots" traded back and forth on various issues. All of the front-runners committed gaffes of one sort or another. Towards the end of the campaign we saw a more serious discussion about ideas. We saw the campaign coalesce into a serious discussion about Canada and this country's future.

Today, when we look at the frontrunners we see some clear distinctions:
- Ken Dryden is a great guy with some good ideas, but perhaps not the delegate support to seriously challenge the front-runners
- Bob Rae may not be as likable, and perhaps doesn't have the "baggage-free" past, but he has some real-world leadership experience (maybe not the best experience, but...) - in the wrong party
- Stephane Dion showed some great potential early on as the "surprise" candidate, who seemed to be "everyone's second choice". Things changed for Stephane when "angry Stephane" stepped out. Dion also missed some key opportunities to discuss ideas... being "former Environment Minister" was not enough when Ignatieff trumped him on environmental ideas... and getting beaten to the punch on the Quebec "nation" issue was not a good thing for the only Quebec candidate
- Gerard Kennedy has proven to be a "good guy", and "the kind of person this party needs in a future cabinet". Unfortunately for Gerard his lack of any serious pull in Quebec has hamstrung his campaign. Fighting it out with Harper in territories Harper is strongest in would not be the best situation for our party
- Finally, we come to Michael Ignatieff. Through the entire campaign Ignatieff has taken shots from other campaigns about his voluminous writings and some public statements. No matter how much flak the rookie MP has taken, he has risen above it all to come shooting back with more fresh ideas. He has been careful not to criticize the other campaigns or candidates (as a front-runner must be mindful of).

As the campaign comes to a close Michael Ignatieff seems to be the most "Prime-Ministerial" of the candidates. His powerful public persona has lent him an air of confidence and capability. One resounding fact permeates the entire Ignatieff campaign: This is a man who has given a LOT of thought to the Canadian equation. He has thought through the challenges and opportunities this land faces, and has come up with some significant thoughts on where we should go - and how to get there. It becomes apparent from speaking with Mr. Ignatieff that his ideas were not simply "hatched" for this campaign (as those of some other candidates may have been - to wit: the Bob Rae "campaigns are not about ideas" statement). Ignatieff displays thought patterns that have been at work since the 1968 leadership contest, during which he was a Trudeau campaign team member. Since that time it is obvious he has been touched by the Trudeau vision for constantly challenging this country with fresh ideas.

In Montreal this upcoming weekend I will be casting my ballot for Michael Ignatieff. I urge everyone to carefully think about what fresh ideas and a clear vision will mean for us. Last election we were defeated for a lack of ideas - all we could do was criticize Harper. Voters saw Harper as having ideas and vision - even if they did not agree with all of it, the fact was that he had given serious thought to where he wanted to take Canada. We need to ensure we have a leader who can beat Harper in the national debate, while proving to Canadians that we continue to be the party of new thought and ideas.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alberta: The Stepford Province

I've lived throughout Canada, and many places in the world, but I have seen few places as homogeneously conservative as Alberta (Texas may compare). Alberta does have a conservative "heritage", but it is truly frightening to see the masses vote unashamedly Conservative for so many years. The lunacy of it all is that even groups who typically would/should never vote conservative DO here in the good 'ol AB. Union workers, the working poor, immigrants and minorities, even teachers and nurses seem to support the Cons more than any other one party.

This political "one-think" is extremely bizarre... something of a real-life "Stepford Province". It is so frighteningly conservative that, while conservative Albertans and their national sounding-boards (National "Pest", Global) have bashed Ontarians for the past 10 years or so (for voting Liberal federally), they deny their own 40-plus year inbred marriage to conservatism - both federal and provincial. Yup, I used the word "inbred", and inbred is really what Alberta politics is all about. It's not about building bridges, accepting newcomers, and new ideas... rather, it is about "you're either with us, or "agin'" us".

What will it take to change the Albertan outlook? Probably the next 10/15 yrs. - enough time for alternative fuels to come to the forefront - or for oil supplies to diminish enough to cause this to occur quicker. Change may also come with the influx of Canadians and foreigners bringing modern political outlooks to Alberta (although to count on that may be folly in most cases, since many of the most conservative-minded people in neighboring provinces have run to Alberta, and praise it as a gleaming bastion of conservativeness).

In reality, Albertans (some of the richer ones anyway) have benefited from that "black gold" shooting out of the ground. Anyone could govern the province through the excesses of riches it has Bacchanally bathed in over the past decades. Heck, make it a kindergarten class project. The crazy riches shooting out of the ground have led to the open-armed welcome of foreign-owned oil companies, American-based venture capitalists, and even the Enrons of the world. Adam Smith would have been proud to watch this new blameless, conscience-less, angry capitalism run rampant over the leeward plains of the rockies. The Albertan "success story" (at the cost of medicare, seniors, children in schools, infrastructure maintenance, minorities, and social justice) has created a bit of a beacon for a lot of Canada - of promised riches (don't mention the fact that the real-world salaries are not much higher, if at all, and come in the face of rampant inflation and cost-of-living increases). The beacon shone brightly enough for Canadians (less than 1/2 of us) to actually vote into power an Alberta-based neoCon government... just barely.

This winter it is time for us to throw out the Stepford government... It may all start with one of Harper's robot servants breaking down and freaking out at a public event (ie: speak in public, without Shrub's "coles-notes"). One can only hope...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stephen Harper, Conservative "Morals", and Safe Injection Sites

Now that a comprehensive study has shown safe injection sites do work, what exactly will the neoCon government's response be??? It will be interesting to see what Harper does. Most likely the Cons will find plenty of other things to screw up - so we won't likely hear about the program the Cons cut funding to earlier in the year.

In a nutshell typical conservative rhetoric always argues for extreme measures when dealing with crime or moral issues. One things conservatives hate - science. They'll write it off as "the" faulty science they hope to believe it is. While they're quick to find a miniscule group of supporters who can argue against the majority of the scientific community, conservatives have found new ways to cast doubt on scientific fact. Like the Inquisition hundreds of years ago, it is always conservatives in society who want to bury their heads in the sand. It's great to see a very public study confirm safe injection sites do work. Now it's our duty to ensure the rest of Canada keeps hearing this message.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Conservative's China Folly - Or Is It Their Plan???

Liberal Catnip's post
really leads one to think about the perilous economic situation the Harper's regime seem to be taking us towards... I for one have always felt that Canada needs to do more to remove some of our eggs from the NAFTA/US trade basket, and seek out the world's two fastest growing economies - India and China. It seems that Harper's conservative ideologues are just too repelled by the label "communist" to want to ensure Canada's economic future. Heck, the Cons always ripped any party to the left of their "practical fascism"as being "pinkos" or "commies". We all have neo-con buddies who throw that word around thinking the slur has an effect on the people it is hurled at.

We as Liberals stand more for human rights and citizen's rights than any conservative movement ever has - it is just part of the very definition of the parties. When Harper's lackies speak about the human rights abuses in China, they conveniently choose not to discuss human rights abuses in "allied" lands like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Russia, and yes, our good buddies to the south (the US). Its not about the rights, but about who supports our conservative ideologue values... Like the Bushists the Harpies are extremists to the core. Like the Bushists they will lead us to economic ruin.

While our NAFTA partners decline - Mexico in squalid poverty, and the US in economic ruin (from trying to be the world policeman, and flex their muscles) - India and China grow exponentially. Canada is on a crossroads that we couldn't even dream of just 50 years ago: we're located at the economic crossroads between the EU, Russia, Japan, the US, and of course China and Asia. With the melting icecap we are going to see the opening of the Northwest Passage within 10 to 15 years. Canada is in the perfect location to exploit this fact. Why would European shipping traverse the Panama Canal to China and Japan when they can just cut across Canada's north? Northern Canada would also benefit immensely from this routing - maybe even deep sea ports and railways across the permafrost. Of course the Americans and their Conservative cousins around the world (all of whom have heavily invested in stock in American corporations) stand to lose a lot if cargo ceases shipping via the Panama. The American-backed world-wide neoconservative movement has everything to gain from ensuring Canada's "Northwest Passage" does not become Europe and Asia's preferred trade route.

Canada NEEDS both China and India - heck, why not all of Asia? We need to hook up with growing trade partners who need both our resources and expertise. Cretien and Martin both understood this, hence our Team Canada Trade Missions. WE need to hurry up and get back in power so we can retain any bridges we've built with the new Asian Tigers.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Income Trusts: Harper's "National Energy Program"

It's rare that you pass through any political discussion in Alberta, tell someone you're a Liberal, and not get the usual mouth-foaming seething angry comments about the NEP, Trudeau, and Liberals in general. There are Albertans that were never directly hurt by it, who talk about the NEP like it was the boogey man, or maybe a curse brought to them by the Devil himself... (regardless of how painfully obvious it is to any non-foaming-at-the-mouth person that a global recession was more to blame for Alberta's early 80s woes than any federal policy designed to keep the nation running).

For decades the "mouth-foamers" couldn't stop their furious hateful rants - I mean, you gotta see one of these folks - you honestly would think they need a straightjacket. Now, it appears PM Shrub has given the rest of Canada (and a lot of Albertans) something new to seeth over... the whole income trust scenario.

Now, we will need to put this into perspective: the global economy is doing quite well right now (with the exception of some key players - like the US), so we probably aren't going to see a whole lot of bankruptcies due to this. Still, thousands of people stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was sad to see them on TV with their woeful stories. A lot of people are very upset. Funny thing is a lot of these folks are Albertans.

One thing is for certain - Liberals, by our very nature, tend to be a lot less likely to be raving seething, or "angry". So while an Eastern, Ontario-based company's moves led to Harper's quick "fix", it likely won't lead to the blanket dislike we saw in Alberta. As a matter of fact, Harper's henchmen probably never even realized they were punishing the oil barons of their "home province" more than some Eastern corporation...

Will the income trust issue become a major election matter? Will it remain on people's minds for years to come? It remains for history to tell. At the very least we can expect a lot of (formerly) wealthy Alberta Conservatives to donate a lot less (if anything) to the federal Cons in the upcoming election. Good for us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stephen Harper's $Billion "Boondoggle"; Income Trusts, and other Fine Things

The Conservative crash and burn continues this week:

We heard Harper and his henchmen/women cry for years about a gun registry (that actually worked), because of the cost overruns they said were ridiculously large. Today we hear news of the Con's own government "missing" estimates on the cost of arming Canada's Border Guards. The original $101 Million estimate can be thrown out the window now, and the Cons can start telling us how much it will really cost to arm all our border guards. The fact that it wasn't even the Con MPs, but rather a member of the Border Service who actually revealed the new numbers, shows that the Cons had no plans to reveal the true numbers. These real numbers were tenfold the original claim - whoa... another Billion Dollar Boondoggle? Mr. Harper? Shrub??? Say it ain't so!!!

"Mr. Harper - you're a liar..." These were the words of one Montreal resturaunteur after hearing about the income trust changes. The fact is that the Conservative government's integrity is what's at question here - not the pros or cons of income trusts. The simple fact is: "Canada's New Government" lied to voters on a very blatant and clear promise not to tax income trusts.

What will the next weeks/months bring? We can only imagine. Hang on - this is going to be one lively election!