Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Justin Trudeau is clearly ready to be Prime Minister...

Today's Nanos rolling poll numbers (see link below)
It's been a struggle to decide how to vote this election as a progressive desperate for change.

Liberal strength in the polls and various by-elections from 2013 to late 2014 seemed to collapse late last fall for various reasons.  The NDP victory in the Alberta election in May this year pushed the federal NDP into major contention.  The Tory attack, echoed by the NDP, that Justin Trudeau is "just not ready," seemed to be sticking.

Then the election was called in August.   Suddenly, Trudeau's muted pre-election appearances gave way to great passion and previously vague policy positions were replaced by a crystal clear message to boost economic growth by lowering taxes on the middle class, raising them on the 1% richest, and greatly expanding infrastructure spending now.    

At the same time, Mulcair's NDP fell into the very same trap that Olivia Chow fell into last year in the Toronto mayoral race: running a bland, frontrunner's campaign.  Mulcair has inspired few with his too carefully devised policies designed to bring about incremental and undramatic change at the federal level.  On issues of economic insecurity and employment, Mulcair has offered little inspiration. 

On top of that, Mulcair has failed to impress most Canadians with his leadership style.  What was once admiration for his tough questioning in the House of Commons and clarity on some important issues has now become frustration with his caution.

Furthermore, Mulcair has consistently failed to impress during all of the leaders' debates, including the most recent this week on foreign policy, where Justin Trudeau soared with passionate attacks on Stephen Harper's record.  Trudeau embodies the change most progressives want after this election, both in terms of policy but also style.   

I will admit that for years I disliked Mulcair.  Before he became NDP leader, I found him to be insufferably arrogant and unlikeable.  Since becoming leader, he's mellowed, trying to be perceived as more prime ministerial.   On some counts, he's succeeded.  But the old prickly habits are still there.  We saw them in the Globe's economy debate where Mulcair mocked Justin Trudeau for previously admitting to smoking marijuana. 

After the Maclean's leadership debate in August, I had a nice chat with a family member who usually votes Liberal.  She said Mulcair, "still creeps me out."   I remember well too another friend who had a very negative reaction using similar language to Mulcair's victory speech in 2012 after winning the NDP leadership.

Clearly, Mulcair is no Rachel Notley.  The notion that the NDP's victory in Alberta would automatically transfer to the federal level is simply untrue.  

Perhaps the big story of this campaign can be summed up like this: the public, now exposed to Mulcair on a regular basis, is realizing they don't like him all that much despite advertised strengths.  His muted policies aren't helping much either.   Furthermore, Trudeau has shone in this election campaign with passion and policy clarity on the issues most important to Canadians.  He's performed well above expectations while Mulcair has performed well below them.

This is why we're seeing the Liberals emerge as the sole challenger to the Conservatives while the NDP falls back to the mid-20s. 

I expect this trend will continue despite the NDP's renewed plans to mimic Tory attacks on Trudeau.  

Some words of advice for the NDP: don't stoop to more personal attacks on Trudeau as the public, like me, is starting to believe that he is, indeed, "ready" to lead Canadians.   Instead, focus on the issues that are NDP strengths like ensuring civil rights, better health care for all, a cleaner environment and experienced leadership.

I don't agree with everything the Liberals are proposing.  I have been very tempted to vote NDP in this election.  But I'm a pragmatist, and if the Liberals are the main challengers to the Conservatives, they'll get my vote. 

Based on current trends, I'm 80% sure I'm voting for my local Liberal candidate, Bill Morneau, who brings exceptional experience and qualities to the role of MP.   If elected, I hope Morneau focuses as much on helping his uniquely vulnerable local communities in Toronto Centre as MP as he does any cabinet portfolio given to him in Ottawa (should the Liberals form government.) 

Will Trudeau be able to continue this momentum and win?  If Canadians want change, yes.  No doubt, the Tories will spend millions over the next two weeks to undermine that Liberal momentum.  Hold on to your hats!  

How many people are unfairly imprisoned in the U.S., yet this guilty bitch gets a personal visit from Pope Francis?

Pope Francis is a progressive tease.

On issues affecting heterosexuals, he's been great, re-focusing the Catholic Church on fighting poverty, climate change and many other issues relevant to most people's lives.   He's even signaled that continuing to heap scorn and discrimination on LGBT people is not the best way for a Catholic to spend their time.

Yet most of that goodwill has evaporated in my mind thanks to this one small, but hugely symbolic action.

Just think of all the impoverished, probably innocent people in the U.S. who couldn't afford decent legal help who are now suffering in prison.

None of them got a personal visit from the Pontiff during his recent trip to the U.S. to boost their spirits. 

Instead, Francis chose to visit this bigot bitch who's guilty as sin of her crimes.  Public servants in a secular society must fulfill their duties and treat everyone equally under the law.   She, who will not be named (on this blog,) failed to do so.  And she thumbed her nose at the judicial system in the U.S.

In certain grotesque, religious circles, I'm sure the bigot bitch is a hero.  But years from now, the Pope's visit to see her in prison will be looked on as if he went to visit a member of the KKK who refused to admit African-Americans to university and got jailed for it.
Shame on the Pope. 


Days later, the Vatican is backtracking, claiming the "meeting should not be seen as support."  

Read the contradictory details here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mulcair and Trudeau making it hard for promiscuous progressives to decide how to vote...

I've been busy with work and life lately so I haven't had any time to blog since the beginning of the month.  I can't promise that'll change much between now and October 19th.  But I'm happy to share these thoughts today.

We seem to be stuck in a very tight three-way race with daily fluctuations that see one party on top, followed by a drop to a close third place within 24 hours and back again (if you follow the daily stream of rolling Nanos polls, which I do.)  Other legit pollsters like Abacus and Ipsos Reid confirm that trend.    

Since the early August election call, we can now deduce some clear trends:

  • The narrow NDP lead over the Conservatives has dissipated.
  • The Conservatives, after a rough first month, are back to where they were at the election call, but show little ability to grow further.
  • The Liberals have rebounded somewhat and are back in this game.

Why has the NDP lost its edge in the polls?

I think it's because of Tom Mulcair's overly cautious campaign.  The problem is varied: Mulcair's platform - with its promise of $15/day child care, balanced budgets, a corporate tax hike, a small business tax cut and incremental change here and there - seems designed to calm fears about an NDP government. 

Perhaps some of those fears have been calmed.  But the modest platform thus far isn't catching fire or exciting even the base.  It's certainly not exciting me much. 

On top of this is Mulcair's dry personality.  He does come across as very competent and prime ministerial.  But he's not warm and it seems that Canadians are not connecting with him much.  He comes across as an adequate replacement for Stephen Harper, not an inspiring one.  He wouldn't be a loved prime minister, certainly no more than Stephen Harper.

On the most important issue facing the country - the economy - Mulcair's platform seems a bit hodgepodge and uninspiring.  This may be a communications problem.  Mulcair has often expressed his economic vision for Canada: a more diverse economy, less dependent on fossil fuels, more opportunity for people, etc.  The separate planks are there and they are smart.   But the entire package has yet to congeal into a coherent and easily explained and inspiring whole.  That might change should the NDP put out their full platform backed up by some inspiring talking points that simply explain how an NDP government will make our lives better.

An average poll rating of 32% to 34% at the start of the campaign has eroded for the NDP down to just below 30%. 

Meanwhile, the Liberals have halted their spring and early summer decline with a vigorous campaign that has been very clear in terms of its main message of growing the economy and helping the middle class.  

As a communicator, Justin Trudeau is proving himself to be superior to Mulcair.  We saw this during last week's Globe & Mail debate on the economy in which Trudeau repeated often why the economy is in a ditch right now and how he intends to kickstart it by lowering taxes on the middle class, raising them for the wealthy and running deficits to invest in infrastructure now while interest rates remain low. 

Like it or not, the Liberal message on the economy is coherent.  Frankly, I can't find anything to quibble over among Liberal promises and much to admire.  As a promiscuous progressive, I can see myself possibly voting Liberal in this election after weeks of leaning to the NDP.

On leadership, I have to admit that Justin's voice and style still grates on my nerves.  The old attack line that he's "Just not ready," seems to still have some resonance.  But slowly, due to Trudeau's sunny, inspiring and effective campaign, that attack seems to have less and less potency every day.

If you believe the polls, the Liberals have emerged as the main challengers to the Conservatives in vote-rich Ontario.   Nanos puts the two parties neck and neck (after recently giving the Liberals a clear edge) in the province.  Ipsos still puts the Liberals well ahead of the Conservatives in Ontario, with the NDP a distant third.   

A clear lead for the NDP in British Columbia in August now seems threatened by Conservative and Liberal support.   Only Quebec remains staunchly in the NDP's corner in all polls.

With four weeks to go, voters desperate for progressive change have no clue which of these two parties is going to emerge as the main challenger of the Conservatives.   If this three-way split continues, such clarity may never come.

Under that scenario, it makes a re-elected Conservative minority quite likely, which would be terrible for the country.  It's likely that the NDP and Liberals would gang up to defeat the minority Harperites at their first opportunity in the House (the Throne Speech).   Trudeau's statement in the recent CBC interview that Stephen Harper, "will have a very difficult time commanding the confidence of the House after this election, after these 10 years of failings that he's had," makes that clear.

But it could take months before Harper brings the House back, perhaps not until 2016 long after the upcoming Paris climate change conference.   If six months pass before the opposition parties have a chance to defeat the government in the House, it would weaken the argument for the second place party to try to form a new government instead of the Governor General calling another election.  

I would prefer this constitutional uncertainty be avoided completely with an outright defeat for the Conservatives to one of the opposition parties on Oct 19th.  At this point, which ever one can muster the strength to win over and inspire enough progressive Canadians to do it will suffice for me.

Between the two main opposition leaders, I had thought that Mulcair was the most ready to govern.  In most ways, I still do.  But if he can't inspire Canadians to elect him, then he's lost the edge the NDP has enjoyed since the Alberta election in May: the claim that they alone can defeat Harper.  

Now Trudeau has re-emerged as a contender whose campaign and inspiring personality does embody the change many are seeking.  If the Liberals emerge as the main challengers in the coming few weeks and the NDP continues to recede, I will switch back and support the Liberals.   

A Trudeau victory would irk the hell out of most average Conservatives in this country, most especially Stephen Harper.   That is reason enough to savour the possibility of a Liberal victory.  After 10 years of torture, it would be delightful to see Conservatives do a little squirming.  

I'm still hoping that Mulcair and the NDP find a way to right their ship and inspire progressive voters to put them over the top.   They may still. 

Both opposition parties have the potential to seize the moment and win this.  I'm hoping that one of them pulls it off.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Let's all support Mark Holland's campaign in Ajax to stop Chris Alexander's reign of error

With today's international crisis of Syrian refugees exploding, including the tragic death of a 3-year-old boy, his brother and mother off Turkey, it's put a strong focus on the record of Stephen Harper's government on refugees in general.

We have a commitment to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees come to Canada which the government has barely begun to honour.

We have a government that played politics with the refugee issue by cutting off health care to refugee claimants and other social supports in a bid to placate the Conservative Party base, which generally hates refugees.   When the Ontario government stepped in to offer health care coverage to refugees after the Harper government abandoned them, Minister Chris Alexander scolded the Wynne administration for its compassionate move.

What are some other big accomplishments by Alexander in his role as Citizenship Minister?  Trying to confuse the niqab and the hijab in the minds of Canadians and further poisoning relations between Muslim-Canadians and non-Muslim Canadians.

And now yesterday, have a look at Alexander in action trying to blame the media for not spending enough time covering the refugee crisis hitting Europe, and getting caught in a lie.  His argument seemed to be that he was unwilling to do anything about a crisis unless the media gave it more coverage.   This helps explain the Harper government's panicked response today to the international attention. 

Chris Alexander is a petty, petty man!

His recent performance reinforces the need to not only defeat him, but also the entire Harper government this election.

It just so happens that Alexander is one of many low-hanging Tory fruit running for re-election in Ajax, Ontario, and quite vulnerable to defeat.   He's facing off against the former Liberal incumbent, Mark Holland, who lost by a small margin last time to Alexander due to the 2011 Liberal vote collapse.

This time, Holland looks well-positioned to take back the seat and rid Canada of Alexander's pettiness, at least in the House of Commons.   If I lived in Ajax, I'd most definitely vote for Holland.   At any rate, I will be donating to Holland's local campaign.  I encourage you to as well.

And if you live in Ajax riding, please vote for Mark Holland on Oct 19th!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Peel school board's courageous stance against ignorance, bigotry and discrimination

In the face of very ignorant protests from parents and religious groups who want kids to grow up in a learning environment where LGBT people don't exist, this is a breath of fresh air. 

"Parents can remove their kids from sex-ed classes for religious reasons, but any requests for students to opt-out of learning about gay families or diverse gender identities won’t be tolerated, says the director of Ontario’s second largest school board — one that expects to be hard hit by protests over the new health curriculum." 

“We cannot — we will not — by action or inaction endorse discrimination,” said Pontes, who cited Ontario’s Human Rights Code as applying to people of all sexual orientation and gender identity. “Supported by legal opinion, bolstered by our core values, I would no more say yes to someone wanting a child excluded because of a discussion about LGBTQ than I would a discussion about race or gender.”

Congrats to the Peel Board's director of education, Tony Pontes, for this courageous stance!  There will be hundreds of bigots in that region who will continue to demand the public school system sanitize public education to appease their bigotry and they'll scream bloody murder about this decision.

But it is most definitely the right decision!   LGBT students exist in Peel Region schools.  This is a victory for them!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Determined, pragmatic 'Anybody-But-Conservative' movement may finally topple Harper from power this year...

I can hear it in the exasperated voices of friends and acquaintances as we discuss the ongoing federal election campaign in Canada.  Regime fatigue has definitely set in this election campaign. 

"Harper's got to go!" one friend told me last night.  She lives in Etobicoke-Lakeshore in west Toronto, a bellwether seat that usually swings to the winning party.  Last time, the Conservatives took it, defeating Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.  This time, all three parties are competitive there.  My pragmatic, progressive friend told me last night she's leaning NDP this time. 

The progressive majority in this country has put up with Harper's regressive policies and dysfunctional leadership for almost ten years.   We're sick to death of him now and more determined than ever to get rid of him.  I suspect this year we'll finally get our wish.  

The election call in early August did wake a slumbering electorate.  While most Canadians have continued to enjoy their summer, most have also started listening more closely than they otherwise would've in August.  Thus, the Mike Duffy trial revelations of a big conspiracy within Harper's office to lie to the public about Senate corruption simply reinforced sour opinions of Harper's team and judgment.  The slumping economy has also undermined Harper's main message that 'we're better off staying the course.'  With most middle class Canadians barely getting by, living pay cheque to pay cheque, the spectre of more of the same seems woefully inadequate.

I'm beginning to think that Harper's choice to call the election so early will prove to be a big blunder that no negative ad campaign come September and October will overcome.  It might've been possible that most Canadians would've simply missed the minutiae of the Duffy trial revelations this month were there no election call.  Instead, with their political senses heightened by the call, Canadians were given a daily dose of scandal for two weeks as well as Harper's increasingly uncredible denials.  

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's steady, cautious campaign thus far has done much to calm many fears that persist about the NDP forming a government.  Talk of modest, progressive, incremental change isn't scaring anybody.  An old video of Mulcair praising the free market policies of Thatcher's Britain should prove to even the most skeptical conservative that Mulcair is not some lefty lunatic.

In his rush to the centre, Mulcair is ceding much progressive ground to the Liberals' Justin Trudeau, whose campaign is showing resilience and renewed strength.  The NDP has a careful balancing act to maintain in order to win over centrists while not alienating their progressive base.  Thus far, they're mostly succeeding although it's clear that Trudeau's Liberals are targeting those same voters with vigour.

Polls now show Tom Mulcair overtaking Harper in the "Best Prime Minister" category.  Even Justin Trudeau, who the Tories have labeled "Just not ready," is competitive in those same polls with the incumbent.   That's got to hurt, especially after the Conservatives spent millions pushing the anti-Trudeau line.

Ultimately, I suspect the anti-Trudeau attack won't work as well as the Conservatives hoped.  The Liberal vote is coming back from its historic low of 19% in 2011, currently pegged around 27-30% in polls today.  But now, pragmatic centrists and progressives looking for change have switched to the NDP, pushing them into the mid-30s, well ahead of the Conservatives.  

Another woman I met last week who lives in Waterloo, Ontario told me she likes Trudeau but does worry about his level of experience for the job this year, while her fatigue with Harper was obvious.  So that means, "I guess I have to vote for Mulcair," she said. 

As the next month-and-a-half rolls out, voters determined to change the government will take a close look at their local ridings and decide which opposition party has the best chance to knock off the Tories, or at least add to the seat count for the party with the best chance of beating the Conservatives nationally.  In most parts of Quebec, that will be the NDP.  In Atlantic Canada, it will mostly be the Liberals.  In BC, it will be the NDP, except in parts of the Lower Mainland where the Grits are competitive again.  In Ontario, it will also depend on the region in which they live.   Downtown Toronto might lean NDP, while the outer suburbs will mostly lean Liberal.   In some ridings where both the NDP and the Liberals pose strong challenges to the Tories, the choice will be agonizing. 

In a healthy democracy, most of us can tolerate a victory or two by our ideological opponents should they earn it.  In many ways, Harper did well earn his 2006 victory over a tired Liberal government and a Prime Minister in Paul Martin who failed to impress much with his dithering style of leadership.

Harper then got luckier facing off against the hapless Stephane Dion in 2008, but still failed to secure a majority in progressive Canada.  In 2011, Michael Ignatieff's uninspiring leadership, coupled with a surging NDP, forced a Liberal collapse that handed enough seats in Ontario to give Harper a majority even though he got less than 40% of the national vote.  

Currently, Harper is failing to crack 30% in the polls.  Those polls also show that the vast majority of people currently backing other parties will not consider the Conservatives as their second or third choices.  Thus, the chances of Harper getting back up into the mid-high 30s seems unlikely, barring major screw-ups by Mulcair and Trudeau on the hustings.   The Conservatives' only real hope now is to inspire their own base like never before and suppress the opposition vote.  Their "Unfair Elections Act" is a tool in their arsenal to that end, but I suspect these sleazy Tory tactics won't work this time.  Voters determined to get change will make it to the polls regardless of Tory robocalls illegally misdirecting them.  Plus the Tory base is shrinking and badly outnumbered by Canada's progressive majority.

The grassroots desire for change is palpable and firming up.  We are simply waiting and watching this election campaign to see which opposition party poses the greatest national threat to Conservative rule.  Once that becomes clear come early-mid October, we should expect a big swing behind that party to finish the job October 19th.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Stephen Harper has never turned down an opportunity to turn down an opportunity to show support for LGBT Canadians

Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau at Montreal's Pride Aug 16, 2015
It's sad that in Canada in 2015, we've grown so accustomed to Stephen Harper's absences from the country's major Pride celebrations that we almost expect it every year.  Instead, we shrug and barely notice his continued non-leadership. 

Harper's absence yet again from Montreal's Pride yesterday was "noted," remarked NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.   It was all the more glaring considering all the other major party leaders including Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May were present yesterday.   The best the Conservative party could muster were two obscure local Montreal candidates. 

Of course, I'm sure many Tories will gripe that Mulcair, Trudeau, and Duceppe would, of course, show up to Montreal's Pride as they're from that city.  However, Mulcair and Trudeau also showed up at Toronto's Pride in June.  Trudeau was also present at Vancouver's Pride earlier this month, despite Harper's early election call that day.   Attending any of these celebrations shows important symbolic support for LGBT people. 

But as we know Harper will have none of that.  Harper doesn't even attend Pride celebrations in his home city of Calgary, nor Edmonton.  He simply doesn't care about LGBT Canadians, or at least he's happy to be seen as not caring.   It's one of his little tricks for keeping his bigoted base happy and their donations rolling in to the Conservative Party.  He'll do nothing legislatively to attack gays (at least, not since 2006 when he half-heartedly attempted to revisit equal marriage and lost), but he's been more than happy to ignore LGBT issues completely for 9 years, as well as quietly de-fund LGBT arts festivals and organizations here and there.  

Harper has never turned down an opportunity to turn down an opportunity to show symbolic support for LGBT Canadians.  After almost 10 years of this, it's beyond shameful.   It's yet another reason why Harper needs to go as soon as possible.   

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Harper's "verbal liarrhea": PM lies today about pot, safe injection sites, and pensions on the campaign trail

Stephen Harper has no shame.  He's willing to say anything as long as it conforms to his narrow-minded and often dangerous worldview.

Clearly, facts are irrelevant to him.  Today, we got Harper's latest dose of what I'll call "verbal liarrhea." Expect many more posts on this subject in the days and weeks ahead.

I'd like to credit for the amazing breakdown of Harper's lies today, which I've quoted extensively below:

Harper lie #1:  “Most Canadians (when) you actually ask them, do not want the full legalization of marijuana.”

Reality:  A 2014 survey by Angus Reid Global found that 59 per cent of the 1,510 Canadians surveyed supported legalizing marijuana and 41 per cent were opposed.

However, in a survey where Canadians were given a third option -- decriminalization for possessing small amounts – only 37 per cent supported legalization, while 33 per cent chose decriminalization and 14 per cent supported the current laws. That survey included 3,000 people and was conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the federal government.

Harper knows full well his statement today about Canadian support for legalization was a lie because his government ordered the poll that showed massive support for either legalization or decriminalization.   Only 14% of Canadians support Harper's position.   Yet, he's willing to ignore Canadians' views on marijuana and instead is now promising to spend millions more on his failed war against drugs. 

Harper lie #2: “I think the statistics in places like Colorado are very clear on this. When you go down that route, marijuana becomes more readily available to children.”

Reality: Marijuana has only been legal in Colorado since Jan. 1, 2014, so extensive research has not been conducted.

However, drugs have been decriminalized in the Netherlands since 1976, and past-year cannabis use among young Dutch citizens appears to be declining. Among those aged 15 to 24, past-year use dropped from 14 per cent in 1997 to 11 per cent in 2005, according to a study in the journal Addiction. 

Harper lie #3:  Today on safe injection sites, Harper said, “Providing programs that do not provide treatment, in our view, is just throwing away the key and writing off somebody’s life. Trying to manage their decline, that’s not what we want to do. Our anti-drug strategy is based on prevention, enforcement, but most of all treatment.”

Reality: Insite does, in fact, provide addictions counselling in the hopes that users will opt to enter the on-site detoxification program, which is the first step in treatment.
Studies published in the journals Addiction and the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that Vancouver opiate drug users were more likely to enter detox programs after Insite opened.

Harper lie #4: "I am delighted to see, quite frankly, that our refusal to co-operate with the imposition of this tax is making it more difficult for the Ontario government to proceed," Harper said today, claiming it would be bad for the economy for ordinary Ontarians to have enough money to survive and feed themselves during retirement.  

Reality: First of all, Harper is a hypocrite.  He's forced thousands of civil servants in Ottawa and across the country to pay higher payroll deductions for their defined benefit pension plans in recent years. 

Secondly, pension savings are not taxes.  That's a big lie pushed by Harper and his allies in the corporate media.  The government doesn't touch those savings; they go into an independently managed, defined benefit pension plan and earn value over time.  When we retire, we reap the benefits.

The great horrific truth is that Harper simply doesn't really care much about ordinary Canadians and their retirement savings.   If he did, he'd support increasing CPP contributions now for all and not force us to wait until age 67 to collect our Old Age Security, as he's planning to do.

Ordinary Canadians without defined benefit pensions have no good options for reliable savings.   The only plans that provide great potential earnings are RRSPs, but they aren't reliable and can collapse in value, like they did during the great 2008 Wall Street swindle.   Some employers do match monthly contributions to group RRSP plans; however, again there is no guarantee of payouts during retirement.  Only a hope and a prayer.   In decades past, the private sector did provide better retirement options to their employees with defined benefit pensions.  But those pensions are long gone and the result is now a major crisis, particularly with our aging population.

Kathleen Wynne's plan to enhance the CPP is much needed.  Harper's opposition is despicably short-sighted, much like most of his decisions.

I hope we see past Harper's big lies this campaign and kick the thug out on his ass where his verbal liarrhea won't hurt us anymore. 

It's time to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, aka the dirtiest trade deal you've never heard of...

Recently, it was revealed that the as-yet-unapproved Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, currently being negotiated in complete secret, could force the CBC, Canada Post and other Crown corporations in Canada (and other public bodies in other participating countries) to operate solely for profit under the deal’s terms.

The information was obtained and released by Wikileaks and states that a “majority of TPP countries” have agreed that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) will have to “act on the basis of commercial considerations.”

The document — a briefing for ministers ahead of a December, 2013 TPP meeting which makes clear that final decisions on these issues hadn’t been made at that time — also indicates that state-owned companies may be subject to all the rules of the TPP.  If that were to be the case, governments would not be able to fund Crown corporations with taxpayers’ money if that funding has “adverse effects” on another TPP country, says Jane Kelsey, a professor of law at the University of Auckland, in an analysis of the document she prepared for Wikileaks.

“It looks like SOEs are not allowed to get government support or non-commercial assistance. … That kind of support is often essential for SOEs that provide public functions that are not profitable or are even loss-making.”

This is but one scary possibility this possible agreement might thrust on unsuspecting populations whose governments are negotiating away their best interests, including Stephen Harper's government.  

Have a look at this video below at some of the very real threats we face if the TPP is approved.  The video was produced in Australia, but the issues raised in it are relevant to all countries that could be effected by the new deal.  

There has been little discussion around the TPP in Canada except about its potential impact on supply management.  In truth, Canada stands to lose much more than simply its dairy industry. 

As a progressive, I now think that enough is enough: it's time to stop the TPP from happening.  The best thing we can hope for is to elect a new government in October that won't sell out Canadians to the global corporate agenda like Stephen Harper secretly plans to do.

I'm starting to strongly suspect that means we must vote in the NDP, which at least has a strong history opposing these kinds of sell-out trade deals which only make the select few rich even richer while the vast majority of Canadians lose out.   While we appear stuck with previously negotiated trade deals, it seems like the TPP is one we can't afford to sign.   

Friday, August 7, 2015

First Leaders' debate reaction: Trudeau soared, Mulcair was decent, and May drew real blood.

Harper's campaign is having trouble attracting good spellers, it seems.
I suspected Justin Trudeau had some moxie he was saving for the election campaign.  His unusually low profile in the weeks preceding last weekend's election call seemed designed to keep expectations low.

But since the election call, Trudeau has been quite strong.  That reached new heights in last night's Maclean's leaders' debate in Toronto.

Overall, I'd give Trudeau the night as he was the most passionate, engaging, and surprisingly well-spoken on a variety of issues.  He did everything he needed to do quite well.  His attack zingers landed directly on their targets and inflicted damage.  On tough questions, he gave good answers and then quickly pivoted to strong counter-attacks against his opponents, especially on Bill C-51 and the fight against ISIS, in which he quickly turned his answer into a passionate attack on the Harper government's treatment of veterans.  It was so strong that Harper was forced to quickly (and unconvincingly) defend his government's record on veterans before getting back to ISIS fear-mongering.

Even Trudeau's closing statement which ended the broadcast was great, finally giving us a convincing idea what drives him to be a leader and why he's doing this: he wants a better Canada for his three kids and he offers something "better" than Stephen Harper's rather dreary status quo.  This was the Trudeau so many were excited about in 2013 and for most of 2014.  Trudeau's performance will undoubtedly bolster Liberal spirits and fortunes.

But it is still early days.  It's difficult to know if this one debate in early August will have lasting impact.  If nothing else, it signals that Trudeau is back in this game and we should look forward to stronger performances from him in upcoming debates.  As increased Liberal strength in the House of Commons is key to denying Harper another majority, this is cause for joy.

Watching Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the debate was as awesome as I expected it to be.  She was sharp, frequently deflating Harper's lies with expert precision and doing herself proud.  There's no doubt why the Tories will do everything they can not to see May in future debates alongside Harper: she damages him greatly and assists the other party leaders in their similar efforts.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was also quite decent last night.  As an unfiltered introduction of himself to English Canadian voters, it was a fine performance, if also somewhat flawed.  He got dozens of awesome attacks in against Harper and many great lines.   He even got Harper to admit that we're likely in a recession again.   Mulcair spoke often about his experience as a former cabinet minister.  He looked calm, dignified and prime ministerial - like a worthy alternative to Harper.  By contrast, Trudeau looked like the eager young man next to his older opponents and perhaps a bit less prime ministerial.

But Mulcair held back too much in the big fights, his frequent smiles looked forced, and he didn't help himself by frequently facing the debate moderator instead of looking into the camera.  When Mulcair screwed up his final statement with a "Sorry," he barely recovered and almost rushed through it.  It reminded me of his 2012 NDP Convention speech which he also rushed through without a care in the world because he knew at the time the quality of that 2012 speech would have no impact on the leadership vote.  But of course, the quality of his performance in last night's debate will most certainly have an impact on this election.

For Mulcair, he was decent but there is much room for improvement in future debates.  He's going to have to more clearly articulate his vision and passion in upcoming debates so Canadians have a clearer idea why he wants to be Prime Minister and what he would do with that power.

We already know full well what Harper plans to do with more power.  Harper was solid, although his lines of defense frequently fell flat.  He was pilloried on the Senate.  He refused to show leadership by apologizing for appointing all of the problem senators of recent years.   Harper also finally admitted that we are likely in a recession, which is not going to win him any more votes.

Overall, Harper, as the default incumbent choice, could only consider last night a victory if the other leaders fell flat.   They didn't.  Trudeau soared, Mulcair was decent, and May drew real blood. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Progressives should tone down Liberal hatred and re-focus fire on the real enemy: Stephen Harper

I have been hearing of torrent of criticism and putdowns against Justin Trudeau and the Liberals from NDP friends and acquaintances for months.   Attacks such as "airhead" and "moron" and "unprincipled" have been echoing on my Facebook timeline and Twitter, mimicking attacks from the Conservatives in their well-financed ad campaign. 

But I say those lefties should tone it down a bit and re-focus their fire on the real enemy: Stephen Harper.  Why?  Because the NDP needs the Liberals to make significant gains in this election.   Yes, you read that correctly.

I reject the notion that two strong centre-left parties will just divide the anti-Tory vote.  That's partially true.  But a stronger Liberal Party with much more than the paltry 19% they took in 2011 will rob the Conservatives of the votes they need to slip into another majority. 

Blue Liberals, red Tories and centre-right folks tired of Stephen Harper's ways will probably still end up voting for him if the only alternative seems to be the NDP.  That's what happened in 2011.  I'll be damned if the same thing happens again this year.

To avoid this, those centre-right folks (especially in the huge Greater Toronto Area) need a strong Liberal option that appears competitive.  There are literally dozens of ridings across the country where the Liberals will be the main competition against the Tories.  The Grits remain the strongest challengers there with great local candidates.  I have a sick feeling that should this federal election polarize too strongly between Harper's Conservatives and Mulcair's NDP, it'll only benefit the former in those dozens of ridings and push the Tories toward another majority.  Clearly with their continued attacks on Justin Trudeau, that's what the Conservatives are hoping.

Sure, the NDP dreams of winning over masses of voters in the 905 area of Toronto and beyond, taking seats they've never come close to taking in the past.  The NDP did win 15 out of 25 seats in Calgary in the May provincial election, after all.  Certainly they can do the same elsewhere, some insist.

No, they won't.  First, the Alberta NDP was the only serious centre-left option in that fight.  The Alberta Liberals and the little Alberta Party combined won only 6% of the vote.  The Alberta NDP also benefited from a divided right.  We have the opposite situation federally, with a strong Liberal Party sharing the opposition vote.  Plus Harper's Conservatives aren't anywhere near as detested as the Alberta PCs.   They are still tied for first place in two credible polls out this week and are very much in the federal game.  Their best hope remains suppressing opposition support while re-inspiring their base to turn out. 

Yes, Trudeau's Liberals have suffered a correction since last year in the polls.  The shine is definitely off Justin's leadership rose.  His inexperience and lack of gravitas have left many progressives hoping for change turning to the more experienced, tougher Tom Mulcair.

I do believe that Mulcair's NDP will form the greatest overall threat to the Conservatives this year, but not in every single riding.  The NDP's new support in the low 30s is not about to decline.  Trudeau's mistakes on Bill C-51 were the straw that broke the camel's back.  Those votes are lost to the NDP this October.  The NDP may even be able to push their vote up from 31% last time but I'm not predicting it'll get much higher than 33% or 34%, unless of course Harper's campaign truly goes off the rails.  If a higher Grit vote can pull the Tories down from 40% last time to 32% or 31% or even lower this time, that'll help the NDP win the most seats.

I do think Trudeau still has considerable abilities and appeal.  I don't usually like to link to Warren Kinsella, but he's bang on here.  He's also largely correct here explaining the Liberals' fall from grace and how Justin may fix the situation.
With a stronger Liberal caucus this year, perhaps two or three times its current size, the result will either be a minority Conservative government or a minority NDP government.  And that'll spell a quick end to Stephen Harper's reign as there's no way the Trudeau Liberals will allow Harper to survive longer than his new Throne Speech.  While I doubt we'll see a formal NDP-Liberal coalition as some would like, I'm sure some working arrangement similar to the 1985 Peterson-Rae accord will be in the works.

That would be a government to celebrate.  So lefties, please lighten up on the anti-Trudeau attacks.  You're doing Harper's bidding.