Sunday, March 19, 2023

This week's tonic: "Canada’s spies and the hypocrites who adore them - Did China interfere in Canada’s elections? We don’t know. But journalists must not rely on friendly leaks for the truth."

This week's tonic by columnist Andrew Mitrovica: "Canada’s spies and the hypocrites who adore them - Did China interfere in Canada’s elections? We don’t know. But journalists must not rely on friendly leaks for the truth." 

"I am the author of one of two books of any consequence written about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the nation’s equivalent of Britain’s MI5. My 2002 exposé, Covert Entry, revealed a rogue agency rife with laziness, incompetence, corruption and lawbreaking."

"Sadly, too few reporters, editors, columnists or editorial writers in Canada have made the effort to understand how CSIS functions with impunity and hold it to account.

"I am sharing this history and context because, lately, there has been a geyser of leaking of “top secret” stuff going on in Canada that is causing quite a tizzy.

"...This is all to say that Canadians should be cautious about accepting as fact stuff that is leaked to “friendly” journalists and news organisations who are not as cautious as they should be – despite having the imprimatur of an “intelligence” service stamped on it.

"...The consensus among a preening batch of grandstanding reporters, columnists, editorial writers and politicians is that China’s “interference” in Canada’s elections is bad because China is a “bad actor” on the international stage.

"I missed all the hyperventilating outrage when Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, joined those Alexis-de-Tocqueville-like paragons of democracy, Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro and former US President Donald Trump and tried to engineer what amounted to a coup d’état and install their man, Juan Guaido, as the president of Venezuela.

"Freeland was praised by the same apoplectic columnists and editorial writers for interfering – openly and secretly – in Venezuela’s domestic affairs since, like China, the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, is a “bad actor”.

"This is a news story oozing with congratulatory glee, published widely among sympathetic Canadian news outlets, heralding Freeland’s “key role” in playing a “behind the scenes” part in a failed attempt to depose the socialist leader.

"When Canada interfered in Venezuela’s right to choose who will be president, most Canadian establishment columnists, editorial writers and politicians applauded. Canada is, they agree, a “good actor”.

"The sanctimony is as galling as it is instructive.

"But, these days, you won’t hear so much as a whisper about Canada’s not-so-secret record on the “interference” score since a capital city and newsrooms filled with amnesiac, spy-adoring hypocrites are too busy pointing an accusatory finger at China."

Today's tonic: "20 years after the Iraq War, it’s clear our elites learned no lessons"

Today's tonic from Taylor C. Noakes is a public historian and independent journalist: "20 years after the Iraq War, it’s clear our elites learned no lessons...Two decades on from the deceit and disaster of a war that claimed as many as one million Iraqi lives, no one has been held accountable...

"...If there were any justice in this world, Bush, Cheney, Blair, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz (and 100s more) would have been tried — and likely convicted — of war crimes."  

"...In his recent retrospective on the Iraq War, former Bush speech writer David Frum claimed in The Atlantic that an arsenal of chemical warfare shells and warheads were found. In truth, no arsenal of chemical weapons was found in Iraq. What U.S. troops discovered were 1980s vintage, largely U.S.-supplied, chemical munitions so degraded they couldn’t be safely moved out of the country for disposal, and so were sealed up in bunkers back in the mid-1990s, under U.N. supervision.

"...If those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, I fear for those whose past is actively being rewritten. What fate awaits us?  

#Iraq20YearsOn #uspoli

Saturday, March 18, 2023

I'm starting to think Justin Trudeau needs to retire in order to stave off the regressive threat of Pierre Poilievre

This article, "Neither Trudeau nor Poilievre is shooting straight these days", by Shachi Kurl, President of the Angus Reid Institute, made me think a lot about the next federal election in Canada.  It lays bare the many recent mistakes and inherent flaws of Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre: "The prime minister is always his own greatest asset and worst liability. And the Official Opposition leader can't resist scorching the earth, no matter the issue."  

My take: we are stuck with Poilievre as Conservative Leader due to that party base's bad instincts around what constitutes good leadership in today's Canada.  Poilievre won by such an overwhelming margin last year despite his enormous flaws as a leader and politician.  After previous similarly flawed choices like Erin O'Toole, Andrew Scheer and even Stephen Harper, it's clear Conservative Party members aren't interested in making nice with Canada's progressive majority.  It's a recipe for frequent defeat, as long as the progressive coalition that keeps electing Liberals holds up.  

Poilievre's nastiness on its own is not going to sweep Canada anytime soon.  However, his strategy, in my mind, remains not to boost Conservative support by reaching out to moderate Canadians, but instead to deflate and degrade support for all other parties and to push down voter turnout.  He wants Canadians to become cynical and feel hopeless about their democracy, so they decide not to vote.  His attacks on the alleged foreign interference in recent Canadian elections are designed to do just that.  Poilievre hopes that Conservatives will still turn out in droves to give his party enough seats to form a government.  

This was Doug Ford's strategy in 2022, done to great success with the inadvertent help from mediocre opposition leaders Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca. Of course, Ford's brand of conservatism is more mainstream and moderate than Poilievre's and an easier sell in Ontario.  Poilievre meanwhile still refuses to publicly condemn his own MPs for flirting with hard-right fascists.  Poilievre clearly thinks motivating his Conservative base plus some wing nuts from the People's Party/convoy movement is all he needs to win in Canada, provided progressive Canadians are divided or not voting.   

Justin Trudeau, while on a bit of a roll late last year and in January, is once again showing his more usual bad instincts with his handling of the recent controversy over alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections.  We may have hit a point when Canadians, progressive Canadians included, decide they've had enough of the Justin Trudeau show.  That dislike or fatigue with Trudeau could drive down progressive turnout and make it impossible for the Grits to hang on. 

I am starting to believe that Trudeau may no longer be the Liberals' best bet to take on the threat posed by Poilievre's regressive Conservatives.  It might be better instead for the Liberal Party to seek renewal and change within and find a new leader and team to take them into the 2025 election.  No doubt, Canadians would give a new leader a new look, hoping for something better than what we've gotten since 2015.   Against the unknown horrors that Poilievre might bring, Canadians might give the new Liberal leader a chance.  

But if Trudeau remains, I am starting to fear he's not going to be able to stop Poilievre.  And that would be horrible for Canada. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Ontario Liberals embrace change and open up their party's leadership process

What a thrill!  Yesterday, I was so happy to be there when Ontario Liberals at their Annual General Meeting in Hamilton voted overwhelmingly to change our party's leadership election process to allow every Ontario Liberal member a say in the final decision who becomes leader. 

It was a truly momentous day and so rewarding for the hard-working activists who've been championing this cause for years, myself included.  

Under the new leadership election system, Ontario Liberal members will directly cast their votes for their preferred leadership candidate using a ranked ballot.  To ensure no one large riding or region dominates the provincial results, each constituency association (currently there are 124 across Ontario) shall be allocated 100 points, to be awarded to leadership candidates based on the proportion of support they receive. 

Party members yesterday also recognized the unique and important roles youth play in our party by voting to allocate 50 points to each accredited Ontario Young Liberal student club (I believe there are about eight of these all associated with post-secondary institutions including Queen's University).  In addition, members chose to allocate 5 points for each accredited Women's Liberal Club.  Young Liberal student club members and Women's Liberal Club members will have to choose whether to vote in those clubs or in their riding associations, but they like all members will only get one vote.  These point allocations are very similar to how the previous convention system awarded delegates: each riding association used to get 16 delegates, each student club 8 delegates, and each women's club 1 delegate.  So no one lost anything in this modernization. 

And all members have gained so much! Now we all will have a final say about who will be the next leader. 

Annual General Meeting delegates braved the winter storm Friday night to make it to Hamilton in record numbers - about 1,300 total delegates registered, as well as dozens more volunteers, the biggest Ontario Liberal AGM in 20 years! 

It's been a busy several weeks organizing and working with volunteer Ontario Liberal activists getting ready to try to change our party's leadership process to a more open, democratic Direct Voting system.  

I want to thank the hard-working Liberal activists in the Scarborough Guildwood riding association who sponsored the amendment that ultimately became the basis for the new system, especially Mary McDermott and Jan Rowan.  Scarborough Guildwood Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter also played a big role promoting this cause, and was a big help this weekend getting it passed.   

In addition, potential leadership candidates Nate Erskine-Smith, Ted Hsu, Yasir Naqvi, Stephanie Bowman, and Dr. Adil Shamji really stepped up, promoting the cause among their supporters and speaking in favour of the resolution during the final debate to get us over the top.  Party presidential candidates Natalie Hart and Fadi El Masry also pushed hard for the change, which was also supported by our new president Kathryn McGarry.   Congratulations to Kathryn on her victory!   Other party activists running for executive also officially supported One Member One Vote including Jeff Rybak, Damien O'Brien, David Farrow, Tariq Khan and Ibrahim Daniyal.  I'm probably missing some names, so my apologies if I did.  

I worked the last several weeks with longtime activists Omar Ha-Redeye, Qadira Jackson Kouakou, and Gloria Reszler McKeigan on what became dubbed by the party's Constitution Committee as the "Guerin group" to submit our proposal for change.  (Some of us chuckled about the moniker, thinking we'll now need to trademark the group name.)  Our proposal had been worked on for several weeks with fellow activists Elizabeth Betowski, Devon Monkhouse, Corinne Muccilli, Kelly Foote, Michael Miasek, Umbreen Akhtar and many others. 

We joined forces with activists Pat Sorbara, Quito Maggi, David Valentin, Liz Davidson, Brendan Knight on a team that tried to bring organization to the reform efforts.  We also teamed up with other activists who supported the cause including former leader Lyn McLeod, David Campbell, Alex Mulligan, Dan Foster, Bob Wright, Mohammed Patel, Karen Somerville, Kelly Lynne Ashton, Richard Irving, Jane Veit, and many others. 

Together, we formed a united team that reached out to party members and delegates, made our arguments and ultimately won the day yesterday.   

I do want to communicate a special thank you to the volunteers on the party's Constitution Committee who shepherded all of the proposed amendments through the AGM process including Milton Chan, Kate Julien and Simon Tunstall.   

To all supporters of change, congratulations!  We changed our party for the better!  Great job, everyone!  Now let's keep up the momentum to make sure the Ontario Liberals continue this path toward renewal and becoming again a party that speaks to all Ontarians in every region, promotes just and progressive causes and issues that make the lives of everyone better and pushes Ontario forward.   Together, we'll be able to bring a better government to Queen's Park in 2026.   

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Dalton McGuinty could've easily won the Ontario Liberal leadership through Weighted One-Member-One-Vote

Former Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty
Ontario Liberals meet this weekend in Hamilton for their 2023 Annual General Meeting to again consider whether to open up and reform their party's leadership process to end archaic delegated conventions and bring in a Weighted One Member One Vote system for electing the leader.  

The Ontario Liberals currently use delegated conventions to finalize their leadership races.  Most party members vote only at local election meetings where they elect 16 delegates per riding to those conventions, who promise to support certain leadership candidates at the convention on the first ballot. (They are free to vote how they wish after that.)  The leadership candidate who wins over 50% support on a ballot at the convention wins the leadership.   

In practise, these conventions tend to be intense pressure cookers where secret backroom deals made between losing candidates and those still in the race along with their senior advisors tend to determine the outcome.  Losing candidates often cross the floor in dramatic fashion to endorse another candidate who may have secretly offered them a future senior cabinet position.  Delegates tend to follow their leaders like sheep until one winner emerges.  It's a little sleazy, elitist and outdated.  

What is Weighted One Member One Vote?

Weighted One Member One Vote, or Direct Vote, would give all party members a preferential ballot which would allow them to directly elect the leader rather than leave it up to a group of party delegates at a convention.  Each riding would receive 100 points, which would be divided up based on the percentage of the votes won by each leadership candidate from members in those ridings.  Provincial counts of members' ballot preferences would be counted until one leadership candidate receives over 50% of the points and wins the leadership. 

I view this change as crucial for the party's reform and re-engagement with the grassroots.  Delegated conventions are only typically attended by about 5% of party members.  The other 95% of members are forced to watch from the sidelines as the biggest decision the party can make - who leads it - is left up to an elite group of delegates as well as ex-officio party operators who don't even have to declare how they're voting.   

Some proponents of the status quo have been arguing lately one reason to keep delegated conventions is they believe Dalton McGuinty, the esteemed former Liberal leader who won a delegated convention in 1996 and eventually became premier and led a progressive government from 2003 to 2012, would never have been able to win a Weighted One Member One Vote leadership election.   

Nonsense, I say!  First, these folks must've seen the recent movie hit Everything Everywhere All At Once a few too many times as they're now claiming they can jump back and forth through time, into alternate realities and make claims they know what would've happened had history been different.  

No one can know how the 1996 leadership race would've turned out had it been fought with a Weighted One Member One Vote system.  

But I'd like to suggest in fact it's very possible that Dalton McGuinty would've won that race too, had it been fought under the system that Ontario Liberals are considering this weekend.  

Let's go back to 1996 and review our history: 

Going into that delegated convention, Gerard Kennedy led with about 28% of the vote, but he was considered a flawed frontrunner with limited growth potential.  Dalton McGuinty, Joe Cordiano, and Dwight Duncan were all clumped very close to each other in second place.  Further back, John Gerretsen and Annamarie Castrilli trailed with about 10% each.  Greg Kells had about 1% support.  

Leadership candidates change their behaviour based on the rules and how the race is played.  

In 1996, Gerretsen and Castrilli made the decisions to endorse McGuinty after the second ballot, which was crucial for McGuinty's momentum to move up and eventually win.  

But with a preferential ballot system, as we've seen in other jurisdictions where they already exist, candidates can announce their second preferences, or their campaigns can encourage their supporters to give their second choice to particular candidates before the vote is finished.   Considering that Gerretsen and Castrilli did both endorse McGuinty, it's possible they or their campaigns might've told their supporters to mark Dalton McGuinty as their second choices on their preferential ballots.  

Since McGuinty was very much in the second place tier of candidates, those second preferences would've pushed him up considerably over subsequent counts.  And considering Kennedy's weak growth, I suggest that McGuinty could've easily been able to beat him.  

Of course, like I said, this is conjecture.  No one can know what would've happened in 1996 with a Weighted One Member One Vote system.   

But considering the facts I've outlined above, I do believe it's very likely Dalton would've pulled off a similar victory with the overall membership too under Weighted One Member One Vote.  

For some Liberals, that point may be important to note, as many consider the progressive reforms McGuinty brought in like phasing out coal, instituting the Greenbelt and many other policies as deeply important.  I'd like to tell those Liberals that I do believe McGuinty would've won the leadership under either system.