Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Senate reform! "Insenaty" in Quebec and Ontario

I know, I know.  "Where's Hatrock?  Senate action and he ain't postin'!"  Well, I've been shipped away on business and working long hours.

So anyway, it appears that a bill will be introduced in the Senate to bring in the long awaited Harper senate reforms--8 year term limits and have the prime minister appoint provincially elected senators.


Eight year term limits?  Oh, no.. it might be 10 or 12 now to have senators overlap governments.  Well, then run again!  I still advocate 6 year terms for one-half of the senators every 3 years--similar to the U.S.

Ok, so the bill will be a good first step without opening the constitution then?

Apparently, not if Quebec has a say.  The province is going to make a constitutional challenge.  Well that's not very nice.  I've never understood how a province with supposedly 40% of the population wants to separate, still wants to hold on to so much power federally in Canada.

Anyway, so now Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says we should just scrap the whole senate.  Well guess what genius, we'd have to open the constitution now (read: can of very large worms).

Not only that, but the Premier of the largest province says it doesn't make sense that Ontario has 25% of the population but only 20% of the senators.  WHAT?  INSENATY NOW! INSENATY NOW!  How many times do I have to explain that we basically already have rep by pop in the House, so why repeat that?  That's no longer a check and balance among provincial regions and interests.
 So you know what's going to happen?  The bill will pass.  Quebec will lose out its challenge.  Senators in Ontario will have to retire in 8/10/12 years (including existing ones who'll hit 75) and they'll be openings.  Especially if they're Liberals retiring (and many are) Harper won't appoint anyone new until they are elected.

So as long as the Conservatives have a plurality in the senate, this may come down to a game of chicken.  That or Harper will give a deadline, and if it's not met, appoint Conservatives to piss people off and draw more attention to the senate, like he has 30-some odd times before.

It worked didn't it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bob the Interim cont'd...

Hot off the wire, the Liberals have picked Bob Rae to be their interim leader.

Several Blogging Tories have suggested that this is really a ruse by Bob to eventually lead the party.  Now that Justin Trudeau says he doesn't want to lead the party, and he was the favourite, really, who else will step forward besides Dominic Leblanc?

Not only that, but in four years, who'd really want to go up against the very strong Conservative and NDP parties?

With the government about to remove taxpayer party subsidies, the Liberals are in trouble as far as fundraising compared to the CPC and NDP.

So, I kind of agree and predict the following will play out.  There won't be any real candidates step forward and the Liberal bagmen will let Bob continue and fight the next election, which he'll lose obviously.  Then, in 2016, there will finally be a competitive Liberal race, Justin will run and win, and then contest the 2019 election.  How that election will play out, I have no idea, and neither does anyone really.

Now, there's no denying that Bob wants to merge the Liberals with the NDP, but the Liberals were only open to it when they had the upperhand to swallow the NDP.  That's not true anymore.

Bob Rae continually gets voted as the best parliamentarian in the House of Commons by his fellow MPs likely due to his gentlemanly, calm demeanour.  With Jack Layton announcing that his caucus will refrain from heckling, that Harper has certainly toned it down over the years, methinks Question Period is going to be pretty boring for a while. 

Oh wait, Thomas Mulcair won his seat though, didn't he?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy 111th Grandpa!

The following text is reposted from a year ago... with some adjustments...

If my Grandfather were still alive today, he'd be 110 111 years old.  That's right, he was born in 1900, and in a small village Southwest Ukraine.  He was 45 when my dad was born and he was alive for over 16 years of my life, passing away in January of 1989 from prostate cancer.  I'm named after him.

He lived through much turmoil.  In WWI, at 17, he was forced to fight for the Austrio-Hungrian army on the Italian front, a period he talked little of.  On his return, he found out that the Polish army had taken his dad prisoner where he later died from typhous. I can't imagine the feeling of not being able to say goodbye.

He soon joined the Ukrainian Army, fighting the Russian Bolsheviks who were trying to take over Ukraine.  Then out of the blue, in his mid-20's he left for Canada, and ended up in Edmonton, speaking no English. Thinking about that journey alone by ship makes my comfortable airline trips to the States seem trivial.

Upon arriving in Edmonton, he got a job working in construction and due to his hard work, gained the trust of his boss, and was able to have that boss secure a business loan for him to open the Home Meat Market. It became a staple of the best koubassa in town and my Grandfather became well known in the Ukrainian community, volunteering on councils and community groups.  You can find the shop on West side of 101 Street and 108 Avenue (last fall, I'm not sure where it moved to).  Seriously, the koubassa is outstanding!  He was able to help bring over a family member to Canada--his brother, John, who fought valiantly in WWII for Canada and then settled in Winnipeg.

I remember the family dinners.  He didn't say much, but when he did, everyone listened.  He was one of the best checkers players around, and wow, could he snore!  I remember being babysat by my grandparents at their home which he built.  I remember the family vacation in Fairmont, BC, and I remember his car, a Buick Wildcat, in immaculate condition.  I remember their 50th wedding anniversary at our church hall.  There were a lot of people there, and I remember saying how my Baba was such a good cook.  You see, I hardly knew my Grandfather, because he spoke so little, yet he was always there for the family. That was until I remember at one family wedding in Winnipeg where he and I spoke for quite a while about cars and music, while he tapped his feet as we watched everyone dance.  There's a picture of us and it was one of the first real bonding moments with him for me.

My Grandfather just missed the fall of the Berlin Wall and most especially, Ukrainian Independence in 1991. Since then, Ukraine has had its up and downs as it get pulled from East to West.  I wonder what my Grandfather would think about what's happening there now and what the future lay in store for it.  The new president, Victor Yanukovich, is quickly taking the country toward more Russian influence, which is not accepted by Western Ukrainians by any means.  Not long ago, coming off the Orange Revolution, the future of Ukraine looked promising--possibly joining NATO or the EU.  Putin wouldn't have it though.  Now the future looks bleak, it becoming more and more influenced by Putin.  Please have a read of this blog post about the situation there. It really churns my stomach.

The last time I saw my Grandfather alive, I was at his bedside at the extended care hospital in Edmonton (only 7 blocks from my home today) where a few days later, he would pass.  He was very sick and had difficulty speaking, so he took my right hand, squeezed it, shook it with all the love one could feel, and he wouldn't let go. 

And neither will I.

Happy Birthday, Dido. 


CPC leadership vote methods

This deal breaker issue that created the Conservative Party has reared its head again.  That, or the CBC is making mountains out of molehills again.

So on the one hand, you have 'one member one vote' folks from the old Canadian Alliance/Reform Party.

On the other, you have 'equally weighted riding' folks from the old Progressive Conservative Party.

I believe the agreed one when the party was created was equally weighted ridings but where a riding needed a minimum of 100 members, giving them 100 points.

Now, you're asking, what does an old Reformer like me prefer?

I actually think 'one member one vote' is not good.  That's not how our federal elections run, nor is it how we select our prime minister.  Ridings must be respected--it's a fundamental aspect of a parliamentary representative democracy.  Ridings are the organizational grassroot itself.  Without them, being a member of a party is basically useless and it's where campaign teams are borne out of.  As well, it pits large member regions against smaller ones and that's not good for unity or equality across the country.

But I also think the delegate/convention system is good.  I think there should be a single leadership convention like in the old days and delegates vote on behalf of riding.  Then the run off votes happen in the same day.  It's bloody exciting... and well... bloody (ask David Orchard).  It's true blood bath politics.  Separate run off votes weeks later that the Canadian Alliance had wasted money and time and it was not as exciting. I was there.

As well, why is the party even bothering to look at this non-issue?  Stephen Harper's going to be Prime Minister for the next 8 years at least anyway.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Comments published...

My apologies to everyone who's posted comments as of late.  Apparently I had comment moderation on and didn't realize it. I've turned it off and published all the comments.  Thank you for your participation and in keeping it civil and in keeping me in check.  Good debate is paramount to our democracy.

Carbon tax/cap-n-trade kiboshed

Good news!

OTTAWA -- Conservatives have kiboshed a carbon tax, Environment Minister Peter Kent confirmed Thursday.

"It's off the table," he told reporters Thursday after accepting an award from World Wildlife Fund International on behalf of Parks Canada.

"There's no expectation of cap-and-trade continentally in the near or medium future."
B.C. has a carbon tax.  What has it done to curb anything other than jack up the price of gas (not that it needs to go up further)?

It's ridiculous to me that in Canada, it being a very large country to transport goods, that about 1/3 of fuel costs is taxed.  It's equally ridiculous how much the oil companies mess around with prices.  Supply and demand my ass.  High fuel costs are hard on manufacturers, farmers, airlines, transport, and even governments themselves who pass on all of the costs onto you and me.

Nixing a carbon tax is good first step, but lowering fuel taxes and putting a check on oil companies price gouging would go even further and actually help our economy and growth.

Bob Rae the Interim

It appears that Toronto-Centre MP and former Ontario NDP Premier, Bob Rae, will take the Liberal Party interim leadership for the next year and a half when they finally have a leadership vote in the fall of 2012.

This quashes any actual leadership or prime ministerial ambitions he has had.

I've always had my eye on him (politically!) and believed that he was quietly undermining Michael Ignatieff's leadership, especially after bowing out of any leadership race when Stephane Dion stepped down.

There is also no doubt that Bob wants to merge the Liberals and NDP, but with the NDP in a much, much, much stronger position than the Liberals, that possibility is off the table.

Bob's getting up there in age, but I think the Liberal diaspora saw the writing on the wall if Rae was elected their leader.  The Conservative Party would have a Rae hay day in slamming his record as premier of Ontario.

This is a good move for the Liberals.

Far from me to give advice to them, but I would suggest that they reconnect with their original roots and purpose.  They were called Grits back in the day.  Does anyone call them that anymore?  No.  They need to find that "grittiness" to garner attention and purpose to exist.  Rae is not gritty, but actually quite eloquent in the House of Commons, so whomever the Libs pick as leader, he or she has gotta have the grit, because their last three leaders didn't.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And just like that, 3 senate appointments

Just as I published my last post and talked about senate reform and criticizing the government, the Prime Minister, just like that, appoints 3 Conservatives to the senate, all who lost in the recent election.

  • Josee Vernier, a Quebec MP
  • Larry Smith, former CFL commish, former senator
  • Fabian Manning, former NFLD MP, former senator
“Our Government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” the Prime Minister in a statement released to the media. 
With a small Quebec caucus, Harper just appointed many of them to the cabinet, and also needed a bit more Quebec representation in the senate.  Fine.  For now...

Because, Mr. Prime Minister, this is the last set of appointments I'll forgive you on.

Goodbye political games, hello policy

I don't think anyone knows this, but before the blogosphere, back in 2002, being frustrated with the Chretien government, I actually began a website that was policy based and also included a list of some infamous Chretien quotes ("A proof is a proof", etc.)  That website is long gone now (no backup).  From what I remember, the major policy areas it discussed were:

- Foreign policy (particularly on the Iraq War)
- Democratic reform (particularly on the Senate)
- Environment (particularly on man-made global warming debunking)

I don't think anyone read my site other than the Chretien quotes, but many of my beliefs then still hold true to today, especially on democratic reform.

This blog began just over five years ago when the 2006 federal election was coming to an end and Stephen Harper won a minority government, which became the longest running in Canadian history.  During that time, election speculation ran high, Liberals had several leaders, we saw (new) things like prorogation, coalition, and the governor general certainly got more attention in that hey, "She actually has some sort of power!" 

For a political junkie, it was an exciting time.  It was fun to poke ... fun at Liberal leaders and speculating on Harper's next moves.  But in looking back, I think the real important thing we all learned, no matter what political stripe, is we truly now know how our parliamentary system actually is supposed to work.  The online debates I had were great and educational and I've come to appreciate our system over a republican style.

This blog focused mostly on the political manoevering, but always kept track of senate reform, and the other odd policy.  Will I speculate on the Liberal leadership race?  Probably, but so will all the mainstream media.

That said, I'm going to miss the parliamentary chess game, but I am looking forward to focusing more on policy and debating issues.  Although I'm a strong Conservative Party supporter, I will also criticize the government where I think their policies are out of whack, especially from a libertarian perspective.  I've done it with the Alberta government which is why I don't support them at all anymore.

And without the Liberals as official opposition, I think the NDP will amplify the major ideological differences with the government, which will be quite entertaining.

So stay tuned to this blog, not so much on political games, but on hard policy.  I look forward to your comments and let's keep it civil.

Comin' out of the Cabinet

I didn't bother to make any Conservative government cabinet speculation.  Why?  Because I really think most Canadians don't care.  I will make some comments on the updated cabinet itself, however.

The cabinet:

  • grew by one member to 39 (it was much smaller when Harper first took office, now it's like the biggest evar!)
  • is as large as Mulroney's cabinet was (don't get any ideas)
  • is bigger than the entire Liberal caucus (ok, now you can)
  • John "The Bulldog" Baird is at Foreign Affairs -- he's one of Harper's best and hopefully he further improves Canada's standing in the world
  • Julian Fantino is now the new Associate Minister of National Defense -- that's an odd one
  • Maxime "Mad Max" Bernier is in as a junior at Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism
  • Jason Kenney stays on at Immigration but takes on Chair of Gov't Operations Committee (supposedly really important)
  • Tim Uppal (Edmonton-Sherwood Park) is now in at Minister of State for Democratic Reform. We'll be watching this one closely now that a former Reform MP is the Prime Minister with a majority government and majority senate.

Two hard working Edmonton MPs that didn't get in, that really should have been considered are:
  • Laurie Hawn -- Who would make the perfect Veterans Affairs Minister (he being a veteran)
  • James Rajotte -- Treasury Board or something financial.  James is very smart

For further comments, read CalgaryGrit.

Oh, and someone mentioned that they could fit the entire Bloc Quebecois caucus in their car. Just sayin'.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Election prediction - The Gut Method

Just before the election, I went with my gut and predicted a Conservative majority.  Not a huge one, but enough seats to put them over the edge.  Out of all of the pollsters (except Compas.ca), I was right on that.  I was also quite accurate on vote percentage.  I looked at the average and then went with my gut thinking the CPC always gets 2 to 3% more than the polls on election day, that the LPC would be a bit higher, and the NDP were being way overestimated.

On seats, though, what I wasn't right on was the opposition parties.  Not even close.  A friend of mine who's father happens to be the Alberta NDP leader, predicted 80 seats for the Dippers.  Even he underestimated admitting the NDP have no ground game in Quebec.  What we both didn't realize is that Quebeckers appear to vote for party, not people.

So, here's a quick recap of the numbers.  Seriously, look at how close I was on vote percentage.


Pollster Average


Hatrock's Cave


Pollster Average
Hatrock's Cave

In summary:
  • Don't underestimate the Conservatives.  Although I predicted a slight majority, I STILL underestimated.
  • When Quebeckers turn on a party, they do it fast, and they do it big-time, even not regarding who the local candidate is.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Election Post Mortem

I say, there's no better title to this blog post than "Post Mortem" due to the election's political death of leaders, cabinet ministers, and other high-profile MPs.

Lorne Gunter has some insight on the NDP "surge" and how it was the Tories who actually surged through splits.

I lament, however, at no longer having the bulk of my posts focus on Dr. Michael Ignatieff.  It was fun to challenge his intentions to become PM.  I look forward to the next victim, Justin Trudeau, who will surely woo young soft Dipper support in Quebec once Quebeckers see that their new crop of NDP MPs won't deliver on anything and will turn on them so fast to look for the next best thing.  However, older soft-sovereignists will surely halt any exodus reciting "Je me souviens" and how Justin's father helped ignite Quebec nationalism.

And speaking of Quebec nationalism, Mr. Duceppe, it's been a slice, but your party, like your province, no longer has any real relevancy or power in Parliament.  Conservatives have shown that a majority is possible without Quebec and this will continue in elections to come as more seats are added to BC, Alberta, and Ontario.  Now especially with a few Quebec Conservative cabinet ministers getting turfed, Quebec continues to choose to be on the outside of government and the national stage.  So be it.

"Jack and Gilles went up the Hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down, sprained his hip, recovered, and Gilles tumbled all the way thereafter."

For American-born, dual-citizenship, Elizabeth May, she and her party survive another day, despite losing 380,000 votes from 2008, that's a almost $800,000 the Greens WON'T receive in vote subsidies, but now, they won't have to pay her a salary.  I may spend some time focusing on her and her policies in future posts.

Speaking of salaries... over 100 MPs lost or retired.  How many qualify for the gold-plated pension I'm not sure, but many long-time MPs, including Gilles Duceppe, will live very comfortably for the rest of their lives.

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it has been a very long time coming.  Over ten years actually to get here.  After his hiatus as a Reform MP and leading the National Citizens' Coalition for a few years, in 2000, seeing Stockwell Day's days numbered, he returned with one intention--to unite the right. 

This election, I maintain that Harper was the one who engineered the election, trapping Ignatieff into holding the gov't in contempt.

I maintain that Harper let Jack attack Ignatieff on his voting record in the English debate and let him go toe-to-toe with Duceppe in the French debate.  Harper knew he didn't need Quebec to win, which is why Harper didn't have to say much and actually sacrificed Quebec and some of his cabinet ministers to the NDP to win it all elsewhere.

With a loss, two minority wins, and now a majority, Harper has proven as a skilled tactician, there is only one winner in a game of chess, not only with opposition leaders, but from within as well.  He is and will remain for many years, the last man standing up high on the Hill, with the only pail of water.