Monday, July 26, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

Methinks the Harperites may have jumped the shark on this census thing.  Turns out Stephen Harper made extensive use of the long-form census for his 1991 Master's thesis. Hypocrisy, it turns out, has no time limits.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tory TV

Recent developments make it clear that the Sun media chain is becoming an entirely partisan affair, devoted to boosting the Conservative Party.  TC regards this as largely a kind of vanity project, which will not change anything in the framework of Canadian politics.  Sun media is already almost entirely small 'c' conservative so dropping Greg Weston and Eric Margolis as columnists is not going to make any real difference to that.

What might presumably matter would be the proposal for a Tory TV news channel. However, they have already been spurned by the CRTC for a top tier spot on the dial. And even getting one like CBC News NN and CTV News Network have won't matter much. As the blog Medium Close-up pointed out:
It is important to note that the existing news, talk and current affairs channels in Canada are not exactly catching on with the viewing public. CBC NN and CTV News Network have so few viewers that I suspect it would be cheaper to put their content on DVD and deliver it to the 25,000 or so folks who tune in. CP24 is one of a handful of stations that people watch but don’t listen to. Whenever I see the channel in offices, gyms, bars, the sound is turned off. It is a weather and time channel.
TC's view is that too much fuss has made about all this especially by many on the left.  The best analysis of the whole business by far was this column by Jeffrey Simpson who said:
People in high dudgeon about its arrival should calm down. Sun TV won’t be watched by many people, if the audiences for the other all-news channels are any guide. Most of those who watch will be committed right-wingers looking, like most consumers of news and information, to have previously held opinions reaffirmed.

Sun TV isn’t going to make, break or even influence the shape of Canadian politics, whatever the ideological fervour of Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former spokesman now in charge of assembling the Sun TV challenge.
I leave you, however, with this video satire from YouTuber (thx to Accidental Deliberations for this tip:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Long Form Census Fiasco

It is a truism of politics that governments defeat themselves.  Typically death comes from the cumulative impact of a thousand cuts.  The long form census issue is more like a gash. All the more remarkable is that the government's only defence, that the long form census is an invasion of privacy, is completely hypocritical, as Tom Walkom demonstrates well in this column:
Two things stand out about the great Canadian census controversy.

The first is that there is a controversy. Who could have predicted that the federal government’s decision to eliminate something as profoundly prosaic as the mandatory long-form census questionnaire would generate such fierce opposition?

The second is the shameless hypocrisy shown by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Industry Minister Tony Clement says he’s axing the mandatory questionnaire because the state has no right to demand intrusive information, such as the number of bedrooms in a home.

Yet his is the same government that requires airlines to collect and hand over detailed personal information on everyone who flies – and then give much of it to a foreign state.
And who could have imagined an issue that would produce a backyard protest song based on an old Gary Lewis and Playboys hit:

Green Party Troubles

For all her considerable communications skills, honed over the years as an environmental lobbyist, Elizabeth May is nonetheless an absolutely incompetent party leader.  To be successful a leader must be much more than a charismatic presences on the tube.  She must also serve as the party's CEO - inspiring the troops, ensuring the party is administered efficiently and keeping the inevitable factions at peace.  May is as complete a failure at this aspect of the job as one can imagine.  I think everyone should read this post on the party's troubles by Democratic Space blogger and former Green Party activist Greg Morrow.  Its title says it all: The Green Party's Mess.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Liberal Party in Decline/ Conclusion: Crisis and Opportunity

There is a random element of luck when it comes to party leadership. The NDP were fortunate to find Layton, but his rivals in that contest were much weaker. In 2006 all the Liberal contenders had significant drawbacks. Many Liberals now think Bob Rae would be their best option; he does have the strongest skills as a performer among the potential alternatives in the Liberal caucus. However, the same Bob Rae demonstrated bad political judgment as Ontario Premier in the early nineties, not a good predictor of success in the 21st century.
The Liberals may find a way out of their current doldrums and a leadership change might serve as catalyst. However, the Liberal party is in crisis and it is possible that this will present an opportunity for the NDP to break out of the confines of third place. The Liberals need to identify their areas of strategic and demographic weakness and do something about them, but there is no evidence of that happening. So it is fair to describe the Liberal Party as being in a multi-dimensional crisis.
The current political context gives the appearance of being the opposite of the nineties, disunity on the centre left in contrast to Conservative rule. But the mere fact that this reversal has happened should make us cognizant of the possibility that things could reverse themselves again. Can the Conservatives make a transition to a new leader and maintain their unity when the time comes? What does the future hold for the Greens, who do not yet have a real foothold in Canadian politics despite rising environmental consciousness? My impression is that the unpopularity of some provincial regimes, for example in B.C., is causing damage to federal counterparts. In the particular case of B.C. it is to both Liberals and Conservatives because of the peculiar character of Gordon Campbell’s regime.
A merger between the NDP and the Liberals would probably be impossible to bring off in current circumstances. The two parties have long and independent histories that would almost certainly preclude it. It is also likely that a new left wing party would be created at the time of the merger. Perhaps many New Democrats would move to the Greens and make an effort to move it to the left.
When the British Labour Party split in the early eighties and four prominent Labourites left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the new party recognized before the next election that to survive they had to develop an alliance with the Liberals who, as a struggling third party, were receptive. The new SDP-Liberal Alliance fought a couple of elections as a tactical alliance and then decided in 1987 to merge. However, as this brief history of the UK Liberal Democrats notes:
The winter of 1987-88 saw a lengthy period of tortuous negotiations between the two parties. The new party's constitution and even its name were the subjects of intense discussion, as was the question of whether an initial policy statement was needed and, if so, what it should say.
Those who see merger as an easy, almost mechanical path to ousting Harper I think are mistaken. In most cases governments defeat themselves, and the disaffected public turns to the most obvious alternative. It is currently the Liberal Party, but the NDP is not so far behind and has a broad enough support base that they might be able to make that leap from third to first.
While one can detect many signs of Liberal decline, it is not clear that the party’s fate is certain to become decline and fall. Politics is about possibilities; the Liberal crisis has created possibilities that could break open the status quo in Canadian politics. However, the complexities of politics, and the growing uncertainties facing the Canadian and world economies, make the future path of Canadian politics opaque.