Thursday, May 26, 2016

Climate Change Did Harper In


If there was one policy which doomed the Harperites in the last election, it was their steadfast refusal to do anything about climate change. Chantal Hebert writes:

Last October, a mismanaged election campaign only compounded the decade-long mismanagement of some core policies. Few of those are more closely identified with Harper’s leadership than the party’s dismissive approach to climate change. On his watch, it became part of the Conservative brand and an albatross around the party’s neck.

At both ends of the nation, Harper's refusal to tackle the problem led to his defeat:

Last October, Harper’s approach paid few dividends in the parts of Atlantic Canada where projects such as TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline otherwise enjoy widespread support. His candidates were beaten across the region.

It failed even more spectacularly in British Columbia. Going into the last campaign, B.C. was a long-standing pillar of Conservative support. On the scale of the party’s past presence in the province, Canada’s Conservatives are paying a visit to a field of ruins this weekend. Here are some numbers:

In British Columbia -- which had adopted a carbon tax -- the numbers tell the story:

  • The Conservatives came out of the last election holding only 10 of 42 B.C. seats — seven fewer than the Liberals and four fewer than the NDP. It was the worst Conservative showing in at least three decades.
  • The year Stockwell Day lost to Jean Chr├ętien and the last time a divided conservative movement took on the Liberals in 2000, the Canadian Alliance won a majority of B.C. seats (27) and almost 50 per cent of the province’s popular vote.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative share of the vote went from 45 per cent to 30 per cent. Over Harper’s majority mandate, the party lost almost 150,000 B.C. supporters.

The Conservatives will be saying goodbye to Harper this weekend. As he heads for the exit, they would be well advised to pay attention to his blind spots.


 Image: canadians.org

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Just What The World Needs


Bob Fife reports, in the Globe and Mail, that Stephen Harper will resign his seat before Parliament resumes in September:

“He is not going to be there when the House returns in September,” one close associate said. “He has had some good conversations about what is next for him. … He has some board discussions happening and he’s looking at some options about setting up his own institute.”

Apparently, the institute will focus on foreign policy:

The institute is in its early stages of discussion, but friends say it won’t be academic or domestic-policy focused, such as the conservative think tank founded by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Mr. Harper’s interests will be directed largely at global “big picture” issues that he has espoused over the years.

His former policy director, Rachel Curran, said once Mr. Harper leaves politics, he will want to champion global free trade, building on his success in negotiating deals with South Korea and the European Union, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“He spent tremendous time and energy really concluding these trade agreements and opening up trade corridors,” Ms. Curran said. “He has got a really recognized expertise and a lot of respect internationally in terms of his kind of knowledge.”

She said Mr. Harper will also want to promote his geopolitical thinking – whether it’s on human rights, the promotion of democracy or standing up to authoritarian regimes.

Mr. Harper knows something about authoritarian regimes. He'll need money to fund the institute. Word has it that he has been spending time lately with Las Vegas casino magnet Sheldon Adelson. His base might be a little concerned about where the money comes from. But one suspects the base is not on Harper's mind these days.

No, he's thinking about the world. And that's just what the world needs -- more Stephen Harper.

Image: pressprogress.ca

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Is The TPP Dead?

 
Michael Geist thinks it might be. He writes:

First, the TPP may not have sufficient support to take effect, since under the terms of agreement both Japan and the United States must be among the ratifying countries. Implementation has been delayed in Japan where politicians fear a political backlash and seems increasingly unlikely in the U.S., where the remaining presidential candidates have tried to outdo one another in their opposition to the deal.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been outspoken critics of the TPP from start of their campaigns. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has shifted her position from supporter to critic, recently unequivocally stating that “I oppose the TPP agreement and that means before and after the election.” 

If the deal goes down, that's good news -- because new models are emerging for international trade agreements:

Canada already has an alternate blueprint for a trade strategy to open up key markets throughout Asia. By the government’s own admission, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement offers a better investor-state dispute settlement system than the TPP, while the Canada-South Korea free trade agreement, which was concluded in 2014, eliminates tariffs without requiring an overhaul of Canadian or South Korean laws.

There are criticisms of both of those deals, but they offer better models than the TPP.

And a recent analysis by the C.D. Howe Institute claims that the proposed agreement offers Canada  few incentives:

For example, a recent C.D. Howe study found that the Canadian gains may be very modest, with some gains offset by losses on issues such as copyright and an outflow of royalties. Given the limited effect of staying out (the study describes the initial impact as “negligible”), some have suggested that killing the agreement might be a good thing for the country.

The C.D. Howe study, which is consistent with several other reports that found that TPP benefits to Canada are among the lowest of the 12 countries, should not come as a surprise. Canada already has free trade deals with several key agreement partners, including the U.S., Mexico, Chile and Peru. Moreover, some Canadian business sectors have told the government they would be better off removing inter-provincial trade barriers before working to open markets like Vietnam and Malaysia.

The government is currently holding cross-country hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will be interesting -- and critical -- to see what Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau decide to do with another piece of Stephen Harper's legacy.

Image: youtube.com

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kagan On Trump



Robert Kagan has been a consistent neo-conservative voice for the last twenty-five years. From his desk at the Brookings Institution, he has advocated for a tougher, more militaristic American foreign policy. Successive Republican administrations have adopted his suggestions. That is why his take on Donald Trump is so interesting. In a recent column, "This Is How Fascism Comes To America," he writes:

The entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

Neo-conservatives fear government. But Trump is what the American Founding Fathers feared most -- rule of the mob:

But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

And when a nation chooses one man who will run roughshod over its system of government, the result is fascism:

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Fuhrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who singlehandedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.

Kagan warns his readers that:

Once in power, Trump will owe politicians and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election imagine the power he would wield: at his command would be the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today? Does vast power uncorrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Kagan used to be a Republican. He now claims that he is an Independent.

Image: Brookings.edu

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Will He Pay?



Some people are convinced that Justin Trudeau will pay a price for his less than sunny behaviour in the House last week. Tom Walkom isn't so sure. Canadians, he writes, like to have "chippy" prime ministers:

Trudeau broke all the rules Wednesday when he marched across the Commons floor, grabbed Conservative whip Gord Brown by the arm and hustled him to his seat, all in order to get a projected vote underway.

In the melee, the prime minister also inadvertently elbowed Quebec New Democrat MP Ruth-Ellen Brousseau in the chest.

New Democrats standing nearby said Trudeau used a vulgar synonym for fornication as he urged MPs to get out of his way.

But this kind of behaviour isn't new to prime ministers:

Voters often like it when a prime minister gets tough or rude. Jean Chr├ętien suffered no political penalty when, as prime minister, he grabbed a peaceful protester by the throat and forced him to the ground.

Pierre Trudeau, in what became known as the fuddle-duddle incident, famously told opposition MPs to fornicate with themselves. Voters elected his Liberals to government three more times after that.

Was it polite behaviour? Certainly not. It showed that Trudeau can be impetuous and far from sunny. More importantly, his actions caused proceedings to ground to a halt. But Trudeau apologized more than once. Other than his apology for residential schools, when was the last time you heard Stephen Harper apologize?

Will he pay? We'll see.

Image: youtube.com

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trump-Clinton Syndrome



 When Alan Freeman was the Globe and Mail correspondent in Washington, nobody paid attention to Canada. Suddenly, he writes, that has all changed:

Over the past week, major U.S. news outlets like The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post haven’t been able to get enough of Canada. And that was before Thursday’s meltdown on the Commons floor.

In recent weeks, major American media outlets have run stories on the Fort McMurray wildfire, Canada’s transgender anti-discrimination legislation, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s plea for more staff help, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology to South Asian immigrants turned away on the Komagata Maru in 1914 — and, of course, the elbows-out fracas involving Trudeau and several other MPs in the Commons.

Why the change? Call it the Trump-Clinton Syndrome:

Instead of any sense of excitement over a new kind of leadership, Americans are brooding over the prospect of six more months of a nasty election campaign — between a reality TV star who seldom mentions a rival or a foreign leader without resorting to crude insults, and a political veteran who has trouble shaking her image of arrogance and entitlement.

The personal weaknesses of Trump and Clinton normally would be enough to sink either one of them in a presidential election campaign — if it weren’t for the fact that they’re running against each other. So many Americans are stuck with a choice between two people they don’t like.

Some Canadians -- people like Conrad Black -- used to look with envy on the United States. Black's envy seems to have disappeared after his acquaintance with American Justice. And it appears that a significant number of Americans are now envying us.

Image: refe99.com

Friday, May 20, 2016

Words, Words, Words



Young Mr.Trudeau is starting to get under my skin. It isn't the Kabuki Theatre the other day in the House that bothers me. It's the announcement that the Liberals plan to contest the class action lawsuit which veterans brought against the Harper government. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

The vets claimed the Tories were discriminating against combatants in modern-day conflicts, such as Afghanistan, by offering them lump-sum payments, rather than the life-long pensions paid to veterans of older conflicts, such as the Korean War. The issue cost the Conservatives support among veterans’ groups — a traditional base of support — and became a black eye for a government that loved to play up the importance of Canada’s military.

 During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau promised that veterans would not be treated so cavalierly:

“We will demonstrate the respect and appreciation for our veterans that Canadians rightly expect, and ensure that no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.”

The Liberals went farther than that:

The Liberal platform further stated that the federal government has “a social covenant with all veterans and their families that we must meet with both respect and gratitude.”

Words meant nothing to Stephen Harper. It's beginning to look like they mean nothing to Justin Trudeau.

Image: ipolitics.ca