The collected thoughts and actions of J. Harvey Fink…
On this page are the early writings of the leader of the Undecided Party of Canada. Rather than the larger issues and policies of the party itself, this space features J. Harvey’s personal reactions and considered opinions as national political events unfolded.
Future missives will be posted in the Blog section.
The following was to be the script of a nationally broadcast radio commentary to introduce the UDP to Canadian voters in the Fall of 2003. For what some might think suspicious reasons (that we can’t really get into here), the piece never made it to air.
Here is J. Harvey’s script in its entirety.
Soon, perhaps as early as next spring, we will find ourselves staring down the barrel of another federal election. And, as pre-election polls sample record numbers of undecided voters, and pundits recall low voter turnout in the past and predict worse for the future, much will be made of the apathy of the modern electorate and its threat to democracy.
But we at the Undecided Party contend that choosing not to choose can be a dynamic choice, a valid choice, and if we may say so, the right choice.
Stay-at-home electorates and the rise of the so called fringe parties are not the result of a population which has stopped caring – but rather one that has stopped believing anything coming out of the mouths of mainstream party candidates.
-The Chretien Liberals were against the GST, until they were elected.
-The Mulroney Conservatives promised “Jobs, jobs, jobs,” until they were elected.
-Preston Manning wasn’t going to live in Stornoway, and the Bloc Québécois was only going to run for a single term, to prepare for the 1995 referendum, until they were elected.
-And most recently, PC leader Peter MacKay wasn’t going to allow a merger with the Alliance Party, until he was elected.
To paraphrase a familiar saying; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me every time, and don’t be surprised if I take my ball and go home.”
So what choice remains for citizens who feel that a vote for any of the candidates on their ballot means taking part in the hiring of an employee (for let’s not forget, as they so often do, that they are our employees) who is lying about why they want the job, has no intention of fulfilling promise of performance agreements, and cannot be fired, regardless of their performance, for as many as five years.
Clearly, if you feel that all the candidates for the job are unsuitable, the only intelligent, moral, and patriotic alternative is to have no part in hiring any of them – to choose not to choose.
To be deliberately, actively and proudly undecided is the founding principle of the Undecided Party of Canada, and you can learn more about the UDP at our website.
In the meantime remember, WE didn’t ruin democracy, THEY did.
Why does voter turnout keep dropping? How has the electorate grown to be so cynical? Why are so many Canadians unwlling to vote for ANY of the candidates they’re being offered? Read on, and we may begin to understand…
Sure it may not sound quite as dramatic as “We Are The 99%,” but the simple fact is that if we in the lower 98 want anything to change, it has to be done by the politicians – and with a STARTING salary of $157,731, Ottawa MPs are firmly amongst the top 2% when it comes to the annual paycheque.
So, seriously, do you REALLY believe Lisa Raitt ($157,731 + $75,516.00 (Cabinet Minister’s bonus) + car allowances, travel expenses and a pension plan so generous that it would be illegal anywhere outside Parliament Hill), Harper ($157,731 + $157,731 (PM’s bonus) etc.), et. al. really going to give a damn –or have any conception– about the struggles of a Flight Attendant starting at $18,000 per year? These are the people who imposed a settlement on locked-out postal workers that was lower than the employer’s own offer, in a move that can only be interpreted as punishment for the audacity of asking for more money in the first place. Apart from needing their votes every few years, the only worry these people have about the lower 98 is the fear that any measures that might help pull the 98 up risk pulling the 2 down so that they might only occupy the top 3, 4, or God forbid, 5%.
And the 2 are their friends and family.
We here at the Undecided party have addressed the MP’s disconnect from the people they claim to represent since our founding – and just since it’s an especially hot topic at the moment, we’re reprinting below a pair of our official responses from out Issues page. As stated in the second response, we know theses things will never happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if they could…
“Some people have suggested that a change in the electoral system, like moving to proportional representation, might increase voter turnout. How do you feel about this idea?”
Well, even though proportional representation would greatly increase the chances of smaller parties (like ourselves) winning a seat or two in Parliament, we at the Undecided Party can’t support such a change. It looks good in theory, but in practice, it looks like Italy, which has gone through more than 50 governments since World War II.
Here at the UDP, we have another idea that would, we’re certain, create an explosion in voter turnout. Rather than proportional representation, or the current first past the post formula based on geographic ridings, we suggest a system of Representation By Income.
Instead of running for the population of a certain locale (after all, physical geography means less and less in these changing times), MP hopefuls would campaign for the right to represent various income brackets. (Some for those below poverty level, some for the 40-50 thousand per year bracket, some for the millionaire’s club.) Naturally, since there are many more Canadians at the lower end of such a scale, they would elect more MPs and receive more representation in Ottawa – which is, of course, a 180-degree reversal of the current situation.
Ideally, candidates would come from the income strata they hope to represent – since, who would better understand the concerns of their constituents (and what would be more likely to convince voters that their MPs actually have a degree of empathy with their struggles).
Introduce the concept with your local candidates when they come calling. It will be interesting to see if you can get any response more informative than an uncomfortable laugh and a, “No, but seriously.”
“What will the Undecided Party do to reduce poverty across the counrty?”
Having spent much of our own lives below the poverty level, we at the Undecided Party feel that the reason for the lack of any genuine sympathy on the part of most elected members is the simple fact that they don’t know what they’re missing – things like food, clothes, and heat in the winter.
Clearly, Members of Parliament (with a base salary in 2011 of $157,731, and among the top 2% of Canadian income earners) have no idea what it’s like to try to make ends meet when your fondest wish is to be able to claw your way all the way up to the poverty level, and perhaps they simply don’t realize that taking money away from things like equalization and unemployment, doesn’t actually help the poor – even if they keep tax havens open in the Caribbean. So, giving Members the benefit of the doubt, and making allowances for their endearingly simplistic view of the world, we at the Undecided Party suggest “participatory education.”
We propose that for one month of every year, each serving MP will be required to eat the diet of a minimum wage earner (Kraft Dinner), live in the accommodations of a minimum wage earner (one-room bedsit), use the transportation of a minimum wage earner (walk), and, to be fair, even experience the occasional luxuries in the leisure time life of a minimum wage earner (Big Mac by candle light – in order to save on the light bill).
We feel that some enforced empathy would go a long way toward a serious reconsideration of Ottawa’s attitudes towards the unemployed and working poor – if only to make the MP’s one-month ordeal a little easier for the next year.
Of course, we fully realize that there is no chance that any mainstream party or its members would ever agree to lower themselves to the level of so many of their constituents.
…but wouldn’t it be nice if we could make ’em?
April 25 ’11
Apr 15 ’11
Guergis: Then and Now
Then: While opposition parties are clamouring for her removal after an airport tantrum and fraudulent ‘letters to the editor’ written by her staff, and the Harper government is dismissing the calls, with John Baird urging the opposition to move on to ‘more important matters.’
Stephen Harper: “Last night my office became aware of serious allegations regarding the conduct of the Honourable Helena Guergis…I have referred the allegations to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and to the RCMP.”
“Pending a resolution, she will sit outside of the Conservative Party Caucus.”
Now: After the “resolution” is resolved by the release of documents that make it obvious that there was absolutely no evidence behind the unsupported, third-party “serious allegations.” (Meanwhile, other party members with equally serious allegations, or even convictions, continue to be welcome in Harper’s ‘law and order’ party.)
Stephen Harper: “There were, as you know well, a range of political problems around this individual. They have been discussed by members of caucus. There is simply no desire to see the return of this individual to caucus…”
Translation: “We just don’t like her. If we could have pretended to get rid of her for criminal reasons, we would have, but now we’ll just have to pretend that we agreed with the opposition all along.”
Mar 31 ’11
The Cowardly Lion Strikes Again
(which is to say, “Runs Away”)
Debates debate usurped by Questions question
It seems that we may never run out of opportunities to use the image above. The latest connection is the fearless leader’s decision that an election campaign is no time to go around answering a bunch of irksome questions from those annoying press people. (We all remember fellow Conservative Kim Cambell’s opinion on that subject.)
During a campaign stop in Halifax, and with the press safely behind a barrier thirty feet away (presumably under the theory that the pen is not only mightier than the sword, but also has a longer reach), the jurnophobic Harper was asked why reporters were being limited to five questions (two english, two french, and one local) PER DAY in the middle of an election, while the other party leaders were pointedly not putting limits on their own media teams’ curiosity.
He didn’t answer the question.
He didn’t have to.
Given that previous days have brought queries about Harper’s earlier support of the concept of evil coalitions, and campaign workers surrounded by scandal, and given that the future holds the prospect of subjects like Bev Oda, Jason Kenney, and worst of all, his record, it’s not surprising that the control-obsessed big cheese would rather avoid the possibility of questions on any subjects more uncomfortable than the NHL.
But that’s a prospect all the leaders face when they open themselves to questions – and one of the prices of being a leader is taking the risk of unexpected or uncomfortable questions because if you want to run a country, that country has a right to know all it can about you before it decides whether or not to hire you.
You’re supposed to be a leader, Steve.
Suck it up.
Act like one.
PS: Oh, and Steve, don’t use lame excuses to run away from the one-on-one debate concept, when you brought it up and your opponent is still willing. It makes you look like … well …
Mar 27 ’11
Mar 26 ’11
Annnnd They’re Off!!!
And who can blame Steve for being angry that “…Mr. Ignatieff and his coalition partners in the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois made abundantly clear that they had already decided that they wanted to force an election…” the fourth in seven years on the poor citizens of Canada, with their evil vote of non-confidence.
Of course, of those four elections, he didn’t mention that the 2006 campaign was forced when Mr. Harper and his coalition partners in the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois brought down the Liberal minority in a vote of non-confidence. Or that the 2008 campaign was forced when Harper ignored his own fixed-term election law to take advantage of favourable poll numbers before they fell victim to a tanking economy. But let’s not muddy the waters with silly little things like the truth. Hypocrisy is a central tenet of politics, and we get plenty of it from all sides.
Still one must particularly admire Harper’s audacity in the face of such easily demonstrable facts in the very first speech of his campaign – after all, you don’t go naming a nation’s government after yourself without a pathologically secure self-image.
The Next ‘Logical’ Step For
“The Harper Government”
So, wha’dya think, Canada? The Maple Leaf is still sort of in there…
…Bev Oda is being accused of lying, fraud, misrepresentation, and more (not to mention hiding from the cameras behind Rona Ambrose and from the questions behind John Baird).
People, she’s a politician!
So Harper and Baird are accused of ignoring the oppositions’ questions and regurgitating undisputed irrelevancies instead, demonstrating that the Conservatives’ promises of transparency and accountability were lies, frauds and misrepresentations.
People, they’re politicians!
What about this affair is surprising?! What constitutes a genuinely unexpected revelation about our highest ranking civil servants. Well, as the document below demonstrates, none of them appear to understand the basic and explicit YYYY-MM-DD requirement as a format for recording the date.
If they can ignore such fundamental directives, who can tell what other rules are being ignored. And if they don’t understand the instructions, one can only imaging the shape the budget is really in.
Perhaps it’s best not to know.
The Next Chapter
Would you like to find a way to finally get the Parliament to work together? Perhaps even see absolute unanimity across party lines –in both the House of Commons and the Senate– and watch as former adversaries link arms and march together singing solidarity forever?
Simple. Present them with a threat to their own asses.
The Conservatives, elected on a promise of transparency and accountability (stop laughing), and the opposition parties, who remind Harper of his unwillingness to keep those promises on a daily basis, and who themselves have just engineered a deal to see the Afghan Detainee documents on the basis of the Canadian people’s ‘right to know,’ have decided together that all those high ideals apply to everybody but themselves – and told Auditor General Sheila Fraser to go pound sand.
Fraser’s plan? To conduct a performance audit (to see if money spent was well spent) on the 533 million dollars doled out annually by the Commons and Senate. Considering the the money involved, and spending irregularities recently uncovered in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, one would think that’s probably a good idea.
Unless, apparently, one is one of the ones spending the money.
According to the Board of Internal Economy (which deliberates in secret), the “control mechanisms” currently in place, such as a KPMG financial audit (also kept secret) ensure that everything’s on the up and up.
Which then raises the question that, if they’re sure everything’s fine, why are they afraid of Fraser’s audit? NDP member Joe Comartin of the NDP declared it should be, “…the electorate who makes those decisions as to whether we spend our money properly.” Of course, to make those decisions, the electorate would have to know how the money was actually being spent … say, with a performance audit.
But the Honourable Members won’t allow that, and any Canadian who wants to know more about how their own money is being spent can join Sheila in her sand pounding.
“Trust us.” say the politicians.
No. Seriously. That’s their position.
And why wouldn’t we trust them. They’re Honourable Members, right?
So why does Harper really want a break until after the Olympics…
(Reprinted with permission)
So he has time to practice of course – and the best of luck to him. But then the unavoidable question becomes, will he ask the Govenor General to suspend the Games if he feels he’s not doing well?
Remember when Stephen Harper rode to victory over the
Adscam-scandal-ridden Liberals by promising to put a stop to
playing partisan games with public money?
Too bad he doesn’t.
Following hard on the conversion of a Government of Canada website into a Stephen Harper photo album, and taking the latest veil off the grotesque but all-too-familiar face of pork barrel politics, we can now see more than 200 examples (http://www.flickr.com/photos/conservativecheques) of Conservative MPs posing behind taxpayer-funded, Government of Canada cheques which are deceptively emblazoned with the Conservative Party logos, and/or Conservative Party MPs’ names (including Stevie’s own name in some cases). Of course, Gerald, “I’d absolutely do it again” Keddy was just an isolated aberration … until the Liberals did some poking around the Web and found about 50 other MPs doing the same.
Ya gotta love the Web.
Ya gotta know there’s been some serious website scrubbing in the last few days.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem if the money was actually coming out of the Conservative Party bank accounts or the MP’s pockets (and there would be no end of entertainment value in the Government agencies passing the bills on to the names on the cheques – perhaps using
photo-ops with big, novelty invoices). But that’s not the case, and the MPs in question rarely even have anything to do with the decision to spend that money in their ridings – for as we all know, most of Harper’s MPs have to ask permission to ask permission to go to the bathroom.
So shouldn’t taking credit for someone else’s contribution in order for significant personal gain (in this case, buying votes for re-election) be considered fraud, even criminal fraud?
Of course not! It’s POLITICS!
(Well, alright, “fraud” and “politics” are pretty much synonymous, and a private citizen may well be investigated for fraud if they did the same thing in the private sector … but come on, people, look at the people in question here, did you really expect any better?)
But in the spirit of the Harper Conservatives, who clearly believe that you don’t have to have any direct connection to a pay-out in order to take credit for it, the Undecided Party of Canada would like to make the following statement.
You know all those Income Tax Refunds and GST Rebate cheques you’ve been getting over the years?
That was us.
Welcome to Politics, folks…
As September and a new session of Parliament begins we have;
-The party that has refused years of opportunities to bring down the Conservative government suddenly deciding that the same Conservative government with the same policies and same plans must be brought down.
-The party that has boasted of its record in voting against the Conservatives in matters of confidence and mocked the Liberals as cowards for not joining them now stating its, “strong preference to make minority Parliament work.”
-The party that, almost exactly a year ago, turned its back on its own fixed election date law to call a selfishly opportunistic election at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars during a national financial crisis, accusing the Liberals of planning to call a selfishly opportunistic election at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars during a national financial crisis.
And the only thing that remains constant is the certainty none of the leaders’ decisions are motivated by what is best for Canada.
-The Conservatives survive a parliamentary confidence vote, thanks to the 79-consecutive-votes-against-the-government socialists and the plotting-to-destroy-Canada separatists. And the unholy coalition that would have ruined the country if it had put a Liberal in the P.M.’s chair is, well, okay, as long as it lets Harper keep his job.
(Just like it would have been okay when Harper was trying to unseat Martin.)
-A celebration is held to mark the 25th anniversary of a landslide victory by a political party that … uhmm, no longer exists, attended by members of the party that owes its very existence to the guest of honour’s taking that landslide victory and running the nation’s oldest political party into the ground – resulting in a two seat embarassment which was later absorbed into Reform’s ambitons and Ottawa’s memory.
The fact that the current MPs weren’t even allowed to talk to the guest of honour four months ago? Don’t be a buzz-kill with details.
-Meanwhile, Elizabeth “We will be staying in force in Central Nova because I’m not going anywhere” May is going, not just anywhere, but to the other end of the country in an attempt to get herself elected. Good thing the Greens are sticking to their principles and not acting exactly like all the other parties, taking the chance to run for office from people who have actually lived in the riding in order to parachute in a ‘star candidate’ or party leader… Wait … never mind.
And by month’s end;
-Gordon Landon, Conservative candidate for Markham, Ontario, states that the region lost out on the chance to have a medical testing centre because a Liberal currently holds the Parliamentary seat.
A definite ‘oops’ moment – though the claim doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, only that it came from the Conservative candidate. And the sad thing is, as this example illustrates, that candor is considered a serious error in politics.
-After spending 34 million dollars of taxpayers’ money on ads for the “Canada’s Action Plan” stimulus program, including TV spots with such purely coincidentally election-discouraging comments from ‘regular Canadains’ as, “We can’t stop now!” and “We have to stay on track!”, and after the Canadian Press noted that there were no fewer than 40 photographs of the benevolent leader on the Government of Canada -not Conservative Party- Action Plan website, the nation’s Public Health Agency says it has about one-quarter that budget -a total of $6.5 million- to educate Canadians about the H1N1 virus.
Good to know the Harper Government (as it likes to call itself on Canadian Government websites) has its prioities straight
Running Scared and the Politics of Fear
Well, Steevo has gone back on his word again (“…the government is clear that it will not be seeking an early election”) and shut Parliament down more than a year before the much touted fixed election date (or perhaps he had a different meaning in mind for the term “fixed” all along). But let’s be realistic here, politicians break promises, and do what they say they’re not going to do, all the time. It’s as much a part of their job as being overpaid for spending most of their time away from work, and acting like children on the floor of the House or during evening news political panels. (Seriously, would you let people who act like this into your homes?)
So the question becomes, why has Steve and the Open And Honest Conservatives decided to take the potential PR hit for going against one of his highest profile ‘reforms’ in order to call an election that, by his own public prognostications, will only result in another minority government? After all, if the real reason for the call is his claim that Parliament is dysfunctional (translation; “Parliament won’t do what I tell it and keeps raising embarrassing questions”), there’s no reason to think that another minority will be any more willing to shut up and roll over.
No, in what’s become a real theme for this government, we’re once again seeing abundant evidence of the stereotypical bully acting out of fear. No doubt the Conservatives hope that they can out-campaign the Liberals (shouldn’t be too difficult) and manage to get the voters to suspend disbelief long enough to score a majority for the economic “steady hand” that so skillfully found a way to spend that big fat surplus the Liberals left behind, but the real motivation for this timing is much more likely the conviction that things can only get worse between now and the November ’09 fixed election date that Harper himself instituted. Over the next year or so, it was looking like things would have only gotten better for an opposition looking for an opening…
-The economy threatens to continue getting worse, and since the Tories have already blown the 13.2 billion dollar Liberal surplus they inherited, it would seem that they won’t be able to stop themselves from spending us into a series of deficits. And electorates don’t like bad economies, or deficits.
– If the four by-elections scheduled for September didn’t go well for the Conservatives, it might have encouraged a trend in the general population.
– If the Democrats take the Whitehouse, not only would there likely be a popular swing towards the left and ‘hope’ up north, but given the Conservatives’ leak about Obama’s NAFTA statements during the primaries, Harper would be less likely to have a comfortable relationship with the new President. (Certainly Obama might be …disinclined… to share any confidential information more volatile than summer camp nicknames.)
– Things are even less likely to go well over the coming months for the Conservatives in the various investigations underway by Parliamentary committees, public inquiries, Elections Canada, and even the RCMP (see below) into such scandals as Bernier-Couillard, Mulroney-Schreiber, the Cadman affair, and in-and-out campaign financing. (An investigation which has seen 23 Conservative witnesses refusing to testify at a Parliamentary committee, an attempt at holding a secret, ‘invitation only’ press conference, and senior Conservatives running from reporters like sprinters on steroids and caffine.)
– Speaking of Julie Couillard, the Conservatives can’t be looking forward to the first fruits of her new career as a tell-all ‘author,’ with her book due for release in mid-October.
– And just days ago, we have news that the RCMP is investigating a real-estate deal, cancelled by the Harper government on Aug 28, on which the very busy Julie Couillard allegedly promoted a specific bid to Maxime Bernier and Bernard Cote while she was dating them.
Of course there’s more, but you get the picture. People have been forgetting about all these messes over the summer, and it’s in the Conservatives’ interest to call an election quick – before it all gets stirred up again. The problem facing Steve isn’t a dysfunctional Parliament, it’s a Parliament functioning in a way that lets the public see more and more, with each passing day, just how the Harper government works. And that’s never good for a party in power.
The government could display the courage of its convictions about fixed election dates, take its hits, admit to even a few mistakes in the various inquiries, allow the investigations to complete their work and clean house where necessary, and then meet the electorate with a bruised but honest face – but that would take, well, courage. Much easier to act the role of the tough leader who’s so fed up with the dysfunctional Parliament that he’s even willing to ignore his own condemnations of leaders calling early elections by calling one of his own. And if it’s another Conservative minority, and even if all of the above factors go against the Tories after an October election, they know there won’t be an appetite for an immediate re-run only a few months later. And if they can keep their heads down for a year or two, all this might have blown over before the next race.
And who knows, by then, Stephen might have found his courage.
Much was made last week about the Conservative Party’s new 1,500-square-metre “fear factory,” tucked away in an industrial park outside Ottawa – a huge facility revealed to the press to demonstrate the media might of the Right, and to instill terror into any opposition parties that might dare oppose it. But the question was never raised about who is really afraid of who here. And while the Tories may like to think of the new digs as a weapon and a tool to intimidate the opposition, it really shows the same fear that Harper and his party have been displaying since the last election campaign.
A fear of too much truth getting out.
During the last election, Conservative candidates were routinely muzzled by their own party, or avoided public and media events altogether for fear that they might reveal enough about themselves and their masters to turn voters away. After the election, the new MPs were astoundingly mute, in deference to official PMO-approved releases, while Harper held unannounced cabinet meetings and restricted traditional press access to the hallway outside the cabinet room, and ministers would leave meetings by alternate routes to avoid press scrums – all out of fear of what (let’s not forget) our employees might say in an unsanctioned moment of candor.
Harper and his party even moved to exert control over the Parliamentary Press Gallery, declaring which reporters would be allowed to ask questions at ‘news’ conferences, again, from fear that the wrong reporter might ask an uncomfortable question. And more recently, in the immediate aftermath of the Liberal Leadership Convention, the Tories were so afraid of Stephane Dion that they launched mid-campaign-style attack ads in the finest Republican Party tradition, and have since followed them up with more of the same. And now, there’s the “Stephen Bunker.”
Repeatedly claiming that they’re not interested in actually having any sort of early election campaign (though the space is only leased until the end of 2007), and continually trying to pre-emptively blame any potential early campaign on the Liberal party (out of fear that the electorate will realize that all three opposition parties would have to vote against the government to bring it down), the Tories proudly displayed their largely unoccupied office space and fully functional television studio to reporters (but were afraid to reveal how much the facility actually cost).
And whenever it is eventually used, the Tory’s F.U.D. Factory will continue to demonstrate the party’s own fear of its various opponents – be they the opposition parties, the press, or simply the ability of the Canadian people to make an intelligent decision when given all the facts. Ads will be created overnight to attack one subject, and then before the party is even forced to defend its claims, new ads will have been created to take their place. Many if not most announcements and releases will be made in this facility far from the bothersome Parliamentary Press Gallery or any public venues – so there will be no unwelcome questions after the presentation, and ministers can get to their cars without having to deal with a single reporter’s curiosity.
As the Republicans have done to the south, the Conservatives will try to completely control information about their party and its motives in the next campaign, but that will just leave the electorate wondering what the Tories are so afraid of revealling. And while the tactic served the Republicans fairly well in the last two federal elections, Canadians are more media-savy than their neighbours to begin with, and even the Americans are finally seeing through the tactic.
Steve et. al. are certainly putting on an entertaining show, but in the end, bluster and bravado are usually masks for anxiety (especially when your budget didn’t buy as many voters as you’d hoped), and one of the oldest cliches about any creature making an aggressive display is, “He’s probably more afraid of you than you than you are of him.”
Wow, Steve, what’s it like to be that scared?
The very first day back at ‘work’ (after a Christmas holiday break that most Canadians can’t even imagine), without any sign of an election in the immediate future, and you’re already showing lowbrow-campaign-style attack ads against a Liberal leader who hasn’t even taken his new seat in the House.
Does really he scare you that much?
You know, even if he does, it’s not a good idea to show the opposition (or the electorate for that matter) that you’re that frightened. Frankly, this tactic is working against you on multiple levels – the aforementioned fear, the embracing of the unpopular and distasteful strategy of attack ads, and mid-term attack ads at that (yet another practice that equates you with the Bush cadre, and has people wondering if you shouldn’t just give your party one last name change to Republican Party of Canada), the weakness displayed by the fact that you can only come up with reasons why the electorate should not vote for someone else as opposed to solid reasons they should vote for you, not to mention the Super Bowl.
Yes, the Super Bowl. Apart from the fact that it’s a major American sporting event, don’t you know of the contempt that the viewing public feels for any organization that takes part in the tradition of hijacking Super Bowl ad time and replacing multi-million dollar, sometimes history making, commercial blockbusters with such insults as local ads for warehouse mattress sales? And you’re going to join that group? Your fear is affecting your reason Steve.
As for the content of the ads, well the criticism of the Liberal record on the environment works when you’re not in power – but when you’ve had a year to do something, and then spent that time pulling out of the Kyoto Accords, trashing existing environmental programs, creating a “Clean Air Act” that has no firm emissions reduction targets before 2050 even while using the Bush dodge of basing those targets on “emissions intensity” instead of absolute emission amounts, and then only showing an active (I won’t say genuine) interest in the environment when the polls show that an election could turn on it … well, you really don’t get to criticize anyone else anymore.
And “Stephane Dion is not a Leader”? Time will tell. But does a “leader” make promises that he can’t -or knows he won’t- keep (like taxing Income Trusts)? Does a leader base his actions and policies on the polls rather than the courage of his convictions (like your recent environmental conversion)? Does a leader stand against party defections and unelected senators and cabinet ministers while in opposition then immediately embrace both after attaining power? Does a leader make liars out of an entire nation by backing out of a signed international commitment like the Kyoto Accords? (Another tactic adopted from Bush and his abrogation of the ABM treaty?) Does a leader cancel an appearance at an EU summit and an international AIDS conference to avoid criticism about his policies? Again, it’s probably not safe throwing any ‘leader’ stones either – you’re likely to find yourself homeless and surrounded in shattered glass.
Alan Gregg says the ads might actually help your party, but that they’ll damage the political process by creating an even more cynical electorate, but do you care about that, as long as you keep your job? I’m thinking, no. See, you’re just proving the UDP’s point all over again – you’re all the same.
But here’s a thought Steve, be different. Be a leader. Live or die on your own policies – not those of your predecessors. Keep your word and face your critics head on instead of discovering ‘previous appointments’ in Nunavut. Hell, give us a leader or two with honesty, integrity and political courage and we at the UDP could fold up our tents and go home. Get a reasonable number of MP candidates with the same qualities (and remove their gags) and no party would be able to touch you. Try it Steve. Be a leader.
Don’t be afraid.
…and when Liberal MP David McGuinty called out to MacKay, “What about your dog?” MacKay pointed to Stronach’s seat and said, “You already have her.”
Peter, Peter, Peter. You continue to find new ways of demonstrating that you’re so much less than we thought you might have been.
First, of course, you showed that your word and your signature weren’t worth the paper they were written on (metaphorically and literally, respectively) when you sold out your party to the Alliance. Then after Belinda crossed the floor, we saw that your sincerity wasn’t worth the fleas on the dog that you borrowed for a prop in your ‘heartfelt,’ ‘simple man,’ farmyard photo op. You followed up by displaying a maturity that compared unfavourably to a dumped junior high school student in the way that you couldn’t just suck it up and get past the break-up in the subsequent months (not to mention the embarrassing fawning over Condoleezza Rice). And most recently you lowered that already unimpressive intellectual age to the pre-pubescent range by comparing your ex to a dog and then, like a kid with chocolate all over his face swearing he was nowhere near the cookie jar, not displaying the minimal guts necessary to own up to the fact and apologize for an idiotic comment made in an idiotic moment. You know, like when you told Alexa to “stick to your knitting.”
And you’re the second ranking member in Canada’s government? It swells the heart with national pride.
Your defense? “Check the record of Hansard. It’s not there. It’s not there. I said nothing about a dog.” Again, Peter, GROW UP! Nobody said that you did use the word “dog” yourself, and you know that. This then is the equivalent of the caught child saying, “I didn’t take the cookies out of the cookie jar,” using the reasoning that he poured them onto the kitchen counter first and ‘took’ them from there. Meanwhile, if you said nothing out of line, then the lack of Conservative colleagues rushing to the support of the party’s second-in-command is, well, staggering, and considering that the week was already going so well for the Liberals – what with the laughable, Bush-like, Clean Air Act, and the booting out of Garth Turner, ‘strictly for reasons of caucus confidentially, no seriously’ – they hardly needed to make this up.
Still, let’s be accurate. To date, there’s no definitive proof that you said all four words in that order, but according to the Globe And Mail, an audio tape does record a voice making a comment about a dog, and then your voice responding, “You . . . have her.” But perhaps we’re just misunderstanding what that garbled word was – after all, history is full of mis-quoted quotes. For example, Rudyard Kipling might have actually said, “East is East and West is West, and North and South aren’t either.” One of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous lines could have been, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time if you’re left-handed” – only to be truncated because historians couldn’t agree of the significance of the last few words. And perhaps Ben Franklin’s, “Early to bed and early to rise,” actually ended with, “makes a man healthy, wealthy, and purple.” After all such mistakes are only natural – as Alexander Pope probably said, “To err is human, to forgive, hunky-dory.”
But you won’t tell us what you claim you did say, so we have nothing to compare against. As for your laughable rationalization that anything not recorded in Hansard must never have happened, we’re back to that kid – claiming that if nobody saw him take the cookies, then he couldn’t have done it. And it would mean that anyone watching CPAC or House of Commons coverage on the news is hallucinating most of what they’re hearing, since almost none of the non-stop exchange of verbal diarrhea that you people fling back and forth (in what passes in the House for a ‘battle of wits’) is ever entered into Hansard.
(Of course, if the nation’s ‘best and brightest’ were willing to sign and adhere to “The Undecided Party All-Party Member of Parliament Respect and Maturity Pledge” -especially the last component- Hansard could clearly record everything that was said on the floor of the House and you’d have a credible record to back up your denial. But let’s face it, the odds of that happening are about the same as the odds that you didn’t say, “You already have her.”)
In the meantime, Peter, learn from the oft-misquoted Alfred Lord Tennyson, who definitely said something like, “It is better to have loved and lost, than to have loved and lost and then spent the next year or so making a complete ass of yourself.”
In a move both bush league and Bush-like, federal government officials have been violating the anonymity of Canadian citizens who request government documents under the Access to Information Act. Documents obtained by the Montreal Gazette (documents themselves fittingly accessed under the Access to Information Act) revealed that not only have multiple requesters’ identities been revealed and shared within the government, but that one particular reporter’s name was disclosed during a conference call between officials from at least eight departments – with details from the call passed around to an additional 19 people in the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, including PMO communications director Sandra Buckler and deputy communications directors Christine Csversko and Genevieve Desjardins.
So not only was Canadian law broken multiple times by “Canada’s New Government,” but the identity of a Canadian Press reporter, who like all reporters must deal with the PMO communications office for access to Harper, or even permission to ask a question at a press conference, is now in the hands of said office. Despite being asked on the floor of the House of Commons, the Harper government wouldn’t say whether Harper himself was given the identity of the potentially embarrassingly inquisitive reporter … but really, people, what do YOU think?
Much like the Republicans down south, the Republicans here in the north seem to feel that even the most basic, straightforward laws don’t really apply to them if they don’t WANT them to apply – and that the media are enemy #1. (Granted, a government’s resentment of a media doing its job is hardly new, nor restricted to a single party, but this particular method of breaking the law to violate a reporter’s guaranteed right to anonymity is, as far as we know, unprecedented.)
If the same situation had been uncovered when the Liberals were in power, Harper et. al. would have been screaming “arrogance” from the rooftops, and demanding resignations all round. Certainly even the thinnest facade of impartiality on the part of the three communications directors has now been obliterated, since they now know something about a reporter that they legally never should have known – and they, and those who first disclosed and disseminated the information, clearly have no right to keep their jobs.
So let’s see if all that pre-election talk about accountability and clean government was anything more legitimate than the same pre-election promises made a few years ago by the Republicans down south.
We all know how THAT turned out.
The Duct Tape Solution
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
Well, Stephen Harper finally has his election just in time for Christmas, and now it’s just a matter of waiting for the next month or two to see which leader makes the worst impression and the biggest mistake(s), and blows his party’s chances at forming a government. But before the campaign even began, it was Harper’s deputy, Peter MacKay, who may have unwittingly stumbled upon an innovative preventative for politicians’ chronic foot-in-mouth disease – when he suggested that Ralph Klein use Duct Tape to seal a problematic fissure between his nose and his chin. And though Klein’s prediction of a Liberal win might have spawned the call for this creative political accessory, Stephen Harper further demonstrated the potential value of Duct Tape as he repeatedly made the surreal connection between the Liberal Party and -seriously, folks, you can’t make this stuff up- Organized Crime.
But these are just the most recent examples. From debates about AdScam and the Grewal Tapes to comments about the Spring Budget and Stronach crossing the floor, the universal application of Duct Tape would have left the Honourable Members looking much closer to honourable in every case than did the events as they actually transpired, where MPs were allowed to -and I’m using the term loosely- speak their minds. And even if it would be impractical (albeit desirable) to seal the mouth of every Member on the floor of the House, just imagine how much more seemly the atmosphere of that institution would be if only the Member addressing the Speaker were permitted to remove his or her patch of adhesive decorum.
(An extreme measure you say? I agree. But it is painfully evident to anyone watching coverage of events in the House that lesser measures have been entirely ineffective, and the cost of a few rolls per day would be a small price to pay if it silenced the infantile and incessant taunts and natterings that are an embarrassment to Parliament and the nation.)
So how would the electorate benefit from the Duct Tape Solution in the Christmas Campaign? Well, in addition to sparing us such warm-ups as Harper’s Mafia manifesto and the Liberal’s marathon of spending announcements (not to mention the repeated announcements of already announced announcements), the predicted escalation on all sides in the dirty, mud-slinging, character-assassinating tactics that have already disgusted potential voters would be reduced to candidates having to make obscene gestures at each other. Canadians at home would no longer have to dive for the Mute button every time a news broadcast featured a ‘panel of representatives from the national parties.’ And imagine insisting that any door-to-door campaigners apply a strip of the silver wonder before entering your home. You wouldn’t miss out on any useful information, and at least you’d have the entertainment value of a highly paid, if under-talented, mime. (Don’t forget, you’re paying their immense salaries – you should get the show that you want.)
Speaking of shows, the televised debates -like the floor of the House- would benefit immeasurably from Duct Tape. Like the door-to-door invasions, nobody ever learns anything new or useful during the debates, and like the House, all previous attempts to make the participants behave like reasonably intelligent almost adults have failed. Enforced silence (or at least the labial bonding of three of the four participants at any one time) could only improve the public perception of all four leaders.
(And before the national parties dismiss Mr. MacKay’s visionary suggestion, they should think hard about the fact that at least as many elections are lost -by someone saying something stupid- as are won. The Handyman’s Secret Weapon could easily gain equal billing as the Politician’s Personal Faux Pas Prophylaxis.)
Is this an attack on free speech? Certainly not. This is simply a fight against noise pollution – as proposed on a smaller scale by the deputy leader of a national political party. And every citizen can take part in promoting this counterstrike on the degeneration of democracy. Offer a strip of Duct Tape to politicians when you see them at public appearances or at your door. Carry and display signs with strategically placed tape over photographs of all your riding’s candidates. Use Duct Tape to decorate (or even create) flags and banners for use at local rallies – to show the candidates just how much stock you put in what they’re saying. And be sure to tell your friends about this exciting new political fashion statement. Let’s see if we can spread it coast-to-coast.
Because really, this is one of those great ideas that has you wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that.” He may not have a grasp of the significance of signing one’s name to a contract, but Peter MacKay has reminded us all of the value of silence –especially in the field of politics- and I especially look forward to him following his own advice during the campaign and after, should he be re-elected to the House.
All of you. Seriously. Who do you think you’re fooling?..
Corruption? Immorality? Scandal? Show me something new!
Alright, to be fair, Parliament did show us one new scenario last week, as all three opposition parties banded together to shoot themselves, and each other, in the foot – with a style that until now has been an exclusive trademark of the Harper Conservatives.
Within a few short days, and with a newly united front against the ‘corrupt and unfit to govern’ government, the Tories, BQ and NDP managed to get Canadians’ minds entirely off the Gomery report, and onto the Larry, Moe and Curly, “I’m not going to do it, you do it,” extravaganza of avoiding the very non-confidence opportunities that they’ve been crying for since last Spring. And even as Stephen Harper, who accused Jack Layton of being “chicken,” chickened out of his own opportunity to introduce a confidence vote, the BQ suddenly found themselves concerned about offending federalist sensibilities, and Layton validated Harper’s accusation by proposing to bypass his own opportunity for a confidence vote, and instead, ask a sitting government to voluntarily dissolve itself…pretty please.
And they can’t figure out how the Liberals keep getting re-elected.
But even though this means that the opposition parties will, by default, be supporting what they declare to be a corrupt government until at least after Christmas (isn’t that ‘aiding and abetting’?), you can count on the fact that as soon as the election is called, all three parties will pretend that that support never happened – as they try to use ‘Liberal Corruption’ as a central election platform. And you can also count on all three parties being puzzled when Canadians aren’t more incensed at the Liberal Party’s record.
So where is the outrage? Could it be that the electorate knows that a change won’t really result in a change? Could it be that they actually remember the records of past governments of all parties and have come to the conclusion that, to use the oft-quoted phrase, “They’re all the same”? Of course they have. And since the politicians themselves are famous for their spectacularly short memories when it comes to the transgressions of ‘their side,’ let’s help them along with a little review.
Beginning with Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the currently crusading Conservative fold (under it’s various names over the years) is hardly in a position to throw stones about corruption and scandal. In fact, Canada’s very first federal political scandal was generously bestowed upon the new nation by the Conservative party of John A. MacDonald – in the form of the Pacific Scandal of 1873. John’s behaviour brought down his government when the Conservatives were accused of accepting $350,000 in donations for the 1872 campaign from someone who, sometime later, coincidentally happened to get the contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Naturally, the PM denied the allegations, but a telegram sent six days before the election (“I must have another $10,000. Will be the last time of calling. Do not fail me. Answer today.”) was hardly helpful to his cause.
But he still looks good on the five dollar bill.
(And for Left-leaners who might take pleasure in the fact that the first scandal was a Tory scandal, it would be best to keep in mind that the Right probably had the first scandal simply because it had the first government – in the same way that the Liberal ‘take’ in AdScam was the largest simply because it was the most recent.)
Of course, it wasn’t always about money. The Gerda Munsinger scandal revolved around Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers who had been …uhmm… entertained by an East German playgirl who was suspected of being a KGB spy. (How else could you explain the term, “East German playgirl”?) One of the ‘entertained members’ was associate defence minister Pierre Sévigny – who had even signed Munsinger’s application for Canadian citizenship. (One might surmise that another entertained member belonged to Sévigny, but it was almost certainly the former that signed the citizenship papers.)
And let’s not forget (would that we could) the last Tory government. The Mulroney reign averaged one resigned cabinet minister per year during the 1984-1993 administration. (Good if you’re a backbencher from the riding of Lesser Podunk looking for career advancement, but not so good for a party that was largely elected due to allegations of patronage and corruption against the previous administration.) A partial roll call of the Mulroney Dream Team included;
– Robert Coates resigned as defence minister after it was revealed that he had visited a strip club in West Germany while in that country on official business. (Say what you want about the Tories, they believe in tradition!)
-Fisheries minister John Fraser. Remember “Tunagate”? Remember when Fraser followed the ‘helpful advice’ of a fish plant’s owners and overturned an order from his own food inspectors (who claimed that the raw material was so badly spoiled that it wasn’t even fit to be turned into cat food) and ordered a million cans of StarKist tuna released for sale to the public? Remember that Fraser and Mulroney first said Mulroney had known about the decision to release the tuna, and then both later claimed that the prime minister hadn’t known until the story made the news?
-Supply and Services Minister Michel Coté fell to conflict of interest allegations involving a personal loan.
-André Bissonnette, the minister of state for transport, resigned in 1987 while the RCMP investigated his alleged involvement in land speculation.
-Bernard Valcourt stepped down in 1989 after pleading guilty to an impaired driving offence.
-Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport, Jean Charest, resigned his portfolio after calling a Quebec superior court judge with questions about the status of an ongoing case of a national team coach suing for reinstatement.
Out of the federal classification but in the ‘Quebec wing/corruption’ theme made so popular by Gomery, Quebec MP Michel Gravel was charged with 50 counts of fraud and influence peddling in 1986. He eventually pled guilty to 15 charges.
And, there’s the matter of a famous document with the signature of MP, lawyer, and officer of the court, Peter MacKay on it…
As for the Liberals, well, we’ve got MacKenzie King relieving his prohibition-era Minister of Customs and Excise of his portfolio -and immediately appointing him to the Senate- after it was revealed that he had promoted a known bootlegger to a top customs enforcement position, and was protecting other customs officials despite RCMP evidence that showed them to be elbow deep in smuggling. As for more recent examples, they’re still fresh in the mind, aren’t they? From APEC to Shawinigate to Adscam, we know what the Chretien Liberals have been up to (and will no doubt learn over time about the Martin Liberals). So the Liberals and Conservatives are all crooks, but not the NDP, right?
Well, it’s difficult to really flex those federal muscles if you’ve never been in federal power, but it’s always nice to see someone doing as much as they can with whatever they’ve got, and if we look at the provincial landscape, a quick glance to the West reveals two successive NDP Premiers of British Columbia being forced to resign from office in less than ten years. (Mike Harcourt in 1996, and Glen Clark, in 1999.) And in central Canada, the Ontario NDP government of Bob Rae (which was elected largely as a reaction to the Patti Starr scandal swirling around the incumbent Liberal party) lasted only a single term due to public reaction to broken promises, the introduction of very un-NDP-ish concepts such as wage freezes and ‘welfare cops,’ and of course, cabinet-level scandals and resignations. The voters’ feelings about the Rae government can be judged by the victory of the Mike Harris Conservative party in the next election – pushing Ontario from one end of the political spectrum to way, way…oh, WAY past the other.
So, Steve, Jack, don’t be too disappointed that we’re not all out in the streets with our torches and pitchforks, crying out for a chance to clean house and install a government with honesty, integrity, and just plain old-fashioned goodness. It would be nice to think that we had that option, but, well…we’re just not that stupid.
(Of course if the Green Party were elected, They’d be different. Right?…)
It was an awfully short three months, wasn’t it?
And after last spring’s pathetic displays, the Canadian electorate might actually be wishing that those obscenely long summer breaks were a few months longer. (Twelve months?…Do I hear twelve?)
But at least we had some comic relief over the summer to steel us for the upcoming session – provided, ironically, by Brian Mulroney and his magnificently hilarious assertions – including that he was Canada’s greatest Prime Minister (funny that he didn’t even make it into the Top 50 list of the recent “Greatest Canadian” exercise, as did other PMs such as Mackenzie King , George Diefenbaker , Jean Chrétien , Sir Wilfrid Laurier , Sir John A. Macdonald , Lester Pearson , and Pierre Trudeau ), and that the disintegration of the PC Party which began in the 1993 election was due to Kim Campbell’s blunders and sex life, rather than the enduring stink left behind by what the fleeing ‘greatest Prime Minister’ had done to his country.
But the summer’s over, and now the main question now is how much more of last spring are we going to have to put up with before the next election – and will entirely new extremes of hyperbole, slander and infantile behaviour be enough to generate a new record in the number of Canadians who won’t be able to force themselves to vote for any of the alternatives they’ll be faced with.
But there are some more specific questions to ponder as well, such as:
– How many minutes (seconds?) will it be into the new session before the children start throwing their toys and the Speaker is wishing that he had the power of imposing a ‘Time Out?’
– How many minutes (seconds?) will it be into the new session before a Member makes a libelous statement that would result in legal action if (s)he had the courage to repeat it outside the House?
– Will the Conservatives’ strategy continue to be nothing but an attempt to break the Broken Record record as they go on and on and on and on about the Liberals’ ‘pathological pursuit of power,’ while they themselves continue in their pathological pursuit of power? (And a note: Guys, the Liberals don’t have to pursue power – they’ve got it.)
– With an Angus Reid poll saying that 86% of Canadians don’t want another election until after the Gomery Report -or even later– will any party be witless enough to deliberately force an early election?
– Considering the Liberals’ recovery in the polls -back into majority territory- during the PM’s very low-profile summer recess, will Paul Martin attempt to build on the obvious appeal of his absence by saying as little as possible, taking lots of trips out of town, and ducking under his House of Commons desk whenever a camera points his way?
– Will Jack Layton continue to be the only party leader with any real control over the Parliamentary agenda?
– Will Harper et. al. continue to ignore the concept (widely embraced by opposition parties) of actually presenting a full slate of specific alternatives – preferring instead to float a few policy statements and count on the theory that given the chance, the voters will simply vote for anyone as long as it’s not the Liberals? (While in fact, polls indicate that Canadians are more inclined to vote for anyone as long as it’s not the Harper Conservatives.)
– (Related) Will Harper stop blaming everybody but himself for his party’s poor standings? (Perhaps he’s trying to live up to Mulroney’s legacy of ego over reality?) And if Harper steps down, and Peter MacKay takes the leadership, will he stick to his past strengths and -despite making solemn promises and signing a contract to the contrary- quickly agree to fold his party into the Liberal organization?
– Will Paul Martin show enough spine to tell the U.S. to either honour the Free Trade Agreement that it freely signed as a binding contract (good thing Pete’s not Prime Minister while this is being settled – pot, kettle, and all that…) without any further “negotiations” or face…oh, let’s say, some hefty cross-border surcharges on Alberta crude?
– Will Belinda Stronach answer a question in a manner that exhibits even a passing understanding of her portfolio?
– Will any of the Members who will be eulogizing Chuck Cadman and praising his integrity actually attempt to emulate that integrity in the coming session?
To the last one at least, we’re thinking…no.
(Find more old stuff in the Citizen Fink Archives)