Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Fall of Michael Ignatieff: A Teachable Moment

For those of you who do not follow Canadian politics, May 2, 2011 was an exciting day. Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party finally won their majority government. The New Democratic Party became the official opposition winning 102 seats in the new Parliament. The "Bloc Quebecois" Canada's "federal separatist" party (don't even ask what that is all about!) was virtually wiped out, winning only 4 seats and losing their official party status. And the Liberal party, aka "Canada's Natural Governing" party was humiliated, winning only 34 seats and losing their "official opposition" status. Its leader Michael Ignatieff, at one time thought to be a lock for our next Prime Minister (even by yours truly) brought his party to an historic lost, losing his own seat, and resigning the next day. He will be teaching at University of Toronto, presumably on how not to succeed in politics.

This gets me to my "teachable moment". Although there are undoubtedly a bunch of reasons why the election turned out as it did, let us go back to look at how and why Michael Ignatieff became the leader of the Liberal party. His first try was in Dec 2006. He was the favorite to win but lost to Stephane Dion. Two years later in December 2008 the Liberal party, eager to get back into power, even if this meant forming a coalition government with the other two opposition parties, unceremoniously turfed Stephane Dion. Rather than having a proper leadership convention, with debates, and all party members having their say, the Liberal party insiders anointed Michael Ignatieff as their new leader. Less than three years later, Ignatieff takes his party to an historic defeat and loses his own seat. The humiliated Stephane Dion, who unbeknownst to me, has been quietly labouring in the back ground all these years, wins his own seat. Ah, poetic justice.

Perhaps if the Liberal party had not been so eager for power in 2006 and had been patient enough to go through a conventional leadership process, party members would have realized in 2008 why they didn't like Ignatieff in 2006 and chosen someone else as their leader? Observers say that Ignatieff lost in 2011 because he didn't "connect" with the voters. Well, he obviously didn't connect in 2006 either. And maybe he wouldn't have connected in 2008 if put to the test.

So there's a lesson in all of this. Dispense with a democratic and participatory leadership convention at your peril.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The death of Bin Laden

This is a very treacherous topic to write about, unless you are prepared to join the celebratory throngs, both Democrats and Republicans, who think the killing of Bin Laden was the greatest thing to have ever happened. I must admit that I am happy that they finally got him. It does satisfy a human instinct for revenge, even though this may not be the most admirable of our instincts. Whether it's "justice" or not, as normally understood in countries that believe in the rule of law or due process is another question altogether.

The celebrations in the street, the high-fives, did bother me. As has been said by others, this is not a sport. I found it tasteless.

Some of the verbiage bothered me. The President's statement that they had "cut off the head" of the organization by killing Bin Laden was to my mind a terrible metaphor. He should not have used it. The statement by others that this was one of the greatest military operations ever was preposterous.

I found the following piece by Glenn Greenwald extremely good and thoughtful. Maybe you will too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wow, I Am Actually Paying Attention!

I do not usually blog about Canadian politics. The reason for this is simple - it's BORING!

Face facts folks. The French language "leaders" debate was actually moved because it conflicted with a hockey game. (We in Canada do not actually vote for our "leader"; but that's a different story). In Alberta, the same party has been in power for almost forty years. The Federal Liberal party was in power for nearly 70 years in the 20th century. We are now having our third Federal election in the past five years, with no great movement occurring in that time period. The country seems happy with the status quo - our economy is strong, our "loonie" is strong, our housing market is strong, separatism is a dormant issue.. you get the picture. So forgive me for yawning.

But wait! Things might be happening. The latest polls apparently show that our perennial last place party, the New Democratic Party, under its leader Jack Layton, (who has been the leader for 8 years despite the fact that his party comes in last every time) has surged in the polls, doubling its support from 14% to 28% in the last few days. It has overtaken the Liberals, who under its leader Michael Ignatieff, have taken over the last place spot. What does this mean? Well, I do not know for sure. But it could mean that the governing Conservative party will win but only with a minority government, and the three opposition parties (one of which is actually dedicated to the break up of Canada, but that's another story) will defeat the minority government and form a "coalition" government under, you guessed it, Jack Layton. Canada will have a "socialist (sort of) Prime Minister.

So now I am paying attention! I await May 2 with great anticipation. I may even try to get early election results from the East, by phoning my son, which I believe I am legally entitled to do. But I cannot blog about it until the polls close in Vancouver, sorry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ah, Canada. You got to love it!

Okay. Here is a problem.

Canada is a big country. We have several time zones. So on May 2, 2011, the polls in Eastern Canada will close hours before the polls are closed in Western Canada. Once the polls are closed in a region, vote counting will begin there and results will be announced there. But, oh my God, what happens if people in the West hear about the election results in the East before their polls close? They may be "influenced" by the results! They may not even vote!!! So, what do Canadians do about that?


A. Do nothing. Let free speech prevail. Be like the Americans ( who also have time zones) and suck it up.

B. Have staggered closings so that all polls close at the same time no matter where you live.

C. Do not start counting anywhere until all polls are closed.

D. Make it illegal to transmit results from one part of the country to another part, even by tweeting.

So.. what did Canada decide?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New York Times and Goldstone

You would think that an op-ed by internationally recognized jurist Richard Goldstone would be of interest to New York Times readers.

I guess not.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Explaining broken promises

As I noted in an earlier posting, an interesting aspect of the upcoming 2012 Presidential campaign will be how President Obama explains a string of about faces. The latest one involves the use of military trials in Guantanamo. Of course, the dilemma for the Republican nominee is that it will be hard to criticize the President for breaking a promise when he ends up doing something favoured by Republicans. Should be tricky.

By the way, there is a Canadian Federal election happening now. When something interesting happens there, I will let you know.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Turning a blind eye to atrocities

"Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different".

So said President Obama in his Libyan speech to the American people. American exceptionalism; a concept now seemingly embraced by President Obama. As I heard this line, I wondered which nations the President had in mind. Not Canada, I hoped. I also found it an odd comment coming as it did from a person who considers himself a citizen of the world.

And as I read the news reported every day concerning the terrible atrocities being committed elsewhere, for example, in the Ivory Coast, I think back upon that comment and wonder why in the world the President bothered to make it.