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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Decisions, decisions...

The more I see of this man, the more I'm convinced he would make an excellent Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party. I still like Brison and Kennedy a lot. They represent a modern Canada, one in which our leaders inspire us to think big and to find new solutions to age-old problems. This is where Canada needs to go, and my head tells me a younger leader with less "baggage" can take us there.

But my heart and gut tell me experience counts. When dealing with fragile issues such as fiscal federalism and national unity, wouldn't it be better to have a leader who truly understands the situation and its root causes? Someone who's been at the table, someone who's dealt with these complex issues before?

I say it again: Experience counts. And not just experience of the "good" variety (i.e. governing in a time of economic prosperity, with huge budget surpluses). Experience counts the most when you've earned it through tough times. As Rae himself admits, it's easy to govern during good times. People tend to forget your broken promises, ignore your mistakes and overlook your faults. The Liberal Party should understand this story quite well.

Governing during bad times is a different situation. People (even your friends) will highlight your flaws, accentuate your mistakes and find reasons to bring you down. When a leader, by virtue of circumstance, is forced to acknowledge his mistakes and, more importantly, learn from them, he's made progress. Bob Rae has made mistakes. He said so himself. I can see he's stronger, wiser, more resolute and more confident because of it.

Is this an endorsement? Well, I'm not quite ready to go there yet. I still need to work out my "head vs. gut" conflicts. But I will say this: I'd have no problem whatsoever with Bob Rae as Liberal leader. As Greg Sorbara pointed out during yesterday's launch: "There is a sense of destiny with this candidate...You can feel it."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

WOW, that was a good speech...

This guy has energy. He's passionate, enthusiastic, experienced, shrewd and pragmatic. He needs to be a bit more, shall we say, "tactful" at times, especially with his BlackBerry. But let's not discount his candidacy one bit. I think he'd make a terrific leader.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Call me Bob...

Sorry for the long delay. Exams, exams, exams.....

Well, it looks as though former Ontario Premier Bob Rae is just about ready to enter the race. They say his campaign theme will be "Prosperity with a Purpose." That sums up my feelings exactly about where we need to go as a party. Yes, we slayed the deficit. Great. But that was nearly a decade ago. Enough with patting ourselves on the back for eight straight balanced budget. Where do we go from here? Provinces are hurting, cities are hurting, hospitals are begging for money, our environmental record isn't as good as we pretend (honestly, who would have thought Brian Mulroney would have been Canada's greenest Prime Minister?) and low and behold, child poverty is as bad as ever. So what is the plan? Where's the vision? What are our goals? Beating Harper in the next election will depend on how well we answer these questions, and how well we communicate the message to Canadians. Good for you, Bob Rae, for identifying some of the major issues facing the country. Good for you for suggesting some solutions. I, for one, look forward to your candidacy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Congratulations, Mr. Justice!

Here's some good news. Whether you're a Liberal, a Conservative, a New Democrat or something else, you have to admit this guy's up to the job. Congratulations, Justice Rothstein. I look forward to reading your cases.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Insights from the Edmonton forum

So here I am, watching a repeat of the Liberal Leadership forum from the comfort of my own couch (special thanks goes out to the telecom companies for advancing the quality of broadband technology). There were no "knockout" blows in this thing, but then again, the format didn't call for it, and rightfully so. This was, first and foremost, an opportunity to hear from the candidates themselves. Some, I've heard from before. With others, this was my first chance to hear them speak about their visions for Canada and the Liberal Party.

I found all of the speeches to be interesting. Godfrey's speech was particularly insightful and stood out the most in my opinion. I had no idea he had an eleven year old son. It certainly gives me a better appreciation of why he's chosen to pursue the leadership. After all, he's generallly perceived to be an underdog, based on his age and low profile. My gut tells me people may be underestimating him, though. He has experience in politics, academia, media and other pursuits. Keep your eye on him, he's one to watch...

I was impressed with Bob Rae's wit, eloquence, his call for civility and his readiness to take on his so-called "baggage" head on. As he mentioned afterwards, one person's baggage is another person's experience. It remains to be seen how well he'll fare among longtime Liberals who may be weary of his shallow roots in the party and his perceived unelectibility in Ontario. As I've stated in the past, I think he's a far better politician than many of us give him credit for. Others, including respected Liberals Eddie Goldenberg, George Smitherman and Greg Sorbara (who was a member of the Peterson government defeated by Rae's NDP in 1990) seem to think he can connect with voters in my home province of Ontario. I would tend to agree, but I'll leave it to Mr. Rae to prove it for himself.

Brison definitely showed why young people across the country seem to be jumping onboard his campaign. He presented as young, energetic, passionate, modern and optimistic. He talked about representing a "new generation of leadership and a new generation of ideas." He talked about "engaging youth" to build stonger communities and a stonger world. I can't wait to see his specific policy proposals. No doubt, they will be innovative and will inspire much debate within the party. Of all the candidates, I think Brison, along with Kennedy to a certain degree, can best connect with the youth of our party. He appeals to our sense of optimism, to our belief that as a country, we can do more and should do more. If youth, enthusiasm and a spirit of "generational change" is what the Liberal Party is looking for (my guess is it is), then Scott Brison should be at or near the top of our list.

I was impressed with Kennedy's talk of a new Liberal value of "enterprise." I see no reason why liberalism and entrepreneurship in Canada should be mutually exclusive. Business definitely has a role to play in improving the lives of Canadians, and I'm glad Mr. Kennedy agrees. Again, this speaks to the general sense of "forward-lookingness" we seem to want. I was also impressed with his talk of "redefining Liberalism." It's hard to go before the Canadian people and ask for their votes when all of our positions, even those most fundamental to our purpose as a party, seem to be subject to debate or negotiation. I've been talking to friends about this for a while, and I'll probably have something more to say in a future post. Suffice it to say, I'd like to see Kennedy flesh out his ideas on this issue. He's on the right track.

Findlay definitely should not be counted out. I really like her. She presents as genuine and honest, and is also very funny. She did not seem at all uncomfortable on the stage. In fact, she was forceful at times, which really impressed me. Overall, she demontrated why we should all be taking her seriously. Her support can only grow, in my opinion. Another one to watch carefully...

The others generally performed as I expected. Dion, as always, was passionate, particularly in French. Ignatieff, as always, was smooth and academic, although I worry his efforts to look and sound sincere will be perceived as being the total opposite. Bennett was fiery, as were Fontana and Volpe. Dhalla, McCallum, Bevilacqua, Fry and Zed spoke well, but did nothing much to impress me. I'm not sure what to make of the gentleman from Montreal, Mr. Blais. I've never heard of him, and I wasn't aware he was a candidate. In any case, he spoke at length, in both English in French, about the status of Health Care in Canada.

All in all, an insightful watch. If you get the chance, check out the CTV website for video from the event.

Friday, April 07, 2006

It is possible!

To all those who would refuse to consider the candidacy of a Scott Brison or a Bob Rae or a Michael Ignatieff or a Belinda Stronach (well, up until yesterday) on account of their "baggage" from years, statements and parties past, perhaps you should read this from the Globe and Mail. I've copied the text of the article below. To me, the lesson is clear: It is possible for someone to have been a member of another political movement in the past, and yet still make a meaningful contribution to Canadian Liberalism. As the December leadership convention nears, let's be open-minded. Let's make it a point to listen to all the candidates and their ideas. Let's fairly consider what they have to say about moving our party and our country forward. I, for one, am ready to listen.


Trudeau book details his separatist youth
From Friday's Globe and Mail

MONTREAL — Pierre Trudeau always managed to confound and intrigue Canadians, and he's keeping it up even after his death. A new book on the former prime minister reveals that when he was in his 20s, Mr. Trudeau wanted to see the creation of an independent Quebec solely for French Canadians.

The stunning disclosure is part of a book on his formative years until the 1940s that paints a portrait of Mr. Trudeau as a young man that is sharply at odds with his image as the father of multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the 1930s, Mr. Trudeau appeared to embrace the kind of narrow ethnic nationalism that he later scorned, favouring the creation of an independent Quebec that was French and Catholic.

Mr. Trudeau was still promoting the idea in 1942, when he joined a "secret" revolutionary group plotting to form an ethnic-based country, the book reveals.

The book, written by two Trudeau admirers, Max and Monique Nemni, says he was influenced by the conservative, church-dominated intellectual currents of Quebec in the 1930s and 1940s. It says that despite his lifelong image as a rebel and contrarian, he didn't resist the day's pro-fascist views.

"Mr. Trudeau undoubtedly overcame his past, but we have every reason to believe that he never acknowledged it," the authors write.

People involved in producing the book say Mr. Trudeau's beliefs at that time have been unknown until now, even to his children and friends. The authors had access to his personal papers that became available after his death.

The authors admit to being troubled by their findings, but say they wanted to shed light on a critical period in Mr. Trudeau's intellectual development.

They had discussed their book with him before his death in 2000, and he approved of the idea of an "intellectual biography."

The book, entitled Young Trudeau: 1919-1944, Son of Quebec, Father of Canada, is excerpted in the newsmagazine L'Actualité. Published by Les Éditions de l'Homme, the book is being released in French on Monday; the English version is being published by McClelland & Stewart in June.

The book offers a counterpoint to Mr. Trudeau's image as the federalist bulwark of liberal values who savaged Quebec nationalism and espoused pluralism.

In a school text in 1936, he wrote that he would deploy terrorist-style tactics by detonating enemy munitions plants; in a prescient bit of timing, he said he would return to Montreal in 1976 and lead an army "to declare the independence of Quebec."

In fact, the separatist Parti Québécois would win victory that year.

The book says that a time when nationalist Quebec priest Lionel Groulx was pushing for French Canadians to buy from their own in the 1930s, Mr. Trudeau penned a play while at the Jesuit-run Collège Brébeuf that cast Jewish merchants in a negative light.

In 1942, according to documents in the book, Mr. Trudeau joined a tiny group that published a manifesto calling for a "national revolution."

"The nation that will be reborn from the revolution," the manifesto said, would be Catholic and French.

Those days came back to haunt Mr. Trudeau during a little-known episode when he was prime minister in 1977. One day in the House of Commons, Social Credit MP René Matte asked him if he had ever been part of a "secret movement" favouring Quebec independence, the book says. Mr. Trudeau admitted that he had.

Mr. and Mrs. Nemni wondered why Mr. Trudeau never tried to destroy the documents exposing his adherence to the kind of ideas that he later rejected.

"By destroying them, [Mr. Trudeau] could have erased all traces of this dark past, and the myth would have endured forever," they write. They conclude that Mr. Trudeau "didn't want to cheat history."

Still, they say Mr. Trudeau never came clean on his past.

"While he relentlessly condemned those who fed a closed and separatist form of nationalism, he, on the other hand, repressed in his memory a part of his own past."

They also wondered why no one ever exposed Mr. Trudeau, before concluding that others didn't want an unflattering light shed on them during a disturbing chapter in Quebec's past.
"For a good part of the elite of the time, including Trudeau, collective amnesia was the least painful solution," the book says. "Documents, however, never lose their memory."

Mr. and Mrs. Nemni, both retired university professors, were friends and close associates of Mr. Trudeau. They are working on a second volume of the book.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Stronach's out

So, it looks like Belinda Stronach is out. An interesting turn of events, no doubt. Personally, I think it's a shame. Although her French was far from perfect, she could have brought a lot to the race, what with her significant business background. At only 39, she has a bright future ahead of her (provided she sticks with the Liberal Party, lol). With a little more political experience, a deeper grasp of the issues, a clearer policy vision and some improvements to her speaking style, she should be ready for primetime within three to five years.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What is it with "conventional wisdom"??

I've had a few discussions with some friends over the past few days about the upcoming federal Liberal leadership race. It's always interesting having these conversations. Funny, really. I have to say, I'm amazed by the extent to which people -- ostensibly smart people, I might add -- seem to fall victim to the "conventional wisdom" trap. You know, the same trap that led us all to believe Martin would win a 200 seat majority (of course, he was the most popular Canadian politician ever....right?). The same trap that led us to trust in that brilliant "mad as hell" strategy following the AG report (It was the damn Chretien Liberals, we swear!!). The same trap that told us it was impossible for the Tories to win a seat in Quebec (no way in hell, we thought...I mean, c'mon the guy could barely speak French).

Now, I'm hearing things like:

1. Bob Rae will be destroyed in Ontario. People still remember the disastrous economic times in the early 1990s. They still hate him for the Rae Days, and would never, ever trust him to run a government again (In my opinion, nonsense....Why would seasoned political veterans such as Eddie Goldenberg, George Smitherman and Greg Sorbara be supporting him if they didn't have faith in his innate political abilities or leadership potential?)
2. Canadians -- especially rural Canadians -- are not ready for a gay PM. As such, Scott Brison will never be elected Prime Minister. (Again, nonsense...Of the twenty or so people being mentioned as potential leadership candidates, only one has ever been elected in a rural riding...I'll let you figure out who).
3. Forget about Bevilacqua, Volpe, Bennett, Godfrey, Dhalla, Findlay, Coderre...At best, they'll be king- (or queen-) makers. They're just in it for the exposure; a future Cabinet-post, maybe. They have no chance. (You guessed it...Nonsense again. Did anyone think Dalton McGuinty would win the Ontario Liberal Leadership in 1996? Look at him now.)

Will our widespread assumptions be proven right in this case? Maybe, maybe not. It really does remain to be seen. My point is simple: Leadership conventions, like politics in general, have a funny way of challenging conventional wisdom. How conventional of them! (Sorry, bad joke). It's late, so I think I'll head off to bed. Let's end this discussion on a musical note. I'm a huge Kenny Rogers fan, and in this time of wild wagers and blind punditery, I'm reminded of the lyrics to his most famous song, "The Gambler:" You never count your money while you're sitting at the table, there'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


YAAA!! I just found out I've been selected to participate in the Queen's Park Summer Internship Programme! I'm so excited! Beginning May 8th, I'll be working for the Ontario Liberal Caucus, either in the office of the Premier, the office of a Minister or the Liberal Caucus Services Bureau. According to my job description, my assigned tasks will include communications, research, policy and database.

A lot of my friends who've participated in years past have told me that this opportunity is simply amazing. The people you meet, the contacts you make, the friendships you form...Not to mention the work, which is genuinely interesting and relevant. Imagine being a part of a Minister's policy team? Or writing speeches for the Premier? Or helping to brief Cabinet before Question Period? What an opportunity!

As we gear up for the 2007 provincial election, this summer promises to be a "campaign training ground" of sorts for the young volunteers who so often add energy to the campaign. I am truly honoured to have been selected. Apparently, 700 students from across the province applied, and only 40 made the cut. Oh wow! I'M SO LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS, IT'S NOT EVEN FUNNY!!!

To the three people who read this blog on a daily basis: I'll keep you updated on my specific assignments as the information becomes available.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The New Parliament

Well, Canada's new Parliament opened today. Ugh. I was hoping these past few months were all just a dream (read: nightmare) and that I'd wake up as I have for the past thirteen years, comforted by my knowledge that this great country was governed by Liberals. Oh well, back to reality...

It's nearly 7:00pm, and I'm watching a repeat of the House proceedings from earlier today. A new Speaker is about to be elected. My MP, the Honourable Diane Marleau, is a candidate. I wish her the best of luck, but my gut feeling is Peter Milliken will win again. The first thing that jumps out at me as I watch the TV screen is the seating arrangement. The Conservatives are clearly in power now. I admit, it's a rude awakening to see them sitting on the government side. It just seems so foreign to me, almost unnatural. But alas, they are where they are, we are where we are, and I guess it's time everyone gets used to it.

The Tories seem to be in a good mood. They're very upbeat and gleeful. Smiling faces, pats on the back, uproarious laughter. It makes me wonder, though: How long will it last? How well will the Harper Conservatives handle themselves during Question Period? Will David Emerson still be smiling when he's forced to respond to incessant questions about his stunning, insulting and blatantly-selfish floor crossing? Will the Prime Minister still be smiling when he's forced to account for his flip-flopping on issue after issue, from ethics to accountability to democratic reform? What about Rob Nicholson, the Government House Leader? With 125 government members, the Conservatives will need the support of at least one other party to get anything passed. Mr. Nicholson will need to be skillful in his handling of bills, motions and votes. Will he be smiling when he has to compromise with the separatists or the socialists? Or, from time to time, when he's forced to deal with those arrogant, corrupt, hands-in-my-pocket fiends known as Liberals?!?! Uh-oh, smile turns to frown.... :(

It will also be interesting to see how the Liberals handle themselves. The former Ministers and PAs who fill up much of the opposition benches surely know their facts and files. No doubt, they will keep the Tories on their toes during QP. I do hope, however, that they are more dignified and respectful than the Harper crew was during the last Parliament. As for the potential leadership contenders, the next few weeks and months will give them the opportunity to position themselves for the upcoming race. Liberals will be looking for an inspiring leader, articulate in his or her vision for the country and passionate about a plan to implement it. Canadians, quite simply, will be looking for a reason to return the Liberals to power.

An intriguing Parliament indeed! A nightmare? Maybe not. The more I think of it, the more I look forward to the interesting times ahead.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Here we go again...

As I sat at my kitchen table eating my cereal this morning, I came across this while perusing the Toronto Star's online edition. It seems as though our Prime Minister is looking to reopen the constitutional debate. To use Martha Hall Findlay's line, it's a bold move; audacious even. But how serious is Harper, really?

He says we need to make constitutional changes, "not just to accommodate Quebec but also to accommodate the demands we have from the West and from other parts of the country -- and from the population of Canada." Fair enough. I guess all we have to do now is make a list of "demands" to be accommodated, and we're all set. Is Harper prepared to accommodate the demands of the 40-50% of Quebecers who consistently support the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois? These people want their own country; is Harper prepared to yield? What about conflicting demands? The Alberta and Ontario governments are dissatisfied with the equalization formula. They figure they're paying too much. The governments of provinces in Atlantic Canada are dissatisfied with the equalization formula. They figure they're not getting enough. Who's right? Is there a middle ground to be achieved?

Harper also says Canadians are demanding "that our constitution be renewed and that it be updated and that it be modernized and that it be democratic; that we have, for example, a Parliament where everyone's elected." This one really made me laugh. Our constitution is, what, maybe 24 years old? I wasn't aware it needed to be "updated and modernized." I've always found it to be a very modern, progressive and, dare I say, democratic document. Be that as it may, the Prime Minister seems to be referring to the "demands" of Canadians who say they want an elected Senate. Yes, you heard it here first. Forget about health care, or education, or environmental policy, or taxes! Canadians are marching in the streets as we speak, clamouring for an elected Senate! Don't believe me? Check this out. Oops. Wrong Chamber. My advice to Harper: Perhaps you should work on making sure the House is elected first before you start worrying about the Senate.

All in all, I'm concerned about Harper's enthusiasm for reopening the Constitutional debate. It worries me because he seems to be approaching the issue with no parameters on the part of the federal government. He offers no standards to be met. He demands no guarantees. In other words, his bargaining position is weak. But perhaps this is exactly what he wants. Having never been a fan of the federal government's historical, if not constitutional role in setting comprehensive national goals and standards, perhaps Stephen Harper is willing to give the provinces whatever they want. Perhaps he really is serious about implementing a new vision for Canada, one in which Canada really isn't the Canada we have come to know. Maybe all the commentators were right. Maybe he really does want to wipe away the nation-building achievements of MacDonald, Laurier, Trudeau and others. Is Harper serious? For the sake of Canada, I certainly hope not.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Northern Policy Rocks!

Well, the North sure does have spirit! The OYL Northern Policy Parliament just finished up, and I have to say, I'm impressed with the quality of the proposals submitted. In keeping with the "Canada/Ontario 2030" theme of this year's OYL Spring Fling, we deliberated several policies that: (a) focus on improving the well-being of Canadians and Ontarians; and (b) contain a component that discusses and analyzes the policy's long term effect and viability. We discussed everything from regional economic development to water quality on reserves, from property taxation to doctor shortages. A great deal of thanks and congratulations goes out to Justin Tetreault, Northern Regional Coordinator, and Andrew Block, OYL Policy Director, for co-chairing the meeting. Thanks as well to OYLers from Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Thunder Bay for participating, and to our "southern" friends (aka Greg Caldwell, Jason Easton and Nick Colosimo) for offering their insights.

I ask you all: What will Canada look like in 25 years? What about Ontario, or the region in which you live? Now that you've defined your vision, what will it take to get us there? As someone who helped develop the "Canada/Ontario 2030" theme, I think this sums up its purpose. I really feel that young people need to take a more active role in policy development. In particular, we need to be more aggressive in proposing innovative, forward-thinking policies. After all, tomorrow is our time, and we should have a say in shaping it. Northern Ontario has met the challenge. I now look forward to hearing what the other regions have to offer. As we look towards the pending leadership race and the upcoming provincial and federal elections, let's all work to provide our party with the "ideas boost" it needs.