User-agent: * Disallow: /

Friday, June 30, 2006

Talk about priorities!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Enough is enough

I like Bill Graham. Really, I do. You've got to respect a man who's devoted much of his adult life to public service. While I disagree with him and the 23 other Liberal MPs who voted "yea" on the Afghanistan extension, I still think he's a principled man who takes principled positions.

When I read this article this morning, I got annoyed. First we "blink" on a Tory election threat, now we refuse to stand up and be counted on the Tory Federal Accountability Act. Sure, I know the political implications of having the Liberal caucus vote either way. Either you're seen supporting the Tories and "acknowledging" the fact that government (led for 12 years by Liberals) is dirty and needs to be cleaned up, or you're "against increased accountability," and thus supportive of the "corruption" for which we've been soundly criticized.

Graham is obviously caught between a rock and a hard place, here. I understand his dilemma. I "feel his pain," if you will. But running away from reporters is not the answer. Refusing to state the Liberal position -- that this is a flawed, cynical piece of legislation that unfairly targets Liberals while allowing Tory lobbyists a free reign -- is not the answer. Keeping our fingers crossed that the Senate (a bastion of democracy and accountability, if I've ever seen one) will amend the bill is not the answer.

Once again, I like Bill Graham. It's tough being an interim leader. He probably figures he's doing the best he can do given the resources he has. But it's clear the Liberals lack leadership in Ottawa. What we need is a leader with guts. And soon. We need someone who's not only willing to take a stand, but is able to articulate it forcefully and convincingly. Enough wavering, enough equivocation, enough pussyfooting. It's time for leadership. Bring on the convention.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Liberals "blink" on Tory election threat

Bob Rae said it best, and I agree with him. From a previous post:

"As Liberals, we must be courageous enough to stand up to Harper and call him on these games. If we give in, we lose: It's that simple."

Well, looks like we gave in.

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's personal now

I received an email from my mom yesterday. A very simple message, really. For weeks, I’ve known it was coming. Still, it sent chills through my body when I read it:


Joe (not his real name) is my cousin. We were born three weeks apart. I still have pictures of our moms holding us as newborns. Despite being a few weeks younger than Joe, I was always bigger than he was, even as a baby. Joe and I grew up together. We went trick or treating quite a few times as kids. He was Dracula. I was Frankenstein. It was always fun. Sleepovers, family BBQs, Christmas parties. Great memories.

We grew apart over the past few years, through no fault or desire of our own. Like many university students, I’ve become immersed in campus life. Politics has also become increasingly important to me. In the past three years, I don’t think I’ve gone six months without being involved in some kind of election, be it federal, provincial, municipal, campus or leadership. For his part, Joe’s focus shifted from hockey (his favourite sport) to the army. He became more and more involved with the military, spending his weekends training in Petawawa. We’d still run into each other once in a while, but not as much as we used to. I guess we’ll see even less of each other now…

As you read this, my cousin Joe is in Kandahar. He’s there by choice, and I respect his decision to go. He obviously feels the need to help with the reconstruction of a country long beleaguered by strife and terror. I don’t think he expects to be there in a long-term combat role. I hope his expectations are fulfilled, although admittedly, I’m less confident today than I was a few months ago.

My personal experience puts this whole Afghanistan debate into perspective. I reject Michael Ignatieff’s suggestion during the Winnipeg forum that opposing Harper’s sham motion on Afghanistan somehow indicated a lack of support for our troops. I support my cousin 100%. He’s in Kandahar, serving his country and defending another. He’s there on a mission, doing what his government asked him to do. I admire that, and I admire him. What I oppose is Stephen Harper asking Parliamentarians to extend this mission without giving them the resources or information necessary to make such an important decision. The Tories called the motion for no other reason than to put the Liberal Party in a bind. Clearly, they succeeded. But what Harper did was morally wrong. He’s playing politics with the lives of our troops, including my cousin Joe. For that reason, I will strive ever more fervently to defeat him in the next election.

I also reject Jason Cherniak’s Kim-Campbellesque suggestion that a leadership race is not the time to discuss policy. Apparently, Cherniak is "pissed off" by Rae and Ignatieff debating this issue. He goes on to attack both candidates, and is particularly stinging towards mine. He describes Bob Rae’s position as representing “the NDP policy of only sending troops overseas as social workers.” This statement is ludicrous and insulting. Jason knows that it was Lester B. Pearson – a Liberal – who was instrumental in developing the peacekeeping concept to which Bob Rae and other Liberals adhere. And it’s more than simple social work: Peacekeeping involves building infrastructure, monitoring elections, implementing peace processes, maintaining law and order and pursuing other efforts to create a sustainable peace in troubled areas. Today, we have certain candidates who advocate a more aggressive, combat-oriented vision for Canada’s military. That’s perfectly fine. Let’s debate the issue. In Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, we have two leading candidates with two very different views on foreign policy. I, for one, look forward to hearing them discuss the matter.

But at the end of the day, this is no longer some vague academic or political discussion for me. It’s not about theories or textbooks or polls or politics anymore. Whatever the outcome of the leadership race, this is personal. This is about my family. I say to my cousin Joe: All the best. You may be several inches shorter than me, but now, more than ever, I look up to you. Your parents, your sister, your brother, your entire extended family, your friends…We all miss you very much. I pray every night for your safe return.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thoughts on the Winnipeg forum

I guess I'll add my voice to the growing chorus of opinions on this issue...

First off, I thought the format itself was..well, bad. Way too much time was given to the candidates to express their views on each question. By the end, it seemed as though everyone was saying the same thing. I mean, come on, we're all Liberals. From a macro standpoint, we all basically agree on the "big picture," be it universal health care, more help for immigrants, a strong economy, equality of opportunity for all, yadda yadda yadda. Most important are the small differences in policy or vision. In my opinioin, these nuances can only be demonstrated effectively in a "real debate" format, where the candidates actually get to engage one another and challenge each other's perspectives.

Thus, I found the final half hour to be most revealing. I particularly liked the first match (Volpe, Bevilacqua and Kennedy squaring-off over health care). Kennedy was clearly on the defensive, with Volpe and Bevilacqua tag-teaming him over Ontario's spending levels for seniors' care. Gerard handled himself extremely well and gave as good as he got. Overall, I found Kennedy to be far more articulate and compelling in Winnipeg than he was at LPCO last month in Toronto. My opinion of him has certainly improved. He seems to be maturing as a candidate, with deeper and more thoughtful answers and a greater sense of confidence. He's remains somewhat weak on certain issues -- foreign affairs is one of them -- which makes me wonder if he's ready for prime time against Harper.

The sleeper candidate in this race has got to be Ken Dryden. And no, I'm not talking about his speaking style, which, while improving, still has a drowsy effect on me at times. I'm talking about his obvious passion for Canada. His opening statement was by far the best of the bunch. I really, really, REALLY liked the "write 'em off" refrain he used with reference to Harper's plan for a majority government. If I were a betting man, I'd bet Mr. Dryden is quickly becoming a lot of people's second or third ballot choice. Not a bad place to be in a leadership race that seems to be less sprint and more marathon....

Brison demonstrated why he should not be counted out, despite the income trust thing. Clearly the most policy-oriented contender, he presents as young, bold and innovative when discussing virtually any issue. It was interesting to see him "debate" Ignatieff. What you saw were two intellectual heavyweights discussing foreign policy and the environment. They were both very polite to one another and took pains not to step on each other's toes, but it was an insightful discussion nonetheless. At one point, Ignatieff motionned to Brison when referring to the questioner's statement on something "intergenerational" (I can't really remember the context). This spoke volumes, in my opinion. First, it reminded the audience that Brison is the youngest candidate in the field. More importantly, it highlighted the fact that despite not yet being forty, Brison looks and sounds as substantive as Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae, with all of their international experience. I find Brison's outlook on Canada and the world very refreshing. He's definitely in my top three.

Nobody seemed to nail the slam dunk knock-out punch we so often expect. The closest thing was probably Martha Hall-Findlay's comeback to Scott Brison's comment about the New York Times and Afghanistan. You could almost hear a collective "Damn Scotty! You got burned!" reaction from the audience. I know that's what I was thinking. Notwithstanding my positive opinion towards Scott, I disagree stongly with his view on this issue. I think his rationale is ridiculous, and I'm glad Martha called him on it.

Other than that, I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by others. I'm disappointed my guy Bob Rae didn't get to debate Michael Ignatieff one-on-one. What a matchup that would have been! I know a lot of people were anticipating such a debate, and with the two sitting next to each other, the expectation grew on my part. The media seems to be hyping the "Rae v. Ignatieff" angle, highlighting their decades-old rivalry and positioning both as frontrunners in this race. I think Ignatieff is clearly the frontrunner -- just look at Volpe's stinging attack on him early on. However, I'm not sure I would characterize Bob Rae as a frontrunner just yet. He is coming on strong, and seems to be attracting more and more organizational support by the day (and I'm not just talking about the Cotler and Dosanjh endorsements). Things seem to be looking up, but we'll see where we are in a few weeks...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Building prosperity, bit by bit

Wow. Work is really starting to pile up for me. Between my day job (which, as always, is challenging and fulfilling) and my after-hours work for the Bob Rae campaign, the days are getting long and the nights are getting short. I’m beginning to understand why they say in politics, sleep is a luxury…

What keeps me running? I guess it’s my sense that public service matters. Sure, much of my work has a partisan bend to it. Such is the nature of politics. But whether I’m working on a file for the Minister, or organizing my region for a leadership candidate, I’m making a difference. Bit by bit, things move along. Bit by bit, goals are reached. Bit by bit, we make a difference. That’s what public service is all about.

I firmly believe that moving incrementally can lead to big changes. Since I was a child, I’ve been taught to dream big, to set high standards and to be ambitious. But I’ve also learned, through my own experience, to be both reasonable and methodical in the way I approach challenges. I admire people who share this view. It should come as no surprise, then, how happy I was to hear of Bob Rae’s speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Toronto.

I wasn’t able to attend the address, but I was told it was fantastic. As I’ve seen him do so many times before, Bob set aside his prepared text and delivered his entire speech without notes (this guy really has a knack for public speaking). He outlined his agenda for a prosperous Canada. No doubt, the critics will be skeptical, but most of you will be pleased to know that his is indeed a Liberal agenda. His plan rests on four pillars: 1) Education, training and innovation; 2) Green infrastructure; 3) Income security; and 4) Improvements to the tax and regulations system. It is definitely a progressive agenda with some big goals and aims. Some specifics:

• As per the Rae Report on Postsecondary Education, more funding for colleges and universities;
• Improved student grants and loans;
• Recognizing apprenticeships as a postsecondary destination;
• Considerably more funding for university research;
• Big investments to improve connectivity and broadband access;
• More and better mass transit systems for our cities;
• Tax credits and enhanced child support to help low-income families work their way out of poverty;
• Restoration of the Kelowna Accord;
• Restoration of Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord;
• Improving the EI system to help women business owners gain access to parental benefits;
• A commitment to broad-based income tax cuts (WOW! Did you ever think a former NDPer would stand for that!?!?!);
• A commitment to corporate tax cuts (DOUBLE WOW!!!)

A long list of items, to be sure. A fiscal conservative would even argue it’s a very expensive list, and s/he would be right. But most promising was Bob’s pledge to fulfill his commitments within the framework of a balanced budget. “Balanced budgets are the foundation of a prosperity agenda,” he says. In other words, his plan would be implemented, as he notes, “at a pace we can afford.” Bob said it best himself: Economic policy and social policy need to be intertwined and mutually reinforcing. It makes no sense to have big goals and aims unless you have the means to fulfill them. I guess he’s learned a lot from his days as Premier of Ontario…

This is not to say that Bob Rae has abandoned his progressive ideals. He hasn’t. He’s still the socially conscious man he always was. He still strives to end child poverty. He continues to work to build better opportunities for aboriginal Canadians. He’s always aiming to create a more equitable society that respects women, minorities and immigrants. It’s just that now he realizes the importance of being prudent, of making incremental changes. He understands that caution is important, not because it slows down progress, but because it makes our goals sustainable and achievable. Experience has taught him this lesson. Experience as a lawyer, experience as an arbitrator, experience as a consultant to states, governments, groups and organizations worldwide. Experience as a Premier, having led Ontario during tough times, having made some difficult decisions and yes, having made some mistakes. Bob Rae has experience, and a lot of it. At the end of the day, that’s what Liberals need in a leader, and that's what Canada needs in a Prime Minister.

PS: For those of you who were wondering, the event in Sudbury last weekend was great! About 30 people showed up to a 7:30am breakfast with Bob on Saturday morning….Talk about commitment! I’m sure most of them left the meeting just as excited about his candidacy as I am.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blogging from the bus

Since I found out that this "BlackBerry blogging" thing really works (thank you! You've made my life much easier!), here goes my first post...

I just got on the bus. I'm on my way to Sudbury for an event tomorrow morning with Bob Rae. He'll be speaking to a group of francophones and anglophones at a breakfast meeting. Not sure what the topic of his speech will be, but I'm sure it will be good. He always seems to deliver... Stay tuned tomorrow for event details...

In other news, I've decided not to comment on the Volpe thing...not much, at least. I think the whole thing reflects badly on the liberal party. Unfortunately, it will add fuel to the fire during the next election, regardless of who wins the leadership. Harper will use it to his advantage. We'll just have to find a way to deal with it when the time comes... Having a strong leader with integrity and a solid sense of purpose and direction is a start (insert Bob Rae plug here).

That's it for tonight... I'll have more to say tomorrow about the Sudbury event.