Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Torn...

We know an economic crisis has hit and has not done with us yet. On the one hand, we have those who advocate a large financial stimulus package, in particularly, a bailout of the Big 3 auto makers. On the other hand, though, we have those, and there does not seem to be that many, who propose to throw little, if any, money at the economy. Both arguments appear to have sound reasonings.

Two Yen commented on Paul Well's blog that Japan tried this type of infrastructure stimulus with little success and much in debt, to the point where they have little wiggle room in which to contend with the latest crisis. Another blogger discussed the fiscal prudence of the German government under Chancellor Merkl, which has not jumped aboard the apparent one-upmanship of stimulus spending announcements. Who knows which approach will work in the long term?

I happen to think that, given the two disparate views, there must be something in the middle. I don't want to see my tax dollars thrown after bad and can understand the reticence of those who do not support a stimulus package for the auto makers. The market conditions suggest that the companies should be left to find their own way, possibly resulting in a reduction in the number of North American manufacturers.

On the other hand, there are thousands of anciliary jobs that are going to be lost if these companies close. While I have a problem with company executives going home with millions in salaries and bonuses even when their companies are losing hundreds of millions, I have a lot of sympathy with the workers and their families who will be out in the street.

Some suggest that the stimulus package should only help displaced workers and not the auto makers, through EI payments and retraining. Others want to use the $3.3 Billion to prop up these companies in order to keep people working.

Here's an idea: if money is made available for them, let's put on conditions, such as, no company executive will benefit financially from the stimulus, all money will go to retooling the production lines to smaller, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Keeping in mind, of course, of who is next in the line for a handout....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Repainting a landscape or just whitewashing the old fence?

Today David Swann became the new leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. Now, David is friendly, obviously intelligent, and has 40 years experience in medicine, health care, and provincial politics. He wants to renew the party and make it relevant to the public, a tough sell, given the brand. However, he does want to lay everything on the table, from the way the Liberals recruit members to the Liberal logo and colours to the very brand itself. It appears that if it isn't working and people are not buying it, why keep making it?

Is the relative backwater position of the Alberta Liberals due to its brand? If so, do they change the brand, creating a new party - the Alberta Party? Or does it have more to do with its left-leaning policies as well as its lack of ability to market itself. David wants to discuss these issues and do what's needed for a more fair, progressive party that can compete against the party in government.

The supposed entitlement of the current government is certainly up for discussion too. Have they been in power too long? Are they still relevant, even with a relatively new leader?

Does a new leader at the national level also signify a change for the federal Liberals? Will there be any cross pollination between the two? Are Liberals, Liberals, in spite of their provincial or federal focus?

We'll see...

Friday, December 12, 2008

You can't always get what you want...

Listening to the Rolling Stones and thought the song is appropriate for today's parliament. Opposition parties seem to understand this quite well and are more than willing to compromise but it seems that the current government is having a difficult time with the concept of collaboration.

It will be interesting to see if a new Liberal leader, with a coalition agreement in his back pocket, will have any impact on Stephen Harper's thought processes, leading to a true conciliation in the House. This is what the public wants, after all, a government that buckles down to work for the good of the country.

Just heard talk about this recession turning into a "Depression". Lord have mercy on us all! Perhaps we can keep our heads buried in the snow for a few more weeks, at least until the holidays are over. It's going to be hard to play catch up anyways. What's another month or so.

At least, there will be 18 more Canadians who won't have to worry about their incomes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A side bar...

I know that the goings-on within the Liberal party and its leadership race are especially interesting, to the point where they seem to providing a distraction from what's not happening on the other side of the aisle.

Has anyone noticed that Stephen Harper's blurring of the thruth on national TV only received a few, albeit noteworthy, comments from the media? His blatant lies about the legality of a potential coalition government were, in fact, quite in line with his attempts to "republicanize" our parliamentary system.

WE SHOULD BE OUTRAGED! For a Prime Minister to blatantly distort the truth and spread lies and untruths about his opponents is, I believe a criminal offense and he should be prosecuted to the full extant of the law. OK, there might not actually be a law against this but, nonetheless, he should be santioned by the House of Commons, if it ever gets a chance to resit.

This type of behaviour from any leader, especially a sitting Prime Minister, should not be acceptable to any member of the House, nor any citizen of Canada.

Impeach him, I say!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Trying to remain above it all

The Liberal Party says goodbye to a leader who tried his best to bring about a new way of doing politics and to bring a balance between the economy and the environment. Despite what you might think of him, he led the party through some difficult times while enduring two and a half years of unprecedented attacks. This was the man who was instrumental in bringing an environmental awareness to politics, a man who brought in the Clarity Act and was a staunch proponent of national unity.

When he was elected, a new sense of opportunity for the future arose through the Liberal ranks, at least for those no where near the top of the heap. Here was someone who dared to envision a country that could lead the world in green technology and environmental initiatives, where social justice was a bedrock of a political platform. A grand vision that, while emboldening a few, failed to capture the majority; a vision that, when matched against a laissez-faire attitude to both, should have garnered support across the country. A good man; a good vision. Neither got bought.

Now, a few weeks after an election, facing an emboldened Conservative party, the opposition was once again faced with an issue of confidence. However, since the "poison pill" was forced on all opposition parties, Stephen Harper made one of his biggest mistakes, backing all three parties, supposedly weak with fatigued from the recent election, into a corner. He didn't expect them to join forces and come out fighting and, in the end, it was he who ran; ran to the Governor General to suspend parliament in order to save his own job. Pitiful!

In spite of this, the end is near for Stephane Dion. He has recognized that the same circumstances that caught the leader of the Conservatives by surprise have now conspired to bring about his early retirement as Liberal leader. Now that Stephane Dion has shortened his tenure, it has been recognized that the Liberal Party must select a new leader prior to returning to the House.

A few scenarios have been discussed and the rumour mill has been working overtime. In an interview with CTV, theories about the process for selecting a new leader were presented but, in spite of the answers, only a short sound byte was aired. I opined that a party-wide election was the best option but it was presented as a dissenting voice against the party's list of potential measures. In fact, I stated this as only one of the options, the rest being left on the cutting room floor. In spite of this, I still believe that a national phone/online poll would bring the best results, a strong showing for one of the contenders that would unite the party as we head into the next battle. We'll see what happens in caucus.

A parliamentary crisis could be forestalled. Stephen Harper could leave his partisanship aside during this crisis and sincerely reach out to all parties for inclusive consultations. If this were to happen, a confrontation on January 26th could be avoided. However, if you listened to his statement upon leaving the GGs residence, you'll notice that he emphasized that he would be prepared to await the arrival of the opposition leaders. Not once did he offer to reach out to them. His conciliatory tone masked his true intentions; he did not want or need their advice. After all, he is THE ECONOMIST (funny how he is so much better at this economic game, having only a Masters degree, than 250 of the top PhDs in the country). In fact, it is difficult to fathom how he could turn an economic crisis into a political one and, at the same time, make it a national unity one. Going forward it is understandable why the opposition believes that a rabid tiger cannot change its stripes.

Stephen Harper, for all the talk about his strengths as a leader, is the real block to finding a solution to the economic mess that, while he did not create it, certainly placed the country's finances in such dire straights that whoever ends up holding the reins in January will have little, if any, room to maneuver. In fact, given Mr. Flaherty's record in Ontario, it may be safe to say that we are already in a deficit position, something that failed to come out of the economic update.

Mr. Dion, I wish you well and hope that your experiences will not detract you from the job still ahead. I sincerely wish that the new leadership continues to rely on your passion and energy as the country faces the coming crisis.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What's good for the goose...

Over the weekend, I have been hearing about how the Liberal Party needs to rid themselves of the current leader, Stephane Dion, in favour of one of the leadership contenders, Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae or Dominic Leblanc. There is a case being built for a finalization of this race prior to the return of the House on January 26th.

There is a certain rationalization for the coronation of a new leader earlier rather than later. If the GG had opted for a coalition government, the Liberals could have afforded to wait until May. However, given the past antics of the Conservatives to offer poison pills in everything they do, it makes sense to go into the next session of Parliament with a permanent leader who has the backing of the caucus and party.

Given the emphasis on the Liberals, it appears that the Conservatives are getting a free ride. Jim Flaherty, being the mouth piece for Stephen Harper, had created the situation by bringing in a fiscal update that does nothing to address the current financial downturn but also added elements that were completely anathema to the opposition parties. What were they supposed to do? Roll and over play dead? Instead, when they actually stood up to the government, Stephen Harper decided to cut and run. Not only did he not face up to the reality of a parliamentary system at work, he went on public television and continued to distort, mis-inform, and tell untruths about how parliament works. Conservatives should be outraged and ashamed of their leader. Never before has the rhetoric become so distorted and a sitting Prime Minister so blatantly partisan as to lie outright to Canadians. BTW, John Baird was also heard to mistort the truth and continue in the lies in an interview with Don Newman.

This has to stop! We must hold our elected officials to a higher standard, regardless of who is holding power. Especially a Primer Minister!!!! The Conservative Party must distance itself from this situation and act immediately to rebuke and remove Stephen Harper from its leadership or face the consequences of continued disharmony in the House.

Those who laughed at the situation of the goose must turn around and have a closer look at their gander.

Neither right nor left but on some middling ground

Tragically, we have been subject to the worst that politics has to offer. We have seen a government squander a financial legacy, call an election that was not necessary, use its position to promote disunity, and, worst of all, spread misinformation and untruths about our political system. We have also watched as a weakened opposition chose to defeat the minority government through a controversial process that is not well understood by many Canadians.

We have two main philosophies at play here, both on opposite ends of the role of government in the marketplace and the tools available to each. Is it ok for the government to help out big banks but not other industries, such as manufacturing or forestry? And, is it ok for them to do it by selling off the public's sureties? On the other hand, must we spend our country's future by creating a $30+ billion deficit with little assurance that it will stabilize our economy?

The Canadian government, while cranking up its rhetoric, has done little to provide economic stimulus, besides its corporate tax cuts and cuts to the GST, which has been viewed by most economists in Canada, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, has having little impact on the economy. The $75 billion infusion into the banking system still has yet to be explained to the Canadian public as to where the money came from and, its impact on the ability of the central bank to support further government initiatives.

The opposition, meanwhile, being diametrically opposed to the laissez-faire attitude of the Conservatives, decided to take matters into their own hands, using a parliamentary process that has not been seen in federal politics for a long time. Would a coalition stay focused on the job at hand? What would be the impact of a majority of MPs showing non-confidence in a minority government and offering an alternative to an election? This is still an option that could play out in the next sitting of the House of Parliament, depending of course on whether the Governor-General decides to follow the suggestion of the Prime Minister or decides that the public cannot stomach another election and allows a coalition to form an alternative government. Has anyone presented a long-term impact of this scenario?

On the other hand, has Stephen Harper tried reaching out, in spite of the conciliatory rhetoric, and actually proposed some policies? Or must he continue poking the opposition in the eye, because sooner or later, the victim of his abuse is going to be provoked beyond any means of conciliation?

Surely, there must be some middle ground here. We need people to reach beyond the rhetoric and start proposing ideas and entering into meaningful dialogues. We are on the brink of economic and political collapse; we must move away from the edge of the precipice and reason our way to something that works for everyone.

In the long term, perhaps we need to strike a committee to look at parliamentary reform - rep. by pop. - and that could occupay a small component of the MPs from all parties. However, we need something in the short term to decide the future of our industries and people. We cannot wait for seven weeks. We must start acting now!