30 December 2005

Survey Time!

OK so earlier this month I put a questionnaire out to all the folks in my Canadian Politics seminar course that was based on the election. I will now make it public and also present my answers:

1. Will any party win more than 155 seats? No.
2. Will any party capture more than 35% of the national popular vote? Yes.
3. Will the Bloc Quebecois win more than 55 seats? Yes, probably more than 60.
4. Will the Bloc capture the "50 percent plus 1" of the popular vote that they have been seeking to use as a foundation for a future referendum? Almost certainly
5. Will the Conservatives win more than 30 seats in Ontario? Yep.
6. Will the NDP win more than 25 seats nationally? Yes, I think they'll get upwards of 30.
7. Will the Liberals win any seats in Alberta? Oh such a tough call. Will McLellan's luck run out? I think that this time around she is finished.
8. Will the Conservatives win any seats in Quebec? Yes, close to 5.
9. Will the Green Party elect its first-ever MP? Nope.
10. Will the Liberals elect MPs in all 10 provinces? No, see #7.
11. Will Michael Ignatieff win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore? I hope so, and I believe he will.
12. Will more than 3 current Cabinet ministers fail to win re-election? Definitely, and you can start with Jean Lapierre.
13. Will Jean Lapierre be re-elected? NO
14. Will the NDP's Olivia Chow be elected? Yes, especially in the aftermath of the chow chow debacle.
15. Here's the really tough one: Provide an overall seat breakdown by party, based on a 308-seat Parliament.
Conservatives: 122
Liberals: 92
Bloc Quebecois: 66
NDP: 28

There you have it. Feel free to fill in your own ideas and thoughts as well.

29 December 2005

Happier Times for Ralph Goodale ^^^^

A very sombre Jack Layton just nailed the whole Goodale-Income Trust Fund issue on the head: as Minister of Finance, he is responsible and accountable for everything that occurs in his Department, good, bad, right, and wrong. This is one of the many things that I learned this past semester in my Canadian Politics seminar. It applied to Alphonso Gagliano during the sponsorship scandal, and should it be revealed that someone in his Department leaked the information, it will apply to him as well.
The same goes if it turns out that someone from the PMO leaked the information. This is something that has come up in recent hours as well. If Mr. Goodale isn't being investigated by the RCMP, and the Prime Minister is unwilling or unable to discuss the matter in public, it is natural that some will speculate that the investigation is into the Langevin Block as well.
As we have seen in the United States, when politicians are even accused of wrongs on this level, it is usually enough to sink their careers. Tom DeLay can attest to that. I have met Ralph Goodale, he has a tremendous track record as being a man of integrity who will work hard for his constituents and his country. It is unfortunate that he is embroiled in this scandal, because I would love to believe him at his word when he says that he did not know of any leak and did not participate in any leak of "insider" information regarding his "fiscal update" and income trusts. However, ministerial responsibility and accountability dictates the rules, not emotions or sentiments, and for that reason, it is right and proper for Goodale to resign his position until the RCMP investigation is completed.

Please Don't Boil My Dog's Head!

This appears in today's Toronto Star:

In an interview Wednesday, Emerson said he made the remark about Layton in a speech at a dinner during the B.C. federal Liberals' convention the weekend before the election call. He said it wasn't meant to be disrespectful.
"It was in reference to his constant chattering away with this great big grin on his face, pasted on, kind of an over-extended grin," Emerson said.
"It's a Cantonese expression which I use on myself and my wife uses on me all the time when I have to pose for pictures."
"I was referring to constantly seeing Jack Layton looking like a boiled dog's head, talking about some of these shallow, ideologically driven policies of the NDP."

The Star story includes the racial implications of the statement, which I didn't know of myself. However, the rather vulgar image of someone boiling a dog's head and plastering it on Jack Layton's face is enough to make one wonder why somebody would make such a public statement. Secondly, and this is something I've had to make a statement about before: when did it become a perjorative to have "ideologically driven policies?" Heaven forbid somebody in this country actually have a core set of beliefs that they build their policies around. Of course, we could go off on Paul Martin's neoliberal-inspired deficit reduction and budget-balancing, but that would be the good kind of ideologically driven policy, wouldn't it? Furthermore, it would probably force the Liberals to actually have to draw a comparison between themselves and Stephen Harper's so-called "neoconservative" "hidden agenda." They'd have to forfeit either their own "beliefs" because they were often similar to the Conservative leader's own views, or drop the always-scary-in-Canada "neoconservative" label.
Reportedly Emerson's comments appeared on the LPCBC President Jamie Elmhirst's blog. I couldn't find it myself, but I found these other remarks that I found to be of some concern. Now, I've met Jamie and even had a beer with him at an LPCBC convention in my hometown of Penticton, BC. He seemed then to be a very nice guy, but comments such as the ones that follow are highly inappropriate for a person in his position. I'll explain why I feel that is the case after each quote.

"Jack Layton provided incontrovertible proof on the weekend that progressive voters in Canada can’t support the NDP and must vote Liberal."

This comment is in reference to Layton's willingness to work with a potential Harper Conservative minority. Layton hasn't changed much in terms of his overall agenda, it would seem, namely making Parliament work. He worked with the Liberals in the last session, and that was just fine for the Liberals, but now because he's demonstrating a willingness to work with the "other guys," he's evil. Let us also not forget the implications for Canadian democracy here. "Vote Liberal or else all your rights will vanish under scary Stephen Harper! He hates the Charter, you know!"

"On the other hand, it is obvious that Harper longs to play kissy-kissy with his ideological hero, George Bush."

Really? You actually said that? The last time I looked, Harper wasn't a homosexual and was indeed married with a couple of children. Again, too, with the invocation of ideology, as well as the always-popular-in-Canada Bush-bashing. This type of speech belongs in the sandbox, not something originating from the President of the Liberal Party of Canada in British Columbia.

On Child Care: "Harper Conservatives will desperately try and use this misstep to deflect attention away from their own crappy, ill thought out approach."

Do you really believe that this type of language is appropriate? Again, take it to the sandbox. He also expresses his "sympathy" for Scott Reid over the "beer and popcorn" statement, not for the viewpoint but because it's easy to say stupid things in front of a television camera. Apparently it's also easy to say them on a blog. As I said above, I've met Jamie before; I know that he's a relatively young guy, but saying that your opponent's ideas are "crappy" and that they want to "play kissy-kissy" with George Bush is ridiculous! He's a grown man, not an 8-year old playing with his buddies in the schoolyard! This is the type of stuff that led me to make the choice to leave the Liberals, and I hope that other people will see past the sham curtain that they have tried to erect in front of Stephen Harper to portray him as a scary-type who will systematically ruin our country. If they can do that and still find the Liberal platform to be superior to the Conservatives or the NDP or the Bloc or the Greens, that's totally respectable, but Liberals have demonstrated a clear lack of respect for Canadians during this campaign, and for that reason amongst many others it is time for them to be sent to the penalty box and spend a few years in opposition.

27 December 2005

The Aftermath . . .

Hard to believe that Christmas is over already. And what a Christmas it was! These are two of my favourite presents. Yes I finally got a lightsaber of my own!!! And Tasha got me this adorable kitty! There's also a jacket, a Darth Vader Pez Dispenser, a chain, and a bunch of other really great stuff! It was wonderful spending my first Christmas with my love, and I look forward to doing it again for a very long time.
In addition to the joy that is Christmas, the follow-up is equally awesome. Tasha & I are coming home for 12 days in February! I'm taking advantage of my reading break and doing what many folks did for Christmas: get away to spend some time with friends and family. It's going to be great to see everybody again, so get ready and make sure your calendar is clean to see us!!!

24 December 2005

Christmas Wishes and Such!

"Tomorrow is Christmas, it's practically here!" - The Grinch

Yes, and what a joyous time of year this is. I'm excited beyond words for my first Christmas with Tasha, though sad that it also marks my first Christmas not with the family at home. There is still time, and Air Canada has one-ways to K-town for about $350+ the extra hundred or whatever for surcharges. Of course if I did that I'd be too broke to come back!!
It's been a great year, many changes and a lot of moving forward after a rather lethargic 2K4. I can't believe that I'm already halfway through my graduate degree, I nailed the straight A's that I always hope for (the 79.5 in my Canadian Political Thought class will presumably be rounded up to an even 80 on my transcript.....I hope), I've learned a ton and re-enforced a number of viewpoints I already held. So the "business" side of my life has definitely been an A+ this year.
So too, for the first time in my life, can I say that about the "personal" side of my existence. I have the most amazing girlfriend in the universe (I know that everybody says that, but how many of you out there can claim legitimately that someone who you love and who loves you would move 5000km to be with you?), and I am completely in love. It is the most amazing feeling, and compared to the bleh and the despair and the emptiness I felt last year at this time, it is literally a world away. I love you, Tasha, with every ounce of my being.
And so yes, tomorrow is indeed Christmas. The tree is half-loaded with presents (Tash is at work so I've taken some liberties to get a jump on things), the apartment is getting clean in anticipation of tomorrow's festivities, the cookies still need to be baked (luckily NORAD informs me that Claus is still in eastern Russia), and there is much holiday cheer to go around the place. I'll upload a couple pics just to get an idea of the fun taking place here.
Until I catch you again on the flipside, everybody out there reading this: have yourself a very Merry Christmas, best wishes to you and all your loved ones, and enjoy the very best of this lovely wonderful season.

23 December 2005

Chantal Hebert nails it perfectly in today's Toronto Star:

It is because they have failed to keep up with the times that the federal Liberals are no longer holding their own in Quebec. In this campaign, they are fighting the last war and shooting themselves in the foot almost daily in the process.
Two decades after patriation of the Constitution, the federal Liberal party is a spent force in Quebec. The days when it competed fiercely with the sovereignist movement for the best and brightest of Quebecers are behind it.

It is going to take a near-complete purge of the Liberal Party organization's structure in Quebec in order to bring about the renewal that the party desperately needs. It requires new faces who do not have the taint of the sponsorship scandal-era with them. Many of those affiliated with Paul Martin and perhaps even Jean Chretien in the province of Quebec have a hint of that stain with them and it has devastated the party's fortunes in the province that it could once claim exclusive jurisdiction over for the federalist parties. From 1993 until the present the Liberals were the only federalist party that could legitimately stake out Quebec as its own, and it was invaluable in providing the three consecutive majorities and the Martin minority last year. Those days are over. The Bloc Quebecois holds a massive lead, and there was one source yesterday speculating that "the PM might lose his own seat" in this election. This is the extent to which the self-anointed "Captain Canada" (how ironic given that CSL doesn't fly a Canadian flag) has lost the favour of voters in his home province. The Liberals are in deep trouble in Quebec, and the shift away from them to the Bloc, and possibly even to the Tories, where it's been said that Harper could win a small handful of seats, could very well end up resulting in a Conservative government in January.

22 December 2005

Isn't this something? This is reportedly, by Conservative pundit Stephen Taylor, going to be one of the new Liberal attack ads in the new year. Just take a moment to digest what the words on that little banner say. How easy would it be to swap out the main headline and replace it with, oh I don't know, "Chuck Guite and the Liberals," or "Paul Martin and the Liberals"? Here we are in a world that is not even two months removed from the publication of the first volume of the Gomery Report and the Big Red Machine has the audacity to accuse other political leaders and parties of using the mechanisms of government to benefit their friends. Quick question: which party allowed its advertising friends to pocket over 100 MILLION DOLLARS of Canadians' money? It most certainly was the Liberals. In my many years of following politics, I believe this stands as the single most hypocritical action I have seen. It is shameful and embarrassing to believe that the Martinite Liberals have such low esteem of Canadians that they actually think that this poster will not evoke images of cash-loaded brown envelopes or the sponsorship scandal, and will immediately believe that Stephen Harper is the devil incarnate. It also, of course, completely ignores how Paul Martin helped Paul Martin get richer for many years by flying off-shore flags on his Canadian Steamship Lines company ships. It's despicable and the Liberals should be ashamed of themselves for this.

20 December 2005

Found this courtesy of Bourque today:

Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants.
"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.
"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."
Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States.
"It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?"
"It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said.

Hey Tucker, I've got lots of ambition and intelligence and I'm still here. I've also got a little quote that your vice-president made famous: Go Fuck Yourself.

17 December 2005

Paul Martin's "Phony War" in Dealing with the United States

At the debate last night, Stephen Harper called Paul Martin on the carpet for "phony war" tactics and damaging commentaries vis-a-vis the United States in the ongoing trade dispute over softwood lumber. As has been the case in recent weeks, I find myself in ready agreement with Harper, and here's why.

It's a "phony war" because all Martin has done is engage in empty rhetoric as opposed to actually talking to the President of the United States in a constructive manner to get things done. Criticizing the president in the media is a popular thing to do in this country, but it's not popular in Washington and it doesn't do anything to reverse the persidently negative trend of the Canada-US relationship in recent years. It is problematic not only for optics and the basic diplomatic reasons involved in international relations, but it also creates a problem because it is a disincentive for the United States to get engaged in the matter. The Bush administration has demonstrated an incredible ability to get results when it has decided on a course of action (shoring up public support for the war in Iraq, initiating the Patriot Act, etc.), what is needed here is Canadian leadership to get the Americans to realize what is taking place in this situation and guide them towards remedying it.

This is exemplary in almost every way of the different priorities between Canada and the United States. The American administration is primarily concerned with security and defense of the American homeland in the wake of September 11, while Canada remains in the mindset of pursuing trade as its most important international interest. When Canada does something that offends American sensitivities in security matters (Iraq, BMD) they will respond by tuning out Canadian invokations to remedy trade irritants. When the Prime Minister follows that up by demanding the Americans get a "global conscience," or a seat at the BMD table anyways, or to resolve the softwood issue, or anything that the administration does not consider to be a priority, it only digs a deeper hole and makes the spiral go downward that much faster. Engagement is critical, not pandering to anti-American reflexes during an election campaign, and until Paul Martin realizes this he will only continue to hurt the Canada-US relationship.
Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Stephen Harper, speaking in Alberta:
"The Liberals will trust their advertising friends with $100 million, but they won't trust Mom and Dad with $100 a month."

That's golden. Absolutely golden.

15 December 2005

Martin's Comment Will Only Hurt Liberal Fortunes in Quebec

Mr. Martin replied by saying that Mr. Duceppe will begin a process that will lead to another referendum, "a process that will end the country of Canada that generations of Quebeckers built with other Canadians - a country that is envied throughout the world."

Martin has once again fed fuel to the fire for the separatists in this election campaign with this ridiculous statement. The provincial government in Quebec is a Liberal leader (Jean Charest), the most federalist premier in my lifetime and that of many others, and the Bloc does not have the legitimate authority to begin the process leading to a referendum in the province of Quebec. Bosclair is at least two years away from being able to contest an election, and by then there is no certainty whatsoever that he will be the one to lead the Parti Quebecois back to power; then, and only then, can the road to a new referendum begin. Martin is playing his national unity card, unfortunately nobody told him that a joker doesn't count.

He is playing right into the separatists' hands with these types of statements. Instead of giving Quebeckers a reason to vote for the Liberals, he is lending credence to the Bloc and the separatists, essentially handing them the great majority of the province's 75 electoral seats as well as providing legitimacy to the Bloc's attitude that "50 percent plus one" of the popular vote constitutes the prime victory for the Bloc.

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Martin is doing this. These scare tactics simply do not work and they will not win over Quebeckers who are already upset with Martin and the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal. It is truly unfortunate that the Conservatives do not have a legitimate establishment in Quebec so that federalists in that province can have an alternative to the Liberals without turning to the Bloc to get their interests recognized.
One semester down, one to go. I'm looking forward to having the next three weeks to unwind a little bit. I had a great first term at Dalhousie, the marks were rolling in (I may post them once I get final grades), and the people out here are really great. I've learned a lot, reenforced some long-standing views, and I think I can say that I've come into my own. Looking forward to picking it up again in the new year!

13 December 2005

Now We're Really Talking!

Today two things are in the news that I love to talk about: Canadian defense policy and Canada/US relations. With that said, I will now talk about them.
Stephen Harper has unveiled the first portion of his party's policy for the Canadian Forces. Promising $5.3B more than the Liberals' highly back-loaded pledges of this past Parliament, the Tory program includes reconstituting the Canadian Airborne Regiment, doubling the capacity of the DART, airlift capacity, and quite possibly some flagships (aircraft carriers, mayhaps?) should they still have enough funding and need available. I like it. A lot. I have long been greatly concerned about the underfunding of our military in recent years, and given that I've got a good friend who is now in the Navy, I feel that anything that provides more substantive funding and programmes for our CF is a benefit to our great country. It will enhance Canadian sovereignty and reduce the international perception that Canada is a state that will make much noise but provide little action. Assuming that the Conservatives are elected and the plan is implemented, no longer will Canada need to rent airlift capacity from Ukraine or the United States, we will be more effective in providing assistance to disaster-stricken states and regions, and our military will once again have a highly-effective Airborne division for combat operations. These are all great ideas in an election that is going to be decided based upon attitudes and perceptions what ideas constitute the best interests for Canadians. For those of us who are interested in defense matters, this is a winning strategy that will enhance the ability for Canada to deliver upon the Defense pillar of this past year's International Policy Statement.
Turning to Canada-US relations, the Bush administration has made its formal rebuke of Paul Martin's recent blatant appeal to anti-American sentiment by telling the United States that it needs a conscience when it comes to the environment. I have been told that the primary responsibility of the US Consulate here in Halifax (and I'm sure others as well) during this election is to monitor anti-Americanism during the campaign. Ambassador Wilkins today made the same point that many in this country have regarding the comparative greenhouse emissions statuses of our two countries. He was sure to remain diplomatic in his language, not singling out Paul Martin and stating that the Canada-US relationship is deep and wide, strong in many aspects, and not appearing partisan at all. He is merely the messenger of the Bush administration, and he quite legitimately conveyed their displeasure with an obvious affront made last week in Montreal.
As I have already said, I believe that the country who signs on to an international treaty and voluntarily defects from its terms has less moral authority than the one that does not sign the treaty in the first place. Further, Martin's photo-op with former President Clinton started this chain of events. It is thoroughly illogical to expect that Washington would remain mum on this subject simply because there is an election campaign taking place in Canada. Relations between Ottawa and Washington exist prior, during, and after elections, and we have no right to demand that the United States not defend itself against foreign accusations, particularly ones with little to no merit.
The subject of ballistic missile defense also made an appearance on the radar today. Harper indicated that if the Americans presented a scenario that precluded the weaponization of space (a subject I just covered in a term paper for my IR class) and connected to Canada's interests, he would consider re-opening that discussion. He also promised a legitimate debate in Parliament and consultation with the other leaders. I've heard that before, and so has Washington. When George Bush made his desire known publicly last November in Halifax that he wanted Canada to participate in BMD, he did so because he believed that Canada would ultimately do just that. The public embarrassment suffered once (and subsequent chill in relations) will likely not be made again, no matter how friendly to the US the Washington Times believes Harper to be. I give Harper full credit for making such a bold statement, and I can only hope that he does not repeat the same fatal error that forever altered my perception of Paul Martin.

12 December 2005

Anybody got $25?

I'm fresh out of beer and popcorn. Can somebody from the government help me out here? Or is the PM still too busy at a winery?

Update: Stephen Taylor, one of my favourite Tory bloggers, completely pWns! Scott Reid right here.

11 December 2005

The Martin-Clinton Photo-Op Kyoto Fiasco

I have been asking people in the past couple days about this very matter, and my question is this: which is worse, the state that does not sign an international treaty, or the one that does and then systemically flouts its provisions? The state that participates in voluntary defection/cheats is always the answer I have received.
On the bigger picture of Canada/US relations, I am thoroughly disappointed in Martin's performance as PM. He came into office pledging to thaw the chill between Ottawa and Washington, and, if anything, he has made matters worse. The BMD decision was a public embarrassment for the Bush administration, as Bush had every reason to believe that Canada would participate when he asked Martin to join in his Halifax visit last year. The dithering was probably what infuriated the Americans most; having made every concession Canada requested and been assured only two days prior to the decision by Frank McKenna that Canada was on board, the Bush administration had every right to be angry at the rebuke.
Then came the Martin-Clinton photo-op. Why is our country one president behind? I just completed a comparative IR paper on Australia and Canada's respective BMD decisions, and I found that Canberra has a PM who is a "close friend" with Bush, who has secured an FTA with the US, and these are all contributing factors to Australia being seen as a legitimate regional power with good relations with Washington. Meanwhile, our PM is shaking hands with the previous POTUS and wondering why the current one is angry about such an occurrence. It also completely overlooks the fact that it was Clinton, not Bush, who rejected Kyoto for the United States.
Foreign policy is my primary area of interest and goes further than anything else in determining my vote. Barring a massive Harper failure in FP or other major area, I will not be putting my confidence in Paul Martin again in this election.

06 December 2005

"Just Reacting," eh Paul? Well here's my reaction . . .

Paul Martin has come out in defence of his separatist Quebec lieutenant's statement that the Bloc Quebecois has a "Nazi tone" to it. Unfathomable. The story is below, I will allow to read that before I continue . . .

Blaming campaign rally enthusiasm, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe apologized Monday for saying he wanted to make the Liberals "disappear" from the Quebec scene after the federal election.
Duceppe's comments were jumped on by Lapierre, who described them as having a "Nazi" tone. "That kind of language, where you say you want to make your opponents disappear, there's a little bit of a Nazi tone in that," he said.
Prime Minister Paul Martin criticized Duceppe for the comments saying it "shows clearly the arrogance and the attitude of Mr. Duceppe.""I think this is totally unacceptable that the chief of a political party should say that Quebecers who don't share his vision of the world should disappear," he said in St. John's. "This is part of a basic philosophy that should never be forgotten."
Martin said Duceppe's comments were worse than what Lapierre said because "Mr. Duceppe planned what he said. Mr. Lapierre reacted."

Digest that for a moment, if you will. You have the Bloc leader saying that he wants to see the electoral map of Quebec painted Bloc Quebecois-bleu. He wasn't talking about Final Solutions or exterminating Liberals, but about defeating the Liberals and taking them out of the picture. I am in pretty much full agreement with Kinsella, who had this to say: What they should have been focussing on, and now are, is Jean Lapierre's willingness to liken a democratic political party to the Nazis. As Bernie notes, the comment by Paul Martin's hand-picked Quebec lieutenant demeans the experiences of people who know what real Nazis are like. That kind of demagoguery has no place in our politics. The Prime Minister of Canada should by no means be condoning that type of statement by saying it was a "reaction." How does that make it any more defensible? If someone plans to call me a dumbass and does it, does that mean its less bad for me to punch him out? Further, Duceppe wasn't saying that non-Bloc voting Quebeckers should disappear, he was saying that the Liberals as a functional representative body of the voting public would disappear in this election.

Day by day I find myself more and more disenchanted with the Liberal Party and leaning ever-so-slightly closer to voting Conservative.

03 December 2005

A Two-Horse National Race?

The course of the past 48-72 hours has not been particularly kind to the third and fourth parties. While the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have been squaring off over tax cuts and health care, Gilles Duceppe has been discussing Quebec getting its own hockey team while Jack Layton has seen CAW put a knife in him by giving an endorsement to the Liberals. Layton did himself further damage earlier today by arguing that Canada should retaliate against US tariffs on softwood lumber by putting export tariffs on gas and oil. The logic that the best way to respond to abrogation of international agreements is to abrogate international agreements is fundamentally flawed. It deprives Canada of its moral superiority in this trade dispute, and it potentially leads the United States to look elsewhere. It has plenty of oil wells around the world (right, lefties?), it doesn't need Canadian oil to as great an extent as we need them to buy it from us. Statements such as this do nothing to boost Layton's image, and indeed harm him in his efforts to overcome the caricature of him as a car salesman/city councillor.

The national race is increasingly taking shape as being a two-horse race between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Quebec may well go heavily in favour of the Bloc, but the ROC can still end up going either way. I also believe that, right now, the Tories have the momentum on their side. The GST announcement, their waiting times pledges, and today's announcement on minimum sentencing for drug offenders, these are all salient issues to Canadians and because Harper has been the one introducing these measures before the Liberals can get their planks unveiled, they are on the offensive. This is going to be a long campaign, of course, and there will likely be a number of momentum switches, but right now the big blue machine is riding high.

01 December 2005

Of Torture and Tax Cuts

Two big issues that are appearing on my radar this morning: repeated accusations in the blogosphere and elsewhere that Michael Ignatieff supports torture, and Harper's proposal to reduce the GST to 6% immediately after being elected and then to 5% by the end of his first term.

On Ignatieff:
Where exactly are all of you getting this idea that Ignatieff endorses torture? Because it certainly doesn't come from The Lesser Evil. Allow me to quote extensively from p. 142-43:
"As a practical matter, therefore, once a state begins to torture, it soons fins itself required to murder, in order to eliminate the problem of releasing hardened and embittered enemies into the general population. Once torture becomes a state practice, it entrains further consequences that can poison the moral reputation and political legitimacy of a state. . .
Any liberal democratic citizen who supports the physical torture of terrorist suspects in ticking bomb cases is required to accept responsibility for the psychological damage done, not only to a foreign victim, but to a fellow citizen, the interrogator. Torture exposes agents of a democratic state to ultimate moral hazard. The most plausible case for an absolute ban on physical torture (as opposed to coercion) in every circumstance is related precisely to this issue of moral hazard. No one should have to decide when torture is or is not justified, and no one should be ordered to carry it out. An absolute prohibition is legitimate because in practice such a prohibition relieves a state's public servants from the burden of making intolerable choices, ones that inflict irremediable harm both on our enemies and on themselves, on those charged with our defense. . .
This idea helps us to see why torture should remain anathema to a liberal democracy and should never be regulated, countenanced, or covertly accepted in a war on terror. For torture, when committed by a state, expresses the state's ultimate view that human beings are expendable. This view is antithetical to the spirit of any constitutional democracy whose raison d'etre is the control of violence and coercion in the name of human dignity and freedom."
Emphasis added for those of you who have obviously not read Ignatieff's work and have the misguided impression that he supports torture. It's as asinine as the Tories last year alledging that Martin supports child pornography.

On the GST reduction:
I like the proposal for the following reason: it gives this campaign its first real, salient issue, and there is now going to be an actual debate on differences in policy in an election campaign. The "most important election in Canadian history" last year was devoid of any major policy discussion, and centred largely around "hidden agendas" and the early furor over the sponsorship scandal. As someone who loves policy, it was a bore for me. If I'm really lucky, I'll even get a foreign policy debate.I'm not 100% sold on the notion of the GST cut, nor am I 100% sold on the personal income tax cuts.
I'm definitely looking forward to the (hopefully) intelligent discussion that is sure to follow this rather innovative announcement (in the sense that nobody's actually ran on cutting the GST as a legitimate campaign issue since 1993, and obviously that wasn't a wholehearted issue for the Liberals then, hence why we're talking about it today) and seeing whether Harper's economist credentials are able to help him mount an effective offensive in this issue.