23 June 2010

Plekanec - 6yrs/$30M

All in all, I think this is a very good signing. The team, the city, and the player are a mutual admiration society, so it's a great fit that will hopefully make all parties involved happy for the duration of the deal.

There was a lot of talk that Plekanec could have hit $6M/season on the open market, and I don't doubt that for a moment. NHL general managers have demonstrated that they are more than willing to spend big dollars for a free agent on July 1st. When you look around the League, Mike Ribeiro and Ryan Kesler are also $5M/season players and frankly I'd rather have Pleks than either of those two. He's versatile, he works hard, and he's used in every situation. It is true that his playoff performances in recent years haven't been superlative, which is probably why he got $5M instead of $5.5M from Montreal, but clearly the Habs hope that this trend stops in the coming years.

Cap-wise, this means that the Canadiens chose Plekanec over Halak. I think that's a good move. 70 points of production on a team that didn't have a lot of production last year is a great number, and if he has a full year of a healthy Mike Cammalleri, and if they get a good 3rd man or an Andrei Kostitsyn that doesn't have his head in the clouds, those numbers will almost certainly increase. I fully believe that Plekanec can be a solid point-per-game player while keeping an overall plus +/- rating, all the while helping on the PP and PK. That type of player is pretty hard to come by in the NHL these days, so I'm glad that he'll be wearing a CH turtleneck for years to come.

Now, sign Carey!

21 June 2010

Reports of the Liberal Party's Death Are Exaggerated

Who wants some more coalition talk today?


Andrew Coyne muses today that Michael Ignatieff has self-imposed a terminal wound on his own party by refusing to immediately and firmly squash all talk of a coalition. In so doing, the NDP's hand will only continue to strengthen as the Liberals continue to flounder, all of which will result in the NDP claiming domain over the political left in Canada. The hopelessly-fractured Liberals will bleed away depending on where they rest on the spectrum, as people like me run far and fast away from Libby Davies and company, while those left-leaning Liberals continue the "anybody but Harper" march by running into the willing arms of Jack Layton.



The Liberal Party has survived far greater perils than it faces today. Remember the years 1984-1992?

In the 1984 election, the Liberals were decimated electorally against a Mulroney Conservative machine that took the largest majority in Canadian history and reducing the Liberals to a pathetic 40 seats in Parliament, only 10 more than the Ed Broadbent-led NDP despite the NDP getting more votes than the Liberals in five provinces. The Tories had a majority popular vote in 6 of 10 provinces and the Liberals won only 2 seats west of Ontario.

The 1988 election saw better results for the Liberals as they increased their seat count to 83 seats but still faced a Conservative majority government.

When you compare those awfully dark days to the situation Liberals face today, it seems like sunshine and lollipops relative to the mid-late 1980s.

The Conservatives have been unable to mount a majority in successive elections. Their leader is grossly unpopular outside of his own party. They have not been able to position themselves into the desired 40% support that is the baseline for an electoral majority. They rank in 3rd place in seat-rich Quebec and have seemingly abandoned hope of building a base there where they can plausibly claim they are the strongest federalist party in the province. They have alienated a number of fiscal conservatives with their reckless spending and true-to-form ruination of Canada's balance sheets. They have passed laws about when to hold elections, and then broken them. They are, simply put, fully capable of being defeated in an election.

However, this is unlikely to happen until the Liberals start to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get themselves in order. The 2008 election was a disgraceful result, with the lowest popular vote total in the country's history on account of having the worst leader in the party's history. Forget supposed CTV hatchet jobs or whatever other convenient excuses people come up with to rationalize the defeat, Dion was awful. That mistake was corrected shortly thereafter.

Michael Ignatieff is one of the most brilliant liberal intellectuals of our time. I pointed the finger at him way back in 2005 and said that he would be the guy that succeeds Paul Martin as the next Liberal Prime Minister. I still believe that can happen. But he has to be Michael Ignatieff the intellectual and bloody smart person, because Michael Ignatieff the politician isn't getting the job done. He is smarter than Harper and could probably debate a circle around him if he were given the opportunity.

The ideas and values that the Liberal Party stands for are timeless and central to the Canadian way of thinking. They need to be articulated fully. Where is our Red Book? Where is our plan? Why aren't the core values splashed front and centre on liberal.ca ? When you go to the "Documents" section, "Rules of Procedure for the Election of Officers of the Young Liberals of Canada" is posted higher on the page than anything to do with an action plan for Canada. That's sad.

This party needs to go about rebuilding the big tent that has served it so successfully for most of its existence. This listing lazily to the left may be a maneuver that can outwit a Star Destroyer gunner, but it's doing nothing to assuage the many concerns of those socially progressive/fiscally conservative members that want nothing to do with the NDP. The Conservatives have failed miserably to "Stand Up For Canada"; it's well past time the Liberals did just that.

18 June 2010

Thanks For the Memories...

It has now been nearly 24 hours since Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues for prospects Lars Ulri Eller and Ian Schultz. As to be expected with any move made by the Montreal Canadiens, it has been a much-discussed issue that has seen many more negative comments than positive directed at Canadiens management.

After all, it is barely a month since Halak's playoff heroics against Washington and Pittsburgh, where he was integral to the team's success as the #8 seed. I have said to many people in recent weeks that it was likely the case that his performance is what assured him he would not be re-signed by the Canadiens. The Habs, like a lot of teams, are in a bit of a salary cap crunch and have about $44M committed to only 14 players. That leaves a mere $14 (estimated) to sign two goalies, possibly Tomas Plekanec, one or two more capable forwards, and probably a defenceman to fill the gap left by Andrei Markov's injury. Looking around the League, Kari Lehtonen got $10.5M for 3 years in Dallas; quick, how many comparisons to Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy did Lehtonen earn this spring? You'd have to figure that Halak and his agent would have been after at least $4M per season - the Canadiens simply can't do that this year, and given some of the guys that will be free agents next year (here's looking at you, Captain Josh!) they were very adroit in this move.

As a fan, I can see why there have been many emotional and irrational outbursts by a lot of Canadiens fans who feel as though we've just traded away our best goaltender and playoff saviour. There is absolutely no denying that Halak was the most important player on the ice for the Habs in this playoff run--not Cammalleri, not Gionta, not Gill--and without him, they would not have made it as far as they did.

Jaroslav Halak

Jaroslav Halak's Young Guns Rookie Card - it's definitely peaked in value now.

But, and there is a but, the organization had to keep an eye to the future when making their goaltending decision. Were Halak's heroics a flash in the pan (a la Michael Leighton) or was this going to be a level of excellence to expect for years to come? As good as Halak had been, could Carey Price be even better next year, and the year after? Which had the largest upside? After running through all of that, the Canadiens decided on Price as their future #1, and that meant Halak had to go. Both deserve the chance to be starting goaltenders, and since the Canadiens feel that Carey Price gives them a better opportunity than Jaroslav Halak in the long run, that opened the door for Halak to be traded.
Now, I am a Carey Price fan. In fact, I'm his #1 Fan:

Image courtesy careyprice.com

I am very happy to see my favourite player still with my favourite team. There is no denying that Carey had a rough season last year. There is also no denying that he has tremendous untapped potential and could be a superstar in the NHL. At only 22 years old, he's already got 60 wins, has won a playoff series, been to the All-Star Game, and so on. I believe, and apparently so do the Canadiens, that he has all the tools and talent necessary to be a part of a Stanley Cup winning team. He's going to have off nights, but he's also going to have spectacular nights, and I believe there will be many more of the latter than the former.

So thank you for the memories Jaro Halak. It was a magical ride. I wish him all the best in St. Louis.

17 June 2010


Another year, another template re-design. Plus, new links! Exciting stuff, I says.

Michael Ignatieff was in town last Saturday. Nobody bothered to tell me - I found out on Facebook the next day - or else I would have posted something about it by now. The communications team does a horrible job of announcing when important people are coming around - apparently Ken Dryden was here not long ago too. Would it really be so hard to send an email or even a carrier pigeon to tell us all the news?

10 June 2010

Congratulations Chicago!

Hats off to the Blackhawks for their Stanley Cup victory last night. If it couldn't be my Habs, thanks to Philadelphia, I'm glad that it could be a team that I like, all the moreso since they beat the team that beat the Habs. 50 years is a long time to go without a Stanley Cup--get ready to know what that feels like, Leafs fans--so to end it with this great group of young players is a really cool finale to what has been a great season.

And of course with the closing of this season, comes the fun stuff...

Draft is in 2 weeks.
Free agency starts July 1st.

And then training camp in September.

I'll be a married man the next time I see the Habs. That's pretty neat.

09 June 2010

The Polls Say...

Regarding the proposed cooperation/coalition/merger of the Liberal Party of Canada and the NDP, a recent survey gives us the following:

Twenty-eight per cent of those surveyed favoured a non-compete pact between the two parties, wherein they would agree not to run candidates against each other in some ridings across the country.

When Stephane Dion gave Elizabeth May a free pass in the last election, and she still lost, the Liberals came under a lot of hostile fire--from without and within--for not running candidates in every riding. The argument is that as a truly national party, they should make every effort to field viable candidates and win in every battleground in the country. Imagine, then, carving up the electoral map and making concessions in every region and province in Canada, essentially throwing up their hands, waving the white flag, and saying, "You have a better chance of winning here than we do." It is outrageous to suggest it, and even moreso that such a margin of people actually thinks it's a good idea. I don't know how many of those 28% are Liberals, how many are NDP backers, and how many are mischievious Tories, but I am of the mindset that each of them are gravely mistaken in their line of thought. To throw seats to an opposing party before the election is even called is a preposterous idea, particularly given that there is no guarantee that conceding all the parked Liberal votes in a riding will flow to the NDP in sufficient numbers to trump the Tories. It's a high-stakes game with risks that are too great to play.

Fourteen per cent favoured a Liberal-NDP coalition government after the next election.

What isn't parsed out of this is the result of the election: is it another minority Conservative government where the combined forces of the Liberals & NDP give them a plurality of seats? A Liberal minority where a coalition produces a stronger minority, or even a majority? A situation in which there is a deadlock between the Tories and a coalition, leaving the balance of power with the Bloc Quebecois? There are unique challenges and opportunities with each one of these outcomes, very few of them desirable. Would Libby Davies get a spot with Foreign Affairs? Would Jack Layton get Industry? Fortunately only a meagre percentage of Canadians support this idea.

13 per cent said they’d prefer an outright merger of the two parties prior to the election.

Again, only very meagre support, likely because there are so many Canadians who occupy the centre/centre-right of the political spectrum that would not want to see the Liberals shift dramatically to the left and leave all the so-called "blue Liberals" without a real political home. The merger of the right worked because it was two parties going back to being one and claiming ownership of the entire half of the political spectrum. The Liberals and the NDP have enough substantive policy differences that a merger would be very unlikely unless both camps made significant concessions that would be tantamount to abandoning long-held principles for the sake of political expediency. While it would dramatically reform the landscape in Canada, making it much more similar to the American system, how do you merge: support for free trade with opposition to NAFTA; support for Afghanistan-type missions with condemnation of "George Bush's war"; support for Israel with not support for Israel; support for low business and corporate taxes with support for higher taxes on businesses and corporations. There's a pretty wide policy gap on some major issues that would be difficult to reconcile.

Another 30 per cent – including 50 per cent of Conservative supporters – said they would rather that the two parties not co-operate at all.

Count me included in this grouping. There is still a plurality opinion on sanity in this country. *whew*

04 June 2010

I Can't Believe I'm Saying This...

But pass the beer & popcorn, Mr. Reid, because I agree with you wholeheartedly.

For as long as I can remember, the Liberal Party has operated as a "big tent" party capable of attracting people on all sides of the political spectrum in this country. As a social progressive with right-of-centre foreign policy views including an activist agenda to make the world safe for democracy plus a strong commitment to the principles of free trade and globalization, I can easily find a place within that tent and not feel as though I'm forced to accept a position that compromises my integrity and my values.

There has, of course, been a notable exception to that rule, as Paul Martin went completely off the rails during the 2006 election campaign and it took the party a good couple years to remember that it was something more than the Green Party with a commitment to liberalism. During this period I kept the party at more than an arm's length and even flirted with the concept of aligning myself with the Conservatives. On the issues that mattered most to me there was a degree of convergence; however, my past concerns about Harper and the social conservatism within their ranks prevented such an alliance from ever taking place. After the appointment of Michael Ignatieff as leader, my exile ended as I truly hoped that the brilliance he exuded in his political academic writings would come to the forefront as a politician and he would restore the party to its former greatness and restore the coalition across the political spectrum that served so well for so many years.

Things haven't exactly turned out that way, of course. Though Ignatieff was once hailed as a leading light among liberal internationalist scholars, he hasn't been able to provide a coherent and visionary platform for Canada's international agenda that would outflank Harper while remaining close to the new Obama administration. Sure, that's the least of Ignatieff's concerns given the economic climate and the day-to-day political gamesmanship that is Canadian governance, but it's been a disappointment for me personally. Too often he, and the rest of the party's talking heads for that matter, have gotten bogged down in mundane matters that have prevented them from attacking the Conservatives on the biggest issue of the day: the economy. Instead of relying on the neoliberal economic agenda that did so well for Canada during the Chretien-Martin years as a basis to launch a coherent and articulate agenda to get us out of the horrific deficit we find ourselves in, we get a lot of static and very little in the way of what a Liberal alternative would do differently than than the Tories.

It is because of that vacuum and a seeming reticence to take the party on a little trip to the right to remind Canadians that the Liberal Party can be very fiscally conservative in times of needing to tighten the economic belt that there are growing voices for a merger of the centre-left parties. Such a move would alienate those socially progressive/fiscal conservative/activist foreign policy members of the party, abandoning the big tent in the hopes that the left-of-centre tent is larger and better-funded than the right-of-centre tent. Recent history suggests that the Conservative fundraising machine can easily outdo the combined efforts of the Liberals and the NDP, and my suggestion here is that many suddenly-alienated right-of-centre Liberals may instead park their political donations with the party that doesn't have Jack Layton in a high position of influence.

What deals would the Liberals have to strike with Layton to make a coalition or merger acceptable to him? Would the Liberals abandon the relatively recent forward-looking transformation of the Canadian Forces into a relevant and effective force capable of waging a "3-block war" in the post-9/11 world, to go back to the days of "peacekeeping"? Would the Liberals accept suggestions of a new series of tax increases and greater social spending? Would the Liberals cede ridings in places across the country because it was calculated that the NDP would have a better chance of victory, thus ending the Liberal Party's standing as a truly national institution? There would be a heavy price to pay for Layton's support in any formal coalition or merger, and that price would almost surely be too heavy for many Liberals who are already concerned about the long, slow drift to the political left.

It is a plain truth that under the status quo, the Liberals will have to fight hard for votes on the left, the centre, and the right against a united right-of-centre Conservative Party. Small-c conservatives in this country have a singular option and a safe place to park their votes. Progressives in Canada do not have a united option; indeed, it is split among three parties and in Quebec among four. As long as the battleground on the left is so divided, it will be a strong challenge for any party to defeat the Conservatives in an election.

This begs the question: should the Liberals take the easy route and form an "anybody but Harper (and the Bloc)" to better increase their chances at reclaiming power as soon as possible, or should the Liberals roll up their sleeves, dig in their heels, and be prepared to do the ground work that is necessary to claim dominance over the centre-left and compete well enough on the centre-right to win an election the old-fashioned way: by being the party that holds the greatest appeal to the Canadian public?

For this Liberal, there can be only one answer: let's roll up our sleeves and remind Canadians why the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful politicial institution in the Western world.

01 June 2010

Feeding the Trolls

Young Liberal President reminds me why I couldn't get out of the categorization of being a Young Liberal fast enough: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/young-liberal-pushes-stop-harper-coalition-conservatives-brag-on-economy/article1587660/

Seriously, all of this rejuvenated coalition/merger talk just makes me ill to my stomach. The Liberal Party stands (used to stand?) for so much of what is great and good about Canada, yet we find ourselves entertaining the notion of bringing Jack Layton and his ilk into the fold simply for the sake of political expediency. I honestly just don't understand what happened to the party machine that did such an effective job of making the Liberals the "default option" of Canadian government. We're four years removed from the sponsorship scandal and Paul Martin's spectacular flame out, and we've seen four years of incompetent Conservative government that has turned the $13 billion surplus we'd invested into the country into a $54 billion deficit that is going to have a severely negative impact on Canada's economic well-being for a generation, not at all unlike the mess left behind by Mulroney that took Chretien & Martin years to fix.

With all of this, how is it fathomable that the press team is being outwitted at nearly every turn by the guttersnipes at CPC HQ? With all of this, how is it fathomable that we turn to Jack Layton--JACK LAYTON--as the one that can deliver us from Stephen Harper?

The mind boggles, and yet we still find ourselves feeding the trolls.