By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 0 Comments
A sluggish economy means deep cuts are coming, but Canadians might not notice. At least not right away.
One thing Stephen Harper learned soon after he became Prime Minister was that Canadians have little intuitive grasp of decimal places. A government does not get 1,000 times more credit for spending $1 billion on something than it does for spending $1 million. In fact, it does not get twice as much credit. As long as the government notices a problem and nods at it, it wins approval from voters who care about that problem. So not long after his man Jim Flaherty started delivering budgets, a Harper era of small and essentially symbolic investment began.
Similarly, the ability to tell the difference between a little belt-tightening and a wholesale cut to a government service or department is not a widespread skill. So as long as the government offers only the vaguest information about its spending cuts, few Canadians will go searching for details.
This general numerical dyslexia will come in handy this year more than most, as Jim Flaherty tries to meet a zero-deficit target that is suddenly rather close—2015, give or take—while dealing with a lousy economy. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
I know one former senior advisor to Stephen Harper who responds to the mention of Justin Trudeau the way one would expect somebody with that pedigree to respond: with condescending contempt. But I know other Conservatives, some still in the Prime Minister’s employ, who see the way crowds react, still today, to the Montreal MP, and shrug. Maybe we can’t do anything against this guy, they say. Maybe things are what they are and we’re just going to have to watch it happen.
Marc Garneau dropped out of the Liberal leadership contest because he is not a fool. The poll numbers he released, if anywhere near accurate, would have led to futile humiliation. He would have lost badly and then been asked to rally to the new leader. He is an engineer, so he found a more elegant solution. He is rallying now to avoid losing later. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on the Parti Québécois’s sudden love of resources
Few events challenge a political party’s convictions more profoundly than the transition from opposition to power. Suddenly everything is so much more complicated than it was. The other day I asked a Quebec government official how Pauline Marois, the province’s Parti Québécois premier, plans to handle Jean Charest’s plan for major natural resources development in the North.
“We keep going,” the official said. This surprised me. Marois campaigned last autumn on claims that Charest’s vast northern strategy—$80 billion in public and private investment, $14 billion in benefit to the Quebec government—amounted to pillage of Quebec’s natural beauty by private interests. She didn’t want to cancel the whole thing, but she was eager to rein it in by charging much higher royalty rates to mining companies, so Quebec could share the wealth. Of course that might have killed the goose that laid the mineral-laden eggs.
These days she doesn’t talk as much about overhauling the royalty regime. In December she visited New York City to pitch northern development to U.S. investors, telling reporters on the way that she now expected to implement Charest’s plan with “slightly different parameters.”
But there’s more. So much more.
“The two most important days since Mme. Marois became premier,” the Quebec official told me, “were budget day and the day she met Alison Redford.”
That meeting happened last Nov. 22 in Halifax, during the annual premiers’ conference. Redford is Alberta’s premier. She is trying to get oil sands bitumen out of the ground and to market. If she cannot sell the oil, very little of the massive investment in northern Alberta makes economic sense. But everywhere she looks she sees obstacles. Westward, the Northern Gateway pipeline faces opposition from British Columbia’s premier, her likely successor, and just about everyone who shows up at environmental hearings. Southward, the Keystone XL pipeline faces perhaps years of delay even if, as now seems likely, Barack Obama finally gets around to approving it.
That leaves the east. On the day Marois met Redford, the Canadian Press described the Quebecer as a “potentially combative customer.” A reasonable guess but flat wrong. Marois seems positively eager. Last month she added New Brunswick Premier David Alward to her meeting schedule. The two emerged with a plan to jointly study a proposal by TransCanada to pipe hundreds of thousands of barrels a day through Quebec to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick.
Add that to Enbridge’s plan to reverse an existing pipeline to send 300,000 barrels a day to the Suncor refinery in the east end of Montreal, where some of it would be refined on site and the rest shipped by boat—big honking boats—to the Ultramar refinery in Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.
The stakes for Suncor and Ultramar are clear. They’re the last two refineries in Quebec. In 2010 Shell’s plant in Montreal closed and 500 jobs were lost. But of course with oil those are never the only stakes. Quebec environmental groups were pretty sure they had a friend in Marois. Already they’re wondering what happened. “She told us she wanted a strategy for reducing dependance on oil,” Equiterre’s Steven Guilbault told Le Devoir’s environment reporter Alexandre Shields, whose reporting on all these developments has been diligent. Now, Guilbault said, there’s nothing about an oil-reduction strategy, and a lot about pipelines. Who’s on these committees Marois has struck with Redford and Alward? Will their reports be public?
The longer you look at Big Oil’s recent moves in Quebec, the more intriguing coincidences you see. Recall that Marois and Redford first met on Nov. 22. That was the day Joe Oliver, the federal natural resources minister, visited the Ultramar plant in Lévis. He told reporters the Alberta oil, if it makes it that far east, would “replace higher-priced foreign oil . . . from countries such as Algeria, Angola and the United Kingdom.” I’m told the Quebec government observed the coverage of Oliver’s visit closely. What they saw was that coverage concentrated not on the prospect of dirty Alberta oil ravaging Quebec’s virtue, but on the prospect (hardly guaranteed in any event) of cheaper gas at the pump.
Oliver has been in Quebec at least once a month since November for activities designed to help the oil patch and the PQ get along.
Of course, the oil patch likes to make friends. A month after Marois and Redford met, Enbridge announced it was buying a half stake in the 150-megawatt Massif du Sud windmill farm southeast of Quebec City. The windmill farm was developed by Electricité de France. Enbridge’s share cost it $170 million. The windmills are across the St. Lawrence River from Pauline Marois’s riding.
Albertans and Quebecers really need to stop hurling insults at one another. They’re forming the most intimately connected business partnership in Confederation. A year ago a Quebec think tank reported that the Caisse de dépôt, which invests the Quebec Pension Plan’s assets, held $5.4 billion in oil sands assets, more than double its holdings in all Quebec companies combined. The Caisse has done its math. Marois is doing hers. A prosperous Alberta keeps Canada’s equalization system going, but why wait for equalization?
All of this has many implications. Here’s one. Tom Mulcair is the former Quebec environment minister who’s staked the NDP’s future on a classic confrontation between Quebec’s environmental virtue and Alberta’s profligacy. What does he do if the two provinces become partners?
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
Guys, I’m pretty sure if we try hard we can get the PM to say something cranky about Liberal judges today in Question Period. I suspect he’s in a mood. His Supreme Court reference on changes to the composition of the Senate is having a lousy ride through the judicial process.
Setback 1: Two weeks ago the Supremes rejected a(n insane) request from the Justice Department that the top court not bother to receive legal arguments in the reference, a request the feds made on the ridiculous grounds that everything that could be said on this specific set of reference questions has already been said in more than a century of general debate on Senate-related issues.
Setback 2: Considerably more embarrassing for the government. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:14 AM - 0 Comments
I thought it only fair to warn you. A perfect storm of political factors south of the border is ensuring the return to prominence — and just maybe to top-tier political significance — of America’s favourite/least favourite family of patrician Massachussetts Republicans with occasional bursts of Southern populism, extraordinary rendition, temporary-gone-permanent tax cuts and squinty eyebrows.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:19 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s comments in Question Period today to the effect that two former civil servants are “partisan” when, and to the extent that, they criticize his government, have occasioned a lot of close parsing by Colleague Wherry. And it’s true, I have no idea whether Scott Clark and Peter DeVries support the Liberal party. And there are uncomfortable echos of the whole Linda Keen affair in the notion that, to this PM, critics are by definition Liberal.
But neither did Stephen Harper pull the whole notion out of the air. Look:
OTTAWA—Another high-profile public servant has joined Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s inner circle.
Patrick Parisot has quit his post as ambassador to Algeria to become Ignatieff’s principal secretary.
Parisot, a former broadcaster who served as a valued adviser to former prime minister Jean Chrétien, is the fourth person to jump straight from the bureaucracy into Ignatieff’s inner sanctum.
The pattern is troubling to public administration experts who believe the line between professional, neutral public servants and partisan political staffers has become dangerously blurred. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 12:09 PM - 0 Comments
Between them, the University of Toronto and McGill University have 100,000 students, $596 million in total accumulated funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, one Charles Taylor and a perhaps disproportionate amount of the spotlight on higher education in Canada’s two largest provinces. They also have two new presidents: Meric Gertler at UofT and Suzanne Fortier at McGill. Together the two changes are probably more significant than most federal cabinet shuffles.
(This blog post will be lousy with Laurentian Consensus nostalgia; sorry. Perhaps only for today though, the less said about the University of Calgary, the better.)
In hiring close to home, both universities can be taken to be demonstrating either quiet confidence in the maturity of Canadian academe, or a chastened realization that in a time of limited resources, even the biggest schools are wise to stick to their knitting. Both schools instituted global searches and wound up bypassing candidates from afar in favour of local produce. Gertler was Toronto’s dean of Arts and Science. Fortier is president of the National Science and Engineering Research Council — indeed her start as principal of McGill will be delayed so she can cool off from that job for six months before taking a position with a major NSERC grant recipient — but her BSc and PhD were from McGill. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:17 AM - 0 Comments
Farewell then, Claude Patry, MP for Jonquière-Alma, freshly departed to the Bloc Québécois. (You’re gonna need a bigger phone booth for your caucus meetings, guys.) We hardly knew ye. No, no, strike that: We had no idea ye existed. Anyway, best of luck.
Two days after the 2011 election, I wrote this blog post, which now seems oddly prescient (although the full-on catastrophe it describes still resides in the future, or will never happen):
“…In its earliest days the Bloc was made up of people who’d abandoned other parties’ caucuses: Lucien Bouchard and five other Progressive Conservatives, and Jean Lapierre and another Liberal.
”Only two days after Monday’s election, it’s already becoming obvious that the likeliest route to a revival of the Bloc Québécois is some kind of replay of those heady days in 1990. NDP Caucus Services will have its share of challenges over the next little while, but one item on its to-do list should be the preparation of a contingency plan for the bright morning when a dozen or 20 of its Quebec MPs decide Canadian federalism has failed some arbitrary test of its flexibility and it’s time to join the Bloc.”
One MP isn’t a dozen or 20. But the lasting danger for the NDP is the tension between the 57% of its caucus who come from Quebec and the 2/3 of its popular vote that came from outside. It’s possible to mitigate that tension. It’s impossible to eliminate it.
By Paul Wells - Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec higher-education minister Pierre Duchesne will spend Monday and Tuesday presiding over a summit on Quebec universities. Duchesne, a former senior correspondent for Radio-Canada, is one of the nicest guys I met in journalism; his three-volume (!) biography of Jacques Parizeau is definitive. It’s worth putting that on the record because next week’s summit looks like a five-alarm gong show, it couldn’t happen to a nicer government, and I sometimes have trouble holding back the snark.
The Gazette‘s Karen Seidman has a good overview of the issues and the way the Marois government has managed to position this summit as one whose outcome will please nobody. But I’m struck by a recurring theme in French-language commentary, which is the feats of ingenuity being expended to justify giving McGill University less public money. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
We sure picked a good day to be discussing the future of Keystone XL with CPAC and a blue-chip guest list in Washington. (Showtime is 7 p.m. and you can watch it all on CPAC. We’ve got Gary Doer and John Manley and many more, and Colleague Luiza Ch. Savage will keep them all honest. I’m writing from the U.S. departure lounge at Ottawa airport, and right now it looks like I’ll probably get to the Newseum before cameras roll.)
Fifteen months after Barack Obama delayed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it is getting time to stop delaying. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on the meaning of drones
Dick Cheney was on CBS the other day, explaining U.S. President Barack Obama’s failings yet again. “I think the president came to power with a world view that’s fundamentally different,” the former vice-president said. “[There was] the sense that he wanted to reduce U.S. influence in the world, he wanted to take us down a peg.”
There’s no point debating this. Millions of Americans do consider the Obama presidency an assault against the United States. They voted for Mitt Romney last November and it didn’t do them much good. As for those who like Obama, they’d have choice things to say about what Cheney did to U.S. influence. “I think the worst thing that we could do right now,” Obama aide Stephanie Cutter said, “is take Dick Cheney’s advice on foreign policy.”
So the most interesting part of Cheney’s interview was the part where he agreed with Obama. He was asked about remote-controlled drones as a device for killing suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens. “I think it’s a good program,” Cheney said. “I don’t disagree with the basic policy that the Obama administration is pursuing.”
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:29 PM - 0 Comments
In its rhetoric, Barack Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address sealed the four-year transformation of the United States into a society well to the left of Stephen Harper’s Canada.
Never mind the president’s closing peroration in favour of substantial new firearm regulation — misleading to cross-border comparisons at any rate, as the U.S. starts from such anarchy on firearms that they would have a long way to regulate before they caught up to the Canadian firearms regime, even after Parliament abolished the long-gun registry last year. Nor am I really thinking about his call for tax increases as a component of deficit reduction — simple arithmetic when the books are as out of whack as they are in Washington. There was also Obama’s passionate plea for serious policy to regulate carbon emissions in a bid to control global warming. His federally mandated increase to the minimum wage with an added cost-of-living index. And the bit that I found most striking because it was least expected and, if it were carried out, perhaps most ambitious: universal preschool for all four-year-olds, an extension of public schooling that would be hard to imagine in Canada, where Harper cancelled the federal-provincial daycare agreements he inherited from the Paul Martin Liberals. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 11:40 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper’s decision to send a long list of questions on Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada — all the stories say six questions, but two are multiple-choice, so I count 14 — reflects an advanced state of uncertainty about how to handle Parliament’s upper house.
Since Harper campaigned for his job seven years ago on a promise to elect senators, and since he has had his majority for nearly two years but is only now asking the top court questions that must surely have preoccupied Justice Department lawyers since at least 2006, his decision indicates he is still improvising on a non-trivial constitutional file.
Actually, I have always kind of liked this dishevelled approach to the Senate-reform task. After the 1992 Charlottetown referendum, Jean Chrétien had a ready-made answer on the Senate: I was all in favour of a Senate reform that would have given the West more clout, but the people rejected it, he’d say. Chrétien and Stéphane Dion and, after the customary vague period, Paul Martin all said a piecemeal reform would freeze a dysfunctional upper house in place. Only wholesale reform would fix anything. And since that was impossible, why bother? Continue…
By Paul Wells and macleans.ca - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on Conservatives turning a new (Kevin) Page
In two months Kevin Page’s term as parliamentary budget officer will end. He’s the fellow appointed under the Federal Accountability Act—the ﬁrst piece of legislation the Harper government passed—to provide independent analysis of federal spending. He keeps disagreeing with the Harper government’s explanations of its spending. That’s actually his job. “It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government,” Monte Solberg said in 2004, in the Conservatives’ opposition days, about the office Page wound up occupying. “It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends.”
Page has resisted the government’s attempts to manipulate the figures to its own ends. He said jet fighters would cost more than the government said they would. He said year-end deficits would last longer than Jim Flaherty said they would. He said the government had created a “structural deficit,” one that could be eliminated only through cuts or higher taxes. Flaherty disagreed for months, called Page every name in the book, until his department acknowledged Page had been right all along.
Flaherty has had just about enough of this crap. On the Global TV show West Block the other day, Tom Clark asked the finance minister whether Page’s office has been “a net benefit.” “Not yet,” Flaherty said. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:02 AM - 0 Comments
Mostly the bill is a shrine to Paragraph 88 of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the 1998 Secession Reference. As I wrote last night in numbing detail, any victory dance over an “obligation to negotiate” secession should entail some serious thought about what those negotiations would be like, and there’s none here. But then there’s a bonus:
9. For greater certainty, the question concerning the constitutional change may include proposals to implement recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, such as proposals relating to
(a) the integration of Quebec into the constitutional framework;
(b) the limitation of federal spending power in Quebec;
(c) permanent tax transfers and associated standards; and
(d) the Government of Quebec’s opting out with full compensation from any programs if the Government of Canada intervenes in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:29 AM - 0 Comments
Emmett Macfarlane has already written here on the NDP’s Unity Bill, which makes secession easier than the Liberals’ Clarity Act, which as some of the critics Aaron Wherry canvasses have pointed out, isn’t super-clear. I’m not going to try to win arguments here; I learned a long time ago it can’t be done, thanks partly to the superhuman ability of activists in the secession debate to speak and write with certainty about things they haven’t read. If, for instance, you haven’t read Jacques Parizeau’s books Pour un Québec souverain and La souveraineté du Québec, maybe you shouldn’t speculate on what he planned after the 1995 referendum. But on the other hand you probably needn’t let it stop you, because I keep running into people who’ve read the books and still don’t seem to have understood basic points Parizeau repeats frequently.
Anyway. The reason we have spent nearly 40 years debating the effect of referendum results a few points this side or that of 50 per cent is because we have all known for nearly that long that any separatist “victory” in a referendum will be a close thing. If there ever were such a vote, 50 per cent plus a bit on a confusing question, then a sovereignist Quebec government would run into difficulties that don’t have much to do with the text of the Clarity Act and would not be eased by Tom Mulcair’s attempted compromise. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 10:32 PM - 0 Comments
This evening I read listlessly from a library copy of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by historian Daniel Walker Howe. It’s part of the multi-volume Oxford History of the United States, and covers a relatively unloved part of that country’s history. It begins at the end of the War of 1812 and ends before the long prelude to the Civil War. But Howe depicts that period as the opposite of a dry spell between bursts of action. Technological breakthroughs in communications and transportation, especially the telegraph and the steam locomotive, changed the nature of social intercourse in a still largely empty country. Howe says the advent of fast transport and faster broadcasting of ideas was at least equal in its social impact to the arrival of the internet 150 years later. As one example among many, he argues that Southern slaveholders didn’t need to care what anyone else thought of their nasty business in 1815, but that that had started to change for good 33 years later.
I’m writing a book about Stephen Harper and it occurs to me that when he was elected in 2006, there was (for most Canadians not enrolled in higher education) no Facebook, no Twitter, and Youtube was barely six months old. I’ll tell you right now I don’t see the social-media revolution as having had a deciding impact on Canadian electoral politics or government. But I’ve got a hunch it’s had some impact.
I invite your observations and theories in the comment section below. I don’t have a leading question because I have no idea what I’m looking for, but: have technological changes had any influence on Canadian politics since 2006? Feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me if you have thoughts you want to share more quietly. As always, be nice to one another in the comments, please.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper surprised his nearly 300,000 Twitter followers on Monday by tweeting photos and video from a typical day at home and on Parliament Hill.
One of the most striking posts was a short video showing him entering his daily senior staff meeting. It was a rare look at the advisers who are on hand to brief the PM as he begins his work day.
Many of these people are barely known outside Harper’s office. Their hiring and departure is almost never announced in a news release. This isn’t the only power group in Harper’s Ottawa — cabinet ministers and their staffs have important responsibilities; top bureaucrats manage departments numbering in the thousands — but in a city where it sometimes seems that clout increases with proximity to Stephen Harper, this is literally the inner circle.
Click on each individual to find out who they are and what they do:
Related reading: The Maclean’s Power List
By Paul Wells - Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 11:30 PM - 0 Comments
On Dec. 13, the day after the Commons rose for the Christmas break, CTV’s Don Martin met Thomas Mulcair in Stornaway to talk about the parliamentary season then ending. The big news there was the F-35 procurement audit and the CNOOC/Nexen deal. When the House sits on Monday for the first time in six weeks, I’ll be surprised if either is a big issue. Politics in Canada has moved on, and it feels like we are a lot more than six weeks closer to the next election.
We know more about two opposition figures, Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, than we did in mid-December. Mulcair spent the holidays and the first month of 2013 accelerating his efforts to moderate the NDP’s public image. Trudeau made it through the opening rounds of the woefully belated Liberal leadership campaign without showing up at a debate without pants, saying the country is run by too many Albertans — well, at least he managed not to say it again — or doing anything else to blow his reputation among Liberals. And a string of polls (the kind that ask about hypothetical situations in the future, so don’t take them as gospel) suggest he’d take a far bigger bite out of NDP and Conservative support than any of his opponents. So his lead in the Liberal leadership race holds steady.
I think Mulcair’s six weeks have been more significant. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:24 PM - 0 Comments
There are so many Liberal leadership races going on across the country that sometimes we miss a few. I woke up in an arctic Montreal this morning eager to check one of the larger contests off my list. The candidates to succeed Jean Charest as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party — the convention will be in Montreal on March 16-17 — were having a kind of sort of debate.
The venue was the Sheraton Centre hotel, where a group called Idée Fédérale wanted to gauge the candidates’ federalist credentials. Idée Fédérale is designed to be a place where Quebecers can talk about Canada in public, as though it were respectable; its most visible figures are La Presse editor André Pratte and international-relations scholar Jocelyn Coulon, who inaugurated a durable tradition when he became the first in a string of federal Liberals to lose to Tom Mulcair in Outremont in 2007.
This morning’s breakfast was resolutely low-key. Pratte sat in a plush chair and interrogated the three candidates, gently gently, in turn. They did not appear together except for a group photo. Let’s take them in the order they appeared. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:25 AM - 0 Comments
As you will have heard, rapper Lupe Fiasco got kicked off the stage last night at one of the endless rounds of tedious pre-inaugural events that have clustered around today’s second Obama inauguration like barnacles.
He was in the middle (or perhaps near the end, or maybe the beginning; we can only speculate) of an extended jam in which he was saying various disrespectful things about Barack Obama, when a bunch of really big guys came onto the stage and encouraged him to take it somewhere else.
When reading the statement from the organizers of the event, who protest that they “are staunch supporters of free speech, and free political speech,” it’s worth noting that Fiasco was the evening’s headliner and that his name was the largest design element in posters advertising the party. A lot of people attending it would not have known or cared that they were “honouring innovative visionaries;” they thought they were at a Lupe Fiasco concert. Which helps explain why it’s really hard to hear anyone “vocally dissatisfied” in the video of the “bizarrely repetitive, jarring performance.” Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on Spence’s hunger strike and two ways forward
For a few hours on Jan. 11, several Aboriginal leaders, including Grand Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Matthew Coon Come, the long-time Quebec Cree leader, were in the Langevin Block meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Across the street, a succession of other figures in Aboriginal politics, some wearing Mohawk Warrior Society insignia, took turns speaking to an outdoor protest rally.
If nothing else, it was an efficient distribution of labour. Leaders who want to make concrete progress this year were inside the building, talking to the Prime Minister. Leaders who don’t were outside, doing what they do best.
It’s not that the people at the protest microphone don’t want First Nations’ lives to improve. It’s just that their preferred solutions—a fundamental rethink of Canada’s treaty obligations, a royal commission, an intervention from the Queen—are not on offer. And when I say “not on offer,” I don’t only mean not from the Conservatives. The extent to which NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has aligned himself with Atleo and the other leaders who are still talking with Harper is striking. So is the silence of the provincial premiers, who will have to share their resource revenues with First Nations if revenue-sharing is to be part of a solution. So the crowd outside was, in a very real sense, making best the enemy of the good. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 10:40 PM - 0 Comments
It’s not clear what Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath expects from the province’s next Liberal premier, whom the party will select on Jan. 26. She’s “open to working to get results for the people of this province,” in contrast to Conservative opposition leader Tim Hudak, who likes his chances in an election and will likely withhold confidence as early as possible to try to get one.
Does that mean Horwath wants a Liberal-NDP coalition? Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 11:58 AM - 0 Comments
The former Liberal Justice minister is a late-breaking candidate for the federal Liberal leadership. He lost to Tom Mulcair in Outremont in 2011 and did not contest the three elections before that, but back in the olden days Jean Chrétien handed him an increasing series of responsibilities. He was justice minister when Canada began to legalize gay marriage and almost decriminalized pot. He may be seen as an exciting candidate.
As Montreal journalist Justin Ling points out, a recent speech Cauchon gave in Berlin seems custom-designed to stifle any excitement.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 1:06 PM - 0 Comments
News that the Governor General will meet with aboriginal leaders (or at least with those aboriginal leaders who are pleased to show up) after Friday’s meeting with the PM (if it happens) at Rideau Hall (unless the venue changes) offers us our umpteenth opportunity to consider the autonomy of governors general and lieutenant governors.
They have none.
OK, for the sticklers in the audience, I’m willing to amend that to: they have limitless autonomy which they essentially never exercise. Which is the same as having no autonomy.
The PMO sent out word today that David Johnston will have a “ceremonial” meeting with First Nations leaders, at Stephen Harper’s request. Then Rideau Hall sent out a communiqué saying the same thing. I would be surprised if the timing of the two communiqués was not co-ordinated, so the PM’s staff speaks before the GG’s. This is as it should be, and as it has been since Lord Elgin signed the Rebellion Losses Bill.
One of the enduring modern bits of Ottawa lunacy has been the persistent belief that governors general will do something besides what the prime minister asks them to do. Continue…