By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
At about 3:30pm this afternoon, the House will take up a brief debate of the Liberal motion on statements by members.
The choice facing MPs would seem to be this: Pursue the option presented by the Speaker, in which members must only have the courage to stand if they wish to speak, or adopt a system that formally regulates who gets to speak during those 15 minutes each day?
I say choice because it is not clear to me whether the two approaches could easily co-exist. If the House adopts a formal system to determine who speaks during statements by members, what power would the Speaker have to recognize any other MP? As the Speaker said yesterday, “Members elect a Speaker from among the membership to apply rules they themselves have devised and can amend.”
So MPs might have to very quickly decide which approach best serves their interests. Meanwhile, as Mark Jarvis tweeted last night, it is not so simple that the Speaker’s ruling should necessarily result in a rush of maverick behaviour.
I think this was the best possible outcome and is a better result than what wld have resulted from sending the matter to committee. As per @acoyne, the ruling makes clear that the Speaker has undeniable prerogative to determine who speaks in the House. As it should be. It also makes it clear that members’ speech, with a few reasonable constraints, should not be encumbered. Most importantly, the right of each individual member to seek the floor is not dependent on any other member, i.e., the party whips.
So there are now two things to watch. First, whether we see a surge in members rising on their own volition, seeking to speak. This goes to the distinction @acoyne drew b/t decisions of individuals& systematic incentives in his excellent piece http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/03/31/andrew-coyne-mob-rule-versus-mark-warawa/ … While there is no disagreeing that any member is free to set their own behavior and, collectively, revolutionize the way the House operates… My hunch is that for the most part, the carrots and sticks available to party leaders that we detailed in DtC remain powerful incentives. I expect more episodic than consistent cases of MPs getting up out of turn and offside of their respective parties.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 8:55 PM - 0 Comments
Mark Warawa presented his appeal to the Procedure and House Affairs committee this afternoon. The committee had no questions for him, went in camera to decide the fate of Motion 408 and will table its report with the House tomorrow.
The search is otherwise on for the meaning of all this.
Conservative MP Jay Aspin says Mark Warawa has gone “rogue.”
Conservative MP Jay Aspin criticized Warawa, saying he went “rogue” on the abortion issue, which Harper has vowed not to revisit. “[The] Conservative party has a policy. We had a policy going into the last election, and he failed to adhere to it,” Aspin said after the weekly Conservative caucus meeting.
On the matter of Mr. Warawa’s freedom to give a members’ statement about his motion, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback is supportive.
“A member should be able to make a statement on any issue they think is important to themselves or their constituencies,” said Tory MP Kyle Seeback. “Mr. Warawa’s (member’s statement) should not have been taken away. That’s my personal view.”
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth says he’s thinking about it.
“Is the right to make a member statement owned by an individual member or is it owned by the whip? I still haven’t quite got there yet,” he told reporters.
Mr. Warawa pledges his full support for the Prime Minister and tries to blame the state of Parliament for the fact that he couldn’t deliver that statement, while also saying he’s not being muzzled.
I think Parliament’s at fault for not permitting this issue to be dealt with earlier and others have suffered by losing that right. I experienced that suffering last Thursday and then when it affected me personally, then I had a responsibility to speak up.
Andrew Coyne considers the ramifications of it all.
This did not begin with Warawa, in short, and it will not end here. The question is whether opposition MPs will join the fray. The shuttering of Warawa’s motion, after all, was an all-party affair: it was his motion this time, but it could be theirs next. There’s a fight worth having, here, but it isn’t Conservatives vs. Opposition, or pro-life vs. pro-choice. It’s for the freedom of all MPs against the dictates of a system that, as in no other democracy, has vested all power in the party leader.
In other news, tonight the House defeated NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s private member’s bill that would have banned the import of shark fins. Kristy Kirkup reports that some Conservatives supported the bill, but that the Prime Minister’s Office pushed for the bill to be defeated.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Last night’s At Issue panel.
I’m not sure there’s anything I can add that I haven’t already written over the last two years.
Here is what I wrote last week about one particularly silly question and here and here is what I wrote this week about another. Here is what I wrote this week about what Justin Trudeau says he’d do. And here and here is what I wrote about what Brent Rathgeber has had to say.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
An email from the Joyce Murray campaign yesterday: Ms. Murray is pleased with the latest endorsement of a one-time electoral pact.
The Pundits Agree: Cooperation Only Way To Defeat Harper
For several months, Joyce has been traveling across the country talking to Canadians about her plan for political cooperation to defeat Stephen Harper in the next election. Joyce believes that must be the #1 priority of the millions of Canadians who agree that the Harper government is bad for progress, bad for equality and bad for Canada.
Her plan is simple: a one-off approach to cooperation with national progressive parties in ridings in the next election where Stephen Harper’s candidate failed to win 50% support. But she will leave the ultimate decision to members and supporters at the riding level, not a top-down directive.
Her plan has been making headlines across the country and was front and centre at the Vancouver debate last weekend. It is bold and it is clear – two things Liberals know we need to be again.
But here’s the blunt and simple point: Joyce Murray is the only candidate for the Leadership of the Liberal Party with a plan to defeat Harper in the next election.
The National Post’s Andrew Coyne backed her plan in a column on the need for political cooperation and democratic reform. Like Joyce, he thinks cooperation is one of the best ways to defeat Harper.
Take a read of Andrew’s column and if you agree, come join the campaign and support Joyce’s plan.
This is our opportunity to change the political landscape in Canada; don’t miss out.
I’m not sure Andrew and Ms. Murray are proposing quite the same thing though. Ms. Murray’s proposal doesn’t seem to include a particularly quick passing of electoral reform and then immediately calling a new election. In an interview with CP she suggests a blue ribbon panel or royal commission would study possible changes and then the public would be asked for input, possibly including a referendum. That’s not quite the same as turning the next election into a referendum on electoral reform and then calling a new election as quickly as possible.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Andrew Coyne has another go at making the case for a one-time electoral cooperation pact among the opposition parties to achieve electoral reform, as Elizabeth May has also recently proposed. I still think this is a crazy idea.
Andrew notes that the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens are variously interested in replacing our first-past-the-post system for electing MPs. He then builds his case thusly.
It will be objected that much of this is merely an expression of the parties’ self interest, or more charitably that their principles show a remarkable tendency to align with their self-interest: under proportional representation the Greens would win many more seats than the one they have now, as until recently would the NDP, while the alternative vote tends to favour middle of the road parties like the Liberals. Fair enough. I happen to think these are also useful reforms in the public interest. But it is to those parties’ supporters I address myself here: to their self-interest as much as their ideals.
Because none of this is going to happen as things stand: neither the Conservatives’ defeat nor the democratic reforms each proposes would follow. It is not going to happen so long as the Conservatives maintain their apparently unshakeable hold on 35% to 40% of the voters that have stuck with them for much of the past decade. And it is not going to happen so long as the rest is divided up more or less evenly amongst two or three opposition parties…
So the long-term answer to the opposition’s dilemma is electoral reform, based on some form of proportonal representation. But that isn’t going to happen until they can figure out how to beat the Conservatives in the short term. The obvious answer is for the three parties to cooperate in some way at the ballot box: to combine, rather than split their votes.
The premise here seems to be that it is unlikely the Conservatives will win anything less than another majority mandate in 2015. If you were taking wagers right now, approximately two years away from the next vote, the odds would obviously have to favour the Conservatives. But another Conservative majority is not nearly a sure thing. The Conservatives polled at 33% in December. And the two years between now and the next election leave plenty of time for unforeseen developments. Incumbents at the federal level have a tendency to hold power for awhile, but they also have a tendency to eventually lose.
Could the New Democrats or Liberals win a majority government in 2015? It looks unlikely now, but the NDP was ahead of the Conservatives and in the mid-30s a year ago and the Liberals were ahead of the Conservatives and in the mid-30s in 2009. If the threshold for a majority government is around 39%, the possibility of an NDP or Liberal majority can’t be entirely dismissed.
Eight and a half years ago, the Liberals won a minority government with 36.7% of the popular vote. The Conservatives took 29.6%, the NDP 15.7% and the Bloc Quebecois 12.4%. How possible is it that the New Democrats or Liberals could win 36% of the popular vote in 2015? Could we see something like a 35-30-25 split with the Liberals or New Democrats in first and the Conservatives in second? Maybe you wouldn’t wager your life savings on it happening, but you’d be unwise to wager your life savings on it not happening.
But then, the opposition parties don’t even need to “win” the next election, do they? If the Conservatives are reduced to a minority and the House of Commons math works for the other parties, some combination of the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could form a coalition government. How possible is a coalition government taking power in 2015? (We nearly had one in 2008. And with that experience, the parties might now be better prepared to pull it off.) Once again, you might not want to bet on it, but you can’t discount the possibility entirely either.
So an NDP or Liberal minority or a NDP-Liberal-Green coalition are within the realm of possibility (and not merely as far-fetched scenarios). And either scenario, I would posit, could result in a government interested in electoral reform. Andrew might be right that the long-term situation seems, right now, to favour the Conservatives. But I don’t think that means the next election result is assured. And therein lies a real opportunity for change.
Andrew proceeds to consider the options. He rules out a merger as unrealistic (I agree). He writes that a “formal coalition” also wouldn’t work (I disagree). He then arrives at his preferred option.
As it happens, however, an alternative has emerged that has found significant supporters in all three parties. It is to forge a purely temporary alliance, a one-time electoral pact. Party riding associations would agree to run a single candidate against the Conservatives, on a platform with essentially one plank: electoral reform. Were it to win it would govern just long enough to reform the electoral system, then dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.
There are a lot of questions to ask about this proposal. Andrew acknowledges as much.
A favourite counterargument is to rattle off a number of obvious practical questions in quick succession — How would these common candidates be selected? Would this apply in all ridings, or just some? Could voters be persuaded to turn the election into a referendum on electoral reform? — in a tone that implies they could not be answered. Which is certainly true, as long as no one bothers to try.
Let’s allow that some of the finer details could be worked out. I think there are valid questions to be asked about how the parties would sort this out amongst themselves, but let’s imagine that those questions could be answered and those problems solved. Let’s just deal with that third question: could an election be turned into a referendum on electoral reform?
Are enough voters so interested in electoral reform that they would support turning the next election into a referendum on that subject? Could enough voters be convinced to momentarily suspend their concerns about other issues? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the other policy differences between the NDP, Liberals and Greens? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the possible ramifications of all other policy debates between the parties to vote with the hope that a real election would then be run in short order?
I’ll try to answer those questions: No. Granted, I can’t predict the future with certainty (and have just finished arguing against making such predictions). Perhaps the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could persuade voters to make this a singular focus. But this strikes me as implausible. I don’t think voters, in general, are so interested in electoral reform that they’d go along with this. At the very least, it seems like a remarkable gamble for the three parties to make. (And, keep in mind, the Conservatives would be keen to explain, loudly and repeatedly and prominently, why this was such a terrible idea.)
But only here now do we reach what is, for me, the deal breaker. Let’s say another Conservative majority was, under the status quo, overwhelmingly likely. Let’s say voters (or enough voters) were keen (or could be convinced to be keen) to turn the next election into a referendum on electoral reform. Let’s even say that an NDP-Liberal-Green pact would win that referendum.
Fundamentally overhauling the electoral system would probably take more than a couple days. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the House. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the Senate (how would a Conservative majority in the Senate handle such legislation?).
Even if you imagine this proceeding as expeditiously as possible, this would take some period of time (A month? A few months? More?). Someone would have to be Prime Minister while this was happening. Someone would have to be governing. How would that work? Conceivably they would have no mandate beyond changing the electoral system. Would they promise to not touch anything else for as long as they were in government? Would they promise to just carry on with Conservative policy until another election could be held? (Would anyone believe them if they promised as much?) What if something bad happened? What if something came up that required government action?
This is not a rhetorical device. I’m not trying to bury the idea in questions. I honestly want to know how this would work because I honestly don’t understand how this is supposed to work. What kind of government would we have for however long it took to change the federal electoral system and what would be the ramifications of having such a government?
I basically agree that the way in which we elect MPs could be improved (I recently came down with a crush on the ranked ballot). But I don’t like complicated solutions. Complicated solutions are usually the least achievable. Which is not to say they shouldn’t ever be pursued. But, in this case, I think there are less complicated options that might be entertained first.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
In December, Elizabeth May apparently wrote a letter to New Democrats, Liberals and independent MP Bruce Hyer to discuss ways that opposition MPs might cooperate for the purposes of electoral reform. Ms. May won’t release the letter—she says it was not intended to be released publicly—but she seems to have described the gist to the Hill Times.
“What’s clearly public is that the Green Party is the only party that is fully committed to finding ways to cooperate before the next election with any party that’s prepared to work with us to get past the first-past-the post [election system],” Ms. May said … “That’s really the goal and my public and private views are that if we could find a way, and there’s a big if, in the next election to cooperate with the goal, and we would only cooperate this one time, in order to get rid of first-past-the-post so that in the next election campaign nobody would be worried about, which I think are fairly bogus concerns, about vote splitting,” Ms. May said.
Andrew Coyne floated a similar idea last month and I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of a one-time electoral pact.
Thomas Mulcair responded to Ms. May on behalf of the NDP on December 19. Here is the text of his response.
Dear Ms May,
Thank you for your December 10th letter regarding democratic and parliamentary reform. I agree with you that the main challenge for parliamentarians and political parties is to encourage the forty percent of eligible citizens who do not vote to do so, and especially to push young Canadians to become engaged in political affairs across the country.
We must also provide to Canadians opportunities to get directly involved in the debate on overdue reforms to our voting system. As you know, the NDP was the first party to make proportional representation a priority in the 1970s. And that is why, the NDP, with Democratic and Parliamentary Reform Critic Craig Scott leading the way, is pursuing consultations with both voters and experts across the country on reforms needed to achieve more adequate representation of the Canadian population.
In September, we were able to meet and discuss topics of importance to all Canadians, and I look forward to continuing these discussions in the near future.
In closing, in the name of the New Democratic Party of Canada and all its members, I would like to wish you a happy holiday season and all the best in 2013.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The At Issue panel takes viewer questions.
I’d like the Speaker to be more assertive on a couple fronts, but, in the context of Question Period, he can’t be asked to judge whether or not a question has been answered sufficiently. I think he should, just as he can cut off a question that doesn’t deal with the business of government, cut off a response that strays from the subject raised, but it’s problematic (and unworkable) to expect that he should be judging the quality of the response for the purposes of deciding when a question has truly been answered. I also disagree with Andrew’s suggestion that he should be able to compel a minister to stand. If the government side wants to hide a minister behind a designated deflector, that’s for the public to judge and the government to explain.
As for the way we elect our federal representatives, I’ve lately fallen for the idea of a ranked ballot. And unlike proportional representation or mixed-member proportional representation, I think a ranked ballot is something that could be widely accepted by the public and easily adopted.
(I’d happily be done with the monarchy, but, as Chantal says, it’s hard to imagine how that change would come about. If we’re looking around for things to abolish, it’d be more practical to focus on the Senate.)
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM - 0 Comments
Colin Horgan finds that an old accounting for the F-35 procurement seems to have disappeared.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Andrew Coyne calls for a one-time co-operation pact aimed at electoral reform.
There are a lot of reasons to prefer proportional representation — I’ve written about it often — but for the opposition parties there is one reason in particular: the current system heavily favours the Conservatives, as the party with the support of the largest single block of voters.So while I don’t see the case for merging the other parties, I do think there’s some merit in a proposal floated by the Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray: namely, a one-time-only electoral pact, for the sole purpose of changing the voting system. The Green Party has proposed something similar. And Nathan Cullen famously ran for NDP leader on an electoral cooperation platform. The details no doubt vary, but here’s how I can see it working. The opposition parties would agree on a single candidate to put up against the Conservatives in each riding. Were they to win a majority, they would pledge to govern just long enough to implement electoral reform: a year, two at most. Then fresh elections would be called under the new system, with each party once again running under its own flag, with a full slate of candidates.
Supporters of each party, therefore, would not have to give up their allegiance. Neither, for that matter, would reform-minded Conservatives. They could vote for the reform ticket this one time, then return to the Tory fold when it came to deciding who should represent them in a reformed Parliament.
I guess the theory is here at that the 2015 election could be an election about electoral reform. That strikes me as an odd notion. Are we going to suspend all other issues of consideration? Are the the Liberals, Greens and New Democrats going to put aside all other policy proposals? Are they going to promise, for the year or two it takes to implement reform, to not do anything else of consequence? Or are they going to have to agree on a unified platform? Could the general public be convinced to take electoral reform so seriously that all other policy issues would be secondary?
I also continue to find the idea of riding-level co-operation to be hopelessly problematic. To start, doesn’t the last federal election demonstrate the folly of trying to figure out ahead of time which party’s candidate has the best shot of winning? How many of the ridings that the NDP won for the first time in 2011 would have had a New Democrat candidate if a co-operation approach had been adopted two months before that election?
Alice Funke sees lots of practical issues. But how would this work politically? Having agreed to co-operate on nominating candidates, how tied to each other would the parties be? Could they still disagree amongst each other? Would they have to agree to refrain from attacking each other? Wouldn’t the Conservatives happily be able to exploit differences of opinion and attack the three as a united front—the NDP held responsible for any mistakes of the Liberals and vice versa? What if 200 Liberal candidates are nominated, but, mid-campaign, the Liberal leader is suddenly enveloped in some scandal?
On a local level, how sure are we that Liberal or Green voters will vote NDP or vice versa? What would be the impact locally in 2019 on a party not running a candidate in 2015? Wouldn’t sitting out a campaign in a given riding make it at least a little bit harder for a party to mount a campaign four years later?
As when Nathan Cullen proposed it, the idea still strikes me a too cute by half. I think people who want to see co-operation among the three non-Conservative parties might as well argue for a merger (though I don’t think that makes much sense right now) or the possibility of a coalition government. Joint nominations, in my mind, put you in no man’s land between those two ideas.
By John Geddes - Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 7:26 PM - 0 Comments
Late last year I sat in when Andrew Coyne—still with Maclean’s then before his return to writing his newspaper column for Postmedia— interviewed Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.
While the LSE-trained journalist quizzed the Oxford-educated central banker on the finer points of monetary policy, I found plenty of time to take in the portraits of past governors that grace the boardroom of the bank’s rather imposing, neoclassical headquarters in Ottawa.
I was mainly interested in the gaze of Andrew’s father, James Coyne, the bank governor from 1955 to 1961, who died at 102 last Friday. Just before the interview began, Andrew had mentioned how well he thought the official portrait caught his father’s natural expression—a rarity, I imagine, for that sort of formal sitting.
By John Geddes - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
Interesting debate over at the National Post between Andrew Coyne and Jonathan Kay over what to make of data that’s been interpreted as showing that Canadians are now on average richer than Americans.
Kay says this statistical trading of places challenges cherished assumptions of Canadian conservatives, who have long looked admiringly at the more freewheeling style of U.S. capitalism. Coyne counters that the apparent increase in Canadian household wealth relative to American averages is based, not on some advantage in Canada’s economic model, but on the recent rises in oil prices and the Canadian dollar, set against a plunge in U.S. real estate values.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:54 AM - 0 Comments
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for…
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867–1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust at the Politics and the Pen gala held in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier.
- Richard Gwen, Laureen Harper and Sen. Pamela Wallin.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister with National Defence, points with concern to the department’s use of a 20-year timeline for the F-35.
“That’s a known distortion,” Williams said. “If you have as your intent to be as open as possible, you don’t do that.”
There is no question that government and military intends the F-35 or whichever other aircraft replaces Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s to remain the country’s main aerial fighter until the middle of the century. ”It has to go for at least 30 years, which is our typical expectation,” Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps told a parliamentary committee on Sept. 15, 2010.
Williams says it’s not unusual to exclude expenses like personnel and fuel from projections, but Andrew Coyne contrasts Peter MacKay’s explanation with the Treasury Board guidelines.
… it is directly contrary to longstanding Treasury Board directives, which stress throughout that the costs of any acquisition must include “all relevant costs over the useful life of the acquisition, not solely the initial or basic contractual cost” (Contracting Policy, 2006). Among the costs deemed “relevant” are those related to “planning, acquisition, operating and disposal,” including forecast “modifications, conversions, repairs, and replacement.”
Specifically, an “acquisition decision that is based on the lowest purchase price but that ignores potential operations and maintenance (O&M) costs may result in higher overall costs,” it notes in Guide to Management of Materiel. Among the suggested considerations, in assessing operations costs: “Are all training costs included? Are the costs of fuel and lubricants included? Are all repair costs included?”
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 6:29 AM - 0 Comments
Ex-Colleague Coyne has an excellent column on the emerging political split between the resource-extracting parts of the country and the sentimental nationalists who think every drop of bitumen and chip of timber sent abroad makes baby Jesus cry. I noticed one snippet, though, which goes to show how even the most trend-aware and detail-oriented columnist (that’s what he is!) can be held prisoner by persistent images of the past: Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM - 0 Comments
In today’s National Post, Andrew Coyne ponders the sudden “hysteria” that has erupted around Vic Toews’ Lawful Access legislation. Why has this Internet snooping bill suddenly inspired so much debate, controversy and activity, when a near-identical version introduced in 2005 by the Liberals was barely discussed?
After considering all possibilities, Coyne nails it: it’s the Internet, stupid. But here’s what he gets wrong: “The Internet” does not exist. Teh Internets (sic) do. Coyne considers the value of “the online community as a political force.” Interchangeably, he refers to this community as “anonymous… digital vigilantes.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. …
Maclean’s 5th annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony at the Fairmont Château Laurier. See winners here.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 19 Comments
Here’s a stray bit of commentary from the distant past to mull over along with the news that the Harper government just might be willing to consider reforming Canada’s politically sacrosanct, economically dubious protection of poultry and dairy farmers:
“Price support is only a means; the end we seek should be a livable income for every citizen. And as a means, price support cannot be used systematically; for it naturally tends to prevent equilibrium of demand and supply.”
That’s from the six-page memo “On Price Support for Commodity Surpluses,” written by very junior civil servant named Pierre Trudeau in 1949, when he was briefly assistant to Gordon Robertson, the head of the Privy Council Office’s economics division. His sensible advice on the economics of agricultural and fisheries is quoted in the new biography Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman, 1944-1965 by Max and Monique Nemni.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 2 Comments
Debating the impact of the attacks and how it changed Canadian life, laws and liberties
Last week in St. John’s, Maclean’s and CPAC hosted a round-table conversation entitled, “How has 9/11 changed our world?” In this wide-ranging discussion of the emotional, practical, political and cultural fallout in the decade following the attacks, Maclean’s columnists Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells were joined on the stage by David Collenette, Canada’s minister of transport at the time of 9/11 attacks, Sukanya Pillay, director of the national security program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Tarek Fatah, political activist, author, broadcaster and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. The discussion was moderated by CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen. The following is an edited excerpt.
Andrew Coyne: I don’t know what future historians will make of the grand sweep of September 11 and its place in world history, but there’s no doubt the last 10 years of our lives have been in the shadow of it and very much dominated by it. If there’s one thing that we should certainly remember on this anniversary it is the nature of the threat that al-Qaeda presented and still to some extent presents. It is, I think, unique and new, something new in world history, the combination of the willingness to inflict casualties on just an enormous scale, and the technological capacity married with it. I do think, though, we should, if we’re putting everything in the balance, take stock of the fact that 10 years later we have seriously degraded al-Qaeda’s capacity. We’ll discuss a lot of the pros and cons of how the battle has been fought, but I just want to leave people with the impression that it was a battle worth fighting, and it’s been broadly successful.
Paul Wells: The question before us is how did his happen, and I think it’s a combination of two things, extremism—or, to use a simpler term, evil—on one side, and complacency on the other. The extremism persists, and the complacency is gone, but it’s important to understand what those 19 men in those airplanes were trying to do: they were trying to provoke the West. The nature of asymmetrical warfare is you use the limited means at your disposal to essentially trip up a much larger and more powerful opponent, and to some extent those 19 men have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. We have to keep our vigilance up, we have to keep working. This is not a war that is going to go away just because a zero comes up at the end of the anniversaries. I think we are still in this for a very long time, which is why we have to make sure that, in defending our values, we don’t betray them.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, September 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 40 Comments
Andrew Coyne on how Layton inspired the public even in the shadow of death
In ancient Athens, attendance at the theatre was compulsory. The theatre was where the politics of the polis were acted out—not in the everyday sense of how to collect the garbage, but of what it was to be a man: social being, plaything of the gods, contested ground of character. It was the duty of the citizen legislator to watch, and reflect.
If the theatre is no longer where we conduct our politics, politics remains a kind of theatre: not only the arena for deciding who should have power, but a stage on which we see acted out great questions of character and judgment, some of which might find some echo in our own lives. We watch the players struggle—against each other, against their fates, against themselves—and we reflect.
So it was as we watched Jack Layton dying. It is his death, of course, that the last week was about. Had we been marking merely his retirement from politics, and not his passing from the Earth, there would not have been anything like the same reaction. That he was a fine man, dedicated to important causes, decent with others; that he had a successful career, a loving family, in all a full life: all of these would explain why so many people were fond of him. They do not explain why thousands filled the streets.
By John Geddes - Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 12:25 PM - 16 Comments
How much can a government afford to cut spending if economic growth is tepid? It’s a question Finance Minister Jim Flaherty must be asking himself these days, poor guy. No doubt Flaherty would like to keep cutting to shrink the deficit, but as the economy weakens, he’s coming under pressure for another round of stimulus spending.
This was not a problem then-finance minister Paul Martin faced back in the mid-1990s. In those days, economic growth was bettering all expectations, and spinning off more tax revenues that Martin’s fiscal strategists foresaw. I’ve argued this helped him mightily in his deficit-shrinking task, easing the need to reduce spending.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 12:21 PM - 20 Comments
The best cat fight on the Hill
Why this MP needs a lot of coats
Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan keeps boxes of toothpaste at her constituency office. Because she represents Etobicoke North, one of the poorest ridings in the country, she has turned her office into a quasi drop-in centre for those in need. During the winter, she keeps a collection of donated coats because some constituents come jacket-less to her office in freezing temperatures. About 65 people a day come through. (Duncan keeps only one staffer in Ottawa so she can have more in Toronto.) One of those seeking help was particularly memorable: a woman named Linda came in with a crumpled brochure the MP had distributed, which said, “We can help.” Linda had been severely abused by her husband, was terminally ill, and had no official status in Canada. “You said you would help,” she said. Duncan asked Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to give her special status so she could receive palliative care and he did. When Duncan visited Linda in the hospital, she brought her a necklace: “I don’t think she had anything that sparkled in her life.” Linda said she had a gift in return and sang a song to her visitors. Before she died the nurses helped make a recording of her singing, and Duncan helped set up an endowment fund at a shelter in her memory.
Jason versus Justin
The next election will be a battle for the hearts of Canada’s ethnic communities. Things have heated up between Liberal immigration critic Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Trudeau attacked Kenney for mixing partisan politics and government business with such things as award certificates. (In 2009, Ottawa Chinese restaurateur Yang Sheng got one “for creating an authentic multicultural dining experience.”) Then when Trudeau evoked his father’s name in question period, Kenney went for blood: “Mr. Speaker, let me tell members what his father did with immigration when we hit a recession, led by the Liberals, in the early 1980s. He slashed immigration to 80,000. Our government has maintained historically high immigration levels during the recession. In terms of social justice, his father’s government refused to apologize to Chinese Canadians for the head tax, to the Ukrainian Canadians for their internment, to Japanese Canadians for their internment, or for the shame of the Indian residential schools, unlike our Prime Minister.” Kenney has spent a lot of time working with ethnic communities who have, he has noted, “conservative values” but who vote Liberal. The minister has mastered the art of eating all sorts of cuisine, including getting out of difficult culinary situations by keeping a napkin in his pocket to help make some delicacies that don’t agree with his stomach discreetly disappear.
Power to 16-year-olds
NDP MP Don Davies recently introduced Bill C-634, a private member’s bill that would see the federal voting age lowered from 18 to 16. Davies says that with voter turnout getting more dismal, a “get them while they are young” approach will hopefully work. Davies notes his main rationale for lowering the voting age is that 16-year-olds work and pay taxes in most provinces. In some, he says, it is even lower. Davies says he took as his inspiration the famous American Revolution phrase: “no taxation without representation.” It’s an idea that has been tried before in Parliament, but Davies hopes this time it will see success.
Layton, Chow and the election
Last week pundits were mixed about the chances of an election. On CBC’s The National, the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert thought yes, while Andrew Coyne of Maclean’s said no way. The panellists agreed, though, that Jack Layton was skilled at keeping people guessing which way his party would go. Maybe Layton’s wife provided a clue. Toronto MP Olivia Chow secured her campaign office last week.
By John Geddes - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 8:44 PM - 8 Comments
I read my colleague Andrew Coyne’s impassioned, insightful “Is Canada a nation?” item, and remembered posting on closely related questions back in November 2006, just after Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed his motion on the nationhood of the Québécois. For what it’s worth, here it is:
The word nation does not have a very secure place in the rhetoric of Canadian patriotism, at least not as a label to be applied to the whole country. Arguably the most important early use of the word in Canadian political discourse came in Sir John A. Macdonald’s sage 1856 letter to William Chamberlin, an English Montréaler, on the need to respect the “nationality” of the French Canadians. “Treat them as a nation and they will act as a free people generally do—generously,” Macdonald famously wrote.
There can be no more favourable light than the warm glow of that quote in which to consider Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motion in the House of Commons, easily passed on Monday, recognizing the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 4:47 PM - 34 Comments
Columnists Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne discuss the prospects for democracy
RELATED: Maclean’s special report ‘Portrait of a tyrant: the life and times of Hosni Mubarak’
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:04 AM - 39 Comments
Paul Wells’ and Andrew Coyne’s weekly podcast is back