By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
Meanwhile, the Canadian Liver Foundation tweets.
And releases a statement.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is grateful for Mr. Trudeau’s past support of our fundraising efforts. Liver disease is a serious national health issue which does not receive enough attention.
The footage used in the recent political ad was filmed at the Canadian Liver Foundation’s What a Girl Wants fundraiser held November 17, 2011 in Ottawa. Mr. Trudeau was willing to not only attend our event but also generously donate a lunch to be auctioned off to raise funds for liver disease research and education. This auction item raised $1,900 and the event raised $128,000.
The Foundation believes Mr. Trudeau should be applauded for his commitment to an important health issue that affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians.
Paul Wells considers the political strategy at play.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 5, 2013 at 10:05 AM - 0 Comments
Mr. Harper’s party wants him to grow a bigger, more durable long-term coalition, one that attracts more women, more urban, and more centrist voters. His assurances that the question of abortion will not be re-opened are not incidental; they a foundation stone of this effort. In that sense, paradoxically, last week’s muzzle debate was probably not harmful to his interests.
Still, the cumulative effect of too much message management is a weaker, less vibrant political system, and change would be welcome. Whether or not you share Mark Warawa’s views on abortion, who wants a Parliament where he has no ability to state them?
Chris Selley considers the way forward.
How did we get here? In a column in the Ottawa Citizen this week, William Watson proposed that it’s simply our own fault: Modern Canadian journalism goes haywire at any deviation from the “Toronto media mainstream” — even when a party leader makes it clear that the deviation represents only the opinion of one backbencher. Alberta’s Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith tried the big-tent approach when a pastor candidate expressed Biblically inspired negative views on homosexuality; it didn’t go so well; now she demands obedience just like everyone else. Leaders must be “dictatorial,” said Mr. Watson, or perish.
I don’t buy it. What Canada needs, first of all, are leaders who are willing to respect their legislatures and to articulate a defence of their most basic procedures. And second of all, they need leaders with enough charisma and perspicacity simply to dismiss shrieky news reports and opposition hysterics. The ability to scoff or laugh off silly controversies is a huge political asset, and in this hyperbolic age a rare one. Mr. Harper certainly doesn’t have it.
Here is what I wrote in response to William Watson’s column.
Meanwhile, the riding associations of some of the Conservative backbenchers involved seem supportive.
New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson, who on March 28 backed Warawa’s right to speak, also seems to have support from his local riding group. “I think he’s doing a wonderful job,” said Lynn Thornton, president of the New Brunswick Southwest electoral district association. “There are certain rights that everyone has and he’s speaking up for that right.”
“I think it’s a great thing,” said Doug Williams, vice-president of the New Brunswick Southwest EDA.
As a general principle, I imagine voters would generally prefer MPs who possessed an ability for independent thought. Whether voters would necessarily support those expressions of independent thought would obviously depend on the thought expressed and there remains the support a political party could withhold from a candidate and the difficulty an independent candidate has in getting elected. (How many of even the most admirable members of Parliament would have struggled to get elected without a party affiliation?) But the hope here is that more expressions of independent thought—and more space for independent thought—might make the individual candidate and MP a more relevant factor, not simply in Parliament, but also, ultimately, to voters.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley points to one part of C-45, last year’s second budget implementation act.
Until C-45 passed, reserves wishing to lease off parts of their land to businesses had to obtain the consent, in a referendum, of 50%-plus-one members, with a quorum of 50%. If that failed, a second referendum could be launched, and the plan approved with a simple majority, no quorum. Now a single simple majority vote is all that’s needed. Some native leaders object to this amendment on principle. But many others support the changes as a way of streamlining a process that can take years, during which time reserves are at a huge disadvantage in attracting new businesses compared to surrounding communities that are subject to no such process. (Here’s a crazy idea: Why can’t reserves decide the process for themselves?) At the Aboriginal Affairs Committee on Nov. 19, representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Tax Commission, the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board and the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association all expressed support for untangling land designations.
But the democratic process that led to these amendments came in for a pounding, both from otherwise supportive witnesses and opposition politicians. Andrew Beynon, the witness from the Aboriginal Affairs department, conceded that there had been no “extensive consultation process,” and that he had never before seen such a sensitive matter crammed into an omnibus bill. Suspicion is warranted any time a government tries to slip something by you in a giant document without asking your opinion.
Two First Nations from Alberta are seeking to challenge C-38 and C-45 in federal court on the grounds that they were not consulted, but their concerns seem to be primarily with the changes made to the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Structural reform to limit the ability of a government to table and pass omnibus legislation is probably necessary—if you take the opinion that such bills are a problem and that actual, codified reform is the only way to establish change—but I wonder whether we might reach a point at which the practice is more trouble than it is worth: that what is gained by a government in getting to do what it wants to do in a relatively expedient manner is surpassed by the consternation that results. Does the very idea of omnibus legislation become poisoned? Or can you eventually exhaust the public (and perhaps critics) into accepting that this is how business is done?
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:23 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley mocks Justin Trudeau’s latest comments on the gun registry.
On Sunday Team Trudeau tried to soften the blow. Liberals supported the registry, a spokeswoman told Sun Media, “given the absence of any responsible approach to gun violence by this government.” Now that they lost the fight, now that “the registry and its data are gone, … we now have to develop a new approach.”
Rubbish. There is no way to square Mr. Trudeau’s previous statements with his current position. The portentous, reverential terms in which Mr. Trudeau, Dr. Bennett and so many other Liberals described the registry a year ago, and before, demand they either support its re-establishment now or explain why they were in error before. Or they would if this was a debating society; in politics, you can change your mind, fudge your reasons outrageously and never have to say you’re sorry.
I’d still like Mr. Trudeau to explain his latest remarks, but Chris is right that the “portentous, reverential terms” in which the gun registry was described don’t really square with the word “failure.” The Liberal position in 2010 and 2011 was that the registry was necessary, but flawed (see page 56 of the party’s platform). And thinking about it last night, my feeling was there was a little bit of wiggle room left by Mr. Trudeau’s qualifier (“as it was”) and the lack of an explanation as to how precisely the gun registry had failed. Failed politically? Failed entirely? (Though I do enjoy pointing out contradictions, I also do tend to fuss over the details.) But maybe I was unnecessarily splitting hairs. Thinking about it now, my feeling is Chris is right: you can’t really say the gun registry “saved lives” and say it was a “failure.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 11:17 AM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley calls for a move to a ranked ballot.
In the longer term, however, there is a simple and bloody obvious solution to all of this, which is to hold an instant runoff election, using a ranked ballot, in each riding. Non-winning candidates are disqualified in succession, and their votes redistributed, until one has 50%. That way, everyone who goes to Ottawa does so with a majority mandate from his or her constituents. No partisans need be denied their candidate. Citizens needn’t be denied a robust debate between as many different views as desire to be heard. And people who don’t want to vote for anyone but the Greens, or the New Democrats or Conservatives, needn’t do so: They can mark a single X and head home.
No new electoral districts or ridings. No “list members,” who represent nobody but their party. Just the same old House of Commons, but populated using a fuller, more thoughtful, more pragmatic and more democratic expression of voters’ wishes.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 2:39 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley isn’t impressed with the NDP’s web ad, but encourages mockery.
I remain convinced that the same basic message can be conveyed more simply and devastatingly with politicians’ own words, not journalists’. The issue here is cap-and-trade. And the damning evidence is right there in the 2008 Conservative platform … whatever occurs between now and 2015, highlighting the absurd excesses of Conservative behaviour should be to their opponents’ advantage. Laughter is the last noise politicians ever want to hear when they aren’t telling a joke.
See previously: Attacking the attacks
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM - 0 Comments
Is he lying, manipulating? Is he sincere? Search me. If it’s a calculated routine, it’s a complicated one. The fact is, we simply don’t know what’s going on in Omar Khadr’s head, his political thoughts, his potential for violence, his chances for successful integration in Canadian society. Anyone who tells you otherwise — certain he’s a bomb waiting to explode, certain he’s a gentle lamb — is simply grasping at his preferred straws.
Never mind humanitarianism for now. The smart public safety play, from the day of his capture under a Liberal government, was to take an active interest in precisely these questions, in hopes of him coming home, as he must, as well-adjusted and pacified as possible. At every turn, Ottawa has rejected that approach, and no doubt there are more stall tactics to come. Personally, my hunch is that he is not particularly dangerous. But I’d rather wager as little of my safety on that as possible. If he is, in fact, a threat, it’s hard to see the advantage, in Dr. Welner’s memorable phrase, of him continuing to “marinat[e] in a community of hardened and belligerent radical Islamists” at Guantanamo Bay.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Politics relies on heroes and the deluded support of its partisans, of course, but we shouldn’t cheer each new delusion. The NDP are not fighting for John Lennon’s dream world. They’re fighting for the prime minister’s office by moving to the centre — a process Layton spearheaded.
He wasn’t a hero, wasn’t a saint. He was an uncommonly skilled retail politician who gained respect for practicing a brand of politics that was less greasy and vulgar and off putting than his opponents’. That’s not nothing. It’s quite a lot, really. I don’t begrudge anyone a good vigil. But ringing bells in towers for a nice guy and and a very good politician just seems a bit … much.
My contribution to the discussion is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 1:53 PM - 0 Comments
Over the last two weeks, the odd debate about Stephen Harper’s religion has wandered off in various directions.
Mr. Martin worries that faith is supplanting “reason.” I think “reason” is too far down the list of important policy-drivers in Ottawa to care very much. Politicians believe all sorts of stupid things for all sorts of stupid reasons. In the end, I fail to see the point of all this speculation … well, unless it’s to bash conservatives and evangelicals for sport. Democracy provides us with a wonderful opportunity, every four years or so at the most, to judge politicians for what they do. What does it matter why they do it?
As someone who supports rational, scientific, evidence-based policy making – at least as an ideal – I see a government which often chooses a different path for what often seem inscrutable reasons, or at least unspoken ones. If the Harper government has a better explanation than it has adduced for ignoring the climate science, it should offer it up. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with posing sensible questions about what those reasons may be.
Harper does indeed make his decisions based on what might be called a religion. But it’s not Christianity, or Judaism, or paganism. Rather, it’s the one true faith for politicians world-wide; I call it The Holy Church of Winning Political Power.
All of this from the idle speculation of one writer (Andrew Nikiforuk) that the Harper government’s environmental policy is inspired by an evangelical rejection of climate science. Is it reasonable to probe the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs? Sure. Is is possible that his religious beliefs in some way inform his political actions? Sure. But is there any evidence that Mr. Harper’s environmental policy has been so influenced? No.
For that matter, is there a pattern of formulating policy according to religious doctrine that could lead one to believe his environmental policy was so influenced? I don’t think so. Has he previously acknowledged the science of climate change? Yes. Is there another, entirely plausible explanation—that the government’s environmental policies are in line with the wishes of an electorally significant plurality of voters—for the government’s actions? I’d suggest so.
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 6:53 AM - 0 Comments
I almost never disagree with Chris Selley. Indeed, I am almost willing to make it a rule not to disagree with Chris Selley. But his analysis yesterday of Brad Trost’s groping for more backbencher power in Parliament is uncharacteristically superficial. Selley celebrates Trost’s public ruminating over his inability to spurn the party whip on polarizing issues; wouldn’t it be nice, he asks, if we had a Conservative Party more like the eclectic, dissent-tolerating one in old Westminster? Perhaps it would be. But there is an awkward plain fact staring us in the face. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 0 Comments
He mentioned it in the same breath as other initiatives he has championed, such as beefing up language requirements, the citizenship test and the Citizenship Guide. “This is part of a broader action plan to invest greater value in Canadian citizenship,” he told CBC. But he also stressed, correctly, that this is no “technical or practical” tweak. “It is, rather, a matter of pure principle, which lies at the heart of our identity and our values with respect to openness and equality,” he said at a speech in Montreal.
It’s controversial, and he didn’t shy away. He expressed his personal distaste for the burka: “It’s a cultural tradition, which I think reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada,” he told CBC.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:44 AM - 35 Comments
Chris Selley blames Stephane Dion for the continued toxicity of coalition governance.
Coalition-demonizers like Stephen Harper tend to take more heat in the media than coalition-boosters like Mr. Dion. And the demonizers deserve what they get. It’s appalling that Canadian politicians and their supporters, who know perfectly well how Parliament works and would happily support a coalition if it favoured their side, will go around talking of coups d’état, pretending as if Canadian voters directly elect their governments…
That said, Mr. Dion and his backers did plenty of harm themselves. His coalition was hamstrung by the explicit support of the Bloc Québécois, but its even more fundamental problem was that Mr. Dion had promised not to form a coalition. This isn’t a minor policy flip-flop. We’re talking about someone promising never to become prime minister under certain circumstances, and then reneging. A promise is not nullified because it would have been awkward not to make it.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:52 AM - 15 Comments
Chris Selley says the New Democrats and Liberals should talk about a coalition before they talk about a merger.
… there’s very little standing in the way of such an arrangement except a little bit of leadership — legitimate coalitions cannot come from elections in which they’ve been explicitly disavowed — and, of course, an election result that makes it possible.
Both parties have much to do, if they’re to achieve such an outcome. But there’s no reason to believe they can’t do it separately and co-operate later, and plenty to like about having more choice in political parties rather than less. It would be a shame if one big idea was discounted in pursuit of another.
If memory serves, Jack Layton’s stance in the last election was that the NDP would work with any party in the House of Commons. If that position holds, the onus would seem to be on the Liberals to take a similarly open-minded position.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM - 18 Comments
Jason Kenney talks to the Post about his most-wanted list.
Back in 2003, the Liberals considered releasing a similar wanted list but decided not to. They said they were concerned about privacy and vigilantism. Why did your government go ahead with this now?
“I read about that. If indeed they took that position I think it was bizarre and irresponsible. The notion that a foreigner who illegally enters Canada, has been found by our legal system to be involved in the worst kinds of crimes possible, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, who is under a deportation order and a warrant — the notion that such an individual enjoys the same privacy rights as a law abiding Canadian citizen is bizarre in the extreme. And the fact that people are concerned about this just shows the kind of ideological process obsession that some people have that overrides any consideration for the public interest or the integrity of our immigration system. So when this came to light, that we were not seeking the cooperation of the public, Minister Toews and I realized that this was a mistaken approach and that we had no privacy obligation to these individuals under the principles of both consistent use of information and public interest. And under the Privacy Act, we felt there were entirely reasonable grounds to release this information.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 4:13 PM - 23 Comments
Picard offers lots of reasons why he thinks it should be no big deal for Layton to come clean, or why it would be nice. But the aforementioned are the only explanations we see in there for why he actually has a positive obligation to divulge the details — and we’re not even sure the first one’s true. Either the PM or opposition leader can perform his duties or he can’t. What would we do with the excess information?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
Chris Selley takes in Jack Layton’s announcement.
Looking back on the day, my dominant thought is: Wow. So that’s what it’s like to be a high-profile public figure and get cancer. Bad enough your component cells are conspiring to murder you, now you’ve got a pack of hounds dissecting your every utterance and demanding to know your most intimate medical details. It’s awful. And yet, it matters. Mr. Layton and his party matter, far more now than ever before. Canada needs its leader of the opposition. And the NDP doesn’t just need a leader — it needs Mr. Layton…
Nothing any journalist, politician or press flak says will change what happens. But if I had to pick an optimistic moment from the press conference, it would be a wry little smile that crossed Mr. Layton’s face when he spoke, in both English and French, of “replac[ing] the Conservative government, a few short years from now.” Haggard as he appeared, he very much seemed to be imagining himself not as an ill leader of the opposition, but as a fit prime minister. The man’s never wanted for optimism. And he is, after all, on a winning streak.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 9:59 AM - 10 Comments
Chris Selley profiles Jack Layton.
Still, it’s hard to envision anyone better suited to the job than a self-denying socialist with a history of both compromise and getting what he wants out of people. Indeed, that’s what the NDP hoped Mr. Layton could do when they chose him, in 2003, as their leader: Just win, baby … And for Mr. Layton, it’s not just a personal and professional triumph — a place in the history books, if nothing else, as one of Canada’s most popular politicians in an age of crippling apathy. It’s a thumping repudiation of the sneering tactics his political opponents have confidently used against him throughout his career. Call him a pinko; call him a Taliban stooge; call him a waste of Canadians’ votes, if you want. You can reach him at Stornoway.
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, May 6, 2011 at 10:38 AM - 11 Comments
Chris Selley considers.
It’s easy, and frankly appropriate, to laugh at the gaggle of orange poteaux — “posts,” as Quebecers call cipher candidates — soon heading to Ottawa to take their seats as New Democrat MPs (and to move into their very first apartments!). But whatever their shortcomings, it’s safe to assume they’re full to bursting with idealism and self-esteem. Many of them aren’t long out of high school. Try to bully them and by God, they’ll probably call the police.
There’s 57 new NDP MPs from Quebec — almost 20% of the House of Commons. They have a real opportunity to make a difference in the way Parliament conducts its business.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 12:45 PM - 31 Comments
Chris Selley considers.
This is a terrific result for Canadian democracy. If the Liberals are to continue on as a political party, they must now confront the black hole where their raison d’être used to be. No more coats of spackle and parachute leaders. Rebuild for real or go away. The Conservatives, meanwhile, get to show us just what they’ll do with a majority. And if turns out to be less awful than New Democrats and Liberals have traditionally suspected, and they’re willing to admit it, our polity will be incalculably healthier for it.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 11:45 AM - 81 Comments
Chris Selley posts the context for the latest clipped quote to appear in an attack ad.
A couple months ago I posted the article from which Mr. Ignatieff’s “beer label” reference is drawn. Last month Dan Gardner considered the context for Conservative criticism of something Mr. Ignatieff had said about Canada’s peacekeeping reputation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 8:57 AM - 179 Comments
They’re in a tough spot these days partly because it’s impossible for them to mount the defense of their rhetoric that is true: “I am a frivolous person, and I don’t choose my words based on their meaning. Rather, I behave like the worst caricature of a politician. If you think my rhetoric logically implies that people should behave violently, you’re mistaken – neither my audience nor my peers in the conservative movement are engaged in a logical enterprise, and it’s unfair of you to imply that people take what I say so seriously that I can be blamed for a real world event. Don’t you see that this is all a big game? This is how politics works. Stop pretending you’re not in on the joke.”
Though the specifics and subjects are different, that sense of “humour” feels familiar. Read those last three sentences and consider how often they could be applied as a post script to what’s said here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 5:24 PM - 42 Comments
Chris Selley questions the medical wisdom of politicians.
It took some flaming cheek for Mr. Dosanjh and Ms. Duncan to claim that “disregarding experts is a dangerous precedent” in an op-ed that involved disregarding — not to mention disrespecting — literally dozens of medical practitioners and researchers. But precious few politicians are capable of resisting the lure of emotionally charged issues, and the opportunities they afford to care out loud. From this appalling cynicism, there seems very little hope of liberation.
For the record, there are four physicians in the House of Commons: Liberals Carolyn Bennett, Hedy Fry, Keith Martin and Bernard Patry.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 9:06 AM - 25 Comments
Chris Selley runs the numbers on homicide.
Statistics Canada data show that in 2009, just 18.1% of “solved” homicides — meaning those in which a suspect was identified — were committed by someone unknown to the victim. That’s 82 murders, total. (If the same rate held true among unsolved homicides as well, the total number would be 110.) … There were 515 homicides in Canada in 2007. More likely ways to die included not just the traditional heart disease (50,499 deaths), suicide (3,611) and motor vehicle accidents (2,882) but such un-newsworthy occurrences as pneumonia (5,272), renal failure (3,664) falling down (2,677), poisoning (1,347) and skin cancer (875).
By Paul Wells - Monday, December 28, 2009 at 9:05 PM - 97 Comments
Our old friend Chris Selley keeps asking embarrassing questions from his perch at the National Post. This time it’s: How come Ezra Levant is so proud of the bold, courageous, makes-a-guy-proud-to-be-Conservative stance against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel-ism that Jason Kenney took by defunding an ecumenical group called Kairos — when Jason Kenney denies that the government’s decision to cut funding to Kairos had anything to do with its stance on Israel?
You can make an excellent case that church groups don’t need government funding for their assorted projects or that Kairos is lavishly over-subsidized. But Jason Kenney didn’t make that case when he bragged about his government’s refusal to fund it in Israel. Alternatively, you can make an eloquent case that Kairos’s stance on Israel disqualifies it from public subsidy. But Kenney now claims the government doesn’t believe that. It’s a bit of a tangled affair; Selley tells it better than I can, here, but I want to say that I agree both with his understanding of the facts and the conclusions he draws.
There’s no real downside to this affair for the Harper government. People who want Kairos lavishly funded are probably not numerous outside the organization’s own offices; the government’s decision to cut funding will probably find few detractors and plenty of fans. Ezra actually seems to have caught Kairos retroactively covering up some of the positions on Israel that seemed to be getting Kairos into trouble with the Conservatives. (UPDATE: This allegation is contested, in my opinion credibly, here.) But again, apparently Kairos needn’t bother, because Kenney now wants us to ignore the plain meaning of his Israel comments on Kairos. Apparently the group’s views on Israel had nothing to do with anything.
Again, the government’s funding decision probably won’t hurt it. The five-alarm gong show Kenney kicked off is a mere anecdote.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:20 AM - 90 Comments
Maybe we have trouble telling our own stories because so many we try to tell are false
If you missed the CRTC hearings the other week, don’t worry. The exciting plans to annex the Internet to the cheerless wasteland of CanCon enforcement were justified under the usual refrain of Trudeaupian boosterism: we have to create space for Canadians to tell their own stories.
Personally, whenever I hear that line, the only plot twist I’m in the mood for is: “And then I woke up, and it had all been a bad dream.” But, assuming you’re of a more indulgent bent, the question then arises: why do Canadians have such difficulty telling their own stories?