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Canadian Politics

Trudeau’s rise jeopardizes Harper’s tenure

Posted April 21, 2014 by Anonymous

Justin Trudeau has been leader of the federal Liberal party for one year.
How is he doing?
Somewhat better, I think, than most people had anticipated. Although he has not taken the country by storm, neither has he wilted in the glare of public a…

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A Liberal Party Mess in the Making

Posted March 17, 2014 by CuriosityCat
A man of principle

This is a mess. Justin Trudeau and his advisors had better get on to this debacle post haste, reveal all the facts and communications, and make sure the principle of open nominations is adhered to. If we start retreating from opennes and transparency before the election is here, we will not form the next government.

And congratulations to Zach Paikin for taking a principled stand (my underlining):
But a letter sent to Innes by Liberal national election readiness chief David MacNaughton and obtained by the CBC has suggested the move may have been driven by a desire to protect one of Trudeau’s star candidates, Chrystia Freeland.
According to the letter, MacNaughton said the party would have supported Innes’s nomination if Innes agreed not to run in the same riding as Freeland in 2015, when ridings are due to be reorganized.
The letter says Innes rejected the proposal “out of hand.”
In an interview with The Ottawa Citizen, Paikin said it was always known that Trudeau had identified preferred candidates in some ridings, “and if he wanted to campaign for some of those favourites, that would be his prerogative.”
“But once you start blocking candidacies, you go down a slippery slope,” Paikin said.
In his letter, Paikin drew a parallel between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Liberal party’s rejection of Innes’s candidacy, writing: “Stephen Harper is ‘Exhibit A’ of what happens when a leader compromises on his democratic principles in order to win power.”
Time is of the essence.
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Conservative Party

The question of leadership

Posted February 27, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Now that’s my kind of Leader!

Much ado was made this week about Liberal Party leader and (perhaps) Prime-Minister-in-waiting Justin Trudeau’s gaffe of a failed Olympic hockey joke in reference to the ongoing civil unrest in Ukraine. Of course other parties jumped all over it, turning an insensitive remark into major fodder for domestic attack politics, completely divorced from any actual concern for the Ukrainian plight which continues unnoticed among our own recriminations.

The narrative is that if Trudeau can say something so offensive, then clearly he isn’t fit to lead the country. Because a true leader must always say the right thing and make the right decisions, and quickly, too, or we all suffer. Right?

Well, I guess that’s the case, if your model of leadership is a single person who makes all the key decisions himself and does all the talking for us. But is that what we really want or need in a leader? Do we want to put all our eggs in one basket, and leave everyone else out? Not me. I live in a nation growing in size and diversity. As we do, it becomes less possible for any single person to represent us all at once, to take into consideration all our many and diverse needs and interests and decide our course for us. Good decisions are group decisions.

We truly do need better leadership than is on offer, but not in the one-for-all fashion these narratives suggest. The best decisions aren’t made by the single wisest, most mature, most experienced, or most charismatic leader; they are made when many of us share concerns and find consensus together. Our political system is actually designed for this, with each far-flung community electing their own local spokesperson to take their concerns to Ottawa, to gather with over three hundred other such local spokespersons and find, together, the solution that works best for all of us. This isn’t supposed to be lightning-round, either; laws are meant to take days, weeks, months or even in some cases years of careful deliberation and revision before being imposed, sufficient time for these hundreds of local representatives to examine all sides, see all views incorporated, correct mistakes and redress omissions. To talk until everything has been said, then decide.

I don’t want one person to make the one, right decision in every situation and then tell me what it is. That’s not a leader, that’s a dictator. I want someone to listen to my concerns, and your concerns, make sure all stakeholders are part of the process, and help us make the best decisions together. The leader’s job isn’t to decide, but to make us decide. Ensure that important issues (like, for instance, the climate crisis) are discussed and dealt with, not ignored or left for future generations. Make sure experts, taxpayers, citizens, victims, benefactors, and all other stakeholders take part in deciding. Then the leader carries out that decision.

With that vision of leadership, what matters most isn’t experience or knowledge or a confident voice to drown out the rest, but a commitment to process and an ability to listen and ensure everyone is heard.

Sadly, this kind of leadership is neither supported nor rewarded in our current hyper-partisan winner-takes-all approach to politics, so none of the major parties currently offer that kind of leader, nor does it look like they will any time soon. And that’s the real leadership failure: the kind we need most of all is the kind we’re least likely to get.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “None of the major parties offer ideal leadership
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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Liberal Party Convention: The Most Important Policy Resolution

Posted February 18, 2014 by CuriosityCat
In my view, the single most important policy resolution at this week’s convention in Montreal is the prioritized number 31, which should significantly reduce our democratic deficits.
That resolutionreads:
31. Priority Resolution: Restoring Trust in Canada’s Democracy*
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Liberal Party pursue political reforms which promote:
  • Open, democratic nominations of candidates;
  • Fewer “whipped” votes in Parliament and more “free” votes requiring individual MPs to assume full responsibility for their decisions;
  • Stronger Parliamentary control over public finances, including an annual deadline for the budget; accounting consistency among the Estimates and the Public Accounts; more clarity in voting on Estimates; a costing analysis for each government Bill; and a requirement that government borrowing plans must get Parliament’s pre-approval;
  • A truly independent, properly resourced Parliamentary Budget Officer;
  • A more effective Access-to-Information regime with stronger safeguards against political interference;
  • An impartial system to identify and eliminate the waste of tax-dollars on partisan advertising;
  • Careful limitations on secret Committee proceedings, Omnibus Bills and Prorogation to avoid their misuse for the short-term partisan convenience of the government;
  • Adequate funding, investigative powers and enforcement authority to ensure Elections Canada can root out electoral fraud;
  • Pro-active disclosure of parliamentarians’ expenses, a more transparent Board of Internal Economy and better audit rules;
  • A truly independent Senate not based upon partisanship or patronage;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.
Liberal Caucus
(*) The democratic reform agenda described in this resolution represents a compilation of ideas developed by the Leader and the Caucus over the past year. Canadians want their Members of Parliament to be effective voices for their communities in Ottawa, and not merely mouthpieces in their communities for an all-too-powerful Prime Minister. Our goal must be greater transparency, accountability and participation in Canada’s political system, and fewer abuses which undermine the confidence of citizens and voters in the quality of their democracy.
The provision for an all-party commission to review significant electoral reform is the single most substantial step our country will take since the 1981 Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At long last, we have a chance of moving into modern democractic practices.
Please consider supporting this resolution in any way you can.
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Liberal reformers

Posted January 29, 2014 by Nancy Leblanc

A few thoughts here on today’s announcement by Justin Trudeau that Liberal Senators will no longer be part of the Liberal caucus and are now to sit independently.

One of Trudeau’s lines that stood out for me was this one: “At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers.” Recently, on the death of Jim Coutts, an opinion piece he wrote in 2004 was circulated, and in it, we found this:

“The current policy markers of the Liberal party have evolved over time and are fairly familiar to many Canadians. The most crucial Liberal markers are these:
  1. Reform, which is so central to Liberal identity that it was the party’s name up to and during the leadership of George Brown. The marker has stood for political reform, ranging from the introduc- tion of responsible government under Baldwin and Lafontaine, to battling ruling-class power and patronage abuse at the time of Brown, Mackenzie and Blake, to entrenching a constitutional Charter of Rights under Trudeau. Since the 1920s, the Liberal reform marker has most importantly sig- nified social reform, or the cre- ation and improvement of a modern welfare state.”

Today we saw a big bout of reform in the form of a Senate that would be independent, in Trudeau’s words:

That is why I have come to believe that the Senate must be non-partisan. Composed merely of thoughtful individuals representing the varied values, perspectives and identities of this great country. Independent from any particular political brand.

Trudeau’s reform will likely come off as reasonable to many Canadians. It is not the radical abolitionist approach of the NDP which would require constitutional reform. It is not the Conservative supposed pro-reform approach that has gone nowhere for their seven years in power and that would also likely require constitutional reform.

Trudeau’s reform looks at the Senate, and proposes an approach that will not tear it down, but make fair use of a second chamber. In the Westminster system, it would be anomalous not to have a second chamber. The direction suggested, a more merit-based approach is a good one that speaks to the times. This reform, as Trudeau is suggesting, could be infused with principles of merit, competency, and transparency, to bolster the credibility of the Liberal proposals. And this Liberal would suggest ensuring that the appointment process be free from an elite-based orientation.

To be sure, there will be wrinkles to iron out. Senator Campbell spoke to some of these today: He also questioned how the Senate will function in terms of their role in scrutinizing government legislation. He questioned, for instance, who will sit on committees and who will be named critics of which bills. 

Ensuring that the elected representatives’ will is carried out and without blockage, is another consideration to be grappled with. And perhaps with that consideration in mind, note Trudeau’s last line in his remarks today:

We want to build public institutions that Canadians can trust, and that serve Canadians. This requires real, positive change. These proposals are the next step in our Open Parliament plan to do just that.

They won’t be the last.

This may be a nod to the democratic reform resolution that the federal Liberal MP caucus has proposed as one of its priority resolutions to be voted upon at the upcoming February biennial policy convention in Montreal, less than a month away now. That resolution, Bolstering Canada’s Democracy, contains this operative proposal:

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, the Liberal Party of Canada institute an all-Party process, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with analysis and recommendations for an electoral system including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent all Canadians more fairly and to allow Parliament to serve Canada better.

Senate reform without reform of our House of Commons would be incongruent. The above proposed resolution would be the beginning of addressing the imbalance that would result if the Senate were reformed without a similar effort being made in respect of the House of Commons. As bad as some of the practices and appointments connected to the Senate have been, the pressing need for reform lies in the House of Commons. Electoral reform to change the system in which we operate is one route. Michael Chong’s reform which accepts the system yet changes the rules is another. The good news is that reform in a big way is on the agenda for Canada.

Liberals are re-embracing reform as a mantle. All in all, a positive development today.

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