Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Here we are on the eve of the Liberal leadership convention, so since I have pretty much stayed out of the fray on the leadership race, I will add my conventional wisdom (sic) at this point.
I have to say, that I am glad that there actually was a race rather than a coronation. Conventional wisdom holds that when your party is in power, a smooth and uncontentious transition of leaders is the key to staying in power. Unfortunately that didn't happen last time. When you are in opposition, a vigorous contest with spirited debate around vision, values, directions, leadership and policies is called for. Thankfully, that is what we got. I also wanted the Liberal party to be liberal - no more liberal-lite. Imagine that - we got a slate of fairly progressive candidates. I am also very happy that the party has come up with a very agressive green agenda. I truely hope they adopt it. Conventional wisdom says people vote for their paycheques, not for the environment. With global warming, a change is quite literally in the air (and water, and ice).
There are four legitimate contenders with plausable winning scenarios. Regardless of the vitriol of the campaign, all are decent men (unfortunately, no women with a shot at winning), but all are damaged in some way. The front runner, Ignatieff, is renowned scholar, author and thinker. He is also a very inexperienced campaigner who has a habit of saying what he thinks at the moment without weighing the implications. He hasn't learned to be a politician. Politics amplifies the extremes; subtle nuanced arguments and explanations are death. Another problem with a candidate who is so well published is that there is and endless supply of his own material to throw at him. Iggy is probably the least progressive of the contenders. On the upside however, Iggy is still the front runner and has broad support in all regions. Convention wisdom says the front runner needs close to 40% on the first ballot.
Bob Rae is going to have to run away from his record as the NDP Premier of Ontario - a not so illustrious record to say the least. As a leader, this makes him politically vulnerable in Ontario. It also means that he is an experienced politician and governor. Conventional wisdom holds that party switcher must spend some time in the trenches before running for leadership. It is interesting how many of the party movers and shakers seem to have swung behind him. Rae and Ignatieff were friends prior to this campaign. Will they be afterwards? Rae has solid progressive credentials but seems to have positioned himself as a Tony Blair (except for the invading other countries bit), Bill Clinton "third way" social democrat. Convention wisdom is that the 2nd place contender must over take or tie the front runner on the 2nd ballot.
Stephane Dion has the right resume. A former cabinet minister from Quebec, the author of the party's Quebec sovereignty position and is acceptable to both the Martin and Cretien camps within the party. Conventional wisdom says the Liberal party alternates leaders from Quebec and English Canada. He is also an accomplished academic with a Ph.D. in sociology and has taught public administration, organization theory at Université de Montréal. I honestly don't know how progressive Dion is. His campaign literature talks about three pillars of social justice, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. He probably likes his mom and apple pie as well. Realistically, if the liberals are going to win the next election they need a strong showing in Quebec. Dion is probably the most capable of delivering this. Convention wisdom says that 3rd or 4th is not such a bad place in a four way contest.
Gerard Kennedy a former Minister of Education for Ontario rounds out the top four. Conventional wisdom says the Liberals must carry Quebec to form a majority government and must split with the Bloc to form a minority. Kennedy is the only candidate with roots in the west; he was born in Manitoba and went to University in Edmonton. While in Alberta, Kennedy founded the Edmonton food bank and has been the executive director of a Toronto food bank. Clearly social responsibility is a priority for Kennedy. The biggest knock on Kennedy is that his French is quite poor. However his wife is a fluent francophone, so he should have lots of opportunity to practice at home. Kennedy along with Ken Dryden took principled stands against recognizing the "national" status of Quebec. This along with his poor grasp of French does not bode well for the party's fortunes in Quebec. Convention wisdom says that 3rd or 4th is not such a bad place in a four way contest.
Of the remaining candidates, Ken Dryden has come off looking the most mature. While he certainly has name recognition, this campaign has demonstrated to people outside of Ontario that he is more than a hockey hall of famer. The man has substance, maturity, is well spoken and has a solid understanding of issues. At the very least he is ready for a senior cabinet portfolio (please not sport).
Posted by CoteGauche at 8:06 PM
Monday, November 27, 2006
Push polling is a technique used by political hacks to communicate a message (usually a distortion or even out right lie) in the form of a question or poll. The technique was notoriously used by Karl Rove in Bush's campaigns against incumbent governor Anne Richards in Texas and Senator John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination.
Todays poll question in the Globe and Mail is another, perhaps more subtle, example of a push poll. The question is rather simple. Do you agree that private clinics are a useful adjunct to Canada's health-care system? The results show that somewhere around 63% of respondents said yes to private clinics.
The problem is that they don't really set the context for the question. Private labs, private imaging clinics, private clinics offering laser eye surgery and private physician's practices have been a part of the Canadian health care landscape for years, and are broadly accepted by the public as well has public health care proponants. There is nothing controversial or even warranting of a poll question about private clinics of this nature. What is controversial is private surgical facilities and those which bill patients directly or over and above what they are paid by the provincial medical services plans. But the poll question does not make this distinction. From the appearances, 63% of Globe and Mail online readers are in favor or private health care delivery. That is the message they are communicating.
Posted by CoteGauche at 3:17 PM
Between Saturday evening and Monday morning, Vancouver was blanketed with up to 45cm of snow. Here in the city it looks more like about 20cm. The Vancouver School board has kept the schools open, but most other school districts and both Universities are closed today.
However as pretty as the snow looks from the comfort of our homes, many in the city without homes to go to spent a very miserable night seeking shelter where they could. With temperatures expected to drop to -8C overnight, the city's extreme weather response shelter program, working in cooperation with churches and non-profit agencies has opened approximately 400 additional extreme weather shelter spaces but assistance is still needed - primarily volunteers and blankets. If you have time, spare cloths (gloves, socks, boots etc.) or spare blankets, please contact any of the organizations at the following link and share your surplus with those who have little.
Posted by CoteGauche at 10:59 AM
Friday, November 24, 2006
With the resignation of moderate Dr. Joel Hunter as president of the Christian Coalition, the CC has now gone on record and said that they don't really care about poverty, homelessness, AIDS, health care, wealth and income disparities or the environment. Gay marriage and abortion are their core issues. In my opinion, and that of Dr. Hunter, the Christian Coalition has marginalized itself and is now positioned well to the right of mainstream evangelical values, let alone mainstream American values. If this is true, there now exists an opportunity for the Democrats to take these issues that have been wedge issues for the republicans for years and turn the situation around.
For years, the Republicans have tried to portray the Democrats as out of sync with American values, as anti-religion and anti-family. We all know this isn't true, but by using wedge issues such as gay marriage and abortion, they have often successfully made this connection. But does the average American realize how marginalized and out of sync Republican positioning on these so called wedge issues is? It would be an interesting polling experiment to determine if Republican leadership hopefuls for 2008 prioritize social issues in the same way the Christian Coalition does. I would like to ask prominent Republicans the following questions:
Each of the following groupings represents a values choice. Assuming in each case, you only have the influence, opportunity and political capital to implement one of these legislative accomplishments. In each case, which would you rather accomplish:
- Bans same sex marriage or ...
- Lift 10,000 people from poverty
- Ban embryonic stem cell research. or ...
- Provide affordible health insurance or health care to all Americans.
- Place justices on the Supreme Court who would over turn Roe Versus Wade. or ...
- Place justices on the Supreme Court who would restore the universal right of Habeus Corpus.
Issues of social responsibility - care for children, the poor, sick, elderly and disabled, stewardship of the earth and its resources, justice, equality, etc. are issues that Christians should care about, but that the republican party and groups like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family have abandoned. I think as Americans realize how out of touch with their values the GOP has become they may start to realize which party really stands for ALL families' values.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Via Daily Kos.
On October 20th, Talk to Action, a site that provides critical commentary on the religious right, reported on the selection of Dr. Joel Hunter, author of "Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly with Most Conservative Christians" and founding member of the Evangelical Climate Initiative - a group that supports action against global warming, as its new president, saying that the CC was trying to
rebuild itself into a more moderate and consensus seeking organization for a wider group of Christians with a broader agenda.
Well, that didn't last long as the Orlando Herald Tribune reports, Dr. Hunter, President Elect of the Christian Coalition resigned today citing "differences in philosophy and vision".
Hunter added "These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about. They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base. To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don't have a home right now."
Thank God there are still a few moderate conservative Christians with some integrity left.
Posted by CoteGauche at 9:33 PM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
This from Crooks and Liars, apparently right wing nutjob Glenn Beck and Fox News sold out shill for corporate greed Neil Cavuto are offended that the animated film Happy Feet contains insidious left-wing propaganda. What Beck and Cavuto seem to find offensive are themes and messages within the movie that deal with global warming. Imagine that - cartoons that are rooted in reality.
For Beck, Cavuto and those who prefer their animated movies set in the fantasy that 1950's consumerist values can be sustained into the future, might I suggest this classic animated film for your viewing pleasure.
Speaking of fantasy .. apparently Laura Ingraham (Rush Limbaugh's feminine side) thinks the popularity of Fox adventure drama "24" represents a national referendum supporting the torture of prisoners.
Posted by CoteGauche at 10:00 AM
Saturday, November 18, 2006
While Prime Minister Harper and Environment Minister Ambrose were putting the finishing touches on the Clean Air Act, on September 22, Minister of Natural Resources Garry Lunn's riding association was sponsoring a breakfast meeting at which Dr. Timothy Ball was the keynote speaker. Dr. Timothy Ball bills himself as Canada's first Ph.D in Climatology, one of Canada's foremost climate change deniers, and is infamous for saying that global warming would be good for Canada. When questioned about this meeting, Minister Lunn said he would not be attending, and that at future tr-riding breakfast meetings, other points of view would probably be represented.
First of all, Minister Lunn needs to understand that there are no other points of view on global warming. Global warming is real, human caused and will be catastrophic to the planet.
More importantly, if the Conservatives can not even get their own Cabinet (let alone caucus) on the same page with respect to climate change, how is Canada going to convince the world that we are committed to ANY action plan on green house gas emissions?
Posted by CoteGauche at 8:36 AM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Driving my kids to swimming lessons yesterday listening to CKNW radio in Vancouver. The host, I think it was Michael Smyth was interviewing Carole Taylor, the BC Minister of Finance. Most of the interview had to do with the efforts of Minister Taylor and the Premier to engage in dialogue with the province around budget priorities, particular in where to reduce spending to make education and healthcare more sustainable.
After brief interview, the host opened the phone lines for questions from listeners. One of the listeners made a statement more than a question for Ms. Taylor which I could expect from a listener, but the response blew me away. The statement went something like this:
We all know that when you cut taxes, that rather than decreasing government revenues, it actually increases revenues. Michael Campbell, the Premier's own brother has said this numerous times on this very station. Do you believe this? And if so, shouldn't BC be lowering taxes further?
As I said, the question was not so surprising, it was the response that blew me away.
Carole Taylor, the BC Minister of Finance responded by saying "Yes, absolutely! And provincial economy has responded robustly to the measures, including tax cuts we have implemented". Or something like that.
This idea that tax cuts increase revenues has become a part of the modern zeitgeist of popular economics ever since the Reagan era. But to anyone who has studied economics it is demonstrably false. The idea stems from the work of economist Arthur Laffer who described the Laffer Curve in a series of papers and books in the early 1980's including his seminal work, Foundations of Supply Side Economics - Theory and Evidence. in 1982. The Laffer Curve represents a theoretical relationship between tax rates and government revenues and is useful to a point. The two end points of the curve are well established. At 0% tax rate, government revenues are obviously 0. Also at 100% (or very high) tax rates, revenues are zero or close to zero as people have no incentive to work and will gravitate to the underground economy, or hide income. The important thing however is that there is little evidence to indicate what the shape of the curve is between these two end points. It is intuitive that at some point, increasing taxes yeilds dimishing returns as it decreases the incentive to work or declare income. But without knowing the shape of this curve or where on the curve the current tax regime lies, you simply can not say that incrasing taxes could yeild greater revenues. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that this disincentive to work only kicks in at very high tax rates.
So this brings us back to Finance Minister Taylor. I can understand members of the general public repeating this little gem of folklore, but for a Provincial Finance Minister to endore this fairytale is scary indeed.
Posted by CoteGauche at 11:35 AM
Friday, November 10, 2006
I am a little cautious about PM Harper's latest drive (sic) to allow the police to perform drug tests on individuals at roadside DUI stops. Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that drug impaired driving is a good thing. My cautious approach to this is about motivation and incentive.
I have to first of all question what the motivation behind this intiative is. Is drug impaired driving a significant cause of accidents? What do the data say? Well there are not a lot of data on the rates of driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. There are studies from the US and Australia that show illicit drugs, in combination with alcohol are detectable in anywhere from 10% to 20% of people arrested for alcohol related DUIs. The Consultative Document from the Government of Canada states that Section 253(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offense to operate a motor vehical while while your ability is impaired by the presence of alcohol or other drugs. Section 253(b) however does not establish legal limits for drugs other than alcolol detected in the blood.
But there are problems with this, and some of them are right in the same Consultative Document. First and foremost, there are no data to link a particular level of drugs other than alcohol in the blood to a level of impairment to operate a motor vehical. In fact, some drugs, such as caffeine and amphetamines actually improve alertness and responsiveness. This is one of the reasons that the US Navy and Airforce routinely gives amphetamines to fighter pilots on long patrol missions. Truck drivers also routinely dose with both or either caffiene and amphetamines. Other drugs such as canabis, while they impair your motor functions, they actually make you drive more cautiously and SLOWER. That doesn't mean you should smoke up before driving.
The test for many drug detect not only drugs that are active in your system, but the presence of the drugs in your system for days, weeks or months after use. A typical test for canabis can detect use as long as 90 days in the past - well past the point where it impairs your driving. If the experience from the world of sports is any indication, drug tests are also notoriously inaccurate. False negatives and false positives are common place.
Finally, there is also little need to put in testing for drugs. A roadside sobriety test detects impaired function - regardless of the intoxicant. This gives law enforcement officers all the tools they need to immediately get impaired drivers off the road. In the end, it is the impaired abilty to operate a motor vehicle that we want detect, not the presence of some compound in your blood stream.
So if there is no known crisis of drug impaired driving, the test are inaccurate and imprecise, and no evidence to link a detectable level of drugs to a level of impairment, then what is the motivation for this change to the criminal code? It is nothing more than a bone thrown to the conservative base to show that the new Conservative government is tough on crime - unlike the soft on crime liberals.
Testing for drugs raises the stakes for a DUI offence. One of the reasons that the 24 hour roadside suspension is so effective is that it removes any incentive to avoid, resist or fight prosecution or to mask detection. The immediate suspension gets the driver off the road - ending his/her risk to the public, and saves the courts the costs of prosecuting the large volume of cases that would otherwise be litigated to the bitter end. Adding drug testing to the mix, with the above mentioned inaccuracies and uncertainties, would virtually assure long and costly prosecution.
Arbitratry limits are generally ineffectual as behavioral incentives. If there is no connection between the indicator of a bad behavior (drug levels in the blood) and the behavior that we are trying to prevent (impaired driving) then people tend to simply accept the risk of getting caught because it is arbitrary. The police need probable cause to test you for drugs or alcohol. If your functioning is not impaired, the police have no cause to test for drugs. Similarly if your functioning is impaired but you test negative, what's the point?
Anytime you change a law, you change the incentives for self serving people (all of us) to abide by the law. We all flaunt the law and drive too fast from time to time. The reason we do this is because the punishment is not severe enough to give us an incentive to always stay below the speed limit. The reason the penalty is not higher, is because we have arrived at the point where the penalty (incentive) is sufficient to accomplish the public good. Habitual or excessive speeders pay a much higher cost than most of us occaisional or moderate speeders.
So with this in mind, what behaviour are we trying to incentive with the proposed ability of the police to test for drugs at DUI roadblocks? Are there significant numbers of drivers that are driving around high and causing accidents? If a failed road side sobriety test is sufficient in most jurisdictions for a roadside suspension, what do we hope to gain by dragging someone down to the station for a drug test. If the testing just results in more and longer prosecutions, have we gained anything? If there is no correlation between impairment and the legal limits for differnt drugs, the limits will be struck down (eventually) by the courts.
Let's see this for what it is, a bone thrown to the law and order types. If the conservatives want to do this, let them go ahead. There is little harm, but it is not going to make any real difference.
Posted by CoteGauche at 2:01 PM
So why are the next federal elections in Canada and the United States must wins for the Liberals and Democrats? At the risk of sounding alarmist, I really believe the future of the planet is at stake here.
1. Global Warming. Now I know, every time anyone posts something on Global Warming, the nut jobs start coming out of the woodwork spouting the pseudo-science spoon fed them by right wing think tanks and propaganda machines. But anyone who seriously doubts the reality of global warming is simply not paying attention to what is happening around them every day.
In BC, there is an area of dead forests the size of New Brunswick - caused by a natural pest, the mountain pine beetle. This bug is native to the northwest forests, but has historically been controlled by severe winter colds, which drastically reduce the beetle's populations. BC hasn't had the severe cold snaps (sub -40C for 2 weeks or more) for years. The total number of annual frost free days has increased by anywhere from 12 to 45 days per year since the 1950's. The annual average temperature in the interior of the province (where most of the pine forests are) has increase by 1.1C in the last 100 years.
Other BC indicators of warming include:
- The Helm Glacier in Garabaldi Park and the Illecillewaet Glacier in Glacier National Park have each retreated by over a kilometer in the last century. The Wedgemont Glacier in Garabaldi Park has retreated 200+ metres in the last 20 years alone.
- 100 year trend in later autumn freezing and earlier spring thaw in the north. This has a profound affect on Carribou migratory patterns as well as the spring/fall mixing cycle (and therefore nutrient content) of lakes which stratify in the summer and/or winter.
- Changes in river flow patterns. The Fraser, Thompson and Columbia river systems which drain over half of the province's land area have all experienced a steady trend in earlier and larger peak spring flows and lower summer and autumn flows. This equates to drier summers and increased spring flooding. Increased scouring from higher spring flows can also increase mortality of salmon smelt.
- Increased river temperatures. The average summer time temperature of the Fraser River (measured at Hell's Gate) has increased by 1.1C over the last 50 years. Higher water temperatures increase stress, exhaustion, infection and mortality in spawning salmon. This, combined with lower water levels has been devastating on wild salmon and steelhead populations with enroute mortalities of over 50% in several years in the last decade. The Columbia River, as a result of hydro electric projects has not been a significant salmon spawning river in BC and Washinton State since the 1950's.
Now no doubt someone is going to find something wrong with the above statements which I have summarized from publications such as Indicators of Climate Change for British Columbia 2002. If I have miss represented or overstaded something, in this case, the devil is not in the details but in the big picture. All of the trends indicate that we are running headlong into a cataclysmic natural disaster in our life times. While it is certainly true that the Liberals under Cretien and Martin lacked the courage to address climate change in a meaningful way, the Conservative's approach of criticizing the lack of progress by the Liberals, while boldly declaring that they intend to do even less is beyond irresponsible.
2. Sustainable Energy Policy. While this is somewhat related to global warming, it would still be a concern independent of global warming. We are simply consuming too much energy and sourcing too much of what we consume from non-renewable sources. People tell me that changing personal consumption behaviors is a hopeless cause. I'm not convinced of this. I get my motivation to change my consumption by looking at my young children and envisioning the world they are going to become adults in. Our planet was blessed with a one time endownment of a very special resource that took hundreds of thousands of years to develop and we have burned most of it up in less than 100 years. Leadership means looking past the next election cycle and doing what is right for the next generation - not just of Canadians and Americans, but of human beings.
There are very practical things that can be done right now. The first step should be to implement fuel economy and emission controls equivalent or better to those of California. The real alarmists are the auto industry apologists who claim that the technology to make more fuel efficient cars either doesn't exist or would bankrupt the auto makers. Japanese, Chinese, Korean and European auto makers seem to be doing okay, and all of these countries have higher emissions standards than Canada or the Unites States. The Conservative Party has committed to enforce Canadian fleet fuel efficiency and emissions standards and to harmonize these with those of the US. However it is likely that if and when this happens they will choose the US federal standards rather than the more stringent California standards adopted by California, Washington, Oregon and 6 north eastern states.
The Republican dominated US Congress has done nothing signficant to the CAFE standards for the last 12 years, and the Bush Whitehouse has has supported an industry legal challenge seeking to prevent California from implmenting stiffer air quality standards and fuel economy requirements on auto makers. Under the Bush Whitehouse, the EPA has punted on enforment of existing regulations - allowing power producers to upgrade and increase output without complying with modern emissions standards. Rather than a hard push on renewables, the current focus from both the Republicans and Conservatives is to extract more of our dwindling fossil fuels.
Leadership means doing the right thing. The public has a broad, but unfocused support for renewable energy. A visionary leader would harness that support and make sustainable and renewable energy sufficiency a national goal the way President Kennedy make landing on the moon a nation priority in the 1960s. In 1962, the path to the moon held far more challenges that the path to clean, sustainable energy does today. Virtually all of the technology exists, we simply lack the will to employ it. Economically, the $300+ billion spent to secure access to Iraqi oil would have been better spent on securing a stable state in Afghanistan and developing renewable energy in the United States.
3. Human Rights. This is more of an issue in the US than in Canada where the USA Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act have dramatically stripped away rights to due process, privacy and even the most fundamental right, habeus corpus - protection from arbitrary or unlawful imprisonment and legalized many forms of torture. These are acts which future generations will look back on with the same lense we now view the illegal internment of Japanese Americans and Canadians during WWII, head taxes on Chinese and other gross exertions of the power of the state over the rights of individuals. Many states passed ballot initiatives to preserve property rights from state powers of emminent domain. These same states should consider the impact of syping, incarcerating without charges and the torture of Americans and foreign nationals under the guise of homeland security.
4. Healthcare. Canada is challenged to ensure the sustainability of our healthcare systems while the US is challenged to extend health insurance to the 20% of the population whom are either uninsured or under insured. Leadership in healthcare means looking past the medical, pharmaceutical, insurance, and union lobbies who seek to secure an ever increasing share of the world's largest industry. Leadership means ensuring that the system works for those it serves.
5. Peace, Security and Terrorism. Leaders in both countries need to re-evaluate when and how military and diplomatic coersion is applied to avert or intervene in humanitarian crisis and bring rogue nations into compliance with world human rights and arms control regimes and to support the rebuilding of failed states. At any given time, there are dozens of states that are flagrantly violating human rights on massive scales, proliferating banned weapons, sponsoring terrorism, engaged in civil war or genocide of whole populations or destablizing their neighbours through invasion or insurgency. Western powers can not militarily intervene in all situations. Sometimes we must make a "Sophie's Choice" between children in Africa, Asia or the Middle East. Many of the PNAC cabal have pointed to Iraq as an example of the impotance of the UN to act in a time of crisis. Retrospect however shows that the UN's caution with Iraq was well founded. The deployment of US and coalition military resources to Iraq - where no crisis existed - prevented an effective intervention in Darfur, where a current and on going humanitarian crisis has killed thousands of civilians.
There is pressure from some quarters in Canada to get out of Afghanistan (which I oppose), as there is pressure across the board in the US to get out of Iraq (which I sort of support). So the task remains for the leadership of the Liberal Party and Democratic Party to explain why the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan is needed to prevent the struggling state from decending into civil war, while the continued presence of American and British troops in Iraq may just ignite a civil war there. Much of the differnce comes down to the justification for being there in the first place, the level of international participation in the action, the support of the UN Security Council and the scale of the deployment needed to prevent the failure of these two states.
The future leaders of both the Liberal Party of Canada and the US Democratic Party will be chosen in the next 18 months. In the States, none of the front runners have declared themselves in the race yet, but most of them have a Political Action Committee (PAC) and were very active in supporting key democrats in the mid term election. In the end, the front runners will include:
- Senator Hillary Clinton of New York;
- Senator Barak Obama of Illinois;
- General (ret) Wesley Clark of Arkansas;
- Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina;
- Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; and
- Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada will be chosen at the convention in Montreal on December 2nd and 3rd. The list of hopefulls include:
- Author and scholar Michael Ignatieff;
- Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae;
- Ontario MPP and Cabinet Minister Gerard Kennedy;
- MP and former Cabinet Minister Stephane Dion;
- Former hockey legend, lawyer and MP Ken Dryden;
- MP and former Cabinet Minister Joe Volpe;
- MP and former Cabinet Minister Scott Brison; and
- MP and former Cabinet Minister Marta Hall-Finnlay;
The Liberals probably have a slightly easier job than the democrats as they have not been out of power as long, and Canada doesn't have a strong advantage of incumbancy that the US does. However if the goal is to win the next election, the future Liberal leader must have broad appeal in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. These are the three most populous provinces and are all provinces that traditionally split a significant portion of their votes.
Unfortunately, all of the candidates have warts. As much as I like Gerard Kennedy, his lack of command of French is a liability for him in Quebec. He would probably fare worse the Paul Martin in Quebec. Bob Rae is going to have a tough time convincing Ontarians to forget his disasterous premiership of the province under the NDP banner. Michael Ignatieff is a very smart and sophistocated man, but he seems to lack the political experience to know when to simplify and/or dumb down the message for media and public consumption. Intelligent, complex and nuanced look a lot like uncertain, contradictory and even deceitful once filtered through the dumb-o-matic that is our main stream media. John Kerry didn't learn this in time. Stephen Harper is also smart, and finally learned this lesson; look where it got him. Ken Dryden also has all of the right components, but will have a hard time shaking his image of being little more than a celebrity MP - which is not true, but none the less, it is a perception that is out there. American's like sports hero politicians. Canadians don't. Stephane Dion is intelligent, politically savy and a native son of Quebec. He could win it all.
The democrats have different problems, but more time to solve them. The problem I see is that, unlike the Canadian Conservitives, the Republicans have at least two very credible, popular and experienced potential candidates in Senator John McCain and former NY Mayor Rudolph Gulliani. Both McCain and Gulliani also have strong appeal with independents and moderate Democrates. Both are perceived as strong on national security. Gulliani could win New York - a frightful thought for Democrats, while McCain could possibly even put California in play. This is a problem for the Democrats. Senators Clinton and Obama are also very strong candidates, but this may not be enough.
Senator Clinton is intelligent, articulate, experienced, and unfortunately, seems to be a lightning rod for hate from the Republican base. There is no doubt that as much as she would mobilize the Democrat base, she would also mobilize the Republican base. Would she have enough appeal with independents, moderate conservatives and women voters to overcome the massive Republican turn out against her, particularly against McCain or Gulliani? Senator Obama is just as strong a candidate as Clinton and lacks the hate from the far right. He would get a very strong turn out from black voters to vote for the first African American President, but the Democrats usually carry the black vote, so is this enough? Neither is a Southerner - which conventional wisdom holds is an advantage for a presidential candidate.
Wes Clark is a southerner who also has a strong appeal with moderates. As a miliary man, he would have some appeal on homeland security, but he is still seen as an outsider in the democratic party and has little political experience. The national security advantage may not be as important in 2008 as it was in 2004 and 2006. Governor Richardson of New Mexico is a dark horse. He has all the credentials - former ambassador, senator, a southern governor, etc, and if elected would be the first Latino/Hispanic president. But again, with the exception of Cuban exiles, the Latino vote generally goes heavily democrat anyways. It is also not certain that Richardson will run - he sat out 2004.
The democrats however have an advantage that the Liberals don't; control of the legislative agenda. Over the next 2 years, the democrats will be able to put issues before Congress and make the Republicans support or oppose them. How will the Republicans react when the Democrats kill most of the Bush tax breaks that only affect the most wealthy Americans? Will they vote against (or veto) an increase in the minimum wage? Will they oppose more stringent CAFE fuel efficiency standards or efforts to regulate CO2 emissions? In the end however, the Democrats will likely be judged on how they influence the President to extract the United States from Iraq.
The Liberals also have an advantage that the Democrats don't have; some control over the timing of the next election. This is not an exact science however. The Conservatives could pull the plug when it suites them as well, and most Canadians understand that forcing an election when it benefits you is at worst self serving and best opportunistic.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Congratulations to my American friends for not just voting, but for voting for democracy, peace, human rights and social justice. Even though the president wasn't on the ballot yesterday, and regardless of what the GOP spin machine says, this election result is nothing less than a repudiation of the policies of the Bush Whitehouse. President Bush is now officially a lame duck.
He'd better not go hunting with Dick Chenney.
I seriously doubt anyone in the United States Congress or the public has an appetite to impeach Bush, and looking foward to 2008, that would be a strategic mistake for democrates. But with control of the legislative agenda and all of the House committees (and possibly Senate too), I hope the Democrates use their new majority and power of subpena to shine a light into some very dark places over the next 2 years because let's face it, as much as the President is a lame duck, Congress is now offically grid locked. With the Democrates lacking a veto proof majority, and with a distinctly different legislative agenda than the President, nothing else is going to get done in Congress for the next 2 years.
In addition to investigating some of the abuses of exucutive power, another thing the Democrates can do is use their control over the legislative agenda to frame the terms of debate for 2008. Obviously, Iraq was front and centre in voters mind yesterday, but beyond Iraq, where do American's priorities lie? What is more pressing on the social agenda in America - banning gay marriage as Virginia voters did yesterday, or making real progress on alleviating poverty? On healthcare, should Congress invest its invest its political capital in extending healthcare coverage to the 40+ million Americans who are uninsured, or continue to ban embryonic stem cell research? Yesterday Missouri voters moved cautiously to allow embryonic stem cell research. Thanks Michael J. Fox for "faking it". Should corporate greed continue to drive the agenda? Why else would the last Congress have prevented the Vetran's Administration from pooling its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs for vetrans. These are the questions that a new Democrate driven Congress can put on the public agenda and dare the President to veto.
Posted by CoteGauche at 6:35 AM