ELECTION BLOG: MINORITY GOVERNMENT IN WAITING?

Greetings,

Today marks the final 72 hours of the election campaign, and it looks more and more likely that no party will emerge with a clear majority in Parliament come June 28th. It will likely be the most divided House of Commons in recent Canadian history; while minority governments aren’t new or unusual in Canadian political history, the margin for the “ruling” party to carry out their agenda will be virtually absent.

The final days of this nasty, vicious election campaign are here. Make sure you don’t forget the vote on Monday.

ELECTION BLOG: WAITING FOR THE TIDE TO TURN… AND FAHRENHEIT 9/11

Greetings,

It looks like the Liberals have, since last week’s TV debates, turned things around, albeit slightly. Right now, the Liberals and Conservatives are in a virtual dead heat at the polls, and now things are getting even more interesting with the prospect that NDP leader Jack Layton and Liberal leader Paul Martin are open to discussing potential partnerships in government if the Liberals form a minority government. However, this partnership would hinge on if the NDP’s demand of a national referendum on proportional representation would go ahead or not.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11: The most anticipated new film of 2004 is only days away from its general release and the hype has already begun. Michael Moore, the resident left-wing showman who’s become a global icon railing against George W. Bush and his crew, is facing equal amounts of support at Salon (day pass required) and condemnation by Christopher Hitchens. In any case, this film is going stir things up pretty seriously in the U.S. Presidential election.

ELECTION BLOG: THINGS FALL APART?

Greetings,

Some of you may have been directed here via this link already, but my next piece has been posted on the CBC’s web site today. You can read it here.

Today marks the final week of campaigning for the parties, heading into the big day next Monday. It’s definitely been quite the election this year. For one, it’s impossible to know what the outcome of Monday’s election will be. Liberal minority or Conservative minority? Will the NDP play a role in the balance of power in Parliament? What of the Bloc Quebecois? Will the Greens make the breakthrough they’ve wanted for years and win a seat in B.C.?

There are so many unanswered questions. Yet one thing is for sure: if the Liberals want to prevent a Conservative government (which is looking very possible now), now is the time to make it happen.

Paul Martin decided to throw down the gauntlet today regarding health care negotiations with the provinces if the Liberals win the election. He’s campaigning like mad in Ontario this week (really, it is a province the Liberals have to win in order to secure government) and making it clear that, in a somewhat unconventional stance for a Liberal, that the federal government will make changes with the provinces over the administration of health care.

Yet this pales in comparison to the exchanges last week over the somewhat-uncertain linkages the Liberals made between Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. It is alleged that Harper and Klein are in an alliance to reform health care into a mixed, public-private system that could undermine universal medicare in Canada. It’s hard to say what, exactly, this would entail, but the Liberals are now trying everything in their war chest to discredit Harper and the Conservatives on a national scale.

If you think that the campaigning last week was nasty, this week will be even worse in the mudslinging department.

ELECTION BLOG: DOWN TO THE WIRE

Greetings,

Sorry about the delay since my last posting; it’s been a very busy week and I’m finally getting a chance to make a posting.

We’re entering the home stretch in this election, a contest that has been fascinating and brutal in an almost Shakespearean-fashion. The reversal of fortune for Paul Martin and the Liberal Party, the near quixotic rise of Jack Layton and the NDP, and the accidential political tourist known as Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. The Green Party, formerly known as a fringe element in Canadian politics, will become the fourth (or fifth in Quebec, given the strength of the Bloc Quebecois) major party upon qualifying for federal funding after this election (and make no mistake: the Greens will win a seat in this election, no doubt).

Now, with the Conservatives in the lead, it’s a battle to the finish for the Liberals to save this election. While Stephen Harper is generally right when he says there’s little chance the Liberals will win a majority government now (although never rule out the “holding-nose” philosophy of voting Grit at the last minute), the Liberals will be hitting up Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. ridings with fierce determination over the next week or so to ensure Liberal “strongholds” will stay Liberal after June 28th.

ELECTION BLOC: LEADERS’ DEBATE

Greetings,

This is an important week in the federal election campaign, for it is the best chance for party leaders to connect with the people on national television: the French and English TV leaders’ debates.

Elections have been won and lost in these debates throughout Canadian history (check out these links on the CBC’s web site to watch and listen to some old election-related stories). In 1984, Brian Mulroney went on the offensive against then-Liberal leader John Turner – Mulroney’s vicious, cutting attacks against Liberal largesse helped him win the largest majority in Canadian history. In 1993, Jean Chretien took leadership neophyte Kim Campbell down several notches with his arguments against Tory fiscal mismanagement. In 2000, Stockwell Day used a prop (a no-no in televised debates) which Joe Clark quickly snapped out of his hands and humiliated Day in a way that indirectly helped the Liberals win another majority government. So as you can see, debates are essential to helping form public opinion.

There’s a lot riding on this year’s debate, more so than ever before. For one, all party leaders can speak fluently in both official languages (a nice change from the unilingualism of “certain” party leaders of the past). More so, this will be the first federal leaders’ debate since 1993 that has a unified conservative party. There are four parties participating (although the Greens, now a force in Canadian politics, were inexplicably excluded from the debate, although that won’t be happening next time around) and all four leaders have a lot to gain out of the debate.

Paul Martin, with his Liberal party struggling badly this campaign and dropping fast in the polls, needs to hit a home run in both French and English to turn the tide. Stephen Harper, on the other hand, only needs to push his party’s momentum further. He will be attacked by both Martin and NDP leader Jack Layton equally; Harper’s lead in the polls means that Layton must attack the Conservatives and Liberals equally in order to prevent progressives migrating to the Liberals. Some may view a vote for the NDP as a vote for the Conservatives, given that the Liberals are the only real way to stop a Conservative election win.

But the real pressure is on Martin, a man who’s watching a Greek tragedy unfold before his eyes. He’s got only two chances to stop public perception that the Liberals are tired, bloated and need to be kicked out of government.

For the French debate, it will be essential to voice how the Liberals will make real changes for Quebec, and how the province benefits more from a voice in Confederation, rather than by supporting the sky-high Bloc Quebecois (they just polled at their highest in party history, which is a bad, bad sign for the Liberals).

The English debate will be about Martin deflecting the AdScam controversy, true, but more importantly, will also be about Martin demonstrating that he is change without risk – his primary selling point to Canadians in the first place. He will be ruthless about describing the Conservatives as “barbarians at the gate” who will transform Canada into a satellite state of the U.S., destroying uniquely “Canadian” values.

In any case, get ready for some spectacular politics – one of the most important debates in Canadian history is about to be underway.

ELECTION BLOG: LIBERALS IN SERIOUS TROUBLE

Greetings,

Today marked a new sea change in the federal election – the Liberals are, according to campaign co-chairman David Herle, in “…a spiral right now that we have to arrest.”

He’s got good reason to be worried: the Grits are falling fast at the polls, much faster than anyone had originally predicted. So, in an effort to stop the bleeding, the new Liberal attack ads came out Wednesday night.

They state, in no uncertain terms, that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives represent a fundamental threat to Canada as we know it. The ads claim that Harper wants to spend heavily on the military, revoke a woman’s right to choose, and make an unholy alliance with the Bloc Quebecois in order to retain a coalition government.

Indeed, these are scary days for the Liberals. They have to turn it around soon, at least remain neck-in-neck with the Conservatives before the English and French TV leaders’ debates. In any case, this election just continues to get more and more interesting.

ELECTION BLOG: THE WEB AND THE ART OF POLITICKING

Greetings,

The current federal election campaign is being faught in a wide variety of locations and mediums. Yet the most cutting edge forum for people to debate, argue and vent their political sentiments remains the web. And now, with the mass proliferation of blogs (yours truly included), Wi-Fi and broadband, the digital universe is playing a greater role in determining who will occupy 24 Sussex Drive in a few weeks.

There has been several articles written on this topic recently: one, from my associate Amanda at the CBC on party web sites, another on blogging and campaigning in the U.S. at Salon’s web site (use the day pass option if you don’t have a subscription), and lastly a piece (although it’s more of a polemic) written in the Star about why blogging is a waste of time.

All these pieces serve to underscore an important point about the digital landscape and democracy; while the web, cellphones and their ilk have done a remarkable job at empowering individuals to express their views, do other people make connections, whether they be cerebral or online, with these differing views? The Balkanization of the web – whereas the sheer mass of perspectives has made it difficult to forge interlinking debate online and has, in fact, polarized groups into stronger, more unified and much more resolute viewpoints – makes the task of democratic renewal, in certain cases, much harder. The individuated viewpoint is, at least online, all that really matters; politics, which is inherently about crossing the divide between individual, normative perspectives and communitarian, descriptive realities, can’t always create debate and progress simply by setting up a web site.

If that all sounds like academic doublespeak, the bottom line is this: blogs, instant messaging and email are valuable components of an election campaign, no doubt. Yet because of the web’s individuated nature, bridging the divide between a candidate and the prospective community he or she represents requires technology that is also communalistic in nature.

In this case, it’s easy to understand why the Internet has been the subject of ideological criticism. While the web has a duel formative personality – Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web, has counter-culture roots but the Internet was originally a project of the U.S. military -commentators from both the left and right have argued that the web only deploys certain perspectives that reinforce dominant ideologies in the mainstream media. There’s multiple schools of thought on this topic; right-wing blogs – think Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and even George W. Bush – and so-called “war bloggers” became subjects of discussion during the lead-up to the war in Iraq, while left-leaning blogs – think uber-blogger Atrios and Salon’s blogs – have gotten much exposure in print publications, such as last month’s Vanity Fair.

In Canada, Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells’ blog is ideal, for he’s not beholden to a particular ideology. It’s deeply informative and funny at times, that’s for sure.

In any case, stay online and read some blogs in preparing for the big decision on June 28th – it will be invaluable to making an informed choice at the ballot box.

ELECTION BLOG: TORY CONTROVERSY & YOUTH VOTING

Greetings,

I have a special posting today – I’m on the CBC’s web site with a piece I’ve written regarding youth voting. You can check it out here.

ABORTION CONTROVERSY: In the latest case of Conservative “foot-in-mouth” disease that’s dogging CPC leader Stephen Harper, Ottawa-area MP Cheryl Gallant allegedly said there is no difference between an abortion and the beheading of American Nick Berg by Iraqi terrorists.

These kinds of remarks, if indeed Gallant said what is reported, is the kind of stuff that Mr. Harper should be condemning, or at the very least, acknowledging in public that such a comparison is spurious at best. If these are the kinds of attitudes we can expect from a Conservative government, maybe it’s time to dust off that Charter of Rights and Freedoms and learn it from start to finish. Otherwise, the ability for women to choose – a moral position that governments have no right to take away, I might add – could be in trouble.

RONALD REAGAN & HOW WIRELESS WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE… AGAIN

Greetings,

The U.S. lost another avatar of the conservative movement over the weekend – the 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. This was not unexpected, given that the man was 93 and had suffered a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a sad thing to see a former president pass away, and given that America is a nation still deeply disturbed from 9-11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the passing of Mr. Reagan will be given the full court press by the U.S. government. This includes a state funeral on par with the JFK funeral, massive drives to memorialize the Reagan moniker at major airports and landmarks across the U.S., and a week-long state of national mourning. Plus, our own former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, will be a pallbearer at Mr. Reagan’s funeral. This seems appropriate, given that Mulroney and Reagan were close friends during their corresponding days in office (including during the now-infamous Shamrock Summit, arguably the most disturbing and unsettlingly “friendly” display of Canada-U.S. relations during the 1980’s – I’ll never forget seeing Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan singing together on stage, an event I hope Paul Martin and George W. Bush never, ever plan to do).

Reagan was a unique president in American history, a man who lived the American Dream from start to finish. He became president during a particularly dark period for the U.S., for the country was going through hard economic times, rising crime and the after-effects of Vietnam. He instilled the phrase “Morning in America” into everyday parlance, inviting hope and positivity to a country exhausted from decades of war and civil strife. He was nicknamed “The Gipper” and “The Great Communicator” because he was, indeed, an ideal president for the television age (and a particularly good one for the rough-and-tumble world of the 1980’s).

But let’s be clear: Ronald Reagan may have led America out of the darkness, but he was by no means a saint, nor a president that deserves to be on Mount Rushmore (as some overzealous Republicans would love to do). His “Reaganomics” is a discredited economic theory, full of contradictions that ended up bloating the American trade deficit and creating a massive national debt of $1.5 trillion that future generations will be paying for decades to come. And his foreign policies were, at best, uneven. While he did a remarkable job at winding down the Cold War – just try to imagine George W. Bush convincing anyone to drop their ideological curtains in favour of “openess” or “democracy” – he also brought on the “Star Wars” plan, which involved the weaponization of space against Soviet threats (an idea which is back in vogue under Dubya).

But perhaps the best reason not to give Reagan the status of sainthood was his near-unforgivable support of vicious, paramilitary groups led by warlords (many of whom later became military dictators) devoted to taking down liberal or left-leaning governments in Central America, Asia and Africa. He supported British PM Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.-Argentina war over the Faukland Islands in 1982, did next to nothing to discourage the Soviet Bloc (with the notable exception of Romania) to boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and got far, far too friendly with certain military leaders abroad (more on that later).

The most upsetting of all has to be the Iran-Contra Affair, which involved illegally selling arms to the Iranian government (an “official” enemy of the U.S.) in order to set up a slush fund for the CIA to train and arm Nicaraguan rebels against the socialist government. The whole mess ended up ruining Oliver North, the resident fall guy who would later run, inexplicably, for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate (he lost).

But most importantly, Reagan also played an important role in a conflict still affecting us today: the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88. You see, Iran (a sworn enemy of the U.S.) engaged in conflict with Iraq, a nation led by none other than Saddam Hussein. Back in 1983, Saddam was America’s ally. But, in the grand tradition of foreign policy on the fly that is the America’s MO, he became an enemy when he got too uppity and invaded Kuwait in 1990, which lead to the first Gulf War, containment, 9-11, an “intelligence” drive to justify invasion of Iraq, Gulf War II, Iraq’s military smashed to bits, Saddam captured, Iraq in chaos… you can see where this is going.

So all in all, Reagan was a good president. But don’t deify him, he made some serious mistakes and did some virtually unforgivable things while in office.

WIRELESS, APPLE-STYLE: Apple has done what all us Wi-Fi friendly folks have dreamed of today – a portable base station called AirPort Express that allows for access to iTunes through wireless (called AirTunes) and easy transmission of data through stereos, TVs and other digital devices. This is the obvious first step towards a wireless iPod, which is very cool, but thankfully AirPort Express has an 802.11g wireless connection to the Internet (which is ridiculously fast, to the techno-unfriendly) which adds to the cool factor of this device. The mobile revolution for us laptop-infused, online folks is about to begin!

Apple, you officially kick serious ass now.