Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

How goes the battle for truth?


In the language of triumphalism that always graces a newly elected leader’s   speech to an international audience, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared, last week, that “Canada is back”. On the subject of climate change, he insisted, there can be no “laggards”.

The lightly veiled insinuation, of course, was that this once great nation has been brought to its knees, over the past 10 years, by a cynical and zealous crop of intellectual poseurs masquerading as legislators, and, through them, by an especially virulent form of “sciencitis”.

This particular malady is not new. It periodically sweeps across various bodies politic, persuading anyone who will listen that evidence is simply a matter of opinion; that research is a poor substitute for good, old common sense; and that standing in the middle of the tracks as a locomotive bears down on you is a perfectly reasonable posture given that the engineer behind the stick will surely hit the brakes before he turns you into an unrecognizable smudge.

This was the former Conservative Government of Canada’s approach to “public outreach”. Under Stephen Harper, climate science was, at best, a theoretical construct that handy, populist rhetoric could deconstruct in an instant; Environment Canada was a nest of liberal bugs, better swatted than tolerated; and Statistics Canada was a den of uncooperative eggheads who needed to be curtailed, abused and, in the end, fired.

Still, on a trip to Europe in advance of the Paris climate change conference, Mr. Trudeau was unequivocal about the intent of his government: It will look nothing like that of his predecessor’s.

Specifically, he instructed, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. . .The rest of us have a lot to learn. . .Canadians) want to know that what they’re doing fits into a bigger picture, because there is no point in bending over backwards if your neighbour or your government is not also doing its part to ensure that we all have the maximum impact together.”

He added: “Every single one of us can and should be much more conscious of the ways we can act to reduce our carbon footprint. . .By working together, we will deliver real benefits for our environment while also strengthening our economy, including the creation of more middle class jobs.”

The words are nice, even credible. And yet, the devil is in the details and the details remain demonic.

In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, federally funded science initiatives have been eliminated over the past decade with systematic efficiency.

Virtually nothing remains of Fisheries and Oceans, the National Research Council or the Department of Environment in this craggy corner of the Steppe. Where once this region’s scientists and researchers contributed to the national policy agenda, they now perform perfunctory duties teaching their fellow bureaucrats the difference between a green and a blue bag on garbage day. That is the truth of the battle among those who have decided to stick around.

Recent reports from university scholars of my acquaintance suggest that, over the past 15 years, no fewer than 10,000 top-flight thinkers on everything from fluid dynamics to environmental engineering in this region have fled to friendlier and more remunerative locales around the world. They aren’t coming back and their ilk won’t be replaced anytime soon.

So is, as Mr. Trudeau says, “Canada back” as he attempts to sign on to a new climate deal with the rest of world?

Let us attend to the laggards in our own public policy.

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The NDP vies for Atlantic touchdown


Theirs may be a Hail Mary pass, mere days before the federal election, but you’ve got to hand it to the New Democrats: if nothing less, they are determined to go down fighting.

Just as some polls show Justin Trudeau effectively eating Thomas Mulcair’s lunch, last week the NDP announced its platform tailor-made for Atlantic Canada. It included a surprising number of goodies calculated to warm the cockles of regional hearts.

There’s a bit more money for regional development initiatives. There’s a promise to spent $512 million over the next four years on cities and downs for things like road and bridge repairs. Mr. Mulcair, et.al., also want to establish 50,000 childcare spots, costing parents a measly $15 a day. What’s more, the former socialist party intends to retain door-to-door mail delivery – something its arch-nemesis, the Conservative government in Ottawa, has announced it will dismantle across the country.

Whether any of this will actually persuade enough voters in Atlantic Canada to throw their hats into the ring with the NDP is an open question. In recent days, throughout Canada, sentiments have been shifting.

According to a recent CTV news report, “The latest nightly tracking by Nanos Research shows the Liberals emerging with a lead in the national election race, with the Conservatives holding steady and the NDP continuing to slide.”

Apparently, voters were asked, “If a federal election were held today, please rank your top two current local voting preferences.”

The results gave the Grits a squeaker of a head start against the Tories (35.6 per cent support, versus 31 per cent, respectively). At the same time support for the NDP has broadly plunged.

Said the news report: “The NDP have slid by a significant margin in Quebec, from a high of 50 per cent support at the beginning of the campaign, down to 30.1 per cent in the latest poll. The NDP are now in a statistical tie with the Liberals in the province, who registered 28.1 per cent support in the latest tracking.

“The Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives are also in a statistical tie for third, with the BQ at 20.4 per cent support and the Conservatives at 17.4 per cent in Quebec. Outside Quebec, the latest regional numbers show: The Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada, with 50.2 per cent support; the Conservatives lead in the Prairies, with 46.9 per cent support; the Liberals have 40.9 per cent support in Ontario, while the Conservatives are at 36.5 per cent support; in British Columbia, the Liberals are tracking at 34.7 per cent support, with the NDP at 30.0 per cent support.”

As Nik Nanos observed, “”The Mulcair brand is strong, and it’s very clear from the polling that he’s probably the most well-liked of the three federal leaders. The bad news is, Canadians don’t see him as prime minister.

Of course, this sort of shake up was bound to happen. The NDP, both federally and provincially, have provided Atlantic Canada with some of the region’s best policy ideas – both humane and sensible – in recent decades.

But attitudes about politics and politicians become easily calcified, and it doesn’t take much to undermine a promising showing in popular opinion. Sometimes it takes only a vague notion that, in the end, no amount of good intention, no number of worthy ideas, can eradicate the perception that the NDP has been and shall always be Canada’s “third” party (a rather absurd proposition, given that it was, until the election call, the nation’s Official Opposition).

Still, really, who wants to play on a team whose forwards can’t catch the ball?

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New Brunswick’s surging orange crush


For a while here, on the East Coast, it seemed that the federal Liberals could do no wrong. They had a majority approval rating of nearly 50 per cent in the run-up to the national election. They had a youthful, passionate and sometimes articulate leader in the body of Justin Trudeau.

But at some point between the time the writ dropped and the last summer barbecue ended, a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box: Atlantic Canadians lost faith in the ability of a red tide to subsume the prevailing blue wave. Now, some are talking about an orange crush, Quebec-style.

This turn of events frankly amazes Don Mills of Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, whose company conducted the latest survey of public opinion. “It’s all very close now within the margin of error for (the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP),” he told the Brunswick News organization last week. “New Brunswick is starting to look a lot like Canada. It’s going to make it a lot more competitive than, perhaps, it has been in the past.”

According to his most recent results, “Support for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) has increased once again this quarter. . .Four in ten decided and leaning voters in Atlantic Canada support the Liberal Party of Canada (40 per cent, compared with 43 per cent of decided voters three months ago), while one-third prefer the NDP (33 per cent, compared with 29 per cent decided voters).

“Meanwhile, backing for the Conservative Party of Canada is consistent with last quarter (22 per cent, compared with 24 per cent of decided voters), while four per cent of decided and leaning Atlantic Canadians prefer the Green Party of Canada (unchanged). One-quarter (25 per cent, down from 41 per cent) of residents in the region are undecided, refuse to state a preference, or do not plan to vote.”

What’s more, Corporate Research’s results show that “Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper’s popularity currently stands at 17 per cent (compared with 19 per cent in May 2015). Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party is preferred by three in ten Atlantic Canadians (29 per, down from 36 per cent), while preference for Thomas Mulcair of the NDP increased to one-quarter (27 per cent, up from 22 per cent), and Elizabeth May of the Green Party is preferred by seven percent (up from 5 per cent).”

As for New Brunswick, specifically, the numbers shake out this way: Twenty-seven per cent of those surveyed are “completely dissatisfied” with the Harper government; another 30 per cent are “mostly dissatisfied”; only 31 per cent are either completely or mostly satisfied. That’s a ratio of nearly two to one against returning the incumbents to office.

As for leadership preferences, the results are even more compelling. On the question, “Which one of the following party leaders would you most prefer as Prime Minister of Canada?”, New Brunswickers answered thusly: Thomas Mulcair of the NDippers, 27 per cent; Mr. Trudeau of the Grits, 22 per cent; Mr. Harper of the Tories, 21 per cent.

Of course, there’s much turf yet to be covered in this horse race. Still, as Mr. Mills’ research indicates, “A majority of Atlantic Canadians continue to be dissatisfied with the current federal government. Two-thirds of residents (66 per cent, as compared to 63 per cent in May 2015) are dissatisfied in this regard”

All of which may not suggest an actual, Quebec-style orange crush for the NDP in New Brunswick next month.

But the chances of a blue day for the Conservative Party are certainly improving.

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Life’s certainty: debt and disappointment


For more proof that the federal government lives in a black box, coated with bubble wrap and buried in the deepest antechamber of Parliament Hill, look no farther than the hosannas it raises over the Finance Department’s latest projection that the country has posted a razor-thin surplus of less than $2 billion.

Apparently, this announcement is designed to cheer a worried populace, convince the nation that the Harper plan for “careful economic stewardship” is working and that, thanks to cunning and perspicacious policy at the centre, the regions may expect bread, honey and wine in the years ahead, if only they would get with the political program.

How, one wonders, does this logic track in Alberta, where provincial finances have been decimated in recent months thanks to a federally supported campaign to link that province’s economic prospects to fossil fuel prices it does not, and never has, controlled? How, indeed, does that constitute “careful stewardship”?

How, furthermore, does the argument persuade the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Ontario that their astonishing fiscal woes can be ameliorated by the actions (or, more precisely, inactions) of a federal partner in Confederation that has been absent without leave for, lo, these many, nine years?

How, indeed, do we reconcile such claims with the very real possibility that New Brunswick will find itself unable to cap its impressive operating deficit (now in the hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars), let alone pay down its long term debt (now above $12 billion)?

If we lay these burdens at the feet of the federal government, we have good reason.

That so-called national “surplus” has been bought and paid for by the provinces and territories that have been forced to endure broad caps to public spending on traditional, nation-building priorities, including: health care, public education, university research and development, arts and culture, and workforce skills development and placement.

To be sure, this does not, and should not, let New Brunswickers off the hook for their own prettily arranged economic malaise.

Over the years, we have been more than willing to demand of our provincial governments everything we’ve always believed we had a right to expect: low taxes, high-quality public services, good jobs, seasonal employment combined with fully funded, no-questions-asked employment insurance.

Still, lurking beneath the surface has been a federal administration that has evinced very little interest in the conditions of the places where people actually live and work and raise families – and even less interest in building long-term economic capacity where it matters most.

In contrast, an enlightened national government would spend time getting to know the provinces with which it is obliged to partner. It would reach out to extend the enormous capital and human resources at its disposal to build a true and durable national consensus on social and economic priorities.

It would not shut down debate in Parliament, relegate important committee work to busy work, demean the democratic process by burying every important issue into an omnibus bill, and demonize every principled, conscientious objector of its priorities and plans as effective enemies of the state.

It would not refuse to extend humanitarian relief to those who are, heartbreakingly, unable, through no fault of their own, find succor and solace elsewhere in the world.

We, in Canada, do not live in a black box, coated with bubble wrap and buried under Parliament Hill.

We, in New Brunswick, and in every other province and territory of this once-noble country, live in the light with our hearts nobly bleeding, our hands generously outstretched.

So should our federal government.

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Whose party is this?


It should surprise exactly no one in New Brunswick that political parties do their level best to differentiate themselves from their opponents by any means necessary. After all, this province, New Brunswick, has been staging periodic vote-fests longer than almost any other jurisdiction in Canada.

Rarely, however, have the substantive policy differences among the three, leading federal camps – Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat – been as vanishingly small as they are today. And this presents New Brunswickers – owners of one of the nation’s least robust regional economies, and one of the most burdened by debt and deficit – with a special chore: Choosing who among these federal courtesans is most likely to doff his cap to the ancient regime of this country; the East Coast.

Shall we all just hold our breath?

New Brunswick’s social and economic challenges are both specific and articulated: High unemployment; low commercial productivity; high rates of illiteracy and innumeracy; low interest in anything remotely resembling renewable energy technology; high levels of disaffection with public institutions; low tolerance for civil-service cutbacks; high disdain for politicians, in general; low sympathy for elected representatives who purport to get things done by upending the status quo.

Under the circumstances, then, why would any party that seriously seeks power vary in form or substance from any other – except, of course, in what they tell the great unwashed at election time?

What they tell us now could fill a thimble for relevance and actual change.

Here come the Tories, barking at New Brunswickers that their jobs-ready, economic action plan has, over the past eight years, saved this province from perdition. Their implied motto is simply this: It could have been worse.

Here come the Grits, insisting that New Brunswickers will be much better off than they have been if only they will giddily throw themselves into the red tide that will surely swamp the Maritimes. Their message is: It can be better, though exactly how. . .well, we’ll get back to you on that.

Finally, comes the third rail (which, incidentally, looks an awful lot like the first and second), the NDippers. They want us to believe that New Brunswick and the rest of the Maritimes are overdue for a massive transformation. Let us, then, agree to abolish the Senate and see how well that works out for us.

Oddly enough, that was an essentially Conservative idea not so very long ago, and even a Liberal one for an Ottawa minute when Justin Trudeau kicked out every Grit senator from his sitting caucus, again, not so very long ago.

As for New Brunswick’s particular social and economic woes, no federal party has yet made a convincing case that this province’s hard and trenchant issues matter more to them than found money on a summertime beach along the Bay of Fundy (which, like substance in political rhetoric, is also rare these days).

What actually distinguishes each federal contender from the other is a media play; crafted and acted before cameras, packaged for YouTube, and meant to be taken with a large barrel of salt.

Jobs are good, so say we all. Unemployment is bad, so say we all. Innovation and productivity must be the urgent concern, so say we all.

Crime? Boo!

Victims? We feel their pain.

Health care? Of course, it’s necessary.

Literacy, numeracy, trust in public institutions? Yup, we have our work cut out for us on that, too.

Still, choose me. I wear the red sweater, or the blue one, or the orange one. The difference is immense.

Even if it’s all the same to you.

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Our ignorance is their bliss


Knowing what we know today, is it likely we’ll forget it all by tomorrow?

Human nature inveighs against the better angels of our civilized character. Memory doesn’t so much serve us, as pester us.

Consider, for example, higher education in New Brunswick.

For decades, we assumed that a broad, liberal course of study – in the undergraduate years – would prepare students in this province to take their places in the productive working world. They might go on to specialize in any number of disciplines: law, medicine, business management, architecture, theatre, even (gasp!) journalism.

Now, we require them to choose their paths in society before they even know their own minds – to, in effect, forget their youthful passions in the service of actuarial accounts that determine who will be useful, and who will not, to the common weal. Memory is the sentimental enemy of the current political good; so get with the program, kids.

Similarly, we imagine that life for New Brunswickers aboard the good ship Stephen Harper has been either uniformly splendid, or utterly awful. Again, our capacity for accurate recollection fails us.

Once, not so very long ago, the prime minister toured these environs and declared, in so many words, that Atlantic Canada must fight its culture of “defeatism”. We screamed and cried, as we are wont to do. But was he entirely wrong in his sentiments? We said he was.

On the other hand, within scant years, Mr. Harper made it perfectly clear to New Brunswick that Ottawa would guarantee a culture of defeatism here by eviscerating social programs, capping health-care transfers and knee-capping local MPs in his own party if they dared speak truth to power. Was he entirely right? We said he was.

Does memory serve, or merely pester?

Why have we forgotten about the enormous potential of renewable energy technologies in this province? What happened to wind, tidal and biomass, fading into our collective memory of hope and grace? What about early childhood education, universally accessible to all in New Brunswick? Was it just a dream, a faint memory of a better future, idly conjured in the past?

All of which raises the question: If we know what we know today, is it inevitable that we’ll forget it all by tomorrow?

If human nature inveighs against the better angels of our civilized character, shouldn’t we conjure stronger angels to shepherd our finest instincts? If memory doesn’t so much serve us, as pester us, oughtn’t we banish the tyranny that accompanies habitually following those who desperately want to erase that which we would otherwise remember? (Spoiler alert: the babies we elect to high office).

In fact, I adore the memories that pester me. I love remembering when a boy or girl could expect a straight shot at a decent job for life, thanks to a tax-payer-funded training program.

I relish thinking about my own (non-tax-payer-funded) apprenticeships at Canadian Press, CFDR Radio in Dartmouth, and Atlantic Insight Magazine in Halifax. These are images from my life, lessons I have learned, cherished recollections of a society that – while not perfect, by any measure – embraced the ever-spinning wheel of history; past, present and future.

I grew up at a time when Tommy Douglas’ words still resonated: “Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”

Indeed, we are made of sterner stuff than the current basket of expectations that Ottawa and Fredericton retails daily: Believe what we tell you, try not to think too much; your ignorance is our bliss.

Blow it to bits, friends; and never forget.

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Our dwindling democracy


Some who reside in the Greater Moncton area don’t give a chocolate-coated fiddlehead about the Mike Duffy affair.

According to one straw poll I conducted by cell phone between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on a recent Saturday afternoon, as I careened out of town for a weekend of fun in the sun at an undisclosed Maritime location, which is, I hasten to add, not my primary residence.

I should also say that the five people I interviewed comprise a statistically meaningful sample of Canada’s voting public exactly zero times out of 20, with a plus-or-minus margin of error of precisely 100 per cent (in other words, about average for national pollsters in recent elections).

I posed only one question, providing survey respondents with the opportunity to rank their five main issues from one to five, in descending order:

“What would you say is your most pressing concern in this absurdly long, already tedious, election cycle? Is it (a) Duffygate; (b) unemployment; (c) the economy; (d) global warming and Canada’s reaction to it; and (e) the weapons-grade stupidity evinced by all but the tiniest fraction of politicians of every stripe in the soon-to-be-again Great White North?”

The results were compelling, if not especially unexpected.

All five respondents declared unequivocally that political stupidity was their most urgent worry. Comments ranged in tone and perspicuity from, “I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. . .did I mention that I hate them?” to, “you know, it’s probably not their (politicians’) fault; inbreeding causes a lot of problems elsewhere in society too.”

Coming in a close second was the economy. One respondent observed: “So, here we have in the Harper government a regime that once insisted the best thing it could do was to stay out of the private sector’s way, and yet it now runs on a platform extolling the virtues of its economic hegemony.”

Third on the hit parade of grievances was unemployment – or rather, underemployment. “I came to this province on the promise of green fields of opportunity,” said one interviewee. “I figured my advanced degree would make me a fine candidate for good-paid work in New Brunswick. Now, I drive a cab in Moncton.”

Fourth was global warming.

Assorted remarks included: “I went to a beach in New Brunswick and I almost froze my feet off”, “I went to a beach in New Brunswick and I almost had heat stroke”, “Oh. . .wait, I think I see an asteroid about to destroy all of us. . .Funny how it looks just like Mike Duffy.”

In Ottawa, far away from what matters to most people down here, the Senate moils and roils to reclaim its significance, the trials of important others proceed apace.

The world here now begins with irrelevance, marches towards false gravitas and ends in self-importance. The regions of this country do not matter; neither do the cities or towns we call home. And the Mike Duffy affair, which should concern us, simply doesn’t rise to the occasion.

We are, all of us, victims of our own distractions, our own obsessions, our own grievances. There is almost nothing left in the collective piggy bank of charity, forgiveness and grace; nothing with which to rebuild the world we so recently broke.

But should we, in our minds, with our hands and hearts so easily abandon the struggle to understand what goes horribly wrong in the National Capital Region?

To our abiding shame, we have begun to care nothing about the condition of our own democracy, with a margin of error of exactly zero.

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The one that got away

Even a cursory look at the numbers reveals the inarguable truth about the contribution that southeastern New Brunswick brings to the table of the province’s economy: This region, anchored by Greater Moncton, drives every other in measureable ways.

So why, then, does it merit only perfunctory recognition from the federal Conservative government, whose agents now, rather counter-intuitively, desire the undying support and approval of its residents mere weeks before the next general election?

Every major federal leader has done his or her pass through the southeast in recent weeks. Everyone, that is, except Stephen Harper, who, we are told, is getting around to it.

The prime minister’s persistent absence from the banks of the Petticodiac is conspicuous for several reasons, not the least of which is his filial connection to the area (one of his forbears actually hailed from here; there’s even a crumbling street in the east end of the city named for his family).

Another is that he has a fine lieutenant in the body of Tory MP Robert Goguen, who must, by now, feel like Little Orphan Annie pining for a Daddy Warbucks.

Mr. Goguen’s efforts to spin the federal government’s determination to divert regular infrastructure money (snow removal, road repairs, etc.) into a downtown events centre on the expectation that the completed facility will return enough to replenish municipal coffers was beyond brilliant. No one, to my knowledge, has made a better “robbing Peter to pay Paul” argument in the recent political history of this province.

Then again, no one outside this province really gives a darn about this province – least of all this part of the province, which boasts far too much commercial success to characterize as a basket case in need of federal support.

Again, look at the numbers, courtesy of Moncton’s official website: “In 2014, KMPG ranked Moncton as the lowest cost location for business in Canada; Moncton is known as the hub of the Maritimes with more than 1.3 million people living within a 2.5-hour drive; with a 9.7 per cent population growth between 2006 and 2011, Moncton is the fastest growing Canadian urban centre East of Saskatoon and the fifth-fastest growing CMA in Canada; Moncton (has) added more than 25,000 jobs to its workforce since 1990; home sales in 2011 reached the fourth highest level in history; there were twice as many houses sold in 2011 than (the) decade (before); with an average price of $166,476 in 2013, Moncton remain(ed) one of the most affordable housing markets in Canada; total value of building permits issued in 2011 reached $184 million, the second highest level in history; retail sales reached $2.1 billion in 2011.”

All of which suggests that Mr. Harper has nothing to gain by spending his political capital here – or, perhaps more accurately, no one to control, apart from his various factotums.

An affecting piece in the New York Times last week, written by veteran political journalist Stephen Marche, makes several compelling points:

“Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education. But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government.

“(Mr. Harper’s) stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.”

Under the circumstances, then, perhaps Mr. Harper’s ignorance of us is our bliss.

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The almost-ready-for-prime-time leaders


We knew them not so much by the ideas they conveyed or the words they uttered, but by the roles they assiduously embraced.

There was Prime Minister Stephen Harper assuring his audience, like a narrator in a Thorton Wilder play, that his avuncular governments have, over the past 10 years, had only the interests of the common, ordinary folk in mind.

There was fighting-fit Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau throwing left jabs and right crosses (sometimes even landing a few) in a mighty attempt to show fans of political pugilism that he was, indeed, a heavyweight ready for the main event.

There was a professorial-looking Thomas Mulcair, studiously reminding Canadians that good governance is serious business and only the highest-minded among us are properly equipped to meet the challenges of providing universal day care and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

In fact, the only leader in the first debate of the federal election who didn’t appear to assume a role for the benefit of the voting public was Green Party chief Elizabeth May. Bully for her and for a brand of plain-speaking one can almost endorse.

“We have a weak and shrinking economy and it’s the wrong time for austerity measures,” she said at one point. Turning to the prime minister, she added acidly, “We’re in a recession under your watch for the second time.”

As for the condition of Canadian democracy, she declared, “Instead of fixating on this splitting-the-vote non-problem, vote splitting, we need to focus on the real problem, which is that 40 per cent of Canadians in the last number of elections haven’t voted, and vote abandoning in my view is a much bigger problem than vote splitting.”

Under the circumstances, it’s a shame that Ms. May’s appearance last week is likely to be her single debate opportunity in this election cycle. On the other hand, one wonders what these dog and pony shows actually accomplish, either for the candidates or for the electors.

Are they any more articulate about their plans and priorities for having spent a chunk of time in front of a camera taking pot shots at one another’s records, statements, misstatements?

Are we any better informed about the issues that concern us most?

When, in the debate, Mr. Harper said, “the other parties are proposing literally tens of billions of dollars of additional spending, permanent spending, to be financed by permanently higher tax rates and permanent deficits,” are we sure he was telling us the whole, unvarnished truth?

Likewise, when Mr. Trudeau complained that Mr. Mulcair’s “minimum-wage plan actually will only help less than one per cent of every Canadian who earns minimum wage,” and that this, in effect, amounts to “false advertising”, do we believe him?

In the end, though, as political debates go, this wasn’t an especially dreadful affair. If we didn’t learn much more than we already know, we did recognize the players for their various scripts generally courteous comportment.

As it happened, on the very night last week that Canada’s leaders’ debates proceeded, the Republicans in the United States hosted their own verbal cage match.

According to a BBC report, “(Donald) Trump. . .most uncomfortable moment came when moderator Megyn Kelly challenged him on his views about women. ‘You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,’ she said. He answered by joking that he only said that about actress Rosie O’Donnell and stating that political correctness was one of the country’s biggest problems.”

We should, perhaps, be grateful for the political actors we have here in the Great White North

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In Fat City, the name is the game


Welcome, dear webinar participant, to the 14th annual, interactive session on politics in the early 21st Century.

Now that we are about to enter 2056 – also known as the Glorious Acquisition of Wisdom in Democracy (GAWD) year – we must be vigilant in remembering how our society was radically changed for the better when our fearless, nonagenarian leader, Sun King Stephen Harper, chose to dispense with formality and address his political opponents by their first names or, indeed, by any names that came to his exquisite mind.

Let us, then, cast our thoughts back to the summer of 2015 and the first leaders’ debate in that year’s general election campaign. To be sure, we go not far enough to declare that the event changed the entire world.

Here, then, is a partial transcript of that momentous, felicitous event:

Mr. Stephen Harper, recent Prime Minister and current Conservative Party of Canada Leader: “Thank you, (moderator). Let me say what a great pleasure it is for me to address the citizens of this great nation and to lock horns with my eminent colleagues, Gumby and Pokey, standing over there in the corner trying to figure out how to turn on their mics.”

Mr. Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada: “Excuuuuse me! I object strenuously to Mr. Harper’s tone and characterization.”

Mr. Thomas Mulcair, Official Opposition Leader (New Democratic Party of Canada): “As do I. In fact, this may be the one thing young Justine and I actually agree on.”

Mr. Trudeau: “That’s JUSTIN to you, Tiny Tommy!”

Mr. Mulcair: “My deepest apologies, Pierre-Light!”

Mr. Harper: “Gentlemen, gentlemen. . .please let’s just all calm down. Or, maybe Gumby can jump on Pokey’s back and, together, they can ride away into the red and orange sunset that frames their electoral fortunes. Hmmmm? Whaddya think?”

Mr. Trudeau: “Well. . .only if I get to be Gumby.”

Mr. Mulcair: “Not on your life, Pokemon! I’ll do the riding around here. . .Anyway, maybe we should ask our esteemed colleague, Steve, how he intends to fix the Canadian economy now that he’s broken it.”

Mr. Trudeau: “That’s a fair question from my esteemed colleague, Dimbulb. What say you, Steverino?”

Mr. Harper: “Well, now, let me address this issue by asking Messrs. Turduckin and Mohair how they will handle falling confidence in the wit and wisdom of their respective leaderships amongst their own ranks – otherwise known as the pinko, Birkenstock-cobbled, hipster, media elite.”

Mr. Mulcair: “Allow me to field that one. . .For one thing, Mr. Prima Donna Stavros Harpy, I am just as stiff and uninspiring as you in front of a camera. I am just as unenlightening and disengaged as you in a press scrum. In other words, I possess all the qualifications that prime-ministership in this country requires. And one more thing that is crucially important. . .I can grow a beard.”

Mr. Trudeau: “That’s right, Beardy McBeardyson can grow facial hair. . .But is that any reason to elect him to the highest office in the land? My fellow Canadians, I shave semi-regularly, which ought to be some indication of my abiding commitment to personal hygiene.”

Mr. Harper: “Mr. Moderator, I see from the clock that our time is rapidly running down. The only real question Canadians must address in this election is which name they prefer for their fearless leader: Gumby, Pokey or. . .Sun King. Let history be the judge.”

All of which proves, dedicated students, what history always reveals: Greatness is never properly appreciated in its own time.

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