Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lazy Blogging

Given the slow news day, I decided to look further afield than usual in scanning the news, and realized that John Crosbie has a column in the Toronto Sun. Now, I respect Crosbie, especially for his ill-fated 1979 budget which, had it passed, likely would have resulted in a lot less pain for Canadians in general and my generation in particular. But his column is just not very good. It is, however, a good archetype of the typical, heedless-of-reality, partisan column that you often see, so I thought I'd add some comments to what we wrote.

Greg from Sinister Thoughts would love his opening:

"Despite the coming to power of Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government, the sun still rises every day."

Yes, all those people who claimed instant doom if the Conservatives won sure have been proven wrong haven't they - never mind that parliament hasn't sat for a single day yet, the naysayers have been proven wrong!

"Harper has a firm hand at the tiller..."

If you're going to go with the prototypical, patriarchal, Conservative, strong man in charge rhetoric, could you at least come up with a slightly less overused cliché than the man with the 'firm hand on the tiller?'.

"and it will be difficult for the Liberals to attempt the same kind of fear campaign at the next election after several years of Conservative government with none of their predicted horrors having occurred."

John thinks to himself, 'I'll just slip in this assumption that the Conservatives will govern for years and nobody will notice - I am so clever!'

As for none of the predicted horrors occurring, wasn't one of the biggest ones that Harper wouldn't defend the Canada Health Act? Isn't that already occurring?

Wasn't another one that Harper would scrap the daycare agreements with the provinces? Isn't that already occurring as well?

As for the rest, it's only been a month or two, give him time John (maybe not several years, but at least several months)!

"On Feb. 6 Harper named a strong cabinet of 26, all promising newcomers, including two surprises."

*ALL* promising newcomers, every last one. Right. And I like the use of the word 'surprises'. Sort of like saying that George Bush undertook 2 wars, all promising, one with a few surprises.

"With just 124 elected MPs, Harper has to live in the real world, not in the fanciful world that the national media pundits inhabit."

I can only assume that by 'national media pundits', John means all national media pundits except him. I guess if Harper had more MP's (instead of just 124) he could have joined the pundits in Fanciful-World but alas it was not to be.

"He has to manage an unstable minority government with no members elected from urban Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver."

Unstable? Weren't we assuming it was going to last for years just a couple of paragraphs ago?

"This requires him, as political commentator and former politician Bill Rowe put it, 'to play the hand the electorate dealt him, and try every legal means, even if unsettling to some, to provide stable government for a couple of years, including the presence in the biggest cities, while giving himself a decent chance of showing the country what he and his party can achieve leading up to the next election.'"

In other words, being in a minority government situation not only allows, but requires a leader to throw away all concerns with ethics and only focus on staying within the letter of the law (this explains a lot, actually). Presumably this is the same standard Crosbie applied to the Martin government.

"In attempting this Harper has shown he is a political leader who can think outside the box,"

Oh man, I thought 'firm hand on the tiller' was banal.

"as demonstrated by inviting David Emerson, re-elected as a Liberal, to become the minister of international trade - and inviting Michael Fortier, co-chair of the campaign, to become minister of public works after appointing him to the Senate.

It is essential to have Montreal well-represented in cabinet at once - a move Quebec opinion approved."

I'm assuming the next line must tell us about what public opinion in B.C. thinks about Emerson. No? That's strange.

Furthermore, given that governments over the years have tried to get people to cross the floor and have appointed people to the Senate to reflect areas with little representation, the out-of-the-box component of this must be first campaigning on how unethical these moves are and promising not to do stuff like this if elected, and then doing it once in office. That part was new, I admit, although 'out-of-the-box' is still a dead-phrase-walking.

"As for Emerson, well respected in B.C. and the West [just ask his constituents - except maybe don't ask the ones who literally dumped a load of crap on his front lawn the other day - ed] He had run when Paul Martin asked him to serve in 2004 and performed well as a minister. So he was asked to 'serve' again and accepted. Emerson was not actively involved in any political party previous to 2004, but had an outstanding record in the civil service of British Columbia, as CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, and as CEO of Canadian Forest Products, the largest forest company in Canada."

Which is all fine except the people who voted for him, voted for a Liberal. Presumably if Emerson is so great and well-respected, nothing is stopping him from running in a by-election, no?

"Emerson's acceptance was in no way comparable to Belinda Stronach, once a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party and a member of the shadow cabinet, moving to the Liberal government at a time when a non-confidence vote was scheduled that would decide the fate of Martin's government. In every case where an elected member of one party joins another, any judgment has to be made on the individual facts of that case. The movement of Emerson to the Harper government, following the election, was in no way deserving of the hysterical hissy fit frenzy of much of the media - the same media caught by surprise but undisturbed when Martin bargained Stronach into his cabinet."

Wait, I've lost track, who is living in Fanciful-land again? The Emerson crossing is, if anything, worse than the Stronach one, because he didn't even serve his constituents for a single day before switching.

Also, 'Hysterical Hissy Fit Frenzy'? Perhaps at least one example would be in order to justify this kind of language? And maybe Crosbie could acknowledge that the timing of the Emerson crossing, coming so soon after so many Conservatives threw a Hyper Hysterical Whiny Waaaah Wailfest over the Stronach crossing, might have played a role in the coverage. Or how much better Stronach handled the media after her crossing than Emerson did with his arrogant and anti-democratic comments about knowing what was best for the people in his riding better than they did?

"To quote Rowe again: 'Keep going with the ruthlessly problematic strategy, Harper. Genuine, permanent competition between two strong federalist parties depends on it. And let the media howl.'"

'Problematic' is the word I'd use, but I'm thinking that Crosbie/Rowe might have meant 'pragmatic'. Still, I suppose a 'ruthlessly problematic strategy' might qualify as out-of-the-box thinking.

This last bit also exemplifies some more sly-Crosbie thinking: 'I'll just pretend that the NDP doesn't exist, to subtly marginalize them - man I am so subtle!'

I also like the classic right-wing, media is out-to-get-us paranoia (expressed while writing right-wing rants from a mainstream media soapbox) Indeed, let the media have their hysterical hissy-howlfest Harper - genuine permanent competition between two strong federalist parties depends on it!! (<- honestly, I have no idea what this even means!)

"The natural governing party of Canada, and their media sympathizers, clearly have protested too much about the addition of Emerson and Fortier to cabinet."

Yes, it is clear, they have protested too much, while over Belinda they clearly protested too little, maybe someday their protests will be just right, and Goldilocks John will be happy. Anyway, if you can't see how clear this all is, you're probably living in fanciful land.

"The stakes are high in creating a healthy, vigorous, competitive political system. This will take all the spirit, determination and ability to learn from experience Harper has demonstrated."

Why do I suspect that 'creating a healthy, vigorous, competitive political system' is code for 'electing a Conservative majority'.

"This is politics and the struggle is to transfer power from one overwhelmingly dominant party to an alternative. This is not tiddly winks or tick- tack-toe. A strong beginning indeed, Prime Minister Harper. Keep it up!"

A) Hasn't power already been transferred (for years, if I recall correctly from the top of the column)
B) I would be remiss if I didn't point out that this is also not Risk, Battleship or Crazy Eights
C) It may be Pin the Tail on the Donkey - I'm not sure about that one
D) Am I the only one a little creeped out by how right-wing people like to throw in titles ('Nice tie, Prime Minister Harper!') in odd places.
E) Parliament hasn't even sat yet and Harper is already being investigated by the ethics commissioner and has violated both explicit and implicit Conservative campaign promises. Can you imagine any circumstances under which Crosbie would have ended a column about Harper at this point with something uncomplimentary - say, "A weak beginning, ordinary human Harper, pick up the pace!"? Nah, me neither.


  • I find myself oddly inspired to start a blog titled 'fanciful land...'

    By Blogger one-dimensional man, at 1:12 PM  

  • re: the none elected from 'urban' Vancouver phrase.....

    Does Mr. Crosbie figure Vancouver Kingsway is actually located somewhere where the kingfishers fly just north of Desolation sound or is this just a bit of non-delusional slippage that reveals his heart-of-hearts understanding of the true nature of Mr. Emerson's election?

    btw: Mr. Emerson's recently been sighted, albeit back rowing it, in the latest round of VANOC photops.

    By Blogger RossK, at 2:14 PM  

  • Forget it, Crosby - next time, it's gonna be different!

    The New Tories under Harper will not realize what hit them come the next federal election. They will be fighting a different Liberal Party, a much more formidable force than the one they narrowly defeated in January.

    Why the difference? Because:

    1. Energy - Leadership campaigns, if held openly and honestly, can invigorate parties. With the many good candidates the LPC now has considering a run, this will happen to the Liberals.

    2. Harper's ethics - Hopefully, the new leader will not have a sorry history of participating in, downplaying, or turning a blind eye to abuses in the political system. There is a good chance the leader will be untainted by electoral scandal or ethical misjudgments, and so the major factor which defeated Martin's government will no longer apply. This time round, it is more likely going to be Harper's ethics being questioned by voters ...

    3. One party - The party will be united. The factions that tore it apart over the past 10 years will have learned their lesson. Those who sat out the last election because they felt unwelcome, or were made unwelcome, can now reconsider and join in the fight to ensure the Canada they know and love as Liberals, is protected from the neocon onslaught.

    4. Principles - There will have been a public debate about liberal principles and policies, and chances are the new Liberal leader will be leading a party which will coalesce around five or more significant principles, incorporating the best of liberalism in Canada.

    5. Homecomings - Those Liberals and independents who voted for the NDP because is represented a relatively unsullied party, and who wished to admonish the Liberals for their breach of trust with citizens on ethical issues, will now have a chance to come home, to a cleansed party. The tent door is always open.

    6. No free ride for neocons - The contrast between a Conservative Party running a tightly controlled election, focusing on corruption and a handful of baubles to toss to the citizenry, and a Conservative Party which is in power and must now openly debate the consequences of its platform in January and new platform in the next election, will be stark. The free ride will be over. We have seen the mainstream media have second thoughts already; this will only increase as the reality of the neocon agenda of the New Tories sinks in to people in the regions.

    7. Canada's voice - The new Liberal leader will speak for Canada. This is the Liberal role in Canadian politics. He or she will represent all voters, in all regions, and will protect the power of the federal government to ensure that Canada is indeed more than simply the sum of its parts, as Harper thinks.

    8. Framing and fighting - The new leader is more likely to run an organized, effective election than the shambolic, unfocused campaign we just suffered through. Harper's framing of issues and avoidance of clear and honest debate of major issues will not be allowed this time around: he will be nailed, and forced to defend policies with more than a terse "It's good because I say it is good, now let them eat cake!"

    9. BlogPower – This time, bloggers, now busily organizing, are going to be spearheading truth squads, building memory banks of past statements, organizing public debate, helping the Liberal candidates in each constituency to launch their own websites, blogs and electronic fund raising methods. Canada will see just how powerful a force the blog universe is.

    So cheer up folks; exciting times for Canada lie ahead.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:39 PM  

  • Declan, you may consider these pieces "lazy blogging", but it's always been my favourite style of post of yours. Keep 'em coming!

    By Blogger Simon, at 4:07 PM  

  • 1dman - Sounds like fun, you should get a good audience of national media pundits, since you wll be hiting them where they live, so to speak.

    Gazetteer - good catch, I think you're right that this does show that deep down Crosbie understands the Emerson situation.

    Curiosity - I hope you're right about the Liberal party getting their act together. I guess we'll see.

    Simon - Sometimes I feel like these critical pieces are kind of pointless, but I'll probably keep writing them all the same.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:52 AM  

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