Entries from August 2007 ↓

Future bomb

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I drove into downtown Toronto Friday not long before cops shut half the city down to blow up some bombs they found in a loser’s car. Sadly, things were hardly so exciting in the cramped little CTV studio built into the ground floor of the Globe and Mail building.

I was there for what’s known in the trade as a double-ender. That means staring into a camera lens in a darkened room with a feed in your ear pretending you can see the host and the other guests who are hundreds of kilometres away. The tough thing about doing this is figuring out when it’s appropriate to speak, since you can’t see other people to gauge their body language or expressions. Occupational hazard.

The panel I was part of was all Libs – David McGuinty, the environment critic, Denis Coderre, the defense critic, and me. The topic was the recent caucus, a new poll showing a majorty of people like the way the country’s going, and the upcoming session of Parliament.

qp-ctv.jpg And how did it go? Well, that Coderre fella sure can talk a lot, so I probably did not make the point I intended. Fortunately, I have a narcisscistic blog, so I’ll do it here: The next election will not be fought on Afghanistan or even the environment, although both of those will cause much rolling thunder in the House of Commons. Instead, it will be the economy and the impact of events of the next year or so on Canadian families.

I have no doubt the US economy will cease growing and likely slide into recession as the Bush era comes to an end. The severity of the current situation was underscored Friday as the White House announced a package of new measures to keep Americans from walking away form their homes and mortgages. Such an action could not have been remotely contemplated two years ago. And there is more to come.

There will be implications for Canada. Even Alberta. And our current finance minister is quite unlikely to measure up to the challenge. Thus, when real estate equity starts to fade away, famly net worth declines and retirement plans are impacted, Canadian voters could be in an ugly mood. The political party with a realistic set of solutions will triumph. I have no doubt Mr. Harper will become an interesting Wikipedia entry.

CTV’s Question Period airs Sunday at noon.

Rock talk

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Our national caucus ended yesterday morning in St. John’s with a speech by the leader. As you might expect when the media is allowed behind closed doors, all of my colleagues were as enthusiastic as possible in greeting Stephane Dion as he entered the room to a standing O, and applauding his speech as he gave it.

I thought he did just fine, and his English pronunciation continues to rapidly improve. I have noticed, oddly, that this guy actually gives better, more cogent, more inspired and convincing speeches when he speaks without notes or TelePrompter. In that, he differs from PMSH, who is now addicted to the prompter and has mastered the skill of saying what he is viewing, without looking like he’s reading.

mptvsmall6.jpg All in all, it was a most worthwhile caucus. It exceeded my expectations. But we could have done without the Puffin talk, methinks. In any case, MPtv has uploaded the speech, and to view it, click here.

My job

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Artistic rendering courtesy of The Wingnuterer

Back from the Rock tonight after the Liberal caucus meeting. Can’t help but compare it in my mind to the last summer caucus I attended a year ago. That one was in eastern Ontario, and it was Stephen Harper in the room, with me a Conservative.

The contrasts abound. Last summer Mr. Harper chose to sit up on a stage overlooking his colleagues. This morning Stephane Dion chose to sit among them. Beside me, actually. Last year the summer Tory caucus began a process aimed at knocking me out of the nomination in my riding, as the PMO backed a televangelist’s crusade in Halton. This week I worked with my team on economic policy, communications strategy and citizen involvement. I signed up MPs for my coming tax policy conference on the Hill and gave top party officials some advice they were seeking.

Last summer I sat silently in the Conservatives’ national caucus meeting, because silence was expected. Yesterday I was on my feet promoting income-splitting and digital democracy, because I am now in an environment of ideas and possibilities. No intimidation or fear. I can do my job as an MP. Finally.

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The elimination of a complete shift, and with it 1,200 jobs, at GM’s Oshawa truck plant is big news. And not just for Ontario.

Sales of pickup trucks are solid in Canada, buoyed in particular by demand from Alberta. But the 16% increase in domestic sales means nothing, since the bulk of the cars and trucks made in this country are sold south of the border. There, things are coming off the rails.

The real estate market collapse, which led to the credit crunch, which is now making it harder for people to get mortgages and car loans, has nailed truck sales. With new home construction at the worst level in a decade, demand for pickups has sagged by 20%. With no improvement in sight, twelve hundred guys in Oshawa who make those trucks are now without work, too.

This is just one tip of the economic berg moving in this direction. Smug Canadians who think our real estate market is immune or that a recession in the States, which buys 70% of everything we ship, are due for a surprise. Our 16-year-long economic upcycle cannot last indefinitely, and I have written several articles here lately articulating the reasons America is now a hulking danger.

I spent a good chunk of the last two days trying to raise awareness of this among my colleagues, as did John McCallum. We seem to be of the same mind on this danger. There are storm clouds, and we have a finance minister who seems totally out of touch.

Last Spring I warned that this was not the time for our government to raise spending to historic levels, to fuel inflation, goosing the dollar and hurting exports or to create the conditions for higher mortgage rates and downward pressure on real estate. But, natch, Mr. Flaherty ignored me and others saying such things.

The job cuts announced this week are the worst kind. High-paying, career-oriented, high technology and high-skilled manufacturing positions, which could be a long time – if ever – being replaced. Sad if it’s just the start of something. Sadder still that the damage has been amplified by ministerial incompetence.

Many of the GM guys are Flaherty constituents. I hope he has the guts to have a Town Hall and be accountable.

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Speaking of such, I’m back on the road in a couple of days, this time forsaking the Newfoundland way for the West. I hear some old guy on CJOB trashed me today just for being myself, and having the audacity to visit Winnipeg on Tuesday. And last week that rabid rant DJ in Calgary tried his best to carpetbomb my rep, even hinting broadly that I may have been unethical when last a part of the financial services biz.

In fact, the pre-visit spleen that’s been unleashed in some places is quite amazing to behold. I even heard today that members of the Harper Conservative leadership have just ‘warned’ Dion’s people that I am not to be trusted, and impossible to work with. If they choose to believe that, then I guess I’ll stay a no-title, garden variety backbench MP.

Hey, come to think of it, that’s all I ever wanted to be. They may not get that in Ottawa. But I’m sure they’ll eat me up in Edmonton.