Entries from September 2007 ↓

All those opposed

From my seat in the House of Commons.

Two weeks from tomorrow the Harper administration will present its Throne Speech. The process is elaborate, with MPs summoned from their seats in the House of Commons by a dude in a nice hat with a big rod. He raps on the Commons door with it a few times, is admitted by the Speaker, and then orders the commoners to the Senate.

Down the hall, MPs cluster around the doors to the red chamber, and strain to hear the speech read by the G-G. At her right hand sits the prime minister. Before her are the Supremes. On their benches to either side are the honourable senators. In the hallway are the actual elected representatives of the people.

How could the symbolism be more perfect?

The Throne speech will be followed by a debate and then a vote. If the vote fails, the government falls. There’s an election.

bryon-wilfert.jpg I’m told this almost never happens. I also hear growing indications opposition MPs, at least Liberals, may not have the desire at this time to bring down Mr. Harper’s regime. My colleague, Bryon Wilfert, whom the media keeps calling a Dion insider, was repeating this to every microphone and camera that came his way over the weekend. I’d say that was not by accident.

Obviously I am not in the inner circle. Hell, even my Siberian doesn’t trust me. I’m quite sure the leader will make up his own mind, and arrive at the correct strategic decision. The next national caucus meeting will be one of the most interesting in ages. If the Bloc Quebecois really isn’t blowing smoke, and withdraws support from the Harper crew, then all eyes will be on the Liberal benches. What will the MPs do?

“The question is as follows…”

Like everyone else, I’ll wait for the speech, read it, and decide. But at the end of the day, it will be about pledges and promises. They may sound good, even grand. Like, “we will never tax your income trusts,’ or, “we will lower your taxes,” or, “we will give families choice in child care,” or “we will not overtax you and run up a surplus,” or “we will be honest and not cheat on the election.” That kind of thing.

“All those opposed will please rise.”

However, my decision to stand and vote for the fall of the government will be based on actions, not rhetoric. When the clerk calls my name I’ll be thinking about the Arctic ice melting. Of Dave and Loreen losing $109,000 in life savings. Of an undisciplined spending spree. Of muzzled, impotent, unresponsive MPs. Of the shamed ordeal of gay couples. Of slander and sleaze and the politics of negativity. Of broken promises, no apologies. Of opportunity lost – a moment in time when there was a chance to do politics right, and the moment was squandered. John Baird’s feigned bluster. Jim Flaherty’s heckling. Ian Brodie’s threats. Stephen Harper’s taunts as he plays politics with soldiers’ sacrifices. Jay Hill’s smirk. The arrogance of a government that campaigns, when the people want governing.

Yes, the timing may be off. We might not win. I might not win. But if winning is my motivation, rather than standing up against intolerance, incompetence, betrayal and deception, then I serve myself, not the people.

“Mr. Turner, Halton.”

How to be a bad MP (1)


Since the people are always right, there must be a reason MPs are consistently placed lower on the trust index than used car salesguys. Voters today are jaded, cynical, skeptical and frustrated. At the Town Hall in Owen Sound a few days ago, a speaker garnered hefty applause by saying QP represents all that people do not want in politicians.

He’s right. We suck at this. Leaders like Mr. Harper have no compunction about breaking their solemn election promises while MPs like Larry Miller say there’s no point meeting with voters. So, what ever happened to the role of an MP as a representative of the people? Of a prime minister as the leader of the people? How can they do that, when they don’t listen to the people?

Unfortunately, Big Party politics has almost finished off our political system. MPs today – at least the bad ones – feel they work for the party, instead of the citizens. Everything they do and say is done through the lens of the party. They end up being salesguys for the party to their constituents. And those voters would rather have a used car!

This brings me to Dean del Mastro, Conservative MP for Peterborough. Dean is so partisan, so woven into Mr. Harper’s skirts, that he cannot even abide having another viewpoint expressed in his community.

On September 26th, Liberal deputy leader Micahel Ignatieff spoke at a small event in support of the provincial Liberal candidate, Jeff Leal. His topic: the desperate need in Canada to fight child poverty. This was a worthy subject. Ignatieff did not mention Dean del Mastro. He wasn’t even there to campaign federally.

But, just so the people of Peterborough would remember why we should hate MPs, at least bad ones, Dean sent this letter to the Examiner:

Re “Ignatieff visits Leal to boost campaign” (Sept. 26) –
Doesn’t it warm your heart when a wealthy person of extreme privilege drops by to speak about how he wants to tackle child poverty! Such was the case when we were graced by the presence of long-time U.S. resident, deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

The man most famous for the “we didn’t get it done” quote during last year’s lack of Liberal leadership campaign stopped by to promise to fix everything from poverty to the environment to health care.

Michael Ignatieff can pontificate all he wants about how wonderful all things Liberal would be but he is dreaming in technicolor. The Liberal’s plan for Canada right now is to be contrarian to the government and speak in nice fluffy overtures, not much of a blueprint for the future of our great nation in my opinion.

Here’s a plan that I offer up free of charge to the Liberal Party. Start by promising not to create slush funds and steal from the taxpayers. Try keeping your word on anything and begin trying to re-establish trust with Canadians, as opposed to talking about the strength of your brand

Canadians know all too well that there is a big difference between what the Liberal Party says and what it actually does. Many good people over the years gave them their unwavering support, like my entire family, but now see the truth behind their rhetoric. Canadians have heard this tune before but unlike their favourite song, they don t want to hear it any longer.

As Quebecers demonstrated last week, the country has moved on and left the rhetoric of the Liberals behind. Michael Ignatieff knows that truth as well as anybody, but then again why would a Liberal want to mix truth and politics?

MP Peterborough

Would you buy a used car from this man? Good. He may soon be back there at Del Mastro Motors, Lansdowne St. W., Peterborough. Sorry, closed Sundays.

Related: The Dean Del Mastro Pop Quiz. Click here.

The Dion disaster?

Every day, this image appears on the Conservative web site. Has the unprecedented attack taken its toll?

This letter came to me from Jason, a young Liberal in Dartmouth:

As a member of the Liberal party, I’m hoping you will find what I have to say important. I’m 30 years old, and have been voting Liberal for most of my (eligible) life. I am so disappointed with what I hear and read about the Liberal Party. Is it leadership? Political infighting? Incompetence? Bad reporting? Who cares! Fix it! If you don’t, you risk alienating people like me – the voters and workers you need.

I don’t care what the reason behind all this negative press is – someone there has to make the nonsense stop. The Liberal Party has the opportunity to regain the government, but is squandering the chance with all this crap. Stephen Harper is treading water at best, and anyone that would have the guts enough to call him on it could send him and his “social agenda” out on their butts!

A $14 billion surplus – come on! The Conservatives would be all over that if they were the official opposition! A sham of a climate change plan- why can’t you expose it for what it is? The GST cut – I don’t know what is more insulting to the collective Canadian intelligence: that a Conservative gov’t is passing it off as economically prudent, or that it’s coming from a former economics professor! The Atlantic Accord- how can this not be a massive issue? Harper campaigned on it!!! Why can’t this be exploited… Income Trusts too!

Honestly, the federal Liberal Party is beginning to look like a bad High School drama TV show. I recently renewed my membership to the party, and I’m considering asking for my money back, I’m so embarrassed. If I can get it, why can’t you?

Inspire me! Lead me! I want to believe in this party, but you’re making it difficult!

Dear Jason:
Your candor’s needed. You give voice to a legion of people who, like me, want a Canada without Stephen Harper in control. They watch the media feeding frenzy, and wonder how an experienced national party like the Liberals cannot rise above the traps set for it.

And traps they are. The Quebec by-elections. Proroguing Parliament. The Throne Speech decision for Stephane Dion. The dare on Afghanistan. In each of those, there have been carefully calculated bombs. Many have gone off. More to come, I’d say.

Stephane Dion’s been a man under attack since his come-from-behind leadership victory. The Conservatives have spent millions flaming him in print, on TV, in Parliament, on radio and the web over the past nine months. Never before has a new leader of a national party been subjected to a similar barrage. There is no precedent. So there must be a reason. He’s feared.

You ask to be inspired, and led. Then look up. Dion has suffered a complete personal assault which thin-skinned Stephen Harper could not have endured. And yet the Liberal leader is resolute, undaunted and undeterred. Like me, the Cons try to kill him every day. So far, still a pulse. And it’s quickening.

Patience, Jason. Do not equate smoke with fire, or noise for substance. The Harper administration, as you point out, has mortal faults. It has disappointed. It deceived. Betrayed and bullied. Leaders like that don’t last.

But what of Liberals, and its head?

No question, we have ropes at our back. The media war’s been lost, at least for now. The Jamie Carroll affair should not have happened. We have friends with unfriendly agendas. The Dion Disaster is a fabrication in danger of growing legs.

But central to this is not so much the leader, as what the party stands for. In that, Jason, you are right. The time’s at hand to make sure Canadians understand that. Having a good brand doesn’t cut it. What would Liberals do better, do differently, and do immediately? How would we handle Kyoto, Kelowna, the Atlantic Accord, income trusts, income tax, the looming US recession, Afghanistan, family financial stress, child care, the dollar parity threat, Baby Boomer retirement time bomb, western alienation or the Ontario job crash?

That brings us to the election. Moment of truth, eh?

Conventional wisdom is that Mr. Dion would not want to lead his army off a cliff. It’s also clear Mr. Harper wants a vote. His minority government comments last week were all smoke. He knows vote-splitting could well yield a majority. Weaken Dion, Provoke the Block. Don’t attack the NDP or the Greens.

Mr. Harper also knows his struggle will increase with time. Afghanistan will likely not end well. The economy’s losing altitude. Middle class voters will be piqued as their houses decline in value. The Cons have done nothing on climate change. Income trust investors and Maritimers will not forget their betrayals. And there are scandals to deal with – like election fraud.

So, I’m sure Stephane Dion’s advisors are telling him not to pull the plug and vote the government down on the Throne Speech. Pick your moment, they will whisper wisely. Keep the Cons under attack in QP, instead of giving them a chance to unleash that lucrous electoral machine. Defeat them on issues of your choosing, not over a speech in which they get to choose the topics. Let the prime minister continue to fear Parliament more than he fears the people.

Sage advice. A level-headed leader would heed it. He’d also be putting down markers, saying, this is what we stand for.

But, Jason, I’m not the boss. That mantle is not on my shoulders. Every day I’ve criticized Mr. Harper and his band of MP eunuchs for lessening democracy, hurting the economy and bringing dishonour to public life. I’ve decried what he did to my old lifelong party but, far more important, to the country I love. Mr. Harper’s unworthy of being prime minister.

I vote for war.

Afghan president says Taliban invited into government. Peter MacKay backs the initiative. Story here.