Entries from December 2007 ↓

Local column

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Two years ago we had a federal election and replaced the minority Paul Martin Liberal government with a minority Stephen Harper Conservative one. Two years ago Canadians gave the Tories about 36% of the vote and the latest polls show that today Conservatives and Liberals are just about tied. Two years ago the people of Halton elected me as the MP, and the vote was tight here, too.

I guess you’d have to conclude that no federal leader has knocked voters’ socks off. No one party has captured the imagination of citizens. Nobody has articulated a vision of Canada that has people talking about it over their coffee at Tim’s. The ambivalence comes despite tax cuts, a war in Afghanistan, growing concern about our troubled climate, a loonie at par, too many lost manufacturing jobs or the highest levels of federal government spending in history.

Soon, I’d say, there will be another election. We’ll go back to Parliament at the end of the month, where a new budget will be tabled and a confidence vote held. Just about everybody I’ve talked to, on both sides of the aisle, is gearing up for a Spring vote. Like all elections, it will be about power, with the big federal parties out to grab the brass ring of government.

One thing I’ve sure been reminded of since becoming an MP again is how much power changes everything. I never thought the Conservatives would raise personal incomes taxes, increase government spending to a record level, tax income trusts, let gas prices explode, ignore climate change or declare the Quebec people to be their own nation.

Of course, I never thought Conservatives would kick me out, either. Mr. Harper surprised me in his view of what an MP is. Whereas I went to Ottawa two years ago to represent voters and put their interests ahead that of the leader or the party, he demanded something completely different. He required loyalty and obedience. I was asked to tell you what the party wanted, rather than tell Ottawa what you wanted. And I refused. You know the rest. Thus, I will be running in the next election as a Liberal.

This makes me a controversial guy.

I asked Stephane Dion if there was room in his group for an independent thinker like me, a former Progressive Conservative, and he welcomed me in. I know now it was certainly the right decision. My ideas about reforming family finances, cutting the tax load on the middle class and helping people with retirement saving have been welcomed. My commitment to environmental action, to a climate change strategy with guts and results, is shared by Dion. And I have a new appreciation of the need to help families with child care, to find some real justice for aboriginal people and to get more women into Parliament, as a result of hanging out with Liberals.

With an election in months, maybe, the results in Halton will be more than interesting. Sure, my job as an MP will hang on how people vote and I’d like to keep at it until I get some more things accomplished. But even my oversized ego understands the vast majority of voters here – and in every other riding – will be thinking of leaders and parties when they mark their X. No matter how good, or unforgettable, the local candidates might be, voters know our system’s evolved into a presidential one – for better or worse. Increasingly we vote for the leader or the brand, and the local MP gets scant attention.

This should change, but probably will not. In the TV and Internet age, few of us will actually meet a federal leader, but we will see them every few hours. We form impressions. We vote on them.

Well, the point of this column is just to ask you to pay attention to political stuff over the next few weeks. Polls and voter excitement may not show it, but the coming election will be a pivotal one. Personally I think we need a prime minister with the confidence and calm to work with everybody in his caucus, and all Canadians. We need a guy who won’t put off the big, right decisions like saving our environment, even if it costs votes in the oil patch, or give our country back its independent voice, even if Washington doesn’t like what we might have to say. It takes more courage and decisiveness to stand up for your principles than it does strength to be a bully.

Say it

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We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. This was an abhorrent act of terror. We hope that the government of Pakistan will act to bring the perpetrators to justice and this cannot be allowed to permit any delay in the return of Pakistan to full democracy, something the people of Pakistan have been waiting for far too long.
— Stephen Harper

Our prime minister has learned diplomatic obfuscation well. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto elicited from Calgary the same tepid, almost apologetic response as we heard yesterday from Washington. Except, George Bush put a suit on and looked truly pained. Our guy, well, he didn`t.

Hard to diminish the importance of this death. Pakistan is a seething country with six times the population of Canada, nuclear missiles, a large terrorist class, a history of killing off leaders, and is currently run by an egomaniac dictator. It`s also next door to Afghanistan, and 2,500 Canadian troops who are fighting the Taliban, which common wisdom has it are supplied, aided, comforted and abetted by the goon regime next door.

There are certainly theories today that Bhutto`s demise came at the hands of the Taliban or maybe the bin Laden crowd. After all, she was set to win victory in the January 8th Pakistani elections or, at least, to become a key voice in a coalition government. Bhutto equalled democracry. Western-trained and worldly-wise, she also equalled the rule of law, religious tolerance and economic stability. Unlike the current dictator, whose military machine`s believed to be riddled with pro-terrorist elements, Bhutto would pose a serious threat to the entire fundamentalist structure which is dedicated to overthrowing the West.

musharraf.jpg There`s also the theory among her widowed supporters that Bhutto’s death was the work of the dictator himself, General Pervez Musharraf. Weeks before she was shot to death leaning out of the sunroof of her car, waving to supporters, she said should any harm come to her, it would surely be his work.

Back to George Bush and Mr. Harper. The west, led by America, has propped up Musharraf for years and given that country billions of dollars. This was in the belief he formed a dike against terrorism and represented stability in a volatile region with the potential to ignite half the world. Some dike. He was unable, or unwilling, in the short months Bhutto returned to Pakistan from years of exile to prevent hundreds of people from being blown up at political events, and two assassination attempts on the leader, one of them successful.

Musharraf has also been incapable of corralling the Taliban, which apparently slip seamlessly back and forth across the Afghan border, putting our troops in danger. In fact, every report I’ve heard states that Taliban strength is growing rapidly and the task our soldiers face grows more daunting, perhaps hopeless, despite their valour and work ethic.

While I did not really expect George Bush to get up and do more than condemn the unknown assailants and make thunderous words about bringing them to justice and restoring democracy to Pakistan – because he can’t – I sure expected more of our guy. The gift of being Canadian used to be the ability to speak your mind. Condemn South Africa. Chastise the US. Repudiate the Balkans. Speak out and support indigenous peoples and exceptional leaders while chewing out those regimes who deserved it. This is a useful thing for an independent middle-power like Canada to do, at least try to protect the moral high ground while others are scurrying around chasing their own self interests.

Thus, I would have been proud of a prime minister whose lines were not written after consultation with the White House.

We probably know who did this. Let’s have the balls to say so. If that’s too tough, at least – in the spirit of a mythic woman – be courageous enough to condemn that little dictator, and the shadowy bullies hiding in his skirts.

Some people must die to state truths. Others merely have to say them. How hard is that?

Have a seasonal opportunity

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Apparently I am still on Doug Finley’s Christmas list. Oh, the joy. And it sounds like we’re going to have an election soon. — Garth

Friends and colleagues,

I’d like to take this seasonal opportunity to wish all of you and your families my very best wishes. It has been a privilege to work with all of you – and your staff – over the last twelve months. It is very probable that we shall be contesting an election in the next twelve months. This will be an historic battle – one that pits a principled government against foes who wish to return to a period of vested interests and regressive policies. It is a battle that we must – and will – win.

Both my Political Operations department and National Campaign team stand four-square behind you and look forward to helping you and our proud party win this fight.

Again, my very best wishes to you, your families and staff.

Best Regards,

Doug Finley
Director, Political Operations
Conservative Party Of Canada