Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On political cooperation

It seems my endorsement of political cooperation has gained some criticism. Let me be clear - what Nathan Cullen is proposing is landmark. It expands upon steps first taken by than Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Canada's only ever elected Green Party Member of Parliament Elizabeth May. I'm sure we all remember the highly controversial move by M. Dion and Ms. May to agree not to run partisan candidates against each other. This was done to give Ms. May the opportunity to (guess what!) beat a Conservative Party cabinet minister. (Of course, this was former Progressive Conservative Party leader Peter Mackay.)

Many from all different Canadian political stripes - mostly NDP - have criticized me for endorsing Nathan Cullen's proposal of actually working together. Imagine that! Politicians actually working together to achieve the Canada they desire. Nathan Cullen. Bob Rae. Elizabeth May. They can achieve a more progressive Canada. And they can do it together.

Please understand. This is not to say that one party cannot achieve government unilaterally. But it is to say that it is better to achieve together.  Imagine the country that we live in that working together is scene as a sense of weaknesss. As a lack of pride in one's own belief. Well I say, nuts to that! Work together. Working for the country that you desire. And don't be afraid to listen to what some from another party might have to say. Who knows? Maybe we can actually reach a compromise and deliver a Canada we can ALL be proud of.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Why I can't help but like Nathan Cullen

I've always been honest about my political leanings. And I continue that today - possibly to the disappointment of many of my Liberal friends. But I like Nathan Cullen.

As a political observer I have been paying close attention to this race, and Nathan Cullen has impressed above all else. His willingness to reach out to other parties is refreshing in Canada's modern body politic. For far too long we have leaders of political parties in Canada put their party ahead of the country. The Prime Minister. Michael Ignatieff. Brian Topp. Thomas Mulcair. Peggy Nash. Paul Dewar. They all present different ideas but are clearly preoccupied with personal success and the success of their party.
On matters of policy, Mr. Cullen has demonstrated an ambitious platform in the field of democratic reform. Both in his proposal of a plebiscite on the future of the Monarchy in Canada and the introduction of a mixed-member proportional electoral system; Mr. Cullen has demonstrated that a more fair Canada is certainly his goal.

On the environment, Mr. Cullen has been fighting for its survival since before it was cool. He is leading the fight for the NDP against the Enbridge Pipeline that will run right down the middle of his riding so that Alberta oil can be shipped out to China. He backs this up as a leading advocate for the proliferation of green energy in Canada.

So yes. I might just be a Cullen fan. His difficulties in this race seem to be his joint-nomination proposal. It seems to be unpopular with the general membership of the NDP. But if I may give my advice to those members: if you really want to elect an NDP government it will take controversial bold ideas. It will take someone can legitimately expand the base. To date, only one candidate has demonstrated an ability to this. And his name is Nathan Cullen.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Kenny Wilson.... Vegas or bust!

I make no secret of it. I'm a Kenny Wilson fan. I truly believe he is part of the Toronto Blue Jays. But he's got one problem... Okay maybe a few problems... That being the abundance of young outfielders - particularly centre fielders in the Blue Jays system. Marsinick. Gose. Even Snider and Thames. They all stand in Wilson's way on his journey to the majors.

But this is a guy with the tools to keep rising up the ranks in the Blue Jays system. But I'm a believer. And part that comes from what he is doing right now with the Australian Winter League. After just 33 games the thwenty-three year-old is batting .248/.325/.376 with three home runs, eight doubles, 20 RBI and 10 walks. More importantly to his game he has got 10 stolen bases, getting caught on the basepaths only one time. But Wilson can't stop when Spring Training begins. He'll have to prove that he isn't just read for New Hampshire, but that he has the kind of potential be in Las Vegas by the time the season comes to a close.
Wilson is a unique type of player. He has the tools to be a lead-off hitter or a dangerour number nine with strong defensive accumine. Think of him as Juan Pierre with a better arm and a higher cieling.

That all said I fear that if he can't prove he has the ability to leap frog those already in the system that his career will get away from him. If he cannot finish the season in Vegas it may be time for the Jays to walk away. At 24 (when season's end) he will be just shy of the magic age of 25. And as many of us know - if you have played a major league game by 25, chances are you won't be.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The year ahead: Canadian Liberalism

Alright. So we all know how this works.
1. Federal Liberal leadership

The Liberal Party of Canada will once again break off into its corners. Ignatieff v. Rae is over. The party will do what it always does. And I predict McGuinty v. Leblanc is next. I also look forward to possible appearances from Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Marc Garneau, and if we're lucky Scott Brison and Ken Dryden. But do not dispair. This is a good thing. Competitive leaderships are good things. We can see the glove beginning to come off in the NDP leadership race, and that bodes well for a party. What is important is that a party can coalece around one leader when the time comes.

2. The future of Premier McGuinty

I believe that at some point the Premier will announce he is stepping aside from the Ontario Liberal leadership (however, not to run for the federal Liberal leadership). The Premier has been in active politics for nearly two decades now. And despite a win in the recent election, Ontario Liberals must accept that the citizens of Ontario did vote for some degree of 'change.' Perhaps this can be accomplished by a simple change in leadership. It is hardly as though the party lacks potential candidates - Dwight Duncan, Eric Hoskins, Brad Duguid, and maybe even George Smitherman, just to name a few. That said, I do not expect an actual date of the Premier's resignation to be until after the federal Liberal leadership. Share membership demands will force the wait.

3. Emergence of moderacy on Toronto Council

Someone will emerge. The polarization of Toronto City Council is becoming ever more prevelent. The City is tiring of it. It is time for someone to emerge to lead a group of Council moderates. Michael Thompson. Karen Stintz. Josh Matlow. Ana Bailao. James Pasternak. Mary Margaret-MacMahon. There are plenty of options. I hope the Mayor embraces them. He will have the opportunity when Budget Chief Mike Del Grande steps down from his current role.

4. More floor crossers

Today saw the joining of a Quebec MP to the Liberal Party of Canada caucus. We will see more. And we will them come from the NDP. This is not a hint of a merger or some kind of closeness in policy. What it is, is a realization of the fact that many MANY Quebec New Democrats did not expect to win their seats, and are not evaluating what it is they actually believe. And many are figuring out that they are not socialists.

5. Peter Goldring
Don't judge me. MP Goldring has recently left (or been kicked out; depending on your perspective), but he now sits as a Civil Libertarian. I see him becoming something of an ally to the Liberal/liberal cause on social issues - namely the "tough on crime" legislation. Regardless of his recent legal troubles, Mr. Goldring could become a key ally to the movement of promoting idependent thought within the Conservative caucus. And that could become key to destabilizing an arrogant government.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

30% off tuition!

I've still got a few of those year ahead bits to do. But I wanted to address this while it was fresh.

Beginning January 5th post-secondary students in Ontario will be able to apply for a 30% tuition fee rebate. This in addition to the $6.2 billion investment in post-secondary the creation of over 200,000 university and college spaces. Sounds pretty impressive to me.
Not to the Canadian Federation of Students, though. Right now they deliberately misleading student about what was promised during the election. The Premier was very clear during the campaign. His promise was to cut tuition for full-time undergrad students. We will simply refer to this as 'Exhibit A'. They, along with the NDPC Coalition, will tell you this isn't good enough. They will tell you that is doesn't apply to enough students. And to Tim Hudak and his deputy leader Andrea Horwath, I say this; we are facing tough economic times. I know both promised to spend and spend ... and spend some more. But the finances are simply not there. This is not going to be the last thing done for education. And when there is more money in the back I have no doubt Premier McGuinty will reinvest in education. This issue is personally important. And I know for certain he will not let it fall to the wayside.

Ladies and gentlemen, Premier McGuinty has delivered his promised 30% off tuition for Ontario students who need it most. This is good news. It means an additional $1,600 in the pockets of university and college degree students and $730 in the pockets of college diploma and certificate students. If you are a student, beginning immediately you can get up to $800 back for the winter semester. And if you already receiving OSAP, you will automatically considered.

My Ontario friends. This is VERY good news.

Go to Ontario.ca/30off to see if you are eligible.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Year Ahead: Canadian Politics

So I have a plan to do three of these - one for Canadian politics, another for Canadian Liberalism, and another for Baseball - three topics I write about on a regular basis. I will be opening with Canadian politics. So let's dive in.

1. Prime Minister Harper will have his way with the Parliament of Canada.

Let us be frank folks. No matter your political allegiance, we must all acknowledge that this Prime Minister may very well be the most powerful in Canadian history. With both the Liberals and NDP consumed by internal leadership races and the Bloc and Greens not numerous enough to make even the slightest dent in the Prime Minister's agenda he will be able to do essentially anything he pleases. That said, if the first few days of 2012 are any indication it will mean more taxes, more spending, and expanded government with a greater reach. That is the legacy of this Prime Minister. And while I have a great deal of respect for Bob Rae (I still believe he would be a fantastic Prime Minister) and Nycole Turmel (although I have never met her), but both can only be so effective. Their powers in the House are limited by those looking to occupy their current seats in the House of Commons.

2. The NDP's leadership race will bare all.

To date the race has been fairly ... well boring ... But I do believe that this race will turn negative very soon. And leading that charge I believe will be Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair. When you have two emotional figures emotions will bubble to the surface. Topp has already begun calling Mulcair out as a 'centrist' - something he speaks to with negativity. Mulcair will respond. If he doesn't I believe he proves himself not up to the job of beating Prime Minister Harper (whether or not that be your preferred scenario). And much like 2006 did for the Liberals, this will open up the race for someone like Paul Dewar or Peggy Nash to slide between them and become the new leader of the NDP.

3. The Liberal leadership will do the same.

One thing Liberals do not do well is play nice. Whether it be Rae v. Ignatieff, Martin v. Copps, Chretien v. Martin, or what have you, fractures emerge during Liberal leaderships. This isn't a bad thing. Its good to be passionate. And I suspect what we will see next will be David McGuinty v. Leblanc. I do not relish such a situation, but it when the gloves come off we see how a candidate handles themselves. The gloves will certainly not be on in 2015. And I'd rather see a leader that has the ability to take on the Prime Minister following a hard fought internal battle, rather than a candidate that waltzed to leadership without the ability to win the big price.

4. There will be zero talk of an NDP-Liberal merger.

There really is not further need to expand. There is no merger candidate in the NDP race. And there is no prospective candidate in the Liberal race that would be open to the same. If it ever does happen it will not be until 2016.

5. The Ontario McGuinty government will survive the entire year.

There just is not a demand for an election. Both Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak have proven themselves unable to unseat the Premier. They will reserve the following year to lick their wounds and hope they don't have to take on Dalton McGuinty again. What we may see, however, is two parties that come together to put the Ontario Liberal government in a position of stalemate. They have already begun this with their coalition on the HST. I would not be shocked if they pushed that envelope.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

With 2011 behind us

So with all this talk of Jack Layton being the story of 2011 I though I'd give my $0.02.

My first comment is this: I don't agree. But let me be clear. This is not to discount Mr. Layton. He had an incredible impact on the Canadian body politic. He was, without a doubt, the most successful and popular leader of the NDP ever. He was a great Canadian. Perhaps one of the greatest.

But was he the biggest story of the year? No. Was the biggest story of the year due in large part to his success? Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to the fall of the Bloc and Parti Quebecois. Let me explain why.

As someone who grew up during a period in which Quebec separatism was alive and well this destruction of separatist forces in Ottawa and disarray in Quebec City is a welcome achieve of 2011. Mr. Layton, with M. Mulcair at side, gave Quebeckers something new to get excited about. He gave them a reason to be proud to be Canadian. This is something that Prime Minister Harper or Michael Ignatieff or even Quebeckers Stephane Dion and Paul Martin were unable to do. But Mr. Layton was. Members of all parties should be able to admit this. As known Conservative Tasha Keirdan of the National Post and CTV's National Affairs put it, "better the socialists than the separatists."

The death of Jack Layton wasn't the Canadian political story of 2011. But the success of his party in decimating Quebec's separatist forces was.

In many ways all federalist Canadians do owe a degree of gratitude to Mr. Layton and Mr. Mulcair in leading the party's forces in Quebec to a victory over the Bloc Quebecois. It is unfortunate that there were political casualties to politicians like current candidate for President of the Liberal Party Alexandra Mendes and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon along the way - both extremely capable MPs who had earned re-election.

However, going forward New Democrats should worry. The Quebec caucus of their party is, is large part, inexperienced in the world of politics. Aside of M. Mulcair and Romeo Saganash - both leadership candidates - the NDP really only has the rather ineffective interim leader Nycole Turmel and former party president and current leadership candidate Brian Topp that can truly any degree of experience. What this means for Liberals, and to a lesser degree Conservatives, is that where Mr. Layton blew down the door his untimely passing delivers an opportunity for another federalist party to walk through it. Bob Rae is not taking this opportunity lightly. He will attempt to make Quebec a capital-L Liberal province again in time for the 2015 election. If I were Thomas Mulcair or Brian Topp or Paul Dewar I would be concerned. And if I were Dominic Leblanc or David McGuinty or Scott Brison I would be planning the next year and the leadership election that will begin 2013 accordingly. Quebec will be a battleground come 2015. No federalist party can afford to look elsewhere.