Category Archives: Federal Politricks

“Get The Fuck Out Of My Way” Perfectly Describes Trudeau’s Governing Philosophy

Image caption: A doctored photo of Justin Trudeau at a podium during the 2015 federal election. The Liberal Party's slogan, "Real Change Now" has been replaced with "Get the FUCK out of my way". (Image credit: CP/doctoring by yrs truly)

Image caption: A doctored photo of Justin Trudeau at a podium during the 2015 federal election. The Liberal Party’s slogan, “Real Change Now” has been replaced with “Get the FUCK out of my way”. (Image credit: CP/crappy photoshopping by yrs truly)

“Get the fuck out of my way,”* growled our Boy Wonder Prime Minister, as he shoved through a crowd of opposition MPs, grabbing one and elbowing another, in an ultimately self-destructive effort to get them to sit down so Parliament could get along with the important business of doing exactly what Justin Trudeau said it ought to be doing.

The incident has been parsed and mocked and debated and dissected interminably in the days since. The question of whether or not the opposition overreacted has gotten a lot of airtime, as have questions of how this incident will affect Trudeau’s supposedly sterling (inter)national reputation as a super-sexy uber-charismatic wonderkid feminist. The consensus seems to be that #Elbowgate, as the incident has been trashily labelled, is a shocking departure from the Prime Minister’s (all together now) “sunny ways” style.

But as a summary of the Trudeau Liberals’ governing philosophy, one would be hard-pressed to come up with anything more succinctly apt than “Get the fuck out of my way”. It’s Justin’s answer to Pierre’s “Just watch me” – which, when you get right down to it, amounted to about the same thing: the PM is gonna do what he wants. Continue Reading

Mulcair’s dismissal is latest escalation in NDP’s civil war

Image description: a close up of Thomas Mulcair’s face, from bearded chin to eyebrows. Mulcair looks happy, euphoric even. There are smile creases around his eyes and his teeth are showing. The lighting is low and blue-tinged. (Image credit: Youtube)

It’s trite and commonplace, in the aftermath of a surprising turn of events, to say that we all should have seen it coming. And many pundits, struggling to explain the stunning rejection of Thomas Mulcair by the NDP’s membership, are already hastening to reassure us all that the signs were there all along that Mulcair was done for.

Chantel Hébert, writing in the Star, insists that the “writing was on the wall for Mulcair”, and that it should have been obvious to everybody that the record-high turnout for the NDP convention foreshadowed a shakeup at the top. The pundits on CPAC, reeling from the shock of the result, anxiously rattled off a long list of signs that things hadn’t been going the way Angry Tom had planned.

But all those same pundits had spent the last few weeks talking about a hypothetical 70% approval rating threshold, and whether or not Mulcair would be able to cling to power had he failed to achieve that magic number. A lot of attention was paid to many scenarios, from a commanding Mulcair victory to a mid-50s approval, but not one professional commentator I heard or read even suggested that outright rejection at the hands of the party was possible.

In retrospect, yes, it seems obvious that Mulcair was doomed. But if we’re gonna get all retrospectively prognosticatory, why cast our gaze back only a few days? Why not cast it back even further than last October’s disastrous election night, in which the NDP lost more than half its seats and its best-ever chance at forming government?

We should have seen it all coming the day that Naomi Klein launched her Leap Manifesto with the support of an all-star line-up of Canadian activists and leftists. Continue Reading

On Timbits and terrorists and Thomas Mulcair

Over the past few weeks, the Conservative government has been introducing a flurry of bills that they have absolutely no intention of passing.

Many of the bills, which include motions to sentence certain criminals to life without the possibility of parole and to ban women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, have been labelled as potentially unconstitutional by legal observers and rights groups. But that’s besides the point.

The Conservatives are betting on two things: first, that these bills will be popular with their base, and second, that they can slur the Liberals and NDP for opposing these motions. As the CBC puts it, “who wants to run an election campaign arguing against tough sentences for murders and rapists?”

To claim that opponents of their measure are sympathetic to vicious criminals is a classic example of an ad hominem attack. If you’ve never heard of it, the ad hominem is an attack on the arguer rather than on their argument, an attempt to discredit the speaker rather than refute the speech. Ad hominems are common on schoolyards everywhere – like for instance, “What do you know about sports? You’re just a girl!” or, “Nobody cares what you think anyway, you dummy!”

Which sound pretty obvious. But I still remember watching George W Bush gravely intone in a speech to Congress days after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” to wild thunderous applause. Now, that’s barely one step removed from “If you don’t agree with me, you’re clearly an idiot”, but I don’t remember the New York Times calling him out on that one. Continue Reading

Stephen Harper wants YOU to be terrified

Another deep dive into a Stephen Harper speech designed to provoke fear in your hearts
harper protecting canadians

Good ol’ Steve, keeping us safe! (Image credit: pm.gc.ca)

As the Conservatives continue to slip in the polls going into the summer, Harper and his strategists seem to have seized upon the George-W-Bush-circa-2004 strategy for trying to get a not-so-popular government reelected – wrap yourselves in the flag and hype the so-called “terror threat” for all it’s worth. (We’ll have to wait and see whether the HarperCons employ the same kinds of dirty tricks and low-blow character assassinations that the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign ran, although given the deep institutional links between the Conservative and Republican Parties, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.)

Harper’s terror fixation has been on full display for the past few weeks. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him posing in front of the same podium, which vaguely claims he is “Protecting Canadians” from unspecified threats.

First there was his super-secret-undercover-agent trip to Iraq for photo opportunities and fear-mongering, with a bleary-eyed press in tow. (I wrote up his trip here  and his speech to the troops here.)

Then there was the overhyped RCMP raid on a Montreal airport, in which they detained (but didn’t arrest or charge) ten young people allegedly attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS. (Link is to the Toronto Sun purely for the totally unrelated but provocative photo.) These highly-publicized but mostly insubstantial detainments were closely followed by a major Prime Ministerial announcement at that same airport that the Government of Canada was going to give the Mounties and the Canadian Border Services Agency even more money to keep doin’ what they’re doin’.

And most recently, right here in Toronto, Steve announced that we haven’t surrendered enough dollars or enough liberty quite yet to keep the terrorists at bay – we need to also give more money to CSIS so they can collect biometric information on pretty much everybody who enters Canada.

As I did with his fear-mongering hate speech in Iraq, I’d like to take a close look at Harper’s statement in Toronto, examining it both for its truth-value (low) and its propaganda value (high). I think it’s a useful indicator of what we can expect from the HarperCons in the election campaign this fall, and I hope that the more his rhetoric gets exposed and picked apart, the less effective it’ll be. Continue Reading

Bill C-51, Jenni Byrne, and the “reality-based community”

Reading the Globe’s best attempt at a profile of Jenni Byrne today, I was struck by how resolutely on-message the woman is.

Byrne, for those who don’t know – and she’s done her best to make sure that most people don’t – is the Karl Rove to Stephen Harper’s George “Dubya” Bush, the secret strategist behind the throne, the master of messaging and spinning and damage controlling.

In stark contrast to Rove, however, Byrne’s name is unfamiliar to all but the most die-hard politicos. She declined repeated requests for an interview with the Globe (although she did dispatch people loyal to her to provide quotes for the story and to rebut specific criticisms on her behalf). Her Twitter feed is a mix of anodyne hockey-related posts and retweets of government propaganda.

Rove, by contrast, was quite public about his influence, and become a fixture on Fox News. On Election Night in 2012, he very publicly (and somewhat suspiciously, given the history) tried to cast doubt on Fox’s projection that Obama had won Ohio and the presidency. He even went on Colbert.

Karl Ham Rove and Stephen Colbert talking some serious policy

But their methods are strikingly similar. Continue Reading

“Strength of Conviction”? Popping the NDP’s bubble

A few days ago, amidst a slew of polls showing the NDP pulling into a three-way tie nationally with the Libs and the HarperCons, there was a wave of generically interchangeable op-ed pieces from knowledgeable old political hacks opining that Thomas Mulcair’s party was poised to win this fall’s election.

The Star’s Tim Harper opined that “Thomas Mulcair [is] emerging as the real agent of change”, arguing that the Trudeau Liberals have proven too wishy-washy to take on the polarizing HarperCons, and that this year’s election could be a “change” election, which is pundit-speak for “people are sick of Stephen Harper”.

Lawrence Martin over at the Globe, under the headline “Mulcair or Trudeau: One must offer real change”, manages to say a lot without actually stating much about what he thinks will happen. After all the “on-the-one-hand,-but-on-the-other-hand”ing, he seems to ever so slightly imply that maybe this time the NDP might have some chance – which for the Globe is I suppose a pretty big deal.

Meanwhile, over at the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Cohen sees the NDP making gains in the battle for the anyone-but-Harper crowd, which he labels “progressive voters”, a group he generously includes Red Tories in. (Are there any of those left?) He slams Trudeau as a “retail politician,” and says of the NDP leader, “Mulcair may not be cuddly but he is effective in Parliament. His principled critique of the anti-terrorism bill – admired by many Liberals – is one reason that public support for the bill has fallen sharply.” Continue Reading

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