Tag Archives: Politricks

Trudeau, Obama, and the dangers of the cult of personality

In 2011, when Stephen Harper led the Conservatives to a majority government, his party amassed 39.6% of the national vote.

Much was made of the fact that roughly 60% of voters had (supposedly) voted against Harper and his Conservative Party.

And yet, in the aftermath of this year’s election, in which Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party secured a mere 39.5% of the popular vote, we hear no such protestations.

There is, however, just as strong a case to be made that the remaining 60% of voters actively voted against the Liberal Party, just as much as they voted for their respective parties of choice.

For Conservative voters, the choice was made starkly clear by Stephen Harper himself: this election was a fight between continued Conservative rule, with their supposed fiscal responsibility and dedication to national security, and the rule of the feckless Liberals, who would irresponsibly lead the nation into deficit and out of a vital war against Islamist jihadism. One can debate the accuracy of this framing of the campaign, but there is no denying that these are the terms in which many Conservative-supporting Canadians viewed the situation. They accordingly, and dutifully, voted against Liberal rule, just as they also voted for four more years of Harper & Co.

For supporters of the NDP and the Greens, though this election seemed on the surface to fundamentally boil down to a referendum on Stephen Harper, they chose to stand by their parties despite the fact that, from a short-sightedly “strategic” point of view, the party most likely to dethrone the Conservatives was the Liberals. This strongly implies that they felt there were meaningful differences between the Liberals and their opponents on the left, differences significant enough that they outweighed the “strategic” imperative of defeating Harper. Which is to say, they voted against the Liberals as much as they voted for the NDP or the Greens.

And lastly, for the Bloc’s hard core of support, the Liberals are of course the old enemy. Trudeau père presided over the first referendum and sent the army onto the streets of Quebec and Montreal during the FLQ crisis, and there is precious little enthusiasm for Trudeau fils amongst the sovereigntist camp. In addition, Gilles Duceppe’s shameful race-baiting fear-mongering niqab-bashing ultimately drew a hard line between the Bloc and the Liberals (as well as the NDP and the Greens), and there can be little doubt at this point that the rump of Quebec nationalists contains within its membership a sizeable contingent of openly xenophobic racists who, obviously, actively voted against the Liberal Party just as surely as they voted for the slowly dying Bloc Quebecois.

So Justin Trudeau will take office this November with a level of support which is comparable to that of Stephen Harper when he embarked upon his first and only majority government. Continue Reading

This week in Electionland: Is this it?

Three weeks of this dismal depressing excuse for an election have dragged past us, but looking forward we see little consolation – just two more months of this mundane nonsense, this putridly pretentious speechifying, this bland and carefully targeted promise-making, this cautious avoidance of anything too bold or substantial or, god forbid, anything truly controversial.

To sum the whole sordid business up in a single sentence: Is this it?

This is – or it was supposed to be – the most important election in decades. Through all the long miserable years of the Harper majority, partisans of the various opposition parties have been saying, “Just wait until 2015 – we’ll get them then!” And now here we are, it’s their big moment, their time to shine, to show us their vision for a better government – and this is it?

The conventional wisdom from the veteran campaign journalists seems to be that the parties are all waiting until after Labour Day to pull out their marquee policy announcements and their show-stopping speeches and whatnot, the idea being that a lot of folks are on vacation right now and, from a marketing politics point of view, in the immortal words of George W. Bush press secretary Andrew Card, “you don’t introduce new products in August.”

Card was explaining why the Bush administration held off on making its case for their invasion of Iraq until the fall of 2002 – it wouldn’t have sold as well in the summer, he insisted. And perhaps he was right. But there’s something unspeakably cynical about such an approach.

First of all, seeing a major change in policy as a product to be sold, rather than an idea to be debated, reveals a great deal about the fundamentally manipulative approach that many insiders take to the political process, and that’s equally true whether the “product” is a war in Iraq or a candidate for Prime Minister of Canada.

But secondly, it shows that the parties – all of them – are afraid of telling us too much about their candidates products. Deciding it’s not worth the effort to make too vigorous or detailed of a pitch because it’s cottage season demonstrates that none of the parties’ chief strategists marketers are very interested in telling the whole story, getting down into the fine details, making a thorough case for their policies. They’re operating on the level of impressions.

And hell, that’s modern politics. I can’t expect them to do any differently. But it makes for a miserable campaign, especially for people (like me) who, for reasons that are probably too complicated and uninteresting to get into here, have committed themselves to reading as much about this goddamn spectacle each day as time and morale will allow for. Continue Reading

Accused “terrorist” John Nuttall feared for his life if he didn’t follow cop’s orders to plant bomb

The trial of accused terrorists John Nuttall and Amanda Korody resumed yesterday in Vancouver, with the judge seeking to determine whether the pair were entrapped by the RCMP. A finding of entrapment would render last month’s guilty verdict null and void, so the stakes for the Mounties are high.

As regular readers of The Alfalfafield may know, my mind is pretty firmly made up on this one, and has been since the trial’s early stages – there’s no way in hell this pair could’ve cooked up and executed this plot without extensive training, funding, and pressure from their police handlers, who literally planned the entire scheme.

For those who are new to the story, Nuttall and Korody were recovering heroin addicts who had recently converted to Islam. Nuttall encountered an undercover CSIS agent provocateur at his local mosque, and decided to snitch (to CSIS, ironically) about this seemingly dangerous firebrand radical. For whatever reason, this caught the attention of the RCMP, through channels that Nuttall’s lawyer is convinced were undocumented, so as to avoid future court disclosure. The RCMP then sicced its INSET program on Nuttall and his wife.

As I wrote in April:

To give a bit more detail on INSET [Integrated National Security Enforcement Team]: it’s actually five programs, not one. It operates in six major Canadian cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and a joint Calgary-Edmonton unit, each of which is known as an INSET. And the purpose of these INSETs?

The purpose for [INSETs] is to increase the capacity for the collection, sharing and analysis of intelligence among partners with respect to individuals and entities that are a threat to national security and; create an enhanced investigative capacity to bring such individuals and entities to justice; and enhance partner agencies collective ability to combat national security threats and meet all specific mandate responsibilities, consistent with the laws of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

INSETs are made up of representatives of the RCMP, federal partners and agencies such as Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and provincial and municipal police services. [sic throughout] [Evidently one of the 600+ officers transferred out of their normal duties into INSET was the one responsible for copy-editing and keeping track of all the semicolons]

That’s some pretty suggestively murky language right there. If “enhanced interrogation techniques” turned out to mean “torture”, what do you supposed “enhanced investigative capacity” means when translated into plain English? It’s hard to say exactly, but after squinting really hard at these paragraphs, I came to the conclusion that INSET is largely about undercover and intelligence work, infiltrating suspected national security threats and disrupting them from within.

Note that this program was very much operative long before anybody ever learned to dread the alphanumeric abomination that is C-51. That is to say, people and parties who advocate merely for a repeal of that noxious law are advocating to a return to the days when the RCMP could pull a stunt like the one they pulled on Nuttall and Korody. Continue Reading

Trans-Pacific Partnership – the scariest trade deal you’ve probably never heard of

A few weeks back, a poll by Environics Research Group for Trade Justice Network, “an umbrella group dedicated to challenging the secretive process by which international trade deals are generally negotiated”, released a poll showing that three out of four Canadians have never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Assuming my readership is roughly representative, that means that for 75% of people reading this, this is your first introduction to the horrorshow of a trainwreck of a landmine which is the TPP. So, fair warning – there’s not much good news in this post, not many glimmers of optimism, no clear path forward. This is a story about a disaster in progress, a disaster which has been carefully concealed from the public.

There’s something darkly ironic about the CBC reporting on ERGTJN’s poll results, because they’re very much part of the problem. They haven’t exactly covered the story in great depth – a Google search reveals that the term received a mere ten mentions on their site all year up until their article about the poll, with half of these being passing references and the other half being related to the squabbles in the US Congress and among US Presidential candidates over the super-secretive trade deal. If you’re wondering why Donald Trump easily has four times the name recognition of the TPP while possessing way less than a quarter the relevance, look no farther than the mainstream media.

If you’re one of the 75% who don’t know what I’m talking about, I won’t leave you in suspense any longer. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is ostensibly a free-trade deal being conducted between twelve Pacific Rim nations, including Canada, which will vastly empower corporate interests while in large measure sacrificing the national sovereignty of all nations involved.

The full extent of the damage this treaty will do is unknowable, because we’re literally not allowed to know. The treaty will remain secret until four years after it is completed and signed and ratified and brought into force.

Does that sound absurd to you? Almost as though it couldn’t be true?

Because, unfortunately, it is.

Economist Robert Reich explains it succinctly in this (admittedly US-centric) video (h/t Lorne over at Politics and its Discontents): Continue Reading

In solidarity with the people of Greece, on the eve of a ridiculous referendum

Pity the people of Greece.

Those folks have been screwed over by everybody. And tomorrow, no matter how they vote in this supposedly critical referendum, they’re gonna get screwed again.

And yet in most of the articles on this debacle that I read, I run into the conventional framing of this story, which still dominates coverage of Greece despite the fact that it’s total bullshit. I’m referring to the wrong-headed notion that the people of Greece somehow brought this on themselves, and that if they had only been more disciplined and responsible, they wouldn’t be in such a desperate fix.

So I wanted to take this opportunity, on the eve of a vote that nobody quite understands, to point out how guiltless the people of Greece are.

The essence of the story of this debt crisis, in fact, is that the Greek people have been fucked over by pretty much everybody.

They were enticed into the eurozone by what turned out to be fantasy promises by an institution whose architecture was pretty much designed to fail. European bureaucrats, Greek politicians, and French and German bankers were well aware that Greece was a risky proposition, but they were willing to look the other way because there was money to be made: 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

“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

#Omnibus2015: Harper tries to set up secret terrorist courts, stomp public sector unions on the DL

Last month, I went on at length about how godawful the federal budget was. I surprised myself with how upset I was able to get over the damn thing.

At that time, I couldn’t have predicted that the budget could get any worse. After all, it had all the credibility of a sheaf of hastily scribbled, semi-illegible, mostly incorrect and three weeks overdue math homework.

But never doubt the HarperCons’ ability to take bad and make it worse. They succeeded in this ignoble endeavour this time by stapling a bunch of completely unrelated laws and bills to the back of the budget and giving it a fancy Latin name to make it sound boring to the Average Voter.

Now, omnibus bills are nothing new in HarperLand, and to be fair, this one isn’t quite as bad as previous ones have been – mostly because they’re running out of ideas for awful/stupid/destructive laws to pass.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any awful/stupid/destructive new laws proposed in #Omnibus2015 (officially titled Bill C-59, which you can read here if you want a headache). They’re mostly pretty bad. Continue Reading

News from the frontlines of Canada’s glorious non-combat operation

The release of the federal budget two weeks ago unofficialy ushered in Campaign Season 2015, marking the beginning of posturing and jockeying for headlines and advantage.

The HarperCons did their damndest to hammer home the notion that they’re strong stewards of the economy, despite the fact that the economy has pretty much been shit the whole time they’ve been in power and they had to essentially cook the books to get to a surplus.

Pundits responded to the government’s surplus triumphalism with a pretty big “meh.”

Trudeau’s Liberals countered by announcing the Very Exciting News that barely-out-of-office ex-chief of police Bill Blair was going to run for Parliament.

The announcement didn’t go over quite as well as the Libs had hoped, what with all the awkward questions about the G20 (and Trudeau declaring that it wasn’t his place to judge the arbitrary detaining of 1100 people, the atrocious conditions in which they were held, the horrific violence visited upon peaceful protestors and innocent bystanders, or really any of the TPS’ questionable conduct during the 2010 summit).

Then there was the spotlight that it shone on Trudeau’s repeatedly broken promise to allow open nominations in every riding, with even the hapless National Post poking fun at the Liberaleader.

Which is to say that so far, Campaign 2015 has been going pretty poorly for the two heavyweight parties so far. And with a near-tie in the most recent polls, both were looking for some kind of action.

Continue Reading

“Open nominations,” or, how to further destroy people’s faith in democracy

A seriously heavy run-down of allegations of interference in nomination contests across Canada

All current and past Liberal MPs may not like it, but they are going to have to fight in 2014 for the right to run in the next election, says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

As the federal Liberals gear up to begin choosing candidates in the new year, Trudeau is warning that there are no safe seats or free passes for anyone who wants to wear the party banner in the 2015 campaign.

“Canadians need to see that the Liberal party has understood the lessons of the past and is willing to completely reboot,” Trudeau said in a year-end interview with the Star.

“We have to offer a full reboot, and that means that every candidate for the Liberal Party in 338 ridings in 2015, or whenever the election does come, will have been chosen in a free vote by the Liberal members of that riding.”

That’s what he said to the Toronto Star at the end of 2013, with the election a comfortably long ways in the future. And it was a well-received pledge because it was so common-sense, so reasonable. Of course party members should be able to choose their candidates locally – it’s practically tautological that in a representative democracy, the people should have the ability to choose who will represent them, that they shouldn’t have their options arbitrarily limited by outside forces. So Trudeau’s pledge was heartening, and I personally hoped it would help to set a standard for the other parties.

Fast forward two and a half months.

Continue Reading

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