Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Out of the Darkness, into...Well, More Darkness

The blog has been dark for awhile, mostly due to time constraints here on my end. Now that time has freed up a little, let’s hope the period of an absence of posting has come to pass.

So much to talk about, from omnibus bills to leadership woes to yet another Conservative Scandal of the Week. Since the omnibus bill is the most important, I think we’ll save it for now and come back to it to cap off the post. So, let’s focus first on the major point of news making the rounds this morning: Contrary to popular belief, Bob Rae will not be seeking the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

I have to say, this was quite the shocker, as it seemed almost inevitable that Rae would make a go for the position. Since accepting the interim leadership position, there have been rumours that Rae would do his part to strong-arm party leadership into allowing him to run for leader. In fact, many news agencies are already reporting that numerous insiders were under the impression that Rae was going to run.

So, this about face is quite staggering. Rae announced that he made the decision for ‘political’ reasons, as opposed to personal ones, though he wasn’t over specific about what those political reasons were; of course, it is easy to speculate. The Harper Conservatives have been after Rae since he became interim leader of the Liberals, even going after him more than the ACTUAL Leader of the Opposition; who could forget the opportunity to use the Toronto-Danforth by-election as a chance to run an attack ad against Rae.

Undoubtedly, the Conservatives have a plethora of ammunition to use against Bob Rae. From ‘Rae Days’ to his turn in the Liberal Party under Ignatieff, there’s no shortage of things the Conservatives could use to destroy Rae’s reputation during an election campaign. After all, this is a party that has gotten attack ads against Liberal Leaders down to a science.

So, is Rae’s political reason mostly based around the fact that he knows he’ll meet the same fates as Dion and Ignatieff? It likely played a major factor, but would hardly be the only reason.

Another reason to consider is that Rae is a divisive figure in the Liberal Party. Despite the decent job he’s done as interim leader and keeping the Liberal Party in the headlines as a third place party, Rae’s history drives some people up the wall. When the Liberal Party is in third place, and doesn’t seem poised to recover anytime soon, it becomes pretty clear that the next leader has to be a uniting figure in the party…And that means Rae isn’t the best choice.

It is possible then, that Rae knows a Liberal Party under his leadership could end up staying in third place or sinking even lower. And despite his own personal ambitions, he was actually willing to fall on his sword for the party. You do have to admire that at least a little, and wish that other party leaders would recognize more clearly when their time to move along has come. (Looking at you, Mr. Harper.)

Whatever the true reasons for Mr. Rae’s decision, the question now becomes one of whether the Liberals have anyone in the party who can truly be the uniting voice. The party has gone the route of the long-time Liberal (Dion) and the outsider (Ignatieff) and neither seemed to work out to well for them. As such, one has to wonder whether an insider or an outsider can be found that could actually unify the party behind them. It’s a tall order, and despite my best efforts, I don’t see anyone who could make such a claim right now in the Liberal tent or caucus.

That’ll bring us to the newest Conservative scandal of the week. Actually, there’s a few things to talk about here…but we’ll focus on just a few for the sake of timing. We’ll start with the ongoing F-35 Fiasco, as it continues to making headlines. When the Auditor General gave the government a rapping on their knuckles for their pricing, the government responded by saying that it would provide a new set of numbers in sixty (60) days. Well, the deadline has come and gone and no new numbers have come forward.

In fact, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has more or less admitted that he’s no longer in charge as he deferred a question about the numbers as being under Rona Ambrose’s purview. Effectively, the Department of Defence is out of the loop, as their numbers now need to be verified by an independent assessor. The media is reporting that Canadians can expect to see these numbers by the fall at the earliest, and who knows how much if later.

But let’s move on to the newest bit of news: Conservative Pitbull Dean Del Mastro is under fire for potentially spending more than the legal limit in the 2008 election. What it boils down to is a personal cheque from Del Mastro paid to a market research company to the tune of $21,000. Del Mastro refutes the charges, saying that he did contract out the company but that he was invoiced incorrectly and no spending irregularities occurred.

But, as pointed out by others, this doesn’t answer the question as to the PERSONAL CHEQUE payment from Del Mastro. The explanation provided by Del Mastro makes sense if the cheque came directly from the campaign, but not from his own account. And so far, evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of the cheque being from his personal account.

The reason why this is worth talking about, is because it further demonstrates the lack of respect the Conservatives have for the Canadian Electorate and our Election Laws. This is a party that has constantly been accused of overspending their election limit cap, see the 2006 In-and-Out Case and allegations that the party did it again in the 2011 election, so the idea that Del Mastro overspent his election cap isn’t really that far out of left (or I guess right) field.

This is a party that has continually undermined our democratic institutions and seems to place victory and winning over ethics and accountability. Del Mastro saying that nothing happened is about as legitimate as Joffery Baratheon.

We have seen that this party will do anything to win, and their preferred method seems to be outspending the competition. Let’s remember, Julian Fantino is also being looked at for overspending and keeping a ‘secret’ bank account (as alleged by some Conservative riding executive members). This isn’t the first time a Conservative has been accused to overspending to an illegal degree, and it certainly won’t be the last with this current group.

That brings us to the omnibus budget, Bill C-38. There’s already been a wide discussion about this massive bill, and why it deserves to be split into smaller pieces. In my 24, soon to be 25, years on this planet I cannot recall such a massive budget bill containing non-budgetary matters ever being brought before our Parliament.

Add to that the almost guaranteed defeat of all the proposed amendments (despite valiant efforts from all of the opposition parties), and the restriction of ‘time allocation’ on the debate, and it seems that we have little chance to actually stopping this bill. Some groups are calling for a group of 13 Conservative Backbenchers to stand up and do the right thing; though, we’d have better odds of mastering cold fusion before that happens.

After all, look what happened when a single Conservative expressed concern about the budget bill during a meeting with his constituents. He back peddled so quickly, that I’m surprised he didn’t get a case of whiplash. Not to mention how hard the PMO and the Party itself came down on him for stepping out of line.

While there are a number of Conservative MPs I can think of (who in five years will likely not seek re-election, or be named to cabinet or anything of importance before that happens), all of them have drank such heavy amounts of the Harper Kool-Aid that they’ll swallow anything the PMO puts in front of them. Basically, I’m saying if we’re counting on Conservatives to save us from Conservatives (even if they have nothing to lose) we’re betting on the wrong horse, and that horse is about to drag us for a few good miles over rough terrain.

And now for the hard part.

Many of us hold out hope that come 2015, Harper and his team will be pushed from government and we’ll get either a minority or majority NDP government to right the ship. That the Harper Majority will basically be undone by the government that follows it, and all will be right with Canada again.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to take the pessimistic view. Harper’s agenda has been two-fold: Destroy institutions and establishments that Conservatives have always rallied against, and tie the hands of the next government.

Since 2006, Harper and his team have been eviscerating budgets and closing down small tribunals and commissions. And with tax cuts and enhanced spending, putting Canada into its largest deficit, the Harper Conservatives are basically salting the earth after they burnt what was there.

Let me strip away the metaphor and put that more simply. By decreasing the size of government, decreasing government revenue through tax cuts, slowly bleeding more authority to the provinces on issues that used to require cooperation, and leaving an incredible amount of government debt, the Harper Government is laying the ground to ensure that the government that follows it is hobbled out of the gate.

This is the blind ideological rhetoric and drive that has always moved the Harper Conservatives forward. Most of us figured that a single Harper majority would be the only one his party would see with him at the helm, and I think the Conservatives knew that too. So, rig the results in advance, and this time not from an electoral standpoint. Leave the country in disrepair and the next government unable to reverse controversial decisions that will no doubt make up part of their platform during the next election. We are seeing the groundwork to leave behind a hell of a mess that Harper-Cons are expecting Canadians to blame completely on the newest government.

That is the real cost of Bill C-38 passing. While we will lose OAS payments for a younger generation, fewer environmental regulations, and very questionable EI reforms; the true cost is that the Harper Government is tying the hands of the next government that will follow them.

Now, this entire subject is making me more than just slightly depressed considering the end game they seem to be gunning towards. So, I think I’ll leave it there for now.

On a more random side note, and provincially speaking, I think we’ll make the next post provincially focused. So, let’s look forward to that.

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