Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Quick Break from the Provincial Race to Bring You...

A few quick words on the provincial NDP race, and then we'll broach some Federal news that I have let languish in limbo for far too long.

Firstly, I should make note that Ryan Meili had a book reading at McNally Robinson on Saturday evening; I was unable to attend due to other commitments that evening, but I am sure the event went well for Meili; who has been using his increased profile from his book to do some jet-setting around the province and the country, including a stop over in Alberta for sitting on a panel with Niki Ashton and Brian Topp.

And of course, a reminder of the Erin Weir digital town hall tomorrow evening. I'll do my best to get questions and answers posted tomorrow evening, but we may have to wait until Tuesday.

The Broten campaign has picked up two endorsements from Jerry and Joan Hammersmith. And also, as noted, the Broten campaign will have their campaign office opening this coming weekend, but I'll be out of town on Thanksgiving weekend commitments and sadly won't be in attendance; and the Wotherspoon campaign has continued to send Trent out across the province to different events, namely the India Night and the Run for the Cure events in Regina.

So, let's talk some Federal politics, shall we?

There's a lot worth talking about, but there's two specific issues I'd like to mention specifically, and those are the entrance of Justin Trudeau into the Liberal Leadership race and the coming cuts to the Department of National Defence.

Since we've spent a lot of time talking about leadership on the blog, let's stick with that and discuss for a moment what the entrance of Justin Trudeau will do for the Liberal Party.

Full disclosure, there was a brief year in my life when I thought I was a Liberal. I never carried a party membership, but I did volunteer on one Liberal campaign in my life time. Of course, over time, I came to realize the foolishness of my decision and finally settled down in the NDP. (In case anyone is actually curious, I opened my eyes to the fact that the Liberal Party basically lacked a backbone and would say anything that sounded popular enough to garner them support, and that is mostly why I left that path.)

Trudeau has been on a Liberal wishlist for leader since he was first elected as an MP; it's actually possible he was on the wishlist long before then as well, too. Either way, there is a certain flutter in the hearts of Liberals when the name Trudeau is mentioned and a blind belief that it would take someone like him to lead his party out of the political wilderness.

However, there are several problems with this scenario.

The first problem stems from the fact that like his father, Justin is a little bit rough around the edges. That isn't to say he lacks political savvy, but rather that he seems to have a quick temper. After all, who could forget when he called the Minister of the Environment a "piece of s**t" on the floor of the Commons? There's nothing wrong with having a bit of a temper, a little anger here and there is good for you, but there's also a time and a place to let it out. And I say like his father, because I'm sure most of us are familiar with Pierre's "fuddle duddle" comment.

While that kind of brash nature might appeal to certain voters, it will also turn off numerous others. Someone auditioning for the top job in the Canadian Government is expected to carry themselves with a certain level of decorum; we don't want our PM yelling something like that at a foreign head of state if things get a little too heated during a trade summit, for example. And unless Trudeau can prove, amply, that his temper has fallen into check it's going to weigh at the front of some people's minds.

And while we've mentioned his father, that brings us to the second problem: His father's legacy is still tainted across the country. While Eastern Canadians may have fond memories of Pierre, Western Canadians still remember the NEP and the flipping of the bird to farmers. Hell, the NEP has been used for years as a reason not to vote for the Liberals out west under new leaders from Chretien to Ignatieff.

If the Liberals actually want to rise above their current placement, they need a leader who will be able to grow their party. And part of that growth means actually breaking through in the West, not just reclaiming Ontario and Quebec. Trudeau, based on name alone, has an uphill battle on this front and would likely not be able to overcome some of the negative images conjured by his father.

Finally, there is a problem of ideas over people. Like many political parties, especially like the Republican Party in the US, there is an idea that it is the person over the policy that is more important. Trudeau has name recognition and a bit of a 'star' candidate profile; but so did Michael Ignatieff.

It is not simply enough to put forward a popular politician and hope that the electorate will follow you blindly. That had been the case in some elections, I will not deny that, but circumstances will determine whether or not that is the strategy a party needs. It may work in a province, like Saskatchewan, where there is a smaller number of voters to win over; but nationally, it's harder.

Even Jack Layton, who arguably has earned a title of one of Canada's most popular political figures, was unable to form a government despite his popularity. He lead the party to a breakthrough in Quebec, but even the most seasoned political commentator will tell you it was one part Layton and one part policy that won over Quebec voters.

In the last cycle for the Liberals, they rested their laurels on Ignatieff and spent little time developing clear policy. They are doomed to repeat this situation with Trudeau; and if they do, it will only once again create this idea that the Liberal Party has a sense of entitlement and feels that they should naturally be in power, regardless of what they bring to the table.

Effectively, it's not people, but ideas that are needed to bring the Liberal Party away from the brink of destruction. And, as a New Democrat, I'm fine if they continue to miss this lesson. But, as a supporter of democracy, it's always better to have more voices affecting the way the country is governed; and for all their faults, perhaps the Liberals still have a role to play in Canadian democracy, even if it is just in opposition.

The final issue I want to talk about today, is the report that has come out suggesting that the cuts current being thrown around Ottawa could result in as much as $2.5 billion being scaled back from the Department of National Defence.

So, while the government has seen fit to spend upwards of $25 billion on jets no one real wants (other than Lockheed Martin, that is), a whopping number of cuts are coming to the department. I think this is particularly significant because the Conservative Party has always tried to portray itself as the party of military spending.

I mean, if you look back into their roots, you see questionable decisions like the scrapping of the Avro Arrow under a Conservative Government; but they have always suggested that they would be the party that stood up for a stronger Canadian military.

And while buying jets is all fine and dandy, one does have to wonder where these cuts are going to come from. Yes, some of it will come from the Conservative push to find redundancies and improve cost efficiency within the department...But at the same time, one can help but know something else lies just below the water.

After all, this is a government that spent $750,000 on a legal battle with disabled veterans over their pensions.

I guess what I'm saying is this: Even though the party has presented themselves as the 'friend' to the military, it seems pretty clear that they are anything but. Now, I'm not a big fan of ridiculous defence spending; in this day and age we do need a military, but we need to invest wisely and ensure that we're spending money on equipment that meets the needs that we have.

Furthermore, it seems like this government is only a friend to the military provided you are still serving. It seems that the moment you're out of the service, the government doesn't care about ensuring mental health services or even your pension and will fight tooth and nail to keep you from it.

If they claim to be a friend to the military, and in fact they are not, it makes you wonder which other 'friends' should be keeping a closer watch.

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