Colby Cosh suspects we may be on the receiving end of a massive distraction attempt:
I’m starting to half-believe the theory that the Senate expense scandal was cooked up to cover other problems for the Conservative Party of Canada. The broad main effect of the Senate fracas so far has been to exasperate the hell out of everybody. Mike Duffy’s bad behaviour presents the public with the frustrating conundrum that only the Senate can make rules for or punish errant senators, and that the major features of the Constitution (including that one) are probably immune from formal amendment for the next hundred years or so. Stephen Harper’s statutory end-run proposals for permitting Senate elections and tightening term limits are currently awaiting scrutiny by the Supreme Court; if the court rejects his measures, he can argue that they represented at least a fillip of attainable accountability, which they do, and that it is not his fault they were bounced.
In modern history, providing convenient excuses for inaction by elected politicians is about 45 per cent of the court’s function. And, at that, maybe it is okay to notice that the court, now crowded with Harper appointees, is as much an audience for Duffy’s antics as the rest of us. On top of all this, the whole mess invited Justin Trudeau, following cues like a good drama teacher, to plunge headlong into the trap of not only defending the Senate, but defending it on the specific grounds that Quebec is beneficially overrepresented therein.
If people are pulling faces at the Senate, that’s a win for the Conservative party. But perhaps more importantly, it’s a boost for the New Democrats, who have a clear “dynamite it” position on the Senate that they have advocated pretty consistently for half a century. Keeping the seat counts of the NDP and the Liberals roughly level with each other is the paramount strategic axiom for the Tories from now until (at least) 2015.
Most Canadians over the age of 40 would rather do almost anything other than watch another attempt at constitutional wrangling … we saw what happened the last couple of times the feds and the provinces tried re-rigging things to their preference.
In Maclean’s, Paul Wells would like to welcome you all to the Justin Trudeau era, ready or not:
Marc Garneau dropped out of the Liberal leadership contest because he is not a fool. The poll numbers he released, if anywhere near accurate, would have led to futile humiliation. He would have lost badly and then been asked to rally to the new leader. He is an engineer, so he found a more elegant solution. He is rallying now to avoid losing later.
Garneau had spent several weeks trying to thread a needle he must have found annoying: remind everyone that his c.v. is superior to Trudeau’s, while not saying it so loudly that he would just get Liberals angry at him. He managed to get a fair number of Liberals angry anyway, without putting a dent in Trudeau. He must have wanted to shout it from the roofs. He earned his engineering doctorate before Trudeau turned two. He rose to high Navy rank the way one does, by putting in thousands of hours. He hurt himself in politics by doing what so many backseat drivers insist good citizens should do: put in a full life in a useful career, then move into politics when you’re ready to contribute. That almost never works. There is a reason lifers usually do better than late arrivers. Garneau first ran for Parliament in 2006, the year 13 Liberal years in power ended. His timing has not improved since.
Andrew Coyne tries to explain why the Liberal Party of Canada increasingly looks like it will embrace Justin Trudeau as its new
Perhaps it was an impossible thing to expect. Perhaps it was even unfair. To demand that the Liberal Party of Canada, after a century and more as the party of power, should reinvent itself as a party of ideas; that it should, after a string of ever-worse election results culminating in the worst thumping in its history, ask itself some searching questions, including whether Canada still needed a Liberal Party, and if so on what basis — perhaps it was all too much to ask.
Because, on the evidence, the party isn’t capable of it. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t want to. Either it does not believe such a process is necessary. Or it does, but can’t bear it. Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection. The policy conference that was to be the occasion for this came and went; the months that followed were similarly void.
[. . .]
Because the party seems determined to give itself to Justin Trudeau, come what may. Now, it is true that Trudeau has himself offered up a policy morsel or two. He favours liberalizing the drug laws and accepting takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises in the oil sands. He opposes tightening Quebec’s language laws and boutique corporate tax credits. He was for the long-gun registry, but is against bringing it back.
But beyond that? He has his father’s views on the Quebec question, without doubt. But the only broad statement of his economic policy we have is his unswerving devotion to “the middle class.” And while the same criticism could be made of the other candidates — a grab bag of positions does not add up to a philosophy, still less a raison d’etre for the party — only Trudeau has made a virtue of his opacity. To take more forthright positions now, he argues, would prejudge the sorts of grassroots consultations he intends to hold — after he is leader.
Andrew Coyne gets in the first “who the heck is that” survey of the field of candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada:
With nominations now closed for the Liberal leadership, let me be the first to cackle smugly at the cast of non-entities that have put their names forward. George Ta-who? Karen McWha? Hee hee. Ha ha. Hoo hoo.
Actually, the nine candidates (assuming Martin Cauchon’s last-minute application made it under the wire) make an impressive bunch, all in all. If several are lacking in political experience or name recognition, that should not detract from their many personal and professional accomplishments.
George Takach is a prominent Bay Street lawyer and professor with three degrees and four books under his belt. Karen McCrimmon was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Forces and the first woman to lead an RCAF squadron. David Bertschi was a Crown prosecutor and founding partner in his Ottawa law practice. Deborah Coyne (yes, my cousin) holds degrees from York and Oxford, taught constitutional law and was a central figure in the battles over the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.
And so on. Martha Hall Findlay founded her own legal and management consultancy, and was a candidate for party leader in 2006. Joyce Murray was a minister in the B.C. government and is the owner-operator, with her husband, of a company with more than 500 employees. Cauchon was minister of justice in the Chrétien government. Marc Garneau was Canada’s first man in space.
[. . .]
But isn’t the debate over before it has begun? Hasn’t Trudeau got this whole thing locked up? With four times the support of his nearest rival (Garneau) in the polls, a massive fundraising advantage, and more endorsements of note than all of the other candidates put together, the dauphin would indeed appear the prohibitive favourite: confirmation that the monarchical principle is alive and well in Canadian politics.
But there are three months to go, and several reasons to hold off on the coronation just yet. First, there is Trudeau’s own tendency to get himself into trouble, on show of late in the matters of the gun registry and the influence of Albertans in federal politics. The five debates will offer the other candidates further opportunities to rattle him, in hopes a brick or two again falls from his mouth.
Josée Legault is busily trying to walk back her scoop, as she claims now that the information being presented in English is distorted and a false characterization of what Justin Trudeau actually said. Colby Cosh isn’t convinced:
Legault goes on to gripe about the “honesty” of this characterization. In fact, it is perfectly honest and in perfect concord with what Trudeau said, and Legault was correct to recognize it as news in the first place, even if she does not now like the result (perhaps because she has lost ownership of the scoop).
Justin Trudeau did say he was willing to contemplate separation under real-world circumstances. “One day, who knows?” is more or less exactly what he told the interviewer. This is a legitimate surprise. And while I believe that a forty-year-old man is entitled to his own opinions — not that any Quebecois baby boomer can stand to think of Justin as a person entering the era of back pain and prostate problems — the contrast with his father’s extreme anti-sovereigntist position really is worth remarking upon, if only because Justin’s surname is the source of much of his influence.
[. . .]
And yet, as sane and worthy of imitation as he seems in these respects, does anybody recognize the “Canada of Stephen Harper” Trudeau ranted against so excitingly today in front of a scrum in Centre Block? Harper’s party has not only accepted the legal fact of same-sex marriage, but has promised to shore it up against the disrepair in which the prior Liberal regime left it. The pro-life agitators in the Conservative caucus are a few barely-detectable grains of pepper amidst a kilogram of salt; on the whole, they are little more numerous and noisy than the pro-lifers in the pre-2011 Liberal caucus (who were, in one of history’s petty ironies, disproportionately victims of Conservative gains in non-metro Ontario).