H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.
November 5, 2016
July 18, 2016
Theresa May has become the second female prime minister in British history after the victory of the Brexit referendum campaign in late June (although she was a Remain-er herself). In The Spectator, Harry Cole indicates what Brits should expect from their new head of government:
There are plenty who have been left bruised by May’s decade and a half at the top of the Conservative party, but even her worst enemies concede that the woman who is to become the next Prime Minister has shown a remarkable durability in high office. She’s the longest-serving Home Secretary in half a century, and has made a success of what’s very often a career-ending job.
A long-retired party grandee recalls May, then newly elected to Parliament, approaching him in 1997 to ask what she must do to succeed. ‘Ignore the little things,’ he replied. It’s advice that her critics reckon she has firmly ignored ever since. When he resigned as a Home Office minister, the eccentric Liberal Democrat Norman Baker described trying to work under May as ‘walking through mud’. There are Conservatives, too, including ones in the cabinet, who accuse May of being a territorial micromanager. But the wrath of her colleagues has only increased her standing with grassroots Tories.
‘She’s a boxer,’ says a Home Office mandarin. ‘She’s got her gloves up all the time. Not much gets through. Always defensive.’ ‘Any special adviser in Whitehall who didn’t make it their business to know exactly what is going on in their department is negligent,’ contends Nick Timothy, a long-term aide and friend. ‘She wants to know what’s going on and wants to have a handle on things.’
‘As long as I have known her she has always refused to allow herself to be pigeonholed by saying she is in this club or that club or on this wing or that wing of the party,’ says Timothy. ‘It confounds some people, it especially confounds the Left, that you can be so sceptical about the European Court of Human Rights, but you can care so passionately about the rights of the citizen. It confounds them that she thinks immigration needs to be much lower, at the same time as introducing the first legislation of its kind on modern slavery. I don’t think that’s inconsistent, I think that she’s a sound conservative who believes in social justice.’
This is one of the secrets of May’s success. While she may be a defensive boxer with her gloves up, her feet are also moving incredibly quickly. That lack of pinpointing makes it very hard to define her, and thus attack her, though some will always try. ‘We will never ever forget the nasty party comment,’ says one prominent right-winger. ‘No matter how many terrorists she sends back or tough-sounding speeches she gives. She gave a name to our branding problem and it will be hung around our neck for decades by our enemies. It has damaged us as much as the misquoted “no such thing as society”.’ But while she may not be of the traditional right, there is certainly something very traditional about May as a person and as a politician. ‘If you say you are going to do a dinner, you can’t cancel it. She gets enormously annoyed if it looks like she might have to cancel something which has been a commitment she has given,’ says Cunningham. ‘I wouldn’t go as far as old-fashioned, but just a very traditional — do the right thing, you can’t let people down.’ ‘Strong sense of a proper way of doing things,’ echoes a friend.
July 8, 2016
I saw this firsthand as a senior advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron. After just a few weeks in office, I was struck by how many things the European government was doing that the prime minister and his team didn’t just not know about, but would have actively opposed. Every few days, the civil service circulated a pile of paperwork about a foot high, proposing regulatory or administrative government action.
In time-honored fashion, the process was stacked in the bureaucrats’ favor: proposals would be implemented unless elected officials objected within two days. I wanted to know where these “requests for policy clearance,” as the EU directives were known, originated. More importantly, I wanted to know the extent of their effects on the lives of British people. So I requested a detailed audit. I discovered that some 30 percent of the British government’s actions came as a result of the actions British people elected us to undertake. The rest were generated and mandated by the civil service machine, the majority coming from the EU.
These directives determined everything from employment law to family policy, all through distant, centralized processes that UK citizens barely understood, let alone controlled. To this day, British officials spend much of their time in the EU’s administrative capital, Brussels, trying — mostly in vain — to block policies they don’t want and which no one in Britain voted for, all of it wasting inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money.
Steve Hilton, “Here’s Why Britain Should Leave The European Union Today”, The Federalist, 2016-06-23.
June 8, 2016
May 25, 2016
In her latest column for Taki’s Magazine, Kathy Shaidle looks at the #elbowgate scandal in parliament:
No, Trudeau’s hissy fit was profoundly unparliamentary, even for him. He’s previously stuck out his tongue at opposition members. This isn’t even the first time he’s cursed in the House. Again: Like father, like son…
And — in any workplace beyond the Hill, perpetrated by any man with a poles-apart pedigree — it would be a fireable (and possibly criminal) offense.
Most readers likely share my dismay that human resources has siphoned so much power from other corporate departments like accounting or sales, as our society’s slow-motion sex change continues. But that’s the world liberals have created, so one might reasonably suspect that — ha! Had you going, didn’t I?
You see, Trudeau calls himself a feminist. All. The. Time. And for those few who haven’t sussed this out by now, that doesn’t mean he treats women equally and respectfully. That would be cwazy tawk! No, it means that, when he elbows one in the boobs, it’s no big deal. Because his feminism “shots” are up to date. He’s immune. See: “Clinton, Bill” and “Kennedy, Ted” for homegrown examples.
Oh, and “Ghomeshi, Jian” for one northern varietal.
I’ve written about Ghomeshi before: the women’s-studies major–turned–minor musician–turned–major Canadian broadcasting “star” and progressive pinup — until he was accused of slapping around his girlfriends. That case went very badly for the girlfriends, but accusations nevertheless persist that Ghomeshi and his fart catchers created a “toxic work environment” at the CBC. One I was forced to subsidize via government extortion, and where his “inappropriate” “sexist” behavior was tolerated and “enabled” zzzzzzz so sleepy…
Alas for, well, this column, “three’s a trend,” not two. But having no such professional scruples, amateur journalists from Victoria to St. John’s gleefully reposted this photo of Ghomeshi and Trudeau looking chummy as shit, along with an #Elbowgate hashtag and cheeky “We’re feminists!” captions.
May 17, 2016
Richard Anderson responds to the uproar that the PM’s lovely wife somehow has to put up with the indignity of too small a staff to handle her “official duties”:
There is no job called “First Lady of Canada.” Until somewhat recently — Margaret Trudeau incidentally — the wife of the serving Prime Minister was hardly ever mentioned in public. Laureen Harper spent nearly a decade in the role without bothering anyone and with minimal support. The office of British Prime Minister has been in existence for nearly three centuries and even specialist historians would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of Prime Ministerial wives. There is nothing in the laws, customs or traditions of our system of government that regards the spouse of the PM as anything more than a bystander to the functions of the state.
But that was then. As we are continually reminded: It’s 2016!
Justin’s father dispensed with the hum-drum limitations of his role as First Minister, creating the modern Imperial Prime Minister who rules with a rod of iron. It was under the elder Trudeau that ministers became clerks and back-benchers so much parliamentary cannon-fodder. The thing about absolute monarchs — or sandal-clad philosopher kings — is that there is no limit to their purview. All things fall under their sway. Consequently those who serve under the New Sun King’s remit must wield great power as well. To suggest otherwise is the gravest example of lèse majesté.
Mrs Trudeau is not a trained psychiatrist, counsellor, medical expert or technical advisor of any sort. She has a degree in communications and once worked as a personal shopper for Holt Renfrew. Her resume is so thin it makes her husband look like George C Marshall. Like her husband she is the child of upper class Montreal privilege. What actual help such a being could provide to the “people” of Canada is hard to define. Perhaps a pep talk on the importance of being born rich and beautiful and marrying well.
The voters demanded change last October. We replaced a flawed man of substance with a man-child as Prime Minister. Not surprisingly Canada’s new “First Lady” is as useless and vain as her predecessor was accomplished and professional.
March 9, 2016
I try to avoid saying nice things about an NDPer as a matter of principle. I’ll make an exception in the case of Ms [Ruth Ellen] Brosseau. Having been handed a very lucky break she made the most of it. The story is a fascinating example of how many talented and intelligent people live in obscurity until a twist of fate pushes them onto another path. Brousseau was in her mid-twenties at the time of her election, working as a bar manager and struggling to survive as a single mother. There are many educated and accomplished people who spend the whole of their adults lives striving for political office, only to fail miserably upon attaining their goal. They have been bested by a woman who had none of their advantages. Luck plays a greater role in success than many people care to imagine.
Richard Anderson, “A Twist of Fate”, Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2016-02-22.
March 6, 2016
October 17, 2015
[Prime minister Stephen] Harper’s genius, as a power-seeking politician, is the opposite of Obama’s (the once popular USA president). He carries the “Conservative” label, of a party slightly to the right of the others in our Parliament. Therefore he has most of the liberal media machinery against him. Obama, as perhaps we all know, has enjoyed until recently a compliant and fawning media, that do not criticize their darling, nor hesitate to suppress news that would be unfavourable to him. Obama’s tactic has been to draw attention constantly to himself. He has something to say on every subject, empty of content, but dramatically insistent in its repetition of the first person singular. By contrast, Harper goes out of his way to distract attention from himself, and when he can’t, to avoid vehemence of any kind, or anything resembling drama.
This is not to say he isn’t ruthless, as a political operator, and backroom settler of scores. Anyone associated with Christian causes, such as the defence of human life, will know how he rules his pro-life backbenchers. His intention is to keep the party “on message,” with a message that will not excite media attention, so he can get on with normal administration. His strength is his reputation for management: he has not, like Obama, made a hash of everything he has touched. The Canadian budget is actually in surplus, and while our cumulative debt is substantial, and we face the same unfunded welfare liabilities to an aging population, we have not the bottomless debt and fiscal chaos into which Obama and other irresponsible politicians have delivered the United States. (Notwithstanding, when they crash, it will be right on top of us.)
But of course, this is a “democracy,” and the great majority of our population, as those in all other countries, are almost entirely ignorant of public affairs. Like children, they get bored with good government, but unlike children they have, collectively, the power to do something about it.
David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.
September 30, 2015
Colby Cosh on the sudden interest among the chattering classes about the role of the Governor General during election campaigns:
What’s with malcontent nitwit constitutional experts popping up in the newspaper to warn of “political instability” because we’re having a three-sided election? You know, this isn’t really that hard. The United Kingdom, a nuclear-armed power across the Atlantic that may be vaguely familiar, had an election in 2010 that failed to produce a majority. Its 650-seat House of Commons ended up with 306 Conservatives, 258 Labour MPs, 62 Liberal Democrats and a ragbag of deputies from nationalist and leftist parties.
If there is no majority party, that will involve tough decisions, most likely falling upon whomever finds himself in third place. But it should not end up with the governor general making some kind of awkward choice in a vacuum. The party leaders should feel enormous pressure to arrive at a decision between them, as if there were a taboo protecting the governor general’s door. The Privy Council Office is probably already creating that pressure. A governor general should never be presented with anything but a fait accompli. He plays the role of the Queen locally, and should be thought of like the Queen, as being above political decision-making.
The proper thing for constitutional pundits to be doing right now is to strengthen that taboo. Musings about imaginary scenarios in which the viceroy might have to involve himself in the selection of a government are fun — exactly the kind of thing I myself enjoy. But if you are cooking up such an op-ed, or giving quotes of that nature to a journalist, you are signing a license for party leaders to prolong the negotiation period that might follow our election, and encouraging them to make illicit use of sly appeals to the public about what the governor general ought to be doing.
In a minority situation, the temptation will be there: some leader will want to suggest that an arrangement for government that leaves him out has been arrived at unfairly. Or a third-place finisher who should be deciding the identity of a prime minister other than himself, and who has the real power to decide, might lose his nerve and start thinking he can evade the choice.
September 28, 2015
Jay Currie advises casual poll watchers to pretty much ignore the polls at the moment. Yes, those same polls the TV talking heads and the deep-thinkers at the major newspapers spend so much time “analyzing”: they are probably the least useful form of information in a Westminster-style election campaign like ours. A poll of a thousand “representative” Canadians doesn’t tell you anything about how the voters in any given riding are likely to vote, and that’s where the election is decided. I’ve been joking with my family that, based on the appearance of signs in our Whitby riding, the likely winner on October 19th will be the window cleaning firm “Men in Kilts”.
Here’s why Jay recommends just ignoring the “horse race” media coverage:
Canadian mainstream media knows only one way to cover an election: it is always a horse race with polls coming out weekly or even daily in which one party or another edges ahead or falls behind by less than the margin of error.
Polls are funny things: they give a particular picture of the race at a particular time without providing much by the way of explanation. And, in Canada, the most reported “national” polls measure a race which does not exist. We don’t vote nationally or even province by province: we vote riding by riding.
The bright boys in the Conservative and NDP war rooms know this and, apparently, someone has been kind enough to explain the rudiments to the geniuses surrounding Trudeau. The fact is that the election turns on, at most, 100 ridings scattered across Canada. Amusingly, these are not the same ridings for each party.
With less than a month to go to election day, but with a month of campaigning and polling behind them, each of the parties will be able to focus its efforts on a) marginal seats where that party’s sitting candidate may lose, b) competitive ridings where that party’s candidate might win a riding previously held by another party.
Talk of the Blue Wave or Orange Crush is like the English pre-WWI talking about rolling the Huns up by Christmas: now we are in trench warfare. And now, small differences are all that matter. Exciting as it may be for the Greens to run 5% nationally, they are running more or less even in Victoria which would up their seat count to 2 and knock an NDP held seat off Mulcair’s search for a plurality of House of Commons seats. And there are ridings like this across Canada.
At the same time, the trench war is influenced by the perception of who is actually winning the overall election. Political scientists talk about bandwagon effects. Here Harper has the huge advantage of incumbency. For every Harper Derangement Syndrome voter out there, there are at least one or two voters who, while they don’t love Harper, prefer the devil they know.
Canadian election analysis used to be pretty easy:
- How many seats are there in Quebec? Give 75% or more to the Liberals.
- How many seats are there in Alberta? Give 90% to the Progressive Conservatives.
- How many urban blue collar seats are there? Give 50% or more to the NDP.
- How many remaining seats are there in Ontario? Split the urban seats 65% Liberal and 30% NDP and the suburban and rural seats 55% PC and 35% Liberal.
- Finally, count out the few dozen remaining seats and guess which way they’ll go (and history matters … a seat that’s been in NDP hands since the CCF years will probably stay there, while a seat that flips regularly every election will probably flip again).
I’m joking, but not by a lot. However, that was then and this is a very different now. All those “rules” have been thrown out the window in the last decade and each party probably has a colour-coded map of the country which shows where it makes any political sense to expend time and resources to retain a friendly seat or steal an opposing seat. (Spoiler: those maps are nowhere near as accurate as the various parties are hoping.)
You (as a federal party official) don’t want to obviously give up on any seat, but you also don’t want to have all your heavy-hitters showing up for events in a riding you don’t have any realistic chance to win: not only is it a waste of time and resources, it can make you look desperate and that’s a very bad way to appear during an election campaign.
I’m not making any predictions about how the election will turn out … I don’t even know who I’ll be voting for on the day, but the folks in the expensive outfits on TV don’t know either. With the national polling being so close and no definite signs of a bandwagon forming, it could go almost any direction. Last time around we had the Crooks, the Fascists, the Commies, and the Traitors. This time the parties are not quite as mired in scandal, so we’ve got the Nice Hair Guy, the Bad Hair Guy, the Beardy Guy, and everyone else (let’s not pretend that the Greens or the Bloc are going to form a government this time around). You drop your ballot and you take your chances. See you on the other side.
September 18, 2015
In The Walrus, Robert Fulford identifies precisely when Canadian cabinets were neutered:
Over lunch one day in retirement, Lester B. Pearson looked back on the men who had served in his cabinet and quoted Napoleon’s remark that “every French soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack.”
Pearson wasn’t comparing himself to Napoleon. He was talking about ambition. Just as Napoleon’s troops dreamed of high command, many of Pearson’s ministers saw themselves as future prime ministers. And sure enough, when Pearson retired eight of his ministers announced they would run for Liberal leader—each with his own dedicated following and distinct point of view. One of them was Pierre Trudeau.
No one ever heard Trudeau express nostalgia for the Pearson years. In fact, he seems to have hated every minute of it. He saw no reason for ministers to establish their independence by leaking dissenting opinions to favoured journalists and constituents back home. Such freedom, which Pearson had put up with, didn’t strike Trudeau as democracy in action. It seemed more like chaos.
This truth is best explained by Trudeau’s inclinations, since hardened into custom. In the spring of 1968, as soon as he became prime minister, he tightened the reins of government power and let it be known that those reins all led to the PMO. In the early years, it was said (and widely believed) that his principal secretary, Marc Lalonde, held daily meetings with the executive assistants of all government ministers, so that Trudeau and his aides could know precisely what each was doing. As time went on, they increasingly did Trudeau’s bidding, which remained the case until he retired in 1984.
Since then, with one exception, no star ministers have blossomed under three long-running prime ministers, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and Stephen Harper. That one exception is Paul Martin, Chrétien’s finance minister, whose talents attracted constant publicity and many admirers. As everyone knows, the Chrétien-Martin relationship ended in acrimony — the sort of political finale Trudeau carefully avoided.
August 23, 2015
In sp!ked, Mick Hume describes the state of the British equivalent to the NDP in their current leadership race:
Jeremy Corbyn has been a Labour member of parliament for a remarkable 32 years without ever leading anything or leaving any visible mark on British political life. How could such a veteran non-entity emerge overnight as favourite to be the new, left-wing, game-changing leader of the Labour Party?
Only because the Labour Party as a mass movement has not just declined, but effectively collapsed. The apparent rise of Corbyn is made possible by the disintegration of his party. The key factor in all of this is not any resurgence of radicalism, but the demise of Labourism.
Over the decades that Corbyn has been an MP, Labour has ceased to be the party of a mass trade-union movement with a solid working-class constituency. It has been reduced to an empty shell run by a clique of careerists such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband – and the other three current candidates for the leadership – with no ambition beyond their own election.
This disintegration has left a space for Corbyn’s allegedly explosive rise in two ways. First, widespread dissatisfaction with the dire state of Labour and wider UK politics has created an appetite for something/anything that appears different. And second, the hollowing-out of the Labour Party – reflected in its desperation to give anybody a leadership vote for just £3 – has made it possible for relatively few Corbyn supporters to seize control of events.
For all that, however, the new profile of Corbyn the inveterate invisible man remains only a symptom of the wasting disease that has destroyed the Labour Party.
July 30, 2015
Richard Anderson explains why unlike most mature countries, Canada is unable to amend the constitution:
The Senate is our great constitutional appendix. It gets a bit inflamed from time to time but, a hundred and fifty years in, we’ve generally come to the conclusion that it’s too much of a hassle to get rid of. In other countries, normal nation states, amending a constitution is just one of those things. There’s a convention, people argue about it and eventually some words get swapped in and out of the country’s basic law. The Americans might go so far as to fight a civil war over such things, but for most countries it’s routine stuff.
Having successfully avoided civil wars, insurrections, coup d’etats and other assorted public disturbances, the Canadian project has retained one bizarre character flaw: Our inability to amend the constitution in anything like a sensible manner. For those old enough to have lived through the constitutional wars of the 1970s and 1980s the very mention of the C-word induces terrible flashbacks. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can see Joe Clark talking about amending formulas. In those moments I question the existence of a merciful God.
The latest idea to drift out of the PMO is that Stephen Harper will stop appointing Senators. This is actually quite similar to how the PM approaches maintenance on 24 Sussex Drive. The official residence is almost as old as Canada itself. Unfortunately so is much of the plumbing. The building is literally falling to bits and requires millions in renovations. Being a politician first and a government tenant second, Stephen Harper knows that doing more than the bare minimum to keep up his Ottawa home will provoke shrieks of outrage from the Opposition. Only when the building finally collapses will anything really be done. And at three times the original price.
This same logic will now be applied to the Senate. The PM will stop appointing senators until there is no more Senate. Sounds neat, eh? Except that the Senate is ensconced into the bedrock of our constitutional order. If the number of living breathing Senators drops below quorum the Supreme Court, the real rulers of our fair Dominion, will order the PM to appoint more. Then the PM of the day, perhaps Mr Harper or Mr Mulcair, will shrug their shoulders and do as their bosses tell them.
The only way to get rid of the Senate is to amend the constitution. Like going to the dentist this would be both painful and expensive. Unlike going to the dentist it would also be interminable. Dentists, you see, have golf games. Constitutional lawyers don’t play golf. It would interrupt from their fascinating work of discussing whether or not the power of disallowance is genuinely obsolete. If you don’t understand what that means don’t worry neither do they.
June 24, 2015
Published on 22 Jun 2015
The Ceremonial Guard is one of Canada’s most recognizable military units. For over 50 years, the Changing of the Guard has been a top Ottawa attraction, having thrilled thousands of visitors on Parliament Hill, at Rideau Hall and at the National War Memorial. The Changing the Guard Ceremony will take place daily at 10 a.m. on Parliament Hill from June 28 to August 22, 2015.