Federal Politics

Phoning to check in

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | Leave a comment

For those curious about what I’m up to these days, I chatted with Susan Delacourt about correspondence in the PMO this week. Also contains some fun stories about what happens when the Prime Minister starts cold calling Canadians who wrote in to him.

Ready

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election | 3 Comments

notready

Three years ago, there were very real questions being asked about whether or not the Liberal Party would still exist after the next federal election. The party was in a death spiral, having fallen to just 35 seats in the previous election.

I was still blogging regularly at the time – this was long before I went to work for the party, and I still hadn’t even decided if I would actually vote for Trudeau in the leadership race (after all, Takachmentum and Mernermania was spreading across the land!). I summed up my reaction to Trudeau’s leadership launch with a blog post titled “Ready or Not”:

During this time, I suspect most Liberals secretly viewed Justin as “the next one” – that hot shot prospect you pin your hopes on. Like all prospects, the potential was there, but so was the risk he could bust and turn into the next Alexandre Daigle.

No one wanted to rush him to the majors this soon, and I’m sure Justin himself would have rather waited – but we’re in a situation where there may not be a Liberal Party for Justin Trudeau to lead in 10 years, so the time is now. Ready or not, here he comes.

The end result of this is a leadership race where no one really knows what to expect from the frontrunner. Yes, everybody has confidently written about how he’s destined to be the Liberal saviour or to go down in flames, but Justin is still very much an unknown so it’s all just speculation. A charity boxing match is not a gateway to the man’s soul. Just because he hasn’t been to outer space, it doesn’t mean he lacks substance or vision.

Justin Trudeau is a giant blob of untested potential who Liberals have been pinning their hopes on for many years. Yesterday, he finally got his call to the majors.

I never imagined we’d spend the next three years debating that very “ready or not” question.

Even Trudeau’s harshest critics who cringe at the thought of him moving back into 24 Sussex will concede he had a good campaign. And part of the reason for that is because of his harshest critics. They made “ready to lead” the ballot question. Then, like Wile E. Coyote, set a series of traps that horribly backfired – a 78 day campaign and 5 debates, including one on foreign policy. This gave voters plenty of opportunities to look at Trudeau, and every time they did, the guy looked and sounded ready.

And that’s because he is.

Despite the accusation that he has had everything in his life handed to him, Trudeau has constantly been under-estimated, and has constantly exceeded expectations. We saw it when he won an open nomination to enter politics, when he wrestled a seat away from the Bloc in 2008, and when he survived the orange wave in 2011. We even saw it in the silly boxing match.

Having seen the man close up for the past 18 months, I can say that the reason he has constantly exceeded expectations is hard work and determination. Those characteristics are going to make him a very good Prime Minister.

The West is in

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election | 5 Comments

When I first started blogging over ten years ago, I wasn’t sure a night like tonight would ever come to pass. But, ladies and gentlemen, I present your first TWO Calgary Liberal MPs in over 40 years:

kent hehr

darshan kang

And a very honourable mention to Matt Grant in Calgary Confederation, who ran one of the best campaigns in the country, but fell oh so short.

Calgary Grits

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election | Leave a comment

For Calgary Liberals who have had doors slammed in their faces, who have been the punchline of countless political jokes, who have worked hard for great candidates only to see them in single digits on election night. For all of you, yesterday was truly gratifying.

Seeing the Liberal Party leader make TWO stops in Alberta the last day of an election campaign is unprecedented. Seeing him cheered by thousands at both stops is mind-blowing. I won’t prejudge the electorate, but regardless of how election night turns out, after a grueling 78 days, nothing warms my heart more than these images.

calgary3

calgary1

calgary2

The First Debate

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election | 2 Comments

Looks ready to me.

Almost Blue

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Federal Election, Federal Politics | 18 Comments

Harper, Mulcair

These days, it must feel good to be Thomas Mulcair. The polls show he has a chance to become Canada’s first NDP Prime Minister, and the entire country has been engulfed in an orange afterglow since the Alberta election. But as Uncle Ben once said, with great polling comes great scrutiny.

Indeed, one of the downsides of surging four months before election day is that leaves a lot of time for journalists and voters to put everything you’ve ever said or done under the microscope, and study it at the atomic level.

So when you make the type of verbal slip-up we all make from time to time, people are a lot more likely to notice.

And when you’re one day re-affirming your opposition to the Clarity Act, and the next promising a round of constitutional negotiations, people notice.

And now this:

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was in discussions in 2007 to join the Conservative party as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, discussions that several sources, including former senior Harper staffers, say was the first step in securing Mulcair to run as a Conservative candidate in 2008.

The negotiations between the Conservative government and the man who is today leader of the left-leaning official Opposition allegedly broke down over money: Mulcair wanted nearly double what Harper’s office offered, two sources tell Maclean’s.

Contacted today for comment, Mulcair says conversations about an advisory role with the government did occur, but talks broke down, not over money, but over the Conservatives’ environmental policies.

This has been talked about for some time, so it’s not a bombshell. It’s also not overly surprising if you think about it.

For most politicians, their greatest strength can be turned into a weakness. Stephen Harper is strong, but many call him authoritarian. Justin Trudeau is fresh, but the flip side of the coin is inexperience. Mulcair likes to portray himself as a politician with experience who knows how the game is played – but that also means he knows how the game is played. It’s only natural that a political pro like Mulcair would try to squeeze taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes, or would consider his options before jumping to federal politics.

Many will dismiss theses as allegations from the Conservative side of the negotiations, but the problem for Mulcair is that even his own side of the story will seem rather unseemly to many New Democrats. It’s all very good to say talks broke down over the environment, but I suspect most NDP voters have more than one stumbling block with the Harper government. Mulcair says he talked to at least three separate individuals about joining Harper’s team between 2006 and 2007. Most New Democrats, if asked to become an adviser to Stephen Harper, would laugh rather than set up a series of meetings to discuss terms.

The whole ordeal reminds me of the old joke:

Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… “
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Whether the talks broke off due to money or a single issue is mostly irrelevant in this case. The fact that Mulcair was negotiating establishes what kind of man he is.

10 Years of Blogging

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 8 Comments
Happy Trails

Happy Trails

Back when I first sat down to rant about politics on May 15th 2004, I never expected I’d still be doing this over 3,000 posts later. The blog has outlasted 3 Liberal leaders, been through 4 federal elections, and documented my involvement on a handful of losing leadership campaigns. During that time, Bart Ramson turned into Dan Arnold, I moved to Edmonton, finished school, and became a “Toronto Grit”. Shortly thereafter, Naheed Nenshi became mayor of Calgary and Rob Ford became mayor of Toronto. Go figure.

Nenshi and Ford have provided me with bountiful amounts of blogging material, but they have not been alone. There was the Michael Ignatieff experiment, on which so much virtual ink was spilled. There was the coalition crisis, which gripped the nation. There was the rise of the Wildrose Party, which led to the rarest of things – an exciting Alberta election. There was the orange wave. And, through it all, there was still time to poke fun at Politicians in Cowboy hatsand leather vests.

Another source for much blog content has been Justin Trudeau, but he is also the reason content has been, and will continue to be, scarce here. I’ve recently started working for the Liberal Party which, needless to say, limits what I’m able to write about. And really, what’s the point of blogging if I don’t have Rob Anders to kick around anymore.

You may still find the occasional retrospective or Pierre Poilievre rant, but this site will be taking a breather from deeper political analysis, at least until after the next election.

So a big thank you to everyone for reading over the years. I’ve always been in awe of the high caliber of discussion in the comments section of this site, and have appreciated the e-mails. As vain as it is to count clicks, the fact that I knew people were reading certainly motivated me to keep at it for a decade. So, to everyone, thank you.

I leave you with a list of 10 of my favourite posts from over the years. These aren’t necessarily the most viewed or the best posts – just 10 that I had a lot of fun writing.

1. Follow the Leader: I only include this post as a humbling reminder about how unpredictable politics can be, and how wrong I’ve been on many occasions. Just one year before Paul Martin’s resignation I provided odds on 13 possible Liberal leadership contenders without listing Stephane Dion, Bob Rae, or Gerard Kennedy. I do mention Michael Ignatieff, but only in what may have been the most awesomely off-the-mark sentence in the history of this blog – and I quote – “This week, we saw Peter C. Newman toot Michael Ignatieff’s name which is interesting because that’s about as serious a suggestion as Justin Trudeau”. Heh.

2. Greatest Prime Minister: In a March Madness style contest, blog readers voted for Wilfrid Laurier as Canada’s Greatest Prime Minister. This begat a series of other contests including “Best Premier”, “Best Prime Minister We Never Had”, “Biggest Election”, and, coming this summer, “Best Minister of Natural Resources”.

3. The Race for Stornoway: 2006 was really the heyday for political blogging. From the “Draft Paul Hellyer” movement, to candidate interviews, to the blogging room at the convention itself, blogging was as close to “cool” as it would ever be.

4. A Beginner’s Guide to Alberta Politics: For some reason, I seemed to blog a lot more about Alberta politics after I left Alberta.

5. Christmas LettersElizabeth May, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper. People, myself included, take politics way too seriously sometimes. So it’s good to have some fun with it.

PS. Ed Broadbent.

6. Leadership Power Rankings (here, here, and here). The wonderful thing about politics is how unpredictable, complicated, and human it is. That’s why I love the challenge of trying to quantify it.

7. Moments of Decade: Hopefully I’m blogging again by 2020, because this is an exercise I’d dearly love to repeat. Readers nominated and voted on the top political moments of the decade, with the Alliance-PC merger topping the list. It wasn’t as exciting as the coalition crisis or the Belinda Stronach Chuck Cadman confidence vote insanity, but it set the stage for the rise of Stephen Harper.

8. On October 6th vote for proper scaling of the Y-Axis. Vote Liberal. Tim Hudak math burn!

9. What’s the Matter with Calgary? Having lived in both Calgary and Toronto, I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the Nenshi-Ford dichotomy. Elected a week apart, these men are opposites with so much in common, who both shattered their cities’ stereotypes. When I first moved to Toronto, a lot of lefties would shake their head and “tsk tsk” when I said I was from Calgary. Not any more.

10. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Census (But Were Afraid to Ask): I’ve never been of the opinion that Stephen Harper is a monster who has destroyed Canada beyond recognition. Even on issues where we disagree – the gun registry, climate change, Quebec as a nation – I understand where he’s coming from. However, of everything Harper has done, his decision to scrap the long form census remains the thing that boils my blood. Here was the party who sends Happy Hanukkah cards to swing voters calling the census too “intrusive”. It wasn’t an assault on the welfare state or big government, it was an assault on reason. It showed that Harper offered nothing more than government by truthiness.

And that, is why I’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next bit to help defeat him.

Vote Out Anders

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
It was Ron Liepert by a nose for the Calgary Signal Hill Conservative nomination.

It was Ron Liepert by a nose for the Calgary Signal Hill Conservative nomination.

“Secret Liberal” Ron Liepert has done what a mayor, cabinet minister, and premier failed to do – defeated Rob Anders. And, boy, do typing those words ever feel good.

First elected in 1997, Rob Anders gained notoriety in 2001, voting against honourary citizenship for Nelson Mandela and calling him a “terrorist” – a sentiment Anders doubled down on earlier this year after Mandela’s death. In between, he has been a punching bag for progressives, and pretty much everyone who follows politics (except for former Calgary Sun columnist Paul Jackson, who developed a serious man-crush on Anders, calling him “too precious to lose”).

While Paul Jackson will be sad to see the demise of his precious, it’s hard for political bloggers to not feel a little sad about all the content we’re losing. What made Anders a reliable source of fodder was how…original, his controversies were. Any politician can gaffe, get caught in a lie, or espouse a position the mainstream finds repugnant. We see that all the time. What made Anders special (precious even) was that he would say things so out of left field, they barely made sense. Like the time he suggested Tom Mulcair was responsible for killing Jack Layton. Or lamented that bilingualism was destroying Canada, much the same way the decay of Latin led to the fall of Rome. Back in 2005, he sent pamphlets about chrystal meth to a BC riding that included a “tough on crime” survey asking people if they supported “homosexual sex marriage”.

Then there were the days when Anders was asleep on the job – literally. First, in the House of Commons, then at a Veterans Affairs committee hearing. True to form, Anders accused the veterans who made their claim of being “NDP hacks”…only to find out later they were card carrying Tories. This was a common line of defence for Anders, who saw vast left wing conspiracies every time someone tried to defeat him (or messed up his dry cleaning order).

So while Anders’ defeat is a relief for the voters of Signal Hill (and Canada), it is a sad day for those of us who have taken great joy in ridiculing the man over the years. Yes, there’s still Rob Ford, but come October, he might also find himself out of work. What then?

On the other hand, Rob Anders is still an MP, and assuming he doesn’t run elsewhere, now finds himself unshackled from worries of re-election or having his nomination papers signed. The man still has a podium (and a Twitter account) for another 18 months, and nothing to lose. I highly doubt Rob Anders is just going to nap through his final term as an MP. We most certainly haven’t heard the last of this politician we all love to hate.

Jim Flaherty (1949-2014)

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | Leave a comment

flaherty

Stunning news. One of the most influential politicians of his generation is gone all too soon.

A death in the family

“Tears in the air”: Reaction to the death of Jim Flaherty

Jim Flaherty’s personal touch was a rarity on Parliament Hill

The respect to Jim Flaherty across party lines was not fake

At Issue Remembers Jim Flaherty

A Finance Minister’s life is always in deficit

Easy to like, Flaherty always fought for the little guy

Flaherty public service speech to students

Hanging up the shoes

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 1 Comment

Jim-Flaherty-and-Stephen-Harper-ahead-of-the-tabling-of-Budget-2014

It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s still big news. After 8 years, the only Finance Minister Stephen Harper has ever known and loved is calling it quits:

Jim Flaherty steps down as finance minister

OTTAWA – Jim Flaherty is leaving the federal cabinet after more than eight years as finance minister to prepare for a return to the private sector, saying the move is unrelated to his recent health problems.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to name his replacement Wednesday.

Flaherty, who delivered his final budget last month, said he made the decision with his family earlier this year.

“As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said in a statement.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office said Flaherty would be retaining — at least for now — his seat in the House of Commons, meaning he remains an MP for the time being.

Flaherty’s record is a mixed one, and I’m certainly on the more negative side of the partisan divide on this question. He cut the GST, but that helped send us into deficit. He brought in the stimulus, but only after being forced to at knife point. He claimed to end the era of inter-provincial bickering, but only by ignoring the bickering. He was a reliable minister, but regularly set off controversies.

However, any politician who can hold a post of that importance for as long as Flaherty did is clearly doing something right. He has been one of the few constants during the Harper era, and his departure will leave a gaping hole at the Cabinet table.

As is so often the case, speculation will turn immediately to Flaherty’s successor. Does Harper go with a trusted Mr. Fix It like John Baird, Jason Kenney, or Tony Clement? Does he go with someone with zero leadership aspirations, like Joe Oliver? Or someone with a bright future, like Lisa Raitt?

While Harper has done no real succession planning during his time as Prime Minister, he must certainly recognize the end is nigh. And taking over Finance on the brink of what is expected to be a wildly popular budget is about as good a resume padder as there is. While it likely won’t be his chief consideration in making this decision, if Harper turns to anyone with leadership aspirations tomorrow, he will be widely seen as not just choosing a new Finance Minister, but possibly a heir.

UPDATE: Joe Oliver it is!

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