Stephen Harper

Canada Day Quiz

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Uncategorized | 15 Comments
We all know him as "Justin Trudeau's father" today, but there was a time when Pierre was just a lowly Justice Minister, needing 4 ballots to win the party's leadership.

We all know him as “Justin Trudeau’s father” today, but there was a time when Pierre was just a lowly Justice Minister, needing 4 ballots to win the party’s leadership.

Test your political skills with this 10-question quiz about the present – and the past – of Canadian politics.

1. You may not be aware of this, but Justin Trudeau’s father was also once Liberal Party leader. For half a point each, name the runner up in the LPC leadership races that elected Pierre and Justin.

2. There have been 5 by-elections since the last federal election. In how many has the party who won the seat in 2011 held it?

3. Within 5 percentage points, what percentage of Canadians now live in a province run by a female Premier?

4. Bob Rae recently announced his retirement from politics. In what year was he first elected to the House of Commons as an MP?

5. Complete the following Stephen Harper quote, uttered in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing: “Now is not the time to commit ______

6. We heard a lot about Nigel Wright this year. Who replaced him as Stephen Harper’s chief of staff?

7. Who did FastForward readers vote as Calgary’s sexiest man earlier this year?

8. With Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest exiting the stage, who is Canada’s longest serving Premier?

9. There was a brief flurry of excitement that the Liberals might win in Calgary Centre last fall. Sadly, this hope proved as fleeting as a Leafs’ third period lead. When was the last time the Liberals won a seat in cowtown?

10. For the very first time since he became Prime Minister, we’ve started hearing speculation about Stephen Harper retiring. Still, Harper is just 54 and could ride a divided opposition to a few more years in power. If he stays PM, in what year would Harper pass Mackenzie King as the longest serving Prime Minister in Canada’s history?

(answers to be posted shortly in the comments section)

Open Mic With Stephen Harper

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

A two year old video showing Stephen Harper doing fairly solid Diefenbaker, Clark, Mulroney, and Manning impressions surfaces.

Not a bad time for a distraction, eh?

Cone of Silence

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals, Toronto Municipal Politics | 10 Comments

ford harper

Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are about as different as two politicians can be, but the one thing they have in common is an uncanny ability to brush off scandals before they stick. Harper entered the 2011 election facing a “controversy of the day” – from Bev Oda’s orange juice, to Bruce Carson’s fraud charges, to Jason Kenney’s use of government resources to target “very ethnic” voters, to “in and out”, to a historic contempt of parliament vote. What did all that get Harper? A majority government.

If I tried to list all of Rob Ford’s blowups here I’d run out of virtual ink, but despite being one of the most controversial politicians in Canadian history, his approval rating stood at 49% just last month.

However, this past week we’ve seen holes form in both Ford and Harper’s teflon and, in both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

It’s been nearly a week since claims surfaced of a Rob Ford crack video, yet the Mayor has refused to respond, beyond calling the allegations “ridiculous” and blaming it on a Toronto Star witch hunt. He’s cancelled his weekly radio show and has dodged reporters, to the point where even the Toronto Sun has joined the witch hunt, demanding he clear the air.

In Ottawa, Harper has been equally evasive when it comes to Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, letting his enforcers take questions in the House before fleeing to Peru. In his lone public speech on the topic, Harper refused to admit anything wrong had happened, painted himself as the victim. More troublingly, he did not offer any sort of compelling explanation or solution.

Both Harper and Ford appear content to plug their ears and hope these latest scandals gently fade away, like so many scandals have before. However, by failing to offer any sort of consistent or coherent explanation as to what happened, the public has been left to assume the worst.

Canada has always been at war with Eurasia

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in History, Humour | 5 Comments
RB Bennett was one of Canada's most popular Prime Minister, to the point where average Canadians would name their buggies after him,

RB Bennett was one of Canada’s most popular Prime Ministers, to the point where average Canadians would name their buggies after him.

We found out last week that the Harper Conservatives will be leading a review of the way Canadian history is taught in schools. We don’t yet have word on whether this review will include teaching students that education is a provincial responsibility under the constitution, but I have been able to procure a leaked curriculum draft, which I have posted below.

Canadian History: Recommended Course Outline

Unit 1: The Conservative Party Founds Canada (19th Century)

Key Date: 1871 – In an act of state coercion, the first ever Census is administered.

Key Date: 1885 – The Canadian Pacific Railway is completed, an engineering marvel which would not have been possible with a carbon tax.

Class Discussion: It’s important to show students both sides of the Riel uprising. To do this, encourage a classroom debate, where half the students argue that Riel is a traitor, and the other half argue that Wilfrid Laurier is the larger traitor for defending him.

Mandatory Viewing: Students can learn about turn-of-the-Century Canada by watching this educational episode of Murdoch Mysteries.

Unit 2: Robert Borden Wins World War I (1900s and 1910s)

Strike from Curriculum: Borden’s 1917 government, composed of Liberals and Conservatives, should under no circumstances be referred to as a “coalition” government. Instead, refer to it as “an enhanced Conservative Government”.

Creative Writing Assignment: Have students draft an “alternate history” where Wilfrid Laurier is Prime Minister during the War, leading to a German victory.

Mandatory Reading: Stephen Harper’s Hockey Book

Unit 3: Mackenzie King Causes the Great Depression (1920s to 1940s)

Class Discussion: To see both sides of the issue, have students debate if King’s policies in the 1920s led to the depression, or if his policies in the 1930s worsened it.

Strike from Curriculum: 1932 – RB Bennett creates the CBC.

Unit 4: The Rise of Diefenbaker (1950s and 1960s)

Key Date: 1967 – The Beatles release “with a little help from my friends”, a song which would be popularized 42 years later by Stephen Harper and Yo Yo Ma (have students watch video and compliment the Prime Minister on his performance).

Strike from Curriculum: 1957 – Lester B. Pearson wins Nobel Peace Prize (if you must mention this, be sure to talk about other Canadian accomplishments of the 1950s, such as PC leader John Bracken being voted one of Manitoba’s 10 Sexiest politicians in 1951).

Interactive Exercise: Imagine it’s 1953, and write a fundraising letter to Conservative Party members viciously attacking Louis St. Laurent. For bonus marks, film an attack ad.

Unit 5: The Joe Clark Era (1970s and 1980s)

Key Date: 1979 – A nerdy Albertan defeated his far handsomer opponent, Pierre Trudeau. (See if students can find modern day parallels to this)

Class Discussion: Discuss how Ken Dryden nearly cost Canada the 1972 Summit Series. Set up a debate between students on the topic “Which was worse – Dryden’s 83.8% save percentage during the Summit Series, or his push to destroy the family unit through National Childcare?

Unit 6: Modern Day (1990s to Present)

Key Date: 2006 – Canada’s New Government cuts the GST from 7% to 6%.

Key Date: 2008 – Canada’s New Government cuts the GST from 6% to 5%.

Interactive Exercise: Have students dress as their favourite character from the Sponsorship Scandal and hand each other brown paper envelopes full of Monopoly money.

Suggested Term Paper Topics

  • Great Canadian Institutions: The Stanley Cup, Tim Hortons, The National Citizens Coalition
  • Which Liberal leader did the most damage to the country?
  • How did Canada change during Michael Ignatieff’s time outside the country, from 1978 to 2005?

  • A Brief History of Stephen Harper Supporting Our Troops

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 7 Comments

    Harper troops

    “In 2006, after the Liberal ‘decade of darkness,’ we took action to rebuild Canada’s Armed Forces.”
    Stephen Harper

    October 2010: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is scrambling to contain an ever-widening scandal in which officials deliberately tried to ruin the reputation of outspoken military veterans

    October 2011: Veterans Ombudsman Questions Harper Government Cuts To Veterans Affairs

    November 2011: Veterans across Canada protest against planned budget cuts and benefits

    March 2012: Veterans consider suing MP accused of dozing off

    April 2012: Veterans concerned over cuts to case workers

    September 2012: Feds spent over $750,000 in five-year court battle against vets’ pension claim

    February 2013: Reserve budgets slashed by almost 25 per cent despite Harper’s order to avoid front-line reductions

    April 9, 2013: Danger pay reduced for Canadian troops in Afghanistan

    April 21, 2013: Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan ordered to return danger pay

    Beau Risque

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Quebec Politics | 6 Comments
    Couillard will try to make history by becoming Quebec's first bearded Premier in over 100 years.

    Couillard will try to make history by becoming Quebec’s first bearded Premier in over 100 years.

    The Quebec Liberal leadership race drew few headlines outside the province, but everyone is paying attention to newly elected leader Philippe Couillard now:

    Quebec Liberal leader Couillard sets sights on Constitution signing

    After a convincing victory on Sunday as new Quebec Liberal party leader, Philippe Couillard has his sights set on becoming premier and steer the province into signing the Canadian Constitution.

    By the time Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, Mr. Couillard believes he can persuade the rest of Canada to embark on a new round of constitutional talks that would accept Quebec’s “distinct” or “specific” character within Canada.

    I’m not sure this is the battle cry I’d be sounding if I was just elected opposition leader in a province which is literally falling apart, but Couillard’s words bear attention. After all, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll be sitting in the Premier’s chair come 2015, in which case this will likely be an election issue. If he’s not Premier, then there’s a pretty good chance a referendum will be looming, in which case this will definitely be an election issue.

    The real question is whether Couillard can find a federal dance partner for his constitutional tango.

    Justin Trudeau has been categorically opposed to re-opening the constitution, getting into a heated argument with Jean Lapierre on this topic in December (It’s amazing how many substantive positions one winds up taking even while being accused of running a “photo op” campaign). Although some Quebec Liberals will be uncomfortable at the prospect of a Couillard-Trudeau sparing match, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the federal and Quebec Liberal leaders in anything resembling an electoral alliance so this wouldn’t be a new dynamic.

    The real question is whether Harper or Mulcair line up with Couillard. An all-beard alliance between former Cabinet colleagues Mulcair and Couillard makes a certain amount of sense. On the 30th anniversary of the Charter last year, Mulcair promised “to work to ensure that one day [the charter] becomes part of a Constitution that includes us all“. The one stumbling block may be Mulcair’s plans to start a provincial NDP in Quebec, but that was always a bit of a hair brained idea, and I’m sure it’s one he would gladly let die if he can count on the PLQ’s machinery next campaign.

    Harper has been less eager to re-open the constitution, but if his support sags in Ontario, he will need to win new seats in Quebec to preserve his majority – and he may see this beau risque as a means to that end. Moreover, 2015 could be his last election, and Harper is still a Prime Minister without a legacy. It’s not like they name airports after you for cutting the GST 2 points. It would only be natural for him to want to accomplish what Trudeau and Mulroney could not, knowing he can always exit stage right if he fails. Moreover, a new round of constitutional talks would allow Harper to follow through on his long-stated desire for an elected senate and a more decentralized federation. If he truly wants to reshape the country, what better way to do so than a new constitution?

    That said, the man hasn’t exactly been inviting the Premiers over to 24 Sussex for homemade lasagna on a regular basis, so it seems unlikely he’d want to subject himself to weeks or months of debate and negotiation. Harper has always been a cautious politician, and a new round of constitutional talks borders on foolhardy. Although success would become his legacy, so would failure, and that’s the far more probable outcome. Exiting politics as the man who put the country through another round of constitutional strife and re-ignited the separatist movement would likely not help the hockey book sales in retirement.

    So when Couillard is looking for dance partners in 2015, he’d be best to extend his hand to Mulcair.

    Do you think it is easy to write history books?

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

    As if the lock-out wasn’t enough for hockey fans, it looks like one long-anticipated stocking stuffer won’t be ready this year.

    We haven’t heard a peep from Harper since this story last Christmas:

    PM Harper’s hockey book to drop next year

    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper — the hockey nut that he is — has spent nearly a decade writing a book about Canada’s national winter sport. Now, comes word that he is intent on finishing the tome next year.

    Harper has a publisher for the book, which isn’t expected to merely be a dry history of the game, but rather, a close look at the professionalization of the sport in the early 1900s.

    Don’t be surprised if the book lands on store shelves in 2012.

    So will he be Hemingway of the North? Will hockey fans throughout the country flock to their nearest bookseller to plunk down their hard-earned cash? Wait for the puck to drop.

    Harper’s office confirmed Tuesday the prime minister’s book will be complete in 2012.

    Canada’s Greatest Losers

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Featured Posts, History | 7 Comments

    Liberals elected this loser at their 1919 leadership convention

    Last week, Martha Hall Findlay and Karen McCrimmon declared their candidacies for the Liberal leadership race. This week, George Takach has taken the plunge. I’ve posted one blog interview with David Merner, and will have others with David Bertschi and Alex Burton next week. Deborah Coyne, meanwhile, has already released more fresh ideas than we’ve seen from Stephen Harper during his entire tenure as Prime Minister.

    These are seven very different candidates with seven very different messages, but the one thing they share in common is that none of them hold a seat in the House of Commons. This has prompted Warren Kinsella (and others) to gently suggest they do us all a favour and drop out, before they jump in. As the saying goes, if you can’t win your own riding, you can’t win the country.

    Now, Warren is free to support whomever he chooses using whatever criteria he chooses. And as far as criteria go, electoral track record is a pretty important one to consider. I know I’d have a difficult time supporting anyone who has never held elected office. That said, it’s likely worth looking at a few “losers” from history, before we automatically disqualify every “loser” from consideration.

    John Diefenbaker: This guy could put together losing campaigns more consistently than the Toronto Maple Leafs. Before being elected, he lost twice federally, twice provincially, and once for Mayor. Despite being a five-time loser, the Tories went with Dief in ’56, and he rewarded them with the largest majority in Canadian history.

    Mackenzie King: Even though he lost his seat in both the 1911 and 1917 elections, the Liberals put their faith in King at Canada’s first leadership convention in 1919. King would go on to become the longest serving PM in Commonwealth history…losing his own seat twice more along the way.

    Jack Layton: Jack beat out three candidates with seats at the 2003 NDP leadership convention, even though he’d never been elected to any position higher than Councillor. He’d lost in his bid for Mayor, finished fourth in the 1993 federal election, and lost by over 7,000 votes in the 1997 federal election. Despite this track record of defeat, the Dippers went with Jack and he rewarded them by becoming the NDP’s most successful leader ever.

    Brian Mulroney: Brian hadn’t even won a City Council election when he became PC leader, and had lost in his previous leadership bid. In his first ever election, he won over 200 seats.

    Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, John Turner: Although they had perfect records in their own ridings, all three lost a leadership race before becoming Liberal leader. Losers.

    Stephen Harper: Harper did not hold a seat when he ran for Canadian Alliance leadership in 2002. At that time, he had a rather uninspiring “1 win and 1 loss” record when it came to local elections – and remember, that’s a .500 record from a Calgary conservative.

    Those are just a few of the many losers who won their party leaderships. Indeed, the only examples from the past 30 years of national parties electing “winners” who had never lost their riding or a leadership race are Stephane Dion, Audrey McLaughlin, Stockwell Day, and Peter MacKay. MacKay killed his party, and the other three almost did.

    That’s not to say that all “winners” become “losers”, but you need to go all the way back to Justin Trudeau’s father in 1968 to find a successful leader who had a perfect electoral record when he first took over his party’s leadership. And while I don’t want to dismiss Pierre Trudeau’s accomplishments, I suspect most barnyard animals could have held Mount Royal for the Liberals in 1965.

    The above examples come from federal politics, but we see it everywhere. Just eight years before becoming President, Barack Obama lost a primary race for a congressional seat by a 2:1 margin. Alison Redford couldn’t even beat Rob Anders in a nomination meeting.

    So while I wouldn’t dismiss a candidate’s electoral record (or lack thereof), it’s important to remember that a lot of winners have quickly turned into losers, and a lot of losers have gone on to have very successful careers.

    Let’s Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls | 5 Comments

    Lorne Bozinoff, discussing Forum’s latest poll, explains what “should be clear by now”:

    “It’s clear by now that the Trudeau phenomenon is no one-day wonder, and that a Liberal Party led by him would be the prohibitive favourite to beat in the next federal election,” Forum Research President Dr. Lorne Bozinoff said.

    This likely makes me a bad Liberal, but if Bozinoff thinks Justin Trudeau is the “prohibitive favourite” to win the next election, I’m willing to put $1,000 on Stephen Harper – so long as he gives me “prohibitive underdog” odds.

    Another Argument Against Legalizing Pot Goes Up In Smoke

    Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 US Election, Federal Politics, Policy, US Politics | 14 Comments

    The stoned slacker vote is up for grabs

    In the midst of a largely status-quo election, several groundbreaking ballot initiatives passed last night. Puerto Rico voted to apply for statehood. Same sex marriage was legalized in Maine and Maryland, and was upheld in Washington State, snapping a 32 vote losing streak for equal marriage proponents. And both Washington State and Colorado voted for complete marijuana legalization and regulation. The implications of this in Canada could be far reaching, and I’m not just talking about a spike in “road trips” from Vancouver to Seattle over reading week. I expect what happened last night will lead to some sober reflection on Canadian drug laws.

    At least it should, because on the very same day marijuana laws in these two states became more liberal than Amsterdam, an omnibus bill imposing mandatory sentencing for drug crimes in Canada came into effect. So while ganja may be coming to a store near you in Denver, a student who grows 6 marijuana plants in his UBC dorm room and shares them with his friends could be looking at 9 months in jail.

    While the NDP and Liberals have spoken against these “tough on crime” measures, both parties have been rather timid on the drug file in recent years. In March, Thomas Mulcair said he was against decriminalization because marijuana leads to mental illness. He later backtracked, saying he was confused between decriminalization and legalization; in either event, it’s safe to say we won’t see much movement from the NDP on this issue anytime soon. When asked about marijuana by High School students in 2010, Michael Ignatieff showed his deft ability to relate to youth by telling them he’d rather see them “digging ditches” than smoking “marijuana cigarettes”.

    Ignatieff elaborated on his position by pointing to border problems legalizing the drug in Canada would create. Indeed, supporters of the current prohibition laws are quick to claim legalizing a product in Canada that is illegal in the US would lead to everything from chilled diplomatic relations to 10-hour lineups and full car searches at the border. But thanks to voters in Washington and Colorado, these arguments have now gone up in smoke. After all, no one’s going to risk smuggling joints across the border when you can just as easily buy American.

    Most importantly, should these ballot measures withstand almost-certain legal challenges, there will now be two trials to cite when making the case for or against legalization. For better or wose, we’re about to find out what legalization really means; I imagine social scientists are already giddy with excitement at the prospect of crunching the crime data. If unintended consequences or logistical nightmares rear their head, no one will look at legalization in Canada for another 30 years – But if the results are largely positive and the tax dollars roll in, the case for legalization will no longer be theoretical. Suddenly, the risk won’t look quite so big and the change won’t seem quite as scary.

    Regardless of what the courts say, yesterday’s votes will serve to embolden legalization activists on both sides of the border. Washington and Colorado may be blue states, but Obama only carried them with slim majorities – surely us public-healthcare-gay-marriage-loving socialists in Canada are at least as supportive of marijuana legalization, eh? These results should therefore give everyone pause to rethink the common wisdom that being labelled “soft on drugs” is campaign kryptonite. After all, the most basic rule of politics is that if the public supports something, it doesn’t hurt a politician to also support it.

    Despite that, I can’t see Harper or Mulcair changing their positions – they’ve both stated their opposition to legalization and both are timid risk-averse politicians. But what about the Liberals, whose members voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana at their convention earlier this year? As I wrote at the time, there are many below-the-surface electoral implications to consider before running on a pro-pot platform. Who feels strong enough about this issue to change their vote over it? Does this help Liberal fundraising efforts? Does this play to the larger narrative of the Liberals as the party of “evidence-based” policy? Does it detract from the rest of the platform? If Justin Trudeau is the next Liberal leader, does this show he’s gutsy and stands for something, or does it play into the “airhead” narrative? Would this, combined with Justin’s youth appeal, actually get young Canadians out to the polls?

    It’s a complex electoral calculus, but what happened south of the border last night might very well be the tipping point that prompts the Liberals to light up and run on legalization in 2015.

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