Monday, 27 May 2013

Meanwhile In Ontario, a PC/NDP Policy Convergence


Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!              
       
What could be a more telling sign of a the coming apocalypse than the sight of two political polar opposites coming together in a policy convergence? The image of political cats and dogs - the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats - entering into a truce to fight a common foe is a jarring one. Of course, no such formal pact exists between the two parties which, at least on the basis of party constitutions and policy histories - have little in common. There is no agreement, no stated goal of detente to focus a combined effort on the Liberal government. It is an alliance of happenstance, not concerted cooperation. The convergence is the result of two far extremes which, if followed far enough end up intersecting and aligning on the other side. Two distinct sides of the political spectrum have reached the same conclusion by taking their own political brands to the same common denominator. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

(Dis)Order of Canada: Can Leonard Cohen Save the Senate?


In 1849 the Governor of the Province of Canada gave assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, completing the process begun a decade early follow Lord Durham's famous report. With the passage of this legislation - the Governor allowing a bill he disapproved of to pass - responsible government was established in Canada (all due credit, Nova Scotia was first to that mark only shortly before). The point is that the powers of the unelected Governor to interfere with the will of the legislative assembly was ended. Over the course of decades, the residual powers of the Crown were further democratized, to be exercised on advice of the Prime Minister or Cabinet. The point is that the power of the Governor - now Governor General - were ultimately curtailed. The position is now apolitical and non-partisan, operating at a distance from the day to day of politics.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Seeing Red: Sober Second Thought, Abolition & Constitutional Reality


No less an authority than R. MacGregor Dawson - writing in 1922 - labelled the Canadian Senate as "the one conspicuous failure of the Canadian Constitution"1. Certainly evidence enough for many in the present to, with nary a thought given, advocate for outright abolition of the upper chamber, that 'unelected and unaccountable' body, the 'vestigial tail' of Canada's parliamentary democracy. The denunciations are as base as they are common. They show little deference to constitutional reality nor an understanding to the historic basis of the Confederation bargain. There is no understanding of the role the upper chamber played in the negotiations of 1864. What is more, they reflect a denial of the reality of contemporary Canada: a diverse, linguistically divided and highly regionalized federal union. The motivations of Quebec and the Maritime provinces are no less valid and, indeed, no less alive in the present. They have simply been compounded and thrown into starker relief by the geographic expansion of the country westward and with it a change in demographic power.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Remote Control: The Harper Broadcasting Network? Not Quite


It's been a busy week few weeks for conspiracy theorists and 'secret agenda' discoverers. The official opposition continues to insist that the Supreme Court is furiously at work in the Court's archives, shredding documents related to constitutional patriation. The tabling of the budget implementation bill (C-60) on Monday has, as usual, prompted a number of extreme reactions about the controlling nature of the Harper government, its overt plans to undermine democracy and it attempts to shape Canadian society in its image. The budget implementation bill moves us, yet again, one step closer to North Korea.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Lost & Finance: (re)Reading the AG

I'll walk a fine line with this post because it puts myself in the precarious position of defending - perhaps that's too strong a word, but there it is - the Harper Government. Much has been made of the 'fact' that the government has 'lost' over $3 billion dollars in counter-terrorism program spending. Indeed, this is somehow proof of economic mismanagement. The Twittersphere has, predictably, latched on by adapting the Prime Minister's recent gaff, admonishing Harper that this is no time to commit accounting.
The media dove headfirst into the shallow end of the pool - as usual - and taken one of only two acceptable paths when discussing Auditor General (AG) reports. The first: call it 'damning', note that the AG has 'slammed' the government and run with the story of gross mismanagement and lax accountability. The second: downplay, or omit entirely, those aspects of a report that are less harsh. Competent management is not newsworthy.