How about Abacus Data’s latest thoughts on Canadian federal election October 21, 2019 : “A Tale of Two (Or More) Races”?

Posted: September 6th, 2019 | No Comments »
“Arriving from the Pleiades” by Toronto artist Michael Seward, September 2019.

Bruce Anderson and David Coletto at Abacus Data have come up with (I think) an especially helpful and interesting take on the October 21 Canadian federal election, in reporting on their latest “national survey of 4,549 Canadians, completed on August 28.” (The Anderson and Coletto report is dated September 5.)

They start by noting that, Canada-wide : “If an election were held at the time of the survey, the Conservatives (34%) and Liberals (33%) would capture the same amount of popular support, followed by the NDP at 17%, the Greens at 9%, and the BQ at 4%.”

This is broadly consistent with recent polling results from other sources. Éric Grenier’s latest CBC Poll Tracker averages, eg (dated September 5 as well), give Conservatives 33.8%, Liberals 33.4%, NDP 13.5%, Greens 10.4%, BQ 4.4%, Peoples Party of Canada 2.9%, and Others 1.6%.

M. Grenier’s September 5 update also projects more seats for Liberals than Conservatives — but not quite a majority in the House. And a very close race between Liberals and Conservatives in popular vote, but with more seats to Liberals as a result of their more geographically efficient vote, is the current common folk wisdom about the October 21 Canadian election.

Anderson and Coletto’s latest Abacus Data ruminations, however, add two further refinements to this folk wisdom — that help explain why the Liberals are likely to win more seats (on current polling numbers at least).

The first refinement might be called the pure “Tale of Two Races” model. This notes that, broadly speaking again, there is a dramatic difference between the popular vote numbers in two different regions of the country.

As Anderson and Coletto put it : In the two turbulent Prairie energy provinces of “Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservatives have a massive 38-point lead over the Liberals.” But in the more laid-back “rest of the country, the Liberals hold a five-point lead” over the Conservatives.

Deconstructing the “rest of the country” gives the more refined “Or More” Model. In the words of Bruce Anderson and David Coletto : “Our latest numbers show the Liberals with a substantial lead (13 points) in Atlantic Canada, a 12 point lead in Quebec and a 4 point lead in Ontario. BC is a tie between the Liberals and Conservatives with the NDP and the Green parties together corralling 36% of the vote, considerably higher than their combined impact in any other region.”

This suggests a classic Canadian five-region model : (1) BC with Liberals and Conservatives tied (but a combined NDP/Green vote greater than either of the two leaders) ; (2) the Prairies with a commanding Conservative lead (and here we include Manitoba with Alberta and Saskatchewan, as implied by polls showing a Conservative victory in the Manitoba provincial election this coming Tuesday, September 10) ; (3) the most populous province of Ontario where the Liberals have a 4 point lead ; (4) the unique French-speaking majority province of Quebec where the Liberals have a 12 point lead, and (5) Atlantic Canada where Liberals have a 13 point lead.

Looked at through this kind of political lens, to summarize the current Canadian election race as a very close contest between Liberals and Conservatives, while apt enough in some ways, can be quite misleading in others. And somehow (again I think myself) to summarize the still long enough journey to October 21 as “A Tale of Two (Or More) Races” is just more interesting, and makes more sense.

Moody Manitoba Morning on September 10, 2019 — Pallister Conservatives likely to win majority despite his unpopularity?

Posted: September 4th, 2019 | No Comments »
Wab Kinew and his family at Winnipeg Goldeyes ball game summer 2019. (Wab Kinew/Facebook.) The Goldeyes play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

[UPDATED 12:10 AM ET, SEPTEMBER 11, 2019]. There was a time not too long ago (late September 2017?) when newly elected Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew seemed likely enough to become the first Indigenous premier of a modern Canadian province. And this milestone would fit nicely with the past of a democratic political community that nowadays recognizes the Métis icon Louis Riel as one of its founders.

Then what Dan Lett at the Winnipeg Free Press deftly summarizes as Mr. Kinew’s “checkered past” started to catch up with him.

(As explained by Wikipedia, in much greater detail : “ In 2003, Kinew was convicted of impaired driving. Kinew has since quit drinking and in 2014 applied for a pardon … which was granted by the Parole Board of Canada in 2016. The Parole Board ruling removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre database references to his convictions on assaulting a taxi driver, a Driving Under the Influence conviction for refusing a breathalyzer sample, and two breaches of court orders … In the spring of 2003, Kinew was [also] charged with two counts of domestic assault related to allegations that he threw his then-girlfriend across a room during an argument. The charges were subsequently stayed. Kinew denies the allegations.”)

Party leaders (left to right) Dougald Lamont (Liberal), Brian Pallister (Progressive Conservative), Wab Kinew (NDP) and James Beddome (Greens) in August 28, 2019 Manitoba leaders’ debate at CBC Manitoba studios.

It is still possible that Wab Kinew will eventually become the first Indigenous premier of a modern Canadian province. But at this point it seems unlikely that this will happen in the Manitoba provincial election now less than a week away.

As Dan Lett has also explained, in the 2019 Manitoba election campaign “NDP Leader Wab Kinew” has been “straining under the weight of a particularly vicious attack campaign from the Tories about his checkered past.”

According to a recent Probe Research poll commissioned for the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV News Winnipeg, 39% of Manitobans see “Wab Kinew’s past” as “a serious issue” and “would struggle to vote for a party’s candidate when its leader has been accused of doing these things.”

Probe Research shows as well that 37% of Manitobans find “Premier and Progressive Conservative Leader” Brian Pallister’s “combative style” very “unhelpful” (and an additional 19% somewhat unhelpful).

“Progressive Conservative party leader Brian Pallister announces that the provincial election is underway after a visit to the Lieutenant Governor on Monday, August 12, 2019 in Winnipeg. (Photo: The Canadian Press).”

Even so (to quote Mr. Lett again) : “according to the same poll, Pallister’s Tories continue to enjoy the support of 40 per cent of respondents, with the NDP and Liberals mired in second (29 per cent) and third place (21 per cent) respectively. Those numbers, if they hold through election day, will likely produce a second majority government” for Premier Pallister.

It may be that, despite the premier’s personal unpopularity, the Progressive Conservatives have somehow captured enough of the current mass imagination to count, with their slogan “Moving Manitoba Forward.”

If so, as a further sign of just how politics everywhere is in a somewhat bizarre state at the moment, the 2019 PC slogan is “word for word, the same one the New Democrats under former premier Greg Selinger used in the 2016 election, which saw the Tories sweep the NDP from power after 17 years” (Steve Lambert, Canadian Press).

(It may or may not be equally worth noting the similarity between the provincial PCs’ “Moving Manitoba Forward” in 2019 and the federal Liberals’ “Choose Forward” in the forthcoming October 21, 2019 Canadian federal election????)

Three cheerleaders for Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Canadian Football League, during year of last Manitoba provincial election in 2016.

On a very final note, according to Manitoba’s fixed election date legislation, the next Manitoba election was supposed to be a year from now in 2020. As in all such cases, however : “Nothing” in this legislation “affects the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, including the power to dissolve the Legislature at the Lieutenant Governor’s discretion.”

Which, translated into plain English, means the premier can still call an election whenever he likes, even if “the only reason an election is taking place on Sept. 10 is the PCs are well ahead in the polls, flush with money and are in position to easily win a second consecutive term in office.”

In any event, stay tuned for the final result this coming Tuesday. Even if it is just as the latest polls predict — a second consecutive majority government for the politicians who want to move forward this year.

Of course there always could be some big Moody Manitoba Morning surprise! But probably not.

UPDATE 12:10 AM, SEP 11, 2019 : No surprises in the end. As matters stand right now, according to the CBC News site, the Pallister Conservatives have a net loss of six seats for a total of 36, with 48% of the popular vote. The Liberals have a loss of one seat, for a total of 3 with 14% of the province-wide vote. Wab Kinew’s New Democrats have a net gain of seven seats, for a total of 18 with 31% of the vote. The Greens have no seats with somewhat better than 6% of the vote. And, to strike a more positive progressive note : “CBC News projects NDP candidates Jamie Moses and Uzoma Asagwara and PC candidate Audrey Gordon made history as the province’s first black MLAs.” All told, the Conservatives have retained a strong majority government (despite the loss in seats from their unusual heights of 2016). And Premier Pallister, to this point in his career, must be judged a quite smart politician!

Three cheers for BC & AB Blue Jays fans in Seattle .. from admiring fellow Canadians in Toronto, only 3400 klicks away

Posted: August 27th, 2019 | No Comments »
“Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk poses with Jays fans in Seattle. Photo Credit: Toronto Blue Jays.”

TORONTO, CANADA. AUGUST 27, 2019. I read this past Sunday about the “author, podcast host and former ‘Jeopardy!’ champion” Ken Jennings, from the US Pacific North West. Perhaps after watching FOX News, he foolishly criticized the “20,000 surprisingly awful Canadians” who “drive down to watch a Blue Jays game” in Seattle during the northern summers.

This year’s Toronto Blue Jays series against the Mariners in Seattle took place August 23–25. The Jays won only one of the three games. But hey they’re just starting to build again. And how about Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and the reliable Randal Grichuk — apparently no relation to my colleague Randall White on this site?

I was also recently fortunate to attend a dinner that included my colleague Rob Sparrow on this site : our deeply well informed noted local authority on the sporting life. He reports that it will be a while yet before whatever long-term potential today’s young Blue Jays team may have starts to blossom seriously again. (Not even next season, eg.)

Yet this just seems another good reason for me — as a Blue Jays fan in Toronto (and more importantly husband of a still much greater fan, and pitcher in her youth) — to offer very deeply heartfelt thanks, gratitude, congratulations, commiserations, and consolations to all those Western Canadian fans in Vancouver and elsewhere in BC who heroically travel long distances to bring strength to Canada’s current one Major League Baseball team.

Similarly, while Ryan Flanagan’s recent excellent report on the “20,000 surprisingly awful Canadians” who invade Seattle to cheer the Blue Jays every summer concentrates on Vancouver and BC, there are also smaller numbers who come from still further away in Alberta. And at a Jays game in Toronto this year (June 29) Kiya Bruno from the Samson Cree Nation in northern Alberta sang O Canada in English and Cree.

The mainstream media across the country dwell so often on regional tensions in the true north, strong and free.

It is refreshing and much more to see the Canadian unity on the other side of the coin come to life so exuberantly.

Yes of course there are serious regional issues inside Canada — starting with the original region in Quebec, home of les Canadiens in the NHL. And for sure the Trans Mountain Pipeline is a divisive issue in (almost?) all parts of the country today.

(There are certainly people in Toronto who take the side of getting it done as soon as possible. And the other side too. As in Vancouver, no doubt. And Montreal, or Halifax, Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, etc. Most in Calgary and Edmonton, on the other hand, may be just for getting it done.)

Ryan Flanagan reports that the Seattle critic Ken Jennings has “questioned why BC residents seem to prefer cheering for the Jays to supporting ‘their [Canadian-American north-south] regional Cascadia team’ [the Seattle Mariners]. Vancouver is located 4,000 kilometres from Toronto and less than 250 kilometres from Seattle.”

Strictly speaking an as-the-crow-flies airplane trip from Vancouver to Toronto is only about 3400 kilometres. But the point remains.

It raises the poignant question “What Is Canada?” And the best answer here is probably the one to “What Is Jazz?” proposed long ago by the great American “avid baseball fan” Louis Armstrong : “If you have to ask, you’ll never know!”

A very short note : why we still still support the Justin Trudeau Liberals for October 21 .. in spite of all their faults

Posted: August 16th, 2019 | No Comments »

[UPDATED AUGUST 21]. In something of a surprising report on what had seemed to be the fading “SNC-Lavalin affair,” released August 14, Canadian House of Commons’ Conflict of Interest and Ethics commissioner, Mario Dion has claimed that Prime Minister Justin “Trudeau used his position of authority over [former Attorney General Jody] Wilson-Raybould to try to influence her decision-making and, in so doing, tried to further the Quebec engineering giant’s private interests.”

According to an editorial in Canada’s most widely circulated newspaper, Mr. Dion’s claim “that the interventions by Trudeau and Co. were made in order to further the private interest of SNC-Lavalin — as opposed to the public interest involved if the engineering giant had been crippled by a criminal trial and forced to shed thousands of jobs … is, at the very least, a debatable conclusion.” There is “no evidence, and none was brought forth in Dion’s report, that Trudeau personally or the Liberals in general would benefit in a direct way (financially, for example) by shielding SNC-Lavalin from criminal prosecution and making sure it was offered a deferred prosecution agreement instead.”

As various other sources have also been struggling to point out, it remains the case that “Jody Wilson-Raybould said herself in all her interactions with Justin Trudeau over #SNC – NOTHING illegal or criminal took place (this past March in 2019).” And over the past few days she has underlined that “she still believes there is nothing criminal about the actions of the prime minister, or the staff acting under his direction, on this file.”

Here, echoing the original debate about the behaviour of the prime minister and his staff and that of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the greatest mistake of the Trudeau Liberals in this branch of “SNC-Lavalin” may have been appointing Mario Dion as Conflict of Interest and Ethics commissioner early in 2018. Opposition parties in Parliament originally attacked his appointment, stressing among other things “an auditor general’s report finding ‘gross mismanagement’ in the handling of two files under Dion’s watch” in his previous position as Commissioner of Public Integrity.

News from this past March 2019 that “Ethics commissioner Mario Dion stepping away from office for medical reasons” raises further questions in our minds as well. And the latest August 2019 news that “Dion is not granting interviews at this time, his office said, noting the report speaks for itself” only adds to these questions. [UPDATE August 21 : Perhaps realizing how this affected his credibility, Mr. Dion has subsequently indicated he is prepared to discuss his report further in public. Meanwhile, see also the Abacus Data survey released today : “What impact did the Ethics Commissioner’s report have on the political landscape? Not much it seems.”]

In the end even with Mr. Dion’s report there remains no clear-cut question of serious legal or constitutional wrong-doing by the prime minister or anyone else. The “SNC-Lavalin affair” is at its very bottom about politics, political philosophy, and political choices. We agree with the conservative pundit John Ibbitson that “Final verdict on Justin Trudeau’s actions will be up to voters” this coming October 21.

In this same context we just want to make altogether clear that nothing in Mr. Dion’s report has in any way changed the position we advanced this past May 2019 in “Top 5 list : why we still support the Justin Trudeau Liberals for October 21 .. in spite of all their faults.”

We will still be voting for the Trudeau Liberals this October 21, because we believe they can continue to provide much better government for all Canadians than any of the available alternatives. We believe as well that — insofar as anything of this sort is remotely possible or realistic — re-electing the Trudeau Liberals this October (even as a minority government supported by New Democrats and Greens?) is the best example Canada can set for the wider global village (and even our narrower but always wonderful next door neighbours in their 2020 presidential election). In our view there is absolutely nothing raised by Mario Dion (or anyone else) about SNC-Lavalin that remotely warrants any change in such forward-looking and progressive if also inevitably imperfect human calculations.

Maybe we can help democracy in Hong Kong best right now by strengthening our own Canadian democracy?

Posted: August 14th, 2019 | No Comments »
Just after 10 AM ET on August 12 Ryan Michaels (@ReasonBound) tweeted : “#Hong Kong Protests occupy the airport. All flights in and out are cancelled. This is a pivotal moment in world history.”

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA. AUGUST 14, 2019. Yesterday the pro-democracy protests at the Hong Kong Airport (if these are quite the right words) broke through the bubble that usually shields US TV from too much contact with the outside global village.

Now we can supplement our troubled research elsewhere with TV coverage on CNN and MSNBC. (FOX News is not available in our far too liberal office communications room.)

For brief background, what began as the “2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests” this past spring “have continued through the summer, often escalating into increasingly violent confrontations between police, democracy activists, pro-Beijing triad gang members, and local residents in over 20 different neighbourhoods …”

The protests have focused on the Hong Kong Airport this week. According to the Independent in the UK : “Hong Kong airport cancelled all flights after thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators occupied the main terminal to denounce police brutality, with Beijing denouncing the long-running protest movement as showing ‘sprouts of terrorism’.”

According to the Associated Press in the US : “Riot police clashed with pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong’s airport late Tuesday night, moving into the terminal where the demonstrators had shut down operations at the busy transport hub for two straight days.”

Some are urging that the Hong Kong protests have now reached some dark point of crisis. Many (outside China at least) still remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989 — in a deadly suppression of the “the ’89 Democracy Movement.” Some are asking today : “Would China risk another Tiananmen in Hong Kong?

The widely accepted immediate conclusion is : “While China might be exploiting fears of a bloody ‘Tiananmen’ crackdown on Hong Kong’s protest movement, analysts say the potentially catastrophic economic and political consequences will deter Beijing from any overt boots-on-the-ground intervention.”

Like others again, however, we wonder how much longer the current somewhat measured local authority and mainland Chinese response can continue. In the more recent past Chinese military might has apparently been gathering in Shenzhen on the Hong Kong border. The latest good news is at least that “Flights resume after second night of chaos at Hong Kong airport.”

On our own philosophical view, even with some growing violence among the good guys and some controversial “protesters … dressed in black” at the airport, anyone anywhere in the world who seriously believes in the future, importance, and value of democratic ideals must also feel deep sympathy and unambiguous visceral support for the current Hong Kong protest.

At the same time, we were impressed by Elizabeth Warren’s recent tweet : “The people of Hong Kong are making clear that they will not tolerate repression, and their movement affirms: The power is with the people. They deserve our support and the support of the world.” But we have serious doubts about the real-world possibilities of expressing this support in any altogether decisive or practical way.

A “Chinese journalist” detained by Hong Kong protesters after infiltrating their ranks?

One protestor (or protest supporter?) on Twitter, eg, put the sharpest (and craziest) point on the issue this past Monday : “Only by completely eradicating the Communist Party can this earth enter a real civilization! The United States… Western democracies must unite to annihilate the Communist Party! Everything is just getting started!”

Presumably not even a US President Elizabeth Warren in 2021 would be at all prepared to declare the kind of war on the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China that would be required to achieve this objective.

In our own country we are similarly skeptical about Terry Glavin’s recent article in Maclean’s : “While Hong Kong fights for democracy, Canada goes silent … ‘We have emboldened China’s thuggish behaviours, because we haven’t done anything,’ says one organizer.”

As CBC TV explained Tuesday night, there are some half a million people from Hong Kong living in Canada right now (and another 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong!). As a Wikipedia article on “2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests” also points out, there have been some people of Chinese origin in Canada who have demonstrated in support of the Hong Kong protestors over the past few months — and others who have demonstrated in support of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

“Demonstrators hold signs and yellow umbrellas as they gather in front of the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver on June 9, 2019 to protest against a controversial extradition law proposed by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government to ease extraditions to China. DON MACKINNON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES.”

In our view Prime Minister Trudeau has in fact recently said as much as can be reasonably and effectively said about the current Hong Kong protests by any Canadian government : “We need to see the local authorities listen to the very serious concerns brought forward by Chinese citizens and their concerns around the decisions that the … authorities in Beijing have taken … We continue to be mindful and watchful of protecting Canadian interests and Canadians, specifically in Hong Kong … We certainly call on China to be very careful and very respectful in how it deals with people who have legitimate concerns in Hong Kong.”

Meanwhile, like so many others, we will be watching to see just how Xi Jinping’s Chinese government does finally deal with the current round of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. We are taking some heart ourselves from these latest Chinese (and vaguely related Russian?) pro-democracy actions. Authoritarian governments have their limitations in the emerging high technological global village. Democracy has its advantages. And this is useful for we Canadians to remember ourselves, as we contemplate the next free and democratic federal election on our own local political horizon, this coming October 21.

Did Vancouver Pride Parade prefigure next federal government in Canada?

Posted: August 6th, 2019 | No Comments »
Is this the next Government of Canada?

It’s the early days of August — “for the people and their favourite islands.” Beyond the great but too often sad entertainment of current American history next door, no Canadian of any sense is thinking about anything at all serious. And that certainly goes double for the Canadian federal election this coming October 21.

Photographs from the August 4, 2019 Pride Parade in beautiful Vancouver, however, are bound to make at least some of we alleged close observers wonder. Are the buoyant images of Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, and Elizabeth May almost walking arm in arm, along certain sections of the parade route, hinting at something interesting enough about the October election outcome?

A piece of the puzzle of the present that lies in the past — as in “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please … The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” By Toronto artist Michael Seward, July/August 2019.

It does fit with the month of the people and their favourite islands that Éric Grenier’s illustrious CBC “Poll Tracker is on hiatus until Aug. 12.” And a few major polls are still stuck in July.

It is worth remembering as well that October 21 is still a few moons ahead. At this mid-summer point in the year during the last Canadian federal election in 2015, eg, Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats were leading in the polls, and their serious rivals were the governing Stephen Harper Conservatives. On August 2, 7, 10, and 11, 2015 the Justin Trudeau Liberals who ultimately won a majority government on the then October 19 election day were still in third place!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May put aside their partisan differences ahead of October’s election and marched together at Vancouver’s Pride Parade on Sunday. Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer did not attend. THE CANADIAN PRESS.”

All that having been said, and are currently offering polling-based guesses about the actual October 21, 2019 election outcome, dated August 1 and 4. Both guesses arguably add some further intrigue to the 2019 Vancouver Pride Parade photos of Liberal leader (and current PM) Justin Trudeau, New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, and Canada Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

The polls generally at the moment seem to agree on two things. One is that the main competition this year is between the Trudeau Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, with the NDP some distance behind, closer to the Greens who appear to be rising.

(And then with M. Bernier’s People’s Party and the Bloc Québécois further back again. Note as well that all this is different from even early August 2015, when the race was much more of a three-way competition, with the Conservatives, New Democrats, and Liberals bunched together at the top.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, cheers while waiting to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, left, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, centre, in Vancouver, on Sunday August 4, 2019. DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS.”

Another thing current polls generally seem to agree on is that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives — as matters stand right now — are at all close to a majority government. And, most recently, both and are offering polling-based guesses about the October 21, 2019 election that give the Liberals a minority government.

To start with, note that a bare majority in the present 338-seat Canadian House of Commons is 170 seats. From here, (“last updated: Thursday, August 1, 2019”) gives the Liberals 158 seats with 33% of the cross-Canada popular vote.

The Conservatives, because their support is relatively so concentrated in Western Canada, get a slightly greater share of the popular vote (33.7%) but only 140 seats. The NDP have 24 seats with 13.8% of the vote, and the Greens 5 seats with 10.8%.

Another mid-summer distraction for some Canadian voters — “Caribana 2019″ in Toronto : better than ever!

Meanwhile, (“Last update: August 4th 2019”) rather similarly gives the Liberals 152 seats with 32.7% of the cross-Canada popular vote.

The Conservatives, once again, get a slightly greater share of the popular vote (34%) but only 146 seats. The NDP have 22 seats with 14.4% of the vote, and the Greens 6 seats with 10.9%.

In both these cases the minority governing Trudeau Liberals would need support from the Singh New Democrats to get their budgets (and other key legislation) passed by the House (158 + 24 = 182 or 12 more than a bare majority ; or 152 +22 = 174 or 4 more than the minimum).

Alternatively, on the numbers, even if the Scheer Conservatives were to somehow win support from both the NDP and the Greens they would still be one seat shy of even a bare majority in the House. But on the numbers the Conservatives would have a working legislative majority (174) if they won support from both New Democrats and Greens.

Adding all this up — very casually on your pocket calculator while stretched out on the beach, or comfortably seated in a chair on the dock beside a gin and tonic — you might conclude that the most stable government possible from actual October 21 results like those currently predicted by and would be a Liberal minority government, at least informally supported in the House by both the Singh New Democrats and the May Green Party.

And if (after two or three more gin and tonics by the dock — or possibly some now legal cannabis) you take this present-day summary altogether more seriously than is at all prudent, maybe the current scenario is what Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, and Elizabeth May were trying on for size, as they marched together in the August 4, 2019 Pride Parade in Vancouver, on Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast …

“Liberals and moderates clash in Detroit” ?? Is that really where the US Democrat leadership debate is at ??

Posted: July 31st, 2019 | No Comments »
“Debate attendees line up outside of The Fox Theatre during the first night of the CNN Democratic primary debate on Tuesday in Detroit, July 30, 2019.” Tanya Moutzalias |

[UPDATED AUGUST 1, 2019]. The first striking fact about the first night of the CNN Democratic primary debate in Detroit on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 is that it was held in the Fox theatre — one of the truly great legacies from the golden age of the American motion picture.

(It was “opened in 1928 as the flagship movie palace for the Fox Theatre Chain,” and 60 years later “designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988.”)

Beyond this almost all the early commentary has stressed the “Liberals and moderates clash in Detroit” theme. More exactly : “ Sanders, Warren fight back at US Democratic debate against moderate rivals” ; “Two against the world: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren take on all comers” ; and “Sanders and Warren defend progressive policies in US Democratic debate.”

Or, as succinctly summarized by Stephen Colbert : “It’s hard to sum up what happened tonight, but most of it was a bunch of guys with no chance to win the Democratic nomination, yelling Republican talking points at the people who can — it was like watching the Seven Dwarves offering Snow White a poison apple.”

Stage of Fox theatre in Detroit set up for part one of CNN’s 2019 Democrat leaders’ debate.

For a few further angles, try : “Fox News [not to be confused with the much older Fox theatre in Detroit!] Trolls CNN Democratic Debate With Praise for John Delaney, Marianne Williamson” ; “John Delaney: I believe in capitalism, but we should make it more just” ; “The Democratic Debate Over Medicare For All And Middle Class Taxes, Explained” ; and “These 4 questions may determine how Democrats go from 2 dozen candidates to 1.”

We are not at all sure ourselves that the “Liberals and moderates clash in Detroit” theme qualifies as a serious summary of the current state of the US Democrat leadership race. The second installment of the midsummer debate on July 31 — where the presumed leader of the so-called “moderates” (Joe Biden) may or may not strengthen his hand from the last debate — could suggest a different summary headline.

Meanwhile, we can report a much more radical thought from our technical support contacts in the vast new American liberal heartland of California. Here there are progressives contemplating a 2020 President/Vice-President Democrat ticket that includes both Elizabeth Warren and (Joe Biden’s nemesis from the first 2019 debate) Kamala Harris!

This at first struck us as altogether impossible … but we do live in crazy political times. And the more we think about Warren-Harris or Harris-Warren, the more we wonder if it just might make as much sense as anything else in the age of Donald Trump?? (And could possibly be the kind of crazy Democratic alternative finally needed to defeat Mr. Trump’s crazy Republicanism??)

“Democratic candidates for president take the stage for the first of two primary debates hosted by CNN, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (Paul Sancya/AP).”

Some in any event do say Elizabeth Warren was the ultimate winner on July 30, 2019. Can Kamala Harris do something similar on July 31, 2019? We’ll be watching part two in our office communications room ourselves. And we’ll report back if any further thoughts of consequence descend upon us.

Meanwhile again, to us the very bottom line still does seem to be that Democratic primary voters will not actually see any action until the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020 — still some six months away. And a week is a long time in politics, etc …

UPDATE AUGUST 1, 2019 : According to Chris Cillizza at CNN the winners from the second night of the Democrat leader debates in Detroit (July 31, 2019) were Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard. A number of observers (including Mr. Cillizza) felt Kamala Harris under-performed.

Seating inside the vacant Fox theatre in Detroit.

Still others have more simply concluded that “Biden performed better in the second debate” and “Biden fends off attacks from all sides.” Damon Linker at The Week has gone on to explain “How Joe Biden won the second night of the Detroit debate.”

According to Linker, “the simple truth is that Joe Biden won the second night of the Democratic debate in Detroit for one simple reason: He came into the event with a massive lead in the polls and he did nothing …to change that. If Biden can repeat this performance throughout the debates between now and the start of the primaries, he will be in a very strong position to win his party’s nomination.” (But for a contrary point of view see T.A. Frank in Vanity Fair : “Joe Biden stumbles in second Democratic debate.”)

Like some others again (and as in the first round of debates earlier), we were most impressed ourselves by the sheer abundance of Democratic political talent on display at the Fox theatre in Detroit on July 31 — as in “Every one of the 10 candidates had a standout moment tonight.” We especially liked the George Will favourite Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, and Andrew Yang. Whatever else, there are the makings of a strong and sensible Democratic cabinet or governing team here. And that could be what the American people wind up wanting most in 2020.

Hello Hippie Chick : at least you could just move to the Canada that will (hopefully) re-elect Justin Trudeau on October 21?

Posted: July 20th, 2019 | No Comments »
Ayanna Pressley, born 1974 in Cincinnati, Ohio, raised in Chicago, Illinois, and now the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

What to make of the latest political craziness in the USA today (at least from where I live, north of the Great Lakes)? Here are four clusters of mid-summer 2019 intelligence, gleaned from the World Wide Web — and beyond :

I. THE WISDOM OF GEORGE WILL : My shrewdest insider source from the hard left has drawn attention to two recent pieces on the wit and wisdom of the anti-Trump conservative and lapsed US Republican George Will — “George Will’s startling assessment of Donald Trump” and “Will: To defeat Trump, Democrats should nominate Bennet.”

According to Chris Cillizza at CNN, Will sadly underlines how “Trump has taught politicians … that telling the truth isn’t all that important … Trump has already changed the presidency — and our culture — in profound ways that will not simply ‘snap back’ once he leaves office.”

Will’s long-shot best choice for Democrat leader in the great cause of defeating Trump on November 3, 2020 (still almost a year and a half away) is the Colorado Senator Michael Bennett.

2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang is another long-shot best choice for Democrat leader among some close observers. He at the very least has things to say about public policy in our current high-tech economy (and culture) that are well worth hearing.

In George Will’s own words : “Bennet believes that Trump is more a symptom than a cause of political dysfunction, and he regrets that ‘the capitalists have lost control of the Republican Party.’” Much more to the point : “China’s perfection — and exporting — of the ‘surveillance state’ makes American democracy more important, and therefore its current degradation especially alarming.”

II. A LOT OF BAD (AND A LITTLE GOOD) NEWS ? : My own quick troll through the recent online news and views has picked up only two pieces of good against six of bad news.

Good news : (1) from another lapsed Republican critic of Trump, Bill Kristol, after the July 17 Trump rally in North Carolina : “After last night’s appalling rally, it would be a genuine act of patriotism for Republican elected officials today to denounce both Trump’s rhetoric and the crowd’s chants.” (Of course very few did!) And (2) from our Canadian journalist Jeet Heer, who currently writes for the Nation in the USA : “Racism Is Not a Winning Issue For Trump … Pundits think Trump’s bigotry benefits him—but a united Democratic party can easily win.”

Jeet Heer, “who divides his time between Toronto and Regina” and has “built up an international audience of more than 15,000” on Twitter.

Bad news : (1) “There’s a sobering truth to Trump’s racist tweets that we don’t like to admit” ; (2) “GOP Approval for Trump Rises AFTER Racist Tweets” ; (3) “Trump Averages 42.7% Job Approval in 10th Quarter” ; (4) “Trump is leading a hate movement, and the world is watching” ; (5) “Today, Democrats Are Defending ‘The Squad.’ What Happens Tomorrow?” ; and (6) “Democrats are falling into the same trap they did in 2004 : Nicolle Wallace.”

III. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE — JOHN GUNTHER ON INSIDE USA IN 1947 : Too many Canadians foolishly believe they are the closest and thus most astute observers of America extant. And I confess to suffering from the syndrome.

Nonetheless in trying to figure out the wit and wisdom of George Will, and all the good and bad news about the latest political craziness in the USA today, some historical perspective can help. I have long been impressed by a brilliant one-sentence summary from an American student of the subject, first pointed out to me in a 1948 article by the near-great Canadian economic historian and communications theorist, Harold Innis. (Also godfather to Marshall McLuhan, and first Canadian president of the American Economic Association.)

John Gunter’s Inside USA, first published in 1947, was re-published in a 50th Anniversary edition in 1997. It still has useful things to tell us about the USA today, in 2019!

John Gunther (1901–1970) was a Chicago journalist and author, who helped his fellow Americans understand such tricky subjects of his time as Inside Europe (1936), Inside Asia (1939), Inside Latin America (1941), and Inside Africa (1955). In 1947 he turned his talents inward with Inside USA — a still intriguing and even helpful guide to the vast complexity of the American experience, more or less state by state : from “California the Golden” to “New States of the Southwest.”

As Innis pointed out in his 1948 article on a related subject : “The United States has been described by John Gunther as ‘the greatest, craziest, most dangerous, least stable, most spectacular, least grown-up, and most powerful and magnificent nation ever known.’”

This is of course how things looked as the USA assumed the role of “leader of the free world” (or however you want to put it) in the immediate wake of the Second World War. It is part of what Donald Trump is reacting against, some might say, that “most powerful and magnificent nation ever known” seems less convincing today. (See, eg, Scott Gilmore’s July 17, 2019 piece in Canada’s Maclean’s magazine : “Losing the leadership of the free world … Thirty years ago, it was easy to believe when Reagan said that America was a ‘beacon of freedom’. Nobody’s buying it today.”)

Hitchhiking home from Woodstock nude, 1969.”

Yet it helps me to see that, while George Will is almost certainly right when he urges Donald Trump will be leaving some dark marks on American political culture when he leaves office, the USA has always been (at least since the Civil War?) “the greatest, craziest, most dangerous, least stable, most spectacular, least grown-up … nation ever known.” And, remembering the forward-looking election of President Barack Obama, twice (2008 and 2012, and by considerably greater margins than Mr. Trump in 2016), I finally believe that Democracy in America will still win in the end.

IV. WHEN IT GETS TOO MUCH FOR SOME PROGRESSIVE AMERICANS, THEY CAN ALWAYS COME TO CANADA FOR REST AND REVIVAL (HOPEFULLY AT LEAST) : The saddest thing I’ve come across on Twitter in the last few days is a tweet from “HippieChick @kathy_markovich” (who has more than 16,000 followers), just before midnight ET on July 17 : “I was told by a FORMER friend today if I didnt like trump, to move to canada and get out of America! … I was also verbally bitch slapped today by my mother inlaw, and my birth father, both trump supporters, AND a childhood friend … Im not coping well….”

I’d like to end here by underlining that, as far as I’m concerned, as a Canadian citizen and passport holder (along with many others, I’m sure), Hippie Chick would be more than welcome if she did finally decide to take her former friend’s advice and move to Canada — for a while in any case.

According to Bloomberg News on July 18, 2019 : “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Council President Donald Tusk both went off topic after a bilateral summit in Montreal to make a pointed dig at Donald Trump and his supporters.”

As I’m regularly reminded by our current Ontario provincial Conservative Premier Doug Ford (cf State Governor in the USA), we in the “true north, strong and free” of North America are not immune from the political disease currently infecting the American body politic. But I pray every day that we will re-elect Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the federal level in our next Canadian election, this coming October 21. Hopefully (and perhaps with support in parliament from New Democratic and Green parties), there will continue to be some semblance of progressive democratic government north of the US border — to keep a light in the window until Donald Trump is finally removed from office, whenever and however that will happen.

Meanwhile, best wishes to HippieChick. There are many better sides to her country. And that’s still where the majority of Americans continue to reside. They just have to figure out how to make their majority work for the majority again, in “the greatest, craziest, most dangerous, least stable, most spectacular, least grown-up” but still also one of the most free and democratic countries in the rising new global village today — where the ideal of modern democracy was born, with “We hold these truths to be self-evident, ” long ago in 1776!

RIP Sean McCann .. who among many other good things believed in the brilliant future of a Canadian republic

Posted: July 12th, 2019 | No Comments »
Sean McCann as Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in Donald Brittain’s 1988 mini-series on CBC TV, The King Chronicle.

Last Friday — a week ago now — the Globe and Mail published an obituary for “Character actor Sean McCann” who died in Toronto “on June 13 of heart failure at the age of 83.”

The Toronto Star and Toronto Sun had earlier published their own commemorations — “Canadian actor Sean McCann dies at 83” and “Canadian actor Sean McCann fondly remembered.” There have been other such recent pieces, eg, “The Canadian Entertainment Industry Mourns the Passing of Actor Sean McCann.” And there is a good up-to-date article on Mr. McCann in the online Canadian Encyclopedia.

I quite casually bumped into Sean McCann myself on a number of occasions in his later life, in connection with his interest in what might be called the broad political future (with special reference to his home and native land).

This particular side of his career has not been well covered in other commemorations. And though I knew him only very slightly, it does seem to me worth underlining that, among many other things, Sean McCann was a strong believer in a free and democratic Canadian republic, as the ultimate destiny of the country for which he entertained a simple but passionate patriotism.

The real Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King (top left) with UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill (top right) and US President Franklin Roosevelt (bottom centre) at the First Quebec Conference, August 1943.

Vague hints about all this do appear in some mainstream media obituaries. Note the story about how a youthful Sean McCann working in London, England once yelled “Up the republic!” at Prince Philip’s limousine — and “before I knew it, I was being frisked and questioned.”

Several obituaries also stress Mr. McCann’s performance as legendary Canadian “Prime Minister Mackenzie King in Donald Brittain’s three-part mini-series The King Chronicle, which aired on CBC in 1988.” This was “his favourite part, hands down.”

(And for those who may have forgotten, Mackenzie King is the longest serving Canadian prime minister [1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948]. While far from admirable in many ways, he did win the 1926 federal election by arguing that the then still British-appointed Governor General of Canada, Lord Byng, had undemocratically thwarted the will of a duly elected Canadian prime minister. See, eg, Randall White’s take in “Age of the Incredible Canadian, 1921–1948.”)

As the Canadian Encyclopedia also points out : “McCann appeared as Ontario premier Mitchell Hepburn, opposite Beau Bridges and Kate Nelligan, in Million Dollar Babies (1994), the CBC miniseries about the Dionne quintuplets.” (And the demagogic Depression-era Liberal populist Mitch Hepburn was known in his day as “Canada’s Huey Long” — after the populist governor of Louisiana, whose benchmark slogan was “Every Man a King.”)

Somewhat closer to the dark real world of politics, Sean McCann actually ran for the provincial Liberals in the 1977 Ontario election — and quite honourably lost to Bill Davis’s popular Attorney General Roy McMurtry.

Sean McCann urges his views on real-world Canadian politics over pot of tea, 2002. Photo — David Cooper.

Most directly to the point of my concerns here, in the midst of all his other activities, over the past few decades in the country’s present largest metropolis Mr. McCann found time to help with the early beginnings of popular agitation for a future free and democratic Canadian republic .

(An activity of which Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King — grandson of the 1837 “Upper Canada Rebellion” leader William Lyon Mackenzie — would almost certainly approve.)

From the early 21st century down to the recent past, Sean McCann joined with the likes of the late Toronto civil rights lawyer Charles Roach, former Toronto city councillor Tony O’Donohue, community leaders Tom Freda and Ashok Charles, and many more.

Like others of similar mind in other parts of the country, they continue to enthuse about how a free and democratic republic, altogether constitutionally unattached to any other sovereign country in the world today, is the logical and best possible outcome of “the long process of decolonization that Canada has undergone since 1867.”

MP s celebrate approval of new independent Canadian flag by a 163 to 78 vote in the Canadian House of Commons, December 15, 1964.

(And this outcome has already begun to take some constitutional shape in the Constitution Act, 1982, with its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)

Sean McCann was not someone who took any great interest in the legal technicalities of turning Canada’s present constitutional arrangements into those of a full-blown parliamentary democratic republic — on the model of such other former self-governing “British dominions” as Ireland or India. And this is something the cause of a Canadian republic does need to take more account of.

Yet Mr. McCann’s faith in a Canadian future anchored in the full formal recognition of the free and democratic sovereignty of the Canadian people, at last, was of a simpler, more elemental and emotional sort. It has its own raw power. And it is worth underlining today, when many challenges around the global village have at least temporarily brought back too many tired old uncertainties of a traditional (and even still somewhat colonialist) elite culture, never shared by any majority in our remarkable diverse country with its own brilliant future ahead.

A belated Happy Canada Day to children of global village bringing Democracy in Canada since 1497 home at last ..

Posted: July 2nd, 2019 | 2 Comments »
Summer Shen waves a Canadian flag while sporting a patriotic outfit during Canada Daycelebrations in Vancouver, on Monday July 1, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck).”

Another Canada Day has come and gone. And this year it’s hard not to be a bit uneasy about what at least we Canadians (with only 11.3% of the adjacent US population) continue to perversely believe is the real greatest country in the world — the “true north strong and free,” as the English words of the national anthem proclaim.

(A sign in front of a store on our local main drag this past weekend proclaimed : “Happy Canada Day. Stay strong and free!”)

According to the much-abused public broadcaster : “Conflicted and worried: CBC News poll takes snapshot of Canadians ahead of fall election [October 21] … Poll finds high levels of anxiety — and a low level of confidence in politicians.” Meanwhile : “Who’s got the election message Canadians want to hear? … CBC Poll reveals that health care, cost of living and climate change top voters’ minds.”

At the same time, this is still Canada where nothing altogether serious ever happens. And almost all the increasingly diverse citizenry likes it that way — while still honestly professing deep patriotism. Many of us are still most impressed by such good 2019 news as “Trenton, Ont. sets Guinness World Record for largest human maple leaf.”

Kiya Bruno sings the Canadian national anthem before first inning MLB baseball action between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals, in Toronto, Saturday, June 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker.”

On a longstanding path of extreme gradualism, however, small doses of real progress do continue to appear. The CBC is also reporting that over the holiday weekend : “’It’s priceless’: Indigenous teen sings O Canada in Cree at Toronto Blue Jays game … Kiya Bruno is from the Samson Cree Nation in northern Alberta.”

There is in fact some particular deep logic in having what’s known in English as the national anthem sung in Cree at a baseball game, to celebrate the Canada Day weekend. In his current work in progress on Children of the Global Village : Democracy in Canada since 1497, our esteemed colleague Randall White has commented on the historic Algonquian languages in northern North America — of which Cree in various forms is by far the largest.

In his chapter on “How indigenous peoples have given more than a name to Canadian history,” Dr. White points out that : “The vast east-west geographic reach of the Algonquian linguistic family in the 17th century … — from the Micmac (Mi’kmaq) in Nova Scotia all the way west to the Blackfoot at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — foreshadowed and no doubt helped facilitate the pioneering transcontinental reach that the modern ‘Indian-European’ fur trade in Canada had achieved by the early 19th century.”

Indigenous languages in Canada. The green/blue-shaded areas are host to various Algonquian languages or dialects, of which Cree in various forms is by far the largest. (Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic.)

The online Canadian Encyclopedia expands on all this in its own way : “The Cree language … is spoken in many parts of Canada, from the Rocky Mountains in the West to Labrador in the East.” It “is often described by linguists as a dialect continuum (a series of dialects that change gradually over a geographical area), also called Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi. This dialect continuum belongs to the Algonquian linguistic family, and is spoken across Canada, from the Rocky Mountains to Labrador.”

Meanwhile in our own current corner of the second largest national geography in the world today, on Canada Day itself most of us from the lakeshore office here went downtown to take in Mitzie Hunter’s unofficial People’s Picnic at Queen’s Park.

Hungry Canadian citizens waiting for free food outside the patriotically generous Mandarin restaurant branch in the old Toronto suburb of Etobicoke on Canada Day.

The Ontario government’s reasons for cancelling planned official celebrations of Canada Day were alluded to at the June 29 Rolling Stones concert north of Toronto. As tweeted from the scene by the Canadian Press Pop culture reporter David Friend. : “‘For the next 15 minutes it’s a buck a beer, courtesy of Doug Ford,’ Mick Jagger jokes to a chorus of boos from the audience.”

We can nonetheless report ourselves that there actually was free ice cream at the unofficial People’s Picnic (which also understandably featured considerable Liberal party red!).

Alas, the free ice-cream lines were long enough to persuade us that they’d be even longer for the free Canada Day complete meals at the nearest Mandarin restaurant.

Finally, in this age of instant information of all sorts on the world wide web, we conclude with official July 2 announcements from “The central organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the voice of the party, state and people of Vietnam” :

Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter welcomes celebrants at 2019 Canada Day People’s Picnic at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

“Party General Secretary and President of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong sent a congratulatory message to Canadian Governor General Julie Payette on July 1 to mark the occasion of Canada Day, the National Day of Canada (July 1, 1867-2019) … On the same day, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc cabled a message of congratulations to his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau … Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh also sent a congratulatory message to Canadian Foreign Minister Alexandra Chrystia Freeland.”

Which reminded us again just how much things have changed since the late 1960s — when real men (and new women) smoked and drank almost every night after work, just to get to better know potential employers!

Anyway a belated very happy Canada Day 2019. May the best team for the very long-term future of this particular greatest country in the world win on October 21. And remember what Harold Innis wrote as long ago as 1930, in the conclusion to his now classic study of The Fur Trade in Canada : An Introduction to Canadian Economic History — “We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions.”