Big Brexit surprise in UK .. and what it may or may not mean for Donald Trump in USA

Posted: June 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

TORONTO, CANADA. FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016. 12:30 AM. Both ITV and the BBC have now called the Brexit referendum for the Leave the European Union side, with approximately 52% of interested United Kingdom citizens voting Leave and 48% voting Remain.

This is a great surprise for a great many people, and I am certainly one of them. The larger world, in the UK, Europe, and everywhere else seemed to have concluded that the Remain side would finally win, even if the vote was very close. Just what will unfold now in the government and politics of the United Kingdom and its neighbours is vague at best.

Some say David Cameron cannot survive as prime minister. He has made clear that he just doesn’t believe in the side that won. Others who are apparently on the side that won say Cameron is the best person to take up the reins on their agenda. (And somewhere lurking in the wings is Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London.)

There seems a rather clear geography to the result as well — which may add a few further complications. Broadly, London, Scotland, and (to a somewhat lesser degree) Northern Ireland voted Remain. The English and Welsh countryside and even urban areas like Birmingham voted Leave (while “Manchester votes less strongly than expected for remain”).

The theory that London is the only part of at least England and Wales that has profited from the economic policies the UK has largely followed ever since Margaret Thatcher may be reflected in this Brexit vote. It is apparently the old urban working class as well as the countryside that has rebelled against the Euro-bound politicians in both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Boris Johnson, at a Brexit debate a few weeks ago.

It seems likely enough that there will be some initial distress on especially anglophone financial markets in the wake of what just may prove a more important decision than most of the outside world was expecting. But just how much serious and widespread economic grief may result outside the United Kingdom is just one of many intriguing questions about to be answered.

Here, in a city once called “the citadel of British sentiment in America,” we are bound to wonder just what this largely unexpected big bump in the future of the old island heartland of the global British empire may mean for us.

That too would appear to be one more thing that needs to be discovered. What does suddenly seem clear is that something is going to change in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. The global village is less certain than it seemed to be yesterday. And that may even do places like Canada some good. (Though what it may or may not mean for the fate of Donald Trump in the United States is another matter altogether.)

Last Canadian thoughts on UK Brexit : trying to remember Orwell’s “Toward European Unity” in 1947

Posted: June 21st, 2016 | No Comments »

Two activists with EU flag and Union Jack kiss in front of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin this past Sunday, urging UK to stay in European Union. Photo: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters.

[UPDATED JUNE 22, 23 : scroll below for LFB’s VERY LAST-MINUTE THOUGHT. LUNCHTIME, JUNE 23]. It first became altogether clear to me that the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom across the seas this Thursday, June 23 was serious, when I met the UK uncle of a friend of my son, in Canada on business earlier this year.

We were at a local jazz and blues bar. “So,” I asked just to keep up conversation, “is the UK going to leave the European Union?” And I was a bit surprised when he said that he was starting to think it just might be a good idea if it did. He was in some branch of the movie business — a sophisticated guy, with an attractive female companion perhaps half his age. I was impressed.

Now, early on the morning of Tuesday, June 21, in what the old (British) Canadian nationalist George Grant used to call the Great Lakes region of North America, the Brexit referendum is starting to look a little like the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.

Even fairly close to the end, it seemed that an independent Scotland just might be lurking around the corner. But then, as the fateful day of decision grew very close, the greater common sense of a No vote finally prevailed. On the actual referendum day of September 18, 2014, 55% voted No. (And then, some might say, the Scottish Nationalists prevailed anyway in the 2015 UK election.)

As someone whose paternal grandparents moved from south London in England to the Great Lakes region of North America in the early 20th century, I do hope that common sense finally prevails again, and the “Leave” Europe option is finally defeated in the UK on June 23.

I like the European Union of the blue flag and gold stars myself. And the euro (which the UK and Scandanavia still do not embrace in any case, except for Finland) certainly makes travel in Europe easier for North Americans. Insofar as I identify with anything in the UK these days, it is the local currents reflected in a George Orwell essay called “Toward European Unity” — first published in the New York-based Partisan Review in the summer of 1947, 69 years ago.

CW EDITORS UPDATE JUNE 22, 2:30 PM ET : Éric Grenier’s piece on the CBC News site today — “British voters split on Brexit referendum vote, but Remain may have edge: polls” — summarizes one side of the prevailing wisdom. On the spot in London, Leonora Beck at Associated Press reports : “Polls suggest it is too close to call, while bookies give the ‘remain’ side a higher chance of winning.” It is impossible of course to have any real sense of what is going on anywhere in Europe from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but Carole MacNeil on CBC News Now has promised to try tomorrow. Bunting just shrugs his shoulders and says  he remains a Remainer himself, and still hopes the best side will win.

LFB’s VERY LAST-MINUTE THOUGHT. LUNCHTIME, JUNE 23 : Apparently we here in the Great Lakes region will be learning the final result sometime around 2 AM June 24 (which of course amounts to 7 AM June 24 in the old imperial/new global metropolis).

The biggest question may turn around just how close the vote is. Whoever wins, eg, will the victory be as strong (decisive?) as the 55% of interested Scots who voted against full Scottish independence in 2014?

(Or, from another but perhaps not entirely unrelated angle, as the 55% of interested Australians who, back in 1999, voted against altering “the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.”)

The lovely Helena Bonham Carter, actress, great granddaughter of Liberal Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, and prominent Remain advocate 2016.

Similarly, it seems not unreasonable to wonder just what the Brexit referendum will mean for the future of government and politics in the United Kingdom if the vote is close to, say, 51%/49% (on either side) ???? And this may be the question of most interest to the rest of the world.

The biggest thing about Brexit, in other words, is finally political, not economic. And, apart from its place in Europe, the UK today is most interesting as the global homeland of a kind of model parliamentary democracy — with special claims on such places as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but also (and increasingly more importantly in the 21st century) India and even Ireland and certainly Trinidad and Tobago and much more (including the diminutive island republic of Dominica, homeland of the present secretary general of the Commonwealth of Nations).

Whatever happens with Brexit by this time tomorrow, at some point we in Canada are going to suddenly wake up and realize that the United Kingdom which gave us our rightly respected system of parliamentary government in the 19th century is growing increasingly away from the real-world United Kingdom today. And that has at least a few implications for our future too … Meanwhile, I am still personally hoping that the Remain side wins … We the North …  etc.

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In the middle of June 2016 : we have to start trying to like Hillary .. and remember Horace on nil desperandum

Posted: June 11th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Hillary Rodham in 1969, the year she graduated from Wellesley College, in her early 20s. Before she even went to Yale Law School and met Bill Clinton. Was she thinking then where she’d finally be on June 7, 2016?

One feature of cruise ships is that (briefly but sometimes with a strange intensity) you get to know people you might not otherwise encounter in your more particular ordinary life.

Late last month I met various citizens of the USA this way. And some of these encounters came back as I watched the results of the last great Super Tuesday US presidential primaries of 2016 —  in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North and South Dakota.

As best as I can tell up here in the northern woods, looking out from my office window in the old streetcar suburbs, there are two main parts to the great American political puzzle right now — (1) Clinton and Sanders, and (2) Clinton and Trump.

Already there has been significant if still not decisive progress on the first part of the puzzle, as the week comes to an end. President Obama has met with Sanders, and then released a video endorsing Hillary (while praising Bernie as well).

Vice President Biden has endorsed Hillary. And Elizabeth Warren has announced on the Rachel Maddow Show — with many of us up here actually watching — that she is doing the same.

As of Friday, June 10, Senator Warren (aka Pocahontas, goofy friend of crooked Hillary, in the juvenile political comic book Mr. Trump is peddling) has also met with “the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee” at Hillary’s Washington, DC home.

(As seen just now on MSNBC TV : a nice and decent-sized but far from extravagant center-hall colonial, with just a hint of a circular drive.)

The Clinton’s home in Washington, DC.

Senator Al Frankel, who first endorsed Hillary long ago, said warm and optimistic things on MSNBC last night, about the contribution of Bernie Sanders and his supporters to the Democratic Party that will be running in the November 8, 2016 elections.

Senator Frankel expressed a similar confidence about the honourably free and democratic way in which Mr. Sanders will finally wind down the most interesting (and still hopefully pioneering) act in this Democratic primary season.  For the moment I believe him. Why not?

But what about the second part of the puzzle — what happens when two widely disliked candidates fight toe to toe, mano a momma, in the bizarre Clinton vs Trump contest now unambiguously under way … at last? The picture here still seems much more nervously murky …

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Citizen X reports on Amsterdam, Bruges, and Berlin, Spring 2016 .. more to come later (well, maybe)

Posted: June 4th, 2016 | No Comments »

Waiting for the bus to beautiful downtown Amsterdam at the Holiday Inn Sloterdijk Station.

As previously noted, the managing editor assigned me the task of reporting on the recent offshore conference, “Northern Europe (and Russia) in the spring of 2016” — from which everyone on the counterweights staff returned safe and sound, late last week.

It is a task I have accepted in the past. But this year I rebelled. Immediately upon arrival in Amsterdam on the morning of May 12, Ms X and I bolted to a cruise ship party, at the Holiday Inn Sloterdijk Station.

We hung out in Amsterdam on the afternoon of the 12th, along with our partners in crime, Mom & Pop Y (or is it Z?). For me Amsterdam remains “The more I see you / The more I want you.”

Marvelling at the medieval marvels in Bruges/Brugge.

On the 13th we took a three-hour bus ride to “Bruges (French), Brugge (Dutch)” in Belgium. Its historic centre is “an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble, illustrating significant stages in the commercial and cultural fields in medieval Europe.”

In a another lexicon Bruges is  “a fairy-tale medieval town … cobbled lanes and dreamy canals … market squares lined with soaring towers.” It struck me as a worthwhile tourist trap.

It has been playing this role for a while now. According to Wikipedia : “In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world’s first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists.”

Our trip to Bruges from Amsterdam also introduced us to the first of three engaging female tour guides, with strong interests in history. Our bus ride was enlivened by our guide’s account of the remarkable creation of “polders” (ie “any piece of land reclaimed from water”) — in a region where as much as 25% of the current territory is below sea level.

Killer bikes of Amsterdam at rest.

Our guide also wisely warned against the “killer bikes” in Amsterdam. And she explained how  Netherlands citizens look down on “stupid Belgians” (of both French- and Dutch-speaking persuasions), whose only contributions to global humanity are chocolates, waffles, smurfs, and the EU capital city.

Finally, on the morning of May 14 we headed straight from the Holiday Inn Sloterdijk Station to Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, where we joined our cruise ship. Its “12 Night Scandanavia & Russia Cruise” had the same destinations as the counterweights offshore conference “Northern Europe (and Russia) in the spring of 2016.”

Our ship would stop first at “Warnemunde (for Berlin),” Germany. Then it would be “Tallinn, Estonia,” followed by “St. Petersburg, Russia” (the alleged jewel in the crown, for two days). And then : Helsinki, Finland ;  Stockholm, Sweden ; and Copenhagen, Denmark.

We were in Bruges, in Belgium, and suddenly the managing editor appeared.

In the end managing editor MacDonald agreed that I could fulfill my current obligations by posting a few short notes on each of these six destinations. (And a very few concluding words of deep reflection on the cruise ship syndrome today and the 2016 US election.)

For all and any who may or may not be interested, at least some of these notes can be accessed by clicking on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scrolling below. I see them myself as something like “Cruising the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Finland — all vaguely similar northern places Canadians should know more about than we typically do, etc, etc, etc …”

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Northern Europe (and Russia) in the spring of 2016 .. and further adventures toward a Canadian republic

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Harold Innis (l), Hans Seyle (c), and Alf Erling Porsild (r) on a trip to Russia, just after the end of the Second World War in 1945. And our thanks to Per Porsild from Hamar, Norway for a correction in the earlier spelling of Alf Erling Porsild’s middle name.

Late in the evening of this coming Wednesday, May 11, the entire office staff here will be boarding an airplane for our semi-regular European conference. We’ll be returning on Thursday, May 26, late in the afternoon.

This time we’re in the north of what a UK series on TV Ontario many years ago called The Mighty Continent.  And managing editor MacDonald has commissioned Citizen X to prepare his usual full report when we return. We’ll all be attending seminars and so forth, of course, hearing the latest about the fate of humanity. So it won’t just be one big party.

Meanwhile, we’re urging anyone who might be interested to check out the exciting new crowd-funding campaign “Canada doesn’t need a king!”  We continue to believe that becoming a parliamentary democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations and La francophonie is the next logical thing to do in the current Canadian free and democratic society. (Such places as India, Ireland, Trinidad & Tobago, and even the far northern state of Iceland provide already tried and tested “Westminster models” of just how to go about doing the historic deed.)

The dedicated team behind the exciting new “Canada doesn't need a king!” campaign, posing before bust of historic Canadian democratic reformer William Lyon Mackenzie, on the grounds of the Ontario Parliament Buildings in Toronto. From left to right: Ron Berdusco, Jeanne MacDonald, Tony O'Donohue, Ashok Charles, Wayne Adam, Randall White, Marc Cormier.

Citizen X’s report on “Northern Europe (and Russia) in the spring of 2016” will be published some time during the week of May 30. And we look forward to getting reacquainted with everyone who’s interested then. Meanwhile again, best wishes to all, as the long hot summer of the trumpet looms. And those of us who already live in Canada start to realize that we’re going to have to do something about our own northern North American manifest destiny soon. Vive le Canada libre!

Death of George Dryden (Diefenbaker?) : remembering the last prime minister of the old Dominion of Canada

Posted: May 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

Duncan Macpherson cartoon on Dief the Chief’s dislike of Lester Pearson’s new Canadian maple leaf flag.

Inevitably, the sad death of the so-called “Diefenbaby,” George Dryden, highlights the career of his “likely” unacknowledged father, John George Diefenbaker.

For those not old enough to remember, Dief the Chief was a melodramatic prairie courtroom lawyer from Wakaw (and then Prince Albert), Saskatchewan. Somehow he became supreme leader of “my fellow Canadians,” 1957–1963 — and, whatever else, served faithfully as  the last prime minister of the old British Dominion of Canada.

Like many others, no doubt, I’ve been intrigued by Colin Perkel’s Canadian Press report on George Dryden’s death (as presented on the CBC News site). There is now apparently some fairly serious evidence that Mr. Dryden’s reputed father actually had two unacknowledged sons (only one of whom was Mr. Dryden).

Personally, however, even assuming all this is broadly correct, I think it just serves to remind us that Canada had special attractions for crazy-town politicians long before the late Mayor Ford brought fresh international attention to the big smoke in Toronto.

I’ve also been thinking lately about how to summarize the career of Dief the Chief — aka the Renegade in Power (Peter C. Newman) and the Rogue Tory (Denis Smith).  For all his obvious flaws and failings, he is certainly a more interesting and important character in Canadian political history than Rob Ford. And his career marks a turning point in the story of modern Canada.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at May 1960 Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in London, England.

Above all else, as already noted, John Diefenbaker was the last prime minister of the old Dominion of Canada. For me at any rate this best summarizes his ultimate significance in Canadian political history.

Yet it is part of the thickness of his public persona that there is more to his professional biography. He is not just the former prime minister who backwardly opposed Lester Pearson’s new independent Canadian maple leaf flag in the middle of the 1960s.

It is similarly one of the marvels of the world-wide web in the early 21st century that students of Diefenbaker Canadiana today have some excellent source materials immediately at hand …

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Can Bernie help Hillary rediscover what Bill’s White House tried to hide in her Saul Alinsky thesis?

Posted: April 28th, 2016 | No Comments »

A northbound Amtrak Acela Express passing through Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

This past Tuesday’s “Acela primaries” (after the Amtrak train that connects the five northeast states of Connec-ticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island ) have stiffened the prospect that it really is going to be a Donald vs Hillary sideshow in the US presidential election this fall.

There is some excitement in some quarters about Indiana this coming Tuesday. And Bill Whalen at Stanford’s Hoover Institution is still arguing that: “California [June 7] matters more with each passing week: Trump can’t win without taking a gluttonous portion of the Golden State’s 172 GOP delegates (to get to 1,237 on June 7, I’m guessing he’ll have to score 140 delegates); as such, it’s the #nevertrump movement’s last chance to derail him.”

Donald Trump’s daughter Tiffany with boyfriend Ross Mechanic as of this past December. Mr. Mechanic is “a registered Democrat with a liking for Hillary Clinton.”

The feeling you get closely watching US TV, however, is that a conviction about the inevitability of Trump as the Republican candidate really is starting to settle in among the biggest brains in American politics — as crazy a prospect as that still does seem even to many Republicans.

Meanwhile, even though Bernie did manage to take Rhode Island, even he seems to be accepting that (as one African American young lady in the street explained on I think CNN last night) “Hillary is going to be president.”

(To me Bernie remains the only seriously interesting thing about the 2016 Democratic race. But I also think Bill Maher deftly summarized his ultimate liabilities last Friday night. Bernie looks like a guy who “has two suits and a 1993 Buick Regal” — and that just won’t fly in the White House.)

Route map for Amtrak’s Acela Express : thick red line = main route.

I was talking to one very wise guy at an event a few weeks back, who felt that some Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump showdown at the OK corral could only be good for Democrats. I only wish I felt that way myself right now. But I remain underwhelmed by what I’ve seen of Hillary on TV these days. And I wonder. Maybe an electorate that gave George W. Bush a second mandate in 2004 actually could elect Donald Trump once in 2016, by mistake

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We have still “not yet realized that the Indian and his culture” are fundamental to “Canadian institutions”

Posted: April 17th, 2016 | No Comments »

Our Home and Native Land — by Canadian artist Jen Adomeit. Thanks to Ivan Noke on facebook.

According to Susan Delacourt at the Toronto Star, the debate over the “suicide crisis” (aka “mental health crisis”) on the Attawapiskat First Nation reserve “sparked a rare outbreak of civility among rival parties this [past] week” in the Canadian House of Commons.

For a while now there has seemed to be a growing consensus among some of the country’s various political establishments that the continuing struggles of the aboriginal (aka indigenous) peoples of Canada really do need to be seriously addressed, somehow, at last. (And note that “aboriginal peoples” are the by-far fastest growing demographic group in Canada right now!)

Justin Trudeau’s appointment of former BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was one step in this direction. And we share the wider hope Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus expressed during this past Tuesday night’s emergency debate on Attawapiskat : “Tonight might be the beginning of a change in our country.”

Strictly as mere voters interested in the future of the country for our grandchildren and so forth, we have just two (vaguely?) related further notes on this 34th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982, by “Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau” on another April 17, a Saturday, in the rain on Parliament Hill in Ottawa :

(1) What we have still not yet realized — When our esteemed colleague Randall White wrote about Jody Wilson-Raybould’s appointment last November, he began with :  “According to the legendary Canadian economic historian Harold Innis (born in rural Ontario in 1894, and died in Toronto not long after he was elected first Canadian president of the American Economic Association in 1952) : ‘We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions’ (The Fur Trade in Canada : An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, 1930).”

Pontiac : War Chief of the Ottawa — another founding father (parent?) of Canada today!

We thought again of this crucial historical truth that “we” non-aboriginal Canadians still seem not altogether ready (or prepared) to realize while perusing the “Suicide among Canada’s First Nations: Key numbers” posting on the CTV News site earlier this week. For us the short message here is that unusually high First Nations levels of “psychological distress”, “lifetime suicide thoughts”, “suicide ideation”, and “suicide rates” will start to fall, when the rest of us start seriously recognizing that what our Constitution Act, 1982 calls the aboriginal peoples of Canada have in fact been “fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions” — as “Canada’s first and perhaps only genuine intellectual” explained at length, and with much angular charm, 86 years ago.

(Realizing the fundamental importance of “the Indian and his culture” in the story of Canada today is also something that can be done without spending a lot of money. Which, according to CTV’s “Question Period” earlier on this April 17, 2016, is more than can be said for what the Supreme Court of Canada has just decided about at least certain definitions of Métis and non-status Indians among the aboriginal peoples of Canada. For another key but difficult ingredient in any sensible and workable ultimate strategy, note this headline from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) news site : “During suicide debate Justice Minister says it’s time for First Nations to shed Indian Act ‘shackles’.” The Justice Minister, of course, is the same Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould alluded to above. And, as she wisely and bravely urges, getting rid of the current Indian Act, which goes back to 1876, is another challenging point of departure.)

Canada’s “Fathers of Confederation” at the London Conference, 1866–1867. Randall White foolishly wonders whether they should be renamed “parents of confederation” in our present non-patriarchal age?

(2) More from Children of the Global Village All this is also just one of several still current Canadian public policy issues covered in the latest installment of Randall White’s work-in-progress, Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters.

If you go to our Long Journey to a Canadian Republic page, on the bar above (or just CLICK HERE), you will find a short introduction to the project, along with the “Prologue : too much geography.” This is followed by links to the currently completed six chapters in Part I, and the first three chapters in Part II. Covering this section’s concluding chapter, on the founding moment of the present Canadian confederation in 1867, you will now find as well a link to Part II, Chapter 4 : “The American Civil War and the British North America Act, 1867.”

Before the Constitution Act, 1982 : Northwest corner of Bloor and Yonge in Toronto, 1960s or early 1970s. Photo by Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives.

When we caught up with Dr. White and his attractive business manager at the Tim Horton’s across from Kew Gardens (though not the one in London, England, about which Virginia Woolf apparently wrote a story, nor the one in Queens, New York City), he was happy to be at work at last on PART III : Dominion of Canada,1867–1963. And he hopes it will not be too long before he can say the same about  PART IV : The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic, 1963–20??.

As far as the aboriginal/indigenous peoples of Canada go, Dr. White drew our attention as well to this passage from “The American Civil War and the British North America Act, 1867” : “Section 91, article 24 of what is now the Constitution Act, 1867 does assign ‘Indians, and lands reserved for Indians’ to the federal government. But there is no further mention of the first Canadians in the old  BNA Act. And on July 1, 1867 it would be more than 60 years before Harold Innis wrote  : ‘We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions.’ It would be more than 50 years again before Part II of the Constitution Act, 1982 finally addressed the ‘Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.’” As he finished his coffee and left, Dr. White hastily remarked : “I am hoping that, here as elsewhere, Justin Trudeau will finally finish the work his father began.”

From the Regina Manifesto to the Leap Manifesto : new directions or big mistake for federal NDP?

Posted: April 12th, 2016 | No Comments »

Surprise : you can never quite figure out what they’re going to do next.

[UPDATED APRIL 13]. One thing that keeps our free and democratic Canadian politics going these days — in spite of many good reasons otherwise — is its recurrent capacity for surprise. It’s like the woman (or man if it also works in that direction) who continually fascinates you, because you can never quite figure out what she’s (he’s) going to do next.

In any case I count myself among the many observers who were genuinely surprised (and even “shocked” in some cheap horror-movie sense) by what finally transpired at the New Democratic Party of Canada convention in Edmonton this past Sunday. When Thomas/Tom Mulcair managed only 48% of the assembled delegates in the ultimate leadership-review vote.

It wasn’t just that the case for staying with Mulcair for a while longer anyway seemed so persuasive to me, several days before the event.  I had also briefly looked in on some TV coverage of his crucial speech to the delegates. And it seemed to me that he was getting pretty warm applause at frequent strategic points.

NDP supporter uses phone during lunch break at the NDP Federal Convention in Edmonton, Saturday, April 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan.

Such things can be expertly organized by supporters, of course, and perhaps especially at federal NDP conventions. I know this, but as a longtime student of politics I am also too impressed by the organizing, technically, so to speak. (Even though I know a sign-campaign expert who wisely says you should never judge anything from a sign campaign.)

In any event when asked by a resident bystander how I thought the Mulcair on our TV set was doing, I wildly predicted he would get what he needed on the vote. (The latest number for which among the wiser pundits seemed to be, oh say 65%.) In my defence, I hadn’t seen more than five or 10 minutes of the speech. And I did not closely follow what TV and other coverage of any part of the Edmonton convention there was.

Even so, when I was first advised of Mulcair’s 52%–48% defeat, from the depths of the TV room, I left my computer and went to consult the TV myself, because it just seemed so hard to believe! [UPDATE APRIL 13: O and btw, note the always interesting Éric Grenier's posting on the CBC News site today : "Keeping Tom Mulcair may have been safer bet for NDP, history suggests ... Parties that have lost seats but kept their leaders have had more future success." And for UPDATE 2 APRIL 13 — HELLO NATHAN CULLEN click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]

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Blue Jays 2016 : Last 87 days last year were magical .. this year it’s gonna be a long season .. and glorious

Posted: April 8th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Blue Jays shop employee Nico Canavo makes Troy Tulowitzki jersey, Tuesday July 28, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch.

There is symmetry in numbers…200 of them to be exact.  For that was how many days the Blue Jays had in 2015.  A mercurial season that began in early April and ended on the 200th day in heart breaking fashion, eliminated on a cold and rainy Kauffman Field in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.

And yet for the first 113 days of the year they were a meddling mediocre club whose performance never matched up to their promise, losing more than winning.  But oh how those last 87 days were magical…a historic run that ended professional sports’ longest playoff drought and in the process revitalized the city.

The magic began on July 28 (with the Jays sporting a record of 50-51) in a slew of trades that that netted the Blue Jays all-stars Troy Tulowitski and David Price along with key contributors Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins.   Just like that, GM Alex Anthopoulos had turned over 20 per cent of the roster and an end to the club’s post-season drought dating back to 1993 seemed imminent.

Playoff-bound Blue Jays celebrate in their clubhouse after beating Tampa Bay 10-8 on Saturday, September 26, 2015. STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR.

It turned out to be one of the best trade deadline flurries ever, rekindling Canada’s passion for both the Blue Jays and baseball by setting into motion a 41-18 sprint to the finish that led to an American League East title, a climatic home run winning Bautista bat flip in the Divisional Playoffs and a near World Series appearance.

From the beginning of August on, electricity and excitement returned to Toronto and the Rogers Centre. Long-time fans came back into the fold, and millions of new fans were created throughout Canada. People who had never watched a baseball game in their lives couldn’t turn away.

Merchandise sales exploded. Television ratings hit historic highs. Attendance rose nearly 20 per cent, and the team brought more fans into its stadium than it had since the glory days in the early 1990s. When the Rogers bean counters tallied all the revenues at the end of the season, it was estimated that the clubs mid-season turnaround netted its corporate balance sheet an additional $60 million dollars not originally budgeted for.

Blue Jays win American League Division Series, Wednesday, October 14, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS , Darren Calabrese.

Fans of this organization were in bad need of an emotional refresher, and the Blue Jays of 2015 gave it to them daily.

They picked a city up and held it there as long as they could.

Many had forgotten, and many more had never experienced, the joy of watching their team clinch a division title, and the nerve wracking anxiety that comes with every twist and turn of each playoff game.

A season in 200 days …It was awesome.

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