Getting by in the northern North American stormy weather, with a little help from Kathleen Wynne?

Jun 28th, 2015 | By | Category: In Brief

Thunder and lightning put on a spectacular show in Lonodn, Ont. early Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (Joe O'Neil.)

GANATSEKWYAGON, ONTARIO. SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 2015. 2:30 AM ET.  The early summer storms that have lately been battering this region have returned. Right now you can literally hear the wind and the rain in the darkness outside the back office window, here at the edge of the great lake.

There does seem some kind of pathetic fallacy in play. And of course it starts with the unsettling international news of the past week. As in, eg : “Attacks in France, Tunisia, Kuwait part of global jihadist threat, says Jason Kenney” ; “Tourists flee Tunisia as country announces strict new security measures” ; and “French terror attack suspect sent selfie with beheading victim to Canadian cell phone: Officials.”

This is nicely offset, of course again, by the good domestic news that has poured forth from the US Supreme Court over the same period – for Obamacare and gay rights.

Lightning illuminates the sky over Waterloo Region during stormy weather on Monday, June 22, 2015. (Dan Lauckner / CTV Kitchener.)

Bill Maher nicely celebrated all this Friday night. As he put the main point : “This was not an easy week to be a conservative in America.” (As also reflected in “Dissenting Justice Scalia’s sarcastic rebuke raises eyebrows.”) On a final tragic but nonetheless equally hopeful note, there has been “Obama Eulogy Lifts Clementa Pinckney With Song and Praise.”

And then we have our own Canadian federal election campaign, that is clearly now in motion regardless of the old official rules. Two pieces by eminent journalists over the past while have underlined just how seminal all this may be.

The first is Andrew Coyne’s meditation from a week ago this past Friday : “A federal election unlike any we’ve seen before … There has never been an election campaign like the one on which we are now embarked. There’s a weird fin-de-siècle glow in the air, a sense of things coming unstuck, old certainties uprooted. Policies, parties, institutions, everything is in flux, to a degree I cannot recall any precedent for.”

A bolt of lightning seen at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto, Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

And then just yesterday in the old self-declared national newspaper Jeffrey Simpson was asking “Are we witnessing the strange death of Liberal Canada? … Putting back the pieces that have been falling away from the Liberal coalitions of yesterday will not be easy, and perhaps will prove impossible.”

(Mr. Simpson also points to “One of the enduring books of British political history … George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England, about the decline and fall of the British Liberal Party before and after the First World War.” And this suggests a fresh variation on an old Canadian theme, that New Democrat correspondents were urging on the editorial board at this site a few weeks ago!)

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The subtext here of course is such recent headlines as : “NDP widens lead in new Forum poll … Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats leading in electorally all-important provinces of BC, Ontario, Quebec four months from election” ; and “NDP consolidates hold on first place … Nearing majority, with stronghold in BC … In Ontario, the three parties are tightly tied (Conservative — 32%, Liberal — 32%, NDP — 33%).”

Lightning lit up the sky over Woodstock, Ont. early Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (Joe Steele / Facebook.)

Yet even federal Liberals must be taking some heart from such other headlines as : “Leg shackles for convicted MP Dean Del Mastro standard procedure, OPP says” ; and “Latest Conservative ad could violate government’s own anti-terror law.”

Those of us north of the Great Lakes who, for the time being at any rate, remain somewhat sceptical about the strange death of Liberal Canada, have similarly had our scepticism nourished by the ongoing adventures of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government of Ontario.

Ms Wynne has not fared all that well in the latest Angus Reid provincial premier popularity poll. (Though three other premiers are apparently less popular with their provincial electorates than she is at the moment.)

A possible tornado was seen near Goderich during stormy weather on Monday, June 22, 2015. (Dave Patrick /

But none of this seems to be harming Premier Wynne’s essential strength and good humour, as she continues to preside over what is almost certainly the most progressive government in Canada today. (At least until Rachel Notley securely claims this title for her new “entrepreneurial” NDP regime in Alberta?)

Note, eg, the first openly gay premier’s nice reaction to a recent media probe, in “Kathleen Wynne says she’ll sign waivers to allow documentary’s release ….”

The article, in the Toronto Star, goes on : “Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday she expects to soon sign release forms that will enable some version of a controversial documentary about her to be broadcast … Wynne said … that her spouse Jane Rounthwaite’s characterization in the film of a pesky reporter as a ‘twerp’ was not pejorative … ‘We looked up “twerp – an annoying pest.” I think that’s aspirational. I think you all aspire to be annoying pests.’”

Kathleen Wynne and Jane Rounthwaite, working the room together.

This is vaguely reminiscent of the legendary story about Patrick Gossage’s tenure as press secretary for Justin Trudeau’s father, many Ottawa moons ago. Mr. Gossage, it was said by those close to the scene, had a very easy job. “All he had to do was call the media together in a room, and tell them to fuck off.”

I do think myself that Andrew Coyne is onto something, when he writes that there “has never been an election campaign like the one on which we are now embarked” in the true north, strong and free. And part of this does involve some kind of upheaval in the federal party system, at the progressive end of the spectrum.

Yet it has never seemed to me that it is our destiny in Canada to exactly follow the political evolution of our former mother country in the United Kingdom. (And, given the present political state of this Kingdom, that is almost certainly a good thing!) I am still hopefully looking forward to some more complex progressive developments in Canadian federal politics on October 19.

This 1901 photo is from the last phase of Oliver Mowat’s long career, when he served as Ontario Lieutenant Governor, compliments of Wilfrid Laurier in Ottawa. Mowat is in the almost dead centre of the picture here, in dark hat and bow tie and looking as if he may almost be asleep. The occasion was a visit by the future King George V and Old Queen Mary to the Ontario Government House of the day, on the site now occupied by Roy Thomson Hall. The photo exudes all the vanished hats and uniforms of the British empire in its brilliant last sunset –Â in which Mowat’s Grit Reformers were not all that interested. Â

To me each of the two big progressive parties in Canada today has something that the other lacks, and vice-versa. My personal October 19 nirvana has one or the other with a minority government that will require the other’s support. And then who knows where this may lead?

(And, in the interests of science, for another alternative –  that I don’t at all like myself, except possibly for the talented Premier Clark –  look at what happened historically to the Liberal Party in Australia, or the Canadian Province of British Columbia, and Ross Thatcher’s Saskatchewan before that. Or … there but for the Grace of God goes Stephen Harper under another name ????)

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