Big Blue Wave stops at The Rock (well .. Lib minority, maybe dependent on NDP) — good or bad news for Justin Trudeau?

Posted: May 18th, 2019 | No Comments »
Kelly Jefferson, originally from faraway Regina, now in Toronto : a master of the tenor saxophone.

Some of us were at The Bluebird near the Dundas West subway station in Toronto as the results of the provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador (aka The Rock) rolled in.

We were listening to the “Stubble Jumpers … a brand new cooperative Jazz Organ trio consisting of Kelly Jefferson (saxes), Jeff McLeod (organ), and Ted Warren (drums).” All three began their lives in Regina, Saskatchewan — where “Stubble Jumper” is a term of proud abuse. Then they moved to the city with the heart of a loan shark, where they have become accomplished musicians and energetic entertainers for discriminating democratic tastes.

Dropping quickly into the office on our ways home, we caught up with the results of the election still further east, where Giovanni Cabotto may or may not have landed in 1497.

There are 40 seats in the Newfoundland House of Assembly — making 21 seats a bare majority. On May 16, 2019 (based on results reported by Maclean’s) Dwight Ball’s incumbent Liberals won 20 seats with 45.1% of the popular vote across the province. Ches Crosbie’s Progressive Conservatives won 15 seats with 43.7% of the vote. Alison Coffin’s New Democrats won 3 seats with 6.5% of the vote. And 2 seats were won by Independents among the Other candidates, who collectively took 4.8% of the popular vote province-wide.

Surviving Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says his party is listening to voters’ plea for politicians to “work together.”

Possibly hinting at how federal Conservatives may react to some broadly similar result in the Canadian federal election this coming October 21, 2019, Conservative leader Ches Crosbie declared : “I am not conceding victory to the Liberals …They will have to struggle for the next months and years to hang on to power.”

In particular, Premier Ball’s Liberals may have to depend on co-operation with the three elected New Democrats — party leader Alison Coffin in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, Jim Dinn in St. John’s Centre, and Jordan Brown in Labrador West.

Conservative leader Crosbie has apparently “said he will be calling on three elected members of the NDP and two Independents to form a coalition to counter the Liberals.” If those he is calling on accept his invitation, there will indeed have to be a fresh election very soon. (20 Liberals vs 20 very strange bedfellow united Conservatives, New Democrats, and Independents is a contest that no one can win, including a provincial budget!)

It would, however, seem a better bet for Ms Coffin’s newly energized New Democrats to trade co-operation with Dwight Ball’s Liberal minority government for concessions on NDP policy objectives that could not otherwise be met. (And then it is also true that the government only needs one of the two Independent votes for at least a bare majority in the House of Assembly — one of which belongs to a former Liberal.) Only time will tell definitively, of course.

Very Rockish NDP leader Alison Coffin, whose party has made gains and could hold a balance of power in the House of Assembly over the next while.

Meanwhile, whatever some might say about how close the 2019 Newfoundland election has been, the Big Blue Wave that brought conservative governments to office in five provinces over the past year has been stopped by democracy on The Rock.

Our very rough and ready guess of the mere moment is that these Newfoundland election results may also prove to be a good enough predictor of the broad shape of things likely to emerge from the Canadian federal election this coming October 21.

We’d guess as well that, at a time when such things are not easy to find in Ottawa, the 2019 election in Newfoundland and Labrador has to qualify as good news for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. Along with such headlines as “Canada, US reach deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs within 2 days” — if not the results of today’s Australian election!

Who knows? A federal Liberal minority government dependent on NDP (and/or Green Party) votes for parliamentary majorities may even be the best PM Trudeau can hope for in 2019. And this would nicely echo his father’s second election as party leader as well, in 1972!

Will Labor win in Land of Oz on May 18 (and what will it mean for Liberals in Canada if they don’t) ??

Posted: May 15th, 2019 | No Comments »

[SCROLL DOWN FOR MAY 19/20 UPDATE ON ELECTION RESULTS]. With only a few days until voting on Saturday, May 18, the 2019 Australian federal election seems a closer thing than it appeared to be six months ago.

(Fellow Commonwealth citizens in northern North America should also note that Australia is considerably further ahead of us in time of day than either the UK or France. Polling places down under on May 18 will close at 6 PM. And, eg, 6 PM in Sydney is 4 AM in Toronto. By 10 AM ET this coming Saturday — and only 7 AM PT in Vancouver — we should have at least some serious sense of the election results in the Land of Oz.)

As one of our excellent Twitter correspondents from down under, Meredith King, explained to us a day or so ago : “Polls suggest it’s very close but Labor have hit their stride in the past week. Anything to do with action on climate gains traction every day.”

A similar story is told by Max Walden on aljazeera.com : “Here’s everything you need to know about Australia’s election … The opposition Labor Party is expected to win Saturday’s election, with climate change emerging as a key issue.”

Labor leader, Bill Shorten (left) and current Liberal PM Scott Morrison (right) at third leaders’ debate. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian.

Mr. Walden also gives a tidy summary of the two main forces contesting the election : “the incumbent Liberal Coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping tax cuts and the enduring resilience of Australia’s economy will be enough to keep it in office … But growth is slowing and climate change has emerged as a major issue after the country’s hottest summer on record … The opposition Labor Party under Bill Shorten is betting voters will instead back its promises to improve education and healthcare as well as create a fairer Australia.”

Aljazeera.com, does not do as well on some practical details. It claims : “Australians will choose 150 members of the House of Representatives (the lower house) and some 76 Senate seats (the upper house).” The parallel summary on the Express website from the UK is more exact : “The election will see voters choose members of the 46th Parliament of Australia with all 151 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 out of 76 seats in the Senate up for election.”

The UK Express also offers a somewhat more sobering account of recent opinion polling : “The latest opinion polls place the [Liberal] Coalition ahead with 38.5 percent. They are closely followed by the ALP [Labor] with 35.5 percent … Green, ONP [One Nation Party] and the other category have 10 percent, four percent and 12 percent respectively … When voters were asked to choose between either the LN/P [Coalition] or ALP, Labor won by four percent — with 52 percent of the vote.”

Like Canada, Australia broadly speaking is a parliamentary democracy, on the Westminster model whose original home is on the Thames River in London, England. But there are at least three intriguing major differences between the two former self-governing dominions of the old global empire on which the sun once never dared to set.

First, Australia has an unusually short, three-year term for members of its “lower” House of Representatives. Second, it actually has the kind of “Triple-E” or elected Senate that Alberta used to urge on Canada. And third, participation in Australian federal elections is compulsory : you can be fined if you don’t vote without a very good excuse.

Bondi Beach in Sydney — a place to go when politics gets you down?

Similarly, Australia doesn’t have anything quite like the unique province of Quebec in Canada or two official languages. In compensation, perhaps, it also has its own unique geography (and kangaroos etc). Beyond all such things, however, the Land of Oz down under does have some provocative similarities with Canada. And they make the results of its May 18, 2019 federal election a possible source of revealing light on our October 21, 2019 Canadian federal election.

If Labor does not win as many still expect this coming Saturday, eg, that could mean the international forces of right-wing conservatism are growing stronger, not weaker. And that could be bad news for the Justin Trudeau Liberals (more like Labor than the Liberals down under) this coming fall, in the true north, strong and free.

We’ll be watching as closely as we can from such a great geographical distance — even in the current age of high communications technology. And we’ll add a short report below when the results are finally known — probably sometime later this coming Saturday our time, on the northwest shore of the Great Lake Ontario. Stay tuned …

UPDATE MAY 19, 2:00 AM ET (TORONTO) : We’ve waited a bit to report back on what PM and Liberal Coalition leader Scott Morrison has greeted with “I have always believed in miracles.” Despite all polling predictions about a tight race with Labor finishing ahead , it turned out to be a tight race with the incumbent Liberal Coalition finishing ahead!

Claudia Cox in regional Victoria was not sure which party would be best for her area : “I have no idea what is going on with the election, to be completely honest. All I know is my family usually votes for the Liberals because they usually help us out the most…”

With just over 75% of the vote now counted it remains unclear whether Mr. Morrison has won a majority or minority government. On numbers from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), as of 4 in the afternoon May 19, Australian ET, the Liberal Coalition has 73 seats in the House of Representatives, where 76 is a bare majority. Labor has 65, and Others have 6, leaving 7 seats still to be decided. There does seem a good enough chance that the Coalition will have a majority when all the counting is done. [UPDATE MAY 20 : The ABC is now predicting that the Liberal Coalition will finally have 77 seats, just one over a bare majority!]

For the moment the long and short appears to be that the undecided vote was rather high. After all the last-minute decisions the Liberal Coalition did somewhat better than expected and Labor did somewhat worse — especially as it lost votes to the Greens and other smaller parties! Support for the Coalition was especially strong in the state of Queensland and among older voters. According to the Vice site : “The upset is already being compared to Hilary Clinton’s 2016 US presidential loss and Brexit” in the UK.

This is of course not a good precedent for the fate of the Justin Trudeau Liberals in the October 21 Canadian federal election this fall. (They are more like Labor than the Australian Liberals.) One big lesson they might be drawing is that in a pinch nowadays in countries like Australia and Canada, voters’ concerns about the economy will finally “trump” concerns about the environment. (And too much of the green vote will go to the Green party in any case!) PM Trudeau may already be exploring this proposition with recent headlines like “Canada, U.S. reach deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs within 2 days.”

Top 5 list : why we still support the Justin Trudeau Liberals for October 21 .. in spite of all their faults ..

Posted: May 5th, 2019 | No Comments »

(1) Opinion polls certainly do suggest that the Justin Trudeau Liberals in Canada have serious problems right now.

Sophie Gregorie-Trudeau watches her husband deliver his victory speech on election night, October 19, 2015.

It is also true that a late April 2015 Abacus poll shows vaguely comparable results to a 2019 Angus Reid poll for broadly the same time of year. In late April 2015 Abacus was reporting Cons 36%, Libs 28%, NDP 24%, Greens 6%. In late April 2019 Angus Reid is reporting Cons 38%, Libs 25%, NDP 18%, Greens 11%.

Even so the Liberal poll performance now in 2019 is generally worse than it was around this time in 2015 (when the Trudeau Liberals finally won a 54% majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons on October 19, with 39.5% of the cross-country popular vote!). Or, as Alex Boutilier at the Toronto Star has lately explained, using another source of 2019 intelligence (Forum Research), “SNC-Lavalin affair having an effect on voter intentions, poll finds.”

(2) There remain many things about the Justin Trudeau Liberals we do not like at all. For us, eg, they have altogether lacked courage and depth (and common sense) on real Senate reform and democratizing our head of state. And they have been too worried about losing the “progressive” side of the old Progressive Conservative vote. (Which often proves illusory in any case!)

Wilfrid Laurier (left) and his successor as federal Liberal leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King (grandson of the 1837 Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie) : two inventors of the “natural governing party of Canada” in the 20th century.

We agree as well that ever since Wilfrid Laurier invented them as Canada’s natural governing party in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the federal Liberals have been recurrently arrogant and a bit too elitist for Canada’s original populist party of the sovereign people. And for too long they have been too intermittently weak in Western Canada, for too many good reasons.

(3) But when all is said and done we also essentially agree with, eg, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts from Glace Bay, NS, and the current Liberal MP for Kelowna-Lake Country in beautiful BC, Stephen Fuhr.

To quote from Althia Raj’s interesting recent interview with the former principal secretary : “Butts said he expects the SNC-Lavalin affair ‘will obviously play a role in people’s determinations in the fall’ but won’t be a ‘deciding factor’ for many people … ‘Canadians are fair people, and they make judgments based on a wide variety of the government’s accomplishments and disappointments,’ he said … Trudeau has been a ‘very good prime minister’ leading a ‘very good government … I think that the government is just getting started on its agenda to make the economy fairer and to make growth work for everybody’.”

At the historic Lambton House in Toronto, opened in 1848 — the European year of revolution when modern parliamentary democracy began in Nova Scotia and the old United Province of Canada (modern Ontario and Quebec), May 3, 2019.

And as Stephen Fuhr from Kelowna somewhat similarly tweeted Friday, May 3 : “ [Canada] was #1 in 2017 for economic growth amongst the G7 and #2 in 2018. Unemployment is at a 42 year low and poverty in Canada has been reduced by 20%. Andrew Scheer … thinks BREXIT was a good idea. Choose wisely.”

(4) We have some sympathy with those who voted Liberal in 2015 and are now contemplating voting either NDP or Green in 2019, because they value political principles above political expediency.

Our failed preferred outcome in 2015 was some form of Liberal-NDP (or NDP-Liberal) co-operative government (that might have actually implemented electoral reform!). Still more intriguing fantasies of this sort seem in potential play for 2019. And we’ll probably have more to say than anyone wants to hear on this subject between now and the fall.

Harold Innis, 1924.

(5) But in the very end this time we’re outright supporting the Justin Trudeau Liberals for Oct 21, 2019 — on the now ancient argument given one classic expression 70 years ago by the late great first Canadian president of the American Economic Association, Harold Adams Innis :

“As evidence of the futility of political discussion in Canada, there were Liberals who deplored the activities of the federal administration in no uncertain terms but always concluded with what was to them an unanswerable argument — ‘What is the alternative?’ In one’s weaker moments the answer does appear conclusive, but what a comment on political life …”

Or in our view Justin Trudeau, for all his faults and personal foibles, is just too much better an international representative of what Canada is today and can and will be in the future than any of Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Maxime Bernier, or (especially?) Elizabeth May. QED.

Happy earth day 2019 : will the people of PEI elect the first Green government in North America tomorrow?

Posted: April 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »
Excellent Grade A potatoes are one thing PEI is famous for in the rest of Canada. Beautiful beaches are another. Photo courtesy of Tourism PEI/John Sylvester.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. EARTH DAY, MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2019. The first thing to say about the provincial election tomorrow in Canada’s smallest province of Prince Edward Island (on the east or Atlantic coast) is that the entire island (and Canada at large) has been sadly stricken by grief over the tragic deaths of Green candidate Josh Underhay and his son, in a canoeing accident this past Friday.

(There are 27 ridings or electoral districts in the PEI Legislative Assembly, but elections will be held in only 26 on April 23, 2019. No election will take place in Mr. Underhay’s old riding of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park, out of respect for the tragic deaths. Somewhat further down the road a “by-election will be held at a date to be determined.”)

The next thing that will inevitably be said in, eg, the 192 out of 338 Canadian federal electoral districts with more than 100,000 people (on our hasty count at any rate) is that the current population of “the Island” is only 154,748. And note as well that at the time of the last federal election there were 10 federal ridings with more than 120,000 people.

At the same time, as of 2017 there is now a Canadian federal law known as the Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation Act. (In 1864 a conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island began the process that led to the Canadian confederation of British North American provinces in1867 — though PEI itself did not actually join until 1873.)

Whatever else, PEI remains a unique Canadian province. Much of this has turned around its preservation of pasts that have almost altogether faded away, in parts of the country with more people and without the Islander spirit that only a compact, self-contained geography can sustain.

There are now provocative signs, however, that in its April 23, 2019 election Canada’s smallest province may be about to make a big bow to the future as well, by electing the first Green party government in North America.

For some reason, in the global village today the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, Park Corner, PEI is a place where couples from Japan like to get married!

(In the sense, say, that the Canadian province of Saskatchewan elected the “first socialist government in North America” back in 1944. Green politicians have certainly been elected in all of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But, in our current state of knowledge, it seems fair enough to guess that a full-blown Green government has yet to be installed at provincial/state or federal levels in any of the three countries?)

PEI’s small population makes realistic opinion polling somewhat more difficult than in places with more people. Peter Stewart Bevan-Baker’s Green Party nonetheless first jumped into the polling lead very briefly in early 2018, and then more frequently this past summer of 2018. According to the Wikipedia article on “2019 Prince Edward Island general election,” the Greens have led consistently in the last half dozen polls that have been taken, since late January 2019.

Here on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario we of course have no special knowledge about what will happen tomorrow. But we’re happy to recommend :

  • The Pollcast: Is PEI ready to give the Greens a try? … The CBC’s Kerry Campbell talks about the PEI election.” CBC News, Apr 18, 2019 : CBC polls analyst Éric Grenier is interviewing Mr. Campbell here. One encouraging note is that the PEI campaign has apparently been notably civil, unlike (so far?) the emerging federal campaign that will climax on October 21.
  • A new vote projection points to a historic Green win in PEI… Philippe J. Fournier: Uncertainty remains high but a simplified 338 electoral model puts the Green Party just above the threshold for a majority win.” Maclean’s, Apr 21, 2019. “Philippe J. Fournier is the creator of 338Canada.com, Qc125.com, a regular contributor to L’actualité magazine and a professor of physics and astrophysics at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montréal.”
  • What We’re Watching: Is the land of Anne about to go Green?. … By Kady O’Malley. ipolitics.ca, Apr 22,2019. Ms. O’Malley, who has been remarkably sensible lately about such matters as SNC-Lavalin, notes : “According to the latest polls, the PEI Greens are poised to win a majority of the 26 seats up for grabs in the provincial legislature, which would make party leader Peter Bevan-Baker the first capital-G Green premier in the country.”
The almost 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge, opened in 1997, at last connected Prince Edward Island with the Canadian mainland in New Brunswick. Photo : Igor I. Solar.

For added zest tomorrow night the PEI election will include a referendum on electoral reform. Islanders will be asked “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?” To be implemented the reform “must be approved by a majority of voters in at least 60% of the province’s 27 provincial electoral districts.”

According to the local Guardian newspaper : “PEI voters could not be any more divided on electoral reform.” But there will be some great irony afoot if the Islanders finally do vote for a Green majority government and for the kind of electoral reform that would arguably make a similar majority government quite unlikely down the road.

We’ll be watching closely and will report back briefly when the results are known. Meanwhile, best wishes to the people of Canada’s Island democracy who will be making the decisions — on both the Green party and electoral reform! And congratulations on conducting an election campaign with some civility in 2019.

UPDATE APRIL 24, 12:30 AM : The Greens did well, but not well enough to form even a minority government. In a legislature where 14 seats makes a bare majority that limited honour goes to the Progressive Conservatives led by Dennis King, who won 12 seats with 36.5% of the Island-wide popular vote.

From left to right, NDP Leader Joe Byrne, Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan smile at the provincial debate in Summerside, PEI on April 16, 2019. Photo by Andrew Vaughan/CP.”

The Greens led by Peter Bevan-Baker did manage to become official opposition, with 8 seats and 30.6% of the popular vote. Former Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals, who were seeking an unusual fourth consecutive term in office, had to rest content with only 6 seats and 29.5% of the vote. (The balance of the Island-wide vote and 0 seats went to Joe Byrne’s NDP.)

Premier-elect Dennis King was apparently one of the people who kept this still unusual 2019 PEI election so unusually civil. His minority government may have better prospects with non-partisan support in the legislature than usual?

Voter turnout was 80.5% — compared eg to 58% in the 2018 Ontario provincial election and an unusually high 71% in the recent 2019 Alberta election. In the accompanying electoral reform referendum, Islanders “narrowly chose to keep the first-past-the-post system rather than switch to a mixed-member proportional system of voting.”

We’re back .. having survived still mysterious malevolent attacks — just in time for Alberta election!

Posted: April 16th, 2019 | No Comments »
Great Canadian economic historian Harold Innis in Europe during First World War.

Our apologies to all and any who may have visited us over the past week or so, and found we had temporarily vanished from the world wide web.

The long and short is that the site just suddenly crashed, not long after our April 3, 2019 post on “Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village.”

(Which also offered “gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : ‘Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … “To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.”’”)

As best we mere editorial people can understand from our much valued technical advisors, the crash was the result of malevolent cyber-attacks from sources that have still not been exactly defined and determined.

Various steps have been taken to guard against future attacks of this sort. But without knowing exactly where the malevolence comes from such steps inevitably involve guesswork that could prove wrong. So we could be attacked and shut down for a time again.

Having started in the summer of 2004, however, we’re not about to surrender now (or “give up” may be better), in the year of an important Canadian federal election (on October 21, 2019) and an important provincial election in Alberta today (and Prince Edward Island, where the Greens may actually win, next Tuesday, April 23).

While we’re at it, we don’t have anything to add to the widely held poll-driven conventional wisdom that, although Rachel Notley’s New Democrats (NDP) are doing better than many expected, the likely enough winners will still be the United Conservatives (UCP) — led by Jason Kenney, the currently somewhat but apparently not decisively scandal-ridden grandson of Canadian “premier” big band leader Mart Kenney (and his Western Gentlemen) : a kind of hip version of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians back when.

Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen back in the day, probably 1930s in Vancouver.

(Guy and his brothers were from Southwestern Ontario. Even the Liberal Mart Kenney for a time ran a musical ranch in the Greater Toronto Area, where he was in fact born, although he retired to BC where his serious musical career began. Alberta, which also seldom gets credit as Marshall McLuhan’s birthplace, has a right to sing the blues. As today’s election will one way or another make clear!)

We’ll nonetheless be pleased if Ms Notley — who by all appearances north of the Great Lakes has done a commendable job as premier of one of Canada’s Big 4 provinces in challenging times — proves the conventional wisdom wrong. And even on the polling this seems unlikely but not necessarily impossible!

Meanwhile, one of the technical measures to try to guard against future counterweights crash attacks from the malevolent side of the also remarkable and even benign regions of cyberspace involves updating the software that we mere editorial people use. Please bear with us while we struggle through yet another set of new software ropes. It is a jungle out there, no doubt.

UPDATE APRIL 17, 12:30 AM : Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has now won an unquestionably commanding 62 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, with some 54% of the cross-province popular vote. The premier-elect has a big task ahead of him, but there can be no doubt that he is what a quite clear majority of the people of Alberta want right now. Even his Liberal grandfather would almost certainly be impressed (and probably a bit pleased as well).

Time for a change : our latest Canadian madness is really starting to make us look dumb in the global village

Posted: April 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

Pierre Trudeau as Minister of Justice and Attorney General with Prime Minister Lester Pearson, at Federal-Provincial Conference on Canada’s Constitution, February 1968.

We have two main objectives in this short note on the latest episodes in what the Montreal Gazette has nicely called “Canada’s SNC melodrama.”

The first is to offer gratitude and praise to the rafters for Andrew Cohen’s recent opinion piece : “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis … ‘To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.’”

We couldn’t agree more with the main thrust of Mr. Cohen’s piece. Eg : “To foreigners, our current melodrama is madness, a kind of derangement syndrome. ‘Are you nuts?’ asks a visiting friend from London. The poor man – a leading international lawyer – is staggered by the circus in Canada’s Parliament. He sees us as a country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

We won’t go on, except to urge that the article deserves to be read and read and read again!

From Angus Reid poll released March 28, 2019.

Our second objective is just to register a very polite nuance regarding the concluding paragraphs of “Canada’s SNC melodrama baffles a world facing real crisis.”

To us it almost seems that Andrew Cohen has come to see the current SNC melodrama madness as something that has perhaps already prompted we the people of Canada to leap into an abyss of vast unknown dimensions, like the legendary dogs of Dumbarton.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau introduces his son Xavier to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Calgary Stampede, July 2014 — a moment when Canada really was a “country of stability, sobriety and moderation.”

Our nuanced view is that some of this almost-note of despair flows from Mr. Cohen’s spending so much of his time in Ottawa. Only mere hundreds of miles west there are many more matters competing for public attention. And even the latest opinion polls still show the Liberals decisively ahead in the City of Toronto, where we go about our daily lives — and (by a much smaller margin) in the wider suburbs and exurbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

There are no doubt still many who want to carry on with the madness. And they have been re-energized by the expulsion of Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott from the Liberal caucus.

Our opinion here was that the two aspiring saints of the new politics should be left inside the tent. But we can understand how a caucus still deep for good reasons in the old politics would see things otherwise. And one half-sensible side of the current madness does seem to be that the real world is urging Prime Minister Trudeau to leaven his new politics with a few fresh doses of the old medicine. (Thus the departures of Mr. Butts and Mr. Wernick, along with Ms. Wilson Raybould and Ms. Philpott — who have at least been treated more respectfully than the Randy Hillier who was recently expelled from the Ontario PC caucus by Premier Doug Ford?)

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer smile during a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, March 2018.

In  any case the protests of those who have argued that what Justin Trudeau needed to do was “get some balls” have been listened to. What will be will be.

We still think that the “country of stability, sobriety and moderation” can return in time for this year’s October 21 election. Note that the latest “Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice as PM at 31.1 per cent of Canadians followed by Scheer (26.7%), Singh (7.8%), May (7.6%) and Bernier (2.7%).” And the latest Mainstreet poll reports that “despite … drops in support” everywhere, the Trudeau Liberals “are still leading in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.”

Our intermittent bouts of self-indulgent political madness in Canada never last forever. There is evidence enough to support the view that the country whose progressiveness matters in a world of unrest will be back soon enough, with some more practical mix of old and new politics. (Meanwhile, for the moment Andrew Cohen’s April 2 piece in the Montreal Gazette still deserves many, many, many more readers!)

L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin : “I do not believe I have anything further to offer” + another great night for jazz at the Bluebird

Posted: March 30th, 2019 | No Comments »

“Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gets an enthusiastic greeting from a woman” at Vancouver Pride parade, August 2, 2015 — at which point a Forum poll showed New Democrats with 39%, Conservatives 28%, and Liberals 25%. (PHOTO : R. JEANETTE MARTIN / FOR THE TORONTO STAR).

On this rainy, second-last day of March, 2019 (a Saturday — here at the start of at least one great Northwest canoe passage from the Great Lakes to the Canadian Prairies, the Rocky Mountains, and Canada’s beautiful Pacific coast), we have two short notes to offer from frequent contributors to this site.

First, Randall White has now updated the latest in his haphazard and reluctant series on what the Quebec press calls L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin. The update has been posted at the end of his most recent expression of his free and democratic views on the subject : “Jody Wilson-Raybould told Elizabeth May no one broke the criminal code and ‘that is no small fact … lost on most’ so far?.”

Dr. White confesses that his update is “no doubt longer than it should be, just like the original.” (Again you can CLICK HERE if you haven’t already, now or later, whenever!) In compensation he  hopes this really will be the last time he feels an urge to write about The Affair.

As he explained over coffee in his TV room, accompanied by the sound of falling rain : “In her latest submissions Ms. Wilson-Raybould has declared (at last wisely?) : ‘I do not believe I have anything further to offer.’ I am hoping many others will continue to follow her lead.”

David French without baseball hat, and playing tenor sax instead of the baritone he played March 28, 2019 at the Bluebird in Toronto.

Our second note is from Dr. White’s younger friend Citizen X. It updates his earlier report on “Starting 2019 with jazz at the Bluebird — one of the ‘top 21 new bars in Toronto’.”

X just wants to say that he was back at the Bluebird for this past Thursday Jazz Night, with spring in the air :

“The place was packed and very lively to say nothing of hip. Guitar and bass entertained (Harley Card on guitar, I think, and possibly Mike Milligan on bass?), joined for a second and third set by David French on baritone sax (and wearing a somehow suitable baseball hat). The place has a great vibe and the musicians were getting into it. As I left there was even some impromptu dancing in a corner, not far from the front door.”

Places like this, our message from Citizen X ended, “are just what we need in this day and age of extreme political (and no doubt other) craziness on so many fronts, for the good of our souls.” For the April 2019 schedule for Jazz Thursdays at the Bluebird, click on “MUSIC” HERE.

Blue Jays baseball 2019 : Gibby’s Boys are all gone and so are the fans …

Posted: March 28th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

And then there were none … With the firing of John Gibbons at season’ end, and the off-season release of Troy Tulowitzki and trading of Russell Martin, the last vestiges of the best Blue Jays team in a quarter century are gone.  Slowly it seemed and then suddenly, the faces on the famous September 2015 Sports Illustrated cover shot featuring that magical club are just a memory.

How did it all happen? They let David Price depart as a free agent after that 2015 season. Edwin Encarnacion was lowballed and left after the 2016 season. Jose Bautista was pushed out after 2017. Josh Donaldson was traded last August 31 for scraps. And then in rapid succession the aforementioned Gibbons was fired in October with one year left on his contract. Troy Tulowitzki was released with a $38 million golden parachute in November. Then Russell Martin, the last surviving member, was traded in December for two low-ceiling prospects to the Dodgers.

With this mass exodus, the Blue Jays fortunes have followed suit —  their record decreasing now for four consecutive years (from 95 to 89 to 78 to 73 wins). As one casual resident baseball observer noted, “You got rid of your best players… Even I know that is not how winning works.”

The fans too have followed! From the bump in attendance and interest brought on by two straight ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays experienced the sharpest drop (about 30%) in attendance in the majors this past season, going from 3,203,886 fans in 2017 to 2,325,281 in 2018, a decline of 878,605 fans.  With baseball prognosticators predicting pain for the 2019 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays, one expects the numbers to fall once again at the ballpark they used to call the SkyDome.

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“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”

Posted: March 26th, 2019 | No Comments »

Charlie Parker (l), world’s greatest saxophone player and inventor of much of modern jazz, with his young trumpet player Red Rodney, New York City 1947.

Canadians ought to be especially sensitive to the subtle nuances of Robert Mueller’s apparent conclusions on the narrow issues he was commissioned to investigate, in the current age of crisis and testing for Democracy in America.

One of the few key sentences from the actual Mueller report that Attorney General Barr has quoted directly is a case in point :  “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

This may not be directly comparable to Mackenzie King’s legendary World War II approach to a tricky Canadian public issue with enough fans on both sides : “Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription.” (These exact words are apparently just from a Toronto Star editorial of the day in any case.)

French actress Jeanne Moreau with another sometime Charlie Parker trumpet player, Miles Davis, during recording of the music for Louis Malle’s film “Elevator to the Gallows,” December 1957.

Yet, whatever else, what appears to be this side of Robert Mueller’s approach to the challenges his assignment presented does remind those who feel about American politics today as I do that, while Donald Trump’s Republican party does not have a majority of Americans on its side, it does have a still quite substantial minority.

Meanwhile, this same quotation also forms the basis for George Conway’s justly celebrated droll reply to Sarah Sanders’s latest over-the-top untrue tweet that Mr. Mueller’s work constitutes “a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”

As Mr. Conway (Trump aide Kellyanne Conway’s impossible-to-understand but clearly sensible husband) replied : “You misspelled ‘While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”

Mayor of President Trump’s New York hometown Bill De Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray, at his first mayoral inauguration, January 1, 2014.

Personally, I found the headline to a Washington Post opinion piece by Greg Sargent yesterday an apt summary of the essential truth : “Trump won with illicit help. He abused his power. His AG is blocking a full reckoning.”

I was struck as well by three headlines from the March 25 edition of The New Yorker Daily in the president’s home town : “No Conspiracy, No Exoneration: The Conclusions from the Mueller Report”(David Remnick) ;  “The Dream of a Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead” (Masha Gessen) ; and “On the Mueller Investigation, the Barr Letter Is Not Enough” (John Cassidy).

For “the Barr Letter” itself see “The Justice Department’s Summary Of The Mueller Report.” My own immediately favourite ultimate reaction from those I have run across on Twitter came from Andrew Gillum, who ran such an impressive 2018 campaign for Governor of Florida.

Gillum’s advice has a wonderful, practical Saul Alinsky ring : “The Mueller Report is never going to register … organize, and do the GOTV [“Get Out The Vote”] required to beat @realDonaldTrump. That’s our job!!! Stop waiting to participate in the hard work of democracy. If we put in the work, we win.”

I was personally struck as well by four other Twitter reactions I noticed — in alphabetical order by tweeter surname :

* David Axelrod — “One question: What the Mueller probe established, according to the AG, is that the Russians hacked the DNC and engaged in an aggressive, covert campaign to influence our election. So why did @realDonaldTrump stand next to Putin in Helsinki  and meekly accept his denials?”

* John Dean — “Having re-read William Barr’s June 2018 Memo critiquing Mueller’s obstruction investigation and now his summary of Mueller’s Report, it is clear that Richard Nixon would not have been forced to resign his office if Barr had been Attorney General. Barr wants a POTUS above the law.”

“President Obama with California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, in 2012. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press).”

* David Frum — “The president and his talkers falsely denied Russian interference. They falsely denied meeting with the interferers. They falsely denied that Trump was pursuing business opportunities in Russia through election day.”

* Paul Krugman — “Three things: 1. We need to see the report, not just Trump appointees’ summary …  2. Anyone who thought Mueller was a silver bullet that would bring Trump down was living in a fantasy world … 3. The administration’s corruption on multiple fronts is as obvious as ever.”

Finally, my own ultimately favourite ultimate reaction on Twitter Award goes to the African American “son to immigrants” Richard De Leon. He describes himself as “Free thinking progressive, single dad, raising 2 wonderful kids amidst the great U.S. decline. RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT #RESISTANCE.”

Mr. De Leon’s March 25 tweet is in the tradition of the Great American Laughing-To-Keep-From-Crying Songbook : “Dear good white folks, … I know that the Mueller Report has been underwhelming. Do not despair. If necessary, please report immediately to a person of color near you. We are well versed in ‘Crazy Shit America Does’ and have tons of ‘fucked by the system’ experience. We can help.”

Meanwhile, on to 2020, as the person of color Andrew Gillum advises, in practice, etc, etc … The great divide in the USA today between Obama’s progressive future and Trump’s reactionary past is not really much like the divide between English and French in the Canada of the 1940s at all. (And while Rihanna and Drake are not exactly relevant, he is Canadian and she is from Canada’s fellow Commonwealth country of Barbados. And who doesn’t think this is more interesting than a photograph of Mackenzie King in the 1940s?)

Is Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party still inevitable winner of Alberta vote April 16, like Doug Ford PCs in Ontario?

Posted: March 20th, 2019 | No Comments »

The two main contenders : Rachel Notley NDP and Jason Kenney UCP.

Yesterday Premier Rachel Notley finally announced that Alberta’s long-anticipated provincial election will be held some four weeks hence, on Tuesday, April 16!

Opinion polls have long been showing that former Stephen Harper federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney’s new United Conservative Party is well ahead of Premier Notley’s New Democrats. And a “new poll from Ipsos,” released yesterday morning, “suggests Alberta’s UCP have a lead over the NDP leading up to the 2019 election.”

(In the Edmonton capital area the two major parties are neck and neck. In Calgary and especially in rural Alberta the UCP still has big leads.)

Most recently a few controversies over Mr. Kenney’s UCP have at least given Ms Notley’s New Democrats a little new hope.

(See, eg : “Jeff Callaway campaign may have breached election law with services from Kenney campaign” ; “Keith Gerein: UCP leadership revelations a scandal of ethics, integrity and hypocrisy”; “What really happened inside the Alberta UCP’s ‘kamikaze’ campaign” ; “Inside Alberta’s ‘House of Cards’ scandal” ; “Star UCP candidate who resigned over white supremacist comments also questioned value of Pride parades” ; “Communication among leadership campaigns not unusual, says Jason Kenney.”)

The smart money is still saying that this is Mr. Kenney’s election to lose. And he is a more experienced, seasoned, and intellectually heavy-weight conservative political leader than Premier Ford in Ontario.

Three more also running (l to r) : Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel, Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta Liberal leader David Khan.

He has nonetheless lately been playing the usual mindless right-wing populist games to which conservatives across the country (and elsewhere) seem attracted at the moment.

And it is at least interesting to think that, in the current Canadian political confusion almost everywhere, there is at least a slightly greater chance than there was a month ago that the very hard-working Rachel Notley could finally do as well as her fellow New Democrat John Horgan managed next door in beautiful BC, back in the spring of 2017.

Whatever else, the forthcoming April 16 provincial election in Alberta is one of the two really big Canadian political events this year.

Political junkies across the country are bound to pay special attention. (And we’re no exception here! Stay tuned etc.)