The Centre for Strategic Centrism


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How Does This Man Buy Pants?

The stones on this guy must be the size of a mid-sized sedan. What is going through the mind of either Blagojevich or Burris is absolutely beyond me!


Filed under: Damn Yankees

Vacation Reading

“All of us, from the wealthiest and most powerful of men to the weakest and hungriest of children, share one precious possession: the name “American.” It is not easy to know what that means. But in part to be an American means to have been an outcast and a stranger, to have come to the exiles’ country, and to know that he who denies the outcast and stranger among us at the moment also denies America.”

To Seek a Newer World by Robert F. Kennedy

Filed under: Housekeeping

My Question For Diamond Jim Flaherty and Prince Peter MacKay

Those noble, self-sacrificing Conservatives… They’re martyrs, really (or so I’m told by Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper). After all, unlike those other selfish parties, they were willing to forego they’re share of the roughly $30 million in federal financing that political parties receive. The current economic crisis demands real leadership that will sacrifice along with Canadians. 

So here’s my question… If that $30 million in funds for political parties was so important and the Canadian economy is in such terrible shape that even a small amount of money like that $30 million is important… Why have we decided to forego the $36 million in penalties that the contract stipulates that we may levy for late delivery?

In January, Defence Minister Peter MacKay brought up the penalties after news reports suggested Sikorsky would not deliver the aircraft on time. “There are penalties and clauses that will kick in,” he warned.

In June, a response from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office to reports that there were problems with military equipment projects, including the Cyclone deal, cited the penalties.

“All companies are expected to live up to their contracted obligations and our suppliers are expected to provide what was agreed to,” Mr. Harper’s office said.

Instead, those tough negotiators have actually agreed to pay Sikorsky even more money. MacKay claims that we’re getting a great deal on the new contract. Unfortunately, DND won’t explain why this is a good deal.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

Disagreement Is Good

I learned a couple of key lessons while working on Parliament Hill. One of those lessons was the importance in politics of working for someone that you respect and agree with on the major issues (I had neither going for me). The second lesson was taught by the first separatist that I ever got to know.

Growing up in Western Canada, I can remember watching the 1995 referendum on television. Only twelve years old at the time, it didn’t seem to make too much sense to me that these people in Quebec wanted to destroy Canada. It was a forgivably ignorant and simplistic view from a twelve year old, but truth be told my opinion didn’t really evolve much over the next nine years before I was sent to Ottawa. 

What many people don’t realize about Parliament Hill (or any legislature, for that matter) is that despite the daytime Emmy-worthy performances by so many MPs on every side of the House in Question Period, many MPs and staffers do spend time with one another. Committees and all-party committees provide fora for MPs to mix and the almost daily wine and cheese receptions provide fertile ground for friendships to grow. To be sure, in the hyper-partisanship of Ottawa today, it is likely the exception not the rule.

My office (that of a Conservative MP) was almost completely surrounded on the floor by Bloc Quebecois MPs. And a friend of mine actually began to date the Executive Assistant to one of them. As time progressed, I spent more and more time with Nicole discussing politics. My reflexive reaction had been to hate separatists for what they wanted to do to my country. But the more we talked, the more I began to understand and respect her position. As she pointed out to me, by virtue of Quebecers’ minority linguistic status in this country, they have been forced to consider their place in it and their aspirations. By contrast, Canadians outside of Quebec have never really done the same sort of soul-searching en masse because they haven’t been forced to. For Canada as a whole, we have defined ourselves only as it relates to another country – the child of Britain, the neighbor of America.

I don’t agree with Quebec separatists any more than I did before I met Nicole. In fact, my discussions with her only made me a more determined federalist and reaffirmed my belief that the two best things that could ever be done for Canadian unity are to bring down the cost of inter-provincial travel and create benefits for students to study in a province in a different region of the country. Canada is so impossibly large with unfortunately high domestic travel costs. The best thing for Canadian unity is for Canadians to speak to each other and understand each other.

There’s a Point Coming, Really

I understand why Canadians are hesitant to reopen the Constitution and discuss messy issues like abortion. They are issues for which Canadians have very strong feelings. The experience of Charlottetown and Meech Lake have taught Canadians that no good can come of these debates except for greater polarization and deeper divisions. I believe that these debates are an imperative and an obligation for us as Canadians to truly define ourselves. I believe that these debates – if carried out in a respectful manner, which is in itself potentially impossible today – can be beneficial for the country.

With that said, now is not the time for these debates, either. Our national strength and imagination must be harnessed to solve the more immediate challenge that we face – a crumbling economy. That the Conservatives feel that this is the right time to raise these issues demonstrates just how out of touch with Main Street they have become.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

The Abortion Debate

I’m not afraid of having the debate on abortion that Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge seems determine to spark because I am confident that my views on abortion represent the mainstream view in this country. Except in cases of rape or where the mother’s life is at risk, I think abortions are wrong. I also believe that they should be legal. The reality that so many pro-lifers seem unable to understand is that abortion was not legalized because legislators began to see abortion as a virtuous act. Abortions were legalized as a means of moving them from a back alley into a doctor’s office. It really is just that simple. Abortion was legalized because keeping them illegal was more dangerous and more gruesome. It’s easy to say that you’re pro-life and abortions should be illegal if you’re willing to ignore the reality of the consequences (which, of course, are not theoretical – we know this from our own history). 

I think the interesting question that is raised by Bruinooge’s comments is the rationale for them. Was this authorized by the PMO as a distraction from the economic crisis and a suck to the Conservative base after the disaster of the economic update and the fiscal stimulus which is sure to be a thorn in the paw of the grassroots? Or is this a sign that Harper has lost his grip on the throats of his members? My suspicion given Bruinooge’s close relationship with Harper  is that he has not gone rogue and the PMO was aware of Bruinooge’s plans.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

Not Everyone’s Comments Are Welcome

Today I was confronted with a decision as to whether or not I should permit an active Conservative apologist on Blogging Tories and elsewhere around the web to post on this blog. In and of itself, being a Conservative apologist is unfortunate but not a punishable offense. Nor are inane, long-winded postings an offense. I, myself, am guilty of the latter offense on a daily basis (though mine are far less confusing). 

But upon review of this particular fellow’s online footprint, a number of comments were found on various blogs that were so offensive that I made the decision unilaterally (I try to be a benevolent dictator) to ban his comments from this blog. I will not  be publishing either his name or the name under which he posts in order to protect his privacy. But to give you an idea of how to get yourself banned, among the highlights of his bigoted absurdity are the following:

  • A reference to homosexuals as sexual deviants;
  • A theory that gay marriage and abortion are both sins against humanity that have been legalized as part of a conspiracy to create an industry around adoptions (he actually sent a letter to the Queen requesting that she refuse to give royal assent to Bill C-38 on this basis); and
  • A seeming attack on a courageous rape victim who fought to bring her attacker to justice on the basis that she seemingly fails to recognize homosexual men for the pedophiles he assumes that they are.

The comments above are just a selection of his comments that I have come across. So let this serve as a notice that those who choose to peddle ignorance and discrimination are not welcome here. I will not begin to speculate as to why the Blogging Tories continue to allow him to post on their site.

Filed under: Housekeeping

Caution: The Inmates Have Taken Hold of the Asylum

So let’s start off with a couple of admissions… First of all, I admit that I enjoy watching the traffic statistics on my blog. I enjoy the ability to tangibly calculate the number of people who are reading the thoughts that i express here on my little corner of the global weeb (I think that’s what it’s called, right?). But more to the point, I enjoy seeing who is talking about my postings on their site and seeing how people have found me. It’s lame, I admit it. But I enjoy it and I am admitting it. 

My second confession for the day is that in a previous life in a land far, far away and many, many moons ago, I was a Conservative. I even worked for a Conservative MP. I was a Joe Clark Tory that decided that I’d give the merged party a try and work to make it a moderate, centrist voice in the Canadian political landscape like my Tories had been until their demise. Some day maybe I’ll tell you more about that whole experience.

With my two admissions out of the way, let me tell you that I’ve been receiving a lot of traffic from the Blogging Tories and across the Canadian Conservative blogosphere (not to be confused with Blagojevich) to my Dreidelgate posts. Whenever the Conservatives are linking to me, I get curious. So I followed the links and unearthed some comments that would be absolutely hilarious were they not so truly terrifying given that they are the voices of the grassroots of the governing party.

Having left the Conservative Party in 2005 (before officially becoming a Liberal in the spring of 2006), it’s been a little while since I’ve been confronted by so much writing from so many people clearly wearing tin foil hats in their parents’ basements. Reading through these posts reminds me of the key reason that I left the party: the membership. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have a great many friends in the Conservative Party, some of whom work for senior ministers within the government and some of whom are MPs, themselves. With that said, I left the party in large part because I came to realize that the convictions and fundamental beliefs about this country held by the average member of the party were anathema to that which I believe.

Now to be fair, the Balgojesphere brings out the kookoos from every organization. But on the Blogging Tories website (a name which I deeply object to as there is nothing resembling Toryism about this party), Nurse Ratched has clearly been bound and gagged and the inmates have taken control. 

Reading through their discussion threads, you can find any number of brilliant policy ideas and theories:

  1. Using a brilliant dissection of the choice of photos of Ignatieff that CTV used on their website in their Dreidelgate article, one poster concludes that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that this is all somehow a lie (I’m still not sure that I understand the logic). At first I thought this was all a bit of sarcasm, but this one poster who seems to be the queen of the tin foil hat brigade seems to be genuine in her belief that since the CTV article used a stock photo of Ignatieff and not a photo of him at the event in question is proof that there is a rift in the Liberal camp over religion.
  2. Another poster surmises that this is all a vast media conspiracy to help Ignatieff and hurt Harper. By the way, my favorite thing about the Conservative theory of a vast media conspiracy targeting them is that it seems to ignore the favorable coverage that they receive. Are they really arguing that CTV has shown a pro-Liberal bias of late? The same chap argues that the majority of Canadians are social conservatives and fiscal liberals.He clearly has a unique definition of Canadian.
  3. If we want to stick to the comments bordering on religious bigotry, their queen chimed back in with a reminder that a Jewish judge in Toronto ordered a Christmas tree removed from a courthouse two years ago. How that is at all pertinent to the argument is beyond me. I’m not sure if I’m offended as a Jew, a Liberal, or both.
  4. Another commenter compares Ignatieff to Obama. I’m hoping that’s the Conservative plan in the next campaign. Really.
  5. Kinsella’s a communist for using the term “right wing agitator.” 
  6. This is all just a “hit job” on Georganne Burke because the Liberals are afraid of her.
  7. There are also a few thinly-veiled jabs at the gay community, including a reference to the “Bob Rae gay benefactor gig.”

I have not linked to the page in question or referenced the posters by name because frankly I don’t have the time to engage in an endless back-and-forth with a legion of Conservabloggers. I’ve done it before. You’ll lose every time if based on sheer volume of responses alone.

Also, my deepest sympathies to Warren Kinsella. According to the Blogging Tories, he suffers from “subconscious leakage.” I didn’t read the details, but it sounds bad. It sounds like the kind of thing that afflicts one in every ten Canadians. I’m considering organizing a charity golf tournament to help find a cure. On behalf of the entire Liblogs community, Warren, our thoughts are with you.

Filed under: Oh, Canada

In the Spirit of Canceling the Kelowna Accord

Ottawa considering turning grants into loans for aboriginal students: Free Press

WINNIPEG — The federal government is considering turning university grants for aboriginal students into repayable loans.The Winnipeg Free Press said in a report from Ottawa that Patricia Valladao, spokeswoman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, confirmed the Post-Secondary Student Support Program is under review.  

She wouldn’t say if the department has decided to transfer control of $314 million in student grants for First Nations university and college students to the existing Canada Student Loans Program, administered by provinces.

The review is worrying some aboriginal leaders and university officials across the country.

One Quebec-based aboriginal group, the First Nations Education Council, is circulating a web-based petition against any changes. More than 13,000 supporters have signed it since its launch online Nov. 13.

Statistics Canada reported this month that the employment rate for aboriginal people who have not graduated high school is 50 per cent, but it jumps to 80 per cent for those with a post-secondary education.

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg, said fewer aboriginal students will go to university or college if they have to apply for a loan.

According to the 2006 census by Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of the aboriginal population had graduated from a trade, college or university program, compared to 51 per cent of the general Canadian population.

“The gap is actually widening over the last couple of years,” Axworthy said. “Before they change the policy, I really think there has to be and should be a much broader consultation with the universities and with the aboriginal student groups and others to come up with a formula that really makes sense, as opposed to one that’s going to be designed inside the system.”

University of Winnipeg student Ryan Bruyere graduated from the aboriginal governance program this summer. He said he was funded by Sagkeeng First Nation, 145 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, because they could see he was determined to improve his life despite a troubled past.

“You just won’t get that through a bureaucrat,” Bruyere said. “They’re looking at us as numbers, whereas we’re (now) being looked at as community members.”

Before attending university, Bruyere was involved in petty crime. Now he’s considering a master’s program.

Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavan Fontaine said the real issue of underfunding will not be addressed by transferring funds to a loan agency.

“Why should you pay back a loan for something that is a right? We’ve paid many times over for our rights and resources.”

“Off-loading to the province is dangerous,” Fontaine added. “Our treaties are not with the province.”

Education is a treaty right, but the Indian Act makes no reference to training at the post-secondary level.

For that reason, the federal government often argues that support for post-secondary education is a matter of public policy rather than a treaty obligation.

Gilbert Whiteduck, chief of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation 130 kilometres north of Hull, Que., said Ottawa justifies the change by claiming First Nations abuse the grant by diverting student funds toward other reserve programs such as emergency housing.

“Those are tough choices, when Indian Affairs does not provide those basic needs at a level that would meet the needs of First Nations and the growing family,” Whiteduck said. “I don’t buy at all into their criticism of mismanagement to the level that they claim.”

Status First Nations and Inuit people hold constitutional treaty rights granting them access to federal funding for education. The money is distributed by individual bands, but no student is guaranteed sponsorship.

In a 2008 report, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation says aboriginal students prefer grant-based education funding through their bands to repayable financial assistance. They see it as a constitutional right, the report stated.

Indian Affair’s Valladao said there’s no date yet for completing the review.

“All options have been considered,” Valladao said. “We believe that First Nations students deserve the access to education. And we encourage them to stay in school, and to graduate and to give them all the skills they need to enter the labour market.”



Filed under: Oh, Canada

A Sad Day

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. Only weeks before the fighting began, I stood at the top of a mountain in the Golan Heights, overlooking the Israeli-Lebanese border. Just over a month after I left Israel and returned home, the fighting began. Despite having studied Israeli politics sine grade school and having family and friends in the country, it provides a new perspective to see the border up close; to live in the communities under siege by Hamas attacks (if only for a few days). 

Nearly 200 Palestinians have already been declared dead an more than 300 injured after Israel launched its most significant military attack on Gaza since capturing the narrow strip of land in 1967’s Six Day War. Rather than launch a smaller, surgical strike, approximately 60 planes were involved as more than 100 targets were hit. According to a Palestinian source quoted in Haaretz, 40 targets were destroyed within a span of three to five minutes.

To put this in context, it is not a one-sided escalation. The Israeli action comes in response to Hamas’ decision to end a ceasefire last week. In a single day last week, Hamas fired approximately 80 missiles and mortars at Israel. On Friday, about a dozen were fired, including one that accidentally struck a Palestinian home in northern Gaza, killing two Palestinian children aged five and thirteen. 

Both Israeli and Palestinian civilians live in fear. Too often, the media’s simplistic depictions of a horribly complex situation leave people with the impression that either the Palestinian people are helpless victims or that Israeli military intervention is necessary. The reality is that both are true. The majority of Palestinians are stuck in the middle between an Israeli government attempting to defend itself and terrorist organizations from within the Palestinian territories whose interests lie in ensuring that no peace is ever reached between the two sides.

With Hamas promising escalation, there is no certainty as to how many more people will lose their lives on both sides of this dispute. Each lost life further cements the resolve of another family. The blood that has already been shed in this battle could fill an ocean, and the last thing that it needs is more. 

I believe that Israel was warranted in defending itself and I will not be so presumptuous as to question their military tactics – they are made by experts with a better understanding of the nature of warfare than I will ever have. But warranted or not, too much blood has been shed.

Filed under: Across the Pond

Back to Bush?

As President Bush gets ready for his final curtain call, it seems brother Jeb is considering a second act to his own political career.

Jeb Bush poised for Florida Senate run
By: Amie Parnes 
December 26, 2008 08:20 PM EST
As Caroline Kennedy pursues her bright-lights, big-city bid for the U.S. Senate, another child of dynasty is quietly testing the waters for his own Senate run. 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — the son of one president and the brother of another — has been working the phones since Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) announced earlier this month that he won’t seek reelection in 2010. Sources say Bush hasn’t made up his mind about running for Martinez’ seat, but that he’s getting green lights from would-be contributors and blessings from Republican Party leaders. 

Strategists and political observers take it as a sign that Bush will run. 

“Everything indicates that he’s in,” said David Johnson, a Republican strategist and the CEO of Strategic Vision. “You’re not making calls and laying the ground work for fundraising unless you’re clearing the field for your candidacy.” 

Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida and an expert on Florida politics, said Bush’s phone calls around the state are “a good sign” that he could be jumping in the race, something that she says is “music to the ears of Florida Republicans.” 

“Nothing could have come at a better time,” MacManus said. “Republicans here in Florida were so down after the election. The mere mention of Jeb’s potential Senate run has put Republicans in a much more festive holiday mood.” 

Still, those who know Jeb Bush best say there’s just no telling what he’ll decide.

While Jeb’s last name would presumably not be a hindrance for him in a Republican seat in Florida, one has to wonder what his plans are. I don’t for a second believe that Jeb would make the move to join the Senate unless he thought a Presidential bid was a real possibility. As toxic as the Bush name is right now, Jeb could be hoping that Obama stumbles out of the gate. With s listless GOP that is desperate for a saviour without one in sight (that’s right, Sarah Palin, I’m talking to you), Jeb could be hoping to swoop in and steal one (were it not for his brother’s legacy, a Jeb-led party would make the electoral college math a bit more interesting with an almost guaranteed win in Florida.

Filed under: Damn Yankees