Monday, February 28, 2011

Reviewing the (new) Conservative TV spots

The Conservatives have come out with two new ads; one I  like a lot, the other less so.

Let's start with the ad I think works very well:



This ad works because, unlike other Tory attack ads, it sticks to issues and doesn't go after Michael Ignatieff's character.

Plus, rather than taking on a bunch of issues it focuses on one main idea: Ignatieff wants to raise taxes. It then reinforces the message with a few strong examples in a visually interesting way.

It also helps advance the Tory narrative about the Liberals wanting to force an unwanted election.

This is the kind of ad that will both motivate the Conservative base and drive down the Liberal numbers with casual voters.

Score: 8 out of 10.

The next ad is more positive and less effective.




You get the feeling the Tories just put this together to offset criticism about all their negative stuff.

Anyway, this ad is pure saccharine hokiness. Kind of stuff that makes jaded, cynical observers (aka me) want to puke.

That's not to say hokey can't work in politics, it certainly can work, but  not in this particular ad.

The biggest problem with the spot is its narrator: Prime Minister Harper.

After all, let's face it, Harper is a competent leader and a smart tactician, but a great communicator, he aint.

Harper just can't connect with voters on an emotional level; he doesn't inspire people. In short, he is no Ronald Regan.

So why play to your weakness? Why have Harper narrate the ad? Why not go with a professional announcer?

Plus as the narrator Harper can't brag about himself! This makes the ad somewhat flat.

And finally, there is just too much feel good pontificating before you get to the actual gist of the ad: Things are OK don't mess things up.

The message, in short, gets lost in the all the feel-good flag waving.

Score: 5 out of 10.

Reviewing the NDP TV spot

This is the NDP's new TV spot; it's not all that imaginative, but it does serve the party's strategic needs.



Content-wise the ad takes a populist rather than socialist stance. In fact, with its attack on "insiders" and "lobbyists", it starts off sounding almost like an American Tea Party ad!

This makes sense given I believe the NDP's communications strategy will be to achieve three aims:

1.To calm jitters about the party's socialist agenda by  playing up the idea that the NDP is really about standing up for "little guy".

2. To remind voters that Jack Layton is the NDP leader

3. To show Canadians the NDP wants to get its message out in a positive manner.

This is last point is the most important because the next election should erupt into a no-holds-barred blood feud between the Liberals and Conservatives, with each side whacking the other with increasingly negative spots.

This leaves room for the NDP to position themselves as the good guys, the guys who are staying clean and who are talking about issues.

In short, the New Democrat strategy will be to say: "If you are sick of all the negative stuff, come to us we are the positive alternative."

Not a bad idea. And this ad helps frame that strategic narrative.

My only quibble is the ad lacks a visual reinforcement of the message. It should, for instance, have the key points appear as words on the screen. Also would have been nice to see Layton move around a bit, give the spot some motion.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Media update: Election and Oda

A couple of media notes.

First, I am quoted in this Ottawa Hill Times article on the prospects of a federal election this spring.

Plus, today the Winnipeg Free Press published a letter to the editor I wrote on the Kairos affair in response to this column by Frances Russell:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Frances Russell is correct to castigate the federal government for its clumsy handling of the Kairos affair (Religion underlies battle over Oda, Feb. 23).

However, she is wrong to suggest only evangelical Christians oppose funding advocacy groups.

In fact, Canadians of all denominations would likely oppose using tax dollars to subsidize such groups, especially at a time when the country faces a massive deficit.

This is not about religion, it's about common sense. Advocacy groups should not grind their axes with our taxes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Standing with Scott

There's a battle going on in Wisconsin to see who runs the state, the people or big union bosses.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest today at 1:45 PM ET on the Michael Harris Show, (CFRA Ottawa) to discuss federal political issues.

Bragging about spending

In what seems an awful lot like a pre-election blitz, Conservative Cabinet Ministers and MPs are fanning out across the country to brag about all the government spending entailed in the "Economic Action Plan".

That's the plan remember that burdened Canada with a massively huge deficit.

And while they are at it, Tory MPs will also announce about $261 million in new spending initiatives.

Nothing new about this, of course.

Politicians have been bribing voters with their own money since the days of Ancient Rome. (Vote for Quintus and get a new Colosseum.)

However, let's be clear exactly what the Tories are crowing about.

All their spending will mean:

* Bigger deficits, more national debt.

* Future taxes on our children

* More public investment at the expense of private investment

* Less money for Canadians to spend as they see fit

*  Bigger government

* A resurrection of Keynesian mythology

When you look at it that way, maybe instead of bragging, the Conservatives should be apologizing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best US President

Yesterday was President's Day in the U.S., so here a day late, is a column I wrote a few years ago on the man I consider the best president of all time.

****************************

Who was the best U.S. president of all time?

Ask that question and you might get answers like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or maybe Thomas Jefferson.

But Lawrence Reed, who heads up an American think tank known as the Foundation for Economic Education, would have a different answer.

I recently heard Reed deliver a speech at a conference in Michigan where he made the case that America’s best all time president was actually Grover Cleveland.

My first reaction on hearing that was, Grover who?

And then my American history class from high school kicked in. Grover Cleveland, I recalled, is the answer to a trivia question: he is the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms.

He served as America’s president from 1885–1889 and then again from1893–1897. But that’s not what Reed liked about Cleveland. It turns out Cleveland was one of America’s most honest presidents and also one of its most principled believers in economic freedom.

His honesty, in fact, was well known to Cleveland’s contemporaries.

An editorial in the New York World which endorsed Cleveland for the presidency in 1884, gave four reasons to support him: “1. He’s an honest man. 2. He’s an honest man. 3. He’s an honest man. 4. He’s an honest man.”

And it was this honesty which formed the foundation for his political convictions. As Reed noted, Cleveland felt it dishonest for “the government to spend more than it had and send its bills to future generations.

So he always worked to produce a balanced budget. He even felt it was dishonest for government to run a large surplus — ‘ruthless extortion,’ he called it — because it was a sign that government had taken more from the people than it needed.

 And it was dishonest, he felt, for government to think it could spend money better than the people who first earned it.

That’s why Cleveland was also opposed to high tariffs. In his view it was dishonest for the government to promote an economic policy that harmed consumers and which bestowed special privileges to politically-connected business leaders.

And so determined was Cleveland to control government spending that he vetoed twice as many bills as all previous 21 presidents combined. Sometimes that forced him to make tough decisions. In 1887, for instance, he vetoed a bill to provide $10,000 in relief to Texas farmers whose crops had been wiped out by drought.

To justify this decision Cleveland declared, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people." 

Grover believed private charities, not government, should support the people. And, indeed, in this case that’s what happened. A newspaper appealed to its readers and raised the $10,000 to help the Texas farmers buy new seed. Of course, being honest and principled and keeping government small doesn’t make for exciting history, which is perhaps why Cleveland is largely forgotten today. And that’s too bad.

Certainly America, and for that matter Canada, could use a politician like Cleveland who put principle and conviction ahead of political gain.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shameless, self-promoting media whoring alert

I am scheduled to appear on CFAX radio, this afternoon at 12:10 ET to discuss Bev Oda and the latest poll numbers.

Government spending in nots

The Fraser Institute calculates that in order to balance the budget, the federal government needs to slash spending by about $16 billion.

A big task.

In fact, cutting spending that much would be the equivalent of denying Kairos any funding every year for the next 2,285 years!

That's a lot of "nots".

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Accountability in schools

If you care about the state of education in this country, then I would strongly urge you to attend the Society for Quality Education's upcoming seminar on school accountability.

To be held on April 26th, in Toronto, the seminar will discuss such questions as whether or not public schools are accountable, if accountability helps students perform better academically and how exactly do you measure accountability in schools.

The seminar will also include the Canadian premier showing of the controversial film, The Cartel.

Speakers for the event include: businessman, author, Theo Caldwell,  former Education Minister, John Snobelen, and Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

(I will also be there moderating one of the panels.)

So it should be quite an interesting day, on an issue that truly matters.

Note -If you register before March 31st, you get a discount.

Hope to see you there. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CTF Debt Clock

One of the hardest things to do in politics is whip up public interest in the National Debt.

I know, I've tried.

The problem is that although our crushing national debt is a serious fiscal problem, it's also a largely abstract problem.

You can't see the National Debt; it's negative impact on the economy isn't readily apparent; and as far as public policy issues go, unless you're an economist, the debt just isn't all that sexy.

Plus politicians usually have a short-term incentive to fatten the national debt with deficit spending.

After all, it's easier to brag about "stimulus" spending than it is to reduce the deficit.

That's why I am glad to see the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is making an effort to visualize the problem for Canadians with its "National Debt Clock."

Check it out and watch the debt numbers on the chronometer whiz by at warp speed.

It's depressing but it also brings home the message in a powerful way that government spending is out of control.

That's a warning Canadians need to hear loud and clear.

So help the CTF get out the word.

Pass Debt Clock along to your friends and donate a few dollars to the CTF.

Let's put the Debt Clock numbers in reverse.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I liked Goldwater

I am reading the late Barry Goldwater's autobiography and came across his reasons for seeking political office.

Here's what the former US Senator and one-time Presidential candidate wrote:

"I had little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I meant to reduce it in size. I did not undertake to promote welfare, for I proposed to extend freedom. My aim was not to pass laws but to repeal them. It was not to inaugurate new programs but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden ... and if were later to be attacked for neglecting my constituent's interests, I would reply that I had been informed that their main interest was liberty and in that cause I was doing the very best I could."

That's what a true conservative sounds like.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The lesson of Oda

The whole Bev Oda scandal could have been avoided if the Conservative Party simply had more confidence in conservatism.

Just imagine, for instance, if Oda had stood up in the House of Commons months ago and emphatically stated she was denying Kairos any government funds for one simple reason: it's wrong to use tax dollars to subsidize a private church group.

That's how a conservative would handle it.

Yes, denying Kairos funds in this manner would have triggered outrage from the Left, the media and the rest of the chattering classes.

But so what?

After all, that's what politics should be about -- debate.

And besides, the Conservatives could have easily won the PR battle on this. I doubt very much if the average Canadian voter wants to see his tax dollars funneled into some left-wing religious organization, especially given the country is burdened with a monstrous deficit.

But no, rather than taking an ideological stand the Conservatives tried to pass the buck by suggesting bureaucrats were against funding Kairos, even when that wasn't the case.

I guess they figured this would mute dissent.

If that's the case they sure miscalculated. The issue being debated now isn't about Kairos or about the wisdom of it receiving government funding, now the debate is all about the Tories blatantly undermining the integrity of the House of Commons.

That's a PR battle the Tories will lose.

And it all happened because for some reason the Conservatives don't want to be seen as too conservative or too ideological.

That's too bad.

Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true."

That's a lesson the Conservatives should take to heart.

Maybe it's time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to forget the PR gurus, forget the consultants and forget the spin doctors -- maybe it's time for Harper to simply act and govern like a true conservative.

 Harper should be Harper.

Media Alert X 2

I am scheduled to do interviews today, one on The Michael Harris Show (CFRA Radio) at 1:45 PM ET, the other on the CHCH TV show "Square off" at 5:30 PM ET.

Topic: Bev Oda.

Here's a preview of my views:

Should Oda be fired: Yes

Will Oda be fired: No

Will the Oda affair have any lasting political ramifications: Probably not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

De-constructing the cabinet

The Opposition wants Bev Oda, the Minister of International Co-operation, to resign because she doctored a document.

The first thought that struck me when I heard this story was, "Why do we even need a Minister of International Co-operation?"

I mean what is the purpose of this ministry? To get Canada to co-operate with the world? To get other countries to co-operate with each other? To urge more international co-operation when it comes to co-operating?

OK, I am just joking.

I actually know the real purpose of this Ministry is to perform the important and necessary function of giving a politician a nice paying job.

But anyway, the Oda story got me thinking about other federal cabinet posts and if we could eliminate any of them for the purpose of making government smaller.

So I did some research while waiting for my toast to pop and came up with the following list of cabinet posts that should be abolished:

* Ministry of Public Safety
Wasn't this what they once called the KGB?.

* Public Works
Actually that's probably is a misprint. It should read "Public Porks"

* International Trade
Seems to me international trade existed for centuries before this post was invented.

* Citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism
Otherwise known as the "Recruiting immigrants to support our party department"

* Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Main purpose is to figure out inventive ways to finance arenas in Quebec.

* Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
Manages to waste tax dollars in both French and English.

* Sport
Organizes tail gate parties for party donors.

* Chief government whip
Not a figure of speech. I think somebody actually wields a whip!

And in order to ensure there is no regional bias when tax money is squandered in vote-buying splurges we have the following ministries:.

* Western economic diversification

* Science and technology, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario 

* Economy Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec 

Of course, I don't expect any of these posts to ever be eliminated.

But a guy can dream, can't he?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A win for freedom

Sometimes you can fight City Hall.

Just ask Marta and Lech Jaworski, a courageous couple who took on a bunch of bullying municipal bureaucrats and won.

Here's the back story:

For the past ten years the Jaworskis have allowed their son, Peter, to use their rural Ontario property to host the Liberty Summer Seminar, one of the premier libertarian/conservative events in Canada.

Never had a problem.

But last year, acting on an anonymous complaint, officials from the Municipality of Clarington claimed by hosting the LSS the Jaworskis had violated an obscure zoning by-law.

The charge carried with it a staggering $50,000 fine.

The Jaworskis, who were barely making ends meet, would have been ruined.

When they tried to talk reason with local officials the only advice the mayor could give was they should “beg for mercy.”

Well, the Jaworskis, who escaped from Communist Poland, didn't do "begging" . They decided, instead, to fight back.

And fortunately, they soon had the support of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, an excellent organization that mounts legal challenges to defend individual liberty.

The CCF argued by banning the LSS, the Clarington authorities were infringing on the right to free assembly.

It was a good argument. So good, in fact, the charges against the Jaworskis were dropped. Read about the case here.

This story provides two key lessons.

First, sometimes the best way to stand up for freedom is just to show a willingness to fight. Bureaucrats and politicians often don't expect us to fight for our rights. And when we do, they will sometimes back off.

Second, it's important to have organizations out there that care about promoting and protecting conservative values, organizations like the CCF.

Please contribute to this worthy organization.

There are a lot of battles yet to be won.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scaring the voters

As far as outward appearances go our federal party leaders -- Conservative Stephen Harper, Liberal Michael Ignatieff, New Democrat Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois Gilles Duceppe --- don’t seem all that scary.

 Indeed if you didn’t know they were party leaders, you might think they were harmless, geeky, middle aged philosophy professors.

Yet when the next election rolls around an army of consultants, spin doctors, ad guys and pollsters will work day and night coming up with imaginative ways to make voters believe each leader is actually the stuff of nightmares.

When they are finished this is how each leader will likely be defined:

Stephen Harper
Harper is a heartless, mean-spirited, bully who likes to drown endangered animals in toxic tar sands, plus he is harboring a dangerous “hidden agenda” that will include installing the Taliban as head of Canada’s cultural agencies; forcing women to join convents and re-militarizing the Rhineland.

Michael Ignatieff
Ignatieff hates Canada. In fact, he hates Canada so much he actually left the country to live and work in a foreign land, where he picked up all sorts of treacherous and foreign ideas. Now he’s back to contaminate our country with his foreign-inspired book-learning ways. He must be stopped!

Jack Layton
Don’t let the socialist fa├žade fool you. Layton is no friend of the working man. He is actually Harper/Ignatieff’s best friend. A vote for Layton is actually a vote for Harper/Ingatieff. Every vote for Layton brings Canada closer to rule by Capitalist Robber Barons/A Communist Coalition. Be afraid!

Gilles Duceppe
Duceppe is a traitor of the Quebec Nation. After all, every riding in the province that supports Duceppe, will lose out on the usual disproportionate amount of federal pork that’s doled out to Quebec in order to buy votes. Duceppe is denying Quebec’s its rightful plunder!

So those are your choices in the next election.

Vote wisely.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vintage Gerry: Romancing the left

For those of you who think my criticisms of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his lack of conservatism is some sort of new agenda, let me direct you to an article I wrote  way back in 1999. And yes, that's when Harper was my boss and he approved the text.

Romancing the Left

Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark recently provided a dramatic illustration of what's wrong with the political right in Canada today.

It happened when the former Prime Minister waded into a mob of angry left-wing activists who were in Ottawa to protest poverty (is anyone in favor of poverty?). Clark's plan was to assure this group - really nothing but a bunch of socialist rabble-rousers - that he too was concerned about poverty and homelessness, that yes the Liberals were not spending enough on social programs and that Tories really did have a heart.

And you know, the protesters gave him a big hand - but unfortunately for Clark they wanted to wrap it around his throat. Indeed, had it not been for the presence of some police officers, the Tories might have had another unexpected vacancy in their leadership.

The lesson from this little incident is crystal clear: conservative politicians have no business trying to win over a political element that's antagonistic to everything conservatism is supposed to stand for. It's not that conservatives are from Mars and socialists are from Venus; it's that their from different ideological galaxies.

Yet that hasn't stopped certain conservative leaders from obsessively wooing the left. We've got Reform Party leader Preston Manning bargaining his party's principles for a United Alternative; Ontario Conservative Premier Mike Harris eagerly throwing buckets of tax dollars at our socialistic health care monopoly; and Joe Clark . . . well Joe Clark just being Joe Clark.

And why are these leaders doing all this? Well, these love-starved political Romeos seem to have this Harlequin romance-like notion that ideological opposites should somehow magically attract. Just as the Lion will one day lay down with the lamb, left wingers could one day vote for parties of the right. And to help the process along a bit, conservative leaders are more than willing to engage in a little political flirtation even if that means shedding their conservative policy attire and slipping into something a little sexier, a little hipper, a little lefter.

Underlying the conservative courtship strategy, of course, is the belief that leftists go for the sensitive, compassionate types. So it's goodby Margaret Thatcher; hello Alexa McDonough. If the left wants compassion, conservative leaders will give them compassion. And if you look in the official politicians' handbook you will find "compassion" defined as "spending lots of other people's tax dollars so that you can feel good about yourself." Do it in an election and this tactic is called "compassioneering."

But actually it's just a political adaptation of an age old dating strategy: impress the political left with a big expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant, and hope to get lucky later on in the voting booth.

Will it work? Not a chance. Let's face it, the conservatives have as much chance of winning over left-wingers as Don Cherry has of being named honorary captain of the Swedish national hockey team. After all, why should lefty types ever support conservatives? If they want socialism they will go for the real thing and vote NDP or maybe Liberal.

Meanwhile forgotten in this seamy little scenario are the conservative voters in this country, those Canadians who believe in things like smaller government, and free enterprise and who are working too hard paying their tax bills to waste any time marching with placards around Parliament Hill. Doesn't anybody care about them? Have they been jilted?

Maybe, for now. But watch. When the next election comes around conservative leaders, will return home, flowers in hand, thinking they can sweet talk those dependable conservative voters into taking them back.

And conservative voters would take them back if they were a bunch of Hillary Clinton clones who would put up with anything for the sake of power. But they aren't. Conservatives are more like a self-respecting wife: they have values, they have principles and they have little patience for those who would discard them.

That's why when the political types, tired of romancing the left, come tiptoing home in the middle of the night, conservative voters will be waiting for them, curlers in their hair and a rolling pin in their hands.

Left wing bullies undermine democracy

Yesterday a bunch of communist thugs stormed a meeting of the Toronto City Council budget committee.

They disrupted the proceedings with chants, they assaulted and  insulted police officers, they showed complete disdain for the democratic process.

So what does the media focus its attention on? The unruly protesters?

Nope.

What made headlines is that Doug Ford, the committee vice-chair, told the left wing goons to "get a job."

Now, for me the only problem with Ford's comment was its unoriginality, I mean "get a job" is so 1960s. Plus I doubt anyone would hire the placard waving idiots who invaded City Hall.

Yet, for the media the quip overshadowed the actual protests.

And this illustrates the problem with the media and just generally with the political establishment.

They will rant and rave over the "bullying" of the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa, but all too often they will look the over way when the Left uses tactics of intimidation, threats and even violence.

Perhaps this is because they sympathize with some of the radical left's goals, or perhaps its because violent protests makes for good copy and television.

Who knows?

All I do know is that violence and bullyboy tactics have no place in a free and democratic society.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Economist on Harper

The Economist magazine has an interesting article on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which you should check out.

(And I am not pushing the article because I happened to be quoted in it.)

Media Alert

I am scheduled to appear on the CHCH TV news program, Square Off, this afternoon at 5:30 PM.

Topic: Arenas and government waste.

Canada needs more Berniers

Check out my column in today's Ottawa Citizen in which I analyse the politics of controversial Conservative MP Maxime Bernier.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Here's why a Tory majority is in the cards

I have a column in this week's Ottawa Hill Times, in predicting a Conservative majority victory, if an election is held this spring.

It's reproduced below:

2011 to  mark true beginning of Harper Dynasty
At the beginning of the year I boldly predicted in the National Post that the federal Conservatives would trigger an election this spring.

Nothing has happened since then to cause me to change my mind. Indeed, if anything every day brings fresh evidence that a federal election is near.

This has emboldened me to climb a little further out onto my forecasting limb.

After much pondering, I have come to the conclusion that if we do have a federal election this spring, the result will be a Conservative majority.

Now I realize this forecast goes against conventional political wisdom.

Many pundits, using current public opinion polls as evidence, are arguing no party currently has enough voter support to win a majority.

Columnist Lorne Gunter has written, “Party standings would probably end the campaign at more or less their current levels. There is almost certainly no majority available to any party.”

And former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella has declared, “Harper is still far from a majority.”

Really?

Gunter and Kinsella are forgetting one simple fact: Canadians are not yet politically engaged.

The Liberals recently released a poll, for instance, which showed only 15 percent of Canadians are even paying attention to federal politics. (By the way, that’s completely normal.

The average person rarely cares about the goings on in Ottawa. They would rather watch American Idol than The National. And who can blame them?)

But once an election is actually called Canadians will get focused on politics. They will start paying attention.

And what will these focused Canadians see when they start paying attention?
Well for one thing they will see a Prime Minister in Stephen Harper who is at the peak of his political powers.

A battle-hardened veteran of three national election campaigns and two leadership races,

Harper is a wily political tactician who leads a united, well-disciplined and wealthy party.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are in a sorry state.

Their leader, Michael Ignatieff, is intelligent but a rookie when it comes to running a national campaign. He has only one national race under his belt, a Liberal leadership contest, which he lost.

Nor has he shown any evidence that he is a good campaigner or that he possesses good political instincts or that he can come up with a message that will resonate with Canadians.

His party is also demoralized and cash-poor.

In short, in the next election Ignatieff will have a hard enough time rallying his own

Liberal base, let alone winning over undecided voters.

In other words, on paper at least, the Harper vs Ignatieff contest could be the biggest mismatch since General Custer took on Sitting Bull.

And let’s not forget the Conservatives only need a net gain of 12 seats to win a majority.

That’s absolutely doable.

All things considered, the Conservatives should gain seats in Danny Williams-less Newfoundand and will very likely win back the one seat they lost in Alberta in 2008.

But I’m guessing it’s in “voter-rich” Ontario where the Conservatives will really make their majority-guaranteeing electoral breakthrough.

Political conditions in that province are just right for major Tory gains.

Last year’s emotion-laden debate over the gun registry, for instance, should help the Conservatives immensely when it comes to taking some Opposition-held Ontario rural ridings.

And even Ontario’s urban ridings are ripe for the Tory taking.
Consider how the Conservatives handily won the recent by-election in Vaughn.

Plus the victory of conservative Rob Ford in the Toronto Mayor race shows even the up until now Tory-resistant GTA might be ready to turn blue.

Helping the Conservatives is that Ontarians are growing tired of Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and thus will be in the mood to vote against any Liberal, provincially or federally.

For all these reasons a Conservative majority seems to be in the cards.

Mind you, the preceding analysis assumes the Tories will run a good, tactically sound campaign, and I concede that’s a mighty big assumption.

Never underestimate the ability of Conservatives to mess things up.

However, all things being equal, we should expect 2011 to mark the true beginning of the Harper dynasty.

How will Prime Minister Harper govern after he wins a majority?

That’s something even I can’t predict.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest on the Charles Adler Show today at 2:00 PM ET to discuss the curious case of Maxime Bernier.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Me on TV

In case you missed my appearance on Power Play this afternoon, you can catch it online here.

Topic: Maxime Bernier hero or villain?

War room run amok!

Check out my column which appears in today's Toronto Star, in which I dissect the recent Tory attack ads.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to do two interviews on the question of Maxime Bernier and Bill 101.

At around 5:00 PM ET, I will be on CTV's Power Play; then at 6:10 ET I will be on CFAX radio's Adam Stirling Show.

Why Harper should back Bernier

Quebec’s draconian anti-English language laws should embarrass every right-thinking Canadian.

Not only are they patently ridiculous – “language police” and their measuring the size of letters – but they clearly infringe on freedom of expression.

Simply put, in a truly free and democratic society, every individual should have the right to post signs in whatever language he or she chooses.

Yet, shamefully, Canada’s politicians, media and cultural elites all look the other way when it comes to the Quebec government's assault on language freedom.

Everyone it seems would rather pander to Quebec’s nationalistic sentiment, than stand up for what’s right.

One exception, however, is Conservative MP Maxime Bernier.

Bernier recently had the courage to say the obvious. Speaking on a radio program he said Quebec doesn’t need legislation to protect its language.


“Yes, it’s important that Quebec remain a predominantly French-language society," wrote Bernier. "And ideally, everyone in Quebec should be able to speak French. But we should not try to reach this goal by restricting people’s rights and freedom of choice.

"French will survive if Quebecers cherish it and want to preserve it; it will flourish if Quebec becomes a freer, more dynamic and prosperous society; it will thrive if we make it an attractive language that newcomers want to learn and use. Not by imposing it and by preventing people from making their own decisions in matters that concern their personal lives.”

Seems like a reasonable and principled position.

Yet, Bernier's comments have caused an uproar both in and out of Quebec.

Quebec politicians – from both the Liberal and Parti Quebecois – have basically labeled him a traitor, which says more about their shaky understanding of freedom than it does about Bernier.

Even worse, however, is the appalling reaction to Bernier’s comments from the federal Opposition parties.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to come out and denounce Bernier.

According to an Ignatieff spokesman, “Distancing isn’t good enough. Mr. Harper needs to be clear in denouncing Bernier’s comments. Or is this the real Conservative position being floated out the back door by a convenient spokesperson?”

Meanwhile, the socialist NDP has a similar view.

NDP MP, Thomas Mulcair, declared, “By musing about getting rid of these protections, Mr. Bernier is playing with fire in an effort to increase his own popularity with the hard right wing of his own party and it's a shame. For over 30 years a large degree of language peace has been achieved by a law that gives the right to receive consumer information in French, the right to work in French and the ability to ensure that immigrants who choose to come to Quebec will learn French first and foremost.”

Note, neither the Liberals nor the NDP seem to care about the rights of Quebec’s English-speakers. They seem to be OK with the idea of using state power to coerce people into learning a language or with charging people with a crime for simply using one of Canada’s official languages.

Oh and by the way, Quebec’s language laws also discriminate against French-speaking Quebeckers, making it harder for them to learn English.

Yet, the Liberals and NDP would still sacrifice a fundamental individual freedom for “language peace.” If this wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable.

I hope the Conservative government under Prime Minister Harper has the courage to back up Bernier on this matter.

Certainly, I know Stephen Harper agrees with Bernier.

Indeed, while he was president of the National Citizens Coalition, Harper helped to finance court challenges to Quebec’s language laws, including a case that involved the owners of an antique store who were charged with a crime because the French and English lettering on their business sign were the same size!!

I guess Ignatieff and Muclair would see this as a heinous crime.

Of course, it would probably be expecting too much for the Conservatives to steadfastly back Bernier  on something so controversial.

But I hope, they at least allow him to continue being a strong voice for freedom.

We need all the voices we can get.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Ronnie

Here's a column I wrote which appears in today's Calgary Herald.

******
Ronald Reagan's real achievement

Today marks the 100th anniversary of former American president Ronald Reagan's birth.

It's a time to remember Reagan and to celebrate his legacy.

And what a legacy.

Reagan helped turn a sour U.S. economy around, he helped win the Cold War, he assembled a winning political coalition, he restored American pride.


Many, in fact, consider him to be one of America's greatest all time presidents. (At least, conservatives view him that way.)


For me however, "The Gipper's" real success was not his economic policies or his foreign policy achievements.


For me it was how Reagan rebranded conservatism.


What do I mean?


Well before Reagan, conservatives were basically a dour lot.


And why not, everywhere they looked conservatism was losing ground.


Roosevelt's "New Deal" of the 1930s had ushered in the American welfare state, communism was on the march, taking over country after country, right-wing Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater got crushed in the 1964 election, the '60s Cultural Revolution was seemingly undermining America's morality and strength.


For conservatives, it was obvious -- the unstoppable trend toward "liberalism", was causing a slow, steady and inevitable American decline.


Hope was lost.


How could the U.S., with its "Age of Aquarius" generation ever hope to compete with the disciplined Soviets?


Pessimism reigned supreme.


Conservative thinkers were turning out books with uplifting titles like Suicide of the West.


Even those defying American liberalism did so defensively -- famed intellectual William F. Buckley, for instance, launched the conservative National Review saying the magazine would stand "athwart history, yelling stop."


Hardly a rallying cry.


By the 1970s things were only getting worse: the Watergate scandal, the military loss in Vietnam, Jimmy Carter spreading his own malaise in the White House.


Then at what seemed conservatism's darkest hour, came Reagan.


Reagan, the former Hollywood actor, the former Democrat, did things that were unusual for conservatives in those days.


He actually smiled! He used humour! He reached to Americans with a conservative message that was positive.

Rather than bemoaning America's "decline", Reagan made the case that America was still great.
America, he said, just had to remember that its greatness rested on freedom, including economic freedom.

If government was made smaller and less intrusive, he argued, it would free up the individual to create prosperity and growth. Government, in other words, wasn't part of the solution, it was part of the problem.

As Reagan himself put it, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Suddenly, thanks to Reagan, conservatism went from being a philosophy for Captain Killjoys to a force for optimism.

Reagan's brand of conservatism didn't look back, it looked forward; it promised better things and a brighter future.

Not surprisingly, it was an outlook that resonated with the American people.

Not only did it propel Reagan to the White House, but it changed the dynamics of the American political scene.

Reagan put liberalism on the defensive.

But more importantly, his message inspired not only his American countrymen, but conservatives around the globe.

That's a lesson today's conservative leaders should remember.



© Calgary Herald 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A true conservative speaks

Former US president Ronald Reagan was born 100 years ago. So I am posting one of his most famous speeches, just in case you want to know what a real conservative leader sounds like.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Empire

Just got done reading a book about the fall of the Roman Empire and watching an old movie called The Fall of the Roman Empire.

So naturally that got me to thinking about the fall of Canada’s Political Empire, AKA the Liberal Party of Canada.

Like Rome, the Liberal Party once seemed invincible and all powerful, but again like Rome it had inherent hidden weaknesses that inevitably led to decline and fall.

So why is the Liberal Party in decline?

Well after exhaustive research that took about 25 seconds, I have come up with 10 reasons the Liberals are in trouble.

Here they are:

  1. They Keep Picking Bad Leaders
    Why do the Liberals keep picking stiffs? And I am talking about all the way back to John Turner. Remember him? Hard to imagine a leader more stiff and awkward than Turner. Even Jean Chretien – essentially just a small town politician --was no great shakes. Yes, I know he won three majorities in a row, but he benefited from the disastrous inability of the Opposition to mount any kind of effective challenge. Even then Chretien’s success resulted from basically winning every seat in Ontario. Outside Ontario the Liberals were weak and Chretien did nothing to improve that situation. Since Chretien, of course, things have only gotten progressively worse. Paul Martin, whom the media had acclaimed as Canada’s next Liberal Caesar, was a bust. Weak and inarticulate when speaking off the cuff, Martin seemingly had no other goal than simply being Prime Minister. After that, he had nothing. His successor, Stephan Dion was quite possibly the worst Liberal leader of all time. Enough said. And now there’s Michael Ignatieff, a charisma-free academic with all the political instincts of a seasick turtle. And the fact that the Liberals acclaimed Ingatieff as their leader speaks volumes.

  2. Bad Issues
    One of my theories of politics is you shouldn’t talk too much about specific issues. As soon as a party takes a specific stand, it immediately drives away support. The Liberals don’t seem to get this. They keep coming up with some dopey idea guaranteed to hurt them in the polls. Remember the National Day Care Plan? Or worse, Dion’s infamous “Green Tax.”  Sure these ideas sounded great when they bounced them off Liberal donors at the wine and cheese parties in Toronto, but in the real world they just fall flat.

  3. Changes in Quebec
    Once upon a time the Liberals won elections basically because they won a ton of seats in Quebec. That’s because for a long time the Liberals were really the only option. Tories were about as rare in Quebec as Hollywood celebrities at a Ricky Gervais fan club meeting. But after the Adscam scandal Conservatives started making inroads in Quebec. Even more damaging for the Liberals, however, was the emergence of the Bloc Quebecois. Suddenly the Liberals faced opponents on two-fronts and they have never been the same since

  4. Changes in Quebec 2
    The problem the Liberals face in Quebec is not just tactical, it’s also ideological. Simply put, the old Liberal notion of centralizing power in Ottawa – popular in Ontario – just doesn’t sell anymore in Quebec. For Quebeckers the political rallying cry is now “Quebec first, Canada second.”  The Tories with their “decentralizing bent” can co-exist with that mentality and the Bloc, of course, embodies it. For the Liberals, on the other hand it’s a dead end.

  5. The City Syndrome
    The Liberals are most comfortable in big urban areas – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver. But take them out of that environment and they become more uncomfortable than Don Cherry at a poetry-reading seminar. They just can’t relate to rural Canadians, whom they equate with bible-thumping, gun-toting, redneck barbarians. The Liberal strategy, I guess, is to hope the CBC can bring some semblance of "civilization" to these hinterlands.

  6. Money
    Money is the lifeblood of politics, and the Liberals desperately need a transfusion. New political donation laws which limit what donors can contribute to political parties has severely crippled the Liberal ability to raise money. Before these limits were imposed the Liberal Party relied on donations from wealthy corporations, which gave the Liberals the ability to denounce wealthy corporations. Now they are forced to rely more on grassroots support. That's hardly a Liberal strength. If you ask a Liberal about the grassroots and he will probably refer you to his landscaper. Oh and when the public political subsidy is scrapped the Liberals might be raising money at garage sales. Anybody want to buy Pierre Trudeau’s panama hat?
     
  7. Out of Power, Out of Luck
    The Liberals were never big on ideology, unless you count grasping for power at all costs as an ideology. They did what it took to win power. If that meant channeling Hugo Chavez and socialism, that was fine. And it that meant running to the right of the Reform Party, well that was OK too. Whatever worked. The problem is that approach attracted “Power People”. These were people who would be loyal to the Liberals so long as their were perks to be awarded or advertising contracts to clutch. When the Liberals lost power, they lost a lot of their friends.

  8. A new Sheriff in Town
    The Romans faced off against Germanic Barbarians and Huns. The Liberals have a bigger problem. They must face Stephen Harper. In all their history, the Liberals have never had to face an opponent like Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is intelligent, ruthless and calculating. And right now Harper is using all his power and all his skills to exploit to the fullest every Liberal weakness.  He wants the Liberals to fall down and not get up.

  9. The Future is Dim
    One characteristic of the Liberal dynasty in its heyday was its bench strength. You could always look at the Liberal party and identify three or four high caliber individuals who you could picture being Prime Minister. Not anymore. Who among the current batch of Liberals is Prime Minister material? Bob – “I nearly ruined Ontario’s economy” --Rae? Mark Holland, otherwise known as Mark Who? And, of course, there’s Justin Trudeau. Trudeau, of course, has the magic name. Too bad he can’t use that magic to make his kooky ideas disappear.

  10. Disappearing Brand Loyalty
    At one time Liberal loyalists were born not made. If you were a Catholic you voted Liberal. If you were an immigrant or the child of immigrants you voted Liberal. If you were French-Canadian or Italian or Jewish you voted Liberal. But those days are changing. Voters are getting savvier, more sophisticated and choosier about their options. In other words, the Liberals now have to work for their votes. And for the Liberals that’s a new experience. 

    ******************************
     
    So there you have my Edward Gibbon-style analysis of the Liberal downfall. Of course,unlike the Romans, the Liberals might turn things around. But let's face it, that doesn't seemly likely. More likely is that one day all that will be left of the once mighty Liberals are political ruins.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Defending the undefendable


Here's a letter to the editor I sent to the Toronto Star in response to a recent James Travers column which defended public subsidies for political parties.

Dear Sir/Madam:

James Travers has conjured up a stunningly bizarre argument to defend taxpayer subsidies for politicians. (“Harper risks national unity in bid to end political subsidies” January 29)

He maintains the millions of tax dollars poured into the wallets of the Bloc Quebecois actually safeguards national unity.

Or as he puts it, “There is no bigger bargain than channeling rogue and destructive forces into legitimate and constructive political practices.”

In other words, unless Canadians pay off Gilles Duceppe and his crew, the Quebec population might rise up in violent rebellion.

Wow and people accuse the Conservative Party of fear-mongering.

Traver’s argument is, of course, absurd.

If the Bloc is cut off from the public dole it can always ask for voluntary donations to make up the shortfall.

And that’s as it should be.

After all, when you force Canadians to subsidize a party they don’t support it infringes on their freedom of expression.

That's why it’s time to end welfare for politicians.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Taxing polls

QMI Media recently ran an article about a poll it commissioned which showed Canadians not only opposed the federal government's proposed corporate tax cut, but that they actually wanted to hit corporations with higher taxes.

Here's my response in a letter to the editor, which ran in today's paper:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Re “Poll: Tax breaks for rich tough sell” (Jan. 31): The news that a large number Canadians would support hiking corporate taxes is hardly surprising.

When given an option, people will always favour “somebody else” paying more in taxes. In fact, I suspect polls would also show Canadians would like “somebody else” to do a lot of things.

 “Somebody else” should do more to protect the environment; “somebody else” should bear the brunt of any government spending cuts; “somebody else” should pay for social programs.

 It’s just human nature.

That’s why a better poll question would be, “Would you support corporate tax cuts if they created more jobs and a more competitive Canadian economy?”

Maybe you could get such a poll paid for by “somebody else.”