Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Capitalists must stop being defensive

Here's my latest column from Report Magazine; I make the case that the people who must start defending capitalism are capitalists.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Police should do their job

What is it about strikes which make the police suddenly forget to do their job?

For instance, it's the duty of a police officer to ensure citizens can travel freely without fear of harassment or intimidation.

Yet, for some reason the police typically do nothing to stop such harassment and intimidation from taking place on a picket line.

A case in point is the current city-worker strike in Toronto. Strikers are hindering citizens from entering public spaces and the police won't do a thing about it except watch.

Police Const. Tony Vella says the cops are there to "keep the peace. They have to stay neutral."


By doing nothing to stop union-bullying the police are far from neutral. They are actually aiding and abetting union bosses who wish to hold taxpayers hostage.

That's wrong.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Winning the war of ideas

Non-Michael Jackson related news: I have a column in today's National Post based on a speech I gave yesterday at a Fraser Institute event.

It's about why Canadian conservatives must focus on asking themselves one simple question: Is it right?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Less pride, more sense

Joseph Ben Ami has a good column explaining why the federal government's decision to dole out $400,000 to gay pride week doesn't make political sense.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Preemptive apology

Congressman Offers Preemptive Apology For Extramarital Affair

H/T Paul Tuns

The state of garbage

The city of Toronto today is swarming with a specially trained elite government force officially known as the Tactical Trash Team.

To terrified city residents they are simply known as the dreaded“Triple T’s”

Fanatically loyal to their master, Commissar David Miller, the Triple Ts ruthlessly enforce Toronto’s Garbage Edict – which states “during the city worker strike, citizens shall dispose of garbage only in legal drop off zones, except in those cases where legal drop off zones are blocked by placard-wielding and nasty union types, in which case citizens are expected to keep all garbage in their living rooms.”

To prevent misguided citizens from breaking this edict the Triple T’s use their finely honed “rummaging” skills to root through contraband garbage, seeking clues which will lead them to the perpetrators.

A discarded banana peel, a used up toothpaste tube, an old David Miller for Mayor button – all these can be used to track down anti-social elements.

So beware Torontonians – anything you throw away can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Et tu Gerry

That red dot is me in front of Stratford's Avon Theatre.

Went to see Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

I love this play because it shows how a cunning politician -- in this case Mark Antony -- can whip up a crowd with the right emotional appeal.

Our leaders could learn a thing or two from guys like him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Political tapes

I see Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff are having secret meetings to see if they can work out a deal to avoid an election.

Sure would be interesting to know what they are saying to each other.

Of course, if the two leaders are accompanied by aides with tape recorders we are bound to find out sooner or later.

Playing political cards

When it comes to reacting to all the political posturing that's going on in Ottawa, pollster Nick Nanos has the best line: He called it a "game of poker where everyone's bluffing, but nobody's holding anything."

Liberty in the Summer

What's the best thing about summer?

Baseball, of course.

But without a doubt, the second-best thing about summer is the Liberty Summer Seminar.

In case you've never heard of it, the Summer Seminar is a great event that combines the bucolic outdoors of rural Ontario with the stimulating conversation of freedom.

There's also music and barbecues and swimming. (If you don't mind swimming in a pond.)

And the organizers always manage to attract fascinating speakers with this year's seminar, scheduled to take place on the July 25th weekend, being no exception.

Among those scheduled to speak are Conservative MP Scott Reid, the Cato Institutes's Will Wilkinson and Kerry Howley of Reason Magazine.

So don't miss out; register soon as spaces are limited.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why an election would be good

The only good thing about triggering an election this summer is that it would, as Kelly McParland put it, "put the stimulus program on hold indefinitely."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Leadership woes

As we wait for Michael Ignatieff to determine if the government's latest economic statement is socialist enough for his liking, we should take the time to ponder the current political strategic climate.

For instance, it seems both the Liberals and the Conservatives have the same glaring weakness: leadership.

Take the Liberals first. There's no doubt Ignatieff is an upgrade over Stephane Dion, but that's not saying much. Ignatieff is intelligent, but in an academic way, a kind of intelligence that doesn't take you very far in the blood sport known as politics.

It's not the kind of intelligence, for instance, possessed by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Chretien was no Rhodes Scholar, but he had a street fighter's cunning, an ability to sense an opponent's weakness and to exploit it without mercy.

Ignatieff seems to lack that killer instinct.

What's more Ignatieff is still a political novice, a rookie who has yet to have his leadership abilities tested in a national election campaign. Indeed, recall he actually lost to Dion in the 2006 Liberal leadership race.

Bottom line is, I could see this guy committing some major gaffes in a campaign pressure cooker environment.

But what about the Tories?

Well their leader, Stephen Harper, is smart and battle-tested. And indeed the Tories have always made Harper the centerpiece of their campaign messaging.

Simply put the Tory strategy was to say, "Hey vote for us because our leader Stephen Harper is a nice guy, who likes to play the piano and drink Tim Horton's coffee." This was the point of those infamous sweater vest TV ads.

I always though that was a bad strategy and now I know it's a bad strategy. A recent Nanos survey says that among Canadians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "twice as likely to be identified as a weakness than as a strength."

That's devastating news for the Conservatives.

It means selling Harper to Canadians in the next election will be about as smart as selling Canadian flags to Bloc Quebecois supporters. The Conservatives will need a completely new strategy and they will need one quick.

But what can the Tories say? They can't brag about their fiscal management, not with a $50 billion deficit and thanks to Raitt-gate even their competence is coming into question.

Anyway, I suspect both sides will ultimately employ the strategy political parties always use when they have leadership problems which is to go negative.

Boiled down the Liberal and Tory message will be: Maybe you don't like our guy, but the other guy is even worse.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Flanagan: Harper needs to rebuild reputation

Professor Tom Flanagan and I have had our disagreements in the past.

The former campaign manager for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Flanagan believed the Conservative Party needed to push "incremental" conservatism, whereas I took the position that the party should stress more of an aggressive conservative vision.

Anyway, it seems Flanagan and I are starting to sing from the same hymn book.

In an update of his book Harper's Team, he argues the Prime Minister needs to rebuild his reputation.

Flanagan writes there is now a widespread impression "that [Harper] stands for nothing in particular, except winning and keeping power” in Ottawa.

“This is a major loss for a political leader ... once seen as a man of conviction," writes Flanagan. "How long will voters continue to support someone who is thought to be mainly a cunning tactician, especially if a run of mistakes makes him seem not even particularly cunning?”

That's an excellent point.

Of course, it's a point I made more than two years ago.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Harper loves Obama

It's bad enough that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is racking up massive deficits in this country, but now he's also acting as an apologist for American president Barack Obama's stimulus insanity.

Speaking on Fox News, Harper declared:

"We need stimulus spending now, and I say that as a conservative ...When the house is on fire . . . you have to bring the hoses and spray water all over it, you can't worry about the basement ... The reality is, the fiscal situation in the United States is very worrisome, but that said, President Obama came into office with a deep structural deficit position, at a time when fiscal stimulus is actually required economically."

If that's speaking as a conservative I wouldn't want to hear him speak as a liberal.

Speaking for Fraser

The good people at the Fraser Institute have asked me to give a policy briefing on June 25 in their Toronto office.

And, of course, my idea of "policy briefing" is talking about my book Loyal to the Core.

So if you are in town be sure and drop by to say hello and maybe buy a book ... or two.

Socialism map

As my friend Janet Neilson recently noted on Twitter this map is a great way to track Canadian socialism.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama's debt

Here's a good column from the Investor's Business Daily on the dangers that could result from U.S. president Barack Obama's big-spending economic schemes.

Here's a sampling:

"It is irresponsible stewardship for Obama and Congress to go on a borrowing spree that puts America in the same unsustainable position as an overstretched boomer with too much debt and too little income and whose only option is to refinance at higher costs just to pay the interest."

Voter discretion is advised

Transport Minister John Baird is in hot water for suggesting Toronto city officials could "f_ _ k off".

I don't know.

Seems to me Baird is just saying what a lot of taxpayers are thinking.

Not much of a scandal

When rumours were running wild yesterday about the explosive Lisa Raitt audio tape, I was expecting a whale of a scandal.

Instead, it turned out to be a minnow.

OK, so she made some mildly disparaging comment about a fellow cabinet minister. Big deal. That's hardly a shocker.

But wait a minute, you might be asking, didn't she call the medical isotopes crisis "sexy"? Isn't that a horrendous scandal?

No, that's just the way people talk while engaging in a private conservation. I am sure if we could eavesdrop on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's private discussions with his advisers we would hear him utter comments from time to time that might be considered unHarvard-like.

And finally, there's the charge that Raitt just viewed the crisis as an opportunity to advance her career.

Well if cynical political ambition is a resigning offence, then the House of Commons would be an empty building.

Of course, none of this will stop the Liberals from trying to build this up into a scandal. As they might admit in private, this is an opportunity that's too sexy to pass up.

Monday, June 08, 2009

What's on those tapes

Everyone is getting all excited about what's on that mysterious audiotape.

You know the tape I mean, the one which allegedly recorded Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt making some sort of embarrassing comments.

Well, I am pretty sure what's on that tape.

In fact, I bet the transcript will look something like this:

Raitt: Will you please hand me the top secret binder, you know the one which I'm not supposed to lose.

Aide: Binder? I don't have that binder? I thought you had it.

Raitt: Well, I don't have it either. Oh well no matter. I'm sure it will turn up when we aren't looking for it.

Aide: Yeah. Ha, ha.

More about those Tory ads ...

Nanos research did a survey to judge the effectiveness of the Conservative Party's recent slew of attack TV ads and finds in the short term, at least, they have had little impact.

In fact, a majority of Canadians consider the ads ineffective

Interestingly, however, Nanos did find the ads had a "marginally negative impact on the impression of Michael Ignatieff primarily among committed Conservative and NDP voters."

Committed Conservatives, of course, would naturally find the ads persuasive. But what about the NDP? Why did the ads make an impression on socialists?

Well, it's like I noted a few days ago; these ads are primarily appealing to a populist anti-American sentiment, an emotion that runs deep in Canada's left wing.

Is this what the Tories had planned?

Maybe. After all, by playing the anti-American-card in this way, it's possible the Tories could indeed drive leftists out of the Liberal camp and into Jack Layton's arms -- which would be good for the Conservatives.

However, the danger is that such a strategy could also cause many small "c" conservatives -- traditionally more pro-American -- to abandon the Conservative Party.

Indeed, Nanos reports that "50.6% of committed Conservatives believe the ads reflect either somewhat negatively or negatively on the Conservatives."

Turning off your base is never good policy.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why I won't gloat

Recall that when the Tory attacks ad first came out, I gave them a negative review; "Instead of focusing on simplistic, nationalistic nonsense," I wrote, "the Tories should explain why a Liberal government will be bad government."

A few weeks after I wrote that the Tories experienced a minor upward blip in the polls, leading many Conservative Partisans to crow that the "truth ads" were working and that I was therefore all wet.

Well a couple of recent polls show the Tories are now losing ground. Does this mean the attack ads are a flop? Does this mean I am justified in saying "Hey, I told you so!"?

As tempting as it would be to do that, I will refrain from any gloating. After all, it takes time for these sort of ads to sink in, meaning it's still too early to pass judgement.

The fact is a good attack ad's purpose isn't necessarily short term gain. Their aim is often to sow seeds of doubt in the voters' mind; make them wary of a candidate's weaknesses.

For instance, the Tories used attack ads to suggest former Liberal leader Stephane Dion was weak and indecisive; hence whenever he displayed weakness or indecisiveness it reinforced the Tory message.

Over time voters came to buy it.

That's what a good attack will do. But I still don't think the Tory anti-Ignatieff ads are good. They are zeroing in on the wrong message , a populist, anti-American slant that just won't stick.

Oh they might work if Ignatieff is a complete idiot and he somehow manages to reinforce the Tory message, IE he starts going around whistling the Star Bangled Banner and eating caviar.

But it's likely he won't do that.

It's more likely he will spend the summer going to barbecues where he will wax eloquently about how much he loves Canada. Then Canadians won't see him as "cosmopolitan".

By the times the leaves fall in the Autumn the Tory ads will be long forgotten.

That's why the Conservative brain-trust better come up with a plan B.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Farewell to Tiger Stadium

Here's a picture that makes me heartsick.

It's all that remains of that once glorious baseball temple better known as Tiger Stadium.

The stadium was undergoing a slow demolition for months, but some groups were fighting hard to save this remaining wedge from the wrecking ball so that it could be turned into a baseball museum.

Unfortunately, however, the heartless bastards at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation recently voted to tear it down too.

It's just as well, I guess; the Old Girl should probably be put out of her misery.

H/T Paul Tuns

Update: A judge has issued a restraining order on the Tiger Stadium demolition.

Guilt vs Responsibility

This business of Prime Minister Stephen Harper not accepting the resignation of Natural Resource Minister Lisa Raitt for losing "secret" documents brings two things to mind.

First, what is it with Cabinet Ministers and secret documents?! First it's Maxime Bernier forgetting documents and now Raitt (or her unlucky aide.)

Other countries don't need to send spies here, all they need do is invite a Cabinet Minister over for dinner and wait and see which state secrets are left behind.

The other thing about this mini-scandal, is that it suggests to me Harper is softening his management style.

I say that because it just isn't like the Harper I know to let Raitt off the hook the way he did.

Back in his days at the National Citizens Coalition, when I worked with him, he never tolerated it when an NCC staffer tried to excuse failure by blaming it on some factor outside his or her control.

I remember one time in particular Harper was letting into an NCC staffer who screwed up on something (It wasn't me, thank God) and the poor guy tried to defend himself by saying "You can't blame me for this; it wasn't my fault.

To which Stephen replied, "I didn't say it was your fault; I said it was your responsibility."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

SQE has new blog

The people over at the Society for Quality Education have an important mandate: make our education system better.

To do this they offer parents and teachers excellent learning tools; they also promote the idea of giving parents more choice when it comes to education.

The reason I am mentioning all this, is that the SQE has a brand spanking new blog.

Check it out.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

May the votes be with you

Now here's a positive ad.

Yankee go home

Every time one of those anti-Ignatieff Tory attack ads pops up on TV (which it seems is every five seconds) I cringe.

It’s not just the embarrassingly juvenile look of the ads which bothers me, it’s more what they say about the sad intellectual state of today’s Conservative Party.

Bereft of ideas and vision and principle, the Conservatives, desperate to hang onto power, have chosen to play the most obnoxious card in Canadian politics: anti-Americanism.

“Be warned Canada” the Tory ads imply, “Michael Ignatieff once worked and lived in the evil United States. He’s not really one of us. We even have him on tape saying `It’s your country [the US] just as much as it is mine’.”

Oh the horror!

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning that he has other damaging tapes of Ignatieff.

Perhaps he has a clip of the Liberal leader eating apple pie on the fourth of July.

Appealing to anti-American sentiment, of course, is nothing new. But in the last few decades pandering to ugly the side of Canadian nationalism in this way was usually the preserve of the NDP and Liberals.

Now bashing Americans is non-partisan.

Oh and just in case the anti-Americanism of the Tory TV ads is too subtle somebody dispatched this clown to pound the message home.

But I guess we better get used to this style of politics. With its massive deficits and corporate bailouts, the Conservatives can no longer represent themselves as a pro-free market party.

Maybe they should call themselves the Petty Populist Party.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Attack ad on Reagan flopped

All this talk about the anti-Ignatieff ads, has me thinking about attack ads of the past.

Here's one that went after Ronald Reagan way back in 1980.

It didn't work.