Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By-Election Blues

As we all know by now the big winner in the Monday by-election was, of course, Don Cherry.

Other than that, the three by-elections were notable for their lack of passion, excitement and intensity. Witness the dismal voter turnout.

And that, I believe, reflects the mood of the Canadian electorate. Simply put, when it comes to federal politics, the voters are apathetic or at least not engaged.

This is quite a contrast to the mood in the United States. As someone who worked for nearly a year as a political consultant in the US, I can tell you there is a boat load of intensity, emotion and excitement in American politics.

The voters down south are angry and they wanted Washington to know it. Hence the November 2 mid-term election, in which voters spanked the Obama regime pretty good.

But here in Canada it’s different.

There is no great desire among voters to remove Prime Minister Stephen Harper from office, nor is there a great desire to keep him in office.

It’s kind of a political limbo.

And this is the challenge all the political parties must face in the months ahead.

How will they reach voters on an emotional level?

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be on CTV's Power Play today as part of the "strategist" panel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Save the LSS

One of my favorite all time events is the Liberty Summer Seminar. Held every year at a beautiful, bucolic estate near Orno, Ontario, the LSS brings together conservatives, libertarians and free-thinkers to discuss and debate issues associated with liberty.

And if that's not enough to entice you, it also features the greatest meals you could imagine!!

Unfortunately, however, bullying government bureaucrats are doing what bullying government bureaucrats always do: blindly and stupidly squashing freedom.

More specifically they are trying to punish the owners of the property where the event is held.

But the organizers are fighting back and taking the case to court.

I would highly recommend you support their efforts.

A summer without the LSS would be like a winter without Christmas.

Impressions from the Munk debate

Had an amazing time Friday night attending the Munk Debate in Toronto between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and author/journalist/iconoclast Christopher Hitchens.

The two squared off on the question as to whether or not religion was a force for good in the world.

The event left me with a couple of impressions:

1/  It was so refreshing to see two people actually debate ideas and clashing visions. What's more they used erudite, witty and coherent arguments. What a welcome change from the partisan, insipid spin doctoring that passes for political debate in this country. 

Here's what we usually get:

Liberal: You're a bully!

Conservative: You're a wimp!

NDP:  Let's raise taxes on the rich!

2/  I expected left-wing demonstrators prior to the event and was not disappointed, they were there with their placards, megaphones and newsletters. What did surprise me however, was the inanity of the protests. Here's one of their actual chants: "Liar, liar pants on fire."

I mean come on, with all those arts grants the government throws around, you would think these guys could come up with something a little more creative.

Also, they kept shouting, slogans about "Getting out of Iraq". Isn't that a little passe, a little too 2003? 

Maybe, as my friend Rondi Adamson put it, they just couldn't come up with anything that rhymed with Afghanistan.

 I wonder why these "peace activists" weren't protesting North Korean aggression? Oh yeah, I forgot North Korea isn't America or Israel.

3/ The event was also a reminder of the sad state of the times. As a security precaution, all the debate spectators had to be searched. That didn't bother me so much, as did the fact that they confiscated my Swiss Chalet toblerone chocolates! Since when is chocolate dangerous? Fattening yes, dangerous no.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Media Alert

I am scheduled to appear on CTV's Power Play today at about 5:10-5:15 PM ET.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Emotion of fundraising

I am quoted in this Hill Times article explaining how the Conservatives have successfully used the emotions of hope and fear in fundraising appeals.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Simpson wrong on taxes

Here's a letter to the editor I sent to the Globe and Mail in response to Jeffrey Simpson's call for higher taxes.

Jeffrey Simpson decries politicians who use “old ideas” to solve economic problems, but then oddly he suggests the US government raise taxes, which is surely the oldest idea of them all. (“Those old Bush ideas haunt us still” November 19.)

How do you think governments in the olden days paid for new pyramids or for wars to glorify the Emperor/King/Pope or for massive palaces?

They simply increased taxes on hapless peasants.

The historical record also shows that high taxes and big government never resulted in healthy or prosperous economies.
Only when citizens were allowed to keep more of their own money and invest it in the framework of a free market economy did societies grow wealthy.

And by the way, the notion that government should keep its hands out of the wallets of the people is a, historically speaking, relatively recent idea.

 So if Simpson really supports "new" ideas to spur the economy he should call for lower taxes and smaller government

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harper decision hurt us all

Michelle Kraft was once a co-worker of mine at the National Citizens Coalition.

She has the good sense not to work there any more and unlike the NCC, she still retains her conservative principles.

So when the Harper government opted to embrace economic nationalism over free markets when it came to Potash, she sent out a letter to the editor to express her disappointment.

Here's the text:

Dear Sir/Madam:

I have always been an ardent Conservative supporter, which is why I found Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to block the proposed buy out of Potash Corp. (PCS) so profoundly disappointing.

In taking the action he did, Prime Minister Harper betrayed his own conservative principles, let down PCS shareholders and damaged Canada’s reputation as “open for business”.

His betrayal of principle is obvious. Conservatives are supposed to believe in private property rights, meaning citizens are free to sell their property to buyers at a mutually agreed upon price. 

That’s a right which has been denied to PCS shareholders.  In fact, they weren’t even able to negotiate with the potential buyer! 

But it isn’t just investor-types who are hurt by the blocked sale.  If you have a pension fund, chances are you have shares in Potash Corp, shares which will be less valuable now that the fund cannot sell them to international buyers. 

And just consider the message our government just sent out to the world: Canada does not want foreign investment. 

The ramifications of this message could be devastating to our economy.  Who in their right mind would want to invest in Canada now?

Why go to the trouble of investing your money in a country where your proposal could be blocked for a murky “net benefit” calculation. 

Less international investment in Canada means fewer jobs for Canadians.

In short, Prime Minister Harper’s decision hurts us all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Helping the Liberals pick the next Trudeau

These are troubling times for the Liberal Party of Canada.

I mean, here's a party that once ruled the Canadian roost, winning federal election after federal election without even raising a sweat.

They were to Canadian politics what the New York Yankees are to baseball; what Lady Ga Ga is to pop music and what Betty White is to 90 year olds.

How good were the Liberals? 

Well they were so good they could win elections even when they hired advisors like Warren Kinsella.

But those halcyon days are over. Today the once mighty Liberal Party is a 98 pound weakling, who keeps getting tar sands kicked in its face.

What's the problem?

Well in my opinion, it's leadership.

Simply put, the Liberals haven't had a decent leader since Jean Chretien retired from the sponsorship advertising business.

The Liberals, of course, understand this too. They realize that Paul Martin was an over-hyped, indecisive, chicken-heart; Stephan Dion an arrogant, English-mangling, academic and Michael Ignatieff a Harvard-educated, charisma-challenged, stuffed shirt.

This is probably causing many Liberals to pine for the glory days of their greatest, most charismatic leader --- Pierre Trudeau.

They are likely saying to themselves, "If only we could get another Trudeau to lead us, we could smite our enemies and return to our rightful positions of power and prestige." -- Only they would say it in French and English.

To help the Liberals find such a leader, I have come up with the traits a politician would have to possess to be truly considered another Trudeau.

Here they are in no particular order:

* Must be apologist for freedom-crushing totalitarian regimes.

* Must hate all things military -- especially the Canadian military.

* Must admire bloodthirsty tyrants, ie Fidel Castro, Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin.

* Must hold Western Canadians in contempt.

* Must believe government should control the economy, as this will make it easier to destroy Alberta.

* Must have obsessive desire to brush away any of Canada's historical traditions.

* Must believe in creating massive deficits and increasing any sort of taxes.

* Must hate America.

So there you  have it. If any of you Liberals out there see a guy or gal with such a belief system, then voila you have your next Trudeau.

Mind you, it might be hard to find a guy like this nowadays.

Might I suggest you start the search in North Korea.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Attack ad truce?

Both the Ontario Liberal and PC Parties are talking about staying positive in the next provincial election.

And they might  mean it.

But as I argue in this Ottawa Citizen column, circumstances will likely force them into negative campaigning whether they  like it or not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The words MPs dare not utter

The late comedian George Carlin used to talk about words that were banned on TV.

Well, there are also some words which have been officially banned in the House of Commons.

And when I say banned I mean banned. You will never, ever hear these outlawed words spoken in Parliament.

In fact, any MP impudent enough to utter any of these forbidden words would in short order be ejected from the House and kicked out of his or her Party.

For informational purposes only, here’s a partial list of the words MPs must never speak:

* Freedom

* Individualism

* Free Markets

* Smaller government

* Individual liberty

* Private property rights

* Personal responsibility

* Self-Reliance

* Freedom of expression

* Free enterprise

I am not sure who banned these words or why.

All I do know is our MPs from all parties are certainly respecting the rule. I mean when was the last time you heard an MP talk about “freedom?”

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Harper and Israel

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Harper government is its resolute support for the state of Israel.

Indeed, few Prime Ministers, if any, have been as pro-Israel as Prime Minister Harper.

It’s easy to dismiss this as a pure political move.

After all, for Harper strongly supporting Israel is good domestic politics in that it plays well with a key Tory constituency – social conservatives.

For a whole host of reasons social conservatives can be more pro-Israel than even many Israelis.

And of course, it might even help win the Tories a few Jewish votes.

But for Harper this is about more than just politics.

Back in the days when we worked together at the National Citizens Coalition, long before he needed to make any sort of political calculation, Harper used to regularly tell me that he was as he put it, “extremely pro-Israel”.

He simply thought it was important for Western democracies to support the only democratic state in the Middle East, a state which also happened to shared many of our values.

So Harper’s Israel stance represents a rare intersection of policy, principle and politics.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Media Alert

I will be a guest on The World Today on CKNW radio at 7:30 PM EST.

Topics: Banning political ads and the state of the Liberal Party.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Media Alert

I am scheduled today to debate Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on CHCH TV's Square Off program at 5:30 PM ET.

Topic: May's loopy idea to ban political TV ads.

This could bet messy.

Update: It did get messy. But I demolished her. Score: Gerry 1, Green Party 0

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Future of the Tea Party

In the wake of the US midterm election, lots of people are using political scorecards to rate the Tea Party movement, ie chalking up how many of “Tea Party candidates” won or lost.

But the future of this movement can’t be determined by its won-lost record. The Tea Party is not a political party and can’t be judged like one.

Rather it’s simply a collection of Americans fed up with big government, high taxes and massive deficits.

More importantly, Tea Partiers are willing to fight for the values they believe in, even it means taking on the Republican Party establishment.

And it’s a fight they are winning.

Love it or hate it, the Tea Party is getting the message out as to what’s wrong with America and what it will take to set the country back on the right track.

It’s now a force that can’t be ignored by either Republicans or Democrats.

But will the Tea Party survive its own success?

That’s a question that’s more important than whether or not the Tea Party helped or hindered the Republicans on Election night.

And it’s a question that’s relevant because the movement faces some serious challenges in the near future.

First, it’s possible the Republican Party, flush with its November 2nd victory, will seek to co-opt the Tea Party.

This, of course, would rob the movement of its independence and its credibility.

Consider what happened here in Canada with the National Citizens Coalition. Once an independent voice for conservative principles, the NCC is now basically a cheerleader for the Harper Tories.

Will the Tea Party like the NCC, allow itself to be co-opted?

A second danger facing the Tea Party movement is much more basic: it just might run out fuel.

And the fuel of the Tea Party movement is anger. Tea Partiers are angry with bad government and angry at what the Establishment is doing to their country.

But anger is a difficult emotion to sustain over a long haul, a fact which could dampen the movement’s intensity.

I hope, of course, the Tea Party is up to these challenges and remains a vibrant political force.

Now more than ever America needs a voice for fiscal sanity. And Canada’s conservative movement needs the example.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest tonight on The World  Tonight with Rob Breakenridge. Time: 11:00 PM ET. Topic: The US Election.

The Green Party's Bad Idea

Apparently the Green Party believes political “attack ads” are not good for the environment.

Or at least they are not good for the political environment.

In a hysterical tone usually reserved for its pronouncements of impending ecological gloom and doom, the Green Party today called for nothing less than the banning of all political TV ads.

Get that, not just “attack ads” but all political ads.

“Canadians have been horrified by the vicious television ad campaigns waged as part of the mid-term elections,” says a Green Party news release. "We recognize that our own political culture is increasingly being contaminated by the same kind of poisonous manipulation seen in the US. Before Canadians next go to the polls, we want to propose sweeping new changes to protect our political commons.”

And so to protect our “political commons” (whatever that is) the Greens say “Canada should ban the use of television for political advertising before and during the writ periods.”

This idea disturbing for a whole bunch of reasons.

First, as someone who has been involved in producing attack TV ads both south of border and here in Canada, let me tell you what the Greens call “vicious” and “poisonous”, I call comparative and effective.

As long as attack ads are truthful, as long as they stick to issues and refrains from besmirching personalities, they are legitimate and useful forms of communication – certainly just as legitimate as those “positive” TV ads featuring smiling candidates posing with their wife, kids and dog.

There is a reason why these sorts of ads work.

Secondly, the Green Party’s desire to ban TV ads indicates the complete lack of faith the party has in the intelligence of Canadian voters.

Simply put, Canadians are too smart and savvy to get “manipulated” by a TV ad. Yes, a well-crafted ad will persuade voters if it makes sense and if it resonates on an emotional level.

A badly produced ad that hits the wrong note, on the other hand, will often backfire and hurt whichever party put it out.

In other words, we don’t need laws to protect Canadians.

Third, a ban on TV political ads will only help incumbents. Consider that holding office is a huge advantage for any party, at least when it comes to communicating with Canadians.

Often the only way Opposition Parties can reach out to Canadians is through TV ads. If you take away that power, you will take away their ability to build up support.

Last and certainly not least, a ban on TV ads is clearly a serious infringement on the right to free political expression.

You can’t help democracy by silencing those who wish to speak out.

In short, the Green Party call to ban TV ads is an idea that should be buried in the nearest composter.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest on AM 640 Radio today at 1:40 PM EST to discuss the US election.

Update: I just got bumped by the Omar Khadr story. As if I didn't have enough reasons not to like that guy./

Analyzing the Liberals

Remember that column I wrote for the Hill Times last week, where I explained the strategic difficulties of the Liberal Party?

Well, today, Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe, analyses my analysis.