Sunday, January 30, 2011

Elections Canada should mind its own business

Elections Canada bureaucrats are going to spend between $100,000 and $250,000 to figure out why so many young people are not bothering to vote.

Great, another massive waste of tax dollars, from the folks who brought you election gag laws.

First off, why do these bureaucrats even care about the voting habits of Canadians?

Seems to me, the people at Elections Canada should solely concern themselves with the nuts and bolts of doing their job - ie make sure there are enough ballots printed.

Whether or not people decide to vote is a personal matter and none of the government's business.

Besides I can guarantee you that after spending all that money, Elections Canada will decide that it should spend yet even more taxpayer money on some lame-brained media campaign urging young people to vote.

It will likely feature some unknown Canadian rap singer saying something like: "Hey kids, voting is cool!"

And it won't work.

The fact is young people are politically apathetic for a very good reason: they don't like the political choices being offered.

No amount of Elections Canada hectoring is going to change that.

Young people will only vote in greater numbers if politicians inspire them to vote.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Politics vs principle

The Conservative government faces a lose-lose scenario when it comes to the issue of funding a hockey arena in Quebec City.

If the Tories fork over tax dollars to the arena it will outrage their base; not only is it using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a private company, but worse it pandering to Quebec nationalists.

For a lot of conservatives that's the worst sort of subsidy.

On the other hand, if the Conservatives fail to dole out the dollars, it will give ammunition to the Bloc Quebecois in the next federal election.

So what to do?

Do you stand up for your base or cater to special interests?

It's a question of principle vs politics.

Well, given this government's general failure to stand up for principle, I strongly suspect the arena will get its money.

After all, even if conservatives howl with rage, where else are they going to go?

That's what happens when a party takes its base for granted.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Not so shocking a statistic

 Liberal pollster recently revealed some shocking news. 
Only 15 percent of Canadians, he says are paying attention to Canadian politics!! 

Actually that’s not so shocking. 

In fact, it’s pretty normal. 

Aside from political junkies and partisans, very few people care about or follow politics or the issues. 

The reality is Canadians, by and large, would rather watch American Idol than The National

That’s why all these opinion polls about which party is ahead, should be taken with a massive grain of salt. 

People just aren’t politically engaged. 

Now, of course, this will change. 

Once an election is underway, Canadians will become more focused. 

But even then the vast majority of the population will only start seriously considering the issues in the last few weeks or even the last few days of the campaign. 

Such a state of affairs might disappoint a political science professor or a Liberal pollster, but it’s just the way things are.

Media Alert

I will be doing a radio interview on CFAX radio at 1:35 PM.

Topic: Political ads.

Latest Tory ad a disgrace

Here's the latest Tory ad, which suggests to me the people who come up with these ideas are aggressive but not strategic.

What is the strategy behind this ad?

Of course, it's meant to ridicule the Liberal leader and I suppose to conjure up images of Howard Dean.

And I am sure hard-core Tory partisans will think that's wonderful.

But the purpose of a "negative" ad is to get non-partisans to turn against your opponent. Often such ads are based on hours and hours of polling research --- finding just that right weakness to expose.

This Tory ad looks like it was dreamed up in about five seconds, by a bunch of drunken frat boys.

It doesn't work on any level.

First off, few Canadians if any will make the Howard Dean connection. Secondly, and more importantly, any fair-minded, non-partisan individual viewing this ad will see it as nothing more than a clumsy hatchet job.

The end result could be to hurt the Tories more than the Liberals. Running attack ads is always risky and ads that clearly go over the line usually backfire. --- See Tory attack ad mocking Jean Chretien's facial features.

If I were the Liberals I would play a little political jiu-jitsu and turn this ad against the Tories.

"See how the Prime Minister is debasing political debate in this country with outrageous and appalling personal attacks? Haven't you had enough!"

Then there is the ethical factor. Michael Ignatieff never said "Yes" to an "unnecessary election." Yet the Tories are implying he did through a cheap editing trick.

Anybody could do that.

Here's how the Liberals could counter the Tory spot:

Announcer: Does Stephen Harper really want to close down orphanages and dump toxic waste into our lakes?

Clip of Stephen Harper: "Yes I do." (Never mind that Harper was actually answering the question, "Do you love kittens?")

In short, somebody needs to put a leash on whoever is writing these ads. Negative ads are like nitro glycerin, they can be powerful but should be handled with care.  Score: 0 out of ten.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alberta politics getting interesting

Now that Premier Ed Stelmach has fallen on his political sword, the dynamics have completely changed in Alberta.

If the Tories, as I suspect they will, choose a more genuinely small "c" conservative to lead their party it means the next Alberta election will pit two pro-free market parties against each other.

Just imagine: two parties competing to see who will cut taxes the most, who will make government smaller, who will do the most to protect individual freedoms.

Now that's my kind of election!

And if that does happen it will be because the Wildrose Alliance Party stood up for conservative principles.

In doing so it changed the focus of debate in Alberta.

Talking like a conservative

"Individual liberty requires limited government."

Congressman Paul Ryan uttered those words last night during his response to the President's State of the Union Address.

His whole speech, with its emphasis on smaller government, individual freedom and free markets reflected the views of a man who actually believed in conservatism.

What a refreshing change from the juvenile partisan hackery that passes for political debate in this country.

Of course, Prime Minister Harper used to sound like Ryan.

I sure wish he would talk like that again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NCC creeps into gutter

At one time the National Citizens Coalition was about attacking big government, now it seems more interested in attacking me.

Recently an NCC operative posted comments about me that can only be described as malicious, personal slurs.


I knew the people operating the NCC were incompetent, but I never imagined they would stoop so low.

They should be ashamed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Media Alert

Two schedule media appearances today.

First at 7:30 AM ET (!!!!)I am scheduled to be on The Current -- CBC Radio, to discuss Prime Minister Stephen Harper and conservatism. (Cue: slanderous personal slurs)

Second at 5:30 PM ET I will be on CHCH TV's Square Off  where I will be debating the question of capital punishment and politics. (Don't worry I will be defending the Tories in this one.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Harper Redux

To mark Prime Minister Stephen Harper's five years in office, I thought I would reprint a column he wrote 10 years ago in the National Citizens Coalition newsletter. (Italics are mine)

Tips for the Canadian Alliance
By Stephen Harper

Every major success enjoyed by conservatives in national politics in the past decade has resulted from the timely and unapologetic advancement of conservative ideals.

These ideals catalyzed the Reform party and gave the Canadian Alliance its initial momentum. Conservatives looking for a way forward should get their bearings by taking a look back.

Reform was the first national party to oppose the Meech Lake accord, especially the distinct society clause. It made an ever bigger impression on the public mind by helping to win the 1992 referendum battle against the Charlottetown Accord. The opposition to both accords was essentially grounded on the conservative principle of the equality of all citizens before the law – an ideal that gathered wide support in the referendum battle.

The next landmark was Reform’s Zero in Three Plan for eliminating the federal deficit in three years through spending cuts. Zero in Three became the crucial factor in the 1993 election that enabled the party to win 52 seats in the House of Commons.

This time, the conservative ideal of smaller government provided the foundation, a foundation initially derided by all the other parties but soon adopted by the Liberals as their own policy.

In 1995, Reform put out a new fiscal blueprint – the Taxpayer’s Budget advocating $25-billion in spending reductions and the elimination of the federal role in health and education through the transfer of tax points to the provinces.

Here was another conservative principle – decentralization. The success of Reform's down-sizing and decentralizing proposals came when Finance Minister Paul Martin borrowed heavily from Reform’s proposed spending reductions in early 1995. That same budget also combined federal transfers into an annual lump sum, reducing Ottawa’s control over provincial social programs.

Reform then shifted emphasis when it published its “20/20” paper after the Quebec referendum plan of October, 1995. That document merged Plan A – decentralization of powers not only to Quebec but all provinces – with Plan B – Canada’s pledge to defend its national interest against separatist threats.

Plan B was grounded in the conservative ideal of the rule of law, which the Liberals borrowed when they introduced the Clarity Act --- once again demonstrating how influential an opposition party can be against a rudderless government.

In 1998, the leadership of the party launched the United Alternative, shifting focus from policy to process. Internal strife grew and polling numbers fell as the party put its attention on how to win power rather than on what political power should be used for.

In the meantime, Alberta Treasurer Stockwell Day announced Alberta was moving to a single rate of provincial income tax. Positive reaction in conservative circles emboldened the United Alternative organizers to adopt the single-rate tax as the signature policy of the new Canadian Alliance.

Mr. Day’s bold tax-reform initiative also made possible his successful campaign for leadership of the Alliance. And while the media paid little attention, his campaign was marked by numerous policy speeches detailing his commitment to tax cuts, smaller government, decentralization, traditional social institutions and criminal justice reform.

Preston Manning, in contrast, spoke relatively little about policy during the campaign, preferring to emphasize his claim that only he could lead the party to victory in a general election. Mr. Day won a resounding victory, and Alliance polling numbers broke through Reform’s glass ceiling of 20%.

The Liberals responded with cunning – stealing the tax-cut agenda and catching the process-weary Alliance off guard by calling an early election.

During the election campaign, the Alliance policy messages got confused. Nonetheless, the party received 25.5% of the popular vote,  much better than the 19% Reform got in 1993 and 1997, and Canada got significant tax cuts as a result of the pressure the Alliance put on the Liberals.

This survey suggests that if conservatives hope to find a way out of their muddle, they have to refocus on policy. Factional strife and endless talk about who can win, rather than advancing the ideals they would pursue if they did win, will do little but drive the party’s supporters away.

This is not just a recipe for perpetual opposition. Provincial conservatives have used conservative ideology to win power in Alberta (smaller government), Ontario (tax cuts and welfare reform) and British Columbia (democratic reforms, lower taxes and the equality of citizens). At the national level, fiscal issues and free trade provided part of the foundations for conservative majorities in the 1980s.

Canadians need, and deserve, more than just an alternative, more than just strategic alliances. They need an alternative grounded in conservative ideals such as smaller government, lower taxes the equality of citizens, and the rule of law.

For if all we want is the exercise of power, we might as well join the Liberals.

Harper wrote this in 2001. Of course, if he had discussed such shockingly, radical and idealistic conservative ideas in 2011, certain Blogging Tories would be organizing a lynch mob! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

(Belated) Media Alert

I was a guest on the CBC's Power and Politics show yesterday to talk about Prime Minister Harper and conservatism.

Here's the video link. (Forward to the 24:35 mark to avoid non-Gerry related material)

Making politics fun

In my Ottawa Citizen article on the Conservative Party attack ads I mention my favorite all-time billboard from my days at the National Citizens Coalition.Here's a picture:

I suppose in this day and age of computers and Youtube and Facebook, billboards are a little old fashioned. But I got to tell you, this ad, along with our other billboard ads, drummed up a lot of media coverage.

And they were fun!

Here's another we put up after Bob Rae's electoral demise in Ontario.

And lastly, here's one I created to needle Ralph Goodale, who at the time was guy in charge of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Too bad the NCC doesn't do stuff anymore.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When attack ads don't work

Check out my column over at the Ottawa Citizen on the problem I have with some of the Tory attack ads.

Reviewing the Liberal ads

Predictably the Liberals are responding to the recent spate of Conservative negative ads with their own attack ads.

Oops, sorry, according to Liberal partisans the ads are not "attack" ads, but actually "contrast" ads because they focus on issues. (When I was working in the US we called our negative spots "comparative" ads.)

But euphemisms aside, how do these two new Liberal negative ads rate.

Here's my review:

First off, both ads have poor production values. Perhaps this an indication of the Liberal Party's financial weakness, or maybe it's just a Canadian thing. The Tory ads were no great shakes in that regard either.

On the positive side both Liberal spots have concise, tight and focussed messages. When you only have 30 seconds that's important. The visuals in both spots were not great, but OK.

Of the two ads I like this one better:

Obviously, this ad is playing the populist card, a ploy that will likely resonate with a certain audience. It's what I like to call the  "Us vs. Them" tactic. Harper stands for big corporations (Them), the Liberals stand for "Us". It's hokey, but it can work. And the ad has some emotional punch. Score: 7 out of 10.

This ad on the other hand, hits the wrong chord.

Again, tight script and cute visuals but strategically this is the wrong Liberal message. Going after the Tories on the jet fighter issue is playing to Prime Minister Harper's strength: defence and security. If I am Harper I am happy to fight the Liberals over the question of who is better able to defend Canada. For most Canadians the default answer to that question is the Conservatives. That's why the Liberals are better to stick to issues where they have the home field advantage: health care, the environment, social issues. Score: 6 out of 10.

Interestingly, both ads attack Harper from the Left. This suggests the real purpose of the ads is not to win over new voters, but to mobilize the Liberal base. And while the morale of their supporters is important, the Liberals will need more powerful ammunition and better issues if they hope to persuade Canadians that it's time to topple the Conservatives.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The politics of capital punishment

The Opposition parties in the federal Parliament are in an "uproar."


Well during a CBC interview, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared his support for capital punishment in some circumstances but also said he has no plans to make it an issue in the next Parliament.

This  according to the Liberals and NDP is shocking evidence that Prime Minister Harper is waiting to spring some sort of reactionary, right-wing, fascist, "hidden agenda" upon the country.

No doubt, this idea will pop up in Liberal attack ads in the not so distant future.

But is what Harper said really all that scary or shocking?

Years ago, he and I actually talked about capital punishment during our NCC stint together. At the time he said he supported the idea of reviving capital punishment for certain murderers. Paul Bernardo was the guy he had in mind.

Seems to me that's a reasonable position many Canadians would support.

In fact, there are probably lots of Canadians who wouldn't mind bringing back the noose, and they come from across the political spectrum.

That's why from a purely political point of view, the Liberals shouldn't raise this issue. Capital punishment is a hot button issue with lots of emotional intensity and such intensity will drive voters to the polls -- voters who want criminals punished as savagely as possible.

Many a US Republican candidate has been elected on a pro-capital punishment stand.

That's not to say the Harper Conservatives will touch this issue. They don't  have to.

They are winning over the pro-capital punishment crowd in other ways, with their policies of hiring more cops, building more prisons and enacting new "tough on crime" bills.

The only thing the Tories want to execute is a winning political strategy. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The conservative soul

I don't usually quote the Bible but for this letter to the editor, published in today's National Post, I just couldn't resist.

Dear Sir/Madam:

David Frum correctly points out the political achievements of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party.

But we must not confuse success for the Conservative Party with success for the conservative movement. Conservatism, as a philosophy, preaches smaller government and fiscally responsible leadership. By that standard, Mr. Harper has failed. 

Since taking office, he has engaged in reckless, deficit-bloating spending sprees, while increasing the size and scope of big government.

Maybe that doesn’t matter for partisan Conservatives for whom power is more important than principle. But for those of us who were hoping for a true alternative to the Liberals, the Harper regime has been a huge disappointment.

As it says in the Bible, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Harper vs Nicholls

If you caught the Peter Mansbridge interview of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on The National last night, the highlight, at least for me, was this exchange:

Peter Mansbridge: Well, you know who Gerry Nicholls is because you worked him at the National Citizens' Coalition. This is what he wrote just the other day: "Stephen Harper has essentially thrown economic conservatives under the bus. During his term in office, he's engaged in spending sprees, chalked up enormous deficits, increased the size and scope of government, even embraced Trudeau-style economic nationalism."

PM Stephen Harper: Well, first of all, that's not only untrue, but is completely unrepresentative of economic conservatives, Peter. And people who see themselves on the centre-right, particularly on economic issues, are overwhelmingly - in fact, I bet a pollster would tell you they're 95 per cent, 100 per cent supportive of this government. Because they know that we're doing what is necessary in the economic circumstances while maintaining our long-term approach, which is to keep taxes down and make sure that future growth is in the private free enterprise sector. That's what this government is doing.

In fact I think the opposite is arguable. I thin k the realism here Peter is not against some abstract - you know, we're political realists, Conservatives. We don't compare ourselves to some abstract ideology. The real comparison is, what is being done in other countries? I think arguably we are running right now the freest, the most free enterprise government in the developed world. I think that's very arguable. We're one of the few countries reducing our taxes. Even with our deficits and debt we're at some of the lowest levels in the developed world in these areas. So, you know, one has to compare oneself to reality, not to some abstract.

Hmmm. Prime Minister Harper really believes 100 percent of economic conservatives support his fiscal policies?

That must be news to the Fraser Institute and to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and to writers like Andrew Coyne and Terence Corcoran, all of whom have been pretty vocal in their criticisms of his economic policies.

And just speaking of my own personal experience I have met many, many economic conservatives disappointed in the Harper government.

Plus what's all this talk about "abstract ideology"? Is that what conservatism has been reduced to in this government. Just some abstract notion. Hard to imagine Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher ever talking like that.

Heck,  it's impossible to imagine the Stephen Harper I used to know talking like that.

Maybe the problem for Harper is that he spends too much time accepting the sycophantic praise of his "Trained Seals" and not enough time listening to his conservative base.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Comparing two ads

To further elaborate on my previous post as to the problems with the Conservative Party's "positive" ad, let's compare it to the masterpiece the Tories are ripping off.

I am talking about Ronald Reagan's "It's Morning in America Again" TV spot.

As you can see the visuals in this ad reinforce the narration. More than that they invoke strong emotional reactions. I mean, you can't watch this TV spot and not feel hopeful and confident about America. That's why it worked. It was great television: emotional and visual.

Contrast that to the latest Tory TV ad, "Rising to the challenge".

This ad has a decent script, but it lacks good visuals or emotion. The visuals it does have are weak. It opens with street riots, then shifts to what looks like a stock market computer screen. What is that supposed to convey? Fear? To me it just confuses the message. Then the rest of the ad shows Prime Minister Harper in his office late at night working on crossword puzzles or something. Again, a flat, uninspiring image. This a great radio spot, but a weak TV commercial.

Reviewing the Conservative TV spots

More evidence that a federal election is near:the Conservatives are rolling our campaign-style TV ads.

How do they rate?

Well here's my review.

Not a bad ad. It's designed to appeal to the risk-averse nature of your typical voter with a simple argument: why rock the boat when things are working? And simple arguments are the best. The script is also quite good as it drives home a few key points. On the downside the visuals are weak. Why the shots of Prime Minister Harper working at his desk, signing papers and drinking coffee? If the Prime Minister were wildly popular -- ala Ronald Reagan -- this would make sense. But he isn't. Why not have shots of people happily working in factories, or some sort of visual that reinforces the message? Also this is the sort of ad you run when you are a clear front runner, it will keep the voting base you have, but it won't win new converts. If the Tories are to win a majority they will need to make a stronger case. Score: 6 out of 10.

Not surprisingly the Tories are going to make attacks on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff the centerpiece of their election messaging strategy. And why not? He's too tempting a target to ignore. Hence this attack ad. And overall it's pretty good. I like the sinister music, the visuals work and most importantly the message manages to link the bland Ignatieff with the scary and radical agendas of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois. Using Ignatieff's own words in the ad also gives it punch. It could use a little better production values and the bit about Ignatieff "Coming back to Canada" is a little too subtle. Score: 8 out of 10.

In this ad the Tories go after the NDP. Now attacking the NDP is a good strategic move for the Conservatives, but this ad is taking the wrong direction. Why? Because the Conservatives need the NDP to get stronger so it can eat away at the Liberal support base. The way to do that is for the Conservatives to attack the NDP on ideological grounds. What I mean is if the Tories blast the NDP for being "left-wing pinkos" it will have the effect of rallying wavering left wing voters to the NDP camp. However, this ad attacks NDP leader Jack Layton for being "ambitious" and for trying to set up a "coalition." That's tactically the wrong message. It just won't do the trick. Score: 4 our of 10.

Here's an ad I hope never airs on TV. I found it offensive when the Liberals played to bigoted anti-American feelings to score political points and I find it just as offensive when the Tories use the same odious ploy. Besides strategically speaking this ad will not do the Tories any good. It will only appeal to NDP types and left-wing Liberals who will never vote Tory. Score: 2 out of 10.

OK this is the worst of the lot. Terrible. Composed entirely of Ingatieff statements clearly taken out of context, its designed to make him appear unpatriotic. This is so crass it's almost an attack ad parody. It's this sort of nonsense that gives negative ads a ... well a negative reputation. Score: 1 out of 10.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Media updates

I am quoted in this Toronto Star article with the great headline: Fear and Loathing in Ottawa.

Also Le Quebecois Libre reproduces a column I wrote lamenting Canada's political orphans, AKA economic conservatives.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Metaphor madness

Yesterday I jokingly warned that a column I wrote for the Globe and Mail, "may offend leftists as it contains metaphors, similes and military analogies."

Well it turns out it wasn't a joke.

Left leaning journalist Susan Riley did take offence.

In today's Ottawa Citizen, she writes:

"It isn't only for politicians, but for media commentators, partisan bloggers and the anonymous individuals who spew invective on so many online comment boards.

We might start by rethinking our metaphors. This week, for instance, right-leaning pundit Gerry Nicholls, a former colleague of Prime Minister Harper's at the National Citizens Coalition, warned that while Michael Ignatieff is "playing political chess, (Harper) is waging total war."

He continues: "To be blunt, Mr. Harper's ultimate strategic goal really isn't to win a majority -- it's to eradicate the Liberal party as a viable political force." He describes the prime minister as "a hungry predator circling a weakened prey."

Now I suppose Riley believes my words are dangerous, that they will lead Canadian citizens to wage total war and eradicate all Liberals. And who knows, maybe they will inspire Prime Minister Harper to eat Ignatieff!

Who knew I had such awesome power?

OK, so I suppose the next step will be to set up some sort of government agency that will regulate and control metaphors to ensure they don't pose a threat to society.

Under such a regime, my sentences would be mandated to read: "While Michael Ignatieff is playing political chess, (Harper) is playing Risk. To be blunt, Mr. Harper's strategic goal really isn't to win a majority -- it's to make the Liberals really sad. The Prime Minister is like a hungry person circling a cheeseburger."

Anyway just to be on the safe side let's all remember to keep our political rhetoric and writing bland and boring.

That shouldn't be too hard, for guidance just refer to Michael Ignatieff's speeches. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Me on the Internet

If you missed my recent appearance on the Michael Coren Show, fear not, it's now online.

Media Alert II

I am scheduled to be a guest on the Arlene Bynon Show at 1:30 PM ET to discuss my Globe and Mail column.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest on the Tom Young Show today at 1:00 PM to discuss my column appearing on the Globe and Mail website.

The Prime Minister's political agenda explained

I have a column appearing in today's Globe and Mail website which explains Prime Minister Stephen Harper's real "hidden agenda" and why he wants an election this spring.

(Warning this column may offend leftists as it contains metaphors, similes and military analogies.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Harper's Trained Seals

A couple of days ago, I noted how certain conservative voices in the media were suddenly pushing the issue of political subsides for politicians.

I speculated that perhaps this was evidence the Conservative government was going to use this issue to help trigger their own downfall and thus force a federal election.

Well here's more proof: Today the National Citizens Coalition, otherwise known as "Harper's Trained Seals" announced its going to start pushing for the elimination of the subsidy.

Interesting timing.

I suspect the orders for this NCC campaign came from the PMO.

Of course, it's an issue the NCC should be pushing; the problem is the people running the organization are simply incompetent when it comes to mounting an effective media campaign.

That's something the PMO should consider.

Update: It seems Prime Minister Harper is now sabre rattling on this issue. More signs of an early election?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Media Alert II

I will be a guest on the Michael  Coren Show, tonight at 6:00 PM

Topic: federal politics

Media Alert

I just taped a segment on the Murray Langdon Show (CFAX Radio Victoria) to talk about the possibility of a spring federal election. It is scheduled to air after 1:00 PM ET.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Federal election in the spring?

I have a column in today's National Post in which I make the case as to why the federal Conservatives will try and engineer an election this spring.

Now that's not to say an election will happen, but just that all things being equal, Prime Minister Stephen  Harper would probably prefer to go sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Free speech and political contributions

The public subsidy federal political parties receive is suddenly a hot topic among conservative pundits and writers.

In the space of just a few weeks Lorne Gunter, Ezra Levant and Stephen Taylor have all come out with blogs or columns denouncing the practice of using taxpayer dollars to finance politicians.

Why the sudden interest in this issue?

Could it be the Conservatives, who have long opposed public subsidies, are spinning their friends in the media?  And if that's the case does it mean the Tories are seeking to win over public opinion because they plan to address this controversial issue in their next budget?

And that leads to further questions. After all, the last time the Conservatives targeted these subsidies it nearly triggered a constitutional crisis, not to mention an unholy alliance between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc.

Could it be Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping the subsidy issue will force an election this spring?

OK before I go sink too deep into this sort of speculation, let's get back to the issue of political subsidies.

 I fully concur with Gunter, Levant and Taylor that such subsidies  are wrong, undemocratic and basically amount to welfare for politicians.

They should be scrapped and I hope the Tories will do so.

However, if the subsidies are scrapped, Prime Minister Harper should also scrap campaign finance limits, which make it illegal for individuals to contribute more than $1,000 per year to a political party or candidate.

It's a question of free speech.

Just as it's wrong to force a Canadian to subsidize a political party, it's equally wrong to deny a Canadian the right to use his or her own money to financially support a political party.

And if the subsidies are removed, political parties will need to rely all the more on the voluntary support of Canadians.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tories turning into nannies

Here's a letter I wrote which was published in today's Toronto Sun, it's my reaction to a government move to regulate cigarette packages:
Dear Sir/Madam:
In the latest example of nanny statism, the federal government will force tobacco companies to post new larger and more shocking ads on cigarette labels. 
No one in government seems concerned that such a move clearly infringes on the right to free expression. 
So what’s next? Will we soon see government-imposed warning labels on Big Mac containers, on beer bottles and on candy wrappers? 
What we really need is a warning label for politicians: “Voting for this political party could be hazardous to your freedoms.”

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Media Alert

Starting off the New Year, with a guest radio appearance on the Weekend Morning News with Jill Bennett (CKNW) at 1:30 PM ET.

Topic: Canadian federal politics in 2010.