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The Maven’s Election Diaries | The Liberals and NDP battle for Trinity-Spadina

In Election diaries, The Maven on April 22, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Image credit: Michael Loudon

By The Maven | Thankfully, this is a riding where we don’t have to worry about the Conservatives winning. We can vote as we wish without having to worry about voting strategically.

Or at least so we thought.

Olivia Chow has held the riding for the NDP since 2006. Before that Tony Ianno held it for the Liberals between 1993 and 2006. Although Chow won in 2008 with a 3500 vote lead over Liberal Christine Innes, the latter ran a terrible campaign. She doing a better job this time around. Rumour has it that this riding is a toss-up right now.

I was at the Trinity-Spadina all-candidates meeting on Wednesday, April 20, and some of my thoughts follow.

What I find interesting about Innes’ campaign is what isn’t being discussed, or at least not by her.

For instance, I feel strongly that a candidate be judged on her own merits. The fact that she is Tony Ianno’s wife should theoretically not be held against her. However, I do find it interesting that she has made no mention of their relationship at all in this election. In fact I cannot find out much of anything about her. Aside from having four children and being involved in the Annex Residents Association and her church, she is a self-described community leader of whom very few people seem to have knowledge.  The bio she provides on her website suggests she has a long history of political backroom activity within the Liberal Party and works now as a political appointee to a provincial Liberal cabinet minister.

She really sounds like the proverbial backroom boy. Not a lot different from our previous Liberal MP, her unspoken husband. You may remember he was called out for having the worst participation record of any Toronto MP in the House of Commons and for supporting causes–like the Toronto Port Authority–hostile to Torontoians’ interests.

There are some questions that some people in this riding would like addressed:

  • Given that Mr. Ianno, your husband, is under investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission, what is your stand on ethics in government. Debate moderator Gus Sinclair didn’t do you any favours when he called this question out of order at the debate. Yes, I know that you and your husband are two different people, but I think the voting electorate has a right to know if there are ill-gotten gains involved.
  • Given the legacy of the sponsorship scandal and the concerns around your husband’s trust funds to get around Elections Canada rules about campaign financing, would it not have been better to let someone fresh carry the banner for the Liberals locally, rather than pursue an Ianno/Innes dynasty?
  • How can we trust  your commitment to public education given your choice to send your children to private school? In fact, what then is your commitment to Medicare given the context of the choices you make in your private life?
  • What is your stand on same-sex marriage  as well as access to abortion?

Well fellow Trinity-Spadina-ites, without those questions answered, I don’t feel comfortable with Ms Innes. The previous Liberal government left power with an unfortunate reputations for sleaze. It’s important that all Liberals make a clear break from that era. Innes’ close ties with the last Liberal member don’t do much to dispel old perceptions. I think people can be  judged by the company they keep and it’s company I am not comfortable with.

Frankly, from what I saw at the debate of Rachel Barney, the Green Party candidate, I quite like her. But while I would love to see Elizabeth May have a seat in the House, I am not going to vote Green and take a chance that the Liberals will take this seat, much as I would prefer to see the Liberals form a government. This last statement is based on my belief that only the Liberals can get enough seats nationally to have a realistic chance of unseating the Conservatives.  New opinion polls just out this week may change this scenario. More in the days to follow.
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In Election Diaries, The Maven comments on the leaders, the parties, the issues and the campaigns for Canada’s 41st federal election.

Read more of The Maven’s Election Diaries at www.tomaven.wordpress.com.

For past articles by The Maven on the West Annex News, visit The Maven archive.

Visit Michael Loudon/thorneypup’s photostream on Flickr.

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The Maven’s Election Diaries: Nothing happening

In Election diaries, The Maven on April 18, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Image credit: screen captures from televised Federal Leadership Debate 2011

By The MavenI haven’t posted anything for a while about the federal election. It’s just not happening for me. We started off with some sparks but the past week has been really dull.

The Conservative ads have now turned to “the vision”. There is Harper talking about what Canada is and can be. Only problem is that beyond a strong military and lots of jails, he really doesn’t have anything to say. He doesn’t like government, except when using it to try to buy votes. His whole economic plan–until the opposition forced him to take action–is essentially to do nothing. His ‘stay the course’ really means ‘let things go’. He is an old-fashioned laissez-faire capitalist (again, unless he can buy power with targeted spending).

But if any leader has a vision, I think Harper’s vision of a more militaristic, conservative, individualist nation is the most clearly expressed. It’s unpalatable but it is there.

So the Conservative campaign is really a boring old hash of nothing with a small dash of something rotten.

And the press coverage? We keep hearing that the Conservatives will only allow reporters four questions per day. Wow, where is the press on that issue? Nowhere. I would have thought this incredible assault on democracy would be in the news daily. Where is the reporter writing the Prime Minister once again refused to answer questions. That would be headline news every day if I ran a media outlet.

The NDP feel they can smell power…well, power of the sort the NDP refers to. They think they are within reach of Official Opposition status.

But where once there was an NDP vision of a just and more egalitarian Canada, there are now only families and targeted programs. Now, I don’t really blame them. When I was younger I railed against the NDP for not remaining true to the concept of a movement and not just another political party. As I have grown older I realize the usefulness of a party on the left that actually seeks to attain power even if it means watering down some policy. It’s easy to criticize progressive parties for the compromises they make to get elected.

I suppose the alternative is to keep shouting from the sidelines but I don’t find that terribly useful and neither does the NDP. But I still can’t help but feel that there has to be something more to the peoples’ party. Is this all it’s come to: tax deductions?

The Liberals, now there is a letdown as well. Not because I think they would change the world. It’s really because I’m afraid the Conservatives would change the world. That’s why I am so concerned about the Liberal Party. Who else can stop the Conservatives?

The Liberals owe it to Canadians to not be so stupid. Where once they had a brains trust, there now seems to be no one at the helm. It is interesting to think about what a Liberal government might look like. Except for Iganatieff who is on the conservative side of the party, there are a number of NDP types who would be in any cabinet. Think of Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, Ujjal Dosanjh, Ken Dryden. These are people who could easily be in the NDP and who do, I think, have a vision of a better Canada.

But, alas, a Liberal government is not to be. And that is partly because the left, unlike the right, have refused to co-operate, but also because the politicians, the press and we Canadians have let the Conservatives define democracy for us. I mean how many parliamentary democracies have majority governments today? New Zealand, the United Kingdom and almost every European country have coalition governments. Canada has a long history of minority government either nationally or provincially. So majority governments which used to be the norm in Canada, are certainly not usual globally.

Yet Stephen Harper, with the acquiescence of a docile press, has convinced us that parties representing over 60% of the vote do not have the right to govern… either in coalition or co-operation. Just how can it be that this ahistorical and constitutionally incorrect interpretation of parliamentary democracy can have won the day?

Why does our press ape Harper’s pronouncements without question? Why do they accept his isolation and lack of accountability without ridiculing him over it?

Maybe it’s time to ask the press some questions. But first, let’s do whatever we can to keep this clown Harper out of a majority government.

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In Election Diaries, The Maven comments on the leaders, the parties, the issues and the campaigns for Canada’s 41st federal election.

Read more of The Maven’s Election Diaries at www.tomaven.wordpress.com.

For past articles by The Maven on the West Annex News, visit The Maven archive.

The Maven’s Election Diaries | The Conservative Party of Canada doesn’t know squat about managing an economy

In Election diaries, The Maven on March 31, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Jim Flaherty of the Conservative Party is Canada's biggest spending Finance Minister of all time | Photo by Joshua Sherurcij

By The Maven | When Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party of Canada first came to power in 2006,  they inherited a budget surplus that had been hard-won by the earlier Liberal government. The Liberal budget for 2005-06 was not only balanced, but for the 8th straight year under Liberal rule, boasted a sizable surplus. This was delivered along with significant new money for defence and the environment, and some modest tax reductions for individuals.

As we know, the Liberal minority government was forced to the polls by the NDP in 2006, ushering in the Stephen Harper era as Prime Minister.

Harper’s first budget in 2006 lowered the GST by 1% to 6%. In January of 2008 it was cut again to 5%–this despite the protests of almost every economist in the country that the cut would take billions out of Federal coffers just when it appeared world economies were slowing.  A year later, the Liberal surplus had been turned into a Conservative $34 billion dollar deficit.

Now, mind you, this was before the recession’s impact. Indeed, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was still saying in early 2009 that Canada would not experience a recession.

He made no plans for it either to stimulate the economy nor to reign in spending. Indeed the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has raised spending to unprecedented levels while cutting corporate and income taxes, and managed to erase all the surplus built into Paul Martin budgetary planning.  And don’t forget that the very same Jim Flaherty was finance minister in Mike Harris’s ultra-right government whose Common Sense revolution left Ontario badly in debt after they got through with it.

With Jim Flaherty and the Conservatives jauntily denying the extent of the economic downturn, they were forced by the NDP, Liberal and Bloc to bring in a budget for 2009 that incorporated stimulus spending. This was the Economic Action Plan (as conceived of by the opposition parties and initially vigorously opposed by the Conservatives) that is now advertised by the Conservatives as proof that they should stay at the helm to ride out the last vestiges of the economic storm.

But from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush in the United States, to Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper in Canada, the right has been a disaster for slowing economies with their reliance on supply side economics.

Hell, even the Conservatives in oil rich Alberta can’t even manage a budget with all the oil royalties they are they are blessed with.

So why does the Canadian voting public still say in public opinion polls that they trust the Conservatives more than other parties to manage the fiscal situation in difficult times? It certainly isn’t based on reality.

We need more of this economic history to get out there. Why aren’t the opposition parties pushing the Conservative’s dismal record more volubly?

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In Election Diaries, The Maven comments on the leaders, the parties, the issues and the campaigns for Canada’s 41st federal election.

Read more of The Maven’s Election Diaries at www.tomaven.wordpress.com.

For past articles by The Maven on the West Annex News, visit The Maven archive.