Raise the flags

I fully supported the decision to lower our flags in honour of the indigenous children whose graves were lost. It is important to remember that they weren’t hidden mass graves; they were small cemeteries with wooden grave markers and, over the years, they fell into disrepair; there was no attempt to hide the fact that these poor children died in “our” care; what the lost graves showed us was that “we” didn’t value those indigenous children the way “we” valued “our own.” Lowering the flags was, and remains, a suitable symbol of our sorrow for “our” actions, for “our” failure to keep “our” word to our fellow Canadians.

The “we” and “our” is important. It’s probably true that almost none of my readers had anything to do with residential schools but we (almost) all sprung from a society that broke its promises to our First Nations.

But the decision to leave the flags at half staff for so long risks robbing has robbed the act of meaning.

Prime Minister Trudeau: Raise the flags!

Official photo of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon Governor General of Canada. She is wearing the collar of chancellor of the Order.

Governor General Simon: please establish some clearer guidelines for flag etiquette. For one thing, tell your officials that the flags at the National War Memorial (and other official cenotaphs) will be lowered, for a prescribed period ~ while the “court is in mourning” is, I think, the right time ~ ONLY at the death of the sovereign or a serving governor general and, on 11 November, from dawn until the “rouse” is played shortly after 11:00 AM.

At all other times, no matter what, those few flags should always be a full staff. No one, other than our sovereign, not a prime minister, not children whose graves were lost, not murdered women, are in need of an honour equal to that which we pay on our war dead.

Canadian Flag Waving GIFs | Tenor

Raising the flags will not dishonour the dead. Raising the flags should encourage Prime. Minister Trudeau and his government and, indeed, all of us to get on with the job of providing redress for the fact the “we” broke faith with our fellow Canadians. Raise the flags, Prime M insister. It is well past time.

Equalization

So, the preliminary, unofficial results of the Alberta referendum on equalization suggest that the “Yes” vote ~ Yes, Equalization should be removed from the Canadian constitution ~ is going to win by a substantial majority. That’s interesting and, most analysts suggest it is also totally inconsequential for three reasons:

The fact that the Alberta referendum is deemed, by many (actually most) analysts to be constitutionally pointless does not mean that Alberta’s position doesn’t have merit and it doesn’t mean that the referendum cannot accomplish something.

Scott Moe on Twitter: "Equalization amounts for 2020 were released & they  once again show how equalization isn't working for provinces w/  resource-based economies like SK, AB & NFLD. That's why ALL

While equalization, per se, is all good and proper, the formula which the Government of Canada uses to calculate equalization might not be fair. The perception of many Canadians, not just Westerners, is that the equalization formula is weighted to favour the old centre, Ontario and what the noted Canadian historian Michael Bliss called “Old Canada:” Québec and Atlantic Canada. That perception is not new, it’s been here for over 100 years:

The Milch Cow | The Milch Cow is a cartoon first published i… | Flickr

The point of the Alberta referendum might not be about fiscal equalization at all. It may be about the very nature of federalism and of Canada, itself.

Some scholars suggest that because of the 1998 Supreme Court decision which said that “a legitimate attempt by one participant in Confederation to seek an amendment to the Constitution is an obligation on all parties to come to the negotiating table,” the national government MUST call a Constitutional Conferenvce to deal with Alberta’s referendum. Essentially the idea is that when the referendum results are official they will trigger a Constitutional Debate ~ one that Justin Trudeau doesn’t want to have.The equalization formula, it might be said, is just a symptom of a federation that has outlived its usefulness. Perhaps Canada, ten provinces and three territories stretching from from sea-to-sea-to-sea, no longer makes sense. Why is Prince Edward. Island, with an area (< 6,000 sq km) about the same as the City of Saskatoon and population (160,000+) considerably smaller (Saskatoon has almost 250,000 people) a province at all? And why does PEI have four MPs (about 1 per 40,000) while Saskatoon has only three (1 per 80,000)? Why do some votes count for twice or three or more times as much as others?

What may have made good sense in 1867 doesn’t seem to sensible today, does it?

Canadian Personalities - Pierre Trudeau

Maybe it’s time we sat down and took a long, hard look at Canada in the 21st century. Maybe it’s time we understood that Pierre Trudeau’s constitutional “solutions” to the perceived problems of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s didn’t really accomplish very much at all. Maybe it’s time that we, Canadians, said, unless we can all be roughly equal in almost every respect then what is the point of calling ourselves a country? Maybe it’s time to reinvent confederation or admit that it is an unhappy and untenable union of unequal partners.

Shayla - Clothing Vietnam

Maybe the equalization debate isn’t about how much money Québec (or PEI) gets vs. how little comes to Alberta but rather, maybe it’s about why one vote in Charlottetown, PEI is worth four on Niagara Falls, ON. Maybe Canada is so unequal that it makes a mockery of democracy. Maybe it’s time we asked why everyone looks the other way while Québec passes laws that discriminate against our fellow Canadians just because they want to wear a kappa or a hijab. Maybe it’s time we talked about whether Canada still makes sense for all Canadians.

A regency?

Queen pays tribute to Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery with maple leaf  brooch | Daily Mail Online

So, I saw that some well qualified busybodies have told Her Majesty the Queen ~ who is 95 years old ~ that she needs to give up her daily tipple. The reaction on social media has been almost universal: “Oh, heavens,” most say, “leave the old girl alone. She’s ninety-bloody-five,” they say,”and she’s an example to those of us half her age, if she want’s a G&T in the afternoon, so what?” I share that view but I hope HM is considering the best advice her physicians because we all wish her a very long life (and reign) in the very best of health. I noted, also in the media, that Her Majesty was visiting Canadian soldiers (from the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery) who are mounting guard for her and her age is showing even if her smile is brilliant.

That, of course, got me to thinking that HM the Queen, great lady that she is and no matter how much many of us might wish, cannot live forever and when, very sadly, she passes away many, many (I daresay most) Canadians will want Canada to be a republic.

Great, I can hear you say, let’s have a referendum. OK, let’s do that. Australia has had a couple of them. It appears that a solid majority of Australians want to break their formal ties to the British monarchy ~ become a republic, in other words, but they cannot agree on what sort of republic they want so the majority dissolves into two or three or four squabbling minorities and the status quo prevails. But, let’s suppose that we Canadians are smarter than our antipodean friends “down under” and we can manage to have a referendum that actually reflects the will of the people. Here in Canada we can have all the referenda we want but we cannot change our form of government without amending the Constitution and changing the monarchy requires that all provinces and the federal parliament agree, formally.

Katherine Tsetsos: The Meech Lake Accord is not history, it is simply  prologue | National Post

So, we need to have a Constitutional conference at which unanimous agreement can be achieved. Let’s just think about that … imagine, if you will, that it is the evening of the second day of this big conference and the premier of the one of the provinces stands up and says, “My friends, let me review our discussion. A majority of our fellow citizens in every province voted to sever our ties to the monarchy when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth passes away. Even most of our First Nations voted in favour of Canada becoming a republic with a Westminster type of parliamentary democracy. We all came together, here, to to work out how to do that. Then Québec said ‘Yes, but only on conditions a. and b.‘ and then Alberta said, ‘Well, we oppose Québec’s a. but we can agree to to b. if we get c. and d.‘ Then,” she said, “Québec walked out and other provinces said ‘We need e. f. and g. too.’ I’m here to say that our system is broken. Our country is broken. We cannot even agree how to implement the national will without, as the late Pierre Trudeau said, trying to “trade rights for fish,” We need to start over,” she said, “as a republic with only five provinces and a democratically elected upper house. Anything less,” she concluded, “will not satisfy my people.

I’m sorry, but that little bit of imagination is, most likely, all too real. This is Canada and my unnamed premier is right: Canada doesn’t work. A mix of history and politics and society make us unable to agree on much of anything. We have a deeply flawed Constitution which reflects the problems and intentions of the 1860s and the 1970s and which is nearly impossible to change because it was poorly drafted by people who aims were, to be charitable, confused.But the simple fact is that changing our Constitution, even is a majority of Canadians clearly want a change and are agreed on what that change should be, is likely impossible because petty, provincial politics WILL derail the process. There’s an old, but, sadly, too true joke that says that history and geography gave us the benefits of French culture, American know-how and British political wisdom … we’ve ended up with American culture, British know-how and French political wisdom.

So, is it hopeless?

No. tThere is a system, built into our Constitutional monarchy, that allows for a situation like Canada’s. Lets’ suppose that there was a great tragedy and the Queen, and Prince Charles and Prince William and young Prince George were all killed in a terrible accident. Who would be the monarch? The answer is that Princess Charlotte, now six years old, would be the new Queen. But the monarch has some official duties that are, clearly, beyond the ken of a six year old so the rules provide that someone ~ at a guess perhaps Princess Ann, the Princess Royal or Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex or Princess Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge would act as Regent. The Regent is a sort of acting monarch who serves until the real monarch is ready to assume her or his duties.

What Canada can do, within the constraints of our current Constintuition, I think, is to prepare ourselves to have a (very long lasting) Regency.

The idea is that we would still be a Constitutional monarchy, as the the current Constitution says, but we would not have the same monarch as Britain does. In fact t we wouldn’t have any monarch at all.

How would, how could we manage that?

The first key step is for the House of Commons to pass a resolution which says that Canada does not accept the various and sundry acts of succession because they are discriminatory ~ unCanadian in some way. Remember the Nickel Resolution? It was passed by the House fo Commons in 1919 ~ Conservative Robert Borden was prime minister ~ in fact it was passed twice, in two slightly different forms but neither version was ever passed by the Senate and the resolution was never, formally, sent to the King. But the King took note of it and it had the desired effect: the veritable flood of British honours that Mr Nickle feared would be bestowed upon Canadians who had distinguished themselves in the First World War but who he didn’t like very much never happened. A modern resolution would say that since, just for example, Ms Autumn Kelly had to change her religion so that here now husband Peter Phillips could keep his place in the line of succession, the whole succession is discriminatory and unCanadian. That’s probably as good or better than the arguments that Mr Nickle made. I’m not sure about the proper procedure but I hope the resolution doesn’t need to go to the Senate and become an official address to the Queen. I hope that she, and Princes Charles and William, will just take note of it. I hope that the prime minister will visit them (all three) in London and come away with formal, public statements which say that Her Majesty notes the wishes of her Canadian subjects and Princes Charles and William will not lay claim to a throne which is not offered, freely, to them.

Back in Canada the government-of-the-day will need to pass an Act which explicitly considered the Resolution and considers, further, the statements by HM and her successors and then says that on the sad occasion when Her Majesty passes away the Governor General will assume the duties of Regent of Canada. The act may need to spell out ~ not in too much detail, one hopes ~ what those duties are. I think they are, basically, the stuff in King George VI’s letters patent of 1947, slightly updated and modified as necessary.

On the sad day when HM does pass away I expect that the keeper of the Great Seal of Canada will issue a proclamation expressing the nation’s grief at the death of its Queen and affirming its loyalty to its Governor-General and Regent. I also assume that Canada will design a new Great Seal. But nothing else will change, not very much at least. The Royal Canadian Navy will still be the Royal Canadian Navy because Canada will still be a monarchy. Commonwealth representatives in Canada will still be High Commissioners, not ambassadors, because Canada will still be a Commonwealth member. But oaths will change. In the Regency newly commissioned military officers will, for example, swear to loyal to the Governor General Regent and her or his lawful successors, not to the crown.

Gradually I expect that our national symbology will change. I expect that the crowns which are worn as badges by many military and police services will. be replaced by other, more Canadian, devices, perhaps something featuring a lynx or a wolf or a polar bear.

I also expect that every 30 years or so some grumpy old retired colonel will write a letter to the editor asking why we are still a regency and not a republic. The answer will be that Québec will still want a. and b. and other provinces will reject a. and demand c. and d. in exchange for a watered down b. and so on. Gradually we will just get used to the idea that the Americans (and Indians and so on) have a president and we have a Governor General Regent, and almost no one, except for a few political science students, will know why and even fewer people will care.

Appalled

OK, I suppose a lot of things annoy me, but I am appalled, which I think is damned site worse than annoyed, at the lack of simple logic it what passes for governments’ (the plural really matters) response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There seems got be no sense in how regulations are eased for one group or activity (masses of people attending a sporting event or rock concert, for example) as opposed to another (say, going to church or out for a family dinner).

I am shocked, which is worse than appalled, at a judge’s decisions to try to force people to say something which is contrary to their beliefs. Surely to all the gods that cannot, will not be allowed to stand. Being wrong, even being stupid is not against the law, is it?

My sense is that there are a number of well meaning, sincere people who want to control the daily lives of their neighbours. They seem too have undue influence in the senior levels of our national, provincial and local governments. Common sense public health measures seem to have given way to dogma. How in hell can one rule apply to the passenger in seat 2A (an American coming into Toronto on business from, say, New York City) while another rule applies to the person sitting to seat 2B on the same flight (a Canadian returning home from a. business trip to New York)? But they do. It’s madness.

The Crucible Project: text, images, music, video | Glogster EDU -  Interactive multimedia posters

It’s time we all reread or rewatched Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (there are are versions available online and if that’s too long you can watch summaries and hear, from Miller himself, about the background to his important play.) There seems, to me, to be to be at least a whiff of of the same attitudes at play in Canada as we fight our way out of the pandemic. We have small groups ~ I’m going to call them zealots ~ trying to impose their personal will on society at large. It’s time we all took back control of our own lives.

New Faces?

So, it has now been announced that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will unveil his new cabinet on 26 October ~ it will have been well over a month since the day he won the election and day he announces who will fill the treasury benches. I guess governing Canada wasn’t as urgent as a surfing holiday in Tofino.

Carla Qualtrough, Liberal MP for Delta | openparliament.ca

The media is already speculating that the current MND, Harjit Sajjan, is on his way out. David Cochrane, writing for CBC News says that “The biggest change could come in the defence ministry. Many senior Liberals suggest that Harjit Sajjan will be shuffled to a new portfolio,” because, one presumes, he has failed to “manage” the series of sexual misconduct allegations that continue to plague the senior ranks of the Canadian Forces. My guess is that Mr Sajjan is safe as a minister ~ diversity and all that sort of thing; I wonder if he might replace the hapless Bill Blair on the gun control file. “Government insiders say,” Mr Cochrane reports, that “it’s clear that new leadership is needed to deal with ongoing sexual misconduct problems in the military and suggest it may be time for a woman to take control at the Department of National Defence … [and] … The names mentioned most often as possible replacements for Sajjan at defence are Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.

I never understood the Liberal Party’s and the media’s fascination with the “badass” Mr Sajjan. He was and remains it always seemed to me to be a token appointment. There were, in 2015, and there are now, better choices for the office of Minister of National Defence.

A new minister (or the old one) will face a daunting array of challenges:

  • (S)he will serve in a government that just wants the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces to fade away, quietly;
  • The ongoing sexual misconduct scandals are eroding public confidence in the institution and in the government, itself;
  • Increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region and in Eastern Europe and the Middle East;
  • US President Biden is, rather pointedly, shoving Canada aside in his search for global security partners but, at the same time, he will continue to pressure Canada to do a bigger, better share at meeting its treaty obligation, especially to North American security; and
  • There may be a link between Canada’s defence programme and keeping the oil flowing through the unpopular (in the USA) Line 5.

My personal sense is that the public relations disaster that currently engulfs the Canadian Armed Forces is the government’s No. 1 Priority. It is now becoming a bit of a bad joke with some humorists suggesting that maybe it is even time to remove sexual misconduct as a prerequisite for promotion to admiral or general.

But a crisis can be an opportunity, too. It may be a good time, to attack the bloat morbid obesity that is the hallmark of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Command and Control superstructure. I believe that cutting over 33% of the all the current admirals and generals and almost as many Navy captains and Army and Air Force colonels is both possible and desirable.

I think that only a handful of the currently serving four and three star (admiral, general, vice admiral and lieutenant general) level officers should be retained: one to be the chief of the defence staff, one, one to be deputy commander of NORAD and one to be Canada’s national military representative to NATO. It is time to promote newer younger officers to higher command positions and to, broadly and generally, lower the ranks levels above ship, regiment and squadron command. Some good men and women will be shoved aside for no good reasons except that they are deemed guilty by association. Some equally good men and women deserve a chance to breathe new life and vigour onto an ailing institution.

It’s time for some new faces.

Another old thought revived

In an editorial the Globe and Mail says that last month’s federal election “was a reminder of how well our voting system works … [because, unlike in many other jurisdictions, including that of our great and powerful (and democratic) neighbour to the South] … None of the parties is claiming that the vote was “rigged.” No losing candidates are saying they only lost because ballot boxes were stuffed. The official opposition is not crying “Fraud!” and demanding new rules to make it harder to vote. No party’s slogan is “Stop the Steal” … [instead, the Good Grey Globe opines] … Elections Canada is expected to be able to confirm final results some time this week, after last week completing judicial recounts in two close races. Those uncontroversial, boring-as-paint-drying recounts are examples of how and why our system works.”

Part of the reason for the success of our system, the Globe suggests, is that “Federal election ballots are made of paper, marked by hand with a pencil, and tallied by a remarkable technology known as “human beings.” Scrutineers from the political parties can count along with Election Canada’s counters; that appears to be how the mistake in Châteauguay–Lacolle was found … [and] … There are no black-box electronic voting machines. It’s just pencil on paper.” I am reminded of something that was drilled into me as young soldier and junior officer: Simplicity is a virtue; simple things are robust; in the heat of battle robust people and things work best; the simple solution to a problem is most often the better one; and the simple, elegant solution is most often right.

The Globe and Mail‘s editorial boards concludes, and I agree (reluctantly, because I think that there must be a way to make online voting work in the not too distant future) that “Canada’s voting system isn’t perfect. Not all ridings have the same population; some have fewer than 50,000 voters, while others have more than 100,000 … [and] … There are questions, too, about whether first-past-the-post is still best …[but one needs only to loook to Israel, another robust democracy, to see why proportional representation is a foolish alternative favoured almost exclusively by parties that can never attract the support they think they deserve] … And though we are far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to curbing the influence of money in politics, we could still do better, through tighter limits on donations … [but] … it’s hard to fault the way this country tallies its votes – and the way politicians and voters alike respect the legitimacy of the count. Look south, and be thankful.

And, I am thankful, even though I suspect that Elections Canada is a bit of a dumping ground for bureaucrats who are not quite good enough for, say, management posts in Treasury Board or one of the big spending apartments like Industry, Health or Defence.

But, thankful as I am for the simple, honest system that we have inherited and (through the force of bureaucratic inertia?) left, largely, unchanged for a century or more, I believe that there is one aspect of our political system that is broken. I am certain that liberalism ~ the greatest gift that we (and Australia and America) have from our British political heritage has been sadly and seriously weakened.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau – Yousuf Karsh

The attack on liberalism began in the 1930s when Québec was allowed to institutionalize illiberalism (almost fascism) in its quest to “protect” the French fact in Canada. It became a more serious problem in the 1960s when, confronted by an armed rebellion by a small number of French-Canadian terrorists, the Government of Canada decided that appeasement was the best solution. Appeasement, and the consequential drift away from our liberal heritage accelerated when Pierre Trudeau became prime minister. He was NOT, in any meaningful way, a liberal. He tossed aside two centuries of British liberalism and sought, instead, some bastardization of European social-democratic theory and democratic Marxism. Pierre Trudeau was not an autocrat. He believed in democracy. He believed that the people had a fundamental right to elect their governments. What he did not believe in, what he appeared, to me, to actively fear and oppose was traditional English liberalism.

Parks Canada - Lambton, John George (First Earl of Durham) National  Historic Person

The “apprehended insurrection” in Québec in 1970 certainly changed Canada in quite fundamental ways, but Pierre Trudeau’s reaction to it probably changed the country in an even greater way. It has always seemed, to me, that Pierre Trudeau could not make a case for Québec’s place in Canada, as a province. He was convinced that Lord Durham was right: Québec is a nation and Canada is another discrete, separate nation and somehow some way must be found to help Québec to reconcile itself to its unfortunate fate, to accepting its place in Canada. His answers included e.g. “fiscal federalism,” which was, after one dusted off the bureaucratic verbiage, nothing but a bribe. Some form of fiscal federalism is a feature of every federal system, it is not unique to Canada. Canada’s system, which includes an equalization formula that is, intentionally, weighted to massively favour Québec and Atlantic Canada, is, however, like the 1982 version of the Constitution, an outcome of the sundry Québec crises of 1960s and ’70s.

There are few if any politicians, none who matter a lot, anyway, who now deny that Québec is a nation, at least the Québecois and Québecoise people are a nation, even if most want to keep it/them as a nation within the Canadian federal state. What has changed, however, it seems to me is the extent to which almost all Canadian politicians are willing too toss aside their own professed liberal values in an attempt to appease Québec’s increasingly ugly illiberal nature. I expect nothing less from Québec’s native sons and from leaders of progressive and illiberal parties, but I hoped and expected that Erin O’Toole would at the very least stand up for the rights fo every Canadian, even those unfortunates who will bet the victims of Québec’s odious Bill 21. I was shocked when Mr O’Toole turned coward and agreed with Messers Trudeau and Singh that the moderator of the election debate was wrong to ask the leader of the Bloc Québecois about that bill. That was a sure sign that even the Conservative Party has thrown its liberal values away in its pursuit of a few seats in Québec.

Liberal Canada is disappearing. We are on track to be just another illiberal democracy, like France or Hungary or Poland. Pity …

Dealing with China

David Mulroney, a former career foreign service officer whose career included a tour (2009-2012) as Canada’s ambassador to China, says, on social media that: “The key to a successful China policy is connectedness, something governments find hard to achieve. We finally have to understand that China is an economic power but also an expansionist, interfering, hostage-taking, human-rights-abusing hostile power … [and] … That argues for a tough, limited and carefully managed policy, requiring vision, discipline and leadership. It also entails being guided by facts (the hard lessons that China’s visiting on us), speaking clearly about what’s happening, forging smart partnerships …[but] … The China lobby will argue for a “compartmentalized” policy that involves focusing heavily on trade, speaking piously about the bad things, but looking the other way as China steadily limits our autonomy and brings us closer into its orbit.” That, it seems to me, is as clear, concise and accurate a statement of the problem and solution as one is ever likely to find.

Let’s get the three points:

  1. We need to “connect” with China in a clear-eyed, clear headed way. We need to recognize China;s strengths and its potential as a trading partner but, at the same time we need to understand how China operates … and it is nothing like the way Western liberal-democracies operate;
  2. Canada needs a “tough [but] limited [and] carefully managed policy, requiring vision discipline an d leadership” from our policy makers. Sadly, it seems to me, we have a policy team, at the top, that is weak, lacks vision and discipline and is I thrall to the China lobby; and
  3. That China lobby is, already, arguing for a policy of ” compartmentalization” which says that we appease China in all things in order to gain market access.

The China lobby about which Mr Mulroney writes in clues e.g. big names in Canadian business and industry like the Power Corporation and former Prime. Minister Jean Chrétien. Mr Mulroney, himself, was part of it in the 1990s …. and he was in good company. Most leaders in government and business felt, in the 1990s, that China’s rise as a good thing and leaders like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao soothed us all into a sense of security.

They weren’t denying the fact that China had ambitions to be a global superpower but they were not announcing it, either. Deng’s dictum was “hide you ambitions and disguise your claws.” Some people think he meant that “China should devote its energy to developing economically and not concern itself so much with international affairs,” but that’s not what he said. He said that China should have global ambitions but it should hide them and give the outward appearance of being concernded, primarily, with trade. Xi Jinping is NOT being untrue not Deng’s principle, but he has decided that the time for hiding and disguising has passed.

Many, many leaders in the US-led West decided, about 20 years ago, that America was in decline and that its decline was irreversible and that China would, inevitably, rise and become THE global superpower. They may be right … the operative word is “may.” There is a general theory, based in large part of Paul Kennedy’s ideas in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that each great power gets to rise and then falls and never rises again. Professor Kennedy looked at Europe from about 1500 (although he did make passing references to Ming Dynasty China and the Mughal Empire) and his model has remained highly influential. So, if it was America’s turn to decline, given that Europe and Russia had already done so, that left only China to assume the mantle of global leadership. So, at least, said many, many American, British, Canadian and European and Asian leaders and scholars. I think that Jean Chrétien (and his policy advisors) reached that conclusion in about 2003 when the US decided to invade Iraq. Public opinion was on his side and his “Team Canada” trips to China were wildly popular at home and in China, too.

THE CHINA DEAL | Maclean's | NOVEMBER 21, 1994

Until about five years ago I was one of those who believed that this, the beginning of the 21st century, was China’s time to rise and and that the US-led West should and could accommodate it and that the increasing integration ~ Chimerica noted historian Niall Ferguson called it ~ would lead, inevitably to China becoming a less authoritarian country. When he came to power in 2012, I assumed that Xi Jinping might be a somewhat more efficient version of Jiang Zemin ~ so did tens of thousands of others who claim to keep an eye on China. I was wrong. Xi Jinping sees himself as a transformative leader and the transformation he intends to oversee is the one that m makes China displace America as THE global hyper-power. But I also think that although he may be a good engineer, Xi Jinping has, probably, underestimated the “events” that always creep up at the edges and sometimes directly in. the path of great plans.

Which brings us back to Mr Mulroney’s sensible prescription. Canada, and the rest of the US-led West need to stay connected to Chia; we do want to sell it what it needs and to buy what it has on offer, but our “connectiveness” must be carefully managed in our own best interests. We do not want to enable China’s expansionist, bullying, rights-abusing interference in the affairs of others. We have seen, in the beggar-thy-neighbour nature of the belt-and-road initiative, in the crackdown on Hong Kong and in the Meng/Two Michaels dispute with Canada just what kind of power China is intent on becoming, and we shouldn’t like it.

Developing the right levels of “connectiveness” will, as Mr Mulroney says, require tough, disciplined political and bureaucratic leadership. No-one blames corporations for wanting to maximize their profits but the government must look after the national interest which is not alway the same as Power Corporation‘s interests.

Finally, we, voters and taxpayers must understand that our interests and the interests of the Chrétien, Desmarais, Rae and Trudeau families are not always coincidental.

Some (old) thoughts on political leadership revisited

I want to revisit a few points I have made before.

First, with regard to definitions. A liberal is someone who values individual liberty for every single individual, everywhere. Liberals believe that rights belong to individuals and that collectives ~ groups like communities and religions and the state, itself ~ have duties but not rights. Thus, liberals are very wary of group rights, including, here in Canada, for example, minority (or majority) language rights. Most liberals oppose, for example, Québec‘s language laws and the proposed Bill 21 and most liberals are suspicious of much of the Canadian Constitution of 1982.

The opposite of liberal is NOT conservative, it is illiberal. Likewise, the opposite of conservative is NOT liberal, it is progressive.

For a whole host of reasons, many of which I have explained in the past, Canadians tend to skew towards the Progressive/Illiberal part of the political area.

I believe there is room on the Canadian political playing field for four major, national, political parties:

  • One on the progressive and illiberal (statist) ‘left;’
  • One on the conservative and illiberal ‘right;’ and
  • Two in the liberal centre ~
    • One skewed towards the progressive left, and
    • The other towards the conservative right.

I think the Red party has the greatest chance of appealing to the largest plurality of Canadians (who are skewed to the lower (illiberal) left) and when the Orange is weak and when the conservative parties split the liberal/conservative vote then then a Red party government is the most likely outcome, as it was for nearly 70 of the 100 years of the 20th century and for more than half of the 21st, to date.

It is possible to change the Canadian political culture but that will be a long, slow and painful process.

But, for now, while we have a four party system it doesn’t look much like the one above. Instead, it looks more like this:

Jagmeet Singh - Progressive Governance Summit

The reason why most Canadians voters skew down☟to the illiberal zone (2nd graphic) is that Québec, with 20+% of the population , is the most illiberal political jurisdiction in North America. The federal Bloc Québécois and the provincial government in Québec are both committed ro trampling on the fundamental rights and liberties of individual citizens just because they are not pure laine Québécois or Québécoise. No liberal would ever want to do that. The need to compete for a share of Québec‘s 78 (of 338 (23%)) seats forces even otherwise liberal politicians like Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole to abandon their liberal values and pander to the illiberal Québécois and Québécoise voters who hold morally worthless ethnocentric values above all else.

We are not going to change Québec. Its political culture is based on the well founded fear that the French language is declining, steadily and irrevocably, in North America. The people of Québec are fighting hard to slow the rate of decline; one cannot really blame them. The only way they can imagine to make French more attractive is to make its use compulsory and that means trampling on the individual rights of their fellow citizens. Québec‘s innate illiberalism is a feature of Canada, some might call it a flaw, but I think that’s unfair.

I believe there is a “sweet spot” in Canadian politics where the NDP and BQ stay about where they are, each providing a natural “home” for Canada’s most progressive and least liberal voters. The broad political centre should be fought over by two parties, each more liberal than illiberal but ‘divided’ by the extent to which they espouse progressive versus conservative values. This graphic shows what I mean:

How do we get there?

The BQ and the NDP have the fewest problems. They are, both, about where they should be but each should, probably, be a bit bigger in terns of seat count. For both parties that means differentiating themselves from the Liberal Party which has been, for the past decade or more, trying to become more like both of them.

The Conservative Party must move towards the centre AND, simultaneously, it must become more liberal. That may mean losing some seats in Québec. Erin O’Toole has been trying to make the party more centrist but, in his quest to win more seats at any cost, he has FAILED to make it more liberal. I think that, for now, the party is in safe hands if it keeps Erin O’Toole as leader. I believe it would be short-sighted and foolish to dump him, now.

There is room, I believe, for another, small but significant party that is even more liberal than the Conservatives and a bit more conservative, too, in that it will respect the individual rights of social conservatives to practice and preach their values even though, being liberal, it will oppose imposing anyone’s values on anyone else. That party can, I suspect, also have a Western/rural orientation. I’m using Michelle Rempel-Garner as a potential “face” of that new party because she is a bone fide liberal AND she is a Western-Canadian nationalist, too.

My new model, then, looks like this:

The political landscape, for the next century, should look like this:

The biggest problem is faced by the Liberal Party. They have drifted too far away from the real centre. Because, ever since about 1890, their base has been in Québec, and they have flirted, more and more, with illiberalism. Prime Minister Trudeau is, likely, the least liberal leader of any political party since Confederation. The problem is that Québec is becoming less and less and less valuable. It now has 24% of Canada’s population, but in 20 years it will be 22% and then 18%. The late Professor Michael Bliss said, 20 years ago, that there is a “fault line” along the Ottawa River. Everything East of that line (Québec and the four Atlantic provinces) is “Old Canada,” he said, and it is stagnating and entering a long term, steady decline. Immigrants the source of ALL of Canada’s growth and prosperity don’t want to go there. They, and many “Old Canadians,” too, want to go West, to “New Canada” (Ontario and the four Western provinces). Canada’s future is in Professor Bliss’ “New Canada;” the Liberal Party has tied itself to “Old Canada.” The Liberals must woo “New Canada” and to do that they must become more liberal.

The reality for all parties, is this:

Right now, in 2021, the Liberal‘s base in “Old Canada” (109 of 338 seats in the House of Commons) stands them in good stead because they also dominate in Ontario’s big urban centres and inner suburbs and in Greater Vancouver (100± seats in all). But, as “New Canada” grows and “Old Canada” stagnates and shrinks the issue will become: who dominates in most of “New Canada?” The answer to that question is also the answer to: who will govern Canada for most of the 21st century? The long term prospects for the Liberals are not as good as they should be.

I believe that the Liberal Party needs to dump Justin Trudeau ~ I suspect that some very, very senior Liberals are scouring the market, right this minute, looking for a well-paid, do-nothing job for Justin Trudeau in New York or Geneva or, perhaps, in Vienna, Paris or Rome. It must be a nice, gentle, respectful dump, but it needs to be a dump all the same. I do not believe the Liberal Party can begin to reshape itself, as it certainly needs to do, until it is rid of Justin Trudeau and a good deal of his father’s legacy, too.

That leads me to my “dream team” for Canada’s four main, national parties as they compete in my “sweet spot” where 90+% of the voters are. My guess, for, say, 2025/2030 or so is something like this:

I know that Avi Lewis, bearer of one of the great names in NDP lore didn’t impress enough voters when he ran this year, but his wife, the author ands activist Naomi Klein might exist voters more. I believe that Celina Caesar-Chavannes is itching to re-enter politics and I also believe that she would make an outstanding Liberal Party leader. I’m pretty sure that Caroline Mulroney is running hard for something. Is it to lead the Ontario PC Party and become premier of Canada’s largest and richest province or is she getting ready to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada? While I am certain that there is room on the spectrum for a liberal Western Canada Party, I’m not sure that the political will to build it is there. But, if it is then Michelle Rempel-Garner, a signatory of the Buffalo Declaration, would be a good choice to lead it.

I think Canada is ready for such a “dream team” of political leaders, don’t you?

Is anyone really surprised?

Is anyone, anyone at all, even a little bit surprised that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decide to take a vacation on Truth and Reconciliation Day to go surfing in Tofino?

Anyone?

No?

How about any of the 5.55 Million Canadians who voted for any Liberal Party candidate in any riding at all? Surprised at the leader of that party?

Those 5.5. Million Canadians knew they were voting for a party led by a ‘man’ (if that’s the right word) who one of his on former colleagues said was “Fake as f_ck.” He is that, and we all got what they chose: a fake man who is a fake leader.

Daggers drawn

A number of things caught my eyes over the past couple of days. They are all related to this …

… by David Parkins in the Globe and Mail.

Why are the knives out for Erin O’Toole?

Well, the Globe and Mail‘s editorial board opines that it’s because he made the right strategic choices. Specifically, the editorialists write, “he aimed at the right target. The Conservative Party has to appeal to voters in urban and suburban Canada, and win many ridings there, if it ever wants to form government again. It’s hard to see how that can happen without a shift to the centre on a number of issues. If the Conservatives become the official party of the hinterlands, they’re doomed.

Now that seems to have annoyed a whole hockey sock full of Conservatives who look at this map …

… and then say to themselves “Hey, look, half the country is blue, and more people voted for the Conservative party than did for the Liberals.” The problem with that is that it its illogical because it is not based on political reality. This map

… shows political reality. Geography is irrelevant. It’s interesting, but meaningless, that there are almost nothing but Conservatives natives from just East of Greater Vancouver all the way to Winnipeg. The problem is that there are fewer seats between the interior of BC, all of Alberta and Saskatchewan and most of Manitoba (60± to be generous) than there are in the Greater Toronto and Vancouver Areas (75±). Add in Ottawa and the Halifax region and the illogic of those who want the Conservatives to remain a Western and rural party is obvious.

More than ½ of all Canadians live in one tiny slice of the country:

It must not be surprising or disturbing that they also get to elect more than half the MPs. Add in Greater Vancouver and Montreal and Halifax and … well, you must conclude that any party that wishes to govern Canada must win the hearts and minds of the people who live in our fast growing big cities.

That doesn’t mean that the good people who live on farms and in small towns and so on don’t matter … but it does mean that they cannot and will not set the national agenda. The question then becomes can they and should they set the Conservative Party’s agenda?

Let’s look at the results from last week. The Conservative party got 33% of the national vote, just a bit more than the Liberals Party eared. A lot of that vote was concentrated in about half the ridings the Conservatives won ~ all that blue between Greater Vancouver and urban Winnipeg. Is that the Conservative “base?”

The Conservatives also won 31% of the vote in Toronto. That’s right, in the heart of urban Canada nearly one in every three voters chose a CPC candidate. That wasn’t quite enough but in 20+ urban and suburban ridings across the country the Conservatives only trailed the Liberals by 2,500± votes. In other words, if the Conservatives had earned, as Erin O’Toole aimed to do, say 32% of the vote in Greater Toronto then the national results might have been LPC: 137± and CPC 139±.

Erin O’Toole tried to pull the Conservative Party of Canada back to the political centre,. where Stephen Harper left it. He failed. But he didn’t fail by much. As someone wiser than I has said, Ontario voters like to kick the tires before they buy. A goodly proportion (31% of them in Toronto and substantially more in some suburbs) liked what they saw but stuck with the devil they know. If we go to the polls again in 2023 they may, likely will, like it better. A majority government in a five party system like Canada;’s can be had with something under 40% of the popular vote. But no partycan govern if it does not earn substantial (35%) support in Greater Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, Winnipeg and throughout Southern Ontario, including, especially the Greater Toronto Area.

Seats in Québec are nice to have but as Stephen Harper proved the Conservative party can won and govern, well, without very much support in la belle province. Seats in Atlantic Canada are also nice to have, but with the next redistribution of seats Atlantic Canada’s share of the house will drop, again, while Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver (and Calgary, too) will gain. IF the Conservatives want to lead Canada in the right direction they must earn the votes of the people in those cities and suburbs surrounding them … as Erin O’Toole tried to do.

Should Erin O’Toole’s leadership be reviewed? Yes, of course … if for no other reason than that the CPC’s constitution calls for it. Should his leadership be challenged. Yes, again … if someone is convinced that they can formulate and execute, successfully, a winning national campaign.

I think Conservative party members need to ask those who have their daggers already drawn: who is their choice for leader and how will (s)he win enough (many more) votes in the cities and, above all, in the suburbs to form a majority government?

Erin O’Toole tried to do the right thing. He didn’t succeed. But his plan was the only sensible way that the Conservative Party can win power … the Western, rural and small town “base” is too small. A party which aims to satisfy only that base is only ever going to be a protest movement.

Assuming, as I do, that the Conservative Party of Canada aims to provide Canadians with a good, responsible, government that really does want to build a better country for all Canadians then when its is time to review Erin O’Toole’s leadership that review must begin by acknowledging that he did the the right thing. The only question, then, is: is there someone who can do it ~ extend the party’s base to suburban Canada ~ better?