Sunday, March 30, 2008


There is a large swath of the Liberal Party of Canada - many of Paul Martin's suicide squad, soft Quebec nationalists, some disgruntled supporters of the Michael Ignatieff leadership bid, some of the traditional Winters/Turner/Martin right wing of the party - who have never accepted the verdict of the Leadership convention that elected Stephane Dion as party leader in December 2006.

They also have severe learning disabilities when it comes to the subject of politics.

Many of them agitated, weasled and wheedled away at undermining the leadership of three-time majority winner Jean Chretien. When their success forced him to throw in the towel, their manipulative ways set up the dullest Grit leadership convention in the history of the party in December 2003 which saw the coronation of Mr. Martin. Only the brave Sheila Copps stood up to this fiasco by remaining on the ballot. The feint-of-heart John Manley bowed out of the contest early enough not to offend the incoming regime. Revenge was swiftly meted out to Copps however. The Martinites torpedoed her nomination in her own riding of Hamilton East, thus - at least temporarily - sidelining her from public life.

Not satisfied with the forced retirement of Chretien and the purging of Copps and literally hundreds of supporters of Chretien in the party across the country, Martin continued this insane internecine mayhem by ordering the Gomery Inquiry which set up the ancien Chretien regime to be the Liberal opponent in the forthcoming Federal Election. Think about it - the Martin Liberals set up the Chretien Liberals to run against - as though the Conservatives didn't exist!! The result of all of this stupidity was inevitable: the Martin Liberals lost the election thereby gifting the Canadian people with its main legacy: a Harper Government. Martin, mercifully, seems to have disappeared into history, where he will be a small footnote.

The obvious lesson to be learned from this gross foolishness is that in order for a party to succeed to power, it has to stay unified. To win, a party needs the support of every living breathing member and supporter it can lay its hands on. Most of us in the party knew this. The guts of the Martin party - including Martin himself - obviously did not.

Well, as they say, "They're baaaaaaaaaack."

Their target is of course Stephane Dion. Unlike them, Dion was never part of Martin's suicide squad, is not a soft Quebec nationalist, is not a disgruntled supporter of Michael Ignatieff, and has never been a member of the Winters/Turner/Martin right wing of the party. He is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, lawfully and fairly elected according to the rules in the last convention. He has yet to lead the party into a general election and according to the polls is running neck and neck in party support with Steve Harper's Conservatives. There is no doubt that he is having some problems. But all leaders - particularly opposition leaders - have problems as they approach their first general election.

First among the backstabbers to come out of the shadows this past week was Steven Pinkus, the Liberal Party of Canada's vice-president for the Quebec Anglophone community. He rants about the Liberals' recruiting, fundraising and communication efforts. Noone, he says, is "stepping up to the plate to put together an organization strategy." Pinkus said that he's complaining because Dion's "hand-picked people" hadn't learned any lessons from the Liberal by-election defeat in Outremont.

About Pinkus' warblings, firstly, it is to be noted that he worked for Michael Ignatieff in the leadership contest. Secondly, since he sits on the National Executive of the Liberal Party of Canada as a vice-president, what about the National Executive's and his responsibility in bringing about an effective party organization?

Martinite, former Martin Minister, high-profile media gadfly, supporter of Michael Ignatieff, and soft Quebec nationalist Liza Frulla was the next out of the cage. Dion, she said, "has no instinct. At a certain point, people feel it if there is something wrong, even if they don't know exactly what it is. But he, poor Stephane, doesn't feel it."

I would like to pose this question to Ms. Frulla. "What about your own instinct in having supported the departed Mr. Martin in his effort to dislodge and trash the Chretien Liberals? Why didn't you feel there was something wrong with that? After all, it cost the Liberals the election, Mr. Martin his leadership and you your seat!! You are a fine one to talk about "no instinct!"

Frulla went further in her comments. She trashes former Minister and firebrand politico Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, Dion's Quebec lieutenant, as being "abrasive" and narcissistic." Egads, talk about the pot calling the kettle black! But quite apart from that, I have known Ms. Hervieux-Payette for almost thirty years. She is a passionate and tough task master and a doer. She is also a great Canadian. When Liza Frulla was casting her ballot for the "yes" forces in the Quebec Referendum of 1980, Celine was still out on the hustings campaigning for the "no" side of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Claude Ryan.

For what its worth, my advice to Grits everywhere is to unite and get behind the leader. We have seen what happens when a party splits over leadership. Liberal unity was one of the important reasons why the Liberals ruled between 1963 and 1984. It was one of the reasons that we were successful during most of the Chretien years. Liberals were unified and the Tories - for much of that time - were divided. We also saw what party disunity did to us in 2004. It gave us Harper. Dion has earned the right to lead the party into the next election and so let's live with that.

As for Michael Ignatieff - who I happen to like very much - I say to him, get your people in line and watch what you say and how you say it. The press are always on the hunt for that raised eyebrow, the grimace, the frown, the out-of-context sentence or phrase or word, designed to promote conflict. Its a minefield, really. And you have to get through it. Just like the rest of us.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Corbella: Chip off the Old . . .


Licia Corbella is the new 3 month old Editorial Page Editor of the Calgary Herald.

Prior to joining the Herald, Ms. Corbella was a longtime editor/columnist with the Sun Media organization - first in Toronto and then in Calgary. No doubt, during her days at the Sun she came under the influence of some of the many loony pamphleteers that over the years have taken too much space in its pages - names like Worthington, Amiel, Jonas, Zink and Waugh come to mind - ideologues all. Indeed, all are either - borderline or worse - neocon lunatics of the far, far right whose prose has for years tried to poison reasonable political discourse between contending parties, movements and ideas throughout the country.

The Calgary Herald historically was a much different newspaper than the yellow pages of the Sun. During much of the staid old days of the Southam era, it could rightfully say that it was a newspaper of record. News was reported well and matter of factly. Editorials and columns sought not to incite. The Herald was a proud and honest newspaper during those days, honorably supporting the Social Credit or Progressive Conservative options at election time in a humane, respectful and dignified manner.
Then came the nightmarish regime of the disgraced, self-destructive narcissist, Conrad Black.
Beginning his reign of the Herald in 1996, he soon selected a management and editorial group that would have no problem proselytizing his love for laissez-faire economics, social Darwinism, the United States, the Bush family and the goodness of greed. Nor would they have a problem painting the Liberal Party as big-spending, weak-kneed, bleeding hearts of the extreme left. Among the Black team at the Herald were his foot soldiers with names like Menzies, Crockett, Gaynor and King. In doing the bidding of their now-felon boss, their shoddy treatment of the Herald's staff led to a prolonged and bitter strike, turning old friends and colleagues against each other and excellent professional journalists away from their profession.

With the purchase of the Herald in 2000 by Can-West Global, a company controlled by the family of Izzy Asper, a high profile Liberal and former Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, moderate readers of the Herald breathed a sigh of relief. And it is true that over time, standards of objectivity under the new owndership improved. In the last two provincial elections and between elections, oppostion parties including the Alberta Liberal Party couldn't complain about the Herald's coverage they received. And on the whole, although the editorial pages continue to be supportive of the Tories, there has been a reasonable equilibrium of opinion.

But now comes the Sun trained, Ms. Corbella.

In her election post-mortem published March 8 "Alberta Liberals are deaf when it comes to good advice", she accuses the Alberta Liberals as being "deaf to what the voters said. . . " because Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said shortly after the election that "Losing the election does not mean the Alberta Liberals are wrong about the issues. We are right, and we need the courage and persistance to stay on those issues." That, she says, was 'arrogance' and 'delusional.' Why? Because the Alberta Liberal Party's campaign policies called for the construction of upgraders in Alberta at the same time as establishing an absolute cap on greenhouse gas emissions from all sources within five years.
Those policies are not necessarily mutually exclusive and nor must they be. Be that as it may, one is left to conclude that she finds it arrogant and delusional for Liberals to enunciate policies with which she does not agree. This is an ominous sign indeed coming from the new Editorial Page Editor and bodes ill for anyone hoping to challenge her beloved Tories on her pages.

Her frontal boot attack on the Grit cajones continued with her advancing that old canard of changing the Alberta Liberal Party's name by dropping the word 'Liberal.' The Liberal brand is broken, she says. The Party, she reminds us, has not won in 23 consecutive elections. She takes exception to Kevin Taft saying that "there was nothing wrong with the Liberal brand." I suppose she didn't know that it took the Progressive Conservatives 17 elections and 65 years to finally form an Alberta government in 1971. And she has probably forgotten that as recently as 1993 the Alberta Liberals won 40% of the vote and 32 seats with close to 400,000 Albertans voting for them. Not bad for the Liberal brand not that long ago.

She next trotted out the old NEP BIG LIE to continue her attack. She takes exception to Taft saying that "Albertans should just get over the National Energy Program." She says, "Some of the brightest, most philanthropic people I have ever met and who understand the difference between provincial and federal politics, tell me they will never be able to vote Liberal, so devastated were they, their parents or their grandparents as a result of the Trudeau Liberals' NEP.' She goes on, "Taft wants them to get over something that caused real Albertans to lose everything, but he won't lose a hated moniker." All of which she describes as "more arrogance" and "deafness."

I suppose Corbella would think it is deaf, dumb and arrogant for a Liberal to tell the truth.

These brightest, most philanthropic people who know the difference between provincial and federal politics, I guess, are not as bright as Corbella thinks they are. Because if they were, they would know that the Alberta Liberal Party has been a separate and independent legal entity from the Liberal Party of Canada for more than twenty years.

In fact, these brightest, most philanthropic people who can't bring themselves to vote Liberal because of the NEP are, and always have been, Tories.

And these brightest, most philanthropic people as well as the Editorial Page Editor of the Calgary Herald, continue to ignore or misrepresent the facts surrounding the NEP
Here are some facts about the NEP. The devastation of the 1980's was felt in every oil producing region of the Americas more or less at the same time and to the same effect. It was brought about primarily by high interest rates (sponsored by among others, their conservative hero Ronald Reagan and his Federal Reserve Board), collapsing world oil prices and bright and philanthropic businessmen who did not believe or remember there was such a thing as a business cycle.
These same bright, most philanthropic people and their Tory pals, who include big-time editors schooled in the fine art of Sun Media type of bullshit, have been distorting the NEP for going on 28 years and continue to do so. They are basically lying to the people that they should be informing.

As a parting shot, Corbella sticks her shivy pen into the back of Harry Chase, an earnest, hardworking and very good and gentle man who is the Liberal MLA representing the Riding of Calgary Varsity. To her question as to whether the Liberals should change their name, Chase offered the very thoughtful and articulate response, "That would be a rather sad comment on the capabilities of Albertans (that) something as basic, the veneer of a name, would be more significant than the depth of a policy."

To which Corbella harumphed, "Deaf, dumb and arrogant."

I'll say. And it's neither Harry Chase, Kevin Taft nor the Alberta Liberal Party.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


If they haven't suffered enough, it's their God-given right to suffer some more. That's the first idea to come to my mind in the wake of Premier Stelmach's 72 to 9 to 2 romp to a massive majority victory in the Alberta Election.

What motivated Albertans to be so apathetic in the wake of such poor government? Two hundred and fifty thousand Calgarians cannot find a family physician. Eleven hours or more waiting time for treatment in emergency wards. Patients being cared for in the hospital hallways or room showers. Premature babies having to be flown to Saskatoon for treatment because of a lack of facilities in Alberta. An abysmal lack of schools to serve the fastest growing province in the country. Crumbling and leaking schools. A chronic lack of spaces to serve students enrolled in higher learning. Deteriorating and unsafe highways. All of this in the wealthiest province in the history of the country.

The desecration of our environment. The refusal to launch even a token attack on climate change. The looting of bitumin by big oil via pipeline thus transferring both unimaginable wealth and tens of thousands of jobs to cheap labour destinations in the United States. A fumbling and bumbling Premier - an embarrassment, really - who gets by by memorizing a few lines from his campaign cheat sheets, who has trouble putting two coherent phrases together. Yada, yada, yada. There's more.

Oh, it's true the Grits talked too much policy. Until people's eyes began to glaze over at times. And yes, there was a shortage of passion, urgency and righteous indignation in the delivery of their message - that 'it was time!' But by God, it was time!! It would have been 'time' in every other province of Canada whose government had a similar dismal record as the Alberta Tories.

In fact, the Kevin Taft Alberta Liberals ran a great campaign. They had candidates of quality who ran visible and active campaigns. The Liberals had ideas. Boy, did they have ideas! And what is wrong with ideas? There was a time when people cared about ideas. Even columnists cared about whether a party presented ideas.

Sun columnist Rick Bell, one of my favorite columnists (when he is not mean-spirited and subconsciously yearning for the return of Ralph Klein who was so full of yuk, yuks in the good old days like plagerizing his college term paper, getting into a shouting match with the homeless on Christmas Eve, or talking about dinosaur farts), thinks the Liberals are arrogant. See
In Rick's world, any politician who presents ideas on the hustings is a latte swilling intellectual snob, who whines when he loses.

I got news for you Ricky. The Grits know how to take their lumps and they take them like real men (or women). They will be back with their ideas another day. Not every successful politician is in the tradition of lubricated blowhards who duck out of Premiers' meetings on health care to play the slots. Some think. Some have ideas. And whether they swill latte or pellegrino or cheap vino sometimes they win. And it is these men and women of ideas that make a difference. The Grits will be back Ricky, don't you worry.