Thursday, December 31, 2009


As most of you who read my blog know, although I have little time for most of the editorial writers and columnists over at the hapless Calgary Herald, I do read and have respect for a few. One that I have for the most part admired is long-time political columnist Don Braid who I have known and read for thirty years.

But alas, Braid is not always right. His column in yesterday’s Herald “Victim mentality keeps Liberals in doghouse,” is one of his more dismal efforts. Read:

He starts off on the right note. He sees the Tories on the ropes and the Alberta right coming apart at the seams. He notes that Alberta Grits are paying down their debt, becoming a presence on the internet, and presenting sound policies. All of this, Braid correctly observes, shows that Liberals in Alberta now have a great chance to move forward, and perhaps even attain power.

From that point on Braid’s column goes all to hell. He predicts that despite those positive signs of potential success, the Grits will fail because of their collective victim mentality which causes them to blame others for their problems. Braid says that the first words one hears from senior Alberta Liberals these days are “Why is the Wildrose Alliance getting a free ride?” The evidence upon which he draws this sweeping conclusion is that he recently met “one top guy” [who , and what makes him a “top guy,” he doesn’t say] who “threw me that question at a party this week.”

Well first of all, “one top guy” doesn’t speak for the whole party. Secondly, you find individuals all the time who are out of sync with any group to which they may belong. For instance, I’m sure you will find one or two Calgarians who might say that Stelmach is a good Premier, but that doesn’t mean that all Calgarians believe he is a good Premier. You might even find a Calgarian who will say that the Calgary Herald is a good newspaper, God forbid, and that sure as hell does not mean that all Calgarians believe that!

Braid continues his diatribe by saying that when the Grits lose they blame the media and also they “blame the voters for being too stupid to see their virtues. And the voters, far from stupid, pick up on the condescension and reject the Liberals once again.”

Well, I have spent more time around Alberta Liberals than the whole of the Calgary Herald editorial and writing staff of the last ten years put together, and I can tell you that this is pure – to put it politely – bullshit. If Braid believes that then he is spending too much time on the Tory cocktail circuit helping them drink their own bathwater.

Almost all of the Liberals that I know – and I know and have known thousands of the critters in the more than 40 years of being an active Grit - don’t blame anybody for not being able to form a government except themselves. They may be disappointed at having not formed a government after an election, but they just get back to work and merrily try to create a winning combination. And always with an abiding respect for the people as well as a smile. They are truly happy warriors, who – as the song goes - pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.

Alberta Grits are also resilient. The Alberta Liberal Party is the only provincial political party that has had a presence in every Alberta election since 1905 and thus holds the record of being the longest standing party in the history of the province. It has outlasted the United Farmers and Social Credit parties and was alive and well when the pre-Lougheed Tories were protected by game laws. Five will get you ten that the Liberals will survive the Tories once again and if anybody wants to bet money against that one, by all means, give me a call.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Like Father

Like Son

Preston Manning is after something. And what he is after, Steve Harper has got. Or at least he has control over it. And so what is young Manning to do? Well, just like his old man he’ll move heaven and earth to get it, and if it means having to stroke Steve Harper (a very distasteful exercise if you think about it), well, so be it.

How else can one explain the drivel of his column published in this morning’s edition of the Globe and Mail? See:

Manning lauds Harper for his stands on China and the climate change talks in Copenhagen and says both were consistent with the desire of Canadians that Canada be “a moral beacon and . . to set an example on the global stage.”

He chalks up Harper’s tardiness in visiting China to the PM's concern about China’s human-rights violations (Wish it were that Harper would have the same concern for Canada’s violation of human rights abroad). He would have us believe that the four long years it took Harper to get through this little exercise of pique was fair and reasonable because the Chinese now know where we stand. He must believe that the Chinese are slow learners.

According to Manning, Canada's four-year long snubbing of China, is our message to the Chinese that Canadians have a different view of democracy and human rights than China, that we want more trade with China, and that we will not sacrifice one for the other.

As a further suck-up to Harper, he naturally lambastes previous Liberal governments as being hypocritical in their dealings with China – dealings which, by the way, were much happier and far more productive than anything Harper has done since he took power.

But has Harper's actions caused China to change its stand on democracy and human rights?
Not a whit.
Has Canada changed its stand on Canadian-Chinese relations? After four long years it has done a complete about-face. It is Canada that has changed its position and not China.

All of this Manning says shows that Harper has made the Chinese “realize they were dealing with . . . a leader who says what he means and means what he says on both human rights and trade.”

What a crock!

A better explanation for Harper's abrupt reversal of policy is that somebody (could that somebody be the only Conservative who knows anything about China, namely ex-Grit David Emerson?) convinced Harper that his ignorant policy of ignoring China and playing kissy-face with the Dalai Lama was leading nowhere in terms of economic benefit to Canada and that after four years it was bloody-well time it changed.

On Copenhagen, Manning again lauds Harper for being realistic in his commitments to greenhouse gas emissions – naturally condemning Chretien’s Kyoto position as being unrealistic and hypocritical. The point of Chretien taking a positive leadership role in Kyoto of course does not cross his mind.

Now don't laugh. Manning concludes that Harper’s “modesty, honesty and transparency . . . on these issues is preferable to policies tainted by hypocrisy if Canada truly aspires to be a ‘moral beacon’ on the global stage.”

Manning’s relationship with Harper has never been warm. In fact, the space between his shoulder blades still bears deep scars from Harper knives inserted while Manning was leader of the Reform Party and Harper one of his disloyal camp-followers.

See also,

Given that history it is striking that Manning should be so fawningly partisan in supporting his old nemesis.

It reminds me of his father, the pious preacher and former Social Credit Premier of Alberta, Ernest Manning. In 1968 and 1969 during the early days of the Trudeau government and shortly after his retirement from provincial politics there was no more vituperative critic than Ernest Manning of everything the federal Liberals were doing – whether it was Medicare, the Official Languages Act, energy policy, or anything else.

However, at the beginning of 1970, the elder Manning fell strangely silent. For several months nary a word passed his lips publicly save for his weekly Sunday Back to the Bible Hour broadcasts.

At the same time, some misguided Alberta federal Liberals who had old Social Credit connections were trying to engineer a merger of Liberals and Social Crediters on the provincial scene to help knock off the threat of Peter Lougheed so that Social Credit would support the federal Grits in the 1972 federal election. Given the history and make-up of both parties it was a stupid scheme that was doomed to failure. Nonetheless it was pursued.

Many blandishments were offered to leading Socreds by the federal Liberals during that process. But the big fish that these confused Grits were after was Manning. If they could do something nice for Manning, they thought, Social Credit would be theirs. In early October 1970 they landed him. Manning Sr. was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Trudeau - a decision Trudeau no doubt regretted until his dying day.
Alas, it was all to no effect. Lougheed won the provincial election in 1971 and the Alberta federal Grits were wiped off the map in 1972.

Could it be that this is another Manning manifestation of like father - like son?

Could it be that this fawning over Harper by Preston Manning, this unseemly brown-nosing and apple-polishing of one's former tormentor is just a replay of his father’s many months of abject silence in the lead-up to his coveted Senate appointment by the Liberals almost 40 years ago?

Could it be that Preston Manning is looking for something that Stephen Harper has the power to give him? Like a Senate appointment, for instance, or some other pensionable lofty post?

As Conservative icon Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha’ !”

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Stephen Harper (above) is fifty years old. He’s been in politics since he was in his high school’s Young Liberal Club back when Trudeau was in his hey day. His grown up political career began back in 1985 when he was an aide to a prominent Calgary PC MP (who he later unceremoniously stabbed in the back).

His career has progressed from being a midwife to the birth of the Reform Party in 1987, a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, a stint as head of the right wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition, leader of the Canadian Alliance who presided over the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives which morphed into the Conservative Party, becoming leader of that Conservative Party in 2004 and Prime Minister in 2006 – almost 4 years ago. It is a career that has now spanned a quarter century.

But it took him that long to find out that his childish – indeed bizarre – treatment of modern China was not in the national interests of Canada and that indeed China was many times more important to Canada than the Dalai Lama and Tibet. He snubbed China (by not going to the Olympics in Beijing and waiting 4 years before he made his first visit), and repeatedly and gratuitously blasted them over human rights (as though Canada under his leadership had an impeccable record in that department).

I wonder what else he will change his mind about in foreign policy. What will he do when he realizes that Canadian companies have billions of dollars of investment – particularly in the oil and gas sector - in Arab countries? Will he wake up and realize that sending his foreign minister on missions to harangue Arab heads of state as they sit on the tarmac at Gander, Newfoundland waiting to refuel is not such a hot idea?

Is it too much to expect that he will ultimately see the folly of his policy of wholehearted and continual support for Israel to the complete exclusion of Arab interests or legitimate concerns just for the sake of domestic politics in Canada? Will he finally get it that his heavy-handed and one-sided support in that conflict has led to a deterioration of Canada’s over-all credibility in international affairs?

And what of Afghanistan? Will he ever understand the intractable and indomitable nature of the people of that country and how for almost 2000 years they have repeatedly detested and defeated invaders regardless of the power they were up against? Given his blind pursuit of shedding Canadian blood and spending billions of taxpayers' money in that godforsaken country, together with the lies and deceits he and his government have precipitated upon the Canadian people as to progress and success in the battlefield, will he finally come clean and do an about face and get the hell out? After how many years of conflict, lives lost, and billions spent?

The point of all of this is that the office of Prime Minister is no place for on the job training. There are columnists and other Harper apologists and drumbeaters in this country who give him credit for finally moving towards a normal relationship with China. But what credit should he receive for that? Why did he not know long before now what he seems just to have learned about China recently? Or why did he let ideology get in the way of a sensible policy? And if he was ignorant about China and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and dumb and deceitful about Afghanistan, what other costly screw-ups are taking place?

For Stephen Harper to be learning about these issues at the age of 50 after a quarter century in politics is absurd. To be cheered and complimented by some Canadians for having finally reversed a stupid four year track with our second largest trading partner is an acceptance of mediocrity that would be laughed at in any other western industrialized democracy – except perhaps for the dumb and dumber crowd that comprise much of the Congress of the United States.

Harper’s knowledge of foreign affairs is as abysmal as it is embarrassing for this country. That he should receive raves and kudos from many in the Canadian press for fumbling and bumbling his way through to some positive foreign policy change is surely the triumph of incompetence over competence. In fact, it says as much about the dismal state of Canada’s press as it does about Harper.