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Alex Whalen

Was the Duffy scandal to blame for Harper’s demise?

    Alex Whalen is the CFO of the Prince Arthur Herald. He is a native of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and studied Business at UPEI before finishing his law degree at Dalhousie University in 2016.  There are many factors that go into the result of a federal election. With six months having passed since the most recent one, we can say on reflection that many of the factors going into its result have become clear. None is more important to understanding the unravelling of Stephen Harper’s government than the appointment of the now-reinstated Senator Mike Duffy. A final chapter in that drama unfolded in an Ottawa courtroom recently, as Duffy went 31-for-31 in defeating charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. The names Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy, and Nigel Wright are forever connected as a result of the $90,000 cheque made to the embattled senator for the repayment of improper expenses. Wright, the former chief of staff in the Harper PMO, was chastised in Justice Charles Vaillancourt’s decision. There are many positives to take from Harper’s time in office. This is not meant to be an endorsement nor an indictment of the decade in power. However, if you look closely at the decision to appoint Duffy in the first place, it is clear that this was the seed of Stephen Harper’s demise. The Duffy scandal didn’t singularly bring down the government, but the style of decision-making that led to the appointment was what plagued the Conservatives through the end of their mandate. From day one, the Duffy appointment had the hallmarks of other Harper blunders: short sighted, hyper-political, and sometimes lacking a big picture. Harper found himself in a tough spot in December 2008. Having long advocated an elected senate prior to becoming Prime Minister, he was hesitant… Read More

Peter MacKay still very much involved in policy debate

With the Conservative Party leadership still more than a year away, the list of contenders remains vague. We wrote back in January about Peter MacKay’s ambitions, and he has surfaced with an op-ed advocating for the Energy East Pipeline. The most compelling point of the article has nothing to do with pipelines. Rather, it is the fact that the article itself is the latest piece of evidence suggesting MacKay will be seeking the Conservative Party leadership. Nearly every retiring politician says in their wake they would like to spend more time with family and ride quietly into the sunset. Some are genuine. Others, such as those who are on TV weekly, write op-eds, speak at provincial PC meetings, and take placeholder jobs at Toronto law firms, may have an ulterior motive. Here’s to betting MacKay is keeping himself firmly in the spotlight for the purpose of a leadership run. Turning to the substance of the article, it is not only imperative for Atlantic Canada to have the pipeline for reasons of economic justice. MacKay rightly alludes to moral factors as well. Energy in the East at the present time comes from foreign sources, many of who are committing various atrocities in the name of fossil fuel production. Furthermore, due to scarcity of oil, more power needs to be generated using coal for energy in the east, which is one of the least environmentally friendly methods. Canadian oil may not be perfect, but from both an economic and a moral standpoint it is superior to the imports currently relied upon. National unity is another theme running through the article. We saw verbal missiles launched back and forth across the Prairies earlier this month, as Montreal-area mayors sparred with Naheed Nenshi and Brad Wall over opposition to the pipeline. What wasn’t mentioned… Read More

Peter MacKay and the Conservative Leadership

Polls over the past couple months have been gaging interest in various names as the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Most of these polls have an old face at the top: recently retired six-term MP Peter MacKay. The most recent poll has MacKay with a two-point lead over recent leadership prospect Kevin O’Leary. With this level of attention, it is time to start asking whether MacKay would be the right choice for the party. While he may be a safe and comfortable choice, there are multiple reasons why he is not an optimal leader for the Conservatives. An assumption, to begin: Peter MacKay is interested in the leadership of the Conservative Party. He is relatively young, has a national profile, and has served in almost every role in the federal government. He hasn’t denied interest, and he kept himself in the spotlight during and after the election campaign. He was also careful to toe the Harper line just enough while distancing himself from his former boss. The Right Leader What constitutes the makeup of the best leader for the Conservatives? The next Conservative leader need not come from the glamour-and-looks mould of Mr. Trudeau. There is a real movement within the Conservative Party to present a softer, friendlier image, to the extent that one wonders if they are overcorrecting. However, in reality there are many ways to win an election, and many different styles can work. The win for Trudeau does not change the calculation to electoral success any more than Harper’s three wins did. They are merely examples of different ways to win. What the next leader does need are principles and clarity. Former Harper advisors Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer explain in the Globe and Mail that much of Harper’s success was due to the… Read More

Can entrepreneurs be politicians?

The notion of business people going into politics is as old as politics itself. While our politicians come from all walks of life, the prospect of power tends to draw in business people more than most professions. The candidacy of Donald Trump for the Republican primary race marks likely the most prolific businessperson ever to enter high-level politics. Mr. Trump’s business profile can help to explain both his appeal and his limitations. Here in Canada, Finance Minister Bill Morneau had an extremely successful business career before making the jump to federal politics. On the provincial level, Premier Danny Williams had already made hundreds of millions in business before taking the reigns of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, never before have we seen a business person with the profile of Donald Trump enter a national political race with no prior experience. Furthermore, Trump appears to have made no change to his persona after deciding to become a politician. Prior to this presidential race, Trump had been politically involved, but only as a supporter and donor to both Republican and Democratic causes. Though he has discussed the possibility on a few previous occasions, he has not actually campaigned for any office before now. This explains some of the early appeal of his campaign. He does not speak or act like a politician. While most repeat the same robotic stump speech at each stop, Trump shoots from the hip during his long, entertaining orations. They may be crazy and inaccurate, but they have an appeal in a world where every politician sounds the same. The business angle has helped him in other areas as well. It has garnered him name recognition and celebrity that allows for an immediate leg-up on the competition. Further, Mr. Trump has increasingly taken to pointing out that he is… Read More
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