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Thomas Mulcair, you’re no Jack Layton and that’s good for Canada

Look, I have nothing against the late leader of the New Democratic Party. Like his father, Bob, who was first a Liberal and then a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, Jack Layton naturally gravitated toward the middle ground; that included the popular view that French Quebec voters are nationalist and will support parties that stand for Quebec first.Until last Spring, I didn’t think much of Tom Mulcair. He was long a member of the all-party Quebec political class and followed its Quebec-first line, even going out of his way to oppose Quebec municipalities passing resolutions affirming their right to remain in Canada should the province vote to secede.Nevertheless, events have combined to turn a major national party away from the accommodating consensus on Quebec that has ruled the public roost since the 1960s.In May 2011 the New Democrats won 58 new seats in Quebec, becoming the Official Opposition. That in itself did not make history, because the media read the result through their own prism. We were told that the NDP had won over Bloc Québécois voters by promoting "nationalism lite" and that francophones were beguiled by Jack Layton's televised charms.The media refused to face the fact that the huge increase for the NDP came from federalist parties and new voters as much as from the Bloc. It was not just "separatism" that the voters rejected but the whole political class with its separatist-vs-federalist wrestling show staged for English Canadian ticket holders. As Jean Charest said when asked about a Quebec politician: "Mario Dumont wants to get close to the anglophone community. If that's the case, he has to answer one very simple question: is he a federalist or a separatist?"The temporary leader of the NDP, Nycole Turmel, appointed by Jack Layton when he fell ill was a recent convert from… Read More

A conversation with Luc Harvey, leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec

The Conservative Party of Quebec has more campaign posters in some parts of Montreal and the South Shore than both Option Nationale and Québec Solidaire, but receives hardly any media attention. The PCQ was formed in 2009 and boasts over 700 members. They have 27 candidates running in the September 4th election under the leadership of Luc Harvey, a former Member of Parliament for the federal Conservatives. I interviewed Mr. Harvey to get a better idea of where the party stands.Why resurrect the Conservative Party in Quebec?I was in France when the financial problems began in Greece. Here in Canada, the media didn’t show how big the problem was in Greece and now you see this type of problem in Spain and in France. When the debt is out of control, we lose our ability to make our own decisions; bankers will make our decisions for us if we don’t move. It is the reason why Daniel Petit and I took the decision to go ahead with the Conservative Party of Quebec. That’s the base of the story.What is the main difference between your party and the CAQ?The CAQ was on the right at the beginning, now they’re on the left. They are proposing extra spending close to four billion dollars when we know the debt is completely out of control. They know they are making this promise and they know they will not be able to support it and deliver it because it’s impossible. They take the voter to be stupid enough to believe in this kind of promise. They have no right wing positions anymore. You don’t know if they’re federalists and you don’t know if they sovereignists. Mr. Legault was a hard line PQ supporter for 40 years and now he’s ready to vote No in a… Read More

Has Harper lost control of his backbench?

Last week, the National Post’s John Ivison wrote an interesting column arguing that the Conservative backbench has lost its fear of Stephen Harper. He argues that “the trained seals on the backbench are biting back and we are likely to see more unsanctioned behaviour in future, as MPs relish their new-found freedom.”Is the Prime Minister, who for years has kept an extremely tight leash on his caucus, losing control? The answer may be more subtle than Ivison suggests. The Conservative Party of Canada is a broad coalition of interests: social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, economic libertarians, red Tories, and the like. Due to its very nature, this coalition will occasionally pit interests against interests. A successful leader will be able to reconcile differences and hold the alliance together.The Prime Minister can enforce discipline in a variety of ways. He can promote or demote MPs based on their performance. Harper can kick an MP out of the Conservative caucus at any time. Postmedia’s Stephen Maher argues that it was easier to impose discipline prior to the 2011 election. Some MPs want to get their name in the headlines, while others will speak out when the government does something they dislike.The Globe and Mail’s Bill Curry similarly argues that the Conservative backbench is becoming more vocal and willing to cause a stir in office. The fact that backbenchers are playing a more prominent role in Ottawa may actually play a positive role for Stephen Harper’s image. While certainly still micromanaging the minutiae of what he considers important, giving backbenchers some leeway in parliamentary affairs will moderate Harper’s image as a tyrannical leader. The National Post’s Kelly McParland highlights this argument by showcasing the opposition’s criticism of Jason Kenney’s support for Motion 312, which would have looked at re-defining the legal status of a… Read More

Should Chris Bentley go down for Dalton McGuinty

Chris Bentley has been the Minister of Energy in Ontario since the 2011 election. Right now, he’s facing the possibility of being found in contempt of the legislature. “Contempt of Parliament” can not only cost him his ministerial seat, it could send him to jail. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong man facing the charges.Let me state clearly that in our system of responsible Parliamentary government, a Minister of the Crown is responsible to the members in the chamber. (All of them, not just those in his own party, despite what Whips and Premiers may think!) She or he must answer all questions, not mislead the House, provide requested information to the House, etc. He or she is also fully responsible for all the actions of their department, and its agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations.For Chris Bentley, it would be bad enough that what comes with this is responsibility for his predecessors’ doings as well.But is he responsible for the actions of the Ontario Liberal Party’s campaign team? You be the judge.During the 2011 general election, the Liberals were worried they’d lose two Etobicoke seats, two Mississauga seats and the Oakville seat, due to local concerns about gas-fired power plants being erected in the area. The Mississauga plant was already under construction; the Oakville one was on the drawing board with preliminary planning work done.Playing the NIMBY game (“not in my backyard”) was seen as a way to swing the ridings back behind Team Red. So the orders were given — from the campaign — to kill both plants.The Premier, Dalton McGuinty, was reelected with a minority government. He’d have that if any or all of these seats had gone another way. Not that they were going to: subsequent poll analysis shows that the worst case would have seen all five… Read More

Uniting the right: the case for an OPCYA/OPCCA merger

This weekend, conservative youth in Ontario will gather in Cambridge to vote on an ambitious proposal to merge the two youth wings affiliated with the PC Party of Ontario. Currently, we have the OPCYA (Ontario PC Youth Association), which works at a riding level, and the OPCCA (Ontario PC Campus Association) which deals with conservative campus clubs at Ontario’s various universities and colleges. Years ago, when it was difficult to travel around the province of Ontario and commuting was much less common, conservative youth would be confined to their home ridings, so youth associations were much more prominent. Today, youth are more networked and mobile so there is more overlap between the groups of young conservatives that a given youth would interact with at a riding and a campus club level. As such, the distinction between campus clubs and riding associations has blurred to the point where the distinction between the youth associations and campus clubs has mostly lost its meaning.             That’s the more complex argument for why we should merge. However, since you’re busy and we’re busy preparing for the Cambridge convention, we have prepared a short and easy list of 10 reasons why you, the young conservative reading this, should wholeheartedly support this merger. Leave aside personal grudges, mudslinging on social media, and let’s get down to the heart of the debate:United we stand. OPCCA and OPCYA share one common goal – to get conservatives elected. There is no need for them to be separate for this goal to be achieved. The day-to-day activities of campus clubs and youth associations would be unaffected by the merger proposal.End membership overlap. Many of the same people serve in leadership positions in both organizations. All OPCCA members are considered OPCYA members. Much of the OPCYA membership is made up of the campus… Read More

“A Debate That Changed Everything?”: Examining Reactions to the First Presidential Debate

Judging from his performance last Wednesday, Barack Obama must have assumed that debates don’t matter. Mitt Romney won a clear, unanimous victory in the first Presidential debate and the incumbent President appeared at best inarticulate and at worst disinterested. While this provided a lifeline to a Romney/Ryan campaign that was seemingly on the ropes, its impact is fleeting if it cannot effectively re-direct the trajectory of this election. However in analyzing the post-debate reactions of the Obama campaign, it has become clear that this election has been fundamentally altered.In developing their communications to respond to the debate fallout, Democratic strategists must have asked themselves, “Where did this Romney come from?” After weeks of seemingly endless media hiccups that had given double digit leads to the incumbent in swing states, the President had an opportunity to land a knockout blow. Two things came together to stop this from happening: the campaign’s decision to play it safe and Mitt Romney taking advantage of unfiltered media time with the American people.Let me be clear, Barack Obama is not unintelligent and he is certainly not without passion. His lacklustre performance came from a classic front-runner mistake of sitting on a lead. It is now clear that Obama no longer has the luxury of playing it safe. His charisma, passion, and rhetoric are devastatingly diminished when he is not the underdog. The evidence is there; his victory over the favoured Clinton-machine in past DNC primaries, his usage of vague combative rhetoric to inspire marginalized demographics like never before in 2008, and even his slogan “Yes we can!” implied conventional wisdom was saying “No you can’t!” In this election however, no one is saying that. As the front-runner, Obama is not only stuck running on his failed record, he is unable to access the restorative rhetoric… Read More
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