I’m sensing some cognitive dissonance among my liberal friends.
That’s the subject of Paul Wells’s latest.
Stephen Harper doesn’t announce many of his most important meetings. He routinely meets one-on-one with provincial premiers without either party mentioning the encounters to reporters. And from Stephanie Levitz at Canadian Press comes news that he met Brian Mulroney and, separately, Jean Charest last week. …
Harper’s tiny Quebec caucus makes as many brave noises as it can, but I know the prime minister is spooked by the prospect (not the guarantee, because of course there is none, but the non-negligible possibility) of a Parti Québécois government returning to power within 15 weeks.
Various branches of the federal government have quietly been discussing possible responses to a PQ victory. During the recent French election, one of Harper’s main concerns was PQ claims that François Hollande would rekindle a cozy relationship between French Socialists and Quebec separatists. (Polarity on that file has switched a few times over the years. De Gaulle was no Socialist and François Mitterrand, who was, was no fan of the PQ. But Jacques Chirac astonished everyone by becoming a good friend of Jean Chrétien’s, and Nicolas Sarkozy was so tight with the Desmarais clan that the PQ is coming off the chilliest five years it’s ever known in France. So the PQ has been hoping a Hollande victory would bring a thaw.) I’m told Harper was greatly reassured by his first long conversation with Hollande, at Camp David last month. But France’s attitude was always going to be peripheral. Hollande doesn’t get a vote. …
As for Harper: try this thought experiment. Imagine Albertans taking it into their heads to do something, and Tom Mulcair trying to talk them out of it. That’s a decent proxy for Harper’s clout in Quebec: the NDP share of the popular vote in Alberta last May and the Conservatives’ in Quebec were nearly the same.
So if Pauline Marois became premier and decided to try her luck, she’d face a worn-out Jean Charest with no young Jean Charest to back him up; and a Prime Minister with half the seats and voter appeal that Jean Chrétien had when he nearly lost the 1995 referendum. What’s that leave?
Why, Tom Mulcair. By some measures, the most popular politician in Quebec. A few New Democrats were already crowing Friday evening on Twitter at the prospect of Mulcair emerging as Captain Canada in some new confrontation. And that would indeed be fun. But early on, his stance on the Clarity Act and the NDP’s Sherbrooke Declaration would get noticed by the 64% of 2011 NDP voters who live outside Quebec. … Mulcair … would watch his party snap like a twig. …
[If Marois] wins an election and then gets bold or reckless, Harper won’t have much of a political hand. He will have the Clarity Act, the Constitution and customary international law, all of which break decidedly in favour of a united Canada. But those are all handy guides for steering through a hell of a political mess. Once you need them, you’re already in the mess. No wonder Harper is renewing strategic acquaintances.
I say this: for all the complaining one hears, French is very well protected and, that being so, Quebeckers like being in Canada.
The only way that province is leaving is if the rest of the country gets together and holds a referendum on kicking them out.
The Conservatives DO need to buck up in Quebec, but that’s because a second majority is hard at the current levels of Quebec support. It took winning the rest of Canada in a Mulroney 1984 fashion to get the first one, and you can’t count on that particular bolt of lightning striking twice.
Update: Other comment — all these regionalist bleats are paper tigers. Same goes for “Western alienation”.
Now that they’ve seen that (1) there can be a Western Canada-based leader and party elected to government, and (2) the piece-meal dismantling of traditional Canadian symbols that they disliked has been pushed back against (hello, Royal Canadian Air Force!), there really aren’t that many real complaints.
Yes, there are bad policies — equalization, for one. But those are best dealt with through the political process.
Do I go too far to read that from this?
She then explained– with a dollop of humor– the four issues the court was considering, including the main focus: the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which would require nearly all Americans to buy health insurance starting in 2014 or face a financial penalty.
“If the individual mandate, requiring the purchase of insurance or the payment of a penalty, if that is unconstitutional, must the entire act fall?” she said, then outlining another key question. “Or, may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of the act?“
Because, you know, that’s an entirely moot question if the individual mandate is upheld.
So, the Greek coalition negotiations are collapsing, and the anti-austerity party is expected to make gains come the re-vote in June.
Tsipras, however, stuck to his position, insisting that supporting a pro-bailout government would be a betrayal of his pre-election platform.
“After today’s meeting it is obvious they are demanding that Syriza become an accessory to a crime,” he said after the discussions with the president. “In the name of democracy, of our patriotic duty, we cannot accept this shared guilt. We call on all Greeks to condemn once and for all the forces of the past and to realize that only one hope remains: unity against blackmail in order to prevent the continuing barbarity.
“Fellow Greeks, we can assure you of one thing: we will not betray you.”
Tsipras will also have his eye on recent opinion polls which show his party would gain strength if Greeks go to the ballot box again next month.
A poll published by To Vima newspaper Sunday indicated Syriza would come first in new elections with 20.5 per cent of the vote — less than the 28 per cent an earlier opinion poll published Thursday gave him, but still well ahead of New Democracy. Although it would not be enough to form a government, it would put him in the dominant position to form a coalition with smaller anti-bailout parties.
Where does that leave us? Well, there’s the Krugman scenario:
1. Greek euro exit, very possibly next month.
2. Huge withdrawals from Spanish and Italian banks, as depositors try to move their money to Germany.
3a. Maybe, just possibly, de facto controls, with banks forbidden to transfer deposits out of country and limits on cash withdrawals.
3b. Alternatively, or maybe in tandem, huge draws on ECB credit to keep the banks from collapsing.
4a. Germany has a choice. Accept huge indirect public claims on Italy and Spain, plus a drastic revision of strategy — basically, to give Spain in particular any hope you need both guarantees on its debt to hold borrowing costs down and a higher eurozone inflation target to make relative price adjustment possible; or:
4b. End of the euro.
And we’re talking about months, not years, for this to play out.
But its time may have come.
Update: What does history tell us? Well, prepare for soldiers with guns on the street. And surprise moves, in order to defeat market adjustments.
Anyway, fun times.
I had no great love for Sarko — not after what he did to Cameron.
But this IS significant. It’s one of the two core states of the EU rejecting the Sarkozy-Merkel approach. (And Merkel didn’t have a great day either.)
I think we can safely say that the plot has thickened re the European future…
Update: It should be noted, too, that Cameron is going through rough waters now, too.
I’m inclined to say that part of it all is that the European project just isn’t that popular, either with the left or the right.
It’s fundamentally anti-democratic, and that ruffles feathers on both sides.
As it should.
Update, next day: There are a few cranky articles.
Today, Hollande’s opponents seem incompetent to fulfill this task. But whatever the institutional preparedness of the French right appears to be, France will face the kind of historic moment that makes great statesmen, not waits on them. France’s savoir won’t be Hollande, thanks to the one-two punch of his orthodoxy and his disposition. His administration will exacerbate the troubles that already dwarf him. Whether he is aware of this or not, the outcome will be the same.
There’s something in that, I suppose.
Paul Wells’s column from over here perhaps best sums up some of the feelings on the right:
Sarkozy is essentially a silly man and France is well rid of him. François Hollande, the new president-elect, is no providential talent. He’s loaded up the agenda for his first year in power with busy work that probably won’t help. … But his election is encouraging for two reasons. First, it’s possible he’ll manage the economy about as well as anyone in France ever does, as his Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand eventually learned to do. Second, it gets Sarkozy out of the way. If he’d hung on, his country would have been absurdist performance theatre for another five years and the Socialists would be guaranteed of victory in 2017. This way his party has a chance of finding a serious candidate for that next election. I nominate this guy. Meanwhile it’s still a pretty country.
And, I tend to agree with Daniel Hannan’s diagnosis:
Yesterday’s elections in France and Greece were the first of what will surely be many advances by the populist Left. In both places, candidates were elbowing each other aside during the campaign to demand more intervention and an end to cuts.
The new French President is an unapologetic Socialist of the kind we haven’t known in this country since Michael Foot. François Hollande wants wealth taxes, stimulus spending and a massive expansion of the state payroll.
He understands that this might lead to dismay in the international markets, but he has an answer to that: he will create a French credit ratings agency which, unlike the American ones, will tell him what he wants to hear. …
The truth, of course, is that France has already pushed tax-and-spend to its limits. The government accounts for an extraordinary 56 per cent of the economy, and the French budget was last in balance in 1974. If state expenditure really had a stimulus effect, France would be the wealthiest country in Europe. …
Not a single candidate argued for smaller government, freer competition or greater international trade. All ten offered more of the medicine that had sickened the patient. …
The fact is that fewer and fewer private sector workers are paying higher and higher taxes to sustain larger and larger governments. This is unsustainable. But no one wants to hear it.
All over Europe, state employees demand to be exempted from the austerity measures that the private sector must make. Beneath all the slogans about fairness and compassion lurks a remarkably selfish sentiment: ‘Make future generations pay my pension!’
Oh well. Something that cannot go on forever… won’t. That’s the simple truth of it. It’s perhaps a painful truth, as Europeans will learn again, but that’s life.
Sarkozy failed, and looked like he would keep on failing. I don’t blame the French for firing him.
Duelling speeches a year after the election.
And now… racism!
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair should apologize to public servants for suggesting that they were “biased, prejudiced, and even racist” in granting former media mogul Conrad Black a temporary residency permit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
Ottawa has cleared the way for Black’s return by granting him a one-year temporary resident permit, setting off a political row in Ottawa after it was learned yesterday. Black applied for the permit in March. …
Harper was unimpressed with the comparison, saying the NDP leader was accusing officials of being “biased, prejudiced, and even racist . . . without any evidence” during question period Wednesday.
Harper also flatly rejected charges that the Conservatives had anything to do with Black’s permit, saying the decision was made by bureaucrats.
“It would be just as easy for us if Mr. Black was not allowed to come to Canada but that was not the judgment of those that administer the law,” he said in response to Mulcair.
“On the government side we have to administer and let our public servants administer the law as it is and not apply political criteria to it.”Mulcair, to say the least, wasn’t picking up what Harper was putting down.
“Conrad Black is a British citizen, he’s still in U.S. jail and he’s been convicted of serious crimes in the United States,” Mulcair said during question period Wednesday.
“The only exceptional case in this case is that he is a friend of the Conservatives. Why is (Harper) not tough on crime when it comes to his Conservative cronies.”
Mulcair was asked about playing the “race card” on the CBC’s “Power and Politics” Wednesday evening but he declined to directly respond to the issue.
“I think it’s very clear that with regard to the Conservatives, they’re insiders, they’re friends . . . people that are connected with them get one treatment and everyone else gets another one,” was Mulcair’s response.
I’m going to enjoy this match-up, I think.
As for the specifics now — Lord Black’s case — see, after he renounced his citizenship, he got his wife to sponsor him for permanent residency status. Now, what a sensible person would have done is apply to “resume” his Canadian citizenship 365 days after that, which he probably could have done by 2003 or 2004 at the latest, and flip Jean Chretien the bird.
Lord Black is a stubborn, stubborn man, and so he did not do that — he decided just to live here as a permanent resident non-citizen. Which was still all well and good until the time came that he got into legal troubles. Which has left him technically inadmissible here, except through application for a “minister’s permit”, which he has now done.
If I’m the Tory government, I recognize that the above makes it Lord Black’s own damn fault and leave him to the tender mercies of the bureaucrats. [Canadian bureaucrats actually are rather merciful.]
Which is what the PM says has been done. The Leader of HM Loyal Opposition isn’t buying it.
We’ll see how it goes.
Entitlement to power mentality? Check.
Factionalism based on old leadership bad blood? Check.
Leaky as a sieve caucus? Check.
“Tim’s position has left him out of being any relevant part of news for weeks. Andrea looks very strong,” confided one PC insider.
While his caucus members endorsed Hudak’s decision to ultimately oppose the budget, some worry he squandered an opportunity to publicize restraint measures they believe will dominate the next election, possibly in 2013.
“It was never clear to me why we had to disclose our intentions on budget day,” said another high-ranking Tory, complaining that that helped the Liberals because they only had to appease the left.
Further complicating matters for Hudak are some ruffled feathers after PC MPPs were informed last week that Tom Long and Leslie Noble, masterminds of former premier Mike Harris’s victories in 1995 and 1999, would be in charge of the next Conservative campaign.
“We were told we weren’t allowed to discuss that they’re running things because they are people who make significant money in the private sector and don’t want that put at risk,” another PC member confided.
Although Long and Noble are well-respected tacticians who helped on Hudak’s campaign last fall, some MPPs were taken aback at the gag order.
That has led to at least one member musing about perhaps challenging Hudak, who won a leadership review in February with 78.7 per cent support.
Reminds me so much of 2007-11 among the federal Liberals.
Okay, decoding this a bit more.
1. Around the 2:30 mark: “Well, I think one of the most important political consequences of the referendum is for the Labour Party. This is the heart and soul of their electoral base, Scotland. If Scotland goes independent, I think that changes British politics — English politics — forever, and possibly consigns them to the dustbin of history. It’s that important. So my sense if you’re a Labour politician in England — you’d better come up with something plausible to say to the Scots which says not independence, but, you know, extensive devolution to meet the needs, which are clear, of the Scottish people for more management of their own affairs — effectively a state-within-a-state. I don’t see how this ends in any other way than Scotland winning more power, either through the independence route or through devolution. And it’s crucial for the Labour Party to understand that. They can’t sit this one out on the sidelines, because they may lose everything if they do.”
2. Around the 7:00 mark: “The Scots-Nats want to tell you nothing will change. They want to tell you you can have your cake and eat it too. That is, you can have all the virtues of not having Tory politicians in London bossing you around. And that would be a positive for Scotland, there’s no question. But I think over time, the two societies will move ever ever further apart. That’s I think what the Canadian example tells you. You start with the assumption nothing will change, and bit-by-bit-by-bit you discover that everything changes.” [Questioner: "Is the logical conclusion of what you are saying, that further transfers of power will end up with independence in Quebec, as in Scotland?"] “Well, the Canadian example seems to show that you can devolve power down and get those ‘Tory politicians from London’ out of your hair, and run your own affairs short of being an independent country, and it’s a kind of way-station — you stop there for awhile. But I think the logic eventually is independence. Full independence.” [Q: "For Quebec as for Scotland?"] “I think eventually that’s where it goes.”
So basically, he’s advising a course of action that he believes will fail, the internal logic of which is full independence.
I think I can see why he didn’t quite inspire the Canadian centre-left.
The moral of the story is likely that dynasties do not crumble overnight. The decline of Rome lasted hundreds of years. The Oilers won a cup after dealing Gretzky. The Empire was good for two more movies, even after the Death Star blew up. …
The situation in this election is eerily similar to the 2004 federal campaign, when 2012 Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan — then working for the federal Conservatives – tried to lead an upstart right wing band of misfits to victory against the natural governing party. In both instances, the incumbent dynasties had knifed successful leaders, and had unrealistic expectations for their new leaders. Just as anonymous PC strategists lamented about winning “too many seats” in February, in 2004 Liberal strategists mused about 200 seats for Paul Martin (which in fairness, Martin got – it just took him two elections to do it).
In both instances, the incumbent badly mismanaged a scandal (Adscam for Paul, the “no meet committee” for Redford), and threw caution to the wind by calling an election in the midst of it. In both instances, Flanagan’s great right hope rose in the polls, pulled into the lead, won the debate…and then blew it in the bottom of the 9th. Both times voters stared change in the face, and decided they weren’t ready for it – yet.
We all know how things turned out federally, and therein lies the cautionary tale for all the players in Alberta. The Wildrose Party now has a base of 35% of the Alberta electorate. They have an impressive, albeit inexperienced, leader in Danielle Smith who now has four years to refine her skills and weed out the thornier candidates from her party’s ranks. If Stephen Harper could make the federal Conservatives look “non-scary”, then surely the photogenic and charismatic Smith can pull off the same trick in Alberta.
I’ll say now that I saw those tendencies, too, but where I differed is that I thought that Wildrose had a large enough lead that they’d win a narrow majority anyway.
We’ll see how it goes. Smith looks like a more charismatic version of Harper, but Harper has a ruthless streak that every successful leader needs. His 2004-05 experience made the current PM ruthlessly pragmatic. Maybe Smith has that streak, maybe not. In any event, the next four years will be interesting.
Update: Checking myself — how much of this is hindsight analysis?
No, I wrote it:
About threshold arguments — you can see that Warren Kinsella’s blog is full of them re Danielle Smith, this week.
Will they work? In the long run, no — they didn’t work for Paul Martin, ultimately, against Stephen Harper. But they may work for Redford’s party the way they did for Martin’s — they can stave off defeat for one more election, in a campaign that looked lost a week before E-day.
Okay, I can show that I did see it.