Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PLG highlights the less-discussed dangers resulting from the Cons' majority government:
A lot of people have been commenting that no matter what evil Harper would, in his heart, love to wreak in the upcoming Conservative majority, it won't really be that bad. The idea is that Conservatives will be wanting to position themselves for the long term as a natural governing party, and so they will act like safe hands and not do too much damage. There is something to this. But I think there are things such people are overlooking when they discuss how a Conservative majority will govern.
(T)he bottom line for me is that these Conservatives are basically bad at governing. They have no interest in or respect for governance as a concept.

It's partly that they don't think government should be doing most things it does in the first place. And it's partly that even to the extent they acknowledge government might have a role, that's not what they're there for--the basic purpose of modern Conservatives is to defeat enemies and amass power and wealth for themselves and the class they identify with. Presented with a lever of power, that's what their instincts say it's there for. So they just basically have no patience for careful policy-making or administration with an eye to the public good.

As a result, only part of the dangers of a Conservative government have to do with their pre-planned intentions to enact austerity or So-Con measures. Much has to do with what will happen as they are hit with the need to make policy decisions about governance on an ongoing basis, and they react according to their instincts and ideas about what it is to be in government. Which is to say, hamfistedly, incompetently, and in ways irrelevant to the needs of the country.
- Which seems like a particularly maddening danger following an election where the Cons were lauded by 95% of the country's press as somehow being stable or safe. But Dan Gardner explains the obvious source of that impression, as editorial boards seem to have happily mistaken Harper's "decisiveness" for competence:
Successive prime ministers have all but erased parliamentary governance. In its place is a pyramid, at the top of which is the Prime Minister’s Office. Enthroned in the PMO, the PM is a pharaoh.

Blame the PMs. But blame also ourselves. In our political culture, a leader who acknowledges uncertainty and encourages experiments is “indecisive.” A leader who permits dissent is “weak.” A leader who changes his mind in response to new evidence is a “flip-flopper.”

A real leader is one who centralizes power, is certain of everything, who breaks the knuckles of anyone who disagrees, who never admits to being wrong, and who will deny to his last breath ever having changed his mind about anything. A real leader is a Great Man issuing orders from the top of a pyramid.

And so, inevitably, we get a Great Man standing in front of a backdrop repeating the idiotic mantra: “Leadership. Certainty. Leadership. Certainty. Leadership ...”

Incidentally, in 2008, when the Great Man stood in front of that backdrop, he said with absolute certainty that he would never run a deficit. It seems he didn’t see the financial crisis coming. Or the recession. Or the deficit he’s been running ever since. That’s the thing about Great Men. They can’t see nearly as far as they think.
- As plenty of commentators have pointed out, one of the main questions surrounding the future of Quebec politics is that of whether sovereigntists will seek to retake partisan territory by rebuilding the Bloc, or instead look for other outlets. And so far, the latter choice looks to be winning out.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan points out that in the wake of the Daily Show's skewering of Canada's asbestos industry, Canada will once again face a choice as to whether to keep standing in the way of international agreement:
The Daily Show segment can only be seen a yet another serious international humiliation for Canada carefully crafted by Stephen Harper. Mr. Stewart’s devout fans around the world have to be asking: What kind of people run Canada anyway? Canadians themselves will simply watch and cringe, mortified.

By coincidence, we will know a lot more about the people who run our country very soon. On June 20, a meeting convenes in Geneva of the 143 nations, including Canada, that have ratified the UN’s Rotterdam Convention. The little-known but vital convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons.

Delegates will vote on a recommendation of the convention’s expert scientific body to put chrysotile asbestos (the only form of asbestos traded in the world today, and the form mined in Quebec) on the its list of hazardous substances. As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has repeatedly joined with a handful of other countries in blocking this recommendation, putting the interests of the asbestos industry ahead of global health. As of now, he is pledged to continue this remarkable stand.

Here is the perfect issue for the Official Opposition NDP to pursue immediately and loudly. Happily enough, 76 per cent of Quebeckers oppose government financing for an asbestos mine with only 14 per cent in favour. Shamefully enough, this tiny minority includes most Quebec trade-union leaders.
Given the Rotterdam meeting, Stephen Harper must within weeks make clear exactly what kind of foreign policy he intends to conduct with his unassailable majority, and what kind of Canada he intends to show the world. Is Canada back? Or is Canada going backwards?

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