Thursday, June 02, 2011

New column day

Blogging may be on hold for the week, but columnizing isn't. Here's my latest, on the Cons' disaster response and the broader question of what we expect from our elected leaders in a time of crisis.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Light blogging ahead

Off to a couple of undisclosed locations for the next week, with little to no blogging in the meantime. But let's note one point worth watching as Parliament reconvenes.

While I don't think there's much room for dispute that the Cons have tried to move Canada as far right as possible, they've seldom been brave enough to actually defend their ideological positions when there's been any available means of deflecting from substantive debate.

Throughout their stay in office, the Cons' regular response to questions about social issues has focused extensively on the Libs' previous time in government - either based on a failure to address issues substantively (climate change, child care, etc.) or outright cuts (to health care and education). Which may have made for a valid point in assessing the Libs' credibility, but hardly serves to defend the Cons' own failings.

And for the past two-plus years, the other consistent mantra from the Cons has been coalition, coalition, coalition - representing another decidedly substance-free complaint to distract from real policy choices.

Now, both of those default responses will be entirely obsolete.

With that in mind, even if the NDP can't get anywhere in securing meaningful answers to its questions, it's well worth watching what the Cons adopt instead as their standard talking point in responding to the NDP's choice of issues to highlight. And it's entirely possible that an attempt to extend the "high tax vs. low tax" question that made for the lone response during the campaign may end up backfiring in a genuine debate over the funding of public services.

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- John Allemang's profile of Jack Layton is well worth a read in full. But after a campaign where any show of support can easily be written off as a matter of party scripting, it's well worth noting the spontaneous reaction Layton continues to generate even now that the election is over:
Jack Layton and his partner in life and politics, Olivia Chow, were hardly the most recognizable faces at the benefit for the Stephen Lewis Foundation: Alicia Keys, Rufus Wainwright, K'naan and Harry Belafonte were among the celebrities at the AIDS fundraiser, drawing more than 3,000 people. It should have been easy for a couple of downtown politicians to blend into the crowd.

The crowd wouldn't let them.

Mr. Layton, 60, was moving slowly, still showing the effects of his hip surgery. Maybe his measured pace drew attention to his presence. “People were clapping, and at first I wasn't sure what it was for,” Ms. Chow says. “And then I realized it was for Jack.”

What had started as a typical evening of socially aware partying for the New Democratic Party leader suddenly turned into a celebration of the hopes his electoral achievement had raised: People cheered, shouted encouragement, even teared up as they rose in a standing ovation.

“It was very special, actually,” Mr. Layton recalls. “There was a wonderfully warm, spontaneous reaction. … I'm sure not everybody there voted for us, but there was a good feeling about what happened in the campaign.”
He's on his way to Ottawa. He's a politician. That's his job, his purpose and, more and more, his life.

But when the people stand up and applaud, it's for something else entirely.
- Which means that strong appeals like this one are all the more likely to resonate:
Asked what he can do to help the people, Layton said: “I’ll tell you one thing, I wouldn’t tell the army to go home as the flood waters are rising.

“It seems every time the flood waters rise, the federal government pulls back. It should be the opposite.

“And the idea that they don’t want to interfere with the private sector ... what is this? You want to promote the private sector to make money off the misery of people.

“What kind of an attitude is that? Is that the beginning of the attitude we’re going to see on the privatization of health care and the privatization of all kinds of things which should be done by the government?

“That, I think, should worry every Canadian."
- And the message that people need to pay attention to the gap between their priorities and the Cons' focus on profit should encourage plenty more organization on both the citizen and labour fronts.

- But then, pogge is absolutely right in pointing out that the most damaging end result of the Toronto G20 abuses may be to create disincentives for people to get involved:
There are the individual stories of abuse, injury and injustice, some of which continue to receive attention. But beyond that there is the story of a security establishment — including both law enforcement and the justice system — flexing its muscles and showing the citizenry who's boss, whether it was done consciously or it was just a reflex, an authoritarian impulse looking for an outlet and seeing an opportunity.

And so far efforts to bring that security establishment to heel and remind it that it's the citizens who are actually supposed to be in charge haven't gotten very far. It seems the last thing the powers that be want is an inquiry that would encourage a broader look and a serious discussion.