Monthly Archives: August 2007

McGuinty, petty opportunist??? Say it isn’t so!

When the Ontario Liberals latched like hounds onto the Highway of Heroes idea, especially given that they were in the midst of a vote buying spending spree, who could fail to see the wanton opportunism? The worst part was that it ultimately diminishes what was wonderfully a grassroots and spontaneous show of support for our fallen soldiers. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject.

Advertisements

Go "negative" or go home!

I find it very telling that in the recent Liberal outcry over John Tory going “negative”, the focus is not at all on the undesirability of negative campaigning but rather that Tory stated he wouldn’t stoop to such tactics. The Liberal response, in other words, was a negative attack on Tory’s credibility. Sometimes two negatives do make a positive. Not to be missed here is that Liberal strategists like Kinsella are no longer even shy about the fact that they’re tethered and committed to negative campaigning. Going negative has become de rigueur and an accepted fact of politics for the Ontario Liberals. Go negative or go home!

And you know, it wasn’t that long ago that Kinsella, Raymaker and Cherniak were defending their vicious personal smear on Cheri DiNovo claiming that it was part of public record, even claiming that they themselves were being reprehensibly smeared by those denouncing them. Lamentably, less than a year later these apologists of smear no longer even feel the need to justify it.
So what about John Tory? Can he safely be accused of having gone negative? Undoubtedly Yes. Clearly in the broadest sense of the concept of “negative campaigning” as a deflection of political focus away from one’s own platform and onto the negative aspects of an opponent, such that even a mention of an opponent may be construed as negative, John Tory has gone negative. And is he doing it for leverage? Unquestionably.

Still, what distinctions get lost in such a sweeping view of negative campaigning? Personally I favour reasoned debate, even old school sophistry, to its modern day replacements: petty spin and puerile negative attacks. But, surely, we haven’t lost entirely the ability to distinguish between attacking an opponent’s logic, argumentation and political record from adhominem attacks on an opponent’s character and personal history. Surely, although both are forms of “negative campaigning”, there still exists a recognizable difference between vilifying candidates by dredging up personal details from their teens or by disingenuously misconstruing their statements and intelligently and reasonably critiquing an opponent’s statements and political record.

To be fair, I do think John Tory has overstepped slightly the line in his criticism of the McGuinty government record, yet this must be seen as a substantially different kind of attack from the sordid personal attacks and mischaracterizations perpetrated by the McGuinty Liberals against John Tory and others. I don’t think John Tory has veered significantly from his desire to conduct politics differently- mind you, things had degenerated so significantly at Queen’s Park that it wouldn’t take much to improve the situation. His attacks aren’t outrageously personal and we all know that if anyone deserves the monicker Promise Breaker, it’s not John Tory.

So is attacking the Ontario Liberal government’s pitiful record, negative campaigning? Surely, we don’t mean to dispense with “critique” in politics. While I lament the virtual absence of critical thought and dignified comportment in politics, I wouldn’t want to lose it as an “ideal” (in fact, I’ve long argued given the decline in critical thought, eloquence and articulateness in political discourse that all newly elected officials should be subjected to a rigorous regimen of literature, rhetoric and political philosophy).

However, even if we grant that “negative” campaigning, marked by sleazy smears, distortions, distraction, disingenuousness, petty partisanship, etc. has or will soon become the norm, ought we not to aspire to something better? Or is the fact that dirty politics can be highly effective in modern day elections sufficient reason to be resigned to this kind of campaigning? Does the fact the voter turn out and public perception of elected officials is at an all time low possibly owing at all to this? Have we become so focused on ends that we entirely neglect the legitimacy of the means by which we strive for those ends? If I’m focused on attaining a watch, it matters substantially whether I acquire it legitimately or I steal it, for the latter will always never be just a watch, but a stolen watch.

I recently had a very interesting discussion with a teacher. She pointed out that today students are so focused on end results that cheating has become rampant. When she addressed her class in a very frank and gentle way, students told her that they consider cheating only as cheating when they get caught, otherwise it’s called being savvy and getting the job done.

Is all of this completely unrelated? Or is this part of the ravages to the human soul inflicted by capitalism? Is this not the logical extension of narcissistic self-interest? Is negative campaigning not perfectly suited for a consumer society that has neither the appetite nor the time for focusing on issues and rather delights in seeing other torn asunder. Are these not by-products of late capitalist societies? For while the material gain and leverage brought to human societies by their adoption of capitalist economies is undeniable, we’re often less prone to scrutinize the inevitable changes wrought on human beings themselves by these transformations.


So what are we left with in Canadian politics? Principles, ethics and integrity are luxuries that a party focused only on power cannot afford. Polling is the moral compass of most of today’s politicians and the Ontario Liberals have whole heartedly embraced this kind of politics.

A recent example from Jason Cherniak is a worthy illustration. Cherniak, who greeted every mention of ColleGate as comprising a “slush fund” with outrage and who defended the embattled minister, not only was content to scapegoat the minister in the hopes of saving the party but now teases John Tory for his inability to elicit outrage in the electorate over that scandal. This, of course, after examining recent polling numbers. Despite a condemning report from the Auditor General, despite fair accusations that this at least has the stench of a slush fund, etc., Cherniak ultimately sees nothing untoward in the funding scandal since it doesn’t seem to have hurt the Ontario Liberal Party’s chances of forming the next government.

Message to "Ethnic" Ontarians: Liberals and Conservatives are really NOT your friends

I was raised in a working class ethnic family in a working class community and a question that has always plagued me is: Why does the working class repeatedly act and vote against its own best interest? Worse why does the working class actually play the key role in perpetuating the existing system of disproportionate distribution of wealth, of worker exploitation and of iniquity? If the prosperity gap is widening, it’s not because of a sinister plot by those in whose hands wealth is progressively becoming consolidated, but rather owing to the massive complicity of those who are least advantaged by the system. To understand how and why this happens one could do no better than to look at the concepts of “ideology” and “hegemony” as discussed in the Marxist traditions.

Incidentally, believe it or not, I found myself agreeing with Warren Kinsella today. You see, Warren discloses for us not only the quagmire that would be the prospect of funding for religious based education, but also the real motive behind John Tory’s advancement of such a proposal. Kinsella reveals the pretty obvious truth that John Tory is electioneering with “a cynical ploy to peel off some “ethnic” votes to which they [Conservatives] feel entitled.” And I whole heartedly agree. I can’t think that, on this issue, Tory is being impelled by anything other than polling and the hope of securing some voter support from groups that tend to vote Liberal.

Funny though, Warren didn’t view the so-called slush fund or Colle-Gate as a similar cynical ploy. For although it wasn’t an attempt to peel off some “ethnic” votes, it was a cynical ploy to shore up and sustain a voter base to which the Liberals feel entitled?

I’m dismayed that the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario PC see fit to insult and manipulate such an important voter base, a base to which both parties arrogantly feel entitled. I also harbour no illusions. Even though it would be completely in their best self-interest to support the NDP, I know that new Canadians and ethnic minorities will tend to support one of the hegemonic parties. But I also know that as time passes, the likelihood of broadening one’s support tends to increase.

And it often begins, as it did with me, with the awareness that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are really my friends. They are truly only friends of banks, multinationals, and big business. It is to them that they are accountable. It’s part of their DNA. As for common folk, well we’re simply taken for granted and through the extensive, and these days virtually exclusive, use of polling, the Liberals and the Conservatives determine how best to toy with us so as to attempt to secure our vote.

There’s only one party that truly represents the best interest of working families: and that’s the NDP. Period.

P.S. Am I the only one who sees the prominence that this religious based school funding issue is acquiring as entirely misplaced? 

First, while I’m not averse eventually to debating how we might reconfigure the existing system of education, I don’t see the fact the we have separately funded boards of education as the root cause of the current malaise in education. There are real and present funding concerns which need to be addressed if we’re not going to let our children down. We need first to fix the funding formula and fully fund our schools. Schools need the requisite money to keep the buildings functional, teachers need to be supported, and special needs education must be bolstered more than ever. This government record on supporting children with autism and providing assistance to new Canadians has been shameful and deplorable.

Second, this contentious issue of religious based funding is sidetracking us from more pressing issues. As I just mentioned there’s too much to fix in the current system to think of dismantling it. I’ve heard nothing of environmental issues. There’s been precious little about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and the incursion of precarious employment into many sectors of the labour market;  of the damage pay day loan companies are foisting on our inner cities; of the appalling levels of poverty in our province; of reviewing  property tax and property assessment. Of health care. And why?

Because the Ontario Liberal Party and the PC Party of Ontario are more interested in securing some “ethnic” votes which will gain them leverage in the coming election than in improving the lives of Ontarians, votes from people which they see fit, now and historically, to manipulate and toy with.

As if we needed polls to confirm Ontario Liberals are slipping

I’ve long criticized the Ontario Liberal Party for being unscrupulous, unprincipled, and inconsistent. This den of thieves was among the most ungracious, incompetent, and nefarious governments I’ve seen. A full mandate with unlimited power and nothing to show for it; except, of course, for broken promises and being ensnared in compromising and embarrassing scandal after scandal. Only makes you wonder what this government successfully covered up. Actually to be fair, a couple of days ago, this government did conveniently conjure up a hefty 2 billion dollar surplus. Great! Now we might finally adequately fund the Ontario Cricket Association.

What does a government do when it hasn’t any coherent vision or principles?
It runs entirely on polling.
Why?
Because its only concern is re-election.

This is also the reason that none of us should be surprised at the recent turn to American style negative campaigning exhibited by the Ontario Liberals. Liberals are down 10-12% in Parkdale High Park by-election last fall with less than two weeks to go. What did they do?
Smear the leading candidate with some of the cheapest shots I’ve seen in politics. And not to be forgotten is that this was sanctioned by Premier McGuinty himself who dismissed it as the byproduct of a close political race. Worse still, Liberal hacks like Jason Cherniak and Liberal strategists like Warren Kinsella continue to operate under the assumption that dirty and sordid politics are effective. They actually took credit for minutely narrowing the gap in that by-election. Or more precious still, claimed that they were really the ones smeared in that campaign (as Cherniak did) and quibbled about how better to implement their fear mongering and negative tactics in the future.
Likewise, none of us should be surprised at Kinsella’s choice to completely ignore the issues for the coming provincial election. His focus instead is on branding Tory as a clone of the evil Mike Harris and someone who personally advocates the views of crazy conservatives like Randy Hillier. Similarly when it comes to critiquing the NDP, Kinsella opts for hurling scurrilous charges of anti-Semitism at an NDP strategist and the NDP generally.
The last couple of weeks for the Ontario Liberal government have been marked by vote buying funding announcements (as if this government has any credibility remaining where its promises are concerned) and the talking out of both sides of its mouth (last week the city of Toronto told to get lost, today this government pledges to honour its 2003 promise to upload some of the download to help out cities). With this kind of electioneering, is there anyone who suspects that the Liberals were not already well aware that they were slipping in the polls?????

_____________
Update:
Cherniak’s gushing over the surplus announced by the Ontario Liberals. He’s a big fan of surplus budgeting. Of course he is, he’s a Liberal. We all know how Liberals love surplus funds, especially year end funds which they can dole out to friends with no accounting controls, no paper trails, no accountability, only the hope the benefactors might remember their generosity come election time.
What’s that sound that kept me awake all night? Oh yeah, it was Cricket! Cricket! Cricket!
By the way, Cherniak ridicules Howard Hampton’s response to the “surprise” announcement of a surplus. I rather think Mr. Hampton has assessed the situation quite accurately. The Liberals are bribing Ontarians with their own tax dollars. According to Mr. Hampton:

“Across Ontario, people are waiting. Families are waiting in emergency rooms for the health care they need. The seniors who built this province are waiting for property tax relief that will let them stay in their homes. Children with autism are languishing on waiting lists for the care they need.”


“All these people are waiting because Dalton McGuinty has turned his back on today’s working families. He said he would deliver change but hasn’t come through. He broke his promises.”

“Today, I was deeply troubled to learn why Mr. McGuinty is making people wait. He did it so he could try to bribe people with their own money before an election. For four long years, Mr. McGuinty deliberately misled Ontario families about the province’s finances so he could use our tax dollars to finance a pre-election vote-buying spree.”

“Mr. McGuinty got it wrong. New Democrats will make it right. We will deliver a fair deal for today’s working families. Instead of wasting your money on MPP pay raises, slush fund handouts and pre-election vote-buying sprees, we’ll deliver balanced budgets, fair taxes and investments that make a difference for people, like the fair deal for municipalities we announced this week that will mean lower property taxes, a two-year transit fare freeze and an end to service cuts.”

Kinsella adds pathetic calumny and fear mongering to Liberal strategy, but hasn’t entirely dispensed with sexism

Truly I’d rather not be commenting on Warren Kinsella’s blunders, but he just keeps serving them up. Does someone pay him for these pitiful attacks and this fear mongering????

First, Warren, calling someone a “spokesMAN” is so 1980’s. The non-sexist and 21st century expression is “spokesperson”. To call Elliott Anderson a “spokesman”, especially given your recent sexist cock ups, implies that you continue to believe that speaking and power is the purview of men exclusively. But we all know you don’t really believe that.

But let’s say we get past all that. What fresh hell is this calumny of yours? I’ve met Elliott and he’s one of the hardest working, most dignified and scrupulous researchers in politics. I’ve never heard even a hint of an unkind word about Elliott. Moreover, if I’m not mistaken, he is Jewish. From where do you muster the audacity to smear him like this? Accusing Elliott of anti-Jewish blood libel???? I understand that you leave no room for critiquing the actions of Israel, but blood libel is a charge of anti-Semitism.

Blood libel and anti-Semitism are primed and loaded linguistic nukes. There is a history and significance in those terms such that their deployment should never be undertaken lightly nor undeservedly. To smear Elliot and the NDP even with the scent of anti-semitism is perverse and completely unfounded. You would consider it beneath you if you had an ounce of dignity. Is helping the Ontario Liberals in the polls at the expense of the someone else worth utterly stripping yourself of honesty and integrity? I guess to a Liberal there is no bottom to the depraved pit of politics.

Personally, this is worse even than your attack on Cheri DiNovo. But just as absurd. I truly hoped that after losing Parkdale High Park, the Ontario Liberals would not revert to American style campaigning, yet just days after Rove resigns, we see Rove like antics.

You seriously underestimate, again, the intelligence and the will of the Ontario electorate.

"Vote for us just because we’re Liberals" or "Delusions of Hegemony"

About the only time the Ontario Liberals are transparent is when they are desperately trying to secure votes through their usual hollow promises.  If it weren’t obvious enough that the Liberal funding boost for education is just a pre-election buy-off, even Kathleen Wynne points us in that direction when she says, “The details of what that [a full review in 2010 of the school funding formula] will look like, you’ll have to re-elect us to get the answer.” This announcement has little to do with education and everything to do with a foundering party desperately seeking re-election.

Kathleen Wynne has travelled a long way to become this accomplished a Liberal.  Need we be reminded that in 2003 the Liberals ran on fixing the flawed funding formula? What audacity. What lack of urgency. This is straight from the Smitherman school of just trust us nice Liberal politicians, we’ll eventually get to it. After all “it takes longer to make a doctor than a pizza.” 
Now we’re supposed to re-elect these clowns in order to find out what the details of their platform will be? I guess this is one way of cutting down on broken promises.  Don’t make any, just ask voters for their vote because, well, you’re Liberals. 
It’s not only a misrepresentation to suggest teachers are voting Liberal in the coming election (many ridings are recommending and endorsing candidates other than the Liberal one), but also it does not seem in the best interest of students, parents, teachers, and staff to re-elect this government. All the Liberals can say is that they’ll review the funding formula a full seven years after they originally promised to do so. Sounds like a Nanticoke promise to me…

All is forgiven…

Looks like Derek Raymaker wasn’t ex-communicated from Warren Kinsella’s blogroll after all: just in limbo for a while. After one week’s penance, BornwithaTail has found his way back onto Kinsella’s blogroll (but not before some serious revision of the blog, which included deleting entries and stripping it of flagrantly sexist language). Good on him.

Rather than recirculating juvenile and inane videos (we could go to Cherniak for that), perhaps Warren could wade into the debate on the coming referendum on electoral reform. Inquiring minds want to know what Warren thinks about the process, about McGuinty’s imposition of a “supermajority” condition, and ultimately what he thinks about MMP as an improvement on FPTP…
_______________
Update:
Didn’t last long. Born with a Tail was removed again from Kinsella’s blogroll within a few hours. Not a nice thing to do to your band mate, business partner and friend. I’m sure it’s not personal, it’s just the way damage control goes.

FPTP is Whack Yo!

I think we could all use a refresher course on why FPTP is failing miserably in providing the right of representation which belongs to each of us. Below is an excellent piece entitled “This is Democracy?” from Fair Vote Canada. In brief, under FPTP, millions of votes are wasted, votes are not equal, election results are distorted often creating artificial majorities, and FPTP is associated with lower voter turnout as compared with countries using fair voting systems. (Click on thumbnails for full page)

Campaign to defeat the "Campaign to Defeat MMP in Ontario"

Now that the Campaign to Defeat MMP in Ontario has officially begun, I thought I’d start my own little campaign to defeat these fear mongering, opportunistic, dissemblers of misinformation. There are many reasons to vote in favour of electoral reform this fall and I’ve provided numerous links below, so I won’t rehearse what’s already been stated, but simply add a couple of points I haven’t heard mentioned very often.

First, we must recognize this for what it is: McGuinty paying lip service to democracy. While I commend McGuinty for setting up a Citizens’ Assembly in the first place, what’s transpiring in October is hardly a referendum. As far as I’m concerned a referendum requires 50% +1 to be adopted. The moment McGuinty unilaterally and without debate undermined the wishes of both Committee and the Citizens’ Assembly and imposed a supermajority (60%) condition on the referendum, he simultaneously undermined any pretense to fairness in this process. McGuinty wants to sound democratic but knows that he has stacked the deck to make it virtually impossible to make this electoral reform a possibility. And for good reason, his party benefits tremendously from the existing system.

Second, notwithstanding McGuinty’s hijacking of the process, I’m still thrilled that a Citizens’ Assembly was established, and from all accounts it worked very well. Any feasible and workable inroads into increasing participatory democracy is always fine by me. This leads me to something I hadn’t considered before and I don’t know exactly how to answer. What does a vote against the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly mean? I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be room for debate and dissent. In fact, these should always be encouraged, especially when done honestly and intelligently. Still, this is not just any proposal being put forward to the public. It’s certainly not a partisan proposal. Moreover, it was the culmination of a fair, long, arduous, and well-informed process. The Assembly was composed of randomly selected jurors, guided by competent people, and the assembly’s recommendation was that Ontario needs electoral reform, and that this can best be accomplished by MMP. So is a vote against electoral reform a vote against democracy? If so, was McGuinty’s failure to endorse the recommendation (let alone undermine it altogether) anti-democratic? Any ideas…

Anyways, onto some informative links:

Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform
Fair Vote Canada
Vote for MMP
They Call Me “Mr Sinister”
democratic Space
Blogging for Democracy
Idealistic Pragmatist
Andrew Coyne
Dr. Dawg’s Blawg