Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Trojan Horses of the Leadership Race.

Yesterday, whilst speaking to a dear friend, B.S., the topic of the Liberal leadership race came up. To my astonishment and horror, he indicated that he would vote for a certain east coast candidate. When asked what this candidate had done to favour his vote, my dear friend said he could relate to this candidate's kick-off speech.


Although confident in the fact that my friend knew (i) candidates don't write their own speeches, and (ii) speeches are written by communications experts whose job it is to know exactly how to "rope people in", I still proceeded to hammer these points home.

Leadership candidates, I continued, must be judged on more than what they say, especially during a campaign--they must be judged by their previous actions, their previous opinions and, most importantly, their previous alliances/allegiances.

There is something grossly inappropriate about former members of other parties seeking the leadership of the Federal Liberals.

And, before all of you nay sayers jump in, let me clarify this statement.

The idea that a person can adequately distance themselves from the ideology of their former party to the point where they can faithfully and without bias lead a national party of a different stripe is questionable at best. The fact there exists the possibility of a former NDP Premier or former PC elite leading a party borne on the backs of true Grits is incomprehensible.

Many will argue that Brison and Rae have more than distanced themselves from their previous parties, Rae more so by his 2002 opinion paper Parting Company with the NDP, but for most Liberals this is simply not enough.

Leadership candidates (those who have announced their candidacy and those who will be announcing their candidacy shortly).

Carolyn Bennett
Maurizio Bevilacqua
Scott Brison
Stephane Dion
Martha Hall Findlay
Michael Ignatieff
Gerard Kennedy
Bob Rae
Joe Volpe

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Speeches 101. Sorry, this ain't no West Wing

Don't ask me how or why, but a few hours ago I found myself in the presence of some of Canada's most seasonsed communication experts.

Men and woman who worked with former Premiers, Prime Ministers and one dude who even claimed to be a former assistant press secretary to a former US President were called together to help a particular leadership candidate.

In all, fifteen people sat around the table feverishly trying to one-up each other while we, 6 of the most awestruck political wannabe's, hugged the wall.

For the better part of 4 hours they spoke of the great orative powers of Trudeau, Levesque, Clinton, Regan and Hitler (yeah, the lady who brought up his name then spent several minutes speaking a-mile-a-minute justifying her use of Hilter's name in the same sentence as Trudeau's).

A few laughs were had at the expense of President George W. Bush, naturally, and there was a surprisingly lengthy debate over including French text in speeches given by obviously non-French speaking individuals.

Someone mentions John Tory. More laughter.

Not realizing that I had gone from thinking to myself to speaking to myself, I was mortified when someone at the far end of the table asked me (in a very condensing like-you-know-anything-about-anything tone) to repeat myself.

Feeling the pain of embarrassment, I stood.

As I looked for the nearest exit (run, Run, RUN), I thought of how to apologize for my interruption without sounding like an idiot. My very dignity was at stake and I needed to escape with at least that--I was sure to be tossed by the increasingly red faced campaign manager seated a mere 5 feet of me.

As I said a silent 'Hail Mary', I thought of the last political book I read Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership, and the Making of Canada by John Duffy. The irony was not lost on me.

I listed a few well known speeches: Sir John A. MacDonald making a case for Confederation, while Joseph Howe heckled him; Louis Riel pleading his case to the Regina jury in 1885; Nellie McClung demanding the vote for women; the legendary face-off between Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque during the 1980 Quebec referendum; and (for the lone gentleman from the US) Barak Obama's address to the 2004 National Democratic Convention.

As I turned to sit back down the I-am-a-former-assistant-press-secretary dude asked what was so great about Obama's speech?

Vile Republican, I thought.

Although I couldn't remember most of his speech, I was able to paraphrase (quite horribly I must say) the following:

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties....

Realizing that I would need more, I dug deep to remember the rest:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. It is that fundamental belief -- It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work.

He continued to stare at me but said nothing more. Fearing I would pass out, I returned to my seat.

As I sat down, I looked at my fellow wall-huggers and thought, I am so fired.

Barak Obama 2004 National Democratic Convention Speech.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In Service to our Country.

With today's announcement of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan near Gumbad, I am reminded of a lady named Mary, an OIF widow, whose blog site I stumbled across a couple of weeks ago. There I read, with great sadness, her struggle to come to terms with the November 2005 death of her husband while on duty in the Middle East.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones in combat.

Cpl. Matthew Dinning

Bombardier Myles Mansell
(British Columbia)

Cpl. Randy Payne

Lieutenant William Turner

Canadian Afghanistan Casualties

May the life these Canadians gave in service to our Country be forever remembered, celebrated and cherish.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Craig Kielburger. Doing Canadians Proud.

Until recently this gentleman's name was unknown to me.

I have since learnt that his achievements are many and his dedication to the project that he and his brother started some 11 years ago is steadfast. I must admit I have found myself asking, what have I done in my 26 years of life that comes even remotely close to what this young man has done in the past 11.

Bravo. Bravo.

Young Canadian wins "Children's Nobel Prize"

Free the Children

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Maurizio Bevilacqua. The Dreamer.

Come on! Come on!

Who the hell is whispering sweet nothings into Mr. Bevilacqua's ear? Because, truthfully, they should be drawn and quartered.

I will admit Mr. Bevilacqua has been a very good MP and a fiercely loyal Liberal but he has been given some really bad advice if he believes he stands a chance at winning the leadership.

Moreover, leading off a candidacy by urging Party members not to "buy into the idea they need to unite the left in order to regain power" is a fantastically bad move. The Liberal Party has had enough politics of dividicism. We need to re-unite, re-juvenate and re-establish.

And, for the record, the Conservatives did win the last election. The Liberal Party ran a "re-active" national campaign and based on that alone, they did't stand a chance at winning another mandate.

Going for broke here... to say that the 2005/2006 Liberal national campaign was awful is a gross understatement. They did not look like leaders, they did not act like leaders and they did not have the confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) of a governing party. In my opinion, this made it very difficult for Canadians to re-elect them.

A campaign cannot be successful when it's leader hides behind past mistakes. Humility must be an option when going into a campaign where ones ethics are in question. Mr. Martin should have come out of the gates swinging. Get rid of all the MPs whose mere presence casts a shadow of doubt on the Party. Nothing, and I mean nothing, not even friendship, should be above the integrity of a Party. And, I am mortified that some Party members think differently.

Now, back to Mr. Bevilacqua, I am never one to judge a book by the cover, if you are the best person to lead this party so be it. Best of luck.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

PM Harper's Anti-Corruption Bill.

In an attempt to be as honest as possible, I will freely admit I have a real disdain (and I use this word deliberately) for current Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I arbour his arrogance and his blatant disregard for process; case-in-point, the defection and subsequent ministerial appointment of former Liberal MP David Emerson immediately after the 2006 federal election and the Cabinet appointment of Michael Fortier, an unelected official. Both came on the heals of his diatribe about party loyalty and the inherent lack of morals of members of the Federal Liberal Party. And, let us not forget his venomous attacks on Belinda Stronach for her crossing of the floor in 2005.

His hypocrisy is legendary.

You must, therefore, appreciate how difficult it is for me to admit the following: I see promise in Prime Minister Harper's recently announced Anti-Corruption Bill. The Federal Accountability Act (tabled by, dare I say, my favourite Tory MP, John Baird) is far reaching and touches on dozens of federal statutes, including parts of the Access to Information Act and Elections Act. My favourite component of the proposed Bill is the provision that prevents political staffers and senior 'crats from lobbying government for a period of 5 years after their service, bravo!

That said, I have learnt to keep my enthusiasm and expectations in check. I eagerly await the debate of this Bill in the House. Moreover, if implemented, I look forward to seeing how quickly a Party finds itself in breach and how government disciplines those in violation.

Establishing a set of rules is easy. Having people (nee politicians) follow them, well, that is a whole other story.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gay like me.

I am sitting as many twenty-somethings do on a Sunday afternoon at the nearest Starbucks. A little mid-afternoon people watching never hurt anyone. I am always amused by the characters that stroll into the Starbucks at Yonge/Wellesley--the political staffers (easy to spot, just look for a crackberry), the fashionistas, last night club kids and the ever present wannabes.


Call it a by-product of Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word...the list is endless.

Wannabes are usually between the ages of 17 - 30, hangout at all the watering holes and desperately want to be part of "gay culture" so long as it is packaged in a loverly pink Holt Renfrew bag. Gone are the days where being gay is taboo.

This is a good thing, right?

The jury is still out.

What does being gay really mean? What is it all about? By Hollywood standards, it means being hot, young, successful and a party whore. We are constantly bombarded with a sensationalized understanding of what coming out of the closet means.

Admitting you are gay to your family, friends and colleagues can be traumatizing. The act of coming out is not the hardest part, rather its dealing with the reactions from others. All too often family members don't understand, friends turn the other way and suddenly colleagues go out of their way to not say anything "inappropriate". Everyone walks on eggshells. Mercifully, this is the good part. There are countless stories, like that of Brendan Tina, where internal struggle leads to external conflicts with sometimes tragic consequences.

So, what is the point of this rant? Simply put, Hollywood must be very careful of how they portray gay culture. They have a duty to not sensationalize the hardships faced by those who have the strength to openly declare their sexuality.

It's no picnic.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Madame President.

There has been much debate surrounding whether or not the former first lady will mount a challenge to become the first female President of the United States of America.

Anyone who has been following Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton's political career knows that she is testing the waters and amassing a sizable "war chest". But should she win, does she truly understand the state of the nation she will be inheriting. Fiscal mismanagement, a nation divided over a war that should never have started, an escalating unemployment rate, a battle over immigration, an increasing ethno-cultural rift, an all to present sense of fear of additional terrorist attacks, an increased hatred of Americans and a lack of respect on the international stage.

There is little doubt that the next POTUS will have some major challenges. So naturally one must ask (and many do) can a woman realistically turn things around?

Would a woman have the "balls" to go to war, if necessary?

Would a woman be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with world leaders who still believe women are second class citizens?

The answer is a resounding YES and I would jump at the opportunity to say that I serve at the pleasure of President-elect, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Everyone now and again I come across a quote that makes me stop and take pause.

Quotes of the day:

What is to give light must endure burning.

Life is a battle. Either you enter it armed or surrender immediately.

If looks could kill you'd be a murderer of maybe just a whore.

Michael Ignatieff. Friend or Foe.

Michael Ignatieff. The next would-be Prime Minister of Canada.

Much has been said of Mr. Ignatieff since his recruitment to the Canadian Liberal Party in the late summer of 2005. Many view him as the savior of the Liberal Party while others view him as a dissident who knows little of the country he left some 20 years ago.

So who is Michael Ignatieff?

A brilliant academic educated at UofT and Harvard, Ignatieff has taught at UBC, Kings College, Cambridge and Harvard. He has written extensively on human rights and ethics and is considered an authority on international politics. The son of a Canadian diplomat and grandson of the Tsar's last Minister of Education, Ignatieff is no stranger to politics or controversies. In 2003, Ignatieff generated controversy by supporting the US-lead invasion of Iraq and suggesting that Canada consider the proposed Canada-US North American Missile Defence Shield. In 2004, he again found himself in the hot seat when he said he would be in favour of legislation that would permit coercive interrogation (torture) that did not result in lasting harm to mental or physical health. And, in November 2005, he found himself the object of a very heated debate regarding his nomination in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

So what does Michael Ignatieff bring to the Canadian Liberal Party? A fresh face. A bit of star power.

Does this mean he is the right person for the job? Only time will tell. He has surrounded himself with the top echelon of political movers and shakers and to his credit he is well spoken and personable. What he may lack in "Canadian appeal" he more than makes up for in star power. With Belinda Stronach no longer in the race he is the frontrunner with no other formidable challengers in sight.

What does this blogger think of Ignatieff's chances? It will depend heavily on the other candidates. Bob Rae (a close friend of Ignatieff) and Gerard Kennedy (if they announce their candidacy) will certainly give him stiff competition. Their face recognition and the fact that they have both been active in Canadian politics will give them an edge.

Let the games begin.