• Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference Winnipeg April 23 2015. (Reuters)Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference Winnipeg April 23 2015. (Reuters)

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an existential problem.

    Upwards of 60 per cent of the Canadian electorate doesn’t support him. This lack of support ranges from glum tolerance of the consequences of the democratic process that has made him prime minister since 2006 to active distain, even hatred regarding his very existence in Canadian politics by some Canadians. It is difficult to determine why an intelligent, honest, family values-espousing, moral man generates such animus, but he does, and this attitude is a basic element of current Canadian politics.

    Such circumstances put it between difficult and very difficult for Harper to win the forthcoming October election. But hardly impossible.

    To emerge victorious for a fourth consecutive—minority or majority—government, Harper must rally all Tory supporters, assure they vote, hold as many of his existing ridings as possible, and maximize his opportunities in the 30 new seats added to the National Assembly.  

    He has strong cards: An

    Read More »from Canada's election: Harper lacking full support, but still likely to triumph
  • Liberal leader Justin Trudeau talks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 21, 2015. (Reuters)Liberal leader Justin Trudeau talks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 21, 2015. (Reuters)

    New and important issues can arise or change in the months before any election, but as of today, most Canadians appear from opinion surveys to be focussed primarily on the economy. There is also concern about national security in a period of Vladimir Putin, the Islamic State and other threats to regional and world peace. Features of this week’s budget, such as TFSA and RRIF benefits for seniors and universal child care benefits, will also be a factor in attracting or losing votes in October.

    Based on almost 27 years in Parliament, I’d recommend that voters support the candidate in their constituency they identify with most closely regardless of party affiliation. Not all candidates are equally committed to representing every constituent without fear or favour in the House of Commons and with personal government problems.

    This can be difficult to assess before an election since every candidate and party leader puts their best face forward during an election campaign. There is

    Read More »from Canada's election: Vote for local candidates, not for party leaders
  • Senator Ted Cruz addresses firefighters on March 10, 2015. (Reuters)Senator Ted Cruz addresses firefighters on March 10, 2015. (Reuters)

    There are still 16 months before the U.S. presidential election, but you might think it was just around the corner with all the campaign frenzy that’s running, if not in high gear, at far higher RPMs than one would believe justified.

    On the other hand, you could argue the 2016 presidential election campaign began election night November, 6 2012. And it has never stopped. Indeed, one might conclude the United States has been in constant presidential campaign mode since the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election over 50 years ago.

    If anything, intensity is even greater pointing toward the 2016 election with an “open” presidency and incumbent vice president more a joke than a realistic candidate.

    An Early Evaluation

    Democrats

    The obvious Democrat is no surprise—Hillary Clinton. She has money, organization, and even more stars on her resume than in 2008 (she can now add Secretary of State and grandmother). Polls suggest that the strong majority of Democrats expect and want her to be the

    Read More »from U.S. Election: GOP candidates have major disadvantages going against big-name Clinton
  • Hillary Clinton and Laura Ensler listen as an instructor reads a story to children April 1, 2015. (Reuters)Hillary Clinton and Laura Ensler listen as an instructor reads a story to children April 1, 2015. (Reuters)

    Hillary Clinton is expected to launch her second campaign for the White House this weekend. She can expect little difficulty in winning her party nomination despite problems in projecting warmth to large crowds and other rusty campaign skills. An intellectual, she remains the overwhelming favourite on the Democratic side over the closest other contenders, Vice-President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey result on April 7, Clinton leads Florida Senator Marco Rubio 46/43 per cent and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker 46/42. An earlier average of various polls had her leading former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by about seven per cent.

    What might Americans and the world expect from a Hillary Clinton administration?

    Clinton’s 2014 book, Hard Choices, is in effect a 600-page campaign platform, doubtless reflecting advice from some of the best policy specialists in America and internationally. It frequently goes beyond what

    Read More »from U.S. Election: Hillary Clinton an open book, thanks to 'Hard Choices'
  • U.S.-Canada relations: Keystone has cooled an already frosty relationship

    “The United States and Canada are best friends—like it or not.”

    Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline have strained an already fragile relationship. (Reuters/CP)Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline have strained an already fragile relationship. (Reuters/CP)

    Our bilateral relationship is akin to a Ferris wheel (round and round/up and down/where it stops nobody knows).

    But if the sobriquet of “best friends—like it or not” is the paradigm, we are certainly well into the “not” category. Irritations are becoming problems; problems are evolving toward crises.

    Perhaps our relations are more akin to living with bipolar disorder: With careful tending, good meds, and occasional professional psychiatric intervention, we negotiate the rough patches in our relations with no more than grimacing and accentuating the positives. Occasionally, however, the juxtaposition of particularly neuralgic but important substantive issues and mutual senior leadership irritation generates a crisis.

    There is a rolling laundry list of niggling problems, often of the hardy perennial nature, that keep diplomats and bureaucrats busy. Over the years, these have included hanging file folders, magazine advertising, pork bellies, Pacific Coast salmon, softwood lumber—just to

    Read More »from U.S.-Canada relations: Keystone has cooled an already frosty relationship
  • With the right attitude, those little problems between Canada and the U.S. don't seem so bad. (Reuters)With the right attitude, those little problems between Canada and the U.S. don't seem so bad. (Reuters)

    From a Canadian perspective, Canada-U.S. relations have advanced to a point where they are capable of transcending a very unpopular president such as George W. Bush. While Barack Obama was welcomed into office overwhelmingly by Canadians, his misinformation to justify a presidential veto of legislation key tothe Canadian Keystone XL pipeline was a serious blow to good bilateral relations.

    The relationship overall is probably no better or worse than it has been for many years, largely because our two countries are now seen on both sides of the border as alternative civilizations and thus increasingly unlikely to diverge or converge on a range of public issues. Our expectations of each other are perhaps becoming more realistic.

    David Jones and I wrote Uneasy Neighbo(u)rs about the two nations in 2007. Some features of the relationship continue to apply, including the approximately ten-to-one disparity in population and GDP. Canadian differences with our neighbour today are still often

    Read More »from U.S.-Canada relations: With humour and patience, we can remain friends
  • Commander in chief dismisses Netanyahu's address to CongressCommander in chief dismisses Netanyahu's address to Congress

    A metaphorical gauntlet lies in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. Thrown by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his speech to a joint session of Congress on Mar. 3, the gauntlet is the challenge of how to address the Iranian nuclear program and prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

    This is not an easy problem; indeed, it may be an impossible one to solve—short of Iranian regime change (and even that sanguine possibility may well not be a solution).

    Indeed, Iranian nukes are a legacy concern. Although not much discussed, Tehran’s interest/commitment to developing nuclear weapons dates to the Shah’s era. Iran has persisted, for nationalist, geopolitical, and military reasons, in manufacturing fissile material, developing the technical mechanical processes and designs to construct a nuclear warhead, and manufacturing missile delivery systems for such warheads.

    Moreover, Iran sees itself both as living in a dangerous neighborhood and wanting to seize leadership

    Read More »from Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: The United States has nothing but bad choices
  • In the small ocean of printer’s ink consumed since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech of March 3rd to the U.S. Congress swim four not-so-imaginary fish.

    The most frightened one is Israel. A 2012 opinion survey by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed that two-thirds of Israelis believed that “if Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon it would use it against Israel.” The strongly peace-seeking Shimon Peres as Israel’s president asked in 2012 how the world could allow the Iranian leadership to “openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust.”

    A former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, in 2001 claimed that a single bomb would end Israel’s existence. Israelis fear both a direct strike by Tehran and one by a non-state actor with a nuclear weapon provided by it. Many also believe that the Middle East as a whole, with Iran in the lead, rejects Israel’s right to exist as a country.

    Other concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran relate to the toxic consequences

    Read More »from Obama’s Israel-Iran nuclear problem: Tough economic sanctions brought Tehran to the table
  •  

    House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)House of Commons security guards receive a standing ovation from Members of Parliament. REUTERS/Chris Wattie (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS)
    The Parliament of Canada should initiate the most broadly acceptable model of proportional representation (PR) for electing members to our House of Commons, mostly because doing so would create a chamber where MPs are elected in proportion to votes received rather than our present winner-take-all system.

    Canada, the U.S. and U.K. are the only major Western democracies still using the first-past-the-post voting system. Our election laws should no longer prescribe that the only voters electing MPs are those favouring each riding's most popular political party. Now the votes of those supporting minority parties — about seven million in the 2011 federal election — achieve nothing in terms of post-election representation. That model was created centuries ago and is simply out-dated for modern times.

    Réal Lavergne of the Fair Vote Canada civil society adds:

    “Among the world’s 35 strongest democracies, 25 use PR and only six use winner-take-all systems of one sort or another... Comparative

    Read More »from Election reform: Canada in desperate need of proportional representation
  • A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections November 4, 2014. (Reuters)

    There is that old maxim, “Where you stand is where you sit.”

    And the cry for election “reform” is invariably the province of losers.

    Winners are essentially satisfied with the system as it is working for them. Or, if they didn’t win the most recent election, they view the system as sufficiently congenial that they have a reasonable chance of winning. They view the day of electoral defeat as the first day of the march to victory (just as astute victors/parties recognize the day of victory is the first day in the march to defeat). And losers can be sanguine. Democrat Moe Udall was cited after the 2000 election, “the people have spoken; God damn them.”

    So despite the undeleted Udall expletive, Democrats were confident they could rebound—as they did in 2008 by electing Barack Obama as president. And, historically, there has been no significant, enduring, modern third party movement, other than ivory tower theorizing about proportional representation.

    So those that complain about the

    Read More »from Election reform: Complaints about money and electoral districts are for 'losers'

Pagination

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