Governor General speculation!

The Star kicked it off and the Wicary at the Globe is trending the topic, so I might as well add my own two cents to the story.

I usually don’t report on the daily non-political lives of people in Ottawa because, well, there’s a certain line to be respected and sometime you just let people be. However, I made a particular observation about a month ago that I only then shared with friends in casual discussion, yet it now seems to inform a broader political context so I’ll share it here. I spotted the Governor General and her husband furniture shopping. Yes, Rideau Hall comes fully stocked but yet not stocked with the sort of timber that this middle-of-the-road sort of store had to offer.

So, why were the Viceregal and the Viceregal Consort shopping for furniture? With the revelation that the PM is actively seeking Michaelle Jean’s replacement, perhaps we now know the answer.

Now, the speculation begins for Jean’s replacement.

My guess as to who the PM will pick is Wayne Gretzky. The PM has made a special effort to normalize the idea of a good working relationship between himself and the Great One. Earlier this year, the PM hosted a reception with Gretzky for the Kinsmen club and hung out with Gretzky at some key Olympic events. The PM’s favourite photo ops are also said to be with athletes.

Some would point out that Gretzky’s french isn’t fantastic. He wouldn’t be the first Governor General to struggle with the language as Ray Hnatyshyn’s french abilities were also criticized.

The PM’s choice of Gretzky would be politically sound as no opposition MP or oped editorialist would find much currency in criticizing the choice.

First Speech from the Throne of the 40th Parliament

Reactions (if you represent a stakeholder and would like to see your release quoted here, email me):

Liberal:

The official Opposition is focused on making Parliament work for all Canadians during this time of economic turmoil and will not oppose today’s Speech from the Throne, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said today.

“By electing a minority government, Canadians are asking Parliament to work together to see our country through the economic challenges that we now face,” said Mr. Dion. “Demanding strong action from this government on the economy will be our primary task as the official Opposition.”

NDP:

“It’s more of the same and people . . . want bold action” (no statement yet on the NDP site)

Canadian Taxpayers Federation:

Today’s throne speech earns a mixed review … The speech contains some good, some bad, and in some cases, downright ugly news for taxpayers moving forward in uncertain economic times.

The federal government will find Canadians are receptive to taking aim at wasteful programs, and a pledge to control the growth in the size and cost of the public service is welcome news. … It is unacceptable that a modern 21st century democracy appoints one quarter of its lawmakers. Keeping Senate reform on the agenda is a good move.

The Throne Speech seems to prepare for a return to deficit spending when it states that it would be “misguided to commit to a balanced budget at any cost.” … It is worrisome that a responsible government would be prepared to spend more than it takes in during tough times … Responsible Canadians do not have this luxury, why should governments? The federal government should leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of keeping the books in the black and getting spending under control is the first step … Taxpayers should be warned that a ‘cap-and-trade’ tax scheme is the evil twin of a carbon tax. Either way, it means higher energy prices and a costly bureaucratic mess that couldn’t come at a worse time. … Also, ugly is a commitment to offer further aid to the auto and aerospace industries.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities:

The Government of Canada has recognized the need to boost Canada’s economy in the face of worldwide financial turmoil and an impending recession, and it has chosen infrastructure spending as one of the remedies. We agree with the diagnosis and applaud this choice of remedy. Spending on infrastructure is a tried-and-true response to an economic slowdown. A study released by FCM earlier this month shows that accelerated infrastructure spending is the best way to boost our country’s economy and immunize it against a recession.

National Union of Public and General Employees:

It’s clear from this throne speech that the Harper government doesn’t view healthcare as a top priority and in fact seems to suggest the job is pretty much done.

That’s a huge disappointment for over-worked health professionals and patients waiting for critical services who are expecting and demanding national leadership on healthcare issues.

Canadian Labour Congress:

Today’s Throne Speech offers little hope or assurance to thousands of people being hit hard by the economic crisis, says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“This speech is supposed to put forward the government’s vision for the future,” Georgetti says, “but what Canadians heard today won’t help them sleep any easier tonight and some of what they heard may well give them nightmares. People want jobs and if they lose them they want protection but I don’t see those promises here.”

Canadian Housing and Renewal Association:

We commend the federal government for remembering that four million Canadians still cannot afford adequate housing and that 300,000 people experience homelessness in Canada annually. Today’s throne speech made promises for health care, jobs, the environment, and family life in order to help Canadians fully participate in the economy and in society, and it has to be remembered that housing is the foundation of this participation and therefore needs to be a top priority.

Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada:

Today’s Speech from the Throne gives some hope for the four million Canadians who lack decent affordable housing, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada said today. The government committed to extending the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and helping more Canadians find affordable housing.

The Canadian Lung Association:

The Lung Association is pleased to see the government’s Throne Speech commitment to improving the lung health of Canadians.

Approximately 6 million people in Canada struggle with asthma, COPD, lung cancer and other lung diseases. The fact that the government has recognized how critical it is to improve the lung health of Canadians is excellent news and a clear sign that they wish to continue partnering on building a Canada free of lung disease.

Canadian Bankers Association:

he Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) fully supports the federal government’s commitment to a common securities regulator in Canada as announced in today’s Speech from the Throne. This step, along with other recent initiatives to facilitate credit markets in Canada, indicates that the government continues to take an appropriate and measured approach to deal with the global economic situation.

Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association:

In its Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada has pledged “To further reduce the cost pressures on Canadian business, our Government will take measures to encourage companies to invest in new machinery and equipment.”

The Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association (CCPA), along with other manufacturers, has been advocating such measures.

Canadian Association of Retired Persons:

CARP chapters and retiree groups were disappointed to learn that no action was promised in the Throne Speech to address the threats to their retirement security wrought by the current market chaos.

CARP chapters and other retiree groups across the cross country assembled to listen to the Throne Speech in the hopes of hearing what the government would do to respond to the clamour for immediate relief and longer term protection of their pensions.

Tonight’s Throne Speech

Prime Minister Harper has penned the mandate he seeks from Parliament for its next session and Governor General Michaelle Jean will deliver the Speech from the Throne tonight in the Red Chamber in about 2.5 hours time.

Most observers expect that the Prime Minister will be asking a lot of Parliament as Stephane Dion, the Liberal and Opposition leader is weakened by fratricide within his own party. The recent recruitment of former Liberal leadership hopeful John Manley will also allow the Prime Minister to pen a few more ideological lines into the speech and dare Dion to vote against.

There are a few factors which will determine the outcome of any brinkmanship that’s anticipated by some, however. For example, does the Prime Minister want to seek a defensible mandate and extend his term without triggering an election. In some cases, this is an advantageous move for Harper; the more time that he governs, the more of a record he has to run when he finally faces the electorate.

However, Dion is in a wounded state and could eventually recover through his own strategy (more unlikely) or via unforeseen “events” (less unlikely). Depending on the crises and issues faced by the Prime Minister over the next year, public opinion may turn. For example, the economy is healthy right now. What will we see in one year’s time? Should Harper go for an election now?

We can be certain that the NDP and the Bloc will be sure to come out immediately and oppose the Throne Speech claiming that they are they only principled opposition in Parliament to Stephen Harper and that Dion and the Liberals are weak. This will allow Jack Layton to represent the Canadian left and Gilles Duceppe to claim to represent both that constituency and Quebec’s interests. This has the benefit for both leaders of being the anti-Harper choice and of taking away Liberal votes as the Grits try and sort out what they stand for. Almost immediately after the Throne Speech, I can picture Layton claiming that the throne speech favours the rich (if personal tax cuts are a theme), the boardrooms (if corporate tax cuts are mentioned) and that this comes at the expense of “working families”. Duceppe will state that Harper cannot appeal to Quebec’s interests. Layton and Duceppe would also be wise to point out that Dion will not stand up to Harper and that the Liberal leader is ineffective and inconsequential.

Dion is of course between a rock and a hard place. He has few options and none seem to portray him in a good light. Dion does not want to trigger an election for a few reasons. In the best of interpretations it’ll be seen as suicidal and in the worst interpretation it’ll seem absolutely foolish. Further, for this weakened leader, what he doesn’t need is to draw the scorn of a Canadian electorate for precipitating an election that his own deputy declared somewhat prophetically that Canadians “don’t want”.

If Dion votes for the Throne Speech (after demands that Harper won’t meet fully, if at all), he will be seen to be an ineffective opposition leader. In fact, this voting outcome is a very possible scenario; we haven’t heard much pushback from Dion on Harper’s stated goals.

In one scenario we could see Dion voting against the speech with the strategy of showing up with a only a handful of Liberal MPs in order to prevent the fall of government. The Conservatives have 126 MPs, and the Opposition (minus Liberals) has 79 (let’s leave out the 3 independents for the sake of an easier model). This leaves a 47 vote difference that Dion has to make up in order to tie the Conservatives (with the Speaker breaking the tie). Therefore, Dion must have at most 47 MPs show up to vote against the speech, unless he wants to trigger an election (which he most certainly does not want to do). Here’s where Harper could have some fun. The Prime Minister could order 46 of his MPs to be absent from the vote leaving 80 to vote “yay”. With the 79 non-Liberals opposition members with 79 voting “nay”, this leaves Dion to show up and vote alone. Those close to Harper say the man likes to play strategy with the issues rather than with the musical chairs in Parliament. Therefore this final scenario, while amusing, is unlikely.

I do, however, think of it more likely that Dion will eventually vote against the speech. The embattled Liberal leader has to save face and any further wishy-washy behaviour by him will only encourage his enemies within his party.

It is pretty much assured that the NDP and Bloc will seat every member for the Throne Speech vote.

However, if we see Dion vote against, I wonder if we will see if his “honourable friends” in caucus line up behind him, triggering the election that he doesn’t want.

UPDATE AFTER THE SPEECH: Jack Layton won’t support the speech.

Gilles Duceppe won’t support the speech.

Elizabeth May would support the speech, but she hasn’t any members.

Stephane Dion says… ‘uh… we’ll sleep on it’. However, it’s likely that he will support the throne speech after overtures such as “well we knew it wasn’t going to be a Liberal throne speech” and “we’ll let you know tomorrow at 3:15pm” and “no government’s ever been defeated on the Throne Speech”. Although there’s news that members of his caucus are encouraging him to go (election-wise and therefore also into retirement).

If Dion supports the throne speech, the NDP will jump all over them and emphasize that the Liberals are an ineffective opposition. The Conservatives will also continue along the “Stephane Dion is not a leader” line and this is evident in the titling and branding of the Throne Speech, “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.”

David Onley is Ontario’s new Lieutenant-Governor

An inspirational choice:

Ontario’s incoming lieutenant-governor said Tuesday he will play an “activist” role over the next five years aimed at improving the lives of people who, like him, live with physical disabilities.

Stricken with polio when he was three, Onley grew up to become one of Canada’s first on-air personalities with a physical disability when he joined CityTV in Toronto in 1984 as a science and weather reporter.

In his long career with the station, he has also been an education reporter, a science and technology reporter, news anchor and producer.

Outside of his journalistic endeavors, Onley has been high-profile advocate for people with disabilities

Some may look at this appointment and shrug as another media personality is named to another ceremonial role. However, the more I’ve thought about these sorts of appointments, the more that the nominations of people such as Clarkson, Jean, and now Onley make sense.

These roles haven’t any real power and they are largely ceremonial, meaning the most important parts of the job description are to visible, a good speaker and yes, telegenic. Onley is also a highly accomplished Canadian in his own right and Ontario will draw upon his professional talents in his new job.

The other types who may fit well in these sorts of roles are sports personalities, actors, and maybe former politicians. Since most sports stars can barely utter that there’s a “home… run… deal… at… Bob’s… Chev… olds” with any authority, that leaves actors, former politicians, and media personalities. Former politicians bring partisan baggage to a role that is supposed to represent Canada’s apolitical head of state, our queen. Actors can deliver a good speech, however, media personalities can do this and bring a professional credibility to the job that most can appreciate.

As said, these roles are purely ceremonial and the technical responsibility of these people are to represent the Queen in Canada. We are long past being ruled by a monarch, thus these positions simply afford an opportunity to put a good face – a face that can deliver a speech, with credibility and on television – forward to represent Canada.

Prime Minister Harper made the appointment and Dalton’s man Kinsella seems to appreciate the decision. Therefore, this shouldn’t make for any rough political waters.

UPDATE: Some readers have, of course, pointed out the constitutional importance of GGs and LGs! I would respond by saying that advice and recommendations on constitutional matters are never in short supply to these people when such advice is needed for such a situation. Presumably and hopefully, all GGs and LGs make those decisions under much advisement. Further, this also speaks to the appropriateness of journalists to take up the role as they are generally more versed in political matters than most people.

A constitutional scholar on the other hand may not be able to fulfill the de facto responsibilities of these figures because while they may be versed in the legal function of their role, they may not be ideal for lacking the qualities I outline above.

On comparing the Conservative Party to Democrats

Some in the Canadian Conservative movement have half-correctly compared our party to the Democrats in the United States. While the philosophy shared between the two parties is as different as it is similar, our predicament can draw a few parallels.

For instance, like the Dems we are perennially without power in our country; our members find their party in the wilderness. We both watch desperately as our good people and good thinkers are shut out the executive (Paul Martin’s appointment of the crypto-loyalist Michaelle Jean), the legislative (we cannot form government without Ontario), and the judiciary (rehearing of Chaoulli supreme court decision, the appointment of Supreme Court judges). Indeed, like the Democrats we are left helpless as our respective visions for our respective countries rest unimplemented.

Fortunately, unlike the Democrats, the new Conservative Party of Canada has a strong philosophical base; for the most part, we have not reverted to chaos in order to determine what we stand for. The party has matured, found its footing and is almost ready for power. While our party may disagree on a couple of social issues, these are not significant hurdles to the actual issues of governance. The Democrats however, find themselves turning hard-left under Chairman Howard Dean while rushing towards the centre with presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. In contrast, Stephen Harper through his leadership has induced moderation and a common direction for the party. However, many on the outside, and those that channel PMO spokesman Scott Reid, still have the belief that Harper harbours undesirable motives. Therefore, the only similarity that can be drawn with the Democrats with this respect is that Conservative Party messaging is impotent; we cannot effectively control the message. Some say that this is a problem with “the mainstream media”.

Now, let’s be realistic. Whether or not our perceived uphill battle against “the media” is true or not, it is how it should be. The media should be hard on us, however, let me qualify by saying that it should be hard on anyone that desires to run this country (Liberal party included). As a Canadian first, and a Conservative second, I would ask nothing less of the fourth estate than adequate scrutiny of anyone who wishes to lead this country. However, the media should be fair. Enter the blogosphere.

Unlike the Democrats, we are winning the blogwars. I often attribute the greater order and dominance of the Canadian Conservative blogosphere to the very fact that our voices are marginalized and that our official party messaging implodes every time Don Martin points out a fault. The Democrats are losing the American struggle for blog dominance for one simple reason. While their messaging is equally troubled and their voices marginalized (yet not to the same degree despite the ‘dominance’ of Fox News), they do not speak with any semblance of unity. For the most part, Canadian Conservative bloggers are focused, organized and thrive in their cohesion.

At the core of their repective problems, the Conservative party and the Democrats are quite different yet similar in the end. While being anti-war could be the most identifiable casus belli of the Democratic party, they lack unity on this issue with John Kerry’s voting for/against the war and Hillary Clinton’s equally polyvalent stance. Comparatively in Canada, no Conservative is ‘pro-Adscam’, however, we fail for the same reason as the Democrats. In the end, the Conservative Party and the Democrats must offer real solutions and positive vision for our respective countries.

If we should lead, our party should look forward. If not, we fill find ourselves mired in regress.

New Blogging Tories Podcasts!

I’ve got a number of podcasts coming up for Blogging Tories visitors.

I’ve snagged a number of interviews from CFRA concerning the Governor General designate, Michaelle Jean.

The first podcast however focusses on gas prices as Pierre Poilievre answers callers and discusses the CPC transit plan.

Onto the GG, Pierre Poilievre raises questions about Michaelle Jean’s alleged ties to the terrorist FLQ in the second podcast.

The third podcast is an interview with Stephen Harper concerning Ms. Jean’s alleged ties to separatism.

Finally, a fourth podcast with John Aimers of the Monarchist League discussing the latest information on our Governor General designate.

You can tune into the podcasts by subscribing to the Blogging Tories podcast feed (instructions here).

Or, you can listen to the podcasts on our channel on Odeo.

Next Governer General is Michaelle Jean

The official announcement will come tomorrow at 11 am EST. But word has leaked that CBC Personality Michaelle Jean will be the next Governer General of Canada.

From the CBC website:

governor-general-michaelle-jean.jpg

Since 1995, Jean has served as a host/reporter on many RDI programs such as Le Monde ce soir, L’Edition quebecoise, Horizons francophones, le Journal RDI and RDI à l’écoute. She has also dealt with challenging themes such as the Roman Catholic Church in a four-day debate entitled “Le Pape en France, pedophilia in L’enfance volée” and Chinese politics in “La rétrocession de Hong Kong à la Chine.” Among her many awards: the Amnesty International Journalism Award in 1995 for a 15-part series on women; the 1994 Anik Prize for information reporting and the 2000 Galaxi Award for best information program host.

Jean has also worked with renowned filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond to produce three independent documentaries: L’heure de Cuba (1999), about the 40th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Tropique Nord (1994) about being black in Quebec and the Hot Docs award-winning Haiti dans tous nos rêves (1995).

Jean joined Radio-Canada in 1988, serving as a reporter for Actuel, then the public affairs news show Montréal ce soir in 1989. From 1991-1992, she hosted Virages and for three years, starting in 1992, she appeared on the national and international news program Le Point.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a young Michaelle fled Francois Duvalier’s regime in 1968, settling in Quebec with her family. Fluent in five languages – French, English, Spanish, Italian and Haitian Creole – Jean studied at the University of Montreal and universities in Florence, Milan and Perugia, Italy.

There’s something about the CBC, isn’t there? People say that the CBC is biased against the Conservatives, but it’s the documentaries where the left at the CBC has the greatest room to editorialize (see Sticks and Stones, Mission Accomplished, and The World According to Bush).

It’s only a matter of time, George