Articles Tagged ‘federal politics’

POLITICS CHATTER: Pondering the wisdom of casting Jack Layton as a saint in CBC TV’s upcoming biopic “Jack”

Rick Roberts plays Jack Layton, while Sook-Yin Lee takes the part of Olivia Chow in the made-for-TV movie "Jack"

Politics Chatter by contributing editor Mark Bourrie is published weekly at Follow him on Twitter @IsotelusRex.

Well, all we need is the blessing of the next Pope, and Jack Layton will officially become a saint.

The CBC has worked hard to fast-track the canonization. On March 10, TV viewers will forgo the delights of NetFlix and TLC’s Gypsy Sisters, to sit, enthralled, in front of the magic box, watching a biopic called JACK, the story of Jack Layton’s rise to greatness.

The makers of Jack are having an invitation-only launch at the Mayfair on March 5. If you’re really lucky, you can score an invitation to the opening at the downtown Winnipeg IMAX two days later. The IMAX should be a delight. You’ll feel like you were there.

Which, for me, is sort of true. I was there through Layton’s career on the Hill. Jack Layton scolded me every time we talked. I was not impressed by him as a speaker or parliamentarian, but I was shocked when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had expected him to beat it — several friends and acquaintances did manage to do that — so it was a double, saddening shock when the disease killed him.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Blaming the G-8 for the Prime Minister’s delusions of grandeur

By Mark Bourrie 

We all make mistakes. That first cigarette. Wearing Speedos when we’re overweight and over 40. Sending 50,000 smutty e-mails from military laptops to married women whose computers are being monitored by the FBI and hoping our wives don’t find out.

But when the world powers make a mistake, it can be a dandy. Take, for instance, the decision by Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1976 to cave into American and French pressure to accept Canada as a member of what was then the G-6 group of economic powers. (It took another 21 years for the Russians to join the club and make it the G-8.)

Since then, the idea that Canadian prime ministers somehow rank with the president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany and the president of France has become a real problem in Ottawa.

We should face a few facts about Canada. It’s a great country to live in, mainly because we’re a small number of people sitting on a whole lot of gold, oil, natural gas, diamonds, silver, copper, trees and fresh water. Most of our country is rocks, swamps and arctic desert, but we still have enough farm land to pretty much support ourselves.

You’d have to be pretty thick not to be able to make a go as a nation with just 33 million people and half of a continent, even if it’s not the best half.

Our politicians like to take credit for our prosperity. The rest of us can live with that as long as they don’t screw things up too badly or get an over-developed sense of their own importance.

That’s where this G-8 silliness comes in.

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POLITICS CHATTER: He can’t win. The real risk for Justin Trudeau is being constantly measured against his father’s legend

Photography by Jean-Marc Carisse

By Mark Bourrie

So Justin Trudeau didn’t take my advice. This makes me very sad. I gave him the best possible reasons not to run for the Liberal leadership, and now he’s about to toss it in the trash.

I say with renewed vigor and enthusiasm that Justin Trudeau is making a terrible mistake. He’s being goaded on by media people who lust at celebrity, who were brought up in a celebrity-obsessed world and who, quite often, are as one-dimensional and superficial as most celebrities.

And he’s being pushed by a party and its operatives who are looking for a ticket back to power. Many of them would run Satan himself if they thought he could get them 40 seats in Quebec, win back Toronto, Vancouver, southwestern Ontario, and some Prairie seats.

But this is such a bad idea.

Not for Canada. Our government is still run by skilled public servants, and our federation is so decentralized that it will survive pretty much anything. It’s not like we need to worry about our leader launching missiles against China. And the country has nothing to worry about at all if voters choose to leave the Liberals as an opposition party.

Where the risk is — and what no one hyping Trudeau even seems to consider — is the threat to the man himself. It had always been wrong for him to go into politics. There’s simply no way for him to come out ahead.

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POLITICS CHATTER: The Harper government’s War on Brains

Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie ponders the direction of the federal public service cuts and wonders whether the stupid will inherit the earth.

A year into the Harper government’s majority, we’re at war. Not just in Afghanistan, where, it seems, our troop pull-out failed to be bellum interruptus. Or in the Arctic, where, yet again and with much fanfare, we’ve unleashed our Inuit militiamen to intimidate the Russians.

We’re at war right here in Ottawa. The battles are being fought in government labs, in libraries, on the floors of slaughterhouses. We’re engaged in a War on Brains and, so far, brains are losing.

The War on Brains was first identified by American social satirist Jim Earl, formerly of the Daily Show and more recently with the now-defunct  Air America radio network. In the States, the War on Brains was fought by the Bush administration against academics who questioned the war in Iraq, studied climate, and challenged the administration’s economic policy.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Why the Alberta vote should strike fear into the heart of the Harper government

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie explains the surprise Alberta election result — and why it bodes badly for the federal Tories.

The web is being scrubbed clean of all the commentary about the new Wild Rose majority government and how it signals a sea-change in Canada’s political system. But unfortunately newspapers still come out on paper.

The edition of the Globe and Mail that was sold in Ottawa this morning has “Alberta prepares for change but challenges remain the same” as its main headline. The National Post is even more chock-a-block with “Dewey Defeats Truman” talk. “Unless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta,” Andrew Coyne blusters on the front page, under the headline “Wildrose changed political game.” Says Coyne: “All that remained at time of writing, assuming the polls were not completely off, was whether it would be a minority or majority.”

Inside, under the headline “Tories’ big tent torn open in campaign,” newly-minted kid pundit Jen Gerson is a little more careful and, being on the ground in Alberta, understands that this election was a battle between two very different kinds of conservatism. Her last quote is a guy saying “I’m baffled by it.”

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POLITICS CHATTER: Be very scared. A rise in interest rates would throw the forecasts of the federal and Ontario budgets out the window

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie looks at our precarious economic situation — and the likely consequences for taxpayers if interest rates go up anytime soon

The death of the penny, the cuts to the public service, and the declawing of environmental assessment commissions made the headlines when Jim Flaherty brought down his budget, but people are ignoring a little bomb that could blow down the whole house of cards.

All of Flaherty’s — and Ontario treasurer Dwight Duncan’s — financial forecasts are based on interest rates remaining abnormally low.

But if they don’t, we’ll see a big jump in interest rates on our national debt. And we may see the housing bubble burst, with serious consequences to the entire economy — and to public finances.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Offering up a cost-cutting suggestion for Tony Clement — time to scrap the NCC

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie offers up a cost-cutting suggestion to Tony Clement: Ditch the NCC!

I have an idea for Tony Clement and his budget cutters that will not only save federal taxpayers millions of dollars a year but will also recover hundreds of millions more that are locked up in federal real estate holdings. Let’s get rid of the NCC.

It’s a relic of the 1950s, an unwieldy, undemocratic, unresponsive, and expensive bureaucracy that replicates services and has no obvious public benefit. Lots of other NCC operations should either be handed to the city — with grants, if warranted — or to agencies of the federal and provincial governments.

Why, for instance, are small parks like Confederation Park across from City Hall and Brébeuf Park on the Ottawa River in the west end of Hull run by the NCC? Those parks serve no national purpose. They’re city parks. Let the cities pay for them.

The NCC also runs a network of small conservation areas. This allows the NCC to maintain yet another set of employees and bureaucrats, while letting the local conservations authorities off the hook.

Same with roads owned by the NCC: the river and canal driveways and the Airport Parkway. Those are city roads. They would be in fine hands if they were handed over to Ottawa and Gatineau.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: A revealing lunchtime Q&A with NDP leadership hopeful Paul Dewar

Ken Rockburn (left) puts Paul Dewar on the spot. Photography by Brigitte Bouvier.

Ken Rockburn (left) puts Paul Dewar on the spot over lunch at the Black Tomato. Photography by Brigitte Bouvier.

With the NDP leadership convention just a few weeks away, we dug up an old lunchtime interview with local leadership hopeful Paul Dewar. Interviewer Ken Rockburn tries to get Dewar to reveal all over snacks at the Black Tomato. (Reprinted from the October 2008 edition of Ottawa Magazine.)

You were born where? Ottawa.

Where did you go to university? Trent University, Carleton University, Queen’s University, and a year at the University of Winnipeg. I liked university. I still do.

So you were at university for a total of how many years? Six and a half.

What was the strangest thing you ever saw at university? It would be between two events at Trent. A couple of guys jumping off the roof of the library — which I don’t recommend at all, it’s highly dangerous and irresponsible — and something that I was involved with in my first year. The students took over the president’s office for close to a couple of weeks and we had a shuttle, of which I was a part — I wasn’t one of the protesters taking over the office. We had this little assembly line of people who delivered food to the protesters in a kind of under-the-radar way. The other strange experience — also at Trent — was watching my dad go into a coed bathroom and walk right back out. This guy had been in the army and everything, and he says, “There’s girls in the bathroom!” And I said, “Yeah, Dad, they’re coed.” And he had, well, different thoughts on whether that was good or bad.

How long have you been friends with your oldest friend? We were nine when we met but not friends until we were 11. He didn’t like me initially. And I didn’t care one way or the other, but it’s been more than 28 years.

You’re still in touch with each other? Yep, yep, on a regular basis.

Do you sing in the shower? Yes.

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BAD POLITICS: The politics of sleaze and thuggery. Who’s to blame?

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie decries the sleaze in today’s politics — and lays the blame

Blessed are the poor, because they’re easy to railroad into jail.

Blessed are the meek, because they don’t fight back.

In the new Ottawa, morality is a fluid thing, and the teachings of Our Savior are honoured in the breach.

Our family values Minister of Public Safety turns out to be a fellow who should have kept a few safes in his pocket. Anonymous leaks have linked the minister to an alleged affair with his children’s babysitter… at the same time he was lecturing the rest of us on the sanctity of marriage during the same-sex marriage debate.

Now he’s back-peddling on his plan to snoop into our Internet habits after saying privacy activists are in league with child pornographers.

Then comes a story about a very intricate, and extremely deniable, scheme to “ratfuck” the Liberals and NDP in the last election.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Taking bets on Stephen Harper’s “Margaret Thatcher moment”

The Spitting Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher was used to satirize both her personality and her policies

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie takes bets on what Stephen Harper has planned for his “legacy” move.

In 1985, Margaret Thatcher broke the coal miners’ union in the U.K. For years, the National Union of Mineworkers had been the country’s most powerful trade union. It had toppled Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government in 1974. Now was time for payback. Thatcher had already won the Falklands War. She had beaten a foreign enemy, she said, and now she would “destroy the enemy within”. Six strikers died in the 1984-1985 coal strike. Many more were tear-gassed and beaten with truncheons. Thatcher used mounted police, armed strike-breakers, and turned M15 against the union’s leaders.

When the coal miners’ union collapsed, the rest of Britain’s trade union movement fell apart. Breaking the strike was Thatcher’s greatest domestic success, one that has re-made the British workplace into the delightful place it is today.

My friends and I have a pool going about Stephen Harper’s coal mine strike moment. To get into the $5 pool, you have to come up with something batshit crazy that the Harper government will do this year. Corporate tax reductions aren’t crazy enough to meet that threshold, but prediction of a flat tax does. With the level of paranoia in Ottawa, some of the predictions have been, um, somewhat extreme.

  • Bring back the Red Ensign flag? That’s one bet, but it’s not mine.
  • I chose to predict the government will eliminate at least two out of three of these federal departments: Transport, Canadian Heritage, and the National Capital Commission.
  • One of my co-workers suggested the Harper regime will grab the Civic Holiday in August and rename it Freedom Day. (I’d make a side bet that they’d rename Labour Day.)
  • Then there’s the possibility of bringing back capital punishment. Or the return of the lash in prisons to maintain discipline. The latter would probably be knocked down by the courts, though there are supporters of the idea among the old Reformers.

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