Articles Tagged ‘Politics Chatter’

POLITICS CHATTER: Whipped: Documentary asks “Who comes first?” — a politician’s party or his constituents?

You’d think a film called Whipped would be the kind of thing that you’d watch after the kids are asleep. But Sean Holman’s new documentary didn’t come in the 21st century equivalent of a plain brown package. Still, it provokes certain emotions that might leave you a bit shaky.

Holman, founding editor of the pioneering British Columbia-based online investigative political news service Public Eye, made Whipped as his Master’s thesis at Carleton University. The film is about the bind that so many members of legislatures and parliament find themselves in: are they employed by their political party or their constituents?

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POLITICS CHATTER: The crooked politician provides all (if you’re a reporter with bills to pay)

Years ago, when I was a skinny, skittish young cub reporter, I found myself kicking a chair and cursing at some outrageous stupidity committed by a politician. A long time has gone by. I no longer remember who I was angry at or the nature of his transgression.

But I do remember, as clearly as the day it happened, a wizened old city editor beckoning me over to his desk. Moving a couple of ashtrays aside so he could set down his coffee, he leaned over, his yellow teeth shining in the green light of the primitive video display monitor, placed his right hand on my shoulder, and uttered these words, which I recount here exactly as he told them to me:

“Embrace the crooked MP, bonehead mayor, the greedy Indian chief, the smug and profligate premier, my son. Let them roam in packs across the land.

“The crooked politician will provide all.

“The crooked MP gives our children straight teeth. He digs our swimming pool. He fills our mutual funds and RRSPs.

“He puts clothes on our backs. Food on our tables. Gas in our cars. The crooked MP makes the car itself and fixes it when it breaks.

“The bonehead mayor gives us trips to Jamaica and puts new roofs on our cottages. She makes us bookcases and fills them with books. She pays the hydro and phone bill.

“Someday, she will buy you an iPhone 5, whatever that is, and pay your monthly cell phone bill.

“The greedy Indian chief provides for us even in the most lean of times. He fills our pages when there is nothing but weather stories and tracts about the meaning of Santa.

“The smug premier makes our suits. He crafts nice watches. He feeds our pets, fixes our appliances, cleans our carpets. He makes donations to charities in our name, gives toonies to panhandlers, and buys  General Tao’s Chicken and delivers it to our homes when we are too tired to cook.

“So be careful what you wish for, my son. Do not hunt these great and generous creatures to extinction. Embrace them, nurture them. Let them run free to do their work.

“Just do not love them.”

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 (U.S. election edition): You’d have to be crazy to want this job

By Mark Bourrie

I pity the fool who wins Tuesday’s presidential election.

Not only because I enjoy stealing Mr. T’s favorite line, but also because I think I understand the place that’s already been carved in history for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Because no one can get through the next four years and come out looking good unless they have the intellectual caliber of Franklin Roosevelt, the arm-twisting skills of Lyndon Johnson, and the focus of Abraham Lincoln. Unless I am very mistaken about Romney, neither candidate meets those qualifications.

The US is not only mired in an economic Depression, it has serious structural and systemic problems. The Great Depression of the 1930s was worse but, although the banks failed, the factories still existed. When the economy began to turn around, the factories re-opened. Small businesses saw an influx of cash from workers’ pay envelopes. And all this happened before World War II put the economy into over-drive.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Time to stop messing around and give the NCC a firm mandate

“Why do you hate the NCC?” a radio host once asked me.

I was taken aback. Hate the NCC? It seemed like such a bizarre question. (The rest of the interview was just as strange. By the end of it, I was carefully examining the radio host’s hairline, marveling at how well the surgeons hid the lobotomy scar.)

Why would anyone hate the NCC?  It’s sort of like a local Santa, bringing us canal skating and beaches at Meech Lake, Lac Philippe and Lac La Pêche. It makes us snow slides and provides a venue for every drunk in eastern Ontario and west Quebec to show their stuff on Canada Day.

I don’t hate it. But I think the NCC needs work, or could be radically pruned without any harm at all to the National Capital region and the country.

Let me count the reasons.

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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: Remembering when the politics in this town resembled an episode of Mad Men — booze flowed freely and secrets were secrets

Speaking of Mad Men…. Contributing editor Mark Bourrie remembers the good old days of political reporting — with drunken tales from the Rideau Club and National Press Club 

Those of us who are fans of Mad Men are often shocked at the amount of booze that executives of the Madison Avenue ad firm Sterling Cooper guzzled in their fictional world of 1960.

The entire company seems to have floated on hard liquor. There were liquor cabinets in the partners’ offices and bottles in everyone else’s desks. The show has taken some criticism for the amount of boozing that’s portrayed.

I suspect Mad Men’s producers have pretty much nailed the zeitgeist on the early 1960s ad trade. Certainly, Ottawa, in those years, floated on booze.

Our changing attitudes toward liquor have changed the way Ottawa works. Before it burned down just over 30 years ago, the Rideau Club, which was at the corner of Wellington and Metcalfe, was the scene of boozy lunches and liquor-soaked afternoons where the political and media elite swapped stories.

Just down the street, the National Press Club, on the second floor of the Press Building across from the West Block, was a sort of no-man’s-land where the rules required everyone to keep their mouths shut about what went on inside.

This rule was strictly enforced. And it had some very interesting consequences. Some of the nastiest marital meltdowns and most blatant adulteries happened at the press club, in full view of dozens of reporters. When Pierre Trudeau showed up looking for his wife, reporters tut-tutted but didn’t file their stories.

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REALITY CHECK: Why do “fiscally prudent” Tory governments always seem to be just a couple of budgets away from financial stability?

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie gets into a dustup in McDonald’s — over the fiscal prudence of Tory goverments, of all things.

I had a little tussle with a guy in the Bronson Street McDonald’s this morning. I was a tad grumpy, and the big fella said something that worked me into a lather.

All the newspapers are carrying stories about the report by economist Don Drummond that says Ontario has to make big cuts to spending and jack up user fees and utilities costs if Queen’s Park is serious about balancing the provincial budget.

My sparring partner, a hefty and unkempt guy, was hollering about the wonderful fiscal situation in Alberta. That province, he said, was “on the road to a balanced budget.”

I reminded him that Tory governments are always on the road to a balanced budget. They just never seem to get there.

Take the federal Tories. Except for one year, when the Tories had taken over from Paul Martin and hadn’t had a chance to work their fiscal magic, no Tory federal government has balanced the books since the days of John Diefenbaker.

The Clark government couldn’t do it, despite a big hike to the gasoline tax.

Mulroney and his finance minister, Michael Wilson — who was often praised as a Bay Street boy and a financial wizard — never balanced a budget and, in fact, doubled the national debt while in power from 1984 until 1993. Wilson was always a couple of budgets away, he’d say, from financial stability. But, like a bar that promises “free beer tomorrow,” he never delivered.

And yet, through the years, Tories have adopted the whines of their Republican counterparts in the States and moaned about “tax and spend” Liberals.

Which brings me back to my buddy at Micky Ds and our little chat.

“Oil,” says I, “is at the highest sustained level in human history. If Alberta can’t balance a budget with royalties from $100 oil, what happens when the price falls back to $50 or $20?” I reminded him that Tories are always on the road to a balanced budget, but never seem to deliver.

My sensible wife dragged me before we could go at it on the Heritage Fund, which is supposed to help Alberta adjust to life after oil. Yes, there are a few billion in the fund, but for Alberta to cope in the post-oil world, it will need millions of new jobs in some kind of productive work. Most of the work force will have to be re-trained, and a lot of new infrastructure will need to be built.

There’s $15.4 billion in the Heritage Fund. It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not enough to even begin to remake — and save — the economy of Alberta when the oil boom is over.

There’s a reason why Tories like deficits. It gives them the excuse they need to go after public sector workers, students, non-government organizers, and other people they don’t like. They get to cut social services and screw over the poor.

And, if there’s a recession, they get to help out their corporate pals with tax cuts, interest-free loans, and other goodies.

As we head into a round of Tory cuts to federal programs, we can expect them to engage in class warfare against middle-class, unionized government employees and the “undeserving” poor. To some, they’ll look like prudent fiscal mangers.

But to people who can read a balance sheet, they’ll likely still be less than zeroes.

POLITICS CHATTER: Family values — and a trip through the Sun’s classifieds section

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie wonders if the Sun Media chain’s family values are up to snuff.

Well, I’ll be a dirty bird. Roll me in eleven herbs and spices and call me Kentucky Fried. I’m shocked and appalled. Outraged. Think of the kids.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, people on Parliament Hill and the handful of viewers of Sun News were subjected to the moral outrage of Sun TV staffers spewing spittle on their camera lenses because the CBC was peddling soft-core porn on a Radio-Canada website. Seems Radio-Canada had a partnership deal with an outfit in France to produce a soft-core romp comedy called Hard, which centres on some chump who inherits a porn magazine business. Sun denounced the entire CBC and trashed them for using taxpayers’ money for smut that’s posted for easy viewing by your kids and mine.

I’m very happy that the Sun folks troll the Internet looking for porn. I know there is some out there, so I am always glad when someone takes the bullet for me and warns me off smut sites. I’m sure my adolescent children don’t look at porn on the Internet, but that could change. Thanks, Sun TV, for looking out for them.

My gratitude turned to rage when I picked up a free copy of the Ottawa Sun, mere blocks from one of the city’s high schools. Left in a coffee shop for anyone to pick up, this newspaper had a page of  ads for actual prostitutes!

Not softcore porn.

Not hardcore porn.

Yes! Hookers! Eager to seduce our young people and break up our families.

And it gets worse. (I’ll get to that later.)

Let’s see what’s on offer in the Sun’s classifieds.

There’s the gay cruiseline. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t want my six-year-old to read it. And an ad for Shemale Suzy Hung. There’s also the eager Mistress Whitney, offering “Exp’d Dom & Fantasy,” and one ad with the heading GRAND OPENING, which is not only suggestive but rather daunting.

You can get take-out or eat in. You can bring your spouse, or two people can come to your house. Here’s where it gets worse… some of these “organizations” are actually hiring.

Yes, the Ottawa Sun is engaged in a campaign to lure our daughters, our wives, our sisters, our mothers, and maybe our little brothers, into a life of whoredom. That’s why, when the Sun newspaper delivery guys come by my house, I will set the dog on him.

I don’t know what’s happened to morality in this country. Where, oh where, is the idea of a “family newspaper?”

While I do thank the Sun for trolling the Internet and protecting me from inadvertently stumbling on taxpayer-funded filth, I simply cannot forgive them with sprinkling whore recruitment ads around our high schools and on city busses.

Enough is enough, I say. Someone should pass a law.