If the Bloc disappears, Duceppe warned that democracy in Canada would be weakened as a result.
“If you don’t have any choice for sovereigntists in Ottawa, then that means a lack of democracy,” he said.
Right. Because having 20% of the population holding the other 80% to ransom is a model of democratic legitimacy. For most self-proclaimed democrats the sad truth is that democracy is only democracy when the people are voting your way. The people of Quebec, however, have spoken and the Bloc is deader than Rene Levesque.
I bring up these two stories not because of their importance, the Quebecois game of high stakes blackmail is over now, but because of their value as a political lesson. Both Bouchard and Duceppe have failed. Their careers, after a few brilliant successes, have ended in a sort of stilted ignominy.
The former was the great champion who swept into the 1995 Referendum like an avenging angel. Massive crowds greeted the former Tory minister as he made a kind of royal progress through La Belle Province. The man who betrayed Brian Mulroney with a savage though rationalized coldness. But that mattered for very little then. Bouchard was to be the father of a new nation.
Instead he became a mediocre premier rather than a heroic first President. He saw his political career end amidst bitter fighting with his own backbench and the province's powerful government unions. A sort of conservative by the bizarre standards of Quebec politics he was, and remains, essentially alienated from the mainstream of the province he once lead. I remember seeing his resignation announcement in 2001. He was a bitter man then and has changed little since.
Then there is Giles Duceppe. If not exactly a happy warrior he emitted a kind of mechanical charm during his long stint in Ottawa. He could yelp, whine and threaten with the best of them. For nearly two decades he delivered a stream of awkward histrionics at each Question Period. Clouseau done on the cheap. There was always something second-hand in the performance. An understudy with the audience keenly missing the absent master. The Bloc was suppose to be a one-trick pony: Pave the way toward independence. Once independence ceased being a practical option what remained? Something far more solid and infinitely more reliable: The sweet comfort of a government salary.
The Bloc existed for same reason most government bureaucracies exist: To provide employment for the unemployable and patronage for the easily patronized. Watching the Bloc MPs in those latter question periods even going through the motions seemed like too much work. Up they would go, trying vainly to muster up some anger at the Tory frontbench. Even by the low standards of Question Period the feigned outraged at the most trivial of imagined slights was near comical.
This is how most political movements begin, survive and then finally die. At first they are lead by passionate crusaders fired by some sacred vision. Once the vision becomes elusive the rationalizations begin. Winning conditions. Incremental reform. Then there is the steady drift into seeking power for its own sake. At last the desire becomes a vulgar instinct. You want it because you've had it so long. The name on the door. The official car. The expense account. It's a way of life with the grand vision of old receding into a guilty memory. When the voters at last see that there is nothing to see it all goes away with a terrifying speed. The cardboard boxes and the awkwardly hailed taxis are often the only epilogue. The more senior figures spend the next few months trying to flog their memoirs.
This is how Quebec sovereignty ends: Not with the bang of independence but with the whimper of a federally financed retirement.
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to subsidize it:
The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today announced funding of $330,000 over three years under the Youth Take Charge program for the Young Citizens project.
The Young Citizens project provides 150 young Canadians aged 10 to 16 with the opportunity to record a journalistic-style video based on a presentation done for the Heritage Fairs program. The videos are then shared online in a national contest in which all Canadians are invited to vote for their favourites.
He says he's had some "standoffs" with raccoons outside his home, and that his children and wife refuse to take out the trash because they're scared of the animals.
Ford says he has been scared by raccoons in some of his "run-ins" with the animals while dealing with garbage in his yard at night.
He says "you could yell and scream at them but they just look at you."
What must be going through the minds of Etobicoke's raccoons? Rummaging through garbage, stealing the odd scrap of food and then, suddenly, the mayor appears in all his splendor. There he stands, yelling at you as if you were a common reporter! Though in fairness reporters tend not to have the same ethical standards as raccoons. There are certain things a raccoon would never touch.
Speaking of things that are irritating and mildly dangerous let's move onto Justin Trudeau. As long time readers are aware everything in Canada, yes including your life and mine, hang upon the words and deeds of the Once and Future Prime Minister. He is in our thoughts and in our hearts daily. At least if you're working in the Press Gallery which has, since the elevation of the Princeling, surrendered itself to the spin of the Trudeau Camp. So when Justin says something very stupid he is quite naturally ignored.
Let us give a moment of thanks to the Sun News Network. Yes their pursuit of Justin can be a tad too determined but, as the saying goes, someone really has to do it.
Over the last year, as Rob Ford's stock has fallen and Justin Trudeau's has soared to new media driven heights, your humble correspondent has been fascinated. These men are not, as they seem, polar opposites. They are in fact quite similar. It's only the surface features that are different. Let's review:
Neither man is especially bright. Ford has a BA in political science from Carleton which is, only technically, a university. Trudeau did, in fairness, attempt an engineering degree so we'll give him the edge when it comes to smarts. Perhaps he is one of those men who is cleverer with numbers than with words. Whatever their actual differences in raw intellectual power both men are surprisingly inarticulate.
This is obvious with Rob Ford who treats the English language like a sailor treats a Marseilles whore. With Justin it's a bit harder to detect because he doesn't actually sound dumb, he merely says dumb things. It's a clever trick managed by many practiced politician; the ability to sound more intelligent than you are while disclosing nothing in particular. He speaks mostly in platitudes and when he is forced off the Buy the World a Coke routine he fumbles badly. This suggests that he has been well rehearsed. By whom is a matter of debate.
Then there is the vision thing, to borrow from the Elder Bush. Rob Ford's vision is to stop the Gravy Train. What is the Gravy Train? As far as can be made out it's over the top spending at Toronto's City Hall. This he has mostly accomplished. Beyond the Gravy Train we get a little lost. There is little in the way of a comprehensive program of reform. It's a kind of inarticulate rage at government that never coalesces into a clear goal. Once the minor privatizations and ritual sackings are done with, what's next? What is Rob Ford vision for Toronto? Subways are nice but a big city needs more than tunnels to Scarborough.
If Rob Ford is angry at something he can't really explain, Justin is optimistic about something he has no clue about. This is one of their few real differences. Rob Rages and Justin Soothes. Neither is saying much of anything, but the latter sounds very nice while doing so. The former rants about Fat Cats and the latter about how cute kittens can save the country. Both men are, in sense, speaking in platitudes. The questions is what kind of platitudes do you prefer? Angry or vapid?
Many on the Right have rallied around Ford because he seems to be the least worst option. For many on the Left the attraction of Justin is not Justin, it's that Justin seems smooth enough that he might glide past Stephen Harper and into 24 Sussex. They are mascots for a petty partisan war that will dominate the news for the next few years.
Richard II, the only play written wholly in verse, offers the loveliest poetry in this or any language. Henry IV Parts One and Two contain – if anything can be said to contain him – Jack Falstaff, the most limitless character in the canon, whom an awed W.H. Auden likened to Jesus. Henry V, that peerless disquisition on war and peace, shines an uncomfortably penetrating beam onto our national character, which leaves English audiences cheering patriotically even as they flinch. Taken together – and they are best when taken together – the four plays comprise the finest work on politics ever written, better than anything you’ll find in a library’s history or political science sections.
The ball started rolling in January when a group of veterans gathered in Ottawa to meet Fantino. The minister was 70 minutes late and things only got worse when he did show up.
Fantino chastised one veteran for pointing his finger, and the minister walked away, seemingly exasperated, a few minutes later. News cameras caught the interaction.
Afterwards, several angry veterans who were present started to make plans.
“Up until he screwed up, it would have probably been a fairly quiet thing,” said Scott.
“But he made the big mistake of mouthing off to the veterans, and a couple of them, of course, didn’t take it very well.”
Say what you will about the former OPP Chief but he's consistent: A callous indifference to the suffering of the people of Caledonia is matched by a callous indifference to the concerns of veterans. This story is fascinating as a reveal into the psychology of the man. Ministers routinely meet with interest groups, it's part and parcel of the job. They smile, they nod and tell their guests that the government is doing something about it. The minister thanks their visitors for their contributions to the community and their input to the political process. It's boiler plate politics and a very basic level of courtesy. But our boy Julian screwed it up.
This begs an obvious question: How much of an unprofessional jackass do you have to be to piss off a group of veterans?
The military leans Right and has since at least Paul Hellyer's "reforms" of the military in 1968. The word Liberal is practically an insult for some vets. They remember the Trudeau years. They remember the contemptuous indifference of the Chretien-Martin years. To have needlessly provoked such an otherwise loyal group of Tory voters is something of a political feat.
There are two substantive issues behind this veterans revolt against the Conservatives: The closing of regional service centers and the changing of compensation for those wounded in combat from a periodic lifetime payment to a lump sum. While I view both changes as being penny wise and pound foolish, especially in regards to veterans benefits, you can debate the merits. The sums involved are comparatively tiny. The closing of eight regional centres will save the government about $5 million. There's plenty of places in the federal government to trim $5 million dollars. The Veterans Department shouldn't be one of them.
So it's a dumb callous policy that might, in some abstract way, make administrative sense. There should be someone, somewhere, in the PMO looking over issues like this one. Someone who didn't graduate from university two weeks ago. Someone who realizes that pissing off veterans to save chump change out of a $280 billion budget is bad in so many different ways. Apparently that person doesn't exist. The end result is a callous policy defended in a callous manner by a tone deaf bully.
Those with longish memories will recall that at the height of the Caledonia crisis it was Julian Fantino who failed to uphold the law. It was Julian Fantino who persecuted Gary McHale for having the audacity to upload basic Canadian principles. It was Julian Fantino who, by all rights, should have been dismissed and charged but was instead offered a Conservative Party nomination. It is Julian Fantino who now sits in the federal cabinet.
When Fantino entered federal politics I warned that the Tories complicity would come back to haunt them. If you refuse to denounce such a man and instead, almost unbelievably, reward and promote him, you own him. Whatever jackass thing he does going forward is on your head. The Conservatives wanted Julian Fantino, now they've got him and everything he entails.
On August 17, the public is invited to come and enjoy an English screening of The Grand Seduction, at 9 p.m. At 8:40 p.m., director Don McKellar will be on hand to talk about his filmmaking process and how the film’s story was taken to Newfoundland and Labrador.
On August 19, Louis Cyr: l’homme le plus fort du monde will be screened in French at 9 p.m. At 8:40 p.m., an on-stage conversation with producer Christian Larouche, director Daniel Roby, and actor Gilbert Sicotte, will provide us with insight into how they brought the life and battles of Louis Cyr to the big screen in this award-winning film.
A Vancouver-based pundit for the arch-conservative Sun News Network, put on air last week to slam the mainstream media’s alleged fawning treatment of Trudeau, sounded as awestruck as a teen at a Justin Bieber concert after attending an event at Douglas Park in Vancouver on Aug. 4.
“He is like a rock star,” J.J. McCullough told a grim-looking interviewer who was clearly hoping for a more cynical assessment for viewers of the unabashedly pro-Harper government network. “I mean, he can barely move five feet without being swarmed by mobs of people wanting to, you know, take selfies with him.
When Princess Diana died the Queen Mother, a woman of the old school if there ever was one, dismissed the hordes of mourners as "hysterics." She was making a perfectly sensible point. Virtually none of the massive flower tossing crowds had personally known Diana, what they knew was a media distilled image. Some of the "hysterics" were, as a matter of probability, terrible people. They cared more about a flickering image on a television screen than the actual people in their lives.
If we were to draw a Venn diagram of Justin Trudeau fans and Princess Diana mourners there would likely be a significant overlap. We live in strangely hysterical times. Never has the common man and women been richer, physically healthier or more blessed with material benefits. Never have they seemed so incapable of dealing with the vicissitudes of life. In the article there is mention of a Conservative voter who, after a few moments in the presence of the Great One, is considering a vote for the Liberals. That might just be a courtesy. Then again this is behaviour I've seen at first hand.
Sadly I have been spared the privilege of meeting the Great One in the flesh. There is, after all, only so much happiness a sane man can take. I have met those who by great good fortune have been so blessed. Listening to their stories is quite fascinating. There is, in fact, a strange kind of rapture that seems to transfigure them. Most of these individuals are not religious except, perhaps, in the most shallowly ritualistic manner. Their descriptions, however, rival those of the saints upon encountering the divine presence.
This is more than my usual gest. With the decline of religion as a social force over the last century has come the rise of politics. The energy which previous generations devoted to the erecting of cathedrals has in more recent times been devoted to political activities. It's no coincidence that so many political activists display a strong puritan streak. It's the same psychological type expressing itself in a different social context. The lust for moralistic power is apparently eternal.
Those on the Right have been amusing themselves since the elevation of Justin by calling him the Liberal Messiah. The joke stopped being funny when seemingly normal people started believing the hype. It helps that Justin is pretty. There is something in the human brain, or loins, that reacts well to an attractive face or figure. Women are more likely to believe a handsome man than an ugly one. Somehow the handsome man is better than we mere mortals.
Whatever element of the primal brain still working within us should, eventually, be overcome by the rational brain. The adult should over rule the child. Emotions giving way, if grudgingly, to reason. But this assumes there is a rational brain to intercede. What if there is no adult? What if there is only the man-child and woman-child?
There are, from what I have gathered, two types of Justin supporters. There are the fools who fall in love with the handsome and ageless looking man. Then there are the cynics who hope that Justin will be their stalking horse. I don't believe it to be an especially original observation to say that five percent of the population spends its days trying to manipulate the other ninety-five percent. May that be politics, media or even in corporate life. The typical executive, from my experience, is little more than a low-grade politician pretending to be an decision maker and leader.
Asking what people think is the wrong question. People don't think. It's a polite fiction among pundits, amateur or professional, that in a democracy the people are always right. Saying flat out that the typical voter is ignorant, stupid and driven by emotions instead of reason would come off as arrogant. This blog is not so hindered. People feel far more than they think.
It is to the emotional brain that Justin appeals. The yearning to be lead and lied to. The need to be saved from one self. It's very hard to fight for freedom when so many people are calling for a leash.