Northern Reflections

Subscribe to Northern Reflections feed
"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 59 min 9 sec ago

By His Words

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 03:25

Andrew Cohen has left Ottawa and moved to Washington, where -- for the time being -- he is a Fulbright Scholar and the Woodrow Wilson Institute. He was, therefore well placed to observe Donald Trump's inauguration and speech -- which, he writes, was an "endless tweet:"

Mr. Trump’s address defines the difference between his America and Mr. Obama’s America. The world according to Donald Trump is gloomy, cold and joyless.
Factories are “rusted-out” and strewn like “tombstones” across the land; schools “deprive” students of knowledge; crime and drugs have “stolen lives and robbed the country;” infrastructure has fallen into “disrepair and decay.”
Mr. Trump’s stentorian statement: “This carnage stops right here and right now.” This will become the signature of his address.
Unsurprisingly, Trump's took no note of the facts:
The reality is different. Crime is falling. Poverty is ebbing. Incomes are rising. Unemployment and inflation are low. Standards of education are rising.
But if you are the captain of chaos, you need calamity. If it does not exist, invent it. President Trump sees a country with an existential problem and makes himself its saviour. The worse things are, the more we need him.
So he is Hercules cleaning out the Augean Stables. Or Huey Long redistributing wealth. Or Andrew Jackson denouncing the “Corrupt Bargain.”
The speech was -- like the man himself -- utterly graceless:
Beyond the sternness, there was little grace. No soothing bromides about sunlit uplands. No salute to Hillary Clinton, who sat a few feet away. No grace notes at all, other than to the Obamas, whom he declared had been “magnificent.”
Intense though the tone, the words were pedestrian. It was a screed less than a speech, an extended, angry, endless tweet, punctuated by emotional exclamation marks.
By his words, ye shall know him. 
Image: RTE

Ugly America

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 06:22
The inauguration is over. And what did it tell us? Not much that we didn't already know. One Note Donald gave the same speech he gave at the Republican convention and throughout the whole campaign. Michael Harris writes:

The Trump message? America is surrounded on all sides by threats. Mexican rapists, Muslim immigrants, slick Canadian trade negotiators, wily Chinese currency manipulators, corrupt Wall Street brokers, scumbag journalists and, of course, Crooked Hillary. And did I mention the CIA?

Only Super Donald could save the day.

For one thing, he knifed not only the political opposition, but his own party with startling regularity. Berate, belittle and behead — a modus operandi good enough to win him the Republican nomination for president, and then the presidency itself.
And, while he was fulminating, protesters were in the streets, breaking windows and burning cars. And they will be back in the streets today, in even greater numbers. Get used to it. In the Trump Era, protest will be the new normal.

Not since the days of the Vietnam War has the nation been so divided. Only now, the United States is at war with itself.

Trump's message yesterday was clear and direct: The Ugly American is back. And Ugly America is slithering behind him.

Image: Reuters


Fri, 01/20/2017 - 06:13

Donald Trump's cabinet choices make it clear that one of his administration's prime directives will be to protect and entrench the fossil fuel industry. George Monbiot writes:

Trump is the president that corporate luddites have dreamed of: the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
The most obvious signal of Trump's intention is the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State:

By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart, he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500bn (£407bn) deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Putin.
But Trump's other appointments underscore his prime directive:

Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.

The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
  Last year was the warmest year on record. The two previous years broke the previous records. We were told that Neanderthals became extinct thousands of years ago. We were misinformed. They are alive and congregating in Washington. They will eventually die out -- along with every other living species.

Image: The Guardian

Mr. Wonderful?

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 06:45

Kevin O'Leary is in. But Brent Rathgeber isn't impressed by either O'Leary or his prospects:

The first few times I saw Kevin O’Leary harshly criticize a contestant, I thought it was so over the top that it had to be contrived. His affected viciousness repelled me; predictably, it also earned him a seat on the American copycat program Shark Tank. The American entertainment industry has a history of embracing the obnoxious.
There are those in the Conservative Party that are trying on Trump Lite for size:

We’ve already seen some of the worst aspects of the excruciating 2016 American presidential campaign migrate north. Kellie Leitch’s opportunistic proposal to screen potential immigrants for their embrace of ‘Canadian values’ is carefully nebulous, allowing it to send different messages to different people. Steven Blaney wants to revoke citizenship for terrorists and ban the niqab from the public service. Red meat for the anti-Muslim crowd.

Both Leitch and Blaney went after Maxime Bernier last night in Quebec City, before and during the French language debate, for campaigning to end corporate welfare after having handed out the pork as Stephen Harper’s industry minister. Leitch, the queen of the drive-by smear, quickly issued a press release calling Bernier a “liar and a fraud.”
But O'Leary sees himself as the Trump of the North -- a notion that Rathgeber doesn't think will fly:

I believe the Trump phenomenon was more an accident then the beginning of a trend. He’s the outcome of an unlikely collision between multiple factors: a deeply disillusioned electorate, fear of undocumented workers ‘stealing’ jobs, fear of terrorists — or anybody who looks like he might be one — and a very, very unpopular Democratic nominee. Take away any one of those factors, and Trump loses.

And the conditions that could permit the ascent of ‘Trump Lite’ simply don’t exist here. Undocumented Mexicans ‘stealing’ Canadian jobs? That’s not even a thing. Terrorism? Canada hasn’t been immune from terrorist attacks — but mass shootings are, thankfully, rare here. Stephen Harper tried to capitalize on islamophobia in 2015 but the barbaric cultural practices ‘snitch line’ and the war on the niqab were soundly rejected by the electorate.

Finally, there’s the obvious: Justin Trudeau is no Hillary Clinton. I may disagree with many of the current government’s policies, but Trudeau is young, hip, photogenic and (politics aside) personally very likeable. Moreover, Canadians already have had the opportunity to “drain the swamp” — and to some extent they did so in 2015.
Rathgeber is betting that Canadians will understand that Mr. Wonderful is not who he says he is.


Restoring Character

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 05:34

God knows, governments are imperfect and the source of great frustration. Some suggest that the antidote is to run government like a business. On Friday, Donald Trump says that he will run the United States like a business. And, starting today, Kevin O'Leary is making the same pitch.

But, Mark Bulgutch writes, applying business principles to government doesn't solve the problems -- because business suffers from the same problems:

Volkswagen programmed its engines to control emissions only when they were being tested in labs. Once those engines hit the road, they emitted 40 times more pollution. Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler installed engine software to disguise the fact that illegal amounts of nitrogen oxides were getting into the air. To be clear, this wasn’t accidental. In the words of the California Air Resources Board, “A major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules.”
Takata put faulty airbags in millions of North American cars. Then it prepared falsified reports to cover it up. At least 16 people have been killed by those airbags exploding violently.
The Walmart in Fort McMurray, Alta., has been hit with 174 charges of selling food unfit for human consumption after last year’s terrible wildfires. Walmart reacted to the charges with a carefully worded statement that doesn’t deny anything. It just says it worked closely with food inspectors. Those same food inspectors say they gave Walmart guidance in person and in writing and that what the store did was, “a direct and avoidable risk to the health of this community.”
The antidote to corruption in government or business is character, not technocratic expertise. And, these days, money seems to corrupt character:
Money is literally the bottom line for business. There’s no such thing as too much. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported this month that the 100 top CEOs in Canada made an average of $9.5 million dollars in 2015. The top earner was Michael Pearson of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He made $182.9 million. That’s about 536 times more than our prime minister makes. Looks like the government made a good deal.
Politicians, who now raise money 24/7, are looking for a piece of that action. Take money out of politics and you just might restore the character of its participants. 
Image: Before It's News

No Catharsis

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 06:14

Donald Trump is the new LBJ. That's Richard Cohen's conclusion in this morning's Washington Post. And, like Lyndon Johnson, his presidency is doomed:

But Trump ought to pay attention to [John] Lewis and what he represents. The president-elect will take the oath with a minority of the popular vote — a substantial deficit of almost 3 million votes. He enters the Oval Office with historically dismal poll numbers, lower now than right after he won the election. He has done nothing to woo the majority of Americans who rejected his candidacy and has, instead, adhered to his schoolyard habit of tweeting his every grievance, denigrating his every critic, making cameos with vaccine and global-warming doubters and, as if to show some versatility, rascals such as Don King and Kanye West. It is a “Gong Show” with no gong in sight.

Lyndon Johnson would no doubt warn Trump that he is already on thin ice and he will plunge through it the moment Congress takes the measure of his unpopularity. Johnson was a man of huge political abilities and experience, and his achievements in civil rights entitled him to greatness. Yet, when Vietnam went sour, so did the public, and it seemed, after a while, that his personal characteristics, scathingly caricatured by artists such as David Levine and Jules Feiffer, oozed out of him so that they obscured both him and his accomplishments. He was deemed capable of anything — of lying and perversion of all kinds. This is where Trump stands now.
Trump has a sense of self. But he has no sense of history. So don't expect him to take any lessons from that quarter. However, there are also lessons to be gained from Greek Tragedy:

Meanwhile, Trump will have his moment, that’s for sure, but when things go wrong he will be chased from office — just like Johnson once was. The ancient Greeks knew why: A man’s character is his fate. In that case, Trump’s presidency is doomed. 
 When the end comes, there will be no sense of catharsis.


Sabotaging The Economy

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 06:18

American stock markets have skyrocketed since the election of Donald Trump. The president-elect and giddy investors think they're on the cusp of Reagan 2.0. But, Ruchir Sharma writes, they can't go back to 1981:

The forces that underlie economic growth have weakened significantly since the Reagan years, worldwide. No nation, no matter how exceptional, can try to grow faster than economic forces allow without the risk of provoking a volatile boom-bust cycle.

The potential growth rate of an economy is roughly determined — and limited — by the sum of two factors: population and productivity. An economy can grow steadily only by adding more workers, or by increasing output per worker. During the Reagan years, both population and productivity were growing at around 1.7 percent a year, so the potential United States growth rate was close to 3.5 percent. In short, Reagan did not push the nation’s economic engine to run faster than it could handle.

In recent years, America’s population and productivity growth have fallen to around .75 percent each, generously measured, so potential economic growth is roughly 1.5 percent, less than half the rate of the Reagan era. Any policy package that aims to push an economy beyond its potential could easily backfire — in the form of higher deficits and inflation.
Like all conservatives these days, the Republicans want to turn back the clock:

The nub of the problem here is nostalgia for a bygone era. The postwar world grew accustomed to the rapid growth made possible by the baby boom. Not every country with rapid population growth enjoyed a steady economic boom, but few economies boomed without it. And for most countries, the era of population growth is now over.
The pressure of falling population growth means that every class of countries needs to adopt a new math of economic success, and bring its definition of strong growth down by a full point or more. For developed nations like the United States, with average incomes over $25,000, any rate above 1.5 percent should be seen as relatively good.
As they have done before, the Republicans will sabotage the economy -- and try to blame it on somebody else. 
Image: OpEdNews

They Have To Speak French

Sun, 01/15/2017 - 03:22

Back in the 1990's -- when Preston Manning burst on the scene -- a new kind of sign sprouted on lawns in my neck of the woods. Its message was blunt: "No more prime ministers from Quebec." The sign's unstated assumption was that French is spoken only in la belle province. But, when Brian Mulroney was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Stephen Maher writes, that he

liked to tell Conservatives that they had to choose a leader who could speak both languages. “There are 102 ridings in the country with a francophone population over 10 per cent,” he said. “In the last election the Liberals won 100 of them, we won two. You give Pierre Trudeau a head start of 100 seats and he’s going to beat you 10 times out of 10.”
New Brunswick is our only officially bilingual province. Manitoba has a significant French population. And northern Alberta also has a a significant number of French communities. That's why Maher maintains that, if the Conservatives choose a leader who can't speak French, they'll lose. His or her French doesn't have to be perfect:

It is not necessary to speak both languages as well as the Trudeaus, Mulroney or Tom Mulcair. Stephen Harper never captured the music of the langue de Molière, and Jack Layton’s Montreal street French sometimes sounded too folksy, but both politicians were able to express themselves, which is what is necessary.

It works the same the other way. Jean Chretien’s English was not elegant, but he could communicate enough effectively to hammer home his point.
Chretien's syntax could be just as fractured in French as it was in English. But the message was always the same -- and Canadians knew it.

What does that mean for the Conservative candidates?  In the upcoming French only debate:

Chris Alexander will be good, and Michael Chong, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole ought to be able to unspool some talking points, but Brad Trost, Kellie Leitch and Lisa Raitt face de facto disqualification if they parler Français comme une vache Espagnole.
The same rule will apply to whomever the New Democrats choose to be their leader. Prime Ministers don't have to come from Quebec. But they have to speak French.

Image: J.J's Complete Guide To Canada

Sunny Ways Don't Work With Him

Sat, 01/14/2017 - 06:43

Justin Trudeau is encountering a lot of blowback these days. His cash for access troubles have him in hot water. And his announcement yesterday that the oil sands will have to be phased out will be met with cold fury in Alberta. But these are nothing compared to the blizzard that's blowing in from Washington. Michael Harris writes:

Forget about Trudeau’s domestic adversaries — his most deadly political foe is a real estate mogul and part-time president of the United States. As Trudeau fares against Trump on a handful of key policy areas, so his government will rise or fall.

That’s not to say that there aren’t domestic issues that matter. There are, including the still-unlamented Bill C-51, broken promises on the environment, and a sophomoric attempt at electoral reform. But Trump will cast a far longer shadow over public affairs in this country than any of them.
Harris goes on to catalogue the types of nasty weather that will blow across the border:

You can be certain that the Trump government will return to one of the preoccupations of U.S. policy: getting Canada to agree to a ballistic missile defence shield (BMD). The Americans have been trying to make this sale ever since Ronald Reagan saw Star Wars one too many times. In 2005, Paul Martin turned down the Americans on joining BDM, even though President Bush personally lobbied him on it.

In the course of throwing other toys out of his policy pram on his way to the White House, Trump has promised to rip up NAFTA. He already has, in a way, because the Tweeter-in-Chief has threatened General Motors, Ford and Toyota with a “big border tax” for building cars in Mexico. That, of course, is illegal under NAFTA — which is why he wants to tear it up.

And if Trump is ready to violate trade treaties and walk away from NAFTA if he can’t get the changes he wants, imagine what he’ll be asking of Canada in these negotiations. You can bet he’ll be playing shamelessly to his own lumber lobby by placing restrictions on Canadian softwood lumber going into the United States.

And while maximizing production in the U.S. and insisting on favourable trade balances with his trading partners, Trump will come after other major concessions from Canada. The Americans have always wanted market access to our agricultural sector, and it will come as no surprise when they demand in a new NAFTA an open door to dairy products.

And that’s to say nothing of Canada’s highly vulnerable auto industry, which will soon catch the eye of a man who would sooner see its jobs in Michigan under his ‘America First’ initiative.
All those clips of Trump in and out of the WWE ring are part of the Donald Trump Show. Sunny ways don't work with him.

Image: Mic/WWE

The Old Order Changeth

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 06:08

Errol Mendes writes that the Post World War II Order is crumbling:

As a new year opens across the globe, the post-Second World War order and the global rule of law are losing out to the rule of individual men.

The trend is most evident in the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military, along with his Syrian, Iranian and Shia Iraqi and Lebanese allies, who have been trampling the most sacred rules of war and committing the most horrific crimes against humanity against civilians in Syria. In his own country, Putin maintains the façade of a ‘managed’ democracy by crushing all dissent, controlling the media and using his security and intelligence forces to suppress — or murder — opposition voices. And his actions aren’t limited to the domestic; he’s undermine liberal democracies in Europe by aiding far-right and neo-fascist parties, not to mention his ultimate adventure — the seemingly successful manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 In China, the leadership is using its growing military and economic power to defy foundational rules of international law in the South and East China Seas, daring even the U.S. to challenge its claims over one of the most important sea lanes in the world — where $5 trillion worth of goods are transported annually. The Economist sums up how the Chinese leadership intends to ramp up its own crushing of internal dissent in an article titled, ‘China invents the digital totalitarian state’. The hundreds of lawyers and other pro-democracy activists who have either disappeared or are being held in secret jails seem to be just forerunners of what could happen to Chinese citizens in the coming years under the leadership of President Xi Jingping, as he seeks to assume all the major levers of power.

There are times in world history when everything seems to shift. This seems to be one of those times. But the shift does not look like it's for the better. If it is to be stopped, Mendes believes that nations committed to democracy and the rule of law must do three things:

First, they must use all their powers of political, economic and social persuasion to shine a bright light on the ‘post-truth’ fabrications fuelling the new authoritarianism — the terror, corruption and fraud perpetrated by this new generation of strongmen, perhaps by focusing on its undisputed leader: President Putin.
Second, they must examine their own glass houses to see how the so called Washington Consensus liberal order has produced too many losers, too many corporate robber barons, while creating a level of social inequality, job loss and poverty that begs the title “neo-feudal”.

Finally, to draw back the millions who may have wandered over to the authoritarian camp, progressive leaders, parties and governments must use the human rights agenda to promote the lives and interests of all. Martin Luther King put it best: “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”
The clock is ticking.

Image: Robyn Waters

Unencumbered By The Thought Process

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 06:53
Wherever Donald Trump goes, salacious details follow. Jonathan Manthorpe doesn't believe the salacious stuff. He writes:

Intelligence reports don’t work that way. They’re usually a jigsaw puzzle of hints and scraps that require much sorting out by highly experienced analysts to form a consistent picture. Even then, the analysts can’t be sure they’ve got it right.

And there are many unbelievable elements within the documents themselves. For example, the repeated claim that Putin “fears” a Clinton presidency doesn’t ring true. It’s known that Putin despises Clinton, blaming her for inciting unrest in Russia after parliamentary elections in 2011 and in advance of his orchestrated return to the presidency in 2012. But Putin has survived as Russia’s leader since 1999, and is preparing for another six-year term in elections next year. There’s no reason to believe he truly feared Clinton posed a threat to his plans.
But that doesn't matter:

There are still good reasons to accept that Putin wanted Trump to win the U.S. presidency, and that the Kremlin’s spy agencies were put to work undermining Clinton’s campaign. The joint report published on January 6 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency is unequivocal on that point.

The conclusion that Putin preferred Trump in the White House is utterly logical. Trump has on several occasions expressed what sounds like admiration for Putin and his firm rule (most would call it ‘authoritarian’). Trump also has expressed the hope that relations between Washington and Moscow, which have been on a steady downward slide since Putin came to power, can be improved.

Putin’s big hope is that the Trump administration lifts or eases sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its occupation of large tracts of eastern Ukraine and its murder of Putin’s political opponents at home. Russia’s economy is overly dependent on oil and gas exports at the best of times. Low international prices for energy have hit Russia hard; the sanctions have made matters worse.
It's interesting that this information has been shopped around for months as opposition research for Trump's opponents -- both Republicans and Democrats. The CIA was not the source. But Trump -- with typical impulsiveness -- accused the intelligence community of leaking the material.

National Public Radio used to broadcast a show with two MIT educated auto mechanics, the Magliozzi Brothers. They joked about folks who they claimed were "unencumbered by the thought process." Regardless of whether or not the latest sound and fury is true, it's becoming more and more obvious that the president elect is one of the people they were talking about.


Obama's Farewell Speech

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:40

In his last address to the nation, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the threat posed by what he called the "military-industrial complex." Last night, Barack Obama told his fellow citizens that they would have to work hard to protect their democracy from the threat of global Right Wing Populism. There have been several reasons for the rise of the Right Wing:

A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the spectre of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.
He warned that, if Americans do nothing about their dysfunctional economy, they will court disaster:

Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one per cent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
And he offered his prescription for their economic ills:

So we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.
Opportunity for all. Easy to say. Hard to accomplish. Time will tell if his words ring -- like Eisenhower's -- through the decades.

Image: WITN

Conservatives Need To Be Progressive

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 05:27

That's the message Hugh Segal delivers to his fellow Conservatives in today' s Globe and Mail. He begins with a review of recent history:

John Diefenbaker’s surprise defeat of Louis St. Laurent in 1957 reflected Progressive Conservative equilibrium on preserving the role of Parliament, opposing closure and championing of low-income seniors’ real needs. The 1958 Tory sweep was the largest majority in Canadian history and emerged largely because of the arrogance of the Liberals, who moved a non-confidence motion to bring down the Diefenbaker minority government. The Liberals believed that the 1957 Conservative win was simply a mistake by the voters.

Bob Stanfield’s near-victory over the unbeatable Liberal icon of Pierre Trudeau in 1972 (Mr. Stanfield lost by a handful of votes and just two seats) reflected a huge step forward for Mr. Stanfield’s moderation, integrity and concern for the disadvantaged. This surge, which produced a win for Mr. Stanfield in English-speaking Canada, was seen as a victory over the apparent arrogance and condescension of then-prime-minister Trudeau.

Brian Mulroney’s victory in 1984 over the Trudeau legacy championed by then-prime-minister John Turner was more about a moderate position on Canada-U.S. relations, less “my way or the highway” federalism, a stout defence of francophone minorities and a rejigging of Ottawa’s economic and social levers toward the centre from the bureaucratic centre-left.
Segal is delivering a warning to the members of his party who are in the throes of Trumpism:

The lessons of history seem, so far, to have had little impact. Canadians haven’t heard from any candidate about those living beneath the poverty line, the next stage of reconciliation with First Nations, a creative 21st-century federalism, a real-world foreign and defence policy, the inequities of unemployment for younger Canadians, the precariousness of areas of employment or the need for a national strategy for seniors.
They forget that Segal held an influential position in Bill Davis' Big Blue Machine -- one of the most successful political operations in Canadian history. They would be wise to lend him an ear. 

Image: Ottawa Citizen


Mon, 01/09/2017 - 06:37

Kevin  O'Leary is muttering about entering the Conservative leadership race. Lisa Raitt is trying to head him off at the pass. She'll do us all a favour if she succeeds. Michael Harris writes:

Bottom line? O’Leary will flounder in the Smart Tank because he knows squat about Canada and is about as homegrown as a banana. He is a de facto American trying to rewrite the history of the War of 1812.  Instead of getting even for the burning of Washington, O’Leary merely wants to muck out Ottawa with a spatula, which is a strange implement of choice for a dragon, right? A tongue of flame, a swishing tail, raking claws, sure. But a spatula?

And why should O’Leary delay announcing his entry into the CPC leadership race until after the French-language debate just because he doesn’t speak French? Whenever his turn came to speak, he could just hold up his bank book and show Quebeckers the balance. In O’Leary’s world, money talks and bull roar perambulates. How else could he actually say that he understands what Quebecers want?
O'Leary went to English language private schools when he grew up in Quebec and then headed to the University of Waterloo. He lived his life entirely in the English Solitude. Like Stephen Harper, he believes he doesn't need support in Quebec to become prime minister.

But he needs Alberta. And consider what he says about that province:

Consider his rantings on behalf of the Corporate Kleptocracy against Rachel Notley. The Alberta premier is to blame for Alberta’s skyrocketing unemployment rate, the plummeting dollar, and yes, Calgary’s loss in the Grey Cup.

Not a word about Conservative politicians in Alberta who let foreign multinationals cash in on the tar sands with pathetically low royalty rates (compare Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund to Alberta’s), and who never thought to diversify the provincial economy against the day when the oil wealth would be gone. Forty years of never asking the “what if” question.

O’Leary’s answer to Notley’s alleged screw ups – even more spineless concessions to the oil patch. On new oil and gas production capital expenditures, he wants to let the investor write off the entire investment in the year it occurred, and give a 36-month royalty “holiday” on any new capital investment. Increase the already gaudy returns for investors and all will be well.
Like his hero, Donald Trump, he's appallingly ignorant of the country he proposes to lead. Let's hope that Canadians -- and, more importantly, Conservatives  -- have learned something from recent events to our south.