Of course you'll realize that I am implicitly speaking of the federal situation - Liberal parties at the provincial level are often thriving and they are in government in five provinces - although only two of those governing Liberal parties (in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) are actually officially affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada. Quebec's, Ontario's, and British Columbia's are organizationally separate. I think that makes a difference. On the Progressive Conservative side, they govern in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. They too are separate, and they keep the "Progressive" moniker. (In 2000, when I questioned a PCNS recruiter on campus about Joe Clark, then-federal leader, I got a blank stare and a mumble of, "Of course we support the federal party." No, they actually wanted to distance themselves as much as they could at that point.)
So the Liberals are doing OK in many places - although in Nova Scotia they have been relegated to third-party status, as the NDP has replaced them at centre and left and become a government-in-waiting. OK - I am going to make this point even if it kills me - they are doing OK in many places, but federally? Boy. Seventy-seven seats isn't much better than two seats in this situation. Now, to be fair, it's not like the underpinnings of Dion's party suddenly walked away, leaving him with a slate of green, no-name candidates and having to resort to ads targeting his opponent's facial paralysis. It's more of a gradual bleed. They currently have more potential parliamentary talent, and they certainly have more distinct voices than the
Okay, Harper's new Cabinet. Considering the relative paucity of talent at his disposal, I'm surprised that he appointed thirty-seven members to it to spread the watery margarine even further. Besides, given the centralized, secretive way they operate, they could have gotten by with three.
CBC's At Issue panel has weighed in on the cabinet. Hébert says that they'll have so many limousines lined up that no one will know who is responsible for what. Coyne: "If you're a female Conservative MP with a pulse, you're in."
I'm all for women in cabinet, but I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of token, "representative" cabinet selections. Still, few will argue with Leona Aglukkaq's appointment to Health. She's now Canada's first Inuit in a federal cabinet, and she was Minister of Health in Nunavut. I don't know the first thing about her, but if she could cope with Nunavut's unique challenges, she should be a fine Health minister.
And the best news of all? John Baird is out of Environment. He was an embarrassment to Canada. Under his watch, we've lost our leadership and moral suasion on the global stage. His replacement, Jim Prentice, is one of the few bright bulbs in the bunch. (Funny thing - they said the same thing about Harper when he was in the Canadian Alliance. What's with this crowd?)
Of course, Baird was shuffled to another position, Diane Finley's still around, and most of the rest of the miscreants and ne'erdowells are still around (though mercifully not Bernier - Canadians would have had Harper's head for that). But I'm cautiously optimistic. Heck, even Turner-ouster Lisa Riatt got in front of a microphone and (gasp!) talked to reporters. That they put Jim Prentice into Environment shows that they are willing to take the steps necessary to begin to eventually perhaps someday maybe if things go well and it doesn't rain become a responsible government. There were no floor-crossers or surprise Senate appointees (though I am certainly not against appointing existing Senators to cabinet).
I promised that I would enumerate the things this government has done that I approve of. Here is my list so far:
- New Youth Mobility Agreement with Poland (If this gets ratified, I could very well be heading off to Poland again.)
- Talks with the EU about establishing a partnership
- National Parks expansion
- Tax-Free Savings Account (An RRSP is vastly superior in the long-term, but this is a handy short-term savings tool, and also a good option for those who have maxed-out their RRSP contributions.)
- Continuing Paul Martin's push for Arctic sovereignty - this should be non-negotiable. Ships of the world should be welcome to use our waters, but they are our waters. They lie among our islands, for crying out loud!
I'd like to see (and probably won't):
- Decriminalizing marijuana
- A commitment to do whatever has to be done to keep us out of deficit. (If Martin had been re-elected in 2006, I guarantee you it would not have come to this. But it's a moot point, as he was governing on borrowed time even then.) We either cut spending a little bit now, or a much bigger bit later - we've got to pay the piper eventually, and the piper charges compound interest. I admire Harper being able to coolly say, "I will not raise taxes," but in a sense I wish he didn't paint himself into a corner like that.
- Reducing barriers to post-secondary education
- A lament that Arctic sovereignty is even an issue - before the Passage started completely melting in the summers, no one gave a damn - let's take action now before the Antarctic starts to melt and we have to learn to swim to school and work
- Harper's hockey book that he keeps talking about writing (although I suppose he might be wise to keep his hockey opinions private until after he leaves politics!)