Friday, March 31, 2006

I Have Iggy-Mania!

Okay, so Michael Ignatieff all but declared his candidacy for the federal Liberal leadership Thursday, but I hope he runs and here's why:

1. Experience:
His experience is unparalleled in the leadership race thus far. Ignatieff received his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Toronto and continued his studies at Oxford University and then at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in History in 1976.

Since then, Ignatieff has been considered one of the world's leading experts in democracy, human rights, security, and international affairs. He has advised governments and world leaders and has served on the International Commission on Kosovo, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, and the World Economic Forum, where he led panels on citizenship and minority rights, Afghanistan, and the future of the Balkans.

He has also been a regular commentator, critic and broadcaster on television and radio in Canada, England, and the United States. As a journalist, he covered the Balkan wars for the BBC, the Observer and the New Yorker, reporting from Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Angola, and Afghanistan. He also worked early in life as a staff writer for the Globe & Mail, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine. In television, he has hosted many programs for the BBC, PBS and CBC, including the award-winning 1993 series Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. In 2000, he delivered the Massey Lectures The Rights Revolution on CBC Radio.

Ignatieff is also one of Canada's leading writers and his books have been translated into 12 languages. One of his most personal works, The Russian Album (1987), won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction and his other books include Blood and Belonging (2004), an acclaimed 1998 biography of Isaiah Berlin, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond (2000) and The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004). Ignatieff has also written novels, including Scar Tissue (1993), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

Ignatieff has held teaching posts at many of the world's leading universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, the University of California, the University of London, the London School of Economics, and the University of British Columbia. Most recently, Michael was appointed the Chancellor Jackman Visiting Professor in Human Rights Policy at the University of Toronto and Senior Fellow of the Munk Centre for International Studies.

2. He is untouched by scandal:
Ignatieff has not been involved in the Income Trust Scandal, the Sponsorship Scandal or anything else dirty associated with Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin. Because of this, I think he is in a great position to bring a fresh, clean perception to the Liberal Party. Not having strong ties to Chrétien or Martin will also allow him to unite the Party - he's neutral and when people work with him they can forget about past allegiances and/or grievances.

3. He's a brainchild:
It's always very refreshing to see a politician who isn't a hack, but actually has built his own career and successes. What I really want to see in our next leader is someone who knows what he or she is talking about and is backed up with his or her knowledge and experiences. I don't want a leader who has got to where he or she is through nepotism, connections or simple loyalty to the right person or persons. It's great to know that some people give up their very lucrative careers to pursue politics and build our country. I think every Liberal can (or at least should) look at Ignatieff and think, here is a very articulate, intelligent man and I'm glad he's on our team.

4. He's bilingual:
You won't be hearing this guy telling reporters, "En Anglais s'il vous plait" because Ignatieff is quite bilingual. And to ensure his proficiency in the language, he has hired bilingual staff and asked them to speak French as often as possible. For those who claim that Ignatieff isn't Canadian enough, he sure has a big advantage over most of the other candidates - he can actually communicate with 1/4 of Canada's population.

5. Has a solid vision for Canada:
Ignatieff is convicted to build a proud country - one with focus and determination that helps resolve problems like hunger, disease and environmental destruction. He is committed to international aid, economic sovereignty, multiculturalism, Aboriginal rights, national unity, respect for Québec, constitutional renewal, a strong centralized government, fixing the fiscal imbalance, enhancing the bonds of Canadian citizenship, national productivity and an opportunity strategy and investments in education, science and technology research.

6. He resonates with people:
To all those who don't think he can, I ask them why then has he had such a successful career in journalism? He is warm, passionate, articulate, bright and understands the problems that face our country. If he indeed becomes leaders, I think people will trust him. He is charismatic, but also has the knowledge and leadership capabilities to run a country.

7. He's sexy:
Okay, so I've posted earlier this week on how unfortunate it is that women are objectified in politics and as much as I hate to create a double standard, I'm going to anyways. Ignatieff is a hunk. Zsuzsanna Zsohar is one lucky woman. Gawd, would I ever like to find a guy that smart, articulate, handsome, charismatic... but, oh yeah, I'm attracted to assholes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

... And Harper drops the ball... again...

So much for Stephen Harper’s promise to enact stringent ethics rules… During the election, Harper vowed to create a five-year cooling-off period before ministers, ministerial staffers and senior officials can start lobbying the government and already two Tory staffers have left their jobs working for cabinet ministers to lobby the federal government.

Kevin Macintosh and David Salvatore, aides to Rob Nicholson and Monte Solberg, left their government jobs this month and started signing up private clients but the Tories claim they broke no rules because they worked as parliamentary aids, rather than ministerial aides.

I call bullshit!

This is a classic example of how injustice can occur within the confines of rules and regulations. These sorts of things happen all the time. Lawyers are infamous for it, whether they deserve it or not (Cherniak - take note!).

The Conservatives catapulted themselves to power by crying foul on Liberal corruption. Perhaps Macintosh and Salvatore were acting within their right to begin lobbying, but it still doesn’t pardon breaching the spirit from which this five-year cooling-off period was created in.

The whole idea that former aides… sorry, former ministerial aides, could not lobby the government for five years was to prevent former staffers from running off with tight political ties and insider information which could subsequently affect the fairness of policy development.

Whether a parliamentary aide or a ministerial aide – Macintosh and Salvatore are still too close for comfort. Instead of trying to justify this behavior, the Tories should be acting on it and honoring the mandate they promised Canadians which was to clean up government. At a time where political skepticism is at an all-time high, our Canadian politicians can no longer afford to drop the ball on this. Canadian democracy is on the line.

I understand when you are Prime Minister, you have a huge organization to manage – you have your Party and the government to look after. I can empathize. But what I can’t empathize with is sweeping this matter under the rug. At least Martin (R.I.P. 1988 - 2006) had the balls to own up to his administration’s mistakes and take hard action against it.

*** The photo is curteousy Joe Eliot of Rick Mercer's Blog

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On Good Looks And Belinda Stronach

A lot of people are too busy for politics – or perhaps they just don’t care, but feel morally obligated to participate. For many of these people, time is of the essence and that’s why political spin doctors place so much value on the sound bite. And why is the sound bite so important? Because it is a tiny snapshot into the character of an individual. And in a day and age where there is so much value on appearance, it is completely understandable that looks plays the role it does in politics. But does this foster a healthy environment for women to succeed in?

Without a doubt, women are more subjucated to this form of scrutiny than their male counterparts. According to the very unscientific study I underwent during the course of BC’s last three election campaigns, I have come to the conclusion that, like many of my male and even female peers assert, a woman’s looks plays a role in their political careers. Generally speaking, I’d say that the more attractive a woman, the more high profile she is.

Take for example, women like Carole Taylor (my favourite), Michaelle Jean, Belinda Stronach or Rona Ambrose – All very beautiful, all very high profile. I am not trying to belittle their accomplishments as a result of their looks, but undoubtedly it helped to project them forward in the media and within the public. There is a flip side too and the lesson is written all over Angelina’s torso, “what nourishes me, destroys me”.

Looks, regardless of whether it helps or inhibits your career, is a form of discrimination. According to Political Scientist, Linda Trimble of the University of Alberta, it is this type of discrimination that has led Stronach to the cruel attacks she endured while crossing the floor, “The overall suggestion was that she was this bikini-clad blonde fronting for these backroom boys seeking power… The candidate’s aspirations were often ridiculed, her qualifications trivialized, and her youth and looks the subject of vulgar and excessive obsession”. I agree and it is an unfortunate reality.

Now as much as I am not supporting Stronach in the leadership bid for whatever reasons (mostly nepotism and not being bilingual), I have to say I respect her… a lot. I respect her for withstanding all the assaults she encountered because she was a young, beautiful woman; I respect her for playing hardball with all the guys; I respect her for being a mother while being a politician; I respect her for donating her salary to charity; I respect her for not having to work but still doing it to give back; and I respect her wanting to build onto the future of Canada and the Liberal Party (and I also really like her dad!).

Within a culture that places so much emphasis on looks and the sexualization of women, can women truly be equal within society in general and politics in particular? Or does the fact that women can use their looks and sexuality to advance themselves be considered a benefit through the comparative advantage they have over men? I'll let you decide, but my guess is that there will be a divide on the answer and it will lie among generational lines.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Unions Meddling In No One's Business

In the classic story of unions meddling in no one’s business, the Canadian Auto Worker’s Union has taken the tale even further, illustrating what is so wrong with unions invading a member’s private political space. defines a labour union as “an organization of wage earners formed for the purpose of serving the members’ interests with respect to wages and working conditions”. So with this mandate, why do unions feel it is their prerogative to get involved in partisan politics?

CAW’s highest authority, its Executive Council has unanimously adopted a resolution encouraging members to shun the NDP federally and provincially because the Party expelled CAW President, Buzz Hargrove. Don’t get me wrong – what is bad for the NDP here is good for us Liberals, but my main concern isn’t political gain, but rather justice. Here’s what I see wrong with this picture:

1. There are two things that unions are compelled to look after: member’s wages and work environment. Anything beyond that, such as supporting a particular party or candidate, is beyond a union’s jurisdiction and should be none of their business. Unions ought to serve like all other non-profit organizations and not get involved with politics.

2. Big Labour’s practice of using members’ dues for political purposes without their consent represents a serious infringement of political freedom. When a union coerces a member into giving his or her money through forced dues to a candidate he does not support, that member’s fundamental political liberty has been desecrated.

3. Unions were created to have a democratizing affect. Organized labour began with the purpose of giving a backbone to the ordinary working class citizen and a better chance of bargaining for better wages and benefits. Somewhere along the lines, unions came to think that it was okay to push their ideas on their membership by asking them to vote a certain way, forcing the membership to pay dues which in turn get funneled to political parties or just simply inundating them with propaganda. True, unions were organized to protect a worker from big business, but who will protect the worker from big unions?

Indeed unions have truly served our communities by protecting workers, giving them a voice and forcing employers to treat them with dignity and respect. I think everyone who works or has worked in Canada owes some gratitude to unions for creating the work environment we now have instead of continuing to live alongside a reality of child labour, poor work environments, lack of respect and so on. However, when it comes to partisan politics, I think unions are doing more harm than good.