Saturday, February 28, 2009

"But man appoints, and God disappoints."

"'Hark you, goodman Slander', replied Sancho, 'it is now eight or ten days since I began to govern the island that was given me, and in all that time, I never had my belly full but once; physicians have persecuted me, enemies have trampled over me, and bruised my bones, and I have had neither leisure to take bribes, nor to receive my just dues. Now, all this considered, in my opinion I did not deserve to come out in this fashion. But man appoints, and God disappoints. Heaven knows what is best for us all. We must take time as it comes, and our lot as it falls. Let no man say, I will drink no more of this water. Many count their chickens before they are hatched, and where they expect bacon meet with broken bones. Heaven knows my mind, and I say no more though I might.' "
And so, as unofficial (you mean 'interim', surely, ed) becomes more official, others, in addition to Quixotique, question the fact that it didn't have to be this way. We could have simply followed "all the constitutional procedures of the party" and let the membership exercise their constitutional authority to legitimize, ratify - okay call a spade a spade - appoint the Leader. And instead we disappoint and leave ILMI to take his lot as it falls.

At the same time, the crafty old dragon-slayer himself, PMSH, polishes his rusty old regimen of governing-by-taunt, knowing that the interim supply measures will be voted on before ILMI's official transition from unofficial to official. Some call for ILMI to call PMSH's bluff. And while this is going on, yet others, including Liberals, are questioning ILMI's policy-pronouncements mere weeks away from a convention that might just, or might just not, ratify those as well.

Well, well, well, isn't timing everything? If ILMI and the party apparatchik were really that serious about having legitimate and authorized opportunities to call bluffs, ameliorate parliamentary legislation, legitimize new policy directions and perhaps even defeat the government and head in to an election with some measure of party-wide backing - without using the upcoming convention as some sort of imaginary deadline for the launch of the "New Ignatieff Party", they would let the DEMs go ahead including the universal membership vote. Instead, members in 30 ridings (less than 10%) across the country will get their say, while the rest of us delegate our opinions and decisions to "delegates" we have not had a chance to delegate anything to, let alone our say on Leadership. After all, it's only one week away, almost two months before the Convention, leaving more than enough time for the receiving of just dues.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"You cannot eat your cake and have your cake."

When is a Leader not a Leader? When they're an interim Leader! Or, (perhaps and) when they have not been elected in accordance with the LPC Constitution.

ILMI seems to get that it is important for his leadership to be "ratified" by the "rank and file" as well as the importance of adhering to "all the constitutional procedures for the party", but I'm not sure that he gets (or knows?) that the Party is about to do neither. Not sure that delegates to a convention (elected, selected or ex-officio) are really the rank and file; the people who elect them, however, would be. Not sure either that the decision-makers really get that they are likely doing the ISTBLLMI (Interim Soon to be Legitimate Leader) no favours in once again bending the process for practical, not principled reasons, and expediency.

The Party will be allowing EDA's to not hold Delegate Election Meetings for the upcoming Vancouver (Leadership) Convention, if the number of "delegate candidates" applying to be (elected as) delegates is less than the maximum number per EDA (22). This is apparently being authorized so that EDA's, Clubs and PTA's can avoid the expense and administrative hassles of holding meetings, when they otherwise wouldn't be necessary, as the delegates they claim, would simply be "acclaimed" in such an instance. Problem is that pretty much negates the universal (or OMOV) vote aspect of the leadership selection process currently envisaged by the constitution and nullifies the desire of ILMI to have his leadership ratified by the rank and file.

To Quixotique at least, the Constitution seems, while certainly not always, pretty clear in this instance.

Article 53:
Whenever a Leader is to be chosen for the Party, the Party must elect a new Leader according to the procedures set out in this Chapter (which is referred to in this Constitution as a "Leadership Vote").

Article 56:
(1) The Leader is elected at a National Leadership Convention with the delegates to that convention being elected in proportion to the popular direct vote received by each leadership contestant in accordance with this Constitution and the Party bylaws. ...

(2) At a delegate selection meeting to select delegates to a National Leadership Convention held in accordance with Section 63, each member of the Party who is entitled to vote at the meeting must be provided with a ballot that permits him or her both to vote directly for the leadership contestant of his or her choice and to vote for individual delegates...
Seems pretty obvious to me. What also seems obvious to me is that the Party (grassroots, rank and file, or er, um, duh - the membership), if given the opportunity to have their direct say as the Constitution provides, would likely do so in an overwhelmingly positive fashion for Mr. Ignatieff.

What better ratification, legitimization or whatever you want to call it, could you hope for than that? How much more membership engagement could you get than that? How much more personal investment in your leadership could you get than that? Pretty easy to accomplish all of your goals at once - and turn a perceived minority leadership into a majority one to boot.

Instead we are poised to de-legitimize an already illegitimate process even more. Again. And doing the new boss a huge disservice in the process.

"Rome was not built in a day."

Well, the Citizen agrees with me (kinda)...not sure that's a good thing!

Given all that, the letter from the three opposition leaders should carry some weight. Combined, they represent a majority of voters in Canada. Without threatening an election, they may succeed in doing the seemingly impossible -- moving Mr. Harper on a contentious issue.

Call it a coalition if you want, but sounds more like simple, old-fashioned co-operation.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"When thou art at Rome, do as they do at Rome."

Susan Riley, in yesterday's Citizen, more than adequately expresses Quixotique's crushed hopes of politics being done differently in this country, in this party, at this time.
"The dated, top-down, paternalistic management style embraced by our major parties -- an approach long-since abandoned by most intelligent organizations -- would appear to be under no immediate threat. .
Challenging the rigid rituals of politics-as-usual would embellish, rather than threaten, Ignatieff's image. Allowing MPs more flexibility on future votes, for instance, would be a true test of leadership -- of the listening and diplomatic skills Ignatieff possesses in abundance. Every case is different; every crisis has a context. ...
But Ignatieff will likely be a disappointment for anyone looking for a new kind of politics. He respects tradition. He plays by the old rules. He claims, lamely, that his job as opposition leader is only to oppose, not propose. ..."
Others see more promise in ILMI's tentative step forward to a more democratic and representative outlook.

Editorialists at the Gazette, find ILMI's actions on the budget vote in the best of Burkean Liberal traditions with respect to the relationship and the balance required between representatives and the respresented, arguing that a relaxation of party discipline, if for the right reasons can improve our political system, if done wisely.

"Canadians would be best served, we believe, if elected leaders broke ranks with their parties somewhat more often, not in knee-jerk regional (or linguistic) solidarity but in thoughtful expression of individual visions of society. Few matters, after all, really need to be questions of confidence for governments.

True, more liberty for caucus members would surely create a small, annoying class of professional dissenters. But in the long run, individual lawmakers would be more useful if they were not shackled so tightly by party discipline."

Writing in the Guelph Mercury, William Christian argues that ILMI may be forced into this new (for politics in general and in general in Canada) posture precisely because of his own beliefs about democracy and concepts of leadership. Using a phrase favoured by ILMI's political philosopher uncle, George Grant: "Fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling", Christian muses that in the instance of the NL 6, ILMI chose to be led, by members of the Liberal caucus (not Ignatieff-Liberals), pointing out (as has Quixotique, btw) that "They knew why they got elected. It wasn't because of the Liberal party and it certainly wasn't because of him."

Which brings Quixotque back to earlier musings about ILMI and his position in the Party and how he may find himself in a minority leadership situation within it, what that means to his democratic outlook, and whether if he agrees with that democratic outlook, it extends, in a principled way, to his position on the proposed coalition. It seems to me that
if it did, while casting aside the concept of a coalition government as a viable political option at the time, he could have embraced the concept of a coalition opposition.

One of the arguments raised against the proposed coalition government was that its prospect was not contemplated by the public. Leaving aside the debate about that, no one could argue nonetheless that the concept is not in front of them now and an intent on the table. There seems to me no reason why, having entered into a agreement, the opposition parties could not continue this agreement in the context of their collective role as an opposition.

In so thinking, ILMI might have offered the NDP a real role in crafting substantive amendments to the budget on areas where they agreed it was woefully inadequate and where they could have improved the budget to better meet ILMI's conditions for acceptability; EI and green infrastructure come to mind. (Only the Official Opposition can move an amendment to the budget and the third party may offer sub-amendments, but the NDP had no legislative mechanism on its own to amend on first reading.) PMSH would have been hard pressed to oppose such an amendment, knowing that it's acceptance would mean at least two of the three opposition parties would subsequently support the budget and there would be greater consensus amongst parliaments and the electorate alike.

That would have been doing politics boldly and differently. Ah, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"I begin to smell a rat."

Drat! Another windmill!

"Comparisons are odious."

Quixotique is a tad confused. I thought the esteemed academic Tom Flanagan was an adviser to PMSH, not ILMI, silly me. But after having made, broken apart and remade more than a few federal parties, and brilliantly advising his A Student all the way to two minorities, Flanagan thinks he has the right to advise yet another one. And the best he can come up with is advice that has failed the CPC and Canada miserably, to follow Harper's modus of: "It's my way or the highway."

Doesn't he realize that Canadians rejected the harperway in the last election and chose the highway instead? Doesn't he get that his fearful leader, when stared down over this insulting attitude chose to erect "road closed temporarily due to contempt for democracy" signs from one end of the trans Canada to the other? It seems that neither of them have the most basic concept of what minority parliament entails.

It seems to me (I'm hoping, anyway) that ILMI, in acknowledging, making room for and respecting diversity of opinion in the Party's caucus, and frankly in the Canadian population generally is much more respectful and reflective of this most basic democratic principle: majority rule with power vested in the people.

Peter Russell has this to say on that:

"But the stability and coherence of majority governments come at a very high cost for parliamentary government. Prime ministers with majorities in the House of Commons will not allow their programs to be significantly modified by Parliament. ...

Minority governments restore vitality to Parliament, and in particular to the House of Commons, the people's House. When prime ministers do not have a majority in the House, they don't disappear. We certainly see lots of Mr. Harper, as we did of Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, John Diefenbaker, and Mackenzie King when they led minority governments. Under minority governments, policy is still shaped in the PMO, but it is not settled there. A minority government PM has to defend his government's policies in the House and be prepared to modify them in light of parliamentary deliberation. The policies and legislation that result from this process will take longer to emerge and, though they will deviate somewhat from the governing party's electoral mandate, they will be more inclusive of opinion in the country."
From my perspective I see the clear parallels between ILMI's circumstances opposite the Liberal Caucus and PMSH's opposite the country and Parliament. In some measure he is operating a party under a minority leadership. The MPs in the Liberal Caucus (and here I am referring mostly to the NL MP's and even more so to the newly elected) do not owe their recent elections to his leadership (frankly it's the other way around, if one cares to call his selection an "election" but that is for another discussion) nor to his direction on policy or platform. They are more purely independent and representative of the people in their own right than many MPs have perhaps ever been.

Just as minority PMs must be prepared to modify positions in light of deliberation, with an eye to increasing inclusiveness of opinion, so surely must minority leaders be allowed to do so as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"It is good to live and learn"

Well whodathunkit? ILMI has done the right thing in "permitting" four of "his" (ugh, NL's, surely) NL MP's to vote against the Tory budget when the vote comes up tonight. Quixotique is encouraged. It could simply be a case of making virtue out of necessity but I'm going to put my good little Liberal blinders on and pretend it has something to do with his concepts of and respect for democracy ("a constitutional state must remain answerable to the higher law, a set of standards that protect foundational commitments to the dignity of every person") and representative and responsible government.

Then again, just maybe not ours!

Nothing if not consistent.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"A close mouth catches no flies."

So here I sit spitting out the little critters by the hundreds! And learning my own lessons as I go (as that can never be the sole purview of youth). Having perhaps been a tad too adamant in the original post about what actually occurred as opposed to what may have occurred at the OYL elections this weekend, I find myself more moved by the comments calling for a non-rush to judgment rather than those simply calling for heads to roll. More, however. Not entirely.

That not all the facts are out is a valid point (and Quixotique takes note for future posts) but does not negate the fact that something happened, and that something must have a basis somewhere (apologies to Ken Dryden).
And this party needs to have to the courage to examine why. Not one comment to date (oops! there's one now as I tap this out: BC Voice of reason @ 1:45)
has approached this question or offered any explanations as to how we got here or proposed any solutions beyond "off with their heads"; "let's put it behind us"; "let's move on"; or, "what's done is done".

Rather than ignore or sweep these things under the rug, because they come at an inconvenient time, or will draw the attention of little bits of road kill, an open and transparent party, intent on constantly seeking to improve itself, will see benefit in shedding light and trying to exact something positive from a negative. If, as some say, this is nothing more than he said/she said and without any foundation whatsoever other than mistrust, shouldn't we still examine what led to that mistrust?

Quixotique is keenly aware of living up to the practice of engaging in futile activity in calling for some young liberal anonymous or otherwise to step up to the plate and offer, not recriminations or invective, but some concrete suggestions to make sure this "stuff" doesn't happen again, or at least to have a discussion about it.

You know, these crunchy munchies ain't half bad when you're on your third or fourth mouthful.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"A good name is better than riches."

Just what the "h" is going on in this party? Unsettling, yet unsurprising news today from the OYL convention in Ottawa: contenders for OYL executive positions have "confessed" to cheating, with at least one poor young neophyte reduced to tears after being convinced to participate in nothing less than than voter fraud - and getting caught. Bad enough that slates (read factions) are the order of the day in the youth wing of the party, now it's confirmed that winning at all costs is more important than say, er, um, democracy.

Word is that supporters of OYL Presidential candidate Krista Balsom, who was running a slate, talked a young, high-school aged, new liberal in to voting a second time using the credentials of another delegate who had to leave before polls opened, as they were concerned about a tight race for one of the few contested positions. And, surprise, surprise - she got caught. The "perps" have apparently confessed, and one of them, themselves a member of the YLC national executive, is under intense pressure to resign that position, or be otherwise be swiftly "impeached".

And the worst part is, one can hear the old CSNY classic playing softly in the background: Teach your children well.