Levant: "Pointless Troublemaking and Ethnic Grievance-Mongering"

On today's "The Source with Ezra Levant," the host had some choice words to describe NDP MP Joe Comartin's insistence on Supreme Court nominees fulfilling the criteria of being bilingual, female, and aboriginal.

EL: What's going on here? Well, all of a sudden, the NDP--their motherland is Quebec, two thirds of their MPs are [from] Quebec. Isn't this just them taking the role of the Bloc Quebecois now? And throwing some ethnic grievance, some red meat out there to get Quebecers to say, 'Yeah, we hate Canada!'? Isn't this them playing the role of the Bloc, just troublemaking, pointless troublemaking and ethnic grievance-mongering?

I don't agree with Comartin's restrictions. You can't narrow the talent pool for such an important office with arbitrary requirements. However, if they are preferences, and if Comartin is willing to dial back the ultimatum-rich rhetoric, I could support that.

Levant's rant is over the top, as usual. He describes Comartin's preferences as language, gender, and racial quotas, accuses Comartin of affirmative action, and invokes Martin Luther King, Jr, to do it, asking for the content of a nominee's character and not the colour of his skin to be a more appropriate approach to the nomination.

To accuse the Bloc's representation and now Quebec NDP representation as pointless troublemaking and ethnic grievance-making is condescending, dismissive, and openly hostile to Quebec and to the party. Levant starts out on the right track, then makes a logical leap too far. Maybe he has to chug from Dullsville to Crazytown to get the ratings he needs to sell the Dr Ho and Marineland ads. What he gains in ratings, he sheds in credibility.

Today he goaded some punk rockers into responding with anti-Semitic threats by first insulting their talent, their music, and their intelligence, then letting it slip that he's Jewish. He practically rubbed his hands with glee in anticipation of posting more hate mail to his screen.


Terry Milewski, Journalist

Terry Milewski is a rare specimen of an endangered species, a journalist. He questioned the Prime Minister today on his decision to break with his G8 colleagues and obstruct the mention of pre-1967 borders in a joint statement regarding Israel. According to Reuters, a European diplomat noted that, "The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week." I salute Terry Milewski and his challenge to the Prime Minister's inconsistency with Canadian policy and our allies.

TM: We've supported since 1967 Resolution 242 which calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the '67 war. Canada supports two states. My question is where are on earth are these two states supposed to be if not, as per Canadian policy long-established, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel proper, with agreed swaps around the 1967 lines? What's your problem with that?

SH: I didn't suggest there was a problem. Canadian policy, as you say, Terry, on these issues, is long-standing. I think it's important that any statement on the Middle East have balanced references to the various positions. I think the statement that was agreed to is a balanced statement. I think if you're going to get into other elements, then obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama's speech: such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state, the fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. I think it's important that any statement on this question be balanced, as was President Obama's.

The G8 statement is notable for its vagueness. There is nothing specific about the borders. There is no prohibition on the building of new settlements or extending existing settlements in the West Bank. There is no mention of Hamas, a coalition with Fatah, acts of terror, or military incursions. There is no statement of criteria for IMF and World Bank support in anticipation of the Paris donors' conference.

Except for one thing: a "demand" to release Gilad Shalit. On this one point, the G8 could be clear, specific, emphatic, and unflinching. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between these attributes and the substantiveness of the G8's demands, requests, recommendations, or suggestions.

You can find the Deauville Declaration here. Or here.

The statement on Israel from the preamble:
"We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict through negotiations more important, not less. We urge both parties to engage without delay in substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues."

The fuller statement on Israel:
"67. We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less. Aspirations of the peoples in the region need to be heeded including that of the Palestinians for a viable and sovereign State and that of Israelis for security and regional integration. The time to resume the Peace Process is now.

a. Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict. The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues. To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.

b. We appreciate the efforts and the progress made by the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they are building a viable State as recently commended by the IMF, the World Bank and the ad hoc liaison Committee.

c. We look forward to the prospect of the second donors’ conference for Palestine in Paris, also in view of the resumption of negotiations.

d. We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to abide by existing co-operation agreements and to abstain from unilateral measures that could hamper progress and further reforms. We call for the easing of the situation in Gaza.

e. We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit without delay."

If you're wondering, as I did, who Gilad Shalit is, you can find out here. He is an IDF soldier who was abducted by Hamas in a 2006 cross-border raid. Importantly, he holds French and Israeli citizenship. He has been likened, implausibly, to Nelson Mandela in a cynical inversion of the apartheid dynamic of Israel and its occupied territories.


Reflections on a Shellacking

In response to an innocent inquiry from a friend of mine on facebook, I posted the following reflection on supporting the Liberals during the 41st General Election. I served as the Campaign Manager for Kris Stewart, the Liberal candidate for Kelowna--Lake Country.

Writing this was therapeutic.

To be honest, I expected we'd lose a few seats going into the election. Despite the fact that the Liberal platform was sound and developed over the course of a year; the OLO had been honed organizationally by the Leader's tour last summer and the Open Mike tour through the fall and winter; and the Party had sufficient resources to mount a good campaign; a couple of things were still bothering me about our chances.

We couldn't consistently poll over 30%
Ignatieff was out hustling for votes all over the country, appearing in swing ridings multiple times. There were clear instances where we were on the right side of an issue but it wasn't moving public sentiment: Afghan detainees, long-form census, illegal migrants, mandatory minimums, deferring corporate tax cuts. It didn't seem to matter.

The Conservatives withstood all scandals
Though there were really egregious breaches of explicit promises made by Harper, of checks and balances in our democratic institutions, of the duty of Cabinet to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, the Conservatives were never punished for it by shifts in public sentiment. They hovered at 35-40% as a cascade of malfeasance poured out of the PMO. And the opposition triggering an election for yet another abuse of democracy seemed to many Canadians a self-indulgent nuisance. Even Bev Oda wound up walking away with an outright majority (54% of the vote in Durham). What message does that send?

The attack ads work
We’ve all seen the polls that put Ignatieff’s approval at around 15%. He was never able to capitalize on the goodwill that accompanied his acclaimation in the spring of 2009. Some of the responsibility for that is his, some is the Party’s, and some belongs to the Conservative spin machine. I was watching TV with my twins and froze the PVR on a frame from an Ignatieff attack ad—red background, Ignatieff grinning and waving in black and white—when Gabriel looks up at me and says, “Michael Ignatieff. He’s not here for you.” My six-year-old. He doesn’t know who Ignatieff is or give a rat’s ass about politics, but this message sunk in for him, and for every Canadian paying as much attention as he was to politics. There are a lot more of those than you think.

Conservatives were prepared for and wanted an election
They had revved up their anti-Ignatieff ad campaign yet again, with more than 4,000 TV spots. This was supported by a government-sponsored campaign for the Economic Action Plan, ads that were branded like the Conservative Party. The tens of millions spent on these ads outside the writ period were not subject to election spending limits, or rebates for that matter. The Conservatives invested a lot of capital in laying the groundwork for a campaign.

Targeting ridings works
The Conservatives were very focused on swinging the dozen ridings they needed to achieve a majority. Whether that meant targeting ethnic communities, wooing veterans or volunteer firefighters, pouring infrastructure spending in, attacking individual incumbents, parachuting in star candidates, trotting out the PM in visit after visit to factory and chamber of commerce events—whatever it took, they were going to add the 60,000 or so votes they needed in just a few ridings to push for a majority. I saw that leaked memo from Kenney’s office and it affirmed that impression.

Once the campaign was underway, I thought Gilles Duceppe could put off our coalition albatross by implicating Harper in the 2004 negotiations. Harper remained consistently on message, and limiting media to five questions per day ensured that. Stable Majority Government. No Reckless Coalition. Lower Taxes, More Jobs. Did you know that the phrase “the Ignatieff-led coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois” appears in the Conservative platform FORTY TIMES? I counted. Ignatieff’s refreshing openness to questions unfortunately led to compromising answers, and a dilution of his message. I felt absolutely betrayed by his statement a week before the election that he would entertain participating in an NDP-led coalition.

The NDP surge in Quebec at the Bloc’s expense legitimized a migration from Conservative or Liberal support to the NDP as a credible alternative in Anglophone Canada. Layton had always polled well on approval, twice Ignatieff’s numbers and always ahead of Harper. His blow to Ignatieff on attendance in Parliament stung. It didn’t matter that the platform the NDP floated couldn’t hold water. Virtually no one looks at those documents, let alone critically.

Back to your question. I did work tirelessly on this campaign. Along with many other volunteers in our riding. We conducted a well-run, on-budget, high-profile campaign that I’m proud of, with an army of over seventy volunteers. There were some glitches and things I’d do differently. But they wouldn't amount to much of a change to the bottom line. Our campaign got more Liberal support than any other in the BC Interior. And we still were in third place and won only 11.8% of the vote. It is a dismal number.

I used to believe the old saw that politics is local. I understand better how our local potential is dictated by the success of the national campaign. In exceptional circumstances we can crack the ceiling of regional party affiliation tendencies and leader support. Look at Ralph Goodale in Wascana. He got nearly half of all Liberal votes in the province of Saskatchewan. But he is certainly exceptional.

I am taking an active role in the renewal of the Party. That will have to do for now.


"Strategic Voting" Sites Don't Work

Please see the Pundit's Guide exhaustive analysis of how the strategic voting sites failed to deliver on their promise: to provide progressive voters insight into the likeliest party alignment that would unseat a Conservative or prevent a Conservative from getting into office.

Essentially, the performance of these sites make it clear that they are unable to provide quality, local, timely data that can achieve their objective. They frequently make wrong, counterproductive calls. They are even dishonest about their performance post-election. Fortunately, enough Canadians ignore these sites that their damage in the last election was limited.

The best thing for a well-informed, well-intentioned progressive voter to do is pay attention to their local race and choose the best candidate. Do not allow strategic voting sites to usurp your vote and misdirect it.

Strategic voting sites to ignore:
strategicvoting.ca (inactive since 2008)