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PM’s reluctant start to a political career

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Gerry Nicholls’s soon-to-be-published memoirs Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCCSee my blog entry about it here.

By April 2001, Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day was in deep trouble. Polls showed that among Canadians he was about as popular as Canadian flags at a Bloc Quebecois convention.

And even his own caucus—fed up with Day’s incompetence, poor judgment and political blunders—was erupting into open rebellion, with some CA MPs calling upon him to resign.

I knew if Day did go belly up, Stephen Harper, my boss and president of the National Citizens Coalition, would be under tremendous pressure to replace him as leader. Indeed, as early as February, Stephen told me Alliance MPs were on his case, pushing him to rescue the party.

Of course, the same thing happened a year earlier when people were pushing him to take on Preston Manning in the Alliance’s first-ever leadership race. At that time, however, Stephen wanted nothing to do with the Alliance, the creation of which he opposed from the very beginning. Stephen feared the Alliance would be more like a Manning “personality cult,” than an “agenda-driven” principled conservative party.


Indeed in 1999, when Manning first proposed the idea of replacing the Reform Party with some sort of “United Alternative,” Stephen told me he was going to wage “guerrilla warfare” to try and stop it. And he did wage such a war.

The NCC spent $20,000 to commission a poll which showed Reformers were deeply divided about morphing their party into a new entity. As Stephen told the media, “These results confirm, that the Reform/UA has become a house divided against itself.”

We released that poll just a few days before Reformers and breakaway Tories were to hold a convention on the question of forming a new party. It was a move which the Globe and Mail likened to throwing a “grenade into Preston Manning’s camp.”

And so, given Stephen’s antagonism to the project, it’s not surprising that when the Canadian Alliance was officially created, he opted to keep his distance, although he did endorse Tom Long who was a candidate for the new party’s leadership.

But by mid-2001, however, the political situation had changed.

The Canadian Alliance was in terrible shape and Stephen was growing increasingly pessimistic about its future. He believed the Alliance was on the verge of complete collapse. And if the Alliance went under it would mean the Joe Clark-led Red Tories would be the only alternative to the Liberals, meaning Canada’s last hope for a truly conservative voice would be gone.

The Alliance needed a new leader; it needed a new champion; it needed Stephen Harper.

So I wasn’t all that surprised when, on June 7, he gave me some important news: He was leaving the NCC.

“Maybe I will seek the leadership of the Canadian Alliance or maybe I won’t,” he said. “I am not really sure. But either way I will be quitting the NCC within the year.”


Of course, I knew he was going back into partisan politics. He had to. But still I tried to talk him out of it. It’s not that I didn’t think he could win the leadership of the Alliance. The question I had to ask him was “why would you want to?”

To which he replied, “Because I don’t want my kids to grow up in a socialist country.”

How could I argue with that?

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Dion’s Hidden Agenda

We always hear stories in the media about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s so-called “Hidden Agenda.”

This agenda is supposedly Harper’s secret plan to transform Canadians into a bunch of gun-toting, bible-thumping, Charter-hating, George Bush-loving, NASCAR-supporting rednecks.

Yet no one ever seems to mention that Liberal leader Stephane Dion might also have a secret agenda.

What kind of agenda?

Well if Dion is truly the ardent environmentalist he makes himself out to be, it’s likely he has all sorts of ideas on how to make our country “green,” ideas he might not be sharing with the rest of us.

So in the interest of transparency, I did a little digging to uncover some policies currently in vogue with the climate-change hysteria brigades.

What better way to find out what might be included in Dion’s “Hidden Green Agenda”?

What did I discover?

Well here are some planet-saving policies the Liberals might impose should they form the next government:

• A special carbon tax on babies.

Yes it turns out babies, those cuddly little bundles of joy, are in the eyes of environmentalists nothing but carbon- gas- emitting ecological disasters. As one Australian health care expert put it, “Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society”. So beware, Dion might be planning to impose a baby tax.

• New divorce rules

According to a “scientific study” divorce pollutes the environment because it splits households in two, doubling the demand for electricity and even water. So if the Liberals win power it seems likely those couples who wish to divorce will be forced to file an environmental impact study.

•  Banning beer fridges

A University of Alberta study says beer fridges contribute significantly to global warming. “People need to understand the impact of their lifestyles,” says British environmental consultant Joanna Yarrow. “Clearly the environmental implications of having a frivolous luxury like a beer fridge are not hitting home.” So no doubt to meet this threat, a Dion government would enact a strict “beer fridge registry”, which would be enforced by an elite police squad specially trained to root out illegal cooling devices as well as other “frivolous” luxuries.

• Mandatory toilet training

American singer Sheryl Crow once suggested a good way to combat global warming was to use only one square of toilet paper in the bathroom. A group called the Worldwatch Institute backed her up with a recent study showing toilet paper consumption was much higher in countries like Canada than it is in India. This startling study brings two questions to my mind: Who dreams up these studies? And is Dion planning to introduce toilet paper rationing to Canada? The mind shudders at the thought.

• New head of state

The greatest international expert on climate change seems to be failed American politician Al Gore. True, Gore has no scientific credentials. But he has something much more important—an academy award. So I would bet that somewhere in Dion’s hidden agenda there is a provision to change the constitution so that Gore can be made Canada’s new monarch. This is a radical change from a previous Liberal plan which was to make rock star Bono Canada’s new monarch.

Of course, it’s possible I might be all wrong. Maybe Dion won’t do any of these things, if he forms the next government.

But I for one don’t want to take any chances. Just imagine life without toilet paper.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Time for political vice tax

Ideally the taxes we pay are supposed to serve some noble purpose.

In the olden days this noble purpose was to ensure the king was strong enough to pillage neighbouring lands. Today, our taxes serve a much more civilized function: to ensure democratically elected governments are strong enough to pillage us.

Taxes have also come to serve another supposedly noble purpose. Politicians routinely use them to induce citizens to act in a more government-approved manner.

Governments, for instance, tax tobacco to stop us from smoking, tax alcohol to stop us from over drinking and tax income to stop us from making too much money. Economists call taxes designed to alter our behaviour “vice taxes.”

And we can expect more of them in the future.

In fact, there is lots of talk these days about imposing a “fat tax” on unhealthy foods to force us to eat better (I might starve to death) and a carbon tax on gasoline to force us to go bankrupt driving our cars. Yet there is one source of vice that has gone untaxed—political vice.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea to impose vice taxes on our politicians to ensure they act in a more voter-approved manner?

Here are some ideas:

– Lying Tax
Every time a politician breaks a campaign promise he or she would be forced to pay a special levy. (This alone would probably generate enough revenue to eliminate the national debt in about two weeks.)

– Too Much Luxury Tax
Politicians who go on “fact-finding missions” that are held in holiday resorts should definitely pay a luxury tax. The amount of the tax would be based on the temperature difference between Canada and whatever destination they were visiting—the bigger the gap the higher the tax.

– Act Your Age Tax
Politicians should get dinged in the pocketbook every time they act like spoiled children in the House of Commons. Unparliamentary behaviour such as name-calling, heckling, throwing paper airplanes and falsely accusing a fellow member of Parliament of watching porn on his laptop, would all be taxed to the hilt.

– Oh Woe is Me Tax
Whenever a member of Parliament whines about how he or she is underpaid and overworked, he or she would pay a special fine which would reduce his or her pay until it equalled the average income of his or her constituents.

– Saying Something Stupid Tax
This tax would be slapped on any politician who was guilty of saying something egregiously stupid; the more stupid the comment, the higher the tax. For instance, the tax Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would have to pay for comparing Canadian troops in Afghanistan to “Christian Crusaders” would be so high she would probably have to sell her windmill-powered car.

– Dopey Ideas Tax
Leaders of political parties who continually promote outdated economic ideas that will never work in the real world should also be forced to pay a financial penalty just to compensate for wasting the electorate’s time.

This could also be called “The Jack Layton Tax.”

Of course, I can’t guarantee these taxes would be good for the economy, but they sure would be good for my soul.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Politicians Need to Improve Their Image

Voter participation in this country is on the decline.

Fewer and fewer Canadians are taking the time to trudge down to their local polling station to cast their ballots during federal elections.

In fact, whereas 75 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 1988 federal election, only 65 percent did so in the 2006 federal election.

Even more troubling is that the lowest participation rate is among younger voters. According to one study, only 22 per cent of Canadians aged 18-20 voted in the 2000 federal election.

This is hardly a good sign for our democracy.

So what can be done to turn this around?

Some think the way to increase voter turnout is to revamp the way we elect our politicians. They argue our current British-style “First Past the Post” (FPP) system, where a candidate can be elected without gaining a majority of the votes, is unfair, unrepresentative and causes Canadians to think their votes don’t really “matter”.

The way to encourage Canadians to vote, their argument goes, is to make our system fairer and more representative; that is replace FPP with some sort of proportional representational electoral system of the sort they use in European countries.

Other people maintain, however, that there is only one way to increase voter participation: make voting mandatory. If people choose not to vote, they should be fined.

Canada’s former Chief Electoral Officer Jean Pierre Kingsley, for instance, was a big proponent of this “vote or else” idea. As he once put it, ““Sometimes, in order to save democracy, you have to do things that might seem to run a little bit against it”.

But both these solutions seem to deal with the symptom rather than the cause of declining voter participation. The problem, in other words, isn’t that Canadians are lazy or apathetic and need to be forced to vote, or that the voting system itself isn’t working.

The real problem is that Canadians are increasingly becoming turned off with the way politics is being practiced in this country. To be blunt, they are not voting because they don’t think any political party deserves their vote.

And who can blame them?

Let’s face it, politicians in this country aren’t exactly poster children for good government.

So if you really want to get Canadians back into the voting booths at election time, our politicians must change the way they do business.


Well, here are some of the ways our federal politicians can improve their image with voters:

· Keep election promises. (Yes I know this is a radical notion, but desperate times call for desperate measures.)

· Resist the urge to accept cash-stuffed envelopes from sleazy businessmen or party bagmen.

· Stop switching party allegiances the way other people switch TV channels.

· Stop attending “fact-finding missions” especially when those missions take place in January and are held in Hawaii.

· Stop voting yourself pay raises, while continuing to complain about how much more money you would make in the private sector.

· During Question Period try to raise the caliber of debate to a level slightly higher than that used by squabbling and cranky five year old children fighting over a toy.

· Try standing up for a principle, rather than simply telling people what you think they want to hear.

· Stop thinking that just because you are a politician you are somehow “entitled to your entitlements.”

I know it might be difficult for politicians to adopt these ideas. But it’s the only way to win back cynical voters.

If you build good government, the voters will come.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Is Canada a Left Wing Country?

One of the myths about Canada is that it’s a left-wing country.

According to this myth conservatism – with its emphasis on limited government, free markets and individual freedom—just won’t sell here, it’s too alien a concept for Canadians to accept.

Big government socialism, on the other hand, is supposed to be as Canadian as maple syrup. Socialism is supposed to define us a nation. It’s who we are.

Even some conservatives buy into this argument.

In his book, Harper’s Team, Tom Flanagan, who was formerly a campaign manager for the Conservative Party, writes “Canada is not yet a conservative or Conservative country. We can’t win votes if we veer too far to the right of the median voter.”

If this was true, of course, if Canada really was a socialist country, those of us who believe in conservative ideals should simply give up. Trying to sell conservatism would be a waste of time. The smart thing to do would be to join the Liberal Party and wait for slush fund kickbacks.

But is Canada really a left wing country?

For much of our history that certainly wasn’t the case.

As William Watson documents in his book Globalization and the Meaning of Canadian Life, for much of our history government power in Canada was more limited and less interventionist than the American government.

Watson notes, for instance, Americans started collecting income tax in 1913, while Canada didn’t introduce such a tax until 1917. Our policy of subsidizing railway construction was actually a copy of a previous American policy. And while Canada did eventually duplicate elements of the American New Deal programs during the depression, our version of the New Deal was more cautious.

If anything Canada’s tradition was one of private initiative and individual liberty.

Of course, that all came to a halt in the late 1960s with the coming of the Pierre Trudeau dynasty. Rather than building on Canada’s past traditions, Trudeau triggered a social and political revolution that degraded our heritage and overturned our historic values.

At that point, Canada did indeed begin to drift into socialist waters – with a devastating result for our economy. Trudeau’s interventionist policies, his expansion of government, his fiscally irresponsible measures left a legacy of high taxes, gigantic national debt and bloated bureaucracies.

Yet, ironically while Trudeau’s economic policies were dismal failures, his political revolution was a total success. His left-wing vision of Canada became, in essence, the unofficial orthodoxy of the country’s political establishment.

Anyone who challenged this orthodoxy, anyone who promoted the idea of free enterprise or individual freedom or less government (all of them traditional Canadian values) was deemed outside the political mainstream, or worse – labeled an extremist.

This is what created the illusion that Canada was a “left-wing country”. 

And it is an illusion. There is a definite disconnect between the left-leaning views of our establishment and the views of the Canadian population as a whole.

And this disconnect explains why Canadian conservatives managed to achieve important victories in the last few decades.

True blue conservative Mike Harris won back to back majorities governments in Ontario; Preston Manning created the conservative/populist Reform Party; Brian Mulroney enacted a free trade agreement. The Liberal Party, under Jean Chrétien, balanced the budget. The conservative-leaning ADQ has emerged as a political force in Quebec.

What’s more, after they occurred, conservative successes became mainstream. Even the Liberal Party, for instance, now supports free trade. Balanced budgets are almost mandatory for governments. And no one talks anymore about nationalizing our industries. 

So much for Canada being a left wing country!

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Let’s Replace Dion with a Carrot

I have some shockingly bad news for Liberals across the land and especially for Liberal leader Stephane Dion. After a great deal of exhaustive analytical research I have come to the indisputable conclusion that the Liberal Party would be much better off if it replaced Dion … with a carrot.

Yes that’s right a carrot.

This common vegetable—currently best known as a prop for Bugs Bunny—would actually make a better Liberal leader than Stephane Dion.

Now I realize this is an unconventional proposition and one that will be denounced by Liberal Party officials, media commentators and most of all by broccoli enthusiasts.

Many of these people will argue Dion is actually much smarter than a carrot. And of course he is.

But my argument is not based on Dion’s intelligence, which is only one characteristic of successful leadership, which explains why so many politicians have succeeded despite having less brainpower than a carrot.

There are, in fact, many other qualities that go into making a great leader.

And what I did was conduct a political science-like comparative analysis to see what happens when Dion goes “head to head” … er, I mean “head to root” against a carrot on some of these key leadership qualities.

Here are the results of my scientific study:

Stephane Dion wants to move the Liberal Party to the Left.  A carrot is good for your eyesight.  Advantage: The Carrot

Stephane Dion is a former academic with a keen interest in constitutional affairs.  A carrot is an inert piece of vegetable matter.  Advantage: The Carrot

Environmental Policy
Stephane Dion has a green plan.  A carrot is actually organic and has a green stem and feathery green leaves.  Advantage: The Carrot

Speaking Ability
Stephane Dion speaks French and a dialect strongly resembling English.  Carrots cannot speak.  Advantage: Slight edge to Dion

Stephane Dion has his Liberal Party members second-guessing his leadership, he is not doing so well in the polls and his party just lost a key byelection in his home province.  Carrots are a wildly popular vegetable and a rich source of dietary fibre, antioxidants and minerals.  Advantage: The Carrot

There you have it. Can’t argue with the facts. The carrot wins hands down. Well it would win hands down if a carrot had hands.

Yet I know despite such overwhelming evidence, there will still be doubters.

“We can’t have a carrot run a political party,” these doubters will say. “A carrot is not even a human.” And yes technically, I guess that’s true. However isn’t it time we set aside these petty biases and bigotries so commonly associated with those of us in the animal kingdom?

Didn’t our mothers always tell us to finish our vegetables? And this is a country, after all, built on tolerance and open-mindedness and on a willingness to adopt any politically correct fad.

So I say it’s time for a carrot to lead the Liberal Party.

One thing’s for sure, a carrot couldn’t do any worse than Stephane Dion.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Free at last! Wherever I am

Originally published in the Edmonton Sun

This upcoming weekend I am giving a speech on a beautiful but isolated wooded estate near Orono, Ontario.

That’s where they hold the annual Liberty Summer Seminar, a wonderful event where libertarians gather to ponder such deep questions as: “What is the nature of freedom?” and “Is liberty a universal right?” and “Where the heck is Orono, Ontario?”


The seminar is also about celebrating liberty. And there is something symbolic about celebrating freedom at a secluded location because when it comes to mainstream political debate in Canada, liberty is essentially a forbidden topic.

Think about it. When was the last time you heard the leader of a major Canadian political party talk about the need to protect individual liberty or freedom? It doesn’t happen.

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper rarely mentions the importance of freedom, which is surprising since individual freedom is the cornerstone of conservative ideology.

And his reluctance to talk about freedom certainly sets him apart from other conservative leaders.

Leaders, for instance, like Margaret Thatcher. When she was Britain’s Prime Minister, Thatcher certainly wasn’t afraid to say things like: “There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”

Ronald Reagan, a former U.S. president and another conservative once said: “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.” In fact, in his first inaugural address Reagan mentioned the words “freedom” or “liberty” no less than 11 times. By contrast, Harper’s swearing-in ceremony address failed to mention either word even once. And in his government’s first Throne Speech, the word “freedom” was mentioned just once.

What’s going on here? Why has freedom become such a dirty word?

Well the answer is simple. Freedom started becoming a dirty word when, under Pierre Trudeau, Canada started becoming a “socialist paradise”.

As Fidel Castro can readily tell you, freedom has no place in socialist paradises.

Freedom, in fact, is to socialism, what SUVs are to David Suzuki. The two just don’t mix.

Imagine what would happen to our political landscape if Canadians started demanding freedom from high taxes, freedom from burdensome regulations, freedom from social engineering and from all the other big government schemes that underpin socialist paradises. It would trigger a revolution.

To prevent this from happening our political establishment , elite opinion leaders took action. They decreed freedom was actually unCanadian.

Freedom, they told us, might be something those nasty Americans value and treasure, but here in Canada we have different values. We want and need the government to coerce us and to tell us how to run every aspect of our lives..

Talking about freedom, in other words, was deemed downright unpatriotic.

But as they discovered in the old Soviet Union, you can’t keep fooling all of the people all the time. Sooner or later, Canadians will come to see socialist paradises aren’t all they are cracked up to be and that freedom isn’t just an American value, but a universal human ideal. Eventually and inevitably, Canadians will begin to demand more freedom and less government.

And that’s a good thing. Just ask those of us attending the Liberty Summer Seminar … if you can find us.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Divine advice for leftists

If political correctness was an official state religion (which it nearly is) most Canadians would be heretics.

After all, it’s so easy to have an opinion these days that runs afoul of the officially sanctioned left wing world view.

And there is a good reason for that: The left wing ideology underpinning political correctness is contradictory, irrational and just plain goofy.

This is not a problem if you are one of those individuals steeped in left wing dogma—university academics, government-subsidized “artists”, Supreme Court Justices—but for the rest of us it’s hard to keep track of what is technically considered “offensive.”


What we need to keep us on the straight and narrow is a guide. Something written down, like a left wing version of the Ten Commandments.

What we need, in other words, is a socialist Moses to emerge from the wilderness—or from the modern-day equivalent of the wilderness, the House of Commons—to bring us rules engraved on tablets or at least on recycled paper.

Since that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, I have come up with my own version of what I call the “Left Commandments.”

And with apologies to Charlton Heston, here they are:

1. Thou shalt have compassion for the poor, downtrodden and elderly, except no compassion shalt be spared for the poor, downtrodden and elderly who are sick and suffering on hospital waiting lists as this would endanger our most sacred of cows: socialized health care.

2. Thou shalt love peace and promote universal brotherhood, except it’s OK for big union bosses to smite or otherwise intimidate workers who wish to cross a picket line.

3. Thou shalt support the notion that no one is above the law, except in the case of Mohawk “warriors” who have every right to defy our laws and shut down our major highways.

4. Thou shalt support official bilingualism, except in Quebec where thou shalt support the government’s right to criminalize the English language.

5. Thou shalt oppose corporations that seek to increase profits, but thou shalt support governments which seek to increase taxes.


6. Thou shalt oppose and denigrate anything associated with the United States and scorn all Americans, the exception being Al Gore and Michael Moore, whom ye shall worship and follow without question.

7. Thou shalt defend human rights, except for the human rights of gun owners, smokers, pit bull owners or any other unpopular or politically incorrect minority group.

8. Thou shalt not whip up public hysteria about terrorism, but thou shalt whip up public hysteria about global warming.

9. Thou shalt solve all the problems of the world, from climate change, to Third World poverty, to Bono’s need for publicity, with over-hyped rock concerts.

10. Thou shalt extol religious tolerance, except when it comes to Christianity which thou shalt mock, ridicule and otherwise malign at every opportunity.

And there you have it, 10 simple rules to ensure politically correct behaviour. Of course, this Commandments thing is not an original idea. I copied it from the Bible.

Oops. I just mentioned the Bible without mocking it, breaking the 10th Left Commandment.

May Jack Layton forgive me.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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American Idol Not a Good Model for Politics

I have no idea who will win the federal Liberal leadership race.

But here’s one thing I do know: the winner will be the person who convinces Liberal delegates that he or she can beat Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

On the surface that might sound like an obvious statement. Isn’t that what politics is supposed to be all about – beating your opponent?

Well actually it shouldn’t be.

Politics should be more than just a politicized version of American Idol.

Elections, after all, aren’t popularity contests. They determine who will govern our society.

Ideally then, politics should be about debating ideas and putting forward new visions and enacting policies that will benefit the Canadian people.

But today these things don’t seem to matter.

Today all that matters is winning.

Michael Ignatieff, for instance, is currently conceded to be the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race.


Is it because of his policies or because of his stands on key issues?


It’s because he’s seen as a “winner”.

As National Post columnist John Ivison recently wrote, “Ignatieff is liked, if not well-liked, by a large proportion of the Liberal caucus because they think he can beat Stephen Harper and help them win back the best job they are ever likely to have.”

The problem with this strategy is that perceived “winners” don’t always win.

Former Liberal leader John Turner, for instance, was a winner who didn’t win. So was former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Ernie Eves.

And more recently there was Paul Martin.

Martin was supposed to be a winner too. In fact, soon after he took control of the Liberal Party, media pundits were predicting he would sweep to power with the largest majority in Canada’s history.

Of course, it didn’t happen.

He was ultimately defeated by Harper, a politician ironically enough many in the media had declared a political “loser”.

Harper, we were told, was too “scary” too “extreme” or too “boring.”

In fact, prior to the last federal election some panicky Conservatives were even pushing the idea of dumping Harper in favour of a more “electable” leader like Bernard Lord

So why did Harper the “loser” end up beating Martin the “winner”.


Harper and the Conservative Party managed to convince Canadian voters that he would bring about better, more honest, more accountable government.

In other words Harper won because he had a platform Canadians liked.

They didn’t care about his personality. They didn’t care about whether or not he was likable. And they didn’t care that the media didn’t think he was a winner.

Winning elections, in short, isn’t about getting people to like you; it’s about getting people to agree with you.

This is a lesson political parties of all ideological stripes should heed.

If they spent more time on developing a coherent set of popular policies and less time trying to decide who fits the winner category, they would likely be more successful at the polls.

I dare say even cranky Simon Cowell would approve.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Why the CAW (really) left the NDP behind

At its recent convention, the Canadian Auto Workers union officially severed its political relationship with the New Democratic Party.

It was hardly a surprising development. The former allies, after all, had been feuding for months; earlier this year, the NDP officially expelled CAW boss Buzz Hargrove from party ranks.

What is surprising, however, is why the CAW is cutting off the NDP. It’s all laid out in the CAW convention paper, In the Eye of the Storm: The CAW and the Re-Making of Canadian Politics.

Are you ready for this? According to In the Eye of the Storm, the CAW is cutting off ties with the NDP because New Democrats are too right wing. Yes, that’s right, Canada’s official socialist party, the party led by social activist Jack Layton, is not left wing enough for Buzz Hargrove.

“The continuing rightward drift of the NDP’s own policies,” says the paper, “and the party’s demonstrated willingness to sacrifice progressive priorities in the interests of short-run electoral positioning, makes it clear we must build a more independent and authentic ideological perspective among our members and activists.”

And when union bosses like Buzz Hargrove talk about building a “more independent and authentic ideological perspective among our members,” what they really mean is indoctrinating unionized employees with ultra-left-wing propaganda.

In fact, the CAW is establishing what it calls special Union in Politics Committees, which will be responsible for “educating CAW members about key issues and about politics in general.”

Not that Mr. Hargrove really needs to worry about what unionized employees think. Under Canada’s outdated labour laws, he is free to take forced dues and use them to finance his pet political causes, whether the employees agree with those causes or not.

And they usually don’t agree.

For instance, a Leger poll conducted in 2003 indicated that 76 per cent of unionized employees opposed the use of their dues outside of the workplace on things such as supporting political parties and other causes. Yet, that doesn’t stop union bosses from playing politics, and it certainly won’t stop Mr. Hargrove from trying to achieve his ultimate political goal.

And what is his ultimate goal?

Well, once again, it’s clearly spelled out in the convention paper: He wants to replace Canada’s capitalist system with socialism. “Past attempts to build socialism have met with mixed results. … But that does not stop us from trying,” says the CAW paper.

Mixed results? That’s like saying the Battle of the Little Bighorn was a mixed result.

The reality is that socialism has failed wherever it was tried. That’s why, as an economic theory, it’s more discredited today than Mel Gibson’s view of Jewish history. Indeed, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialist economies around the world are giving way to economies that emphasize freer trade and freer markets. Maybe that’s why, when it comes to international inspiration, the best the CAW paper can do is cite places such as Bolivia.

Canada is certainly part of the trend toward a more market-oriented economy. As the results of the last federal election make clear, Canadians are getting fed up with the welfare state, with its high taxes, its big inefficient government and its overregulation.

Of course, Mr. Hargrove is daydreaming if he thinks he can really topple capitalism in this country. Lenin, he isn’t.

But what he can possibly do, through what he calls “working class” political activism, and through his subsidizing of left-wing pressure groups with forced dues, is impede Canada’s evolution as a more market-oriented state.

And that would have disastrous consequences.

The world is a competitive place, where Canada is vying not only with the United States and Europe but with dynamic emerging economies such as those of India and China.

To successfully compete in this environment, Canada will need lower tax rates, more efficient government and a flexible work force. Otherwise, our economy will simply fall behind, our standard of living will fall and our country will stagnate.

Mr. Hargrove either doesn’t understand that or he simply doesn’t care. That’s why those of us who do care, who do believe in free enterprise and who do want to embrace the future, must be ready to counter Mr. Hargrove and his left-wing propaganda machine.

After all, we don’t want to end up as a northern Bolivia.

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Belinda: Come clean on the gag law

Published here with the express permission of Gerry Nicholls,
Vice-President, National Citizens Coalition

Ms. Stronach signed a petition against the Liberals’ limits on citizens buying ads during elections. Does she stand by her word? demands GERRY NICHOLLS

Back in the days when Belinda Stronach was still a contender in the Conservative Party, she made me a promise I hope she intends to keep.

Ms. Stronach pledged—in writing—to scrap one of the most obnoxious and dangerous pieces of legislation ever to pass through the House of Commons: the Liberal government’s election gag law. Her anti-gag-law stance was praiseworthy and indeed, at the time, I publicly praised her for it.

After all, any type of gag law is dangerous, but none is more dangerous than one that stifles the right to election-time free speech, a right I think everyone would agree is a core democratic freedom. And stifling free election speech is exactly what the Liberal gag law does.

Enacted back in 2000, this law makes it a crime for citizens or non-partisan independent organizations to freely and effectively express political opinions at election time through advertising. And while the gag law doesn’t outright ban this type of political advertising, it does, through severe and unfair spending restrictions, make it virtually impossible for non-political parties to meaningfully participate in any election debate.

The Liberals will argue this law is needed to stop people from “buying elections” but that’s baloney. The reality is that politicians like gag laws because they are a handy way to silence groups or citizens who may wish to criticize government policies. Under the gag law, for instance, a private citizen who took out a full-page ad in The Globe and Mail to denounce the Adscam scandal could possibly be thrown into jail for up to five years.

Similarly, the gag law keeps off the radar screen any advocacy organizations wishing to put such issues as same-sex marriage, the gun registry, health care, child poverty or the environment on the election agenda. The gag law effectively means only politicians can frame the election debate, at least through paid advertising.

My group, the National Citizens Coalition, has long opposed these types of laws because we believe all citizens should have the right to freely participate in the electoral process. Indeed, we battled the Liberal gag law tooth and nail all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where, despite victories at lower-court levels, we ultimately lost.

In a controversial (some would say incomprehensible) ruling, the Supreme Court judged the gag law to be constitutional. We battled the gag law not only in court; we also sought to convince politicians to kill this horrible law, on the idea that whatever politicians enact, they can also repeal. And so, back in early 2004, we contacted the three contenders for the Conservative Party leadership and asked them to sign a special pledge form that committed them to scrapping the gag law should they become prime minister.

Those contenders were Stephen Harper, Tony Clement and Belinda Stronach, then a Conservative Party star. All three signed our pledge. Clearly, at the time, Ms. Stronach believed gag laws were wrong and undemocratic. Much has changed since she signed the pledge. She’s now a Liberal star.

So how does her new party affiliation affect her pledge to scrap the gag law? Does she still believe gag laws are wrong? Or does she now follow the Liberal Party line?

For her part, Ms. Stronach has always maintained that her crossing the floor last spring didn’t mean she was abandoning her principles. But you never know, so after she switched parties, I wrote her a letter asking her to restate her position on gag laws. I’ve had no reply.

Common courtesy aside, Ms. Stronach has no obligation to answer my letter or to explain herself to me. But now we are in the midst of a federal election, meaning she does have an obligation to let her constituents know where she stands on issues such as free speech during elections. If she still stands beside the pledge she signed last year, she should say so to the voters and further pledge that, if elected, she will do whatever possible to scrap this horrid gag law.

On the other hand, if she now favours election gag laws, she should candidly admit this to voters and explain her flip-flop.

In previous elections, before the gag law came into being, the National Citizens Coalition could have run newspaper and radio ads demanding Ms. Stronach come clean. If we did that during this election, however, we could be committing a crime.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Privatized CBC could make new Friends—stockholders

The friends of Canadian broadcasting are getting nervous. In fact, CBC lovers across the country are staring their worst nightmare in the face, or maybe I should say in the TV screen.

The state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp. — the favorite network of left-leaning ivory tower academics, cultural elitists, and knee-jerk anti-Americans — has locked out its employees.

Now, that might not sound so nightmarish to you and me.

For us regular TV consumers who mainly watch non-CBC programming, the possibility a Nature of Things episode won’t get aired ranks somewhere below getting a hangnail on our list of things to worry about.

Indeed, as long as the lockout doesn’t interfere with something important — such as any sporting event that involves iced playing surfaces — 95 per cent of Canadians probably wouldn’t even notice the CBC wasn’t around.

But for this country’s urban intelligentsia (the kind of people who think subsidizing Margaret Atwood books should take priority over buying military helicopters), a CBC shutdown is more terrifying than watching Don Cherry speak without a seven-second tape delay.

To understand what I mean you really need to look at it from the CBCphiles’ perspective.

And from their perspective the CBC is more than just a mere broadcasting corporation, like say Global or CTV. Those entities, after all, seek simply to entertain viewers with things like reality programs where contestants are forced to eat grasshoppers.

The CBC, on the other hand, is different. It isn’t supposed to about mundane things like making profits or winning over viewers.

No, the CBC operates under the guidelines of a government sanctioned “mandate.”

And what is that mandate, you ask?

As near as I can figure it out from first-hand observation, the CBC’s mandate seems to be this: “We will seek whenever possible to present Canada’s left-wing elitists with a picture of the world not as it is, but as they imagine it to be.”

In other words, the CBC designs its programming to reassure Canada’s chattering classes that Americans are indeed imperialistic and war-mongering, that corporations are greedy and evil, that western Canadians are gun-toting reactionaries, and that Conservative party leader Stephen Harper is, in fact, the anti-Christ.

Some, of course, call this sort of programming strategy evidence of “CBC bias” or “socialist propaganda,” but to those with the proper ideological viewpoint, it’s called “protecting Canadian culture.”

And without that CBC cultural protection, the high-society set would be forced to watch the same crass, mandate-less networks as the great unwashed masses. It’s like asking them to shop at Wal-Mart.

The horror!

And the longer a CBC labour dispute lasts the greater the horror.

Not only would a long dispute deprive CBC fans of Rick Mercer, David Suzuki and Peter Mansbridge, but it would also remind the rest of Canadians of something that has been true for a long time — we don’t need a public broadcaster any more.

Maybe it made sense to have a government-run network back in the days when you needed tinfoil-covered rabbit ears to pick up a grainy image of Wayne and Schuster, but this is the satellite and Internet age.

These days there are all-news channels, all-sports channels, all-arts channels, all-comedy channels, allbusiness channels all available for a reasonable price.

So why should taxpayers pay $1 billion a year for an all-socialist channel?

That’s a questions taxpayers might very well ask if the CBC dispute drags on. This in turn might lead them to demand the CBC be privatized, sold off to the public.

And that’s the real nightmare for Canada’s left-wing crowd.

In fact, they even have their own lobby group called “Friends of Canadian Broadcasting” whose mission, according to its website, is to fight for a “strong CBC,” and by “strong” they mean government-operated and taxpayer-subsidized. Just like the Post Office is “strong.”

If the CBC were privatized, it would probably lose these “Friends” On the bright side, a private CBC would also make new friends — they are called stockholders.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Gerry Nicholls Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

It's a question.