Friday Fill(ibuster): Fade to dark or a new spark?

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Political News Friday, July 03, 2015 View Count = 2125

Friday Fill(ibuster): Fade to dark or a new spark?

Sunset on hill

It's sunset on the 41st Parliament and on Canada's 148th year as a federation. Or is it that new sparks are just starting to fly at home and abroad? We've got a full fillibuster as we roundup the week's democracy news.

The Upshot, a regular (and excellent) data-driven feature in New York Times, had a cool and interactive piece about the role that confirmation bias plays in our lives and in government policy. Worth a read: “One of the best-selling business books in history — about negotiation strategy — is “Getting to Yes.” But the more important advice for us may instead be to go out of our way to get to no. When you want to test a theory, don’t just look for examples that prove it. When you’re considering a plan, think in detail about how it might go wrong.”

Also from the Times this week: while fiscal and economic turmoil bubbles in Greece, Paul Krugman broadens the conversation and asks why there are so many economic disasters in Europe: “What all of these economies have in common,” he says, “is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket.”

And Bloomberg reports that Canada isn’t doing particularly well from an economic angle either—are we already in recession or just headed towards one?

Speaking of Bloomberg, the news agency reported this week on the high number of Conservative MPs who are opting not to run for reelection this year, suggesting that the number of exits does not bode well for the Harper government: “Harper’s dropout rate is 27.7 percent. Only twice since the Second World War has the rate been higher, with split results. In 1993, the Progressive Conservatives lost 40.8 percent of their incumbents and then 99 percent of their seats. In 1953, Louis St. Laurent led the Liberals to another majority despite losing 28.4 percent of the party’s incumbents […]Harper will be without several key lieutenants including Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who along with Harper formed the united Conservative Party; former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who resigned his portfolio last year and died shortly thereafter; Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who quit suddenly this year to join the private sector; and Industry Minister James Moore, who resigned this month citing family reasons.” Neat stuff in here.

Aaron Wherry reflects on one of retiring MP Irwin Cotler’s last acts
assamara rainbowparliamentarian, teaching a lesson or two about the value of the Parliament in the process. And here’s Cotler himself in Toronto Star on how Canada led the way on same-sex marriage: “It is all the more important […] to mark the 10-year anniversary of full marriage equality in this country both by celebrating this instance of Canadian leadership in matters of equality, freedom, and justice, and by remembering the virtues of debating serious issues in a manner becoming of a vibrant and open democracy.” You can read more closing words from MPs themselves in this Samara blog post, featuring a few of the last thoughts from the 41st Parliament.

Other marks left on the Hill: Maclean’s featured a piece for Canada Day on the graffiti that you can find at the top of the Peace Tower: “In an age when voter apathy has become a dominant theme of every federal election, it’s refreshing to see visual evidence of citizens so enamoured with the bricks and mortar of Canadian democracy that they would jump at the chance to make that big climb.” The article makes mention of just one of 148 short first-person films of Canadians across the country doing their thing.

Susan Delacourt was up to her regular thoughtful stuff in the Star on Friday, explaining how political polarization has been bad for politics in America. While “we’re going to hear a lot about the economic middle in this year’s election,” she says, it would also “be good to keep our politicians focused on expanding the political middle, too.”

This week saw some mudslinging at the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, whose recently escalating poll numbers have made him a target. While Maclean’s had a feature on Mulcair’s (previously reported) talks with the Conservatives in 2007, CBC explained why these headlines are reemerging now: “Who's behind the story? […]  Maclean's wasn't giving away its sources, other than Soudas. It did say who they weren't: ‘Neither the government, the Conservative Party, nor Dimitri Soudas approached Maclean's about Mulcair's negotiations.’ That disclaimer still leaves a lot of likely suspects, including another political party in Quebec that would like to undermine the NDP.” And Karl Nerenberg has his own analysis of why this story is making headlines these day.

Meanwhile, still on the orange side of the spectrum, Lawrence Martin drops some historical knowledge on how the NDP has distanced itself from its socialist roots in the CCF—and what that distance might mean for their 2015 electoral prospects: “The policies give the New Democrats left-side girth, but they’re a far cry from the “smash capitalism” days, from knee-jerk, anti-U.S. sentiment, from being in the lock of labour, of high taxes and state planners. It took eight long decades, but the mellowing out is finally paying off. The New Democrats are now close enough to the mainstream that polling numbers show them within reach of the top rung.”

Oh, and wasn’t it Canada Day this week? Anthony Furey over at Sun News was waving the maple leaf with this column about how we ought to unapologetically celebrate this country: “When it comes to our GDP-per-capita ranking, Canada places 20th out of almost 200 countries, according to the International Monetary Fund. If you work hard and play by the rules, you can have a decent quality of life here. We place even higher when it comes to life expectancy. The World Health Organization puts us in 8th place, with an average age of 82. A Gallup poll released in March showed Canada was tied for 15th happiest country in the world. Broken down by population, it means we're happier than 90 per cent of the people in the world.”

Meanwhile, on a far less patriotic note, Lynn Gehl Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe had a damning piece on, excavating the genocidal roots of the modern Canadian state. She also explains why it might be so hard for people to see these roots: “nation states are stuck in the current paradigm, and because they hold the financial power and all that it provides such as institutional power to control people, individuals who are already overworked and over tired do not have the time to do the work needed to learn the truth.  Despite this we need to keep in mind that Canada will only teach you what will serve their paradigm -- even if that paradigm is harming all life on earth, your children’s lives and their children's lives included.  Do not underestimate the role that state nationalism has had on your mind set and practices.”

A few worthwhile opinion pieces in the National Post this week, including this insight from Andrew Coyne about the crucial role of the majority in the granting of minority rights—in this case same-sex marriage. And Robyn Urback took issue with the government’s use of ISIL torture imagery in recent attack ads on Justin Trudeau: “This can be said succinctly: videos of people being murdered should not be used as campaign fodder — not people being executed by ISIL, not civilians being blown up during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, not a plane flying into the World Trade Center in 2001. It is morally vacant, utterly revolting and also, not all that politically savvy.”

Jim HoltAnd, finally, speaking of Postmedia, we were all super pumped at Samara this week to see submissions rolling in for our #CitizenSparks, this week focusing on the way Canadians see their country. You can see some of the submissions on Twitter, pick up a copy of the National Post on Saturday or get ahead of the curve for next week and tell us about your first political act in words or pictures!


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