Monday, July 21, 2008


Over the course of my life, I've been a member of three political parties. Growing up in Saskatchewan, my first allegiance was to the NDP (The Godless Socialists to you non-Canadian readers). It was part of that Churchillian thing of "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart...". They also had the best keggers at University and by far the best looking female fellow travellers.

Then I got caught up in Trudeau-mania in my 20's and joined that crowd for a while. It gave me the chance to meet our most popular Prime Minister on several occasions and whatever history has to say about him, he was still a pretty cool guy and way smarter than anybody else who's ever held that office.

And finally, the sponsorship scandal drove me into the arms of the Conservatives -- allowing me to complete the other part of the Churchill quote: "If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain".

Yet as another famous adage reminds us -- "Three strikes and you're out."

So as a former insider of all of these philosophies, the only thing I really know for certain is -- you can't trust any of these sons of bitches and hanging your hopes for the future on one of them is a complete waste of your good intentions.

Summer in Canada is traditionally the time when our politicians hit the road to meet the people. And luckily for most of us, it's also the time when we hit the road as well, so we're usually not around when they drop by the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, this summer I had the opposite experience.

I hit the road out of "Beautiful British Columbia" about a week after Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell imposed a 2.5 cents per litre carbon tax on gasoline, claiming it was both "revenue neutral" -- (Don't you love that concept? I mean, if it doesn't make any difference, why bother?) -- and would take the equivalent of 700,000 cars off BC highways.

I hate to tell Premier Campbell this, but the high price of gasoline meant those cars were already gone. I travelled through huge portions of his province without seeing another vehicle on the road and stopped at more than one gas station where I was the only customer they'd had in the last hour.

Now maybe there's an argument for dinging the populace for a carbon tax to "help the environment" but you'd think a responsible government might have taken care of their own in-house major polluter (Coal fired power plants) before going after rural drivers familiar with signs reading "Next Fuel 120 Km".

I'm sure it's a policy that gets votes in Vancouver. But it doesn't make much sense or leave many options to people who have to burn a quarter of a tank just to get to a gas station in the first place. And I wouldn't want to be anybody hoping to make a buck off tourists on Vancouver Island, where that's pretty much the only job they've got left this summer.

Once the Olympics don't turn out to be the promised Bonanza for the masses, I think things are gonna get fairly ugly for the Liberals in BC. Way to go, Gord!

I pulled into oil rich Calgary the same day Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach announced a different carbon cap/trade/storage deal I couldn't fathom that would take the equivalent of "a million cars" off Alberta highways. Apparently, Ed hasn't noticed that there's barely a car travelling between Calgary and Medicine Hat now -- or that he's the province's biggest polluter via his own government run coal fired power plants.

His passing the buck on the real problem was echoed at Conservative Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice's "Pancake Breakfast" downtown during Stampede Week that was attended by a couple of dozen people far more versed on copyright than the guy who introduced Bill C-61 to regulate it. It's astonishing that after embarrassing himself by not understanding his own Bill when he announced it, the Minister still hadn't bothered to read up on the issue or figure out how the new laws are really going to work.

But then that's how Canadian politicians operate isn't it? Why apply logic or honesty when audacity can keep you at the trough. Which brings me to Bob Rae.

Bob dogged me all across Saskatchewan, a province whose politicians I'll give a pass because they're part of some new cult I've never heard of.

Formerly the NDP Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae almost bankrupt the place, was worse for Unions than ultra-Conservative Mike Harris at his most rabid and folded to pressure from the greedy insurance industry he'd campaigned against his first week in office. But now, Bob has been reincarnated as a future hope for the Federal Liberal party.

He was stumping the West in partnership with the leader he's working behind the scenes to undermine, Stefan Dion, selling a "Green Shift" program most Western Canadians see as a new method of shifting their newfound wealth back East where the Liberals have a more reliable and in desperate need of cash power base.

But Bob kept insisting Prime Minister Harper needed to become "engaged" in the environmental debate, ignoring the reality that Harper is already fully clear on who's paying his freight and that he gains nothing by debating a born loser who did nothing for the environment during all the years he was in charge of it.

So as much as Bob was championing the cause, you knew that he was really using the tour to get his own name out there for the day when the Liberal leadership vote will be between him and torture advocate Michael Ignatief and he'll look like the better choice in that contest.

But there's a story about Bob Rae that hasn't been muttered much since he retooled his philosophy of government to one which gives him another shot at a free pension for life -- and it says a great deal about who the guy really is, if you ask me.

In the fall of 2003, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson took off on a circumpolar tour of Russia, Finland and Iceland, "using pomp and pageantry to soft sell the best Canada has to offer" as MacLeans magazine reported at the time.

The trip was a certifiable "cause celebre" in Canada, reviled as a pointless airborne wine and cheese party that ended up costing Canadian taxpayers $5 Million and ironically departed on the same day the Toronto Star was reporting local foodbanks being forced to ration their meagre supplies to the needy.

It was a harsh example of the indecent disparities of this country that severely damaged respect for the office of the GG and did nothing to help our own northern communities, where the residents still depend on water sources frequently augmented by raw sewage.

Among those tagging along on that flight were UN adviser Maurice Strong (now embroiled in the "oil for food" scandal) and -- Bob Rae. A former champion of the poor and downtrodden, Bob was opting to pop corks with some folks who might help his career while a hundred thousand people in his home town were doing without so their kids could subsist on Mac and Cheese.

Yeah, that's the kind of guy I want running my country!

And much as it pains me, I gotta believe Stephen Harper is salivating at the chance to go up against Bob in an election, on any issue.

The last Radio talk show I heard about Bob warned me he might be in Winnipeg the next day, so I burned through Manitoba as fast as I could and made it to my home Province of Ontario.

But as I crossed the border into an endless reminder that water-lily munching Moose are a lethal "Night Danger" to drivers, I got my best lesson into how our politicians look at us -- and maybe into why we keep re-electing them.

Each time you cross a Provincial boundary in Canada, there's a big "Welcome to Beautiful..." sign with flags and plaques that's immediately followed by reminders that on this new turf you have to wear a seat belt and drive the speed limit. As if you didn't have to do that before you got to their little fiefdom.

But Ontario takes that concept to a whole new level, warning that speed kills, following too close kills, passing when you can't see kills -- and my favorite...

Anybody like to consider how much taxpayer money was spent coming up with that one, or whose brother-in-law earned a consulting fee, or whose inbred or illegitimate child got the construction contract?

No, I thought not. We're all too used to this stuff, aren't we?

But for me, that sign said it all. Our politicians think we're complete idiots. And by continually electing most of them to office, we prove that they're probably right.

1 comment:

joel s. said...

Guess you could hang some of that Bob Rae thing on me. I remember March 16th, 1981 in Toronto when I invited you to come for lunch the next day at Michael Cassidy's St Patrick's day lunch at the Sutton Place. Michael was the provincial leader of the New Democrats and we were involved in a loosing provincial election battle against the conservative's Premier Davis.

I had received a call the day before from Bob Rae's federal constituency worker informing me Bob would be in attendance and could I assure him a seat at a table with some "interesting folks." This was my task as I was toiling daily paying the bills by doing advance work for the leader's tour. (On the Road with a Politician's tour is pretty much the same as a rock tour...except the media rides the bus with you.)

Well, I thought we might as well give Bob the Saskatchewan treatment and I arranged to "Stack the Table" with the next generation of "Sask comers" now working in the arts and media in Toronto. Hence your invite. Also, invited and present at the table was Keir Brownstone the soon to be Parachute Club bassist, Paul Shapiro the Academy Award nominated Director, Earl Kinzel, my guitar player from Slipstream/ KZL Audio, Warren Carragatta from Canadian Press, plus me in full lunch production flight. All Saskatchewanians with strong family connections to Tommy Douglas and his government.

When Bob Rae arrived,I guided him over to your table and said OK folks lets' have at him. Lets talk Sask and how to win a government.

I have been privy to many a back room chatter about how to win Ontario for the New Democrats, and I had always maintained that Bob Rae was our only current hope and I sensed he could run in Ontario and win. In Saskatchewan, New Democrtas win, again and again!(although recently the philistines have won one here in Sask.)

I, like you, was bouyed by Bob's desire to unshackle Ontario from 42 plus years of Tory rule and Bob had already defeated one tory PM named Joe Clark. Because of this, Bob Rae had credibility then. I honestly believed that Bob was the genuine thing, so much so that we brought him out to Sask later that year to meet party insiders and officials. We all "bought in" Jim, and quietly over the next 5 years we made moves within Ontario and from afar to help Bob into the leader's chair. Finally, in Feb. 86 it happened and Rae won the provincial leadership and the rest is history....well almost. Bob showed his true Liberal roots when one week into his premiership, he backed out of "Sask style car insurance" (thousands cheaper annually) and generally screwd EVERYONE who believed in him.....

From belief to bewilderment in one stroke....Gotta line up with you on that one Jim, as you know, I run away everytime I now see the man! otherwise my tongue will start to fly and not touch down for some time!

Talk about "On the Road with Politicians," just last week BOB was here in Moose Jaw and he gave me that " Do I know you from somewhere look?" from his car as I walked down the street! Yikes, no Mr Rae, I thought I knew you, but I didn't. Now I really do know who Bob Rae is. King of the dirty back stab, and then Run Away...Run Away!