Tuesday, 25 September 2012

For the love of God, McGuinty - Step Down!

The flaky, smarmy, paternalistic, teflon man who has been premier of Canada's most populous province for nine years and leader of his party for sixteen - sixteen years -must do all Canadians a favour and quit, preferably tomorrow.

If he doesn't, he will be taught the same lesson that Jean Charest (nine years in power, fourteen years at his party's helm) received here in Quebec on September 4th.  That lesson is that even an unlikable and untested opposition leader is preferable to another period of undetermined length filled with empty platitudes, zero leadership, and pathetic partisanship from a well-intentioned but incompetent and arrogant preem.

It is perhaps not his intention to be arrogant.  Perhaps that austere, modest Ottawan concerned with the downtrodden and the everyman image he has worked so carefully to cultivate is in fact genuine.  But his assumption that the citizens of his province should still care after all this time in fact demonstrates the grandest arrogance that exists, whether he realizes it or not.

My personal hope is that the ridiculously stupid decision to cancel two power plants will go down in history as the sword this government fell on. At the cost of a quarter of a billion dollars and counting, in a province already struggling with a 15 billion structural deficit and limited ability to generate tax revenue (not to mention in need of new power generation sources), it is colossally indefensible.  Unless you consider a pathetic bid to please suburbanites and hold onto power a worthy political action.  It is symptomatic of a government that perpetually speaks out of both sides of its mouth and is appropriate for them to be put to rest on.  Teflon has managed to convinces Ontarians that someone who claims to be about education yet doubles tuition fees, who claims to wish for a "green economy" yet bails out auto manufacturers and presides over the most intensive car dependent suburban expansion in the provinces' history, is a perfectly legitimate political leader.  That a government that "cares" about transit and has managed to build zero subway stops in ten years, despite the worst traffic of all time, and a government that suddenly that asks public sector workers to "do their part" after blithely increasing all their wages to six figures for ten years against a backdrop of anemic to negative economic growth, is somehow a "prudent" choice.

Well, things are going to get worse before they get better now that all that water has flowed under the bridge, so why doesn't Teflon get out while the getting's good?  Or is he really that keen to sacrifice his entire reputation and go down in history as the premier who chased the province around and around the toilet bowl?

It's not that the Ontario Liberal party is a wasteland, unlike its federal counterpart.  There are actually some pretty damn smart women who could revitalize it and make it relevant again.  42 year old whippersnapping lawyer and education minister Laurel Broten or phd-holding no-bullshit Health minister Deb Matthews are two names that come to mind.  But of course party renewal/regeneration and new ideas are the last thing father-knows-best, Bob Saget Dalton and his bumbling idiot collection of now deposed scandal-ridden yes-men (all men) like Smitherman and Caplan want.  And it is to these respectable women's discredit that they do not start a revolt against him.  The leadership cult culture of modern political parties in "democracies" has all but ensured that the vast majority of our elected representatives have no vehicule to put forward their smarts or use their talents.  The inclusion of women and minorities has been purely symbolic.

Instead, we have to endure this Teflon man for how much longer, already? 1996 is when he stepped on the scene.  To put that in perspective, that is when the internet was still referred to as the "information superhighway".  Apple was nearly bankrupt.  George Clooney was Batman. Microsoft used Start me up by the Rolling Stones for its Windows 95 ad campaign, and Bill Clinton used Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop for his re-election campaign, and these musical choices were actually considered "hip".  That's how long ago 1996 was, for Christ's sake.  Please step aside, Dalton.  It is the only redeeming action left for you to take. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Montreal 1976

Last night, the Parti Québécois won a minority government and Pauline Marois became Québec's first female premier (something that neighbouring Premierdadistan Ontario has yet to experience).  And against my own better judgement, I spent the several hours that followed the result on comment boards of Canada's English media outlets, reading about how home values are going to collapse, english is going to be outlawed, and a backed up convoy made up of the few businesses, entrepreneurs, and upright anglophones this poor basket case of a province had left was already forming on the 401.  Unfortunately, it seems that one of Canada's national sports is to make disparaging comments about La Belle Province on heavily read internet sites, in total anonymity.  And I wouldn't deplore this fact if the scenario I described above had anything remotely  to do with reality, which it doesn't.

Sure Mme. Marois' campaign left a lot to be desired.  You won't get me riled up about burkas (who gives a shit?) or French in the workplace.  Who cares if someone from India at work speaks English to me? I speak English.  If we didn't speak french, neither of us would have got the job, and we work for a fairly large corporation, so obviously there is no anti-french private sector conspiracy here.  I agree with the PQ that it's shitty for immigrants to come here and try to live 100% in English when there's 9 other provinces they can go to, but at some level (conversations between private individuals) there comes a point where state-mandated language laws become fascist.  Besides, the only free school for immigrants is in French (hence all the little children of South Asian parents running around Parc Extension's little streets yelling at each other in French).  This is why no media outlet could scrape together any enthusiasm for the PQ at the beginning of the campaign.  It doesn't matter to them that Marois has since stated that anglos were here from the start and she's down with them 100%.  Either way, I'm not scared of her.

The real scary thing, if you ask me, was these same newspapers continually boosting the "stability" and "experience" of Jean Charest's Liberals.  That that party received nearly as much of the popular vote as the PQ is even scarier than a PQ government for me, because the population voting for them is so asleep at the wheel that they're willing to look past corporate bailouts, mafiosos, asbestos, fracking, and all the no-bid, price-fixing bullshit that is entrenched in Quebec politics under 9 years of Liberal rule .  This just might have been the most corrupt government in Canadian history.  The National Assembly for the past few years has been nothing more than a revolving door between assorted corrupt entities and layers of Quebec society. www.liberaux.net will tell you everything you need to know.

Yet somehow, this Liberal government that increased the province's debt (the highest in Canada) by 33% in 9 years was the "stable and prudent" choice.  Charest just expected people to vote for him and his usual Captain Canada bullshit routine and usually astute political observers in the news media and the blogosphere (I'm looking at you, Garth Turner and Gordie Canuk) gave him a free pass because they didn't want to be caught dead associating with the francophone parties (who all have "nationalist" elements to them, in that they wish for French to survive).  The whole English (Charest didn't give a French interview for the last two weeks of the campaign)/immigrant/Canada flag pandering may please the Globe and Mail and old-school deluded Trudeau liberals, but obviously Quebec voters didn't feel the same way.

Nobody is going to leave here to go to Ontario.  The English population is older than the French population.  Both provinces have 8 unemployed for each vacant post (of which there are many).  The people who know there is big money in AB and SASK are already gone and people who aren't are obviously staying here due to a slate of other factors other than provincial GDP that have to di with quality of life.  Car insurance, houses, rent, tuition and electricity are all way more expensive in Ontario (although food and gas is a bit cheaper), and Ontario is grappling with a way bigger deficit than Quebec right now.  And the truth is, real estate prices should (and hopefully will) fall here.  They are lower than the rest of Canada's, but have increased at an equally unsustainable rate based on cheap credit and not improving underlying economic fundamentals.  So here's to a Quebec real estate decline.

When cassandra's are screaming doom and bloody murder, experience tells us that that is when smart people take calculated risks.  If you moved here after previous PQ elections and bought (in '76 and '94) you would have made a killing in real estate by now.  Of course, that involves tuning out the mainstream claptrap and doing your own analysis - it's hard because we are the species that lined up to pay $100 for enron and nortel because it was "smart".  Most people lamenting this province's swirl down the toilet bowl obviously haven't been here lately to see the packed restaurant patios, teeming university campuses, hordes of hot chicks riding their bikes down busy streets, and scores of hotels with healthy occupancy rates across the island of Montreal.  Sure you have that on College street in Toronto but you need 2 grand to rent a place there or a million to buy.  Here there is great opportunity and great value, as you can live in prime areas for less than half those amounts, and access poutine, cheap unibroue and street level fruit markets at all hours.  So I am not shedding tears for this province's future after September 4, 2012.  This is a totally different ball game from November 1976.