Friday, December 23, 2016

Three Darts, Five Laurels: My First Newspaper Column for 2017

{This is a column that I wrote for the Anahim -Nimpo Messenger, 100 Mile Free Press, and Omineca Express for December 2016/January 2017.  It contains a few brief retrospective observations about the year past.--MC}

Before welcoming in the New Year I have three things to get off my chest--on softwood lumber, electoral  reform and political fundraising---and five Christmas presents to give out (to my picks for the top 5 MPs of 2016). 

First, softwood.  Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Docherty says he’s unhappy with the Liberal effort on the softwood lumber file. Well, I was unhappy with Stephen Harper’s effort on the softwood file:  he basically capitulated to the Americans without making a serious effort to get the promised amount of buy-in from Canadian Lumber producers, mainly because he wanted a deal before the 2008 election and wanted to cozy up to former US President Bush.    Moreover, despite having a stronger basic legal position than the U.S., the Canadian government handed over $1billion of the duties collected from Canadian companies--$500 million to the US companies, and $450 million to the Bush Administration.   No wonder a lot of smaller lumber exporters felt let down, sacrificed by their own government for larger political ends. So, exactly how have the Liberals fared worse than that?  I’m still waiting to receive any useful instruction  from Todd Doherty on how to handle the Softwood file---and see only negative lessons from the record of the previous Conservative government.

Second, electoral reform. I never expected Justin Trudeau to keep his election promise “to make 2015 the last first-past-the- post election in Canadian History.”  Even so, I was appalled that Trudeau and Democratic Reform Minister  Maryam Monsef wouldn’t clearly commit to the idea of a referendum or even a free vote in the House of Commons on proportional representation, just because of the small chance that they might lose control of the agenda and actually be forced to keep the promise that they had so clearly made.  Shame on both of them.

Third, political fundraising.  On this issue, too, the Liberals were deceptive and hypocritical in the same old ways that they always have been. A Chinese billionaire gets around the $1,500 contribution limit by making donations to Trudeau’s favourite charity (which just happens to be called the Trudeau Foundation) and  by offering to pay for the erection of a statue  of his famous father. But we are supposed to relax, because after all it is Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party who are receiving the donation. Tighter controls on financial contributions are now to be considered as unnecessary as electoral reform, because it is now the Liberals who are the beneficiaries!

Here are my picks for  “Top 5 MPs of the Year” for performance in Parliament:   1) NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, truly Canada's "Comeback Kid"; 2) Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, who has been a great Leader of the Official Opposition; 3) Nathan Cullen, the NDP critic for Environment and Climate Change as well as Democratic Reform; 4) Green Party Leader Elizabeth May; and 5) Liberal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

P.S. Here is a link to two editorials relating to electoral reform, which appeared in both  The Ottawa Citizen and The Edmonton Journal 

Happy New Year!