In the harbour
Welcome, our new Liberal overlords
The Liberals ran a great campaign, so congratulations to Justin Trudeau, all the local candidates, and the people on the ground who did the bulk of the work. You deserve your victory.
I don’t have much insight into federal politics, and have no idea what’s running through voters’ minds. But the scale of the victory — the Liberals swept every seat in Nova Scotia, even defeating the NDP’s Peter Stoffer, who I thought owned his Sackville riding forever — suggests that the citizenry was in no mood for mixed messages and simply wanted the Conservatives out, and the Liberals presented the most coherent option. Fair enough. The people have spoken.
I have fears, however, and I would have had the very same fears had the NDP won the election: I don’t think the dictatorial powers Stephen Harper assumed for himself and the PMO are easily given up. The concentration of decision-making in the PMO, the ultra-tight control of communications, the overriding of the civil service, and the debasement of policy for political ends served Harper well — until they didn’t. Trudeau and his team should see that Harper’s overreaching power grab ultimately did him in. But I’m afraid that they’ll reach the opposite conclusion and decide Harper didn’t wield power adeptly enough, and — just as Barack Obama assumed and extended the constitutional abuses of his predecessor — Trudeau will double-down on Harper’s unprecedented abuse of power.
It’s the way our society is going. All institutions — from corporations to universities to churches to charities to governments of all stripes — are all about branding, message control, centralized power and, above all, no tolerance for dissent.
The complete top-down control of institutions is attractive to those at the top, and makes some institutional sense in the very short term. But beyond the next press release and, just maybe, the next quarterly return, centralized power doesn’t work. The truism is false: Mussolini did not make the trains run on time. The iron-clad grip that Richard Butts has on City Hall gives us a balanced budget; it doesn’t get the snow plowed. Darrell Dexter’s Harper-like message control got the whole province singing along about ships; it didn’t do squat for the underemployed and underpaid. The Conservatives duct-taped the mouths of scientists and protected the flow of profits to oil companies, but they didn’t change the reality of climate change.
We need dissent. We need the internal dissent of the bureaucrat calling bullshit, the dissent of the scientist freely explaining the world, the dissent of the back-bencher representing a local concern that goes against PMO policy, the dissent of an enraged segment of society taking to the streets. To be sure, these expressions of dissent break message, but they bring a wider view of the world, help make governments more flexible and more capable of responding to the unpredictable, and ultimately bring a societal wisdom that serves everyone well. Dissent makes us a better country.
Canada spoke with one loud, determined voice yesterday: the nation rejected Harper and the abuse of power that Harper represented. The very first order of business for the new government must be the reversal of the abuse of power. The spy state must be dismantled. The civil service must be allowed to operate separately from political concerns. Scientists must be freed to speak and publish as they wish. Government communications must be about providing true information and not about message control.
Again, I fear Harper’s centralization of power won’t be willingly given up. It’s not enough to hope that Trudeau does the right thing — it isn’t up to him. Now is the time for regular people to act. In this brief moment as the Liberals form a government, we should all demand that the abuses of the Harper decade be reversed.
The Liberal campaign raised good ideas, bad ideas, so-so ideas. So be it. We can and should debate policy forever. What’s not debatable, however, is the need for a free, open, and democratic government.
City Council (10am, City Hall) — I’ll somehow drag myself there and live-blog the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter feed, @hfxExaminer.
No public meetings.
On this date in 1785, Nova Scotia’s Fifth Assembly, the so-called “Long Parliament,” ended after 17 sessions, having started on June 6, 1770. Explains the Canadian Parliamentary Review:
Although the modern pattern since Confederation has limited the length of the Assemblies to a maximum of five years, such was definitely not the case in the decades following the achievement of representative government in 1758. For example, the Sixth Assembly existed from October, 1785 to January, 1793 with seven sessions. However, the Fifth Assembly stands as the paramount example of legislative duration. Known as the “Long Parliament,” that Assembly endured for seventeen sessions. from June 6, 1770 to October 20, 1785. Questions of representation were intimately linked to such a pattern.
The dominance of the Halifax establishment around the offices of the Crown was maintained, in part, by holding meetings of the Assembly when the country members were least able to attend. In response, country members would refuse to take up their seats and the Assembly would declare those seats vacant, The voters would then select another individual. who would also refuse to attend. A total of twenty-nine seats were declared vacant during Nova Scotia’s “Long Parliament”.
Thesis defence, Nursing (1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Annette Elliott Rose will defend her thesis, “Centering Women and Newborns in Health Human Resources Planning: A Needs-Based Approach to Primary Maternity Health Care in Nova Scotia.”
Sustainable development (7:30pm, McCain Building – Auditorium 1) — Shannon Kindornay, from Carleton University, will speak on “Global Goals: Local Realities — What do the sustainable goals mean for Nova Scotia?”
Girl With a Pearl Earring (8pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — a screening of Peter Webber’s 2003 film.
Social Responsibility (5pm, Loyola 283) — Catherine Ludgate, manager of Community Investment at Vancity Credit Union in British Columbia, will speak on “Doing Social Responsibility the Co-Operative Way: the incredible story of Vancity Credit Union.
In the harbour
Atlantic Concert, ro-ro container, arrived this morning at Fairvew Cove from Liverpool, England; sails to sea this afternoon
Asian Emperor, car carrier, Southampton, England to Autoport, then sails to sea
Budapest Express, Cagliari, Italy to Fairview Cove
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 41
Hollandia, general cargo, Mariel, Cuba to Pier 31
Alpine Duke, oil tanker, Sept-Iles, Quebec to anchor for bunkers
The cruise ships Crystal Symphony (up to 940 passengers) and Grandeur of the Seas (up to 2,446 passengers) are in port today.
I think the message control was a necessity borne of having to motivate and yet subdue Harper’s social conservative / fundamentalist / evangelical political base. He had to give them enough to make sure they would continue to turn out but not enough to turn away the swing voters who aren’t otherwise concerned about social issues. It was an amazing feat, in a sense, to be able to ride the bull for a decade. We’ll see if Trudeau delivers on openness, but being a highly-targeted choreographed machine won’t be necessary for his political survival like it was for Harper.
Thank you for the excellent article Tim. All of us in Canada need to look to our friends to the south and remember that the perpetual good cop/bad cop game has gotten them absolutely nowhere on important issues. The mood surrounding Trudeau’s election is eerily reminiscent of Obama’s election in 2008, when finally, the evil right-wing politician is booted out and replaced with a younger, more charismatic politician who promises to right the many evils of the past decade. 7 years later, we know how that turned out – more secret prisons, more proxy wars, more police state, more income inequality and a lot less hope. I really hope that some progress comes from Trudeau’s election, but I am deeply cynical that any real change will happen unless people hold Trudeau accountable and regularly hold demonstrations and rallies – the kind C-51 criminalizes – on a scale that makes people listen. I was so disappointed to see only about 150 people at the first C-51 rally and maybe 75 at the second (I was at both). It is also kind of scary to think that the anti-piracy provisions in the TPP make ISPs responsible for the content they transmit, which will likely lead to a whitelist-based internet where only authorized content can be posted. It really is scary just how complacent and oblivious people are and how many people think that just because we got our version of Obama elected things will somehow get better, even though nothing really changed in the US. Maybe Hilary or Jeb will set it straight though…
OK now, who is gonna draft a Megan Leslie for Halifax Mayor petition?
God help us we can’t afford another nightmare Peter Kelly term. I heard Savage won’t reoffer so only one choice left.
Who told you Savage won’t reoffer? That’s not on my radar screen.
Megan Leslie will take a rest and find a job outside elected office. Mayor Savage will seek and obtain another term. Nothing much will change. More condos will be transformed from unsold to available for rent. Poor people will continue to be ignored.
And Andy Fillmore will not be changing jobs every 6 -12 months and will try to stay awake on the backbenches in between listening to Darren Fisher talk about a stadium in Shannon Park being a great infrastructure project.
In the interest of openness and accountability the town of Truro placed a small advert in the Truro Daily News on October 10th to announce a public meeting of Truro Town Council at 6 pm on October 19th to present the Financial Statements for 2014/15.
Though disappointed at the obliteration of the Federal NDP in Eastern Canada, like other commenters, I fully understand the «knife-in-the-back» we Nova Scotians got from the dysfunctional and reactionary Dexter pseudo-NDP government, and how that paved the way for this Liberal landslide.
I am heartened to see Tim’s succinct analysis and the many positive comments. Let’s hope the new regime brings some SANE policies to help Canada recover from the Harperite total sellout to the WorldCorp Fascist Cabal.
When you get to the peak it is all downhill after that. By December the country will have a Liberal government in 6 provinces. No more blaming Harper.
Tim, thanks for your insightful commentary on last nights election. You are correct that we all must remain engaged and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire. I haven’t seen any numbers yet, but I believe we had many more young, first time voters than usual. Hopefully, many of them will now believe they can make a difference and stay involved in one way or another. Here are some thoughts I shared with an NDP friend regarding the terrible crash of the NDP – both nationally and here in the province:
First, since I didn’t have to vote strategically, I voted for Robert Chisholm and I was enormously disappointed that Megan and Peter lost their seats. All three were excellent parliamentarians and deserved to keep their jobs. Secondly, I don’t believe there is one reason for the Liberal win and the NDP loss, but it wasn’t strategic voting that made the difference. I remember when Mulcair said, after making a lot of expensive promises, that he would balance the budget in year one, my reaction was, “this guy is toast”. If a conservative slashing and burning budgets can’t get to balance, how can a party committed to reversing the Harper years, manage it? It was simply a promise everyone knew he couldn’t keep. Provincially, the NDP brand was in tatters after the first 18 months of the Dexter mandate and the NDP establishment still has not come to terms with the betrayal of NDP principals that his leadership represented. As horrific as the Stephen McNeil Liberal government has been and will continue to be the NDP does not have a prayer until they get new leadership – and I’m not talking about “a leader”, I’m talking about getting rid of the provincial NDP establishment and bringing in new blood. I’m guessing that turnout among young voters was up substantially in this election and these young people should be recruited and encouraged to help re-shape the NDP provincially – and sooner rather than later.
Well both Marc Garneau and Andrew Leslie, Liberal winners last night, in no way hesitated to make commitments on behalf of their newly elected leader – It was said many times last night that Trudeau does not intend to be a one man show. And I am willing to believe that until proven wrong. I thought Trudeau’s victory speech was his best campaign speech and he had already won. So let us be optimistic . . .
PS I voted Rhino, because I could
Thanks, Tim. Agree completely.
I just posted this. Posted here with American hubris; feel free to delete!
Dear Canada, When Barack Obama won in 2008, defeating the failed economic and diplomatic policies of the Bush Administration, it did not take long for many to feel betrayed by the lack of instant change that ensued. Many of us failed to understand that “Change you can believe in” was to have been OUR change. And too many of us waited for the new administration to make the changes for us.
Please do not make these same mistakes. Trudeau takes on a hot mess, just as Obama did: the mess is a failure to govern in the interests of all and the challenge is the noise level of the interests of each. Some voices are much louder than others: large corporations, banks, the wealthy few.
I have observed that contributing to the noise level by trying to change the way the system works from the top is fairly futile. We can’t compete at that level. We can speak clearly, reasonably, and that yields some incremental response. But understand, please, that change comes from the feet. Our own feet.
Canada is beautiful. You have natural resources worth preserving and not destroying for profit. You have diversity and generosity–we have been the beneficiaries and witnesses to this. You are resilient and awake. Yesterday showed that uniting behind the efforts to rid you of the horrible policies of the Harper government worked. Please do not do what too many of us in the US did: returned to our lives hoping that change would come because we had elected a good man.
In the end, as always, we are the ones we have been waiting for, as the song goes. Change comes from the individual level, from the neighborhood level, from the village level. We change and then the state changes. Government is not in charge, we are the government. We decide what matters.
A friend recently posted that government does not provide freedoms, which is true. Government provides services and makes needs legible. I suggest reading Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott, a book that pretty much makes the case for vigilance at the state level and empowerment at the village level.
And for the record, we love you, especially as you are reflected in our heart-home of Musquodoboit Harbour.
Apologies for non-Canadian hubris in this post.
shame about stouffer and leslie. parliament needs people like them. thrilled about the great, big slap in the face from Canadians to that creature who was occupying and befouling the pmo. trudeau seems a decent human being so we are, at the very least, pointed in the right direction.
Harper is gone!!!!!!!!
Justin Trudeau is in (unfortunately the NDP got caught in the hurricane) and with any luck he will appoint Tim Bousquet as ombudsman.
Now let’s get back to making Canada instead of breaking it.
I completely agree. My feeling all along has been that we needed a minority government (Liberal and NDP with a healthy dash of green) to see us through the next few years of rebuilding. The last thing we needed was more Con. The second last thing was a big majority for anyone. Sigh. But how DO we mobilize to make sure Trudeau gov does the right thing – proportional representation for the next election, for example. Restoration of funding to essential services. Restoration of environmental protections. Committment to mitigating climate change. Respect for Canadian diversity. Getting us out of war zones unless we are there to help keep the peace. And on and on.
Great column, Tim, and comments, Jean and Karen. On Sunday afternoon I wrote the following to my friend Ralph in Ontario who asked me if I was going to cast a ballot for the NDP “with plugged nostrils:”
Yes, Ralph. I’d rather have Megan Leslie and the NDP elected than the Liberals or Conservatives. Since I have that much choice I will exercise it (remembering what it cost to get liberal democracy at all). Moreover, if we can get proportional representation out of this election that will be something worth having. At the same time, I will go on working for an anarchist/socialist democracy, for an end to capitalism and for Palestinian (and Kurdish) rights.
Believe me, I’m under no illusions about the NDP (especially given Tariq Ali’s book on the Extreme Centre). Indeed, I’m scared stiff by the spectre of “global pacification” raised by Jeff Halper (in War Against the People), including its surveillance aspect laid bare by Edward Snowden (care of Glen Greenwald in No Place to Hide), not to mention the pending catastrophe posed by anthropogenic global warming and capitalism’s resistance to dealing with it (Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything) and the prophesying of Chris Hedges. A Liberal majority government, or a Liberal minority supported by the NDP, will do precious little to combat any of this (and will continue to sell out the Palestinians and, probably, the Kurds). Once again, as always, it’s up to us, you, me and everybody else, to get them to move in the right direction if there’s to be any hope at all.
Thank you Tim. Great, great article.
“Canada spoke with one loud, determined voice yesterday: the nation rejected Harper and the abuse of power that Harper represented. The very first order of business for the new government must be the reversal of the abuse of power. The spy state must be dismantled. The civil service must be allowed to operate separately from political concerns. Scientists must be freed to speak and publish as they wish. Government communications must be about providing true information and not about message control.”