"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Friday, July 27, 2012

MacKay Has Become a Political Liability

"Et-Tu MacKay"?
When the Reform/Alliance party and Progressive Conservatives decided to cohabitate in 2003, Peter MacKay had only just been crowned Lord of the PCs. He had won that leadership race by promising David Orchard, another PC leadership hopeful that he would never, ever, ever, ever, in a million years negotiate amalgamation with Stephen Harper and the dreaded Western radicals. Based on this promise, Orchard threw his weight behind MacKay and the added numbers pushed  him to victory. The problem is, MacKay lied. 

The after-glow from his victory had barely faded when MacKay entered into negotiations with Harper and the stage was thusly set for the weak and withering PCs to be cannibalized by the predatory Reformites. MacKay, declining to vie for the captaincy of the new team, paved the way for Steve the Evangelical Christian Fundamentalist to become the Once and Future King. But Savvy Steve realized from the get-go that even though his Reformites were the alpha-dogs in the New Conservative Party, MacKay carried some weight in that he still represented the minority PCs - those unfortunate individuals who suffered under the delusion that Harper was an equal opportunity employer. The Reverend Steve needed the old PCs to continue to be deluded until such time that he could collar and neuter them. To that end, he gave MacKay positions of power and influence first in his shadow cabinet and later in his actual cabinet when the Reform-Conservative conglomerate won it's first minority government in 2006. 

Belinda Stronach
Given the Machiavellian way in which MacKay betrayed his old party, Harper - himself an adherent of The Prince- probably felt it best to keep one so capable of treachery content and close at hand- likely remembering the old adage about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. To Harper, anyone not in his inner circle was an enemy. But Harper should have noticed something was amiss as far back as 2004 when MacKay was dating the lovely automobile heiress and co-Conservative, Belinda Stronach. Stronach had figured out pretty early in the game that there was only room for one voice in the New Conservative Party and that was Harper's. She subsequently crossed the floor into the open arms of Paul Martin's Liberal party and into an instant cabinet position. MacKay's reaction was, to say the least, embarrassing

A Boy and His Neighbor's Dog
Upon hearing of his girlfriend's defection to the Liberals, MacKay reportedly flew in to a frenzied rage. Then, like a jilted school-boy, he returned to his home riding to mope. Heart rendering, staged pictures surfaced of a long-faced, broken hearted MacKay being consoled by his ever faithful dog. Problem is, MacKay doesn't own a dog. Back in Parliament, when MacKay was asked about the pooch by opposition members, he pointed to Stronach's empty seat and said: "you already have her". MacKay never owned up to, nor apologized for the derogatorily childish remark. His behaviour was nothing less than an embarrassment to the new Reform-a-Con party. 

MacKay believes he is treating "Condi"
to a unique Canadian dining experience. But
unbeknownst to Peter, there are over 600
Timmies outlets in the States
When the Reformites finally won an election in 2006, albeit with a minority, MacKay was dubbed "Minister of Foreign Affairs", a position of reasonable responsibility in the Harper Government. To say that MacKay was, for the most part, ineffectual in this position, is an understatement. His major accomplishment while in Foreign Affairs was to treat U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice to Coffee at a Nova Scotia Tim Horton's. But the relative comfort the two seemed to have in each other's company led many rumor-mongers to suggest that MacKay and Rice had a "thing" for each other. Given his track record with women, the story might not be too far from the truth. 

In 2007, MacKay was shuffled to the Ministry of Defense, a position which better suited his "manly" image. MacKay liked to dress up in camouflaged out-fits, hang out with soldiers and take helicopter rides, even if it was just to go fishing. 

In 2010, MacKay attempted to renegotiate the free lease for Camp Mirage, Canada's "secret" military base in The United Arab Emirates. The folks in the UAE were more than willing to let Canadian troops continue to use the base free of charge as they had done since 2001. But in return, they wanted their national airlines to have increased access to Canadian airspace. To MacKay, this seemed like not such a bad deal. But it was promptly nixed by Harper who apparently has a thing about doing business with Arabs ( though he apparently has no qualms about doing business with various other totalitarian states. Maybe it's just that he can relate to them better). But Harper subsequently pulled some outlandish numbers out of his magic hat saying that a deal with the Emirates airlines would cost Canadians tens of thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars. He never accounted for those bizarre figures.

But with MacKay's bomb-shell of a deal effectively nuked by Harper, he returned to Ottawa in a particularly petulant mood. In yet another embarrassing display of immaturity unbecoming a Minister of State, MacKay was seen wearing a "Fly Emirates" baseball cap, an obvious "screw you" message to his boss.

"So Peter, does this thing come with engines"?
So MacKay set to work on what had become a government priority, namely upgrading the Canadian Armed Forces into a modern fighting force (as opposed to it's more traditional Peace Keeping role). To this end, MacKay set about procuring more and more up to date military technology and machinery for every arm of the Canadian Forces. The sum total of all of these procurements, from trucks to ships to stealth fighters was to cost Canadian tax payers billions upon billions of dollars. And in every instance, MacKay has either screwed up, misrepresented or outright lied about the true cost of each of his "deals". The most notable was his underestimating the cost of Canada's new Stealth Fighters by $10 billion. And not only did he lie about this snafu, he concealed his foul up, even as the country was heading into an election in May of 2011. During the campaign, the Harperites continued to push the original estimate of $14 billion for the cost of the 65 war-birds, even though they knew the estimate was off by almost half. 

But this was not the first time MacKay had lied or conspired to withhold the truth....aside from his betrayal of the PCs that is. In 2007, it had come to light that Canadian Forces were handing over captured Afghan detainees to local authorities, knowing they would likely be tortured. Harper of course, ranted in Parliament and damned anyone who questioned our men and women in uniform as being un Canadian and of siding with the Taliban. Of course, the more information that was revealed, the more likely it became that Harper and MacKay were both complicit in the torture of detainees because they knew it was happening and did nothing about it. So it is now possible that the International Court of Justice may seek charges against MacKay and Harper as war criminals, much as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are considered as war criminals by many in the international community. 

And as it seems that every day that goes by reveals yet another botched military procurement, lets not forget MacKay's  "St. Jean Baptiste Day" speech at the French Embassy in Ottawa where he proudly proclaimed that the French and English had fought side by side against the Americans in 1812. Not only was this un-true, but the fact was, England was at war with France in 1812 and if anything, the French supported the American war effort. So it seems that not only is MacKay not very good at buying things, he is not too up on his Canadian History, especially on facts that are commonly known to most grade seven students in this country. 

Ms. Afshin-Jam MacKay, a vocal critic of the 
Governments position on Omar Khadr
Oh, and MacKay's woman trouble seems to have continued as well. He fell for and subsequently married Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a former Iranian Beauty Queen and model earlier this year. Recently, the outspoken wife of the Defense Minister publically stated, contrary to the Government of Harper's position, that Omar Khadr, the Canadian Citizen being detained in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, should be repatriated immediately. One wonders how the petulant MacKay will reconcile that public relations faux-pas with his Boss. Perhaps he has a "Free Omar" ball cap he can wear to the next caucus meeting. 

When one looks at MacKay's track record of failures, miscues, misdeeds, cover-ups and out-right lies since becoming a Minister of the State, not to mention his immature, juvenile behaviour, it is now well past the time for Harper to cut his losses with this national embarrassment. The Prime Minister had no difficulties showing Bev Oda the door earlier this summer for making the party look bad and costing tax payers thousands of dollars. By comparison, MacKay is costing Canada billions in un-accounted for dollars and is continually making the Government look ridiculous both at home and on the world stage. What ever political advantage Harper had in Keeping MacKay around is now lost as even die-hard Red Tories and old school PCs would not be upset to see the screen door hit him in the back-side as he's ushered from cabinet. Regardless of old loyalties (something of which MacKay knows nothing), when a long standing member of the party is seen to be doing it more harm than good, it's time for those loyalties to be put aside and ties to be severed.  MacKay the Machiavellian would have no trouble with this. Neither should Harper.

"Throw in cigarette lighters and AM/FM radios
 and I'll take 65 of these babies".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Is the Dutch Disease Theory Really a Wedge Issue?

Alberta Oil Refinery
This past Spring, newly-minted NDP leader Thomas Mulcair introduced the notion of "Dutch Disease" in relation to the Canadian economy. Simply put, he meant that the booming oil economy in Alberta is inflating the Canadian dollar which in turn, is negatively impacting the manufacturing sector in the rest of the country, particularly Ontario which, once upon a time, was the economic engine of the country. 

Almost on cue, the western-centric Reform/Conservatives,sensing an attack on their economic and political base, lashed out at Mulcair saying his comments were not only faulty, but divisive (talk about the pot calling the kettle black). They even released their first attack add aimed at the NDP leader, claiming his theories were "risky" and that he is promoting "dangerous economic experiments". 

In June, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  released a report that in essence, lent credence to Mulcair's assertion, saying that the Government needs to do more to promote the "non-resource" sector of the economy in order to maintain a higher employment rate and a more even distribution of wealth across the country. 

Gotta build us a FIREWALL around Alberta
Since then, there has been nary a word from the Reformists about "dangerous economic experiments" but they have certainly kept up their stinging mantra about Mulcair's comments being divisive and "anti-west". As with their misleading  commentary about the legitimacy of coalition governments, usual CPC operating procedure is to repeat the same erroneous statement over and over again until it becomes believable - believable at least, to the uninformed and the CPC's Reformist base. 

But were Mulcair's comments divisive? Were they an attack on the west? It was certainly easy for many Canadians to jump on that band wagon, claiming that the "Bearded Wonder" was no better than Harper in his use of the politics of division, pitting Alberta against Eastern Canada which in itself, is a festering rivalry reminiscent of the Hadfields and the McCoys. The Reformists of course, were only too happy to fan those flames. But why is applying the Dutch Disease theory to Canada divisive? 

No where in Mulcair's comments was he using an accusatory tone with regard to Alberta and why should he? Is it Alberta's fault that someone discovered oil in their back yard? Is it Alberta's fault that this find is causing their economy to boom? Of course not. Nor is it their fault that their good fortune, just happens to be having a negative impact on the manufacturing sector. It's a side effect of the oil boom, but certainly not one that was foreseen or was intentional. And I can find no where in Mulcair's theories where it says that Alberta should stop being prosperous. No, his is merely a statement of possible fact in relation to a theory that may actually have some merit. It has no blame what so ever attached to it.

In simple terms, this situation is not unlike two neighbours living side by side. For years, one has been cultivating and nurturing an Oak tree in his back yard. Finally, after much patience, the Oak matures into a beautiful shade tree, one that would certainly add to the value of the owners property. The problem is, the branches spread out over the property line and deposits leaves and other debris in the other neighbour's yard. It is certainly not the tree owner's fault that his Oak is creating a problem for the guy next door. But it is a problem none the less. Will hurling insults over the fence line at each other solve the issue? Certainly not. So how do good neighbours collaborate to resolve the issue in a way that's acceptable to both property owners? 

It is not a bad thing then, that Mr. Mulcair had the courage to raise this Dutch Disease issue. It was a simple statement of the facts as he see's them, with no actual blame attached to them. So how then, does Western and Eastern Canada work together as good neighbours to resolve this potential problem in a way that is mutually beneficial?   Certainly not by being defensive and assigning guilt, but through understanding and negotiation. The way Canadians usually solve their problems.