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Posts Tagged ‘2015 federal election

Is Harper Government playing politics with 2-year Governor General extension?

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended David Johnston’s tenure as Governor General of Canada for an additional 2 years.

Though the Governor General technically represents the Queen in Canada, how long the Governor General serves depends on the prime minister.

The Governor General usually serves about 5 years in the role in Canada. Johnston has been in the role since October 1, 2010.

The end of a 5-year term would come right around the federal election, provided that election is on time. Extending the term is not the surprise; extending the term by 2 years is the surprise.

Roland Michener was the last Governor General to serve as many as 7 years (1967-1974), though a few have served 6 years. Michaëlle Jean, Johnston’s predecessor, served 5 years and 4 days. Adrienne Clarkson, Jean’s predecessor, served about 10 days short of 6 years.

Jean was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005, so Johnston has been Harper’s only pick. Jean was helpful to Harper in 2008 when she prorogued Parliament, ensuring that the Conservatives would remain in power.

We were told in the announcement last week that the extension was also to cover Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. Plausible, but the real impact will be serving through the next election and beyond, no matter which party wins the election.

The fixed election date that Harper and the Conservatives pushed through is designed to call for an election every 5 years. The Governor General’s term lasts 5 years, so the 2-year extension would change the timing so that the two don’t collide.

If Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair is the new prime minister, they will end up with a Governor General they didn’t pick for 2 years.

The presumption for Harper’s decision — besides him making the decision and not the Queen — is that the announcement implies that Harper will win in October … or September or August.

Every politician thinks they will win an election; acting as if that is guaranteed to happen comes across as pompous.

Of course, Johnston’s 2-year extension is subject to change if someone other than Harper wins this year, though expect Johnston to remain for a few months at absolute minimum.


2015 Canadian politics preview

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

The primary focus on Canadian politics in 2015 will be the much-awaited federal election, scheduled for October 19.

Students of Canadian politics might be puzzled at a fixed date, but the Harper Government changed the rules to be on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election.

The election could be called before this date, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated so far that the date will not change.

Stephen Harper is now the sixth longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history. On November 13, Harper marked his 3,203rd day on the job. The prime minister went past the last elected Tory PM Brian Mulroney and Robert Borden, who led Canada through World War I.

Harper’s run will be longer than the Mulroney/Campbell term, but 9 years is often a breaking point for the electorate. The Conservatives haven’t had a majority all those 9 years, but Harper has been visible in that role all this time. Even if somehow Harper were to abdicate in the role to a fellow conservative, there isn’t an obvious successor.

We are seeing signs of an election year from the Harper Government. After over a year without a meeting and many questions about why Harper wouldn’t visit with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Harper finally visited with Wynne in Toronto before going to the World Juniors final.

Julian Fantino was a disaster as Veteran Affairs minister. So Harper dumped him from the post but kept him in the cabinet as an associate minister on Defense (current, not former troops).

In 2 on-camera incidents, Fantino is arguing with a veteran and brazenly ignoring a veteran’s pleading and angry wife.

Both moves were to shore up Ontario support, specifically ridings in the Toronto suburbs — the 905 area code.

In an non-Ontario move, Harper appointed House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers the new ambassador to Ireland. Vickers will likely do a fine job but the timing feels really political.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu, and Forces et Démocratie Party Leader Jean-François Fortin all want to take advantage of the anti-Harper movement. Quebec, the Toronto suburbs, and scattered seats in the West are the best path to victory in 2015.

The Forces et Démocratie is brand new. This is a new political party formed last fall as MP Jean-François Fortin (Bloc Québécois) and Jean-François Larose (NDP) left their parties to form a new party. The party’s ideology, according to Wikipedia, is social democracy, Quebec nationalism, and regionalism.

Of the current 308 seats, the Conservatives have 163 seats. the NDP, as the official opposition, has 95 seats. The Liberals have 35 seats.

The parliament has 7 independents with 2 seats each for the Green Party, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Forces et Démocratie as well as 2 vacant seats.

The NDP losses since the 2011 federal election is a pattern to watch for 2015. Those seats that were mostly Bloc Quebecois in 2011 that went NDP in the last election are seats that the Liberals and NDP will be fighting for in 2015. The Liberals won’t come close to getting a majority without those Quebec seats.

One of those lost NDP seats came when Olivia Chow resigned from Parliament to run for mayor of Toronto. The Liberal candidate won the Trinity-Spadina riding in a byelection.

Even with the federal election in 2015, we know there will be some stirring in the provinces, though 2015 would have a difficult time topping 2014.

Last month, Danielle Smith and 8 other Wildrose Party MLAs in Alberta jumped to the reigning Progressive Conservative Party. You might remember Smith from the infamous bus picture video when she ran for premier back in 2013.

Though more than ½ of the party jumped, the Wildrose Party is still the opposition party in Alberta. Heather Forsyth is the interim party leader. Smith had been the Wildrose Party leader since 2009.

Jim Prentice is the relatively new premier and his presence made the move easier for Smith and the other MLAs. Prentice has made hints that a provincial election could be called in 2015; he was named the new party leader following the departure of Alison Redford. Calling an election is an act that newly appointed premiers often do.

Manitoba should be the loudest province when 2015 is over. Premier Greg Selinger had several NDP cabinet members leave the cabinet in protest in part over a provincial sales tax increase. Selinger will be defending his leader role against Theresa Oswald and Steve Ashton in March.

Current polls have the PC Party far ahead in Manitoba.

Manitoba might call for an earlier election, depending on how the NDP Party leadership race goes.

Of the 57 seats in the Manitoba legislature, the reigning NDP has 35 seats. The PC Party, as the opposition, has 19 seats. The Liberal Party has 1 seat.

Manitoba — along with Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories — all have provincial elections scheduled for the fall of 2015. Since the federal election will also be in the fall, the provinces and territory are making plans to postpone their elections to not coincide with the federal election.

The Newfoundland and Labrador election is scheduled for no later than September 26, but there isn’t a contingency right now to move the election to spring 2016.

The province had 3 premiers in 2014, starting with Kathy Dunderdale followed by Tom Marshall and finally Paul Davis. This doesn’t even count Frank Coleman, who would have won (as the only candidate) the PC leadership if he had not withdrawn due to a “significant and challenging family matter.”

The PCs have 29 seats versus 16 for the Liberals and 3 for the NDP. Unlike other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador has an even number of seats. The Liberals are leading strongly in the polls.

Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are not in danger of flipping. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall of the Saskatchewan Party has 49 of the 61 seats. The NDP Party is the opposition party with 9 seats. In Prince Edward Island, Premier Robert Ghiz of the Liberal Party has 23 of the 27 seats. The PC Party is the opposition party with 3 seats.

The quiet provinces in 2015, barring unexpected news, will be Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia. The first 3 provinces on that list had 2014 elections while the last 2 had 2013 elections.

Speaking of quiet, we’ll have a lot less Rob Ford coverage in 2015. A lot less.

Canada plays host to U.S.-Cuba talks

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

“Learning about Cuba, having some food.” — Jeff Spicoli

The United States and Cuba wanted to get together and talk about normalizing relations. But the leaders of the countries were concerned about meeting in each other’s country. So they needed a secret tree clubhouse where they could comfortably meet without people finding out.

So they picked Canada.

Canada hosted about seven secret meetings from June 2013 and November 2014 in Ottawa (6) and Toronto (1).

“Canada was pleased to host the senior officials from the United States and Cuba, which permitted them the discretion required to carry out these important talks,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper played down Canada’s contribution, pointing out in an interview that Canada did not mediate or direct the talks. Given the buildup to Canada’s federal election in 2015, rare these days to hear the prime minister be so humble.

We learned about the secret meetings when U.S. President Barack Obama announced that his country would normalize relations with Cuba.

“I think it’s very clear that the Liberal Party and Canadians in general have had very positive friendships with both the United States and with Cuba, and to see the welcome steps of building ties between the two countries appear today is a very good piece of news,” Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau said in Vancouver. “I look forward to Canada playing a positive role in bringing together those two countries.”

“Today is a great day for those who believe in engagement as the most effective tool of diplomacy. We should see more of this constructive approach in Canadian foreign policy,” NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said.

Canada was one of only 2 countries from the hemisphere not to break diplomatic relations with Cuba. The trade and travel advantage that Canada had in the hemisphere is about to disappear.

Travel restrictions will be lifted to travel to Cuba from the United States.

Licensed American travelers to Cuba can bring back up to $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol under $100. As for importing Cuban cigars, we still need to learn more information. Short term, Canada will be a great source for Cuban cigars. Why fly to Havana when you pick up some cigars in Toronto.

Again, we’ll have more when those rules are more clear about Cuban cigars. The economic embargo is under the lid of Congress. Given that the GOP controls both houses, the embargo will likely stay until at least 2017.

Canada has had a traditional role of peacemaker, a country that could be trusted to solve world problems in a low-key manner. This is a great example of where Canada has been, which is why you saw the NDP and Liberals as pleased if not more than Stephen Harper.

This act of diplomacy should be a talking point in next year’s debates leading up to the 2015 federal election. This should be an example of where Canada should be on the world stage.

Glad to see Canada play a role in a significant diplomatic mission in the Western Hemisphere. The impact on Canada, United States, and Cuba will be a delicate path that we will see unwind in the months to come.