Categories for Musings

Fear of labour

This is what happens when you let Randy Hiller write your labour policy, Mr. Hudak.

Full disclosure: I practiced labour law, union side.  I’ve represented plenty of unions over the years, radical and otherwise.  So I have a tendency to think Hudak’s strategy – like his anti-foreigner strategy in 2011 – might work in a Southern U.S. state, but not ever in Ontario.  It’s nuts.

He’s not the only one making a strategic error, however.  The Ontario Liberals have been seeding revelations about Hudak’s misguided policy with the media for a few days, now.  They assume that they alone are the natural beneficiary of the controversy.

They’re wrong.  If the ballot question in this Spring’s provincial election becomes the role of organized labour in Ontario, the beneficiary will be Horwath’s NDP.

In two-party campaigns, effective attacks will usually suppress your opponent’s vote, and mobilize your own.  But in a three-way race, think before you attack: the one who gains may not always be you.

 

 


Fare thee well, Heenan Blaikie

Story here.

The winding down of this fabled firm – where I was for a fun get-together just a couple weeks ago – is sad, but not unprecedented.  Goodman and Carr went the same way, a few years ago, for a lot of the same reasons.  Nothing lasts forever, including law firms.

The reasons, as I’ve posted in the past, are not unique to Heenan or Goodman.  Big law firms are dying, much in the way that big media firms are – because of bad management decisions, because of resistance to change, and because of a total underestimation of the impact that the Internet would have on what they do.  I left the day-to-day practice of law, in a law firm, a decade ago, and I haven’t regretted my decision once.  Meanwhile, most lawyers I know, like most politicians I know, are totally miserable.

Oh, and my friend who had an office at Heenan’s in Ottawa? Don’t worry about him for one solitary minute.  He has a name that is much, much bigger than any single law firm.

 


Sexism and statecraft, plus a postscript about manufactured outrage

I’m a big fan of Michelle Rempel and Megan Leslie.  If you’ve been paying attention, the two of them – aided and abetted by Liberals outside the Commons, like this person, as here and here – have been challenging sexism inside the Commons, whatever the source.

The attack on Liberal Chrystia Freeland was pretty stupid. Tory Rempel and New Democrat Leslie immediately got involved, as seen here. Kudos to them both.

As I remarked to my partner last night, this sort of stuff seems to be happening on a daily basis.  Just the day before, Ditherer-in-Chief John Tory was blaming women for their inability to get better pay, and suggesting they take up golf to get ahead in their careers.

(Parenthetical Possibly Related Bit: Is there a statute of limitations on dumb sexist remarks? Well, when I retweeted some of the stuff women were saying about Tory, the dishonest Conservative MPP shouter, Lisa MacLeod, tried to get in the story, and once again raised the admittedly dumb, thoughtless and stupid “baking cookies” cartoon I posted on this web site seven years ago, and for which I apologize a couple times in every intervening year (and out of which MacLeod tries to make a buck).  What MacLeod didn’t post, however, was her July 27, 2007 text to me, wherein she called my dumb joke “funny” and that she thought she resembled “Betty Crocker,” quote unquote. Do politicians ever say they’re outraged in public, and are anything but in private? Say it ain’t so!)

 


Public Image Ltd.

I post this for four unrelated reasons:

1. It’s relevant to current events (cf. what John Tory did to his public image yesterday).
2. Tomorrow Michael Coren is interviewing Clash drummer Terry Chimes, who (like many of us punks, Johnny Rotten included) is Catholic.
3. In the Social Blemishes (pre-Nasties), we met and jammed one afternoon with PIL’s drummer, fellow Albertan Jim Walker. True story.
4. You all needed to be educated about where U2’s The Edge stole his guitar sound (and the actual riff to ‘I Will Follow’) from.

You’re welcome.


In Tuesday’s Sun: small is big

What’s better, politically? Small or big?

Well, a few years back, Conservative MP Peter Van Loan called Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty “the small man of Confederation.”

Van Loan shouldn’t have made remarks about a political rival’s size, of course.  At the time, Van Loan was big enough that he could have applied for his own time zone.  But the then-Conservative House leader was upset that McGuinty had demanded Ontario get more House of Commons seats – along with B.C. and Alberta – due to population growth.

Van Loan was against that notion, then.  (Now that pollsters are saying that the Conservatives may win another majority thanks to those new seats, he isn’t nearly as opposed to representative democracy.)

What rankled many Liberals, at the time, was Van Loan’s characterization of McGuinty as a “small man.”  Calling a political opponent “small” suggests that they lack vision and courage.  It’s kind of mean.  (Although, when compared to the Rubenesque Van Loan, everyone looks small.)

But what if we live in an era wherein “small politics” is the order of the day? If you survey the political landscape, that certainly seems to be the case.

There was the President of the United States, for example, last week delivering his State of the Union speech, and it was all about small.  The New York Times characterized it as “the diminished State of the Union,” and they were right.  For 6,786 words, Barack Obama went to great lengths to remind everyone that he now lacks the ability to do big things.

So, he said, he would go around a gridlocked Congress, and think small.  He plans to “take steps without legislation,” he said, to do fewer things.  What they are, we know not.  The Keystone pipeline, which is of critical importance to the Harper government (and which they have critically mishandled) was not mentioned once.  Gun control (a year after the slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School) received two paltry sentences.

The reaction of the media? The Times approvingly decreed that “big, muscular” government was “a dead end.”  The Washington Examiner and Post, respectively, called it “small bore” and “modest.” Neither seemed upset about that.

Up here, politicians have taken note.  Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats have discarded Venti-sized policies, and are now purveyors of the picayune.  Their latest preoccupation isn’t the Constitution or free trade: it’s ATM fees.  The Conservatives, similarly, aren’t busying themselves with nation-building so much these days. Lately, they’ve seemed most energetic about the duration of cell phone contracts.  The Liberals? They spent a Summer talking about cannabis, but not Syrian genocide or Quebec’s racist secular charter.

Small is big.  The Globe’s Jeff Simpson pithily derides it as “small ball politics,” and he’s right.  But it’s a strategy that has worked for Harper’s Conservatives for years, Simpson says, and he’s right about that, too.

Visionaries, I once remarked to no less than Dalton McGuinty – who, full disclosure, I proudly helped out – “start religions and wars”.  They can often be the most dangerous people in a democracy.

But, as we look around our Lilliputian politics these days, where only political pygmies like Peter Van Loan now wield power, yearning for a bit of the vision thing is understandable.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader who thinks big, and does big things, once again?