Thursday, December 7, 2006

Some humour in these times of terror

I happen to do a fair amount of travelling as a part of my job. Today I'm in Tampa, where the "Threat Advisory Level" is orange (high) and everyone is talking about the morass that is Iraq, and the bi-partisan committee report calling for the U.S. to get out by 2008 (Mr. Harper please take note).

Travelling anywhere in the United States these days has reached a level of drudgery that has removed any remaining joy from a life on the road. First there's the self-service kiosks which pretty require that you write your autobiography every time you enter the America. Then there's screening process which is now just short of a full strip and cavity search. Today in Tampa and removing my jacket, belt, shoes, watch and other item that looks like it might set security off, for what seems to be the millionth time (I used to joke about taking off my pants, but often as not the screeners now just look at you as if it might not be a bad idea.)

So I am more than pleasantly surprised by Ron, my security screener. Ron has an ironic, glib sense of humour. It starts by his asking everyone to place items on the table and he will place them in the colored bin of his choice (grey, grey, grey, grey or grey with a red stripe). No one is special including the wheelchair bound senior in front of me who is given an especially hard time for having three watches ("How many time zones are you travelling through today?" and "If I by 2 do I get the third one at 50% off?). In these overly serious times even bad jokes lighten the spirit.

My hope is that this is the start of a trend. How about hiring some Disney characters to make security fun for the whole family. Or better yet having everyone trained by Russel Peter's so that they're armed with something for travellers of every race and religion. So here's to you Ron. I hope you get your discount.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Here we go again

So Prime Minister Harper (it hurts to say that) has seen fit to pander to his constituency by reopening the same sex marriage debate and open the door to revisit Bill C-38. While I'm sure he secretly hopes that the vote fails and the issue fades into the political ether, there is the possibility that it won't. And won't that serve him right. If it does, I for one think we should start a petition to make Mr. Harper, Mr. Nicholson and anyone else onside with this ridiculous effort to attend question period wearing nothing but chaps and a cowboy hat. They are, after all, from the west and we've all seen Brokeback Mountain.

Mr. Dion has it exactly right. You can't pick and choose who will have the benefit of rights. If marriage is a civil right then it must be made available to all equally. That said, it would be unfortunate if Mr. Dion forces the Liberal caucus to vote against the motion. Right now, Mr. Dion has the opportunity to build from the convention and Canadians' positive perception of him as an intelligent, honest and ethical leader. Right now even the press are helping him -- James Travers characterized him as a Canadian Tintin. Adding dogmatic to that might not be so helpful, as it would only validate the perception of him emanating from Quebec. And make it much more difficult to differentiate himself from the "control freak", Mr. Harper.

As discouraging as Mr. Harper's and Mr. Nicholson's motion is, Mr. Dion must allow Liberal caucus members to vote based on the wishes of their constituents and their beliefs. That, after all is democracy.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Final thoughts on the Liberal Convention

As a Liberal party member looking in from the outside, I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the convention. I'm a Kennedy supporter, so I'm disappointed he didn't win. But given his focus on party renewal and the fact that his French still needs work, he really didn't stand much of a chance with the party establishment. But Kennedy's ability to act as kingmaker hopefully will result in the party putting some focus on ethics and accountability. If not then it will be obvious to many inside and outside of the party that we've learned nothing. While time has softened Canadians anger over the sponsorship scandal I believe it's still on their minds -- at least it is with many of those I've talked to over the past few weeks.

That said, like many others Dion was my second choice and I believe that he has the potential to be a good, if not a great leader. He certainly has been underestimated and that may continue to play in his favour. Today's poll results certainly underline his potential. And it's validated by my own conversations immediately following Dion's win on Saturday.

I'm also a new newly transplanted to Vancouver from Toronto (my wife is pursuing an acting career out here). We went out for a very late brunch following the final ballot and I asked a few of the patrons of the Red Umbrella what they thought of Dion's win. To my surprise, more than a few were happy with the result -- they despise Harper and generally like Dion's strategy for creating a sustainable economy. Dion was also endorsed by the Georgia Straight weekly prior to the convention, so if this small sampling is any indication he has some potential out here.

What disappointed me most about the convention was the failure to really embrace the grass roots by extending suffrage to the broader party membership. I think the excitement of the convention can be maintained while allowing for broader participation in the selection of the leader and on policy for that matter.

I was also disappointed with Bob Rae's reaction to being outmanoeuvred by Dion and Kennedy. His comment on his decision to free his delegates to vote their conscience was a bit pathetic given his own machinations. I mean here's a guy who openly accepted Joe Volpe's support. The whining's a bit rich, particularly someone who is strongly motivated by his need to be famous. To me that certainly came out in his "all about Bob" speech on Friday night.

Finally, I'm encouraged by Kennedy's resolve in the aftermath of Dion's win. After all while he may have been the kingmaker he still lost. Nevertheless he still exhibits that resolve an commitment to the common good that inspired so many of his followers. So here's hoping that the Dion-Kennedy tandem can exert significant influence on the shape of the party; that the party will recognize that both the party and the broader electorate want reform and that they will all come together to win in the next election.