Liberal Hopeful Bob Rae Expects Three Years of Recession?

Bob Rae announced that he will be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party today. “I’m running because I believe I have the judgement, the character, the values and the experience to lead at a very difficult time in the life of our country,” said Mr. Rae.

It’s not exactly clear which leadership he’s talking about. If he had said “a very difficult time in the life of our party,” I would probably be in agreement. He and Michael Ignatieff are both pretty strong candidates, but I think Mr. Rae stands a better chance in a federal election. I find Ignatieff to be a little distant… he might very well make the best Prime Minister, but that’s no good if you can’t win an election. I also don’t think Mr. Rae’s much-discussed stint as Ontario premier is anywhere near the liability that it’s been made out to be.

But watching today’s press conference, I got the distinct impression that Rae is saying that he’s got what it takes to be PM during hard economic times. So he’s got some magic plan to win the leadership race and topple Harper’s government in the next nine months or so — that would be quite a feat — or he expects the recession to last a good three to four years, the most likely time we’ll be called to the polls again.

Now this downturn may very well last that long, but it sure doesn’t look good to come out looking like that’s your expectation. Looks like poor judgement, which makes the statement self-contradictory. (more…)

RIP, SUV: Gas Prices Are “Getting There”

This weekend the Toronto Star announced the death of the SUV. One of the reasons this came up has to be the closing of the General Motors truck assembly line in Oshawa. It seems that as the price of gas gets above about $1.25 per litre (or $4/gallon in the U.S.), the number of people who “need” an unsafe gas guzzling SUV drops off pretty quickly. Now these same people “need” to unload their luxury land barges. There’s nothing like a flexible definition of needs.

This is a good start. There’s going to be a lot fewer road trips in the family road boat this year. Some people will argue that this is a bad thing, that families should be able to get out there with their kids to see all that this vast country has to offer. These people haven’t actually seen a family in one of these vehicles. The parents are happily enjoying their time “together” while each kid is in their own isolated space with individual DVD players and noise-reducing headphones. They see as much of the countryside in their basements. Besides, a lot of travel options remain open. Our geography is every bit as dramatic from a train. Better yet, on a train it’s a lot easier to get your kids to come out of their multimedia shells and look at something without risking a major accident. (more…)

Earth Hour: Little More than a Message

Earth Hour has come and gone. Overall it was pretty successful: the statistic I heard was that electricity consumption in Ontario was down by 8%.

What does that mean? From a pragmatic viewpoint, not a hell of a lot. From a political viewpoint, it’s pretty significant. I don’t have the numbers that project the percentage of the population that participated, based on an 8% reduction, but I’ll guess it’s somewhere between 15% and 25%.

That’s a lot of people sending a message. At this point it seems the big environmental problem is politicians. Most individuals get it, most corporations get it, but the politicians, who can actually manage the process of real change, just aren’t there yet.

Maybe having as many as one in four voters demonstrate their commitment to change through Earth Hour will be enough to wake them up. I’m not holding my breath though. (more…)

Making the Best of Afghanistan

Canada has a significant proportion of it’s military involved in a combat and reconstruction role in Afghanistan. In principle, the mission is a good one: get rid of what’s left of the Taliban; help rebuild the damage done by war; establish a stable political system that allows the country to become self-sufficient.

Everything sounds pretty good except for that last part. Try holding a gun to someone’s head and saying “right, form a stable civil state or I’ll shoot.” It’s not going to work.