Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sask. leaders' debate observations

Last night, the Saskatchewan election leaders' debate took place in Regina between Brad Wall (Sask. Party), David Karwacki (Liberal) and Lorne Calvert (NDP and incumbent premier).

Here is what I noticed last night, written in point form:
1. The format of the debate must have ticked a lot of people off.
      While the statement speeches were handled quite well, I felt that the bickering that occurred during the actual debate times must have turned off people who already had a hunch that politics is 'skum-bag' sport.
2. Brad Wall focused much more on the NDP's history and his independent review than his actual policy.
      Last night, Wall focused on two broad points: a) his platform has had an independent review by an economist (and that economist said it was balanced); and b) Saskatchewan pretty much is falling apart under Calvert. However, Wall really didn't mention much about his exact ideas and—for the ones he did bring up—how those ideas will make Saskatchewan better. I think if people should know exactly what this change that's being proposed to them is, and how this change is actually constructive and will make everyone's lives better (i.e. that the change is not like switching from sugar-packed Lucky Charms cereal to sugar-packed Captain Crunch cereal).
3. David Karwacki did surprisingly well.
      While I am in no way handing my support to Karwacki's platform, I was surprised how well Karwacki did in the debate. He didn't seem like the unelected leader of a third party who-has-no-current-MLAs type of guy. He did truly seem like a real contender who has a good chance.
4. Lorne Calvert ought to have made the point more clearly that the boom was started under his government.
      While Calvert did mention several times that Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom and has increased prosperity, I never actually heard him take credit for that. The job boom logically means that there is more jobs, meaning that either companies are starting here or are expanding here, meaning that the business climate is good here, and since the jobs are getting filled, it means that people have a desire to live here. That is definitely something worth taking credit for; all of this did happen under this NDP government.
5. Karwacki was fixed on Saskatoon.
      While Wall and Calvert gave a pretty provincial take on things and issues, Karwacki's points were very much Saskatoon-centric. He was talking about Saskatoon crime, Saskatoon traffic and infrastructure, Saskatoon as a young people magnet, and Saskatoon people who he talked to during the campaign. While it is true that his own constituency where he is running is in Saskatoon, and his party's only real shot is in some select Saskatoon constituencies, it really doesn't make him look fit to be a party leader—never mind a premier—who actually has the interests of such foreign places like Estevan and Regina in mind (kinda reminds me of Gilles Duceppe's 'geographical bias').
6. The taped questions by Saskatchewan residents often had a bias against the NDP.
      I noticed that many of the questions asked by the people had a strong, obvious bias against the status quo (a.k.a. the NDP). For instance, one guy from Swift Current said that the roads in Saskatchewan are terrible and that it's impossible to drive somewhere without stuff falling off your car. Since it's currently the NDP who is in charge of the roads, and is backing up their track record on highways, that question is completely out of line. The question itself shouldn't have a political position.

And finally my number seven point, which, while not really having much to do with anything, is something I still think should be said for those who missed the debate. I noticed that after the first question (which was asked by an older guy in Regina with the subject of what are you damned politicians going to do with my hard-earned money), Karwacki actually laughed a bit (this was caught on tape because he was the first one to answer the question). I think this was because, with absolutely no offence to the questioner, the guy did have a kind of 'funny' or 'different' voice/vocal expression. I am not at all saying that Karwacki is losing all electoral chances to do this, but it does make him look like a snobby jerk.

Despite my above points, there was enough substance in last night's debate. However, I do not believe that there was an actual winner; no one really screwed up or said anything down-right stupid. A week until the election … isn't it all so exciting?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UN moving to Montreal? C'est possible.

Originally reported in Montréal's La Presse newspaper, but reproduced in Montréal's English-language paper The Gazette, officials from the City of Montréal, the Québec government, and the Government of Canada have been lobbying the United Nations to move its headquarters from New York City to Montréal.

This whole story started when the United Nations decided that its buildings in New York needed to be significantly renovated. They discovered that this would cost $1.9 billion. Canadian officials devised a plan to give the United Nations a chunk of land in Montréal's Old Port that is nine times bigger than its current lot—with a whole new block of buildings on it—for less money than it would cost to renovate its current infrastructure in New York. (Even though it's in a popular tourist district, this particular section is "well removed from tourists".)

I believe that this would be a great move for the United Nations. Montréal is a truly bilingual city, which would be a great compliment to its two official working languages policy (the two languages being English and French). Montréal is also located, at least at the moment, in Canada, which is a lot less repulsive place for the UN to be than the United States.

Looking at it from our perspective as Canadians, this would bring a lot more attention, fancy diplomatic people, money, and quite possibly even more influence to Canada.

While Canada's proposal would still save the UN money, I strongly believe that it needs to be made even more attractive. Canadian officials need to mount an international campaign underlining that Canada is a much more 'authentic' home for the United Nations than is business, money-oriented New York in the cocky United States of America. Montréal has culture, life, and diplomacy ringing through its streets; that's what we have to present to the UN member-nations, as well as the UN itself. (It also wouldn't hurt to make it even more financially cheap for the UN.)

Just FYI, the New York renovations aren't set to start until the spring, so we still have some time to pitch our idea.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Election over throne speech?

My answer: quite likely. Here is what I think each party's motives/thoughts are:

The Tories have been trying for quite some time to reach 40% in the polls, which is generally considered the minimum support needed to form a majority. This week, they met that goal. Harper and his party desperately want a majority government. Now that they're this far, a decently financed election (which is something they can do) could be enough to actually obtain that majority.

Additionally, Harper has been setting the stage for an election, by taunting the Liberals to either support their throne speech or face an election. To me, this looks like Harper thinks his speech won't be an instant sell to the Grits.

On one hand, Dion and the Liberals are in no health to fight (never mind win) an election. On the other, supporting Harper's throne speech (which he is making sound a bit more radical than we are used to) is only going to make Dion look worse.

However, Dion has been hinting that he very well might vote against the speech. If he thought he wouldn't support it, he wouldn't have done all the ranting against it—and against the possibility of his party supporting it.

NDP and the Bloc Québecois:
Both of these parties seem as though they are prepared to, and will, vote against the government as long as its speech isn't a left-wing suck-up (which it probably won't be).

There's what I think. What's on your mind?