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Bill Morneau's complaints speak for economic pragmatists that Justin Trudeau's politics have left behind – The Globe and Mail

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In a speech on June 1, Bill Morneau described a political world where the partisan politicking about economic matters got in the way of pragmatic concerns or practical follow-through, writes Campbell Clark.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

A wedge is a simple machine, inserted into a small crevice to open up a wider divide. When Justin Trudeau used one on Canadian politics in 2020, Bill Morneau fell into the gap.

At the time, Mr. Trudeau decided he wanted the big pandemic spending of that year to go into 2021 and beyond, and he also decided that Mr. Morneau – supposedly the Bay Street Liberal in the cabinet – couldn’t be the quarterback for that new direction. Mr. Trudeau wanted to turn left, to emphasize political differences with the Conservatives, and there was no room for Mr. Morneau.

Shed no tears for Mr. Morneau, who had his own flaws as finance minister and whose political defenestration is one of those cold, calculated things that are part and parcel of professional politics.

But in a sense, he represents a constituency that has, like him, fallen into a wide gap that has been opened up in Canada’s wedge politics.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Morneau delivered a speech that lamented that Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government has spent its effort on redistributing wealth without doing much to create it – that it has done little, or little that was effective, to grow the economy.

Former finance minister Bill Morneau criticizes Liberals’ economic policies in first public speech since leaving political life

Trudeau defends economic agenda after strong critique from former finance minister Bill Morneau

That’s a remarkable thing to hear from the person who served as finance minister for the first five years of that government. But it came with another underlying message: that there is so much partisan point-scoring and wedge politics that there is little interest in or room for practical work on economic matters. That will strike a chord with many.

It’s not just the Bay Street Liberals that Mr. Morneau supposedly represented in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet who will feel that way. Folks who care about serious pragmatic economics, who worry what stagnant GDP per capita means for Canadians’ quality of life – these people can see that working through the details of those things are not Mr. Trudeau’s first concern. Frustrated business leaders, but others, too.

It also isn’t just blue-Liberal blues. There are Conservatives, and not just Red Tories, who worry their party chooses culture war over competitiveness. The party’s leadership debates have been more about truckers’ convoys and vaccine mandates than taking care of business, and the front-runner, Pierre Poilievre, harks back to the gold standard, suggests crypto is safer than dollars and wants federal bureaucrats to review cities’ zoning decisions.

In his speech, Mr. Morneau described a political world where the partisan politicking about economic matters got in the way of pragmatic concerns or practical follow-through.

He counted Liberal successes from his time in government on social policy, such as the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit and reform of the Canada Pension Plan, as well as the renegotiation of the NAFTA under threat from former U.S. president Donald Trump.

But not the key question of making the economy grow.

“So much time and energy was spent on finding ways to redistribute Canada’s wealth that there was little attention given to the importance of increasing our collective prosperity – let alone developing a disciplined way of thinking and acting on the problem,” Mr. Morneau said.

This should be doubly surprising, because if you think all the way back to 2015, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals were first elected with a campaign that promised a focus on economic growth. But it’s that last part of Mr. Morneau’s comment, a disciplined way of thinking an acting, that explains what happened.

The government announced plans, such as a Canada Infrastructure Bank, but the practical implementation got lost in the politics of the day, he said.

In the end, that just isn’t what the Trudeau Liberals care about. It is not their political selling point, especially not now. Their brand is about social supports, and they work to emphasize those differences with the Conservatives. The wedge opened up the gap in the middle. The economic-growth policy they like to tout is subsidized child care, because it is social policy, too.

Mr. Morneau didn’t say he is leaving the Liberal Party, of course. But his speech sure makes it sound like the Liberal Party is leaving people like him. In fact, that Canadian politics is leaving people like him behind.

You can stop to note that Mr. Morneau, as finance minister for half a decade, should put up a hand to take responsibility for that. But the thing is, he’s not wrong.

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Opinion: The vacuum at the centre of Canadian politics: an incompetent, unethical government faces an intemperate, unhinged opposition – The Globe and Mail

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Over the last few weeks and months it has become impossible to escape the feeling that Canadian politics has come loose from its moorings. There is a manic edge to it, as if the inmates had suddenly and collectively declared themselves absolved of any remaining obligations to common sense, or the ordinary routines of democratic politics, or the rule of law.

On the one hand, you have a Liberal government that is now embroiled in half a dozen crises of its own making, the fruit of a peculiar mix of cynicism, moral vanity, incompetence, doctrinaire ideology and apparently habitual abuse of power – a culture that originates with the leader, to be sure, but which appears to have spread throughout the party.

Thus you have, simultaneously, the airport mess, the passport mess, and the Russian embassy party mess; the abject retreat on vaccine mandates, in the face of a panicky Liberal backbench; the revelations that its centrepiece climate plan is in disarray, its 2030 carbon emissions reductions targets acknowledged, within government, to be a distant fantasy; all while it is engaged in the utter madness of attempting to regulate the internet, through no fewer than three separate bills.

That’s four or five ministers in trouble, and we haven’t even got to the matter of the Public Safety Minister, Marco Mendicino – and, let us not forget, the Prime Minister – apparently lying to Parliament about why they invoked the Emergencies Act, and on whose advice.

Or, worst yet, the jaw-dropping allegation that the Prime Minister’s Office, and the then Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair, prevailed upon the commissioner of the RCMP, Brenda Lucki, to interfere in the investigation of the murder of 22 people by a gunman in Nova Scotia two years ago, for the purpose of selling gun control legislation the government had planned.

The allegation, that Ms. Lucki demanded local RCMP officers reveal to the public, contrary to procedure and at the risk of compromising the investigation, the precise make and model of the guns the killer used, has been officially denied. Nevertheless it is hard to shake: the allegation is precise, detailed, and contained in a contemporaneous note by the officer involved.

More to the point, whether or not the allegation is true, it is easy to believe this government, and this Prime Minister, would be capable of it. Seize on a horrible crime to unveil showboating legislation, cooked up on the fly, to no apparent public benefit? Checks out. Lean on a law enforcement official to meddle in what is supposed to be an independent legal process, wholly off limits to politicians? What was SNC-Lavalin about?

So much for the government: tired, directionless, massively overcentralized, coasting on self-satisfaction and increasingly overwhelmed by the actual business of governing, including the tiresome necessity of respecting the rights of Parliament and the principle of the rule of law.

But what lurks across the aisle? What of the government-in-waiting, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada? How are they shaping up as an alternative?

Funny you should ask. The party is just now in the throes of a leadership race – the traditional opportunity for a party in opposition to define itself, and its core beliefs. What, by the lights of the current campaign, are the core beliefs of the Conservative Party? On matters of ordinary policy, things like deficits and taxes and foreign policy, we are not much further ahead than when we started.

But if it’s lunatic conspiracy theories you would like to know about, on these the Conservatives have plenty to say, ranging from unfounded fears about the health effects of vaccines, to paranoia about the baleful influence of the World Economic Forum, to the dystopian possibilities of central bank digital currencies, as a means of surveilling and controlling the population – or if you really want to know the “truth,” how all of these are bound up together.

On the day after the allegation surfaced, earlier this week, that the government had interfered in a murder investigation for political ends – a day that ought to have been reserved for asking the most searching questions of those involved – several Conservative MPs were feting the organizers of a new anti-vaccine, anti-government, anti-everything rally planned for Ottawa this summer, some of whom were involved in the one that paralyzed the capital for three weeks earlier this year. Just in case anyone had forgotten the party’s disgraceful cheerleading for that particular outbreak of lawlessness.

It isn’t only at the federal level that Conservatives seem to have abandoned their traditional belief in law and order. The Alberta Conservative leadership race has barely begun, yet has already featured proposals either to ignore the Constitution altogether – that is, to refuse to enforce federal laws the provincial government dislikes – or to dictate constitutional changes to the rest of the country that have no actual hope of passing.

There is precedent for this, of course, notably in the revolutionary fantasies of certain Quebec separatist leaders. But given how signally these have failed, and how much worse it would have been for the province if they had succeeded, it’s hard to imagine anyone citing them as an example to follow, rather than avoid. Yet that is where we have arrived, in both Quebec and Alberta – with political leaders pretending they can rewrite the Constitution unilaterally.

At the federal level we would seem to be left with something of a vacuum, with neither main party displaying much interest in governing responsibly. This is sometimes described as “polarization,” as if the problem could be solved by everyone agreeing to meet in the centre. Not so: this country has big, challenging issues confronting it, some of which may require radical changes in policy. Radicalism is not the same as extremism.

What’s needed is not centrism, if that is interpreted to mean blindly hugging the middle on every issue. Neither is pragmatism the answer, if that means governing without an ideological compass, but merely blowing this way and that according to the latest poll or interest group lobby.

What’s needed – what is sorely lacking – is judgment: political, moral, intellectual. Judgment is the foundation of leadership, and leadership is the only way we’re going to get back to something resembling functional politics.

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Are Politics A Problem For The Markets? – Forbes

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As an economist and market analyst, I try to shy away from politics and focus on the facts. Nonetheless, I often receive politically charged questions that are usually some variation of the following: “With X party in office, the country is doomed. How can you say otherwise?” I have heard this in every presidential election from George W. Bush to Joe Biden. But the truth of the matter is this: both the economy and the markets grew during all of those administrations. Of course, each one had its own challenges and problems, but as a country we continued to move forward. Companies found ways to grow and make money. Given this, are politics really a problem for the markets?

A Limited Effect

No matter which side, the administration actually has a very limited effect on the national economy and on the financial markets. In fact, if you look at a chart of the economy or of the markets, and cover up the dates, you really can’t pick out when your party was in charge. Similarly, when you look at economic and market performance under various permutations of which party is in charge, there are differences, but they are not consistent over time. For all of the headlines and the fearmongering, politics and governance don’t make a significant difference.

Who’s In Control?

How can that be? Simple. Every president and Congress would like to have control—but they don’t. States push back. The Supreme Court pushes back. Municipalities push back. It is rare that something significant actually gets through. And even when it does? The genius of the American system is that companies then set their collective minds on how to avoid it, if they don’t like it, and/or how to make money off it. For example, look at literally any tax bill ever passed.

Fundamentally, that is the strength of the American system. When you say that Washington will derail the economy or the markets, you are saying that it really controls all of the shoppers and the companies, which simply isn’t true. It is certainly in the interest of politicians to exaggerate their power (to motivate their supporters) and to exaggerate their opponents’ powers (again, to motivate their supporters). But the fact of the matter is that the U.S. economy is driven by millions of profit-motivated companies that will find ways to work around or profit from pretty much anything the politicians can do. Thank goodness for that.

Which doesn’t answer those who maintain that this time is different. That somehow today’s problems are worse than they have ever been before. There is always a constituency for panic. But if you really believe that, if you really believe that Washington—of one party or the other—can derail the country, then what you are saying is that Washington already has full control. That is not what I see when I look around.

This Too Will Pass

What I see is the same vivid debate on policy we have always had and the same back-and-forth that ultimately results in a reasonable solution. Perhaps it is louder now, but it is still the same process.

One of my favorite quotes, from Winston Churchill, notes that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing once they have tried all the alternatives. I would argue that is what is happening now and that despite the short-term damage, which can be real, ultimately we will move ahead again.

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'We need a fresh approach': Harvey wants to do politics differently if she heads NDP – News Talk 980 CJME

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Sitting on the patio of a Regina coffee shop, Kaitlyn Harvey was animated and passionate, talking about what she feels are the problems in Saskatchewan politics and how they should be fixed.

Harvey answered questions in a wide-ranging way, cramming in a TedTalk’s worth of information in a way that only people excited by their topic do.

When asked what she was reading or watching these days, Harvey didn’t name a book but instead began talking about research and reports she has been going through both as part of her political aspirations and her day job as a lawyer.

“I’ve got a lot of research that I’m doing, so I don’t really read a whole lot of fiction. Lots of non-fiction, lots of news but then also looking at reports — that’s what I read for fun,” she said, then started laughing. “I’m a bit of a nerd.”

Getting down to the brass tacks of her run to lead the Saskatchewan NDP, Harvey got more serious.

“What I’m offering is a different approach than what the NDP has offered in the past,” she said. “It still recognizes those values of community, those values of taking care of our most vulnerable … and so that’s why I am running for the NDP because of those values. But the way that I am proposing to do politics is different.”

Harvey said the old approach of politics as performance, of talking but not getting anything done, isn’t working.

“When I say we need to do things different, I mean we need to do things differently,” said Harvey.

Right now, Harvey believes that when young people watch the proceedings in the legislature — if they do — all they’re seeing is people shouting.

“(It’s) a bunch of people just standing there, yelling back and forth at each other and spitting things and not actually addressing these very real issues. And then people wonder why our youth don’t go out and vote,” said Harvey.

Harvey believes people are sick of the status quo and that things will look a lot different in the legislature come the next election in 2024.

“I don’t know what it’ll look like but I’m pretty confident that if I’m successful in this NDP race, there’ll be a lot more NDP seats,” said Harvey.

Harvey doesn’t like the idea of left or right in politics. What she wants is for people to come together to seriously tackle the issues.

The biggest issue for Harvey is climate change; it’s what spurred her into politics in the first place.

The reality hit home for Harvey 10 years ago when she was in a co-op program at Environment Canada and was working on a mapping project with climate data.

“The numbers that I was seeing (and) that I was coming across … (it) was just terrifying to see what our future is going to look like, and the range of possibilities ranging from scary to catastrophic,” said Harvey.

Harvey went into law to study policy and is now making the push into politics because she doesn’t see the action needed to deal with climate change.

“We are two decades, easily, behind other countries (and) other places in the world in terms of our acceptance of the very real risks to our people (and) to our society from climate change. We aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities that we have to be leaders. We’re wasting opportunities and potential,” said Harvey.

Harvey said climate change is a fact and shouldn’t be politicized, but it is in Saskatchewan and it’s tearing apart the province.

“When they tell us that we have no choice, that we have to settle for this conflict, that we are divided, that we are an oil and gas-only type of place, like, are you kidding me?” said Harvey.

However, Harvey said she’s not anti-oil and she’s not looking to kill industry and put people out on the street.

“When people use the term ‘just transition,’ that actually means something. It means that the people who are going to be asked to transition to local renewable, sustainable, good-paying jobs are given the supports that they need to make that transition,” said Harvey.

“It’s not a negative attack on anybody’s personal identity or I’m trying to blame them for climate change or something like that. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a fact that we need to start doing things differently.”

Harvey said there are a lot of other ways Saskatchewan could bring in money and other industries to expand into that won’t contribute to climate change, and she knows that’s something youth of this province want.

“We need a fresh approach and I think that will resonate with people and get more people to come out and support the party when they see that we’ve actually got some really good ideas and they’re backed up by science. They’re backed up with the numbers,” said Harvey.

Unlike her competitor, Carla Beck, Harvey hasn’t held provincial office before — she ran as an NDP candidate in the 2020 election but lost. However, she doesn’t see that as a problem.

Harvey points to her work as a lawyer, putting herself through law school as a single mother and the volunteer and community work she’s done, saying she’s good at handling a lot of things and learns quickly.

“When I see what our politicians are doing I think, ‘Oh boy, I could do that.’ It’s not that hard, it’s not rocket science … it’ll be new but I’m a pretty quick study,” said Harvey.

Harvey said she does have respect for everyone in the NDP caucus and the work they’re doing.

A win for Harvey in the leadership race would be historic on two fronts: She would be the first woman elected to the NDP leadership in Saskatchewan and the first Metis leader of a major party in the province.

“It would be just the greatest opportunity of my life to be able to serve and provide my skills, my energy, my experience, to the people of Saskatchewan,” said Harvey.

If she doesn’t win, the province won’t have heard the last of Harvey. She has announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination to run in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection which will be held at some point soon.

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