The Measure of One Man
29 December 2006, 16h00 EST (GMT-5)
After an epic struggle with procrastination, I have finally wrestled the last remaining section of my web site into submission. The Projects pages are now fully online, and describe my more committed efforts to give practical application to the ideals I discuss in my blog. Like Gaul, the section is divided into three parts.
The Diplomacy sub-section deals with my undertakings in the international arena, particularly in breaking the Westphalian paradox, where democratic institutions are not powerful and powerful institutions are not democratic.
The Democracy sub-section gives an overview of the high drama (or, perhaps more frequently, the low comedy) of my involvement in Liberal politics in Canada and abroad.
The Diversions sub-section describes some of my sporting and leisure pursuits, which may very well be the most eccentric area of my already discombobulated life
As an adherent of practical idealism, it is my conviction that the measure of a person is not simply his beliefs, but the extent to which his beliefs inspire him to action. I hope that my projects will, howsoever imperfectly, prove worthy of the principles to which I aspire.
Black Pete and the Colours of Christmas
24 December 2006, 11h10 EST (GMT-5)
The Toronto I remember from my childhood seems a radically different place from the metropolis of cosmopolitan society and temperate climate that exists today: the city was almost as uniformly monochromatic as the snowdrifts enveloping it each Christmas. Yet even then, the city was aware of the transformative changes hurrying to it, and to general credit, the vast majority of Torontonians turned towards change with optimism, rather than away from it in fear.
The Christmas season is for me an emblem of Toronto's evolution. Public displays in the staunchly Protestant city first accommodated the subtly differing shades of Roman Catholicism, then exhibited the more variegated hues of Orthodox Catholicism, eventually embraced the contrasting tones of Hanukkah, and ultimately came into the riot of colours of every faith (or lack thereof) imaginable.
Nevertheless, I was recently taken aback when I encountered in Toronto one Dutch Christmas tradition. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas hails from Spain, travels by steamboat and horseback, and is accompanied by the sidekick Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). To Canadian eyes, it is difficult to look upon typical representations of Black Pete without seeing southern American minstrel shows and British golliwog dolls. Indeed, the character is invariably portrayed by white men and women in blackface.
Dutch culture enjoys a reputation for liberalism, and I suspect that the similarities between Black Pete and Al Jolson are merely cosmetic and implies no consanguinity of attitudes. Still, this is one cultural tradition from which I expect Toronto to shy away.
In a particularly Canadian twist, twenty-first century Toronto will not tolerate even a whiff of intolerance.
Christmas is very much part of my family traditions and culture, as is the desire to share the happiness, fellowship, and hope of the season with others. Whether you celebrate the day or not, I hope it brings you much joy today and for the entire new year.
The Little Campaign that Could
05 December 2006, 04h15 EST (GMT-5)
I am still overwhelmed by the results of the Liberal leadership convention this past weekend. The election of Stéphane Dion has done much to re-animate my faith in the democratic process. Ours was "the little campaign that could," in the kind words of a friend who worked on Michael Ignatieff's bid. It was a quixotic but relentless effort to prove that idealism still has a place in practical politics.
This letter is meant equally for those who supported Stéphane from the first ballot, and those who did not do so even on the last. Stéphane's victory is a victory for the entire Liberal Party because he takes office after a campaign crowded with talent, because the other candidates greeted the results with faultless grace, and because Stéphane can only recognise the political and ethical imperative to rage against any impulse in the campaign team to exercise victor's justice.
I discussed the campaign yesterday on CBC Radio One's Here & Now, and I will do so again on CTS Television's Michael Coren Show today at 18h00 (EST). Please do tune in if you have a moment, and let me know what you think.
02 December 2006, 23h05 EST (GMT-5)
Against all conventional wisdom, Stéphane Dion has won the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. This is, in my view, a victory not only for him, but also for the politics of principle.
The Liberal Party's enthusiasm for Stéphane Dion struck a blow for those who hold to the ideal of the nobility of public service. It strengthened my faith in democracy's creed, that wisdom lies with the many and not the few. Most importantly, it marked the day the Liberal Party reclaimed its soul.
To those who slur our Party with the unworthy accusation that it is interested in power to the exclusion of principle, Liberals can riposte, with our heads held high, that we are the Party that elected Stéphane Dion.
Now, I am leaving the Palais des congrès in Montréal to return to Toronto, to sleep for a few days!
Dion Surges, Others Stall
02 December 2006, 01h10 EST (GMT-5)
With the first round of voting complete, Stéphane Dion has edged past Gerard Kennedy by the slimmest of margins. Michael Ignatieff remains the clear front runner, but has seen his support slip below the psychological threshold of 30%.
The results at 00h30 on Saturday 02 December are:
Michael Ignatieff: 1412 (29.33%)
Bob Rae: 977 (20.29%)
Stéphane Dion: 856 (17.78%)
Gerard Kennedy: 854 (17.74%)
Ken Dryden: 238 (4.94%)
Scott Brison: 192 (3.99%)
Joe Volpe: 156 (3.24%)
Martha Hall Findlay: 130 (2.70%)
As she occupies last place on the first ballot results, Martha Hall Findlay will be compelled to retire from the field before the second ballot. Joe Volpe has apparently volunteered to withdraw, to urge his delegates to support Bob Rae. A further 127 registered delegates abstained in the first ballot.
In total, some 413 delegates will therefore be in play for the second ballot, in addition to any delegates who may choose to switch their allegiances.
This represents a telling shift in the balance of power at the convention. Ignatieff's lower than expected results, despite a significantly higher than expected turnout of his committed delegates, suggests that his support is softer and his lead more vulnerable than anticipated. By contrast, Dion's ability to surpass Kennedy, by however modest a margin, suggests that he is the only candidate, thus far, with momentum.
I gave Stéphane Dion my support in the conviction that he is the best person to lead the Liberal Party and the country, notwithstanding what I believed to be his slim chances of victory in the leadership race. It seems I underestimated the extent to which a good person is all one really needs to mount a good campaign.
Let Slip the Political Dogs of War
01 December 2006, 12h43 EST (GMT-5)
Conventional wisdom holds that contested leadership elections divide, whereas acclamations unite. In my experience, the truth is quite the reverse.
The 2003 Toronto convention was notable for the bile attendant upon Paul Martin's coronation. There was an undeniable animus in the air, presaging the Party purge that Paul's inner circle was preparing for anyone who had maintained an independent mind or who had otherwise, in their view, not supported them with sufficient fervour. Their near-unanimous victory convinced them that they were so powerful that they needed no one, and that they could tyrannise over others without consequence or accountability.
In this convention, with every candidate likely to poll less than 35% on the first ballot, each team is keenly aware that it can not win the election unless it is willing and able to reach out to others, to form a genuinely national coalition built around shared values. The result is an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect. Moreover, with such a wide field, it is not at all unusual for families to have spouses and children all supporting different candidates, and therefore acting as engines of reconciliation within the Party.