Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: Congrats on your monarchy, Toronto!

The Prince Arthur Herald would like to congratulate the city of Toronto for installing a monarchical system of government.

Last week, Toronto City Hall passed a motion 37-5 to strip Mayor – the new King of York – Rob Ford of much of his executive powers, leaving Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly with the control of the city. With the chain of office around his neck and a nearly empty court, His Royal Highness can do little more than tour the city and hold claim to a title that cannot be removed, like so many other figurehead monarchies around the world.

The former Duke of Etobicoke has been trained for this role his whole life and has learned well from an alumni of regalia past.

Learning from the pre-Magna Carta English monarchs, King Ford believed he himself to be above the law and could do as he pleased. For Ford, this means smoking crack, weed – like Queen Victoria – and cocaine, driving drunk, and threatening to murder people. Before 1215 it was mostly about taxation and warfare.

Inspired by George III, the King of York alienated and angered liberals in the faraway land of downtown Toronto with, among other things, fewer taxes. While no tea was spilt, misused letterheads became grounds for a royal commission.

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PAH: 5 reasons to oppose the Charter

Though Pauline Marois is on a crusade to unveil Muslim women, she has no problem covering up our rights and freedoms.

Bill 60, the loftily titled Charter Affirming the Values of State Secularism and Religious Neutrality and of Equality between Women and Men, and providing a Framework for Accommodation Requests, was tabled last week in the Quebec legislature. The Charter seeks to instill state secularism by outlawing religious apparel for civil servants and other government employees.

The constitutional issues with the bill have been well documented since the plan was announced this summer, with most accounts criticising the Charter on the basis of religious-freedom protections in both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Yet the effect of the tabled legislation goes far beyond ostentatiously religious civil servants. The bill is riddled with clauses that will affect everyone in society and increase the size of government at an alarming rate. We’ve counted down the five most worrisome aspects of Bill 60.


1. The State will be able to tell you what you can and can’t wear, but also what you can and can’t say.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: We may be Disraelians, but Trudeau looks more like Pitt

In his column on August 8, John Ivison likened Justin Trudeau’s style of politics to that of late-nineteenth century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. While he hit on some good points – the two have been accused of dandiness, opportunism, populism, vanity, and narcissism – an even earlier British leader could be more aptly associated with the young heir to the Canadian political throne: William Pitt the Younger.

As the name suggests, his father was an important man too. Pitt the Elder served as prime minister in the 1760s, led the nation through the Seven Year’s War with France, and was generally well liked. Much like Pierre Trudeau, Pitt was well known for his skills as an orator.

William Pitt the Younger followed his father into politics and joined Parliament as soon as he turned twenty-one in 1781, without having succeeded at any prior position. Parties at the time were fairly weak in British politics, but William managed to get a group of loyal followers around him and at the age of twenty-four, and King George III asked him to form an administration.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: There’s nothing wrong with the Oath to the Queen

Canadians – and future Canadians, it seems – don’t understand the Canadian Crown. A group of immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship are going to court and demanding to cede the oath to “her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, [and to] Her Heirs and Successors” from the citizenship process because it violates their Charter rights.

Two of their claims is that the Monarchy is an archaic institution that has no place in modern day Canada, and that it is a symbol of inequality.

In the affidavit, applicant Michael McAteer complained that “Taking an oath of allegiance to a hereditary monarch who lives abroad would violate my conscience, be a betrayal of my republican heritage, and impede my activities in support of ending the monarchy in Canada.” Charles Roach complained that the oath still causes him “discomfort and distress.”

There is a simple answer to this non-problem. Don’t move here. Don’t move to one of the forty-three nations with a monarchy either. But the arguments of the plaintiffs are flawed even beyond that point .The argument displays such ignorance of our Constitution and our history.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: Ridgeway: Canada’s first modern battle

On June 1st 1866, a determined group of Civil War veterans boarded barges from Buffalo, crossed the Niagara River, and invaded Canada.

The Fenian Brotherhood had one goal in mind: liberate Ireland. They wanted nothing to do with Canada directly, but instead wanted to drain British resources overseas by creating a distraction in North America, allowing the Irish on the homefront to rebel against a weakened British army. Canada was a means to an end, and the roughly 1,300 Fenians who brought war on our shores expected – and received – an easy fight.

Canadians knew for a long time they weren’t immune to invasions. This was first apparent during the War of 1812. Then fears resurfaced after Britain reduced its commitment to the Province’s security in the 1850s and insisted the Canadas take care of itself. Several Military Acts followed, which were admittedly weak attempts at training reserve troops and building a dismal army. Next to a nation of 2,591,067 living Union and Confederate veterans, Canada’s paid army of 5,000 was powerless, but it gave the illusion of a fighting-chance.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: A move on Senate reform can save Harper’s ass

As of late, the chamber of sober second thought has become more of a dark dungeon of drunken regrets. Revelations that Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, in a deal arranged by the prime minister’s former legal adviser, paid off Senator Mike Duffy’s $90,172 invalid expense claims is only one of the most recent examples of how the Senate will be the end of Harper’s reign.

The Senate has been an ongoing problem for the prime minister. It all started in 1990, when a much more idealistic Harper wrote the Reform Party’s policy manual, known as Blue Book. The Blue Book promised constitutional reform to create a Triple-E Senate: Elected, Equal representation from each province and territory, and Effective in safeguarding regional interests.

In 2001, Stephen Harper and five others published an open letter to Ralph Klein in the National Post, making certain demands that would better Alberta’s position within Canada. His Alberta Agenda included using the Supreme Court’s Quebec Secession Reference to “force Senate reform back onto the national agenda.”

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: If Trudeau doesn’t attack, he’ll lose

Since becoming leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau has made it a priority to keep his message positive. He has kept that promise and seen a huge bump in the polls – helped by many factors – putting him ahead of both the Conservatives and the NDP. While the short term effects are working in his favour, it won’t do him any good come election time in 2015.

A positive message does indeed raise approval ratings, but it does not bring votes. Trudeau is benefiting from the fact that, still two years from an election, people don’t want to stomach harsh abrasive attacks yet. They much prefer Justin’s classroom talks, his cellphone-filmed messages of hope and working together – while sporting cargo shorts. It also helps that Trudeau is still in his honeymoon period, where he gets an artificial advantage in the polls just for being new.

Yet Trudeau and his team would be foolish to think this effect will last, and equally so if they think the Conservatives are tripping over their shoelaces when it comes to handling the new opposition. Harper’s team knows exactly what they’re doing and they’re planning a long-term strategy that will bring them another majority in 2015. The Conservative message machine is well oiled and has been working the last ten years perfecting strategies to combat opponents like Trudeau, Mulcair, Dion, Ignatieff, and Martin. Rather than being frightened, the Conservatives knew the ads would leave a sour taste in the public’s mouth, and they would lose a few percentages in the polls. They know how the game works.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: What BC’s election can warn us about Quebec

As Christy Clark scrambled to prepare an unexpected victory speech Tuesday night, it became exceedingly clear that poll numbers deserve more scrutiny. The BC Premier was considered the underdog in the May 14 provincial election, trailing NDP leader Adrian Dix by a heavy margin during much of the race. Polling in the last few days kept Dix ahead of Clark by nearly 9%, with some pollster claiming the probability of Dix winning was 98%.

Oh how wrong they were.

Polls are not infallible, as the 2012 Alberta election already demonstrated. Sure, they might be accurate, but their results can be skewed by a number of factors.

One major factor is that polls don’t discriminate. They survey large swaths of the electorate and base the results on how people say they feel. It is very likely that on a whole, 46% of the electorate did actually prefer Dix. But the turnout rate was only 52%, and the NDP came out with just under 40% of the popular vote. A lack of mobilization on the NDP’s part may explain their low turnout, where supporters just didn’t feel the need to go out and vote. If they’re already leading by 10%, one less vote won’t change anything. On the other hand, the BC Liberal’s Get out the Vote campaign, especially targeting young voters, may have given them a strategic edge.

A possible election in Quebec in the next year will just add to the headache that pollsters are feeling.

Recent poll numbers by the Journal de Montréal have the Quebec Liberals pegged at 35%, ahead of the governing Parti Québécois (PQ) who stand at 27% and the Coalition for Quebec’s Future (CAQ) at 19%. What does it all mean? Nothing.

The Liberals are still enjoying a honeymoon period after electing Philippe Couillard as their new leader, replacing former premier Jean Charest. But the Liberal brand is still damaged daily with new revelations about shady party practices at the province’s corruption inquiry. People may like Couillard, but they will need more convincing to vote for the Liberal Party again. Were an election to roll around, Couillard would need to put a lot of effort into mobilizing his base and getting moderates who are tired of the PQ to get out and actually vote. They may be high in the polls now, but like Adrian Dix, it would not be an effortless battle.

As for the PQ, they shouldn’t be sighing in relief from the BC election just yet. While it does show they might be less threatened by the poll numbers than is perceived, their support might simply continue to drop into the future. Only recently have allegations come out of the Charbonneau Commission blaming PQ members of taking part in Quebec’s corruption culture. Further revelations may continue to harm their public image – which Premier Pauline Marois likes to pretend is spotless. On top of that, the PQ has been stagnant on the economy, preferring to place their energy on the tired battle of promoting sovereignty and picking fights with Anglophones, something most Quebecers don’t have the stomach for. Her largest swath of mobilized voters in the 2012 election, students, have also given up on the her. Failing her campaign promise to freeze the cost of tuition, Marois can say au revoir to the key demographic that helped tip her into a minority government.

The key winner here is the CAQ, who are underrepresented in the polls but likely would make a huge splash if voters were to actually go and vote. Having never governed before, the CAQ is immune to corruption allegations. Moreover, François Legault’s recruitment of former Montreal police chief and anti-corruption warrior Jacques Duchesneau only adds icing to their cake of moral superiority. These soft nationalists who tend to be on the right of many issues have the advantage of attracting supporters of both the Liberals and the PQ who are getting tired of the same old political games.

The Quebec electorate has a history of political mood swings – Orange Crush, anyone? – making predicting results very difficult. It’s easy to tell a pollster who you support on the phone, but stepping into a voting booth and feeling the weight of your decision has a funny way of making you rethink your choice.

Polls should only be used as a very rough guide in testing the political mood of a constituency; it should not be a crystal ball for the future.

Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: Is Justin Trudeau a conservative?

With a successful leadership race in his rear view mirror, Justin Trudeau has finally taken steps towards forming a platform for the Liberal Party. A preliminary look indicated that he’s trying to take the Conservative’s old right-of-centre spot on the ideological spectrum.

Trudeau used his debut Question Period battle with the prime minister last Monday to frame himself as the defender of the middle class. He called on the government to explain heightened tariff barriers, calling it a “$350-million tax on the middle class.” How dare those so-called fiscal Conservatives raise tariffs on little red wagons was the gist of his speech.

Then in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Trudeau continued to push for a smaller, and smarter, government. Though the Liberals rallied against “jets and jails” in 2011, Trudeau supports the procurement of fighter jets, believing it’s a necessary asset for a strong modern military. He also used the opportunity to establish himself as a staunch federalist, turning the table on Conservatives for associating with soft Quebec nationalists – albeit three decades ago. Moreover, he attacked the government’s Economic Action Plan by saying the economy doesn’t need government stimulation. A Prime Minister Trudeau would also fight for minimum government involvement in the economy and support rigorous free trade, according to the interview. These are all things a young Stephen Harper would advocate.

Trudeau is trying to find a new niche for the Liberal Party. The Conservatives have slowly progressed to the centre of the ideological spectrum over the years, and even as their own rhetoric pushes for a small government, they continue to spend and interfere in the economy. They haven’t even managed a balanced budget in nearly five years. Trudeau has filled in the missing gap, saying he would like to see deficits go down and create a surplus, as the Liberals accomplished in the late 90s. While it’s a nice narrative, there’s still no word on how he would get this done.

While space on the right opens up, the Liberals’ traditional left-of-centre home is now vacated by a socialist-less NDP. Nothing quells a radical party like a real shot at forming the government, and the NDP seems willing to form government at any cost.

Trudeau realizes that his party has been squeezed out of the middle since 2011 and, really, lost political significance. If he wants a good shot at the prime ministership, or more realistically, the opposition’s benches, he’s going to have to rely on more than flowy hair and a positive attitude.

Until now, conservatives have been quick to dismiss Trudeau as a hollow candidate. All looks, no substance. And to some extent, their criticism is spot on. For much of the leadership race, he refused to even talk about policy positions, stating he would wait until he won the leadership race before choosing his direction – although one of the few policies he did tout during the campaign was in support of the oil sands, again encroaching on Tory turf. His stance on decriminalizing marijuana will also appeal to more libertarian voters.

Now that he’s leader, many right-wingers continue to toss him aside, yet they should be careful. The most dangerous thing Conservatives can do now is ignore him as he effectively steals their economic positions. Attack ads on his image and past record won’t work when Trudeau’s more substantive messages start resonating with Canadians – and even with small-c conservatives. The easiest way to defeat Trudeau would be for the Tories to reclaim fiscal responsibility – and that goes further than simple promising to balance the budget by 2015. Conservatives are right when they say that the economy is the number one issue for Canadians, now they have to decide if they’re the ones who will continue to deliver.

With fewer differentiations between the two parties, Trudeau’s youth and vitality may come as an asset in 2015 when Canadians go to the polls. The economy will still be the main issue, but it won’t matter who they vote for between the Tories and the Grits.

With seven years actively working to make Canada a more conservative country, Stephen Harper may find that his work will be for naught if a newly revamped economically-conservative Liberal Party takes the upper hand.

That is, if Justin stays on the right track.

More from this columnist | @TomK0tt

Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

PAH: It’s Time for Quebec to Sign the Constitution

It has been called ‘The Night of the Long Knives’ by its critics, and considered a necessary evil by its supporters. On a November night in 1981, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, and nine premiers gave up on Quebec and signed a constitutional deal that would eventually become the Constitution Act, 1982.

The Prime Minister and the premiers had their reasons for this. Negotiations for a new constitution were stalling. The Gang of Eight had plans to walk out of the discussions unless their demands – which Trudeau opposed – were met, Quebec Premier René Lévesque was demanding more power over funding and programs for Quebec, and the Prime Minister was threating to unilaterally patriate the constitution without provincial support. Trudeau’s goal was to bring home the constitution and implement his Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provinces all wanted concessions, which were getting in his way.

On that November night, Trudeau’s Minister of Justice, Jean Chrétien, made an informal compromise with the provinces after Lévesque had left the for his hotel: a notwithstanding clause would be added to the constitution, allowing provinces to override some parts of the Charter. In addition, the clause allowing provinces to opt-out of federal sharing programs with compensation, supported by Trudeau and Lévesque, would be dropped. A deal was signed in the morning.

Predictably, Lévesque was furious and did not sign on to the final constitution deal. In both theory and practice, it never really mattered that he didn’t. Quebec is still a part of Canada and is bound by its supreme law – those who say Quebec is separate or excluded from the Constitution because it was never signed are spewing complete nonsense. The issue over Quebec not being a signatory is completely symbolic.

And this symbolism has created many political problems. The failed attempts to bring Quebec into the Constitution with The Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992 used up a large amount of political capital and energy, resulting in the Progressive Conservative downfall in the 1993 federal election (voters tired of the constitutional debacle moved to the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party) and the victory of the Parti Québécois in the 1994 Quebec Election. The unsatisfactory negotiations also led to an uncomfortably close call in the 1995 Quebec referendum.

Since 1992, no one has seriously entertained the idea of reopening the constitution. The reasoning for this is the assumption that any constitutional issue, even unrelated to Quebec’s place in the federation, would not succeed until the Quebec Problem had been solved. It has become a political landmine – touch it and you’re dead.

That is, until now. The Liberal Party of Quebec’s new leader, Philippe Couillard, has signalled his intention to get Quebec to sign the darn document by Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. He acknowledged the need for his party to “discuss this question of identity or the specific nature of Quebec and then have conversations with the other governments of Canada on how this could be approached,” though it is sure many in his party will be skeptical of Couillard’s initiative.

Several problems lay in Couillard’s way.

As previously mentioned, politicians have been strategic in avoiding constitutional changes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been especially careful, doing everything in his power to avoid even the mention of it. For example, his Senate Reform Act, Bill C-7,  was created in such a way that would allow Senators to be constitutionally elected without needing to change the Constitution itself (in essence, the PM would still have the final say on senatorial appointments, but base his choice on the elections). This type of loophole won’t work with Couillard’s plan.

Given past experiences, Harper would be especially hesitant in opening the Constitution without a guarantee that Quebec would sign it. In essence, Couillard would need to form a strong majority and avoid tying any strings to the deal. If Couillard tied strings to the agreement, it would require participation from the other provinces in order to amend the Constitution to Quebec’s liking, severely complicating the matter.

Because of Harper’s reservations, Couillard’s biggest obstacle would indeed be to convince the federal government to go ahead with his plans. Already Christian Paradis, Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, has rejected the idea of reopening the Constitution, stating that jobs and the economy is the real priority.

Another issue is the control of his message. Other parties will use this issue against him from now until the next election, and already have. The PQ has already stated that Couillard is “disqualified” from being Premier because of his stance, and François Legault of the CAQ – echoing the federal government – has said that no one cares about the Constitution, the priority should be the economy. Couillard needs to control the dialogue on this issue and explain to Quebeckers that this is merely a symbolic issue that won’t really affect the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada. He will also have to convince skeptics in his party why it’s worth spending so much political capital on a symbolic issue when there are other, likely more important, issues to address first. As we have seen with the 2012 tuition strikes in Quebec, the Liberals have struggled many times in setting the narrative.

To legitimize his idea, the Liberal Party will ideally have to make it one of its main platform issues. Based on the current climate of Quebec politics, the Liberals would have a much easier time winning the next election on PQ incompetence in the economy and social issues than on a staunch federalist platform. Again, a control of the dialogue may avert this disaster.

Despite all the problems, it’s about time Quebec signed the Constitution.

Quebeckers in the early 90s were tired of the constitutional discussion, and clearly expressed their opposition to it at the ballot box. Yet two decades have passed and a new generation of leaders have entered the political discussion. The issue is new again and there may be a rejuvenated interest in finally getting the deed done. Aside from recent and unnecessary agitation by the minority PQ government of Pauline Marois, tensions between federalists and separatists are fairly low at this time. Recent polls suggest that there is some interest in this issue finally getting resolved. For one, support for separation has fallen to a measly 32% according to CROP – though other polls offer a slightly higher number. With less people looking towards independence, people may we willing to accept signing the Constitution and moving on from the issue for good. Another slightly older poll shows that over eighty percent of Quebeckers like the Constitution, and 69% think Quebec’s signature should be added to it.

As Couillard himself has stated, signing the Constitution would be a great symbol of Canadian unity after 150 years of cooperation between the two founding nations. Fixing this thirty year old grievance would be a good step in restoring relations between Canada and those in Quebec who feel they were betrayed on that faithful night in November 1981. Too much time has been wasted debating this issue. Solving it once and for all would allow us to tackle bigger issues in our federation.

More from this columnist | @TomK0tt