September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Election Central

As the 2008 Federal Election campaign progresses, editorial cartoons will be posted here. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images.

Added October 3, 2008 -- Some post debate commentary...

Susan Riley points out that Harper was still standing considering the evening's "Whack a Tory" performance by the opposition leaders. The most impressive things she thought of Harper's night was his stance on the economy and the fact that he didn't wig out and tear a strip off of any of his opponents. She thought Dion resembled a "Parish Priest" but exceeded the low expectations with his old fashioned manner of delivery. Of all all the leaders, she thought Jack Layton was the least impressive and rather predictable. Elizabeth May was fearless and articulate, "a brilliant and gutsy competitor who will drive grumpy old men crazy".

Don Martin wrote that for Stephane Dion this debate was crucial in order to stop the downward slide he's been suffering in the polls, something he was unable to do. Martin pointed that what worked well for Harper against his rival was his immediate denounciation of Dion's sudden announcement of a 30 day economic consultation project in the middle of the french language debate as knee-jerky and panicked. Jack Layton was disappointing for someone who should have gone after Stephane Dion in an election where New Democrats have a chance to pick up votes from disenchanted left of centre Liberals. Elizabeth May, while brilliant at times during the debate, seemed to become more and more, as the time dragged on, as someone for whom you'd park a protest vote for anyone disgusted by all of the above.

Thomas Walkom made a comparison with the U.S. VP debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden which started at the exact time the Canadian Leaders Debate started up. In the American one, Walkom states, "viewers tuned in not because they wanted to know what the candidates for America's number two job thought about the great issues, but to see which one would say something stupid." The pile on by the Opposition over Harper may have positive or negative implications. The efforts by Harper to push back on his opponents during the debate, may or may not backfire. Of all the columns written on the debate, Tom Walkom's was the lamest.

The Toronto Sun was particularly critical of Harper, for a paper that does a lot of brown nosing for the Conservative Party. While acknowledging the predictable pile on by the other four leaders, a post debate editorial stated that Harper did himself no favour by saying that "unlike Americans, Canadians aren't worried about losing their jobs or homes, only the falling value of their stock portfolio". The Sun gave a lot of credit to Jack Layton scolding Harper for revealing "a cold and callous side" and jeeringly asking whether he was getting his advice from Bay St. CEOs, George Bush and former Australian PM John Howard. They gave praise to Elizabeth May, but were less impressed by Dion's performance. Like all the above evaluations, Gilles Duceppe was an insignificant factor.

Added October 10, 2008 -- Endorsements...

Love 'em or hate 'em, just before voters go to the polls many Canadian mainstream newspapers make it known on the editorial pages who they think readers should throw their support to. At least this seems to be the case for most west of the St. Lawrence. I couldn't find any Atlantic Canadian newspapers who chose to endorse. Here's a tally of who endorsed who: The Globe & Mail: Conservative, The National Post: Conservative, The Vancouver Sun, Conservative, The Windsor Star: Conservative, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record: Conservative, Ottawa Citizen: Conservative, Montreal Gazette: Conservative, Calgary Herald: Conservative, Edmonton Journal, Conservative, Toronto Star: Liberal (surprise, surprise), The Economist: Conservative. For the record, The Victoria Times-Colonist did not endorse, and for what it's worth, Le Devoir endorsed the Bloc Quebecois.

I was privileged to be part of the decision making process at the Hamilton Spectator of endorsing a political party leading up to next week's federal election. (Exactly one year and a day since the last endorsement the Spectator was made.)

Our choice was nobody.

While that appears to be a lame and wishy-washy decision, it truly reflected the deadlock we encountered in debates which occurred in a couple hour long sessions over 2 days. We came close to endorsing the Liberals, and thankfully, we did not. Montreal's newspaper, La Presse, came to the same conclusion as the Spec's, that they couldn't endorse anyone.

I don't think it would come to anyone's surprise that my 2 cents worth of the decision making process found me advocating for the Conservatives, believing they would do a better job at handling the economy in these difficult times. While this government has been dismissive in its attitude towards Ontario as it copes with a disintegration of the manufacturing sector, it has significantly boosted subsidies and transfer payments to help the slumping economy. I think there's quite a few praise worthy qualities of the Conservative government that have gone unmentioned in a campaign which has put so much emphasis on gaffes, sweater vests, and which leader is more empathetic than the other.

Many outside the province of Quebec need to be reminded, although it was explosive at the time, when Harper announced that Quebec would be declared a "nation within a nation". I think it turned out to be a smart political maneuver by Harper, and it essentially sent the whole sovereignty movement into a comatose state. Just look at how the Bloc and Parti Quebecois have been flailing about trying to figure out what they represent with no hope of a referendum on Quebec independence anytime over the horizon.

Another masterful stroke of political brilliance by Harper was bringing the Liberals on side to support an extension of Canada's combat role in Afghanistan to 2011. By bringing John Manley into the issue an ideological battle was imposed on the Liberal Party between Chretien-era fence sitters and those more in line with Conservatives who felt we were obligated to take on a more active role in battling the Taliban, liberating women, and allowing children to freely go to school.

We don't give enough praise to the Canadian men and women who are now fighting for a better life for millions of Afghanis. While it has been a huge expense for taxpayers, I do not think the nearly 100 Canadian soldiers who have sacrificed their lives while in service in Afghanistan have died in vain. The mission has made us relevant on the international stage and we have adequately stepped up to the plate to face our treaty obligations while other nations have proved themselves to be what we used to be, laggards. Without the Conservative's commitment to boosting the military, which has been so desperate for funding for decades, our role in Afghanistan would not possibly be where it is today.

On a couple other foreign fronts I think the Conservatives have done very well to restore good relations with the United States. Many will incorrectly declare, and this includes everyone in the opposition, that by being friendly with the U.S. since the Conservatives took office in 2006, it translates to us all being Bush lovers. Nonsense. I'm just glad the snubs and "Bush is an idiot" days of the Liberal Party remain as history. The U.S. is our number one ally, and I'm happy we have a government that acknowleges that.

Lastly, on human rights in China, I prefer to be on the side of angels when a Prime Minister finally takes a stance on criticizing a nation with an abysmal record of treating its own people. This contrasts with previous Prime Ministers who glossed over human rights for the sake of establishing trade deals enabling more and more sweatshop products to flood our markets.

There. I've mentioned just a few of the good things I've seen in this government. Of course, there are plenty of not so good things this government has done as well, that much of the opposition and media is reminding us of -- things that have many Canadians finding the need to express an anything but Conservative attitude. The one thing that gives me the need to express an anything but Liberal warning is their Green Shift Plan. My own newspaper's reservations best sum up how I feel about it, The main plank of Dion's leadership and his party's platform -- the Green Shift plan to move to a carbon-tax-based economy -- has been an admirable effort to raise the environment to the top of the national agenda. But this plan has evolved even during the campaign and is not widely understood. What would its impact be on the West, particularly Alberta, and what would the fallout be on the resource sector -- oil and gas -- that is a primary engine of the national economy? What would its impact be on steel manufacturers and what would that mean to Hamilton? Many questions hang over it, but it would be the cornerstone policy of a Liberal government.

And I should add, how the heck do you implement such a policy as the economy is tanking? The Liberal's flimsy 30 day, five point, commission, task force, tribunal, what-ever-you-wanna-call-it-to-sound-really- important economic plan to talk to a bunch of economists ain't much of a plan. And there you have it, perhaps the only written election endorsement you'll ever see coming from an editorial cartoonist during this election. Go Harper.

Update ( October 21): How the U.S. newspapers are overwhelmingly endorsing Barack Obama.

CBC's Election 2008 web page

Posted at 10:14 pm by Graeme_MacKay

September 22, 2008   12:32 PM PDT
Ahahaha... hilarious.
October 5, 2008   02:05 PM PDT
The Vichy Liberals, the Marxist NDP, the Anarchist Bloc, and the Pot Party Greens, all had the same platform to give the Canadian voters. "Don't vote for Harper!"

Harper was the only one to announce plans for for a better Canada in the coming 4 years.
October 15, 2008   12:40 PM PDT
So much for objective journalism! It's one thing for newspapers to come out with their endorsements in order to influence readers and twist the outcome of elections, but I think you've hit a new low in terms of admitting your own one sided opinion, Mr MacKay! I thought cartoonists were supposed to side with the people. Not to cozy up to politicians. Sheeeesh!

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