Grey skies are gonna get even darker. Put on an angry scowl!

Everybody hold hands
Fear not, Canada. As soon as we’re back in the black, our politicians will go back to hating each other.

“Glittering through [the] bleakness” of recession, deficit and abandoned election promises, the Toronto Star’s James Travers also espies Stephen Harper’s “commitment to suspend the politics of division in favour of partnership.” It’s nothing less than a “seismic shift,” he enthuses, as evidenced most compellingly by his recent meeting with the premiers. And with the opposition parties in no position to trigger another election, Travers expects a new, congenial tranquility to descend over Ottawa. We’ll all be living in abject penury, of course, but you can’t have everything.

The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin believes yesterday’s Throne Speech arrived safely at the midway point between “timidity” and “rash action.” And, like Travers, he detects unusually low activity in the Prime Minister’s Van Loan lobe, the part of the brain that regulates hyper-partisan blather. “The economic crisis has focused his mind,” he suggests; “he is a more mature leader. … He understands the country better.” And as such, Martin believes he now “realizes the necessary response [to the crisis] is consensus-building at home and abroad.” However, as if sensing Canada’s collective skepticism, Martin hastens to add “it’s by no means certain” that this new conciliatory tone will take hold throughout Ottawa.

Sun Media’s Greg Weston suggests Canadian seniors got screwed over in the Throne Speech, in that “the Conservative campaign platform provided more than $1 billion in help for the elderly over the next four years, the party’s third largest spending promise of the entire election,” and now it looks like it won’t happen. But he takes solace that the speech suggested “the government is ready to curb its own cheque-writing and end the spending spree,” even if it also seems committed, “for better or for worse, … to provide ‘further support’ to the aerospace industry (read: Quebec), and to the North American automakers.”

The Calgary Herald’s Don Martin seems particularly struck by the “foreboding” nature of the speech, which underlined just how precipitously the world economy has declined. “Had anyone predicted Prime Minister Stephen Harper talking about emergency deficits even two months ago,” says Martin, he “would’ve been considered straightjacket-worthy.” But hey, look on the bright side: at least MPs are relevant again. For all the traditional sniping in which Jack Layton and Stéphane Dion indulged yesterday, Martin believes they and their caucuses now realize the government’s plan “might be the only thing standing between a modest-impact recession and a devastating pink slip for tens of thousands of Canadians.”

The National Post’s Terence Corcoran is clearly nauseated by “the spirit of self congratulation” that pervaded the Throne Speech—the boasts of “solid fiscal fundamentals” and the world’s best-regulated banks, and the idea that Canada’s financial institutions can teach a lesson to the world. All of which, it seemed to us, promised a big, fat rebuttal from Corcoran—something along the lines of, Canada’s banks aren’t well-regulated, or our fundamentals aren’t that great. Instead he quickly changes the subject, suggesting our debt reduction hasn’t really been all that great (the speech does mention debt paydown, but hardly dwells on it) and concedes “there is certainly much for Canadians to be thankful for.” Rip-off.

Provincial affairs
At first blush, Don Macpherson argues in the Montreal Gazette, the excellent turnouts at Liberal campaign events thus far seem to run against the idea that Quebeckers are suffering from election fatigue. But polls suggest it may be non-Liberals who are suffering most. “The Liberal vote is more solid, and Liberal supporters are more likely to vote than those of other parties,” he notes. They’re also more “interested in the campaign,” “as inclined to vote in this election as they were in the last one,” and “less likely to say that they could change their minds before voting day.” At the risk of stating the obvious, this is a very good thing for Jean Charest.

The Gazette’s Henry Aubin applauds Charest’s pledge to fund in-vitro fertilization, which was a reversal of earlier Liberal policy. “I bet any child born to a woman who wants a baby so intensely as to go through this procedure will be much loved and cared for,” he writes, and more practically, anything that can mitigate the province’s “looming manpower shortage” should be welcome. To wit, he suggests the government also pour money into adoption programs, and, to the extent it is able, try to eliminate the increasing number of obstacles to international adoptions.

The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer surveys the battle for three ridings in the Okanagan, where all three incumbent Liberal MLAs have announced their retirement. He profiles Ben Stewart, the candidate in Westside, who’s a local vintner and, by virtue of his father’s links to former premier Bill Bennett, probably the closest the Liberals will come to capturing some magic from “the last living multi-term B.C. premier” and his highly successful political clan.

Duly noted
The Star’s Haroon Siddiqui looks approvingly at a movement to “twin” mosques and synagogues throughout North America, in hopes of effecting “a potentially historic thaw between the mainstream moderates of the two communities in North America.”

The Star’s Rosie DiManno laments that throughout the first murder trial in connection to the death of Jane Creba—as indeed in most murder cases—the victim hasn’t been presented as “a three-dimensional being.” At most, she suggests, Creba is presented as “a symbol of something gone desperately wrong in this city, but even that … denies her individuality.” And what we have learned about the 15-year-old, she concludes, is gruesome—that “what originally sounded like a mercifully quick death” was in fact a “more agonizing, unspeakable horror compressed into 20 … 30 … seconds.”

The Star’s inimitable Bob Hepburn continues his streak of altogether sane columns by suggesting the Liberals immediately adopt a one member, one vote system for choosing a leader—and thereby demonstrate “they are serious about reform, openness and inclusiveness”—instead of waiting to vote on it at the delegated convention in May. Hmph. That’s all well and good, but what happened to the crazy? We hope it wasn’t something we said.

In the National Post, Father Raymond J. De Souza lays most of the blame for his beloved Queen’s University’s decision to cancel homecoming at the feet of the city’s “ineffectual,” “incompetent” police department. Now, we have no opinion on the K-town cops, but it seems a little ironic for Father Ray to accuse the department of “shifting the blame” for the now traditional homecoming riots to the university. Surely the university—or its students, anyway, for whom every beer seems to be as potent as their first—must be more to blame than the police for periodically turning Kingston into East Lansing on the St. Lawrence.

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