Megapundit: We Ontarians aren’t all smiles and sunshine, Mr. Harper

Must-reads: Jonathan Kay on Man on Wire; Andrew Cohen on the end of politics; John Ivison on Stéphane Dion’s reinvigoration.

Revenge of the provinces
The Tories struggle with a Bloc resurgence in Quebec, and Ontario (snicker) promises to stand up for itself.

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson goes poking around cheap office space and basement apartments in the Mauricie in search of Liberal candidates. In Saint-Maurice-Champlain he finds a fine one in Ronald St-Onge Lynch, who has an inspiring record of overcoming personal adversity, who oozes “commitment and sincerity”… and who is currently waiting on his first $2,000 cheque from party HQ to cover the modest costs of his utterly doomed campaign. It’s all quite interesting, really, but the larger point Simpson hints at—something about the “salad days” of the Quebec Liberals never being as leafy and verdant as they’re portrayed—seems both tacked on and incomplete.

In light of Jean Charest’s cagey behaviour during the federal election campaign—endorsing certain Tory candidates but sniping at Stephen Harper on several occasions—the Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson assesses the chances he’ll call a provincial election this autumn. Much hinges upon the federal result, of course, but even if the Tories don’t win a majority “he can argue that in a time of economic turmoil, Quebec needs political stability in the form of a majority Liberal government.” Above all else, one must remember that Charest “is a gambler. And he isn’t afraid to play for high stakes with a hand that’s less than a sure thing.” (Careful, Mr. MacPherson. As you may know, the Liberals have copyrighted gambling analogies.)

The Globe‘s Konrad Yakabuski accuses the “supposed brainiacs” at the helm of the Tory campaign of treating Quebec voters as if they “were solidly in their camp”—allowing “a paltry $15-million in cuts to the arts (the Quebec portion of the $45-million national reduction) to destabilize their campaign” and systematically no-showing at local debates, thus allowing Gilles Duceppe to make massive quantities of hay on the whole “hidden agenda” thing. Charest likely “never dreamed his veiled attacks on Mr. Harper would be so effective in sapping the Tory campaign,” says Yakabuski, and if his inadvertent charity to the Bloc also reinvigorates the PQ, he may have shot himself in the foot.

Acknowledging Ontario’s existence might be a nice thing for Harper to do, Murray Campbell suggests in the Globe—if not shaking the premier’s hand, then at least conducting “a discussion about the future of Canada’s most-populous—and vote-rich—province,” which is the “engine of Canada’s economy,” at a time when “hundreds of thousands of Ontario families … are suffering as the province’s manufacturing sector collapses.”

The Ottawa Citizen‘s Randall Denley places a good amount of blame for this situation on Dalton McGuinty, suggesting he’s “been campaigning like a special interest group, sending letters to candidates and using an on-line petition,” and that he’d “have gotten more for Ontario if he had sat outside Parliament Hill with a begging bowl.” Denley’s solution? The formation of “The Ontario Party,” perhaps with a platform based on the recent TD Bank economics report on the provincial economy. Even 30 of the 106 Ontario seats would ensure the feds never again blew us off, Denley suggests, and hey—points for originality. But in our experience, Ontarians (or Golden Horseshoe-ians, anyway) simply don’t identify with their province. They just think of it as The One True Canada.

As the economy tanks
Funnily enough, a falling tide doesn’t lower all ships.

Harper is right about the economy, says Sun Media’s Greg Weston. “As the world comes to grips with the fiscal wreckage that inevitably lies ahead, a new tax on carbon or corporations would only add to the debris.” But what Canadians really want and need from Harper, and what they haven’t yet received, is to “at least [try] to sound empathetic towards those losing their savings.” (Really? We want the status quo maintained and a pat on the head? Huh.)

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe makes a similar point in a less insulting fashion, arguing that Canadians are well-aware of the risks posed by a troubled U.S. economy and that Harper’s talk of strong fundamentals is simply “wearing thin.” If he wants to maintain the plurality of Canadians who believe he “would make the best economic manager,” Yaffe says he “needs to begin more directly acknowledging the crisis and actively addressing ways the U.S. meltdown is bound to pummel this country.” That’s a delicate operation, certainly, but as Yaffe says, Harper very much needs to “shed the tortoise shell.”

The National Post‘s John Ivison finds Stéphane Dion with a spring in his step on Vancouver Island, and suggests it’s due to his downplaying the carbon tax in favour of attacking Harper’s “laissez-faire” attitude, and proposing a 30-day economic review upon becoming Prime Minister that, while “greeted with skepticism by those who have taken the trouble to read what has actually been proposed,” nonetheless constitutes “motion” instead of Harper’s inertia. (The Liberals would likely also beam at Ivison’s contention that the positive job figures for September rely heavily on the thousands of election monitors hired by the federal government.)

Duly noted—election edition
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin profiles ten “top candidates,” from Peter MacKay to Keith Martin and Bill Casey to Ralph Goodale, who may soon find themselves on the unemployment line. It’s a useful look at some fascinating races, but we choked a little at the idea of “at least [giving Michael Fortier] credit … for giving up the safest gig in Ottawa for the risky business of running.” That’s how it’s supposed to work!

Andrew Cohen, writing in the Citizen, argues last week’s synchro-debates in Ottawa and St. Louis gave Canadians ample and reasonable cause to feel smug about their politics as compared to the American brand. Sarah Palin, he argues, “isn’t just the descent of politics; she is, in a sense, the end of politics—a conventional politics of standards, rules and minimum expectations.” Her debate performance, “and her candidacy in general … is a farce. Opéra bouffe. An absurdity.” She is “Annie Oakley without Annie Oakley’s virtues.” She is “Eliza Doolittle before Henry Higgins taught her to talk.” She is “neither credible nor distinguished” and worse, lacks the “humility to see it.” And with few exceptions, Cohen laments, conservative commentators are afraid to point all this out—and moderators, apparently, are afraid to force Palin to answer the question—lest they be labelled “elitist.”

Duly noted—everything else
“Nobody on the side of free markets ever said markets are always right,” Terence Corcoran writes in the Financial Post. “It’s the regulators who came along and said markets are often wrong and here’s a regulatory regime that will fix them.” And it’s that sort of thinking, he contends—”runaway central bank policies, government housing and tax programs, botched regulation and failed political intervention”—that got us where we are today and that promises more market turmoil in the future, not the lavish CEO salaries and failed investment banks that make such convenient scapegoats.

The Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno examines the curious case of Kevin John Pinto, the a vice-president of a downtown Toronto financial firm who recently turned himself into police in the matter of several unsolved (and not particularly lucrative) bank robberies.

The Post‘s Jonathan Kay files an elegantly written review of James Marsh’s Man on Wire, the documentary about wire-walker Philippe Petit, who famously walked between the two World Trade Center towers for a full 40 minutes in 1974. “He didn’t just walk on the thing,” Kay marvels. “He lay down on it, knelt, saluted, spoke to a passing bird and coyly taunted the police who’d gathered on either end of the rope.” The peculiar beauty of what Petit considered a high art form has an amazing ability to “erase sin,” he observes. “Last week, … I happened to see an old 1980s era photo of the World Trade Center, and something shocking happened: I didn’t think about 9/11.”