Good PR v. bad PR

Bad PR: This killer pop song's popularity is exploding!

Good PR: Here's a clip of Rick Astley singing "Never gonna give you up"

Wine is fine. For a good time.

Billy Munnelly writes about wine in Toronto; my dad subscribes to his newsletter and even had him over to entertain some friends. It was a solid night.

He's got a wine guide out and as I began reading through it, I found it interesting.

I saw Sideways, and liked it. But I have no use for detecting notes of chocolate in fermented, foot-stamped grapes. 

For me, the LCBO (ie. the only place one can buy liquor in Ontario) is big and confusing. There are a lot of wines, and I think I'm in the majority when I say that I usually look for ones with cool labels, and that are Merlot or Pinot Noir. I did a tour of Jackson Trigg's once, and I drank Beaujolais Nouveaux in France for 3 weeks straight, so I have two points of reference. Other than that, it's a collage of neat labels. One picks one.

Now I pick two. Billy divides wine into three types: simple, medium or rich, and then white or red. He takes what the LCBO offers and selects only "good" wines, then categorizes them: simple, medium or rich.

This makes wine much more comprehensible. So now, I always buy two bottles; usually a simple and a rich one. And I drink both in the same night. Alternating glasses. You learn a lot about a simple wine in the context of a rich wine.

So, if you drink a lot of wine, and don't know what the hell it's all about (and don't want to detect notes of gooseberry), try Billy

The Prime Minister is

I read another good quote today, which perhaps helps to clarify how we are governed. It read: "The prime minister is the person who can retain the confidence of the house."

Due to issues of marketing and branding, the spectacle of elections concerns party leaders. And, in fact, U.S. presidential elections really are about party nominees. But government is not marketing and the U.S. president is not the Canadian prime minister.

On the Governor General's desk when she gets home

The flight back from Prague today will not be relaxing for our GG. The role is almost entirely ceremonial, but if in fact it were completely ceremonial, I think we would by now have replaced the GG with a piece of nicely carved wood, or something gilded and inurt.

David Frum makes a silly argument that it is unconstitutional (or practically so) for a parliament to chose a prime minister. Perhaps we (and by "we" I mean more than one Canadian) are confusing our system with the U.S.'s, in which the Presidency is an institution apart from the parliament. After all, Canadians seemed to follow the U.S. presidential election more than our own.

But Canada is different, and as long as we are not the U.S., we should perhaps see the prime minister's role for what it is. The PM is not elected by the people generally, and has no mandate independent of parliament. He is instead chosen by parliament; if that parliament wants to organize into parties and vote as blocks, the constitution could really care less.

So it is perfectly reasonable and normal in Canada for a parliament to change who is the prime minister. In fact, Kim Campbell and Paul Martin both became Prime Ministers without an election. If this parliamentry power doesn't feel correct, that suggests we have been influenced by the U.S. We can change the constitutionm but we cannot ignore the constitution.

I feel that, because it would be very easy for three opposition parties to merge into one party, it is also legitimate for them to temporarily form a coalition. A super-Liberal-NDP-Bloc party received about two-thirds of the votes in the last election; the Conservatives, about one third. So it is not wrong for them to control parliament, from where our PM springs.

At any rate, I think it's important to not attack the legality of the situation we're facing. Let's discuss the other implications for a Liberal PM leading a coalition government before Christmas.

Of most importance is the effect on Western alienation. Stephen Harper is a product of the rise of the West, and decades of anger at feeling outside the centre of power were somewhat alieved when a Reform-heavy Conservative party took power in Ottawa. The re-election of that party affirms that Canada does not reject the West.

So, for left-leaving, French-speaking, Liberal-appointed Governor General to take the country's leadership away from the West and hand it to a French-speaking, failed leader who is rejected by his own party, and who requires separatists to stay in power ... this will not play well out west. I think this would inflame Western anger more than any previous policy or slight. The optics are not entirely of Harper's failure, as perhaps they should be, but of a system stacked against the West.

I am not opposed to Rae or Ignatieff being crowned Liberal leader and PM. Both have considerably more government experience than Brian Mulroney did when he ascended to the highest office. Frankly, although Harper was a policy wonk, he had never really run anything more substantial than an SME before running the country.

But a Rae or Ignatieff appointment as PM again smacks of elitism.

All this said, I feel that a coalition government is a reasonable path for Canada. More than 300 MPs represent Canadians' interests in parliament; a group of about two-thirds of them came together and said that Canada requires a fiscal stimulus package, given the state of the global economy. I think they're right about that. And I think our system is right to allow them to remove from power a government that fails to deliver this.