Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Rodger’s Rumspringa?

A Canadian political phenomenon I will never understand is how party affiliation can be at once all-important and yet no big deal.

Canada’s political parties are powerful, as the Globe and Mail pointed out in 2013:

Almost all discourse in the Canadian Parliament is scripted by party staffers. Questions posed of the government rarely meet straight answers. Politicians vote as their party leaders dictate nearly 100 per cent of the time. Few private members’ initiatives get past first reading.

In fact, Canadian political parties exert more control over their members than do parties in most parliamentary democracies, according to Leslie Seidle of the Institute for Research on Public Policy:

There may be some exceptions in those African dictatorships that are part of the Commonwealth and so on, but in the advanced parliamentary democracies, there is nowhere that has heavier, tighter party discipline than the Canadian House of Commons.

When you come right down to it, Canadian parties are pretty oppressive. Maybe that’s why, after 20 years of loyal service to the Liberal Party of Canada, former Cape Breton Canso MP Rodger Cuzner has joined Rubicon Strategy, a consulting firm with what the National Post calls “deep Conservative connections.”

Readers, I think he’s off on the political equivalent of a Rumspringa — the period during which Amish teenagers are allowed to experiment and break the rules before returning to the church — but instead of drinking beer in the woods and playing video games, Cuzner is hanging out with the men (they’re almost all men) who ran the Sun News cable channel and helped get Jason Kenney elected premier of Alberta and helped get Doug Ford elected in Ontario and were “instrumental in the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board.”

The kind of men you’d call if an ageing Soviet satellite were in danger of crashing to earth and the only way to stop it was to launch a crack negative advertising campaign:


Cuzner stands out, not only as the sole senior staffer with Liberal ties, but as the only one described as “collegial.” The others are all too busy being “ruthless” in their pursuit of success and “mastering the media” to make friends, apparently.


It’s estimated that 80% of Amish teenagers return to the church after Rumspringa.

It will be interesting to see how Cuzner’s ends.


Failure to launch

Despite the obvious bench strength (I mean, they have a guy who numbered among the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2018), Rubicon doesn’t always knock it out of the park — it was, after all, involved in the 2017 campaign that saw Kevin O’Leary drop out of the federal Conservative leadership race hours before the final debate.

And it is now, according to the National Post, involved in Peter MacKay’s campaign for the leadership of the federal Conservatives which is…well, I’ll let Chris Selley of the National Post tell you about it. This is how he described it to Jesse Brown on Canadaland: this week:

I’d like to duly note how terrible Peter MacKay’s leadership campaign is and how, like, weirdly terrible. I mean, it started out with…this tweet, it was like a strobe light-type effect with a bunch of words on it and you’re thinking, like, this could be some kid that he’s hired, like up in Pictou County, who’s doing this who’s just an idiot. But then I think, maybe he’s paying $150,000 for this and someone thinks it’s genius.


First, I just want to say that I think any kid in Pictou County could have done much better than this.

Especially given that MacKay’s campaign followed up with a tweet mocking Justin Trudeau for spending the Liberal Party of Canada’s money on spa and yoga sessions during his run for the leadership (because apparently MacKay is very concerned about how the Liberal Party of Canada spends its money). This — as that kid in Pictou could probably have told him — triggered an avalanche of tweets about that time MacKay called a search-and-rescue helicopter to pick him up at a fishing lodge.

Interestingly, according to the NP, Rubicon is particularly involved with MacKay’s digital communications — which includes social media which includes Twitter:

Some members of Rubicon Strategy…will also be helping MacKay’s campaign…Emrys Graefe, who specializes in digital communications and was deputy campaign manager for [Maxime] Bernier in 2017, will be working directly with MacKay, a source said.

Graefe, according to his Rubicon bio “wins online.”

Except, apparently, when he totally doesn’t.


What would Caesar Do?

Okay, one last Rubicon reference then I promise I’ll stop. (It’s really not fair to pick on them because I don’t like any of these political consulting firms and those pointless television panels featuring their representatives arguing with each other are among the main reasons why I don’t watch TV.)

But Rubicon has flashed across my radar this week, so Rubicon it is.

The company is named, of course, for the river Julius Caesar crossed with his army in 49 BC “with a single legion”  before going on “to create an empire that ruled the world for over 400 years” (they elide the “four-year civil war” and “dictator for life” bits, which is probably wise).

After noting that data is “at the heart” of everything the firm does, the website says:

Caesar would never have crossed the Rubicon if he wasn’t confident that he had the data and intelligence to mount the coup that created an Empire.

Which makes it sound like:

a) Caesar did a bunch of focus groups and opinion polls to gauge his chances of winning a civil war; and

b) if you came to Rubicon with a plan to mount a coup and create a Canadian Empire they’d be more than happy to assist.


Noticed in NS

Stephen Archibald is the author of the Noticed in Nova Scotia blog. I discovered him through the Halifax Examiner’s Morning File, which frequently links to his posts.

Archibald describes himself as “a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes” and his posts combine photographs with descriptions of places, like Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery; structures (past, present and future) and things (like his new — actual, not metaphorical — broom).

His most recent post, was inspired by debate over the Halifax Infirmary’s proposed 900-car parkade, which The Signal reports will be “wedged between the Museum of Natural History, the Halifax Wanderers’ Grounds and the paddock of the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers horseback riding group.”

Writes Archibald:

The provincial government progressed from total secrecy, to communication stumbles in their recent roll out of a proposed QEII hospital parkade and power plant. In the midst of the, not surprising, public outrage, urban planner, Tristan Cleveland offered a helpful reminder and plea to us all. For the whole massive hospital project it is really important how the buildings meet the street, it is “what matters most in design.” This is an idea you understand, think about streets that make you feel good and those that make you sad, or scared, or angry.

Archibald goes on to consider some happy meetings between buildings and streets in Halifax, one of which is at the bus terminal where restaurateur Michel Lindthaler has developed “a miniature Dartmouth Crossing” — an arcade of shops with Victorian facades that “is only reachable by bus or on foot.”

Arcade of shops, Halifax bus terminal

Photo by Stephen Archibald


Archibald’s blog is so good it makes me wish we had someone doing something similar here on the island. (If we do and I am simply ignorant of this person’s work, please let me know.)