The Liberal Party - Gore Vidal - Al Qaeda

The Liberal Party - History can be a great teacher but sometimes it can also be a surprisingly cruel one.

The last year the Liberal Party of Canada failed to win a majority in its third election in a row was 1962. Before that it was 1891.

Since the founding of the country, the party has been either the government or the opposition.

Its great leaders, Laurier, King, Pearson, Trudeau, Chretien have been nation builders and visionaries; sometimes with questionable results but always used to the exercise of power.

That all ended Monday night. The Liberals, now leaderless, have been reduced to third party status with a meager 34 seats.

They now face four wilderness years watching a powerful Conservative government and a re-invigorated NDP Opposition.

What happens next? The party is certainly down but is it out?

Everyone talks about the need to reform and rebuild, but can it be done? And perhaps more importantly...should it be done? In the twenty first century...are Liberals still necessary?

In our First Hour, three astute observers check the life support system of the Liberal Party and make their suggestions for recovery.

Read more about hour one here

Gore Vidal - In our Middle Hour, the grand master of invective and insight, Gore Vidal. He is getting on now, frail and largely confined to a wheelchair, but his brain is still in overdrive.

Last weekend he turned up before an enthusiastic audience at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal and I got a chance to interview him.

A rare conversation with Gore Vidal in our Second Hour.

Read more about hour two here

Al Qaeda - In Hour Three, a conversation with Leah Farrall, one of the world's foremost experts on Al Qaeda, on the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Read more about hour three here

Elsewhere in the program: the pounding, jump-for-joy magic of Bhangra, some thoughts on truth and reality in journalism and in celebration of its 50th birthday, the National Theatre School's very first graduate, the magnificent Martha Henry.

Hour 1

Michael's Essay

In this week's essay, Michael's thoughts on truth - and journalistic truth.

The Liberal Party

The conventional wisdom when the election writ was issued back in March was that it was going to be boring, a waste of time and that in the end, we end up pretty much where we were when the opposition parties defeated the Government on a no confidence motion on March 25th.

Well as the wise ones like to mutter...a 35-day election campaign is a long time and as we all know, despite the conventional wisdom, the result of Monday's vote is a true shift in the Canadian political landscape. We have a majority Conservative government, the official opposition party is the NDP, the Liberals were reduced to an historic low in terms of representation in the House and the Bloc Quebecois were almost wiped out.

Each of these results is a stunner but in terms of the long term political future of this country, the relegation of the Liberal Party of Canada, long known as the Natural Governing Party of Canada, to third party status maybe the most significant aspect of last Monday's vote.

Or at least that's what veteran watchers and analysts of the Liberal party are chewing over and we've brought together three of this country's most astute observers of that once august institution.

Ron Graham is a journalist and author. His most recent book is The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, The Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada and Stephen Clarkson, professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and Senior fellow of Centre for International Governance Innovation and author, most notably of Trudeau and Our Times and Big Red Machine: How The Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics. They were in Toronto.

Antonia Maioni, Director the McGill Institute for The Study of Canada, was in Montreal.

Hour 2


It's a wild spectacle. Pounding. Leaping. Dancing. Singing. Crazy coloured costumes. Stunts and tricks. All making up the extravagant musical and dance form called modern Bhangra.

Its origins are in the harvest fields of the Punjab.

Now it's known as the hiphop of India.

And this week, you could be excused for thinking it's the official art form of Vancouver.

Posters are plastered on every telephone pole, every bulletin board, announcing two big events: the City of Bhangra Festival and the Museum of Vancouver's Bhangra.Me exhibition. One poster image? An Indian man in a hot pink turban, with a dohl drum around his neck, a black guy wearing headphones, a white woman playing the Iktar, an ancient South Asian instrument. "We are Bhangra" the poster says.

Vancouver, it turns out, is an international Bhangra hub. There is history. There are shows. There are champion teams. And Simon Fraser University, with its first-ever university credit course in Bhangra.

Teresa Goff produced this documentary Whatever You Make it.

Mail - Epidemiology

Two weeks ago on the program, we looked at the British National Survey of Health and Development. More than 5,000 people have been studied since the day they were born - 65 years ago. It has helped to shape public health policy in Britain.

But not everyone believes this branch of science - known as epidemiology - should be treated as gospel.

Gore Vidal

As a lifelong and ardent fan of the American writer Gore Vidal, Michael was anxious to interview him at Montreal's Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.

His novels, essays and public appearances have been a centerpiece of American cultural life for 50 years.

His first success as a novelist came when he was still in his 20s.

His fame as a trenchant social critic was universal. He loved nothing more than a good fight.

Gore Vidal is 86 now, a very frail 86. He doesn't do many public appearances and interviews are rare, especially since the death of his life companion Howard Austen a few years ago.

Nevertheless there are still flashes of the old Vidal fire as his demonstrated in Montreal.

Hour 3

Al Qaeda

It is perhaps the most important symbolic victory in the so-called "War on Terror." But the killing of Osama bin Laden last Sunday surely did not end it.

Nearly ten years have passed since the attacks of 9/11. In the decade that followed, the U.S. Military deployed hundreds of thousands of troops; to Afghanistan, to Iraq and beyond.

Over those same ten years, Al Qaeda has also increased its presence in the world. And it is much stronger today than it was on that September morning, according to Leah Farrall.

Ms.Farrall is a former senior Counter Terrorism Intelligence Analyst with the Australian Federal Police. She worked for the force in Indonesia following the Al Qaeda bombing in Bali.

She now runs a respected counterintelligence blog at ""

Last month, Leah Farrall wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine titled "How Al Qaeda Works." In that piece, she described the structure of the organization and its increasing power and influence over the past few years. But that article was published before the death of Osama bin Laden, this past Sunday.

Leah Farrell was at her home in Australia, where reached her via Skype.

Martha Henry

The National Theatre School kicked off the year-long celebrations of its 50th anniversary last November. The class of 2010 graduates this month.

The idea for a national theatre school was a response to the 1951 Royal Commission on the Arts, which had deplored the lack of a Canadian institution of higher education in theatre. We had loads of accomplished actors, directors and technicians, but no gathering place for them to hone their craft. A few years later, the newly created Canada Council took up the challenge.

Now it's hard to imagine theatre in this country without the National Theatre School and the talent it has nurtured and inspired for fifty years. Colm Feore. Judith Thompson. Ann Marie MacDonald. Sandra Oh. Joseph Ziegler. Just a few of its esteemed alumni.

The National Theatre School opened its doors in November 1960. It was a heady time for the 26 students who began their studies in three rooms of the Canadian Legion building on Mountain Street in Montreal. One of them was an aspiring young actor from Detroit, Martha Buhs. Or as she would soon be known, Martha Henry. Two years later, she became the school's very first graduate.

Martha Henry has portrayed everyone from Lady Macbeth to Blanche Dubois. Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night, to Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She is also a director, mentor and inspiration to many in Canada's theatre community.

These days she is the director of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at the Stratford Festival in Ontario and is appearing as Queen Margaret in Shakespeare's Richard the III at Stratford this season.

She was in our Toronto studio.

Essay: Dreyfus

It's not one of those round number ones that get lots of attention.

But, along with Mother's Day, today IS the 66th anniversary of VE day, Victory in Europe Day.

66 years ago, on May 8th, 1945 - across Canada, the United States, Britain and Europe - people poured into the streets, laughing, crying, exulting in the end of the Second World War and the promise of peace. We thought this anniversary a good time to play Ralph Bongard's essay..... called Dreyfus.

It captures a moment in the middle of worldwide conflict, when war and it's human cost enter a young boy's life here in Canada.

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