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ESA's Infoboxes and Other Stuff

#1
I guess I'll join in on the fun by starting my own infobox thread as well.

For my first post I have decided to answer the ancient question of what happens when you're scrolling through the Canadian politics thread while half-listning to some podcast that happens to talk about Nancy Pelosi, resulting in you mishearing Paul Pelosi as Paul Martin. This is what happens.

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Nancy Martin was born in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., the daughter of Congressman and Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. Her relocation to Canada was a result of her marriage to Paul Martin Jr., a man she first met in a chance encounter during a trip to Canada at age 19. After bonding over their mutual interest in politics, D’Alesandro and Martin maintained a correspondence and later long distance relationship throughout their college years. They were married in 1964 and after three years living in Toronto the young couple relocated to Montreal where Paul pursued a career in business while Nancy got involved with municipal politics and later with the Liberal Party of Canada through the leadership campaign of her father-in-law. Her lack of proficiency in French was initially a hindrance in the early days of her political career in “la belle province”, but it improved greatly over the course of the following years thanks to intensive tutoring.

While Paul Martin Sr.’s leadership bid ultimately failed, her involvement in the campaign had certainly gotten people in the Liberal Party to pay attention to the young Marylander. Throughout the 1970s she found ample work as a Liberal organizer in Quebec while she raised her family and this meant that she was well-known face among Liberal supporters in Montreal when she took the big leap to join the national political scene in 1984. With Pierre Trudeau stepping down as Liberal leader and Prime Minister, his safe seat was suddenly open and Martin moved quickly to secure the necessary support to succeed him. There was a bitter and hard fought selection and campaign, where her American origins caused some of her less scrupulous opponents outside of the party and also some within to question her commitment to Quebec, but Nancy Martin prevailed and was elected Member of Parliament for Mount Royal at the age of 44.

Throughout the 80s she maintained a relatively low profile in the House of Commons and if anyone was talking about a future Liberal leader named Martin it was usually in connection with her husband. In fact, there even some suggestions that she should step down in the 1988 election in favor of her husband, or at least speculation that she would retire within only a few terms after Paul made his inevitable entry on the political scene. The following years would prove how wrong they were as her husband rebuffed continued appeals for him to stand for parliament, opting to stay in the corporate world while his wife focused on the political world. When John Turner stepped down in 1990 there was some minor speculation that she’d stand for the leadership, but a campaign never materialized, perhaps because she was aware of her narrow path to victory.

After Chrétien’s unremarkable coronation she got promoted to Opposition House Leader, a position she held on to until the party’s landslide victory in the 1993 election and her subsequent appointment as Minister for International Trade. During her early years in the parliament and government she didn’t exactly gain fame for her sparkling charisma or inspiring oratory, instead she cultivated a reputation as a competent legislator who could get bills through parliament and be on good terms with the rest of the caucus. Only three years would pass before she received her next promotion, which came when Andre Ouellet was dropped from the cabinet in early January 1996 and Martin was appointed Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position she would retain for the remainder of Chrétien’s term in office.

All through the 90s Chrétien appeared to be utterly unassailable in his position as party leader and PM, with another majority government coming the Liberal’s way in 1997 and general lack of any obvious challengers to his hold on power within the cabinet. Those who were longing to see someone else occupy 24 Sussex at last found a hint of hope with the results of the 2001 election, as the mighty Liberal Party thought to be on track for an increased majority found itself vastly underperforming expectations. With a caucus three seats short of a majority, Jean Chrétien was no longer a shining superstar even in the eyes of some of his strongest supporters. Prospective leadership candidates were already gearing up for the campaign while a growing number of MPs were urging Chrétien to not overstay his welcome and let a fresh face take charge sooner rather than later. Even during these, after five years as the country’s leading diplomat, Nancy Martin’s name was rarely mentioned as a leadership contender. It was all about Rock, McKenna, Tobin and Manley, the big beasts who were already making moves behind the scenes. Facing ever-increasing pressure, Chrétien finally made it official in the spring of ’02, announcing his departure from the Liberal leadership and Prime Minister’s office in the first few months of 2003.

Rock and McKenna were the first to announce their candidacies, quickly emerging as the frontrunners. Martin surprised the punditry by becoming the third candidate to declare, causing some brief speculation that Canada could get it’s second female Prime Minister but with near unanimous agreement that she wouldn’t make it. However these shallow analyses betrayed a genuine lack of understanding for the strong base of support Martin had built up within the party throughout the years, with a strong fundraising numbers thanks in no small part to her husband’s business connections winning her favor among large sections of parliamentary party and organizers. Those same connections were put to use in her leadership campaign, and she established a quick lead in fundraising numbers while slowly and surely rising in support during the campaign. The final margin was larger than expected, with Martin pulling off 57-43 percent victory over McKenna in the last round.

Once in 24 Sussex she wasted little time to establish her own mandate, the minority parliament had already lasted nearly two years and the other parties had little interest in showing a new PM any generosity. The initial polls after her election looked very good indeed, the Canadian Alliance was busy debating itself over whether it should ditch its leader, the NDP and Bloc appeared to be sliding towards irrelevancy and the PCs had just elected a complete unknown as leader. Striking while the iron was hot, the writ was dropped for an election as soon as summer recess had come to an end and the Liberal Party immediately entered campaign mode while the opposition was caught off guard. Portraying herself as a less combative and more diplomatic individual than her predecessor, Martin enjoyed high personal approvals throughout the campaign, while she was aided by the divided nature of her opposition just like Chrétien had been in the three previous elections.

The messy nature of the Alliance campaign in particular was a boon to the Liberals and the source of the biggest scandal of the campaign, as an ad which ended with the question “Can you really trust Nancy to put Canada’s interests first?” was accused of using her American upbringing to question her Canadian patriotism. Immediate comparisons to the infamous “face ad” from the 1993 election was made by every Liberal spinster within 100 meters of any journalist that would listen, while Martin came home with a surprisingly strong debate win in the second debate in contrast to how bland she had been seen in the first one. Election Night was not even exciting, the Liberal Party was back in for a fourth term in a landslide victory that provided them with 203 seats in the House of Commons. She had asked for a mandate and the country delivered.

However this was also the beginning of the end of the era of good feelings that her party had enjoyed ever since her election. The rest of 2003 was spent in a jubilant mood while the opposition was in utter disarray, but shortly after New Year’s the sponsorship scandal hit the government as hard as an anvil dropped by the Road Runner. Gone were the expectations for a boost in approvals from a budget full of goodies, the PMO and cabinet were now in crisis management mode 24/7. An independent investigative commission was set up to assure the public that there would be a full impartial inquiry into the scandal, while a number of civil servants and former Liberal advisors implicated in the scandal were removed from their positions over the course of the following months. The big question as all of this unfolded was What did Prime Minister Martin know? In every interview and every PMQ which followed she upheld her innocence, pointing to all her service in the Chrétien cabinet having been in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disconnected from the departments involved in the scandal. The opposition on the other hand pointed to her long and storied career in the federal Liberals in Quebec and how she had maintained an active role in the province after her appointment to the cabinet. Was it really possible that she was completely in the dark throughout the whole affair, and if so what did that say about her competence?

Nancy Martin was cleared of all suspicions of involvement in the sponsorship scandal upon the release of the commission’s report, but nonetheless the damage was done. Corruption, sleaze and backroom shenanigans was firmly associated with the Liberal brand in the eyes of the public, and the party would have to fight hard to even become the biggest party in the next election, let alone form a majority government. In the years that followed everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at the Canadian public to convince them that the Liberals had changed, old worn out cabinet members which remained from the days of Chrétien were thrown out and replaced by new ones, untainted by past controversies. Costly yet popular items that hadn’t even made it into the party’s manifesto like tax cuts and a national child care system were introduced in parliament to great fanfare. It may have helped to stop the bleeding, but it certainly didn’t restore the public’s trust.

Like the Tories hade done fifteen years prior, the Liberals waited until the last possible moment to dissolve parliament, which only led to further speculation that the party was heading for a landslide defeat. But like the situation three years prior, the ace up their sleeve was the opposition. In spite of serious and numerous attempts to merge the parties on the right during the parliament’s five-year term, very little progress had been achieved. This was mostly due to the results of the 2003 election, which had soured a great deal of Tories on the notion. The Canadian Alliance had a much larger membership and a larger caucus, that much was true, but it was the Progressive Conservatives who had won more than half a million more votes than them. It was the Progressive Conservatives which had actually managed to gain seats while the Alliance lost nearly half their caucus. The merger fell through when no adequate power-sharing arrangement could be agreed between the two parties. Still, a half measure was better than nothing, as the two parties could at least reach an agreement to stand aside for each other in nearly two-thirds of the country’s ridings. However this still left a large number of ridings outside of the deal, particularly in Ontario, which could give the Liberals the pathway they needed to come out victorious.

The campaign started off poorly for Martin’s Liberals as head-to-head polling showed the Canadian public preferring PC leader Peter MacKay as Prime Minister by a 2-1 margin, but with such a mediocre outlook there were few places to go but up. There were a few glimmers of hope in those early days, with the Bloc Quebecois under new leader Pauline Marois proving a less formidable opponent than they’d been the previous decade, but the true gift from above came when the PCs and Alliance presented their manifestos. Both parties had pledge to go into coalition with one another in the event of a hung parliament, which seemed more than likely considering the divided right. However the manifestos revealed some massive discrepancies, contradictions and big holes in the financing that were easy target practice for the Liberals. Normally the amount of hay that could be made of this may not have been so great, but this coincided with the US economy entering into a complete free fall and Canada following suit. The “Vote Pete, Get Chuck” ads were rolled out not long after, in reference to MacKay’s considerably less popular colleague from the Alliance, while not a single campaign event went without a mention of the Liberals being the only party you could trust to steer Canada through the financial crisis. Martin began to see a second majority within her grasp, but soon another problem emerged.

While Marois’s Bloc were stumbling from one mistake to the next, the charismatic NDP leader was making waves across Martin’s home province with an economic message that resonated with voters in the wake of the Wall Street crash. The Liberals were now fighting a battle on two fronts, against an admittedly struggling but stronger right on one side and an insurgent left on the other. Fearful of a populist from the left snatching the victory out of her grasp like Feingold and had done to Clinton in the primaries below the 50th parallel, the final week of the campaign saw attacks flying in all directions, with Martin coming under increasing criticism for running an exclusively negative campaign. That may have been the case, but the problem for the opposition was that it worked. 155 seats was needed for a majority in the Commons, and the Liberals got 156. In spite of the scandals, economic downturn and voter apathy, Nancy Martin had secured another majority for herself and her party, albeit with the lowest share of the popular vote for any majority government in Canadian history.

From there on out though, the problems just seemed to pile on one after the other. The recession was a fact, and while Canada was somewhat protected by the rebound in the price of oil, her next term was a difficult one. The next budget included a significant stimulus package designed to kick start the Canadian economy, which proved relatively successful but also brought the federal budget into the red, prompting criticism from the Conservative opposition. A number of health care and child care expansions were also put on indefinite hold due to the state of the economy, prompting further criticism from the enlarged NDP caucus.

During 2010 the political story of the year was Michael Ignatieff’s appointment as Governor General which prompted a significant amount of criticism. Ignatieff’s ability to adequately represent Canada and Canadians were put in to question, which prompted Martin to draw a comparison with the attacks she had faced during her political career, which rang a bit false considering that she and the Haitian-born outgoing Governor General Michaëlle Jean had both spent almost their entire adult lives working in Canada. Michael Ignatieff had not. However the harshest criticism came from those who accused Martin of simply attempting to get rid of a potential rival as rumours had abounded for some months that Ignatieff was being lined up as a star candidate for the next election and eventual successor to Martin. Some of his comments on foreign policy also led to his ability to act as an impartial representative being put into question, but the government pushed ahead with his nomination nonetheless and on October 1st, 2010 he became Canada’s 28th Governor General. The Ignatieff appointment was something that would haunt Martin for a large portion of her remaining time in office, as the academic soon showed a tendency to make comments which bordered on interfering in the political arena. A particularly harsh critique of the Hungarian government made at a private function in 2013 leaked to Twitter and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and the Eastern European country, causing further difficulties for the government. A month afterwards Ignatieff announced his intent to step down as Governor General two years before the end of his term, with his replacement being significantly less controversial astronaut Chris Hadfield.

After 2008 a soft whispering could be heard within the Liberal caucus, as MPs were speculating about Martin’s retirement date. She would be in her 70s at the time of the next election, surely it was time to hand over the reins to the next generation? She wouldn’t overstay her welcome like Chrétien did, would she? They didn’t understand how Nancy Martin looked at things. In her mind she had achieved the impossible, gotten a Liberal government reelected to a sixteenth year in office after a term plagued by scandals and setbacks. Why would she resign? Who could take over and lead the party to another victory? The old experienced stalwarts from the 90s were mostly gone, while the young talents in the cabinet were still wet behind the ears. She wasn’t about to do what Mulroney did and leave the party in the hands of someone who would head straight into electoral oblivion. No, Nancy Martin was staying and gearing up to fight her final battle against the Tories and Dippers. With the formation of the United Conservative Party it looked like she’d have a fair fight on her hands as well, and to be honest she almost looked forward to the opportunity to prove that she didn’t just win elections because of vote splitting

In contrast to the Prime Minister’s expectation of a bruising fight, the 2012 campaign was a relatively calm affair with few sources of enthusiasm or scandal. The Liberals rolled out the same old attacks on the Tories, the Tories rolled out the same old attacks on the Liberals and the NDP attempted to step out of Jack Layton’s long shadow. Approval ratings showed that Martin wasn’t a big vote getter for the government and there was just general sense of fatigue around the governing party, but voters had not really warmed to the idea of Jim Prentice as Prime Minister either. The party was still suffering from growing pains after the merger, with embarassing bozo eruptions showing up and grinding their momentum to a halt at numerous points during the campaign. The big winner of 2012 was instead the new NDP leader, as "Meganmania" rolled into towns and cities across Canada in the wake of the debates, at least among young voters. That a hung parliament would be the outcome was not doubted by many, but the question of which party would be the biggest was still hanging in the air. As the dust settled it was clear that the next parliament would deal with largest NDP caucus ever seen, no Bloc MPs for the first time since 1991, and a Liberal Party that had lost the popular vote but was limping back into government against all odds once again, contingent on the good graces of Megan Leslie. With 126 seats behind her to Jim Prentice’s 124, Nancy could allow herself a brief moment of relaxation before the real battles began.

In the first caucus meeting after the election she made her intentions clear, the Liberal Party would be going into the next election under a new leader. No date was set for the leadership election which was the cause of a great deal of frustration among the MPs, who saw the thin plurality and bold demands of the NDP as a serious threat to their job security. Facing truly serious internal opposition for the first time, Martin relented to the pressure after the 2013 budget had been guided through parliament and announced that a leadership election would be held in May 2014. Her final year in office was unremarkable when you looked at the stuff coming out of the PMO, instead it appeared that all the big ticket items that passed through the House of Commons were delivered straight from NDP HQ. Megan Leslie’s party was keeping the government afloat and it was going use that leverage in every way imaginable. Meanwhile, the Liberal leadership race was under way with a large number candidates generating an abysmal amount of enthusiasm.

The candidate that emerged victorious in the end was someone who made history. George Smitherman became Canada’s first openly gay Prime Minister, and that is pretty much all you can say about him. The writ was dropped a few months later and Jim Prentice sailed into 24 Sussex with a massive landslide behind him, while Smitherman got to watch Megan Leslie hold the government to account in her new role as Leader of the Opposition before his resignation and departure from politics a few months later. At least he could find some comfort in the fact that his term in office outlasted Kim Campbell’s by seven days. The way that people view Nancy Martin today is not that different from how she was viewed when she left office. Loved by few, but respected by many for her electoral accomplishments and parliamentary capabilities. Together with her predecessor and (technically) her successor she has presided over the longest continous period of Liberal governance since the days of Mackenzie King and St. Laurent, no one can take that away from her. Though in the wake of Prentice’s second landslide victory over a divided left, some of her critics on that side of the spectrum have derisively compared her to Mulroney, dooming her side to two decades in the wilderness by clinging on to power for far too long and leaving her party in tatters. Only time will tell if they’re proven right.
 
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#2
Procrastination is a helluva drug. (Apologies in advance for all the terrible things I've allowed Google translate to do to Finnish and Estonian)
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The Moonsund Islands, alternatively the Moonsund Archipelago or Moonsund (Estonian: Moonsundi saarestikuks; Swedish: Moonsundsöarna; Finnish: Moonsundin saaristo), officially the Autonomous Region of the Moonsund Islands, is one of nine Regions of Sweden (Landsdelar), located in the Baltic Sea east of the Estonian mainland. With only 59,747 inhabitants as of 2017, it is both the smallest and least populated region of Sweden. It is the only Swedish region home to a plurality of Estonian speakers, and only one of three regions alongside Finland and Östernorrland where a majority of residents do not have Swedish as their first language. It is also the only region to recognize English and Latvian as official minority languages.

The region is composed of roughly 900 islands and skerries, most of which are uninhabited, with the four main islands being Saaremaa (Sw: Ösel), Hiiumaa (Sw: Dagö), Vormsi (Sw: Ormsö) and Muhu (Sw: Moonö). Saaremaa is the largest of all the islands, as well as home to more than half of the region’s population and the capital and largest city, Kuressaare (Sw: Tranöborg). The only university in the region is the University of Kuressaare, which also happens to be the smallest university in Sweden. The northernmost populated island is Hiiumaa, while the southernmost is Ruhnu (Sw: Runö), located some distance away from the rest of the islands in the Gulf of Riga.

The Moonsund Islands became a colony of the British Empire in 1933 after Russia officially ceded the islands at the signing of the Treaty of Slesvig at the end of the Great Continental War. During the Anglo-Russian Cold War the islands filled an important strategic function for Britain as a home to a naval base, air base and a number of listening stations. In the wake of the Treaty of Nizza which signalled a decrease in tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia, the military importance of the islands decreased and Britain gradually wound down its military presence. With the handover of RAF Aste to the Royal Swedish Air Force in 2013, Britain no longer possesses any military installations on the islands.

Historically the region has alternated between Russian and Swedish rule along with the rest of Estonia of which it was a part until the British occupation, last being a part of Sweden before the end of the Third Northern War (1795). During Russian rule the islands were home to a large number of Swedish-speaking Estonians, who were allowed to continue speaking their language mostly undisturbed in spite of the change in administration. The Estonian Swedes made up more than a third of the region’s population in the mid-1900s and were one of the strongest supporters of unification with the Swedish realm during British rule. With mainland Estonia under continued Russian control, it presented itself the main alternative to full independence after continued British colonial rule had been decisively rejected in a 1975 referendum.

In the wake of two additional referendums in 1978 and 1980 and the ratification of the Treaty of Åbo by the Swedish, British and Moonsundic governments in 1982, the Moonsund Islands became a part of the Kingdom of Sweden on January 1st 1983. As an autonomous region, Moonsund enjoyed a great deal of control over its taxation and criminal code lacked by other regions, which was a major contributing factor to an economic boom during the 1980s and 90s when a number of Swedish companies relocated their head offices to the islands, attracted by the region’s 5% corporate tax. Tourism also boomed, as lax regulations of non-medical drugs, prostitution and alcohol in comparison to the rest of the realm attracted a large number of visitors.

The vast policy differences between the region and the rest of Sweden sparked a great deal of tension between the Moonsundic government, other regions and the central government, as the region was singled out as a source of sex trafficking and illicit substances spreading to other parts of the realm. Eventually relations had grown so strained by the late 90s that the central government put pressure on Moonsund by openly threatening to expell the region from the Kingdom of Sweden, lest the Moonsundic government withdraw their veto on constitutional changes to the terms of their autonomy.

Per the terms of the Uleåborg Compromise struck in 1999, Moonsund relinquished most of their autonomy in the realms of taxation and the criminal code in exchange for an extensive public works programme mostly funded by the central government, which saw the construction of the Soela and Hari bridges. Controversially, the programme also included the Dagö-Hangö Tunnel, which upon completion in 2014 connected the islands to the Swedish rail network and became the world’s longest undersea tunnel, a record which lasted until the completion of the Irish Sea Tunnel in 2019. The source of the controversy was the immense cost of the project, exceeding the Åland Link in expenditure with no real economic benefit it was heavily criticised by the national political opposition during the 2000s as a simple bribe from the government to get Moonsund to acquiesce to the autonomy reforms.

Today Moonsund’s autonomy mostly relates to policy areas concerning language, education and culture, as well as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis policies. Goods physically sold on the islands are exempt from national alcohol, tobacco and cannabis taxation, with the regional government able to set their own tax levels provided they not fall below 55% of the national tax rate. This, in combination with alcohol and cannabis not being sold by the national government-owned monopoly, but instead by a chain owned by the regional government with significantly longer opening hours, has made Moonsund a prime destination for residents of other regions looking to stock up on cheap alcohol or THC products.

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The current governor of the region, the official representative of the monarch, is Princess Olivia, the Duchess of Ösel who has held the position since June 1st 2014. The fourth child of Queen Katharina II and eleventh in line to the throne, before her appointment to the governorship Moonsund was the sole region to have a governor that was a civil servant and not a member of the House of Vasa. As the first royal child born after Moonsund became part of Sweden she also became the first member of the royal family to recieve a ducal title connected to Moonsund.

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The region’s legislature is the Rahvuskogu (National Assembly), which was founded as the Legislative Council during British colonial rule in 1949 and adopted its current name in 1966. The current premier is Laine McCullough of the Liberal Party, who has been in office since 2016, with the distinction of both being the first female premier and the first premier of British heritage, having been brought up by Scottish and Estonian parents.

From the 1950s onwards, the islands’ political scene was dominated by the big tent National Unity Party, which primarily found its base among Estonian-speakers and often formed majority governments or coalitions with the Labour Party which was supported along cross-lingual lines. The Liberal Party which had its base among Swedish-speakers and was strong with Latvian and English-speaking communities rarely entered power, aside from a brief stint in the late 80s, until the mid 2000s when they formed a grand coalition with National Unity as a junior partner. While in government they pulled off the rare feat of surpassing their senior partner in the 2015 election and became the largest party in the National Assembly for the first time ever, with McCullough ascending to the premiership six months later in the wake of the resignation of the National Unity leader after 21 years in the top job.

The last election was held in June 2018, a snap election caused by the government losing its majority as a result of 8 National Unity MPs defecting to the Fatherland Front. The election cemented the Liberal Party’s status as the region’s largest, while National Unity’s support completely cratered. The collapse of the once proud natural governing party had been a long time coming, as it had found it increasingly difficult to hold together a fragile coalition of Estonian-speaking Estonian nationalists, Swedish unionists and Moonsundic nationalists ever since the Camomile Revolution spread through Russia, resulting in the independence of Estonia in 2004.

The far-right Fatherland Front has managed to grow into the second largest party thanks to the support of Estonian nationalists who are dreaming of Moonsund becoming one with the nascent Estonian Republic, while those who dream of Moonsund’s independence have been drawn in by the left-wing nationalist People’s Voice Party. Meanwhile the Liberal Party is benefitting from young Estonian-speakers being less inclined to vote based on linguistic lines in comparison to their parents, as evidenced by the party almost doubling their support among Estonian-speakers in 2018.

Current polling places support for unification with Estonia somewhere between 20-25%, with Estonian-speakers being split down the middle on the issue. Independence has even less support at roughly 10%, with a sizable majority of Moonsundic voters seemingly content with the status quo.
 
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