Friday, May 26, 2006

B.C Bound

Going away for a few days to visit some old haunts in British Columbia. See you when I get back:)

Harper's Scary Media Viewpoint

The more I hear Harper speak about the media, the more his opinions concern me:
Mr. Harper said: "I don't think this story is really of much interest to ordinary people. I think what they are interested in is what is the government doing, and do they agree with it or do not agree with it."

The news media, he continued, "will always have their opinions about government policy," but the public will ultimately make up its own mind.

The greatest asset of a democracy is a free media, that has the ability to critically analyze. Harper seems to have little regard for this essential check on government propaganda. Harper is right to say people are interested in what the government is doing, but he doesn't acknowledge that we need an independent voice to filter through the politically charged rhetoric.

How can the public "make up its own minds" if they aren't provided as many facts, and varying opinions as possible? For all the over-exaggerated talk of a biased media, Canadians have no problem finding ideologically friendly news outlets. All political conversations find references from the media to either support or discredit a viewpoint. Harper endorses a simple view- government will tell you what we are doing and you should except that as fact and form your opinion from there. I don't want to be overly dramatic, but Harper sounds like a complete fascist on dissemination of information.

According to Harper, my income taxes were cut. If that is all the information afforded me, then obviously my opinion would tend to support his initiative. However, the media informs me that, in fact, my income taxes actually went up a half point, compared to the last government. The media broadens my perspective and allows for a more informed opinion. There is an inherent hypocrisy in Harper's view, on the one hand advocating a reduced role of government in people's lives, while at the same time wanting absolute power over what we are told, and in turn what to believe.

Harper's disdain for the media, is actually a disdain for the notion of true freedom. If Canadians can make up their own mind, they are also sophisticated enough to separate honest reporting from biased agendas. Harper's overreactions and fixation on message control should serve as a warning sign to what this government is actually all about. Transparency and accountability are fine slogans, but philosophically Harper offers a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Rather than empowering people, this is an elitist ideology that affords the peons little opportunity for independent thought. The media is our filter, and while not perfect, it is our eyes and ears that blunts politicism. I have heard a lot people dismiss this whole debate as a waste of time, but I see it as a window into Harper's ideology and what I see is truly scary.

Great post on the same subject.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Birth Of A Nation?

Whenever the subject of division of powers comes up, Ralph Klein is always the first one to draw a line in the sand and rail against "federal incursions" into supposed provincial jurisdications. Well as far as my reading of the constitution, stuff like this is out of bounds:
parked in the middle of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The exhibit will symbolize all that is Alberta, but may also hint at a new breed of federalism, one where individual provinces pursue their own interests.

In late June, 150 ordinary Albertans will showcase Canada's booming province in the two-week Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Held annually, it is expected to attract more than a million visitors.

Alberta's participation marks the first time Canada has been featured in the 40-year history of the event. When the federal government turned down an invitation, Alberta took its place.

That's not a surprise, considering the lengths Alberta officials are going to make their presence felt in the U.S. capital. Alberta already has its own office in the Canadian embassy -- the only province to have such an arrangement...

The office aims to "protect, promote and position Alberta interests at the highest level," Mr. Smith said...

Professor Bothwell said Alberta's situation could set a dangerous precedent for other provinces. Ontario and Quebec could demand to have an equivalent place at the U.S. table, for instance.

"At that point, Canada would have to be banned as an international nuisance," he said.

"A visit to the Canadian ambassador would be like watching Snow White arrive with the seven dwarfs ... We'd just be an absolute laughingstock."

I don't want a situation where "individual provinces pursue their own interests" (with the partial exception of Quebec), as far as I'm concerned it is the role of the federal government to promote Canada. Alberta's interests are Canadian interests, so there is no conflict in allowing the feds to do the "promoting". Every province can claim to have unique characteristics, but so too can areas within a province, or by extension towns within an area- where do the distinctions end. Alberta is well within its right to pressure the federal government to promote Alberta, but it should be done so internally, while the feds remain the contact point.

One of the more hypocritical, have your cake and eat it too, issues that I can remember was when Klein found it necessary to tell Bush that Alberta supported the Iraq war, in defiance of the federal government. Klein goes crazy whenever Alberta is "threatened", but has no qualms jumping all over the constitution when it serves his purposes. The federal government makes those decisions and the constitution is quite clear on this point. I don't agree with an Albertan office in Washington, I think it weakens our federal system and sets up a pseudo state that confuses. I don't agree with a Alberta exposium that signals an independence. I don't see any reason why our current set-up can't address a provinces needs, especially when that province is Canada. The world gets smaller by the day, while ironically the country that serves as the quintessential example of internationalism and multi-faceted convergences slowly fades away through a tribal mentality.

Harper Insults Local Media

Harper's anti-national media strategy will probably backfire for obvious reasons. However, I also think Harper's statements show little respect for local media. Harper states that he will talk over the national media, directly to local outlets to "get his message out". This belief pre-supposes a relatively benign local press, that simply jots down the propaganda and disseminates it to the masses. Translation, Harper prefers the less "sophisticated", or accomplished media to be his faciliator.

Harper's tactic may actually alienate some local media, and backfire in the sense that they will now see it as duty to be more critical, lest they look like government patsies. It is also impossible to isolate the media into distinct quadrants, because overriding locale are the general tenets of journalism. If Harper ignores part of the press, it is logical that other journalists will fill the void. Harper could find himself with a bored national press (the last thing you want is a press corp looking for stories), as well as an empowered local press.

Harper insults the local media, implying a pro-government bias. The national media is against me, but these guys will do what I ask. There is some merit to the belief that local media coverage is more favorable, simply as a function of the "event" when a high profile politician comes to visit. However, the media tends to react to any charges of negative slants by bending over backwards to look objective, which translates into overly favorable coverage(see last election). If there exists a belief that local media is government hand-maiden, these outlets may go out of there way to be critical to avoid a perception of bias. Coupled with the fact that you can't carve the media into neat sections, the medium bleeds back and forth, and Harper has a strategy that is destined for blowback.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Klein The Drama Queen

Count me as one Canadian that won't miss the always overdramatic, tone deaf Premier of Alberta. Subtle diplomacy and charm as always:
Alberta is threatening to drop out of the federal government's revenue-sharing deal with other provinces if energy income is included in the equalization formula.

Premier Ralph Klein says he's seeking a legal opinion to see if Alberta has the right to pull out, and says he'll fight "tooth and nail" against attempts by Quebec or other provinces to tap into Alberta's energy windfall.

"We will participate if the feds and the provinces conclude that there ought to be a 10-province standard," Klein said Wednesday. "But we won't participate if resource revenues are included."

The premier said the Constitution clearly states that Alberta has control and authority over its resources.

The Alberta premier is girding for what he calls a political showdown with Quebec and Ontario at a special leaders meeting following the western premiers conference in Gimli, Man., next week.

Klein goes ballistic, despite the fact the feds have made it clear that resources aren't part of the equation. I watched a roundtable on Duffy's show, wherein pundits were at a loss to explain this reaction. Klein defending Alberta "tooth and nail", ready to challenge the constitution, against a largely non-existent foe. Is Ralph trying to rile up the faithful by chasing ghosts? Does anyone imagine a possible scenario where Stephen Harper sells out Alberta?

Klein's reckless comments turn the up the volume without much cause. I'm sure this will play well to the choir, but really Klein looks the belligerent fool. Remember, this is the Prime Minister who advocated building a firewall around Alberta, I think you are okay Ralph. This outburst reveals why Klein is a net negative, he likes to fight and saber rattle, with no internal calculation of consequence. Proving once again, that yes, a monkey can really run Alberta at present. Take it easy Ralph, maybe wait until you have something concrete to go nuclear over.


My intention with this post was to write a positive piece on the Harper government. Most of my entries are highly critical of the Tories, so I thought I should cite some initiatives I agree with for balance. Everyone has a bias which shapes their opinions, but I think we all strive for some objectivity in our thought process. So, as I go through the laundry list of the Conservatives policies, I do find certain measures which I support.

I do believe we pay too much in taxes. I do believe we should be in Afghanistan. I do believe we need to get tough on sex offenders. I do believe Quebec should have a place at the UNESCO table. I do believe the former government had an air of corruption. I do believe Kyoto has flaws. Etc.

However, despite all this apparent agreement I still find myself critical in terms of philosophy and motivations. I don’t believe the Conservatives and I find commonality for the same reasons. I believe Quebec should get a seat at UNESCO because I believe in the two solitudes. I think Stephen Harper advocates this policy because he sees political opportunity, rather than a genuine desire to recognize Quebec’s culture. On almost every issue I look at, I don’t trust the why part of the equation. I don’t see a government acting in my interest, but one consumed by self-interest.

I don’t agree with the overarching philosophy of conservatism, so when we do collide and find agreement it is more by accident than shared values. With this government, the more I see, the more it confirms my suspicions. Conservatives would argue, how can you be against issue A? I answer, I like A (example 5% renewable initiative), but I know A is meant to deflect B and I also now the close ties with C (big oil and gas). When you step back from individual issues, that is when you see the real divide and return to the cynicism.

In the end, I don’t trust Rona Ambrose, I don’t trust Stock Day and I don’t trust Harper to operate within my value sets. I believe these people have a different agenda, that has no relationship to mine and for this reason all the supposed agreement evaporates because of that transparency. The spirit of fairness is one thing, but when it necessitates ignoring what you know, it is more a delusion, than a search for objectivity. I don’t like these characters, I think they are bad for the country, and the sooner we get rid of them the better, for the good of the everyone.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Charest Snubs Harper

Good for Charest, maybe he can negotiate a seat for Quebec at the Kyoto table:
Quebec Premier Jean Charest says he's ready to act alone to respect the Kyoto accord if the federal government reneges on its commitments.

"The Quebec government is resolutely committed to Kyoto and we intend to soon announce our policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Mr. Charest said Tuesday.

Renewed federalism, or end around federalism?

Liberals Shouldn't Worry

The latest poll, while striking, isn't necessarily unexpected and/or irreversible. The source is dubious, but the conclusions are reasonable given the circumstances. What should give Liberals some solace is the fact that this snapshot is fluid and conditions are bound to improve. Why do I believe people shouldn't take this poll too seriously:

1. Historically, all new governments are afforded a certain amount of latitude and time before people form a concrete opinion. People voted for change in droves and are willing to give the alternative a chance to thrive. The Tories are primarily the beneficiary of good will that is more a reflection of Canadians fairness, than it is some passionate endorsement of policy.

2. With all due respect to the NDP, we are currently in a situation where we are oppositionless. The Liberals are largely a non-factor as they re-tool, which is reflected in the largely negative press coverage. Almost every piece that mentions the Liberals finds its way to characterizing the party as a dysfunctional mess. This situation is temporary- no one should be surprised that the party is reaching the low-water mark, in fact many predicted it months ago as part of the process. Looking forward, the Liberals can expect a great deal of positive coverage as the leadership race heats up. A vision needs a face first and foremost, something which is obviously hindering the Liberals at present. I will bet anyone that the polls tighten in the post-leadership phase as the new honeymoon begins.

3. Much is made of Harper's gains in Quebec, and I have also expressed concern at this surprising development. However, even the latest poll acknowledges that the Liberals are now below their historic basement. This fact suggest the current situation is more a temporary anomaly than permanent position. The situation in Quebec is extremely fluid, with Harper benefiting from the political vacuum at present. It is hard to believe that Harper enjoys firm support, considering that six months ago he was a non-factor. I see the current surge as a flirtation, and we all know how fleeting that emotion can be. The Liberals are almost sure to elect a leader without the taint of prior scandal- if they craft a progressive agenda they can win back the pragmatists. Also, there will always exist a philosophical chasm between mainstream Quebecers and the Conservatives on policy. Harper's Kyoto stance, his hawkish nature and his social conservatism will forever provide opportunities for the Liberals.

4. We are still in a transition period, where this government can absolve itself of much responsibility by blaming the previous government. Eventually, bashing the Liberals as justification won't wash and Canadians will focus more on the future. The Conservatives still operate in the shadow of the former government, which they use at every turn to deflect and twist. This powerful tool will wane, without the standard whipping boy, the policies will finally see the objective light of day.

One of the more interesting findings I read in a recent poll showed, that while Canadians presently support this government, they also see that they operate with political consideration first, greater good second. This reality is important, because it suggests a certain suspicion of motive and in turn very soft support. I don't expect this sentiment to change, because afterall the government freely admits that they do operate in this manner. This philosophy is a vulnerability that can be exploited by the right set of counter-policies that are borne out of need, not self-interest. In fact, I see the Conservatives pre-occupation with attaining a majority as the key achilles heel, primarily because the ideal isn't rooted in anything substantive, just simple marketing and manipulation. Contrasted with a "real" agenda, with politics a distant second, and you have a great opportunity to expose a rather superficial agenda.

One of Martin's biggest failures was his tendency to pander and operate with questionable motives. An encouraging sign for Liberals, none of the top leadership contenders come across as seasoned political creatures. If the Liberals can present a genuine flavor, that isn't focus group tested, it will look quite attractive juxtaposed against Harper's hyper-politicism.

5. All honeymoon's end.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tories Cooked The Books

This isn't really news, but it's nice to get some honest press:
The federal government's recent budget chopped personal taxes by about half as much as was advertised and actually lowered take-home pay for many Canadians, a new report by a leading economist says.

Dale Orr, chief economist at Global Insight (Canada) and the report's author, said the government's claims aren't accurate if you compare the budget's cuts against tax rates now in effect. Instead, the government compared the new post-budget tax levels to those from the most recent legislation, which don't include the cuts made by the Liberals late last year.

But the new report on the government's budget claims is important for two reasons: The Harper government prides itself on putting more money into taxpayers' pockets, and the Tories have spoken frequently about the importance of running a more open, honest government. Accountability was one of the government's five top priorities.

Apparently, dishonest propaganda is the real top priority of this government.

Much To Do About Nothing

Tomorrow, the government is set to announce their renewable fuels strategy. Much will be made of this measure as proof of the Tories commitment to cleaning up the environment. The spinmeisters will use this initiative to blunt the recent criticism surrounding Kyoto. Look beyond the platitudes and you find tomorrow's announcement is much to do about nothing.

The standard of 5% renewables by 2010 is hardly ambitious, or anything new for that matter. The Tories "plan" is a simple recognition of what is already happening, or happened for that matter, not a new idea. If the government announced nothing, we would reach the target through provincial action and former Liberal government initiatives.

Don't forget:
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are already moving forward on similar renewables content standards. In Ontario's case, all gasoline will be required to meet the 5% mark by next January.


In September, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pledged to require gasoline sold in that province to be at least 5 per cent ethanol by 2007, and 10 per cent by 2010.

You do the math, but even if other provinces did nothing, which they aren't (as my Alberta Tory friends always point out), the already committed provinces alone would have accomplished most of the federal goal.

The government will project this initiative as something new and progressive, a commitment to cleaner fuels. Nevermind the economic realities that have forced companies to look at biodiesel on their own, coupled with already in place government programs:
Ethanol production received a boost today(July 05) as the Government of Canada announced a further $46 million to build or expand five ethanol plants across Canada. The successful companies were announced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Awareness is growing quickly in Canada due to biodiesel’s proven success in other countries and the current and projected prices of petroleum diesel. The potential for biodiesel in Canada is considerable with its abundance of feedstock resources, and by the fact that the federal government has stated a commitment that Canada will produce 500 million litres/year by 2010. The federal fuel tax exemption for biodiesel in 2003 helps provide the industry with an incentive for biodiesel to be priced competitively with diesel fuel.

Tomorrow's announcement will be lauded and promoted, as evidence of some deep commitment by this government. The initiative will serve its purpose, Ambrose can point too it everytime people cry foul on emissions. I see it as nothing more than an acknowledgement of a reality that exists anyways. Much bluster, little real relevance, outside of political leverage.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What A Load

If you want to see a political dodge and weave of the highest order, take a gander at Rona Ambrose's appearance on CTV today. Basically, eight minutes of pure and utter bullshit that boggles the mind and insults our intelligence.

Ambrose's new line of attack is that Canada will not participate in Kyoto, unless all countries agree to sign-on. A non-starter if I every heard one, considering the American position, not to mention Australia's John Howard pimping his copout partnership just this week. I thought we were all about "made in Canada" now? If that is true, then Canada can commit to emissions reductions in the second phase of Kyoto because it is a domestic target. Obviously, emissions are a global challenge, but that fact doesn't mean Canada does nothing because others don't want to play. Ambrose repeatedly says will reduce emissions with the Conservatives policies, so what is the problem with accepting a binding agreement? Match a signature with the rhetoric if you are so committed.

When pressed on the issue, Ambrose falls back on completely unrelated topics. Ambrose mentions the clean water agreement with the Americans in answering a question on emissions. Apples and oranges, not to mention a dishonest attempt to change the channel. Ambrose also lauded her coming initiative to have 5% non-fossil fuels by 2010, forgetting that Canada was well on the way to reaching that target prior to this government taking over. Thank madcow, not Rona Ambrose, because that event led animal renderers to invest in biodiesel to offset loses from the cattle industry.

Ambrose also had the audacity to say, that unlike the Liberals who want to "cut and run", the Conservatives will stay at the Kyoto table and work towards a solution. Trouble is, what the Conservatives are saying has no resemblence to what other countries are proposing and she makes a mockery of the entire process. Ambrose also said that the Canadian delegation is very well respected at the Bonn talks, failing to mention the disparaging remarks coming from signature countries like Germany. Ambrose also mentions other countries failing to meet targets, particularly Brazil, which again deflects the argument away from Canada. Made in Canada, made in Canada, not contingent on Rio- geezus! What an embarrassing horror show of double-speak, a fact not lost on the questioneer. Check out this interview, but please wear a suitable bullshit deflector, because it comes in thick waves.

Liberals Mirror Canadians

Since the Afghanistan vote, there has been much discussion of the "divided" Liberals and the consequences for the party. Pundits and editorials debating how Harper has effectively exposed the fractures within the Liberal ranks. I must confess, I don't see the negatives, nor do I see the Harper advantage, in how the Liberals voted on the extension. In fact, unlike the other parties which voted in lockstep, it is the Liberal Party that most accurately reflects Canadians views on Afghanistan.

Recent polling shows that, while Canadians support the Afghanistan mission, they oppose Harper's two year blank check extension. Those opinions seem entirely consistent with the "internal struggle" that supposedly handicaps the Liberals as we move forward. The Conservatives are strong hawks, the NDP and Bloc the doves, while the Liberals are clearly in the middle, just like Canadians. The mission in Afghanistan is a complicated question and the free vote for the Liberals reflects the nuances.

I don't think Ignatieff is mortally wounded by his vote, because this isn't Iraq and his viewpoints have merit that people on all sides can appreciate. Much was made of Harper's post-vote handshake, as though it were the kiss of death, but I see it as inconsequential. For arguments sake, lets say Ignatieff wins the Liberal leadership. You could just as easily cobble together an argument that shows Ignatieff's vote as a positive, in that it effectively blunts any Harper criticism that the Liberals don't care about terrorism or national defence. If support for the war sours, the issue becomes a draw with two men who share similar views. Ignatieff's position may well cost him support for the Liberal leadership, but it might also solidify his core support as he contrasts with the majority that voted against.

As for the people that voted against, or expressed similar opinions, the nature of this vote allows for a forceful rebuttal. The blatant politicism of this issue, the lack of a formal debate and a timetable, gave the vote a lack of legitimacy. Liberals that voted against are provided hard facts to turn around any criticisms. There is a way to argue that voting against the Harper resolution doesn't equate to voting against our troops or the goals of the mission. Harper can claim hypocrisy, but the situation is so fluid that opinions demand a constant re-examination. This mission is already largely different than what the Liberals first envisioned, so a pragmatic viewpoint may look attractive, as opposed to Harper's rigid ideology. Again, Canadians opinions allow for lots of space on this issue, so I don't buy into the argument that Harper has scored a political coup with his Afghanistan vote. Yes, the Liberals are divided, but this condition merely mirrors the people who will ultimately cast votes- hardly a concern.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What A Farce

Canada is now, not only undermining Kyoto in Bonn, it is actively trying to kill it. Instead of working on phase two, Canada is working behind the scenes to kill the accord and effectively undermining the good faith efforts of other countries:
Canada will not support attempts by other countries to set deeper emission-reduction targets for the Kyoto Protocol's second phase, according to private instructions to Canadian negotiators in Bonn, Germany.

The instructions obtained by The Globe and Mail also show that Canada wants the climate-change accord phased out in favour of a separate, voluntary deal...

The instructions to Canadian negotiators reveal Ottawa is pushing for the Kyoto Protocol to disappear...

Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace Canada, who is in Bonn and has attended every major climate-change meeting since 1992's summit in Rio de Janeiro, says the instructions show Canada is attempting to “sabotage” the Kyoto talks. He predicted their release will trigger a “small nuclear bomb” of controversy today in Bonn.

“This is a serious diplomatic incident,” he said.

The second phase of Kyoto is a rather simple proposition- further cuts in emissions. The phase doesn't even begin for another 6 years, which gives ample time to develop an effective strategy. How can Ambrose claim to have any credibility on the environment when she balks at such a simple premise? If Canada wants to focus on "clean technologies" and scientific advancement to tackle emissions as Ambrose has stated, I don't understand how that desire is in conflict with the idea of reduced emissions. Get there however you want, but the accord simply asks for results. Obviously, Canada has no desire to cut emissions, it really is that simple. If the Tory plan is real, then Canada should have no problem agreeing to a binding construct, that gives plenty of time. Ambrose takes us all for fools if we can't see the hypocrisy at play in Bonn.

Ambrose keeps talking about the United States and Canada's relatively low percentage of world emissions. I thought the Tories were proposing the "made in Canada" solution- what the hell does that have to do with George Bush? Copouts, shell games and the mirage of competing plans like the Asia-Pacific farce, all done to cloud a very simple issue. Up or down, clean or dirty, committed or not. My hope today, as news of Canada's duplicity makes the rounds in Bonn, is that Canada is asked to leave the talks entirely. A powerful symbol to embarrass this government and show the Canadian people how far we have fallen. We were there to lead, not undermine and crush morale- an absolute disgrace of the highest order.

Good on the Liberals:
OTTAWA (CP) - The federal Liberals are demanding Environment Minister Rona Ambrose recall Canada's delegation from Bonn after they said she deliberately tried to "undermine" the Kyoto Protocol by instructing her officials to block any consensus from moving forward on its next phase.

And Opposition environment critic Scott Brison says Ambrose herself should resign her position as chair at Conference of the Parties because of what he calls "her covert attempts to sabotage the development of a binding international consensus on global warming."

Brison says Ambrose's actions are outrageous and dangerously duplicitous and could irreparably damage Canada's reputation at the United Nations.

Outrageous is right.

Green Party candidate Elizabeth May, sums it all up with a great performance on CTV

Friday, May 19, 2006

Harper's American Visit Delayed

Poor Harper, this must hurt:
WASHINGTON (CP) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't be heading to Washington next month to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush as he'd hoped but officials say it's no sign of trouble in Canada-U.S. relations.

Harper was aiming to visit Washington in mid-June but there were scheduling problems with the White House, U.S. and Canadian sources told The Canadian Press.

Our sources have gained access to the conversation between our Prime Minister and the President:
Harper:Hi George, it's Stephen Harper.

Bush: Who?

Harper: Stephen Harper, PM of Canada.

Bush: Yes, yes, hi Stephen. Thanks for agreeing to all our demands on softwood by the way. Our folks are ecstatic!

Harper: No problem. As I told you in Cancun, I want a better relationship and if I have to sell out Canada's interests to achieve it, so be it.

Anyways, are we still on at the ranch for June?

Bush: June, did I say June? Ummm, I might have to cancel.

Harper: George, come on. You told me if I mirrored all your policies, then we could hang out and you could pretend I'm important in front of those communists in our press corps. I used "cut and run". I've trashed Kyoto and anything vaguely related to the environment. I've introduced taxcuts with no consideration for future deficits. I'm getting tough on crime and we will be building those great superjails that you guys have. We've even started talking about abortion and god- although just a little until we get that majority. And, just yesterday Mr Howard addressed parliament, where I gave him a platform to read the Bush playbook. George, you promised!

Bush: You gonna back me when I nuke Iran and give me all the oil from them tar sands?

Harper: Sure, you can have all our water too. We've got tons, what with all this melting and stuff.

Bush: Okay, well June doesn't work. I usually take the whole month off. Last year alone I took more vacations that Clinton did in eight years. Moron. How about the fall, if Blair cancels?

Harper: Sure, sure, fall works. Crawford right? Little presser, with the ranch in the back, right?

Bush: Ya, okay. Oh ya, I heard you were going to join the Asia-Pacific thingamagiggy. That should keep those crazy tree huggers at bay for awhile. What a great scam.

Harper: We're in! Nothing says progress like voluntary, non-binding resolutions.

Bush: Okay, gotta go.

Harper: Looking forward to it Mr. President.

Bush: Ya, whatever. Just don't dress like a dork again.

Harper: Sure, sure.

Australian PM's Lecture

Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard found it necessary to lecture us on the merits of a strong United States:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard cautioned Canadians yesterday that they really don't want to see an isolationist United States because that would mean a far more dangerous world.

Mr. Howard, who arrived in Ottawa directly from a triumphal Washington visit, told a joint session of Parliament that he's an unapologetic friend and ally of the U.S., which he described as a "remarkable and powerful force for good in the world."

Moreover, Canada, Australia and other nations should deeply appreciate "the decency and hope that the power and purpose of the United States represents to the world."

He referred directly to the previous Liberal government's opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a military operation that included Australian troops, and he later appeared to address the skepticism still found among opposition Canadian MPs about U.S. President George W. Bush's Middle East policy.

It really is quite laughable that a leader from the other side of globe feels it necessary to "educate" Canadians on our neighboring elephant. In a general sense, Canadians would agree with Howard's assessment of the United States role in world affairs. However, failure to support a radical President, doesn't equate to anti-Americanism. Most Americans don't support their President, why does Howard expect Canadians to react differently?

Howard's reference to Iraq, and the inherent criticism of Canada's position, is out of bounds for a foreign leader on our soil. Canadians overwhelming opposed the Iraq war, not because they don't take terrorism seriously, but because it had nothing to do with terrorism. When Mr. Howard speaks to the seriousness of terrorism, he destroys his argument by introducing Iraq into the equation. In other words, how would Australians react if Jean Chretein addressed their government and admonished them for supporting the war? My guess, Mr. Howard would be the first to tell the guest to mind his own business.

Howard contradicts himself, by lauding Canada's effort in Afghanistan. This conflict finds it root in terrorism, so our involvement denies any lecture on the importance of fighting terrorism. Canada is involved, probably disportionately at this point, and that effort was made by the Liberal government Howard criticizes. Supporting America doesn't necessitate blind loyalty, despite a dangerous agenda. Canada certainly doesn't need any pointers from Mr. Howard on how to deal with the Americans, nor does it need a Bush apologist spreading the propaganda during a state visit.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Harper's Amazing Statement

Yesterday, in response to Gilles Duceppe, our Prime Minister made the following statement:
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, polls indicate that the Kyoto protocol is popular. I notice today that the Bloc Québécois is indicating—just today—after four years, a change in position. It is opposed to our action in Afghanistan because polls indicate that our presence there is not popular.

Independent nations need leaders, not pollsters.

Staggering that Harper makes such a statement, while in the midst of a pure political powerplay on Afghanistan. Andrew Coyne praises Harper, but admits:
It wasn't pretty, and it didn't show a whole lot of respect for Parliament, but I have to admit Harper got the job done with his sudden decision to put the question of extending the Afghanistan mission to the House. It was brinksmanship of the highest -- and lowest -- order, and thank God.

Gerard Kennedy sums it up nicely:
"That debate has been stolen away by a fairly crass, political consideration by the prime minister...

"In putting his politics and his presidential sort of system of trying to manipulate Parliament ahead of the interests of Canadians, he has potentially undermined the mandate for those troops. It's highly regrettable, and I don't accept that the prime minister has a mandate to act in this fashion..."

"Mr. Harper running full-time for re-election"

Every single discussion involving this government and their policies, revolves around political considerations. Even Harper's own supporters acknowledge the political motivations for last night's vote. Surely, Harper must have appreciated the irony of his statement in the context of the proceedings.

I do agree with our P.M, we need leaders, not pollsters. So instead of manipulating our troops and their safety so you can blunt potential criticism, maybe the debate should be approached with careful considerations in mind. Issues aren't chess pieces that act as faciliators for a majority. Are you governing or trying to win? Unfortunately, we are in the midst of the longest election campaign in Canadian history- Parliament Hill is just a prolonged campaign stop.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The real reason why the Harper government wants to gut Kyoto:
The tar sands are the single largest contributor to the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada, because it takes so much of Canada's diminishing supply of natural gas to make tar sands oil. Greenhouse-gas intensity in the tar sands is almost triple that of conventional oil. As Jim Dinning, Alberta's former treasurer and front-runner to replace Ralph Klein as Alberta's premier, recently quipped, "Injecting natural gas into the oil sands to produce oil is like turning gold into lead."

Alberta now emits more greenhouse gases than Ontario, despite having only 26 per cent of that province's population. To draw attention away from the tar sands elephant, Ms. Ambrose said we would have to take every train, plane and automobile off the streets in Canada to comply with Canada's Kyoto accord targets. Did she point her finger at transportation that everyone uses, to undermine popular support for Kyoto?

Environment Canada, a unit in Ms. Ambrose's own ministry, tells a different story. It is oil production, not oil consumption, that is the fastest growing source of Canada's emissions. "Growth in oil and gas exports, almost all to the United States, contributed significantly to emission growth between 1990 and 2003."

With production set to triple in the next decade, it helps explain why Rona Ambrose wants to trash Kyoto. Absolutely staggering that a province like Ontario, with its large manufacturing base, congested highways, massive population and questionable energy sources contributes less crap than Alberta. Canada will fail on emissions so that we can feed the American beast.

This reality makes the Ambrose arguments of industry-driven initiatives and voluntary targets look laughable. Where does the "clean technologies" line fit in with the tar sands? Is there another way to extract oil that could possibly be "dirtier"? The only way to effectively tackle emissions is for there to be limitations on development, capped export numbers based on viability and massive environmental taxes to force rapid change in oil practices. Anything less is equal to nothing and guarantees a disasterous future for the country. The question is simple, people or profits?

Message For Conservatives

I know old habits are hard to break, but Conservatives need to change their mentality. Every time I read a blog entry that is critical of Conservative policy, it is generally accompanied by some retort about the former Liberal government. Commenters do the compare and contrast and the discussion of past records, which successfully distracts from the issue at hand. The former government is the convenient crutch to deflect criticism.

I don’t care if the Liberals failed, the Conservatives are now the government and their policies should be judged on their own merit. Was the gun registry mishandled? Probably, but the question now is whether or not you support the policy. Did the Liberals fail on meeting Kyoto targets? Yes, but this government still has six years left to do something, so the question is still do you support the targets or don’t you? Did the Liberals fail to get an agreement on softwood? Yes, but that doesn’t innoculate the Conservatives from criticism of their agreement. In other words, the Liberals are yesterday’s news and are no longer the easy target for Conservative venom.

Interesting to remember that the Conservatives election platform, outlined in the bluebook, criticized the Liberals before it offered any policies. The Conservatives have received a lot of mileage in trashing the Liberals, but this mindset doesn’t wash anymore. What are you doing? How do your policies affect Canadians in their own right? The Liberal scapegoat is gone, standup and be accountability. If you are backing out of Kyoto it is because the Conservatives don’t support Kyoto, not because Paul Martin didn’t do enough. If you want a closer relationship with the Americans, it is because you agree with their government, not because the former government didn’t see eye to eye. Present your ideas, and let people judge them, without falling back on the old government for cover.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ambrose Uses the "V" Word

Nothing says environmental concern like "voluntary" targets. Rona Ambrose in Bonn:
The two weeks of meetings in Bonn are the opening round of discussions on what the Kyoto Protocol should look like in its second, post-2012 phase. It is widely expected that the second phase will include stiffer penalties for countries that do not meet their targets. In a report submitted last week, Canada called for the second phase to be more lenient, with voluntary targets, longer deadlines and exceptions for Canada's natural-resource-based economy.

"It is time to take stock of our experience to date and to explore new options with an open mind," Ms. Ambrose said yesterday.

The main criticism of Kyoto is that it doesn't go far enough in curbing emissions. Quite telling that Ambrose is arguing that Kyoto is too rigid and we should look at further weakening for the future. I think we should get used to the word "voluntary", because it will be the cornerstone of the Conservatives environmental policy. Nothing says action, regulating industry and stiff penalties like a system with no enforceable targets. Profit-driven, amoral corporations will have the responsibility to do the right thing, while government offers superficial incentives that lack teeth. A recipe for complete failure if there ever was one.

How is Ambrose playing in Bonn:
The ECO newsletter, which is distributed at international environmental meetings and speaks on behalf of about 300 non-governmental organizations, joined Canadian environmentalists in calling on Ms. Ambrose to resign as chair of the climate-change talks.

"Avoiding dangerous climate change clearly requires leadership from industrialized countries such as Canada in reducing emissions now and an agreement on deeper reductions for the second commitment period," the newsletter said. "If you feel, as Chair of these proceedings, that you and your government are not committed to fulfill your obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and that you cannot provide this needed leadership for the future, please, do the honourable thing. Step down."

Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace Canada is in Bonn, and said foreign diplomats and negotiators are quite surprised at Canada's new position toward the protocol.

"People in the corridors are talking about living a nightmare. After the leadership Canada showed in [December] in Montreal, to see such regression on the part of Canada is a bit of a shock to a number of delegations here," he said.

We should replace Ambrose with the CEO's of the various big oil and gas companies. In this way, we would avoid any confusion on who now controls the climate control debate in Canada. Ambrose is showing herself to be the industry stooge we all predicted.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ambrose Looks Foolish

The climate change talks are underway in Bonn. As predicted, Rona Ambrose looks foolish at the helm:
Canada defended its leadership of U.N. talks on fighting global warming on Monday despite admitting that Ottawa will not meet its own goals under the Kyoto Protocol.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, who is chairing the May 15-26 meetings in Bonn, has suggested that Kyoto should be softened for Canada in a second period from 2012 saying Ottawa had no chance of reaching its goals.

"The challenge we face in achieving the targets domestically has no relevance to our commitment to ... ensure that we are contributing to the international effort to address climate change," Ambrose said of Canada's 2006 U.N. climate presidency.

Ambrose "must live up (to Canada's Kyoto goals) or stand down," said Jennifer Morgan, climate policy director of the WWF environmental group. "Vague statements about 'commitments to international efforts' are not serious."

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was too early for Canada to give up on Kyoto targets for 2012.
"I'm not sure it's true (that Canada will overshoot its goals)," he said. "We are in 2006, there's 6 years left".

More international criticism here, some domestic questions here.

Rona Ambrose as chair of the Kyoto discussions is akin to Charlton Heston heading up PETA. There is only one outcome to this sham, if Ambrose insists on carrying on in her role- Canada's international reputation will be tarnished. Better to fade to the sidelines and do nothing, than stand front and center and allow other nations easy potshots. This position is high-profile, Ambrose is a figurehead and will be constantly questioned. Give her the hook and spare Canada the embarrassment.


The government was grilled today over Ambrose's appearance in Bonn. Line of the day goes to Gilles Duceppe:
Bloc Leader Duceppe called Ambrose's position "completely stupid.''

"She looks like she's participating in a kind of festival of Just For Laughs,'' he told reporters, referring to the annual Montreal comedy festival.

Harper's Support is Weak

I have read several MSM pieces, and blog entries, that make the assumption that the Harper government is doing quite well in connecting with Canadians. Polling seems to drive this sentiment, even though the raw support numbers show minimal or no growth for the new government, depending on your poll of choice. I think it folly to argue that this government enjoys solid support when you look at numbers like these:
Q. In putting this budget forward, do you think that the federal government is thinking more about the long term interests of Canadians or thinking more about its chances of winning a majority in the next election?

Thinking more about long term interests of Canadians- 22%

Thinking more about chances of winning a majority next election- 64%

No opinion- 14%

Translation, even though Canadians liked the tax relief in the budget, they are under no illusions as too motivation. Interesting, that despite the continual pleas that Harper is working for Canadians, people can look past the veneer and see the self-interest at play. Numbers like these offer a clue into the possible opposition strategy as we move forward. Historically, it is quite early in a mandate for people to question a new government's true intentions.

This government is quite arrogant, in the sense that they openly speak of their electoral ambition and how policy is framed within this lens. This position attaches little nobility to governance and the above numbers speak to an awareness of the "marketing strategy". No matter how popular the policy, the opposition will have an opening if Canadians feel legislation is purely political. For the Liberals, it is essential that they formulate a vision which can make the comparison between genuine principle and hyper-politicism. Harper is vulnerable, and will remain so, precisely because he is governing with the singular goal, that is obvious to all. Canadians don't have time to pour over the nuances of policy, but this politicism is so overwhelming, a simple glance or two reveals it. This fact is the soft-underbelly of this government and offers the best opportunity for the opposition to trump the propaganda.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Harper On Ontario:"Not Throwing In The Towel"

Only 100 days in office, and we have already reached a stage where we talk of salvaging relationships:
Harper insisted that he's sees no barriers to working with the McGuinty government.

"Notwithstanding our partisan differences, I'm not yet throwing in the towel on working with the government of Ontario," he said.

"In spite of the fact that there have been some things out of the Ontario government that concern me, we nevertheless did work productively with the government of Ontario on the softwood lumber deal.

"We want at all possible to have good relations with all the provinces to the extent we can," the Prime Minister said.

Partisan differences? I can recall a former federal Liberal government that saw McGuinty as a complete pain in the ass, even accusing him of costing the federal Liberals votes in Ontario because of his criticisms. The McGuinty record defies the "partisan" angle that Harper suggests, but it does reveal how our PM approaches everything. Of course Harper would view the relationship within the lens of partisanship, it is afterall the Conservatives primary source of inspiration.

If a chasm exists between Ontario and Ottawa, it is a function of Harper's hyper-politicism that dictates all decisions. McGuinty is the same leader he has always been- what has changed is a federal government that wants to undermine and alienate. We will see further evidence of partisanship when the Premiers meet for the fiscal balance talks. Can anyone envision a scenario where Ontario comes out a winner and McGuinty can go into the next election with a nice surplus and a record of achievement?

Harper uses the word "partisan", McGuinty prefers words like "fairness". One man approaches the discussion based on principle, the other electoral want. What does it say about a PM, that only 100 days into his mandate and he must utter the words "not throwing in the towel". With lightning speed Harper has shown his hand and soured the relationship. McGuinty would be a fool not to see the Quebec strategy, which clearly marginalizes Ontario. Create a conflict, then disparage the other side with words like "obstructionist" and absolve yourself of responsibility. We already hear John Tory accusing McGuinty of not "working well with others" in an attempt to made McGuinty look the problem. This situation is analogous to Harper's attacks on the Liberals, as though our deteriorating relationship with the Americans was Canada's fault.

My prediction, Harper's politicism will backfire and McGuinty will emerge stronger as Ontarians rally around the obvious optics. And yes, we may see more partisanship from the Ontario Premier, as he makes the case why this government is bad for Ontario. I can now see a scenario where McGuinty openly campaigns against the Conservatives next election. Whatever seats may be gained in Quebec, could easily be countered with loses in Ontario. This debate is now partisan, because Stephen Harper decided to make it that way.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tories Mislead On Kyoto

In recent days, Ambrose has defended her position on Kyoto, by saying emissions are out of control and the targets are unattainable. What are we to make of this revelation:
A federal report shows Canada's greenhouse gas emissions barely increased from 2003 to 2004, seemingly contradicting claims that emissions are rocketing out of control.

Total emissions rose to 758,000 kilotonnes in 2004 from 754,000 kilotonnes, an increase of less than one per cent.

Repeated references to sharp emissions growth are intended to reinforce the argument that Kyoto targets are not attainable, said Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute.

"The reality is that we can still comply, but only if the government moves immediately to put in place the policies and measures that reduce greenhouse emissions while leaving the door open to investing in good projects in developing countries."

If you take these numbers, it makes Ambrose's argument look like complete rubbish. These numbers reaffirm the belief that this government was against Kyoto from the onset and are now looking for excuses to justify their position. Ambrose was railing against Kyoto before Canada had signed on, her opinions are well documented, as are her loyalities to big oil.

Another interesting finding, which may explain why the Tories haven't officially backed out of the Protocol:
Canada would lose international credibility and the ability to influence future climate-change negotiations if it withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, say briefing documents prepared for Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

"Given the Kyoto Protocol's international profile . . . withdrawal from the Protocol would have important foreign policy implications," says the document, marked "secret."

It would appear that Canada still has an opportunity to reduce emissions enough to have a credible program within Kyoto. Ambrose is misleading people, when she suggests that Canada has no hope of meeting the targets. Ambrose has had this defeatist attitude since the election, which speaks more to her own bias than actual analysis of the numbers. The more we learn, the more cuts we see, the more it becomes clear that this government is the environment's enemy. I can't wait for all those "voluntary" measures to fluff up the looming Clean Air Act.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Poll: What Surge?

According to the most accurate Canadian polling outfit, we have no substantive honeymoon:
The SES poll put the Conservatives at 38 percent voter support, up from the 36 percent they won in the January 23 federal election. The Liberals, who lost power that day after 12 years in office, slipped to 28 percent from 30 percent.

The left-leaning New Democrats rose to 19 percent from 17.5 percent.

Statistically unchanged since the election, this poll is good news for the opposition. Under the circumstances, a combination of the natural positivity that accompanies a new government and a temporarily hobbled Liberal Party, these numbers suggest Harper has done little to increase his stature.

Important to remember that Harper presently enjoys conditions which surely won't last. As long as the Liberals can stay in the game througout the summer, they are destined to rebound as the leadership race gains steam and the favorable media coverage follows. The Conservatives are without real blemish at this point, another circumstance which historically wanes over time. A new government, after 13 years of other party rule, is guaranteed a certain level of initial support. Somewhat surprising that the Tories didn't get a bigger bounce from their bells and whistles budget, a compilation of measures designed to win votes.

This is one poll, others show a bigger Tory lead. However, SES is the poll that seems most rooted in reality, so I take these numbers as entirely encouraging. Harper was bound to survive, and probably prosper in the near term, but the certain future allows for plenty of opportunity to knock him off his perch.

Good Kill

Quite an interesting story about the grizzly/polar bear hybrid that was identified. Scientific relevance aside, the “hunter” must be ecstatic. Normally a guy just gets your run of the mill polar bear for his $50000, but this American gets a unique trophy. I can only imagine the pride in killing such rare quarry.

I am not against hunting by any means. What does gall me is when traditional hunting is replaced by “sport” hunting, where rich men with toys want to play god. The perfect example is found in Ontario where wealthy American clients come to Canada to bag themselves a black bear. The site is baited, while the “hunters” hide in a tree and wait for the bear to arrive. Bear shows up, man with gun makes boom and the hunt is over. What a farce, that has no correlation to hunting. The single purpose of these hunts, like this asshole that killed the hybrid, is to get a pelt to put on a wall. These hunts aren’t about food, or population control, just pure ego.

Given the dire predictions for the future of the polar bear, it is especially distasteful to know that these hunts still take place. The lure of money seems to trump common sense for an endangered species. These Ted Nugentesque “big game” hunters are a scourge, which represent the worst in man. Canada should ban foreign hunting, because 90% of it is pure exploitation of our natural treasures for simple ego gratification.

Find Waldo

There seems to be a common theme emerging with this government, wherein they cancel items, but don’t admit the obvious, instead offering a future carrot to deflect criticisms. The Tories slash and burn on all things environment is deflected by this future phantom initiative known as “made in Canada”. The government isn’t cutting, or reneging on its promises, it is merely re-tooling. We see this shell game again here:
Now it appears the Harper government is reneging.

Ontario was counting on the money to help convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas, to expand public transit, to augment funding for universities and community colleges, and to bring the province up to the same level as the rest of the country in federal spending on immigration settlement and job training programs.

In a letter last week to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeats Harper's assurances that the Conservative government "is committed to delivering on the financial commitments" in the McGuinty-Martin deal.

But the rest of Flaherty's letter is densely ambiguous and suggests some of the funding is contingent on "discussions with all provinces and territories on restoring fiscal balance in Canada." (Harper's January letter contained no such qualification.)

The government first said it was committed to the 7 billion for Ontario, now the expenditure is tied to fiscal balance? We need a translator- Ontario isn’t getting the money for its coal-generators and if it every does it will be used as leverage to screw Ontario on fiscal balance. This money was already allocated, Harper said he would honor the agreement and now the government changes the rules. By deferring to the fiscal balance talks, Flaherty can make it look like Ontario will still get the funding, even though this fact speaks to the opposite.

Bottomline, if the government is genuine in its commitment then the money can flow now. The delay creates uncertainty, sends another signal that this government isn’t serious about environmental initiatives and leaves Ontario on the outside again. This government is shrewd when it comes to the dodge and weave, complicating the issues so criticism is muted.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pressure Mounts On Environment Minister

I have argued that Ambrose should resign her post at the United Nations. It looks likes the heat is on(no pun intended):
Environmental groups are calling on Environment Minister Rona Ambrose to resign as chair of UN negotiations on extending the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada has effectively abandoned the climate treaty and should not take part in the talks that open Monday in Bonn, said John Bennett of the Climate Action Network. "We are calling for Rona Ambrose to resign as president of the international negotiations," he told a news conference Wednesday. "It's the honourable thing to do.

Of course Ambrose is refusing, blaming the Liberals for the environmental mess that makes Kyoto unrealistic. Interesting that Ambrose argues that many countries will fail to meet the Kyoto's goals:
Ambrose has said that most other Kyoto countries can't meet their targets either, but her critics deny this.

Britain and France have already met their targets, and the European Union as a whole is expected to do so, they said. New Zealand is on track while Japan and Norway are having trouble but remain committed to their targets.

The United States and Australia have pulled out of the treaty. Stephen Guilbeault of Greenpeace said the Conservatives are following the path of U.S. President George W. Bush, and isolating Canada from the rest of the world.

What is particularly baffling about the Conservative position is that there is nothing lost by staying within Kyoto. Ambrose has said Canada will never meet its targets, so any new Conservative "made in Canada" approach is also doomed. Can't we have our own approach, within the confines of a protocol that has the same end goal? What is the harm in trying to reach the targets? Unless of course you are in the pocket of the worst polluters and have no real desire to tackle the problem. I hope these environmental groups keep up the pressure, because Ambrose is an embarrassment.

Who Speaks For Canada?

Interesting comments by Mario Dumont, which basically confirms the fact that our national government lacks a Canada first perspective:
"The winning of 10 seats in Quebec by the Conservatives is just the beginning of this new alliance between the West and Quebec," Mr. Dumont said in an interview yesterday. "It is an alliance that can help Canada to decentralize and work outside a central government that has become heavily bureaucratic, much too powerful and highly centralized..."

Mr. Dumont said Quebec has a duty to build an alliance with Western Canada and prepare for a new round of constitutional talks that would include changes for the entire country, not just Quebec...

"Mr. Harper wants Quebec to have its place in Canada," Mr. Dumont said. "Every time I discussed constitutional reform with him,

Dumont's comments are relevant because, as he admits, the opinion is based on conversations with the Prime Minister. Clearly, Harper is the Western portion of the alliance, which is quite strange given his title. You have a situation where a region finds commonality with a national entity, which is supposed to speak for the whole. These statements serve as concrete proof that Stephen Harper is a regionalist, who's opinion on federalism starts from the provincial perspective. Harper's overtures to Quebec have little to do with genuine concern for the culture, but moreso a natural fit for a perspective which seeks to essentially trash the federal government.

It is important to note that the Canadian federation as we know it is already decidedly "loose" in composition, when compared to other international examples. Despite the historic complaints of various regional leaders, the provinces do in fact enjoy considerable power- this talk about a domineering national entity is mostly bluster. For Harper to take the position that the federal government has too much control, which translates into a further dissolution of powers, he in fact leaves the federal government as an impotent and ineffective entity.

The concerns of Quebec are genuine and do need to be addressed. However, it is frightening to see legitimate issues used by others to justify their own powerplays. It is the job of Premiers to fight for their province, it is the job of the federal government to speak to cohesion and "national" goals. We now have a situation where there is no voice for Canada, because the federal leadership is also a proponent of regionalism. Who speaks for Canada? The balance that federalism needs is lost, any constitutional talks under these circumstances are disastrous for people who believes in the notion that the whole is greater than its individual parts.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More Troops In Afghanistan?

I was reading this Globe and Mail piece on McKay's visit to Afghanistan. I found these comments from the governor of Kandahar province interesting:
“They are defending Canada from Kandahar, because the world is too small now. If today we can't defend against terrorism here in Afghanistan, tomorrow you will have to defend against terrorism in your own country, Canada.”

Asked how much longer the Canadian troops should stay in Afghanistan, the governor said that a deployment of “several” more years would be required, and additional troops might also be needed. He said he will convey that message to Mr. MacKay.

This is the first instance that I can recall where an Afghan official articulates the possible need for more troops. That request suggests that our present level of troops will be inadequate to make this province secure. This fact will likely increase the length of the mission, as well as the dangers. I hope a reporter puts the question to McKay after his meeting with Khalid. Any request for more troops completely changes the dynamics of the mission.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Should Kennedy Resign?

Some controversy for Kennedy:
Federal Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy must resign from his seat in the Ontario legislature if he moves to Quebec this summer, Ontario's opposition parties said Monday.

If Kennedy heads to Quebec for an extended time, then he should give up his seat in the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, said New Democrat Peter Kormos...

"I don't know how you could do your job properly as an MPP for Parkdale-High Park if you're living in Quebec," Tory said. "I think they should very carefully examine whether someone can do their job when they're not even in the province."

Kennedy's initial response might be to get some feedback from his constituents to gauge their feelings. If this issue becomes embarrassing, it might be advantageous for Kennedy to just resign and eliminate the bad optics. Partisanship aside, there is a point to criticism that Kennedy's isn't fulfilling his duties as an MPP. If reports are accurate, Kennedy has failed to show up at Queen's Park since his declaration, which adds weight to the detractors arguments.

Kennedy's circumstance isn't unique, we see the same scenario play out stateside when Senators run in the primaries. However, unless Kennedy is prepared to split his time between running and serving(which could hurt his leadership chances), it makes for bad appearances and more negative press. If Kennedy were to resign, it would eliminate the irritant and could be spun to show how serious he takes his leadership bid- willing to risk his parachute back to Ontario.

The Problem With Dion

There is no question that Stephane Dion is an impressive candidate for the Liberal leadership. Dion seems to understand that the environment is the primary issue we need to focus on moving forward. Dion is smart, articulate and generally impressive in conveying his ideas in a clear and forceful way. I can fully understand why Dion enjoys broad support amongst Liberals and I don't mean to disparage those that back him. However, in my mind, a Dion lead Liberal Party is a recipe for years in opposition.

The overarching theme that you hear from all quarters- the Liberal Party must renew itself, develop a fresh approach and present a clean slate. Of all the top-tier candidates, it has hard to argue that anyone has more baggage than Dion, with the exception of Bob Rae. There is no mystery to Dion, his legacy is well-known and presents a massive hurdle to overcome. I saw a Quebec poll recently that showed Dion leading among the Liberal candidates, which is hardly surprising. The stay the course Liberal crowd has a champion in Dion, not to mention his historic high-profile in the province. However, I also read another poll recently that showed Dion had the least potential for growth, outside of the Liberal base. Given the fact that this base has eroded to the point of near irrelevance, Dion's support within it should be viewed for what it is, marginal. The problem for Dion, the vast majority of Quebecers have a solid opinion of the man, and most of it is not flattering. Jean Chretien's hatchet man and the defender of the status quo is hardly an attractive image to project. I don't see any realistic scenario where Dion re-invents himself to shed the albatross. Dion has a ceiling in Quebec, and it disallows any substantive revival for the Liberals in the province.

Dion must be viewed within the context of Harper's overtures to Quebec. I predict Harper, and Duceppe for that matter, would relish the opportunity to compare and contrast Dion's historical opinion against the goodies outlined in "renewed federalism". The man from the past, with the centralist credentials, against the man who wishes to give Quebec the farm- you do the math. If Dion can't win in Quebec, then what is the advantage of a francophone as leader? Will Dion have widespread appeal in the West, or will his leadership be viewed as another Quebecer from the tired Liberal Party?

On substance, I love Dion, but that isn't the only consideration, especially with such an able slate of candidates. Dion contradicts the notion of a new direction because he is so firmly entrenched in the old powerbase, that fought the old battles. Why choose a leader with two strikes against him from the outset? If it's all about message, what message does Dion send?

As an aside, I respect people's decision to support Dion, he is an impressive candidate. I welcome any rebuttals to show why I am wrong about Dion.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Building Up A Constitutional Lather

Under the circumstances, talk like this scares me:
The leader of Quebec's third largest political party says it's time to launch a new round of constitutional negotiations with the federal government much like Rene Levesque's "beau risque" some 20 years ago.

"It's our responsibility to respond to Ottawa's extended hand by proposing a new 'beau risque,' the risk of autonomy," Mario Dumont, leader of the Action democratique du Quebec, told 300 delegates Sunday at a general assembly meeting.

Don't get me wrong, I think Canada desperately needs to re-open the constitutional can of worms if it has any real future. What frightens me is the man at the federal helm makes decisions based on political calculations, not the "greater good". Since the election, there is defintely more "buzz" about the constitution. Harper has waded into the fray with several statements that suggest he would be open to re-working federalism. I think it a highly dangerous circumstance to have a federal leader who essentially approaches federalism with a Premier's regional perspective. Stephen Harper has made it clear that his agenda is a means to facilate his shortterm needs. I don't see anything that suggests an overriding vision or longterm perspective. In fact, you could argue there is no philosophy, unless of course the pursuit of power is a tenet.

The fact that people are now openly musing about re-opening the constitution raises the stakes on this government. Obviously, nothing substantial will happen during a minority situation, and I doubt the issue will gain much traction next election. The danger lies in Harper attaining unchecked power and wanting to make his mark politically. It's all opinion of course, and conservatives would argue that this is all "boogeyman" talk, but if you take Harper words in the past it suggests a recipe for regionalism, while the nation withers. I don't want a Prime Minister who thinks we need "firewalls" around provinces to keep out the feds. This man is supposed to be the feds, not the eleventh Premier- that's how Canada maintains the balance. I get this strange feeling that Canada can't afford a long Harper reign.

Kennedy Makes Smart Move

If the Liberals have any chance of returning to power, they must re-establish a connection with Quebec voters. Gerard Kennedy seems to understand the importance with a bold, substantive move:
Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy is moving from Toronto to Quebec for part of the campaign in a bid to show he's serious about reconnecting with the province.

"We look forward to doing that as a way to allow me to do a lot more grassroots things in Quebec," says Kennedy, who resigned his post as Ontario's education minister to seek the top job in the federal Liberal party...

They'll move as soon as they can and spend at least several months there in advance of the Dec. 2-3 leadership vote.

Beyond the political angle, I think this decision is a positive in that Kennedy will gain a greater appreciation of Quebec society and opinion. Interacting with Quebecers on a daily basis, outside of formal campaign duties, allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the challenges ahead. Kennedy will have to craft a formal vision for federalism, beyond the easy platitudes and this change of residence should give his policies a practical element. Living in the province will give his thinking an organic quality and allow for a genuine "bond".

Kennedy doesn't come across as a slick politico, so any criticism of parachuting and/or grandstanding can be muted if he articulates a general desire to reach the grassroots. This is a good move politically to expand Kennedy's base, but more importantly this time in the province may be a huge asset if he were to win the leadership.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Marginalizing McGuinty May Backfire

The West is in, Harper has taken semi-permanent residence in Quebec City, and Ontario looks to be marginalized. There is no question that Harper has concluded that his best prospects for a future majority don't include a substantive outreach to Ontario. Ontario's McGuinty looks the odd man out, whether it be at the last meeting of first minister's, or in the general way the federal government approaches provincial relations. I have heard many commentators speak to Harper's strategy of undermining McGuinty, in the hopes that this will translate into a John Tory win the next provincial election. I would suggest that Harper's approach will ultimately allow McGuinty's stature to rise with the public. Early signs:
Harper called Tory "the next premier of Ontario" and declared: "Ontario needs John Tory because a strong Canada needs a strong Ontario and because John Tory is a nation builder."

Queen's Park veterans cannot recall a previous prime minister attending such a partisan provincial event, least not having a speaking role in it.

To the best of their recollection, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did not attend provincial Liberal fundraisers in this province, nor did Joe Clark or Brian Mulroney go to provincial Conservative fundraisers.

"What it tells you is that this is the most partisan prime minister we have seen in many years," said one seasoned Queen's Park MPP.

Nor can the juxtaposition of Harper's brief meeting with McGuinty and his attendance at the Conservative fundraiser have been accidental.

The current political landscape allows for a curious historical precedent. Canada's most populus province is relegated to the fringes of the national government's thought process. The federal/provincial tension articulates a "regionalism" that people in Ontario have largely been immune too. Canadians first, Ontarians a distant second in terms of psyche. Harper's strategy may have the effect of galvanizing Ontarians against a perceived common threat. McGuinty, already emerging as a pseudo opposition leader, can frame himself as the defender of Ontario against the feds- this strategy has been quite effective elsewhere in Canada. Harper's hyper-politicism allows McGuinty the opportunity to show strong leadership and look Ontario's caretaker, which to date may be his biggest flaw heading into another election.

McGuinty will go to the the "fiscal imbalance" talks with the sole purpose of defending Ontario from the perceived incursions. If McGuinty is successful, then he demonstrates his effectiveness as Premier, if Ontario gets the shaft, he can play the "disenfranchised" card. Obviously, John Tory will attempt to use the argument that McGuinty is obstructionist and we need a Premier that will work with Ottawa, but there is a counter to this line and McGuinty has already begun to articulate it:
The Liberal premier chose his words carefully Friday as he responded to the comments by the new Conservative prime minister.

"I don't think it's helpful when it comes to establishing a good, positive, working relationship between the people's representative - duly elected - and the prime minister of Canada," McGuinty said. "But I will continue to make efforts to reach out to the prime minister."

However, Ontario Education Minister Sandra Pupatello wasn't nearly as diplomatic as her boss Friday in criticizing Harper's actions at the Conservative fundraiser.

"I think it is total inexperience on the part of the prime minister," Pupatello said in an interview. "He may really not realize how rude his behaviour is being interpreted, never mind by us, but by the people of Ontario."

As long as McGuinty gives the appearance that he is "reaching out", he blunts any criticism that he is unnecessarily confrontational. McGuinty must frame Harper as picking this fight and outside factors will serve as evidence. Afterall, Harper's electoral strategy is well known, which gives McGuinty's argument outside weight. Stephen Harper is "bad for Ontario" may be the buzzword for the next federal election. Good luck achieving a majority by writing off a third of the national seats- it's just bad math.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What Bullshit

Sorry for the title, but give me a break:
The federal government has pulled the plug on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that was supposed to help Ontario phase out its high-polluting, coal-fired power plants while it concentrates on its "made-in-Canada" approach to fighting emissions that cause climate change...

Ontario officials say that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote on Wednesday to Dwight Duncan, his provincial counterpart, informing him that at least $538-million the previous Liberal government pledged to help defray the costs of the province's actions to fight global warming were off the table...

The coal phase-out is the largest effort in Canada to reduce greenhouse gases, and when it is complete in 2009, would reduce emissions by up to 30 million tonnes, or the same amount as taking seven million cars off the road, according to Ontario estimates.

If there is anything that is "made in Canada", it's Ontario's coal-fired power plants. What will the government learn with its new direction that we don't already know? Answer, the new plan will be short on cash and long on platitudes. This money was essential to free Ontario from its dependence on these power plants.

Particularly troubling, this government seems determined to join the inadequate Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate strategy to lower emissions. Getting to know the AP6 strategy:
The Partnership is to be governed by a non-legally binding Charter with membership terminable upon written notice 90 days prior to the anticipated termination.

Participation in the Partnership is voluntary, and funds, personnel and other resources are to be provided at the discretion of the Partners themselves...

"the purposes of the Partnership are consistent with the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other relevant international instruments, and are intended to complement but not replace the Kyoto Protocol."

So, how are the discussions going so far:
A meeting of member countries of the AP6 in Sydney, Australia, in January 2006, culminated in the decision to encourage voluntary targets promised by industrialists rather than injunctions imposed on them by the group. The commitment of members to rising economic growth, as well as fossil-fuel-based development patterns, make their obligations towards a cleaner environment somewhat suspect.

Australia is involved too:

global emissions will in fact increase by 100 per cent by 2050 under the Partnership plan, when climate scientists are calling for emissions to halve.

A 100 per cent increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, as allowed under the new Partnership plan, would lock the world into a four-degree rise in average global surface temperatures...

"In my whole business career, I have never seen a more misleading public statement as that made by Prime Minister John Howard today," said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.

"If the statements made today become a reality, this will lock us in to a four-degree rise in global average temperatures, when two-degrees is considered extremely dangerous," he said.

"There couldn't be anything more irresponsible than to knowingly embark on a path towards massive increases in emissions and runaway global warming."

It is painfully clear that our government will proceed with a plan that puts the emphasis on the private sector to formulate solutions. The notion that incentives alone, without binding requirements, can be effective is pure flawed conservatism. The idea pre-supposes that companies have an interest beyond profit, which they clearly don't. Without strict regulation, massive infusions of government monetary assistance, any talk of reduced emissions is simply counter-intuitive. This AP6 charade to look relevant, has no binding targets, is completely "voluntary" and places all responsiblity on the largely amoral multi-nationals of the world.

This government will take its cues from industry on how to proceed, in effect asking the fox in the henhouse to leave the chickens alone. Regulation and oversee are critical componets of any future plans, their absence reveals complete and utter failure. The decision to hold back the money for Ontario's coal plants should serve as a clear signal that this government will fall short on funding and be long on pretty phrases. This direction isn't "made in Canada", it's "made in Canada's boardrooms" and that is a dangerous proposition indeed.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Martin Should Stay Home

Paul Martin returned to the House of Commons today to deliver a spirited criticism of the Tories childcare plan. Given the reaction, I think it best that Mr. Martin stay away:
Former prime minister Paul Martin delivered a scathing attack on the Conservative government's child-care plan Thursday, only to come under fire from NDP and Bloc Quebecois members.

It was his first speech to the Commons since his party lost the January election...

But in a sign the last election has not yet completely played itself out, Mr. Martin earned withering rebuttals from not only the new Tory minority government, but also from NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs.

The government and the other parties basically tore Martin to shreds for obvious reasons. If the Liberals wish to effectively criticize the childcare plan, then someone with some credibility should take the lead. All Martin did was allow for a re-examination of the Liberal legacy, as well as the contrast with the new government's relative quick action. Martin's presence was a net negative- his baggage distracted from the real merit in the criticism.

I don't hate Paul Martin, but his presence isn't helpful for a party which must break from the past. Today's episode should serve as a warning sign, with regards to how the Liberal leadership convention should be framed. I know Liberals will want to celebrate their legacy, but it would be best to keep the old guard on the back burner. What happened to Martin today, is the same scenario we keep seeing everytime interim leader Bill Graham speaks. We hear the criticism, followed by the reporter questions, which invariably references the former government's record and immediately the discussion becomes defensive. The debate must surround this government for it to impact Canadians opinion. Everytime an old order Liberal rises, the optics change and the message is lost. Politically, the best thing Mr. Martin can do for his country and his party is just stay home.

Nothing To See Here

The Harper government did nothing about the over 1 billion in subsidies paid to the oil and gas sector. The main criticism of these subsidies, in the last couple of years, surrounds the tension between enabling an industry that contradicts our environmental polices. Last year's Pembina Institute study spoke of the conflict:
It turns out that the industry’s real fear may well be that Canadian taxpayer will object to the huge corporate welfare that is being provided to the country’s richest and biggest polluters. .While proclaiming its desire to combat global climate change by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol andpromising to reduce greenhouse emissions, the Government of Canada provided the oil andgas industry with $1,446 million in subsidies in 2002. The increase in subsidies between 1996 and 2000 was 33%. Total expenditure between 1996 and 2002, inclusive, was equal to $8,324million (2000$). Federal government expenditure on oil sands alone is estimated to beapproximately $1,193 million (2000$) from 1996 to 2002, inclusive...

The trends in government expenditure on the oil and gas industry described above are particularly worrisome in light of Canada's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. In 2002, 20% of Canada’s GHG emissions came from the oil and gas industry, up from 16% in 1990. Upstream oil and gas production and natural gas transmission, which now account for 16% of Canada’s GHG emissions, saw their emissions increase by 56% between 1990 and 2002. Petroleum refining and natural gas distribution, which now account for 4% of Canada’s GHG emissions, saw their emissions increase by a more modest 17% over the same period. Total GHG emissions from Canada’s oil and gas industry rose by 47% between 1990 and 2002

On the one hand we want to curb emissions, on the other we help the worst polluters. Finally, this contradiction has resolved itself and subsequently this line of criticism should cease. The Harper government has made it abundantly clear that Kyoto is dead, which gives the subsidy approach the consistency it lacked previously. Oil and gas rules the roost, which eliminates dual purposes and gives a clear direction. Thank-you Stephen Harper for addressing the hypocrisy, Canadians are no longer confused.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Message for Rona Ambrose: Resign Now

Clearly, the time has come for Rona Ambrose to resign her position as chair of the international body that oversees the implementation of Kyoto. It is a complete and cynical farce to have Ambrose as chair, when her party has made it abundantly clear that it is against Kyoto. The Washington Post has a rather embarrassing review of our government’s environmental policy:
Canada doesn't have a climate change program anymore," said Dale Marshall, a policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental group. Canada is currently chairing the meetings on the Kyoto accord, and it is "embarrassing to have a chair that doesn't even believe in the agreements," he said. "Other countries, in the European Union, are absolutely committed to meeting their Kyoto targets and are on track."…

The government's environmental plan -- one paragraph in a budget document replacing 25 pages in the previous government's budget -- drew immediate protest…

The article also makes the statement that Canada’s position is now the same as the Bush administration, which translates into dangerous denial and complete inaction. I want to see the opposition parties demand that Ambrose resign her post because he mere presence makes a mockery of Kyoto and does a disservice to the nations who are really on board. If Canada wants to implement its own agenda(cough), then it can’t carry on in its present role. Ambrose’s presence has a negative impact on Canada’s international representation. Hammer Ambrose daily, until she is forced to resign, and show Canadians that this government has no environmental agenda, besides smoke and mirrors. Ambrose is a national disgrace in her current role.

Possible Deficit?

If anyone thinks the Conservatives budget sacrifices fiscal responsibility for political gain, this article makes the point:
Big tax cuts and faint-hearted spending restraint forced the Conservatives yesterday to resort to the old budget tricks of skimping and fudging even on some high priorities...

That combination pushed the budget balance to the edge: a 1-per-cent rise in interest rates would push the federal government into a deficit this year, according to budget estimates.

While spreading money around, Mr. Flaherty was forced to cut corners.

To begin with, he gave slow starts to two items that figured high in Conservative rhetoric but did not explicitly make the list of five priorities: the military and the fiscal imbalance with the provinces.

David Dodge has already hinted that more interest rate hikes are on the way, which makes the Tories shell game even more dangerous. Practically, a very small deficit is not a massive concern, but the optics are bad for a country that has been a model for fiscal responsibility. The fact that Flaherty was forced to delay some spending measures that were promised should serve as a signal that this government is in risky terrority. Also alarming, that Flaherty axed the environment and aborginal spending to keep Canada in the black.

The good news for the opposition, the Harper government's "outreach" to voters makes the promise of fiscal balance a difficult proposition. Where will the government get the money to correct any imbalance? Surely, the government wouldn't risk a substantial deficit to appease. The Tories may have boxed themselves in for the future, if everything doesn't go exactly as planned.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Flaherty Lies, Layton Cries

I just saw an interview with our new Finance Minister. The reporter asked Flaherty to respond to criticism that the budget tax package favored high income earners. Flaherty responded with the usual blah blah about how the GST really helps lower income people- cough. Then, in a simply amazing attempt at spin, and a downright lie, Flaherty said that the Tories had cut the lowest tax bracket from 16% to 15.5%. The reporter didn't question Flaherty on this point and allowed him to present himself as the robin hood for lower income Canadians. So, instead of a half point raise in income tax, Flaherty claims a half point cut as though the Liberal taxcut never existed. How Flaherty could make that claim with a straight face is beyond me, equally amazing that the reporter accepted the lie as fact.

On another note, it was nice to Layton in post-honeymoon mode. Layton was generally seething at the corporate taxcuts and vowed to vote against this budget. Layton also cited the environment and childcare as crucial issues. Layton chastised the government for not following through on their promise to consult and compromise with the other parties. For the first time since the election, Layton spoke from the heart, without any political consideration. It was like Layton emerged from a cold shower and was shocked back into reality. The illusion of the kumbaya parliament is now gone, so maybe we can get on with the business of real opposition.