Thursday, November 30, 2006

Convention Buzz

Kennedy and Dion:
There was much speculation Thursday that Dion and Kennedy had sealed a pact, wherein the first off the ballot will throw his support to the other. Both camps denied it and, in any event, other camps questioned how likely it is that either can deliver his delegates to the other.

Rumor has it that when Dion and Kennedy bumped into each other at tonight's Martin lovein, no words were exchanged but Kennedy apparently put a doggie bone in Dion's jacket pocket for Kyoto. Need I say more?

Volpe, Volpe, Volpe:
There were more rumours of a possible deal between second-place Bob Rae and bottom-tier candidate Joe Volpe.

During a session in which Rae took questions from delegates, one Liberal member asked if he thought Volpe was getting a tougher time during the race than he deserved.

"I've known Joe for a long time, and he's one of the most practiced, seasoned parliamentarians and politicians in the country,'' Rae said.

"And I believe he's somebody that has a lot to contribute to this race, and somebody who continues to have a lot to contribute to political life in Canada.''

According to CP, some party insiders were suggesting the dialogue had been pre-written by both camps.

Maybe just a coincidence, but several Rae organizers were spotted leaving the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges late last night, which may suggest a concerted effort to sway Volpe support.

Brison Bash:
The Liberal leadership race will be won in intimate gatherings like the one seventh-place contender Scott Brison hosted late Thursday.

The lone Atlantic candidate feted his 180 delegates at Montreal's swish Mount Stephen Club - and he invited the top four leadership hopefuls to come and try to poach as many of them as they could.

Front-runner Michael Ignatieff and his second-place rival, Bob Rae, were the only ones to show up for the bash at the blue-chip enclave a few blocks from the convention centre. They shook hands and willingly posed for photos with delegates who will become free agents once their first choice drops off the ballot on Saturday.

Gerard Kennedy did not show up but sent his "rock star" emissary, Justin Trudeau, to make the rounds at the elegant club, where the city's business elite nosh amid the gleaming wood and intricate stained glass.

Stephane Dion didn't turn up and did not send a stand-in.

With no one assured of victory and any of the top four candidates having a realistic shot at victory, the omission seemed odd.

The slight did not go unnoticed by Brison stalwarts, some of whom intrepreted Dion's absence as a sign that the fourth-place contender simply doesn't have the organization necessary to launch a come-from-behind victory.

Word on the street, whichever candidate uses the word "Atlantica" during his convention speech, without smiling, will get Brison's endorsment.

One Member, Some Votes:

Also on Thursday, delegates rejected moving the party to a direct one-member, one-vote leadership process through a national poll, which means this weekend may not mark the last Liberal leadership convention decided by delegates.

In a strange show of irony, less than 2% of Liberals decided how the other 98% felt. Another victory for equality, eliminating the claims that the Liberal Party is top-heavy.

Devastating Dion Poll Numbers

I'm not sure how anyone can spin these numbers for Dion, other than devastating:
Meanwhile, a poll of 500 Quebecers conducted Nov. 25 to 26 by the Survey Centre at Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, found that Liberal supporters consider Michael Ignatieff to be the candidate who would make the best prime minister, and the most likely to win the next federal election against Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

The poll was released on Thursday.

The poll found that 42 per cent felt Ignatieff would make the best PM, ahead of Bob Rae at 34 per cent, Stephane Dion at 17 per cent and Gerard Kennedy at three per cent. About 4 per cent were undecided.

And 38 per cent said Ignatieff was most likely to win the next election, while 35 per cent said Rae, 17 per cent Dion, and 3 per cent Kennedy. About 7 per cent were undecided.

Why I use the word devasting? Dion isn't even close to his two main Quebec rivals, embarrassingly behind in fact. The idea of electing a Quebecer, who lacks support in his home province, defies logic. Actually, this poll is in line with other polling of Liberals, wherein Dion consistently scores well behind on electability.

Liberals aren't electing a good soldier. Liberals aren't electing someone on pedigree. Liberals are electing someone who can become Prime Minister. These Quebec numbers should alarm everyone, because if Dion can't win in Quebec, then Liberals lose. It is already conventional wisdom that a Dion-led Liberal Party might have some challenges within English Canada as a result of Quebecer fatigue. If you accept that premise, and I am not suggesting it insurmountable by any means, and couple that with weakness in Quebec, Dion looks like a brutal choice.

Everyone likes Dion, I like Dion, but delegates had better make sure they look at the big picture. Quebecers know Stephane Dion, there is little room for movement. With this fact in mind, coupled with the sad polling, it begs the question- are we electing an honorable leader of the opposition, or are we interested in stopping Stephen Harper? In my mind, the country can't afford a prolonged Tory reign, and this should be the primary consideration this weekend. The francophone from Quebec, that lags far behind the others in his home province. Huh?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad Liberals

Not representative of most Liberals, overblown by the media, but in all seriousness this kind of stuff is pure crap:
A crudely produced flyer circulated through the convention hall as thousands of delegates and the eight leadership contenders began arriving at Montreal's Palais des congres.

“If you are having second thoughts about your candidate, don't vote on the first ballot,” it advised delegates.

No one claimed credit for circulating the flyer. While it didn't single out any particular candidate, most Liberals assumed it was aimed at Mr. Ignatieff,

New rule- if you don't vote on the first ballot, you can't vote on subsequent ballots. Delegates are there as representative of people's preference, which makes this sort of flyer all the more disgusting.

I first heard of this theory the other day, and now it surfaces again, this time from multiple sources:
Fourth-place Stephane Dion, who polls suggest could leapfrog over his rivals to victory, was also forced to deal with possible behind-the-scenes intrigue aimed at thwarting him.

Some strategists with other camps predict Mr. Ignatieff and second-place Bob Rae's teams will “loan” votes to Gerard Kennedy to keep him in third place, ahead of Mr. Dion, who would then be the next candidate dropped off the ballot after the trailing four withdraw.

All of these slimy tactics make certain ideas all the more attractive. After this convention, Liberals must find a way to eliminate any temptations that betray the idea of democracy. Blow the door off the backroom and create a process where insider is irrelevant. In a race so tight, unethical tactics, even on a small scale, can have disporportionate influence. Are we watching an expression of democracy or mischevious chess played by a few puppet masters?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Run Awaybrose II

When you have nothing to offer, why bother showing up:
For the second time this month, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has cancelled an appearance at a parliamentary committee on global warming, leaving critics to suggest the government is in disarray on the issue.

Ambrose was to appear before the House of Commons environment committee today to discuss an opposition bill that would force Ottawa to meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol.

Bob Klager, a spokesman for Ambrose, blamed the last-minute cancellation on a scheduling conflict but wouldn't say what commitment had taken precedence...

"I would think that Mrs. Ambrose would not want to be questioned in any format where the audience is well informed and people get a chance to ask more than one question," said Bennett.

This would be funny, if it wasn't so sad. Clearly, accountability and competence is on full display.

Kennedy Vs Dion

Maclean's has an article, which details the potential Dion-Kennedy split over the "nation" question. The horror, two grown men who have differing opinions, how will they overcome?:
it's still entirely possible that Stephane Dion and Gerard Kennedy will make nice on the convention floor this weekend long enough to propel one of them to the Liberals' top job. But it appears a whole lot less likely now that the latter has supplanted the former as the great hope of the party's Trudeauite wing.

But if Kennedy wants to be friends, he has a funny way of showing it.

By announcing his opposition to Stephen Harper's motion recognizing the Quebecois as "a nation within a united Canada," the former Ontario minister hasn't just isolated himself from most of the Liberal caucus - he's also aggressively made a move onto Dion's turf.

Frankly, I think what we have here is a bored reporter concocting some spice. I don't know how you conclude the "political courtship" is over, especially when you acknowledge that Kennedy spoke with Dion about his decision. According to the author, Kennedy should have agreed with the resolution because it afforded him his best opportunity to curry favor with Dion and his delegates. Surely Dion has no time for Kennedy now because he dared to offer his own view. Under this logic, count on Volpe and Dryden to walk hand in hand over to Kennedy after the first ballot.

I never put much stock in the secret bargain speculation revolving around Kennedy and Dion, because I think there are too many balls in the air to think of substantive tactics. However, if any chance of an alliance is now destroyed because of a difference of opinion, then no candidate could every support anyone.

The only constructive part of this piece, it offers further evidence that Kennedy's choice was one of principle, not political opportunism as the mindless critics have argued:
That lends some credence to the Kennedy campaign's claims that, contrary to popular belief, the candidate's suddenly strident opposition to the motion was not just a strategic ploy to finally get him some ink from the national media.

"I think if we'd been making this decision from a purely tactical point of view, the decision would've been, 'Don't do this Gerard - it's just too risky,' " a senior source within the Kennedy camp said Monday.

"Most of us were telling Gerard not to do it. From a principled perspective, I agree with what he did one hundred percent. But boy, from a tactical perspective, it's a risky move that's hard to see how it all plays out."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stevie Stalin

Chong is my MP, and by all accounts is a pretty stand-up, principled guy. I don't dispute that his resignation was a moral choice. However, there is clearly more at play here than a simple difference of opinion. A rising young star, with a plum post, jeopardizes his entire future over this question? In my view, Chong's resignation is an admission of complete frustration and a metaphor for the inner workings of our government.

Chong was not consulted, despite the fact that this whole issue primarily resides in his portfolio. Out of the loop, Chong's resignation is a combination of opinion and disgust at the process. Chong has come to the accurate realization that he is irrelevant, nothing more than a figurehead, who is mostly a waiter waiting to take an order. The Prime Minister who campaigned on free votes, greater representation, not only ignores his caucus, but takes it a step farther, in ignoring his chosen ministers. The symbolism of Stephen Harper speaking at a press conference on the environment, while Rona Ambrose said nothing, is powerful insight. We are starting to see the manifestation of Harper's apparent fascination with Stalin's management style.

All Chong did today was admit the obvious, he doesn't hold an influential post in the government. It was a resignation, but mostly in the sense that Chong resigned himself to his fate as pawn. Today showed us all, in stark terms, that we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. How disappointing for the young Chong, who probably saw his appointment as opportunity, to learn that he is an afterthought. I suspect Chong didn't even know about Harper's resolution until after it was crafted. Stephen Harper's governing style should scare us all. Who would have thought Canada would have a totalitarian regime? The sad part, the term isn't even an exaggeration.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Will Not Follow

I don't agree, but grudgingly respect the resolve to stand alone:

Liberal leadership hopeful Gerard Kennedy has decided to buck the tide of political opinion, coming out against a parliamentary motion recognizing Quebecers as a nation within a united Canada.

The Canadian Press has learned that Kennedy will issue a statement Monday opposing the motion, just as the House of Commons prepares to debate the surprise resolution introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week.

Kennedy will become the only Liberal leadership contender to reject the motion, which has been embraced with varying degrees of unease by his seven rival candidates, Harper's Conservatives, most Liberal MPs and the New Democrats. Even the separatist Bloc Quebecois has come on side.

A senior Kennedy source said the third-place contender believes the motion is irresponsible and wrong for Canada.

Kennedy believes the motion raises expectations of eventual constitutional entrenchment of Quebec nationhood without defining what is meant by the word nation. Moreover, he is worried that the motion will deepen divisions in the country, the source said.

The cynic says Kennedy has nothing to lose, due to his non-existent support in Quebec. However, Kennedy isn't a political opportunist, as evidenced by the several occasions this campaign where he has resisted the easy political score, so I think this simply his reading of the consequences. The fact that all the candidates are on board puts Kennedy at odds with everyone, and in effect he now sticks out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, those nervous about the motion now have safe habour.

This decision is gutsy, shows that Kennedy thinks independently and above all is a leader, not a follower. I don't share Kennedy's opinion, but I also don't expect my choice to mirror my views, all I ask is that they operate with integrity and thoughtfulness. Kennedy scores well on both points.


An endorsement from a surprising source.

Rating The Campaigns

Delegate counts aside, my grading of the individual campaigns:

Dion A-

The sleeper candidate, that really wasn't taken seriously from the outset, Dion has been on a steady ascent since the spring. Despite little money, uneven organization and a lack of institutional support, Dion has managed to position himself as a serious contender. Dion has had a consistent, detailed message, demonstrated surprising passion and has shown a media savvy that has afforded him a lot of positive press. Getting noticed, standing out from the crowd, was always Dion's biggest challenges and he did an excellent job in distinguishing himself. For the most part, a flawless campaign that has deserved momentum.

I would have given Dion an A, but the recurring theme of "I know best", accompanied by the grumpy rhetoric, has given Dion an edge which could be a turnoff. Dion is a humble man, but sometimes his inability to acknowledge others contributions conveys an arrogance which isn't attractive.

Kennedy A-

Kennedy launched his campaign with a great deal of hype attached, that was somewhat unfair and set him up for early criticism. The bar was set high, and Kennedy looked challenged to meet the expectations. However, from the onset, Kennedy was able to put in place a very solid organization, with an extremely motivated base of support. Kennedy was quite successful in speaking to westerners, in a way that went beyond the usual afterthought soundbite, like the requisite pat on the head.

An early criticism of the Kennedy campaign was a lack of policy positions, but throughout the summer Kennedy addressed this issue with bold ideas. The highlight for Kennedy, coming out with a strong position on Afghanistan, while many of his rivals played fence sitter. Kennedy successfully tackled the "lack of foreign policy" experience with his detailed and thoughtful ideas on Canada's place in the world, and a good understanding of our values.

Kennedy ran a very positive campaign, maybe at his own peril, because the media largely ignored the message. The media finally took some notice, when Kennedy scored high on super weekend, which demonstrated how successful his grassroots approach had been.

I would have scored Kennedy even higher, but he made a serious tactical error in not spending more time trying to secure some support in Quebec. The province was always a challenge for Kennedy, for a myriad of reasons, but I think a better effort could have given him at least semi-respectable numbers and he would have looked far more viable heading into the convention.

Rae B-

Rae has been quite successful in addressing his past-record, as well as the johnny come lately criticisms. Rae has enjoyed a great deal of momentum, through several high-profile endorsements, tantalizing poll numbers and Rae's natural ability to charm the hell out of everybody. Rae has often looked the wise statesman, with the steady hand and people seem comfortable with the idea of him at the helm. Experience was seen as a double-edged sword for Rae, but overall he has done a good job turning his pedigree into a plus. Rae has avoided large gaffes throughout the process, and although his careful, say mostly nothing approach has been disappointing, you do have to respect the tactic.

I don't score Rae higher because frankly the media has given him this place almost by default. From day one, Rae was put beside Ignatieff as the one to watch. This perception was largely a function of backroom opinion. Amazingly, Rae has revealed himself to be the insider with the support of the old powerbase. The Liberal Party is a bloated, mostly top-down entity, so Rae's standing at this point isn't particularly surprising, nor do I think it speaks to an exceptional campaign, more an ability to play the game.

Rae's campaign has been, substantively, the most pedestrian and the least inspiring. I don't sense any understanding of where the Party sits in the public psyche, nor do I see any urgency in Rae's message. Rae enjoys a lot of old-guard support, but I haven't seen any evidence that he has connected with the new order in any way. Bland, but effective I guess.

Ignatieff C

Depending on your perspective, Ignatieff is either a disaster or a revelation, probably both. Great organization, with a healthy combination of new and old, Ignatieff has done a great job building a national team. The early media darling, Ignatieff received the lion's share of the press and this fact gave him immediate momentum. Decent debater, but amazingly eloquent and inspirational on the stump, Ignatieff has offered plenty of substance. The problem, some of the ideas are controversial, divisive and suggest a lack of political polish. Ignatieff's speak on his feet mentality is mostly refreshing, but equally dangerous. I won't re-hash the gaffes, but there is no doubt that Ignatieff can be his own worst enemy.

No reasonable person can say that Ignatieff has ran a great campaign. The media has been harsh, but that is really irrelevant because this condition will persist in a national campaign and that is the bottomline. Where Ignatieff doesn't get credit, his courage in putting forth policy that isn't focus group tested. Dion seems to enjoy the environmental candidate tag, but to my mind Ignatieff has offered the most progressive, serious environmental plan, that puts politics a distant second in thought process. On substance, Ignatieff is the most interesting and daring, which isn't necessarily a negative in a era where politicians rarely say anything. Ignatieff speaks like a person, not a politician, never a bad trait in my mind.

I give Ignatieff an average score, because from day one he was always the frontrunner. Ignatieff had a chance to really build a insurmountable wave, so his current situation is a minor failure if expectation is your guide.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Delegates For Hire

Peter Mansbridge did an in-depth one on one with Liberal strategist David Herle, discussing the upcoming convention. One of the scenarios thrown around, which was particularly interesting, involved a candidate using some of his delegates to vote for another candidate on the first ballot. Herle posited, and said there is some precedent, that Ignatieff or Rae may send some delegates to Kennedy to boost his support on the first ballot and keep Dion well back in fourth. The theory being, a weakened Dion would be less of a threat, as well as the added bonus of those delegates coming back on the second ballot to show artifical growth. Dion is wounded, Kennedy doesn't grow naturally with the defection of the planted delegates and the frontrunner looks viable.

The idea sounds far fetched, and somewhat dubious frankly, but it sure demonstrates how complicated this convention could become. Delegates as pawns, how democratic and empowering ;)

Harper Prepares To Launch "Firewall" Federalism

Premier Harper tips the balance of power:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to play a second national unity card by limiting federal spending powers in exclusive areas of provincial jurisdiction, CTV News has learned.

One option to achieve this goal is a constitutional amendment that would require the support of seven provinces comprising 50 per cent of the population, insiders say.

Talks are underway with key provincial governments, including Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

The plan is to prevent the federal government from launching new national programs without the consent of the provinces and any province could opt out with full compensation.

Insiders say a constitutional amendment would only deal with federal spending powers and would not lead to wholesale constitutional negotiations to get Quebec to sign on to the 1982 Constitution.

The danger, who speaks for the federal government in this instance, because clearly Harper approaches the matter as though a Premier? Part appeasing Quebec, part old-Reform tribalism mentality, Harper embraces decentralization.

Generally, I support most national programs, even if there is some overlap in jurisdiction, because they tend to keep some sort of symmetry throughout the country. The fear of the federal government seems to reside in some sense that it is a foreign entity, imposing unpopular measures onto the masses. My view of federalism sees the federal government as my government, which has enough detachment to act with a better sense of the greater good. Provinces opt out of federal programs all the time, so I don't see why we need a constitutional amendment that creates rigid provincialism.

Given Harper's alarming paper trail on federalism, I worry about any talk of re-opening the constitution under his watch. When has anyone heard Stephen Harper argue from the federal government position, and because of that can we trust him to counter-balance the Premier's self-interest? The evidence suggests a strong NO, and the issue had better be part of the next election, because I suspect Harper is laying the groundwork now, with a more assertive approach should he be re-elected.

All the Premiers like to beat up on the federal government, in some provinces it is required sport. The role of the Prime Minister is to balance the quest for power and further autonomy, with a general vision and a defence of the federal role. There will always be jurisdictional issues, and constitutional experts seem divided in many areas, that is the nature of our federation. I don't think Canadians are demanding a constitutional amendment that further neuters the federal government. Objectively, Canada is already one of the most de-centralized federations in the world, and we have witnessed continued erosion of federal power over the decades. How much farther does Harper want to take his narrow view, and in so doing will he effectively make Canada a collection of independent quasi-states? Firewall federalism is coming, quietly, but with dangerous consequences.

Rae calls for defeat of Harper. Check out the video, Rae makes a forceful argument.

For a refresher course on who we are dealing with, get alarmed here. Good grief.

Gordon O'Connor: Santa Claus?

Our Minister of Finance just made the strong case for reigning in government spending as a way to secure our financial future. It would seem that the Department of Defence doesn't fall under Flaherty's umbrella because it is spending like a drunken sailor:
Canada's military is asking the federal government to approve more than $4-billion in new spending on planes, unmanned aerial vehicles and a ship to patrol the Arctic...

Sources have told CTV that the navy is asking for an Arctic patrol vessel. This would not be one of the three heavy icebreakers that were discussed during the election — ships that cost about $1-billion each. But it would be armed and could operate in Arctic conditions.

The network is also reporting that the air force has asked for $3.4-billion to replace the existing fleet of six CC-115 Buffalo aircraft. Those planes, which are all based in Comox, B.C., are primarily used in search-and-rescue operations. They are able to fly in almost any weather and are especially suited for flying in the coastal and Rocky Mountain ranges.

In addition, the Forces say they need utility transport planes, perhaps something like the Dash-8 that is built by Montreal's Bombardier.

And finally, CTV says there is a request for new unmanned aerial vehicles that can hover over an enemy and relay information about their location back to artillery units. Some models can even launch missiles at targets. That type of gear is urgently needed in Afghanistan, military sources say.

All of this equipment, if approved by cabinet, would come on top of about $17.1-billion in equipment and related support services that was announced in June. That included trucks, heavy-lift helicopters, strategic and tactical aircraft, and support ships.

These new figures don't include the increase in our military expenditure for Afghanistan that O'Connor has announced the past months, nor does it take into consideration expanded recruitment. You can make the argument that the Tories are merely modernizing the military, in the face of years of neglect. That logic has merit to a point, but it would seem that the Tories are moving well beyond simple "re-tooling". It is almost as if the D of D now operates with the "it would be nice to have" mentality, rather than necessity. Does anyone really believe a few unmanned drones will have any real impact on our success in Afghanistan? Was it really necessary to conduct mock amphibious invasion operations on the American coast for the first time in decades, at great expense? Please explain the realistic scenario where Canadian forces are storming the beaches as invasion force?

The Tory pre-occupation with all things military, the sense that O'Connor merely has to ask and any expenditure is rubber stamped, seems a departure for reality, when considering Canada's place in the world. I see the latest expenditure request as further evidence that the Tories view militarism as a means for greater influence on the world stage. Where are the announcements for greater reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan? What is more important, new toys like drones, or training an effective Afghan army? There seems a striking lack of balance in our approach, as we adopt the "might is right" philosophy, despite the fact Canada will never be relevant militarily on the world stage. All the other government departments are supposedly tightening their belts, but apparently, when it comes to D of D everyday is Christmas.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ignatieff Off The Mat

Only a few days ago, Ignatieff's campaign looked doomed and disarray was king. Enter Stephen Harper and all of a sudden you can use the word "momentum" without laughter. Oh sure, Ignatieff has twisted and contorted all over the place on the nation question, but the overarching theme suggests legitimacy for supposed crazy and dangerous ideas.

Despite all the talk about delegates abandoning Ignatieff in droves, I kept reminding myself that the latest controversy might actual play to his advantage with Quebec delegates, something which Chantal Hebert also argued. If this story, and the quotes within are accurate, Ignatieff can expect to leech second-ballot support in Quebec:
poaching a trio of senior Quebec organizers from rival Stéphane Dion...

They include a former candidate from the Quebec City region, a top Dion organizer in the provincial capital, and former Lévis MP Christian Jobin.

"I would say that the majority of Mr. Dion's delegates will be deserting him after the first ballot," said Jobin, who told Dion the bad news on Wednesday...

The Ignatieff forces in the province have spent much of the past two weeks insisting that kind of talk is mere bravado, and that Dion's support will melt away after the first ballot, when delegates will be free to support any candidate they wish.

The reasoning goes that Dion's stiff opposition to supporting a resolution by the Quebec wing that calls for a committee to recommend a way to "officialize" the province's status as a "nation within Canada" has proved deeply unpopular among the large majority of members who approved the motion at a recent party meeting.

Ignatieff organizer and Liberal MP Denis Coderre (Bourassa) said there are "dozens" more officials who will announce they are switching allegiances in the coming days.

If, and this is obvious speculation, Dion's Quebec delegates abandon him in any numbers, he's done. The fourth place scenario demands massive growth and this is impossible with corresponding erosion. Dion relies heavily on Quebec delegates, around 40% of his total first ballot support. If the boasting from the Ignatieff camp is even half correct, Dion might go nowhere on the second ballot, which is complete death. I would expect Dion to pick up other camps supporters on the second ballot, because there is no denying his second choice numbers, but this perception could easily be counter-balanced by a reasonable number of defections.

Things change quickly, what was once considered Ignatieff's albatross, may be his pot of gold. Alot can happen, Rae is still a force, but Ignatieff looks alot better than he did on Monday and I don't think any reasonable person can deny this fact.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What About Bob?

Ignatieff is seeking out microphones, Dion on television, every politician, pundit and blogger commenting on Harper's bombshell. I understand the Rae strategy of play it safe, offer little substance and forever look the old sage with the charisma. The strategy has been successful, if somewhat confounding, and this fact may explain the big pass Rae took today:
Rae reluctant to enter Quebec-nation debate

OTTAWA -- Liberal leadership hopeful Bob Rae today gave a cool reception to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bombshell motion to recognize Quebec as a nation within a united Canada.

Rae, speaking in London, Ont., said he’s unsure what impact the motion will have on the future of Canada and, as far as he’s concerned, there are other items he must focus on leading up to the leadership convention, which takes place next week in Montreal.

I agree, there are other more pressing issues at play, but this fact doesn't address the simple fact that this particular issue has exploded onto the frontpage and simply can't be ignored. The ironic part, Rae could probably do himself some favors with a substantative comment, because his eloquence on this issue is well known.

I understand politics, but it really grates me when people try to sneak through, don't rock the boat, and claim the big prize. The tactic speaks to calculation, and does a disservice to the process, which is supposed to put candidates through their paces, by offering policy and an ability to react to unscripted events. Sorry to say it Bob, but you wimped out bigtime.


Rae has some thoughts:

"It seems to me that we've been through this soap opera for long enough and if it can be brought to an end with something that has no great legal or constitutional consequence, then that's one thing. But I think we all need to reflect on what's happened and how these things can get more complicated than they really need to be."

Still, Rae said he wants to hear clearly from Harper that there are no legal or constitutional implications to the motion, especially in the wake of Quebec Premier Jean Charest's assertion that it will change the way the province's laws are interpreted by the courts and enhance the province's stature on the world stage.

"Certainly, it would seem that some people are interpreting it to mean something quite dramatic and other people are interpreting it to be much less, which is one of the reasons why these symbolic debates can be so difficult," Rae said.

Fair enough.

Deep Breath

I confess, I don't really understand why people are in such a tizzy about Harper's Quebec motion. Political motivations aside, it would seem that the government has merely stated the obvious. Recognizing Quebec as a nation within a united Canada doesn't necessarily translate into a constitutional nightmare, nor does it move Quebec closer to seperation.

From everything I gather, the paradox of Quebec as nation, while simulatenously part of the larger Canada, is a concept that is readily accepted by most Quebecers. This debate is not an either/or proposition, but more an admission of the simulateneous realities. Quebec already has special powers in the constitution, which affirm a distinct situation within the federation. Embracing the idea of nation, in a cultural sense, doesn't demand extra powers, because the federalist case is still strong. If the goal is too bring people together, then a sensitivity is required and through this recognition the irritants that seperatists use are muted. The important point for English Canada, you can't project your view into the debate and not expect resistence.

I suspect Quebecers don't see yesterdays announcement as particularly earth shattering. Every poll I have every seen reveals that Quebecers do have an affinity for Canada. Canada looks more attractive when it embraces the sentiment of the majority in Quebec, not when it fights tooth and nail to curtail. Harper's motion says to Quebec, we accept the reality which you already know. Too often, English Canada tries to beat down any notion that has the potential to recognize Quebec's special status, which in turn merely alienates. You can't ignore the issue, because in so doing you allow the tensions to fester, which ultimately won't be ignored. Do we want the Bloc as permanent fixture in our federal House? The Chretien approach of do nothing, maintain the status quo, only fuels the seperatist argument. Much better in my mind, to recognize the obvious and see if there is a way to move forward together. Funny thing about compromise and openness, it has a tendency to work both ways if the sentiment is genuine. Quebec is a nation, and I am proud to be part of a Canada that thrives within this reality.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Layton's Lost

Reading all the coverage over Harper's astute bombshell today, one line keeps popping out:
NDP Leader Jack Layton said his party will support both the Bloc and government motions.

On a day when politics took a backseat, Layton looks more the silly opportunist. The answer is simple, support Harper and form a united federalist front, but instead Layton decrees he will vote for the Bloc's mischevious declaration. Why in the world would Layton give Duceppe's transparent attempt to fan the flames any credibility? Does Layton actually think this obvious attempt to score cheap points will resonate with Quebecers?

Actually, this move pretty much sums up the Layton dilemna. Layton has been absolutely masterfully, entirely relevant, and worthy of praise on the environmental file. However, before we clap too loud, we are then reminded of the other Layton that reminds us all of the bad used car salesman, who will do anything to make the deal. Quite frankly Jack this is bullshit and you deservedly look lost in the muck of hyper-politicism. How proud, when you vote for two statements that are diametrically opposed. One step forward, two steps back and forever maddening.

Harper Carries Iggy's Water

Harper gives Ignatieff cover:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday that the federal Conservative government will introduce a motion recognizing that Quebecers constitute a nation within a united Canada.
"Do Quebecers form a nation within a united Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Quebecois for an independent nation? The answer is no, and will always be no," Harper said.
"The Bloc Quebecois has asked us to define that, and perhaps that's a good thing, because it reminds us all Canadians have a stake in the future of this country."

All the rancor about the resolution at the leadership convention and Harper effectively bails out the Liberals by wading into the controversy and supporting the resolution. Ignatieff looks less the reckless rookie, and now seems entirely mainstream. Interesting development to say the least.


The Ignatieff angle:

Supporters of leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff, the only contender to wholeheartedly endorse the Liberal resolution on Quebec nationhood, were jubilant, privately claiming Harper's move vindicates Ignatieff and guarantees he'll win the party crown.

Ignatieff has been hammered by his rivals, who've accused him of playing into separatist hands and leading the country down the path to another round of divisive constitutional wrangling.

Ignatieff himself took credit for getting the ball rolling on recognition of Quebec as a nation.

"I think it's a good day for Canada. That is to say, I'm proud of the way in which the Liberal party and my candidacy listened to Quebec," he said.

Harper's proposal also won the approval of Stephane Dion, the lone Quebec contender who has fiercely criticized the Liberal approach on the issue. He said Harper's motion is "very close" to a compromise he's been floating among Liberal leadership candidates.

Observers say that Harper's motion could actually help Ignatieff out, but the leadership contender said he doubted the prime minister had him in mind when the proposal was changed.

He said he saluted what the prime minister did but added that he's "sure Mr. Harper is not in the business of throwing me any life jackets at all. We are political adversaries, we will always be political adversaries," he said after Harper spoke.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


My favorite conservative, Olaf at Prairie Wranglers, argues against the calls for Rona Ambrose to resign. The gist of the argument boils down to this point:
If a government minister were to resign every time the opposition disagreed based on policy, the Conservatives would be out of cabinet ministers by now...

The point is you can't reasonably call for the resignation of a government minister based on incompetence, when the only evidence you have of incompetence is that you disagree with them.

Agreed. I don't support Vic Toews or Peter McKay, but this fact doesn't translate into any support that they should resign. When the question moves to Rona Ambrose however, there is ample evidence to suggest that she is woefully incompetent, not to mention her preference for misleading (lying is more apt, but let's be civil).

Rona Ambrose's appearance before committee:
"I have in front of me a list of at least $100 million of money that was used to purchase international credits," Ambrose said in what appeared to be a prepared response to a fellow Conservative MP's question.

She then recited a number of overseas projects and their dollar values.

"For 13 years this was the only plan, to buy international credits," Ambrose told the committee.

However, when Sun Media initially asked for the project list cited by the minister, the story began to change.

Officials in the minister's office on Tuesday said Ambrose alone had a copy and they couldnÂ’t provide it, although they said the information came from departmental officials. A spokesman for the department said he knew nothing about such a list and referred matters back to the minister's office.

Shannon Haggerty, Ambrose's new director of communications, then offered up two departmental officials to explain the project list, which turned out to be from the Canada Climate Change Development Fund, administered by the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA.

"It's actually not buying credits," one bureaucrat explained. "It's the government subsidizing industry to work on these (climate change) projects."

So how much money has the government of Canada, past or present, spent buying carbon credits?

"As a government, none," said the official. "The government has not purchased outright a Kyoto credit."

Two conclusions, Ambrose lied to committee, or Ambrose has no understanding of her portfolio. Which is worse? Misleading a parliamentary committee is a serious offense, and given the fact that Ambrose was able to list all the allocations, you would have to think she was privy to the origin. However, let's give Ambrose the benefit of the doubt, that leaves blatant incompetence as the only answer.

Before committee, again:
An academic from a progressive think tank based in Washington is furious that Environment Minister Rona Ambrose used recent remarks by her to attack the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Daphne Wysham, a fellow from the Institute for Policy Studies, said Ambrose is using her think tank's criticism of the Clean Development Mechanism to abandon Canada's responsibility to live up to its commitment under the international agreement.

"I'm horrified by that," Wysham said in a phone interview. "I certainly don't want to see Canada pulling out, did not want to the U.S. pulling out. We want to see Kyoto strengthened."

Ambrose made reference to the think tank on Thursday during a parliamentary committee arguing that the mechanism, which allows countries to get credits for investments in developing nations to reduce emissions, had no accountability.

Misleading or lack of knowledge?

Ambrose has pulled quotes from several organizations to deflect criticism and curry favor. Ambrose used a Canadian Lung Association release as proof of support for her Green Plan. Ambrose stood before the H of C and mislead parliament, because in fact the Canadian Lung Association was critical of the Conservatives, hardly supportive:
The Lung Association has serious concerns that the proposed approach under the Clean Air Act will not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases quickly enough to lessen the health effects of climate change. Warmer temperatures caused by these emissions contribute to the difficulties of Canadians suffering from respiratory illness, for instance, by increasing the frequency and severity of smog conditions in urban centres.

"We are very concerned with the proposed targets for greenhouse gases and the use of intensity-based standards in the short and medium terms, since these will result in a continuing increase in total emissions," said Dr. Barbara MacKinnon, Director of Environmental Research for the New Brunswick Lung Association. "We think both the targets and the time frame need to be revised to bring much earlier net reductions."

Misleading again, or an issue with reading comprehension, neither of which is flattering.

How about changing the language on government websites to manipulate? Check:

The Conservative government has been using federal resources to mislead Canadians about the facts of global warming and to further undermine Canada's international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, said Liberal Environment Critic John Godfrey today.

"It is appalling to watch this government systematically misrepresent the Kyoto Accord over the last six months," said Godfrey.

Mr. Godfrey was reacting to changes by the Conservative government to Environment Canada's website that deliberately sought to imply that there was a controversy about climate change within the scientific community.

The government incorporated the following paragraph into the department's webpage defining the Greenhouse Effect:

"There is a great deal of uncertainty associated with climate predictions and, although temperature changes during this century are consistent with global warming predictions, they remain within the range of natural variability."

The government removed the paragraph late last week, after receiving a public complaint from a representative of the scientific community.

One criteria for demanding resignation is the idea of scandalous behavior. If the above examples don't suggest a pattern of overt deception, then the bar is set far too low. If you reject lying, you are left with serious incompetence, take your choice, both give weight to calls for resignation.

Finally, people may have noticed the first positive news stories about Ambrose in quite some time, following the wrap-up in Nairobi. Ambrose has been given some credit for this comment:
Asked whether she was changing her mind about Kyoto, Ambrose made an ambiguous reply, saying she was "learning."

My friend Olaf suggests that wanting to learn is a desirable attribute of a thirsty mind. However, in my view "learning" is a frank admission that Ambrose is in over her head. This comment is consistent with Ambrose's desire to consult with industry in the coming years to understand the solutions. Everyone knows the dynamics, the industries are well known and discussions on this topic have taken place for the last decade. Canada doesn't have the benefit of waiting while Rona Ambrose gets her doctorate. Does Elizabeth May have to "learn"?

The common theme of this past round in Nairobi, where does Canada stand? Other countries expressed confusion about Canada's position, and Ambrose spent most of her time doing "damage control". Does it not speak to the issue of competence that our allies were largely unaware of our policy? Shouldn't government officials have been working the diplomatic phones with our allies to forcefully argue our position and avoid any embarrassing perceptions? Who did the groundwork prior to Nairobi? Apparently nobody, and Canada's reputation was tarnished.

Rona Ambrose is incompetent, it's as simple as that. If you assume a job, and replace someone who was fired, is it acceptable ten months later to say "the last guy really screwed this up"? That tactic might work straight away, but after awhile I doubt the excuse would hold much water with any supervisor. Rona Ambrose should resign, and it goes well beyond her party membership.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Delusions Of Grandeur

On the one hand, you could commend Harper for being assertive on the international stage. I have no qualms with Canada showing leadership and forcefully arguing its points. However, Harper's latest foreign policy adventure strikes me as more ego driven exercise than genuine motivation. Harper made this comment, referring to his meeting with the Chinese, and I think it quite telling:
“We've had very frank discussions with a wide range of leaders, including although it was not a very long discussion, a very frank discussion with President Hu of China — a distinct impression, if I may say that, that the Chinese aren't used to that from a Canadian government, but I can't speak for them.” Mr. Harper said at the end of the APEC gathering.

I have a theory about Harper, that he suffers from delusions of grandeur. Important to remember, that in the infancy of this government much energy was spent talking about protecting the Arctic from foreign incursions, beefing up the military and making Canada a power on the world stage. We already know that Harper has a weird obsession with Stalin, an interesting curiousity for a democratic leader. I don't want to get too psychological here, but Harper strikes me as a man that desperately wants to be important.

Harper brags about his tone with the Chinese, as though "we told them". I'm sure the Chinese appreciated the lack of diplomatic decorum. I'm also sure North Korea cares what Canada thinks about its nuclear program. Harper want to look tough, fine, but he doesn't seem to have any comprehension of Canada's place on the world stage. Harper seems to conduct himself with an air of self-importance that simply isn't rooted in reality. Canada is effective, Canada over-steps its relative relevance, when it plays the margins, works behind the scenes to develop consensus. Canada doesn't have the clout to stand out and drive change, it's just that simple.

Whenever a leader takes the helm and puts the military on center stage, it tells us something. Harper has shown that he is a bully in his parlimentary approaches, and the "might is right" mentality of militarism is an extension of this characteristic. Supporters would argue that the Canadian military has long been ignored and desperately needs support. I don't dispute this fact, but I think Harper approaches the question from the perspective of power. This belief may explain why Harper over-zealously made the Afghanistan mission his own.

Last week we had the Canadian military conducting amphibious offensive operations (for the first time that anyone can remember) on the American east coast, preparing for any possible "invasion". A small point, but another sign that we think ourselves a force on the world stage and this government has given the military leadership a blank cheque. Any idea which country may feel the wrath of a Canadian naval assault?

Remember when Harper declared "Canada's back", referring to the world stage. Interesting, because Canada never left the world stage. Is this quest for Canada a genuine desire to be a force for change, or is it more the personal wants of a man who suffers from delusions of grandeur? The scary part, I really believe the latter.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Major Endorsement

"Goo goo, ga gah", which to the best of my knowledge translates to "Vote for dada at the Canadian Blog Awards."

Time To "Bring It On"

It's easy to be flippant, when your Party is riding high in the polls, and the opposition has internal problems that preclude forceful rebuttal. Such was the case this summer, when the NDP and Bloc called for Ambrose's resignation in committee. This is how the government responded:
But the Conservatives are raising the stakes and threatening a fall election should the motion pass.

Conservative Whip Jay Hill confirmed to The Globe and Mail last night that he told NDP House Leader Libby Davies late yesterday that a motion that passes through committee would be considered a confidence matter if the committee report is put to a vote this fall.

Then, we had, Rona Ambrose rise in the House of Commons and dare the opposition:
Thursday, June 22, 2006

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is daring opposition parties to bring down the minority Conservative government and fight an election campaign on the issue of climate change.

“I say, ‘Bring it on,’” Ambrose said
Thursday in the House of Commons, responding to a question from the Bloc Quebecois. “Our government, in four months, is miles better than the 13-year Liberal record and the non-record of the Bloc.”

The Conservatives are on record- any motion brought before the House of Commons concerning Ambrose's resignation is a matter of confidence. The earlier cockiness has given the opposition the golden opportunity to bring down this government, at their choosing, on an issue that the Conservatives have lost all credibility.

In a couple weeks the Liberals choose their leader, and the season of apprehension ends. After the Christmas break, I think the NDP and Bloc should re-submit their motion on Ambrose's resignation. I suspect, if Liberals are thinking clearly, there should be full support for this motion and a vote should be forced in the House of Commons. I see two choices, wait until the budget and allow Harper to force his own demise on relatively favorable terms, or bring the government down prior to the budget, on an issue that exposes their central weakness. Time to "bring it on" I say.


Accidental Deliberations, from the NDP perspective.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Now That's Bold

Accountability, so long as it doesn't apply to us, and if it does, change the rules:
The Conservative government is proposing to open a loophole in its vaunted accountability act by declaring that party convention fees not be counted as political contributions under the law.

The issue is a sensitive one for the Conservative party, which is under investigation by Elections Canada for failing to declare almost $2 million in fees paid by delegates to the party's 2005 convention.

They now want to change the accountability act to add that "payment . . . of a fee to participate in a registered party's convention is not a contribution" as long as the fees don't exceed the cost of running the convention.

That's the same argument the party made in June when it vehemently claimed it was following existing campaign financing laws when it failed to declare as much as $1.7 million in fees from its March 2005 convention.

Stating the obvious:
"The Tories seem to be now admitting that they have broken the law," said Steven MacKinnon, national director of the Liberal party.

"They're trying to use the blunt instrument of Parliament as a form of pardon for their violation of the law and trying to fix these mistakes retroactively."

Even NDP MP Democrat Pat Martin, one of the accountability act's most vocal supporters, said the Conservatives are pulling a fast one.

"They're trying to prove the point after the fact," Martin said. "I guess that's the advantage of being the ruling party - you can correct your mistakes by statute after the fact.

"We won't support it."

I have to admit, quite shrewd to dump this little tidbit on a Friday. Harper made acccountability the cornerstone of his election campaign, so it is quite significant that the Conservatives now amend their legislation to take the stench off their own dubious activities. Hypocrisy is all the richer when you claim the moral high ground, a frequent error that conservatives make. Newsflash, the Conservatives are just like the other parties, heck maybe worse. The horror.

Doubting Dion

I admit it, most of my posts relating to Dion are decidedly negative. Why? Dion has made the environment the cornerstone of his campaign, something which I wholeheartedly endorse. Dion is a man of honor, integrity and significant intelligence. Dion has run an excellent campaign, inspiring many people and defying the odds. However, despite these attributes, I think Dion a terrible choice for Liberal leader, and the reasoning comes to down to one basic premise, Dion can't win. The central calculation, the country can't afford a prolonged Harper reign and therefore Dion is the wrong person, at the wrong time.

I'm not a big fan of Chantal Hebert, but I think she has a good sense of the mood in Quebec. With that in mind, I find these comments telling:
Of the four, Kennedy is probably the best placed to hang on to the Ontario base of the party. His strong showing in the delegate selection process speaks to that advantage. He also stands to do well in the parts of Western Canada where the NDP is the main opposition to the Liberals.

Despite his shortcomings in French, Kennedy, like Dion, would likely hang on to the Quebec seats the party has. If the Liberals did not lose those ridings last January, the party probably will keep them under any leadership scenario.

For different reasons, Rae and Ignatieff both have potential to increase the party's support in Quebec. At a minimum, either could realistically hope to recoup the federalist seats the party lost in the January election.

Please explain the benefits of electing a francophone leader, who is destined to do nothing in his home province, then contrast that reality with the potential downfalls in other areas of the country. The only way Dion makes sense is if he significantly bolsters the Liberal fortunes in Quebec. Is it realistic to think Dion will sweep Ontario and make any gains in the West? Relative to other choices, I think the answer an obvious NO.

The entire knock against Kennedy, the unknown of Quebec. Hebert posits the absurd, the native son would score the same as the language challenged nobody from Ontario. If Hebert is right, and we do have evidence to support the Dion ceiling in Quebec, then I think Liberals mad to flock to Dion. If Quebec is your thesis, then Rae and Ignatieff look your best bet, if you look overall Dion comes up short everytime.

Remember the EKOS poll that was lauded by the Dion camp? One nugget that has gone largley unnoticed, despite the affection for Dion, even diehard Liberals don't see him as someone that can beat Harper:

Which of the candidates for the Liberal leadership would you say has the best chance of winning the next election?:

Michael Ignatieff 36%
Bob Rae 24%
Gerard Kennedy 12%
Stephane Dion 12%

Alienate parts of the country by selecting another francophone, despite the fact you won't make any gains in Quebec. If that isn't a loser strategy for victory, I don't know what is. I like Dion the man, Dion the leader not so much :)


The counter argument.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thud, Crash, Boom

One quote describes how completely embarrassing, the Conservative dog and pony show on full display in Nairobi:

“I have spent a lot of my time doing damage control on the ground,” said Ambrose in an interview late Thursday at the annual United Nations climate change conference.

Step back, and think about this admission from Ambrose. It is just ridiculous, the whole mess. My dog ate my homework, no really. Pull the plug, and bring her home, because damage is all we are doing.

The Next Election

Could it be, the next election, with the central theme a debate on the environment? Recent polls have shown the environment as the number two issue, closely behind health care. The latest Decima offering confirms the surge, and goes further:
The survey conducted by Decima Research found that 26 per cent of respondents said the environment will be a key factor in their vote in the next election. Another 23 per cent said the economy will be their key issue, 18 per cent picked taxes and 13 per cent were concerned about the war in Afghanistan.

In past elections the environment gets lip service, but generally falls off the map as other "issues" consume the dialogue. This reality might explain why the new government made a serious tactical error in not making the issue a priority.

What do these numbers tell us? I was going to make a prediction anyways, but these findings give the idea real weight. I think that this government will fall on the environmental file, as the Clean Air Act fails and calls for Ambrose's resignation force a confidence vote. Harper is already on record saying that he would view a formal attack on Ambrose as a vote of confidence (when the polls looked kind and bullying was king). I can't think of a better scenario for the opposition than to force an election on the back of the environmental file. Opportunity will present itself prior to the next budget, so why wait and let Harper campaign on his strengths? We are clearly in the stage where this minority parliament is losing steam, it is now a question of timing:
Bruce Anderson, CEO of Decima, said the numbers suggest the political parties have to shape the election to best advantage.

"What they really speak to is the importance for parties, as they approach the next election, of trying to set the framework for the election that suits them best, in effect trying to define the ballot question," he said.

It's time for the great debate on the issue of the century. The public is in the mood, the media attentive and the political motivations aligned. Public sentiment should embolden the opposition to pull the trigger and make the next election a referendum on what Canadians actually want for the environment. The abstract issue hits Main Street, sounds good to me.

Divided Over Dean

The last thing you want at a convention is controversy. The Toronto Star has a story today about the Howard Dean appearance at the Liberal leadership convention. Some opinion:
"I had heard a rumour of it a couple of weeks ago, and I thought, `Oh surely, it can't be true — nobody would make that decision,'" says Toronto MP and leadership candidate Ken Dryden.

"I'm really surprised. I can't imagine the sense of it."

Dryden said it's a mistake to have someone from another country delivering a speech meant to set the tone for a convention wrapping up a nine-month effort to put the party back in touch with Canadians...

Bob Richardson, a senior organizer for Michael Ignatieff's campaign, adds that Dean is irrelevant to Canadians.

"I'll be vacuuming," he quipped...

Gerard Kennedy, the former Ontario provincial cabinet minister vying for the federal Liberals' top job, approved of the speaker selection.

"As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, with his mandate for reform and renewal of a progressive party, it is fitting that Dean should deliver the keynote at the convention, which for many Liberals is very much about reform and renewal of our own party," Kennedy said.

Unity means everything, which is why Dean's selection is confusing. Whether or not you support the decision, I think everyone can agree stories about "splits" within the Liberal ranks isn't the kind of press the keynote speaker should bring. Afterall, the keynote speaker is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme, so it is curious that the Liberal brass would pick someone who is controversial and effectively distract from the real purpose. I love Dean, but articles like today only further my view that his selection wasn't well thought out and the optics are bad.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Understanding The Tory Environmental Plan

Finally, the government has clarified it's environmental plan to the world. Today, Rona Ambrose laid out Canada's vision in a clear and concise way. Come to think of it, the Tory plan has been well known for sometime, but today cemented the philosophy. Our plan- blame the previous government, throw up your arms and try to make inaction look urgent.

It's not just Ambrose's vision, it's also the plan of the Tory rank and file. Have you noticed in every online discussion, the requisite Tory apologist argument can't devote two sentences to the debate without a tirade against the past government. Instead of a positive alternative, we get "the Liberals failed", "Ambrose inherited the Liberal mess", "emissions rose blah blah under the Liberal regime". Objectively true, but entirely irrelevant to any discussion about the Tory approach. The Liberals failed, we get it, let's move forward. The easy counter, what exactly were the Tories doing during all those years of failure? The NDP was busy formulating a plan. The Greens and Bloc have extensive policy positions. Even the Liberals were a work in progress during the last year of government. Apparently, in true conservative fashion, much of the Tory approach was simply a bashfest against a foe, without offering anything constructive as alternative.

Judging by the reaction, Ambrose's five minute partisan nothingness today was a complete failure. Did Ambrose think she was at a Tory fundraiser in Pincher Creek? The international community could care less about our partisan politics, what they want to hear is simple- what are your solutions? Everyone is quite willing to give Canada a relative pass on its nearterm targets, because they understand the challenges. It is Ambrose's job to articulate those challenges, while simultaneously presenting a path for progress. It is Ambrose's job to give the world community some confidence in Canada that we are serious about our emissions. However, the world is now realizing what Canadians already know, our plan is demonize the Liberals, shirk any responsibility and offer platitudes to cloud the future.

Quite frankly, this is crap:
"There are some who are using the Kyoto Protocol to create divisions within our country, but we will not let that happen," Ambrose said. "Canada has one target and we all share the responsibility to work together to fulfill our obligations."

She did not mention that the Conservative government has rejected Canada's current target under the Kyoto Protocol as unachievable, and has yet to name a new one.

"When Canada's new government assumed office this year, we found an unacceptable situation," she said. "We found that measures to address climate change by previous Canadian governments were insufficient and unaccountable.

"Years after signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Canada still had not implemented a domestic plan to address climate change."

Environmentalists and critics from all three opposition parties said it was inappropriate to use the UN conference for partisan purposes, and accused the minister of factual inaccuracies.

Ambrose actually used the word "urgent" to describe the situation.
urgent- compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter.

Pick your date, 2025, 2015, 2010, none of which applies to a sense of urgency. The government already has the necessary legislative tools to implement a plan. The government has consulted with industry for the past decade regarding the environment. Our approach is more closely aligned with this word:
tentative-Not fully worked out, concluded, or agreed on; provisional, uncertain

Partisan Conservatives can argue forever about political motivations, but they can't deny the objective view of our partners. The reason everyone is attacking Canada now is simple, our plan is SHIT. What a disgrace to use an international forum to place blame and offer nothing but smoke and mirrors as an alternative. Some friendly advice for Tory apologists- blaming the Liberals might have worked this time last year, but YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT NOW, have been for awhile, DO SOMETHING. "Made in Canada"= "Blame The Other Guy".

Liberals Pull Ahead?

Margin of error, it’s just one poll, who cares? Interesting, this is the first poll that shows the Liberals ahead:
The Grits had the support of 33 per cent of respondents nationally, while the Tories had 31 per cent, the NDP had 15 per cent and the Green party had 10.
In Quebec, the Liberals built a huge lead over the Tories with the support of 26 per cent of respondents, compared with 12 per cent for the Conservatives. The Bloc Quebecois still towered above all others with 44 per cent support in the province.

The Conservative slide in Quebec has morphed into almost complete irrelevance. Remember all the stories about the Conservatives pouring huge money into their Quebec organization, the high-profile meetings with Charest, the key to the majority? Turns out, just as predicted, you can’t bridge the huge philosophical gap between the majority of Quebecers and the right-wing agenda. Quebec was never a natural fit for the Reformers, and the recent “surge” was destined to be temporary.

I must admit, I find it absolutely staggering that the Liberals are actually tied or ahead. Just imagine the scenario if the Liberals had a leader and clear agenda? Let me be the first to posite the impossible, could the Liberals not only win the next election, which seemed impossible in the spring, but win a majority? With everyday the possibility looks less remote.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Canada: The Kyoto Poison

One aspect that seems to get lost in this endless debate about Canada's commitment to Kyoto is how our internal tension effects the greater process. There are many nations that are entirely engaged and passionately committed to Kyoto. These nations enter the latest round of talks with the shared goal of advancing the discussion, within the confines of this protocol.

In every domestic discussion about Kyoto, as reliable as the sunrise a Conservative points out the flaws. Fine, people dislike Kyoto and think there are better avenues to impart change. However, what I find particularly offensive about the Conservative perspective, we stay within Kyoto for political cover, while simultaneously undermining the effectiveness of nations that are truly committed. Join the Asia-Pacific Partnership, heck start another environmental movement with all those "cutting edge" positions in the Green Plan, but stop messing with someone else's baby:
"Most people here are deeply concerned that Canada's hesitation to support the Kyoto Accord could begin to influence other countries and actually lead to a collapse of the accord," said Oliver.

UN Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "Were Canada to become the first country not to fulfill it's commitments under Kyoto, it would certainly be a first building block that falls out of the wall of building a global climate coalition."

Ambrose and company are effectively working the rooms in Nairobi to find any cracks in the consensus, so we have allies to say "look here, we are not alone in our concerns". Instead of building something, our clear objective is to cause dissension and sow disharmony to rationalize our desire to gut the objectives. Is Canada committed to firm targets and emissions trading? Answer, unequivocally no. The question then becomes, why are we there? Why is Canada the equivalent of a fox in the henhouse? Our government rejects Kyoto, let's move on and let the foolish countries continue on the failed course, while we do our own good work. I suspect a temptation to ask Canada to leave, but other nations still hope to move us and avoid the bad optics of a signed country dropping out, especially one that is/was actually respected.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Opposition Should Attend Kyoto Talks

It's a complicated question, as to whether the opposition is justified in following our government to UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi. The reasoning against, articulated succinctly in my last post by Curiousity Cat:
With due respect to the Bloc, NDP and Liberals, this is wrong. Whether they like it or not, the Tories are the government of Canada, duly elected. To send delegations to an international body to undermine the legally elected government of our country is misguided and insulting to all voters.

They should stay home and pass legislation to ensure different policies are made the law of the land.

No question, it could set a dangerous precedent having the elected federal government challenged on the international stage. Seldom will we see unanimous support by all parties for any government initiative. Could this development mean that everytime we have an internal dispute, it festers into an embarrassing international spectacle? How can the government of Canada hope to speak with clarity, if their actions are constantly undercut?

First and foremost, we live in a democracy that allows for dissent and freedom of speech. In that sense, these MP's are free to express themselves, much in the same way we allow domestic protest at G8 summits and other international meetings. Contrary points of view manifest everywhere in our system, why do we demand a unilateral voice on the greater stage? No one had a problem during the last round of talks in Bonn, when Canadian environmentalists spoke out against the Conservatives.

The argument that we insult the process by upstaging the legally elected government falls short when you consider the actual vote. Two thirds of Canadians cast votes for these opposition parties, why should a flaw in the parliamentary system disenfranchise the majority? Canadians overwhelming support Kyoto, should this sentiment not be reflected, or do we resign ourselves to the minority speaking with impunity? If our government was a majority then the question becomes more complicated, but in a fragile minority situation, the government doesn't dictate the debate, nor does it have leverage to ignore the opposition view.

Canada has signed on to a legally binding treaty. Kyoto flaws aside, we have an obligation to work within and try our best to reach our targets (whether we do or don't is irrelevant to the spirit). You could argue that our legally elected government is ignoring international law, and in so doing relinquishes any moral argument about jurisdiction. If the opposition wishes to inform the international community that Canada remains committed to our Kyoto obligations, then it allays any perceptions that Canada shirks its responsibilities.

I would argue that this situation is unique, and doesn't necessarily set an easily used precedent. There are many stories out today about the Tories preparing to join the Asia-Pacific Partnership on climate change. While the propaganda argues that this group is meant to compliment Kyoto, the nature of the proposals are in direct contrast to the Kyoto approach, in fact it is the rival group. A vast majority of experts have concluded the partnership is nothing more than a scheme to blunt criticism, while emissions go unchecked and greed is king. Given the Conservative duplicity, given the fact that Ambrose has overtly worked to undermine the Kyoto talks, given our international obligation, not only is the opposition justified, Canadians should demand that we have another voice to express our true desires.

I understand why there is hesitation about undermining the government. However, on this issue, with the stake so high, I am willing to turn a blind eye, in the hopes that whatever damage is done is counter-balanced by the longterm gain of calling out our shameful, disingenious government.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How Embarrassing

This should be a truly embarrassing display:
Parliament Hill's feud over the environment is set to become a side-show on the international stage next week when government leaders from around the globe huddle in Kenya.

All three opposition parties plan to follow Environment Minister Rona Ambrose to the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi and tell the world the government's position on global warming doesn't jibe with most Canadians.

"Canadians are divided and the majority of them think that, first of all, the Conservative government isn't doing a very good job on climate change," said Liberal environment critic John Godfrey. "So what we will do is reflect the majority of Canadians' opinions at the Nairobi meeting

Throw in a representative from Quebec, and you have the Conservatives thoroughly disgraced on the world stage. Harper and Ambrose can run, but it would seem they will finally face the music. Just imagine the spectacle of our government saying one thing, while reporters flock to politicians and environmentalists, eager to unravel the spin. With no credibility at home, and little on the world stage, this development should cement Ambrose's irrelevance to the discussion.


H/T to A BCer in Toronto for this:
The Liberal party will turn to a Democratic heavyweight from south of the border to inspire the troops during their convention.

Liberals hope to learn from former presidential contender Howard Dean who changed the way U.S. parties finance campaigns in the run-up to the 2004 election with his grassroots, Internet-based appeal.

I love Howard Dean. My wife gave me a copy of Dean's book for Christmas. The DFA site was my favorite online haunt throughout his failed presidential bid. IMHO Dean is the best thing to happen to American politics in a generation. However, the key word is American politics, and I can't fathom for the life of me how the Liberal braintrust thinks Dean should be keynote speaker. What kind of a message does this send? There are no Canadians worthy of the designation?

Only in Canada, would we have the horrible optics of an American offering the keynote speech for a domestic leadership convention. This isn't a workshop, wherein Dean educates us on the lessons of the new politics. I suspect Dean was chosen because he is controversial, guarantees ample press and sends a message about direction. However, isn't it the the Liberal Party that consistently advocates subsidizing Canadian content to offset the neighboring elephant's influence. Canada's great party can't find any homegrown talent for the big show? Bad decision.

Harper's "Firewall" Federalism Taking Shape

We have a Prime Minister with a Premier's mentality. Harper's well known statements about "building a firewall" around Alberta to hobble the federal government find relevance in his latest, and dangerous, initiative:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is discreetly sounding out some provincial premiers about setting formal limits on Ottawa's powers, even if it means possibly reopening the Constitution, sources say.

While discussions are at a preliminary stage, officials in Ottawa and several provinces suggested constraints on the federal spending power could eventually take the form of a constitutional amendment explicitly restricting Ottawa to its own areas of exclusive jurisdiction a move that would reshape federal-provincial relations...

A senior federal Conservative described the discussions as embryonic, saying it is "premature" to say Harper is proposing a full-blown constitutional amendment, and adding it's highly unlikely such a discussion will take place before the next federal election.

At the same time, the official said, Harper is determined to explore the question of defining the federal government's spending authority more clearly...

Many Tories also view federal decentralization as a wedge issue, and credit Harper's vision of "open federalism" with helping put the party back on the map in seat-rich Quebec.

There is no question that the lines of jurisdiction can be blurred, but that tension is a necessary reality and there is a balance at play. The role of the federal government, in my view, is to counter the natural tendency of provinces to demand more control. Provinces act within their own self interest, and this fine, but it eliminates any real sense of greater good. Canada is already one of the most de-centralized federations in the world, despite all the saber-rattling about big brother Ottawa hovering over the provinces. Canada needs "national plans" to ensure some symmetry throughout the country, so I largely endorse most "incursions" because I see the spirit as unifying.

Stephen Harper approaches federalism as though Premier of Alberta, with little sense of his role as counter to further erosion. This is pure Reform Party philosophy at play in these clandestine talks. Keep the feds out, let the provinces act with impunity. Use Quebec's special status to weaken the federation, a tactic often used by Alberta reformers. This viewpoint is tribal, divisive and creates a climate where the nation drifts toward a meaningless entity. From this perspective, the federal government is the enemy, despite the fact it is our government. Frankly, it is a childish, small view of the world, that directly contradicts the idea of unity.

Canada doesn't need another Premier, it needs a Prime Minister. Stephen Harper has a disturbing paper trail, and now we see the early hints manifesting themselves in talks with the provinces. Important to note, no decisions will be made until after the next election, which highlights why a Tory majority may be worrisome. Think about the optics, a federal leader approaching provincial leaders to see how we can "cap" and neuter Ottawa. On this file, I have no doubt there is a hidden agenda and Stephen Harper is a dangerous man, if you endorse a workable federation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The results of the latest Afghanistan poll are just plain strange:
50 per cent of Canadians asked in November expressed some degree of approval, that is, they either "somewhat approve" or "strongly approve" of Canada's participation in Afghanistan..

"Do you think in the end the Canadian mission is likely to be successful?" to which only 34 per cent said they thought it would be successful, compared to 58 per cent who said it would not be successful.

How is it that full third of people who expressed support for the mission think we will ultimately fail? So, you support Canadians dying for a lost cause? Bizarre. The only way I make sense of these results is that people support the mission, but think we are on the wrong path to be successful. People support the spirit, but not the reality.

Layton Playing Games?

In my opinion, Layton's powerplay against the Tory environmental plan is the highlight of this parliament. Layton was able to manufacture a significant concession, and there was reason to be optimistic that a real plan could be crafted. Some environmental groups offered trepidation, worrying that Layton's deal with Harper could divide the opposition and breathe life into a bad bill. After hearing this development today, I am beginning to question Layton's motivations:
Liberal leader Bill Graham said it was an “embarrassment” that Environment Minister Rona Ambrose will chair a UN summit on climate change this week in Kenya, after admitting Canada won't meet its Kyoto targets.

“To be chairing a process you aren't committed to is an embarrassment,” Mr. Graham said, during a joint press conference with Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe Thursday in Ottawa...

Noticeably absent from the press conference was NDP leader Jack Layton. A spokesman for Mr. Layton said the NDP's stance on Kyoto is well known, and that Mr. Layton didn't feel the need join the other leaders at the press conference on Thursday.

Mr. Layton has been pushing environmental issues in the House as of late, including during a meeting with Stephen Harper that resulted in the Prime Minister agreeing to send the Clean Air Act before an all-party parliamentary committee.

I read another piece that said New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen was also in attendance, but the Layton angle is disturbing. Why not join the other parties in a co-ordinated response? The fact Layton "didn't feel the need" forces me to think that Layton doesn't want to share the stage and is playing politics with this issue.

I applauded Layton's recent moves, and resisted the cynicism that Layton was playing games. However, I call bullshit now, because Layton's no show looks transparent and dangerous to the process. Crafting a real environmental bill isn't an exercise in who comes out smelling like a rose. Layton's freelancing, and resistence to join a coalition makes me question the entire motivation for his discussions with Harper. Harper would be quite happy to peel away one of the parties and confront a divided opposition. Layton sends exactly this message, by choosing to not attend such a basic show of unity.

If the environment is such a central thesis to Layton, if the planet's needs are paramount, then he should go to great pains to eliminate any political motivations. What we learned today, Layton should be watched carefully and the events of recent days may just be more typical grandstanding, wherein personal ambition trumps any sense of moral obligation, despite the pointed rhetoric. I now wear my cynical hat. Is this exercise "making parliament work" as Layton argues, or "making parliament work for my self interest" as today clearly infers?

Another take.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Positive Findings For Rae

Environics Poll gives Rae the edge:
If one of the following candidates were to become Liberal party leader, would you be more likely to vote Liberal, less likely to vote Liberal, or would it make no difference?

Stéphane Dion

More Likely 10
Less Likely 20
Make no difference 62
Don't Know/No Answer 8

Michael Ignatieff

More Likely 12
Less Likely 20
Make no difference 60
Don't Know/No Answer 8

Gerard Kennedy

More Likely 7
Less Likely 16
Make no difference 67
Don't Know/No Answer 10

Bob Rae

More Likely 17
Less Likely 20
Make no difference 57
Don't Know/No Answer

Kennedy has the lowest negatives, which shouldn't be discounted, considering all the talk about a "fresh start". However, Rae's numbers suggest that he can bleed support from the NDP, without losing much from the mainstream. With electability emerging as the key consideration, this poll is pure gold for Rae.

Important to note, none of the top contenders has a higher "more likely" compared to "less likely", so I don't see a ringing endorsement of anyone.

Bad News

Two seperate polls, both of which are bad news for the Conservatives. Party standings:
A new poll suggests Alberta is the only remaining bastion of federal Conservative party support, with the leaderless Liberals leading in every other region of the country.
The Conservatives still lead nationally, with 31 per cent support among decided and leaning voters, according to the Decima poll. The Liberals were next with 28 per cent, followed by the NDP at 18, the Bloc Quebecois at 10 and the Green party at nine per cent.

Pollster Bruce Anderson said in an interview Wednesday "the Alberta numbers for the Conservative party can give people a misimpression about how they're doing in the rest of the country."

Tory support in Alberta remains sky high around 65 per cent, he said. But the Liberals lead the Tories by an average of three percentage points in the rest of Canada, including positive margins in every region, including British Columbia.

That's a big reversal for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party, which enjoyed a 10-point lead over the Liberals outside Alberta at the time of the Jan. 23 election.

This poll was taken in the aftermath of the income trust controversy, so the Conservative fall might be overstated in the long term. However, these numbers are pure death for Harper, given the regional breakdown. The Alberta firewall masks the electoral problems, on balance the Conservatives would likely lose seats. Important to remember, we are now in the end phase of the positive Conservative calendar. Hard to imagine how fortunes improve in the aftermath of the Liberal leadership.

The Conservatives consistently score poorly on their environmental approach. With this sentiment in mind, this impressive finding should give further pause:
While health care continues to be the most important issue facing Canadians, concerns about the environment have shot up to rank a close second, according to a CBC News survey.

But of the 2,005 Canadians surveyed by Environics Research Group between Nov. 2 and 6, 71 per cent said the federal Conservatives' proposed clean air plan is not tough enough in dealing with environmental issues.

"A majority of Canadians of every political stripe think the approach is not enough," Donna Dasko, the senior vice-president of Environics, said Wednesday. "So this is cutting through party lines."

The survey found that 16 per cent of Canadians said health care is the most important issue facing the country today.

That figures is down from 22 per cent in an Environics poll conducted during the last election.

But 13 per cent said the environment was the top issue, up from just four per cent during the election.

Afghanistan scored third with 10% (also potentially problematic), but the environment is the real story. Health care will always be the default number one, a combination of demographics and universal relevance. The Conservatives have completely misread the mood of the country on this issue. The lack of a real plan (trashing Kyoto isn't a platform), competent leadership and any urgency have left the environment an achilles heel at the exact moment it becomes the central issue.

I don't see how the Tories turn around the negative environmental impression, given the fact that their legislation is dead in the water, and any potential improvements will be credited to other parties. The Conservative plan is firmly framed as a domestic failure and an international embarrassment. Ambrose is clearly the biggest ministerial flop, who's credibility is mortally wounded. Bad news all around today, not to mention the fact Harper has tied his destiny to the sinking ship south of the border. I smell another GST cut to distract.

Runa Awaybrose

You know you are in trouble, when friendly media writes a scathing critique. The National Post on Rona Ambrose:
Her debut has been less than wow-worthy as she stumbles through this minefield of a portfolio, setting off explosions with every misstep. She's had facts challenged and been found wanting. Her promises of great things to come in environmental legislation delivered only disappointment.
Rumours rumble around that industries are being called into her department to see if they have any tangible ideas to bolster an immediate government action plan.
Staffing has become a revolving door and she was recently saddled with a controversial social conservative as a chief of staff, undoubtedly against her will.
What we have here is a portfolio in obvious trouble at the precise moment the environment has surpassed health to become the top policy priority of Canadians.

The final straw:
But now comes the biggie -- the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Nairobi. Expected there to hand over the chairpersonship to the next host country, Ambrose sent her farewell speech electronically to unimpressed observers, her arrival delayed until next week.

It really is ridiculous that we have an Environment Minister, at such a crucial period, who literally HIDES. You can’t lead from a foxhole. With every turn Ambrose sends out a consistent message of complete and utter incompetence.