Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Court Defends Wheat Board

So much for the tainted plebicite, to justify the Conservatives war on the Canadian Wheat Board. The court gives Chuck Strahl a slap:
Federal Court Judge Dolores Hansen ruled Tuesday the Tory cabinet overstepped its authority earlier this year, when it passed a new regulation to allow farmers to sell their barley independently. "I conclude the new regulation is ultra vires (beyond cabinet's power) and of no force and effect," Hansen wrote.

The judge sided with supporters of the wheat board, who argued any changes to the board's monopoly must be made via a law passed in Parliament - something that could be blocked by the opposition.

McCreary said the minority Tory government in Ottawa will have a tough time getting its changes through Parliament, because the opposition parties have thrown their support behind the wheat board.

If Strahl had played fair, with an honest and open debate, including a fair and transparent choice, then you could support the initiative. Instead, the whole process was a propaganda campaign, with choices designed to muddy the outcome and allow a subjective reading. Remember when Strahl said "I will decide what the numbers mean"? Apparently, the court decided it might be best if the majority has a say, through their elected representatives- what a novel idea.

Minister Strahl releases a statement:
The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today issued the following statement in response to a Federal Court decision on the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations that would have allowed Western Canadian farmers to choose how they market their barley beginning August 1, 2007.

"I am most disappointed with the decision of the Federal Court. We will carefully review the Court decision and decide on our next steps accordingly.

"A significant majority of barley producers is looking for greater marketing choice. I know they will be very disappointed with this decision but I am confident that they will follow the law as it is."

Animal Cruelty

The Galloping Beaver and Creekside discuss Stephen Harper's high profile campaign for pet adoption. You can't really argue with the cause, although there is clearly a political angle at play, as it relates to gentle Stephen. That aside, a net positive no matter how you slice it. Stephen Harper cares about animals, that is the message conveyed on the government site.

However, there is something missing and the silence is deafening. Presently, there are two different bills before Parliament which, to differing degrees, tackle the issue of animal cruelty. Senator John Bryden's bill S-213, which brings stiffer penalties for traditional animal abuse, has already gone through the Senate and has passed 2nd reading in Parliament. A far more ambition bill, MP Mark Holland's C-373, introduced last October, has gone nowhere, collecting dust. Both are private member bills, neither initiated by the Conservatives, which could die if the government terminates this Parliament.

It's fine to pose with kitty, and even better to push adoption, but it seems logical that we should see some legislation, given the apparent high-profile. If Harper finds it necessary to put adoption on the frontpage, why haven't we seen any government initiated measure to tackle clearly outdated laws, that treat animals with little dignity? Will the government re-introduce the above private member bills, or are they crafting their own bill? Why are Liberal officials the only ones to raise the issue? Just asking.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Interesting story in the G and M, which details Afghan army potential moving forward, but also highlights an excellent example of bad framing. In an apparent effort to win public support, Gordon O'Connor clearly overstated the potential of the Afghan army. Hillier has already amended O'Connor's optimism, but in throwing out such a unrealistic projection, O'Connor effectively detracts from an objective positive. You see it in the way this story is written:
Still, even that is far from a fighting force capable of replacing the combat punch of the heavily armed Canadian battle group with its tanks, artillery, night-fighting ability and tight integration with helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers capable of raining death from the skies. And it's far short of the 3,000 combat-ready Afghan soldiers that Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor predicted would be operational early next spring.

When you look at the raw numbers, and see that the Afghan army will essentially triple its independent ability (500- 1400) by next spring, that translates into progress, period. The article includes glowing reviews and ample indication of real potential. However, underlying all that positivity is the stench of a standing army that is half of what O'Connor predicted. In other words, by over-stating the truth, O'Connor detracts from a potential "feel good" storyline.

When O'Connor first made his comments, you could just sense that they would come back to bite him. Smoke and mirrors, overly optimistic assessments, will never fly in the long term, as evidenced OVER and OVER stateside. O'Connor set a bar that was destined for failure, his self-inflicted framing completely irresponsible. In effect, O'Connor sabotaged the optics of progress. Truth isn't the enemy, particularly when you actually have something concrete to show.

Chiled Out

I posted on the international controversy, surrounding the poor Chilean soccer team, wherein Canada's reputation was tarnished because some spoiled brats were bad losers. Well, the much awaited report is out, and it paints a far different picture than the initial reports suggested:
Investigators spoke with numerous witnesses, including security officials, members of the Ontario Soccer Association and the Chilean bus driver.

The officers involved were punched, kicked, spat upon and kicked in the groin," said Blair.

"During the violence, Chilean players dismantled the armrests and footrests of the bus seats. They smashed the windows of the bus to throw these -- and spit at -- the officers below them.

"They also threw D-cell batteries at the officers, clothes hangers and cans of deodorant. Four officers were struck by the projectiles thrown."

In total, 21 armrests and footrests were damaged on the bus and the windshield was smashed. Repairs are estimated to cost $35,000.

Earlier, a Chilean soccer player who was part of the brawl admitted that a teammate punched a female officer.

"I don't know who hit her, but yes, someone did hit a female officer," Isaias Peralta, who was tasered by police during the melee, told Chile's El Mercurio newspaper.

I guess we can amend the "unjustified aggression" to "lucky they weren't charged". It appears the only victim was Canada's reputation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sounds Like A Winner

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is proposing that Canada change the nature of our mission in Afghanistan:
An influential Conservative senator is suggesting that Canada alter its military role in Afghanistan after February 2009 by reducing its ground forces while increasing its naval and air force support.

...and to use more naval in some of the adjacent areas to make sure there aren’t any large concentrations of Taliban or al-Qaida forming ... and that does not necessarily require endless convoys on the ground and endless boots on the ground in an endless sort of process that seems to have no apparent end.”

I don't claim to be a military expert, but a quick look at the landscape does seem to suggest naval power might be the key moving forward:

Nothing says naval, like a landlocked country. Readers of this blog won't be surprised, that I favor training the Afghan navy instead, in the name of self-determination.

"Neutralizing" Afghanistan, Harper The "Waffler"

CBC's, The National, had an in-depth discussion last night about the mission in Afghanistan. I found the roundtable (min 30) particularly interesting. Harper's morphing position on the war, was characterized by Mansbridge as an attempt to "neutralize", ala the Conservative strategy on the environment. Allan Gregg articulated the real risk to Harper in changing his position:
"There's a risk for Harper, but not the obvious one. Changing his position ...appeal to those that most oppose him... The real risk for him however, what he has been able to establish over the last year and a bit, is even those that don't like him, and those that don't agree with him, which is the wide majority, they don't dispute the fact that he has the attributes to be Prime Minister. Harper is confident, he is decisive and he has a vison. If he looks like he is "cutting and running", he runs the risk of damaging those attributes, that are really the cornerstone of any strength he has."

A great perspective- even though Harper often has trouble on the issues with Canadians, he generally fairs well on questions of leadership and decisiveness. These "attributes" are even more important within the current political landscape, where his main rival looks decidedly weak on the same points. Harper enjoys a substantial leadership gap, which makes commentary like this very concerning:
David Bercsuon (U of C professor):

"I think Allan is right and he runs the risk of looking like a "waffler" on an issue that is so important. You might be doing considerable damage to the mission itself."

Don Martin reported from Kandahar that the soldiers had expressed some disappointment and confusion over Harper's mixed messages. That fact is a clear warning sign for the Prime Minister. If, Harper comes off looking like a "waffler", in his attempt to "neutralize", then he has lost his remaining advantage. Any contrast between Harper the leader, and Dion as lacking leadership will be lost, which then brings the conversation more squarely onto a simple discussion of issues. On that score, Harper is challenged, whereas the Liberals find a more natural argument.

In trying to distance himself from the mission, Harper could effectively undercut his advantage. In attempting to expand support, move with public opinion, Harper could hurt himself, because he looks weak and unsure. It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out, but it could very well be that the Conservatives have out-strategized themselves, reaching, which causes a fall from the leadership pedestal.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Up In Smoke?

A British study that shows a link between marijuana use and psychotic behavior, is a setback for those arguing for legalization. The study found the following:
The new review suggests that even infrequent use could raise the small but real risk of this serious mental illness by 40 per cent.

The scientists found a more disturbing outlook for "heavy users" of pot, those who used it daily or weekly: Their risk for psychosis jumped to a range of 50 per cent to 200 per cent.

"We've reached the end of the road with these kinds of studies," said Dr. Robin Murray of King's College, who had no role in the Lancet study. "Experts are now agreed on the connection between cannabis and psychoses. What we need now is for 14-year-olds to know it."

There was one curious admission by the researchers, akin to the "gateway drug" argument:
There could be something else about marijuana users, "like their tendency to use other drugs or certain personality traits, that could be causing the psychoses," Zammit said.

Nothing new, in that other studies have shown that marijuana users are statistically more likely to use other drugs. I've never bought into the argument that marijuana use translates into a path to "harder" drugs, because you could just as easily conclude that those that drink are more like to try pot, than non-drinkers. Is booze a gateway drug?

My point, as it relates to this study. Is it not inherently problematic to conclude that marijuana is the cause of increased psychosis, when your sample group is contaminated? The researchers obviously found marijuana users had a higher "tendency" to be users of other drugs, which undercuts an isolation of marijuana as root cause. You have a cocktail of potential culprits, which should serve as a red flag, in drawing any definitive conclusions. If the study limited itself to people that had only used marijuana, you still have the obvious environmental problems, but the case is far more persuasive. It is akin to studying the effects of steroids, with some of the patients also taking growth hormones. A small "skunky" smell with the sample group, which might detract from "we've reached the end of the road with these kinds of studies" proclamations.

"Political Stunt" Backfires

In an overt attempt, to try and embarrass the opposition over "human rights", the Tories apparently out-spin themselves and come off looking foolish:
Applause erupted in a packed meeting on Parliament Hill as a rare, midsummer Conservative bid to push through contentious legislation was derailed by united opposition MPs.

The Tories want to extend human rights law to First Nations, but native leaders say they weren't properly consulted and don't have the cash to comply.

Conservatives accused their rival MPs of delaying human rights for vulnerable native people, while opposition MPs assailed the government for staging what they called a calculated political stunt.

The meeting ended after just more than an hour when opposition MPs passed a Liberal motion to suspend debate on the bill until the government formally consults First Nations.

If you are trying to paint yourself as the defender of native human rights, it would stand to reason that you would have the backing of said natives:
A long line of native witnesses who appeared last spring before the committee almost unanimously called for proper consultation and more time to get ready...

Why the government took the extreme step of recalling the Committee is beyond me. All that has been achieved, a united opposition that decided to consult with the people involved. Sounds like a reasonable position, one that gives the government zero in the way of political mileage. As a matter of fact, the Conservatives appear isolated and out of touch with mainstream opinion. Who's brillant idea was this political gaffe? Backfire, and rightfully so, given the true motivations.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogging Tory Gone Mad

Breakout the koolaid:
Read it here first - Outremont, the surest thing of surest things for the Liberal Party, may fall to the Tories. This by-election is shaping up to be the a thrilla, on manila, at least.

This fiery start shows us the Tories have no intention of letting the Dippers win this riding. And it makes sense: the Dippers will steal votes from the Liberals and the Bloc. Tories will steal votes from the Liberals and the Bloc. On this fragmented landscape, the Tories have every chance of taking this riding. Outremont ain't what it used to be.

Tomorrow, I will pen my detailed analysis of how the Liberals can orchestrate a red wave that will sweep rural Alberta.

That Ship Has Sailed

Newly minted Conservative candidate in Outremont, Gilles Duguay, comes out of the gate swinging, or more accurately, flailing:
Inside a cramped classroom where he was formally introduced as the Conservatives' candidate in an upcoming byelection, Duguay's target was Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and what he might have known about the federal sponsorship scandal.

"I'm telling you, if you read his CV, the man has been in cabinet since 1995, and if this university professor, descendant of a famous university professor, didn't know anything about the sponsorship scandal, I suggest you ask him whether he knew anything or not," Duguay said Wednesday.

"I find it rather appalling that the leader of this (Liberal) party, who seeks to obtain some sense of credibility, hasn't even deemed it necessary to excuse his party for the wrongdoings that have happened in Quebec," said Cannon, who introduced Duguay.

Dion and the sponsorship scandal, sounds like a real electoral juggernaut. Someone should tell Mr. Duguay (he was great with the Red Wings), that old faithful has dried up:
In Quebec, where Mr. Harper's government would likely have to gain seats to win a majority government, the change has been doubly dramatic. The scandal that roiled the province in 2005 is cited by only 2 per cent as most important, and environmental concerns are at their highest, chosen as the most important issue by 29 per cent.

If Mr. Duguay can tap into that 2%, it could act as springboard for his longshot campaign. Actually, I find it hilarious that this is how the new candidate chooses to introduce himself. Where are the ideas, is Duguay a mirror of the idea challenged PMO? Apparently, the Tories have nothing to offer the voters in the riding, besides old, tired talking points that have lost their relevance. How inspiring.


A small collection of some of Outremont Liberal candidate Jocelyn Coulon’s writings on Israel and the Palestinians, suggests a very astute read of the landscape, rather than an anti-Israel, Hamas enabler. On the failed peace process, Coulon puts the blame on the Arab side:
The Israel-Palestine quarrel has little to do with the sharing of a territory. It is also very much an existential question: many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims call for the elimination of Israel. The discourse isn't a new one, but this type of declaration has been multiplying in recent times. For the Palestinian prime minister (a Hamas leader), the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not start with the cohabitation of two states, but with the creation of a Palestinian state that would eventually replace all of Israel. In Lebanon, the head of Hezbollah recently assured his supporters that "the Arab armies and peoples can take back Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] River." In Iran, the president wants to wipe Israel off the map. In such an atmosphere, whatever the faults of Israel since its very beginnings, the peace process is blocked.

On Hamas:
Hamas, as all we know, is a terrorist organization. Its fighters, its bomb-planters, guided by their spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by the Israelis, are responsible for the death of hundreds of people, in Israel and in Palestine. The group's objective is to punish Palestinian "collaborators", to throw Jews back into the sea, and to eradicate the Hebrew state. It's also a social and political organization whose work on behalf of the Palestinian population and against corruption in the Palestinian Authority has allowed it to take power in last January's legislative elections. Its representatives, its preachers, its ground troops are seen by the population as the true representatives of a Palestinian society torn apart by internal violence and the destructive policies of the state of Israel, especially under Ariel Sharon.

The controversial quote, which essentially argues from the position, that isolation equals strengthening. In other words, the end goal is consistent with eliminating Hamas, the path is the subjective part:
Both of them want all the power for themselves. This stance weakens them and plays into the hands of radicals everywhere. Westerners would have done better by not isolating Hamas, no matter how repugnant its positions on Israel are. They made a mistake. Marginalizing Hamas and trying to prevent it from exercising its electoral mandate won't eliminate it from the Palestinian political stage. To the contrary, it will rediscover its bothersome character without offering the possibility restraining it. The West should instead help Palestinians rebuild their unity

I’m curious about Coulon’s opinion on isolation, given the recent takeover of Gaza and the new Fatah government. Isolating Hamas now might be more of an attractive option, although Coulon will probably avoid the issue like the plague.

I don’t see anything in the above that justifies calling Coulon “anti-Israel”, or a Hamas sympathizer. In fact, Coulon’s comments show a basic acceptable thesis, which demonstrates pragmatism to achieve an ends. Hardly worth the fuss.

Common Sense Prevailing

With all the depressing rhetoric coming from the vocal denier crowd, a finding such as this is a nice, positive contrast:
The survey, conducted July 9 to 13, found only six per cent of respondents were concerned about Canada's role in Afghanistan, well behind the 34 per cent of respondents who mentioned environmental issues when asked what "single issue" they were most concerned about among "all the issues facing the world today."

In total, 17 per cent of respondents listed global warming and weather changes as their top concerns, while 17 per cent singled out the environment and pollution as priorities. The health system, a longtime priority in most recent election campaigns, was mentioned by only four per cent of respondents.

Nobody buying what Baird is selling:
The poll also found that governments have low approval ratings on global warming, with 72 per cent saying the federal government was not doing enough

The mainstream is beginning to accept the seriousness, further isolating the manic stragglers, railing against common sense and overwhelming science. When almost ten times more Canadians mention the environment, over a traditional powerhouse issue like health care, it is clearly a great sign. Put that in your "junk science" hat and smoke it :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Do They Own Barbeques Out West?

Maclean's is tracking Stephane Dion's "Summer Of Love" tour, as he does the barbeque circuit. Provided, an interesting map, that highlights the location of the visits.

I'm sure the regional disparity will change as the summer proceeds, but outside of the Calgary Stampede, Dion hasn't made it past Winnipeg. As a matter of fact, it looks like there might be something to the "center of the universe" phenomenon afterall. I'm not trying to be critical, take this as a suggestion. Ontario is the Liberal stronghold at the moment, Dion's time is better spent elsewhere. No visits to British Columbia, despite the fact that the landscape is fertile? Saskatchewan? One visit to Manitoba, June 3? How about a heavy emphasis on the home province, to re-invent one's self?

The summer is young, and surely there will be more visits to the "hinterlands" (I hear a big fundraiser is planned in B.C), but for anyone who looks at the map presently, it's a tad heavy on the EST. This isn't time to play to the base, particularly when the supposed goal is introducing yourself to Canadians. Hit the road Stephane, go west young man :)

David Suzuki: "Junk Scientist"

No wonder St. John's mayor Andy Wells was a nominee for "Craziest Mayor In Canada" (Mercer Report). David Suzuki and Al Gore in the crosshairs:
Andy Wells, the outspoken Mayor of St. John's, has outraged Canadian environmentalists and physicians with his comments that David Suzuki and Al Gore are "junk scientists," and that herbicides in small amounts are safe.

I think there's a lot of junk science out there that's masquerading as true science,'' the Mayor told CanWest News Service yesterday...

"I always thought David Suzuki was a charlatan,'' he said.

Mr. Wells said Mr. Gore, Mr. Suzuki and the Sierra Club of Canada trade on fear to scare Canadians into giving them money to fund their activities.

Mr. Wells said no scientific evidence existed to show pesticide use caused cancers and he said 2,4-D -- a herbicide

No scientific evidence? Just curious what qualifications Wells has to refute the expert opinion:
"If you look at the health experts," he said, "what they're saying is any amount of these chemicals can be dangerous, particularly to children."

Stephen Hazell, executive director with the Ottawa-based Sierra Club of Canada, said Mr. Wells is free to call people junk scientists, but advised the mayor not to ignore the growing scientific evidence that pesticides cause adverse health effects in human beings.

"We know that concentrations of some of these compounds -- dioxins and furans -- are toxic in parts per billion."

One guess, which party do you think Mr. Wells votes for in elections? Quick.

There is a growing trend, wherein people seem to disregard simple science because it might inconvenience their stubborn ways. "Health experts", not lunatic charlatans, with a political agenda. Come to think of it, maybe all this denier rhetoric is a by-product of the neurological disorders caused by pesticides. Is that irony?

On The Lighter Side

Seemed timely :)

John Baird: "Slum Landlord"

"Leading the world", but can't seem to pay the bills at home. The war on environmental groups continues:
Environmental organizations in Nova Scotia are decrying funding delays from Ottawa, with one comparing the environment minister to a "slum landlord" for refusing to fix a problem that is reaching across Canada.

Nine groups, including the Ecology Action Centre, Clean Nova Scotia and the provincial branch of the Sierra Club, held a news conference in Halifax today to describe how they have been affected as they wait for money that normally arrives in April.

Environment Minister John Baird's office has said the delays aren't unusual, but Stephen Hawboldt of the Clean Annapolis River Project says the past two years mark the first time in two decades that funding has been delayed.

Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club says Baird is acting like a "slum landlord,"

The delays aren't unusual, they're just unprecedented. Gross incompetence, or concerted effort to undermine established environmental groups?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dion's "Star" In Trouble?

When Dion hand-picked Jocelyn Coulon for the Outremont riding by-election, there were vague references to his considerable paper trail, and the potential that his writings could become an issue. I would consider this development, a major issue, given the riding demographic:
B'Nai Brith Canada has asked Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion to remove new star candidate Jocelyn Coulon from an upcoming byelection in Montreal's Outremont riding because of his past stance on Israel.

The Jewish organization says Coulon, a political scientist and former journalist, has a "well-documented anti-Israel bias," including sympathy for Hamas, that is "out of step with current Liberal policy," according to a statement released by the group.

B'nai Brith hopes Coulon's documented position on Israel will disqualify him from the byelection.

Outremont is a multi-ethnic riding nestled along Mont Royal's northern slope, and is home to a significant Jewish population, including a large portion of Montreal's Hasidic community.

Coulon said he has no anti-Israel bias, but strongly believes in criticism and debate. "I am a true ally of Israel," he said on Monday. "Sometimes I'm very critical, that's for sure, but I think that makes good allies."

Too immediately come out so strongly, you have to assume that B'nai Brith will actively campaign against Coulon. I don't claim any knowledge of Coulon's views, but he seems to have made a powerful enemy, in a riding with a sizeable Jewish vote. The sky isn't falling, but this isn't the way a campaign is supposed to get off the ground. I'm curious to the vetting process, because Dion's personal endorsement makes him an extension of Coulon's views.


First, the latest study proving man-made global warming is set to be released:
Humans are directly affecting global rainfall patterns and have been doing so for most of a century, according to a new study that gives the first solid proof that people are causing critical climate change.

Researchers from Environment Canada say their analysis of global data shows rainfall has effectively shifted away from the region immediately north of the equator — including sub-Saharan Africa, southern India and south east Asia — and moved north to Canada and Europe, and south to the tropics below the equator.

And the main cause behind the global change is human activity, say lead authors Xuebin Zhang and Francis Zwiers, from Environment Canada.

“It's the first time that we've detected in precipitation data a clear imprint of human influence on the climate system,” Mr. Zwiers told The Globe and Mail.

The paper is to be published by Nature on Thursday

One more piece of evidence, that proves what most of us have already accepted. What I find intriguing, the comment section to this Globe And Mail piece. Please go visit the horror show, at the bottom of the article, it is both amusing and disturbing all at once. I don't understand the almost religious resistence to science.

3/4 Canadians See Nothing "New"

I'm glad to see the overwhelming majority of Canadians reject the Tories "New Government" tag:
The Harper Conservatives were elected 18 months ago and still prefer to call themselves "Canada's New Government," but according to an exclusive poll by Innovative Research Group for The Hill Times, only one-fifth of Canadians agree that it's still appropriate to describe the government as "new," which is not a good thing, says a polling expert.

The poll, released last week, found that 37 per cent of Canadians think that while it was fine for the governing Conservatives to call themselves "Canada's New Government" when they were first elected, it's no longer appropriate as they have been in power now for a year-and-a-half...

Even by the party breakdown, 34 per cent of the respondents who identified themselves as Conservatives said that it was appropriate to use this title initially but not anymore and 17 per cent of the Conservatives said it was never appropriate for them to use this reference.

The best part, a supposed "strategist", the completely over-rated Conservative Tim Powers, begs to differ:
But Tim Powers, a Tory strategist disagreed. "The government is still new, thus the term, because the previous government was in place for 13 years and this one's only been there for 18 months so relatively that is new," he said.

Powers articulates the delusional, detached perspective, that can't read the most basic of optics. Open ridicule by the media, rejection by the public, and the gang that can't shoot straight continues on with a stubborness that is telling. The "new" tag was wearing thin last spring, anyone with limited powers of perception could see the emerging comical aspect, not to mention the logical ridiculousness. Let's see if this public opinion survey finally brings an end to "new".

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Victim Card

I'm not sure why this Chilean soccer story irks me so, but I find the rhetoric and reactions completely outrageous. A dirty game, which saw 30 Chilean fouls and two players expelled. Said players attempt to attack a referee after the game, then proceed to get into it with spectators, then start hurling invective at security, which ends up in a brawl. Somehow this sequence of events is all Canada's fault, which conveniently omits the entire leadup to the "incident". Pretty rare that I agree with a Sun media columnist, but I think this particular one gets it right.

This type of rhetoric is simply outlandish crap:
"For many people, even for me, it was a kind of flashback to what happened to us," said Patricio Bascunan, president of the Casa Salvador Allende Cultural Society of Toronto.

He was referring to the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron first from 1973 to 1990. Many of Toronto's 10,000-plus Chileans, Bascunan said, came to Canada as exiles during Pinochet's regime.

"There are so many people here for political reasons. And we remember the repression of the police and the army," he said.

"The disappointment of the people is unbelievable. People say, `That reminds me what happened to me with the police in Chile. And I never thought it would happen here.'"

Yes, Pinochet returns, on the streets of Toronto. Good grief.

Apparently, several Chilean players will be unable to participate in the match Sunday, due to injuries sustained during the brawl. If I can make my own diagnosis, "strained" political relations seems to be the common injury:
Chile's consul general, Ricardo Plaza, says several of the Chilean soccer players who were injured in Thursday night's post-match brawl with Toronto police, will not be able to play in Sunday's bronze medal soccer match against Austria because of injuries sustained in the clash.

Plaza said he did not know how many players were severely injured.

Severly injured? On Friday, the Chilean soccer official said all players could play on Sunday. I wonder why there no is evidence of any medical attention required, in the aftermath of the Pinochet-like brutality? I actually saw two Chilean players showing their injuries(during the game?) to the cameras- one had a horrific, slightly inflamed lip, the other a bruise the size of a loonie, akin to one my four year olds incurs daily. Apparently, loved ones are being rushed to the player's bed sides. God's speed.

What is happening here, the Chileans have decided that not fielding a full side on Sunday will solidify the perception that they are victims. After watching the dreadful display of football, is it really surprising that we see reaction that is less than honorable?

What we have here is a bunch of punkish, prima donna players, notorious sore losers, that don't seem willing to accept any responsiblity for their voluntary actions. The only "victim" here, that I can find, is Canada's reputation.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Memorable Canadian Moments

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

"Neither" Ahead In Poll

Angus-Reid online poll, with some curious results. Horserace numbers echo the steady Conservative erosion, Liberals stagnant, NDP relevant:
In the online voting intention survey of a representative national sample of 2,716 Canadians, 33 per cent respondents say they will cast a ballot for the governing Conservative Party in the next federal election. The Liberals stand at 28 per cent, followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 19 per cent, the Bloc Québécois with nine per cent, and the Green Party with eight per cent.

In a graphic illustration of Canadians complete lack of enthusiasm for either choice:
The two main party leaders are ineffective when Canadians are asked which one of them would make the best Prime Minister. Neither (40%) is still the favourite answer, while Harper stands at 33 per cent—unchanged since last month—and Dion at 14 per cent, down three points.

As a quick aside, I have been really impressed with "Neither's" ability to articulate complex policy issues into language that resonates well with average voters. Harper and Dion beware, she/he isn't a flash in the pan.

Dion has work to do with the faithful:
81 per cent of respondents who cast a ballot for the Tories in 2006 think Harper is the best person for Canada’s top political job, while only 29 per cent of Liberal voters believe Dion is presently ready for 24 Sussex.

Curious regionals, particularly the Quebec numbers, that are completely opposite the results of Strategic Council's poll, earlier this week. The online sample has the Tories firmly in second place:
In Quebec, the Bloc is first (36%), followed by the Conservatives with 27 per cent, and the Liberals with 16 per cent.
NDP up to 12%, which shows a consistent rise, relative to other polling. One small glimmer for Dion, negative impressions of him in Quebec has fallen to 41% from 51% last month.

In Ontario, the two main federal parties are virtually even (34% for the Tories, 33% for the Grits), with the NDP at 20 per cent, and the Greens with four per cent.

British Columbia, Tories fall to third, Liberals lead:
Liberals 32%, NDP 28%, Cons 27%

I'm starting to take the NDP rebound, articulated in all of the polls, as more a case of people's dis-satisfaction with the two primary parties, more than some endorsement on policy. The "neither" choice is really the point that sticks out- Canadians aren't satisfied with their leadership. This fact also explains why the Liberals can't seem to take advantage of Harper's freefall. Charisma anyone?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Great Canadian Moments

And that is the logic that kept us out of Iraq

Oh Please

I watched some of the match between Argentina and Chile yesterday, primarily because South American teams play a fluid, wide-open, beautiful brand of football. While there were some notable moments, the game itself was a disgraceful display of dirty checking, play acting and bad tempers. The Chilean players were incensed at the officials calls, and were noticeably enraged at the end of the game. It wasn't pretty.

You have a bunch of 19 and 20 year old irate soccer players, hurling invective and refusing to listen to authorities. The police react, in a firm way, and that translates into "racism" and complaints from the Chilean government. By all accounts, a nation is outraged at Canada, which conveniently absolves the players of any responsibility. On the other hand, Canadian officials seem somewhat defensive, which I think an unfair posture. I watched that game, and the energy was akin to a ticking timebomb. Guess what, it went off. Shocking.

Cha Ching

I hope the Conservatives Quebec poll numbers rebound soon, in the name of fiscal responsibility:
The Conservative government is adding a rapid deployment force to a Quebec air force base, continuing a military spending spree in the province.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor unveiled the plan Friday at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville , where the 550 troops will be based.

The government will spend about $300-million over seven years on the self-contained unit, which will be ready to move quickly to any trouble spot in Canada or around the world.

It is the second military commitment for Mr. O'Connor and the Conservatives in two days in Quebec, where they need to gain support if they hope to form a majority government in the next federal election.

Why not just hand out 100 dollar bills at polling stations and keep it real?

Great Canadian Moments

Maybe not "great", but memorable.

A Weakened Hamas?

Fascinating poll of Gaza residents, that show Hamas doesn't enjoy the support of the people it now rules. Some highlights:
69% of Gazans said that the Hamas take-over of last month was

64% of Gazans hold the view that the Fateh strategy is the best for
maximizing Palestinian national interest.

56% of Gazans are of the opinion that the emergency government
is proceeding on the right path.

65% would support early elections.

If elections were held today, 45% of Gazans would vote for Fateh,22% would vote for Hamas, and 8% would vote for other Palestinian factions. 25% would not participate in these elections.

84% would support Fateh in future elections if it reforms itself. This
is the case for 99% of Fateh supporters, and, strikingly, 60% of
Hamas supporters.

It is noteworthy, that despite electing Hamas legislators, the majority of Gaza residents support the emergency government. It would appear that Hamas is on the wane, in the Gaza Strip, despite, or maybe because, of the takeover. With Abbas enjoying international support (except for Canada), and demonstrating the ability to deliver concrete concessions, Fatah becomes more attractive. With Gaza effectively cutoff, it is hard to see Hamas maintaining their iron grip in the long run. These numbers suggest a backlash in waiting.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Great Canadian Moments

Peasants And Perms

Democratic challenger John Edwards is taking some heat for the conflicting imagery of a man paying obscene amounts of money for a haircut, while simulatenously championing the issue of poverty.
The bad optics:
Torrenueva's role came to light last April when two $400 cuts showed up on Edwards' campaign spending reports.

Edwards, 53, who has made alleviating poverty the central theme of candidacy, has been criticized for building a 28,000-square-foot house for $5.3 million near Chapel Hill, N.C. The complex of several buildings on 102 acres includes an indoor basketball court, an indoor pool and a handball court.

The rebuttal:
"Anybody who's running for president ought to be subjected to serious examination from every conceivable angle," Edwards said. "So theres nothing wrong with that. What bothers me about this is, I don't want whatever personal criticism people have of me to detract in any way from the people whose lives we're trying to help. That's the only thing about it that's troublesome."

Edwards cited his work as a trial lawyer defending people against major corporations, the poverty center he started after the 2004 campaign, an after-school center he and his wife Elizabeth created that caters largely to low-income students, as well as a program designed to make it possible for low-income students to go to college.

"This is something I've cared about for a very long time," he said. "I'm proud of what I've done. But it is the nature of presidential politics that anything you do is going to be looked at through a microscope. So I expect that."

The conflict is analogous to the problems Gore recently incurred. Gore arguing against GHG emissions, while personally using enough electricity for his dwelling to power an entire middle-class neighborhood (in Gore's defence, he has since retro-fitted his home to be carbon neutral).

As it relates to Edwards, I don't doubt for a moment his sincerity. However, it is odd to have the champion of the poor, squandering the monthly income of a low wage earner on a haircut. It is strange to have Edwards as crusader, when his humble abode could house an entire housing project. I'm not passing judgement on a man, who by all accounts is ethical and genuine, but the contradictions speaks volumes. As a matter of fact, Edwards himself is a wonderful illustration of the gross inequalities that exist in American society.

I like John Edwards, he comes from humble beginnings, as he often reminds voters. Having said that, Edwards now lives a gluttonous existence, by any objective measure, that highlights a detachment from average existence. To enjoy such excess takes away from any moral high ground on the subject of poverty. I find Edwards message secondary to the unintended contrast of the ultra class lamenting the fate of the stragglers. On a certain level, it's both laughable and intuitively offensive.

Good News For Liberals

I’ve been pretty quick to point out Liberal weakness in Quebec. To be fair, the latest Strategic Council poll shows some encouraging signs for Dion and the Liberals, in his home province:
In Quebec, the Tories continue to lag behind both the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. The Bloc leads the pack with 40 per cent, while the Liberals are second with 25 per cent. The Conservatives are third with 16 per cent and the NDP fourth with 10 per cent, a jump of four points.

The Tory figure is a drop of nine percentage points from the 2006 election.
Mr. Donolo said the numbers appear to demonstrate the Liberals under Stéphane Dion are installing themselves as the second choice of Quebec voters
Among francophones, the Liberals lead the Tories by 21 per cent to 17 per cent.

…both parties enjoy the backing of 31 per cent of the electorate, a drop of three points for the Tories from last month, but not a change for the Liberals. The NDP is supported by 17 per cent and the Greens by 10 per cent.

The surprising part, the Liberals lead the Tories with francophones, which we haven’t seen for quite some time. There is also a significant gap between Liberal and Conservative support, which does support the “second choice” notion. One slight caution, the NDP is up considerably in the province, which might be an indication of some bypassing of the Liberals as people grow unhappy with the Conservatives. Havings said that, these numbers do reveal some room for optimism, which is a nice contrast to other findings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"One More Note, One More Note"

The American band The White Stripes, wrapped up the most unique tour of Canada on record. Kicked off in Inuvik, the White Stripes played gigs in a fishing boat, a city bus, a pool hall, the YMCA, you name it, they played it. However, their performance in St. John's NFLD has to be the highlight. Brilliant!

Has Dion Erred?

I'm not sure this decision by Dion is necessarily positive:
International affairs expert Jocelyn Coulon has been handpicked by Liberal leader Stephane Dion to be the Liberal Party's candidate in the coming by-election in the riding of Outremont.

Rather than open the riding to a nomination battle, Dion served notice early on he would exercise his prerogative as a leader to personally name the candidate who would run in Outremont. Coulon's success or failure risks being seen as a litmus test for Dion's judgment and his ability to deliver ridings in his home province.

Losing a by-election in what is generally considered a safe riding for the Liberals could fuel questions about Dion's leadership. A win could help quell grumblings about his performance.

I don't like the idea of Dion circumventing the nomination process because it puts added pressure on his leadershop, the candidate is his alone. If the rank and file picked a candidate, you avoid the direct link, to a leader who's popularity is pretty much non-existent.

In making this decision, Dion furthers the "litmus test" argument, and introduces the flavor of mini-referendum on his leadership. The odds are good for the Liberals, but there is still a danger, and Dion's edict looks unnecessarily risky from here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Conservatives War On Environment Continues

More potential slash and burn, as it relates to anything associated with those dirty environmentalists:
The Canadian Environmental Network, a backbone of communications within Canada's environmental movement, has warned its staff they may be laid off next week because of federal funding cuts...

...operational funding is normally obtained annually based on an April-to-March fiscal year, but no funding has been received since April 1, nor is there any assurance it will be provided.

Mike Van Soelen, spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird, said the government is reviewing the CEN's work and considering other methods of staying in touch with the environmental movement.

"We're going to be making decisions shortly on how best to gather the opinion of Canadians on the environment," he said.

"Certainly our government values consultations with Canadians and we are always evaluating how best to reach out to Canadians and learn their views on the environment and we're always evaluating how to use taxpayers' money to improve the environment."

Asked whether the CEN has been performing well in the government's view, he said "our department is looking at the work they've done and our government is going to be making a decision shortly".

Translation- clean out your desk. For a government that claims to be "leading the world", it is strange to see such a concerted, consistent pattern, of undermining established environmental groups. I suppose you could argue that the Network is expendable, given that Minister Baird sees no need to meet with environmental groups, or seek their advice. And we wonder why a sense of partisanship is developing within the environmental community.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Rights?

Stephen Harper on China:
Canada won't ''sell out to the almighty dollar'' when it
comes to talking human rights with China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said

Harper told reporters travelling with him to the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference in Vietnam that Canada's trade and business relationship with China is an important one, but he declared: ''I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values. They don't want us to sell out to the almighty dollar.''

Stephen Harper on Colombia:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismisses criticism that Canada should build free-trade links with problem-plagued Colombia.

"When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we're in," he said Monday in Bogota.

"Around the country we have 30,000 that have been detained or disappeared in last 10 years, three million internally displaced people; thousands have been killed," responded Lilia Solano, the director of Project Justice and Life.

"So how can someone say, 'OK, all this blood is running but business goes first'."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was on the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency's list:
Then-Senator and now President Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a "close personal friend of Pablo Escobar" who was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels," according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia. The document was posted today on the website of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research group based at George Washington University.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has ties to death squads:
President Alvaro Uribe’s right-wing Colombian government is dealing with a scandal stemming from revelations of ties between the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia and ruling elements in Colombian society.

According to U.S. government sources, the paramilitaries have accounted for over 80 percent of Colombia’s political assassinations and much drug trafficking. Washington’s support for Colombian military and police operations, totaling $3.8 billion over six years, raises questions of U.S. complicity with human rights abuses there.

Harper speaks of the "almight dollar", as it relates to his human rights crusade with China, but there seems no conflict in putting dollars ahead of human rights in dealing with a very suspect Colombian government. In pushing for a free trade agreement, Harper effectively endorses the status quo in the most violent country in the region, with an atrocious human rights record.

Where were the pointed questions today? Was there a hint that Harper brought up human rights with the Colombian goverment, on par with the abrasive stance taken with the Chinese? It all seemed like a touchy, feely affair today, lauding the accomplishments, with little evidence of "pressure". Am I the only one that sees a lack of consistency?


Amnesty International's Alex Neve wonders about consistency too:
Neve said that support would be for naught if a free trade agreement with the country pushes the human rights situation out of the picture.

"It's our hope that he's going to recognize the importance of being consistent with the human rights message, that if he starts to become inconsistent then he immediately starts to lose his credibility."

Did You Know?

Did you know that Canada is now the only western nation not to have normalized relations with the new Palestinian government? MacKay has issued a statement offering support for the Abbas government. Harper has met with King Abdullah, wherein Canada was asked to play a larger role in negotiations. Why is it then that Canada sits alone? I don't get it, why the hesitation?

McCain In Free Fall

I have a confession to make, I've always admired John McCain. I don't agree with many of his positions, but I think he comes by them honestly. More trouble, for a campaign that appears to be in free fall:

John McCain's top communications aides and several staffers in Iowa and South Carolina quit on Monday, the latest departures to hit the Republican as he struggles to rebound from financial and political woes.

Brian Jones, McCain's communications director, and his two deputies, Matt David and Danny Diaz, stepped down but plan to stay on through the week. Two others in the communications shop at the campaign headquarters also are leaving, as are two staffers apiece in Iowa and South Carolina.

Also Monday, Iowa Republican Party officials said they had been told McCain was closing his campaign in the state. But officials at McCain's campaign headquarters in suburban Washington disputed that, saying the Iowa headquarters remains open and the senator plans to campaign in Iowa this weekend.

In suburban Des Moines, a handful of staffers milled about McCain's Iowa headquarters but they said no one was authorized to issue statements.

I was thinking about McCain last week, as it related to Harper's flip flop on Afghanistan. Iraq has been an albatross around McCain's neck, which will most likely prove to be his undoing. Despite the drop in the polls, the opportunities to distance himself from the war, McCain has NEVER wavered, to his determent. In an age when politicians massage rhetoric and positions to curry favor with a changing landscape, McCain holds steadfast.

Ditto on immigration, where McCain favors policy which is clearly at odds with many in the Republican base. A political animal would calculate the pitfalls and adjust accordingly to feed personal ambition. McCain is different in that regard, he proposes what he believes, without attaching political advantage.

McCain looks mortally wounded, within a Republican field that is beginning to look decidedly weak. McCain may well deserve to fail, given his continued support for "Bush's war", but I will at least give him the credit of conviction. It is an interesting contrast to our domestic "hawk", who seems to view principled, moral obligation through a political weather vane and acts accordingly.

Science As Partisan Discipline

I get pretty frustrated at the growing move towards hyper-partisanship, wherein every opinion if framed within the lens of political bias. What is even more alarming, is the emerging argument that the global warming debate is a partisan affair. This position attempts to turn science into a discipline where facts are manipulated to suit a certain belief. The following column by Lorne Gunter illustrates the new tool of the "denier" crowd to confuse and challenge objectivity:
If those who insist greenhouse gases are the culprit can somehow show that the sun is not the reason for recent warming, then a big impediment to their campaign to control industrial production and auto use will be eliminated.

Not surprisingly, those who favour the man made greenhouse gas theory were quick to wave the paper by Mike Lockwood, of Britain's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and Claus Froehlich, of the World Radiation Centre in Davos, Switzerland.

The BBC trumpeted, "Mike Lockwood's analysis appears to have put a large, probably fatal nail" in the solar theorists' arguments.

London's Guardian newspaper crowed: "a new analysis ... on the sun's output in the last 25 years of the 20th century has firmly put the notion to rest," that the sun is a "global warming culprit," as National Geographic clucked...

Angered by a British television documentary, the Great Global Warming Swindle, that aired in March, Lockwood admits he set out in short order to show up the sun-warming theory by demonstrating that solar activity has declined since 1985 while temperatures have increased. Ergo, the sun cannot be the "driver" behind global warming.

The disturbing thesis:
Nothing in the global warming debate may now be viewed as impartial. The public should view any claims, whether pro-man-made or pro-sun, with a healthy skepticism for the motives behind them.

The article implies that the science is steered towards support for a pre-determined belief. Never mind the logically inconsistency that fails to acknowledged the belief itself is actually based on hard scientific evidence, Gunter implies that there is something wrong with disputing a conflicting piece of "evidence".

If we follow the sequence of events, then we see science at its best, impartiality at the heart. We have a theory of man-made global warming, that is "generally" supported amongst the expert community. A documentary comes out, which posits an alternative theory, relying on the sun to explain the spike in temperatures. Faced with a conflicting argument, research is done to quantify the merits of said theory, and the resulting research demonstrates that the sun theory has no basis in fact. Therefore, one of the chief counters to man-made global warming is undermined, which further solidifies the widely held theory. How that translates to politics, as the article infers, is complete and utter nonsense.

Whenever a theory, or evidence, emerges to challenge conventional wisdom, it is incumbent on the scientific community to demonstrate why that argument is or isn't relevant. If you have a group of scientists who have concluded that a particular theory is valid, and proceeded as though factual, any theory which challenges that thesis must be repudiated, in the pursuit of truth. How vehemently one needs to challenge depends on the equation- if you have a mountain of evidence supporting theory A, then a minor study doesn't carry the weight to re-think the entire calculation. In other words, there are always rogue studies on almost every issue imaginable; how they are dealt with depends on the relative merits.

The attempt to politicize the entire debate, wherein you can't trust what anybody says, because they have an agenda, is a scary proposition. If you embrace the fact that science has now become a partisan domain, then you are given license to believe whatever you want, whatever suits your own inclination. You can ignore the 98% of the science, and cling onto a study here or there, that supports your theory, because the whole debate lacks objective credibility. This attempt to confuse people, muddy the waters, amounts to a disinformation campaign, in a last ditched effort by the denier crowd to save face. Pathetic.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Divided On Afghanistan

Ipsos-Reid poll out that shows a similar trend to other recent polls, but not to the same extent. In fact, the numbers find Canadians are equally divided:
The poll, conducted exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National by Ipsos Reid, showed that half of Canadians — exactly 50 per cent — said they either “strongly” or “somewhat support” the use of Canada’s troops for security and combat efforts in Afghanistan.

Almost equally planted on the other side of the debate are 45 per cent of Canadians who said they either “strongly” or “somewhat oppose” the mission in Afghanistan. The remaining five per cent said they do not have an opinion one way or the other.

The latest numbers show a continuing drop in support for the mission since it reached a peak in the fall of 2006 at 57 per cent. In April 2007, support had slipped to 52 per cent, and now to 50, according to the polling firm’s data

I have to agree with this comment:
But even with the declining support, pollster Darrell Bricker says the conventional wisdom that as casualties mount, support will drop, is not necessarily proving true.

“I actually expected that the numbers were going to be quite a bit lower because of what happened last week,” Bricker said, referring to the six soldiers who were killed by a roadside bomb on July 4. “But I think what’s happened is that the issue is starting to transcend the issue of casualties.”

You could characterize a 2% drop in support since April as statistically irrelevant, which is surprising, given other polls that show a more measurable drop.

I would be nice to see some more of the internals, because the wording is such that it might be misleading. I mean, I could say that "somewhat" support the mission in general, because that is a complicated question. A more straightforward question would ask if you support the mission in its present configuration. There are a percentage of Canadians that support some presence, but not necessarily us as military vanguard. However, there might be value in this type of question, because it shows that our involvement is a complex issue that doesn't solicite an easy response.

Breaking: Slow News Day

I'm all for some good government waste bashing story, but this one seems like a stretch:
"Taxpayers on hook for $4 million to fill seven vacant Commons seats"

You mean by-elections cost money? Politicians don't always serve their full term? Investigative journalism at its finest, or more aptly, jotting something down to justify a paycheck :) Yawn.

Another outraged voter.

Running Of The Green

Despite a campaign not to field a Green candidate in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, in the end an overwhelming majority opted to do just that:
The Green party will run a candidate in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding in the next federal election.

Some members had urged their fellow Greens to avoid splitting the vote by not running against Liberal Briony Penn or NDPer Julian West, both former Green Party of B.C. members. They hoped to unseat Conservative MP Gary Lunn, who has long held the riding.

But in the end, after a heated debate, 84 per cent of the 21 members who turned up for a nomination meeting in Bazan Bay yesterday acclaimed Andrew Lewis as their candidate.

Green party member Bryce Kendrick wasn't sure how he was going to vote going in, but said principle won out over convenience and he supported Lewis.

"I thought on the one hand, I'd love to see Garry Lunn thrown out, but on the other hand I feel that as a Green party member I have a commitment to the party," he said, wearing a crisp Green party T-shirt.

Harald Wolf, one of the members who signed an e-mailed letter urging Greens to vote "none of the above," said he isn't happy with the outcome.

"I am Green and will continue to be Green but we'll have to see if I feel [Penn] can win, if she can represent me, I would trust her," he said, adding that anybody is better than Lunn, whom critics have described as no friend of the environment. "He needs to get out."

I admit, I was hoping for "none of the above", but having said that you can't really argue with the decision. There is something fundamentally counter-intuitive about trying to build an alternative party, and concurrently abandoning certain ridings that seem to have a good foundation. The question of fundings is also relevant- votes=money in our system, period.

I'm an outsider, but I have a feeling that this nomination debate may have a lasting impact when we do have an election. Clearly, the desire to defeat Lunn might still bring about a voter coalition around a candidate. It will be interesting to see if the people arguing for "none of the above" continue to make a pitch, that could ultimately undermine the Lewis nomination.

Accidential Deliberations laments the low turnout.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Getting Things Done"

Barbara Yaffe uses the Liberal Party website to evidence a lack of policy:
Scrutiny of the Liberals' website this week inspires a big sigh. One headline notes that Jean Chretien, a man many Canadians would rather forget, has been appointed to the Order of Canada.

Another asserts Canada "deserves a government it can trust" -- hardly the savviest message from a party that authored the sponsorship scandal.

"Justice, Fairness and Hope for Canada's Aboriginal People" only serves to remind that under past Liberal governments money gushed into aboriginal coffers with little to show for it.

Finally, the Grit website features a promise that Liberals will restore funding to promote Canadian culture abroad. Can you think of anyone other than a domestic culture vulture who'd regard this as a motivation to vote Liberal?

It has been a year and a half since Liberals got booted from office. It's time they started getting their act together and advertised what the new Grit team -- featuring new faces like Martha Hall-Findlay, Justin Trudeau and Bob

I don't necessarily disagree with the idea that the Liberal Party needs to step up with some interesting ideas, that generates enthusiasm. However, if we are to use party websites as evidence to support a thesis, then what does the Conservative Party website tell us?

Apparently, the Conservatives are "Getting Things Done For All Of Us". Scroll down to find the laundry list of accomplishments and ideas and you almost think you are at the Liberal Party website. There are FIVE seperate items with pictures of Stephane Dion, which is exactly THREE more than the Prime Minister. If you squint enough you can find some policy, but the overall imagery is a barrage of negativity, directed at the Liberals. Does "Getting Things Done" mean finding a myriad of ways to attack Dion's character? On the plus side, the unintentionally laughable "Kyoto's Dog Blog" looks to have finally been neutered (I'm sure the eight people who still read it are disappointed- sorry Kate).

I agree, websites give us a flavor. The Liberals appear bland and uninspiring. The Conservatives appear mean-spirited and negative. My apologies for leaving out the NDP website, but I really wasn't up for a moral sermon from Mt. Pure today.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Only Good Bear....

A couple days ago, I read an article, detailing increased bear/human conflict in Central Ontario. Not surprisingly, this spike in potentially dangerous encounters, has given the pro-spring bear hunt lobby new ammunition, too argue the government's 1999 decision to ban the spring bear hunt is the culprit.

There is no evidence to suggest the bear population is increasing:
The Ministry of Natural Resources disputes this notion, saying on its website, www.bears.mnr.gov.on.ca, that the bear population could have increased as much as 7.5 per cent per year since the cancellation of the spring hunt , but it's "extremely unlikely."

Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources, says the bear population has remained consistent in Ontario with anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 bears, although certain areas seem to be experienced an increase in occurences.

I've never been a big fan of bear "hunting" in general, which seems to consist mostly of half-drunk Americans, sitting in a tree, with a bait station below, enticing the bears, then firing a shot or arrow at close range, with NO skill required. I liken the "sport" to nothing more than visiting a garbage dump and shooting a bear from the back of a pickup. You have to wonder about the ethics of habituating the bears to the bait, given weeks in advance of the actual hunt, to ensure a huntable population for the big dollar Americans. The meat is secondary, what is really prized is the picture with the carcass, not to mention the pelt. My opinion is besides the point, the fall bear hunt will continue and it does provide revenue for economically challenged areas in the north.

Before someone accuses me of being an ignorant "southern Ontario" elitist, I should point out that I once worked in Algonquin Park and was lucky enough to spend some time with the biologist doing bear research. I also lived in rural British Columbia, where one summer we had a nightly visitor and her two cubs, which made late night exits from the car to the house quite interesting. I've had a few close calls, that turned my stool to mush (nice visual). In other words, I'm quite familar with living in bear country, and I appreciate and respect the risks.

What bothers me about the complaints, is people seem to want to be in nature, but they would prefer the sanitized version, without the nuisance of actual potential predators:
At the Delta Rocky Crest Resort, a 65-room resort on Hamer Bay in Parry Sound, general manager Alan Boivin says most sightings occur on the prized golf course, but staff is so fearful of a bear encounter that employess don’t walk alone to the trash bin at the clubhouse.

At the Cranberry Cove Resort, which has 43 rooms on 43 acres in Muskoka, owner Shawn Leon, 48, says some vacationers are “quite stupid” that they walk up to bears hoping to snap a close-up picture.

Leon says repeated calls to the Ministry of Natural Resources to set more traps go unanswered and he’s thinking of calling in the police to shoot them. “From a liability standpoint, we don’t want bears on the property because we have guests,” he said. “We can’t fence the whole property.”

Sandy Cornell, assistant manager at Clevelands House, says the ministry needs to set more traps.

If a bear is aggressive, then that animal must be shot for obvious reasons. However, people must accept the reality that bear/human encounters are part of the package, when you visit these areas. As a matter of fact I've always thought that was part of the allure, food chain and such. People are encroaching on bear habitat, so pardon me if I'm not terribly sympathetic to bears on the "golf course" or dangerously close to the "resort". Deal with it, there is a slight risk, that's the reality. Off my soapbox now :)

What Are We Doing?

You know the PMO must be completely bereft of ideas and an agenda, when they seek the advice of the lowly:
The Prime Minister's Office is asking Conservative political workers on Parliament Hill to help draw up a long-term blueprint that could form the basis of new priorities for cabinet ministers and a possible fall Throne Speech.

The request is contained in an e-mail from the Prime Minister's policy office to political staffers for Tory ministers and has also been made verbally. It comes as cabinet ministers and senior advisers believe the government has exhausted its agenda after a controversial spring in the House of Commons.

“We are looking for some ideas from you,” said the e-mail, the contents of which were read to The Globe and Mail. “These ideas will be considered as part of a larger policy recommendation that will go forth later on.”

The memo was sent Wednesday by the policy and research division of the Prime Minister's Office. The memo explicitly states that the ideas come from political offices and not the bureaucracy.

A "new" government that doesn't have anything new to offer, quite the contradiction. All those years in opposition, and here we are a year and a half in and the Conservatives are spent. Equally troubling, the fact that a good percentage of Conservative legislation to date was poached from the former government. Now we have a situation where the Conservatives are scrambling to come up with ideas for the fall sitting.

I remember in the latter days of the Liberal reign, on of the chief criticisms was the lack of new policy and a government that appeared tired. The fact that the Conservatives have reached this stage in such quick order is a testament to the notion that their central election premise was "we're not the Liberals", rather than a real agenda for Canadians.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Uniting The Left

Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn, might become one of the more high-profile casualties, stemming from the recent Liberal/Green alliance. It would appear there is a movement afoot in the riding of Saarich-Gulf Islands to "unite the left" against Mr. Lunn. Here are some excerpts from a letter sent out by local Green supporters:
Dear members and supporters of the Green Party:

Re: Upcoming nomination meeting in Saanich - Gulf Islands

We, concerned British Columbians, also need to put our country and our planet first. Too often issues that matter - the future of nuclear power, oil tankers in British Columbia's inside passage, coastal drilling for oil and gas - get captured by a partisan political process that puts sound bites and partisan attacks over solutions.
We need to fix that. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary actions.

This is why we are jointly writing to you to make an unusual request: We are asking you personally to go to the nomination meeting for the Green Party in Saanich-Gulf Islands which may take place this Saturday afternoon (July 14th) in Sidney, and vote for "None of the Above." We don't make this request lightly, and here's why we're making such an extraordinary request. Make no mistake, we do understand that this IS extraordinary: we are deep believers in the process of democracy, and do not take lightly such a request."

The letter points out both the NDP and Liberal candidates:
With two environmentalists running for the other parties, the Green Party is unlikely to replicate its previous vote totals, but these votes could cause the election of Gary Lunn, a key player in Stephen Harper's anti-environmental government.

I like the spirit:
Vote for "None of the Above" at the nomination meeting and become part of a historic effort to turn this country away from the destructive path Harper's conservatives have set us all on.

The impact is obvious:
In 2006 the voting was: Conservatives (37%); Liberal (26%); NDP (26%); Green (10%).

There is a certain unselfish appeal, that is both refreshing and also demonstrates a very mature read of the situation. What a breath of fresh "salt" air :)

Understanding The Harper Conversion

For people trying to make sense of Stephen Harper's flip flop on Afghanistan, coupled with the timely changed strategy of the military, this finding might help explain:
A growing number of Canadians, especially in Quebec, say the rising death toll among troops in Afghanistan is too high a price to pay for helping the troubled country, suggests a new poll.

A Canadian Press-Decima Research survey shows 67 per cent of those asked believe the number of casualties has been unacceptable, a five-percentage-point rise from a poll taken a little over a month ago.

Only 25 per cent of respondents said the number of killed and wounded was acceptable, in a survey taken following the most recent deaths of six soldiers in a roadside bomb attack.

Bruce Anderson, CEO of Decima Research, said Canadians are clearly becoming more doubtful about whether progress is being made, in light of the deaths of 66 soldiers and one diplomat in Afghanistan.

Of particular concern to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the result showing skepticism runs highest in Quebec, where 76 per cent said the sacrifice is unacceptable. This comes as the Royal 22nd Regiment — the famed Vandoos — prepare to take over the battle group in Kandahar next month.

The base:
Even among the most ardent supporters of the war — people who identify themselves as Conservatives — doubt has crept in. The number of Tories who say the price tag has been too high increased by eight percentage points since the beginning of June, to 48 per cent.

Pardon my cynicism, but I find it quite a coincidence that Hillier is speaking about a changed mission in Kandahar, resulting in fewer casualties, just as the Quebec regiment is set to take the reins. Speaking of coincidence's, Harper just happens to soften, then dramatically alter, his position, as public support wanes badly. When I heard Harper's recent comments, my first question was whether or not the government had some indication, through internal polling, that support for the mission had fallen into the danger zone politically. The publication of this poll lends credence to suspicion.

The public has turned on this mission, with little reason to suggest any future turnaround. Harper has made the calculation, the message has filtered to the military, and it will be interesting to hear the spin as to why this moment demands such a re-think.

The province that resists the mission the most is set to take the lead, which just happens to correspond to a new strategy in Kandahar, which just happens to coincide with Canadians turning against the mission, which coincidentially happens while Harper dramatically changes gears. It all fits quite nicely from here :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Environics Poll

I thought I would do another post on the Environics Poll because there are several intriguing internals which are quite revealing. The last poll for this outfit was done in March, which is a good benchmark, because conventional wisdom assumes that the Conservatives have hit a rough patch in the intermediate. Harper's approvals are indeed down:
There have been some shifts in the approval ratings of the party leaders over the past three months. The proportion of Canadians approving of the job being done by Stephen Harper has fallen below the 50-percent mark for the first time since he became prime minister and now stands at 48 percent (down 6 points from March). Approval of Stéphane Dion has declined once again to 38 percent (down 2 points) and the proportion expressing disapproval of him has risen to 48 percent (up 5 points). Jack Layton has the highest approval rating of any of the party leaders at 56 percent (up 2 points), and a similar share of voters in Quebec approve of the job being done by Gilles Duceppe (53%, down 3 points). Approval of Elizabeth May has dropped three points to 42 percent.

We have two concurrent themes. Although Harper is lagging, Dion doesn't seem to capitalize, in fact he keeps failing further, from an already concerning level. A 48% disapproval number is objectively horrible, particularly because it came during a period when the Conservatives were in full fumble mode.

What I find staggering, Dion actually finds a new bottom in Quebec. On the question of who would make the best PM, Dion scored a dismal 12% in March, for his home province. In the latest poll, Dion is down to 10%, almost half the total for the seatless Layton and the NDP. Nationally, Layton is up 3% and is now the clear second choice amongst voters.

Overall, the poll has the Cons at 37%, Liberals 28%, NDP 17%, Greens 11%. Given the other polls, I think the Conservatives numbers are a touch high, although it is noteworthy that they remain virtually the same as the March poll, which was a supposed highwater mark. The only reason I can conclude that we haven't seen more Conservative erosion, is the real apprehension about Dion and the Liberals preventing a noticeable shift.

Pouring through the internals, the NDP seems the only party that can claim any momentum. Is it policy or lack of alternatives? I'm inclined to think a little of each, clear policy, coupled with relative weakness in others.

Liberals Beware

Last month, I had a entry which wondered if the NDP was due for a breakthrough in Quebec. The by-election in Outremont, part of the remaining Liberal powerbase, is poised to be a interesting battle, with the NDP running a star candidate, that is garnering considerable attention. I would still characterize the NDP's chances as decidedly uphill, and much will depend on the Liberal candidate, but this recent poll, with the publication title "Layton On A Roll", would seem to support the thesis that people underestimate the NDP at their own peril:
Whether it's due to "the Mulcair effect" or his out-front position against Canada's military mission to Afghanistan is unclear, but NDP leader Jack Layton is on a roll in Montreal, a new opinion poll suggests.

Montreal was the only place in the country where Layton wins when respondents were asked who would make the country's best prime minister, said Derek Leebosh, a senior associate with Environics Research Group, which conducted the survey.

Among Montrealers polled, Layton scored 24 per cent, compared with 19 per cent for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 16 per cent for Bloc Qubcois leader Gilles Duceppe and 12 per cent for Liberal leader Stephane Dion

In Quebec, the Bloc was at 31 per cent, down a healthy 11 percentage points from its level of support in the January 2006 federal election. The Liberals were pegged at 17 per cent in Quebec, down three from the last Environics poll conducted in March, while the Tories sat at 28 per cent, up two percentage points from the last poll and 3 points higher than they scored in the election. The NDP nudged up to 12 per cent from 11 in the last poll and the Green Party moved up 2 percentage points to 11 in Quebec. The undecided rate was pegged at 10 per cent.

The poll surveyed 2,021 Canadians across the country for a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points 95 times out of 100. The Quebec sample was 500 people for a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, while the Montreal sample was 217 respondents for a margin of 6.7 percentage points.

Why the surge in Montreal?:
Layton's newfound strength in Montreal is "probably a result of two things," Leebosh said. "It might be the Mulcair effect (former provincial Liberal environment minister Tom Mulcair is the NDP's star candidate in the soon-to-be announced Outremont by-election) but also the city may be more left-wing than the rest of the province" which suggests dispirited Bloc and Liberal voters may be turning to the NDP in the urban area.

"The Tories (at 17 per cent) are still so much lower in Montreal than in the rest of the province," Leebosh said. "If the Bloc Quebecois were to vanish tomorrow, the NDP would have tremendous potential in Montreal."

I don't claim to have intimate knowledge of the "street" in Quebec, but I think it is fair to say that Layton and Mulcair have been receiving a nice wave of coverage in the province. I have also heard some grumblings about Mulcair, but all in all, he has done a great job of getting in front of the media and creating a certain buzz. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the Liberals are on the ropes in Quebec and this by-election could well prove to be a watershed moment, that has lasting impact, unusual for a simple by-election.

Deniers Denied

One of the central counters to man-made global warming has been completely discredited in a new study:
A new scientific study concludes that changes in the Sun's output cannot be causing modern-day climate change.

It shows that for the last 20 years, the Sun's output has declined, yet temperatures on Earth have risen.

Dr Lockwood initiated the study partially in response to the TV documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast on Britain's Channel Four earlier this year, which featured the cosmic ray hypothesis.

"All the graphs they showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things diverged after that," he told the BBC News website.

"You can't just ignore bits of data that you don't like," he said.

"This paper reinforces the fact that the warming in the last 20 to 40 years can't have been caused by solar activity," said Dr Piers Forster from Leeds University, a leading contributor to this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of climate science.

In the grand scheme, this confirmation probably won't matter to the hardcore denier crowd, they will just attach themselves to another flimsy theory. Having said that, it did snow in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the first time since 1918- clearly another signal that the analysis of mainstream science is misguided.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In Full Retreat

Epiphany, pragmatism or political survival. Stephen is morphing before our eyes, his latest comments on Afghanistan now mirror those "flip flopping" Liberals:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday his government has no plans to prolong Canada's combat role in Afghanistan beyond its February 2009 commitment...

But when asked whether he has any desire to prolong the combat mission in southern Afghanistan beyond 2009, Harper said "No."

"I think Canadians are expecting that if we're in Afghanistan after 2009, it would be a new mission," Harper told a Calgary radio talk show on Tuesday. "Canadians have been fairly clear that if we were to be in after 2009, that they would expect our participation to evolve in some way."

So much for the "moral" necessity rhetoric:
"I don't believe the prime minister. He's given the signal from Day 1 that he wants to extend it," Coderre said in an interview. The government, he noted, has invested billions in new military equipment that won't be delivered until 2009 or later.

Some political observers have suggested the Harper government has softened its stance in recent weeks on whether to extend the Afghanistan mission due to eroding public support.

David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said Harper would almost certainly extend the mission if he had a majority government.

But he's rethinking his strategy as it becomes clear there won't be majority support in the House of Commons for the initiative, and might be publicly negotiating with the Liberals and NATO, he said.

"He's clearly feeling a lot of heat from the public opinion polls," Bercuson said Tuesday. "If he's asking himself what's more important -- that I maintain governance or that I get approval for a combat mission, then a combat mission is coming second."

Cut and run Harper, let's call a spade a spade. Can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Fairweather hawk? I'm not sure if the change has sunk in with the media, but Harper has made a seismic shift, one that betrays EVERY SINGLE speech he has made since he took office.

The introduction of "consensus", and now the position that he favors a "new mission" are clearly based on public opinion, to which Harper himself refers. Remember, this is the government that will not be guided by political consideration on a matter so fundamental to Canadian ideals and obligations. What I find strange, why isn't Harper addressing the nation, in an effort to bolster support? Why, if this is a matter of principle, one Harper was prepared to take the people, is he now in full retreat?

As was brought up in the comments, in another thread, the Harper Conservatives have now adopted the Liberal position. The same Liberal position that has been openly mocked and described as traitorous. What about all the pius rants and accusations, levelled towards anyone who suggested a "re-think", a "different direction"? I could accept Harper's new found pragmatism, cough, poll gazing, if not for the way in which he so vilified others, who were apparently ahead of the curve. One word comes to mind in describing this shift, gutless.

Wild Weather

Here are a couple pictures of a storm that came through our area on July 8/07:

A Bit Rich

Stephen Harper made his typical divisive partisan speech to the faithful in British Columbia. Harper had the audacity to complain about the opposition parties focus in Question Period:
He also took several shots at the opposition, particularly on defence.

"We remind people, and we remind people especially at times like these, that the peace, the prosperity and the liberty we enjoy were earned by our men and women in uniform and they continue to defend and protect these values on our behalf all around the world."

Mr. Harper complained that his government had received "hundreds of questions" from the opposition on the "allegations of Taliban prisoners," referring to suggestions of abuse among detained prisoners in Afghanistan.

There is only one reason why "hundreds of questions" were posed on the detainee issue, complete Conservative incompetence. Harper criticizes the opposition, when the whole display was created by the gang that can't shoot straight. A two day story was elevated to maelstorm because the government had no answers, or conflicting answers, depending on the time of day. I would challenge Harper to find one non-partisan observer who didn't conclude the government handled the entire issue poorly. A nice attempt at spin, turn your own incompetence into a question of supporting the troops.