Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leading By Example

You can offer all the excuses you like, but that doesn't distract from a simple fact- if you want others to follow, you have to lead by example. The government is sending a clear message to Canadians, we are not serious about reducing greenhouse gases:
Led by the new gas-guzzling black SUVs in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motorcade, the federal government nearly doubled the amount it spent on sport-utility vehicles during the first full year of the Conservative government.

Documents show that government spending on SUVs purchased through Public Works and Government Services Canada reached more than $31 million in 2006-07.

Even as the government offers rebates to encourage Canadians to drive more fuel-efficient cars, Public Works ordered 844 new sport-utilities last year, a large leap from the 500 purchased the year before and the 366 in 2004-05, the last full fiscal year under a Liberal government.

Public works spokesperson Lucie Brosseau attempts to put lipstick on the pig:
She said more than one-third of the SUVs purchased had gas-electric hybrid engines, which cost more, but offer improved fuel efficiency over conventional SUVs. The department now purchases only "greener" passenger vehicles and mini-vans, except for law enforcement or security uses, Ms. Brosseau said.

One-third? Why not every vehicle, was there a study that showed hybrid's don't perform well during border patrols? In reality, there is no logical reason to explain why the government has not only failed to go "green', but has more than doubled its fleet of gas guzzlers. Seems to me, if you are "modernizing" the fleet, you should use the latest technology. In other words, a perfect opportunity to purchase more fuel-efficent vehicles and send a clear message to Canadians.

In the grand scheme, a few government vehicles are a miniscule part of the equation. However, in terms of symbolism and messaging, the government's apparent lack of commitment contradicts much of the rhetoric (how surprising). Flaherty tells us to buy fuel efficient cars, offers rebates, while the government simultaneously moves in the other direction, puking out carbon at an unprecedented rate. And, these people wonder why nobody buys their commitment to dealing with climate change.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays

If this classic doesn't put you in the mood, I don't know what can. Timeless.

Happy holidays everyone :)

Heating Up

In another sign that John McCain is surging in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has started to attack, much the same way he did when Mike Huckabee rose in Iowa. If you are going to attack your opponent, on a particular issue, it is pretty wise that you are on solid ground yourself. This basic logic seems to escape Romney, as he admonishes McCain over the Bush taxcuts, despite the fact his own stance is anything but clear:
"He voted against the Bush tax cuts — twice," Romney said. "That's failing Reagan 101. (Ronald) Reagan taught ... almost all of us in the Republican Party that lowering taxes would grow the economy and was good for our economy and good for individuals. And I believe that the Republicans are going to nominate a tax-cutter to become president of the United States."

The easy retorts from the McCain camp:
The McCain campaign's state vice chairman, Chuck Douglas, said Romney had a tendency to change political positions depending on the circumstance.

"From his claims of being a 'lifelong hunter' to receiving the NRA's endorsement to marching with Martin Luther King Jr., it's clear that Mitt Romney has trouble with the truth," Douglas said. "His latest attacks are yet another example of his complete inability to level with the voters of New Hampshire. The facts are clear: Romney refused to endorse the Bush tax cuts he now claims to champion, maybe because he was too busy raising taxes in Massachusetts by over $700 million per year."

....The McCain campaign fired back late in the day against Romney's latest criticism, offering a reminder of Romney's comments while running against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1994, when he declared: "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush ... I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

"Welcome to Mitt Romney's bizarro world, in which everyone is guilty of his sins," said McCain spokesman Mark Salter. "He didn't support Ronald Reagan. He didn't support President Bush's tax cuts. He raised taxes in Massachusetts by $700 million. He knows John McCain is gaining on him so he does what any small varmint gun totin,' civil rights marching, NRA endorsed fantasy candidate would do: he questions someone else's credibility. New Hampshire is on to you, Mitt. Give it a rest. It's Christmas."

When you have a sketchy record on taxes while Governor, not to mention public distancing yourself from the Bush tax cuts, you should probably avoid criticizing others.


On the democratic side, the verbal sparring between Obama and Edwards has intensified, as the two duel to be the anti-Hillary in Iowa:
Obama slams Edwards over nonprofits' use:

Barack Obama charging that rival John Edwards committed campaign hypocrisy by deriding political organizations called 527s at the same time he allegedly will benefit from their spending.

Yet, the Illinois senator said, it was learned Saturday that even as Edwards was calling for a ban on spending by such outside groups, one was planning to spend $750,000 on television ads in Iowa in support of his campaign.

On Friday, at a campaign stop in Johnston, Edwards slammed these groups. He has often said they ought to be banned from influencing elections.

"You can't say yesterday you don't believe in them, and today you have three-quarters of a million dollars being spent for you," Obama said.

Saturday's exchange was the sharpest direct engagement of the campaign between Obama and Edwards.

After a packed stump speech at a Lisbon school, Edwards said Obama's sudden attention was prompted by Edwards' growing momentum in Iowa.

"You can see it in the energy and enthusiasm of the events, you can see it in the size of the crowds, and I see it when people come to me after the event, as they did 15 minutes ago, and said, 'I came here for Obama; [now] I'm for you, I'm committing right now,' " Edwards said. "I know that we're moving, and Sen. Obama's comments this morning and over the last few days would indicate he knows the same thing."

Watching these two men start to roll in the mud probably brings a smile to Clinton's face. If Obama does manage to pull out a victory in Iowa, he is well poised in New Hampshire (latest poll gives him a margin of error lead) and might be unstoppable.

Walking The Walk?

Transparent, open, accountable, all nice words. When it comes to application, the Conservatives prove to be anything but:
Public requests for documents are being slowed by lengthy reviews in the central department that reports to the prime minister, the Information Commissioner says.

While Stephen Harper's Conservatives campaigned on opening up the access-to-information system, Information Commissioner Robert Marleau said the government's own statistics show that responses to the public's requests for information are slowing down "across the board."

"They feel that time is increasing, and that consultation with PCO is taking longer than it used to."

The number of complaints from the public has shot up dramatically in 2007, doubling since April 1 over the same period last year, he said. There were 1,257 complaints to the commissioner's office in 2006-2007.

Almost two years later, however, the Conservative government has failed to table the bill they promised to reform the access system.

And the Conservatives are now using the same excuse for refusing to release documents that they railed against in opposition: the assertion that a minister's office, including the Prime Minister's Office, is not covered by the access law. Mr. Marleau's predecessor, John Reid, took the previous Liberal government to court to contest that claim, and Mr. Marleau is continuing the case.

"If you exclude that range of activity and documentation and information, it's one giant loophole," Mr. Marleau said.

The federal government has expanded the coverage of the existing act to more Crown corporations, their subsidiaries and several boards and agencies. But the Conservatives have not followed through on their campaign pledge to table a new access law, as drafted by Mr. Reid.

Marleau offers these possible reasons:
"There's definitely a regression. Some people are saying it's the Harper government. I don't think I can state that myself now. The war in Afghanistan, and the whole sort of post-911, I think, has made a contribution to that regression."

Last time I checked, we have been in the post-911 era for six full years, not to mention our involvement in Afghanistan. I'm sure there are sensitive files, but there is also a co-relation to the government changing hands. Also, we have heard several individual examples of the government stalling on accesss, on matters that have nothing to do with national security. We have also heard of several instances, where the government buries an internal document that contradicts or undercuts the political rhetoric.

Accountability and transparency is the Conservatives signature issue. No speech by Harper fails to mention the "accomplishments" on this file, but more and more we see that in many ways this government is the most controlling, secretive, centralized in Canadian history. We see a real disconnect developing between the rhetoric and the reality, in many ways the situation is worse under these supposed crusaders.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Anti-Endorsement

It's one thing for a candidate to get endorsed by a publication, quite another for a paper to not endorse anyone, instead telling voters who not to vote for. Mitt Romney gets the "giant lump of coal" for Christmas in New Hampshire:
Romney "Must Be Stopped"

Concord Monitor editorial board has leveled an extraordinary broadside against Mitt Romney, declaring in an editorial to be published in Sunday's paper that the former Massachusetts governor "must be stopped" in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

"If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."

This characterization is actually pretty amazing:
"When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate.
New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no."

A pretty accurate read if you ask me, the guy just oozes slick and has the air of insincerity. It's actually quite interesting watching a supposed moderate run so far to the right that he brushes by Pat Buchanan on the political spectrum. In another sign that Romney might be getting desperate, the bloom coming off the rose, he is taking direct aim at McCain in his speeches, much like he did with Huckabee in Iowa, when the threat materialized.

Government Wasting Funds?

There is something inherently odd, if not downright wrong, about a government using taxpayer money to study a proposal by the opposition Liberals. We can debate the merits of what the study on Dion's poverty plan concludes, although when you look at who initiated the analysis, the math should certainly be viewed with scepticism. Are Canadians funding the Conservatives election campaign:
However, an internal government analysis of Mr. Dion's spending plans, obtained by the National Post, suggests that when Canadians take a closer look at what the Liberals are proposing, they may decide the country can ill afford.

Yet the analysis of the Liberal poverty plan calculated that increased funding for the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), improved child benefits and a richer Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors would cost upward of $5-billion a year.

This, of course, assumes that spending buckets of taxpayers' money in the teeth of an economic downturn has the desired effect on lifting low-income earners out of poverty.

McCallum gets it right:
He dismissed the analysis as "speculative" and "wrong," and said it was inappropriate for the government to ask its officials to cost the Liberal platform.

The column mentions taxpayer money, but the irony is that the government is wasting taxpayer money studying a Liberal proposal. Is it ethical for the government to use civil servant resources to build a case, that can be used against the Liberals during an election? Shouldn't criticism, or cost analysis be done by party hacks, because clearly the motivation for this "analysis" was partisan advantage. Why is the government wasting time and energy studying a theoretical proposition, from a party that holds no levers of power? I don't think Canadians would be comfortable with the idea of using the government apparatus to develop a talking point in an election campaign. There is something intuitively wrong here, whatever the cost incurred, it should be transferred to the Conservative Party of Canada.


The Jurist also smells a skunk

Friday, December 21, 2007

Liberals Rising

Ipsos Reid joins in on the growing chorus, which shows the Liberals with a healthy uptick:
The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, said support for the Liberals climbed four points to 33% since the last survey two weeks ago, while Conservative support remained at 35%. The NDP and Green parties each slipped one point to 15% and eight per cent respectively.

In four short weeks the Ipsos gap has gone from 14%, to what amounts to a statistically tie, 2%.

What is particularly noteworthy, the Quebec numbers, which show the same trend as this week's Decima offering:
In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois maintained its lead with 31% support. But that was down seven points from the last survey. The big winner was the Liberal party, which gained seven points since the last survey, to 27%. The Conservatives also saw their support rise by three points to 23%.

Reasonable sample size, another poll which shows the Liberals in second place, out of the "teen" malaise.

Last month, Ipsos was the only outfit to show the Conservatives leading in Ontario. That supposed lead has evaporated, and the Liberals are now in a commanding position:
In Ontario, Liberal support was 43%, giving the party a 10-point lead over the Tories. The Liberals were up three points from the last survey, while the Conservatives dropped three points. The NDP slipped two points to 13%, and the Green party fell one point to six per cent.

The NDP's Ontario numbers should be concerning, and the overall trends are consistent with other polling. Not to get ahead ourselves, but these regional numbers translate into a Liberal advantage overall, which the statistical tie hides.

Bricker mentions Mulroney, and the environment as probable cause. What is interesting here, and comparable to the Decima poll, the Conservatives are stagnant (no real erosion), but the Liberals are moving up, out of the high 20's.

I think people misread the Mulroney factor. The actual substance of the scandal doesn't hurt Harper, but what the fixation does is distract people's attention from the daily Liberal bashing that dominated the media narrative for months. I've always believed this diversion is Dion's opportunity to break out of the cycle, and start to look credible again, re-invent himself somewhat. What is happening here, voters are starting to move back to the Liberals because the stench is evaporating.

As it relates to Bali, another poll this week demonstrated a consistent fact, the environment is the clear number one issue of Canadians. Couple that reality with the Bali dog and pony show, a stage where Dion came off as the alternative view, and it isn't a stretch to attribute the closing gap to this issue.

Whatever the reason, Harper's comments today look even more delusional now:
"Those polls are being interpreted a certain way, but I'm not sure that's really the case. Not that I would call an election or seek one, but we're doing pretty well."

I beg to differ.


Petty is right:
It's a pre-Christmas ritual between journalists scrambling to extract a news scoop during their ten minutes of face time and a prime minister equally determined to control his message. There will be many, many pages of Stephen Says journalism today as the embargo is lifted and "exclusive" stories from dozens of interviews pour into the news hole.

The notable exception will be CBC Radio, which was denied a chat with the Prime Minister because his office wouldn't approve Kathleen Petty, host of The House weekly politics show, as a worthy interviewer. Outrageous, if you ask me.

Outrageous, and entirely predictable. I suspect Petty is guilty of not allowing unedited propaganda on her show, and hence PM Petty is punishing her defiance.

Harper And Ontario

Harper is making the festive rounds, with his year end interviews. This article focuses on Harper's prospects in Ontario, moving forward. Harper:
"We need to continue to make gains in Ontario and should make gains in Ontario. That ultimately will be determined by our relationship with the voters of Ontario, not fundamentally by whether we are pleasing the premier or a mayor in some city. I think ultimately, it's the people we have to connect with."

"I think our policies should win us more support in Toronto the same way that it's winning us more support in similar demographics in every other part of the country."

First, a quick point on the last sentence. There is no evidence whatsoever to support Harper's contention that the Conservatives are winning "more support in similar demographics in every other part of the country". Outside of Alberta, there is no sense that the Conservatives are connecting with the urban voter, Toronto isn't the exception, more part of the trend. If you take Harper at his word, how then does he explain stagnant polling, has the connection with the urban "demographic" been offset by a lose of support in rural areas? I don't think so.

Harper thinks the Conservatives should make further gains in Ontario. As I've argued before, Harper's Ontario strategy to date has been a strategic head scratcher. Harper can discount a mayor or a premier or a urban candidates concerns, but in the fights we've witnessed, they represent their constituents in a more direct way than the government. Miller arguing for more money for his city brings support, moreso than he may get in an election. McGuinty arguing for proper representation resonates with Ontarians, in a way that speaks to basic self-interest. Calling people "whiny", calling people "small", when they are essentially standing up for the locals is a losing stance for the federal government.

The reason why the Conservatives aren't making gains in Ontario is simple. A complete lack of sensitivity, a dismissive tone, a pre-occupation with other electoral regions and a lack of urgency. The government's reaction to the manufacturing problems in Ontario have been nothing short of passive indifference. Flaherty has the arrogance to tell manufacturers, on the verge of bankruptcy, that a high dollar represents a terrific opportunity to re-tool, update equipment imported from the Americans. Companies are losing their shirts, and Flaherty's solution, invest more and take bigger loses in the near term, that you can't afford. I've had some first hand feedback to this proposition, and to say it wasn't well received is understating the point. The government simply dropped the ball on the manufacturing sector, and as a result, come election time, others can capitalize on the timid response.

It's funny to hear Harper, arguing that the Conservatives will make gains in Ontario. From everything I have seen, the government minister's seem more content to antagonize and alienate, than build a better foundation.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bad Santa

My daughter reacts to news from Santa that she will be receiving the 2008 Harper calendar for Christmas:

McCain "Surging"

The power of endorsements is debatable. However, in a volatile field, a series of key newspaper nods can give a candidate incredible momentum. Case in point, John McCain, who now has serious wind in his sails. In New Hampshire, Romney's double digit lead has evaporated, in the wake of The Union Leader, Boston Globe endorsements of McCain, not to mention Joe Lieberman. Anybody's primary:
New Hampshire

Nov 26-29... Dec 16-19

Giuliani 22%.... 16%
Huckabee 13%.... 11%
McCain 11%.... 26%
Romney 36%.... 26%

Thompson 3%.... 4%
Undecided 12%.... 10%

Another poll:
The latest(December 18) Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the state shows Romney with 31% support, McCain at 27% and no one else close. Rudy Giuliani attracts 13% and Huckabee barely reaches double digits at 11%. This is the first time any candidate has been within single digits of Romney in several months. It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary bounce or a lasting change.

Before the latest endorsements, it was Romney 33% and McCain 18%. In late-November, Romney led by nineteen points. Earlier in November he was up by fifteen.

Guiliani has apparently abandoned New Hampshire, hoping to make a stand later in Florida. McCain is now neck and neck, with two weeks to go until the primary.

What is even more impressive, McCain is back in the conversation in Iowa, a state that he hasn't campaigned in, one in which he was polling a distant 5th. The endorsement from the Des Moines Register has given McCain a major boost, which might explain why the campaign has decided to bring McCain back after Christmas. This result is shocking:
Nov 10-14.. Nov 26-29.. Dec 16-19

Giuliani 11%... 9%... 13%
Huckabee 24%... 27%... 28%
McCain 10%... 9%... 20%
Paul 3%... 3%... 4%
Romney 26%... 28%... 17%
Thompson 11%... 14%... 5%
Undecided 13%... 9%... 11%

Another poll, not quite as dramatic, but still impressive:
It’s now Huckabee 28%, Romney 27%, and the man endorsed by the Des Moines Register, John McCain, in third at 14%. No other Republican candidate reaches double digits.

To put that result in context, here is the same outfit just last week:
Huckabee 39
Romney 23
Mccain 6

McCain lacks the organization that is critical in the strange expression of democracy that is a caucus. However, Romney and Huckabee are engaged in a fierce battle, with Romney in particular going very negative in his ads. McCain doesn't have to win Iowa, in the game of expectations. A credible third will be spun as a mini-victory, given the relative emphasis, enough that it won't hurt his prospects heading into New Hampshire.

It's still anyone's guess on the Republican side, some have even suggested a brokered convention. As the voting nears, McCain is suddenly well placed to exploit a fluid dynamic.


New national poll that shows McCain growing, Rudi sagging:
12/18 - 12/19
Guiliani 20
Romney 11
Huckabee 19
Thompson 10
Paul 3

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Warms The Heart

After what we witnessed last week in Bali, it brings a wide grin to read the latest Decima poll:
A new poll suggests Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost their big lead over the Liberals, plunging six percentage points in popular support in just one week.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey puts the Tories at 30-per-cent support, in a statistical tie with the Liberals, who are up four points to 32 per cent.

Support for the Tories dropped across all regions and demographic groups.

A statistical tie, but the first poll since Dion took the helm, that has the Liberals ahead. This poll is also the first one in a couple months to show the Liberals in the 30's again.

The article cites Mulroney, Chalk River and Bali as possible reasons for this dive in Conservative support. Other polls have shown the current government is largely removed from the Mulroney affair. On top of that, the last couple weeks have primarily focused on testimony, with the overwhelming majority having little to do with Harper. In my mind, I don't think this drop in support is a function of Mulroney. As it relates to Chalk River, clearly this issue is hurting the Conservatives, so it maybe part of the equation.

I see this result, primarily, as confirmation that the Baird performance in Bali is rightfully costing the Conservatives. The fact that much of the support moved to the Liberals is also good news for Dion as it relates to the environment file. People can dismiss this issue all they want, but the simple fact, it is consistently the number one concern of Canadians. Apart from just the environmental card, there is the added negativity with regard to Canada's reputation. Canadians take pride in our traditional role on the world stage, and I don't doubt some of this erosion is borne out of embarrassment.

The polls have been largely static for months, such a drop in short order is indicative of just how bad this government has performed. It's up for interpretation, but I read Decima as further proof of the Bali BOMB. Well deserved.


The poll internals:

In the latest poll, support for the NDP stood at 15 per cent nationally, while the Green party was at 12 per cent.

The news was especially bad for the Conservatives in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec, which are key to any hope of winning a majority government.

In Ontario, the Liberals scored 41 per cent support, widening their lead over the Tories who stood at 31 per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois remained in the lead with 40 per cent, but the Liberals had moved up to second place with 23 per cent followed by the Tories at 17 per cent — an 11-point drop.

Tory popularity slid dramatically even in the party's traditional strongholds and among groups usually most supportive.

In Alberta, for instance, Tory support plummeted almost 20 points to 45 per cent. In British Columbia, support dropped 17 points to 31 per cent.

In Atlantic Canada, where the Conservatives had been leading for most of the year, the Liberals edged ahead with 36 per cent to the Tories' 33 per cent.

Among male voters, Tory support dropped to 32 per cent from 40 per cent. And among rural voters, the Tories sank eight points to 35 per cent.

A large caution on the Alberta, British Columbia and Atlantic numbers because the margin of error is quite large. We have seen these wild regional fluctuations from Decima before. However, the numbers for Ontario and Quebec have a low margin of error, which gives them more credibility. The lead in Ontario for the Liberals is good news, but what really sticks out is the Quebec numbers. The Liberals in second place, solidly in the 20's, while the Conservatives plummet into the teens- we haven't seen this dynamic for quite some time. I take these Quebec numbers as more evidence for my Bali argument, given the fact that Mulroney is much more popular in Quebec, I doubt this drop is due this scandal. Also, the Quebec government was quite outspoken in opposing the Conservatives in Bali, as well as implementing a tough vehicle emissions standards.

Harper, Harper, Harper

Star column today that reaffirms what we already know, Stephen Harper IS the Conservative Party. A new mailing mirrors the theme we see on the website:
However, it does seem clear the party is actively trying to generate some sort of mystical aura around the person of Stephen Harper.
How else do you explain the special 2008 calendar I recently received from the party as a gift for my "loyal support"?

Now, most gift calendars from politicians feature photos of Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower or maybe some prairie wheat fields.

This calendar features almost nothing but Stephen Harper.

For January it's a photo of Stephen Harper getting off a plane; February features Harper posing next to a guy in a snowman costume; March shows off Harper in a turtleneck; in June there's a shot of him looking studious in his office, and on it goes, month after month.

In other words, for virtually every day in 2008, owners of this calendar can gaze upon a smiling, benevolent, wise-looking Harper.

Obviously, the leader gets the lion share of the focus, pretty standard stuff. However, what we are seeing from the Conservatives seems to be a blend of Harper’s own “go it alone” style and a strategic calculation that Harper is the party’s ace.

You can see the superficial logic in highlighting leadership, because it draws the comparison to the Dion, which works to the Conservatives advantage. That said, the Conservative strategy misses one key element- Canadians don’t much care for Harper. Sure, Harper outpaces Dion, but it also true that “Neither” is the preferred choice of Canadians, when polled on best leader. In other words, Conservative make an error in assuming that Harper is the difference, Harper should be the focus.

Another quote from the column, which is relevant:
”After all, in order to have a personality cult, the leader actually has to have, well, you know, a personality.”

Harper isn’t charismatic, he isn’t engaging or riveting. Harper is pretty wooden, which makes him a strange candidate for “aura”. I don’t dispute the leadership gap with Dion, but I also see no evidence whatsoever that the Conservatives can carry the day, based solely on the weight of Harper’s personality. In fact, we are now two years into Harper's reign, wherein he has already put himself at the center of almost every initiative and the Conservatives have gone nowhere. Our guy isn't as bad as their guy is hardly an impressive strategy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Looking at these results, I suspect the most disappointed subset of Canadian society will be the media class. Canadians don't want a formal inquiry:
A new poll suggests most Canadians don't want a public inquiry into Brian Mulroney's business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

The resistance comes despite deep misgivings about the former prime minister's story and the propriety of his relationship with the German-Canadian arms lobbyist.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests only 21 per cent of Canadians think Mulroney was telling the truth when he testified last week about $225,000 in cash he received from Schreiber.

Moreover, two-thirds of those surveyed felt the relationship between the two was inappropriate.

Nevertheless, only 32 per cent wanted to see a public inquiry delve into the minute details of the affair; 52 per cent said they would rather avoid that spectacle.

Interesting result, considering people don't believe Mulroney. A finding such as this will make it easier for Harper's appointee to avoid an inquiry, particularly since there is no political price to pay.

A lot of people(bloggers) have done an excellent job covering this story, and I don't dismiss the importance. That said, our media has become completely intoxicated with this scandal, at the exclusion of other matters. The prospects of an inquiry would pretty much ensure that our political discourse would be dominated by Mulroney for months to come. If the coverage was balanced, I might have a different perspective, but I've come to realize that the media simply can't resist the lure of dirty laundry, it actually CONSUMES them.

I read the above result as confirmation that we have reached the saturation point with this story, and Canadians understand the consequence of an inquiry. With the media kicking and screaming, maybe now we can move back to the 21st century, at least for some of the time.

Two Themes

A new Angus-Reid online poll reiterates what others have said- if Harper can't capitalize in this climate, it speaks volumes about his appeal:
It's been a disappointing year – for the most part – for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, veteran pollster Angus Reid says.

"If you look back at the springtime of the year he was sitting pretty ... and as we move to the end of the 2007 the big story is how badly Stephen Harper has dropped," the CEO of Angus Reid Strategies told the Toronto Star yesterday after releasing his polling firm's latest numbers showing the Conservatives with a slight lead over the Liberals.

Reid said with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's lacklustre performance since winning his party's leadership just over a year ago, Harper should be soaring in the court of public opinion.

"This guy is now running a minus 20 in terms of political momentum, he is running a disapproval rate of 45 and the best he can do, notwithstanding all the problems with Dion and the Liberals, is eke out a little 5 (percentage) point lead over the Liberals," he said.

"I think Harper's own personality grates a lot of Canadians, who find him to be aloof. They can't find any warmth in this guy."

The online numbers mirror most of the other conventional polls:
With just over a month to the second anniversary of the Tories' minority government, 33 per cent of Canadians currently support the Conservatives, compared with 36.3 per cent on election day and the party's high of 39 per cent in March.

The survey puts the Liberals second at 28 per cent, followed by the New Democrats at 17 per cent, and the Bloc Québécois and the Green party both at 10 per cent support nationally.

The online survey of survey 1,025 adult Canadians is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Conservative supporters love to pound on Dion, and this poll, like many before, demonstrates that he has failed to resonate, his performance concerning. However, this theme works in tandem with another self-evident truth- Canadians don't like Stephen Harper or the Conservative agenda. If you reversed the roles, and a Liberal government was faced with such a opposition circumstance, I venture to say we would see them in the mid to high 40's. Conclusion, the more people mock Dion, the more it draws attention to the Conservatives inability to take advantage. All things being equal, Dion is far more of an unknown quantity(excluding Quebec) with Canadians, as opposed to Harper, which provides a glimmer of optimism moving forward. Dion is in a bad way, but there is an opportunity to shape, the same can not be said for Harper.

The Angus poll also mirrors other findings when it comes to issues. If the Conservatives think their abysmal performance on the environment isn't a concern, this suggests other wise:
Twenty-six per cent of Canadians said the environment is their number one concern, the highest-ranked issue for voters in the poll.

"The environment remains the most important issue in this country ... and this is an issue the Harperites haven't understood. Moving (Environment Minister) John Baird into that position I don't think has helped them," Reid said.

The fact that the Bloc scores a full 10% nationally means they are doing very well in Quebec, and the 10% for the Greens is also noteworthy.

Another poll(online), more confirmation that Dion has huge hurdles, but is still in the game, thanks to voter apprehension about the Conservatives.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dion 1/14th As Bad As Baird

In trying to discredit Dion, the Conservatives unwillingly give credence to an award that they themselves won 14 TIMES, during this meeting alone. Factually correct, Dion did win the award in 2005. That said, do the Conservatives really want to highlight this fact about Dion, that only focuses attention on their abysmal performance in Bali? Not to bright, if you ask me. Maybe Dion will be forced to clarify, and acknowledge that he is 1/14th as bad as Baird. Surely, that paints Dion in relatively poor light. Good work, by those strategic masters at Conservative headquarters. What next, a quote from Dion in 2005 on Income Trusts?

"Neutralized" No More

The only remaining question to come out of Bali, how much will Baird’s dog and pony show hurt the Conservatives, if at all, come election time? Speculation is rife that the Liberals will try to bring the government down before the spring budget. I believe this too be true, and have heard confirmation of this strategy from a well placed source. With this dynamic in mind, I think it fair to say the environment will be a centerpiece issue in any campaign.

Chantal Hebert takes a break from her usual criticisms, to write a column on the Conservatives fortunes:
When all is said and done, federal Environment Minister John Baird did more harm to Conservative election prospects than Brian Mulroney last week.
It amounted to ripping a scab off a wound that had barely begun to heal.
For all intents and purposes, the Bali meeting was a multi-day communications disaster for the Harper regime. It set back a year of Conservative efforts to re brand the party on climate change and confirmed the issue as the government's Achilles heel.

It is hard to think of another high-profile international venue where Canada took more of a public relations beating and did so with help from such a large array of Canadian interests.

For the Harper government, the Bali meeting could have been an opportunity to square the circle of its repositioning on the environment, by stepping in front of the upcoming American parade. Instead it locked itself in step with a moribund administration.

For as long as the debate was focused on the Kyoto Protocol, blaming the Liberals for Canada's lagging climate change record was a credible Conservative mantra. But last week, the debate shifted to the future and, with the spotlight squarely on them, the Conservatives were only too easily portrayed as climate change isolationists rather than activists.

I would argue that the Conservatives dodged a small bullet in the near term. Coverage of the events in Bali were highly critical, but the performance was largely over-shadowed by the Mulroney affair. Programs like Question Period ignored the issue entirely, pundit panels brought it up as an afterthought, columnists were clearly focused elsewhere. That said, there is plenty of ammunition available to the opposition to attack the Conservatives moving forward. The closing themes are clear, Canada the isolated, Canada the obstructionist, Canada the laggard. The Baird/Harper spin machine will have a real challenge distracting and confusing, primarily because they will be attacked from all quarters.

The knee jerk criticism of the past Liberal regime only takes the Conservatives so far, and the argument loses relevance with each passing day, in what now amounts to a two-year Tory reign. While the Conservatives have the easy retorts for the Liberal attacks, the same dodge doesn’t work when you include the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens all echoing the same. In addition, I expect a far more visible and engaged environmental community, which will be quite animated. The Conservatives may prefer to talk about other things, but given the opposition, they will not get to choose the election ground.

Last summer, I thought the Conservatives had made some progress in “neutralizing” the environment. The Conservatives were never going to carry the issue, but they had made strides in developing a few talking points to disarm many of the attacks. In other words, the propaganda was good enough to distract and confuse, all that was required really. However, what we have now is a completely different scenario, one that essentially leaves the Conservatives forever exposed and vulnerable. You can’t spin the optics coming out of Bali, you can’t spin the alliances that were formed- well you can, but not very well.

We now have a large chasm in Quebec, between the federal and provincial governments, with the Conservatives clearly on the wrong side. Duceppe will use the environment to full advantage, to demonstrate that Harper doesn’t represent Quebecers. All the Eco this, and Eco that, throwing billions around is now irrelevant, because the stench of Bali will be the focus. Does anyone even remember what Baird announced, during his carefully orchestrated press conferences in Bali? Those distraction initiatives get lost in the shuffle, it is the overriding themes that matter.

If we do have an election this spring, the Conservatives performance in Bali, will be fresh in the public consciousness. It puts the environment square in the middle of any conversation, it asks what our role in the world should be, it asks who the government allies itself with, it asks where we go in the future. The Achilles heel remains, and the Conservatives may well pay the price come the election (as they should).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chasing Ghosts

Besides pointing to a snowstorm in eastern Canada as proof global warming is a fraud (yes, they are that dense), a new initiative is sweeping across the Blogging Tories:
Who is up for a challenge — what I am calling the JN CHALLENGE?

THE CHALLENGE — Blogging for Bias (BFB):

Right now, too much of what is written and reported in the media is not only written and reported with a positive liberal bias but openly anti-conservative as well. Why? I have no idea? Conservatives are not bogey men as progressives and liberals would have us believe. If Kyoto targets were not met, it was the fault of the previous Liberal government and Dion himself, not conservatives or Baird, but that fact is totally ignored when reporting on the environment.

Anyway, starting now, when you read MSM pieces or listen to news reports, analyze what you read and hear for assumptions and bias (e.g., what they take for granted). Then, send them an e-mail about what you found. If it is a serious breach, e-mail the media outlet involved as well, such as the CBC Ombudsman, Vince Carlin at:

The poor dears, the whole world against them. Time to fight the unjustice!

I thought I would re-post something I did on this delusion a few months ago:

The Conservative Crutch

Probably the most tiring excuse, used by Conservative apologists, is the biased "left-wing" media angle. The notion is used to justify any shortcoming, distract from genuine criticism, and create this martyr complex. A Blogging Tories linked to one of my posts, and I made a comment at that blog. I use this response to illustrate the common theme:

Christian Conservative said...

Amm, I forget where I saw it today, but we're headed back up, and are polling just slightly above our election day percentage at 37%... but of course, that poll won't hit the front pages, the media being liberal mouthpieces and all

Of course that is ridiculous, with no relationship to reality. However, and I don't mean to generalize, all of the Conservatives seem to buy into this perceived bias. You see it in almost every thread, bloggers continually point to any story to support the flawed thesis, the idea has taken on almost mythical proportions. The idea manifests itself right through the Conservative hierarchy, wherein the Prime Minister has adopted this seige mentality, as it relates to the media.

I suppose, findings such as this, feed Conservatives "suspicions":

According to a recent study by two Ryerson University journalism professors:

* Almost half of all Canadian television news directors, the individuals who have the most influence in determining what political news is covered on your favourite nightly newscast and how it is reported, vote Liberal.

* A TV news director working at the tax-funded CBC is almost three times more likely to vote for the NDP in federal elections, compared to his or her counterpart in the private sector.

It found that 45.8% of all Canadian television news directors surveyed in 2002 said they were Liberal voters. By contrast, only 14.6% said they were Progressive Conservative voters, 10.4% Canadian Alliance, 10.4% NDP. This put the news directors at the high end of overall public support for the Liberals during that period (40-46% according to the polls) and at the low end for the PCs (15-18%), Alliance (14-18%) and NDP (13-16%).

If you train you gaze solely on this Ryerson University study, then you can extrapolate, that yes, a media bias clearly exists. However, if Conservatives trumpet findings such as the above, they must also accept other studies which completely refute the thesis.

I would argue that the political leanings of news directors, or editors for that matter, is relevant, if that perceived bias manifests itself in the coverage. Where the Conservative argument falls apart completely, is when the discussion turns to actual coverage, not the ambiguous leanings of those behind the news.

Coverage is most critical at election time, I think everyone can agree on that score. With that in mind, a quick reminder of the McGill University study for the last two elections (h/t Crawl Across the Ocean):


During the campaign there were 2,113 articles written about the election in the 5 English newspapers studied (The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun).

Of those 2113, 1,711 (81%) mentioned the Liberal party. Out of those 1,711, there were 34 (2%) with positive mentions of the Liberal party and 342 (20%) with negative mentions of the Liberals, giving a 10 to 1 ratio of negative mentions to positive.

Meanwhile, for the Conservative Party, the figures were 1592 (75%) total articles, including 82 (5%) positive mentions and 159 (10%) negative mentions, for a roughly 2:1 ratio of negative to positive.

The NDP garnered (4%) positive mentions and 7% negative mentions, while the Bloc had the most favourable(!) coverage of any party from the English language papers at 4% positive, 5% negative (although they were only mentioned in 15% of stories).


During the campaign there were 3,753 articles written about the election in the 7 newspapers studied (The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun, La Presse and Le Devoir).

Of those 3753, 3035 mentioned the Liberal party. Out of those 3035, there were 40 with positive mentions of the Liberal party and 445 with negative mentions of the Liberals, giving a 11 to 1 ratio of negative mentions to positive (slightly higher than last election's 10-1 ratio).

Meanwhile, for the Conservative Party, the figures were 2730 total articles, including 144 positive mentions and 127 negative mentions, for a slightly positive overall slant (the positive mentions were similar to last election, but the negatives were cut in half).

The NDP garnered 2% positive mentions and 3% negative mentions, while the Bloc received 2% positive coverage, 4% negative.

Obviously, the political leanings of the media brain trust had no bearing on coverage, in fact if anyone should be complaining about rampant bias, it's the left wing. The 2004 numbers are powerful, the 2006 ones are just plain astounding. If you dig deeper, you find that individual papers further illustrate the anti-Liberal bias. The Toronto Star, vilified as the Liberal Star by Conservatives, actually comes out statistically balanced. On the other hand, a paper like The National Post demonstrates a tremendous, one-sided bias in favor of the Conservatives.

Everyone across the political spectrum complains about coverage, particularly when it doesn't seem sympathetic to your opinion. Sometimes that criticism is justified, and we all know the players where it applies. However, its is primarily the realm of Conservatives, that takes the bias argument to delusional heights. Any criticism of Harper is more evidence of a conspiracy to bring back the Liberals (see SDA). I find the entire pre-occupation a gigantic, intellectual bore, and the best part, the facts actually suggest otherwise, both on substance and ownership.

The crutch of convenience, that reaffirms an imported illusion, attaching the virtuous struggle against the amassed forces of opposition, bent on destruction. Fiction.

McCain On The Move?

John McCain picked up two major newspaper endorsements today, which if history is our guide, should give him a boost in support. McCain is already showing stength in New Hampshire, but his campaign is polling well behind in Iowa. With that mind, McCain surprisingly picks up the critical endorsement of the Des Moines Register:
McCain has his flaws, too, of course. He can be hot-tempered, a trait that�s not helpful in conducting diplomacy. At 71, his age is a concern. The editorial board disagrees with him on a host of issues, especially his opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. McCain foresees a long, hard and difficult deployment of troops in Iraq. The Register�s board has called for withdrawal as soon as it's safely possible.

But with McCain, Americans would know what they're getting. He doesn't parse words. And on tough calls, he usually lands on the side of goodness of compassion for illegal immigrants, of concern for the environment for future generations.

The force of John McCain's moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans trust in government and inspiring new generations to believe in the goodness and greatness of America.

People debate the power of endorsements, but this is the same paper that endorsed Edwards in 2004, giving him the momentum to move from a distant fourth to a strong second on caucus night. McCain doesn't need to win Iowa, but if he could move up in the polls and finish a respectable third, the stage is set for the crucial New Hampshire primary. As an aside, the paper also endorsed Clinton the Democratic side, which finally gives her campaign something to crow about, in the face of Obama's impressive rise.

McCain has already received the endorsement of New Hampshire's most important conservative newspaper. Today, the Boston Globe joins the chorus:
A general election campaign with John McCain in it is more likely to turn on substance, not demagoguery.

As a lawmaker and as a candidate, McCain has done more than his share to transcend partisanship and promote an honest discussion of the problems facing the United States. He deserves the opportunity to represent his party in November's election.

The fact that a Boston paper picks McCain over former state governer Romney isn't irrelevant. McCain has moved into second in New Hampshire, this endorsement will only put more wind in the campaign's sails.

Why the fascination with an American conservative on a Canadian center-left blog? I've always been intruiged by McCain, despite the obvious policy disagreements. The guy is quite simply apolitical, taking stances which have no corelation to the winds of public opinion, a rare trait, no matter the affiliation. Ethanol is a big issue in Iowa, very, very popular with state residents. All the candidates pander to this reality, bending over backwards to champion ethanol as the saviour of America's oil dependence. What does McCain do? In last week's Iowa debate, McCain forcefully argues against ethanol subsidies, a stance that is political suicide. I respect anyone who has the "stuff" to put his principles over politics. Ditto for New Hampshire. The issue of climate change doesn't even register in polling of Republicans, it is a non-issue. What does McCain do? McCain runs ads in New Hampshire, arguing for immediate action on climate change. A campaign with limited resources, chooses to highlight an issue that brings little political gain because it recognizes the urgency- how can you not respect that?

I don't agree with the McCain on a host of issues, but I respect him. I see McCain's campaign as the struggle of principle vs pandering, a case study in political discourse. All the newspaper endorsements essentially argue the same- we don't endorse all his stances, but we admire the process that holds them.


This is interesting:
Democratic and Republican sources say that Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut and fierce supporter of the war in Iraq, will formally endorse Sen. John McCain tomorrow in New Hampshire.

The endorsement is further evidence of Lieberman's slow drift to the right in American politics and is bound to generate intense anger among Democrats who support him. But Lieberman and McCain have often walked in lockstep together on the prosecution of the war, have traveled to Iraq together, and have worked together on domestic issues like climate change.

The move will heighten speculation that McCain might ask Lieberman to join his ticket.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is This Guy For Real?

Just when you thought John Baird had successfully undermined whatever credibility he had left in Bali, he has the audacity to lament his own deeds. The following qualifies as the single most ridiculous story I have read, not to mention the most hypocritical:

Canada helped gut some of the substance from a world climate-change deal and then expressed regret Saturday when the final agreement was ultimately watered down even more than it had hoped.

But he expressed regret that the agreement was almost completely stripped of any reference to numbers and targets which would have been the starting point for the discussion.

"We were naturally disappointed in the language that weakened and watered down the agreement," Baird said.

In a separate agreement among Kyoto signatories, Baird was among the few voices calling for the 2020 targets to be removed.

Expressed regret? Canada has consistently resisted references to hard targets at EVERY SINGLE international gathering, since they've taken office. Mr. "Aspirational Targets" actually has the sheer gall to feign disappointment that the text was watered down. From all accounts, domestic or foreign, Canada has fought tooth and nail to remove hard targets. The duplicity is clearly exposed when you consider that Canada argued against hard targets within the Kyoto delegations. That objective fact makes the regret all the more astounding on the final text, for all delegations.

It is laughable spin for Baird to argue that he wanted more, when the UNIVERSAL opinion pegged Canada as obstructionist, instrumental in wanting to waterdown any declaration. The theater of the absurd on full display, Baird pisses on the flowers, then sheds a tear when they wilt. Unbelievable.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bring Them Home

Is it over yet? Probably the most embarrassing display on the international stage, in Canadian history, is finally coming to a close. In a final act of sabotage, Canada may not just succeed in watering down the declaration, but changing the baseline:
But the reference to 2000 as the baseline will come as a letdown to many Kyoto signatories, especially the Europeans.

For more than a decade, 1990 has been the agreed-upon international standard used to measure greenhouse gas changes and any bump in the baseline year rewards countries that were slower to curb emissions.

Countries that did not sign Kyoto or failed to reduce their emissions - Canada being an example of the latter - have lobbied hard for a more generous baseline year.
The Conservative government has simply dropped 1990 as a baseline for its own domestic projections in a move that provokes confusion abroad whenever it heralds its emission plans.

A glowing full page ad, that ran in the Jakarta Post today:

That's a keeper.

The final results for the "Fossil Of The Year" are in. Canada won first place for the day, which means we will share the overall award with George Bush, which is entirely appropriate, as well as revealing.
First place goes to CANADA
Canada scorches its way to the final first-place Fossil dishonours for its performance at the last two “Friends of the Chair” minister-level negotiation sessions—specifically, for NOT SHOWING UP. Environment Minister Baird is apparently so busy at the climate change negotiations that he can’t be bothered to do any climate change negotiating. It’s just the fate of the planet in the balance, after all.

Which brings us to the Fossil of the Year—the one, the only, the legendary COLOSSAL FOSSIL.
And the winner? A TIE! The United States, long-time champion—and Canada, behaving like a 51st State in George W. Bush’s America! Stephen Harper, congratulations—you’ve matched the master, and isolated Canada from the rest of the world by recklessly blocking progress in the fight against climate change. Your prize? A year’s supply of shame.

Apparently, leadership means hiding and habitual no-shows. Wow.

A sense of pride that others share.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When You Live In A Glass House...

Harper thought himself quite clever, when he commissioned an independent investigator to look into the Liberals polling practices. The motivation was clear, embarrass the Liberals and reinforce the corruption theme for electoral advantage. Small flaw, the investigator did the work and actually ended up hurling criticism at the current government, which forced the Conservatives to sit on the report:
An independent investigator hired by the Harper government to look into past Liberal polling practices has wound up shining an unfavourable light on the Tories' penchant for polling.

Daniel Paille notes that the Conservative government commissioned more than two polls per business day in the past year, a figure he calls "quite astounding.''

His report shows that the government spent $31.2 million on opinion research in the last year -- more than any previous year and almost twice the $18 million spent on average during the Liberal years.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Paille, a former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister, last April to conduct a probe of federal contracts for public opinion research between 1990 and 2003.

The objective was to determine whether a judicial inquiry into the previous Liberal government's polling practices was warranted.

But Paille's report -- which was released Thursday after sitting for two months in the government's hands -- concludes "it would not be worthwhile'' to pursue further in-depth inquiries into public opinion research contracts during that period.

Mark Holland, the Liberals' public works critic, said Harper's intended "partisan witch hunt'' into Grit polling practices has backfired on the Tories.

He said that explains why Fortier sat on the report for two months before finally releasing it late on the same day that all eyes were on former prime minister Brian Mulroney's testimony before the Commons ethics committee.

"Clearly, they didn't want anyone actually paying attention to this report,'' Holland said.

A combination of gall and arrogance, the Conservatives fail to see the obvious pitfalls of a probe, while they are spending money in an unprecedented fashion. In the end, no dirt, a self-inflicted wound, a waste of taxpayer money and the unseemly appearance of hiding the conclusions. Nice job. And we wonder why these characters can't get into majority terrority.

Hip Check

Al Gore invoked some able diplomatic stickhandling today, quite crafty in criticizing Canada, without a direct reference. Is there any doubt that the hockey analogy was pointed jab?:
Apparently speaking directly to Canadians, Gore referenced Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Hull, two of Canada's greatest hockey players, during remarks that suggested the world should move forward without the U.S.

"One of the most famous ice-hockey players in history was asked the secret of why he was so good," Gore said. "He was the best passer in the history of the game, Bobby Hull. Others might disagree (and say) Wayne Gretzky.

"And he said in response to the question: 'I don't pass the puck to where they are -- I pass the puck to where they're going to be'."

"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that."

The last line is most telling, Gore essentially warns Canada that it has aligned itself with a lame duck.

Gore's diplomatic grace wasn't shared by everyone. Baird gave his speech today in Bali, the highlight of which was probably the bizarre "canada is determined to honour our commitments..." Who knew? Others, put conventional discourse aside, with scathing comments for Canada:
"So right after this speech, Bangladesh's representative came out to call Canada's position immoral, dishonest, working against the interests of the planet and working against the interests of individual Canadians," Chao said.

"These are very harsh words from diplomats and officials that usually try to take a diplomatic road."

Baird's speech said he endorsed the conclusions of the IPCC. The IPCC doesn't endorse Baird:
In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body that won the Nobel Peace Prize along with former U.S. president Al Gore, slammed Canada's position.

"The members, on learning that Canada was trying to set targets at 2006 levels, said that Canada was being misleading and trying to undermine the trust of the talks here among nations," Chao said.

How anyone can defend this government is beyond me.

Groundhog Day

My apologies if this is getting repetitive, but it's not my fault that Canada is such an environmental dud. Another day, two more awards:
Third prize: CANADA

Canada takes third for walking out of a high-level negotiation meeting long before the end of a crucial discussion. Yesterday, a “Friends of the Chair” meeting brought together 40 key ministers to work through tough issues that officials had not been able to resolve. In the midst of this, Canadian Environment Minister John Baird abruptly got up and left. Where was he going? He was spotted moments later holding a drink at a negotiation-free cocktail reception.

First prize: USA, CANADA, JAPAN, and RUSSIA

The USA, Canada, Japan, and Russia share top honours—er, bottom dishonours—for relentlessly blocking any reference to the 25-40% cuts by 2020 in the Bali road map. The science couldn’t be clearer that cuts in this range are necessary to avert the worst of the climate crisis. Russia initiated the removal of the targets several days ago, and the USA, Canada, and Japan have fought to ensure that they don’t come back in. It’s like they’re piloting the Titanic, refusing to change course; except instead of merely hitting icebergs, they’re melting them.

Looking at the bigger picture, a real nail biter for the coveted "Fossil Of The Year":

When you step back and consider the facts, namely that Canada contributes only 2% of the world's greenhouse gases, it really is staggering that we make such a negative impression. I read this reality as a testament to just how divisive, hypocritical and damaging Canada has become during these negotiations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Leading The World

A great graph, that provides a clear image of Canada at the climate talks. This graph is the cumulative "fossil of the day" award score:

For those keeping score, Canada snagged another two awards yesterday and one today. The Americans are closing fast, but Canada is still leading the world. Fingers crossed.

Paying The Price?

The new Strategic Counsel poll shows a close federal race, but the real story might be that the Conservatives abysmal performance on the environmental file is starting to cost them politically. The poll was taken in the midst of the flurry of bad press for government, coming out of Bali. I read the rise of the Greens as a statement on public disapproval:
When respondents were asked who they would vote for, the results showed little difference from a few weeks ago (percentage-point change from a Nov. 12-13 poll in brackets):

Conservatives: 32 per cent (-2)
Liberals: 29 per cent (-2)
NDP: 16 per cent (same)
Green Party: 13 per cent (+5)
Bloc Quebecois: 10 per cent (-1)

The Green Party is also up 3% in Quebec, 4% in Ontario and 10% in the West. In Quebec, where Kyoto enjoys widespread support, and the provincial government has publicly admonished the government, the Conservatives have fallen to third place, behind the Liberals, who have actually broke out of the persistent teen score (20%).

This polls demonstrates the power of the environment to influence public opinion. The poll also demonstrates that the issue can hurt the government, they have not “neutralized” the issue. While the Liberals aren’t the direct benefactor, due to their own reputation on the file, it is noteworthy that the Greens could be a key ally when an election is called. If there is any erosion in Green support, May’s favorable opinion of Dion gives the Liberals the best chance to capitalize.

I take some comfort, in knowing that Canadians aren’t buying the Baird/Harper propaganda exercise. The Conservatives are being exposed in Bali, and I take this poll as evidence of that fact.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tip For Jean Chretien- Shhhh!!!

The last thing I want to hear is Jean Chretien, of all people, lecturing on climate change and Kyoto. Two seperate stories, both of which are hard to stomach:
TORONTO - Former prime minister Jean Chretien is pointing the finger at his successor, Paul Martin, for Canada's failure to meet its Kyoto obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Chretien says Kyoto wasn't implemented by the Liberal government after he left office, even though he was close to reaching an agreement with Canada's oil producers. But he doesn't blame current Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who was environment minister under Martin and also served in Chretien's cabinet.

Chretien ratified Kyoto, and then did NOTHING for a five full years. If fairness is your guide, at least you could argue that Martin gave the issue a higher priority than his predecessor. I suppose Chretien is trying to protect his legacy, but he clearly shares a large part of the blame, which makes his comments patently ridiculous.

Within that frame, although right, these words are quite hollow, given the source:
Mr. Chretien, who ratified the Kyoto protocol while prime minister in 1998, said Canada should be a world leader on climate change, just as it led on other international issues such as the elimination of land mines and the creation of peacekeeping forces.

"I think [climate change] is an urgent problem and we should have been at the forefront," he said. "That we're leading the charge against an agreement on climate change, using all sort of reason not to proceed, does not make me feel very good as a Canadian."

I'm pre-disposed to agree, but even I almost laugh at the above. The problem for Chretien, he lacks any moral authority to criticize, and for that reason, I think it better to just shut up and go away. Let's call a spade a spade.

More Applause

It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad. There are many themes developing in Bali, chief among them seems to the view that nobody can understand just where in the hell Canada is coming from. Add European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to the growing list of the confused:
But foreign leaders continued to question the Harper government's policies because of its refusal to honour its legally-binding obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Mr. Baird instead has introduced a plan that would allow Canada to honour its commitment about 20 years behind schedule.

"I [am getting] mixed signals from Canada, [because] they say: 'Yes, we're going to respect our Kyoto obligations and commitments but not now, but in 2020," said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas at a news conference, earlier in the day. "I don't know whether this is respecting the obligation or not."

Mr. Dimas might be confused further, when he considers that Canada has moved the benchmark year from 1990 to 2006, which means even if Baird's universally panned plan actually achieves what it argues, Canada will still be 2% above our 2012 commitment in 2020.

On another front, Canada is showing more positive leadership, once again working behind the scenes to waterdown any declaration:
Canada is standing in the way of accepting tougher targets for developed countries at the annual United Nations climate change summit because it believes the approach would be a mistake, Environment Minister John Baird said Tuesday.

Delegates at the annual summit have drafted a declaration which recognized the "unequivocal science" that developed countries must lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent "the worst impacts of climate change."

A separate statement -- drafted at the conference by members of the Kyoto Protocol -- used similar language, but Mr. Baird said Canada would block this from being accepted by the conference this week if it didn't also recognize that developing countries must also make commitments.

I'm losing track, is this the third or fourth international gathering where Canada has objected to a declaration? Seems to me, we spend an awful lot of energy opposing and obstucting, which certainly represents a new twist on "leadership".

Baird is becoming so desperate to mitigate the damage, the Environment Canada website is now championing the United Nations:
Canada 's Environment Minister, John Baird, met today with Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Minister Baird emphasized Canada's support for the UN's efforts to reach agreement on a process for a new global climate change deal post-2012.

"On the day when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Peace Prize for its extraordinary work, I told Mr. de Boer that the science is clear, the world must now act, and Canada is ready to do that," Minister Baird said. "We support the UN process as the only way to get a truly global agreement."

I wonder if Baird tol Mr. de Boer this, before or after he called Canada a climate change hypocrite?

Speaking of confusion, make sense of this nonsense:
Minister Baird also outlined Canada's position that a new agreement must include all major emitters, with common but differentiated targets.

Common targets, that aren't common but different for everyone. Finally, some clarity!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Says It All

I thought this line pretty much says it all:
The head of the United Nation's climate-change agency is a careful diplomat. So when he took the unusual step of firing a sardonic barb at Canada Monday, it was a sign of how far Canada's reputation has sunk.

Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, portrayed Canada as a climate hypocrite.

Quite true, for someone of Yvo de Boer's stature to step out and publicly chastise a member state represents a serious departure from protocol, but it also speaks to just how frustrating Canada is at these talks. Last time I checked, this man isn't a Liberal, doesn't work for an environmental organization that is beholden to the government for cash, isn't part of the vast left-wing media conspiracy which plots Harper's demise. I suppose he is part of the United Nations, so the apologists can seize on this dreaded body, bringing up entirely irrelevant points to distract from what the words tell us. De Boer has a bias, he wants progress on climate change, that's it, nothing more, no agenda, no axe to grind, no partisan consideration.

The public admonishments are a sign of just how out of step Canada has become. To go to these lengths is a statement on our damaging presence. De Boer isn't alone, these statements by the head of the IPCC are really shocking when you think about it:

“This particular government has been a government of skeptics,” said Mr. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change...

“They do not want to do anything on climate change,” he added in a published interview in New Delhi.

Pachauri actually comes out, makes a comment, then after further review he decides to go further and says we don't want to do "anything on climate change". Harsh stuff, particularly when these comments come from people who represent an international body, detached from political debates.

The apologists can poke at everyone who dares criticize Harper, and they always find something to comfort them in their delusions. However, if you step back and look at the herculean chasm that exists between the Harper/Baird rhetoric and the reaction, you are faced with naked contradictions. Not only are there no defenders to be found, apart from Buzz Hargrove, two oil execs and the demented crowd that reads SDA, but the critics are so vocal, from sources that are quite surprising.

"A sign of how far Canada's reputation has sunk" indeed. As a matter of fact, I can't remember another time, wherein Canada has been criticized so vehemently on the international stage? What we are witnessing now is unprecedented tarnish, which strangely enough just so happens to coincide with the anniversary of Pearson's nobel prize.

Damage Control

When was the last time a Canadian government made a domestic announcement, while attending an international conference? If anyone doubted that our government is engaging in a well orchestrated propaganda campaign, to distract attention from our abysmal performance in Bali, then today's curious announcement should end any apprehension:
Environment Minister John Baird announced Monday that the government will give $85.9 million over four years to help Canadian communities deal with the effects of climate change.

Baird made the announcement in Bali, Indonesia where he is representing Canada among more than 190 countries at a massive UN conference on climate change.

This is just pathetic:
The plan replaces one that was shelved by the Conservatives when they first took office. Baird appeared to be caught off guard when asked how the program was different from the former one. He told reporters he'd check on the details.

How sad, that our government has to use an improper venue to announce a domestic initiative, that would appear to be a replacement for an already established program that they previously killed. What a shining moment, clearly the world is impressed.

On another note, Canada received another Fossil Of The Day award today(none were awarded yesterday), which brings our total to 8, well ahead of anyone else. In addition, more praise for Canada, this time from UN climate chief Yvo de Boer:
But UN climate chief Yvo de Boer criticized Canada on Monday for its position on climate change.

"(Boer) said he found it very interesting that Canada is trying to convince developing countries to take binding reductions on greenhouse gas emissions while Canada at this point has not lived up to its own commitments under Kyoto," CTV's Steve Chao reported from Bali.

Baird met with Boer Monday and the two discussed the post-2012 deal.

Before the Conservative apologists parrot the "blame the Liberals" line, interesting to note that Canada ranked 46th out of 56 countries on climate change policies the year the Tories took office, we now rank 54th, 55th on governmental commitment. The more people squawk about the Liberals, the more it speaks to the Conservatives failures. Quite a feat to be relatively worse than the people who did "nothing". It begs the logical question, how can you achieve less than "nothing"?


Big City Lib has a revealing post, that pretty much pierces the veneer about who has the government's ear when it comes to climate change.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Baird Changes The Channel

Taking heat, domestically and around the world, need a diversion? How about a splashy pre-arranged funding announcement?:
NUSA DUA, BALI, INDONESIA, December 10, 2007 - Canada's Environment Minister, John Baird, will make a funding announcement on climate change along with Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Environment Fund.

Date: Monday, December 10
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Pine Room, Laguna Hotel, Indonesia

Proper media accreditation required to attend news conference.

A good organization, that does valid environmental work (most of the time) around the world. You can't quibble with Canada funding international projects to improve technology and develop better practices. That said, this announcement and the timing, is pure public relations, with a heavy dose of distraction. It reminds me of this time last year, when the government was heavily criticized on the environment, then quickly went out on a countrywide photo-op tour, throwing money around like crazed "liberals".

This announcement reeks of political calculation, given the barrage of negative coverage. When you have the head of the IPCC, referring to the Conservatives as a "goverment of skeptics" that "don't want to do anything on climate change", I suppose damage control demands a response. Tomorrow, Baird gets his chance to stand in full plume, trying to convince the world that what we know to be true is really a big misunderstanding. A good deed, done for all the wrong reasons.


The details:
Canada has announced a boost in funding for a global fund designed to help poor countries deal with climate change.
The new $7.5 million contribution makes Canada the second-largest donor to the Global Environment Facility's climate-change fund, federal officials said.

A concerted public relations exercise:
The funding announcement is the first of many Baird plans to make at Bali.

The Canadian government has even set up its own personalized press conference room for a series of daily news announcements.

That facility is far away from the summit site - where Canada is taking flak from European countries and environmentalists who are upset with its stance on climate change.

I hope the media remembers, you don't need a charm offensive, pre-arranged publicity, if you are really the genuine, authentic player at this talks, that you argue. All of the announcements would have been finalized long before Baird arrived, and that fact speaks to a strategy, based on the need to distract. Canadian retail politics on the road.

Bali Bull

Every country has a position in Bali, but is there a more contradictory one that Canada's? On so many levels our arguments reach the level of absurd. The leaked document, that outlines Canada's demands defy basic logic:
The key factor calls or considerations for countries with "national circumstances" in order to not "unduly" burden the growth of any single country.

Canada is demanding that all major emitters be included in a framework moving forward. Canada demands that this framework included mandatory targets for all nations. We can debate the merits of this approach, not to mention the fact that Canada knows full well that this is unachievable in the near term. However, where the argument becomes complete nonsense, Canada then argues for "flexibility" in terms of the targets, to acknowledge "national circumstances". The tortured logic- mandatory targets for everyone, but different targets, depending on the country. In other words, no uniformity, everyone operates in an independent universe.

John Baird's own words show the inherent hypocrisy:
"Eliminating emissions in one country but allowing them to skyrocket in another does nothing to reduce the global burden of harmful substances that contribute to climate change and pollute the air we breathe," wrote Mr. Baird

Following the Baird logic, the EU "eliminates" emissions, while a country like Canada, because of its "special" status, can continue on a different path. Arguing that no country gets a pass, then telling the world that Canada should get special consideration, because of circumstance. Canada doesn't support mandatory targets, it actually supports a patchwork of differing targets, relatively weak ones for us. A country like Norway, with similar geographic circumstance and energy exports will be expected to meet a certain threshold, but Canada will operate under different rules. What a farce.

Every country in the world can argue "national circumstance", everyone is "special". Within that lens, the Baird argument actually supports the Chinese and Indian resistence, because those nations can argue they merely supply the international appetite for goods, much like Canada does in terms of energy. The goods in question supply the west, why should the source suffer, while the consumer appears clean?

The Canadian position is so fundamentally flawed and completely disingenious, arguing out of both sides of our mouth, hoping the contradictions get lost in the noise.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Climate Change Rally

I attended the "Cool The Planet" rally in Guelph today, to coincide with the climate changes talks in Bali. A good turnout, here are a couple pics:

Federal Liberal candidate for Guelph, Frank Valeriote makes an appearance:


Yesterday, I openly mused about the possibility of Canada SWEEPING the daily awards in Bali. Well, Canada has defied the odds and made us all proud. The trifecta!:

In view of Canada’s leaked instructions to its negotiators, today’s Fossil of the Day Awards recognize three stunning anti-contributions to progress at Bali contained within the Harper position paper.

Canada takes third for proposing no short- or mid-term targets, mentioning only a 2050 target date for emissin reductions from an undisclosed baseline. Mr. Harper will be 91 years old by the time 2050 rolls around.

Canada sweeps into second for urging a wide-open special exception for “national circumstances” to ensure that particular countries aren’t “unduly burdened” by strong targets. Linguists tell us that “national circumstances” is Canadian for “having loads of tar sands.”

Canada captures first for the second day in a row for demanding absolute binding emissions targets for both developing and developed countries from the start, in a clear attempt to sabatoge Bali progress. (Canada’s per-capita emissions are five times those of China and ten times those of India.) Canada urges us to follow the model of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone protection—but Canada has forgotten that the Montreal Protocol began with developed country commitments only. Developing countries took binding limits only later, with extra time for compliance and financial support from developed nations. Note to Harper: try reading the Montreal Protocol. It shouldn’t be hard to find—particularly for a Canadian.

For those keeping score, today's impressive haul now puts Canada clearly in the lead on the world stage, snagging 7 awards in a mere 6 days. Woo hoo!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ipsos Poll

Only two weeks ago, Ipsos Reid had the Conservatives at 42% nationally, leading in Ontario. Plenty of criticism, the Ipsos findings were completely seperate from all the other polling. At the risk of being sued, I made the mental calculation that Ipsos would start to trim their numbers, to regain some credibility, lose the outlier status. Last week, Ipsos had the Conservatives down 3%, at 39%, the Liberals up 1%- the gap went from 14 points to 10. This week, the new Ipsos poll finds even more Conservative erosion, with some thin reasoning:
Conducted by Ipsos Reid for CanWest News Service and Global National, the poll showed that the spread between the Tories and Liberals has been reduced by four percentage points during the past week and now stands at only six points.

The survey said that the Conservatives have dropped to 35% support while the Liberals remain at 29% of decided voters. The NDP rose by one point to 16% while the Green party had a similar increase to nine per cent support.

In vote-rich Ontario, the Liberals gained two points to 40% while the Tories dropped by three points to 36%. The NDP, meanwhile, dipped by one point to 12% while Greens received a boost of two points to 11%.
NDP at 12%??


The poll showed Bloc Quebecois support jumped by seven points to 38% in Quebec, pumping up their national numbers by two points to 10%. The Tories declined by six points to 20% in the volatile province, only one point ahead of the Liberals.

Yesterday, Decima released a poll, with the headline "Scandal Fails to Hurt Harper", a combination of little political damage and voter apathy. Ipsos attributes all of the Conservative erosion to the Schreiber affair, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. In my mind, I'm inclined to agree with Decima that this whole affair has done little to sway opinion. Although Ipsos argues that the "scandal" is damaging the Conservative brand, they contradict that point with this finding:
But the results of the poll also show that many Canadians do not believe that the Commons ethics committee hearings into the affair are even necessary, with 50% saying the proceedings "are a waste of time" and it should be left to the RCMP to investigate. Thirty-eight per cent believe "it is worthwhile for Parliament to investigate and get to the bottom of the allegations."

In two weeks, we move from a 14 point gap to a 6 point gap. It just so happens that the latter gap is more in line with other polling, and now puts Ipsos within the consensus opinion. Some may attribute the move to Schreiber, my gut tells me there was some revision to lose the outlier status.

We're Number One!

Canada collected it's 3rd and 4th "Fossil of the Day" awards in Bali. If only Canada can do this well in Vancouver 2010. Today, we picked up the coveted first prize slot and shared another award with the Americans:


Canada and the US are awarded the third prize for refusing to accept the G77 draft proposal for technology transfer as the basis for discussion at the SBI contact group. When the US and Canada are asked about their own plans for emissions reductions, they sing about the wonders of technology—but then when developing nations ask for their assistance in implementing green tech, the US and Canada run from the room.

The US continues its fossil collection with a second place finish for reopening the Major Emitters (or as they call it, Major Economies) negotiations in the midst of the Bali negotiations—both for distracting other countries’ negotiators from the real work to be done here, and for pushing this ridiculous side process in general.


Canada roared into a first-place Fossil finish for refusing to take on absolute emissions reductions targets unless developing countries do so as well—ignoring Canada’s historical responsibility and its vastly higher per capita emissions compared to developing countries. Could Mr. Harper be hiding behind developing countries as a way to protect his precious tar sands?

Four awards, in a mere five days. By all indications, many more to follow....