Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Earth To Mars

I don't read Conservative blogs too often, frankly it's painful. However, I did happen to see Small Dead Braincells latest post, debunking the threat of global warming. What is with the disconnect between conservatism and climate change? Why is it always the wingers that ignore the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence and instead scour the margins to find anything that questions the reality? Why the hostility?

The logic seems to view science as villian. I find it amazing that one's view on global warming seems to be a partisan affair. Isn't scientific study a domain that operates outside of personal bias? Oh sure, you can always find a few dissenters for every theory, but the totality overwhelms individual arguments and the theory gels. Yet, any article, any paper, that questions global warming is seized upon by wingers to support their flimsy arguments.

Even if you dispute the science, what about your own perceptions? Global warming has moved beyond the hypothetical, unfortunately you can actually see it. Therefore, an anti-climate change apologist now has to be two things- anti-intellectual and patently blind. I suppose the rationalized out is the "natural cycles" theory, which provides convenient excuse for ignoring the obvious. Those glaciers will be back, you just wait and see.

Newsflash, the earth is round, the earth is round!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Splitting Hairs

With all due respect to the Canadian soldier, I think the environment is the newsmaker of the year. This year has seen the afterthought issue rise to central prominence, that now dominates the political landscape. Would anyone have guessed that the environment would be the make or break issue for the new government? Would you have believed in March that come December the Liberal leadership convention would be awash in green? If I told you a Green would finish a strong second in a London by-election, would you have laughed?

Flashback a mere eleven months and remember the last election, where the environment was met with mostly apathetic disinterest. The environment was a "oh by the way" issue that rarely garned a mention in coverage. Contrast that reality with the looming election and the rise to prominence is striking. Arguably, the environment may well be the election issue. That fact is staggering, if relativity is your guide.

Criticism of the government aside, it is reasonable to see how they under-estimated the environment politically. Afterall, the Conservatives only had a few, weak platitudes, in their election platform and that didn't seem to hurt their fortunes. The Conservatives were elected, yet they had no plan other than criticism. If you presented that mirage to Canadians today, their seat total would have been in the teens.

In my mind, 2006 is the year the Canadian public and media acknowledged the abstract issue and brought it too mainstreet, politicians in tow.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday season :)

Polls, Pundits And Politicians

Watching today's Question Period, I couldn't help think about the amazing disconnect between politico speak and pundit commmentary. If you listen to the media, all that motivates is gamemanship, as parties jockey based on relative polling. Contrast that with the politicians, who argue pure motivations, based on principles with little regard for polls.

According to the elected officials, there is absolutely no calculation based on party self-interest, decisions are simply "what's best for Canadians". Both Dion and Layton appeared today and both rejected polls as influential. Layton went to great pains, suggesting his only focus was getting results for Canadians. The NDP isn't worried about the Greens or Dion, there is no deal with "Mr. Harper", only a concerted effort to do good work for Canada. Dion has no desire for an election, will not reject the budget out of hand and wants to make parliament work. Taken at their word, nobody looks at the polls and any such suggestion is patently false.

The other partner in this dance, the media, frames everything within the lens of partisan consideration. All decisions are a calculation based on creating a scenario that works for that particular parties favor. If you subscribe to the media's line of questioning and commentary, politicians are essentially soulless creatures that only act out of self-interest. Oh sure, there are some philosophical tenets, but they are really pawns in a cyncial game of chess. Every question today had the air of partisanship, rooted in public perception.

So, which is it? Is our system a neverending game of brinksmanship, or are the players primarily interested in the "greater good"? Clearly, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. However, it would be nice if these two diametrically opposed positions would find some common underpinning. Is it possible to ask a question that merely wants an honest discussion of policy, without the suspicions? Just once, wouldn't it be refreshing for a poltician to admit the obvious- we have seen the polls and, in fact, we actually conduct alot of internal polling as well. Shocking! It is pretty funny to hear Stephen Harper say polls are irrelevant to the decision making process, when we all know through access of information that our tax dollars have been used by this government to poll Canadians on issues such as the environment, crime and Afghanistan.

All I want for Christmas, a little less infinite cynicism from the professionals and maybe a small helping of candor from politicians. When is the next irrelevant, whatever poll, that apparently shapes every single decision and dictates the country's course?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A National Party

Gerard Kennedy's comments on the need for Liberals to compete everywhere are a welcome sign. There is little question that, at present, the Conservatives can claim to be more of a national party than the Liberals. Practicality aside, there is nothing worse than a defensive posture that essentially concedes defeat, without any real effort. Trying is more important than winning in the grand scheme:
The Liberals are planning a “308-seat strategy” for the next federal election in which they will contest all seats in the Commons, including those in regions they have previously written off, such as Alberta.

Former leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy, now leader Stéphane Dion's adviser on election preparations, said the Liberals have opportunities to win seats in the West, although it will be hard if the election is called as soon as next spring.

“We need a little bit of time to make our case,” said Mr. Kennedy, a Manitoba-born politician who served as Ontario's education minister but was also well known in Alberta as the director of Edmonton's food bank.

“Some of the very quick scenarios might mitigate against that. But I am certainly treating it as very serious and I do see us with a 308-riding strategy. I think it's very important, the folks out there. They need to understand that we are serious about gaining back respect right across the country.”

Can the Liberals win seats in Alberta next election? Probably not, but if you take the longterm view, hardly the point. What is important is that the Liberal Party try to engage all Canadians, regardless of immediate vote potential. Kennedy was the only candidate that spoke of western Canada as more than a convenient afterthought, and his example should become standard Party procedure. The Liberal Party needs to be aggressive, much in the way Harper was towards Quebec.

Before you can elect MP's, you first have to win back credibility. Those that claim the Party shouldn't waste precious resources on lost causes adopt a narrow, short-sighted philosophy. The strategy shouldn't be soley about power, calculating different equations to simply win, but giving people a reason to take another look. If the Liberal Party approaches the electorate as Kennedy suggests, it lays a foundation which will pay divends down the road. A national party, that fights for votes everywhere, allocating resources based on regions and not electability.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Encouraging Dion Poll

A new Decima poll gives Dion plenty of opportunity with voters:
Canadians are optimistic that Stephane Dion will turn out to be a good Liberal leader and potentially an excellent prime minister, a new poll suggests.

The Decima Research poll, made available exclusively to The Canadian Press, suggests that Dion is still an unknown quantity to many Canadians. Nevertheless, 43 per cent said he has "the potential to be an excellent prime minister of Canada one day."

And almost one-third - including roughly one-third of NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green party supporters - would like to see Dion win the next election.

"Voters are mostly showing an open mind towards Mr. Dion, with more optimism than cynicism about how he will turn out," said Decima CEO Bruce Anderson.

One of my biggest hesitations with Dion was his perceived baggage. The last thing you want is a new leader who brings initially high negatives. These kind of poll results put my mind at ease because they show Dion essentially has a blank slate with voters. Especially heartening:
Negative perceptions of Dion were somewhat more likely among respondents in his home province of Quebec than in Ontario, the other key electoral battleground.

Still, 43 per cent of Quebecers (49 per cent of Ontarians) thought he has the potential to be a great prime minister and 31 per cent (32 per cent in Ontario) would like to see him win the next election.

Conclusion, Dion is largely free of the past government's stench. Whether Dion succeeds or fails, he ultimately controls his own destiny with voters. All you can ask is that people listen with an open mind, and it would appear Dion is afforded this opportunity. Baggage doesn't appear to be an issue.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spinning Our Wheels

Harper is conducting his year-end interviews with selected media. The one interesting tidbit that came out of his interview with Canwest, Harper acknowledged that the security situation in Afghanistan wouldn't improve next year. Harper also said he hoped to continue the mission beyond 2009, inferring it was unrealistic to demand much progress in the nearterm. The Conservative argument has consistently said that massive re-construction can't take place in the south until the security situation is resolved. So, in essence, Harper tells Canadians that our forces will largely spin our wheels for the next two years, maintaining the status quo.

Important to remember, the mission in Afghanistan is already five years old. Harper casually adds a couple more years to the equation, with no sense of progress. This admission begs the question- what exactly is the timeframe here? Is there an endgame, and if so can you please articulate it? If you admit that the security situation will not improve, then you essentially admit that we are failing. Fast forward to December 20th, 2007, what will have changed? If the answer is nothing, as Harper admits, then clearly it is time for a serious re-examination of our strategy.

The problem I have with the Conservative position, isn't the support for the mission, it's the single-minded rhetoric that doesn't seem to understand the fluidity. If you aren't making progress, then "stay the course" seems a strange ideal to embrace. Harper calmly says there will be no improvement in the coming year, but offers nothing new. On any other issue, is standing still considered acceptable?

Layton No Longer Relevant

Layton would argue that his alliance with Harper is an effort to "get things done", demonstrating the NDP's relevance to Canadians. The sad irony, the NDP has lost all relevance as a strong voice of the left. How can anyone take Layton seriously, when he vows to work with a party that shares no common philosophical underpinning? The way it should work, using the party planks and basic ideology, when the Conservatives say black, the NDP argues white. There is no common ground, none, nadda, zip and to claim otherwise is insulting.

The NDP has a rather funny government report card on their site. Strangely, no minister gets an acceptable grade, which seems rational from the NDP perspective. Day after day, we hear Layton in the House of Commons berating the Conservatives on every issue, from budget cuts to Afghanistan. Angry and indignant, Layton rises to defend the little guy against the mean-spirited government. How strange, that the NDP chastizes the government in front of the cameras, and then goes into meetings with the same people to find common ground. To be frank, it is all a hypocritical farce, that is based soley on political consideration.

The NDP consistently claims the moral ground, as the honest worker bees that simply wants to implement policy that help Canadians. There is much in the NDP platform that is attractive and it does represent the best in all of us. A sense of community, a belief that everyone should benefit from prosperity, a progressive ideology that isn't afraid to push the bar. In many ways, historically, the NDP has acted as Canada's conscience in the political realm. However, I would argue that today, the NDP is betraying that well earned reputation through its complicity in finding common ground with, essentially, the enemy. The two parties pull in different directions, so any "compromises" must betray the ideology.

When Bob Rae moved to the Liberals, it was a curious move, but not entirely shocking. Afterall, the Liberals do have a "lefty" contingent, that makes room for people like Rae. In other words, the optics of Rae as Liberal isn't outlandish. Now, what if Bob Rae ran for Harper's job? Exactly.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Harper: "What The Hell Does That Mean?"

Stephen Harper lashes out at the opposition, except for the NDP:
“But Afghanistan is a unique mission. It’s neither war nor peace-keeping. It’s a security operation that involves pretty direct combat with the enemy.”

Harper said he understands the NDP’s position - that Canada should not have sent its troops to Afghanistan and should withdraw now - better than any of his political opponents because at least this party has been consistent. But he suggested he has even less time for the two other parties.

“The Liberals and the Bloc tell me: rebalance the mission. What does that mean? I mean, what the hell does that mean?”

First of all, how can Harper say he understands the NDP position, given what he believes about Afghanistan? So, it is worse to want a re-think on the mission than to advocate immediate withdrawal? Come on. The fact that Harper purposely tries to extract the NDP from the other opposition parties is worrisome, and makes me more suspicious about the looming Clean Air Act. Mutual survival pact?

What the hell does "rebalance" mean? I take it too mean we are effectively losing the battle in Afghanistan, as every military assessment concludes. I take it too mean there is no military solution to the problems in Afghanistan, as O'Connor himself admitted. Rebalance in my mind simply means pragmatism, changing the objectives in a fluid environment. The Harper government has offered nothing except "stay the course" and "we will not be deterred". Great slogans, but dangerously stubborn, given the circumstances.

What if we tried to legalize the poppy trade? What if we poured massive amounts of money into training the Afghan army and police forces, instead of token gestures? Every independent analysis shows we spend the huge majority of our expenditure on the military. If there is no military solution, then why do we commit all our resources to an essential lost cause? I'm not suggesting that troops shouldn't defend themselves and protect people, but neither do I believe operations like the present one have any long term significance. As a matter of fact our mission resembles a tragic game of whack a mole.

When someone argues for "rebalance" they essentially say two things. First, we don't want to abandon Afghanistan. Second, we don't want our efforts to be wasted. There is no question that Afghanistan is slipping, so the question then becomes- do we stubbornly remain steadfast, in some ideological romantic view of righteousness, or do we make sober judgements that deal with practical realities? All "rebalance" means is an acknowledgment that the current path is flawed. Harper isn't the only "patriot" involved in the discussion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Harper's Funny

What happened to the tough guy?:
"I don't detect any desire on the part of the public to have two elections in one year."

That statement is true, but simply hilarious coming from Mr. "threatens an election every other day when riding high in the polls" Harper.

I bet the public was chomping at the bit for another election in July when Harper threatened to go the polls over softwood lumber. How about June, when the Conservatives were "daring" the opposition to force an election? September, over Senate reform? Remember the calls for Ambrose's resignation? Extending the Afghanistan mission?

Looks like the bully is feeling somewhat sheepish, once the honeymoon ends and he faces a real opposition.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Stephen Harper's latest Kyoto comments:
Harper told reporters: "In the short term, people say, 'well, just implement the Kyoto target. Cut energy used by a third in the next five years.' There's no way you can do that without devastating the Canadian economy."

United Nations Environment Program head Achim Steiner warning Canada about abandoning Kyoto:

Achim Steiner says Canadian business could be left out of major profit opportunities created by an international emissions trading system that he predicts will be worth $100 billion in 10 years...

For example, a Canadian company could design and build a solar power project in Africa, creating credits which then could be sold on the international market. In this way, emissions cuts would be obtained wherever they can be done at lowest cost.

According to the Stern Review, recently published by the UK government, markets for low-carbon energy products will likely be worth at least $500 billion per year by 2050.

Fear mongering or opportunity? Let's say both views are exaggerations. Call it an economic draw and let the environment win. Sounds good to me.


I really don't have any qualms with Time Magazine naming Stephen Harper newsmaker of the year. Afterall, Harper has clearly dominated the domestic scene. However, this glowing synopsis is nauseating:
The Prime Minister who was "once dismissed as a doctrinaire backroom tactician with no experience in government has emerged as a warrior in power," writes TIME contributing editor Stephen Handelman. "Defying conventional wisdom about how to lead a minority government (very, very cautiously), Canada's 22nd Prime Minister led Canadians on a bold, and discomfiting, journey of political change. He slashed more than $1 billion worth of federal programs, reshuffled the federal bureaucracy, and reopened the wounds of the national unity debate by supporting Quebec's right to declare itself a 'nation.' At the same time he has introduced a new standard of accountability for federal politicians, stewarded Canada's first major deployment of troops to a combat theater in five decades and, for good measure, negotiated an end to a long-simmering trade wrangle with the U.S. over softwood exports.

"If Harper wins the majority he craves, in the election expected sometime next year, he may yet turn out to be the most transformational leader since Trudeau. He has set himself the messianic tasks of remaking Canadian federalism by curbing Ottawa's spending powers and overhauling Canada's health care and social welfare system...For the way he has dramatically reshaped the national conversation, for restoring a sense of competence and integrity to high public office, and for proving that big ideas still matter in Canadian politics, Stephen Harper has been chosen by TIME as Canada's Newsmaker of 2006," concludes Handelman.

Did someone in the PMO write this overview? I'm sure if you asked the American lumber industry, they too would name Stephen Harper man of the year. Let's see how the "warrior in power" operates now that he actually has a credible opposition and poor polling. This overview gives an unbalanced impression that Harper has been a success story. The left-wing media strikes again.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Unholy Alliance

Is there any doubt that Harper and Layton will cut a deal on the Clean Air Act? Originally, I was cautiously optimistic when Layton forced Harper's hand, allowing the opposition control. Ultimately, partisanship aside, we should all welcome any development that could lead to an effective bill. However, since Layton's original coup, the political climate has changed considerably and I now worry that opportunism will trump genuine motivations.

The NDP stands on shaky ground, moreso than at any time during Layton's reign. The polls consistently show erosion, to the point of relative oblivion. The environment, once an NDP policy strength, is no longer their talking point, as evidenced by the Green Party ascension and the Liberals new found urgency. The NDP is clearly feeling the squeeze and Layton may be desperate. Couple these facts with Harper's own desperation in needing to neutralize the environment as an issue heading into the next election, and you have a dangerous concoction.

It is now a political imperative for Layton and Harper to come together and forward a revised Clean Air Act. Both men need the legislation for there own survival. I worry that the political animal in Layton will make fundamental sacrifices that produce a bad bill. Harper will have to make concessions, but the final product could fall well short of what is needed. You then have a situation where any legitimate criticisms are tempered by the two-headed propaganda machine and Canadians are left confused. Layton needs to show relevance and trumpet the "making parliament work" angle, while Harper just needs a draw on his weakest file. In other words, Harper doesn't want the environment to be an issue, and Layton wants to say he fixed a bad bill.

Political consideration finds its way into every corner of parliament. However, we now have a situation were political expediency may be the only motivation, which makes it hard to envision a clean thought process. Layton may rightfully see this Act as his only chance to retain offical party status. Desperate men often make bad decisions, which leads me to believe that a confusing sellout is on the horizon.

UPDATE Another poll today, confirming Layton's predicament.

Robert McClelland at My Blahg isn't impressed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Harper's Wedge

Stephen Harper was quick to jump on Stephane Dion's pledge to review existing tax breaks for the oil companies:
"This government just tackled corporate tax fairness with the action we took on income trusts," the Prime Minister said. "That obviously had a significant impact on the energy sector. I think it would be asking a bit much to target the energy sector for tax hikes in that manner . . . ultimately we have to be fair. All industries have to play their part in regulating greenhouse gases. The energy sector will be a critical element of that, but this is a national plan that goes across all industries.

"You know it's easy for some of the other parties, for Mr. Dion or the NDP and the Bloc, who don't represent Albertans and westerners, to say Albertans should pay all the taxes in the country, but I think we have to be a little fairer than that," he said.

Harper's comments are ironic, given newly minted Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's pledge on the same day:
He said that one of the most common concerns he heard during his campaign for the Tory leadership was that Albertans aren‘t getting enough money for their resources.

“Once cabinet is named, we will bring these issues to the first cabinet and we will put a structure in place,‘‘ said Stelmach, who was to be sworn in as premier on Thursday.

“To do this in the most open and transparent manner, these (panelists) will be people that are not members of government.‘‘

Stelmach suggested the panelists could include economists, oil and gas experts or people with knowledge on how Alberta can maximize value-added processing of oilsands resources.

“We want a cross-section of people that can bring us the best information, put it on the table in a very open and transparent manner so Albertans can trust that information. That‘s why it‘s removed from government.‘‘

The panel will report to Alberta‘s finance minister and will also consider what other taxes are paid by companies, he said.

“I just want to make sure that at the end of the day, Albertans, as owners of the resources, feel comfortable that they‘re getting the right return.‘‘

Many question whether the oil industry is paying its fair share of taxes and provincial royalties to help the province pay for higher social and infrastructure costs linked to the energy boom.

So, we have Albertans questioning oil company taxes and royalties, but the federal government isn't allowed the same reasoning? Harper speaks of fairness, yet the Premier of Alberta questions fairness, and wonders aloud if big oil isn't getting a free ride. Harper uses oil revenues as a wedge issue, but it would seem his base have a philosophical similarity to those dirty Liberals like Dion. Everyone is asking the same question, why are we subsidizing an industry that is raking in gross profits? Apparently, Harper is more interested in trying to play parts of the country off each other than using common sense.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Loving Dion's Language

Dion is developing a consistent message with his attacks on the Conservatives that is a winning, politically shrewd strategy. A few simple characterizations, repeated over and over, using loaded language:
Dion thanked his Liberal colleagues for helping to "unmask" what he calls Stephen Harper's right-wing agenda.

"I plan to make sure that Canadians know the difference between the Conservative approach to champion their narrow ideological agenda that plays to their socially conservative base and our approach to economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability," Dion said.

The Liberals are preparing for an election at any time, but Dion said he would prefer not to rush into one, adding that the party has a lot of work to do in fundraising and developing its platform.

“I need to be ready if this is happening. We have a government, as I said, that is so at odds with Canadians, so frustrated to not be able to implement its right-wing agenda, it may put us in an election at any time,” Dion said. “The Liberals and the other two parties have difficulties to agree with anything this government is proposing, so it’s a bit of a dysfunctional situation.”

Dion is playing Harper's game of manipulation, by framing his opponent in language that is clearly meant to alienate. Terms such as "social conservative", "right-wing" and "ideologues" all touch a nerve, and neutralize the Harper spin machine that tries to paint the government as moderate. These characterizations, if Dion can make the stick, are pure death politically in the majority of the country. Dion repeats them on every occasion, and every Liberal strategist should be instructing all MP's and pundits to adopt the same language. This is the theme, short and sweet, loaded terms meant to alarm. And the great part, it's true!!

There are lessons for Liberals in Harper's political approach. The Conservatives are slick, focused and rely on a few pointed slogans to get their message out. Does anyone doubt we will hear "promise made, promise kept" a billion times during the next campaign? Keep repeating, repeating, until it becomes accepted as established fact. A good example, if you polled most Canadians I bet they think that the Conservatives lowered taxes for the middle class. This reality, in spite of the fact that the numbers suggest otherwise. The reason, Flaherty and Harper repeating the phrase over and over, so much so the details are lost in the overarching theme.

Dion's positioning of the Liberals as the mainstream, the Conservatives extreme, is political gold. This point has to be hammered home, in every speech, by every Liberal. The other side acts like a borg-like monolith, Liberals need to respond in kind. Dion's characterizations can stick, because there is ample evidence to support the thesis. In a sense this strategy has its own element of propaganda, but really it just cuts through the disguise. Harper is a right-wing, narrow ideologue, that embraces all the tenets of social conservatism like his "ideological twin" down south. That's the simple message, and Dion looks ready to deliver with force.

Rona Ambrose Replacement?

Rampant speculation on a possible cabinet shuffle, with Environment Minister Rona Ambrose a certain casualty. Through sources, I have obtained a confidential photograph of the likely successor being prepped by the outgoing Ambrose. Too early to say with clarity, but first blush suggests a definite improvement:

Harper's Delusional

Harper's speech yesterday contained this recurring theme:
Our country is united and the world is spreading the word, Canada is back," he said.

I quick survey of this government's complete failure on the international scene would suggest a slight rephrasing- "the world is spreading the word, Canada is whacked". Remember our stellar performance in Nairobi, where Canada was a running joke throughout the meetings? How about Harper making a fool out of himself in Asia, unnecessarily alienating the Chinese with his bravado? Or, Harper's unilateral decision to engage the North Koreans, which stunned our allies? How about the international AIDS conference that Canada hosted, and subsequently snubbed?How about the international concern over Canada's new approach to The Canadian Wheat Board? What about our credibility with the Arab world, after our unbalanced comments on Lebanon? What about pariah like resistence to the ban on bottom trawling?

Creating the perception that Canada is nothing more than an American lackey, that fails to live up to its international commitments is hardly something to crow about. I would love to hear a quick survey of diplomats, to see what exactly Canada is "spreading". I have this strange feeling that the world doesn't share the Prime Minister's perspective.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Poll Results

More post-convention polling, showing a Liberal bounce:
The Decima Research survey, made available exclusively to The Canadian Press, suggested that nationally, the Liberals had the support of 35 per cent of decided and leaning voters. That compared with 32 per cent support for the Tories, 12 per cent for the NDP, 11 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois and seven per cent for the Green party.

In Quebec, though, the poll suggested the Liberals had more than double the support of the Conservatives, a sharp reversal from the election last January.
The new survey showed the Bloc with 45 per cent of voters, the Liberals with 27 per cent and the Tories with 12 per cent. The NDP had six per cent and the Green seven per cent.

"The big question coming out of the Liberal convention was would Stephane Dion work as an idea for the Liberals in the province of Quebec," said Bruce Anderson, Decima's CEO. "So far, I think the evidence is more yes than no. He's been established as a leader in the minds of Quebecers and the Liberal party has a 15-point lead over the Conservatives in that province.

"Obviously they're still behind the BQ, but those are pretty good results".

You can discount these polls as a temporary bounce, but at the very least they reveal an openness to Dion, particularly in Quebec. My biggest hesitation with Dion was the perception in Quebec. It would appear that Dion has plenty of room to rehabilitate his reputation in his home province, which is a great sign moving forward.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Gong Show

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose says Canada has paid all the money it owes in support of the Kyoto Protocol, but that's not what UN figures indicate...

Asked for clarification in the Commons on Tuesday, Ambrose said no money is owed under the climate treaty.

"I can confirm again what I said at committee that was accurate," Ambrose said.

"Canada has met all of our obligations. All of our mandatory obligations under the Kyoto protocol were paid up in full. I have the United Nations document here to prove it if the Speaker would like me to table it."

It's not clear what document she was referring to.

Bob Klager, Ambrose's director of communications, said the money was a pledge, not a legal commitment, and no money is owing.

However, the $1.5 million is listed as outstanding on the official website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
We should come up with a fundraiser, wherein everytime Ambrose makes a gaffe people contribute $10 to the UN bill. In this way, the issue could be resolved by early February.

Seperating The Wheat From the Chaff

CBC Radio did an interview with Chuck Strahl today, in which the Agriculture Minister offered some truly bizarre logic. Strahl went on and on about The Wheat Board de-stabilizing the market, hurting producers, with its "hair on fire" alarmism. Wheat buyers from around the world are quite concerned about what is happening in Canada, creating unnecessary instability. Strahl argued that prices and demand are currently high and the board should focus on delivering profits to farmers.

Strahl's attempt to blame The Wheat Board for the uncertainty is staggering. The only reason why buyers are worried, people are concerned, is because of this government. The Conservatives campaigned on ending supply management, have taken initial steps with respect to barley, promised to deal with wheat beyond next year, and then have the gall to wonder why there is uncertainty. Strahl effectively blames people for reacting to a government that fundamentaly wants to alter an established system. Any idiot knows that markets embrace stability and the known, and conversely react to what is essentially a radical shift. How can the Conservative approach not send shockwaves throughout the commodity? I'm sure The Wheat Board would much rather concentrate on delivering for farmers, but instead this government's attack on the system have forced energy to be wasted elsewhere. Chuck Strahl places the blame, when in fact he is the impetus and the cause.

The Conservative government isn't offering minor reform and tweaking, it's position goes to the heart of the entire system, there is nothing more fundamental. Santa should get Mr. Strahl a mirror, so next time he wants to find the culprit that is responsible for all the hysteria, he can go look at it. Give me a break.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Broken Record

I'm just curious if a Conservative can complete a sentence, give an answer to a question, without referencing the Liberal Party. Watching today's Question Period, it was amazing to see the old crutch used continually, primarily as a means to deflect any responsibility From Friday's QP, notice a trend?:

Jason Kenney:
Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Liberals continue to try to distract public attention away from the fact that the entire Arar fiasco occurred under their watch.

Stock Day:
Mr. Speaker, those two words “do nothing” could characterize the former Liberal regime and what it did not do on this file.

Jason Kenney(seperate question):
We saw that, under the Liberals, millions of dollars were wasted on programs that did not deliver tangible results.

Jason Kenney(seperate question):
the minister told the committee that the former Liberal government had not analyzed all the climate change programs. This minister and her department have analyzed and evaluated the programs, which have been changed to make sure they are effective and produce real results, meaning a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This was not done under the Liberals

Lawrence Cannon:
The previous government put us in a situation where we were able to determine that nothing was working.

Stock Day (seperate question):
They did nothing.

Bev Oda:
As a result of savings in administration, this government is putting the money back into women, not into Liberal Party friends.

Bev Oda(seperate question):
The Liberals had 13 years to ensure that the rights of aboriginal women would be there.

Helena Guergis:
but the fact is that Canada can no longer afford to continue with the Liberal policy of complacency with respect to free trade agreements.

Christian Paradis:
Unlike the previous Liberal government which was all talk and no action, we take action.

James Moore:
When the Liberals were in power, they promised $590 million for the Pacific gateway, but they in fact did not spend it. The Liberals allocated it, but the money was never spent. We are proud to deliver what the Liberals failed to do.

Is there a statute of limitations for blaming the old government for every problem incurred? Does this obsession with all things Liberal every end? When you have nothing, or need to distract, blame the Liberals. I get it, but I suspect Canadians grow tired of a party that's central thesis is someone else's failings.

Is Rona Ambrose For Real?

All I want for Christmas is a cabinet shuffle, or better yet an election call. The steady diet of ridiculousness(is that a word?) coming out of Rona Ambrose's office is staggering:
OTTAWA (CP) - Environment Minister Rona Ambrose wants the auditor general to review all federal climate programs to determine whether the public is getting value for its money.

The audit could renew attention on the flawed Liberal record on climate change when the Conservatives are having trouble with their own agenda on the issue.

Some opposition critics say the timing of the audit is absurd, since the Conservatives have already cancelled most of the climate programs which existed under the previous government.

I agree an audit is absurd, given the circumstances, but even more mind melding is the fact Ambrose misleads by suggesting we don't have comprehensive, independent conclusions.

Let's use the cancelled Energuide program as an example. Environment Commissioner Johanne Gélinas:
"Our audit was limited to three programs managed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan): the Wind Power Production Incentive program, the Energuide for Existing Houses program, and the Ethanol Expansion Program. Each received $100-million or more in federal funding. We examined what greenhouse gas emission reductions the three programs had achieved, what they have cost, and how NRCan monitors and reports on program results and spending.

"We found that each of the three programs had made progress. As of March 2006, the programs had achieved about 22 per cent of the 4.8 Mt reduction that NRCan expected the programs to achieve by 2010.

The Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. 2006, from the Auditor General website:
The EnerGuide for Existing Houses program was introduced in 1998 and aimed to improve the energy efficiency of existing houses and reduce residential consumption of heating fuel and electricity. Before it was cancelled in spring 2006, the program had two components: home evaluations and grants for renovations.

What we found. Natural Resources Canada surpassed this target. In its Report to Parliament under the Energy Efficiency Act for the Fiscal Year 2004–2005, Natural Resources Canada reported that energy consumption was reduced by an average of 27 percent in renovated homes.

Last week in committee, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell:
Since the Conservative government took power it has cancelled a number of energy conservation programs aimed at consumers, including the One-Tonne Challenge, an advertising campaign, and EnerGuide, which provided subsidies for home-owners to upgrade their houses.

Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell asked Ambrose for any studies to support the government’s contention that those programs weren’t working.

Mitchell quoted from a Natural Resources Canada memo he obtained under access-to-information law, which gave the programs high marks.

“All NRCan programs were assessed to be on track to meet or surpass their objectives,” says the memo which Mitchell provided to reporters.

“The energy conservation and renewable programs were found to be effective in stimulating emissions reductions. They will contribute over 20 (megatonnes) in reductions by 2010, mainly at a cost of less than $10 a tonne which is extremely cost-effective.”

How about a review of Rona Ambrose by the auditor general "to determine whether the public is getting value for its money?" If bullshit was gold.

UPDATE The gift that keeps on giving.

Greens Becoming Liberals

Prominent Green blogger Mark Francis at The Sudden Sage has a series of posts discussing Greens moving to the Liberal Party. The argument:
As a party, we have only about 10,000 members (I know this by rumour only). We certainly can’t take over the Liberal Party, but if we were to dissolve the Green party and sign up with the Liberals, we’d have a heck of a lot of influence applied at the right time, on the behalf of the existing leader.

A couple of high-profile defections, May's favorable view of Dion, contribute to the idea of Greens moving inside the Liberal tent. As Mark points out, it comes down to a matter of influence. Would Greens be swallowed up by the Liberal Party machine and lose relative influence? Is it better to work from the inside, or argue on the margins, where the philosophy stays pure but the influence is minimal?

Now this may seem like a strange perspective, given my own decision to join the Liberal Party, but I think the Green agenda is best served argued independently. The Green Party influence is certainly on the rise and their presence has pushed other parties to adopt more progressive ideas. If Elizabeth May can make it to the debates and become part of the national conversation, then Canadians benefit from her sobering perspective. I see the Green Party as a catalyst, their rising support a wakeup call to other parties.

If the environment is one of your primary issues, then an independent Green Party is your ally. We now have a situation where all the federal parties are jockeying for the environmental vote. I realize the Green Party is not a single-issue party, but it is the environment where the influence is best felt. Elizabeth May has the credibility to act as environmental broker, and a strong Green Party gives her the ability to argue from a foundation.

The best path, after the next election, might be a loose, informal affiliation with the Liberal Party. Let's say May wins a seat in parliament and the Liberal form the next government. If Dion is thinking clearly, apolitically, then May is the natural choice for Environment Minister. Who better understands the portfolio, and who better demonstrates an aggressive agenda? I know it is counter-intuitive to think one party would purposely legitimize another party. The obvious risks to your own base generally puts partisan considerations first, but in this instance it serves both sides. A strong Green vote will allow relevance and possible real opportunities to contribute. I think this moment the worst possible time for people to leave the Green Party. As Mark argues "stay on the outside and point the way", while others like myself try to infiltrate the vanguard. Inside, outside, how about all sides.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rex Murphy Gone Mad

If you read Murphy's nonsensical Globe and Mail piece, then you would conclude my title makes me an environmental elitist. What a dinosaur:
Altogether too much of the condescending vanity and ego of those who know they are saving the Earth...

The current theory of global warming has a veritable global industry of support and propagation. Its proponents are calling for massive and swift intervention in most of the world's economies, with concomitant political and social implications on a scale that is difficult to imagine.

Before those commitments are made, before the route to a solution is hammered in steel, it is surely the moment for the most diligent and neutral assessment of all the science, and the policy projections flowing from that science. It is emphatically time for the most scrupulous and disinterested inquiry to determine the solid core of what is really known about the subject, separated from the great clouds of speculation, advocacy, geopolitics and calculated alarmism that overhang and shadow that core.

And what is the likely characterization of someone who in the very spirit of science calls for disinterested analysis and scrupulous measurement of what, actually, we really do know? Why, "climate change denier," of course.

I know -- and it doesn't require a science textbook to learn it -- that the first sign of a weak argument is the attempt to shut down any argument. Extreme rhetoric is the front line in the defence of frail logic. I also know there is no science of the future: We may decorate reports with graphs and charts, and conjure pages of the most exquisite and arcane equations, but the very best we can offer on climate a hundred years from now is a series of sophisticated and ever-ramifying probabilities that are themselves subject to a myriad of unforeseeable contingencies.

Who will undertake the difficult task of sifting the real science from the alarmist advocacy, who will draw the boundaries between climate activism and cold analysis

Murphy treats the overwhelming science as though biased information. Murphy calls out for a "neutral" assessment of the evidence, implying the numbers are skewed by scientists who have a personal stake. What utter rubbish. All science starts out as theory, a theory gains legitimacy through measurement and testing. The reason why global warming has become an "alarmist" proposition is because the evidence suggests rapid change, not subjective conclusions. The only serious debate, apart from the rogue nutjobs trying to make a name by balking at the evidence, is whether science hasn't underestimated the scale, scope and timeframe. We are well past if, the most forward politicians are already taking about "adaptability".

Murphy argues that those who try to shutdown debate do so because the argument is weak. Apparently Murphy has some law that he extrapolates onto global warming. The real reason why people resist the "debate" is because the "debate" is over. Quite frankly, the earth doesn't have time to address the doubting Thomas' arguments and therefore we ignore. Call it arrogant or elitist, but I call it common sense. The hard reality is we can't waste energy on appeasing radicals, so the attitude with the "deniers" should be "get out of the way". I laugh at people that don't believe in global warming, if that makes me self-righteous, fine with me dipshit.

This situation is urgent, critical, desperate, alarming, worrisome. The core of the scientific community is now focused on impacts, adjusting time frames and scopes, not rehashing old news. If the Rex Murphy's of the world are waiting until every single scientist in the world comes to universal agreement, then they demand the impossible. I'm sure you can still find a few scientists who dispute the effects of smoking. Rex Murphy can have his opinion, so no one is censoring anybody, but if it's all right with him, this elitist concludes it's irrelevant to the "debate".

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Spring Election Off?

Conventional wisdom has assumed that we are heading for an election after the spring budget. The Liberals, particularly Dion, have mentioned an election as a near certainty. However, these latest batch of polls might pour water on the idea of a quick election.

Pouring through the numbers from the various polling, the only parties that might welcome an election sooner rather than later are the Liberals and the Greens. The Greens have no say, so the Liberals desire is pretty much irrelevant unless they get some help. The latest numbers are mostly devastating for Layton, and given his history of poll watching, I doubt he will be eager to go the electorate when offical party status may be on the line. How can Harper now orchestrate his own demise when he is looking at a Liberal Party that looks poised to wipe out his recent gains? A week ago, Duceppe might have appeared eager, but these surprising Quebec numbers will surely give the Bloc pause.

There are some dangers in these poll numbers. What will Layton do with the Clean Air Act? Will he accept a partial sellout now to argue relevance in the next election? There is no getting around the fact that the NDP is getting squeezed from all quarters and their support is on the wane. If Layton gets trounced in the next election his leadership is effectively over. Layton cornered is an unpredictable animal and I don't think we can assume his decisions will be based on the purity he claims. Layton may well look for a token concession in the budget to delay a non-confidence motion.

The real wildcard is Duceppe, but if you posed the question today, I would suspect the Bloc willing to hold off in the near term. The surprising mini-honeymoon of Dion in Quebec is clearly not encouraging and should make the Bloc cautious on bringing down the government.

Harper surely must be in a tizzy. Every policy voter driven, all the bullying about election calls, and he is now faced with the prospects of the impossible- a Liberal majority. I don't see a realistic scenario where Harper forces a losing confrontation with the Liberals ahead in the polls. The only caveat, the budget is really the only day on the calendar that Harper can control and manipulate, so it may still be his best opportunity to turn around the government fortunes.

A couple of weeks ago I was certain of a spring election, now not so much. The good news for the Liberals, they are now free of their restrictions and can act boldly in Parliament, letting others prop up the Conservatives if they wish.

Ambrose Out?

The Toronto Star has an article, detailing the rise of environmental issues. One sentence, buried in the text and unsubstantiated, is quite interesting:
But the party might pull off a surprise with some tough action. Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has certainly been talking as if that's possible. Rumours suggest Harper might even shuffle her out of the job to signal a new course.

Minister in charge of Rubber Bands and Lint?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Praising The Conservatives, But...

Partisanship aside, you have to give the government full marks for its plan to deal with toxic chemicals. The plan has teeth, ample funding and clear, immediate goals. I have yet to hear much in the way of criticism, and approval seems to be coming from all quarters:
"We were very pleased with the announcement," Aaron Freeman, an activist and lawyer with Environmental Defence.

"We think it's a very important step in dealing with some of the most substances that are in our environment, and that pose a threat to the environment and our own health."

Rick Smith, who heads the Canadian advocacy group Environmental Defence, applauds the government's plan. He said the chemicals it targets are highly toxic and cause cancer, and are dangerous for the development of children.

"This announcement is long over due, frankly," he told CBC News. "It's a great step to bring us up to the level of the kind of programs we're already seeing around the world.

"This is a significant step forward for pollution reduction in Canada."

Beaming environmentalists said the government is working hard to renew its environmental credentials after the poor reception given its climate policies.

"It's probably a good thing they got pasted on the Clean Air Act," said Ken Ogilvie, executive director of Pollution Probe. "This is their opportunity to do something significant."

Ken Kyle of the Canadian Cancer Society called it a good day for public health.

"No Canadian should be exposed to cancer-causing substances. It's a comprehensive plan, more money is being put into it, and the chemicals will be evaluated a lot quicker."

You can split hairs about when the process started, but it is really irrelevant. On this issue, the government has delivered and it's good news for all of us.

I saw an interview with Tony Clement on CTV and he made the following comments:
"ultimately its regulatory, we say to industry prove to us that this chemical can be used safely."

"work with us, within in six months, if you don't come up with the answers then we enter the regulatory phase"

"the punishment is you can't sell your product"

"there is something in it for them, because if they can find replacements the become world leaders. If they can produce products that will be available throughout the world, this is a plus for Canadian industry, making us more competitive than other jurisdictions"

These type of comments force me to jump off the feel good bus, because I can't help but extrapolate this attitude onto the approach to global warming. Doesn't the last sentence strangely mimic Dion's idea of sustainability? Clement frames regulation as the impetus to give Canada a "technological" edge, and with that economic advantage. I don't understand why the logic differs on climate change.

Clement also speaks of a quick process to deal with the most heinous toxins, a mere six months. The background consultations have ended, and now we move to the regulatory phase. Does anyone deny that government and industry have consulted for years on emissions, and the problems well known? Why can't we set firm deadlines, in the near term on emissions? There is a tension in Clement's philosophy on toxins and the government's lack of teeth on emissions. How many times have we heard the apologists say we will kill our economy if we comply with Kyoto? Clement doesn't seem to have a problem threatening industry into action.

In conclusion, high praise to the Conservatives for delivering on this file, not so much on the lack of consistency.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Anti-Semitism and The Liberal Leadership

Just when you thought the Liberal convention was a rousing success, out pops this unflattering angle:
Bob Rae was the target of anti-Semitic attacks during the Liberal leadership contest, motivated at least in part by the fact that his wife is Jewish...

I would post more from the article, but you should go read the whole thing because it's quite meaty.

If there were any concerted attacks on Rae it is unfortunate. However, I don't like the tone of the criticisms toward the Kennedy campaign. Could it be that "brown" people supported Kennedy because of his bold immigration and foreign policy positions, instead of some anti-semitic angle? Actually, a quick scan of Kennedy's donors looks to be embarrassingly european.

I'm not a big fan of "bloc" voting, but the reality is leaders of various communities will exert influence to get support for their chosen candidates. Was anyone aghast when a group of women moved to Hall Findlay at the convention? Is anyone surprised to know that yes, egads, Rae had some big donations from Jewish contributors- shocking! Come on. It's all politics, people back people because they search for affinity. If Sikhs went with Kennedy, and then followed him Dion, then I say Gerard must have resonated with the Sikh community, much in the same way he DIDN't with Quebecers. If the Canadian Islamic Congress had Dion and Kennedy as their top choices, then Dion and Kennedy had policies that were more attractive. Maybe the real criticism, there might be too many single-issue voters in the process, which is unfortunate, given the wide range of ideas.

Rona Ambrose Pontificates To The Masses

I have been quite criticial of Rona Ambrose's frequent no-shows before parliament committees. After reading some of her comments at the Senate committee today, I now understand why she avoids the spotlight. Rona Ambrose doesn't make sense:
Ambrose stressed that industry alone cannot solve the problem of rising greenhouse emissions, and individuals must do more. She said she has installed efficient light bulbs in her own house.

“Canadians have to make choices in their own homes — turn off the lights more, use less water, buy a more fuel-efficient vehicles, take public transit.

“We need every single Canadian to do that. This has to be a collaborative effort.”

When asked why her government cut consumer-driven programs like the One Ton Challenge and the Energuide program, Ambrose responded with this mystifying comment:
“There’s never been a comprehensive audit or review done of the climate-change programs across government, ever.”

Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell pointed to an internal government memo that concluded the programs had been successful, actually surpassing their goals. But, let's not split hairs here and agree with Ambrose about a full-audit to gauge effectiveness. If you agree with Ambrose, does it not beg the question- why did you cut programs before you determined if they were effective? When you slash a government program, shouldn't there be some empirical evidence to support the cut?

Ambrose all but admitted that these programs were cut in a kneejerk fashion, without logic, as part of a scorched earth policy towards any Liberal initiatives. What is even more replusive, Ambrose has the audacity to lecture committee on the need for consumer participation to reduce emissions. Ambrose has promised new initiatives aimed at consumers, but all her government has done to date is cut pre-existing programs. What does it say about this government's competence to slash programs before you have something else in mind? The Conservatives will take us back to square one, after wasting a year, just so they can put their own stamp on legislation. I have no problem moving beyond the old programs, but what we are witnessing here is a callous shell game. Ambrose is a joke, this government is an environmental fraud, and we should all pray that Dion and May hammer the crap out of these dinosaurs, because we can't afford this sideshow anymore.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Trudeau To Run In Next Election?

Rumors of Trudeau running are starting to swirl:
One of the stories you did not hear about was who the party hopes to snag in time for the next election — Justin Trudeau, who supported Gerard Kennedy and ultimately Dion.

Three ridings are being eyed by Trudeau backers: LaSalle-Emard, where Paul Martin is certain not to run again; Outremont, if Jean Lapierre decides to take a walk; or Mount Royal, “if” Irwin Cotler retires from politics. The latter has particular significance since Justin’s dad, Pierre, represented Mount Royal. Justin is only 34 years old and was married less than two years ago and I wonder whether his wife, TV personality Sophie Grégoire, would be happy to see him spending so much time in Ottawa. But as I watched him work the room, it was clear he had caught the bug. I see another Prime Minister Trudeau in our future.

Trudeau sighting in BC?:
On the Intraweb, blue blogger Stephen Taylor took that now possibly open Quebec seat, added one aspiring young Liberal with a killer smile and famous name, and baked this pie: Justin Trudeau, the most visible, vocal supporter of Liberal kingmaker Gerard Kennedy, will run in Outremont, Lapierre’s Montreal area riding, in the next election.

Taylor says he heard the rumour last week at the Liberals’ convention. And while I have heard no such rumour, I’d like to start one of my own.

Justin Trudeau will run in the next federal election. But it won’t be in Quebec. No, the man who is Canada’s answer to either John Kennedy Junior or George W. Bush (Or maybe handsome’s answer to Ben Mulroney) will run right here in Vancouver, in the riding soon to be vacated by the much loathed David Emerson.

Watching Trudeau suck the air out every room he entered in Montreal, you would have to believe there is great interest in getting him to Ottawa.

I'm of two minds on Trudeau. On the one hand, it would be great to have Trudeau's energy and commitment to a new Liberalism on board. There is no question that Trudeau looks ready to step into the political arena on a full-time basis. My only hesitation, I'm not sure I could stand the MSM fawning over Trudeau everyday in the House of Commons. Trudeau's presence might cast a shadow over everyone else and distract from the big picture. We would also have to endure the endless speculation about when Trudeau would seek the big prize. I worry about the sideshow aspect, as Trudeau would ultimately become the main thesis. In other words, I love the guy, but I'm not sure I'm ready to stomach the endless hype machine.


Let the same-sex marriage debate be a prime example of cynical political manipulation rightfully backfiring:
The gay-marriage debate landed back in Parliament on Wednesday with a thud that could shake Tory support on the religious right.

''I think there's going to be a lot of confusion and, when the smoke clears, a resentful attitude as well,'' said Mary Ellen Douglas of the Campaign Life Coalition, a socially conservative anti-abortion group.

Douglas said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has robbed voters of a fair chance to revisit same-sex marriage, which was legalized last year.

''It doesn't help anything,'' she said of a Conservative motion debated Wednesday that has little chance of passing when it goes to a vote Thursday The motion calls on the government ''to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.''

Civil unions? Douglas doesn't remember the Conservative election platform - which promised ''a truly free vote on the definition of marriage'' - saying anything about civil unions.

She and many others had hoped for a straightforward free vote on whether MPs wanted to reopen the gay marriage debate.

Instead, they got a crafty motion that has been lambasted by critics as a hollow bit of political mischief that was engineered to fail.

Harper has managed the impossible, uniting the political spectrum in universal condemnation of his transparent hyper-politicism. Harper is so obsessed with checking another item off his to-do list, he seriously miscalculated the obvious fallout. No bill, just a motion, that you know is destined to fail.

The good news for Canadians, another concrete example of a government that conducts itself like a marketing group. "Promises made, promises kept". This cynical attempt begs the question- if you are genuinely a government that deserves re-election, why do you need to snow the public with duplicity? The answer is increasingly obvious, things are not as they appear. The next election will be an exercise in the Canadian public's ability to distinguish authenticity from mirage. The Conservatives are clearly banking on disinterest, within the blanket of targeted propaganda, to bring them the ultimate prize.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Indian Affairs Minister Runs Loose In Streets

Jim Prentice will surely be called to the Prime Minister's office tomorrow:
Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice was booed and jeered Tuesday as he tried to speak to about 400 native protesters on Parliament Hill.

Organizers of the rally say anger over perceived Conservative backtracking on First Nations rights has reached the boiling point. Over shouts of "Liar!" and "Shame!" Prentice tried to explain that his department was not responsible for cutting $160 million meant to preserve native languages. That cash was recently eliminated by Canadian Heritage and replaced with $5 million a year for seven years.

I'm surprised Prentice actually showed up, knowing full well the reception wouldn't be kind. Maybe he didn't get the tight lease memo, that clearly states no Minister should appear before any forum where her/his presence puts the government in a bad light. Clement and Harper both followed the code at the AIDS conference, Ambrose demonstrates the philosophy weekly. Scripted events, friendly audiences, but above all nothing that potentially embarrasses the government's embarrassing policies. Prentice needs to brush up on his Goebbels 101, we can't have this sort of spontaneous freelancing.


Let me get this straight, some right-wing nutjob questions Dion's citizenship and it becomes the lead story on Global National. The issue is so relevant to the nation, the piece included a reporter out of the street, to get the feedback from Canadians. Hopefully, we as a people can move beyond this chasm that threatens our society. Tomorrow- Should Dion resign and move to the Isle of Elbe? Yawn.

Who cares? You know when Duceppe comes to Dion's defense that this is a non-issue. Shame on NDP MP Pat Martin and Garth Turner for questioning Dion's loyalties. How ironic, that the man vilified in some Quebec circles as the great defender of Canada, is now being questioned about his ultimate loyalties. What if Canada has a dispute with France? Can Dion act in our interest? The answer, oh please!

Other Parties: Dion, Good or Bad?

Pure speculation, and of course everything is fluid, but interesting to ponder what the others party strategists might think of a Dion-led Liberal Party:


Rumor has it that Dion was the preferred candidate of the big three. The Conservatives might see an opening in Ontario, because Dion didn't score particularly well there in the delegate selection. I also think the Conservatives could argue that Dion won't play well in rural Ontario.

The natural assumption that Dion could be rejected in the West. Alberta was always a longshot for anyone, but I think the Conservatives might see an advantage in the "another Quebecer" angle from Manitoba westward. I would think there would be some hesitation in British Columbia, where Dion's policies might find support.

On the surface, Harper might see opportunity in Quebec and will use Dion's past to hurt his chances. However, any enthusiasm should be tempered by the native son angle, which could translate into potential problems. On the issues Dion is far closer to Quebecers than Harper, but compared to Ignatieff or Rae the Conservatives are probably happy.


The NDP probably wished for Ignatieff instead of Dion. Now the landscape has another environmental player, which further erodes Layton's arguments for relevance. Dion's policies should play well in the Toronto area and the lower mainland in British Columbia, which are essential areas for the NDP.

Dion moves the Liberals left slightly, which means the NDP has less room to make the distinction. Layton also loses his trusted line of the "arrogant, corrupt Liberals" because he is on record speaking about Dion's integrity. Layton is probably quite worried about Dion, although this will be tempered because he might be seen as better than Rae.


You would have to think the Bloc is quite happy with the Dion choice. Ignatieff and Rae were both problematic, but Dion has baggage. Duceppe probably relishes the opportunity to make the election in Quebec a pointed discussion about federalism. Lots of talking points for the Bloc, plenty of opportunity to try and trip up Dion. The only worries for the Bloc, Dion knows how to fight back and could be a force in any debates. The Bloc might also worry about Dion's ability to re-invent himself with Quebec, given the fact a francophone may enjoy some openness.


May likes to argue that she is in favor of anyone who moves the environmental agenda forward. Dion should make May happy, but I don't think she should be if seat gains are her goal. There is a danger that Dion could take the environmental vote and make the Green momentum a past tense. May will probably win a seat, but I doubt the Greens welcome the prospect of a crowded environmental field, where they are decided underdog. Dion is probably the worst choice from the Green perspective.

disclaimer-I didn't address how Dion can overcome any apparent shortcomings. I'm not claiming the perceptions are correct or long lasting, just relative preferences.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Layton's Eternal Game Face

Watching Question Period, it was interesting to hear Harper and Duceppe congratulate Dion in a respectful manner. I find it refreshing when politicans put down the swords for a nano-second and show a human side. With this sentiment in mind, I must say I found Layton's behavior particularly boorish. Layton said nothing about Dion, but instead took the opportunity to take a quick shot at the former Environment Minister.

Would a simple congratulations have mattered to the NDP in the grand scheme? Are vital votes on the line if Layton forgets about politics for a moment? This minor incident affirms a central point about Layton, every word, every angle, always comes through the political antenna. Layton's failure to congratulate Dion, a simple gesture, reflects badly on him. Duceppe hates Dion, Harper hates Liberals, yet they showed decorum in the H of C. Layton saw opportunity, which ironically further cements my rationale why he will forever be a bit player. The NDP deserves better, Canadians like the ideas, but reject the snake oil.


No surprise in a new poll that shows a post-convention bounce for the Liberals. The weekend was clearly a success on all fronts, high drama, lots of exposure, plenty of free media with the requisite shots at the Harper government. However, while the poll is good news for the Liberals, the real story in the numbers is the hope for Dion in Quebec:
And in a reaction that defies the conventional wisdom of Quebec pundits, 62 per cent of respondents in the province said that Mr. Dion was a good choice for the Liberals, with only 29 per cent saying he was a bad choice. The approval of the Liberals' pick was higher in Quebec than in the rest of the country, where 55 per cent liked the choice.

My major hesitation with Dion was the idea of electing a francophone who was unpopular in Quebec- the entire premise seemed counter-intuitive. Early rumblings from the Quebec media seemed to fuel the problems Dion would have in his home province. The only caveat, I was reminded that there can be a disconnect between the media class in Quebec and the actual feelings of Quebecers. The results of this poll show an openness to Dion, an opportunity, and that is all we can ask at this point.

The fact that Quebecers were more supportive of the choice than any other province is great, if not surprising, news. All you can ask for at this stage is that many Quebecers will at least give Dion a re-look, a chance to change his image. Dion has the issues on his side, most notably the environment and his stance on Afghanistan. Everyone knows the criticisms, there is obvious resistance, the Bloc has many talking points, and yet a solid majority seen Dion as a good choice. The post-convention bounce was expected, this tidbit within the results are a positive sign. Work to do, but a sense of fluidity that gives optimism.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What's A Few Votes?

I'm not a fan of strategic voting in a convention. Martha Hall Findlay ran a good campaign, but her support was what it was, and arguably she should have dropped out prior to the convention- I guess I'm old school in believing a candidate should actually have a chance. The fact Findlay was the lone woman left in the race tempers my resistance to "statement" candidates, because it was good to have her on stage. However, all the talk Thursday and Friday of people parking their votes with Findlay on the first ballot, in a show of allegiance, seemed flippant, maybe even irresponsible, for my tastes. Objectively, did a few more delegates really make Findlay look more relevant? Conversely, if people didn't give her the symbolic support would her efforts have been diminished? My point, Martha Hall Findlay had already attained her place in this story, a few extra delegates were irrelevant. I guess what I reject is the mischief of thinking you can play with delegates.

Now, read this little tidbit, and wonder what gestures can mean to the big picture:
Of all the sweaty palmed shakedowns, the not-so-secret pacts and the unseemly convention floor shoving matches, the most pivotal turned out to be a whimsical decision late Friday by a half dozen or so of Gerard Kennedy's ex-officio delegates to loan their support to last-place contender Martha Hall Findlay on the first ballot.

They felt confident Kennedy could spare a few votes and hoped they might be able to boost the lone female contender ahead of seventh-place Joe Volpe.

But those few votes made all the difference. Kennedy wound up slipping into fourth, just two votes behind Dion. The psychological impact of those paltry two votes on the 5,000 delegates turned out to be huge.

Dion was suddenly the guy with momentum, however slight, and Kennedy's campaign effectively stalled.

"You wonder how the momentum changes if Gerard had been in third rather than fourth place today," one Kennedy strategist mused shortly after Kennedy pulled out.

A classy Dion supporter agrees:
Two votes. That’s how far ahead Stephane moves ahead of Gerard on that first ballot. Just think about that. If Kennedy’s team had gotten just three more people out he would have stayed in third, and who knows how things would have played-out. The symbolism of being in third place, even if only by the thinnest of margins, is substantial. It’s the big mo.

You have to question the arrogance of the ex-officos thinking Kennedy had enough room to play some chess. As a Kennedy supporter, I was really worried that Dion would overtake Kennedy, because he had the ex-officos, momentum and there were lots of undeclared. I thought people were present to elect a leader, not engage in some warped sense of unity to prove a point. You know the one about the butterfly in Africa shaking its wings and that eventually resulting in a hurricane?

Sour Grapes

I keep hearing and reading this quote this morning:
"It's clear there were a lot of forces at play. (People) were challenged by the courage of Michael's ideas," said Paul Zed, a New Brunswick MP and Ignatieff supporter.

He attacked Kennedy, saying, "To preach party renewal and to preach openness and then sign this separate backroom deal I think is kind of a little bit of jarring with the things he said he represented."

I would like Mr. Zed to point to one campaign that wasn't working the phones, conducting clandestine meetings, talking in the backrooms, these past weeks? Everyone knew the dynamics heading into the convention, so Gerard had ample time to consider who he felt was the best choice beyond himself. Dryden made that calculation, Brison made that calculation, etc, etc. I don't see any hypocrisy in preaching renewal and a new direction, then aligning yourself with another candidate that you think best represents that ideal.

Apparently, the Ignatieff camp had twenty people in a room tracking every delegate at the convention. Most pundits have concluded that it was the slickest organization they had ever seen. And yet, no one moved to Ignatieff? Can we toss aside our cynical calculations for a brief second and actually entertain the notion that Kennedy made a ethical choice, entirely consistent with his campaign theme.? I don't buy the "support the francophone" to guarantee a future chance as anglophone.

It was an open convention from the outset. Kennedy was in position to spoil the frontrunner's dream because Liberals had given him substantial support. There is no hypocrisy in deciding to support another candidate's direction, in fact, listening to Kennedy throughout, where else could he have gone? Did Rae even utter the word "renewal"? Is there any way to reconcile the philosophical chasm between the Kennedy policies and Ignatieff? I would hope there is no lingering bitterness towards Kennedy, as the man who ruined the frontrunners party, because ultimately he did what every delegate and candidate did, move where his moral compass took him. It just so happened that his decision had the most impact.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Some Thoughts On Ignatieff

You must have a cold heart, or hatred fills your veins, if you didn't feel a tinge of sadness watching Michael Ignatieff in the moments before the vote. Apparently, the candidates knew the outcome minutes before the announcement, so it was interesting to watch Ignatieff as videos of past Prime Ministers played on the screen. Ignatieff was aware of the cameras, but on a few occasions you could see he was lost in thought. As the videos played, the reality hit Ignatieff and you could visibly see him well up.

The frontrunner is unkind ground, especially if you aren't a seasoned politican that shoots from the hip. Especially hurtful to watch as candidate after candidate moves to others and you are left wanting. An old friend abandons you, an upstart upsets the plans, everything went wrong for Ignatieff. I believe Michael Ignatieff is an honorable, incredibly gifted man, as evidenced by his grace in his defeat speech. I believe Michael Ignatieff geniunely wanted to contribute to making Canada great. I don't share some of the disdain for Ignatieff, because afterall his views were rooted within his own moral compass.

No leader has every lost from his position, an apparent organization unparalled in Canadian politics, and yet he does lose. Watching Ignatieff in the final moments, split-screened with Dion, you saw the two faces of every contest. So, while everyone focuses on the winner, a brief comment on the loser. Michael Ignatieff is a good man, a proud Canadian, who brought great ideas to the campaign. Hopefully, the Dion Liberals will find a place for Ignatieff, because he is an asset.

Dion Wins

I might eat these words, but it seems unlikely. Rae's supporters are moving to both camps, but Dion has the momentum and I don't see any scenario where Ignatieff grows enough to overtake Dion. Kennedy delivered beyond wildest expectations. Did anyone think Dion could actually move to first on the third ballot? One word, unstoppable.

I have been critical of Dion, but it really boiled down to my own mental math on who can win the country. I have no problem rallying behind Stephane, the big picture demands it. Congratulations to Dion and all his passionate supporters!

Proud Of Kennedy

To all the naysayers who questioned Kennedy's motivations on the "nation" question, this decision to support Dion should say loud and clear- THE MAN OPERATES ON PRINCIPLE FIRST. What a risk for Kennedy to back the third-place candidate, especially whenever everyone else has moved to Rae. There is no guarantee that Kennedy can deliver the convention for Dion, in fact the odds are still high. Gerard Kennedy went with his convictions, sacrificed himself and took a political chance in not going with the tide.

Kennedy ran a great campaign and inspired many. Kennedy took no jabs, in fact he sought to distance himself from negative politics. Honorable, principled and heroic to the end, Gerard Kennedy represents everything this Party should stand for. Congratulations, bold until the end!!!

Where Does Ignatieff Go?

Believe it or not, that is the early question on the networks. Reporters are openly speculating that Ignatieff is finished, which is amazing, given he is the front-runner and the real voting has just begun. Early buzz is Ignatieff will go to either Kennedy or Dion, with little chance of a move to Rae. The buzzword for Ignatieff- meltdown. The reporters must be sensing some mood on the convention floor, because such talk would seem pre-mature.

Justin Trudeau said "he can't confirm" the talk of Dryden ultimately moving to Kennedy, but the rumor seems to have some weight. Findlay moves to Dion, but her campaign manager moves to Kennedy. Brison moves to Rae, and it looks as though Rae will get alot of his delegates, with others moving to Ignatieff and Dion.

Ignatieff the kingmaker??

No Spin Zone

Dion's camp has to be absolutely ecstatic about the first round results. While essentially tied with Kennedy, perception is everything and he makes the big move. Dion looks viable, which is all he needed heading into tomorrow. The speech wasn't great, but that should get lost in the buzz of the results.

These numbers are the worst-case scenario for the Ignatieff camp, especially when people were suggesting 32-35%. Ignatieff desperately needs Brison or Findlay to come to his camp, otherwise he might be dead. A glimmer of hope might come from Quebec delegates leaving Rae and Dion, but this might be a stretch, especialy now that Dion looks strong.

Rae went nowhere, and although he has Volpe's support it remains a big question how many people he can deliver. Dion and Kennedy are only 2.5% behind Rae, which means he has to watch his back as much as Ignatieff. I'm sure Rae's team are on the phone with Brison's people as we speak.

Kennedy is okay here, but the optics of fourth, no matter how slim, don't suggest momentum. Kennedy had a good speech, but the story tomorrow morning will be Dion and that is the last thing his campaign needs. Maybe Dion should have taken the deal?

Dryden says he is staying on the second ballot, and given his speech, I suspect whomever he ultimately supports might be the winner.

The uncommitted delegates must have moved to Dion, and I would be interested to see how many backfill delegates Dion had in place. Obviously, ex-officos helped Dion and the lack of institutional support hurt Kennedy.

So, Ignatieff in BIG TROUBLE, Rae okay but shaky, Dion the big mo and Kennedy a longshot. Tomorrow should be a political junkies wet dream :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

MSM Post-Speech Assessments

These are generalities of course, but the overall framing from the networks and CPAC:


No question, Dryden's speech was universally lauded as the best. Passion, which was Dryden's apparent shortcoming, and a clear vision. Words such as "riveting" and "inspiring".


Most said Ignatieff started off slow, with some wondering why his video intro was so long. Andrew Coyne pointed out that Ignatieff used half the words of other speeches. General consensus that Ignatieff finished strong and did nothing to hurt his chances, may have helped allay some fears.


The fireside chat approach seemed to resonate, although some commented on a few occasions where Rae "wandered". Rae's Liberal name-dropping was a good way to show he was a Liberal at heart. Basic gist of the commentary, "Rae hit all the right notes", although some questioned whether his speech was enough to close the gap with Ignatieff. Some comments about Rae not speaking any French until halfway through his speech, which may be an endorsement for prompters.


General consensus was Kennedy did himself some good with his speech. Words such as "energetic", "passionate" and "vision". A few commentators said Kennedy had the best "direction" speech in offering Liberals a new way forward and did well to show he was up for the job. The only negative commentary, Rae and Ignatieff didn't blunder, so Kennedy might have trouble being seen as a serious threat. All commentary agreed that Kennedy may have soldified his hold on third.


Of the big four, Dion's speech received the most criticism. If I had to choose one word that gives an overview of the post-speech analysis it would be "flat". Nobody felt Dion helped his chances with this speech, and some thought it hurt him, especially compared with Kennedy's. Some good moments, especially at the beginning on national unity, when Dion received a standing ovation, but other than that forgettable.

Volpe moving to Rae wasn't the big television moment you would suspect. In fact, several of Volpe's supporters were quickly moving to Ignatieff to counter-act any sense of Rae momentum.

There did seem to be more talk of a two-man race, which may have reflected the relatively good speeches by Rae and Ignatieff, the subpar Dion speech and the fact that the media never takes Kennedy seriously. Now the votes...

Huge Delegate Turnout

For the campaigns worried about delegate turnout, this result should give comfort:
A record 5,627 delegates and alternate delegates have registered at the Liberal leadership convention, party officials announced today.

Steven MacKinnon, the party’s national director, said the tally makes the gathering the largest at a delegated convention in Canadian history.

The total delegates include 748 so-called ex-officio delegates — former and current party officials, MPs and senators.

There were 4696 delegates chosen on super-weekend. Minus the ex-officos registered gives a total of 4879 registered delegates, plus alternates. This high number should mean most campaigns will have near-full slates when alternates are taken into account.

Somewhat disappointing, or encouraging if real democracy is a personal preference, only 67.7% of eligible ex-officos are registered ( 748 out of 1105). I suppose you could spin this finding as a help to those without strong ex-offico support, as their votes will have less overall impact.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Convention Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Member, Some Votes:

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

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

Devastating Dion Poll Numbers

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

The poll was released on Thursday.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad Liberals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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