Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Sense Of Pride

Stephen Harper is a cad:
Dion: Since the Prime Minister doesn't have the courage to ask the Minister of Defence to do the honorable thing, will the Minister of Defence not resign himself.

Harper: The Minister of National Defence is a veteran of the Canadian Forces. He has served this country courageously in uniform for 32 years and when the Leader of the Opposition is able to stand in uniform and serve his country, then I'll care about his opinion on the performance of the Minister.

Following the logic, Canadians should disregard Harper's defence of O'Connor, since his opinion is irrelevant, due to his lack of service. As a matter of fact, Harper's boorish, partisan speeches in defence of the "brave men and women in uniform" are meaningless, given his civilian background.

Everytime the Prime Minister brings the discourse to the gutter, Conservatives remind us all that parliament has always been raucous, always been less than a shining example for Canadians. Bull. This man, his tactics, have NO PEER.

Harper Vs The Media

Call it arrogance, paranoia, or sheer lack of political instinct, but the Harper government's unilateral war on the press is bound to hurt them, if it hasn't already. Kinsella has a column today titled "Time To Make Nice, Mr. Harper", as it relates to the Harper/media feud:
Richard Brennan, president of the Ottawa Press Gallery. "I just can't explain what's inside the guy's head. I just can't explain it, nor would I attempt to. It's just pathological, either his hatred or his disdain for the media."

"There's not a lot we can do, except push back, and that's what he is going to find," said Brennan. "We are pushing back."

Even the National Post's own Don Martin -- an affable wordsmith who could charm a snake out of its skin, and who brilliantly covered tight-lipped Tories in the one-party state that is Alberta -- signalled that other journalists are getting plenty fed up, too.

But, in the long run, it is the media that will emerge triumphant. To his everlasting credit, the Gallery's Brennan is refreshingly honest: Sometime soon, the Prime Minister is going to find the news media "pushing back" at a time when he is most vulnerable. Namely, during the election campaign.

Already, it is arguable that this push-back campaign is producing dividends: However much Harper moves to the centre, offering up big-spending policies for latte-sipping urbanites and ruthlessly muzzling the red-necked crazies in his backbench--he gets no credit for it. He and his party remain ahead of the Liberals, marginally, but they are also far from their lusted-after majority. So they lick their wounds, and wonder why.

Messrs. Brennan and Martin can tell the Prime Minister why, if he is inclined to listen. They are pushing back. They are paying him back.

Kinsella mentions Don Martin, and anyone who follows his columns will notice a noticeable trend towards a anti-Harper slant. That leaning is particularly relevant, given the paper for whom Martin writes. Martin as a microcosm is interesting, because clearly it represents a prime example of Harper losing his self-imposed war with the media.

The notion of journalism is supposed to include the ideal of impartiality. Practically, we all can site supposed unbiased observers, who are anything but, both on the left and the right. I subscribe to the theory that is impossible to eliminate bias from any discipline that interacts directly with human beings, despite the training and ethical tenets. The goal is a question of limited degree of bias, as opposed to some unrealistic absolute.

There is always a tension between political parties and the media. How one navigates through that forum is critical for prospects. I find it absolutely astounding that Harper and the Tory brain trust have concluded that they can bypass the Ottawa media, and effectively get their message out. Harper begins with this irrational paranoia, that the media is against him, despite the fact there is no evidence to suggest this in the last two elections (I believe McGill did a study, showing disproportionate favorable coverage for Harper vs Martin in 2004, 2006). There are plenty of media outlets that can be framed as Conservative "sympathetic", which is why the Harper posture is particularly bizarre.

The harsh reality, politicians need the media to some degree. People can spew whatever they want, but the journalists decide what is newsworthy and how to present it. Harper seems to think he can have a direct channel that transmits directly to the voter. Harper takes the view that he can use local media to get his message out, which is decidedly patronizing and arrogant. Harper reveals no political instinct in his approach to media.

That this government has purposely antagonized the media, gone out of its way to belittle and herd them, as though they are powerless, is simply staggering. What is the payoff in pissing people off, who have the power to "push back"? I simply don't understand the advantage, in fact it seems like a brain dead tactic, no matter how you spin it. In the end, Harper's irrational approach to the media could be his undoing, and he will have no one to blame but himself. Harper may be engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gerard Kennedy Suing National Post

Too often, hurtful allegations from anonymous sources go unchallenged. The Jonathan Kay hatchet job on Kennedy, Dion and various ethnic groups represents irresponsible, divisive and damaging journalism at its worst. Good on Kennedy for not allowing this type of crap to go unchallenged:
Indeed, I am informed by a well-informed source that the critical deals were cut months in advance, and were driven by Bains -- and, in the case of Muslim delegates, by Arab-Canadian MP Omar Alghabra -- through Kennedy, who'd been staked out early by ethno-politicians as an empty vessel into which they could pour their parochial agendas.

Among veteran Liberal insiders, it is believed that the several hundred Sikh convention delegates Bains and his allies led into the Dion camp (via Gerard Kennedy) came with a price: an end to the investigative powers contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was opposed for predictable reasons by various Sikh, Tamil and Muslim organizations.

The response:
Gerard Kennedy is suing the National Post newspaper for suggesting he promised to weaken national security policy in exchange for support from Sikh and Muslim groups in last year's Liberal leadership contest.

A written statement obtained Wednesday by The Canadian Press indicates Kennedy is seeking damages. Should he win the suit, he is promising to donate any award to charities "working to further understanding about diverse communities in Canada."

"I believe untrue and odious allegations such as these need to be firmly contested," Kennedy says in the statement.

"I believe very strongly in the freedom of the press. But that freedom only works well if it is not abused."

Although Dion, Bains and Alghabra have also been upset by such allegations, Kennedy says in the statement that he's in the best position to challenge the "unfounded and defamatory allegations" published in the Post article.

"Ultimately, my name was on the campaign that is being maligned and that affects all of the hundreds of good people who were involved in that effort."

People will remember Kay's article came out at the same time the Tories where speaking about the "extremists" in the Liberal Party, and the Prime Minister was disgracing his office with his classless attempted attack on Bains.

Most of the controversy has now passed, so I find it quite telling that Kennedy has decided to go ahead with a lawsuit. In a purely political sense, it is probably best not to draw any more attention to what isn't necessarily an attractive topic. The fact Kennedy is moving ahead tells us one, he is quite confident he will win and two, the allegations are complete and utter bunk.

Kennedy wouldn't risk further embarrassment if there was a grain of truth in the "well informed source's"(bitter rival organizer, you do the math) theory. Kennedy conducted himself with nothing but complete class throughout the campaign. There were many opportunities where he was given carte blanche to capitalize on an opponents missteps, but he always chose to resist and often offered support. I have nothing but applause for this lawsuit, because this article created the lingering impression that the convention was an orchestrated, underhanded affair, with Kennedy at centerstage. Kennedy will be completely vindicated, the fact he is willing to give this issue new life with a public suit serves as all the proof we need.

Environmental Experts Respond To Baird

The Pembina Institute released a statement today, in answer to Baird's pathetic dismissal of scientific analysis, as though partisan:
When asked to respond to Pembina's concerns at a Parliamentary committee on May 29, Minister Baird stated that the Institute "helped write the Liberal plan." Pembina rejects any suggestion that it is motivated by partisan considerations and that its conclusions are therefore not objective.

"It is extremely disappointing to see Minister Baird try to dismiss our objective analysis with cheap insinuations," said Marlo Raynolds, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute. "The Minister was given many opportunities to respond to our substantive concerns. His failure to do so only reinforces the credibility of those concerns."

The Pembina Institute affirms that it is a strictly non-partisan organization. The organization conducts extensive research and analysis to identify the policies that will best protect the environment. Pembina makes its conclusions available on request to any political party or government.

Pembina was consulted on the Liberal party's plan for industry regulations, Balancing Our Carbon Budget, and provided substantive input. "We were pleased to see some of our key suggestions reflected in that plan. Had we been invited to engage with the government in a similar way before its recent announcement, we would certainly have done so," added Dr. Raynolds.

Cheap is the word. An organization, which Baird admits "is highly respected", is tainted because it helped the government of the day formulate policy.

I've blogged alot recently on Baird, probably to the point of repetitive ranting. Of all the Ministers in this government, John Baird has proven himself to be the most childish, partisan hack I can remember. Ambrose was incompetent, Baird is a complete and utter disgrace. The antics in the QP, wherein Baird turns to his fellow Conservative MP's, leading embarrassing chants that dumb down the entire institution. The constant dodge and weave, the downright lies spoken with bravado, the cheeky arrogance, the flippant retorts, turning the entire discussion into a circus sideshow.

The media adopts the "Crossfire" mentality, wherein Baird is given license to spew the nonsense, in the interest of balance, nevermind what the OVERWHELMING majority of experts think. If there is a reason why non-partisan groups of environmental experts are starting to develop a partisan flavor it is because the government has shut them out. No longer part of international delegations, no longer consulted on any policy, no longer part of the official process, this government has reduced expertise to the sidelines. Please cite one other portfolio where it is acceptable for the government to attempt to silence those in the know. What the Conservatives have done on the environment file is the equivalent of Tony Clement telling doctors that they don't understand health care.

John Baird is a ridiculous baffoon. Exhale :)


It would appear the Conservatives have gone to the well once too often. I can’t seem to find anything positive in the press today about the new attacks ads, in fact the reviews aren’t kind:
National Post:

There comes a point where the kick-me fun of mocking Mr. Dion becomes a public confirmation of Conservative mean-spiritedness. The latest attack ad campaign could be the sound of that line being crossed.

But the launch began badly yesterday. At an event to showcase the TV and radio commercials, those boneheaded wizards of Conservative communication banned TV cameras and radio microphones from the room. Head-scratching all round at that call, as angry network crews left Conservative campaign headquarters without the visuals to sell their story at news meetings.
But blasting Stephane Dion's "puppet-on-a-string" leadership as the culprit smacks of cheapshot desperation.

Montreal Gazette:

But David Taras, an expert in political communication at the University of Calgary, doubts whether the ads will have much impact on Canadians as they fire up their barbecues for the summer.
"It's not like people go to bed at night thinking about Senate reform," he said. "I get the sense they're barking up the wrong tree."
Even worse, the ads could elicit a backlash from Canadians, who have become accustomed to U.S.-style attack ads, but might recoil from a relentlessly negative strategy, Taras said.

Kitchener Record:
The Conservative party's decision to run TV attack ads across Canada to discredit opposition leader Stephane Dion showed mindless arrogance, a total lack of respect for Parliament and the system we are governed by, and a total lack of respect for Canadians. An election campaign is the only time we should have to endure such shabby behaviour.

Once again, Harper’s political tin ear has failed to signal him. Sometimes lauded for his “go for the jugular” approach, that mentality can also be Harper’s undoing. Admittedly, the first set of ads were effective, but the Tory braintrust can’t seem to understand the idea of diminished returns. Canadians will tolerate, even respond to negative ads, but the sheer volume isn’t attractive.
If the Tories were smart, rolling in disposable cash, they would have launched a positive ad campaign. Speak to the achievements, the direction, flesh out Harper as personable. Those type of ads would be fresh, primarily because we haven’t seen anything positive to date. Attacking Dion, AGAIN, on a fairly pedestrian topic, starts to paint the sender in the bad light, while simultaneously garnering sympathy for the target.

Most of the media have done the collective yawn today, and those that have commented are hardly supportive. I suspect Canadians will react in the same way, with the possibility of blowback.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Beyond Lame

Admittedly biased, having just watched the new Conservative ad, my immediate reaction- lame. The ad is cheesy, the voiceover guy is plain goofy and the entire subject matter is hardly inspiring. As bad as the ad is, the new website is embarrassing. I know the goal is to get hits, so I probably shouldn't provide the link, but it's SO BAD, the more people that see it, the better.

Here is someone's pathetic attempt at wit and humor, know as Kyoto's Dog Blog:
May 29, 2007

On days like today, I wish we were in France!

Spent the morning lying on the couch in Stéphane’s office listening to him pleading with Liberal Senators to pass the Government’s term limits. He said the Tory ads were making him look weak and powerless. Again. "Eight years and out? No way!" they said. He moped around all day muttering about how unfair life is.

Yesterday I was taking the master for a walk when I spotted the Prime Minister’s cat strutting down Sussex like she owned the place. Can you imagine? She’s not even purebred. I gave chase, dragging Stéphane down the street. He kept shouting "No Kyoto! Stop it!" Madame Elizabeth May happened by and almost had a coronary. She thought he was talking about the Accord.

Ignatieff came by the other day. He grimaced at me and told Stéphane he preferred big bald eagles to dogs. When I barked in protest he lectured me about the appropriateness of torture in "certain" situations. So I showed him my fangs. "Yikes," he said, "when are you going to get this dog trained?" Stéphane barked back: "You don't know what you speak about!" and asked Ignatieff: "Do you think it’s easy to make priorities?"

Tonight Stéphane tried to get me to listen to that stupid joke he told on TV last year about the world’s shortest bedtime story. "You know Bam the dog?" he said. "The car goes by, and bam, the dog. Now go to sleep." Then he laughs, like it’s funny. Gives me nightmares. I whined and cowered until he apologized. It’s a trick I learned from him. Now that’s funny.

Time for bed. I'll dream about France. Stéphane tells me we will move back one day but I've heard him flip flop too many times before so I'll just keep dreaming for now.

What funnybone challenged genius penned this turd? If this low brow, gradeschool junk actually resonates with Canadians then all is lost.

How should the Liberals react? Normally, the preferred route is just to ignore. However, the ad and website are so bad, and actually reveal so much more about the Tories preference on political discourse, that Liberals should talk up these latest round of attacks. Ask Canadians to visit the website and decide if this humorless tripe makes them proud? Is this the sort of behavior they endorse, because afterall their reaction will ultimately decide if this tactic becomes commonplace. Challenge people, embrace the ads, they don't do the Tories any favors, beyond hardcore partisans.

Breaking: Baird Accuses Liberals Of Consulting With Experts

John Baird appeared before committee today in parliament. Fending off attacks, Baird made the following comment, in reference to the unflattering paper released by the Pembina Institute:
Mr. Baird also dismissed a Pembina Institute report released on Monday that said ‘turning the corner' undermined Kyoto targets and left dozens of questions unanswered.

“I do know the Pembina is a well respected group. I also know they helped write the Liberal plan,” he said.

John Baird finally admits the Liberals had a plan? Baird calls Pembina "well respected" and then tries to paint them as a partisan organ. If you were formulating policy, particularly one that is as complicated as the climate change file, is it not incumbent on the government to consult the experts? What horror, the Liberals took the advice of those in the know, to tackle the problem. Baird inadvertently praises the Liberals, because apparently they did "get it", if they adopted the direction, outlined by such a "well respected" group. What a silly attempt to deflect criticism. Does this mean Baird concludes that Pembina thinks the Liberals had a better climate change plan? Who helped write Baird's plan, since experts don't appear to be part of the equation?

Attack, Attack, Attack

The Conservatives are preparing another round of attack ads against the Liberals (h/t knb):
The federal Conservative party will launch another series of attack ads on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion tomorrow, characterizing him as weak and unable to move his party on Senate reform, the Times Colonist has learned.

The cross-Canada anti-Dion advertisements, to be announced in Ottawa today, will appear on English-language TV and radio stations May 30 and be broadcast for at least a month.

These ads will be the third set of attack ads against Dion. All this negativity begs the question- nothing positive to offer? Why is it, that a government that "gets results" can't seem to cobble together a thirty second commercial to laud the achievements?

I actually think this round will backfire, if the Liberal rebuttal is pointed. The growing perception, that the government is bereft of new ideas, finds further foundation. Canadians want to know where the country is headed, instead all the Conservatives offer is an attack. A desperate attempt by the government to stop the slippage in the polls and their own failings.

Attack ads often work, but the frequency and the recurring theme, might prove to be a turnoff. I would argue that the second set of attack ads didn't have the same resonance as the first. Canadians will start to see a pattern with the government, that supports the "mean-spirited", hyper-political themes that are starting to develop.

More details on the ads:
The ads mock Dion for joking recently that he was the most influential opposition leader in a generation.

He made the remark in a speech where he noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper only started caring about climate change when the opposition forced him to.

The ads also poke fun at Dion for saying that some environmentalists had called him a hero.

“A hero? He can’t even get his own Liberal Senators to pass a bill limiting Senate terms,” says one TV ad.

“Some hero. Leaders have what it takes. Stéphane Dion is not a leader.”

In the new radio ads, the dark sound of a diminished organ chord is struck at every reference to the Liberal party.

The ad campaign, coupled with a website -- -- is seen by observers as a desperate attempt by the Conservative Party, which is flagging in the opinion polls, to shore up support in Alberta and British Columbia where Senate reform is considered a priority. The ads are to be shown starting tomorrow.

Desperate indeed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dion Hitting His Stride?

Watching Dion spar with Harper today in Question Period, I thought Dion looked particularly impressive. Speaking with easy, compassion and conviction, Dion appears to be finally hitting his stride.

Partisanship aside, Dion had largely been an ineffective, uninspiring trainwreck most of the time in parliament. Even Liberal MP's often looked strained in their applause, conveying nothing in the way of genuine inspiration. Dion has his strengths, but none of them appeared to manifest themselves within this forum.

People can discount performance in parliament, but I believe it is critical for any realistic chance at winning an election. One of the main reasons, much of the media takes its cues, positive or negative, through the perceptions offered in QP. I don't think it accident that the majority of media soundbites selected Liberals, other than the leader, for their stories- Dion wasn't good copy. If Dion is ever to confront the leadership gap, he must give the impression that he is worthy and a viable alternative to Harper. The ability to be effective in parliament isn't an absolute necessity, but it does represent a relevant disadvantage.

Watching Dion today, I was struck by just how far he has come. Dion looked great, in total command. Maybe Dion did just need some time afterall.


Depending on which news article you read, you get contradictory information.

Canada is in:
The Conservative government will side with the European countries against the Bush administration by endorsing a call for greenhouse gas reduction targets at a G8 summit next week.

Environment Minister John Baird said Canada would endorse those targets, which the U.S. has apparently refused to back.

"We strongly support the . . . European proposal to have a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 50 per cent," Baird said.

Canada isn't in:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper distanced himself Monday from a strongly worded international statement about fighting climate change, explaining Canada is trying to craft a consensus to include the United States and China in a new pact to tackle global warming.

Baird today called our plan the "toughest", yet provincial governments disagree, except one(guess who?)
Baird put on the defensive

Environment Minister John Baird was put on the defensive Monday after an attempt to sell Ottawa's greenhouse gas reduction plan to his provincial and territorial counterparts was met with a chorus of disapproval.

A number of ministers emerged from a closed-door meeting with Mr. Baird saying they were disappointed with the government for failing to set a hard cap on industries that produce greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics point out that the latter number sets targets for big business based on their industrial output, rather than placing a hard cap on their emissions. Intensity targets would allow emissions to continue rising along with industry output.

Among the few to emerge with optimism after what some described as a “very lively discussion” was Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner

Environmental groups scoff today, provincal counterparts criticize- another banner day for the Green Plan. I can't wait for the G8 summit. Baird will surely shine, given the strong backing from all quarters.

Shell Game

Seperating rhetoric from reality, The Pembina Institute weighs in, with a detailed analysis of the Conservative Green Plan. It's an interesting read, particularly when contrasted with Conservative claims made again today in Question Period. "One of the toughest plans in the world"? You be the judge:
The government’s use of a 2006 base year makes its targets for 2020 and 2050 seem superficially impressive. But 1990 is the internationally accepted base year for emission reduction commitments4. Table 1 shows that changing the base year from 1990 to 2006 results in a misleading impression of the adequacy of the targets; it also amounts to an attempt to relinquish responsibility for Canada’s estimated 27% increase in emissions during that period.

Instead of 20% reduction in GHG's by 2020, we actually see a 2% rise by 2020, if we use the same point of reference as the rest of the world, including the Americans :)

How does the government's plan stack up with other countries? Are we really leading the world?:
Analysis of reasonable ways to share out emission reductions between developed and developing countries as part of a global effort to avoid crossing the 2ºC threshold shows that developed countries must reduce their GHG emissions by at least 25% below the 1990 level by 2020 and at least 80% below by 2050.5 When the Government of Canada tells the world that it intends to fall far short of these requirements, it is sending one of three possible messages: either (i) we do not accept the science of climate change, or (ii) we consider the severe impacts expected with more than 2ºC of warming to be acceptable, or (iii) other countries will have to do more to make up for Canada doing less.

Second, the European Union’s heads of government have endorsed the objective of reducing the EU’s GHG emissions to 30% below the 1990 level by 2020, in line with the science, “provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions.” Meanwhile, they have adopted a target 20% below the 1990 level irrespective of other countries’ actions.7 Germany,8 the United Kingdom9 and Norway10 have already committed to stronger targets than this for 2020. For 2050, Norway is proposing to eliminate 100% of its emissions,11 while France and California have committed to 75–80% reductions below the 1990 level.1

Other highlights, or low points, depending on your political leanings:
The Conservatives' environment plan favours the oil sands, leaves taxpayers to foot the bill for industry, and doesn't explain how any drop in greenhouse gas emissions will be achieved, says a leading environment group.

Pembina says the government's new framework treats the sector too easily compared to other industries: the oil sands will have permission to triple its emissions; taxpayers will foot about half of the cost of carbon capture and storage despite the sector being more than able to find the cash; and a vague ‘unintentional fugitive emissions' that currently make up about a quarter of sector emissions are exempt.

The analysis also found several ways that emission cuts could be double-counted to make it look like more was being done.

Pembina concludes that the numbers are creation, to paint a picture of aggressive action. The study goes further, the "dubious" targets aren't even reliable, when you factor in the problems with accountability, loopholes and double-dipping. It is hard to take the Conservatives seriously, when the sector that has contributed the most to the recent spike in GHG's is given preferential treatment.

Conclusion: The only people who argue that Canada is "leading the world" are government officials, and apologists who ape the disingenious rhetoric. Then again, these are just another group of experts, who has spent their entire careers investigating the issue, what do they know?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

John Baird: Canada As "Bridge"

Finally, some indication of Canada's position, heading into the G8 climate change talks. On the one hand the Europeans, on the other the Americans, Canada in between:
Environment Minister John Baird was asked about the controversy Sunday, but did not specifically comment on the U.S. position. He said he saw Canada acting as a “bridge” between the divergent opinions.

“We need a genuine effort to get the United States, China, India to join with Canada and other European countries on worldwide efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” Baird said in Toronto.

“But we’ve got to take action at home. Talk is cheap. Canadians have seen too much talk and not enough action, and we’re committed to the action side.”

Baird also said Canada supports the European-backed idea of a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, although he uses a much different base year for the reduction: 2006 versus 1990.

What does "bridge" mean?:
Louise Comeau of the Sage Centre’s climate project interpreted Baird’s remarks about Canada acting as a bridge as meaning the Conservative government will inevitably help water down G8 declaration by insisting Washington’s views be included.

“There’s nothing unreasonable in the German proposals and Canada should be supporting them,” said Comeau. “If that means Canada isolating the U.S. this time around, then that’s what we have to do.”

I take the above as an accurate interpretation, Canada as intermediary, helping to massage language to get the Americans to agree. Hard to follow Baird's logic, today he also praised the Americans for doing more on climate change than Canada, even though the Bush administration has been an objective environmental nightmare. It would appear that Baird will try to paint Canada as consensus builder, which will conveniently allow Canada to sign on to something less than required.

Again, if Canada is leading the world as Baird suggests, then we should have no trouble siding with the Europeans, which effectively puts more pressure on Washington, through isolation. Instead, Canada is prepared to help the Americans find a way out to save credibility, which speaks VOLUMES about our true intentions. Baird also mentions China, which is adopting its own regime, as though Canada can have influence, despite the fact the Harper government has badly damaged relations with China, through its diplomatically challenged, bumbling approach. I'm sure the Chinese are all ears. John Baird, leading the world, while simultaneously working behind the scenes to appease the biggest polluter. The sense of pride we should all feel.

The End Of "Vision"?

One of the first questions you ask of any politician- what is his/her vision? In the age of retail politics, wherein political expediency demands a short-term reward, the notion of a consistent philosophical direction is largely irrelevant. Reading this column by Senator Kenny, he makes the following argument:
The problem with vision is that it's so darned long-term - no quick payoff. Governments have become like many large companies that have quit investing in their future because the CEO's survival depends on keeping the stock price rising. Today's investors are looking for quick rewards.

So, of course, are most politicians. Their rewards are called votes. The politicians know they're unlikely to be around a decade or two down the road, so they put the public's money into programs and projects that will please voters at the next election. Let the future be damned - lay on the bread and circuses.

Using the analogy, the voter is the "investor" and they demand immediate dividends. The implication, people don't have the foresight to support an agenda which takes a generational view. Are the voters to blame for the age of retail politics, do we lack the sophistication and patience to allow a government to act responsibly?

There is no question that the Harper government operates like a corporation, selling a brand. Having said that, degree aside, there is no denying that the former Martin government was also guilty of looking for quick "returns" on policy. There are exceptions, but most initiatives are designed to appeal to voters in the now, rather than ideas that require time to fully flower. Governments are more apt to throw money at a problem, even if there are other remedies available, that speak to long-term solutions. If government does acknowledge a cost, many times it is deferred, so the immediate prospects of the government aren't harmed.

The rise of retail politics have also brought about a rise in voter cynicism. People see the attempt at "sale", a sense that politicians are more interested in telling them what they want to hear, than presenting honest assessments. If politicians are merely reacting to the environment that demands immediate returns, then it seems odd that people would admonish what they themselves request, articulated through their fickleness. We buy it, government is merely reactionary, they give us what we want. Our cynicism is mostly self-inflicted, since we respond to transparent vote buys and shun any bold initiative, that might attach cost.

The question moving forward, is the age of retail politics the end game, or just a phase. Is there any room left for a coherent vision, that factors in long-term consequence, or is our current government the new norm?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Where Is Canada?

In the past days, various reports have warned that the Bush administration will reject the climate change proposals at the G8 summit next month. Today, there is further confirmation:
The United States is preparing to reject new targets on climate change at a Group of Eight summit next month, dashing German and British hopes for a new global pact on carbon emissions, according to a document released by environmentalists.

Though Ms. Merkel and outgoing British leader Tony Blair — who made climate change a key priority for his final weeks in office — have pressed President George W. Bush to back a new agreement, the document claimed the White House is “fundamentally opposed” to many of the European objectives.

Every time I read one of these news items, I look for some reference to Canada, only to find nothing. Other countries are on record, yet Canada is consistently silent. Why?

Today, Stephane Dion asks the same question:
Canada must stand with the world's leading countries in the fight against climate change and object the U.S. government's efforts to thwart a global action plan on carbon emissions, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Saturday.

“I am writing to urge you to recognize the moral imperative of urgent action, to seize the mantle of international leadership, and to speak out forcefully against the United States' efforts to dilute the global action plan,” said Mr. Dion.

“I am deeply troubled by Canada's silence in the face of reports that U.S. President George Bush is seeking to weaken the proposed G-8 Declaration on Climate Change and Energy Efficiency,” Mr. Dion wrote in the letter.

“Your government should not continue to approach this challenge as merely a domestic partisan political issue,” said Mr. Dion.

I find the silence particularly worrisome, because there seems to be a void between the rhetoric and reality. If you take John Baird at his word, the Canadian Green Plan is one of the most aggressive proposals on the world stage. People will remember Mr. Baird at the last G8 summit on climate change in March, taking the lead:
Environment Minister John Baird says he hopes Canada will help spearhead a number of environmental initiatives that go beyond the scope of the Kyoto Protocol

"We want to be part of, and provide leadership around the world for, negotiation of a new pact that will go farther than Kyoto in the years ahead."

We know that the Germans and British have "taken the lead", trying to exert pressure on the Americans. How do we reconcile Baird's bravado with the silence? If our plan is so ambitious, if we want "provide leadership", then surely we should seize on this opportunity. Baird has gone so far as to argue that Canada's plan goes well beyond what EU countries are proposing. A statement of truth translates into easy acceptance of the lesser targets proposed at the G8 summit. Canada should have no problem joining in on the chorus, further isolating the American position.

The silence begs a question. Is Canada sitting on the sidelines, allowing the Americans to take the heat, all the while quietly supporting their opposition? Sometimes you say more when you say nothing. We all know Baird has recently visited Washington to discuss the various issues, so you would have to conclude intimate knowledge of the American position. If we take this government at its word, if the plan is what they say it is, then there is no logical reason why Canada shouldn't be a the front of the line, demanding action. That we hear nothing, is telling.

Angus-Reid Online Poll

Of all the polling, the Angus-Reid online one seems to generate the most scepticism. The issues of reliability have been argued, and this poll has proven to be an outlier. Well, I would still classify the findings as "wacky", but they do follow the same trend of other polling outfits. In fact, since the last poll, the gap between the Liberals and Tories has closed by 10 points:
Public support for the Conservative party decreased this month in Canada, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 35 per cent of decided voters would support the Tories in the next federal election.

The Liberal party is second with 28 per cent, followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 18 per cent, the Green party with nine per cent, and the Bloc Québécois also with nine per cent. Support for the Tories fell by four points since late March, while backing for the Grits increased by six points.

At the very least, Conservative apologists are robbed of their favorite poll reference, Libranos at 22%. Libs up 6, Tories down 4, the numbers still don't match other outfits, but the pattern is the same.


New Ipsos poll, which is much the same as their last offering:
The Ipsos Reid survey, conducted May 22-24 exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, found that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party was holding onto a steady lead with 37 per cent support, versus 31 per cent for the Liberals and 16 per cent for the NDP. The Green party also made some gains, rising to nine per cent support nationally, the highest level ever recorded by Ipsos Reid, while four per cent of voters remain undecided.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Deniers Declawed

David Suzuki has an opinion piece, which recognizes some of the challenges in the climate change debate:
For some, however, doubting the science of global warming has taken on an almost religious zeal. Those blessed with “knowledge” shake their heads sadly at people who are concerned about a warming planet and are trying to do something about it. They pontificate about how the public has been misled by a few (usually European) academics who rely on “faulty” computer models, socialist biases, or both.

Talking to these people is hard because they come armed with obscure-sounding references about things like the “medieval warm period,” “solar flares” and “hockey-stick” graphs. They seem so sure of themselves that the media still routinely feature these so-called global warming skeptics in opinion articles, television interviews and especially on talk radio.

Media outlets love these guys (yes, they are mostly men and they tend to be the same, often paid, “experts” over and over again) because it stirs things up. These guys specialize in arguing and confusing people, the same way tobacco industry lobbyists did and still do. Having people argue on talk radio is that medium’s bread and butter. And what better way to get people riled up than to have a self-proclaimed “expert” tell everyone that global warming is a myth?

The problem is that some people believe it. Or, more often, it creates just enough doubt for people – including politicians – to ignore the issue. And that’s dangerous.

Suzuki directs people to this series by the New Scientist, which debunks all the usual counters.

Interesting, that Suzuki calls the doubters "religious" in their zeal, because that is another one of the denier criticisms. I've expressed the same frustration as Suzuki, not as eloquently, that we don't have time to debate with these people, and the media does a disservice in fueling what are marginal opinions.

How many times have we seen a blog post on climate change, only to met with a wayward SDA reader, armed with some rogue study to challenge the entire concept. The denier crowd seize on every fringe opinion, all the while ignoring the fact that for every one example to question, you can provide a thousand to support. It is a fruitless and tiring debate, because there is a stubborn mentality that only needs tertiary support to give comfort. In other words, why bother, let's move on.

However, as Suzuki points out, the problem is that the issue is so complex, people that are otherwise occupied, can be influenced by conflicting messages. That doesn't translate into censor, because there are still unknowns, but it really is irresponsible to search the globe for every dissenter, in a fashion that suggests more weight than the true reality. Arguing degree is one thing, arguing the existence seems like old news.

We Be Jammin

As the government prepares to unleash its war on drugs strategy, it will waste taxpayer money in another exercise in futility:
Joanne Csete, the network's executive director, recently wrote in a letter to parliamentarians that the Conservatives are contemplating "a U.S.-style war on drugs, an approach that has proven time and time again to be counter-productive and a tragic waste of public funds."

Of the new money allocated in the federal budget, $22 million would go to law enforcement efforts to crack down on marijuana grow operations and to catch and convict drug dealers.

Another $10 million would be spent on a prevention campaign for young people and their parents.

Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, said a national "say-no-to-drugs" campaign would counter a perception among young people that marijuana is legal, in light of a failed Liberal bid to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug.

Another day, another massive bust, that will do absolutely nothing to curb drug availability and/or organized crime, as it relates to marijuana. Every year, I watch in amusement as the rural sky greets the annual visits of the OPP aircraft, searching cornfields for pot. Theater of the absurd.

The Liberal government was finally starting to get sensible when it came to marijuana. I saw the proposals as the first steps toward complete legalization and regulation, ala alcohol. Now, the Conservatives seem content to go in another direction, with more enforcement, endorsing the idea of wasted resources chasing a problem that is easily rectified.

There are a lot of dangerous drugs out there, that people should be concerned about and society should reject, marijuana just isn't one of them. Anyone who contends that marijuana is a menace, must also conclude the same about alcohol. The only way to stop organized crime, grow-ops, etc is to regulate and legalize. The Conservatives can spend money telling people that marijuana is illegal, but unless this generation is different from mine, the effect will be nil. What a waste of time, not to mention a regressive mentality.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Charest Should Blink

Charest had better hope this PQ proposal is accepted:
Under National Assembly rules, budgets cannot be amended. Speaker Jean-Pierre Saintonge made this decision in June, 1993, at a time when nobody envisaged a minority government. The PQ has asked that the rule be changed. Speaker Michel Bissonnet will likely announce his decision today.

If you take the opposition parties at their word, Charest will have to back off his taxcuts or face an election. Given the fact that Quebecers have already rejected Charest's election promise as a cynical attempt to essentially buy votes, it would seem political suicide to fight another election with these taxcuts as the centerpiece.

The Liberals may have gambled that the PQ wouldn't relish another election, as they re-tool. The stubborn budget may prove to be the final nail in Charest's coffin. While there is an argument for blaming the opposition for the cost of another election, Charest will still be forced to defend, allowing the other parties to argue substance over political expediency.

Harper Leads Burger Poll

Ipsos-Reid is conducting a poll for Harvey's, that has a political tone. Dion has some work to do:
Who are you most likely to invite to have a burger with you?

Harper 35%

Layton 23%

May 17%

Dion 16%

Duceppe 8%

In Quebec, more people want to have a hamburger with Harper than Dion.

These numbers are similar to the leadership numbers, in that Layton scores quite well, relative to party support. Harper is right about where he should be, while May is certainly drawing some curiousity with Canadians. Dion, not exactly impressive.

Useless? I think there is something within this numbers that is relevant. Clearly, Dion's image isn't one that Canadians have embraced, on a personal level. Issues aside, the ability to connect with people is paramount to prospects, so I wouldn't reject this type of poll out of hand.

The Harper Criticisms

Olaf asks the million dollar question:
Often, you'll hear partisan critics hysterically declare this government the "most cynical in Canadian history". They're also simultaneously the most ideological and least principled government in Canadian history, and the most successful deceitful and disastrously incompetent - hey, who says you can't be contradictory to be consistent?

How can you criticize this government as an ideological menace, while simultaneously pointing to their lack of principle? On the surface, a complete contradiction, and the two statements aren't easily reconciled. The government as cynical manipulator, crafting policy to curry favor, suggests that there is no ideology, beyond the idea of retail politics.

I am guilty of arguing both criticisms, and I have thought of the strained logic. That tension is alleviated if you embrace the idea of circumstance. Ezra Levant, who is a conservative ideologue, recently argued that, while the government has abandoned some of its supposed principles, this was probably a temporary situation because "they are doing what they have to win a majority". The inference, this government is ideological at heart, but there is a recognition of electoral reality, and the first phase must secure unchecked power.

The present circumstance doesn't support a hard right agenda. There is no situation, wherein Stephen Harper can expand support if he adopts the ideological agenda, that his long paper trail supports. The Harper view is the minority view in Canada, which translates to a need to "reach out" to expand support. No one would argue that Harper doesn't have majority on the brain, he mentions it frequently, his strategists openly speak of the plan.

Ideology is on the back burner, electoral reality is primary, in the first phase. One has to wonder, why is that Harper is so consumed with a majority? Why can't the government operate effectively in a minority situation if it really is pragmatic at heart? The obsession tells us that there is more to see from this government, it has calculated it needs absolute power to effectively enact the agenda. Instead of governing, we have seen a perpetual campaign, wherein Conservatives have acted like "liberals", in many regards. There is little evidence of principle, because the only principle is the acquisition of power.

I don't believe that the current incarnation of Stephen Harper is the genuine article. We see hints of the ideologue, but it usually on the margins, and is quickly corrected if internal polling suggests a backlash (people will notice the lack of Bushisms and differing focus on the latest Afghan trip). Only when we see a majority will the government truly flower. Phase one, a cynical manipulation of electorate, acting as a mostly amoral corporation selling a brand. Phase two, unchecked control where the philosophy can take root.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Liberals Can Grow

A new Decima poll out, that suggests some optimism for Liberal prospects:
While the Conservatives and Liberals remain in a dead heat in political support, a new poll suggests the Liberals have more room for growth.

The Decima survey, made available exclusively to The Canadian Press, says 80 per cent of voters are decided or leaning to one of the five federal political parties, but almost a quarter say the Liberals would be their second choice.

Only 18 per cent tab the Tories or the NDP as their second pick.

The poll suggests that 39 per cent of those who support or are leaning to the Conservatives would vote Liberal as a second choice.

And 35 per cent of those who support the Liberals say they'd go Tory as a second choice.

Among those decided or leaning NDP, 42 per cent said the Liberals would be second choice, with another 20 per cent prepared to go to the Greens. Only 18 per cent of these nominal NDP votes would go to the Tories as second pick.

The poll gives the Tories 33 per cent support overall, with 31 per cent for the Liberals, 17 per cent NDP, 10 per cent Green and eight per cent favouring the Bloc Quebec

These findings suggest if the Liberals get their act together, that there is a receptive audience waiting. The stagnant Liberal numbers over the past months are a symptom of lack of inspiration. In order for people to move their preference, you need to motivate. This poll tells us that people are open to supporting the Liberals, it is up to the party to give them the nudge.

Gore Leaves Door Open

I watched a very interesting interview with Al Gore, wherein he commented on, what else, running for President. I thought the following quite telling, and to me it shows that Gore is considering another run:
GORE:But, yes, it's true, I have not made a so- called Sherman statement and ruled it out for all time. I see no reason or necessity to do that.

But that's not an effort to be coy or to prop the door open or to invite such speculation. Look, I don't know why it's ordained that one -- that as soon as one presidential campaign is over with, the next one begins right away. I'm one of those who doesn't like to see the Christmas goods put into storage right after Halloween.

And I think the American people are not well-served by having an endless campaign. We are 500 days away from the next election. So why just sort of close up the field and say, OK, this is it. Place your bets. I don't have to play that game.

KING: No, you don't. But -- and I don't mean to be coy, but why not take the Sherman approach? Why not say, I don't want to run, and if nominated, I won't serve?

GORE: Or whatever. Well, I see no reason to do that. Why would I do that?

KING: Because when you don't, you leave things open.

GORE: Well, I have not closed the door at some point in the future to consider being a candidate..

As an aside, the funniest part of the interview was Gore commenting on the media’s fascination with triviality, as opposed to hard news. There is a certain irony in Gore making that statement while on Larry King.

I think the most intriguing comment is Gore saying that we are still 500 days from the election, and he doesn’t have to “play the game” of endless campaigning. I translate that statement to mean there is plenty of time for a late entry into the race. And, the fact that Gore refuses to simply issue a categorical NO seems to betray at least a latent desire

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Left Wing Media

I'm not sure what has happened, but The National Post has suddenly morphed into a Conservative critical publication. Today, Don Martin unleashes his latest salvo, this time the transparent Harper trip to the battlefield:
A strange new pattern of Canadian political behaviour is gaining momentum - when under heavy fire, flee to Kandahar.

The base for 2,500 Canadian troops has become the runaway photo op of choice for the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and government MPs trying to duck the harsh glare of their own poll-driven frailties and foibles back home.

These prime ministerial trips are logistical and security nightmares, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly politicians and their entourages halfway around the world to give the appearance of personal risk while wrapped inside a protective military bubble.

Mr. Harper's first trip to the region was in the heat of a domestic political battle when he stoutly refused to allow a debate on the Kandahar deployment before reversing himself a few months later.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has been to Kandahar three times with every trip taking off across the Atlantic just ahead of a rumble of calls for his resignation in the House of Commons. He was there just two months ago and is back there with the Prime Minister now.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has gone twice while Cabinet colleagues Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Treasury Board president Vic Toews and Environment Minister John Baird did a tour along with tagalong Conservative MPs Helena Guergis, Ted Menzies, Laurie Hawn, Jay Hill and Rick Casson.

I'd actually cut O'Connor some slack, it is his portfolio, and there is an argument for a hands on approach. However, Martin makes a relevant point about expenditures and inconvenience. Everytime we send these high-profile delegations, it distracts from the military, who really have more pressing tasks than making sure politicians are safe. How many Afghan schools could be built for the money it costs to send people half around the world, for what was is essentially a photo-op?

Should the Prime Minister express support for the mission? No question, and I would offer his embarrassing, partisan performance, at the Support the Troops rally a couple weeks ago, as a suitable venue. The problem with these trips, as Martin highlights, there seems a co-relation between political consideration and the visit. A reporter actually asked Harper today if his trip was politically motivated, to which he responded that principle, not polls, drive him. Okay, sure.

Baird Sells UN Envoy

Nobody said Baird isn't good:
A top United Nations official says he is no longer alarmed by Canada’s stand on the Kyoto Protocol now that he better understands the Conservative government’s position.

“I must admit, I was worried for some time, but I was much encouraged by the clarification,” Yvo de Boer, executive secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in Montreal Tuesday.

He said he now understands that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government wasn’t rejecting the value of the Kyoto accord, but rather observed its objectives cannot be met within the target deadline.

De Boer was responding to reporters’ questions after addressing about 300 delegates, including environmentalists and politicians.

The UN official’s statements clearly pleased federal Environment Minister John Baird, who was at the media event and also addressed the delegates

"In spite of the problems that Canada is encountering, there is a policy framework put in place," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"There is a commitment to an internationally negotiated framework, so I must admit that it made me feel a lot better," he said.

Yvo de Boer is taking Baird at his word, but he might want to brush up on Stephen Harper's history, as it relates to Kyoto before reaching the above conclusion. The Conservative apprehension has nothing to do with failure to meet targets, but a profound distrust of the entire system. I'm not going to bother pulling out all the quotes, everyone knows the timelines.

What did we learn today? Canada really is a "world leader" that agrees with the United Nations approach to climate change, or John Baird is a polished salesman, that knows how to say the right things to curry favor? Until the experts say different, I'll stick with the latter.

Canadian Media Picking On Israel?

Cherniak is complaining about Canadian media coverage as it relates to Israel. The assumption, there is an anti-Israel slant in both scope and context:
I pointed out that whenever Israel takes defensive military action in the Middle East, it seems to earn disproportionate coverage in the Canadian media. At the time, a number of Canadian news sources were highlighting Israeli attacks on Hamas when they had not reported the attacks by Hamas on Israel only the day before.

Let's keep it real, massive bias aside. If media is guilty of anything, and this is a universal point, it is the preference for the sensational. While I have read stories on the Hamas rocket attacks, the fact that they GENERALLY do little damage, with no casualties, translates into a minor story. For context, I believe there has been wall to wall coverage of every Palestinian suicide bombing in the last decade, so that fact should serve to undercut Jason's argument. The reason why the media perks up when Israel responds in Gaza is simple, the chances of people dying are great.

Forget about Israel for a second, and just focus on the coverage of the Palestinians. Only when Hamas and Fatah look to be on the brink of civil war, with fighting in the streets, does the media bother to cover the story. Inevitably, the story wanes, unless the bloodshed and immediate crisis continues. Coverage is directly tied to violence, and the scope dictates whether it is a bit piece or frontpage news.

Jason uses The Toronto Star to make his point about uneven coverage, but I don't think that fair to single out one or two pieces and extrapolate. When Israel moves on the Palestinians, the world media keys in because of the ramifications. This may sound harsh, but Israel airstrikes with precision munitions are far more relevant than, shot in the dark, militarily insignificant rockets, with minimal ordinance. The capacity to do real damage rests with Israel in this instance, and as such, it is only natural to focus on that potential cost.

The Gaza Strip is a third-world slum, with militants that simply don't have the resources to be a legitimate military threat to Israel. On the other hand, Israel can occupy the entire terrority in hours if it chose, which partially explains the disporportionate attention when it decides to act. The whole region can descend into chaos if Israel decides to launch a full scale assault.

Maybe the media should put more focus on Hamas rocket attacks, but from what I have read, people aren't suggesting that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself. People aren't absolving Hamas, but you can't expect the media not to cover "Palestinian deaths", as a result of Israeli response. The media will focus on the casualties, particularly civilian, and that preference manifests itself in every region of the world, no matter the ethnicity, race or circumstance. The real question isn't bias against Israel, articulated by a very biased observer, it really is a question of what makes good copy, what is a compelling "story".

Monday, May 21, 2007


The looming G8 summit will finally flush Canada out of the ambiguous brush. Two diametrically opposed trains of thoughts are developing with the climate change communique. One the one hand, we have the Americans rejecting the following:
"We firmly agree that resolute and concerted international action is urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and sustain our common basis of living."

"To this end we will, in the face of the U.N. Climate Change Conference at the end of this year, send a clear message on the further development of the international regime to combat climate change."

Instead, the Americans prefer this statement:
"Addressing climate change is a long-term issue that will require global participation and a diversity of approaches to take into account differing circumstances."

Those two statements have nothing in common. One, demands urgent action and proposes to come up with a framework by the end of the year. The other is completely benign, "long term", with no structure and "differing circumstances".

We have already heard speculation that our government is lining up with the American position. We also know that Canada has failed to submit proposals for the next phase of climate change negotiations to the United Nations. Now that we see the gigantic chasm that exists between most G8 countries and the Bush administration, where Canada ultimately falls will eliminate any nuance and spin. If Canada decides to back, what amounts to a preposterous dodge by the Americans, then John Baird and company will be exposed as complete frauds. There is nowhere to hide with such stark choices.

Al Gore Likes Bon Jovi

Time magazine has a great piece on Al Gore that is definitely worth a read. A good portion is devoted to silencing the speculation that Gore will jump into the race, although Gore makes one curious comment:
"I have enjoyed the luxury of being able to focus single-mindedly on this issue," says Gore, back on the patio at his Nashville home. "But I am under no illusions that any position has as much ability to influence change as the presidency does. If the President made climate change the organizing principle, the filter through which everything else had to flow, then that could really make a huge difference."

Of note, Gore has lost a few pounds, which I concluded earlier might be a sign of an entry. However, it would appear from the article that health is the motive, not ambition.

Now the really bad news:
"Did some grilling last night with my friend Jon Bon Jovi," he says. "His new record is great."
We all have our faults ;)


Conservative Whip Jay Hill offers a completely pathetic defense for the Tory playbook:
"It's no big secret that this is a minority Parliament. We're outnumbered both in the chamber, dramatically outnumbered of course in the Senate by the Liberal majority over there, and outnumbered in every single standing committee."

So it's important, he said, to ensure that the committee chairs have the tools they need "to push back when we see the opposition parties basically getting together and trying to put together a coalition government between the three of them."

Apparently, it is a big secret that this is the minority Parliament, because clearly the Tories have taken a posture that doesn't incorporate the reality. Hill has the audacity to use of the concept of majority opinion as though it is a hinderance. The minority must "push back" against the majority, to ensure that the minority ends up getting its way. Think about that logic? It serves as a fundamental betrayal of the concept of democracy.

Two thirds of Canadians didn't vote for the Conservatives. That reality translates into a Parliament, wherein the government can't do anything without the support of at least one opposition party. Instead of finding ways to reach out to a particular opposition party in committee, the government would rather usurp the process and manipulate in the shadows. There is an arrogance behind Hill's comments, because he implies the Conservatives have an obligation.

I guess the Tories have to offer some defence for their actions, but if Hill's comments represent the party line, they might be better to say nothing. Attacking the concept of democracy, complaining about majority rule to defend you actions, is both alarming and asinine.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Revised Clean Air Act Dead

No matter your political leanings, there is something objectively wrong with a parliamentary system, that affords the government the power to simply dissolve parliament. According to Greg Weston, not only will Harper pull the plug on parliament in the coming weeks, he will also wipeout all pending matters:
Prorogation of a Parliament results in the termination of a session. Parliament then stands prorogued until the opening of the next session.

The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. Members are released from their parliamentary duties until Parliament is next summoned. All unfinished business is dropped from or “dies” on the Order Paper and all committees lose their power to transact business, providing a fresh start for the next session. No committee can sit during a prorogation. [107] Bills which have not received Royal Assent before prorogation are “entirely terminated” and, in order to be proceeded with in the new session, must be reintroduced as if they had never existed. [108]

Since you need unanimous consent to re-introduce a bill, Harper's move means that, among other things, the revised Clean Air Act is a historical footnote. This reality begs the question, what was the point? Our elected representatives have wasted months, studying details, listening to witnesses, carefully crafting amendments and provisions, and in the end it means NOTHING.

You can't really blame the government for wanting to start fresh, eliminating any pesky matters that could cause future embarrasment, but that is really besides the point. MP's are sent to Ottawa to do the people's business. The notion of majority is primary, in any discussion of legislation. When you have a situation where the majority have come to agreement, it is just plain wrong that a simple move by the government can wash everything away.

There is clearly something amiss with a system that allows months of work to simply be erased, on the whim of what amounts to the minority. If prorogation of parliament has value, then it should be contingent on the majority of parliamentarians supporting the measure. Think of all the committee's still sifting through legislation- gone, forgotten, mirage. I don't think Canadians are particularly impressed by a system that can render work meaningless, wasting resources and time. Bill C-30, as it turns out, much ado about nothing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

I am almost more surprised that the Conservatives distributed a written parliamentary playbook, than the actual contents. The sequence of events tells as a great deal about the PMO, and none of it is flattering.

First of all, which incompetent moron had the bright idea to put procedures to paper? It suggests a STAGGERING naivety to not factor in a possible leak and/or the ramifications of these directives becoming public. This type of information is political dynamite, and yet no one in the PMO had the foresight to see the potential landmines.

The Liberals had meetings all the time, regarding parliamentary tactics and ploys. I'm not suggesting they were comparable to what we witness now, but nor were the Liberals completely straight. The difference, the Conservative power is held in so few hands, the reigns of control so tight, that instead of a face to face meeting, the directives are merely delivered to the minions. What should have happened, particularly because of the sensitive material, all committee chairs should have met, behind closed doors and therein the details of the tactics discussed. Completely verbal, no paper trail, in private, everyone accountable.

The playbook is appalling, but the fact it even exists, in hard copy, is beyond belief in my mind, given the atmosphere and realities of Parliament Hill. Arrogance or stupidity, take you pick, neither is redeeming.

Liberals Right On GST

I'm inclined to agree with Olaf's conclusions, regarding the Liberals potential GST hike policy. I understand the superficial bad optics of wanting to raise a universally hated tax, but the whole idea speaks to something else, that can be framed positively.

First of all, if the Liberals were to adopt a GST hike, coupled with a income tax decrease, the policy could be woven together as a tax fairness strategy. The important component, demonstrate that the measures are a re-distribution, that doesn't translate into more money in Ottawa's coffers. People aren't likely to take the Liberals word, but the policy will get credibility from the experts. From everything I have read, whether it be a right-wing think tank or the tax policy lobby, income tax cuts have more real resonance, for more people, than the flashy GST cut. The fact that the experts largely agree allows for some cover, when the Liberals would surely come under Tory fire. Liberals want to raise your taxes would be the Tory counter, but the objective observer would be largely sympathetic.

What I really like about the idea, is that is politically counter-intuitive at first blush. What you can dismiss as silly, might actually turn out to be quite shrewd. Such a proposal conveys a posture, wherein political consideration isn't the starting point. The Liberals take a risk on potential bad optics, which begs the question why? Why would you endorse something that appears so unpopular? That endorsement speaks to a seriousness, wherein Liberal economic policy is based on sound logic, rather than a vote grab. This framing could provide an interesting counter to Harper's Tories, who increasingly convey a politics first mentality. The notion of "good government", we are not looking at the polls, but formulating policy out of principle. The easy route is too offer more goodies, but we believe this is where Canada needs to go for tax fairness.

No question, adopting such a policy would be risky. Having said that, in an era where everything appears packaged for consumption, where politicians go to great pains to not offend, such a policy position might just strike a cord. The trick is to get people to look beyond the headline, and this an open question for a dis-interested electorate. I'm inclined to believe the Liberals could pull it off, if done properly, because above all the partisan sniping, there does exist a fundamental logic to the ideas.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bizarre New Poll

Ipsos has a new poll out, which makes little sense:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservatives regained a tenuous lead of 36 per cent, a five-point increase over last week.

With the Liberals at 32 per cent, the New Democratic Party at 14 per cent, the Green party at seven per cent, and the Bloc Quebecois at nine per cent nationally.

Can anyone possibly cobble together one coherent argument to explain a Tory bounce? With all due respect, and partisanship aside, this result is ridiculous.

Want more proof? If you had to pick one other politician who has had a worse week than Harper, who would it be? The easy answer, Duceppe. Well according to Ipsos, Bloc support up as well:
The data showed the Bloc was up four points over the previous week, even though the poll was conducted as Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe was widely mocked for his about-face on seeking the provincial Parti Quebecois leadership.

The nonsense continues with the regional breakdowns:
Conservatives recovered most of a significant decline in support in British Columbia and Alberta, recorded last week in the wake of the government’s climate change policy announcement of mandatory reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week Ipsos had the Tories down 13 points in Alberta, and 19 points in British Columbia, which was hard to fathom. This week, they have recovered, which tells me that it is a false bounce, because the baseline was unreliable. Volatility is one thing, but these wild swings put the entire poll into question. As I've said before, Ipsos should just forget about the regionals, because they simply lack credibility.

I would argue even a Tory loyalist would have a hard time believing these results. The only reasonable argument, Harper benefited from Duceppe's gaffe, but you can't even go there, because the Bloc is up in Quebec. I feel completely confident in saying subsequent polls, from other outfits, will show this is a clear outlier.


Well what the hell do I know? Strategic Council also has a poll, which again shows the Bloc up in Quebec, despite Duceppe's blunders:
The poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV News places the Tories three percentage points head of Stéphane Dion's Liberals, 34-31. The NDP, buoyed by gains in the West, rose three percentage points to 16 per cent.

The Liberal lead in Ontario shrank to three percentage points, and although the Grits regained second place in Quebec in a see-saw battle with the Tories, the first-place Bloc Québécois also increased slightly despite Leader Gilles Duceppe's flip-flop on seeking the leadership of the Parti Québécois.

Liberals: 24 per cent (+2)
Conservatives: 20 per cent (-6)
NDP: 6 per cent (-3)
Bloc Quebecois: 41 per cent (+5)
Green Party: 9 per cent (+2)

West(whatever that means):

Conservatives: 42 per cent (-8)
Liberals: 22 per cent (+3)
NDP: 26 per cent (+8)
Bloc Quebecois: N/A
Green Party: 10 per cent (-3)

The last SC poll had the Conservatives at 36, Libs 30, NDP 13, Greens 12, Bloc 9.

Stephen Harper A Liar: Discuss

What could be worse, than a political round table, with the entire discussion dominated by the Prime Minister and his "mis-truths". Actually, CBC's pundits began with the honorable language, but by the end the word "liar" was easily uttered. Earlier in the week, Paul Wells had an entry titled"Our Prime Minister's Disregard For The Truth", which again started off using verbal gymnastics, but ended with "and he's lying".

When you call someone a liar, particularly a Prime Minister, the use of the word represents rock bottom. Prior, media has worked around the margins, always careful not to cross the line, but now the word has entered the discourse. It was actually quite remarkable to watch a Sun Media representative refer to the government as "dark".

You can't massage the past week, and calling the Prime Minister a liar speaks to objective meltdown. The dishonesty and duplicity is so striking that there is no grey area, no room for partisan spin or dis-information. The Prime Minister lies in the House of Commons, in reference to Dion and bilingualism. The Prime Minister lies during an announcement, absolving Tory culpability on Doan. The Prime Minister's office sends out a outrageous directive to committee chair's that contradicts every single statement made in parliament by the government over the last weeks.

What other word is available? There is real, long-lasting damage being done to this government's reputation, you don't easily recover, no matter the tactics. Once you have lost the moral high ground, which was you supposed cornerstone, you are in trouble. Once you lose a sense of trust, wherein your words are hollow and downright embarrassing, you are critical.

I remember earlier this spring, much of the criticism of Harper revolved around the fact that he still hadn't made an impression on Canadians in a fundamental way. "Mystery man", enigma, Canadians hadn't quite figured the man out. Concurrently, the Conservatives were embarking on their campaign to frame Dion, in a decidedly negative light, before he had a chance to define himself.

I would argue that the past weeks represent the framing of Stephen Harper. The themes are almost universal, echoed by normally sympathetic sources, and most of them are not kind. The unknown becomes conventional wisdom, and once that occurs, just like the Tory attempt with Dion, it is quite difficult to shake. This session of parliament might just be the watershed moment in the career of Stephen Harper, from which he never fully recovers.


Canada's New Government, prepares to pull the plug on government until October:
For a couple of weeks now, political observers around Parliament Hill have been musing about the possibility that the Commons could rise early this year, maybe by the end of this month, and MPs wouldn't return to Ottawa until after the Ontario election on Oct. 10.

Under this scenario, it's believed Harper would simply dissolve this parliamentary session at some point during the long summer break and return in the fall with a new throne speech and blueprint for governing.

Parliament rises today for a one-week break and is to return on May 29. But since Harper is to leave shortly after that for a G-8 meeting in Germany from June 6 to 8, many observers say they won't be surprised if today turns out to be the last time Parliament sits for some time.

I thought the Liberals did nothing for 13 years? Following that logic, the government should be re-doubling efforts to make up for lost time. Instead, we have the spectacle of a government that calls itself new, needing new ideas.

A Tory Senator understands the problem:
The new script is a far cry from the phase one decisiveness. Others put a less gracious spin on things, saying the retreat to the drawing board has been forced upon them because they hit a wall. They threw out everything they had and wound up - in terms of support - barely at their starting line.

"We seem to have run out of ideas already," said a disappointed Conservative Senator, who criticized Mr. Harper as "a narrow boring individual" who makes the mistake of listening only to his own counsel. "We're left scrambling." Retrenchment is a good idea, the Senator said, as long as there's a fresh approach - this instead of having everybody report to the PM like frightened Boy Scouts.

"The PM has to learn that governing is about more than just vote-targeting."

And therein lies the idea void. Instead of governing, for the sake of a genuine agenda, this government focused all its attention on expanding the base. A marketing strategy was concocted, focus group tested and the government merely rolled out the script. Once the sales reports came in, the projections were meager, which left head office in disarray. If anyone questions my analogy, my inspiration was Conservative campaign co-chair John Reynolds, who's advice for the Liberals was they need unify as a "corporation" and come up with a "brand".

The Tories have nothing because they had election tunnel vision, despite the protests. If I were a Conservative I would accept that unflattering conclusion about governing style, rather than the alternative- you are philosophically bankrupt. Two choices, you were in campaign mode, or you are inept. Whatever the reasoning, Canadians now witness a parliament that may leave and not return until pumpkins ripen.

I thought we had to "get things done" and show the world Canada "is back". It would appear the master strategist has made some critical errors in thinking.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Harper: It's Not Our Fault

In another clear sign that the government is bereft of message, Harper was reduced to rationalizing the parliamentary chaos on a hockey player:
He said the opposition started slowing down the government's agenda when it insisted on calling witnesses to review the selection of NHL forward Shane Doan to the national Canadian hockey team, in light of old allegations about anti-Francophone comments made during a game.

The government has its own positions to defend," Mr. Harper said in Waterloo.

"But as you know, we recently had the goofiness with the Shane Doan incident and I think our members at that point said: This was an embarrassment to Canada, attacking the national hockey team,"

Harper, then admits that his government is no longer "new" but "spent":
"in the future we're going to be much clearer about what we want to discuss."

Translation, we are currently an empty vessel, in dire need of direction and a purpose.

Harper is usually pretty adept at the counter-punch, but blaming the chaos in parliament on the debate over Doan is plain weak. Ditto for Van Loan today in the House, floundering to find a coherent counter for the opposition attacks.

If parliament has descended into a sideshow, which was detailed on CBC's The National tonight, then the responsibility rests with the government. The way in which the government has reacted, its inability to play well with others, the threats, the bombastic talking points, have all created an atmosphere that has led to the deterioration. Moreover, the complete lack of an agenda has contributed to the sense that parliament is adrift. The government sets the tone, time for Mr. Accountability to take some responsibility.


Not that it's relevant, but some clarification on the Doan matter. Harper's weak argument aside, he has a bad memory:
"Harper airbrushes out Tory role in Doan affair"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rewriting the parliamentary inquisition of Team Canada captain Shane Doan to rub out Conservative participation.

There's only one problem with Mr. Harper's analysis — the Conservatives participated in the Doan “goofiness.”

All 12 MPs — including five Conservatives — on the official languages committee agreed earlier this month to summon Hockey Canada officials to explain Mr. Doan's captaincy at the world hockey championships in light of disputed racist comments attributed to him in 2005.

And the decision was defended at the time by Mr. Harper's former sports minister.

“It's not in the business of government to involve itself in professional hockey matters, but what we're talking about is amateur hockey,” Conservative MP Michael Chong said on May 1.

“We're talking about Team Canada. We're talking about an organization that receives millions of dollars a year in government money, in public funds.

“They are accountable, in part, to the government of Canada.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Making Canadians Proud

This article's headline says it all, "House of Commons sets new behaviour low". The highlight of the day, surely must be the "attack" from a crazed Tory:
An ugly brawl broke out today in the House of Commons, where a Liberal MP claims he was physically accosted and threatened by a Conservative who "flipped out."

Ottawa MP David McGuinty accused Tory MP Royal Galipeau of storming across the floor and unleashing a tirade of insults. He called the unruly conduct the worst he's seen in his three years on Parliament Hill.

"The member was clearly out of control, using unparliamentary language and in a threatening fashion grabbed my left shoulder and only left my side when several of my colleagues urged him to stop and to leave, but he would not," McGuinty said. "He was really completely out of control, raising his voice, flailing his arms, gesticulating in a threatening fashion and making wild accusations."

Parliament is a mess, and as Peter Van Loan likes to remind us, under our parliamentary system, the government gets to set the agenda and tone. Restoring honor and integrity, as promised. Clearly, voter turnout will be massive in the next election, as Canadians express their sense of pride in our national institution.

Common Ground

This session of parliament, the government has become completely unglued in a way that is astounding, given the earlier appearances of methodical cool and purpose. One of the Conservatives strengths, their ability to keep the opposition off balance, playing one party against another, which allowed for a posture that wasn't supported by seat totals.

The recent conduct of the government, the wedge politics, the strong arm tactics, the mocking tones, the delusions that we have a majority, all of these factors have come together to create a new dynamic. For the first time since the election, the opposition seems to have found common ground. I'm not suggesting a new age, wherein partisanship isn't primary, but I also see the NDP and Liberals working in tandem to a certain degree. Instead of focusing on each other, which has worked to Harper's advantage, the sights are now trained where they should be, if political spectrum is your guide.

The government has been so offensive in it's conduct that it has had the effect of uniting the various factions. In watching the usual partisan panels, the NDP and Liberal representatives have offered the same talking points, which adds strength to the arguments. The media seems to react positively, because a certain objectivity is conveyed when the sources come from different angles.

I'm sure it won't last, but the opposition seems far more effective and believable, when they move together to highlight the issues. It's a pleasant change, and it seems to be quite effective.


Accidential Deliberations, on the same theme.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another Day, Another Critic Of The Green Plan

If you listen to John Baird, Canada is embarking on an aggressive agenda that will lead the world, when it comes to emissions reduction. Baird spews and spews, throws out all the lofty rhetoric, attacks any critic, yet he can't seem to find many allies to back up his robust claims. Another respected expert joins the chorus, this time from Arnold Schwarzenegger's camp:
Arnold Schwarzenegger's environmental adviser suggests the Canadian government's climate-change plan should be terminated -- or at least significantly improved.

Tamminen compares our government to the Bush administration:
He says the Conservative government is making the same mistake as the Bush administration in the U.S. by failing to take urgent action.

"I don't think the plan itself is commensurate with the threat,'' Tamminen said in an interview.

"That's the same problem we have here in the United States. Our federal government is not responding when they talk about volunteerism and the kinds of timetables that it takes to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Our federal governments are, frankly, asleep at the switch.''

"Just like (in the U.S.), it's not the federal government taking a leadership role,'' Tamminen said.

"Both of our countries ... need to take this problem more seriously and we've got to develop more aggressive targets.''

The word "timid" doesn't quite jive with Baird's claim of "aggressive". The worrisome part for the Conservatives, they were so eager to get some environmental credibility, they actually invited the Governor and his entourage. What now, when the invitee compares you plan to the woeful Bush approach? Hardly the public relations event the Tories had in mind.

Every Canadian environmental expert imaginable, economists that you hired to trash Kyoto, all the opposition parties, representatives from the E.U, the United Nations, the man behind the most ambitious plan in North America, the Oscar winner in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone is disappointed, expect for Buzz Hargrove, two oil execs and a writer from Sun Media. I watch with disbelief now, every time I hear Mr. Baird make his baseless claims, that are supported by no one and universally panned. Seriously, if you plan was as ambitious as you claim, would people really use words like "timid"? Baird has become absurd, like Baghdad Bob, with no relationship to reality.

Mr. Bilingualism?

Official languages commissioner, Graham Fraser, has some kind words for Stephen Harper, which seems inappropriate, given the record:
Harper "Exemplary" In Fostering Bilingualism"

Canada's new official languages commissioner says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own role in fostering official bilingualism has been “exemplary” but his government's actions have undermined the Official Languages Act.

Mr. Fraser says cuts by the Conservative government to a range of nine different programs have undermined progress in promoting linguistic duality and developing minority language communities.

He's particularly hard on the Tory decision to axe the Court Challenges Program, which pulled the funding rug from under 40 language cases currently before the courts.

The prime minister, who begins most of his speeches in French, was praised by Mr. Fraser for setting a personal example of how to employ both official languages.

Im confused, Stephen Harper is the leader of government, and yet Fraser seems to look at Harper as seperate entity. You can't criticize government action and then praise Harper at the same time, that is just illogically. Fraser is critical of Stephen Harper's policies, which is far more relevant than how he starts his speeches.

Stephen Harper starts his speeches in French because of political calculation. An easy way to appeal to Quebecers, it says more about ambitions than commitment. If anyone questions that conclusion, then it should be supported with substance, which isn't the case. In fact, the record demonstrates a hostility, not support, which further exposes Harper's real motivations for the French-first approach. Is Mr. Graham naive?

And let's not forget the paper trail:
"It is simply difficult – extremely difficult – for someone to become bilingual in a country that is not. And make no mistake. Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it less bilingual today than it has ever been... So there you have it. As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions."

- Stephen Harper on bilingualism, Calgary Sun, May 6th 2001.

Defenders will say that was then, this is now. I would counter "now" necessitates a transparent tactical outreach, which by Fraser's own admission isn't supported by real action. This government has turned the Official Languages Committee into a sideshow.


Jeff has problems with the logic as well.


Paul Wells doesn't mince words, Stephen Harper is a LIAR.

"Seven Wonders Of Canada"

People love to criticize the CBC, but what I find redeeming about our national network is the way in which it brings Canadians together. The recent contest to come up with the "Seven Wonders Of Canada" has been a wonderful exercise in national pride. After tens of thousands of ideas, the CBC has come up with the top 50 nominees. You can go to the CBC website to vote.

Here are my seven picks, in no particular order:

The Canadian Rockies
The Northern Lights
The Cathedral Grove
Gros Morne National Park
The Canoe
Cabot Trail

The only curious entry, Wreck Beach in Vancouver. I guess it is a wonder that you can buy primo pot from a naked guy :)

Go vote.