Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Then Who Represents The Majority?

Very good column detailing the Conservative approach to politics, "narrowcasting" and appealing to a core constituency.  The philosophy is readily apparent almost every single day in Ottawa, sadly it appears a winning formula, at least under present political dynamics.

Those of us who don't support the Conservatives are continually amazed at how they conduct themselves, the entire approach is a stark departure for traditional notions of "good government".  Truth be told, these Conservatives don't give a rats ass about the vast majority of us, what they care about is tending to their defined base, keeping it secure and safe, everything else is irrelevant.  The notion of a government representing Canadians is replaced by a government representing its own special interests, there is absolutely NO sense whatsoever of a greater calling or duty.

If you reside outside of certain targeted demographics your opinion is meaningless, your resistance a non factor, dissent is left to subsets that are of no concern to political fortunes.  Only when the core is vulnerable will we see a retraction, a rethink, a revision, pragmatism, otherwise stubborn and draconian rule, propped up by a reliable demographic.  These Conservatives continually use the language that soothes, they highlight tertiary issues to keep people in that column, they have no qualms trampling all over democratic institutions if they sense their base is indifferent.  In other words, there is no higher purpose to government, it is forever tactical and immediate,  a state which feels it acts with impunity.

The particularly alarming consequence of this mindset, your government then lacks a unifying quality, because they frankly have no desire to appeal beyond a narrow audience.  In a country like Canada, this mentality is particularly worrisome, a government that isn't interested in inclusive politics is of concern.  Perhaps this explains the relatively toxic environment we currently see, no interest in compromise, reaching out, civility, a mean spirited, flip the bird attitude which poisons everything.

If modern politics is simply about defining a base of support, cultivating legislation to firm up that constituency, while simultaneously offering indifference to those outside of the target, then I submit we are in for a more fractured country that will drift apart and cease to have any cohesive force.  If all you care about is securing 35-40% support on issues that impact us all, we truly are in a place where traditional notions of democratic appeal are over and this isn't a positive development.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pack It In

If I was in charge, I'd send my MP's home today, leaving empty opposition benches to serve as symbolic protest, as well as practical imagery of Harper's Ottawa. In all seriousness, it is time for such a dramatic move, one that would facilitate a much NEEDED discussion of what is happening in our Parliament. The latest abuse of power from the government, pretty much says it all:
The federal government appears set to shut down the only public investigation into Ottawa's fumbling of the F-35 fighter jet purchase. Andrew Saxton, parliamentary secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, has told the House of Commons the Conservatives feel they've delved deep enough into the issues surrounding the cost of the stealth fighters. Media reports say the Tories are expected to pass a motion to end the hearings at a closed-door meeting of the Parliamentary public accounts committee today.
Does it get any bigger than this purchase? The largest military expenditure in our history, hearings that came after a scathing report from the AG and these Conservatives are so drunk with power, they will actually shut it down and eliminate the only public inspection on this file? It would be amazing, except for the fact this is commonplace in Harper's Ottawa.

Look opposition,  lets be blunt, you serve NO purpose whatsoever, except to have sand kicked in your face every single day. There is no "good work" being done, MP's are merely warm bodies, no more relevant that puppet legislative bodies that despots use to look representative. There are now two choices, accept your fate, or walk out on this farce, stay home with your constituents and take a much needed stand. The time has come to throw our entire system into question, because, well, it already IS!

Pack your bags, get on a plane, go home and do something constructive. Leave the dictator and his merry band of minions to the work they are doing irregardless, your input is better served on the streets at home, rather than a farcical place called Ottawa, wherein no practical good can come.   Make a statement that shakes our democracy to its core, I have a feeling the move might just work to ultimate advantage, because once apathy is pierced, people will be appalled at the democratic rot. 

Pack it in.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Canada's Sad "Democracy"

Conservative MP David Wilks comments have provided fodder for government opponents, but underlying his concerns about the budget bill, a candid confirmation of the lowly existence most our elected representatives enjoy.  In reality, Wilks serves as a depressing testament to just how tortured our Canadian expression of democracy.  The exclamation point "kicker", you will ALSO never hear another "off the cuff" word from David Wilks, rest assured.

It's a story of a MP, not privy to anything in his government's budget, given ceremonial face time but having full knowledge "they've made up their minds" already, going through the motions is a kind characterization.  Wilks paints a picture of a cabinet, an inner circle, making all decisions then presenting those measures to what amounts to the majority of elected MP's.  And, this reality is just the government benches, never mind all the opposition MP's.  In other words, Wilks gives frank admission that his role in Ottawa is that of rubber stamp drone, devoid of true impact, sadly useless and obviously not representing ANYONE effectively. 

What is particularly depressing is the fatalism Wilks has already adopted, a rookie MP beaten and submissive, there is nothing he can do, admitting himself powerless.  "One person is not going to make a difference — one MP, one MP is not going to make a difference" laments Wilks.   In fact, one person does make a difference, we see it every single day outside Ottawa.  The fact an MP can but his principled objections on the back burner, in the name of  math, there is a cold realization that plagues the entire House of Commons.  Wilks can very much make a statement, on a number of fronts, should he choose to formally voice concern, in fact that's his job in the idealist sense.  Instead, the defeatist attitude reigns supreme and Wilks will support a budget he tells his constituents is flawed.  How that reality translates to representative democracy escapes me.

Take Wilks to the logical conclusion.  All MP's outside of cabinet in a majority situation should resign immediately, in the name of austerity and practical relevance.  If this mass epiphany was to occur absolutely nothing would change in Ottawa, therein lies the true reality of how centralized and authoritarian our system has become.  Wilks, by his own admission, is useless and he is clearly not alone, so why perpetuate the farce that is our House of Commons.

Instead of cowering in the face of logistics, Wilks should make a stand, vote against the budget.  Yes the budget will pass anyways, yes his one vote is inconsequential, but in the end, should he stand up for his constituents, shed light on a disturbing bill, and in turn give renewed focus to a ailing democracy, THEN he very much could "make a difference".   Instead, the end game to this sad commentary, Wilks will not only fail to stand up, he will MUZZLED in the future, and that is present day democracy in Canada, dressed up in its full regalia.  No wonder nobody cares.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Liberals: One Year Later

We've passed the one year mark since the devastating Liberal election defeat.  The questions moving forward revolve around any apparent progress in "rebuilding" the Liberal party, positioning itself to be a credible alternative next time around.  I would argue a "mixed bag" at best, some positive signs intermingled with objectively concerning trends.

On the encouraging front, despite relegation to third party status, Liberals continue to outpace the Official Opposition in terms of fundraising, a fact that receives little attention.  While the Liberals still trail the Conservatives, the fact fundraising hasn't dried up or waned in the wake of 2011 does suggest an internal resilience.  In fact, the mood within hardcore Liberal ranks remains largely optimistic, despite certain realities, there is a clear fighting spirit which continually manifests itself, within various party initiatives.

Liberals sent a clear signal that a "new" guard was ready to direct the party at their recent convention, decisions that should manifest themselves more moving forward.  In addition, the rules surrounding the upcoming leadership race provide a real framework for Liberals to resonate beyond a narrow base.  Time will tell on multiple fronts, but the nuts and bolts are in place.

Bob Rae has provided steady interim leadership, giving the party a public profile.  In Parliament, the Liberals have managed to stay part of the conversation.  Liberals appear more "scrappy" to my mind, perhaps a natural disposition, given the humbling realities at at play.

However, in recent weeks I believe Liberals are getting a taste of the true new order in Ottawa.  The NDP in flux was temporary comfort, they now have a leader, their team is engaged and the coverage is beginning to recalibrate and reflect seat allocation.  Liberals benefited early from a media used to giving them ample coverage, I sense now we are settling into the "third party" dynamic, which is challenging.  In other words, one year later the job has become tougher, early days a bit of a mirage, staying in the mix will require imagination and compelling performance. 

One year later, the polls are perhaps more daunting, given the regional dynamics.  In my view, this reality pretty much torpedoes any chance Rae becomes permanent leader.  Earlier, polls looked encouraging, Liberals clearly benefiting from a distracted and leaderless NDP, but that illusion has passed, so to all the glowing reviews of life under Rae.  The realities are very sobering, unless Liberals make a decided generational change, armed with fresh ideas and presentations, embrace a revolutionary spirit, I see little reason to believe we can break the "new" order.  Not only do Liberals have to make a case against the Conservatives, they now somehow have to convince Canadians to bypass the NDP and come to our side, "daunting" is kind.  One caveat here, it is important to remember the Liberals sit at levels the NDP would have been touting 18 months ago, so some perspective is in order on the "dead" front.  Our punditry tends to sway WILDLY, despite continually being "shocked", so anything is very possible.  Again, there are opportunities, the question becomes will Liberals have the courage to create the spark, is this a party that can truly reform in a way that turns heads?

There is very much a squeeze occurring, as the NDP move towards the center and the Conservatives continue this publicly crafted propaganda facade that they are anything close to moderates.  The great debate seems to be where Liberals fit into the mix and that is fair commentary.  There is a certain irony in the fact the NDP will essentially become Liberals should they actually appeal to enough Canadians to take power, but that is for non partisans to digest, denial reigns supreme within the tribes.  I'm not sure where Liberals will fit into the conversation.  But, I think Liberals would be best served to forget about spectral considerations and just start standing for things, don't be afraid to be controversial, step on some toes, forward thinking and bold.  In other words make some noise or relegate yourselves to tired afterthought, that's the stark reality that confronts.

All in all, some background pieces in place that provide optimism moving forward.  But, one year in, Liberals are no closer to reversing the trend, that in and of itself is probably a mild net negative.  I believe what happens in the next year will be the decisive historic moment for the party...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mulcair Blowing It

Plenty of time for recovery, a tactical retreat- followed by more nuanced and diplomatic language- but make no mistake Mulcair is BLOWING it on the "dutch disease" file.  My friend BCL delivers the latest poll, which shows the NDP riding high, eclipsing the Conservatives, even leading amongst the key 60 plus demographic, impressive stuff. However, I take the longer view on this current debate, within that an opinion that this issue is quickly morphing into questions of confederation and national unity, both pure political death in the final analysis.

The NDP are handling this issue badly, as some have said, instead of clarifying, Mulcair is "doubling down", his rhetoric simply betrays any sense of PM in waiting.  To raise these questions so early in his tenure as Leader of the Opposition, Mulcair has raised issues of character and fitness, never mind giving his opponents easy attack lines.   That we see the Conservatives and the Liberals, lead by Dion, converging on this issue, speaks to how marginalized Mulcair's view can become.  Add in the barrage of consistent criticism from virtually all quarters, I'm hard pressed to see this ending well for the NDP, lest they make some dramatic course corrections.

At the heart, Mulcair has a economic argument to make, even the latest "independent" study does acknowledges at least "mild" validation of his thesis.   But, Mulcair has managed to needlessly alienate. It's the way Mulcair's articulating the message that is the problem, simply no political acumen, delivered like a novice, with NO understanding of Canadian sensibilities.  It doesn't matter if these Premiers are right of center, it matters that you conduct yourself like a national leader.  The intellectual arguments are secondary to perception.   Mulcair is handling this issue as though perferring a fight, rather than making a calm point, that deserves some consideration.  When confronted with push back Mulcair reacts like a guy not quite ready for prime time.

I'm not sure where the polls will take us, Mulcair is rock solid in Quebec at the moment and I doubt this issue hurts him in his home province.  That said, whatever economic traction Mulcair may get in Ontario is undercut by the now emerging "national unity" question.   Unless the NDP quickly rethink this strategy, Mulcair undertakes a concerted outreach, meets with some Premiers, makes some "revisions" in future speeches, he very much risks future prospects.  As well, Mulcair may, just may, be planting the seeds for a future Liberal revival.  Watch for it, because if national unity and federalism become a core issue moving forward, the Liberal Party will find its voice.

My political instincts tell me Mulcair has lost control of the core economic argument, it's evolving into discussions which will corner the NDP in undesirable fashion moving forward.  Let's watch if the NDP brain trust see the same forecast and modify the message.  Mulcair is still a blank slate with the majority of Canadians, but should he stubbornly keep up this divisive tone, he and his party will be mortally wounded.  Of that fact, I have no doubt whatsoever.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just Another Day In Harper's Ottawa...

Really quite a disturbing story, only lacking impact because we've become accustomed to this "style" from the Harper government, one that more resembles a military junta in spirit, than Parliamentary democracy.  Don't you dare cross these Harper Conservatives, they'll call in the RCMP for a FRIVOLOUS misuse of resources, for their BASELESS witch hunt, meant to CHILL any dissenters:
The Harper government called in the RCMP to investigate a politically embarrassing story involving the decision to sole-source the purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter, claiming it was a breach of national security, The Canadian Press has learned.... The Mounties conducted a five-month review into an alleged leak of cabinet documents under the Security of Information Act, recently used to charge a naval intelligence officer in an apparent spy case. Records obtained under the Access to Information Act show investigators had doubts almost from the outset in July 2010 that any laws were broken in the Globe and Mail story. The story revealed angst within government about possible alienation from Washington if a competition was held to replace the air force's CF-18s. Still, the review pressed ahead and drew in one of the RCMP's four Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, whose job it is to chase terrorism threats.
Unreal misuse of power, but really just standard fare in Harper's Ottawa, a two minute story that we'll all just shrug at and say "oh those Conservatives". Really, this is an outrage of the highest order, the RCMP saw NOTHING from the outset, and to waste resources meant for terrorism investigations, well I consider that a BREACH of national security.

Clearly politically motivated, the Harper government reacted with their usual fury at the revelation that they can't control and manipulate every bit of information, things come out in a free society. Perhaps in the authoritarian regime of his dreams Harper can operate like a despot, but here in modern Canada, there are unfortunate hurdles to be crossed, nuances that are continually confronted. It is noteworthy here that Harper's favourite historical figure is Stalin, a fact which should NOW surprise no one.

Just another day under the Harper REGIME, just another day...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mulcair's First Gaffe

When I argued Mulcair's "dutch disease" gambit had intriguing electoral underpinnings, I classified it as shrewd only if played properly.   Reading Mulcair's latest unnecessary commentary, it appears we have seen his first major gaffe since taking the helm, one that could have lasting impacts, as well as a glimpse into his own shortcomings:
New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair dismissed on Tuesday criticism of him from the premiers of B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, saying they’re simply acting as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “messengers” in the NDP’s fight with Harper over the impact of the oil sands industry on the Canadian economy.

Mulcair said Harper, an economist, knows the NDP is correct in asserting that booming bitumen exports hurt Canadian manufacturers and cause huge job losses.

“He’s not going to try to contest that. What he’s going to try to do is send in messengers to take that argument to me. I’m not responding to any of them,” Mulcair said in an interview.
To  be fair, Mulcair was more reserved in subsequent comments, but this dismissive tone towards three Premiers, nothing good can come of it politically.  Never mind the political orientation of the "messengers", Mulcair's Achilles heel shows here, seemingly driving wedges without considering the ramifications. 

The chief problem I foresee for Mulcair, shedding this well deserved perception that he "can't work with anyone".  A leader has to demonstrate certain tact and nuance, Mulcair here seems to relish making enemies, his reference was derogatory.  As well, the "I'm not responding to any of them" denotes a certain dismissive arrogance.  A federal leader can't just fluff off multiple premiers as though bit players in a bigger battle with Ottawa, that's a recipe for trouble, BIG trouble.

Mulcair also floats a conspiracy theory flavour, something he's done before, a trait that will translate into Canadians NEVER giving him the keys if it continues.  The PM is on the phone directing provincial leaders to undermine Mulcair, even if true, basic political acumen says NEVER go there.

What started out as an economic argument- one with some merit that does deserve intellectual consideration- is quickly morphing into an unhelpful pissing match.  Mulcair's personality is taking this argument in needless directions, rather than a constructive argument about regional disparity and overarching national interests, we are witnessing a bit of a "bull in a china shop" scenario.

Mulcair may not respond to "any of them", but I suspect "all of them" will respond to the messenger cracks and it won't be flattering.  Again political leanings aside, there isn't much upside in going to war unnecessarily, tit for tat, a more diplomatic and careful tone a much better navigator.  Instead, Mulcair has managed to alienate in short order.  Mulcair's brief reign already demonstrating the concerns many in his own ranks expressed were justified.

So far, not so good....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Brief Moment Of Clarity

Finally, a rare look behind the manufactured veneer, one that brings a brief moment of clarity:
Environment Minister Peter Kent elaborated on that in the House of Commons, saying, “the reality is that the round table was created a quarter of a century ago. It was created before the Internet, when there were few such sources of domestic, independent research and analysis on sustainable development. That is simply no longer the case. There are now any number of organizations and university-based services that provide those services...”

But then, on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggested that there was a different reason for defunding the round table. “They have tabled more than 10 reports encouraging a carbon tax, Mr. Speaker,” he said. “Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something that the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected? And that’s a message the Liberal party just will not accept. They should agree with Canadians. They should agree with this government. No discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families, Mr. Speaker.”
The first quote is standard fare, a rational explanation to explain cutting The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. You hear this sort of line often from the Conservatives, a terrific distraction from the consistent pattern of "search and destroy" with regards to anything environmental. "Efficiencies", "eliminating redundancies", "belt tightening", "STREAMLINING", oh the word masters in the PMO have it covered with their vanilla terminology. Again though, if one steps back and looks at the landscape in totality, any sentient human being with an ounce of objectivity gets the true thrust.

Enter the second quote from John Baird, thank you, thank you sir. A "slip" from the Conservatives perspective, a rare moment of freaking honesty for those of us choking on naked intellectual dishonesty. Baird probably "misspoke", otherwise he clearly intimidated the NRTEE was slashed because their ideas didn't jive with that of the government's. In other words, if you don't agree with the Harper Conservatives, you are of no use to Canada as a whole, ideological purity IS the starting point, austerity a convenient shield. How dangerous is that mentality, and yet how often could your transpose what is happening to the NRTEE to other thrusts on the environment file.

There is a very clear vindictive flavour at play, this budget is a largely a fraud in terms of presentation, it really is mostly an exercise in delivering retribution to perceived opponents. Extrapolate to the CBC for instance, the same logic applies, almost perfect in its simplicity. To suggest otherwise is to be duped, or wilfully ignorant, because there is simply no doubt the NRTEE was slashed because they weren't "Conservative" enough in viewpoint, they dissented, they didn't mirror dear leader's view of the world, they were at ODDS, the horror! Think of the message this sends to other entities, the "chill", the intimidation, the climate now more resembles a "regime" than a "representative" democracy.

And now we return to manufactured talking points to mask true intentions.......

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Don't Accept The Premise

Latest Andrew Coyne column details the inaction from all parties on the climate change file. However, the piece begins with a now common assumption, one that really has no basis in fact, apart from platitudes. In other words I simply don't accept the premise:
If there is one thing on which all federal parties and all national political leaders are agreed, it is that they “believe the science” on climate change. They believe that the earth is warming, they believe its effects are on balance malign, and they believe it is caused by human activity. As such they believe it can and should be mitigated by human action, namely by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There isn’t any dispute between them over this. Every party agrees there’s a problem, every party agrees on its cause, and every party agrees on its solution.
I am continually amazed at how we take Harper at his recent word on climate change, particularly when his past is littered with scepticism. Only when Harper assumed the mantle of power did he suddenly evolve on climate change. But even as Prime Minister- in his early days of office- Harper slipped with a public "so called" global warming comment to reporters. The facts are clear, pre-PM Harper thought the science was in question, the notion of human induced global warming controversial, if one were to paint a picture based on commentary, a denier not much of a stretch, logical even. Why then do we assume Harper is on board now with climate change, his recent public comments?

People will recall, that even when these Harper Conservatives talked about action on climate change, it wasn't greenhouse gases that formed the thrust, it was SMOG, it was asthma, an entirely different rationale. Of course smog and global warming overlap, but it was quite insightful how Harper preferred to address the problem from this angle, given his base, it was a safer option. Oh, the Conservative base, that reminds me... Another reason to question commitment, it is true to say not every denier is a Conservative, but if you are a denier you are probably a Conservative. Let's take the online community as a microcosm, look at various boards, you will find Blogging Tories for example, a HUB for deniers, it is no coincidence. Extrapolated further, Harper's former guru Flanagan a denier, his new love the Wildrose a denier's paradise, play THREE degrees of separation with a denier you'll end up with conservative tie every time. Fascinating comment from former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, speaking about how the climate change angle brought down Wildrose:
“These are serious matters,” he told reporters following the unveiling of the exhibit, which featured a photo of his wife Marie and 12 other premiers’ wives. “You’re going to go to Europe today and tell them you don’t believe in climate change? And you are going to sell them oil?” Stelmach said that’s the question he heard at the doors while campaigning for Tory candidates during the election.

“You don’t have to believe in it or disbelieve it. That’s not the issue,” he explained. “Your customer is demanding it, so if you are selling black suits and your customer wants white, what are you going to do? Convince them that black is white?”
And there it is, whether you actually believe it or not, it's irrelevant, give them what they want to HEAR! An incredible admission, but one that brings us back to these Conservatives and Coyne's assumption. Let's sift off the rhetoric and approach Stephen Harper's Conservatives with a critical eye. Begin with Harper's comments prior to taking office. Then look at the Harper RECORD since taking office, the inaction, the international "cancer" at climate change talks, the vitriol levelled against environmentalists, PARTICULARLY those associated with climate change issues, the "Made In Canada" plan that never, etc. If I begin with suspicion, then the facts at hand support in almost unequivocal fashion, that Stephen Harper still doesn't believe in global warming, DESPITE more recent WORDS. Why then does everyone in Ottawa just assume these Conservatives "believe", do we just take their word on other files or does scrutiny and analysis chime in? I find it simply bizarre.

Yes, the Liberals did nothing while in office, although if you ask anyone involved with the issue domestically and/or internationally, they know look almost saintly relatively speaking. It is also true, history will show, the Liberals ran on the most ambitious climate change agenda, actually did fight an election on this ground, with bold ideas, if not adequate execution or a responsive audience. Interesting here as well, it was that election, wherein the issue of climate change was a CENTER STAGE that the Conservatives offered NO plan, they DELAYED it, they had nothing, and yet...

I'm not much into conspiracy theories, but there is simply no doubt that these Harper Conservatives are rife with climate change deniers, they talk in their MP's ears at meetings, they write emails, they DONATE, they have memberships, etc. Within this CLIMATE, where is the impetus for action, where is the grassroots thrust to take a serious look at the problem. Posit potential doubters in the government themselves, it starts to make sense why sit here today, international "pariahs", active warfare with environmentalists, NOTHING to show or anything coming for that matter either, just a nuisance issue that is routinely buried. Only when the electorate seemed engaged was their lip service, but now, nada.

It's about time the pundits, journalists, those that cover these Conservatives rethink the premise, because everything I've seen from Stephen Harper, pre-PM musing to post-PM policy, presents a very consistent narrative, one that betrays any assumptions and deserves renewed scrutiny.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

If It Walks Like A Duck

Isn't it interesting, that with all this talk about "foreign interests" infiltrating environmental charities- attempting to influence our political discourse- the ONLY organization on the top ten list that can be classified as "conservation" in scope is Ducks Unlimited:
The Conservatives have taken some Canadian environmental charities to task for accepting money from wealthy foreign donors to finance their campaigns against oil and gas projects. But tax returns filed to the Canada Revenue Agency show most of the foreign money that fills the coffers of Canadian charities does not go to the environmental groups now in Tory crosshairs. An analysis by The Canadian Press of charities' annual tax returns found only one of the top 10 foreign-funded charities could be considered a conservation group. That group is Ducks Unlimited Canada. Tax returns show it has reported receiving more than $33 million over the years from foreign sources, making it the fifth-largest recipient of money from outside the country. Ducks Unlimited Canada says it receives foreign funding from its sister organization in the United States, U.S. federal and state governments, corporations, private foundations and individual contributors.
I have nothing against Ducks Unlimited Canada, they do good conservation work, even if much of the impetus comes from wanting to shoot birds, whatever, that's your thing I suppose, who am I to judge. Although, it is fascinating to me that a group which has recently came out in favour of the government's controversial changes to The Fisheries Act leads the conservation charge in terms of "foreign" money flowing into a Canadian charity. As well, Harper has promised a "wildlife advisory panel", and guess who is involved:
“This wildlife advisory panel would be comprised of representatives from various hunting, angling and conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, to ensure government decisions regarding issues like endangered species, wetland protection and nature conservation are based on solid science and balanced advice,” said Harper.
I don't know about you, but there is a certain unease in having a foreign backed group advising on domestic issues concerning the environment? How does Peter Kent, Joe Oliver, feel about that? Maybe someone should ask them, since they raised "foreign interests", perhaps the top benefactor would be on their radar when they cobbled together this comprehensive legislation with NO political angle whatsoever? Again, I support the good work of Ducks Unlimited, they do much to protect wetlands. But, the Harper government is very concerned about foreign money being used to influence domestic discussions, so I SHARE their legitimate non partisan concerns and would support any audit to ensure that activities meet obligations. I'm sure my like minded Conservative friends would agree, because these new rules are ethical, not political in their genesis.

NDP Bounce Will Hold

The latest Harris Decima poll cements a robust NDP, now at 34%(33% Apr 30) compared to the Conservatives at 30%(unchanged) and the Liberals at 20%(unchanged). Without seeing the internals we can surmise they remain much the same as the previous offering, wherein the NDP had a massive lead in Quebec, competitive for first in Ontario and strong in British Columbia. You have to be careful with early leadership polls, people will recall the Liberals temporarily vaulting to first in the aftermath of Dion, then Ignatieff, only to see numbers erode in fairly quick order. However, I'm prepared to posit this NDP "honeymoon", "bounce", is somewhat different and fully expect it to hold for a number of reasons.

I fully expect Conservative Mulcair attack ads to begin soon, but the absence to date is telling in the sense there is no obvious target here, easy shots don't readily come to mind. Particularly in Quebec, I'm hard pressed to see any reason for people to abandon Mulcair and the NDP, look elsewhere, at least short term. The NDP have a base, which I argue will hold, given the leader, his environmental credentials, as well as a lack of compelling alternatives.

It's been a tough few months for the Harper government, perhaps the longest sustained period of negativity I can recall. The Conservatives sit at 30%, which is basically bottom since the right united, further erosion unlikely. Beyond that core support, there is serious trouble however, one can even posit these Conservative may be passing their "best before date" as a government, the signs are readily available. What is interesting in the polling, analysis does show softer Conservative support bleeding to the NDP. Traditional voter movement in some regions of Canada, but quite noteworthy elsewhere, an emerging new dynamic which speaks to an evolving NDP. That voters fed up with the Conservative regime are now turning to the NDP, this suggests a new found resilience for the NDP. Played correctly, there is an opportunity here for the NDP to solidify any public perception change. In other words- unsettling to we Liberals- the NDP are becoming the defacto alternative in the minds of Canadians, an angle that deserves particular attention, old trends are breaking down in fundamental ways.

I am not suggesting no future "wane" in NDP support, nor am I naive enough to believe these Conservatives don't have the capacity for rebound. As well, Liberals do have an opportunity with this looming leadership, if realities are properly digested, it could provide a springboard to shake up the current predicament. That said, I don't view recent polling as a blip, I expect the NDP to remain within range of the Conservatives. I don't see a temporary honeymoon, at least not in the historic sense, there is something a bit more substantive occurring in the land...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

"Made In Canada"

Have you heard the stunning news? The Conservatives have done little on the climate change file, they won't meet their own modest targets, nor have they even bothered to do any cost analysis. The audit from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is blunted by diplomatic niceties, in layman's terms his conclusions are as such: these people don't give a rat's ass about climate change and have no intention of doing squat. One of the great intellectual travesties of recent times occurred during the 2008 election. People will recall that prior to the election call, we were all waiting on the Conservatives long delayed "plan" to deal with climate change. Do you remember "Made in Canada", a counter to Kyoto, the Conservative response to criticism? Do you remember that when the election was called, then Environment Minister John Baird told Canadians that he wouldn't release any plan during an election, for reasons never adequately explained or followed up on. Where this development became particularly outrageous, the Conservatives still somehow managed to savage Stephane Dion and his "carbon tax", even THOUGH there was no policy counter, even though the government offered NOTHING in retort, it was full on offence and nobody seemed to notice the disconnect. A truly absurd moment, the Conservatives buried their own plan that was apparently two years in the making, kept it from Canadians with dubious rationale and YET nobody cared, they were given free reign to attack.

Fast forward THREE AND A HALF YEARS and we still await John Baird's plan, should be any day now. Fact is, there was never a plan, what we had was a deception meant to neutralize the issue for the Conservatives during the election (sound familiar?). Once the election was won, the Conservative plan never did get released and with the climate change issue seemingly "waning" in terms of electoral importance, NOTHING happened. Of note here, I recall NO accountability for this transgression, apparently you can preach to Canadians and the world about a looming plan, then release absolutely nothing and suffer no recourse.

This latest audit is nothing more than confirmation of the bloody obvious.  I suppose the only illumination, this government is so disengaged on the file, they can't even bother to cobble together an analysis of the potential costs, a starting point for any real action.  What this revelation confirms, we are an utter fraud on this climate change file, should Harper or his Minister ever take the international stage again on climate change, they should be booed or mocked with utter disdain.  Canada is a joke, a pariah and a cancer on the international stage, the audit further evidence.

Perhaps one day someone will bother to ask John Baird where that plan is....  I know, so 2008.

Monday, May 07, 2012

We Really Are At "War"

Environmental groups are taking to the air today to fight against the Harper government policies. Described as response to the "war" against the environment, this is entirely accurate, as disturbing as it sounds. With that reality in mind, another foot soldier has joined the ranks today, I have taken out a membership with the Sierra Club Canada. In the past I have attended rallies and such, but have never formally joined any organization. Thank you to Stephen Harper and his band of backward misfits, I can no longer passively support, I need to financially and physically assist in any way I can. I suspect I'm not alone....

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mulcair's Shrewd Gambit

It is quite fascinating to digest the narrative Mulcair has chosen in the early days of his leadership. An economic argument, Mulcair can't seem to stop talking about "dutch disease", the high dollar, the regional disparity, within the "new" Canadian economy. Mulcair's thrust has been labelled divisive, but I see it as intellectually necessary, as well as potentially quite shrewd politically. There is a very large electoral audience that will be receptive to Mulcair's message, whatever alienation occurs will have little impact on NDP fortunes. Despite all the talk about a shift "west" in Canada, simple electoral math still shows a very plausible path to power that excludes much of the "changing landscape".

In the next election, a party will need 170 seats to form a majority, perhaps 130 odd seats will be enough for a functioning minority. Mulcair has intentionally singled out three provinces with his message, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, arguing that our artificially high dollar greatly harms the manufacturing sector. Of note, those three provinces ALONE count for 209 seats with the new distribution next election, the one that supposedly moves power west. It is quite reasonable to posit Mulcair could well sweep Quebec in the next election, this "dutch disease" message will resonate all day long in a province with little sympathy for the "oil patch". People can scoff all they want, but if you can deliver Quebec, score 50 or 60 seats, you start with a very formidable base from which to propel yourself, that fact still remains part of the Canadian electoral equation.

Where Mulcair really starts to intrigue, Ontario in particular, because I sense a very receptive audience to this economic message.  People in Ontario are very sensitive to the dollar arguments, everyone understands the importance, there is a simple sophistication that average people understand.  We can talk about productivity, innovation, competitiveness, but at a certain point it's all irrelevant should a soaring dollar price us out of the market.  As well, there is a suspicion about these "economic benefits" Ontario supposedly reaps from the development of the energy sector.  Of course an acknowledgement of equalization payments, a process known well in this parts, given past "powerhouse" considerations.  That said, Mulcair's message has the potential to hit home in a fundamental way; almost advocacy in tone, championing concerns felt here, in a place which just happens to have 121 seats in the next election, 36% of the electorate.  If Mulcair is truly moving the NDP to the center, then this core economic message has some interesting potential in Ontario, make no mistake about it.  A strong Quebec core makes the NDP a "viable" alternative, once they've crossed that threshold in the minds of voters, all traditional bets are off in Ontario.  We see this reality today, massive support in Quebec impacting national numbers, appearing very much a true alternative to the rest of the country as well.

The NDP aren't going anywhere in Alberta next election no matter, ditto for their former stronghold in Saskatchewan.  The NDP are strong in British Columbia, this "dutch disease" message from Mulcair might well prove a net neutral, alienating some, but maintaining some core urban support, enough to win seats, pad the national numbers.  There is little downside in the Mulcair message for Atlantic Canada, apart from Newfoundland, there is an intuitive sympathy for the argument.  My point being, despite all this talk about the new electoral math, Mulcair's argument can resonate with wide swaths of the electorate, his views aren't reckless, but potentially quite impactful.  That this is a economic message from Mulcair that he articulates well, should also not be ignored. It is on this file the NDP face their greatest credibility hurdle and he may just be turning a liability into a central talking point.

A strong "central" Canada coalition, with sprinklings of support elsewhere is still a winning combination. Despite the new math pundits keep harping on, 18 new seats have been created in this central region, only 12 in the "west", which actually means greater importance, not less, in appealing to Ontario and Quebec.  Mulcair isn't crazy, this gambit is actually quite shrewd and a KEY angle to monitor moving forward.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Snake Oil Salesmen

Do you remember the photo ops, Conservatives standing in front of military hardware, on site at aerospace companies, trumpeting the "12 billion" in benefits the F-35 would bring to Canada? Here's a beauty release put out by the PMO in 2011, wherein the Prime Minister mentions the 12 billion in benefits, as well as strangely arguing we've already "spent 400 million" dollars on the plane, something you'll never hear again from a Conservative. Start around the 5 minute mark, where the hilarity begins with Harper accusing others of playing politics with this plane, just as he was hiding costs and overstating benefits to gain political advantage. BAHAHAHA: There are so many more now comedic snippets, Peter MacKay, Laurie Hawn all exaggerating the benefits to Canada, in an effort to buffet criticism in the name of economic salvation. And now, it turns out that SUDDENLY this government is revising their figures, in light of that Auditor General report:
Industry Canada is dampening expectations of how much the aerospace industry could reap from the troubled F-35 program, chopping more than US$2 billion off the Harper government’s estimate. A senior official told a House of Commons committee Thursday that Canadian companies can bid on as much as US$9.85 billion in production contracts for U.S.-built stealth fighter... The auditor general also said the rationale to cabinet for the numbers was unclear. “We found briefing materials prepared by departments for decision-makers and ministers did not explain the basis for the projections, or the consequent limitations involved in on those projections for decision-makers,” said Ferguson’s April 3 report, which set off a political fire storm. “Moreover, in the majority of cases, only the most optimistic scenario was put forward, rather than a range of potential benefits that reflected inherent uncertainties in the projections.”
Relevant here, when Flaherty puts out a budget he routinely takes the "average" forecasting from economists, he draws from as wide as possible sampling to come to realistic targets. Why then did this government not use the same methodology to ascertain true benefits to Canada? Why did the Conservatives ignore data which foresaw a smaller benefit and instead knowingly mislead Canadians with the highest outlier opinion? The fact that Industry Canada has now revised the benefits downward in such SHORT ORDER after the AG report, a testament to the absurdity of former predictions, a confirmation that the figures were based on flimsy evidence. And YET, Canadians were routinely given these erroneous numbers, consistent with every deceitful and disingenuous presentation we've had with this plane. That industry benefits have been "revised" downward will get lost in the general haze here. But, we now have the amazing spectacle of a government actively misleading on the true costs of this aircraft, while simultaneously actively misleading on the true benefits to Canada, the concurrent sales pitches disturbing and unethical.

Snake oil salesman: Speech or writing intended to deceive .

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Year Of "Achievements"

It is almost amusing watching some in the narrow corporate media turn themselves into intellectual pretzels to justify endorsing this government in the past election.  The transgressions are put into a neat little box, almost treated as marginal in importance, while elevating anything and everything that can be clung to, in an effort to laud all the achievements.  Truth be told, respect for our democratic institutions, transparency, ethics, this is where a government should be judged, everything else flows from these core assumptions, to gloss over is actually irresponsible and telling.  In other words, the days of objective analysis are gone, every entity has an predisposed bias and angle, Canada is lost within partisan bleed which has fundamentally poisoned any sense of "free" or objective media, it still exists, but to sporadic and parsed to be relevant.

Our Auditor General has concluded the Conservatives "misled" Parliament on the true costs of the most important military expenditure in our history.  Worse, this dishonest presentation was done with an eye towards electoral desire, the ruse was ultimately an attempt to fool voters.  Is there anything more offensive than a government intentionally misleading the citizens, in a self serving effort to maintain power?  I don't even think the above is in question, to argue otherwise one must take leave of their basic common senses.  This government savaged the Parliamentary Budget Officer even though we know they had similar numbers available at the time, they questioned the patriotism of anyone who dared questioned, they talked of contracts, fear mongered on job losses, stuck to outdated figures in a concerted effort to make it through an election.  That is patently despicable, serious and unsettling, to not give this "scandal" it's proper place in ultimate verdict, sad and quite telling.

This government has buried sweeping changes to multiple jurisdictions within the budget, going well beyond traditional precedents.  This government has gutted environmental reviews, undone decades of work in this regard, to the point former Progressive Conservative Environment Minister's have sounded the alarm bell, loud and clear.  This government has intimidated dissenters, made outlandish allegations, put the "chill" on charities, all congealing into a picture which doesn't represent any democratic debate I'm familiar with.  Alarming is kind, you pick you sector, how these Conservatives operate is akin to the type of bullying we see more with despots, rather than a modern, "envy of the world" democracy.  There is a clear pattern here, so brilliant in its simplistic symmetry to be blinding.

The Conservatives sanctioned lying to voters in a Liberal held riding, faced with robocall accusations coming from Elections Canada they react with baseless accusations of their own, their counter strategy a utter farce unbecoming of an actual government that represents this country.  Even on issues that one can support philosophically, like raising the retirement age, the Conservatives hid this thrust until they were free and clear of the electorate they claim to represent.  No matter where you look, this is a government that exudes questionable ethical standards, they live on "the line", a line which is nothing to be proud of, or aspire to replicate.

This government has lowered the discourse, created a poison atmosphere, made access to information harder, stifled dissenting opinion, put shackles on scientists, released a budget which made "austerity" really a laundry list of going after every foe they perceived, rather than a traditional "conservative" effort to tackle spending.  Oh sure, the Conservatives can point to cutback in the PMO, etc, but that narrow claim is obliterated when we put along side the previous high percentage increases, a net nothing, much different than real erosion's elsewhere.

I'm sorry, but partisanship aside, how anyone can condone the way this government operates, how they can simply ignore the overall flavour, simply confining their gaze to desirable policy expressions, represents a failure to act as any responsible observer.  It has been quite a year, and it has served to vindicate every single person who spoke of "scary Harper", not only was it NOT hyperbole, it was bang on.  This majority is Harper in his full glory.  The bully with no regard for democracy, the authoritarian right wing ideologue in the pocket of narrow economic interests, prone to low rent tactics that forever undermine any level of civil discourse, this is Canada under this "regime".   There is nothing to endorse here, an embarrassing episode in Canadian history which future generations will shake their heads at, so apparent the transgressions as is the wilfully ignorant "analysis" we must endure.