Sunday, December 31, 2006

Following-up previous posts

*The other day I posted on turncoat minister David Emerson’s $10,000+ flight to Geneva for a World Trade Organization conference, and pondered how on earth he could spend that much on air fare.

I priced out seats in economy (not that his Honour would sully himself in coach) and executive, all of which cost substantially less than what Emerson racked-up. A commenter pointed-out though that I had neglected to price first class fares, which are apparently a step above executive class. I’ve never flown in business, so I can’t imagine what wonders await in First Class.


It’s a class that neither Air Canada or Swiss Air offer, so he didn’t fly with them, but first class is offered by British Airways. And, when priced, a Canada to Geneva via London flight in first class comes to just over $10,000 round trip, more that double the $4000 it would cost to fly business on Air Canada. Maybe the complimentary wine is a better vintage and the beer selection includes imports?

So, that’s a mystery solved. But still, I have to ask: how in the hell can anyone justify a public servant spending over $10,000 of taxpayer dollars for one roundtrip? I mean, you could buy a good used car for that! I’m fine with ministers flying executive, but over $10k for first class! It’s disgusting.


I can’t wait to hear the justifications from my Conservative friends. I suspect it will involve “you did it too” and the use of the word “Liberanos”. If it’s wrong it’s wrong guys, period. Spending nearly a third of my annual salary to fly a minister to Switzerland? I don’t think so.


*Yesterday I mentioned I found it odd that Canada’s New Government(TM) had yet to issue a statement on the execution of Saddam Hussein. As far as I can tell they still haven’t, although there has been some unofficial comment from Foreign Affairs apparently. A commenter points the way to an interesting Macleans.ca piece that offers some insights and illumination. The international treaty/death penalty angle is particularly interesting. It’s not like they didn’t know this was coming though, they’ve had plenty of time to formulate an opinion.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Saturday, December 30, 2006

That's S-A-D-D-A-M

Does anyone else find it weird that Canada’s new government has yet to comment/issue a statement on the execution of Saddam Hussein? I'm assuming they're in favour and what not, but still. So far there’s been nothing from the PMO, or from Foreign Affairs. Also, I’m not sure whether to be amused or concerned to learn that whomever was answering the phone at Foreign Affairs didn’t know who Saddam Hussein was. Oh, how quickly the world forgets, eh Saddam?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Weekend reading

*Experts slam fertility board for ignoring other voices: More fallout from the Conservatives’ decision before Christmas to quietly stack the board appointed to oversee Assisted Human Reproduction Canada with ideological loyalists and social conservatives, and apparently NO stem-cell scientists or fertility experts.

*Fly me to the moon: The Canadian Space Agency wants to participate in NASA’s mission to the moon. Given that the Harper Conservatives refused a budget-neutral request to build a Mars rover and have left the CSA leaderless for over a year, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


*Rafe’s predictions: West Coast pundit and radio talk show host Rafe Mair weighs-in with his predictions for 2007. On the federal scene:


In April, Stephane Dion will become Prime Minister of Canada, surprising all the pundits and driving the Conservatives back to their customary practice of eating their young.


Non-separatists in Quebec will support Dion. So will Ontario as long as Bob Rae stays away. B.C. will give him 15 seats. Dion’s lack of charisma will itself be charismatic as he presents himself to voters.


Prime Minister Dion will re-construct Fisheries and Oceans Canada, taking back all its power over salmon, and listening to those who fight to save our fisheries.


Jack Layton will, after the NDP takes a thumping in the April election, resign. God alone knows who might be his replacement. Can the now invisible and eerily silent Svend Robinson be the man?


*2006 in quotes: The Vancouver Sun compiles a fun list of quotes from the year that will soon have been 2006. My favourite:


"If you ask Ken Dryden the time, he'll build you a watch." Former Philadelphia Flyers' GM Bobby Clarke on his long-winded former foe.


And the lowlight, but it reminds us why he’s an asshole and should not be taken seriously by any legitimate news organization as any kind of commenter or pundit:


"I think she's a bitch. I mean it's as simple as that, and I think that 90 per cent of men would probably say she's a bitch for the way she's broken up Tie Domi's home and the way she dumped [Foreign Affairs Minister] Peter MacKay. She is a bitch." Norman Spector talking about Liberal MP Belinda Stronach on CKNW.


*Tories deny Kingsley quit over political donations row: And if you believe them I’ve got a lovely bridge for sale I’m willing to let you have cheap. Serious inquires only, please.


*Critical flaw in Senate plan: One of the Sun’s quotes was from Harper saying with the last election the West is now in. One wonders then why he is set to screw the West with his Senate “reform” plan. As this editorial in the Nanaimo News Bulletin puts it:


But there is a critical flaw in Harper’s announcement – it does nothing to solve western Canada’s long-standing displeasure with the disproportionate nature of the Senate, one of the fundamental reasons behind the call for Senate reform. The four western provinces have 24 Senate seats. Ontario and Quebec have 24 seats each.


Any elections only lend a false air of legitimacy and fairness to a body that utterly fails to represent its largest geographical constituent base – everything west of Ontario. This would reaffirm the West as being largely irrelevant to the rest of Canada.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Friday, December 29, 2006

$10K to fly to Geneva? Did Emerson take the Concord?

Between periods of the Canada/Germany hockey game (GO CANADA GO!) I was browsing through the travel and hospitality expenses of Harper government cabinet ministers and staff. Because that’s what I do for fun.

Anyone can do it, it can make for interesting reading. Just go to any government ministry Web site, and look for the sidebar link “proactive disclosure.” Here you’ll find how much ministers and their staff have spent on travel, hospitality, dinner and other fun stuff. The information must be publically disclosed on the Web thanks to regulations brought-in by the former Liberal government.

I was browsing through the expenses of my favourite m
inister, turncoat floor-crosser David Emerson, when this entry caught my eyes:

Over $10,000 to fly to Geneva? That's still in Switzerland, right? I mean, I could see if he was flying to Somolia, or Baghdad, but Switzerland? Bless the Internet, I stopped by some travel Web sites to price Ottawa/Geneva roundtrips. Here’s what I found:

*Air Canada (economy) $984.15

*Air Canada (executive) $3973.53

*Continental (economy) $978.98

*British Airways (economy) $2104.84


Not only is Air Canada the cheapest, and a Canadian airline, but David would also earn a nice chunk of Aeroplan points. And even the executive class option is less than half what Emerson expensed. So, how did he rack-up a $10g tab for air fare?


But wait, it gets better. He also brought along his parliamentary secretary, Helena Guergis, who expensed $5187.16 in air fare:

Also along for the Swiss trip was policy advisor Paul Benoit, who was downright frugal by comparison, incurring just $1860.39 in airfare:

If you’ve met David you know he needs a spinner near by at all times, and on this trip that was Robert Klager, his director of communications, at $5218.18 in air fare:

So, there you have it, two MPs and two staffers on a trip to Geneva spending $22,666.58 in air fare alone. That’s an average of $5666.65/person, although the frugal Benoit really skews the numbers down.

I have to ask, did they hire a Zepplin or something? What’s up with that?

But the bill for this trip is actually higher. Because also going to the same Geneva WTO conference was a large contingent from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (air fare in brackets), including Minister Chuck Strahl ($7,226.86), parliamentary secretary David Anderson ($7314.11), parliamentary secretary Jacques Gourde ($6690.03), policy advisor Christine Bakke ($5438.29), communications director Conrad Bellehumeur ($6109.03) and senior policy advisor Christina Patterson ($5298.29). Their filings also included a side trip to Newfoundland. So a six person contingent from this ministry for a total of $38,076.61, or an average of $6346.10/person.

All told, that's a contingent of 10 politicos (five MPs, five political staffers) attending one conference at a cost of $60,743.19 just for air fare, an average of$6074.32. If they'd taken the Air Canada economy option the bill would have been closer to $9841.50 for all ten people, saving the taxpayers some $50,901.69.

And what did they accomplish? Read for yourself:

Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said he was disappointed that the issue didn't get off the ground in Geneva.


"There were no negotiations at all, that's the sad part, the sad truth,'' Strahl said Saturday in a teleconference call from the Swiss city.


Trade Minister David Emerson also expressed his dismay.


"While WTO members have worked hard to reach an agreement, the gaps among members' negotiating positions proved to be too great to bridge during this meeting,'' Emerson said in a statement.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Harper's $75,000 Vancouver non-announcement

What does $75,000 of taxpayer dollars get you these days? Apparently a few recycled Stephen Harper platitudes and a lot of hot air.

You’ll recall Harper and his gang flew out to Vancouver in October for what was billed as “a major announcement” on the environment and turned out to be just recycled pabulum with nothing new. Four minister tagged along for the photo-op, and none of them designed to answer any media questions.


And the cost for this pseudo-campaign trip by Harper and a chunk of his cabinet? According to a Vancouver Sun investigation, some $75,000 of your taxpayer dollars. Plus Challenger Jet expenses of $9,174/hour.


Among the expenses was over $13,000 for audio, lighting and teleprompting services at four public events, including a campaign-style speech by Harper to the Canadian-Chinese community, and $203 to another government department to rent 10 Canadian and 10 BC flags. They couldn’t just borrow them? I mean, they’re the same government!


Harper traveled with an pack of seven staff members, Lawrence Cannon took three, and Rona Ambrose and Gary Lunn managed with one each. A frugal Tony (sold that stock yet?) Clement went stag, or maybe he borrowed one of Harper’s seven staffers to carry his bag.

Taxpayers get fuzzy PM speech for their money
A trip to Vancouver to repeat pledges cost $75,000, documents show

Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, December 29, 2006

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent $75,000 on a trip to Vancouver to do nothing but repeat previous pledges, according to internal government documents obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

The money for Harper and his entourage of cabinet ministers and aides was spent on flights, hotels, meals and other travel costs in October for what was billed as a major announcement on the environment, according to the documents.

The Oct. 10 announcement, staged against a brilliant Vancouver skyline with four cabinet ministers in the background, was ridiculed by commentators as being fuzzy and vague because Harper only repeated previous pledges to introduce a Clean Air Act.
(more)

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Thursday, December 28, 2006

So-called Giant ice shelf snaps free from Canada's Arctic

More so-called evidence tonight of so-called climate change and so-called global warming. It seems a so-called giant ice shelf snapped free from Canada’s so-called Arctic. That seems so-called concerning to me. I hope Canada's so-called New Government will take some so-called action on this by at least, say, 2050.

Giant ice shelf snaps free from Canada's Arctic
STEVE LILLEBUEN

Canadian Press


A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.


The mass of ice broke clear from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole.


Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, travelled to the newly formed ice island and couldn't believe what he saw.


“It was extraordinary,” Dr. Vincent said Thursday, adding that in 10 years of working in the region he has never seen such a dramatic loss of sea ice.


“This is a piece of Canadian geography that no longer exists.”


The collapse was so powerful that earthquake monitors 250 kilometres away picked up tremors from it.


Scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in 30 years and point their fingers at climate change as a major contributing factor.

(more)

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Make Rory an All-Star

Want to give the finger to the hockey establishment? Vote online to send Canucks defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick to the all-star game.

I hadn’t heard of this story until the weekend, when Don Cherry went off his rocker again on Coach’s Corner. It has to do with the fan balloting for the NHL All Star Game. The starters are selected by the fans, and one of the ways to vote is online. It seems that on the Internet and the blogsphere a movement has erupted to get Fitzpatrick, a journeymen defenceman, elected a starter for the Western Conference.


It’s something fun, and a way of giving the finger to the hockey establishment that place so much importance in an All Star Game that is one of the biggest jokes in professional sport, and take it all so seriously. It should be noted Fitzpatrick has/had nothing to do with it.


Here’s how the guy behind the “Vote for Rory” Web site that started all this puts it:


"A guy like Rory Fitzpatrick deserves to go to the all-star game over a lot of other guys who probably don't want to be there anyway," Schmid said in an interview. "He showed a lot of determination to stay in the league and make the most out of his role.


"The all-star game is a great way not only to honour the superstars but honour the guys that are the best at their role. "


The people responded to the movement, with Fitzpatrick second in the voting for awhile. He’s now fallen to third with an amazing 486,842 votes. The top two defencemen will start, currently that’s Scott Niedermayer with 540,380 and Nik Lidstron with 522,345.


He fell to third after the hockey establishment reacted to the surprise of him being in second with much assholery and douchebaggery. Don Cherry even personally attacked Fitzpatrick, who as I said had nothing to do with all this, calling him “a joke, a freak and a jerk.


Then there’s hockey writer/establishment defender Scott Morrison, who arrogantly declares “enough is enough” with all this silliness. Fitzpatrick just isn’t “worthy” and he should do the “honourable thing” and bow out. Not worthy of playing in a meaningless beauty contest held so corporate sponsors can get VIP passes and feel important? Oh, the humanity!


Well, I say we tell Cherry who the real jerk is, and tell Morrison to remove the stick from his posterior. I’m going to be voting for Rory as often as possible, and I hope all of you will as well. It doesn’t take long. Visit here for the instructions or go straight to the ballot here, and just select Fitzpatrick as a write-in candidate for the Western Conference.


And stick it to the man!

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Morning reading

  • Another from the category of the media catching-up with the blogsphere, this time on Steve Harper’s pre-holiday appointment/patronage orgy. As the Globe reports this morning, it appears Harper and his Health Minister, Tony Clement (sold that stock yet Tony?) have stacked the board appointed to oversee Assisted Human Reproduction Canada with social conservatives rather than, you know, fertility experts and stem-cell researchers.

It includes a professor of Jewish studies who has written of his opposition to abortion unless life of the mother is being threatened, a social anthropologist who is director of research for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, a Montreal oncologist who has spoken against euthanasia at an anti-abortion conference, and a Halifax bioethicist who opposes using fresh embryos for stem-cell research -- an opposition commonly voiced by those who believe life begins at conception.

And chaired, of course, by a former Conservative Premier. What, me worry? Also, the Globe’s Brian Laghi has more on how the religious right has Harper’s ear.

  • This story form Reuters is actually a few weeks old, but it just ended-up in my local Niagara Falls paper the other day. It details though how the environment and climate change is not only becoming a “so-called” election issue in Canada, but in countries around the world as well as the issue is championed by mainstream parties.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Peter’s Excellent Middle East Adventure

If it is indeed one of Peter McKay’s New Year Resolutions to be more of a diplomat and less of a jerk I applaud him and fully support him in his quest. And it seems our Foreign Affairs Minister would like to start that quest by trying to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Yes, it seems that in the New Year our Peter wants to fly over to the region and see if he can’t get everybody talking.

"I would love to, in some fashion, be able to facilitate a coming together and a discussion," MacKay told CTV in a report broadcast from Ottawa on Sunday, "and that's not to set unreal expectations – but I think we've have to constantly try."

I certainly applaud the enthusiasm, and I think even long shots in the name of peace are worth the effort. Canada should try to be an honest broker. A long shot it will be too, since Peter will have some limits placed on his peacemaking, as talking to Hezbollah and Hamas will be verboten.

"We will not solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem, as difficult as that is, through organizations that advocate violence and advocate wiping Israel off the face of the Earth," Mr. Harper said yesterday in a wide-ranging year-end interview with CTV to be aired Saturday.

"It's unfortunate because with Hamas, and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, it has made it very difficult to have dialogue -- and dialogue is ultimately necessary to have peace in the long term -- but we are not going to sit down with people whose objectives are ultimately genocidal."

I agree with his assessment of the two groups. Hopefully progress can be made through President Mahmoud Abbas. But still, who else can you make peace with but your enemies?

On the plus side, Harper and McKay seem determined to reclaim Canada’s mythical role as an “honest broker” in the world:

Harper says under previous governments, Canada has been “completely absent” in Mideast peace efforts, rather than playing the role as a neutral, honest broker.

Always nice to see the Prime Minister take a gratuitous partisan shot when he’s trying to be a statesmen. Still, whether we were an honest broker before or not, it’s good to see Harper and McKay trying to carve out that role for Canada again.

It’s just too bad his parliamentary secretary, James Moore, isn’t on the same page:

In any case, it is hard to see exactly what even the most honest broker could do in the present situation. The Oslo process is dead…Harper's critics should stop worrying about its mythical status as an honest broker in the Middle East and remember Churchill's dictum about impartiality. Only fools are impartial between the fireman and the fire.

No matter what James says, I wish Stephen and Peter good luck as they try position Canada as an honest broker in the Middle East.

P.S. What happened to Wajid Kahn, I thought this was his thing? Has he filed his report yet?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Harper violated political contribution rules

CP’s Joan Bryden moves a story on the wire this boxing day revealing that, just before Christmas, the Harper Conservatives quietly admitted it failed to declare hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations.

I’ll leave you to read the story for all the details on just how badly the Conservatives screwed-up. It has to do with their handling of delegate fees for their last convention. The Cons say they don’t count as donations, the law says the opposite. Either they were unaware of the rules, misunderstood them or just didn’t care, I don’t know. They still arrogantly insist they were right though, even though the law clearly says otherwise. Don’t they have any lawyers in that party? Isn’t Steve an economist?


Speaking of Steve, here’s an interesting graph from the story:


… the report indicates the Conservative party then discovered three delegates - including Prime Minister Stephen Harper - had exceeded their $5,400 annual limit for political contributions. As a result, the party refunded $456 each to Harper and the other two delegates.


Will there be any consequences for this violation of the rules by Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party? Apparently Elections Canada is expected to come down with a ruling in the New Year. This thing would seem to be far from over.


There’s also more:


... the registration form for the (Conservative)convention invited outside observers - generally lobbyists and representatives of professional groups - to use their corporate credit cards to pay the $750 observer fee.


If true, that would appear to be a violation of the prohibition on corporate donations to political parties, a very big no-no, to say the least. Far from over indeed. I’ll leave the last word to Mark Holland:


Opposition parties say the Conservatives are guilty of either gross ignorance or deliberately flouting the law.


"The reality is it sounds like they broke a lot of laws and they're going to have to be answering for that, no doubt about it," said Liberal MP Mark Holland, who added that the Tories are probably hoping nobody notices their admission over the holidays.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

CP gets it right: It's the Canadian soldier

Never mind what Time Canada or Time had to say about the newsmaker of the year, I think the Canadian Press got it right. The Canadian Soldier is definitely Canada’s newsmaker of the year.

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR
'Canadian Soldier' most notable of 2006
Afghan conflict has left military 'on the lips, and in the hearts' of fellow citizens
December 26, 2006
Bill Graveland
CANADIAN PRESS


MAS'UM GHAR, Afghanistan–Standing at an observation post in the heart of Taliban country, Pte. Conrad Craig of Edmonton was in a reflective mood on what it means to be a Canadian soldier.

The 23-year-old member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is keenly aware of the changing status for the Canadian soldier in the eyes of Canadians and the world. Their mission in Afghanistan and the sacrifices they have endured have put Canadian troops at the forefront of public attention.


"I've always been proud to be a Canadian soldier," said Craig, looking through binoculars for possible threats among the orchards near Kandahar city. "Always will be and even if I ever do get out, I'll always be a Canadian soldier."


The men and women of the Canadian Forces have dominated news coverage in 2006 and as such, editors and broadcasters across the country have chosen the Canadian Soldier as Canada's Newsmaker of the Year in the annual poll by The Canadian Press and Broadcast News.

(more)

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Good German, and some bad Americans and Russians

It being the holidays it seems appropriate to take a break from ripping the Conservatives for a bit (although they’re still really horrible and all that) and talk about other things. Like movies.

Before I caught the train Saturday morning to spend a (painfully green) Christmas with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and assorted others in Fort Erie I went to see The Good German, the latest George Clooney black and white vanity project.


Besides Clooney the movie also includes Tobey McGuire and the always lovely Cate Blanchett, and was directed by Steve Soderbergh. The movie is set in post-WW2 Berlin, during the Potsdam Conference. Clooney is a war correspondent, McGuire his driver and Blanchett is an old Clooney flame and McGuire’s current girlfriend. Needless to say that causes some troubles, as the story plays out in a ruined Berlin around espionage and intrigue as the battle lines of the Cold War begin to film.


Cinematically it’s a very interesting, attractive movie. Shot in black and white, as I mentioned, but also in very much a 1930s/40s style of filmmaking. Many of the cuts and shots, the music and sound effects, and even some of the dialogue are reminiscent of that era. There’s one scene near the end where the Casablanca-like imagery is unmistakable.


I’m still somewhat undecided about the movie. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say it was fantastic. I enjoyed the setting and the intrigue, but beneath it, it’s really a murder/love triangle-type story with the other political stuff seeming secondary/tacked-on. It’ doesn’t have the higher meaning of a Good Night and Good Luck, for example.


The plot isn’t really explained super-well as you go along, you need to pay fairly close attention, and some knowledge of history to add context is helpful too. The writing is also rather hackneyed at times. Maybe they were going for a 30s/40s style there too, but it didn’t work for me.


Overall, though, if you’re a fan of the period it’s worth seeing when its in wider release in the new year. I’ll give it *** ½ out of 5.

P.S. Speaking of movies, Red Tory has an interesting piece on the reinterpretation of some Capra classics.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Saturday, December 23, 2006

On the twelfth day of Christmas...

...Canada's new government gave to me:

12. 12 months of $100 "child care" cheques that don't even come close to covering the cost of child care

11. An arrogant refusal to lower the Parliament Hill flag to half mast when Canadian soldiers die in the line of duty and lies about why they won't

10.
A health minister with a 25 per cent stake in a pharmaceutical manufacturer

9. No understanding of what that very important Quebecois nation motion they rammed through the House actually means

8. An e-mail attempting to raise money for the Conservative Party based on Harper's handling of the Lebanon conflict while the bombs were still falling, at a time when Eight Canadians had been killed and thousands more were still waiting for evacuation

7. Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

6. Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

5. Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

4. Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

3. A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

2. Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

1. And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nominations and campaigns

Just because it's the holidays…ok, darnit, Christmas…doesn't mean things aren't happening on the campaign and nominations front.

Stephane Dion today appointed Mark Marissen and Nancy Girard as the LPC's national campaign co-chairs. I don't know much about Nancy, save she ran unsuccessfully for the HoC in 2004 and that she's the Regional VP for Quebec. Mark of course ran Dion's leadership campaign and was B.C. campaign co-chair in 2004 and 2006. He did a great job on the leadership campaign and I'm hoping for the same kind of issues-based, principled approach during the election campaign.


Over at Public Eye Online, Sean reports that Donna Cadman, wife of the late great Chuck Cadman of keeping the Martin government alive fame, has won the Conservative nomination in Surrey North. She'll go up against NDP incumbent Penny Priddy, a former provincial cabinet minister. Apparently Donna endorsed Penny in the last campaign, and they're friends. Should be an interesting race.


Speculating


Jonathan over at TDH reports that Hedy Fry has been re-nominated in Vancouver-Centre, but may step aside in favour of Christy Clark, Mark's other half and a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister. He also reports speculation that another former BC Lib cabmin, Gary Collins, may be eyeing Stephen Owen's seat in Vancouver Quadra.


There's also been much speculation of Justin Trudeau seeking a seat somewhere. Possibly Lapierre's old Outremont riding or maybe even Mount Royal if Irwin Cotler hangs them up. There were even rumours of him supplanting Wendy Yuan to run in Vancouver-Kingsway, which was unlikely and has since been disproved.


You know, I'd rather see him run somewhere outside Quebec though. I think he's probably more popular in the ROC. Would need to be somewhere urban, obviously. I don't think he'll play in the rural west or the 905. We already have our hands full in Toronto, and I'd have to think Calgary and Edmonton are out.


So even if it's not Kingsway, if they could fund him a Vancouver riding that'd be interesting. Or, how about Victoria? Urban, swings left, Liberal for years with David Anderson, swung NDP last time. That could be interesting.


Someone else I'd like to see run out West is Gerard Kennedy. He has the Western roots, that was a big part of his campaign, him winning a seat in the West would be huge for the party. An interesting choice be Anne McLellan's old seat in Edmonton.


The downside is if he lost that could well kill his future leadership ambitions, so being a substantial gamble it probably won't happen. Still, that would be a helluva fun campaign and would be huge for the LPC in Alberta.


And as long as I'm dreaming, let's run Bob Rae against Jack in Toronto-Danforth and Arlene Perly Rae against Olivia in Trinity-Spadina. That'd be fun.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Pragmatism vs. Le Flip-flop

When following politics it can be so hard sometimes to know when something is pragmatism, and when it is a flip-flip. Particularly when you insist on filtering everything through a partisan filter like our Blogging Tory friends.

Actually, does throwing-out common sense to tow the party line actually make it easier, not harder to be a shill? Maybe. But anyway, for future reference, here is how it apparently shakes out:

  • Stephane Dion saying he doesn’t want to/think he should have to give up his dual citizenship, but that he will if people are genuinely concerned? BTs call that a flip-flop.
  • Stephen Harper campaigning to protect income trusts, then reversing himself once he’s in power? BTs call that pragmatism.
  • Stephen Harper attacking floor crossing while in opposition, and then accepting one into his caucus, and cabinet? BTs call that pragmatism.
  • Stephen Harper promising not to appoint Senators, and saying you need to be elected to be in his cabinet, and then appointing a Senator and putting the unelected Senator into his cabinet? BTs call that pragmatism.
And those are just a few examples. So, why aren’t they all flip-flops, or all pragmatism?

If you answered that it has to do with the addition of the A and the placement of the E and the N after Steph, then full marks for you. Thanks for playing.


As Red points out this morning, the smears that the Conservatives and their blogging army have been trotting-out this far against Dion have been, frankly, rather pathetic. And laced with lots of the usual snide anti-French comments which are sure to help Harper regain ground in Quebec. If this is the best they can do…


This kind of nonsense may play to their base. Swing voters? You’ll need more that beret jokes I think.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

(now with one more reason to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety! (day four))

...Canada's new government gave to me:

11. An arrogant refusal to lower the Parliament Hill flag to half mast when Canadian soldiers die in the line of duty and lies about why they won't

10.
A health minister with a 25 per cent stake in a pharmaceutical manufacturer

9. No understanding of what that very important Quebecois nation motion they rammed through the House actually means

8. An e-mail attempting to raise money for the Conservative Party based on Harper's handling of the Lebanon conflict while the bombs were still falling, at a time when Eight Canadians had been killed and thousands more were still waiting for evacuation

7. Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

6. Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

5. Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

4. Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

3. A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

2. Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

1. And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Thursday, December 21, 2006

So, are just the feminists pigs?

The Conservative/conservative campaign against the Status of Women has been ongoing for a few months now, but back when it was first starting on the blogs it was noted with dismay by many that conservatives kept short-forming it to SOW rather than, say, SWC.

Hey, it's just a coincidence they'd say, that's the abbreviation. We're not trying to imply women are pigs, come on, be serious, our clever conservative friends would insist, feigning outrage.

Well, it seems they're feigning no more. Came across this today, ironically the same day I head about Harper's image concerns. It seems the anti-Status of Women people have their own blogroll now:

And take a closer look at the graphic:

Yes, that would appear to be some kind of half woman, half pig hybrid to my untrained eye.

So, to the members of this blogroll I ask: are you saying women are pigs, just feminists, just those
that work at Status of Women? Would that include the Minister responsible, Ms. Oda?

Clarification would be appreciated. Thanks.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Why they dropped the "Progressive" but kept the Conservative

*I'm going to have to subscribe to the Penticton Western news. Stockwell Day's constituency columns are fast becoming must-reads. First there was this, then this, and now this (via Bob):

Aaaaanyway, it appears that local libs now send bits and pieces of my local columns to their favourite spear-chuckers down east who are quick to unleash a volley of indignation, which makes for good fodder back here at home.


I wonder, does he literally mean people who throw spears (do we have any javelin tosses in the LPC?)? Is he perhaps unaware that he used what is commonly known as a racial slur? I find it hard to believe that would be his intent. Maybe he was referring to the chucking of verbal spears? Even so, what a ridiculous choice of words. I mean, who uses expressions like that?

*And then there's Stock's boss, Steve Harper, in one of his year-end interviews. He was asked if he's ever gone for a ride on his wife Laureen's motorcycle (via Michelle):


"You've got to worry about image. I don't want to be on the back with my wife driving."


Classy. We know who the man of that house is, don't we? (As an aside, this even made the Newark Star Ledger, that's weird. It seems Reuters put a piece on the wire)


I suspect though that Stevie will be sleeping on the couch tonight. Wonder if the couch at 24 Sussex folds out?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

They started it!

Whenever I read about nonsense like this:

Following the Liberal leadership convention, which saw Stephane Dion assume the party's helm, the Conservative Party website featured a picture of Mr. Dion with Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and John Turner. The caption read "Back to the Future".


I fully intend to post pictures like this:Or this:

Or maybe even this:
Because, you know, talking about the issues Canadians actually care about (health care, the environment) isn't fun at all is it Stephen?

I'd like to open the floor to clever movie-themed caption suggestions. Maybe Jurassic Park?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Run Gurmant, run!!!

Forget my two front teeth, all I want for Christmas is for Gurmant Grewal to run again for the Conservative Party. Please Santa Harper? I've been good all year! (H/T Cowboys)

Grewal may return to politics
Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

OTTAWA — Former B.C. Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal, who was under a shroud of controversy when he announced last year he wouldn’t seek re-election, said today he’s considering a political comeback.

Grewal, who is still under RCMP investigation in connection with his handling of political donations, said he never intended to leave politics permanently.

(more)


Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

On the tenth day of Christmas...

...Canada's new government gave to me:

10. A health minister with a 25 per cent stake in a pharmaceutical manufacturer

9. No understanding of what that very important Quebecois nation motion they rammed through the House actually means

8. An e-mail attempting to raise money for the Conservative Party based on Harper's handling of the Lebanon conflict while the bombs were still falling, at a time when Eight Canadians had been killed and thousands more were still waiting for evacuation

7. Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

6. Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

5. Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

4. Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

3. A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

2. Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

1. And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Law and Order: Conservative Judges Unit

Conservatives have long loved to whine about radical Liberal judges. If a Liberal government made a judicial appointment and the appointee had even walked past a television showing an episode of the West Wing once the howling over bias would begin.

That's why I'm glad to see that, now that they're in power, the Conservatives are righting those wrongs. And the wrong wasn't that some appointees might have been Liberal, or even liberal. The problem was they weren't conservative. Or, better yet, Conservative.
Do as I say...

A reader drew my attention today to Justice Minister Vic (is that what the Elections Act says?) Toews' appointment on Monday of one Dallas Miller
as a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta . Here's his justice department supplied bio:


Mr. Justice Dallas Miller received a Bachelor of Laws in 1984 from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor of Arts (History) in 1992 from Athabasca University ( Alberta). He was admitted to the Bar of Alberta in 1985 and practised with Gordon, Smith & Company in Medicine Hat (1985-1993) before opening his own firm (1993-2006). Mr. Justice Miller’s practice expertise is in the areas of civil litigation, real estate law, wills and estates law and mediation. He has acted as a Member of the Alberta Provincial Court Nominating Committee (2004-2006), as Judicial District Representative for Medicine Hat for the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association, and as Chair of the Board of Directors of International Justice Mission.


Sounds like a swell guy. But there's a few items that the government biography writers overlooked (space restrictions, I'm sure). Such as:



Still, you also have to have the creds. Here's his:



Luckily, there's more.






  • He has intervened in many fun cases too, I'll leave it to others to read through those decisions. Fun stuff.

So, all in all a really swell guy, just the sort we need on the bench. Fair and Balanced (TM).
I guess this is Stephen's way of saying to a certain part of his political base, as he gears up for the election he doesn't want until 2009 "Sorry I screwed you on that whole SSM vote sham thing guys. Here's a judicial appointment. Still love me?"

As I said, I guess it pays to have friends in high places. The list is growing:


  • Dallas Miller, his Alberta campaign co-chair, gets a judgeship
  • Michael Fortier, his national campaign co-chair, gets appointed to Senate AND a cabinet post
  • John Reynolds, his other national campaign co-chair and now a non-lawyer advisor (not lobbyist!) with a law firm, gets appointed to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Someone might want to go over the rest of the list if they have time and see how all the other co-chair are faring under Canada's New Government. And don't forget Gwyn Morgan too.

Anyway, what was that Mulroney quote again?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Help Stanley Park and buy a tree

You may have heard something about the wind storms that have been lashing British Columbia recently. They've been pretty bad. And particularly hard hit has been Stanley Park, one of the jewels of Vancouver (some pictures here).

I used to live in Vanouver at Robson and Cardero, not far from Stanley Park, and I used to love riding my bike along the seawall any chance I'd get. And stopping at a park bench by the Lion's Gate bridge, sitting back, smelling the salt air and just taking in how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful, amazing city.


I watched aerial footage of the damage last night and it's just devastating. They say the park lost more than 1000 trees after it was battered by near hurricane force winds, including a 200-year-old Hemlock. Clean-up will take months, if not longer, and even then the park won't be the same.


The Vancouver Parks board, with the help of media like CKNW, is launching a campaign to raise donations to help replace the lost trees in Stanley Park. Every bit helps, but donations over $50 are tax receiptable. More information available here if you can help.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Media groans

Far be it from me to pick on the media. You know, being a member of the media and all. It's really so easy though, and there's a few examples today in my morning reading that were particularly annoying:

Take the editorial
(subscribers only) in today's Globe, my morning hard copy read of choice (I avoid the local Toronto papers, lest I be reminded of where I live). On a piece about Stephane Dion's dream team appointments yesterday, the editors criticize Dion for only including Central Canadians on his dream team, and just one woman, Martha-Hall Findlay, another Central Canadian (I think they mean Ontarioin…Ontarioite?).


A few things. First of all, while they mention Iggy, Rae, Gerard and Martha, they very conveniently forget to mention the guy co-writing the platform with Rae. Perhaps because it doesn't support their thesis. That would be Scott Brison. Last I checked he was from Nova Scotia.


Also, this is just the first round of announcements, and you'll notice it involved only candidates from the leadership race. That's the pool he was working from for this announcement, and it was a pool that included just one woman and a bunch of people from Ontario. Shadow cabinet should be announced in the New Year; that's when we should be scrutinizing the choices for balance along regional, gender and ethnic lines.


I will grant one point to the Globe's editors though. The fact the list of leadership candidates lacked such diversity is troubling, and signals there is work to be done. And I'm confident it will be.


Then there's Don
Martin's fawning column in today's National comPost. He owes me $3.50 for Rolaids. He concedes Harper is no Al Gore on the environment (no merde Don) but claims Harper has found religion on climate change (apparently since last week when he talked about "so-called global warming). Muldoon must have given him a really good scolding.


But, here' a particularly ridiculous passage from Martin:


First move, thaw relations with the frozen-out media in Ottawa.


Four unprecedented moves -- his first Ottawa news conference in half a year, an appearance at the press gallery kids' Christmas party, a series of year-end print interviews and a media bash at 24 Sussex -- suggest his permafrost heart for all things journalism is melting faster than the polar ice cap.


Unprecedented? You're kidding me, right Don? Holding a news conference is unprecedented? Stopping by a kids Christmas party is unprecedented? A media Christmas party is unprecedented? The PM giving year-end media interviews is unprecedented? You mean, it doesn't happen EVERY YEAR?


Let me put it slightly into context for you Don. While these things are standard practice for every other PM, they ARE unprecedented for Steve-o. Because it is him that is responsible for the temperature of his relationship with the media. It was his Mr. Freeze routine.


You want us to give him credit for not being as much of a jerk anymore, because now he's gearing up for an election and has to make nice? That's like calling someone a hero for calling the fire department when THEY started the fire in the first place.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

On the ninth day of Christmas...

...Canada's new government gave to me:

9. No understanding of what that very important Quebecois nation motion they rammed through the House actually means

8. An e-mail attempting to raise money for the Conservative Party based on Harper's handling of the Lebanon conflict while the bombs were still falling, at a time when Eight Canadians had been killed and thousands more were still waiting for evacuation

7. Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

6. Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

5. Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

4. Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

3. A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

2. Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

1. And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Let's give 'er to John A.

It’s bad enough when Liberals try to fight a leadership race on Pierre Trudeau. Now it seems Stephen Harper wants to fight the next election against the late Prime Minister.

The Conservative government’s offensive to regain the support of Quebecers started today with Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking aim at the costly, “big dream” ideas of Pierre Trudeau… “In allowing the farmers of Mirabel to re-acquire their land, we are correcting a mistake of history and we are looking towards the future”… “It was done in what was called the `national interest,”’ Harper said. “It was at the time an omni-present, centralizing government.”


Boy this Trudeau guy really sounds like he sucks, I’m sure not voting for him! Oh, wait…I said earlier we need to set the agenda of the next election. So I say we need to fight the next campaign against Sir. John A. MacDonald. We can’t abide another Pacific scandal! Or excessive drinking! And I hear he was Scottish too!

But back to the Mirabel story. Interesting quotes here from Stephen:


“True nationalists are builders.”


and


The Liberal government of that time had large, costly projects…


and


“In four decades I’d probably be dead — I’m sure that I will be dead.”


Rather morbid, Stephen. I mean, you were born 1959, making you some 47 years young. Meaning, in 40 years you’ll be 87 years old. No spring chicken to be sure, but let’s be optimistic now. With diet, exercise and advances in medical science (unless you replace medical research funding with tax breaks for asprin or something) 87 is hardly out of the ballpark for you. Chin up.


But anyway, it was the contrast in the comments that more interested me. Just what does our “true nationalist” (sorry all you false nationalists) plan on building? He’s always struck me as more of a devolver myself, and I’m not sure breaking things up counts as building.


Anyway, whatever he builds clearly he isn’t thinking more than 40 years down the road, since he’s sure he’ll be dead and all. Myself, I suspect he’s not thinking much beyond the next election.


But whatever he builds, let’s keep an eye on the foundation.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

On the eighth day of Christmas...

...Canada's new government gave to me:

8. An e-mail attempting to raise money for the Conservative Party based on Harper's handling of the Lebanon conflict while the bombs were still falling, at a time when Eight Canadians had been killed and thousands more were still waiting for evacuation

7. Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

6. Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

5. Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

4. Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

3. A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

2. Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

1. And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Monday, December 18, 2006

I guess some promises count more than others

I wonder how Mr. Harper decides which promises we’re supposed to hold him to and which we’re supposed to give him a pass for ignoring because, hey, that was like a year ago. I’m interested in the question from a purely academic point of view. I’m genuinely curious.

For example, Globe blogger Dan Cook raises a very good question today about Harper promises:


Over at PM Steve's website, he's trumpeting the fact that he followed through on an opposition motion from 2004. That's nice. Now, how about this campaign promise from September 20, 2005: "A Conservative government led by Stephen Harper will remove the GST on all the federal taxes the Liberals collect on each litre of gas bought." Don't hold your breath; It's been conveniently deleted from the Conservative website, but the archived copy is available here.


P.S. How about them excising the promise from their Web site? Winston would be proud.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Setting the agenda and framing the question

I'd say winter is in the air, but here in the Centre of the Universe the weather has been decidedly warmish lately. Election fever is definitely in the air though, and how successful we are in the coming vote will depend largely on our ability to influence the issues the election is fought on. We need to set the question.

On timing, it seems increasingly a given that we will be going to the polls at some point in the spring. The only question would seem to be if it's on the budget, or before on an issue of the opposition's choosing. All things being equal I'd prefer to wait; the LPC needs to organize, fundraise and develop a platform. This work is happening, but it takes time.


Things being unequal, however, I'd rather not have to fight an election on a Conservative budget sprinkled with big spending promises around transfers to the provinces and tax cuts for selected demographic interest groups. Enabled by a decade of sound Liberal fiscal management, but that's moving off topic.


It's better to go on an issue more of our choosing. Will it be the environment? Afghanistan? Time will tell, but better an issue like one of these. While neither are perfect issues for the LPC, both are issues we can make strong arguments on and that will play well in much of the country for us, and particularly in some key regions.


Which brings me to the point of this post: issues. We need to frame the debate around our issues, and try as hard as possible to keep the focus on the issues we want to run on, rather than the issues Harper wants to run on. Harper's going to try to move the debate to the issues he wants to run on, where he sees plusses for him and minuses for us; we need to keep on offence and off defence.


For example, Senate reform. Harper made a splash last week with some empty proposals that garnered a lot of media and blogshpere attention. It's an issue that sounds great on the surface, let's reform the Senate. Who could say no? But, like most Harper proposals, the details don't match the rhetoric. His reform proposals are hollow, more show than substance. He obviously feels though this will play well with Canadians.


Outside of his Alberta base I have my doubts, but either way if we get bogged down in a debate on Senate reform that's time we're not spending talking about the environment and the sustainable economy, about Afghanistan, about health care, about infrastructure development.


As much as possible we need to keep the debate on our issues. Our ability in setting the agenda on that front in the next election will be crucial to our success. Last campaign we let the Conservatives set the agenda early and we never got back in the game. We were stuck reacting, rather than making news.


We can't afford to make that mistake again.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

On the seventh day of Christmas...

...Canada's new government gave to me:

Silence when interactions were revealed between two senior government members and a listed terrorist group

Six months without acting or following-up on the recommendations put forward by the government's wait-times advisor, even though this was one of their five priorities

Five charter flights averaging $3600 a pop by the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Four-plus reasons to be embarrassed about our Minister of Public Safety

A former lobbyist for the defence industry as Minister of National Defence

Two broken promises in one unelected, unaccountable Senator/Minister

And a decrease in my take-home pay.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers