Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nice work LPC

On Monday I mentioned I thought it would be a good idea for the LPC to send out a fundraising e-mail to the membership in response to the Conservative attack ads. The NDP and Conservatives are very good at these kinds of issue-based, rapid response e-mail fundraising solicitations, and if we're to survive in this new fundraising era we need to be too.

I guess great minds think alike, as they say. While I didn't get one for some reason, a friend says an e-mail went out yesterday evening (and CLICK HERE to donate online). An issue backgrounder was also attached to the e-mail.

I hope we'll see more of this sort of thing in the future. Nice work guys.

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LPC goes YouTubing

It looks like the Liberal Party has its own page on YouTube now.

I think this is a great idea, and a low cost way for the party to communicate its message directly to Canadians. Hopefully we'll see this updated regularly with new videos and messages.

Already up is Stephane Dion's message from the other day on the reopening of Parliament, in both official languages.

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The taxing politics of income trusts

As I’m still dealing with student loan debt and trying to furnish my apartment (traded in the fouton for a mattress and boxspring from Sears Monday, very comfy, but weird sleeping so high off the ground again) I have to say I’m not too familiar with the stock market or income trusts. I am somewhat familiar with politics though, and it’s being played fast and furious here.

And politics, as usual, isn’t helping to bring any clarity to things. I caught a bit of Jim Flaherty’s performance before the Commons finance committee yesterday, and specifically Flaherty’s tete a tete with Liberal critic John McCallum. The contempt wasn’t even a bit veiled between those too. I thought they were going to hurl their slide rules at each other.

As I said I don’t know much about income trusts, but I think clearly the government had to take action. Things were spiraling out of control, the tax burden balance between corporations and individuals couldn’t be allowed to continue to tilt in the direction it was going. So, last October Flaherty made the right call.

That’s the policy. Then we get into the politics. The Conservatives promised quite explicitly in the last election campaign they would protect income trusts, into which Canadians, including, as Steve was careful to point out, seniors, were heavily investing their retirement savings. Canadians couldn’t trust the Liberals, Steve said, but they could trust him. You may have seen the video.

When the Conservatives decided to flip-flop on that promise last fall the seniors weren’t mentioned, it was all about making corporations pay their fair share now. While we might not all get as turned-on by that sort of rhetoric as NDPers do, everyone can generally agree with it. But the collateral damage here was not just to corporations, but also to average Canadians, and yes, to Steve’s seniors, who have lost billions.

All sides agree that the trust decision had to be made, but it’s those average Canadian investors that we’re talking about now. And you can’t just say they invested in a risky investment vehicle and took their chances. You could, were it not for the fact Harper promised them he’d keep that vehicle safe, and it was his actions that crashed it into a wall. Their fault for trusting him I guess.

That’s what McCallum and Flaherty sparred about, those regular Canadians that lost their shirts. And it’s here Flaherty’s messaging got confused. You see, he’s trying to both explain away the campaign promise flip-flop AND blame the Liberals for not acting at the same time. He’s having to do somersaults to get the twofer though, and it’s not working.

He blamed the Liberals for not acting on income trusts when we were in government. I think there’s a kernel of truth there, I think politics trumped policy on that one. Hearing that attack from Flaherty though begs the question, why’d the Cons promise not to act on trusts in the campaign if he’s saying the Liberals should have acted on trusts at that time? Isn’t that, as the kids say, the opposite? Were the Cons playing politics too?

Well, he replied the situation was different then, the Cons didn’t anticipate the increase in conversions to trusts until last summer, once they were in government. Things had changed. But then, how can he blame the Liberals for not acting on trusts at a time when he said things hadn’t changed yet, at a time the Conservatives not only didn’t think it was necessary to act, and were promising not to act, but also were promising to stop us from acting? (Have a headache yet?) You can’t have it both ways Jimmy.

It’s the same as their new messaging on the environment really, (falsely) blame the Liberals for doing nothing at a time they were fighting against our doing anything. Heck, Harper even fundraised to stall or stop any environmental progress. Coincidentally, same thing on the Arar settlement. Blame the Liberals when at the time Harper, Stock and friends were attacking the Liberals for trying to help a “suspected terrorist”.

Anyone see a pattern developing here? Perhaps we should be flattered. In a sense the Conservatives are saying on all these issues and more the Liberals should have known how wrong they were all the time, and that we, and Canadians, should have just ignored them.

But back to trusts. I don’t know enough to know what the opposition proposals for extensions really mean. If it would mean some help for those average Canadian investors that got suckered in by Harper, and not for the corporations, I'd probably be for that. And who knows how the politics of this will all shake out.

But there’s one thing Brian Mulroney and I both know, and Steve may well learn this come election time: it never pays to piss off the seniors. And from what I hear, they're plenty pissed off.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To go negative or not to go negative...

...that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the outrageous Conservative slings and arrows...ok, that’s enough. Yesterday I made the case for a positive response to the Conservative attack ads. Over at Daily Canuck though, former Trudeau staffer Tom Axworthy makes the case for going negative:

The Liberals should cut their own series of ads, linking Harper’s Republican Lite game plan to the negative politics of disunity that so disfigure the electoral process in the United States. Dion cannot allow an impression to grow that he is a scholarly and honourable man not quite up to the cut and thrust of modern politics…
The Conservatives have begun the 2007 campaign by going negative. The Liberal Party must respond immediately and in kind.

I agree with Tom’s sentiment, but I disagree with his strategy.

First of all, these ads are over the top, personal, and coming outside of an election they reek of desperation. Refute the factual inaccuracies in the ads, yes, defend our record and, as I discussed yesterday, pivot to our message. Talk about how the new-found Conservative love for the environment rings hollow. We saw that line in question period Monday. We can do that with our earned media and through other channels though, we don’t need to do it through an ad buy.

Also, hammering the “US-style attack ads” angle is unnecessary, and inflammatory. People will make that link on their own, us hitting them over the head with it only lets the Cons come back at us with the Libs are anti-American card. And do we have money for ads at the moment anyway? We don’t have a CPC-sized warchest. They’ve got more money that they can spend, we very much don’t. Every dollar we spend now is one less we can spend during the campaign.

I’m not saying the time won’t come to go negative; such ads do very much have their place in the electoral process. But that time is not now and indeed, right now I think we’re better served by a high road approach. Defend and correct, yes, throw mud back, no.


Other then advocating going negative Tom does also make a rather good point. We need to work harder at defining Stephane Dion. As Tom says he’s been doing the right things to bring the party together internally, and that’s important, but it’s been inside the Queensway type stuff:

Dion has to get out of the Ottawa bubble and show dramatically that he intends to reach out to women, the young, and others usually ignored by the Ottawa establishment. He has to insist that Elizabeth May and the Green Party be invited to the Leaders’ Debates. He has to combine issues, showing, for example, that a healthy environment is a pre-condition to health in our bodies, so that the Liberal Party gains credibility on the two top-of-the-line issues of concern to most Canadians.

I agree. He needs to start speaking to the general public, to the people. And not through the soundbite cut and thrust of question period, that’s not going to resonate with Canadians. He needs to get out and give speeches, talking about issues and vision. Tour the country and meet with Canadians, in small and large groups. Sit down and talk with local community newspapers, radio and television stations. Take his message to the people.

Going negative right now though would be a mistake. Now is not the time. We can be firm without resorting to these sorts of attacks. We’ve been going negative for at least the last three years. Let’s give the other way a try for a bit, shall we?

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Paging Jason Kenney...

Well, it would seem we probably don’t need the Status of Women Agency after all, judging by this story. The right of women not to be stoned is safe, at least in this Quebec town. However, Jason Kenney, your services as Steve Harper’s multiculturalism guru may be required here...

I'm concerned about the use of "in public" here too. Surely stoning, whether in public or in private, should be forbidden. And it doesn't mention men. Hopefully I can't get stoned either.

Seriously, I get the idea here. Helping educate new Canadians about our cultural norms is important. But this just seems creepy and insulting to me.

Rural Quebec town bans stoning women
Canadian Press

Montreal — A rural Quebec town has taken the unusual step of formally declaring that it is forbidden to stone women in public — part of a list of “norms” that it says is aimed at potential immigrants.

Herouxville, about 165 kilometres northeast of Montreal, passed a document at a town council meeting this month that outlines what it considers to be its official behavioural norms.

The document, sent to both the provincial and federal governments, states that “a woman can. . . drive a car, sign cheques, dance, decide on her own.”

However, covering one's face other than on Halloween, burning women alive or burning them with acid is not considered acceptable.

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Hey LPC!

If anyone is reading this over at the Liberal Party of Canada office, and I know some of you do from time to time (wassup?), here's a little project you may want to consider for this afternoon. Why not send out an e-mail, preferably this afternoon, to every Liberal on our e-mail list.

Mention how they've probably seen or heard of these new Conservative attack ads. Mention how they're silly and desperate. Mention how Stephane needs our help and support to take the LPC's positive message, of sustainable development and social justice and what not, to the Canadian people. Any donation can help, $20, whatever. We need your support to bring our positive message to Canadians and counter this Conservative negativism. And include a secure link where they can donate online with their credit card.

I think that would be a good afternoon project. Strike while the iron is hot.

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WE don’t need to go negative

Having now seen the Conservative attack ads frankly, I’m more amused than anything else. It will be interesting to see how Canadians at large react. I don’t see them having much impact, but much will depend on our reaction.

As Rob and others have noted with these CPC ads the media are going to be coming to us for reaction. While they’re going to want reaction to the ads specifically there’s no reason for us to respond specifically to the ads. Don’t be defensive. For Stephane particularly, each interview opportunity is a chance to pivot to our message. Well Jane, it’s not going to distract us from our three pillars approach…

By using each chance we’re given to respond to these negative attacks as an opportunity to pivot to our vision and policy message not only are we getting our message out to Canadians, we’re leaving an unspoken impression in the minds of Canadians: while the Conservatives are launching personal attacks, the Liberals are talking about a positive message about the issues that matter to Canadians. The direct contrast will be quite stark. They're trying to define Dion, well, he's also getting a chance here to define himself.

It’s up to others, such as us bloggers, to make other points about these ads. Such as pondering if launching attack ads months before an election is strong leadership or weak leadership. Or, pointing out that when they say Under the Liberals, emissions have risen 27 per cent since 1990, that’s inaccurate and misleading. As I recall, the Liberals didn’t come into office until 1993. From 1990 to 1993 it was a Conservative government. Some inflating of the numbers there. Or we could mention ads on policy are one thing, but ads attacking personality are desperate.

Finally, we might point out that Stephane is right. Setting priorities isn’t easy. Particularly when the Conservatives leave you with a huge deficit. We had to make tough choices, but we made them always with Liberal compassion while cleaning up their mess. Setting priorities takes leadership, and when it comes to our priorities and Conservative priorities I’ll take ours any day, and I think given a choice most Canadians will too.

Anyway, that’s all secondary, a debate for us politicos to engage in amongst ourselves. Most Canadians could care less. They’ll see the Conservative ads, and they’ll see a clip of the Liberal response on the media. On the latter note, I think Dion has it about right with the video posted on the LPC Web site yesterday. Let’s keep on this track.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dirty money

So apparently the Conservatives have so much money in their war chest they need to get rid of some of it, so they’re going to launch a series of attack ads against Stephane Dion, on issues like the environment, among others. Apparently they’re upset he didn’t launch more environmental programs they could cancel and then reinvent under another name so they could pretend they’re doing something on the environment.

Anyway, I’ll wait to comment further on the ads until I’ve actually seen them. But just remember where this overabundance of Conservative funds they’re now dropping on attack ads came from. It came from e-mail solicitations like this one, shamelessly launched while thousands of Canadians were still waiting to be evacuated from the Lebanese war zone and Conservatives, now trying to appeal to the multicultural community, called them ungrateful whiners and questioned their citizenship rights:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Finally - A Leader who's willing to stand up and take a tough stand
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 18:20:16 -0700
From: Conservative Fund Canada

En Francais | In English

During the last federal election, Stephen Harper promised to give Canada a principled foreign policy that advances and defends the Canadian values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. As Prime Minister, he is delivering.


Our Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper was amongst the first of the world's leaders to take a principled stand on the new turmoil in the Mid-East. Since then, leaders the world over have risen to stand with Stephen Harper. Our nation has every reason to be proud.

Admit it: Moral clarity feels a lot better than the endless equivocation we found with our previous government.

But not everyone is grateful for the strong, clear direction of Canada's new government and this includes in particular the opposition parties who are only interested in maneuvering for party advantage.

And so, I must turn to you to ask you for your support. The fact is: the opposition is not thrilled with the growing strength of the Harper government and the resurgence of national pride Canadians are showing in their country. You need only look at their ceaseless machinations to see that they are doing everything in their power to bring this government down..

We must be ready for an election now because the opposition is blindly determined to drag the country to the polls, on any pretext they can contrive.

As a matter of public record, everyone knows the Conservative Party of Canada managed the last election without adding a dime to the Party's debt. You made that possible, it's just that simple. And if we intend to win the next election and win a majority - we need to continue moving heaven and Earth to be ready.

When an election comes, we will have just days to mount a campaign and ensure the continuance of the most dynamic and forward-looking Canadian government in recent memory. The time to lay the foundation is right now and we continue to need your help if this effort is to succeed.

It is a wonderful thing to be reminded of the power of ideals, principles in which we believe and on which we will act. We have had far too many years of vacillation on ideals and fundamental values about which the majority of Canadians are clear and certain.

Unsurprisingly, Don Martin got it just right in his July 20th National Post column, speaking of Prime Minister Harper, he wrote: " He's proven himself bold, imaginative and unpredictable. This is something refreshing on the Canadian political landscape - a leader willing to take risks to do what's right in the face of certain criticism. It stands him in stark and favourable contrast to the hesitant poll-driven Martin reign."

What did surprise me, though, were the private comments of a Liberal acquaintance, among them the following: " I have never been so proud to be Canadian. I'm thrilled that we're investing in our military. I'm thrilled that we're staying to finish a job in Afghanistan, and I'm ecstatic that we are finally taking a position on issues of global importance like what is happening in the Middle East. Please let Stephen Harper know that I've never been more proud of being a Canadian."

Ultimately, not everything is about party politics. Canadians know what's right and wrong and it is a great satisfaction even if one may not politically admit it - to have a government that has the courage to tell the plain truth.

This government is worth the fight; help us make sure we win the next election whenever it comes. We can expect an avalanche of Liberal fury to get back into power and a flood of media support for their effort. Help us keep the focus on principle and character and Canada's return to its place in the world.

I ask you to make a special contribution now of $150 or $75 to the Party today and help us be prepared to defend the decisive leadership of Stephen Harper and our New Conservative government.

With my sincere thanks,

Michael D. Donison
Executive Director, Conservative Party of Canada

P.S. - Your contribution is tax deductible. To find out the specific tax advantage of your contribution, we've provided a simple tax calculator. For more specific information on the rules governing personal contributions to political parties, click here.

If you prefer that I not contact you again by email, please click here.

Authorized by Conservative Fund Canada, Chief Agent of the Conservative Party of Canada.

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One step forward, one step back

While I'm obviously a Liberal partisan I always try to give credit to others where it's due, even when we're talking about the Harper Conservatives. I have to tell you though, Steve is making it really tough these days.

Take the Arar apology and settlement. A good thing, tarnished by Steve’s asinine decision to play politics with it.

And then there’s the porkbarelling around the Boeing procurement contract I’ve been blogging about. Un-elected Public Works Minister and appointed Senator Michael Fortier was threatening to use his unaccountable ministerial authority to delay the contract until Boeing agreed to move investment earmarked for other regions of Canada to Quebec. After all, he needs to get elected there eventually, doesn’t he?

Well, it seems Steve finally stepped in and told Fortier to smarten up. Market forces will determine where the $3.4 billion in investment goes, not Fortier:

A senior Conservative source added that Mr. Fortier was "hauled out on the carpet" at the cabinet committee meeting for his efforts to boost Quebec's share of the benefits.

"The view was that Fortier was getting too greedy," said the source, who added that the other senior Quebec minister on the file, Industry Canada's Maxime Bernier, has taken a pan-Canadian view.

So, good for Steve. He stepped in and did the right thing as the leader of the government, fulfilling his pan-Canadian responsibility to ALL of Canada, even if Fortier had forgotten that as a minister he had the same responsibility. And the government avoids a repeat of the CF-18 fiasco that saw the Mulroney government overlook a cheaper bid from a Manitoba company to give a maintenance contract to a Quebec firm, helping spur the creation of the Reform Party. The West was getting pissed off here again too:

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer criticized Mr. Fortier's position.

"His comment that 'I am not going to sign a contract,' well, no one died and made him prime minister. He is an unelected senator, swaggering around making inappropriate comments about matters that are in the dustbin of Mulroney
history," Mr. Doer told the Winnipeg Free Press this week.

But while I’d give Steve credit for stepping in and doing the right thing here, even if it did take awhile, here’s where he loses me and makes it one step forward, one step back:

The source added the government is trying to find a way "to help save Mr. Fortier's face," and that a number of proposals are still being considered to achieve the objective.

In other words, don’t worry Michael, we can’t let you divert this money to Quebec to help you get yourself elected, but we’ll find some other taxpayer dollars we can divert your way so you can show how good you are at bringing home the pork and buy yourself some votes. Classy.

The Reform Party is dead. Long live Mulroney II.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hands off! NEP 2!

Would anyone care to predict what the reaction from the usual suspects would be if a Federal Liberal suggested that perhaps Alberta’s oil boom is causing skills issues for the rest of the country, and perhaps Alberta should share the wealth a bit by outsourcing some work to other provinces?

Luckily, we won’t be treated to any fits of righteous indignation, cries of National Energy Plan Deux and references to the dark, cold deaths of Eastern bastards: the comments were made by a Federal Conservative minister.

Alberta should export work, federal labour minister says
FREDERICTON (Jan 27, 2007)

Alberta should start exporting work, instead of only importing workers, federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said yesterday.

Blackburn, who was in Fredericton for an annual meeting of labour ministers, said that by attracting out-of-province workers to combat its skilled labour shortage, Alberta is causing the same shortages in other provinces.


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Friday, January 26, 2007

Our defeat was no accident

Paul Wells’ latest column is an interesting read as always, talking about Stephane Dion’s recent trip back to his old high school and some of the usual Quebec questions. But his last two sentences (what we like to call the kicker) in particular make a very important point all Liberals should read:

Stéphane Dion's first big challenge is not his broken English or his estrangement from Quebec's elites. It is the bedrock conviction among many of his troops that defeat was an accident that will correct itself.

You can talk about the strategic mistakes of the Martin campaign staff, or the hanging cloud of sponsorship. But the fact is our defeat in 2005/06 was a long time in coming. It wasn’t an accident we lost. Canadians sent us a message: smarten the hell up.

I’ve long been saying we need to stop apologizing for being Liberals. I believe that firmly. We have a lot in our record to be proud of. But we had also become lazy and arrogant in 13-odd years of government. We took power for granted, we developed a sense of entitlement…a deep rot took hold in our party.

That’s why I believe so strongly in the need for renewal and reform in the Liberal Party. We got a start on that with the renewal commission reforms passed in Montreal, and the grassroots revolution that propelled Stephane into the leadership. And he has mainly had a good start at continuing this since his victory.

But lest any among our party be toiling under any illusions, let’s be perfectly clear: our defeat last January wasn’t any accident. It wasn’t some aberration in the natural order that will be swiftly corrected for a return to business as usual. We need to work to re-earn the trust of Canadians.

While it won’t be easy, I think we can do it. But only if we all recognize the challenge, and work hard to meet it together.

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You're supposed to be Prime Ministerial, dumbass!

Devin is pissed off, and so am I. Pretty sure we're not the only ones. Today the Harper government announced it had reached a $11.5 million settlement with Maher Arar, and offered him an apology. I'm happy about that, it's entirely appropriate and deserved.

Here's what pisses me off though. In the official letter of apology, and in the press conference, the Prime Minister of Canada decides to score partisan political points off of the case of a man sent to Syria and tortured (emphasis added):

Although these events occurred under the last government, please rest assured that this government will do everything in its power to ensure…

There's a time to be the leader of the Government of Canada, Steve, and times like this are it. To play partisan politics here, to attack the Liberals in the actual freakin' apology letter is doucebaggery of the highest degree. Particularly when you consider YOUR OWN RECORD and the record of your own party on the Arar file.

For example, in QP in November 2002, Opposition leader Harper chastised John Manley for defending Arar, whom Harper called "a suspected terrorist":

While the minister participated in high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist, it apparently took a trip by the U.S. Secretary of State for the minister to admit what he really knew.

And Diane Ablonczy went even further:

Mr. Speaker, it is time the Liberals told the truth: that their system of screening and security checks is pathetic. Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government. It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the U.S. had to clue it in.

How is it that the U.S. could uncover this man's background so quickly when the government's screening system failed to find his al-Qaeda links?


Mr. Speaker, the government needs to take responsibility for what it is doing to protect Canadian security. The fact is that these Liberals were asleep at the switch. Arar was not properly checked. Instead, the government ran around chastising the U.S. for sending Arar back to Syria, where he is also a citizen. Why is it that the Liberal security system is so weak here that they overlook vital information that the U.S. picked up on a routine check?

Grievous mistakes were obviously made, and the previous government did its best to get to the bottom of them while Harper and his party chastised the Liberals for defending suspected terrorists.

I'm glad that the government, which is supposed to be a larger thing than a political party, has apologized to Arar and agreed to a settlement. But what should be a positive thing, something Harper would get plenty of credit and good will for otherwise, is tarnished by his playing politics and being a dick about it.

I've read many one-year stories saying how "Prime Ministerial" Harper has been. There was no Prime Minister up there today.

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Knowing your enemy

Well, enemy seems too harsh. Opponent is better. Anyway, I've just finished reading William Johnson's biography of Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

This edition has recently been updated post-election and a few months into Harper's Prime Ministership, but the tale begins before Harper's birth, when his ancestors left England for the Maritimes and a better life.

Overall, I have to say it’s a very flattering portrait of Harper. He begins by comparing Harper to Trudeau (in a positive way my Con friends).Johnson is very sympathetic to and supportive of Harper, seemingly agreeing with most of his decisions, minimizing his mistakes and glossing over the achievements of others, particularly Liberals. This became particularly striking as we move closer to the present day, and his account of Harper as PM.

Still, despite these flaws it's a very interesting, if slow read. I started just before Christmas and just finished yesterday, so nearly a month, all told. It wasn't an easy read, can't put it down kind of book like Paul Wells' Right Side Up.

It is very much worth the read though if you're interested in getting past some of the partisan spin from all sides and learning more about Stephen Harper, who he is and where he came from, and what has influenced him.

It is very enlightening, and illuminating. For example, in his youth, young Steve was an admirer of Pierre Trudeau and even joined the Liberal Party. Crazy kids!

I was most struck though by how much Harper has changed, or at least appeared to change, over the years. He has gone from a very rigid, inflexible personality, evidenced by his disagreements with Preston Manning for example, to someone much more willing to compromise to achieve his greater goals. With tables reversed Cons would call it flip-flopping, I'd prefer to call it learning.

The schism with Manning was also something I wasn't too familiar with, and was interesting to read more about. Manning wanted Reform to be not left or right, but a true grassroots reform party drawing from the PCs, Libs and NDP equally, while Harper wanted a conservative-focus, leading them to butt heads. They also disagreed over Manning's populist desires, Harper was very much not a supporter of the more populist, power to the people aspects of Reform and it's unsurprising we haven't heard talk of recall or referenda from this new CPC.

Anyway, take Johnson's conclusions with a grain of salt but there's a lot of interesting source material that better informs our knowledge of the man who, for the time being anyway, is our Prime Minister.

*The publisher provided a copy of the book to facilitate this review.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Storm clouds circling over Colin Mayes

Something is rotten in Okanagan-Shushawp and it may cost Conservative MP Colin Mayes his job as chair of the HoC’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee. Couldn’t come at a worse time for Steve’s moderation project too.

There seem to be some serious issues at the local Conservative riding association, with 10 of the 30 directors having left the board since last March. One member who was recently fired off the board, Miles Lehn, said he was canned after expressing concern over the growing control the religious right was accumulating and exerting over the riding association:

“What I found on the board was that they were basically all members of (Mayes’ church) congregation. It seems to have gone in the direction of dirty liberal policies and tactics.”

Then there’s Colin’s executive assistant fighting against homeless shelters (h/t Audacious Onthology):

... At the public hearing into rezoning for the proposed Salmon Arm shelter, Terri Jones, executive assistant to Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes, ... “I don’t think it’s a good mix to have people who are either alcoholics or people who are on drugs in situations where they’re around kids or the elderly – especially when it’s a fact they will steal to support their habits,” she said in an interview after the meeting. ...

Unfortunately, the RCMP say Terri’s theory is pure BS:

Cpl. Henry Procé is media relations officer with Vernon RCMP and has spent eight years policing in Vernon, five of them as a watch commander. He said he hasn’t seen any evidence that homeless shelters present a danger. “From the police point of view, I don’t see this as a cause of increased crime. In fact, it may have the opposite effect, with a place where they’re warm and dry and not so desperate – not sleeping in bank foyers.” ...

But that’s not the worst of it. Now the latest broadside to hit Mr. Mayes: accusations of racism. Remember, he’s also chair of the Parliamentary Aboriginal Affairs committee:

Mayes (Okanagan-Shuswap) replied “good joke” in an Oct. 21, 2006 e-mail responding to a joke about an aboriginal man with a shotgun, speaking in broken English, who enters a coffee shop and has an exchange with an employee who calls him “chief” and “Tonto.”

The local TV station has a news report with video online that sums up the recent doings well and gets a weak, feeble defence from Mayes.

In a statement, Liberal Indian Affairs Critic Anita Neville called for Mayes to step-down as committee chair and apologize for his praise of the offensive joke:

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Mayes would support and find funny something that is so insulting to First Nations. His attitude indicates that he is not qualified to chair the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. He should resign immediately as chair and apologize to First Nations people. As Chair his responsibility is to ensure that Aboriginals from coast to coast to coast get a fair, unbiased hearing at committee.”

If the name Colin Mayes sounds familiar, it should. He’s the genius that was forced to apologize for suggesting journalists critical of El Presidente Steve and the CPC should be thrown in jail.

You may also recall Mayes replaced Maurice Vellacott as the committee chair after Vellacott was forced to resign for complaining about the “Godlike powers” of Supreme Court Justices.

Gee, with such a tough act to follow, and all the talent in the CPC caucus, I can’t wait to see what winner Steve finds to take Colin’s place.

Here's another ironic note. Up until the last election, Colin's riding was held by good ol' Darell Stinson. You'll probably remember him from this famed line, where he challenged my current MP, Liberal John Cannis, to a fight on the floor of the HoC, nearly ten years ago:

"I hear the word 'racist' from that side. Do you have the fortitude or the gonads to stand up and come across here and say that to me, you son of a bitch? Come on."

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Please daddy, can we go outside?

I understand security, but really, as this article points out other dignitaries have been escorted outside the base. It reminds me when O’Connor and Steve wouldn’t let the Governor General go over to visit the troops because of security concerns, but then let a minister go over just a little later, the concerns apparently having evaporated. Security concerns Gordon, or political concerns?

Canadian MPs may get to leave Afghan base
Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Visiting Canadian MPs confined to base in Afghanistan might be about to get a weekend pass.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has relented a bit and announced that eight MPs visiting Kandahar may be allowed to leave the NATO base — provided the military can ensure their safety.


I’m heartened by Gordon’s “change of heart” but seriously, why is he treating Members of Parliament, the elected representatives of the people, like children? I think someone needs a refresher course on the roles of the executive and the legislative branches.

Liberal MP Ujal Dosanjh, who is one of the visiting committee members, raises a pertinent point:

“I believe it's highly improper for a minister of the Crown to interfere with the travel of the committee,” he said Tuesday. “I thought that was the kind of decision that one makes on an operational basis. The general makes that decision. What does the minister know about safety, sitting in Ottawa?”

The commander of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan, Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, confirmed this one has been O’Connor’s call all the way:

He said Mr. O'Connor made the decision about travel arrangements for the group, not the military.

I support our mission in Afghanistan. But playing stupid political games like this, just like Steve did when he banned cameras from covering the return of fallen soldiers and then lied about why, will not help build public support for the mission at all.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hit the road

Interesting story from the Canadian Press. Greenie Stevie says top off the tank of that SUV and burn, baby, burn that sweet, sweet crude!

Canada won't follow Bush on reducing oil consumption: Harper

OTTAWA (CP) - Canada won't follow the Bush administration's lead in setting hard targets for reducing oil consumption, but will instead impose tougher emissions standards on the auto sector and other industries, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


I’m all for toughening emission standards and other measures, but why the heck shouldn’t we also encourage people to use less energy? Come to think of it, that’s the first of the three Rs. Reduce.

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No! Non! Noooo!

To echo Ottlib, Steve, Werner, Zac, Miranda, John and Westmount (Liberals all), no way in hell should Marc-Yvan Cote or anyone else banned from the Liberal Party for life for their roles in adscam be let back in. I mean, why is this even a topic for discussion? Seriously, I’d really like to know. Why the hell are we even talking about this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just bang our heads against a wall really hard instead?

Dion told Quebec newspaper Le Soleil in remarks published Wednesday that he has no objections to Marc-Yvan Cote being allowed to resume his Liberal membership.

Cote, a former party organizer in Quebec, was one of 10 members banned for life from the party by former prime minister Paul Martin in the wake of the sponsorship scandal.

Dion added that Cote's punishment was "exaggerated,'' and that he'd recognized his error and shouldn't be penalized for life.

That’s nice. But I don’t care. They didn’t just screw up. They violated our trust, and the trust of Canadians. I don’t care how sorry they are, or what lesson they’ve learned. They’re out.

It’s not like we’re talking about a pardon for a prison sentence. Penalized for life? Give me a break. They’ve been banned from joining the Liberal Party of Canada. Boo hoo. It’s not the end of the world. I’m sure they’ll get over it.

And seriously, why are you talking about this Stephane? Seriously, WHY? So a newspaper asked a question. Don’t answer it for the love of god! That’s in the past, you say, I’m focused on the future of the Liberal party. Green yada yada.

I mean, seriously, what the hell guys? Have things just been going too well lately or something?

UPDATE: The Globe this morning has Stephane issuing a clarification of sorts, saying no application for reinstatement has been made by anyone, he doesn't want to re-open it, it's not his decision, and he's not recommending anything. Fine. I hope this is a lesson learned.

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Happy firewallaversary Steve!

I can’t believe I nearly missed it! But it was six years ago today, on January 24, 2001, that the National Post published an open letter to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein that became known as the infamous "firewall letter," penned by a scrappy group of Albertans including one Steve Harper.

Why, it seems like only yesterday…


Dear Premier Klein:

During and since the recent federal election, we have been among a large number of Albertans
discussing the future of our province. We are not dismayed by the outcome of the election so much as by the strategy employed by the current federal government to secure its re-election. In our view, the Chretien government undertook a series of attacks not merely designed to defeat its partisan opponents, but to marginalize Alberta and Albertans within Canada’s political system.

One well-documented incident was the attack against Alberta’s health care system. To your
credit, you vehemently protested the unprecedented attack ads that the federal government launched against Alberta’s policies – policies the Prime Minister had previously found no fault with.

However, while your protest was necessary and appreciated by Albertans, we believe that it is
not enough to respond only with protests. If the government in Ottawa concludes that Alberta is a soft target, we will be subjected to much worse than dishonest television ads. The Prime Minister has already signaled as much by announcing his so called “tough love” campaign for the West.

We believe the time has come for Albertans to take greater charge of our own future. This
means resuming control of the powers that we possess under the constitution of Canada but that we have allowed the federal government to exercise. Intelligent use of these powers will help Alberta build a prosperous future in spite of a misguided and increasingly hostile government in Ottawa.

Under the heading of the “Alberta Agenda,” we propose that our province move forward on the
following fronts:

• Withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan to create an Alberta Pension Plan offering the
same benefits at lower cost while giving Alberta control over the investment fund. Pensions are a provincial responsibility under section 94A of the Constitution Act. 1867; and the legislation setting up the Canada Pension Plan permits a province to run its own plan, as Quebec has done from the beginning. If Quebec can do it, why not Alberta?

• Collect our own revenue from personal income tax, as we already do for corporate income
tax. Now that your government has made the historic innovation of the single-rate personal income tax, there is no reason to have Ottawa collect our revenue. Any incremental cost of collecting our own personal income tax would be far outweighed by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain, as Quebec’s experience has shown.

• Start preparing now to let the contract with the RCMP run out in 2012 and create an Alberta
Provincial Police Force. Alberta is a major province. Like the other major provinces of Ontario and Quebec, we should have our own provincial police force. We have no doubt that Alberta can run a more efficient and effective police force than Ottawa can – one that will not be misused as a laboratory for experiments in social engineering.

• Resume provincial responsibility for health-care policy. If Ottawa objects to provincial
policy, fight in the courts. If we lose, we can afford the financial penalties that Ottawa may try to impose under the Canada Health Act. Albertans deserve better than the long waiting periods and technological backwardness that are rapidly coming to characterize Canadian medicine. Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points as Quebec has argued for many years. Poorer provinces would continue to rely on Equalization to ensure they have adequate revenues.

• Use section 88 of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Quebec Secession Reference to force
Senate reform back onto the national agenda. Our reading of that decision is that the federal government and other provinces must seriously consider a proposal for constitutional reform endorsed by “a clear majority on a clear question” in a provincial referendum. You acted decisively once before to hold a senatorial election. Now is the time to drive the issue further.

All of these steps can be taken using the constitutional powers that Alberta now possesses. In
addition, we believe it is imperative for you to take all possible political and legal measures to reduce the financial drain on Alberta caused by Canada’s tax-and-transfer system. The most recent Alberta Treasury estimates are that Albertans transfer $2,600 per capita annually to other Canadians, for a total outflow from our province approaching $8 billion a year. The same federal politicians who accuse us of not sharing their “Canadian values” have no compunction about appropriating our Canadian dollars to buy votes elsewhere in the country.

Mr. Premier, we acknowledge the constructive reforms that your government made in the 1990s
– balancing the budget, paying down the provincial debt, privatizing government services, getting Albertans off welfare and into jobs, introducing a single-rate tax, pulling government out of the business of subsidizing business, and many other beneficial changes. But no government can rest on its laurels. An economic slowdown, and perhaps even recession, threatens North America, the government in Ottawa will be tempted to take advantage of Alberta’s prosperity, to redistribute income from Alberta to residents of other provinces in order to keep itself in power. It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction.

Once Alberta’s position is secured, only our imagination will limit the prospects for extending
the reform agenda that your government undertook eight years ago. To cite only a few examples, lower taxes will unleash the energies of the private sector, easing conditions for Charter Schools will help individual freedom and improve public education, and greater use of the referendum and initiative will bring Albertans into closer touch with their own government.

The precondition for the success of this Alberta Agenda is the exercise of all our legitimate
provincial jurisdictions under the constitution of Canada. Starting to act now will secure the future for all Albertans.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen HARPER, President, National Citizens’ Coalition;

Tom FLANAGAN, professor of political science and former Director of Research, Reform
Party of Canada;
Ted MORTON, professor of political science and Alberta Senator-elect;

Rainer KNOPFF, professor of political science;

Andrew CROOKS, chairman, Canadian Taxpayers Federation;

Ken BOESSENKOOL, former policy adviser to Stockwell Day, Treasurer of Alberta.

* This letter represents the personal views of its authors and not those of any organizations with
which they are or have been connected.

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Greenpeace or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation?

Browsing a journalism and communications job board (if you’re reading boss it was just curious browsing, honest!) and was amused to find these two jobs at divergent ends of the political spectrum. Just goes to show that left, right or mushy centre, you still need flacks. I suspect there won’t be much overlap in the application pool for these two jobs though…

Communications Director, Greenpeace
This is a dynamic position that will require you to be responsible for all aspects of Greenpeace’s external communications…

Communications Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Working out of the Federation’s Toronto office and reporting to the national communications director, the communications director is responsible for CTF communications in the province of Ontario…

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How do we beat them? How do we win?

After talking about a year of Steve Harper in government yesterday, today let's look ahead to the next election, and specifically, what strategies the Liberal Party should adopt to win it.

I wrote yesterday that Harper isn't the scary so-con of Liberal lore. Many in his party are; many aren't. But by governing reasonably non-scarily from a so-con standpoint he has removed that card from the Liberal deck. Commenter Jay yesterday took exception to that contention, saying he found the vote to re-open SSM scary. I agree. Talking about taking away rights is scary. It was a half-hearted attempt doomed to failure though, since he ruled-out invoking the notwithstanding clause. Both sides knew this; so he alienated the so-con right by doing it half-assed and SSM advocates by doing it at all.

But I've digressed. The fact is, the Liberal Party ran on scary, scary Conservatives in 2000, 2004 and 2006, and obviously with less success each time. It worked in 2000 because the right was still divided, Stock Day was a boob, and he actually was a bit scary. In worked in 2004 only very late in the campaign and only because the Cons let it, with incidents like Randy White's interview, Cheryl Gallant's eruptions, and Steve's child porn release. In 2006 Harper learned his lesson and kept a tight reign on his candidates, not giving the scary fire any oxygen, and he moderated his platform.

And now, after a year of Harper government, people see that the sky hasn't fallen. Yes, he just has a minority. Sure, you might think he'll go so-con loco with a majority. Strategically though, that's irrelevant. You're not going to convince Canadians he has a hidden agenda to ban abortion or something. It won't fly. After three elections we need a new strategy.

He's still scary

Steve still scares me a little. Yeah, he's not so-con scary. But he's small government scary. He's anti-strong Federal government scary. He's fiscal Conservative, gut social programs to fund huge tax cuts for the wealthy scary. He's all about that kind of scary.

I have no doubt that, handed the keys to a majority government, Steve Harper would set about remaking Canada into a country nothing like the one most Canadians want, nothing like the country most Canadians identify with. That's a point we can make.

Liberals believe in a strong Federal government that, while respecting provincial rights, is a leader in setting national standards and goals. A government that is compassionate and caring. Liberals believe government can, and must, be a force for change, and an instrument for good.

Conservatives, well, they believe the opposite. They think government is bad. What's that famous conservative quote, they want to make government small enough that they can drown it in their bath tubs? That about sums it up right there.

Choose your Canada

That's a distinction we can make, an ideological line we can draw and a choice we can ask Canadians to make. Let's make the case for government as an instrument of good.

This morning a Globe piece quotes Bob Rae as saying the Liberals plan to borrow a phrase from the Conservative strategic playbook, focusing on a key priorities and "pithy phrases."

That's fine. Focus is good. (One of) the mistakes of Paul Martin was that he had 1000 priorities, and all of them were his top priority. When you try to be everything to everyone you don’t' end up being anything to anyone.

We should take a focused, defined agenda with deliverables to Canadians in the next election. A sustainable economy that drives green jobs and economic growth. Protecting the environment and tackling climate change. And more.

But we need to tie that agenda to an idea, a vision for Canada, contrast that with the narrow-minded small government vision of the Harper Conservatives, and ask Canadians which Canada they identify with.

Do that, and I think we have a chance.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lobbying versus unfair influence

The other day I expressed displeasure with Michael Fortier's holding up a $3.4 billion defence contract to extract more pork for Quebec. Today we read Peter McKay is lobbying hard for more benefit from that contract for Atlantic Canada, and I'm fine with that.

Am I a flip flopping Liberal? Well, maybe, but not on this one. There's a key difference between the two: Peter McKay isn't in charge of government procurement…he's not the one buying the planes.

In the earlier post some asked what was wrong with a minister lobbying hard to get maximum benefit for their region. The answer is nothing. As long, of course, as you don't rob Peter to pay Paul. In this case, there is a set amount of dollars, and any increase in Quebec's share would come from elsewhere, such as Western Canada.

But generally speaking Quebec members (or, in this case, unelected, unaccountable Senators appointed to cabinet) should lobby hard for Quebec; Atlantic members should lobby hard for the Maritimes, and so on. And the Prime Minister's job is to ensure all the regions are treated fairly.

But the difference here is that, besides being a Quebec minister, as I mentioned Fortier is also Minister of Public Works, he's in charge of procurement and tenders. That gives him a great deal of sway over all government procurement, including this $3.4 billion aircraft buy.

So, he's wearing two hats. He has a political responsibility to his region (although Lawrence Cannon is the senior Quebec minister, the lobbying could be left to him). And he has a responsibility to the crown to fairly and efficiently handle government procurement. The two hats can be difficult to wear…just ask the former Canadian ambassador to Denmark.

That's why I have no problem with McKay lobbying for his region; he can't unfairly influence the decision in his favour. Fortier, however, with his two hats has a trickier line to straddle. Nothing wrong with him making the case for Quebec investment, it seems like a strong case can be made. But where he hits trouble is when, wearing his other hat, he delays or otherwise impedes/influences the procurement process while trying to win his lobbying case. That's when he crosses the line, abdicating his government responsibility for his political responsibility.

Now the Prime Minister needs to step in, make the call, and get these aircraft to the air force sooner rather than later.

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And I'm passing the savings on to you

After nearly 14 or so months of blogging I felt it was time for a new look and feel, hence the new blog template and layout you see here now.

The old one seemed a bit stale, and more practically it often seemed to be difficult to read and slow to load. Trimming down the sidebar didn't seem to help, watching it load it seemed like more of a template issue than a sidebar issue.

Therefore, time for a change. I think this new look is a lot cleaner and easier to read, hopefully you'll agree. As always, comments and suggestions appreciated.

P.S. Now with a larger default font size.

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The Earth is still turning

It’s been one year since Canadians tentatively gave Steve Harper a minority government. It’s been a year that has challenged our presumptions and preconceptions of Mr. Harper, but a year that hasn’t given us much more insight on who this guy really is, or how he would govern with a majority.

Clearly, the scary Steve Harper of Liberal mythology hasn’t materialized in 24 Sussex. Some may argue it lies in wait of a majority. Inarguably Harper has been moderating his agenda; the whole year has been an exercise in appealing to the middle enough to get his sacred majority.

While there have been hints of a harder Conservatism from the Harper government, from Vic Toews’ musings on kiddie jails, the government’s slashing of the Status of Women and the scrapping of the Court Challenges Program to name but a few, I don’t think the scary Steve Harper so-con of lore really exists. There are certainly many of those folks in his party, and his caucus, and how long he’ll be able to keep them placated is unclear. But I don’t think Harper
himself is a so-con, but rather a provincial rights, small government, decentralizing fiscal Conservative. Scary enough, perhaps, but abortion should be safe.

Indeed, in many areas this so-called Conservative government has been decidedly liberal, or at the very least un-Conservative. While there have been notable exceptions, Harper’s government has seemingly borrowed a few pages from the Red Tory playbook of old, perhaps the influence of Brian Mulroney and the Mulroney protégés that joined Harper’s inner circle after the 2004 election, such as Senators Hugh Segal and Marjory LeBreton.

We saw a budget that increased spending, created new programs and rather than offering simple, broad-based tax relief, created a myriad of targeted tax credits designed to appeal to specific demographic groups. Rather than the usual Conservative mantra of less red tape, the changes created a heavy burden of paperwork for taxpayers.

We also saw a Mulroney Conservative-style approach to Quebec, from shoveling the pork to recognizing nation status for the Quebecois, of the sort that made a young Steve Harper bolt the Progressive Conservatives to help found the Reform Party some 20 years ago.

We also saw a great deal of the old-style politicking that Reformer Steve used to decry, from welcoming floor crossers with cabinet posts, appointing Senators and putting them in cabinet, doling out the patronage appointments to the party faithful and putting Conservative partisans on the bench.

It all begs the question, just whom is the real Steve Harper? Has he grown and changed, or is he bidding his time?

He has certainly shown himself to be ready to adapt and compromise in recent years. He has taken to heart the political lessons handed to him during his career, particularly those of the 2004 campaign. Pragmatism has been the refrain from Conservative supporters; he’s doing what he needs to do to broaden the base and get a majority.

Harper’s recent seeming attempts to out-liberal the Liberals, including re-implementing many of former Environment Minister Stephane Dion’s green programs, have caused some observers on the right to lament the seeming death of Conservatism. I don’t know about that; I’d say it’s likely in hibernation. He does risk losing his support base though; their patience won’t be limitless.

But as this Harper government hits the one year mark the political landscape is murkier than ever. Whatever we may suspect he’d do with a majority, the Harper minority government has been decidedly and purposefully unscary; that card has been removed from the Liberal deck. But while he accomplished that, Harper can't be happy about being stalled in the polls at the one year mark. He's not gaining traction yet.

Perhaps because in his quest to not let the Liberals define him as scary Harper has failed to offer an alternative definition of himself. And indeed, many of his Conservative base seem to be wondering what happened to the Steve Harper they thought they knew.

That will be his biggest challenge for however much of a second year he has before an election. He may try to run on Liberal scandal, but Canadians will be judging the Harper Conservatives on their record in government and it’s a record that defies easy categorization.

Will they still harbor fears of Scary Steve? Will they see the moderate Steve as a true conversion of philosophy, or a pragmatic calculation by a saavy, power-hungry political operator?

Only time will tell. With a re-energized Dion-led Liberal Party and a surging Green Party though, it’s safe to say that for Harper year two will be a great deal more challenging than year one.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

But will there be punch and pie?

What do you get for a one year anniversary? It’s paper, right? I can think of a few things we could write on the card...

P.S. I wonder who is paying for this birthday party? I trust it’s not the taxpayers, surely Citizen Steve wouldn’t do that.

Public events for January 23, 2007

January 22, 2007
Ottawa, Ontario

Public events for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Tuesday, January 23rd are:

12:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will deliver remarks at the rally marking the one-year anniversary of the election.

The Adam Room – Ground Level
The Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel
1 Rideau Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 8S7

*Open to media*

Note: Media are asked to bring valid employment identification for accreditation.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

The suite life

The life of a technology journalist for a trade pub is decidedly unglamorous. It does have the occasional perk though. And it being a Friday, I thought I'd share a few pics from Wednesday's Raptors/Kings game at the Air Canada Centre, where I got to take in the game from a suite.

The crowd is still filtering in, although Sacramento didn't seem to be a big draw.

Looking from the back of the box out into the arena bowl.

Not far to go for drinks.

The view from my seat.

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Fortier wants more pork for Quebec

The Conservatives have said they need to fast track defence contracts because our military needs the equipment tout de suite. But apparently that won’t stop them from delaying delivery of that equipment to funnel more pork to Quebec.

It has to do with the $3.4 billion government purchase of four C-17 cargo aircraft from Boeing. The deal requires the company to invest an equivalent amount in supplies and services within Canada.

Here’s the sticking point though: while Boeing plans to invest 30 per cent of the total in Quebec, unelected Public Works Minister is insisting Quebec get a much lar
ger share. Boeing is balking and negotiations are stalled, potentially delaying delivery of the first aircraft.

He hasn't publicly set out a target for Quebec's share of these economic benefits, but he is staunchly defending the industry that is mainly located in the Montre
al area. Mr. Fortier, an unelected senator, will be running in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, just west of Montreal, in the next election. As Public Works Minister, he has the final responsibility for signing the contract.

It would seem that Mr. Fortier is letting his concerns about finally getting elected at some point interfere with his duties as a Minister of the Crown, particularly the one with responsibility for government procurement. Hey, we should ask him about this when question period starts again…oh, yeah. Crap.

At least Industry Minister Maxime Bernier appears to be
doing his job, apparently putting his ministerial responsibility ahead of politics in the negotiations.

"Mr. Fortier is acting as the minister for Quebec, while Mr. Bernier is acting as the minister for Canada," an industry official said, who added that Mr. Fortier's goals are "unrealistic."

Anyway, if Fortier gets a bigger share for Quebec than Boeing was intending to spend, remember that it is a finite pie of investment dollars. Where do you think Quebec’s bigger share will be coming from?

Yep, and the West gets screwed by the Conservatives again. Gee, this all sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it? Quebec as a nation, screwing the West on equalizati
on...a Mulroney in sheep’s clothing indeed. How long before Reform II?

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I know you are, but what am I?

I was half watching Newsnet last night as it ran a piece on the Dion shadow cabinet announcement, and it was mentioning how Michael Ignatieff was appointed, or reappointed really, as deputy leader.

What was interesting though was the reporter said the Conservative Party is apparently trying to make hay out of this by circulating one of the videos we heard so much about from the Iggy haters during the leadership campaign, when he speaks to an American TV audience a few years back about then presidential candidate John Kerry. The dreaded clip where he refers to Americans as “we.” Oh, the humanity!

Interesting that Conservative operatives are circulating this video, and interesting too was the comment the reporter got from Conservative Senator and secretary of state for seniors Marjory LeBreton:

“…maybe he’ll use his new position to rid the Liberal Party of some of this anti-Americanism…”

Come on Marjory, didn’t Mulroney teach you better then this? It is soooo transparent. It’s so amusing that the Cons routinely decry anti-Americanism in the Liberal Party (never mind all the anti-Frenchism…anti-Francophonism? rampant in Citizen Steve’s CPC), heck, she even decries it in this clip.

But look at the Conservative’s strategy here. They’re trying to create anti-American sentiments in the Liberal Party by shopping around an old TV clip so they CAN THEN decry the Liberals for having anti-American sentiments over an old TV clip.

Yes, ironically, while they’re decrying the use of anti-Americanism for political ends they’re trying to stoke anti-Americanism so they can use it for political ends.

Pot…kettle…and so forth.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

In case you were wondering...

...the sometimes funny sitcom Scrubs jumped the shark tonight, during their very special musical episode. If you’re scoring at home, it was in the first act during the song “Everything comes down to poo.”

Speaking of musical episodes though it wasn't the worst I’ve ever seen. But that’s only because I had the misfortune once of watching a very special musical episode of 7th Heaven that was truly, truly, truly horrible.

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Watching the CBC last night...

...and specifically Little Mosque on the Prairie. Like the premiere it was amusing but not spectacular. Which is fine for Canadian TV.

But they kept playing promos for the show during commercial breaks, with quotes from reviewers (Joe Siegel says it's a non-stop thrill ride, etc). That's when I heard something I most assuredly thought I'd never ever hear:

"'Allah be praised!' raves the National Post!"

Surely the end must be nigh…

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The shadow knows...and now we do to

At long last new Liberal leader Stephane Dion unveiled his shadow cabinet this morning. Some interesting choices and some interesting names.

I won’t go over the full list; it's a long one. It's available in full in PDF format.

In addition to the 56 names on the list of shadow cabinet portfolios and responsibilities like whips and house leaders, and a priorities and planning committee, there are also four other committees with a chair, vice-chair and six to nine members. Interestingly, the committee chairs and vice chairs didn't get shadow cabinet roles, so it will be interesting to see the importance placed on these committees and their work.

Particularly since Ken Dryden didn't get a critic portfolio. He'll be chairing the committee on social justice, with vice-chair Andy Scott. John McKay will chair the economic prosperity committee with Massimo Pacetti. John Godfrey will chair an environmental sustainability committee with Geoff Regan, and Bryon Wilfert will chair Canada and the World with Keith Martin.

As I said, besides the committees it's a list of 56 people with critic or officer responsibilities. It's 38 male, 18 female by my count. And by province:

: 23

: 11

: 6

New Brunswick
: 4

and Nova Scotia: 3 each

, Alberta, PEI, Newfoundland and the Yukon: 1 each

What, Alberta you say? Yes, we do still have some Senators there.

Obviously it would have been nice to be closer to gender parity here. Still, we need to work with the caucus we have now, and work to get more qualified women on the ballot and elected in the next election.

Still, many high profile positions went to women, such as both the leader and deputy opposition leaders in the Senate. Plus Lucienne Robillard as Deputy House Leader and Karen Redman as whip, Tina Keeper in Canadian Heritage, Belinda Stronach in Competitiveness and the New Economy, Bonnie Brown in Health, Marlene Jennings in Justice (glad to see her get a high profile job), Sue Barnes in Public Safety, Anita Neville in Indian Affairs and Ruby Dhalla in Social Development.

Joe Volpe
is still around in transport, c'est la vie. An interesting choice is Dennis Coderre for National Defence, not sure how that will work out. No knock on Dennis, I just don't know of his background on the file.

I think Pablo Rodriguez will be interesting going up against poor James Moore in public works. Mark Holland should school Gary Lunn in Natural Resources. Scott Simms should do well in fisheries and Ujal Dosanjh moves to foreign affairs. John McCallum will be fine in finance, and Scott Brison in industry should give him a chance to work on some of the issues he campaigned on. And of course David McGuinty in the environment, that's a great pick.

Overall, some interesting choices. I hope these cabinet committees aren't just make-work projects though, because if they are sidelining Ken Dryden is a big mistake. Same with Keith Martin, he's a very able MP.

While Michael Ignatieff is still deputy leader I'm a bit surprised he wasn't also given a critic portfolio, like foreign affairs perhaps. I'm just not sure how high profile deputy leader is going to be in the HoC, unless Dion plans on being away a lot.

I like the mix of youth and experience though, should be interesting.

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Is Harper looking for his Sister Souljah moment?

As we eagerly await the big shadow cabinet announcement this morning my mind is on the environment; more specifically, the oil sands, and Steve Harper's election strategy. Two interesting stories this morning seem to be setting up an interesting potential political opportunity for Steve: His Sister Souljah moment.

The first story (Steve, Scott and Jason have more) represents an intriguing challenge for the Harper Conservatives and their traditional Alberta power base:

The U.S. wants Canada to dramatically expand its oil exports from the Alberta oilsands, a move that could have major implications on the environment. U.S.and Canadian oil executives and government officials met for a two-day oil summit in Houston in January 2006 and made plans for a “fivefold expansion” in oilsands production… A fivefold increase would mean the exportation of five million barrels a day, which would supply a quarter of current American consumption and add up to almost half of all U.S. imports.
But the current extraction of oil from the tarsands results in the spewing of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere: it’s already the biggest source of new greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

So, Bush and the U.S. want more oil (insert mandatory Harper/Bush wisecrack here) and you know Alberta dearly wants to give it to them. We're talking big bucks here. And Harper's base, of course, is Alberta. But how to square the desires of his Alberta base with the resulting environmental impact of such a massive increase in production, particularly with Harper's need to at least look green if he wants to grow elsewhere in Canada?

Coincidentally or not, I also read this story today. Environment Minister John Baird is musing about killing tax incentives the Liberal government brought in back in 1997 to encourage development in the oil sands. What's this, the Cons musing about killing tax breaks that largely benefit Alberta industry?

Environment Minister John Baird questioned the wisdom of tax incentives introduced in the 1990s to boost production in Alberta's oilsands, and hinted yesterday the Conservative government might have more to say on the issue when it tables its spring budget…"I cannot explain why the Liberal government of [new leader Stephane] Dion made these changes," Mr. Baird said, speaking in French.

Hmm, I wonder if my BT friends will be calling Baird a socialist now, like they called Dion when he mused about reducing royalty incentives last week? Yeah, I doubt it. Anyway, Baird's silly partisan shots aside, while I'd point out the situation was a lot different in 1997 the incentives are no longer necessary today and I'd agree with scrapping or reducing them. Interesting comments by Baird though, given the likely negative reaction that can be expected from Alberta industry.

What's coming?

Using this desired five times production increase as an impetus (and Natural Resources Canada participated, so he knew it was coming) Harper has the opportunity to say this forces me to bring in tough measures to minimize the resulting environmental impact. If Baird's musings are any indication, he is prepared to give the oil industry some tough medicine. And
with Harper's rumoured equalization plans he's already shown he's willing to trade Western votes for support elsewhere.

And by showing the rest of the country he's willing to stand up to his Alberta base, and on the environment no less, he will have established his centrist credentials in the minds of voters, not to mention taking the Green issue away from the opposition.

And Steve will have his Sister Souljah moment.

The budget, and Clean Air Act Part Deux, will tell the tale.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ryerson Review of (Convention) Journalism

An article in the Ryerson Review of Journalism looks at how the media on the ground covered the Liberal Leadership Convention in Montreal last month (has it only been just over a month?!). A section is devoted to blog coverage, with the author speaking to Miranda from A View from the Left and Devin of Maxwell's House.

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Interesting governing strategy

Am I beginning to see a pattern developing here?

Tories’ green plan to take shape, Many of programs likely to resemble scrapped Liberal plans with new names


Ottawa aims to rebuild frayed ties with China

What's the overarching theme here? The Conservatives create the problem, and then they rush in later and try to take credit for fixing it. I think there may be a medical syndrome that describes this kind of behaviour, but it escapes me and google at the moment.

The Cons scrap a bunch of environmental programs just because they were launched by the Liberals, and then later they realize oh crap, some of those were good programs and we need them, so they revive them under different names (look for a big splash about their new environmental commitment) and hope no one notices they cut much of this stuff in the first place.

And they dial up the rhetoric on China to unnecessary levels for domestic political consumption, and then when business leaders express concern about the impact this may have on our trading relationship they go over to try to mend fences with a trade mission.

Does Steve-o perhaps have John "Let's manufacture a crisis" Snobelen on retainer?

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