Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Young Liberal Ads

After another round of negative attack ads from the Conservatives yesterday and a groan-inducing attempt at humour (if making fun of the French counts) with their Kyoto Dog Blog, these new viral ads launched today by the Young Liberals are a refreshing change.

The three ads borrow from the Mac vs. PC theme except, of course, it's Liberal vs. Conservative, and they're darned funny (without making fun of the French). Check them out, and consider making a donation to help get the ads on the air. You can also join the Facebook group. I hear they've already gotten free media play this morning on the CBC and Canada AM.

I've always believed that when it comes to bullying like that displayed by the Harper Conservatives, the best way to respond is with humour. And I've also always said Liberals can do humour well but Conservatives, not so much. Come to think of it, it's the same way with good governing actually...





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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On television advertising

After watching some of the new Conservative ad campaign launched today, some have been wondering why the Conservatives would go negative yet again (this is round four, if you're counting at home).

But you know, maybe they did try to go positive...


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Parallels in PEI

Certainly it may be both stretching and wishful thinking to try and find many parallels between yesterday’s Liberal sweep in PEI and the federal situation, but as I was reading the Globe’s coverage of the PEI results a number of passages in the article did give me pause…

A form of vindication for Mr. Ghiz after years of Tory attacks, it comes in spite of the continuing personal popularity of Tory Leader Pat Binns, reputed to have stayed on specifically to face him.

The loss of Mr. Binns would be a major blow to the party. He is personally popular, the sort of person a neighbour would want to drink coffee with, and the Conservatives built this campaign around his profile. They tried hard to turn the race into a direct contest between the leaders, campaigning under the slogan "Leadership that works."

The Liberals countered with: "Put Islanders first ... for a change."

Personal attacks against the Liberal leader and his leadership skills. A Conservative Tim Horton's leader whose personal popularity outstrips his party's. A campaign built around the leader, and leadership.

Sounds rather familiar, n’est pas?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Exclusive: More food polling numbers

You may have read about yesterday’s Harvey’s hamburger poll, but that was just the first of what will be a bountiful harvest of food-related polling numbers. My sources in the mysterious world of public opinion measurement have forwarded me the results of a couple of polls to be released in the coming days, and I’m going to share the high-level results with you.

The first poll is the East Side Mario’s Vegetable Lasagna poll, which asked Canadians which federal political leader they’d most like to invite out for a dinner of vegetable lasagna. Dion did better here than he did with the hamburger crowd, but still lagged behind the leader. And Harper suffered a serious setback with the veggie crowd. Here’s the numbers:

Jack Layton: 30 per cent
Elizabeth
May: 28 per cent
Stephane Dion
: 25 per cent
Stephen Harper
: 11 per cent
Gilles Duceppe
: 6 per cent
Sample size 1000 Canadians MOE: +/- 5 percentage points 19 times out of 20
These results aren’t overly surprising, after all vegetarians tend to be lefties and Harper eats nothing but Alberta beef.

The next poll is the La Boulangerie Quiche Loraine poll, which asked Canadians which federal political leader they’d most like to share Quiche Loraine with.
Stephane Dion: 37 per cent
Stephen Harper
: 29 per cent
Jack Layton
: 15 per cent
Giles Duceppe
: 14 per cent
Elizabeth
May: 5 per cent
Sample size 1500 Canadians MOE: +/- 4 percentage points 19 times out of 20

Here Dion scored very well, though he still lost to Duceppe in the Quebec numbers. Harper showed surprising strength with quiche eaters as well. Much of May’s support came from vegans, which hurt her quiche numbers.

So, I think the results of these surveys when viewed together show us that Canada is indeed a diverse, multi-gastronomical mosaic, unlike the gastronomic stewing-pot of the U.S., for example. And clearly no political leader has had much success growing their support beyond their gastronomic base.

And doing so is fraught with challenge. If Harper, for example, starts eating vegetable lasagna in public, that may cost him support with his beef-eating base that will think he’s gone sissy. Unless, of course, they recognize the vegetable-eating is only part of the majority quest, and part of his hidden dinner agenda. His frequent quiche photo-ops, though, have yet to pay dividends, despite the ADQ’s breakthrough.

UPDATE: Just in case it's unclear, those last two polls are made up. No one likes vegetable lasagna. But the hamburger one though is totally real.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Knowing when to break a promise

In a political world where the agenda is often driven by the 24-hour news cycle, and where political parties have opposition research, war rooms and rapid response down to an art, politicians are ever more reluctant to go back on a promise, even a bad one. But the world would be so much better off if they did.

I’m thinking of the news today that Quebec Premier Jean Charest fully intends to go ahead with his campaign desperation promise of a tax cut. It was panned by people outside Quebec since Charest plans to fund it with increased money from the Feds intended to go to health and education, and by opponents within Quebec as crass political opportunism. Undeterred, Charest plans to keep his promise:

The income-tax cut will highlight the budget to be tabled today, with Mr. Charest arguing that the Liberal Party is the only one standing up for middle-class Quebeckers.


"As of tomorrow the real question will be: 'Who speaks for the middle class? Who defends the middle class in Quebec? Who will defend the tax cuts?' The Quebec Liberal Party will do it," Mr. Charest shot back as the PQ demanded that the money received from Ottawa in the last federal budget be invested in health and education.


Now, this tax cut just doesn’t make sense economically, and it certainly didn’t seem to help him much last election. So, why is he forging ahead with the cut, rather than making needed investments in health and education? I’d wager because he views the political cost of breaking his promise as higher than the political cost of making the cut and short-changing social investment.

It’s a common enough scenario in politics these days, with a number of examples springing to mind.

Out in BC in 2001 a then opposition leader Gordon Campbell campaigned on a large income tax cut, a la Mike Harris. When he got into office he found the fiscal picture wasn’t near as rosy as the outgoing NDP had led everyone to belief. He could have explained we couldn’t actually afford the tax cut, so sorry. Temporary hit, but points for maning-up and putting policy before politics. But, afraid of getting hit with the broken-promise refrain, he cut income tax anyway, a bit later jacking-up user fees, medical premiums and the sales tax to compensate for the lost revenue. It slowed down the province’s economic recovery but hey, he kept his election promise.

A tale that went the other way would be Dalton McGuinty in Ontario. He campaigned in 2003 on no new taxes, but found the books in worse shape once in office than the outgoing Tories had led people to believe. With a shortfall in the health budget to make up he could have slashed other needed social programs to make up the difference. Bad policy, but he could say he kept his promise. Instead, he opted to introduce a health premium, explaining to Ontarians why it was necessary to go back on his no new taxes promise. And while it was a story at the time, and still a favourite Tory talking-point, I think Ontarians by and large understood the necessity and have moved on, and perhaps even came to respect him a bit for making the right decision rather than the politically expedient one.

And the onus is really on us, as an electorate, to demand the kind of behaviour we want from out political leaders. If we recognize that breaking a promise isn’t necessarily bad then we’ll get politicians that make good, fact-based decisions. If we demonize any broken promise, no matter the circumstances, then we get rigid, conformist politicians that are afraid to make decisions they know are right.

So, I guess the point is it’s hard to blame Charest for wanting to push this tax cut through, but he still needs to man-up and do the right thing. And if he does cancel the cut everyone needs to resist draging-out the tired flip-flop, broken promise card, but rather give Jean kudos for making the right call.

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Make taxis Go Green

When it comes to turning environmental talk into environmental action, this seems like such a simple and sensible idea: the B.C. government wants all future taxi licenses to only be approved for hybrid or highly-fuel efficient vehicles:

B.C. government is putting pressure on taxi companies in its two largest urban areas to run greener vehicles.

The province has asked the province's Passenger Transportation Board to approve taxi licenses for only hybrid or other highly fuel-efficient cars, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said Monday. He also wants the 100 existing applications before the board to only be approved if they're for the greener vehicles.
In addition to the stick, the province also points to available carrots, including a provincial tax exemption of up to $2000 for fuel efficient vehicles, and a federal rebate of up to $2000 as well.

With the usual turnover cycle in taxi fleets, the province hopes B.C’s entire taxi-fleet will be green in time for the 2010 Games. I understand a hybrid taxi push is also underway in New York City.

Given the amount of cabs out there, and the time they spend on the road each day, making taxis go hybrid could make a nice impact on air quality.

Particularly on smog days like we’re having this week in Toronto and much of Southern Ontario. I’d have to think hybrid taxis would be a real winner here, and I’m surprised Toronto Mayor David Miller hasn’t done anything on the front yet. Might also be a good measure for Dalton McGuinty to jump on, with an election coming-up this fall.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You can take the boy out of the West...

...but you can't take the West out of the boy. I think that's evidenced by my first gut reaction to this story...

Ontario has more than doubled its estimate of the number of seats it believes it should be allocated under proposed federal legislation to expand the House of Commons.
...which was something along the lines of "dammed greedy Ontario jerks, let them freeze in the dark," even though I live here now too. I guess I'm a self-hating Ontarioin. I blame it though on that super-annoying tourism commercial they play before movies, "there's no place like this where I've been, ohhh ohhhh....." Whatever happened to "Ontari-ari-ario?"

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jay Hill's spin score: B-

When news broke last week of the Conservative Party's super-secret, 200 page manual on how to disrupt committee meetings, the normally available, straight-shooting Con whip Jay Hill ducked the media and went to ground.

Having huddled with the PMO communications team, he came up for air on CTV’s Question Period program on Sunday to try and spin the affair. It was a decidedly mixed performance.

First, the good spin:

“…this so-called book of dirty tricks is nothing more than the parliamentary tools that are available to all committee chairs. And 90 per cent, probably, of the information that's contained in that manual is simply the standing orders that all committee chairs should apprise themselves of.”
This line of argument works well. Make it seem like it’s no big deal, business as usual, and add in a little it’s just politics and people tune out.

Leave it there and I’d give his spin an A, but that’s not all Jay had to say (didn’t intend for that to rhyme):
"It's no big secret that this is a minority Parliament. We're outnumbered both in the chamber, dramatically outnumbered of course in the Senate by the Liberal majority over there, and outnumbered in every single standing committee."

So it's important, he said, to ensure that the committee chairs have the tools they need "to push back when we see the opposition parties basically getting together and trying to put together a coalition government between the three of them."
Now that just makes Jay sound like a child that can’t get his way. It undoes the earlier good spin, it plays directly against the desire of Canadians to see Parliamentarians attempt to work together, and it’s a slap in the face for the majority of Canadians that didn’t vote Conservative. It speaks to a lack of understanding, or just lack of caring, for how our political system works.

So, overall, Jay gets a B-. He can do much better, and I’ll look for improved performance in the next semester.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's getting embarassing for Cons in Calgary-West

We Libs often take flack for some of our nomination practices, and often the criticism is warranted. And I'm loath to get all on a high horse about nominations given that history and given, say, the LPC's decision not to oppose Elizabeth May in Central Nova.

But this latest story, on the Conservative Party’s rigging of the nomination process in favour of Rob Anders in Calgary-West…well, it’s something. Why don’t they just come out and make an appointment? This ham-fisted rigging of the nomination process is so transparent it’s laughable, and it's not fooling anyone.

Tories spend thousands in court fight to preserve MP Rob Anders' nomination

JAMES STEVENSON


CALGARY (CP) - The Conservative Party of Canada is on the verge of winning an ugly, expensive fight with its own members in an upscale Calgary riding as MP Rob Anders heads toward his second acclamation in less than a year.


An unprecedented move by the party's national council to deny voting rights to new members in Calgary West is curtailing any potential challenges to Anders in a court-ordered second nomination battle.


"The secret, as everyone knows, to winning a nomination is to be able to sell your supporters memberships and get them out to vote," said John Knox, one of 11 disgruntled Tories who have fought the party's unwavering loyalty to Anders from courtroom to courtroom since last August.


The rule - which gives ballots only to those who were party members in the middle of August last year - contrasts with every other Tory riding in Canada, where anyone who has held a membership for more than three weeks can vote at a party nomination.


At least two expected new entrants into the race will likely not bother.


(more)

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Harper is on a mole hunt!

There’s a Conservative mole buried deep within the party operations. It seems it’s the mole that embarrassingly leaked the Conservatives' “Guide to creating chaos” for its committee chairs, and Harper is determined to find the mole:

The government was so embarrassed and annoyed by the leak, that, according to a source, it ordered all committee chairs to return their copies of the handbook, apparently in a bid to determine who broke confidence.
Get the handcuffs ready!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Hells no McCallum

My jaw dropped when I came across this story (h/t Jason), which says Liberal finance critic John McCallum says the party is considering the idea of raising the GST back to seven per cent. I mean, seriously John? WTF?

The Liberal party is debating whether it should pledge to reverse the $6-billion cut to the GST made by the Conservatives, as a means of funding broad-based income tax cuts.

John McCallum, the party's finance critic, is understood to have pushed the idea of increasing the federal goods and services tax back to 7%.
Allow me to save the party the money it might otherwise spend on focus-testing this stinkbomb: it’s a dumb idea. Stupid with a capital S. Paging anyone with any political antanne? It’s not often I agree with the head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, but they’re bang-on here:
…an increase in the GST would be "electoral suicide."

"The Conservatives would have a field day. The Liberal caucus has got to give its head a shake if it is contemplating increasing the most hated tax in Canada," he said.

A field day indeed, I bet Harper and Flanagan are as giddy as little girls at the prospect.

Now, I agree the GST is a more effective tax than income tax, and cutting income tax is a better, fairer course than cutting GST. I agree with Dion’s pledge to cancel the scheduled GST cut from 6 to 5, and putting that money to fighting child poverty instead. That’s a good policy. And I was against the cut from 7 to 6, and posted often on the shortcomings of the Conservative move during the campaign.

But what’s done is done. You can’t roll back the clock. Yes, it was a dumb cut, particularly since the Cons combined it with an income tax increase. But if we couldn’t successfully make that case during the campaign, how in the hell do they think we can make the case for raising the freakin’ thing now? Not a chance. Leave the GST alone. Focus on broad-based tax relief.

This one needs to be nipped in the bud now. McCallum either needs to make clear it was his idea and he’s thought better of it, or Dion needs to distance himself from it, and make clear it’s off the table and was never seriously considered. John is a smart guy, he's done a good job exposing Flaherty's incompetence and developing a good alternate policy on income trusts. But this seems to be a case of the economist needing to come down from the tower.

Things are starting to go better for the LPC these days, or at least go worse for the Cons. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot, nay, the head, shall we please?

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Stripping away the facts: Harper admited more strippers than Martin

While reading a number of stories on the Conservative’ stripper legislation, thanks to a Google search gone horribly wrong, something didn’t quite jive. I mean, besides the fact that it’s needless and pointless legislation that shows the Conservatives have totally run out of ideas.

The issue is the stats contrasting dancers admitted under the Liberals vs. the Conservatives. Here’s how the story I read first, from CTV, framed the matter:

In 2004, when Liberal Paul Martin was prime minister, there were 423 visas issued for foreign exotic dancers.

Since Conservative Stephen Harper took over in early 2006, 17 permits have been issued -- seven so far this year.
Reading that you’re no doubt thinking wow, Martin was one foreign stripper lovin’ son of a guy that helped found medicare, wasn’t he? I mean, 423! And that Stephen Harper, he really must be doing something right, only 17 under his watch! Such a nice boy, young Stephen. Right?

Well, not quite. It occurred to me that it was odd CTV chose 2004 as their year of comparison, as Martin governed for all of 2005 as well. How many dancers, I wondered, were admitted under Martin in 2005? And why did CTV not include figures from 2005?

Maybe because this happened in 2005:
…documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show the previous Liberal government had already issued directives to embassies to make it harder for foreign strippers to obtain temporary work permits.
Hmm, that’s interesting. Without any big splashy legislation either, the Liberals took decisive action to curtail the number of foreign exotic dancers coming to Canada. And what impact did this have on, say, the 2005 figures?
As a result, the number of new permits issued to foreign exotic dancers fell to fewer than 10 in 2005 from 67 in 2004, according to government statistics.

How about that. It seems the Liberals accomplished a massive reduction in the number of foreign dancers admitted to Canada without splashy grandstanding legislation. Results for Canadians, you might say. Also makes CTV’s little comparison look rather foolish, doesn’t it?

There’s something else too. CTV says 423 permits were issued in 2004, the Globe and Mail says only 67 were issued in 2004. Either way the drop was still sharp in 2005, but that’s a big gap. Who is wrong here? Given what seems to be a deliberately misleading comparison by leaving out the 2005 numbers, I’m betting it’s CTV.

And another thing. Let’s take a closer look at those numbers.

Foreign exotic dancers admitted in 2005, under the Martin Liberals
: Fewer than 10
Foreign exotic dancers admitted in 2006, under the Harper Conservatives
: 17 since January 2006 minus 7 so far this year equals 10 in 2006

Now, my Grade 11 math tells me that “fewer than 10” is less than “10” which means Harper admitted at least one more foreign stripper in 2006 than Martin did in 2005. A minor difference I admit, but it puts lie to the pious Conservative rhetoric on the issue doesn’t it?

And Harper has already admitted 7 this year, and it’s only May. He’s well on pace for well over 14 in 2007. Unless this is just the stripper high season or something. It is spring, after all…

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On leaks

As Darren observes the Conservatives are beginning to leak like a sieve, and the latest leak is particularly mind-boggling:

A secret guidebook that details how to unleash chaos while chairing parliamentary committees has been given to select Tory MPs.


Running some 200 pages including background material, the document - given only to Conservative chairmen - tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.


Leaks from the bureaucracy are one thing. Can’t do much about that, besides sending in the RCMP to haul out low level civil servants in handcuffs to try to foster an environment of fear. But leaks like this one clearly came from the political side, either an MP or a political staffer, as they’d be the ones with access to this kind of thing.

And that’s a leak of a different feather. When you’re starting to get these kinds of leaks on the political side of the house that should send you a serious message: you’ve got problems. If your own partisans are upset and disgusted enough to leak something that casts the party in a negative light it’s time to look in the mirror and reconsider the way you’re doing business.

Or, you can tighten things down even harder, bust heads, launch a which-hunt, and make things even worse. Want to take bets on which way Steve will go? Look for a story on Hedy Fry’s nefarious leadership organizing in the weekend National Post.

Defect, deflect…

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Exclusive: The next Conservative initiative – ending prohibition

Some nattering nabobs of negativity have been saying the Harper Conservarinos have run out of ideas, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Their legislation introduced yesterday to stem the hordes (10) of foreign stripper coming here taking jobs from our Canadian girls/guys/and others is bold and decisive leadership, and via my super-secret source in Ottawa (don’t arrest them please) I’ve secured an advance peek at the next groundbreaking Conservative policy initiative that will answer a longstanding need: they will be ending prohibition.

Documents indicate that next week the Conservative government will introduce legislation to make it legal to produce, purchase and consume alcohol and spirits. Once again beer, wine, rum and all the others will be able to be purchased legally and consumed freely in bars and taverns, outside smoky speak-easies and taking the liquor trade away from bootleggers and criminals. Regulation will be left up to the individual provinces.

Conservative talking points included with the policy memo charge the Liberals have failed to act on prohibition for far too long, saying it’s yet another thing the Liberals didn’t accomplish in their 13 years in government, along with figuring out how they get the Caramel into the Caramilk Bar and finding the lost city of Atlantis. No longer, the Conservatives say, will Canadians be held captive to the likes of Al Capone and his liquor mobsters. It's another example, they say, of elitist Liberals ignoring the needs of average, beer drinking Canadians.

The Conservative talking points acknowledge that prohibition was actually a provincial initiative and PEI was the last province to abolish it back in 1948, that Al Capone was American and has been dead for 87 years, and that alcohol is available relatively freely, but said if challenged to ignore the facts and instead focus on Paul Martin and Canada Steamshiplines and, if necessary, yell "Adscam" loudly while flailing your arms and then run away.

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Dipping into the cesspool

By now I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Royal Galipeau (David Akin was there), the Conservative MP that yesterday crossed the floor of the House of Commons, climbed-up into the Liberal opposition benches to confront Liberal MP David McGuinty, verbally assaulting him, “making threats” and even “grabbed his left shoulder” in an unprecedented breach of Parliamentary decorum, not to mention decency and common sense.

At least Galipeau has come to his senses and later offered an apology to McGuinty. Most people will agree that Galipeau was out of line and an apology was very much in order, because you’d think we could agree grabbing opponents on the floor of the HoC and yelling at them isn’t exactly parliamentary. But that everyone doesn’t include our Blogging Tory and other conservative blogging friends.

I wonder if they’ll call Royal a pussy for apologizing to David. After all, they don’t think he did anything wrong. Here’s a sampling from the nutfarm:

Joan Tintor says Good for Galipeau: “No doubt McGuinty the Lesser will stage an impromptu news conference, sporting the usual expression of pained piety he wears like a neck brace on a phoney car accident plaintiff.”

The Hammer of Thor says Cry, Cry, Cry, Cry..: “Now the panty waisted David McGuinty is whining and sniveling because he was poked in the shoulder in the "Ugly Brawl" by Royal Galipeau. This is getting to the point that even I am feeling embarrassed for the lib's. C'mon guys - BE A MAN!”

Halls of Macadamia says David McGuinty pees himself…: “Royal Galipeau, 60 years old, is one scary-ass parliamentarian. Run, McGuinty! Run!”

NB Tory Lady says We are on to you Liberals!!: “
I find it very unparliamentary of David McGuinty to cry fowl when he so blatently threw a remark at Royal Galipeau during his question period time. It is clear Mr. Galipeau is a model of decorum 99 percent of his parliamentary time and that he was defending his honour and he admits, he acted in anger and utter shock.”

Unhyphenated Canadian writes WWF comes to Ottawa: “
Royal Galipeau, 60 years old, is one scary-ass parliamentarian. Run, McGuinty! Run!”

(BCer says: I assume they meant WWE, because after a trademark fight the WWF now refers solely to the World Wildlife Fund, unless that’s what they actually meant…)

The Nexus of Assholery says David McGuinty living in fear of political opponent: “David McGuinty may well be a pussy…Apparently, David McGuinty is just a pussy.”

Dust my Broom says You call this a brawl?: "Give me a friggin’ break…Apparently he grabbed his shoulder. Did the media even look at who they were?... What a loser.”

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sources say that's really crappy journalism

As I’ve mentioned before I’m a journalist in my day job (which I’m enjoying a nice vacation from at the moment) and I tell you, if I regularly submitted stories filled with gossip and backbiting sourced only to anonymous “senior Liberals” or “senior Conservatives” my vacation would be much longer than I’d like.

That’s not to say anonymous sources don’t have their place in journalism. They absolutely do. The best example of an anonymous source is the infamous “Deep Throat” that provided inside information to the Washington Post to break the Watergate Scandal and topple Nixon.

But, as journalists, we need to be judicious in our use of anonymous sources. The first question we need to ask is if the information they’re providing is of value, and why they’re requesting anonymity. Are they blowing the whistle on unethical or illegal behaviour that the public has the right to know about, and could their career or even their lives be jeopardized by their releasing it? That’s a good case for anonymity. Certainly no one’s lives are in danger with political gossip mongering.

Now, anonymous sourcing has always been more commonplace in political journalism. Often, it’s government sources giving advanced views of upcoming policy announcements. This would be an authorized leak, which of course is wildly different from unauthorized leaks. I’m not sure how, it just is.

Then there’s the gossipy anonymous sources, usually involving the internal party machinations that the media, but not the public, are so enamored with. Applying the usual test here and it usually doesn’t pass, there’s no compelling public need to know and no one’s lives are in danger by going public. Careers, quite possibly yes.

But here, it’s important for the journalist to question the motivation of the source requesting the anonymity. Why do they wish to remain anonymous? Is their desire to remain anonymous outweighed by the public’s right to judge the veracity of the information with all the facts (including the identity of the source)? Do they really need to remain anonymous, or are they just hiding behind anonymity to make accusations they’d never make under their own names?

I think that, more often than not, it’s the latter. There’s no compelling need to grant anonymity to back-biting gossip mongers, giving them a national platform to spew unproven accusations without giving the public any information to judge their biases, motivations or accuracy. That’s just bad journalism, and it's lazy journalism.

At the very least journalists could offer more information to their readers to make a judgment. Rather than just saying “senior Liberal” say “a BLAH organizer” or a “senior BLAH loyalist” so we at least have some context to put the accusations in, and can judge their motivations a little more easily.

Instead, we rely on journalists to make that judgment for us and sorry, but I just don’t trust them. They have their own biases and motivations, and the way to overcome those biases is with fully sourced, responsible journalism that presents all the facts and lets the readers decide.

Anything else should stay in Frank Magazine where it belongs.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Accountability? No comment

Following-up on the previous post and Conservative MP Guy Lauzon’s departure as chair of the HoC Official Languages committee over his attempt to stop the committee from looking into the government’s cancellation of the Court Challenges Program.

CBC’s Julie VanDusen buttonholed Lauzon on his way into the committee meeting, and it was quite the amusing exchange. Here’s a taste, where VanDusen tries to get Lauzon to explain his actions:

Julie: Why don’t you explain it now? Don’t you want to be accountable?
Guy
: No comment.
Julie
: Don’t you want to explain it to the people?
Guy
: I’ll explain it to the committee.
Yet another example of accountability, Conservative style. No comment? That’s something.

One of the committee vice-chairs, NDP MP Yves Godin, had a good line in his press conference after the committee meeting that ousted Lauzon. Godin said Lauzon justified his comments by saying the committee hearings were becoming too political. Said Godin:
“If they’re going to shut things down for being too political they should cancel question period!”
Careful Yves, you’re going to start giving Harper some ideas! Of course, the Cons have used the “too political” line of BS in the past as well.

I thought one of the Liberal committee members, I think it might have been Raymonde Falco, had a good point too:
"It was very clear this was coming from somewhere else, and that somewhere else is the PMO.”
You mean that same Harper that is supposedly all about accountability and official languages? Say it ain’t so! Steve, supporting official languages means more than speaking a little French now and again.

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Lost in translation

Official Languages commissioner Graham Fraser released his first official report today, and judging by the short wire story the logic seems a tad baffling. Basically, Fraser said Steve Harper is peachy keen on the whole official languages thing but the government he runs with an iron fist? Not so much.

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

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

Fraser says his office has actually identified some 70 language issues that still require constitutional clarification.


The prime minister, who begins most of his speeches in French, was praised by Fraser for setting a perso
nal example of how to employ both official languages.
Now, I’m biased, but I’d tend to think Harper’s speaking a little French in his speeches would be outweighed by, say, the torpedoing of 40 language cases by his killing the Court Challenges Program, for example.

Because, you know who is the boss of that government? Yes, it’s Steve Harper. It’s contradictory to say Harper is awesome but his government sucks when Harper runs the government with an iron fist. And speaking of Harper’s government, I was amused to see the next story after this one on the CP Ticker:

Yes, the next story after the one where Fraser “…praises Harper but dumps on government” we see the government is at it again on the official languages front:
A political spat has shut down the House of Commons official languages committee.

T
he trouble began Tuesday when opposition members teamed up to vote out the Conservative chairman. The ouster of Guy Lauzon prompted the government to say he will not be replaced, and committees cannot sit without a chairman.

Government whip Jay Hill says the rules say the chair has to be a government member and he's not going to allow the opposition to dictate who that will be.

The battle comes on the same day the new official languages commissioner - Graeme Fraser - released his first report.

New Democrat MP Yvon Godin says the Tories talk a good line when it comes to language issues but their actions speak louder than their words.


He says the government has chosen not to support official languages by withdrawing from the committee.
(Get background on the Lauzon case here, he tried to shut-down hearings about the Court Challenges Program cancellation) Could there be a more timely example, on the very day of Fraser’s report, of the disdain the Harper government has for official languages?

And you can’t tell me Harper isn’t pulling the strings here. Nothing is done by this government without his say-so, the responsibility is his. But then again, despite Fraser’s baffling personal praise for Steve, it’s really unsurprising, given Steve’s past remarks on the topic:
"If you've read any of the official propagandas, you've come over the border and entered a bilingual country. In this particular city, Montreal, you may well get that impression. But this city is extremely atypical of this country... So it's basically an English-speaking country, just as English-speaking as, I would guess, the northern part of the United States."
- Conservative leader Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.


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

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

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The headline says “Conservative Party back in court over deal with candidate”

It’s too bad they couldn’t have saved this headline for Accountability Week, isn’t it? Well, maybe we can make it an Accountability Month or something. But indeed the Conservative Party is back in court.

You may be thinking of the CalgaryWest nomination court case. But actually I’m talking about another Conservative nomination related court case (hard to keep track of them, I know). But I’m actually referring to the court case involving the Conservative nomination for Ottawa-South.

I’ve blogged extensively on the Alan Riddell case before. The CPC offered to buy Riddell off so sponsorship whistleblower Alan Cutler could run. Riddell stepped aside, and Cutler went on to lose to Liberal David McGuinty.

The deal was the party would cover Riddell’s expenses in running for the nomination, which he estimated in the neighborhood of $50,000. Rumours of a deal surfaced during the campaign but Harper flatly denied there was any such deal. Either Harper was lying or he wasn’t told, because once Riddell sued for the money the party admitted there was indeed a deal, but by going public Riddell negated it. You see, the buyoff was to be kept secret. Because that’s accountability, Conservative style.

A judge disagreed with the Cons though and ruled for Riddell to get the money, a ruling which the CPC apparently plans to appeal. Riddell also has defamation suits pending against Harper and CPC president Don Plett, both of whom denied in the media there was a deal to play Riddell. Something which the CPC’s own court fillings show to be untrue.

To the latest news though. The CPC is being dragged back to court over the confidentiality issue:

A political party asking a candidate to step aside to make way for a bigger name is nothing particularly new - but should those negotiations and the possible money they involve be considered secret?

That issue will be debated in an Ottawa courtroom this week in the second chapter of the Conservative party's ongoing legal battle with former party member Alan Riddell.
Because when you said accountability, you totally weren’t talking about yourselves, right CPC lawyer?
"Am I going to ask that the matter be postponed? Yes, the principle reason being it is under appeal and shouldn't go forward right now," said party lawyer Robert Houston. "There is absolutely no urgency in this matter proceeding at this time."
At least until after the next election, right Rob. For his part, Riddell’s lawyer finds the penchant for secrecy from the “accountability party” to be puzzling:
Riddell's lawyer Tom Conway says the party is likely reluctant to start going through the details of other deals it has made with candidates. For example, British Columbia MP Jim Hart's agreement to step aside for Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, or candidate Ezra Levant's departure to make way for Day's successor Stephen Harper in Calgary Southwest.

"It doesn't make sense for them when this party has insisted on transparency and accountability, and here they are saying an agreement they made with a candidate should be secret," Conway said Monday. "There's no reason to keep that kind of agreement secret."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Somone grab the extinguisher...

....because I think Peter Van Loan's pants are on fire...

Tory minister spent more, disclosed less than Liberal
(Tory-Hidden-Expenses)
Source: The Canadian Press
May 14, 2007 16:33

By Bruce Cheadle


OTTAWA (CP) _ Old expense reports torpedo Conservative claims that their Quebec regional economic minister spent less on travel and disclosed more than his Liberal predecessor.


Following revelations last week about hidden Tory air travel, the year-old minority government repeatedly stated that cabinet ministers' expenses are considerably lower than the former Liberal government's _ and that they are more forthcoming and accountable into the bargain.


But at least in the case of Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who also serves as regional economic minister, those Tory assertions are turned on their ear by an examination of past expense reports. In fact, all the government needed to do was look at its own website.


Jacques Saada, the former Liberal minister for Quebec regional economic development, spent $66,000 on charter flights in 2005 and publicly posted every flight and its cost. The link to those "proactive disclosures'' is found on the same government web page as Blackburn's current expenses, which failed to disclose a penny of almost $150,000 in charter flights for 2006.


Saada's 2005 expense reports fire a pair of missiles into last week's Tory defence of Blackburn.


"The fact is, the expenses of the Conservative labour minister during 2006 were less than the comparable expenses for the Liberal minister during 2005,'' Peter Van Loan, the Conservative House leader, told the Commons last Monday after an Access to Information request by the NDP turned up Blackburn's hidden air travel.


True...but only if you don't count the $150,000 in unreported air travel.


Blackburn followed up with a letter to newspaper editors that claimed "allegations of hidden travel costs are false.''


"In my time as minister,'' Blackburn wrote, "I rejected my Liberal predecessor's practice of not disclosing chartered flights costing less than $10,000. At my request, these, too, are notified in proactive disclosure.''


In fact, Saada counted as air fare the fees for all 17 of his charter flights, ranging in cost from as little as $1,272 to as much as $11,342.


Blackburn, by contrast, listed air fare as zero even on those charter trips that he chose to "proactively disclose'' _ including one single charter that cost $41,822. He took some 25 charter flights in all last year, and only eight are referenced in his expenses.


It is true that air charter contracts, including contracts worth less than $10,000, are disclosed on the department website. But those contracts do not list who was onboard the aircraft, or where it flew, making the disclosure virtually meaningless.


Only by obtaining actual flight logs through an Access to Information request was the NDP able to reveal Blackburn's travel habits.


For a Conservative government that preaches accountability, thin Tory expense reports raise interesting questions, said New Democrat MP Pat Martin.


"The jig is up for Blackburn. He's been busted, plain and simple,'' Martin said. "But it does beg the question: is this common practice to falsify your expenses or to hide and obfuscate your actual expenses? If so, this is the opposite of transparency. This is deliberate obfuscation.''


Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has also been shown to have not disclosed a series of flights on departmental aircraft last year.


Saada, who was defeated in the 2006 election, said he'd instructed his staff to post every expense related to his ministerial duties.


"I took a lifetime to build my credibility and I don't want to jeopardize it for a few hundred dollars not declared,'' said Saada from Montreal. "So I wanted to make sure everything was fine and very transparent, that's all. That was my instruction and my instructions were followed to the letter.''


In his letters to the editor last week, Blackburn concluded by stating that "Canadians deserve better than half-truths and mudslinging.''


His office did not return calls Monday seeking clarification.

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Another day, another poll, another tie

This time it’s Ipsos out with new polling numbers this morning, although the numbers are pretty much the same as all the polls have been lately: Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat.

Conducted May 10 with a 3.1& +/- margin of error, Ipsos has the horse race percentage numbers as Liberals 32, Conservatives 31, NDP 17, Greens 9, BQ 8, Undecided 7. Here’s a pretty chart from Ipsos to illustrate it:

They also publish regional numbers which, while interesting, should always be taken with a grain of salt. I’m in B.C. this week (hence all this time for blogging), so I’m pleased to see the Liberals 5 points up on the Conservatives here, although the NDP has surged into the lead (NDP 30, Libs 29, Cons 24, Greens 16). The Cons dipped in Alberta but still have a huge lead, Ontario was little changed, the Cons gained a bit a Liberal expense in Quebec, and in the Atlantic the Cons and Greens lost to the Libs and NDP.

Still, given the small sample sizes and wild swings, I don’t put much stock into these regional numbers. Still, here’s another pretty chart from Ipsos to illustrate it:

Ipsos concludes the “evaporation of support” for the Conservatives is the reason why the Liberals are statistically ahead in the polls. Given the breakdowns though I’d wager it would be another Conservative minority if an election were held today, the Cons can afford to bleed plenty if support in Alberta before it starts costing them seats, did rural/interior B.C.

Interestingly Ipsos notes the Cons have been losing support everywhere except Quebec, while this poll the Libs declined a tad everywhere except Alberta (and Atlantic Canada), and the NDP gained everywhere but the prairies. Somewhat Bizarro-World-ish, no?

And here’s some fun age and gender breakdowns:

By gender, men favour the Conservatives (34%) over the Liberals (31%) by a 3-point margin, while women prefer the Liberals (34%) over the Conservatives (29%) by a five-point margin. The NDP draws higher support among women (18%) than among men (16%), while the Bloc (women, 9%; men, 7%) and Green Party (women, 10%; men, 9%) divide their support more equally between men and women.

By age, Conservatives enjoy an advantage among respondents 55 years and older (41%) as compared to the 18-to-34-year-old cohort (24%). The Liberals enjoy greater support among Canadians 35 to 54 years old (36%) than among either those 18 to 34 years (27%) or those 55 years and older (31%). Support for the NDP (22%), Green Party (14%) and Bloc Quebecois (11%) each depend more heavily on respondents 18 to 34 years of age than among older respondents.
Will be interesting to see how the Cons disastrous “Accountability week” and Duceppe’s 24-hour leadership bid impacts the next round of polling numbers.

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Gilles: The media made me do it

Man, this guy is fast being exposed as a real nutbar. I remember watching Gilles kick ass in the election debates and thinking dam, if only this guy wasn’t a separatist…watching his press conference this morning I really wonder what happened to that Gilles Duceppe?


Everyone will know the story by now of Duceppe’s 24 hours in the Quebec PQ leadership race, where he announced he was running to replace Bosclair and then dropped out of the race a day later to endorse Pauline Marois.

Duceppe just held a press conference on the Hill, flanked by his caucus, to face the media and discuss the whole farce. It was really rather amusing. If I could sum up his remarks it would be this: I made a mistake, and the media made me do it.

He explained how on Friday, when he met with his advisors he didn’t want to go, but…“journalists were asking me and correctly I think you didn’t go in 2005 so if you don’t go now, what does that mean…emotionally I acted against my emotions and said yes, I’ll go….I made an error…

So he listened to the media commentators and went, then a day later he flip-flopped to his senses and changed his mind…“It was a mistake. I’m sort of methodical. To make a mistake like that? But I don’t know. We’re not made of wood, we politicians.”

So now he intends to stay in Ottawa and lead the BQ. He apparently has gotten a vote of confidence from his caucus and, if he gets a vote of confidence from the BQ’s national council in October, he says he intends to lead the party into the next federal election.

Despite the show of unity with his caucus behind him though you have to think Gilles Duceppe’s days as leader of the BQ are numbered. In just a few days the guy has shed so much of his hard-earned credibility. If the “media commentators” start calling for his ouster, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go…

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poll smoking

Came across this article by Decima Research boss Bruce Anderson on the CTV Web site, where he analyzes their “last 7000 surveys on voting intentions” and attempts to draw some trends. It’s well over 1000 words and near as I can gather he has no idea what’s going on either.

Basically, the electorate is very fluid, more people are undecided and most people have very little loyalty to any of the parties. In short, it’s anyone's game.

One interesting point was that people might make their voting decision next election in a more positive way. Last time many were voting to punish the Liberals, or were scared of the Conservatives. Both the fear and the anger have dissipated but while people can now vote for a more positive reason, Anderson concludes there’s nothing to get people particularly passionate at the moment.

Overall, the piece has plenty to please and displease everyone, but here’s some of the top line conclusions:

The Conservatives have done better at retaining the support of those who voted for them in 2006, losing only 15 per cent of their supporters. The lost points went to the Liberals (six per cent), the NDP (four per cent) the Green Party (three per cent) and the BQ (one per cent).

The Liberals have lost 22 per cent of their 2006 voters. Ten per cent went to the Conservatives, five to the NDP, five to the Greens and just one per cent to the BQ.


The BQ has lost 23 per cent of its support, with six per cent siphoned off by the Conservatives, six per cent to the Greens, five per cent to the NDP, and only three to the Liberals.


The NDP has lost a quarter of its support an even 25 per cent. Ten per cent went to the Liberals, seven per cent to the Greens, 5 per cent to the Conservatives, and 1% to the BQ.
So, really, everyone is at square one. With the Conservatives sticking to attack politics and lame political stunts and gimmicks, I remain convinced the Liberals need to do something to capture the imagination of Canadians. It’s not enough to give people a reason not to vote Conservative, we need to give them a reason to vote Liberal.

This summer, as I’ve written before, the Liberal team needs to hit the bbq circuit and put some meat on the three pillar policy bones, particularly the economy and social justice pillars. Then we need to come back in the Fall with some fire, and I think it would be a good time for a policy big bang, something that will give substance to the philosophies and connect with Canadians.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: The Tyee has an idea. They want Dion to embrace electoral reform...

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Blackberry-Facebooking the Con's "Accountability" week

The week past was the Conservatives' supposed “accountability week” and it was a very entertaining week indeed of embarrassing incidents that highlighted just how much of a farce the accountability mantra has become for the Harper Conservatives, from expense scandals involving two ministers to arresting a civil servant to filibustering a committee looking into the alleged torture of Afghan detainees, and much more.

I just came across an entry on Liberal MP Mark Holland’s Facebook where he Blackberry blogged the bizarre behaviour of Conservative MP Leon Benoit at a meeting of the International Trade committee (news coverage here). Enjoy:

Via Blackberry –

Being the good friend that I am, I agreed to stand in today for Navdeep Bains at the International Trade Committee. Moments ago, the Conservative Chair Leon Benoit cut off the witness in the middle of his presentation. The witness was Gordon Laxer, a Director with the Parkland Institute. The puzzled Mr. Laxer was stopped by the Chair because Leon said he was off topic. He demanded the witness speak only about items linked to the days agenda. Fair enough - except that the witness was doing exactly that. In point of fact, the previous witness was also discussing the same thing - energy security as it pertains to Canada-US trade. After being rebuked by the Chair, the witness was allowed to continue. After about another minute of speaking, the Chair unceremoniously cut off the witness a second time leaving him with still half of his presentation to make. Flustered, Leon called upon the next witness to start speaking who just looked back at him totally baffled. There are about 30 or so people watching all of this - all of whom were laughing in bewilderment or shaking their heads. This all would have been odd enough but it gets worse.


The ruling that the witness could not continue was challenged. The Chair gave a long speech about why his ruling should stand. When people attempted to question this, he said a motion to challenge the chair is not debatable. It was pointed out that he had just been debating - he ignored that. Leon, then asked "Shall the ruling of the chair be sustained?". Only 3 Conservative hands went up. "If you want to support the decision of the Chair, put up your hand," Leon clarified looking around hopefully. The same 3 Conservative hands rose. He asked who was opposed and all the opposition members raised their hands. Leon looked down, grabbed his gavel and snapped, "this meeting is adjourned!" He then stormed out, leaving all in the room in a surprised paralysis. After a time, it was pointed out that the chair can't just declare the meeting over and walk out. So, Lui Temelkovski as our Liberal Vice-Chair took position and the meeting resumed.

Honestly, it was an embarrassing episode and, if it didn't reflect so poorly on the committee, it would have been extremely funny. Parliament can be a strange and weird place. Leon didn't do the Conservatives or parliament proud today.


... Now back to committee, Mr. Julian of the NDP just introduced a motion to oust Leon as the Chair. Man this is a zoo. Nav - I'm glad this is your committee.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Things I've missed about B.C.

I'm once again A BCer in BC, at least for a little while. Arrived back in the Comox Valley on Wednesday for a little vacation and to visit the family, and I'm here till next Sunday. Good to breath that fresh, smog free salty ocean air once again, if only temporarily.

A few things I've missed about the Left Coast:

The ocean

The mountains

The doggy

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A supersized Diebeling

You'll remember during the Liberal leadership race, each of Toronto Star reporter Linda Diebel's lengthly bio pieces in the Sunday Star on the various leadership candidates would be carefully scrutinized when they came out.

Her interview with Michael Ignatieff, you may recall, generated much blog activity when a quote, "it depends who's leader", seemed to cast doubt on Michael's plans to run again if he lost the race. The Ignatieff campaign quickly released their interview transcript and disputed the quote. Her Dion piece seemed to go better as she recounted the cute separatism/rum and cokes story. Her pieces on the other candidates were also closely scrutinized and often offered interesting insights.

Well, now Linda has published a book focused on the winner, the race and things since called "Stephane Dion: Against the Current" and today's Star has an excerpt. It makes for an interesting read and I have to say, one person in particular doesn't come out sounding particularly good.

I sense many more virtual trees are about to be killed with a torrent of blog analysis...

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I'm sure we could add to this list

The magazine Xtra is publishing a "Top 60 Reasons to Dump Harper" list. Here's a few samples:

#20: FROM THEIR OWN MOUTHS

"In the 1950s, buggery was a criminal offence, now it's a requirement to receive benefits from the federal government,"
-Garry Breitkreuz, Conservative MP, in 2000 in response to same-sex benefits Bill C-23.

"I want the whole world to know that I do not condone homosexuals. I do not condone their activity.... I think it is unnatural and I think it is totally immoral. I will object to it forever."
-Myron Thompson, Conservative MP, 1995

"The fact is that homosexuals aren't barred from marrying under Canadian law. Marriage is open to everybody as long as they're a man and a woman."
-Jason Kenney, Conservative MP, Jan 2005


#34: STOCKWELL DAY PONDERS HIRING MERCENARIES FOR AFGHANISTAN

We used to be so smug. That smugness just got a little harder to justify, thanks to controversial Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day's recent musings on hiring a rent-an-army. The US has spent the last ten years privatizing its military operations. Scrutiny has become particularly intense since the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and the American system has been roundly criticized for its high cost, poor conditions and the companies' lack of accountability to the public and its employees.

Now, Canada is considering the same with Day repeating the same derelect reasons as his American buddies. "To get the best system delivery at the best price, there's a possibility for the private sector there."

#37: HOMOPHOBIC SLURS UNBECOMING OF PRIME MINISTER

It's so grade four. Calling a classmate gay (or using a more colourful version thereof) is something we thought we left behind in the school yard. Certainly, if Stephen Harper were to stoop to that, he would be called a bad role model.

Alas, a cryptic comment to then interim Liberal leader Bill Graham has gone unrebuked. After coming back from the Asia summit last year, Harper was teased by Graham for having his photo taken in a silk Veitnamese robe. Harper responded that in contrast to Graham, he wears silk on the outside.

Not a big deal. But if he's making gay jokes in the House Of Commons, what is he saying behind closed doors? Shame.

#55: HARPER TEARS UP KELOWNA ACCORD

Twice, actually.

The 2006 budget first. Three months after Stephen Harper won his minority victory in January of 2006, Mike Harris-era MPP cum finance minister Jim Flaherty unveiled his budget. It was largely perceived as a stay-the-course budget, garnished with 25 narrow tax breaks. Spending was mostly intact, but there was an $800 million hole where phase one of the $5.1 billion Kelowna Accord was supposed to be. The agreement represented the largest payout to the First Nations in Canada's history. About half that amount was allocated instead and Flaherty called it a "down payment."

Tensions — already brewing — erupt in Caledonia, a small town in southern Ontario. Residents, shocked at the anger and violence of the First Nations protesters, can't wrap their minds around why. The town's residents gear up for a fight; several counter-protests draw hundreds of residents within a hare's breath of rioting.

A year later, Caledonia is still unresolved. A private member's bill calling on the government to honour Kelowna — introduced by the man who inked Kelowna, former prime minister Paul Martin — passed Mar 21 with the support of the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP. But private member's bills cannot allocate money in the budget, so the bill has no teeth. Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice says no, so that makes twice.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

When we said accountability…

….we totally didn’t mean us!

A Conservative MP spoke for three hours at a Commons committee Thursday in an apparent attempt to prevent an investigation into why Foreign Affairs officials censored documents about the abuse and torture of Afghan detainees.
But hey, accountability is for crooks, right guys?

Hmmmm, didn’t something like this happen just the other day?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government was accused Tuesday of trying to stifle debate after the Conservatives abruptly called off a public hearing probing the cancellation of a program that funded legal challenges to government laws.
Look over there! Sponsorship! Liberals bad!

Anyone else beginning to sense a pattern here?

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It has become a comedy

It’s a tale of two leakers:

Jeffrey Monaghan was a government contract worker who is alleged to have scooped the Conservatives by leaking details of the government's green plan. He was led away in handcuffs Wednesday and fired from his job.

Jeffrey Kroeker was a cabinet minister's aide who was accused of leaking details of an overseas trip taken by a committee of Canadian senators. He was fully supported by his boss.
But that’s totally different! Liberals bad!!!

If the police are looking for Mr. Kroeker, they can fund him in Helena Guergis’ office, where he toils as director of communications.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

On "environmental" plan(s), and the "leaking" of same

Surely this super-duper Conservative environmental plan

The former temporary worker at Environment Canada was arrested Wednesday for allegedly divulging details of a draft version of the government's regulatory framework for climate change.
…isn’t the same as this super-duper Conservative environmental plan
Details of the plan became public after a speech that Environment Minister John Baird was to deliver this week was faxed by mistake to the opposition Liberals on Tuesday.
….the one that the Cons first said…
A second fax… warned anyone who received the speech was in possession of confidential documents sent in error.
…but then said was no biggie…
The contents were intended to be made public on Wednesday, before the official announcement by Baird on Thursday -- so there is "nothing in it that affects the markets," the official told CP.
I hope the cops are on the tail of the fiendish faulty faxer too…

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Accountability part deux- Riding Associations

You’d think the Cons might actually try to implement Accountability I before they introduced Accountability II this week, but I guess they needed something to try to distract Canadians from their bungling of the Afghan detainees file, their ongoing environmental incompetence, two new expense scandals, their sinking in the polls, and so on.

I think others have done a good job of pointing-out many of the flaws in the proposed legislation around loans and how it’s clearly politically motivated, so I’m going to (try) to down my partisan cannons for a moment and point to what I view as a rather serious flaw that should be revisited:


Rules for the treatment of unpaid loans would be tightened to ensure candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans: riding associations will be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates.
I agree candidates should not be able to walk away from unpaid loans from their campaign. But it’s wrong to tag the riding association with that debt. Make the candidate personally liable.

When I lived in B.C. I served a few terms as communications chair of our local riding association, and we had one election campaign (2004) while I was there. We had a strong nomination race in our rural riding with three candidates signing-up well over 1000 people. We’d had a few fundraisers since 2000, and were able to transfer some healthy seed money to the winning candidate for his campaign.

But once the candidate was selected, the involvement of the riding association was over. Some executive members were invited to join the campaign team, but the candidate brought in many of his own people. At this point it’s the candidate’s show, along with his campaign manager. What he spends, how he raises money, that’s all up to the candidate. If he's smart he works with the riding executive, but he's under no obligation to do so.

The riding association has no ability to influence the handing of the election campaign. When the election was over and we got a look at the books we had a lot of issues, and didn’t agree with how some things were handled by the candidate and his campaign manager. For example, it’s traditional to return at least some of the Elections Canada refund to the riding association to seed the next campaign, this candidate pre-spent it instead. We were livid, but it was out of our control.

That’s why I don’t agree with holding the riding association responsible for any debts or bad loans taken-out by the candidate. The riding association has no control over that, it’s all in the hands of the candidate and their campaign. The riding has no ability to influence their or keep them in check, so trying to leave them holding the bag is unfair. It’s simple: make candidates accountable for their campaigns.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Don’t get angry, get Google

Stephane Dion has a new communications guru in the OLO, one Nicholas Ruszkowski. I wish him luck, I’ve not exactly been alone in saying the OLO could use a communications shake-up.

It seems Nicholas joins the Liberal dream team from Fleishman-Hillard Canada, where he was a registered lobbyist for a number of clients. Now, you may think it would be pretty ballsy for Conservatives to get on their high-horses over lobbying given stories like this, this, this, this or this. Silly you, we are talking about Conservatives after all…

Enter the Angry Steve Janke and his “investigative” skills. He seems quite shocked Dion would hire a lobbyist! Maybe he just thinks we should have learned something from the poor job performance of Steve Harper’s communications maven, Sandra Buckler. Not only was Ms. Buckler a lobbyist until the last election, she was a lobbyist for….Fleishman-Hillard Canada! (h/t Bizrro)

At least it won’t be all new people on the Hill for Nicholas, maybe him and Sandra can go for coffee, show him where the washrooms are, and so on.

Now, Steve seems to make quite a bit about one of Nicholas’ clients being Royal LePage Relocation Services. Hmm, wonder who Sandra lobbied on behalf of. To Google, and the Lobbyist Registry!

Would you be surprised if I told you one of her clients was…Royal LePage Relocation Services? Oui, c’est vrai.

Ms. Buckler also lobbied for CCFDA, Resolve, Coca-Cola, Canadian Association of Community Financial Service Providers, Conocophillips Canada, IGM Financial, Power Financial Corp., Great-West Life Assurance, CNR, Rogers Wireless, DeBeers Canada, Canadian Marine Pilots’ Association and BioCap Canada.

Think any of those companies might interact with the government? Have they ever called Sandra? Blah blah and so on…

Anyway, I don’t care that Buckler and Ruszkowski used to be lobbyists. I actually think we need more former journalists working in Ottawa (we’re way better than lobbyists) but whatever, just as long as everyone behaves aboveboard. Now, making a former lobbyist, say, defence minister…

…but what makes me angry…nah, just annoyed really…is that this is example 1,365 of the gap between Conservative rhetoric and Conservative action…apparently it goes lobbyist becomes Dion communications guy = bad but lobbyist becomes Harper communications gal = fine, if you’re scoring at home.


Canada’s Conservative Party, our Principles Apply to Everyone But Us.

P.S. Wondering who is now handling Royal LePage's lobbying needs for Flieshman Hillard? To the lobbyist registry! It looks like it's one Kevin MacIntosh...Scroll down and you'll see Kevin and Nicholas tag-teamed it for awhile.

Until joining FH, guess who Kevin worked for? Well, while the Cons were in opposition Kevin was executive assistant to Conservative MP Rob Nicholson, who now, of course, is now the Justice Minister.

Small world, non?

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Will the real Gord Brown please stand up?

Shades of Rahim Jaffer and his assistant's radio debut...

Tory sorry for impersonating MP boss

MURRAY BREWSTER


OTTAWA (CP) - A red-faced Tory MP is apologizing after his assistant impersonated him - and provided false information - in an e-mail exchange with a constituent over the hot-button issue of Afghan detainees.

An e-mail from Gord Brown's parliamentary office, dated May 2, claimed that every alleged case of abuse involving Afghan detainees had been investigated and proven to be unfounded. That despite the fact the Afghan government has yet to finish an investigation into the torture claims.

The e-mail to Randi Davidson, obtained by The Canadian Press, was signed by Brown, the member for Leeds-Grenville. But Brown says the note was written by his assistant, Mark King, without his knowledge.
(more)

Not only was this staffer impersonating his boss, he was also plain making crap up. Fiction: it's not just for Blogging Tories anymore.

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Dear CBC Sports,

When it's time for the Stanley Cup Finals in a few weeks (with, God willing, the Senators competing) could you please send Bob Cole to the golf course and let young Jimmy Hughson call the play by play?

And if Bob needs Harry Neale to caddy I'd be totally cool with that too.

See you at the next Liberal media conspiracy meeting.

Thanks,

Jeff

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OK, now how do we grow?

I’d be a bad blogger indeed if I didn’t comment on the new polling numbers from SES that, like a number of polls of late, show the Liberals and Conservatives in a statistical dead-heat. The rogue poll argument no longer holds water, the trends show things are tight.

I’m very happy to see the Conservatives finally coming back down to Earth thanks to a combination of factors, namely it would seem Afghanistan, the environment, and their own arrogance and incompetence. Governments, as the saying goes, defeat themselves, and while it’s extremely premature to go there it has certainly been a bad stretch for Harper et al.

There is definitely a lot in the recent polls for Liberals to be happy about. I’d like to try to take a slightly different tack than others have though and ask another question: With the Conservatives shooting themselves in the feet, how do the Liberals grow their support?

Because if you look at the trend lines from SES and other pollsters you’ll see that Liberal support has remained relatively steady at around 30 per cent since the last election. We haven’t gained support to catch the Conservatives; they’ve lost support to come down to our level.

Now, holding onto our support through a rather tumultuous period that included an extended leadership race, a Conservative honeymoon and a rocky start for Dion is not that shabby, as I’ve argued in the past.

Not to be negative though, but with the Conservatives now struggling we need to convert some of that Conservative weakness into Liberal strength. We need to start growing our support.

Just like everyone used to know there would be a spring election, now everybody knows there won’t be one. That means the Liberals will at least have the summer, and we need to use it. No summer breaks, every member of the Liberal “dream team” needs to hit the road and visit every bbq, corn roast and clam bake from Prince Rupert to Bonavista.

Have Dion, Ignatieff, Rae, Kennedy, Hall-Findlay, Trudeau, Dhalla and the rest fan out across the country. Get them in front of small groups and into small towns. Forget the national media, get in front of community newspaper reporters and broadcasters.

And have everyone singing from the same playbook. We need to start putting a little meat on the policy bones. Marketing experts say the average person will take away just three things away from a message. We already have our three things in the three pillars: the economy, social justice and the environment. Unfortunately if these pillars were a stool you’d slide off.; the environmental leg has gotten a bit oversized. A little balance is needed.

Let’s flesh out the social justice and economic management messages. We’ve got ready-made, attractive policies for both, from using the next planned GST decrease to fight child poverty to our plan for income trust fairness that will resonate strongly with seniors. Let’s take those messages along with our environmental message to the people.

By seeming to flop from one problem to the next the Conservatives are doing their bit. Now, it’s up to the Liberals to do ours.

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Another Facebook message from Stephane

Stephane Dion has posted another video where he answers questions from his "Facebook friends."

You know something has gone mainstream when it begins to cross over into the corporate world, and that certainly seems to be happening with social networking. At two major technology conferences I've attended over the past few months (IBM's PartnerWorld and SAP's Sapphire) social networking was a major topic of conversation.

Both companies, and many others, are developing social tools to help their customers and partners communicate and collaborate, and it has the potential to radically change the way business is done.

IBM's CEO said in the end social networking, like the Internet, will be about business. This will be particularly true as today's teens, the IM/MySpace/Facebook generation, begin to enter the workforce. They'll expect to be able to use the social networking tools they've grown up with in the business world, and companies that don't adapt won't be able to attract the top talent.

Anyway, back in the political world of today it will be interesting to see how social networking impacts the next election. The blogsphere was still relatively immature in Canada last campaign, but it doesn't look to be the next frontier any longer.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cherniak sucks!*

Well, it seems the season has come to a disappointing end for my Vancouver Canucks.

I could focus on the negative, like how the heck did they manage to blow a 2-0 lead after two periods in game four, where’d the scoring go, why were the Sedins so inconsistent, has anyone seen Markus freakin Naslund, and other such stuff. And all valid questions.

Really, though, at the start of the year the Canucks weren’t expected to get near as far as they did. This wasn’t the team we had last year when we were expected to make a run, but failed to even make the playoffs.

Gone was Todd Bertuzzi who, say what you will about him, is a top talent. Gone was Ed Jovanoski, a first rank offensive defenseman. Gone was Anson Carter, who had found magic with the Sedins. In was Roberto Luongo, the first world class goalie to ever don a Canucks uni. But could he carry the team himself?

Turns out, he could, and pretty far. After a rough start to the season where they couldn’t buy a goal (kind of like the end) they bought into Alain Vingeault’s defense-first system, the goals started to come, and Luongo kept them in every game. Somehow they started to win and get on a roll, win their division, win a round, and make it to game five of round two.

When you think about where we were at the start of the year, that’s a pretty good season. And there is only reason the Canucks went as far as they did: Roberto Luongo. So, enjoy a deserved summer off Canucks. I just hope Dave Nonis will get Roberto some help during the offseason, maybe a scorer or two.

*
Not really, just testing a theory that posts with such a headline will get more votes on Progressive Bloggers

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We need an election now!

I’ve long been of the mind that the best thing for the Liberal Party would be to not have a spring election. We’re just not ready. We need to get the policy in place, the financial resources, and a summer on the bbq circuit for Dion kissing babies. But having read this news yesterday I have changed my mind:

Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa has announced that to commemorate his country's hosting of this year's Commonwealth heads of governments meeting in November, and as a way to ensure the first-ever "carbon-free" summit, new forests will be planted at 53 sites in the central African nation, each named after one of the 53 leaders scheduled to attend.


To join Queen Victoria (Lake Victoria) and 19th-century British geologist Roderick Murchison (Murchison Falls) among those immortalized in Ugandan geography, all Mr. Harper has to do is remain Canada's leader until the three-day Commonwealth summit begins in Kampala on Nov. 23.


My fellow Canadians, we can’t let this forest be named for Stephen Harper. We need an election now! This is the issue we can fight an election on.

Can we sit idly by while the Ugandans name a forest for Harper? We cannot. Why, mere months ago Harper was talking about “so-called forests.” He didn’t even believe in forests until the polls said to.

This must be the Stephane Dion Forest. It’s only right.

My friends, to the hustings!

(h/t Ted)

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