Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Last day in India

I'm on my third and final day in Bangalore, early tomorrow morning I'll head off to the airport for the very long journey home, again via London. And I intend to sleep all weekend.

It's been an interesting trip. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get much sense of the country. The company that brought us here has had us scheduled pretty tightly with briefings and meetings at their campus, so there hasn't really been any chance to explore the city. Indeed, since we're staying on the outskirts, I haven't really even been into the city.

We had planned to go out for dinner last night, but traffic intervened. We loaded onto a charter bus and began to head into town, but with the usually bad Bangalorian traffic at a virtual standstill because of a pounding rain, it wouldn't have taken us nearly two hours to get there. Back to the hotel on the outskirts instead for a buffet. It was too bad, but we were all a pretty tired lot at that point.

There's a lot of talk here about the Indian growth story, and that's certainly in evidence. Campuses and buildings for technology companies like Intel, Cisco, AOL and Accenture dot the ring roads. The infrastructure hasn't kept pace with that growth, as the traffic situation shows. The wealth is also taking time to trickle down, they say the middle class is emerging but the gap between the poor and the prosperous is still plain to see.

Lastly, I've been here for three days and I still haven't had one dish of curry, that just seems crazy. The Naan bread has been very tasty however. I've also only seen two cows wandering around, I've had my camera ready but I haven't been able to get a picture of a cow in traffic yet. Hopefully this afternoon.

And first order of business for my layover in London? Get a hamburger. I have a craving all of a sudden...

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Monday, October 29, 2007

A Bcer in Bangalore, and short news comments

Apologies for the light blogging of late but its been a busy stretch at work. In the past two weeks I've been in Ottawa, San Francisco, and now this morning I've just arrived in Bangalore, India. I'm over here for work, a major high-tech company is opening a new office in this Indian Silicon Valley.

It's been a busy few days. After a tour of Alcatraz I took the red eye back to Toronto from San Francisco, managing to grab a few hours sleep on the plane. Dashed home to unpack and repack, get some sleep and then back to the airport for my British Airways flight to Bangalore, via London.

It was my first time flying BA and I have to say, while I'm disappointed not to be getting any Aeroplan points for the long trip, it was pretty good. Older planes unfortunately, a 767 to London and a 747 to Bangalore, but both were equipped with seatback personal tv, which really helped pass the eight and nine hour flights. The food was passable, but the wine in economy was complementary, that was a surprise. And the little welcome kit with slippers, eye shades and a little tooth brush and tooth paste was cute.

London-Heathrow is a strange airport, and at least the terminal I was in (4) seemed rather old and dumpy. A lot of it looked more like a shopping mall then an airport. It was weird how they don't post departure gates until an hour before each flight. And their boarding procedures were weird: it's not by row number, just first come, first serve. Not the most efficient way to board a 747 I wouldn't think, leading to a lot of congestion in the boarding area.

Landing in Bangalore I was surprised at the number of houses backing right against the airport fence line, that's certainly not something you'd see in a security-conscious North American airport. The immigration line was long but moved quickly, no questions were asked, just a cursory look, scan and a stamp.

Baggage claim was interesting. First, they x-rayed our carry-on baggage again before we entered the baggage claim hall. We also passed through a metal detector; everyone set it off but no one seemed to care. Then we all crowded into the small hall to wait for our bags. There were no signs, but it seems only one flight comes in at a time anyway, which is good because we were packed in tight. What was interesting was that they used two belts, randomly putting bags onto either one, so you had to try to watch both for your bag.

Finally, baggage in hand, I went out to find my driver and head to my motel. I'm staying out in the outskirts near the airport, so unfortunately I don't think I'll get much of a chance to see the city. The outskirts are certainly interesting though. It's a mix of old and new, prosperous and poor (more of the later), Indian and Western (passed by a Pizza Hut touting free delivery).

Driving is an adventure. Lots of scooters, bicycles, and little mini-cars. It's also left-side drive like England, I guess a throw-back to the colonial era. They drive fast, and seem to honk their horns randomly and often. Actually, I think they honk every time they pass someone, which is often. Sitting in my motel room just off the ring road the traffic and honking is quite loud.

No walk abouts to report yet. Arriving here at 6am, after checking-in, figuring out my newly acquired universal power adapter and doing a quick e-mail check I got some much needed sleep. Off to dinner soon though, really looking forward to my first Indian meal.

Meanwhile, back home

I have been scanning the headlines back in Canada though, and there have been a few news items I'd comment on more at length if I had time.

On the Blair Wilson thing, my first reaction can be summed-up as “Oh for f**k's sake!” I don't know what happened here, hopefully it's not as bad as it looks. At least he quickly resigned from caucus, that's a sign of leadership the umpteen Conservative MPs facing serious questions haven't had the fortitude to do. I agree with Red that the timing does seem coincidental, the timing certainly couldn't be worse. It does serve to blunt the Liberal attacks on the Con in and out scam, although the quick caucus resignation does highlight Con inaction and stonewalling as well. I somehow doubt we'll be able to make that distinction stick however.

So, let me get this straight, some random Liberal riding association president from Ontario quit because Dion listened to his caucus, and the majority of the Canadian population that didn't want an election, and this is news? Alrighty then. Makes perfect sense. Not.

Meanwhile, back in Conservative land, we see the Cons are threatening to sue the Liberals for saying mean things about them vis a vis their in and out scam. Now, I know Harper said he could take a punch and all, but all these attacks, every day, it's not fair! This is unfair! Do you think it's easy to abandon our supposed principles once we came into government?

Also not fair, it seems, is being expected to live-up to your promises. Such as promises to release super-important reports on the Middle East by floor-crossing used-car salesmen. Or promises to bring the PCO under access laws. Instead, Harper is hiding behind the rules he decried and promised to change to hide Wajid Khan's report from pubic scrutiny. I totally love the use of quotes by the Globe's Campbell Clark in the following graph. As I've said before, the print equivalent of air quotes:

The Conservative campaign platform promised that the party's first task would be to pass an "accountability act" that would "implement" Mr. Reid's recommendations for reform.
Ha. I'd have put air quotes around “promised” too, but that's still pretty good.

This all seems a world away though. Curry, naan bread and tandoori chicken here I come.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dion 2, Layton 0

NDP leader Jack Layton sure has been a bit chippy, and yippy, lately. More so then usual, that is. I already pointed-out his blatant hypocrisy and misleading showboating on the throne speech,and he keeps the buster up with these comments the other day:

In a pep talk to party workers and MPs on Tuesday, Mr. Layton said Liberal voters should consider switching their allegiance to the NDP.
A pep talk, or an attempt to plug a hole in a leak that looks to have sprung in the good ship Layton, and some bluster to divert attention from his own troubles? Because his behaviour lately is all the more interesting when you consider this recent news:

MEDIA RELEASE

New Brunswick Federal Liberal Caucus Welcomes Fredericton Federal NDP Candidate Kelly Comer to the Liberal Party; Second New Brunswick NDP Candidate to Join the Liberal Party This Year

For Immediate Release
October 23, 2007


OTTAWA, O.N. – Saint John Member of Parliament Paul Zed on behalf of the New Brunswick Federal Liberal Caucus welcomes Fredericton NDP candidate Kelly Comer to the Liberal Party.


We are delighted to welcome Ms. Comer to the Liberal Party,” said Mr. Zed. “The Liberal Party is a diverse, open party, and we are pleased that Ms. Comer has chosen to join us and our Leader Stéphane Dion as we work to build a better New Brunswick and a better Canada.”

Mr. Zed notes that Ms. Comer is the second federal NDP candidate to leave the party to join the Liberal Party. Terry Albright, the former President of the New Brunswick NDP and federal NDP candidate in Saint John in 2004 and 2006 left the party to join the Liberal Party in 2006.


Clearly, people are very disillusioned with the NDP under Jack Layton’s leadership,” said Mr. Zed. “It was Mr. Layton’s opportunistic posturing that forced the election in 2006 that effectively killed the Early Learning and Child Care Agreements and the historic Kelowna Accord which sought to close the gap between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians in education, health, housing and economic opportunities. We welcome the addition of Kelly Comer to the Liberal Party and look forward to working with her to create a fairer, richer, and greener Canada.”
-30-
If his own past candidates are tiring of the Jack Layton show, I wonder what the reviews are going to be from Canadians? Those 'lent votes' are coming due...

UPDATE: Doesn't the arrogance in this picture just say it all? It's from the throne speech vote last night. Does this look like a man with the gravitas and maturity to be a future Prime Minister? (H/T Impolitical)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liberals and tax cuts

This morning Jason touches on how the Conservatives are attempting to control the media message on tax cuts, and how the media are falling for it. Unfortunately, our collective memories, and attention to details, are pretty short.

After all, trying to claim the Liberals are anti-tax cuts doesn't coincide at all with the reality of the past 10-plus years. It's just not true. After the Chretien/Martin Liberals balanced the budget, they brought in some of the largest income tax and other tax cuts in Canadian history.

Liberals favour tax cuts. But what we favour are smart tax cuts, that will spur economic growth, improve competitiveness, and will benefit those that actually need the help. What we oppose are tax cuts that disproportionately favour the wealthy, like the Harper GST cut. And we oppose using tax credits in attempts to buy the votes of specific demographics, needlessly complicating the tax code.

And, speaking of the Harper GST cut, lets not forget it was the Harper/Flaherty Conservatives that REVERSED Liberal income tax cuts. I'm paying more income tax under the Conservatives than I did under the Liberals.

The Liberals also favour a balanced approach. Rather than cutting the GST by a further one per cent, wouldn't it be better to dedicate the $5 billion that would cost to fighting child poverty, as Stephane Dion proposed during the leadership campaign?

Once again, just like on its justice legislation and a host of other issues, the Conservatives are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians and hide the facts of the record. We shouldn't let them get away with it.

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Opps

Another sign MPs don't actually read these bills before they pass them:

The federal government said Tuesday it will fix a problem with the newly revamped Elections Act that prevents up to a million rural voters from casting a ballot.

Four months ago, Parliament passed amendments to the Canada Elections Act that requires each voter produce proof of identity and a residential address before being allowed to cast a ballot.


However, more than one million Canadians living in rural areas don't have an address that includes a street name and number.
This is the kind of thing that happens when members of parliament forget their first responsibility is to be legislators. Perhaps if MPs spent a little more time doing their job, examining legislation, considering all the implications, hearing testimony, and proposing reasonable amendments, this kind of thing wouldn't happen.

Unfortunately, that's not the environment in this Parliament. Rather than sober analysis of legislation, political tactics have become more important, with legislation being used not to improve the lives of Canadians but to try to embarrass political opponents or gain tactical advantage. Doomsday threats are issued if just one comma is changed. That is neutering parliamentarians, and it's a recipe for legislative disaster.

That's not what Canadians want. They don't want an election. They want this Parliament to work together. It's incumbent on all the parties to get the message, and remember who they really work for.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Et tu, Jack?

I flew back to Toronto from Ottawa on Saturday evening, and a few rows ahead of me was none other than Jack Layton, the man himself. Not sign of Olivia though, nor any carry-on. It is a short flight though, guess he just planned to read EnRoute magazine.

Took a picture of the back of his head with my camera phone but it didn’t turn out, sorry. I wish I had this figure then though, I’d have liked his take on it. It’s from the same Ipsos study that had bloggers going googly this weekend:

…two thirds of Canadians do not want an election to be held until at least the spring (68%)…

It appears that Stephane Dion was correct when he declared that Canadians do not want a an election at this time, with just one quarter (22%) of Canadians more closely associating with the sentiment that ‘politics is Ottawa is dysfunctional and we need an election now’. This is compared to the vast majority (68%) of Canadians who more closely believe that ‘spring is the earliest we should have an election due to important work that still needs to be done by the government.’

Luckily for, well, the vast majority of Canadians, the Dion Liberals were listening to them, even if the NDP wasn’t. Jack Layton: loudly and boastfully ignoring the majority of Canadians.

Oh, and speaking of Jack, this was interesting reading today too:
NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs joined with the Conservatives tonight to handily defeat a Liberal amendment to the speech.

Had it passed, the amendment would have amounted to a vote of non-confidence in Mr. Harper's plan for the country and the government would have fallen, triggering an election.

If Jack and Gilles had really wanted an election, they’d have voted in favour of the Liberal amendment today and they’d have triggered one. Doesn’t matter if they agreed with the Liberal motion or not. Here’s all they’d have to say:

“I think this Liberal motion was foolish and I disagree with it, but voting for it was the only way to trigger the election we feel is so desperately needed…our principles….blah blah…”


Instead, they voted with the Conservatives to prop the government up. So, Jack can keep on attacking the Liberals here all they want. And I know he will. But, you know what, at least the Liberals are being honest here about their intentions.

The NDP vote today is proof they don’t want an election either, despite all their supposedly principled prattling-on to the contrary. They’re trying to mislead Canadians, because they had their chance today to get the election they supposedly so badly wanted and they took a pass. Today, the BQ and the NDP propped-up the Conservatives

So, while I know this is an impossible request, I’ll make it anyway. Please, Jack, spare me the false sanctimony and get off your high horse. You’re not fooling anyone.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

15 per cent of Con supporters don’t want a Con majority

Since everyone on the blogsphere is having fun with numbers today, I didn’t want to be left out. Accordingly, I’m going to take my shot at having some fun playing with, slicing, and dicing poll numbers to draw likely questionable conclusions.

There’s a new poll from Ipsos. It tells us that 58 per cent of Canadians want a majority government. And, of those that support a majority government 58 per cent want a Harper Majority government. Therefore, we can conclude 34 per cent of Canadians overall want a Conservative majority. With me so far?

Now, in that same poll, Ipsos polled the Conservatives at 40 per cent. A dubious number, but let’s go with it for pseudo-scientific purposes. According to Ipsos 40 per cent of Canadians support the Conservatives, but only 34 per cent support a Conservative majority. So, a six per cent gap between the two numbers.

Therefore, we can conclude that 15 per cent of Conservative supporters don’t trust Stephen Harper with a majority government.

And thus ends today’s session of fun with numbers.

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Dion's throne speech: The climate, poverty, and the economy

A start, at least, on the policy front. In this article, published in the Toronto Star, outlines what might have been in a Liberal throne speech.

A Liberal throne speech would have done what the Prime Minister, seeking to trigger an election, failed to do: acknowledge that Canadians want their MPs to work together on their priorities. In that spirit, I would have asked Parliament to support a plan to build a richer, fairer and greener Canada, with an independent international voice.

I would have asked all parties to work on this plan. Canada, after all, is at its best when Canadians look beyond their differences, and work together.

It is still a little too general for my liking, but it’s at least a start. And I’m still waiting for the more comprehensive policy platform that was promised in time for the throne speech. Let’s see that soon please.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

To know him is to love him

Positive news for the Liberals on the Quebec front today, with Marc Garneau holding a press conference with Stephane Dion to announce he’ll be running for the Liberals after all, in the (hopefully) relatively safe seat of Westmount.

I think the impact of Garneau’s initial announcement that he wasn’t running was overhyped, so let’s not overhype the fact he’ll be running after all. It is, however, a positive step, and I think when it comes to the Quebec front these days we Liberals need to grab all the positive developments we can.

But what I found interesting as I popped back up to the hotel room to see a bit of the news coverage before lunch was what changed Garneau’s mind about running. He initially declined over concerns about Dion’s leadership, but Dion had him over for dinner and meeting Dion personally turned Garneau around:

Garneau told reporters Friday that many Liberals had lobbied him to reconsider -- including Dion.

"This act of leadership really touched me," he said. "I got to know Mr. Dion in a way that I didn't know before ... Mr. Dion has stretched his hand, and in return I have stretched mine."

I think that’s the thing, and the challenge, with Stephane. It was the challenge in the leadership race for him too, and one he was able to overcome. If you’ve only seen Dion on TV you might have a less then positive impression of him, and his communications strategy since winning the leadership hasn’t been good at all, to say the least. We’re not doing well with the media.

If you meet him in person though, or see him speak live, it’s a whole other dynamic. To know him is to love him, I think that’s the case with Garneau. The problem, of course, is that he can’t personally meet 30 million Canadians, that just won’t work.

The challenge for the Liberal Party and for Stephane Dion is to find a way to try to transfer what makes him compelling in person and make it transfer into the mass media spectrum. Easier said then done, needless to say. Although, I’d like to think, if Steve Harper can do it, Dion should at least have a shot.

Either that, or he needs to start knocking on 30 million doors.

And, I'll say it again, start proposing substantive alternative policy!

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Machiavellian Conservatives following Flanagan's playbook

The media loves conflict, so they're loving things in Ottawa right now. And they're going to keep on loving things for some time to come, given the current Conservative 'governance' strategy.

It began with the throne speech; one that, despite all the Conservative bluster beforehand, was purposely designed to be just bland and inoffensive enough the Liberals could hold their noses and let it pass.

It was quickly followed by omnibus justice legislation, getting the media election fever flaring-up again. Change one comma, Harper warned, to an election we go. Again though, underneath the bluster, he had compromised on the legislation just enough to allow the opposition to support it, allowing the Conservatives to avoid the election they profess to want so badly:

The showdown over the Conservatives' much-ballyhooed omnibus crime bill fizzled into a debate over technicalities yesterday as the government introduced a bill that opposition parties largely support.

But four of the revived bills included all of the compromises made with the opposition in the previous session. And on the fifth, which would toughen provisions for dangerous offenders, the opposition parties said they will push for what they called only minor amendments.
The fact is, if Harper wanted an election we’d be in the midst of one right now. He would have written something into the throne speech we couldn’t possibly support. Same with the justice bill, it would have been an ideal piece of legislation for him to run on, allowing him to paint the opposition as soft on crime. Instead, he quietly compromised.

He doesn’t want an election. But he does want the bluster, the posturing, the brinkmanship. He wants to be seen as tough, like he’s dictating terms to the opposition, even while he quietly compromises just enough. He wants to avoid an election while mocking the Liberals for choosing to avoid an election.

And this while brinksmanship strategy shouldn’t be a surprise. Harper’s longtime advisor, Tom Flanagan, laid it all out back in August:
No government can survive politically if it acquires a reputation for weakness, and that is the risk the Conservatives face if they remain tied up in Parliament.

By using confidence measures more aggressively, the Conservatives can benefit politically. If the opposition parties retreat, the government gets its legislation. If the opposition unites on a matter of confidence, the Conservatives get an election for which they are the best prepared.


"Fortune is a woman," Machiavelli wrote in a now politically incorrect aphorism, "and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force." It is time for the government to take advantage of its advantages.
So, this should be no surprise. There will be many more bills to come that Harper will label as do or die, my way or the highway confidence motions. The media will work themselves into al election frenzy each time, covering the conflict they so love and ignoring the policy.

We, however, need to calmly and soberly judge each piece of legislation on its merits. If amendments are needed, move them. If it’s acceptable legislation, support it. And if it’s bad legislation, vote it down. And if that means an election, so be it.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

On my way to Ottawa

I'll be off to the airport in a little bit for a short flight to Ottawa for a work conference. I'll keep an eye out for any cases of election fever. Luckily, I visited the doctor the other day and got vaccinated, so I'm blissfully immune, so shawarma here i come.

Before I head to the Maple Leaf Lounge to knock-back complimentary rum and cokes though, I thought I'd link to this column today by Warren Kinsella, How Dion can get his groove back. Even though he thinks I'm a fool...because, this time, he makes some good sense I think.

On the whole election thing, it will come in due course, and when it does no one besides political partisans will remember or care who voted what on the throne speech. In the mean time, the Liberal Party overall needs to get its groove back. Or, to use another more popular pop culture reference, find its mojo. I was going to make a joke hear about FatBastard stealing our mojo, but then some humourless troll would accuse me of taking a shot at Stephen Harper, and that's not what I was going for.

Anyway, two quick pieces of advice from me on the mojo front. One, Let Dion be Dion. Two, POLICY!!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Throne speech after dark – No election, says I

While I was watching the pre-game coverage on the CBC it certainly was clear the media think there’s going to be an election. Or, at least, they want there to be an election. The media like covering elections. Its fun. And easier then covering policy, to be sure.

Me, prior to hearing the speech I wasn’t so sure, I was thinking Harper, despite his bluster, is a sager judge of the political landscape than many give him credit for, and doesn’t think it’s in his best interests to go now either.

But then I heard their plans for copyright reform…to the hustings, says I!

But seriously, no. I think the message from this speech is that Harper doesn’t want an election. There’s no poison pill in here. There’s a lot I don’t like, but nothing to vote the government down over. It was a yawner. As Ignatieff said, vague and disappointing. No vision. No energy.

Some of the contentious issues: Afghanistan, spending power, crime, Kyoto, gun registry.

On Afghanistan, they said they’d like to see us stay past 2009, but the majority of parliament will decide in a vote. So, we’ll decide that then. It also mentions the Manley panel, for Harper to spin a vote for the speech as a vote in favour of 2011 would be Harper neutering his own panel, so that’s a non-starter. Legislation to limit the federal spending power? I disagree, but it will be debated in separate legislation. Crime? I guess those are the bills the Cons stalled themselves stalled, right? Let him reintroduce them and if he wants to make them confidence votes, we’ll deal with that then. Kyoto? After Harper shelving the Clean Air legislation of course we can’t meet the commitments now, that’s not a surprise. And the gun registry repealed? They’ve been saying that for years and haven’t tried yet. Why not? Quebec.

The opposition reacts. Dueppe? Whatever. Layton? Please. I give the line of the night to Michael Ignatieff:

“I love getting lessons in principles from the NDP.”

But I laughed heartily at this comment to Smiling Jack from generic CBC reporter #3:

“I appreciate you might need some time to review the finer points of the speech.”

Yeah, he was really back and forth on his talking points until he stepped-up to the microphone, could have gone either way. Fact is, Layton decided how he was going to make his caucus vote before Harper even decided what the GG was going to say. That’s the luxury of not having to be a responsible opposition party, or one with a reasonable chance of ever forming government. You don’t have to think that much, or make hard choices.

Or know much about how our parliamentary system, such as with this line, where he buys the CPC line that voting for the throne speech…

“(Dion) will have given Mr. Harper a mandate to govern.”

No it doesn’t Jack, only an election gives anyone a mandate. Once again, the NDP parrots asinine Conservative talking points. Colour me surprised.

Lastly, my own Liberals. Where was Stephane Dion, pray tell? Why in the frick was he not in front of a camera? I mean, seriously. That’s whack thinking there. They put Iggy up, he tap danced as best he could.

So, what will the Liberals do? Beats me. That’s probably why Dion isn’t showing himself tonight. They’re still trying to figure it out. The media rumour is Dion wants to go/feels he needs to go; but much of the party isn’t onboard.

Since I don’t know what they’ll do, what do I think they should do? I think, at this point it’s up to us. There’s no poison pill so there’s no moral imperative to force an election. We can safely go either way. If the party wasn’t in such a clusterf*** in Quebec I’d say let’s go to the polls. Given the mess we’re in though, some more time would be nice.

So, all things considered, an election now? I vote no. Canadians don’t want an election. The Conservatives don’t want an election. The Liberals don’t want an election. Neither do the BQ or the NDP, they just want to attack the Liberals while they hide behind us. Make no mistake, Jack is stalled in the polls and wouldn’t gain any ground in a vote.

There’s nothing nuclear in this speech, nothing to get overly excited about. It was dull and boring. If they bring in legislation that’s bad for Canada, we’ll deal with it then. Until then, let’s keep parliament working. It would be nice to see the opposition parties take the battle to Harper by getting together on some legislation and amendments for a change.

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The morning before the throne speech

So, tonight is the big night. Well, the first of two big nights I suppose. First, tonight will be the Speech from the Throne, where the lady the Cons love to hate, Michaelle Jean, will read their plan for forcing an election…er…governing. And, of course, Thursday evening will be the big vote.

It will be interesting to see what’s in there. Not so much for the content, but for the message Harper sends with it. Will he indeed include a poison pill to force an election, or just toss in enough of a wedge to drive the Liberals into a tizzy? Or will he put forward a substantive, policy-based document designed to find consensus in a minority parliament? Hey, it’s possible…

Of course, no one really cares about the policy of it. Which is really kind of sad. But it’s all about the strategy. Which will come into play more so on Thursday than it will tonight. At least tonight though we’ll be able to at least know what we’re talking about voting on.

Not that that has stopped the NDP from deciding its evil and must be voted down, sight-unseen, no ifs, ands or buts. Not that I blame Layton for his strategy here, particularly given the spot the Liberals are in. However, if they really do hope to ever become the main opposition party or, horrors, even govern one day, they may want to try actually reading these bills first. Part of being a responsible opposition means compromise every now and again, not just blind opposition.

But anyway, the spotlight of course is really on the Liberals. While I eagerly await the contents of the speech, I’ve already made clear that, unless it really is a moderate document designed to reach consensus and compromise, we probably need to vote it down. I think Liberal blogging ranks are somewhat divided on that, and messaging from the party mucky mucks seems to be leaning towards voting no but holding back enough people to let it pass, which I’ve already said I think is a horrible idea.

I need to run downtown for an event this morning, so I’ll leave the last word to Paul Wells, who I thought put it well:

Speaking of Liberals, if only a handful of them show up for a vote on the government's basic program, they will be saying, nearly in so many words, that they have convictions but they don't want those convictions to have consequences. Do they believe, given their behaviour since 2002, that such a statement would constitute playing against type? Do they believe it would be honourable? Do they think it would help them politically?

If you believe something, you follow through. A quaint idea, which went out of fashion in the Liberal party shortly before the Liberal party went out of fashion in Canadian politics.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Media control conspiracy? What media control conspiracy?

Remember that story this morning about Operation Shoe Box, the $2 million planned Harper media-control press theatre? Well, breaking news this evening from the we had a really bad idea and were wrong and are now totally backing down in the face of strong opposition but will never admit it lest we appear weak and controlling department:

The Prime Minister's Office has no plans to build a government-controlled briefing room, which would supplant the current National Press Theatre.

Sandra Buckler, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, told The Canadian Press "there are no plans to pursue'' such a centre.

Not any more anyway.

In other news, Oceania is not at war with Eurasia. Oceania has never been at war with Eurasia…

As Scott points out the reporter that first broke the story is rightly skeptical at Buckler’s denial.
The Toronto Star's Tonda MacCharles, who first reported the story said she requested the documents about a year ago and received them late Thursday night.

"There was nothing in there that indicated that the project was not going to go ahead and ... today the Prime Minister's Office is saying they're not pursuing it," MacCharles told CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live.


UPDATE: Related graphical fun from The Wingnuterer:

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Paging the Liberal platform committee...

Came across this article on Public Eye Online from a few weeks ago. It’s an interview with Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, vice-chair of the party’s policy and platform committee, in which he promises the party’s platform would be ready in time for Harper’s speech from the throne…which, of course, is happening Tuesday.

In the interview, LeBlanc hints at a few likely areas of focus, such as health care, post secondary education, working families, child poverty, senior citizens, sustainable development and, of course climate change. I’ll welcome renewed attention to child poverty, as it’s an issue Dion talked about during the leadership campaign but hasn’t much since. Also, I’d be interested to see what they have on post secondary education, as when I interviewed Dion during the campaign he wasn’t keen on wading too heavily into an area of provincial jurisdiction.

I was particularly pleased to read this from LeBlanc:

… a national election platform can't answer every problem and speak to every regional issue. We have to come up with a number of coherent, cohesive national themes that reflect concrete policy proposals that can be understood by the vast majority of Canadians. Previous platforms - when the Liberals were in government - tended to look like Throne Speeches or federal budgets. A Liberal Party campaigning from opposition needs to realize that we're not tied to every department of finance memo that was ever sent around three years ago.

Hear, hear, Dominic. While a five priorities approach a la Steve Harper is simplistic and inadequate, the Paul Martin one million priorities approach leaves you appearing directionless and pleases no one. A middle ground is needed, and a focused platform guided by an overarching vision for the country is key.

After the GG delivers Harper’s throne speech tomorrow, I hope Stephane Dion and the LPC will be front and centre with the fruit of LeBlanc, Bob Rae, and the rest of the platform committee’s labours. Let’s put aside the strategy and the back and forth for a bit, and let Canadians judge us, and the Conservatives, on our ideas. Because I think, in that arena, we have the potential to really excel.

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Breaking news: Chretien and Martin didn't get along, and the Pope is Catholic

The media, and many blogs, were all buzzing over the weekend as excerpts from Jean Chretien’s upcoming biography hit the newspapers to generate some buzz. Particularly juicy were the bits where Chretien took potshots at his longtime rival, Paul Martin.

The book will certainly be like crack for political junkies; I know I for one look forward to reading it. And I’ll address the book’s contents and claims once I have. But while the media will certainty seize the opportunity to write more stories about Liberal infighting and the Chretien/Martin feud (Harper has them to cowed to hold him to account) and loyalists from the ancient past like Warren Kinsella will stoke the fires, let’s keep one thing in mind: this is all ancient history, and old news. They're yesterday's men. Let them keep fighting old battles until they're blue in the face.

I mean, it’s not like its news Chretien and Martin had some issues. You’d have to have been living under a rock for nearly 20 years not to know that. So, now Jean is writing a book, if he didn’t lash-out at Martin it would be really weird. I’m sure Jean will call it as he sees it, wrongly or rightly. It will be interesting to read his perspective, as it will Martin’s when he writes his autobiography.

As fascinating a read as it will no doubt we though, it doesn’t reflect in any way what’s happening in the LPC today. Indeed, we have our own, not insignificant, challenges to deal with.

I agree with Bob. No matter how much the media will hype it, Chretien/Martin is the Liberal Party of yesterday. The public doesn’t give a crap; it wants to know what the Liberals would do for them in government, if given the chance. Let’s stay focused on the future, not the past.

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The Shoe Store Project, or Conservative Media Control 2.0

By now the (very successful) attempts of the Harper government to control and cow the national press corps are old news, from the lists to ask questions to using the RCMP to chase the media out of public hotel lobbies. If you thought Harper’s recent press conference in the National Press Theatre was a sign of a thawing of the relationship between the PM and the press, think again: Harper is just getting warmed up:

The Prime Minister's Office, which has long had a rocky relationship with the national media, has been working on a secret project to build a new, government-controlled briefing room at the cost of $2 million, documents obtained by the Star show.

Long kept under wraps, the plan – codenamed the Shoe Store Project – is in the works by the Privy Council Office and the PMO to establish a new government-controlled media briefing centre near Langevin Block.


The yellow-brown building that now houses Stephen Harper and his senior staff would supplant the current National Press Theatre, just a block away.

The difference between the two? The National Press Theatre, the traditional venue for press conferences along with the smaller Charles Lynch room in the Centre Block, is ran by the non-partisan Parliamentary Press Gallery, which controls membership and who gets to ask questions. In Harper’s Shoe Box, Canada’s Ageing Government would decide who gets in, and who gets to ask questions. And to Harper, it seems that’s worth blowing $2 million of taxpayer monies.
The result would be a little fancier than the National Press Theatre and, most important, give the PMO a lot more control over who gets in and, quite possibly, what gets filmed and broadcast.

A hand-drawn sketch of the PM's renovated shoe store/press theatre indicates a space for "maybe permanently installed cameras with feeds to media."


That could put the news cameras in the hands of government-employed camera operators, not independent photojournalists employed by the television networks. It suggests the Prime Minister's communications people would send broadcast feeds to the TV networks for their use in reports, or as most politicians prefer, live-to-air broadcast.

I don’t expect the public to care although that’s unfortunate, as the subversion of the vital role an independent media plays in our democracy is certainly an issue worth caring about and the lack of interest speaks ill of the level of political engagement in the country,

One wonders though when the media will start caring, and just how much longer the national press corps is going to keep getting dumped on by the Conservatives and just pretend it smells like roses. As Scott Feschuk wrote today, talking about the huge unexpected Conservative surplus, you know the kind the Cons used to dump on the Liberals for having:
Harper must stare at the media horde and wonder to himself: what line of hooey won't these suckers swallow? Maybe tomorrow I'll send troops to Iraq and deny having denied having supported the invasion in the first place. Don't think he could pull it off? Remember that the press gallery routinely reports that Harper has achieved his five priorities from the 2006 election, even though wait times haven't been reduced, the promised 125,000 new child care spaces won't be achieved, the GST hasn't been cut to five per cent and Harper killed his own anti-crime legislation when he decided to prorogue Parliament. But, you know, apart from all that ...
UPDATE: Great column on this from Macleans.ca's Kady O'Malley. Sadly, I suspect that among the press gallery her moxie will be a minority. I hope they prove me wring
If this double plus Machiavellian madness actually comes to some sort of fruition, and WeThePressGallery consider going along with it for so much as a nanosecond, we may as well just hand over our press passes, turn in our BlackBerries and move on, en masse, to some other profession; one, perhaps, not quite so essential to a functioning democracy.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

A project for Dalton

With their second majority mandate now in hand, I think it’s time for the Ontario Liberals to show that leadership really does matter and begin to do something about the religious schools issue.

That may sound crazy, I know. After all, this is the issue that in all likelihood cost the John Tory Conservatives their chance at forming a government, and certainly cost Tory his seat. And the Liberals and McGuinty were very careful not to wade too deeply into the nuts and bolts of the issue during the campaign, which was very smart politics. It’s not leadership, but it was smart politics, and it helped them win the election.

I think John Tory was very wrong on this issue; I think extending public funding to all religions is a very bad idea. It wouldn’t integrate the system as claimed, it would further divide it, leading to a balkanization of the system as students are sent to different schools depending on religion. It wouldn’t unite, it would divide.

While Tory was wrong in his solution, he was very correct however in identifying the problem. It is fundamentally unfair to fund one religious minority, Catholics , and not others. And for the record, I attended a Catholic school in Grade One and Two. I don’t think the answer is funding all religions though, it’s funding none of them.

This is an issue that should be addressed, and one that isn’t likely to go away. An election campaign probably wasn’t the best time to have this debate either. But now that the campaign is over and McGuinty is safely settled back into the legislature for up to five years, I think it’s time for the government to take action.

It should appoint a commission or panel of respected and learned individuals/s to study the issue and come up with recommendations: should we maintain the status quo, extend funding to all, or extend funding to none? The panel should tour the province, hold hearings, hear from different religious, minority and ethnic groups and just regular citizens, debate these issues and try to come to a consensus.

If there is a consensus that develops, the government should take action on it. Because Tory was right about one thing, leadership does matter. And I’d like to see McGuinty show some leadership here.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

John Tory is no Paul Martin

Since I'm on the other side of the continent at the moment, in Las Vegas, it's hard to comment too authoritatively on the election results. On the other hand, I'm just back from a Hootie and the Blowfish concert (it was free) and I can report that, yes, the dolphins still make them cry.

But back to the provincial election. From what I can glean from a cursory look around the blogs and the Web it looks like Dalton got a majority, the Cons got whooped, and John Tory couldn't even win his handpicked riding. And, despite that, he intends to hang on as leader.

There have been comparisons during this campaign between John Tory and Paul Martin. Both tried to stake-out new ground for their party. Both tried to run on cults of personality. Paul Martin's Team. Your John Tory candidate. And so on.

Well, I've met Paul Martin. I've shaken Paul Martin's hand. And you, John Tory, are no Paul Martin.

I was far from a Paul Martin fan by the time January 2006 came around. But I regained a good deal of respect for the man that election night when he took responsibility for the result and announced his resignation, short circuiting any internal controversy. He showed a good deal of leadership, and class, that night.

John Tory took another route tonight, and a it's a less honourable one that puts his ambition and ego ahead of his party. His party suffered an embarrassing and humiliating defeat tonight, and it's one entirely of his making. The religious schools play was his call, and it flopped big time. Without it this was a very different race. He built a cult of personality, and it was rejected soundly tonight. For him to try to hang on is embarrassing. He's just prolonging the inevitable, and doing his party as a disservice.

Leadership does matter. John Tory had an opportunity to show it tonight. But he didn't. It's too bad.

Congratulations to Dalton, and all the Liberals, and members of all parties, elected to the legislature tonight. Congrats also to Kate Holloway, for fighting the good fight against a strong NDP incumbent in Trinity-Spadina and falling just 3000 votes short. Hopefully we'll see her on a ballot again soon.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The chips are falling into place...

...for a fall election. At least on the Conservative side. Even though Harper, of course totally doesn't want an election. No way Jose...

The federal government has reached a deal with Nova Scotia over offshore revenue sharing, ending a politically damaging battle with the province amid talk of a fall election.

The new arrangement will provide Nova Scotia with a guarantee that it will not lose any royalties under changes made to its cherished offshore accord in last spring's federal budget.

A deal, or a surrender by Harper to pave the way for a fall election? I don't know enough about the details to say one way or another, so I'll leave that to the experts and the spinners. I do know this though:
A three-person panel will be set up to study the value of the complex cash royalty, which was part of the province's original 1985 offshore agreement...The panel is expected to report with a binding decision, which could mean a large cash payment to the province.
A billion here, a billion there, and just in time for an election campaign. Handy that. It will be interesting to see if Bill Casey now comes back into the Conservative fold. I imagine the Cons will be putting major pressure on him to do so. (Or not, see update below) One also wonders if it will be enough to save Peter McKay's seat.

Found it a little peculiar there were no comments from Premier MacDonald in the story, just Harper, as I was interested to see how Rodney would frame it. Maybe CP will add that in later. Also interesting was that this came the day after the Newfoundland elections and Danny Williams' landslide victory. Danny, by the way, called the Nova Scotia deal a bad one:
The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador blasted the agreement in St. John‘s today, saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gotten Premier Rodney MacDonald to take less than he would get under the Atlantic accords, adding that Harper has “a way of preying on the weak.‘‘
So, Newfoundland is still an issue to be dealt with for the Cons, as is Saskatchewan, who the story notes are still suing the feds over equalization. Between this and the Wheat Board brouhaha the Cons are in trouble in Saskatchewan. I'd expect the NDP to take some seats from them there at the moment, and maybe if we're lucky the Liberals could sneak-in too.

After the Nova Scotia deal, if we see a quick move to appease Saskatchewan it would be an even clearer sign (were it not blindingly obvious already) that Harper is determined to go to the polls this fall.

Meanwhile, in Liberal land, Stephane Dion had a press conference yesterday and announced...well, not a lot really. He shuffled around his shadow cabinet, made Bob Rae foreign affairs critic, gave Garth Turner a job too, and booted one MP from their critic portfolio:
Mr. Dion also stripped MP Raymonde Folco of her role as official languages critic — she had told reporters that Mr. Dion was not selling in Quebec and was too old to change his ways...
Good, this was very necessary. I would have liked to have seen some of the other people that broke confidentiality and ran to the press over the Carroll thing punted too though. Still, hopefully this sends a message. While debate is good, and changes need to be made, it's important for party executives and MPs to work within the system, not through the media. Undermine the leader in public and there need to be consequences.

On an unrelated matter, I would also have liked to have seen Denis Coderre moved out of the defence critic job. I admit, that was probably impossible after the whole Afghan trip thing this week, the timing and optics would have been brutal. But while I've defended Coderre on the trip issue because I believe he's in the right there, I still would rather see someone else in that role. Nearly anyone else, to be honest.

In other news from the Dion presser:
Stéphane Dion signalled Tuesday that he will try to sidestep a fall election, and might even tell his Liberal MPs to sit out a confidence vote on the Conservative government's agenda.
Sigh. It looks like Bryan Wilfert wasn't freelancing after all, but was floating a trial balloon for the OLO. I've already articulated why I think this is an exceedingly crappy idea, and nothing I've heard since has served to change my mind. I'm not pleased to hear this. As I said earlier, we need to start standing-up for Liberal values again. Prop-up the Cons and I don't care how you spin it, it'll be bad. Jack and Gilles will be over the moon.

Finally, an example of really lame attempted Conservative spin:
Conservatives, meanwhile, scoffed that Mr. Dion has decided to avoid an election because his party is in disarray.

"The Liberals are struggling with a weak leader, thin bench strength and a tarnished brand," said Conservative party spokesman Ryan Sparrow.

Of course, the Conservatives (say they) don't want an election either. I guess that's because Harper is such a strong leader with strong bench strength and a shiny brand, right Ryan? Or maybe they're just lying when they say they want to avoid an election...

UPDATE 1: Via Garth Turner comes this exchange from Harper's presser on the Nova Scotia deal, and Bill Casey:
Question: Prime minister, now that you’ve got this agreement, are you going to welcome Mr. Casey back into the Conservative caucus?

Answer: No. Mr. Casey made demands that he knew were incompatible with our budget, that he knew that this government would not agree to and has not agreed to. Mr. Casey is not welcome into our caucus. Just so I can be as clear as i can be on it, there — when there is a next federal election there will be a conservative candidate in Mr. Casey’s riding, and it will not be Mr. Casey.

Well, I guess that settles that. As Garth says, vindictive, petty, spiteful, bully. To that I would add stupid. I could see Harper being enough of a dick to freeze Casey out if he wanted back, but what's the political upside to such a course. I've always maintained that, despite his being arrogant and wrong and all that, Harper is a smart strategist. He's lost me here though, because I don't get it. Neither does Steve.

UPDATE 2:
Speaking of Carroll, something that was probably inevitable finally happened today. Since it seemed fairly clear we were heading this way, one wonders what the frick took them so long?!
Jamie Carroll has officially stepped down from the party's top administrative job and he has given up his role as deputy national campaign director as well.

The announcement comes after weeks of controversy over Carroll's allegedly dismissive response to demands that Dion include more Quebecers in his inner circle.

It's unfortunate, because I think Carroll is a good guy and that the infamous diversity remarks were blown widely out of proportion by people with their own agendas. However, I think for the good of the party and the sake of party unity he probably had to go. Rightly or wrongly, he had become a lighting rod for controversy. It dates back to his ill considered remarks in Diebel's book. It wasn't all his fault, but he had become a roadblock to progress.

Now, with Carroll gone, it will be interesting to see if the people who were calling for his ouster now get on board and start being team players working for the good of the party. Were their motives what's right for the party, or driven by their own personal agendas? With Carroll now gone, their reaction and behaviour going forward will tell the tale.

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Beautifully Liberal British Columbia

With all this talk about Liberal fortunes in certain provinces, I think it's appropriate to pause and consider just how well the Liberals are doing in my home province of British Columbia.

Last week's Decima poll (conducted Sept. 27 thru Oct. 1) put the Liberals in the lead in B.C. at 33 per cent, ahead of the Conservatives at 29 per cent, with the NDP fading to third.

"These numbers provide further evidence of what we have been hearing on the ground for months, people in our province are growing tired of being ignored by the Harper government. We need a government that will support our communities hit hard by the mountain pine beetle, a government that actually believes in environmental sustainability, a government that has a strong vision for BC's leadership role in Canada. Only the Liberal Party led by Stéphane Dion will offer this kind of government. Stéphane Dion's love for Canada and message of hope is resonating with British Columbians" said Pam McDonald, B.C. Campaign Co-Chair.
Stephane Dion has made a number of well-received visits to the province since he became leader, and Michael Ingatieff has been a regular visitor as well. Iggy will be in Vancouver tomorrow actually for a fundraiser at the Vancouver Acquarium.

Indeed, the province has been a major focus for the Liberals for a number of years, with a number of star candidates recruited in past elections. Some successful, like Ujal Dosanjh. Some not, like Dave Haggard and Miles Richardson. Others, well, David Emerson has been in two straight cabinets. Sure, the latest one isn't Liberal, but still...

The popular, B.C.-focused 'Made in B.C.' policy agendas have also been well received (so well the Cons tried to copy it last election with a pale imitation), and contributed to the results in the last two elections that saw the Liberals gain seats in the province, and the Conservatives lose seats.

With the hard work being done in the province by Dion and the Liberal team in B.C., which according to these poll results looks to be paying off, it looks like the trend seems to be continuing with good potential to expand our seat count in the province in the next election.

We need to turn things around in Quebec, I don't minimize that. But across the rest of the country we're in pretty good shape and, indeed, as in B.C. there's a lot of bright spots. Any gains the Cons make in Quebec will likely be wiped out by loses in B.C., the Prairies, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

While we obsess over Quebec, let's not forget the good work being done on the left coast.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On motivations

William Johnston is worth reading in the Gazette today (h/t Eugene):


But, in the aftermath, the Liberal Party in Quebec remains ideologically at odds with its national leader. Some departing candidates evoke the controversy over the nation resolution; one even refers to the Clarity Act as "a piece of shit."


Reconciliation and unity will not be restored until the Quebec Liberals disarm in the current ideological strife.

By the way, whichever departing candidate said that I don't consider a major loss.

Anyway, I think Johnson is right, the ideological strife needs to be set aside. Compromise, detente. We need to move past this nation business. Put it behind us. We need to find common ground, supported by both the Dion OLO and the nationalists of the LPCQ, and, this is important too, policy that will be supported in the rest of Canada as well. That seems to be often forgotten here.

Hopefully the two sides will put past differences aside and try to find the common ground. If their motivations are to grow the party, and not just to advance personal agendas, I'm sure they will...

UPDATE: Paul Wells weighs-in on the Johnson column:
I've been having more and more fun imagining a post-Dion Liberal party. Not because I want to see it, but because I like to imagine a great national institution like the Liberal party screwing itself utterly, and I think that's the likely outcome if all those failed no-name "would-be star Quebec candidates" get their way.

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Lazy reporting, biased reporting, and just plain wrong reporting

Given the discussion the other day about the MSM's recent Conservative bias, it's interesting to see how different media outlets are reporting new federal polling results from Decima.

First, let's look at the Canadian Press:

New poll gives Harper Tories seven point spread on sagging Liberals
1 minute ago


OTTAWA - A new poll suggests the federal Conservatives have begun putting some distance between themselves and the sagging Liberal party.


The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates a seven percentage point spread between Prime Minister Stephen Harper's governing Tories and Stephane Dion's opposition Grits.


The poll of just more than 1,000 Canadians last Thursday through Sunday put Conservative support at 35 per cent nationally, still one point below what the minority government achieved on election day in 2006.


The Liberals, however, slipped to 28 per cent among decided and leaning voters as three weeks of very public recriminations and infighting began to take their toll.

Editorializing here that's odd for a news organization like CP. Sagging would be a questionable comment for a news piece, even if it were supported by fact. And here they haven't backed it up. Where were the parties in the last poll, so we can compare the change and try to discern a trend? What's the margin of error? These are all things needed to accurately judge the poll.

But we'll get to that. Next, let's look at how another news wire, Reuters, covered the same poll:

Canada's ruling Conservatives open big poll lead

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives have opened up a big lead over the opposition Liberals but do not have enough backing to win a majority in a federal election, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

The Harris-Decima survey for Canadian Press suggested Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government was starting to benefit from turmoil inside the Liberal Party over what some members say is a poor performance by leader Stephane Dion.


The poll put the Conservatives at 35 percent, up from 29 percent in a survey the same firm did in mid-June. The Liberals dropped to 28 percent from 32 percent.


The Conservatives won power in January 2006 with 36 percent of the vote.

...

The Harris-Decima survey of 1,000 people was carried out from October 6 to 9 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A big lead, hmm? Well, that's subjective.

At least we have some more information here. Unfortunately, they got it wrong. They transposed the Liberal and Con figures from the last poll. The last poll was Liberals 29, Cons 33, not vice versa. At least they tried to include it though, CP didn't even bother. So, now we see it's hard to say Liberal support sagged, they have it down one per cent. And the Cons up three per cent.

And they included the margin of error too. And it's 3.1 per cent. Which means all the movement was within the margin of error, something they overlook as they try to fit this into their pre-determined narrative of an ascendant Conservative Party and a sagging Liberal Party. In reality, you can't discern much of anything from these numbers. Both parties are still failing to gain much traction. Dido the NDP. Reading any more into the numbers is wishful thinking and spin. Which is certaintly fun, but not appropriate for news covergae.

Lastly, on the bias front, comes this line from Reuters:

Dion, who critics say is inexperienced and incompetent, is due to shuffle his shadow cabinet later on Tuesday.

Says who, your mom? Tom Flanagan?

A news story can't just toss out this kind of BS unsourced, it needs to be attributed. Who are these critics? This is a ridiculous slander to just toss into a non-opinion news piece. This is Reuters, not the Blogging Tories.

I'm a critic, and I think Stephen Harper is an arrogant and vindicative flip flopper and control freak who has failed to gain any ground among Canadians and leads a directionless and purposeless government that, despite all the Liberal troubles, is still well short of majority territory and is even off his last election result. And I'm far from the only one.

Why not toss that unsourced into your news coverage Reuters? It's just as valid and relevant, even if it doesn't for your pre-determined narrative.

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One last poll

The day before the Ontario vote and a poll from everyone's favourite pollster, SES, hits my mailbox with a subject line that has to warm Liberal hearts: Liberal Victory Imminent.

The poll, completed over the weekend, makes it clear the Liberals will win Wednesday's vote, with the only question to be answered being the size of the victory.

The numbers:

Ontario Provincial Ballot (N=441, MoE +/- 4.7%, 19 times out of 20)
Liberal 42.6% (among Women 43.4%)
PC 30.5% (amongWomen 25.0%)
NDP 17.5% (among Women 22.0%)
Green 9.4% (among Women 9.5%)
* 11.9% of voters were undecided

The Green Party numbers will be interesting to watch tomorrow night. SES notes Green Party numbers are often inflated in polls by 1/3 because people like to say they'll vote Green but often change their mind at the ballot box. If that trend continues, SES predicts these adjusted numbers based on the second choice of Green supporters:
Ontario Provincial Ballot - Green Adjustment (N=441, MoE +/- 4.7% , 19 times out of 20)
Liberal 43.8%
PC 31.0%
NDP 19.0%
Green 6.1%

* 11.9% of voters were undecided
Interesting that the reallocated Green vote is spread fairly evenly across the three major parties, although the NDP does gain slightly more than the others. Which would imply the NDP would be in more trouble if Green support ever grew and solidified.

And analysis from SES:
In the past week, Tory's announcement of a free vote on the faith-based school issue has not positively moved his numbers. The New Democrats are marginally up. The real story of this election has been the inability of the PCs to effectively compete for the support of women. The Grits enjoy an 18.4 point lead over the Tories among women.

If you look at most federal polling you'll see the Harper Conservatives also have been unable to build their support with women, and they don't seem to be doing much of anything to change that either. Could this be a factor in the next federal vote, or will Harper learn from Tory's experience? Time will tell.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

The media and Harper: An odd relationship

The way is pointed to an interesting Lawrence Martin column in the Globe by Accidental Deliberations, on how Harper's bash the media strategy has resulted in a compliant and subservient press corps that ignores a cost of Conservative hypocrisy, failure and double-speak to instead focus on the leader of the opposition:

Rather than hurt him, Mr. Harper - is there method in his badness? - is getting increasingly favourable media treatment. To look at the recent coverage, you would think his government is on a roll. Breathless reports follow breathless reports on how he could destroy all opponents in an election this fall.

That's not bad for a governing party stuck at 33 per cent in the polls for months, one that has fallen six or seven points since it tabled its last budget in March, one that has lost more support in that time than the Liberals or NDP, both of whose numbers have remained stable.


This is usually the kind of news that gets you booed out of town. But, in the case of Mr. Harper, the scribes are doing more cheering than jeering.

What's the answer for the Liberals here? Treat the media even worse than the Conservatives? Trade the whale-watching trips and returning of phone calls for icy glares and lists to ask questions? Unfortunately, since we're in opposition we can't have the RCMP bully them.

Maybe that wouldn't be the best way to go though. I don't know the answer really. I do know one thing that would help the Liberal media strategy though. Stop leaking them so much juicy crap! Give them easy infighting stories to run of course they'll run them and ignore Conservative misdoings. I'm a journalist myself, we're lazy. Trust me.

Perhaps it isn't Harper's brilliant trash the media strategy that's at play after all. Maybe if we kept giving them so much to write about, they'd turn their attention to the Conservatives...and if not, then we should consider taking away the Wii.

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This Hour has 22 Conservatives MPs in Afghanistan

Rather than drag Mulroney's 30lb book with me to Las Vegas (airline weight restrictions and all) I took Rick Mercer's much slimmer tome. Look for a review in a day or two, but, given the topic of yesterday's post, I was pretty interested to be reminded that Rick Mercer has been to Afghanistan three times.

His last visit last Christmas was at the personal invitation of General Rick Hillier:

On this leg of the trip were three other Newfoundlanders – broadcaster Max Keeping, singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle and my old colleague Mary Walsh...
So, an entertain the troops visit. A very worthy trip, and one I fully support. But it wasn't just entertainers on the government-approved mission.
...and three members of the Conservative caucus – whip Jay Hill, MP Laurie Hawn and President of the Treasury Board John Baird.
Let me be very clear that I'm a big fan of Rick Mercer, and he is to be commended for going to visit the troops three times, and for his very strong support of our Armed Forces over the years. As a former Air Force Brat myself, I passionately share his sentiments in that area.

My only point is that if the government can allow an entertainer to go over three times, and allow visits by their whip, a backbench MP and the president of the treasury board, it's pretty hard for them to justify continually blocking the defence critic of the official opposition.

For more on the important, totally not a photo-op or publicity stunt work Maxime Bernier and Bev Oda are doing right now in Afghanistan, see Keith, Steve, Apply Liberally, KNB, Impolitical and Dave.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Layton and NDP side with Conservatives on Coderre's Afghan trip

As I wrote last week Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre is staging his own fact-finding trip to Afghanistan after the Conservative government, playing politics, refused to extend to the defence critic of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition the privilege of an official trip. He leaves Pakistan for Afghanistan today on a UN flight.

Mr. Coderre told CTV NewsNet in an interview Saturday he's been asking for months to go, but repeated calls to the defence minister asking for permission were ignored or rejected.

So he said he decided unilaterally to go on the fact-finding trip and report back to Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion in preparation for his own future trip to the war-torn country.


“I took my responsibility. I have a duty, I have a job to do. I am the critic for... the official Opposition,” he said. It's important, I would say, to make sure that we fully participate and contribute to the debate. So I'm gonna let them play their petty politics and I'll do my job.”
There were two interesting developments on this front this week.

Firstly, while the Conservatives continually ignored Coderre’s requests through official channels for official visit, a visit the Cons have continually attacked Liberals for not taking, they sent ministers Maxime Bernier and Bed Oda over to Afghanistan this week for a visit. It would seem this is Harper’s personal war, and while government photo-ops are a-ok, factfinding visits by opposition politicians are verboten. Mustn’t mess with the government narrative, after all.
One of the cabinet ministers visiting Afghanistan to meet with that country's leadership and Canadian troops says that roadside and suicide bombings in Kabul indicate that the situation is improving in the country.

Umm, yeah. I’ve not since being surprised by Conservative hypocrisy and classlessness, so it’s hard to be to be too surprised by their willingness to play politics with the war in Afghanistan. To send Bernier and Oda just after stories about they’re blocking Coderre’s trip does display a surprising level of both arrogance and political tone deafness, however.

The second development this week was more surprising, and at the same time not. But it would seem NDP leader Jack Layton has sided with the Conservatives on this issue:
In Toronto, federal NDP Leader Jack Layton had criticism for Mr. Coderre's solo trek.

“Involving individual MPs in a sort of ‘stunt-like' visit does pose risks.... I'm not on the ground to assess that. But you have to respect the judgement of our military leadership,” Mr. Layton told CTV NewsNet.
I’m sure our military leadership would be surprised to learn Layton feels we should respect their judgment. I won’t bother expanding on the obvious hypocrisy of that statement. I know I’m surprised to hear Layton parroting Blogging Tory talking points.

And like them, he’s wrong. The blocking of Coderre was not a military decision. It was a political decision made by the Conservative defence minister and, more likely, Stephen Harper’s office. That’s who you’re providing political cover to here Jack. Are you that desperate to score points against the Liberals you're getting in bed with the Conservatives on an issue where they're obviously full of crap?

No matter how petty the Conservatives and NDP may be back in Canada, I’m certain our military leadership in Afghanistan will respect Coderre’s position and his purpose and let him see what’s happening on the ground. I look forward to his report.

UPDATE: Steve is on the same page.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

I've voted, now off to Vegas

I'm off to Las Vegas on Sunday until Thursday for a work-related conference, so I'll be out of town for provincial election day. Actually, Wednesday I'll be poolside at the Mandalay Bay for the conference closing party and a concert by, of all people, Hootie and the Blowfish. Yes, apparently they are still touring. Who knew.

So, since I'll be away for the election I voted in the advance polls. Unsurprisingly I voted for my Ontario Liberal incumbent in Scarborough-Centre, Brad Duguid. The second ballot of course was for the referendum, and after a lot of thought I decided to reluctantly vote no on MMP. I thought I'd share why.

I’ve been back and forth on this thing from the start. I favour electoral reform, but I’m not a big fan of MMP. I was leaning towards reluctantly supporting it, agreeing with the pro-MMP supporters that the parties would ensure the list candidates are democratically chosen. And I’m sure they would be. I’m not concerned about the stability issue, I think the parties would be forced to work together, and they’d find a way to work it out. I don’t think small parties would wield undue or radical influence. There’s a lot of positives with the system that outweigh most of the negatives.

I began to change my mind however during a discussion in this thread on the issue of List MPPs that leave caucus, voluntarily or involuntarily. It was the speculation of MMP advocates that those seats would belong to the party, not the member, and therefore the member would likely be required to resign with the seat filled by the next person on the list.

I said speculate because that’s all it is, speculation. No one knows exactly what would happen because that hasn’t been decided yet. It would be legislated later. On the concept of the seat being ‘owned’ by the party I have to say I’m fundamentally opposed, it gives far too much power to the party, discourages independent thought and dissent (all to rare already) and is directly opposed to the spirit of our parliamentary system, which is the member is answerable to his constituents. It would also create two classes of MPPs, and I’m not keen on that idea.

It’s all still ‘to be determined’ though, and that was a major factor in my decision. I’m being asked to cast a vote of faith, without answers to what I’d consider some pretty fundamental questions about just how this whole thing would work. I’m just not willing to do that. If these issues were all spelled-out satisfactorily I might have been willing to overlook the faults of MMP and cast a vote for change. But there is just too much left TBD.

Given that the polls show most Ontarians aren’t willing to do so either, will this be the end of the quest for electoral reform? I don’t know, only time will tell. Hopefully not, as I would like to see change. But I don’t think MMP is the way to go. The STV system proposed in B.C. (and will be voted on again in 2009) seems more promising. If we do try again in Ontario though, I hope a more complete system will be presented to the people.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

SES: MMP won't pass

While it will be disappointing to MMP supporters, I don’t think it will be particularly surprising to anyone. Except maybe the many people that have no idea what MMP is or that there is a referendum. But according to pollsters SES, the Ontario MMP referendum isn’t going to pass:

The most recent SES/Sun Media poll indicates that the support to change Ontario's electoral system to MMP is unlikely to pass the 60% threshold needed for change.

Asked about their intentions related to the upcoming referendum, Ontarians generally preferred to keep the current system (47%), followed by voting for MMP (26%) and finally not casting a vote in the referendum (5%). Twenty-one percent were unsure.
So, even if all 21 per cent of the undecided broke in favour of MMP, and that’s highly unlikely, they’d still tie the no to MMP vote and fall under the 50 per cent level, which, while not enough for ratification, would still be a major psychological and moral victory in favour of electoral reform.

We can analyze to death the poor showing for MMP, and I have no doubt we will. I have my theories, I’ll save that for others to debate though.

What I want to say though is that these results should not be taken as a vote against electoral reform, it should only be taken as a vote against the MMP system. I think most Ontarians favour electoral reform, and would vote for the right system if given the opportunity.


So, hopefully this isn’t the end for electoral reform, but only the beginning.

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Angry angry Howie

I share Howard Hampton’s frustration. While as a partisan Liberal I’m happy that there has been so much focus during the campaign on the faith-based schooling issue, as it has proven to be kryptonite for The John Tory Team, as a voter I’m disappointed that not enough attention has been paid to other issues.

So, I do understand Hampton’s frustration, I share his sentiments, and I think he said some things that needed to be said. But two problems:

1) His rant just went on too long. He had made his point well early but he kept on going, the smoke blowing out of his ears, and at some point he crossed the line from impassioned and forceful to whiny and pathetic. He lost his cool.

2) At its core, he’s saying he hasn’t been able to get his message out. To blame the media for that is slightly pathetic. If the NDP has failed in getting its message out, and the polling numbers would seem to back that out, then the NDP has no one to blame but itself.

So, while it will please and energize his base (which was probably the point, stop the bleeding) by crossing the line from impassioned to angry Hampton will just come off as whiny, ineffective and lacking leadership skills to the rest of the electorate, in my view. Did he look like a Premier? Not at all.

On the plus side for Howie, he sure got his message out this time, didn't he? Unfortunately though, we're talking about how angry he is, not about his issues, so maybe not so much.



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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hail to the chief? Harper’s presidential airs

I'm about 400+ pages into Brian Mulroney's very weighty auto-biography (here's a preview review: Brian was right and everyone, especially Trudeau, was wrong) and we're in the midst of his first mandate at the moment, so I haven't gotten yet to his thoughts on Stephen Harper.

Luckily though, he shared his thoughts on his successor as Conservative PM (in between two swell Liberal guys that balanced the budget and turned-around the economy) with the media so I don't need to wait:

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says current Tory PM Stephen Harper reminds him of the Gipper, Ronald Reagan.

"Of all the people I've met internationally, he reminds me more of the style and the approach and the decisiveness of Ronald Reagan than anybody else," Mulroney told a Calgary luncheon audience Wednesday.
Hmm, does that mean Harper is consulting astrologers, selling arms to the contras and running huge deficits? The deficits aren’t there (yet), and I doubt he’s funneling arms to Nicaragua via Iran. He does have a psychic on staff though, so who knows…

Still, the comparisons to Reagan may play well in Calgary, but I doubt they’re particularly helpful in Quebec. Or B.C. Or Ontario. Or the Maritimes… If you listen closely you can hear Conservative strategists crying"Shut-up Brian!"

Old Lyin’ Brian may be on to something with the whole Harper/Reagan thing though, at least when it comes to taking on presidential airs. And if anyone would be an expert on delusions of grandeur, it’s Brian Mulroney.

As the Globe noted this week, it’s odd Harper would want to take a space that was intended for a public portrait gallery and convert it into a multi-million dollar, private, receiving-hall for Pres…Prime Minister Harper to welcome foreign dignitaries:
In other words, it wants to take a public place that would have showcased Canadian art and history to millions of Canadians and turn it into a place that would be off-limits to the public and would showcase a politician to a handful of foreign eminences.
Sounds a little odd. Doesn’t Canada have a head of state? And doesn’t that head of state have a hall to receive foreign dignataries? The answer to both is yes, Michaelle Jean and Rideau Hall. But then again, these Conservatives have never had much respect for the GG’s role in our system of government, in opposition or in government.

As for the PM, every other one has always made do with the Government Conference Centre, the Lester B. Pearson building, the Confederation Room and, well, their office, which the Globe notes Mulroney found good enough to receive Reagan in:
How odd, then, that it is Mr. Mulroney who is remembered by some as the Conservative prime minister with presidential airs.
Odd indeed. I’m sure Harper will change that though. He already has a personal stylist, and now a grand presidential reception hall. He has the media calling his plane Air Force…err Air Bus 001. He has a gas guzzling presidential-style motorcade.

How long before he has the Navy Band strike-up ‘Hail to the Chief’ when he walks into the room?

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

General Hillier out, General that Harper likes in?

According to CTV news, the Conservative government plans to replace General Rick Hillier as chief of defence staff when his term expires in February, because he's outshining his political masters and he made Gordon O'Connor look like a doofus.

Now don't get me wrong. I won't be sad to see Hillier go. Indeed, I think it's probably a good idea. And this detainee document cover-up scandal won't be going away either.

But what I wanted to mention was this line from the CP piece, where they speculate on possible successors to Hillier as CDS. I'm not sure if I'm amused, or concern. I'm thinking a little of both actually.

CTV says potential successors include Vice-Admiral Drew Robertson and Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, although insiders say Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk is likely to get the top job because the prime minister likes him.

Surely the most important qualification, no?

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