Monday, August 31, 2009

Memories of NDP fundraisers past

The NDP, both bloggers and the grown-up party, are in a great tizzy today because the Liberals are holding a fundraising dinner while they're in Sudbury for their caucus meetings. Apparently holding a fundraising dinner while people are out of work is in poor taste.

I'd argue the two are unrelated. I'd argue if holding a fundraiser while people are unemployed is insensitive then exploiting those people for cheap political points is doubly offensive. And I'd question how the NDP candidates in Sudbury plan to finance their next election campaign if they're too moral to raise any money to pay for it. Sorry, Glenn Thibeault, but any donations you've received should be returned.

And I'd wonder where these same people were when the NDP was sending out fundraising solicitations on the backs of Canadian soldiers, exploiting the war in Afghanistan, where Canadians soldiers are risking their lives, in order to fatten their party coffers, $100 at a time:


No, it seems the NDP's sanctimony only ever applies to others.

Never to themselves.

UPDATE: On the Sudbury thing, let me say I agree with the sensible comments of John Fera, president of United Steelworkers Local 6500:

"I think the people who paid $550 for that dinner aren't our guys, but people are free to do whatever they want and to support whoever they want and I respect that," Fera said. "It's their decision."
Well said, John.

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Conservatives won't stand-up for Canadian consumers

Interesting piece this morning by technology lawyer and analyst Michael Geist, who writes that the Conservatives have pulled the plug on an online tool that would have helped Canadians find more affordable cell phone plans, apparently under pressure from cellular industry lobbyists:

After spending tens of thousands of dollars creating and testing an online calculator designed to help consumers select their ideal wireless plan, Industry Minister Tony Clement killed the project weeks before it was scheduled to launch. Government records suggest intense lobbying this spring by Canada’s wireless companies, who feared the service would promote lower cost plans, played a key role in the decision.
As Geist reports, the government awarded Decima Research a $60,000 contract to do usability testing with the public in 2008 (the people loved it, by the way). And that doesn't include the unknown amount of taxpayer dollars spent developing the tool in the first place.

A tool that was needed, a tool that consumers wanted, a tool that would help Canadians navigate the minefields of a Canadian cellular industry sorely lacking in competitiveness, an industry that charges Canadians mobility rates far exceeding many other countries.

It's a tool everyone wanted, it seems, but the telecommunications companies, and their lobbying in April of Zoe Addington, director of policy in Tony Clement's office, appears to have paid off in the death of the tool, which despite being near launch, and despite the investment of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, will not see the light of day under this Conservative government.

By the way, take a look at the lobbyist filing for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association's meeting with Addington. See if you recognize the name.

Why yes, that's former Conservative Premier of New Brunswick (and perennially-touted Stephen Harper successor) Bernard Lord.

Small world, no?

If the Conservatives aren't willing to stand-up for the interests of Canadians, I'm glad to see the Liberal Party is:
The Harper government is standing against transparency and against the interests of consumers by scrapping a web-based cell phone fee calculator, Liberal Consumer Affairs Critic Dan McTeague said today.

"This project was designed to help Canadians find the most affordable cell phone plans in a country that already faces some of the highest rates in the world," said Mr. McTeague. "Rather than stand strong for Canadian consumers, the Harper Conservatives scrapped the project."

Public reports show that just before the decision to scrap the project was announced, there were meetings between the staff of the Minister and representatives of the cell phone industry. Reports indicate that a significant amount of field testing, all with positive reviews, had already occurred.

"If there was a significant problem in the implementation, it would have been discovered much earlier in the process," said Mr. McTeague.

"Why is the Harper government against transparency? A significant amount of taxpayer-funded government resources had already gone into this project. This calculator is especially important during these belt-tightening times. Industry Minister Tony Clement needs to explain to Canadians why this decision was made.

"The government already provides a similar service for credit cards, why not cell phone plans? This tool would have helped Canadians, especially those on lower incomes, find affordable cellular service. Why the government feels that Canadians don't need that service is beyond me," he said.
Scott has more.

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Video: Patronage King

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Anonymous senior Liberals and the media who love them flock to Sudbury

With the Liberal Party holding its national caucus meetings in Sudbury this week, prepare for a flood of predictable media coverage in the coming days.

First, we’ll read columns where the pundits, after saying how it’s great Michael Ignatieff has finally come out of hiding (in plain sight) this summer, lament the lack of substantive policy debate and the unending focus on election speculation.

Then, rather than writing about policy the media will ask every Liberal they can find in the nickel city if there should be an election this fall. Ignatieff will say Canadians don’t want an election and we want to make this parliament work, but the Conservatives need to work with us here. This will result in “Ignatieff threatens election” headlines, and the pundits will attack him for being out of touch with Canadians who don’t want an election.

Next, spooked by the headlines, anonymous nervous nelly Liberals will kvetch to the media, and Ignatieff will re-iterate that Canadians don’t want an election and we want to make this parliament work, but the Conservatives need to work with us here. This will result in “Ignatieff backs off election threat” headlines, and pundits will attack him for reversing himself and for his weakness in not forcing an election.

Remember, you read it here first.

But kidding on the square aside, this is going to be a challenging week for the Liberals when it comes to plotting strategy for the fall session. It’s important that we come out of the week with a game-plan for the fall, a strategy for communicating it, and everyone on board singing from the same hymn book.

You can make good arguments for bringing down the government this fall (it’s my favoured option) and there are reasonable arguments to be made for waiting. But as important, in my view, as which way we decide to go is how we decide to get there. We need to get out of this cycle of brinkmanship, of perceived bluster followed by perceived back-down.

Our strategy over the past eight months hasn’t necessarily been wrong – we’ve avoided the election Canadians don’t want and made an effort at working with the government. We've also re-energized the party, filled the coffers, developed a platform, and done a lot of important organizational work.

But we’ve lost the perception battle. We’ve let our decision to do what Canadians wanted their politicians to do be shaped as weakness. In politics it’s not enough to do right, frankly – you need to be seen to do right.

So, as Liberals senior and junior, anonymous and otherwise, gather in Sudbury I hope they’ll give some thought to how we can break the cycle.

And stay away from Jane Taber while they’re at it.

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Conservatives hiding the facts on EI

We know the Conservatives have pretty much killed the EI reform panel. And it seems they're now spending more time trying to blame others for their unwillingness to approach the issue seriously and actually discuss reforming EI then they did actually trying to reform it.

You'll recall the Conservatives essentially blew the panel up when they prodded the independent civil service into doing a "costing" of the Liberal EI reform proposal. But rather than cost the actual Liberal proposal, the Conservatives asked them to include a slew of things the Liberal proposal didn't in order to get a vastly inflated number, an inflated number they could then use as an excuse for doing nothing on the issue, while hiding behind the civil service when challenged on the fictitious nature of their numbers.

The Liberals rightly challenged them on this and asked the parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, to do his own costing of the Liberal proposal. After all, Canadians deserve to know the real numbers. Page is working on it, but there's one little problem:

The Parliamentary Budget Officer hasn't received all the information requested of HRSDC Deputy Minister Janice Charette, which includes data, analysis and assumptions underlying the government's cost projections. The office said that, if necessary, it would produce the analysis in the next two weeks, even without the information.
Meanwhile, while the government continues to try to block a truly independent and fair costing of the Liberal EI reform proposal, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre is still sticking to the Conservatives' fictitious, fantasy land costing, using the independent civil service as a shield for his party's political gamesmanship.

The Conservatives, it seems, are concerned that if the public knows the real cost of the Liberal plan, the government's inflexibility on the issue, and the fact they've yet to even release a proposal of their own, will be quite negative. Unable to win the argument on its merits, they need to stack the deck. They need to cheat to win.

If they're confident in their positions, let's have the real numbers and then let the people decide. Stop trying to hide the truth, and to withhold the information Page needs to do an independent costing.

And Pierre and company should have the guts to stop hiding behind the independent civil service, who should not be used as partisan blockers for a weak quarterback afraid of getting sacked.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

If Harper really wanted to reform the Senate, I’d get on board

Reading Stephen Harper’s defence to criticism of his appointment of a slew of his close associates and cronies to the Senate, and a number of editorials from that dastardly Liberal media defending his orgy of pork, the main justification seems to be this: If he wants to reform the Senate, he has no choice but to stuff it with Conservative hacks.

That’s complete nonsense. With apologies to Brian Mulroney, I say this to Stephen: You did have a choice, sir! You could actually make a serious effort to reform the Senate.

You see, I support Senate reform. I’m just not sure Stephen Harper does. Oh, sure, he likes it as an issue. It plays well with his base to rail against the evil, unelected Senate. And the Senate is a handy bogeyman for him to blame his assorted inadequacies and short-comings on. Par example, after refusing Liberal offers to fast-track the bulk of his crime legislation, he finally gets it though the House. Then , after the Senate has it for less than a week, he accuses them of obstructionism. When legislation dies on the order paper because he prorogues parliament to avoid defeat, he blames the Senate. When the Senate wants to actually do its job of sober second though and not rubber-stamp bills in a day, well, you get the idea.

No, when it comes to reforming the Senate, Harper seems to be content to nibble around the edges. Sure, if a province elects someone, he’ll appoint them. Of course, Saskatchewan was on that road when he appointed Pamela Wallin. And he’ll make them promise to serve only eight years (it will be interesting to see if Doug Finley steps aside in eight years if the Liberals are in government and making appointments, won’t it?) And he’s half-heartedly tried to push a bill mandating term-limits, a bill the experts agree is unconstitutional.

As someone who wants real Senate reform, I actually find Harper’s nibbling around the edges dangerous, both to our democracy and to the cause of meaningful Senate reform. That’s because creating a mix of elected and unelected Senators, and electing Senators without addressing the balance of powers between the House of Commons and the Senate, and the inequities that currently exist around a lack of regional balance, is fraught with trouble.

Constitutionally, the Senate is nearly equal to the House of Commons in its powers. However, recognizing that as an unelected body it lacks the legitimacy to block the will of the elected House, it traditionally doesn’t exercise that power, contenting itself to examine legislation and investigate issues but largely respect the will of the lower house.

But in a Senate of elected Senators, who in theory can claim a legitimacy and a mandate of their own, what’s to prevent them from using that power? What if one party has a majority in the House and another party a majority in an elected Senate? You could have actual gridlock, not the fake gridlock Harper kvetches about today.

I also see problems in a Senate of mixed elected and appointed senators, some claiming the legitimacy of election choosing to use the full powers of their office, others appointed and taking a more measured approach. It’s a can of worms.

This piecemeal approach to Senate reform also raises regional issues. As it stands, the regional balance of the Senate is many years out of date. British Columbia, for example, is screwed by the current Senate make-up. As long as the Senate is a largely powerless chamber of sober second-thought, the inequity is troubling but not an outrage. But give the Senate the legitimacy of election and that changes, and under-represented regions such as BC will rightly cry foul if this isn't addressed.

That’s why Senate reform can’t be done piecemeal, as Harper is half-heartedly trying to do. Do the little things, such as elected Senators, and you take away the pressure to make the other, necessary changes, and you enshrine the regional inequities and other problems, and magnify them by giving the Senate legitimacy.

No, real and meaningful Senate reform means a constitutional amendment. It means the amending formula. It means sitting down with the provinces and negotiating regional representation, and elections, and term limits, and the balance of powers between House and Senate. It means lobbying for public support for that bill, and passing it through the provincial legislatures and the federal parliament.

And for those who say Harper needs to stack the Senate to pass legislation to reform it, I assure you: if such a constitutional amendment had the support of the people, the provinces and the Commons, the Senate would never stand in the way.

Harper, though, has no intention of even attempting the heavy-lifting necessary to truly reform the Senate. Having witnessed Meech and Charlottetown, I don’t necessarily blame him.

But if he isn’t willing to do what’s necessary then he should stop pretending he’s serious about Senate reform, and stop pretending his appointments this week were anything but what they were: an orgy of political cronyism in the best traditions of Canadian politics.

Because it was nothing to do with Senate reform.

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Mississauga councilor: Conservative ridings get $, rest get scraps

That's certainty how I'd read the comments of Mississauga councilor Sue McFadden, who was explaining her reasoning for deciding to seek the Conservative nomination for Mississauga-Streetsville, held by Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie:

“In the three years on Council I saw we were getting only scraps from the provincial and federal governments. I look at what Bob Dechert (Tory MP for Mississauga-Erindale, elected in 2008) has been able to deliver and I realized that I can better contribute to my community if I’m in Ottawa.”
We've all always expected that the Conservatives drastically favour their own ridings when it comes to distributing the Canadian taxpayer's infrastructure and stimulus funding. And now we have a city councilor and wannabe candidate confirming the ugly truth: the Conservatives disproportionately dole out the pork to their own ridings, and the rest of the country can suck a lemon.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Do as I don't say, not as I don't do

The fall silly season must be just around the corner, as we see politicians jockeying for position and bloggers doing likewise.

Earlier in the week, we had NDP leader Jack Layton hold a press conference where he refused to say he’d vote down the government this fall, said he wants to get things done in parliament, and indicated Canadians aren’t keen on an election.

Later in the week, Liberal campaign co-chair Senator David Smith said they’re unlikely to force an election the second parliament returns, refused to say if they’d bring down the government later, said they want to get things done in parliament, and indicated Canadians aren’t keen on an election.

One of these people was principled and bold. The other was weak and caving. Or so my NDP blogging friends seem to think. I thought both were trying to manage expectations while keeping options open. But the differences may be more subtle to we mere mortals.

And if you’re been paying attention, what Senator Smith was saying isn’t anything new. EI was never the single be all, end all trigger issue. This has been clear since the spring. Throughout the summer, Ignatieff has dampened down the media-created election talk.

In the fall, the EI panel will report back, and the Conservatives will provide details on job creation, infrastructure spending and a plan to balance the budget. All of that will be evaluated in its totality, and a decision will be made.

All Smith said was to repeat EI isn’t the single trigger, it’s one consideration among many. And the timing makes an election the moment parliament returns unlikely. Once we have all the information, an evaluation will be made. But in the meantime, Canadians aren’t keen on an election and they want parliament to get things done and, as we’ve always been, the Liberals are willing to do that.

It’d just be nice if some of the other parties were too.

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I read the news today, oh boy...

and though the news was rather sad. Well I just had to laugh...

PM now the king of Senate patronage

Tory boss says he's qualified for job
Harper dubbed 'patronage king'
Stuffing the Senate
Critics blast PM over appointments
Harper's Senate picks have strong Tory links

Harper joins the crony club
Harper names Tory pals to Senate

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Quiet! Harper the economist is speaking!

Shhh!. Stephen Harper, economist extraordinaire, is speaking! Let's all listen:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today he will balance the federal government’s budget after the recession ends without reducing program spending or raising taxes.

Harper also said he will “never” cut money transfers to provinces, which are largely used to fund health care spending. He spoke to reporters in a televised press conference in Quebec City.

“At the end of this recession, we will go back to a balanced position and there is no need to cut program spending or increase taxes in order to accomplish that,” Harper said. “The Conservative government will never cut transfers to the provinces.”

So, if you're scoring at home, Harper is promising a budget deficit that his government vastly underestimated (and still does), a structural deficit that pre-dates the downturn, will be magically balanced without raising taxes, without cutting program spending, and without cutting transfer payments.

Either Harper, who is an economist don't you know, has some sort of economist budget balancing magic wand, or he's planning to get the hell outta dodge before the bills come due.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

A welcome mat with nice, comfy fur

Congratulations to Gary Doer, who is stepping down as leader of Manitoba's NDP and premier of the province after a distinguished career in provincial politics.

As Gary considers his future career prospects, I might remind him that over in the federal Liberal Party we already have two former NDP premiers, and a welcome mat with nice, comfy fur.

So, Gary, if you decide you don't want to gun for Jack Layton's job, you're always welcome over here in Liberal land. Bob and Ujjal will keep the light on for you...

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Fill in the Conservative hack

Sure, Stephen Harper said he believes Senators must be elected. And he does. He just didn't tell you he gets to write the ballot and cast the only votes...

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That's not rain on my leg, Mr. Harper

So, according to the media buzz, Stephen Harper is about to once again stack the Senate with unelected, unaccountable Conservative cronies. The Liberals will decry his appointment of partisan hacks, the Conservatives will say they need their hacks to balance our hacks, and the public will say shut up I’m having dinner.

Such is how the political game has always been played, like some sort of kabuki play, only without the flashy costumes. So why should anyone care? Doesn’t everyone always do this? Well, there is one subtle difference: Harper promised us he was different.

Say what you will about my Liberals, but we never made any claims to righteous moral piety when it came to the Senate. Sure, we made an effort to appoint well-qualified non-hacks, such as General Romeo Dallaire. Paul Martin even appointed several Progressive Conservatives, including Hugh Segal, as well as an (independent) NDPer to the Senate. But we also appointed our hacks too, and we never pretended otherwise.

Not so Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper and his many of marry crusaders emerged from the Western plains atop gallant white steeds to lay claim to the mantal of moral righteousness and superiority, promising they would never stoop so low. Here’s just a sampling of his comments over the years:

"We don't support any Senate appointments."
(Stephen Harper, Winnipeg Free Press, January 29, 1996)

"Despite the fine work of many individual Senators, the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the Prime Minister."
(Stephen Harper Leadership Website, January 15, 2004)

"In the 21st century, those who want to sit in the parliament of a democratic state should have a mandate from the people."
(Stephen Harper, February 7, 2006)

"A conservative government will not appoint to the senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people."
(Conservative Party website during 2006 election)

"As everyone in this room knows, it has become a right of passage for aspiring leaders and prime ministers to promise Senate reform - on their way to the top - but once they are elected, Senate reform quickly falls to the bottom of the Government's agenda. Nothing ever gets done."
(Stephen Harper, Speech on Senate Reform before Senate Committee, September 7, 2006)

"I don't plan to appoint senators; that's not my intention."
(Stephen Harper, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, January 14, 2006)

"Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House."
(Stephen Harper Leadership Website, January 15, 2004)
If Harper hadn’t have made such a high-handed morally righteous crusade promising to be the white knight of Senate reform, then I wouldn’t really care that much. Sure, I’d slam him for appointing his hacks, but that’s just la guerre. It’s form. But by laying claim to such moral piety, by casting himself as the saint, when he gets down in the muck with the rest of us mere mortals he falls all the further.

In other words, Stephen Harper, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you don't build it, John McCallum will come.

Beware, Conservatives! If you don't build it, John McCallum will come.

Prior to meeting with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Liberal Finance Critic John McCallum stopped by one of the city's announced federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund projects only to find no shovels in the ground.

"Canada is in a jobs crisis, yet Stephen Harper has missed his opportunity to create the new jobs we need," said Mr. McCallum. "Jim Flaherty said that these projects had to be going within 120 days after the budget in order to stimulate the economy. 211 days later, at the end of summer c
onstruction season, the budget has been an abject failure."

McCallum stopped by the park at Dundas Street and Kerns Road to view the progress that had been made with the $2.3 million promised by the Conservatives to develop it. There was no evidence of any construction.


"Stephen Harper is obviously stuck. He said back in early June that 80% of the Economic Action Plan was already implemented," said Mr. McCallum. "But millions of Canadians are scratching their heads wondering why they can't see any of it actually happening."

(more)


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A tunnel of some love, and some hate

The proposal, apparently supported by the federal and Ontario provincial governments, to build a $38 million pedestrian tunnel to Toronto's Island Aiport is drawing fire from the usual crowd: Mayor David Miller and his left-wing ilk.

Let me say that I'm not opposed to the tunnel. I think it should be easier to get to the Island airport, and I find the anti-development opposition against the Island airport off base. However, I would feel better about it were the Island airport open to airlines other than just Porter Air. I think that should be part of the discussion here.

Still, this is a worthy public infrastructure project that will benefit the public and create jobs. You know what would be another worthy project? A train link to Pearson Airport. With Vancouver's Canada Line to YVR now open, the situation in Toronto is doubly embarrassing.

We should do both projects. But the absence of one happening isn't an argument not to do the other.

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Harper and Layton meet, world keeps spinning

It appears little has come, at least yet, of yesterday's Harper-Layton tete-a-tete. My specualtion from yesterday stands though: it's in Harper's best interests to do a deal with Layton, but it would be a risky proposition for Layton to accept.

We'll see what the future may hold. And what the other parties will do. Either my Liberals will decide to go or they won't; about all I can say about that is we'll have to wait and see. What I found interesting, though, was Layton's attempts at positioning in his post-meeting presser.

The reporters tried to pin him down on whether or not he'll vote to defeat the government if the Liberals do (hey, could happen). Layton dodged, saying he doubts the Liberals ever will, that his party is the "least likely" of any party to support the government, the Liberals have voted with the Cons seven million times, and so on.

His unwillingness to give an unequivocal answer was interesting. Frankly, I wouldn't want to be pinned down either were I him, so strategically continuing to deflect any responsibility over to the Liberals is the right play for him. But when I read posts from NDP bloggers critizizing Michael Ignateff for refusing to give the same unequivical answer that Layton refuses to give, it does amuse me.

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Peter Worthington misses the point on Suaad Hagi Mohamud

Oh, why do I read Sun columnists? Today Peter Worthington argues that it's "easy to sympathize" with Suaad Hagi Mohamud, who was detained in Kenya and separated from her son because officials doubted the veracity of her passport. It's easy to sympathize, but he not so subtly implies we really shouldn't, using her decision to sue the government for her ordeal to imply she's out for money, not for justice.

What Peter either ignores or overlooks is this is how our legal system works. A person is wronged, and the usual civil legal remedy is a lawsuit and a cash judgment. It's not just about a pay day for the plaintiff. It's about teaching an expensive lesson to the defendant, one a cash judgment makes more likely to stick. And in this came the defendant, the federal government, sorely needs to be taught a lesson.

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Call grows for a BC salmon summit

I wrote yesterday on BC's growing salmon crisis, and I'm glad to read today that the NDP is echoing the earlier call by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh for an emergency salmon summit. As I outlined yesterday, this is a critical industry for British Columbia, and its crisis. It's critical that the federal government bring the stakeholders to the table here.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Texas executed an innocent man

This, Stephen Harper, is why Canada MUST seek clemency in all death penalty cases involving Canadian citizens. Because even in so-called democratic countries, they get it wrong. Because innocent people can be put to death. Because you don't get any do-overs. And because capital punishment is just plain wrong.

Chicago Tribune:

In a withering critique, a nationally known fire scientist has told a state commission on forensics that Texas fire investigators had no basis to rule a deadly house fire was an arson -- a finding that led to the murder conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

The finding comes in the first state-sanctioned review of an execution in Texas, home to the country's busiest death chamber. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, it could lead to the first-ever declaration by an official state body that an inmate was wrongly executed.

Indeed, the report concludes there was no evidence to determine that the December 1991 fire was even set, and it leaves open the possibility the blaze that killed three children was an accident and there was no crime at all -- the same findings found in a Chicago Tribune investigation of the case published in December 2004.

Willingham, the father of those children, was executed in February 2004. He protested his innocence to the end.
Daily Kos:

Those smiles belong to Amber Willingham and her father, Cameron Todd Willingham.

Both of them were killed because of an accidental fire. Amber and her two sisters died in the blaze. Cameron was wrongfully executed by the state of Texas for setting it.

Today, Texas took the first big step in admitting it murdered an innocent man in its death chamber. And the implications are huge.



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Layton and Harper to meet for tea and crumpets

Very interesting news just breaking over the wire:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 25, 2009
LAYTON MEETS WITH PM IN ADVANCE OF FALL SESSION

OTTAWA – New Democrat Leader Jack Layton will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Langevin Block to discuss the fall session of Parliament. Layton plans to speak to reporters immediately following the meeting.

2:50 PM-Photo-Op, Layton enters Langevin Block 80 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON

4:00 PM - Press Conference with Jack Layton, National Press Theatre 150 Wellington St.
I’m told the meeting is at Harper’s request. I have no information as yet of a meeting being requested of or accepted by Michael Ignatieff or Gilles Duceppe.

My speculation? Stephen Harper obviously wants to play let’s make a deal to keep my government alive.

Where I Harper, I’d settle Jack in, butter him up with questions about his new grandchild, and then offer him a deal on employment insurance. Probably pretty close to what the Liberals were asking for. And I’d tell Jack that this is a great deal for him, because a) The NDP isn’t really in a financial position to wage an election this fall, b) The polls aren’t favourable for him either, and c) The deal would let the NDP claim victory on EI by getting the deal the Liberals couldn’t d) He can spin it to marginalize the Liberals at NDP expense.

If I were Harper, why would I offer Layton a deal? Well, I know that those Ipsos numbers are an outlier, I know a fall election could be very bad for me and at some point, the Liberals could finally decide to take the leap. So I don’t want an election this fall. I also know that, at this point, this is likely my last election as leader unless I get a majority, and that’s not in the cards right now.

And I know that, if I’m going to make a deal with anyone, I want it to be with the NDP. A deal with the Liberals is fine, but no fringe benefits. A deal with the separatist BQ is unpalatable. But a strong NDP saps strength from the Liberals, which is to my benefit, so a deal with the NDP is my first choice.

So a deal makes all kinds of sense for Stephen Harper, and for the Conservatives. But it takes two to tango. The more important question is does a deal make sense for Jack Layton and the NDP?

Strategically, you can argue it does. An election this fall wouldn’t be ideal for the NDP. It would stretch their finances significantly, and the polling shows they’d drop seats, particularly in Ontario, which would only be partially be offset by gains elsewhere. And were I Jack Layton, I’d be wondering how many more elections I have left in me. I’ve made steady gains to this point, but I’m still short of Broadbent levels, and I may never have another chance like I did last fall. People like Mulcair are waiting in the wings. I’d be wondering if I really want to roll the dice this fall, so a deal may be attractive.

However, were I Layton, I’d also know it would need to be a helluva deal if I’m going to be able to sell it to my supporters, and convince them I’m not just doing what I’ve been accusing the Liberals of doing for some time: caving and propping up a Conservative government that is hostile to so many of our deeply held principles. A deal takes away the “xxx consecutive confidence votes” and “only real opposition” memes we’ve been carefully cultivating and lets the Liberals go on the offense, and the only hope to counter that without looking totally morally bankrupt and risking polarizing the electorate between the LPC and CPC is to be able to claim you’ve extracted significant and meaningful concessions, from the Conservatives, concessions deal the Liberals could never have gotten.

Is such a deal likely to be on offer for Layton? Were I Harper, it would be, for the reasons already outlined. Were I Jack, I’d want more than a deal on EI. And even then, I’d be wary.

But we’ll see in a few hours, I suppose. Could be Harper just wants some help on his hockey book. Or maybe Harper really does want an election, and he's running a replay of last fall. Unlikely, however.

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B.C.'s growing salmon crisis

There’s a growing salmon crisis in British Columbia, and you can be assured it’s going to be an election issue on the left coast this fall, or whenever the next campaign comes. The fishery is a critical industry to the province that crosses many levels: commercial fishing, tourism, First Nations. The ripples of the apparent collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run, which DFO is now projecting will number 1.7 million sockeye after earlier projecting 13 million, will be widespread.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh drew attention to the issue recently:

Ujjal Dosanjh, a Liberal MP whose riding lies near the north arm of the Fraser, said Thursday the situation is grave enough that it deserves to be the focus of an intergovernmental conference involving federal, state and provincial representatives.

The collapse of the Fraser run “is going to have an impact on the aboriginal community, the commercial fishery and potentially the ecosystem as well – and that's pretty significant,” said Mr. Dosanjh.

“Governments on both sides of the border [need] to come together to look at this situation and determine if there's anything we can do to ensure this doesn't continue.”
And a column by Stephen Hume in the Vancouver Sun today also draws attention to the issue:
Have we so degraded the Fraser that we are now in the early stages of an Atlantic cod scenario for British Columbia's iconic wild salmon? Is there something else going on in this enormous ecosystem that has implications for us humans who are perched atop the food chain, perhaps more precariously than we like to think?

I don’t claim to have the answers on what is a very complicated situation, and one that is fraught with sensitive and politically dicey questions (farmed vs. wild salmon, commercial fishers vs. sport fishers vs. First Nations treaty rights, and more).

But I do know that this is a very serious situation that isn’t getting the attention it deserves from either the provincial or federal governments. And I know how critical the salmon industry is to the province, and the ripples its collapse would have.

Sport fishing is critical to our tourism industry, with anglers from around the world spending big money to come into places like Campbell River to hook a big salmon. I know the commercial fishing industry is a major economic driver for the province, particularly small communities already hit hard by the softwood lumber dispute. These communities and families are struggling as it is. And I know the salmon fishery is a culturally vital way of life for many of our First Nations communities.

So I think Dosanjh’s call for a salmon summit is very important. The stakeholders need to all come to the table with the various levels of government, and particularly the scientists at DFO, to talk about just what the heck is going on here, and how we can all work together to safeguard the resource for our generation, and for future ones.

It’s past time that the profile of this issue was raised.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

A poll for every season

If you're a Conservative, you'll highlight this poll, out today, to the exclusion of all others:

The Conservatives now command 39% in support among decided voters, compared with 28% for the Liberals, according to the survey, conducted exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National by Ipsos Reid. Since the last Ipsos poll two months ago, the Tories have climbed five percentage points, while the Liberals have slumped seven points.

If you're a Liberal, you'll highlight this poll, also out today, and note how it is in line with every other poll from every other pollster, with the exception of that other one today from Ipsos:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put the parties in a statistical tie, with 32 per cent support for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the Tories.

The NDP were at 16 per cent, the Greens at 11, and the Bloc Quebecois at nine.

The numbers have barely budged throughout the summer, a period in which voters are typically disengaged.
That same Liberal might also mention that Decima polled 2,000 people from Aug. 13-23 and is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points 19 times in 20, while Ipsos polled 1,001 people from Aug. 18-20 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

However, if you're smart you'll ignore the constant barrage of media polls as simple white noise and focus instead on what's important: building your organization, electing candidates, fundraising, and ensuring that you're ready to fight the next election, whenever that may be.

Because polls, as they say, are for dancing.

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EI EI No

With the news last week that the Liberals are asking the Parliamentary Budget Officer to price their EI reform proposal following Conservative pricing shenanigans, and the Conservatives retreating to a no national standard stance after earlier saying it made sense (and having offered no proposal of their own), it appears the EI reform panel summer camp is all over except for the battle over framing.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

So, what does this mean as political strategy, and what does it mean for this fall?

First, my NDP friends seem to take this as both vindication of their position (vote against the government but we don’t want an election) and that “taking EI out of the House of Commons” was a mistake. They’re wrong on a few counts. It wasn’t really in the HoC. The NDP private member's bill was non-binding and ignorable by the government. The House wasn’t going to sit all summer anyways. And the NDP bill will still be there this fall. This process was about seeing if common ground could be found to create legislation that might actually pass the HoC, might actually come into effect, and therefore might actually help the unemployed. Sadly there were, and are, no bills in the HoC that will do that.

Second, for the Conservatives, it’s about positioning. Were they ever serious about finding agreement on EI reform? Quite possibly not. I’d argue that, if they surveyed the situation a few weeks ago and decided it was in their interests, they’d have gotten serious. They decided they don’t need to do a deal, for whatever reason: they don’t view it as affordable, they like their polling, or they think they don’t need to appease the Liberals. They’ve made their calculus, for better or for worse.

Thirdly, for the Liberals, it was about EI and it wasn’t about EI. We believe in EI reform, and this panel offered the best chance, albeit a slim one, at getting there in the short-term. EI reform isn’t going to happen in the short-term without government buy-in; the alternative is forcing an election on it. No one wanted an election in the summer, this offered a chance at EI reform while avoiding an election no one wanted, so it was worth a shot.

So, with EI reform dead, what now? Will EI be the Liberal election rallying cry? No, it won’t. But that doesn’t mean the EI reform failure doesn’t bring us closer to an election.

For the Liberals, I think that, in addition to avoiding bad election timing, this panel was about taking a flyer by giving the Conservatives a chance to make this minority situation work. I’d argue it’s a chance the Conservatives spectacularly blew with their cavalier attitude and approach to this issue, which explains why they’re trying so hard to spin it the other way.

IF the Liberals do try to force an election this fall, the EI failure will likely fit into the narrative thusly, and EI won’t be the issue: the issue will be making parliament work and competence to govern. The EI panel will be held up as the latest example of the Liberals being the one party willing to put some water in its wine to make this minority parliament work by sitting down and trying to find common ground with the government.

We don’t blindly oppose everything, and we don’t take a my way or the highway approach. We try to get things for Canadians. And, once again, the Conservatives returned that principled approach with partisan attacks, leaving Canadians to suffer.

That should be the trigger narrative (which disappears after a day or two anyways), and ironically it’s not dissimilar to Harper’s when he triggered the 2008 vote. Except, this time, it’s actually true. Parliament has become disfunctional. Despite our efforts to make Parliament work, Harper has consistently shown he has no interest in working with the other parties in the interest of Canadians. So it’s time for a change.

Or so says I, at least.

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Are the Conservatives forgetting their Flanagan?

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the Conservatives have deputized "democratic reform" minister Steven Fletcher to lead a new charge to end the per-vote subsidy for political parties.

As the article rightly points-out, such a move would no longer mark the financial death-knell of the Liberal Party of Canada. Under the leadership of Alf Apps and Rocco Rossi the party's fundraising machine has been reinvigorated, and the subsidy is no longer the lifeline it once was for the party.

Still, I'm not necessarily ready to support its elimination. When the Liberal government of Jean Chretien brought-in the subsidy, it was to counter the elimination of corporate and union donations, which cut-off a major source of funding to political parties. The Conservatives tightened the taps even further, by sharply limiting personal donations from around $5400 to today's cap, which IIRC is around $1100.

I remember when Stephen Harper argued money was speech and shouldn't be constrained, but I won't digress. I'll just say that I may me amenable to re-visiting the per-vote subsidy were such a move coupled with a significant increase in the personal donation limit. I think that would be a fair compromise.

But what led me to blog on this issue though was this graph from the Free Press article:

As well, the Conservatives cutting off the vote tax would not cripple the Liberals finances but would hamper the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, both of which earn more from the vote tax than from donations.

And that would be bad news for the Conservatives, whose victories are in part due to the splitting of votes on the centre-left of the political spectrum.
That's a very good point. Strategically, it's in the best interests of the Conservatives to ensure a strong NDP. That's Flanagan 101. A strong NDP pulls votes from the Liberals (not saying the Liberals own those votes or anything, just that they draw from the same well) which creates splits that help elect Conservatives. Battleground Ontario is a good example of this. A number of recent Ontario polls have pointed to Conservative losses in the 905, driven in part by Liberal strength and coresponding NDP weakness. That's a bad picture for the CPC.

So while going after the per-vote subsidy might have made good strategic sense for the CPC when the LPC was a fiscal basketcase, today you could argue it would actually be strategically counter-productive for them.

Of course, there is the chance this is about what's right for the CPC, and not strategic positioning and sticking it to their opponents.

Hey, there's a first time for everything.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fox gave Huckabee a show?

I'm down in Denver for a few days for work, and one of my favourite things to do when I'm down in the US of A is to watch Fox News. In small doses, of course. I don't want to end up in an American hospital with bleeding ears.

Did you know they gave former (and future?) Republican presidential nomination candidate Mike Huckabee a show. It's quite amusing so far? He speaks in a flat monotone. And he even has a studio audience, who seem to enjoy his occasional lame jokes.

Speaking of health care, as I came down the dial Huckabee was in full rant mode (for Huckabee, that is), with the theme of how he'd trust Walmart more than the government to deliver health care. Because if he's not satisfied with the product he buys at Walmart, he can return it. I'm confused, Mike. If you're not satisfied with your Walmart colonoscopy, what exactly will you return for a refund? And will Walmart import the liver for your transplant from China?

It gets better, though. He ended with a line (I'm paraphrasing) until the government has demonstrated they can deliver bottled water to people, I don't want them delivering babies.

A more obvious Katrina-reference I have never seen. Remind me again, Mike, whose watch that was on.

Anyway, gotta go. After the commercial, Huckabee is interviewing Farah Fawcett's best friend on her new book.

Ah, Fox News.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

A sleepy NDP convention

In this delegate's defence, I've been catching snippets on CPAC and I'm still awake, and besides, I hear Halifax can be a real party town. Probably sleeping off a wild night of plotting to take back the means of production and what not.



Oh, I'm a broken dipper on a Halifax peer.

The last of Layton's privateers...

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An update from the Michael Ignatieff Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tour 2009

I know it's been a few days since I've posted any updates from the Michael Ignatieff Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tourapolozza 2009. Apologies. Don't mistake the lack of updates as evidence he has been traveling or something. I assure you, that is most decidedly not the case.

For example, here's some of the media hits his non-travels didn't generate the last few days:

Charlottetown Guardian: Get ready for possible fall vote, Ignatieff tells Egmont Liberals
Chronicle Herald: Ignatieff touts ferry subsidy
CBC: Ignatieff takes aim at P.E.I.'s sole Tory MP
Telegraph-Journal: Ferries need sustained funding: Ignatieff
Telegraph-Journal: Stimulus 'lacks a theme'

And here's some updates from the Liberal.ca blog with lots of details on where Michael hasn't been, and what he hasn't been doing while he's been there:

August 12: From Yarmouth to Clark's Harbour
August 13: In Saint John, New Brunswick
August 14: Touring Prince Edward Island

Here's a video of Michael not visiting ambulance manufacturer Tri-Star in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia:



And the Liberal Flickr site has been updated with lots of photos of where Michael hasn't been this week.

Here's Michael not chatting with a worker at the Tri-Star manufacturing plant in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Here's Michael not chatting with 300 seniors and their families at the Clark’s Harbour Garden Party in Nova Scotia.

Here are Michael and Zsuzsanna not touring the Waugh Brothers Potato Farm in PEI.

No, that's definitely not the Confederation Bridge behind Michael and Zsuzsanna.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Bravo, Brad Lavigne: You've made Dana Larsen a martyr

Whether you agree with Dana Larsen's banishment from the NDP convention or not (personally, i think banishment is an over-reaction), I think it's fair to say that NDP executive director Brad Lavigne and the party brass have handled this whole affair very poorly.

The Larsen saga continues to dominate the #hfx09 twitter feed, as his supporters within the party voice their displeasure.

The reports from the policy prioritization session this morning, which apparently saw the floor vote to move the marijuana anti-prohibition resolution from 20th spot (where it will never reach the floor) to 2nd, and the vote then nullified and the resolution sent back down to the basement because (depending on who you talk to) of either a procedural oversight (vote was called before a speaker had spoken against it) or procedural shenanigans (party brass fiddling the rules to have time to stock the room with opponents), won't help quiet matters either.

The Larsen story hit a number of media outlets this morning, and according to Larsen's tweets there's more to come:

Metro: Turfed B.C. NDP delegate plans to stay in Halifax
CP: NDP hoping to turn provincial wins into federal seats as party meets in N.S.
North Shore Outlook: Pot activist Larsen says he was ousted from NDP convention
Macleans: What happened to you, NDP? You used to be cool

Instead of sulking at home, Larsen is hanging out on the sidewalk outside the convention centre and telling his story:



And he's finding support from within and without the party including from the youth officer for Hamilton Centre NDP MP David Christopherson, who calls the party's handling of Larsen undemocratic:



It's becoming abundantly clear that what Lavigne and the NDP have done here is create a martyr, and Dana is more than happy to climb up on that cross. All in all, I bet he's pleased as punch with the way this has all worked out.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Harper: So disapointed in the failiure of others

Dear nuclear people: Stephen Harper is very, very disappointed in you!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is urging Canada's beleaguered nuclear agency to pick up the pace in repairing a leaky reactor at Chalk River, Ont., which won't be back up and running until at least next spring.

Harper said he's "disappointed" with the latest delay in returning the reactor to service, adding that Ottawa will continue to push Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to supply isotopes as soon as possible.

"We do hope there will be more action, more quickly, on the part of Atomic Energy of Canada," he said Thursday in Kitchener, Ont.
It's just a shame that Harper is only the Prime Minister and the leader of the Canadian government, so there's nothing he can do about the isotope crisis other than express his disappointment in the failures of others.

And it's a shame his Natural Resources minister, Lisa Raitt, is equally powerless here.I mean, she's only the minister responsible for AECL. There's nothing she can do or could have done.

It's just all so ... disappointing.

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Et tu, Monte Solberg?

Monte Solberg, a former cabinet minister in Canada's NEW Government (TM), lectures the New Democratic Party on why they're not that New.

So, the New Democratic Party is considering a name change.

Good.

Organizations that have hung around for decades don't usually get away with calling themselves "new," except in a relative way.

For instance New England will always be much newer than England, so it still works.

Monte and I love irony.

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NDP ban former candidate Dana Larsen from Halifax convention

After rumours swirled around Facebook and Twitter all day yesterday, it now appears clear that the NDP has banned Dana Larsen, a party member, activist and its one-time candidate for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, from attending its convention this week in Halifax.

Larsen sent the following tweet around 10am EST this morning:

I just had my observer pass taken away and was escorted out of the Convention Centre. I am banned from the convention and building! #hfx09
You may recall Larsen as the first of three NDP candidates in the last federal election from BC that were forced to resign in short succession (Kirk Tousaw in Vancouver-Quadra and Jullian West in Sannich-Gulf Islands were the others). Larsen, a long-time marijuana activist and former Marijuana Party organizer, became contreversial when news of that activism history hit the mainstream, including his authorship of the Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone book and his videos for Pot-TV on YouTube.

While the party seemed bizarely taken by surprise by this history (which he never hid), it was likely survivable but what appeared to be a bridge too far was the videos Larsen produced that showed him driving under the influence of marijuana and acid. Larsen resigned his candidacy and was replaced by Bill Frost, who finished third behind Conservative John Weston.

Despite losing his nomination, Larsen has remained an active New Democrat as well as an advocate for marijuana legalization, and in the lead-up to the Halifax convention has been organizing behind a related "end prohibition" resolution to be debated at the convention.

As I wrote in February, his organization included offering assistance with transporting and lodging to delegates who were willing to support his anti-prohibition resolution:

He made the offer again in June:

It appears to be this activity that has gotten Larsen into trouble with the party brass. According to the messages posted in Facebook and Twitter by NDP activisits, NDP national director Brad Lavigne intervened to bar Larsen from the convention over allegations of vote-buying.

The decision has sparked a Facebook campaign t
o have Lavigne overturn the decision. Yesterday the wall of the NDP convention Facebook event page was filled with posts condemning the party's decision. Today, the wall has been disabled and is no longer viewable. However, I managed to grab some screenshots yesterday. Here's a taste:


Instead, the discussion has now moved over to the "Call Brad Lavigne to support Dana Larsen, Marijuana Legalization" event page on Facebook, as well as a lengthly Rabble thread.

Before the banning, Larsen was already complaining
about moves to limit policy debate at the convention, and in July complained his attempt to purchase an ad for his "End Prohibition" group in the convention program was denied.

If Larsen did cross the "vote-buying" line then that may be legitimate grounds for his expulsion, but as many have noted in the Rabble discussion threads its a fine line that would seem to be crossed with regularity.

Even so, stepping from revoking delegate status to banning someone from the convention centre is quite a step for the potentially soon to be Democratic Party. And it seems Larsen does have a sizeable constituency within the party, given the backlash this decision has sparked.

And, to put this in the bigger-picture context, it reminds me of this story from the last election:
The NDP is denying they made an informal deal with marijuana activist Marc Emery.

Emery alleges he and NDP Leader Jack Layton had an agreement to bring Marijuana Party members to the New Democrats. In exchange, Emery claims the NDP said they would continue efforts to decriminalize pot.

Emery told CTV.ca in a phone interview from Vancouver he told Layton in 2003 that he and his supporters would bring thousands of new people to the NDP, offer up qualified candidates, and get voters excited about the party.

"We did all that. We fulfilled every obligation we had," he said Saturday.
Layton denied any sort of arrangement with Emery; the Larsen affair would seem to underline that, even if there was such an agreement, its long dead. Which makes one wonder just how much organizational heft did Emery and his followers, such as Larsen, bring to the NDP? And how much will they miss it if they leave?

UPDATE: Here's the letter from Lavigne to Larsen explaining the party's decision, and Larsen's reply.

FURTHER UPDATE: Here's Marc Emery commenting on the Larsen affair (emphasis mine):
Larsen has been active in 12 previous NDP provincial and national conventions. He considers himself to have allies in NDP MP’s Bill Siksay and Libby Davies. Davies was to introduce Larsen’s resolution that calls for the NDP to adopt a clear, detailed policy calling for non-punitive regulation of the cannabis industry and the distribution of cannabis.

Suddenly, earlier this week, the NDP party brass dispatched Davies to the Middle East as part of a parliamentary fact-finding mission, even though she was scheduled to speak at the convention this weekend.

Bill Siksay was to replace Davies in speaking to the motion at the NDP resolution prioritization meeting, which is being held on Friday morning outside the convention, as the call to order does not come into effect until Saturday morning. This decision to hold the prioritization of resolutions meeting on Friday, before the NDP delegates have arrived and been called to order is illegal. Many delegates won’t have arrived by Friday morning, and since it is not on the convention agenda, many wouldn’t even be aware of it.

The reason for this is that Dana Larsen expects over 150 delegates who are his allies to be at the convention on Saturday, and the NDP is trying desperately to sideline Larsen’s increasing clout and presence in the NDP.
UPDATE: Kirk Tousaw (former NDP candidate for Vancouver-Quadra forced to resign over marijuana issues) weighs-in as well:
What on earth is the NDP doing? Banning people from "democratic" gatherings, censoring, fighting against progressive policies?


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some advice for Elizabeth May

Regular readers may have been able to suss-out over time that I’m a Liberal supporter, but I like Green Party leader Elizabeth May – she’s good people – so with the news that she has apparently settled on Saanich-Gulf Islands as her riding of choice in the next election, I’m going to set aside my partisanship for a few minutes and offer her some advice.

First, she should pick a riding and stick with it. This hopping from riding to riding is madness. That was supposed to be the idea with Central Nova, but apparently she has concluded that’s a long(er) shot, so she’s trying another.

Frankly, I don’t think SGI is winnable for her either. If Conservative minister Gary Lunn wasn’t unseated last time, I think he’s pretty darned secure, barring calamity or major scandal. Look at the perfect storm the Liberals had in the riding last time – an unpopular minister, a popular Liberal candidate with strong green credentials in a very green-friendly riding (Briony Penn won't run again but is supporting Liberal nomination candidate Renee Hetherington), and no NDPer on the ballot after their candidate was forced to resign due to scandal. And still, despite lots of alleged shenanigans (phantom demon calling, questionable third-party advertising) Lunn got back in with a four per cent cushion, and 43 per cent of the vote.

None of the other parties are going to give an inch to May (I know the Liberals will be running hard), so she’s going to have a helluva road to climb to build on the 10.45 per cent the Greens got in the riding. More likely, she’ll contribute to vote-splitting, ensuring Lunn’s re-election by a more comfortable margin.

Still, May has to run somewhere. And SGI is probably as good a riding as any for her as any, being traditionally one of the strongest Green ridings in the country. It’s all relative, of course, but you need to start somewhere.

And, frankly, the last thing she should care about is vote-splitting. It really shouldn't give her pause. This brings me to my next, and most important piece of advice: May needs to decide is she wants to lead a serious political party or not.

If her goal is just to advance green issues whatever way she can and to get the Conservatives out of power, she should just join the Liberals. I hear Liberal Party president Alf Apps invited her to do just that, and she declined. That’s fine, she’s made her choice: now she needs to own it.

That means making clear that her mission is to elect Green Party of Canada candidates in all 308 ridings across the country, period. While she turned down Apps, she also reportedly said she’d like to be environment minister in a Liberal government. No, Ms. May. If that’s her goal, she should have run for the Liberals. These kind of mixed signals are demoralizing to her activists across the country, and don’t contribute to the Greens being seen as a serious party.

She needs to completely divorce herself from the idea of strategic voting. If she's running candidates everywhere she needs to support all of them, period. To do otherwise is unfair to them. In the last election, her mixed signals on this weren’t helpful. And the fact is, there is absolutely no scenario in which you can make a coherent strategic voting argument that ends with someone voting Green. The math just doesn’t work. So why go there? It doesn’t make sense.

So, my advice in a nutshell: pick a riding to put down roots in, avoid talk of strategic voting, who she’d like to be PM (unless its her) and what cabinet posts she’d like (except PM), and make clear she stands behind every Green candidate on the ballot and wants them all elected. If she's serious about building the Green Party, it’s the only way to go.

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More reports from the Ignatieff Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tourapolozza 2009

Yesterday the Michael Ignatieff Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tourapolozza 2009 did not take him to Cape Breton, where he didn't meet with local residents, fishermen, municipal leaders, and health workers.

Here is some of the local media coverage the tour did not generate yesterday:

Cape Breton News: Michael Ignatieff makes first visit to island since becoming leader
Chronicle Herald: Lobster, leadership on Ignatieff’s C.B. agenda
Daily Gleaner: Maritime tour

Here's a video of Michael not speaking to Cape Breton lobster fishermen yesterday at the Port Morien Wharf:



Here's a Liberal blog entry that doesn't talk about what Michael was up to in Sydney yesterday, and doesn't have photos and videos from yesterday's activities:

The weather today in Sydney was overcast, and entirely appropriate given the tough hurdles facing the local lobster fisherman we heard from down at Port Morien Wharf – from the declining price of lobster, to licensing issues. The fishermen’s message to Michael: we’re committed to making lobster fishing a sustainable industry and we need a supportive partner in Ottawa. Michael, meanwhile, reaffirmed Liberal support for the industry and referred to the pressure the Liberal team put on Minister Shea to address the issues affecting the livelihoods of thousands of Canadians. On a lighter note, he also hopped on one of their boats to have a look around.
Finally, here's a picture of Michael not speaking with a doctor while not touring the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre. More pics are not on the blog.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Michael Byers takes issue with NDP's attack on green shift

In the midst of an article where he spends the bulk of his time advocating a name change as the panacea for the NDP and far too little time on what really matters (policy reform), political science professor and former (and future?) NDP candidate Michael Byers has an interesting observation on NDP environmental policy in the last election:

In the last federal election, the NDP took the simple route of favouring cap-and-trade over carbon taxes. It ignored the fact that climate change will only ever be controlled by an across-the-board system of carbon pricing that includes both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax of some kind. A better approach would have been to support the intent of Stéphane Dion's proposal while identifying specific flaws, such as the failure to direct the resulting revenue into alternative sources of energy and an improved national rail network.
An interesting observation that both vindicates the Stephane Dion Green Shift (with the caveat of minor reforms around the disbursment of the funds raised) and without saying it outright, rejects the NDP strategy last election of demonizing the Green Shift, a strategy that didn't win it friends with the environmental movement and didn't help Carole James and the BC NDP much either when they tried it against Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals.

Of course, that didn't stop the professor from singing from the hymm book during the campaign.

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Harper bungles his way through amigos summit

I didn't realize just how poorly Stephen Harper's three amigos summit performance was until former (progressive) Conservative strategist and insider Norman Spector laid it all out like this:

On Buy America, the Prime Minister may have been let down easily by the U.S. President, but the kiss-off was no less a kiss-off for being delivered so smoothly. On health care reform — a question he knew he would be asked and had obviously prepared —he ducked instead of helping the President counter Republican disinformation by seconding Mr. Obama’s observation that the Canadian model is not on the table. Most gratingly, with an insipid smile on his face, Mr. Harper referred to provincial jurisdiction over health care — a half-truth, at best, given the constraints set out in federal legislation.
And there's more, from his odd interjections on Hondarus to his confusing NATO and NAFTA (hint: one's a military alliance, the other is a free trade accord.

And let's not forget Harper's decision to "Blame Canada" on immigration:



Perhaps Harper's report card was overly generous after all...

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Ignatieff will talk isotopes during Nova Scotia visit today

This week Michael Ignatieff's Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tourpaolloza 2009 takes him to the Maritimes.

Today he's in Cape Breton, where events are scheduled to include a visit to the wharf at Port Morien with MPs Roger Cuzner and Mark Eyking to talk with local fisherman, a bbq at noon at the Big Fiddle in Sydney and then a meeting with local officials and tour of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital’s cancer centre.

He’s expected to speak to reporters there on the need to produce more medical isotopes for early cancer diagnoses.

Medical isotopes are used to diagnose heart disease and some cancers, but earlier this year the world’s supply began to decline. So far, Nova Scotians haven’t been denied tests because of the growing shortage, according to a Canadian Press report.

Its a timely visit, given the continued incompetence Lisa Raitt and the Harper Conservatives have demonstrated on the isotope crisis as more and more Canadians have their medical testing delayed or postponed and costs for hospitals increase.

And we saw yesterday that one of the sources Raitt has continually been holding up as a Chalk River alternative, Australia, is falling apart. As the Liberals have been saying all along, Australia was never a viable alternative given their own internal issues. And now that has been sadly confirmed:

A fledgling Australian nuclear reactor isn't yet making enough isotopes to cover for a downed Canadian reactor that used to produce a third of the world's supply.

Doctors say Australia's OPAL reactor could still be a few months away from running at full speed.

"I've been told unofficially about two months, two-to-three months," said Dr. Christopher O'Brien, head of the Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine.

"So, some time mid-fall."

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Where Michael Ignatieff wasn't this weekend

Since many of you enjoyed the first set of pictures from the Michael Ignatieff Hiding in Plain Sight Summer Tourpaolloza 2009, here's a few more pictures showing where Michael wasn't and what he wasn't doing just this past weekend alone.


No, that's not a bunch of people with Michael at the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Here are Michael and Zsuzsanna not checking-out Pierre Trudeau's famous canoeing jacket at the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Here's Michael not listening to Jeremy Ward, curator of the Canadian Canoe museum, as he doesn't talk about a very shiny canoe.

Here's Michael not giving Zsuzsanna a flower at the Peterborugh Farmer's Market. And it's not pesticide-free either.

No, that's not a vendor at the Peterborugh Farmer's Market that Michael and Zsuzsanna are not meeting, and those aren't fresh vegetables that she's not selling.

No, that's not the media that Michael is not talking to at the
Peterborugh Farmer's Market. You so crazy!


This is not Michael giving a high-five to a girl at the Peterborugh Farmer's Market.
And her father is clearly not a Maple Leafs fan either.

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