Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday news round-up

I'm in Ottawa for the weekend and heading out soon to check-out the new War Museum before the Progressive Bloggers BBQ in Nepean this afternoon. Hopefully the RCMP won’t ban bloggers from the public park where we’ll be gathering but you never know, what the PMO wants the PMO gets.

In the mean time, here’s a quick round-up of recent news headlines:

*The Paul Martin Liberals were accused of having some many ideas and grand visions they couldn’t actually get much done. Harper’s Conservatives went the other way, five easily understandable and implementable priorities. As Jim Travers writes though there must be a middle ground, some vision from Deceivin’ Steven would be nice.

*Down in the U.S. the liberal blogs are playing a big part in the Democratic presidential race. I think we’re a long ways from having that kind of critical mass here in Canada, although I think the role blogging played in last year’s Liberal leadership race was a start, and the LPC inviting bloggers of all political stripes to the convention was a big step. I’m looking forward to my invite to the next Conservative convention…

*Speaking of leadership, more work is being done to bring together organizers from the different leadership camps, which is good to see. I think the grassroots have no appetite for sniping, if the organizers and mythical ‘senior Liberals’ can all get on the same page then we’ll be in good shape.

*An editorial in the Sudbury Star sums up nicely what I’ve been saying for months:

Stephen Harper has a little problem. Well into his second year in office, the economy is humming and he has no significant gaffes or scandals on his blotter. Earlier this year, the Tories threw everything they had at Liberal leader Stephane Dion in TV ads branding him a weakling, indecisive and a geek. Yet polls show the Liberals and Conservatives remain tied in a statistical dead heat.

How could this be?

The editorial says it comes down to personality, and that’s certainly part of it. Working without a script Harper is much less likeable, and when he’s challenged, which tends to happen in a minority parliament, he goes on the attack and becomes even less likeable. And with all his flip-flops he is no longer seen as principled. Which, the editorial points out, is one card Dion has remaining:
The field is wide open now for Dion, whom many political observers had written off, to start hammering Harper for his personal failings.

That's because Dion, Tory attack ads notwithstanding, is still mostly perceived to be a man of principle, rather than slick or pragmatic politics. He can stake out the moral high ground and be believed. His personal awkwardness, even as he works to move beyond it, can be recast as a badge of sincerity. Lemons, into lemonade.
*Steve Harper’s culture of defeat-apoloza tour 2007 is playing to less than rave reviews, and not just from Danny Williams. One newspaper publisher is particularly harsh:
"Islanders don't care if Stephen Harper is coming to P.E.I., and even if he brings his whole caucus here for a few days, it won't improve his standing with Maritimers in general," says Paul MacNeill, publisher of the Eastern Graphic, a P.E.I. institution and one of the region's most respected local newspapers.

"His visit here won't do a thing (to help his party). I guarantee you that."

A poly-sci prof puts it in more eloquent terms, though no less stark:
"Harper needs to repair the damage to the Conservative brand here in Atlantic Canada," says Peter McKenna, a political scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island, "but my read is that that ship has already sailed and it's probably too late."

Maybe it’s because of things like this:
Harper was scheduled to deliver what his spokesmen said would be a partisan, "anti-(Stephane) Dion" speech Wednesday night to an audience of Tories from P.E.I and New Brunswick.
Newsflash Steve: you’re Prime Minister. Maybe try giving people a reason to vote for you, rather than a reason not to vote Liberal. Especially this strategy seems to have earned him a polling tie with the Libs.

*Carol Skelton has announced she won’t be seeking re-election. Another rat fleeing a sinking ship, and more proof Stephane Dion is not a leader….oh wait, she’s Conservative, isn’t she? Never mind.

Indeed, she’s a Conservative cabinet minister from Saskatchewan (meaning she’ll be shuffled out for a new face soon) and, of course, wants to spend more time with her family. Surely it has nothing to do with probably getting smoked next election due to Conservative policies vis a vis the Wheat Board? Of course not, silly goose.
Experts say Ms. Skelton might have had a tougher time winning the riding. Indeed, she took it in a relatively close race last time around, winning by about 2,000 votes over NDP candidate Nettie Wiebe, a strong supporter of the Wheat Board and a former president of the National Farmers Union. Ms. Wiebe is nominated to run again.

*Speaking of the Wheat Board, the Regina Leader-Post rightly wonders why Steve “law and order” Harper seems to have so little respect for the law:
An unrepentant Harper admitted he was "disappointed'' with the court's decision. But he added "that doesn't change the determination of the Government of Canada to see a dual market for Canadian farmers.''

In other words, Harper is saying: "I don't care what the law says. I'm hell-bent on getting the wheat board out of barley marketing, come hell or high water."

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ken said...

The court simply said that Harper could not change the Wheat Board without legislation. It will be interesting to see if Harper introduces legislation to allow dual marketing of barley. The opposition might not pass it although the Bloc Quebecois has no direct interest since the Wheat Board operates only in the west.
It is not surprising that Harper still wants to change the Wheat Board. This is Conservative policy after all. If he wins out then his coffers will swell with corporate donations and George Bush might even give him a hug.
The US and big grain companies have been trying to destroy the Wheat Board for years.

Anonymous said...

There is some give and take for Harper to manoeuvre.

Quebec can certainly benefit from cheaper food prices. Further incentives to Quebec farmers ie. ethanol production incentives and the Bloc will be on board.