Friday, May 30, 2008

Insite vs Ideology and Ignorance

I don't suppose many people are surprised by Clement's announcement that he will appeal the B.C. Supreme Court ruling. He has after all given every indication that he was leaning that way. He's stalled, commissioned studies that he hoped would buttress his case and avoided all and any direct answers for months.

The problem of course was, whenever he called for a study, the results came back in favour of the program. What to do? What to do? Not really a difficult question for this guy or the government he represents is it? They ignore fact, reason, science and create their own bizzarro world. They then proceed to lie and make it up as they go.

I watched the committee meeting yesterday and witnessed the arrogant Clement bluster his way through nonsense, absolute nonsense. He cherry picked a couple of items from a report and decreed that the science was 'mixed'. Baloney! The science is clear. What's foggy is this government refusing to own up to what they believe. He said that policy had to be based on more than science, it had to include ethical judgement. In this case, the word ethical is a substitute for the word 'moral' as defined by the Conservative Party of Canada.

This decision gives way to a much larger problem of course. You see, the funding is not really the issue here. It's important, but what the Con's are really trying to do is eliminate the extension of the exemption from federal drug laws. In doing so they would succeed in cutting off funding not only by the Fed's, but all levels of government and even private and social agencies. Clement can claim he doesn't want to shut Insite down, but that of course is precisely what he wants to do. One member on the Con side actually said that abstinence is the answer here. That would be David Tilson. He goes down in my book as the MP most deserving of the 'I'm angry at everything!' award.

It's obvious to me that this government ignores, or is incapable of seeing things in broad terms. They get stuck in their ideology and I presume determine how to play that to their base but this isn't just about addicts. It's about the community at large, you and me. It's about safety in that area for those who inhabit it. The Con's miss that of course and narrow the discussion to what I would term a juvenile overview.

This is not the only example. Consider Bill C-10. That's the Bill that has hidden in it's hundred's of pages, provisions for the Minister of Heritage to deny tax credits to the Art's community retroactively. Who do they have as their spokesperson? Charles McVety. Anyone who claims he does not have a narrow view of the world needs help. They don't cite him as their champ, but they aren't denouncing him either.

Then of course we have the Bill that will be voted on, on Monday. Hidden in there was the Immigration rights that go to the Minister. They lie about that too and have even advertised as to what the Bill will do, dishonestly, before the Bill has passed.

Then we have the Khadr debacle and the lies they tell around that. More on that in a later post.

My point here is this. The Harper government touted themselves to be on the 'up and up' and straight shooters. They are anything but. They have no qualms in discounting their opposition, no matter where it comes from. They call those who oppose them wimps, terrorist supporters and worse. Their supporters use more colourful terms, but lack the depth to debate, let alone see a full picture.

Guess who doesn't have courage here?

The Con's hide behind catch phrases and ludicrous commentary rather than be honest and say 'this is what we think'. They couch their views, because they know that is not how Canada thinks. That my friends is cowardly behaviour.

Polls last night told me that Canadians may be catching on. Here's hoping that trend stays fast.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's Left?

A new poll shows that satisfaction for the Con's is taking quite a hit. The participants voiced their opinion before finding out just how incredibly incompetent Bernier is.

A new poll suggests satisfaction with the performance of the Conservatives plunged 13 percentage points from December to May.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates satisfaction fell to 40 per cent from 53 per cent — with majority dissatisfaction in every region of the country except Alberta.

The Mood of Canada poll also found that just 27 per cent of respondents said the Tories were doing a good job in regard to government integrity.
And 65 per cent said the government was doing a bad job on accountability

I'll wait for further polls to substantiate this one before declaring that this is the definitive view of Canadians, but it is interesting to note that only a number equal to Harper's base thinks his government is doing a good job on accountability.

Wait. Accountability? Oh say it isn't so! How on earth could their signature plank, their trademark, their poster of John Accountability Baird, have apparently failed so badly? Oh, actually have to do more than utter the words and work partisan groups into a frenzy, for people to believe you.

Integrity is also mentioned. Boy, that's gotta hurt. Thankfully Canadians think that you have to actually demonstrate a measure of honesty and responsibility in order to be respected for having integrity.

If another poll supports the conclusions drawn by this one and that opinion holds, you have to wonder what Harper will run on in the next election. If Canadians do not think that the government is accountable or has integrity, that kind of puts a dent in the whole leadership thing doesn't it? So what will it be?

The Environment? Ha! Health Care? Nope, Clement tipped his ideological hand today. The Economy? Well I suppose they could try by there are an awful lot of sectors that are ticked off in that area too. Cultural Issues? Daycare? Human Rights?

I give up. Something tells me this might not be the last time we see this expression on Harper's face.

Update - Ooops, I think I spoke too soon concerning what he might run on . More details here.

Satisfaction with government integrity fell 10 points, with just 27 per cent saying the Tories are doing a good job in this regard. And 65 per cent said the Harper government is doing a "bad job" on accountability. A shortfall in this category would suggest the government is losing support in an area that was critical to their electoral success two years ago. The Conservatives rode a wave of voter disgust over the Liberal sponsorship scandal into office in 2006.

Some 74 per cent said the government was doing a bad job on health care, 70 per cent believe the Tories are not being attentive to the views and priorities of Canadians, and 66 per cent gave the thumbs down on environmental policy.

Ratings for providing "smooth, orderly government" sank 12 points to 40 per cent from 52.

"Good-job" ratings fell 16 percentage points on the government's promotion of economic growth, 15 points on fiscal management and 13 points on limiting taxes.

That reflected declining confidence in the overall economy, with the number of respondents who felt the economy was in good or excellent shape falling to 51 per cent from 78 per cent during the five-month period.
Among 20 government policy areas surveyed, 12 showed "significant deterioration," said Harris-Decima, three improved and five others remained stable.

The government's five best ratings were for: human rights protection ("Good job," 50 per cent); managing Canada-U.S. relations (48 per cent); public safety (48 per cent); international relations (45 per cent); and economic growth (43 per cent).

Human rights protection 50% good job? Okay, we seriously need more exposure of the truth here. Cda-US relations? Call me after the next US election. Public safety? Yawn, the 'fear' card. International relations? Something tells me that is going to change, especially when various cultural channels play all the horrible coverage we've received in the world of late. Economic growth, well nasty Flaherty will be sure to keep that number sinking. Good grief, 15% down?

It would seem that the master strategist Harper, according to this poll at least, is more of a master saboteur.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Quit!

Just how stupid does Harper think Canadians are?

Bernier quits? Ha! Another view.

Please. He quit? How idiotic does this government look? Harper primarily and if I recall correctly the guy who is leaving, Ian Brodie, recommended Bernier for the position.

During his news conference today Harper dismissed all and any accusations against Bernier, then turned on his heel with a look of disgust, now this? Van Loan did his usual, 'the Lib's are looking for dirt' in the House during QP, now this?

These guys are so incompetent, they don't know the meaning of the word.

It seems suspicious to me that an interview is coming out tonight (at 9:00 on, um , TVA I think) with Julie Couillard. We'll see if that was the deal breaker, but if it wasn't, who the hell did he leave a classified document in front of?

Emerson is going to stand in? The Minister of Trade is going to stand in as a proxy for Foreign Affairs? Good grief...just take the time to think about how weak this government is in terms of bench strength.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

You're Singing the Wrong Tune Jack

Jack was once again on television today, QP, arguing against a carbon tax shift.

Last week on the same show, David Suzuki was perplexed as to why the NDP would take such a stand. Today it was Elizabeth May.

What is interesting about the two claims is not so much that they think Layton is on the wrong side of the issue, but that they both attribute it to his ideology and are saying as much. They fear that Layton is doing what is strategically advantageous for the NDP rather than what is right, period. That really hits Layton's credibility between the eyes.

They also point out that by taking that stance and claiming that the tax shift will disadvantage the poor, he is mimicking Harper.

To be fair to Jack, he did not go on a rampage against the Lib's today. He was far more congenial, stating more than once that it was good we were having the debate. Obviously he's re-tuning his message and has felt the impact of his recent bad press, but boy, talk about a plan backfiring.

Well, I don't see how this is going to get any better for Jack, or any other political party that wants to pursue the line, 'a carbon tax shift will attack the poor and the middle class'. Here's yet another poll that suggests Canadians are way ahead of the politicians on this issue.

The McAllister Opinion Research survey, commissioned for the Pembina Institute - an environmental research group - and obtained by Canwest News Service, revealed that Canadians would be supportive of a federal carbon tax and would like to see its new revenues invested in improving energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.

When told that the government of British Columbia had recently introduced "a carbon tax on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," 72 per cent of those surveyed in the poll said that this was a positive step versus 23 per cent who thought that it was a negative step. The poll surveyed 1,009 Canadian adults across the country between April 29 and May 9, 2008 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

I'm not familiar with the research company, but whether or not you find them credible, I'm not sure as time goes on that you are going to see very different results.

Ignatieff was also on the show, mainly to speak to Bernier's incompetence but he also spoke to the Lib plan stating that in broad terms the plan was there, but details were still being ironed out. He also made it clear that the poor, seniors, and those on fixed incomes would not be disadvantaged.

With each passing day this one looks like it's a winner. I've said it many times before, but if we can keep the message honest and simple, I think Dion really has something here.

Oh, of course the Con's will be out there fear mongering but as I've said before, they will be pretty isolated. But now they have Jack! Maybe he'll teach them some music and they will form a choir that sings to their converted?

Kidding aside, I think Jack is in a tough spot now. Harper always have been and btw, what a joke this is. Dion however is on the right side of the issue as it stands today. The key is to stay there.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Dion...

The release of a poll last week that pegged Dion's approval rating at 10% caused some pretty negative reaction from some fellow bloggers.

Fair enough, I understand the frustration. I don't agree however with the conclusions drawn by some , both of whom I have tremendous respect for, btw.

I'll begin by saying that I share their frustration and agree that the poll showing was abysmal. That said, my frustration lies more with the fact that Canadians, I don't think, have an accurate picture of Dion. Should they? Yes and the responsibility for that has to lie with him as well as the party.

It could be argued that the media has done little to portray him as he is and often prefer to rely on whatever the Con talking point du jour is. While I think that has been true for much of his tenure, it has to be noted that aside from the tabloid hacks, the tone of his coverage shifted when he announced pricing carbon. In other words, when he speaks to substance, he's suddenly respected.

I also considered all that he has been faced with since becoming leader and a consistent narrative that those things must be rectified before considering an election. The list was long and whether or not what we were reading was 100% accurate, anyone who thought all of that was going to be corrected in a matter of months, I don't think was being realistic.

I've never taken over a dysfunctional company, but I have been charged with putting departments in order that had years of bad habits, cronyism, conflicting goals, (personal and general), etc. Not fun work and certainly not easy. People who you think you can rely on often end up not being who you were led to believe they were. Anyway, suffice it to say that much work had to be done and apparently much of it has taken hold. Good news, but not the end of the story obviously.

I think why Dion will stand up to scrutiny really boils down to the fact that the real Dion has not yet been seen. He's not an attack dog, which is the traditional role for the leader of the opposition. He's not a gregarious guy who delights in schmoozing and raising money for the party. He's also not a control freak that must know each and every detail about what his MP's will say or do. (As an aside, did you know that when you see Harper reading in the House during QP, he's often reading his Minister's briefing manuals? He initials the bottom of each page to indicate he's read it. Shudder.)

Since becoming Leader of the Opposition, Dion has been criticised for what he is not. The Con's are exploiting that, which is fair game. What's missed though is that he never had any intention of doing politics the way it had always been done. I personally think that is a good thing and will play in his favour. Now, I'm sure many are thinking, with an opponent like Harper who eats and breathes partisan old school politics, Dion should change his game. In my view, that will get us nowhere, or precisely what we have today. A deadlock for the moment and another minority in a similar configuration to what we see today, in the future.

I say that for a couple of reasons. I tend to think the polls are showing what they are because most people are just tuning out. They are tired of the bickering and they are seeing no vision. Dion has a chance to come forward, present himself as he is to Canadians with policy that I have no doubt will be appealing to many. I also think an important factor often gets lost in these polls. That is, there are a good number of groups in this country who have written Harper off. Income Trust investors, the Arts Community, Immigration Lawyers and advocates, 'urbanites' requiring daycare, Human Rights groups, advocates for various groups who rely on Access to Information, Environmentalists, etc.

Some included in those groups may have voted for Harper in the past, others may traditionally vote NDP. In a general election, I think with Dion being on the right side of these issues, he stands to pick up from both groups. Additionally, many included in these groups have a fairly high profile and could potentially add to the Liberal voice.

On the subject of pricing carbon, obviously this has to be presented clearly and succinctly, but I do not see it as a deal breaker in the least. It may feel counter intuitive at a time when prices are climbing and the economy is shaky, but if presented as a solution to that dilema, (a legitimate one), I think it is one of many issues that will spotlight a progressive direction for this country and underscore the regressive views of the Con's.

Finally, the poll indeed showed Harper with 32% approval and Dion with 10%, but it also said that 44% don't care for either. Here's the thing about that though. Harper is a known quantity, Dion is not yet.

Also, 32% of those polled said they thought the country was on the right track, (so Harper's base). 42% thought it was on the wrong track, which is the highest number since Harper took office and 26% were not sure. There is quite an opportunity there.

Let me end by saying that no one should be pleased with the Dion number, but I think to use it as a credible gauge of how Canadians would react in a general election isn't realistic.

“Stéphane is different from most leaders,” said Senator David Smith, the party's national campaign co-director, who is moving in the direction of the Keith Davey role. “He's one of the most intellectually honest people you're ever going to meet in political life..."

I may be wrong, but I have a sense that Canadians will warm to that before they'll be taken in once again by Harper's hyper-partisanship, nastiness and lies. Oh and in Ontario, the addition of Guy Giorno.

Obviously, time will tell.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Uh, Does This Guy Know That He's Not in Calgary Anymore?

I guess one day without publicity was just too tough for Poilievre to deal with. He must have spent the long weekend scouring the News looking for something, anything, he could become outraged over.

He chose...wait for it...something that the Fed's have no say in. That is, Ontario's decision to fund some sex reassignment surgery.

He's obviously pandering to his base, but my question would be why? It's bizarre to me that this guy speaks to his core who is obviously not going anywhere and he apparently forgets or ignores the fact that the Con's require seats in the 416 and 905 regions of Ontario.

Of course he's going to make his plea to the other guy who hates Ontario, Flaherty, who thankfully has no say in how Ontario allocates it's funds.

Maybe this is just more piling on but if that's the case they must have missed the fact that the last time they attacked McGuinty it didn't work out so well.

To be serious here though, I think one of two things are happening. They either have written off certain areas of Ontario so they think it doesn't matter what they say or, their hubris is such now that they believe their rather perverse way of looking at the world is actually so wide spread that they can actually have an impact.

I really hope Nepean-Carleton voters are paying attention. You elected a young, but old-school, Con/Reform/Alliance guy. Not only are his views regressive, he's a media seeking, glory seeking, egotist.

A Conservative commenter here recently tried to make the point that Liberals loved Poilievre. I'll say this. I love the stupidity of his arguments, the arrogance of his delivery and the banality of his cause.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stephane Dion: "The time has come to do what’s right, not what’s easy."

"I am convinced that far too many political elites underestimate Canadians. When you speak to the minds and big hearts of our great people, good policies translate into good politics." Stephane Dion

That sounds like a message to those in his caucus who might be nervous about this idea.

I'm convinced this guy is going to do politics differently. Is it risky? Of course, but I think the timing might be just right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thinking, Thinking...Hmmm, Maybe I Can Get Max's Job?

It's obviously early days, (earlier than early really), but further to my post yesterday about Dion and the tax shift he is proposing, it would seem that so far the conversation is headed in the right direction.

I think the Con's probably felt they had swept the Environment issue off the table and in a way they had. They threw around lofty terms that meant nothing really, chose Baird to spend more time excoriating the Lib's than actually doing anything concrete and called it a day.

Their followers bought it, but no one else did and realising that it was futile to argue with the government because they were deaf on the matter, the public conversation died down.

Dion has injected a new component into the debate that once again has people talking. Not only is that a good thing, based on what CPC MP's are saying, I think it's the Con's biggest nightmare.

I suspect that many Environmentalists will be contacted to react to this idea over the next few weeks, especially once it's finally announced and depending on what the plan ends up being, I'm pretty certain it will be endorsed.

We saw the first go-round of that playing out on Question Period today. Baird, blustered and sputtered and of course told us exactly what Dion was going to do, ignoring the fact of course that Dion himself hasn't said what he is going.

You can see where the Con's intend to take this. They begin by pointing out that Dion has changed his plan a few times. The suggestion being of course, that he is indecisive. It always makes me laugh when Con's bring up such arguments. It's such a validation of the fact that they are incapable of evolving and adapting to changing circumstances.

They then suggest that Dion cannot be trusted with tax dollars, because after all he has $64B hole that he has to fill. Umm, perhaps John forgets that a policy platform will be costed.

He then links Dion with favouring big business at the expense of the middle class . (Note, he almost slips and says that his party wants to go after big oil, lol). Well listen for yourself. He talks an awful lot but says nothing.

Conversely, David Suzuki was praising Dion's idea while condemning the Con non- plan. Baird can present his plan as something it's not as much as he likes. He will now once again be called out on it, not just by the Lib's, but by those who know. Who will Baird get to defend their non-plan I wonder? They can't go back to trotting out climate change deniers, they've now spent too much time chanting, we believe!

As was mentioned on the show the NDP may not fair too well here either. It's one thing to disagree with the Lib plan but if the experts come out for it, well, the NDP will are going to be arguing with them too. That's a rather bizarre spot for the NDP to be. Additionally, people like Jane Taber who see only black and white, will continue to lump the NDP and the Con's together, which is rather interesting in itself.

Finally, I think we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg here. I'm thinking/hoping that Dion's plan is not going to be restricted to simply a revenue neutral carbon tax, but likely include reinvestment, cap and trade and other ideas that will make it both palatable and difficult to criticise.

Time will tell of course, but in the meantime it's great to see the debate back on again and it's also nice to see the narrative walk away from weak leadership, to a bold and courageous move by Dion.

Oh, and if there really are nervous Lib's in the caucus, how about using that energy to develop strategy to sell this plan rather than criticise it? The next election isn't going to be a cakewalk any way you cut it and this at least puts something substantial in the mix that will expose the Con's fraudulant claims on this file.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Upcoming Contrasts - Vision vs Vacuum?

I've refrained from commenting on the specifics and ramifications of Stephane Dion's environment plan, primarily because he hasn't announced it yet.
Have you ever seen so much detailed bashing about something that hasn't been fully articulated? Some pundits and predictable suspects were telling us just how much this, yet to be articulated plan, would cost us at the pumps and just how much your heating bill would increase if Dion has his way. It was positively laughable.
So, that said, I'm not going to go there, but the tone of the debate is what really struck me and got me thinking about the next election. All the writing off of Dion has never struck me as being terribly meaningful. He hasn't been a superstar in the classic sense, but nor has he been the Disney character that the Con's have created.
He's a tenacious, intelligent man that is not easily rattled. It strikes me that he holds a vision of Canada and is determined to develop a way to achieve that vision, through optimism, honesty and openness.
Harper has a vision of Canada too but it's not one that he can articulate because the majority of the country does not share it. That presents a problem of course. His vision must be achieved through pessimism, (witness doomsday predictions), deception, (lying about..well just about everything), and being closed and controlling.
That is a striking contrast and one that I think will be very much on display during the next election.
The current thinking is that Harper wants to run on Leadership. That thinking is difficult to dispute given how he and his party have done everything in their power to suggest that Dion is not a leader. Here's the thing though. When the election finally rolls out, who will be showing leadership? The candidate that has ideas to bring the country where it needs to be or the one who is satisfied with the status quo and disparages progress?
What exactly is Harper going to hang his mantle of leadership on? Funding the military? Well, that plays to some and certainly most of us want our troops to be properly equipped, but it's hardly something that is guaranteed to get you into office.
Tax cuts? They will undoubtedly trot that out, but if people are not feeling richer, that's unlikely to go far. They can brag that they have decreased taxes by X million, but if the only place you see it is on a daily coffee, .03 to .05 cents cheaper, well that is hardly the stuff of leadership and inspiration.
So what are we left with? Program cutting, environmental irresponsibility, attacking the Institutions of the country, diminishing our role in the world vis a vis contemplating not campaigning for a seat on the Security Council, Senate Reform?
Come on, help me out here. Where precisely has Harper led us?
Dion is prepared to set out a vision. It's a risky one, but isn't that what leaders do? Don't they assist us in seeing who we want to be? Don't they lay out a way to make that possible? I think so.
Do you need to be an inspirational speaker to do that? Well, there is no disputing that that helps, but given that neither man is that particularly, I think what is more important in this upcoming race is the position each man takes.
Dion seems to be heading toward articulating the plan that he stood by throughout the leadership race. Have some of his positions changed? Maybe. That to me suggests someone who is able to adapt to what is. The Con's call adapting to current conditions a 'flip-flop'. Beyond ridiculous.
The upcoming race will be interesting.
Those of you who underestimate Dion, I think, are making a mistake.

It's Weally, Weally, Tuff Being a Conservative You Know!

The Conservative narrative has gone from silly to ridiculous. They all seem to singing that childhood song, "nobody likes me, everybody hates me..."

What I'm referring to here is their growing portrayal of being victims of everyone and everything that does not fully support them.

Perhaps they have determined they cannot make a solid case because of their lack of facts, so it may play in their favour to pull the victim card.

What I find so fascinating about this new tack, is how obviously they have missed the disconnect here. You cannot credibly portray yourself day after day as a bully and then expect to receive sympathy by crying out that you are the victim. It's preposterous, yet everyday there seems to be a new addition to their victim hood repertoire.

The most recent came from a robotic Poilievre, who on Thursday had this to say during Members Statements.

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Nepean—Carleton, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Canada Elections Act says that all loans for leadership contestants must be repaid within 18 months and failure to do so is a violation of the act.

The Liberal leader is said to have almost a million dollars in outstanding leadership debts, owed to wealthy elites and powerful insiders. If he does not repay these debts by the June 3 deadline, they become illegal donations over the donation limit.

The only escape is if Elections Canada steps in to protect the Liberal leader with preferential treatment and an extension.

Canadians will watch closely. Will the Liberal leader break the law by accepting illegal donations and, if so, will Elections Canada protect the Liberal leader with preferential treatment?

Now, obviously this is intended to be a double whammy. Suggest that Dion might just be in serious trouble with Elections Canada and point out that the dastardly institution is liable to provide a Liberal with preferential treatment. Poilivre leaves out of course, that it is perfectly legal to request and extension and if accepted by EC, they will be following the law, not skirting it.

Elections Canada spokesman André Guertin said extensions for debt repayment are "part of the law" and it is "absolutely not" preferential treatment to grant them.

Backbencher Joe Preston took up the same whine on Friday.

Now, add this to Flaherty's 'Hmmpff, I'm not going to answer you [John McCallum] until you apologise', Bernier's, 'I never thought I would hear such an attack in this place, sigh', Moore's 'The Liberals owe us an apology for their smear against us and Chuck Cadman', Art Hangar who sullenly stomps out of committee meetings because 'they won't accept my ruling', or the need to filibuster committee meetings because of the mean, mean tyranny of the majority. (All paraphrased by me incidentally, but that's the gist of what is being said and done.)

Add that to their paranoia of all institutions that make up government and you've got yourself a bunch of pretty hard done by folk. I imagine with this SCOC ruling yesterday, that the Supreme Court will become their next oppressor.

Anyway, in past posts I've presented this as feigned indignation, which it is, but everyday it gets just a little more whiny and 'poor us', in tone.

I can see the election banners now.

Save Canada (the CPC) from the Tyranny of the Majority!
Vote Conservative!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First Libel Chill then Logic Chill

I've been noticing a rather odd tactic being employed by the Conservatives in recent weeks, but yesterday in committee with Romeo Dallaire, it took on a new meaning.

The tactic I'm referring to is this. The Con's take a comment by the opposition, turn it into something else entirely, then becoming outraged by their own invention.

Not following?

Well let's start with the committee meeting yesterday. Romeo Dallaire and Professor David Crane, (an expert on child soldiers) were before the committee to make the case as to why Omar Khadr should be brought back to Canada and tried here.

Watching the meeting, I thought, Finally. A committee meeting of substance that won't degenerate into a kindergarten. Silly me.

Both men spoke with conviction, extensive knowledge and passion. They explained that by allowing Khadr to be tried by the illegal system that Bush and company contrived, we are contravening Human Rights conventions to which we have committed. Dallaire also made the point that by doing so, we are reducing our standards and our values to a level that was not unlike those we are fighting.

“The minute you start playing with human rights, with conventions, with civil liberties, in order to say that you're doing it to protect yourself and you are going against those rights and conventions, you are no better than the guy who doesn't believe in them at all,” he said.

Jason Kenney, the appointed Con pit bull at this committee, ignored everything the two men had said, ignored the reason for the meeting and decided instead to attack Dallaire. Predictably, Kenney pushed Dallaire on his comparison in an effort to discredit all that he had said thus far.

Disgust does not begin to describe what I felt at that moment. By listing sensational examples of terrorism, (including propaganda which has since been disproved), Kenney changed the channel on the real issue and handed the Con's yet another manufactured issue to be indignant about.

Need other examples of that tactic? Since the beginning of May, Jim Flaherty has refused to answer John McCallum in the House. Why? Because when McCallum cited questionable practices by the Minister, (un-tendered contracts, money for trains that go through his riding, money for an association that his wife is affiliated with), Flaherty called the statement defamatory and will not answer McCallum until he apologises. He's indignant about comments that McCallum didn't make you see. Baird now answers his questions and completely distorts the truth.

Flaherty employed this faux outrage again yesterday, at committee.

Another example would be the Bernier affair. No one cares who Bernier sleeps with, but many care, including experts, whether or not proper security measures were taken. Not according to the Con's though. No, the opposition is simply interested in prying into the private lives of MP's and they are outraged and idignant about what the Lib's are not saying.

Yesterday however, was the most egregious example of this manufactured indignation. The concerted attempt to discredit Dallaire really is something to be outraged over. You can disagree with his words, but not with the facts and the conclusion he draws.

There has been much talk about libel chill on the Hill. I think there is merit to that, but I'm much more concerned about the suspension of reason and rational discourse or, logic chill.

Update - As expected, the Con's continued their smearing of Dallaire in the House today. Poilievre used his Members Statement time to go over the top and Kenney was asked by a back bencher exactly what Dallaire said. Kenney of course delighted in providing his version of what happened and also went over the top. Of course he demanded an apology from Dallaire and Dion. Disgusting.

Update 2 - Well what do you know? It seems that Dion is backing Dallaire in more certain terms than was previously reported.

Liberal Leader Stephan Dion backed Dallaire today, reiterating his call that the government intervene in Khadr's case.
"I think that Mr. Jason Kenney, as usual, provoked a colleague of mine who has not a lot of experience in the heat of the parliamentary debate, but on the substance of the issue, General Dallaire is right. Mr. Khadr should be back in Canada. All the other countries have done that," Dion told reporters in Ottawa.

Well done Dion.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Getting the Truth Out

It would appear that Dion has begun to lay down a narrative of sorts. One that is aimed at showing the real Stephen Harper to Canadians and where he wants to take this country.

The Conservative party's battle with Elections Canada has spawned a Liberal campaign theme that will ask voters to consider whether they want a government that is willing to destroy long-standing public trust in non-partisan federal institutions.
It may seem counterintuitive to accuse Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the head of government, of purposely undermining the state.
But that is the conclusion the Liberals have come to from the government's determination to get the upper hand in disputes with Elections Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and other independent agencies, even if individual and institutional reputations are ruined in the process.

I don't frankly believe that the dispute with Elections Canada spawned this idea and anyone who has followed Harper would hardly see this observation as counterintuitive, but I am grateful to see this presented in plain language by this reporter for those Canadians who haven't followed him.

I think the narrative is an important one.

Harper has spent a great deal of time hiding what his intentions are and simultaneously creating a simple story to explain complex and devious moves. Sometimes the stories simply omit the truth, sometimes they are blatant lies and often, they tell their story by projecting.

Take the recent dismantling of CAIRS. When questioned by Dion in QP, this is what Harper had to say:

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we do wider access to information than ever before.

The previous government created a centralized registry in order to control the flow of information. It was deemed expensive and it was deemed to slow down the access to information. That is why this government got rid of it. I am not surprised the hon. member likes a centralized system.

He is and continues to be a centralizer.

His minions continue to say this outside the House.

CAIRS of course was brought in by Mulroney, not the Lib's let alone Martin. Whatever it's original intent, it ended up being useful to researchers, journalists and advocates alike who sought information from this tightfisted government as it relates to information.

That is one small example but the pattern is clear. They make a change, dismiss it as trivial and accuse the opposition of over-blowing things. Dion and his team have a chance now to clarify the seriousness of what is going on. That is if Dion and his team are afforded media attention like this article, that actually states fact to corroborate what the Lib's are saying, throughout the upcoming summer.

Since Harper won a minority government in the winter of 2006, there have been at least 15 firings, resignations, shutdowns and showdowns with federal watchdogs, advisory bodies and government agencies.

Among them are the Elections Canada fight, the firing of the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the top two officials of the Canadian Wheat Board, the shutdown of the Law Commission of Canada, and the resignation of the chair and advisory panel of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Several senior environmental and scientific positions were eliminated and several officers of parliament - the ethics commissioner, the chief electoral officer and the information commissioner - retired after high profile run-ins with Harper's government.

In addition, Auditor general Sheila Fraser recently exposed a government plan to require her agency and other officers of Parliament to vet their communications through the prime minister's office. The government appears to have realized this is a step too far and backed down.

The narrative must be developed thoughtfully and succinctly and not rely on the scary mantra of the past, (though it was accurate). Most Canadians are unfamiliar with Harper's ideology and to explain it in a sound bite is no easy task. To that end, having credible people from outside the political spectrum singing from the same song sheet will be important.

Historian Dimitry Anastakis of Ontario's Trent University says it's a pattern that should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Harper's career.
"Harper cannot shake his Reform party roots which have always been so suspicious of Ottawa, so suspicious of anything that comes from the state," Anastakis said in an interview.

While this article speaks to specific institutions, Harper's ideology has and will continue to reach beyond them. Dion has an opportunity to clearly outline the difference between a country led by him and a country changed by Harper. The choice of government goes to an individual's preferred way of life and how a government can assist them in achieving that, or not. Think Kelowna Accord and the childcare program. Think of the Status of Women program, the Court Challenges program and Arts tax credit and the voices that would endorse their need.

Whether or not those specific programs are what the Lib's intend to focus on is not the issue. Realising just how many voices, independent of the political realm, are out there and would no doubt confirm the observations made by Dion, brings optimism to the plan.

Who does Harper have speaking out for him outside of his base? Right-wing think tanks, tax payer associations, big oil, climate change deniers, some media outlets, lol. Not exactly the common man. Ironic isn't it?

This narrative has the potential to be a really good jumping off point for laying out policy if handled properly. I think we have the talent in the party to do this well and when you compare the Liberal benches to the Con's....well, you can't really can you?

That's not to dismiss the back room, gutter politics, gurus on the right, but my sense is that most people are fed up with that nonsense. Their nastiness will be particularly stark under the spotlight of an election.

I'm betting on the truth being the stronger force.

The Rot Starts at the Top

Do you know the expression, a rotting fish always starts at the head? That's what came to mind recently watching Harper and his party.

From his behaviour in the House, to flippant remarks on political shows, to interviews with media and overtly partisan speeches, it is evident that Harper has set a tone that his party emulates without reservation. It's nasty, juvenile, vindictive and damaging. Damaging to those he directs his remarks at and damaging to the country.

To be honest, it's difficult to understand that such a man is running this country. Actually, I take that back. It's more than difficult. It's appalling and embarrassing.

Since the day that Harper took office, it has been this endless loop of vindictive divisiveness. It's as if Harper has never really understood that he is the PM. He governs the country as the Conservative Party, not the as the Government of Canada and he does so without regard for the greater good.

None of this is news of course, but to have heard and read about him this past week speak about Israel, well it just really highlighted the depth that he will sink to over and over again to attain his partisan goals. He deliberately articulated falsehoods in an effort demonize some and gain popularity with others.

This excerpt from an interview on CFRB sums him up.

During question period, Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, read from an interview Stephen Harper gave to Toronto radio station CFRB on the subject of Israel's 60th anniversary this week.

In the interview, Harper said that in some circles, anti-Israeli sentiment has become "a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism."
"I am disturbed that there are some elements in our political system, there are even some members of Parliament we saw during the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah a couple years back — some that were willing to cater to that kind of opinion," Harper said.

Disgusting. Apart from the blatant illogic of the statement, the fact that he actually accuses some MP's of being anti Semitic is beyond the pale. Of course the man does not have the courage to identify who he is referring to. No, he makes these loathsome swipes only when and where he is protected. In the House, during interviews where he is assured that he will not be challenged and at partisan rallies where his followers will accept virtually anything the man does or says, even that which contradicts their supposed values. I find that incredibly disturbing.

Many of his MP's of course follow suit. Everyday in question period, just before the cameras come on for Dion's first question, a Con MP rises to use his/her Members Statement time to deliver a juvenile taunt to Dion. Here's an example:

Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC): Mr. Speaker, 16 months ago, the so-called leader of the Liberal Party said that he was “a hero” but the self-proclaimed hero has in fact turned out to be a zero. The only one who has had a worse year than the Liberal leader is Britney Spears.

In a desperate effort to rebuild his image, the Liberal so-called leader has turned to his best friend for advice. No, not the Liberal deputy leader and, no, not the Liberal member for Toronto Centre, but to his dog Kyoto, and he has followed Kyoto's advice with lethal effect.

Kyoto says “down boy” and the Liberal leader responds by driving his poll numbers in Quebec way down. Kyoto says “sit” and the Liberal leader responds by having his caucus sit vote after vote after vote. When Kyoto says “roll over”, the Liberal leader obliges on every significant matter of policy and confidence in our government.

However, the Liberal so-called leader is saving Kyoto's best advice for last. In the next election, which Liberals now pretend they will call in the dog days of summer, their so-called leader will finally play dead.

I imagine the brain trust in the Conservative party believe that by behaving like a 12 year old hiding behind his mother's skirt is the best way to solidify their base. The taunting in the grand scheme of things is minor, but very telling of the type of individual who calls the Conservative Party of Canada home.

That type of behaviour escalates in importance and the one who sets what the next level will be is Harper. Consider his attempt to link Navdeep Bains to terrorism. Ask questions about the Afghanistan mission and you are accused of being Taliban sympathisers. If you are concerned with the rule of law, due process and the defense of Canadian citizens abroad you are deemed to back terrorism or care more about murderers than Canada's security. Now this most recent comment. Disagree with any aspect of Israel's foreign policy and you are an anti-Semite. (Do you suppose that Harper is aware that many Israeli's disagree with their government's foreign policy?)

That Canada is currently being governed by such a group is one thing. That it seems to be unrealised by the general public is quite another.

Are Canadians giving this gang a free pass or have they just tuned out? It seems to me that the unintended consequences of Harper's governing by partisanship, seems to have diminished the national dialogue to the point that no one cares. That's a tough reality to witness especially when we see such enthusiastic re-engagement south of our border.

Harper's apostles refer to him as a strong leader. I see a coward.

What is strong and growing in intensity imo, is the reek that emanates from the head of the CPC.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

You're Looking a Little Goofy There John

There is a new poll that shows that most Canadians are in favour of a carbon tax.

When asked whether they supported the idea of a carbon tax on businesses and people based on the carbon emissions they generate, 61 per cent of respondents said yes and 32 per cent said no.

Hmmm, I wonder who that 32% is? It gets better though.

Support levels grew even higher when measures were cast in broader environmental terms.

Seventy per cent said they supported a carbon tax on businesses and people, with the money generated spent on incentives for eco-friendly behaviour and renewable energy. Twenty-two per cent disagreed.

Seventy-three per cent of those surveyed supported an environmental usage charge that would apply to people and businesses who use above-average amounts of fossil fuels, water or electricity, or who produce more garbage. Twenty per cent opposed the measure.

Higher still was the support for an environmental tax refund paid to people who reduce their use of fossil fuels, electricity and water, and produce less garbage.

Eighty per cent of respondents supported the idea - while only 16 per cent opposed it.

All of this of course comes on the heels of Dion speaking of the possibility of tax and the Con's, especially Baird, mocking such a move. On it's face, this poll shows that the Con's are on the wrong side of this issue.

Now, I tend to think that people answer such polls altruistically and whether those numbers would stand in a voting booth remains to be seen. However, overall I think it's clear that the government is lagging far behind popular thinking in this country.

I also think that Dion can make major strides in this area, provided a clear succinct plan is put forward and focuses strongly on the rewards of such a program.

Keep screaming John...please.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Project for Dion

The auditor-general announced today that 24 Sussex hasn't been renovated in 50 years and requires $10M worth of work. It would take approximately 18 months to complete work on the 34 room home.

Until now, PM's have been loathe to spend money on the official residence for fear of looking either too self aggrandizing or too lavish.

Ridiculous I say. Not only is this the PM's home but it should be a point of national pride.

Anyway, should Stephane Dion take up residence at 24 Sussex one day, I say he should use the opportunity to completely renovate the home and make it green.

A radio show host had the same idea, (except he was speaking of the current PM), and called up Mike Holmes. Holmes not only confirmed that the estimate and timing were correct, but suggested that it was a great idea.

I doubt that the auditor-general's advice will be heeded, but I honestly think it should be. We have a strange notion in Canada that our politicians should live like paupers and lead lives that indulge in nothing.

No one is suggesting excesses here, but a house that was built in 1868 and has not been updated in 50 years is surely worth some attention isn't it?

Apparently Harper doesn't think so.

Stephen Harper, however, has no plans to go anywhere “between now and the next election,” says a spokeswoman.

“The prime minister and his family find 24 Sussex adequate to their needs, and see no need for substantial renovation programs at this time,” said Carolyn Stewart Olsen.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Thinking Harper and Hayek

This photo was taken around the time that Harper was insisting that Canada follow it's allies into Iraq.

The reason I chose it is, after my post yesterday I started thinking back and trying to remember if journalists ever really did look at Harper and his ideology, his hero's. I thought about Tom Flanagan and the Calgary School and how these guys were ardent students of Friedrich Hayek and Leo Strauss. Then in poking around I recalled an article in the Walrus that laid out much of this, in 2004. It's a long article but worth the read if you are interested in who Harper is and how Flanagan has played a role in who he has become.

I've been perplexed as to why some contemporary articles express surprise as to what Harper is doing to this country or seem not to get it at all and only focus on the fluff. Why aren't articles being written that would acknowledge Harper's action by referring to his history that would of course substantiate it?

In January 2006 the National Post produced a piece so bereft of fact it was laughable. Witness this attempt at turning fact on it's head:

In the weeks before the election, the Star's irredeemable Trudeaupian interventionist, David Crane, and the Globe and Mail's Lawrence Martin were among those who reprised Ms. McDonald's allegations. Mr. Martin regurgitated the "department of redneckology" quote and suggested that the school was identified with "ultra-conservative high priests such as Leo Strauss and Friedrich Hayek." (Mr. Martin was obviously unaware that one of Professor Hayek's most famous essays was titled "Why I am not a Conservative.")

If you don't get that significance, look up 'Why I am not a Conservative' and witness how ill equipped, or ill informed, or how stupid quite frankly this journalist is.

I don't expect to read an article explaining classic liberalism/neo conservatism etc. Sadly, I doubt it would be read, but nor do I accept that no one is actually speaking to Harper's ideology as a way of explaining what we are witnessing. I know it's difficult to explain but surely they are journalists out there that can make the link.

Is it perhaps because it was tried in 2004 and was only marginally successful? Is it just a fluke of timing that subsequent to Martin being elected and the following election, the issue of sponsorship was easier to sell and write about, so the more important issue of what each party really stood for was cast aside? I don't know.

It's obviously impossible to go back in time and know for sure, but we do have now and it can be put right. You know, I sometimes wonder how many in Harper's caucus really know who he is and what his plan is.

Garth Turner who freely lambastes Harper, seems to have thought that Harper was a social conservative but also a more of a PC type of fiscal conservative and he could live with that. I think John Baird was recently asked a question in QP about Barry Cooper, who is in the Harper, Flanagan inner circle and he said he had no idea who he was. How can I know who the guy is and Baird not know?

It's time that we had thinking journalists and thinking opposition, clearly, crisply articulating Harper's intent. I'll leave you with a couple of ideas from the man he admires. Hayek:

In the 1930's and 1940's, when Hayek first became famous, belief in the benevolence of the market was rapidly being replaced by a belief in the benevolence of state intervention. Hayek disagreed.
Hayek's two general themes are that the managed society does not work and that it is incompatible with freedom.
He argues that there are two types of order:

CONSTRUCTED ORDER (example: government planning)

SPONTANEOUS ORDER (prime example: the market)

Hayek, believes that whilst the role of the state's constructed order is important, it has to be limited. This is a position very like Adam Smith's and you will find it useful to compare Hayek and Smith.
Hayek says that constructed order generally goes wrong if it does any more than provide favourable conditions for spontaneous order. The most important favourable condition to spontaneous order is the rule of law.

The law according to Hayek must only maintain negative freedoms and not try to establish positive freedoms .
Negative freedom is the freedom to do anything not prohibited.

Positive freedom is giving people the power to do things

If, for example, a poor person is hungry he or she is still free to eat in the sense that there is no law prohibiting it. That is a negative freedom.
Positive freedom would be the power to eat that comes through having food.

Yes, I know. It's not light reading so I'm asking you how we put this guy in context. How do we encourage the media to re-explore what they seemed to be doing in 2004, that is telling us the true measure of the man?

It must be part of the next election, obviously with an emphasis placed on how the country would look with a Liberal government versus what Harper intends.

You're Not the Boss of Me!

Many have commented that a pattern is developing in the Harper government. The pattern of course includes the level of secrecy they demonstrate by reducing access to information and their manic need to control all and every message that we receive.

Personally, I don't think a developing pattern is the correct term, though, I think the public may react that as this stuff piles up.

The list that fits into that pattern is long of course and most recently Sheila Fraser was included. Vic Toews tried allay any fears but it would seem that no one is completely convinced.

Tonight we have yet another step being taken by this government to keep information out of the hands of the public and the media. Disgusting.

Pattern may be a term that will be easily digested by Canadians but the truth of course is that Harper came to Ottawa to change it into his ideological vision and he is doing so right now under everyone's nose, including many in the media. With this latest salvo, my hope is that those journalists who really care about their craft will finally say enough is enough and fight back.

I think Harper is getting away with much of this because the media got caught up in the nonsensical term, hidden agenda and for some reason spent more time focusing on the inanity of the term than on what it was trying to convey.

Harper's agenda has never been hidden and using that term, I think, was a mistake in strategy on the Lib's part. He's been telling us for a long time who he is and what he wanted to do to the country and government but somehow that message wasn't being explored the media.

I do not think that was bias in the classical sense. Bias is easy to spot and expected in certain environments. What troubles me is that reputable journalists seemed more concerned with the smoke than the flame. Smoke moves around, it changes colour and shape and it can become mesmerizing really. So much so that you can chase it and get lost in it's journey and completely forget what is causing it.

That kind of reporting hasn't changed much since the last election and I'm sure that my journalist friends would argue that they live in a world that forces them to follow the smoke and be the first to report it. I get that, but maybe it's time to fight back. I think your audience is more intelligent than you think. We do have time to read, listen and watch what affects us.

I admit my bias, but I'm not a journalist. The audacity of this smug, egotistical nightmare who calls himself our PM seems to have no limits. In my opinion, it is up to we the people to tell him what those limits are, but we need factual information in order to do that.

That said, there are some really good journalists out there who I think are trying to report fact, (obviously I'm linking to stories that expose reality) but because of where we have been, I think they are still pushing water up hill.

People do not trust media and I think it's time they, the media, studied why that is. People do not become cynical without reason. Of course we take what we want from what you write, but all the nonsense of left wing media, please. Me thinks many of you have been bending over backwards to prove that is not true and thou protest to much. Presenting reality would suffice.

Bottom line. Harper had and still has a clear agenda. At this moment, he's giving Canadians, the media and Canada the finger. That is the same finger he's been holding in the air for years.

That's the flame that gives off smoke, (obfuscation) and it's time to stare at the offending gesture and tell us what you see.

We are the boss of him. How did that get missed for 2 years?