Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guess Who's Afraid of Elizabeth May?

Well this certainly has been an interesting day for the leader of the Green Party.

First she recruits Blair Wilson to join the party so she now has an MP in the House, then she announces that this means she should be included in the televised debates.

I happen to agree that she should be included, as obviously that would stregthen the case to be made on pricing carbon and moving quickly to do so.

That would leave Mr. Layton in a bit of a tough spot, because May is on record as saying she thinks that the NDP were wrong to denounce a carbon tax and the Liberal's Green Shift. He'd have a pretty difficult time defending his plan as being the right one if the leader of the Green Party, not just Dion, is explaining how it won't take effect quickly enough.

But of course the other loser if May is included would be Mr. Harper. It's no wonder then that his communications director Kory Tenycke announced today that the Conservatives do not believe that she should be included. I guess that's not a surprise really, but what was is the reason he gave.

He said that she should not be included because there should only be one Liberal involved in the debate. Huh? He supported this bizarre comment by stating that May is on record as supporting Dion as PM, which is really only half true. On each occasion I've seen her asked, 'who would you like to see as PM', she always says herself first. Until then, she has said she'd rather see Dion than Harper. Apparently that makes her a party member.

Not only is this a ridiculous claim to make, it's bizarre strategy to work to deny her entry. Harper already is being touted as having an empty plan for the environment and working to keep May out will certainly reinforce that image.

I know he wants the election to be all about his leadership, but guess what? He doesn't get to limit the issues Canadians want to discuss.

Strong leader? Nah, just a coward that can't face a real debate about real issues.

Update - May interview on CTV. (h/t to commenter Chrystal Ocean.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Strategy, Tactics and Timing

So the game and speculation continues. Harper meets with Gilles Duceppe to basically say nothing. His game? Present the facade that he's making an effort to work with the opposition leaders. He's not though, or not at least according to Duceppe.

Tomorrow, he'll play the same game with Layton and he won't even bother to meet with Dion.

Here's the thing though. If you're going to have your officials go to the press even before your pretend meeting with Layton and they speculate that the election will be on the 14th of October, what the heck is the point of trying to present an alternate reality? He really does think Canadians are stupid doesn't he?

Officials in the Prime Minister's office say that Stephen Harper will likely call an election next week and send voters to the polls on Oct. 14.

These officials told The Canadian Press no decision has yet been made, but they indicated he will go to the Governor-General sometime between Sept. 2 and 7th.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe met with Harper Friday morning and said Harper "absolutely wants to call an election."

As an aside, Aaron Wherry at MacLeans seems to be hearing that October 14th would not be ideal. That does seem like odd timing and certainly not a group that Harper would want to tick off.

There's another timing issue though that seems to be working against Harper and co. It's that old nuisance of, events conspiring against you.

Sadly, the Listeria outbreak is not calming and indeed, there has been another related death. It's awful when such things play into the political narrative, but it's a fact that they do.

Since the Liberals jumped on the leaked memo from the CFIA in July, they should be expected to continue to hit the government on this point. What is gaining steam though is 3rd party support and more information. I'm sure Harper didn't plan on going into an election with all of that building in the news.

Nor am I sure that he expected the backlash in Quebec to his Arts cuts. The rest of us did of course, but it's a sign to me that he and his 'people' are really out of touch of where Canadians are. I mean really, if Chantal Hebert is taking this tone, what more do you need to know?

It's difficult to keep up with the number of groups he's angered and if the Con's do not think that any of that will play out during an election, they are dreaming.

Is it possible that he allowed himself to believe that the country was shifting to the right since he took office? Listening to a bit of conservative talk radio this afternoon, his followers certainly are taking that line. In fact, one host went as far as to say that McCain's choice of running mate ensures a Conservative sweep across the US and Canada this Fall.

What utter nonsense. No one knows yet how our election will turn out, but what we progressives have on our side is the mountain of evidence that Conservative ideology is, (when it is accurately laid out), not being embraced in large numbers. When the results of said ideology come home to roost, they are certainly more likely to be rejected than embraced and it looks like that just might be happening at the moment.

In addition to what I've already mentioned, the Con's also have the small problem of the economy to contend with.

And finally, it appears that Harper is going to try to paint Dion with political spectrum brush, I suppose in retaliation for Dion pointing out just how right on the spectrum Harper really is.

This in my opinion, (if Harper keeps it up), will be damaging to him. He's spent an awful lot of capital, (both political and real), in trying to present a moderate stance. As soon as he starts using the rhetoric we see and hear south of the border by the Republicans, Canadians shy away. Most Canadians see themselves as progressive and to suggest that that is a bad thing, as the Con's are beginning to do, will reap them few rewards. In fact, it may have NDP, Green and young supporters looking to and seeing the merits of Dion.

Perhaps he's trying to pull the far right back into the fold if they thought Harper had been too centrist, but they were never going to vote Liberal anyway. What's the point? Is that all he feels he can draw on and does he have internal numbers that tell him that will push him through?

I have the sense that the master tactician and supposed superior strategist's veneer is starting to peel away.

I say, keep it up.

Update - A factual analysis that I think supports my supposition.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Decide Which Laws I Follow

Well, it's clear that Harper will respect neither the letter nor the spirit of the fixed election date law, but what about election spending laws?

He was asked the question in Inuvik and in his usual non-answer fashion said:

He says the Conservatives will "operate within the law as we understand it in consultation with Elections Canada."

Perfect. The In and Out scheme skirted the law based on their creative understanding of it, (which really means they tried to get around it) so what is to prevent them from doing that again?

He then went on to distort the truth further by saying:

Speaking during an Arctic tour as a federal vote looms, Harper said elections agency officials have "changed some of their positions" since the last federal campaign in 2006.

And that, says Harper, is the Tories' problem with Elections Canada.

No, it's not really. There have been some changes made to the law based on the Accountability Act, but not the ones that they contravened in 2006. No, exceeding spending limits by transferring national expenses to riding associations wasn't allowed in 2006 either, but he'd like you to think otherwise.

So we go into an election by the PM first breaking his own law, lying about a crisis in parliament that only developed in the past 2 weeks when the House wasn't sitting and the possibility that the Conservatives will once again overspend on advertising during the election.

Additionally, they have made clear that they will begin advertising immediately, which is allowed of course, but these ad's have been ready for a while, which tells us that they have been chomping at the bit to go to an election. Dion wasn't playing their game though.

The ad? Is it an attack ad? Apparently not, unless of course you consider an attack on your intelligence an attack ad.

Rather than attacking Liberal Leader Stephan Dion, the commercial features Canadians describing what they like about Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It seems designed to portray a kinder, gentler side of the prime minister.

Kinder, gentler? After a summer of running around attacking Dion on every front, lying to Canadians about the Green Shift and their own plan, we're supposed suddenly swallow a new phony image of the man?

"He's doing a good job," another says. "He's the steady hand we need when the world's economy is so uncertain."

This one is beyond ridiculous. I do not for the life of me understand how they get away with perpetuating this lie. They have brought this country to the brink of deficit and Flaherty has a track record of being a terrible Finance Minister. The Con's have outspent the Lib's, done nothing to assist the manufacturing sector and attacked the provinces.

"I like the idea that he's a family man with young children," a woman says.

What? Being a father with young children qualifies you to run the country how exactly?

So there you go. Pre-writ ads that ask you to believe that the Stephen Harper you know, is not the one running for PM. It's another Stephen Harper created on celluloid that you'll be voting for.

In the meantime, we have our Health Minister making jokes about food safety in Denver at a time when a family in Madoc is preparing to bury their mother who died of Listeriosis.

The Canadian government sponsored a swish lunch reception at its consul-general's Denver residence.

The food included bite-sized bits of beef, shrimp, tortellini and potatoes gratin. Health Minister Tony Clement, whose absence from Canada during the tainted meat crisis has not gone unnoticed, was there and introduced himself:

"I'm Health Minister Tony Clement, and I have to say I approved this food."

That's an accurate depiction of our kinder, gentler, compassionate Conservative government.

h/t- Red Tory on the Clement story

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flanagan's Theory

I wondered where Tom Flanagan had disappeared to. He seemed to be getting a fair bit of press there for a while by telling us what Harper's real plans are.

For some months though, he seems to have been silent, but now that an election is in the offing, we may be seeing and hearing more from him.

Today he's speculating on the reason for Harper calling an election. Well, not the reason exactly, but why it makes sense.

Tom Flanagan, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, believes Harper would be satisfied to return with a strengthened minority - a result that would throw the Liberals into chaos, thereby advancing the prime minister's longterm strategy of destroying Canada's so-called natural governing party.

"I don't think Harper has to be thinking about a majority at all," Flanagan said in an interview.

"Strategically, this is sort of a prolonged war of attrition."

As Flanagan sees it, the first major battle in this incremental war occurred in 2004, when Harper managed to reduce Paul Martin's Liberals to a minority. In the second clash in 2006, Harper won his own Conservative minority.

The third skirmish, which Harper appears set to launch next week, likely won't kill what Flanagan jokingly refers to as "the evil empire." But, if the Tories can win a few more seats at the Liberals' expense - an outcome Flanagan considers realistic given Harper's superior campaign skills and the Tories' fatter war chest - he predicted that would be enough to throw the Grits into a longterm tailspin that could eventually lead to their demise.

He's a charmer isn't he? That is something that I find is pretty consistent with many Harper Conservatives. They are most joyous when they are deriding something or especially someone. Anyway, there you have it according to Flanagan. Harper's quest for power is based solely on his desire to destroy the Liberal party. Wouldn't that make a lovely campaign slogan?

For those of us who follow this stuff, Flanagan's words come as no surprise but it is galling to read that the Leader of this country is more interested in satisfying his hatred for all things l/Liberal than he is in actually developing this country and moving it forward. That is the face of the kind of politics we are being led by. Disgusting.

Rather than shutting this character down though, I hope he starts making more appearances because he talks about Harper's agenda in a way that explains the stealth by which Harper is taking the country apart and hones in on how he is duping Canadians into thinking one thing so he can go about doing the opposite.

What a contrast to Dion. Say what you will about the Liberal leader, he is not in politics to destroy, but rather to build. He will make that quite clear in my view.

It seems to me that this election is going to come down to the campaigns that are run. Flanagan seems pretty confident that Harper is going to do a much better job of this than the Lib's. In addition to his belief that Harper is a better campaigner, he mentions that the Con's have a bigger war chest. While that is true, I do not understand what difference that makes during an election. Everyone has a level playing field right? At least they are supposed to. We still have that little problem of the Con's over spending during the last election and I guess there is no guarantee that they won't do that again. I'm sure Mr. Flanagan delights in that bit genius strategy.

Well, there is no question that the Con's have the Rove method of running campaigns perfected, but that is not a guarantee of anything. In my opinion, that type of campaigning obviously can work, but it's really dependent on the mood of the country. Is the mood right at the moment to listen to relentless attacks, fear mongering and lies? I think the Con's are forgetting, or perhaps ignoring, that Karl Rove has severely damaged if not destroyed much of the Republican party. McCain is fighting like hell to remove himself from Bush and what Rove created. Something tells me that Giorno and other Harper insiders are on the wrong side of that wave, especially in Canada.

I think one of the biggest advantages that the Liberals have is how the Con's seem to underestimate them. Indeed, the Liberal party has gone through a rough period, but it seems to me that struggle would only make the team stronger. And it's important to remember that the current configuration of the Liberal party is not what it was. Media don't speak to the changes we've seen, but the party has a new face and a strong sense of renewal. The prospect of putting the strong Liberal team up against the Conservative benches certainly doesn't fill me with dread. In fact it brings an image of the adults speaking to the kids.

It's been said that Harper wants to make this election about leadership, I presume because he's convinced that his attack ad's have done their job. Well, we'll see. Dion is not one to back down and based on his most recent reactions to Harper, I don't imagine he'll start now. Truth be known, Dion is looking like a leader because he's driving the agenda and that, as I've said before, is a major reason why Harper must pull the plug now.

It's also been said that Harper will go after the Green Shift by painting it as complicated and devastating to the economy. Both charges are patently false of course. In fact, Senator Grant Mitchell lays out that falsehood quite effectively, here.

It's going to get interesting, so don't forget to donate what you can, here.

Stick around Mr. Flanagan. You play to the Liberal advantage and we like you for that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well Done Mr. Dion

Stephan Dion seems to be doing things differently these days. When Harper speaks to the press and famously distorts the truth, Dion doesn't waste any time reacting to it. While I wish he had adopted this strategy a little sooner, I'm glad to see it now.

What I'm referring to specifically is that this morning, while answering questions from the press gallery Harper inferred that Dion is avoiding setting up a meeting for the 2 to discuss the fall session. In fact, he said that his office has spent several weeks trying to nail down a time and that they can't seem to come to any agreement. Subsequent questions had him reinforcing the fact that this has been dragging on for a long time and that he's spent weeks playing 'telephone tag'. And then he went a step further:

But he complained that two opposition leaders -- Dion and the Bloc Quebecois' Gilles Duceppe -- won't meet with him before Sept. 9.

When Harper was asked why there was so much urgency to go to an election and how exactly is the parliament dysfunctional, he had this to say.

"I think it's clear they want to bring down the government and not say when," Harper said of the opposition parties, adding, "We'll have to ask whether it's appropriate to have people vote twice in the space of a few weeks."

Does this man have any idea of how our parliamentary system works? And btw, why doesn't anyone in the media bring that point up? Since when does the Leader of the Opposition have to tell the PM precisely when he intends to bring the government down?

Dion quickly called a scrum and quickly put the lie's to rest. They haven't been trying to reach him for weeks, in fact, the first time his office was contacted was 8 days ago at which point Dion's people said he was free to meet on....wait for it, August 26th. Yep, Dion was prepared to meet today, but that didn't work out for the PM so the offices are still negotiating.

It really is something how easily this PM lies isn't it?

The scrum went on with questions directed to Dion about why Harper is pushing for an election. By his response, which you can listen to here, it's pretty clear that Dion has the PM's number and isn't falling for his feints.

I think I gained a little clarity on Harper's strategy while listening to him earlier. It struck me that this really is about doing things on his timetable, specifically, his desire to reclaim the agenda.

He's obviously aware that Dion is in the driver's seat on that count at the moment and he wants that seat back. Going back for a Fall session will only allow Harper to pursue his current sagging agenda and Dion will still have the upper hand. By calling an election, Harper gets to push the re-set button and come forward with a new agenda in the shape of a platform.

I think the other factors I've cited these past few days all lead to that conlusion and still have their own weight, but in the end, it's about Harper's need to be in control.

Update - Harper has grounded the GG from travelling to Beijing. Start your engines.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Does Harper Want an Election Now?

When you start to link together what is coming up that has the potential to hurt the Conservatives, it's not difficult to understand why Harper would want to pull the plug now.

It looks as though he may be put off for a while though. According to Paul Wells, Gilles Duceppe has said that he just can't possibly meet with the PM before either the 5th, 6th or 7th of September. Oh dear. Harper has committed to meeting with all the opposition leaders before making his decision and as we all know, he would never break his word. Would he?

If Harper actually does keep his word, it looks as if the first 3 by-elections will at least happen. Before someone points out that he could go to the GG on the 07th, he could only actually do that if he suddenly had a change of heart and decided to go to China. She's in Beijing from the 05th to the 10th of September attending the Paralympics.

That said, I am sure there are ways he could circumvent going to the GG, but from a political standpoint, well it's just all too risky isn't it?

So, what's his rush? When you put upcoming events into a timeline, this is what you see.

  • Julie Couillard is to be summonsed before Committee on September 16th.
  • The Ag Committee is in the process of scheduling to hear from more witnesses re' the leaked memo when parliament resumes.
  • The Cadman hearing is to begin September 22, with Zytaruk to appear in September.
  • Julie Couillard's book is due out October 14th
  • The In and Out judicial review will render an outcome by the end of October.
Now, what is perplexing about going to the polls quickly, is the fact that the Con's have just reneged on some spending for the Navy, they've cut numerous Arts programs, (here's a cute related story), Clement has ticked off the medical community by questioning their morality, a leaked memo has surfaced that claims that oversight of food inspection could be relegated to industry as sadly, the death's associated with the Maple Leaf Listeriosis link are increasing. These particular actions of course speak to their base, but what's the point of that? Isn't their base solid?

Could it be that they have seen erosion in those numbers and are attempting to shore them up? Who knows, because on the heels of doing that, Nicholson pulls the rug out from under the anti-abortion crowd by scuttling a private member's bill that threatened to re-open the debate. I imagine this Reformer/Alliance/Conservative expected his Bill to be his legacy. Sorry Ken. Under the bus you go if it scores points for your leader, though to be frank, I'll wait to see the new legislation.

It's often said that we live in interesting times. I'd call the present moment confusing at best. Are Canadians engaged yet? I suspect many are back home from vacation, reading newspapers and listening to or watching the news. The Con's may be betting they aren't.

The opposition has been handed a tremendous amount of fodder, but it is up to them to use it wisely. Oh, to have the chance to plot strategy.

What would your's be?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Are Canadians Worried About? Senate Reform

I'm pretty certain that if you asked any of the candidates running in the current by-elections what they are hearing at the door, they'd answer, the Economy, the Environment, maybe Health Care and even Afghanistan.

Somehow I doubt anyone has heard a great roar about the immediate need for Senate reform, yet we're hearing that Harper wants that to be a big issue in the next election.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulls the plug on Parliament next month, he appears poised to cite his frustrated efforts to reform Canada's unelected Senate as one of the reasons he seeks a new mandate.

His MPs are already sending out campaign-style material to constituents trashing the Liberals for clinging to the "horse and buggy" institution that Harper wants to reform without opening the constitution for amendment.

We need an election now because Harper is frustrated with his efforts to reform the Senate? The country needs to come to a crashing halt, spend millions of dollars because our petulant PM hasn't gotten his way on this issue? Unbelievable! This guy really doesn't understand the meaning of a minority government does he?

Well, I say bring it on because if that is going to be his issue, outside of his base, I cannot imagine the rest of the country feeling this is a good reason to hold an election. Good grief, talk about being tone deaf to what the country is preoccupied with at the moment. Not to mention the fact that the Senate did rather well this year in performing the role they are meant to play. C-10 anyone?

I'm sure he won't have this as his only issue and they will likely come forward with 5 priorities again, but will they resonate any more than Senate reform? We see that they are avoiding the Environment all together, they are in la-la land as it relates to the Economy, so what will it be?

Senate reform, crime, um, I'm drawing a blank here.

On QP today, journalists from the Hill were saying that they've heard the Con's are pushing for an election now because they are uncomfortable with the timing of the US election and the potential of some of the energy from the Dem camp making it's way across the border. It's an interesting concern and may have some marginal impact but I think during an election in Canada we'll be focused on Canadian issues.

Somehow I just don't see Senate reform as a pressing Canadian issue and certainly not one that justifies aborting 5 by-elections. It's simply another example to add to the growing list of what disdain Harper has for our democratic system.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Strategy Session

What goes on in Stephen Harper's mind? At the moment it seems to be any one's guess, but the strategy of calling an election now is one that deserves some attention. Like any strategy, there are pro's and con's to be weighed and if indeed he goes forward, I think it's safe to say that they believe they are on the winning side of this gambit.

On the pro side, I see the following:

- Avoiding further scrutiny into the In and Out scheme, including action being proposed to force MP's and others to appear before committee.

- Pre-empting any findings arising from the lawsuit they filed against Elections Canada. It's my understanding that the Con's have until August 29th to file their final submissions and then Mayrand has until October 10th, to respond. The Con's at that point have an option to appeal within 10 days. Who knows what they'll decide? All I can say is based on what has been in the public domain thus far, the Conservatives chances of winning this thing are not looking good.

- Another issue to pre-empt would be the decision by the Commissioner of Elections Canada to go forward with the process of laying charges against the party, based on the information they obtained from the raid.

- They avoid having to answer questions in the House about those issues and others.

- The economy is not looking good, so they can avoid the next update which they must have a feel for.

- There are more issues of avoidance and feel free to add to the list, but something stands out for me. Harper said he felt that the next government would be a minority, and while I'm sure he wants a majority, he seems to have made peace with that fact. Why?

Well, he's signalling to his base that another minority is possible, so get comfortable with that and he knows that if he wins a minority, all parties will have spent their coffers dry and no one, specifically the Official Opposition, will be able to take the government down in the near future. So, he'll continue with business as usual.

- Contrary to all appearances, they must obviously have a platform ready and one that they think will sell. Based on their 10%'er's, it looks lame to me, but we'll see.

So, what are the Con's that they took into consideration?

- Obviously their first consideration would be their chances in the election. They must feel that they are solidly in play and they must also feel that their current attack strategy is working. I think they have put all of their eggs in the basket labelled 'Leader' and they believe that they have the advantage.

- Attacks that they are breaking the Fixed Election Date law.

They are already countering that with spin. It apparently was only supposed to be used if they had a majority. Right. I guess that is why he assigned a date to it as a minority government.

- Criticism over the waste of calling by-elections. I haven't yet heard the spin to counter this claim, but I'm sure it's being developed as I type.

- They obviously know that they will be accused of all the avoidance issues I've already raised, but as is their wont, they turn reality on it's head and accuse the opposition parties of what they themselves perpetrate.

Again, I'm sure there are many more, but they obviously feel that they have them covered.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this exercise?

I think the Con's are betting the farm that they have the upper hand and the winning strategy. I don't for a minute think they haven't considered all the negatives associated with this move, but believe they can be overcome.

What intrigues me is that they are betting on the fact that most Canadians tune out politics during the summer, so they likely believe they can sweep summer happenings under the rug.

I believe their biggest weakness is how they underestimate Canadians. Yes we are passive and often unengaged but if issues are put in front of us, we react. They also underestimate the opposition's voice. They claim to have more money to spread the word, but in an election, the playing field is leveled and unless they overspend again, that's not the case.

They also underestimate Dion. Does he have the charisma of Obama? No of course not. Name me a leader who does. Does Harper possess that? No. In fact I'd argue that Harper is anti-charismatic. He is betting that he can paint Dion weak, but now that I have seen Dion in action, that is a mistake. There is nothing weak about Dion. He would not be in this fight obviously, if he was weak. If Conservatives equate heft with strength, they'd do well to consider intellect and intent, and then apply that term.

Where will all of this take us? Back to where we were months ago, so what a waste of time and money. It's also an admission that the country is not Harper's first priority. Harper's first priority is Harper. Yes, he wants to shape the country into his myopic mould, but I suspect the man has grown accustomed to the position. As you look around the world and consider which leaders believe they should be in power, Harper fits right in there.

Pro vs Con. Progress versus regress. We are living in interesting times.

BTW, Dion is ready to fight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Turning His Back on Democracy

As Canadians are still pre-occupied with what to throw on the bar-be-que, it appears that Harper is indeed in the the process of manufacturing a crisis and calling a general election to deal with it.

According to the official, Harper could pull the plug on his minority government immediately after the Labour Day weekend or wait until shortly after Parliament resumes on Sept. 15.

So all the nonsense about parliament being dysfunctional and the scripted actions by the Con's in the Ethics committee was indeed part of laying the groundwork so he could have his way.

Aside from the fact that he is completely flaunting his own law, (or at the very least the spirit of it) to govern to a fixed election date, what is particularly galling to me is this:

The prime minister will not make a final decision until after he meets with opposition leaders to determine whether there's any chance his government will be able to forge ahead with its agenda during the fall.

What's he going to ask them to do? Write him a blank cheque guaranteeing that they will uphold all legislation that he brings forward? The man has a minority! What part of that doesn't he get? Is he that vainglorious that he actually believes he has the right to run the country without opposition?

Surely he is not going to present that rationale to the Canadian public? Even a public who is apathetic will not stand for a man who wants complete control over the agenda with no checks or balances, will they?

What's odd about all of this of course is, that with the Conservative party in it's present state, the opposition parties will never be likely to vote with the government on anything. It could in fact be considered a waste of time, however, it is our system and I respect that.

Conversely, it's obvious Harper respects nothing about our system. We're in the middle of by-elections for gawd's sake and it could be argued that Harper intentionally wasted that money. After all, didn't he just call Don Valley West last week? Do you really think he didn't have this bit of scullduggery all laid out?

We all know why he wants an election and it's not because parliament isn't working, it's because it is.

So now the question is, how will he bring the government down? Will he go to the GG? Should she refuse? Will he wait for the opposition to defeat him on a bill? Somehow I doubt that. Even a parliamentary procedural defeat is likely a term that Harper couldn't accept. It must drive him mad to hear Dion say that the 'Prime Minister took the power out of his own hands and gave me the sole responsibility to call an election'.

I personally think he gives the opposition plenty of ammo with this move.

So readers. When's it going to be? How's he going to do it? And, how will the general public react?

More - Here, and here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Emerging Picture - Conviction vs Bellicose

This photo of Dion was taken last night, in a small room off the main venue at Garth Turner's town hall meeting. Turner had arranged for blogger's and some commenter's on his blog to meet with Dion prior to the main presentation.

It wasn't a huge gathering, but it was a chance to ask questions and to get a sense of the man in an more intimate setting. It was a bit rushed as Dion had been swamped by media preceding the gathering, thus was running late, but I found it valuable.

While I've always know that the ridiculous image of Dion that Harper portrays had no bearing in fact, having never met the man or seen him in person, I wanted to see if my sense of the man would be borne out. It was and more. He has a manner about him that suggests confidence and assuredness that is completely absent of any arrogance. That confidence is not really always picked up on camera or in interviews. His physical presence is much more substantial than is captured on film for some reason and even with the frenetic pace his handlers employ in directing him, there is a calmness about the man. Oh, and he's funny too.

All of that to say, I was looking for what voters will see in an actual election and just how starkly it will contrast with the phony depiction Harper has put out there. The die hard Haperites won't see it, but I'm convinced that most people certainly will.

After this get together it was on to the main event. Reports have said that anywhere between 1000 and 1400 people were there. All I can say is that 1100 seats were put out on the floor and people were left standing (myself included) all around the room.

Garth began by introducing a number of local MP's including Bonnie Brown, Martha Hall Findlay, Karen Redman, and Navdeep Bains to name a few. He also introduced a full slate of candidates who will be running in the next election, the majority of whom were women.

Garth then went to a power point presentation that was well done and I was so grateful to see that within it, he points out the costs of the Conservative plan, (the $65.00/tonne estimate) and points out that it is being hidden from the public because it too will increase the cost of various fuels, but the Con's will offer no tax relief.

He then went on to introduce Dion, which you can see here, courtesy of Garth's blog.

The evening went well and was by no means attended only by Liberals. There were a couple of climate change deniers who posed questions and others who were not in denial, but still cynical about the plan. Dion doesn't flinch at any question he is asked. He moves easily from topic to topic and while in a setting like this, his answers are sometimes more general than one would prefer, he doesn't do the 'evasive' political thing that we so often see. In fact, Turner kept telling him to he was too long winded, to which Dion laughed. Nor does he molly coddle those who disagree with him. He'll respectfully tell them that they are entitled to their own view but point out why he thinks they're wrong.
I left with a sense that the Liberal party has it's platform ready and in spite of all the speculating by the media, that Dion has a caucus that is solidly behind him and his platform.
What struck me the most however, is what this election will really be about. Oh sure, the talking points will be the economy and the environment, but it really is shaping up to be a contest between how Dion does politics and how that contrasts with Harper. Harper and his team have shown no indication that they are going to do anything but play dirty and continue producing misleading attack ads, etc. Dion on the other hand is presenting a vision of Canada that is prepared to deal with what lies ahead and to be honest about what that is.
The contrast will be stark and there is no way of knowing which style will win in the end, but outside of the 30% that support Harper, I've seen little evidence that Canadians are prepared to close their eyes to the facts and not seek solutions to what is our economic and environmental reality.
Two quick final points. I, along with many other blogger's participated in a conference call with Dion this week. He was open, honest and generous with his time and responses even when strategy was asked about. It was clear that he wants to engage as many people as he can.
Then this morning, I heard him interviewed on a right wing radio program. Other than speaking over Dion, the host was initially pretty cordial and even went as far as to say that he thinks Dion has the upper hand here, because he's set the agenda, not Harper. Toward the end, he challenged Dion on his strategy of not defeating the government earlier. Not once, not twice, but in as many ways as he could find but Dion wasn't backing down and in fact, I sensed that the more you fight him, the more determined he becomes in arguing his case. I'd say that is the professor in him and while not your typical politician, something tells me that is a great advantage.
I'll leave you with a few more shots, with my apologies as to the quality of all of those I've included. Unfortunately in the rush to get there, I forgot my zoom lens and additional flash.
Blogger's Reception

Finishing up the Media Scrum

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What if you Go to the GG and She Says Prove It?

As I wrote last week, it looked as if the perfect storm was brewing and Harper was orchestrating the demise of his government.

By instructing committee members to be as disruptive as possible this week and throughout the session, he was given a platform on which he could claim that parliament is dysfunctional and he'd have to consider his options.

By going to the Governor General, he'd be going against his own law and word but details such as those have no impact on Harper. But shouldn't he have to really make a case? Can he? Not according to this article.

Now, I have no doubt that the GG would grant his request, but should she? I can hear the howling now if she were to decline. She like so many before her who have only sought to follow the rules, would be labelled a partisan appointee, etc. I don't know the full mandate for the office, nor how it applies to this particular situation, but it is an interesting proposition.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still all for an election in the Fall and it's interesting to consider whether the Liberals would benefit more from Harper calling it or Dion.

By Harper calling it, it would be yet another example of him flaunting the rules and that could be exploited initially, yet it would likely fade into the background during an election. Additionally, if it is clear through articles such as the one I referred to, that the need for an election is wholly manufactured by Harper, that too would cause resentment and point toward waste of taxpayer dollars.

Conversely, if Dion were to pull the plug, presumably he'd do it on an issue/bill that he could honestly claim he couldn't support. Additionally, if Dion were to call it, he obviously would use the timing to his advantage, meaning capitalising on all the problems facing the Con's.

It's pretty clear that Harper is not interested in having his party exposed any more than it already has been, but he can't have it both ways.

He's right on one count. Parliament isn't working, for him. He has no interest in working in a minority parliament. Given that he is musing out loud that parliament is dysfunctional, doesn't it stand to reason that he'd have to claim that he requires a majority mandate in order to make it work? Is the country ready to go along with that? 32% maybe, but there is no evidence that the rest of us are and in fact, the suggestion of a Harper majority is enough to make most of us shudder and do anything to prevent it.

I think if he goes to the GG, it will say quite a bit about how Harper has deluded himself into believing that he's duped the country. His arrogance will be on display and it will provide an interesting backdrop on which to fight an election, that hopefully will be fought on issues.

Harper's vision for Canada, versus Dion's. Quite a contrast.

New Development - I guess Harper wants some real polling before he decides.

More - Steve wrote about this too.

And more again - Another version of the story here. Best line?

"I don't think there's any grand strategy to it," said the Tory insider.

Yeah, right. Harper just does things predicated on principle or on a whim, Tory insider. BTW, he knew when Godfrey was resigning. Was there anything preventing him from including that riding from the beginning?

Plain Speak

David Pratt was on QP today and confirmed that he will be seeking the nomination in Ottawa West-Nepean for the Liberal party.

What struck me about the interview was his candor which I presume is due to having been out of politics for the past 3 years. That's not to say that he was not candid as a politician, nor will he lose that should he win the nomination and then election. It was just refreshing to hear the lack of rhetoric to which we've all become accustomed.

Taber proposed the image of Dion and Liberals that the Con's are spinning and Pratt calmly related his honest assessment of Dion.

David Pratt told CTV's Question Period on Sunday that once Canadians learn more about Dion, they'll see that he is a "strong leader" and an "idea person." He also praised Dion's work on the Clarity Act.

He also made a pretty rational comment about John Baird, against whom he'd be running should he win the nomination. Taber made the comment that Baird is very popular in the riding. Cleverly, Pratt made the distinction that he may be 'high profile', but that does not necessarily mean he's popular.

If he wins the Liberal nomination this time, he'll run against Environment Minister John Baird, a proposition Pratt welcomed.

"I don't think (voters) appreciate (Baird's) abrasive style, his caustic approach to politics. I think they see him as almost a hyper-partisan, someone who puts partisanship ahead of good government," Pratt said.

If Pratt wins the nomination, it will be an interesting race to watch. Indeed, Baird won by about 5000 votes (9%), but he was not yet the Environment Minster and that certainly may make a difference in the future.

You can hear the interview by clicking on the link to the right of the article.


Note, the article closes by mentioning the two parties Environment plans but once again fails to mention that the Conservative plan will also raise costs with no offset.

Scroll down below the article to User Tools and hit feedback if you'd like to complain to CTV.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Election Timing and Bits and Pieces

A short story in the Guelph Mercury is a pretty good example of how the myth of Dion going back and forth on when an election will be held becomes 'spin' for the the Conservatives and others.
MONTREAL - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is continuing to tease Canadians about whether he wants a fall election.

Dion says the Liberals will trigger an election when they are ready, and they will choose their time.

The Liberal leader is campaigning in and around Montreal Saturday for two byelections to be held in the area on Sept. 8.
Dion took Prime Minister Stephen Harper to task for suggesting recently that he might call an election.
How is what Dion said a tease? He has said this repeatedly and it's true. What else can the man say? The people that write this stuff live in a different Universe, one where it is necessary to create news where there is none and sadly don't report news where they should. For instance, don't you suppose that he had something to say about how Garneau and the Liberal message is being received in Westmount? Do you think that perhaps the journalist could have done a bit of research on that and presented it to Dion?
What they feed to his detractors is, 'Dion raises the spectre of an election'. No, he doesn't. If someone has proof of Dion going off on a tangent of his own, threatening an election, kindly provide it. He never speaks of that but he is constantly challenged on it.
All that stories like this do, imo, is provide fodder for our pompous arrogant PM to use it to his advantage.
That said, it's a nice shot of the two and I hope it's going well. I've found precious little press on that by-election, but I confess I haven't searched for a few days.
Another story that ran in the Mercury had me laughing out loud. Brian Jean sounds like an absolute clown, but he sounds that way on committee and in the House too. He suggests that the only signs that are out are the Con's. For the record, I have it on good authority that there are over 1500 Lib signs up. He calls the PM, 'Sir'? I'm all for respect but knowing who this PM is, that's probably an order.
Finally, I don't frankly know the tradition vis a vis PM's and by-elections, but to suggest that meeting with Kovach in a adjoining riding is being professional is so far fetched, it's ludicrous. Especially when you consider this comment by Kovach.
Kovach said her campaign would have to pay the full cost of the prime minister's visit and security under byelection rules if he visited Guelph.

"It would use up a substantial amount of our election campaign expenses. That's why he won't come in a byelection, although he certainly has been very supportive," she said.
As we now know, the Con's aren't in the habit of taking money out of their candidates campaigns, well they are, but only if they can throw it in, and then take it out.
Sorry, I missed one more thing. The thought that a political party would want to steer voters their way during an election seems foreign to Jean. Yeah, right.
My last observation has to do with Garth's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday.
It looks as if he'll have between 700 and 1000 in attendance. He has special guests coming. Who? I don't know, he's keeping that a secret.
So, my question to you is, who do you think is coming and if you could be there, what would you ask Stephane Dion? Oh and if you were to meet him before the meeting as Garth has offered, what would you say as you shook his hand?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Missing in Action

Because the Ethics Committee antics are still rolling around in my head, this is the most appropriate photo in my mind, to use to speak about the Guelph by-election.

This of course is the Conservative candidate in Guelph, Gloria Kovach. Beside her? The now infamous Gary Goodyear who showed us this week just how dedicated he is to following the gospel of Harper. Lying for this apparently Christian man comes quite naturally. Odd that, but frequent with this party.

By-elections are all about hitting as many people as you can with your message, knowing that you are really only reaching a small percentage of the local population. That small segment however is engaged and wants to know where you as a candidate and where your party stand on issues that matter to them. What better venue could there be than an all candidates debate? You have a captive, willing audience. The perfect forum to present who you are and how you intend to represent the community in Ottawa and tell us what your party stands for.

Conservatives apparently don't see it that way because at the most recent all candidates debate, Kovach was a no show. What a surprise! Scheduling difficulties. Uh, huh.

Well, I'm not going to go back in time and link, but it seems to me that the 'scheduling' ailment was prevalent amonst many Con candidates in by-elections. In fact, not showing up to such events was not only common practice, some also refused interviews, scrums and press conferences. That's transparency for you!

Now I grant you that this was not a big crowd, but they were interested voters and maybe even part of the demographic that the Con's are targeting, but no, she was busy. Gary Lunn apparently was canvassing with her. To be honest, I think I'd burst out laughing if he showed up at my door, but maybe it's just me. If he was such an impressive guest, why didn't she walk in with him to the debate? The opposition would have screamed 'off side', but wouldn't it have been a coup?

I know little of her accomplishments and perhaps she's been okay at a municipal level, but this move tells me she is yet another yes person, who is willing to accept and repeat Conservative dictum's.

The real question for Guelph is do they want their voice heard in Ottawa or an echo of Stephen Harper's?

I take issue with Tom King's statements as reported, but perhaps that is for another day. He is colourful, candid and coherent, but his banter is just as distorted as Jack's. The NDP did mess with a progressive path. I don't, can't understand what they thought they would get with Harper in charge, but obviously their brain trust didn't show up for work that day.

So, does anyone know when the next all candidate meeting will be held in Guelph? Is Kovach slotted to attend? She seems to be a good soldier so my guess is that she won't.

That would be Harper democracy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Perfect Storm? Oh Yeah.

I for one sense one brewing.

Harper began the day threatening to engineer an election.

"Quite frankly, I’m going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively," Harper said, without elaborating on his plans.

It hasn't functioned productively since he took power of course, but now that he and his are being exposed to an even greater degree during this week's sitting of the Ethics Committee, he knows he cannot allow that exposure to continue. He doesn't care a whit about what's right for this country, he wants to keep governing so he can shape us into what most of do not want to become. He likely knows that if we go now he may not get the majority he wants, but he has a shot at another minority.

The Committee was beyond belief today and frankly I hadn't thought it could get any worse. (I keep underestimating how low the Con's will sink don't I? Note to self...fix that!)

Here's a brief recap. A witness who was meant to testify on Tuesday, in a move that only Finley and Harper would be proud of, presented himself after the meeting had started and wanted to testify today. By presenting himself, I mean that literally. Szabo was making opening comments and this man, Sam Goldstein, (note writer/actor in his bio) walked right up to him and stuck out his hand. He was being picked up by the mic of was bizarre. Szabo wanting to get back to the meeting asked him to sit at the back of the room. He walked back and started screaming to the media. I couldn't hear what he was saying at the time, but here's a clip for your entertainment. He then ran outside with media in tow, so there may be more footage later.

So why do I think what we are seeing what constitutes a perfect storm? Well, in spite of Julie Van Dusen stating that the opposition would claim that the Conservatives have 'stage managed' the chaos at committee, I'd replace the word opposition with the words, any sane person watching this week. It's been quite clear that the sole purpose of all the Conservative member's comments, statements and arguments have been designed to demean the process and portray it as irrelevant and at the same time irreconcilable. They know they are fully exposed, (which is quite a frightening thought really considering the members), and they simply cannot afford for this to go on.

Many things came out this week. That the Con's were instructing witnesses not to appear should surely be investigated. If the media were hungry, they would follow up. That remains to be seen, but I don't think the Con's want to risk that.

The final point is that at the end of the meeting today, a motion was put forward to re-issue summons to compel all the no-show witnesses to reconsider their decision and appear in the Fall.

The Con's tried to amend that by sending it to the House, where it would be debated before the Speaker and he would then have to consider everything that has gone on and render a decision. In other words, more delay.

So what do we have? The Con's in committee setting a dysfunctional stage. A talking point then sent to media that they believe that Parliament is not functioning well. The PM saying if Parliament isn't working, he'll have to do something about that, and the committee voting to push the exposure forward.

Looks like a perfect storm to me, so in spite of Van Loan and others claiming they would not prorogue, my bet is that is exactly what is underway, now at this moment.

Imagine if this had all gone forward 7 months ago as it should have. How much wiser would the general public be by now? What's important now though is that they become more exposed as the clowns who run this country. Grab all the video you can on the committee, (here's one place to go) and if you're more tech savvy than I am, put together some vid. Send it to all and sundry and of course post it on You Tube. Please, send me what you collect.

Get your storm gear out. We're in for an election, one that Harper has manufactured in spite of his promise not to.

O/T - In my promise to bring forward stories that don't tell us everything about the Con alternative to the Green Shift, this story deserves writing to the editor. In it's current format, there is no point, but once one or more of the papers picks it up, I will provide the information on where to write.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day Three Still Using Day One's Script

Today's committee meeting was more a day of having previous testimony confirmed.

It would seem that the Con's had some candidates and official agents who would take everything head office said at face value and others who used their heads. They really are a party that requires candidates to be blind followers and that has certainly been reinforced today. They may not be chosen that way but we have witnessed them oust candidates that disagree during general elections and by elections.

An interesting fact that came out of the meeting today was that of 26 people who received a summons to appear, only 3 have done so. Given that, Pat Martin is insisting that further action be explored tomorrow. The Con's continue to deny that it has anything to do with directives from the Party, in spite of sworn testimony, but it's pretty clear that a number of these witnesses had indicated that they would come to committee then suddenly declined.

The other thing that was interesting is how the Con's received a bit of evidence today from Retail Media (RM) that they believe bolsters their case. In their submission, RM included a letter stating that all ads had the appropriate tag line. They clarified that what they meant was they gave media outlets the appropriate tag line and had not actually checked all the ads, but the Con's of course ignore that and use it as evidence that everything was on the up and up.

If you want a blow by blow account, you can go to Kady's for her unique, but accurate take.

For my part, I thought I'd just summarise what the Conservative members have been articulating for the past 3 days. The script doesn't change much, so it's easy to do in a few sentences.

Pierre (we did the same thing as everyone else) Lemieux spends his time misrepresenting testimony given by Mayrand, misleading witnesses as to the facts and the actual issue at hand and reassures the witnesses who participated that they did absolutely nothing wrong! He doesn't want them to worry. Oh, he's also fond of telling us that if he wants to put a farmer on his campaign literature, that big bad entity called EC can't do a thing about it!

David (dour and testy) Tilson spends more time chastising the Chair and disagreeing with everything Szabo does than he actually spends asking questions. Turning red, yelling, mumbling and grinning are his specialities. Oh, and the whole world is against the Conservative party and that's NOT FAIR!, is an edited favourite refrain.

Gary (Point of Order) Goodyear is the prickly partisan who is determined to make a mockery of everything the committee was set up to accomplish. He delights when one of his staffers passes him what he apparently thinks are clever quips. Things like, calling the opposition the jury, or the proceedings illegitimate, kangaroo court and the Liberal Chair appointed by Liberals.
To be serious for a moment, the disregard of process and institutions that this man brings to the table should be alarming to all, let alone his constituents. How he doesn't see this is beyond me.
He repeatedly reads e-mails from other parties, describing events that he parallels to the what the Con's did. They're different of course, but facts are the last thing on this guy's mind.
Today he bluntly said that the Chair was keeping info from the Con's but feeding it to the Liberals. He crosses the line as a matter of course and if he's your MP, I suggest you have a real embarrassment sitting in the House representing you.
Mike (aggrieved boor) Wallace. He too spends most of his time misleading and whining. According to him, the Chair doesn't like him and is always picking on him. He offers little by way of substance and repeats his twisted talking points, usually to sympathetic witnesses.
My advice to viewers is don't watch him too much. He makes the oddest faces, is never listening to what a witness or questioner is saying, has put that damn earpiece in his mouth more times than I can count, (are they reused? Yuck.) and generally displays boorish behaviour.
Dean (I think I'm Matlock) Del Mastro, goes after witnesses, the Chair and the opposition with a booming voice and feigned indignance. When he questions, he uses the same nonsense as the others and often closes with, 'no further questions'. I'm waiting for him to add 'Your Honour' as confirmation of his delusional state.
I think Kady was kind to him in terms of his ability to guide, (read lead) a witness, but for heaven's sake, he's a used car salesman. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but what's the first thing you learn in sales? How to frame the question to elicit the answer you prefer, (notice most of his questions are 'closed' questions) and how to close the sale.
In short, it would appear that the Con's really put lightweights on this committee and it's a mystery as to why. My best guess is that they felt they would be the most successful at making a mockery of things. Yet another example of the Con's using their own.
They were right on that count, but with that assumption I'll presume they expected that the media would report it as such. Big headlines, the Committee is a Zoo, etc. That little plan backfired and the only ones looking like buffoons are them. Perhaps the media is seeing how they played others for dupes and realise that they were treated in the same manner. Who know?
On a final note, the official agent for Cynthia Downey who ran in NFLD and now has no time for the Con's, was visibly disturbed today. I felt for the guy. His name is Darren Roberts and he clearly believed the party was being honest with him. He thought the party was giving him money that would go toward signs etc. that he would receive as a result of the wire transfer. He's of course the one who is on the hook for all of this now. Isn't it disgusting how this party uses it's own?
Thus far, I've witnessed no shame on the part of the Conservatives. To the contrary. They are apparently proud of their actions. Pride goeth before the fall, and all that should probably be considered by some in that brain trust.
Given that Stephen (arrogant) Harper is at the helm, don't put money on that happening.
Last point. Even before all of this nonsense, the Con's didn't appear to be in very good shape.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It Matters


While Conservative blogger's ignore what is going on in the Ethics Committee for the most part, they ignore how the party they adore is diminishing our institutions and democracy. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I suppose because the CPC's intent is to diminish and reduce our institutions they are happy not to highlight the hearings while hoping the Con's accomplish their goal. Oddly, the hearings are showing us just how vital our institutions are in our system.

Today's testimony did more to damage the CPC case than the supposed 'hostile' witnesses who spoke yesterday. Interestingly enough, the person who did the damage was someone who honestly believed he was being their 'champ'. You had to feel sympathy for him in a sense because unlike the Con's, he really seemed to believe what he was saying.

His name is Doug Lowler and he was the official agent for a candidate in Trinity Spadina, (Olivia Chow's) riding. He's one of those witnesses who love to talk, which often isn't a good thing.

He confirmed that the party passed $49,000.00 dollars 'in and out' of the campaign books. He said he had no idea how the party was going to spend it on advertising and had never heard of the ad agency Retail Media, but he speculated that Conservatives must be part of the firm. He didn't know who they were and he didn't care. He confirmed that the Conservative party told him he didn't have to attend the hearings and that other witnesses had also been contacted by the party with the same message. He added that the CPC were not happy he was going to attend. He told the committee that the CPC was going to send him 'talking points' so he would be in sync with the Con MP's, but they didn't make their way to him in time.

The bottom line is, this man swallowed what the party told him about the advertising scheme, hook, line and sinker. He believed that the advertising guidelines were flexible, that every party did it and it made sense because it was a way to get money into a campaign so they could be competitive with other parties who were more successful at fund raising. It was an opportunity for the campaign to claim their 60% rebate from EC which would be a windfall for a campaign like his.

It sounds like I'm making this up doesn't it? I promise you I am not and those who saw the proceedings I'm sure will back me up.

The clincher was when he told the committee that he believes everyone who has been called should appear before the committee. They are in the right and should come to prove it. I'm sure the brain trust at CPC HQ, were positively apoplectic by that point.

And that's the thing isn't it? They know full well that they contravened the rules and have done everything in their power to shut down and diminish this enquiry of the committee.

Consider that none of the witnesses showed up this morning and we now have a first hand account stating that in fact the CPC is urging witnesses not to appear. If you had a strong position, why would you do that?

So the BT's and the CPC are either ignoring or doing everything in their power to make a mockery out of parliament, with no regard for the potential damage they are doing. It's disgusting really.

Here are some headlines from today's hearings.

Tory witnesses spurn ethics committee
Tories accused of obstructing ethics committee
Tory witnesses duck committee hearings
Ex-candidates say Tories urged them to accept in-out plan
Tories allegedly told to snub committee

The committee will be back at it tomorrow, with EC people if memory serves, (I can't find the witness list at the moment). At least we know they will show up.

Update - Oh and the Con's were so damned smug today. Guess what?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Aside From This Guy's Antics, What Else did We Learn?

What stood out for me were 3 things in particular, though not exclusively.

First, the visceral reaction of the witnesses who were too smart not to realise that they were being played like a fiddle by the Conservatives. That obviously does not speak well to those candidates and now MP's who either didn't see or didn't care that what the party was doing was unethical.

Second, when Del Mastro bluntly told a witness, Martelli, that he hadn't even earned 10% of the vote when in fact he had won over 15% of it, told me that the Con's are not are prepared for their proceedings in court as they would have you believe. We learned in July that the Con committee members were basically taking their points from testimony and evidence presented by their lawyers to make their case at committee. That was a pretty basic error that took me 30 seconds to refute.

In fairness, Del Mastro apologised for his mistake, but that does not negate that even their basic research is flawed.

Thirdly and most important to me was the fact that Martelli was not only asked to consent to the 'in and out', the resulting refund was not left in the riding association but rather sent to the party coffers.

Now, we've heard for an awfully long time that the Con's are just swimming in money. Martelli made a quick mention that he had phone canvassed 100 people in his riding that supposedly had paid for memberships, thereby making a contribution to the party. His findings were that only 1 of these 100 people had actually done that. He found that odd and he also found it odd that the Con's had so much money. After his experience, he connected the dots.

I don't know if this is a House of Cards about to fall down, but I do hope that people smarter than me will look into exactly where the Conservative Party of Canada has received it's oceans of money.

It was a quiet part of the testimony, but it should not go unrecognised.

Thugs in Our Parliament

It's been clear from the beginning that the Conservative Party, from the top down, has no problem in pushing their weight around.

Anyone who watched the Ethics Committee meeting this morning expecting to see examples of that, wouldn't have been disappointed.

It started with the uninvited arrival of the charmer staring at you here, Doug Finley. Mr. Finely of course is the behind most of the nonsense we see the party carry out, including of course meeting with Chuck Cadman. Well, he certainly led his group by example today. Rather than appearing on Wednesday when he was asked to, he arrived today. His lawyer had contacted the committee to ask if this was acceptable, but the committee did not respond. He showed up anyway and expected to be accommodated.

After much wrangling, countless Points of Order by the Con's on why it was imperative that Finely be heard today, a vote was taken and it was ruled that Finely would not be heard, so he was asked to leave. He just sat there and refused to go.

Imagine the arrogance that takes. Consider the lack of respect for parliament it exhibits and recognise that the entire party shares this mentality.

What was so telling and humorous in a sense, is that by the Con's proceeding the way they did, they blew their own case. Before the meeting started Szabo had actually said that though it was unusual, if there was time after the other witnesses had been heard, they could hear from Finely. I guess the Con's weren't listening though because they began making their points of order, completely ignoring that fact.

So after being asked to leave Finely sat there for about 5 minutes until he was escorted out by security. Astonishing.

The rest of the meeting was no better in terms of decorum, but some pretty interesting detail came out that further clarifies just how this scheme took place and just how underhanded it was. Things like the party ordering some candidates to participate, to the point that they pulled one person, Ms. Fortier after the election had started because she refused to go along with it.

No invoices from the ad agency were seen by riding's and they did receive invoices from the CPC. They were not allowed to use the money as they wished and had to agree ahead of the transfer that they would simply wire it back to the party because it was for a National ad buy.

Anyway, the Committee is back at 1400hrs and I expect more of the same.

In my view, this stuff should be required viewing for all Canadians. When you see the Con's as they really are, I truly cannot understand how anyone could vote for such people.

Update - Here are some more, accounts of the events.