Friday, November 28, 2008

Stephen's Bad Err Day

Watching Harper issue his talking points to his followers this evening, I was struck by just how panicked he looked. Gone is that bravado that he so loves to flaunt. This was a man who knew he'd made a mistake and is in danger of losing the job he believes he deserves.

That said, the country is in for a hell of a ride this week. Be prepared to be bombarded with ads, e-mail and if you can stomach it, talk radio on steroids. What Harper telegraphed tonight was that he is at war and as is his custom, he will take no prisoners. It's interesting really to see just how flummoxed he is that his tactic didn't work. I suppose arrogance does that to you. When you believe you are above it all, it must be quite a shock to feel the ground shifting under your feet.

So, he will delay what was in the public domain today for a week, in an effort to get his troops out there, spreading fear and lies in the hope that the country will rally to his cause. His base will rally of course and if you've wandered over to the BT's recently you'll take my point. I've already heard John Baird and Ezra telling us that either Jack Layton or Bob Rae will be the new Finance minister in a Dion led government. It's not a factual statement, but that's never stopped them in the past. Anyway, they said this prospect, terrifies them and it should terrify every Canadian out there! It's difficult not to laugh while listening to these particular attack dogs bloviate, isn't it? In fact, I was certain that I heard a chuckle from the host on the radio tonight.

I think we can anticipate that everything and everyone will be considered fair game by these guys. We know they have no respect for Parliament, so their attacks will go on about the illegitimacy of a coalition government and I wouldn't be surprised to hear the occasional, coup, thrown in there. It will be framed as being undemocratic which, when you consider what they were trying to pass and how they have behaved since first being elected, well it's beyond ironic.

In the end, I think they could harm their cause more than help it though. You see, to my mind the Conservatives have this bad habit of believing that everyone thinks the way they do. The bubble they keep themselves in prevents them from understanding that their 'take' on a situation is not how most people view things. Furthermore, in making such assumptions, they fail to realise that as they insult the Liberal party or the other opposition parties, they are insulting their supporters as well. Not a very clever way to bring people around.

So, be prepared for a campaign this week. It won't speak to making parliament work, because they clearly didn't hear that message on October 14th. Nor is it likely to feature a sweater vest of any colour. No, we will witness something that perhaps we've not seen before for any extended period of time and that is the full wrath of Stephen Harper when he has been crossed.

Buckle up! It's going to be an interesting ride.

Backing Down?

Well now we have this:

OTTAWA - The Conservative government says an incendiary plan to strip political parties of their public financing won't be included in a confidence vote on the fall fiscal update.

Government sources say only tax measures will be part of the ways and means motion that parliamentarians will vote upon on Monday.
It's a sharp reversal for the minority government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

When the fiscal update was delivered on Thursday, government officials and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressly stated the party financing measures would be considered matters of confidence.

But with the Liberals and New Democrats in deep discussions about a potential coalition government should the Tories be defeated, the Conservatives are pulling back.

The party financing measures would effectively gut the opposition parties, who are far more dependent on public subsidies than is the Conservative party.

So is this going to be enough to keep the opposition from going ahead with the plans they seem to be making? Somehow I don't think so.

I wonder what kind of an earful Harper has been hearing? Come to think of it, he's likely blamed someone else.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Now What?

So, what will be the next move and by whom? The first vote on the economic statement comes on Monday so you can bet it's going to be a busy three days.

It's pretty clear that the opposition parties have no intention of backing down.

Dion - "We cannot support the plan the finance minister presented today. It's a plan to hide the deficit, it's not a plan to get our economy back on track," said Dion.

Duceppe - "This statement clearly goes against the interests of Quebec and we will oppose it."

Layton - “Why doesn't he stand up for Canadians and take some action on their part instead of protecting his friends in the Conservative party?”

The leadership candidates, (Rae and Ignatieff anyway), have also weighed in stating that they will not support the update. (Where was Dominic today anyway?)

So, will Harper back down? Will his arrogance allow him to? After all, it's his arrogance that brought him here. With the information we have so far, my bet is that he will. I think he likes power too much to allow the possibility of it being taken away from him. The question is how will he do it?

The possibility of the opposition forming a government is also seems quite real at this point.

This isn't Harper's first strategic stumble. His first was calling an election in order to gain a majority. How'd that turn out? Refusing to accept the results of that election, he went ahead today and behaved as if he did actually have a majority. How is that turning out?

So what's your bet? What happens next?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stimulus? Nope, Snake Oil

I confess that I was surprised to read the Tonda MacCharles article in the Star this morning. It was as if she was speaking to adults for a change and expanding a bit on the standard fare that we normally read about the PM.

She actually tells us that Harper's economic hero is Friedrich Hayek. If you've made it a point to know Harper you may already know this, but more often than not, especially during the election, he was simply introduced as a 'trained economist'. That introduction of course was designed to infer that he'd be the steady hand we needed in these troubled times. There was never any mention of what economic doctrine he adhered to and what that really meant for the future of this country.

It's of course fair to assume that most people don't know who Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes are. I certainly didn't until a few years ago when I took an interest in who Harper was and what he had in mind for this country. That said, it's interesting to note that this is one of the first times I've seen his economic philosophy mentioned in the MSM.

The article is superficial and suggests that Harper is having a temporary change of heart, which I do not buy for a minute. I don't even buy the soft soap claim that he's being 'pragmatic'. I think he's being as opportunistic as he was during the election and in doing so, he and Flaherty are tripping all over each other as they attempt to present something that will not compromise their philosophy, while keeping the masses at bay.

So, what will tomorrow's update contain? Robert Fife has already reported that the government intends to cut perks, which is fine, but is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Additionally though, we now learn that funding to political parties will be cut. That translates to $7.7 million for the Liberal party of Canada. Does anyone really think this is simply a gesture to show Canadians that the government is seriously concerned about the real pain they are feeling? Of course it isn't. It is precisely what many of us have been saying for some time now, just another step to do damage to the Liberal party. Isn't it convenient that he has the recession (one he vowed would never occur), to hide behind?

Not only is he sneaking his ideology in the through the back door, he's distracting from what really needs to be done and that is provide a stimulus package as the rest of the world is doing.

The Conservatives have crafted quite a plan here. It's one that will be difficult for the opposition, specifically the Liberals, to thwart but I certainly hope smarter minds than mine are working on how to do just that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh Come On!

To hear it told, you would think that these two were the economic guru's of our time. They knew this was coming before anyone else. They took steps to mitigate the impact of a worldwide meltdown. Canada was the best placed country in the G8 going into this. Etc., etc. What nonsense.

They of course completely underestimated, or it could be argued ignored, the impact of the current state of affairs. The idiotic comments made by both of them during the election were either outright lies, or willful negligence. The steps they are claiming they took to mitigate the impact in this country had of course been planned long ago, specifically the reduction of the GST. Did they speed up the second phase? Yes, but I don't believe for a minute that it was designed as a stimulus for a lagging economy, or certainly it wasn't sold that way. It was delivered with all the political fanfare that is accompanied by trite slogans like, 'getting the job done!'or 'promise made, promise kept!'. Can't you just hear all the Conservative MP's in the House parroting these lines behind Flaherty?

The Budget Officer has stated that all of the numbers we are to be treated to on Thursday, when Flaherty gives his update, were known in August. Because they did not own up to our situation then and further lied about during the election, Flaherty and Harper have spent the past couple of weeks dodging and now they are setting the table for our unpalatable meal with terms like, 'essential deficit', 'technical deficit', 'unprecedented action is required' and so on. They are attuning our ear to the inevitable bad news and no one seems to holding them to account.

I know the conventional line is, we can't look backward at this precarious time, but come on! That phrase is becoming the new, 'you're either with us or your agin us!'

The Conservatives have managed the fiscal framework of this country in accordance with their ideology. Full stop. They have been swept up in a meltdown that they did not foresee and they will no doubt mouth the same phrases that other country leaders are considering, so as not to appear to be ideological. Here's the rub though. Current circumstances serve as the ideal foil for them to do exactly what they've wanted to do all along.

Do you think Flanagan's musings are just a pipe dream?

"I'm hopeful there will be some ideologically-driven, neo-conservative cuts to government," political scientist Tom Flanagan, a former chief of staff to Harper, said in an interview.

Think again.

We heard today that the government had more or less settled with the PS sector. That all sounds peachy until you consider that negotiations began 18 months ago. The plan to keep wages low was not a result of the current economic situation, it was simply the plan.

Now we're hearing that in spite of all the economists suggesting that a spending stimulus is necessary, Flaherty agrees, but will wait until the Spring. I don't however see that he'll be prevented from cutting programs or expenses in this comment.

"We will do whatever is necessary to protect the soundest financial system in the world from being put at risk . . . In good times or bad, hard choices are just part of the job description."

Wait for it folks. It may not be happening the way they planned it, but they are most certainly going to use this time to accomplish their goal.

Harper is listing to the political middle? In words only and we know how much those are worth when it comes to him don't we?

As an aside, I realise I haven't posted much lately. In spite of that, I'd like to thank who ever nominated me for best Political blog. It was beyond flattering and greatly appreciated. Now that the leadership race should be getting underway in earnest and the House is back, I expect postings will be more frequent.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rae Reaches Out

You've probably already read that Bob Rae participated, or I guess I should say his team initiated, a conference call with a group of bloggers today.

First of all, he and his team, specifically Braeden Caley, deserve kudos for being the first to do this kind of outreach with bloggers during this race. I hope this interaction continues from his camp and others.

The call was open and covered a range of issues. These things of course never lend themselves to much detail, but neither did the forum last weekend. Time is always an issue. Bob did answer each question directly and seemed to be looking forward to lengthier discussions concerning what he intends to offer the party through his leadership.

He is facing his record head on and spoke to clarifying some of the mythology that has surrounded same, while also speaking to his experience and accomplishments. He was asked about the 'poll' that was leaked to the media and seemed fairly sanguine in the knowledge that it would not be the last attempt by his opponents to go after him. He noted how it was one question provided without context and was not in fact a poll. I would agree that it seemed to be a bit of mischief put out there designed to take the sheen off his announcement.

Like the other two contenders, he's committed to maintaining the environment as an integral part of an overall platform, but was blunt in terms of how we as a party must be able to listen to the 'ground' when implementing policy. Something tells me that anything that even remotely rhymes with 'Green Shift' is going to be far, far away from the lips of all the potential leaders.

Overall the conversation, like the forum last Sunday, made me realise that I am anxious to see more detail from all the potential leaders and I look forward to some interesting debate on how to best lead the party toward a rewarding and successful future.

For more summaries of the call: Calgary Grit, Danielle Takacs, Bowie, Scott's DiaTribe, BC'er

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leadership Race

I noted on the evening political shows yesterday that the media were trying to keep the Mississauga 'sound bites' alive. This morning there were a couple of stories pushing that narrative, but Sunday's events were more of an aside than a real story, as it should be imo.

Given that Ignatieff and Rae were sitting beside each other in the House today as they voted for the new Speaker, and peace in our time, (or at least at this time), seems to have broken out, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about the candidates.

I attended the forum on the weekend and as I'm sure you've already read from some of my colleagues, it went really well. It wasn't a debate at all, if you ask me, but rather a Q&A that was open and really amicable. Neither Ignatieff nor LeBlanc attacked each other's position and more often than not they agreed on most issues, at least on the surface which is all that time would allow.

I had hoped to see all 3 leaders because I've yet to make up my mind as to who I will support. I didn't expect one meeting to answer that question for me, but I wanted to get a better sense of who each man is, today. In addition to hearing what they had to say about the last election, the next election and their policies, I wanted to gauge them as they responded to each other and to the audience. I can't say I was surprised by either man but I learned some things that gave me some comfort.

Ignatieff didn't strike me as oft cited 'conservative in liberal clothing'. I understand where those comments originate, but his responses were measured, in accordance with Liberal ideals and it was clear that he has learned something about politics in a practical sense since being elected. He was sincerely engaged, interested and didn't shy away from or skirt any issue.

Dominic LeBlanc was really the one I wanted to know more about. I've seen him in the House and during pressers, but like most people, I didn't really have a sense of the man, specifically as it relates to policy and this race in general. I have to say, I was impressed. He's got a terrific sense of humour and a comfortable manner. It was evident that he is quite serious about this run in spite of the media paying little attention to him. While it was difficult to get into any detail re' policy and ideas for the future of the party, it was clear to me that he's put a lot of thought into presenting something different than we've heard thus far. I look forward to hearing more from him.

I still am not prepared to declare who I will support and in fairness, I still haven't heard Rae speak to the issues we face at this moment, (though I was 2 feet away from him during his scrum at the Delta Meadowvale, ;). Two blogging colleagues who also attended the forum were trying to sway me in earnest to whom they were supporting, but I think there is still time to see all of these men in action.

On that note, I'm getting a sense that there is more than one Liberal out there determined only to choose the person who can beat Harper, with little consideration being given to other issues. Believe me. No one wants to see Harper and his 'new' Conservative party out of power more than I do, but I also want to see this party move in a direction that is clear and speaks to what Canadians want.

Who will provide that direction? Here's to more forums and future debates so we can all answer that question.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Stop and Think

Reading this article, you'd swear that Liberal party members had basically made up their minds and the leadership race was hardly worth having. I mean really, flip a coin? I know Ms. Sgro was being facetious, but if there is even a kernel of truth there, she and others with similar feelings are not the ones that the party should be listening to.

If the Liberal Party of Canada is serious about moving forward and understanding our value in this democracy, we need to begin at the very least by holding a democratic leadership race. That means allowing all those who feel they can offer the party a direction that will excite the grassroots, attract new members and remind Liberals who may have sat out the last election why we are the alternative they are looking for.

Personally, I'm not interested in a coronation. I want to hear from potential leaders why they believe they can guide this party from where it is now, to it's greatest potential. I'm not impressed frankly by candidates who have spent all of this time, (since the last race), putting their teams together and getting their 'game' ready. Now, I'm not naive either and I know that is how this blood sport is played, but I don't see how that kind of manoeuvring has done us much good, do you?

I want an open race and indeed I want to see new faces. In fact, I want to hear from as many people is as feasible in order to see genuinely new ideas. Dominic LeBlanc seems interested and I for one would like to see Gerard Kennedy get back in. I don't know where Dominic stands on many issues but I'd like to hear from him. Gerard did have a run last time around but because he hasn't been wheeling and dealing in the back corridors, I suspect he is even more in touch now with what the party needs than he was previously. That to me is someone we should be listening to.

If like me, you believe the leadership race should be open to whomever wishes to run and do not want to see that process curtailed, please contact someone at the National Executive ( and make your feelings known.

Additionally, if there is someone who you would like to encourage to run, send them an e-mail. I can start you off with Gerard Kennedy's office e-mail, Gerard has spent time thinking about this as evidenced in his e-mail to supporters. Personally, I want to hear more. He's not been plotting his support like the two front runners. He's been thinking about what the party needs. Isn't that what we want?

That may not be how the game is currently played but some rules were truly meant to be broken and our voices are entitled to be heard. In fact, I'm convinced that a great many Canadians would like to see a fresh way of doing politics in this country.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Election Night ~ Speech

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Saturday, November 01, 2008