Sunday, January 31, 2010

Give it Time to Fade? No

A talking point I see taking shape, (and pushed today by Rex Murphy on Cross Country Check-Up), is that by the time parliament comes back, this whole bothersome 'prorogation' thing will have died down.

I disagree. To be clear, I disagree because they are missing the main issue. It's not the fact that Harper prorogued like others before him. It's of course how and why he prorogued and what that action confirmed about the man.

Harper proroguing parliament played into a narrative that was growing. The prorogation simply gave it shape. The narrative was difficult to distill into a simple concept because Harper has acted inappropriately in a number of ways and venues.

He's gone after civil servants, he's played with House committees and their work. He's skirted election financing rules and reneged on his promise to implement the Accountability Act in full. He's stacked the Senate, made no serious move for reform and even made a Senator a cabinet minister in the early days. He's lied, often. ie, Environmental plan, the Coalition and it's meaning, markets disliking minority parliaments, the deficit, in fact the worldwide financial situation was brushed off as nonsense by this (cough) economist.

There's more, but seriously, how do you articulate all that in a sound bite? You can't. The prorogation issue brought all and more of these disparate facts together and boiled it down to the character of the man.

The issue is his style and method of governance and if people really think that is going to go away when parliament reconvenes, well I want what they are smoking.

Oh, and to all who believe that Harper and co. will reinvent themselves by using the Olympics, I'd think again if I were you. You see, politicizing our games will further feed the cynicism that has been awakened in this country. He'll simply reinforce the now more widespread notion as to how manipulative he is.

So, will this all fade away? No, me thinks not.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Day After

I took some time today to reflect on the rallies held across the country yesterday.

Though there was some media coverage today, overall it was light. Fair enough. It is Sunday and news is generally sparse on a Sunday. What coverage was out there, was mostly favourable and in some cases amusing. Some media basically telling we, who cared, passed the imaginary test they had set for us. Yes, you read that correctly. They alone decided what would validate the Facebook reaction and then deigned to proclaim on that fictitious high water mark.
Yeah, I laughed out loud too reading the proclamation.

The reports that claimed there were only 3,000 at the Toronto rally were also laughable. Anyone who was there knows the truth. My guess is 10,000, but there are estimates everywhere. What we know for sure is that the square can hold 7,000 and it was overflowing. Go from there.

The energy was disconcerting at times, you really can feel that many people, but it was overwhelmingly positive.

So, the day after, it seems as though the 'news cycle' has moved on...but I think not.

Tomorrow all the regular talking heads come back to work. Also, accentuating what the rallies were all about, (Harper shutting out scrutiny) the Liberals and now the NDP, will be in Ottawa. I'm not certain what the NDP agenda is, but I do know the Liberals have planned to meet on a issues that, were parliament in session, would have been addressed.

That in itself should keep the prorogation issue on the front burner. If it doesn't, then I think we can ask some serious questions as to the news we are getting.

I don't think this issue is going away any time soon. Too many people care and have made it a point to pay attention and understand. That's powerful stuff in this country.

Which begs the question, why has Harper been allowed to get away with so much for so long? Why weren't Canadians more involved before now?

I think a few things were at play. In spite of himself, (Harper), and his disdain for Canadian institutions including the media, few have taken it upon themselves to call him out. Some in fear of losing their jobs and others, somehow believing that if they keep playing nice he'll come around.

I'll let the playing nice people to answer for themselves, but the others, groups like Kairos, professors, climate spokespeople, Rights advocates and more, have all spoken out recently. In my opinion, all of those voices started to raise the consciousness of the masses. It felt slow to me, but if that is the time it we are.

Harper is in a bad place now. We know that he will pull out all the stops. I read tonight that the government has bought a new set of expensive ads. Yea, that's our government hard at work trying to save you money, by spending your money.

Historic turning points are few and far between in this country. I think we hit one yesterday, but now it must be built upon. This is no time to rest on yesterday's news.

Keep creating tomorrow's news. That, thankfully, is now the direction in which I think we are headed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Few Pic's from Toronto Rally

These are a few quick downloads. Having some trouble editing photo's, (ie brightness, etc) but you should get a bit of a feel from this.

Raging Grannies

Gerard Kennedy
Martha Hall-Findlay

See you There!

Find a rally near you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Plunging in the Polls

h/t - Far and Wide


An open letter to the members of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament

To the members of CAPP,

This Saturday, January 23, thousands of Canadians will attend anti-prorogation rallies organized by the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) Facebook group. They won’t be going as Liberals or New Democrats, as Bloc Québécois, Conservatives or Greens. They’ll be going as Canadian citizens, united in their opposition of Stephen Harper’s shut down of Parliament. That will happen because one of you had the courage to stand up in protest – and then another, and another, and another.

I want you know to know how heartened I am by the mere existence of this group – the largest spontaneous online political movement we’ve seen yet in this new digital age of politics in Canada. I am heartened because the vitality of our democracy depends on the participation of its citizens, regardless of their political stripes. And your efforts and your numbers – over 200,000 of you so far – proves that Canadians truly are standing guard over our democratic traditions and institutions.

Some dismiss your efforts as nothing more than a click of a button. They are wrong. I know that your organizers have been volunteering their own time for several weeks to prepare Saturday’s rallies. And I know that thousands of you will be taking time off school and work, or away from your families to attend them. Anyone who pretends that those sacrifices don’t count is highly mistaken.

When this group first formed, your rallying cry was “Get back to work.” Well, on January 25, the day Parliament was set to resume, my entire caucus will be back on Parliament Hill for several weeks of roundtables and working sessions on job creation, veterans affairs, the environment, health – issues you care about. Issues that can’t wait.

And this Thursday, January 21, from 3 - 4pm, I will be holding an online town hall on my Facebook page. It’s part of a national conversation about this country’s future that includes all Canadians and recognizes the importance of open and honest debate. I encourage all members of CAPP to join us on
I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

When Stephen Harper shut down Parliament on December 30, he was counting on Canadians’ reacting with cynicism and indifference. You showed him that’s not who we are. You showed him that Canadians believe in their institutions and have clear, common sense expectations of their politicians: Get to work, work together and get the job done. It’s what’s expected of every Canadian all day long, and politicians should not live by a different set of rules.

I hope your important work these past few weeks means Stephen Harper gets that message loud and clear this Saturday.


Michael Ignatieff

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Court Ruling

I'm sure you've all read the story about the court decision that came down yesterday.
I'm awaiting some information on the ruling, but the article breaks it down and Impolitical goes into more detail here.
While it must be said that this was a win for the Conservatives, until the other case moves forward, this is not the sweeping victory a Pierre Poilievre would have you believe.
In the end, the court ruled that Mayrand did not have enough evidence to withhold the rebate. It specifically did not rule on the legality of the overall program, as far as I can tell.
It is a story that I'll be following, specifically as to whether or not Elections Canada will appeal the decision and of course, the on-going investigation being undertaken by Commissioner of Elections Canada.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crossing the Line

I confess to thinking what I'm about to write, yesterday, but I was so caught up in the human suffering in Haiti, that I thought it inappropriate and pushed it out of my mind.

While I am still keeping abreast of what is happening in Haiti, the PM went a step too far today, so I am going to mention it.

Let me begin by saying that I think the military and our government have done a good job of getting relief to Haiti quickly. I was pleased to see today that they decided to match all donations made by Canadians (up to 50 million) and have also signalled that they will consider speeding up the immigration process. This is all good news that I don't think is diminished by what follows.

I first noticed that there were quite a few photo's appearing in papers and on TV of the Prime Minister on the phone, supposedly speaking with heads of state. Odd, I thought, but okay. Then yesterday, I was listening to the radio and was told that Michaelle Jean would be giving a statement at about 1420 I think, from Rideau Hall. Then it was moved to 1430, then as the clock ticked closer to 1500, the station said they had no idea what was going on and couldn't reach anyone to to find out.

Shortly thereafter, media was alerted to a photo-op only, (no reporters) in the PM's office. A video without sound, showed the GG along with the PM and various Ministers, discussing the issue around a table.

At that moment, I thought that someone in the PMO co-opted the GG and used the moment to present Harper. It chafed, but as I said, I pushed it aside and didn't want the cynical to take away from a disaster.

The GG did of course finally speak and while clearly shaken, she gave as powerful a statement as I have heard. Her statement certainly overshadowed anything the PM had done or said.

So, here we are, another day and more tragic news coming by the hour and what do we learn? The PMO staged yet another photo op.

Update: I just received this message from the PMO marked “Urgent.”

OTTAWA – Public event for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Thursday, January 14th is:
3:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mrs. Laureen Harper will make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross

Crass doesn't begin to describe what this is. Whether it is the brainchild of one of the PM's staff or he thought of it himself can't be known, but either way, it is the lowest form of politics. I'm not sure it gets worse than riding on the back of tragedy to enhance your own image.

If you haven't already done so, please consider donating today by choosing one of the organisations outlined here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Theatre of the Absurd

While I maintain my position on this prorogation, I can't help but smile watching the government's hamfisted reaction to what Canadians are saying.

The rationale for prorogation shifts by the hour. There is no real narrative and the more MP's and Ministers that come forward to proclaim, the more ridiculous they sound. Oh, that includes the PM btw, who in my opinion, has made some of the most ridiculous comments, that are promptly shot down. Not just by the opposition mind you, but by people who know of what they speak.

Tonight I watched MP Glover on Power and Politics. I apologise for this, but I burst out laughing as she spoke.

Now, I have to say that I had pegged her for a cabinet appointment, if there is going to be a shift. Not because she is bright, she's not. Not because she has expertise, she doesn't. What she has is a tenacity that the Harper government loves. She speaks to the camera and parrots the party line like no one's business. That, in my opinion, gets you to cabinet, sadly.

Tonight though was something to behold and a tough one to dissect. She was asked by Evan Solomon what she had to say about Tom Flanagan's comments last night on the show. You remember right? He confirmed that Harper was making ridiculous childish comments re' prorogation and everyone knew that he was avoiding the Afghanistan issue.

Her response? I don't know who this Tom Flanagan person is, but he is a Canadian, I assume, who has the right to his opinion...or something like that.

Really? There are two ways to go here. She has either been fed that line by the PMO to deflect the damage Flanagan did yesterday, or she seriously doesn't know. I'm going with the latter because it tells me more about who runs for the party and who supports them.

You see, I don't believe many in the party, elected or followers, really understand what Harper stands for, believes in, or has promoted most of his adult life. I think people identify as Conservative, for real or imagined reasons and really have no conception of what this new party, led by this man, means. Flanagan is very much the architect for god's sake and to not know who he is, well, that is gob smacking.

I've watched Glover because she was new and was quickly placed in front of the camera. She had experience at that. But she soon showed me that she is a partisan without any depth and has a nasty streak that suits the party to a tee. Tonight confirmed that.

If you want to run for Stephen Harper and his party, don't you think you should know something about him? Who is Tom Flanagan? Really?

This my friends I think is as telling as it gets.

The Conservatives are in the weeds, pushing out nobodies that have nothing to offer and it all makes me wonder why has it taken so long for the reality of it all to be exposed?

Something tells me there will be more and it will contribute to the theatre of the absurd.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spin, Losing it's Thread

How many reasons have we heard now from the Conservatives as rationale to prorogue? I've lost track.

There is the need to consult over the economy, but Flaherty put that to rest by saying he'd consult with or without prorogation. Then there is the whole notion that the government has to set a new agenda, 'recalibrate', except they go on to say that it will be business as usual and the plan is simply to implement the second half of the EAP.

There is not one reasonable explanation that has been put on the table and they are now floundering and sound more ridiculous than usual.

Oh, to hear Tom Flanagan tonight was something to behold. Yes, even Tom thinks the government has played this all wrong and indeed he stated that the government is putting forward childish explanations when everyone knows Harper is avoiding the Afghanistan detainee issue. Go-rogue Tom!

Today, Harper was interviewed by BNN. He described the House and Parliament as 'games'. His trustworthy secretary, Pierre Poilievre described same as 'theatre'. Both of these descriptions tell us precisely what the PM thinks of our institutions and plays to exactly what Canadians are rebelling against. Harper holds these institutions in disdain and will abuse the system in every way he can to both circumvent and discredit them.

This is our Prime Minister...of the country. Isn't that just mind boggling?

Further, Harper had the audacity to imply that minority governments wreak havoc with the markets. Seriously, he said that:

In fact, it is Parliament in a minority situation that is perceived by markets as unstable, said Harper.

"The games begin when Parliament returns," he explained. "The government can take our time now to do the important work to prepare the economic agenda ahead.

"That said, as soon as Parliament comes back . . . the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence and there'll be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year. That's the kind of instability markets are actually worried about."

Really? What kind of idiotic comment is that? Since when do the markets sit in anticipation of what a minority government might do? Answer: They don't.

Oh, then he had this gem:

Although the stimulus spending, and lower revenues caused by the recession, has caused the government to fall into record deficits -- $56 billion this year alone -- Harper said he is not worried Ottawa is creating a structural deficit.

Creating? It's been created my friend and there is not an economist in this country that doesn't attest to that....oh, except Harper who by now certainly has to be acclaimed the worst economist on the planet.

Is this the next tranche that Harper wants to exploit? Good luck with that. What the Conservatives don't seem to get at the moment is their flank has been exposed and once out there, there is no covering up.

They are now calling people who are engaged and understand the issues, elitists. That term apparently is designed to turn people away, but, if elitism means being in the know and taking the time to understand issues, hey, I'm there!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

From Apathy to Antipathy

For the longest time, Canadians either weren't engaged or didn't really care what went on in Ottawa and while I doubt every household in the nation is discussing prorogation at the dinner table today, there is more discussion out there than we have seen in some time.

At this moment, the Facebook page, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, boasts 141,000 members. That is not an insignificant amount of people who are at least aware of the state of affairs on Parliament Hill.

So with that as a backdrop, the Liberals released some print and radio ads today. I've read some reaction to the ads and of course you see the expected cynicism, some praise and some condemnation. I have yet to see anyone hit on what I think the ads are designed to do though.

The cynics and critics comment that these ads are unlikely to change someones vote. That may be true, but I don't think that is the point. I believe the point of the ads is to strengthen the sentiments of those who are noticing what Harper is up to. Building on the growing distaste for his arrogance toward our system and the will of the people. I think it's an ad designed to reinforce what many people have previously thought of Harper but couldn't quite translate it to an issue that they connected with. Taking away their voice, in what seems to be an arbitrary and undemocratic manner is something most people connect with.

For those of us who follow this stuff, it is of course in keeping with what we know of the PM, but for those who don't, shutting down parliament without any logical rationale except to avoid scrutiny, well that is not something that many would take lightly. These ads sanction those feelings.

Suggesting that the ad should sway votes, when we are not in an election period, is rather foolish in my opinion.

During this period of prorogation, Ignatieff has said that the Liberals will be in Ottawa, working. Ignatieff himself will be travelling across the country holding Town Halls on University campuses. Given that the Facebook page was originated by a University student and there seems to be new interest in political goings-on in those circles, I see this strategy as a good thing, though I believe it was planned before movement took hold.

The Town Hall's will of course be open to more than just students and I think it is a great opportunity to maintain public engagement in the political process.

Ignatieff says he is arriving with a simple message for young Canadians: "Don't fall for all this cynicism. Get involved in politics."

These speaking/listening engagements can and should be used to discuss not only the prorogation issue, but as a means to tie many examples of similar behaviour by Harper together, into a comprehensive narrative.

That said, I don't think we should solely be out there attacking Harper. In spite of a rather constant chorus that suggests the Liberals haven't put any ideas out there, we have and I think it is important for Ignatieff to speak to these ideas and highlight how they contrast with the current government.

Parliament may have been closed down, but something tells me that the upcoming months are not going to be quiet and I for one am glad to see apathy turning to antipathy.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Expanding Conversation

As many of you know, I felt the need to take a bit of a break from this blog. That said, I have dipped in and out of the news cycles and tried to keep up with what was going on.

Something I noticed at year end, were the numerous articles on just what a wonderful year Harper had. Opinion writers and journalists alike went on at length describing in detail, what a deft politician Harper was, how his tactics paid off and while lucky in some instances, all in all, he got glowing grades from many.
The more of these pieces I read, the more I was struck by the fact that no one was really talking about the Prime Minister of this country, but rather they were speaking about the leader of the Conservative party and assessing how he and the party had fared in a political sense. They were speaking to how he had used the system and in some cases, less than ethical tactics to maintain power.
Think about that for a minute. Is that really what Canadians need to know at the end of the year? Shouldn't we be given an assessment of how the country was run? Shouldn't we have checklist of sorts of what our Prime Minister set out to do and how much of that agenda was accomplished?
In my view, those issues have been ignored for far too long. Opposition parties try to raise those issues, but when questioned the subject is often ignored in favour of questions like 'what strategy will you use to attack the government?' or 'how will you vote...willl you bring the government down?'.
That said, we've seen a shift recently. The strategy and tactics employed by Harper are still being scrutinized, but from a different perspective. Indeed, Harper's latest ploy of proroguing parliament seems to have energized not only the media, but Canadians who have noticed and find it objectionable.
As I write, the Facebook page Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, is nearing 90,000 members. There have been some out there that have tried to belittle this endeavor, but in the main, you'll note that most articles and op/ed's being written seem to share the same sentiment being expressed by the grassroots of this country.
I'll agree that clicking on a FB page in and of itself can mean little, but as I've watched this group grow and see rallies being organised, I sense something is happening out there. A bit of an 'enough is enough', attitude seems to be developing and I think this is healthy for the country and our democracy.
These two articles in the Economist lay things out rather neatly, I think.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and whether or not you are hearing about this issue in your daily life.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Short Break

Sadly, we've experienced two deaths in the family over this holiday season, so I've taken a short break.
I will be back as soon as I can.
Thanks for your patience.