Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, blah blah blah

To quote the Gorillaz of late...:) And various other assorted platitudes to you this last night of 2007...thought I'd jot down a few thoughts on a quiet evening here in the Impolitical household.

Here's a song I've had going through my head and on my speakers for weeks now that makes me happy. Don't know why, just like it. Although I don't quite get the video. See if you do.



Otherwise, as the year ends and we look forward to 2008, the most prominent cause for hope for the world is the fact that the PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH WILL END IN 2008. Yet unfortunately, we must watch this imbecile for yet another 11 months or so. The good news is that he's set the bar so eminently low, anyone, dare I say, will be an improvement. Of course, this corner is rooting for a Democrat to take back the White House, any of the top three will do me just fine. Edwards is a sentimental favourite right now though, have to say, although ultimately, not sure he can pull it off.

We will also look to a likely Canadian election. And there's hope that Harpie too may be banished to opposition. He's not grown in the polls, as I've been bleating on about for likely most of this year. Let's hope it stays that way and Canadians, aided by a little discussion in the blogging community, see the misguided out of sync Conservatives for what they are.

Other than that, cheers and have a great night...:)

Harpie sounds nervous

This might actually turn out to be a very useful photo op. You know, of the "Mission Accomplished" variety. After all, we all know who's responsible for the GST cuts. He's got a 5% practically tattooed to his forehead just about now. And yet to mark what should be a brilliantly happy occasion, if they're so convinced they're doing the right thing, Harpie and Flaherty are somehow spinning like crazy, trying to lower expectations for economic performance this year.
"We know there is considerable uncertainty in the world economy, in the American economy, and we've seen very strong performance from our economy so far," he said Monday.

"So obviously, our wish for the year is we're able to sustain that momentum and shelter as best we can Canadians from any fallout of global economic problems."

Harper's comments marked another year-end warning from the Conservative government that the Canadian economy is headed for a year of turbulence, due to tighter financial markets and the fallout from a slowing U.S. economy.
Sounds like they're pretty freakin' nervous about the economic cushioning that they just jettisoned. The sensible approach might have been this:
Liberal finance critic John McCallum said the Conservatives should be cutting income taxes instead.

In an interview from San Francisco, McCallum said he thinks this announcement "is a triumph of political gimmickry over good policy because there's not an economist on the planet who would argue in favour of using $12 billion per year of valuable taxpayers' money to cut the GST."
But I guess Harpie's going to have to live with the consequences this year, whatever they may be. As his mentor taught him, "In politics, you take risks." We'll see if this is a beau risque or a blown risk.

Harpie touting his GST cut today while GTA taxes rise


Harpie is going to be in the GTA today revisiting the cheesy photo op that launched the pathetic GST cutting that sees most people getting, well, bupkus of significance in their daily lives. But as a report today tells us, "Mr. Harper's promise to reduce the GST to 5 per cent during the 2006 campaign proved both popular and smart political theatre." Well, let's think about that, Torontonians, shall we? That report goes on to tell us this:
Most Canadians will see only small savings of about $200 on purchases over the coming year. But the savings on big-ticket items like homes, appliances or automobiles will be dramatic: $5,000 on a $500,000 home, for instance.
$5,000 on a $500,000 home you say? Well not if you live in the GTA, ironically one of Harper's choice locations for such photo ops. The land transfer tax Toronto council had to enact to make up for a $500 million budget shortfall kicks in soon, vitiating any benefit from a GST cut:
As if the incoming flurry of holiday bills wasn't enough, Torontonians should brace themselves for a slew of extra charges over the next few months as the new taxes and fees adopted in 2007 kick in.

Buying a home and owning a car will cost more starting Feb. 1, when the new land transfer and motor vehicle registration taxes take effect.
...
Under the new land transfer tax approved by city council this fall, prospective homebuyers have until tonight to sign a purchase agreement or until Feb. 1 to close the deal to avoid paying up to 2 per cent in taxes.

Some realtors predict the market will slow down as a result of the levy, which will add thousands of dollars to the cost of most houses.

For example, it will cost the buyer of a $375,000 home an extra $4,100.
So you see, when Harper and Flaherty and the gang start talking up the great GST savings homebuyers are going to get...that won't apply to the GTA. Maybe someone should ask him, once again, while he's out there in Mississauga at his little photo op why his government couldn't have instead given 1 cent of the GST to the cities?

Don't let the snow job fool you today.

New video of Bhutto assassination



New video of Bhutto's assassination, taken from behind the car in which Bhutto stood and which provides greater visibility of the events. The report vets the different theories thus far. Worth a look.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A little Christmas eve Conservative hatorade for you

They're slamming the CBC, capitalizing on an incident during the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings. In other words, doing their best imitation of the worst of the Republican efforts to tarnish the media as liberal in order to portray themselves as the victims of a biased media. Poor little helpless Conservatives with their millions to spend on attack ads. We should apparently feel sorry for them and the disadvantages they must overcome. An extended excerpt so you can revel in the dramatic picture portrayed by one of the top Conservative party officials:
The Conservative Party of Canada has slammed the country's public broadcaster in a fundraising letter to party members.

Top party official Doug Finley has sent Conservative grassroots supporters a letter in which he lambastes the CBC and asks people for money to help fight an election.

Finley, the party's campaign director, says he was shocked by allegations that a CBC reporter helped produce questions for a Liberal MP to ask Brian Mulroney at a recent parliamentary hearing.

Now he's using the incident as a fundraising message to the party faithful: Tories face a chronic disadvantage because of their powerful enemies, and need your cash to overcome it.

But while casting the governing party as a perennial underdog, Finley glosses over the fact that the Tories are - by far - the top dog in the money department.

The Tories are loaded with cash after out-fundraising the Liberals by millions of dollars at a four-to-one ratio, and that money has allowed them to staff campaign headquarters and run multiple TV ads.

Finley glosses over those advantages in a letter that focuses on the challenges of being a Conservative.

"Let's face the facts," Finley writes in a letter, released by the party Monday.

"Running as a Conservative in Canada is never easy.

"The Liberals have long benefited from the support of the country's most powerful vested interests. And the NDP has always been backed by the country's loudest vocal interests."

He goes on to ask for $100 or $200, and argues that financial support will help the Tories overcome the challenge of fighting the Liberals and "their vested interest allies."
Sob...sob...:)

Memo to CBC, keep reporting the news as you're doing and stand up to such efforts to bully you into re-considering your coverage. Because this little letter is not just about fund-raising. It's also undoubtedly about trying to create a backlash against the CBC and maybe gain Conservatives the benefit of the doubt here and there on a close call with a story. The Republicans have been on a "liberal media" tirade in the U.S. for years and par for the course, the Harper Conservatives are trying to inculcate the same thing in Canada.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Accommodation for Harper is just an electoral calculation

What part of accommodation includes singling out women Muslim voters and legislating that they show their faces while voting - when there is no record of problems occurring? As Harper hits his "Kumbayah" tone on accommodation and immigration today, let's not forget how he whipped up this issue prior to the Quebec by-elections for, frankly, Conservative electoral advantage. And how he publicly misrepresented that the Elections Act mandated such identification by Muslim women when it in fact did not (see CBC report, 2nd link provided). He vilified the Chief Electoral Officer in September, a foreshadowing of his similar attack on nuclear regulator Linda Keen, who was simply following the law that Harper had passed.

These two attacks were terrible low points for our country this year, to watch our Prime Minister attacking decent, principled public servants who were following the laws and were unable to defend themselves.

Keep that in mind as you hear the platitudes being mouthed today...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Leadership means farming out major decisions to others

Afghanistan - John Manley et al.

Whether or not to have a public inquiry on the Mulroney-Schreiber disaster - even when you've already publicly committed to it - David Johnston.

Stephane Dion's not a leader? I think someone else is demonstrating at this year's end that he's much more worthy of that designation...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mini Bush: sinkin' like a stone

"Tory support plunges in wake of Mulroney, Bali, isotope controversies: poll." My that's terrible news the week before Christmas...:)
A new poll suggests Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost their big lead over the Liberals in the wake of recent controversies, plunging six percentage points in popular support in just one week.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey puts the Tories at 30 per cent support, in a statistical tie with the Liberals who are up four points to 32 per cent. Support for the Tories dropped across all regions and demographic groups.
A drop of 6 points in a week. While this is heartening for those who oppose the Harper government, it still leaves the Conservatives and Liberals in minority government territory. But let's consider the results anyway.

I've floated the theory that the more we see of these federal Conservatives, the more we don't like them. This is why, I believe, Harper prorogued the House until October to give them additional months away from public scrutiny and with an abundance of careful and almost daily stage managed events. Then the push was on to go immediately to a fall election, before the lens could again be applied to their performance as a government. This poll perhaps bears out my view, that they're just not up to the task in managing major events in a manner Canadians are comfortable with and the more Canadians see that, the more they rebel. The pollster suggests this is the case too:
Nevertheless, Anderson said the fundamentals underlying Conservative support "remain fairly sturdy." He suggested Tory popularity may rebound in the new year as attention shifts away from the nation's capital during the six-week parliamentary Christmas break.
What does that say for a political leader's fortunes? As long as you go away, we might like you better...:)

They're out of sync on environmental priorities and Baird just made a mish-mash of things in Bali. And I would venture a guess that Harper's high profile trashing of Linda Keen and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as partisan Liberal appointees came off as a major buck passing event that was totally unnecessary and pointless at the height of a serious crisis that needed work, not partisanship. It's another disappointing episode when his raw political instincts rear their ugly head in the House and he utters such nonsense. It's right up there with their "Liberals don't support the troops" hatorade. And for the most part, Harper's been able to get away with such mistakes due to the Conservative p.r. machine.

The problem, however, is that not all events can be so carefully stage managed. Daily challenges require more than p.r. responses. They require talented individuals leading us at the federal level. And the Conservatives are significantly challenged in this regard. I mean, what's there to like?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rove cited for contempt and about to get more scrutiny



Dan Abrams' series called "Bush League Justice" focussed yesterday on the politically motivated prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman who today sits behind bars doing a 7 year sentence. Republican luminaries in Alabama who came under scrutiny for the same matters as Siegelman were not investigated at all, by contrast. There's evidence this prosecution was driven by none other than Karl Rove. I tuned in because one of my faves, Scott Horton, the excellent legal blogger for Harper's was a guest. So here's the damning segment. Abrams is vowing to stay on the case.

Rove was cited for contempt by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Senator Leahy has clearly decided to test the supposed impartiality of new Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Horton believes that this move has to do with the bubbling up of the Siegelman case. If that's the cae, Rove is not home free by a long shot.

Jeez, when you can't trust a former separatist to dig up dirt on the Liberals...

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it's the resolution of one of the most irksome stories of the past year on the Harper hypocrisy front, I'm still jumping right in.

Because, you know, when a renowned ex-separatist you hired to dig up dirt on the Liberals turns on you, things are gettin' prettty bad for Harpie...:) What an excellent use of taxpayer funds, Mr. Harper. Your comrades at the National Citizens Coalition must be so proud of you.

Many bloggers have weighed in already on the two-month-sat-upon Paille report on past Liberal polling practices that had been commissioned by our oh so righteous Conservative government. Pointing out the incredible backfire on Harper's move given that Paille was actually critical of the Conservatives for their first year in office and their unprecedented spending on polls. Far be it from me to pile on...:) Heh, heh...:) But sitting on a harmful report for two months and releasing it on the day Brian Mulroney testifies in an almost unprecedented public grilling? Well, we all know what that calls for:



Never thought I'd say it...but good for Daniel Paille. All that noise about his separatist background and journalistic outcry over how he could possibly produce an objective result has apparently paid off with Mr. Paille's work.

Now as for Harpie? Such efforts underscore, as always, the worst tendencies of his leadership and government. Revenge. Hyper-partisanship. Too clever by half tactical moves. That's why it's especially gratifying to see it blow up in their faces.

I'm sure he'll keep at it in doing his utmost to attack Liberals. That's his whole rationale for being in government, don't ya know....:)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Let the girl have a chance"

A tragedy haunting the GTA right now: the murder of 16 year old Aqsa Parvez, allegedly by her father. There's a worthwhile editorial in the Star on the tragedy today. An excerpt:
Like most Canadian teenagers, Aqsa Parvez just wanted to grow up her own way, hanging out with her friends, dressing like them and pushing her curfew. Her tragic death this week, allegedly at her father's hands in the family home in Mississauga, has shocked our community to the core, and has also highlighted the cross-generational and cross-cultural pressures that many families face.
...
But whatever the facts, Aqsa's friends believe that a culture clash was playing itself out in the Parvez family before her death, which contributed to the other, inevitable strains that any immigrant family faces. The family came from Pakistan, and the parents are religious.

Reacting to that perception, thoughtful community figures such as Atiya Ahsan of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women have been quick to urge Muslim parents to take an understanding approach to their teenage children, to focus on the core values of their faith and not to obsess over a piece of clothing.

"If you know that your girl is good and she practises her faith ... then for heaven's sakes, you know, let the girl have a chance," she says. That would be good advice for any family.

Blue state/red state comes to Canada courtesy of Mini Bush

It's really shameful what Harper is doing to Linda Keen, the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. She really should sue him for defamation. Unfortunately for her, Harper's comments seem to have been largely made in the House of Commons and he's shielded due to parliamentary immunity. If he makes one false move, or any of his government members do outside the House, she should get a lawyer on these people pronto. What an absolute abuse of power on display by the PM to tarnish this woman's credibility and integrity like this. Here it is (from the CP link):
At the same time, Harper took another shot at the head of the CNSC, Linda Keen, mocking the Liberals for initially suggesting "the government should simply sit back and let Ms. Keen and the commission resolve this in their own good time."

On Tuesday, Harper directly blamed the "Liberal-appointed" NCSC for keeping the reactor shut down and putting lives in jeopardy due to the resultant shortage of radioisotopes used in diagnostic cancer and cardiology tests.

The prime minister's clearly-stated lack of confidence in Keen, a career bureaucrat who insists she has no political affiliation, has raised questions about whether she can continue in her post. But CNSC spokesman Aurele Gervais said "she has every intention of staying on."
Absolutely she should stay on. No wonder Harper's got a deficit in his support among the women of Canada.

And it's quite the message to those occupying similar positions on government commissions. The Prime Minister might come at you and blame you if there's the slightest upsetting of the government applecart. You're to blame as you are a Liberal appointee. And inherently, you're tainted. Partisan blinders dictate to this Prime Minister, despite the objective evidence of the qualifications of such persons for these positions. Scott Tribe vetted those at issue yesterday and found the Liberal appointees to be shockingly eminently qualified to regulate nuclear safety.

But none of that matters to Mini Bush, because it's all about saving his hyper-partisan ass. And discrediting a legitimate government regulator, in league with the conservative philosophy of government we've witnessed during the painful years of the Bush administration. The more you taint the government's institutions with partisanship, the less faith people have in them. And the less motivated people are to care about it due to the disillusionment with its effectiveness.

Well done, Mini Bush. Well done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Funny

The Cynic just kills me sometimes: "the Stephen Harper National Association of Inbred Banjo Pickers."

Lol...:)

Oh no, there are no earthquakes in Ontario

Just this one. And we've been described as a "hotbed of seismic activity." But never mind.
A Three-Mile-Island-type of nuclear accident could occur at Canada's Chalk River reactor unless a backup power supply system, capable of withstanding natural disasters such as earthquakes, is installed, according to an assessment by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

It is "essential" that the safety equipment be installed on two crucial pumps before the reactor, which makes more than half the world's nuclear medicines, is restarted, Linda Keen wrote in a blunt letter to two federal government ministers.
...
"There will be no nuclear accident," Prime Minister Stephen Harper asserted in the House of Commons, saying the government has received independent advice indicating there is no safety concern.

"On the contrary, what we do know is that the continuing actions of the Liberal-appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians. We do have the responsibility to demand that Parliament step in and fix this situation before the health of more people is put in jeopardy."
Maybe if there's a nuclear accident Harpie can blame the staff at the plant if they're Liberals...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Harper playing rabid partisan politics with nuclear safety

Is there no partisan low to which our Prime Minister won't stoop? We have a developing health crisis in this country due to the problems at the Chalk River nuclear reactor and Harper's answer is that this is a product of Liberal appointees? Huh? What planet is this guy on that he would raise such a partisan, time-wasting sideshow of an argument to a problem at the forefront of the nation's public attention right now? The details:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accused the Liberals of blocking the production of medical isotopes, suggesting the Opposition has jeopardized the health and safety of “tens of thousands” of Canadians through its political appointees to the federal nuclear regulator.

The Prime Minister made the surprising charge during Question Period when asked about the government's emergency legislation that will compel an Ontario nuclear reactor to restart for 120 days so it can alleviate a global shortage of medical isotopes.

The legislation will be introduced later Tuesday.

The government blames the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor, responsible for half of the world's medical isotopes, on a battle between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. – a dispute that Ottawa says must come to an end.
Here's attack dog Harper needlessly pouring flames on the barbie:
“The continuing actions of the Liberal-appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety of lives of tens of thousands of Canadians,” Mr. Harper said.

“Since when does the Liberal party have a right from the grave, through one of its previous appointees, to block the production of necessary medical products in this country? This is not in the public interest ... The longer this goes on the greater will be the public health damage and the Liberal party is standing in the way of fixing this.”

Mr. Harper said the government had independent advice that there is no safety concern with restarting the reactor.
Since when is nuclear safety a partisan issue? And how dare he impugn the integrity of these appointees as he's doing in the House of Commons like this? Suggesting that for partisan reasons they are keeping the reactor shut and ignoring public health concerns. Say it outside the House, Mr. Harper, as you so famously taunt others.

This is reinforcement of the view that, despite all protestations to the contrary, Harper is the politician on the federal level who is not a leader. Leaders don't finger point at every turn. They wrestle with a problem and do their damnedest to solve it. Whining about regulators, who may have been appointed by Liberals but who are doing their jobs is petty, beside-the-point rhetoric. Nothing more.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Canadians demonstrating and Harper ignoring them

"Hundreds across Canada rally to demand Ottawa take action on climate change." Well done to all these people who are raising public consciousness at this crucial time as the Bali meetings progress.

Stephen Harper and John Baird remain convinced, however, that they are doing the right thing by demanding that all nations be held to the same standards, otherwise Ottawa won't sign on:
A Canadian environmental group says leaked federal document shows Canadian negotiators in Bali are under explicit instruction to undermine a fundamental principle of the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Action Network Canada, an alliance of environmental groups, says the move is guaranteed to derail momentum as the Bali negotiations enter their critical final week.

“The leaked instructions direct Canadian negotiators to demand that poorer nations accept the same binding absolute emission reduction targets as developed nations,” the alliance said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.

It said the Kyoto Protocol is built on the recognition that industrialized countries are largely responsible for the problem of climate change, and must take the lead in tackling it.
The Conservatives are apparently opting for the selfish world view that would equate our abilities to address this issue with those of developing nations. It's rather obscene.

One can only surmise that the Conservatives think they will win the next election irrespective of such protests and opposition to their environmental policies. Their strategy has been to neutralize the issue and some commentators have supported that view. I would hazard a guess that they have focus groups who have opined on the issue and they are consequently happy to stay with their pretty rhetoric that suggests they are leading when in fact they are obstructing. In other words, it's very likely that they have made their environmental calculations and they just don't give a rat's ass what we think they should be doing. They have decided, overtly, to throw in with the U.S., the world's leading emitter who will not commit to any binding reduction targets.

Harper and Baird might as well be thumbing their noses at us. They think they can beat the Liberals in the next election and that Canadians won't be voting on the environment issue. That's what their actions suggest to me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The falling popularity of the ADQ

Mama Marois still out in front in Quebec polls and Dumont's ADQ sinking back into third place.
A potential problem for Harper is the falling popularity of the ADQ, which the federal Conservatives view as an unofficial sister party in Quebec.

The ADQ rose from near obscurity to win 30 percent of the vote in Quebec's election but since then Dumont's star has waned steadily, in part because his parliamentary caucus is young and inexperienced.

"You can't say who is going to win the (next Quebec) election but the ADQ will neither be in power or form the official opposition," Claude Gauthier of CROP told La Presse.
Good for Harpie or not? We report, you decide...:)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Have a laugh

Unfortunate name for a lawyer: check this out, it's guaranteed to make you laugh.

Don't mess with Hazel, part II

Her words carry great weight in the GTA and she's continuing to hammer Jim Flaherty over the infrastructure deficit facing cities:
Armed with fresh ammunition from yesterday's Ontario Throne Speech - which called on the federal government to share its GST revenues with cities - Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion took dead aim at federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"I will challenge him to a debate on this," Ms. McCallion declared, adding that Mr. Flaherty "does not seem to get the message" that cities face a growing infrastructure deficit and need extra federal help.
...
Irked by what she described as Mr. Flaherty's recent "unprofessional" comments about municipalities - he called mayors "really grumpy" and said they could better control their own spending to pay for roads, bridges and transit - Ms. McCallion said the minister "should be reminded how he downloaded on us" when he was finance minister of Ontario.

"I challenge him to come out to Mississauga and show us where we are not efficient and have not set money aside," she said, noting her suburban municipality is debt free. Even with reserves of $600-million, she adds, "we cannot afford to pay for infrastructure on the property tax base."
The Conservatives have fires to put out all over this country...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The "Harper might be toast" commemorative piece of toast



I think you might get....oh, say, maybe a nickel on eBay for this apparition on a piece of toast...:) It's no Virgin Mary...:)

Thanks to the Wingnuterer...where oh where have you been, my friend? We need such hilarity to brighten these dark Harper days...:)

Rove investigator under investigation instigated by White House

This is a shocker. The guy investigating Rove's politicization of non-partisan government offices and functions has come under investigation, at the instigation of the White House. Likely because Karl Rove's fanny must be protected at all costs. We witnessed as much during the Fitzgerald investigation into the outing of Valerie Wilson as the White House and Bush stonewalled and steered the public away from Rove by publicly denying he was "involved." This investigation into Bloch could be more of the same. It certainly appears to be suspicious.
The head of the federal agency investigating Karl Rove's White House political operation is facing allegations that he improperly deleted computer files during another probe, using a private computer-help company, Geeks on Call.

Scott Bloch runs the Office of Special Counsel, an agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers and enforcing a ban on federal employees engaging in partisan political activity. Mr. Bloch's agency is looking into whether Mr. Rove and other White House officials used government agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has himself been under investigation since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management's inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.
...
Mr. Bloch said no documents relevant to any investigation were affected. He also says the employee claims against him are unwarranted. Mr. Bloch believes the White House may have a conflict of interest in pressing the inquiry into his conduct while his office investigates the White House political operation. Concerned about possible damage to his reputation, he cites a Washington saying, "You're innocent until investigated."

Clay Johnson, the White House official overseeing the Office of Personnel Management's inquiry into Mr. Bloch, declined to comment. Depending on circumstances, erasing files or destroying evidence in a federal investigation can be considered obstruction of justice.
That's Clay Johnson, long time Bush friend:
He was a classmate of President George W. Bush at Phillips Academy, roommate and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother at Yale University, where he helped pull down the goalposts after a Princeton game, and received his B.A.
I'm sure this return investigation of Bloch is all on the up and up, right? This is the garbage the Bush White House has specialized in. The White House will protest that its pursuit of Bloch is eminently justified. Yet it's just as likely, based on their track record, that it's one more in a long line of outrageous abuses of power that are pressed to the uber limit until someone stops them. Few have thus far, so they keep going and going and going. Hope Scott Bloch is made of some pretty stern stuff.

Meanwhile, Rove's become a celebrity columnist and life couldn't be grander for the rotund fellow with ruined lives in his wake...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Denial is not just a river in Egypt...

Worthwhile editorial in the Star today taking Harper to task for his performance at the Commonwealth on global warming: "PM fails on world stage."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems quite pleased with himself after almost single-handedly leading the drive to water down a proposed action plan by Commonwealth countries to seriously tackle global warming. Instead of an aggressive statement by the 52-member organization at its meeting in Uganda that would have called for binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions on major developed countries, the group issued a tepid communiqué that simply urged all nations to work toward undefined goals of reducing such emissions.

Commonwealth officials pointed the finger of blame for blocking the original plan straight at Harper.

But the Canadian leader scoffed at the criticism, saying at the close of the three-day meeting that the leaders should be proud of their work.

"I believe we have much to be pleased of from the work that we have done here," Harper said. "We have delivered a substantive statement on climate change, consistent with those of a number of other international organizations and one which builds momentum towards next month's important United Nations conference" in Bali.

Canadians should not be surprised by Harper's attitude. Since taking office, he has consistently fought against tough emissions rules. His current plan has been dismissed as grossly inadequate. It is based largely on reduced intensity targets, or cutting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of economic activity.

Unfortunately, his Uganda performance may be a bad omen for how Canada will act when world leaders gather in Bali starting next Monday to open negotiations on a new climate-change treaty to go into effect when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
This weekend seemed to showcase the worst in Harper, principally his know it all arrogance that does not flatter him at all. For a leader who is failing to gain traction with the Canadian public, it's incomprehensible to hear his unilateral bravado as on full display in his closing news conference.

And by the way, favourite moment from a CTV report last night...the Ugandan leader shaking Harper's hand and telling him he can now relax...very telling.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A great Canadian died this weekend

Tip your hats and take a moment to remember the former Chief Justice of Canada, Antonio Lamer, who made a substantial contribution to our rights and freedoms as a pivotal member of the Supreme Court over a near 20 year period following the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report linked to is a great summary of his career. There's an anecdote that is somewhat relevant given the Harper government's moves of late on the death penalty:
Often labelled by others as left-wing or interventionist, Lamer preferred the word libertarian to describe his style.

He drove the point home, in an interview marking his appointment as chief justice, by recalling the days before the abolition of capital punishment, when crowds would gather at Bordeaux Jail in Montreal to protest the executions carried out there.

"It's easy to be against the death penalty the night of a hanging," said Lamer. "But it's more difficult to be against the death penalty the night of a murder.

"The acid test is not to be a libertarian when it's popular. It's to be a libertarian when it's unpopular."
Isn't that the truth.

"Our position is the strong position"

The picture of choice from the Commonwealth meetings of our PM in action, as chosen by both the Globe, front page, and the Star, accompanying its report on the outcome of the environmental discussions there.

He's clearly not bothered in the least by the outcome and appears quite relaxed and contented with the results. Some might even say he has a slothful look to him. Good eye on this photographer. It really is true what they say about a picture, isn't it.

As a follow up from my post yesterday on the subject, it has occurred to me that they may be setting up the Bali meetings, along with the Americans, to push nations to agree to binding targets, albeit much lower ones and likely significantly lower ones than Kyoto. Harper and Baird may be planning to push the world toward mediocrity on global warming by defining downwards the binding targets. And of course, spinning it as a breakthrough on the world stage demonstrating the tremendous "leadership" of Harper. We shall see. But yesterday is certainly not the end of the story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Harpie the global warming gambler

Harper is taking a huge gamble with the position he's taken at the Commonwealth meetings on climate change, to say the least. What I'm wondering is whether negotiations of any kind have been occurring in the background, if any, with the Americans on the problem of committing to binding targets for emission reductions. Does Harper know something we don't or is he just continuing to delude himself that George W. Bush will do what he has refused to do for seven years? Here are some comments from Harper post-debacle:
So Canada helped rewrite the Commonwealth resolution.

It now says all countries should seek to reduce their emissions, but suggests those reductions could be voluntary instead of mandatory.

A diplomat from another Commonwealth country described Canada's position - that there's no deal unless everyone agrees - as a recipe for inertia on climate change.

But Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is identical to the one it took at the G8 and APEC summits.

"We will not agree to a framework that binds some countries and not others, because that's a recipe for failing on the issue of climate change," he told a news conference.

"We already have a protocol like that and it doesn't work. So we need a protocol that involves everybody. I think we're on solid ground.
"

As for binding emissions targets: "Canada's view is that we need binding targets on all nations. That's going to be the approach we're going to take to international negotiations."
I would find it hard to believe that they would put themselves so far out there on this position-poor ledge without having something up their sleeves. Are they this stupid?

Or, is it just as simple as acknowledging that, yes, indeed they are. In which case I'd agree with this blogger, who sums up Harper's folly, if that's what it is, quite well.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Good riddance to dinosaur John Howard

It's Friday afternoon in Australia and the last day before Saturday's general election. And it certainly looks like the 11 year tenure of Bush ally and climate change denier Prime Minister John Howard is just about over. A humorous anecdote from the report:
"I believe the coalition can win this election," Howard told Australian radio. "I believe that there is a bit of a tide coming back. I sense it in the streets."

During a final campaign day walk in the tropical city of Cairns 24 hours before the start of voting, Howard was heckled by protesters and told to "have a happy retirement".
His Labour opponent, Kevin Rudd, who has promised to sign Kyoto and take their troops out of Iraq is ahead in the polls. And Howard's got a mini-scandal on his hands in the last few days - a phony pamphlet handed out by his party supporters suggesting his Labour opponents would be soft on Islamic terrorists. Ring a bell? The favourite fear tactic of right wingers worldwide these days.

Howard's made one last appeal not to change. But we all know there's little to be done when it's a "change" election. The political consultant who can figure out how to undo that dynamic will be worth their weight in gold. Until then, it's likely bedtime for Howard, a kindred spirit of one Stephen Harper on the world stage.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The wisdom of Jean Chretien

There's a worthwhile CP report this afternoon canvassing Chretien's views on a number of current issues as he continues on with his book tour. My personal fave, on the topic of Senate reform:
Chretien was downright dismissive of Harper's threat to abolish the Senate if he can't win parliamentary support for his attempts to reform the unelected upper chamber.

"I think it is a waste of time to talk about it," he said, maintaining that the approval of at least seven provinces is required to change or do away with the Senate. He predicted that five - Quebec and the four Atlantic provinces - will never agree.

He suggested Harper is simply pandering to his base in Alberta, where the idea of an elected, effective Senate with equal representation for each province is popular.

"They never looked at how you could do it. You know, I'd like to go to the moon but I cannot go with a Piper plane. You have to be realist."
Hilarious. And just distills the lunacy of this sudden disorganized supposed plan for Senate reform to its core.

Other comments of note include his disapproval of the Harper clampdown on veiled voting and criticism of the intolerant views coming out of the Bouchard-Taylor commission hearings in Quebec. Worth a look this early evening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bush "involved" in Plame leak cover up

So says Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, although we're not clear yet on the manner of involvement of the President. Here's what McClellan writes in his forthcoming book, not out until April:
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself."
Now the word from the White House, predictably, is that the President was misled in the same way as McClellan. Poor little innocent knave that he is, right? Why we would believe anything from them at this point is a whole other question. Supposedly misled by whom? Cheney? Rove? Still no answers but it sure as heck does not look good. In fact, the term "criminal conspiracy" was raised on Olbermann last night where it was noted that Patrick Fitzgerald has not closed his investigation, formally:



And I think it's a capital idea, indeed, to get McClellan up on the Hill in front of the "klieg lights," as he so eloquently puts it. Time for some good Senate Judiciary Committee interrogation, methinks.

Now having said all that, it's good to see that McClellan's words are cementing once again the perception of the Bush administration as lying thugs. But I'm not holding my breath that anything of consequence will come of it for Rove, Bush or Cheney. They have defied congressional scrutiny and legal accountability by thumbing their noses at such quaint mechanisms of the American democracy. And surely, it will continue until they're gone. None of this, of course, is a reason to just shrug one's shoulders and ignore the McClellan story. The historical record damning their every move should be fully documented.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tear down this wall, Mr. Greenspon

Looks like there's a worthwhile editorial in the Globe today on the veiled voting brouhaha. Too bad we can't read it since the Globe insists on maintaining its asinine walled-off editorial content. The New York Times drained their moat and let the drawbridge down. When will the Globe follow suit? What we can read, from "The Phantom Irritant" :
From the moment Prime Minister Stephen Harper ignited it in September, the debate over veiled voters has been a brazenly hypocritical and disingenuous one. The notion that Muslim women unwilling to show their faces pose a threat to Canadian democracy ignores the fact that visual identification is not required to vote in this country if voters provide two pieces of non-photo ID. Tens of thousands of Canadians living abroad are not forced to meet even that standard, and are allowed to vote with mail-in ballots rather than being required to visit a polling station. The debate also addresses an apparently non-existent phenomenon, since there has been no documented evidence of women refusing to remove their burkas or niqabs while voting.
Hiding material behind content walls means the Globe is not part of the online discussion and that's unfortunate. Lots of good material is being missed. We subscribe but due to whom we subscribe from, we're not entitled to access it online. It's truly bizarre.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Conservative hatorade watch: Harper opens his mouth

Harper yesterday in the House of Commons in an exchange with Ralph Goodale:
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the question was whether Mr. Mulroney complied with the law.

The Mulroney-Schreiber issue reignited in the media only days after the government came into power. There are damning letters in the Prime Minister's Office, but the paper trail is hidden.

Ministers deliberately refused to be briefed. A justice department review was started and then suddenly stopped. Some ministers consult Mr. Mulroney daily. He has numerous personal encounters with the Prime Minister. Was Mr. Schreiber ever discussed?

Will the Prime Minister change the mandate to include specifically whether the government was involved in a cover-up?


Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, all the allegations made by the member for Wascana are completely baseless. They are complete fabrications.

All they are is designed to try to prove that other people are just as corrupt as the Liberal Party of Canada. I am afraid the Liberal Party of Canada has the trademark on corruption.
This guy will say just about anything, well on the way to setting a new low road standard for Prime Ministers. It's painful to even write about this, it's so inappropriate for a PM to be speaking like this. No substantive response, just pure gutter politics. And demonstrating complete disregard for the office he holds and the level of discourse he should be striving to set for the country. He should be addressing the issues and leaving this damaging, unhelpful rhetoric aside.

Guess there's some solace in this, however, knowing that Harper's base state conditions him to utter such divisive rhetoric when pushed. And that it'll likely inhibit his growth potential, as we've seen thus far.

But man, it's so disappointing...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Let's not get too slap happy over this one

Sun Media roars:
The startling SES-Sun Media survey shows Harper has steamrolled ahead as the choice for “best PM” of 37% of Canadians, while Dion plunged to third place as the pick of just 13% of Canadians. Layton garnered 17% support across the country.
No, this is not good news for Dion. When you've had negative attack ads run at you at an unprecedented level and without adequate response, this is hardly surprising. The Liberals need to get their butts in gear and meet this stuff head on.

And let's recall, for the umpteenth time, what percentage did the Conservatives receive in the last election? 36%. So Harper's at 37? I can certainly see how this can be categorized as "steamrolling" the opposition...not.

These numbers are not particularly good for anyone cited in the poll.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A permanent erosion

Brilliant Frank Rich column today, "The Coup at Home," drawing parallels between the Pakistan "mess" and the toxic dump state of the American democracy. Excerpts:
Rather than set a democratic example, our president has instead served as a model of unconstitutional behavior, eagerly emulated by his Pakistani acolyte.

Take the Musharraf assault on human-rights lawyers. Our president would not be so unsubtle as to jail them en masse. But earlier this year a senior Pentagon official, since departed, threatened America’s major white-shoe law firms by implying that corporate clients should fire any firm whose partners volunteer to defend detainees in Guantánamo and elsewhere. For its part, Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department did not round up independent-minded United States attorneys and toss them in prison. It merely purged them without cause to serve Karl Rove’s political agenda.

Tipping his hat in appreciation of Mr. Bush’s example, General Musharraf justified his dismantling of Pakistan’s Supreme Court with language mimicking the president’s diatribes against activist judges. The Pakistani leader further echoed Mr. Bush by expressing a kinship with Abraham Lincoln, citing Lincoln’s Civil War suspension of a prisoner’s fundamental legal right to a hearing in court, habeas corpus, as a precedent for his own excesses. (That’s like praising F.D.R. for setting up internment camps.) Actually, the Bush administration has outdone both Lincoln and Musharraf on this score: Last January, Mr. Gonzales testified before Congress that “there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.”

To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.

This is most apparent in the Republican presidential race, where most of the candidates seem to be running for dictator and make no apologies for it. They’re falling over each other to expand Gitmo, see who can promise the most torture and abridge the largest number of constitutional rights. The front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, boasts a proven record in extralegal executive power grabs, Musharraf-style: After 9/11 he tried to mount a coup, floating the idea that he stay on as mayor in defiance of New York’s term-limits law.
...
Wrong track is a euphemism. We are a people in clinical depression. Americans know that the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see a restoration anytime soon.
Heavy sigh...hopefully Americans will be smart enough next time around not to elect one of those who are bidding to outdo Bush on the extremist front...

Funny


Yes, shameless cartoon rip off. Thanks Patrick Corrigan for a great one...:)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Don't mess with Hazel, part II

Dalton McGuinty had a meeting with Harper yesterday on the issue of funding for cities, among other things. Didn't go so well. From McGuinty's account, which was polite and coolly respectful, you can sense the tension.
The two leaders met privately for 45 minutes yesterday at a downtown hotel, with the premier suggesting federal funding could help cash-strapped Ontario municipalities.

"I raised the issue directly with Mr. Harper as to whether his government had any interest whatsoever in lending direct support to our municipal partners," McGuinty told reporters later.

"It would be fair to say that he is not particularly receptive to that approach."
...
But sources say the Prime Minister emphasized in the meeting that he had "no plans to transfer tax to another level of government" and noted municipalities are creatures of the province – not a federal responsibility.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting...

The even more colourful and no nonsense talk on the issue emanated from Hazel McCallion, once again:
McCallion told the Star after hearing what Harper said to McGuinty that she expects other mayors across the country to take up her crusade and take it to the people – especially if there is a federal election next year.

"The citizens have a choice," said McCallion, mayor since 1978 and one of Canada's most popular and influential civic leaders. "They can press the federal government or they pick up the tab on their property taxes. They can't sit back and do nothing."
That's a pretty powerful message which could effectively undo the tax cutting halo the Conservatives are attempting to wrap around themselves. They seem to be blinded by their pseudo-Republican fantasies in which they fancy themselves as the tax cutting Republicans saving Canada from tax and spend Liberals. Wrong country though, fellas. And wrong story line.

More from Hazel, just for fun:
McCallion said she's not surprised Harper and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty aren't listening to cities given that the former Ontario Conservative government – of which Flaherty was a part – downloaded social housing, ambulance and other costs on municipalities.

"We got shafted. You think he's going to change his colours when he gets to Ottawa? We've got a fight on our hands," she said.
Good for her.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Don't mess with Hazel

The longtime Mayor of Mississauga's fighting mad. And if you're a property owner in Mississauga, today you are as well. The same thing's going on in Toronto and no doubt will occur across the country. Enjoy the GST cut, everyone, because we're all going to be paying for it for a long time:
Mississauga councillors have voted to add an unprecedented 5 per cent surcharge to property taxes next year as the city tries to tackle an infrastructure crisis that could put the famously debt-free municipality in hock within five years.

The levy, to be imposed on top of a proposed 3.9 per cent hike in the city's share of property taxes, is expected to bring in about $12.5 million next year. It could make Mississauga the most heavily taxed city in the GTA. And it still won't be enough.

While the surcharge will add about $50 to the average residential tax bill, it falls far short of garnering the $75 million needed in each of the next 20 years to cover $1.5 billion in repairs and replacement of aging bridges, roads, and water and sewer systems.

In that respect, Mississauga's position is similar to Toronto's, where council last month voted to impose new taxes on land transfers and vehicle registrations to cope with a fiscal crisis after draining the city's reserves. Toronto has a $7 billion infrastructure deficit but is already heavily in debt. Water and sewer replacement alone will cost $2 billion.
And here's Hazel:
Mayor Hazel McCallion plans to use the new surcharge as a launching pad for her own national campaign – dubbed Cities NOW! – to pressure Ottawa to use its huge surplus to help urban centres tackle the infrastructure mess.

"I am in a fighting mood," McCallion said after the vote was passed. "We are in a fighting mood."

She said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's mini-budget, which ignored urban needs in favour of cuts in the GST and income tax, left Mississauga with no choice but to impose a levy that could be collected annually for the next 20 years.

"It's a sham," McCallion said, slamming the tax cuts as a cynical attempt to gain re-election.

"Is the federal government going to wait for more bridges to fall down?" she said, citing the results of neglect in the recent collapses of bridges in Quebec and Minnesota.
We'll hear from the Conservatives about the billions they're handing out to Ontario presently, in the news yesterday and said to be $7.9 billion. What's that figure for Toronto's outstanding infrastructure deficit? Oh, 7 billion. Well, I'm sure 7.9 for the entire province will just about cover us. Digesting these figures underscores just how foolhardy GST and minuscule income tax cuts are to property owners in Canada who are getting reamed with property tax increases in order to make up the lost revenue.

Too late, Harpie

This comment yesterday was rich, coming from the guy who whipped up sentiment against veiled voters in Quebec the week before the recent Quebec by-elections:
Quebecers could do without the ongoing debate on the integration of immigrants into society, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

"I do think that most Quebecers are feeling increasingly secure in the position of their language and culture in this country, as they should," Mr. Harper said. "My sense is... kind of going back over debates over language or culture or immigration is not frankly where most Quebecers want to go."
Yes, people who are "increasingly secure" do not need to single out Muslim voters for special treatment, as Harper proposes to do in an amendment to the Canada Elections Act, when there have been no issues reported with Muslim women refusing to lift their veils while voting. That is the kind of legislation we can do without. It's not the Canadian way, as the Star opined in a recent editorial.

Looks like Harper's trying to backtrack from his earlier inflammatory blast against Muslim voters by making the above remarks yesterday. The hypocrisy in his doing so in what seems like complete obliviousness to the effects his words and actions have had, however, is duly noted.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Harper campaigning in the West, handing out money in Quebec

The perpetual Conservative election campaign is on. The economic update with its tax cuts last week was a central showpiece. And the plethora of events Harper has had scheduled this fall across this country continue as he's now out west continuing to give his campaign style speeches that he has been giving across the country. Oh, and what's this? A few Quebec companies seem to be getting funding this week, as well. And the media are even invited to share in the big news.

Gee, you'd almost think someone had an election campaign all mapped out and ready to go for this fall and heck, is still executing it anyway...too bad for Harpie and the gang that they didn't get their wish.
In Castlegar, Harper put out the call for more Tory blue in B.C., even getting a bit ahead of himself in asking voters to support their local Tory candidate at the polls "next year."

He quickly corrected himself to say "next time."
Yes, maybe "next time," Harpie. Somebody might want to tell him to calm his self down...and maybe be trying to get some work done instead of the photo ops, campaigning and funding announcements. You'd think the government simply existed to serve the Conservative party's political needs.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Why they can't escape their ceiling

Statement from Mark Warner, former Conservative candidate in Toronto Centre, ousted by the Conservative head office (click to enlarge):



More on Warner's departure:
Warner, who was acclaimed as the Conservatives' candidate for Toronto Centre in February, learned abruptly on Tuesday that he was being disqualified from running. It came after months of head-to-head battles with the central Conservative campaign machine over his focus on poverty, housing, health and other issues at odds with the master Tory political strategy.

Warner would have been running against former Ontario premier and Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae, who called Warner's ouster this week "a national disgrace."

In his press release announcing his ouster, Warner calls himself a "red Tory" and Dion agreed yesterday that this moderate streak of Conservatism doesn't seem welcome in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party any more.

Dion said that Warner is probably going through the same experience as other red Tories who've come over to the Liberals – Belinda Stronach, Scott Brison and most recently, Halton MP Garth Turner.
What a shame...Conservatives being exposed for their lack of tolerance of a candidate's independent spirit...

And by the way, this appears to be an out and out lie:
So deluded are the party brass that they boldly claim they couldn't be turning their backs on an ethnic candidate because they didn't even know he was black or from Trinidad. (emphasis added)
Didn't know, hey? There are a few in the PMO who went to McGill with Mark Warner (see his biography). It's hard to believe that they did not know this.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The king of partisanship

Imagine disdainful bluster from a guy like this:
Dion said that while he opposes plans for the additional GST cut, he and the Liberals did not bring the government down over the mini-budget because they feel Canadians do not want another election.

Earlier, during question period, as Dion accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of breaking a number of promises, Harper referred to Dion as the "king of abstention" — a reference to the Liberals' decision to abstain on the speech from the throne and now the mini-budget.

He said Dion on Monday had "drawn a line in the sandbox, the line was that he would never tolerate an increase in the GST, and today's he's gonna let one pass.

"Imagine lectures from a guy like that."
Dion's focussed on the substance of the GST cut and what it would mean for the future. He's set out his objections and why. Most economists agree with Dion. In our parliamentary system, he's free to lead his party to vote as they like, not as Harper would like. And what the Liberals would like right now is not to give majority-crazed Harper the election he so desperately wants as demonstrated by the Conservatives gaming the system to throw as much bait at Dion as they possibly can. Not takin' it and it's drivin' the Conservatives batty.

Harper's comments, in response to legitimate questions, are mocking, condescending and focussed on the procedural games that his party is leading the charge with. It's an instructive contrast that's being drawn.

"Don't forget, don't forget this"

Those were the fateful words uttered by Stephen Harper in the following video clip demonstrating just how blatant a breach of trust his income trust decision one year ago was. Here's Steve, in his own words, forever captured for posterity's sake:



And here's a notefrom Garth Turner marking the occasion:
A year ago Thursday, the minister of finance called a quickie media conference to announce one of the most stunning reversals in Canadian political history. Under the guise of a ‘tax fairness plan’, he ushered in a tax on income trusts which would have immensely far-reaching consequences. It stunned investors, Bay Street and the industry itself, all of whom just ten months earlier had heard Stephen Harper say over and over and over again that such a measure would never be introduced by a Conservative government.
No, we absolutely won't forget this.

Thank you for the bounty, Mr. Flaherty

Flaherty's little tax extravaganza has now passed the vote in the House of Commons. And so, this calls for some special photoshoppery from the Wingnuterer...enjoy...:)

The big concert last night...:)



As promised, here are a few clips of Kelly Clarkson from last night's concert in Toronto...to give you a sense of what it was like. Yes, it may appear I was way up there in the rafters, this makes it look much farther away than it really was. But heck, every seat's pretty good in Massey Hall. I don't think I've been there since I saw General Public back in the 80's...:) Kelly Clarkson has a super voice, she's just phenomenal. Yes, I'm a big fan. I root for people like her. Quite a varied crowd, all age ranges.

This was pretty good too:



Hear that crowd? Just great. That girl can sing!

By the way, I did feel a little guilty about actually taking these clips, but you know, I was in legions of company.

It's not all raggin' on Conservatives here at the Impolitical blog, don't ya know...:) Gotta have some fun!

The big announcement

I would have loved to stay home last night and write about Jim Flaherty's showy tax cut extravaganza....and I will have a go at it now, but I actually had something much more fun to do last night. I went to the Kelly Clarkson concert at Massey Hall in downtown T.O and I must say, it was awesome. More on that later.

So back to a very odd occurrence, a rushed economic statement from our man in the neon green tie, Jim Flaherty. So rushed, that in fact they have ensured that there will be little to no time to ask questions of any significance. It's quite the democracy they're runnin' up there:
The Tories rushed out the update, giving reporters only a 30-minute embargoed preview of the documents in a lockup before they were made public at 4 p.m. EDT. This cut by about half a day the advance time given to journalists to analyze budgets in lockups.
You know what that calls for...
Now about that 1% GST cut, I would much prefer that this percentage be instead directed to the cities for infrastructure and much needed revenue. In Toronto, we've been dinged with huge Land Transfer Taxes on the purchase of new homes that represent a major tax grab by the city as it tries to make up its $500 million deficit. And, on top of the increased thousands it will cost to buy a new house in the city, not to mention the added cost for sellers, we are in for what is believed to be at least another 3 to 4% property tax increase in the next year. So how exactly does a 1% cut in the GST help any of this? The nation's largest city is crying out for help and there's none to be had from the fat cats in Ottawa sittin' on their surpluses. The property owners in Toronto and municipalities across the country are going to be the squeezed ones. The GST cut in particular is obscene given how constructively those funds could have been used and not to mention the fact that it will make little difference in people's everyday lives. It's symbolic and people fall for it, but it's opportunistic politics and not doing the right thing.

And besides, when we see the news of the federal parties locked into the same percentages of support, time and time again, the latest being a Decima poll yesterday which Steve V and Scott Tribe posted on last night...this tells me that while news of such tax cuts is likely to move the Conservatives maybe a blip, they'll likely settle back to where they've been all along. People's views seem to be either hardened or content at where things stand for the time being. (And thanks to those bloggers for hammering on Bob Fife. I meant to do it last night, he certainly deserved it, but was, as noted, otherwise occupied.)

Consider also the fact that both the Conservatives and Liberals favour tax cuts. The Conservatives, for example, have just lowered the bottom personal tax rate with this announcement back to the level it was at under the Liberals, to 15%. The Conservatives had actually raised it to 15.5%. On tax cuts, they're not significantly differing in orientation, but for the GST folly. Dion has recently expressed support for corporate tax cuts as well. In such an environment where the major parties are inclined to support such tax cuts, it arguably cancels out any political advantage in an election campaign to either one of them. It appears to be a similar dynamic in Saskatchewan. Consider this article on the leaders' debate last night where they're all jockeying to provide the biggest tuition promise, the biggest education property tax reduction, the biggest prescription drug benefit. Who do you choose when there are similarly oriented tax policies? Likely the party you're comfortable with. So this tax cut issue may not be a big "mover" of people. We'll see.

So, it's an open question to me as to whether there'll be much ground gained of any electoral significance in the long run on this economic statement. The numbers haven't been moving to date. And there are too many issues at play at any given moment including Afghanistan, the environment, cities' needs, international affairs, the Conservatives' in and out overspending scandal.

And by the way, best line of the day had to go to the press gallery moderator sitting on the dais with Flaherty and Cannon who asked the last question of Flaherty at the Q & A. He said something like this, "Who are you trying to kid...this is an electoral gambit, right?" I don't have the exact wording, but the "who are you trying to kid" part was in there. I love that guy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Now this might be something worth going to an election for

The Globe has a stellar editorial today on Harper's proposed veil legislation. And it got me to thinking. If Stephen Harper insists on enacting this vile piece of legislation, the act requiring Muslim women to show their faces when voting, the opposition should consider its defeat. This seems to be exactly the kind of issue the Liberals should fight for, standing up against the singling out of a cultural community like this as an excuse to pander to the awful prejudices on display primarily in Quebec recently.

This is an issue which goes to the heart of defining what kind of nation we want to be. Are we a nation which will continue to support our tradition of a strong multicultural society that tolerates difference and values it? Or will we draw lines and point at others and say, you there, you show your face to prove who you are because you look different from the rest of us. You deserve to be singled out, even though you have not posed any problems to the voting process at all, ever. You just make us - some of us - uncomfortable. That's a dangerous road to be heading down. And I for one, don't want to go. I think the appeal to unity, dignity, tolerance, respect for difference and fundamental fairness will resonate.

Now whether this will end up being THE defining issue of a campaign, practically speaking, it'll be one of many. But it's an issue that has crept up on us and has seen the Harper government reacting rather quickly to it and perhaps too hastily. I don't think anyone's thinking of it as potentially election-causing to date. I would submit that it should be placed in that category and is worth fighting against. Whether Harpie will make it a confidence matter is also a relevant question. Since it's all-confidence-24/7 these days up there, I think he'd be happy to oblige.

From the editorial:
Pandering to ethnic prejudice is a cheap way to win votes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pandering by introducing a bill to force veiled Muslim women to show their faces at the polls.

If there were any evidence that veiled women are contributing to voter fraud, Mr. Harper might be on solid ground. But the government has not brought forward such evidence. It has cited no evidence on the number of women who vote from behind veils. No one has said whether any do. This is a solution in search of a problem.

Yet the government has tabled a face-veils bill before trying to fix the real problem of a million rural voters inadvertently dropped from the rolls because they lack a formal street address. That says everything one needs to know about the supposedly constructive purpose behind the Conservative government's bill.

This is a bill meant to appeal to a sentiment expressed vociferously in Quebec that Muslim women should not be voting from behind face veils. On the surface, the sentiment seems reasonable; a country should not weaken the integrity of the vote by allowing voters to conceal themselves. But look at the facts. Voters are not required to show photo identification, largely because many people do not have photo ID. Two pieces of government-issued ID approved by the Chief Electoral Officer are enough. Alternatively, a voter with ID may vouch for another voter without. Beyond all that, a voter may mail in her vote from abroad. Without photo ID, showing a face proves what? That the bearer has a face?
...
The government says it is prepared to allow an accommodation: Veiled women may step behind a screen and show their face to a female elections official. How magnanimous. First the government singles out veiled Muslim women, implying they are doing something wrong, and then it offers them a way to earn their right to vote like everyone else. There is no voting-integrity issue here.
The ultimate act of pandering to the worst of people's sentiments. This has got to be stopped, one way or another. Stephane Dion has the fortune of being able to decide when we go to an election. I would suggest he pick an issue like this that is worthy of a fight. And at all costs, not one of Stephen Harper's petty, opportunistic electoral gambits like the GST cut that has been widely panned.

Jeffrey Simpson on Harper's hatred of the media

For the second time in a week, a leading Globe columnist has taken on Harper's inaccessibility to media and the PMO's stranglehold on all communications emanating from the government. The media are on the front lines trying to do their jobs and the PMO is frustrating them at all turns. As Simpson points out, Harper and Sandra Buckler et al. have no doubt bet on the notion that the public don't care about any of this. That they're happy to have shiny bait dangled on a hook in front of their faces from time to time, witness the imminent announcement of a GST cut. But the little problem with their gambit is that the media are getting angry. In the last few days, there have been reports about blacked out portions of documents released after lengthy delays in the Access to Information process on our mysterious involvement in Bush's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. The CBC, CP and the Globe have all reported on the delays this government has caused to the release of information. And columnists are devoting their precious platforms to the issue now. That's what it takes for a story line to take root and cement the perception that the Conservatives do indeed have something to hide. Because it appears that they actually intend to hide everything that they possibly can.

Here are some excerpts from Simpson's column, starting off with his view on Harper's not attending the press gallery dinner:
In the great scheme of things, the Conservative absence didn't matter, except as part of an unprecedented pattern of hostility by the government toward the media, restricting access to anything but Prime Minister's Office-approved information, stage-managing events, muzzling civil servants, and trying to control the public agenda - as in the decision, suddenly announced yesterday, to have Finance Minister Jim Flaherty deliver today the economic update to try, in part, to upstage the Auditor-General's report.

Some of what Canadians now observe in Ottawa has been seen before under premiers such as Ralph Klein and Mike Harris. It's also the George Bush style of media management in Washington, as it was Tony Blair's in London.

Centralized media messaging. Spin control. Prime ministerial government. These are all old verities of modern government. So there is nothing new about the Harper government using these strategies.

But never in Canada have these approaches been carried to such extremes, backed by such overt hostility toward the media, a hostility the Conservatives are certain, perhaps correctly, that the public cares nothing about and might even welcome.

Responses to Access to Information requests are slowing down, as reported last week by The Globe and Mail. Ministers are not allowed to speak without their remarks being vetted by the PMO. Civil servants have been told to refer all calls to the PMO, a rule sometimes honoured in the breach.

Cabinet meetings are no longer announced, so journalists cannot question ministers outside. Journalists are removed from a hotel where the Conservative caucus is meeting. Only journalists who agree to place their names on a list controlled by a prime ministerial aide can ask the Prime Minister questions. Briefings on substantive policy issues have all but evaporated.

All the brave talk while the Conservatives were in opposition about encouraging whistle-blowing and candour has disappeared into a strategy of minimizing dissent and controlling all information.

The Prime Minister travels in a kind of public relations cocoon, with manufactured backdrops and photo ops, teleprompters, and ministers and MPs reduced to nodding for the cameras. The only thing missing from these set pieces are flesh-and-blood people, except as props.
You know what this calls for, don't you...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Latest on the Conservative in and out scheme

The Toronto Star has an article today which is quite a good primer on the issue for those who have yet to come up to speed on it. The Conservatives continue to offer a blanket we-complied-with-the-law answer to every question in the House of Commons. But it's not going away. What's new in the Star report? The following information about a transfer by the federal Conservatives to the Aylmer-Hull riding as provided by Garth Turner. The significance of the transfer, for those confused about the entire thing, is italicized:
Liberal MP Garth Turner recalls that when he was still with the Conservatives, the riding association in Hull-Aylmer in March 2006 talked openly about a money transfer.

"I was asked to be the guest speaker ... but before I gave my speech the treasurer gave their report for the annual meeting and they had more than $40,000, which was transferred into their bank account and then the same day they wrote a cheque back to the central party. And by transferring $40,000 into their bank account during the campaign they got a 60 per cent rebate," said Turner, who was kicked out of the Tory caucus earlier this year.

Actually the amount transferred to the western Quebec riding across from Ottawa was $48,558.55 and it was transferred back four days later. But Elections Canada is withholding the rebate along with several others until the outcome of the Federal Court decision

"Of course they didn't spend it on the campaign, they just gave it back, labelled it as advertising and then booked it as an expense ... that's at least $24,000 that the taxpayers gave the Hull-Aylmer Conservative Riding for doing (nothing) – for writing a cheque."
The advantage to this scheme is two-fold. It's not just the advantage given to the national party, which gets to in effect exceed its federal spending limit by executing these transfers which go in and out of the local ridings. It's also that the taxpayer is on the hook to rebate the money that momentarily passed through the local riding association to the local Conservative candidate. In this way, the local Conservative gets a "head start" for the next election by gaining this bounty that they never raised in the first place. Playing elbows up hardball with Elections Canada is quite the choice that the Conservatives made:
The Tories ran the 2006 campaign largely on ethics and accountability. If they were shown to have broken rules in their victory, the matter could be damaging during another election campaign.
The Citizen report, just cited, also quotes Dominic LeBlanc and his pushing for this issue to be cleared up in advance of the next federal election. Otherwise, what assurances will there be that federal spending limits will be rendered essentially meaningless and the Conservatives will exercise this scheme all over again?

Report trashes Conservatives' plans on daycare

It's all here, in this Globe report today. Conservative promises on daycare in the last federal election have amounted to a hill of beans, as set out in their own consultation report. Because there was absolutely no support out there for the tax credit for child care spaces approach that the Conservatives thought business would be willing to provide. As we like to say around here...well no sh*#, Sherlock.

Know anyone out there in need of daycare? It's a real problem. If you can't lean on the grandparents, as a lot of parents can't, what do you do? The price of daycare is just not covered by the Conservatives' measly $100 per month, before taxes. It doesn't come close. Consider these submissions to the consultation:
“My husband and I are college graduates with decent jobs in the ‘richest province' in Canada,” one mother wrote in response to a consultation that the government of Alberta conducted on the federal child-care plan. “But we can't afford to have the second child we desire, as $1,200 a month in childcare would break us.”

Another said: “There are very few spaces available. For over a year, my child has been in a daycare that I wish to pull him from, but there is nothing available to us.”
And so, another two years will be marked without progress on a significant social problem. Needless to say, someone would do well to make this a very big issue in the next election. The Conservative record is abysmal.

Also notable about this report is the fact that the Conservatives delayed producing the damaging consultation report to the Globe until last week when the Globe requested it a year ago. Does this mean they were holding it off in case an election were called? Um, yeah, I would take that bet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another slap in the offing?



Now that's not very sporting! Some much needed humour about a very testy Harper government threat, courtesy of the Wingnuterer. Enjoy...:)

There's a cold wind a blowin' up there in Ottawa

It's called a libel chill. The Conservatives are threatening to sue the Liberals for allegedly defamatory statements surrounding the allegations that the Conservatives' overspent in the last federal election to the tune of $1.2 million. The lawsuit threats no doubt prompted because this is a very serious matter. Because the Conservatives' current troubles with Elections Canada go to the very heart of the rationale for electing the Conservatives to their minority government in 2006. That rationale was that they were not the "corrupt" Liberals, as Harper and his crew repeatedly alleged.

So talk about Conservatives having overspent and their candidate expenses being disallowed by Elections Canada - that kind of thing is just not on for the Conservatives, thus, the lawsuit threats. As their plans for an election are still likely in their forebrains, they can't have the public's focus be on an issue that mucks up their "government is clean" slogan.

The optics on this are terrible. A frequent criticism of Harper and the Conservatives is that their tactics are too heavy-handed, even bully-ish. The lawsuit threats certainly do not help them on that score. The appearance is that they want to quash this story.
The Conservative Party of Canada is threatening legal action against the Liberals over language they've used to describe an investigation into Tory spending practices.

Lawyers fired off a letter to the president and executive director of the Liberal Party, saying a number of Tory staffers have been defamed in a recent opposition news release on the so-called in and out scheme being examined by Elections Canada.

The electoral watchdog is investigating whether several dozen Tory candidates and their official agents improperly claimed local advertising expenses during the last campaign for ads that were national in nature. The Liberals have hammered the Conservatives on the issue daily since Parliament returned this fall.

"This letter is ... intended to serve as notice that it is defamatory to suggest or imply that these individuals have engaged in illegal conduct," writes party lawyer Paul Lepsoe. "In particular, it is defamatory to suggest or imply that the positions these individuals have or have had on ministers' staffs are 'rewards' for having engaged in illegal conduct.

"Our clients reserve their rights to take such action as they deem appropriate against the Liberal Party of Canada and others ... ."

The Liberal release, attributed to MP Dominic LeBlanc on Tuesday, refers to an "apparent scheme to violate election spending limits" and "serious allegations." It also underlined that 11 former candidates and agents went on to find government positions.

"One has to wonder if there is a connection between their willingness to participate and employment by this Conservative government," Mr. LeBlanc said in the statement.

Mr. LeBlanc said yesterday he has never said that anybody broke the law.

"What we have said is that Elections Canada has found that 66 Conservative filings did not, in their view, respect the election legislation," Mr. LeBlanc told reporters. "That's why they have begun an investigation and rejected a series of refunds that the candidates have claimed."
Let's not forget that this issue came to light because former Conservative candidates blew the whistle on the federal party and have spoken publicly about how uncomfortable they were about the "in and out scheme." And the Globe has editorialized about how inappropriate this entire mess looks given the hypocrisy of the Conservatives' campaign in the 2006 election. It's about the text of the elections law, absolutely, but it's also about the spirit of those election laws that hold federal parties to limits.

This is an issue that needs to see a lot of day light. I am confident that the opposition will not be at all intimidated by this tactic and will continue to hold the government's feet to the fire.