Sunday, September 30, 2007

On election timing

It's a toughie, all right. But I'm not yet decided on what's the best course of action. I just wrote a post on the Ontario election and how the Liberals are running a good, solid campaign here that suggests some merit in coat tailing on its success. Harper and the federal Conservatives though are completely different animals, so it's not exactly an entirely persuasive argument.

The idea of front benchers voting against the throne speech is not without its merits. I recognize many have said that this plays into the "not a leader" meme we'd hear from Conservatives. But, you know, we're going to hear that anyway. And I'm not big on acknowledging that the "not a leader" hooey is something that ought to be driving Dion's electoral timing considerations.

The problem is that the Outremont loss was timed as it was. With other by-elections that could also have been held, Harper instead held back on their dates. He's manufactured this focus on Dion, in that respect. And so, should he be rewarded for it by being permitted to capitalize on any possible momentum that might be there in Quebec, for Conservatives and the NDP? No, ideally, he should not. Should Dion give in to his being "cornered" by Harper in this way when the party has questionable financial resources versus the Conservatives? No, ideally he should not.

So what's going to change between now and the spring? Well, I would suggest that a federal Liberal ad campaign should occur, not heavily so, but enough to give voters more of a sense of who Dion is. Biography ads that draw a clear contrast with Harper. Show how he's fought for his country while Harper was calling Kyoto a socialist scheme and appealing for Alberta to build firewalls around it. Could be done on the radio, as well, if costs are an issue. But that could be a step, in conjunction with solidifying a policy platform, that would boost Liberal chances. And go on a major fundraising push.

I don't buy that Harper will be stronger in the spring. He has not gotten more popular in over a year and a half in office. What's going to change? Is he going to sign on to Kyoto? No. Is he going to fix the income trust or Atlantic Accord issues? No. Is he going to change who he is? I'd like to see him try! Is he going to change his controlling and inaccessible media strategy? No. Are they going to be less partisan in the House of Commons? No. Is the Conservative adscam issue going to be perhaps more "fulsome" by the spring after a Parliamentary committee has had a chance to look into it? Oh yes it might. Will Parliament back in session be a boost or a hindrance to Harper? Very likely a hindrance. He's in a minority situation right now and it's been very painful for him. Why give him the chance for a majority now?

I recognize the opposing arguments as well. On the environmental front, for example, it's hurtful to wait on an election as long as Harper's in power. But the Clean Air Act was achieved until the proroguation showing the power of the opposition...is it possible Harper might amend it slightly in the throne speech? I think it's slim, but not impossible. He might not want an election.

Deep down, he's a shrewd guy. He knows his majority is a difficult shot right now given the polls that have kept him in a low 30's position. He knows he's not resonating. So he may craft a throne speech that doesn't cause an election. I've said it before, in my view, it's not Dion's call to make on whether we have an election, no matter how much the spotlight is on him. He's not the one writing the throne speech. If Harper wants an election, we're having an election.

So, there you go, a few more off the cuff thoughts on the ongoing election drama extravaganza to throw into the mix...

Dion might want to take note

McGuinty appears to be running a campaign hitting all the right notes for Liberals in Ontario. Following up on Friday's demand for 1 cent of the GST for Toronto and municipalities, today he's raising concern about the plethora of foreign takeovers in the past few years that seem to be getting bigger and more frequent. In addition, promising more funds for attracting and welcoming immigrants. The policies are neat, clear and in line with traditional Liberal values. Pro-immigration, pro-nationalist, pro-fiscal fairness.

I also see an opening, possibly, in Dion arguing for a strong national government versus Harper's efforts to restrict the federal government's spending powers in the provinces, if it turns out that Harper does indeed include such an item in the throne speech to assuage soft nationalists in Quebec. The strong national government argument echoes McGuinty's plea for unity in terms of the schools issue, versus Tory's wanting to splinter it. Strength through unity and all that, don't ya know. Much more appealing.

And I would also take note that the issues/policies now from McGuinty are being emphasized at a nice pace. He's setting the agenda.

It seems to be a good precursor for a federal Liberal campaign. And if it does indeed succeed, as it appears to be on track to do, the federal cousins would be crazy not to coattail on it...

Stephane can move



As Jerry's mom used to say, "How can anyone not like him?" Moves pretty good for a 52 year old, hey?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just how important is the environment to the ADQ?

The ADQ, the Conservatives' supposed natural provincial ally, is choosing environmental policy that affirms how out of step the Harper government's environmental plans are. The ADQ is choosing Kyoto 1990 benchmark levels as policy this weekend, in complete contrast to the 2006 levels Harper and Baird have irresponsibly deemed appropriate. It seems awfully inconsistent then, for the ADQ to be helping to get Harper's party elected in Quebec if they truly support such environmental efforts:
On Saturday, conference delegates adopted a resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels before 2012.

Party members voted in favour of strict vehicle emission standards similar to those in California, an inspection program for used vehicles, private participation in public transport and a high-speed train for the Quebec City-Windsor, Ont. corridor.
The ADQ's following Kyoto targets for Canada and wants to look greener. They can't do so by helping to elect Harper.

More uncalled for needless partisanship from the Harper crew

Ignoring or possibly doing their utmost to prevent Liberals from visiting the mission in Afghanistan: "Liberal defence critic to visit Afghanistan without Ottawa's help." Mini Bush went to Afghanistan in May and left opposition members uninvited and back in Canada. Members of a Senate committee comprising Liberals were previously denied entrance to Afghanistan by the Canadian military. Seems a little like something funny's going on. The Conservatives and the military seem to want to "own" the Afghan mission and pick and choose which pols are entitled to assess the mission themselves. It's a very strange kind of democracy the Harper gang is runnin' up there.

The story:
The Liberal defence critic says he's headed on an unauthorized fact-finding trip to Afghanistan after having his request to visit the troops consistently ignored by the Harper government.

Denis Coderre says he's set to leave for Kabul and Kandahar to visit with development workers, Afghan government officials and Canadian soldiers.

“(Afghanistan) is a major issue for the Canadian people,” Mr. Coderre said in an interview Saturday.

“I think that for the sake of the debate it's important that I go. Since I couldn't get an answer I decided to go on my own.”

The Montreal-area MP says he's made multiple requests with Defence Minister Peter MacKay's office but that they were systematically ignored or rejected. He said he first asked to go when Gordon O'Connor was defence minister but sometimes didn't get his calls returned.

Mr. Coderre says that he has the full blessing of his leader, Stephane Dion, and that his boss has also informed the Harper government that Mr. Coderre wants to go to Afghanistan.

While visiting dignitaries generally use transportation supplied by the Department of National Defence, Mr. Coderre has made his own travel arrangements to Afghanistan and within the country.

He does not yet have permission from the Canadian government to visit the international base in Kandahar but says he's confident that he will be allowed to meet with the troops.

“Since (all requests) passed through the defence minister's office, I would see it as a partisan gesture from the defence minister if I'm denied access,” he said.
Seems to me that Junior ought to ensure that everything gets done so the Defence Critic for the opposition is afforded the same opportunity to visit the mission that is afforded to our Prime Minister on his many photo op ventures over there. It would be quite the thing if Coderre were not afforded the same protections that Conservatives are entitled to...

Very smart politics from McGuinty and crew

A timely step up from McGuinty on the heels of Harper's showy billion dollar surplus junket to Toronto the other day:
Premier Dalton McGuinty has sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding that one percentage point of the GST be given to Toronto and other Ontario cities faced with massive budget problems, the Star has learned.

In the wake of Harper's Thursday announcement of a $13.8 billion federal budget surplus, McGuinty wrote a three-page letter to the Prime Minister urging Ottawa to help Ontario's cash-strapped municipalities with new funding for infrastructure and public transit.

"By providing the equivalent of one cent of the Goods and Services Tax, the federal government would add more than $1.9 billion per year to the financial foundations of municipalities large and small across Ontario," the premier wrote.

"The City of Toronto would receive an additional $400 million a year from this initiative, helping them address major transit funding pressures that the Toronto Transit Commission is currently facing," McGuinty continued.

Toronto Mayor David Miller has been pushing for a one cent share of the GST ever since he was re-elected last November.
Timely and on the pulse of what people are thinking. Toronto's in the red and Harpie rides in and out to announce his billions? Wtf?

This would be a huge issue for the Toronto area in a federal election, if one's coming. Dion should pick up this mantle and correct his earlier stance. It's a great issue to draw a clear contrast between the Liberals and Conservatives in the GTA. Dion needs more issues like this.

Harpie can't possibly say yes right now since he'd be ditching his boy John. And it makes Dalton look good in standing up to a Conservative PM who's not that popular in Ontario.

Geez, this Ontario election might be turning into something Harpie did not anticipate at all. After all, they allegedly took the fall off from Parliament to help their boy John.

Very smart indeed...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wha?



Newt Gingrich saying something I actually agree with...:)

Why are we following Bush on the environment?

Just a friendly little reminder, John Baird and Stephen Harper, on Canada's behalf, are following this guy:
In his speech, Bush acknowledged that climate change is real and that human activity is a factor.

But he still refused to sign onto mandatory emission-reduction obligations, preferring to encourage the development of new technologies and other voluntary measures.

The U.S. leader also refuses to participate in any talks toward a global agreement that does not include major greenhouse gas producers from the developing world.

As a result, many have suggested that the U.S.-brokered process is aimed at undermining broader talks sponsored by the United Nations, set to begin in Indonesia in December, to draw up a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

That UN treaty was rejected by the administration because, in Bush's view, it unfairly harmed the economies of rich countries like the United States while excluding poorer countries like China and India from obligations.

The UN negotiations emphasize mandatory controls.
And Baird is still talking up the bridge analogy as a convenient way out for Canada:
Environment Minister John Baird represented Canada at the Washington talks.

Baird insists Canada can act as a bridge between Europe, which is promoting deep emission cuts, and other countries like the United States, China and India that don't want mandatory reductions.

But the Conservatives have moved away from supporting caps on total emissions. Harper is instead proposing a system of intensity targets that call for emissions to decline by a certain percentage for each unit, such as a barrel of oil.

Environmentalists say that would actually allow emissions in Canada to rise because sales of oil and other fuels increase every year.
As Garth Turner pointed out, Harper is choosing the scare tactic route to emphasize the impact on the Canadian economy of pursuing the tougher standards. Those arguing for tougher standards or for the U.N. route, by contrast, will be making the moral argument which can really inspire people. And it seems to me that when scare tactics have been used in recent memory they don't work. Think back to Mulroney arguing for the Charlottetown Accord's passage and predicting doom for Canada unless it passed. Didn't happen. I'd also put the Tory fear mongering about Dalton McGuinty during the Ernie Eves campaign in the same league.

I am so proud...

More of this please

Iggy backs the leader:
Meanwhile, the deputy leader of the Liberals issued a rallying call this week for fellow party members to stay united.

Michael Ignatieff told a party gathering in Sarnia, Ont., on Thursday night that the Liberals will only lose if they are divided.

"The obligation we have as a party is to unite for the sake of ourselves, but most of all, for the sake of the country we love," Ignatieff told the rally. "Let's never forget that."

As for supporting next month's throne speech, Ignatieff said Liberals would make a decision that is in the interest of the party and in the national interest.

Speaking of implosion

There's a humdinger of a quote from John Tory in the Globe today. Read the surrounding context too, but still, it's bad:
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory says he blames strong resistance to his religious-schools policy on his own failure to explain it better and on anxiety about change among many Ontarians.

Several Conservatives campaigning for Mr. Tory say they have heard repeated concerns that publicly funding faith-based schools would direct tax dollars to Islamic schools that foment terrorism. Mr. Tory acknowledged that there is lingering uneasiness about religious schools, and not just those of the Muslim faith.

"People are generally ill informed and they speculate a lot about what they think goes on in these schools," Mr. Tory told The Globe and Mail's editorial board yesterday.

He said he has not done a good enough job convincing Ontarians that it is better to have all schools part of the public system rather than operate without scrutiny. He also said his message that it is unfair to fund Catholic schools without extending the same privileges to Jewish, Muslim and other religious institutions is not resonating with Ontarians.
I'm sure Kinsella will be moonwalking around his office today.

And by the way, is there any chance that Stephane Dion could please call Warren Kinsella?

The supposed Liberal implosion

So the Liberal implosion is all the rage these days, hey? Lose a seat in Outremont and the knives are out. Dug out an old video clip of Andrew Coyne to remind people of why Dion won the Liberal leadership:



A brief statement, yes, but succinctly sums it up. Dion's the guy the Liberal party selected. And they need to stick with him through the next election and see what happens. If they don't, they'll be committing the biggest act of political suicide in recent memory in this country. The Conservatives must be beside themselves in glee over this self-immolation. Ads? Who needs ads anymore? Liberals are writing them themselves.

There's plenty to criticize and of course Dion bears some of the responsibility for where the party is. And I'm sure I'm sounding like more of the same old, same old, but Quebec is in major hangover from the sponsorship scandal. Big problem. It can't be solved so quickly. But this Quebec fascination is interesting yet a little overdone. We're hearing about Dion failing to connect in Quebec. That "we elected this guy to win in Quebec." Huh? Everyone knew he shepherded the Clarity Act through Parliament and fiercely stood up to the separatists to do that. He was Lucien's pen pal for months on end in a public battle of words that showed everyone exactly where he stood. And the majority of Canadians backed him on it. That vision of Canada that Dion has is a big part of why he was elected leader. And in the aftermath of Dion being elected leader, Quebecers expressed support for him.

But the months of demonization by the Conservatives with their ads has had an impact. They saw the threat from Dion and hammered him into a caricature. That and perhaps the mischievous and politically opportunistic "Quebecois nation" motion have made a difference there. Throw in a lack of money and infighting, and you've got quite a dog's breakfast.

But is it all Dion's fault and does he deserve to be thrown overboard? Not to me he doesn't. It may be very unpopular to say at this moment, but I'm sticking with Dion. Because I'd prefer to have Stephane Dion as Prime Minister any day of the week over Stephen Harper. Dion is honest, intelligent and passionately believes in Canada and doing the right thing on the environment, on justice issues and Afghanistan, to name a few issues of deep personal interest.

What I'd like to see right now? Dion needs to get more public. Step out there and say, I know it's going to be tough, but I'm here to win. I'm not afraid of a fight. And say it every freakin' day. Get in the news more. And remember that Stephen Harper has not pulled away in the polls. The Conservatives and Liberals have been virtually tied at the national level in poll after poll for months. There are too many issues where Harper is vulnerable for any Conservative majority to be in the offing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How will you spend your $35?

That's the amount Canadians will likely be able to put in their pockets as a result of today's announcement on debt reduction. Wow. $35 whole dollars. The possibilities are endless. Hmmmm...maybe I'll pay the phone bill and thank Steve for this blessing. Oops. It won't cover the phone bill. Or maybe dinner for 2 at the favourite Indian restarurant? Yeah, that would be nice. It's usually about that amount. But somehow, the fruits of the "Tax Back Guarantee" seem to cry out for something more meaningful.

Hmmmm...there's got to be something better to do with it...maybe I'll give my "refund" to the National Association of Women and the Law that Harper has decided should die rather than challenge the status quo and stand up for women. Yeah, funding a group that should not be on the chopping block as this obscene surplus gets socked away entirely on the debt. I think that's just what is needed until a government is elected who will restore such cuts.

Give here.

Bob Fife watch

In which Bob informed the nation tonight at the top of the news in his tete-a-tete with Lloyd that Stephane Dion is undecided as to whether to vote against the throne speech or not. According to Bob, Dion's thinking is dependent on who he spoke with last. Really, Bob? What's his sourcing for this? Does he have two sources or is it just the last person he spoke with before going on the air?

Big oil gunning for Danny

Quite the moment for Exxon and friends to launch their lawsuit against the federal government, in the midst of Danny Williams' re-election campaign. No doubt seeking publicity for their suit. Or perhaps they are under the illusion that doing so will in some way affect Williams' chances. Lol...:)
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams says he'll fight two U.S. oil giants over complaints they're being forced to spend millions of dollars on research in the province.

Williams says he is disappointed that ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil plan to sue the federal government, alleging it violated the North American Free Trade Agreement by allowing the province to adopt a new guideline on research investment.

"Research-and-development is really very important to our province, it's very important to the industry, and I would like to think that they'd want to be positively contributing to that," Williams said while campaigning for next month's provincial election.

"But if they don't, we'll certainly fight them all the way in court."

The two companies say the federal government breached a previous NAFTA agreement when a provincial-federal agency introduced a new guideline in November 2004 requiring an increase in R&D funding.
What are they trying to do, ensure Danny gets 100% of the votes?

Ungracious Steve showed up today

He can't help himself, his inner mean streak just oozes up to the surface repeatedly when making off the cuff remarks:
Mr. Harper, who travelled to Toronto to make the announcement while Parliament Hill readies for a possible election, extolled the virtues of debt repayment while taking a swipe at the Liberals.

“We're not going to use this extra savings the way the previous government did to . . . well, we can talk about how they spent money and who got it,” said Mr. Harper, a reference to the federal Liberal sponsorship scandal.

“Obviously, we're using it to reduce taxes.”

Mr. Harper answered a few questions from the media before abruptly leaving the news conference, leaving his financial deputy to field the rest of the queries.
Yes, let's talk about the billions shaved off the federal debt by the Liberals, shall we? A graphic for clarity's sake covering the last ten years:



Yes, those terrible awful Liberals. Doing all the heavy lifting for Steve. See how that debt to GDP ratio just dwindles and dwindles over these years? Yet he mocks them so callously. Canadians know the deal.

And another nice touch...coming to Toronto to make the announcement. Toronto that is struggling with its finances mightily. Look at me over here, Steve says, I'm flush with cash. But you're not getting any help, Toronto.

Is that why Steve cut off the media? Or is that just his typical, inaccessible self who demonstrates such disdain for the Canadian media...

Surplus yes, compassion no

So the word on the street is that Harpie and Finance Jim are about to announce a surplus in the neighbourhood of $10 billion today in Toronto. No sh*% sherlock. The finely oiled machine they inherited continues to hum.

But as they preen and politic over the booty today and try to use it for every electoral advantage possible, let's keep in mind everything they are not doing or say they cannot do, despite such bounty before them.

Witness the news of Monte Solberg's concession that the Conservatives are MIA on child care:
A much-touted promise by the federal Conservatives to create 125,000 new child-care spaces may not be doable, suggests Social Development Minister Monte Solberg.

The Conservatives have been slammed by critics who say the government's approach won't create nearly that many spaces over five years.

"We have to be realistic," Solberg said Wednesday when asked if an election vow made 18 months ago can be kept.
Yes, parents out there, please be realistic. $10 billion surplus but bupkus from the Conservatives. The pittance in allowance - $1200 per year before taxes for children under 6 - that the Conservatives are doling out is nowhere near the amounts needed to pay for child care in Canada. Where do they live? The spaces aren't there and their symbolic payoff of $600/year is misguided at best.

The environment? The Conservatives preach about devastation to the Canadian economy should tough measures be taken. Isn't that what a nation is supposed to do at a time when it is reaping such surpluses?

We've also witnessed unnecessary cuts in advocacy programs for the disadvantaged and those in need of legal representation: the Court Challenges Program, gone - amount saved, just over $2 million (see report below); the National Association for Women and the Law, closed - amount saved, annual budget of $300,000; the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, budget gone - amount saved, annual budget of $250,000; Status of Women Canada, $5 million cut. Think we can afford these things with a $10 billion surplus? Yeah, I think we can.

Danny Williams is talking up a storm on the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program this week, by the way. Attaboy, Danny:
Premier Danny Williams vowed Monday to pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reinstate the court challenges program, saying last year's cancellation went against the fundamental principles of justice.

Williams, who is in the midst of a provincial election campaign, called on other premiers to join him in demanding that Harper reverse his decision.

"That's something that, whether he likes or dislikes Danny Williams, he should be doing," Williams said after a campaign stop at the headquarters of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

"Just because people don't have the cash to challenge something that's wrong in a court, Stephen Harper is going to say, 'Well, we're not going to give you the money to find out whether the government is right or wrong.' ... Of all the things that he's done, I think that's one of the most significant things."

The federal legal-aid program, which allowed minority groups to mount constitutional challenges, was axed last year. (emphasis added)
If you're poor, and the government takes action that breaches your Charter rights in this country right now, you've got little to no recourse on that front. Unless you can find a lawyer who will act pro bono or a privately funded legal association who will take the case, and they're declining under Harper, it's open season. This is a major issue that has not received the attention it deserves and that has the potential to diminish the jurisprudence coming out of the appellate courts in Canada. Good for Danny Williams for again shining the light on this travesty.

So while Harper and Finance Jim prattle on about surpluses, and possibly tax cuts today, let's not forget their excuse making on child care, the environment and their petty ideological cuts to the programs set out above.

This can't be good for an election

A CBC report from last night has what appears to be a leak of a defence plan on Afghanistan:
Van Doos units in Quebec are expected to receive orders soon to begin extensive training in preparation for the possibility of an extension to the Afghanistan mission, for which they would be the first regiment deployed, CBC News has learned.

Canada's combat mission expires in February 2009, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed interest in extending soldiers' time on the ground.

Sources tell CBC that officers at defence headquarters are preparing a new Afghan strategy titled "The Managed Readiness Plan."

The document lays out future troop rotations in Afghanistan — with the Van Doos taking the burden of the first rotation of an extended mission.

The deployment of soldiers from the Van Doos, also known as the Royal 22nd Regiment, has been controversial due to widespread opposition to the mission in Quebec.
Normal contingency planning, irrespective of what Parliament decides, we are likely to be told. But it's equally possible it's the route to be taken in Afghanistan should Harper get his majority.

Steve goes golfing, kind of

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

Pick your own caption, I'll start: "Good Mini Bush, good Mini Bush."

And note to psychic dresser, you don't wear this on a golf course...:)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Get tough with Harper

I like this tougher posture Dion's taking in the lead up to the throne speech. There has not been enough of a challenge mounted to the awesome Conservative spin machine. Dion may be ramping up at just the right time:
Stephen Harper's Conservatives must make major changes to the upcoming throne speech or the opposition Liberals will vote against it, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion warned Wednesday, adding fuel to speculation there could be a fall federal election.

"This hidden agenda will be stopped," Dion said after a meeting with Quebec caucus members in Montreal.

He said the Tories would scrap the gun registry and anti-greenhouse gas initiatives the moment they gained a majority — a result Dion contended would allow them to shape a "right-wing" Canadian government modelled after the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

"They cannot do it today because they have an Official Opposition facing them," Dion said.
Harper's out of step on Afghanistan, on the environment, on the Atlantic Accord, on income trusts, on his foreign policy priorities...a coherent message opposing the Harper regime may just carry the day.

Btw, I love it when I hear a politician say they're going to fight to win as Dion said today...:) Anyone who thinks this guy, with his track record, is going to shrivel up into a little ball and let the Conservatives have their way with him is sorely mistaken.

Harper's coming out moment

He's completely out of the closet now. It started with APEC and now he's leading the anti-Kyoto, anti-hard target forces, just as he likely always dreamed he would. Fortunately, it seems that most world leaders blew him off:
Canada is vigorously campaigning for an international deal that rejects the central foundation of the Kyoto Protocol, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday.

He said that instead of capping greenhouse-gas emissions at specific levels as called for under Kyoto, he wants the world to adopt a completely different system of measuring success for reducing emissions.

That view is in stark contrast to European countries and is more in line with the preferred approach of the United States.

Mr. Harper said measuring results with "intensity targets" is the best way to engage major polluters such as the U.S. and China.

He said he made this pitch Monday during a private dinner with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders.

The dinner took place at the end of a special one-day meeting of the United Nations on climate change called by Mr. Ban, who in his closing remarks declared an international "breakthrough" in global talks toward extending Kyoto.
Harper's way of saying no one listened to him:
"If you go for hard caps [on emissions] as the only kind of target, by definition, the only kinds of countries that will sign on are countries that have no population growth and fairly limited economic growth."

"I happen to believe strongly that if one takes this seriously, you'll conclude that you need targets based on intensity of emission per unit of economic output," Mr. Harper said. "That's the only kind of target I think that will work globally, but certainly not all other countries share that view.

"And from the dinner last night, I would still say there is still a wide range of disagreement on where we need to go." (emphasis added)
Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that room. To see Harper lay it all out and see just who else was agreeing in tandem with him. And I take it Harper puts Britain and Germany in his category of no population growth and fairly limited economic growth? This subtle elitist knocking of other countries who are in favour of hard caps as being weak and therefore less credible in taking the positions they have does not strike me as the way to go about making friends and advancing one's position. And doing this in our name as well.

Truth telling on Afghanistan

Why should Canadian soldiers be dying in Afghanistan for the current mission when other NATO countries are not willing to support the mission to the same extent? Here's Norway today saying no. Throw in Germany, France, Italy and Spain as well. They will not send their soldiers to die for this mission in the south of Afghanistan where the Taliban are fighting. That's a pretty telling indictment of what's going on in Afghanistan. Despite MacKay's pleading with other nations, they're not stepping up. So it makes eminent sense for Stephane Dion to put NATO in the position of anteing up. If they don't, it certainly appears that the Afghan mission is either not important enough to NATO or it's interested in a completely different role in the country.

Dion's not taking the easy "stay the course" position that would be much more politically palatable for him. It leaves him open to charges from Conservatives that he was part of the Liberal government that started this mission and now he's seeking to change it. Because in this day and age, it's touted as strength to be stubborn, not to adapt to changing circumstances. Dion's doing the harder thing. He's challenging NATO to step up and he's telling them what the consequences will be. He's applying leverage. Harper's not.

Good for him for standing up on these issues, including Khadr who continues to sit in Gitmo. Dion's for the rule of law and a fair trial process. Harper's not.

Whether Canada should continue to shoulder the Afghanistan mission on its own, when other countries don't deem it important enough, is something that Canadians can decide in an election.

A shout out to my new blog roll members

I thought I'd follow the Wingnuterer's lead and give a shout out to my new blog roll peeps, added over the weekend. Blogger's made it a lightning quick thing to do now, so I've been a little remiss in not adding some of these folks sooner. So please welcome the following varied crew of bloggers, for varied reasons, to my humble little blog:

the unrepentant old hippie (one of the best blog names going), Creekside, Dawg's Blawg, the Canadian Cynic (like the Cynic needs help from me...:)), Hope & Onions, bastard logic, DeSmog Blog, In the House and Senate and last but not least, Red Tory.

Harper on tour, in the place he loves best

So it looks like Mini Bush was right at home today, havin' a fireside chat with the Council on Foreign Relations. This wonky academic and past president of an interest group fit right in with the stodgy but influential American foreign policy types. Described in this report as "relaxed and frank" during a lengthy question and answer session, Canadians might ask themselves, why doesn't this happen on Canadian soil? Why is Steve so afraid to open up at home? Is it because he distrusts the media so? Or is it that he just isn't comfortable with Canadians? All we get are sound bites from Harper in the House of Commons that are typically vitriolic and uber partisan or controlled speeches with limited access by the media. That's observation number one about today's Harper event.

Observation number two...the more you see of Harper abroad, the more the perception is that he's most at home when playing right wing to George W. Bush (to use a hockey analogy, one of Steve's favourite tricks). Giving a big assist to W today by advocating for the free trade deal with Colombia. Taking a swing at the U.S. in doing so? Hardly. He's taking a swing at the Democratic congress who are thinking twice about free trade, rightfully, given human rights abuses in Colombia. Steve and Bush say plow right on, never mind the inconvenient facts. How would we like it if Bush came here and told us we should pass a free trade deal we had concerns about? Wouldn't like it one bit. But whatever he can do to help George, by all means. If that includes inserting himself into U.S. domestic politics by attacking Democrats, he's W's man.

And observation three (I'll keep it neat with three), he just can't help himself in slagging our country abroad. The theme today, "Canada is back as a middle power." Middle? That's kind of insulting. I think a lot of Canadians like to think of our nation as leaders in many respects. And always implicit in such framings is the notion that Canada has been f*%#ing the dog until he came into power. I've harped on this before, but it's always irritating to hear his put down of the country in this way, especially when he does it on foreign soil. Canada's reputation world-wide and in particular as a peace-loving, decent, honest country needed no rescue from this guy. What's his evidence that Canada wasn't respected? I think we earned bloody bucketloads of respect around the world from our decision not to go to war in Iraq with the U.S. Had Harper been PM at the time, I think we all know where our troops would be right now. Let's not kid ourselves.

Yep, I think he's got something there with his minority government pick...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Very strange twist in the terrorism trial going on in Toronto

A big twist in the terrorism case being heard in a Brampton court room. The preliminary hearing was put to an abrupt end yesterday and the Crown has instead decided to move directly to trial. The suspicion is that some of the suspects might have been able to move to have the case against them thrown out as a result of weak evidence during the preliminary hearing. Not anymore, the government's seen to that. The defence lawyers sum up the outrage in this excerpt:
Some of the lawyers for 14 terror suspects strongly criticized the government yesterday for halting the preliminary hearing against their clients and proceeding directly to trial.

The men, arrested last summer and accused of belonging to a homegrown terror cell, were in the middle of a preliminary hearing in a Brampton court when the Crown made the stunning announcement that it was filing a direct indictment.

The move delivered a severe blow to defence counsel, who were eager to hear and test the evidence against their clients during a preliminary hearing, which is routinely held to determine if there's enough evidence to proceed to trial.

"This is a stain on the administration of justice – to deprive those accused persons of their constitutional rights to a fair trial, which they can't (get) without a preliminary hearing," said defence lawyer Paul Slansky outside court.

Particularly disappointing, said lawyers, is that the Crown's key witness, police informant Mubin Shaikh, had been in the middle of testifying. A second police mole was scheduled to take the stand next.

Defence lawyer Dennis Edney said the public should be outraged that the informants have not had their evidence properly challenged.

"It's an absolute disgrace," he said.

"Here is an opportunity for the two informants to describe the role of the various accused – some of whom (the informants) have declared innocent – and they have been denied (the chance) to tell their story."

As a result, some who may have been discharged at the end of the preliminary hearing will now be forced to go to trial, he said, calling it an "absolute abuse of process."

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada would not comment on the indictment, which was dated Sept. 19 and signed by Brian Saunders, acting director of public prosecutions and deputy attorney general of Canada. Instead, it outlined general reasons why a direct indictment may be required, such as an unreasonable delay in bringing the case to trial, or if witnesses and their families were in jeopardy.
Did political optics factor into this decision?
The preliminary hearing, which started June 4 and continued throughout the summer, was a "waste of taxpayers' money," said defence lawyer Michael Moon, estimating it must have cost millions of dollars. "I don't believe there was ever an intention by the Crown attorney to permit a preliminary inquiry to complete," he said.

"The last thing they want is for more people to walk because it would show what a sham this is," he said, referring to three youths who were also charged in the massive police sweep but have since had charges against them stayed.
We report, you decide...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quebec separatist leader trounces the ADQ candidate

While provincial politics is certainly not federal, it's worthwhile to consider a result like this one tonight. Pauline Marois trounced her ADQ opponent. Or, another way of looking at it, the separatist party handily beat the small"c" conservative opponent in a Quebec election. What might this say to Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper tonight? It could be minimized as just a reflection of a popular leader winning handily, as expected. But it could also underline continued support for nationalist representation. It's a show of strength for Marois that might give a certain federal leader something to think about.

Conservatives trying to avoid Afghanistan decision if there's an election in the offing

So Junior and Mini Bush are trying to put off the debate about ending the military mission in Afghanistan. Gee, I wonder why? Could it be the overwhelming polling numbers opposing the military mission and the possibility of an election this fall? Junior's now hanging his hat on an April 2008 meeting of NATO:
"There is a NATO meeting in April 2008," MacKay told a news scrum Monday.

"It will be necessary to communicate a final decision before that meeting."
Well, we can see where this is heading. April of 2008 means that we will have given NATO less than a year to prepare for someone else to take over the mission. And given the lineup that's forming even now to take our place, it's hard to imagine it'll get any easier as time goes on. Logistically, for other countries to line up troops and have them ready to step in...10 months notice from April 2008 is cutting it a little close. The longer we wait to signify our intention to end our military mission, the harder it will be to do so. And perhaps that's the Conservative strategy. Make it as difficult as possible for us to end the military mission.

There's another talking point taking hold that's just nonsense. This notion that the Liberals are forever barred from advocating that the military mission should end since they are the government that sent the military to Afghanistan and into the Kandahar mission in the first place. Huh? And since Bush ordered troops to Iraq he can never withdraw them? That would actually be the right thing for Bush to do. You see, it's a sign of strength to recognize when a policy is not working and change it. We've seen the disastrous Bush administration stubbornly sticking to failed policies and touting it as a sign of strength. Mocking those Senators who voted for the war initially and now seek to bring troops home. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives have deployed the same rhetoric with respect to Afghanistan. And lemmings lap it up:
One military analyst said that MacKay has added some certainty to the debate by laying out a timeline – and that the troops will appreciate it.

"Soldiers – being soldiers – like it when decisions are made, so I think they'll welcome this," said Alex Morrison, president of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.

"It's been discouraging for them to listen to the Liberals saying they should be withdrawn in February 2009 when it was the Liberals who put them there. It's been discouraging to hear the NDP say that they should be withdrawn now and we should negotiate."
No, pal. What is discouraging is listening to claptrap like this. Intelligent human beings adjust their strategies when the one in front of them is failing. Otherwise, we're in for an escalating commitment to a losing course of action.

Odd strategery

You know, I just can't see what Mini Bush is thinking with his go-slow approach on climate change. He continues to get out there on his limb with Bush et al. today. He's being widely criticized in the Canadian reaction to his speech today and positioning in the world community on this issue. He's out of step on Kyoto, with the European Union who appear to be leading the world. Canadians are going to have to decide whether Harper's "can't do" approach that synchronizes us with the Bush administration is what we want going forward. Most of us are likely with these young Canadians who sent a much better message today, to the U.N. body:
Harper drew sharp criticism from two Canadian youths participating in the one-day event. They said the Conservative government's emission targets are way too low.

"I, for one, am sick of being ashamed of my country and its poor behaviour on the world stage," P.J. Partington of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition told a news conference.

"The government keeps saying Canada's playing a bridging role in the negotiations, but with our current plan we're on the road to nowhere."

Catherine Gauthier, who told leaders the future is in their hands and that too many world capitals are "spinning" their positions, was equally scathing.

"Canada needs to step up our action on climate change or get out of the way of progress," said Gauthier, a member of the Quebec-based Environnement Jeunesse.

"Our current targets won't yield real action until I am about to retire, which is completely out of line with the urgency of the science. We cannot play a constructive role in the international negotiations with our current plan."
Get out of the way say the youth of today...:) Now if we can only get them to vote in droves to give the out of step Harper and his crew the boot.

Have a nice day at the U.N., Mini Bush

Here's a parting gift for you to ponder as you contemplate your "environmental" speech to the U.N.:
A new survey of 1,000 people released today by polling firm Harris/Decima indicates strong support for staying in the Kyoto Protocol as opposed to alternatives proposed by the United States, which did not sign Kyoto.

When asked if Canada should be siding with European countries who want to further Kyoto-like targets or with countries like the U.S. and Australia who want non-Kyoto targets, 61 per cent sided with Europe and 25 per cent supported the alternative.
...
The poll also indicates that 67 per cent of those surveyed believe that if Canada falls short of its 2012 Kyoto targets, that shortfall should be added to Canada's post-2012 commitments.
We're still just not that into your environmental plans, my friend, after all the selling and spinning by your top attack dog, Mr. Baird. Kyoto has resonance. It means something and you guys just don't get it.

I love me a good stickin' it to Mini Bush poll in the morning...:)

Smart move

Dion ensuring that the responsibility for an election call is squarely back in Harper's court as the federal election speculation extravaganza continues. If Harpie wants an election, he's free to set the terms of his throne speech accordingly. And hey, if you want to go, Steve, I'm ready...:) My keyboard is up for it, that's for sure...:)

And I will agree with one of the Strategic Counsellor dudes on this:
Still, analysts warn that an election would be risky for Mr. Harper, especially if Liberals could steal back votes from the New Democrats using the threat of a Conservative majority.

“It's not as if the Conservatives are miles ahead of their opposition. It's a very tricky situation,” Mr. Donolo said.
Yes it is a tricky one. It's a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. Choose wisely, grasshopper...:)

Sleeper issue in the next federal election

The federal spending power. Ah, yes, that arcane constitutional concept that has been a longstanding source of tension between the federal government and Quebec in particular. And the cause of eyes across the country glazing over at its very mention. But get ready. Gilles Duceppe's demand on the weekend that the federal government eliminate its spending powers in provincial jurisdictions has put it front and center as a possible issue in a coming federal election. While it will no doubt be overshadowed by other high profile issues such as Afghanistan and the environment, this one's a sleeper due to its potential impact on our federation and for its potential to galvanize latent support for the Liberals. This Canadian Press article, which is actually quite a good summary of the issue and its implications if raised during an election, canvasses the difficulties the issue poses for Harper:
He could easily find himself at odds again with the small, poorer provinces which have traditionally welcomed a strong central government using its spending power to invest in social programs they can't afford to fund on their own even though they are technically within sole provincial jurisdiction.

So far Harper has appeared to conclude that electoral gains in Quebec outweigh the potential losses elsewhere. But this time the stakes are higher; he could well find himself offside with the country's largest province, courting a much more devastating electoral impact.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has signalled his wariness of anything that would weaken the federal government's ability to create new national social programs.

"Are we talking about preventing the federal government from, at some point in the future, setting up social programs like day care or pharmacare? Because I don't support that," McGuinty warned in August.

"I"m a proud Ontarian, proud to lead this province. But I'm a proud Canadian first."
The traditional split between those who favour a strong federal government retaining its powers in full and not conceding power to the provinces, primarily Quebec, and those who favour such decentralizing moves would pretty quickly fall into place. We would likely see the Dion Liberals asserting the strong national government side with the Harper Conservatives on the other. The Liberals might lose seats in Quebec but would be buffered elsewhere. Harper might pick up seats in Quebec, but would lose elsewhere, notably in Ontario and possibly in the West. That's the conventional wisdom, if it's still operative in this day and age.

What Harper might yet do in a throne speech on this point is set out in the CP article:
But there are other options, including introducing a federal law to constrain the spending power, an administrative agreement with Quebec alone or with some or all provinces, or calling a first ministers' meeting to try to find some consensus on the issue. For that matter, Harper could simply issue a policy statement specifying the rules by which he intends to use - or not use - the spending power in future.
...
If Harper now hopes to satisfy Quebec, provincial officials suggest he might agree to the province's long-standing contention that it should be able to opt out of national cost-shared programs and still get its share of federal booty with no strings attached. He might also agree to extend any limitations to federal-only programs. (emphasis added)
The latter "no strings attached" scenarios would really be controversial. It would take him much further from his election platform in 2006. Harper generally reiterated his willingness to constrain the federal government's spending power over provincial jurisdictions in the run up to the Quebec provincial election to curry favour for Charest's government. But he's yet to commit as to how far he's willing to go. The suggestion in this article, in the excerpt just above, suggests that provincial officials in Quebec have an inkling that it's pretty far.

This is likely to be controversial nation-wide, as the article suggests, as there would be room to criticize Harper for giving up the federal government's power to create social programs that function from coast to coast with national standards. That may be OK with Stephen Harper. It's not going to be OK with a lot of voters who think it's not necessary to concede anything away to a separatist movement on the decline.

And it won't likely be easily explained away as a symbolic, "don't worry about it" kind of gesture. Once a federal government starts down this road with Quebec, it'll be very difficult for any future federal government to take back any concessions made.

If Harper goes in the direction of diluting the federal spending power, it won't be out of necessity. This is not a time of crisis which would push the federal government to consider such a major adjustment in the federation. Instead, it'll be borne out of sheer political opportunism.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

And the chaos in Afghanistan continues

No, we can't possibly change what we're doing over there, say the Conservatives. The disturbing developments in the bogged down Afghanistan NATO mission continue, however, in every part of the country. Have a look at this awful report today:"2 Italian Soldiers Missing in Afghanistan." Here's the clusterf*%# in the western part of the country:
Two Italian soldiers disappeared under mysterious circumstances while on a patrol Saturday night in a western region of Afghanistan where the Taliban has been active, Afghan and Italian officials said today.

In northeastern Afghanistan, NATO officials were investigating a report that four suspected insurgents gunned down by helicopter gunships on Saturday may have in fact been Afghan police officers and security guards on patrol, the NATO military command in Kabul said today.

The Italian soldiers began their night mission on Saturday at a garrison in Herat province, and were traveling with a driver and an interpreter, both Afghans, an official at the Italian embassy in Kabul said. At some point during the night, the Italians became separated from the Afghans, apparently in the Shindand region of Herat, where the Taliban have periodically clashed with NATO forces, officials said.

“They went out and lost contact with the headquarters,” said the Italian official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name.

It remained unclear how the two soldiers became separated from the Afghans.
...
If the soldiers fell into the hands of the Taliban, it would be a significant propaganda coup for the insurgency, which is seeking to drive all foreign troops out of Afghanistan and topple the government in Kabul. While the Taliban has kidnapped numerous foreign civilians in Afghanistan, the group has apparently never captured a member of a Western military force, at least since its resurgence began last year.
Oh, and what's going on in Kabul?
In Kabul, NATO officials said they were investigating a possible case of mistaken identity in the deaths of four suspected insurgents and the wounding of 12 others early Saturday afternoon in the Sarkani district of Kunar province.
And let's not leave out the eastern part of Afghanistan:
A NATO service member was killed today in eastern Afghanistan, the military reported, offering no further details. It was at least the third death among allied forces in Afghanistan in the last four days.
And the south? How you doing?
In the southern province of Zabul, the Taliban kidnapped three Afghan men accused of spying for the United States and executed them, said Wazir Khan, the police chief of Shamulzayi district, according to The Associated Press. One of the victims was beheaded and the other two were shot dead, The A.P. reported.
Got to stay the course, say the Conservatives...meanwhile, we're just spinning our wheels over there...

A criminal conspiracy by the Bush higher ups to target trial lawyers?

Scott Horton has the goods on another scandalous allegation against the Bush administration. Just when you thought you'd heard everything you possibly could that would shock you about these thugs, there's this:
In the last two weeks, two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department, have told me that a scheme was hatched in the upper echelons of the Bush Administration shortly after it took office in 2001 or early in 2002. The project identified John Edwards and Hillary Clinton as likely Democratic challengers to President Bush, and identified prominent trial lawyers around the United States as the likely financial vehicle for Edward’s rise. It directed that their campaign finance records be fly-specked, and that offenses not be treated as administrative matters but rather as serious criminal offenses.

The scheme contemplated among other things that raids be staged on the law offices involved, and that the records seized not be limited to campaign finance—there was an acute interest in all politically oriented documents, in order to seize valuable intelligence on strategic planning from the enemy camp.

This all sounds rather fantastic—even more insidious than the enemies list days of the Nixon era. It is precisely the sort of crude harassment that a primitive dictatorship would use against its enemies—like Alexander Lukashenko in today’s Belarus, for instance. But as the descriptions were passed to me, I instantly recognized the pattern described recently in a case which has made the headlines in Michigan involving a prominent lawyer there, and a second case in Los Angeles. According to one source, the number of these cases is at least five and they are scattered about the country. One case, described to me in some detail, closely matches the pattern in Michigan and Los Angeles and occurred in the south on the Gulf of Mexico.

Why, I wondered, would the attorneys involved not scream bloody murder about this? Then it struck me. The threat of criminal investigation and prosecution is devastating to their law practices. Of course, they would keep it completely secret. And that silence has made the entire scheme possible. I am told that these cases involved the attorneys general personally—both John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales—that their go-ahead was needed to stage the raids. And that in each case, the greatest concern within the political pirates commanding the operation has been that the public would get wind of the bigger picture. It was essential to pull it off that each case be viewed as something standing all on its own, and that the fact that there was a politically motivated project be obscured.
And Horton's kicker:
Alberto Gonzales of course fully understood what was happening and why, and fully approved of it. What disturbed him was the fact that all of this was becoming public.

If the scheme to get the Edwards trial lawyer supporters is as described to me, then it was a criminal conspiracy and those involved in it need to be tracked down, removed from office for their abuses, and punished.
It's time for the Democrats to get serious. These allegations are staggering.

On a lighter note...

Rudy Giuliani is just plain weird.



Or maybe creepy is a better choice, courtesy of Maureen Dowd:
The odd interval triggered a fusillade of analysis: was it creepy, cute, staged, spontaneous, rude, awkward or downright weird? Shouldn’t Rudy have left the phone with an aide, or silenced it?

Was this a harbinger that President Rudy would interrupt other important stuff to talk to Judi in the White House? If Ahmadinejad goes crazy — O.K., more crazy — would Rudy be focused like a laser, or would he take a call from Judi about whether she could redecorate Air Force One in Louis Vuitton?

First The Times’s Marc Santora noted that it wasn’t the first time Rudy had interrupted an appearance to take a call from his Princess Bride, as Vanity Fair dubbed her. He did the same thing in June in Hialeah, Fla., with more mushy talk during a rally.

This suggests either that Friday’s call was staged to humanize the dictatorial former mayor, or that Rudy is afraid of Judi’s digital wrath, or that the candidate is still struggling with how to integrate his third wife into his campaign, after her puppy-killing, husband-hiding, cabinet-sitting rough start.
This was just plain old embarrassing to watch...ick.

CTV gives John Baird a free pass

On Friday, a report by The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, the government's environmental watchdog, tore apart the Conservatives' plans on reducing greenhouse gas emissions as vague, exaggerated, inconsistent and methodologically poor. The fact that it was the Conservative plans that were being criticized was clear to anyone who read the newspapers.

You wouldn't know that, however, if you listened to our Environment Minister, John Baird, on CTV "Newsnet" last night. Baird represented, without intervention by the "news anchor," that the Roundtable actually said the following: that the panel were looking into the Liberal policy, the Liberal bill, and that what it said was that the Liberal bill was bad public policy. And then he launched into his p.r. on his vaunted Conservative plan and said that the Conservatives are going to tell people the truth. All without any interjection by the anchor who obviously did not have the ability to pierce the snow job she was getting. No wonder the Conservatives are so eager to appear on CTV "Newsnet."

The Roundtable conducted its review of the Conservatives' plan in addition to its look at the House of Commons Committee bill, C-288. Baird's statement last night clearly left the impression with anyone watching that the scathing report by the National Roundtable was solely directed at a Liberal plan when it was his own government's plan that was being denounced.

Isn't it amazing what a Minister of the Crown can get away with on national television.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

About those throne speech shopping lists...

There is only one party writing a throne speech for October 16th. And that's the Harpie party. If he wants an election, he'll write a throne speech that gives him an election. The opposition parties can prance around and set out all the conditions they want, but they're not setting the agenda.

"In politics you take risks," said Mini Bush, doing his best Brian Mulroney imitation. We'll see just how much of a risk-taker he is this fall...

"The political dynasty the Prime Minister has in mind"

This is quite the Saturday morning read. Tom Flanagan in the Globe today:
...Stephen Harper is trying to do what no Conservative leader since Sir John A. Macdonald has been able to do – build a viable, long-term political coalition with a broad enough appeal to win elections and, if it falls short, enough strength of character and self-discipline to avoid immolating itself on a bonfire of recrimination. In other words, he wants the Conservatives to replace the Liberals as the natural governing party of Canada.
Recall Karl Rove's dreams of a "permanent Republican majority." That's turning out real well at this point, isn't it? The problem with such goals? They're inherently anti-democratic. Unless you live in Alberta, of course. These conservative pols seem to get inflamed by power when they're given a turn at the wheel. Being entrusted with the levers of government for a mandate isn't enough for these guys. It has to be permanent.

This is quite the insight into the Harper agenda. Canada is not "yet" a Conservative country, "conservatism is not yet dominant,""people...vote for potential rulers" this leading Conservative and long time Harper campaign manager writes...

I suppose we should thank Tom Flanagan for laying it all out. Most of the Conservative game plan has been readily apparent but this is a useful, synthesized reminder of how aggressively and desperately the Conservatives are pursuing their "political dynasty."

Afghan detainees missing

Graeme Smith reports in the Globe today that 50 Afghan detainees that Canadians turned over cannot be found. The reaction thus far from "Canadian sources" in Smith's report is disappointing, to say the least. It's not clear who the sources are, but if they're government or military, they're just making excuses without any expressed recognition that this is a serious problem. I suppose that instead, any questions raised by the opposition about such reports will be maligned and characterized as unpatriotic. I hope not, but we'll see. The Conservatives have a track record of doing so.

So why is this report significant today? It's a reminder of the spring session of Parliament that was rife with Conservative bungling of the issue of the Afghan detainees and torture allegations.

And it's a reminder that what we do in Afghanistan as a nation sticks with us. 50 detainees can't be found that Canada handed over? That's a real blemish on our reputation as a nation that stands up for the rule of law and the Geneva Conventions. It's very difficult to believe that all 50 people that can't be accounted for are all a result of administrative errors.

And it's a reminder that if anyone believes they'll be waltzing to a majority with boosted support in Quebec in a fall election, they might want to think twice. Political staffers can try to control the Afghanistan message all they want but unpredictable events on the ground have a way of rearing their ugly head.

The report:
Canada still can't account for at least 50 prisoners it captured and turned over to Afghan authorities, several sources say, frustrating efforts to put to rest concerns the detainees were subject to torture.

Canadian sources offered a benign explanation for their disappearance, blaming the Afghans' shoddy record-keeping and suggesting the detainees have likely returned safely to their homes.

Prisoners often buy their freedom from Afghanistan's corrupt jails, which may also explain the lack of records. The Canadians say they have not received any indication the missing detainees ran into trouble inside Afghan jails.

Still, officials familiar with Kandahar's medieval justice system say the Canadians must not dismiss the possibility of foul play.

“There are lots of possible explanations for how people get lost in the detention system,” a Western official said. “Some are benign, others much less so.”


After stories of torture were published in The Globe and Mail this year, Ottawa asked for a full accounting of the approximately 200 people transferred by Canadian forces into Afghan custody before May 3.

Detainees transferred after May 3 have been monitored under a deal struck in reaction to uproar over the issue, but the Canadians were also anxious to know about the earlier transfers. Sending detainees into places where they face abuse or torture might constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Months later, however, a quarter of those 200 detainees remain missing, neither listed as released nor still in custody. (emphasis added)

Idiot watch



In case you missed it from Thursday's press conference, it's Bush pronouncing Nelson Mandela dead. He's not. It appears that this was a shockingly stupid butchering of an analogy he was supposed to use as a talking point.

Yes, this is the guy Stephen Harper is so enamoured with, following his foreign policy, gutting environmental commitments the rest of the world wants to follow, turning a blind eye to a Canadian citizen sitting in Gitmo...we are so lucky.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Steve's environmental plans get a big thumbs down

The Conservatives are spinning this bit of bad news on their environmental plans but an independent Environment Canada report damning the Harper plans tells us the opposite. Who are you going to believe? The scientists or Harper and John Baird?
Stephen Harper's climate-change plan was shredded by his own government's environment watchdog just as the prime minister prepared to trumpet it at a United Nations conference next week.

An Environment Canada body gave a passing grade to zero of nine programs in the Conservative climate-change plan and accused the government of exaggerating its potential impact.

The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy also accused the government of using misleading methods to arrive at false conclusions, such as double-accounting.

The report comes at a less-than-ideal moment for the prime minister, who heads to New York on Monday to deliver a speech before 80 world leaders about his approach to climate change.

The report accuses his government of "systematic" exaggeration, "double-accounting," "not accurately reflecting" emissions reductions, "important inconsistency," and "overestimated" reductions.

It concluded that of nine federal climate-change programs, the government had exaggerated the benefits of three and failed to produce sufficient information to support the other six.
Released on a Friday, with high hopes from the Conservatives that it'll be buried and no one will notice. And no Parliament sitting to deal with the substance of it. It's quite the democracy that these fellas are running up there.

So Harper's heading to New York this week to speak to world leaders, hey? We'll be watching for his trashing of Canada's reputation in front of the world and his disappointing enabling of "aspirational" emission standards...

Junior not making any sense - aka Day 3 of the Afghan p.r. offensive

First Karzai, then Bernier, now Junior...

Now, maybe it's his new portfolio and all but Junior's speaking in tongues. No wonder this trip was unannounced:
Canada, with 2,300 soldiers in the dangerous southern province of Kandahar, wants countries like Germany, France, Spain and Italy to allow their troops into combat zones to fight Taliban militants.

"These countries . . . have to understand that their commitment is as real as any," said MacKay, who took over the defence portfolio in August.
Wtf does that sentence mean? Those countries are in Afghanistan, yes, but is he saying their commitment could be more substantial? I know that's probably what he means, but he's not being clear. He'll have to step it up if he's going to live up to his status as a supposed great communicator, after all, since that was Harper's objective in shuffling MacKay to Defence. You know, to take over from the previous sad sack. More enlightenment from Junior:
Canada, like other countries, is under public pressure to leave Afghanistan. But no one would be immune from the consequences of deserting now, said MacKay.

"NATO cannot fail," he said. "If countries like Canada leave, the Taliban can follow them. These threats are not going to stay isolated."

His words echoed an oft-used phrase from President George W. Bush, who frequently tells Americans that al-Qaida terrorists would follow departing American soldiers home from Iraq. (emphasis added)
Now Junior, I think you mean to scare us by saying Al Qaeda could follow us back to Canada, not the Taliban. Someone needs to spend more quality time with his briefing books.

When you're trying to scare us, make sure you have such basics covered off...:)

"Their character assassination is powerful"

Humility, honesty and integrity in a leader. What a concept. Dion needs to speak openly like this in settings just like this, i.e., the in-person interview, on a more regular basis:
In an act of mea culpa, Mr. Dion admitted that he bears responsibility for his party's defeat in three Quebec by-elections this week, including the stunning loss of the long-time Liberal bastion of Outremont.

He was too slow to realize that his personality is part of the debate, and that he should have acted sooner to redefine himself, especially in Quebec, after 11 years of being a target of separatists and this year's series of Conservative attack ads, Mr. Dion said Thursday.

“It's more in my personality to talk about what I want to do, and to talk about dossiers. But I cannot continue to be a leader as I have been a minister. I'm not responsible for a file, I'm responsible for a leadership, involving all the aspects of the daily life of my fellow citizens.

“And so, since in Quebec there is a perception of me that is not me, that has been a caricature developed by my opponents. … I need to tackle this problem. I have seen that on the ground in the by-elections – people are saying Mr. Dion, we don't know you, or Mr. Dion, we know who you are, and we don't like it – so I need to help my party in solving this problem and in showing to Quebeckers how much I am proud of what I am as a Quebec City kid.”
...
Mr. Dion said he'll make the real Stéphane Dion a part of the political debate, and insisted that Quebec MPs and others in the party have been motivated by his request for their help in tackle the “caricature” of his personality and his image problems in the province.

“I never asked them to do that – it's my mistake. But now they are very motivated.”

He said that separatists portrayed him as rigid and centralizing, when in fact he is proud of Quebec institutions, respectful of Quebec's role, and a defender of Quebec and the French language across the country. The Tories piled on with attack ads, and when some Liberals called for Mr. Dion to respond quickly, he did not.

Thursday, he admitted that was mistake and that he should have fought to redefine himself before the Tories did.

“I assumed that the debate would be more on the substance of what I have to propose than the personalities. And their character assassination is powerful for many people. It works.” (emphasis added)
I am very glad to hear this refreshing candour. Dion seems to have finally twigged to the Conservative tactics, much the same as those employed by the Republicans to the south. We all know too well what's happened to Gore, Kerry, et al. when they let character attacks go unanswered. People started believing them. The Liberals should consider their very own ongoing war room, to increase their responsiveness and vigilance against Conservative negative ads and petty attacks like Poilievre's "Mom, he-did-it-first" volley yesterday.

When Dion speaks from his heart like this, he's more likely to win against the mud on the other side.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Women, Harper's not your guy

First he cancelled the Court Challenges Program, now he's cut off funding for the National Association of Women and the Law: "Harper called 'Neanderthal' for cuts to women's groups." This with a federal budget that's overflowing. Think Harper cares about women's issues? His actions certainly don't show it.
NAWL had been instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of women in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for changes to criminal laws dealing with sexual assault. Most recently, it had been involved in the ongoing battle for pay equity in the workplace.
Well, that's all very nice, says Stephen Harper, bam, you're cancelled. This is part and parcel of the Conservatives' war on legal advocacy groups that have, for 25 years, received federal funding to represent groups who speak for women, minorities, the disabled, etc. so that they could provide representation of these viewpoints to the courts when major decisions were being made that affected their interests. Harper's view is that if these groups can't afford to pay for their own legal services, they shouldn't be in court. They shouldn't be represented. And again, they take this view despite the fact that it's not a federal hardship with our budget surpluses to pay for a full spectrum of interests to be represented at the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and other courts and tribunals. Imagine if they took this approach to legal aid. After all, what's stopping them? It's the next logical progression.

Harper's not funding the Court Challenges Program or NAWL because he disagrees with what they do, ideologically. He doesn't want a group in the courtroom advocating for women's pay equity. He wants the government or corporation there and the lone woman, without advocacy support. Because guess who wins in that circumstance? The party with resources. The government, the corporation. The woman who has a complaint about pay equity can't afford to bring the challenge. That's where these advocacy groups step in. It's shameful that Harper would cut such resources to those who need them most. Recall their cutting of the Court Challenges Program and the harm it's done to minority language groups who aren't getting access to the courts now to enforce their constitutionally protected linguistic rights because they can't afford it. This is against the Official Languages Act. And he does this in a minority government situation. Imagine if he gets his majority.

Their placebo response is that they're putting money into actual direct services that help women. Oh really? How does that replace the voice that such groups as NAWL represented for women in the legal and political process? Job training for immigrants is mentioned as an example of a program the Conservatives are funding to answer to such charges. It's not, however, nearly responsive to the fundamental problem highlighted above. Harper is silencing these advocacy groups by cutting their funding and signalling that he just doesn't care whether they're part of our legal process. Bam, you're cancelled. With all kinds of administrative gobbledygook thrown at you, but bam, you're cancelled.

The word "neanderthal" is being thrown around to describe Harper today. If the shoe fits...

"Karl, hang up my jacket"

Sidney Blumenthal writes today that Bush has entered a new phase of "decadent perversity"...:) And he provides some comic episodes from one of the new books on Bush, "Dead Certain" by Robert Draper. They're laugh-out-loud killer:
In his interviews with Draper, he is constantly worried about weakness and passivity. "If you're weak internally? This job will run you all over town." He fears being controlled and talks about it relentlessly, feeling he's being watched. "And part of being a leader is: people watch you." He casts his anxiety as a matter of self-discipline. "I don't think I'd be sitting here if not for the discipline ... And they look at me -- they want to know whether I've got the resolution necessary to see this through. And I do. I believe -- I know we'll succeed." He is sensitive about asserting his supremacy over others, but especially his father. "He knows as an ex-president, he doesn't have nearly the amount of knowledge I've got on current things," he told Draper.

Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian who imposes humiliating tests of obedience on others in order to prove his superiority and their inferiority. In 1999, according to Draper, at a meeting of economic experts at the Texas governor's mansion, Bush interrupted Rove when he joined in the discussion, saying, "Karl, hang up my jacket." In front of other aides, Bush joked repeatedly that he would fire Rove. (Laura Bush's attitude toward Rove was pointedly disdainful. She nicknamed him "Pigpen," for wallowing in dirty politics. He was staff, not family -- certainly not people like them.)

Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. Aides have been fearful of raising problems with him. In his 2004 debates with Sen. John Kerry, no one felt comfortable or confident enough to discuss with Bush the importance of his personal demeanor. Doing poorly in his first debate, he turned his anger on his communications director, Dan Bartlett, for showing him a tape afterward. When his trusted old public relations handler, Karen Hughes, tried gently to tell him, "You looked mad," he shot back, "I wasn't mad! Tell them that!"

At a political strategy meeting in May 2004, when Matthew Dowd and Rove explained to him that he was not likely to win in a Reagan-like landslide, as Bush had imagined, he lashed out at Rove: "KARL!" Rove, according to Draper, was Bush's "favorite punching bag," and the president often threw futile and meaningless questions at him, and shouted, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'" Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, This is going to be a really tough decision." But flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."
"Karl, hang up my jacket..." Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States...:)

Harper has won 1 of 5 by-elections since becoming PM

Still milking the tales from the by-election angle. Wonder what's in store for tomorrow?

Well here's another tale. Let's recount the results of all the by-elections since Stephen Harper has become PM:

London North Centre, November 27, 2006: Liberal
Repentigny, November 27, 2006: BQ

Outremont, September 17, 2007: NDP
Roberval, September 17, 2007: Conservative
Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot, Sept. 17, 2007: BQ


Not so impressive for Steve, is it?

Harpies trying to control the message on Afghanistan


Maxime Bernier found out last night that the Harper government's efforts to carefully control their public visage don't always pan out. Strike one for Bernier: "Rage against the mission greets new minister."
It was a baptism of fire for Canada's new foreign minister, Maxime Bernier, with almost a dozen angry protesters shouting him down as he tried to sell his government's military involvement in Afghanistan.
Terrible, horrible university students, hey? Good on them. The new "communications strategy" on Afghanistan will have to be delivered in a sound proof booth at this rate...

And Bernier's message last night was strikingly similar to Hamid Karzai's the day before. Do I smell a concerted political effort between the Harpies and the Karzai government who are about to gang up on the Canadian political opposition for the foreseeable future as the mission comes under scrutiny? Yeah, I think so. Bernier last night:
Bernier said Canada cannot simply abandon the Afghan people to their fate and that to do so would jeopardize gains in development and security that have been made on the ground.
Karzai the day before:
"Exactly that will happen, exactly," Mr. Karzai said. "If you leave prematurely, before we can defend ourselves in terms of our own abilities, government, institutions, and all associated factors, Afghanistan will fall back."
Karzai made his statement so Canadians would hear it the day after the NDP's electoral victory in Quebec, winning arguably in part on their anti-Afghanistan mission message. The timing on Karzai's part was canny, to summon Canadian journalists as he did. No doubt he got a nudge from someone to do so.

And this speech from Bernier also signifies that Harper's position on Afghanistan has now evolved from his statement that there would have to be consensus from all parties on extending the mission, a seemingly understated position that acknowledged the political reality of his minority government status, as he set it out this spring at the end of a disastrous parliamentary session. But he's now staking out a new stance. He's making a moral argument that Canada has to stay and not abandon the Afghans. We started, now we have to finish the job. I.e., we don't cut and run. He's come full circle:
"There will be some who want to cut and run, but cutting and running is not my way and it's not the Canadian way," he said, to a round of applause.

"We don't make a commitment and then run away at the first sign of trouble. We don't and we will not, as long as I'm leading this country."
I can just hear the battle cries that are being readied. Canadians don't break their word. Canada made a commitment. It'll be "cut and run" but with new and improved, focus group tested slogans so as not to associate Harper with Bush while doing it. The opposition better get ready for the onslaught.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is Harper pro-Gitmo or against it?

It doesn't matter how odious Omar Khadr's activities were, or who his family was. He's being held in a modern day gulag, Guantanamo Bay, and all rights respecting western nations have stood up to the Americans and insisted on getting their citizens out. We haven't. So the question is, are the Conservatives going to let a Canadian be subjected to the sham military commission process of Gitmo, a process where Khadr's "trial" has already been thrown out by a military judge? Or are they going to stand up to the Americans and insist that Canadian citizens be subject to a fair process governed by the rule of law? Ball's in Harper's court and thus far, he and Maxime Bernier are failing.

Another kick in the pants for Conservatives

Hey, I don't do the polls, I just gleefully report them: "Poll shows Tory support waning in 905." This poll is principally to do with the Ontario election but surely these findings are not good for their federal counterparts either:
The 905 is the fastest-growing region in Ontario and is making the transition from a suburban to a urban area. The survey suggests that the Conservative Party has not kept up with this change and has not been able to broaden its base of support under leader John Tory. It remains the party of choice for older, wealthier, less-educated men who predominantly live in rural and small-town Ontario, the survey says.

"The problems of the inner city are becoming more prevalent there," the Strategic Counsel's Tim Woolstencroft said. "It's becoming less suburban, so it's much more receptive to Liberal messaging."
Yes, that's all very informative. I wonder also about the impact of John Tory's promise to fund religious schools on the federal Conservatives down the road:
Mr. Woolstencroft said support for the Conservatives could slip across the province because Mr. Tory's unpopular proposal to bring faith-based schools into the public system is "dead on arrival" for a large majority of Ontarians. The survey shows that 71 per cent of voters oppose it, including a majority of Conservatives.
There has been such a visceral reaction to this proposal that methinks it just can't help but taint the Conservative brand in Ontario. And if this boneheaded false step costs Tory the election, the hoped for Conservative victory in Ontario will not be making Harper's fall highlight list, as he had planned.

And to think he kept Parliament away so we could all focus on his boy imploding...:)