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.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Harpie's bunch never learns

Ah, the sounds of the Harper brand of cooperative federalism, resounding through the nation at years end:
Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn has thrown more fuel into an ongoing feud with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, with a claim that he has eyes and ears inside Williams's own government.

"There are times I'm sure I know as much as what's going on in cabinet and caucus or on the eighth floor as the premier does," said Hearn, referring to Williams's office in Confederation Building in St. John's.

"I always do. That's why we can always be one step ahead of him," Hearn said in a year-end interview with CBC News. "I have friends throughout cabinet and caucus."
(emphasis added)
"We can always be one step ahead of him." Why, whatever do you mean by that remark, Mr. Hearn? It almost makes it sound like you federal Conservatives are plotting against the people of Newfoundland in the midst of some clandestine battle you're waging to undermine Williams.

Now, Loyola...you bunk head. Didn't you catch your fearless leader trying to make amends just over a month ago? Apparently operation bended knee is very over. Can't see how such comments will go over well with Danny as 2008 is starting.

Ah yes, the leadership and competence of the Harper government in their federal-provincial relations on full display once again...:)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lazy Saturday blogging

A Saturday mishmash for you...aka my smart-a** take on the news...and a bonus exciting picture below...:)

Those pesky Liberal appointees must be at it again, hey Mr. Prime Minister...:)

"Avoid non-essential travel to Pakistan: Ottawa." Do ya think?

You did it. No, you did it. The chaos that has been unleashed is eliciting a circular fury of finger-pointing.

Please, Americans, do not do this to the rest of the world...again.

Rudy Giuliani is an idiot for associating himself with this guy.
John Deady, the co-chair of New Hampshire Veterans for Rudy, is standing by the comments he made in the controversial interview with The Guardian we posted on below, in which he said that "the Muslims" need to be chased "back to their caves."
Rudy's an idiot for many other reasons too. That's just today's.

Garth Turner once again gettin' all insightful on us:
Our prime minister has learned diplomatic obfuscation well. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto elicited from Calgary the same tepid, almost apologetic response as we heard yesterday from Washington. Except, George Bush put a suit on and looked truly pained. Our guy, well, he didn`t.
No, he certainly didn't. In fact it looked like he just got out of bed.

And looky here, a neato picture that maybe the blogging community might appreciate. Might. My computer wires, usually a big soup, now all corded up and hitched to my desk. Wallpaper's going to be removed and the digs are all bein' painted in the next month or so. So the preparation begins.

Yep, this is where it all happens...:) Don't you wish you could have a friend do this for you too? Blog safely out there kids...:)

Those inconvenient federal spending limits

Well, I have to say that as a supporter of Stephane Dion, the confidence expressed by the Liberal party president in this report is good to hear. And to be fair, it's really what you'd likely hear from any party leader, but still. I had to laugh at one part though:
Liberals would be leading in public opinion polls if they had as much money as the Conservatives to spend on pre-election advertising, suggests Grit president Senator Marie Poulin.

But the Tories' cash advantage will end once an election is called, when all parties will be forced to stay within the same spending limit.
Because as we all know, spending limits mean sooooo much to Harpie's gang, don't they? Last go round, in Conservative-national-headquarters-land, the national party topped up riding funds in remote regions when the election got tight in order to fund TV ads in the big markets that had nothing to do with the ridings they topped up. And then the remote riding candidates had the nerve to try and get that last minute "in-and-out" cash back from the Canadian taxpayer (until they were exposed by the media and a lot of them then dropped out of the cash back demand). And then the national party had the nerve to sue Elections Canada once it got caught. Because, you know, such efforts to get around those nasty national spending limits were truly in the spirit of "accountability" upon which they ran...:)

Next time
, I'm sure journamalists will be right on their case, tracking ad buys and watching patterns.

At least a citizen can hope...:)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Harper refuses to address allegations Iran supplying Taliban

When Harper finally got around to commenting on Benazir Bhutto's assassination today, in a makeshift tarmac session, here's the essence of what he had to say:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Pakistan to proceed with its scheduled election in two weeks - this despite the country's main opposition party announcing a boycott after Bhutto's murder.

"This cannot be allowed to permit any delay in the return of Pakistan to full democracy," Harper said in Calgary.

"(Democracy is) something the people of Pakistan have been waiting for, for far too long."
Took just about a minute or two. "Allowed" a few questions. Expressed general concern for regional stability in response to a question on how the Pakistan situation would impact the Afghan mission. But seemed to get a bit uncomfortable, started smiling and quickly begged off once asked about Junior MacKay's Christmas day allegations of Iran supplying arms to the Taliban. It's a question for another day, said Harper. I wonder if that day will come?

Maxime Bernier: strike seven

A very stark contrast in play today, as we witness the horrific assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, in the leadership shown by our own political leaders.

Bob Rae holding a public press conference today, speaking out as Canadians look for leadership and some solutions from a Canadian perspective:
Now more than ever, Canada must take a much bigger role in diplomatic efforts between Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent insurgents from crossing the border between the two countries, said Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, who predicted that Bhutto's assassination will have a significant effect on Canadian efforts in Afghanistan.

"It has a huge on what we're thinking about and what we're doing right next door (to Pakistan)," Rae told a news conference in Toronto Thursday.

"It's not a question that we can afford to ignore."
A public face put forth to mirror people's concerns and start asking questions is a function of a competent government. A politician who is fluent and confident in addressing such major international challenges. And in stark contrast to the politicians populating the Conservative benches, is not tentative and on a leash by a restrictive PMO.

Meanwhile, the B team running our foreign affairs, and government, for that matter, I'm looking at you Maxime Bernier, release a careful written statement:
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier condemned Bhutto's assassination, saying it's clear her killers were bent on preventing fully democratic elections scheduled for Jan. 8.

"Canada condemns in the strongest terms this attack on the restoration of Pakistan's efforts to return to full democracy," Bernier said in a written statement.

"I urge the Government and people of Pakistan to continue to reject all forms of violence and to resist those who seek to destabilize their country. Stability in Pakistan is vital for regional stability and security".
Bravo, Maxime, well done. A written statement. How utterly deficient.

Your morning smile

On the special year end CBC "At Issue" panel last night, in case you missed it, Allan Gregg picked Rona Ambrose to be his "Comeback" politician in 2008. Rona Ambrose, the invisible Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs who has not spoken publicly - not that I've seen, anyway - since being demoted from the Environment Ministry many months ago. Who has provided no evidence or even a hint of life to warrant such a prediction. Gregg justified his pick because "open federalism" may be on the upswing and become more important in 2008 if there's an election. Or something to that effect. And there was some other mumbo jumbo about how she had been unfairly dumped upon while in Environment and so on. And he did it with a straight face.

Now I can see it from one perspective...she's certainly got nowhere to go but up...

But sometimes these panellists just slay me with this stuff...:)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Junior and Harper mucking up the Afghan file again

Well, I took a day or so to refrain from partaking in the political scene. You know, in the spirit of the holidays and all. But I see that Mini Bush and his boys have not. They're doing a number on the Afghan mission and it's not pretty.

We saw Junior MacKay dishing out turkey to the troops yesterday. An event that should have been free from controversy. Yet it wasn't. Junior decided to engage in some choice fear mongering by implicating Iran in the Afghanistan conflict. Didn't hear any evidence of it, however. Just "concern" voiced by Junior, inspired by his guest on the trip, perhaps:
CTV's Murray Oliver, reporting from Kandahar, said it was the first time a high-ranking Canadian official has identified Iran as helping the Taliban.

"It was really surprising to hear Iran singled out so strongly by the defence minister as a country that is contributing to the harm of Canadian troops," Oliver told CTV Newsnet. "I think we are going to hear a lot more about this Iran-Taliban connection in the coming weeks."

The alliance is surprising considering the Taliban were mortal enemies with Iran while they were in government, he said.

"Of course, as the saying goes, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,'" Oliver said.

David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, traveled with MacKay and Hillier during their trip.

"Certainly the Americans have been sending out messages recently that they believe there is much more Iranian involvement in Afghanistan than has been widely reported," Oliver said.

But he also noted that NATO officials think that any Iranian assistance might not be coming from the government itself, but factions within the government. If true, that would make a diplomatic solution more complex, Oliver said.
Wtf is Junior up to? This venture into Bush administration thematics makes me extremely uncomfortable. See Dave's post and pretty shaved ape for reaction with which I concur.

And today we have a report of a year end interview with Mini Bush himself telling us how he doesn't know whether Canadians get the significance of the Afghan mission. How he, essentially, doesn't trust that Canadians are smart enough to get it.
Parliament will be asked by spring to vote on what kind of mission Canada should undertake after the current mandate expires in February 2009.

Asked whether he believes Canadians truly appreciate what is at stake in the decision, Harper said: "I don't know, the short answer is I don't know."
...
"The government understands we took on an important international commitment for important reasons of international security that in the long run impact directly on our country," he said an interview in the living room at 24 Sussex Drive.

A poll released in the weeks after the throne speech suggested the public was overwhelmingly against continuing for another three years beyond the current mandate.

"So I don't know whether Canadians do - or don't - understand. I think Canadians are deeply troubled by the casualties," Harper said.

In June, a Canadian Press-Decima Research survey found 67 per cent of those asked believed the number of casualties in Afghanistan were unacceptable when weighed against the progress that had been made in reconstruction and keeping the Taliban at bay in Kandahar.
With numbers like these, demonstrating that Canadians do indeed feel strongly that the mission should be shorter, not longer as Harper desires, and that the progress is just not there to sustain the loss of human and economic treasure, it's not surprising that he's doing his best to undercut such polls. If he's intent on ignoring the views of Canadians in 2008, hopefully he'll be given a lesson by the voting public on what happens when that occurs. And I say hopefully, since it's likely that problematic issues for the Harper government will be massaged and managed to the hilt in order to make them less impactful during an election.

These further quotes are just plain old irksome:
"All we can only hope from the Manley exercise is that it causes Parliamentarians, particularly in our official Opposition - which as you know commenced this mission - to sit back and think about what is in the best interest of the country before a vote is actually held," he said.

"We really have got to avoid - on this one - taking a decision for reasons of short-term politics. We must take a decision that is in the long-run interest of the country, its international reputation and the respect we should all show for the sacrifice our men and women have made to secure it."
Because, as we all know, Harper is not at all about "short-term politics," is he? Continuing to demonize the opposition as he's seemingly trying to ask them at the same time to think in the long term and rise above partisanship. Shoot yourself in the foot much there guy? Way to kick off the 2008 debate on the wrong foot. If anyone is responsible for any partisan rancour on the Afghan file, it's Harper. He's done his best Mini Bush work here, attacking the patriotism of the opposition and accusing them of showing more concern for the Taliban than Canadian soldiers. That's what he did in 2007. It's almost comical to now hear him purporting to take the high road and do what's best for the country when this is his track record.

Partisan, heal thyself.

And while Canadian soldiers and their families have paid the ultimate price for this mission, it's inappropriate for those considerations to block us from making a different decision going forward. The case can equally be made for withdrawal using Harper's criteria.

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.

Merry Christmas from Fred Thompson

As we watch the Republicans climb all over themselves to pander to the absolute worst in ourselves, here's Fred Thompson being an absolute doofus:
Janice Easley's fury over illegal immigration boiled over Saturday as she confronted Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson at the Music Man Square museum.

She said she recalled a film about Mexicans who wanted to take over California and New Mexico. Calling illegal immigrants a taxpayer burden, she wondered whether Americans could march in the streets of Mexico and demand welfare. When Iowans call up the power company, she said, "everything is in Spanish; it's sickening."

"You are so, so right," Thompson responded. English should be the national language, he told the retiree, and immigrants bear some of the blame for the home-loan crisis. "A lot of them couldn't communicate with the people they were getting the mortgage from," he said.
Yes, it's unbearable to hear "Press 2 for spanish" in Spanish, isn't it? And gotta say, that's the first time I've heard anyone suggest the subprime mortgage crisis had anything to do with illegal immigration...I mean, that's just base...

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...

Voices for a public inquiry

Star editorial from Saturday:
There are compelling reasons for such a probe, including the importance and value of the truth and integrity to our democratic institutions. Effective democracy demands that the public interest must always take precedence over the private or personal interests of those who enjoy the power and privilege of governing.

If there is any question of that principle being abused, as there was, for example, in the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the only way to restore the public's faith in our system of representative government is to cast a spotlight on the officials in question in order exonerate them or expose their wrongdoing. It is the ultimate form of accountability.
...
To claim, as some do, that the Schreiber-Mulroney affair is ancient history, and therefore not worth the expense of an inquiry, is to imply that there is some kind of magic dividing point on the time line of history, before which the truth does not matter.

Canadians are entitled to know whether a former prime minister broke faith with the people who put their trust in him, even if it was nearly 15 years ago. And given the circumstances of his dealing with Schreiber – envelopes stuffed with $1,000 bills exchanged in hotel rooms and then squirrelled away in safety deposit boxes and safes with no taxes paid for several years – Mulroney should have the right to explain himself before a full-blown inquiry.

And yes the inquiry will cost money. But keeping our democracy healthy is not something that can be had for free.
A columnist Friday with a similar view, taking on the spin designed to avert a public inquiry on the Mulroney-Schreiber affairs, promised by Harper yet now in jeopardy:
Aided on air by Elf Ian Macdonald, Mulroney acolyte Bob Fife and Lloyd, who often begins a report with something like, Well, Craig, why are they still beating that dead horse?

“The case for a public inquiry has melted away,” wrote Margaret Wente. There's nothing new, said Chantal Hébert.

But here's Karlheinz Schreiber: “The story is the payback for money to help someone come to power.” Replete with details: How Franz Josef Strauss dispatched him from Germany to seed right-wingers around the world and eject fakes such as Joe Clark. And where they plotted: the Ritz! They sat around, “And everybody got something,” once Brian took power. Not just contracts but free trade and the rest. We still live with the results. This isn't worth inquiring into? Watergate was just a piddling break-in.

They say “there is nothing to link Mr. Mulroney to the Airbus bribes.” But that may get the sequence wrong. What if Airbus wasn't what the Mulroney crew were owed something for? What if Airbus was what they owed to the Straussians who hoisted them into power? I'm just inquiring.
Yet we will never get any answers if Mulroney and Harper have their way in jettisoning the public inquiry they respectively committed to attend and hold...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Harpie's by-elections and other stuff

A few items in the blogosphere grabbed my attention in the past hour or so...

1. Jason Cherniak poses the question: "What's Steve scared of?" This is in reference to the incredible pushing back of the by-elections in 4 Liberal held ridings to March. My take...he's afraid of having Bob Rae in the House of Commons. Rae will significantly round out the Liberal benches and will make the front line of the Conservative side pale in comparison. He'll eat Maxime Bernier for breakfast.

And let's not gloss over Martha Hall Findlay either. She will represent another high profile woman with leadership potential on the Liberal side. There's no one on the Conservative side in the women's ranks who has such potential. No one.

So these are a few things Harpie is afraid of when he hits the pillow late at night. And yes, I do believe that's what's going through his head...

2. David Orchard should run for the Liberals, yes, in the Saskatchewan by-election if it works out for him. But if there's another candidate chosen, then David should run in another riding. Besides, this hiccup is likely to become moot. A federal election may occur prior to the March 17th date for these by-elections or soon thereafter. One way or another, Orchard is likely to get his federal seat in Saskatchewan. Listen to Orchard, here on Afghanistan and Iraq and read this article on the Wheat Board. He'll likely resonate significantly on that issue in a by-election, or federal campaign, whichever it may be. I could see him being a great asset, in fact, in a federal campaign in Saskatchewan on that count. And as others are pointing out, he's eminently preferable to an NDP MLA who can't make up her mind as to which party she wants to represent. This is a test for Dion's new staff, let's hope they sort it out.

3. Apparently there are "sanctimonious" Liberal bloggers out there who may not criticize the Quebec provincial Liberals for their bid to out do the PQ in the immigrant-bashing-nativism-extravaganza. I noticed this from the Uncorrected Proofs blog. Well, I'm not sure to whom that blogger is referring, no one is named. I've seen a few Liberals opining generally against such efforts in Quebec (Kinsella comes to mind quickly). And bastard.logic has also weighed in, uber-progressive but not Liberal, and they certainly gave Jean the business. And I've already written against the bone-headed provincial Charest led Liberals on such efforts and will be happy to continue doing so. It's all horribly wrong, it's doesn't matter who does it. And I hope to see all federal progressive parties stand up against the unnecessary and opportunistic veil legislation that Harper has in the works.

For clarity's sake, while I'm not technically a Liberal, by membership (I belong to no political party), I do have a big honking Stephane Dion button on my site. And proudly so. Some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, Mr. Dion is going to make a fine Prime Minister.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Privy Council Office fixated on Linda Keen today



Your Privy Council Office in action, devoted to digging Harper out of the holes he digs.

Harper and the boys up there are apparently a little concerned about the public perception of his comments in regard to Linda Keen. And you know, after Harper got in deeper and told the nation last night that the judgment of the nuclear regulator was "appalling" in the instance of the Chalk River shut down, you'd have to think that yes, they would be concerned today about public reaction. After all, we've been told by our PM that the nuclear regulator's judgment is seriously off. It's almost worse than the partisan shot he took against them last week. Surely if Harper truly feels this way he must be in full gear making plans to oust the members of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, including Ms. Keen and remedy a situation with a judgmentally challenged nuclear regulator.

Stay tuned on this one, it's not getting any better.

Here's some similarly minded thinking today that's worth a look.

Harpie in full blown denial

Harper's making excuses for his attack on Linda Keen, but no apology appears to be forthcoming. In fact, he's piling on:
Harper was also asked about the recent isotopes shortage crisis and the government's decision to overrule Canada's nuclear regulator and re-start the reactor at Chalk River, Ont., which produces the medical isotopes.

He rejected he had made a partisan attack when he referred to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as "Liberal appointed." He said he was just expressing his frustration with the regulatory body's decision.

The shutdown had created a shortage of the nuclear material used for life-saving diagnostic scans and for medical imaging for fractures, cancers and heart conditions

"I don't believe the actions of the nuclear commission were motivated by partisan considerations," Harper said. "I do believe the course of action contemplated was extremely ill-advised. An appalling use of authority and judgment. And one that the government had to deal with." (emphasis added)
Everyone knows he was making a partisan attack on Keen and her commission. People aren't stupid. And it'll remain outstanding in the public eye since he refuses to speak to it appropriately and apologize to these people for damaging their reputations.

And to now be calling the commission's actions "appalling?" Really? The nuclear regulator shuts down a nuclear facility for its operation in violation of its license and Harper considers this to be appalling. He just can't admit he's wrong on how he attacked Linda Keen and the regulatory body. Instead of cutting his losses and admitting how his emotions got the better of him in the House, he's choosing to stay on the attack.

Well, I'm happy to keep beating the drum on this if Harpie wants to keep the issue alive...:)

The avoidance continues

So Schreiber's suit against Mulroney in Ontario has been dismissed due to the judge concluding that Ontario is not the proper jurisdiction in which to have initiated the case. It'll be up to Schreiber now to appeal the decision or just re-file his lawsuit in Quebec. So Mulroney has succeeded once more in closing off an opportunity for the public to assess the dealings between he and Schreiber and to determine who is telling the truth. And given Mulroney's view, expressed while appearing before the House Ethics Committee, that there's no need for a public inquiry either - and now Harper is embracing this view as well - it appears that the efforts to sweep the Mulroney-Schreiber matter under the rug are in full gear. Mulroney's leading the way and Harper is following suit.

I've said repeatedly how it is in the public interest to have this inquiry. The cloud over the former PM is not going away. If there's no case in the courts and there's no public inquiry, it will continue. And we'll never know the truth about this entire affair. That just seems patently wrong to me.

David Johnston's under significant pressure now by the current and former PM's statements. I find it hard to believe he'll be affected, however. I guess we will see how this all shakes out, come January 11th, Johnston's reporting date...

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...

Harper's running away from his commitment to hold a public inquiry on Mulroney-Schreiber

How surprising. Harper's trying to squirm out from under a public promise. Watch him go and then check out below to see how he's misrepresenting his adviser's terms of reference:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it's up to his appointed adviser to determine if a public inquiry is needed to resolve the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

Harper promised an inquiry last month into the decade-old business relationship between former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney and international arms lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

But in a series of year-end interviews, Harper left the door open for his adviser, David Johnston, to reject the inquiry route.

Johnston's written mandate states that he is to set terms of reference for a public inquiry and its timing, and report back by Jan. 11 - not to determine whether an inquiry is needed.

Asked directly by a radio station this week whether Johnston's mandate includes the no-inquiry option, Harper replied in the affirmative.
Annnnhhhh, wrong.

His numbers are tanking, partly due to the preliminary glance the public has had at the Mulroney issue and Conservatives doing what they can to shut down the parliamentary hearings. So Harper wants to head for the exits. A reminder, therefore, is once again in order for anyone thinking that Harper is telling the truth here, that it's up to David Johnston to decide whether or not there's to be an inquiry. It's not. In fact, Johnston has been told that he "shall" come up with recommendations for an inquiry, not that he "may" do so. If Harper doesn't have the guts to publicly take his promise back, he shouldn't be shluffing responsibility off on Johnston. Once again:
Whereas Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber has made various allegations with respect to his financial dealings with the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., that go beyond the private interests of the parties, including in an affidavit sworn on November 7, 2007; and

Whereas the allegations with respect to the Right Honourable Mulroney’s time as Prime Minister, although unproven and in part conflicting with other available information, raise questions respecting the integrity of an important office of the Government of Canada;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, pursuant to paragraph 127.1(1)(c) of the Public Service Employment Act, hereby appoints to the position of special adviser to the Prime Minister, David Johnston of St. Clements, Ontario, as Independent Advisor, to hold office during pleasure, for a term ending on January 11, 2008; and

(a) specifies the duties of the Independent Advisor as to conduct an independent review of those allegations respecting financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., and to submit to the Prime Minister by January 11, 2008 a report in both official languages, which shall

(i) make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a public inquiry into those allegations, including the specific issues that warrant examination, under the Inquiries Act,

(ii) state whether the Independent Advisor, in the course of his review, has determined that there is any prima facie evidence of criminal action; in that case, the report shall make recommendations as to how this determination should be dealt with, and what should be the appropriate mandate and timing for a formal public inquiry in those circumstances, and

(iii) make recommendations as to whether any additional course of action may be appropriate;


(b) authorizes the Independent Advisor to adopt procedures for the expedient and proper conduct of the independent review, including reviewing relevant records and documents and consulting as appropriate;

(c) fixes his remuneration as set out in the attached schedule, which per diem is within the range ($1,200 - $1,400); and

(d) authorizes the payment, in accordance with Treasury Board policies, of the following expenses incurred in the course of his duties:

(i) travel and living expenses while in travel status in Canada while away from his normal place of residence in accordance with the Treasury Board Travel Directive and Special Travel Authorities,

(ii) expert staff, as required, and

(iii) any other reasonable expenses as necessary to conduct the independent review.
Framing the mandate for the public inquiry is mandatory. The only possible sub-section here that provides wiggle room is the ability of Johnston to "(iii) make recommendations as to whether any additional course of action may be appropriate." That's "additional," as in, additional to the inquiry.

If Harper backtracks on this, it's one more broken promise. Rack it up, it's quite a record he's creating on his public word.

Opposition to Harper's partisan attack on Linda Keen still growing

More fallout from Harper's incredible attack on Linda Keen. There's a chill up there in Ottawa as a result of Harper's vitriol:
The government's handling of the issue has also caused consternation in the federal public service because of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's extraordinary attack on Linda Keen, chairman of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, whom he accused of acting on behalf of the previous Liberal government that appointed her.

Mel Cappe, a former Clerk of the Privy Council, the nation's top public servant, said he was worried about turning professional civil servants into partisan pawns.

"Public servants have no voice," he said in an interview. "When they become political footballs, public servants can't defend themselves. They are loyal to the government of the day."

Mr. Cappe is currently president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal think tank.

He said the situation is even worse for regulators like Ms. Keen, whom he described as "a dedicated, hard-working public servant who probably could have been more subtle in the way she handled the issue.

"But there's no doubt in my mind that she was interpreting the legislation in the way she thought Parliament wanted. There is no doubt that she is not partisan."
And that's what makes this incident so ugly. So now we have this former Clerk of the Privy Council defending her. Yesterday it was Michael Burns, the former Chairman of Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. The day before that it was a "nuclear insider" who spoke out in the media...anyone else care to join in the unanimous support for Linda Keen? How about it Mr. Harper?

Torture in Afghanistan back in the news

The torture of detainees handed over by Canada continues in Afghanistan as the Globe reports today. Sure there's monitoring now. And one prison official has been "suspended." But it goes on. And other than a lot of talk about "pressing the Afghans" to live up to their obligations, our government's not doing much to change the situation other than the status quo.

What we're witnessing in Afghanistan is a system designed to facilitate evil. A system in which torture happens, it's affirmed by external observers that it's happening and all we do is express futile protest to the Afghan government that it's happening.
Roughly a quarter of the prisoners interviewed in Afghan jails as part of Canada's follow-up inspections of transferred detainees said they were tortured or abused, according to documents filed in Federal Court and the statements of senior Harper government officials.

The documents confirm "eight allegations of physical abuse at Afghan prison facilities were made by detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by the Canadian Forces." The government refuses to say how many detainees were transferred during that period.
Thanks to Amnesty International for insisting that our government put a stop to enabling these practices. Once again, we'd likely never see or hear this information from the secretive Harper government but for the lawsuit brought by Amnesty seeking to halt the prisoner transfers.

Conservative leadership on Chalk River: blame everyone else

Tony Clement was all wide-eyed and rah-rah happy to be there in the Chalk River facility yesterday looking at the big shiny buttons and wearing his lab coat and all. He tried again to put the PMO approved spin on their handling of the shut down. And threw in a U.S. style photo op: "I feel like we're surrounded by heroes." He's the Minister of Health, and yes there's a health issue, what with the medical isotope production. But where the heck is Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn who's responsible for the nuclear sites? Is he not allowed to speak in public? Is he not even allowed to attend the re-opening of this facility that's under his ministerial bailiwick? What a strange government Harper's running up there where he doesn't seem to trust his Ministers in challenging situations. If Harper doesn't trust Lunn enough to put him out there, then why should we?

Listen to Clement actually digging a deeper hole on Lunn's competence, engaging in the question:
The two ministers moved as quickly as possible once they learned that the 50-year-old Chalk River nuclear reactor had been shut down for safety violations, Clement insisted.

Lunn has been virtually invisible in recent days as the Tories have attempted to portray the crisis as a medical concern rather than a nuclear safety issue.

But Clement told reporters who gathered just metres away from the reactor that he's been "working very closely with Gary Lunn since this situation became evident."

"I found him to be a professional individual who is doing a job under difficult circumstances. He has already changed some processes in his department to make sure that the lines of communication are tighter and quicker." (emphasis added)
Could he be any less enthusiastic about his colleague? "I found him to be a professional individual." That's what you say about someone when you have nothing good to say. And the "professional" Gary Lunn is apparently not allowed out of his room to speak for himself.

And they're still shamefully buck-passing. From the CP report:
Clement suggested someone other than he and Lunn was to blame for the problem, and he vowed to thoroughly investigate what happened.

"The prime minister was quite serious when he said we want to get to the bottom of this, and we will get to the bottom of this.

"What Canadians want to know is: can someone who needs medical isotopes for cancer therapy, for heart therapy, can they get the medical isotopes."
Yeah, trust them, they'll get to the bottom of it. Because we can trust them to do so on an objective, rational basis given their trashing of the nuclear regulator and it's Chair, Linda Keen as Liberal appointees, right? What a useless thing for Clement to be saying now. We're going to continue to finger point. But whatever. Let them have their fit of vengeance for being exposed as incompetent. It certainly seems to do wonders for their poll numbers...

And on that latter point Clement raises, that Canadians want to know they can get their medical isotopes...the answer is: apparently not on a consistent basis with you clowns in charge.

I wonder if Maxime is a big "fan" too

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's in Washington Thursday to meet with Junior MacKay's favourite American, Condoleezza Rice. And you know, we'll be on Maxime-strike-watch as it's usually a good bet when he leaves the country or gives a speech that there'll be something embarrassing to report.

Recall Junior's famous words upon his first meeting with Condi:
And so I'm delighted to be here. I've always been a fan of yours and much of our discussion today confirmed what I already knew about you from having followed your career, so we're very grateful and I personally extend my thanks to you for your generous and very kind invitation to be with you. (emphasis added)
Yes, the words that Junior will never live down. At least not on this blog. Wonder if Maxime will be similarly star struck.

And here's a thought...maybe Maxime should show some moxy and press to get the last westerner, a Canadian citizen, out of Gitmo. How about that, Maxime? 3 British prisoners were flown back to Britain last night to be dealt with by British authorities according to the evidence against them. Embarrassing Canada once more by our lack of action as other civilized nations do the right thing. Why do we not do the same and end this travesty of Conservative lip service to this modern day gulag?

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?

Oh looky, a Conservative circular firing squad

Boy, it is Christmas week, isn't it...:)

Somebody doesn't like being made the scapegoat over the shut down of the Chalk River nuclear facility. And his name is Michael Burns, former Conservative appointed chairman of Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. who felt compelled to bare his soul to the Globe and Mail today. It's a must read today, if you are at all concerned about the preeminence of partisan politics as a feature of the Harper government. Or if you just happen to enjoy the spectacle of an unplanned outburst, if you will, from a former member of the Harper Conservative fold. Because you know there's nothing worse to them than that.
The former chairman of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. lashed out Tuesday at attempts to blame him for the Chalk River nuclear reactor controversy, calling the Harper government's handling of his resignation “a clumsy piece of political opportunism.”

Michael Burns told The Globe and Mail he submitted his resignation as chair of the Crown corporation on Nov. 29, before the medical isotope crisis stemming from the Chalk River shutdown became public. His departure was announced last Friday with no explanation, but was soon linked by a key cabinet minister to the Chalk River situation.

“I was quite taken aback two weeks later when I heard my resignation had been accepted by the Prime Minister in the midst of the crisis,” Mr. Burns said.

Health Minister Tony Clement has since connected leadership changes at AECL, including the replacement of Mr. Burns, a Vancouver energy executive and onetime Tory fundraiser, as well as the appointment of a new CEO, with the need to give the organization better management. “Well, maybe they do [need better management],” Mr. Burns shot back. “But this is a clumsy piece of political opportunism. If they're going to do it, they could do it with a little more skill.”

Asked whether he felt treated unfairly, he responded: “What's unfair in politics? I just know that the facts won't support it. I was gone for a totally different set of reasons. They dragged this resignation out and attached it to the isotope situation. … They could have taken more care.” (emphasis added)
Yes, they could have. But heck, I don't know what more people need to know about what kind of government the PM is running. Everything's on the table when there's the possibility of the Harper government being made to look bad. Including throwing whomever's nearest under the bus.

Burns' explanation for his resignation is a little cryptic but not if you believe the reports that he and Minister Gary Lunn were trying to sell off part of AECL to private interests:
Mr. Burns said he submitted his resignation, which becomes effective on Dec. 31, after a little over a year in the job because of delays in getting a series of proposed reforms instituted at the Crown corporation. He would not elaborate on the nature of the reforms. He also acknowledges he had become “a bit of a burr under the saddle.”

“There were a number of initiatives that I got started and was waiting [for them] to happen,” he said. “And next year looked as if there was just going to be more waiting. Anybody who knows me knows that I don't wait well. My view was that I had done all I could. … Nobody asked me to leave but nobody begged me to stay, either.

“When I resigned, there was no isotope crisis,” Mr. Burns said.
Could the "initiatives" he refers to include the selling of part of AECL that for some reason has been put on the back burner...say until a Conservative majority could be obtained?

Burns also speaks about the conflict between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and AECL and has a rather surprising thing to say here:
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Burns, who heads a Vancouver wind-energy firm, said the “dysfunctional relationship” between AECL and the nuclear regulator was “an accident waiting to happen” but he insisted that at no time was there a risk to public safety requiring the reactor to shut down for a prolonged period.

Mr. Burns also took issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attack on Linda Keen, chair of the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which ordered the Chalk River reactor to extend a routine maintenance shutdown in order to install additional safety equipment, provoking the isotope shortage. Emergency legislation was passed by Parliament last week overriding the regulator and forcing the reactor to restart.

Mr. Harper labelled Ms. Keen, a career public servant, as a Liberal appointee who put the lives of Canadians in danger by cutting off the supply of isotopes.

Asked whether he thought Ms. Keen had acted in a partisan manner, Mr. Burns responded: “I think not. There's no politics in that. There may be administrative politics but there are no party politics in that dispute.”


Yet he also criticized Ms. Keen for being “too rigid for the good of the whole system. A regulator plays an important part in the system but there is some give and take. And rigid positions on either side usually cause trouble.”

Mr. Burns said that the AECL and the regulator were at each other's throats over safety issues for months. Theirs was “a dysfunctional relationship that had to be fixed,” he said.
Another slap to Harper on his slandering of Linda Keen. AGAIN, still waiting for Harper to apologize to Ms. Keen.

And note Burns' position on the CNSC's being "too rigid." Now I don't know about you, but I think rigidity in a nuclear regulator is a good thing. Not something to be criticized. "Give and take" and nuclear reactors just don't seem to go together. But hey, that's just me.

Burns' comments also suggest Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn's performance during this whole episode warrants scrutiny. Burns brings him front and central in this by pinning a date on him that contradicts what the Conservatives have been saying. Here's Burns (again from the Globe report) stating Lunn knew on November 22 about the shut down:
But in November, something clearly went wrong. The reactor went down for maintenance on Nov. 18 and was supposed to come back up on Nov. 24.

However, on Nov. 22, Mr. Burns said, he and Mr. Lunn were advised that the reactor was not going to return to service as expected. “There were regular briefings on the status and it got worse and worse. There was an expectation we were going to get it up any day and it just kept on extending.”
Lunn, however, claimed it was December 3rd. And Tony Clement claimed on Sunday that the Conservatives were on the "outside" of the discussions between CNSC & AECL. Why the discrepancies? Because if Lunn knew earlier, and this thing still spiralled out of control, the worse it looks for the Harpies, that's why.

For the record, Burns wants everyone to know this:
Mr. Burns, a onetime fundraiser for the Alliance and Conservative parties, said he was named to the job for his expertise in the energy industry and not for his Tory connections. “I ended my political work federally in 2000.”
Yeah, if I were Burns I'd want everyone to think I was keeping my distance from these guys too...:) Even if he stopped the federal work in 2000, he's likely still viewed as a long time Conservative guy.

But let's just stand back everybody, and let these guys have at each other...:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The inquiry is not an if, it's a when

Well if you ask the question in this way, as the report suggests, what a shocking result:
A new poll suggests most Canadians don't want a public inquiry into Brian Mulroney's business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

The resistance comes despite deep misgivings about the former prime minister's story and the propriety of his relationship with the German-Canadian arms lobbyist. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests only 21 per cent of Canadians think Mulroney was telling the truth when he testified last week about $225,000 in cash he received from Schreiber.

Moreover, two-thirds of those surveyed felt the relationship between the two was inappropriate.

Nevertheless, only 32 per cent wanted to see a public inquiry delve into the minute details of the affair; 52 per cent said they would rather avoid that spectacle. (emphasis added)
Would you rather have a detailed public inquiry probing the unpopular former PM, thereby exposing the Canadian population to all Mulroney all the time, or would you rather avoid that public spectacle? When put that way, it's hardly a surprising result. Imagine the spectacle of a former PM being able to avoid a public inquiry into his questionable affairs simply by virtue of his "luck" that the public can't stand hearing anything about him.

And in any event, see this morning's post "Let the nitpicking continue" for the terms of reference of David Johnston. The inquiry is not an "if." Harper's publicly committed to it. And it's doubtful that David Johnston is going to be influenced by such polls.

The Chalk River situation gets worse for the Conservatives

See? There's always more, not less, to a Harper government story:
The Conservative government rejected the findings of independent headhunters last year on the hiring of a new chair for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., picking instead a partisan fundraiser who abruptly left last week during the isotope crisis.

Jean-Pierre Soublière, who was the acting chair of AECL in late 2005, said in an interview Monday he was certain he was twice selected by the independent panel to become the permanent chairman of the board.

The first selection process was launched under the Liberal government of Paul Martin, but the nomination did not proceed because of the 2006 election. The incoming Harper government did not like the results of that process and launched a second one, which also recommended Mr. Soublière, an Ottawa consultant who was linked to the Liberal Party of Canada.

But the Tories refused to appoint Mr. Soublière. Instead, they nominated Michael Burns, a former executive vice-president at B.C. Gas and onetime fundraiser for the Canadian Alliance, a precursor to the Conservative Party.

Mr. Burns left his position late Friday, and Health Minister Tony Clement said in a television interview Monday the departure was related to the shutdown of an AECL reactor that created a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes.

“I think it's fair to say it confirmed our impression that there has to be new management, there has to be better management, at AECL,” Mr. Clement said.
(emphasis added)
So Clement's statements of Sunday to the effect that Burns' departure was just an "interesting coincidence" seem to be no longer operative. Today it's scapegoat time.

The Harpie government's motto...what have you done for me lately? If you're bringin' Harpie down, you're toast, pal...:)

Linda Keen? A little harder to get rid of:
A nuclear industry insider said Monday the government was faced with a difficult dilemma when the prolonged shutdown led to a shortage of medical isotopes, but at no time did he sense Ms. Keen took a partisan approach.

“Ms. Keen was doing only strictly what she had to do under the law,” the insider said. “She applied the law to the letter. She should not be flexible in that job. I was surprised that they attacked her personally.”
Weren't we all. Still waiting on Harper's apology to Ms. Keen.

Not to mention, of course, what this report today says about the partisan politics at play here where the Harper government has apparently prioritized an applicant's partisan record over competence. Particularly when it comes to an appointment to a nuclear entity. It's unacceptable.

And by the way, I think I've seen this movie before...and it never ends well.

Let the nitpicking continue

1. Gotta say, I agree with Diane Francis on her Mulroney "nitpicking," on the point that Mulroney failed to pay GST on his cash. As Ms. Francis writes, without proof of any relationship between Mulroney and Thyssen, a foreign company, and without any records whatsoever, the possibility that he did work domestically remains. And with it, the implications for GST.

While this may seem like a trivial matter to many, when it comes to former PM's, their actions speak for us all. And especially those PM's who have most unfortunately sent a terrible message to those who trade in the underground cash economy. As in, if it's OK for a Prime Minister, then why not for me? That people are receiving a message of validation for their own transgressions from the public exposure of Mulroney's untaxed Schreiber cash (for six years and not until Schreiber's arrest) is another big aspect of this story.

2. Some people are continuing to miss the point on the Mulroney testimony and in our 24 hour news cycle, are losing patience with its sexiness. Too bad. Here's one of them:
At the end of the day, we're talking about a relatively piddling $225,000 that didn't come from public funds, being a private business transaction between Mulroney and Schreiber. Mulroney says he emphasized to Schreiber that he could not lobby the government of Canada. I believe him.
Is that all we're talking about? Andrew Coyne provided a needed reminder of the bigger picture with the bigger questions that remain unanswered:
Let’s get a few things straight off the top. There are three sets of events about which we need answers. The first has to do with the circumstances surrounding the payments in cash Mulroney admits to having taken from Schreiber after he was prime minister, that is from 1993 on: what he did for the money, why he took it in cash, why there are no records of it anywhere, why he went to such elaborate lengths to conceal it, and so on.

The second has to do with a number of contracts for government business for which Schreiber was paid millions of dollars in secret commissions by his German clients in the 1980s -- not only Airbus, but Thyssen and MBB: how those contracts were won, and what Schreiber did with the money, and whether the first had anything to do with the second. In particular, there is the question of Schreiber’s relationship, financial or otherwise, with several members of that group of Tories centred around Mulroney, going back to the days of the 1983 convention.

Each of those is significant, and troubling, in itself. They remain so, quite apart from whether anyone can connect the two -- that is, whether the payments that we know Mulroney received from Schreiber after he was prime minister were in consequence of anything he did for him while he was prime minister. This third scenario is the one that gets everyone excited. It is, to be sure, the most significant question, in the sense that if it were true, it would be the most serious possible outcome.
That's important stuff that deserves to be vetted by a public inquiry. It will cost money, yes. But we don't shrug our shoulders and ignore these things because they're inconvenient or we're lazy.

3. And nice try, former Mulroney speechwriter L. Ian MacDonald, but David Johnston is not tasked with whether or not there should be an inquiry. He has been asked to frame the terms of reference. The inquiry is a go. Here are Johnston's instructions, which seem to be necessary at this moment for people to be reminded of given the efforts of the L. Ian MacDonalds to the effect that Johnston can recommend that there be no inquiry:
Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, pursuant to paragraph 127.1(1)(c) of the Public Service Employment Act, hereby appoints to the position of special adviser to the Prime Minister, David Johnston of St. Clements, Ontario, as Independent Advisor, to hold office during pleasure, for a term ending on January 11, 2008; and

(a) specifies the duties of the Independent Advisor as to conduct an independent review of those allegations respecting financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., and to submit to the Prime Minister by January 11, 2008 a report in both official languages, which shall

(i) make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a public inquiry into those allegations, including the specific issues that warrant examination, under the Inquiries Act,

(ii) state whether the Independent Advisor, in the course of his review, has determined that there is any prima facie evidence of criminal action; in that case, the report shall make recommendations as to how this determination should be dealt with, and what should be the appropriate mandate and timing for a formal public inquiry in those circumstances, and

(iii) make recommendations as to whether any additional course of action may be appropriate;
The rest is about expenses, pretty much. "Any additional course of action" in part (iii) would mean "additional" to a public inquiry. Not instead of a public inquiry.

4. Another interesting aspect of that MacDonald column was a bit of news about Junior MacKay. MacDonald tries to inform us of how Schreiber came to understand that the letter Elmer MacKay was helping Schreiber with would help Schreiber with Harper and holding off his extradition. MacDonald offers a possible explanation of how Mulroney came to be implicated:
Then how did Schreiber find out about it? Elmer MacKay might have told him. MacKay had asked Mulroney, the next time he spoke to Harper, to see how his son Peter was doing as foreign affairs minister. After the Harrington visit, in mid-August last year, Mulroney assured MacKay his son was in the PM's good graces. And that's probably how it got back to Schreiber.

This is what undoubtedly annoyed and spooked Harper, that a generous private gesture had somehow become part of an accusatory affidavit reflecting on the integrity of his office.
Oh yeah, that sounds right...not. This explains nothing about why the letter came to be drafted or who linked it to extradition and the Harper meeting. Or why Schreiber claims to have had that understanding.

What does a letter stating that Mulroney and Schreiber are on good terms have to do with the elder MacKay finding out how his son is doing with Harper? Just bizarre. But if this is the story that someone will be telling at a public inquiry, can't wait. Was this all just a misunderstood brouhaha about Junior MacKay's insecurity? Was the PM so peeved that Junior got word that he was in Harper's "good graces" that he'd call a public inquiry on Mulroney because his information perimeter had been breached? I mean, come on...

Why do you hate Santa Claus, Mr. Harper?

REUTERS/Christopher Pike (CANADA)

Poor Santa. Arrested for highlighting Steve's frightful environmental record. Santa thinks Steve deserves a lump of coal for his mission of international environmental obstructionism. Now how did Santa know what I wanted for Christmas?

Where's your Christmas spirit, Ottawa police officers?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Harper should apologize to Linda Keen

Harper's much discussed trashing of the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission this past week, absolutely uncalled for, was the subject of Tony Clement's Sunday effort to spin his way out of the partisan mess that's been made of the Chalk River issue. Here he is putting the most favourable light possible on the departure of the Conservative appointed Chair of AECL, Michael Burns:
The Conservative government says it's just a coincidence the chairman of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. quit last week following a furor over the shutdown of a nuclear reactor that produces medical isotopes for use around the world.

Health Minister Tony Clement said Michael Burns thought the chairman's post was a part-time one when he took it a year ago.

"As it turns out there's a lot of work to be done," said Clement. "So I think there were some indications this (resignation) might be coming up."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the departure of Burns, a former Tory party fundraiser, in a terse news release late Friday. (emphasis added)
Perhaps the Conservatives should be appointing people to significant positions like this who are willing to go the extra mile when needed. Maybe Minister Lunn should have had a better sense of who he was appointing and what the expectations were so that at critical junctures like this past week, you don't have the Chair of Atomic Energy Canada Limited QUITTING.

And the claims that Gary Lunn and Michael Burns were trying to sell off a large share of AECL to General Electric wouldn't have anything to do with this, would it? Or the growing and related evidence that it was AECL that manufactured this shut down crisis in order to embarrass the regulator? What's more likely, one of the preceding explanations, or some lame excuse about the chairman's role being part-time? (H/t to Galloping Beaver and LKO.)

Get a load of Clement's spin on Harper's trashing of Linda Keen, head of CNSC this past week:
Clement wouldn't answer directly when asked Sunday whether Keen's job was safe. He noted the commission operates at arm's length from the government but went on to add:

"I've got to tell you the prime minister, the rest of us in government, were frustrated by this contest between AECL and the regulator. It appeared to us, on the outside, a lot of sound and fury over something that was affecting, potentially, the lives and well-being of many Canadians and people around the world." (emphasis added)
Poor little Conservatives. They're apparently on the "outside," just like the rest of us, the poor innocent little knaves. Nothing's ever their fault, you see. Lack of leadership, CHECK. Doesn't wash, however. The Conservatives are neck deep in the business of Atomic Energy Canada. Lunn's guy was running it.

And on the Keen comment made by Harper in particular:
Clement defended the comments made last week about Keen's purported political ties, but suggested the attack was aimed more at Liberal MPs than at the head of the commission.

The government feared the Grits might delay emergency legislation designed to let the reactor resume operation, said the health minister.

"Sometimes you've got to fire a couple of shots across the bow to make sure the opposition knows that you're serious . . . It worked, we got the legislation through."
Yeah, sometimes you have to impugn the integrity of a regulator in order to bully a bill through Parliament. Nice. And if this explanation is indeed truthful, that Harper was directing his vitriol at Liberal MP's - extremely hard to believe - then Harper should be issuing an apology to Ms. Keen for his shameful slandering of her character. I think in the spirit of the season, it would truly be in order.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"For most of the conference Environment Minister John Baird disgraced us all"

An editorial in the Star today giving John Baird a well deserved rebuke:
In the face of those cataclysmic warnings, none of the 190 countries at Bali dared be the spoiler, preventing agreement on a road map for negotiations over the next two years to forge a new deal on fighting climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Which is not to say that a number of countries did not do their utmost to water down the pact to the point where all the tough decisions would be left for negotiators to try to hammer out. The United States, in particular, was so intransigent that as the talks came down to the wire, Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN climate change agency, left the conference stage in tears when the U.S. once more dug in its heels.

And although Canada in the end joined the other 37 wealthy countries that had ratified the Kyoto Protocol in accepting targets of 25 to 40 per cent for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, for most of the conference Environment Minister John Baird disgraced us all.

Right up to the final hours, Baird insisted that Canada would not accept any targets unless they were imposed on poor, developing countries, as well. Seen for what it was – a cynical attempt to undermine the chances for real progress at Bali – Baird's ploy invited scorn from all quarters, brought shame on all Canadians, and turned our country from a progressive voice on the world stage on environmental issues into an international pariah. At one point during the conference, de Boer portrayed Canada as a climate hypocrite. And at another, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's climate science panel that shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with Gore, castigated the Harper government, saying, "They do not want to do anything on climate change."
It's never been more clear as it has been over the past week that the Harper government is right there on the international stage with the Bush administration. And decidedly not where most Canadians are. They've certainly gone on record with their environmental roadblock show for all of the voting public to see. You've got to wonder how this is going to play in the polls or whether it's already reflected in the consistent mid-30's ceiling against which Harper consistently finds his party cannot escape.

What a sorry, shameless spinner of an Environment Minister we have representing us on the world stage. Thankfully the conference is over so he can't do any more damage to our reputation than he's already done.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Please let there be video of Baird's Saturday performance in Bali

It might be a nice little ad to run in the next federal election:
After a failed attempt to block an agreement, Canada found itself isolated at the Bali conference Saturday and grudgingly accepted a new accord to set a target of 25 to 40 per cent for cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions by wealthy countries by the end of the next decade.

Environment Minister John Baird spoke against the ambitious target, but found himself virtually alone. Only Russia supported him – so he withdrew his objection, sparking a lengthy burst of applause from other countries. (emphasis added)
That's the price of "leadership" says Baird, putting lipstick on this pig of a performance. Canadians will have to decide if this is the kind of leadership they're interested in, won't they?

Things you say when you never thought you might be President

Yeah, I think the Republicans should go ahead and nominate this guy, who is skyrocketing in polls of late. Yes, it's a capital idea...

It's Karlheinz by a landslide



Online poll shows Schreiber's testimony believed over Mulroney's by an 84 to 16% margin. But never mind. Gordon Gibson tells us he's the best PM since Pearson. Really, he does.

Were you away this week, Gordo?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Boneheaded play of the week: Alberto Gonzales the ABA's Lawyer of the Year

If you too noticed this week that the ABA named Alberto Gonzales as their "Lawyer of the Year" for 2007, you weren't hallucinating. Their choice was made based upon how predominant he was in the news, so they say, kind of like the Time Person of the Year designation. Somehow, though, it just doesn't work when you're choosing a profession's person of the year as it carries with it a sense that the person somehow deserves this honorific, that they've achieved something of significance that warrants them being held up to their peers for plaudits. The ABA is clearly backtracking now:
When this article was posted online on December 12, 2007, it was titled “Lawyers of the Year 2007 and 2008.” The article defined that term as the year’s biggest legal newsmaker, identifying former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the major newsmaker of 2007. The Journal regrets that we did not make this theme clear.

We appreciate the feedback we’ve received, and we’re acting on it. So that there can be no confusion, the term “Lawyers of the Year” has been changed in the headline and story to “Newsmakers of the Year.” The story is otherwise unchanged from its original version.
How many subscription and membership cancellations do you think they were threatened with this past week? If I were an American, this would do it for me.

Here's a sampling of commentary from TPM Muckraker with a comic touch, often the most effective way to wrestle with the absurdities life throws at you:
DHN wrote on December 13, 2007 11:09 AM:

Can I nominate Jeffrey Dahmer for America's Top Chef?

Alguien wrote on December 13, 2007 10:31 AM:

Following the same rationale, I propose Dana Perino for the Pulitzer Prize in current events and US History.
And more importantly, Dick Cheney as "Miss Congeniality".

buck wrote on December 12, 2007 7:30 PM:

Was Jack Kevorkian ever the AMA's Doctor of the Year? That's probably a closer comparison than Hitler or Stalin. The latter give Fredo way too much credit.
And one that resonates:
And Yet... wrote on December 12, 2007 6:32 PM:

This story is already being completely misinterpreted by Joe & Jane Public, who will just read the headliners about it & no further.

If number of news stories is the criterion, why not name the fired USAs as Lawyers of the Year, since they were all so widely publicized in national & local news following the crapfest that was/is the politicizing of DoJ under BushCo?

Lousy call, ABA Journal.
Yep, extremely lousy call.

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.

Mulroney testimony aftermath

1. Al Rosen, one of the country's pre-eminent forensic accountants, is quoted in the Globe today on the Mulroney testimony about using safety deposit boxes and the delayed tax payments. The upshot being that Mulroney did not resolve much of anything yesterday by his efforts. Instead, he made it much more likely that the questions will continue:
Mr. Mulroney told the House of Commons ethics committee yesterday that he received $225,000 in cash from Mr. Schreiber in 1993 and 1994, but as a retainer, so he didn't pay taxes on it right away. Instead of a trust account, the cash was kept in his safe and a New York safety deposit box.

Mr. Mulroney said he never sent Mr. Schreiber an invoice to indicate when the retainer became a payment for services. He paid the taxes in 1999 through a program that allows people to declare income they omitted to report in previous years. And although Mr. Mulroney said much of the money went to expenses that could have been deducted, he paid taxes on the whole $225,000.

"It just raises many more questions than it answers," said Toronto forensic accountant Al Rosen. "If it was in court, with a decent lawyer, we would have fed the lawyer 50 questions to ask him."
...
Mr. Mulroney said that he did work over three years, and took most of the money out of the safe and the safety deposit box years later, when he "settled" the deal, and paid taxes.

"As I mentioned in my statement, I had to pay for expenses, and then I concluded that the relationship was finished. So I compensated myself for my professional work, as a consequence," Mr. Mulroney told the committee.

He testified that he no longer has the records of his spending, but added that he never issued an invoice to Mr. Schreiber.

Professionals typically issue an invoice when services are rendered to mark the point at which money becomes their income. Mr. Rosen said he has seen cases where professionals did not issue such an invoice, but noted it's "unusual" to keep a retainer in cash.
As Joe Comartin noted yesterday, at the end of the Mulroney testimony, in the scrum, as a lawyer or businessperson, it is extremely odd for professionals to deal in cash this way and not create the proper records. The fact that Mulroney destroyed records having to do with Schreiber is equally questionable. Not keeping records and destroying any that did exist. Both highly suspect practices.

2. Bravo again to Andrew Coyne for being the voice of reason on the national stage. On the At Issue panel last night, he asked a great question: why did Mr. Mulroney never tell anyone, until the last few days, that he had been hired by Schreiber to lobby Russia, China et al. to buy tanks? What held him back? His reluctance to clear the air on these matters until to date has rendered his flimsy explanation unconvincing. The fact that both Boris Yeltsin and Francois Mitterand are dead, two of the leaders he claims to have lobbied, does not help the matter.

Coyne also is insistent upon a public inquiry occurring, despite the nattering lazy nabobs - and the very self-interested, i.e., Mulroney himself - who are starting to shrug their shoulders and muse about whether it's worthwhile after all. We should care about the truth more than we care about moving on to the next scintillating story. There are too many unresolved issues here that require skill and time to get to the bottom of. It's worth it, for our nation's history and our government's integrity.

3. Russ Hiebert was a little quick on the draw out of the committee room yesterday with a brand spanking new printed statement to read to the assembled reporters. He went white as a sheet when Julie Van Dusen (I think it was her) asked him how he had been able to draft his statement and print it out so quickly. After fumbling a bit, he came up with some claptrap about there being no limitations on access to technology in the House, said young Russ. Good thinking, guy. But we all know the score.

Your statement was fresh off the presses from the PMO and you're their go to mouthpiece. They've decided they've had enough with the Ethics Committee hearings and had you read out loud that it's time to put everything in the hands of a public inquiry, to take place at some unknown future date and with now uncertain terms of reference. And by then, with a potentially German bound Schreiber. Nice try, guys. But this thing has taken on a life of its own now. And thank you Russ for being so kind as to convey the fears of the PMO directly to us. They want this thing to end, like, now.

4. Mr. Mulroney's statement yesterday that no details of a business deal were discussed at Harrington Lake while he was still PM is difficult to believe. He admitted that about one month later, an actual business arrangement was reached. It makes sense, then, to think that some discussion of the matter occurred in June at the Harrington Lake meeting.
The 1993 Harrington Lake meeting: Schreiber says no detailed business arrangements were discussed at the prime minister's country retreat in Quebec, but "it was very clear, we agreed to work together."

It was not just a courtesy visit to bid farewell to a departing prime minister, he said, suggesting it makes no sense that Mulroney would send a staffer to pick up "a guy who just wanted to say goodbye."

5. Best exchange of the day:
Menard, however, insisted that the use of cash, in large bills, left the impression that Mulroney may have had something to hide.

"Do you know why the $1,000 bills were eliminated [by the government]?" he asked.

"To eliminate $1,000 transactions," Mulroney responded.

"Yes, because generally they are used for illegal ends," Menard observed.

But Mulroney continued: "There was nothing illegal . . . it should have suggested to me, that I should be cautious and [should be] careful, I do concede that."
Man, this stuff is just unbelievable...

And so there you have it...it's the Christmas break now for MP's, as of today, yet the saga will go on...