Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year to all

Going out for a late dinner. Indian, our usual.

Have a good one, everybody, whether you're going out or staying in.

Check this out if you feel like something festive. I challenge you to sit still when listening...it's the usual New Year's pick around here...:)

Darn hockey reporters...

Gee, who told the media this:
"The PM refused to talk to reporters because his communications staff were concerned he might get asked about why he prorogued Parliament last month and what's going to be in the budget Jan. 27

Harper just waved to reporters as he walked out of the Canadian dressing room..."
Darn sports reporters...don't they know they're not supposed to actually write that stuff down, they're just supposed to bask in the reflected glow and be thankful and awestruck that he showed up for the photo-op...:) Thanks for sharing, hockey dude...

Canadian blogger in Iran needs help

There is a Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, imprisoned in Iran. Warren Kinsella posted about this yesterday, as did Scott Tribe. Apparently this Canadian citizen has been in custody for two months without any successful contact having been made despite repeated attempts by Canadian consulate officials there. The Globe has more on this today. A few weeks ago, an Iranian human rights advocate called for his release:
Iranian human rights advocate Ms. Ebadi, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2003, said she had seen media reports about Mr. Derakhshan's arrest.

“All I can say is that I very much hope that he will be released soon, because prison is not the place for journalists and for bloggers,” Ms. Ebadi, speaking through an interpreter, told a news conference in London.
Take a few minutes for a fellow blogger and send a request for his release to the Iranian embassy. Some pressure from Canadian bloggers could help. The contact information, including email, for the Iranian Embassy in Canada can be found at this link, "SalamIran.org."

Update (Thursday a.m.): In The House and Senate had a great post yesterday on this, providing more fulsome context. Check it out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

How to flog

Just passing on this piece that I came across some time in the last week that makes some good points on blogging, albeit that some of it is from an American perspective that has to be factored in: "How to Blog," by Farhad Manjoo, Slate Magazine.  It's also just a good old fashioned reminder to have a point, have fun and doggone it, write properly!  

There you go, enjoy or ignore at your leisure.  

Governor General says work together

I don't think it's a stretch to say that the Governor General's New Year message is pointed right at the occupant of the house that is just down the street from Rideau Hall:
As a new year dawns, we are filled with a renewed sense of hope. The days, weeks and months ahead may be whatever we imagine them to be and will be whatever we make of them.

But let us be realistic: the challenges are considerable and have caused a great deal of anxiety. This past year came to a close with the announcement of a global recession—one from which we are not immune—while an unprecedented political crisis shook the country. In December, the number of our soldiers killed in Afghanistan surpassed 100, and the entire country shares the pain of those tragic losses.

What these recent events bring to light is how important it is for us to work together—nations, governments, societies, businesses, organizations, individuals, side by side. The “fend for yourself” mentality has no place in an interdependent world, where the decisions of some have a profound impact on the lives of others; where our fates are inextricably linked. Today, I am calling for greater solidarity between us.

Given the magnitude of the challenges before us, the time has come for us to invent new ways of living together. It is up to us to seize that opportunity. It is in this spirit that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter Marie-Éden and our entire team join us in wishing everyone a year filled with promise and possibilities. (emphasis added)

Michaëlle Jean
Earth to Harper...do we think he'll be getting the meaning of this? Interesting sprinkling of words that encourage cooperation here: "together" (twice), "interdependent," "inextricably linked," "solidarity." Could be too much for Harper to compute.

Fun to speculate as to some greater meaning behind these words from the GG. As in, if you fail to work together, given the magnitude of the challenges facing us, I'll turn to someone who will indeed be capable of inventing a new way for the Canadian parliament to work together. That "fend for yourself" comment is a very intriguing one as well.

Or maybe it's just me...:)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year-end blogging beefs

Don't like year-end lists? Well, here's one that is totally self-indulgent for Canadian bloggers. In no particular order and since the mood struck me...and some other thoughts below...

The beefs:

1. The National Post's "Full Comment" page. What a strange page. Specifically, the idiotic decision to put the author's name in the title of the post and include who "posted" the article directly underneath, leading one to ask, perpetually, huh? Who wrote it? Who cares who posted it unless that person authored the piece? And why do they continue to engage in this lame-brained practice that no other news organization does? Do us a favour, yellow beast, and cease and desist. Use a title of the post and place the author's name underneath. That's all any semi-conscious being needs, thank you...

2. CanWest's article layouts are a continuing annoyance. See here, for example. Hopelessly scrunched to the left with all that white space to the right on your screen just going to waste. Text always too small, always must enlarge. Photo, e-mail, printer links on left interfere with text of article. And try to find a news feed for the main page, good luck on that.

3. Bloggers and news sources that do not time stamp their posts or reports. That just list their items by date. CanWest is again an offender here. How is one to know how long the post has been up? Has it been up for an hour or 18 hours? Two days? Makes a difference in the fast-paced blogosphere, don't ya know.

4. Blogger's spell check is still comically highlighting words like "internet," "bloggers" and "blogosphere," prompting you with an error highlight whenever you use such words. Bloggers? They suggest "loggers," "floggers" and "blockers!" They might want to think about an update to their Blogger spell-check system to account for such strange and foreign word intrusions into the English language. It is their business, after all.

5. Google's French to English translation. Convenient, yes, but an abomination, absolutely. They typically get the masculine and feminine mixed up, for example. Reading the Bernier/Couillard press was a hoot when the two were regularly referred to as "it" as opposed to "he" or "she."

6. Maybe this is just me, but I doubt it. Firefox crashing more than the 2008 stock markets. In the middle of writing a post, that's the best. Disabled ad-block, doesn't matter. Still crashing. At least Blogger saves your post pretty much up to the minute but there are those occasions where it misses a few precious minutes. Doh!

7. The use of that "Snap" technology on blogs to show a pop-up window of a link to another page. Interferes with the ability to see the text of the paragraph you're reading, is often slow to load. What does this feature add, in any event? A micro picture of the site to which you might go that is unreadable anyway?

8. SiteMeter adding those cruise ship/vacation-to-go ads at the top and right of the screen that make the act of perusing one's stats hopelessly slowed down these days. What is it, flash that makes them slow? When a blogger wants to get in and get out to see just when the Privy Council Office has been by, they're making it awfully annoying. Oh, and get ready for this:
We are anxiously looking forward to next year and the opportunity to re-release our new stats tools and reports. We plan to more than redeem ourselves.
Other than the awfully intrusive ads, on the whole I like it just as it is. Let's hope they don't muck it up the way they did in September.

That's it on the beef end. A lot of the above are petty irritations, anyway.

The good:

For the most part, this has been a quite fascinating year to blog within. And rewarding. Thank you to all those who email with their contributions, thoughts, solidarity and good wishes. Here's a passage that kind of sums it up:
Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader. The proximity is palpable, the moment human—whatever authority a blogger has is derived not from the institution he works for but from the humanness he conveys. This is writing with emotion not just under but always breaking through the surface. It renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday loose ends

Two loose ends from the past few days that deserve a bit of attention.

First, Professor Errol Mendes explains why it is that Harper's Senate appointments constituted an ungainly somersault:
"Mr. Harper may have had the constitutional and legal authority to appoint the 18 senators, but given the grave concerns about his use of the Governor General and prorogation to avoid defeat in the House of Commons, legitimacy is a serious question. This avoidance of certain loss of confidence in the House of Commons triggered a constitutional crisis which will be entrenched in the history books of this country.

But the prime minister chose not to wait until he could demonstrate that he had regained the confidence of the House of Commons. This is perhaps the most serious strike against the Mr. Harper, in that he has failed to understand that the high calling of his office requires him to take care to make decisions that are not only authorized by law and the Constitution, but also have legitimacy in the eyes of those who support his party, and also across a broad Canadian consensus.

This failure will be a hallmark of his legacy."(emphasis added)
That great line, that he doesn't understand the high calling of his office and what it demands of him in terms of decisions, is an undercurrent running through the Harper government. Pick an issue that they've bungled and you'll find echoes of this theme in it.

Secondly, what must a Conservative speechwriter be thinking when they have the gall to write lines like this:
"In his annual Christmas address, Harper emphasized Canada is 'blessed' to be a democratic country '... where we resolve our differences peacefully ... and always count on the protection from a common rule of law.'"
The PM who fled from a confidence vote, hiding behind the skirts of the Governor General, speaking at year's end of the blessings of life in a democratic country. Just wanted to point that out. You know, for the irony, and all...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If we must...

Thanks, Lulu, on Christmas Eve as I'm scrambling to get out the door...:) OK, I'll bite:
It’s simple. Just list all the jobs you’ve had in your life, in order. Don’t bust your brain: no durations or details are necessary, and feel free to omit anything that you feel might tend to incriminate you. I’m just curious. And when you’re done, tag another five bloggers you’re curious about.
Mother's helper
Babysitter
Fast food slave
Restaurant take-out person
Carpet cleaning company secretary/receptionist (about 3 summers)
Student government hack
Rogers Cantel office employee
Law firm summer student
Legal researcher
Articling student
Lawyer
Law Instructor
Consultant/Strategist extraordinaire (or very ordinary??!!)
Pesky Blogger
Harper opponent (yes, I count that as a job, it's not always fun...:))

There...now you know barely more!

I tag no one. That's my Christmas gift to the blogging community...:)

Pressing their luck

Apparently CSIS is going to need a few more slap downs:
Canada's spy service has ceased tapping calls between lawyers and suspected foreign terrorists detained under national security certificates in light of a judge's ruling in one four such cases, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.

However, it would be up to each judge presiding over the three other cases to formally decide whether the service should resume monitoring such solicitor-client calls, said John Dunn, with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (emphasis added)
Well, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before Mr. Dunn will hear from those judges as well given that all lawyers in these cases have been described as "incensed."  It's likely that the result will be the same, that they're to stop breaching solicitor-client privilege.  The first court order should have been a pretty firm indication to them to give it up.  Instead, they seem bent on pressing the boundaries here, feigning ignorance of the obvious protected nature of solicitor-client calls:
A government official suggested the conflicting point of view was based on a different understanding of what had been consented to.

"We did assume that it was all communications," a government official, who asked not to be identified, said Tuesday.

"I guess on the other side it was assumed it didn't include all communications but on our side it was (assumed it did)."
And that is the problem. One assumption is reasonable and justifiable.  The other is unreasonable and offensive to a paramount legal right. They're not equivalent "oopsie" assumptions, despite the remarkable spectacle of CSIS spinning their breaching of solicitor-client privilege.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A memo to Harper

"Memo to Harper: Save GM," from the nation's busiest letter writer, making a personal appeal on getting help for the auto industry:
I think it's fair to say that I'm an expert on the automotive industry. My family worked at General Motors. My breakfast and dental work was literally paid for by GM. As a university student, I worked for GM. As an entrepreneur, I created software that is at the heart of GM research. As an industrial scientist, I've prepared companies for automotive audits.

As a DirecTV designer, GM's senior VP has discussed with me how GM's billion dollar investment in the new High Definition (HDTV) technology was progressing. Today, every time Shaw cable works on my PVR, I smile when they explain the TV programming guide to me. I wrote the design specs for GM/DirecTV's guide over a decade ago, so it's amusing to have one of my creations explained.

I've also been in a serious car accident with a GM vehicle. Today, I see siblings, cousins, in-laws and friends losing their automotive jobs and their pensions at risk.

Here are the three things I would change about the auto industry, if I were in the federal government.

One, go green. Two, stop the wild fluctuations of the Canadian dollar. Three, get Stephen Harper's head out of the sand, and stop thinking in ideological terms. Get him to help.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians face economic tragedy. Mr. Harper needs to look for directions. He should ask for input from those of us who understand things industrial. We know what to do.

Eugene Parks, Victoria.
Compelling appeal. Unfortunately for us, signs indicate that Mr. Harper is not stopping to ask for directions from those who can help, he's jettisoning them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Harper's separatist appointment to the Senate

A day of monumental hypocrisy for Mr. Harper.

While Conservative Senator Mike Duffy is getting the lion's share of attention today (nothing more needs to be said beyond using the new title), there should be as much directed toward the pick of Michel Rivard from Quebec. Rivard was a PQ member of the National Assembly at the time of the 1995 Quebec referendum.
Élu député du Parti québécois dans Limoilou en 1994. Délégué régional de la région de Québec du 26 septembre 1994 au 29 janvier 1996, et adjoint parlementaire du ministre responsable de la région de Québec du 29 janvier 1996 au 28 octobre 1998. Défait en 1998.
For Mr. Harper to award a Senate seat to a person who was committed to and worked on the Yes side of that referendum is something that deserves a little scrutiny. Is he trying to "walk back" from his rhetoric of the past few weeks that has damaged significantly his electoral fortunes in Quebec by sending a message with this appointment? Whatever the motivation, not the best judgment on display here.

(h/t to the Jurist who picked up on the Rivard point as well)

Merry Christmas, Trois-Rivieres!

And the finest of the season to you this Christmas week: "Electing Bloc MP may have cost town $2-million subsidy."

With love,

the Harper Conservatives

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Taxpayer tab for Conservative in-and-out scheme litigation over $1 million

Another reminder of the Harper Conservatives' wise use of taxpayer funds, the latest tally for the in-and-out litigation in which the Conservatives are suing Elections Canada and we the taxpayer are picking up the tab: "Legal fees mount in Tory case against Elections Canada." The report notes a judge in the litigation getting testy over Conservative wrangling causing expense to the public. Interesting.
...total costs for the dispute have likely risen to at least $1.4 million, including the undisclosed litigation costs for the Conservatives.
Merry Christmas, Canadians!

Subprime mortgage godfather

Apropos of recent scrutiny of our own mortgage experimentation courtesy of the Harper Conservatives, an article in the NY Times today on how the U.S. got to its own subprime mortgage meltdown: "Bush’s Philosophy Stoked the Mortgage Bonfire." Interesting characterization of Bush's efforts from the report:
Concerned that down payments were a barrier, Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to spend up to $200 million a year to help first-time buyers with down payments and closing costs.

And he pushed to allow first-time buyers to qualify for federally insured mortgages with no money down. Republican Congressional leaders and some housing advocates balked, arguing that homeowners with no stake in their investments would be more prone to walk away, as Mr. West did. Many economic experts, including some in the White House, now share that view. (emphasis added)
All of which sounds familiar to us given the Harper Conservatives having brought the 40-year zero down mortgage to Canada along with U.S. competitors.  And closing costs, you say? Interesting.  Our guy was trying that in September.  Way late in the game and as the Globe has revealed, after people had their hair on fire about the mortgage market, behind the scenes. 

There's much more in the Times report, including the usual complaints, cronies, lax oversight, faith in the unbridled enthusiasm of the free market, preoccupation with various wars to the neglect of domestic issues, etc., all of which led to...meltdown.  

Friday, December 19, 2008

CSIS caught red-handed, caves


Well that was quick: "Spies to stop wiretapping lawyers." Immediately upon being found out, CSIS agrees to stop listening in on solicitor-client communications. Not even an attempt at an argument made to the judge by CSIS:
Canada's spy agency agreed Thursday to cease listening to privileged conversations between certain terrorism suspects and their defence lawyers, resolving the issue almost as quickly as it emerged from behind the curtain of secrecy.

In two Federal Court hearings this week, it was revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been taping protected solicitor-client conversations. Although such snooping would be clearly unacceptable in most conventional areas of the law, it popped up in the context of Canada's controversial (and evolving) security certificate law.
...
The disclosure spawned a cease-desist-and-delete defence motion, which in turn led a federal official to tell the court the spy service has no problem with turning off its tape recorders whenever lawyers call in the future.

“That's fine M'Lady,” CSIS lawyer Jim Mathieson said in a conference call from Ottawa. Offering no resistance, he told Madam Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson that CSIS would happily hang up on future conversations “once the nature of the communication is known” to involve any defence counsel.
Oh yes, just a sunny, that's fine, okey dokey...like nothing has transpired. In caving so quickly, they have essentially acknowledged that they didn't have a leg to stand on by listening in to these privileged calls. One would have expected to hear some kind of legal argument from CSIS when caught to muster some kind of justification for it. Some rationale for having committed such an overtly improper act. Nope, nada. Begging the question, then why were they doing it in the first place? And for over eighteen months?
Late Thursday, Layden-Stevenson issued an order to the spy agency to cease intercepting such calls and to delete any they inadvertently record.
If CSIS doesn't know that "...centuries of legal precedent would make it obvious to government agents that they had to put down their earphones once lawyers called...", then this should be a wake-up call to our elected representatives. Clearly, CSIS needs to be told. It's an indication that CSIS, in executing the security certificate provisions involved here need much better oversight than they've had to date and perhaps some amendments to the process need to be considered. This little exercise has demonstrated that they are clearly willing to push the limits of what is permissible by breaking solicitor-client communications. Makes you wonder what other limits they are pushing as well.

Just sayin'...

Harper quoted in the Globe today, from that CTV year-end interview coming this weekend:
"“Never underestimate the resilience of the American economy and the American people. The Americans did not get on top of this world for no reason.”"
Well that's awfully glowing and reassuring for Americans. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in this present economic mess, I don't recall him speaking about Canada so forcefully and clearly in an interview.

That is all...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Canadian government breaching solicitor-client privilege

A clear violation of solicitor-client privilege by the Canadian government is uncovered: "CSIS monitoring calls between suspects and their lawyers."
Canada's spy service has been listening to telephone conversations between terrorism suspects and their lawyers for the past 18 months as part of a strict monitoring program developed by the government.

The revelation today enraged defense lawyers who argue that intercepting these calls breaches the fundamental right of solicitor-client privilege.

"I feel as though my house was broken into," said Toronto lawyer Barb Jackman. "It's incredibly invasive."
...
On Wednesday, a senior agent with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service testified in a secret Ottawa hearing that the agency was monitoring calls on behalf of the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson released a two-page public summary of the testimony this morning in a Toronto courtroom. It noted that calls to lawyers are monitored, "to the extent of being satisfied that the communication does not involve a potential breach of the terms of release or a threat to national security."
More in the Globe that gives additional context to the wiretapping. A free and democratic society does not breach the solicitor-client privilege, no matter what the justification. Allow this breach and there are a host of others that could follow. Not to mention the violation of a defendant's abilities to make a full defence to the charges at hand. We don't need to be pursuing the U.S. Guantanamoesque strategy where basic principles underlying our legal system are sacrificed in the name of pursuing terror suspects. Hopefully, the judge in the case will grant the order being sought by counsel seeking to halt the eavesdropping on such calls and secondly, that this publicity will spawn a backlash against the government's tactics here.

Drip, drip, drip...

More on the 40 year mortgage/zero down mess in the Globe today: "Warnings about risky mortgages ignored." From the report:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in July that the federal government was cancelling its policy of guaranteeing 40-year mortgages as of Oct. 15 in order to shield Canada from the kind of housing crash that has devastated the U.S. economy. However, according to sources, bank executives had been warning Mr. Flaherty and central bank officials since the beginning of 2008 about a dramatic and unexpected increase in demand from consumers for 40-year mortgages with small down payments.

Lenders, insurers and government officials interviewed by The Globe characterized the first half of 2008 as a period of apparent paralysis by federal decision makers. These sources said bank and insurance executives and finance officials disagreed over how to pull the plug on popular and risky mortgage products. One of the few things they did agree about, according to sources, was that there was insufficient monitoring of CMHC, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the total value of mortgage insurance underwritten in Canada. (emphasis added)
Harper, October 7, 2008:
In the U.S., they are still responding to the fallout of the sub-prime mortgage mess. In Canada, we acted early over the past year.

We acted earlier to further strengthen our banking disclosures, transparency and regulation.

We acted earlier to trim excesses in the mortgage market, by reducing the 40-year mortgage to 35 years and requiring a minimum down payment of five per cent for new government-backed mortgages.
Doesn't sound like they acted as early as they're telling us.

CMHC is not disclosing how much of the mortgages it insures are of the 40-year/zero down type. The report describes CMHC as having had no choice but to get into these risky products due to the opening up of the market to U.S. competitors and concerns they would be privatized, both courtesy of the Harper Conservatives. Minister Finley, responsible for CMHC, shockingly not answering questions.

Looking like a huge sleeper issue in the next election.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Harper suddenly on board with 21 new seats for Ontario

Political machinations during prorogation: "Ontario to get 21 more seats in Commons: McGuinty." A refresher on recent trends in Ontario:
Conservative share of vote in Ontario in 2006: 35.1% = 40 seats.
Conservative share of vote in Ontario in 2008: 39.2% = 51 seats.
We are now in a parliamentary position where 12 additional seats are necessary for a Harper majority. Not that circumstances will be in any way easier for Mr. Harper next time out given that his Liberal opponent has changed. And he's provided conclusive evidence of late that he is not to be trusted with a majority. And he may very well lose seats in Quebec. But the number of citizens who were prepared to buy into the "coup" rhetoric was disturbing. So for the Harper team, hope remains ever eternal.

So we get word today from Dalton McGuinty that yes, Ontario will get the seats it deserves as the House of Commons makeup is updated. A proposition that should have been a no-brainer when the matter was first raised. Instead, at the time, we had Harper minister Van Loan calling McGuinty the "small man of confederation" for having the audacity to make the justified 21 seat request. Now McGuinty says Harper agreed to the proper Ontario seat distribution last week (Friday). Is it any coincidence that Harper suddenly gets on side with the basic democratic proposition as he mulls an election in the next six months or so, a possibility made all the more real by events of the last month? As he weighs his political future? Now that it may be politically advantageous for Harper to add those seats in Ontario, of course it's happening. The timing says it all.

Watch for this to become a legislative priority for the Harper Conservatives in the new year if the budget passes.

Now they get it

The Globe editorial board is on a bit of a roll this week, with yet another highly critical editorial of Mr. Harper: "New policies, familiar rhetoric." The board was not impressed by the CTV interview, joining a pack of us on that score:
Worse is that Mr. Harper continues to actively misrepresent the events of the past several weeks and the motives of his opponents. “We only found out [after the economic update] that they've been planning to overturn the results of the election ever since election night,” he said. In fact, there is nothing to suggest that the opposition had any prior intention of toppling the government, and the disarray the Liberals quickly fell into suggests the prospect surprised them as much as anyone.

Nor would the opposition have been “overturning the results of the election,” as Mr. Harper repeatedly alleged. Although a coalition government may be politically untenable, it would be entirely within the boundaries of parliamentary democracy – not a coup attempt, as the Conservatives continually claim.
He's also getting whacked in a separate report for his musing about a "depression" being possible. You know, for the inspiration and leadership he's providing at this time of economic hardship, being the great leader that he is, after all.

Good for the Globe for calling him out. There's really no choice when a Prime Minister is, as they put it, actively misrepresenting events and our system of government. It really is a remarkable thing to behold.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's official: Bush ran the torture presidency

If you haven't read these blog posts from the last few days, they are stellar and shocking. Two of the best writers going, commenting on last week's Senate Armed Service Committee's report on the Bush administration's involvement in torture: "The Torture Presidency" by Scott Horton of Harper's and
Glenn Greenwald's post on Monday on the same matter. The Senate Committee unanimously voted in support of its conclusions, including John McCain, recent Presidential nominee. Greenwald, for one, speaks to the surreal state of affairs where the Blagojevich circus is preoccupying the media and a report which essentially labels Bush, Rumsfeld et al. as war criminals goes largely unreported. Well, some are still giving the Bush administration fits on such matters:



Both Horton and Greenwald are must reads.

Dysfunctional

Fascinating heading of a Globe editorial today: "He's got the title - give him the job." Remarkably, the national newspaper seems to be calling for the nation's Finance Minister to be permitted to do his job by the Prime Minister. And that unless he is permitted to do so, then he can't be a strong Finance Minister that the nation needs at the moment. A catch-22 for you that presumes that Flaherty is worth the plea. Of this, I'm not so sure.
...the country needs economic leadership that goes beyond a few staff members in the Prime Minister's Office, as the government has ably demonstrated with its alternately inadequate and, yes, panicky response to the current fiscal turmoil.

Not every Finance minister will enjoy the clout of Paul Martin or even Don Mazankowski, and Mr. Flaherty has not yet been given a chance to prove that he merits it. But now more than ever, Canada needs a strong hand at Finance. He or she must have command of the department, the respect of cabinet, and the ability to speak to the public with authority on the government's fiscal policy. Mr. Flaherty does not seem to meet any of those criteria, because he apparently lacks the most important qualification of all: the confidence of the Prime Minister. (emphasis added)
This editorial has a bit of a double meaning, despite its heading. There's its argument that Flaherty has the potential to be that "strong hand" that we need but he needs to be given a chance. On the other hand, it also reads as if they're calling for him to be fired and for Harper to put someone he does have confidence in at Finance. It's not entirely clear to me.

The fact that no one is listening to Smilin' Jim and that his economic update is being totally reworked is a big hint that he's not the right guy. And Flaherty's Ontario record alone raises questions about the wisdom of giving Flaherty a stronger hand. So the fact that the national newspaper is arguing "let Jim be Jim" is a very strange thing.

Combine that editorial with this report on Conservative confusion on their economic direction, from Flaherty's "don't panic" on Friday to Clement's same day "we're moving quickly" shtick, and it's still not clear why Flaherty deserves a vote of confidence. Instead, he's portrayed as a very sorry figure in that report, as if he's a virtual puppet of the Prime Minister, powerless to do anything but his bidding. There is talk of how Flaherty should have resigned given what's happened to his economic update, "...either because they were his policies and they were rejected so firmly he had to withdraw them - or they weren't his policies and he shouldn't have allowed them in his statement."

Pretty remarkable stuff...demonstrating the dysfunctionality of the Conservative economic team at the moment. And all presented with the underlying arrow being pointed at the PM.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Giant sucking sound heard in Ottawa region

That would be the whooshing sound of Conservative Senate applications pouring into the PMO:"Hundreds of would-be senators flooding Tories with job requests." The floodgates are open and hungry, repressed Conservatives are lining up:
The Conservative government is being inundated by hundreds of applicants longing to land one of the 18 Senate spots about to be filled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The candidates are springing forward at such a sprightly pace that officials in Harper's office say they're too busy processing papers to even count how many applications they've received.
Gee, and I thought there was important business of the nation to be conducted during prorogation? The economy, no? They sound quite preoccupied with this patronage matter.
...government staffers say they're still surprised by the sheer volume of self-declared candidates.

"Suffice it to say that my boss, like most ministers, is probably shocked by the number of people emailing him to patriotically offer their service to their country by deigning to accept a Senate seat," said one political staffer.

The appetite for appointments appears to have built up over the years among Conservative partisans who doubted that such a historic patronage feast would ever arrive.
Yes, a historic patronage feast. Let's leave it at that apt characterization.

Harper at year end, not pretty

Infamous CTV guy interviews weak PM: here. As a reader puts it, "...if you're looking for evidence of change CTV has an item from the "Year End" message that shows the old Harper in full flight." I do think that's about right.

Interviewer: Are you sorry? Harper: Ramble, ramble, ramble, overturn the results of the election, ramble, ramble.

But do you regret what you did? Ramble, ramble, ramble..."sorry?" Concept does not compute.

Harper doesn't know Michael Ignatieff well. Huh. And if you believe that I've got a bridge in Alaska that Sarah Palin's building for ya...

He had no option on appointing 18 Senators, he had no choice! His "you had an option, sir" moment...:) Footage and all. I'm sure CTV wouldn't mind helping out an election ad, they certainly took their sweet time acting when Stephane was the butt of a Conservative attack using CTV footage. Defensive, defensive, defensive. So sad. "My own party wants me to do this. I'm the one who's been waiting and waiting..." "Frankly, until recently, no one was ever bugging me to get appointed to the Senate..." Frankly! There's the tell. Throw the party under the bus much there, guy?

Steve V has more on the incredible musings about his life after politics. Now if we can only send Mr. Harper on his way in 2009 and fulfill those musings. That way, we would not have to endure such interviews ever again.

Exposing Conservative mismanagement

Politics, politics, above all else for these Harper Conservatives. What do we think is wrong with this picture?
According to data released under the Access to Information Act, Ottawa has spent a total of $39.9-million so far this year in the 17 administrative regions of Quebec.

Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean clearly stands out as the main recipient, with $9.3-million in funding from Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) since April.

The only other area that comes close to the Saguenay is the Montreal area, with $7.4-million. However, the population of Montreal, at 1.9 million, is almost seven times that of the Saguenay, which has 273,000 residents.
Saguenay being the region represented by Conservative MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn, of course. The one who bragged during the election about bringing home the bacon for his riding. Now confirmed. And to think, this is the kind of thing the Conservatives once railed about. Doesn't look like the wisest distribution of moneys for the Canadian taxpayer.

In the same vein, Brison and McCallum were today publicly pushing the Conservatives to disclose numbers and plans:
The Liberals on Monday released a letter they sent to Flaherty last week outlining their demands. Signed by Brison and McCallum, the letter asks for:

* "Honest budgetary numbers" and an updated economic forecast.
* A detailed plan on any Crown assets the government is considering selling.
* A Finance Department briefing for the parliamentary budget officer.
* A commitment to a two-year, multi-industry economic stimulus package.

The letter asks for a response from the government by Friday, Dec. 19.
The party of prorogation left itself vulnerable to such public opposition demands: "Budget consultations are normally carried out by the House of Commons finance committee, which has been prevented from meeting since the government asked for Parliament to be suspended." It's a free for all now, with no parliamentary process for the Conservatives to work within. We'll see how it goes, but to begin with, it's looking like the opposition is managing it quite well. The Conservatives are on defence for a change and appear to be acquiescing to the above demands:
Brison said Flaherty pledged to provide an updated forecast for the economy as well as a plan for selling $10 billion in government assets over five years, as demanded by the Liberals.
Tough to see how the Conservatives have a choice. The above demands are objectively reasonable. The Conservatives failed to produce substantiating numbers for their economic update, in terms of the budget surplus and the selling of Crown assets to produce that surplus. Brison and McCallum have an ally in the parliamentary budget officer in making the requests.

All in all, not where the Conservatives want to be. It's refreshing to see them being challenged like this and exposed for their weak management on economic matters. Going after their supposed strength, bit by bit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

See ya



Couldn't be happening to a more deserving fella...must see footage for posterity. From the NY Times:
But his appearance at a news conference here was interrupted by an Iraqi journalist who shouted in Arabic — “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog” — and threw one of his shoes at the president, who ducked and narrowly avoided being struck.

As chaos ensued, he threw his other shoe, shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.” The second shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki stuck out a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him.
As Bush departs from office with his many disasters in his trail, this episode seems about right...


AP with the significance of the shoes:
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam with their shoes after U.S. marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.
And Bush's reaction:
White House press secretary Dana Perino suffered an eye injury in the news conference melee. Bush brushed off the incident, comparing it to political protests at home.
"So what if I guy threw his shoe at me?" he said.
Well, the what is that this is not normal. The man is not respected, in fact, despised.  What an absolute burn.  What is that Iraqi death toll, by the way?  

On the brighter side, there's nowhere to go but up for Obama...  

Republican southern Senators seeking partisan advantage at time of crisis...



This is a discussion on Countdown from Friday night on the subject of that leaked GOP memo in which Republican strategy to strike a blow against organized labour is disclosed. That memo was discussed in a post at pogge's blog yesterday. Faced with the imminent prospect of 3 million Americans losing their jobs due to the tanking of the American auto industry and the tumult that would cause...the Republican southern Senators are preoccupied with striking a significant partisan advantage against a political foe.

Does that sound familiar, Canadians?

For more on the hypocrisy of seeking wage concessions from the UAW and not having done anything of the kind in respect of the Wall Street bailout, NY Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson is powerful today: "Blank Check for Banks, Pink Slips for Detroit."
HERE in Bailout Nation, you’ll be surprised to learn, some of us are more equal than others.

Witness the Congressional back of the hand delivered last Thursday to Detroit automakers. Chrysler and General Motors were asking for $14 billion to see them through the end of the year; the Senate said no.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who leads the Senate Republicans, opposed the rescue. “None of us want to see them go down, but very few of us had anything to do with the dilemma that they have created for themselves,” he said. “We simply cannot ask the American taxpayer to subsidize failure.”

That’s a new concept — not asking the taxpayer to subsidize failure. Is that not what we just did with the banks, to the tune of $700 billion, 50 times what the beleaguered carmakers asked for?

Moreover, in the bank rescue, taxpayers are subsidizing not only failure but also outright recklessness and greed. In spite of the fact that financial institutions drove the nation into the economic ditch, and even though “very few of us had anything to do with the dilemma that they have created for themselves,” the financial industry received billions, with few strings attached.

Complaints about bailing out high-earning autoworkers are another fascinating disconnect. The supposedly exorbitant autoworker wages that get everybody so riled up pale in comparison with the riches of Wall Street.

Neither were the banks required, as Detroit would have been, to get rid of their private jets or supply Treasury with in-depth restructuring plans in exchange for bailout funds.
The hypocrisy that is going on as between the treatment of the auto industry versus the financial sector just reeks...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Flaherty's go-slow approach sowing doubt

Still making us wonder whether they know what they're doing. Flaherty spoke in Saint John yesterday arguing Canada has time to consult and come up with its own stimulus plan despite the fact that countries around the world are acting much more decisively and quickly. Look at the announcements from Japan yesterday and the direction the EU is heading in, for example. It looks like the Conservatives are prepared to leave themselves open to criticism in this regard. Some of the audience did not like what they heard from Flaherty's go-slow style and offered some pretty candid comments:
“Despite the fact that he says Canada is in the best shape, we are going to go through some very tough times and he has to realize that despite some of the good news he talked about that they've done, they are going to have to do more,” Derek Oland, chairman of Moosehead Breweries Ltd., told radio station CHSJ after the speech.
...
While there are plenty of executives who commend Mr. Flaherty for his calm, others think a substantial and quick jolt is warranted.

Larry Pollock, chief executive officer of Canadian Western Bank, wondered why Mr. Flaherty appears to be playing for time. “Let's see what the plan is,” Mr. Pollock said. “[It is like] somebody has dropped a nuclear bomb on us and we took a pause to try to decide where the Christmas party is going to be.”

The government has to get going because “any stimulus will take some time to work its way through the economy,” Mr. Pollock said. “I'm not sure what he's waiting for and what his strategy is.”
Flaherty's consultation efforts and his repeated warnings about not "panicking" come on the heels of his discredited economic update. In that update, they were also buying time, but under the false cover of projected surpluses out to 2012-2013. The headlines that resulted told the story the government wanted, we're presumptively in surplus. But by the way, it may not last. Now two weeks later, the surplus cover's been predictably dropped:
Speaking to reporters after addressing the Saint John Board of Trade in New Brunswick, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said it is "likely" that the government "will now be obliged to present a budget with a deficit."
...
Flaherty had already said the government was prepared to go into deficit next year if a stimulus package proved necessary to support the Canadian economy.

In his economic statement released last month, Flaherty said the federal government was projecting balanced budgets and small surpluses through 2012-13, but with an allowance that world economic uncertainty might make it impossible to rule out deficits.(emphasis added)
What a waste of time that little p.r. game was.

The actions of the Finance Minister really aren't doing much to instill confidence. Hard to see how this will be changing over the next month.

Sounding off

This post from the Mound of Sound is well worth a read, adding further perspective on the report in the Globe today on the Conservative 40 year mortgage experiment:
...while you may argue that these subprime borrowers got themselves into it, that they're the authors of their own misfortune, the Conservative policies that made this possible have wreaked damage that has spread throughout the real estate market.

Especially today with Republican conservative subversion of global securities/stock markets, many Canadians are seeing their retirement portfolios crater before their eyes. Now Harper/Flaherty have undermined their fallback retirement asset, their home equity. They did it in the deliberate pursuit of a mad, uber-right ideology and we're all going to pay dearly for that.
Garth Turner with more.

Harper/Flaherty 40 year mortgage error in the spotlight

The media are finally zeroing in on a very under reported aspect of the Harper Conservatives' financial foolishness: "How high-risk mortgages crept north." This is a must-read today to learn how the Harper government's choices, principally bringing us the 40 year mortgage with zero down, have led us to the present state of affairs where the Bank of Canada is warning about the prospect of a substantial increase in housing defaults. An excerpt:
The mushrooming of a Canadian version of subprime mortgages has gone largely unnoticed. The Conservative government finally banned the practice last summer, after repeated warnings from frustrated senior officials and bankers that the country's financial system was being exposed to far too much risk as the housing market weakened.

Just yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeated the mantra that the government acted early to get rid of risky mortgages. What he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper do not explain, however, is that the expansion of zero-down, 40-year mortgages began with measures contained in the first Conservative budget in May of 2006.
...
The new rules encouraged the entry of such U.S. players as American International Group – the world's largest insurance company – and Triad Guarantee Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C. Former Triad chief executive officer Mark Tonnesen, who spearheaded his company's aborted push into Canada, said the proliferation of high-risk mortgages could have been mitigated if Ottawa had been more watchful.

“There was a lack of regulation around the expansion of increased risk,” he said.


Virtually unavailable in Canada two years ago, high-risk mortgages proliferated in 2007 and early 2008 and must now be shouldered by thousands of consumers at a time when the economy is sinking quickly and real-estate prices are swooning. Long-term mortgages – designed to help newcomers get into the housing market sooner – are the most expensive in terms of interest costs, and least flexible when mortgage-holders cannot meet their payments and need extensions. (emphasis added)
That's AIG, the subject of a massive U.S. bailout just recently.

Read the article for the Harper and Flaherty spin on what they did, patting themselves on the back for "acting early" to yank the 40 year mortgages out of the market place. Harper got away with repeating this hooey without any questioning during the recent federal election. How irrelevant to say they acted early when they were unwise to proceed down this road in the first place.
Banking and insurance officials were so concerned about the alarming rush to 40-year mortgages at the beginning of 2008 that one bank executive warned the Bank of Canada's chief financial stability officer, Mark Zelmer, in a meeting that “the government has got to put an end to this.”
And these Harper Conservatives are the party who typically get the vote of confidence from Canadians in polls as to who is best placed to steer the economy in difficult times...just remarkable as their incompetence continues to pile up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday night music...



I'm nothing if not predictable...:)

Jim Prentice, statesman

Jim Prentice bashes Elizabeth May while both attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland:
Environment Minister Jim Prentice has fired a warning shot at Green Party Leader Elizabeth May for a series of critical comments she made on Canada's environmental record at an international conference in Europe this week.

Prentice and May are both attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland. Delegates from all over the world are at the meeting gearing up for a conference next year in Denmark where major climate change deals are expected to be signed.

Since arriving in Poznan, May has been voicing strong criticisms of Canada's environmental policies, describing the government as "regressive" and "destructive".

"I think you need to be careful as a Canadian when you are participating in an international forum like this," Prentice said of May's behaviour.

"Certainly there's room for reasonable disagreement ... but I think she has quite unfairly characterized her country's position on these issues."
Prentice doing his best Ari Fleischer. Watch what you say, must toe the Conservative line while abroad. So refreshing. May thoroughly responds :
Canada has been held up by international NGOs at this gathering as particularly appalling in its positions. Yesterday back in Ottawa, news of Canada’s actions here, refusing to allow language about indigenous rights in the language used to protect forests, enraged First Nations leaders who were meeting with Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl. “The actions of Canada in Poland are designed to undermine the rights of indigenous people here and elsewhere,” said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, “It's completely unacceptable.”

Canada has objected to the necessary binding targets for industrialized countries, we have made special pleadings that we should do less because the tar sands are very profitable and very polluting, that we are cold and big… The rest of the world has been shocked by discovering that even now that George W. Bush is on his way out, Canada has not veered from its Bush-like positions. GermanWatch issued its annual respected index of climate policies for the 57 industrialized countries. Out of 57, Canada rated 56. Only Saudi Arabia got a lower grade. As one NGO journal, referring to Canada, put it “It’s lonely at the bottom.”

I was surprised to see in the Sun media back in Canada (no English language Canadian reporters are here, so the interview was by phone) that Environment Minister Jim Prentice decided to take a shot at me. He apparently thought it was inappropriate for me to criticize Canada in an international forum. (I actually like Jim Prentice on a personal level, so I should give him the benefit of the doubt that the interview was being spun in the direction of getting him to attack me).

Strange then that as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper thought it was appropriate to attack his Liberal predecessors from the podium in the Australian Parliament. That was clearly embarrassing and inappropriate. As Leader of the Green Party of Canada, I have not been privy to any confidential delegation negotiating instructions. I only know what I (and the rest of the world ) witnessed. Canada is threatening the future for my children and grandchildren and their grandchildren. There are no rules of protocol to suggest opposition parties not criticize their government abroad. It is what Opposition Parties do. Of course, it would give me far greater pleasure to cheer on our government as I was able to do at COP11, when we were still the ones wearing the White Hats.
Perhaps Minister Prentice should be considering why such opposition is being voiced rather than trying to suppress it. That would be a start.

Supersized gall

More on the Harper Senate appointments today, including this:
Rumoured to be in the running for one of two open Ontario seats is Irving Gerstein, a Toronto businessman and head of the Conservative Fund of Canada, who has kept the party's war chest in the black.
Awesome idea.

And a notable quote from an expert on the appointments:
"He has the power to do it, but he shouldn't have the gall," said Morton, a professor emeritus at McGill University.
Yes, we civilized sort count on those in power to respect traditions and restraints on authority, to do the right thing given the circumstances in which one finds oneself. As the prorogation request itself demonstrated, it's pretty fair to say we count wrong in this government's case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Stephen Democrate"



More great moments in Harperian democracy courtesy of some creative individual out there...:)

Unnamed officials peddling the Harper Senate position


Who will speak for the Conservative government on their impending patronage spree? No one it appears. Government by anonymous official, too frightened to speak publicly about their actions. No wonder when this is the horrendous backdrop:
The champion of Senate reform is poised to make the single biggest rash of appointments to the unelected upper chamber in modern memory.
How to put lipstick on this pig? Well, they're always up for it. The line, let's attack the Senate, which is pretty much irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The Senate doesn't magically reform itself, contrary to this disingenuous anonymous fellow (are there any women in the Harper upper echelons, it's a fair assumption):
"It's very clear that the existing Senate has no appetite for reform of any kind," said the official in a not-for-attribution briefing.

In the meantime, "We're looking for senators who share that commitment to reform."
That's hilarious. The Senate can unilaterally reform itself by virtue of the beliefs of the members! Who needs a constitution when we have the Harper Conservatives at the helm! The provinces, hello? How many do we need to agree to reform the Senate...seven? Yeah. Consent of Senators, irrelevant. Another troubling example of how they consistently misrepresent the institutions and workings of our government to the Canadian people, simply for political advantage.

Bert Brown, what say you on Mr. Harper's about face?
Last June, Alberta's Bert Brown - the lone elected Conservative Senator in the red chamber - lauded Harper for pressuring provinces to set up Senate elections or face under-representation.

"Just leaving them vacant is the pressure point," Brown told The Canadian Press.

"I don't think you're going to hear him say, 'Well, you know, if they don't (elect senators), then I'll just go ahead and appoint.'

"I think if he said that, probably the provinces would just say, 'Okay, we'll wait.' " (emphasis added)
How disappointing, hey Mr. Brown? The emperor has no clothes, as we well know by now.

Update (9:00 p.m.): Looks like Cannon and Clement weighed in.  Post so-amended...:)  Note that they're still attacking the Senate, however, responsible cabinet ministers that they are...

The leadership shoe on the other foot now

(Reuters)

Andrew Steele demonstrating once more why he is one of my favourite new additions to the Globe, with this missile straight through the heart of the Harper PMO: "Who will replace Stephen Harper? Now beginning to percolate through the blogosphere, this is clearly a topic of interest to many. Some of us have been marvelling for eons about the continued loyalty to this divisive PM and his curious take on leadership and wondering when Conservatives would wake up. Perhaps now that it's being openly discussed, people will be, ahem, freed up a bit.

First off, it must be said how satisfying it is to see such talk when it's been Liberal leadership that has been the obsession of media and commentators pretty much for the bulk of Stephane Dion's tenure. Now that Michael Ignatieff's settled the leadership issue and by all accounts from yesterday's launch, appears to be a striking match for the Conservatives going forward, it's fitting that Conservatives take a look at the guy they've got and whether he'll be up to the job going forward. This Mulroneyesque fit of Senate stacking that Harper's got underway can't do much to solidify his image with his own troops. See picture above, looks nervous, again.

So who is in Steele's sights and a few thoughts on each...

Jim Prentice. He of Conservatives for Prentice fame. Steele does a good job canvassing his strengths and weaknesses. He's competent, yes, but isn't there a Prentice in every law firm in the country? What is special about him, really? Lack of inspiration. Still, he is a more reasonable prospect than many in the Harper crew.

Charest...yes, would seemingly be a front-runner. But agreed, open question as to his national appeal. And there's a tiresome factor, been around like for-evah. Are Quebecers really enamoured of him? Barely pulled out that majority, with Harper's inflammatory tactics, and Ignatieff's got some appeal in Quebec.

Stockwell Day and Tony Clement...these two I think are of comparable likelihood in terms of their chances. Slim to none. Day's former national baggage I would think would be prohibitive. Clement would no doubt run but he hasn't impressed as a Harper cabinet minister. Has come across as a lightweight, Stockwellesque in fact.

Junior MacKay? Would welcome this bid and he, like Clement, will no doubt run, but from these quarters, we are always pressed to see what exactly it is that Junior brings to the party. Plus there's that pesky franglais thing.

James Moore or Lisa Raitt: Moore, see MacKay, above. But with much less of the common man thing. As for Lisa Raitt, Steele writes, "If the Conservatives decide to completely change the face of their party, they could hardly do better than James Moore or Lisa Raitt." Well, yes, she is a fresh face and she does bask in the glow of the Kinsella love. But choosing a woman to put a new stamp on the face of the Conservative party...hasn't always worked out so well. Try adopting some fresh policies that resonate with women instead.

The big omissions? What about John Baird? Or is the disappearance of his website a harbinger of his diminished future? What of Jason Kenney and his ethnic community powerhouse? No? John Tory? He likes to run for things. Doesn't win much, but he always seems up for it...:)

A welcome topic of discussion...let the games begin...:)

Harper's last minute Senate patronage extravaganza

Breaking news from Bob Fife, go to man of the Harper PMO, last night: "Harper to fill 18 Senate seats with Tory loyalists." My but this has a distinctly bad odour to it. 18 appointments to the Senate en masse while Parliament is prorogued. The Conservatives will no doubt have their spin at the ready but the optics are very poor. Reinforces the image of Harper as a cornered animal, seeking to fill as many spots as he can at the last minute before defeat. After all, why didn't he do this over the past two and a half years? Why now? Oh yes, there's this:
...according to insiders, what really drove Harper to move quickly and fill the vacant Senate seats is the possibility of losing political power in January at the hands of the Liberal-NDP coalition.
Last minute bulk Senate appointments should really go a long way with the base at the moment after he's conducted himself in such a stellar fashion over the past few weeks. What's one more abandoned raison d'etre of Harper's career in politics and that of the Conservative/Reform base? Keep those donations coming, Conservative grassroots!

As for any spin coming our way on the horrible awful Senate that's been obstructing poor Harpie, well, the mass appointment frenzy is a result of his failed push for Senate reform, an ongoing failure of his own leadership. No leadership on the legislation, no leadership to engage the provinces:
First, as prime minister of a federation, he took a unilateral approach to constitutional change. Second, the record of the House of Commons shows that none of these bills were a priority for Mr. Harper. Given the way the government neglected them in the last session, while giving priority to 30 other bills that passed into law, it is hard to characterize them as anything more than window dressing.
If Senate reform was truly a priority for Mr. Harper, we would have seen a lot more action and a lot less talk. Now we get to watch a hypocritical Harper mass appointment spree.

(see also Jurist on Harper losing power , BCer on the hypocrisy, DT on the illegitimacy)

Update: Two more thoughts...beyond what the public will think about this, there's the simple fact of Harper showing his weakened position politically. This move shows he legitimately fears losing office, he's going to exercise the levers of power he can as he feels he might lose the confidence vote at the end of January. That's telling.

Secondly, is this the kind of thing the public wants the government spending its time on? Senate and possibly other patronage appointments in a frenzy of Conservative self-interest? How about the economic interests and jobs of the Canadian people, not Conservatives?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video of Harper: no need for an election if government defeated



No need to add anything to that...

Update (7:45 p.m.): On further thought, there is something necessary to add. Harper made these comments on April 20, 2005. That was at the 10 month mark of the Martin minority government, if I'm calculating correctly. Martin was elected to that minority government on June 28, 2004.

These comments also precede by one month the Conservative efforts to persuade Chuck Cadman to vote with them to bring down the government.

Ezra Levant calls NDP prostitutes

Harper on the National, part II

Some thoughts on that interview...

Well that was entertaining...:) Um, no. Always a frustrating exercise to watch this man in action. A superficial note to Harper staffers, when he tilts his head like that, it's not a good look. Eyes look all shadowy and dark.

I would characterize his performance in five words: nervous, domineering, aggressive, unrepentant, stubborn. The first three words having to do with his consistently talking over Mansbridge and speaking in such a manner so as to stave off inconvenient follow-up questions, with which Mr. Harper is evidently not comfortable. This was a combative appearance and likely didn't win him any new friends.

Pressed to demonstrate some empathy for auto workers, for example, people facing the loss of their jobs and his answer is really no different from any other answer he gives. Just more rambling aggressive recitations. Massive empathy deficit. Same void evident when asked repeatedly about any contrition, whatsoever about the events of the last week. A skilled politician would know that he had a massive opening to do some repair work. A national audience. He let it fly by, preferring to go on the offensive against the opposition, still. What ever is he thinking.

He apparently sticks to the wisdom of his economic update,partisan bombs and all. Some very important measures in there, he says. Possibly on a few items, RRIF's, etc., but as for the rest, he had no apologies. A halting moment to make clear to Peter, look, the public is with him on axing the public financing of political parties. Well of course they are when it's presented as selfish bloated political parties feasting on a cash grab without any knowledge of our present system and the trade-offs made to arrive at it. So, confirmation that he's intent on pursuing that option.

Also of note, the continued demonization of Quebec via his bashing of the Bloc that he was perfectly willing to get in bed with in 2004. Perhaps not in a formal coalition, as he is likely parsing out his 2004 involvement, but he assuredly would have in an accord of some sort. Here's the Harper-Duceppe-Layton letter, once again for posterity's sake, cementing his duplicity.

All in all, he appears to be fighting for his political viability. Quite nervous and aggressive throughout, much as you'd expect from a politician who remains in peril.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Harper on The National tonight

This sounds about right:
...Mr. Harper refused to accept any blame for causing the recent political crisis, or admit that controversial measures in his fiscal update were a mistake.

Instead, he said there was a conspiracy by opposition leaders to bring down his government regardless of what was in update.
More here.

Wonder if there were any questions about this:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's comments about Quebec separatists gave the Parti Quebecois a major boost and helped the sovereigntist party close in on the Liberals in the provincial election, a leading pollster said Tuesday.

In a reversal of the historic election-day trend, the PQ performed far better than expected and closed so much of the gap between itself and the Liberals that it nearly deprived Charest of a majority.

The PQ's share of the popular vote was just seven percentage points less than the Liberals - this after polls just days ago placed it 14 points behind - and it held Charest's troops to a three-seat majority.

Jean-Marc Leger, president of Leger Marketing, said a poll suggested 14 per cent of Quebecers changed their vote on the last day, with half making that flip-flop while at the ballot box.
From the CP and CBC reports above, it appears we will see a man totally oblivious to and shameless about the turmoil he's caused.

Spector carries the ball today

Norman Spector carrying the ball today in what seems to be the daily parade of Conservatives arguing we must have elections every time there's a confidence vote. Chipeur, Flanagan, Spector.

Spector argues that a reference should be made to the Supreme Court on the question of the coalition's right to "take power without winning an election." Yeah...that sounds like a twelve to eighteen month process. Not really conducive to a question on a confidence vote. What might we expect everyone to do if one occurs before the court has given an opinion? Say in January?

The court would be offering an opinion on constitutional conventions but what would give anyone confidence that this PM would respect it? This would be an opinion, not a binding judgment. He's exhibited little deference for things legal. See the in and out scheme under the Elections Act or his broken fixed date elections law, for example. On the other hand, he does like to use litigation strategically, so maybe Spector is on to something.

Otherwise, it's the usual Conservative fare here. There's the spectre (sorry, can't resist) of the Bloc being involved in the coalition. That the PM must be listened to by the GG if he seeks an election. Yada, yada, yada. It's like groundhog day.

You must give them credit though. Daily arguments in support of their objectives, no matter how misguided or inappropriate. And a willing media to peddle it all. The other side is not matching them.

Disappointing

"Liberal brass broadens leadership consultation beyond caucus, executive." Yes, they did and here's the report from CP:
The federal Liberals will broaden the consultation process for choosing a new federal leader, rather than leave the choice strictly in the hands of Grit MPs and senators.

The executive will still consult with the national caucus, but will also canvass the opinions of riding presidents, defeated candidates and the presidents of the party's student, women's, seniors and aboriginal clubs before choosing an interim leader to replace Stephane Dion.

That means over 800 Liberals will get a chance to weigh in on the leadership question, rather than just 77 MPs and 58 senators.

However, thousands of rank and file party members will still have no say.
The Globe is reporting December 17 as the date by which the interim leader would be selected, i.e., just over a week from now.

It's likely that the riding presidents would be interested in taking into account the views of riding members and I'm sure there will be a flurry of members interested in expressing their views. According to blogger John Laforet, the riding presidents are quite concerned about defending the members' rights. So it would be a suggestion for each of the riding presidents to make themselves available in the riding by email or telephone and allow for members to convey their choice. That way at least the riding choice could reflect the membership. It doesn't appear that there would be anything to preclude such consultations. Given that there are approximately 800 plus people voting, however, the 308 riding presidents are still outnumbered in the process.

A compromise to give a nod to the notion of an expanded consultation that won't do much to mollify members who can't vote. Not ideally the things a political party should be compromising about. That constitution needs a big amendment, one that would likely pass quite handily.

Update: That was me being restrained, btw...:)

And cue the likely result:
Liberals close to Rae said the former Ontario premier will now have to consider whether there's any point to forcing a final confrontation with frontrunner Michael Ignatieff, his old friend and onetime university roommate, or simply bow out of the race now.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Harpie embarrassed on the Daily Show

Jon Stewart just owned Harpie's embarrassing prorogation...:) Make sure you catch the Daily Show tonight if you can.

Update: Sorry for those expecting video! You just can't get it these days, copyright, don't ya know! It'll be available on the Comedy Network site at some point...here's Rick Mercer on our strategic genius, in the meantime:



Update II: Thanks to CV, here's the clip at the Comedy Network.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stephen Harper Prorogation Leadership Poster available for download


The Harper prorogation poster posted yesterday has been well-received and the suggestion has been made that it could be used for wider purposes or for individual personal distribution. The creator of the poster is fine with that and is happy to have it used in support of efforts to demonstrate Mr. Harper's failed leadership. Feel free to place in your blog sidebar or print out the versions below and post, distribute as you like.

To that end, here is an 11 X 17 poster version.

And here's an 8.5 X 11 letter size version.

Thanks to TT for the poster and to hax0r for hosting.

2000 Alliance coalition lawyer guy speaks up

Stockwell Day's acquaintance, lawyer Gerry Chipeur, suddenly arguing that the only time a coalition can be asked to govern is immediately after an election. You know, as in if the Harper government is defeated in January, there must be an election. How self-serving and contrary to the body of opinion we've been reading this week. Um, 1979? 1985? Willful blindness much? Or just a nifty new effort to lay the groundwork to undermine the Governor General prior to the next confidence vote?
It also suggests that Conservatives may not readily accept a decision from Governor General Michaëlle Jean should she ask the coalition to govern and refuse Mr. Harper's request for an election.
They're really master hypocrites, aren't they? Especially when they had discussions with other opposition parties themselves in 2004 to form a government if the Martin minority fell within 3 months of the election.

I'll stick with the constitutional experts over Conservative activists any time, thanks very much...

Strange activity in Washington...

Elsewhere, politicians are working day and night to save their auto industry:
"Racing to seal a deal with the White House, Democratic congressional leaders dispatched aides Saturday to draft an emergency $15-billion aid package to pull Detroit's Big Three automakers from the brink of collapse.
...
...with Washington spooked by massive job losses that provided the latest evidence of a deepening recession, the White House said it was in 'constructive discussions' with legislators in both parties on the assistance.

House of Representatives and Senate Democratic staff aides worked through the weekend to hammer out details, with votes on the plan expected in the week ahead."
More here. How positively foreign. Legislators from opposing sides working together, what a concept. No such efforts going on here...we're closed for business, don't ya know:

The upshot is that Canada effectively has no federal government as the nation slides into a recession that some forecasters expect will claim 600,000 jobs, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians thrown out of work in the manufacturing, auto, forestry and other sectors in the last two years.

Relief will have to wait at least the better part of two months, until late January, when Stephen Harper's government finally tables a stimulus budget, which must then be debated and might well be defeated.

That's seven lost weeks, at a minimum, when Stephen Harper's political career will assume primacy over the economy.

Could be a very expensive seven weeks for Harper. Read the rest of that Olive piece for the numbers on what other world economies are spending in stimulus and an overall indictment of the Harper government's lack of action.

Well done, tin-pot.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Letters to the editor

"Jobs: going, going, gone."
EUGENE PARKS
December 6, 2008

Victoria -- An economy can skip a heartbeat now and again, it can even have an irregular rhythm - although unhealthy, it's not fatal. Stopping a heart is another matter. In November, 71,000 Canadians lost their jobs.

For those families, their economic heart has stopped. Rather than do anything to prevent more economic tragedy, Stephen Harper stopped Parliament to avoid Parliament.
The busiest letter writer in the nation...:)

The Stephen Harper prorogation commemorative poster



Thanks to a very creative reader for this one...I particularly enjoy the inclusion of the two flags to ensure the appropriate level of patriotism is present, of course.

Enjoy...:)

"Can't they just get past it?"

In the words of a prominent American blogger, can't recall which one...document the atrocities: watch the follow-up discussion among Lloyd Robertson, Roger Smith and Craig Oliver after the Smith report.

Shorter Lloyd: why can't they just leave little Stevie Harper alone! For cryin' out loud! Excuse the elected majority of MP's for having ruined your week there, Lloyd.

CTV Newsnet is a big problem for progressive politicians of all stripes. This stuff is repeated over and over and over, 24/7 and they're getting more overt about it. CBC Newsworld is basically MIA every weekend and they don't have news content all day. The people who are paid to do communications work really need to be strategizing to meet this development. It's a big problem.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday night ode to...dancing dictators and politicians



Some of the world's worst in here...Mugabe, Castro, Bush...where's Steve?

Pandering to the basest motives and attitudes in Canadian politics

More educated guesses from constitutional experts on what the GG may have said to tin-pot Steve:
So what did Jean tell him?

Several constitutional scholars suggest she probably expressed her disappointment at the situation. Jean herself told reporters this week that she needed to have a good discussion with the prime minister.

Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, said the length of the meeting, followed by Harper's immediate promise to seek compromise with the opposition, offered two clues that she probably did a fair bit of talking.

In fact the prime minister had to cancel a planned event at an Ontario car plant because the meeting lasted far longer than expected.

Franks, who has advised governors general in the past, says he would have given Harper a piece of his mind. He says the prime minister acted foolishly, angered the opposition, and then took a major gamble by playing the national-unity card to get himself out of trouble.

"I would've said to Mr. Harper, 'I am shocked and appalled at the kind of politics you have been playing. National unity is always an issue in Canada and what you have been playing and pandering to are the basest motives and attitudes in Canadian politics'," said Franks, professor emeritus at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

"'You are pandering to prejudice against Quebec and French-speakers. ... You're pitting the West against the East. You might well win the battle for public opinion, but the cost in destruction to the country is incalculable.

"'You're like the captain of a ship who says I'll let the ship sink, as long as my life-jacket is safe."'
Strike one: the partisan, ideological economic update. Strike two: the unprecedented self-serving prorogue request. Strike three will be how tin-pot does on the budget vote and there are too many unknowns at this point to speculate on that outcome.

Liberal leadership challenges are interfering with a very clear truth this week: we are led by a man and his party of lemmings who ran from Parliament facing defeat. We need to be rid of him. I suspect that there are those in the Conservative party who are not relieved to see that Harper is enjoying a bit of a reprieve. I hope that those individuals keep pressing and rid their party of that cancer. As they say, leopards don't change their spots.