Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A PMO campaign event

From CP today:
Stephen Harper walked his nine-year-old daughter Rachel to school Tuesday in a carefully scripted photo-op designed to bolster his new warm and fuzzy image.

With news cameras rolling, a bespectacled Harper, sporting a blazer and slacks, strolled hand-in-hand with his smiling daughter amid a cluster of cameras, aides and plainclothes Mounties.

Harper twice leaned in as though he was going to give young Rachel a peck on the forehead, but then settled on a one-armed squeeze and two quick pats on her shoulder before she dashed off to the playground.
Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke characterized Tuesday's send-off - which was set up in advance by the Prime Minister's Office - as "a loving father taking his daughter to school, something he does frequently."

Belated Update (11:25 p.m.): Just read the post at Creative Revolution by 900 ft. Jesus who felt as I did, that this was an absolute disgrace. At least the Canadian Press conveyed the scene appropriately.

For Mr. Harper, the buck stops...with a speechwriter

"Harper staffer takes fall for plagiarized 2003 speech on Iraq."

Surprised? No. Of course Harper hides behind a staffer. Mr. Harper's m.o. is to blame others for his shortcomings. That's been one of the organizing principles of the Harper government.

Is the argument now that Mr. Harper just passively reads the speeches handed to him by over-eager speech writers? That's totally contradictory to the Harper image that he impresses upon us every day. It's just not believable.

In fact, it's just more of this:

The sweater vest bonfire

This is hilarious...an extended version here.

The follower

We call him Mini Bush for good reason don't ya know:

I think we can all put the notion that Mr. Harper is a strong leader firmly to bed. It speaks to someone's innate character traits that they would stand in front of their nation and allow themselves to be used to build a case for war. Put yourself in Mr. Harper's position and ask whether you would have allowed yourself to be used like he did. It's not even close.

As for Minister Teneycke's spin that this is an old speech and that it smacks of desperation...I think I'll go with Paul Wells' take on it, just expressed on CBC. That the Conservatives regularly trot out old speeches and the like to attack Liberals. They cite Bob Rae's economic record in Ontario as Premier in the early 90's to undermine him, for example, and on the listeriosis issue they certainly haven't hesitated to point the finger at the Liberals for actions in years gone by. This was 2003.

Whether to go to war in Iraq was one of the monumental foreign policy questions of our time. Harper chose to be a hand puppet. A Bush cipher. He was lazy. Using a speech apparently disseminated internationally to right wing conservative politicians that the Bush administration sought to galvanize to their side was fundamentally dishonest. We know that Harper opposed Chretien's decision to stay out of Iraq, but he didn't seem to care enough about his own country's fundamental interests to write his own, made-in-Canada speech. It's the uncaring, easy sign-on to the Bush approach that's disturbing.

And now that the link has been made, the Canadian people deserve to know it. It's not a sideshow at all. It speaks directly to the issue of leadership, which Mr. Harper has made a big show of saying he embodies. Turns out he's not a leader at all, he's a follower.

Ritz avoiding the media

Watch CP video here, "Ritz sneaks out back door to avoid grilling,' showing Ritz briskly walking away from his appearance at a debate in Ottawa yesterday. Good for the Canadian Press for pursuing the government on this story. Meanwhile, the Liberal and NDP participants in the debate spoke to the media, willingly and freely.

Very interesting

"Andrew Steele - Day 23 winner." This guy is on to something. The financial crisis is striking Canadians too. The ground has shifted. People want major reassurance. And Harper and Jim Flaherty's economic record is atrocious.

A lot of interesting ideas there, worth a look this gloomy financial morning.

Free speech and Mr. Harper

Michael Enright spoke on his Sunday Edition show about the use of the RCMP during this election campaign to clamp down on protesters and reporters seeking to interact with Mr. Harper or Conservative candidates. Listen here. (It's at the beginning of the podcast, for just over 3:30.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Conservatives at the public trough

Is there anything else we taxpayers can get for these Conservatives? They're at the public trough whenever they can pull it off. With respect to the following Globe report, I guess we'll have to temporarily modify Bob Rae's admonition from last week that these aren't your grandma's Progressive Conservatives...in patronage matters, why yes, they are: "Tories opened patronage doors before election: records."
The Harper government approved 148 appointments to federal boards and agencies, long used as rewards for supporters of the party in power, as the election neared, The Canadian Press has learned.

Cabinet handed out the pots in three rounds, the first only two days before Parliament recessed for the summer, the second on July 30, at peak holiday time for politicians and political journalists, and the third less than a week before Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the election for Oct. 14.

Mr. Harper, who railed against Liberal patronage in the 2006 election, later failed to deliver on a campaign pledge to put an independent commission in charge of vetting cabinet appointments. He angrily shelved the idea after opposition MPs refused to ratify his nomination of Gwyn Morgan, a Calgary oil baron who is also a friend of the prime minister, as the commission chair.
...the Canadian Taxpayers Federation criticized Mr. Harper for not carrying through with his promise to change the patronage system.

“It's business as usual, rewarding party faithful,” said Adam Taylor, acting national director of the federation.
It's OK if you're a Conservative! See what Mr. Harper gets away with!

Recall as well the ten percenters that the Conservatives flooded ridings across the country with this summer, at the taxpayers expense, of course. Spending twice as much money as any of the other parties.

And recall the taxpayer refunds the Conservatives sought for their candidates who participated in the in-and-out election advertising scheme in the last federal election. Elections Canada disallowed 67 Conservative candidates' local expenditures because they were in fact national. The Conservatives are still fighting Elections Canada to maintain these taxpayer rebates for their candidates.

Linin' up at the public trough...I don't think ordinary Canadians appreciate this kind of stuff when economic times are tight for everyone...

See also BCer, with an excellent blog post title on this...

Ritz surfaces...and does the usual Conservative shtick

All you need to know about the Harper style of governing and their lack of accountability manifested itself today in Gerry Ritz's appearance at a debate where he applied the blame-and-run Conservative modus operandi to the listeriosis crisis:
"Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz surfaced publicly Monday for the first time since his late-evening apology for what he described as “tasteless” jokes about the listeria outbreak that has now claimed 19 Canadian lives.

But after using an all-party agriculture debate to blame the previous Liberal government for compromising food safety, the minister bolted for a back door exit and avoided questions from reporters."
But, but, but...the Liberals...then run away!

Poor Gerry. Having put in place regulations that saw meat inspection at the Maple Leaf plant virtually evaporate, he's in quite a bind.

Now if only the voters would hold these Conservatives accountable...

Harper says he won't reopen abortion debate...yet he voted yes to C-484 on Second Reading

Such frantic Conservative public posturing today, assuring us all that oh no, we don't want to do anything on that front: "Harper says no to abortion debate." What a laugher! Here are the details from the Globe and then below, a list of Conservatives who supported C-484 on its Second Reading vote, including Harper. C-484 was the Conservatives' private member bill which was widely viewed as a backdoor route to reopening the abortion debate:
Stephen Harper is ruling out re-opening a debate over abortion law for a future Conservative government, saying today there are too many other important issues to manage.
He said that some of his caucus members would like him to do so, and so would some Liberals: “But, I have not done that in my entire political career. Don't intend to start now.”

“I have been clear throughout my entire political career I don't intend to open the abortion issue,” he said. “I haven't in the past; I'm not going to in the future.”
So why did he vote yes to C-484 on Second Reading then? Do you believe him today or do you believe his vote on March 5th of this year? Minister Spokesthingy assures us that Harper would "whip" the Conservative front bench. Really, he will:
After today's event, however, Mr. Harper's spokesman Kory Teneycke clarified in an email to The Globe and Mail that Mr. Harper would “whip” his front bench so that none of his cabinet ministers would support any private member's bills that could re-open the debate.

“We can't prevent private members' bills from reaching the floor,” said Mr. Teneycke, “but the government would not support them.”
It's a good thing we have Minister Teneycke on hand. No need for cabinet ministers when this guy's around! So, if Harper didn't "whip" his front bench in March...why would we believe he would now in the midst of an election campaign?

Now here's a sampling of Conservatives who voted in favour of C-484 at Second Reading, including Harper, directly contradicting their blather today. (And I do note a small number of Liberals who also voted in favour as well. The difference with the Liberals, however, is that those Liberals are a minority of the Liberal caucus whereas we cannot say the same about the Conservatives.) Here you go:

Del Mastro
Van Loan

Why would we believe anything these Conservatives tell us?

Why block the sale of MDA when the Pentagon might buy the technology anyway?

It looks like the blocked sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates' (MDA) space division to U.S. arms manufacturer Alliant Techsystems back in April, with all the nationalist brouhaha that accompanied it, allowing the Conservatives to paint themselves as defenders of Canadian sovereignty might turn out to be, well, a lot of hot air. Recall one of the central criticisms of the deal, that the MDA technology, developed with the Canadian taxpayer footing the bill, should not be given away:
Prentice last month announced his rejection of the proposed foreign takeover of MDA's space and information systems divisions, which includes Canadarm, Dextre and the Radarsat-2 satellite, to Alliant.

Critics of the sale, including former Canadian Space Agency head Marc Garneau, had called on Prentice to block the deal, saying it handed over taxpayer-funded technology and, in the case of Radarsat-2, gave away technology designed to protect Canada's sovereignty.
A U.S. firm was ready to pay more than $1 billion for MDA's satellite division.

But critics warned the deal would compromise Canada's national security by transferring ownership of taxpayer-funded space technology to a foreign company. In particular, they raised concerns about the country's ability to retain control of the Radarsat-2, which the military uses to monitor Canada's Arctic interests. (emphasis added)
Note the national security element...transferring the technology to a foreign company. That was a central concern expressed at the time, in addition to the ability to retain control of Radarsat-2 technology here.

David Pugliese wrote on September 12th, around the time that Harper was announcing new foreign investment rules, that the Pentagon is eyeing the acquisition of a clone of the Radarsat-2 satellite that MDA has developed. Raising the question, why block the sale of MDA to a U.S. arms manufacturer when it's possible that the company is going to sell the technology to the U.S. in any event? I suppose the ownership of the MDA space division remains in Canada and Canada gets to use the technology, but the taxpayer-funded technology still ends up with the Pentagon:
After trying unsuccessfully for years to build its own radar satellite, the Pentagon is now turning to its allies for help and has been presented with a plan that would see it buying a clone of Canada's highly successful Radarsat-2 spacecraft.

The U.S. Defence Department asked for and received information this week from a number of foreign satellite consortiums on how they could help the Pentagon meet its surveillance needs for the future.

Defence analysts and space industry officials say the U.S. is looking over the short-term to buy surveillance information generated by existing satellites but could also purchase proven foreign satellite designs with an eye to launching such spacecraft in orbit starting around 2012.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., the owners of Radarsat-2, responded to the request, and although the company isn't providing specific details, the options presented to the Pentagon are believed to range from the selling of surveillance data from Radarsat-2 to building a clone of the spacecraft for the Americans. (emphasis added)
Would building a clone of the technology be OK with the Conservative government and their new foreign investment rules? After all, here's what Harper had to say on September 12th:
"We are the only country in the G7 without a national security test in its foreign investment reviews," Harper said, while picking up on a theme he first addressed at the time the MDA transaction was being considered.
And here's what MDA is saying about it's possible sale of a Radarsat-2 clone to the Pentagon:
Oldham said if MacDonald Dettwiler sold the U.S. a copy of Radarsat-2 it would have to receive permission from the Canadian government to export such a system. He, however, did not see that as a hurdle.
The "national security" test that Harper is referencing, then, likely won't prohibit such a deal to the Pentagon.

Something to watch going forward...the big nationalist show by Harper and Prentice to keep the taxpayer-funded Radarsat-2 technology here in Canada was likely a temporary public relations exercise. We'll see.

Fear and loathing in the Harper federal government

It's worth taking note of one additional aspect from that CP report Sunday night that gave us further insight into Gerry Ritz's inability to handle the listeriosis crisis and the Harper PCO's daily direction of communications strategy on it. The article is reproduced in the Globe and it contained this note:
The sources spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity. The Conservatives have sought out and punished anyone believed to have provided embarrassing information to journalists.
A similar note was included in the last disclosure that came forth from fearful sources, perhaps Conservative, perhaps not, in this CP report of September 17th that told us about Ritz's joking about the crisis to colleagues:
The sources who spoke to The Canadian Press did so on the condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has been relentless in searching for and punishing anyone thought to have provided embarrassing information to reporters.
The Canadian Press is writing these things for a reason. The people speaking to them are providing them with the basis for saying so. It is an ongoing huge red flag to us all about the Conservative government's views on free speech and the public's right to know what is going on inside their government.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More embarrassing, shameful incompetence from the Conservatives on the listeriosis file

A further damning disclosure on the listeriosis file this afternoon, specifically, Minister Ritz and the Harper government's conduct of it.

We have been living through a national listeriosis outbreak, one to which the deregulatory policies of the Conservatives contributed, and we read further evidence that the Minister was apparently ill-equipped to deal with such matters as the announcement of an investigation into it on a moment's notice: "Ritz ordered to face cameras over listeriosis." This CP report highlights not just an ill-prepared Gerry Ritz, but the domineering one man show out of the PMO and the climate that has been created by Conservatives within the government where the public interest work of governing is secondary to turf-battles and political optics.

Needless to say, I could just as easily have titled this post, Gerry Ritz should be fired: part X, but it's beyond Gerry Ritz. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper bear responsibility for their handling of this major outbreak and their contribution to it. And once again, just as in the case of Maxime Bernier, Harper put someone in place who was clearly not prepared to deal with such a crisis.

Details from the report suggest tension in Conservative circles. Between a Minister's staff and that in the PMO. That the ill-prepared Ritz was sent out to announce a listeriosis investigation, and was pushed into doing so by the PMO on short notice. A competent Minister in command of the file should be able to do so. But not Ritz:
Stephen Harper's aides ordered an ill-prepared Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to face the media during the listeriosis crisis, raising tensions between the two offices, sources have told The Canadian Press.

During a Sept. 4 conference call with scientists, doctors, bureaucrats and political staff, a member of Ritz's staff complained about how his boss had been treated.

A day earlier, the Prime Minister's Office insisted that Ritz chair a public briefing a few scant minutes after learning that an investigation into the health scare had been announced by Stephen Harper.

Ritz was caught flat-footed and ill-prepared, Alan Sakach, Ritz's director of communications, told the conference call.

"We can't send the minister out without any information or any or lines," a source recalls Sakach saying.

Ritz had less than 10 minutes to prepare for the Sept. 3 news conference.

It showed. He provided no details about the probe Harper had just announced.

"The mandate will be fairly wide and broad," he repeated throughout the briefing.(emphasis added)
Clearly a major problem here is a Minister who can't handle his file. But beyond Ritz's capabilities, is the suggestion here that his ministry was not acting on its own, but rather being directed out of the PMO. Surprising? No. But to read about infighting and clear disharmony between the Minister's staff and the PMO, yes.

The fact that Ritz was being sent out on 10 minutes' notice to announce the listeriosis investigation speaks to the lack of serious purpose behind it. It appears to have been a last minute thing, announced to deflect political accountability into the future, away from the heat of an election. This report confirms that suspicion. In fact, the very terms of reference for that investigation demonstrate how shallow the move was. It looks like the PMO drafted it up, purely as political cover and sent the Minister out there like a talking head. It tells you what the PM thinks of his Ministers. Not much. It's not the Ministry doing the work anyway, it's the PMO.

Also informative here, the desire expressed by Ritz to be able to say the outbreak was coming to an end. Again, demonstrating the importance of political optics to these Conservatives, above and beyond the important considerations of public health:

Ritz was too anxious to declare the outbreak as over, the sources said. At that time, 13 deaths had been linked to the recall of packaged meat from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.

During virtually all of the teleconferences, the agriculture minister would ask the same questions:

"Can I say we've turned the corner on this?"

"Can we go out there and say the numbers aren't changing?"

No, he was told by scientists and doctors, the listeria strain has an incubation period of up to 70 days and there could be more cases.

The number of deaths has since risen to 19.

There's much more in this report confirming the prominence of political considerations for the Conservatives in their handling of this outbreak. This needs to be widely read. They're dangerously misguided. That they would overtly politicize matters of food safety is shameful.

Dion on Cross Country check up now

Listen in, unfiltered.

Videos from young voters

The Liberal leader of the "ESL" variety...a reader passes along this video composed by a thoughtful young first time voter who issues a challenge, really. She asks how tolerant we Canadians really are if we can't get beyond the ESL issue and listen to the substance of Dion's message. More food for thought to put "in the hopper"...:)

As Putin rears his head...


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Heckled at your high school reunion

Ah, yes, good times at the high school reunion:
He was followed by a large entourage. People pulled out cameras to snap photos. And there was at least one heckler, a man who toward the end of Harper's speech shouted lustily: "What about the environment?"
...Harper's heckler wasn't impressed.

Robert Ledingham - who graduated in 1976, two years before Harper - said the prime minister's appearance seemed pretty political so he wanted to make a statement about climate change.

So he shouted at the end of his address. The taunt drew a counter-heckle from someone standing nearby, who swore at Ledingham and said it wasn't the place for political stunts.

To which a woman replied that Ledingham was perfectly within his right to protest.

"(Climate change) seems like a soft spot in his campaign, and I really think it's an important issue for all Canadians," Ledingham said later. He added that he was not politically affiliated.
Guess they couldn't screen out the non-Conservatives like they typically do. That's a shame...:)

More from the reunion:
People laughed. And while most people paid attention and offered polite cheers, the response was decidedly more muted compared to the partisan campaign rallies that Harper has been speaking to.

About a third of the people in the ornate, candle-lit hall continued chattering away with old friends while the prime minister spoke.
You know, maybe somebody wasn't so popular in high school. And perhaps it was a little offensive to turn their reunion into a Stephen Harper election event...

Life in the stage managed bubble

An insightful video summary of the Harper campaign operation by the Canadian Press, emphasizing how Harper is kept away from voters, preferring the stage managed settings and closed rallies. No non-Conservatives welcome.

Harper "reacts" to a supporter fainting

Who's been talking down the Canadian economy, Mr. Harper?

Harper today:
"We need a government and a Parliament that is on the side of the Canadian economy. That will tackle our economic challenges by building our economy up - not by talking it down."
Harper Finance Minister, Deficit Jim, February 29, 2008:
"If you're going to make a new business investment in Canada, and you're concerned about taxes, the last place you will go is the province of Ontario."
Can you see the blatant hypocrisy?

Oh, and Deficit Jim got back to us on the second-last place to invest in Canada...it's Manitoba. Congratulations, Manitoba! You have joined the prestigious ranks of provinces talked down by Deficit Jim!

Seems to me if Mr. Harper really meant what he said today, he'd give Deficit Jim the boot...but this is the election where everything is OK if you're a Conservative, right?

"Bullying on a massive and hugely expensive scale that ordinary Canadians should reject"

In an op-ed yesterday, Professor Errol Mendes skewered yet again one of the Conservative planks being offered up in this election: "Youth offender plan rides wave of fear." Recall Mendes' effective questioning of Mr. Harper's "catastrophic decisiveness" recently. This op-ed accomplishes a similar feat, demonstrating that the approach to young offenders being offered by Mr. Harper, where he proposes to put 14 year old offenders in prison for life, is one that is presently being rejected by his conservative confreres in the United States. Further, the overcrowded prisons and studies demonstrating the lack of deterrence that such measures bring provide additional evidence pointing out the wrongheadedness of Mr. Harper's proposals. Raising the obvious question of why Canada should be travelling down a path that's failing and being publicly rejected by judges in the U.S. Mr. Harper, however, seems intent on following the U.S. for guidance in most policy matters, domestic or foreign. This is all the more remarkable given that in a few months...Bush will be gone. Yet for Canadians, barring a major upset, Harper and his American-inspired policies, will live on.

Here's Mendes pointing out the shift in support away from mandatory sentences by conservatives:
The Los Angeles Times has reported that not only liberal, but conservative judges in the U.S. are hoping that Congress or the Supreme Court will move away from mandatory sentences to give them leeway to impose shorter and fairer sentences. U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell, an appointee of George W. Bush and former law clerk to one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices, Antonin Scalia, is quoted as saying: "When I have to sentence a midlevel drug dealer to more time than a murderer, something is wrong ... This is not about being soft on crime ... I believe in tough sentences for severe crimes."
Even Bush's attorney general, Michael Mukasey – definitely not an ivory-tower academic – has argued against mandatory sentencing. He even went to the extent of suggesting that mandatory sentences could violate the U.S. constitutional principle of the separation of powers.
Here are the stats on prison overcrowding:
Congress had passed mandatory sentences for crimes involving drugs and guns, and also passed mandatory sentences for other federal crimes. What the mandatory rules accomplished was overcrowded prisons, with 181,622 convicts in federal prisons compared with 24,363 in 1980.

When the states followed with their own mandatory sentences, the U.S. prison population ballooned to 2.3 million, up from 501,886 in 1980. The effect of ignoring the ivory-tower academics has been to warehouse entire sections of the U.S. population in prisons with little effect on the crime rate.

Academic studies have cast doubt on whether the mandatory sentences in the U.S. have acted as a deterrent, and there is no real evidence that states that have mandatory sentences had any different crimes rates than those that do not. In fact, demographic and socioeconomic factors had a greater impact on decreasing crime rates than the imposition of mandatory sentences.
What's even more galling, as discussed earlier this week, when the Globe editorialized against Mr. Harper's abuse of the confidence vote, is the prospect of Mr. Harper jamming such ill-advised policies down the throat of the Canadian democracy once again:
Now, during this election campaign, Harper is threatening that even if he is returned with a minority, he will put his proposed law on putting children in prison for life – destroying their chance at rehabilitation by naming them – to a confidence vote. That creates the possibility of yet another $300 million election right after this one, if the opposition does not meekly agree to him.

This is not governing. This is bullying on a massive and hugely expensive scale that ordinary Canadians should reject.
Mr. Harper's vision seems to be backfiring in Quebec. Now if we can only muster that in the rest of Canada...

We don't like him

"Harper draws cheers, jeers on homecoming weekend." How'd you like to show up at your high school reunion and crowds of protesters greet your act?

A bit of reality met Mr. Harper last night:
Stephen Harper got a mixed reception as he kicked off homecoming weekend in his native Toronto - drawing loud cheers and equally loud jeers at a rally in the area where he grew up.
There were about half as many protesters as there were supporters greeting him at his first campaign stop in the city.

The anti-Harper crowd was kept at bay by police as the protesters hurled taunts at him from across the street. At least one person was pulled to the ground and handcuffed by police.

The protesters complained about his environmental policy, the war in Afghanistan, and his hands-off economic philosophy that they say is hurting Ontario's manufacturing sector.

Some also chanted "Coward" over his reluctance to wade into crowds and meet with non-Conservative partisans in this campaign.

Harper has held a number of large rallies but hasn't done any of the mainstreeting that his prime ministerial predecessors so often undertook.

Those who want to hear Harper speak at a campaign event need to sign in first before being allowed into the crowd. (emphasis added)
Amazing, hey? And if we don't get our act together, he's back baby, he's back.

"As you know the Governor-General does not have political opinions."

Harper denied the La Presse report that Michaelle Jean asked him to repatriate Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay. Plus he took the opportunity to give a lesson to the nation on the role of the Governor General:
When asked to clarify if the Governor-General had in fact raised Mr. Khadr with him, he said: “As you know the Governor-General does not have political opinions. The Governor-General is our constitutional head of state. Obviously I would not get into any discussion that would attribute political opinions to the Governor-General.”

“The story, as I've said, is not correct, is not true.”
The leaked report of this request either came from the Jean side or the Harper side. The Globe editorial board has a theory:
La Presse reported that Ms. Jean's intervention came after she and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, had consulted with experts in constitutional and international law, concluding that the government must repatriate Mr. Khadr to comply with Canada's Charter of Rights and international conventions on child soldiers. It is not the kind of information likely to have come from one of Mr. Harper's spin doctors. It happens to come a few days after Mr. Lafond, speaking in the context of the Conservative government's cuts to art funding, told The Globe “it's very safe for a politician to destroy culture.”

If it is in fact shown that the Khadr leak originated at Rideau Hall, then questions would need to be asked about Ms. Jean's impartiality, and hence her ability to exercise her constitutional responsibilities.
Why so certain it didn't come from the Harper team? It's a one day story and they might get rid of the GG as a result. Mr. Lafond gave them an opening, perhaps. Now see the Globe helpfully pushing the story along, it becomes more likely we'll be saying goodbye to Ms. Jean. I'm sure Mr. Harper would like to see a much friendlier GG in that constitutional role anyway. After all, there was a little too much debate on his ability to call an election in light of his fixed date election law. And perhaps a little too much uncertainty about whether she would grant it. I could indeed see a scenario in which Harper much prefers not to have Jean around.

The exit of Michaelle Jean...not exactly a topic I expected to be on the table during this election...

"I do not want this story distorted"

Here's Harper on Friday, reacting to the Globe's report on the Bernier-Couillard affair:
“I want to make it absolutely clear, because I do not want this story distorted: There is no suggestion that the RCMP is investigating Minister Bernier. Period. Quite frankly, any question that tries to suggest otherwise is misleading and inaccurate,” Mr. Harper said.
“Let's be very clear: Mr. Bernier and nobody in this government is under investigation by the RCMP. The RCMP, we understand from stories, may be investigating some private individuals, but frankly I do not know if that's true and I do not know the details,” he said. (emphasis added)
The message from the PM: he's suggesting that private individuals are being investigated although "frankly," he does not know if that's true and doesn't know the details. In other words, innuendo is the order of the day for the Prime Minister in relation to an RCMP investigation. If he doesn't know anything, then he shouldn't be saying anything, particularly not comments that steer people in a certain direction. How'd you like it if you had been interviewed by the RCMP and you hear the Prime Minister saying such things? And what message does the RCMP get when they hear such comments? He's the Prime Minister and he should have better judgment than this. The RCMP are not saying anything about "private individuals" being investigated. Why then, is the Prime Minister?

Now having read Mr. Harper's comments above, re-read the details from the Globe report Friday morning as to the scope and type of individuals reportedly being interviewed by the RCMP:
Renée Farrell, an assistant in Mr. Bernier's parliamentary office, said she met RCMP officers last Friday and answered questions on the confidential documents, as well as on Mr. Bernier and Ms. Couillard.

Other former aides to Mr. Bernier have been interviewed, including his former chauffeur.

The RCMP have also met with senior bureaucrats and former Conservative officials at Public Works Canada, the department overseeing federal plans to buy a new building in Quebec City.

The RCMP have yet to interview Mr. Bernier or Mr. Côté, who allegedly were lobbied by Ms. Couillard on behalf of a real estate firm called the Kevlar Group. Sources said it is clear the RCMP are slowly moving toward meeting politicians, although Mounties have yet to ask to meet the Conservative MP, who is campaigning for re-election in his Beauce riding.
Now re-assess Mr. Harper's remarks once again and decide how much credibility to attribute to what he said.

One last thing here, on the matter of the RCMP suddenly becoming a zone of silence during a federal election campaign, let's let Gilles Duceppe handle that one:
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, however, said the national police force has to comment on the matter, as it did in the income-trust matter.

Otherwise, Mr. Duceppe said, “we'll come to the conclusion that the RCMP wants to favour the Conservative Party.”

"Ordinary" Canadians support the arts

That's the name of a new Facebook group that you can join to send the PM a message:
Mr. Harper is wrong on arts funding and he must be made to understand that real people - ordinary Canadians - really do support the arts.
UPDATE (Sept 26, 1:30pm, Toronto): In only 54 hours of existence, this group now has MORE members than official Facebook sites for ALL FOUR major Canadian political parties COMBINED. Congrats everyone. Now start posting this site everywhere you can so we can try to double that over the weekend. Start contacting your local media, too. Don't forget to ask your candidates where they stand on arts support (plus other important issues important to you).
There you go...another group to note.

Harper is certainly succeeding in galvanizing the opposition, isn't he?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Conservatives in Halton are rebelling against their candidate

Garth Turner posts a letter written by local Conservatives and addressed to Conservative party members in Halton that's worth a look tonight. It demonstrates that there are Conservatives out there who strongly disapprove of Stephen Harper's version of the Conservative party. As Bob Rae said this week, these are not your grandma's Progressive Conservatives, folks. The letter hits some of the highlights, or should I say, lowlights, of the Harper government's anti-democratic tendencies.

Have a look over at Garth's blog for the remarkable letter written by the local Conservatives against the Conservative candidate. It's well worth a visit, as usual.

Thanks to a reader for passing it along.

Anti-Harper grassroots movements in the news

"Web crusade" against the Conservatives is gaining strength, according to this Winnipeg Free Press report passed along by a reader.
The Anti-Harper Vote Swap group on Facebook -- which was investigated and cleared by Elections Canada to ensure it didn't contravene election laws -- has almost 9,000 members, and is growing by between 500 and 800 a day, founder Mat Savelli says.

The latest offering -- www.voteforenvironment.ca -- hit the Internet Wednesday and founder Kevin Grandia says there were 12,200 unique visits in the first 36 hours and 81,000 different page views, suggesting visitors weren't just logging in, they were looking around the site as well.
In addition to the voteforenvironment site, which I think is an awesome tool for anyone interested in defeating the Conservatives, super user-friendly with a great riding by riding snapshot, there's also this group, Avaaz.org that is quickly raising funds to advertise against 3 of Harper's top MP's, including John Baird.

Lots of action out there, keep spreading the word...and open your wallets, people. $10, $25, whatever you have to give to an organization, political party...now is the time if you've never done it before. Barack Obama has brought in a ton of new donors to the Democratic party, we need to have the same commitment up here, from here on in and beyond the election, and not leave the financial advantage to the Conservatives.

If it talks like a wrecking-ball and it acts like a wrecking-ball...

Then it deserves the headlines it gets: "Wrecking-ball Harper accuses Liberals of being anti-Alberta, pro-recession." I'm thinking that the wrecking-ball jumped the shark today and that this could be a turning point in the campaign. Let's take a good hard look at the accusations levelled by the Prime Minister today:
"The other parties have clearly written off Alberta and don't mind using Alberta as a whipping boy from time to time, which I think is very unfortunate for our country," Harper opined to a receptive audience at the Calgary Winter Club.
Rule number one for Prime Ministers: don't pit regions against one another. This is not national leadership. It's firewall politics.

More vintage Harper:
Having stoked the fires of regional alienation, Harper went further, accusing Liberal Leader Stephane Dion of "some of the most irresponsible behaviour of a Canadian political leader I've ever seen."
Harper, in turn, accused Dion of "trying to drive down confidence in the Canadian economy without foundation - and quite frankly sitting on the sidelines virtually cheering for there to be a recession."
Rule number two for Prime Ministers: don't accuse your political opposition of cheering for the ruin of the country. It doesn't pass the smell test of decency. Hearing about your own record is tough, isn't it?

Smelling a majority, the Prime Minister's clearly on a roll. It looks like he thinks he can get away with saying anything at all. How much further down into the muck he will get, that's anyone's guess. If anything, I do believe the upshot of today's remarks are to provide Dion with a stark reminder of the stakes in those debates. The motivation will clearly be there.

I guess the incendiary Harper has to do something to distract from the ugly remarks made by his Calgary candidate, Lee Richardson :
"Particularly in big cities, we've got people that have grown up in a different culture," Richardson told a local media outlet, adding that refugees have a particularly tough time adapting.

"And they don't have the same background in terms of the stable communities we had 20, 30 years ago in our cities and don't have the same respect for authority or people's person or property...

"Talk to the police. Look at who's committing these crimes. They're not the kid that grew up next door."
Nice. That's not gotcha journalism, it's just the Conservative party's Reform roots showing...

Michaelle Jean sought the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay

A report in La Presse today that the Governor General asked Harper to seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay. Apparently this happened after the videotapes of Khadr being interrogated were released. Further, Jean consulted with legal advisors prior to consulting Harper. In response to her request, Harper, it is reported, stated that his caucus and the base of his party would never accept it. Which, if all this is being reported accurately, would just confirm that such significant decisions made by Mr. Harper are not taken in the interests of the Canadian nation nor having regard to the relevant legal considerations that are involved. What Mr. Harper apparently disclosed to Jean about his decision making calculus were purely partisan considerations that would properly be irrelevant when making a decision about our foreign policy and more importantly, about the fate of a Canadian citizen. It's a very damning disclosure about the Prime Minister.

Very insightful and useful information for the Canadian public to have in the midst of an election campaign.

All around, it's shaping up to be a banner day for the Conservatives...

Harper's claim to have hired 200 new food inspectors highly dubious

The Globe magically fact checks Harper's Wednesday statement that his government has hired 200 new food inspectors for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. And they find that nope, no dice on the 200 new inspectors. We had a hint of the misleading nature of this neat 200 food inspector statistic that Gerry Ritz was throwing around at the height of the listeriosis outbreak, when the CFIA was unable to say where in fact the 200 new inspectors were working. Hint, you political geniuses...when you're trying to pass off such statistics, make sure they're verifiable. Or better yet, just tell the truth.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's claim that his government beefed up food safety with 200 new inspectors simply isn't true, says the head of the union at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Far from seeing new recruits, federal inspectors warn many existing positions are going unfilled, said Bob Kingston, the national president of the Agriculture Union representing inspectors.

“People are quitting in frustration, so when they hear stuff like ‘Oh, yeah, we just put 200 new inspectors in food inspection,' that's just absurd. Or at least it certainly isn't something that's seen at the meat inspection level,” said Mr. Kingston.

Mr. Kingston said the CFIA may have hired more people, but they aren't working in food safety.
Does Mr. Kingston have anything to back up his claim? Why yes, he does:
Dr. Brian Evans, the chief veterinary officer at the CFIA, has said the number of inspectors at the agency climbed from 2,820 in 2006 to 3,020 in 2008. He has not said whether those new hires work in food safety. The union counters with a document called the ‘Essential Service Agreement.' It is a chart outlining the number of inspectors in each category and how many are deemed essential in the event of a strike. The chart suggests there are less than 2,000 positions devoted to some form of food safety.(emphasis added)
So where did Mr. Harper get his 200 new inspector figure from? Doesn't look like it stands up to scrutiny. In fact, it just looks like they looked at some overall employee hiring numbers to spin the figure of 200 new inspectors having been hired.

Once again, we see an example of the Conservatives playing fast and loose with the facts for their own political benefit. With an issue that really deserves to be devoid of any kind of political considerations being made whatsoever.

As I've heard it said lately...do we really want more of this?

Patronage and an expanding RCMP investigation in the Bernier-Couillard matter

The things we're reading about today...Julie Couillard's name is back in the news. The Globe is reaffirming today that the RCMP continue to investigate allegations of influence peddling at Public Works. That we learned on August 29th before the campaign began.

What's new here, is the confirmation, I believe for the first time, that the RCMP is investigating Maxime Bernier's misplaced documents at Julie Couillard's home. The RCMP has to date refused to confirm or deny that fact. And they're not doing so here either. The information we get today all appears to have come from Conservative sources or those interviewed by the RCMP in the investigation thus far.

What is also confirmed in this report is that the federal board appointment Couillard's mother received seems to have indeed been a matter of patronage obtained by the former Michael Fortier adviser, Bernard Cote, who dated Couillard. We thought back in the spring that this didn't sit right and today's report confirms the patronage suspicions.

By the way, is this what Mr. Harper meant by a "clean" government?

So a few details and then a few points on what I think it means:
The RCMP are pursuing a politically charged investigation into the Bernier-Couillard affair in the midst of the federal election campaign, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Sources said the RCMP investigation is focused on two lines of questioning: allegations that businesswoman Julie Couillard lobbied Conservative officials on a federal real estate deal, and how secret documents that belonged to Conservative MP Maxime Bernier when he was foreign affairs minister came to be left at Ms. Couillard's home.

The revelation about the probe came as sources said Thursday that Conservative official Bernard Côté helped Ms. Couillard's mother obtain a federal patronage appointment last year, after he dated Ms. Couillard. (emphasis added)
So there we have the sources confirming the two parts to the investigation, the Public Works influence peddling allegations involving the federal building project in Quebec City and now expanding to the documents that Bernier misplaced. Given that Bernier is presently campaigning for re-election, this will cause quite a stir in Quebec media, it would be reasonable to think. A high profile candidate under RCMP investigation would normally cause problems for said candidate. Particularly when they are a member of a "law and order" party who, you know, supposedly care a great deal about the law and its enforcement.

With respect to Couillard's mother's appointment being a patronage appointment, it appears that this is an effort by the Conservatives to get out in front of possible revelations in Couillard's book, scheduled for October 6th. They must be thinking it's best to get it out now and over with in the news cycle so that when the book comes out, they can say it's old news. Or something like that. Why else would Conservative officials be confirming such details in the midst of an election campaign?
Ms. Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, was appointed last year to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees. Conservative officials said yesterday the nomination process started in the office of Michael Fortier, the minister of public works at the time, and was initiated by Mr. Côté.

Yes, he had a relation with [Ms. Couillard], and months later, her mother's candidacy was submitted to the cabinet and approved,” a senior Conservative official said. “The c.v. ended up on Mr. Côté's desk, and it was processed.
Isn't that curiously forthcoming information from Conservative officials? Either it's my theory above, or the Globe had the information anyway and they had no choice but to confirm. Whatever the circumstances, the Conservatives will take a hit from this in Quebec at a time when a bunch of forces are coming together there to erode Conservative support. They rightly should take a hit, having run the campaign they did in 2006 with all their bogus blather on accountability and ethics. The hypocrisy is blatant.

This revelation about Cote and the patronage appointment for Couillard's mother also leads to further questions...if he did this, then what else might have been done, not just by Cote, but by Bernier as well with respect to the other leg of the RCMP investigation, the allegations of influence peddling with respect to the federal building project in Quebec City. This revelation, it seems to me, if it were intended to put out a fire in advance of Couillard's book, may lead to many more doubts about the Conservatives' integrity, particularly in Quebec. It could also dog Bernier and Michael Fortier on the campaign trail from here on in. And quite possibly one Peter Van Loan, who famously vouched for the appointment of Couillard's mother, repeatedly in the House of Commons:
“All government appointees are qualified, as is the case with Ms. Bellemare,” Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan said.
All in all, a terrible development for the Conservatives.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, how about that copyright issue, Conservatives?

This is what I believe the good folks in Conservative HQ are reading: a post the other night on their use of CTV footage in their "Gamble" ads. A refresher:
CBC and CTV said they do not license their material to political parties during campaigns.
Yet CTV material appears in the Conservative ads. So, is CTV licensing their footage to Conservatives despite their public position quoted above? Inquiring minds would like to know...

The Conservatives are clearly aware of the questions that have been raised. Now let's see if they do anything about it.

What do Sarah Palin and Dona Cadman have in common?

It's that thing called public accountability. (What did you think I was going to say...lipstick?) You know, talking to the media and such. Whatever has happened to our North American democracies that are supposed to be beacons of freedoms, yet where conservative directing minds are telling the public, no, you can't hear from your candidates. We're just going to shove them down your throats in a highly stage managed form of TV show. And when they do speak, it's a rare event we're all on tenterhooks for... we're left wondering when it will happen again. Other than the PM, and a few appearances by Kenney, Baird and Cannon in the national Conservative theatre, Conservative candidates are generally kept under wraps. I think it's high time to rebel against such techniques and vote accordingly.

Let's start here, with a comic introduction to the Harper campaign in a nutshell. A short but funny video on life in the bubble for Mr. Harper...:)

As introduced above, this is really an issue that deserves some scrutiny in this campaign. It's not just about political optics, the backroom stage management of campaigns. As the reports tell us, Mr. Harper is conducting his campaign in a bubble, guarded by RCMP who seem to now be majoring in media relations as well. There's a concerted effort to prevent interaction with Conservative candidates:
Rallies are off-limits for any member of the public who just shows up. Nobody gets in unless they have been pre-registered by the local riding association. Even local media are asked to sign up in advance.

Anyone wanting to attend an event featuring Harper has to have his or her name vetted by the RCMP, said a source at Conservative campaign headquarters, who would only talk on background yesterday. He said this rule applies even outside the campaign period, so no one – even a staffer not scheduled to be there – can show up unannounced at a Harper speech and expect to be let in.

The Harper campaign keeps a short leash on national and local media, limiting questions and access to local candidates, sometimes calling on RCMP security to block reporters from doing their jobs.
A blatant example of the unfriendly Conservatives in action, toward the media and public, occurred the other night in the Dona Cadman incident receiving more attention now:
Tensions peaked Tuesday night in Surrey, B.C., when Conservatives called on the RCMP to shield Harper and local candidate Dona Cadman after a partisan rally.

Cadman, a candidate in Surrey North, has been mum since alleging months ago that top party officials offered her dying husband, independent MP Chuck Cadman, a $1 million life-insurance policy if he would cast his vote to topple the former Paul Martin Liberal government in May 2005.

When reporters tried to speak to Cadman this week, Harper's staff ordered the RCMP to block journalists, and she was whisked away.

"Keep them out!" an aide shouted to the police officers.

Harper spokesperson Kory Teneycke said there was no need for the national media to interview local candidates. "Local candidates' priority is in the local ridings and not talking to the national media," he said.
See the Conservative response? In our democracy, this is all perfectly acceptable, the Conservative spokesthingy assures us. Candidates don't talk to the media. We subscribe to the Sarah Palin school of campaigns. Media? No, thank you.

The Conservative instinct to hide their people from the public...all of which can be summed up in that wonderful piece of art by my friend the Wingnuterer:

See Runesmith as well...we're on the same wavelength today...:)

Hammering the economic message

Yes, it's a very "weird" campaign. There is little in the way of issues that seem to be sticking to the Conservatives, despite their fulsome record of broken promises, incompetent Ministers, unaccountable demeanour, contemptible disrespect for the rule of law and yes, economic mismanagement. On the latter issue, Dion gave a good speech today focussing on Harper's vulnerabilities on the economic front, and there seems to have been some good coverage: "Dion: Harper takes 'same approach' as Bush on economy," "Harper an 'economic incompetent,' Dion charges," and in the Globe too. From the CBC report:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion on Thursday compared Stephen Harper's plan for the Canadian economy to the approach of U.S. President George W. Bush, saying the Conservative leader has "no vision" to deal with increasing global economic uncertainty.

Speaking to a business audience in Quebec City, Dion said Harper "cannot pretend" that Canada will not be affected by the current financial crisis gripping the United States, as the country's leaders debated a proposed $700-billion US bailout plan to rescue the largest banks from risky mortgage debt.

"This approach from the right saw nothing coming, was not equipped to get out of the crisis," Dion said of the embattled Bush administration.

"It’s just not working. It never worked, and it’s the same approach that is being proposed by Stephen Harper to Canadians in these difficult times."

Dion said Harper cannot hide from his "sad record" in handling Canada's economy and presiding over the slowest period of economic growth since the days of Brian Mulroney in 1991. He again accused Harper of squandering a $12-billion surplus and bringing the country to the brink of a deficit.

"He wants to escape this election without Canadians noticing how incompetent his government has been in managing the economy," the Liberal leader said. "Canadians have to ask themselves — do we really want more of this? Can Canadians afford more of this?"
The parallels between Harper and Bush are pretty obvious. The "decisive" leaders who believe in big spending on the military, who believe in gimmicky tax cuts that place their nations in deficit (GST cuts here, Bush tax cuts for the wealthy), who both rail against "elites" and who have a tenuous relationship with the rule of law. There are an abundance of unfavourable comparisons between Harper and Bush that Canadians get. The challenge from here on out is how to marshal the vote to stop Mr. Harper.

Did you note Harper's enlightened response today to the economic challenge?
Speaking in Victoria, B.C., Harper predicted more problems to emerge from the U.S. markets that he expected to continue over the next year and perhaps beyond.

"I think this will continue to be a slow and a tense and a somewhat difficult period," Harper told reporters, but reiterated his confidence the Canadian economy would weather the storm.

He again insisted Canadians have a choice in the Oct. 14 federal election between staying the course with the Conservatives' proven record and "going backward" with "new, wild or stupid" initiatives proposed by the Liberals.
"New, wild or stupid." Nice. Thanks for that bit of enlightened leadership, guy.

This acknowledgement of troubled times is a bit of a turnaround from Mr. "The Fundamentals are Strong," perhaps because he's been roundly mocked for that head in the sand and out of touch tone. Major figures are also warning of tough times ahead, Mark Carney the Bank of Canada Governor today, Merrill Lynch yesterday on the housing market, with news today of U.S. federal investigators targeting the Royal Bank adding to the picture(h/t liberal catnip):
Canada's largest bank is at the top of the list for enforcement agents at the Securities Exchange Commission who are pursuing financial institutions implicated in the collapse of the $330-billion auction-rate securities market, according to two federal officials.
What have Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper done to prepare the country for the coming turmoil? Reduced the GST, foolishly, saving most of us pennies here and there on our purchases but hamstringing the federal government to the tune of $60 billion in lost revenues in the next five years. And they've spent, by accounts of an organization that is typically Conservative friendly, $19 billion since the summer in order to essentially finance their re-election. Yet Harper continues to portray himself as the strong economic steward. Once more we have to ask, how does crippling the federal government's abilities help us going forward? How are such public steps earning this man credit as a strong economic leader?

They deserve to be turfed. Perhaps as the campaign comes more to the fore in voters' minds, the economic record of the Harper Conservatives will work against them. But who knows. There's a lot of weirdness going on...

A couple of Conservative geniuses for you

Sarah "I'll get back to you" Palin, making women everywhere look bad:

And Gerry Ritz, now being openly mocked by the national comedy scene:

Thanks to disco, my sometime contributor for the Palin video.

Give Gary Lunn the boot

The man who fired Linda Keen late one night on the eve of her testimony to a Commons committee is right up there at the top of the list of Conservatives who deserve to be fired by the voters. A Thursday Globe report canvasses the likelihood now of Lunn being toppled in the wake of the NDP candidate's departure from the race in his riding.

Mr. Lunn has been unpopular among some environmentally minded voters in this sprawling riding on the south east region of Vancouver Island, which includes suburban Saanich as well as the Gulf Islands – including Saltspring Island, home base for Briony Penn, the veteran environmentalist running for the Liberals.

Ms. Penn, a PhD holder in geography who has lectured at the University of Victoria, founded the Land Conservancy of B.C. and has been a director of the Raincoast Foundation.

“She is thought very highly of,” said Mr. Andrews. “She would have given Lunn a pretty good run in any case. But with the NDP not running, I expect she will do very well.”

Dennis Pilon, another political scientist at the university, thinks the math suggests Mr. Lunn is finished, noting that New Democrat voters are more likely to go Liberal than Tory.

He says progressive voters are going to see current events as a chance to defeat Mr. Lunn. “What we may see here is a real sense of ‘A-ha. We can defeat Lunn,'” he said.
A-ha! Here's a reminder of why it would be good to defeat the Minister who arguably should have resigned for his handling of the Chalk River shutdown and his attempting to influence the independent nuclear regulator:

To be creative is "ordinary"

Mr. Harper's awoken a giant. Make sure you read Margaret Atwood in the Globe today. What a beautiful, powerful piece that is. She puts Stephen Harper to shame for what he said the other day. You will not believe it, it's so freaking amazing. Just one brief excerpt:
Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily.
In addition - and I almost feel very small in writing about this after having read the Atwood piece - there's a timely contrast to the short-sighted approach being taken by Harper in using arts funding as a political wedge issue, set out in a NY Times article today, "Tax Credits Bring More TV Shows to New York City." A few details to demonstrate how the Americans are presently taking the opposite track to the Harper government by encouraging arts smart public policy that benefits local economies:
...thanks to tax discounts recently instituted by New York City and New York State, the show is now being filmed in New York, at sound stages in Long Island City and locations throughout the five boroughs.

“Ugly Betty” was not the only series to take notice of these incentives. The city expects 19 prime-time television series (up from 12 last year) to be produced in New York for the 2008-9 season, according to the mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. They include NBC’s “30 Rock,” whose creator and star, Tina Fey, gave thanks in an Emmy acceptance speech on Sunday night to the New York tax discounts that made it viable to shoot in New York; Fox’s “Fringe” which, without the tax breaks, would have been shot in Toronto; HBO’s “In Treatment,” another recent transplant from Los Angeles; as well as forthcoming pilots on ABC, Showtime and USA.

The tax incentives have also been a financial boon to the city: the mayor’s office estimated that city-based shoots contributed $957 million in spending between April 23 and Sept. 23 of this year, an increase from $452 million during the same period last year. (emphasis added)
Further, state level efforts are also being made in and around New York to entice film and television production:
Around the same time, the city and state of New York were initiating measures to encourage more film and television shoots. In September 2004, George E. Pataki, then the governor, signed into law a program offering a 10 percent tax credit to companies shooting 75 percent of their productions in the state; in January 2005, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg approved a companion program that provided an additional 5 percent tax credit to productions in the city.

In April, after neighboring states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut created similar programs, offering tax credits as high as 25 or 30 percent, Gov. David A. Paterson signed a law increasing the New York State credit to 30 percent. New York City added free outdoor marketing, on the sides of buses, for example, and discounts with nearby vendors. More studio space was built in Brooklyn and Queens.
These governments are clearly taking these steps because they believe it's a valuable industry to be encouraging within their jurisdictions. It's a jarring contrast to the approach presently being witnessed here where the Prime Minister is choosing to gratuitously incite resentment against the arts community rather than demonstrating support. Where the Prime Minister chooses to reduce current arts spending by axing programmes without consultation and not even hinting that there's anything in the pipeline to replace such programmes. It's also ironic that American jurisdictions are going out of their way to foster such funding when they are typically viewed as having more of a free market ethos than we are and we're the ones, through these cuts, telling the arts community to sink or swim on their own.

Give John Baird the boot

One more example of the strategic voting advice from VoteForEnvironment.ca regarding John Baird's riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, just for fun tonight:

Wouldn't that be fun...:)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An environmental strategic voting website

Vote for Environment is a new site being publicized today that looks to be a handy reference for those seeking to ensure Conservatives are not re-elected and who are concerned about the Harper government's abdication of environmental responsibility. Mr. Harper is concerned about such efforts and is actively trying to stamp out such possibilities today. It's bad news for him.

The graphic on the front page gives the site's view on what numbers we might end up with if voting were undertaken strategically and if it were not:

There's a very handy riding by riding analysis that gives the breakdowns from the last election and gives a quick, candid synopsis of options. For example, here's my riding (click to enlarge):

And here's Burlington, a swing GTA riding, for another sample of advice:

Strategic voting calls will be heard from here on in. All parties need to get used to it.

This is a useful reference site for anyone interested in strategic voting and the environment in particular. Spread the word.

Deficit Jim admits the Harper Conservatives have wildly overspent

Jim Flaherty admits that Conservative spending has been beyond what they promised:
Canada's government must control the rate of spending growth if it is to keep within its expenditure targets, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday.

Flaherty's Conservative government concedes it has not managed to keep a promise to keep the rate of spending growth at the same level, or lower, than the rate of growth of nominal gross domestic product.

Critics estimate that government spending has increased by between 14 percent and 16 percent since the Conservatives gained power in January 2006.
There you go, "prudent" fiscal managers who overspend. And for good measure, Flaherty continues the attack on Ontario:
Daniel Goldbloom: Now another question from Ontario — I’ll admit that this one comes from me and not from a reader. You’re on record as saying Ontario is the last place to invest in Canada, because of their taxation. Now my question is where in Canada is the second last place to invest?

Jim Flaherty: I thank you for saying ‘because of taxation’ because that’s actually what I said, that if a business person looks at tax, the tax burden in Canada, that the least competitive place is here in the province of Ontario. They need to fix that — that’s harmonization of provincial sales tax with the GST and also reducing their business tax rates as most of the rest of the country is doing.

So the government of Ontario needs to get with that program. I’d have to think of my corporate tax rates, give me a moment her to think, it must be ... certainly not Alberta. I’d have to check that, it wouldn’t be fair for me to guess at which province. It would be a non-harmonized province because ... I’d have to check to make sure I’m accurate about which one. One of the non-harmonized ones. (emphasis added)
I assume Flaherty will be getting back to us on the other province he meant to condemn here...

Mr. Harper's food safety albatross

And it's not just Gerry Ritz I'm talking about. The albatross around Mr. Harper's neck is his own government food safety policy, enacted under his watch that he and his Agriculture Minister are accountable for putting in place. Mr. Ritz, his Agriculture Minister, oversaw changes to food safety inspection that saw meat inspectors effectively removed from plant floors and moved into offices doing paperwork. The cutback in inspections occurred in the Maple Leaf plant that was at ground zero of the listeriosis outbreak. These changes were put in place in late 2007 and into early 2008. These changes fall squarely on the shoulders of the Harper government. And all indications are that they want to proceed, head on, charging in the direction of deregulation. They plan to cut meat inspection in the western provinces. What does that have to do with anything that occurred in 2005, Mr. Harper? How is this wise in light of what has happened?

When it came to light that they had essentially farmed out food inspection to industry, the Conservative instinct to hide and cover their political butts kicked into high gear. The policy changes would not be disclosed to Parliament as they had to be massaged via a p.r. campaign as the Conservatives knew they would suffer political fallout for having moved in this questionable direction: "...a public announcement "has been deferred owing to significant communications risks," according to the confidential Treasury Board document."

Minister Ritz, for his part, tried to deny that his policies applied at all to meat inspection plants and said that they just applied to slaughter houses, as if that was somehow better. That was misleading. Minister Ritz also tried to deny that his changes had affected meat inspection activities, claiming that inspectors were spending half their time on the floor of processing plants. That was misleading and he was corrected by a host of meat inspectors for having said so. The Conservative handling of the outbreak was so bungled that government scientists and food inspectors have publicly called for the Minister of Agriculture's resignation. Hello?

The claims that new inspectors have been hired and more money has been put into the food safety stream, that Harper continues to peddle today, continue to be irrelevant to the major outbreak that has occurred. The listeriosis outbreak occurred under Harper's alleged improvements. There is no evidence of any increased inspection, in fact it's the opposite. The Harper government plans to fully cut back on meat inspection in the western provinces. Yet Mr. Harper's instinct, once again, is to point and say looky over there, but, but, but...the Liberals. Look away, look away, just don't look anywhere near my own record. The leadership qualities of the man continue to be on full display for the Canadian public.

Of course this review needed to be acted upon. And we can see exactly what Mr. Harper's government did in response to this report in 2005 that would have met his incoming government. That's the issue before the voting public today. Do we want more of Mr. Harper's deregulation on food safety? Or do we want to ensure proper inspection and get back on the right track? It's as simple as that.

On the lighter side...

I had no idea this blogger was so athletically inclined...heh...:)

Speak out against Harper's arts cuts

"Culture en peril" has 420,000 plus hits now on YouTube. The Prime Minister's response to such a grass roots showing? To put his finger in the eye of such support. To attack artists, workers and others in the arts community as "rich" gala people and incite "ordinary people" against them.

Well, watch it again. The more the hits are run up on such videos, the more the issue will be discussed and the more it will elicit the real Harper.

Food safety in the news again

I will be posting on this Star/CBC report later...in the meantime it'll be interesting to see who comments on this today.

The Globe calls out Mr. Harper's anti-democratic abuse of the confidence vote

"Not everything in government is a confidence matter," is a Globe editorial that needs to be read widely and could not come at a better time. The 43 confidence votes that Mr. Harper has wielded over the opposition are an abuse of the mandate he received as a Prime Minister in a minority government. Mr. Harper should be held to account for this unprecedented thumbing of his nose at the Canadian public for doing so. Where have the media been, however? Where have the voices in our democracy been to speak out about the offensive 43 confidence votes? It's been viewed as a sport, if you will, to simply point at Mr. Dion and ignore the unspoken elephant in the room, Mr. Harper's conduct as Prime Minister.

In the wake of Mr. Harper's mutterings this week and his Justice Minister's threatening more confidence votes immediately upon their return, this editorial conveys an understanding of the damage Mr. Harper is inflicting and seeks to continue to inflict upon our parliamentary democracy:
Most public opinion polls taken in the months leading up to this federal election campaign suggested that another minority government for Stephen Harper's Conservatives was very likely. Mr. Harper was well aware of this, when he asked Governor-General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament; indeed he predicted another minority on the campaign's first day. Now, however, he is acting as though he would in effect refuse to accept that result.

For the second time in two days, Mr. Harper announced yesterday that his party would reintroduce anti-crime legislation that the previous Parliament did not pass – and that, if the opposition stood in the way, he would be ready to force another election over it. His aides indicated that the bills would be put to the opposition as take-it-or-leave-it propositions.

This is not how a minority government should work. Confidence votes are to be limited to money bills and measures at the core of the government's agenda – not routinely invoked by a prime minister whenever he wishes to put pressure on other parties to support less important bills. If Canadians elect the Conservatives with another minority, they will be explicitly saying that they have not entrusted them with full power over the legislative agenda – that they expect them to try to work with the other parties.

It is easy to understand why Mr. Harper does not believe he would need to make that effort. If they remain in opposition, the Liberals will likely begin another costly and all-consuming leadership campaign. In the midst of it, they will be in no shape to enter yet another general election campaign.

That does not mean, however, that the Liberals and other opposition parties should be unable to call Mr. Harper's bluff. If they have deep-seated objections to an anti-crime initiative, or any other bill, then they should vote against it. Mr. Harper should not put the Governor-General in the highly controversial constitutional position of having to think about declining a request to call another election in the near future and inviting the opposition government to form a government.

This campaign is a consequence of what Mr. Harper interpreted as political stalemate. He cannot keep creating dubious scenarios until he gets the result he wants. (emphasis added)
And that, in its entirety, is worthy of agreement.

I cannot tell you how heartening this editorial was to read. The time is long overdue that Mr. Harper's free pass for his disrespect of our democracy be revoked.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gary Lunn is now naked too

Isn't it amazing the way stories can coalesce? Linda Keen back in the news with word that she's resigning from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission mingles with the fallout from the withdrawal of Julian West, NDP candidate in Lunn's riding:
...the NDP will have no candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. This is a boon to the Liberal candidate, Briony Penn, and a major blow to the Conservative, Gary Lunn. With no NDP option to split the left, Penn must push loose fish NDP voters to join her and defeat Lunn, rather than bleed to the Greens. The Liberals winning that seat looks much more likely today than yesterday.
Results in 2006:

If that vote does go toward the Liberal, Mr. Lunn may get the just desserts coming to him for the firing of Linda Keen. That would be so terribly satisfying. Or, I suppose the Liberals and the Greens can split the opposing vote 50-50 and re-elect Lunn. That's always an option.

Another possible loss of a cabinet minister for Team Harper...they're falling off like snowflakes.

Where in the world is Gerry Ritz?

Harper may not have fired him, but he's certainly keeping his distance:
Stephen Harper has not lost a cabinet minister in this election campaign, but he can't find Gerry Ritz.

Mr. Harper is campaigning in Saskatoon today, and introduced his candidates from the area. But Mr. Ritz, his Saskatchewan minister and MP for the Battlefords--Lloydminister riding west of Saskatoon, did not attend.

Mr. Ritz, the agriculture minister, apologized last week for making tasteless jokes about the victims of the tainted-meat listeriosis crisis.

Mr. Harper said he didn't know where he is today.

“I presume Mr. Ritz is on the campaign trail, but I don't know where all of our candidates are today,” Mr. Harper told reporters.
Really, Mr. Harper? Seems to me that Ritz is exactly where Mr. Harper wants him to be. As far from the Conservative campaign as possible.