Friday, February 29, 2008

More Cadman

For what it's worth, as some publicly muse about bringing down the government over the Cadman case, I think those audiotapes of Harper speaking about the offer to Cadman would make fine components of campaign commercials. They demonstrate, in the PM's own voice, in tone and substance, what kind of PM the Conservatives have on their hands and are offering to the people of Canada. Even if you disregard everything else going on here, Dona Cadman, Jodi Cadman, the questioning of whether a $1 million insurance policy would have been possible and the denials of Flanagan and Finley...you still are left with the PM, on tape, saying "make that case but don't press it." That seems to me to be the lynch pin, right there.

I am also wondering this afternoon as to whether the $1 million offer was made indeed two days before the vote, on the 17th, by other Conservative representatives beyond the Flanagan and Finley effort on the 19th. The Conservatives seem to be speaking about that meeting as if it were the only meeting, trying to confine inquiries to Flanagan and Finley's role and with coverage now citing their impeccable credentials. But we know however, that the book reports on a meeting two days before the budget vote. I noted this conflict and the sources reporting it yesterday. The Globe report today includes an audio interview with Chuck Cadman conducted on June 12, 2005, well after the budget vote. Cadman does indeed state that there were "offers," plural, made. Contradicting the news report from the night of May 19, 2005 that the Conservatives have cherry-picked and massaged as the definitive Cadman statement on there being no offers.

The Globe report beyond the Cadman audio also leaves open the possibility that there were indeed two meetings that occurred with other unnamed officials attending the first one on the 17th:

In his book, Harper's Team, Mr. Flanagan said he and Mr. Finley made a final desperate effort to persuade Mr. Cadman to return to the caucus just hours before the May 19 vote.

The meeting was set up by former MP and party senior statesman John Reynolds and the current Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn.

In his book, Mr. Flanagan says that Mr. Finley couldn't get through to Mr. Cadman earlier in the day, so Mr. Reynolds called Mr. Lunn, who set up a 15-minute get-together between Mr. Flanagan, Mr. Finley and Mr. Cadman. Mr. Flanagan makes no mention of any other meeting between Mr. Cadman and party officials. He does, however, allude to other efforts to get Mr. Cadman onside.

"Doug Finley wanted to make one last attempt to persuade Cadman to rejoin the Conservative caucus, but Chuck was very sick with skin cancer - he would be dead in two months - and wasn't answering his phone."

A final desperate effort. One last attempt. Suggesting that there had been others. And if there were, we can probably be guided by the names mentioned in Flanagan's book.

Powerful stuff versus hardball stuff

More today on Chuck Cadman's daughter, Jodi, backing up her mother's evidence that the $1 million life insurance policy was offered to Cadman by Conservatives:
Vancouver–Independent MP Chuck Cadman confided on his deathbed to his daughter days after the 2005 budget vote that he had been offered an insurance policy for a million dollars by the Conservatives.

Jodi Cadman said this morning she burst into tears when her father revealed that news to her.

"My first reaction was I was hurt, very hurt and I started crying," she said in an interview. "If there was an Achilles heel for him, it was complete selflessness. It would have benefited myself and my mom."
A deathbed confidence disclosed to his daughter. That's very powerful context that further supports the veracity of the Cadman information. Deathbed confidences are widely viewed as solidly credible.

The CBC report today has this additional context:
The daughter of Chuck Cadman has backed up her mother's story that the Conservatives offered the Independent MP a bribe of a million-dollar life insurance policy to vote against the Liberals in May 2005 and bring the government down.

Cadman's daughter, Jodi Cadman, told CBC News that her father, a B.C. member of Parliament who was battling cancer at the time, discussed the offer with her and her mother because he couldn't talk about it publicly. Cadman died in July 2005.

"He just said, 'I have something to tell you,' and he told me that he was offered a life insurance policy, that my mom and myself would be taken care of," Jodi Cadman said.

"When he told me, actually I have to admit, I burst into tears because the position he was put in," she said.

"To turn down the thought that my mom and me would maybe be taken care of financially at a time when there was no gain for himself broke my heart that he was put in that position." (emphasis added)
That highlighted part suggests that he felt guilty at having passed up such an offer, knowing what it could have done for his family, but also knowing he couldn't have accepted it. The confessional aspect of this information is striking.

To have Conservatives out there, by contrast, publicly attacking the Cadmans story, you've got to wonder what they are thinking. This family reeks of integrity through and through.

And now there's word (h/t Far N Wide) that the Conservatives are attacking the quality of the Harper audiotapes in which he admits to having known about the financial offers and sanctioning them. Via Bob Fife at CTV, natch. To which I say, no freaking kidding. The Harper audio speaks for itself. His fulsome responses to Zytaruk, on tape, indicate he knew very much about the machinations going on at the time. That's his thing, remember. Stephen Harper knows everything going on at all times in his party. No wonder they're so concerned about the audiotape.

The holy roller set crowing over the Harper government film censorship plans

This is the kind of stuff that you can't keep a lid on forever. Sandra Buckler's worst nightmare. Well, one of them. The other is exploding all over the news these days in the form of the Cadman allegations. Here's the kicker today:
A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," he said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign.

"There are a number of Conservative backbench members that do a lot of this work behind the scenes," he said.
Too bad this McVety guy isn't an MP that they can stifle into silence, hey? Lettin' the cat out of the bag like this is a bit of a problem for the message control freaks up there that he's dealing with. But thank you, sir, for your candour. Agenda exposed. Please don't hesitate to alert the Canadian public to all of your successful work with the Conservative government from here on out.

And hey, don't you just love hearing that term "conservative values?"
My word...:)

Fiction? Or stuff you couldn't dream up if you tried

Good question, Mr. Reynolds:
John Reynolds, a former Conservative MP from B.C., said the story seems fishy.

"Sounds to me like some kind of fiction story," he said. "How do you get a million dollar policy for a guy who's dying? I mean, who's going to write that policy?"
Another leading Conservative attacking Chuck Cadman's widow, who happens to be a Conservative candidate in B.C.

You know, just because it appears "fishy" to think that someone could actually get a million dollar policy for someone terminally ill does not mean that such a policy couldn't be passed off as attainable and offered up in a meeting. Those being desperate times for the Conservatives and all...

That $1 million insurance policy

Reading the many posts on the Cadman affair, it struck me that Accidental Deliberations was on to something in wondering why the Conservatives aren't framing their defence right now in terms of welcoming back Cadman into the Conservative fold with all the attendant benefits. Wondering why they're not emphasizing the insurance benefit as simply part of an MP's package, obtained as a result of group coverage buying power, risky as that insurance would have been. Good point, I thought.

I don't know anything about MP's insurance entitlements. There seems to be some thinking that Cadman was concerned about losing his insurance if the government were defeated. He wanted to die as a sitting MP, for insurance purposes. I'm curious about this and what the story is for MP's coverage.

Dominic LeBlanc, however, in his media appearance today (h/t Une femme verte for the video, and cyberwanderer), clearly spoke as if the $1 million is not normal. Making the point that it would require a significant premium to get such insurance for the terminally ill Cadman. MP Pat Martin also made that point. Further, Garth Turner, a long time MP, also writing about the matter treats the insurance policy as out of the ordinary. Having been a Conservative MP, he would know if a $1 million insurance were part of the standard Conservative MP package or whether it could be made a part of it. He offers no such clarifications. Having heard from these three MP's today, and the very outrage at large that it has produced, including the call now for the RCMP to investigate, it's pretty clear that the $1 million insurance offer was indeed out of the ordinary, as it has struck people since the story arose last night. Making an argument that the policy was simply part and parcel of being a Conservative MP welcomed back into the fold not credible.

And besides, beyond getting caught up in solely the insurance aspect, Mr. Harper acknowledges in his taped interview with author Zytaruk that he knew of "financial considerations" being discussed with Cadman by his two top aides. And that's a no-no.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The magic of audiotape

Keith Boag, in his report tonight, played the audiotape of Harper speaking to the author of the new Cadman book. The part in which Harper said "make the case," regarding the offer to Cadman, was played. The Globe also has details about the tape tonight and highlights the problem for Harper:
The voice on the scratchy tape is unmistakably Stephen Harper's.

It was as unmistakable as his concern that the tape's contents might one day be made public. Mr. Harper interrupted a B.C. reporter in 2005 when asked about allegations his party had offered financial enticements to a dying MP to win his support on a critical vote.

“This is not for publication?” Mr. Harper asked Tom Zytaruk.

He was told that the interview was intended as fodder for a biography of Chuck Cadman, the late MP from Surrey, B.C.

But the ensuing two minutes, 21 seconds of audio raise questions about apparent discrepancies between what the Prime Minister said Thursday and what Mr. Harper himself said on the tinny tape more than two years ago.

The Prime Minister said Thursday he looked into claims Mr. Cadman was offered financial considerations and determined they were untrue.

The tape suggests Mr. Harper was not only aware of a financial offer to Mr. Cadman, but that he gave it the go-ahead, while urging party emissaries not to “press” Mr. Cadman too hard. (emphasis added)
Exactly. This seems to me to be the heart of the matter. Even if Harper was not in the room to witness or make an offer to Cadman, it raises the distinct possibility that he nevertheless sanctioned the offer. Making such an offer, even if done indirectly, is an offence under s. 119 of the Criminal Code. They were playing with fire and if this true, they appear to have been burned.

What's even more striking, in the Globe report, that appears to be based on a listening of the tapes, is that in the face of such an unethical and potentially illegal move, Harper did not say don't do it. His judgment is on clear, documented display.

Chuck Cadman's daughter was also in Keith Boag's report, substantiating that Chuck Cadman told her as well about the $1 million life insurance offer.

So we have Dona Cadman, Jodi Cadman and Harper himself providing evidence here. How will Harper reconcile his recorded statements to the author which indicate a depth of knowledge of the offer versus his present position, that he just learned of the offer upon being questioned by Dona Cadman and Tom Zytaruk? And that he later investigated as a result. He investigated two of his top aides and couldn't get "confirmation" from them? It doesn't make sense. He can't disavow his own recorded words.

The Harper track record on financial offers to candidates

Here:
The federal Conservative party has quietly settled a lawsuit with a former candidate who had accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of libel.

Lawyer Alan Riddell, who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the 2004 federal election, launched the libel suit against Harper and party president Don Plett after he was dumped as a candidate the following year.

Mr. Riddell claimed he was promised $50,000 by the party to cover his expenses if he stepped aside to make room for a new, high-profile Tory candidate in his Ottawa riding; the party claimed Mr. Riddell was disqualified.

Mr. Harper, prior to becoming prime minister, flatly declared there was no deal between the Conservatives and Mr. Riddell — but courts subsequently ruled there was indeed an agreement.

The party released a single-line statement on the weekend saying they had “mutually settled all legal proceedings.”

No details were provided by the party or by Mr. Riddell. (emphasis added)
And here. Context for the current conversation to inform people's judgments as to whether or not they should believe Mr. Harper on such matters.

"Make the case but I said 'Don't press it'"

Question Period today was pretty intense, to make an incredible understatement about the emotions running through the place. Stephane Dion was outraged at the Cadman allegations, understandably. This is serious stuff and it potentially ensnares the Prime Minister. Note what Paul Szabo suggested today:
If the elements of the book are true, the Conservatives' actions may amount to a criminal offence. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it's illegal to bribe an MP.

As well, Szabo said that if a sitting MP is found to be directly or indirectly involved in trying to influence another MP's activities, they could lose their seat and be prohibited from running in a future election for five years.
I think we all know who the sitting MP in question is.

On Harper's statements made to the author of the new book, it's early, but I have yet to hear anyone ask the PM whether his quotes in the book, as related in the Globe report are true. And I note that the Globe report last night indicated that the author has tapes of Harper's statements. If that is the case, those tapes need to be obtained by the RCMP. Especially because Harper seems to be now pretending that the first he heard of the matter was from Dona Cadman and the author of the book. Yet Harper's statements to the author indicate his depth of knowledge of the effort to influence Cadman, in advance of any questions being asked of him by Dona Cadman or this author. Again, the Globe report:
After Mr. Cadman's death, Mr. Zytaruk heard that Mr. Harper, who was then leader of the opposition, was paying a personal visit to the Cadman residence. Mr. Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper in the driveway.

“Of the offer to Chuck,” he quotes Mr. Harper as saying, “it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, OK. That's my understanding of what they were talking about.

“I don't know the details,” he said. “I can tell you that I had told the individuals - I mean, they wanted to do it - but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind he was going to vote with the Liberals. I knew why, and I respected the decision, but they were just, they were convinced there was, there was financial issues and, there may or may not.

“They were legitimately representing the party,” Mr. Harper confirmed. “I said ‘Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you say make the case,' but I said ‘Don't press it.'” (emphasis added)
Apparently Mssrs. Flanagan and Finley have fessed up today that they were the emissaries on behalf of the Conservative party, taking the allegations to the highest echelons of the Conservative party.
In a statement issued Thursday, Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan said they met with Cadman on the day of the vote to talk about his possible move to the Conservative fold.

"We offered ways that we — as campaign officials — could help Mr. Cadman in the Conservative nomination process, and if successful, wage a competitive campaign in a general election," the statement says.

Cadman, they said, confirmed later that evening that their "offer of campaign assistance" was the only offer presented.
There's some uncertainty now about the timing of this meeting. Flanagan and Finley say they met with Cadman on the day of the vote. The book reports this:

In his book, Vancouver journalist Tom Zytaruk writes that Chuck Cadman was visited by two Conservative party representatives in his office two days before the crucial vote and presented with a list of enticements to side with that party.

The two representatives are not named in the book.

The Conservatives seem to be using this uncertainty to undercut the book. Expect much more of that. When the meeting took place is less important than the content of the meeting, however. But it doesn't help that there is a conflict about the dates. That needs to be clarified.

But what's galling about the Flanagan/Finley statement and the Conservative line of defence in the House today is of course the opportunistic use of the words of the deceased Chuck Cadman himself to exonerate their position.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday there is "absolutely no truth" in allegations his party tried to bribe an Independent MP in a crucial vote three years ago.

Harper was on the hotseat during question period, as Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion decried the alleged offer to the late Chuck Cadman as "immoral and illegal."

"Now we learn that the Conservative party tried to bribe him and the prime minister was aware of it, but Mr. Cadman could not be bought," Dion said. "What was the prime minister thinking?"

Harper responded by saying Cadman himself said on the night of the May 19, 2005, vote that he had only discussed nomination meetings with Conservative officials. The vote would determine whether the Liberal government of the day stayed in power.

"There is absolutely no truth in it," the prime minister said of the allegations. "I wish everyone would accept his word."
They repeated that ad nauseam in the House today. Using a dead man as a shield. Perhaps Mr. Cadman, in his state of health, didn't want to associate himself publicly with the offer at the time. I'm sure he had his priorities. Yet the Conservatives still have a problem in that his widow is quite clear on the offer of the $1 million life insurance policy. And the use of Cadman's words still does nothing to answer why Harper had such exhaustive information to relay to the author of the book when questioned. Harper's contradicting himself.

A letter's been sent to the RCMP now requesting a police investigation as there properly should be. What a mess this thing is.

Is the Cadman story a game changer?

This quote in the Globe report on the offer of $1 million in life insurance to then MP Chuck Cadman may be quite a problem for the PM:
After Mr. Cadman's death, Mr. Zytaruk heard that Mr. Harper, who was then leader of the opposition, was paying a personal visit to the Cadman residence. Mr. Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper in the driveway.

"Of the offer to Chuck," he quotes Mr. Harper as saying, "it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, OK. That's my understanding of what they were talking about.

"I don't know the details," he said. "I can tell you that I had told the individuals - I mean, they wanted to do it - but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind he was going to vote with the Liberals. I knew why, and I respected the decision, but they were just, they were convinced there was, there was financial issues and, there may or may not.

"They were legitimately representing the party," Mr. Harper confirmed. "I said 'Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you say make the case,' but I said 'Don't press it.' " (emphasis added)
Make the case but don't press it.

In my post last night, I suggested that s. 119(1)(b) of the Criminal Code may be the operative legal provision in play here. I don't know for sure, there may be other statutes in play as well. But Harper's words, which the author of the book apparently has on tape, appear to bring Mr. Harper directly into involvement in this matter. His words suggest that he knows the persons who made the offer. His words suggest that he authorized the making of the offer.

Ms. Buckler is spinning for all her might as a result of this story's emergence and provided the following statement yesterday:
Yesterday, Ms. Buckler of the PMO wrote in an e-mail that "On Sept. 9, 2005, the then Leader of the Opposition visited Dona Cadman at her residence. During that visit, Dona asked him about this story. Subsequently, on the same day, a local reporter/author Tom Zytaruk asked him about Dona's same story. The then Leader of the Opposition looked into the matter with party officials and could find no confirmation. And that is the last time he heard anything regarding this matter."
Why would he have to investigate something of which he apparently had direct knowledge given his own words? He wouldn't. And note the phrasing, the "then Leader of the Opposition" to deflect from his current office. Recall when Harper announced the Mulroney inquiry and stated that the allegations went directly to the integrity of the office, requiring he act. I hear an echo in this story.

If the Prime Minister is implicated in a criminal offence, there could not be a more clear case for an election. Character and fitness for the office would be the grounds for the defeat of the government.

No sex please, we're Conservatives

The 1950's Harper gang are outrageously getting their censorship pens out. Details here.
The Conservative government has drafted guidelines that would allow it to pull financial aid for any film or television show that it deems offensive or not in the public's best interest - even if government agencies have invested in them.

The proposed changes to the Income Tax Act would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to projects deemed offensive, effectively killing the productions. Representatives from Heritage and the Department of Justice will determine which shows or films pass the test.

Game and talk shows, news, sports, reality television and pornography are already excluded from access to the tax credits. The proposed prohibition would cover a sweeping range of material, such as anything of an explicit sexual nature, that denigrates a group or is excessively violent without an educational value.
...
Robert Soucy, director of the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office, the branch of Heritage that determines certification for productions, said last fall that Ottawa wants to be more selective about the cultural products it helps to fund.

The government provides refundable tax credits to productions that are certified as having Canadian content. Producers shoot the film or TV show, finish post-production, pay their bills and then file a corporate tax return. The tax credit is included in the production company's tax refund.

Mr. Soucy said that a panel set up by CAVCO and the Department of Justice would review content. CAVCO would have the final say based on the panel's recommendations.

He hinted then that the government was considering a "public policy" criterion for tax credit certification and a definition of what would be "contrary to public policy" that would make a production ineligible for film and TV tax incentives, as well as funds directed to sound recording and book publishing.
This is going to be a major clusterf*%#, count on it. Possibly gutting a big chunk of Canadian productions that might not meet the new, still undefined, morality police standards and creating a ton of uncertatinty. Not to mention that this system is going to be ripe for legal challenges on the grounds of free speech violations. %!*#su#@ers.

Let's hope we're not going to have to wait too long to defeat these reactionaries. The Cadman story may change those calculations in any event.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Call in the RCMP

Someone's in beeg trouble:
The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.
...
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were "legitimately" representing the Conservative Party. But he says any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray any losses he might suffer due to an election.
I suggest section 119(1)(b) of the Criminal Code as a starting place for the legal authorities to commence their investigation:

Note the wording of sub-section (b). Directly or indirectly.

Don't mess with the war widows

My oh my, lying to war widows. Harpie never learns:
Only a fraction of Canada's elderly war widows will be eligible for a new $2,400 home-care program announced in the federal budget.

Opposition critics and a surviving spouse were quick to condemn the move after reading the fine print Wednesday of the $282-million extension of the Veterans Independence Program.
Harper's special role in failing to deliver on his promises:
While still in opposition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed the party's pledge in writing to the widow of a Nova Scotia veteran.

In a letter dated June 28, 2005, Harper said: "A Conservative government would immediately extend the Veterans Independence Program services to widows of all Second World War and Korean War veterans - regardless of when the veteran passed away or how long they had been receiving the benefit prior to passing away."

Frustrated with no action by last spring, Joyce Carter brought her complaints to Ottawa, where she confronted Harper in the foyer of the House of Commons.

In a private meeting last June, Harper told Carter that the promise would be fulfilled in the next budget, which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled Tuesday.
Oops:
Background documents show the new program will be restricted to low-income and disabled widows. A government official, speaking on background late Tuesday, said the extension would help about 12,000 individuals - far below the estimated 150,000 widows that Veterans Affairs bureaucrats estimated would eligible under the Conservative promise.

"He promised to give it to all the veterans' widows," Carter said in an interview from her home in Sampsonville, N.S.

"That would mean each and every one of the veterans widows should be receiving this (veterans independence program) in this budget. He lied to me again. He did not keep his promise and I'm outraged."
Sing it, sister! Line it up with all the failed promises from Mr. Harper. Thankfully, ambulance chaser McTeague is on the case holding them to account...

No gnashing of teeth over here

I guess I'm out on a limb today, hanging on. Because I find the self-inflicted despair in the blogosphere and amongst talking heads to be perfectly alien. I will proudly vote Liberal in the next election. And guess what? I'm not even a member of the party. In fact, for the first time in my life I will be donating to them as well and have already started. The Harper government represents a right wing ideological force the likes of which we have not seen in this country to date. Their actions bespeak this. There are the Ken Epps of the Conservative world who want to intrude upon women's rights, the Ian Brodies of the Conservative world who want to politicize the judicial system and defang legal advocacy groups across the country. And of course, there is their small-minded leader, Mr. Harper, who will be unrestrained should he obtain a majority. I say absolutely not to that. So yes, Liberal it is, Liberal it will remain for me.

And in this little corner of the blogosphere, we will continue to criticize and take this government to task for all the wrong they are doing. The opposition will continue to do that as well. Voting on confidence matters is not all that the work on Parliament hill is about. There is committee work and public questioning of the government. That's not affected by the unique circumstance a strapped Liberal party currently finds itself in which has yes, forced it to sit on its hands on voting days. They prefer that to suicide at the present time and I accept that.

And when there is an election, everything of consequence that the Harper Conservatives have done to the country will be laid out, chapter and verse. Until then, call me a cock-eyed optimist. We live in one of the most privileged societies on earth and it's worth protecting from the likes of Stephen Harper.

I'll eat my computer if he ever gets a majority...:)

Will the Siegelman case get the white whale?



Developments in the Siegelman case today...here's Rove manoeuvred into holding up a "Free Don Siegelman" banner at an event...:) Brilliant. More here on that incident.

And the New York Times editorial page calls attention to the "technical difficulties" experienced by the CBS affiliate in Alabama which saw the 60 Minutes Siegelman segment blacked out to a chunk of Alabama.

Scott Horton writes today about the alternate reality of the Birmingham News, highlighting the use of such media by Republicans to attack any challenges to the Siegelman prosecution. Republican friendly Alabama media have done their best to characterize the focus on the Siegelman case as Democratic driven, despite the leading role played by Republicans such as the whistleblower, Jill Simpson, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a leading McCain supporter.

This is getting interesting...

No election for now...but Conservatives still providing plenty of fodder

So, yesterday we saw a caretaker budget from Jim Flaherty and the Harper Conservatives designed to provoke no one and hang on to the reins of power. By all accounts, this was a caretaker budget. A budget designed to do what they could with the stripped bare cupboard they've created.

Dave at the Galloping Beaver has referred us to this blogger, who points out that Flaherty has already put us into a deficit situation in October. Flaherty's track record suggests he will continue to lead us in that direction, right Mr. Rae?
"It's the Harris/Flaherty cuts that slashed income supports, cut vital programs and cancelled subways. And guess what? They even managed a $5.6 billion deficit when growth was good and unemployment was down as their going-away present to the people of Ontario," Rae said of the provincial government of Mike Harris, with Flaherty as provincial finance minister.
Now should the Liberals have raged against this budget in order to provoke an election that would likely produce similar results to the existing parliament? Hard to say. I've been inclined to say no, not at this point. Let's not take a knife to the gun fight. Let's at least put an election call on more friendly footing, at the opposition's initiative, not Mr. Harper's. I think yesterday leaves me with the same feeling. That the Conservatives are not taking off in the polls, and are not likely to, despite any minor bounce they might receive from this lacklustre budgetary effort. It is painful living with the brutish Harper government. Yet I can't see the merit in defeating them when it's not viewed to be a winnable proposition. And despite all the Dion bashing that surrounds days like yesterday from Conservatives, the NDP and media types, Dion was notably unfazed:
So, sure, he has let another opportunity pass. And, yes, he will endure all the usual circumspection and speculation that comes with that. But on a day when he would once more have to take a pass on confrontation, he seemed remarkably at ease—smiling and laughing with colleagues and enthusiastically sparring with the government side.

And so perhaps, while everyone was talking about everything else entirely, he's also figured out what it is he wants to do with himself.
Yes, I think there's a plan. We're just too impatient and following Harpie's script.

And besides, when I see things like the following in the news, I see the Conservatives continuing to demonstrate their unprofessionalism and bumbling. So I can wait.

Item one...Helena Guergis has apparently been let back out from under her rock since she last spoke in public to disclose Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff's itinerary while in Afghanistan. Yesterday she spoke oh so eloquently in the House of Commons about one of her colleagues across the aisle in response to questioning about why she won't speak on the phone with a Canadian woman presently jailed in Mexico:
"Mr. Speaker, we know that Canadians are really growing tired of this member's ambulance chasing tactics," she said. "With respect to Ms. Martin, we have worked very hard and we will continue because she is a very important Canadian to us."
Ambulance chasing, she says. But anyway, that wasn't the best work of the day from Ms. Guergis. She also related to the House some prime fear mongering as to how there would be "mass murder" in Kandahar if Canadian troops were to leave, in response to a friendly Conservative questioner. Hansard, take it away:
Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to think about what would happen if security pulled out of Kandahar. The fact is there would be mass murder. The Taliban would return and would put everything back to the way it was. To do that, they would need a pretty heavy hand, and that would be mass murder. The women know this and they do not want that to happen. (emphasis added)
Yes, that is the best she can come up with, even when prompted by a fellow Conservative. Offering unsubstantiated predictions of mass murder and citing them as fact. The grade-twelvish quality of this statement just boggles the mind. Ms. Guergis is so poorly equipped for her job as the junior foreign affairs secretary, you'd think the higher ups would put her into foreign affairs immersion or something.

Item two...the committee scrutiny of John Baird's intervention in the last Ottawa mayoralty race - you know, the one that produced Baird's pal, Larry O'Brien, as the winner and aforesaid pal being currently on trial for influence peddling with allegations involving Baird - got that? This intervention on Baird's part should be pursued. It's a serious allegation of abuse of power that warrants public scrutiny. This is the accountability government, after all.

There's much more to come from the gang who can't shoot straight, count on it.

The bells are officially off

It's good to be King:
Brian Mulroney is refusing a request from the House of Common ethics committee to return for more testimony on his business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

No reason is given for the decision in a terse posting Tuesday on Mr. Mulroney's website.

But Guy Pratte, the lawyer for the former prime minister, said he would be sending a more detailed message Wednesday to Paul Szabo, the Liberal chairman of the committee.

Mr. Mulroney has already testified once before the panel, but MPs wanted him back Thursday to face questioning on discrepancies between his version of events and those of other witnesses.

The committee could issue a subpoena forcing Mr. Mulroney to appear, but several members have indicated they won't do that — especially since Mr. Mulroney will have to testify at a coming public inquiry.

See you at the public inquiry, guy...:) With real lawyers and oaths and all kinds of neat stuff. That is, assuming Harpie's still up for one. He has a way of breaking his word, so we'll await his machinations.

In the meantime, it hasn't ended well for Mr. Mulroney. Contradictions to his testimony and a lack of proof of his international lobbying claims are the last impressions left. Not exactly the way one would think a former PM would want to leave things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yes, that manufactured crisis was a capital idea

Ironically, the Conservatives' manufactured crisis in forcing a parliamentary vote on the Chalk River plant and calling international attention to the shutdown by firing the regulator, Linda Keen, sent the wrong signal to the world and may have undermined the long term prospects of AECL, the real culprits here, and which the Conservatives are now trying to sell. Today's reporting continues to bring us the wide-ranging fallout:
As director of the largest university research reactor in the United States, Ralph Butler is taking dead aim at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s position as the dominant North American supplier of medically necessary isotopes.

With a $40-million (U.S.) expansion planned, the University of Missouri nuclear engineer is mustering his arguments that the U.S. needs a secure, domestic supply of molybdenum-99, an isotope that is not produced in the States but is used in 85 per cent of all nuclear-medicine procedures.

AECL's embarrassing shutdown in November and December - when it stopped supplying molybdenum-99 from its Chalk River research reactor to its processing partner, MDS Nordion Inc. - has provided him with ample fodder for his campaign.
Throw in the reluctance of MDS Nordion to enable alternate supplies during the shutdown and we've witnessed a situation that escalated, under the Harper government's watch, to a full blown, red flag waving crisis that has ramped up the drive to replace the AECL/Nordion supply of isotopes. The world is wondering, and the U.S. in particular, why can't AECL get its act together?

But as we Canadians know, because the Harper government tells us it is so, firing Linda Keen did a world of good to remedy the host of problems in AECL's future that are described in this report...

Maxime Bernier: strike nine

Yes, the strike watch has been rolled out again. Omar Khadr's lawyer made the Harper government's delinquency on calling for the return of Canada's lone citizen at Gitmo look still worse yesterday:
The United States returned up to a dozen children and teenagers held as "combatants" in Guantanamo Bay to their respective countries, and might well act if it received a request from Canada to return Omar Khadr, says his military lawyer.

U.S. Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, flanked by members of the three federal opposition parties, yesterday urged the Conservative government to insist on Khadr's return, suggesting the time is ripe for the U.S. to accede to such a request.

"Omar is, in our view and I think in the view of most of the international community who have looked at this case, a child soldier," said Kuebler. "His prosecution for war crimes is unprecedented in the history of war crimes tribunals."
If child soldiers have been returned to other nations, the only hold up for Canada appears to be the dumb Harper government which thinks it's doing a political favour for the Americans by not asking for Khadr's return. In some asinine way, they must believe they are doing the Bush administration, and themselves, a favour by not pressing the matter, by being "good" allies in deferring to the U.S. here. This, despite the fact that all western nations have denounced Gitmo and gotten their citizens out. The Harper toadies, nevertheless, continue to shine the Bush administration's shoes on such horrendous issues as this.

History will judge you, Maxime Bernier. So what say you? Oh, yes, he's silent, as usual. No written statement yesterday though. A front man came out to speak on Maxime's behalf:
But Neil Hrab, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, said nothing has changed from the government's view.

"Omar Khadr faces serious charges. The Government of Canada has sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely," Hrab said in an email. "Departmental officials have carried out several welfare visits with Mr. Khadr and will continue to do so. Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for the release of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo are premature and speculative as the legal process and appeals are still underway."
Yes, the "legal process and appeals" that are the laughing stock of the world. To wit:
Meanwhile, the Canadian Bar Association yesterday joined counterparts in France and England in calling on U.S. President George W. Bush to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison, calling it "a grievous affront to the rule of law."'
Maxime Bernier, lawyer, how do you live with yourself?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Life in Republican America

If you take on Karl Rove as Jill Simpson, a former Republican operative did by testifying in front of congress and appearing last night on 60 Minutes, you could be risking quite a bit. Here's what happened to her:
The response to Simpson’s affidavit has been a series of brusque dismissive statements – all of them unsworn – from others who figured in the discussion and the federal prosecutor in the Siegelman case, who has now made a series of demonstrably false statements concerning the matter. She’s been smeared as “crazy” and as a “disgruntled contract bidder.” And something nastier: after her intention to speak became known, Simpson’s house was burned to the ground, and her car was driven off the road and totaled. Clearly, there are some very powerful people in Alabama who feel threatened. Her case starts to sound like a chapter out of John Grisham’s book The Pelican Brief. However, those who have dismissed Simpson are in for a very rude surprise. Her affidavit stands up on every point, and there is substantial evidence which will corroborate its details. (emphasis added)
The Alabama GOP is firing up the attack machine against Simpson and in the wake of everything that's already happened, Simpson said this today:
“I don’t feel safe,” Simpson added this morning.
No kidding. I'm sure there are a lot of Americans who would share that sentiment today.

No to C-484

Let's kick these reactionary Conservative backbenchers back to the 1950's where they belong. Members of Parliament should stand up in the House and vote no. See Birth Pangs, unrepentant old hippie and many others in the progressive blogosphere who are writing eloquently about the proposed legislation that has much more to do with politics and conservative ideology than with feigned concern for pregnant women.

Big grandstanding day for Junior and Senior MacKay

Well I suppose this bit of rhetoric should make up for the repeated attacks on the Liberal's patriotism, the barbs taunting the Liberals as Taliban lovers, members of the Taliban intelligence agency, etc.:
Mr. MacKay began his remarks by expressing “appreciation and respect” for opposition MPs who sought to reach a compromise on the mission's future, and he acknowledged specifically Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and deputy leader Michael Ignatieff.
Oh yes, that should make up for the shameful partisan attacks that have characterized the Conservatives' conduct in the House of Commons throughout the course of their negligent oversight of the Afghan file. These guys are treacherous, hypocritical partisans who will say whatever they have to at whatever moment, depending on what suits the political goal of the day and we should not forget that. You will never hear Mr. Dion or Ignatieff utter such attacks in return. The Conservatives, by contrast, have thought nothing of the damage they were doing to our national discourse in doing so. That's the difference between the caliber of these individuals. And as someone repeated at the Ethics Committee this afternoon, that's because "the fish rots from the head."

Speaking of MacKays...Elmer's testified in front of the Ethics Committee today and is doing a little grandstanding of his own. I think he actually slipped at the beginning and referred to Robert Thibault as Robert Clouseau...:) And managed to succeed in having the Chair step down during his testimony due to some comments Szabo made to a Chronicle Herald reporter. But the real spark of the day came in the exchange with Pat Martin who stood up for the Committee's work on behalf of Canadians, a point I actually thought was good on him given MacKay's haughty demeanour and condescension up to that point.

On to the big show, Schreiber's up and is back into his contradictions of Mulroney...

This is not America

Below you'll find the powerful 60 Minutes segment on the politically motivated prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman which ran last night. While a case involving a U.S. state governor may not sound worthy of your time to peruse or consider, it's about much more than that. This case is emblematic of the abuse of power committed by the higher ups in the Bush administration. And like all matters involving the Bush administration, Karl Rove is at the core of this one where the weight of the U.S. Department of Justice was brought to bear by Republicans against a political enemy. That's the kind of thing that should not happen in a fair judicial system, it's the hallmark of authoritarian states.

This is the broadcast in which a former Republican operative fingers Karl Rove for his role in the effort to prosecute Don Siegelman. Rove's attorney had this to say last night:
Rove declined to be interviewed by 60 Minutes and by The Associated Press. But his attorney, Robert Luskin, denied Simpson's allegations.

"60 Minutes owes Mr. Rove an apology for circulating this false and foolish story," Luskin said.
Why doesn't Mr. Rove sue 60 Minutes then for this malicious falsehood? After all, a report has been nationally broadcast telling the world that he encouraged someone to take photos of a politician in flagrante and that he'd played a role in bringing down this Democratic Governor for political purposes. A defamation suit would surely be in order. Fat chance we'll see that from Mr. Rove though.

And of course, Scott Horton is a must read today on this story. Horton points out the "bombshells" in the piece that will hopefully spur on the congressional investigation of the prosecution, including the need to either get Mr. Rove under oath or commence a criminal investigation of those involved in this concerted effort to bring down the Democratic Governor, including U.S. attorneys in that state with close political ties to Rove and the current Republican governor:
The CBS piece, for which I was repeatedly interviewed, came through on its promise to deliver several additional bombshells. The most significant of these was the disclosure that prosecutors pushed the case forward and secured a conviction relying on evidence that they knew or should have know was false, and that they failed to turnover potentially exculpatory evidence to defense counsel. The accusation was dramatically reinforced by the Justice Department’s failure to offer a denial. It delivered a fairly elaborate version of a “no comment,” and even that came a full twenty-four hours after it had conferred with the prosecutors in question. The gravity of the accusations made and the prosecutors’ failure to deny them further escalates concerns about the treatment of the former Alabama governor.
Horton also tells us that the Siegelman part of the 60 Minutes episode was blacked out in a third of Alabama by a CBS affiliate there. Un-f*%#ing believable:
I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama—from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down—that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee. This station was noteworthy for its hostility to Siegelman and support for his Republican adversary. The station ran a trailer stating “We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a techincal problem with CBS out of New York.” I contacted CBS News in New York and was told that “there is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” I was told that the decision to blacken screens across Northern Alabama “could only have been an editorial call.” Channel 19 is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, who can be contacted through Rhonda Barnat, 212-371-5999 or rb@abmac.com. Oak Hill Partners represents interests of the Bass family, which contribute heavily to the Republican Party. Viewers displeased about the channel’s decision to censor the broadcast should express their views directly to the station management or to the owners.
Horton also brilliantly dissects the first AP reporting on the 60 Minutes segment which is highly misleading and hues heavily toward Republican talking points.

What a twisted, corrupt, makes-your-blood-boil story this is. I'm surprised it's not American lawyers demonstrating in the streets these days.

Part I:



Part II:

Conservatives de-prioritizing nuclear safety

More today in the Globe's continuing reporting on the Chalk River shutdown and its fallout for all involved. Today, the report reveals that AECL has been in sale mode by the Harper government for months now, which would include the time surrounding the shutdown. This was also reported in the Star earlier this month. Confirming that while Harper was standing in the House of Commons deriding Linda Keen as a partisan hack he did so in full awareness that AECL was being prepped for sale. And in doing so, he was laying the groundwork for her firing, to please the industry, to foster a sale:
The Harper government has been working for months to get Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. in shape for a sale - possibly to foreign owners - and the recent firing of former nuclear regulator Linda Keen is viewed in the industry as a key part of that effort.

Suitors have been circling AECL as Ottawa brought in advisers from the National Bank of Canada to review the ownership of the 55-year-old nuclear reactor company.

While much of the attention has focused on competitors such as France's Areva SA and U.S.-based General Electric Co., SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has emerged as a potential domestic bidder that would likely leave a majority or significant minority stake in Canadian government hands. (emphasis added)
There had been reports of the potential sale before but it was not known surrounding the time of the shutdown that there were such active steps underway by the Harper government to pursue its sale. With these reports on the involvement of the National Bank in a potential sale as context, their public vilification of the regulator becomes even more reckless in hindsight. In order to ease the way to a sale, they were perfectly willing to shake the public's confidence in the nuclear regulator. And as we all know, push out a strong and independent regulator, at that, in order to please the corporate AECL suitors. These guys really have their priorities screwed on backwards, don't they?

And remember, Keen wanted to ensure that new international safety standards were being followed. Meaning that reactors would have to withstand the impact of a commercial airliner. Kind of important in this day and age, especially to the public, don't ya think? The Candu reactors sold by AECL don't meet the standard.

So here's how they cleaned up matters for the corporate nuclear industry:
But before the government could decide whether to sell AECL, it had to deal with a messy problem that was undermining the company's commercial value: the regulator's refusal to review the design of its advanced Candu reactor, its flagship technology that is still under development and is aimed at the resurgent international nuclear marketplace.
...
After over-riding her decision with legislation rushed through Parliament in December, the government fired Ms. Keen in January. Less than a month later, the CNSC reversed her policy of not reviewing reactor designs unless they were backed by actual sales contracts.

In a letter to AECL's chief executive Hugh MacDiarmid, sent on Valentine's Day, the CNSC's interim president Michael Binder said the commission was prepared to resume technology reviews, starting with the next generation ACR-1000 reactor.

The regulator's timing is no accident, said industry sources. Financial advisers have told Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn's office that the pre-licensing review would significantly enhance the value of AECL, said an industry executive.

"The fact that AECL will have a design in the regulatory process rather than outside the regulatory process is positive in terms of what that asset might be worth," he said.
Ms. Keen's reasons for not doing the pre-licensing reviews?
Soon after, Ms. Keen took the podium at the Canadian Nuclear Association's annual convention and gave notice that the commission was imposing more rigorous safety standards and, being underfinanced and understaffed, could not meet the booming industry's timelines for new approvals.
So now, the Conservatives are apparently requiring the regulator to do what Ms. Keen said they did not have the resources to do. Which makes one wonder, how much of that time now being devoted to meeting the nuclear industry's needs should instead be devoted to safety. All to rescue the poorly managed AECL whose Candu technology is facing an uncertain future.

Priorities, priorities...

"Bitch is the new black"



The Tina Fey segment from Saturday night...right on. If the YouTube version gets pulled down, you can also find it here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Harper MIA on the Kosovo independence question

It's getting to the point where the Canadian Prime Minister needs to make a statement on this. Serbian-Canadians, in weekend marches continue to throw around the Kosovo=Quebec equation to argue that Canada should not recognize Kosovo's actions. That needs to be publicly redressed by the PM. Here are the types of comments making their way into the public discourse that are going unaddressed:
"It would be contrary to Canada's national interests because we don't want separatists in Quebec getting the precedent from Kosovo that it's OK to secede unilaterally," said Bojan Ratvokic, a Brock University student who led the event hosted by the University of Toronto Serbian Student Association.
...
Several hundred protesters led by bicycle-mounted police proceeded from near the Ontario legislature to the consulate just down University Avenue, where hundreds more greeted them. Many carried placards, including some reading "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" and "Kovoso (equals) Quebec."
Kosovo's situation does not equal Quebec's in any respect, as pointed out by many, referenced here, and to let such arguments go unchallenged is irresponsible. It is established in Canadian law that Quebec cannot secede unilaterally, contrary to the voices heard in the above report. If Stephane Dion makes a public speech, the Conservatives are all over it to beat back whatever he says. Yet on such matters of international significance, they're MIA and dithering.

Still waiting...

No media please, we're Conservatives

No talking to the national media, please, the Conservative by-election candidate of Vancouver Quadra has her directions from on high:
Conservative candidate Deborah Meredith isn't in Ottawa yet but she's already refusing requests for interviews.

Her campaign manager, Dan Tidball, said Meredith wanted to "focus" on the local media "and you're the national media."

He said her decision to not be interviewed was arrived at after a discussion among "people above me."
The Conservatives continue to pursue their media management strategy. The refusal to allow candidates to speak to the national media in respect of these by-elections suggests that they know they're going to lose most if not all of them on March 17th, so the less said the better. The by-elections are likely to be deemed by them safe Liberal seats and no big deal. Yet you can't help but be reminded that this also means that Mr. Harper is making no inroads beyond his own safe seats, as you might see with a popular leader able to galvanize the voting public.

Meanwhile, the article suggests Dion, just like Harper, still has work to do. The door to door feedback, as reported here, indicates voters are staying Liberal but want more from Dion. Factor that into the current federal budget election speculation and it doesn't seem to be the kind of information that makes you more likely to defeat the government.

How about a hundred years, Ms. McCain?

We heard you the first time:
A member of the Manley panel on Canada's role in Afghanistan says the government's proposed 2011 deadline for a military withdrawal is arbitrary and should not necessarily be binding.

Former TV journalist Pamela Wallin says the overall goal has to be a stable Afghanistan, and abandoning the country before that happens wouldn't make sense.

"I don't think any of us think that some arbitrary date is really going to be it," she said Friday.

"It's a process of getting to that stage where the Afghans will be in the lead. That's what they want, and that's what we want, and whether it's Tuesday or Thursday doesn't matter - we just need to get to that goal, which is everybody's goal."
...
The panel report called on the government to put no deadline on the mission.
If this motion on the extension of the mission with a 2011 end date passes, any government trying to change its direction in the future is likely to face an uphill battle and pay the price for changing this consequential decision, assuming the change seeks to extend the mission.

The voices for an extended stay are getting antsy as the vote on the mission's extension gets nearer...

The answer is John Crosbie

I had a pile of hits on Saturday from people looking for the answer to the following question, in some internet quiz that I see in my stats from time to time:
who was the former provincial politician turned finance minister that introduced the fateful budget along with joe clark?
Since my blog seems to come up, due to my use of the word "fateful" in connection with some Conservative politician...I thought I'd provide my answer. It's John Crosbie. Try it in your crossword or whatever the heck it is.

Cheers!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday night, enjoy

Gary Lunn needs to be sent on a permanent ski vacation

Problem for Mr. Lunn. The optics of this story are terrible. For one thing, a source is contradicting his sworn testimony before a parliamentary committee:
...a highly placed source close to Atomic Energy told The Globe and Mail that an e-mail was sent to Mr. Lunn before the Dec. 1 weekend underscoring the need for him to turn his attention to the mounting problem.

"I sent an e-mail on Nov. 29 or 30 ... which said this is serious, we need to get on this," the source said.

Mr. Lunn took a break from skiing in British Columbia on Dec. 1 to respond to the e-mail, the source said, adding that Mr. Lunn confirmed he "knew it was a situation he needed to work on."

"He certainly knew there was a situation and he was going to get on it Monday morning," the source said. "I assumed in my conversation he had ingested all the data in the [e-mail]. My assumption may be wrong, but when he said to me he'd received my message and acted on it, as far as I could tell he knew everything there was to know."
But Mr. Lunn said this:
Mr. Lunn has testified before a parliamentary committee that his staff first alerted him on Dec. 3 to the fact that the nuclear reactor that produces more than half of the world's medical isotopes had been shut down indefinitely due to an ongoing, month-old dispute between the Crown-owned AECL and its regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
But, but, but, but...
In an interview with The Globe this week, Mr. Lunn denied communicating with the source.

"I don't know. I didn't see an e-mail," Mr. Lunn said, adding, "But it's not uncommon in this age ... my computer, I won't turn it on for three or more days, so you know ..." he said, trailing off. "I'm telling you, I don't recall any conversation. In fact, you know ... there was no contact ... those are the facts," Mr. Lunn said.

"Whether he's thinking of something else or a conversation we had another time, I don't know."
Got an email. Responded to an email. Now says "I didn't see an e-mail."

Credibility? Shot. Misrepresentation to a parliamentary committee? Perhaps. Clarification required? Absolutely.

Less time skiing and more time on your file when it's in the midst of an implosion should have been Gary Lunn's priority. Especially when he's about to turn around and dump on the regulator and fire her. All the while, she was actually doing her job while Lunn was on the slopes.

(h/t to Accidental Deliberations)

Could be contempt - but "with bells on"

Mulroney's lawyer, turning the legal system on its head, wherein he submits the proposition that a witness has the right to decide whether or not he or she will appear before a parliamentary committee, depending on whether the witness deems the allegations worthy of the witness' rebuttal:
Brian Mulroney's solicitor says he is "puzzled" that the head of the Commons ethics committee is threatening to have the former prime minister subpoenaed if he does not provide more testimony.

Lawyer Guy Pratte sent a letter to Committee chairman Paul Szabo on Friday, addressing Szabo's demand that Mulroney testify for a second time before committee members, who are probing Mulroney's dealings with Canadian-German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

Szabo told the media on Monday that he would be willing to subpoena Mulroney over the matter, and had sent Pratte a faxed letter explaining as much.

Pratte said to force Mulroney to testify again, after he spent a day answering MPs questions in Ottawa on Dec. 13, makes no sense.
...
Pratte said before Mulroney decides if he will testify again, as Szabo wants him to do on Feb. 28, Mulroney must be informed of the specific allegations against him and be told of what rules he is accused of breaking.

"You have totally failed to provide Mr. Mulroney with this information," Pratte wrote.

He said Mulroney will only make a decision about testifying on Feb. 28 once he considers all the evidence against him and decides whether he needs to testify again in order to clarify or challenge any details.

Pratte noted that Mulroney can only weigh the evidence once he hears the final testimony from Schreiber and former MP Elmer MacKay, who are both scheduled to appear before the committee on Feb 25. (emphasis added)
Oh to have the prerogatives of a former Prime Minister, to assess the testimony of certain witnesses who appear before you do so you can prepare accordingly and then decide whether or not to grace the committee with your presence, depending on what those witnesses say.

Just remarkable. Imagine if the judicial system actually worked this way. Fortunately, it doesn't. If the committee decides to subpoena Mr. Mulroney, it should do so and call him back at any time it chooses and for whatever reasons it decides. These imperial requirements are completely out of order.

As for this:
Pratte criticized the ethics committee for its interest in the precise details of the work Mulroney did for Schreiber.

"I fail to see how the precise nature and extent of the work Mr. Mulroney did for Mr. Schreiber is of any relevance to the Ethics Committee or its mandate," Pratte said. "The issue of whether Mr. Mulroney performed adequately the work for which he was paid by Mr. Schreiber is an entirely private matter."
I think that remains highly relevant. A former PM received monies from Mr. Schreiber while still in office and beyond and there is little in the way of evidence provided by Mr. Mulroney to explain that work and what it was for. Leaving questions, of course, about why the former PM was in fact paid that money.

By the sounds of Mr. Pratte's digging in, could be an interesting week.

Wtf

"Canada urged to double troop strength." Um, excuse me? What is going on here? Is this guy freelancing or is there something more to it?
Canada needs as many as 5,000 professional NATO soldiers — double its current force — to hold Kandahar's key districts, a senior commander says, suggesting that previous demands for extra troops are not enough for basic security in the province.

"If countries like Germany and France were not so afraid of committing forces, this problem would be solved readily," Major Richard Moffet, deputy commander of Canada's battle group, said in an interview.

He listed five Kandahar districts and suggested Canada needs to double its current troop strength of 2,500 to keep the Taliban away from those important areas.

"Easily you could have a brigade of 5,000 Canadians here just for Zhari, Panjwai, Arghandab, Shah Wali Kot and Khakrez, because to be honest, we haven't been to a few places in Panjwai yet," he said.

Military officials have spoken more bluntly about their lack of numbers recently, in private conversations and even publicly at meetings with Afghans.
Is the military putting the lie to the pathetic Manley report number of 1,000? Or is there something more afoot from the Harper government? Doubling the Canadian contingent seems like a definite non-starter. The agreed upon emphasis in the parliamentary motion circulating is for a shift away from combat and there's an end date now in sight. To double our contingent in the face of these principles seems rather opposite to what we would expect to hear.

There's this curious note in Smith's report:
France is reportedly considering a major contribution of troops to Kandahar, however, and in recent weeks French soldiers have been increasingly conspicuous at Kandahar Air Field.
Who knows what that means. Perhaps the French are committing to the 1,000 but Harper's holding back for electoral purposes.

This Major's broadcast of the need for thousands more than the government is presently seeking while the Afghanistan extension motion is out there and unapproved by Parliament seems strangely risky to me...

A must read on the Chalk River fallout today

The Globe's effort to tell some back story to the firing of Linda Keen appears today. There's a lot there and it makes clear that Keen's firing was about much more than the Chalk River shutdown. In a nutshell, there's new evidence here that the Conservatives took advantage of the shutdown to rid themselves of a strong regulator concerned with rigorous safety standards and doing the job with the resources she had. For example, we learn that AECL and its corporate partners decided they'd had enough of Ms. Keen's fastidiousness and decided to lobby for her removal. And ultimately, it turns out, they found a willing Conservative government to do just that for them. The Chalk River incident seems to have provided a convenient cover for the Harper government to act in response to the corporate lobbying they'd received:

AECL's private-sector partners, including SNC-Lavalin, GE Canada and Hitachi Canada, hired some of the best-connected lobbyists in Ottawa to carry that message forward; other industry members complained directly to the Prime Minister's Office, sources said.

"We've tried to communicate however we could to whomever we could, to make this point," said Patrick Lamarre, president of SNC-Lavalin's nuclear division.

And Lunn's former chairman of AECL provides this information:
Michael Burns, the B.C.-based wind power executive who Mr. Lunn appointed as chairman of AECL, began to lobby the minister, whom he said he spoke with once a week during his chairmanship, about addressing the problems with Ms. Keen and her commission.

"I told [Mr. Lunn] then the dysfunctional relationship was going to cause serious trouble for commercial operations at the company. I told him we were going to have a train wreck. And I gave him a plan to fix it," Mr. Burns said.

The goal, he said, was to induce the government to legislate an overhaul at the CNSC, including Ms. Keen's position.

Mr. Lunn refused to discuss whether he attempted to push that reform in Ottawa, saying he is "not at liberty to talk about … discussions with cabinet colleagues."

Mr. Burns said his impression is that Mr. Lunn tried, but "couldn't get any traction." (emphasis added)
This plan is something unheard of before this report. Apparently Lunn tried to approach Keen early on about "streamlined" regulatory oversight but she was having none of it:
Within a month of becoming minister, Mr. Lunn met with Ms. Keen, the Liberal-appointed, two-time head of the nuclear regulator. He shared with her the new government's view that regulatory oversight could be streamlined. The pair had "great discussions," Mr. Lunn recalled this week. However, sources in Ottawa told The Globe the meeting had an icy tone, punctuated by Ms. Keen's reminder to Mr. Lunn of the CNSC's quasi-judicial, arms-length status.
What have we here? The first effort by this Minister to interfere in the existing regulatory structure, the most recent having occurred in December during the Chalk River incident. Needless to say, the evidence of Lunn's inappropriate conduct and grounds for resignation continues to mount.

The back and forth between AECL and CNSC as the Chalk River situation developed is also expanded upon here and contrasted with the Harper government's bizarre sudden attacks on Ms. Keen. Those attacks seem even more striking and the government's priorities even more out of whack in this report given the AECL and CNSC's having been in the midst of trying to work out the difficulty when this politicization started occurring. For example:
With AECL and the CNSC still trying to hammer out a compromise, concerns about the isotope supply began to catch politicians' attention. Mr. Lunn and Health Minister Tony Clement began to publicly criticize Ms. Keen, characterizing her as a partisan zealot blind to the health impacts of her decisions on Canadians in need of isotopes, and guilty of safety overkill.

As they lobbied against the CNSC, it seemed of little importance to the ministers, as well as to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that the Chalk River facility sits on earthquake fault lines. The area has never experienced a major earthquake, but two minor quakes struck in December, registering 3.0 and 3.6 in magnitude.

"There will be no nuclear accident," Mr. Harper announced in the House of Commons on the day Parliament was to vote on a bill to overrule the regulator.
And there's more here to underscore the notion of the government's actions as a manufactured crisis:
The reactor was officially restarted on Dec. 16 — just days earlier than Ms. Keen may have allowed without parliamentary interference.

Still, the following month, Ms. Keen was removed from her presidential post, a move that raised questions about whether the ugly, two-month power play was really about isotopes.
There's more to read, including Anne McLellan's comments about her oversight of AECL as Minister of Natural Resources in the mid-1990's and the CNSC insider's information to the effect that CNSC was indeed kept in the dark by AECL on all conditions of its license having been satisfied.

As the facts come to light, it appears that the Conservatives turned the Chalk River challenge into a crisis to suit their own interests. It stinks to high heaven. And there's no accountability or taking of responsibility to be had in the near future from Mr. Harper. He doesn't demonstrate any interest in such concepts unless they apply to someone else. There is, however, Linda Keen's lawsuit which is thankfully being pursued. This Globe report suggests that her case continues to look better and better as a means of redress for her and perhaps for the Canadian public as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

No more lectures from General Hillier please

Hillier's grandstanding today has received some worthy rebukes, here, here and here, for example. I won't add to that commentary on the inappropriateness of the General's comments for Canadian democracy and his penchant to tell the elected representatives in this country how to do their jobs. That's been done quite nicely by the aforementioned.

I'll just add the following...I do find it remarkable to hear him holding up the Taliban as a bogeyman to Canadian citizens. We've seen this from the U.S. military and political leaders ad nauseam for years now. It's the worst kind of fear mongering and we certainly don't need it. I suppose in General Hillier's view, the nations of the world are to to be forever circumscribed in exercising their democratic prerogatives due to this group of thugs roaming the hills in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan. I agree with those who view the Taliban and terrorist organizations as primarily a law enforcement problem, not a cause for a Bushian, ever-escalating global war on terror. A proper response to the terrorist threat needs to be proportional and rational. Having the militaries of the major western nations traversing the Afghan territory in tanks and armoured vehicles only to be attacked by inexpensive IED's is a recipe for ruin, militarily, economically and in human casualties, Afghan and foreign. Consider this bit of reporting on the cost the U.S. is paying in Iraq versus the self-financing insurgents, likely a similar ratio at play in Afghanistan between NATO and the Taliban:
The group’s estimate of the financing for the insurgency, even taking the higher figure of $200 million, underscores the David and Goliath nature of the war. American, Iraqi and other coalition forces are fighting an array of shadowy Sunni and Shiite groups that can draw on huge armories left over from Mr. Hussein’s days, and benefit from the willingness of many insurgents to fight with little or no pay. If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day.
$200 million a year for the insurgency to fund itself in Iraq versus $8 billion a month that the Americans are paying. It can't be sustained.

Neither can the rhetoric from the Hillier's of the world. It's so over.

The Harper tank fiasco commemorative poster



Gee, I've been out all afternoon and on my return found this little gem in my inbox thanks to the Wingnuterer...:) A propos of this story this week. Since they won't be ready for Afghanistan, maybe they'll come in handy for Harper's just announced big military plans for our nation. Or, at the very least, perhaps they can help with snow removal in Toronto in the future...:)

An end date on the horizon

The headlines around the world tell the story about what's coming together here in terms of the Afghanistan mission motion. A sampling: "Canadians to quit Afghanistan," "Canada to End Afghan Mission in 2011","Canada to withdraw from Afghanistan south in 2011: PM", "Harper Seeks to End Canada's Afghanistan Role in 2011 (Update2)","Conservative government says troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011," "New Afghan motion sets 2011 as mission end date." Think it's pretty clear what's being achieved here. Harper wanted an open-ended mission, he didn't get it. The opposition has succeeded in getting a firm end date to the mission. And in addition, Harper wanted a continuation of the combat mission as it currently stands. He didn't get it:
A parliamentary motion unveiled by Mr. Harper both bows to Liberal demands for a firm end date to the Afghan mission and accepts Liberal wording that the combat mission must refocus on training and security for reconstruction efforts.
Despite the bravado coming from the Conservatives over budgetary matters, from attack ads to an attacking Jim Flaherty, this is a moment to recognize the weakness they displayed on the Afghanistan front. The opposition pushed the Conservatives to an end date and that end date is being taken note of around the world. This end date will drive the focus of the mission, not only for us, but for other nations there as well who will be spurred on by our stamp of finality. Now that's leadership.

But someone didn't get the message:
Also yesterday, Mr. Harper delivered a speech to a defence think tank that stressed the need to be willing to send soldiers to fight to enforce peace in dangerous areas, rather than sticking to classic blue-bereted peacekeeping.

"That is the reality and will be the reality of our world for the foreseeable future," he said. "That means we will need a strong, multifaceted military, backed by the political will to deploy."

He said the world will ignore well-meaning countries without military strength.

"Countries that cannot or will not make real contributions to global security are not regarded as serious players," he said.

"They may be liked by everybody. They may be pleasantly acknowledged by everybody. But when the hard decisions get made, they will be ignored by everybody."


Mr. Harper promised his government would hike the "automatic" increases in military spending in the federal budget starting in 2011, from 1.5 per cent a year to 2 per cent. He said accelerating the increase in defence spending would "thoroughly reverse the so-called rusting out of our Canadian Forces." (emphasis added)
We're well-meaning but ignored by the world because our military is not big enough? What is this, might makes right? Get more guns and ammo and all will be well on the world stage for Canada. Maybe he'd like a few nukes, too? If this is a new Steve vision of Canada's place in the world, I'm kind of liking it, although not in the way he would prefer...:)

Road tolls, yes

But no more freaking property tax hikes in Toronto, please. The Toronto property owner is not an endless source of revenue to be tapped year in and year out as the ever present solution to the city's budget problems. Ultimately, there will come a breaking point. The city rate increases - water, for e.g., - and recent tax increases on land transfer are also affecting the cost of living in this city. To see our federal government rolling in revenues while GTA taxpayers continue to be gouged is a constant source of irritation.

Our roads are falling apart. And if tolls will mean that surrounding suburbs will participate in the cost of maintaining them and if it helps ease congestion and environmental conditions, easing more people into the GO system and public transit...this voter says yes, absolutely.

Shocking, I say

It looks like 60 Minutes on Sunday should be a good one. Karl Rove, the esteemed media darling these days, will get a reminder of why he should be celebrated much less and not rewarded for what he's inflicted upon the American people for so many years now:
A Republican operative in Alabama says Karl Rove asked her to try to prove the state’s Democratic governor was unfaithful to his wife in an effort to thwart the highly successful politician’s re-election.

Rove’s attempt to smear Don Siegelman was part of a Republican campaign to ruin him that finally succeeded in imprisoning him, says the operative, Jill Simpson.

Simpson speaks to Scott Pelley in her first television interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Simpson spoke to Pelley because, she says, Siegelman’s seven-year sentence for bribery bothers her. She recalls what Rove, then President Bush’s senior political adviser, asked her to do at a 2001 meeting in this exchange from Sunday’s report.

"Karl Rove asked you to take pictures of Siegelman?" asks Pelley.

"Yes," replies Simpson.

"In a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides," clarifies Pelley.

"Yes, if I could," says Simpson.

Simpson says she found no evidence of infidelity despite months of observation. She tells Pelley that Rove, who had been a top Republican strategist in Alabama, had made requests for information from her before in her capacity as an "opposition researcher" for Republicans running for office.

Rove would not speak to 60 Minutes, but elsewhere has denied being involved in efforts to discredit Siegelman.
And I suppose 60 Minutes is lying about that last point. Let's ask Karl's lawyer, who, out of necessity, is on perma-retainer:
Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, denied the allegation.

"Mr. Rove never made such a request to her or anyone else," Luskin said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Had '60 Minutes' taken the trouble to contact Mr. Rove before circulating this falsehood, he would have told them the same thing."
Yeah, we'll take your word for it, Mr. Luskin. The Republican modus operandi, tar the media by calling them liars. The same thing that's going on with the McCain story and the New York Times.

It's quite the claim to be lying about, I'd say. Not exactly the kind of thing you'd forget or get confused about if asked to do. Ms. Simpson is certainly having quite the crisis of conscience.

Meanwhile, Karl has found himself a sweet little post-politics set of gigs, in the pages of Newsweek and on panels at Faux News. He continues to be inexplicably lionized and revered for his deeds.