Monday, June 30, 2008

Truly through the looking glass at Gitmo

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit has declared, in a case involving one of the 17 "Uighur" Chinese detainees - that were sought to be placed in Canada - that the evidence provided by the government to support its claim of enemy combatant status is absurd:
In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that allegations against an ethnic Chinese man held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims, according to the decision released Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its allegations against a detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.

The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a Lewis Carroll character: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”

“This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true,” said the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The unanimous panel overturned as invalid a Pentagon determination that a detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in western China, was properly held as an enemy combatant.

The panel included one of the court’s most conservative members, the chief judge, David B. Sentelle.
The nature of the evidence the U.S. government was using to detain Parhat was exposed by the court:
Pentagon officials have claimed that Mr. Parhat and 16 other Uighurs at Guantánamo were “affiliated” with the East Turkistan group and that it, in turn, was “associated” with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The men were captured after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The court said the classified evidence supporting those claims included assertions that events “reportedly” occurred and that the connections were “said to” exist, without providing information about the source of such information.

“Those bare facts,” the decision said, “cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant.”
What an absolute joke the Americans are making of the rule of law. These prisoners were taken in order to gain Chinese favour in 2002 when the U.S. sought Chinese support for the Afghan conflict and with a view to Iraq being next up. The legal basis for their continued detention has been quickly exposed as a sham once it finally reached the light of day, after six years.

Latest Harper government position on the Canadian sitting in Guantanamo Bay, June 18th:
"Mr. Speaker, I have said it before and I will keep repeating it, Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges. Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for Mr. Khadr's release are premature and speculative at this time, as the appeal and legal process is still ongoing."
Yes, it is an ongoing joke...

It isn't easy for Harpie to be green

This Lawrence Martin column today, "The Tory dilemma: a blue government in a green era," puts its finger on the problem for the Harper Conservatives in terms of the "green" issue. In an era when it's become the issue of the day, pervading so many others, how can Harper stand back and let the Liberals get way out in front on it?
National security? It's a green issue - petro-rich authoritarian regimes feeding off our oil addiction. Economic security? Wacko energy prices, born of that same addiction to black instead of green, invite recessionary peril. Survival of the planet? It's all about green. The great industrial challenge of our era? Emissions-free green energy.
Martin suggests Harper won't let Dion be the one dominating the national debate, which would explain his vulgar but otherwise unsubstantial response thus far as just a prelude to a big move:
Don't be surprised, Tory sources are saying, if Mr. Harper changes tack in the fall and moves off his halting approach to the green tide with dramatic new measures of his own.
Could those sources be referring to this preview of an announcement to come out of the upcoming G8 summit?
The Group of Eight wealthy nations are looking at investing more than $10 billion a year to support new technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), a Japanese daily reported on Sunday.
A draft statement on economic issue is being considered for release at the July 7-9 summit of G8 leaders in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the business daily Nikkei said.
The G8 countries plan to fund research to develop CCS projects, which bury emissions from power plants, as a measure to help meet a global target to halve greenhouse gases by 2050, Nikkei said.
Remember that Harper's new chair of the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy is a carbon capture guy (see biographical notes in appointment notice), although that didn't help TransAlta's emissions to decrease while he was a Veep there. This appointment may be evidence of Harper's new direction.

There is also talk of yet another goal being set on cutting global greenhouse gas emissions - but note this rupture:
The draft of the G8 economic statement points to the importance of imposing a long-term goal for cutting global emissions.

But, because Japan and Europe differ with the United States over long-term numerical targets, a final decision on the question may be left to the G8 leaders when they meet at Toyako, the daily said.
If Harper is serious about making bold moves, and this G8 summit may be where he seeks to break out, he'll have to break with the U.S. That would be a first given his track record to date in providing cover for the American do nothing policy.

And if he is going to make "dramatic new measures" part of the new green Harper iteration to be rolled out in the fall in time for an election, doesn't that suggest that even Harper realizes that the me-first premiers are wrong on the issue?

The bigger question down the road will be whether Canadians will buy a green Harper...particularly when he only puts on that shade when his political survival depends on it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Conservatives playing divide and fear monger

As Dion heads out west to sell his green shift tax policy, he's being met by a barrage of divisive, inflammatory rhetoric from the new Conservative environment minister, Jason Kenney. Kenney's flailing about, yelling "National Energy Program" today. The more Dion keeps a level head, speaks reasonably and engages with Canadians, the more this kind of fear mongering will appear overstated in contrast:
"This is the most cynical, bloody minded kind of regionally divisive politics imaginable that they're playing," Calgary MP Jason Kenney, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, said in an interview.

"And they know the consequences. The Liberal Party knows full well how sensitive Western Canadians are to the devastation of the National Energy Program. Canadians aren't stupid and can calculate what it will do to Western resource industries, to farmers, to the transportation industry. So I think they've made a very cynical calculation about this." (emphasis added)
Tell us more about cynical calculations, Mr. Environment.

The Conservatives are clearly the ones who are exploiting Western sensitivity to the NEP, waving it about in Canadians' faces every chance they get. Kenney's picking up where Harper left off with his initial emotional response to Dion's proposals in which he too mentioned the NEP. The federal Conservatives are indulging the western parochial premiers lining up to say "not in my backyard" to the prospect of a carbon tax. Is that national leadership?

Kenney is right about one thing here...Canadians aren't stupid, indeed.

Some facts for the debate

Apropos of the negative responses to date from predictable quarters such as the Saskatchewan and Alberta conservative governments and federal Conservatives, a concerned citizen points out some surreptitious shifting of tax burdens undertaken by the Harper government on a few fronts:
June 28, 2008

Re:Dion gung-ho on carbon tax

June 27

Stéphane Dion has taken the fight for humanity's environmental future to Stephen Harper. Dion proposes a tax-neutral green shift: taxing things we don't want – pollution – and reducing taxes on things we want – income and investment.

Harper counters and accuses Dion of trying to "screw" Canadians. So, what do the facts say about the government's approach to tax shifting and environmental management?

The Harper government enacted a tax shift in its first year. The Conservatives shifted tax reduction from the GST to tax increases for lower income tax brackets.

The Harper government also enacted major tax spending shifts. All federal climate initiatives were cancelled and savings principally shifted to the military.

Under Environment Minister John Baird, Kyoto was cancelled in fact though not in spin, Environment Canada scientists were eliminated, and intensity targets were introduced that allow unlimited burning of carbon resources.

Under Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, nuclear environment safety was ignored until a worldwide medical crisis erupted.

Dion is directly challenging Harper and demanding debate. Dion is proposing a constructive, mature alternative to character assassination and the denuding of sound environmental management.

Let the debate begin.

Eugene Parks, Victoria, B.C.
Pesky facts...

So who's really been "screwing" Canadians anyway?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Former TransAlta executive gets enviromental appointment by Harper government

An appointment made by John Baird on Monday, June 23rd, following the Friday end of the parliamentary session, is coming in for some scrutiny today courtesy of La Presse. The appointment:
Canada's Minister of the Environment, John Baird, today announced the appointment of Robert Page as chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). This appointment is effective immediately.
Page, who has a doctorate from Oxford in international relations, spent ten years between 1997-2007 as the Vice President Sustainable Development of TransAlta corporation. TransAlta, according to Pollution Watch's most recent data on the company, is one of the nation's leading greenhouse gas emitters. This is an appointment, as noted in the La Presse report, that satisfies industry but also has at least one environmental group begrudgingly acknowledging Page's c.v. Page has indicated, however, what his philosophical inclinations are in terms of a government approach to greenhouse gas emissions:
As one of the country's biggest producers of greenhouse gases, Alberta has a lot at stake under the Kyoto Protocol. In search of reductions, Premier Ralph Klein's Conservative government last year established the grandly named agency Climate Change Central to alert Albertans to the issue and promote action by industry. Some heavyweight Alberta companies have started tackling emission counts. Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc., which extracts petroleum from northern Alberta's oilsands, last month unveiled a $100-million, five-year investment in alternative power sources that could include wind-generated and solar energy projects. TransAlta, a major source of greenhouse gas as it produces about 60 per cent of Alberta's electricity - mainly from coal - claims to have cut emissions by nearly 10 per cent since 1990, to 23.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 1998, the latest available count.

But there's a catch. TransAlta calculates the decline by using investments in clean-energy projects to offset CO2-laden emissions. And the latest steps by Suncor and TransAlta were taken in the hope of earning similar credits in the emissions-trading system that may be part of Canada's national plan. But TransAlta vice-president Robert Page worries that, on the domestic front, federal officials appear to favour "a government-controlled regulatory kind of process" - rather than the free-market, incentives-driven system private industry would prefer. Federal-provincial agreement on emissions trading may be "devilishly difficult" to achieve, says Alberta's Environment Minister Gary Mar. "But all parties involved in the process are committed to resolving the differences."

Maclean's February 21, 2000
Recall that the National Roundtable had come out in favour of a carbon tax in January of this year under its former Chair:
Introducing a new charge on fossil fuels is the only way to ensure Canada succeeds in cutting its emissions, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said in a report yesterday.

The new charge would mean Canadians would face higher costs to heat and light their homes and to pump gas into their cars, the panel says.

"As long as ... carbon can be emitted freely, it will be extremely challenging, to say the least, to achieve any significant reductions," said Glen Murray, the former Winnipeg mayor who chairs the panel.

"Market-based policies that put a price on carbon to send an economy-wide signal on emissions are the most effective way to achieve deep, long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions of the scale being considered," he told a news conference.
Predictably, Baird quickly dismissed the proposal.

No doubt this new appointment has been in the works for a while, announced once the Parliamentary session ended. It's likely meant to squelch the direction being taken by this government body. A move to be kept in mind in light of the recent introduction of the Liberal proposal.

Friday, June 27, 2008

An "interesting threesome"

More recognition of the unseemliness of the father-son tag team effort the other night: "Bernier, keep daddy out of it."

Well said.

Harpie's libel suit against the Liberals could be in trouble

The Supreme Court of Canada doesn't like the libel chill in the air:
Freedom of expression requires that the media be capable of publishing provocative stories and comments without living in constant fear of lawsuits for libel and defamation, the Supreme Court of Canada said Friday.

In an 8-1 ruling that set out to modernize libel law and the defence of fair comment, the court found that a controversial B.C. broadcaster – Rafe Mair – did not libel a Christian-values advocate, Kari Simpson.
Oh, a timely "modernization," I see. Some of the legalities:
“The traditional elements of the tort of defamation may require modification to provide broader accommodation to the value of freedom of expression,” Mr. Justice Ian Binnie said for the majority Friday.

“There is concern that matters of public interest go unreported because publishers fear the ballooning cost and disruption of defending a defamation action. Investigative reports get 'spiked,' it is contended, because, while true, they are based on facts that are difficult to establish according to rules of evidence.

“When controversies erupt, statements of claim often follow as night follows day, not only in serious claims (as here) but in actions launched simply for the purpose of intimidation.”

There is nothing wrong with laws that "chill" speech that is false and defamatory, Judge Binnie said. “But chilling debate on matters of legitimate public interest raises issues of inappropriate censorship and self-censorship,” said. “Public controversy can be a rough trade, and the law needs to accommodate its requirements.
Hear that, Harpie? Public controversy is "rough trade." Someone needs to get a thicker skin is what I'm thinking...:)

Also from the report, the legal test spelled out:

In its ruling, the Supreme Court set out a new series of legal tests to be used in determining whether a defendant the “honest belief” aspect of the defence of fair comment defence has been met in a case. It said that:

– The comment must be on a matter of public interest;

– It must be based on fact;

– Although it can include inferences of fact, the comment must be recognizable as comment;

– The comment must satisfy the question: Could any person honestly express that opinion on the proved facts?

Now I'm not a defamation lawyer or anything, but that last question doesn't seem to bode well for the PM's Cadman suit. Given the existence of the audio tape on which Harper's own voice is heard - and that has not been disputed nor have the experts retained by the Conservatives explained how that substance is affected by their claims that the tape is undermined - sure sounds like comments made in Ottawa have been in the public interest and opinions capable of being expressed based on the facts at hand. We shall see how this plays out.

Are the Supremes trying to send someone a message? Heh...:)

How quickly the Afghan mission changes

Big news this morning: "Canada to spend $4-million rebuilding Kandahar prison." Oh, so we are in the business of building correctional facilities in Afghanistan. Thanks for clarifying. Because a citizen might be confused. Our man in Kabul told us on February 29th that we were in no such business:
Ron Hoffmann, Canada's acting ambassador in Kabul, said Canadian police are also now training officials from the National Directorate of Security – the branch of the Afghan security forces that manage prisoners.

"It should be emphasized that while Canada is contributing to the above activities, it is not in the business of building or managing corrections facilities in Afghanistan," Hoffmann said.

"That is the responsibility of the Afghan government."
Guess it's a different story when the thing is blown up in your face, hey? Now we're in the business of scrambling to spend millions on construction from square one. Maybe they should put a good number of those angry young Afghans referenced in the Senlis report to work in doing this.

If the above report isn't enough for you...there's yet another brand new land mine out of Afghanistan this morning. The Canadian military is not cooperating with the UN investigator seeking information about civilian deaths in the country as a result of the conflict. Why is such information important? Oh, just such trivial considerations as the "hearts and minds" aspect of the mission that seems to get lost in the shuffle at every turn. Surprise raids seem to be the main issue coming in for scrutiny. An elite unit of our soldiers is participating in such raids along with soldiers from other NATO countries.
The CBC's Brian Stewart reported Thursday that the raids, dubbed "hunt and kill" operations by American soldiers, are conducted by Canadian JTF-2 commandoes, as well as British and American soldiers. The raids are so secret that some Afghans believe the attacks are really execution missions, Stewart said.

"To the extent that those sort of raids go on fairly systematically, they set up a situation in which people are likely to be shot to death," Alston said.

While he said he has found no evidence Canadian officers involved in the raids have acted illegally, Alston criticized the Canadian military nonetheless for a lack of accountability.

"First of all, there are international law obligations to accountability and transparency. Second, we're pushing the Afghans very much to be accountable on these things. And thirdly, what I said before is we have a self-interest in a sense, as far as the West is concerned, in making sure that we hold ourselves to much higher standards," he said.
...
For its part, the Canadian military has deferred questions on the raids to NATO, Stewart said, which has described Alston's report as exaggerated and inaccurate.
File again under "things the NATO mission is f*%#ing up in Afghanistan."

"At Issue" in the house

Jeez, it's just like Chantal and the gang are here around my desk...

Yes, I'm joining in here on the end of session political judgments prompted by this post and this entry.

Best Moment:

No surprise to readers here, the revelations from "Amateur Hour on the Rideau," aka the Bernier implosion courtesy of Madame Couillard and their many escapades together. Harper's judgment finally became a topic of much deserved scrutiny in the wake of this mess, something that should have come under the bright lights much sooner than this. What a way to end the session, guys. Couldn't have dreamt it up better myself...:)

Worst Moment:

The late night firing of Linda Keen. Shamefully executed. The Harper government fired an uber-competent regulator overseeing a file that should be beyond partisan antics. Symbolic of their dealings with the public service and always prevalent instinct for their own political preservation above all else. A key moment crystallizing the dark side of the Harper government.

Most Overrated Politician:

There are so many, how to choose just one? OK, let's not. Here are 3.

Harpie. Um, have you been reading my blog? See most entries on any given day.

Thomas Mulcair. The vibe I get from this guy is like no other. With the greatest of respect, every time I listen to him speak the level of vitriol emanating out of him is typically set on high and I find myself offended. He's a very knowledgeable fella' and all but the edges are very rough.

Junior MacKay. I have no doubt he's a hard worker. But never has an original thing to say. And sometimes has retarded things to say.

Most Underrated:

Serge Menard. One of the best in a committee examining a witness. We need more people with such skills. Has gravitas. People listen intently in Question Period when he speaks. Too bad he's with the Bloc.

And a big shout out to all my Dipper friends with this one...it's Stephane Dion, the man you love to hate and feel is worse than Stephen Harper. Expectations? Very low. Recipe for political success...when it counts? Yep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"...the Commissioner was not impartial"

A case study in doing the right thing courtesy of Jean Chretien and his loyalists: "Chretien wins Federal Court battle to set aside Gomery findings." This judgment on the bias of Justice John Gomery in his conduct of the sponsorship hearings is remarkable. Can there be an indictment of a commissioner of a public inquiry stronger than this?

Kinsella's doing dances in the end zone today...the Chretienites deserve full credit for seeing this through and clarifying for posterity's sake the record with respect to the conduct of this inquiry. The judgment is well worth a read.

When Berniers attack

Oh yes, this approach seems very wise:
Mr. Bernier's speech to supporters in his Beauce riding was a carefully planned effort to launch a political rehabilitation – and although he said he did the responsible thing in quitting – he subtly suggested he had been deceived about her past. However, his father, former MP Gilles Bernier, was more direct: “It was certainly a trick,” he told reporters.
Put another way, from another report:
After he left the hall, Gilles Bernier, his father and a former MP, told reporters his son was the victim of a "sting," without identifying who was behind the sting operation.
More from the elder Bernier:
“I think Madame, through her 30-minute interview and through journalistic and other investigations, is showing – she claims to be right, but we claim otherwise,” he told reporters. “The scandal is not on our side.”
They're rattling sticks in a hornet's nest....not sure that's wise when it's not clear that everything to be told about this story has been told. There's a very interested media horde in Quebec pursuing this story. And oh, yes, there's a book coming too.

While the incredibly brief 11 minute speech may have left some in the local crowd cheered - and gee whiz his Dad's in his corner - elsewhere, it's not going over well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Bernier speech aka non-event

I particularly enjoyed the CBC retrospective of Maxime's tenure leading in to his televised statement...

Random observations:

The place was packed, it almost appeared as a political victory rally. Really though, it was a shameless entry for a disgraced Minister. This was the return of a conquering hero, not a bumbling politician who was in over his head. You have to wonder how this bit of polite defiance went over with the PMO. Clearly, this was all about rehabilitating Bernier's political reputation. He's not going away, Conservatives.

He had a notable line about how he went to Ottawa to defend "values," including "personal responsibility." Well done on that front, Maxime.

He learned on the night of May 25th that the left documents in Couillard's home. It was May 26th that she gave her TVA interview. Confirming once again that he had to be told he left classified documents out of his care and control. Well done again, Maxime.

Bernier says Couillard didn't tell him of her ties to organized crime...she says she told him. From a Star report on the Couillard interview:
Couillard also says Bernier knew about her past criminal associations from the outset of their relationship – contradicting the government's version of events.
Shocking discrepancy, I tell you, shocking.

Bernier's misplaced documents were briefing notes for the NATO summit, they were not numbered/bar-coded and in Bernier's words, not sensitive enough and therefore no alarms were set off and no one noticed they were missing. More to be investigated on this, I'm sure.

This was a melodramatic public apology that omitted certain key elements of the story. No word whatsoever on the real estate aspect in Quebec City and Bernier's intervention in that development to expand the amount of real estate available.

The event certainly did not live up to the hype.

How long does it take a Conservative cabinet minister to get elected?

If you're Michael Fortier, the answer is yet to be determined. We're going on two years and four months without a by-election to get Mr. Fortier elected. How's that for Harperian contempt for democracy?

Today's events have been extensively covered, considering there's not much to see. But you should have a gander at Don Martin's take. Here's a highlight:
To be a government backbencher -- male or female -- and watch political rewards being piled on a Liberal MP who campaigned against their party in 2006 and a senator who has never put his name on a ballot must be galling to true-blue Conservative MPs.

Perhaps the key to promotion was on display when the three ministers left the swearing in. Beyond a scripted thumbs up, they didn't say a word.

Pale males with a gag for a brain must be the preferred credentials for anyone joining Stephen Harper's Cabinet.
No stars in sight for the Harper team...

The tale of Maxime's Jos Louis diplomacy


On the day that Maxime Bernier's replacement is to be announced by the PM and also the day that Bernier is to "answer questions" without actually taking any questions on the matter of his relationship with Julie Couillard, here's Le Devoir celebrating Maxime by revealing the tale of how the infamous Jos Louis' event nearly didn't happen in Afghanistan. It's a cliffhanger, yes, the cakes nearly didn't make it due to Maxime's last minute request that it be done.

Alas, we shall not see the likes of him again for quite a while...:)

(Crudely translated version, here.)

A "true nationalist" of which country?

What is the PM doing by calling himself a "true nationalist" in Quebec on St. Jean Baptiste day anyway? Harper made these remarks sur l'occasion de la Fete Nationale hier au Quebec:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper painted himself as a Quebec nationalist on Tuesday as he took part in annual Fete Nationale celebrations.

He used festivities marking the provincial holiday to boast of his government's record in recognizing Quebec's place in Canada. "The true nationalists don't shy away from reality, they want to improve it," he told supporters at barbecue south of Montreal.

"True nationalists don't want to destroy, they want to build. We (the Conservatives) are the true nationalists." (emphasis added)
Now that sounds like opportunistic and out of place Conservative politicking on the day of the Quebec national holiday. And it's not even just run of the mill politicking. Would he utter that sentence, stating that the Conservatives are the "true nationalists" in Ottawa on Canada Day? That they are the party that wants to build Canada? See what I mean? It would be decried as an inappropriate attempt to portray his party as the patriotic one and by implication all others as not. The above statement skates very close to an uncomfortable line, reaching for this "true nationalist" badge. It's clearly an outright appeal to Quebec sovereignists and soft nationalists. I've never been a fan of those who play footsie like this in Quebec. It typically ends up burning everyone playing in the end. It's a questionable judgment on Harper's part to be doing so in such a blatant manner.

So just what kind of country is Harper building then, for Quebecers and the rest of us? The enthusiastic war nation of Canada? The environmental pariah Canada? A very Republican Canada?

A reader passed along this article yesterday which seemed to me a fine reminder of what style of governing and priorities Harper's brought to Canada. It's a report on the visit of Frank Luntz with Conservatives in the summer of 2006, Luntz the Republican spin doctor extraordinaire who travels among the highest echelons of Republican circles in the U.S. and who dispensed a great deal of advice then which has been followed quite neatly. The roadmap Luntz set out then for his willing Conservative listeners:
During his speech, titled "Massaging the Conservative Message for Voters," Mr. Luntz drew a communications roadmap to bring the Conservatives to a majority government -- a roadmap that Mr. Harper's government already appears to be following in several respects.

Focus on accountability and tax relief, said Mr. Luntz. Images and pictures are important. Tap into national symbols such as hockey.

"If there is some way to link hockey to what you all do, I would try to do it."

One of the reasons the Progressive Conservative government was decimated in 1993 was because they had strayed from important Conservative principles such as lower taxes, said Mr. Luntz who watched the election results come in that year from Mr. Manning's suite.

"You tax more (than the U.S) and you have to change that, you regulate more and you have to change that. But you are going to control the government longer than we are."
It's perhaps one of the most striking themes we've seen from the Conservatives, the U.S. driven tax obsession that has permeated Conservative talking points since they've been elected. They believe that the U.S. mindset that is fundamentally opposed to the levels of taxation that we've historically had in Canada is the operative one that should prevail in Canada. I've never been convinced that Canadians are on the same par as American voters in this regard and have found the tax message from the Conservatives to be a bit alien in that regard. Sure there's an appetite for lower taxes, but there's also an appetite to maintain valuable government services. Canadians like that balance. This is principally why the Harris Tories were booted out in Ontario and McGuinty, who raised taxes after promising not to do so was re-elected, for example. He had good reason to do so - debt - and the voters supported it. And perhaps the initial favourable results from the green shift polling is confirming once again, albeit at a very early stage, that the U.S. anti-tax rhetoric does not play here.

How does the "true nationalist" party that seeks "to build" embrace at the same time an American anti-tax ideology with the goal of choking the federal government? How does that square?

Luntz's directive to "tap into national symbols such as hockey" has been played out over and over in the Harper government playbook. They've variously tapped into other national symbols as well to stir up political support: the military, the north, the North Star. And they did it in respect of the Quebec nation motion as well. Harper's "true nationalist" remarks yesterday were in the same vein and clearly over the top.

And Harper may be a "true nationalist,"all right, but just not of this country...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

There is no "i" in team, Harpie

Harpie exercises cabinet leadership:
The shuffle, scheduled for 11 a.m. ET, is expected to be small, involving few ministers and leaving major portfolios such as finance and industry untouched.
...
Some Tories speculate that Harper may still conduct a more sweeping shakeup of his cabinet in the fall, in preparation for a possible election. But one senior Tory pooh-poohed that suggestion.

"Harper's not about team," the insider said.

"He doesn't want strong people ... sitting at the cabinet table. Why would he shuffle the cards? He's got people doing his bidding now."
Do I detect a pattern here? Senior Tory is not too pleased with the leader's modus operandi here. A few ministers are glaringly in need of a move, but nope, Harpie's not about team. And arguably not doing the right thing for his party in terms of curing those errors, notably Flaherty in Finance. Cue the anonymous criticism. Recall late last week, Don Martin putting out the word on Stockwell Day as a successor to Harper and today we read such remarks...the rumblings in Conservative leadership land, when they happen, are to be noted.

Call me a troublemaker or call me a citizen who simply reads the news reports...:)

"Good and hard"

Travers has a good one today: "PM confuses bullying and leadership." Picking up on the vulgarity of the PM last week and explaining how it encapsulates what this Conservative government is all about.

Pesky trademark law

Well this is an interesting conundrum. Legally, it appears the Liberals are on good footing in having used the Green Shift terminology for their plan's launch and branding. The Toronto company, also known as "Green Shift," is seeking to put a stop to the use of the name, however, despite the fact that the trademark they've sought has not been granted. Searches are turning up a litany of uses of the term, including a "Green Shift Corporation" in New York. So what's to be done? I'm in favour of the O'Malley wisdom here...the preferable option here would be to work out some kind of solution with this company. Having said that, the owner of the company is insisting on an absolute ceasing and desisting on the Liberals' part. Which, legally, the company may not be entitled to obtain. So, it may be that there's no solution to be worked out, it's just carry on as is.

I'd point out as well, that the Liberals have already made it clear that the two green shift sites and entities are not related and are directing traffic to the company site. Here's the first thing you see on google when you look up "green shift" in respect of the Liberal site. It's all about the company, not the Liberal site:
There's a bit of goodwill to build on, perhaps?

(h/t Red Tory)

The weak and insecure staying put at Harpie's cabinet table

Harpie's still making me wait for the fresh cabinet meat. Word is that Emerson is the designated picker-upper from Maxime's mess in Foreign Affairs. And so someone will be simply shifted over (Green Shift company: can I use the word "shift"...:)) to fill in at International Trade. So there will be a chosen few on tenterhooks for the summer:
A small shuffle now also means that Harper will wait before dealing with other weaker, more insecure players around his cabinet table, such as Helena Guergis, secretary of state for foreign affairs, who was seen as having mishandled the case of Canadian Brenda Martin, who was imprisoned in Mexico.

Some insiders say the Prime Minister has suggested a larger shuffle could come in the fall if there is no election.
Weak and insecure...now that's not the way to be described in the national media...:)

Also of interest here:
It also means people like Industry Minister Jim Prentice or Health Minister Tony Clement, who have been hinting they would like other jobs, will have to wait.
Got to think that maybe all that fawning press over Gentleman Jim and reports of wikipedia warring over Prentice's awesome abilities are getting to Harpie. Can't be lettin' any of these guys get too big for their britches now so he's keepin' them guessing.

Way to keep up the Conservative morale, Harpie...:)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pesky voters

Canadians are apparently crazy and willing to be screwed:
"A new poll finds suggests the Liberals could score votes with their controversial 'green shift' environmental proposal.

The first national poll since the Liberal leader Stephane Dion announced that he would impose a carbon tax to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions has found Canadians are beginning to pick sides. While a majority remain undecided, 14 per cent say they are in favour and 17 per cent are opposed.

But once the policy is explained to respondents, the Canadian Press-Harris-Decima survey found that 47 per cent liked the idea and 39 per cent were opposed."
While it's early going, and a lot will be done to "explain" the proposal in ways favourable to those opposed to the policy, not a bad start.

Tell us more, Mr. ex-Foreign Affairs Minister

John Manley took the opportunity to speak about "intelligence shortfalls" on Question Period yesterday I see. What is that saying...it takes an intelligence shortfall to know one?

Let's see what we learned from the old hand yesterday...um, we need intelligence in Afghanistan to prevent prisons from blowing up...shockingly brilliant point.

Secondly, "...Mr. Manley said the incident also demonstrates that the Taliban are capable of significant military actions." Do ya think?

Thirdly, Manley has very low expectations when it comes to the PM:
Nonetheless, Mr. Manley, who has criticized the government for not fully communicating the goals and results of the mission, complimented Prime Minister Stephen Harper for being candid in characterizing the break as a setback for Canada's plan to turn over security to Afghan forces three years from now.

"I'd have to say that the Prime Minister handled that quite well. He was very forthcoming in saying, essentially, this is a very bad thing that happened," he said. "I'm not sure all of the spokesmen for the government were quite as forthcoming."
Yes, he handled that quite well. The prison blew up and he characterized it as a setback. For stating the obvious he is to be congratulated. Whatever.

Fourth...apparently Mr. Manley has a continuing problem with the troop levels in Afghanistan.
He said the military commitment from the alliance is not high enough, noting that the 50,000-troop commitment to Afghanistan - a country of 30 million - is the same as the numbers sent to Bosnia, a country of 1.8 million.
Well if Mr. Manley felt so strongly about that point, perhaps he should have aimed higher when he had the chance rather than having his report require Canada to ask for the pithy 1000 extra troops from NATO. What are these, regrets in the wake of the prison "setback?"

Why do I find these comments so irksome...

Dion puttin' the screws to Harper

Well, you knew that was coming...heh...:)

Lawrence Martin gets another smackdown today for twice mocking Dion's English language communication skills in his column. I have never understood, from the get go, why it is perfectly acceptable to mock his English. It's not his first language. His first language is the other official language. Just like Chretien's was. And Dion's English is actually much better than Chretien's. Yes he has pronunciation difficulties, particularly when he's self-conscious about it. When he's engaged in conversation, it's not nearly as problematic. But why is it that it's become OK to take this issue and turn it into an indictment of the man as a political leader? I have no problem understanding what he's saying. Nor does Lawrence Martin, I'm sure. What's more important...that he doesn't have perfect emphasis in his diction because it's his second language or that he's essentially an honest guy with integrity who's trying to advance a significant policy debate? He certainly doesn't deserve this condescension from Martin - and others, principally Conservatives who have taken up the attack with glee. Here's Martin:
Stéphane Dion, hardly a renowned communicator, wants a series of debates on his proposed "green shift" plan with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
And this:
The Prime Minister is quick on his feet, reasonably articulate and does not have the Liberal Leader's English-language pronunciation problems. Mr. Dion has been ridiculed repeatedly for his lack of strength before the cameras, making it all the more surprising that he wants to go head-to-head with Mr. Harper.
Are Mr. Harper's smooth delivery and verbal shots the stuff of better leadership? Are we that shallow? Because gee, maybe Canadians want authenticity. A guy who is what he is, warts and all, in the wake of Mr. Harper. I guess we'll have to see. But the free pass people have been given to mock Dion's English like this is an issue that's been bothering me for quite a while.

In terms of the optics of the debate challenge, it's a good change for Dion and the Liberals. Going on the offensive on an issue of their choosing is a welcome change from the dynamic in the House. And there's something about Dion's demeanour that suggest he's perfectly at ease with this path he's chosen, whatever happens...and that seems to be very powerful to me:
Asked whether his future as Liberal Leader would be imperilled by failing to sell such a complex plan, Mr. Dion denied the plan is complicated.

"I think Mr. Harper is underestimating the intelligence of Canadians, the big hearts of Canadians," he said.
Additionally, zeroing in on Harper's "screw everybody" disastrous comments from last week is a no-brainer. Harper's off the cuff remarks can be his Achilles heel. The unguarded moments that let the real character shine through. Those remarks were pure losers. Base. Every time he does it they should be all over it.

Speaking of which, I also like the fact that as soon as Sandra Buckler responded to Dion's challenge, a Dion spokesman immediately rebutted her. The Conservatives have outdone the Liberals for ages now on the "rapid response" front. The Liberals should keep this up.

Now whether we have a big debate...nah, I don't think Harpie's going to upset his well-laid ad plans and carefully contrived summer schedule to indulge Dion. It'll have to wait 'till an election campaign.

Maureen Dowd rebuked by NY Times public editor

The New York Times' Public Editor took a strong position on Sunday, on the issue of Maureen Dowd's pummelling of Hillary Clinton in column after column throughout the primary season. It's making the rounds on the Reddit list tonight and it's an interesting read. Seems the Times has, unsurprisingly, had a number of complaints. The public editor's conclusion? Yes, Dowd went over the top with her attack. And I'd have to say, as a fan of Ms. Dowd more often than not, I agree. Excerpts from the remarkable public rebuke:
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective. (emphasis added)
The editorial page position defends its columnist:
Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page, said it was unfair to hold a columnist accountable for perceptions of bias in news coverage. A columnist is supposed to present strong opinions, he said, and “a thorough reading of Maureen’s work shows that she does that without regard to gender, partisanship or ideology.”
Yet the public editor's conclusion:
Aulisio, the reader who wanted a review of Times coverage, asked if a man could have gotten away with writing what Dowd wrote. Rosenthal said that if the man had written everything Dowd had written over the years and established himself as a sardonic commentator on the sexes, “I’d say the answer is yes.”

Of course, there is no such man, and I do not think another one could have used Dowd’s language. Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season. (emphasis added)
Oh well. Nothing to be done about it now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Conservative leadership murmurings


Don Martin had this little nugget yesterday in his column in which he graded the senior Conservative cabinet ministers at the end of the session. Here's what he had to say about our man Stalkwell in grading him a "B+":
Just to illustrate the dramatic nature of his transformation, consider that his name is now whispered as a front-running replacement for, get this, Stephen Harper.
A blogger can only hope. But still, that's an interesting rumour being thrown out there for public consumption. It must have its sources. And heck, anything that stirs up leadership talk among the Harper Conservatives is cause for intrigue. It's certainly a topic that's worthy of much more attention given the failure of the Conservative leader to galvanize the Canadian public with anything beyond minority government level support.

Bernier's "Deep Impact"



Rex Murphy's take on the "Bernier affair" from the other night. I'm not fully in agreement with all aspects of this commentary - it's not all farce and folly, to use his words. But his main point here that's worth acknowledging is that this Bernier implosion remains all about Harper's judgment. And that is a lasting lesson of this parliamentary session. I would add that this take is bolstered by the other scandals such as the Cadman tapes and the in-and-out raid on Conservative HQ. And that sterling judgment is apparently to be manifested going forward in the Conservative reaction to the Liberal green shift plan.

As they say, the fish rots from the head...

McCain to Harper: ask and Khadr will be repatriated

As reported in the Star, yesterday there was quite a significant development in the Khadr case. The Republican presidential nominee signalled that he would return Khadr if the Canadian government asked for his repatriation. That McCain comment effectively pulls the rug out from under the Harper government's sycophantic position in backing the Bush administration. If McCain is taking this position, at a public press conference in Ottawa, then he's signalling that it could actually happen - now - if that's what our government requests. Here's McCain from yesterday:
Senator John McCain says he would favour returning Toronto-born Omar Khadr to Canada from Guantanamo Bay if Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested it.
...
At a press conference after his Ottawa speech yesterday, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said there have been "ongoing discussions" between Canada and the U.S over the handling of Khadr's case.

Commenting on the possible return of Khadr to Canada, McCain said, "I hope that we could comply with whatever is agreed to by the Canadian government. And then, I think, is the time to move forward with addressing that issue."
The Harper p.r. people immediately responded to this damning bit of exposure from their supposed steadfast friends in the Republican party:
A Harper government spokesperson said later yesterday that McCain was referring only to the regular discussions between consular officials about a Canadian detained abroad.
Right. Got to tamp out any possible suggestion that the Americans might actually be looking to get Khadr back to Canada. Way to stand up for a Canadian citizen there, Harpies. Must preserve your political posturing at all costs.

All other western nations have gotten their citizens out of the Gitmo gulag. Even the very conservative McCain is apparently shaking his head wondering what's going on with Canada not having done so.

What is the Harper government's point in sticking with a policy that the U.S. is about to abandon as of January 2009? Especially when given this massive opening from the highest profile Republican in the United States at this moment? Is any Harperite getting it through their thick skulls that their Gitmo chest pounding is puzzling even to the likes of McCain?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh looky, a Couillard book deal

With a release date of the fall. Hmmm, what might be going on this fall...let me think real hard...oh yes, an election campaign.
McClelland and Stewart said in a news release that Couillard's book will contain "details of a life marked by both tragedy and exhilaration."
Well done, you fine Canadian publishing houses. I'm sure the Conservatives will also look forward to the "exhilarating" details of the most recent parts of Ms. Couillard's life...:)

Update: A better statement of the book's pitch:
"From her childhood experiences to her meeting with the President of the United States at the side of Canada's chief diplomat, and the tragic death of her companion in the infamous biker gang wars in the mid 1990s, Julie Couillard will reveal the details of a life marked by both tragedy and exhilaration," the publisher said.
Heh...:)

Our stately, dignified PM in action

The character of the PM shining brightly and in full view today. Bringing a whole new level of debate to Canadian politics:
"(The carbon tax plan) is like the national energy program in the sense that the national energy program was designed to screw the West and really damage the energy sector - and this will do those things," Harper told a small crowd in Saskatoon.

"This is different in that this will actually screw everybody across the country."
This is really telling stuff. Harper is like a cornered snake right now, hissing and lashing out. There's something very unsettling in his early reaction to the carbon tax debate. He's emotional and very hostile. And needless to say, this kind of base rhetoric is unacceptable, first off, for a PM to be uttering. The plan "screws everybody?" Come on, get your mouth out of the gutter please, Mr. Harper. We're an educated, civilized nation. Act like it.

Secondly, this is irresponsible wedge politics at its worst. Harper is shamelessly invoking the national energy program, the height of divisive strategy in the west. He's prepared to inflame the west and further division in the country for the sake of his political fortunes. Is that the kind of political leadership we want in this country?

This is going to be very interesting.

It's a hope versus fear palooza comin' our way

A few preliminary thoughts on the big event from yesterday, hopefully unrepetitive of points well made elsewhere in the blogosphere.

I like the contrast between Dion and Harper on this issue. The CTV News report last night was a decent contrast of the approach the two are likely to take from here on out. Dion asking for reasonable debate and swearing to fight "Republican style attacks" with "Canadian style courage." Very clever to tag the Conservatives with that label as that's what Canadians will be seeing plenty of, not only from the Harpies with their talking oil slick, but from Swift Boaters to our south who will be taking a hack saw to Barack Obama throughout the summer and into the fall. We're going to see heaps of it. If Conservatives want to take the same approach, as they have been doing for years, they should knock themselves out. The comparison will be eminently useful. As for Harper, with his "that's crazy" response to Dion...he took a tone of dismissiveness, waving Dion's plan off out of hand. Sounding condescending and negative ("If, God help us, he ever gets in office, he'll put a carbon tax on gasoline and everything else. And it will not be revenue neutral," Harper said."). "God help us?" Could he be more melodramatic?

So hope versus fear it is. It's a good dynamic.

We've had a long, dark parliamentary session. The Conservatives are embroiled in scandals, no matter how much they stonewall and pretend they don't exist by speaking in alternative realities in the House of Commons. They know how vulnerable they are on those issues. It's also been a parliament that's worked against the Liberals. Dion's had no choice but to take a pass on defeating the government due to the recovery time the party needed under a new leader to get ready for an election. And he's suffered the consequences. (That explanation will never satisfy a good chunk of people, so be it.) It's been a virtual draw in this sense for both the Liberals and Conservatives.

A turn toward a campaign, with yesterday's unveiling of this Green Shift, gives you a glimpse of the contrast between the leaders that will be drawn out to a greater extent whenever that election may be. One of the advantages (yes, advantages) to the Conservative attack ads to date has been to set expectations ridiculously low for Dion. So low that if he conducts himself throughout the selling of this plan, through the summer and into the fall in the manner he did yesterday, by speaking reasonably and engaging Canadians with facts, people may be very pleasantly surprised. And I say that, acknowledging that it's too late for some. But they're likely not his target audience in any event. There are a ton of disaffected Canadians who voted for Harper due to the sponsorship scandal and have now seen his act. They're looking for other options.

Oh yes, and then there was this:



A well done ad. And no talking oil slicks! The theme of the first part is inspiring...great countries are built on great dreams...appealing to a higher purpose. The team aspect of the latter part of the video is particularly effective and ending in Dion's best line in ages. Hope to see it and other productions on the airwaves of all varieties in the coming months. After all, we know the Conservatives will have theirs...

Bernier to speak at scripted event

Those whispering sources around Maxime Bernier are at it again, tellin' us to get ready for a whole lot of nothing at a stage managed Bernier statement next week: "Bernier poised to speak on liaison with Couillard."
Former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier is scheduled to break his silence next week and start addressing the "crucial questions" flowing from the MP's politically disastrous relationship with a woman with ties to biker gangs, sources said.

Mr. Bernier has booked space in a hotel in St-Georges-de-Beauce, in his riding south of Quebec City, where he is expected to explain when he learned of Julie Couillard's past ties to bikers and how his confidential government papers could have ended up in her hands.

But sources said he will be guarded in his comments and has no intention of answering questions from reporters. He also will not respond to the more tabloid-like elements of the scandal.
This little event speaks to a need to control the fallout in Quebec from this thing. The Quebec media have been doggedly pursuing the story and are unlikely to give it up anytime soon. Conservative fortunes are at risk with those Quebec seats. So the PMO's lettin' their ex-golden boy out of his exile.

To which you just have to say...way to keep the story in the public eye, Conservative brain trust...:)

Harper plan is $490 billion for Defence over next 20 years

"Defence plan to cost $490B over 20 years." Recall Harper's announcement on the "Canada First Defence Strategy" in Halifax in May. There was great confusion surrounding and following the announcement as to what the cost would be. A $30 billion figure was cited by Harper that day. Then we were told it was $50 billion over 20 years. Then a figure of $96 billion was reported. Who knew the entire shebang, equipment plus budget would end up at $490 billion.

What we learn today is that Harper meant to say, way back in Halifax in May, that the defence annual operating budget would be $30 billion per year, 20 years from now. The annual budget is presently $18 billion per year. So factoring in those annual increases in order to rise to $30 billion per year plus equipment purchases in the order of at least $55 billion...and troop increases envisioned to cost $250 billion...and you end up with $490 billion, total, in defence spending over the next 20 years.

Now that's a little more than the $30 billion Harper tried to couch his plan under back in May, isn't it?

(h/t Vijay Sappani)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Economist weighs in on Bernier-Couillard

"Femme fatale," the Economist's aptly entitled and succinct overview of the Bernier-Couillard matter comes to this:
Ms Couillard chose not to accept an invitation to answer questions about her conquests from a House of Commons committee on June 18th. Stephen Harper, Canada's Conservative prime minister, originally chided the opposition as “gossipy old busybodies” for dwelling on Ms Couillard. But the remarkable career of a “one-woman wrecking crew” (as one newspaper called her) may prove damaging to a government that took power pledged to clean up sleaze. That applies especially in Quebec. The Conservatives won ten seats there in 2006 because of Liberal sleaze. Mr Bernier was their best hope of winning more—and thus endowing their minority government with a majority. The new symbol of Conservatism in Quebec is Ms Couillard. (emphasis added)
Now there's a slogan for ya...:)

No fresh meat for now

Harpie likes his cabinet just as it is.
"I believe that most of our ministers are just beginning to hit their stride in their portfolios," Harper said at a news conference in Huntsville, Ont., on Thursday.

"I don't believe this would be the time for major changes to cabinet. . . . I see no need for a comprehensive overhaul now."

Harper did say he'll have to make a minor change "in due course" to deal with the resignation of his foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier. That came after Bernier left classified documents at the home of his former girlfriend, Julie Couillard.
So let's see. Most of Harpie's team are "hitting their stride" just about now and it sounds as if he's leaving them all in place, other than around the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Meaning Guergis is likely going to remain among the casualties given her connection to the Foreign Affairs scene.

Otherwise, Harpie's comments apparently mean that Flaherty is still hitting his stride...Baird hitting his just in time to cartoonishly mock the Liberal plan, Lunn, Ritz, Toews...yes, I can see Harpie's logic, being the brilliant strategist that he is. Let them stride away, they're doing wonders for Conservative fortunes.

The "right to privacy" of PMO staffers being asserted in the NAFTA leak

Recall this piece of Travers' reporting on May 27 uncovering that officials in the PMO were responsible for the leak of the Canadian diplomatic memo to the Associated Press which caused damage to the Obama campaign at the height of the Democratic primary season in Ohio. Recall these elements of Travers' report:
Multiple sources say the Canadian note questioning the Democrat frontrunner's public promise to reopen NAFTA was leaked from the Prime Minister's Office to a Republican contact before it made American headline news.
...
"This was a very deliberate piece of business for political purpose," one of the sources said. "It puts political ideology ahead of what's good for the country."
Travers further reported on how the diplomatic memo got to the PMO, which was not on the distribution list:
An analyst in Lynch's office gave the memo to a PMO official on Feb. 27 who then shared it with a colleague. A day later it was passed to Brodie. There is no evidence Brodie forwarded the memo himself, but by noon March 2 AP was in touch with the embassy seeking clarification.
The comical absurdity of the Lynch report followed that blamed Foreign Affairs for too wide a distribution list yet turned a blind eye to the analyst in his own office and the distribution going on at his front door.

Today, at a commons committee, Brodie confirmed the latter point on the distribution of the memo. But the Globe reports he had this to say about the involvement of PMO officials:
Mr. Brodie said Thursday that he received a copy of that report two days after the budget lock-up – and one day after it was in the hands of two officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

Those individuals were not named in Mr. Lynch's report and Mr. Brodie told the committee that he could not reveal their identities because they had not waived their right to privacy.

“When it became clear that the report from Chicago had been leaked to Associated Press in Washington, I did speak to a number of people in the office about how the report arrived in our office,” he said. But Mr. Lynch's probe was launched shortly thereafter and he said he let the investigators take over. (emphasis added)
This reporting makes it sound as if Brodie knew the identity of the 2 officials in the PMO who had the diplomatic memo. And that he is purposely not telling the Committee those names. If you review the Lynch report, in the timeline, it's clear that Brodie does know the identity of PMO Official "2" as that individual provided Brodie with a copy of the diplomatic memo. In which case, why is this information not being disclosed? Kady O'Malley blogged that Brodie said this at the Committee:
11:29:54 AM
A good question: Who, Bains wonders, are the mysterious PMO Officials One and Two, as referenced in the report? Brodie doesn’t know - and wouldn’t that have been a better question for Lynch?
But Brodie does know Official Two. The Lynch report says Official Two gave him the diplomatic memo.

I didn't see the context in which this "right to privacy" of PMO officials was asserted on behalf of these individuals but it seems patently outrageous for the committee to have let this go. If Mr. Brodie knows who the individuals are, he has a duty to disclose that information.

There are two unnamed PMO officials who had the report. Travers has multiple sources indicating the leak of the diplomatic memo came from the PMO. Why are these people being protected?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another instance of Conservative doublespeak

The Vic Toews incident yesterday where he called Louise Arbour a "disgrace"in the House of Commons highlights the problem of Conservatives' speaking out of both sides of their collective mouths. While Toews utters such an insult about a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, for pete's sake, Harper's spokesman says this:
Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said: "The government hasn't always agreed with all the positions she (Arbour) has taken. Nevertheless we've clearly praised what an accomplished career she's had."
Further, at virtually the same time Toews was shouting that Arbour was a "disgrace" in the House, David Emerson was stating this:
"We congratulate the work of Louise Arbour and we very strongly support the work of the United Nations in their pursuit of the protection of human rights and we'll continue to do so," Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said in response to Hall Findlay's question.
So which is it you doublespeaking hypocritical Conservatives? Is this former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada a disgrace? Or is she to be congratulated for her distinguished career? If it's the latter, and that is indeed what Harper's spokesman said, then Toews should properly apologize for his crass remark.

The same situation occurred last week with the official residential schools apology while on the same day Pierre Poilievre expressed a contemptuous position on the issue of payments to residential school survivors and the power structures on reserves. Poilievre ended up having to apologize.

Will Vic Toews do the same today?

The PCO security brain trust is on the job

Well I think we can all say with some degree of certainty, having watched enough of the proceedings of the Public Safety Committee meeting yesterday, that the crack national security team in the PCO is clueless. The security checks on Bernier, done as recently as April of this year - around the time he was leaving documents around for all who cared to see - raised no alarms. And even when media reports surfaced, they did...nothing.
Opposition MPs expressed the view in committee that someone in government should have been more active in getting to the bottom of the allegations.

“I don't believe everything I see in the newspapers,” said Liberal MP Roy Cullen. “But if I saw those, I think as a national security adviser or director of security operations, it would have tweaked something, it seems to me, that there might be something of concern here. That didn't happen here, is that correct?”

“That's correct,” said Mr. Tardif.
No questions were asked of the RCMP or anyone else for that matter. Passivity and assumptions were the order of the day given the brand spankin' new security report that Maxime had just passed with no red flags. Oh yes, it's quite the team Harpie's got up there in Ottawa. The past associations of the Foreign Affairs Minister's "spouse" with Hells Angels and mafia raised no concerns, even with this Quebec vote obsessed Conservative team. How could they have such a tin ear to the threat of biker gangs in Quebec? As Serge Menard, who is injecting some gravity into this inquiry, put it:
"My impression is they took this very lightly," Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard, a former provincial public security minister, told reporters. "I see that in Ottawa, they don't take organized crime seriously - particularly the Hells Angels. Maybe in Quebec we are more sensitive to this because we suffered (through biker wars) and there were more deaths in Quebec than elsewhere."
Also of note, Kevin Lynch, the Clerk of the Privy Council who was on the witness list and wanted as a witness by all but the Conservatives, did not materialize on Tuesday. The Conservative "leadership" on the committee effectively obstructed his appearance by advising the PCO that he did not need to appear. They did so despite the consensus of the entire committee being that he was a required witness.

Incompetence in the PCO, obstruction at the committee. The Conservatives are putting on quite the show of late...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nice marketing

Some enterprising CPAC execs sense a good show when they see it...heh...:) Who knew Bernier would see his name in "lights" like this...:)





Conservative hatorade watch: today's winner, Vic Toews

Way to impress the women of Canada, Conservatives.

Toews owes the eminent Louise Arbour an apology for this classless yahoo behaviour:
One of Stephen Harper's senior cabinet members called Louise Arbour "a disgrace" on the floor of the House of Commons Tuesday.

Vic Toews, a Manitoba Conservative MP and the President of the Treasury Board, yelled "she's a disgrace" during Question Period as a Liberal MP, Martha Hall Findlay, was calling on the government to acknowledge Arbour's work as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Arbour is to retire from that position later this month. During her question, Hall Findlay alleged that the government had ordered diplomatic staff abroad not to talk about Arbour's work.
...
After Question Period had concluded, Hall Findlay asked Toews to withdraw his remark. He did not, telling the House, "the comments that Louise Arbour has made in respect of the state of Israel and the people of Israel are, in fact, a disgrace and I stand by those words."

Hall Findlay condemned Toews.

"It's a completely personal attack," Hall Findlay said after Question Period. "I think it's appalling. She is a highly respected person for all of the work she's done in human rights. She is one of the most successful, most impressive women this country's ever produced and this is just shameful the behaviour she's getting from her own country."
Toews was referring to comments Arbour made during the Lebanon-Israel conflict in 2006 on the need to protect civilians and which are reported in the above link.

Is Vic Toews leaving government? Can't be soon enough...

The Khadr subcommittee weighs in

Some relatively heartening news on the Khadr front in the sense that Parliament is now on record in the form of the subcommittee report on Khadr's continued detention at Guantanamo Bay. The opposition has called for Khadr's repatriation and the Conservatives oppose it. Now for history's sake, the record is officially clear.

Notably, the Conservative line hews to the Bush global war on terror philosophy:

The dissenting opinion also provides more insight on the government's deep opposition to bringing Mr. Khadr home – Conservative members usually respond to questions about the detained Canadian with one or more of a handful of pre-approved talking points.

Mr. Khadr could become a litmus test on Canada's commitment to impeding global terrorism and the results of our actions today could result in consequences that are not in the long-term interest of the country,” the dissenting opinion states.

In the face of the numerous rulings that have exposed the problems with Guantanamo's legal proceedings, to maintain such general platitudes is wildly out of step with those realities. Khadr is a former fifteen year old child soldier, he's hardly the case upon which the government should rest the nation's global outlook on how to address terrorist threats. And it's funny how all other western nations have reached exactly the opposite conclusion to that of the Conservatives.

Khadr's case is proceeding, tomorrow.

Stubborn Conservatives on display today

Peter Van Loan spent his Question Period singing the praises of Julie Couillard's mother...:) Well done, Van Loan. It's amazing the gymnastics this government will entangle itself in lest they be viewed in the slightest as having made a decision that objectively viewed...reeks.

Did I hear Josee Verner, Status of Women Minister mention the carbon tax in response to a question on why the Court Challenges Program has apparently been suddenly and secretly revived only in respect of language rights challenges and not women's rights? That's deserving of some kind of raspberry award...and what's with the secrecy here? This is a government program, right? Why are they hiding this information from people? It's not like it's a secret that they're under fire for scrapping the program by the Official Language Commissioner. Or that there's a Federal Court action that's been brought to restore the program by these individuals. So why the big secret? Again, is it because the Conservatives hate admitting they were wrong?

By contrast, there seems to be a qualitative difference in the responses of David Emerson, new Foreign Affairs Minister, to those of his colleagues. Judging by his brief answer in the House today and his comments to a scrum yesterday, his colleagues might learn a thing from him. It's early, but no defensiveness or attack on the opposition emanating - yet - from this one.

Newsflash: Elections Canada concerned about its reputation

Funny, isn't it, the access to information requests that seem to be granted with such speed these days. Like this one disclosing internal e-mail communications between Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and his chief financial officer. And here I thought times were tough in the access to information trenches. We've been reading such reporting, just recently in fact, about the access to information system being hopelessly backlogged and words like "paralysis" being used to describe the system under the Conservatives. So excuse a person for expressing some surprise at the uncharacteristic speed of the disclosure of these internal Elections Canada e-mails.

No doubt the Conservatives will be looking to put their special spin on the e-mail exchange in which Mayrand expresses concern about the possibility of there having been a leak which tipped off the Liberals to the raid on Conservative HQ and his desire to "kill" the story. He does go on to note that an internal review found no leak. Is the exchange so damning? You be the judge:
In the days after the high-profile raid in Ottawa, the Tories charged that Elections Canada had ignored similar electoral ad spending transgressions by the opposition, and told the media and Liberals about the raid to maximize political damage.

"With regard to this allegation of [a] leak do you have any suggestion as to how we could kill it?" Mr. Mayrand asked in an e-mail dated April 18.

"If we can dispel this story [the leak], we will have only positive media coverage," replied Ms. Vézina, the associate deputy chief electoral officer in charge of political financing. "And the alternative is that we appear to be partisan or biased or vindictive and at the moment the media seem to believe we tipped off the CBC and the Liberals."
...
But Mr. Mayrand makes clear in the April 18 e-mail exchange that he believed the allegations were unfounded.

"Our internal review indicates no reasonable ground to believe there was a leak," he wrote. "This may be pure diversion tactic/competitive frustration from a media outlet vis-à-vis another. The central fact is that media were there more than two hours after the operation started."

Ms. Vézina replied, "Ok. But however we do it we need to kill it as it seems to be the one negative aspect haunting us and damaging our reputation. Even the disclosure of the affidavit won't eliminate the doubt about the so-called leak."
Hmmm...it sounds like a government agency, under siege by its own government, that is naturally discussing the serious allegations against it, as we would expect them to do rather than walk around like uncaring automatons. A leaking of news of a raid on Conservative HQ is alleged against an institution whose impartiality is its foundation. Of course they're going to talk about it and yes, discuss how they can combat that perception. Because heck, this would normally be the time when the government would come to the rescue of a foundational democratic institution in our society. And these Conservatives certainly wouldn't be performing that expected role in this situation, would they?

A well-timed grant of an access to information request to once again undercut Elections Canada? Does anyone need to be changing the subject this horrible week and have an ability to speed up certain requests over others?

Amazing the things Elections Canada is spending its time worrying about, as a result of unprecedented government attacks against it.

Update: similar view at Far N Wide.

Oh looky, more government largesse for the Couillard family

Oh, I'm sure this is all just a coincidence. After all, my government tells me it be so.
Federal officials confirmed last night that Ms. Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, obtained a federal appointment last August to be a member of the Employment Insurance Boards of Referees, officials said last night.

The three-year position was approved through an order-in-council and was made on the recommendation of Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg.

Federal officials insisted that Mr. Bernier was not involved in the nomination, and Ms. Bellemare has qualifications to hold the part-time position, in which she will adjudicate employment insurance matters. The officials said Ms. Bellemare underwent a security screening for the position.
I'm sure you can all come up with your own interesting questions at home now, can't you?

Anything else you want to tell us, Conservatives? Or do you prefer the drip, drip, drip thing you've got going on?

The tentacles are on steroids...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Couillard declining to testify

Kady O'Malley has just published the letter from Julie Couillard's counsel in which he politely declines the committee's invitation for her to appear this Wednesday. No surprise there given the expanding web of angles this scandal is sprouting.

Her counsel cites her potential liability under the Security of Information Act for her possession of the classified documents from Bernier. He also points out Bernier's potential liability as well and the inter-relatedness of the possible charges against both Bernier and Couillard. How can she properly respond when Bernier's evidence is not before the Committee? The potential charges emanating from the security breach have been flying under the radar to date. Begging the question of whether there is indeed an RCMP investigation going on in respect of these charges. The letter states that Couillard and her lawyer believe there is one currently underway.

I'd have to agree with her lawyer here, that it's "lopsided" to say the least that Couillard, as a private citizen might be compelled to testify when Bernier is refusing. This injection of a notion of "equality" as between the two runs throughout the letter, which at times is presented with some artistic embellishment (e.g., "the principle of equality of arms.")

Oh no, it's not going away.

Update (8 pm): Some Machiavellian speculation...

The comments reported in the Globe on Saturday to the effect that Bernier didn't recall leaving documents at Couillard's and further raising the possibility that Couillard may have taken them may have been a consideration made by Couillard and her counsel that led to this decision. They were a reminder of the legal jeopardy in which she sits due to the documents having come into her possession. And perhaps a signal that such questions would be posed by Conservatives (and others) on the committee. I'm sure Couillard and her counsel had made the decision not to testify prior to Saturday's Globe report, but it may have confirmed for them the risk she would take in voluntarily testifying. If the intent of the anonymous source to the Globe was to ensure Couillard would not testify, he/she may have accomplished their goal.

Kandahar situation "hitting the fan"

"Taliban swarm edges of Kandahar."
Taliban fighters swarmed the doorstep of Afghanistan's second-largest city Monday, bombing small bridges and scattering landmines to keep Canadian and international troops at bay.
A Canadian soldier provides a candid analysis:
The fears were palpable among NATO forces.

Some employees of the international troops refused to leave their homes Monday out of concern for their safety and did not come into work. One Canadian soldier bluntly assessed the situation:

"Shit's hitting the fan," he said. "They want to take the city. They want to make a statement."
Yes, it was a capital idea, this hands off approach to the Afghan prisons. Amir Attaran explains the many red flags suggesting this was a ticking time bomb and the failure in leadership circles by those who ignored them:
It is only because the Harper government is too stubborn and the Canadian Forces are too fearful to build a prison -- last year, the Forces admitted they were worried about an "Abu Ghraib situation" -- that the stage was so helpfully set for the Taliban's coup.

Now that disaster has struck, the Canadian Forces' officer corps and the Harper government will minimize their errors of judgment. Expect Gen. Rick Hillier to stick with his ludicrous analysis that freeing hundreds of Taliban fighters in Kandahar is only "a small splash in the pond." Expect Stephen Harper to attack his critics for not supporting Canada's soldiers. Perhaps Mr. Harper will even allege, as he did last year, that those who question his government's handling of detainees are Taliban sympathizers.

Yet the better view is that the many persons who expressed prudential worry over Canada's detainee handling practices are Canadian Forces sympathizers. One can only imagine, with gratitude, how many Canadian soldiers were hurt or killed capturing the 400 Taliban who were imprisoned in Sarposa. Now one can only imagine, with revulsion and sadness, how many more will be hurt or killed recapturing them -- and for no reason other than the breathtaking negligence of the Canadian Forces' leadership and Mr. Harper's government.

Bernier could be forced to testify by Public Safety Committee

The Public Safety Committee is, quite appropriately, considering forcing Bernier to testify. And Harper as well. It's ludicrous to be attempting to get to the bottom of security breaches without the principal transgressor being present: "Public Safety Committee considering Commons order on Bernier."
Opposition MPs on the House Public Safety Committee are launching into a broad study into the Bernier affair that could last to the end of June and are now considering the use of a rare House order to force testimony from Maxime Bernier and possibly Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Que.), who moved the original committee motion to study the Bernier affair, told The Hill Times last week that parties are now consulting with experts to determine whether they can use House of Commons powers to force Parliamentarians, such as Mr. Bernier (Beauce, Que.), to appear before the committee.

"He's the main witness. He's at the centre of the whole thing," Mr. Ménard, his party's public safety critic, said. "Certainly I'd like to establish how much he knew, and if somebody, probably through his chief of staff, had meetings with the RCMP about [Julie] Couillard. That's what interests me, because I think he should have been advised by the RCMP."
Further information in the report suggests the Committee will be plowing on past the end of House session until they feel their investigation is complete. Good for them. Why should questions of national security be dropped simply due to a summer recess? It's nonsense. There's also the expanding nature of these inquiries:
How long the committee investigation lasts may depend on whether the it branches out into a study of connections between Ms. Couillard, real estate firm Kevlar Group, and a $30-million Public Works contract. Ms. Couillard has been listed as a real estate agent associated with Kevlar, and The Globe and Mail reported last week that Philippe Morin, a co-chair of Kevlar, introduced Ms. Couillard to Mr. Bernier in April 2007.
And let's not forget the Treasury Board intervention Bernier is reported to have made regarding the quantity of land available for the Quebec City development Kevlar had an interest in.

If the Committee takes steps to pursue Bernier, the stonewalling will likely develop into very poor political optics for the Conservatives given the mounting questions.