Tuesday, March 31, 2009

But that was then...

She used to be someone's best friend, how times have changed. Auditor General Sheila Fraser weighs in with a critical report on government appointments to "commissions, boards and tribunals"and the reaction is predictable. Fraser found delays in appointments to fill board positions, a lack of communication regarding appointments, re-appointments, replacements and a lack of consultation with the board bodies themselves, a key ingredient to creating successfully governed entities. The Privy Council Office reacted and Fraser discloses it:
Fraser's focus once again on the matter apparently rankled the government's upper echelon.

"Officials of the Privy Council Office have expressed their view that aspects of our audit report go beyond the auditor general's mandate and encroach on the exercise of discretion by ministers and (the cabinet)," Fraser said.

"We are satisfied that the findings in our report fall entirely within the mandate of the auditor general."
Echoes of the attack on Kevin Page by the Conservative members of the Finance Committee last week attempting to portray him as exceeding his jurisdiction in terms of the information he was conveying (his questioning of the government's asset sale predictions of $10 billion in revenues) and his requests for documents from the Finance Department.

The independent officers of accountability are clearly personae non gratae for Conservatives these days. (The PCO is not as independent as we'd like to think.)

Another troubling aspect of the AG's report, here.

Three cheers for the Speaker - again

Updated below (7:20 p.m.) to include Teneycke comments.

"Tory MP warned of suspension from Commons over attacks on Ignatieff." The Conservative brain trust seems intent on playing childish games in the House of Commons, using the "Member Statement" session not for business in the nation's interest, for statements recognizing Canadian accomplishments, causes or other justifiable purposes, but for partisan theatre and misrepresentations. And now, the Speaker is saying, enough of the games, he may suspend a Conservative MP:
Commons Speaker Peter Milliken has threatened to suspend a Conservative MP if he continues making personal attacks against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Daryl Kramp received the warning after accusing Ignatieff of hypocrisy on a number of issues.

Milliken told MPs several weeks ago that he would no longer tolerate them using members' statements, which precede question period each day, to engage in personal attacks.

He began cutting off MPs who ignored his ruling.

To avoid being silenced, Kramp and other Tory MPs have taken to issuing scathing assessments of an unidentified politician, whom they identify as Ignatieff only at the very end of their statements - when it's too late for Milliken to cut them off.

Milliken's warning suggests he's willing to take more drastic measures to put a stop to the personal attacks.
The Commons should not be used for amateur hour playtime. The cries about free speech and suppression of debate will ensue, no doubt. So, a reminder of the Commons floor time that the Conservatives are abusing:
Statements by Members
(Déclarations de députés)
A daily 15-minute period preceding the oral question period, when Members who are not Cabinet Ministers may make statements on matters of national, regional or local importance. Statements are limited in length to one minute and opportunity to speak is given equally to all private Members.
One need only look at examples of what the Conservatives have been saying, it's not anything of "national, regional or local importance," it's partisan hackery at its worst.

Update: (4:50 p.m.): "Brain Kramp."

Update (5:15 p.m.): pogge, Maxwell's House, life in moderation.

Update (7:05 p.m.): Liberal Arts & Minds, Peterborough Politics.

Update (7:20 p.m.): On behalf of the Prime Minister, Teneycke expresses support for the trash that Conservative MPs are framing as "debate."
Kory Teneycke, communication director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gave no indication that Tory MPs will let up in their attacks on Ignatieff, a former Harvard academic.

"This is the House of Commons. Debate of a partisan nature is nothing new and in our estimation should not be restricted in that way and certainly not restricted on one side of the House in a way that is different from the other side of the House," Teneycke said.

"This is politics. This is not a Harvard classroom. You have to be able to take it as well as give it."
There you have it, what the Conservative party supports, as set by the tone from the top. Click on the links in original post to the House of Commons transcripts to see just a few samplings of what Conservative MPs are offering to the people of Canada at this time, as officially sanctioned by the PMO.  A carnival sideshow to distract from their economic record.  

Gritgirl says history is repeating itself

Updated (5:00 p.m.): The PMO states Mulroney is not a Conservative party member. Mulroney says, oh yes, I am: "Tories, Mulroney in tiff over party membership." "Operation Distance" now in full swing, I take it...

Update (5:40 p.m.): Tom Clark gets spun, here then the pull back.

Mr. Mulroney, back on our TV screens for the foreseeable future bringing with him memories of all the, ahem, good times. The comparisons of Canadian economic fortunes then and now, gritgirl notes, are inevitable and awesome. As are the pictures...:)

Looking forward to Senator Franken...still

This is one of those issues that has gotten lost in the shuffle a bit, the Minnesota Senate battle that is still preventing Al Franken from taking his place in the U.S. Senate. Rachel Maddow interviewed David Boies of Bush v. Gore fame last night and canvassed a number of the outstanding questions. It's incredible that Republicans have been able to get away with this to date, it's the end of March and yet still no second senator for Minnesota and a key vote in the Senate for the Dems is kept at bay. Maybe Senator Cornyn's recent incendiary comments will do the trick in creating a backlash against such clear obstruction:
Texas Sen. John Cornyn is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts.

Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “years” to resolve. But he’s adamant that Coleman deserves that chance — even if it means Minnesota is short a senator for the duration.
Putting the nation's interests ahead of their own...not so much.

$1.3 billion tank boondoggle rolls on

There's movement on the tank front, that bit of excellent Conservative strategery that had them make this huge purchase only to see it blow up in their faces at every turn. Denis Coderre questioned Peter MacKay yesterday in the Commons on the plight of the tanks, prompted by the recent big news in the Ottawa Citizen courtesy of the intrepid Dave Pugliese. To the effect that 20 of the lemons that are sitting in Europe have suddenly been targeted for fitting in Germany with a view to getting them to Afghanistan, the mission for which they were purchased 2 YEARS AGO, before the mission ends. This was big news in that the tanks had become a forgotten issue, until Lt-General Leslie publicly embarrassed the Conservatives into acting a few weeks ago. A fire was apparently lit under Minister MacKay. To be fit in Germany, you say? Would it be too cynical to point out that MacKay is still apparently and incomprehensibly in the running at that outfit known as NATO? Probably.

The problem, pointed out by Coderre, is that there are 40 tanks sitting in a Montreal depot and there happens to be a Quebec firm that is capable of doing the work. But due to internal government screw ups as between DND and Public Works, the schedule's been botched and the Quebec firm is now out of luck. Well done to the Conservatives in putting Canadian jobs first given that they so publicly promised in 2007 at the time of purchase that the work would indeed be done in Canada. Former Defence Minister O'Connor stated then:
Bringing the tanks to Canada will mean several hundred million dollars in industrial regional benefits for Canada for the modification, upgrade and 30-year in-service support of the fleet.
Latest time frame for their arrival in Afghanistan? If all goes well, spring of 2010, one year prior to exit. And since everything has just gone so swimmingly on this file, we know we can be assured that deadline will absolutely be met.

Educational value today...those Conservatives sure know how to mess up a file at every turn. Over buying, over promising, incompetently managing and frantically scrambling. How do they do it so well.

It'd be hilarious if it weren't so consequential to our finances and human treasure...

Oh the irony

Ummmm.....just enjoy:
Stephen Harper needs a "personality transplant," Conrad Black writes from his Florida jail cell to his friend, author Bob Plamondon. He wishes the Prime Minister would be more "popular personally" and wonders at one point why he looks like "such a jackass."
A fun and minor distraction this a.m. courtesy of Conrad Black prison cell musings to a Canadian author with a forthcoming book on Conservatives in Canada. We appreciate the effort put into the Harper character sketch. But is he cognizant of where he is sitting when he's writing these things?

The costly Harper visit to Fox News

Here is the video from the appearance on Fox yesterday in case you hadn't gotten around to seeing it yet. Just got around to watching late Monday p.m.

This was a good overview of questions raised by Harper's appearance, which the whole weekend seemed to revolve around. Why did Harper do this interview? Billed as a precursor to Harper's attendance at the G20 summit this week and the NATO meetings that follow this coming weekend, the interview didn't do much in the way of helping make a case for much at all in advance of those meetings.

He was put on the defensive about Afghanistan, having to hew closer to the American position and pointedly affirm Secretary Gates' comments about eliminating Al Qaeda there when Harper had, in the Zakaria interview, been much more candid about the unlikely possibility of defeating the 'insurgency." So in backtracking, he's put himself in a bit of a waffling mode, moving from the skepticism of the NATO European allies back to the firm U.S. view, prior to that NATO summit. Confusion, sowed.

Secondly, by going on the show, he seems to have not foreseen that Fox would use him, as the lone Conservative North American leader now, to show up the Obama administration. Wallace tried to use him for that objective on the issues of taxes, banking regulation, government involvement in the economy and NAFTA. The bulk of the interview was devoted to trying to get Harper to be critical of Obama's plans. I take it, by Harper's enthusiastic hand shaking with Wallace just as the interview ended, that he didn't mind the attempt, just as long as he got to play important Sunday talking head guest on Fox News. Harper seemed quite pleased with himself despite it all.

So, in terms of advancing any Canadian national interest, didn't see it on the substantive front. And further, there's the whole question of the financial costs expended for this Fox sit down. Don Martin raised a few on Monday:
...you’ve got to admit Stephen Harper’s weekend wooing of American media, flying his considerable security and staff entourage to Washington D.C. (Sunday) and New York City (today) aboard an $11,000 per hour Challenger jet just to make eye contact with foreign media, is a headscratcher.

To be fair, Mr. Harper did pause to chat with our hard-nosed Canwest correspondent Sheldon Alberts, but the television technology exists in Ottawa for two-way, high-definition communication between the prime minister and media outlets anywhere in the world. Using that option would’ve spared taxpayers travel and security costs which could hit six figures while, big bonus here, giving Mr. Harper a weekend with his family.
Costly, all around.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Judge throws up his hands at Galloway decision

Seems that it's a bit of a Pyrrhic "victory" for the federal government in today's decision by a judge to keep British MP George Galloway from entering the country: "Judge denies Galloway's bid to enter Canada." While the judge did uphold the decision to ban Galloway's admission, he gave credence to the argument that Galloway is being kept out for reasons of free speech suppression:
The judge noted there is some evidence that may back Galloway's claim the matter had been "prejudged" and the result of "external lobbying" and "political influence," but he declined to overturn the decision "which is alleged to be one made in bad faith and politically motivated."

"It not necessary that I express an opinion on the admissibility or reliability of such hearsay evidence. Suffice it to say that the arguments raised by the applicants are not frivolous or vexatious," said Martineau.
That's a slap to the federal government.

The judge did nevertheless accept a letter written to Galloway by Canada's high commission in London as sufficient to support the decision to ban him. Or, at least, sufficient enough for him not to interfere in the CBSA's decision. That letter contains claims about Galloway's activities in providing "financial suport for Hamas" in order to substantiate the government's claims to bar Galloway under the statute. The judge here notes that those claims would have to be tested in a future hearing reviewing the government's decision to ban Galloway to determine if they do in fact meet the statute's standard for barring someone, i.e., "engaging in terrorism." Meaning that while those claims may ultimately be found to be insufficient to have banned Galloway, in the meantime, he's banned.

It's a terrible precedent to have been set, one that smacks of the judge throwing up his hands in the midst of a political battle. The balance of convenience favouring the government. Something for everybody to take away from the decision, yet free speech in Canada suffers as a result.

Galloway will be on The Hour tonight, via satellite, of course.

Update (11:30 p.m.): Galloway, you're killing us with this stuff: "'Debate me like a man,' Galloway tells immigration minister in speech."

Update II: BlankI think he means like this...

Canadian leadership on the auto file

Updated (8:30 p.m.) below...

This item appears in a Globe report this afternoon:
The federal and Ontario governments have committed to provide $4-billion in short-term loans to General Motors of Canada Ltd. and Chrysler LLC, but the two companies must negotiate deeper savings from their workers and suppliers before the governments agree to a long-term restructuring plan.
Ottawa insists that, while the short-term loans are not “risk-free,” they are well secured by the Canadian assets of both companies. As well, the Canadian governments will receive warrants that can be converted to GM shares, and additional guarantees from Detroit-based, privately owned Chrysler. (emphasis added)
Michael Ignatieff was probing the issue in the House of Commons of whether automaker assets in Canada have in fact been pledged to the U.S. government as collateral for U.S. loans. It is unclear why there seems to be a discrepancy. If it is the case, it seems like quite the exposure for the Canadian government.

Update (8:30 p.m.): Here's Aaron Wherry's summary of the issue raised in the House of Commons, with no response from Clement:

Ignatieff insisted on repeating his request for factual information. “Last week, GM testified to the auto subcommittee that it had committed all of its worldwide assets, including its assets in Canada, as collateral for U.S. loans to keep its American operations alive. That may mean that the government’s loans to GM Canada are going to be unsecured and Canadian taxpayers are going to be on the hook,” he said. “The government was not at the table. It did not stand up for taxpayers. It did not stand up for Canadian workers. Why not?”

Clement, whose two degrees from the University of Toronto are of no consequence to this discussion, suggested Mr. Ignatieff was eager to see several hundred thousand people put out of work.

“Mr. Speaker, I take this to be ‘no,’ the loans are unsecured and I await contradiction,” Ignatieff shot back.

Blogging for a Harper Free Canada

Meet the new blog badge (and poster, click on the above picture to obtain an 8.5 X11 size poster).

After the end of the prorogation period, I had a few back and forth communications with designer, TT, who created the Harper Leadership Prorogation poster, about a new badge. TT is just one more motivated, talented artistic person who doesn't care much for the Harper Conservatives either, in the same vein as the gritgirl video movement. After I threw out a slogan to him, he thought about it and came up with this wonderful graphic design. Note the keys that are missing from the keyboard! And love that flag! A big round of thanks to him for his great work.

As for the slogan, "Blogging for a Harper Free Canada" is a big part, frankly, of what we do around here. One small clarification to make about it...Mr. Harper can live here in Canada, of course. We would just prefer that it not be as PM. That's the goal.

Feel free to use as a blog badge, if you like, or use the poster. Smaller versions appear below.





A poll out today from Leger Marketing-LeDevoir has the first numbers in recent memory where Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have finally lost their edge when people are asked, who do you trust more on economic matters. To this, we can resoundingly say, what on earth has taken you people so long...but welcome to the reality based world. From the translated version of the Le Devoir report:
When we look more in depth questions about the economy, we realize that Michael Ignatieff Stephen Harper dominates in all categories. Thus, the question, "between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff, in which you trust the most to implement effective measures to address the economic crisis?" 41% of Canadians preferred the Liberal leader, against 32% the Conservative leader. Same scenario for "helping Canadian workers through economic crisis", since 41% of citizens have more confidence in Michael Ignatieff, against 33% who prefer Stephen Harper.
That's not exactly surprising given the economic numbers. But unless I've missed something, I can't recall the last time a Liberal has been chosen over a Conservative on the economic front. To use the word "breakthrough" may seem like overstating, but this seems like a big development. The Conservatives rely on their handling of the economy as their ace in the hole. To lose that edge deprives them of a huge rationale for their election. The public seem to be finally catching on that the rhetoric does not match the record.

The Quebec and Ontario numbers seem to be reflecting the shift as well. This poll has Quebec numbers (Bloc 42%, Libs 33%) suggesting the Conservatives would lose all their seats but one, Maxime Bernier's, as they're polling at 12% (file under things we would love to see come true...:)) And in Ontario, the numbers are still trending downward for Harper: Libs 45%, Cons 35%, NDP 12%, Green 8%. Those Ontario numbers echo a sizable lead for the Liberals shown in the recent Nanos poll (Libs 44% to Cons 31%).

Two more quotes to round out the picture:
The gusts are more powerful than people perceive a credible alternative to the Harper government, "says Leger. "The effect Ignatieff continues, the PLC back. This is the natural party of power, and people come back to him. Slowly, the winning conditions are set up for the Liberals. "

The pollster also said was surprised to see that 35% of people want elections now, while 48% oppose. One in three people in these times of economic crisis is a lot, "said Jean-Marc Léger. "Elections, is like going to the dentist, nobody ever wants to go. But there is a high proportion of the population seems to want the government to quickly at the door..."(emphasis added)
A core of motivated voters evidently, and with the poll numbers that can't be good for the Conservatives.

Now that's a nice way to start the week...:)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

David Gergen On Obama's media skills

This is a brief interview on NPR with David Gergen that makes a few good points about Obama, good advice he should heed. Gergen points out Obama's tendency to be the great "synthesizer" which can lead to boredom in the audience versus Bill Clinton, for example, who had a tremendous ability to generate excitement in people when he spoke. Being on the "edge of your seat" is one phrase Gergen uses to describe the experience, at least for political folks, back in the day when listening to Bill.

Found it to be insightful. But really, this is not a huge worry for Obama, it's an issue raised due to some criticism that's been making the rounds about the policy emphasis being too heavy, etc. A frivolous kind of issue to deal with, but interesting.

"Gary Goodyear versus reality"

If you haven't seen this one yet, it's hilarious and worth a look for the Rex Murphy imitation alone...:)

Another likely candidate for the Conservative party leadership

Updated below...

Greg Weston's column today deals with the Harper succession speculation, ramping up apparently in Ottawa. That's a shame. Noted in Weston's column, some leadership mojo for Jason Kenney, introduced in a tongue in cheek manner by Weston but nevertheless serious:
There is, of course, absolutely nothing happening now.

It is pure coincidence, for example, that while we were breaking bread recently with a couple of Conservative MPs who would back Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in a leadership contest, he has suddenly been more in the news lately than the prime minister.

One day the hard-right Alberta MP is decrying Canada's long-broken refugee system; the next he is thinking all newcomers should have to speak English or French.

Kenney's biggest challenge could come from a resurrected Stockwell Day since both would be fishing in the same pond of former Alliance votes.
Kenney was in the news quite a bit this week with the Galloway matter, unlikely to die down this week, and gave a number of media interviews. Here's part of a Don Martin column that follows an interview between the two which illustrates how Kenney is using his position politically and perhaps with a view to enlisting political support from MPs and potential MPs:
"While Kenney's aiming to remake immigration into a more selective process, recruiting only the fittest for an economy that will bounce back into a skilled labour shortage, the politics of every action are never far from his sight.

For example, a Brampton riding hopeful named Parm Gill (described in local media as an 'upcoming leader' of the Conservatives) tagged along on Kenney's recent trip to India and was bragging to reporters that the government would move to reduce the immigration rejection rate for Punjabi youth to 20 per cent from 55 per cent now.

That smells more like a play for political gains back home than economic recruitment and, in a candid moment, Jason Kenney would probably agree."(emphasis added)
Ruby Dhalla barely defeated Gill in Brampton-Springdale in the last election, by less than a thousand votes. Judging by the above, they're certainly attempting to ensure that they pick up that seat next time for Gill, courtesy of Kenney's immigration machinations. Note that the policy mentioned above might also move votes in a neighbouring GTA riding, that of Andrew Kania who had just a 231 vote margin over the Conservative in Brampton West.

Kenney's cultivated power base is being sought out provincially. Ontario PC leadership candidates are alleged to be seeking his contacts:
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who hails from Calgary, may also be wooed by provincial Tories anxious to gain access to his contacts in ethnic communities in the Toronto area.

He was invited to speak at the provincial party's convention last month, where he joked about having been made an "honorary" Ontarian.
Then there was the National Post profile on Saturday of Kenney in which the picture of Kenney as systematically and tirelessly pursuing electoral votes in tandem with his governmental responsibilities is reinforced, all with Harper's blessing as conveyed through Tom Flanagan, of course.

Add it all up and it certainly appears that Kenney is looking to be a leadership candidate, whenever that race might occur.

Update (5 p.m.): From Kenney's twitter feed today:
"Heading to roundtable with Sikh community folks in Brampton, with indefatigable candidate of record Parm Gill."
The political campaign never ends...

Picking and choosing winners in the cultural industry

Canmedia, the publisher of REPORT Magazine, "Western Canada's Conservative Voice," has received a bit more in the way of funding in the past two years than the $27K reported Friday by David Akin and as ably blogged by Big City Lib. Courtesy of arts blogger simpleposie, we learn that the conservative magazine also received funding of $28,769 in March 2007 and $26,156.00 in March 2008. Looks like every March, the Conservatives come through with the annual stipend for the voice of Western Canada Conservatives.

Further, Canmedia, the publisher of REPORT, also received $142,020.00 in September 2008 for book publishing. That's about $224,000 in total to this publisher over the last two years.

The news of this funding for a Conservative publication (news release on Friday, "The Government of Canada Supports REPORT Magazine,") must have felt like a poke in the eye for those small Canadian literary publications facing the latest squeeze from Conservatives. Namely, those with less than 5,000 in paid circulation that are being put at risk by newly announced restrictions on their future funding. The Conservatives are squeezing 56 literary publications who will no longer qualify under the federal grant program:
Through SALM in 2008/2009, Canadian Heritage distributed $1-million of economic stimulus to 56 arts and literary magazines, an amount dwarfed by the billions to be justly lavished on General Motors and Chrysler. Yet, even with such a desperate infusion of cash, there's no guarantee either auto maker will survive. In contrast, I feel secure in saying that no cultural magazine will fail; if anything, Mr. Moore's support at present levels (less than 0.1 per cent of what two of the Big Three have gotten) will keep us stable, our employees working (and off welfare), our suppliers (designers, printers, distributors) in the black, and our contributors (taxpayers all) in the pink.
$1 million to allows 56 publications to muddle through is apparently too much, a number of them will lose key portions of their funding under the Conservatives' new rules.
...arts advocates say that while small publishers could still qualify for some grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the new funding restrictions would cripple or kill a host of venerable titles that, collectively, are seen as the seedbed of the country's literary imagination.
But $224,000 to a friendly Conservative publisher, not a problem.

With the backdrop of the CBC cuts, looks like more picking and choosing of winners by the Conservative government in the cultural industry.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Half-truths and red herrings

This is a must read in the Globe today, Professor Ned Franks theorizing about what would have happened had the Governor General said no to Harper's prorogation request: "What if she had said no?" The prediction of Mr. Harper's behaviour that would have ensued, to put pressure on the Governor General for an election, given his "inflammatory and tendentious rhetoric" up to the prorogation request itself, is quite fair. Franks writes, for example:
...it is unlikely that Mr. Harper would have resigned, had his request been refused. Instead, he would have continued his battle by whatever means at his disposal.

He would have continued making the claims of illegitimacy and anti-democratic behaviour that had been so successful in mobilizing public opinion against the opposition coalition. Only now the Governor-General would have been identified, along with the coalition, as one of the enemies of democracy.
Franks' conclusion is that her decision has turned out to be correct, given events that have transpired since then (Liberal leadership, budget, etc.) versus the virtual hell that would have unfolded had Mr. Harper not gotten his way. Franks doesn't entertain the notion that Harper might have acted reasonably at all. Given how true Professor Franks' characterization of Mr. Harper rings in respect of that hellish scenario, it's one more powerful reminder of why he needs to be defeated in the next election.

This, by the way, marks the second time in the past year that a distinguished academic has characterized the sitting Prime Minister in such unprecedented terms. Recall that Peter Russell referred to Mr. Harper as having acted in a manner consistent with "authoritarian governments" in his Cadman suit against the Liberals, talking about how unprecedented it was for a sitting PM to sue his political opposition. Here Franks is equally devastating with his confident portrayal of Harper as basically a dangerous demagogue. It's truly remarkable.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gritgirl predicts the future for CBC under Stephen Harper

Sign and pass along the petition to "Save Canada's National Broadcaster" here.

"The laws will change in this country"

Seen on the twitter feed this aft...a little Dean Del Mastro speech thingy.

Apologies if this has made the rounds before, it's from May of 2007 but the first time I've seen it. A friendly little reminder and why the Conservatives cannot shake this issue, btw.

(h/t Wayne Mac)

Friday notes

Yes, it's another lazy morning of note blogging...end of the week, don't ya know.

1. Video of the day: "Stephen Leave it to Beaver"

2. Please tell me this has nothing to do with this little group. Not saying there is. But it's worth asking the question.

3. CBC President Hubert Lacroix, quoted in a National Post report on the possibility of even more drastic cuts to come at CBC:
Mr. Lacroix also expressed unhappiness with the rumours that the government might help out some of the private broadcasters, like CTVglobemedia and CanWest Global, who are also in financial difficulty.

"In an environment where we were told (by the government) that there was no flexibility for us in terms of bridge financing, to read in the papers that (the private broadcasters) could be helped, with tax breaks or with conditions of their licenses being lifted, that's where I become disappointed," said Mr. Lacroix.
Yep. The double standard will be clear if that does indeed come to pass. When is that next Canwest deadline, anyway?

4. Speaking of which, a Canwest editorial stating CBC union leader is wrong to blame the government for CBC's funding woes. Surprise!

5. The Ontario budget is the really big news. Big editorials here and here.

6. Finally, we supposedly have government regulation that has prevented a "subprime type of situation" in Canada with respect to the housing market. Stephen Harper tells me so, right here. He says we have "nothing that requires major government intervention." Yet the Globe tells me otherwise:
A loose network of about 12 alternative mortgage lenders began lobbying the Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Finance in January about what they say is a looming problem: An estimated $3-billion to $5-billion worth of subprime mortgages are coming up for renewal over the next four years, and the lenders say they can't renew them because capital has dried up for higher-risk borrowers.
Sounds like a big problem that's seeking out some of that "major government intervention."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

James Moore: vote Conservative if you're enthusiastic about the CBC

Suhana Meharchand attempts to grill the smooth talking Moore whose professional career consists of a few brief years in radio broadcasting, watch here: speak quickly, Mr. Moore, speak quickly.

Unbelievable the running from responsibility in this interview. The tiresome Conservative refrain of "but, but, but...the Liberals" made an appearance at least twice. And there was the continued representation of the Conservative government as having increased the funding to CBC. He repeated this at least three times. That is clearly not the case. The Conservatives have cut funding to the CBC:
The federal government, which for the past seven years has given the CBC a non-recurring $60 million in special funding on top of its $1.1-billion base allocation, did not announce in this year's budget that the special funds would be renewed. If the money isn't given, the broadcaster's shortfall could go to over $200 million.
It is lunacy to maintain the position that Conservatives have increased funding for the CBC in light of that cut and particularly when the public sees it cutting programming, jobs and selling assets. Would have loved to have seen Don Newman probe Mr. Moore's answers here.

The kicker in the interview, Mr. Moore had the gall to state that if you're enthusiastic about the CBC, he said, you should be encouraging your family and friends to support the Conservative party! Their chutzpah knows no bounds. Somehow, I'm thinking that the CBC supporters will be enthusiastically parking their votes elsewhere.

(h/t ann douglas, Macleans)

Conservative cuts to CBC go right to the core

Details of cuts to CBC English services were announced this afternoon. It appears that the cuts will have a significant impact on all aspects of the CBC's offerings, including to CBC News and many regional bureaus. Perhaps those Conservative MPs growling about cuts to local media during the hearings at the Heritage Committee might have spoken to the boss man a little more forcefully. Or are they only concerned about the cuts to private broadcasters? Hopefully the ballot box will speak loudly to them in the near future. Here's the news release on the cuts:
- Planned reductions in prime time entertainment, variety and factual
entertainment programming, including the number of episodes of
programs such as The Border, Being Erica, Little Mosque on the
Prairie and others;
- Discontinuation of the daytime Living programs;
- Reduction of spending on children's television programs;
- Reduction or elimination of some sports programming, including
international figure skating, skiing, world aquatics, world athletics
and some soccer programs;
- Reduction of staff at current affairs and consumer affairs programs
the Fifth Estate and Marketplace;
- CBC News overall will see a reduction of approximately $7 million and
80 positions;
- (Recently announced) cancellation of daytime program Fashion File and
hiatus of Steven and Chris);
- On CBC Radio, discontinuation of network programs The Point, Out
Front, The Inside Track, In the Key of Charles and the weekend
edition of The Signal;
- Reduction to one-hour of regional radio noontime programs;
- Reduction of live music recordings and radio drama;
- Closure of one-person bureaus in La Ronge, SK, and Thompson, MB;
- Reduced staffing in: Windsor, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Quebec City,
Moncton, Saint John, Sydney, Corner Brook, Labrador, Gander and
Grand Falls, NL;
- Reductions in staffing at both the network and regional levels for
all platforms. (emphasis added)
And about the panacea of "carriage fees" that are being trotted out by both the private broadcasters and CBC now and suddenly supported by Conservative MPs, it's not an ideal solution. As noted today, it won't produce enough revenue to solve all of the shortfalls. Further, the cable subscribing public will be the ones to foot the bill, estimated to add between $2-$10 per month to our bills, perhaps more. How interesting it is to see these Conservatives so enthusiastic about taxing the public.

The regional fallout is trickling in now, in Quebec the news is not being received well. More evidence that the Conservatives must be viewing the province as secondary to their future political strategy. Although with reaction like this, it's not clear to me how it helps them across Canada either:

A representative from the Syndicat des Communications, which represents 1,500 Radio-Canada and CBC staffers in Quebec, said the union plans to turn this into a political battle.

"It's an attack on CBC and Radio-Canada," union spokesman Ubald Bernard said. "It's not surprising, but it's disappointing. What the union can do is protest, and we can also remind all the federal political parties that (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper is strangling Radio-Canada."

In Quebec City, provincial Communications Minister Christine St-Pierre, who is a former Radio-Canada television reporter, said she was surprised by the size of the cuts.

"I would like to know how are they going to protect the service in French for francophones in Quebec and outside Quebec, especially in the regions," she said, adding that she wants to talk with Moore.

"I need more information," St-Pierre said.

This is a huge risk for the Harper government, going right after the public broadcaster despite the hit they took in the last election on the arts issue. Pretty remarkable in its scale and daring.

(h/t Andrew McIntyre)

Update (5:55 p.m.): Email reaction: "It isn’t that surprising at this time…..it’s 3rd down and long for these jokers (CFL rules ;), it’s hail mary time."

Update II (6:05 p.m.): Meanwhile: "Harper, Charest announce $2.3B infrastructure spending in Quebec." Quote from Harper in the report:
"We are taking short-term action on our economy all across this country in a way that will serve our long-term needs."
But clearly, not all of our long-term needs. (h/t penlan)

Thursday notes

1. (Embassy)

Still not buying that security angle at all...

2. A good column from Lawrence Martin today, "On the world stage, it's the Regressive Conservatives." The column itemizes a number of Foreign Affairs failings, principally the old school hard line approaches to various international engagements from the Harper crowd and highlights recent reporting which has shown how much the Conservatives have in fact cut back in funding diplomacy:
The Conservatives are in the midst of slashing the foreign affairs budget by $639-million from 2007 levels, while increasing spending on the military by $2.4-billion. If their creed is that guns trump diplomacy, it is being well-heeded.
A 23.8 percent cut in 2 years.

This part really stood out:
"...by and large, Ottawa is ignoring causes for which it would usually be engaged. Africa is largely forgotten. In Darfur, the International Criminal Court is pursuing a sitting head of state in connection with genocide. But as former justice minister Irwin Cotler points out, Canada – a force in creating the ICC – has shown little interest."
If you've been following Nick Kristof's columns or any of the reporting on the shut out of foreign aid workers from Darfur and the concerns about imminent mass death there, the unfolding tragedy makes our government's perfunctory statement rather meaningless.

3. Burlington Conservative MP Mike Wallace, awesome parliamentarian, in response to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's presentation of "absolutely historic" "quarter to quarter declines" and other economic information indicating the recession will be much sharper and deficits deeper than the Conservative government has predicted:
"How come you didn't show us any positive stuff that Canada's doing?" Conservative MP Mike Wallace said. "We're in better shape, wouldn't you agree, than our American friends? Is there a reason that you've only showed us the negative?"
"I believe part of the issue facing Canada and the world is we need some of the positive stuff. And when the positive stuff does come out it tends to get discounted immediately."
I suppose we could just focus on the "positive stuff," wouldn't that be nice? But pesky Page went on to predict 385,000 jobs would be lost in the first half of this year. Wonder how he could have put a bow on that one. More on the Conservative efforts to paint a rosy picture here, where it is noted that the Conservatives are starting to shut down Page's access to financial data from the Finance Department.

4. Finally, speaking of shutting things down, note the filibustering by Conservatives yesterday at the Commons Committee looking into food safety in the wake of the listeriosis outbreak which killed 20 people...what can you say about such conduct, really?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gritgirl gooses the Conservatives

The Gritgirl evidently reads the papers and gets inspired:
Dismayed by the amount of excrement produced by Canada geese near her summer home, a Conservative senator on Tuesday said some should be shot and fed to the poor.

"We should shoot some of these geese or feed them to the poor, that would be my preference," Nancy Ruth told senior officials of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency appearing at the Senate finance committee to discuss the agency's budget for the next fiscal year.
Yee haa!

(h/t to BCer as well)


Kevin Page today:
Page told the House of Commons finance committee that, based on private-sector forecasts and his own assessments, he expected GDP to contract by about 8.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and by 3.5 percent in the second quarter.

In the budget, the government cited private-sector forecasters as saying GDP would shrink by 0.8 percent in 2009 as a whole.

"We provided a different, more detailed outlook for the first half of this year because we think that what we're seeing now is actually historic, in terms of quarter to quarter declines," Page told the committee.
Any doubts about the merit of the Parliamentary Budget Officer? An office that a responsible government should value and support with the proper financing and legislative structure.

Hmmm...good thing he clarified that last remark too, as to what's historic in this picture, the numbers or the grossly negligent government that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to recognize the issues and actually do something about them...

Embracing complexity

A few brief thoughts on the passage of the $3 billion fund in light of the brouhaha it's causing on the internets. And I say internets, in that I'm not convinced this has legs that will carry beyond to the wider voting public. This vote was largely covered in a CP report last night that failed to attract much additional reporting from wider media today.

On the argument that the Liberals have once again engaged in rhetoric that's set themselves up for a return to a portrayal of weakness, bluster, all hat no cattle, etc., insert your favourite metaphor. Maybe. I'm not convinced of that. This is not the last parliament at all. The climate in which these political decisions are taking place is distinctly different. I see the Parliamentary Budget Officer's latest is just making the rounds. An 8.5% drop in GDP this quarter? Stunning. Yesterday, news of record EI claims and bankruptcy numbers. The climate in which parties are making decisions counts and it's a strong reason as to why last night's votes are not as significant as they would have been, politically, in the last parliament and why it's not getting much traction today. In this vein, I see the Conservatives trying to "greenshift" the "onprobation" site. Plays get old, they don't necessarily translate or resonate in changing circumstances.

There's the climate and secondly, there's a difference in how the Liberals are opposing. There is a distinct qualitative difference that's been made and it is in the form of the leader and the unified party that's backing it up. The evidence to date suggests that Ignatieff is positioning himself as a strong alternative to Harper. Polls and some fundraising indications are showing it. And those indicators do have to do with demanding accountability and articulating the problems inherent in Conservative choices, including the $3 billion fund over which Conservatives are eschewing oversight. The issue has been clearly identified for the Canadian public and that accompanying accountability motion, yes non-binding, says who is on the side of accountability and who is not. Now it'll be up to the Conservatives to show that they're not spending it in a tide of partisan frenzy. It may be cynical to say as a result of such machinations, but publicly there is a better perception of the Liberals as a viable alternative to Harper. So machiavellian "doublethink" on the $3 billion fund...at the end of the day is it hurting or helping then?

And I'm making that preceding point purely at a political level. The substantive fallout is terrible, there's no getting around that. We see it in the changes being made, pay equity, CBC, etc. The answer on all those issues is to get the voting public to throw the Conservatives out. Make the case sufficiently so that they won't have 143 seats next time out, obviously. (Not going to address coalition options here, that's done.)

On getting more from the Conservatives at the moment or on any issue in this minority parliament, and in light of the Auditor General's recent grumblings, where is the evidence that the Conservatives are rational actors? They've shown themselves to be utterly incapable of making parliament work, of working with other parties in the interests of Canadians. They're piling up instance after instance of that. Certainly an election stand-off would have ensued, much to the delight of Conservatives who would be quite happy to recklessly plunge into another election. Think that would have been off the table? That surely they'd see the light and know that Canadians wouldn't tolerate it? They certainly were prepared two weeks ago to risk lost EI benefits for Canadians given their burying of the EI provisions' coming into force date. And I'll respectfully disagree with those saying an election would have been palatable on the issue of Harper denying accountability on this fund. Not a winning election issue at the moment...to say we want stimulus in the economy yet we're going to put a 4-6 month lag on it (election, new government, new budget...).

I'm sure I'm missing issues here but frankly, a little tired today, still. And I said this would be brief but it turns out, not so much.

A Conservative axe fell on CBC today

The base must be ecstatic today at the news: "CBC to slash 800 jobs in bid to balance budget." Good thing the CBC had James Moore, CBC advocate, in its corner.

No doubt about it, this was an expenditure that could have been made room for and the choice of Conservatives was to say no to the CBC. Yes to $1.3 billion in moth-balled tanks and $400 million in military spending announced in a cross-country tour of the Defence Minister last week. These examples, combined with the stimulus budget that clearly makes funds available for physical infrastructure make it crystal clear that funds could well have been made available to allow CBC to simply bridge its needs into the future and not have to cut.
The cuts became necessary after the federal government turned down CBC's request for bridge financing that could have helped the public broadcaster weather the economic recession, Lacroix said.
So what are we going to see? As CanPolitico points out, disproportionate job cuts at Radio Canada.
The cash-strapped CBC will axe 800 full-time jobs across the country and slash national TV and radio programming to make up a massive budget shortfall.
The plan is to cut 393 jobs at the CBC, 336 at Radio-Canada, and another 70 corporate positions.
Programming cuts (CBC link):
Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of English services, told employees CBC's English service has already cut $50 million from programming.

A total of $85 million will have to be cut, he said, about $14.4 million from radio and $70.3 million from television.

This will result in layoffs and could also lead to more repeat programming, Stursberg said.
The entirely appropriate reaction from the Canadian Media Guild:
"I blame the loss of 800 jobs squarely on the Conservative government," union president Lise Lareau said.

"This was an entirely avoidable layoff. The Harper government forced the CBC to make these choices over a relatively small amount of money."
Yep. And given the outcry during the last election over Conservative cuts to arts funding, this seems on its face to be suicidal. Yet there are those who view such moves as part of the current Conservative strategy:
That's the upside to being a fiscal and social conservative in Canada. Your hardcore of true believers number a solid one-third of the population; enough to win elections especially if you keep them energized. So what if you horrify the other, hopelessly divided, two-thirds of the population?
That may very well be what's going on, given the lists that are now being compiled of seemingly wrong-headed Conservative moves.

Whatever is going on in the larger background in terms of Conservative strategy, it's difficult to see how this move today is going to do anything but come back to bite them. There will undoubtedly be, once again, reams of ads and campaigns that occur to push them out of office. The list of motivated groups desiring to show the Conservatives the exit is getting long.

Update: just saw BCL's take on the WFP op-ed today, worth a read.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Building a Green Economy" with your advertising dollars

Further to the post at Maxwell's House earlier today, and FarNWide's post that's up right now, those government ads about the "action plan" that are inescapable when perusing major media sites really warrant some scrutiny. Here's one of the big offenders that's been seen on major media websites and one of my personal faves:

The Conservative government is "building a green economy?" How? Perhaps by paying advertising firms with taxpayer dollars. But in terms of substance, most of us missed the visionary "green economy" part in the "action plan." In fact, the "action plan" was heavily criticized as being the opposite of a "green economy" plan. And the Conservatives have cut back on environmental assessments for the next two years.

Other examples include one referenced in the Hill Times report, where the ecoEnergy renewable energy incentive program is cited as having been popular but there's been no more money put into what was a $1.5 billion fund. It's virtually out of money. Contrast it with the billions being put into a similar effort in the U.S. Yet Jim Prentice laughably states that the program "will continue as planned." Yes, on the books but with no more funds in it, so I guess that technically qualifies. A missed opportunity to invest in renewable energy. But "Building a Green Economy," don't ya know.

Would dearly love to see the total dollars being dispensed on the p.r. front for this massive campaign. The ad budget for the action plan site, ads, promotional tour for the PM, Conservative MPs, the whole shebang. "Building a Green Economy" taking on a whole new meaning...:)

Prorogation politics while unemployment and bankruptcies soared

The numbers out today from January in respect of both EI claims and individual bankruptcies being up are striking. What's becoming even more clear in hindsight, the fact that the Conservative government, facing a political challenge of its own making, went on a prorogation vacation for two months at what is now proving to have been an epically bad moment. This is what was happening out there while the Conservatives regrouped for their political lives and hesitated in acting for the Canadian economy:
In January alone, more than 10,000 individuals in this country filed insolvency papers, up 2.9 per cent from December.

Perhaps more tellingly, the number of Canadians who filed for employment insurance benefits rose above the 500,000 level nationally for January, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

That represented a jump of 23,700, or 4.4 per cent compared to December.

In fact, Canadians filing for jobless help is now 23 per cent higher than the level in February 2008, the most recent low for this indicator.

"In recent months, labour market conditions in Canada have deteriorated significantly. Through the early part of 2008, employment growth weakened, only to fall sharply later that year and into 2009, causing a spike in the unemployment rate. By February 2009, the unemployment rate hit 7.7 per cent, up almost two percentage points from a record low at the start of 2008," said Canada's statistical agency in a press release.

Both figures — the bankruptcies and EI claims — are signs of growing difficulties faced by individual Canadians as the recession in this country grows.
The deterioration in Canada's bankruptcy situation accelerated in the fourth quarter of 2008. The total number of personal and corporate solvency filings rose 9.3 per cent in the October-to-December period.
In real terms, 295,000 jobs have vanished in the last four months.
The Conservatives are still playing catch up, scrambling today to hire people to keep up with the EI claims. And grappling with the fact that yes, they may have extended the number of weeks of benefits, but they haven't done anything about expanding eligibility. All the while comically blaming delay on budget matters on the Liberals, as if they're not the governing party who has had primary responsibility for leading on these economic challenges.

The timeline of the past year in terms of what the Conservative priorities have been speaks for itself. Summer spending spree, election, prorogation. Time that should have been devoted to the nation's interests. They're continuing with their lack of attention to economic priorities, springing up in the House of Commons to launch irrelevant partisan attacks, last night raising accusations of anti-semitism, toying with the gun registry issue that is unlikely to go anywhere, bellowing about Russia.

Two months of bought political time for the Harper Conservatives, two months of devastating numbers for Canadians.

What the Russian guy said

At the Defence Committee yesterday, a Russian diplomat managed to convey what many have been thinking about Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper's tough talk about Russians approaching our airspace. That it's just not well-founded and is actually irresponsible:
Dmitry Trofimov, head of the political section at Russia's embassy, told a Commons defence committee that Canadian talk of the "Russian bear in the air" is overblown. "Let us not exaggerate this.

"The only bears which do really matter today are those who are responsible for the slump in our stock markets, whether it's London, New York, Toronto or Moscow."
"Besides the rhetoric being useful for domestic purposes, if there are any ... it can hardly be any of help for interstate relations," Mr. Trofimov said.
Yes, it's fair to say that the red menace is but a useful distraction manufactured to change the channel for Canadians from the Harper government's economic record. Even the Russian guy gets what's going on here. And that's a sad state of affairs when the Russian diplomat seems to be making more sense than your own government:
"From the point of international law, nothing happened, absolutely nothing," said Trofimov.

The diplomat said that what did happen was that two Russian bomber jets flew over the Arctic up to the Beaufort Sea and came about 200 kilometres away from the Yukon-Alaska border.

"None of our military aircraft ever entered the Canadian national airspace," he told reporters after the meeting where he was questioned for about an hour. "When we're talking about the international airspace, well, that's the point at issue and there are no specific rules which prohibit the military aircraft of the Russian Federation, or the military aircraft of the United States of America or any other NATO country to fly in the vicinity of the national airspace of the opposite side."
He did not go so far as to say that the Canadian government over-reacted with its comments, but Trofimov told MPs that the U.S. administration did not have the same strong reaction and that "it talks for itself."
The point has been backed up by the U.S.:
U.S. General Gene Renuart said last month the Russians "have conducted themselves professionally" with their military training flights. "They have maintained compliance with the international rules of airspace sovereignty and have not entered the internal airspace of either of the countries," he said.
Have not entered the airspace. Important point, that. But not the impression left by the Prime Minister and Peter MacKay at all. In fact, the Prime Minister told us this, which was clearly mistaken:
``I have expressed at various times the deep concern our government has with increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe and Russian intrusions into our airspace,'' the prime minister said at a news conference in Saskatoon. (emphasis added)
To sum up: silly yet dangerous Conservative political games at the expense of the Canadian population...check!

Highway of Heroes footage from Monday

Probably few people who haven't seen such footage yet but here's one minute of what it was like to see Monday's procession as viewed from an overpass in Toronto.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dean Del Mastro in action tonight

If you caught Power Play tonight, the MP panel included Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro who provided viewers with a very enlightening moment for Canadians on the calibre of Conservative MPs and what they are willing to say at any given moment. They apparently have been unleashed to spew whatever comes to mind, vile as it may be.

During a brief discussion on the exclusion of British MP George Galloway from Canada, Mr. Del Mastro accused Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay of being soft on anti-semitism. Yes, that's right. He cited the large Jewish community in Findlay's riding and prodded that she should be standing up against anti-semitism by supporting the prohibition on Galloway. Which undermined the message that had just previously been delivered on the show by Minister Kenney. Kenney was careful to say that the Border Agency had denied Galloway's admission and that it was a security judgment, it was not about free speech said Kenney. Yet there was Del Mastro taunting Findlay as being soft on anti-semitism. This court challenge should be quite the spectacle, hope observers are taking note of Mr. Del Mastro's comments tonight. Let the cat out of the bag, did he? Excluding Galloway is but a wedge opportunity to play partisan politics against the Liberal party.

Is this really the kind of politics we need to be seeing from the governing party? They're seriously going to be charging Liberals with anti-semitism? Because that's off the charts, reprehensible, unwarranted, vile, a bridge too far rhetoric. Mr. Del Mastro should apologize to Ms. Findlay if he has any decency. Martha Hall Findlay is an MP whose integrity and judgment is impeccable. To be exposed to such an outlandish accusation on national television is an outrage.

And Mr. Del Mastro should be assured that he's significantly motivating the people in Peterborough to apply the boot to his parliamentary status in the next election.

(The clip for the MP panel has yet to make its way on to the CTV website.)

Toward Canadian infrastructure, away from Conservative infrastructure

Just checking out this new site this afternoon, onprobation.ca and wanted to point out one of the pages I am hoping to see put to good use, the page on Regional Fairness. As we've seen from the Conservative government to date, infrastructure spending has gone majoritarily to Conservative ridings (see multiple link references on that page). To the tune of 75% of spending. That's an outrage and deserves significant attention. Hope that the tracking of coming announcements here will shine a bright light on coming spending announcements.

Right wing noise follow-up

Two things on this front this morning...

1. Conservative MP Laurie "Red Dawn" Hawn, doesn't like that handle apparently...he wrote to David Pugliese to complain that he only asked about possible Russian incursion into Vancouver Olympic airspace due to prior opposition questions on the day of those Defence Committee hearings. He was clarifying, he claims. Pugliese reviews the committee transcript and says, nope, the Russian linkage was all Hawn's.

Now what is going on this week that might prompt Hawn to attempt to distance himself from the red menace shtick...oh yes, this:
Russia's embassy in Canada is sending Dmitry Trofimov, the embassy's Head of Political Section, to appear Monday, March 23 as a witness before the House of Commons defence committee.

The topic for the meeting is listed as a “Briefing on the recent incident of a Russian military aircraft approaching Canada's Airspace.”
Could be interesting.

2. And regarding that atrocious display on the Fox late night panel this past week that many of us in the progressive blogosphere posted on in voicing our contempt for its ignorance and insensitivity toward Canadian military deaths, Sun Media has picked it up and asked Fox for comment, although they didn't get an answer:
Fox News was not immediately available for comment.
We might be hearing more on this from Fox this week now that our outrage is getting through to them.

Update (very belated Monday p.m.): For the record, Mr. Gutfeld has apologized:

Gutfeld, the host of the controversial segment on Fox's Red Eye show, said he never intended to make light of Canadian military efforts in Afghanistan.

"However, I realize that my words may have been misunderstood," Gutfeld said in a statement released by Fox News.

"It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize.

"Red Eye is a satirical take on the news, in which all topics are addressed in a lighthearted, humorous and ridiculous manner."

Guess the joke's on we poor provincial Canadians, huh?

On reacting to fast reactions

Yes, Jurist, sometimes I take your bait. It's usually a Saturday, in case you haven't noticed...:)

Um, don't read too much into my putting this in Bob Fife's hands. That was more to put the Ignatieff-Mulroney phone call news into the category of, well, not untruth but let's call it "gossip" kind of journalism, the breathless "look what I've got" kind of reporting. I would never suggest that a reporter would make up something, maybe that they're guilty of stenography, but clearly not that they would manufacture. My reaction to the Fife story - and purposeful inclusion of him - was really in the oh-that's-interesting-but-who-really-cares-that-much kind of category.

And my pointing out the opposition all favouring a broad inquiry into Mulroney-Schreiber matters was to say that this is the substance of the Liberal party's position on Mr. Mulroney at the moment. There is no other substantive measure to take. That's what should count, not a pithy phone call. To say that a phone call signifies a terrifying shift to the right and imputes scandal, that's overreaching at best. I think the words that were used were "right-wing and scandal-ridden" as being attributed to Mr. Ignatieff's likely governing style based on this phone call. Overreaching. And to say there's "silence" now under Ignatieff on Mulroney...well, I don't hear a lot from any political parties at the moment on Mulroney-Schreiber given that the matter is now before the Oliphant Commission and it's de-politicized, for all intents and purposes. What should he say? That he objected to Mr. Mulroney's motion last week for a delay in the proceedings?

Always a pleasure, Jurist, but we will have to agree to disagree on the significance of the birthday phone call. Until next time...:)

More Peter MacKay not to NATO speculation

Great post last night on Galloping Beaver by Dave assessing the Peter Mackay-NATO breakup. Just want to add a few thoughts to that fun read...

I didn't see this MacKay to NATO effort as a Harper motivated initiative. It always appeared more to me as MacKay seeing the writing on the wall and wanting to get out of dodge. For a few reasons, principally that he's been pretty successfully marginalized by Harper and is not enjoying his tenure under Harper one bit. There have been a few incidents where MacKay has spoken out, recently on Guantanamo and Khadr, publicly suggesting that the Canadian government would have to reassess its position on Khadr after Obama's announcement that Guantanamo would be closed. The kibosh was put on that pronouncement within hours by the PMO. What is a minister to make of such public slaps, the tight leash ministers have been on? The one-man show? Not surprising he'd be seizing upon an out. This dynamic has been in play for years under Harper, so it would make sense that MacKay would have been the one to seek out Harper to put his name forth, rather than Harper initiating.

And the other big reason for him to get out and perhaps latch on to a five year NATO term would be current political dynamics where it's looking quite likely that the Conservatives are facing defeat. A leadership race for that opposition slot likely doesn't interest MacKay. He's very young, he has time to go earn some experience elsewhere and return later. It's not like he couldn't use it. Dave may be right about the Reformers running things too, meaning that now is not the time for a viable leadership candidacy for MacKay in any event. So my thoughts are that this exit strategy was all MacKay's doing, having seen the writing written on the wall, for now.

Which could lead us to speculate that Harper actually did his best to undermine MacKay, by yes, trashing the Obama administration in that speech to the base but also prior to that in his splashy confession to Fareed Zakaria on CNN that the insurgency will never be defeated in Afghanistan. That latter point a real burn to Obama just as he was announcing more troops to Afghanistan. Harper has not shown to date that he's a great mentor, someone who fosters or brings along colleagues, part of what good leadership is all about. That's what would give some credibility to such an angle. And if you want to go even further, you could speculate that given NATO's historic hold on the civilian leadership, as Dave points out, that Harper gave the green light to this MacKay adventure knowing that MacKay would lose and hurt himself politically. And be perhaps wounded within Conservative circles, therefore creating even more bad leadership mojo.

Ah the intrigue, it could go on and on...perhaps some motivated reporters will attempt to uncover the real back story here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Del Mastro to the U.K.

Well this is interesting, Peterborough Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro in the U.K. to talk about "parliamentary systems and the economy." Part of a parliamentary delegation, OK. That's par for the course. But a little ironic given that Canada just prohibited admission of a British parliamentarian into our country. And then there are Del Mastro's recent remarks that exhibit a, well, questionable understanding of parliamentary democracy to begin with:
There are no more political parties in Canada, Del Mastro said, only parties full of opportunists.

"The Conservative party is now Canada's only party!" Del Mastro said, to rousing cheers.

The proposed coalition government is a blatant power grab, he said, adding that members of the proposed government aren't willing to face an election.

"This is undemocratic," Del Mastro said.
Gee, it must have been quite the conversation over there, as the Examiner reports, "The Canadian politicians also discussed the mixed-member-proportional- representative electoral system used by the Scottish parliament, Del Mastro said." Must have been a fascinating discussion of coalitions!

And then there's the whole unpleasant business of partisan attacks against private citizens while on the floor of the House of Commons:
In a move his communications director, Heather Bradley, described as "very rare," Mr. Milliken sent a letter to the House leaders of the four parties expressing his concern over some MPs' statements and stressing that "personal attacks" in the Commons are not permitted.
"...the Tories are continuing with the attacks despite the Speaker's letter. Yesterday, Mr. Del Mastro took a shot at Mr. Ignatieff over Warren Kinsella, a Toronto consultant who the Liberal Leader has chosen to run his war room in the next election campaign. Mr. Kinsella has been criticized over his recent departure from a committee of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

"If the Liberal Leader were as smart as his Harvard teaching stint would suggest, he would fire Mr. Kinsella," said the Tory MP, referring to Mr. Ignatieff's previous career as a professor at Harvard University.
You really have to wonder what the U.K. counterparts have to learn from such representatives of ours...

(h/t AD)

Goings on in Quebec this weekend

Michael Ignatieff in Quebec for the second weekend in a row. Addressing "les militants" as they wonderfully say in Quebec, again.

Also noted in Quebec political goings on, Bob Fife with the very important stuff:
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney got a surprise phone call from a major party leader on his 70th birthday Friday.

It wasn't Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper but Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Ignatieff called to wish Happy Birthday to Mulroney and to talk a little politics.

Ignatieff is making a major push in Quebec and his kindness to Mulroney will do him no harm in a province where the former PM is still popular.
Not surprisingly, Ignatieff's call is already being pilloried as a precursor of a "right-wing and scandal-ridden" government in waiting as a result. That's quite the fast reaction and vigorous projection.

Mr. Mulroney's on the eve of the Oliphant Commission's work, there's no getting around that. All opposition parties in the House of Commons supported a broad inquiry in the Mulroney-Schreiber matter:
A broad-based, full-fledged public inquiry should be launched into the past business relationship between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, the Commons ethics committee has recommended.
There was dissent within the committee over how wide the probe's mandate should be. Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP members say it should be as broad as possible, while the Conservatives want a greater focus on setting ethical guidelines for the future.
Possibly a much better indication of party orientations on ethical matters and future governing standards than Bob Fife reported phone calls.

Saturday notes

1. Some great letters to the editor in the Globe today, on the CBC and on Jason Kenney's actions yesterday.

2. An op-ed from the CBC executive director of programming, Kirstine Layfield in the National Post today worth a look, makes a good point about the public versus private distinction:
So the CBC competes with private broadcasters. But what is a private broadcaster in Canada anyway?

Nordicity, an independent firm specializing in broadcasting, valued the federal regulations that provide private broadcasters with the right to substitute U.S. content at between $270-million and $330-million. Other provincial and federal government subsidies such as tax credits and the Canadian Television Fund add another $165-million in cash support to the privates. Canada, in short, has a heavily subsidized media industry in which private companies compete for public money, and the CBC, in turn, competes for advertising dollars.
3. Saskatatchewan's Justice Minister asks CBC not to run an interview with the recently convicted murderer Curt Dagenais.

Saskatchewan's justice minister has taken the unprecedented step of complaining to CBC's ombudsman about an interview with a convicted murderer — an interview which at the time hadn't been broadcast.

On Friday morning, Justice Minister Don Morgan wrote a strongly-worded letter to CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin saying CBC News "intends" to interview convicted murderer Curt Dagenais. He said he was worried families of the victims would see the broadcast.

"I want to pre-empt on this," Morgan said Friday. "I want to be able to say to the CBC, 'What you're doing is, I think, wrong and it's troubling.' I'm not going to censor you. It's not my role to censor you."

Told what was in the interview, Morgan said if it was restricted to Dagenais saying he would appeal, "Maybe I was going too far, too fast."

CBC Saskatchewan managing editor Nigel Simms said he was surprised that Morgan would complain about an interview without knowing what was said in it.

"Our request to interview Curt Dagenais is very common," he said. "CBC has interviewed people convicted of crimes in the past — other media outlets do it regularly."
What is getting into our elected officials these days? Crash courses in free speech needed all around...

4. And Liberals...have a nice day out there: "Liberal support jumps in Ontario." I'm sure Far N Wide will be analyzing, so go there for in depth stuff. But it looks goooood, heh...:)