Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stock and his murse and other notes

1. About Stockwell Day and his sudden new high profile. If it is true that Stockwell Day has become a supposed favourite of the Prime Minister and was rewarded with a promotion for that reason, what's the basis for that Prime Ministerial approval? Part of the reason, I would venture, is that really, we haven't seen too much of Day. Day really hasn't been top of mind at all when thinking about who's in front in the Harper cabinet. He's been a presence, yes, but more of a keep his head down kind of guy to date, stay out of trouble. It's not like there was a lot to do with China, as Trade Minister, and while the "Buy American" issue is unresolved and now in jeopardy, he didn't suffer much consequence from that (there's a whole other issue there, as to what the Harper government is doing on that one right now while we're prorogued). So Day's extra visibility and high profile are a real development. There's an obvious blessing that's been granted for him to front the talk about spending cuts.

This move may not necessarily be a good thing. He's someone with a history of bloopers and we've already been introduced to his "murse" over the past 48 hours. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but when such matters get equal publicity to your supposed mission, it may not bode well for things to come. (Can't you just imagine the fuss among Conservatives that would be made if Michael Ignatieff admitted to carrying a "murse," he'd be pilloried as a metrosexual, Toronto elitist, etc., but I digress.) Nevertheless, the point here is the question about Stock. Is this what Stock does in the limelight? Does he flub it? He has before. So we'll see.

Not to mention that cutting spending is the big message that Day has been sent to bear from the Harper crew. It's not going to be a popular message, no matter who they pass the ball to away from Deficit Jim, not bound to help in the polls. They've chosen to lead with this now, so the questions are going to come. What's on the table? Is it going to be all of the things they believe Canadians supposedly don't care about, in a similar calculation to the prorogation decision, that we wouldn't care? And the more they talk about cutting spending, the more there is a reminder that there's a massive deficit. The more people are reminded of the GST cuts that put us in a structural deficit and the profligate spending the Conservatives undertook pre-recession on top of those cuts.

So, it'll be interesting to see how long they can keep up the magic pony act that Jim Flaherty has been peddling and that Stock has now been tapped to lead. They're going to try to assure Canadians that they will be blandly constraining growth in spending and relying on economic growth to get us out of deficit, despite the fact that very credible economists are saying it's not possible. People seem to be in a "fool me once" kind of mood with Harper, at some point, it may come home to roost on the economic issues too.

2. A bit of a shocker from Quebec on the university front. McGill wants to raise its MBA tuition to $29,500 per year. Their MBA is a two year program (20 months). They claim they are justified in doing so because schools such as Queen's charge high tuition fees as well. In the Queen's program, which is one year, the cost is $62,500. The problem for McGill, the historically low tuition rates in Quebec as backdrop for what they're doing. Further, the Quebec government is not approving the increase. Tuition fees are a very sensitive issue in Quebec, there is great pride in accessibility. Competitors to McGill in Montreal such as HEC only charge $6,500 in tuition for their MBA. So you can understand that students would be concerned about McGill's initiative and what it would mean for accessibility and student loan burdens. Sounds like the Quebec government is being firm and McGill may have to back down or come up with a much lower fee. Have to say, I'm with the Quebec government on this one.

3. Ross Rebagliati, on the Olympic beat:
"He also spoke about the upcoming Olympics: “I know better than anyone how the Olympics can bring our country together,” he said. “We’re going to watch our athletes go for gold. And even if some Conservative ministers try to sneak their way on to the podium, Canadians are going to see right through it – we’re going to cheer on the athletes who have worked hard, who are ready to win, and who are going to make us proud to be Canadian!”"
I hope he attends. Former gold medallist, should be very popular.

4. Raitt aftermath...the Torontoist caught a crafty Wikipedia entry for Raitt on the occasion of her transfer to the Ministry of Labour from Natural Resources. Alas, it's been updated.

5. I've already blogged about prorogation reform, so I don't have much to add to that whole debate right now. Will be interested to see what happens at the democratic governance forum that the Liberals are having next week where prorogation is supposed to be on the table (and with notables Peter Tinsley, Linda Keen & Paul Kennedy). I'm not too fussed at all about the fact that the NDP came out with a proposal yesterday. They typically are first out of the gate on any number of issues, it doesn't seem to have much effect on the poll numbers. And it doesn't give them a lock on the issue. It's fine for all to throw in their hats. Besides, Ignatieff spent over the last week or so travelling the country where the issue came up repeatedly and he expressed the intention not to use the power in the way Harper has and further, a willingness to consider changing it. The Liberals also stated early they'd be getting back to work on the 25th. So the Liberal presence has been good during a time of heightened awareness of the issue, that, to me, tends to offset any momentary publicity from yesterday's NDP announcement. This doesn't strike me as a typical partisan issue where there should be any kind of jockeying in any event. There is no partisan disagreement on the larger point, Harper should not have prorogued in the circumstances in which he has and we need to ensure that such abuses do not occur again.