Friday, December 17, 2010

End of session goings on

Thought things were supposed to be quieting down now that the session has ended...here are a bunch of items worth noting today.

Pensions: Flaherty has flip-flopped again! Signalling, contrary to his summer position, that in terms of pension reform, CPP enhancements are off the table and instead the Harper government will pursue private Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). Could be a trial balloon, positioning going into that finance ministers next week. Whatever it is, there's an obvious question. Why no help for the Nortel disabled workers as the pension issue is discussed? Is that not an elephant in the room here? Also, the thought of CPP premium increases may be driving this development, reflexively for Harper. Not possible as an election becomes discussed so increasingly (which might make this an indicator). At this point they do seem to be throwing in with a riskier private option rather than the established, reliable CPP. Makes for one more of those striking political contrasts.

Harper to the UN? The UN announces the formation of a Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. Stephen Harper is named as co-chair of the commission. Yes, Stephen Harper. This appointment no doubt stems from the G8 Muskoka initiative which Canada led, on maternal and children's health funding. While this looks on its face to be an ironic appointment given the ideological bent the Harper government has taken in excluding abortion as part of Canada's funding of this initiative, the "accountability framework" looks like something Harper as co-chair can't bring his ideology to bear on. Every country has its own contributions they are making, with their own funding choices having been made at the country level, on such matters as reproductive health funding. This commission looks like it's all about the after-monitoring of decisions already made and it has a short reporting time frame for establishing that "accountability framework." It also looks like there are a raft of commissioners on that body from around the world in addition to the vice-chairs who will likely have more to do with the work done than the co-chairs, if it works the way most bodies do. Still, for many Canadians, there is an irony here of Harper being appointed to any body with the words "Information and Accountability" as its mandate, let alone one having to do with women.

Image enhancement? Or co-opting issues? News yesterday that Harper wrote a letter of December 8th to the Assembly of First Nations on education reform for first-nations and proposing to meet on other issues as well. Or is it all very genuine? See next item.

Fear the iPod Tax extravaganza: It's been a while, the Conservatives were due. This aggressive iPod tax radio ad nonsense is blatantly false and has a ring of desperation in it. You read about the letter to the First Nations then you see this, we're back to the heavy-handed partisan slamming Harper typifies. Why the ads? This quote from Craig Oliver on year-end partisan jostling was striking: "He is stronger. The Liberals are in the game in a very serious way when this campaign comes and I believe it will before the snow melts," Oliver said."

F-35s: How can we do a round-up without an F-35 entry. Here's a good one: "F-35 Target Prices Revealed." The latest low rate initial production models are targeted to be $111 million, without the engine cost, presently pegged at about $19 million, leading to about $130 million per plane (for the version we're proposing to buy).

Conservative MP Kelly Block's appearance at a Commons committee yesterday. It was the usual frustrating effort at accountability with one hour divided up among four parties asking questions. Alison has been blogging this thoroughly this week and is a must read. Can you imagine being escorted to a committee by John Baird as some kind of protector? Bizarre and patronizing all at once. One of the most intriguing aspects of this story:
Parliamentary rules do not allow MPs’ offices to be used for activities that are clearly of a private interest, and a secretive all-party Commons body called the Board of Internal Economy is investigating whether Mr. Ullyatt was running a business out of Ms. Block’s office.
No questions answered by Block on that matter though. What was all the printing business Mulcair witnessed? Some off the grid printed partisan activity?

AECL: The bid process is melting down with SNC-Lavalin apparently getting cold feet, denying it though. So, we're left with Bruce Power still in the mix and an unsolicited bid from entrepreneur Day? The government assures us: "The process is being conducted in such a manner as to protect the economic interests of the government of Canada and potential investors," a department official said Thursday in an email."

Government announcement of the day: In case of Arctic spill, citizens of the Arctic communities, open the seal on your Arctic Community Pack!
From Tuktoyaktuk to Iqaluit, Resolute Bay to Churchill, Arctic Community Packs were delivered to nineteen Northern communities this summer and fall. A total of 55 steel sealift-sized containers, assembled by Coast Guard personnel in Prescott Ontario, are each packed with specific pollution control equipment tailored to the needs of each community. The new kits will complement the existing stockpile of pollution countermeasures equipment in the Arctic. Each of the new Arctic Community Packs contains surface booms and accessories, shoreline cleanup kits, small vessels and outboard motors and trailers, and in select communities, beach flushing kits.
That all sounds so...after the fact and, frankly, futile. Damage control p.r. from the government in response to the Environmental Commissioner saying we're not prepared for an oil spill, particularly in the North. Steel containers filled with booms for everybody!