Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's baa-aaaack

Does this sound familiar? From the government news site today: "Harper Government Reduces Taxes for Canadians."

Old habits die hard. Not too partisan an announcement either, is it?

Government of Canada. Period.

Brit dynamic seems to be reinforced post debate

Some highlights from the British debate that happened today, for something completely different:





The dynamic seems to be reinforced following this one:

But we'll see.

Some fairly superficial reaction now...

There's quite a difference in the clarity of the debate with three participants. Nice free flowing debate too, no rigid question and answer format with questions posed consecutively to each leader without interaction. These debates have seen relatively free and civil engagement.

Is it legal to say you are sick of Nick Clegg? Because I am.

See how shiny and modern the Brits are? Nice set. Can we get one of those next time?

Gordon Brown's bad day

A look at the front pages from Britain today will tell you all you need to know about the state of the campaign. If you haven't been following along, this transcript will tell you the whole story of Gordon Brown's somewhat difficult encounter with a voter yesterday, which he handled not so badly, and the comments he made afterward to his staff, picked up on microphone as he drove away in a car. The comments, in which he referenced the woman as "bigoted," were broadcast. And here's the iconic picture of Brown as he sat in a radio studio, as the comments were played back to him. On front page after front page:


There are variations of the encounter on other front pages. This analysis of the whole incident yesterday is nuanced and brilliant.

The only consolation, if there is one for Labour, that the third and final debate takes place tonight, immediately on the heels of the incident. Gives Brown the chance to stand up and face the nation. How he conducts himself will likely be the focus of the debate. Plus it's on the economy, it's comfortable ground for him. So there's the glass half full take on that! Wow. What a campaign.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here's a question

Update (5:45 p.m.) below. And (11:00 p.m.).

Here's some possibly interesting reading to throw out there this morning: "CBC/Radio-Canada Journalistic Standards & Practices." See below for its pertinence.
1.1 HIRING OR CASTING OF PERSONS IDENTIFIED WITH POLITICAL PARTIES OR PRESSURE GROUPS

Any plan to hire persons identified with political parties or pressure groups must be submitted in advance to management as follows: to the senior officer in information programming for information programs; to the media vice-president concerned for other programs and services; to RCI Management for programs and services coming under its responsibility. To ensure consistency of application, those receiving such submissions will consult fully with colleagues.

The hiring of persons identified with political parties or pressure groups may only be authorized if the person concerned has resigned his or her functions within the political party or pressure group and has refrained from public activity in the party or group or in a related capacity for at least two years.

This policy is not designed to prevent the participation of public figures invited to comment on current events provided that, on the air, there is no ambiguity regarding their status. (emphasis added)
Has Kory Teneycke, who has been hired as a paid commentator, "refrained" for two years? He left Harper's employ as Director of Communications in late summer 2009. Does he fall under this policy?

Occasional commentators would be those referenced in the last paragraph, one would think, they're not hired persons, they are "invited" from time to time. Presumably the above policy is mainly directed at those who have been hired on an ongoing basis. The provision seems to embody the notion of some kind of cooling off period for the hiring of "persons identified with political parties." There is no distinction drawn between full-time and part-time hires. In 1.2, by contrast, there is specific mention of full-time employees.

Given recent items in the news, the above rule is worth throwing out there for consideration as a matter of current public interest.

(h/t NG)

Update (5:45 p.m.): Regarding this post by Warren Kinsella, as stated above, this seemed to be relevant information to throw out there given that Conservatives are making a fuss about persons who are hired by CBC. The above post is more about pointing out the hypocrisy of Conservatives rather than picking a bone with CBC.

Update (11:00 p.m.): One last point to add to this today, which I really should have done earlier. The above CBC policy was sent to me by a regular reader, someone I hear from almost every day. He's a senior citizen who lives in some fairly frail circumstances, from what I understand. He was concerned about the hypocrisy of what he saw the Conservatives doing this week and I happened to agree. This was the genesis of the post. So this was no Liberal sponsored broadside against a Conservative who comments on CBC, just for clarification purposes. I think anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis would know that anything written here would never have that goal. CBC has a balanced reporting and commenting operation, contrary to what the haters think. They can hire Conservatives into their mix, of course, it's just that with this one particular person, Teneycke, there seemed to be a question, based on the above policy.

Cost of partisan advertising rolls in

The Conservatives have finally deigned to provide a figure for how much has been spent on advertising the Economic Action Plan. They're claiming it's $42 million, an incredible enough figure given the debt we've gone into over the past year. It's also incredible given the partisan nature of most of this advertising endeavour.

Still, the $42 million is incomplete. The figure doesn't include all those nifty EAP signs across the country. Le Devoir reported in November that the signs cost between $800 - $7,000 apiece. The total cost estimate for the signs therefore ranged between $5 to $45 million (on 6,500 signs). The federal share would be about a third, with the provinces & municipalities, i.e., still we the taxpayers, picking up the rest of the tab. Just to stick a sign in front of the project and advertise, yep, the federal government has been here. Only the feds get their name on the sign.

There was also that recent news, which the government tried to suppress, of the $5 million ad spree during the Olympics alone. Does the $42 million include that amount?

With the ad bonanza we saw in the fall, comparable to what we saw during the Olympics, it just doesn't seem credible that the total figure is $42 million. There was an estimate in the fall of $56 million for the period of January-June last year. So there's likely more to come on this issue. Eventually. Maybe the Auditor General might help us out in the fall when she reports on the EAP.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A great day for Canadian democracy

Three cheers for the Speaker, who got it right. Some key excerpts:
It is the view of the Chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its Members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.

As has been noted earlier, the procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of Government documents, even those related to national security. Therefore, the Chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question. Bearing in mind that the fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account, as the servant of the House, and the protector of its privileges, I cannot agree with the Government’s interpretation that ordering these documents transgresses the separation of powers, and interferes with the spheres of activity of the executive branch.
...
The Chair must conclude that it is within the powers of the House of Commons to ask for the documents sought in the December 10 order it adopted. Now, it seems to me, that the issue before us is this: is it possible to put into place a mechanism by which these documents could be made available to the House without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain? In other words, is it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interest of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met? Surely that is not too much to hope for.
...
Finding common ground will be difficult. There have been assertions that colleagues in the House are not sufficiently trustworthy to be given confidential information, even with appropriate security safeguards in place. I find such comments troubling. The insinuation that Members of Parliament cannot be trusted with the very information that they may well require to act on behalf of Canadians runs contrary to the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials and which Members require to act in their various parliamentary capacities.

The issue of trust goes in the other direction as well. Some suggestions have been made that the Government has self-serving and ulterior motives for the redactions in the documents tabled. Here too, such remarks are singularly unhelpful to the aim of finding a workable accommodation and ultimately identifying mechanisms that will satisfy all actors in this matter.

But the fact remains that the House and the Government have, essentially, an unbroken record of some 140 years of collaboration and accommodation in cases of this kind. It seems to me that it would be a signal failure for us to see that record shattered in the Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament because we lacked the will or the wit to find a solution to this impasse.
...
Accordingly, on analysing the evidence before it and the precedents, the Chair cannot but conclude that the Government`s failure to comply with the Order of December 10, 2009 constitutes prima facie a question of privilege.

I will allow House Leaders, Ministers and party critics time to suggest some way of resolving the impasse for it seems to me we would fail the institution if no resolution can be found. However, if, in two weeks’ time, the matter is still not resolved, the Chair will return to make a statement on the motion that will be allowed in the circumstances.
Not going to add a lot to this. The ruling should speak for itself and should be the preeminent focus of the day and going forward. Political spin should be weighed for what it is. It is the ruling that should underpin any discussions that take place in the next two weeks. Parliament has the right to demand the documents and see the documents. Now it is just a question of working out how that takes place.

The Conservative bluster that is flowing out there today is predictable. They cry election whenever they are in a tight spot, attempting to cow the opposition. Perhaps it is just face saving today but it's what they always do, almost like crying wolf at this point. It shouldn't be given so much serious indulgence in the weeks to come. They're not exactly in a position of strength in the polls from which to taunt opponents about an election.

It feels like the dynamic in our politics has changed for the better today. The view of our democracy that the PM and his party have attempted to peddle, this assertion of executive supremacy that Harper has attempted to seed has been firmly swatted back.

Time for a mature Parliament of leaders to step up and calmly resolve a significant issue. It's not too much to ask for, it's what a minority parliament is supposed to do. A Prime Minister plays a key role in that process and we really don't need any more of his unnecessary throttling of our democracy. If this Prime Minister were a real leader, we wouldn't have even been brought to today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Late afternoon trying to keep up post: G8 abortion policy & other notes

So much going on today, so here are a few developments from the day worth noting...

1. In Question Period today, the Conservatives fully clarified their position on their maternal health initiative. This was Conservative B.C. MP Jim Abbott's beeg, huge response to a question from the Bloc:
The G8 development ministers in Halifax today, where this issue will be discussed. We'll be leading the discussion at the upcoming G8 summit on child and maternal health. We're focused on how to make a positive difference to save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world. Canada's contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada's contribution will not include funding abortion.
They're all in on this issue now. This is a real schism between what we do domestically on abortion and what is now being refused internationally. They've done this split domestic/international policy on the death penalty too. Doing overseas what they could not get away with domestically. I would also mention the excising of "gender equality" from foreign policy too. At least they're being fully transparent now about where they stand on the maternal health initiative so Canadians can see what they're doing. And they're getting appropriate attention for it too.

2. Maybe an interesting segue from that abortion statement by the Harper government today...the Harris Decima poll released today that shows Cons 29-Libs 27-NDP 20 has possibly a nugget in terms of the women's support numbers. The Conservative numbers among women started to drop at the end of March (p. 6). That's when Hillary came to town and delivered her broadside about the maternal health initiative and the need to yes, include abortion funding under the umbrella of family planning.

3. The focus on the gun registry could also be gelling poll-wise with bad implications for the Conservatives. As BCL pointed out today, there's a poll out which shows that Canadians support the gun registry being maintained and notably, women support the registry much more so than men. Could be a convergence of issues going on for the Conservatives.

4. For those thinking that the above Harris Decima poll represents a mirror image developing of the U.K. election, as Allan Gregg seems to be getting all excited about, a few thoughts. First, has he donated to the NDP? Just kidding, couldn't resist. Farnwide points out that this bump upwards in NDP support is not a supportable trend until seen in other polls, which it hasn't been to date. Then there's the obvious point that Nick Clegg carries with him a sense of brand spanking newness to the U.K. electorate, courtesy of those first time U.K. debates. Layton would have a hard time replicating what is a real phenomenon in Britain. Interesting poll though.

5. Jim Prentice keeps changing his story on the Jaffer front. Prentice stated his aide met with Jaffer in Calgary. Now it's his aide meeting with Jaffer in Guergis' parliamentary offices. More shifting representations from Prentice in the House of Commons that doesn't do anything to help his or the government's credibility.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Clegg-ocracy

Liberal Democratic leader and potential kingmaker Nick Clegg offers up a new interpretation of parliamentary elections, almost bordering on the Harperesque:
"Because of the vagaries of the system, Labour could get fewer votes than the other two parties, but still have most seats. If that happens, Clegg will have the casting vote.

So I push, and push, and finally he helps a bit, by declaring that if Labour gets the smallest share of the vote of the three main parties and the most seats, he would not tolerate Brown remaining prime minister.

“I read that the civil service has published some book a few weeks ago ... that in an environment like that, he would have first call to form a government. Well, I think it’s complete nonsense. I mean, how on earth? You can’t have Gordon Brown squatting in No 10 just because of the irrational idiosyncrasies of our electoral system.

“Whatever happens after the election has got to be guided by the stated preferences of voters, not some dusty constitutional document which states that convention dictates even losers can stay in No 10,” he snorts."
Clegg has no use for first past the post, clearly, but this is the system in which this election is taking place. The party with the most seats does have first call in forming a government. If Cameron has the most votes but fewer seats than Labour, Clegg is going to go with him? That's complete nonsense, to use Clegg's language, and I don't think he's really saying that.

Al Gore won more votes than George W. Bush in 2000. Yet we know that it was the electoral college, the rules under which the election took place, that dictated the outcome. That's the way legally governed societies work. Imagine a similar scenario in Canada, of course the way we understand our system and the way it indeed works is that the party that wins the most seats is called upon to form the government.

What Clegg probably means is that a Labour victory in seats, while finishing third in popular vote, might lead Clegg to require Brown to step aside as a condition of Clegg's support for a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. But Labour has the right, as a party, to choose its own leader so this is quite the statement from Clegg. A lot would be on the table in those negotiations, whether Brown's stepping aside would be one item, I guess we might see.

If that's not what he means (but really, judging from his vitriolic comments toward Brown, it seems that he does), perhaps he's just laying the groundwork, in a very dramatic fashion, to obtain a firm commitment to electoral reform from Labour so that such a result never occurs again.

Whatever the case, it's a bit annoying to be hearing the heralded figure toying around with the rules of parliamentary democracy. It'll be a unique result for Britain, yes, if it's a "hung" parliament but it doesn't mean the present rules get chucked out the window. It's irritating enough for us when Harper injects a flawed American style interpretation of how our system works, i.e., people elect a Prime Minister, it's disheartening to hear it starting up in the U.K.

Ignaiteff respond

(Globe Politics Page)

Me Ignatieff, you Jane.

Doesn't anybody tell the Globe about these things? Or if they do, why don't they fix them? Whatever the case, rock on, national paper of record.

The report recounted Wayne Easter explaining the Liberal gun registry position to the satisfaction of constituents who had heard the Conservative radio hooey ads.

If you support the Liberal position and are so inclined, there is a donation campaign going on to fight the Conservative ads.

One other point, this is interesting:
NDP Leader Jack Layton has not ruled out whipping his MPs to vote against the bill, said his spokesman, Karl Belanger. A loss of New Democrat support would kill the bill.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday night



A song that is growing on me, new Stone Temple Pilots. A little raunchy in terms of the lyrics, so, a little disclaimer there, but we're all adults here, right? Anyway, it's just so gooood, it needs to be shared.

It's also a chance to pass on this site, SoundCloud, for those who like to listen to music online. Happy exploring.

British election reads

A sampling of the day's best reads on the state of the British election:

Some interesting developments from the Tories: "General Election 2010: Conservatives plan for a coalition." Wha? A coalition? Nobody tell Stephen Harper. At least one senior Tory is speaking about how they'd negotiate with the Liberal Dems on some issues in the event of a minority result.

On the other hand, David Cameron is proposing a new rule for unelected PMs:
The key element is the proposal that anyone taking over as PM following the death, overthrow or resignation of the previous incumbent would have to call an election within six months.
If the Canadian coalition had "overthrown" the Harper government in the fall of 2008 by defeating it on a confidence vote, presumably such a rule would have required a vote within 6 months. Maybe Cameron does have a Canadian Conservative adviser after all, you know, to mess with hundreds of years of parliamentary tradition just for short term political gain. Tom Flanagan would love it. But, facing a "hung" parliament, they should extrapolate out the effect of that rule. These Conservatives, not even in power yet and already seeking to bend the rules to make it prohibitive for parties to defeat them by inserting an election hurdle, unnecessary in the Westminster system and sure to sour their electorate, just like ours. Luckily Dave hasn't sealed the deal yet due to his vacuous presence and this latest gimmick might cement that impression.

The Guardian has a great interview piece with David Miliband, the Labour Foreign Secretary. An excerpt:
But Miliband, long accounted one of Labour's most formidable thinkers, has a serious point too. "David Cameron can't decide who he is, politically, and I think Nick Clegg is much clearer about what he's against than what he's for." He believes the surge of support for the latter, particularly, has more to do with a rise of sweeping anti-political feeling in the electorate than what he might actually stand for. "I think that there is a lot of anti-politics about the Lib Dems and the Tories," says Miliband. "And the point about anti-politics is that you can campaign on anti-politics, but you can't govern on anti-politics. And you certainly can't govern on anti-politics if you're a progressive party. You have to believe that it's through politics that societies can lead social and economic and political change. I really do think this is a very important moment for progressive politics."
Also in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee with an appeal summed up in the column title, "Your heart might say Clegg. But vote with your head:"
So what is the anti-Tory voter to do now? What do you do when the old two-party electoral system has finally collapsed into a genuine three-party contest? Look at the result according to yesterday's BBC poll of polls: Clegg gets 30% and a puny 102 seats, Cameron gets 33% and only 258 seats, while Brown comes third with 27% and emerges as the victor with 261 seats. Every time you see a poll, go to the BBC's brilliant election seat calculator for a nasty shock. Work out any variety of options. Labour may yet do far worse – but if so, Cameron wins, not Clegg.
Gordon Brown is shaking things up: "Brown rips up strategy to escape third place," and may yet pull this thing off: "Support for Labour slumps but Gordon Brown has reason to smile."

On a lighter note, here's an obvious riff on the Obama girl thing, give them points for chutzpah. Not exactly helping the Tories if you ask me:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday night



Something new (and old) from Canadian indies, Stars.

Enjoy:)

The PMO: it's not just for Ottawa anymore

Somebody's controlling tendencies are showing today. This raises some questions:
The Prime Minister's Office has set up outposts in three Canadian cities that are key electoral battlegrounds for the minority Conservative government.

PMO communications advisers have been operating from regional ministerial offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal for about 18 months.

A senior government official who wouldn't be named says their job is to facilitate access to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for local reporters, including non-English media, and also feed back information to the PMO in Ottawa.

These listening posts are in cities with large and growing ethnic groups that once leaned heavily Liberal but whose votes appear increasingly up for grabs.
So this has been going on for 18 months but is just being uncovered now? That would fit the secretive Harper government. Not wanting to disclose such matters to the public. These "listening posts" sound more political than governance related. Maybe the Conservative party should be paying for such "listening posts."

It also underscores the one-man government theme, the PMO branching out into franchises across the country. Who's in it for himself again, remind us? As we say around here, l'etat, c'est lui.

In sync with the above, you might want to give this a read today: "The man who would be king."

Attacking a messenger

Yesterday the Conservatives went full bore after pollster Frank Graves of Ekos and the CBC, whom he polls for, as a result of a quote by Graves in Lawrence Martin's column in the Globe yesterday. Here is the quote that has them so excised and led them to publicize Graves' freely available political donation history ($11K to Liberals since 2001, $450 to a Conservative in 2006) and wield it against him suddenly on a political show yesterday:
In his advice, Mr. Graves could hardly have been more blunt. “I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”
Graves was giving one of those interpretive quotes on the political state of affairs of the Liberals, much as he and any pollster frequently do in relation to any party when questioned by media. Graves' Ekos colleague made clear that Graves has no retainer with the Liberals and was only offering hypothetical advice in the media interview with Martin (first link). Use the google thing and you can find uncharitable Graves comments about Liberals. I'm sure someone could also dig up other pollsters making similar types of comments, saying the Conservatives or other parties should make certain arguments. So why did the Conservatives get so upset and make a big fuss about Graves?

1. They likely don't want to have the battle that Graves framed within that Martin column. They might lose a "culture war." It makes for a good contrast for the Liberals and the Conservatives haven't done well when fighting on the social issue terrain. Better to fight back hard now to try to nip this dynamic in the bud. Make it poisonous to pursue by discrediting those who dare suggest it.

2. They have a gun registry battle to win in the next month, one they dearly want to win. It can't be made to seem Palinesque. In Martin's column, the Liberal gun registry stance figured prominently. Since Monday, the Conservatives have not held back in a concerted, party-wide effort to go on the offensive to save C-391, their gun registry dismantling so-called-private-members-bill. The personal attack on Graves yesterday, by waving his donation history in front of him on CBC via Conservative spokesperson Kory Teneycke, may have been part of it. It sure sounds like it, based on Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey's comments here (at the end).

3. Intimidation is one of their political tactics of late. See for example, this report and this post on attacks against business leaders and academics, respectively, who disagree with the government. Graves is CBC's pollster. Freebie bonus! Any chance to accuse one of their pet pinatas of bias, they're on it. Yesterday's attack was intimidatory in nature, likely meant to check both Graves and CBC.

4. Distraction. From Rahim/Helena.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Conservative ironically decries "lack of democracy" at committee

Apparently Conservatives are "crying foul" over a Public Safety committee witness list for hearings on the gun registry. Yes, it's the issue that seems to be shaping up to keep providing lots of interesting fodder in days to come. The Conservative issue with the list is that it is too pro-registry. Not enough Olympic shooters, conservation officials, Alberta attorneys general and Calgary chiefs of police:
...Mackenzie says, "Canadians will find it most offensive to see a lack of democracy in the committee." He says "this side should get some input".
That's funny. Because the Conservatives have not exactly evidenced great concern for democracy and fair inputs up to this point on this issue. Let's recall their playing fast and loose with the RCMP's report on the effectiveness of the registry:
As Parliament resumes sitting this week, among the issues on the order paper will be gun control – specifically, a private member's bill to abolish the long-gun registry. The bill passed second reading last fall by a vote of 164-137 as some Liberals and New Democrats joined the Conservatives in supporting it.

Critics of the long-gun registry insisted that it is of little use to the police and not worth maintaining. This argument was effectively rebutted in an RCMP report on the registry that was released two days after the vote. At the time, Peter Van Loan, then minister of public safety, said the report had been in his hands only for "several days."

Now we learn – thanks to a trail of government emails obtained by the Star's Tonda MacCharles – that it was more like seven weeks, and that Van Loan's officials used every trick in the book to stall the report.
They disputed its statistics and questioned why the report was produced at all. They even launched a witch hunt over an innocuous banquet held by the gun registry's staff. (It turned out that the staffers had paid for the event themselves.)

For the record, the report noted that police use of the gun registry is increasing rapidly – to 3.4 million checks in 2008, up from 2.5 million the year before – and it said this "highlights the importance" of the registry to law enforcement.

But that wasn't what the government wanted parliamentarians to hear before the vote on the gun registry. (emphasis added)
That seems a little more important than who's appearing at committee. Not that committee work is not important, of course.

And do we even need to point out the very thick binder manual thingy that the Conservative brain trust has put together that is devoted to obstructing parliamentary committees.

Crying foul? Cry us a river.

Buried in the news

Here's something from the other day that may be of note, likely lost among other higher profile news items such as the Guergis/Jaffer matters and the Afghan detainee issue, this item:
A related question of legalities is confronting the Harper team. Evidence is accruing to the effect that political operatives may have instructed civil servants to block the release of documents requested under the Access to Information Act. If such were the case, the actions would be a violation of the law. The last thing the government needs now are civil servants blowing the whistle on political manipulation of the access to information process. (emphasis added)
Was Martin just summarizing recent reporting? Or does he have a sense of the Information Commissioner's "priority" investigations of three Harper ministers that are underway?

If you don't recall, one of those investigations is of Christian Paradis and the incident of the political staffer running down the hall to take back a report that the access to information officials gave the ok to release. A second investigation is of the Department of National Defence (Peter MacKay) and the third is unknown. The Information Commissioner said this last week about those investigations:
"As I announced on March 2, my office is conducting three priority investigations into complaints we received over specific allegations of political interference with requests made under the Access to Information Act. My objective is to conclude these investigations promptly."
Whether Martin was picking up on some imminent developments, who knows. It may be a sleeper issue to watch alongside the other biggies.

P.S. Martin's assessment of Liberal strategy direction in his column today is also worth a read. Good quote from Frank Graves there.

Eke-os

The weekly Ekos is out. As usual these days, not too much to get excited over although I will leave that to other poll aficionados to pore over. There was a fitting description of the poll offered up by CBC:
The Conservative Party retains a small but stubborn lead in support over the Liberals, according to an EKOS poll.
Cons 31.7, Libs 27.1, NDP 16.3, Greens 12.6.

Here is a theory. If you read the government announcements on a daily basis (don't laugh), you are struck by the sheer volume of spending going on across the country. Yes, there is still more EAP et al. to distribute, yes, we know this. An interesting part of all this is how local Conservative MPs are given such play in doling it out. For example, take this one where Stockwell Day and Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod announce $57.6 million for a Domtar mill in her riding. See also Conservative MP Bernard Genereux and a recent $4.8 million funding announcement regarding his riding, where he also figured prominently in the announcement. This is a routine thing, there are lots more like those ones, with Conservative MPs featured in conjunction with or in place of the minister responsible. Is there a cumulative effect that such announcements are having across the country in terms of locking in the Conservative support? There's a reason these announcements are made in this way. And this is one of the largest non-electoral spending sprees in Canadian history.

Anyway, that is this week's spaghetti-on-the-fridge effort to explain why the Conservatives retain that "small but stubborn lead."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

G20 agenda a little tougher for Flaherty today

"Global bank tax urged by IMF." Oh oh! As we know, Flaherty and the Harper crew are against the growing move within the G20 toward a bank tax of some kind. Flaherty wheeled out his "embedded capital" plan just last week in an effort to garner some attention and support to his cause. Guess the IMF missed it because they're really going in the opposite direction with this:
Countries should consider imposing a two-pronged tax on banks and other financial firms to pay for bailouts the next time markets tank, the world's financial body is proposing.

In a report to the G20 countries that was obtained by the BBC, the International Monetary Fund recommends a globally co-ordinated flat fee on every big bank, coupled with a tax on profits.

The money would be managed by governments and used to pay for economic rescue measures if the world ever again faces the kind of financial crisis that devastated economies over the last year and a half.
(BBC source and IMF report)

That latter paragraph is something that has not really been discussed in whatever limited Canadian discussion we've had about this proposed tax. We may not have had financial institutions collapse, but we suffered the effects of the world wide financial crisis as a result of financial collapses in other countries. We have incurred great debt as a result of the recession. So the argument for such measures is there to be made, even though our financial institutions would seemingly be penalized for the risk indulged in by other nations' institutions.

One problem Flaherty is going to have is the coordinated nature of the tax that's underlying these discussions. I.e., that all G20 countries would have to agree to do the same thing tax wise, otherwise banks will go to the jurisdiction where they're not subject to the new tax. So Flaherty might end up being compelled to consider something that's not so comfortable ideologically. The other side to the coordinated deal coin is that it might make it harder in the end to actually get all the nations to agree on something. But, you know, that's part of Jim's role as we're chairing this deal, right? (Well, at least we are in the technical sense.)

Flaherty has touted the IMF over the past year or so when it has spoken favourably about the Canadian economy so it will be interesting to see the reaction to these IMF tax proposals.

If Harper went to law school

More rule of law tragicomedy at the Military Police Complaints Commission yesterday, conveying the government's attitude toward the Afghan file and this commission's investigation:
The Military Police Complaints Commission has asked the government to turn over reams of documents, including a former foreign-service officer's reports of torture allegations in Afghan jails.

Nicholas Gosselin's reports weren't included in the paperwork already turned over to the military watchdog. Word of their existence emerged when Gosselin testified at the hearings last week.

Acting commission chair Glenn Stannard asked government lawyer Alain Prefontaine when the hearing might get Gosselin's stack of reports.

"Documents will be turned over to the counsel when they're good and ready," Prefontaine replied.

Stannard admonished Prefontaine over that remark: "I find that close to offensive, not only to this panel, but also to the public."

The government lawyer later apologized. (emphasis added)
What to say, what to say. This rule-of-law-spectacle that the Harper government is putting on these days continues to amaze. The government lawyer has all the information, the chair of the commission doesn't have access to it nor do commission lawyers. Hope the Speaker is taking note of all the rule of law effrontery and how it's not working out.

Prefontaine was doing a fine job of channelling the boss. In fact he seems to be the perfect representative of the Harper government. His classic "good and ready" quote yesterday was an evocative stamp for the information challenged Harper era. For example: "You'll get your documents when we're 'good and ready', Kevin Page." "You'll get your documents when we're 'good and ready' access to information peons." Yes, Prefontaine handily conveyed both the attitude of the Harper government about transparency and at the MPCC, the government's view of its superiority over this quasi-judicial tribunal.

The words "Eastern bloc" are coming to mind but we're not quite there yet.

The word "teabagger" comes to mind

The raucous U.S. tea party movement found a compadre in Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz last night, who called for Iggy's caucus to give him a beating:
“The government prorogued Parliament to realign the Senate committees so our party could finally pass some legislation,” explains Breitkreuz. “Now that it’s finally possible to garner Senate support to scrap the registry, the Liberal leader is trying to completely change the game in the House of Commons. It’s an act of desperation that insults the intellect of Canadians. His true colours are showing, and if his caucus has any integrity, those colours should be black and blue.
He's apologized and Dimitri Soudas called it "in poor taste and inappropriate." But instead of leaving it at that, to settle down the vitriolic momentum toward Ignatieff that Breitkreuz unleashed, Soudas nevertheless proceeded to take a dig at Ignatieff for his gun registry position. Misreading a moment that called for a flat out apology, devoid of partisanship.

Think such remarks don't have consequences? That there's nothing to see here? Check out all the debate going on in the U.S. over heated rhetoric and numerous recent incidents of politically motivated violence. We'd be naive to think we're immune to such developments and such rhetoric is not helpful.

Since Michael Ignatieff's speech on the gun registry on Monday, I think it's fair to say the Conservatives are very concerned that their long awaited goal of scrapping the gun registry is receding and they're reacting. So we see the emotional outburst from Breitkreuz's office. (Breitkreuz is probably not the last of it, BCL will find it all.) There's word that radio ads are ready to run against the 8 Liberals now too. No ads against the NDP friends, yet. The House of Commons effort is there: Hoeppner's Member Statement in the Commons on Monday, the Rickford Member Statement on Tuesday, the Conservative on Conservative question on Tuesday in Question Period. All signs of the massive organizational effort that the government and Conservative party will put behind their so-called private member's bill in the next month before that vote happens.

These developments since Monday are very telling as to what's at stake. As Breitkreuz said, they didn't prorogue and re-jig the Senate for nothing and one of the biggies is the scrapping of the registry.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shameless

When you hear Harper's remarks on pardons today, notably this:"Government can't stop Homolka from applying for pardon: Harper," let's keep something in mind. He could have.

Let's keep in mind that he is the Prime Minister. He leads a government. He could have done something about it.
Mr. Harper did not mention that his government reviewed the system for sex-offender pardons in 2006 and opted for minor administrative tinkering rather than changing legislation to make it harder or even impossible for people like James to be pardoned.

At a separate gathering, however, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews acknowledged that the first review, ordered by then public safety minister Stockwell Day, didn't go far enough.

Mr. Day settled for minor administrative changes so that two members of the National Parole Board, rather than one, screen applications for sex offenders.

"My colleague, Minister Day, made some improvements in 2007," Mr. Toews told reporters at a meeting of the Canadian Police Association. "Those were not sufficient to deal with some of the pressing problems that we continue to face."
If Harper had been so concerned about such matters, he might have done something about it then. Or in any year after. But they didn't. They've prorogued twice. Then there was the 2008 election, in violation of the fixed election date law. All of which is self-initiated Harper-led interference with their government's ability to enact the majority of their crime legislative agenda.

So instead what we see, as usual, their preference is to take the outlier case, such as Homolka, and exploit it for political gain. It's almost as if they prefer to see it happen so that they can rail against it.

Leading from behind, reactively, as usual. The Conservatives continue to prove that their law and order hype is just that.

Update: And clearly, it goes without saying, that this is major distraction from current government troubles.

Hope for the gun registry

Very happy to see this today:
We won’t abandon gun control. Not when rifles and shotguns are responsible for half the police officers killed in the line of duty in the last few years. Not when the gun registry is a vital tool that law enforcement uses every single day.

And so, when the Hoeppner bill comes to third reading in the House of Commons, we will stand united as Liberals and vote against it.

A number of our MPs supported the Hoeppner Bill at an earlier stage, out of frustration with the problems that exist in the gun registry.

We’ve worked with those MPs to create the reform package I’ve just announced—sensible changes that address legitimate concerns, while upholding the integrity of the gun registry.
It certainly sounds as if the Liberal MPs who voted with Candace Hoeppner at second reading have been consulted and would be on board with these changes. The priority at the moment is to ensure that Liberals support the registry and not allow the Conservatives to scrap it.

We know what's next...if this is what indeed occurs, that Liberals vote against C-391 at third reading, as will the Bloc, it will then fall to the NDP to help the Conservatives axe the gun registry. That's not where they want to be, is it?

(h/t)

More of that blind justice

Last week we saw a government lawyer at the Military Police Complaints Commission telling the witness, diplomat Richard Colvin, what was in Colvin's memos because only he, government lawyer, was able to have access to them. He was, incredibly, giving evidence, telling Colvin what Colvin was not able to access for himself.

If that wasn't enough for you, on Friday, we saw round two. General Natynczyk released a letter responding to translator Ahmadshah Malgarai's allegations before the Commons Afghan Special Committee. Those were the shocking allegations about the 17 year old who had been unlawfully shot by Canadian Forces and the allegations of sub-contracting out torture to the Afghans. So what's round two? Once again, none of the evidence upon which Natynczyk's letter is based is accessible to anyone else in order for it to be examined in a fair process. Here is some of Natynczyk's letter which gives a sense of what evidence he is able to access and the untestable conclusions he draws:
"Details of this event are very well documented."
...
"Operation reports which unfortunately cannot be made public as they contain sensitive information about tactics, techniques and procedures, indicate that during the mission an armed individual posed a direct and imminent threat to CF soldiers as they entered the compound..."
...
"During tactical questioning of the detainees, two individuals made allegations that coalition forces had planted a pistol on the deceased insurgent. It is worth noting that one of the two individuals later retracted his allegation.

Immediately following the mission, an after-action review was conducted to review the actions and outcomes of the operation. It was determined that all applicable rules of engagement and theatre standing orders were followed."
...
"The Canadian Forces do not transfer individuals for the purposes of gathering information."
You can understand that the military would want to respond to the serious allegations from Malgarai. And Natynczyk's version of facts on the shooting allegation might be true. But it might not too. It's hard to know because we can't test that version independently. We're supposed to just take the letter with its answers and be further assured that the military is investigating the new allegations, even though they seem to be quite confident that all the rules were followed the first time they conducted an after-action review.

There are specific factual questions about Natynczyk's version, as the translator's lawyer, Professor Amir Attaran, points out here. In your average civilian run democracy that respects the rule of law, resolution of the allegations would not be left in the hands of an interested party, the military, to investigate itself. That democracy doesn't seem to be us though.

By the way, here was Peter MacKay's contribution to this discussion, offered yesterday:
"We take these issues very seriously. What Gen. Natynczyk has put forward casts the allegations that we heard last week ...in a very different light than the way in which they were presented," he said from Edmonton.

"All I can tell you is that, having spent some time in a courtroom, having worked as both a prosecutor and a defence lawyer, there are usually two if not eight different sides to a story and the more information the better."
Yes, jack of all trades lawyer, the more information the better. But in MacKay's courtroom, there was an independent arbiter. That's what we need here, otherwise, two if not eight different sides to a story will just leave it all confused and unresolved. Unless that's what you want, of course...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Change in the air, over there



Hmmm, what happens in an election campaign when the supposed change candidate is suddenly getting out-changed by a third party? He tries to stick to the 2 horse race strategy and start attacking the new change guy. Meanwhile, the incumbent likes the new change agent, a little bit, but not too much. The third party could take just enough votes away from the Tory change basket to allow Labour to retain enough seats to win.

But you know, that could all change tomorrow. More on all the polling fun from the U.K. election here.

April 17, 1982



And the first half of this one is good too:



Can you imagine federal-provincial meetings, televised openly like that on substantive, core issues these days? It would never happen. Historic times.

Prompted by an email this morning:
It’s strange that no one has noted that, on April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II signed into law the repatriation of our constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau and the Justice Minister, Jean Chretien both sat at that table in the ceremony.
Has everyone forgotten? Harper would love to.
Well, there you go! Happy Charter patriation anniversary, everyone!

(h/t NG)

Update (6:00 p.m.): Did you notice that Liberal sweater Trudeau was wearing while skating (about the 0:17 second mark in 2nd video)? Fun stuff.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tipping point?



Two items on the Afghan detainee situation here, a CBC video report on Wednesday's big testimony at the Military Police Complaints Commission, focussing on the translator in particular, with his startling allegations.

There's also this column that's worth a read, on this week being a tipping point in this file: "Afghanistan: Who are the heroes here?" Whether it's a tipping point, good question. Watching Question Period yesterday, Peter MacKay's frivolous responses to serious opposition questioning about Wednesday's testimony did seem to ring very hollow.

An eventful week as we await that anticipated Speaker's ruling on the government's breach of privilege.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ipsos, you are indeed blipsos

New Ekos out today: "Tories, Liberals neck and neck: poll." Conservatives 31.4, Liberals 29, NDP 16.4, Green 11.1.

That mythological 10 point lead in Monday's Ipsos poll? Pshaw.

The Guergis scandal might have tightened this up a little and may continue to have effects, we'll see. The Conservatives are down two points on the week. But it's been quite a stretch now where we are really always gravitating back to our ever-loving maddening and locked-in national poll number neighbourhood. It would be surprising, but not unwelcome, to see that change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

From across the pond





Some efforts from the Labour party during the current election that are interesting and refreshing. There's emotion in the latter from the young person who is involved in the campaign, about her party and what it stands for, in particular the NHS (National Health Service). You'll see that emotion or sense of connection in the other video choices too (that you're given in the first video). Not a big fan of the piano soundtrack, think I would have gone a little more techno with a lot of strings:)

Food for thought:)

More Flaherty bafflegab

On the one hand: "Flaherty tells G20 bank tax won't work, says it could encourage more risk-taking." See, the problem is if you call it a "bank tax," the Conservative p.r. manual kicks in. Big no-no to support a bank tax or a tax of any kind, no matter how prudent it is. The rest of the G8 looks to be moving in that direction. Let's check in on Jim's latest:
The idea of taxing banks has been gaining steam in Europe and the United States as a means of penalizing institutions that triggered the global recession and of creating a cushion against future crises.

But Flaherty says a bank levy might actually encourage what regulators seek to punish - more risk taking by bankers who believe governments would feel bound by the tax to bail them out in case of future failures.

The Canadian finance minister says there are better ways of achieving the same result and has proposed an insurance fund against system risk termed "embedded contingent capital."
Oh, I see. An insurance fund. Now who would that be funded by? The banks? In which case, wouldn't we call that a tax? Hmmm?

Fun fact, they've moved away from the notion of an insurance fund in the U.K. because they believe that would indeed encourage the risk taking aspect that Jimmer is so worried about:
...it was "a big shift for Alistair Darling to say that he favours a tax on some measure of the risks being taken by banks, as opposed to introducing an insurance premium on them to meet the costs of future bail-outs".

Treasury sources say Mr Darling favours a tax over an untouchable insurance premium because he fears that banks could feel they were insured against the consequences of their actions and take even greater risks.
Even Tory leader David Cameron is supporting a bank tax over there in the U.K.

So is Jim a day late and a dollar short with his insurance fund proposal? Is the G8 passing us by as Jim mumbles about such matters? Looks like it.

Update (7:50 p.m.): All right, the above needs this amendment. Details on Flaherty's proposal, apparently this is some kind of self-funded mechanism:

In his letter to his G20 peers, he asked them to consider an alternative put forth recently by Julie Dickson, Canada's chief bank regulator, whereby financial institutions insure themselves against failure by issuing debt that can be converted into equity at times of trouble. Ms. Dickson called the scheme "embedded capital."

"I think we are taking a leadership position on this because we are putting forward an alternative to a bank tax or levy," Mr. Flaherty said, hinting that a number of G20 countries might side with Canada in its fight.

That's interesting, and a little different from a premium, but whether the G20 is liable to go for a self-financing regime, i.e., leaving it in the hands of the banks, after what has occurred is another question.

Truly blind justice

Welcome to the new era of Kafkaesque Canada where only the government lawyer in a quasi-judicial proceeding can see the evidence that's been blacked out and that is at issue before the court. And he'll tell the witness what his opinion is of it, in fact giving evidence himself. But the witness can't see the evidence, to make reference to it, even if he wrote it. In fact, no one can challenge the government lawyer's opinion of what he has seen in the unredacted documents and which he has just given his opinion of to the proceeding. Which is highly troubling because the text referred to is the subject of contention between the government lawyer and the witness.

It's the scene, some kind of alien procedural fairness has descended upon us and it's what played out at the Military Police Complaints Commission yesterday.

The Globe gives a sense of the exchange but it's best to take in the government lawyer on video. The stunning moment is captured on the video here at about the 10:10 mark (you can fast forward).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The picture of the day



"Now Steve, I told you not to get on Hillary's bad side, didn't I?

So what the heck is up with this maternal health initiative anyway?"

More fun here and here.

Update (4:00 p.m.): And here and here! Plus, let's not forget this bit of fun.

Update (4:15 p.m.): Shark jumping imminent, it hits Taber's column. Would have to go with Kinsella's Nickelback line, probably the best there.

Access to information interference taking center stage today

The Interim Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, releases "her Special Report entitled Out of Time: Report Cards 2008-2009 and Systemic Issues Affecting Access to Information in Canada to Parliament" today. News conference at 11 a.m. for anyone interested.

There might be some questions about the status of her current investigations into three Harper ministers. As you will recall, one of the ministers is Minister of Natural Resources Christian Paradis for the blatant incident of interference with access to information that occurred under his watch in his former ministry, Public Works. She's not likely to provide details but she has been fairly candid, about as much as she can be, in discussing such investigations and the systemic problems with access to information. This is the commissioner who said this:
«Si j'en conclus que les allégations sérieuses sont fondées, je n'hésiterai pas à faire ce qu'il faut, et même à référer les dossiers au procureur général du Canada si ça s'avère nécessaire.»
Translation, she will not hesitate to do the right thing when allegations are founded, even making referrals to the Attorney General if necessary. That's her job, yes, but always nice to hear such vows in the Harper era of the marginalized independent officers of parliament. So she's worth watching today to see what she has to say.

But...occurring at the same time, the Ethics Committee's hearing on allegations into access to information interference, and the appearance by Harper's chief of staff, Guy Giorno. More about the allegations and his appearance here.

I would say the odds are greater than 50-50 that the issue does not go the government's way today.

Canada and the governor

CBC had a report last night, "Afghan governor's rights abuses known in 2007" (video), which echoes some of what was in the Globe on the weekend in Graeme Smith's report. The Globe report largely centred on the governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khalid, governor from 2005-2008, the torture rooms in his palace and the fact that Canadians - both military and diplomats - knew about this. Yet Canada backed the governor, even when Hamid Karzai wanted to get rid of him. As Aaron Wherry reminded us yesterday, the allegations about the governor sprouted publicly in early 2008.

In the CBC report last night, we learn that Chris Alexander, current star Conservative candidate in Ajax, informed Canadian officials, while he was working with the United Nations as special representative, that the governor was behind the bombing deaths of five UN workers. Alexander also informed Canadian officials that "...attacks on Internationals in Kandahar are increasingly being carried out by … narcotics interests, that have a stake in continued instability, rather than by insurgents." If you watch the video of the CBC report, it is made clear that the governor would be one of those "narcotics interests." What did Canada do in response to Alexander's information?
Despite the warnings that Canada's own ally in Afghanistan had killed UN workers, the Canadian government continued to work with Khalid.
Again, as you will see in the video, it is striking that a military officer who testified before the Military Police Complaints Commission two weeks ago, still speaks highly of the governor, describing him as a "character" and saying "he got it, he knew how his province ran," "he had his levers on all the controls." No kidding.

Another note:
Alexander, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, is now a federal Conservative candidate in Ontario. CBC News made several attempts to contact Alexander for further comment regarding this story, but he has not responded.
No, he wouldn't. He's in Conservative candidate land now where speaking to the media is not high on the list.

Wonder if Richard Colvin would ever run for the Conservatives.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Harper Minister Gail Shea in conflict of interest

This story about Fisheries Minister Gail Shea deserves more attention: "Shea caught up in turbine conflict." Here is the conflict as set out in that Chronicle Herald report today:
On Jan. 12, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced in Trenton that the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, in North Cape, P.E.I., would receive $10-20 million from the federal Clean Energy Fund for a nine-megawatt wind farm.

The institute is headed by Shea’s son-in-law, Scott Harper. The size of the investment will mean a significant expansion of the wind farm and research facility, which will be of benefit to her family — a clear conflict of interest.

As political minister for the island, and the MP for the riding where the money will be invested, Shea’s office would normally be closely involved in promoting such a project.
Shea claims that she went to the Ethics Commissioner for advice and here's what Shea's director of communications is saying about the advice received:
"The advice from the commissioner was that the minister not be involved in the file," he said. "That is why minister MacKay’s office was designated as the lead. Staff was aware of the file but didn’t play an active role. Minister MacKay’s office was the regional lead during his tenure as ACOA Minister."
The advice from the commissioner may have been that Shea was not to be involved in the file, and she may or may not have been involved in that particular funding decision that benefited the son-in-law's wind institute. But there is no public record of her recusal from the matter, as she should have done under the Act:

The Conflict of Interest Act requires any minister to formally recuse herself from any such decision and "make a public declaration of the recusal that provides sufficient detail to identify the conflict of interest that was avoided."

But there is no record of a recusal on the summary statement Shea filed with Dawson’s office.

Shea has been involved in advocating for a new energy cable connection to New Brunswick that would enable PEI's wind energy exporting. She has been on hand for a number of wind energy funding announcements. Has her office been involved in advocating for those? So isn't the big picture here that the Minister has not recused herself from the wind file, writ large, in PEI over the last few years? With the effect of all of that Island wind development enhancing her family's interest, through her son-in-law, in that Wind Energy Institute, a research and energy production interest?

(h/t)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Soudas promoted

"Harper names Soudas as communications director."
Soudas has been at Harper's side since he became leader of the Canadian Alliance and is one the prime minister's most trusted media advisers.
Some Dimitri highlights are in order then...

At Copenhagen, Soudas incorrectly accused, in a government communique and in a publicly recorded incident, a Quebec environmentalist and group of being behind an internet hoax that embarrassed the Harper government:
Quelques minutes plus tard, les journalistes reçoivent un communiqué signé cette fois de Dimitri Soudas, l'attaché de presse du premier ministre Stephen Harper. Ce dernier envoie copie du faux communiqué à tous en disant qu'il s'agit du «communiqué de presse envoyé par Steven Guilbeault d'Équiterre». Nouveau coup de téléphone à l'écologiste bien connu qui s'étrangle littéralement au téléphone en apprenant la nouvelle.

Après une vive altercation avec Dimitri Soudas dans les corridors, Steven Guilbeault réclamera, ainsi qu'Équiterre le fera en fin de journée, des excuses publiques pour atteinte à sa réputation et affirme que ni lui ni Équiterre n'ont quoi que ce soit à voir avec le canular, qui, dit-il, dépasse les moyens techniques de son groupe.
At the G8 in Italy last summer, Harper was forced to publicly apologize to Michael Ignatieff for an attack he launched on Ignatieff in the closing press conference, in reliance upon mistaken information provided to him by Soudas:

The prime minister's press secretary Dimitri Soudas told reporters he apologized publicly to the prime minister for advising him to make the partisan comments that were not based in fact, and he apologized publicly as well to Ignatieff.

Soudas said "I am upset," and he added later that the prime minister was "clearly, clearly not happy with the fact that he was put in that situation by one of his advisors.

"The prime minister is very bothered by the fact that his press secretary mis-informed him, and mis-briefed him and hence he obviously made an accusation."

Two months ago, Soudas calmly handled a protest situation in Vancouver by furiously sending out emails to media creating a simply unbelievable crisis atmosphere surrounding a Prime Ministerial visit, in the course of it blaming an NDP MP for instigating a rowdy protest, which she denied, all the while the event seems to have gone off just fine.

Despite all of the above, it's not really a surprising promotion, is it? Soudas seems to speak for the government, frequently in place of ministers, on all issues, reinforcing the centrality of the PMO above all other departments in the Harper government.

Given the number of communications directors Harper has had (Williamson, Teneycke, Buckler, in all five in four years), this looks like the final choice. There's no removing Soudas, is there?

As to whether the choice of Soudas constitutes the appropriate level of professionalism and judgment you want in the person handling the Prime Minister's communications, this Prime Minister has said yes.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday night



Nothing new grabbing the ear these days so here's some of what's been in the mix this week...enjoy:)

Shorter Military Police Complaints Commission hearings thus far...

This report gives a sense of what's becoming a growing narrative...

Military to Foreign Affairs: We thought you guys were supposed to track what happened to detainees after we handed them over to the Afghans. We were waiting for all your reports and stuff so we could determine whether to continue the transfers or not. And P.S., we liked the intelligence we were getting from NDS in any event, putting us in somewhat of a conflict of interest situation.

Foreign Affairs to Military: We needed your help and thought you were supposed to help us with tracking detainees, what with all your "intimate and comprehensive relationship with the NDS" and stuff. I mean, you guys bring the heat and everything, we're pencil pushers.

So who wasn't ensuring that these two institutions handled the issue properly? Who was in charge?

An appeal to Dean Del Mastro's office

This is not cool. The "We LOVE Dean Del Mastro" Facebook group contains some incorrect defamatory material on its front page about blogger Ann Douglas, one of Del Mastro's constituents.

I'm sure a responsible Member of Parliament would want to see to it that such material is removed from his supporters' published pages?

Ann has attempted to resolve this by requesting that the offending material be taken down to no avail.

We will be watching.

Your daily Arctic sovereignty fix

Well, for a few days anyway and as events warrant and because it's kind of fun...

A few points to follow up on that post yesterday, on Canada's launch of our latest Arctic sovereignty exercise. A helpful reader noted that if there is to be a parade up there at CFS Alert, it bears mentioning that there are only 5 permanent residents in Alert. There are a bunch of temporary residents who staff the Forces base, the weather station, the airport, etc., but really, it's going to have to be all hands on deck for that parade to be a success and provide propaganda worthy photo-op moments. Perhaps this is why the government types have been invited:
...Nunavut government officials will be in attendance, most notably the Premier of Nunavut, The Honourable Eva Aariak, the Minister of Environment and Minister of Human Resources, Minister Daniel Shewchuk, and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Quttiktuq region, Mr. Ron Elliot. Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami will also be participating in the closing events.
Did you catch the last participant? Perhaps a sign of things to come, a future Governor General in training?

Also note that the parade in Alert allows us to hold an event as close as we possibly can on Canadian soil to the North Pole, you know, perhaps to send a message to the Russkies who are hanging out there of late. Alert is only 500 miles from the North Pole:


Are we putting on a parade in our northernmost point to send a political message? You betcha:)

Meanwhile, in another interesting and slightly more important development, Obama's offshore drilling plans include a site off the coast of Alaska that happens to be in waters claimed by both the U.S. and Canada. That's something we haven't heard much about yet on our end and something worth hearing a little more about. What with all the potential for spills and such up there. Here's the U.S. government estimate in respect of the areas opened up:
The MMS estimates of undiscovered, economically recoverable resources for the Alaska OCS areas proposed for EIS scoping are: Beaufort Sea: 2-7 billion barrels of oil and 3-20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; Chukchi Sea: 0.15-12 billion barrels of oil and 0.5-54 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; Cook Inlet: 0.7-1 billion barrels of oil and 0.9-1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
2-7 billion barrels in the Beaufort Sea? See map above. Could be a problem:
The much-anticipated but controversial transformation of the Arctic Ocean into a new global treasure house of oil and gas is a step closer with the U.S. government moving Wednesday to open that country's offshore areas -- including the Beaufort Sea, subject of a boundary dispute with Canada -- to more intensive petroleum development.
...
"The opening of large tracts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to oil and gas drilling increases the pressure on Canada and the United States to resolve their Arctic sovereignty disputes," University of B.C. professor Michael Byers said. "At least 20,000 square kilometres of the Beaufort Sea is contested -- and perhaps much more."
That particular boundary dispute is sounding a little more urgent to resolve. Maybe a little more diplomacy might be in order alongside all the parade arranging. Just a thought. How the Harper government reacts to this move, weighing energy interests and the environment, bears watching.

(h/t Massachusetts)

Well he will appear in almost any movie...



A little U.K. election check-in...Michael Caine endorses the Tories in Britain for their national service plan. Seriously, that's why he's in:
Last year, the star of films such as Get Carter, The Italian Job and Alfie spoke of his fury at Alistair Darling's decision in the 2009 budget to increase income tax to 50% for the country's highest earners.

The actor, who has homes in Surrey and Chelsea, threatened to move to America, where he lived in the 1970s and 1980s as a tax exile.

"Tax got to 82% [in the 1970s] and I thought this was kind of unfair," he said. "Also, I see ... that the government has taken it up to 50% and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America.

"I will not pay the government more than I get. No way, ever. So they've reached their limit with me. That's the lot."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ignatieff making play for Quebec

In a speech delivered today in Mirabel, Michael Ignatieff made a significant overture to Bloc voters for support, whenever that next electoral choice comes, down the road. If Liberals want to start really making a play for inroads in Quebec, it's good to start beating this drum and keeping it up.
Bientôt, les Québécois devront aussi faire un choix.

D’un coté, un gouvernement conservateur qui a une attitude de laissez-faire, qui croit qu’il n’y a aucun rôle pour le gouvernement et qui n’a que des années de coupures à offrir.

De l’autre, un gouvernement qui agit de façon responsable en créant l’espace fiscal nécessaire pour lutter contre le déficit et pour commencer à investir dans notre avenir.

Ce que je dis aux Québécois, c’est : regardez les valeurs qui nous animent et vous allez retrouver chez nous le consensus québécois.
The environment, culture, the promotion and expansion of francophone culture across Canada and social justice issues are cited as examples of values important to Quebecers that Ignatieff will highlight to draw a distinction with the Conservatives, to form the basis of this argument for support. Then he went on to focus on the Bloc and make an appeal to Quebec:
Je crois que la politique, quand on la fait bien, peut encore inspirer les jeunes et répondre aux soucis de leurs parents. Et je crois aussi que ce pays peut redevenir ce que le monde a de mieux à offrir.

Mais pour cela, il faut que les Québécois fassent le choix de la construction plutôt quele choix de la protestation.

Je sais qu’il y a une frustration dans la région. Il y a plusieurs dossiers qui n’avancent pas. Mais posez-vous une question : Un député du Bloc québécois a-t-il intérêt à régler des dossiers?

Moi, je crois plutôt que son premier intérêt, c’est de faire en sorte que les problèmes ne se règlent pas pour pouvoir dire que ce pays ne marche pas. C’est une politique qui se fait contre les citoyens plutôt que pour les citoyens. C’est une petite politique partisane qui se fait sur votre dos.

Ce que je vous dis aujourd’hui, c’est que le meilleur allié de M. Duceppe, c’est Stephen Harper.

Parce que tant qu’il est là, M. Duceppe peut dire que les Québécois ne se reconnaissent pas dans le Canada.

La grande ironie, c’est que Gilles Duceppe est aussi le meilleur allié de Stephen Harper. Parce qu’il condamne la voix progressiste du Québec à rester dans l’Opposition.

Mais il n’y a pas que les Québécois qui ne se reconnaissent pas dans le Canada de Stephen Harper. Moi non plus.

Pour Stephen Harper, le Canada, c’est chacun pour soi. Pour Gilles Duceppe, le Canada, c’est chacun de son côté. Et pour moi, le Canada, c’est tous ensemble.

C’est de faire ensemble quelque chose qui nous rassemble — et je ne peux pas le faire sans les Québécois.

Venez avec nous. (translation)
It's unfortunate that this message is getting a bit lost today in the hurly burly. Will be watching to see how it's received in the Quebec press tomorrow. It's a big one to push, if Liberals are going to gain seats in the next election, Quebec has to be a province where gains are made. That solid block of Bloc MPs needs to be cracked, of course that's obvious. How to go about doing so is the question.

There is merit in appealing to where exactly Quebec is going with the Bloc as their representatives, constantly pitting Quebec against Canada on issue after issue, defeating the aspirations of "la voix progressiste du Québec." Arguing that the Bloc is actually hurting the larger policy goals, what needs to be done, that's a good way of elevating the argument above Duceppe and his personal popularity to the big picture.

What is the big picture? It's that appeal to whether we are all in this together or not. It's a big appeal to a more positive, constructive vision of the federation. In the wake of Lucien Bouchard's recent high profile comments, about sovereignty not being realistic in his lifetime, it could be that Quebecers are ripe to make such a shift. Maybe. The Prime Minister has been silent in response to Bouchard, so there's an opening for a strong federalist gesture to try to shake those Bloc voters.

Very glad to see this appeal today.