Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleeper issue

From this Globe item on a presentation at the Liberal caucus meeting in Baddeck, a Liberal pollster highlights the fighter jet purchase as a "sleeper" issue for Canadians:
The sleeper issue, however, is that of the spending billions of dollars on fighter jets.

Mr. Marzolini noted there is confusion as to why Canada needs to purchase the stealth-capable aircraft. Focus groups are asking: “What do we need them for?”

The pollster even drew a few laughs with a Star Trek reference when he said these futuristic jets might be useful if “al-Qaeda ever became allies with the Klingons.”
There are arguments to be made about the untendered nature of the contract, about the timing of the replacement of the CF-18s, for sure. But those are nitpicking arguments. What's interesting is the additional suggestion here from Marzolini that Canadians are open to bold arguments about the choice itself. Whether the big military purchase fits with Canada's defence needs and whether the purchase has been justified by the government. At a cost of $16 billion, the purchase has big implications for budget priorities and the choices that Canadians want to make right now. Lots of room to run with this issue and it's notable to see it being framed as such.

Update (6:40 p.m.): Just saw this, Canadian Press report on the Air Force chief defending the purchase today. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose is noted as stumping on the deal today as well. Shaping up to be a big issue in the fall.

A summer of big economic implications

As predictable as the sun rising in the east, it's a John Ivison special: "Ignatieff’s gains mean little if economy sours." What's that? Liberals are having a bit of a party renaissance, feeling boosted by the summer tour, heartened by closing poll numbers and such. Quick! To the column machine to put as negative a spin on it as possible for the team and a well-seated perch on National Newswatch. Today's? Well, things are looking better for Mr. Ignatieff...but if the economy weakens, it's Harper time, baby, trusted economic manager that he is. Well, not so fast.

This summer has seen a few items piling up at Mr. Harper's feet that could, to reasonable observers anyway, shake that conservative pushed perception of the fine economic manager at the helm.

Item one: the census decision and its continuing fallout. Respected economists spoke recently of the increased costs ("billions") to the Canadian government who will no longer have the benefit of the data from the long form to make key government planning decisions. We'll be paying for that lost information, either in reams of ad hoc research being commissioned or in the coming wasted taxpayer dollars that can't be anchored properly to the right stats. It didn't have to be this way if someone wasn't so stubborn and would listen to civil society rising up against him. Those costs are yet to be fully articulated.

Item two: the G20 billion dollar boondoggle. The exorbitant costs from that spectacle are going to continue to be part of the economic record as they are probed in Parliament this fall and by the Auditor General.

Item three: the still unexplained source of funding for the $16 billion we're going to pay for the F-35 purchase. Military personnel, industry persons and those in foreign affairs circles don't seem to be buying the government-of-fine-economic-managers' line that we shouldn't worry, that it's all looked after in the 2008 era Canada First Defence Strategy. Budgets have changed for the worse and we have no credible answers before us as to how the fighter jets will be paid for. That's a lot of money that might blow a big hole in the budget and a certain government's economic credibility.

It has been a summer with some decisions of sizable economic implications. I wouldn't be so quick to sign on to the Ivison thesis, but, you know, maybe that's just me.

Update: Almost forgot about all the billions in new prisons for all the unreported crime.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

CRTC could see big appointment this week

A second voice was ringing the alarm bell this past week about Harper's intentions toward the CRTC, in case you missed this:
The only fly in the Harper/Murdoch/Péladeau ointment is the CRTC. The regulatory commission is refusing to issue a Category 1 licence, which would require cable companies to carry Sun TV News.

The word in Ottawa is that the prime minister is not amused. He is said to want CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein replaced before his term expires in 2012. Before that, however, Harper will get to name a new vice-chair to replace Michel Arpin whose term ends next week.

The name at the top of the list to succeed Arpin is Luc Lavoie, former spokesperson/apologist for Brian Mulroney and former executive vice-president at Quebecor.

If Harper gets his way with the CRTC, he could soon have his hands around the throat of Canadian broadcasting.
So we could see a new CRTC vice-chair appointment this week. Arpin's term ends on Monday. That's something to watch for, with perhaps an indication of Harper's intentions toward the CRTC and applications that will be before it in the near future including Sun Media's bid for must carry status. Hard to believe the Lavoie rumour for many reasons. Talk about audacity, that appointment would become infamous, instantaneously. And not in a good way.

In other Harper/Sun Media/Pierre Karl Peladeau news this weekend comes word that the federal government will indeed be considering funding for an arena in Quebec City, an arena that would be used to lure a Pierre Karl Peladeau sought after NHL team to the city. As confirmed by a Stockwell Day staffer (look beyond the spin/double speak).

Why does that telecommunications term convergence keep coming to mind...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tough choice made

John Ibbitson, in his Saturday Globe column, makes it sound as if Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is on the fence about his upcoming gun registry vote. That's strange because Bagnell spoke to media on Wednesday about the fact that he would be voting to keep the registry. More of Bagnell's comments here.

So maybe Ibbitson didn't know about this development. Meanwhile, Bagnell's being hung out there in the Globe like this. It's almost like Ibbitson just took the PM's spin from that Friday night speech in Whitehorse and ran with it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The "beluga in the room"

From this CP round-up of views on Harper's trip to the north, a disconnect is noted:
While Harper's announcements over the course of the week focused on military sovereignty, environmental protection, social spending and foreign policy, there was one beluga in the room he refused to address: climate change.

All eyes internationally are now on the north, Harper repeatedly stressed. Yet he neglected to mention that one of the key reasons for that increased attention is the easier access afforded by a warming climate.

During his visit, a massive chunk of ice broke off Ellsemere Island in Nunavut — a 5,000-year-old peninsula of ice so large that it's disappearance will cause a redrawing of Canada's map, according to federal officials.

The event went unremarked upon by the prime minister, even as he reannounced federal funding for Radarsat satellite technology that's key to mapping Canada's Arctic.
It is remarkable that a major environmental event like that could go "unremarked," as if the PM was travelling in a vacuum in the north. Given his politics on climate change, it's not surprising. But it still magnifies the political weakness that's there for the Conservatives on the issue. Ignoring the problem and refusing to speak about such events is not going to make the facts disappear from view. It's that "inconvenient facts" narrative rearing its head again.

Nice to see such oddities during the PM's travels being noted.

Friday night



A little earlier this week, this is a gem making its way around SoundCloud right now...have a good night.

Friday notes of the "no" variety

1. "No" to this: "Choice is Tory majority or coalition: Harper." We'll make our own choices, thanks, without any leader imposing his preferred political prism upon us. Imagine, after a summer of not listening to Canadians, with the hue and cry on the census, by hundreds of representative bodies, someone's calling for a majority. After a summer in which a $9 billion military purchase was put to the Canadian people on a Friday afternoon, in a showy theatre with no back-up justification, someone's calling for a majority. After a summer in which more independent public servants have been ridden roughshod by this government, where the dignified head of Statistics Canada was forcibly resigned,where the veteran-supported Veterans' Affairs ombudsman is being shown the door, where the gun registry supporting RCMP Firearms director was sent for remedial French as the debate heats up...someone's calling for his majority. This really is an Arctic fantasy land tour, from start to finish.

2. "No" to this. Glen Pearson has been writing excellent blog posts all summer about liberalism, its past, present and future, the challenges, the difficulties in Canadian society at the moment, you name it. It's been inspirational stuff. Today's post takes on anonymous commenters he's been hearing from who are crossing lines in a most hateful way toward Pearson and his family. A hearty "no" to that. I hope he knows that there are a lot of us out here who have been rooting him on this summer and who are with him in his work.
Yet I’m experiencing a growing sense that the good people of Canada, from all political persuasions, are saying enough to this kind of vengeful influence in this land.
I hope he's right about that. I think things are shifting this summer too, in many ways, but it's hard to put your finger on exactly.

3. Um, Globe, what are you thinking? The hagiography here is worth a gigantic "no": "One day, we'll look back and thank Jim Flaherty." Kevin Carmichael is a great reporter and I enjoy a lot of what he writes, including a fair part of that article. But that headline and the conclusive bent of the piece, Mr. Flaherty is just not worthy of that prediction. The piece itself underscores that in its cataloguing of the disastrous fall '08 financial update, the much criticized GST cuts, the income trusts decision, the stimulus jury still being out and the questionable legacy it will leave the nation...Deficit Jim has a nickname for a reason, you know.

4. This line makes me feel icky so I'm saying "no" to it: "...there is something else there, something positively bordering of friskiness when he is up here." Yes, John Ibbitson's on the friskiness watch up in the Arctic with the PM. That's just plain old icky. Particularly when the trip is one of the most stage managed, expensive series of photo-ops, apparent to all. The core issue for the northern jaunts is this:
The truth is that Harper's government, while giving northern sovereignty welcome profile, has promised much and invested little -- outside of annual photo ops like this week's military ballet on ice and Harper's unexpected northern jig.
Now that's something we can agree on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No expense spared



Meanwhile, elsewhere in the non-photo-op worthy Canadian Arctic: "Bermuda-sized chunk breaks off Arctic ice shelf." Just thought that was worth a mention along with all the pretty pictures and Canadian taxpayer money flying through the air.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blue Line police gun registry survey disavowed

The publisher of the magazine, Blue Line, issues a strongly worded clarification of what's transpired. The use of capital letters is his:
Randy Kuntz went on national news to support his anti firearms registry position by pointing to me and "Blue Line Magazine". His attempt to damage the magazine's neutral position is out of line along with semi-breaching the sanctity of this section of the Forum.

So he has forced my hand to take a position on the issue:

Here it is and I have shared it with others as far as it can go:

1. BLUE LINE MAGAZINE DID NOT PUBLISH NOR DID IT ENDEAVOUR TO WRITE A STORY ABOUT A SURVEY AS SUGGESTED BY KUNTZ. OUR POSITION HAS BEEN NEUTRAL UP TO NOW.
2. THE PRIVATE POLICE ONLY SECTION OF THE BLUE LINE FORUM IS CLOSED AND NOT TO BE DISCUSSED PUBLICLY.
3. THE OPINIONS FROM THE PRIVATE SECTION ARE MIXED AND INCONCLUSIVE IN THAT ONLY THOSE WITH STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT IT WOULD POST. THE POSTS WERE FROM APRIL TO MAY 2009. THERE WERE FEW POSTS BUT HE DID ASK PEOPLE WITH OPINIONS TO SEND HIM A PRIVATE MESSAGE.
4. MEDIA AND POLITICAL HYPE IS BACKWARDS. THE REGISTRY IS ABOUT RESPONSIBLE FIREARMS OWNERSHIP NOT POLICE USE. POLICE ARE CALLED UPON TO REFER TO IT FOR MANY REASONS BUT JUST LIKE RESPONSIBLE CAR OWNERS, RESPONSIBLE BOAT OWNERS AND RESPONSIBLE HOME OWNERS HAVE A REGISTRY, FIREARMS SHOULD BE NO DIFFERENT.POLICE INTEREST IS REALLY ONLY WHEN THEY ARE STOLEN, STORED, REGISTERED OR USED IMPROPERLY.
5. REGISTRY IS A FORM OF INSURANCE FOR OWNERS IN THAT IF THEY ARE STOLEN RECOVERY IS ENHANCED.
6. THE MONEY HAS BEEN BLOWN (RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY) AND IF SO WE MUST SALVAGE WHAT WE CAN. IF WE NEED TO THROW OUT PORTIONS THEN DO SO. BUT NOT THE WHOLE THING. THAT WOULD NOT BE RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT. (IF A HOUSE IS EXTRAVAGANTLY BUILT THE WRONG WAY WE DO NOT PUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE IN THE DUMPSTER.)7. WE DID PUBLISH A STORY FROM THE CANADIAN FIREARMS ASSN A FEW YEARS AGO (NOT SURE RIGHT NOW BUT ABOUT 8 YEARS AGO) WHERE THEY ESPOUSED A REGISTRY OF THEIR OWN. WHY NOT HAVE GOVT AND ASSOCIATION GET TOGETHER ON THIS.I THINK THAT IS ABOUT ALL FOR NOW.

--Morley S. Lymburner
Publisher
Blue Line Magazine Inc.Celebrating 22 Years! www.blueline.ca
A helpful clarification that is. Interesting to note the publisher's time-lining of the Constable Kuntz forum "survey" as being centred upon two months over a year ago, in "April to May 2009" whereas it was reported that the survey occurred over a period of 14 months ("Over the course of 14 months, Const. Kuntz said, he received online responses and emails from 2,631 police officers.") So two months of responses in the forum plus 12 months of personal emails? That sounds like what's happened here.

The larger point, this non-public, untested, unverifiable, unscientific "survey" of emails and whatever unknown else it was, contained in that private forum, should never have received the national prominence that it did this week. Yet somehow, it was offered up in story after story and featured on national newscasts as authoritative (see Roger Smith report here for example), giving the public the impression that indeed there was some kind of survey of police officers which showed widespread police opposition to the long gun registry. A position not held by the representative body of Canadian police officers.

Anyway, looks like this oddity of the week now seems to be put to rest.

Aid for Pakistan: an appeal to Canadians

Khaista, which translates as 'beautiful' in pashto being treated by Dr Ikram. The 4 year old was suffering with fever and cough. Her mother says she has been playing in contaminated water near her house.
If you have been watching the news you will know that there is a desperate situation going on in Pakistan with the flooding that's occurred and with millions left homeless. There is a real need for donations from Canadians and on Monday, the government announced a matching pledge:
For every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities, and earmarked for efforts to assist the Pakistan relief efforts, Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund.
Canadian aid groups are there on the ground working, including this one, The Humanitarian Coalition. You can follow all of their updates at their site or on twitter (the Humanitarian Coalition groups include CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada).

Abdul Sattar the father of Mohammad Ilyas, stands over his 3 year old son who's suffering from bloody diarrhoea. He'd been suffering for the last 3 days prior to being brought to the clinic and given intravenous fluids.
(Both photos: Jason Tanner/Save the Children)

Here is some information on the crisis from their latest update explaining what the groups are doing on the ground and the need for contributions:

• Save the Children is one of the largest humanitarian agencies responding to the crisis in Pakistan and has reached more than 69,000 children and families with medical care, food, tents, and shelter and hygiene kits. Our goal is to reach two-million people within the next six months.

• As one of the only aid groups able to reach the most remote areas, Save the Children has provided health coverage to a total of 6837 people in Shikarpur and Sukkur districts in five days.

• So far, Oxfam staff on the ground in Pakistan has reached more than 330,000 flood survivors with shelter, hygiene kits, cooked food, cash vouchers and clean water.

• In Ghotki, Oxfam, with the help of its partners LHDP, provided cooked food to 7000 individual, installed 25 latrines and 20 hand pumps and provided 152 hygiene kits.

• CARE has reached 22,279 beneficiaries with health care, non food items and tents. Another 300 tents and non food items are being transported to Swat for distribution.

• CARE is supporting 4 BHUs in Upper Swat and providing PHC services; approximately 12,000 patients (23% men, 31% women and 46% children) have been treated through two mobile teams and four static units.

The contaminated flood waters and poor living conditions threaten to provoke a public health disaster among the flood survivors. More donations are required if the members are to prevent a second wave of unnecessary deaths.

More devastating (and heartbreaking) pictures here.

Canadian and western nations' donations have been slower in coming for Pakistan, particularly when compared with the recent Haiti disaster. So let's give the effort a push!

Donations can be made at the Humanitarian Coalition's (Canadian!) site.

Spector on Quebec & unilateral declarations of independence

Norman Spector wrote this in his blog Tuesday and it deserves some attention for its over-indulgence of the Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence as being relevant in Quebec's case:
No one should have any doubt about the agenda of a PQ government. And, notably, the recent decision of the International Court of Justice in the matter of Kosovo confirmed the view that there is nothing in international law that would make a unilateral declaration of independence illegal.

In referring the question of secession to the Supreme Court, the Chrétien government made precisely the opposite case — but it’s view was rejected by the Court in it’s 1998 decision. Tellingly, over the weekend, Bob Rae conceded the legal point in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, though the admission was buried in the overall message in which he quite rightly rejected the notion that Kosovo would serve as a precedent for international recognition. That said, those who’ve been comfortably assuming that the Clarity Act had resolved the issue of Quebec separation may want to re-think their assumptions before resuming their slumber on the unity issue. (emphasis added)
Spector leaves you with the impression that we should be worried about Quebec possibly aspiring to that same sort of unilateral declaration of independence ("UDI"). We shouldn't be worried about that. It's OK to recognize that there can be UDIs in international law. But it's not an applicable notion for Canada & Quebec's circumstance.

The Supreme Court has said that our Constitution doesn't permit unilateral secession and international actors would recognize that if the time ever came when Quebec decided to issue a UDI:
"Where, as here, unilateral secession would be incompatible with the domestic Constitution, international law is likely to accept that conclusion subject to the right of peoples to self-determination, a topic to which we now turn." [para. 112]
That is, the international community would defer to our own domestic processes, which we have clearly laid out in the Clarity Act. Then, on that right of peoples to self-determination, Quebec just doesn't qualify:
138 In summary, the international law right to self-determination only generates, at best, a right to external self-determination in situations of former colonies; where a people is oppressed, as for example under foreign military occupation; or where a definable group is denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, social and cultural development. In all three situations, the people in question are entitled to a right to external self-determination because they have been denied the ability to exert internally their right to self-determination. Such exceptional circumstances are manifestly inapplicable to Quebec under existing conditions. Accordingly, neither the population of the province of Quebec, even if characterized in terms of "people" or "peoples", nor its representative institutions, the National Assembly, the legislature or government of Quebec, possess a right, under international law, to secede unilaterally from Canada.
So godspeed to Kosovo, a situation of notable oppression and with its case now affirmed by the ICJ, but Quebec is no Kosovo and the legal arguments just aren't there.

Not to be too critical of Spector's blog item, as I do agree with ringing the alarm about Gilles Duceppe's travels and meetings on the subject of Quebec independence, especially within the context of a possible PQ majority government on the horizon. But the hint that there's an opening to be had by separatist advocates was just a bit too much.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More juxtaposing and other gun registry follow-up

Update (4:20 p.m.) below.

The PM yesterday on one of the motivations for his government's support of the axing of the long gun registry:
Canadians have been very clear. They want us to spend our time and our money focusing on the criminal misuse of firearms and not going after law-abiding duck hunters and farmers.” (emphasis added)
Ah, so he claims that Canadians have been very clear and he is therefore listening to them. Well if that's the standard the PM has for his government's actions, then surely we can expect the government to pay attention to Canadians who have indeed been very clear on the preservation of the long form census. Those numbers continue to grow.

But let's get real, what Canadians are deemed to be clear about, after all, will vary from issue to issue with this PM, depending on his party's political views and necessities.

A few other points on this gun registry story as it developed yesterday...

It's worth reminding ourselves that it's really a sight to see the Prime Minister and his MPs seeking to undermine the police chiefs on the issue and seeking to sow division between the chiefs and the rank and file in order to get a political win. The Canadian Police Association wrote to MPs and Senators back in the spring pushing back against this notion of a supposed divide in the ranks. They're the representative body for Canadian police officers and that either means something or it doesn't. Surveys have shown that police do say the registry is useful to them.

It's not to say that the Conservatives can't disagree with the utility of a tool that police use and seek to change the law. They can do so but their tactics should bear scrutiny. This is theoretically a private member's bill, yet it's apparently going to be coming at quite a cost with this divisive strategy now being pursued.

One other thing about what Harper said yesterday...
“There are some police officers who disagree with the government’s position,” he said. “On the other hand, all of the elected police officers in the Parliament of Canada support the government’s position."
So on the one hand, CACP, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. Yet on the other hand he offers up the "elected police officers in the Parliament of Canada" who support the government. Those MPs would be all of 4 in number and all Conservative: Glover, Kramp, Mackenzie & Norlock. Craftily stated by Harper that might convey some political legitimacy and high road to the government, yet it's hard to see how the point holds up. Expect more of this sleight of hand rhetoric, it's now less than a month until the C-391 vote occurs.

As for Constable Kuntz and his sudden baffling escalation to the national scene as an unscientific taker of surveys, by media far and wide, who wonders about the registry: “I don’t know how you’d use it as a crime-fighting tool. I’ve been straining for years trying to figure that one out.” He should start here and here.

Looks like it's going to be quite the month...and it really doesn't need to be this way.

Update: Almost forgot...one other thing Harper said yesterday was illuminating as well:
The only question that matters at this point is whether those members of Parliament who represent areas where this is an important issue are going to vote for their constituents or not for their constituents.
MP Glen Pearson has related that Conservative MPs have told him they are being whipped on the gun registry against their own preferred voting stance. Which is likely a function of what their constituents want. So will Mr. Harper let his own members be free? That seems to be the follow through to what he is saying.

Update II (4:20 p.m.): From an email, I did miss this:
Robert Clarke, CON, Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill, was an RCMP officer for many, many years before turning to politics. Did you miss him off your list of Harper's tame police officers, whose vast bulk negates the thousands of police officers around the country not fortunate enough to be an elected Conservative?
Yes, he was. Thanks and appropriately put. That makes a whopping 5.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stephen Harper's Nanook Diary


Dear Diary,

I'm off again on my annual summer trek to the Arctic. In fact, it's my fifth annual northern tour. First stop, Churchill! And I really don't mind if anybody draws any subliminal inferences about that, not one bit. Dimitri's on it, lots of Harper/Churchill stuff in the releases today. As I like to say, let's face it, it's good to be me.

Yep, today I roll in and make an "announcement." Can't tell you what yet, the walls have eyes and ears. But stay tuned, I'm dropping so much cash around the country since I've emerged from my month long mystery vacay, you're gonna love this one too. Didn't I tell you it's good to be me?

My annual Arctic sovereignty road show comes just in the nick of time too. Man, 300 G20 cases about to flood a Toronto court house today...let me tell you, I want to be as far away from that spectacle as possible! Still amazed I've only had to answer, what, maybe one question all summer on that record setting G20 mass arrest situation. It is so freaking good to be me.

Well, that's it for now, maybe I'll check back in through the week. I'm hanging at a navy dive tomorrow! I don't need to tell you what that means...photo-op cit-eh. No wet suit for me though. The new glasses are a bit of a problem there. By the way, I sure hope Michelle's packed me one of those jackets with my name on it. I love me some commander-in-chief stylin'.

Until next time...and just to sum up here, as my cabinet all know, it's good to be me.

SH

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Late night pic

(Source)

Thought I would share this great shot that I came across on twitter (click to enlarge, a bit). Taken with an iPhone by someone in attendance at the Liberal Express rally in Vancouver on Saturday. Don't know if it's the colouring with that hint of sepia, catching a moment of a political speech (am a huge sucker for such shots), the giant flag or the blue sky...or maybe all of the above, I liked the artistry of it and the optimistic mood it conveys. Well done to that guy!

And here is where we juxtapose...

A follow-up on a big issue from the past week...

Sometimes, for the PM, experience is a good thing. Recall his remarks about John Baird upon his appointment to the position of House Leader:
“That brings us to why we are here today. The work of Parliament depends on the maturity and wisdom of key members.
...

To succeed him as Government House leader, I have therefore chosen one of our most experienced and senior Ministers, the Honourable John Baird. I have given John a very clear mandate – to make Parliament work. To make sure we stay the course at this time of global uncertainty. John is trusted and respected by his colleagues, with a deserved reputation for getting things done. I have every confidence in John and it is for that reason I have entrusted him with this important new role."
Depends on how important the job is to the PM.

Because the spin on Pat Stogran being released by the Harper government from the Veterans' Ombudsman position was quite different. Experience, it turns out, can be a double-edged sword:
"It's difficult work for an ombudsman to be there and to try to look inside the department and to find if there is systemic problem and to deliver suggestions, Blackburn said on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

"I think [Pat] Stogran has done this job and it's on a three-year period of time. I think it's good for our veterans that after a three-year term, that somebody else will take the torch and still go on to help our veterans."
Apparently Mr. Stogran has to go because, after 3 years, he has experience and it's time to let someone completely new take over since that would be in vets' best interests.

So experience is either a good thing to be embraced, or a bad thing to be expunged. It's all very confusing. Par for the course with this government, whatever fits the moment's political needs.

(h/t a little birdie)

Friday, August 20, 2010

About that Friday night poll just out

BCL has a post up already, just thought I'd point out something glaring in the reporting about that latest horse race poll released tonight by Sun Media.

This paragraph:
According to the poll, done exclusively for QMI Agency, if an election were held today 37% of Canadians would vote for the Conservatives, 28% would vote Liberal, 16% would vote NDP, with the Bloc Quebecois and Greens getting 9% and 8% respectively.
And then this final line of the report, as BCL points out:
The online survey of 1,500 Canadians over the age of 18 was conducted between Aug. 2 and Aug. 4 and is accurate to ±2.5%.
So clearly it's not at all accurate to say that if an election were held today those would be the results. That's just plain misleading to the viewing public and it shouldn't be written that way. It should have read, if an election were held 18-20 days ago, these would have been the results.

It also shouldn't be referenced as a "new Leger marketing poll." A few weeks does not make it "new." With the frequency of polls these days, even in a summer lull period, and the speed of events in a 24/7 news cycle, a few weeks can be like ancient history.

As for the numbers and the substance of the report, I'm sure others will have something to say about the comparability to some other polls.

What can't be measured here or in any other poll, however, is an intangible that I've seen reflected online and in reporting here and there...and that is the greatly improved mood among #lpc types as a result of this summer's tour. So really, it's not surprising at all to see such a poll gamed - I think that's quite fair to say given the timing - perhaps to stir up Liberal navel-gazing and doom-thinking. Good luck with that.

Do your own appropriate edits at home, make a game of it...:)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Playing gun registry politics with jobs

Harper went to New Brunswick today in a fit of premature termination politics, already making plans for a post-gun registry world: "Payroll jobs for long-gun registry workers." A little presumptuous of the boss, don't you think? That gun registry vote comes at the end of September and it's not at all assured that Mr. Harper's bill to destroy the registry will pass. Nevertheless, he held an announcement/photo-op/members only deal today in New Brunswick, making plans on the assumption that it will:
The creation of a civil servant payroll centre in New Brunswick would provide employment for federal workers who face layoffs if the long-gun registry is abolished, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
...
Harper's announcement comes weeks before Parliament is set to resume debate of a Conservative private member's bill that would kill the registry, if passed.

It also comes days after the Mountie in charge of the federal firearms program was replaced, triggering accusations of political interference with the RCMP. Both the government and the RCMP have denied any political motivation in bumping Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak from the job.
Yeah...no politics whatsoever with that Cheliak move. Just lots of organized spin surrounding it and a carefully choreographed Harper gun registry related announcement today, the day after. That's a bit of a coincidence.

What happens if the registry is maintained then? If the Hoeppner bill is defeated? Is the PM's payroll centre plan just going to be shelved? Hard to believe. Maybe this is part of an administrative destabilization of the Firearms Centre that's on the way. It would fit with the Harper-unleashed strain of politics that's on display of late.

Here's how reassuring the PM was about the job plan today, by the way:
Harper said the new centre would provide 550 jobs in the region. But he said that would be fewer payroll jobs in total than there are presently across the country.

He said the system would be more automated and that a wave of retirements are expected over the next few years.

"We will employ less people going forward than we're currently doing," he said. "But we will also create a workforce here ... that we anticipate will be a lot more stable than we have in some other parts of the country."
Got that? Job cuts overall. But the New Brunswick jobs will be more "stable" than in other parts of the country. Namely, Ottawa, which is slated to lose jobs. Taking from Peter to pay Paul, or something like that which really kind of undermines any notions of stability. And note that this payroll centre move, no doubt egged on by the prospective loss of the gun registry centre jobs, is all being done at a cost of $298 million which the Harper crew is touting as a long run cost saver. Uh huh.

On the bright side

We're not Brazil: "Satire banned in Brazil ahead of presidential election."
The legal ban could last until a possible runoff on Oct 31.

Brazilian performers are planning to fight for their right to ridicule with protests in Rio de Janeiro and other cities on Sunday.

Dubbed the "anti-joking law", the relic of Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship prohibits ridiculing candidates in the three months before elections.

Critics say the ban threatens free speech and is a blight on the reputation of Latin America's largest nation.

"Do you know of any other democracy in the world with rules like this?" asked Marcelo Tas, the acerbic host of a weekly TV comedy show that skewers politicians and celebrities alike.
No, but Steve apparently wants to rout our CRTC. Maybe we'll be getting there some day.

(h/t MM)

“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”

Just when you think the anti-democratic narrative couldn't get any worse, another possibility for Harper to flex his controlling tendencies appears: "Is Stephen Harper set to move against the CRTC?" Word is starting to circulate that Harper would like to remove the independent minded current CRTC chair, Konrad von Finckenstein, and while he's at it, the vice-chair too. The reason? To make way for the approval of Sun Media's TV application and that coveted must carry status on the cable dial. Recall that Sun Media was recently told by the CRTC that must carry status was not available now and would not be until October 2011.
In a private letter sent to Quebecor on July 5, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected Quebecor’s request for a rare must-carry license. It would have guaranteed distribution by all cable and satellite firms – and the subscriber fees that come along with that distribution.

The license Quebecor requested – known as a Category 1, soon to be Category A – is rarely granted, and in March of this year, the CRTC announced that it would not consider any new applications for those licenses before October, 2011.

[...]

“We’re not particularly fazed by that letter. We’re focused on moving forward,” Mr. Teneycke said. “We’re confident that we’ll have a licence in time for our projected launch, and one that will satisfy our needs on the business side.”

The channel is set to launch on Jan. 1, 2011.
No wonder Teneycke wasn't "fazed." Not if Martin's column has got it all right.

That Sun Media application deserves independent scrutiny and the same rules being applied to it as to all other applications of its kind. Anything less, rules suddenly being bent, etc. and the favoritism and taint of being Harper's news network will follow. As will the disrepute of our national broadcasting regulator.

Luc Lavoie being rumoured as a replacement CRTC chair? A former Quebecor vice-president? That's not serious, Lavoie is presently working with Teneycke, it would be chutzpah of the highest order for Harper to appoint such a blatantly conflicted individual. The impartiality of the CRTC would be ruined. If Mr. Harper were to go that far, or as far as putting in someone less well known but who will nevertheless do political bidding on a television application, he'd be massively enlarging his political risk appetite and probably beyond repair. He keeps gambling that people won't care, that he can push it a little further with each decision emanating out of his PMO fiefdom. Playing politics with the nation's airwaves though, we'd be getting into some rarefied air there in terms of abuse of power in Canadian political history.
“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”
That's absolutely right. This is Maurice Duplessis stuff, or worse, and the backlash to such a fundamentally undemocratic move would be fierce.

Nobody buying the spin

This is a good development. Reaction to the removal of Marty Cheliak as the RCMP director of the Canadian Firearms Program is widely of the negative variety. Few are believing the government's spin, i.e.: "Dropping RCMP firearms chief not political: Harper." That is evident in a few worthwhile videos at that page, including Craig Oliver's comments and the national report by Danielle Hamamdjian last night.

Reaction among police groups was negative.

And of course, there was Don Martin's column last night: "Letting go of Cheliak was entirely political, despite what Harper says." Can't hurt that normally friendly quarters are not indulging the story.

With all the turbulence going on at the RCMP, it'll be interesting to see if any word seeps out with respect to how exactly it is that the RCMP arrived at this sudden decision to send the gun registry supporting Cheliak off to French classes. That it is a decision which benefits the Harper Conservatives' political position on the gun registry cannot be ignored. The independence of the RCMP is under the microscope once more. That, not such a good development.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Veterans slighted

Item:
I was utterly disappointed to learn that retired Col. Pat Stogran, who became Canada's first veterans ombudsman in November 2007, won't be reappointed this fall by the Harper government.

Stogran commanded Canada's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002. His job as veterans ombudsman has been to act as an independent voice working "to ensure the fair treatment of veterans, their representatives and their families."

He has done an outstanding job, working tirelessly in the best interests of veterans and their families.

He has been vocal about supporting our veterans and has been critical of a bureaucracy that fails to provide the support needed.

His concerns are justified. Despite an influx of disabled veterans returning from Afghanistan and earlier missions who suffer physical, mental and psychological concerns, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Aug. 6 that Veterans Affairs Canada will be downsizing.

This decision was made despite the express concerns of the ombudsman about the system's inability to meet the ongoing needs of our veterans.

Stogran has been effective in identifying systemic issues and providing suggestions to the government on how improvements can be made. Yet he is being dismissed -- and, by association, so too are our veterans.

I worked with Stogran and his wife at the Vernon Army Cadet Camp during the summers of our university years. He is an outstanding Canadian and I am angry he has been treated with such disrespect.

Sadly, this is a pattern we are becoming familiar with, as the Harper government demonstrates repeatedly its lack of respect for those individuals who seek to perform their duties for this country.

Renee Hetherington
North Saanich
Item: "Harper's MPs should start counting license plates." Veterans' license plates, writes Dave at the Galloping Beaver, those being ubiquitous in...Saanich-Gulf Islands apparently. Everywhere, he writes.

Hetherington, by the way, is the Liberal candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. So sure, she's running for election, but it sure as heck sounds like she knows Stogran well and has just gained a bit of extra motivation. Sounds like it could be a bit of welcome trouble for the Minister of Ski Hills.

A coalition marks 100 days

Here's Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg on the U.K. coalition, briefly, as it reaches 100 days:



The Guardian editorializes on the occasion and the very newness of this coalition in the British Westminster system:
Franklin Roosevelt's insistence in 1933 that he should be judged by the changes wrought in his first 100 days in office has raised the bar high for less distinguished governments across the democratic world, not least in Britain. In the years since Roosevelt, the habit of marking a government's first 100 days has sometimes been banal. But maybe not in Britain in 2010. As David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government reaches its century this week, we are living in very new times.

The principal novelty of this government is simply that it is a formal coalition. Britain has never before had a genuine peacetime coalition government between parties in the universal suffrage era. For us, this is territory without maps. Coalitions mean doing things differently, giving and taking, swallowing some things while insisting on others. This reality still takes some getting used to, and many have neither accustomed themselves to it nor even tried. So far, to judge by the Guardian's new ICM poll today, the public still seem to like the coalition, Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg. The enthusiasm is ebbing, though the mood will doubtless change again as time goes on.
There's lots of other analysis to be had about the state of the U.K. coalition government, how well the buddy movie is going, the rocky shores on the horizon, and all other sorts of turns of speech anyone cares to apply to the new fangled mode of governing that people have incomprehensibly seemed to adjust to thus far.

Meanwhile, yesterday, here in Harperland, someone was still crying wolf about baddie coalitions, as a routine matter in speeches to Conservatives now.

The educational contrast rolls on!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nothing new but the axing

Well this headline is unfortunate: "Census debate is nothing new." It suggests, as does the report's content, that the present day census debacle is actually just part of an ongoing debate that's been around since time immemorial. That the various historical musings we read in the report over the census' content show that Harper's changes are of a piece with that history, that he's perhaps just following through on ideas previously considered. That's really not helpful or entirely accurate. Census changes implemented by governments over the years have improved upon the existing process rather than being destructive, as the Harper government is choosing with the ditching of the mandatory long form census.

See this post, for example, where it is pointed out that key Statistics Canada surveys (Labour Force Survey, Survey of Household Spending) and measurements (Consumer Price Index) are going to be destabilized by the Harper census changes. This isn't change for the good, moving forward, building sensibly upon past decisions. The census methodology may have been "subject to constant change" in the past but there are no indicators in the here and now that Harper's version of change is worthwhile in any respect.

The very facts of what Diefenbaker et al. were doing in 1959 and onwards in terms of census decision-making, as are related in this report, are ancient history and, to use the word of the week, kind of annoying. We live in a complex, modern society with vast ministries that do much more than in days gone by. Shouldn't our information base sustain our more sophisticated mode of governing? Of course!

To learn that Tony Clement might be channelling Louis St. Laurent (gasp, Liberal!) and his cabinet's musings about getting the provinces to ante up for some of their "freeloading" on federal data is fun summer party trivia but ultimately meaningless. No problem for the Harper government on the money front in any event! They're actually following a process that will cost more and produce less worthy data, they're not cost cutting or looking for partners.

Mulroney's government also toyed with cancelling the census entirely, we're reminded. Yes, but they didn't. The PCs came to their senses within a month after government departments smacked them about the head. Experts were listened to, unlike with the war on brains crew presently at the helm.

So this little history lesson seems to provide some comfort to a government the Globe has persistently editorialized against on the issue. "Nothing new" is the favourite spin for politicos facing difficult issues, after all. One bright side to the history lesson, however...the other side of the coin is that only this government has dared to stubbornly wield the axe. Canadians, right here and now, don't like that very much at all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday night

Update (11:00 p.m.)

Oh this is so predictable...





And that'll probably be it for Muse selections this summer. What a great event and now you've seen about half of it, the best half! Have a good night.

Update (11:00 p.m.): Happy Birthday to one of my fave blogging compadres, BCL. He's just so old.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mario Lague



Statement from Michael Ignatieff:
“It is with great sadness that we learned this morning that our Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Ottawa.

“A man of many talents and accomplishments, Mario was a beloved member of our staff, and a valued personal advisor to me and the entire Liberal team. A man of great integrity and spirit, Mario served his country in many capacities with honour and dignity. Whether as a public servant under Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, Ambassador to Costa Rica or in his most cherished role as a husband and father, Mario brought a bright light to everything he did.

“While we will miss Mario’s extensive talents, we will miss most of all his warmth, his humour, and his passion for Canada that inspired us all.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary caucus, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family, loved ones and the many, many friends and colleagues that knew him.”
I met Mario briefly at the Canada 150 conference, as did other bloggers who attended. He struck me as a warm person, generous with his time, even with we bloggers, strange creatures that we are, who were on the periphery of the media circles.

This is a big loss for the federal team and I just wanted to add my voice to all those out there expressing their sympathies today. Condolences to his family as well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tripped up on official languages

The Harper government's climb down on their official languages negligence occurs: "Tories add linguistic questions to mandatory short-form census." Looks like the court challenge that was fast-tracked today combined with the embarrassing details that have been disclosed as to what Harper staff were doing behind the scenes in their ministerial offices has prompted action from the government. And really, they had no choice. What they had set in motion with their wrong-headed census changes, by no longer making it mandatory to fully take into account french speaking abilities across the country, would have undermined Canada's commitment to official bilingualism. Without accurate numbers, a government can't provide responsive services. That's going to continue to be the problem on a whole host of other issues too.
Stung by francophone anger, the Harper government is adding questions on which languages Canadians speak to the obligatory short-form 2011 census.

It’s a bid to quell the linguistic minority's fears that scrapping a longer mandatory survey will make it harder to measure their presence in Canada.

These questions were part of the 40-page long-form census the Conservatives are making voluntary over the objections of a broad range of economists, statisticians, provincial governments and researchers who warn it will undermine the reliability of Statistics Canada's data.

The decision came the same day a francophone appeal of the government's decision to abandon the obligatory long-form census scored a modest victory. A Federal Court judge agreed to expedite the French-Canadian group's application for an injunction against Ottawa's census changes.
Scrambling to undo their negligence and incompetence. Such basic obligations to protect and they totally missed it. Amazingly, the Prime Minister who has prided himself on speaking French first at news conferences, etc. has succeeded in raising doubt about his government's intentions on official languages. The damage has been done, despite their walk back. The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada who were forced to bring a lawsuit and other groups and citizens have taken note. Similar to the dagger that was thrust into the arts communities when Harper made his remarks in the 2008 election campaign. Trust on the issue is now in question.

As for that lawsuit now, given the government's moves, here's the reaction from the FCFA:
Late this afternoon, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) du Canada heard about the statement by the Minister of Industry, the Hon. Tony Clement, regarding changes that would be made to the linguistic questions in the short form for the 2011 Census. The FCFA wants to make it clear that neither it nor its legal representatives have received any formal proposal on this matter. Out of respect for the legal procedures currently under way before the Federal Court, the FCFA will not comment this statement from the Minister.

Earlier today, Prothonotary Roza Aronovitch from the Federal Court rendered a decision which will fast-track the application for judicial review submitted by the FCFA on July 26 regarding the elimination of the mandatory long form for the 2011 Census.
Wait and see, good idea with this government.

Trying to skate on official languages obligations

Thanks to Kady O'Malley's posting of many of the documents online, we continue to be able to see into the machinations behind the scenes on issues pertaining to the Harper government's census changes. Yay to posting original sources!

Here is another interesting aspect of yesterday's document release then. It deals with the official languages issue that has arisen. This is somewhat timely given that today a judge will decide whether to fast-track the lawsuit brought by a francophone group against the federal government over these very changes to official languages censusdom. So, what do we learn from these documents?

Principally, that the instinct of Industry Canada ministerial staff was to put a public face on this issue that said everything on the official languages front was a-ok. That all the prior census questions on official languages would indeed still be asked. This is not the case, however, given what the government has decided to do.

The only mandatory official languages question that will be asked in 2011 is on the short form census and will be about mother tongue. Two offficial languages questions from the now axed mandatory long form census will appear in the new long voluntary survey, "knowledge of official languages" and "languages spoken at home." Meaning that the answers received to those two official languages questions will now become statistically useless. This is mainly why that lawsuit referenced above is proceeding. The ability to determine the number of francophone speakers will be in question given what the government is doing. That will have consequences for federal government service delivery in the future.

Here is the fun part. Below is the text of what Statistics Canada proposed to say in response to a Liberal Senator's question on these changes and whether the Official Languages Act requirements would be fulfilled. That is followed by Industry Canada's proposed wording in response to that same question. You'll note that Stats Canada basically says no, we won't be able to fulfill the Act's requirements. Industry Canada staff, however, confuses the issue to the point where any average reader would believe that yep, everything will be covered (click to enlarge):You can read the whole e-mail exchange in the embedded version, where a Statistics Canada employee, in response to this Industry Canada obfuscation, calls it out for what it is: "factually incorrect." (July 16th email)

Tony Clement's statement at the Industry Committee hearing on July 27th, 10 days after the above material's date, was similar to the Industry Canada obfuscation above:
Some critics have raised a concern that the government will not be able to comply with its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

But I assure you that all the questions on official languages that were asked in the 2006 census will be asked in the 2011 short-form census questionnaire.

The new national household survey includes questions on Canadians' knowledge of official languages, mother tongue, and languages spoken at home. This government remains fully committed to take into account the priorities of the office of the commissioner of languages in the development and implementation of its policies, programs, and services.
Clement makes it sound as if "all" the questions on official languages are on the 2011 short-form census. But they aren't (scroll to bottom, Q.7 is just on mother tongue). Quel confusion Tony was sowing there. (Clement really should resign, given what the documents are showing in terms of his veracity, but fat chance of that with this government.)

The fact that the Harper government, through these ministerial staff and a minister, would be seeking to paper over an official languages failing rather than ensure that it not happen at all is very telling. Nice to see it exposed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Profile in census cowardice

The document dump of backroom communications between Tony Clement's Industry Canada staff and Statistics Canada is certainly worth a read today. Some interesting stuff going on there. Haven't had time to weigh it all but here is one of the most interesting parts.

First, Munir Sheikh, the now resigned former Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada, proposed a series of communications to go out to various stakeholders who would be interested in and need to be informed of changes being made to the census process. Here's one example that would have been sent to MPs and Senators. Note the introductory phrase in paragraph four of this communication, "As per government decision" (click to enlarge):



Then note what Industry Canada seeks to excise as it responds to these draft communications (click to enlarge):



The phrase appeared in each of Sheikh's proposed draft communications. The clear upshot of Industry Canada's request? To downplay its responsibility for the decision and insinuate that Statistics Canada was driving these changes.

Now some, such as the government, might argue that the inclusion of that phrase, "as per government decision," was a needless pointer at the government, perhaps too overt a statement from the Chief Statistician. But when you consider the fundamental breach that the new voluntary long form survey represented to Statistics Canada's credibility, in that it was being directed to pursue a course of action that strangely deviated from past practice and was not statistically supportable, it's an understandable inclusion if one wants to protect Statistics Canada's integrity.

That seems to have been Sheikh's concern and in one of the ensuing emails, a Stats Can official actually points out to the Industry Canada ministerial staff that the Privy Council Office had approved of the inclusion of the phrase. So that's an interesting little dust-up described there, between Industry Canada and the PCO. Wayne Wouters, the Privy Council Clerk may have been backing Sheikh, at least as far as this proposed communication of the census changes went. Nevertheless, the Industry Canada staff took in that information, disregarded it, instructing Stats Can to use "Beginning this year" versus Sheikh's "as per government decision." The intent was maintained, to dump responsibility for a decision antithetical to Statistics Canada's mandate on Statistics Canada. If the Privy Council Office in fact agreed that Sheikh could deploy his chosen phrase, and attribute responsibility for the census changes to the government, it was undermined by Industry Canada.

To read this whole exchange, here's the full document, thanks to CBC who have embedded the lot:

"'Beginning this year ...' as opposed to the current, "As per government decision..." Email between Statist...

Ahab and the white whale


Ahab would be the guy on the left if we can have a bit of fun with yesterday's precious Harper photo op. The white whale, a beluga, floats in the background while our modern day Ahab gives a cursory defence of his baffling census decision. Ahab, as we know, destroyed himself (and his crew) in his zeal to catch the white whale. The white whale for Harper? That would be a majority government, difficult to attain with the Bloc on the federal scene but not impossible had Harper grown support beyond his base. This census adventure possibly represents a final crimp in that plan:
The census debate, so provocative and so needless but for the exigencies of ideology, roused civic society as few decisions have done in recent decades. The census will lodge itself in a corner of the electorate’s collective memory as a talisman for what the Harperites might do if given a freer rein and, as such, has ruined what little chance they had of achieving a majority.
Munir Sheikh writes today that time is still there for a fix to be considered. Will PM Ahab reach for the lifeline or continue on with this destructive decision?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Official languages announcerama rolls on

Following up on this morning's post on the official languages watch in the wake of the census brouhaha and a francophone/acadian group's lawsuit against the federal government, James Moore continued his official languages announcerama today: "The Government of Canada Announces its Support for Official Languages in Nova Scotia." Next stop, Newfoundland!

Here's a Moore quote from the p.r. release:
"Our Government is a leader in Canada on official languages," said Minister Moore.
Yes, clearly. This is why the Official Languages Commissioner has started an investigation on the fallout of the census change on the government's ability to maintain official languages support across the country. And it's why the federal government is presently being sued.
A judge is scheduled to hear their arguments Tuesday morning in Federal Court in Ottawa.
Down the road, say 10 - or any number of years from now - the data on francophone speakers will have been damaged by this break in statistical integrity that the Harper government is perpetrating with this census decision. Throwing money around now does not change that. Should be interesting to see what transpires at the hearing tomorrow.

The PM digs in on the census

Finally, the citizens of Canada get a thorough, satisfactory explanation from the PM on why he's done away with the longstanding mandatory long form census...oh wait:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it is "not appropriate" for the government to threaten Canadians reluctant to fill out a mandatory long-form census with jail time or fines.

The comments marked the first time the prime minister has weighed in on the Conservative government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census and replace it with a voluntary survey.

Speaking to reporters Monday after a funding announcement at the Vancouver Aquarium, Harper said he understands some Canadians are reluctant to give "detailed personal information" sought after by the government.

"I know some people think the appropriate way to deal with that is through prosecuting those individuals with fines and jail terms," he said. "This government will not do that."

Instead, the prime minister said the government would work with the public to get their co-operation on providing the information.
So we're back to that...it's the coercion, stupid! And with the magical PMO bubble driven media management, no follow ups! Move on! Not good enough though, the privacy rationale has been completely debunked. Weeks ago, wasn't it?

Notice how the PM just slips in there that he doesn't support the jail terms - which could have been the basis for some kind of compromise - but additionally, he doesn't even support fines. It's all voluntary or nothing. Which, as we know from spending weeks on this issue, will not produce reliable data no matter the spin from the PM and his cabinet flunkies.

He's digging in and this is going to roll on. As Scott is getting at today, this issue is a hallmark good government issue. Canadians like good government, they sense when it's being broken.

Update (6:00 p.m.): Keep digging, Mr. PM, keep digging.

Once more: an appeal to reverse course on the census

A Globe editorial, again, focussing on Tony Clement's latest inanity in defending his government's virtually universally condemned census dial back, the notion that privileged users of government data have been getting a free ride. The bottom line of the editorial:
This decision's political merits are opaque, and its policy merits are lacking. Rather than offer up any other pretexts, the federal government should acknowledge the emptiness of its own arguments, reverse course, and bring back the mandatory long-form census.
How many Globe editorials is this now calling for a reconsideration of the decision? Good to see the pressure continuing to be applied.

How long will Mr. Harper hold out on this one? It's hard to imagine he doesn't see that this is not subsiding as an issue. This is not prorogation, a temporally limited decision whose immediate consequences will end after a finite period. This one is likely to keep going, and going, and going....

Along those lines, notice that the Conservatives seem to have embarked upon an aggressive posture with a view to that francophone court challenge over the census that received a lot of attention this past week. Recall that the claim being made there is that francophone speakers would fall through the cracks and not be counted with the new voluntary long form. Remember too that an injunction is being sought, to halt the new voluntary form from proceeding.

So we saw James Moore, the Heritage Minister spending part of his weekend doing a re-announcement tour of sorts on official languages. This was Friday's effort:"Government of Canada Announces its Support for Official Languages in New Brunswick." Then Saturday's: "Government of Canada Announces its Support for Official Languages in Prince Edward Island." Course, if you read these things, the funding all seems to be for programmes and agreements that began starting in 2009 yet are being announced now. And they're not responsive to the central problem that is complained of in the lawsuit, that francophone speakers won't be counted fully without the mandatory long form. They smack of money being thrown around to cover for the present census debacle and stave off that injunction.

Needless to say, it would be preferable to reverse course on the census instead of digging in and fighting lawsuits.

A Canadian weekend



Listen for Ignatieff's line on the demolition derby event. That's the Liberal attended variety (h/t).

Conservative MP Steven Blaney, however, was actually behind the wheel of one of these babies:



Can't make out which one he's in. Too bad no Conservative "C" logo on the side, that would have made for a great metaphor. Anyway, the hearse thing seems like bad taste and a strange choice for an MP despite the event being apparently a popular one in his riding. (h/t)

Summer time in Canada and the demolishing is on. Who knew?

Update: Holy same wavelengths batman. I really need to see what BCL is wearing in the a.m. before I post. BCL reads Bourque, I read twitter.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Chretien!



"Chrétien doing 'extremely well' following brain surgery."

Well that's a shocker on a Saturday!

Glad to hear he's doing well and his recovery prospects are being characterized as good.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday night



Can we play all the songs in Muse's set at Glastonbury 2010 in June? Maybe we can! One of their oldies but a goodie, so English and glam and kind of pretentious and all. Have a good night.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The reemergence

(CP)

What's with the new look? Is this Stephen Harper or his brother Raul? Clearly not a photo released by the PM's shop of handlers and unlikely to be the official photo of the day tomorrow.

Seriously though, astoundingly, not a word uttered about the census today by the PM upon his re-emergence into the light. It's the predominant national issue of the past month since the axing of the mandatory long form has been discovered and the PM feels no need to say a thing about it. Doubling down on the strategy of saying nothing, that can't help that image of imperiousness. From an opposition political perspective, that's not exactly a bad thing. But for the Canadian public that is watching the census issue and not getting answers from the person who by all accounts is the driving force behind the decision, it's a source of grave frustration that the PM doesn't seem to care about it enough to say something. I don't think he can fairly cordon off this issue and say it isn't his political priority and therefore he'll choose not to address it. It's a national issue and part of being the PM is to answer for it all. He's breaching that basic duty.

Harper's labelling of the opposition as an "opposition coalition" is worth a mention as well.
"We know there are some in the opposition coalition again threatening an election. But, colleagues, that is not what Canadians want," he said to applause.
Plain silliness that the majority of Canadians who don't support this PM hear with an air of unreality. We say to ourselves, what is the Prime Minister of the country talking about? Is there any other world leader in a leading western democracy who speaks unreality in this way to their citizens? Obama? Cameron? Merkel? Sarkozy? There's a difference between spinning an argument, trying to persuade on a set of facts with choice of words and emphasis, here for example, that there could be an opposition coalition that arises after a future federal election - and flat out talking point propaganda that states boldly that there is an existing, present day opposition coalition. It's just remarkable that this tactic has come to be a yawned upon matter in Canadian politics.

The beauty of not talking to the media and remaining cloistered, the PM doesn't have to answer for any of it. It will be interesting to see, then, how this sudden development, announced today, unfolds:
The prime minister heads out next week on a cross-country summer tour expected to focus on the economy. (preceding CP link)
What ever might be prompting that move! What should be watched, the public component to that supposed tour. Michael Ignatieff's put himself in front of all comers, whoever wants to ask questions, interact, etc. during his bus tour. Will the PM do the same, take the hard questions from the public?

Update (9:10 p.m.): Timely Canadian Press report: "Tory messaging frustrates public: survey."