Monday, January 31, 2011

Late night



Cool timelapsed video of the Halifax skating oval on January 21st, 2011. Quite the crowds they're attracting. The oval has been built for the Canada Games in mid-February.

For all you Haligonians and those with an eye for goings on in the Maritimes.

Canada's response to the situation in Egypt

While it's tough to be too critical about a situation that has rapidly developed and that might understandably produce a number of glitches, it's fair to say that the Canadian government is scrambling here in their response to the Egypt situation and they know it. We see photo-ops like this one by the Prime Minister today, producing the "in charge" visual(no questions permitted, of course).

Not surprising they're ramping up the pictures, the on the ground performance in Egypt doesn't seem to be measuring up to what other nations are doing and Canadians there are having difficulties reaching government officials. From a Star report early this afternoon, "Canadian officials nowhere to be found in Cairo," describing the inability to get through to anyone from the government using telephone numbers Lawrence Cannon provided at his Sunday press conference. More here: "Canadians fighting panic as they try to escape Egypt." That latter report notes efforts to deploy additional staff. We shall see how that works over coming days.

The issue of cutbacks to overseas diplomatic missions was raised in Question Period today. We may be seeing the fruits of that choice (more) playing out in Egypt.

Update (9:40 p.m.): Just adding the CBC coverage here on the day's events in respect of Canadians attempting to get out.

Juxtapose

What is said:
"We're not going to provoke an election, folks," spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Monday.

"There's no intention on the part of the government to make of something a confidence vote that hasn't traditionally been one. The objective here is to make Parliament work."
What is done:
While continuing to insist he doesn’t want an election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made big changes to the top ranks of his campaign team.

Guy Giorno, who mere weeks ago stepped down as Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, has been appointed national campaign chair, responsible for crafting and implementing the Conservative Party’s election campaign strategy, whenever that campaign comes. Jenni Byrne, the party’s director of political operations, will also take on the role of campaign manager.
A little bit of two-step gamesmanship going on, as always.

Byrne's elevation to campaign manager has been an expected move for a while now, reported as far back as September, 2009. And the replacement of Doug Finley, who is ill, would have been expected as well. Still, the PM's moves trickle out on day one of Parliament's return to business, as election speculation runs on. Sure, every party's jockeying. But since the government ultimately has the power to decide the fateful question, it bears watching their actions in particular.

New issues with the F-35 purchase

David Pugliese has a report today on further complications that would be associated with a Canadian F-35 purchase. They appear to be big ones:
The Canadian military does not have the ability to conduct aerial refuelling of the F-35 fighter jet it wants to purchase and is now looking at ways to get around the problem, the Ottawa Citizen has learned.

Options range from paying for modifications to the stealth jets to purchasing a new fleet of tanker aircraft that can gas up the high-tech fighters in mid-air. That option could cost several hundred million dollars, depending on how many new tankers are needed, according to sources.

In addition, because the F-35 would not be able to safely land on runways in Canada's North as those are too short for the fighter, the Defence Department is also looking at having manufacturer Lockheed Martin install a "drag" chute on the plane.

That parachute would deploy when the aircraft lands, slowing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter down. But some pilots have said that high winds affecting such runways could make using a drag chute tricky or even dangerous.
...
The Defence Department listed air-to-air refuelling as a mandatory capability for any new fighter aircraft Canada purchases, prompting some aerospace industry executives to privately question why this critical feature was ignored for the F-35 purchase. The refuelling is needed if the jets are going to cover long distances.
Those look like substantial red flags on the suitability of this purchase for Canada.

The report does suggest that the refuelling system being put into the F-35B (the one the U.S. navy is getting, the vertical take-off & landing model) might be compatible with Canadian aerial fuel tankers but that option would require modifications to the version of the F-35s the Harper government has proposed we buy. There's also the ongoing possibility that the F-35B might be cancelled given its technical challenges and cost overruns. Whether its refuelling system would still be made, just for Canadian jets, would be a question. All the what ifs, what ifs, how they do seem to be piling up on the largest military procurement in Canadian history.

What is there to say at this point except that a competitive bid process would assess such issues and a decision could be made that factors in such Canadian specific conditions. Seems like the Harper government may have placed a little too much emphasis on things like interoperability with the American forces and not enough emphasis on compatibility with Canadian facilities and the Canadian fleet.

Harper government seeking university professors to come back to Canada

A "Brain Gain" pilot project has been launched in Ontario, says Jason Kenney. The project is aimed at highly-skilled Canadian workers abroad in the health care and academic fields, with the goal of getting them to return to Canada. The federal government is making it easier for the family members of such individuals to get work permits upon return, an issue they say is frequently an obstacle to such workers returning to Canada. Notably, university professors are on the list of "specified occupations" being sought.
"It's a reverse brain drain," said Minister Kenney. "We're making it easier for Canadians abroad to bring their skills home and contribute to the Canada of tomorrow."
This seems to be a good effort that's being undertaken. Turns out this government wants to welcome Canadian university professors back from working abroad after all. Guess they just have to be careful about how they use their skills upon return as they "contribute to the Canada of tomorrow." Some contributions are more valued than others by this government.

A little Monday morning irony for you.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The going rate

Get yours now! Could be a collectible in the near future. In US currency, of course, it's a steal at $45.00:
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER facsimile SIGNED ROYAL COAT OF ARMS PUCK
This is an official Prime Minister of Canada puck acquired directly from the Prime Minster’s office in Ottawa. Pictured are both sides of the puck – on one side is the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada and on the other is a facsimile signature of Harper. Please note: this puck is not hand-signed it is a pre-printed facsimile signature. This is an extremely rare and highly collectible puck.

Acquired directly from the Prime Minister's ("Minster's") office in Ottawa? You don't say. Who's offloading the souvenirs? Giorno? Is that you? Or perhaps the latest efforts by the Conservative Fund Canada operation, who knows...:)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

March 29th?

"Tories planning spring election? March 29 says a talkative Conservative fundraiser over the phone to a not so receptive solicitee. Just trying to apply pressure to make donations seem more imperative?

Or would it make perfect sense given what the Prime Minister is quoted as saying in a report on Friday?
“I think the Canadian people don’t want an election. I think there is no reason for an election,” he told reporters Thursday during a press conference in Rabat, Morocco, where he announced the beginning of free-trade talks with the North African nation.

“I certainly do not think it is ever inevitable that we would do something the Canadian people don’t want us to do."
Yep, March 29th, a definite possibility.

Update: For reference purposes, the Elections Act on setting election dates.

Saturday notes

A few items noticed from the last day or so even while events in Egypt are transfixing the world...

1. More of that great thing the Conservatives have going on, government funding of the pre-election campaign: "Minister Ashfield Wraps Up National Tax-Cuts Tour." Keith Ashfield spread the joy of corporate tax cuts to Fredericton, Miramichi, Campbellton and Dartmouth. The tour also touched down in Oshawa and Saskatoon. No word if commemorative t-shirts will be available.

The release is on both the government site and Marketwire, the expensive news release service that has become an ordinary expense for this carefree spending government.

2. See if this sequence makes sense...

11:51 ET Jan 27, 2011: Media Advisory: Minister Clement to Discuss Participation at the World Economic Forum.

1:48 PM EST Jan 27, 2011: Globe report on Scott Brison meeting at World Economic Forum with UAE Foreign Minister, highlighting willingness of UAE minister to talk with Canadian government.

17:49 ET, Jan 27, 2011: Media Advisory/CANCELLED: Minister Clement to Discuss Participation at the World Economic Forum.

Jan 28, 2011 10:19 ET: Industry Minister Tony Clement Carries Canada's Economic Message to the World Economic Forum, the print release in which Clement is noted to have met with the following leaders:
During his participation at the World Economic Forum, the Minister also met with senior government officials from a number of Canadian trade partners, including Germany and the United States, and with and senior business representatives from international companies such as Barrick Gold Corporation and Cisco Systems, Inc., among others.
He was perfectly willing and able, it seems, to meet with government officials from Canadian trade partners. He just didn't want to take any questions on who he didn't meet with or wasn't willing to engage with.

3. Yesterday's yanking by the Conservative party of Thursday's attack ads should not pass unnoted. The calibre of disapproval the ads received was striking:
Among other things, the ads were slammed as dishonest, unethical, "a clumsy hatchet job," and the work of "drunken frat boys."
No matter the spin from the Conservatives to the effect that essentially any press coverage that continues to talk about the ads is a positive, it just doesn't add up. Too many bad headlines. It was a misfire showing Conservative judgment to be off. The musings that Harper didn't approve/he was out of the country? Hard to believe the micro-manager didn't know what ads would be released. He has a record of making bad decisions while out of the country (approving the plan to excommunicate Mulroney from the Conservative family while overseas; G8 in Italy, the unfounded tearing into Michael Ignatieff, for e.g.). And...maybe the talk about a need for increased levels of civility in Canadian politics is gaining some traction and we just saw a mini-trial run. We shall see going forward.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday night



More on this artist:
Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch set to release his beautiful new album Towards the Sun March 28th throughout Europe on City Slang.

It may be hard to believe when listening to the record, but Murdoch recorded the majority of Towards the Sun in Vancouver in a single night during a North American tour in 2009. Revisiting the tracks months later in New York, Murdoch called on several mainstays of Brooklyn’s thriving independent music scene to help put the finishing touches to the album, including Jon Natchez (Beirut), Kelly Pratt (Beirut) and Kyle Resnick (The National).

This new opus is Murdoch’s second full-length record to date, and a follow-up to the 2006 release Time Without Consequence, which cemented Murdoch as a “Top Ten Artist to Watch” according to Rolling Stone.
Have a good night (what's left of it...)!

Reid on political party financing



How we should go about reform to our political party financing regime, if we are going to go about it, is an important question. The present system was built on a solid basis of public policy research. The musings of Mr. Harper are not grounded in the same way and it's not how major, ground shifting changes that will have a big impact on our democratic process should occur. Reid hits the nail on the head.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yes, yes, yes: The real version



The real version of the Ignatieff speech the other day with the segment that is presently being taken out of context by the latest round of Conservative attack ads. A bit of video counter-programming to a certain bit of nonsense that's out there in the ether.

Note that the Conservatives forgot the "way" part at the end. They missed Iggy's hipster inflection there that actually made it kind of fun.

I think we're having more fun, come to think of it, these days.

Update (8:10 p.m.): Apparently it might be a "Oui" he says at the end there. Not as fun but also acceptable.

Update (9:40 p.m.): Canadian Press tonight: "Latest round of Tory attack ads spark backlash."

Wrong Way Harper time once again?

A few thoughts here on the corporate tax debate as it's shaping up in the past few days. First off, a mini-celebration on the occasion of this little offering by John Ivison: "Liberals might be onto something in tax-cut opposition." This is about as good as it will get from Ivison when it comes to things Liberal:
Small wonder Conservative ministers have been out buzzing like angry bees about how necessary the next round of corporate tax cuts are: their research must have told them much the same thing as a poll released Wednesday by Abacus Data. Namely, that while around one quarter of voters support their line on further cuts being necessary for job creation, more than one half of Canadians back the Opposition parties in their belief that the money should be invested in post-secondary education and homecare.

For once, the Conservative spin-machine seems to be on the back foot, which is odd since the prospect of the Liberal party campaigning against cuts they started, and which they have already voted for, should be an open goal.
Yes, it is amazing how Canadians seem to have the capacity to understand a realistic argument, to know when circumstances have changed and that maybe it's time to be flexible and amend the current plan. Parties can do that too. Amazing as well how the process argument about a past vote is looking like a very subsidiary consideration. What is rising to the top as important in this debate thus far is the question of what we do now, going forward, given our budgetary situation. That's where choices can be made, whether they're going to be made by voters or by current or future governments writing their budgets.

Also kind of fun is Ivison's characterization of the Conservative spin-machine being back on its heels as "odd." As if Stephen Harper, Economist™, is infallible. That does seem to be the operating presumption that we see among many commentators, despite much evidence to the contrary that has been on the record for years now (see being reluctantly dragged to a stimulus plan, overspending Canada into deficit prior to recession, and so on).

In the wake of those poor poll results on Canadians' support for corporate tax cuts, you just have to think that Harper has gotten it wrong again. Maybe it's the one-man show aspect to his style of governing coming home to roost. Maybe the media echo chamber that the Conservative machine spins very well is providing false comfort. Maybe paying heaps to monitor the media rather than listening to the people is the Harper way to run government but not the way a government should operate at all.

It's also interesting how Obama's mention in the State of the Union address of pursuing corporate tax cuts has been cited by right wing commentators and made its way into news items under the guise of Obama's move bolstering the Canadian Conservative case to proceed with more corporate tax cuts. But there's this comparative aspect that needs to be kept in mind:
According to the 2010 combined national and sub-national, or provincial, corporate tax listing by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s combined rate of 29.5 per cent places it 23rd out of 32 countries. However, Canada’s 2010 rate is third in the G7, slightly higher than Italy and the U.K., but well below the 39.2 combined rate of the United States.
The Obama comparison actually bolsters the argument against proceeding further with these cuts here. Obama's pitch also includes an important contrasting proviso, that it be done “without adding to our deficit." Further, Obama's pursuit of those cuts is likely a practical recognition of the political circumstances he's in, an outreach to the new Republican majority he has to work with in the House. That's the really interesting and overarching aspect to that move, not the substance of the cuts. It's more about working with others, reaching out, not a strong suit up here for our leader.

Developing, as they say...

Gates & MacKay to talk F-35 today

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates is in town today for a trilateral summit that has turned into a bilateral defence summit with Peter MacKay. Mexico is out on account of illness. The F-35 is going to be a topic of discussion according to Gates' press secretary:
Amid sharp political debate in Canada over the government's plans to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, Morrell acknowledged it was "a hot button issue" that would come up for discussion.

He said international partners were vital to keeping costs under control for the radar-evading fighter, which has been dogged by delays and rising costs.

"Our partners are needed, obviously, because the more quantity you buy, the price-per-copy will drop," he said.

"So we are obviously always trying to work with those countries that are committed to this, to keep them committed because it's for the overall good not just of the program, but of our defense posture around the world."
A bit of irony there, from Morrell. The Americans having just announced a reduction in the number of F-35s they are ordering, they can't be having any of that reduction business going on among the allies, apparently. He's also acknowledging that per plane rising costs are a big concern, despite what we hear from our government.

Gates' visit is a reminder that with the F-35 proposal, we have seen some creeping of American defence politics northwards due to the Harper government's handling of this file. Not only is there the way out in front posture Canada is taking in respect of a possible F-35 purchase, by announcing intentions years ahead of a need to buy, largely to curry favour with the U.S. We have also seen Mr. Harper and his ministers attempting to play a bit of divisive American-style politics in those communities with aerospace contractors they've visited so many times in the last six months. Recall Harper loudly urging workers to help him politically if they value such contracts while in Montreal recently. It's the kind of thing we see in the U.S., where lawmakers become beholden to local defence interests and regions are pitted against each other over contracts and budget battles. It makes for more divisiveness.

Given the "hot button" nature of the politics of the F-35, as acknowledged by the Americans, we can expect Gates to be very diplomatic about his statements today. Of course, it is Canadians alone who will decide the fate of the F-35 purchase.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Late night



An old fave that made its way onto the iPod this week...have a good rest of the night!

Harper Government Campaign 2011: Partisan use of government resources across the land

As it becomes clear that the corporate tax cut issue is shaping up to be an election issue in a coming campaign, possibly this spring, government resources are being commandeered to support the Conservative position, starting with that far-flung effort we saw across the country today: "Harper Government Is Keeping Taxes Low for Canada's Job Creators." That's the partisan release for Stockwell Day's appearance with Jim Flaherty in Vancouver.

Earlier today, there was the generic release highlighting the day's events, noting all the ministers travelling cross country on our dime to wage the "Harper Government's" campaign: "Harper Government is Keeping Taxes Low for Canada's Job Creators." Here's a 3rd release highlighting Lisa Raitt's participation today. What government department is paying for all this? Finance? The one that is supposed to be setting a certain tone at the moment? More:
The Tories held similar events for ministers and MPs across the country throughout the day:

* Ted Menzies, Flaherty's minister of state for finance, joins Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in Calgary.
* Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in Summerside, P.E.I.
* Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in London, Ont.
* Revenue Minister Keith Ashfield in Dartmouth, N.S.
* Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis in Montreal.
In addition to the corporate tax cuts campaign of today, yesterday we saw another effort start up with this release, "Harper Government's Home Renovation Tax Credit a Success: Saved Average Family over $700; Pumped Billions into the Economy," advising of Laurie Hawn's HRTC campaign event in Edmonton. The Minister of Democratic Reform had an HRTC event yesterday in Winnipeg too with a similar full-on Harper Government release to celebrate the campaign event. Boasting about the HRTC is the gist of this campaign that uses our tax dollars. An event was also carried out in B.C. And in Halifax with Keith Ashfield.

Also, you may be noticing items like these at various web and news sites as you surf the web in recent days...



The top one was featured on YouTube, the second on the Globe site, both yesterday. You'll see the YouTube one still today. That's the web campaign aspect of all this, as election speculation ramps up. These web ads may be costing us in the neighbourhood of $3 million based on past precedents. The latest bout of TV ads, that we're also seeing now, may be costing about $4 million, again, based on the track record.

Just how much is all of this costing us? At this supposed time of fiscal restraint? And putting aside the economics of doing this when we have a massive deficit, financing ministers to be traversing the country like this to wage campaigns on these issues, the partisan tint to it all is inappropriate. They're using our dollars to do this. It would be wrong in and of itself no matter what the state of our budget.

You might call it all the Harper government's very own sponsorship programme, sponsorship of themselves and their political arguments on our dime. It's quite the scene.

More delay and cutbacks in the F-35 program

Bloomberg reported yesterday:
The Pentagon reduced its five-year budget request by $6.9 billion by delaying the purchase of 124 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp., the military program office said today.
...
The delays are needed because “the final assembly process” at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility is “still maturing,” the Pentagon said in a fact sheet issued Jan. 6. Second, slowing production reduces the overlap between development and assembly while testing is extended into 2016 from mid-2015, it said.
Testing into 2016. Meaning that assurances from Minister MacKay about Canadian delivery by 2016 should be taken with a grain of salt.

When you hear that it's the Marine F-35B version that's causing most of the delay and that the version Canada is considering buying is largely unaffected, skepticism is warranted. Delay of one version causes delay for the others:
Joe DellaVedova, the Pentagon's F-35 spokesman, provided additional details, including the $6.9 billion savings figure on Tuesday.
...
DellaVedova said development of the Air Force and Navy versions of the F-35 would be extended by 10 months until the first quarter of 2016, while 20 months would be added to the development of the Marine Corps variant.
Canada's proposed F-35s would fall into the 10 month delay category too. Note also:
Mr. Burbage also said Lockheed was concerned that the slowdown in production could complicate efforts to gain economies of scale and lower the cost of each plane.
U.S. cutbacks in the number of planes ordered may also affect Canadian aerospace industry contracts which in turn get the trickle down impact of fewer planes ordered. This is the downside of the Lockheed Martin integrated "global supply chain" that the Harper ministers like to tout.

These are the latest red flags from the American F-35 program. When the Americans themselves are dialing back, it should be giving us pause.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's cold out there & other notes

1. How cold is it? Try Simcoe-Grey for an answer. Scoop at the Enterprise Bulletin has been tracking some interesting goings on in the Conservative nomination brouhaha to replace Helena Guergis. In his report yesterday, he noted that 50 Conservative MPs and Senators have endorsed the perceived front-runner, Kellie Leitch. No pangs of conscience about their former colleague for those folks, whose legions include a big chunk of the Ontario caucus. Cold, baby!

There's a hiccup in the Leitch express in the form of a Leitch endorsement letter sent to Conservatives by the Simcoe County Warden who is also a mayor up there. Only problem is that he didn't approve of it. (See BCL too.) The aforementioned endorsements on her site had some funny business that Scoop caught as well: duplicate endorsements that were later pulled. Sounds like it could be the heavy hand of the Ottawa team that is reaching down and mucking it up in many interesting ways.

2. The UAE/Canada dust-up rolls on. The Star has a report on Wikileaks cables that shed light on the role that the UAE has played in Afghanistan, sending military personnel to serve with Canadian and other NATO troops there along with financial contributions for Kandahar schools, etc. Kind of puts PM Harper's remarks in a different light: (“That’s just not how you treat allies, and I think it tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future,” he told the QMI Agency earlier this month.") In terms of what should be done going forward, this former PM has a view and might get the current PM's attention.

3. The Star also has a good editorial on the Atomic Energy Canada Limited situation and the federal/Ontario battle that re-surfaced last week. Jim Flaherty essentially berated Ontario for putting the Darlington nuclear upgrade on hold. Ontario did that because AECL is up for sale and for cost reasons, Ontario doesn't want to buy from AECL now when the federal government's backing may imminently disappear. That's a stalemate that affects AECL's attractiveness to buyers. Buyers who seem to have backed out, although that situation is yet to be confirmed by the Harper government. Still not looking any better on this one.

4. Finally, the Conservatives are trying to be oh so careful with the Quebec City arena situation. There's a huge professional stadium funding trial balloon in the Globe today. There is lots that could be said about this but let's just leave it at...good luck with that one, Harper brain trust!

Maddow on Olbermann's departure

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


A little late night U.S. break here because I know a lot of we Canadians watch MSNBC quite regularly and are curious about what's going on with our U.S. faves. This is Rachel's brief commentary on her colleague Keith Olbermann's departure. Nicely said from Rachel, but for him, she wouldn't have had that show and this is why we love her around here. A class act.

A little sad to see Olbermann off the schedule tonight, he's been a staple for me since 2003. Yep, from the beginning when he was a little more wacky and less political, way before the Worst Person segment, the special comments, etc. He really led the MSNBC "revolution" if you could put it that way, as they firmly staked out a liberal prime time brand. He sensed the changing television environment and the need to counter the Fox toxin. Whatever your politics, you can respect when someone moves and shakes their field, does something different, sensing the moment. Hope he shows up somewhere new in the near future, doing something different once again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

There will be no electioneering in the war room!


It's all about parliamentary peace and “outreach and persuasion," baby!

They certainly wanted this visual in the news record. Whether that's for inoculation at budget time or not, we shall see.

And of course, we can't let this moment pass without having some fun with the obvious reference Lavigne's posturing evokes...

A fitting 5 year speech

Well, what is there to say about the big speech yesterday? Maybe just a few things. Principally, the event seemed perfectly emblematic of this 5 year-old government. Emblematic in that it was big on the presentation, executed to a T and yet not so big on the substance. The substance is usually a secondary consideration to the stage management, messaging or electoral considerations with this government and yesterday seemed no different.

The event was overwhelmed by the visual of the huge flag Mr. Harper sought to wrap himself in. There was the uncomfortable and sudden introduction into the Harper repertoire of the walkabout, like it was a new dance move he'd just learned, leading media in attendance to note it:
At one point he left the podium to introduce individuals seated behind him who he said had benefited from his different policies, including a working mother and father, an income-splitting retired couple and a small-business owner.
Why, oh why, would he be doing that now?

In terms of the tone employed, it was a banner day of the Harper character shining through. There were the petty shots at Liberals of years ago - sponsorship, beer and popcorn - that obviously still drive the Prime Ministerial mind. There was, significantly, an implicit lashing out at others' patriotism, underscoring the theme he's just deployed in his latest personal attack ads: "...why do we do it? ... We are here because we love Canada ... Canada is and always has been our country." If you stop and think about that line, it's really something. People probably glossed over it as a throwaway patriotic line. But it was inherently exclusionary. They, Conservatives, are in public service because they love Canada and Canada is and always has been their country. People at home probably heard it as a broader appeal to all Canadians. But it was said in the context of Conservatives doing public service. Those who have been "outside," by implication, and we all know who that is, do not love their country as much. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as they say. There was also a Nixonian styled silent majority type reference to the "quiet people" of Canada, to top off the tone.

In terms of the substance, he really didn't veer much beyond the usual. No future goals or initiatives in sight, except of course the old standbys of Senate reform and abolition of the long gun registry. Not complaining, really, about the Prime Minister missing an opportunity to seize the initiative in front of a national audience and media and lay out a new round of compelling anythings. Really. Miss away, Mr. Harper.

The new stuff is likely to come in a budget, since everything seems to come in the budget during the Harper era. Holding his cards for a bit longer before he lets Canadians know if we will be having an election or not. Undoubtedly, he knows what's in the cards election-wise. The big film effort wasn't for nada ("...the entire event was filmed by a sophisticated camera attached to a crane, which swooped around room like a big black bird, variously zooming in on Harper and flag-waving members of the audience.")

There was likely another election related indicator yesterday as well. Pierre Karl Peladeau's Sunday night announcement in Quebec City of Quebecor's intent to put in tens of millions to the Quebec City arena likely green lights a federal contribution, with all the political hay to be made in the Quebec City region for Conservatives out of it. The Peladeau announcement received a ready and positive response from the Quebec Harper Minister, Paradis, nicely bookending Harper's political day. Surely that nifty timing was just a coincidence and not a muscular signal to the other parties of ducks lining up in a row.

All in all, just another day in Harperland.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday night



Well, I'm sticking with the Guardian, again. They be on to something, these people:
Two years (and a bit) on from 19, Adele Adkins comes of age sounding as wise beyond her years as she did in 2008. While 19 detailed the end of a relationship with "an idiot", 21 is about the end of something great. There's cheating, jealously, joy and heartbreak contained within; all stripped into shape by a galactico squad sheet of producers – starting with Rick Rubin and Ryan Tedder and working down to current British studio darlings Paul Epworth and Fraser T Smith. But it's former Semisonic man Dan Wilson who is responsible for the album's highlight, the gorgeous Someone Like You, certain to be coming soon to a montage near you. The tale of Adkins facing up to the end of a love – "never mind, I'll find someone like you" – is half heart-wrenching, half uplifting. It's nearly good enough reason to break up with someone, simply so you can mope in it. Other moments of note come in a Sufjanesque takedown of the Cure's Lovesong; the single Rolling in the Deep (inspired by a Nashville-schooled US tourbus driver) and the immediately familiar, Dusty-does-Dulwich sound of I'll Be Waiting. A progressive, grown-up second collection, it ought to ensure Adele is around for 23, 25, 27 and beyond.
Have a good night!

Reneging on a constitutional trade-off

There was an op-ed in the Toronto Star yesterday that should be factored in to the right-wing stoked talk about axing a key part of our campaign finance system, the public financing of political parties in the form of the per vote financing. "Dollars and democracy" by Errol Mendes highlights some legal problems that might ensue if Harper proceeds to axe the party subsidies. Here is the key excerpt (lengthy but necessary) then a few thoughts below:
The most troubling aspect of the proposed elimination of the public financing of political parties is that Harper and his Reform party sanctioned a “constitutional trade-off” to allow public financing that dates back to their own days in opposition under the Chrétien government.

The trade-off was the elimination of key sources of existing funding to the other main parties — corporate funding for the Liberals and trade union contributions for the NDP.

The campaign finance laws passed by the former Liberal government eliminated all corporate and trade union contributions to political parties and limited individual donations to $1,100 annually to federal parties, with similar amounts for individual candidates.

It should not be forgotten that the social safety nets in modern liberal democratic societies such as Great Britain and Canada were in large measure the result of trade unions and other social organizations that promoted social democracy through contributions and activities in political parties.

There could well be an argument that limited forms of financial contribution to political parties by trade unions are a form of political expression that may be protected by our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms — and indeed by other entrenched rights documents around the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision last January ruled that “political speech is indispensable to a democracy, which is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation,” thereby allowing corporations to engage in political spending in elections.

Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that, like individual Canadians, trade unions and corporations are guaranteed their freedom of expression under the Charter. The court will most likely strike down total elimination of such expression without some balancing reasonable limit under section 1 of the Charter.

That section allows governments to impose reasonable limits on Charter rights that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This balancing allows governments to impose the present limits on financial contributions by individuals.

The potential reasonable limit that may have justified the elimination of contributions by trade unions and corporations to political parties was the $1.95 of public financing per vote to make up for the massive loss of donations. The most affected were the Liberals, the NDP and the Green party, which had relied most on these donations. (emphasis added)
In essence, Stephen Harper's intent to kill the per vote financing would destabilize the balancing provisions that were brought in with this new campaign finance law regime. Corporate and union donations went away, in their place came the $1.95 per vote financing. As Mendes points out, there are legal difficulties that could follow if Harper were able to legislate an end to the public financing. This is a point that hasn't received any attention to date and it calls into question the legitimacy of Harper's plan.

What has gotten perhaps too much attention is a talking point that seems to have taken hold as conventional wisdom. The one that has planted the notion that after all these years, since all of 2003, political parties should have adjusted better by now to the new fundraising regime just like their Conservative brethren. And if they haven't, that's their fault and let's punish them by removing public financing.

It was never contemplated, however, at the time of the 2003 enactments, that the per vote public financing was temporary or would be axed some day. It was part and parcel of the new campaign finance reform. It went hand in hand with the new monetary limits on individual contributions and the removal of rights from corporations and trade unions. So why would any political parties have been prepping for a world where that financing didn't exist over the 8 years since it's been in place? The demise of party financing wasn't on the radar until Mr. Harper started making moves toward axing it in that fateful fall of 2008.

We really need to be asking the basic first principles questions here to a greater extent. Is this particular set of rules one that should be changed every few years, particularly if it's on the whim of a governing party? Can parties function well in such an arbitrary environment? Is having such rules up for grabs all the time something we think is healthy for our democracy? These are not marginal rules we're dealing with, they are significant and affect the quality of our democracy, whether you happen to like these rules or not.

At a minimum, this subject deserves a much, much better discussion than we've heard to date. 

A succession list appears

This was a bit of a strange development yesterday afternoon. Without any introductory context to the piece came this bare list compiled and published by Canadian Press: "A list of potential Conservative successors to Prime Minister Stephen Harper." Of course, yes, we're in the midst of what seems like a too long-week long obsession with the five year anniversary of the Conservatives' first election on January 23, 2006. And Canadian Press had also published two other pieces about our long five years. But I don't know why that marker would form the basis for a list of successors to appear. I mean, no one is speaking openly about Harper retiring or anything like that.

Harper is to be at a fifth anniversary "rally" on Sunday in Ottawa. Starts at noon. Maybe he'll play a set. Or make a big speech saying something significant. Or significantly partisan. Who knows.

File the list away. I guess. For now.

New Liberal ads: The misguided priorities of Harper's Canada





Two tough issue ads just released by Liberals, on the issues of the corporate tax cuts and the untendered F-35 jet purchase, asking Canadians if they share these priorities.

This is a hard-hitting and issue-focussed response to the very personal onslaught from Conservatives earlier in the week. These are television ads that should start appearing today.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Costly debacle, that UAE thing

The military and the Canadian taxpayer bear the brunt:
The Canadian military is casting about for another staging base for Afghanistan to replace makeshift arrangements in Cyprus – where the Forces relocated after Canada was kicked out of the United Arab Emirates late last year.

A move is not certain, but the Canadian Forces are searching for another, possibly closer, location from which to move troops and supplies in and out of Kandahar.
...
Canada is using two civilian airports in southern Cyprus – Paphos and Larnaca – to shuttle soldiers and other personnel in and out of Afghanistan. In Cyprus, the Canadians are housed in hotels. The operation is a pay-as-you-go contract, and cargo is shipped separately into Afghanistan via Germany.

The Forces are eyeing other locations that could offer more benefits, including lower costs, the ability to handle more volume or offer more flexibility. Defence sources wouldn’t identify possible alternatives, but it’s believed options could include another Gulf nation or one of the countries north of Afghanistan that diplomats refer to as “the Stans.”

Sources have previously told The Globe and Mail the cost of Canada having to leave Camp Mirage and pay for new staging locations could run as high as $300-million. A Defence source said on Wednesday part of the reason for seeking a new base would be to reduce this bill.

The UAE did not charge Ottawa for the use of Camp Mirage or the nearby port during Canada's stay of more than nine years there.

Cyprus is much farther from Afghanistan than Dubai, and the costs are relatively steep for Canada there. Ottawa would like a closer staging base with access to a port for shipborne cargo. (emphasis added)
On to see if one of "the Stans" will now take us, what was rumoured back in October. Cyprus was the quick set-up out of Camp Mirage, it appears, with one more big move to come. Why stay where you are, after all, using a longstanding rent-free locale in the UAE when you can move the Canadian military's Afghanistan staging operations twice over?

Seems like an awful lot of moving around and inconvenience and cost for our military. That really should have factored in to a much greater extent to the Harper government's decision calculus.

Oh well, what do we know. Chess master at work and all that.

How cold is it



A little game courtesy of the Yellowknife denizens. This is fun.

(h/t)

Fifty years ago

John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. A remembrance:

The "better off" ballot question gets some early answers

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

The Star is reporting on an Angus Reid poll on whether Canadians feel better or worse off than they did five years ago, i.e., during the tenure of Stephen Harper's government. The poll was taken on January 13th & 14th so it was concurrent to the just released "Five Years of Harper" document by Liberals and its question: "Is Canada better off?"

A few findings touching on economic sensibilities suggest some weakness in the supposed Conservative economic armour:
Asked how they felt compared to five years ago, just 30 per cent of those polled said they were much better or moderately off, 29 per cent said they were about the same and 38 per cent felt they were worse off.
...
The effects of the recession appear to weigh heavy on the national psyche with 32 per cent describing their own financial situation as poor or awful. Another 40 per cent said it was average while just 24 per cent rated their own circumstances as good.

And 36 per cent were pessimistic about their financial future, compared to 27 per cent who optimistic.
In the wake of news of the Liberal release of the "better off" question, some columnists heeded the call and offered up their answers. References to GDP numbers and Wall Street Journal charts and the like could be found in such columns saying yes, Canadians are better off. While this is one poll, admittedly, it does seem to indicate that the answer to the better off question is not the slam dunk that some have thought.

There is also an overwhelming finding in the poll that is of interest. On the question of which party is most responsible for increased partisanship in our politics: 61% say the Conservatives. Liberals run a distant second at 16%. "All share the blame equally" comes in at 14%. Rarely do we see such a strong result like that 61% level in any poll in Canada these days. Unless it's to do with one of the provincial situations gone awry, that is (see Charest, Campbell).

Further, that 61% result on partisan blame is so contrary to what one hears from time to time at the national level. "All the parties do it" is a common refrain, the Conservatives are just doing what Chretien et al. did back in the day, for example. Mr. Harper also tried to give the impression the other night that partisanship is running along at normal speed, it has always been such, nothing out of the ordinary to see here. We get a sense in this poll, however, that a strong majority perceives Conservative responsibility for the tone. The equalization of nasty partisanship among all the parties is actually not what is perceived.

The report (and presumably the numbers, to come in more detail from Angus Reid) also includes other questions that are worth a look, including perceptions about Canada on the world stage, crime and Harper's performance as PM.

Update (8:30 p.m.): See FarAndWide as well.

Democratic contrasts

In June, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Canada. His visit attracted some controversy in terms of the Prime Minister's office helping Hu keep critics away and there being no press conference held:
Chinese President Hu Jintao was kept well-insulated from controversy during his visit to Ottawa on Thursday, thanks in part to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, which went to some lengths to keep Hu away from media outlets that have been critical of the Chinese government.

The PMO, reportedly bowing to terms laid out by the Chinese consulate in recent weeks, organized Hu’s visit around specific demands to keep two media outlets away from the proceedings — New Tang Dynasty TV and the Epoch Times, according to sources.

In the four public appearances in Ottawa on Thursday between Harper and Hu, media contact was kept to an absolute minimum, with no press conference, as is standard procedure when foreign leaders visit Parliament.
By contrast, Hu Jintao was in Washington yesterday on a U.S. state visit and held a joint press conference with Obama. We saw an uncomfortable Jintao being needled about human rights.



While press conferences may inevitably produce platitudes, they are still important parts of the democratic process. One should have properly happened here in Canada, this summer, during Jintao's visit.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

UAE/Canada dispute rolls on

A headline that raises a question: "German airline enters fray, bolsters Ottawa’s stand against UAE." I think that what the Globe piece really signifies is that the German airline, who happens to be a partner airline with Air Canada, bolsters Air Canada's stand against Emirate airline bids for greater landing rights. It helps Air Canada's present day position that UAE airlines should not be granted greater commercial landing rights in Canada at this time because they have a sister airline abroad that shares the same view. Presumably though, if a business deal could be worked out, Air Canada would be right on board, as they've indicated they would be, in the past.

But that is all in the weeds for most Canadians. The question should be whether the Canadian government's entire relationship with the UAE is bound up with Air Canada's commercial interests. Was it worth losing the Camp Mirage base because of a commercial air landing rights dispute? Is it worth the ongoing ratcheting up of diplomatic tensions? Why has the national interest in relation to the UAE become subsumed in Air Canada's interests?

So while it's interesting to hear about Air Canada partner airline positions, the UAE relationship remains a festering problem for Canada.

All IP owners draw lines with partisan ads

While Conservatives are waxing dramatically over CBC's request that the Conservative Party cease and desist from using CBC footage in their latest round of partisan ads, we should remind ourselves that using copyrighted material without permission seems to be a serial problem with the Conservative Party. It's not just CBC who have, in recent years, made demands that the Conservatives stop using footage or clips that they have not sought permission to use.

Warner Music had to ask the Conservatives to cease and desist from unauthorized use of one of its properties back in early 2008:
"Warner/Chappell recently sent a letter to the Conservative Party of Canada confirming its unauthorized use of a song written by Warner/Chappell writers," wrote Amanda Collins in an e-mailed statement. "As a regular course of business, we contact parties that use our musical compositions without permission. We look forward to working with the party to resolve this matter quickly."
At issue there was unauthorized Conservative use of the theme song from the Apprentice (cheesy!) in a partisan video, attacking Liberals, of course. It was highly embarrassing since Industry Minister Jim Prentice unveiled it and he was supposedly embarking upon copyright reforms at the time.

Further, during the 2008 election, the use of television broadcast footage in attack ads without permission also came up, with CTV, CBC and TVO all making clear that they don't license their material to political parties during campaigns. See? Private and public both object to such usage. It's about the integrity of the broadcaster and not being seen to be allied with any particular political party. This is what the issue is, not the public status of the broadcaster, out of which the Conservatives claw some claim to use footage.

So, factor all that in with the anti-CBC ramblings we're seeing. It's not just public entities that the Conservatives have had problems with. It's just that the public entities are the ones they most enjoy attacking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Skate-off



As with the dancing, in winter, a skate-off might be in order.

Does that little girl know something we don't?

F-35 coverage in southern Ontario

The PM's big push on Friday in Montreal to sell his $16-$21 billion F-35 proposal got a fair amount of attention. There was some attention paid to the Liberal position yesterday in southwestern Ontario too. See the video report at this link for example which is worth watching for two reasons. It's a good contrast between Ignatieff & Harper on this issue, back to back. Secondly, we see another critic of the sole-source bid:
But military experts say the government has mismanaged the situation.

"The F-35 manufacturers know there's no competition. There is no incentive to them to provide the best most competitive economic package to Canada if we say we're going to buy it no matter what," says Alistair Edgar, Prof. Wilfrid Laurier University.
Edgar also questions the single engine construction of the F-35, wondering whether a two engine jet might be better. That issue was also raised by Marc Garneau on Friday. It's something that hasn't received much attention during the limited public debate thus far given the government's sole focus on the F-35:
Mr. Garneau said his party would maximize the maintenance work conducted in Canada, and likely seek a fighter jet with twin engines instead of the one-engine F-35 to conduct patrols in isolated regions of the North.

“All things being equal,” he said, “two engines are better than one.”
Combine Garneau's comments with Ignatieff's yesterday, noted in the CTV link above, that "There are some other planes that are actually available on the shelf now that might meet Canadian needs at a much cheaper price." They suggest a slightly more sharpened Liberal approach to the F-35 debate.

Like clockwork: attack ads from the attack leader

The ugly side of Stephen Harper's divisive governing style rears its head once again: "Tories launch attack ads." Apparently the ads are to start today and air across the country. Spending millions to once again demonize Michael Ignatieff. Quite the quality democracy we have on our hands these days.

Not having seen them yet and just judging by the Sun Media report on their content, they sound a little forced and desperate. "Michael Ignatieff is back in Canada, but why?" Um, yeah he's been "back" for a while, dudes, chillax with the overkill. Why? I don't know, he's doing his job as opposition leader?

The explicit attack on Ignatieff's patriotism is offensive, of course, and it should be called out for what it is. It's unacceptable. And the tone of these ads might be off-putting to people in the wake of the U.S. tragedy that has many focused on increasing the civility in politics, not just in the U.S., there's been discussion about it here too. Could be a big mistake.

But, this is what the Conservatives do. Led by the divisive, uber-partisan Stephen Harper. There he goes again, showing us exactly who he is.

Update (9:35 a.m.): Saw them. The attack ads are indeed forced and desperate. Carry on.

Mortgage rules: Now and Then with Jim Flaherty

Now:
CTV News has learned that Flaherty will unveil three new rules:

* Mortgage amortization periods will be reduced to 30 years from 35 years.
* The maximum amount Canadians can borrow to refinance their mortgages will be lowered to 85 per cent from the current 90 per cent.
* The government will withdraw its insurance backing on lines of credit secured on homes, such as home equity lines of credit.

According to a government official, the rules are aimed "at encouraging responsible lending and borrowing and encouraging people to increase their home equity."
...
Canadian household debt is now at $1.4 trillion, while mortgage delay payments have increased by 50 per cent," Fife said.

"In fact, the International Monetary Fund says household debt is the number one risk to the Canadian economy."
Flaherty is issuing rules to encourage responsible lending and borrowing? Here's a look back to what Flaherty unleashed in 2006, as reported in this Globe investigation of 2008:
In the first half of this year, as the subprime mortgage crisis was exploding in the United States, a contagion of U.S.-style lending practices quietly crossed the border and infected Canada's previously prudent mortgage regime.

New mortgage borrowers signed up for an estimated $56-billion of risky 40-year mortgages, more than half of the total new mortgages approved by banks, trust companies and other lenders during that time, according to banking and insurance sources. Those sources estimated that 10 per cent of the mortgages, worth about $10-billion, were taken out with no money down.

The mushrooming of a Canadian version of subprime mortgages has gone largely unnoticed. The Conservative government finally banned the practice last summer, after repeated warnings from frustrated senior officials and bankers that the country's financial system was being exposed to far too much risk as the housing market weakened.

Just yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeated the mantra that the government acted early to get rid of risky mortgages. What he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper do not explain, however, is that the expansion of zero-down, 40-year mortgages began with measures contained in the first Conservative budget in May of 2006.

At the time, Mr. Flaherty announced that the government was opening up the market to more private insurers.

“These changes will result in greater choice and innovation in the market for mortgage insurance, benefiting consumers and promoting home ownership,” Mr. Flaherty said.
Here's the reference in the 2006 budget: "Fostering Competition in the Mortgage Insurance Market."

Flaherty and his government's role in contributing to the present need to dial back deserves some attention as we listen to him today, as he attempts to portray his government as exercising prudent oversight over these mortgage rules. That's not the whole story. They have a record going back five years on this issue now that has not been a history of prudent oversight.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Late night

Come together



Blog Post Index: F-35

This index compiles all of this blog's relevant posts to date on the Harper government's proposed F-35 purchase that was announced on July 16th, 2010. New posts will be added to the index. Bold font indicates posts that readers may wish to reference first, containing key information that is helpful to understanding the many F-35 issues.

April 5, 2011: F-35 hovers over campaign today. [F-35 critic Wheeler speaks in Ottawa; Wheeler video; case for FA-18 Super Hornet]
April 4, 2011: Harper debunked on latest F-35 spin. [Cites Libya mission as rationale for F-35s; expert says no.]

March 18, 2011: The Libya mission and fighter jet politics.
March 15, 2011: United States Government Accountability Office report on JSF: "Restructuring Should Improve Outcomes, but Progress Is Still Lagging Overall." [GAO puts cost of JSF at $133 million per plane, cites various delays]
March 10, 2011: An Estimate of the Fiscal Impact of Canada’s Proposed Acquisition of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, report of the Parliamentary Budget Office. [Puts cost at $29.3 billion]
March 02, 2011: How the right wing echo chamber is working these days.

February 17, 2011: Costs of F-35 PR campaign roll in.
February 07, 2011: Better disclosure on the F-35 advocacy required.
February 03, 2011: The stealth deal.
February 02, 2011: Following the continued hard sell on the F-35.

January 31, 2011: New issues with the F-35 purchase.
January 27, 2011: Gates & MacKay to talk F-35 today.
January 26, 2011: More delay and cutbacks in the F-35 program.
January 17, 2011: F-35 coverage in southern Ontario.

December 17, 2010: End of session goings on.
December 11, 2010: Dissecting the F-35 purchase.
December 03, 2010: U.S. jet exec offers conflict filled testimony on F-35.
December 02, 2010: Selling the new defence procurement model.
December 02, 2010: Checking in on the costly F-35.

November 24, 2010: Bloc plays Conservative wingman.
November 23, 2010: Pentagon undercuts Harper government spin.
November 22, 2010: F-35 gets the hard sell and a hard look.
November 12, 2010: F-35s in the Vaughan by-election.
November 02, 2010: F-35 cost overruns in the spotlight again.
November 01, 2010: Combat fatigue and the F-35.

October 28, 2010: Just take them at their word.
October 27, 2010: Contractual conflict?
October 27, 2010: Big sell on F-35 continues.
October 26, 2010: Auditor General waving red flag.
October 22, 2010: Late night humour.
October 20, 2010: And then there were three... .
October 18, 2010: Quebecers weigh in against F-35.
October 14, 2010: USAF comments on the F-35.
October 12, 2010: On crippling the public finances.
October 08, 2010: F-35 opposition makes the PM furious.
October 06, 2010: Allies delaying F-35 purchases.
October 02, 2010: Saturday notes.

September 29, 2010: Political theatre.
September 28, 2010: F-35 industrial benefits in the spotlight again.
September 24, 2010: Friday odds and ends: NHL funding, jets and isotopes.
September 20, 2010: Government's rationales for F-35 sole-sourcing collapsing.
September 16, 2010: Of policies in force.
September 15, 2010: A big hitch in the government's F-35 purchase plan.
September 09, 2010: Stretching.
September 02, 2010: No questions!
September 01, 2010: The big sale.

August 31, 2010: Sleeper issue.
August 31, 2010: A summer of big economic implications.
August 04, 2010: Peter MacKay debunked.

July 30, 2010: Just can't help themselves.

July 30, 2010: The return of the red menace.
July 29, 2010: JSF hijinks at DND.
July 27, 2010: The case for a competitive process on the F-35s.
July 26, 2010: A few must reads for the day: fighter jets, the census...and theme parks.
July 19, 2010: Canada, bucking the trends.
July 17, 2010: PBS News Hour video report on our new $16 billion F-35 jet fighters.
July 16, 2010: Happy untendered $16 billion jet fighter contract.
July 12, 2010: Tory Times are malleable times.

Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Production, Sustainment, and Follow-On Development of the Joint Strike Fighter (Short Title – JSF PSFD MOU).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday night



The Decemberists, Down by the Water:
After five increasingly ambitious and intricate albums, concluding with 2009's prog-folk-rock opera The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists have gone back to their beginnings for The King Is Dead, with leader Colin Meloy forsaking epic storytelling for taut, disciplined, melodic guitar pop. The influence of REM is apparent throughout in arpeggiated guitar figures written in the style of Peter Buck, and often played by him – Calamity Song and Down By the Water, in particular, sound like the Georgia band at their top-notch best. It's no retreat, though: the confident swing of opener Don't Carry It All sets the tone for the album, and song for song, this is certainly Meloy's best set since the Decemberists' breakthrough album, Picaresque. Though the craftsmanship is evident – in the delicacy of the pair of seasonal ballads June Hymn and January Hymn, in the hillbilly-ballad-cum-indierocker Rox in the Box – it sounds as though Meloy has allowed instinct to supplement his intellect. A relatively understated delight from a band few might have suspected capable of understatement.
Two weeks in a row, avoiding the techno! It will return, that is unavoidable. In the meantime, I blame the Guardian.

Have a good night!

Harper left holding the bag for Air Canada; Camp Mirage lost for nothing?

So, a bit of a recap here on the latest development in this ongoing UAE dispute which is proving to be an utter disaster for the Harper government. The Harper brain trust chose to fully embrace Air Canada's present day position of saying no to more landing rights for UAE airlines. They chose to go to bat for Air Canada on an issue of commercial air landing rights instead of prioritizing keeping Camp Mirage, our air base in the UAE, open. That has proven to be a highly flawed decision.

Because as was reported Wednesday by Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star, and then in additional detail yesterday by Canadian Press (alternate link), documents have come to light showing that in 2006 Air Canada actually was A-OK with Emirates' airlines getting increased access to the Canadian market, as long as they could participate in profit sharing for the routes. 

Not surprisingly, given the vibrant state of our democracy under Mr. Harper, no one is talking:
The Harper government remained silent Thursday. Spokespeople for Harper and for two top cabinet ministers currently touring in the Middle East - Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Defence Minister Peter MacKay - declined to speak to reporters.

Cannon's office cancelled a conference call, citing a packed schedule. MacKay's office declined an interview request, saying the U.A.E. spat was Cannon's bailiwick.
No wonder they're not talking and playing kick the can, they have a lot of material to cover off. For example, John Baird's talk of the loss of tens of thousands of jobs that apparently Air Canada had no concerns about just a few years back.

It is looking like Canada has lost a critical military base in the UAE at a cost of $300 million due to the sheer incompetence of the Harper government. $300 million incurred in order to protect Air Canada from something they themselves wanted.

Looking forward to the explanation on all this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet your "Red Tape Reduction Commission"

The Members of the Commission are largely Conservative, made up of Stockwell Day and six other Conservative MPs. Beyond that, there are six private sector representatives.

For what it's worth, and perhaps not too surprisingly, one of them, Bill Aho, as of September 1, 2010, was publicly identifying himself as a Conservative partisan:
"The prime minister sees the North as the next frontier for development for Canada, as a great asset for Canada," said Bill Aho, executive secretary of the Western Arctic Conservative party association.
Secondly, it's probably safe to assume that Denis Prud'homme of Prud'homme Trucking in Saskatchewan was appointed for his familiarity with the federal-provincial immigrant nominee program, what with all the hiring of truck drivers from the Ukraine. Maybe too much red tape there.

See also.

Too heavy on the macro?



Worth reading for a succinct overview of the record of the past five years.

This quote in a Globe piece providing background on the document is an interesting companion to the read, it speaks to the message, tone and detail in the above document:
“There is this real kind of anxiety – ‘I don’t want to hear one more time,’ they say, ‘that we’ve done better than other G7 countries, because my life is worse,’ ” said the official. “The more Harper talks about macroeconomic numbers, the more it bothers them.”
Well, here was Harper yesterday, in a rare interview, which coincided with coverage of the launch of the Ignatieff tour, offering up more of that macro approach:
“We’re coming out of this recession, quite frankly, in a stronger position than just about anybody in the world, but we can’t kid ourselves that we are dependent on the direction of the global economy. We can ride at the top of the global economy, which is what we’re doing, but if it goes down again it’ll tend to pull us down.”
That first part is what everybody hears, it's the takeaway. Apparently it has really sunk in and not necessarily in the way that Harper prefers. It'll be interesting to see how they react and whether they keep this up. It's been such a big part of their messaging over the past year. The genie may be out of the bottle, as they say.

Remember how they spent an awful lot of time this spring and summer defending the Canadian banks, for example, from the spectre of an international bank tax, in a campaign against something that really was a long-shot to occur. You have to wonder about the hangover effect from such efforts and how they went over, truly, with Canadians. Recall this kind of polling too, suggesting a difficulty with translating the Economic Action Plan down to something meaningful for the everyday person.

It sounds like there is an indication, in this research cited by the official in that Globe piece, that the government may have been off base in taking the approach that it has. It could have big implications.

The Obama speech

One highlight here. This excerpt:
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.
That's all. Just a good thought to start the day.