Saturday, June 30, 2012

While Colorado burns

Pointed, killer column in the Guardian by Bill McKibben:
Global warming is underway. Are we waiting for someone to hold up a sign that says "Here's climate change"? Because, this week, we got everything but that...
And then goes on to enumerate a list of the record setting weather events of the past week, including the fires in Colorado. Choice excerpt is regarding the Exxon CEO who got a lot of attention this week for saying the world would adapt to climate change and that fears are overblown:
Amid it all, the CEO of the biggest oil company in the world, Exxon, gave what may go down in the annals as the most poorly timed – not to mention, arrogant – speech in the firm's history: Rex Tillerson, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, admitted what his company spent many years denying, that humans were heating the planet. But then he added:
"We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around – we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don't … the fear factor that people want to throw out there and say, 'We just have to stop this,' I do not accept."
Against the backdrop of the burning Rockies, it's pretty clear this is not an engineering problem. Engineers, in fact, have performed admirably. One day last month, Germany generated more than half its electricity from solar panels. We've got the technical chops to solve our troubles.
No, this is a greed problem. In the last five years, Exxon has made more money than any company in history. For the moment, Exxon and other's desire to keep minting money – and our politicians' desire for a share of that cash – has conspired to keep our government, and most others, from doing anything to head off the crisis.
And unlike the healthcare predicament, this crisis comes with a time limit. If we play politics for a generation, then weeks like the one we've just come through will be normal, and all we'll be doing as a nation is responding to emergencies. As one scientist put it at week's end, the current heatwave is "bad by our current definition of bad, but our definition of bad changes."
A column with a point that applies equally to Canada. We've certainly got our weather extremes settling in and a government that is not talking about climate change or acting on behalf of our nation to do our part.

Late night

Have a great night!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Following the money

The big news of the past 24 hours in Canadian politics: "Del Mastro donors offer to trade details on alleged reimbursement scheme for immunity."
Donors who say they were reimbursed for contributions they made to Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign have offered to speak to Elections Canada if given immunity from prosecution.

A lawyer representing some of the donors wrote to the elections watchdog to say they will provide details of a scheme that allegedly used payments from a Mississauga, Ont., electrical company owned by Del Mastro’s cousin to reimburse donors.

The lawyer specified these donors will co-operate if they are assured they would not face prosecution for accepting reimbursement and claiming the donations as deductions on their tax returns.

It is illegal to conceal the source of political contributions under the Elections Act.
We don't know how many individuals this lawyer represents but the reference is to multiple donors. Recall that the employee's sworn statement referenced in the previous reporting (and this one) referred to 19 people in total who could possibly have been part of a reimbursement scheme. So it would be interesting to know how many people are offering to co-operate.

Regarding this policy:
Citing its standard policy of not commenting on investigations or complaints, Elections Canada would not say whether it would accept the offer or even confirm it had been received. The agency will not say if it is looking into these allegations.
Why is this the policy of Elections Canada? These are serious allegations and the public has a right to know whether they are being pursued. Elections Canada did affirm it was investigating the robocall allegations, they should do the same here and make a statement, as soon as they are prepared to do so and mindful of the public interest. Transparency breeds accountability and faith in the system. 

Also, the report goes on to mention Harper's support of Del Mastro in Parliament last week. But if these allegations are proven, it would be hard to imagine that support continuing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Memories of Del Mastro

The Del Mastro Facebook page and its content became an issue during the federal election of 2011. The video outlines the issues.

Thought I would repost given the recent news involving brother David Del Mastro. Note the reference onscreen about midway to Douglas Del Mastro, another brother of the sitting MP. Elections are a family affair, of course. This one was highly motivated!

Update (6:10 p.m.): Correction: David Del Mastro is Dean's cousin. Douglas is his brother. My bad. It must be all the "D" names.

Tweet of the day, etc.

Source of the fun that has gotten attention north of the border.

Other links of note:

The decision.

A good New York Times overview of the case that highlights the surprise alignment of conservative Chief Justice Roberts with the liberal wing of the court and these quotes from him:
In the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the decision offers no endorsement of the law’s wisdom, and that letting it survive reflects “a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the nation’s elected leaders.”

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he wrote.
Potential legal drawbacks to the decision are noted there too.

Brad DeLong notes that Justice Scalia's dissent shows that he got ahead of himself. Or something like that.

And some excellent photoshoppage to round it out!

The first robocalls victim - again

The Ottawa Citizen published an op-ed by former Saanich-Gulf Islands Liberal candidate Briony Penn on Tuesday: "I was the first robocalls victim." It tells the story of the 2008 federal election in that riding and the strange robocalls urging people to vote for an NDP candidate who had withdrawn from the race, thereby splitting the vote to the Conservative Gary Lunn's advantage.

The funny thing is, the Citizen - home of McMaher - published the same op-ed when this story first broke back in early March, as an astute reader points out to me. She thinks that Penn's piece is being republished given its appeal at the very end for an international review of the 2011 federal election robocall issue.

I don't know why it's being republished, it could just be an oversight. It is strange to re-publish an op-ed twice within three months. Whatever the reason though, if you read Penn's op-ed again, it has even more resonance. In light of the ballooning and serious Del Mastro allegations, you can't help but think that our institutional oversight of elections is failing us. And that maybe Elections Canada really should have paid more attention to the Saanich-Gulf Islands flashing red lights.

Refugee health care protest actions

Cuts to the Interim Federal Health program kick in this weekend yet protests will be ongoing. The doctors who are leading the opposition to the cuts, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, are going to collect data on refugees who are affected and tell the stories that they hear by sharing them through media "and with Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers, both at their offices and when they make any health-related announcements." Good on them for their commitment, it has been so inspiring to see. You can follow them on Twitter at @docs4refugeehc to keep up on their activity.

There's another effort on this issue that's sprung up, students asking that people send 59 cents to Harper to support the cost per Canadian to cover the cuts. Worth circulating.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liberal leadership movement

A few developments to note. First up, word came last night of LPCBC President David Merner's announcement that he is leaving that position in order to run for leader. I spoke with David on the weekend while he was at the LPCA meeting in Edmonton. Merner is a native Albertan, living in Victoria, who has worked in Ottawa at the Department of Justice. Is fluently bilingual. So fluent that he played on French hockey teams while living in Ottawa. And wrote the Ontario Bar in French. That's pretty darned bilingual.

Also notable about Merner, he sits on the advisory board of Leadnow, which over the past year has become one of the leading young progressive organizations in the country. Speaks about really making an effort in the west for the party, emphasizes micro-targeting, mentioned Liberalist twice during our chat, cares about a new way of doing policy in the party ("wikisourcing") and is keen to answer the question of what kind of leadership the party needs. Very engaging and easy to talk politics with, he is going to add a lot to the race.

Second, Deborah Coyne is to declare her intention to run today:
...she says she's running because she believes Canadians are fed up with polarizing partisanship and that gives the Liberal party a golden opportunity to re-emerge from its current third-party status as the party of "bold, principled" national leadership on important public policy questions.

"I'm in this to make sure it's an ideas-based campaign. I believe I have a vision and a program that will resonate with many Canadians."
That should partially satisfy the #Coyne4LPC crowd. I paid $5 for one of those buttons at the Biennial, who knew it would actually come in handy?

One other item, I note Taleeb Noormohamed, the former 2011 Liberal candidate in North Vancouver, is now being included in the list of those considering a run (CP link above). Another intriguing name to watch.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Harper's risky economic theories

There are a few items in the news today that run contrary to the constant spin we get from our Harper government spokespersons about the solidity of the omni-present Economic Action Plan and how all our possible economic troubles stem from abroad. First up: "Moody’s warns on mortgage debt."
After Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last week that Ottawa is tightening the rules on government-backed mortgages to keep the housing market from overheating, Moody’s said it is concerned the efforts may not be enough.
High levels of household debt in Canada have left consumers with little flexibility to adapt to shifting markets, the credit rating agency said. “The government’s moves may have come too late, owing to the buildup in consumer debt that has already occurred,” Moody’s said in a research note Monday. “Canadian consumers’ reliance on low interest rates to support high debt loads remains a risk.”
Same old story with the Harper/Flaherty team. Too late in acting and not enough scrutiny being given in Canada to the role they have played in meddling with mortgage rules.

Then there are other broader concerns being articulated: "Conference Board of Canada: Weak productivity, innovation gap pose challenges to Canada's economy."
Mr. Hodgson said Canada’s productivity growth “has been dismal” compared to the U.S. and other major economies. “Thanks to chronically weak productivity growth, Canadian incomes are $8,500 per capita below where they would be if we had matched the U.S. on productivity,” he said.
The Conference Board is not alone with these concerns. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a June 13 report, cited lagging business innovation and low productivity as threats to Canadian growth.
These are issues that have been under this government's oversight and don't appear to be faring so well. That economic record is not so ship shape. It might even be the kind of material that is ad worthy, if anyone had the money to do so.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Mulcair ad

It's a Mulcair day on the blog, it appears! How on earth did that happen...

I find it hard to get too excited about this. Released just after the parliamentary session has ended, what's with that? Come now, Conservative war room, timing is everything. Unless it is part of a wider concerted effort to get serious now about diminishing poll standings, à la Harper in Quebec yesterday and news of his meeting with the forbidden one and all.

Adding to the lack of excitement, it's an internet ad, after all, reports the Globe. Likely to have little impact then except for media coverage. If the Conservatives were running them all across the newscasts like, say, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is, then that might be a different story. Aren't those ads a kind of response to Mulcair anyway? The one with the Quebecer speaking and all the buses toing and froing? Anyway.

To give it its due, this ad is about the economy, stupid, to use the famed phrasing. Mulcair's NDP will cost you more. Harper strong on economy, Mulcair weak.

It also has a personal element to it. The picture is not flattering, it's Mulcair in angry, preachy mode. Nobody likes to be angrily preached to and likability, despite the ad induced honeymoon his party ran, is still an open question.

Plus, black and orange is Halloween-esque. Scary, boo, and all that.

Carry on!

Mulcair on the euro crisis

Update (4:30 p.m.): See edit within post.

This is audio from an interview Mulcair did with Michael Enright on CBC radio this weekend where the eurozone financial crisis came up: [EDIT: Removed audio, please visit link to listen to the audio - column on right hand side. Audio loads automatically and readers may find that irritating when it opens every time they visit. Thanks.]

That is a brief excerpt but I think it might indicate that the Conservative p.r. effort on Europe against the NDP may have worked. Mulcair mocks the Conservatives as having made the question of contributing to the IMF funds into a domestic partisan political game, rightly so. But he nevertheless refuses to take a position on it by stating it's not about a "bailout," it's about being at the table. A central question though, of the past few weeks, has centred around Canada not contributing financially. So if Mulcair is not willing to say that Canada should contribute and just that Canada should be at the table, then I'm not quite clear on what his position is.

It's certainly not as clear as that taken by Paul Martin yesterday and partly why I'm posting this radio excerpt for the contrast. Paul Martin can say Canada turning its back financially on the IMF was a mistake, yet Mulcair cannot, or will not. Why not? I think it has something to do with their respective comfort levels in speaking to the issue and I don't think Mulcair feels comfortable in doing so. He would rather deflect to the Royal Bank news, a Security Council anecdote and a meeting he had with EU ambassadors. But, the question remains unanswered.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Government recognizes contributions of Canadian government scientist

Too bad it's not the Canadian government! "China Bestows Rare Honour on Canadian Agricultural Scientist."
The Baicheng Academy of Agricultural Sciences is honouring Government of Canada agricultural scientist Dr. Vernon Burrows for his achievements in improving food security, his innovations in oat breeding science and his outstanding contribution to the friendship between Canada and China. A bronze bust of Dr. Burrows was unveiled today at the China-Canada Agricultural Science and Technology Forum in Baicheng, Jilin Province, China.
Not that we would want to give the Harper Government™ any bright ideas about starting up with bronze bust deployment across the country, Lord knows what we'd end up with.

It is, however, nice to see news of a Canadian scientist being celebrated rather than muzzled or shadowed.

You go, Paul Martin

Yeah they did: "Tories made a ‘major mistake’ in their approach to the euro crisis, Paul Martin says."
“The major mistake that the government has made is the way that it's characterized this,” Mr. Martin said.

“The role of the G20 is to strengthen the financial institutions and the other global institutions that exist. And so, for Canada to turn its back on the IMF when the IMF is saying ‘we want more money, not simply for Europe, we want to be able to deal with the huge imbalances that exist around the world,’ I think that was a mistake.”

Mr. Martin, credited as one of the main architects of the G20 – which in the past few years has supplanted the Group of Seven as the premier forum for addressing international economic issues – went further.

“The second thing,” he continued, “is that when you’ve got China, India, the United States, Europe and Canada and the others at the table, you’re going to have differences. But if you want to make globalization work, what you have to do is put a little bit of water in your wine. You have to be prepared to be pragmatic. And for Canada to consistently say, ‘we want you people to be pragmatic, we want you people to compromise, but if we don’t get our way we’re going to take our ball and go home,’ I’ll tell you, that’s just not going to work.”
Yes, by all means, take on the nonsensical European rhetoric from the Harper gang.

I'd take that guy representing Canada at the G20 or anywhere on the world stage rather than this PM.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday night

Have a good night!

On a positive note

I tweeted the other day about Michael Harris at being one of the gutsiest columnists going in the Canadian political media scene. That was prompted by this column.

There's another columnist who really brings it at times in asking tough questions about this government and it's Lawrence Martin. Today's was a reminder of that: "Lessons of Watergate: why our media should heed them."
In some instances the media have become jaded. They are so used to sleazy behaviour by politicians that they tend to under-react. Some buy into the Tories’ morally and intellectually infantile rationale that other governments have done these kinds of things, so we can do them too.
Then there’s the argument put forward by the Conservatives that these are just process stories that voters don’t care about. Watergate, you might say, was just process too, a slaying of the process.
Also published at iPolitics, by the way. A few to read on the weekend if you missed them.

A little positivity about some sparks in the bubble of Canadian politics to end the week.


More Europe bashing from the Harper crew

From the "Today's Must Reads" on the Globe's Politics page, an op-ed from Conservative Senator and former Harper campaign chair Doug Finley with a familiar refrain: "Europe needs to take responsibility for its own mistakes." This is what we've been hearing from the PM, from Jim Flaherty and various other government supporters. It is interesting that they feel the need to keep saying it.

So what does Senator Finley have to add to the conversation? Well, not unexpectedly, he punches back at European Commissioner José Manuel Barroso who got a lot of attention in Canadian media this week when he stated that he didn't go to the G20 to be lectured by nations, etc. Widely taken as a shot against Harper. So you can understand that Finley would say something about that. Says, ever so diplomatically, that Barroso's statement was made "In typically arrogant fashion..." Lovely.

Also something there about our banking sector being one of the strongest in the world. The Royal Bank was included, however, in the Moody's downgrade yesterday that was characterized in the New York Times' leading business story of today in this way: "Already grappling with weak profits and global economic turmoil, 15 major banks were hit with credit downgrades on Thursday that could do more damage to their bottom lines and further unsettle equity markets. The credit agency, Moody’s Investors Service, which warned banks in February that a downgrade was possible, cut the credit scores of banks to new lows to reflect new risks that the industry has encountered since the financial crisis." RBC was lumped with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and others. There is a tremendous push back on the downgrade, saying Moody's is out of date, etc. Nevertheless, it's strange to see a Canadian bank there given the sense that our system is safe.

Finley also takes a run at European welfare states with all their high taxes and bloated bureaucracies leading to bankruptcy. See Paul Krugman on that where he captured quite effectively what the right wing and the Finleys are really doing as they pile on Europe: "Whenever a disaster happens, people rush to claim it as vindication for whatever they believed before. And so it is with the euro."[...]"Sweden, with the largest social expenditure, is doing just fine. So is Denmark. And Germany, which is the up side of the pulling-apart euro, has a bigger welfare state than the GIPS. Not that the facts will convince anyone on the right, but the blame-the-welfare-state meme is nonsense." Finley...or Krugman.

Repeats the canard about spending Canadian taxpayer money on Europe. Linked to disproof of that earlier this week. And of course, lots of red meat abounds: "culture of entitlement," "big-government approach," Europe as an "irresponsible teenager," etc.

Guess we can look forward to the continuation of this unsophisticated and tactically questionable message. You would think that if they're going to go big on this position, at the very least, they might listen to those who support them and might help them in credibly articulating it. But I guess they're not listening to such voices. Meanwhile, Finley's sledgehammer diplomacy can't be helping us much at all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Supply management & #LPC leadership

I have two reactions to the issue of supply management becoming the first prominent issue to be featured as part of the still very early Liberal leadership race.

First, uh, how did this issue which most Canadians have not likely even heard of get to be a lead-in issue? Does it even deserve to be there? Colour me dubious and in need of convincing.

Second, it is an idea of substance that people apparently wish to discuss and feel is important and therefore, I begrudgingly respect that despite my initial reaction. Who knows, maybe in time and upon further reading and discussion I will come to love the debate over "the complicated system of tariffs and quotas that protect high prices for Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs." I am a big fan of milk and drink 2 cups every day. Am not so concerned about the price of it and would be concerned about changes that might affect the viability of our farmers though. Again, in need of convincing.

It appears that we may be hearing quite a lot about it.

But please, let's also rattle some hearts out there not just minds.

The world ponies up to the IMF

The IMF released this table at the end of the G20 yesterday showing pledges received over the past few months by countries around the world to increase IMF resources:

That's quite a list. 37 countries including 15 of the G20 have now contributed to the IMF fund seeking to build resources at a time of great Eurozone financial uncertainty. A bunch of nations made their contributions at this G20 meeting. As we know, Canada has not contributed and that position was not widely followed among the leading nations of the world.

We also know that the Harper government has made great political hay out of our not contributing. They have made an insular me-first appeal that encourages resentment toward European nations. They have made it seem as if Canadian taxpayers would be hit with a bill, as if this would be a tax increase. This is how they have framed it for domestic political purposes.

That positioning by the government was recently debunked:
This is completely misleading. Funds are not given to the IMF; funds are lent to the IMF. More importantly, the funds that would be lent to the IMF would not come from Canadian taxpayers. The funds would come from foreign exchange reserves held at the Bank of Canada. As of May 23, 2012 Canada had foreign exchange reserves of $68.7 billion. Of this, $36 billion was in U.S. dollars; $19.7 billion in other currencies; $8.7 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs); and $4.1 billion in a reserve position in the IMF.

Were Canada to contribute to the G20fund the ”contribution” would involve a transfer of SDRs from the exchange reserves to the IMF in exchange for a commitment that the funds would be repaid. There would be no use of taxpayers’ money and there would be no budgetary impact.
Nevertheless, it's probably fair to say that the Harper messaging has predominated and the above understanding has not made any headway.

So who is right? Us or the vast majority of the G20 and western industrialized nations? Is it as Harper says, that it's about policies that the EU must put in place and that they have all the resources they need? Guess we will find out in coming months. In the meantime, it's an awfully long list of nations that disagree with the position that Canada took.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tweet of the day

Almost all...the rest are helping him craft apologies to Alberta's deputy premier. After a day of patented Kenney House of Commons bluster. Hope they make it sincere after all that!

Carry on, #cdnpoli!

(h/t a little birdie)

Toews and all his eavesdropping

Update (3:00 p.m.) below.

We have learned this week that the Canada Border Services Agency, under the leadership of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, will be seeking to audio record what travellers are saying in their cars at border crossings and in person at airports. See this report in the Toronto Star yesterday, for example. It is reported there that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has not been consulted on this plan and no privacy impact assessment has been done.

It is the prospect of audio recordings in particular that has galvanized reaction, particularly about privacy rights and the possibilities of abuses that could very well take place.

Toews claimed in the House of Commons yesterday that he was relying upon the Major report and its recommendations out of the Air India inquiry.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told MPs during question period that “I can assure the member that the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians are respected at all times.”
When reminded that no privacy impact assessment has been done on the audio aspect of the security installation, Toews referred to a report by Justice John Major, the head of the Air India inquiry, and said the government was simply following through on its “action plan” to streamline prosecutions, and boost the safety of air travellers.
“We will continue to take steps in line with the recommendations of Justice Major,” he said.
This is one recommendation from the Major Report, however, that Toews doesn't seem to be giving much consideration:
V. Passenger and Baggage Screening
Recommendation 18
18. Current methods for conducting pre-board screening (PBS) are comprehensive, but improvements are required in their application.
18.1. Although technology has enhanced the ability to effectively conduct PBS, that technology should rarely be relied upon exclusively.
When selecting equipment and procedures for passenger screening, consideration should be given to individual rights, including privacy rights and the rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In particular, any consideration of behavioural analysis techniques as a tool for PBS must include a thorough review. Concerns about the risk of racial, ethnic and religious profiling must be given specific and careful attention. If a decision is made to implement such a program, the following must be addressed: effectiveness of the measure; competencies, training (initial and ongoing) and testing required of those who would conduct the analysis; and oversight requirements.
18.2. Given the importance of the “no search, no fly” rule and the potential impact of security measures on individual rights, Transport Canada and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada should collaborate to devise tools and criteria to evaluate proposed security measures.
(Volume 4: Aviation Security, Chapter IV, Recommendation 18)

Ideally, this latest set of eavesdropping plans should be halted altogether. Failing that, Toews should follow the the Major report's recommendations, as he claims to be doing, and at a minimum, work with the Privacy Commissioner's office on these CBSA plans. Or, Transport Canada should.

Update (3:00 p.m.): Vic has taken in the blow back and now walks back the eavesdropping plans: "Border agency told to halt eavesdropping on travellers." But stay tuned, it's just on hold until a privacy impact assessment can be made.

Late night

Another attack ad that can't be run now. Such a shame.

Who knows, maybe the Mulcair thing will catch on though...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day of action on refugee health care

There are demonstrations happening across the country today organized by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.
On Monday, June 18th, 2012 in cities across the country physicians and other health care workers opposed to cutting health services for refugees will be participating in a day of action. To find out about a demonstration or event happening near you, please see a list of events below.

Toronto - 1pm - demonstration in front of the Toronto regional office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada at 25 St. Clair Avenue East. For more information please contact Meb Rashid at:
This is one of those decisions that is crystallizing so well exactly what Harper's Canada means. More from the Star with some examples, including this one:
In one case, a family resettled here by the Canadian government from Iran feared the government would remove the wheelchairs currently provided to its three children, all suffering a genetic disease that impairs their movement.
The decision to cut refugee health care is a seriously flawed one that a wealthy nation of immigrants should not be so ungenerous to make.

Fun with headlines, etc.

Updated below.

"Liberal leadership: Justin Trudeau could lead Liberals to first place, new poll shows."

Um, what? I read this report twice. But nowhere do I see in that Star report anything to support the sensational headline. He's first in one online poll on possible Liberal candidate names, yes. Vaunting the party in the polls to first place, however, is not substantiated. Does not compute.

Elsewhere, this seems a little bizarre too.

I find that hard to believe but I assume there is method to the calculation. If it is true, it underscores what a great opportunity there is to really make something of all that media attention, if a well run race takes place that drums up interest in ideas and draws new people into the process.

Update (2:45 p.m.): Here is the excerpt from the Angus Reid poll (h/t) that did not appear in the Star report: "A Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau would become the national frontrunner (40%), with substantial leads over the Conservatives (30%) and the NDP (21%)." There are other results there depending on the leadership name being put to respondents. Such questions remind me of those pre-season sports predictions made before the games are played.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday night

Missed out on posting music on Friday, so this is to make up for that oversight. Plus it was a good day so I just feel like posting some music.

Additionally, I think Big City Lib was dissing electronic music and its resurgence a bit, so this is for him too. :)

Have a great night!

New troubling allegations on Del Mastro 2008 campaign

"Employees linked to cousin's company each gave $1,000 to Dean Del Mastro campaign." Bravo to Postmedia for pursuit of this story.
But three donors to Del Mastro's campaign or riding association, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say they were asked to make $1,000 donations and were reimbursed by Deltro for the full amount plus a $50 bonus. "It was put, 'We need to find some people to make $1,000 donations,'" said one former Deltro employee.
Numerous sections of the Elections Act forbid donors from exceeding the individual limit on donations by concealing their donations and forbid others from helping to conceal the real source of a donation.
In a statutory declaration produced at the request of the Citizen and Postmedia, the former employee said David Del Mastro approached the then-employee and said he wanted him to make a large monetary donation to his cousin's campaign. The former employee signed the declaration before an Ontario Commissioner of Oaths. The former employee was asked to make a donation of $1,000 of personal funds and was assured the company would provide reimbursement for the same amount with a "$50 bonus," the declaration says. The donors could also claim the donation as a deduction on their tax returns. Employees were also asked to enlist friends or family to make similar donations, the former employee said. There is no evidence that Dean Del Mastro had knowledge of any alleged scheme to hide the source of donations to his campaign.
This issue has been in the news lately in connection with Quebec fundraising as well where some of us have raised this very question of whether some donors might be being reimbursed for their contributions. There's a smell test that comes into play when you see multiple donors from the same company giving the maximum to a campaign.

What is new here...sworn statements under oath being brought forth. Not good and I would imagine Elections Canada will be on it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The morning after

Interesting report last night on CBC's The National for those still looking for some more news on the big story of yesterday. Notably, a certain MP who has been keeping a very low profile during all the leadership talk seemed to suddenly emerge as part of the story.

Elsewhere, every columnist in the Canadian political constellation probably has a piece on it, either yesterday or today. Throw a dart and you'll probably hit one. Enjoy perusing! But always with a healthy dose of skepticism of course...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two good steps on income inequality

From Scott Brison, whose motion on the issue passed in the House of Commons today with multi-partisan support:
The motion I introduced simply asks that the house of commons direct the finance committee to study income inequality, an issue considered important by an overwhelming majority of Canadians. Then we can engage the business community, which is dealing with issues such as retirement security. We can engage the NGO community, and everyone from food banks to faith based groups that are helping low income Canadians. We can examine what the provinces are doing. We can look at what some governments in other countries may be doing better. The reality is that we can learn from that kind of observation.

I am not naive enough to believe that a study is going to fix the problem. But as a start we need to understand it and then move toward building public policy that will address income inequality.
From Paul Summerville, a "Canadian citizenship wage":
The idea of a guaranteed annual income has been around since the 1930s. In contemporary times that saw anger against corporate greed crystallized in last year’s Occupy protests, the Conference Board of Canada, through its chief economist, Glen Hodgson, suggested in December 2011 that it may be time to revisit this topic.

Its supporters include Senator Hugh Segal. Speaking before economists at a gathering in Ottawa last year, Segal said that the best and most cost-effective way to deal with poverty and its negative social outcomes is to bring everyone above the poverty line.

Summerville, now an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, is rebranding the concept as a “Canadian citizenship wage”. “You would design the Canadian citizenship wage in such a way that families wouldn’t live below poverty,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is make sure that no Canadian lives below a certain income line.”

Summerville proposes doing this through a negative income tax. Espoused by the late American economist Milton Friedman, this model establishes a minimum annual income of which each citizen is assured, employed or not. For example, if the minimum is set at $15,000 and an individual declares an earned income of $10,000, the government cuts a cheque for $5,000.

“First of all, it’s designed to remove the stigma of welfare,” he said. “The second thing it’s designed to do is create a conversation about the rights and obligations of citizens.”
Good steps that will help get that conversation going at a national level.

Rae not running

Not much time to write anything so just a few quick thoughts...

Rae has said all along that he had not made a decision about running, despite the presumptions being made. He has been saying it in scrums repeatedly. As recently as Monday he said it along with a joke about how he wasn't getting fat, it was that his skin had become about 4 feet thick. And yet no one seemed to believe it. The man deserved more credence on that point, within the party, than he was given.

It makes me very sad and yet thrilled at the same time. There's a sense of loss because Bob could have been a great Prime Minister. He possesses the heart, the smarts, the key political instincts that would have been good for the country. So the missed opportunity is at the forefront for me today.

Yet I am thrilled that he will now continue on as interim leader throughout this leadership period. I sense that he will be freed up and that the dynamic in Ottawa for Liberals will be well served by it. We've got a pro as leader who will keep the party running well until a new leader is chosen.

Onwards! May the race be conducted in a spirit of party first, self-interest second, renewal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A thought on the leadership hullabaloo

Tomorrow the National Board is deciding on a motion or set of procedures pertaining to the Liberal leadership race and the conditions under which candidates, including Bob Rae, would be permitted to run. I don't know what the details will be, despite the leaks, and will await the decision. I am a little concerned, however, by the way it has begun to unfold.

This may or may not be helpful, but I'm going to raise it anyway. I can't help but think, given what has transpired over the last number of days, that the idea that Paul Summerville put forth during the national board election campaign period and which can be found on his blog (here and here) would have been an optimal way to proceed in terms of how to deal with the question of the possibility of an interim leader running given a promise not to that was made. Paul's idea was to have a vote among the members on the question. Organize a tele-townhall or something of that variety that could put the question to members.

The advantages of such a process were many. It would have offered a clean way of addressing the situation. It would have ultimately taken the issue of Bob off the table, one way or another, whether members said yes or they said no. It would have been done with and put to bed. It might have even prevented multi-pronged Bob-should-not-run columns from being launched, from within the party, across the national press.

Most importantly, it would have demonstrated to Canadians a professional means of dealing with this controversy. It would have shown sensitivity to the question. It would have been an act of democratic leadership showing we are getting our act together and know the importance of showing that to the country given our history of fighting during leadership.

The downside would principally have been the focus that would be placed on Rae running, an over-emphasis if you will, by the very fact of having such a vote. If there are other downsides to such a process, they're not obvious to me. Perhaps there is the argument that the National Board is to make such judgments, they were elected to represent us. That is true. Yet look at the hurly burly of the last week.

Weighing all the considerations, the idea just made sense. I have no idea whether it would still be possible to do this or whether the train has left the station. It could be that the National Board does indeed have something in mind that might be comparable and until Wednesday's decision is made and released, there remains that possibility that some process or steps will be put in place to effectively address this controversy. Or, maybe not. We shall see.

I really hope that as this leadership process develops, there is more of an emphasis on how the party interest should be put first. Constructive thinking, of the variety put forward above, is what we could do with a lot more of in order to make that happen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Liberal pollapalooza

Are you enjoying the headlines of the past few days? An Ipsos-Reid online poll of 1,000 respondents taken from June 5-7 seems to be generating a fair bit of content for Postmedia. A casual reader would likely have the impression that multiple polls had been taken given the multiple platforms and varying headlines we're seeing.

Headline example 1: "Liberals a ‘party of the past’: poll." Appears on the Global news site.

Headline example 2: "Most Liberal, NDP supporters back party merger: poll." Appears on a Saskatchewan Postmedia newspaper outlet.

Merger, party of the past, nothing too suggestive about those headlines as the alert Postmedia crew want their news pages to be read as the Liberals gear up for a week in which the executive meets to set ground rules on leadership.

Good too that Ipsos was kind and conscientious enough to poll on the state of the Liberal party right about now. They also seem to have helpfully included such options as "pretty much written off the Liberals" as choices. That sounds eminently fair, don't you think? To their credit, however, they did mention this result, although it is not getting as much play as the ominous takeaways: "The other half believes the party will once again be a force to be reckoned with."

It's not to say that there aren't nuggets of truth in both headlines that people would feel. You could put me down as well as one of the 21% who think the party can be characterized as a party of the past. I don't take that as a death sentence, however, as many Conservative and NDP partisans do as they tout it across Twitter as a proud new headline to disseminate. It's an opportunity to vanquish such considerations.

Take the nuggets but don't be dismayed by the presentation.

Update (7:00 p.m.): Knew I forgot something...there was a third headline generated out of the above-referenced Ipsos poll: "Justin Trudeau more popular choice than Rae for Liberal leadership: Poll." Even more mileage to throw on the barbie with that one.

C-38 Speaker's ruling reaction

Key point on Scheer's ruling and the ongoing discussion over C-38, the government's monstrous omnibus bill that jams unrelated and consequential bills into the budget process: "It's something that clearly means we're going to have to change the way Parliament does business," Rae said. "If we can't succeed in doing that under this government, we'll have to succeed in doing it under a government in the future."

This is not an inside the Queensway argument after all that should be diminished as something people don't care about. Good government is one of our constitutional hallmarks (section 91) that is frustratingly being trampled by Harper et al. Good government is about our values, who we are as a nation from the get-go. Good government leads to good decisions, based on merit, not focus group tested political self-interest.

It is good that it is being highlighted now and will be on an ongoing basis over the next few years. The contempt argument this afternoon builds on the prior contempt argument from spring 2011 as well. Who knows, any one of these days, the pressure raised from contemptuous proceedings could rot some brave Conservative souls to the core and they may decide to do something about it.

Also look forward to hearing a lot more about that from Liberal leadership candidates who care to make the case in the upcoming race.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday night

Have a good night!

Statesman at work

Well this seems to have gone well, what with the takeaway platitudes of agreement between Hollande and Harper about the need for growth and for there to be stability in order to have growth.

But wait! "After Harper meets socialist president, Tories take 'sumptuous' Europe to task." Well, I'm sure the French ambassador to Canada wouldn't have taken offence to the good cop-bad cop two step thing the Conservatives had going on yesterday. Do these ambassador types ever notice such things anyway? Then relay such comments back to the mother ship?

Let's ask the German one. Ouf.

Onwards with Harper-does-Europe-2012! How to win friends and influence people, etc.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Del Mastro under investigation

Terry Milewski has a good overview of the deets on yesterday's big news of allegations of Dean Del Mastro having overspent in the 2008 federal election. The report came from Postmedia who have been all over the robocall scandal like gangbusters and they have now uncovered these Del Mastro allegations as well in the course of their reviews of court documents.

That cheque above, courtesy of the Postmedia report, is payable to Hollinshed Research Group by Del Mastro. Funnily enough, Hollinshed received an Economic Action Plan grant of $125,000 to develop an application: "This project involves the development of the firm's flagship application GeoVote used in support of election campaigns and data management used in preparation for upcoming elections." That latter point, on the federal funding received by Hollinshed, was reported by CBC.

What kind of stimulus was that, by the way? Who granted it? How many people were put to work? Is this Hollinshed a multi-partisan firm or do they just work for Conservatives? Hollinshed received this grant by virtue of 2009 and 2010 budgets which would be post-having worked for Del Mastro in 2008. Del Mastro claims no knowledge: "He said he wasn't aware of the federal money for Holinshed."

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

You're doing it wrong, Larry Miller

"Tory MP wants Baird to consider yanking Canada out of UN." Such a piker. If you really want to get your Tea Party on, you need to go big. You sir, are no John Bolton.
Bolton famously said “there is no such thing as the United Nations” and if the U.N. building in New York “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
Good to know the Reformers, as always, are on top of the American right wing's pet projects and are importing them here.

Oh, and what Dominic LeBlanc said.

The Harper interview

A few thoughts on the big interview last night between Harper and Peter Mansbridge on the National...

This interview seemed to have two parts to it. The primary focus was Europe, as it rightly should be. This took up more than half the interview. The European situation is a reflection of the years we're living in. We're in post-2008/2009 recession times that, as Harper notes, are turning toward recession once more. What happens in Europe in the near future could shock the world economies again. There's a good analysis in the New York Times today on what could happen in Europe and how that could affect the American election. This is how, beyond Harper's vague comments about us being "exposed to others who are exposed to others," we too could feel the heat as a result of trouble in Europe:
With an economy in free fall and 22 percent unemployment, Greece looks very close to dropping the euro and defaulting on its debts. This could potentially lead to the departure of other vulnerable nations, including Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and the dismemberment of the single currency into up to 17 different parts.

While nobody has a clear idea of how a breakup of the euro would affect the American economy, it would hurt. Citizens of vulnerable European countries would rush to withdraw their euro deposits ahead of the breakup, to avoid having their savings converted into pesetas or drachmas. Banks would fail, and financial markets would plummet as investors took their money out of risky assets and put them into the comparative safety of German bunds and American Treasury bonds.

This would very likely cripple some big American banks. And a stock market crash would wipe out the savings of many ordinary citizens. Exports to Europe would slow sharply as European economies contracted — depriving the United States of one of its few engines of growth.

Look at it this way: When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, sending the global financial system into a tailspin, its debts amounted to about $600 billion. Government debt alone in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland — the most vulnerable European countries — adds up to about $1.9 trillion. And the economies and government finances of most developed countries are in worse shape than they were four years ago.
There you go, pretty much a worst case scenario, so factor that in.

So what has Harper's contribution been to solving the European problems? Well, Flaherty quite bluntly told them where to go about a month back in terms of any financial help to the IMF for Europe. And Harper, as noted in this Globe report today, was preaching austerity and the need to get debt under control while he hosted the G20. That has largely been his message.

In last night's interview, he gave his more up to date present day position and said the Eurozone has to be more integrated. Yes, now that Merkel is moving that way on integration just in the last few days, Harper seems to be saying the same thing too (see above New York Times link, for example, re Merkel).

The European preoccupation serves as a reminder of the realities for politics in Canada and what a big part of the agenda that the economy occupies now and likely for the next few years. That's not just Harper's preferred focus, it's a reality beyond his control. He may make toooo much of it at times, sure, but there's no getting around its importance. It affects the ability to make headway on legitimate critiques of this government that need to be made, on democratic issues in particular.

The importance of the economy is why there is tremendous opportunity for the Liberal leadership race in particular to speak to the issue. Again - not to the exclusion of other issues, there is much more to leading a nation than being a CEO type. But it's still ground that needs to be plowed by people who want to replace Harper. He spoke in the interview in a very simple way on what his approach is:
But at the same time you do need, as we are doing in Canada, you need to undertake a range of measures, not just fiscal discipline, to ensure growth. We have an ambitious trade agenda, we are revamping our science and technology policies to get better results, as you know we're doing labor market reforms, were doing regulatory reforms. These are all things that need to be done to increase the growth capacity of our economy.
Disagree with the Conservative policies, sure. But what is the alternative vision for growth? There are a number of big planks that could be articulated.

The other part of the interview involved the questions on the monarchy and the Canadian media. Both of which seemed to show a bit of a disconnect between Harper and the reality as some of us see it.

He was glowing in describing the monarchy and what the celebrations meant, for e.g.: "sixty years of really incredible, selfless, dedicated service," and "respect, dedication, affection." In hearing him speak of the monarchy in that way, you have to wonder, is there no self-awareness in Harper that such qualities are things that he too should aspire to evoke in others? Is it just for others who have some kind of public role to achieve such standards? It is puzzling. How can a leader proceed in such divisive and secretive ways and yet speak so glowingly of these qualities in others?

The responses he gave on media seemed similarly disconnected. Where he spoke of the media needing to do its independent reporting, of there being a healthy distance between politicians and media in Canada. There was this laugher: "the media is tremendously important, and it's important for our government and all governments that we are able to communicate our story through the media." As if he is blissfully unaware of the clamping down his government has done on allowing reporters to interactively engage with he and others. Email responses have become the norm to reporters. He answers few questions. Even appearances like the Mansbridge interview are rare. But Harper speaks as if all is normal. No sense of the concerted, massive public relations effort that he has engineered in order to go around and neuter the media, not recognize its importance.

Until the next one, maybe a few months from now...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Mansbridge and Harper tonight

Why is Harper smiling so much during discussion of a topic that is dead serious? Is Peter Mansbridge getting under his skin? Nice preview of a rare Harper interview on The National tonight.

Given that Canadians don't get many opportunities to hear the Prime Minister in such candid venues where he actually has to answer pointed questions, such interviews are always a must see.