Sunday, August 31, 2008

The brink of recession

Well, this little report in the Financial Times, "Canada on brink of recession," has been perched on my Google News page all weekend. It's like it's begging to be blogged or something. So in the interests of sharing the bleak news, here's a taste of Canada's economic state of affairs as we enter election season, from a few articles that set it out pretty clearly and concisely and below, what the Conservatives are up to in the coming week against this background:
Canada's economy barely grew in the second quarter, new figures revealed yesterday, lending further evidence that growth has stalled amid falling US demand for Canadian exports.

Gross domestic product expanded by just 0.1 per cent over the quarter - just 0.3 per cent on an annualised basis - much less than the Bank of Canada and most private forecasters were expecting. This follows a slip in GDP in the first quarter, and suggests that Canada is skirting the brink of a technical recession.
...
Second quarter growth in Canada was well below forecasts by private sector economists, many of whom had anticipated 0.7 per cent growth in GDP (not annualised) over the quarter.

Exports, long the country's economic engine, fell for the fourth consecutive quarter, down nearly 5 per cent from last year due mainly to falling US demand for cars and lumber.

"The story that Canada's resource riches could help it sustain the US difficulties has gone right out the window in the first half of this year," said Derek Holt, senior vice-president at Scotia Capital Markets.

Several indicators suggest the economy is fraying. Job losses are mounting, housing starts and resale values are slipping, business spending is declining and the Canadian dollar has fallen after strong gains last year.

Canada has so far avoided a full-blown domestic credit squeeze of the kind at work in the US. Consumer spending and corporate profits remain strong, with profits in the second quarter at their highest since the first quarter of 2004.

Canada also benefits from high commodity prices. But global weakness has put a damper on the gains Canada makes from commodities, even though these remain at elevated levels even after recent drops in value.

The sources of strength in Canada in the second quarter are "clearly unsustainable", said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
More bad news:

What's more, the first quarter was revised down to a 0.8% contraction from an initial 0.3% retreat.

The second-quarter bounce allows the economy to avoid the recession label, which is conventionally defined as two consecutive quarters of declining output.

But there is no doubt: This economy has ground to a halt. On a two-quarter basis, growth is at its weakest since the last recession in 1991.

"This is confirmation the Canadian economy is in a significant economic slowdown," said Craig Alexander, deputy chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank.

"We can debate about whether a recession is present," Mr. Alexander said. (emphasis added)

So what can we do at this point?

While the U. S. government handed out stimulus cheques in the second quarter, much of the pump-priming has already been done in Canada. The federal government has cut taxes significantly and spent like there is no tomorrow.

"The government is so disorganized it's bound to be too little too late," Mr. Orr said.

Prudent fiscal managers that they are, the Harper gang failed to prepare in this economic backdrop.

Our friend Jim Flaherty had this to say about the gloomy financial indicators:
"I think what we are seeing is a shared concern in the province of Ontario and federally ... a shared concern with respect to the need for care and encouragement with respect to the Ontario economy," Flaherty told a Toronto news conference after Statistics Canada reported the national economy had barely avoided slipping into recession.
He suddenly feels Ontario's pain! Sharing concern, care, encouragement...it's just so genuine. Whatever has come over him!

But rest assured, despite all of the above, the prudent Conservative fiscal management types who receive so much credit for economic stewardship will be on the job this week, spending like there's no tomorrow as an election is imminent:
Before they're ready to hit the hustings, the Conservatives want to make several major announcements over the coming week, Canwest News Service has learned.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice is in Cambridge, Ont., Tuesday for an announcement about the future of the Canadian Space Agency. Infrastructure Minister Lawrence Cannon is expected to announce the completion of deals with Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec that will free up billions of federal infrastructure spending in those provinces.

And Harper himself will make a key announcement somewhere in southwestern Ontario about help for the auto industry, sources say.
Of course they will...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Leadership strategery coming our way


Noticed in media reports today, the he's-scary-and-everyone-knows-it strategy being cited once again by unknown Conservatives:
"'Love him or hate him, our Prime Minister knows where he stands on the issues and will offer Canadians certainty,' a senior Tory official said."
Hmmm...there's a very prominent world leader who has been gracing our lives for the past eight years who has been described in exactly the same manner. I think Stephen Colbert lampooned this ridiculous rationale for supporting such a leader quite appropriately at his White House Correspondent's dinner appearance :
"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady," Colbert continued, in a nod to George W. Bush. "You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday."
The fallacy of equating certainty of position with strong leadership has been proven to be demonstrably false by the Bush administration. But if the Harper team wants to have that debate in that construct, running the Bush 2004 campaign, more power to them.

The style of leadership of Stephen Harper is a debate that opposing parties should welcome. Every facet of that leadership style should get a good and proper vetting from media and opponents alike. Does he set the right tone at the top? Does he trust and use his Ministers well? Is he honest, trustworthy and accountable? Does he have a vision? Is there an open climate of healthy political debate fostered by the leader? These are some of the aspects of leadership that should be discussed in this debate on leadership. Knowing one's positions is one thing. It's how you go about inspiring others to follow and subsequently executing those policies that also make up leadership.

Let that debate begin...

Goons in Guelph


Graffiti sprayed on to the garage of a person who had a Liberal sign on their lawn in Guelph...

You can see more pictures of the damage at CDLU and Scott's site...

It appears that the individuals who did this were devious enough to cut brake lines of cars which could cause serious injury or deaths and, among other things, to deface homes with graffiti expressing anti-C-68 slogans. C-68 was the gun registry bill.

A very ugly turn in a by-election that now appears to be all for nought. This is an absolute outrage to say the very least.

Yes, please

"Will Hargrove run against Flaherty?" That would be a good one. A blogger can hope:
"Big news is very serious discussion about Buzz Hargrove, a Martin Liberal, running against [Finance Minister] Jim Flaherty on income trusts, jobs and especially Flaherty's demonizing of [Premier] Dalton McGuinty and Ontario," said one party-goer.

Taking on Mr. Flaherty would be ideal for Mr. Hargrove, as the minister's Oshawa, Ont., riding is full of auto workers. Remember in the last election, Mr. Hargrove, the Canadian Auto Workers president and an NDPer, famously supported Paul Martin and controversially encouraged his members to vote strategically to elect Liberals.
To knock off Flaherty would be huge...just huge. And drawing such an opponent? Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy...

Friday, August 29, 2008

It keeps growing

As the PM is floating an election date of October 14th now and is engaged in self-centred political survival, the national public health matter of the meat recall takes new turns.

Today, there was a significant expansion to B.C.:
Health officials say a death in British Columbia is being blamed on the ongoing listeriosis outbreak, bringing to nine the number of deaths linked to tainted meat produced by Maple Leaf Foods.

It's the first death outside Ontario, where eight other people have died, since word of the outbreak first emerged nearly two weeks ago.
The Mayor of Walkerton, with all the evocative power of the name of that town, has called for a public inquiry (see FarNWide).

There is evidence the Canadian government wanted lower standards than the U.S. and pressed the U.S. accordingly (see ABCer). Gerry Ritz is inexplicably responding to the charge in bafflegab:
"The systems are different but comparable," Ritz told a news conference.
No...one is lower, and one is higher. That is not comparable.

Meanwhile, for the everyday citizen, the recall seems to expand daily, with more announcements today:
Meanwhile, almost 50 additional products have been added to an expanding list of items being recalled because they may contain some contaminated meat products from a Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MSI) plant in Toronto.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency added a variety of ready-to-eat products early Friday that are sold in Sobeys and Foodland stores throughout Atlantic Canada.
And the Consumers Council of Canada is speaking out:
Eleanor Friedland, vice-president of the Consumers Council of Canada, said she doesn't believe the federal government when it says consumer safety is a top priority.

"If that's the case, how come (so many) people have died and we don't know how many more will be showing symptoms?" Ms. Friedland said.

"The ball fell through and consumer confidence is right down the tubes, with respect to government and companies like Maple Leaf. It's absolutely outrageous."
...
Ms. Friedland called on the federal government to ramp up inspections and for municipal and provincial governments to bully Ottawa into paying attention to the matter, which she suspects will be a major election issue should Canada be headed for a fall election.

"It's affecting more and more people than you can possibly imagine," Ms. Friedland said, adding she has heard from many concerned citizens in the wake of the outbreak and recalls of Maple Leaf products.

"School lunches are going to have to be re-thought, hospitals, cafeteria — this is a major, major consumer issue."

Ms. Friedland said she also wants to know how the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto came to be contaminated with the Listeria bacterium in the first place, calling president and chief executive Michael McCain's claim that the source may never be determined "nonsense."

"They have to find out what caused this so that it can never happen again," Ms. Friedland said. "If they don't find out, how do I know that next month it's not going to happen again? Or with some other products? More care has to be put into how our food is prepared."
Still feeling that an election does not sit right while this issue ongoing...but hey, I'm not a Conservative brainiac.

You'd think that with a national health crisis they'd have some real work to do...

But you would be wrong! The Privy Council Office, dedicated public servants that they are, have their eyes trained on Errol Mendes today. No doubt due to his op-ed in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen tearing Harpie a new one for his imminent law breaking election call. Looks like they're gearing up to diminish Professor Mendes' views by linking him to the Liberal party. Because critical thinkers opposed to Harpie must be Liberal partisans, right? Wrong.



Now that we're on the topic...Mendes planted an interesting suggestion in that piece yesterday:
Even if the fixed elections law does not constrain the governor general's discretion to grant dissolution of Parliament, one could argue that the law constrains the prime minister's power to ask for one until October 2009. Hiding under the political constraints of the governor general's residual power is nevertheless a violation of a statute. Some aggrieved citizen may even consider seeking court action to stop this legally dubious move.
There must be some enterprising citizen that aspires to give Harpie fits and draw further attention to the move...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We get all kinds...



Yeah...so how's that St. Lambert thing going anyway, Privy Council Office brainiacs?

Can't think that it helps when your candidate, running for the third time, who apparently works in the film and television industry has to justify massive Conservative cuts to the arts. Especially when he's let himself be described in this manner:
Due to his experience as an artist and a businessman, he is convinced that culture is one of our nation’s strengths and that Canada could improve its performance in terms of cultural exports.
Gee, that might be tough given the antics of the Conservative government of late.

Very strange position to put your candidate in:
While the decision has sparked controversy across the country, it is in Quebec that it risks having the most impact - both on arts groups and on Conservative political fortunes. Observers have even suggested it could cost the Tories their chance of winning the by-election in the riding of Saint- Lambert. (emphasis added)
That would be a shame...

Nanos weighs in on the meat recall's impact

Wild card:
Regardless of who's to blame for the tainted meat tragedy, the prospect of a mounting death toll in the midst of an election campaign is bound to hurt Stephen Harper's Conservatives, a pollster predicts.

Indeed, Nik Nanos said the prime minister might want to reconsider his apparent plan to pull the plug on his government next week.

"I think the Conservatives are facing enough risks in this campaign because basically (Harper's) putting his government on the line with no guarantee of success," Nanos said in an interview.

With the death toll from Listeria linked to contaminated meat products likely to continue mounting, Nanos said the public health crisis has injected into the campaign "a wild card that's not likely to play in his favour."
...
Just as the income trust investigation reinforced a pre-existing perception in 2006 that the Liberals were corrupt, Nanos said the listeriosis tragedy could reinforce a perception that the Tories' belief in a more hands-off government is putting the lives of Canadians at risk.

"What's occurred could lead to a broader discussion on government's role in these kind of things and it's pretty clear that the Harper government has more of a laissez-faire, self-regulatory view on a lot of these issues," he said.

"So it could leave the Conservatives vulnerable if a narrative emerges that this is an example (of what happens) when you don't have actual government inspectors and you can't rely on an industry to police itself."

Nanos said the listeriosis outbreak could be particularly damaging for the Tories in Ontario, where voters still remember the tainted water tragedy in Walkerton eight years ago.

A judicial inquiry concluded that provincial government cutbacks and a policy of privatizing water testing contributed to the Walkerton debacle, in which seven people died and more than 2,300 fell ill.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Full speed ahead

Harper signals his government will stick with its position of farming out greater responsibility to industry for meat inspection:
Speaking in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested Wednesday that his government plans to eventually hand more responsibility for food inspections to the industry.

"Ultimately, any effective regulation is in a sense a joint responsibility. We've increased the number of regulators, but we also do rely obviously on the work done within the companies themselves," he said

"We have increased the number of inspectors, we've increased the amount we spend on protection, but we do also plan as we move forward to change the system to make sure that we have greater responsibility on those who ultimately market the product."
Watch an interview with Bob Kingston, a critic cited frequently today, speaking about the new rules brought in as of March 31 here. Kingston speaks of inspectors not having the time to do what they need to with respect to inspection activities. He seems to be speaking for "inspectors."

Sucking sound reported in vicinity of Conservative war room in St. Lambert

In case the news today that the Harper government has actually put in place changes to meat inspection procedures that have decreased the federal meat inspectors' role isn't enough for you, well, there's this. In case you missed it, a column from L. Ian MacDonald, former Mulroney speechwriter, in the Gazette Monday suggests there could be problems brewing for Conservatives in Quebec. First, with respect to those pesky Quebec by-elections:
There are two other by-elections that day, in the Montreal- area ridings of St. Lambert, held by the Bloc Québécois, and Westmount-Ville-Marie, a Liberal redoubt since 1962. The Liberals should retain Westmount without breaking a sweat, but in South Shore St. Lambert, the Conservatives are seen as the competitive federalist party, and their candidate, Patrick Clune, is himself the son of a cultural icon, Senator Andrée Champagne, famously Donalda on Radio-Canada many years ago.

The dustup over cultural funding, particularly in the French-language media, has cast a negative light on Clune's campaign in the last 10 days. It isn't helping him, either, that the Conservatives are calling most of the shots from headquarters in Ottawa. As a result, the Conservatives are slipping in the riding at a time when they should be growing. Unless they turn it around this week, a riding that could be winnable will probably be lost. (emphasis added)
Why ever would such negativity be expressed by MacDonald, a Conservative supporter, about Conservative missteps of late? Seems MacDonald, with his close ties to Brian Mulroney, may be manifesting the problems predicted in a Lawrence Martin column on August 18th to the effect that a "steamed" Brian Mulroney may have his supporters stand down in a coming federal election. If Macdonald keeps writing columns like this, it may be fair indication that the Mulroneyites are not going to be any friend of Harper going forward.

More importantly, MacDonald's expressing gloom about the state of Conservative chances in the St. Lambert by-election . He writes that the Conservatives are said to be slipping in the riding in the wake of bad publicity in Quebec over Harper's cuts to the arts. If true, this might prove to be a bad omen for Harper's fortunes in Quebec, one of the few provinces where he hopes to grow his seats. Which would in turn provide an explanation for the sudden rush to pre-empt the by-elections in order to preserve Conservative fortunes in Quebec. It's a reboot before there can be any showing of weakness.

Despite what one poll might say, Conservative actions are being noted in Quebec and at least in St. Lambert, they're not playing well.

It's looking like that $1 billion bridge isn't buying friends and influencing people in St. Lambert after all...

P.S. Note that there is no "s" in vicinity...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A forceful call for the PM to respect our traditions

The implications of Harper's gaming an election spelled out quite eloquently in a Globe editorial today:
Stephen Harper and his government should return to face the House of Commons before an election is called. Mr. Harper must show some serious regard for the fixed-election-date reform he himself introduced only two years ago.
...
A federal election has become desirable, but there is no urgency or necessity. Mr. Harper should respect, and work within, customary parliamentary procedures.
...
Mr. Harper would do a real injustice to his own long-term reputation if, without acting through parliamentary procedures, he were to give the appearance of disingenuously setting aside a previously held principle, for the sake of short-term political convenience and electoral tactics. Nor should he forgo the openness and formality of parliamentary procedure, with the requirements and rituals of debate and explanation, in order to seek a putative agreement to disagree, among party leaders in a back room.
...
While this Parliament seems adrift and our politics could benefit from going to the country, there is no pressing need to rush into an election, on the strength of back-room machinations.
Now that is some mighty fine writing. Hopefully there will be many more influential editorial pages joining in this coming week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More strategery

In case you haven't had enough of it the past few days, there's more speculation about the political gamesmanship to come over the next few weeks from Lawrence Martin today.

I kind of like his scenario number two... don't give Harper an opening. Put the onus entirely on him to attempt to manufacture a crisis in the face of expressions of intent to make the minority parliament work. He may have to back down. And if he doesn't, he'll pay whatever price the voters are willing to mete out.

Martin also tells us we should be very afraid of the massive, excellent, well-planned, uber awesome Conservative negative campaign coming our way. Can it really live up to the hype? Nothing these guys have done to date has lived up to their billing. It will truly be an exception if it does.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stephen Harper on negative advertising



Listen to him answer the question and then ask yourself, what world is this guy living in? Completely detached from any sense of responsibility for what his party has done with its attack ads of the past two years.

Just passing it on for the record...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Signs of tough times in the federal budget

Friday evening at 8:30 with no government officials available to respond, another late announcement was dropped into the weekend wilderness by timid Conservatives. This one was a big cancellation of two major ship contracts. Given that the cancellation of one of these contracts is being viewed as devastating to the navy, federal budgetary times must be tough indeed. Military spending has been near and dear to Harper's heart. From David Pugliese's report:
Two major programs to rebuild Canada's maritime capabilities were thrown into limbo Friday night after the Conservative government scuttled its multibillion-dollar plans to purchase a resupply ship for the navy and new patrol vessels for the coast guard.

In a news release, the government announced it had rejected the bids it had received for the navy's $2.9-billion Joint Support Ship project. Both bids were significantly over the established budget for the shipbuilding program, the release stated.

Canwest News Service reported in May that the government had rejected the bids but federal officials claimed the procurement process was continuing.

The late Friday news release also noted that a $750-million project to purchase 12 mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard has been cancelled. Bids had been received for that program but they exceeded the anticipated costs, according to Public Works.
The cancellation of the Joint Support Ship project is already causing some to analogize what will have to be done to keep the existing ships in working order to what the air force does with the Sea Kings. Not good:
Defence officials said privately the problems with the Joint Support Ship program could jeopardize Canada's ability to keep warships at sea.

The navy currently uses two 40-year-old ships to refuel and resupply its frigates and destroyers. The Joint Support Ships were to replace those vessels by 2012.

Navy officers said last night they were going to approach the problem in a similar fashion to how the air force has continued to operate its aging Sea King helicopters.

"If the Protecteur and Preserver are going to be needed longer than expected, we will also determine what needs to be done to keep our supply ships safe, operational and available until they can be replaced," one officer noted.

"We would deal with that issue in the same way we are managing comparable risks today - just as the air force has done with the Sea King helicopter - and with equal confidence in the skills and dedication of our people."
Can't help but be reminded of how the Liberals have been pilloried by Conservatives for years for cancelling a contract to replace the Sea Kings in 1993, irrespective of any facts surrounding the cancellation such as fiscal capacity. I assume Conservatives will offer the same criticism of Harper for his Sea Kinging of the Joint Support Ships, right? Well, let's not hold our breath on that...

This is the latest backtrack from Harper on naval purchases. During the 2006 campaign, he promised to buy three armed icebreakers for the north. That's been reduced to one.

As FarNWide theorized Friday, the new budget surplus numbers for this month seemed highly suspect in the wake of a few months of deficit. This late night cancellation suggests there may be some truth to that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bock bock bock bock bock bock

Oh my, Harpie's running around like a chicken with his head cut off...dear me, he doesn't know what to do. That darn Dion is touring around southern Ontario in campaign mode and it's upsetting dear Harpie. Blasted, Dion, come meet with me and assure me of your cooperative tone for the fall session! I cannot have you gaining any kind of strength with those large town halls!

Poor Harpie. This here democracy is not his own personal play thing. We've got parliamentary procedure and his law that governs election calls. That's it. And he doesn't know what to do. For a super duper extra strong leader, he's certainly doing a lot of gum flapping through unnamed sources now to the media (what, has Teneycke been yanked?) floating trial balloons of all kinds. They're changing day by day.

Too bad early reviews of Harpie's imminent fixed election date breach are not lookin' too good.

I've changed my view of the Governor General's likely role in all this. She's likely to accede to an election request. That's her function. It's not to go about seeking coalitions. And there's likely not a coalition to be had in any event.

Looks like Harpie's making it happen now, one way or the other.

Prediction: Liberal minority. Dion is ready and Harpie knows it.

Of course they did

Garth Turner tells quite the tale on his blog tonight as to why "ten percenters" his office sought to send out to citizens to invite them to the event in his riding never arrived. Seems they were printed and ready to be sent on August 6th and went to Canada Post the next day for delivery. But they were not delivered in time for an August 20th event.

Two out of town Conservative ten percenter fliers did arrive in Garth's riding, however, in the interim.

And there's this bit of news:
Obviously, we called the postal service to get an explanation. Human error, said Gilles Campeau, our Canada Post liason. Sorry.

But M. Campeau also made it known that because of the barrage of mailings by out-of-town MPs, the agency’s workload has increased, “by 500%.” He also let it slip he’d been pressured by CRG (the Conservative Research Group – the marketing arm of the Harper caucus) to give it preferential treatment. Finally he told us that, “trucks are pulling up non-stop from printers all over the city (Ottawa)” full of MP literature, and they can’t keep up. (emphasis added)
So was it error or has Canada Post been succumbing to Conservative pressure to advantage Conservative ten percenters? That would certainly explain the carpet bombing of the nation with Conservative propaganda. What business does Canada Post have advantaging Conservatives? And more importantly, what business do Conservative hacks have manipulating mail service? If pressuring Canada Post to prefer Conservative mail causes delays to other mail, it makes me wonder about little provisions like this in the Canada Post Corporation Act:

49. Every person commits an offence who unlawfully and knowingly abandons, misdirects, obstructs, delays or detains the progress of any mail or mail conveyance.

1980-81-82-83, c. 54, s. 43.

The offences under the Act seem to be quite narrow and this section appears to be the most applicable. The inclusion of "unlawfullly" though seems to set the bar high. Interfering with mail, as is alleged here and if it is achieving its desired end, should rightly be prohibited.

One more instance of the Harper Conservatives advantaging themselves at all costs. Do we need a full time investigatory committee to police these individuals or what? And how much more evidence do we need of how far they're prepared to go?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If you're scary and you know it, clap your hands, clap clap...

I'm not sure there's much more to add to the noise about election timing that's sucking up all available oxygen...but there's something in this bit of Conservative strategery that's worth pointing out:
"Mr. Harper said polls show the most likely outcome of an election now would be another minority government, “one way or the other.” His comments are in line with earlier Conservative strategy aimed at blocking concerns about a Harper majority and portraying Mr. Dion as indecisive."
A few things...can you imagine running for Prime Minister and having to reassure the country, oh, don't worry, I'll be restrained by a minority government situation anyway. As in, I know you all are afraid of giving me a majority out of fear of what I might do to the country, so I'll just play down expectations in order to make you feel OK about voting for me. Man! Have we ever seen such a thing? Oh wait...we heard that last time. In over two years, he still hasn't alleviated such concerns and must again revert to such embarrassing strategy. What is that saying that W flubbed so badly? Fool me once...

Leading to this...we know that even a Harper minority is unrestrained. What assurance would the voters have that he wouldn't be treating every vote as a confidence measure next go round, that he wouldn't act as he has to date, in a bullying posture toward the other parties and institutions of our democratic government? He is who he is, he's shown himself for better and for, mostly, worse. While the Conservatives can afford to have election upon election, the other parties cannot. Therefore, if a Harper minority were re-elected, the same dynamic in Parliament would likely recur. Would Harper be chastened after a second minority, as he rightly should be if he respected the voters' choice? Well, based on his record, do we have any indication that a new Harper would work with the other parties? No. A Harper minority is not a minority at all.

The logical and better outcome would be to put the government in the hands of someone else. Someone we're not afraid of. What a concept.

And one more thing. If Harper doesn't like the law that he passed, constraining his ability to call an election, then he should repeal his law, first order of business when the fall session returns. Put his money where his mouth is, so to speak.

Late night housekeeping and awards

OK...humour, Kick Ass awards and blog roll updates...

1. The humour. Holy typo there...that is hilarious. Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. Thanks for that hearty laugh, LeDaro and VP.

2. I see that I've been tagged in this wondrous Kick Ass Blogger meme making the rounds. I am truly humbled to be tapped by the most kick ass blog in the country, CC HQ, with its vigilant and talented team. Rock the house, Cynics. And apologies to Lulu...you go and tap me as kick ass and then I undermine it all by not posting since mid-day...heh...:) Oh well. Life happens and interferes with this here blog thingy.

So whom to choose? How to choose? So many questions and choices that Lulu has thrust upon me...new bloggers, bloggers who've been chosen by others yet whom I would pick in a heartbeat again...bloggers who won't be ticked off when I pick them...tough calls all. So here we go...all have that edge I like. Smart, tough, witty:

The Wingnuterer. Makes me laugh, kicks visual ass. But fire up the photo shop for the election, guy. We will need you.
Creekside. Insightful kick ass BCer, part of the kick ass GB team.
JAWL. Kick ass "old salesman," new on the blogging scene...dispensing pearls.
Mentarch. But he spends too much time kicking ass with his real job...heh...:)
Runesmith. Kick ass thinking from the GTA hinterland...:)

Feel free to play or not, but here are the rules:

* Choose 5 bloggers that you feel are "Kick Ass Bloggers"
* Let 'em know in your post or via email, twitter or blog comments that they've received an award
* Share the love and link back to both the person who awarded you and back to www.mammadawg.com
* Hop on back to the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky then pass it on!

3. Blogroll update: new additions Dr. Dawg, Disgruntled Liberal Female, Blues Clair (see sidebar for links). Blogroll policy? Democratic. I reciprocate links. With certain rights reserved. And if you're on my blogroll and you don't link to me, then I like you, unreservedly. Although you really should reciprocate, you wankers...:)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to rattle Harper

Take him on, confidently and clearly, as Mr. Chretien did yesterday. Then watch him unpleasantly bristle at the audacity of any criticism:
It's "a bit hypocritical" of Jean Chretien, who attended only one Olympics during his tenure at Canada's helm, to attack Stephen Harper's decision to skip the Summer Games in Beijing, the Conservative prime minister said Tuesday.

Harper briskly fired back at the former Liberal prime minister, who on Monday warned Canada could end up paying a hefty toll for Harper's decision not to go to China, the world's second-largest and fastest-growing economy.

"I haven't attended Olympics in the past, (and) I indicated a long time ago I had no intention of attending this one; I have work to do in the country," Harper said during a news conference in Hamilton.
Defensive much? The primo quote today is here, however:
"Harper earned a small smattering of applause from the crowd for his response to a reporter who noted U.S. President George W. Bush was among the leaders who attended the Games.

'I don't always do what Mr. Bush does,' he said."
No, not always. But that's the working presumption. Thanks for confirming.

Somebody's channelling Karl Rove

Picking up on the post by the What do I know Grit, Harper's comments last night are either red meat to the base or they're meant for wider circulation as a test run of his election gambit, targeting traditional Liberal strengths: "Harper casts Tories as force for unity, multiculturalism." Harper is aiming straight at those strengths that have historically meant a winning electoral record in Canada. And he has the chutzpah to say things like this:
"As a government, we inherited a country divided - east versus west, French versus English, aboriginal versus non-aboriginal . . . newcomers versus native born," he said. "That's what you get from decades of divide-and-conquer politics."
This is just so irritating...but I'm not taking the bait today. If he keeps it up, he'll get his debunking, item by item. But allow me just one...that east versus west thing...see Harper inciting the west via his whipping out of the National Energy Program to characterize the Green Shift. Talk about sowing division in the country. And it didn't even take him "decades."

Looks like the Karl Rove strategy. Go directly at your opponent's strengths and claim them for yourself. That's why John Kerry the decorated Vietnam war veteran ended up as a caricature of an unpatriotic vacillating peacenik by the time Rove and his Swift Boat friends were finished with him in 2004. Meanwhile, W, the AWOL partying National Guardsman who avoided Vietnam was viewed as a conquering military hero.

It's what the McCain people are doing to Obama. And it looks like Harper will be following the playbook too.

It would seem that a little reverse jujitsu, or whatever the kids like to call it these days, might be in order if Harper is indeed telegraphing his strategy so transparently. Attack the perceived Conservative strengths: economic stewardship and Harper's leadership (frightful as they may be). There's lots of material to work with on both fronts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let's play word association...

Things Stephen Harper should not be saying:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper test-drove a campaign-style message tonight at a Mississauga rally, telling supporters the Liberals have a "hidden agenda" to raise taxes.
When Canadians hear "hidden agenda," in the context of political leaders...who do you think comes to mind? It's not the Liberals and taxes despite the best efforts of the great obfuscator. But by all means, keep repeating "hidden agenda," Steve. In fact, I would encourage it.

Steve and his Americanized view of Canada...running a carbon copy Republican campaign. Check out this latest McCain ad for a good bet on what we will see from Harper and his Conservative/Republican gang, based on Harper's recent tax rhetoric. McCain attacking Obama on not being a leader, taxes and gas prices. Get ready, Canada, here's what's coming:



Yep, that's the Harper stuff.

And here's an old Bush effort on taxes that seems trifling in comparison to where the Republicans are now:



I think some "hidden agenda" ads would be a capital idea, now that you've put it in play, Harpie...:)

Got to love those letters to the editor

Today's edition of that wonderful democratic tradition:
August 18, 2008

The PM threatens to call an election, whining, "I don't want to govern over a dysfunctional government." Yet he produced a 200-page handbook telling his MPs how to obstruct, bully and otherwise make parliamentary committees dysfunctional. They did exactly what he asked them to.

Why give the Conservatives a majority government when they have utterly failed to run a respectable minority government?

Eugene Parks, Victoria, B.C.
Mr. Parks' prolific writings continue to pervade the Canadian newspaper landscape...:)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Where's the beef?"

A reader cites the following opinion item from the Star yesterday:
This is the appropriate time for one of my favorite anecdotes. In April 1945, after president Franklin Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Ga., a train made the 700-mile journey carrying the remains back to Washington, where six white horses drew his funeral caisson through the thronged streets of the nation's capital to the White House.

Along the route, the crowds were more than 20 deep and grieving. One well-dressed man who was almost inconsolable, with tears streaming down his cheeks, was noticed by a reporter. The reporter approached the man, remarked upon how grief-stricken he was, and asked, "Excuse me, sir, but did you know president Roosevelt personally?" "No," answered the man, "I did not know president Roosevelt. But he knew me."
And asks some questions:
That's the kind of political leadership lacking today. No honest debate with respect for your opponent. No discussion of issues to reach any compromise. Just "mud wrestling." There may be holes in the Green Shift policy. But -- it is a policy. What is the Conservative plan? Do they have one?

The CMA (Canadian Medical Association) estimates that by the year 2031, some 800,000 Canadians will die from the effects of pollution and smog, Yet, the Conservatives want to reduce greenhouse gases by a small percentage by 2050."Where's the beef?" Dion has given Canadians an idea. The best the Conservatives can do is to mud wrestle. They "do not know us." So where's Harper's "leadership"?
(Link and CMA definition added) Those are some darn good questions...:)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Ethics Committee Obstruction Week commemorative poster

The Wingnuterer captures the essence of the week with much hilarity...heh...:) The expert on obstruction educates the Canadian public:



More Wingnuterer, less obstruction please...:)

McLachlin brushes back the conservative ideologues with some facts

Chief Justice McLachlin has spoken out today, during an annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association at which she regularly speaks, taking the opportunity to make clear to all those frivolous complainers out there that she had no substantive role in the decision to grant an Order of Canada designation to Henry Morgentaler.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin distanced herself Saturday from the controversial decision to name Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, saying she was not the driving force behind the move and intentionally abstained from voting on whether to honour the abortion doctor.

McLachlin, as head of an advisory council that selects Order of Council recipients, shed light on the secretive process as she spoke for the first time about a debate that has persisted since Morgentaler's July nomination.

Canada's chief justice told a news conference she "made a personal policy decision" almost a decade ago to avoid getting involved in appointments by promoting any candidate or voting for their investiture.

"My view is that I'm there to make sure that the meeting runs well and fairly and that the vote is taken fairly and not to weigh in for or against a particular candidate."
And here's the part that tells you the toll that conservative muckraking takes on the finer individuals involved in our system of government, be it as a civil servant, committee chair or Chief Justice:
McLachlin, who as a judge must be viewed as impartial, spoke of her struggle to reach "an adequate comfort level" in her role as chairwoman of the advisory body, which makes recommendations to the Governor General.

"I do it because by law I'm required to do it. It's not something I chose to do," she said at an annual gathering of the Canadian Bar Association. "I feel reasonably comfortable in the process doing it the way I have outlined that I do it, not getting involved in promoting a particular candidate, or advocating for a particular candidate or voting for a particular candidate or against."

McLachlin decried the "misinformation" that has been publicly circulated about her personally promoting Morgentaler. She also disputed news reports that it was unusual for the advisory council to vote on a candidate and that the group usually reaches a decision unanimously.

"There has been no practice of consensus," said McLachlin. Rather, the group routinely votes on a nomination and she said she has only voted once to break a tie.
The chance of any success to the complaint that has been launched by the "religious and family values" groups...diminishing by the moment.

Now can we leave the good and admirable Justice alone to do her job in the esteemed manner she comports herself with? And leave the petty, vengeful and unwarranted sideshows aside? Please?

Update: JJ lays the smack down .

Not. Majority. Worthy.

Part of a blogging theme today...

In addition to Lawrence Martin's bulls eye today that puts responsibility where it properly lies for the obstruction at the Ethics Committee this week, i.e., with the "crybaby stuff" Conservatives, there's a Star editorial as well that calls it like it is. These pieces are notable in that we can see that the print media, at least as far as we can see here, is not playing what I like to call the false equivalency game on what they saw this week from Conservatives. You know, the game that ordains all parties engage in partisan games, therefore, let's call foul on all their houses and in so doing give a pass to the Conservatives' special brand of obstruction. Nah ah. There was one party clearly responsible for thumbing its nose at Parliament this week in an unprecedented manner and they deserve to be called out for it in the major national papers in the country. When a good part of the citizenry turns its minds to those editorial pages on a weekend. Because, frankly, the television media were noticeably missing in action on reporting accurately on the goings on at the Ethics Committee this week. So here's an excerpt from the Star editorial, the part following their itemization of Conservative disruption this week that moves on to its impact:
This disrespect fits the pattern behind the Conservatives' so-called "in-and-out" scheme, which pooled untapped advertising spending limits from local ridings so that the national campaign could exceed permissible ceilings by more than $1 million. Elections Canada says $1.3 million was transferred into the local bank accounts of 67 candidates, then sent back to the national campaign.

It was a dubious moral calculation back then. And the party's latest theatrics may be another miscalculation. By thumbing their noses at Parliament, and aggressively casting aspersions against Elections Canada, the Conservatives are giving voters fresh insights into their modus operandi in the last campaign – and the next one.

Opposition MPs have accused the Conservatives of contempt of Parliament. By turning the committee hearings into a three-ring circus, on a fundamental question of election fairness, the Conservatives are showing their disdain for democracy itself.
The petulant Harper Conservatives just can't help themselves. At least they do us the favour of showing us all who they are...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Has Harpie been consulting with Frank Luntz again...

Harper last night:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper took aim at the Liberal party’s carbon tax policy today, suggesting the so-called Green Shift proposal is really a “green shaft” that will stifle the Canadian economy.
He's so clever...I mean, really. Great moments in Prime Ministerial speeches and all that.

What is more interesting is the American terminology that Steve is injecting into our politics:
“Put simply, we cannot let the Liberals take this country back to the tax-and-spend policies of the past.”
This "tax-and-spend liberal" charge is a typical Republican line of attack against Democrats.
The use of pejorative terms such as "bleeding-heart liberal", "knee-jerk liberal", "tax-and-spend liberal", "cut-and-run liberal", "Massachusetts liberal", "limousine liberal", and "liberal elite", are a common political tactic in modern American politics.
It appears that what Harper is trying to do, in Canada, is what the American conservative ideologues have done in the U.S., i.e., demonize the term Liberal by infusing the Liberal brand with similar connotations to the above, in particular the tax-and-spend charge. We don't call him Mini Bush around here without good reason, don't ya know. What's ironic, however, in Harper attempting to do so is the recent track record in both Canada and the U.S. of those darned "liberals" stacked up against the Republican/Conservative charge. It has been lampooned recently in the U.S.:

See also my post from last night, citing the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation's slamming of Harper's inordinate spending as compared to the Chretien Liberals, $3 plus billion just this summer as he and his ministers fan out across the country dropping millions here and there. The spending undertaken by Harper to fuel his whopping low 30's poll numbers has been massive.

But I guess to Harper, if he says "tax-and-spend Liberal" enough, people will think it's true. Because geniuses like Frank Luntz tell him to do so. In fact, given Harper's nifty little word games, I wonder if Mr. Luntz, that great Republican consultant and language twister, is on retainer for Mini Bush just about now in order to poison our own imminent campaign...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"No contest"

John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation writing in an op-ed today:
"In fact, it is no contest between the Harper government's spending and that of Mr. Chretien's government. The Grits exercised greater fiscal discipline."
Say it ain't so...interesting piece on Harper's spending extravaganza this summer, if you're interested.

And by the way, here's the latest Harper campaign spending, announced today:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped by the small, eastern Newfoundland town of Cupids Thursday to announce more than $3 million in funding for the town's 400th anniversary.

Harper, on a two-day campaign-style swing through Newfoundland and New Brunswick, says the funding will help organizers mark the anniversary with a celebration in 2010.
Meanwhile:
As debris rained down on scores of houses during last week's explosion at a propane plant in Toronto, no one was thinking about asbestos contamination.

They are now - and critics are warning there is not much help out there for anyone affected by the carcinogen. Canada doesn't specifically track asbestos-related disease, nor are there any national foundations or associations devoted to the problem.

Toronto parents were outraged after asbestos from the explosion was found in a playground where children continued to play days after the incident.

But many hope the incidents will expose the lack of government funding and resources available to Canadians.
Do we think a certain someone will do anything to help this community clean up its asbestos? Nah, it's Toronto, no Conservative electoral prospects there...

When conservative ideologues attack...

Talk about inappropriate and dangerous: "Christian groups want SCOC chief justice removed." Harper's Canada continues to unfold in new and scintillating ways. The affiliates have gotten the message. The tone at the top says it's OK to attack and undermine the fundamental institutions of our democracy. Everything is on the table when the Prime Minister's own party expresses non-confidence in Elections Canada and counsels its own witnesses to ignore parliamentary summons'. It's not surprising then to see this latest development.
Conservative Christian groups smarting from abortion activist Henry Morgentaler's appointment to the Order of Canada have now filed a complaint against Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, demanding she be removed from her post over her role in the awarding of the honour.

Forty-two groups, businesses and one individual signed the letter of complaint against McLachlin which was submitted Wednesday to the Canadian Judicial Council, the body responsible for overseeing the conduct of federally appointed judges.

"In order to preserve the integrity of Canada's judicial system, we respectfully ask that you consider this complaint seriously, investigate Beverley McLachlin's inappropriate behaviour and recommend to Parliament that (she) be removed from office," said the letter, dated Aug. 12, and signed by groups ranging from Canadian Physicians for Life to the Right to Life Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Vancouver Jesus Agape Church. "The behaviour of (McLachlin) outside the courtroom on the (Order of Canada) advisory council has reduced respect for both her and the Canadian judiciary."
The judicial council is responding politely and professionally to the complaint. That's what civilized, rule of law abiding institutions do, even in the face of ideological assaults on their integrity. There is little chance, however, that the complaint will go anywhere. McLachlin, as noted in the report, is a neutral participant in the Order of Canada selections. And imagine the democracy we would be living in were religious groups able to remove judges at will, as these ones seek to do.

See also CC and JJ on this today.

When Conservative witnesses attack...

This is not the kind of conduct any ordinary Canadian would ever be able to get away with:
The Commons ethics committee is in an uproar again as it wrestles with the question of Conservative ad spending in the last federal election.

A former Tory candidate began shouting at MPs after he showed up unannounced and demanded to be heard.

Sam Goldstein, a lawyer who ran for the party in Toronto and participated in the party's "in and out" advertising scheme, began yelling at committee chair Paul Szabo and NDP MP Pat Martin as the panel adjourned for lunch.
...
Goldstein didn't show up on Tuesday as he was summoned to do, but says he was pleading a trial at the time and couldn't make it.
Scott Tribe has the context from Kady O'Malley. pogge has an excellent take as well.

There's a level of hostility and outrage on display from Conservatives that is something to behold. It deserves all of our attention.

Someone's squirming

So let me get this straight. Harper's Conservatives have made a total mockery of the work of the Commons Ethics Committee this week, displaying an unprecedented level of contempt for the working of Parliament. Evidence has arisen that his party has counselled witnesses not to attend. And the Conservatives have "succeeded" on that front, given that many witnesses, indeed, did not attend. That is, if you can call the terrible optics and affront to democracy they're demonstrating any kind of success. Further, one of the most senior Conservative officials showed up at the hearings, unscheduled, to attempt to dominate the hearings, only to be escorted out by security when he refused to leave the table. They are likely to face a contempt proceeding as a result of their Ethics Committee hijinks. And all this has to do with the very serious business of how the Conservatives broke election spending rules in the last federal election.

Yet Mr. Harper has the nerve to stand in front of the microphones today and blame a "dysfunctional" Parliament on Stephane Dion? And threaten to take steps to undo his fixed election promise? Wow. Something is very wrong with this picture. (Video of Harper, here.) Here's what Harper said, replete with his tell, "frankly." When Harper says "frankly," something dark usually follows:

"Quite frankly, I’m going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively," Harper said, without elaborating on his plans.

And stated in his usual charismatic, charming manner that has endeared him so to the Canadian public.

This statement that he is considering pulling the plug on Parliament would require him to go to great lengths to undo his commitment to the October 2009 fixed election date. He would perhaps have to repeal that law and resort back to the traditional prerogrative of the government to set election dates. What a major, hypocritical reversal that would be. If he were to try, that would be a great time to defeat the government right there - assuming it'd be a confidence measure, of course, as everything is these days.

Or perhaps he's threatening to go to the Governor General with an extraordinary request to dissolve the Parliament on the basis that his minority government has become unworkable. That's what his language suggests today. Calling the committee system chaotic - of his own doing, of course - and whining about Mr. Dion:
"Two of the three opposition parties don't support the government and say we should be defeated. Mr. Dion says he doesn’t support the government but won't say, you know, whether he will defeat us or not," Harper said.

"I don’t think that’s a tenable situation."

Well, Steve, in fact, it's one of your very own making. As a result of boxing yourself in with your fixed election date and giving Mr. Dion this power. And the parliament would indeed work if only someone would govern as a minority parliament requires. Compromise through mature governing, in accordance with the voters' minority parliament choice.

Going to the Governor General would be contradictory for Harper. He likes to tout his record and all they've achieved...yet he's going to cry "untenable?" Huh? If I were Michaelle Jean, I'd be lining up the constitutional advisors. She may have options to consider if Harper follows through on his macho bluster. Like asking Dion to form the government if Harper can't.

Harper playing this hand today is a clear indication that he and his party are very concerned that the longer his government survives, the worse it will get. The immediate concern appears to be the damage that the Ethics Committee hearings have done and will continue to do to the Conservatives' standing. So much so that he wants to be done with any kind of investigations into his government, despite the incredible wrongdoing that's come to light. Overspending in the last election by over $1 million, attempting to get that money back in rebates from the Canadian taxpayer and then doing everything in his power to shut down any kind of accountability for it. The Bernier hearings will occur this fall. And as we all know, the Conservatives back in the House as they will be this fall are not a good look at all.

It's a tremendous show Steve's putting on, a very anti-democratic one.

But that was then...

A Globe editorial today,"A step back," highlighting Harper's hypocrisy - shocking at this point, I know - regarding the process to appoint Supreme Court Justices. In a nutshell, Harper has backtracked on his longstanding advocacy for greater transparency and expanded input into the appointment of Supreme Court Justices beyond the traditional inputs, largely confined to the prerogative of the Prime Minister. The process has evolved in recent years toward greater input and transparency and Harper, as the Globe editorial notes, largely acquiesced to the process he inherited when he appointed Justice Rothstein in early 2006. That process is described in the Star earlier this week:
Under the Constitution, appointments to the Supreme Court are the sole responsibility of the Prime Minister. But the former Liberal government set up an a vetting panel to help in filling the previous vacancy on the bench.

That committee, which included representatives of the legal community as well as MPs, came up with a short list of three candidates just before the 2006 election. Harper inherited the list when he took office and chose Justice Marshall Rothstein, a Manitoba native with a judicial record considered moderately right of centre.
That Liberal established structure had a nine member committee:
...composed of an MP from each party, a retired judge from the province from which the nominee was to be selected, representatives from the provincial law society and from the provincial government and two lay people, selected by the Justice Minister. The breadth of the experience and perspective on the committee, combined with the three-hour public hearing involving the appointee, marked a leap forward in balancing the Prime Minister's exercise of Crown prerogative with greater openness and more input.
But Harper's taste for restraint or a check on his powers has faded over time, it appears. The new process he has established has shrunk the panel to five members:
...and all must be MPs - two from government and one from each recognized opposition party. The government then appointed two cabinet ministers to serve as its representatives.
The problems with the new and less improved process are clear. Real Menard points out one problem, the move back toward concentrated power in the PM's sphere:
Real Menard, the Bloc justice critic, said that, as a matter of principle, no cabinet members should be involved in the judicial vetting process.

"We have to respect the separation between judicial power and the government," said Menard. "I hope the government will realize (they made) a terrible mistake."
And the other has to do with the hypocrisy of Harper's action here in light of his historical advocacy for a more open process:
The government's decision to now restrict the size and range of the Supreme Court selection committee, and to appoint two cabinet ministers (who owe their jobs to the Prime Minister), indicates that Mr. Harper is less interested in providing an effective counterweight to his own authority now that he is the one making the appointments.
You would think that this reversal on Harper's part might be giving some Conservatives pause about Harper's bona fides when it comes to the essential tenets that have long been part of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative philosophy. An open process for the selection of Supreme Court Justices has been an article of faith with them. See for example these principles advocated by Prof. Ted Morton for improving the appointment process, in 2004:
Defenders of the status quo in Canada would have us believe that democratizing judicial selection is an American disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. European democracies, both old and new, have outpaced the U.S. in democratizing the judicial appointment process. Canada should consider the European models and how they might be adapted to Canada's federal democracy. Specifically, we should consider the following four practices.

1. Term limits of nine years. France, Germany, Italy and Spain all allow a single, nine-year, non-renewable term for judges appointed to their constitutional courts. This term limitation precludes a single prime minister or party dominating the court long after they have been voted out of office. These nine appointments are staggered in three year cycles, so that three new appointments are made every three years
2. Multiple appointing authorities. In France, Germany, Italy and Spain, no single person, office or institution has a monopoly on appointing the judges to the constitutional court. Typically, this authority is shared between the upper and lower houses of the parliament, and the President or Prime Minister.
3. Bipartisan appointments: Judicial appointments to the European constitutional courts usually include both government and opposition nominees.
4. Regional role in appointments. In Germany, a federal state like Canada, half the Constitutional Court judges are appointed by the upper-house (Bundesrat), whose members are appointed by the provincial (lande) governments. Quasi-federal states like Spain and Italy are currently considering reforms that would enhance regional input or representation

If any or all of these were adopted in Canada, our Supreme Court would be much more representative of the diversity of political views that exists in Canada, and no one party or prime minister could monopolize the appointment process.
While the above points are sweeping, and likely would not see enactment under any stripe of government, the spirit behind them was clearly intended to push for a more open process. This was the kind of positioning common to see from Reformers. To see Harper abandoning such principles for his own political expediency now must be quite the pill to swallow for those in his party who actually felt strongly about them.

One more lesson for the IOKIYAC files...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday's in-and-out hearings

Regarding the appearance of the ad execs in front of the Ethics Committee today and other in-and-out election scheme goings on, a few points.

The public embarrassment that Retail Media is being subjected to is a fair warning to advertising types who will be in the mix during the next election. It is a reasonable conclusion to think that such companies will be dotting the "i's" and crossing their "t's" in the next go round lest they be called on their activities by both Elections Canada and a Commons committee. It is a significant distraction for any company and a loss of time and money to have to deal with such inquiries. There is reputation damage. Think they want to be in for another round of this? Don't think so. For this reason alone, I would like to think that the in-and-out scheme will not be enabled by such ad companies on behalf of the Conservatives in the next election. It's not clear, however, that the Conservatives won't try again, after all. They maintain, oblivious to all external indicators, that the scheme is perfectly acceptable. Hopefully those who have been burned will not play along.

Leading to today's reason as to why it would be perilous for the Conservatives to be handed a majority. The election laws as we know them would likely come in for a significant makeover. Of the Americanized no spending limits variety. Of the in-and-out is perfectly legal variety. Of the level playing field is a joke variety. Harper's been waging war against the election spending laws in Canada for years. He will undoubtedly act on this front should he ever get a majority.

And a final thought for anyone engaging in any kind of contract with the Conservative party, you may wish to consult your own lawyer(s) on the tasks you are being requested to perform. Look where you end up when you rely on Conservative legal counsel...

"Could be trouble"

In the face of the raging macho bravado from Conservatives, the Canadian public pours a big bucket of cold water over Harpie's head:
A new poll suggests there could be trouble ahead for Stephen Harper's Conservatives as the governing party prepares for the possibility of a fall election.

The Canadian Press, Harris-Decima survey suggests the Liberals have pulled ahead in support in Ontario and Quebec, crucial battlegrounds that will determine the outcome of a nationwide vote.

Nationally, Liberal support was up slightly to 33 per cent, statistically tied with the Tories at 32 per cent and followed by the NDP at 15 per cent and the Greens at six per cent.

In Quebec, the Liberals were statistically tied with the Bloc Quebecois, at 30 per cent and 29 per cent respectively, followed by the Tories at 24 per cent, the Greens at eight per cent and the NDP at six per cent.

In Ontario, the Liberals enjoyed a healthy lead with 40 per cent, compared to the Tories with 31 per cent and the NDP and Greens with 14 per cent each.
That, my friends, is a cryin' shame...

The ten percenters have arrived

The leftist enclave of Parkdale-High Park has officially lost its ten percenter virginity. The massive waste of taxpayer money by Conservatives must be going nation wide.

We have been invaded by...Blaine Calkins, Conservative MP from...Wetaskawin, Alberta. Yee haa. Lecturing us about "lax Liberal rule" which permitted junkies and drug pushers near "children and families." I'm sure Mr. Calkins knows a lot about that, being from the thriving metropolis of...Lacombe, AB. I am so heartened at the wise use of my taxpayer dollars by Conservatives. Although I truly would have been happier with one from Bev Oda. Or Helena Guergis. Maybe we should treat them like a rogue's gallery of trading cards...





Um, how pictures of needles on beaches will sway anybody in this community is beyond me. Nice fear tactics, Conservatives. Reinforcing why it is a far, far, far away day indeed that a Conservative would ever hope to be elected in this riding.

A belated shout out to this guy

Video here from the Canadian Press on yesterday's Ethics Committee in-and-out hearings.

Boy, that Douglas Lowry (interviewed on the video above) was a fascinating witness, wasn't he?
The official agent for a Conservative candidate in Toronto told The Canadian Press yesterday that he and other potential witnesses were told by an organizer for the federal party as late as Monday that they didn't have to testify at the inquiry if they didn't want to.

Douglas Lowry said the organizer, whom he named as Carmen McGregor, gave the advice after he and others received summonses from the Commons ethics committee.

"We've all been told," Mr. Lowry said.
...
Mr. Lowry made the surprising admission to the committee that the federal party transferred $50,000 to his candidate's campaign in the Toronto riding of Trinity Spadina only because there was no hope the campaign would reach its local spending limit on its own.

He said he transferred the money back to the party only a week later in payment for radio and television ads his campaign had nothing to do with.

Furthermore, he admitted the payment would have meant $30,000 in election rebates for the Trinity Spadina Tory campaign had candidate Sam Goldstein won more than 10 per cent of the vote.
So matter of fact, yeah, we all knew...the party was thinking "long term" when they put the money in-and-out...thanks for coming, guy!

Hilarious

If you're in need of a laugh this morning, head over to CC headquarters where some hilarity was brewed up last night in the form of a tremendous idea on just what to do with those nasty ten percenters that are clogging up the mailboxes of the good citizens of Canada just about now...:) There's pictures and everything...tragically, the idea cannot be executed as suggested due to inconvenient things like Canada Post rules...:( Doh! It's still worth a look.

Those abusive mailers beg for a fitting and just resolution...keep workin' on it, you ingenious types out there...:)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Contempt of Parliament

Apropos of various media accounts today of apparent Conservative efforts to dissuade witnesses from appearing at the Ethics Committee, to wit: "Conservatives suggested witnesses need not attend committee, says Tory agent," "Tories allegedly told to snub committee," "Tory witnesses spurn ethics committee," here's a little reading on contempt of Parliament:
Any disregard of or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege” and is punishable by the House. [87] There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or Officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its Members, or its Officers. [88] “The rationale of the power to punish contempts, whether contempt of court or contempt of the Houses, is that the courts and the two Houses should be able to protect themselves from acts which directly or indirectly impede them in the performance of their functions.” [89] In that sense, all breaches of privilege are contempts of the House, but not all contempts are necessarily breaches of privilege.

Contempts, as opposed to “privileges”, cannot be enumerated or categorized. As Speaker Sauvé explained in a 1980 ruling, “ … while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.” [90]
The procedure to deal with contempt in standing committees of the House:
Since the House has not given its committees the power to punish any misconduct, breach of privilege, or contempt directly, committees cannot decide such matters; they can only report them to the House. Only the House can decide if an offence has been committed. [354] Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member. [355] Most matters which have been reported by committees concerned the behaviour of Members, witnesses or the public. Committees have reported to the House on the refusal of witnesses to appear when summoned; [356] the refusal of witnesses to answer questions; [357] the refusal of witnesses to provide papers or records; [358] the refusal of individuals to obey orders of a committee; [359] and the divulging of events during an in camera meeting. [360] Committees could report on instances of contempt, such as behaviour showing disrespect for the authority or activities of a committee, the intimidation of members or witnesses, or witnesses refusing to be sworn or lying to the committee.
Keep on keepin' on, Conservatives...there are lots of procedural roads to go down in order to deal with obstruction of a committee.

Onwards

OK, a quick post off the top of my head here...while I am largely in agreement with a good deal of what thwap said here, I respectfully disagree that bloggers who support the Dion team should abandon the Liberals and hang our heads and admit that we are "almost as bad" as the Conservatives. If we had a Liberal government right now there would be (not an exhaustive list): no precipice of a federal deficit; a full Court Challenges Programme: no bs immigration changes; an environmental policy that Canadians want; a competent Foreign Affairs policy that does not mimic the Bush administration; and no attack on the democratic institutions in this country, including Elections Canada and the parliamentary system where Conservatives appear to be presently intimidating witnesses. Liberals are as bad as the Conservatives? Um, no thanks. That approach is a recipe for a Conservative majority government and I will decline from joining in. It's Naderesque circa 2000, Gore is as bad as Bush. And look what they ended up with.

So the best answer for some of we here bloggers is to continue to criticize the Harper crowd with vigour. And do whatever one pleases in their respective ridings to achieve the defeat of that government. The Liberals remain the major electoral alternative to the Conservatives and that isn't likely to change in this or foreseeable elections. Dion is not Martin and he's not Chretien. Should the Dion Liberals be prevented from moving forward and raising legitimate criticism because of adscam and other sins of the past?

I'm supporting Dion as he's a decent, intelligent thoughtful leader - yes, leader - who will be a damned significant improvement on the current occupant of the PM's office. Want Harper to continue? Then by all means, appeal to people to abandon the "corrupt institution."

So, carry on. To each his or her own. But I guess it'll be tough for me since my head will be in my ass...:)

More on Monday's in-and-out hearings...

Monday was a very damaging day for the Conservatives on the in-and-out front, as the CP report last night made clear. They failed in their efforts to block testimony by former Conservative candidates on the in-and-out scheme which led to Conservative overspending in the 2006 federal election. Instead, 3 former Conservative candidates showed up and dished. And the obstruction related to the 2 Conservative witnesses who did not appear was laid bare. The chair of the committee read out what a witness had advised the clerk, that the Conservatives had told the witness to decline to appear.

Despite that harmful evidence, the Conservatives still wanted to have it both ways. Behind the scenes, likely doing their darnedest to stifle testimony (those witnesses likely didn't make up the Conservative directive, come on). Yet publicly trotting out a staffer to vehemently deny that the Conservatives would ever, ever do such a thing. Leaving us all confused, right? Well, no. It looks like they got caught and they reversed.

So let's take the staffer's green light and run with it. Apparently the two witnesses who declined to appear Monday are now free to do so. So perhaps Szabo and the clerk need to get on the horn and wave them in. I'm sure we'll have no problems from here on in, including with Mr. Finley...the Conservative staffer Baran was so assuring that the Conservatives would never, ever, tell people not to show. So let's see how that works out, shall we?

Then we can re-focus on the really important stuff. Like the following information that illustrates quite clearly the end run the Conservatives did around their national election spending limit last time round:

Joseph Goudie, the defeated Conservative candidate in the riding of Labrador, told the committee his campaign manager was instructed by the chief provincial Tory organizer in the province how the campaign would receive a transfer from the federal party, but the money was not for local advertising.

"She was told it would be part of the national campaign," said Goudie.

He produced affidavits he and his two top campaign assistants gave Elections Canada during its investigation of the ad expenses.

In one of the affidavits, Goudie's official campaign agent explains how provincial organizer Brian Hudson explained how the transfer would work.

"I was told by Mr. Hudson that Mr. Goudie's campaign would be receiving money from the Conservative Party of Canada for advertising," said the affidavit from the agent.

"I thought Mr. Hudson was going to send us money to help out with local advertising but then he said that the money would be coming in to Mr. Goudie's campaign from the Conservative Party of Canada but would be going right back out to the Conservative Party of Canada," said the affidavit, a copy of which Goudie provided to The Canadian Press. (emphasis added)

That, as we well know at this point, is against the rules and no other parties do it. It's irrelevant, as the Conservative talking points still maintain, that it all involved Conservative money so heck, what's the big deal. We've already pointed out what the big deal is...the federal Conservatives targeting unused local budgets across the country by moving funds in-and-out leads to additional untold millions in a national spending advantage for Conservatives. And that's a violation of the equal playing field electoral rules we have.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Conservatives getting a dose of accountability and they can't stand it

It's a very unfamiliar thing for them. See how they squirm. They go to extremes. They chafe so much that if they don't get their way in the committee room, they must be removed by security guards. It was an interesting insight into the Conservative psyche today. They believe they are entitled to do whatever they want. Rules? They don't play by the rules.

But former Conservative candidate Gary Caldwell exposed the Conservative strategy to exceed their national spending limit by using local budgets. Tsk, tsk.
"I realize that the central party, any party, can give money to the local riding association, but when we examined this further I became convinced that it was only a legitimate local expense if we in fact spent it," he told the Commons ethics committee. " In fact, that was not the case."
No, it was not. It was a national expenditure the federal Conservatives sought to run through local budgets. And that's not playing by the rules like hard working ordinary Canadians now, is it? Federal spending limits mean something. They mean all parties are on a level playing field.

Doug Finley's attempt to muscle the committee into letting him open on behalf of the Conservatives today signals how concerned the Conservatives are with the optics of what they've done with their in-and-out scheme. The intended effect of a Finley opening act? You be the judge as to what Finley and the Conservatives intended:
Doug Finley, who ran the Tories' 2006 election campaign, surprised committee members by showing up two days before he was scheduled to appear - in what seemed to be an orchestrated attempt to create controversy.

Finley then stunned MPs by ignoring requests from Liberal committee chair Paul Szabo to leave and return for his scheduled appearance on Wednesday. Szabo eventually ordered in Commons security guards who escorted Finley from the room.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had warned recently about "Kangaroo court" committee inquiries.

As reporters trailed him down hallways, Finley refused to explain why he could not appear later in the week as the committee had requested. When asked if he would return voluntarily, replied: "Not likely."
Note the effect on the ex-Conservatives testifying today:
Gary Caldwall, the party's candidate in the Quebec riding of Compton-Stanstead, told the committee that once Elections Canada informed him his campaign could not claim $33,000 in expenses for ads arranged by the party, he withdrew his claim for a rebate and later left the party.

He and the former Tory candidate in Labrador - who likewise failed to qualify for $2,000 in expenses for national television advertising - both told the committee that once the affair became public last year party officials warned them not to talk to news media about it.

Shocked by the confrontation between Finley and the committee, Caldwell told the MPs he was "quite frightened" by what happened.
Message well sent by Finley. Do we think Finley was acting in concert with the Prime Minister's instructions today?

Sorry, Harpie and gang, you don't get to run the committee. This is a minority government. Witnesses are called in the order set by the majority of the committee when the committee is prepared to hear from them. Trying to upset the apple cart by telling the committee how to run its affairs, with such a show, quite offensive. It's thuggish.

Not. Majority. Worthy.