Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A PMO campaign event

From CP today:
Stephen Harper walked his nine-year-old daughter Rachel to school Tuesday in a carefully scripted photo-op designed to bolster his new warm and fuzzy image.

With news cameras rolling, a bespectacled Harper, sporting a blazer and slacks, strolled hand-in-hand with his smiling daughter amid a cluster of cameras, aides and plainclothes Mounties.

Harper twice leaned in as though he was going to give young Rachel a peck on the forehead, but then settled on a one-armed squeeze and two quick pats on her shoulder before she dashed off to the playground.
Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke characterized Tuesday's send-off - which was set up in advance by the Prime Minister's Office - as "a loving father taking his daughter to school, something he does frequently."

Belated Update (11:25 p.m.): Just read the post at Creative Revolution by 900 ft. Jesus who felt as I did, that this was an absolute disgrace. At least the Canadian Press conveyed the scene appropriately.

For Mr. Harper, the buck stops...with a speechwriter

"Harper staffer takes fall for plagiarized 2003 speech on Iraq."

Surprised? No. Of course Harper hides behind a staffer. Mr. Harper's m.o. is to blame others for his shortcomings. That's been one of the organizing principles of the Harper government.

Is the argument now that Mr. Harper just passively reads the speeches handed to him by over-eager speech writers? That's totally contradictory to the Harper image that he impresses upon us every day. It's just not believable.

In fact, it's just more of this:

The sweater vest bonfire

This is hilarious...an extended version here.

The follower

We call him Mini Bush for good reason don't ya know:

I think we can all put the notion that Mr. Harper is a strong leader firmly to bed. It speaks to someone's innate character traits that they would stand in front of their nation and allow themselves to be used to build a case for war. Put yourself in Mr. Harper's position and ask whether you would have allowed yourself to be used like he did. It's not even close.

As for Minister Teneycke's spin that this is an old speech and that it smacks of desperation...I think I'll go with Paul Wells' take on it, just expressed on CBC. That the Conservatives regularly trot out old speeches and the like to attack Liberals. They cite Bob Rae's economic record in Ontario as Premier in the early 90's to undermine him, for example, and on the listeriosis issue they certainly haven't hesitated to point the finger at the Liberals for actions in years gone by. This was 2003.

Whether to go to war in Iraq was one of the monumental foreign policy questions of our time. Harper chose to be a hand puppet. A Bush cipher. He was lazy. Using a speech apparently disseminated internationally to right wing conservative politicians that the Bush administration sought to galvanize to their side was fundamentally dishonest. We know that Harper opposed Chretien's decision to stay out of Iraq, but he didn't seem to care enough about his own country's fundamental interests to write his own, made-in-Canada speech. It's the uncaring, easy sign-on to the Bush approach that's disturbing.

And now that the link has been made, the Canadian people deserve to know it. It's not a sideshow at all. It speaks directly to the issue of leadership, which Mr. Harper has made a big show of saying he embodies. Turns out he's not a leader at all, he's a follower.

Free speech and Mr. Harper

Michael Enright spoke on his Sunday Edition show about the use of the RCMP during this election campaign to clamp down on protesters and reporters seeking to interact with Mr. Harper or Conservative candidates. Listen here. (It's at the beginning of the podcast, for just over 3:30.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why block the sale of MDA when the Pentagon might buy the technology anyway?

It looks like the blocked sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates' (MDA) space division to U.S. arms manufacturer Alliant Techsystems back in April, with all the nationalist brouhaha that accompanied it, allowing the Conservatives to paint themselves as defenders of Canadian sovereignty might turn out to be, well, a lot of hot air. Recall one of the central criticisms of the deal, that the MDA technology, developed with the Canadian taxpayer footing the bill, should not be given away:
Prentice last month announced his rejection of the proposed foreign takeover of MDA's space and information systems divisions, which includes Canadarm, Dextre and the Radarsat-2 satellite, to Alliant.

Critics of the sale, including former Canadian Space Agency head Marc Garneau, had called on Prentice to block the deal, saying it handed over taxpayer-funded technology and, in the case of Radarsat-2, gave away technology designed to protect Canada's sovereignty.
A U.S. firm was ready to pay more than $1 billion for MDA's satellite division.

But critics warned the deal would compromise Canada's national security by transferring ownership of taxpayer-funded space technology to a foreign company. In particular, they raised concerns about the country's ability to retain control of the Radarsat-2, which the military uses to monitor Canada's Arctic interests. (emphasis added)
Note the national security element...transferring the technology to a foreign company. That was a central concern expressed at the time, in addition to the ability to retain control of Radarsat-2 technology here.

David Pugliese wrote on September 12th, around the time that Harper was announcing new foreign investment rules, that the Pentagon is eyeing the acquisition of a clone of the Radarsat-2 satellite that MDA has developed. Raising the question, why block the sale of MDA to a U.S. arms manufacturer when it's possible that the company is going to sell the technology to the U.S. in any event? I suppose the ownership of the MDA space division remains in Canada and Canada gets to use the technology, but the taxpayer-funded technology still ends up with the Pentagon:
After trying unsuccessfully for years to build its own radar satellite, the Pentagon is now turning to its allies for help and has been presented with a plan that would see it buying a clone of Canada's highly successful Radarsat-2 spacecraft.

The U.S. Defence Department asked for and received information this week from a number of foreign satellite consortiums on how they could help the Pentagon meet its surveillance needs for the future.

Defence analysts and space industry officials say the U.S. is looking over the short-term to buy surveillance information generated by existing satellites but could also purchase proven foreign satellite designs with an eye to launching such spacecraft in orbit starting around 2012.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., the owners of Radarsat-2, responded to the request, and although the company isn't providing specific details, the options presented to the Pentagon are believed to range from the selling of surveillance data from Radarsat-2 to building a clone of the spacecraft for the Americans. (emphasis added)
Would building a clone of the technology be OK with the Conservative government and their new foreign investment rules? After all, here's what Harper had to say on September 12th:
"We are the only country in the G7 without a national security test in its foreign investment reviews," Harper said, while picking up on a theme he first addressed at the time the MDA transaction was being considered.
And here's what MDA is saying about it's possible sale of a Radarsat-2 clone to the Pentagon:
Oldham said if MacDonald Dettwiler sold the U.S. a copy of Radarsat-2 it would have to receive permission from the Canadian government to export such a system. He, however, did not see that as a hurdle.
The "national security" test that Harper is referencing, then, likely won't prohibit such a deal to the Pentagon.

Something to watch going forward...the big nationalist show by Harper and Prentice to keep the taxpayer-funded Radarsat-2 technology here in Canada was likely a temporary public relations exercise. We'll see.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Heckled at your high school reunion

Ah, yes, good times at the high school reunion:
He was followed by a large entourage. People pulled out cameras to snap photos. And there was at least one heckler, a man who toward the end of Harper's speech shouted lustily: "What about the environment?"
...Harper's heckler wasn't impressed.

Robert Ledingham - who graduated in 1976, two years before Harper - said the prime minister's appearance seemed pretty political so he wanted to make a statement about climate change.

So he shouted at the end of his address. The taunt drew a counter-heckle from someone standing nearby, who swore at Ledingham and said it wasn't the place for political stunts.

To which a woman replied that Ledingham was perfectly within his right to protest.

"(Climate change) seems like a soft spot in his campaign, and I really think it's an important issue for all Canadians," Ledingham said later. He added that he was not politically affiliated.
Guess they couldn't screen out the non-Conservatives like they typically do. That's a shame...:)

More from the reunion:
People laughed. And while most people paid attention and offered polite cheers, the response was decidedly more muted compared to the partisan campaign rallies that Harper has been speaking to.

About a third of the people in the ornate, candle-lit hall continued chattering away with old friends while the prime minister spoke.
You know, maybe somebody wasn't so popular in high school. And perhaps it was a little offensive to turn their reunion into a Stephen Harper election event...

Life in the stage managed bubble

An insightful video summary of the Harper campaign operation by the Canadian Press, emphasizing how Harper is kept away from voters, preferring the stage managed settings and closed rallies. No non-Conservatives welcome.

Harper "reacts" to a supporter fainting

Who's been talking down the Canadian economy, Mr. Harper?

Harper today:
"We need a government and a Parliament that is on the side of the Canadian economy. That will tackle our economic challenges by building our economy up - not by talking it down."
Harper Finance Minister, Deficit Jim, February 29, 2008:
"If you're going to make a new business investment in Canada, and you're concerned about taxes, the last place you will go is the province of Ontario."
Can you see the blatant hypocrisy?

Oh, and Deficit Jim got back to us on the second-last place to invest in Canada...it's Manitoba. Congratulations, Manitoba! You have joined the prestigious ranks of provinces talked down by Deficit Jim!

Seems to me if Mr. Harper really meant what he said today, he'd give Deficit Jim the boot...but this is the election where everything is OK if you're a Conservative, right?

"Bullying on a massive and hugely expensive scale that ordinary Canadians should reject"

In an op-ed yesterday, Professor Errol Mendes skewered yet again one of the Conservative planks being offered up in this election: "Youth offender plan rides wave of fear." Recall Mendes' effective questioning of Mr. Harper's "catastrophic decisiveness" recently. This op-ed accomplishes a similar feat, demonstrating that the approach to young offenders being offered by Mr. Harper, where he proposes to put 14 year old offenders in prison for life, is one that is presently being rejected by his conservative confreres in the United States. Further, the overcrowded prisons and studies demonstrating the lack of deterrence that such measures bring provide additional evidence pointing out the wrongheadedness of Mr. Harper's proposals. Raising the obvious question of why Canada should be travelling down a path that's failing and being publicly rejected by judges in the U.S. Mr. Harper, however, seems intent on following the U.S. for guidance in most policy matters, domestic or foreign. This is all the more remarkable given that in a few months...Bush will be gone. Yet for Canadians, barring a major upset, Harper and his American-inspired policies, will live on.

Here's Mendes pointing out the shift in support away from mandatory sentences by conservatives:
The Los Angeles Times has reported that not only liberal, but conservative judges in the U.S. are hoping that Congress or the Supreme Court will move away from mandatory sentences to give them leeway to impose shorter and fairer sentences. U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell, an appointee of George W. Bush and former law clerk to one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices, Antonin Scalia, is quoted as saying: "When I have to sentence a midlevel drug dealer to more time than a murderer, something is wrong ... This is not about being soft on crime ... I believe in tough sentences for severe crimes."
Even Bush's attorney general, Michael Mukasey – definitely not an ivory-tower academic – has argued against mandatory sentencing. He even went to the extent of suggesting that mandatory sentences could violate the U.S. constitutional principle of the separation of powers.
Here are the stats on prison overcrowding:
Congress had passed mandatory sentences for crimes involving drugs and guns, and also passed mandatory sentences for other federal crimes. What the mandatory rules accomplished was overcrowded prisons, with 181,622 convicts in federal prisons compared with 24,363 in 1980.

When the states followed with their own mandatory sentences, the U.S. prison population ballooned to 2.3 million, up from 501,886 in 1980. The effect of ignoring the ivory-tower academics has been to warehouse entire sections of the U.S. population in prisons with little effect on the crime rate.

Academic studies have cast doubt on whether the mandatory sentences in the U.S. have acted as a deterrent, and there is no real evidence that states that have mandatory sentences had any different crimes rates than those that do not. In fact, demographic and socioeconomic factors had a greater impact on decreasing crime rates than the imposition of mandatory sentences.
What's even more galling, as discussed earlier this week, when the Globe editorialized against Mr. Harper's abuse of the confidence vote, is the prospect of Mr. Harper jamming such ill-advised policies down the throat of the Canadian democracy once again:
Now, during this election campaign, Harper is threatening that even if he is returned with a minority, he will put his proposed law on putting children in prison for life – destroying their chance at rehabilitation by naming them – to a confidence vote. That creates the possibility of yet another $300 million election right after this one, if the opposition does not meekly agree to him.

This is not governing. This is bullying on a massive and hugely expensive scale that ordinary Canadians should reject.
Mr. Harper's vision seems to be backfiring in Quebec. Now if we can only muster that in the rest of Canada...

We don't like him

"Harper draws cheers, jeers on homecoming weekend." How'd you like to show up at your high school reunion and crowds of protesters greet your act?

A bit of reality met Mr. Harper last night:
Stephen Harper got a mixed reception as he kicked off homecoming weekend in his native Toronto - drawing loud cheers and equally loud jeers at a rally in the area where he grew up.
There were about half as many protesters as there were supporters greeting him at his first campaign stop in the city.

The anti-Harper crowd was kept at bay by police as the protesters hurled taunts at him from across the street. At least one person was pulled to the ground and handcuffed by police.

The protesters complained about his environmental policy, the war in Afghanistan, and his hands-off economic philosophy that they say is hurting Ontario's manufacturing sector.

Some also chanted "Coward" over his reluctance to wade into crowds and meet with non-Conservative partisans in this campaign.

Harper has held a number of large rallies but hasn't done any of the mainstreeting that his prime ministerial predecessors so often undertook.

Those who want to hear Harper speak at a campaign event need to sign in first before being allowed into the crowd. (emphasis added)
Amazing, hey? And if we don't get our act together, he's back baby, he's back.

"As you know the Governor-General does not have political opinions."

Harper denied the La Presse report that Michaelle Jean asked him to repatriate Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay. Plus he took the opportunity to give a lesson to the nation on the role of the Governor General:
When asked to clarify if the Governor-General had in fact raised Mr. Khadr with him, he said: “As you know the Governor-General does not have political opinions. The Governor-General is our constitutional head of state. Obviously I would not get into any discussion that would attribute political opinions to the Governor-General.”

“The story, as I've said, is not correct, is not true.”
The leaked report of this request either came from the Jean side or the Harper side. The Globe editorial board has a theory:
La Presse reported that Ms. Jean's intervention came after she and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, had consulted with experts in constitutional and international law, concluding that the government must repatriate Mr. Khadr to comply with Canada's Charter of Rights and international conventions on child soldiers. It is not the kind of information likely to have come from one of Mr. Harper's spin doctors. It happens to come a few days after Mr. Lafond, speaking in the context of the Conservative government's cuts to art funding, told The Globe “it's very safe for a politician to destroy culture.”

If it is in fact shown that the Khadr leak originated at Rideau Hall, then questions would need to be asked about Ms. Jean's impartiality, and hence her ability to exercise her constitutional responsibilities.
Why so certain it didn't come from the Harper team? It's a one day story and they might get rid of the GG as a result. Mr. Lafond gave them an opening, perhaps. Now see the Globe helpfully pushing the story along, it becomes more likely we'll be saying goodbye to Ms. Jean. I'm sure Mr. Harper would like to see a much friendlier GG in that constitutional role anyway. After all, there was a little too much debate on his ability to call an election in light of his fixed date election law. And perhaps a little too much uncertainty about whether she would grant it. I could indeed see a scenario in which Harper much prefers not to have Jean around.

The exit of Michaelle Jean...not exactly a topic I expected to be on the table during this election...

"Ordinary" Canadians support the arts

That's the name of a new Facebook group that you can join to send the PM a message:
Mr. Harper is wrong on arts funding and he must be made to understand that real people - ordinary Canadians - really do support the arts.
UPDATE (Sept 26, 1:30pm, Toronto): In only 54 hours of existence, this group now has MORE members than official Facebook sites for ALL FOUR major Canadian political parties COMBINED. Congrats everyone. Now start posting this site everywhere you can so we can try to double that over the weekend. Start contacting your local media, too. Don't forget to ask your candidates where they stand on arts support (plus other important issues important to you).
There you go...another group to note.

Harper is certainly succeeding in galvanizing the opposition, isn't he?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Conservatives in Halton are rebelling against their candidate

Garth Turner posts a letter written by local Conservatives and addressed to Conservative party members in Halton that's worth a look tonight. It demonstrates that there are Conservatives out there who strongly disapprove of Stephen Harper's version of the Conservative party. As Bob Rae said this week, these are not your grandma's Progressive Conservatives, folks. The letter hits some of the highlights, or should I say, lowlights, of the Harper government's anti-democratic tendencies.

Have a look over at Garth's blog for the remarkable letter written by the local Conservatives against the Conservative candidate. It's well worth a visit, as usual.

Thanks to a reader for passing it along.

Anti-Harper grassroots movements in the news

"Web crusade" against the Conservatives is gaining strength, according to this Winnipeg Free Press report passed along by a reader.
The Anti-Harper Vote Swap group on Facebook -- which was investigated and cleared by Elections Canada to ensure it didn't contravene election laws -- has almost 9,000 members, and is growing by between 500 and 800 a day, founder Mat Savelli says.

The latest offering -- www.voteforenvironment.ca -- hit the Internet Wednesday and founder Kevin Grandia says there were 12,200 unique visits in the first 36 hours and 81,000 different page views, suggesting visitors weren't just logging in, they were looking around the site as well.
In addition to the voteforenvironment site, which I think is an awesome tool for anyone interested in defeating the Conservatives, super user-friendly with a great riding by riding snapshot, there's also this group, Avaaz.org that is quickly raising funds to advertise against 3 of Harper's top MP's, including John Baird.

Lots of action out there, keep spreading the word...and open your wallets, people. $10, $25, whatever you have to give to an organization, political party...now is the time if you've never done it before. Barack Obama has brought in a ton of new donors to the Democratic party, we need to have the same commitment up here, from here on in and beyond the election, and not leave the financial advantage to the Conservatives.

Michaelle Jean sought the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay

A report in La Presse today that the Governor General asked Harper to seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay. Apparently this happened after the videotapes of Khadr being interrogated were released. Further, Jean consulted with legal advisors prior to consulting Harper. In response to her request, Harper, it is reported, stated that his caucus and the base of his party would never accept it. Which, if all this is being reported accurately, would just confirm that such significant decisions made by Mr. Harper are not taken in the interests of the Canadian nation nor having regard to the relevant legal considerations that are involved. What Mr. Harper apparently disclosed to Jean about his decision making calculus were purely partisan considerations that would properly be irrelevant when making a decision about our foreign policy and more importantly, about the fate of a Canadian citizen. It's a very damning disclosure about the Prime Minister.

Very insightful and useful information for the Canadian public to have in the midst of an election campaign.

All around, it's shaping up to be a banner day for the Conservatives...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, how about that copyright issue, Conservatives?

This is what I believe the good folks in Conservative HQ are reading: a post the other night on their use of CTV footage in their "Gamble" ads. A refresher:
CBC and CTV said they do not license their material to political parties during campaigns.
Yet CTV material appears in the Conservative ads. So, is CTV licensing their footage to Conservatives despite their public position quoted above? Inquiring minds would like to know...

The Conservatives are clearly aware of the questions that have been raised. Now let's see if they do anything about it.

What do Sarah Palin and Dona Cadman have in common?

It's that thing called public accountability. (What did you think I was going to say...lipstick?) You know, talking to the media and such. Whatever has happened to our North American democracies that are supposed to be beacons of freedoms, yet where conservative directing minds are telling the public, no, you can't hear from your candidates. We're just going to shove them down your throats in a highly stage managed form of TV show. And when they do speak, it's a rare event we're all on tenterhooks for... we're left wondering when it will happen again. Other than the PM, and a few appearances by Kenney, Baird and Cannon in the national Conservative theatre, Conservative candidates are generally kept under wraps. I think it's high time to rebel against such techniques and vote accordingly.

Let's start here, with a comic introduction to the Harper campaign in a nutshell. A short but funny video on life in the bubble for Mr. Harper...:)

As introduced above, this is really an issue that deserves some scrutiny in this campaign. It's not just about political optics, the backroom stage management of campaigns. As the reports tell us, Mr. Harper is conducting his campaign in a bubble, guarded by RCMP who seem to now be majoring in media relations as well. There's a concerted effort to prevent interaction with Conservative candidates:
Rallies are off-limits for any member of the public who just shows up. Nobody gets in unless they have been pre-registered by the local riding association. Even local media are asked to sign up in advance.

Anyone wanting to attend an event featuring Harper has to have his or her name vetted by the RCMP, said a source at Conservative campaign headquarters, who would only talk on background yesterday. He said this rule applies even outside the campaign period, so no one – even a staffer not scheduled to be there – can show up unannounced at a Harper speech and expect to be let in.

The Harper campaign keeps a short leash on national and local media, limiting questions and access to local candidates, sometimes calling on RCMP security to block reporters from doing their jobs.
A blatant example of the unfriendly Conservatives in action, toward the media and public, occurred the other night in the Dona Cadman incident receiving more attention now:
Tensions peaked Tuesday night in Surrey, B.C., when Conservatives called on the RCMP to shield Harper and local candidate Dona Cadman after a partisan rally.

Cadman, a candidate in Surrey North, has been mum since alleging months ago that top party officials offered her dying husband, independent MP Chuck Cadman, a $1 million life-insurance policy if he would cast his vote to topple the former Paul Martin Liberal government in May 2005.

When reporters tried to speak to Cadman this week, Harper's staff ordered the RCMP to block journalists, and she was whisked away.

"Keep them out!" an aide shouted to the police officers.

Harper spokesperson Kory Teneycke said there was no need for the national media to interview local candidates. "Local candidates' priority is in the local ridings and not talking to the national media," he said.
See the Conservative response? In our democracy, this is all perfectly acceptable, the Conservative spokesthingy assures us. Candidates don't talk to the media. We subscribe to the Sarah Palin school of campaigns. Media? No, thank you.

The Conservative instinct to hide their people from the public...all of which can be summed up in that wonderful piece of art by my friend the Wingnuterer:

See Runesmith as well...we're on the same wavelength today...:)

To be creative is "ordinary"

Mr. Harper's awoken a giant. Make sure you read Margaret Atwood in the Globe today. What a beautiful, powerful piece that is. She puts Stephen Harper to shame for what he said the other day. You will not believe it, it's so freaking amazing. Just one brief excerpt:
Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily.
In addition - and I almost feel very small in writing about this after having read the Atwood piece - there's a timely contrast to the short-sighted approach being taken by Harper in using arts funding as a political wedge issue, set out in a NY Times article today, "Tax Credits Bring More TV Shows to New York City." A few details to demonstrate how the Americans are presently taking the opposite track to the Harper government by encouraging arts smart public policy that benefits local economies:
...thanks to tax discounts recently instituted by New York City and New York State, the show is now being filmed in New York, at sound stages in Long Island City and locations throughout the five boroughs.

“Ugly Betty” was not the only series to take notice of these incentives. The city expects 19 prime-time television series (up from 12 last year) to be produced in New York for the 2008-9 season, according to the mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. They include NBC’s “30 Rock,” whose creator and star, Tina Fey, gave thanks in an Emmy acceptance speech on Sunday night to the New York tax discounts that made it viable to shoot in New York; Fox’s “Fringe” which, without the tax breaks, would have been shot in Toronto; HBO’s “In Treatment,” another recent transplant from Los Angeles; as well as forthcoming pilots on ABC, Showtime and USA.

The tax incentives have also been a financial boon to the city: the mayor’s office estimated that city-based shoots contributed $957 million in spending between April 23 and Sept. 23 of this year, an increase from $452 million during the same period last year. (emphasis added)
Further, state level efforts are also being made in and around New York to entice film and television production:
Around the same time, the city and state of New York were initiating measures to encourage more film and television shoots. In September 2004, George E. Pataki, then the governor, signed into law a program offering a 10 percent tax credit to companies shooting 75 percent of their productions in the state; in January 2005, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg approved a companion program that provided an additional 5 percent tax credit to productions in the city.

In April, after neighboring states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut created similar programs, offering tax credits as high as 25 or 30 percent, Gov. David A. Paterson signed a law increasing the New York State credit to 30 percent. New York City added free outdoor marketing, on the sides of buses, for example, and discounts with nearby vendors. More studio space was built in Brooklyn and Queens.
These governments are clearly taking these steps because they believe it's a valuable industry to be encouraging within their jurisdictions. It's a jarring contrast to the approach presently being witnessed here where the Prime Minister is choosing to gratuitously incite resentment against the arts community rather than demonstrating support. Where the Prime Minister chooses to reduce current arts spending by axing programmes without consultation and not even hinting that there's anything in the pipeline to replace such programmes. It's also ironic that American jurisdictions are going out of their way to foster such funding when they are typically viewed as having more of a free market ethos than we are and we're the ones, through these cuts, telling the arts community to sink or swim on their own.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An environmental strategic voting website

Vote for Environment is a new site being publicized today that looks to be a handy reference for those seeking to ensure Conservatives are not re-elected and who are concerned about the Harper government's abdication of environmental responsibility. Mr. Harper is concerned about such efforts and is actively trying to stamp out such possibilities today. It's bad news for him.

The graphic on the front page gives the site's view on what numbers we might end up with if voting were undertaken strategically and if it were not:

There's a very handy riding by riding analysis that gives the breakdowns from the last election and gives a quick, candid synopsis of options. For example, here's my riding (click to enlarge):

And here's Burlington, a swing GTA riding, for another sample of advice:

Strategic voting calls will be heard from here on in. All parties need to get used to it.

This is a useful reference site for anyone interested in strategic voting and the environment in particular. Spread the word.

Deficit Jim admits the Harper Conservatives have wildly overspent

Jim Flaherty admits that Conservative spending has been beyond what they promised:
Canada's government must control the rate of spending growth if it is to keep within its expenditure targets, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday.

Flaherty's Conservative government concedes it has not managed to keep a promise to keep the rate of spending growth at the same level, or lower, than the rate of growth of nominal gross domestic product.

Critics estimate that government spending has increased by between 14 percent and 16 percent since the Conservatives gained power in January 2006.
There you go, "prudent" fiscal managers who overspend. And for good measure, Flaherty continues the attack on Ontario:
Daniel Goldbloom: Now another question from Ontario — I’ll admit that this one comes from me and not from a reader. You’re on record as saying Ontario is the last place to invest in Canada, because of their taxation. Now my question is where in Canada is the second last place to invest?

Jim Flaherty: I thank you for saying ‘because of taxation’ because that’s actually what I said, that if a business person looks at tax, the tax burden in Canada, that the least competitive place is here in the province of Ontario. They need to fix that — that’s harmonization of provincial sales tax with the GST and also reducing their business tax rates as most of the rest of the country is doing.

So the government of Ontario needs to get with that program. I’d have to think of my corporate tax rates, give me a moment her to think, it must be ... certainly not Alberta. I’d have to check that, it wouldn’t be fair for me to guess at which province. It would be a non-harmonized province because ... I’d have to check to make sure I’m accurate about which one. One of the non-harmonized ones. (emphasis added)
I assume Flaherty will be getting back to us on the other province he meant to condemn here...

On the lighter side...

I had no idea this blogger was so athletically inclined...heh...:)

Speak out against Harper's arts cuts

"Culture en peril" has 420,000 plus hits now on YouTube. The Prime Minister's response to such a grass roots showing? To put his finger in the eye of such support. To attack artists, workers and others in the arts community as "rich" gala people and incite "ordinary people" against them.

Well, watch it again. The more the hits are run up on such videos, the more the issue will be discussed and the more it will elicit the real Harper.

The Globe calls out Mr. Harper's anti-democratic abuse of the confidence vote

"Not everything in government is a confidence matter," is a Globe editorial that needs to be read widely and could not come at a better time. The 43 confidence votes that Mr. Harper has wielded over the opposition are an abuse of the mandate he received as a Prime Minister in a minority government. Mr. Harper should be held to account for this unprecedented thumbing of his nose at the Canadian public for doing so. Where have the media been, however? Where have the voices in our democracy been to speak out about the offensive 43 confidence votes? It's been viewed as a sport, if you will, to simply point at Mr. Dion and ignore the unspoken elephant in the room, Mr. Harper's conduct as Prime Minister.

In the wake of Mr. Harper's mutterings this week and his Justice Minister's threatening more confidence votes immediately upon their return, this editorial conveys an understanding of the damage Mr. Harper is inflicting and seeks to continue to inflict upon our parliamentary democracy:
Most public opinion polls taken in the months leading up to this federal election campaign suggested that another minority government for Stephen Harper's Conservatives was very likely. Mr. Harper was well aware of this, when he asked Governor-General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament; indeed he predicted another minority on the campaign's first day. Now, however, he is acting as though he would in effect refuse to accept that result.

For the second time in two days, Mr. Harper announced yesterday that his party would reintroduce anti-crime legislation that the previous Parliament did not pass – and that, if the opposition stood in the way, he would be ready to force another election over it. His aides indicated that the bills would be put to the opposition as take-it-or-leave-it propositions.

This is not how a minority government should work. Confidence votes are to be limited to money bills and measures at the core of the government's agenda – not routinely invoked by a prime minister whenever he wishes to put pressure on other parties to support less important bills. If Canadians elect the Conservatives with another minority, they will be explicitly saying that they have not entrusted them with full power over the legislative agenda – that they expect them to try to work with the other parties.

It is easy to understand why Mr. Harper does not believe he would need to make that effort. If they remain in opposition, the Liberals will likely begin another costly and all-consuming leadership campaign. In the midst of it, they will be in no shape to enter yet another general election campaign.

That does not mean, however, that the Liberals and other opposition parties should be unable to call Mr. Harper's bluff. If they have deep-seated objections to an anti-crime initiative, or any other bill, then they should vote against it. Mr. Harper should not put the Governor-General in the highly controversial constitutional position of having to think about declining a request to call another election in the near future and inviting the opposition government to form a government.

This campaign is a consequence of what Mr. Harper interpreted as political stalemate. He cannot keep creating dubious scenarios until he gets the result he wants. (emphasis added)
And that, in its entirety, is worthy of agreement.

I cannot tell you how heartening this editorial was to read. The time is long overdue that Mr. Harper's free pass for his disrespect of our democracy be revoked.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harper appeals to "ordinary people" to defend his arts cuts

It's the old RNC strategy, dividing and conquering, pitting groups against each other in the grand scheme to get Mr. Harper his majority. What else is new? The public putting him on the verge of a majority seems to love it thus far: "Harper skewers gala crowd, defends arts cuts." Here's the snide appeal to "ordinary working people" who Mr. Harper, never having been one, claims to understand oh so well:
"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.
Rich gala people are the new enemy of ordinary people. Yep, it's really something, our PM in action. As noted in the report, he declined to repeat those remarks in French, knowing the sensitivity in Quebec on the issue. Harper did proceed to repeat the big talking point that the Conservatives are masters in deploying to obscure what they're really doing:
While some arts programs have been cut, Harper noted the overall budget of Canadian Heritage has climbed eight per cent.

Every group can't get everything it wants, he added. "Ordinary people understand we have to live within a budget."
The Globe looked into Harper's claim on the budget to Canadian Heritage increasing and found it to be highly misleading. The Conservatives cite this statistic in order to give the impression that they're not cutting arts programmes due to the political outcry. But they are:
The Globe and Mail has parsed the budgets and crunched the numbers to reveal the true trajectory of Canada's support for the arts. A close look at federal budget documents suggests that nearly $45-million in recent funding cuts are symptomatic of a trend under the Conservatives to shift dollars away from arts and culture, and funnel them into branches of the Department of Canadian Heritage that focus on the department's social mandate.
Spokespeople for Canadian Heritage confirmed, when approached by The Globe this week, that every program cut under strategic review has come from the department's arts-and-culture arm, leaving untouched the branches devoted to sport, youth, citizenship and identity, and diversity and multiculturalism. Such a revelation certainly hints at a targeted approach to arts cuts, which would contradict the government's assertions that programs were axed based on efficiency reviews - and without ideological motivation. (emphasis added)
Secondly, the 2006 election has allowed an inflated claim to be made by the Conservatives on their arts support:
But the largest apparent boost to arts funding in recent years overstates the Tories' commitment to such funding, as a soon-to-be-published report from the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) explains. "When looking at figures, one must bear in mind that the budgetary process for 2005-06 and 2006-07 was disrupted by a federal election," says Alain Pineau, national director of the CCA. "This makes comparisons between ... the 38th and 39th parliaments somewhat tricky. All expenditures, including those for arts and culture, are underrepresented in '05/'06 and inflated in '06/'07 because of this kink in the process."

Federal budget documents show the Conservatives spent $3.2-billion in 2006-07, and suggest that Liberal spending had dipped to slightly more than $2.9-billion the previous year. But the Conservative figure includes money spent by the Liberals in 2005-06. The reason: Such figures are meant to include the government's main estimates, offered when the budget is unveiled, and its supplementary estimates, which add small amounts spent as the year unfolds. In late 2005, Parliament was dissolved before the supplementary dollars spent by the Liberals could be reported - and they were instead tacked onto Conservative estimates for the following fiscal year.
So Harper is clearly spinning the truth on what's happening on arts funding in this country, under his watch. And now he's pitting "ordinary people" against the arts communities, appealing to the worst kind of divide and conquer politics, once again.

Tremendously strong, inspirational leader.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Are the Conservatives infringing copyright by using CTV footage without permission in the Dion Gamble ads?

It certainly appears that they are.

Despite pulling video content from their notaleader attack website after ITQ posts, the Conservatives still appear to have copyright questionable content in their “Gamble” TV ads and, by extension on their sites.

The Conservative “Gamble” series of ads contain clips and images from a variety of networks. The primary clip, used in all of the ads, features Dion saying “very seriously, a carbon tax.” That's taken from CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, April 27, 2008.

According to an item in a Poll Notes column, “CBC and CTV said they do not license their material to political parties during campaigns. TVO asked the Tories to cease, desist.”

As noted in ITQ when assessing notaleader.ca's use of footage:
“There’s nothing to indicate where the footage came from at all - which is required if you were planning to use the ‘fair dealing’ exemption, although it’s hard to see how this qualifies as “criticism or review.”
If the "Gamble" ad material is not licensed from CTV, and it's not fair dealing, then it looks like...copyright infringement.

Explanations, please.

The nightly battleground bafflegab

Latest battleground navel-gazing: "Tories holding position to form government: poll." This Strategic Counsel battleground poll continues to show nothing but volatility. They're showing 40-29 now in Ontario battlegrounds for the Cons over Liberals...last we heard it was 35-35 about two days ago. Prior to that it was 37-35. With a 5 point margin of error.

More importantly, we're not being presented with the riding by riding information here. In B.C., for example, we're told nightly of a big Conservative lead in the 10 battleground ridings out there, with last night's being 41% but it's a bit misleading. As with all these battleground polls of 20 Ontario ridings, 15 Quebec and 10 in B.C., when you read the numbers, you naturally tend to think that all parties are competitive in all 45 of these ridings. That's not the case. Oakville is a battleground riding, yet the NDP candidate there got about 9% last time. So when you see Ontario battleground numbers at 40-29-20, that doesn't trickle down neatly riding by riding. Same would go for Vancouver Island North where I'm told the Liberals are apparently not competitive. It would skew that 41% figure the Conservatives are supposedly at in B.C. battlegrounds accordingly.

So the point is, we really need to be attributing a little less weight to this nightly celebration of battlegrounds. OK, broken record...but it still needs to be said given the prominence of this poll.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tell us more, Deficit Jim

"Flaherty says American-type financial crisis unlikely to happen in Canada." Really? What did Mr. Flaherty have to say to us today, let's see...
He noted that the U.S. financial crisis was spawned by risky mortgages.

"You know 40 per cent of the people in the United States with sub-prime mortgages were sold this product in their own homes," Flaherty added.

"This is something fortunately that did not happen in Canada. We've taken some steps this year to make sure our housing market remains solid."
Risky mortgages, hey Jim?  Let's look then at the wondrous steps Mr. Flaherty is referring to today as he assures us they wanted to keep the housing market solid. Well, back in 2006, there was this adventure:
In 2006, the maximum amortization period was extended to 40 years from 25, and longer-term mortgage products have become increasingly popular with buyers looking for lower monthly payments as the price of Canadian homes soared.
"The government introduced the 40-year period in 2006 as a "financial innovation" to encourage more home buying."  Then this summer there was the big backtracking away from the 40 year mortgages:
The federal government announced late yesterday that it was revamping the rules on government-backed mortgages. The key changes include a severe clampdown on the use of 40-year amortizations, which are proving increasingly popular with Canadians. Longer-term rates of up to 35 years will still be allowed.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is among those who have been sounding alarm bells in recent months about the dangers of 40-year mortgages, saying the country's long-term financial health "requires having a nation of savers."

He recently told a Toronto audience that he is worried about the growing tendency of Canadians "to go to longer amortization periods and smaller down payments." (emphasis added)
Yes, he was rightly worried. He was in charge, after all.  Yet why did he bring in the longer amortization periods in the first place?  Just more of that strong economic leadership these fellas claim to dispense.

Speaking of which, here's that fantastic video done by the folks at Creative Revolution:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lazy video blogging

A few videos for you...

Dion on Paikin's show with a good line:

Another series of great ads out of Quebec:

One more sweater vest spoof:

"Is carbon-tax recession talk just hot air?" Why yes, it is

An unravelling of Mr. Harper's fearmongering on the green shift can be found in the Globe today. This is the kind of information Mr. Harper would prefer not to have to debate. It's the independent and credible kind. It's also information the Liberal campaign should be doing a better job in circulating, to anyone who cares to know such opinions. The article features comments from Jack Mintz, a Unviversity of Calgary economist - you know, the real kind with an actual Ph.D., not just wannabe M.A's who pass themselves off as economists and who never get called on it - and Marc Jaccard, a Simon Fraser economist - another one with a Ph.D. and a respected expert on energy issues. These are two respected experts who can speak with credibility on the prospect of putting a price on pollution. Both obliterate Mr. Harper's green shift fearmongering.

The report recites one of Mr. Harper's attacks:
Mr. Harper has made attacking this levy a cornerstone of his election campaign, warning it would tip Canada into recession by raising fuel prices.

“It [would] wreak havoc on Canada's economy, destroy jobs, weaken business at a time of global uncertainty,” Mr. Harper told a Montreal crowd during the first week of the campaign.
Then it cites the experts:
But University of Calgary tax economist Jack Mintz, whose expertise the Harper government has previously praised, says he can't see the Liberal plan leading to a recession.

Of the $15.4-billion that a $40-per-tonne carbon tax would collect, according to the Liberal plan, roughly $10.5-billion would be funnelled to individuals and corporations in tax cuts. These are breaks that would surely spur economic growth, Dr. Mintz says. (Another $3.7-billion would be redistributed as support to low- and middle-income families.)

In fact, Simon Fraser University economist Marc Jaccard, an energy expert, says he doubts that either the Liberal proposal or the Conservative plan, entitled Turning the Page, would inflict significant economic pain on Canada.

He says nobody in the worldwide economic community who follows carbon taxes believes there's “any kind of economic impact” from a levy at the level the Liberals propose.
Read that last highlighted part real good. Now given Mr. Harper's track record, who do you believe? Around here, it's not even close.

Throw in Professor Gregory Mankiw at Harvard, cited in Dan Gardner's column, "Carbon taxes pass the Economics 101 test":
Harper says the Liberal "Green Shift" proposal -- a carbon tax on most forms of energy with matching cuts to income, corporate and other taxes -- could do "catastrophic" damage to the economy. He is proposing instead to cut the federal tax on diesel, which will, he says, reduce shipping costs and the costs of goods in stores.

That sort of sounds like the kind of advice an economist would offer. Don't add taxes. Reduce them. Let the market provide.

But Mankiw suggested something considerably different when I called him at his Harvard office. Gas should be taxed much more, he said. So should lots of other energy-related products. But be sure to offset those taxes with cuts to income and other taxes.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Of course, the problem with all this is laid out in Gardner's column:
It's more like "experts versus laypeople. There is a big gap between what economists view as very sensible and non-controversial policy and what the public is willing to swallow." Closing that gap is "fundamentally an issue of education," Mankiw says.
The question is whether such independent expertise will be legitimately valued by the Canadian public as the election proceeds or whether there will be lazy succumbing to Conservative fearmongering.

(Thanks to a regular reader for the Gardner reference.)

Go shopping

When times get tough, the strong leaders of the world urge us to...go shopping.

"Harper to Canadian consumers: Keep spending."

"With Recession Looming, Bush Tells America To ‘Go Shopping More.’"

Somehow, I don't think more spending is on anyone's minds these days...but thanks for the strong economic leadership there, guy.

A video making a difference in Quebec: "Culture en peril"

Here's a video that's been linked to in the Globe today that has received upwards of 175,000 hits now. It's the most viewed video at YouTube's Canada video page today. It's got to be one of the best videos of the campaign, addressing the arts cuts enacted by the Conservatives in a very clever manner. Here's the description that accompanies the English translation, although the French version of "Culture en peril" should be readily understandable by most:

"This video was created by a few Québec artists to denounce the cuts in cultural funding by the Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper. This version includes english subtitles.

When Beau Dommage's Michel Rivard visits a newly formed governmental committee overseeing cultural financing, language gaps and cultural misunderstandings abounds, mostly when Rivard plays his classical song, "La Complainte du Phoque en Alaska" (The Complaint of the Seal in Alaska)..."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mr. Harper's "catastrophic decisiveness"

An op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen by Professor Errol Mendes that's well worth a read this evening as we contemplate the leadership style of Mr. Harper, "Decisiveness isn't always a virtue." Mendes' piece is a call to focus on notions of strong leadership that the conservative leaders of the world want the rest of us to focus on without sufficient attention being paid to the consequences that the quality of such decision making brings. We have a litany of decisions that Mr. Harper has made that we are beginning to understand the consequences of after two years and we've got an opportunity to do something about it now.

Here's Mendes setting out the misguided attractiveness of the decisive leader archetype:
The style of leadership that can be characterized as "decisive" is often very attractive initially to an electorate as was the case in the U.S., with George W. Bush, especially in times of crisis on the scale of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. However, it is often only a question of time before what is perceived to be strong leadership results in catastrophic consequences to the country and its people.

Some may well argue that Conservative leader Stephen Harper is also in the same mould of catastrophic decisiveness as a character trait. He demonstrated early on the appealing show of strong leadership with a focused, five-point legislative agenda on taking office that he claims he achieved even if others vehemently disagree. However, the catastrophic version soon started to appear.
Yet as Mendes points out, in example after example, the folly of elevating this decisiveness above all other considerations blinds us to what is being done to our country. One of the most significant decisions Mr. Harper has made may end up gutting the federal government's capacity for years to come:
History may well judge such catastrophic decisiveness to be the catalyst of many ills that this country could face for many years. For example, against the advice of almost all the country's economists and the advice from his own bureaucrats in the department of finance, Mr. Harper has decimated the federal revenue base by cutting the GST by two percentage points. As an economist himself, Mr. Harper is aware that the most effective form of tax reduction is through personal income taxes rather than through consumption tax reduction. The Canadian federal state will lose approximately $60 billion over five years, raising the possibility of unintended deficits and providing little adjustment relief for the loss of manufacturing and forestry jobs due to the economic downturn in Central Canada.

What could be even more worrying is that in the case of Prime Minister Harper, he combines this form of catastrophic decisiveness with the instinct to control all the levers of government. That could make the decisiveness even more catastrophic. (emphasis added)
Is crippling the federal government the strong leadership Canada needs? Is this the kind of Canada we want? This is a welcome reminder of the stakes in play in this election and the kind of economic leadership Stephen Harper has provided.

The tyranny of the battlegrounds continues...

Tonight's Strategic Counsel battleground poll seems to again take us in the direction we've been heading all week, at least in Ontario anyway, "Liberals gain traction in key Ontario, Quebec ridings." The Ontario battlegrounds are of the most interest for the second night in a row, as they're now showing the Liberals ahead 37-35 whereas last night it was 35-35. But again, broken record time, margin of error is about 5%. Still lots of time to see fluctuation there, but the trend has been down for the Conservatives and toward the Liberals. The Liberals look to have had a great event/day in the GTA with the entire team at the transit event, good optics that could keep the trend moving.

Quebec is pretty fascinating too and not what you'd expect for the Liberals at all given the constant doom and gloom we hear. The 15 Quebec battleground ridings being tracked by SC in Quebec show a 27-26-26 split, the Conservatives being at 27 and the Libs and Bloc at 26 in those ridings. That's pretty interesting. The Liberals weren't supposed to be in play in those ridings. Could it be an effective Quebec Liberal ad campaign is making a difference? Could be. I love those French ads on leadership and hope: "Cette fois, je vote Liberal." I wonder if they'd translate well in the rest of Canada. As a reader noted, that's a great tag line that could come into play at some point.

In the 10 B.C. ridings, the Conservatives are still in the lead, pretty strong at 43%. That is a figure that is just looking a little too high. Almost unreal.

Given the competitiveness in these battlegrounds in Ontario and Quebec, things could get nasty from certain parties. If you know who I mean...

By the way, completely off topic...best line from the At Issue panel goes to Dan Leger: "Harper has a cabinet of pygmies." Heh...:)

(see also FarNWide on this poll and Nanos)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More sweater vest spoofing

Taking a bit of a humour break here...

Watch for the excellent "Harper" forced smile...:)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The nightly battleground tumult

Tonight's Strategic Counsel battleground headline goes at the Conservatives again for the third straight day and says they're taking a hit in key Quebec ridings. The report tonight notes the tremendous amount of advertising going on there and how it's apparently affecting the battleground strength of the Conservatives. Quebec looks pretty fluid to me and too early to see how it's going to play out. It looks at the moment as if the Bloc is back in the lead and are now where the Conservatives were at the start. So they've switched places. They could very well switch again.

The Ontario battleground results are a little more interesting tonight. In those 20 Ontario ridings that are being tracked here, the Conservatives and Libs have pulled even at 35%. That could mean trouble for the Conservatives, but again, this thing has a big margin of error. There's been growth, apparently, in Green party numbers in those battlegrounds in Ontario and if there's a big push on to stop a Harper majority, as there is likely to be, a few points could move over to the Liberals and tip the ridings that way. So the Ontario battlegrounds look like they're very competitive. Looks good to me. Don't think Harper's trip here did much for him this week but I suppose we'll see.

Other things of note to watch here:

- just to keep us on our toes tonight, Strategic Counsel throws in a nationwide result: nationwide people don't believe the economy is going in the right direction, same as in the battlegrounds. Bad news for Conservatives who say we're golden with them

- the economy is the big issue in the Ontario & B.C. battlegrounds while it's still the environment by a hair in Quebec

- in B.C., Conservatives are well ahead and the NDP's fallen back to earth at 17%

It's a very uncertain state of affairs out there in those battlegrounds. Showing some trends, yes, but still suggesting it's far from over...

Since it is Wednesday, after all...

Apropos of the story some have blogged about earlier this evening...I wonder what today's episode is...

Things I never thought I'd hear during this federal election campaign: "psychonaut buddy."

I don't know if I like this guy better than the former Newfoundland separatist or not...:)

And the spoofs begin...

The sweater vest fakery called out...:) "Harper" talks about Canada as an inclusive country and shows us all just how inane these ads truly are...:)

The hider in chief

Contrary to the strong leader archetype that Mr. Harper likes to play at, there's a crucial aspect to leadership that's missing from the picture. Strong leaders don't hide from interaction with the public. Look at what's going on in Ontario as Harper travels through. It's clear that his operation's modus operandi is secrecy and stifling of dissent, and they're trying to use the RCMP to enforce it:

Protesters were expected to dog Mr. Harper for a second straight day during campaign stops in Ontario.

The RCMP security detail that travels with the prime minister held a special meeting Tuesday night after a handful of protesters from the Canadian Auto Workers used bullhorns and sirens to disrupt Mr. Harper's housing tax credit announcement in Kitchener, Ont. Though the prime minister's safety was never in question, his campaign staff were pressing the RCMP to silence or move the protesters so that Mr. Harper's announcement could proceed as planned.

The Conservatives and the RCMP security detail were expecting many more Wednesday morning in Welland, Ont., a community which just learned before the election was called that a major employer, Deere & Co., would be shutting down its plant and moving 800 jobs south of the border.

The prime minister's staff, worried about tipping protesters off about Mr. Harper's whereabouts, would not even tell travelling reporters where a photo opportunity was to be staged before the event in Welland. A small crew of photographers would learn the location as they were travelling to it. (emphasis added)

Running for Prime Minister, as Prime Minister, yet he's hiding all the way. This is what we've seen from the Conservative government for the past two years, slowing access to information, muzzled cabinet ministers, media shunned and this campaign sees more of the same. More from Greg Weston on the use of the RCMP in all this:

As usual with Harper's travelling film clip, nothing is left to chance, especially not a photo-op for the night news.

Incredibly, it is the Mounties who help make sure it's all picture perfect.

Charged with ensuring the prime minister's safety, the RCMP security service has instead been forced to become the Conservative party's armed public relations agency for the election campaign.

Last week, the Mounties were used to corral a television crew doing their job. Yesterday morning, it was about a dozen angry autoworkers losing their jobs who threatened Harper's sound bite of the day, and wound up on the wrong end of the Horsemen.

One of them began yelling protest slogans on a bullhorn while the Conservative leader was giving his speech on a vacant lot across the street, out of sight and all but safely out of earshot.

Suddenly, the bullhorn guy was nose-to-nose with a giant bald cop with a wire in his ear and a gun on his hip, a member of the prime minister's formidable RCMP bodyguards.

On this day, one of the nation's finest was pressed into service as a political PR operative, trying to silence pesky protesters.

Is this particular to the Conservatives? Why, yes:
All of the federal leaders have RCMP bodyguards for the election, but none we have ever seen has been forced to do political dirty work like the squad assigned to Harper.

The best bodyguards in the business -- and always nice to me -- they are now being forced to use their authority to protect Conservative photo ops.
Police enforced photo-ops. This is something that deserves more attention from the public.

And speaking of hiding, look at one aspect of the Cadman litigation Harper brought against the Liberals to stifle their free speech that he is now seeking to put off until after the election:
In the affidavit, the Liberal party argues that Zytaruk's "reputation has been significantly tarnished" by Harper's accusation that the biographer doctored the tape. Zytaruk, who has denied the accusation, was to testify Sept. 22-23 and wants the matter to proceed as originally scheduled so that he can give his side of the story.
After months of Conservatives publicly claiming that Mr. Zytaruk's audiotape is doctored, and with all the defamatory insinuations hurled Mr. Zytaruk's way with that allegation, Mr. Harper is seeking to put off Zytaruk's ability to defend his own reputation. Not to mention the very obvious ploy to hide any talk of the Cadman case and put it off until after the election.

Mr. Harper's character as a leader is certainly shining through during this campaign.

(h/t FarNWide on the Cadman article)


The new Liberal ad on Harper's economic record has been one of the most viewed in the past two days on YouTube's News & Politics pages. In case you haven't seen it...

Conservative chutzpah on the in-and-out scandal

After all the legal expense and arguments, the Harper Conservatives cave in respect of a significant aspect in their court dispute with Elections Canada over their 2006 election overspending: the Conservatives have admitted the disputed campaign ads were national ads not local. Yet they say local candidates should be on the hook for essentially national expenditures. You have to think that this admission brings them closer to losing this case.

So why did they give up on the "local expenditure" argument at this point? Well, it had been largely discredited by the evidence that's been revealed. And perhaps they're feeling a new sense of freedom given the political landscape. There's the prospect of a looming majority government on the horizon. If they do win one, then we might be seeing a road map for new election spending laws in Canada unfold in this case.

Here's the CP report by Tim Naumetz framing yesterday's development:
The Conservative party acknowledges in Federal Court documents that $1.3 million worth of advertising allotted to individual Tory candidates in the 2006 election was in reality produced for the party's national campaign and had no bearing on candidates or local issues.
The question of whether the Conservatives should have assigned the cost of the radio and television ads to their national campaign, which has spending limits under the Elections Act that are separate from the ceilings for local candidates, is central to what has been dubbed the "in and out" controversy.

Elections Canada alleges the Conservative party used the transactions to skirt its national campaign spending cap by $1.1 million.
It should be noted that the taxpayers have paid to defend Elections Canada throughout this lawsuit, just as we would if the Conservatives sued any other institution of government. Taxpayer funds have funded this lawsuit, only to now see the Conservatives change their legal position at the last minute, dropping the "local expenditure" argument after it's been totally discredited. They likely knew they couldn't sustain that argument in the long run of the case. Nevertheless they put Elections Canada through the ringer in defending that issue and they've put the taxpayer to expense in paying for it. We've paid over $100,000 as of July to defend the Conservative lawsuit on behalf of Elections Canada. I'm sure it's a much higher figure than that by now. But anything we taxpayers can do to help the Conservative party in its contortions to avoid accountability, by all means.

The upshot of the legal position the Conservatives are now taking should also be noted. They contend that it doesn't matter that the ads were national in content. If local candidates want to buy national ads, they should be allowed to do so. As long as the national ads have local taglines.

The problem with this argument of course is that if you accept it, there is a blurring of the national and local spending limits, rendering the national limit in particular meaningless. If you buy the Conservative point of view, you are saying the rich national party - which it is at the moment - can reach down into the ridings and top up all the local candidate budgets where there is spending room. So once the national party reaches its $18 million or so national spending limit in a given campaign, it can then look down to the 308 local Conservative budgets across the country, see how much spending room is left in them, top those budgets up by transferring money in and out - and then buy national ads, with local taglines on them. In that way, the national spending limit of $18 million can be expanded to, say, $20 million, or $24 million, or more. Depending on how much the national party has to spend and depending on how much room there is in the local budgets. And of course, the taxpayer will reimburse the cash rich party for 60% of the local candidates' "expenditures" as long as they get 10% of the vote.

Isn't it good to be Conservative these days? Twisting and turning, advantaging themselves in their legal positions, yet pretending to be the party of law and order. You have to be paying very careful attention. They count on people not getting it. That's the truly cynical thing about all these machinations.

Harper unleashed

See, all that nice guy sweater stuff can't last very long. He's hungry for his majority now. CP headline last night: "Give me a muscular mandate to stop opposition sabotage: Harper." Voters should listen carefully to Mr. Harper's appeal for power:
"In a time of economic uncertainty, I do think the country needs a strong government that's able to govern," the prime minister told a group of reporters from ethnic newspaper and broadcast outlets Tuesday.

"My concern is that, obviously, going forward, that we have a government that's going to be sabotaged by a bunch of parties who don't want our economy to be successful." (emphasis added)
Sabotage. Since when does a Prime Minister use such vocabulary to speak of the democratic process? It's rather dark and conspiratorial, don't you think? Sabotage, however, is the word that's top of mind for Mr. Harper when he thinks of the democratic process. When he contemplates another minority government situation.

As for peddling the notion that other parties don't want the economy to be successful, that's more of the fabricated exaggerated rhetoric that's been characteristic of his campaign thus far.

He offered up more of this sort of false characterization yesterday, painting his opponents as criminal loving :
"'The other parties do not believe in tougher laws against criminals," Harper declared. "They will fight those laws, they will amend those laws, they will obstruct those laws."
This is just laughably rich, the irony of Mr. Harper lecturing others about the need for tough laws that must be respected. His tenure as Prime Minister has been characteristic of disrespect for the rule of law. His party broke spending limits in the last election by over $1.1 million. His party discouraged witnesses not to show up at Commons committees. The man passed a fixed election date law and then ignored it. Yet he's lecturing others that his party is the party that believes in tough laws. His party is the law and order party. What a farce.

Let's not forget the smear thrown in, that the other parties are soft on crime. Of course they aren't. He just can't help himself.

These kinds of remarks should tell people something about Harper's view of democracy, if they're really listening. Amending laws, fighting laws, debating laws, the things that Harper expresses such disdain for, that's why Parliament exists. If he's so uncomfortable with it, he's in the wrong business.

A majority? I don't think this kind of talk helps that case at all.

The nightly train wreck...

The nightly Strategic Counsel grab bag offers the following noise from the battlegrounds:

- the Conservatives still lead in 20 Ontario battleground ridings but it's a 5 point lead with a margin of error of 5%. This is a drop of 14 points between Sept. 10-13 & Sept. 13-15. What? Major grain of salt here. Are they in free fall? This doesn't fit the story line at all.

- Donolo says no majority today. He says minority and there's big leeriness in these battleground ridings on giving Harper a majority:
"In Ontario battleground ridings, 53 per cent of respondents said they're worried about a Harper majority, as did 61 per cent of those in Quebec and 48 per cent in B.C."
Big time afraid in Quebec, if this is accurate.

And then, OK, we don't want a Harper majority but then the voters turn around and say this:
"But greater numbers say it's more important to ensure smaller parties such as the NDP or Greens get seats in the Commons – 66 per cent support in Ontario, 70 per cent in Quebec and 61 per cent in B.C."
Leading one to surmise that if this is all true, then more talk about strategic voting will be coming if other polls show similar findings.

And that's the nightly battleground hooey, folks!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Canadian Medical Association Journal slams Harper government on listeriosis

The medical community putting the listeriosis outbreak at Harper's front step:
"As in the Walkerton and SARS epidemics, an outbreak of this size may point to systemic failures across multiple levels," states the editorial in the latest edition of the journal, referring to a deadly water contamination eight years ago in Walkerton, Ont.

"Listeria is the biological agent, cold cuts the vector, but the ultimate cause may be found in risky government decisions."

The editorial, signed by several doctors and journal editors, states that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has reversed much of the progress previous governments made in relation to public health.

The editorial takes aim at the Conservative government's decision to transfer inspection duties for ready-to-eat meats to the meat industry itself, while allowing listeria standards to remain lower than they are in most countries and stripping the Public Health Agency of Canada of much of its political clout.

The editorial also makes the case for a full-scale, arms-length public inquiry similar to those for the tainted blood scandal, Walkerton and the SARS epidemic, rather than the investigation called for by the Harper government.

"A full-scale public inquiry into the major failings of Canada's food inspection system is necessary to protect Canadians from future epidemic threats, and the Canadian public should settle for nothing less than that," the editorial states
When the medical community speaks, the Canadian public listens.

Today's letter to the editor

Here goes another one...:)
Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has lost hundreds of thousands of quality jobs in manufacturing and lumber. On health and safety, ignorance and denial escalated a nuclear safety issue into a world-wide medical crisis. Several Canadians died of listeriosis because of deregulation. Environmentally, Mr. Harper has become the world's pariah.

Military deaths in Afghanistan escalated radically. The war is mismanaged.

Rather than governing well, Mr. Harper spent two years and millions in character assassinations and suing his opponents, including Elections Canada. Elections Canada ruled that Mr. Harper, 67 Conservative candidates, plus their financial agents violated election law. Mr. Harper says he is a law and order guy, but he did not play above board with our most fundamental institution—democratic elections.

Now, Mr. Harper is spending millions to tell us he is a man who loves his children. However, in public life he has proven he does not love the truth, does not think the law applies to him, and is utterly incompetent at managing a government.

Mr. Harper is a misleader.

Eugene Parks

Victoria, B.C.
That's the way you write letters to the editor, kids...:)

Rachel Maddow on lying in political campaigns

There's a bit of a parallel going on in the U.S. and Canadian campaigns at the moment in respect of truth telling. So here are some timely and instructive thoughts on how to draw attention to an opponent's lies about your campaign. How not to say it and how to do it.

My thoughts are, you have to let the opponent show himself. Let the opponent hang himself on his own words without having the leader do it. Just show the opponent in the act and present the truth every time he does it. Some media are catching on. Put up clips on YouTube of the opponent in the act.

This is an issue that perhaps needs some attention. When the opponent continues to run with misrepresentations, despite the press releases, the other side has to answer them more forcefully.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The nightly roller coaster...

The Strategic Counsel's nightly battleground report in the Globe is a dog's breakfast tonight. Read that headline, "Tories stalled in key ridings, poll suggests," then try and make sense of the rest of the report.

In saying the Conservatives have stalled in the battleground ridings in Ontario, overall, you'd think they're in trouble. Yet they're still ahead. As you move toward the GTA, however, the 905 battleground ridings show a narrowing to a five point lead for the Conservatives over the Liberals. So you're left to wonder what that lead means with a 5% margin of error, as there is in each province under this poll.

Also of some interest in tonight's poll, what's going on in the Quebec battlegrounds. The environment is beating the economy as an issue in the Quebec battleground ridings, perhaps to Dion's benefit. They are reporting women backing away from the Conservatives in the Quebec battleground ridings, again perhaps to Dion's benefit. They note a rise in Liberal numbers in respect of both the environment and with women.

Something to watch going forward is the Green party's strength in these Ontario ridings and if it holds toward the election. If it does, it might tip these ridings to the Conservatives. So we'll see if there's a coalescing at the end of the day.

Weeks more of this! We're so lucky the Globe has chosen to give us this nightly gift!

Fearmongering his way through Ontario

Harper speaking in London tonight continued to misrepresent the Liberal positions:
On a day when the Toronto stock exchange fell more than 500 points, Harper said the Opposition "wants to reverse everything that we have done," and again claimed the Liberals — contrary to leader Stéphane Dion's campaign statements — would hike the GST back up to 7 per cent from 5, and "take back" the $100-a-month child care allowances.

On top of that, Harper said, Dion's carbon tax would devastate the economy.

"Ontario would be particularly hard it because of its manufacturing sector. I know Ontarians are concerned."
Stephane Dion has already pledged in this campaign that he would not raise the GST. He's also committed to adding to child care benefits, not taking anything away. The PM knows this full well.

And Mr. Harper's own government-commissioned report puts the lie to his claim that a carbon tax will harm the economy.

Yet Harper continues to repeat misinformation about those items in his stump speech.

It's truly remarkable to witness a PM resorting to such patent falsehoods in aid of his own electoral fortunes. Looks like the McCain syndrome has come north.