Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday fun with Blogging Tory twitterfeed

Such a devil, that Big City Lib, and why we love him so. Good advice for we blogging twitter types. Didn't catch my tweet there but did catch the RT version (click to enlarge):



These tweets will make their brief appearance but they won't typically last that long. But fun to keep in mind! Remember kids, #roft will do the trick...:)

Update (8:30 p.m.): Upon further thought, I'm going to chalk this up to a Friday bit of fun. I intend to use #roft for legitimate purposes only, if a tweet I write is substantively directed to that hashtag and will encourage all others to do the same. Fun is fun but intend to stick with my usual blogging and twitter routine, sorry...:)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Turnabout

The PM today has verily undermined his massive tax branding effort against the Liberals. The transcript:
Hon. John mccallum (l): So the implication of what the prime minister said is to agree with the liberal party and increase ei. I would also suggest that both the prime minister and the minister of finance subscribe to an excellent publication entitled "deficits for dummies." It might help them come to some understanding. But my question to the finance minister is, canadians want to see the colour of your money. The deficits are soaring. The deficits are soaring. The promises are soaring. But we're seeing nothing invested in communities and canadians aren't seeing any jobs created.

The speaker: The right honourable prime minister.

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada: Mr. Speaker, let's be clear: When we did our pre-budget consultations, the liberal party wanted two more weeks of employment insurance. So, mr. Speaker, we gave five more weeks of employment insurance, plus all kinds of additional money for training for people both on ei and not on ei. These are measures to help the unemployed in this recession. What we're not going to do is every two or three months come up with another economic policy, another budget until we need to go into -- until we need to raise taxes. Our deficits are affordable, but they will remain short-term.
No sympathy from this corner on claims the PM was misspeaking. Dem's da breaks when you live by the sword and at every turn mischaracterize your opponent's policies.

Not buying the Tom Daschle school of politics these days.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The view from down east

One more review, since it's so darn brutal and yet...so fun. The Chronicle Herald weighs in on the you-know-whats:
This is character assassination, pure and simple.
...
Caricaturing an opponent’s policies is bad enough. But distorting a person’s character is worse — and that is what Mr. Harper specializes in.

The prime minister was repackaged as a sweater-vest-toting father figure during the last election. But the kinder, gentler Stephen Harper, as it turns out, was pulling the wool over the eyes of Canadians. The "sweater" isn’t getting any sweeter.
You see, Maritimers are nice people, through and through, unfailingly so. So it's not surprising to see one of the more scathing editorials of the week from Halifax. A fine one indeed...:)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keep digging

Two times since Friday, Conservative spokesthingys have had to come out and explain the point of their attack ads. It's not the bald fact that Mr. Ignatieff was away, say they. It was the quality of his time spent out of the country that is the issue, how he acted.  Ryan Sparrow last night :
"Ryan Sparrow, a spokesperson for the Conservative party, said the Liberal leader is evading the point of their ads.

'The issue is not that Ignatieff worked outside the country,' Sparrow said in an email. 'The issue is that while outside the country he slammed Canada, Canadians and our flag - and perhaps most disturbingly - admitted that he would (again) leave Canada if unsuccessful in his political career. In other words, he's just visiting. Canadians should be able to expect more from their Prime Minister.'"
The flag? What was he doing? Burning it? 'Cause I'd really like to know about this flag allegation, Mr. Sparrow. It sounds patently ridiculous and doesn't credibly match Ignatieff's demeanour whatsoever. More likely it's just Sparrow spinning.

Mr. Harper's press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, said last night the issue is not the years Mr. Ignatieff spent abroad, but that he came back only to try to become prime minister.

"Canadians who chose to work outside the country don't pretend that Canada is not their country," he said.
The problem for the Conservatives is that they are now forced into this nuanced explanation that does not match the obvious takeaway from the ads. Like it or not, the obvious takeaway is that there is something wrong with having worked abroad as a Canadian or having spent any significant time away. That this disqualifies you from running for PM in Ignatieff's case.  And for the rest of we Canadians who are seeing these ads, they're starting to wonder about their own "pure laine" Canadian status.  That's the darker side of the debate that the Conservatives are flinging at us. Just how virtuous a Canadian are you? Are you a real Canadian? And what exactly are you doing and saying while abroad? Because these Conservatives are watching. It's Michelle Bachmann come north with a vengeance.

Oh, and more viewing fun for you: 


Hang in to the end, great tag lines: "Devaluing one Canadian devalues us all" and "Exercise your vote, say no to divisive politics."

Montana town will take Guantanamo detainees


This little video is kind of hilarious, it's an interview from Olbermann's show last night with Greg Smith, a Montana town's economic development director whose town is hurting and happens to have a virtually empty prison. Smith speaks from the empty prison. They're willing to take 100 of the Guantanamo detainees while they await trial. His common sense disarms a lot of the ridiculous fear mongering rhetoric about what to do with these detainees. Of course, it doesn't mean it'll actually happen, the Montana congressional delegation is against it. At least Olbermann's now elevated the possibility to national attention. And the visual of the interview and the positive attitude of Smith are refreshing to see in this ever tangled story.

What it takes to rally the troops these days

Typically, you take what political leaders say when they're "rallying their troops" with a grain of salt, the over the top rhetoric is to be expected. When media takes the words beyond the room, however, you know it's also meant for public consumption and so it warrants being addressed. There were the usual exaggerations, to be kind, in Mr. Harper's speech last night to Conservatives, principally in his characterizations of Mr. Ignatieff. Leaving them aside though, this was the part that needs a little tweaking due to its boldness in trying to rewrite recent history:
"Remember, we were re-elected in the midst of one of the biggest financial crises in the history of the United States. We were not elected in spite of the crisis but because of it because the Canadian people know no other party is even serious when it comes to managing the economy," he said.

"And we've delivered on the merchandise."(emphasis added)
It's more realistic to say that the Conservatives were re-elected because the full effects of the financial crisis had yet to manifest themselves in Canada at the mid-October point. That the Conservatives got in under the wire before the real crisis could be felt by Canadians. Before their deficit could be discovered by Canadians. Recall the job numbers in September, for example, announced just prior to the October election that created the impression that Canada was OK: "Record job creation keeps unemployment rate steady." And recall Mr. Harper's own words at the time, in his own advertising, that the Canadian economic "fundamentals are strong." He also famously promised no deficits and bragged about his government's stewardship. Now his revisionist view is that he was re-elected in the midst of a crisis and because of it.

The results of the economic crisis have come since the election. There have been record job losses: "...overall employment has fallen by 321,000 since the peak in October 2008." Unemployment is at its highest level in seven years. "Canadians will declare personal bankruptcy in record numbers this year and into 2010, according to a new study by the Toronto-Dominion Bank released Friday." Those are the kinds of statistics that Mr. Harper avoided having to run on in choosing his October election date. A recent poll showed, in fact, that while the Conservatives may have enjoyed an advantage on economic issues in the last few years and leading up to the last election, they've become vulnerable on that front, for good reason. Would they be re-elected today because of their economic stewardship? Highly unlikely.

As for the Conservatives being "serious" about the economy to the exclusion of all others - events in November with the partisan fall economic update, its aftermath through December and up to the end of the prorogation at the end of January would suggest otherwise. As would the politicized infrastructure spending dating from 2007. As would the underfunding and muzzling of the Parliamentary Budget Office. A government that is "serious" about managing the economy would prioritize funding for such a useful institution in these economic times.

Throw in the rest of the little Conservative distractions that have piled up since the election: gun registry rhetoric, banning George Galloway, picking fights with Russia, the Ruby Dhalla domestic inquiry, the Brian Mulroney Conservative party membership games, the incessant juvenile rants on the floor of the House of Commons, and now, Conservative attack ads polluting the airwaves, and what you have is a picture of a government that is anything but serious. Their actions on big issues like the environment and the auto industry have been characterized by a wait and see approach, hedging behind whatever the Americans do.

As for Conservatives delivering on the "merchandise," see statistics above. And they're not doing much better on infrastructure stimulus. Minister Baird admitted in a Commons committee last week that little of the $4 billion in stimulus infrastructure spending has gotten out the door. When it does, their track record provides little cause for confidence.

Looking forward to an election on the real Harper economic record. Despite Mr. Harper's efforts last night, we know the Conservatives sure aren't.

Monday, May 18, 2009

UK Speaker clings to job

Update on earlier post...Video and report from BBC on the day's events. A non-confidence vote will likely come, but for now, he's turned it away. A bit of clever maneuvering from the wily Speaker trying to keep his job and live to fight another day:
Labour's Gordon Prentice was the first to stand up to ask about the no confidence motion, only to be told it was not a "point of order" - to shouts of "oh yes it is".

Douglas Carswell, the Conservative backbencher who is putting forward the motion, got up to ask when it would be debated and when MPs would be able to choose a new Speaker with "moral authority to clean up Westminster and the legitimacy to lead this House out of the mire".

But he was told it was not a "substantive motion, it's an early day motion", which led to MPs shouting and Mr Martin having to seek clarification from a clerk.

Veteran Labour MP David Winnick asked him, "with some reluctance" to give "some indication" as to when he would retire, saying "your early retirement sir, would help the reputation of the House".

Mr Martin replied that was "not a subject for today". (emphasis added)
...
Under parliamentary rules, the Speaker can either ignore the motion or ask for it to be debated in government time.
Procedural staving off, check! Stay tuned on this one...

False equivalency

The Conservatives, experiencing blow back from a wide variety of media opinion against their latest salvo of negative ads against a Liberal leader, appear to be on the defensive. In their effort to justify their ads, one of their advocates is offering up a few Liberal ads to justify their ongoing campaign. Both Liberal ads they offer, however, were run during the confines of the 2004 and 2006 election campaigns, respectively. They're even twittering today about the Libertarian Party attacking them!

If we must state the point, once more...

The Conservatives, as we all know, have taken the art of the negative campaign to unprecedented levels in Canadian politics. They do virtual perma-campaigns of character assassination. In each of the two recent Liberal leaders' cases, the ads have started up almost immediately upon assumption of the leadership. The campaign against Mr. Dion lasted the length of his tenure as leader. And now we're being subjected to the same shtick once again. There is no comparison between the sheer weight of such campaigns and ads run during the confines of an election campaign. The difference lies in the quantity and frequency, to state the very obvious point. But since they persist in equating the efforts, there it is.

The "we all do it" thing is frequently peddled but on this topic, it's tough to find the realistic comparison. Speaking of which, maybe our early childhood learning can help us all out here...



Update (10:00 p.m.): Email:
The first thing that struck me when I looked at the 2004 election ad is that it is less of an attack ad than an informational one. Consider: yes, Harper would have sent Canadian troops to Iraq; he has spend billions on military equipment (but not aircraft carriers); he's done everything to undermine Kyoto just short of scrapping it; so far health care is alright but we have had tax cuts which might just create the financial problems needed to say health care needs to be rethought; so far a woman's right to choose is safe but if he had a big majority .....; and he did work with that proverbial whipping dog, the Bloc. And given what Harper's been able to do with just a minority, if he's there for much longer we, and the international community, might not recognize Canada anymore.

Maybe the UK Speaker can "Harper" his way out of that non-confidence vote

Surely there must be some way for the British parliamentary Speaker Michael Martin to avoid the historic non-confidence vote he's facing. After all, if our PM can "Harper" his way out of a non-confidence vote via prorogation, there's hope for those facing democratic accountability everywhere. And there are signs that a Harperian stand may be in the works, as this report tells us:
A motion of no-confidence, supported by MPs from all major parties, is expected to be tabled demanding that Mr Martin stand down.

It would be the first time in more than 300 years that such a move will have been made against a Speaker. Last night, Mr Martin was forced to accept that support, even from senior Tory and Labour MPs, was ebbing away.

But he is expected to make a defiant stand when he addresses MPs.

He will give an update on discussions he held with Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, over reforming the expenses system and say that he intends to see the changes through.

In a bid to save his job, he may indicate that he will see through the reforms and then stand down at next year’s general election. He will hope that such a statement will stop the clamour for his immediate departure.

But that is unlikely to be the case as his tenure of the Speaker’s office has been linked closely with the attempt to halt the publication of the expenses claims that have now been detailed by The Daily Telegraph. Remaining in his post for another year would be unacceptable to many MPs. (emphasis added)
Details, details...first time in more than 300 years for such a vote, evocations of the days of William of Orange, talk of a "constitutional crisis," pshaw...look to Canada for inspiration, Mr. Speaker! We are a proud beacon of hope for evasive, non-confidence trampling politicians everywhere. So get to work, look carefully at those parliamentary rules of procedure, for surely there must be a similar prorogation escape hatch for you Speaker types. One that will outrage members of parliament, horrify constitutional scholars and divide the nation...but above all else, keep you your job. We will check in later today to see if you've risen to the occasion.

Fascinating little bit of drama going on over there, a lot of that going around the Commonwealth these days it appears..:)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

These fingerprinting proposals are a bit of a problem

While the opposition, both NDP and Liberals are making noises of objection, there are some terrible privacy issues in the Harper government's proposed set of amendments to the Identification of Criminals Act: "Ottawa's plan to fingerprint those not yet charged under fire." The amendments would allow someone who is not charged with an offence to be fingerprinted upon arrest. So in effect, even if you are never charged, your fingerprints would remain in a police database and the potential for abuse is ripe. Clayton Ruby effectively sums up the problem:
“Providing fingerprints is self-incrimination and the Constitution protects us from this. The line that is drawn is when you are charged. And to allow police to compel you to incriminate yourself before that moment is open to abuse,” Mr. Ruby said.

“The example that I use is the lawful detention of somebody in the street without reasonable and probable grounds – but on suspicion.”

Mr. Ruby said he was skeptical of the rationale Ottawa is offering for this. “This has nothing to do with streamlining. [That's] just nonsense.”
More of the predictable law and order posturing without due regard for privacy and Charter rights. Perversely placing the onus on the citizen to have themselves removed from the database, if that will at all be an option that is offered. It would be preferable if this data was not at all collected until charges are laid. But if this is going to proceed, destruction of these records should be a legal obligation on the state if no charges are laid. And immediately.  

As the Jurist service notes today, in December the European Court of Human Rights smacked down such legislation from the UK and the House of Lords similarly weighed in.  This bit of accepted reasoning from the Lords in November is instructive for Canadian politicians:  
Baroness Hanham summed up the amendment: "The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that anyone who is on the database has access to guidelines that will tell them how to get off the database ... Those who are innocent should not be on any database. They should not be under the eye of the law of this country. They are innocent. They have no truck with the law and their DNA should not passed to Europe for whatever reason."

What is needed instead is a clear, publicly available summary of rules for taking and storing DNA samples.

Hanham said: "Regulations laying out the guidelines on the whys, wherefores and means of DNA and other samples being either retained on or removed from the police national computer that are clear, explicit and user-friendly are long overdue. Changes to the whole system during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act in 2001, which turned the assumption of the destruction of DNA at the end of a case into the assumption of retention, upset the presumption of innocence. The balance at present is not in favour of the innocent.

"Endless justifications may be put forward by those who believe that the current use of the database is too restricted and should be widened into one that is universal. However, it is perhaps now time to listen to the voices of those in favour of the current situation, and of those who are frankly appalled by the possibility of having their identifying materials held indefinitely by the police." (emphasis added)
The Brits, however, are coming right back with absurd 6-12 year time frames, in what they say are the "serious" cases, for destruction of the fingerprints of innocent persons. 

It's too much to ask, I suppose, that procedural safeguards be the norm in legislative drafting under these Conservatives. Hopefully the opposition will be able to push them on it because theoretically, you know, that's the way minority government is supposed to work.

(See also Politics - for the people on this.)

Update (6:00 p.m.): And on further reflection, what are we doing plowing down this road...six months to a year behind what other nations dealing with the same issues are finding to be sorely wrongheaded? Shouldn't we benefit from common experience and issues raised that are certainly to be applicable here when the legislation is challenged in court, wasting more time and money?  

Friday, May 15, 2009

Justin Trudeau video response: "Small Politics of Stephen Harper"

Hearts and minds

From an email today regarding this morning's post:
One could perhaps add one more element to the insult that the attack ads on a Canadian who supposedly spent too much time abroad represent: Not only are we "receiving lessons now from young spokesthingies about how Canadians should properly act, here and abroad", we are also being told how to speak French, i.e. by no means with a Parisian accent, similar to the way in which Mr. Dion was
annihilated for the way he spoke English with a French accent - possibly also tinged with "Parisian" because of his mother from France..

I came here as an immigrant more than 40 year ago after having studied English (with a British accent) and French (with a Parisian accent) at a European university. I feel personally insulted by these Conservative smears and have reached such a state of despair about Canada and how it has changed that I am seriously considering, in my old age, leaving for good and returning to my country of origin, which is known for its very effective and successful coalitions, among many other things. Maybe ideas like globalization and being a cosmopolitan citizen were just a sham and a joke and Trudeau was THE exception in Canadian history, and we had better return to our little corners (in my case populated by 80 million people) where we do not have an accent of any kind and belong unconditionally. How sad and depressing.
...
Thanks a lot, and please carry on what you are doing. Maybe my children and grandchildren have some hope of the country returning to decency.
Interesting to see the kinds of reactions being sown due to these ads. Maybe the fact that the tactic was thoroughly deployed on Stephane Dion may, perversely, inoculate Ignatieff but we'll see.

Speak up and speak out, Canadians!

Update (6:15 p.m.): Another response:
Just a thought. How do these attacks square with the Conservative insistence Canada is "back on the world stage"?

Isn't it awfully hard to be 'on stage' if you aren't allowed to leave the wings, so to speak?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stephen Harper's Canada


So this is how the kids have been spending their time:
"Senior Tory spokespeople said they have spent months pouring over Ignatieff's past statements in books, magazine, television programs and interviews."
Guess it would take months to do so when you're reviewing the works of a sought out internationally respected figure. Which, we know for Mr. Harper and his merry band of hatchet men, is a bad thing in Canada these days. Time well spent, as always, for the partisan obsessed Harper crew.

Too bad they didn't learn something in the process though. Not feelin' the results of all that hard work...:) But the photo above, now that captures a moment, doesn't it? (h/t larrylarry)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On blogging and departures



Prompted by Warren Kinsella's post yesterday...not that his blog was or is to be equated with the term used here in this famous scene. But it's about endings, nevertheless and if he does happen to see it, maybe it will give him a laugh.

So if departure is what Warren decides to do, best of luck to him. I will certainly miss his stuff. And if he decides to stick around, he'll of course remain the must read every day for the majority of we Canadian political bloggers. Cheers!

Dhalla allegations not sticking?

A new poll out today, taken May 6-10, shows the Conservatives trailing the Liberals by 5 nationally and another dismal showing for Conservatives in Quebec. They're at 9% in Quebec in this poll. Which means a few things.

This poll was taken as the Dhalla "scandal" was full-on erupting. It doesn't seem to be showing up.

Conservatives appear to be dead in Quebec. Still. This is about the third poll confirming it. 

Finally, parliamentarians like Quebec Conservative MP Sylvie Boucher might want to be rethinking their lemming performances in the House of Commons, where they mouth bizarre Conservative talking points. Such as yesterday's.  It isn't helping their electoral fortunes but really, who knows what possibly could these days... 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

A few items for the day.

Hope you're having a good one or a contemplative one, whatever it may be, cheers...:)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Beating the topic to death today...

More on the Lynch departure and incoming Wouters PCO tenure by In The House and Senate. Great post expanding on the political aspects of this decision and what it means. A few excerpts:
With the Conservatives down in the polls and Ignatieff showing himself more than capable of standing up to previous petty tactics employed by the CPC to raise themselves by lowering their opponent, they know they need more than nanny scandals - real or not - to boost their popularity enough to win the next election. Canadians are facing the realities of an economy in trouble, and when such problems come directly into people’s homes, scandals on the Hill, poor English skills, or how much time a leader spent in a foreign country mean little. The CONs have placed the economy in the front because they have to, and they need to deliver concrete results - or at least convince Canadians that they are producing results.
...
We have a government fighting for it’s life, wanting to put through projects as quickly as possible purely to get re-elected and damn the other consequences. That means by-passing studies and recommendations related to safety, to environmental impact, to accountability, to non-partisan selection of service, to quality of service, to value for dollar. As long as the short term results come fast and appear good, the rest is not to be taken into account.
See? Great post, I'm tellin' ya, go read, all you non-hockey citizens...

Real Time last night

Fun show with no irritating guests last night....here it is, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi, Reza Aslan. Discussions on torture prosecutions, tax havens, Pakistan's nukes, evangelicals in the U.S. army...Seth MacFarlane on too. Yes, it's a lazy Saturday kind of post...:)





Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday night music



Favourite Springsteen song, "Badlands," apparently he opened with it in T.O. last night.

More classic stuff...pogge might enjoy...:)



See, I can do old school too...

The big story today

Lots going on today, but this news is potentially significant: "Statscan looking into jobs leak rumours," "StatsCan probes speculation jobs data leaked early." The news, in a nutshell, is that it's possible that there was a leak of today's Statistics Canada job numbers which led to suspicious market speculation in advance of the public release:

Statistics Canada launched an internal review of its security measures following speculation that a stronger-than-expected jobs report was disclosed before the scheduled time.

"I can assure you that we are taking this seriously," Geoff Bowlby, director of labor statistics at Statistics Canada, said in a telephone interview Friday. "We're checking to make sure that everything took place."

The Canadian dollar surged this morning, appreciating as much as 0.7% during the 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. "lockup" in Ottawa, the hour during which Statistics Canada provides the figures to reporters under the condition they not be disseminated.

From the Globe:
A Wall Street banker with access to trading data said a “large” London-based hedge fund made an aggressive purchase of Canadian dollars about 45 minutes before the Statscan release.

This banker, who declined to name the hedge fund and spoke on condition that he wouldn't be named, said it's difficult to say there was a leak. Because it was still early in New York and Toronto, trading of the Canadian dollar was thin and it wouldn't take much to trigger a change in the currency's value, the banker said.

“The move earlier today is the first time I said to myself, maybe there's a hole [where information is leaking], but who knows?” said David Watt, a currency strategist at RBC Dominion Securities in Toronto.

There have been suspicions for months, but “this is the first time that it looks like someone actually made money on the trade,” Mr. Watt said. “So you have to wonder if there is a leak.”
More reaction:
"To me, it raises all kinds of red flags," Doug Porter, an economist with BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said in an interview. "We saw a very distinct move in the currency from about 6:15 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. and it certainly looks unusual, to say the least."

Speculation about a leaked jobs number is "all over London," said Steve Butler, director of foreign-exchange trading in Toronto at Scotia Capital Inc., a unit of Canada's third-largest bank.

To be sure, Mr. Porter said the move could have been created by a trader betting heavily on the employment figures, leading others to believe the numbers had been leaked.
Where a StatsCan review might be looking:
Between 20 and 30 employees at Statscan may be privy to the numbers, but those people are under orders not to discuss the information by phone or e-mail, Mr. Bowlby said.

Paper records are stored in a high-security cabinet approved by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Excess paper is shredded.

“The labour survey is heavily guarded,” Mr. Bowlby said.

At 2 p.m. ET the day before the employment survey is released, Statscan provides the report to officials at the Privy Council Office, the Finance Department and Human Resources and Development Canada.

Those officials are instructed to refrain from sharing the data with their ministers before 5 p.m. ET, Mr. Bowlby said.
Given the possibility of a significant leak of financial data having occurred, this needs to be investigated thoroughly, I'm sure Mr. Flaherty would agree.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Conservatives now infecting the Senate member statements too

Senator Brazeau and his Conservative colleagues in the Senate have taken to infecting the civility of the Senate and in particular, the member statements there in the same partisan manner as their confreres in the House of Commons. In other words, they are now taking to mindlessly spewing the petty, pointless blather that appears to be coming from scripting central in Conservative HQ. Could be part of their strategy to tarnish the reputation of the Senate, to a greater extent than they have to date, or just par for the course for Conservative contempt for the traditional rules of the game in respect of the government institution at hand.

Here's some of Brazeau yesterday:
Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Honourable senators, last week in Vancouver, delegates from the Liberal Party of Canada met to confirm their third leader in almost six years. I am sure many in this chamber will agree that most Liberals did not have much of an opportunity to make this choice through elective means.
...
Honourable senators, simply saying anything, depending on where you are or who you are speaking to, is not effective governance. That is not leadership. Real leadership means dealing with difficult issues without hesitation.
The Liberal Party now has a new leader. We are all wondering how that leader and his party will be defined in terms of policy and actions, because currently they have no policies.
[English]
In a meeting with him in his office last year, the new Liberal leader told me to be careful with whom I was keeping company on Parliament Hill. Well, I did not listen.
The Liberal leader has a lot to explain to Canadians and to Quebecers. It seems abundantly evident that depending on where he is and to which audience he is speaking, he will say anything, anywhere to anyone to obtain a vote. On the issue of policy, perhaps Mr. Ignatieff's strategy is this: Do nothing, say anything and hope that poll numbers sustain.
I was pleased to read that Mr. Ignatieff praised even former Prime Minister Mulroney. This praise is laudable, or perhaps it is because he was out of the country for 36 years and does not realize that Mr. Mulroney was a Tory.
Honourable senators, real leadership is about being tested and challenged and being upfront about sharing with the public what one stands for. Mr. Ignatieff has been the de facto Liberal leader for four months. He has not been tested, he has not been challenged, and he has not shared with Canadians exactly what he stands for.
[Translation]
Honourable senators, that is a fact. Our Prime Minister and our government are not about lofty rhetoric, hidden agendas or false promises.
[English]
We continue to offer real help, real hope and real promise for Canadians of all ages, colours and creeds from coast to coast to coast.
This is all very rich coming from a Senator who is facing a CHRC complaint over sexual harassment allegations.

Here's the point of order which was raised, and will now form the subject of a coming Speaker's ruling, just as the Conservative statements in the House of Commons have been:
Point of Order
Speaker's Ruling Reserved
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, I was surprised to hear such a partisan tone from one of our new colleagues today during Senators' Statements. His comments were about the Liberal Party of Canada's leadership convention held this past weekend.
I respect the fact that this parliamentary chamber includes senators from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, as well as independent senators. However, rule 22(4) states:

In particular, Senators' statements should relate to matters which are of public consequence . . .

That is the rule, as it is written.
I have been a member of the Senate since 1995, and as I recall, this institution has a tradition of using Senators' Statements to raise matters of public consequence.
For example, today, Senator Rompkey commemorated the Battle of the Atlantic. Yesterday, Senator Nancy Greene talked about how women will not be allowed to ski jump in the 2010 Olympic Games.
Would the honourable Speaker be so kind as to interpret both the letter and the spirit of rule 22(4) at his convenience?
...
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):...If I understand correctly, the purpose of Senators' Statements is to bring to the attention of the Senate matters of public importance that otherwise would not be considered. It has often been the practice in Senators' Statements to bring forth examples of distinguished citizens from across the country and to celebrate the work they have done.

In the past, statements have rarely been used to applaud the government or the opposition for their deeds. Motions, bills and inquiries on the Order Paper provide opportunities to do that.

It is inappropriate to use Senators' Statements to applaud a government action or government bill. The time provided for statements should be reserved for the purpose for which rule 22(4) was intended.
So there you have it. Not that this is a major public issue of the day, it's one more degradation of our institutions of government that the Conservative party is engaged in and that deserves some attention.

And one other thing...note to the Privy Council Office in respect of its concern over Senator Brazeau, I would refer you to the CP report from last night what with its talk of a potential lawsuit against Brazeau rather than today's all too brief Globe item.

Naomi Klein on Maddow



Great intelligent bit on Maddow last night where Klein gets to speak relatively freely. Highlighting the lack of regulation coming from the Obama administration over the financial industry while public moneys are being massively spent to prop it up. Although I suspect there's some of that regulation coming.

A shocking display of accountability

A few more notes on the Dhalla matter this morning...

It's not clear how any of this Globe report this morning is relevant or advances the reporting on the allegations: "Scandal sidelines 'high-maintenance' Liberal MP." "High maintenance," difficult to work for, seeking out opportunities to speak at events. Um, she's an ambitious MP? Anyone? Nice colleagues though.

This CP report gets at some more relevant facts, including that the Conservatives are dissenting from a number of the recommendations in yesterday's Citizenship and Immigration Committee report on Temporary Foreign Workers and Non-Status Workers:
...the new report from the Commons committee on citizenship and immigration appeared to suggest the government can and should do more
....

The report made a series of recommendations calling for greater oversight and education of foreign workers.

The Conservatives on the panel, in a dissenting report, disagreed with 10 of the 36 recommendations, including one calling for a government response to all complaints.

"We oppose efforts to create an unnecessary advisory board, or to require the government to respond to the comments of every group or individual who chooses to express a view," said the Conservatives on the committee.

They're also dissenting from one of the principal recommendations of the report on creating permanent residency for temporary foreign workers along the lines of the opportunity given to the live-in caregivers (recommendations 3 & 6 p. 55, Conservative dissent at p. 75). A few things to keep in mind as we hear them pontificating about the plight of the foreign worker.

One other larger point, Dhalla has stepped away from her critic's role while this whole matter is being investigated, demonstrating respect for the notion of parliamentary accountability. Remember that quaint notion? As a lawmaker, she should appropriately do so and it's a signal to the Canadian people about what kind of government the Liberals would offer. This contrasts with the Conservative approach, where ministers such as Lunn (interference in Nuclear Safety Commission) and the Ritz (oversaw cuts to meat inspections & overall performance during listeriosis outbreak which killed 20 Canadians), for example, see no accountability for their performances. The accountability chip is missing from those on the Conservative benches, no lectures from these folks please.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

You say disgrace, I say hypocrisy

Regarding Mr. Toews' big personal show of upset yesterday:"Liberals believe unilingual people are 'less Canadian': Toews." Mr. Toews, who is overseeing Official Languages Act policy in the public service yet doesn't speak French seems to be forgetting something. His Conservative party gleefully spent over two years publicly and widely attacking and mocking the English language communication skills of one Stephane Dion. So you'll have to excuse some of us for not exactly commiserating when someone questions a Conservative minister's own communication skills in French when he's responsible for overseeing official languages policy. And is questioned professionally within the confines of a Commons committee about said topic and not pilloried over the public airwaves in a campaign of character assassination for years.

But nice try.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Love it when the PM travels

He's off again, no doubt looking forward to hanging with the American media:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that he will travel to Prague, Czech Republic, to participate in the Canada-European Union (EU) Summit taking place on May 6, 2009.
Yep, love it when Harper travels. Doing us proud on the international stage too:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears set to clash with European Union leaders over Canada's climate change efforts at an annual summit, the Toronto Star has learned.

A draft version of the communiqué to be signed in Prague tomorrow indicates Canada is resisting a push to bring its greenhouse gas fighting efforts into line with those of the vast majority of nations.
Whatever has happened to Canada, the EU nations will be shaking their heads once again.

And just for fun, here's a little working theory on my part...

In the lead-up to his government's disastrous, foot-shooting, near-death experience fall partisan economic update, Harper oversaw it from Peru, the November APEC Summit.

When the latest major partisan backfire occurred, Harper was at the G20 in London.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, from overseas, was aware of and agreed with plans to leak stories that would distance him and the current party leadership from former prime minister Brian Mulroney, the Star has learned.
Could just be pure coincidence, of course. But I for one would strongly encourage the PM to follow his gut instincts and get his partisan dander up while abroad. It's always a treat.

Have a good trip...most Canadians will be watching with the usual unease and trepidation...

Political reality check

Courtesy of this letter to the editor and the latest in shirking from the Harper government, below:
Prime ministers Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien were more popular than Stephen Harper at this point in their terms in office.

All four leaders knew how to get to the political top.

Mr. Trudeau believed in the constitutional right of human dignity and culture. Mr. Mulroney was an environmentalist and a free trader. Mr. Chretien brought fiscal balance to the country’s finances.

On the other hand, Mr. Harper prefers not to respect government responsibilities for citizens abroad. He has thwarted international attempts to formulate environmental consensus and cancelled environmental protection policies in Canada.

Mr. Harper has made no in roads to fairer trade. He has taken us toward deficit and into recession while denying the situation all the way into it.

Canadians want a leader, and that is why Mr. Harper is not popular.

In our current time of high economic risk, protest and inaction from the prime minister is not popular. Most Canadians don’t equate avoidance and dissent with leadership.

Eugene Parks
Victoria
In just the past few days, more evidence arises demonstrating the strange leadership provided by this Conservative government. News of the imminent strangling of the funds for the Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us, once again, that Mr. Harper doesn't respect our independent institutions of government, even the ones that he created.

News of this very high profile exodus of a top Canadian research team underscores the lack of leadership on science funding as well, sending a message to Canadians that our best and brightest are leaving and the Harper government is stubbornly asleep at the switch. In this case, 20 top AIDS researchers from the Universite de Montreal. Yet the "Science" Minister stood in the House of Commons today and spoke of increased funding for AIDS and increased funding for research, partisanly lambasting past Liberal governments for cuts. The government has no responsive answer to the facts and discredits itself when such a prominent flight of researchers to the U.S. has begun.

The dubious record continues to accumulate. The challenge will be to weave all of these failings into a compelling story for those Canadians who have twice hedged their bets with this Conservative minority government. A failure of national leadership is a big one.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A few blog notes post-convention

Nothing on the blog since Saturday, terrible! Have been in transit and now getting back into T.O. life. Very glad to have gone to the convention, for many reasons. Just want to thank the bloggers here.

First, it was a pleasure to meet bloggers I haven't before: Danielle Takacs (thx for veteran info and while on the floor Saturday), Woman at Mile O (tireless, along with AM Fresh), Liberal Arts & Minds (laughed mightily with her, memorable Andrew Coyne moment...:)), Jim Curran (the coolest thing on two feet, I'm tellin' ya), Warren Kinsella (gracious, would have loved to speak longer, best of luck to him with surgery), Dr. Dawg (tremendous), Jason Lamarche (didn't get to speak more unfortunately, busy guy), Jamie Callingham (star networker), MapleThree (another I didn't get a chance to speak with more) and No Matter How Small (irrepressible, great convention comraderie). Thanks to Jason Cherniak as well for his tireless efforts as blogger liaison.

And good to see again Steve (keep doing your thing and ignore the naysayers), Jennifer (diehard), Jim Calder (all too briefly) and Jeff (um, pro - what else is there to say?).

If I've missed anyone, apologies.

Unfortunately, over a few days, there's not nearly enough time to converse and get to know everybody the way you'd like. To talk nuts and bolts blogging, processes, ideas, brainstorming. Rooms are loud, there are events ongoing and you want to be there to take it in. There's the concurrent lack of sleep, food, and there you have it. If the convention had been two days longer, I think I'd have been more content on that front.

There is so much more potential for growth and innovation in the Canadian Liberal and progressive blogosphere and online community that you sense at these things. I have the feeling that it's just at its beginning stages, online engagement is growing but nowhere near where it could be.

Update (7:10 p.m.): And an oversight on my part, a big thanks to Adam Miron at LPC for his efforts in setting up the bloggers for the convention.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another defeated amendment...National Outreach Secretary

This occurred just a few minutes ago. It would have added another executive member to the National Executive and there was a lot of argument over how this function is already performed by the executive as it stands. That sentiment seemed to have carried the day but I'm not so sure this wasn't warranted. Membership is clearly a priority at the moment and ties into fundraising so I'm not clear on why such a position would be a stretch. Some things might warrant that stretching.

Technical amendments...the ex officio delegate question

A bunch of drier proposals now but practically relevant nevertheless...an example...

Don Boudria is speaking strongly against the ex officio delegate amendment which seeks to limit the number of parliamentary ex officios by designating only current MPs and Senators as ex officios, says all former serving officials should be welcomed. I am inclined to agree given the sweat hours such people put in to the party. Understand the powerful arguments regarding primacy of members and active pols but institutional memories are a good thing...

It was defeated, the Boudria speech was influential.

Membership suspension issue...defeated

Speakers all seem to be against the proposed ability to suspend and revoke.

Could be a Charter challenge to freedom of association rights...

Another speaker, with whom I absolutely agree, says "conduct detrimental to the party" is too broad. Grounds are not provided, how does a person respond...that's right, there's no due process here.

Now someone saying it's better than what exists now...ok, but...

HR professional up now...no investigation component to it, same procedural fairness point raised.

Main vote on motion: this is going to be close...maybe not, the "NO's" have it! Proposal defeated.

One Member One Vote passes

OMOV up now, Belinda Stronach just spoke in favour.

Against: smaller ridings can be targeted, with weak membership lists, party can be taken over. Protection of youth, women & aboriginals a legacy in party...a faceless system to take away ability to be family, pls vote down.

Bob Rae: very imp msg to people of Cda that party is open, not a private club...virtually yelling it out, party belongs to all people of Cda, asks all to join in rebuilding a strong, open & democratic party. Big applause.

Against: more reflection required, not thought through...

Jason Cherniak motion ruled not in order but will be further explored...

Vote up...aaaand, it is passed.

Liveblogging constitutional plenary

The mechanics of party governance...wonks, get excited.

Young Liberals of Canada motion is up first this morning, proposing 25 of the 100 points to be weighted in favour of the youth vote within the One Member One Vote framework proposal ("OMOV"). Braeden Caley has initiated debate in favour of it and debate is proceeding.

Justin Trudeau is up front to speak on it imminently. Against, disincentive to recruitment, fixing at 25% discourages numbers if below 25%, in favour of OMOV no youth weighting.

John Lennard, YLC Presidential candidate speaks against the YLC proposal.

Bit mmmore debate then...voting by show of cards. Vote is being counted presently...aaaaaaand overwhelming show against the motion by a sea of cards, the motion for 25% weighting in favour of YLC is defeated.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Liveblogging continued...Jean Chretien

Jean Chretien speaking now about Stephane Dion, the Harper record and Michael Ignatieff in his address. Tremendous, sustained standing "O" for Mr. Chretien.

Chretien notes, very humorously, Mr. Harper's absence from the group photo at the G20 as only he can. Hilarious stretch of pure political fun here, well done. "Mr. Harper is always where he is when Canada needs him." Touche, touche.

Bit of a metaphor starting up here, on issue after issue, "Where is Stephen Harper?" On Africa, where is Mr. Harper? On peace in the middle east, on Cuba's transition to new realities, carrying on the bipartisan tradition in foreign policy of Canada....for all of this, where is Stephen Harper? Nowhere! But we know where he will be after the next election!

No such thing as Liberal or Conservative values, just Canadian values. An "Obaman" series of notes being struck by Chretien.

Notes Harper's giving interviews to foreign media to the exclusion of Canadian...reminding the audience of some of Mr. Harper's classic quotes that have derided Canada over the years, the "northern European welfare state," etc., and pointing out the irony of Mr. Harper now boasting abroad about how proud he is of the Canadian record...a Liberal record. Cites the surpluses, the regulation of the banking industry, Cdn banks standing strong while others around the world are falling.

Mr. Harper tough on crime? He should be charged with "stealing our record." "You can't blame him, if I had his record, I'd want to steal someone else's too."

"When the chips are down, the Canadian people turn to us."

A great speech, no question. There is a notable change in the room when Mr. Chretien speaks, there's a hush and a hanging on each of his words, the room clearly loves him. A classic.

Liveblogging big speech night at the Liberal convention

Tonight is the tribute to Stephane Dion and other prominent speakers will be on stage as well. Will be attempting to liveblog this, somewhat, with a few posts to come over the next few hours.

Justin Trudeau is now speaking, highlighting the divisive nature of Mr. Harper's politics. Am struck by how comfortable Trudeau is in giving this speech, very confident, poised and calm.

Lots of intro speeches including the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson and MP Hedy Fry as well who loves those recent Nanos polls.

Stirring aboriginal welcome from a local chief who sang an introductory welcome to a standing ovation.

OK, not so exciting post, but Jean Chretien is up now...to lead the next.