Bill C-300 is a private member’s bill introduced by Liberal MP John McKay on February 9, 2009. Bill C-300 implements a number of key recommendations from the March 2007 Final Report of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Roundtables. The recommendations reflected the consensus of a multi-stakeholder advisory group that had representatives from industry and civil society groups including MiningWatch Canada.The Status of House Business page indicates that there's been some kind of extension granted on the bill. It's already gone through second reading, so the next vote will be determinative. Sample letter and email addresses, here.
If passed, Bill C-300 will:
put in place human rights, labour, and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries;
create a complaints mechanism that will allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadians, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards;
create a possible sanction for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Despite those troubles, the third-quarter results continue a trend in which the Liberals have been slowly but steadily closing the fundraising gap with the Tories.Raising, what, 60% of what the Conservatives are, not bad at all in comparison to the previous year. And if the Conservatives raise, say, $4 million in the next quarter, an approximate average of their first three quarters...then their yearly take will be in the $17 million range, down significantly from last year, albeit an election year. While this is good news on the fundraising rebalancing front, until there is virtual parity in fundraising among major political parties in Canada, the political debates we have are going to be impacted in not so healthy ways. Whether that's not having the funds to finance an election which impacts how a party votes in the House of Commons or not having the funds to compete in advertising, that's how it plays out.
Last year, the Conservatives raked in a total of $21.2 million - more than triple the Liberals' $5.9 million.
So far this year, the Tories have raised $12.8 million while the Liberals are not far behind with $7.6 million.
Look at this recent American style issue-targeted campaign on the gun registry that the Conservatives are presently running. One viewpoint is being elevated above others, people listening can't help but take it in and make their decisions based on what they're hearing. If contrary viewpoints are absent or less present, that can affect the debate. That's pretty obvious, of course, but in the long term, skewed funding of one party over others is going to have an impact on who is setting the terms of our public debate. Is the gun registry really an issue Canadians want dealt with at the moment? Probably not a pressing item but very important to the Conservative base. We'll see whether the vote is affected this coming Wednesday.
That gun registry campaign, along with the sustained negative ad campaigns we've seen the Conservatives run outside of election periods, also bring home how the concept of national spending limits that kick in only during election write periods have been undermined. If you can advertise year round, year in and year out, and wage such issue oriented campaigns, the impact of a spending limit during a 40 day campaign is lessened. I don't know what the solution is exactly on that point, but it's something to think about.
A ways to go but the direction is good...
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Something different this morning...a well done, creative little video that was circulating on twitter last night. The accompanying description:
In December 2009 there will be a UN Global Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen where our world leaders will make decisions on the fate of our planet, and the future of children. Please take action on climate change help us remind Canada's leader, Stephen Harper who he's representing in Copenhagen.Update: Some interesting reading on this topic this morning in John Ibbitson's column which considers a new study on the projected costs for Canada of both proposed government and environmentalist emission reduction targets. There are projections there on how the environmental goals will impact future GDP numbers and job growth.
The participants in the study are reputable and it's likely to be influential in coming debates. Worth digesting, the whole thing is here.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This is a sweeping complaint to the ethics commissioner, citing all manner of taxpayer funded communications tools that have been used in support of the "Harper Government." The partisan websites, the advertising linked to partisan websites, the sloganeering in the television ads, and the very renaming of the government itself in Stephen Harper's own likeness as the "Harper Government" are all set out. The list is long of those whom the complaint is directed against. The Prime Minister, along with a number of his ministers, is named.
Two of the most blatant examples that stood out to me...the links on the actionplan.gc.ca site that used to take you to the Prime Minister's personal flickr, Facebook, and other social media sites that indicate a disrespect for the purpose of government communications, here a website. It's not a political playground. The choice to use it in that manner is unethical. Secondly, the material on the deployment of the use of the term the "Harper Government" on the actionplan.gc.ca website and throughout Government of Canada announcements. The mixing of the personal moniker with the government's name is subtle yet so offensive. And to get very basic about it, what kind of politician would let their name be used officially in this way? Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to start doing that? It's stunning and unsuitable for democratic forms of government. It's all brought home there.
So, this is also a serious complaint that speaks to some limits in our democracy that shouldn't be breached. The complaint says we're not going to sit by as these Conservatives commandeer government resources for their own political benefit. And it's done in a substantive way. It's good opposition work.
People may dismiss such complaints, as they've been doing with lazy conventional wisdomeering, under the guise that all governments self-promote, that there's nothing new here. Well, it's time to wake up. It's hard for us to be shocked these days, but the scale of this enterprise is new. Reading through and taking it all in, it's hard not to think that there's something quantitatively and qualitatively different here. It just doesn't smell right.
20091027 - Ethics Complaint Document Portfolio Eng
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Thought I would help out by providing one additional version of the document that may have been overlooked...(click to enlarge)
There. That's better.
Update: The part about the 22 photos was actually true:)
(h/t old friend the Wingnuterer)
What do these two politicians have in common? They like to advertise. Heavily. One with private money. One with public. And they're in a league of their own.
Did you catch this interesting read on the weekend: "Bloomberg Sets Record for Personal Spending in Pursuit of Public Office." The Mayor who is now up for an unprecedented third term (having changed the precedent, i.e., the two term term-limit) and facing a weak opponent has nevertheless "...spent $85 million on his latest re-election campaign, and is on pace to spend between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov. 3." The spending, for a well-known figure in Bloomberg's position, is described by critics as "off the charts." He now has a 16-point lead over his Democratic opponent. No matter how bravely that Democrat spins it, it's fair to say he doesn't stand much of a chance:
...he had raised $270,000 over the last three weeks.That last quote included just for the sheer chutzpah of it. That guy is earning his pay!
While donations came in at a much brisker pace than in the previous three-week reporting period, when he raised $114,000, that is unlikely to make a dent in Mr. Bloomberg’s advantage. Factoring in public matching funds, Mr. Thompson will have $3 million in the final week and a half of the race.“This is a clear indication that the momentum of the mayoral race continues to shift towards Bill Thompson,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Thompson campaign.
What has all this got to do with Canadian politics anyway? Well, maybe something in the way of a parallel. We have our big spenders up here too. Not spending their personal or party funds in support of the ever ongoing Conservative election campaign, but spending liberally from the public purse on advertising that crosses a line between legitimate government public education and partisan slanting. It's been estimated that the advertising on the Economic Action Plan in just the first six months of the year could be in the order of $56 million. If such costs hold through the rest of the year (the rotation of the EAP ads in September, along with the Home Renovation Tax Credit was high), you can see how an estimated $100 million this year could come about. In other words, record government advertising.
You can't help but think that all of it has had a desired effect. Impress upon people status quo support for the Conservatives and with that ever so subtle feel good messaging, make support for the Conservatives/the government just a little more palatable. Advertising works.
Harper's never been a fan of political spending limits. Now, for all intents and purposes, he's up there with the Bloombergs of the world. Mike's in the $100 million range, so's Steve. Let's not be too shocked at those polls.
One reason for this disparity is that the Building Canada program funds primarily projects in big urban centres, where opposition parties hold many seats.What's next to creep out of the Conservative spin dungeon...the "Skyscraper Fund" to incontrovertibly prove how well urban opposition ridings are doing?
Still undisturbed, the numbers on the Recreational Infrastructure programme, the "big-stimulus project" funding and multiple other studies proving the point of skewed Conservative stimulus spending.
While all of this is being waved away by Conservatives and sympathetic pundits, the facts speak for themselves. And there's an aspect to this that should not be lost sight of. During a significant recession, spending specifically undertaken to combat that recession was politically gamed. That point remains no matter what they haul out. It fits with the story of these Conservatives.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Phew...what a relief. And here I naively thought they didn't know what they were doing.
But remember, citizens, Conservative ridings will be getting 38% more kits than non-Conservative held ridings...fair is fair, after all!
1. Good blog post here on the child care position announced by the Liberals this week.
2. Thought provoking column on the Harper "values" and wedge politics with an interesting conclusion:
The Harper Conservatives have introduced a whole new style of politics to Canada, and the opposition parties must adapt to confront it or see the country changed irrevocably.
Michael Behiels, a native of Alberta's Peace River country, teaches Canadian constitutional history at the University of Ottawa. He says Harper's approach to politics and governance is shaped by his Christian fundamentalism.
"Harper is a fundamentalist 'values' conservative and his evangelical Christian views drive both his domestic and foreign policy agendas," Behiels continues. "On foreign policy, Harper is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who maintains that the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have a mission, a religious duty, so to speak, to impose an American form of democracy on the world."
On the domestic front, Behiels continues, the prime minister believes "every left-of-centre Canadian is a moral relativist, that is, immoral, and can't be trusted to govern at any level of society."
Behiels sees the next election as a "competition of values. There are values on the right which are deeply imbued with religious fundamentalism but you also have longstanding, deeply-entrenched liberal values in Canada that are just as important to people and must be defended."3. Also worthwhile, this Ivison piece, "Pension problems could become a hot issue," in light of the Nortel demonstration on Parliament Hill yesterday. Iggy spoke to the crowd:
Sound makes it seem a little off, need to hear more of the crowd but that's always hit and miss with these things. Not bad, except "intellectual property" and "CCAA" don't really roll so well in a speech if you really want to fly. At least Iggy (and others) was there, someone else was not.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tory Senator Leo Housakos, embroiled in an ethics controversy over a stimulus contract, is accusing one of his own Conservative caucus members of trying to trip him up.Look forward to that.
Housakos blamed his troubles on "somebody in my own caucus," and said, "I'm going to take care of him soon," a Montreal newspaper reported Wednesday.
On the other hand, as Housakos seeks to point the finger elsewhere, there are more partisan optics popping up for Housakos that don't help while he is under scrutiny for conflict of interest allegations in front of the Ethics Commissioner:
On May 20, Housakos organized a major Conservative fundraiser in Montreal featuring Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for which he was roundly congratulated.Harper's Conservative Senate appointments in action, reaping what he's sown...
Some of the figures on the guest list that night would go on to be placed in high-profile government posts within a matter of weeks or months.
-Jean-Martin Masse: The lawyer and Montreal businessman was appointed to Via Rail's board of directors on June 19, 2009. He and Housakos were members of the Progressive Conservative party's youth wing and worked together within the ADQ. Masse was an executive at an advertising firm that provided technical assistance to Housakos to do business under the firm's name in Greece.
-Nick Katalifos: a longtime Montreal school prinicipal was appointed to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees on Sept. 9, 2009. He and Housakos co-founded a small international consulting firm called Quadvision International.
-Claude Carignan: the mayor of Saint-Eustache was appointed to the Senate on Aug. 27, 2009. He and Housakos worked together at the highest levels of the ADQ, where Carignan was a party co-founder.
"'AllNationwideContracts.zip,' is a single spreadsheet listing the status, location, funds awarded and jobs created for projects across all 50 states."You can find it here, at recovery.gov. Select the "Recipient Reported" tab halfway down the page. The file then appears at the bottom of that list. If that Excel file is too big, there are state by state lists which are there too.
Looking at that site and comparing it to ours, you can't help but think that one is geared to providing information and one is geared to providing a p.r. presentation. Remarkably, Canadians are not even told the exact figures for the spending: "Funding information for each project is provided as a range, not an exact dollar amount."
Quite the contrast.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Favourite item in the report:
Ethics officers on Parliament Hill promise to be tied up for some time. The parliamentary ethics commissioner also announced Tuesday she is investigating complaints over the signing of ceremonial federal stimulus cheques by Conservative politicians.The "big cheque" extravaganza is now a formal ethics investigation.
Some of the latest skewing:
Overall, about three of every four projects so far funded through the RinC program has gone to Ontario, where Conservative hopes for a majority government in the next election.There's a trend here and it's all going one way...
The northwern Ontario riding of Kenora, once Liberal turf but now held by Conservative Greg Rickford, received more projects under the program than any other riding in the country.
Among the 35 projects in Kenora were upgrades to baseball diamonds and the Kenora Recreation Centre.
The ridings held by Tories Tony Clement, Darryl Kramp, Bev Shipley and Pierre Lemieux rounded out the top five. Mr. Clement, as industry minister, is ultimately in charge of the program.
Conservative ridings across Canada received more than their fair share of big-money stimulus projects paid for by taxpayers, an investigation into the Harper government's Economic Action Plan shows.More independent evidence to support the narrative of partisan excess by this government. The infrastructure skewing has yet to be rebutted by the Harper crew.
The numbers — drawn from Ottawa's own website — bolster opposition allegations of pork barrelling in the multi-billion-dollar stimulus package, a charge the Tories deny.
An Ottawa Citizen-Halifax Chronicle-Herald investigation shows 57 per cent of the projects, with more than $1 million in federal funding nationwide, went to Conservative ridings.
The party holds only 46 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. Conservative ridings therefore received 23 per cent more million-dollar-plus projects than if the projects were divided evenly among all ridings.
Other items of interest here: notable figures on the Quebec ridings; unconvincing spin from a Baird spokesperson; and the picture being fleshed out that the stimulus is being used to bolster Conservative electoral chances by spending more in regions of the country where they can win seats (Ontario) versus others (Quebec). They looked at all 308 ridings so there must be more province by province reporting to come, one would think.
We didn't undertake this stimulus and its attendant enormous deficit for the benefit of the Conservative party. To state the obvious.
And a P.S....it doesn't seem to be helping the government to be sending Stephen Maher into a "black rage."
Aaaaaand...finished in just under three minutes. Although to be fair, this guy seems pretty good at doorknob replacement. So the federal job could take longer. And in the federal building, they probably have to spend extra time to ensure the lock goes on the outside of the door.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Here's some more "Harper Government" propaganda for you. In the stream of daily government announcements, there's a subliminal propaganda drum beat occurring. The phrase the "Harper Government" is regularly used in place of the "Government of Canada" in government announcements. That is not permitted under federal rules:
- Here's Friday's funding announcement on the Toronto Reference Library where the "Harper Government" phrase appears.
- Here's the announcement from the carbon capture announcement event in Edmonton on Wednesday of last week where it reads: "A partnership between the Harper Government and the Government of Alberta...."
- Here's last Tuesday's announcement in Vancouver: "The Harper Government will contribute up to $49.7 million of the $125 million investment." (No, again, the "Government of Canada" will be contributing, as in, we the taxpayers.)
- Here's an example from early September: "Harper Government Announces Investments to Help Create & Maintain Jobs in Manitoba."
Sometimes, they even mix it up a bit, using the "Conservative Government," also a no-no. Examples: here and here.
Those are just a few recent examples. If someone did a comprehensive search of government websites, announcements, etc. from the past few years, the results would likely blossom.
The point here is that there is no such official beast as the "Harper Government" that can be properly referred to as such within these government communications. The "Government of Canada" designation should be the term used:
Under the Federal Identity Program, all Government of Canada communications, including advertising, must use only approved national symbols and clearly refer to the government as the “Government of Canada.” The overwhelming use of the phrase “Harper Government,”instead of the appropriate phrase “Government of Canada” in taxpayer-funded government advertisements, publications and websites is wrong. The word “Harper” is not an approved applied title for federal advertising purposes.Here's the list of approved titles for federal institutions.
The "Harper Government" terminology should not be used as they're doing. Like the cheques, the websites, the advertising, these announcements are all part of the politicization of as many aspects of government communications as possible.
It's hypocritical for the Prime Minister to be supposedly clamping down on his MPs about their use of the Conservative logo on these big cheques when he's offside as well, inserting his own name, improperly, into the official title of the government in these government announcements. It's wrong and it's time to stop.
(thx to a little birdie for some of the links above;))
Update (1:25 p.m.): The Rural Canadian drew attention to this point yesterday as well.
A few points here firstly it is NOT Harpers government it is OUR government, it is the Government of Canada. Note:- there are well over 100 references to the “Harper Government” on the CPC web site alone, over 200 on the PM site and quite a few on the Government web site.Somebody needs to give that guy high speed internet, the dial up, I hear, is just not on.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
So, tomorrow there is a significant Commons committee meeting dealing with Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. I have begun following this now as both the Cynic site and Pogge have begun writing about it, drawing attention to Michael Geist's writings regarding this legislation. I have found myself unable to disagree with any of what they're writing. Except maybe some minor vilification of Liberals on this given that everyone is in agreement that it's all the parties who are at fault for this legislation coming forth, legislation that is not exactly going to protect consumer's rights. I'm not gong to reinvent the wheel here but will point out some excerpts below on what the legislation would mean and why it should be reconsidered. The substance of the bill in and of itself is worthy of opposition. I will be writing to the members of the Committee tonight as well.
Secondly, this is purely political reasoning, but nevertheless, that's part of any party's legislative considerations. This bill seems to me an opportunity for Liberals to distinguish themselves and make a play for part of a new voting coalition, call it the technology generation if you will. Which is not the stereotypical 25 year olds sitting at computers in hoodies. It's an issue that appeals to all of us now. So call it something else if you prefer, carve out a niche on technology, new economy issues. But it would appeal to youth voters. Scott Reid has been writing about this strategy since the October election last year and it's something the Conservatives are doing well in this era of a splintered electorate. Here he was last October:
* Voter Coalition - we need to scrutinize where we lost votes and, more importantly, how to quickly recoup the most "gettable" of those who have swung away from us. Our multicultural, Jewish and suburban supporters must be a particular focus for outreach and attention. In the past, too much has been taken for granted. From now on, we must fight for those voters. Let's start now.And more recently:
Mr. Reid said the party needs to figure out a strategy to "identify a coalition of voters that allows it a victory."Why not consider breaking from the crowd and build on issues like this? Can't hurt to have street cred here, appeal to youth. I don't know what the political calculations are in their entirety on this bill, but would throw that idea out there. And I don't know if it's too late, this bill has snuck up on us.
"You need to literally think about what is your collection of voters," he said. "How many women do you need? How many Ontarians do you need? How many Quebecers do you need? Not just seats, but what is your voting coalition? How are you going to build that and what is your target audience in terms of appeal."
In terms of the problems with the bill...this is supposed to be an anti-spam bill, yet there's an effort underway to dilute that very purpose:
The Canadian Marketing Association is lobbying MPs to change an anti-spam bill so that consumers have to opt out of receiving commercial email messages, rather than opting in to get them.Dan McTeague is not on the committee but he seems to get it, perhaps he could convey this to his fellow members:
McTeague, who introduced his own anti-spam bill in 2002 but did not get it passed, said he had not seen the latest proposed amendments but added that the opt-in clause was vital.Secondly, there are the concerns about the bill enabling the surreptitious use of DRM ("Digital Rights Management") software on user's computers.
"It's a critical clause because without it, what's the point of having the legislation?"
..the legislation as originally drafted would prevent private companies from installing Digital Rights Management software on your computer without your knowledge and from subsequently accessing your computer to retrieve information from you without your permission. The software and entertainment industries want to block the implementation of those protections and our elected representatives are going to accommodate them by proposing amendments that would render those protections useless. (emphasis added)A more thorough critique of the DRM aspect can be found here, at Michael Geist's site. How exactly did an anti-spam bill morph into including such overreaching provisions? Perhaps an answer for tomorrow would be to excise these provisions and table them for future copyright legislation discussions.
As it's been said, this is about privacy and security, it's not so much about partisanship. But I do hope the Liberals might reconsider their plans for tomorrow. If you are so inclined, send along your emails to all the committee members, or phone, or both. Email information here.
Updated (Monday a.m.): Here's an issue for the "technology generation" that the Liberals have it right on, net neutrality, and that would seem to contradict the support of the above bill.
Last month in Oakville, when asked about the allegation — made by a Tory candidate — that one project was killed because the riding was Liberal, the prime minister said don’t worry: "We can give you a list of announcements made across the country."They ought to but none of their conduct shows that they do. They're mocking us with these efforts. Why can't the government of Canada produce Excel spread sheets, at a bare minimum, providing lists of the infrastructure spending, by exact amount, riding by riding across the country? Treat us like adults. In this internet era, it's really quite remarkable that they can get away with this.
Three weeks later, after repeated requests for that list, his office told me this week to stop bothering them. Turns out the prime minister was joking, or lying. They are not going to cough up a list. Instead, they directed me to the useless actionplan.gc.ca site, and suggested I click on 6,000 individual links and draw up my own list.
These people are either cynically withholding information that would allow voters to see where their tax dollars are beings spent, or they are idiots, or maybe both.
They think they are smart to hide this information — perhaps because it could be politically damaging if they are shown to be shovelling pork into Tory ridings nationwide — but they are not smart.
Canadians want their government to be accountable, and the Tories ought to know that.
For those trying to minimize such complaints, they are about accountability and ethics, not website maintenance. Not surprising they wouldn't get it.
See what you made them do, Steve...:) You made the minions work all weekend. Hope they're getting time and a half for all this midnight oil in cleaning up the mess.
My guess, they'll be all fixed up nicely by some time today. No more link love for the piano playing Prime Minister.
What can they do, they've been caught out and embarrassingly so.
I don't think they're quite finished in cleaning up the partisan excess on the site though...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Let's take a closer look at that curious spending announcement on the Toronto Reference Library that Stephen Harper showed up to make yesterday. What a sudden and odd occurrence. Toronto has not been high on the list of priorities for the Harper gang. So what was this really all about? Here's a theory. This was political damage control to mitigate the impact of the "big cheque" scandal and the underlying and rising narrative of Conservative partisan self-interest, manifested in the "Harper Government's" advertising onslaught and infrastructure spending skewed to Conservative ridings. A big, flashy move clearly needed to be made.
To much media coverage, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to spin his announcement as apparently conclusive (!) proof that infrastructure stimulus spending is being impartially spent across the country. His very appearance was meant to send that message, he didn't need to be asked the question.
Even the questions were mostly softballs. A CBC reporter asked, “What do you make of Liberal criticisms that most of the stimulus money is going to Tory ridings?”That answer is not responsive, however to the evidence. Research and reporting have told us how skewed the spending is. With respect to Toronto itself, the "Government of Canada" is contributing $190 million to Toronto's infrastructure when it is estimated it should properly be $312 million. It's even more obscene elsewhere. Example: Peter MacKay's riding of Central Nova gets $101 million, Liberal and more urban Dartmouth gets $5 million. Got that? There's the skewed spending within Nova Scotia. And also, Peter MacKay's riding received $101 million, the largest city in Canada: $190 million. Something has clearly gone awry.
The prime minister kind of shrugged, threw up his shoulders and said, “Well, here I am,” winning a belly laugh from the assembled. “We have 500 infrastructure projects in the City of Toronto, where we do not hold a single seat.”
But what's most interesting about Friday's Toronto infrastructure announcement, the fact that this Reference Library investment did not appear on the Toronto infrastructure spending list released on September 11th. At some time in the last month, there was a decision made to fund this project. What's changed? The political climate and the heat on the Harper Conservatives. The growing perception that they're funding Conservative ridings and interests over all others.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed up in person to bestow the largesse Friday, after taking a pass last month when the city and federal governments announced the main stimulus program that will grant nearly $587 million – one-third of it federal – to 500 projects across Toronto.So, suddenly finalized. And splashily announced in the heart of downtown Toronto in one of the highest profile Liberal MP ridings, Bob Rae's at that.
Mayor David Miller said the library grant hadn't been finalized in September when the rest of the stimulus program was announced.
The partisan manipulation of the infrastructure spending continues, unabated.
Update (9:00 p.m.): The $100 million to Peter MacKay's riding, assuming that's the total amount, would represent one third federal financing, i.e., $33 million. So the correct comparison, I believe, should instead be $33 million to his riding versus $190 million to Toronto. Which is comprised of what, 21 ridings? The comparison is still valid.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"I took the GO train to Toronto the other day and, as it pulled into the station, I was astonished to see that the whole double-decker coach I was about to board was painted Tory blue, with “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” splashed across it in huge letters. Not wanting to enter a Conservative propaganda vehicle, I walked to the next coach. I’m not sure whether Stephen Harper’s face was on the locomotive, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.This is bordering on comic excess, thus the blog post title. I wonder how many of those GO train cars have been repainted as part of the action plan advertising extravaganza.
Jim Reynolds, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont."
I think there is a tipping point coming soon. Read the letters there, people seem to get it about this government's partisanship. The cheque story is bringing it all home.
Anyone got a picture of this by the way? Send it along if you do.
One other note on the partisanship watch today, there was a good point in this Chronicle Herald editorial following up on their reporting earlier in the week on the lopsided spending going on in Nova Scotia's Conservative held ridings as compared to others:
"Spokesmen for Mr. MacKay and Infrastructure Minister John Baird say the final spending numbers will show the stimulus was shared out fairly. Yet the Tories have also said 90 per cent of this year’s stimulus is committed. That doesn’t leave much to fix the lopsided tally in Nova Scotia."Yes, how do they get out from under that little problem? The horse is 90% out of the barn.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
It's the partisanship, stupid. That's what that picture says to me. It's the achilles heel of the Stephen Harper government.
It's the picture of a government that promotes itself on the taxpayer's back and to the detriment of other important public policy issues. That engages in that self-interest on a widespread, national basis. And they did all of this during a year of recession, spending their time preferring Conservative interests over the national interest. Andrew Steele got to the heart of the matter on that point recently. There's an element of immorality in all of this.
This is also a picture of a government that engages in rule-breaking, here and now, yet perennially points the finger elsewhere. This is not about the Liberals, as David McGuinty said today in response to the predictable sponsorship scandal waving by Conservatives. Conservatives seek to forever immunize themselves from accountability by pointing to the past. But Liberals are committing to policies of transparency that defeat those ghosts: proposing an independent advisory committee to approve government advertising, similar to the approach adopted by the McGuinty government to ensure impartial government advertising; supporting the independence of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Those are important points that shouldn't be dismissed by cynical moral relativists.
It's quite the picture and they wear it well.
Maurizio Bevilacqua remembers when he knew the Liberals were going to win the 1993 election -- Conservatives in Brian Mulroney's government were criss-crossing the country spending taxpayers' money as if it was their own.Yes, that could be a problem. Is the horse out of the barn for the Conservatives? It's hard to see how it isn't.
"This time it's coming a little bit early," the Toronto-area Liberal MP said yesterday, referring to the apparently widely held feeling among Conservative MPs that they're entitled to their entitlements -- principal among them, replacing the maple leaf on presentation-sized cheques with their own name and the Conservative party logo. They should beware because nothing fires up angry voters more than being bribed with their own money.
One more excerpt from Ivison, just for the fun of it:
The Conservative spin machine now says that the use of the logo was not endorsed by the party, which was not aware it was being used. This version of events asks us to believe that all these MPs came up with the giant cheque wheeze off their own bat. Since most Conservative back-benchers follow the old HMS Pinafore line of voting at their party's call and never thinking for themselves at all, this seems scarcely plausible.Hard to disagree with that.
"--gov't ads, publications and websites that do less 'informing' and more 'patting themselves on the back'. For example, ad copy, radio spots, government websites that are very partisan (lots of Conservative blue, photos of the PM and ministers; photos of "announcements'' that feature local Conservative candidates but no Liberals [ed note: or other opposition parties]; gov't-paid-for web sites that have links to Conservative Party websites; return addresses on mailings that are private entities, not the government; ads that direct readers or listeners to Harper's 'economic plan vanity site'."Yesterday was a big day on this issue, with many examples of Conservative emblazoned and signed cheques being issued in connection with government of Canada spending...that's also the kind of thing to keep watching for.
Local media, radio and television, smaller newspapers, fliers and letters received at home, all examples of places to look.
This is all part of a bigger story, the improper politicization of government resources, owned by all of us, for the benefit of the Conservative party. Keep an eye out for it and send along an email...and thanks:)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
As if anything happens in this government that is not without approval of you know who. When the ship is sinking, you don't want to be on board with these guys. This is chutzpah:
The Prime Minister's Office is warning Tory MPs to behave, after one their ranks swapped the Government of Canada logo with the Conservative Party logo while presenting a ceremonial cheque.
Gerald Keddy, the MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's, recently delivered one of those oversized cheques that politicians love to be photographed handing over to grateful constituents. In this case it was for $300,000, from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for an upgrade to a rink in Chester, a community in Mr. Keddy's Nova Scotia riding.
But his own signature, rather than the relevant minister's, was on the cheque, and the Conservative Party logo was prominently displayed where the Government of Canada logo should have been.
The PMO sent a letter to all Conservative MPs Wednesday reminding them that. “tax-funded projects and grants MUST be announced as Government initiatives, not Conservative Party initiatives.Trying to localize and minimize the scandal, predictable. But to hear such piety from head office, that's the essence of hypocrisy given the present context.
“Among other things, this means that the Conservative Party logo and wordmark are not to be incorporated into Government announcements."
We know that the partisan push in seeking Conservative electoral advantage on the infrastructure programme is a national enterprise, it all emanates from the politicization of the action plan funding. That's been well established by recent research on the disproportionate spending of infrastructure stimulus in Conservative ridings. Recent reporting is confirming such information too. Factor in as well the incredible partisan advertising extravaganza that has Privy Council Office public servants blowing the whistle on the unprecedented partisan exploitation of government resources that they're seeing.
No, these local MPs are just following the tone at the top that is blurring the ethical lines. There's been a green light on partisan manipulation of the action plan. What other message are they supposed to get?
Update (7:30 p.m.): Can the PM pitch himself overboard while he's at it?
(h/t) That's a certain someone's signature right up there...
Pictures like these must be why Soudas is now saying that personal signatures are ok. Uh, no, the government communications policy says inconvenient things like this on the principles these people are supposed to be following:
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
"Oh, now I understand: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s assault on arts funding was nothing personal. After all, he sings at the National Arts Centre and listens to AC/DC in the car with his kids. Why, the man is a veritable cultural icon.That's a shame...there's another good one there too on this contrived little bit of image making.
It is, perhaps, what we can cling to when the last working artist in the country runs out of money.
Richard Littlemore, Nanaimo, B.C."
I see 3 pictures of someone and one headshot of the supposed candidate. Seems a little off for a campaign website, no? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
Maybe they'll scrub the above site of the Prime Ministerial excess too.
Monday, October 12, 2009
This is meant to encourage voters to go to the polls in the municipal elections November 1st. It's kind of powerful and mesmerizing. A possible idea for Elections Canada to consider as well given the turnout rates the last few rounds federally. A wake-up call like this, connecting real issues to the vote and doing it in a way that's funny and sharp couldn't hurt.
This is a great example of legitimate, neutral, government sponsored advertising for an important public purpose.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Quite the "electoral" slogan they've got going on in the Hochelaga by-election. "De l'action, pas d'elections." They're running a by-election on an anti-election platform. That's quite the slogan for a political party. I think my head just spun about 360 degrees.
A test run for a national campaign?
Slogan "dictatorial" comme cette homme exprime? Ou juste un autre jour dans le Canada de Stephen Harper...
Friday, October 09, 2009
Question: Okay. Individual came forward, who was it anyway? I haven’t had a chance to -Not to be too critical here but the brainiac questions here are kind of funny. Yes, let's name names in the wide open in a whistleblowing context. And I'm sure the whistleblower(s) waltzed right into the Liberal caucus room. But moving on...it's clear, then, that there are public servants, we don't know how many, who are concerned enough by what they are seeing or have seen, to reach out. So we will see what comes of this.
Martha Hall Findlay: Well, at this point I’m not going to disclose their names because out of protection for them at this point.
Question: But you actually spoke to someone personally.
Martha Hall Findlay: I have not spoken to that person personally but that person has spoken to members of our group, absolutely.
Question: Right. And then -
Question: Are you talking about a private conversation? Like what’s the source of all this?
Martha Hall Findlay: Well, we’ve already seen there have been a number of reports of senior civil servants. In this particular circumstance, to disclose their names would be I think very, very troubling for them. So we want to make sure that we are in fact protecting them.
Question: This is a -
Martha Hall Findlay: A process.
Question: — a civil servant who came to the Liberal caucus to talk to you about this?
Martha Hall Findlay: We have had – and they may not be the same people because we have had newspaper reports of senior civil servants actually making statements to members of the media. We also have had conversations internally with others who have raised the same concerns. But at this point it’s not fair to them to disclose who they are.
One of the lines cropping up in the comment section there is the suggestion that it is improper for Liberals, being partisans, to be facilitating such people with their complaints. There's nothing wrong with public servants contacting those who are similarly expressing concern about abuses which are in the public eye - infrastructure partisanship, excessive advertising, or perhaps other issues to come - as long as the process through which they're doing so is neutral. The information conveyed by a whistleblower will ultimately stand or fall on its own merit. And besides, people are speaking to the media, it's not as if multiple channels aren't being used. And it's unknown whether any of these public servants have availed themselves of the complaint process through the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner's office.
Secondly, the "everyone does it" line has cropped up, a commenter has reiterated Donald Savoie's quote in the original CP story that all governing parties do this, i.e., nothing to see here. Savoie was countered by a fellow academic, however, and the quotes in the report from public servants speak for themselves. Those quoted seemed to convey a comparative sensibility, that they had indeed witnessed prior governments yet this present one is off the charts in its partisan bent. Such information should be listened to and not waved off.
Then there's "adscam, adscam, adscam," the old and presently irrelevant saw that is being floated. Next.
There's also some concern about the use of the word "corruption" being used here in the context of the excessive partisan governmental operations. It's too much they're bleating. Corruption can mean many things beyond the typical examples that would come to mind (bribery, kickbacks, etc.). As a generic label, it's fair in this context to describe the rule violations being alleged. The Conservative government using government resources to benefit the Conservative party. And to further illuminate its use, here's what Professor Aucoin stated in the CP report:
During a recent address in Ottawa to departmental audit committees -- groups made up of former senior civil servants -- Aucoin referred to the politicization of the bureaucracy as "a form of political corruption."There are multiple interpretations on the word. Sure, let's be careful with the terminology but let's keep speaking strongly about the issues here.
Some of his listeners, he said, were shocked by his use of such a term and asked if that's really what he meant to say.
"I said yeah, it's a misuse of political authority," Aucoin recounted.
"It's not illegal, necessarily. But if we're going to talk about values and ethics -- and we're not going to make them criminal -- then there's got to be a sphere of behaviour that's inappropriate."
Final note, check out the comment from "Bureaucrat" at the end of the thread as well. No way to verify its authenticity but perhaps those with resources might be interested in following up on some of the points raised.
The typical refrain, well, all governments do it, is floated in the report by one academic, yet the quotes from the sources and others in the report don't seem to support that claim. We should listen to them and stop providing safe harbour for Conservative abuses under the protective umbrella of that argument. "Welcome to Stephen Harper's world," they're waving at us.
Reading such reports should provide real motivation for those out there who are in the doldrums these days about polls and swirling, choking conventional wisdom. This (and other important stories too) is the kind of stuff you can't shrug your shoulders at. It's what Karl Rove is also alleged to have done during his time in the White House, politicizing government departments in pursuit of his partisan political agenda. The overwhelming divisive partisanship of the Bush administration was a big part of Obama's appeal in the end, people had enough of it. The Harper Conservatives are carrying out the same plan.
Congrats to Canadian Press who have been kicking you know what in the past few weeks with such material (and may many more). The abuse of government resources by this government is looking to be one of the big stories that may yet undo these presently hubristic Conservatives.
(More from last night.)
Thursday, October 08, 2009
A partisan government advertising campaign paid for by taxpayers raised alarms from the outset among senior public servants who serve Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Canadian Press has learned.The quotes from people who are refusing to be named out of "fear of reprisals" are extraordinary:
The Privy Council Office, the non-partisan bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, has never been comfortable administering the website for the Economic Action Plan -- and informed Harper of its misgivings at the time of last January's federal budget.
Those misgivings were heard, but overruled.
While the story is being denied by both PCO and PMO, the extraordinary claim originates from several sources within the famously discreet Privy Council Office.
The fact the story is being aired at all -- even under the cloak of anonymity -- suggests just how far the Conservatives are stretching the traditional boundaries of partisan behaviour in Canada's professional bureaucracy.
In interviews with past and present government insiders, The Canadian Press was told the Tories are trampling the admittedly grey area between partisanship and policy.This onslaught is pushing the limits and apparently the public servants know it. Now perhaps one of them would take the steps required to report it to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, whose mandate you can find, here.
More than one career bureaucrat said they've never seen anything so blatant as the current use of the office for self-promotion.
None would speak on the record, some for fear of reprisals, but many said it is a story that needs to be told.
"You have a political party that is not constrained by what conventionally would be perceived as overtly partisan actions," said one former insider.
"I can tell you every funding program across the government is being politicized," said another public servant.
"They do it for their own needs and they don't do it to help people. Welcome to Stephen Harper's world."
Disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector is a courageous and commendable act of service.Excellent reporting from CP. The supposedly non-partisan PCO (see blog post earlier today) and its evolution under this Prime Minister's tenure is an underreported story worthy of attention.
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is here to provide an external review of disclosures in a timely, equitable and confidential manner. We're also here to ensure public sector employees who make good-faith disclosures are protected from job reprisal.
(h/t to FarAndWide for CTV link above)
Haven't done this in a while, but here's a little search by the Privy Council Office today:
Apropos of the Afghan cover-up aka the shutdown effort the Harper people have underway with the Military Police Complaints Commission, no doubt. Colvin, a sought after witness at the commission, filed his evidence yesterday but it has been sealed amidst the legal wrangling over the scope of the hearings. As for the search on Mendes, he criticized the refusal to extend the MPCC Chair's term, and has been highly and rightfully critical of that action. These points, raised by Mendes a few days ago, are bang on as to what the government is doing:
Mendes accused the department of using delaying tactics in order to deliberately run out the clock on Tinsley's term, aiming to undermine the investigation or appoint a chair less familiar with the case.Pretty amazing stuff we're dealing with. More here on the government's abuse of the Canada Evidence Act to intimidate witnesses.
"This raises a huge, huge systemic issue," Mendes said.
"Is it legal or constitutional to stymie legal and administrative tribunals in this way? Because if it can be done to this commission, it could be done in any administrative tribunal in this country and that calls into question the fundamentals of administrative justice."
In other developments on the Afghanistan file, the government may be facing hearings at the defence committee on detainee handling in Afghanistan despite their efforts to shut it down at the MPCC. A motion has been filed in support of that option today.
And it may be getting further public scrutiny on the future of the Afghanistan combat mission. Conservatives are now framing the post-2011 decision as an open debate:
The federal cabinet has the authority to define the mission on its own, but MacKay says the Tory government is committed to the motion passed by Parliament in March 2008 to withdraw the country's battle group from Kandahar, starting in July 2011.
"Until such time as there is a new motion before Parliament or a new decision taken, we will respect the guidelines and the direction from the existing motion," the minister said following his committee appearance.
His remarks echoed Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs minister, who told the Commons in an impromptu debate on Afghanistan earlier in the week that the future mission will be brought before MPs.
"I can tell the honourable member that when the mission is debated after 2011 by Parliament, he, as the Liberal foreign affairs critic, will have an opportunity to full participate in that debate," Obhrai said in response to a question from Liberal MP Bob Rae.
"The (Commons Afghanistan) committee will participate. Canadians will participate to indicate how the mission will go after 2011 should go, while taking into account the strong values and past contributions. I can tell the honourable member we are looking forward to that debate."
MacKay side-stepped the question of how Canada will carry out a development mission while a Taliban insurgency rages in many parts of southern Afghanistan."Moving parts," a new "debate" on the future of the mission, with Obhrai's emphasis on "strong values and past contributions"...it all suggests a coming plan from the government to change the mission's future post-2011 that is at variance with the present plan to cease the Canadian combat role at that stage. Expect public denials but keep an eye out for the private machinations.
It is generally accepted that diplomats, development and aid workers will need protection, but the minister refused to say whether a small contingent of Canadian troops will provide that security - or if the dangerous role will be left to the Americans and other NATO allies.
There are many "moving parts" in making the decision about what the mission will look like, not the least of which is what direction the U.S. administration intends to take, MacKay said.
"The senators and MPs who sit on the joint committee that oversees Page's office should give him the resources he needs. The committee meets today. As Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has rightly argued, it should 'unshackle' Page by petitioning the Speakers of the Senate and Commons to ask the government to boost his budget."A fully funded PBO is as close to a necessity as one could posit at the moment as a key instrument in taking on the challenges of holding the Harper government to financial account. Checking the authenticity of deficit numbers, tracking infrastructure spending issues...it's all looming quite large. Surely this group will get that and get beyond the parliamentary niceties. Something to be watching today.
Given that a majority of the members of the joint committee are from opposition parties, this should be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, however, funding of the PBO could be derailed by an arcane dispute. Page has been lobbying to make all his reports public – not only those he undertakes on his own but also those done at the request of individual legislators. Senators and MPs believe they are entitled to ask that research be done on a confidential basis. While that's true, they shouldn't hold the PBO hostage over it. Surely protocols can be negotiated to let Page do his sums and release the findings with minimal delay, if not instantly. It's all public money.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
More tonight on the future of the CanWest stable of newspapers. The creditors are going to attempt to get as much value out of the assets as they can and that means trying to keep the chain together. You can see how that business judgment could stand in the way of a dilution of concentrated media ownership in this country. It's not surprising though, Scotiabank and other creditors are not in it for anything but their return at this point.
The best way to preserve the value and revenue of CanWest LP is to keep the papers together as a national chain, according to the sources at Scotiabank and CanWest LP. The alternative would be busting up CanWest LP, which is also home to 26 community papers, and attempting to sell each property to regional publishers in the midst of a recession.Chris Waddell from Carleton University's journalism school weighs in:
“There's a value to being able to deliver a national, one-stop advertising presence to national advertisers like Coca-Cola or the car companies, and creditors recognize that value,” said one adviser to CanWest LP.
That business logic is expected to see ownership of the National Post newspaper, currently held by parent CanWest Global, transferred into CanWest LP to give the chain a newspaper in Toronto. The newspaper company has also cut costs by combining operations at its various papers, and those synergies could be lost if the chain is broken up.
Sources say creditors are willing to back the newspapers through an expected economic rebound, with an eye toward getting their loans paid back through an initial public offering of CanWest LP that could come late in 2010.
"...this isn't a great time for selling media properties. No one would give you a very high valuation on them, so you are likely not to get as much money as you might like for them," Waddell said.We'll see how this plays out, long way to go until it does.
But this might not be bad for Canadian journalism, he added, since the result may be a return to locally owned newspapers. "There are a lot of arguments for why that would be a good thing for the media ... for competition and everyone else."
Update (Thursday a.m.): From Toronto Star's David Olive yesterday, this interesting note:
Torstar Corp., owner of this newspaper, is a rumoured buyer for some dailies.