Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday night



Agreed.

The "fellowship of the lifeboat" is only for some issues

There was a major contradiction in Harper's overall presentation at the Davos summit yesterday. It did not go unnoticed by Canadian media. The contradiction was between the cooperative stance in global financial matters that he pitched during his speech versus the uncooperative stance on climate change matters that came out during the post-speech panel session. Here he was, during his speech, (video) praising the cooperative spirit of the G20 in tackling financial challenges:
“If I may be indulged in a personal recollection, what I saw at the Washington Summit made a huge impression upon me. Nations whose interests have been often at odds, nations with different traditions of governance — rivals, even former enemies — found themselves addressing common problems with a common will. In this globalized economy, they recognized that a flood engulfing one would soon swamp them all. So, even though these twenty-some leaders all represented sovereign states, they agreed to common, synchronized actions to chart the same course toward calmer waters.

“Ideological differences were set aside. Old enmities were not raised. Indeed, if you had arrived from another planet you never could have guessed which nations had spent decades mired in hostility. You might call it the fellowship of the lifeboat.

“But ladies and gentlemen, in that brief parting of the veil, I saw world leadership at its best, a glimpse of a hopeful future — one where we act together for the good of all. The world we have been trying to build since 1945. The world we want for our children and grandchildren. It can be done if we act together. This is ‘enlightened sovereignty.’
The speech went on with its call for "shared responsibility" and an "expanded view of mutual-interest." Yet when the issue of climate change came up during the panel session after his speech, the story changed. There's a video report here that conveys the inconsistency.

You have to wonder how we come off to the world at such moments. A big part of Harper's speech, despite being billed as focussing on his new priority of maternal and child health in the developing world, was fairly self-congratulatory for Canada and our weathering of the financial crisis, specifically our financial system. That part of the speech seemed to be the version that he's been giving on the international stage for a while now, the requisite national pitch for image's sake. But if we're doing so well financially, if we're a model of stability, if our debt level as a percentage of GDP, etc. that he touts is so manageable in his view, it begs the question about our obstinacy on climate change. If we came through the financial crisis in such good shape, then why are we as opposed to other nations being so recalcitrant?

Funny that Harper and his speechwriters didn't foresee the obvious inconsistency they were setting themselves up for with its message. Surely they would have known that Canada's position on climate change would be a factor that might come up? In elitist occupied Davos? But...they missed it. It's a political point, but still, you can see for yourself where he ended up and how it was reported by Canadian media. If he was going to step up into the international leader role and make a pitch for "enlightened sovereignty," you would think he'd at least have a way of explaining the contradiction on the climate change front.

As for the rest of his speech, the whole thing ran about 26 plus minutes and just a few minutes at the very end were devoted to the issue of women and children's health, about 6 paragraphs. The speech seemed to need less in the way of John Maynard Keynes jokes and more on the topic he was supposedly there to prioritize.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This time, they mean it

Did you see the Harper op-ed in Toronto Star today?
This week, many global leaders and members of the international business community will meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, Canada will set out its plans as president of the G8 and host of the G20 Toronto summit in June.
...
As president of the G8 in 2010, Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world's poorest regions. Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health and Canada will be making this the top priority in June. Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health-care solutions.
...
As its contribution to this G8 initiative, Canada will look to mobilize G8 governments and non-governmental organizations as well as private foundations. Setting a global agenda for improving maternal and child health is an ambitious plan. But working with other nations and aid agencies on the ground where the need is greatest makes it an achievable goal.

There is other business to be transacted at the G8 as well as informal discussions on security, nuclear proliferation and the environment. But our focus on maternal and child health will be a priority.
Nothing against this sudden prioritization at all. Indeed, it's an admirable focus and I note that Michael Ignatieff, for example, was speaking about this last week.

What's notable is the fickleness in the choice, the shift away from the "dirty bomb" focus that strangely appeared in the news during the first week of January, indicating that it was the topic Canada would in fact focus on in its G8/G20 2010 presidency, at the beck and call of the U.S. and Russia:
Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and corralling components for a dirty bomb terror attack is fast becoming Canada's top agenda item for the G8 summit it will host this summer.

The global economic downturn will dominate talks by the leaders of the Group of Eight countries when they hold their June summit in Huntsville, Ont., but aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper are laying the ground work for another issue: giving new momentum to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
Good bye dirty bombs, maybe another time.

How does all this square with the de-funding of groups like KAIROS, for example, that will now be unable to fund that legal clinic for women in the Congo:
In the Congo, KAIROS funding means a women’s legal clinic to address rampant gender-based violence will be established. Loss of this funding to our critical human rights partner, Héritiers de la Justice, compromises this critical work to fight rape as a weapon of war.
Surely such cuts wouldn't be made if the Conservatives truly believed in their newfound G8 presidency initiative of improving the health of women and children in the world's poorest regions. That is one of the most glaring examples of women in the world in need of help. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knows it.

Recall also the removal of terms such as "gender equality" and "gender-based violence" from Canada's foreign policies by these Conservatives. How does that fit in with the new priority?

Tacking whatever way the wind blows, that's the impression you have with this government's engagement in the world. This is an interesting development, but their record doesn't speak to their sudden engagement with the topic.

Back to work aftermath

So how did it go yesterday? The first day on Parliament Hill post weekend prorogation rallies saw the opposition parties arrive to carry on with regular business on matters like youth unemployment, while the government treated us to a pretty coordinated effort to distract from prorogation.

The word "coalition" has made a very sudden re-entry into the dialogue, courtesy of Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, raising it again Monday, as he did Sunday, on a political show. The Prime Minister's Parliamentary Secretary also got in on the act as did a columnist in the Globe.

This means that the Conservatives have apparently learned nothing from the weekend, which was really quite remarkable, to see energized Canadians in the streets across the country, motivated solely by an action taken by the Prime Minister. Yet there was no effort to address the elephant in the room, no courage to make a substantive statement on the issue. Just reckless, theatrical rhetoric. Some Conservative MPs get it, however, as they have apparently been whispering about discontent from their constituents to Bob Fife, as he related on the national news last night.

Meanwhile, the issues began to inevitably present themselves yesterday as a reminder of why Parliament should be in session.

First there was the news that the government is letting Richard Colvin, the respected diplomat who recently testified before the Afghan Special Commons Committee and who made damning allegations of government neglect in the face of torture allegations in Afghanistan, twist in the wind by turning his legal fees, to which he is entitled, into a huge question mark. The Foreign Affairs department, in an effort at damage control no doubt, expressed that they are looking at his latest invoice but it's not too tough to read between the lines. So here we have the government acting in a manner toward a distinguished public servant that requires accountability. Yet Parliament is shut down.

Then we received news that the Supreme Court of Canada will deliver the Omar Khadr judgment on Friday: "Supreme Court set to rule in Khadr case." How interesting that on the very first day that Parliament was supposed to sit, the Supreme Court reminds us that it has been doing its work, most likely with the original January 25th date for the return to Parliament in mind. What an unfortunate contrast for the Harper government. Indeed, it would make sense that they would return their judgment the first week Parliament would have normally been back. Parliament could weigh in on the judgment via debate. The sensitivity of the issue politically was likely on the Court's mind. And furthermore, the matter is urgent, it's been unresolved for years and Khadr continues to sit at Guantanamo Bay. You have to wonder whether any thought at all was given by the government to the prospect of this ruling coming in during this prorogation period.

So we'll get the judgment on Friday and depending on its holding, it could become a very important matter for the government to be pressed on. If the judgment ordered the Harper government to seek Khadr's repatriation and the government refused, with Parliament not sitting, can you imagine the optics? The perception of a government removed from accountability would be heavily compounded. We'll have to await the court's judgment, but it's a scenario to be considered. If, on the other hand, the judgment doesn't order the government to seek Khadr's repatriation, the need to pursue the government on the question in Parliament will still become all the more pressing as political action, outside of the courts, will once again become the focus.

Colour me skeptical but I don't think snarling, inflammatory talking points are going to cut it for very long for the Conservatives.

The Harper ten percenters: the early years

This is what you would call an antique ten percenter, from the riding of one Stephen Harper, MP, while Leader of the Opposition.
See? Nation building, inspirational politics and bringing people together for years now.

The above forerunner of the modern day ten percenter invective (we've clearly come a long way) was passed along by friend the Rural Canadian who offers these observations:
Couple of things to note even way back when he was in opposition the "MP for Calgary Southwest" was sending partisan mail out on the taxpayers dollar, in this case to the Owen Sound riding far from Calgary!
Second the figures given as "waste" are miniscule compared with his "waste" on advertising and parliamentary shutdowns he is now responsible for.
Thirdly even then I note that it was "Stephen Harpers" Conservative Party of Canada, a taste of thing to come eh!
And lastly Canadians do indeed deserve better ...... than the total disregard he has shown for our parliamentary democracy.
I would also throw in the cost of these ten percenter gems in the modern era. And a certain set of offenders who deserve special mention. The Conservatives, as a minority government, are outspending the larger opposition benches in their use of these flyers, $6.3 million to $3.8 million last year. Now there's a cut that could be made given the government's newfound interest in fiscal management. Lop $3 million off the Conservative self-promotion right there. Paging Mr. Day?

P.S. Somebody still has to get that guy hi-speed internet:) And he has a great post on the Owen Sound anti-prorogation rally.

Late night prorogation audio

Just listened to these samples of reader audio comments on prorogation on the Globe site. These are a sample, meaning that the views they chose to put forth would be representative of those received. They are overwhelmingly and incredibly negative about prorogation, just one lone voice in support who seems to repeat the Conservative talking points. The genuine upset and anger among people is evident, not that we didn't know that based on this weekend. But they're definitely worth a listen, each one is just about 3 minutes.

Part I and Part II.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Limits on prorogation

What to do with a rogue Prime Minister who demonstrates that he won't be constrained by the unwritten rules of our constitutional system? The answer is to stand up to this challenge to our democratic system by instituting rules to ensure it doesn't happen again. The Liberals have made their proposals today:
To prevent future abuses of prorogation, the Liberal Party of Canada will seek to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to:

• Require at least 10 days written notice from the Prime Minister of his intention to seek to prorogue, together with his specific reasons for doing so;

• Require the Prime Minister to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate;

• Prevent a request for prorogation within the first year after a Speech from the Throne, unless the House consents;

• Prevent a prorogation longer than one calendar month without the consent of the House;

• Prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and,

• Allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.
This is a responsive proposal to current obvious unrest that Mr. Harper has stoked. It's reasonable and, really, common sense. If you have nothing to hide, if you work cooperatively with the opposition in Parliament, such rules almost take on an administrative, minimalist tone. The uproar demanded a response that was equal to the concerns raised about the Prime Minister's power to prorogue and I think this has met that imperative.

While it's been opined in a few quarters that such proposals are comparable to the fixed election date law that sought to restrain the Prime Minister from asking for an election beyond the fixed date, and are therefore useless, I'd submit that present political facts and public demand make this a very different and unique case. And our present constitutional reality makes practical limits on prorogation a necessity to consider.

A formal change to the Governor General's powers would require unanimous consent to amend the constitution and no one seems prepared to venture down that road. It would probably open up a debate on allegiance to the monarchy, etc., and that's likely not on anyone's agenda of to-do items in the here and now.

The point of such a set of "anterior" proposals, i.e., restraints prior to the Governor General's involvement, is to express what Parliament wants on a given issue with constitutional implications given the very difficulty we face in achieving such constitutional change. It becomes a matter of political consequence as to the effect of disobeying such a law. Harper was not punished for breaking his fixed election date law, although one could argue that particular breach led us to this place where prorogation was a bridge too far. The public was not incensed about his action.

Does anyone have any doubt that the next time a Prime Minister seeks to prorogue Parliament that great attention will be paid to that effort and that political consequences will follow? It will and this is a point that was raised at a law forum I attended last week, which I thought was one of the most compelling points made: a "growing push back on prorogation in public is the real limit on this power in the future." It is up to the public to restrain our elected officials by expressing our discontent. We have done so on prorogation already and the exercise of that power will be significantly altered going forward. Public condemnation gives prorogation reform proposals their legitimacy (and arguably, even without reform, public condemnation has limited its future use in any event). Prime Ministers will ignore them at their peril. Mr. Harper has had a taste of this.

Other thoughts today: here, here and here.

Shuttered

(John Hansen - click to enlarge)

The Globe has another editorial that hits the right note for today's infamous moment in recent parliamentary history:
“Many of our most serious problems as a country can be traced to the apathy and non-involvement of Canadians in public affairs, and to decisions that too frequently ignore the popular will…. We believe in accountability of elected representatives to the people who elect them, and that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supersede their obligations to their political parties.”

Stephen Harper wrote that. The words are from the 1988 platform he penned as policy director for the nascent Reform Party.
...
As Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has eroded the institution his party sought to defend. He is not the first prime minister to do so. But Mr. Harper has gone to new lengths, using prerogative powers to shut Parliament itself. MPs – the tribunes of the people – have accepted each incursion on their authority, regardless of party stripe.

Today, Parliament is closed, while Canadians hang on to the notion that they live under a parliamentary system of government. We don't elect our prime minister, we elect our MPs to form a government, and then to hold the prime minister and his ministers to account. But the present reality is one in which the executive increasingly directs the activities of the legislature. That's something at odds with the ideals on which the country, and the Reform-Conservative tradition, were built. Canadians have taken notice.
That's probably enough of a mirror to hold up to Mr. Harper today as parliamentarians return to work in the shadow of that shuttered Parliament. But let's also consider what it might mean in a more practical political sense as well.

The above editorial is about Harper's breach of the democratic values he has historically espoused but has now abandoned. He's also stepped on his own carefully crafted politically oriented values messaging as well. We've just heard the chants across the country directed at Harper, "get back to work." This is terribly ironic considering that the Conservatives never miss a chance to attempt to portray themselves as the party of the "average Canadian," emphasizing Tim Horton's, hockey, etc. That's been a big part of their messaging, portraying Harper as the guy who's most like the average Canadian, in contrast to the Liberal leaders, for example, that they've tried to portray as out of touch with average Canadians. This prorogation has gravely undermined that messaging. If Harper's snub of Parliament isn't elitist, what is? We'll all be able to see who's going back to work today, in Parliament, the official place of business for our MPs.

The privilege of getting paid without having to be accountable to Parliament, to do the normal job they are supposed to do, it appears to have really sunk in with Canadians as embodying the opposite of Canadian values. They have made themselves vulnerable on "values" issues in more ways than one.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A few Sunday notes

Just a few minor observations kicking around today...

Someone's looking very tired these days. Read into that what you may.

The coalition bogeyman made a brief appearance on Question Period today in the form of Conservative MP Rick Dykstra trying to deflect from the anti-prorogation rallies yesterday. He also hauled out the fact that Bob Rae, his Liberal counterpart on today's panel, prorogued the Ontario legislature while Premier. Rae handily dismissed the argument by pointing out that it's how Harper has exercised prorogation twice over the past year, to avoid a confidence vote and parliamentary scrutiny that's the difference. Prorogation has never been a controversial constitutional issue until Mr. Harper made it one. That's all the Conservatives could muster up today by way of answer in the discussion, "coalition" and Bob Rae did it too. They've so lost this issue, they should just admit it.

Below, some more video from yesterday, since it's still the big issue of the weekend and the effect of these demonstrations will carry on into the week as some show up to work on Parliament Hill despite the government's shut down of the institution.

Here's Canadian Press interviewing people at the Toronto rally, the kid at the end is probably the most succinct and wisest of the bunch (apparently there is an ad at the beginning here which you can't get rid of, so bear with it):



Finally, this one from Parliament Hill, Ignatieff speaking where some news was made in his recognition of the demands for limits on prorogation. We may hear more about that at the democratic governance forum that Liberals are hosting, I believe this week:



I think that sign they flashed to, "Down with this sort of thing," is one of my favourites from the weekend, hilarious.

Late Saturday night...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Great day at the Toronto #CAPP rally

Update (11:10 p.m.) below.

Back home and warming up. It was a memorable and enthusiastic rally, great spirit among the crowd and well-attended. I see numbers varying out there but from the street, with people as far as the eye could see, it was hard to tell. Could have been anywhere between 7,000 -10,000. A great day with friends and some new acquaintances!

Some photos:

(source)

Loved this one, "recalibrate this":



A simple cartoon, hand-drawn & a classic riddle:





Hey, I've seen this one somewhere before:



I'd say mission accomplished, the prorogation penchant of Mr. Harper has been thoroughly called out.

Bravo to all who organized and attended, job well done!

Update (11:10 p.m.): BigCityLib, all I will say is, dude, you really need to get on twitter. It's 2010, get thee to a Blackberry, BCL!

Update II: You can find the rest of my photos from the rally here.

Update III: Awesome photo stream of the entire thing here (h/t).

Friday, January 22, 2010

#CAPP rallies across Canada tomorrow

Anti-Prorogue Rallies

Just a last minute reminder here. This map is circulating tonight (click on link to find rally in your area). Hope everyone gets out there and sends a message regarding Harper's blatantly wrong exercise of this power, two years in a row now.

And have fun out there:)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is the cost of prorogation?

Harper yesterday:
"'It is essential that government limit public spending,' Harper said outside Rideau Hall following the morning ceremony to swear-in ministers to their new portfolios."
In light of that statement and government messaging, it bears asking, how much is prorogation costing Canadians, in terms of the idle parliamentary days between January 25th and March 3rd and the lost legislative days from the last session? This blogger's been looking at it: is it $130 million? A question that warrants examination.

(h/t)

Update (3:45 p.m.): I know, I know, my bad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Toronto "No Prorogue" rally this Saturday, info & reminder

Calling all interested Torontonians:
We need your help!
Promote the rally for January 23.

NO to prorogation! YES to democracy!

Canadians against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto) has organized a rally and march for Saturday, January 23 at 1:00pm at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. And we urgently need your help to promote it. Here's how you can help spread the word:

Download promotional materials.
Everything is available online - posters, leaflets, stickers, petitions, Facebook profile pics, etc.: http://groups.google.com/group/capp-outreach/files
. Let us know where you can distribute them.

Provide free photocopying or printing.
Do you have access to a photocopier or heavy-duty printer? Can you do any free photocopying or printing (no amount is too small or too large)? Also let us know if your workplace, community group, local library, trade union or student union, place of worship, etc. can be a pick-up location for printed materials. If yes, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com to let us know your address and dates/times when materials may be picked up.

Join us for city-wide poster runs.
On the following dates/times, meet us at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Suite 207, 2nd floor to pick up posters and postering materials (paste, staplers and/or tape) and to spread out across Toronto to put up posters everywhere we can. Bring your friends!

- Wednesday, January 13 at 6:00pm
- Sunday, January 17 at 4:00pm
- Wednesday, January 20 at 6:00pm

Join us for city-wide leafleting sessions.
On the following dates/times/locations, meet us to distribute leaflets as a large group to passers-by. We'll bring all the printed materials, including display tables; you just have to bring yourself (and friends).

- Saturday, January 16 at 8:00am at the main entrance to St. Lawrence Market, 92 Front Street East (TTC: Union)
- Saturday, January 16 at 1:00pm at Yonge-Dundas Square (TTC: Dundas)

Put up posters/distribute leaflets on your own time.
All printed materials are available at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Suite 207, 2nd floor, seven days a week from 8:00am to 10:00pm. Distribute materials on busy street corners, at TTC entrances/exits, and in large apartment buildings. Just let us know where you've distributed materials so we know what parts of Toronto have been covered. Email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com.

Donate funds.
Canadians against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto) is a grassroots, non-partisan movement of ordinary Canadians. We urgently need your financial support to build and organize an effective rally that engages the public and gets its message across to MPs. Donate online at http://noprorogue.ca/
. Look for the "Donate Now" box. Cheques and/or money orders should be made payable to "Shilo Davis" or "Justin Arjoon" (CAPP in memo area) and mailed to CAPP Toronto, 67 Griffiths Drive, Ajax ON L1T 3J8.

Attend upcoming organizing meetings.
We need as many volunteers as possible to promote the rally ahead of time, and to support the rally itself on January 23. If you'd like to volunteer, please join us. We meet on Fridays (January 15 and 22) from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on the University of Toronto downtown campus. For exact location, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com. All are welcome!

Promote the event online.
Feel free to forward this email to family, friends, co-workers and/or anyone who cares about democracy in Canada. You can also join our Facebook group, where this movement got started: http://bit.ly/findusonfacebook. Or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates on your cell phone or online: http://twitter.com/NoProrogueTO
.

Thank you in advance for whatever support you can offer. We look forward to seeing you on January 23, if not sooner!

For more information, email noproroguetoronto@gmail.com.

The Toronto rally is organized by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (Toronto), a grassroots, non-partisan movement of ordinary Canadians that emerged in response to Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament. All are welcome to join us.

http://noprorogue.ca/
| noproroguetoronto@gmail.com

The "in and out" election advertising scheme ruling

(Ottawa Citizen)

A few initial thoughts on the long awaited "in and out" judgment that came down yesterday. First off, see the graphic above for a very helpful explanation/reminder of what has been at issue in this case (h/t Pundits Guide). Here are the overview details from CP:
The federal Conservatives have won a court victory over Elections Canada in a case that saw Mounties raid Tory party headquarters over $1.2-million in contested advertising expenses during the 2006 federal election.

But the opposition says the court ruling won't end the controversy.

Federal Court Judge Luc Martineau on Monday rejected claims by Elections Canada that advertising expenses attributed to Tory candidates should have been reported as expenses for the national Conservative campaign.

The ruling means Elections Canada will have to reimburse 67 candidates for thousands of dollars each in campaign expenses.

It also means the Conservative party has dodged the prospect of having illegally exceeded its campaign spending limit by more than $1-million.

Still, Judge Martineau questioned the “legitimacy” of the so-called “in and out” advertising scheme because of the effect it could have on the fairness of electoral spending law.
The Conservatives appear to have won this particular battle, achieving the ability to skirt the national election spending limits by transferring funds "in and out" of local ridings and effectively undermining the national spending limit on federal parties in the process. What the ruling could mean is that a wealthy political party might outspend its opponents by millions in a federal campaign (as explained here). The wealthy party able to do that at the present moment is the Conservative party. The others just aren't there with them. So this ruling could be quite significant.

It remains to be seen, however, whether their larger war with Elections Canada on the point will be won. There may be an appeal from this judgment to the Federal Court of Appeal. After all, at issue is the integrity of the national spending limit regime under our elections law. It creates a level playing field among our political parties and that equal playing field in our elections regime is of utmost importance. It's something we've prided ourselves on as Canadians as we look to the money races that are ever escalating to our south. There are no Michael Bloomberg obscene elections here. It's not money and predominance in advertising wars during election campaigns that will (or should) win the day. Theoretically, anyway.

Theoretically, that is, because the Harper Conservatives have brought us the innovation of the never-ending negative advertising campaign. The degree to which they've done this is new in Canadian politics and its ongoing nature avoids the narrow election campaign period's spending limits. They do this because they have the money to do so, other parties have yet to catch up to their fundraising prowess, so they put it to use beyond the campaign period. In conjunction with the party financed never-ending ad campaign, we have also witnessed unprecedented government advertising from the Harper government, tinged with partisanship and timed for political advantage. So, all this is to say that this judgment, which will have the effect of letting the national campaign spending limits be breached, is not a good development if you are someone who believes in that equal playing field of election spending during elections. But spending outside of campaign periods and government advertising, those issues are challenges we face as well, courtesy of this government, that are also affecting the level playing field. It's almost quaint to hark back to this judgment and how it applies only during election campaigns given the ongoing advertising limit-pushing we've seen from the Harper party and government.

This "win" may be tempered somewhat by the judgment's holding that the "in and out" transfers will have to exhibit some real relationship between the expense allocation and the market value of ads (or other item) received by a local campaign. That takes away, to an extent, the ability to dump whatever expense amounts the national campaign decides into a given local budget based solely on how much room is available in that local budget. But it will still permit the "in and out" tactic to occur. The Conservatives will just have to be more clever in executing it next time around.

Other quick thoughts:

In the CP report linked to above, Pierre Poilievre is quoted as follows:
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre called it a “devastating blow” to Elections Canada and a “total vindication” for the party, claiming Elections Canada has wasted more than $1-million on its parallel investigation into the advertising.
These Conservatives, particularly the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, really should have a sense that they are in government and comments such as this undermine, inappropriately, the integrity of our independent institutions. It's clear that they don't care but it must be pointed out how corrosive their attitude is toward such foundational democratic institutions as Elections Canada. The dispute was merited. The Conservatives were exploiting a loophole in the system that no other parties thought appropriate to do, nor did they. Elections Canada's actions were appropriate in the circumstance, based on the spending limits in place and having been presented with an unorthodox effort to work around them.

Further, this win doesn't detract from the simple fact that the Conservatives are putting the taxpayer to extra expense by executing the "in and out" system as they did in 2006 and will no doubt seek to do in the next federal election. The national moneys transferred in and out of the local ridings often stayed in the local accounts just for a matter of hours. Yet those moneys form the basis of expense recoupment claims by these local candidates from taxpayers. Does it seem legitimate that a local hypothetical candidate should be able to get moneys back from the taxpayer, for e.g., 60% of a hypothetical $20,000 amount that goes in and out of their campaign for just a few hours? That hypothetical candidate would get $12,000 from the taxpayer as a result of this national party transfer. Those local candidates who benefit from their local budgets being topped up in this way will therefore start the next campaign with a leg up on their competition thanks to this additional boost, and on the taxpayer's back of course. It's so ironic. The Conservatives recently touted their disapproval of the concept of "double dipping" in another elections law case as an affront to the taxpayer. But their high ground appeals are clearly situational.

There's more reading on this today, a critical editorial on the ruling.

This result may be a technical "win," yet it furthers along the present day narrative of a self-interested government, using every possible tool for its political advantage, in this case, the electoral laws.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Maybe the shuffler should be shuffled

Apparently the cabinet shuffle is on this week. Despite the obvious need to focus the government's attention on the Haiti challenge, the political priorities of the Prime Minister will proceed apace. Crisis? What crisis? Let's go ahead and shuffle the deck, say, Tuesday. No speculation on personnel here, we can wait until tomorrow. The point of this post is to highlight, for lack of a better word, the irony of what's going on here.

After all, how much difference is cabinet tinkering going to make with this controlling PMO in place in any event? What's more interesting is the political backdrop in which it's taking place. This shuffle comes with that prorogation bomb of a decision having just been made by the Prime Minister. Now that's a shuffle worthy incident. His ministers are pikers compared to the damage the PM is capable of causing.

There are also a few issues on the national scene that have been brewing, beyond the prorogation issue, in the past number of weeks, highlighting a lack of leadership from the federal government. There are the environmental tensions building, principally in the dynamic we've seen among Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Last week there was quite the interesting development, egged on by the yellow beast:
One day after shuffling his cabinet, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is signalling a confrontation with the federal government over equalization.

Stelmach has put his new finance minister, Ted Morton, in charge of negotiating with Ottawa to update the equalization deal because he says it doesn't work for Albertans.

Alberta pays a lot more money in federal taxes than it receives, yet the province is criticized for its vast energy wealth, which helps many other Canadians, said the premier on Thursday.

"Especially after the discussion at Copenhagen, where much of the criticism was placed on this province, and yet our contribution - this last economic downturn, the worst year since the 1930s - was well over $21 billion and that cannot continue and we have to have that discussion in Canada," Stelmach said to reporters in Calgary.

Morton, considered a fiscal hawk, said equalization has outlived its original purpose of helping all provinces provide roughly the same level of services to citizens.
Way to go Ontario. Way to go, Quebec. What is it with politicians? Do they lock their brains in escape-proof boxes the day they get sworn in? (emphasis added)
Isn't that all very lovely, who needs equalization anyway? The main point here is that all is quiet on the federal front. Hello? Anyone home in the federal government or are they just content to let this little east-west schism fester for the foreseeable future? What will Mr. Harper say to the home base? Is this kind of positioning on equalization acceptable?

There's more of the Harper laissez faire attitude toward the provinces that could become problematic on display elsewhere too. Look at the other end of the country, there are four provinces jockeying over this proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec that's supposed to be wrapped up by the end of March. There's opposition in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to the deal, they are concerned about future access to the U.S. market that might be blocked. New Brunswickers are opposed to it as well, undermining Shawn Graham's support. Graham seems to be looking to renegotiate it down or something.

So what's the federal response been? Pretty much MIA. A junior minister mused about it at first, most helpfully wondering whether the federal government even had any role to play. Then the Defence Minister, Nova Scotian Peter MacKay, surprisingly questioned the deal in a roundabout way, but who really knows what legitimacy that had, if any. Around the time of MacKay's comments, we finally had news of Harper's position:
Graham said Friday that he has been assured by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Ottawa was staying out of the issue.
...
"In my discussions with him, Prime Minister Harper was very clear that the energy sector is the responsibility of the provincial government," Graham said. "When the final deal is brought forward you are going to see opportunities for all of the Atlantic provinces to benefit."
Huh. So the Prime Minister doesn't seem to think it's important if Hydro-Quebec buys NB Power, to the irritation of two other provinces and also the prospect of inter-provincial and international trade concerns. Again, we must ask, hello? Anyone home in the federal government? To at least speak to the issue with some intelligence? Or are they again just content to let the provinces fight it out among themselves on a monumental issue that will have long term consequences for the Maritimes?

All this is to say, the PM may be going ahead with this shuffle, likely all part of the prorogation-break plan to "refresh" the cabinet and clean up problems before the Olympics and a possible election. But the New Year's eve prorogation, among other issues such as those above, has shown that one of the biggest liabilities in the Harper cabinet can be the guy sitting at the head of the table.

'Get back to work'


Love the photo ops from the creative citizens of Peterborough every once in a while. Apparently prorogation is not going down so well at the farmer's market as the linked article makes clear:
Barry Davidson has a strong message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government: Get back to work or you will "go down in flames" next election.

"We pay our MP's good money to be there," he said. "They're taking a holiday without our consent and paying themselves for it. We're the ones who are the suckers.

"Get back to work. That's what we hired you for."

Davidson was one of many farmers' market shoppers who voiced their frustration Saturday morning at the decision by Harper to prorogue Parliament until March 3.
Sounds like people are still upset.

Harper's on the radio on Monday at 4 pm for a Haiti telethon. That's perfectly fine and public fundraising should be supported. But perhaps he might think about how the Haiti issue could be better served by Parliament being open:
"If I was an opposition leader at this point in time, I would stand up and I would demand that the Prime Minister re-convene Parliament and introduce emergency legislation to permit extensive support for the reconstruction of Haiti," said Prof. Franks.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekend prorogation reading

There's a must read this weekend that others are appropriately drawing attention to as well: "Only in Canada: Harper's prorogation is a Canadian thing" The report looks at other parliamentary democracies around the world on the subject of prorogation. Guess who's blazing a trail in using prorogation to avoid accountability? That would be us. And only us. An excerpt and then some comments below.
Take a look around the world.

Go searching for the last time a Westminster-style parliament was shut down to free its leaders from unwanted censure or scrutiny — and you'll end right back in Canada, where you started.

It turns out, no other English-speaking nation with a system of government like ours — not Britain, Australia or New Zealand — has ever had its parliament prorogued in modern times, so that its ruling party could avoid an investigation, or a vote of confidence, by other elected legislators.

Only three times has this happened, all in Canada — first in 1873, when Sir John A. Macdonald asked the governor general to prorogue Parliament, in order to halt a House of Commons probe into the Pacific Scandal. Lord Dufferin gave in to the demand, but when Parliament reconvened Macdonald was forced to resign.

No prime minister dared use prorogation to such effect again, until Stephen Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament in 2008, so the Conservatives could evade a confidence vote.

About 12 months later, he did it again. Harper claims he shut down Parliament to "recalibrate" his government, but his critics say he did so to escape the rising pressure of the Afghan-detainee affair and its investigation by a House of Commons committee.

"The Canadian Parliament is more dysfunctional than any of the other Westminster parliaments . . . in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Scotland," says Robert Hazell, the director of the prestigious Constitution Unit at the University College of London. "No other parliament has been prorogued in recent times to rescue the government from a political difficulty."
It goes on from there, reinforcing how the two Harper initiated prorogations of the past year have brought our parliamentary democracy into disrepute. Ned Franks wittily refers to Harper as "King Stephen the First of Canada," to emphasize the impact. "Uncharted territory" is another term Franks applies to the developing situation, wondering about the implications of the pattern Harper has followed. Such musing is warranted given Conservative public statements about resorting to the tactic on an annual basis. The above report is a very useful read to counter the point being pushed elsewhere this weekend that what's been done is routine.

One other note, there was a minor bit of back and forth on twitter earlier this afternoon about Chretien's prorogation of Parliament in 2003 so I thought it would be worthwhile to deal with that here, in the interests of clarifying a bit and not letting the point fester. Here's how a CBC timeline references that event:
Two days before federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser is to release her report on the federal sponsorship program, Chrétien prorogues Parliament; his October 2002 ethics bill dies on the order paper.
You can read some back and forth between Chretien and Martin people here on that timing. Chretien maintains he would have been happy to receive the report but a transition was desired by Martin. So there is that notable context to that particular exercise of prorogation. A transition in government from one Prime Minister to another, albeit of the same party, would explain a prorogation and the need to implement a new agenda, set of priorities under a new government.

In any event, the Chretien example doesn't detract at all from the present egregious examples. That prorogation didn't "avoid an investigation" or a vote of confidence. We all know there was plenty of investigation of the sponsorship issue by multiple entities, none of it stopped by the exercise of prorogation, the way the present Afghan Commons committee has been stopped in its tracks. Chretien's prorogation may have delayed that particular report, but it certainly didn't prevent it. And again, deflecting to past exercises doesn't in any way resolve or excuse the present difficulties with Mr. Harper's own abuses in the here and now. There is broad recognition of the distinctive nature of Harper's prorogations.

It should also be noted that Liberals have committed to discussing prorogation at an upcoming forum on democratic processes with a view to making a recommendation on that issue.

Irrespective of the preceding detour, the verdict of Canadians on Mr. Harper's actions is rolling in and as we've seen this week, the majority of Canadians seem to feel it in their bones that this prorogation is patently wrong. They have plenty of company in expert opinion and the comparative international perspective.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just watch him?

Gerald Caplan has another must read column this week: "The real Stephen Harper?" He's been one of the most insightful for the past few months on the national political scene and today's on Harper is a good one too. An excerpt which captures the present shifting moment:
This week's polls suggest that his arbitrary, arguably unconstitutional suspension of Parliament – a drastic ploy in order to bury the issue of torturing Afghan prisoners – has cost him dearly among Canadians. He of course gave himself the Christmas gift of insisting that his fellow citizens didn't give a rat's fanny about either. He's been wrong so many times I can't even count the Globe and Mail editorials fiercely criticizing him. But he bounces back, time after time, and fools us all. How many more times can he get a way with it? Look at his reaction to Haiti. Just watch him.
Yes, we'll be watching that. There's a budding conventional wisdom growing out there that the response to Haiti may offset the prorogation fallout. It's being discussed, may as well address it. Here is what has struck me this week.

The real, tragic moment of the Haiti crisis has arguably highlighted to an even greater extent the frivolous, even luxurious self-interest that Canada has seen exercised here in the shutdown of Parliament for political reasons. The mirror of Haiti makes the prorogation decision seem all the more striking and wrong, even embarrassing. Our government can't grapple with a parliamentary order to produce documents, work it out with the opposition with appropriate national security protections? For shame.

With the momentous issues Canada should be dealing with, having our Parliament sit as a forum in which to pursue them - climate change, all of the Afghanistan file, now Haiti - is becoming all the more glaring an absence. So it might be that bathing the Parliament buildings in the Haitian colours is actually quite fitting, a juxtaposition of the serious and the frivolous.

Whether we have a government that has demonstrated it is up to the task of dealing with the serious, that's the big question. For some of us, it's a resolved one. For lots of Canadians, it may be turning. We'll be watching and speaking, that's for sure.

Substance of ethics complaint on partisan ads remains

You may have noticed this story the other day, the Ethics Commissioner has ruled that an ethics complaint brought in the fall against the government should be discontinued. This was a wide-ranging complaint launched against the government for its partisan advertising onslaught which we witnessed in the fall. The ruling has been described as "fairly ridiculous" by ethics observers. Here's a reminder from September of the actions which spawned this complaint:
Television viewers may have noticed the latest feel-good government ads about stimulus spending, including the Conservative-friendly, anti-election pitch: "We can't stop now," and "We have to stay on track."

All the ads direct viewers to a Tory-blue government website that includes more than 40 different photos of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and refers repeatedly to "the Harper government" – apparently in direct contravention of Treasury Board communications policy.

The TV spots are just the latest $4-million salvo in a $34-million media blitz trumpeting the Conservative's recession-fighting budget.
That questionable "$4 million salvo" financed by we the taxpayers was hauled out in September in support of the government's political positioning. It was estimated at $5.6 million elsewhere. It's not a stretch to believe that this expensive partisan ad onslaught (among others) helped those soaring fall poll numbers for Conservatives.

Unfortunately, the substance of the complaint was not addressed by the Ethics Commissioner. Instead, she discontinued it on a threshold technicality issue. Without getting too much into the weeds of the entire decision, the determinative part found that the Conservative party did not constitute a "person" for the purposes of the provisions under the Conflict of Interest Act that were raised here for the purpose of the complaint. For example:
No public office holder shall use his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further the public office holder’s private interests or those of the public officer holder’s relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
Yet it's not difficult to see the conflict that presented itself in this case, how two hats were being worn in respect of all the decisions on partisan advertising. There's the government hat and the Conservative party hat and the two are hard to divorce. Yet the Commissioner let this conflict stand, essentially, on a technicality. The substance of the claim remains unaddressed.

So what do we take away from this development?

The ethics complaint was nevertheless warranted and remains an unresolved sore for the government. The argument remains open that the ad campaign violated the government's own advertising policy. One can also argue that this complaint, among other things, has contributed to the growing narrative of a self-interested government, perhaps being reflected now in Canadians' reaction to the prorogation decision.

The Commissioner's decision highlights a need to tighten up the Conflict of Interest Act and advertising rules. They're no match for this (and perhaps a future) government's calculated ingenuity when it comes to pushing the limits with rules and conventions that are inconvenient to their partisan interests (see prorogation). An independent committee to vet advertising, along the lines of what the McGuinty government did in Ontario following the Harris government's excesses, has been proposed.

And while this decision may be a technical win for the Conservatives, they shouldn't be emboldened by it. The issue of Conservative partisan self-interest is on the table now, big time, after prorogation. If they proceed down this road again, using another onslaught of partisan advertising at a politically sensitive moment, now or in the near future, the narrative will only continue to build.

A bit much

Interesting piece in the Globe today that comes amidst the Haiti crisis and talk of the government's response to it. The desire to have the issue proceed untinged by partisanship may, however, be difficult to maintain when anonymous Conservative officials are whispering plaudits about their guy's in control aura to reporters, exploiting the moment. There's no need for publicizing this kind of thing if all you're interested in is getting the job done in the national interest:
Stephen Harper was flying back to Ottawa from Quebec City in a government Challenger on Tuesday afternoon when the earthquake reduced Port-au-Prince to rubble. Within minutes, his staff's Blackberries started buzzing, and as the plane touched down 30 minutes later, everyone had their marching orders: Get the disaster-relief teams ready to roll.

“He started giving orders about what was going to happen,” one official said. “And he was still in the aircraft taxiing.”
The framing in the Globe following the above quote suggests exactly why such tidbits have been offered:
After four years in power, here was a PM who has matured in his role and learned from that experience. Where past governments confronting overseas disasters like the scramble to evacuate Lebanon have lost days debating options and fretting over obstacles, Mr. Harper was confident in driving ahead.

It was a moment that played to the Prime Minister's strengths: decisiveness and control.
That's quite the extrapolation of maturity in crisis situations for this Prime Minister. This is not meant to take away from the substance of the Haiti response which has been good. But let's not lose our heads here. Harper is also in the midst of the fallout from a very bad exercise in judgment, the prorogation decision. Let's keep some perspective and not let the hagiography take flight.
Partisanship would be the worst mistake the government could make, Mr. Lyle said, and so far, Mr. Harper's government seems to know it.
Worth watching.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Against the Prorogation of Parliament"

From the letter signed by 175 academics on prorogation:
What, precisely, did the Prime Minister do wrong in proroguing Parliament?

Our parliamentary and constitutional institutions are grounded not just in explicit rules but also in the spirit of those rules.

Think of the idea of a “loyal opposition” so central to our practice of responsible government. The role of the opposition parties is to hold the government to a high standard of justification. The opposition parties can neglect their responsibilities by being servile and pliant. They can also misuse their powers for narrowly partisan purposes.

We expect them to avoid both these pitfalls. We expect them to be vigorous. And, while an element of partisanship is inevitable in democratic systems of government, we expect that it will be moderated by public-spiritedness and a shared concern for the country’s common good. If it isn’t, then the opposition has failed to do its job.

What is true of opposition parties is true in spades of the office of the Prime Minister, given the very great powers that are concentrated there in our system of responsible government. We expect that the Prime Minister will do his part to ensure that this system works, and that MPs can fulfill the role we elect them to do. Part of what that means is to exercise self-restraint, and not use the powers that he possesses to shut down the mechanisms of accountability to Parliament and the Canadian people.

The use of the ability to prorogue by the present Prime Minister clearly displays no such self-restraint. It was nakedly partisan when it was invoked to save his government from defeat in a confidence motion in December 2008, and it is nakedly partisan now, when it is being used to short-circuit the work of the Parliamentary Committee looking into the Afghan detainees question and evade Parliament’s request that the government turn over documents pertaining to that question.

The normal way in which a government secures a break in a parliamentary session is through adjournment. That permits the institutions of government to continue. Committees can do their work. Legislation that is in the system can be picked up and advanced once the adjournment is over. In prorogation, all the business of Parliament ceases. Any laws that are in process, with the exception of private members’ bills, have to be introduced again, at the very first step of the process.

The government’s post-election legislative agenda is nowhere near having been fulfilled. The Prime Minister cannot, therefore, credibly invoke the purpose that the power to prorogue properly serves, which is to provide the government with space outside the cut and thrust of Parliamentary sessions in which to submit a new legislative agenda to Parliament.

Given the short-term, tactical, and partisan purposes served by prorogation, and given the absence of any plausible public purpose served by it, we conclude that the Prime Minister has violated the trust of Parliament and of the Canadian people. We emphasize moreover that the violation of this trust strikes at the heart of our system of government, which relies upon the use of discretionary powers for the public good rather than merely for partisan purposes. How do we make sure it serves the public good? By requiring our governments to face Parliament and justify their actions, in the face of vigorous questioning.

The Prime Minister’s actions risk setting a precedent that weakens an important condition of democratic government – the ability of the people, acting through their elected representatives, to hold the government accountable for its actions.
A must read, just wanted to circulate this.

Accounting please



It would be appropriate to get an accounting for these moneys and how they have been spent (4:13-4:25).

Some day. When parliamentary committees are functioning and whenever this government might deign to answer. Whenever that might be. Likely not for a while.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Instability

Weak, reaching spin from the PM, he's grasping. Apparently minority government itself is now a rationale for proroguing Parliament. Very telling that the Conservative spin seems to be morphing day by day, the rationale of working on the budget/economic plan is not enough:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is offering a new wrinkle on his reasons for suspending Parliament - the government can do more important work without MPs sitting in the Commons.

In an interview with Business News Network, the prime minister flatly rejected the notion that proroguing Parliament has left the country open to criticism it is not a stable democracy.

In fact, it is Parliament in a minority situation that is perceived by markets as unstable, said Harper.

"The games begin when Parliament returns," he explained. "The government can take our time now to do the important work to prepare the economic agenda ahead.

"That said, as soon as Parliament comes back . . . the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence and there'll be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year. That's the kind of instability markets are actually worried about."
The irony, it's dripping. It's the PM who "games" parliamentary procedure, invoking prorogation to avoid the legal effect of a parliamentary order.

The Prime Minister should work cooperatively in the minority government situation he's in, recognizing the limit of his government's mandate. There's no need for a litany of confidence votes, just don't do it, Mr. Prime Minister.

The people's mandate, a minority government mandate, should not be a problem for a Prime Minister. It's not a source of instability or something that stands in the way of governing. More limit pushing rhetoric from the Prime Minister, it's what they do when they're feeling the heat.

Whimsically pulling the rug out from under Parliament, that's what's unstable here.

Self-interest turned on its head





A few quick thoughts on the ads, wondrous beasts that they are.

The "self-interest" stands out. This picks up on last week's Economist editorial framing of Harper's move as one of "naked self-interest." No use of the word "naked" here, probably a good call:)

The "self-interest" charge also goes directly back at the Conservatives over their attacks against Ignatieff, that Ignatieff is only "in it for himself." Turning that charge back on Harper, based on his actions, it raises the question, who is the self-interested individual here then? Shutting down Parliament is a significant overt act in the here and now, where the political self-interest for Harper is obvious. Like it, this little bit of that Rovian jujitsu strategy thing, or something like that.

Also like the tag line "Liberals are working" on the print ads. Canadians are working, Liberals are working, why can't Parliament be working? It's a subtle thing but it stood out to me. Seems like a worthwhile kind of branding, with lots of implications, to carry on beyond this campaign.

Anyway, don't like to analyze these things too much. They strike me as a welcome change, hitting hard in the early going of 2010, it's absolutely warranted. Beyond all the politics, the parliamentary shutdown certainly deserved a national ad campaign.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday night

About all those crime bills that died...

Manon Cornellier reminded us this week of how Stephen Harper extricated himself out of a similar predicament in October, 2007. After a number of the Harper government crime bills died when Parliament was prorogued in September of 2007, the government brought back an omnibus crime bill in October containing five of the formerly separate bills. It was a confidence vote.

Think he won't do it again? If that's the plan, it's not going to look particularly good after having shut down Parliament. It'll look like one more heavy-handed tactic piled on another.

Something to watch for...

Saw an Economic Action Plan ad last night, the first one in ages (although I haven't seen that much television lately). If we do start seeing more of such advertising now and in coming weeks, the timing would certainly be suspect given the obvious polling trouble (pgs. 5, 6) the government has fallen into as a result of the prorogation decision.

So, it's worth watching to see if this is the beginning of yet another spell where the Conservatives haul out the feel-good government advertising, plastered everywhere, to boost their numbers. Recall what happened in the fall. They spent just over $3 million on a newsprint and web advertising ad campaign called "Creating Jobs" in a 2 week period in September, when the prospect of having an election was still on the table and the "stay on track" campaign from the government began.That advertising also occurred around the time of a Harper economic update statement. Recall that we also saw lots of televised Economic Action Plan ads and Home Renovation Tax Credit ads at the time.

In the lead up to a new budget that is theoretically supposed to speak to deficit reduction, surely the Conservatives wouldn't engage in such self-interested advertising again...would they?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Something stirring

The early Conservative spin is not holding up, it appears, two polls today that are unfavourable for the party of prorogation. The Ekos poll showing the Conservatives slipping, now at 33%.
Those are the worst numbers we’ve seen for them in at least six months,” EKOS president Frank Graves said in a telephone interview.
“It’s very difficult to attribute it to anything other than prorogation because it was a period when nothing much else was happening.”
And the Angus Reid poll out on prorogation itself that is pretty devastating to the case that Canadians don't care about this move. 53% disagree with the decision. You can read through all the results yourself, it's fairly clear throughout that citizens are not content with the decision. Even in Alberta, slightly more people agree with the Opposition's view on why the government has prorogued, i.e., to avoid accountability on the Afghan detainee issue, than the government's case that it has to recalibrate: 29% to 26%. When they're not buying your story in Alberta...well, you know the rest. Highest rates of disagreement with prorogation are in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Lots of interesting stuff there.

Canadians are showing that they get it. It's not just we online plebes. Perhaps more consideration might be given now to that Facebook group as really representing something. It wasn't a big question mark, it was an "out in front" indicator, it appears, reflected in the AR poll. An early warning signal that all was not well with PM Harper's move.

There's more reflection on Harper's actions today in a very tough Globe editorial where, among other things, he is characterized as evidencing a "casual arrogance" toward Canada's institutions given the way he prorogued, over the phone, and what that said about Harper's attitude toward the institution of the Governor General's office. Again, the tone of the Globe piece is similar to their prior major one on prorogation, it's serious and strong. Exactly what is warranted from credible, major national media voices. This is serious business, prorogation as a personal whim, it's not to be belittled and spun as the Prime Minister has been doing.

The editorial, the polls, they all suggest that sanity is starting to prevail against the arrogant spin we've heard since the move was pulled last week. Makes you feel more optimistic about the whole mess.

Just for fun, someone has put up a clip from the CBC interview with Harper, highlighting a question from Mansbridge that came near the very end, a lengthy question that Harper had to sit and listen to as Mansbridge enumerated some painful realities in Harper's shifting positions. It really was a good question, the kind we should see much more frequently posed by media, were they to have more access. Just interesting to watch Harper here, that's all...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Those who art not prorogued

Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer extraordinaire, for one. Scott's already highlighted that point today. And we all know that Liberals are also back on January 25th, as scheduled. Sounds like the Bloc will be in Ottawa too, they do love it there, after all. No official word from the NDP but some commentary from one of their MPs along with a grammatical fluorish from the Globe:
Libby Davies, the House Leader for the New Democrats, said the members of her caucus art outraged by the prorogation, “how arrogant it is, and how [Mr. Harper is] trying to get off the hook in terms of what’s happening with the detainee issue and the war in Afghanistan.”
Did you catch that? Heh.

The kicker from that little Globe item, as hinted at this morning in an earlier post, the Conservatives seem to be continuing on in an arrogant posture about the prorogation:
For their part, the Conservatives are chuckling about the opposition threats to return to Ottawa in the face of prorogation.
“We will be back after prorogation on March 3,” a spokeswoman for government House Leader Jay Hill said. And “if they held fake committees or things like that? Absolutely not, we will not be attending those.”
Nice. Please keep this up.

Sure sounds like there'll be enough going on in Ottawa to keep raising that pesky question...you know, why is this here operation prorogued, anyway?

Blessed art those who are not prorogued. And working, just like Canadians. Or something like that.

Inside the Prime Ministerial actor's studio

"Some of what we saw on CBC Tuesday evening may be real. But most of it is fake."
So says Norman Spector in the Globe on Harper's performance during his interview with Peter Mansbridge last night.

The room was dark, there was a little too much forced and strange smiling throughout, as if he'd been told to do so. It was indeed like he was acting and almost seemed like he was laughing at us. Editorials and op-eds calling him out on prorogation, letters to the editor and growing grassroots protests? He's quite content about it all, evidencing little gravitas in response to any of it.

On that big question, posed to him on prorogation, he repeated that the detainee issue is not on the radar for most Canadians, not top of mind, he lulled us along with his talking point response, Canadians only care about the economy. The fact that the torture issue is actually important to Canadians, as demonstrated in polls, apparently of no consequence to him. He'll say the opposite anyway. But you'll see nothing in this letter to the International Criminal Court of December 3, 2009 about the economy and the polls. Issues will proceed along irrespective of Conservative spin.

What do we make of this style of leadership anyway? Only issues that are popular in the polls will garner his attention? That issues of a pressing legal nature won't be prioritized by his government? Apparently. Which doesn't explain then why we are still being subjected to the tedium of Senate reform. That's not at the top of any Canadian's list. I'll spot everyone 20 choices and bet they won't name Senate reform in the top 20.

One of the more shameful parts of the interview, Harper's response to a question on national security in relation to the new airport security developments in the wake of that Christmas day terror episode. This was the first major public opportunity for Harper to address the question and what did he do? He wove the gun registry into his answer:
It's important that "we make sure that we respond in ways that are intelligent, ways that effectively identify threats before they happen, as opposed to simply massive bureaucratic sets of rules," he said, likening this to the "gun registry approach."

"Putting people on a list is not the best way to identify a security threat."
Well, actually, law enforcement does think putting people on a list is a good way to identify a security threat. Again, there's reality, then there's this Prime Minister's partisan reality, injecting bones for the base into his responses, even on such an important question. What is he thinking? Reason 893,187 why Stephen Harper can't expand beyond his base. If nothing else, he's consistent.

As a final parting shot, there was a gem from the PM:
"The more comfortable our government becomes with the Canadian people, the more partisanship becomes the domain of the Opposition."
No need to spend much time on that one, the hypocrisy's quite obvious. It should be in the very early running for quote of the year though.