Monday, March 29, 2010

Viral video success

This viral video has had tremendous success - "over 14 million unique visits within 8 weeks" - and its appeal is obviously the ability to upload any person into it that you want, including yourself or a comic choice, as above. The video was made to encourage Swedes to pay for their broadcast fees (have no idea why it's voluntary) by either guilting people into it, or playing to their ego in order to get them to do it. Interesting and fun stuff, isn't it?

About all that sudden coalition talk...

People might want to read this column relating an interview with Ignatieff that occurred in Winnipeg last week on the subject of a possible coalition. It's not favourable toward the idea but exhibited a co-operative stance toward parliamentary governance in the future:
"Unlike (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper, I will play the hand that the Canadian public deals me. He never talks to other party leaders. He never consults. He smacks his cards down on the table and says my way or the highway. That's not the way I would run a minority Parliament."
"I've never ruled out co-operative, collaborative arrangements with other parties, particularly the NDP... There are countless areas where the Liberal party and the NDP have shown they can work together, so I don't have any problem... But let's be clear. I'm running in the next election to win a Liberal government, period...
Raising the prospect of a coalition at this moment in time, in the wake of this weekend based solely on the corporate tax freeze proposal, seems like an out of place, forced consideration. There is a lot of optimism coming out of this weekend in the Liberal party, to inject coalition talk into the mix right now just doesn't seem to speak to the mood. It also seems unwise politically to telegraph your intentions well in advance of any outcome where the issue might actually be ripe. What's the political advantage to Liberals in terms of attracting votes in saying they'd welcome a coalition? It would harden the fragmented voting spectrum.

The above referenced piece is an interesting read for other reasons now, in the wake of Canada 150, as it kind of presaged the highlights. In particular this last quote:
"The Conservatives are saying there's only one question in Canadian politics and that's the deficit. And we're saying there's another question. What must we do to get ready for tomorrow. There's a deficit in education. There's a deficit in learning. There's a deficit in justice... I've put all the emphasis on learning because I think it is the most important investment government can make..."

He promises the Liberals will go into the next federal election with a "credible" plan to erase the deficit, but also with proposals for new programs in critical areas. "There are investments we must make... How do we clean up the mess and how do we prepare for tomorrow. We've got to create the fiscal room without increasing the burden on Canadians."
(h/t pb for the Free Press article)

Update: To be more clear, I don't think Wells was suggesting a coalition be actively considered now by the Liberals. But raising the concept immediately on the heels of the weekend does seem to have the effect of putting it out there as an issue right now, well in advance of an election and therefore begging for an answer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The afternoon "buzz"

I think you can prepare yourself for some reporting in the national media about the afternoon sessions here, two of which had an environmental and energy theme. (And here's one of the first reports. Sitting in the room here, looks like the media are all off writing/filing their stories.) Needless to say, if you've been following the twitter streams at #can150 or watching the proceedings, then you know that a subject that came up repeatedly was the idea of once again, at some point, Liberals supporting a carbon tax as policy. Yes, a carbon tax. And so, needless to say, you can imagine the reaction.

It's an idea that a few of the speakers were strongly in favour of, including Satya Brata Das, Steven Guilbeault and Nicholas Parker. And it can't be totally dismissed in future environmental discussions, nothing new in saying that.

One commenter in particular at the mike was very incredulous at the idea. Pressing the panel on its idealism, the difficulties that there are in selling the idea and of course, one of the big externalities that will totally enjoy a re-attachment to a carbon tax by Liberals, the Conservatives. He injected a dose of realism into the room, in terms of the vocal participants anyway. There's enough realism in the room in terms of the Green Shift hangover.

The discussion evoked once again a recurring theme of the weekend as we discuss a number of issues, the sheer difficulty that is presented in discussing legitimate ideas substantively in this Harper era. It's the era of attack ads, oily the splotch anyone? It's the era of dumbing down tax policy debates in particular into simplistic knee-jerk positioning. It's a recipe for the status quo or Canada falling behind, if we can't engage ideas and have our democratic institutions execute them. It's a dynamic that's throttling some very credible ideas. Busting out of that dynamic still the question.

On another note, which may have some bearing on the above, at the end of the two prior environmental sessions, Michael Ignatieff was taking some questions from the online crowd. He commented on the success of the technology aspect of this weekend, with the online streaming and the satellite sessions across the country. It may be something to pick up on, this notion of "networked governance" in a democratic, participatory context. It's a term that's coming up repeatedly this weekend, yesterday cited in terms of cities sharing the benefit of what they're doing locally that works but on national level. Ignatieff also said something to the effect that "command and control" from Ottawa, in terms of governance, is not on anymore. There may be a connection between the two, greater participatory inputs and increasing the appetite for the tougher sells.

Whether the carbon tax discussion was a "buzz kill" as some would put it or a helpful wake-up call for the national debate, and kind of fun to listen to in the room, will leave that to others to decide.

Expectations and other notes from Can150

Just thought I'd offer up a few thoughts and notes on the proceedings thus far and what's in the air.

I have been hanging with the blogging compadres, we do naturally congregate, after all. We have been candidly dissecting and hashing out the sessions, the people we're seeing, all around. That's a great part of such events and it really gives you a sense of where other bloggers are coming from, particularly when we don't get to see each other in person so much but live in our online worlds. So that's always a great aspect of these things.

In surveying some of the media analysis this morning, Travers, Ibbitson, Simpson, Martin, etc., some of it provoked a bit of a whoa reaction from me. It's natural that these columns are gravitating toward the "big" questions, what the conference, its substance/speakers say about Liberals at the moment and where the party is going. The Liberals need a vision, Liberals are looking to catch the next wave, Liberals searching for new life, etc.. Yes, that's what the weekend is supposed to stimulate, such thinking and the very fact of the conference and its theme drives that weight of expectation.

But there's a bit too much of a frenzied worry, almost, permeating this analysis. I don't think anyone here thinks this weekend is a determinative policy moment for the Liberal party. It's a milestone along the way and a necessary one. The policy, the vision, the positions are coming, there's plenty of discussion this weekend that's going to supplement ongoing debates that are happening within the party. Pension reform is a good example of an issue on which there's been a year or more of work by many within the party (and which I heard about in the hall yesterday). Putting the conference into that kind of ongoing perspective might be a bit frustrating for those seeking instant gratification and an immediate alternative to the Conservatives. Jeffrey Simpson put it well today:
Two days of high-minded ideas in Montreal does not a party platform make. Ahead lies the task of crafting something on which the Liberals can run and win, which likely means forgetting all the hard messages of the weekend and plucking from among them those with soft political appeal.
The bigger question seems to me is what Ignatieff put his finger on yesterday during his press conference, whether our political system can address the problems facing the country. That political system includes Parliament in which debate theoretically takes place. It includes the dialogue among political parties which can be vicious and ultra-competitive these days and which is not kind to legitimate substantive issues that are brought forth for consideration. It includes the media lens that is applied and that is thriving, day to day, on the highs and lows of Ottawa intrigue. It includes an active polling industry that is always on hand to lock in the perceptions of Canadians and sometimes contribute to stifling debate. All of this makes it tough, but not impossible, to be truth telling, to be legitimately inspiring, to break out and grab people's imaginations.

Can big ideas survive in this atmosphere, inspire people like the big ideas of old? Open questions, maybe not so new. But this latter aspect, the quality of our discourse and our political system's ability to let ideas that may come out of such endeavours as this weekend actually breathe and get some life, that is the big question.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Update (Friday 12:50 a.m.) below.

Going to Montreal this weekend for the much discussed event, Can150. Will be blogging, twittering, etc. as warranted. Could be a lot of material along the lines of "Hmmm, that sounds interesting" or "Hmmm, that's a good idea," depending.

A quote for the naysayers: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." We could do with more graciousness and less cynicism. Maybe for a few days anyway. It's never a bad thing when people get together to discuss ideas.

OK, there's a suitcase with my name on it that's entirely empty at the moment...see you there or see you online!

Update (12:50 a.m., Fri): Jennifer makes a good point that I should have included in the earlier post, that there are web events across the country in ridings like hers, Halton. Two others I've heard of, Gerard Kennedy's riding of Parkdale-High Park on Saturday afternoon from 1:00-5:00 (details) and Martha Hall Findlay's in Willowdale (details).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clarity part II

Update (10:30 p.m.) below. And 11:45 p.m, 12:30 a.m.

So that earlier post needs a bit of an updating, I'd say. Pressed for time here so this may not be the most complete item...

The vote on the maternal health motion failed by a margin of 144-138. The main point of the earlier post is still true, the Conservatives are now on record against that motion, one upside of having brought it. If this issue is of concern to Canadian women, they can judge how all the parties voted, in their entirety and take that into account next time at the ballot box. There is one party that voted entirely against the motion.

As for the Liberals, I'm not clear on whether this was a whipped vote or not. This CP report from earlier this afternoon noted that the vote was a conscience vote, not whipped. CBC says it was whipped. If this was a conscience vote, that should have been made clearer from the get go with this one. With a few successful opposition votes having been taken in the past week with clear positions resulting, e.g., the prorogation and ten percenter votes, which we should not lose sight of, expectations may have been created that a similar result would occur on this vote. Given the number of MPs who were absent, the 3 Liberals who did vote against the motion and the 2 who abstained, it appears there was no way to have won this motion. So whether or not it should have been brought is a debatable question. I'm inclined to say the outcome is still worthwhile to see, based on the Conservative position having been established.

As that CP report notes as well, it's still unclear what exactly the government's position on funding family planning initiatives is. Funding is still being held up for the Canadian wing of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. It's limbo time, still, from this government. That's worth smoking out.

So yes, disappointing, but with so many of these issues, if you want a government that doesn't play politics with such issues and that will unabashedly say yes to family planning support, we all know what we need to do.

Update (10:30 p.m.): Dimitri Soudas playing games tonight:
"...we thank those Liberal MPs for their support of our Conservative government on an important confidence motion tonight."
I wasn't around much today but if this was declared a "confidence vote" in advance of the vote by the government then I'm a monkey's uncle. Soudas' comment tonight is irresponsibly labelling the vote as such when it wasn't. Not the things a PMO should be playing around with.

Also, clarification on the status of the vote:
Earlier Tuesday, Ignatieff's office had told The Canadian Press it was a free vote of "conscience" for Liberal MPs, but the vote was subsequently whipped — with little effect.
Update II (11:45 p.m.): OK, apparently Soudas' "confidence motion" comment was directed toward momentarily incorrect Liberal votes made in favour of the budget estimates, which would be a confidence matter. Sorry about that. Those votes were corrected with the permission of the Speaker. But the initial CBC report I took Soudas' comment from was all about the maternal health initiative with no indication that Soudas' remark pertained to a separate vote. You can find that in this separate story. My apologies and my comments on Soudas in the previous update are now, what is it they say, inoperative. Except he was still being a weasel, really.

Update III (12:30 a.m.): Oh please. See NDP votes on gun registry. Principle has its moments I guess.

Is there any doubt on what a Liberal government's position would be? No. A handful of members might differ from the government's position, but it would be clearly in support of family planning support in conjunction with such a maternal health initiative.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Canada's G8/G20 leadership in the spotlight

The coming G8/G20 set of meetings is shaping up to be a test of leadership for Stephen Harper. Focussing on economic issues in particular, this should be an occasion for Stephen Harper, Economist™ to shine. This is what they've been telling us, setting expectations quite high. So, let's accept those high expectations and see what's in store...

As this CP report from last night notes, "G20 struggles to deal with China, U.S.," there are wide differences of opinion on the Chinese and American sides as to future economic directions, namely in terms of the global trade imbalance. As host nation, Canada seemingly has an influential role to play in managing those differences:
"As the summit's host, and because it is seen as an honest broker, many G20 countries are looking to Canada to sort out the differences, which are rapidly escalating, sources tell The Canadian Press."
The key goal of June's G20 summit in Toronto is to stabilize the global economy for years to come, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated last week in an address to G20 negotiators in Ottawa.

Central to that goal is finding ways for China to do less global selling, and the United States to do less buying and borrowing.

Unless China lets its currency appreciate and unless the United States brings down its debt load, the future of the global economy is up in the air, explained Dobson in an e-mail exchange.

Both countries, however, are digging in their heels, increasingly reluctant to make the wholesale changes that many believe are necessary for the fundamental rebalancing of global forces.

And now the G20, in Canada's hands, is perplexed at how to move forward.
Since Mr. Harper does such an impeccable job domestically of playing peacemaker, working cooperatively with others, yada yada yada, this should be just another day at the office. We should expect Harper to provide skilled, statesmanlike leadership and actually help to resolve such differences within the G20. And then during the meetings, hopefully refrain from taking partisan shots at domestic political opponents...oh, wait.

Not assisting the situation facing Harper, however, is the point that the report makes, that there are Asian, European and North American factions growing within the G20. Additionally, there's that pesky, festering problem in terms of the logistics. The Harper government's decision to hold the G8 in Huntsville, separate and apart from the G20 Toronto location, due to its stubborn commitment to making all that cash dumped into Tony Clement's riding actually worthwhile, is irking those nations not in the G8:
Canada's decision to hold the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., right before the G20 meeting in Toronto at the end of June is still not sitting well with emerging markets. They feel the smaller group is "dictating the show" and "cooperating and colluding to set the agenda" for the G20, sources say.
We've spent $50 million for Tony's riding for international meetings that never should have been properly scheduled there in the first place due to an obvious lack of hosting facilities. But heck, who cares about ticking off members of the G20 as long as Clement wins his seat next time, right? They are nothing if not stubborn.

Climate change is also lurking in the background as an issue and apparently there's little progress on it out of this working group that's been set up to try to steer the G20 in advance of the meeting. Canada co-chairs that group. So it's an open question then as to how hard Canada is pushing to make progress on the climate change issue as a G20 agenda item. Given this government's track record, we can well imagine how hard they are pushing it, if at all.

Harper's effort to steer this meeting toward financial sector regulatory reform without considering a tax on banks in order to provide a bailout fund of sorts in the event of future meltdowns is a further issue to watch. British PM Gordon Brown is pushing that tax, France supports it, the U.S. is considering it as well. Notably, David Cameron, the British Tory leader came out on the weekend in support of a bank tax too, even if one is not agreed to internationally: "Tory leader David Cameron details plan for bank tax." Cameron is electorally motivated, to prove he's a common man type and not the Etonian (he's #2) he really is. Still, an interesting contrast to Harper and the idea is worth consideration. Canada is not an economic island, the downfall of other international banking institutions impacted us all. An internationally agreed to bank tax in order to hedge against such harm in the future seems to be common sense. The anti-tax ideology that Harper brings to the table, however, doesn't seem to fathom any flexibility or foresight even for such a tax that other nations and his political confreres are seriously considering in the wake of an international debacle.

Then there's the whole maternal and child health issue that is supposed to be a leading priority from Canada at the G8. We know what happened in the past week, the Harper government decided to play politics with whether or not it was committed to family planning as part of the initiative, in contrast to the explicit commitments to it from other leading G8 nations. Not to mention our own commitment to the concept as articulated in the G8 summit communique last year. Not exactly a good harbinger of leadership and international same-pagedness coming through on that issue for Harper. He may even have damaged his credibility on other issues.

Lots going on around this G8/G20 meeting. It's supposed to be one of those tick the box items for the Conservatives that bolsters Harper's standing, the whole international stature thing, in a similar way we were told that the Olympics would. We shall see how that conventional wisdom pans out too. Looks like a host of issues, pardon the pun, that could prove problematic and the conventional wisdom just doesn't seem to be holding up this year.

The law and order Conservatives in action

Granting amnesty once again, for the fourth time in four years, to gun owners who do not register their guns:
Les conservateurs n'en démordent pas. Pour la quatrième fois en quatre ans, ils prolongent l'amnistie accordée aux personnes qui refusent d'enregistrer leurs armes d'épaule et de chasse.

Le raisonnement offert pour accorder cette amnistie est surréaliste. «Le gouvernement du Canada entend prolonger de nouveau la période d'amnistie à l'égard des armes à feu, afin de permettre aux propriétaires d'armes à feu de se conformer à la loi», dit le communiqué diffusé vendredi par le ministre de la Sécurité publique, Vic Toews. «Le gouvernement tient à exercer un contrôle efficace des armes à feu. Nous envisageons de prolonger la période d'amnistie actuelle, afin qu'un nombre encore plus élevé de Canadiens se conforment au système actuel.»

Des citoyens refusent de se plier à la loi sur l'enregistrement des armes à feu, et le gouvernement, compatissant, les relève de leur obligation. On croit rêver. En même temps, on n'est pas surpris, les conservateurs s'opposant à cette loi depuis le début, mais tant qu'ils n'obtiennent pas l'approbation du Parlement pour la changer, elle reste valide, et le rôle du gouvernement est d'en assurer le respect. (translation at link)
The government's bizarro press release, here. As Cornellier points out, the law is still on the books, it's a government's job to enforce it. Instead, it's amnesty time again.

Law and order, it's just a slogan you know...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Annals of airport tantrums

About that Harper Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and his very own airport dust-up, what is there to say except that on the heels of the Guergis incident there's clearly an attitude on display among some of these ministers that suggests they think they're invulnerable. The Ottawa atmosphere where the Conservatives have avoided mucho accountability over the past few years, led by the great unaccountable one at the top who sets the tone, has perhaps led some of them to think that the rules just don't apply to them. It's the scene.

Here's a neat part of the reporting which states that the PM is going to issue an "edict" for his ministers:
The PMO says Prime Minister Stephen Harper will issue an edict to his ministers, reminding them that they're not above the law.
Did you fall off your chair just there or what? That has to be one of the most comical things that's been offered up to the media in recent memory. Mr. Prorogation who breaks parliamentary convention with ease, Mr. Not-So-Fixed-Election-Date Law, Mr. Defy-Parliamentary-Order-on-Document-Production, Mr. PMO-Instructs-Ministries-to-Disobey-Access-to-Information-Laws...Mr. all of these things is going to issue an edict to his ministers reminding them that they're not above the law. Uh huh. What is it they say, the fish rots from the head. Or do as I say, not as I do?

As for Blackburn and the airport drama, it's been drummed into every citizen's head that liquids just can't go on board. A cardinal rule of travel nowadays. Yet he apparently thought it wouldn't apply to him. He also seems to have gotten a wee bit exercised over the bottle of tequila at issue, quite bizarre and with no sense of the poor optics for a cabinet minister. It's all grist for the mill, the double standard narrative that's not going away these days.

Favourite headline out of the incident has to be this one: "Cabinet Minister Has Bottle of Booze Confiscated: CTV." Or maybe this one: "Second minister in airport dispute after alleged tequila tiff." How evocative, the old "tequila tiff."

Well, this has been one of the most enjoyable little blog posts of the week, hope you had as much fun as I did. It is Friday after all.

If tweeting on twitter about this, last night a few of us were using the hash tag #MinistersBehavingBadly. Feel free to use when discussing the tribulations of yet another Harper minister today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What are you carrying?

Desktop wallpaper of the day

For today's "Enough" moment: "Tories say they'll ignore vote to ban tax-funded mailings." That should be a neat trick. Presumably the Board of Internal Economy will take up the Commons vote to eliminate the ten percenters at some point, to enforce the directive that "...the House directs its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately..." the mailers. The Speaker is the tie-breaker on that board, so unless he's inclined to ignore a majority vote of the House of Commons, I don't see how this rogue government gets its way on this one.

Update: Oh, maybe I do see how. More here from CP on NDP position.

Update (9:10 p.m.): Star article sheds more light on the parties' machinations over the ten percenters today. Conservative whip Jay Hill now saying they'll conditionally abide by the move:
...the Conservatives say they’ll support ending the mailings on the condition that other parties agree too when a secret all-party Commons’ committee meets Monday to discuss the issue.

“We’re not going to unilaterally disarm. But if it applies to everyone, we will support that,” Government house Leader Jay Hill said Wednesday.
Time for everybody to put up...

The Harper ten percenters: the epilogue?


This news, "MPs vote to trash ten percenters," is a solid showing of principle by the Liberals and opposition who supported the Liberal motion, the principle being that the taxpayer should not be paying for wasteful party propaganda to be disseminated by MPs across Canada. It's a hard point of principle to swallow because it's going to hurt the opposition parties more than the Conservatives who, being more cash rich, are better able to withstand the loss of this communications tool. Could be risky in that vein. Still, the Conservatives who were abusing ten percenter flyer privileges to the tune of a ratio of 2:1 over the larger opposition, will feel the loss. See above chart that handily demonstrates who's been lining up at the trough. No more blanket propaganda and data mining across the nation via ten percenters, unless they pay for it.

Here is the motion that was proposed and passed yesterday:
March 12, 2010 — Mr. Easter (Malpeque) — That, in the opinion of this House, the government should show leadership in reducing government waste by rolling-back its own expenditures on massive amounts of partisan, taxpayer-paid government advertising, ministerial use of government aircraft, the hiring of external “consultants”, and the size of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, which together could represent a saving to taxpayers of more than a billion dollars; and to show its own leadership in this regard, the House directs its Board of Internal Economy to take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of Members sending mass mailings, known as “ten-percenters”, into ridings other than their own, which could represent another saving to taxpayers of more than $10 million.
The direction to the Board of Internal Economy, the "governing body of the House of Commons," seems to cut out the possibility of the Harper government obstructing or ignoring the direction on ten percenters:
The membership of the Board consists of the Speaker, who acts as its Chair, two Ministers of the Crown (appointed to the Board by the Governor in Council), the Leader of the Opposition or his or her representative, and additional Members appointed in numbers resulting in an overall equality of government and opposition representatives (apart from the Speaker), regardless of the composition of the House of Commons.
It is the body that oversees the ten percenters, as the Globe report notes.

Now was this a mode of free speech being trampled, as the Conservatives protested too much? Maybe, but we have a federal regime that imposes limits in the political spending context anyway. It's also not a particularly attractive argument to rely upon when your party has been using taxpayer funds to suggest fellow MPs are anti-semites and soft on pedophiles. It's a step toward greater civility in our politics by doing away with these increasingly poisonous mailings. Arguably, the freedom of speech point is enriched by an upping of the quality factor. We'll see.

At $10 million a year, the opposition has made a symbolic and decent contribution toward deficit reduction. It can act as a shield in the bona fides department when the Conservatives hurl tax and spend accusations around. These Conservative emperors have no clothes when it comes to expenditure responsibility, this is one more way of making that point.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A Nanos poll in La Presse, more for your dog's breakfast of polls that we're inundated with on a weekly basis. This one has the Conservatives and Liberals in a tie, 34.7-34.6. Blasted 0.1%, come over to the good side, won't you?
Les 14 médailles d'or remportées par le Canada aux Jeux olympiques d'hiver, la présentation d'un nouveau discours du Trône et le dépôt d'un budget sans hausse de taxe ou d'impôt n'ont pas profité aux conservateurs de Stephen Harper.

Si des élections fédérales avaient lieu aujourd'hui, les conservateurs obtiendraient 34,7% des voix, presque exactement le même score que les libéraux de Michael Ignatieff (34,6%), démontre un sondage Nanos réalisé pour le compte de La Presse auprès de 1000 Canadiens.

Le NPD récolterait pour sa part 17,8% des voix, soit essentiellement le même pourcentage qu'aux élections générales d'octobre 2008. Le Parti vert devrait quant à lui se contenter de 5,2% des votes.

Au Québec, le Bloc québécois demeure en tête avec 31,5% des voix, mais il commence à se faire de nouveau chauffer par les libéraux, qui obtiendraient 31%. Les appuis au Parti conservateur sont stables à 21,8%, et le NPD récolte 11,7%. La marge d'erreur au Québec est toutefois plus élevée, à 7 points de pourcentage. Dans l'ensemble du pays, la marge d'erreur est de 3,1 points, 19 fois sur 20.
Au Quebec, 31.5-31? Are you kidding me?

Polls are not to be obsessed over, no. Not at all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday night

From Gorillaz new one, Plastic Beach. If you like it when they're funky and a little bit dark, this one might grow on you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Democracy 2.0

The principal idea in this column by Gordon Gibson today, in which he most graciously provides advice to the Liberal party on the occasion of the upcoming Canada 150 conference in Montreal, is worth supporting: "Get down to basics, Liberals."
...there is one “basic” where the Liberals could stake out ground that simply can't be criticized: bringing democracy back to Canada.
An issue that has ripened like no other under PM Harper. Not all of Gibson's ideas are out and out supportable, but he's right in saying that there's no way the Conservatives could credibly embrace a platform of democratic reform. It's wide open to be grabbed as political territory. The prorogation uproar with its polling support indicate that there is an appetite that such issues be spoken to by politicians.

I see the Jurist is looking at this tonight too, with a similar take, i.e., good idea Gordo but not on board with all of it. Nice to see the Jurist taking an interest in the Liberal fortunes too...:)

Question Harper on YouTube

"Stephen Harper to reach out to Canadians on YouTube." So let's reach right back.

Step 1: YouTube will be streaming Harper live this morning at 10:45 a.m. with remarks on the Throne Speech. Theoretically you are supposed to watch that first.

Step 2: Then you go here (Click on "View Questions" box) and submit a question or you can vote on what questions should be put to the PM. You can vote yes or no or "meh" to a question. You can see below the voting box which questions are getting the most votes. It looks like it can be gamed in that way so we'll see how it goes. In the early goings, there are some tough questions. The leading one last night when I did it:
"Why has 'Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked any reference to gay rights in a new study guide for immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship'?"
Nick, Kitchener
While theoretically the PM won't know what questions are coming during his interview, you can imagine that the PMO types will be watching the activity here.

Step 3: The PM then has a session with a Google type guy/gal on Tuesday March 16, 2010 at 7 p.m. ET where he answers the questions. I know you're all marking that one down on your calendars. Obama had one of these sessions after his SOTU address (link gives an indication of what it's like).

Spread the word, maybe through that big honking Facebook group, submit questions (video or otherwise) or just vote, vote, vote on the existing ones. This is likely going to be a fairly scripted type event, but why not try to influence it as much as we can?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mercer on Rights & Democracy

On perks

BCL has an item today on some prominent Conservative bloggers presently in Israel on a trip sponsored by the CIC. I see a bit of glee in some reaction to this trip, of the wow, good for you variety. What you might think you'd see, however, would be some consideration of what it would mean to accept a trip like that, as expensive as it would be, for a blogger and how it might impact the credibility of what they might write in the future. Can anyone read their blogs without the knowledge from here on in that they have received this all expenses paid trip? No, and irrespective of the positions they take, that criticism can be made. But, people can make their own decisions about such considerations and it's up to individual bloggers to decide what perks they will accept as a result of their blogging.

I note that Dr. Dawg states that he was offered a trip last year and turned it down. Coincidentally, I received a similar offer about two weeks ago, very politely and attractively framed, from the CIC with respect to a trip for bloggers in May, all expenses paid. At the end of the day, I thanked them but also turned it down. For anyone interested in politics, anywhere, the trip, pitched as including meeting Israeli political bloggers, spending time in Jerusalem, East Jerusalem (quite timely and topical), Tel Aviv, other parts of the country, meeting with both Arab and Jewish leaders, Palestinians, etc. was certainly an intriguing offer. Many would consider it a trip of a lifetime, quite expensive.

It has put a bug in my head about going, at some point in my life but on my own timing, which is presently not good, and on my own - and my spouse's(!) - dime.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Get ready for that Conservative Senate

Coming to fruition soon in a pseudo-democracy near you:
Canada's mining leadership put up a united front at PDAC Monday to fight a private member's bill they say will "seriously harm" the industry if passed into law.
The bill, which has passed second reading, calls for greater accountability on the part of Canadian mining companies working overseas in areas including environmental and social impact.
"It's gone this far because of serendipity more than anything else," Mr. Andrews said.

However, the Senate is dominated by Conservatives, so conceivably the bill could die there.

Gordon Peeling, president of the Mining Association of Canada, said this would not be ideal as it would involve an unelected chamber of Parliament.
Not ideal, but they'd likely take it. And the Conservatives do oppose the bill after all.

This session should be quite the thing to watch with this new Senate dynamic, that's a hint of what could be in store. All that Conservative rhetoric about the unelected Senate obstructing House of Commons votes, etc. is about to become soooo last year. The Senate is about to be rechristened by Conservatives as a chamber of sober second thought. Just watch.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Visited by the wit and wisdom of Sarah Palin

The political event in Canada last night, a speech by Ms. Palin that was, by all accounts, well-received by a Calgary audience. What a difference location can make. Recall the backlash in December when Palin was announced as the headliner for a hospital fundraiser in Hamilton:
The former vice-presidential candidate was supposed to speak at a fund-raising event for the Juravinski Cancer Centre and St. Peter’s Hospital in Hamilton. But a backlash of negative publicity cancelled those plans.
So what was Palin up to last night? Waxing eloquent, like Maxime Bernier, on climate change although she has more of a flair for the dramatic than Maxime, no small feat:
She touched on climate change, saying that her skepticism has been proven by several recent controversies and that money shouldn't be spent on "pie-in-the-sky, snake-oil ideas."
Not surprisingly then, she also gave a favourable nod to the Harper government's environmental policy:
Lauding Canada's approach to the environment, she said this country has sought to balance environmental progress with economic concerns.
I guess we can understand that when Harper's track record consists largely of rhetoric and waiting on the U.S. for action. If you're a climate change skeptic, what's not to like about the Harper government's policies, or lack thereof?

An ironic, you betcha, moment on Canadian health care:
"We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," she said. "And I think now, isn't that ironic."
Ironic, yes, and too bad she hasn't learned anything from that telling tale from her childhood to cause her to support expansion of health care in the U.S. to those without.

All well-received by a Harper MP in attendance!
One of those was Conservative MP Lee Richardson. "I thought it was impressive," he said.
Stockwell Day was there too although no reaction from him yet. That's a letdown, it would be fun to hear what Stock has to say about the Thrilla from Wasilla. They're kind of like political doppelgangers.

For those of us who couldn't be there, here's a highlight reel of Palin's greatest hits. Not many politicians who can string the highlights together like this:

Love ya, Alberta, but you sure are different out there...:)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday night

A group that is getting a lot of acclaim, or maybe hype, these days, Broken Bells. Grew on me this week and it's a break from the techno choices of the past few weeks:)

This might catch on

A bumper sticker seen in B.C. Might have to look into getting one of those...:)

Update (4:05 p.m.): In response to an email, the url underneath the tag line reads: Had a quick look there but didn't see the sticker. And here's an idea from the same email:
I've been thinking, seeing as Harper and company appear to be counting on Canadian voter apathy, a good campaign slogan for the Liberals would be "Dare to Care ".

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The tyranny of the polls

What's it been, an hour since the last horse race poll? These pollster people are slippping, geez. Shouldn't they be polling on the hour now that Parliament is getting back in session? Slackers.

Let's review...

Oh look: "Tories-Liberals both stalled: poll." 31-31 says Harris Decima on the two leading parties.

But, oh, look: Angus Reid poll says Conservative 4 point advantage.

Then, oh! Look! Canwest pumping their Ipsos stuff: "Canadians would elect another Tory minority." Causing some angst.

But hey, big time news organizations, you each forgot the part where your brother and sister polls are indicating different things. That thing called context, reporting. Overridden by the polling relationship the news organizations have. Not meaning to gripe so much here but to point out the clear deficiency to which we're constantly exposed. It's all misleading unless you weigh the multiple results. The news is letting us down. On what other issue could they get away with such omissions? It's ludicrous that it goes on given that it's only our political state of being that is at issue.

The multiplicity of polls is not the problem, it's the reporting on them that is in need of change.