Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some of us are still blogging

Blast you, my pals are dropping away, one by one. Totally get it.

But they'll be baaa-aack. You wait and see...:)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A G20 song

From the mind of @pmoharper, a timely song for the G8/G20 summit.


*sung to melody of IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS by the Bare Naked Ladies.*

If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd put on 2 global summits ( I'd put on 2 global summits)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd put them on at the same time (like back-to-back, simultaneous at the same time)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd tell you it's cheaper (experts say, so what can you do?)
If I had a $1 billion dollars, you'd want some too...

If I had a $1 billion dollars
I'd hire 10000 cops
If I had a $1 billion dollars
At least 1000 for each block
If I had a $1 billion dollars
Maybe we could put up chain link fence round here
Wouldn't that be fabulous!

If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd buy you 5 years of daycare (but not real daycare that's cruel)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd buy you some foreign aid (save a couple million babies or more)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
There'd be no more abortion (All them crazy elephant bones)
If I had a $1 billion dollars, you'd want some too...

If I had a $1 billion dollars
I'd buy you tasers to control the crowd
If I had a $1 billion dollars
Hear those sound cannons sure are loud!
If I had a $1 billion dollars, you'd have to eat Kraft dinner

If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd buy you a green dress (gotta save the environment, that's cool)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd buy you some art (but nothing from the CBC, no way)
If I had a $1 billion dollars (If I had a $1 billion dollars)
I'd buy you a minister (haven't you always wanted a monkey?)
If I had a $1 billion dollars If I had a $1 billion dollars If I had a $1 billion dollars
If I had a $1 billion dollars of YOUR MONEY!
Ya gotta laugh, otherwise...

Gun registry politics from the week

First on this, there was Shelley Glover's shameless performance at the parliamentary committee this week. She suggested that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who was testifying as head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in support of the registry, has engaged in some kind of misconduct in suppressing police officers from coming forward because of their opposing views. She did so while Blair was in the room and could not respond. Here's what she said:
“There were officers who did suffer consequences at the hands of chiefs, like Mr. Blair, who did transfer them out when they spoke out against it. That is why they are silenced today and are afraid to come forward,” said Glover.

“I’ve received thousands of phone calls from people in Toronto, from people in Montreal, from across this country, police officers who are afraid to stand up because they fear consequences in their job. I’m ashamed of that. I’m ashamed as a police officer. I’m ashamed as an elected official.”
And Blair's response:
“Quite frankly, I interpreted it as an accusation, a false accusation of course, because it’s never happened, but the suggestion that there was some vast number of police officers that I had somehow suppressed from expressing themselves is simply not true,” Blair told the Star.

“Overwhelmingly, my colleagues hold the view that the firearms registry needs to be retained.

“I was disappointed by the very disrespectful tone, even bordering on contempt, in which some of the comments were made and questions were asked.”

Blair took particular offence to Glover’s suggestion that “I and other of my colleagues have engaged in misconduct — a completely baseless allegation . . . I have been before parliamentary committees in the past and I have always been treated with respect.

“I would hope that all parliamentarians would value the experience and the input of police officers, police chiefs, police unions, police boards who are remarkably united in their support of retaining this information.”
Head shaking time...the disrespect of an MP to treat a witness like this, any witness, is just remarkable. So there's the lack of civility pervading this little episode that's there.

There's also this abhorrent tactic they're deploying throughout this gun registry battle of dividing the police rank and file from the leadership. What kind of government actively seeks to foster division in the police forces of the nation in order to get a political win for the base? You'd think that the craven, naked, self-interested partisan obsession might relent on some things, that there'd be some sense that certain lines shouldn't be crossed. You know, restraint. Not with these folks who have the nerve to parade themselves in front of Canadians as the law and order party all the while engaging in such tactics, attacking police chiefs.

Also this week, it was quite the scene when the Quebec Justice Minister showed up to express support for the registry. It was occasion for the Conservatives to play with the federalism card for their own partisan purposes. How can you support a federal gun registry when you don't want a national securities regulator, one Conservative MP asked. Not caring a whit that such an argument worked against their own position. Why don't you have your own Quebec run registry asked a Conservative Senator, seeming to endorse the Parti Quebecois position on the registry. Great federalists that these Conservatives are.

Word too that favourable reports on the gun registry's operation are being withheld once again, as they did in the lead up to the second reading vote on C-391 in the fall:
Deputy RCMP Commissioner William Sweeney and Toronto Police Chief and President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Bill Blair, in their testimony before the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee, revealed the existence of a recent RCMP report and internal audit which demonstrate the efficiency of the Canadian Firearms Program, including the long gun registry.
Can't have that stuff getting out, in the off chance that there's a vote by the end of next month.

Whatever works, no matter the cost on the issue. Quite the performance from the Conservatives this week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday night

Sound cannons at G20 Summit in Toronto

That $1.1 billion figure for the G20 Summit and security is now going to be probed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (and maybe the Auditor General). Well, theoretically anyway, given the Harper government's obstructive tendencies. They may have a very hard time avoiding scrutiny of this one given public outrage.

Here's another aspect of the summit that might give you a bit more of that feeling of outrage. In the Star yesterday, it was reported that the Toronto police have bought four sound cannons for crowd control during the G20 summit. Or, if you wish to use the Orwellian name for these cannons, they're also known as "long range acoustic devices." The problem? These devices, if used improperly, can cause hearing damage. The fact that our police have purchased these weapons and may use them on the crowds who have legitimate rights to protest at this event under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deserves serious attention:
Originally designed for the U.S. Navy, LRADs can emit ear-blasting sounds so high in frequency they transcend normal thresholds of pain. While they are used everywhere from Iraq to the high seas for repelling pirates, LRADs are being increasingly employed as a crowd-control device and at last year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, police used them on protesters before deploying tear gas and stun grenades.
Of Toronto’s newly-acquired LRADs, three are handheld devices that can broadcast noise heard from 600 metres away. Their volume can reach 135 decibels, which surpasses the pain threshold of 110 to 120.
Drummond acknowledges LRADs can cause permanent hearing damage if used improperly but says Toronto police are developing guidelines for deployment. She said officers will also only use the device’s “alert” function if crowds become riotous and will use the manufacturer’s recommendation of firing short bursts, two to three seconds long.

“The piercing sound would make someone stop in their tracks for a moment,” she said. “Your instinct would be to cover your ears. So rather than being violent, the tendency would be to stop the violence and protect your hearing.”
But Queen’s University professor David Murakami Wood, an expert in surveillance, criticizes neutralizing euphemisms like “communication tools. He says LRADs should be considered potential weapons and large international summits can often be used as testing grounds for new police technologies or techniques.

“They’re being very disingenuous about what this is,” he said. “It emits a sound that is in fact at frequency levels that can go way beyond what human beings can put up with in terms of pain and can be damaging.

For University of Toronto adjunct professor Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer who has participated in several trials involving Taser deployments, anything that can stun people or crowds should be considered dangerous.

“Tasers were introduced and said to be totally benign but have now generally been recognized as dangerous weapons,” he said. “To start using experimental weapons on people is really outrageous in my view.” (emphasis added)
These devices are brand new to Toronto police, they've only been trained on them 10 days ago. They are just now "developing guidelines" for deployment. While today's Star report seems to lessen the drama surrounding the use of the machines by talking to people who were at the Pittsburgh G20 summit where they were used, there is still reason for caution.

I hope our municipal politicians and members at all levels will weigh in on this in the next month to exert some control over the potential use of these damaging and torturous devices. It is shocking that our police have purchased such machines and may deploy them against protesters who will have every right to be there, be loud and say whatever they like. All it takes is one slip by a novice user making a snap judgment about a rowdy protest and grave damage could be done. With the newness of these machines, this is a developing situation that's looking for trouble.

Late night

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bad front page mojo

Neither story makes for good front page mojo methinks. Why can't we get awesome front pages like this in the ROC media, hmmm?

Can't read about that Conservative dinner with Opus Dei story, it's behind a wall. But recall a controversy during the 2008 election when a Conservative candidate was said to have links to Opus Dei and there was frantic spinning and highlighting of the issue all around. Suppose we'll hear more about the dinner story today. The other story, on the awakened Cardinal Ouellet, is likely to have ongoing implications, not just in Quebec.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Maddow video and other notes

Lazy, lazy weekend around here on the blog. Here's a weekend kind of video to take in, a bit longer than normal but if you're a fan, always worth a look. This is Rachel Maddow's recent commencement speech at Smith College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I think she started out as a radio dj not too far from the college, so there's some relationship there. Anyway, it's not the most polished speech but there is some wisdom here, particularly the last 5-6 minutes. An interesting analogy she draws in the beginning too. Big fan of Rachel around here and what she does.


Other weekend reading:

Herbert on the Gulf.

Rawnsley on UK Tory David Cameron's coalition politics.

Broadbent on bank taxes.

Attention drawn to incompetent Canadian consulate services again, this time sparking a diplomatic incident with India.

The Harper hypocrisy documented once again, he does love those Challenger jets after years of bleating about Liberal use of them. That was then.

Finally, this is potentially ripe for abuse, with these clowns in charge, watch for it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

More in and out and other Friday late aft long weekend notes

1. So, to be clear on the whole mess of an in and out thing, I think it goes this way right about now. If Elections Canada wins its appeal, the Conservative party at the national level gets dinged for exceeding their national spending limit in the 2006 election. If Elections Canada loses its appeal, ten Conservative candidates, including three Harper cabinet ministers, get dinged for exceeding their riding spending limits. Plus there is some mysterious, languishing, criminal offence looming in the background.

I think I'm liking where this one is going.

2. The Great Abortion Issue Reopening of 2010 is apparently all Rod's fault. Bad MP, very, very bad MP. The cause of a 50 minute anger management session in the PMO too. Took them the week to make that dust up publicly known, as the issue snowballs.

But you know...if his MPs are attending rallies and committing to reopening the abortion debate, then someone bears responsibility for that. They're just taking their cues from the top, from the leader that's been sending coy signals about the abortion issue since January by excluding abortion from the overseas maternal health initiative. Yelling in his office at a backbench MP a month after Bruinooge's bill's been introduced looks like plain old reactionary damage control after the issue's gone south. Telling the media about the big anger session smells like damage control too. Riding a tiger is difficult.

3. MP expenses? Shorter Harper: I am not a leader. In fact, I'm helpless to do much at all. Choice remarks:
"This is a matter that is not under the government's jurisdiction," said Harper, who was in Niagara Falls, Ont., to announce funding for the expansion and renovation of the Niagara Falls History Museum leading up to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

"Parliament is independent on these matters and, through the Board of Internal Economy, makes its own decisions."
Was that some kind of strained nod to parliamentary supremacy? Nice to see, Johnny come lately. But his party, of course, will do exactly what he says. They're good rabbits that way.

The "in and out" twists and turns continue

Pierre Poilievre's loudly proclaimed "total vindication" for the Conservatives in the lower court ruling in the in and out matter may not have been so total it turns out. Some of their candidates, including three Harper cabinet ministers, might eventually face consequences for exceeding their local riding spending limits in the 2006 election as a result of that ruling. Consequences like being barred from running again.

The ruling, however, and that's a big however, is being appealed by Elections Canada. Those cabinet ministers might not be in jeopardy down the road if Elections Canada is ultimately successful in its appeal of the judgment. Elections Canada's argument has been "...that advertising expenses attributed to Tory candidates should have been reported as expenses for the national Conservative campaign." So the prospect of Harper cabinet ministers being in jeopardy of losing their ability to run in a future election is probably overstated as an imminent possibility. (I am assuming that the stay of the lower court ruling will be granted.)

This item is worth some attention in the meantime:
The Canadian Press has learned Corbett concluded long ago that there are reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence was committed under the Canada Elections Act.Even without completing his investigation, Corbett referred the matter last June to the director of public prosecutions, who is still considering whether to lay charges.

Dan Brien, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office, confirmed the referral. Asked why no decision has been made after almost a year, he said: "It's a complex matter."

"It relates to a lengthy and ongoing investigation by the commissioner of elections." (emphasis added)
Sounds like someone wants us to know that the referral has been made but nothing's been done about it for a year.

The answer from the public prosecutor's office doesn't seem to be very satisfactory either. The public's been informed now that a referral was made based upon reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence was committed. If indeed that is the case, then why hasn't action been taken? The public's entitled to more than "it's a complex matter." Maybe CP caught them off guard in inquiring about the matter but they need to be more forthcoming than this. It raises doubts about the integrity of the process.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Late night

You can remove the comments from these things but I think I'll leave them up. SoundCloud is where songs go to be blogged, fun to see sometimes.


Recent polling history...

Ekos May 20: Cons 34.4, Libs 25.1, NDP 15.3, Greens 12. Almost a 10 point lead.

Harris Decima May 17: Cons 32, Libs 28, NDP 17, Greens 11. A 4 point lead.

Nanos May 6: Cons 37.2, Libs 33.2, NDP 16.2, Greens 3.8. A 4 point lead.

It's still too much to ask for there to be discussion of multiple polls and trends as each new poll is unrolled, in what seems to be this at least weekly or so phenomenon. Media outlets all have their respective polls that they pay for and pump to the exclusion of others. It's a truly bizarre phenomenon that we're subjected to on a regular basis. But, that's nothing new and something to be dealt with. Still, it would be nice to see some consideration of the trends in the media.

This is not meant to be a denial type of post. Just pointing out a need for perspective on the discrete polling issue itself. Unless there's a 10 point lead/dynamic that's seen for a stretch in a number of polls, it's unclear that the principal polling dynamic that's been upon us for quite a while has changed. We know it well and many of us are desperate for it to start changing. But for today, I'll take a pass on the doom and gloom.

Update: One more, our memories are so very short these days. Recall this recent poll too, Harris Decima at the end of April had the Cons at 29, Libs at 27. End times!

Big reform on the table in Britain

The aftermath of the British election continues to amaze. Look at the sweeping reform being proposed:
The plan would also create a fully elected House of Lords, scrapping heredity and political favor as a passport to power, and commit to a referendum on changing the voting system for the House of Commons. Under the proposed “alternative vote” system, candidates would have to gain 50 percent or more of the vote in their constituencies to secure election, effectively shaking up the politics of “safe” parliamentary seats that has given many M.P.’s what amounts to lifetime employment.

In addition, the plan would adopt an American-style power of recall, opening the way for restive voters to unseat errant lawmakers by gathering 10,000 signatures on a petition, and introduce new laws to regulate Britain’s $3.5-billion-a-year political lobbying industry. It would also set a five-year “fixed term” for parliaments, coupled with a new law requiring the votes of at least 55 percent of M.P.’s to topple the government, instead of a simple majority as at present. That measure is intended, the coalition has said, to discourage political parties from forcing elections for purely partisan reasons.
But supporters hailed Mr. Clegg’s speech for challenging what has been an article of faith in many quarters throughout modern history: that Britain, with its historical claim as the “mother of democracy,” has remained an example for much of the rest of the world to envy. For much of the last 200 years, a British prime minister backed by a loyal parliamentary majority, and freed from the constraints of a written constitution, has had powers that American presidents and other rulers could only envy.
It's early yet, with unknowns about the strength of that coalition, but it's going to be quite interesting to see how much of this is achieved. Lots of food for thought for other interested democracies and political parties, obviously. It's all set out at "The Coalition:our programme for government" or read an embedded hard copy here.

Not on the reform agenda, however, would be the use of such country estates where Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary will just have to make do with being roomies (not kidding):

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The dam is starting to break

MPs are starting to break with their parties on the issue of the Auditor General's performance audit of MP expenses. MPs Siobhan Coady, Martha Hall Findlay and Peter Stoffer spoke out yesterday, expressing support for the Board of Internal Economy to review its decision not to let the Auditor General proceed with the audit. They'll probably be joined by other MPs going forward.

A former Auditor General had this recommendation yesterday:
"I can't imagine why they're resisting her," Dye said. "And in fact my advice would be to the Speaker is get your committee to reconsider this because the public is just going to be so offended. I mean, there's an election coming up one of these days, and people are going to remember who wanted to be exempt from scrutiny."
This one is starting to feel a little prorogationesque. It's another decision that flies in the face of the larger principle that Parliament and our MPs work for the people. With the MP expenses, it's the element of public accountability not being seen to be done that's building steam. In both cases, the public has been ahead of the politicians.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Late night

Fan out and kill strategy as lead up to G8/G20

It's all ministerial hands on deck today for a big international push on this: "Ministers fan out to kill global bank tax proposal." Irrespective of how you feel about the prospect of an international bank tax, this effort will likely be fruitless and it's ill-timed.
Canada will mount a world-wide campaign Tuesday against a global bank tax by deploying four cabinet ministers in far-flung political and financial centres around the world Tuesday in a bid to kill the proposal.
Five Conservative cabinet ministers will deliver speeches in four major cities on Tuesday that will essentially trash the tax, while calling for stronger regulations for financial markets.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Industry Minister Tony Clement will bolster Harper's remarks with events in Mumbai, Shanghai, Washington and Ottawa.
It's almost like their domestic political attack mode is now being taken international yet instead of bashing the Liberals et al., this time, the receiving end, for all intents and purposes, will be the European countries and the U.S. who are actually pushing for a bank tax. It seems destructive, it's not a consensus building strategy leading into the G8/G20 summits.

And it's not like this international push is likely to win over those who are supporting the tax, that's doubtful. Treasury Secretary Geithner basically said as much in Washington at the end of April at a meeting of the G20 finance ministers, that they'd do what's necessary for the U.S., irrespective of what Canada's position is. A commitment to a bank tax is also found in the U.K. coalition government's negotiated agreement ("We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.")

Harper's anti-bank tax push is probably just going to help reinforce divisions within the G20 over the tax, going into the meetings. The divisive Harper domestic strategy gone international, in a sense. Those events in Mumbai and Shanghai in particular are likely being done for that reason.

Anyway, in the bigger picture, it seems a little ill-timed to be fanning out around the world in some kind of hyper politicized campaign to rail against this bank tax at a time when the European countries (and the U.S.) are preoccupied with a drowning Greece and the fears that its crisis will spread. The world knows our pious position well, this just doesn't seem like helpful international engagement for Canada at a sensitive moment.


Another poll to undermine the chess master's stance on excluding abortion funding from his maternal health initiative:
"Alberta was the only province where opposition to supporting abortion abroad was greater than support for the idea (53% opposed, to 44% in favour). In Quebec, 71% thought Canadian aid should be spent to provide access to safe abortions and in British Columbia that figure was 68%. In Ontario, 55% supported spending aid money on abortions, and in Atlantic Canada, 61% supported the idea. “Clearly aid in developing countries is something that Quebeckers and Ontarians and a large number of other Canadians feel is important,” said Dave Scholz, vice-president of Leger Marketing. Prime Minister Stephen Harper “is trying to get votes in Quebec and other parts of the country and this type of behaviour doesn’t bode well for him when it comes to keeping Canadians happy.”"
Nevertheless, somebody has his talking points to massage it all away:
Mr. Harper, meanwhile, listed off clean drinking water and some vague pre- and post-birth interventions that can help mothers and their babies when asked about his G8 maternal health plan. “There are things that can be done, not controversial things, things that are not expensive. They can make a real significant difference in the lives of people around the world.”
Except that a majority of Canadians firmly support the "controversial things" being included in the plan.

It may be sinking in, despite the spin, that this has blown up on them and the attempt to narrow the focus of the G8/G20 meetings was telling:
...Harper said his focus is and will remain on economic issues.

"Everything else that so often gets so much attention from your former media colleagues Mike, these are sideshows. The economy is what matters," Harper told the moderator, Sen. Mike Duffy.

"And it's got to be what matters at these meetings in June."
But that's not what he said when he launched the maternal health initiative in January:
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.
From priority to sideshow. If anything, the mobilizing Harper is doing is all about that bank tax, not maternal health.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Of course we do

"Canadians reject PM's abortion stand: poll." The Master Tactician's judgment is off yet again:
A new poll suggests that a majority of Canadians opposes the Prime Minister's refusal to fund safer abortions in developing countries, even as international concern grows about the state of his G8 maternal health initiative.

The Canadian Press-Harris Decima poll found that 58 per cent of respondents oppose Harper's exclusion of abortion funding in his drive to improve maternal and child health in poor countries.

That's up from about 46 per cent in March, when a similar question about aid for abortion access was asked.
Yay, Canada. Now the question is whether Mr. Harper will represent the views of Canadians or his base as this initiative goes forward?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday night

Not much going on here's a favourite song from the week. Have a good night!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday night

New Chemical Brothers, Swoon. You have to give it a few listens. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Change in Britain

Out with the old:

In with the new:

Harper on Canadian banks

Update (4:35 p.m.).

"The most rampant example of Liberal state corporatism lies in industrial policy. Despite the federal government's notional commitment to continental markets and the globalization of industry, much of Canada's industrial policy is aimed at the maintenance of traditional, nationally based industries. In broad areas such as communications, transportation, banking and agriculture, federal policy is designed to enhance the position of monopolistic or oligopolistic enterprises. Such an approach deprives Canadian consumers of the central benefit of a market economy -- consumer choice through vigorous competition. In fact, consumers actually prop up some of our biggest corporations, providing hundreds of millions of dollars annually in subsidies, grants, guarantees and non-repayable loans. These policies generally manifest themselves under the guise of "industrial policy" -- loans to Bombardier, de facto protection of Air Canada's quasi-monopoly of our air industry and the failure to adapt bank regulation to the needs and challenges of a financial sector that is less and less national, and more and more global." (Stephen Harper Op-Ed, National Post, Feb 8 2002)
That latter part on the more global nature of the banking industry was an argument used by those supporting mergers, that bigger would be better to thrive globally.

Ladies and gentlemen, when the greatest economic test of our times challenged the world’s banks, when banks and financial institutions were collapsing all around us, Canada’s banks rode high in the water.

“They maintained healthy leverage ratios. They avoided exposure to toxic assets. No major Canadian financial institution failed. And none needed a government bailout. This strength has been noted by the IMF, Moody’s, the World Economic Forum, among others. In fact, the World Economic Forum has said we have the strongest banking sector in the world.

“The key for our banks, apart, of course, from their own strong management decisions has been strong, active supervision with a regulatory framework designed to avoid reckless risk and ensure transparency. That, and to properly link risk, performance and reward. These are the mechanisms that Canada will encourage when the G-20 leaders discuss the financial sector. Because they work.
Not fooling anybody:
Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate Mr Harper.
Update (4:35 p.m.): With respect to this post, I guess sometimes I really should draw these things out a little more. My point, Harper gets the big calls wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He has in the past (banks, Iraq), he continues to do so in the present (GST cuts, successive prorogations, for e.g.). Past is prologue sometimes and the Harper judgment continues to demonstrate that. As he heads into the G8/G20 coat tailing on Canada's past bank regulation choices, none of which were his doing, it's worth pointing out that his own economic credibility is not exactly stellar. No one around here is against being forward looking or policy developing. I see lots of that but there's no reason not to call out flaming hypocrisy when you see it.

Update (7:00 p.m.): Should have looked at that post a little more carefully, Steve posted on the Harper bank regulation thing before I did. Interesting that we had totally different resulting posts on the issue. The update above I'll just leave as is, providing context to why I posted it, but with this addendum. All is well in the Liberal blogosphere:)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Here a coalition, there a coalition

Everywhere the option of a coalition. Labour and Lib Dems now actively engaged in discussions. Even the Tories in the UK now offering a formal coalition, via Tory William Hague today:
We will offer to the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government the holding of a referendum on the alternative vote system, so that the people of this country can decide what the best electoral system is for the future.
What?!!! Nobody tell Stephen Harper or he'll start running ads in Britain railing against all the socialists and separatists.

Things moving fast, to state the obvious.

Con-Dem Nation?

Think we know the Mirror's leanings then...clever front page gang they have there.

The election's still not over, yay! Hoping it goes on for weeks to save us from 100% of one's time being reverted to Canadian goings on.

This rang a bell:
There is a spectre haunting Whitehall. It is not of "weak government". Or of market turmoil this week. It is the spectre of a second general election. Exhausted, broke and chastened politicians are spooked by the thought. This fear explains much of what is going on now.

David Cameron has least reason to be jittery because the Tories are a lot better funded than the others. He desperately wants a proper majority and is as viscerally anti-Liberal Democrat as any other leading Tory. As soon as he becomes prime minister – if he does – he could trigger a second election at any point. He would simply plead that the Lib Dems and others were "playing games" and stopping the "strong, stable government" that crisis-hit Britain needs.

But Cameron has to play that card very cautiously and with perfect timing.
Get ready for the leverage to be exerted by the better financed party. If they end up in a minority government situation. Because they're Tory. And that's what they do.

In the meantime, when the Tories are wooing their partner, it's all very positive and amicable and constructive and just peachy between the Tories and Lib Dems. You will find a lot of that in all the updates. Except when somebody needs to reel off some spin in order to keep the other parties on their toes.

How the Lib Dems will be able to withstand internal pressures on obtaining some kind of significant voting reform will be one of the most interesting things to watch.

Onwards with the fascinating discussions that may yet include Labour. It's doing wonders to put to bed the irresponsible rhetoric we've seen in this country about coalitions. There may or may not be a formal coalition that results but the sheer fact that it's being discussed so candidly and with relatively little hyperbole is a very helpful development.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fair votes protest

Still with the "watching in interest" all the present UK goings on as a barometer of what might be coming our way at some point in our future. This is video of that protest on Saturday afternoon in London advocating for electoral reform that was meant to remind Nick Clegg of his promises on same. This is the group that's behind the video.

More of interest, one of the Lib Dem party elders on one of the big UK Sunday morning shows:

Happy Mother's Day

A bit of a tradition around here, one of my favourite reads on mother-daughter relationships, here.

And the video...

Mother's Day is a little more special to me this year, my mother had a health scare with a diagnosis on February 11th that has been eased as of the past week. I am thankful for every moment.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


This piece in the Independent is a must read on the politics of the negotiations going on in Britain, particularly surrounding Nick Clegg's options as leader of the Liberal Democrats: "Clegg has a real chance to change the system. He must not blow it." There's a real sense that comes through in the piece of this being a crucial moment in time in British politics and specifically, the push for electoral reform there. Whether Clegg, and his party, have the guts to embrace it is the question. There is never an ideal time or easy situation in which such fundamental changes will occur is the message.

Plus there's a lot of the brute reality to the political dynamics presented. Some excerpts:
Of course they face a dilemma. The politics of power presents parties with nightmarish dilemmas every hour of the day. The Liberal Democrats are not used to the politics of power and this is a big test. They do not want to be seen propping up a Labour Party that by any definition performed abysmally in the election. For a time they will no doubt face a critical onslaught. Clegg hates the idea of appearing with Gordon Brown on the steps of No 10 having agreed a deal.

But they are being spectacularly naïve if they believe the formation of a minority Tory administration will lead to their party's revival over the next few years. Similarly, Labour figures who assume a period of opposition would give them space to form a new progressive alliance with the Liberal Democrats that will soon sweep them to power are also deluded. Once the Conservatives seize power they will not let go.
The alternative for Clegg to a deal with Cameron is no political paradise. It would be almost impossibly difficult to work with an unpopular governing party. And yet it is very straightforward. They would get a referendum on electoral reform this year. There is a strong chance the referendum would be won. The next election would be contested under a system that is fairer and the political landscape would change.

No doubt Clegg and others would prefer to secure the reform in a noble context, but there never is change when altruism is called for. Every constitutional reform has been implemented out of self-interest. No Prime Minister changes the voting system to do their party harm. They act out of party interest. Tony Blair did not give the Liberal Democrats a change in 1997 because he had won a landslide. They are being offered one now because Labour has lost its majority. Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about Labour and Liberal Democrats winning the case for electoral reform in opposition, securing power and then introducing the change. This is a fantasy. They must take the chance now or it will not happen.
The conclusion:
Hidden beneath the drama of the moment are deep divisions within each of the parties. Clegg's decision on what to do next will test the precarious unity of the Liberal Democrats. A Labour leadership contest will highlight suppressed tensions about the party's future. Some in the Conservative Party are ready to rage if power is not secured. But only Clegg and his party have the power to decide whether or not permanent change follows the most astonishing election of modern times. They have yearned for such a moment, but might turn away fearful of its political impurity. A pure moment is never going to arrive.
These events are fascinating to watch for the human element. In a very broad sense, it's a case study in testing the mettle of political leaders. What are they willing to step up and do and how will they do it? Will Clegg get that commitment to political reform, i.e., proportional representation, in some mechanism that will be meaningful? Or will he back away from it?

Other notes on this...Clegg is getting pressure on electoral reform, here he is addressing a crowd of 1,000 proportional representation supporters outside a meeting he was at today:

And more on his approach to the negotiations, another statement today, on his four priorities. Number four is the political reform principle:

Lastly, here's another piece on Clegg's moment that's worth a read.

Acceptable usage of the term "Harper Government"

(Click to enlarge)

Media, bloggers, tweeters et al are free to call the government whatever they like. As above.

It's when the Government of Canada in official business refers to itself as the "Harper Government" that improper use of government resources is being made. The Government of Canada is for all of us and should refer to itself as such.

So we heartily approve of the above. Stephen Harper's full name should be affixed to that decision not to fund Toronto's gay pride parade this summer. Headlines like that come in handy at election time and stuff.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday night

A new one from Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party. Enjoy!

The gun lobby's long shadow

This sounds kind of familiar:
While the rest of the nation comes to grips with fresh concerns about terrorism, domestic and foreign, Congress is wrapped up in the peculiar obsessions of the gun lobby — most of which are certain to make Americans less safe in their homes and on the streets.

Congress, for example, is cowering before the gun lobby insistence that even terrorist suspects who are placed on the “no-fly list” must not be denied the right to buy and bear arms. Suspects on that list purchased more than 1,100 weapons in the last six years, but Congress has never summoned the gumption to stop this trade in the name of public safety and political sanity.

Legislation to close this glaring threat continues to languish with little promise of enactment because a bipartisan mass of lawmakers fear retribution by the gun lobby’s campaign machine. Firsthand pleas this week from New York City’s mayor and police commissioner — testifying after the attempted Times Square bombing attributed to a suspect who was also carrying a legally obtained gun — showed no sign of budging a timorous Congress.

It is a sign of the gun lobby’s growing confidence that if feels free to keep up the pressure, public and private, after the near-disaster in New York. Normally, the lobby goes quiet for a decent interval after a particularly heinous crime occurs.

To the contrary, Senator John McCain and other members of the gun lobby’s cohort are pressing for legislation to strip local taxpayers in Washington of such basic gun controls as owner registration and a ban on semiautomatic battlefield rifles — laws already upheld by the courts. The gun lobby cued Congress to take another run at scuttling the city’s gun controls after previously using the issue to stymie the district’s hopes to at last have a full-fledged voting representative in the House. (emphasis added)
We have a chance to say no, while we have a minority government, to push back against gun lobby pressure that the Harper Conservatives are enabling. I hope that is what happens to the very concerted, well-financed and government sponsored effort going on in Canada to strike down the gun registry. Over to you, Jack.

Again on the Stephen watch

Update (6:05 p.m.) below.

"Harper government launches major job creating construction projects."

Another announcement where it appears they wish to draw attention for political benefit. Any coincidence that we've seen three this week, two on tax issues, then this one today, as the prospect of an election kicks around in the background?

There may be those shrugging their shoulders thinking these little things are tiresome, get off it already. That's the way such creeping (and creepy) improprieties become the norm. So they will continue to be noted.

(h/t a little birdie)

Update (6:05 p.m.): Email just received with an observation that may be of interest:)
Something I noticed today when I saw Harper being interviewed & in a presser is that he's losing weight again. Now THAT's a sure sign of a coming election!
Al Gore did that too.

U.K. election aftermath

Update (Friday 5:40 p.m.) below.

The general election result in a nutshell:


It's the result everyone expected, a hung parliament. Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg is giving the Tories first shot at forming a government:
Now we're in a very fluid political situation with no party enjoying an absolute majority.

As I've said before it seems to me in a situation like this, it's vital that all political parties, all political leaders, act in the national interest and not at narrow party political advantage.

I've also said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties.

And I stick to that view. It seems this morning that it's the Conservative party that had more votes and more seats but not an absolute majority.

And that is why I think it is now for the Conservative party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest.
Looks like he's giving them their shot, at least to see what they're going to propose. Maybe he won't go along ultimately but that's hard to see. He's handed Cameron a lot of legitimacy with his formulation above (when he didn't really have to according to the Whitehall rules). How Clegg would then go ahead and play the two off against each other now would be a stretch, his own hand is weak as a result of his poor showing. There are rumblings that Labour is viewing this as the beginning of discussions, not the end but that sounds optimistic. We'll see, what else can you say. You never know what might happen, David Cameron is up this afternoon with some kind of statement about what he proposes to do, he's not likely to blow it but stranger things have happened during this election, there might yet be twists and turns.

It was a fun night, maybe a bit too much time on the computer, thus the short post. Looks like it'll carry on for a few more days at least.

And P.S. Nick Clegg really is an insufferable wanker, in my humble opinion. I just hope we don't have to hear too much from him in coming days:)

Update (5:40 p.m.): From the very intelligent readers we get:
Just read your post on the British election. Yes, fun indeed, and if you, too, were watching the BBC, you must have been struck by how civilized it all was, and how INTELLIGENT for the most part, and how knowledgeable about history and the constitution. Some interviewers were pushing the moral right of the party with the most seats to have the first shot at forming a government, but almost every interviewee, no matter what political stripe, defended or at least mentioned the constitutional right of Gordon Brown to be given the first shot instead. And I loved the comments on the Queen not
wanting to be bothered until 1 pm today. Nobody would just pick up the phone to talk to her when he felt like it.

My election-watching goes back to 1959 in Britain (as an au pair) when Macmillan won and father Richard Dimbleby, the "royal" reporter who had handled the coronation, was in charge. This time the setup of the broadcast and the technical whizardry was awesome.

My blistering letter to the G&M regarding coalitions in Canada is in my Drafts file and will be fired off if/when the Queen appoints the UK PM based on a coalition and nobody cries "coup".

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gun registry ads released

See this site too (h/t).

U.K. election day

Nooooo....! This is just not right for so many reasons.

Some of the big reads today...

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian. Godspeed Gordo, today's judgment day:
If this was the Goodbye Gordon farewell tour, it was a cortege on speed, zigzagging across the country on a two-day dash before reaching its final resting place in Kirkcaldy. The "Not Dead Yet" tour has breathed last-minute life into Labour: the once sepulchral Brown was not going gentle into that good night. Instead, from a midnight visit to steelworks to a 5.30am handshake with market traders today, he was relentless, remorseless to the end, revived by visceral anger at the prospect of a Conservative government.
Brown's constant recital of that list of achievements and some fear that's been instilled about people losing a popular child tax credit under Cameron are cited as difference makers near the end.

This guy is making what he terms a "lonely prediction," a Labour-Lib Dem coalition.

This columnist, in contortions, ends up with Labour:
So on polling morning, as I walk down the hill to the school, I think the country needs Mr Cameron as PM. I think the country needs a Lib-Dem inspired reform of the electoral system. And I think the country needs a Labour Party that can still be the best hope for social justice at home and progress abroad. I don’t want to see that party, as seems possible, humiliated tonight. So I’ll be voting Labour.
A fun fact which speaks to the British way of life, everything you need to know about voting day and then some:

Yes. Polling station staff cannot refuse a voter simply because they are drunk or under the influence of drugs. However, if the presiding officer suspects you are incapable of voting you will be asked a series of questions to determine whether you are up to the task of casting your ballot. If the voter cannot answer satisfactorily they will be told to come back when they've sobered up.
Must happen frequently. File under things you will not see on a Canadian voting guide.

Some front pages...who does this darkened figure remind you of? (Look up and to the right.)

Results should be coming at about 5:00 p.m. our time.

And one last note, the Queen will not be voting. In case you were wondering. Just a hunch...but she's probably a Tory.

Nanos, Ekos and Martin

A Nanos poll released last night has these results:
Conservatives: 37.2 per cent (+2.5)
Liberals: 33.2 per cent (-1.4)
NDP: 16.2 per cent (-1.6)
Bloc Quebecois: 9.6 per cent (+1.9)
Green Party: 3.8 per cent (-1.4)
Ekos today, meanwhile, has these results:
The Tories garnered 33.1 per cent support, while 26.1 per cent of the respondents chose the Liberals.
The NDP came in third with 16 per cent of support, followed by the Green Party (11.5 per cent), and the Bloc Québécois (10.2 per cent).
Lawrence Martin today is drawing analogies between the growth of the third party in the U.K., the Liberal Dems, and possible growth for the NDP, citing mainly the 20 percent showing in that Harris Decima poll last week. While the poll numbers above seem volatile, the Decima result doesn't seem to be replicated so far. That scenario should probably be tempered somewhat. And again, Clegg's rise in the U.K. is largely attributable to the advent of televised debates there.

With respect to Nanos and Ekos (by the way, why do so many of our pollsters end in "os," Ipsos too?), a few things...

So the Liberals are at 33 in Nanos and 26 in Ekos...ok. Similarly, Nanos has the Liberals at 41 in Ontario, Ekos has them at 32. These are volatile numbers.

One of the biggest things to jump out...what is with the difference in the Green numbers as between these two pollsters? Nanos has them at 3.8 percent nationally and at the provincial levels, averaging at around the 4-6 percent range. Ekos, by contrast, has the Green numbers way up at 11.5 nationally, and consistently around that range in each of the provinces. They can't both be right. It would explain the higher Liberal number in the Nanos poll.

The Ekos numbers, for those who want to pore, might be interesting on the gender front. There are some strong women's results in support of the country not moving in the right direction question. Women 25-44 in particular are heavily negative about the moving in the right direction question. That may be some evidence of the discussion on the maternal health issue playing out.

Otherwise, a dog's breakfast given the variations. Not results anyone would really be looking to run on in an election. In that sense, they're probably helpful context as we head toward that Tuesday Speaker's deadline regarding the Afghan detainee document resolution.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

One more for the Stephen watch

Since they keep doing it and's another "Harper Government" announcement. They seem to be tax related these days. Associating da boss with da tax policies.

Someone should tell Keith Ashfield he has the job, ixnay on the ucking-up-say.

(h/t a little birdie)

Preparing for coalition talks in the UK and other election notes

Some notes from the UK election again this morning. It's tomorrow and the outcome will be, it appears, historic. Heck, Peter Mansbridge is there, it must be big.

First up, what's this we're reading? "Whitehall gears up for coalition talks." Wha? Let's have a look at this in some detail. A bit of insight into how mature democracies go about approaching the prospect of a coalition government, a legitimate option in the Westminster parliamentary system, unless a Stephen Harper is involved of course:
Senior civil servants are scouting secret venues for coalition talks and preparing to offer impartial support to all parties, as Whitehall prepares to “hold the ring” through hung parliament negotiations that could last for several weeks.

Drawing lessons from abroad and Britain’s last coalition talks in 1974, Sir Gus O’Donnell, cabinet secretary, is reshaping Whitehall practice to facilitate discussion while protecting the monarch, the integrity of the civil service, and continuity of government.
Whitehall preparations, meanwhile, have ranged from clarifying constitutional conventions to arranging more parliamentary passes to allow officials to spend more time with ministers in the Commons. “We’re not short of imaginative scenarios,” said one senior official.
One of the most difficult issues for the civil service would be the mechanics of any cross-party co-operation – including how ministers or partners from different parties were consulted and resolving disputes. “It will require a big cultural shift, not just for politicians but the civil service as a whole,” said one senior MP who would be involved in negotiations.

But above all, officials will be determined to avoid a constitutional crisis by ensuring the Queen is not “dragged into politics”.

“She’s very loathe to be put on the spot,” said one person familiar with the conventions. “The strength of the system is that Her Majesty never has to use any of her latent powers.”
No such qualms over here about dragging the Queen's representative into politics.

We'll see what the outcome holds, whether it will be a coalition or minority government, but the above is just so refreshing, hello? It almost makes you want to scream, where is our Whitehall? A great departure from the nonsense we hear from Conservatives in Canada. Heard a reference to the three "coalition" parties, on PowerPlay just yesterday, tossed off in the typical Conservative condescending branding effort.

The foregoing is assuming everyone makes nice. But Tory Cameron is already making noise about challenging constitutional conventions. The "Hansard Society" is here to help:
The Hansard Society, the independent parliamentary authority, say what happens on Friday will depend on a combination of the electoral arithmetic, the constitutional conventions, the pressures of the media cycle and the blogosphere, the reaction of the markets and the direction of public opinion.
The blogosphere! Way to be inclusive Hansard Society. That article lays out a few of the scenarios we might see which are worth looking at.

The polls show a bit of a fade for the Lib Dems:
The YouGov figures are: Con 35%, Lab 30% and the Lib Dems down four points on 24%. The ComRes poll has the Tories on 37%, Lab 29% and Lib Dems 26%.
Is our boy Gordo making a bit of a comeback after his barn burner speech? Here's Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former top aide, albeit with the pro-Labour perspective:
Heaven knows he has his faults - everyone does. But my God you have to admire the resilience and the depth of a man who just will not stop fighting for what he believes in.

The speech to Citizens UK, now one of the most viewed events of the campaign, and last night's to a party event in Manchester, were streets ahead of anything Cameron or Clegg have delivered. The recital of Labour achievements alone - not to mention the role the Tories played in trying to stop them from happening - should be enough to give people pause for thought.
And here are a few front pages. This one, to show how significant the issue of electoral reform has become:

And one other, for a comic selection, what say you, Simon Cowell, eminent British celebrity? We must know. Out on a limb with that one. He's a Tory, of course he is.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

David Cameron and the common people

Another break from the Canadian political scene. Here are a couple of brilliant videos from the U.K. poking fun at the Tories and their leader, specifically David Cameron's playing up to "common people" in this election in order to shake the Thatcher legacy. They're both quite hilarious and a style of video that would liven up our elections, I'd say. You might recognize the voice in the second one, it's our very own Captain Kirk.

(h/t mydavidcameron)

Great speech by Gordon Brown

Oh man, why didn't he give this speech weeks ago? Conviction, passion, authenticity. Go Gordo, go! He's going down fighting. Heckler at 8:00 in, but it doesn't seem to have spoiled the mood.

Probably too late but what a great speech.

MP expenses, the no-brainer that no one will touch

Greg Weston makes some sense today. The Auditor General having access to MP and Senator expenses, that are already audited privately, is indeed a no-brainer. The Star had a more detailed report on the issue on the weekend. It seems to be ripening as an issue.

That those expenses remain off limits seems to be a hangover privilege from yesteryear that is sorely in need of updating. You can, however, understand the reluctance to disclose by politicians who already feel so under the microscope in the small little world of Canadian politics. They likely have visions of their receipts ending up on the front page of the Globe. But transparency and accountability should outweigh that discomfort in the decision making calculus about whether to make their private audit into a public one. There might be some initial pain and sensationalism, but over time it would become a second nature part of the system.

How does the public feel about the issue? This online poll appears in the Star today, talk about lop-sided:

Why no party is grabbing this issue for advantage, as Weston points out, is a mystery. Maybe they should all come to the conclusion to go for it, through the Board of Internal Economy, collectively. Take the plunge, the Canadian public would applaud them all.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Saturday night

The Brits, old and new, since we're talking about British politics a bit these days...have a good one:)