Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleeper issue

From this Globe item on a presentation at the Liberal caucus meeting in Baddeck, a Liberal pollster highlights the fighter jet purchase as a "sleeper" issue for Canadians:
The sleeper issue, however, is that of the spending billions of dollars on fighter jets.

Mr. Marzolini noted there is confusion as to why Canada needs to purchase the stealth-capable aircraft. Focus groups are asking: “What do we need them for?”

The pollster even drew a few laughs with a Star Trek reference when he said these futuristic jets might be useful if “al-Qaeda ever became allies with the Klingons.”
There are arguments to be made about the untendered nature of the contract, about the timing of the replacement of the CF-18s, for sure. But those are nitpicking arguments. What's interesting is the additional suggestion here from Marzolini that Canadians are open to bold arguments about the choice itself. Whether the big military purchase fits with Canada's defence needs and whether the purchase has been justified by the government. At a cost of $16 billion, the purchase has big implications for budget priorities and the choices that Canadians want to make right now. Lots of room to run with this issue and it's notable to see it being framed as such.

Update (6:40 p.m.): Just saw this, Canadian Press report on the Air Force chief defending the purchase today. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose is noted as stumping on the deal today as well. Shaping up to be a big issue in the fall.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tough choice made

John Ibbitson, in his Saturday Globe column, makes it sound as if Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is on the fence about his upcoming gun registry vote. That's strange because Bagnell spoke to media on Wednesday about the fact that he would be voting to keep the registry. More of Bagnell's comments here.

So maybe Ibbitson didn't know about this development. Meanwhile, Bagnell's being hung out there in the Globe like this. It's almost like Ibbitson just took the PM's spin from that Friday night speech in Whitehorse and ran with it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday night

A little earlier this week, this is a gem making its way around SoundCloud right now...have a good night.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blue Line police gun registry survey disavowed

The publisher of the magazine, Blue Line, issues a strongly worded clarification of what's transpired. The use of capital letters is his:
Randy Kuntz went on national news to support his anti firearms registry position by pointing to me and "Blue Line Magazine". His attempt to damage the magazine's neutral position is out of line along with semi-breaching the sanctity of this section of the Forum.

So he has forced my hand to take a position on the issue:

Here it is and I have shared it with others as far as it can go:


--Morley S. Lymburner
Blue Line Magazine Inc.Celebrating 22 Years! www.blueline.ca
A helpful clarification that is. Interesting to note the publisher's time-lining of the Constable Kuntz forum "survey" as being centred upon two months over a year ago, in "April to May 2009" whereas it was reported that the survey occurred over a period of 14 months ("Over the course of 14 months, Const. Kuntz said, he received online responses and emails from 2,631 police officers.") So two months of responses in the forum plus 12 months of personal emails? That sounds like what's happened here.

The larger point, this non-public, untested, unverifiable, unscientific "survey" of emails and whatever unknown else it was, contained in that private forum, should never have received the national prominence that it did this week. Yet somehow, it was offered up in story after story and featured on national newscasts as authoritative (see Roger Smith report here for example), giving the public the impression that indeed there was some kind of survey of police officers which showed widespread police opposition to the long gun registry. A position not held by the representative body of Canadian police officers.

Anyway, looks like this oddity of the week now seems to be put to rest.

Aid for Pakistan: an appeal to Canadians

Khaista, which translates as 'beautiful' in pashto being treated by Dr Ikram. The 4 year old was suffering with fever and cough. Her mother says she has been playing in contaminated water near her house.
If you have been watching the news you will know that there is a desperate situation going on in Pakistan with the flooding that's occurred and with millions left homeless. There is a real need for donations from Canadians and on Monday, the government announced a matching pledge:
For every eligible donation by individual Canadians to Canadian registered charities, and earmarked for efforts to assist the Pakistan relief efforts, Canada will contribute an equivalent amount to the Pakistan Floods Relief Fund.
Canadian aid groups are there on the ground working, including this one, The Humanitarian Coalition. You can follow all of their updates at their site or on twitter (the Humanitarian Coalition groups include CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada).

Abdul Sattar the father of Mohammad Ilyas, stands over his 3 year old son who's suffering from bloody diarrhoea. He'd been suffering for the last 3 days prior to being brought to the clinic and given intravenous fluids.
(Both photos: Jason Tanner/Save the Children)

Here is some information on the crisis from their latest update explaining what the groups are doing on the ground and the need for contributions:

• Save the Children is one of the largest humanitarian agencies responding to the crisis in Pakistan and has reached more than 69,000 children and families with medical care, food, tents, and shelter and hygiene kits. Our goal is to reach two-million people within the next six months.

• As one of the only aid groups able to reach the most remote areas, Save the Children has provided health coverage to a total of 6837 people in Shikarpur and Sukkur districts in five days.

• So far, Oxfam staff on the ground in Pakistan has reached more than 330,000 flood survivors with shelter, hygiene kits, cooked food, cash vouchers and clean water.

• In Ghotki, Oxfam, with the help of its partners LHDP, provided cooked food to 7000 individual, installed 25 latrines and 20 hand pumps and provided 152 hygiene kits.

• CARE has reached 22,279 beneficiaries with health care, non food items and tents. Another 300 tents and non food items are being transported to Swat for distribution.

• CARE is supporting 4 BHUs in Upper Swat and providing PHC services; approximately 12,000 patients (23% men, 31% women and 46% children) have been treated through two mobile teams and four static units.

The contaminated flood waters and poor living conditions threaten to provoke a public health disaster among the flood survivors. More donations are required if the members are to prevent a second wave of unnecessary deaths.

More devastating (and heartbreaking) pictures here.

Canadian and western nations' donations have been slower in coming for Pakistan, particularly when compared with the recent Haiti disaster. So let's give the effort a push!

Donations can be made at the Humanitarian Coalition's (Canadian!) site.

Spector on Quebec & unilateral declarations of independence

Norman Spector wrote this in his blog Tuesday and it deserves some attention for its over-indulgence of the Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence as being relevant in Quebec's case:
No one should have any doubt about the agenda of a PQ government. And, notably, the recent decision of the International Court of Justice in the matter of Kosovo confirmed the view that there is nothing in international law that would make a unilateral declaration of independence illegal.

In referring the question of secession to the Supreme Court, the Chrétien government made precisely the opposite case — but it’s view was rejected by the Court in it’s 1998 decision. Tellingly, over the weekend, Bob Rae conceded the legal point in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, though the admission was buried in the overall message in which he quite rightly rejected the notion that Kosovo would serve as a precedent for international recognition. That said, those who’ve been comfortably assuming that the Clarity Act had resolved the issue of Quebec separation may want to re-think their assumptions before resuming their slumber on the unity issue. (emphasis added)
Spector leaves you with the impression that we should be worried about Quebec possibly aspiring to that same sort of unilateral declaration of independence ("UDI"). We shouldn't be worried about that. It's OK to recognize that there can be UDIs in international law. But it's not an applicable notion for Canada & Quebec's circumstance.

The Supreme Court has said that our Constitution doesn't permit unilateral secession and international actors would recognize that if the time ever came when Quebec decided to issue a UDI:
"Where, as here, unilateral secession would be incompatible with the domestic Constitution, international law is likely to accept that conclusion subject to the right of peoples to self-determination, a topic to which we now turn." [para. 112]
That is, the international community would defer to our own domestic processes, which we have clearly laid out in the Clarity Act. Then, on that right of peoples to self-determination, Quebec just doesn't qualify:
138 In summary, the international law right to self-determination only generates, at best, a right to external self-determination in situations of former colonies; where a people is oppressed, as for example under foreign military occupation; or where a definable group is denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, social and cultural development. In all three situations, the people in question are entitled to a right to external self-determination because they have been denied the ability to exert internally their right to self-determination. Such exceptional circumstances are manifestly inapplicable to Quebec under existing conditions. Accordingly, neither the population of the province of Quebec, even if characterized in terms of "people" or "peoples", nor its representative institutions, the National Assembly, the legislature or government of Quebec, possess a right, under international law, to secede unilaterally from Canada.
So godspeed to Kosovo, a situation of notable oppression and with its case now affirmed by the ICJ, but Quebec is no Kosovo and the legal arguments just aren't there.

Not to be too critical of Spector's blog item, as I do agree with ringing the alarm about Gilles Duceppe's travels and meetings on the subject of Quebec independence, especially within the context of a possible PQ majority government on the horizon. But the hint that there's an opening to be had by separatist advocates was just a bit too much.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More juxtaposing and other gun registry follow-up

Update (4:20 p.m.) below.

The PM yesterday on one of the motivations for his government's support of the axing of the long gun registry:
Canadians have been very clear. They want us to spend our time and our money focusing on the criminal misuse of firearms and not going after law-abiding duck hunters and farmers.” (emphasis added)
Ah, so he claims that Canadians have been very clear and he is therefore listening to them. Well if that's the standard the PM has for his government's actions, then surely we can expect the government to pay attention to Canadians who have indeed been very clear on the preservation of the long form census. Those numbers continue to grow.

But let's get real, what Canadians are deemed to be clear about, after all, will vary from issue to issue with this PM, depending on his party's political views and necessities.

A few other points on this gun registry story as it developed yesterday...

It's worth reminding ourselves that it's really a sight to see the Prime Minister and his MPs seeking to undermine the police chiefs on the issue and seeking to sow division between the chiefs and the rank and file in order to get a political win. The Canadian Police Association wrote to MPs and Senators back in the spring pushing back against this notion of a supposed divide in the ranks. They're the representative body for Canadian police officers and that either means something or it doesn't. Surveys have shown that police do say the registry is useful to them.

It's not to say that the Conservatives can't disagree with the utility of a tool that police use and seek to change the law. They can do so but their tactics should bear scrutiny. This is theoretically a private member's bill, yet it's apparently going to be coming at quite a cost with this divisive strategy now being pursued.

One other thing about what Harper said yesterday...
“There are some police officers who disagree with the government’s position,” he said. “On the other hand, all of the elected police officers in the Parliament of Canada support the government’s position."
So on the one hand, CACP, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. Yet on the other hand he offers up the "elected police officers in the Parliament of Canada" who support the government. Those MPs would be all of 4 in number and all Conservative: Glover, Kramp, Mackenzie & Norlock. Craftily stated by Harper that might convey some political legitimacy and high road to the government, yet it's hard to see how the point holds up. Expect more of this sleight of hand rhetoric, it's now less than a month until the C-391 vote occurs.

As for Constable Kuntz and his sudden baffling escalation to the national scene as an unscientific taker of surveys, by media far and wide, who wonders about the registry: “I don’t know how you’d use it as a crime-fighting tool. I’ve been straining for years trying to figure that one out.” He should start here and here.

Looks like it's going to be quite the month...and it really doesn't need to be this way.

Update: Almost forgot...one other thing Harper said yesterday was illuminating as well:
The only question that matters at this point is whether those members of Parliament who represent areas where this is an important issue are going to vote for their constituents or not for their constituents.
MP Glen Pearson has related that Conservative MPs have told him they are being whipped on the gun registry against their own preferred voting stance. Which is likely a function of what their constituents want. So will Mr. Harper let his own members be free? That seems to be the follow through to what he is saying.

Update II (4:20 p.m.): From an email, I did miss this:
Robert Clarke, CON, Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill, was an RCMP officer for many, many years before turning to politics. Did you miss him off your list of Harper's tame police officers, whose vast bulk negates the thousands of police officers around the country not fortunate enough to be an elected Conservative?
Yes, he was. Thanks and appropriately put. That makes a whopping 5.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Playing gun registry politics with jobs

Harper went to New Brunswick today in a fit of premature termination politics, already making plans for a post-gun registry world: "Payroll jobs for long-gun registry workers." A little presumptuous of the boss, don't you think? That gun registry vote comes at the end of September and it's not at all assured that Mr. Harper's bill to destroy the registry will pass. Nevertheless, he held an announcement/photo-op/members only deal today in New Brunswick, making plans on the assumption that it will:
The creation of a civil servant payroll centre in New Brunswick would provide employment for federal workers who face layoffs if the long-gun registry is abolished, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
Harper's announcement comes weeks before Parliament is set to resume debate of a Conservative private member's bill that would kill the registry, if passed.

It also comes days after the Mountie in charge of the federal firearms program was replaced, triggering accusations of political interference with the RCMP. Both the government and the RCMP have denied any political motivation in bumping Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak from the job.
Yeah...no politics whatsoever with that Cheliak move. Just lots of organized spin surrounding it and a carefully choreographed Harper gun registry related announcement today, the day after. That's a bit of a coincidence.

What happens if the registry is maintained then? If the Hoeppner bill is defeated? Is the PM's payroll centre plan just going to be shelved? Hard to believe. Maybe this is part of an administrative destabilization of the Firearms Centre that's on the way. It would fit with the Harper-unleashed strain of politics that's on display of late.

Here's how reassuring the PM was about the job plan today, by the way:
Harper said the new centre would provide 550 jobs in the region. But he said that would be fewer payroll jobs in total than there are presently across the country.

He said the system would be more automated and that a wave of retirements are expected over the next few years.

"We will employ less people going forward than we're currently doing," he said. "But we will also create a workforce here ... that we anticipate will be a lot more stable than we have in some other parts of the country."
Got that? Job cuts overall. But the New Brunswick jobs will be more "stable" than in other parts of the country. Namely, Ottawa, which is slated to lose jobs. Taking from Peter to pay Paul, or something like that which really kind of undermines any notions of stability. And note that this payroll centre move, no doubt egged on by the prospective loss of the gun registry centre jobs, is all being done at a cost of $298 million which the Harper crew is touting as a long run cost saver. Uh huh.

On the bright side

We're not Brazil: "Satire banned in Brazil ahead of presidential election."
The legal ban could last until a possible runoff on Oct 31.

Brazilian performers are planning to fight for their right to ridicule with protests in Rio de Janeiro and other cities on Sunday.

Dubbed the "anti-joking law", the relic of Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship prohibits ridiculing candidates in the three months before elections.

Critics say the ban threatens free speech and is a blight on the reputation of Latin America's largest nation.

"Do you know of any other democracy in the world with rules like this?" asked Marcelo Tas, the acerbic host of a weekly TV comedy show that skewers politicians and celebrities alike.
No, but Steve apparently wants to rout our CRTC. Maybe we'll be getting there some day.

(h/t MM)

“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”

Just when you think the anti-democratic narrative couldn't get any worse, another possibility for Harper to flex his controlling tendencies appears: "Is Stephen Harper set to move against the CRTC?" Word is starting to circulate that Harper would like to remove the independent minded current CRTC chair, Konrad von Finckenstein, and while he's at it, the vice-chair too. The reason? To make way for the approval of Sun Media's TV application and that coveted must carry status on the cable dial. Recall that Sun Media was recently told by the CRTC that must carry status was not available now and would not be until October 2011.
In a private letter sent to Quebecor on July 5, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected Quebecor’s request for a rare must-carry license. It would have guaranteed distribution by all cable and satellite firms – and the subscriber fees that come along with that distribution.

The license Quebecor requested – known as a Category 1, soon to be Category A – is rarely granted, and in March of this year, the CRTC announced that it would not consider any new applications for those licenses before October, 2011.


“We’re not particularly fazed by that letter. We’re focused on moving forward,” Mr. Teneycke said. “We’re confident that we’ll have a licence in time for our projected launch, and one that will satisfy our needs on the business side.”

The channel is set to launch on Jan. 1, 2011.
No wonder Teneycke wasn't "fazed." Not if Martin's column has got it all right.

That Sun Media application deserves independent scrutiny and the same rules being applied to it as to all other applications of its kind. Anything less, rules suddenly being bent, etc. and the favoritism and taint of being Harper's news network will follow. As will the disrepute of our national broadcasting regulator.

Luc Lavoie being rumoured as a replacement CRTC chair? A former Quebecor vice-president? That's not serious, Lavoie is presently working with Teneycke, it would be chutzpah of the highest order for Harper to appoint such a blatantly conflicted individual. The impartiality of the CRTC would be ruined. If Mr. Harper were to go that far, or as far as putting in someone less well known but who will nevertheless do political bidding on a television application, he'd be massively enlarging his political risk appetite and probably beyond repair. He keeps gambling that people won't care, that he can push it a little further with each decision emanating out of his PMO fiefdom. Playing politics with the nation's airwaves though, we'd be getting into some rarefied air there in terms of abuse of power in Canadian political history.
“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”
That's absolutely right. This is Maurice Duplessis stuff, or worse, and the backlash to such a fundamentally undemocratic move would be fierce.

Nobody buying the spin

This is a good development. Reaction to the removal of Marty Cheliak as the RCMP director of the Canadian Firearms Program is widely of the negative variety. Few are believing the government's spin, i.e.: "Dropping RCMP firearms chief not political: Harper." That is evident in a few worthwhile videos at that page, including Craig Oliver's comments and the national report by Danielle Hamamdjian last night.

Reaction among police groups was negative.

And of course, there was Don Martin's column last night: "Letting go of Cheliak was entirely political, despite what Harper says." Can't hurt that normally friendly quarters are not indulging the story.

With all the turbulence going on at the RCMP, it'll be interesting to see if any word seeps out with respect to how exactly it is that the RCMP arrived at this sudden decision to send the gun registry supporting Cheliak off to French classes. That it is a decision which benefits the Harper Conservatives' political position on the gun registry cannot be ignored. The independence of the RCMP is under the microscope once more. That, not such a good development.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A coalition marks 100 days

Here's Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg on the U.K. coalition, briefly, as it reaches 100 days:

The Guardian editorializes on the occasion and the very newness of this coalition in the British Westminster system:
Franklin Roosevelt's insistence in 1933 that he should be judged by the changes wrought in his first 100 days in office has raised the bar high for less distinguished governments across the democratic world, not least in Britain. In the years since Roosevelt, the habit of marking a government's first 100 days has sometimes been banal. But maybe not in Britain in 2010. As David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government reaches its century this week, we are living in very new times.

The principal novelty of this government is simply that it is a formal coalition. Britain has never before had a genuine peacetime coalition government between parties in the universal suffrage era. For us, this is territory without maps. Coalitions mean doing things differently, giving and taking, swallowing some things while insisting on others. This reality still takes some getting used to, and many have neither accustomed themselves to it nor even tried. So far, to judge by the Guardian's new ICM poll today, the public still seem to like the coalition, Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg. The enthusiasm is ebbing, though the mood will doubtless change again as time goes on.
There's lots of other analysis to be had about the state of the U.K. coalition government, how well the buddy movie is going, the rocky shores on the horizon, and all other sorts of turns of speech anyone cares to apply to the new fangled mode of governing that people have incomprehensibly seemed to adjust to thus far.

Meanwhile, yesterday, here in Harperland, someone was still crying wolf about baddie coalitions, as a routine matter in speeches to Conservatives now.

The educational contrast rolls on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday night

Update (11:00 p.m.)

Oh this is so predictable...

And that'll probably be it for Muse selections this summer. What a great event and now you've seen about half of it, the best half! Have a good night.

Update (11:00 p.m.): Happy Birthday to one of my fave blogging compadres, BCL. He's just so old.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tripped up on official languages

The Harper government's climb down on their official languages negligence occurs: "Tories add linguistic questions to mandatory short-form census." Looks like the court challenge that was fast-tracked today combined with the embarrassing details that have been disclosed as to what Harper staff were doing behind the scenes in their ministerial offices has prompted action from the government. And really, they had no choice. What they had set in motion with their wrong-headed census changes, by no longer making it mandatory to fully take into account french speaking abilities across the country, would have undermined Canada's commitment to official bilingualism. Without accurate numbers, a government can't provide responsive services. That's going to continue to be the problem on a whole host of other issues too.
Stung by francophone anger, the Harper government is adding questions on which languages Canadians speak to the obligatory short-form 2011 census.

It’s a bid to quell the linguistic minority's fears that scrapping a longer mandatory survey will make it harder to measure their presence in Canada.

These questions were part of the 40-page long-form census the Conservatives are making voluntary over the objections of a broad range of economists, statisticians, provincial governments and researchers who warn it will undermine the reliability of Statistics Canada's data.

The decision came the same day a francophone appeal of the government's decision to abandon the obligatory long-form census scored a modest victory. A Federal Court judge agreed to expedite the French-Canadian group's application for an injunction against Ottawa's census changes.
Scrambling to undo their negligence and incompetence. Such basic obligations to protect and they totally missed it. Amazingly, the Prime Minister who has prided himself on speaking French first at news conferences, etc. has succeeded in raising doubt about his government's intentions on official languages. The damage has been done, despite their walk back. The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada who were forced to bring a lawsuit and other groups and citizens have taken note. Similar to the dagger that was thrust into the arts communities when Harper made his remarks in the 2008 election campaign. Trust on the issue is now in question.

As for that lawsuit now, given the government's moves, here's the reaction from the FCFA:
Late this afternoon, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) du Canada heard about the statement by the Minister of Industry, the Hon. Tony Clement, regarding changes that would be made to the linguistic questions in the short form for the 2011 Census. The FCFA wants to make it clear that neither it nor its legal representatives have received any formal proposal on this matter. Out of respect for the legal procedures currently under way before the Federal Court, the FCFA will not comment this statement from the Minister.

Earlier today, Prothonotary Roza Aronovitch from the Federal Court rendered a decision which will fast-track the application for judicial review submitted by the FCFA on July 26 regarding the elimination of the mandatory long form for the 2011 Census.
Wait and see, good idea with this government.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ahab and the white whale

Ahab would be the guy on the left if we can have a bit of fun with yesterday's precious Harper photo op. The white whale, a beluga, floats in the background while our modern day Ahab gives a cursory defence of his baffling census decision. Ahab, as we know, destroyed himself (and his crew) in his zeal to catch the white whale. The white whale for Harper? That would be a majority government, difficult to attain with the Bloc on the federal scene but not impossible had Harper grown support beyond his base. This census adventure possibly represents a final crimp in that plan:
The census debate, so provocative and so needless but for the exigencies of ideology, roused civic society as few decisions have done in recent decades. The census will lodge itself in a corner of the electorate’s collective memory as a talisman for what the Harperites might do if given a freer rein and, as such, has ruined what little chance they had of achieving a majority.
Munir Sheikh writes today that time is still there for a fix to be considered. Will PM Ahab reach for the lifeline or continue on with this destructive decision?

Monday, August 09, 2010

The PM digs in on the census

Finally, the citizens of Canada get a thorough, satisfactory explanation from the PM on why he's done away with the longstanding mandatory long form census...oh wait:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it is "not appropriate" for the government to threaten Canadians reluctant to fill out a mandatory long-form census with jail time or fines.

The comments marked the first time the prime minister has weighed in on the Conservative government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census and replace it with a voluntary survey.

Speaking to reporters Monday after a funding announcement at the Vancouver Aquarium, Harper said he understands some Canadians are reluctant to give "detailed personal information" sought after by the government.

"I know some people think the appropriate way to deal with that is through prosecuting those individuals with fines and jail terms," he said. "This government will not do that."

Instead, the prime minister said the government would work with the public to get their co-operation on providing the information.
So we're back to that...it's the coercion, stupid! And with the magical PMO bubble driven media management, no follow ups! Move on! Not good enough though, the privacy rationale has been completely debunked. Weeks ago, wasn't it?

Notice how the PM just slips in there that he doesn't support the jail terms - which could have been the basis for some kind of compromise - but additionally, he doesn't even support fines. It's all voluntary or nothing. Which, as we know from spending weeks on this issue, will not produce reliable data no matter the spin from the PM and his cabinet flunkies.

He's digging in and this is going to roll on. As Scott is getting at today, this issue is a hallmark good government issue. Canadians like good government, they sense when it's being broken.

Update (6:00 p.m.): Keep digging, Mr. PM, keep digging.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday night

Can we play all the songs in Muse's set at Glastonbury 2010 in June? Maybe we can! One of their oldies but a goodie, so English and glam and kind of pretentious and all. Have a good night.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The reemergence


What's with the new look? Is this Stephen Harper or his brother Raul? Clearly not a photo released by the PM's shop of handlers and unlikely to be the official photo of the day tomorrow.

Seriously though, astoundingly, not a word uttered about the census today by the PM upon his re-emergence into the light. It's the predominant national issue of the past month since the axing of the mandatory long form has been discovered and the PM feels no need to say a thing about it. Doubling down on the strategy of saying nothing, that can't help that image of imperiousness. From an opposition political perspective, that's not exactly a bad thing. But for the Canadian public that is watching the census issue and not getting answers from the person who by all accounts is the driving force behind the decision, it's a source of grave frustration that the PM doesn't seem to care about it enough to say something. I don't think he can fairly cordon off this issue and say it isn't his political priority and therefore he'll choose not to address it. It's a national issue and part of being the PM is to answer for it all. He's breaching that basic duty.

Harper's labelling of the opposition as an "opposition coalition" is worth a mention as well.
"We know there are some in the opposition coalition again threatening an election. But, colleagues, that is not what Canadians want," he said to applause.
Plain silliness that the majority of Canadians who don't support this PM hear with an air of unreality. We say to ourselves, what is the Prime Minister of the country talking about? Is there any other world leader in a leading western democracy who speaks unreality in this way to their citizens? Obama? Cameron? Merkel? Sarkozy? There's a difference between spinning an argument, trying to persuade on a set of facts with choice of words and emphasis, here for example, that there could be an opposition coalition that arises after a future federal election - and flat out talking point propaganda that states boldly that there is an existing, present day opposition coalition. It's just remarkable that this tactic has come to be a yawned upon matter in Canadian politics.

The beauty of not talking to the media and remaining cloistered, the PM doesn't have to answer for any of it. It will be interesting to see, then, how this sudden development, announced today, unfolds:
The prime minister heads out next week on a cross-country summer tour expected to focus on the economy. (preceding CP link)
What ever might be prompting that move! What should be watched, the public component to that supposed tour. Michael Ignatieff's put himself in front of all comers, whoever wants to ask questions, interact, etc. during his bus tour. Will the PM do the same, take the hard questions from the public?

Update (9:10 p.m.): Timely Canadian Press report: "Tory messaging frustrates public: survey."

Below 30


A bit of movement this week on our incremental political landscape:
The federal Conservatives' lead over the Liberal Party appears to have evaporated, with both parties virtually tied at the same level of support, a new EKOS poll suggests.

The ruling Tories had enjoyed a notable lead over the Liberals in recent weeks, but the latest poll, released exclusively to CBC, found that 29.7 per cent of respondents would vote for the Tories if an election were held today, compared with 28.5 per cent for the Liberals.

Support for the Conservatives had not dropped below 30 per cent since late 2006.

Support for the Liberals has gone up by three percentage points since the previous week, while the Tories have seen a 3.5 percentage point drop.
Not since 2006 they say. Underscoring the Martin thesis today, Mr. Harper has taken his party to a hardened minority but no further with his Achilles heel of partisan excess. Below 30. Should be heaps of fun at that big Conservative caucus meeting today as they "plot fall strategy."

Maybe someone might want to get around to a rethink on that census issue as part of the strategy. It has dominated the news, there must be some connection here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Another appeal for the PM to do the right thing on the census

A Globe editorial does so and makes the case with a sample list of those supporting the government's census decision and those opposing:

Fraser Institute; National Citizens' Coalition; Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


Canadian Federation of Independent Business; Information and Communications Technology Council; Canadian Marketing Association; governments of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut; Federation of Canadian Municipalities; the four main federal opposition parties;

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; Maytree Foundation; Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada; Quebec Community Groups Network; Rural Ontario Institute; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Chinese Canadian National Council; United Way of Canada; New Brunswick Association of Social Workers; Vancouver School Board; Canadian Library Association; Canadian Association of University Teachers; Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario; Canadian Association of Journalists; United Way of Canada; United Steelworkers; United Church of Canada; Canadian Jewish Congress; Evangelical Fellowship of Canada; Anglican Church of Canada; Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Statistical Society of Canada; C.D. Howe Institute; Canada West Foundation; Institute for Research on Public Policy; Royal Society of Canada; Munir Sheikh and Ivan Fellegi, former Chief Statisticians of Canada; Canadian Medical Association Journal; editorial board of Nature magazine.
Time is short, says the editorial, for the change in census policy to occur. Such appeals do not appear to be working though. We kind of know the lists by now. Tougher words may be needed.

What do you say about a minority government PM who won't listen to the people, who won't listen to overwhelming opposition to a consequential decision...hmmm? Maybe in the next few days it'll ratchet up.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Time for the PM to do the right thing on the census

"It's just another dead news-cycle story," said one Conservative MP. "Most people will look at it, and say, what's the difference?"
That quote is from an excellent overview of the census issue and how we've gotten to crunch time, where the mandatory long form census has been axed with little time left to restore its implementation: "How Harper cut the census strings, then got tangled in them." It's an insightful quote from the Conservative MP, as he or she seems to cheer lead for apathy. The concern is with justifying the census stance simply on the basis that they can get it by the Canadian people. That's lowest common denominator stuff.

With little to support the Harper government's position, the privacy rationales having been debunked, Mr. Harper should be reconsidering his census decision this week. It's wrong for a minority prime minister to choke off key government infrastructure by cabinet fiat when, contrary to the musings of that Conservative MP, all indications are that he doesn't have the support to do so. The census is key informational infrastructure, it's the lifeblood for any number of government decisions and planning. Likely why there's been widespread opposition in government to the decision, from Privy Council Office officials and Department of Finance officials, for example, who know what's in store without the census data.

Consider the census data relied upon here at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (see "Facts and Figures" Appendix A) as programs in support of aboriginal economic development and lands are to be examined by the government and stakeholders. Is this government department supposed to incur a whole new set of costs collecting information departmentally to make up for lost census data? You don't get the kind of information cited there in the mandatory short form census. And the voluntary long form isn't going to capture it ("Vulnerable groups, such as aboriginals and low-income people, would be lost in the new survey, while middle-class white people would be over-represented.") The stories of government programmes and decisions that will be affected are likely still to come.

Look at this story today out of Prince Edward Island on charities being affected there.

Mr. Harper has no doubt taken note of economists speaking out at the end of last week, the opposition from religious groups, and that from small business advocates and entrepreneurs. There's been additional reporting done on private businesses who rely upon the census for business purposes. Those are groups the Conservatives would be sensitive to and yet those groups are against this census move. How can the PM follow through on this ideological, virtually medieval decision in light of such opposition?

Imagine a corporate CEO of a large public company who makes a decision that will fundamentally damage the ability of his or her corporation to operate efficiently, effectively, smartly. By removing key information technology, for example. Against the advice of management. In secret from his or her board of directors. Against the advice of company departments. Against the wishes of key stakeholders and customers. It's a decision that will affect the stock price and value of the company, hobbling it. It wouldn't be tolerated. That CEO would be fired by the board, banished to Siberia perhaps. The point, that there are basic principles of good governance that cross public and private spheres and that are glaringly being ignored by this PMO.

The widespread opposition that's developed, the absurdity of the situation, the practical examples of real harm, it's all pointing to a real leadership moment for the PM. He should be listening, a key attribute of a good leader. He should be able to grapple with differences of opinion and build consensus. That's what a leader does. He doesn't sneakily pursue a policy behind closed doors, then bury his decision for months on end in a democratic country, give it the bare minimum of daylight only out of legal necessity and at the last minute in the hope that no one notices ("Pirates didn't bury their treasure that carefully," said one insider.") In the face of the resulting wave of opposition, a leader of character would listen and should bend.

This is a week to appeal to good sense, for a resolution that will restore the mandatory long form, maybe by losing the jail penalty as an out, as many are suggesting. The weight of opinion is heavy. It's time for Conservatives especially, like those speaking anonymously to news reporters now, to pressure for change, to step up at those cabinet and caucus meetings this week and challenge this harmful, costly census decision. Ultimately, it's time for Mr. Harper to do the right thing.