Thursday, May 31, 2012

A winning essay on national media coverage of the 2011 federal election

This is a brilliant piece of writing by Mark Brister: "National media coverage of the 2011 federal election was a failure." Not sure if it's getting much coverage but there's a lot of good stuff there. If this is the runner-up for the 2012 Dalton Camp Award on links between democracy and the media, I'd like to read the winner!

Here's one excerpt, on polling during the election, which the author titles, "the carnival mirror":
Funnelling the bewildering cacophony into a rubric of empirical order, 76 national polls ranking the relative standing of political parties and leaders were published during the 37-day campaign period.

CTV News and the Globe and Mail hired Nanos Research to conduct almost daily tracking, and pollsters like EKOS President Frank Graves were featured in regular appearances on current affairs shows like CBC’s Power and Politics. Increasing competition among polling firms, differences in methodology, and sampling problems produced wild variations during the campaign — on at least three occasions polls conducted during overlapping periods produced a 10-point spread in their estimation of Conservative support. Reporting on these results was occasionally submitted to scrutiny, but print and television reports routinely omitted information required to properly interpret these polls, such as the chasm of difference between national and regional margins of error, giving the impression of a race where there was none. Amidst the fervour to forecast the election (as if it were an inevitable weather system), seat projection sites like rose in popularity, utilizing models later devalued by actual election results.

Through their ostensible representative function, metrics of public opinion can serve democratic purposes. Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research, argues that daily surveys conducted by his firm gave voters a voice by allowing them to identify the issue of greatest concern, setting a trajectory for public discussion. Yet the overwhelming aim of polling during the election was to gauge the relative standing of parties and party leaders. “I’m totally depressed,” complained an exasperated Graves, “[public opinion firms are] trying to explain the underlying social forces that are producing political change, and the media, despite protestations to the contrary, are much more interested in the horse-race side of things.” More than a “snapshot,” horse-race polls have become a ubiquitous electoral hermeneutic, reducing an intricate tapestry of collaborative visions into a sterile, competitive ordinal. A carnival mirror, this imagery entertains and distorts, crowding our limited repertoire of political images, warping the conception of our role in the democratic process from contemplative agents to nominal units.
Must read.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Paul Godfrey's big public push on newspaper ownership

Today, the Globe gets a copy of this: "Paul Godfrey memo to staff." Long story short, Postmedia newspapers are having great difficulty financially. Precious advertising dollars are going to online competition and print media is feeling the effects. This is not a new development for print media, we've been hearing about it for years. We also recently heard about the Globe itself going through some difficulties this summer and their contemplation of a paywall.

What is new in Godfrey's publicity push is something he said last week that should grab the attention of Canadians:
But now, at a time when print advertising revenue is dropping, Canadian newspapers are competing with foreign websites for online advertising, Godfrey said. "Corporations like Google, corporations like Facebook, corporations like the Huffington Post and AOL have all come to Canada. They are getting — without providing the content — more than 50 per cent of all the advertising revenue going to the digital world," Godfrey said.
He suggested two possible solutions. "We should either remove the foreign-ownership rules that protected us 60 plus years ago and are not needed today. Or provide the same rules to Google, Facebook, the Huffington Post and others that if they're not controlled by Canadians the advertising that goes on there should not allowed to be deducted as a legitimate business expense."(emphasis added)
Godfrey will be lobbying the Heritage Department on his proposed solutions.

As things stand today, as noted in the report: "...if a newspaper or a chain falls into foreign ownership in Canada, the new owner has one year to ensure the majority owner is Canadian — otherwise those who advertise with that publication cannot deduct it as a business expense, which means "they're out of business." (Private companies must be 75 per cent Canadian-owned while it's 50.1 per cent for public ones.)"

Will the Harper government lift foreign-ownership rules for the newspaper bidness? With Postmedia and the Globe making such loud noises about financial hurt? Wouldn't that make for a radical change for Canada.

Just think of the possibilities.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday night

Alesso & Dirty South - City Of Dreams - Exclusive Preview

Yeah, more house music...have a good one!

Lockheed Martin pulls out the big guns

This report today just says so much about the whole F-35 program. Lockheed Martin is now publicly threatening that Canadian firms that have received F-35 industrial contracts to date may not get continued work in the future if our government goes with another jet. Heck of a way to run a business, don't you think? For what is essentially a petty, vengeful rationale, not a decision that has to do with choosing the best company to do the job, Canadian firms may lose out.

Canada, however, is a signatory to a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), along with other "Partner" nations, that sets out our rights to bid on contracts. Those provisions are a little different from what you hear from the Lockheed Martin rep in this main excerpt from Postmedia:
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin is warning that Canadian companies will lose out if the Conservative government decides not to purchase the stealth fighter. "Right now we will honour all existing contracts that we have," Lockheed Martin vice-president Steve O'Bryan told Postmedia News on Thursday. "After that, all F-35 work will be directed into countries that are buying the airplane."
But O'Bryan also said his company has not received any indication Canada won't buy the aircraft. "What we have is the official statement out of the government and we're working with the government," he said. "They're committed to the F-35, they've selected it, and we haven't had any change in that official position."
That will likely come as a surprise to many Canadians as the Conservative government has said since last month that it has not committed to purchasing the F-35 and that all options are still on the table when it comes to replacing Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.
That latter part is also news, in a sense. Some of us actually wouldn't be surprised at all that the government is telling we the Canadian public that they're going to consider other jet options but haven't yet clarified anything with Lockheed Martin. But back to the main point here. The Memorandum of Understanding includes these provisions on Industrial Benefits:
SECTION VII INDUSTRIAL PARTICIPATION 7.1 The Participants, through their Contracting Agencies, will require their Contractors to select subcontractors (which term includes subcontractors from all of the Participants’ nations) on a competitive, Best Value basis to the maximum practical extent consistent with the objectives and requirements of the Contracts and this MOU.
7.3 The Participants acknowledge that, subject to the submission of Best Value offers, industries that are in the nations of Participants procuring JSF Air Systems under this MOU and that were awarded SDD subcontracts will normally also be awarded subcontracts for low rate initial production and full rate production work, as well as for related sustainment and follow-on development work.
I think those are the main provisions that are relevant here. They essentially say that companies in Canada can bid and the contracts will be awarded on a competitive, best value basis. The wrinkle is that the nations that procure the jets, according to 7.3, will "normally" also get subcontracts and work for the jets. Emphasis on "normally." There is clearly room for participant nations who do not procure F-35s to still get work. What Mr. Lockheed Martin is saying in this media interview, however, is that unless Canada buys, Canada will not get any contracts. So in that way, what he is saying is absolute. But the provisions are not so absolute. We did pay money to participate in this MOU regime, as well. Further, combine the above industrial benefits provisions with section of the MOU:
"Actual procurement of JSF Air Vehicles by the Participants will be subject to the Participants’ national laws and regulations and the outcome of the Participants’ national procurement decision-making processes."
The two provisions seem to run contrary to one another and challenge the Lockheed Martin approach as articulated in this Postmedia report. Why would a document like this give nations the freedom to hold their own procurement processes, which might lead to the purchase of a separate jet? And yet at the same time allow those participant nations to still bid on contractual work? Maybe because it's good business sense? Nations who buy other jets, strangely enough, still might possess capable industrial expertise that could help build your F-35.

If you were Lockheed Martin, you might want to make decisions on who should help build the F-35 based on who those best companies are. And how expensive it might be to break ties with existing suppliers, like Canadian ones, and move on to new ones. But what do we know anyway? Lockheed Martin have run up the F-35 building and design costs to such an unprecedented extent that the very existence of the program has been called into question many times over. So I guess we can presume they know what they're doing in threatening job losses in Canada.

What this does, however, is ratchet up pressure in Canada and cause uncertainty about future contracts and jobs. It helps the Harper government who no doubt will continue to pursue the F-35, despite the establishment of that new fighter jet secretariat and all their damage control in the wake of the Auditor General establishing that they kept $10 billion in costs of this deal from the public during a general election.

Lockheed's warning should also be taken with the knowledge that if Canada does pursue another jet in a competitive process, there would be other industrial benefits in store for Canadian industry as a result of that competition. That's a big if given this government's continued commitment to the F-35 to date.

It would be nice to think that whatever is decided on jets for Canada, it will be done in Canada's interests though, not in response to threats by a foreign multinational.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Harper's extra-Parliamentary internet surveillance committee

This news is a new low in the Harper government's ongoing debasement of Parliament's role in Canadian democracy:
In the months leading up to the introduction Bill C-30, Canada’s telecom companies worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret industry-government collaborative forum on lawful access.
The working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, whose representatives have signed nondisclosure agreements and been granted secret-level security clearance. The group is led by Bell Canada on the industry side and Public Safety for the government.
The inaugural meeting, held just three weeks before Bill C-30 was introduced, included invitations to 11 companies (Bell Canada, Cogeco, Eagle, MTS Allstream, Quebecor, Research In Motion, Rogers, Sasktel, Telus, Vidéotron, and Wind Mobile) along with two industry associations (the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Canadian Network Operators Consortium).
Essentially, the government was, and may still be, working with this group of telecom businesses to develop C-30, the intrusive lawful access/internet surveillance law that is supposedly in abeyance. This private working group has been privy to information, like draft regulations, that has not been provided to Parliament.

The companies also raised questions about getting compensation for surveillance and disclosing subscriber info. Could be big business and obviously, with this group, that would be a natural concern. Not so concerned about democratic and privacy rights which blew up publicly once C-30 was introduced.

You can imagine the government's spin that will be forthcoming. "It is natural to consult with stakeholders who will be affected by legislation," for example. Not in this secretive manner, though, to the exclusion of the public, other stakeholders and Parliament itself. We knew some privatization would be on the agenda during a Harper majority, but I don't think anyone thought that Parliament's core functions could be up for grabs too.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday night

How can you not like that with all the kids around the world and all the athletics and the dancing, so fun. Great pump up song.

Have a good night!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fun political video

"I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said. Whatever it was." What he said, for the record, that he is standing by even though he doesn't remember it, is here.

Go, Mittster!

Arctic drilling on the horizon

About this: "Ottawa to auction exploration rights in massive area in the North." Looks like it's go time in the Arctic: "...the sheer magnitude of what is on the block is a clear signal that some in the oil patch are contemplating a return north, because parcels aren’t made available unless companies request them. In that sense, the current bidding round is a remarkable turnaround for an industry whose plans were, until late last year, halted by a National Energy Board review into offshore Arctic drilling."

The Globe report is missing a major angle, however, the environmental one. In that vein, try this New York Times op-ed that argues against drilling in the north being permitted mostly due to its remoteness and the lack of resources up there to contain a spill. The resources that were on hand for the BP spill just aren't there and the weather would pose an additional hurdle.

See also this report, "Arctic oil spill cleanup would be badly hindered," where it is noted that even the consultant hired by the National Energy Board "found that an emergency response to a spill would be impossible between 15 and 78 per cent of the time, due to weather and other environmental conditions."

Finally, the National Energy Board's own report, the "Review of offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic" from December 2011 is the key reference in relation to the subject of Arctic drilling. There are a lot of vows of disclosure of safety reports by companies, notions of ensuring a culture of safety, learning lessons from others spills, etc. There is also acknowledgment that "When open water is not present, active response would have to be deferred until the following melt season." Further, this on the current lack of infrastructure in the north: "The absence of offshore spill response infrastructure reflects the fact that there is currently no Arctic offshore drilling activity."

There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking here and no resources to deal with problems. Not good.

The #G20 Office of the Independent Police Review Director report

The National's report above is a good overview of yesterday's release of the G20 report by Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review. You can read it here and while it is lengthy, the executive summary and ensuing recommendations are not a very taxing read. It is a tale of incompetence in so many respects.

Here are some of the excerpts that stood out from the report.

There are the night shift Incident Commander's comments on the Saturday night of the weekend:
"The night shift Incident Commander said Deputy Police Chief Warr told him that he wanted him to take back the streets. “I understood his instructions to mean that he wanted me to make the streets of Toronto safe again,” he explained. “He wanted the streets that had been made unsafe by the terrorists that were attacking our city to be made safe again by restoring order.” When the night shift Incident Commander took over Incident Command, he immediately informed command staff that they were going to take steps to restore order and that the process might involve mass arrests.
It was too late at that point, the Black Bloc had done their damage and this "terrorists" language indicates the panic that had set in. That language also suggested a police mindset that escalated the situation against citizens who didn't deserve it:
This attitude resulted in the decision to contain and arrest approximately 1,100 people during the summit, most of whom were peaceful protesters.
There's more from the same person on why there were mass arrests of about 260 persons at the Esplanade location that night:
The night shift Incident Commander explained that he ordered the crowd to be boxed in and arrested because, as he said, “I wasn’t able to box in Queen’s Park, so the mobility was there and, again, highlighted my concern and the need for this boxing in.” He said he did not disperse the crowd because he needed to isolate the protesters and arrest them. They were in a “riot situation,” and he had to break with normal TPS procedures, “to go outside the box,” and not disperse the crowd.
That is an incomprehensible rationale. Was the Saturday night shift Incident Commander the same one who is referred to as "maniacal" by an officer on the ground at the Sunday Queen & Spadina kettling ("In an audio recording, one police officer on the line can be heard saying, “He’s maniacal this MICC, he’s maniacal.”)? Are these individuals going to be held accountable?

There are the completely wrong and unconstitutional stop and search orders police believed they had that weekend:
Many police officers believed they were obeying orders in stopping and searching people arbitrarily.
The officers told the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) that they were ordered to investigate anyone who was carrying a backpack and anyone who was wearing a disguise – gas masks, balaclavas, bandanas.
Many police officers ignored the basic rights citizens have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, by stopping and searching people arbitrarily, they overstepped their authority. Wearing bandanas and carrying heavy backpacks are not reasonable grounds to stop and search, and police should have used much more discretion.
There is the description of the Prisoner Processing Centre nightmare:
The Prisoner Processing Centre was poorly planned, designed, and operated. This detention facility was not operationally prepared for the mass arrests that took place on the Saturday night and on Sunday, leading to gross violations of prisoner rights, including detaining breach-of-peace arrestees for over 24 hours and with no access to a lawyer or a justice of the peace. In some cases the decision to detain those on a breach of the peace for more than 24 hours was ordered by the Superintendent in charge of the facility.
Even more disturbing, the lack of appropriate paperwork resulted at the PPC in several violations of human rights, including unlawful detention and arrest, no access to prescription medication or medical attention, and little or no access to food and water.
To boot, the poor paperwork meant that there is no exact figure of how many were arrested on G20 weekend. The OIPRD puts the number at 1,140.

There are a number of good recommendations, including:

10: that names and badge numbers of police officers be prominently displayed at all times on their clothing/equipment;

12: officer training in relation to large protests should include "a clear understanding of parameters of a legal protest and the rights of protesters";

15: officers should get refresher training in those legal parameters;

16: those who run the "Incident Command" systems should be well trained in doing so;

22: on the "kettling" or containment of protesters, police should be given discretion on the ground to permit access and exit from the area;

23: there has to be a connection between those being contained and a containment;

26: the Police Services Act and Code of Conduct should be amended to include a new offence expanding the "unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority" to include an unlawful or excessive detention where no physical force was used.

The calls for accountability need to be heeded. Chief Blair seemed to acknowledge that when he was reacting yesterday to the report:
"“I am quite prepared to hold people accountable,” he said. “If there is misconduct, we’ll deal with that.”

Blair said he accepts the recommendations made by Gerry McNeilly of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
But given the contents of this report, the Toronto Police Services Board needs to be heard from on accountability as well, including with respect to Chief Blair. It is not clear at all why he should be exempted.

This was the largest mass arrest incident in Canadian history. You cannot roll along and simply vow that procedures will change for next time. There needs to be accountability and that needs to mean something real.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

I came across this speech that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave after receiving an award form a New York Women's group on Thursday and it seemed like a good read for Mother's Day. Here is the main excerpt, with a little bit of politics, philosophy of governance and a little bit of her speaking about her mother's life.
I am so privileged to travel around the world right now as your Secretary of State, and to go – (applause) – to countries where we have the business of State to conduct – to go to official meetings, to sit across from tables, to go in and out of government buildings, parliaments, palaces, and do the best we can to promote American values and interests and promote our security.

But I try, whenever possible, to find time to meet with women who are trying to do, often under very difficult circumstances, what we celebrate here today – the work of this foundation. Because in places around the world, it’s almost unimaginable that there could be this large room of women and men who are supporting a foundation devoted to uplifting, empowering, helping, supporting, comforting women and girls as they make their journeys through life.

And so when I go somewhere, like I did last week to West Bengal in East India and had two remarkable experiences – meeting the newly elected chief minister, a woman who, on her own, started a new political party and built that political party over many years, and just successfully ousted the incumbent Communist Party that had been in office for 30, 34 years or so, and who is trying now to govern a state with 90 million people in it. And then I met with a group of women – mostly Indian, some American – who, along with some of the men who were running organizations to rescue girls from having been trafficked into prostitution – and I met some of the girls and the young women, and their stories sounded remarkably like the ones we heard this morning. And in particular, the very last line of one of our last presenters that change takes time and love makes the difference.

So when I – (applause) – was introduced to a young girl, probably about 10, who had, with her mother, been rescued from a brothel, who was dressed in her karate outfit and she asked me, “Do you want to see me do karate -- ” (laughter) – I said, “I really do.” (Laughter.) And she proceeded to perform a karate move. But it wasn’t so much the karate as it was the way she stood so straight, looked me in the eye, had a sense of pride and accomplishment about her. And that’s what we saw on this stage here, so many thousands of miles away.

The work that the foundation does is part of this remarkable combination of actors and institutions that we sometimes take for granted in New York and in our country. Many years ago, I talked about society really being a three-legged stool: You need an accountable, responsible government; you need an effective job-creating, prosperity-increasing private sector; and you need an active, dynamic civil society. And the civil society really fills the space that most of us live in every day – family and friendships and faith and volunteerism and all the community efforts that we are celebrating here today.

So I’m especially proud when I see what has been done in just 25 years, which is a blink of an eye in any historical sense, but I’m even prouder of what it represents and says about us as active, engaged, caring people who use our skills, our resources, to try to give back. And sometimes it is hard to see the changes. Maybe it is incremental, maybe it’s glacial, or maybe it’s like the Grand Canyon, but the cumulative effect makes such a difference. Those individual lives that are touched because of the outreach that your contributions make possible are irreplaceable. Even though we are living in a world of virtual reality, nothing substitutes for personal relationships. Nothing can replace that caring from one person passed on to another and another and another.

I learned this lesson very early from my mother, and since we are approaching Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about her a lot, since I lost her last November. And I was always struck at how despite a life that was much more difficult than anything I’ve ever experienced – abandonment and abuse and just really unfortunate kinds of early experiences – my mother had a resilience and a commitment to her family that she worked hard on every single day. And I often wondered – how did that happen? How could it be that you would be abandoned by your young parents and given responsibility at the age of eight to get on a train in Chicago with your six-year-old sister and take her all by yourselves to California to live with your paternal grandparents? How do you emerge from that emotional turmoil, that vacuum that still today too many children are placed into?

And when I got old enough to understand I remember asking my mother – how did you do this? How did you really survive without being paralyzed or embittered, being able to find from somewhere within the love that you shared and gave to others? And I’ll never forget what she said. She said at critical points in my life somebody showed me kindness; somebody gave me help. (Applause.)

Sometimes it would seem so small, but it would mean so much – the teacher in elementary school who would notice that she never had money to buy milk, who every day would buy two cartons of milk and then say to my mother, “Dorothy, I can’t drink this other carton of milk. Would you like it?” Or the woman who gave her a job in her house when my mother was 13 or 14 because she had to leave her grandparents’ home, and so she went to work as a full-time babysitter. But the deal was that if she got the children up and ready to go to school, then she could still go to high school, and so that’s what she did. And then the woman of this house where she lived would notice that she had only one blouse that she had to wash every day. All of a sudden, the woman would say, “Dorothy, I can’t fit into this blouse anymore and I’d hate to throw it away. Would you like it?”

Now, we think of those things as the kind of just personal connection and kindnesses that we take for granted. And in a time back in the 1920s when there weren’t a lot of formal organizations doing this kind of work, that’s what really mattered. Well, certainly today we still are primarily dependent upon individuals and institutions that are conveying the same level of kindness and caring.

And not all of us will be able to do what the groups behind us do every day, but all of us can support them and all of us can perhaps find a moment in every day when a kind word can make a difference, when a supportive pat on the shoulder can really speak volumes. Because in today’s world, which is so complex, so stressful, people need each other more than ever. (Applause.)
Have a good one.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday night

Another no-brainer this week, new Metric released this month. I know a few peeps who will like this one. There is an acoustic version by Emily Haines and James Shaw at Rolling Stone as well.

Have a good night!

On the lighter side

This story isn't funny: "Army struggles with shortage of Arctic parkas, tents..." But the photo accompanying it certainly is! Maybe Harp can lend his parka out to the army, he sure looks warm in that shot. Nice find by Canadian Press.

The Arctic is supposed to be a pet project of the Prime Minister's yet we read about basic shortages like this. Is there anything more ridiculous that we could expect to hear than this?

The emperor has no clothes...oh wait.

Update: Dave picked up on the Mulroney angle in the reporting which he has been blogging about for, well, ages.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sorry for all the incompetent government

A Tory MP backbencher is rebelling in a refreshingly candid fashion. Not here, of course. It's across the pond where the backbenchers appear to be doing more than baaing like sheep: "Tory MP David Davies sorry for 'incompetent government'."
A Conservative MP has written to a newspaper to apologise for the "incompetence" of the UK government.
In his letter to the Newport-based paper, Mr Davies offered his "apologies to those who feel the Conservative-led coalition has let them down".
"I must acknowledge there has been incompetence at the highest levels of government over the last few months in a number of departments," he said.
Those Tories and their incompetence, hey? Same story all over. F-35, ahem.

Maybe the rebel backbencher thing will catch on over here. Lord knows the Canadian Tories have much to apologize for these days.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Late night

Another time lapse video, one of the best though. Just beautiful. How that city even exists is remarkable. Please don't sink before I visit you someday.


Oliver on the defensive

It was a very lengthy and defensive statement delivered by Joe Oliver yesterday, read it here: "Statement by the Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources, in Response to an Advertising Campaign by Some Environmental Groups."

It was made in response to a campaign launched yesterday at where 11 environmental groups are banding together. Go check it out. June 4th is their day of action.

There was other heat on the government yesterday. There was this Globe editorial ripping the Conservatives on their bashing of environmental groups: "The only nefarious thing in sight at the moment is a government bent on quashing a legitimate debate." Ouch.

Following Oliver's appearance yesterday, it didn't get much better. Even John Ivison piled on:
Someone, somewhere deep within the Prime Minister’s Office took the decision to try to cram as much contentious legislation in one mega-bill to minimize the political fallout. It was a dumb move and it has blown up in their faces.
Ouch again. May the growing backlash fluorish.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday night

New Dragonette that you will probably hear alllll summer. A good remix of it here that makes it a lot less fluffy and poppy.

Have a good night!

Friday political fun

A one minute classic. Atta boy!

(h/t a little birdie & Sullivan's site)

P.S. Also in the fun category but of a different kind, this.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Something missing all around

So I watched this 8 minute video version of Harper's speech to caucus yesterday. It was, as many reports have recounted, packed with a consistent economic focus. Of course. He really doesn't seem to enjoy talking about anything else and that's the turf they want everyone focused on.

But the economy is not the sum total of a nation, so there's always so much missing when he gives a speech like this.

The closest he gets to his vision is the stuff about Canadians giving his government a "mandate to secure their prosperity." He repeated that twice. It's not that rousing. It's also devoid in caring. What should prosperous nations do? Guard their prosperity, is that it? A nation of hoarders and me-firsters? Or should they be concerned about the least among us and around the world, for example. Where's the moral fibre in Harper's speech? But, I digress...

The line that stood out in the speech for me was this: "We are the only party in this country with a serious, workable economic plan." That seems to me to be the big challenge in defeating these Harper led Conservatives.

So what's their plan? They talk a lot about having one, for starters. And they have framed the economic debate pretty thoroughly with the Economic Action Plan branding and the low tax lingo. Then there's the part of the plan that sees us as hewers and drawers of our natural resources. There is also the pushing of free trade deals around the world.

Now what are the elements of the economic plan or vision that challenges the Conservative one? Anything coming to mind? What is the alternative to the Harper economic agenda?

Challenging how the government is spending dollars is fine and needs to be done. What the larger plan is as an alternative that is clearly identifiable and credible and resonates with people...that seems to be missing. That's a common critique around the world.

I'm hoping that during the Liberal leadership race there's going to be a fresh and credible challenge on economic grounds to Harper's staking out of this territory. That there is some new thinking that challenges the economic orthodoxy that the nation is being fed. Mulcair and the NDP, for their part, are going to have a high hill to climb in terms of being trusted on economic issues.

There is an opportunity to elbow into the space that Harper is occupying. He's not really doing that well despite newspaper editorials telling you how dreamy he is. Canada is ripe for and is owed an alternative.

Late night

Highlights from Wednesday night's Hollande-Sarkozy debate in France:

Quite the scrap! Name calling, repeated accusations of lying, relentlessly interrupting each other, man. From the New York Times, capturing some of the above:
Mr. Sarkozy, exasperated at one charge of partisanship, burst out: “That’s a lie, it’s a calumny, you are a little calumniator, saying that.” And at one point, he said to Mr. Hollande: “Thank you for your arrogance.”

Mr. Hollande attacked the president for political partisanship, and Mr. Sarkozy fiercely responded, “I will take no lessons from a political party who wanted with enthusiasm to come together behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn.” He accused Mr. Hollande, who had run the Socialist Party, of being Pontius Pilate when he claimed not to have known of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s sexual predilections. Mr. Hollande said that it was Mr. Sarkozy who nominated Mr. Strauss-Kahn as director of the International Monetary Fund.

The debate went on passionately for nearly three hours, with the two television journalists who were to moderate it looking nearly paralyzed as the insults and interruptions flew between the two men, each 57, each dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and dark blue tie.
The election is on Sunday. Aren't they brave to have a debate on the Wednesday of the same week? We're not that brave.

Hollande is ahead in the polls by about 7 points...but, well, Alberta.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Crikey, you've got to hand it to Sun Media, they've discovered the Elections Canada database apparently: "Media 'experts' are Grit, NDP donors." They've tracked the political donations of three Canadian professors, Attaran, Byers, and Mendes, who have all donated, inter alia, to the NDP and Liberal parties. (And note this tweet from Errol Mendes, mentioning that he's assisted many persons and parties in Canadian politics over the years.)

University professors give donations to political parties. They know that this is all publicly disclosed. And yet they do indeed speak publicly on issues that are part of their expertise. Those who choose to be part of the public debate are prepared to have their words and positions stand, knowing that their donations can be tracked by any citizen. It's called transparency and all are free to judge whether such donations taint their public positions.

Singling out and publicizing the donations of certain individuals in the national media? That's something else.

Flaherty's international diplomacy

Remember the G20 finance ministers meeting recently where Flaherty made a splash?
Canada was one of the few hold-outs in the G20 meetings last month that dissented against the International Monetary Fund's drive to create a $400-billion fund to backstop eurozone debt, and refused to pay its portion when the fund was approved.

The U.S. also did not contribute, but many suggested the decision was taken because President Barack Obama could not succeed in getting approval from a Republican-dominated Congress in an election year.

Canada's decision raised eyebrows in international circles, however, and led to suggestions Canada had isolated itself from the world's pre-eminent decision-making body with its stand. Flaherty flatly denied the charge.
Apparently the conservative newspaper the London Daily Telegraph couldn't get enough of Flaherty's position and requested an op-ed. So he's at it again, repeating the same message today with a less than subtle title and content: "The eurozone should sort out its own mess."

If you read the commenters at the Telegraph, again, keep in mind that it is a conservative newspaper.

The same op-ed appears in the Financial Post today, even more bluntly titled: "Jim Flaherty: Fix your own mess."

Winning hearts and minds the world over, that's us.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Evening roundup

1. This was quick: "Ottawa approves Conrad Black’s request to live in Canada."

Despite Jason Kenney and his doth protesting too much act today, leaking of this news to the Globe today when Black is only to be released from prison on Friday suggests some kind of quick, political framing to the deed. "The Globe and Mail has learned that Lord Black paid a $200 fee for a temporary-resident permit on March 20, 2012. A source familiar with the matter said the Case Management Branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration approved the permit in March." Seems fast. A get it out of the way early, don't let it linger kind of thing...

2. DND digs in. They are sticking with their $15 billion F-35 cost despite the Auditor General's report and the news that $25 billion in F-35 costs were known to the Harper cabinet. Guess Canadians will have to weigh whom to believe. Auditor General's typically have mucho sway.

DND disagreed with the Auditor General's findings as reported by the Auditor General in his report, so the DND appearance today with their continued objection was to be expected. (AG, 2.80: "Full life-cycle costs were understated in the estimates provided to support the government’s 2010 decision to buy the F-35. Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians. There was a lack of timely and complete documentation to support the procurement strategy decision." 2.82: "Both National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada disagree with our conclusion that they did not demonstrate due diligence in their respective roles in the replacement of the CF-18 jets. The departments believe that the level of due diligence was appropriate within the time frame covered by this audit.")

DND also wants to stick with purchasing the F-35, despite the cost escalations. The government shows no signs of budging off the purchase either. Carrying on regardless, with the motto, apparently, when you are in a hole, keep digging.

3. Liked this article. For budding leadership candidates and politicos, a good question raised there: "What if, instead of starting with the current parties, you were precision-engineering a party and manifesto to appeal to the electoral sweet spot, to be the perfect vote-winning machine?" But read the article with a Canadian eye, of course.

4. Agree with last two lines here.


6. Music choice of the day. True story, had never heard that song until this week and probably wouldn't have if it hadn't been remixed by a DJ.

Destabilizing Statistics Canada

This news is really something, another head shaking moment. This comes from a government led by a trained Economist™:
Nearly half of the roughly 5,000 people working at Statistics Canada are being warned that their jobs are at risk, suggesting deep cuts are in store for one of the country’s most trusted sources of information.

The notices to staff that their employment could be affected by cuts are the second major blow to the organization in recent years, after the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary one. Canada’s chief statistician resigned in protest over the change.

Everyone from the Bank of Canada to academics, economists, marketers, urban planners and public policy researchers use Statistics Canada surveys.
No wonder they didn't want such news up front in the budget roll-out. It's a drip, drip, drip of attrition and this one is a shocker.

They got away with axing the long form census and so they are proceeding merrily along in gutting a key information and data pillar for Canadian society. What recklessness. Totally inconsistent with their supposed reputation as economic managers.

So what do you do when you have a government bent on destruction of such valuable things government is doing? Go sideways, go around them. Rebuild the Stats Can capacities from elsewhere. Whether it's doable and whether resources exist to fund it, those are the questions. Until you can fix the damage that is being done in the form of a future government's commitments, in this Web 2.0 era of networking and rarefied computer expertise, it's an idea.

Languages shmanguages

Today in Harper government infractions: "Ottawa blâmé par le commissaire aux langues officielles."
Le gouvernement Harper n'a pas respecté la Loi sur les langues officielles en nommant l'anglophone unilingue Michael Ferguson au poste névralgique de vérificateur général, révèle un rapport du commissaire aux langues officielles obtenu en exclusivité par La Presse.

«Le Bureau du Conseil privé du Canada [qui a recommandé le candidat] n'a pas respecté ses obligations en vertu de la Loi», écrit le commissaire dans un rapport préliminaire d'enquête sévère, daté du 30 avril.
Meaning, really, that this one is placed at the doorstep of Mr. Harper.

Ferguson has done a heck of a job on the F-35 file and there's every reason to believe he's going to continue to do so with the rest of his duties as Auditor General going forward. That still doesn't make up for the fact that he isn't able to communicate proficiently with French speaking Canadians, something they are entitled to expect from one of the most important officers of Parliament. They could have found a Ferguson who spoke French.

Harper has made a point of speaking French first at foreign press conferences, he has been conscious of the importance of leading government figures being bilingual. It makes it all the more incomprehensible that this Ferguson appointment was made in the first place.

This is a rap on the knuckles, a significant one, with a recommendation for the future that language requirements be taken into account. Ultimately though, that depends on the person(s) taking those things into account.