Monday, December 16, 2013

CPP reform rhetoric

Since there is a significant meeting among Canadian finance ministers today, where reform to the Canada Pension Plan is on the agenda, it's worth pointing out some really unhelpful ongoing language the federal Finance Minister is using to describe CPP. This is what he said today to describe CPP:
"CPP is a tax on people who work, a tax on employers. It takes money directly out of the economy, so it's not something to be done lightly. It's something that must be done with consideration and thought," he said.
This framing of CPP, a valued Canadian program that is the backbone of our savings retirement, as just another vile tax should be countered. Here's one:
There is not a shred of credible empirical evidence to support assertions CPP contributions amount to a payroll tax and a job killer. CPP contributions, like all contributions to any pension plan, are deferred wages. Calling an employer's pension contribution a payroll tax is disingenuous, if not an outright deception.
Deferred wages. Savings investments. A retirement worth paying for.

Or choose whatever else you'd like to call it to accurately describe the value and positive association most Canadians would have in their minds to ascribe to CPP.

The Conservatives are masters of dumbing down issues into these convenient ideological talking points. The facts are that people are not saving, there are a growing number of provinces getting behind expanded CPP for such reasons, and Canada's economy - as the Conservatives enjoy telling us - is one of those to be envied among world nations.

We should be tackling pension reform and hopefully, in the long term, if serious people keep speaking up, the need to address this issue will trump the rhetoric.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leadership noted

What a great display of striking, positive leadership for the good in the last 24 hours. First, this news of the Obama administration's announcement today on limiting emissions from new power plants:
A year after a plan by President Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants set off angry opposition, the administration will announce on Friday that it is not backing down from a confrontation with the coal industry and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies.
This is executive action that does not require approval by Congress. Obama will, however, have to take on the coal industry. Yet somehow, doesn't that now seem like much less of a task in the wake of Obama's handling of the Syria crisis? The timing of this announcement seems to be one from a leader feeling emboldened, with that major international event just under his belt. Moving on now to one of the other major challenges the world faces.

And what will be the reaction of PM Harper? He of the letter to Obama asking for joint things to be done emissions-wise. Obama is acting. Unilaterally. What then is Canada prepared to do?

The second instance of leadership very much worth noting, the interview released of Pope Francis speaking on the Catholic church and his view of how the church needs to evolve.

Even if you are not a particularly religious person, this seems to have big implications. The way that this Pope, in such a position of influence and stature, is shifting the church from a close-minded, dogmatic institution to a non-judgmental, loving stance is remarkable. At least, that's the way it is striking me. I see news of others similarly moved.

And I certainly don't see how this is good news for those politicians who would seek to use gay issues and reproductive rights as exclusionary and divisive wedge political issues. This is a powerful counter.

And if you only read one thing on yesterday's Pope news, I recommend this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prorogation, obviously

The big news on an August Monday:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed he will ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until October, when his Conservative government will introduce the next speech from the throne.

"There will be a new throne speech in the fall, obviously the House will be prorogued in anticipation of that. We will come back — in October is our tentative timing," Harper told reporters in Whitehorse Monday. Harper is in the Yukon on the second day of his annual summer tour of the North.
A few thoughts to add to the online maelstrom.

I am quite meh over this one. It's mid-August and the House of Commons will be back in just over a month and a half? That's not tooo bad in terms of an extension beyond a return that was expected on September 16th.

The news coverage on the Senate scandals, for example, is likely to continue through this period. They won't be escaping damage from it.

Also, whenever Harper interferes with his own government's ability to legislate, that's not so bad. Less is definitely more for some of us when it comes to their legislative output record.

Harper, though, just can't prorogue and avoid critical comment. He has baggage, to say the least.

He is the lone Prime Minister, of any Westminster democracy, to have faced a confidence vote and deployed prorogation to avoid his minority government's fate. Totally unprecedented in Canadian history and so he just can't shake that shadow. He would have been defeated in late 2008-early 2009 by the opposition parties but for his proroguing of Parliament. The Harper majority era might totally have been avoided had he not done so. All of today's present Conservative party edifice is built on that shaky foundation. Which is partly why the power to prorogue is still in need of reform. There is less malevolent political calculation at play in today's prorogation. But nevertheless, it doesn't take away the need to fix, at some point, the unrestrained ability of a PM to prorogue without limitation.

A law that would restrain the power of the Prime Minister to prorogue could be passed and a PM would ignore it at their political peril. Whatever that judgment by voters might be. Could be nil, could be more, depending on how prorogation occurred. (Similar laws could be passed provincially as well.)

Today's prorogation is also another reminder that it is just plain old anachronistic that a Prime Minister retains such power to unilaterally dictate the government's sitting. In this modern era of a 24 hour news cycle, ever enhanced technologies and where Canadians' work is increasingly stretched beyond 9-5, it is a strange holdover that a Prime Minister can still set their own government's clock and work agenda, largely for political convenience. It just doesn't fit in this era. It's a reminder that there is a larger democratic deficit that needs to be cured in Canada. It's not all about the Senate sideshow. Harper has educated us well about a PM having too much power and our way of governing being in need of an update.

Beyond all that, politically, today's prorogation seems to continue the end of summer roll-out of the newish Harper majority looking toward 2015. New websites here and there with partisan purpose (Consumers First, the new Harper blog), election style speech and talk, etc. Now prorogation. The reboot is on and he's looking to win again in 2015. Obviously.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chickens roosting day, etc.

Harper's chickens, that is: "Senator Wallin audit details set for public release." One upside for Wallin, she has one of the best litigators in Toronto representing her (pictured in the CBC link).

One thing of interest in this Postmedia report that could hint at more possible trouble for, I'm assuming, Conservatives:
In their report, the auditors write that part of Wallin’s inappropriate costs were for “partisan related activity, such as fundraising.” Her lawyers cite as an example a May 27, 2011, event for former cabinet minister Bev Oda, who resigned in July 2012 over her own spending scandal, which was made famous by a $16 glass of orange juice charged to taxpayers.
At the Oda event, Wallin talked about Oda’s ministerial role overseeing intenrational [sic] development, as well as the Afghanistan file, which Wallin knew from her work chairing the Senate’s defence committee. Her lawyer’s letter notes that fundraising events took place outside of election campaigns, involved talking about Senate-related matters, and that “this was generally accepted practice,” suggesting that others in the Senate have done the same.
Generally accepted practice, says Wallin's lawyer.

Also of note, a possible strategy suggested by Ivison that could come out of the Senate Supreme Court reference:
The Conservatives argue that the Senate can be abolished under the constitution’s amending formula — section 38 — which states that any changes to the Senate would merely required resolutions in the House of Commons, Senate and seven provinces, representing 50% of the population (rather than unanimous approval).
If the Supreme Court agrees, it seems to me that we will see the Conservatives launch a full-on campaign for Senate abolition, in an effort to insulate Mr. Harper from accusations of being the Red Chamber’s patron. There appear few lengths to which this prime minister will not now go to distance himself from Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin — three of his 59 Red Chamber appointments.
A full-on campaign for abolition by Harper et al. as a matter of political expediency would have absolutely zero integrity or credibility, as Ivison himself hints. It's not clear the Court will rule that abolition could happen under the 7/50 formula in any event. Peter Russell is of the view that unanimity would be required:
Prof. Russell said there’s “no way” the government can unilaterally abolish the Senate and without seeking unanimous consent. “You’re taking 100 per cent of the power away. The Senate has full power to approve every law, and it was put there mainly so the provinces, the sections of the country, would feel some protection against the central government,” said Prof. Russell.
I would tend to agree with Mr. Russell. But, that's all Senate reference stuff, down the road a bit. Today it's all about Wallin's audit and it is at the doorstep of the one who appointed her.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tory expense fun, it's not just for the Senate

Ahoy Tory riding associations!

Canadian Press follows the dollar trail to show us how political donation limits are playing out in Canada: "Eye-popping Tory riding war chests raise eyebrows." This is something we have known for a bit but it's nice to see reporting on it today in the wake of the Mike Duffy Senate expense extravaganza. It tells us that you can put in place all the low level limits you like but let's also look at where the money ends up. And at the need for that publicly subsidized money to be accounted for.

The Whitby-Oshawa federal Conservative riding association has $70,000 in "travel and hospitality" expenses? Crikey, that's high! No surprise here in the Conservative response: "...The Canadian Press did not receive any response to repeated requests for explanations from some of the biggest spending Conservative associations, including Flaherty's and Leitch's." The party of Senator Mike Duffy has apparently learned nothing from that ongoing investigative experience.

Who is helping to raise all that dough anyway? Tory Senators?

Carry on with all the great reporting out there!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Random thoughts on the cabinet shuffle

If we must. Alternative blog post title could very well be: Everything old is new again. I agree with the Canadian Press header: "New faces in Harper's cabinet overhaul, but old guard stands economic watch." I also agree, unsurprisingly (!), with Bob Rae's fun take on all the hullabaloo: "With shuffle, the Harper Revolution continues its slow, steady crawl."

First, an under-noted development perhaps. Chris Alexander goes to Citizenship & Immigration. Jason Kenney's old stomping ground. Literally. Just ask the Doctors for Refugee Health Care who have taken the lead on protesting the cuts by this government to health care coverage for refugees. Whether Alexander will remedy this situation is a key question. Will he continue on with the "gold plated benefits" propaganda nonsense or as a GTA denizen amend this government's ways on what is an uncompassionate policy?

Another aspect of this move is the political angle. This ministry is clearly viewed by Conservatives as a key part of their political equation. Putting Alexander, an ambitious pol from the GTA into this ministry as a successor to Kenney is an intriguing political dynamic. Kenney nevertheless tweeted:
Speaking of himself, Kenney goes to HRSDC. It was termed Employment & Social Development today but it is HRSDC, as Kenney's tweets also indicate. Succeeding Diane Finley. No one is calling this a demotion but it does have that tinge to it. I suppose something transformational could be in the works, given Kenney's being Kenney and we shall see.

Working with Kenney, kind of, will be Kellie Leitch who is put in Labour & Status of Women. I find putting a surgeon in the Labour portfolio to be odd and not necessarily congruent with her experience. Raitt is a lawyer so at least she was steeped more in the framework, Leitch not so much. Although when your government's labour relations policy is just to legislate industries back to work under the guise of "the economy," it may not be an issue for Leitch at the end of the day. And also with Leitch, Status of Women continues to be an add on hobby for a Harper minister.

Pierre Poilievre to Democratic Reform? What more could one possibly say here? This is the MP who has been sicced on Elections Canada for years. If this day was meant to be about Harper turning a new page, this move surely undermined that thinking. But really, who would have expected a day free from some patented Harper partisanship.

The big news elsewhere in democratic reform today, by the way, is that Bob Rae has joined Fair Vote Canada's advisory board.
“Canadians need to know that their votes will really count. This means moving beyond our first past the post system”, says Rae, a long-time supporter of adding proportionality to Canada’s electoral system.
The key democratic reform challenge for Canada's future is not the Senate, the priority should be reforming the House of Commons. Liberals also joined that message on democratic reform today.

Lisa Raitt to Transport is interesting given the debate going on in the GTA - or should I say GTHA - over transit funding and dealing with Toronto's overdue needs and the Metrolinx proposals. Subway fever is everywhere and the funds to underwrite Toronto's transit needs are pressing. Raitt has her sexy portfolio now and it could provide opportunity for the Harper gang in Toronto. Emphasis on could. Whether they will be willing to work with Premier Wynne or keep showing up and wearing t-shirts for Team Hudak is a question.

Aglukkaq to Environment on its surface might seem like a less dug in approach in the offing. Here is one take that seems fair: But it's the oil and gas regulations that will be the big test for this government, as everyone knows.

Elsewhere, countries have ministers designated for climate change. It's time for this in Canada too.

Probably much more that could be said but that's it from this corner of the internet peanut gallery.

P.S. Oh, almost forgot the obligatory note for long time readers...Gerry Ritz should have been fired.

Friday, July 12, 2013

One man in Lac Mégantic

This is a very powerful report on Raymond Lafontaine of Lac Mégantic who lost a son, two daughters-in-law and an employee in the train explosion. He's making a difference on the ground there in many ways, chief among them this:
In the minutes after Saturday’s explosion, he rushed to the town’s centre, using one of his front-end loaders to pour gravel and smashing buildings to stop the path of the flames. Then, beginning on Monday, he emerged to speak publicly and resolutely, a native son who shares his town’s grief — and carries its pride.

Shaking with rage he told reporters on Wednesday that he, personally, will make sure that trains of crude oil don’t pass through town the way they did before the blast.

“I am not a terrorist,” he said. “There is a way to organize this. That track was laid to transport wood. The government needs to put on its shoes,” he said, using a French expression for taking charge.
Lafontaine is striking a note that no politician has or perhaps could. And if he is doing so in Lac Mégantic, how many towns across the country are watching and having the same concerns?

Moodys has taken notice. Life could become quite different for the oil industry with means of transport and routes being challenged, increased costs and heightened scrutiny.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Place your Keystone bets

Joe Romm is betting it's off:
Harder writes:
To the surprise of everyone outside the White House, Obama mentioned the pipeline in his speech. It was a politically savvy move for three reasons: 1) He called out the elephant in the room and thus avoided both criticism from groups like the Sierra Club and the subsequent media coverage of his omission; 2) He took ownership of the issue, showing everyone on every side of the fight he is personally involved; and 3) He shifted the debate over the pipeline from one of economics to one about the effects on climate change.
I agree with #2 and #3 — which is precisely why I think the speech makes it less likely he will approve Keystone. Obama owns KXL and he’s said the deciding factor is climate, not economics. As a new Scientific American article sums things up, “If built, the Keystone XL pipeline will be a spigot that speeds tar sands production, pushing the planet toward its emissions limit.”
And folks who have been around Washington politics a lot longer than I have think it would be very un-savvy to spend so much time laying out a strong moral case for climate action and then bringing up Keystone IF the president is planning on approving it. He would have been far better off not talking about Keystone at all in that case. As it is now, he will rightfully be called an extreme hypocrite if he ultimately opens the spigot to the dirty tar sands.

There’s no question Obama could approve Keystone, but I believe the smart money has shifted from betting he will to betting he won’t.
CTV was reporting that Peter Kent may be moving on and therefore would be out as Environment Minister. Not sure there's much a new Canadian minister might do to sway the Obama administration but Keystone has got to be figuring into Harper's thinking. Is Rempel, currently the Parliamentary Secretary to Kent, the one?

Whoever it is, they're also going to have to deal with this burgeoning - and very warranted - focus on petcoke. This oil sands byproduct gained greater visibility recently given the Koch brothers' piling of it on the Detroit waterfront to the discomfort of Windsorites looking on from across the river.

We, for the most part, won't burn it for fuel due to its high emissions levels and the "Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States." So it is largely being shipped overseas to China and Mexico, nations that don't care much about emissions levels. Shouldn't we Canadians be concerned about that? Particularly if Keystone were to be approved, with the amounts of petcoke that will be produced.

Over to you, next Harper environment minister.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Farewell @bobraemp

It's a sad day, Bob Rae is going away. Sure he said never say never to a return when asked about his future. This seems to be it though. It's a loss for all of us that Bob will not grace the stage of elected life again. Particularly at this moment where the issue of integrity in politics from top to bottom looms large. Maybe that's why, although this is not unexpected, it still stings a little more than expected. We need more "Bob" in our politics, not less.

I'll remember one thing in particular about his time as interim leader. How he reminded people of the  essence of being a Liberal, that the heart is part of the political program in addition to the rational policy driven by the head. He emphasized issues like a national suicide prevention strategy. He talked openly about his own experience with depression. He was a leader on aboriginal affairs. When he spoke in the House of Commons to his October 22, 2012 motion on replacing the Indian Act and engaging with aboriginal peoples on a new nation-to-nation basis, there was this jarring moment:
Just last week I was in a northern community in Nunavik in northern Quebec. There is a housing shortage of as many as a thousand units in one community in Kuujjuaq. We see this situation every day. The most touching situation we have seen is that in that very same community three kids committed suicide in the space of a week, and on the wall in the school was a big agreement signed by the students saying, “I promise to live”. They all signed it because they wanted to make that commitment.

I wonder if internationally we can really hold our heads up high when we recognize the discrepancy between the conditions that exist for the majority of Canadians and the conditions that exist for those who are first nations and aboriginal people. I do not think we can. Therefore, how do we deal with this?
Bob wore his heart on his sleeve in a classy way and combined it with a clear focus on the fixing.

His humour and sense of fun humanized his approach to politics too. This tribute to his exit as interim leader was fitting:

I remember voting for Bob in 1990 in that momentous provincial election. I went back to law school for my second year immediately following that vote. I remember a dinner where my friends were sharing that they had voted for Bob too. We were all expressing a feeling of hope and having done the right thing with our vote. A magic political moment it was. And then he went onwards from there.

He may not have become PM, the timing didn't work for him. But can we say that he didn't become one of the great Canadian political statespersons of our time? Surpassing many of this era who did go on to become PM? No, he was and will continue to be.

Thanks, Bob!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Harper to the UK Parliament

What to make of the PM's speech to the UK Parliament yesterday? When a leader is accorded that type of honour, surely they've got to come up with something worthwhile. And this did seem to be an effort to make a type of legacy statement on Harper's part.

What was his touchstone in the speech? The economy, of course, what else could it possibly be from Harper. And he seemed to be doing two things in his speech with that focus in mind.

First, he explained Canada's domestic economic success in a distinctly conservative way. There were at least four references to low taxes. The trade agenda, government efficiencies. Which all seemed to be wrapped in an effort to portray this as some type of value statement, about what economic values Canada possesses. Here is some of it: 
“So, friends, knowing these things, in Canada, when times were good, we ran surpluses, and we used them.
“Not to expand the state, but to pay down debt and to lower taxes.
“As a result, since our Government came to office, the average Canadian family now pays about $3,300 (about 2,200 pounds) less in federal taxes every year.
“Canada now also has the lowest rate of tax on new business investment in the G-7.
“Consequently, we are widely regarded as the best place in the world to do business, and we have the best post-recession job creation record among the major developed economies.
“Our values also tell us, as you have put it, Prime Minister, that you cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis.’
“In Canada, we have no debt crisis, so during the recession we were able, to deliberately borrow to sustain economic activity and confidence, but in a way that was timely, targeted and temporary.
“And we are now returning, gradually but surely, to a balanced budget, without raising taxes.
I hesitate to reiterate all that but it's about showing Mr. Harper's limitations. This seems like the kind of rote thing you'd say to the local Board of Trade. Except for the accompanying effort to spin it all into some kind of economic values system.

Then we heard a sort of Harper doctrine. The short version: There are world perils and threats that nations will have to meet but...our national bank account must be liquid, people! Otherwise, it's a no go. 
“Countries that do not bring their finances under control or that close their economies to the world, will face consequences.
“And those consequences are not only economic.
“In the absence of solvency, relevancy will also disappear.
“Nothing can lead more quickly and more completely to diminished influence
in the world than the decline of economic performance and financial credibility.
“Should we fail to faithfully adhere to our values in economic matters the wider values that we wish to protect for all humanity, values of freedom, democracy and justice, of dignity, compassion and security, those valueswill almost certainly be eroded.
“And they will be eroded friends at a time, when they are most needed.
“Because for good to happen in this world, someone must speak up for these values, and have the will and the capacity to act, so that these values are not mere sentiments.
“I speak of the courage to denounce oppressors and aggressors, to counter extremist ideologies,and to confront the abominations that must not be tolerated.
Nothing leads to diminished influence more quickly than the decline of economic performance? Solvency? Shades of JFK but please add the economic fine print to this: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." See how much better that is?

It's also ironic, these conservative leaders talking up the need to have stable domestic economies in order to meet world threats. The right wing policies that leave nations in debt and deplete treasuries are the economic results that have been seen. See also such economy destroying policies as invading Iraq.

More from the same crux of the speech where he defines the central challenge:
“But, make no mistake, if we wish to spread prosperity to others, we must be
prosperous ourselves.
“Without prosperity, there can be no aid.
“Indeed, without prosperity, we will have little ability to project any of our values anywhere.
“And, of course, we cannot hope to effectively spread these values unless we live by them ourselves and demonstrate our own success by virtue of doing so.
“Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, distinguished guests, I believe this is the challenge we face in the West today.
“There are massive shifts, shifts of epic dimensions, taking place in the world economy.
“To the extent this means that traditionally less fortunate people are beginning to enjoy prosperity, and the other fruits of our values, much of this is a good thing.
“But there are also, as there have always been, rising powers that do not share our values, and dangerous forces that seek to destroy them.
“We cannot, in the face of this, be at all complacent or, as I have said elsewhere,
We cannot entertain the notion, as I think some in the West do, that our wealth and influence can be assumed, that they are some kind of birthright.
“I know, Prime Minister, that neither of our governments think that, which is why we take the difficult decisions we do, to ensure our people will remain among the most fortunate and prosperous for the generations to come.
“But, just as we cannot be complacent about our wealth, neither can we allow our peoples, in these times of tough decisions and shifting fortunes, to become fatalistic.
Without prosperity there can be no aid, said the Prime Minister who will tout our world leading economic strength yet slashes foreign aid and dismantles CIDA but nevertheless praises Britain for keeping their levels up. The emphasis on western prosperity as what must be guarded rings hollow. There's an us versus them tone to Harper's remarks. We cannot give to you unless we remain well off. We cannot project our values unless we retain our wealth and influence.

Honestly, in reading such speeches that are occasions, and caring citizens should take a few moments to consider, you really want to hear and feel a sense of your country in them. But it just doesn't seem to come with Mr. Harper. He doesn't complete the job. Economics is cool territory, there's no heart in it. It doesn't grasp the essence of what Canada is and that could be portrayed to the world if this is a ground shifting moment, as he sees it.

Here is a clip - yes, one exists! - of the MacKenzie King speech to the UK Parliament in 1944 and his speaking of Canada entering the war. Harper included one of King's lines in his remarks, saying we entered "not from obligation, but ‘was the outcome of our deepest political instinct, a love of freedom and a sense of justice.’" Out of our deepest political instinct. Times and instincts have changed...

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A robust liberalism

Now here's something worth waking me out of this lengthy blog slumber: "I despair as I watch the erosion of the liberal views I hold dear." Yeah, you sing it, Will Hutton. Articulating liberal values in this era is a challenge and he calls it out, prompted by the recent death of leading liberal thinker Ronald Dworkin. This is a little UK-oriented but substitute the Canadian Conservative emphases and it still makes good sense:
Last Wednesday, there was a memorial service for one of the doyens of American liberalism – Professor Ronnie Dworkin – who died in London, his adopted home, earlier this year. A succession of some of Britain's best-known liberal writers and thinkers took to the rostrum to pay tribute to a man who continued to honour Roosevelt's New Deal, insisted law and morality were indivisible and argued that to live well and with dignity was every human being's aim – one that law and government should support.
It was a moving occasion, but, as his wife, Irene Brendl, wrote in the service notes, this great liberal tradition is increasingly beleaguered. She is right. We live in rightwing times. Law and justice, which Ronnie Dworkin cherished so much, are depicted as burdens on the taxpayer whose costs must be minimised. If you want justice, you must pay for it yourself and have no embedded civic right to expect others to contribute. The good society and moral individuals are those who do without the state. The public sphere is derided and positive public action to promote the common or international good is acceptable only if it involves less, rather than more, government. Instead, what we are invited to hold in common is nationhood, national identity and hostility to foreigners and immigrants. The open society is in retreat.
This may seem an odd commentary in a week in which gay marriage has been agreed by the House of Lords and where companies are increasingly hounded for avoiding their tax. Both are surely liberal rather than conservative preoccupations. In an idiosyncratic leader recently, the Economist proclaimed the strange rebirth of liberal England, arguing that young people's tolerance of ethnic and sexual differences, along with growing distrust of the state and welfare, was proof positive of the emergence of a new liberalism. Ronnie Dworkin should have been happy.
He would have turned in his grave. Such a view of liberalism does not go to the heart of what it means to live well. Tolerance of other people's differences is a core element of a liberal order, but a good society is one where we go beyond just shrugging our shoulders at someone's sexual preferences, religious beliefs or ethnicity. It is one in which we engage with each other, create law and justice as a moral system enshrining human dignity and accept mutual responsibilities. The aim is to live with dignity, to be able to make the best of one's capabilities and to expect that the consequences of undeserved bad luck – what Dworkin called brute bad luck – would be compensated by society in a mutual compact. This is a million miles from the Economist's arid conception of liberalism.
In successive areas of public policy – "reform" of criminal justice and legal aid, the health service, climate change, employment law, social security – the debate is similarly defined wholly in terms of the need to assert individual rights and choice, to minimise social and public responsibilities and, above all, to roll back taxes. If the facts or scientific evidence do not support this drive, then the facts are changed or the science ignored.
But if the right is dominant, a rounded liberalism has one advantage. The right's world leads to economic stagnation, social atomisation and a destructive nationalism. Nor, ultimately, is there happiness and dignity to be found by living as a tax-avoiding, climate-change-denying anti-feminist while mouthing how tolerant you are. There is a quiet and mounting crisis in conservatism. Liberalism, in its best sense, could capitalise on the opportunity. It is a pity Ronnie Dworkin won't be around to be part of the fight back. We'll just have to do it by ourselves.
Killer last paragraph and timely perspective and advice for Canadians who presently face many crises of governance faith.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How's your water?

Watch this excellent weekend type video and you will understand the question.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday night

New awesome set by Kaskade with lots of great stuff. A free download to boot.

Have a good night!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Your $60 million media monitoring programme

Note: This blog post below was written on March 9th but not published. Given this news of the past day, "Harper Government Spends Millions Monitoring Press Of Own MPs," thought it would be useful additional context. Also, note to self: Listen more intently to that friend who passes these things on...

Let's look at one of the late Friday afternoon announcements last night, just for fun: "Government of Canada continues to look for savings in media monitoring." Mentioned 6 times in this brief announcement, including the title, is the word "saving" or "savings." Which makes you wonder, well, is this really about savings or is somebody protesting a little too much.

This is the announcement where they have to tell us how much they're spending on media monitoring. I.e., how much money the government is spending to see how it's departmental efforts and etc. are going over in media coverage. And it's actually quite a lot when you compare this spending to things they're cutting. But you have to look twice and very carefully given the way the information is presented to determine how much the government is actually spending:
The Government of Canada is committed to saving taxpayer dollars and keeping taxes low. From April 1st, 2011, to December 11th, 2012, the Government of Canada spent approximately $22 million on media monitoring services.
The first sentence is pure propaganda that has nothing to do with the second sentence. Indeed, they are contradictory. But set that aside. Look at the strange period they report on, a year and just over 8 months to come up with the figure of $22 million. So deduce the math, Canadians, the savings experts won't do it for you. It's just over a million a month ($22 million over 20 months).

We also read that "Estimated annual savings based on the current five-year negotiated contracts for these licenses are approximately $18 million." So they're saving us $3 million a year, which they're selling as a good thing, when they spend about $12 million a year on this activity.

Or, they've contracted to spend $60 million over 5 years which is what they don't seem to want to flat out say. That's a heck of a lot of scratch on media monitoring.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Friday night

Fave song of the week. Nice mix of emotion in this one.

It's from one of Avicii's recent sets that now has over 1.2 million listens in the past 20 or so days. Wow. A great hour if you like this kind of music.

And shhhh, don't tell's my birthday:) Celebrating with the parents. Yup.

Have a good night!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Conservatives eye the CBC - updated

Updated (Thursday 6 pm) below.

Every once in a while, Harper exposes his fangs. This is one of those moments: "Budget bill gives Harper Cabinet new powers over CBC."

It's a Harper special, naturally. Mix the CBC in with a pile of other Crowns who can be portrayed as bloated public entities whose employees are getting more than in the private sector. So we hear Clement say this “is part of a broader issue, which is aligning the public-service compensation and benefits to private-sector norms and expectations...”. Sell it to the public as a sensible economic measure then. Try to massage it into one more incremental logical step that won't raise hackles.

Nothing sensible or reasonable about this one though. The public broadcaster should not have its salaries explicitly overseen by the federal Conservative cabinet. Or any other stripe of cabinet. The implications for the independence of the institution are clear. Politicians weighing in on journalistic salaries? That has no business in a modern western democratic nation. And what breed of conservatism is this?

At least Scott Brison is serving notice that Harper is playing with fire and will be carefully watched: “We will thoroughly scrutinize actions by this government towards these agencies.” The politicians will have lots of help in that task.

Bravo to the CBC, by the way, for blowing the lid off the temporary foreign workers programme. Nothing like a few whistle blowers leading the national news describing how their jobs are being farmed out to bring it right into every living room and made meaningful to the average Canadian.

Happy two year Harper government anniversary, everyone...

Update (Thursday 6 pm): A must read follow-up to the above in the Hill Times today. Tim Naumetz has reviewed the Crown corporation annual reports and discovers, lo and behold, that the CBC is essentially the major Crown whose collective bargaining agreements could possibly be affected in the near future by the Conservatives' insertion of the cabinet over those negotiations. There is a CBC agreement that comes up for renewal in March of 2014:
But of the three Crown corporations, only the CBC will have its major collective agreements expire between now and 2014 as the 2015 federal general election nears, including one covering 5,000 English-language news personnel and journalists that expires March 31, 2014.
Also notable, this excerpt referencing a statement by the CBC in response to the government's move:
The statement also noted the Broadcasting Act gives the CBC board of directors the “explicit authority” to determine the salaries of its employees and that CBC and Radio Canada employees are not public servants.

The budget bill would give Cabinet the power to order Crown corporations to have their mandates for collective bargaining approved by Cabinet’s Treasury Board committee of ministers and allow for a Treasury Board employee to monitor negotiations.
Yes, if you look at the Broadcasting Act, there are clear distinctions drawn which separate the CBC's power to hire and set salaries versus the cabinet's power. For example, the federal cabinet has a say in the Chair of the Board and the President's salary but it does not with respect to any employee:

Chairperson’s and President’s remuneration

43. (1) The Chairperson and the President shall be paid by the Corporation remuneration at the rate fixed by the Governor in Council.

Fees of other directors

(2) Each director, other than the Chairperson and the President, shall be paid by the Corporation such fees for attendance at meetings of the Board or any committee of directors as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.


(3) Each director is entitled to be paid by the Corporation such travel and living expenses incurred by the director in the performance of the duties of that director as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.


Employment of staff

44. (1) The Corporation may, on its own behalf, employ such officers and employees as it considers necessary for the conduct of its business.

Terms, etc., of employment

(2) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) shall, subject to any by-laws made under section 51, be employed on such terms and conditions and at such rates of remuneration as the Board deems fit.

Not servants of Her Majesty

(3) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) are not officers or servants of Her Majesty.
It's very much a clear policy distinction being made here in the Broadcasting Act. The intent is to leave staffing and remuneration decisions within the CBC as an internal matter, free from government intrusion. This is entirely understandable. The CBC is a Crown like no other at the federal level. The CBC is part of the free press in Canada.

Granted, the government appoints the Board members who provide oversight of the CBC employee salaries and employment whom the CBC chooses to employ. But the Board's primary duty is owed to the corporation within the context of the particular Crown's public service mandate.

What Harper is now doing is reaching in and making CBC employee salaries - journalists - subject to the federal cabinet's influence, contrary to section 44(3) above. Typically, he's doing it without explicitly amending the Broadcasting Act but through the budget bill. It's quite an intrusion. The Treasury Board representative doesn't even have to do anything by way of taking action in the negotiations. The presence of this representative is influence enough.

As a majority government, these Conservatives can do what they choose, essentially. But no Prime Minister to date has gone this far with the CBC.

Stephen Harper has no business inserting himself in the salary negotiations of journalists within the CBC. Period.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The choice #lpcldr

Joyce Murray's leadership video, released yesterday, which was very well received at the Showcase yesterday.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On the leadership outcome #lpcldr

Shorter David Akin today: Hold your horses, everybody! Agreed. One part of his piece requires a little clarification though:
And remember, it's not just paid-up members of the Liberal Party who will vote. As many as 90,000 "supporters" or non-members of the party are eligible, and their influence will swamp the 35,000 actual members eligible to vote.
Many of those "supporters" have been herded into the race by activist groups such as Avaaz or LeadNow who have endorsed Murray because of her idea of electoral co-operation. These groups don't care if the government is Liberal, New Democrat or Green so long as it's not Conservative. Kicking out the Conservatives is the one goal above all for these Harper-haters and they're solidly behind Murray.
This notion of "swamping" the members is a little too pejorative. This, after all, is the system that Liberal members overwhelmingly chose in early 2012 at the Biennial policy conference. The whole point of the race was to engage Canadians, there was much talk at the time of creating a Liberal movement. So the fact that candidates have indeed reached out to bring in new supporters - and connect with Canadians - was contemplated and this is a good, welcome thing according to the party's own rules.

Second, the motives ascribed to these groups is also a little skewed. The motivation for involvement is not entirely anti-Harper. Many have been bandying the anti-Harper thing about as if it's bad. I for one do not agree. To be anti-Harper means a lot, policy-wise, on many fronts, be they environmental, economic, social. It's a galvanizing political force. But back to the point - these groups actually do care very much about democratic reform and electoral reform in particular. Like many Liberals do. And if they are choosing Joyce Murray, it is because of her commitment to electoral reform that she has prioritized since the outset of the leadership race.

As Mario Canseco of Angus Reid stated in a brief but insightful interview snippet on CBC's The House this weekend, this is a constituency that has been created for the party.

It's not all about the hate at all. It's about a reform current that is swirling in Canada and that has been hastened by this government's muzzling, stifling, and abuse of democratic institutions.

And who is to say that many members of these constituencies would not stay with a Liberal party, ideally led by Murray in my view, who follows through on their commitments? There is much in the realm of possibility to be embraced by the party. Party finances are being eroded, it's a new era in Canadian politics. Connecting with Canadians in such manners is a new politics. Murray has shown that she gets that, during this campaign.

Otherwise, interesting piece.

Update: One more thought. When you create a motivated pool of voters who will show up for you, due to their deep convictions, attack ads and various considerations surrounding them become a lot less important. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's that time, kids #lpcldr

It's that necessary evil in politics rearing its head...fundraising! If you are in downtown Toronto early this evening and care to come out to support MP Joyce Murray who is charging up the hill in this leadership race, then here's an opportunity to do so. If you're not in Toronto, there is always the magic of the internet to make your own particular contribution.

Here are some of the details of tonight's event:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

The University Club of Toronto
380 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 1R6

Ticket: $250
(anyone who has already donated $500 or more
to Joyce's campaign is welcomed without charge)

Event Committee:

Hon. Paddy Torsney
Dirk Brinkman, Gary Gladstone, Carey Miller,
James Morton, Edward Nixon and Tim Reid

Please RSVP to
(Click the link above to RSVP, then click here to donate $250 or more to Joyce's campaign), or call Carey Miller - 416-827-4326

If you can't attend, Joyce still needs your help. Click here to donate.

(Max. total contribution to all 2013 LPC Leadership candidates is $1200)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday night

Have a good night!

Attack can be the sincerest form of flattery #lpcldr

As readers of my blog would know, I have been supporting Joyce Murray in the Liberal leadership campaign. I have been proud to do so as Joyce has run a smart, positive political campaign from the get-go.

She has emphasized her vision of a Sustainable Society with compelling proposals on environmental sustainability, a digital economy, promoting democracy abroad, advancing the participation of women in Canadian society, smart crime policy that would legalize cannabis, and yes, a strong political platform that would enable these policies to be put in place.

Her electoral cooperation proposal, underpinning the key and crucial goal of achieving electoral reform, is the political means of putting a progressive vision for Canada in place. And it has attracted much support as the campaign has gone on. Issues have connected with groups and a coalition building process, key for the Liberal party's future electoral success, has unfolded.

So it's no wonder that today there was an attack email blast launched at Joyce's political plan. Many Liberals and supporters of the Liberal party who signed up to vote in the leadership race will no doubt have received it.

But attack politics is not the kind of politics that Joyce subscribes to and it is one further compelling reason to support her in this race. Cooperation is not just about one's political platform. It's a way of being Liberal. Working with others where you agree, agreeing to disagree on other points. But always doing so in a civil way and not resorting to the old politics style fear mongering. It's not helpful to where we need to go as a party.

For those who received the email and would like a refresher on her proposal, note the ridings that she proposes to focus upon in her political plan: 
That’s why I support a common-sense, riding-by-riding approach to electoral cooperation among opposition parties in the 2015 election. The majority of Canadian voters hold progressive values, but our values won’t be reflected in government unless we figure out a way to overcome our dysfunctional electoral system and win.
I’m proposing a one-time agreement with the NDP and Green Party to give Canadians the government we deserve — not a merger between our parties.
As Liberal leader I will empower individual riding associations to nominate their Liberal candidates in all ridings across the country and then to assess our situation on the ground and determine if cooperation makes sense. We will focus on ridings where incumbent Conservative MPs won power with less than 50% of the vote. Where appropriate, Liberals will cooperate with local NDP and Green riding associations to put forward the strongest candidate — the one best able to take that seat from a Conservative. (emphasis added)
This means that if you review those ridings where incumbent Conservatives are in office, having won less than 50% of the vote, that there are quite likely no seats in Quebec, based on the 2011 election results, where cooperation would be considered.

Old saw politics invoking separatist bogeymen as possible cooperation partners is not where Canadians or Quebecers seem to be these days and is not useful.

The central feature of Joyce's cooperation plan is that it is indeed democratic. It is a bottom-up process, not top-down. Riding associations, bolstered by the new presence of thousands of supporters who have signed up during this leadership race, will be the drivers of this process. Cooperation, if desired by ridings, would likely occur in a subset of the country's 338 2015 ridings.

Joyce is the one leadership candidate in this race who is saying that she will listen to the voices in the Liberal party and beyond that believe this option needs to remain on the table. 

But as mentioned at the outset here, the likely motivation to go after Joyce at this point is not solely about cooperation. It's about her position in this race, as judged by the competition. Attack can be the sincerest form of flattery.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Notes from #lpcldr this fine morning

The Globe has a misguided header but a somewhat interesting report nevertheless: "Ontario, B.C. have biggest say in Liberal leadership race." Since every riding is equally weighted for voting purposes, technically those provinces don't have the biggest say in the race. What is nevertheless interesting is the remaining fact of the large number of sign-ups in both Ontario and BC as opposed to other provinces:
"More than half of the eligible voters in the race are in Ontario (125,000) and B.C. (40,000), giving those provinces a bigger say in the vote than their relative share of the overall Canadian population. The Atlantic provinces are also slightly overrepresented in the party’s list of eligible voters, while Quebec and the three Prairie provinces are clearly under-represented."
The two chunks from Ontario and B.C. stand out as successful efforts and may have been the overall point of the newsworthiness of the report. Of the top tier of candidates, one is from B.C., two are from Quebec. The point could also have been for the Globe to say look, we have a copy of the riding breakdown.

Also of interest, another Liberal riding executive member speaks in favour of electoral cooperation, this time in Dufferin-Caledon:
“To guarantee, as opposed to just hope, that the Conservatives will not form the next government, even in a minority, I personally would not oppose the concept of a one-time ‘strategic alliance’ of the main opposition parties.”
“While David Tilson may have out-polled the second-place party in the last election by a wide margin, the combined opposition vote was essentially even with the Conservatives,” he said, “and the total turnout was quite low.
“Mix in the variable of a single progressive candidate, add the momentum from a two or three party strategic alliance to defeat Harper, and the result is pure synergy. “There would be more citizens active during the election campaign, which would result in more voters coming out and, even in Dufferin-Caledon, there are more progressives than there are pure Conservatives.”
The report canvasses others who are not as positive about the idea, to be fair, but none of it is particularly surprising and a bit of a re-hash of the same arguments. No one seems to think about the new supporters signed up and the ongoing opportunity they present for Liberals, for example. Innovation can occur beyond the scope of this leadership race. Look at all the activist groups who have been growing by leaps and bounds.

Dufferin-Caledon is not on the list of the subset of about 57 ridings where the Conservative won with less than 50% of the vote in 2011 and where progressive parties might target their efforts, subject to 2015 realities, as a first tier seat. Interesting to see it being added into the mix by someone on the ground who wants to see the Conservative Tilson defeated.

Elsewhere: "The candidate of co-operation finishing strong again, this time for Liberals: Tim Harper"

Have an excellent day out there, kids!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fair Vote Canada on the Murray-Trudeau exchange #lpcldr

Fair Vote Canada clarifies one of the assertions made during Sunday's debate on proportional representation.
"In a remarkable exchange during the Liberal leadership debate in Halifax on Sunday, March 3..." 
Release is worth a read.

Post-debate video, numbers, etc. #lpcldr

Joyce Murray on Sun News once again.

A little additional reading: "Why Supporting Joyce Murray Is the Best Way to Defeat Stephen Harper."

Oh, and apparently there could be 300,000 in the pool. Numbers yet to be announced by the party.

Have a good day!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Fun with literacy

So there's this incredible story on CBC right now that deserves attention and what-on-earth-were-they-thinking treatment: "Literacy guide uses partisan example to conjugate 'elect'." Here's a screen shot of one of the sentences that is being used to teach people how to read in government financed literacy programs in the Harper Government™ era.

Suggested completion of sentence 5 above: "The majority of voters DO NOT VOTE conservative and as a result they MOST UNFORTUNATELY STILL END UP WITH a Harper government."

Or, have your own fill in the blanks fun!

Hilarious if it weren't so shamefully wrong and all that...

Harris & Russell on Murray #lpcldr

While the race goes on in the background, two pieces to note that are out in the last 24 hours on Joyce Murray demonstrating her continuing ability to impress.

There was the column in iPolitics as of last night by one tough cookie, Michael Harris: "The credibility candidate: Joyce Murray in conversation." It's out from behind the paywall so I'll leave you to read it.

Also on the must read list is Peter Russell's column in Ontario Newswatch: "Joyce Murray is the Best Choice for the Liberals and the Rest of Us." He is impressed with her stance on climate change and of course, her position on democratic reform.
As a non-Liberal but someone who is concerned about the sorry state of our parliamentary democracy, I find Vancouver MP, Joyce Murray, by far the most impressive candidate for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Equally impressive is Murray’s grasp of the key structural problem behind the sagging performance of our parliamentary democracy – the increasing irrelevance of parliament and the decline of citizen engagement, especially among the youngest eligible voters.

She is fully committed to reforming the electoral system so that the distribution of seats in the House of Commons is closer to the distribution of voters’ preferences across the country.

The simple plurality system that rewards a party like Mr. Harper’s Conservatives which gets 40 percent of the votes with over 50% of the seats must be reformed.

But she understands that reform of the electoral system will take a while.

In the meantime, Murray stands out as the only Liberal candidate willing to consider the kind of electoral co-operation with the Greens and the NDP that might be necessary to ensure that the 60% of Canadians who reject the principles and policies of the Harper Conservatives will not have to endure four more years of rule by the Conservative minority after the 2015 election.

Murray supports nomination of Liberal candidates in all ridings, but proposes a process of riding-by-riding co-operation with the Green Party and the NDP to support a candidate who has a good chance of defeating the Conservative candidate.

This approach would focus on ridings where Conservatives are in a minority position and their candidate can win only by more progressive parties splitting the opposition vote.

It takes both common sense and courage to take this position.

It is surely a sensible way of protecting Canada from government by a party whose policies and principles are not supported by a majority of its people.

But at the same time it is courageous because it goes against putting one’s own party first above all else. And it is that partisan passion which tends to infect the party faithful that Murray will have to overcome.

For the sake of her party and our country, I hope she succeeds.
As always, carry on campaigning.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A reaction to the debate #lpcldr

Just received this in my inbox:
There is a difference between a cheerleader and a leader.

Seven candidates in this race are acting like cheerleaders, expressing their faith that Liberals will win power either because it is inevitable (sailing dangerously close to the arrogance of assuming we are Canada's natural governing party) or because voters will simply like their leadership (little more than conceit). Neither suggestion is realistic, but the fans love it and applaud vigorously because we always want to cheer on our team, even when we know we are trailing by 165 to 35.

Only one candidate, Joyce Murray, is acting like a leader by recognizing the huge challenge ahead and laying out a practical roadmap to meet it. Fans may not like the medicine being prescribed, but they know in their hearts that it is temporary and that it will get us to where we want to be.

Proof that her message is being heard and taken seriously is the way in which other candidates are scrambling to misrepresent her position and talk about her alleged desire to "merge with the NDP." We trust that Liberals and Liberal supporters will recognize this for the attempt to deceive that it is.
The heat was on Murray this afternoon but she stood her ground and really sharpened the choice she is offering.

Tonight at midnight is the cut off to sign up as a supporter in the leadership race. Sign up here or here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday night

Just came across that and I think I like. So British and fun!

Have a great night.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New downtown T.O. ridings

Came across this map proposal yesterday in the course of some other reading. It shows the new downtown layout for federal Toronto ridings (and presumably provincial if it follows suit, which has been the plan). There are two newly created ridings: Spadina-Fort York (aka condo central) and University-Rosedale. Notably, Trinity-Spadina gets broken up posing a question on where Olivia Chow would run if she runs in 2015.

I see that folks on rabble are discussing the changes based on a map I posted a while back in the heavy post-May 2011 election period. The babble discussion is guessing who has the advantage where, etc.

Not sure people should be so fixated on what happened in 2011 as a predictor for 2015 though. We'll have two new federal leaders in the mix at that point, a factor that won't necessarily translate so neatly on to the coloured quadrants on a map. I guess junkies will be junkies though.

It is cool to see these new ridings taking shape but the more important issue that remains to be resolved, of course, is how Canada should be electing its MPs to represent all these ridings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The daily momentum watch #lpcldr

Video of the candidate with the "wind at her back." On how she's bringing new people into the party, will rebuild it as priority number one...and so on. Well worth a watch.

Yes, I realize my site is becoming a little heavy on the political candidate side but it's the final week sign-up push after all. Give a blogger a break.

Is she starting to look like Hillary, or is that just me...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Momentum in #lpcldr

This is the last week for supporters to sign up by the March 3rd deadline. Take note and spread the word! So there is a lot of activity going on in the race in various momentum building activities. I like the way this blog item puts it for Joyce Murray's week to date:
Murray's campaign seems to be gaining some momentum. On Tuesday, Murray held a press conference announcing that Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette has endorsed her ahead of her campaign's Quebec tour.
Last week, environmental guru David Suzuki penned an open letter to his supporters endorsing Murray. Suzuki's endorsement shouldn't be discounted. The popular — yet polarizing — figure has over 238,000 Facebook supporters and over 40,000 Twitter followers.
Murray is also expected to get a boost from pro-cooperation advocacy groups, as explained recently by the Canadian Press. and several other groups are urging their members to sign up as Liberal party supporters in order to promote the idea of electoral co-operation among progressive parties to ensure defeat of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. boasts some 225,000 members, a huge pool of potential supporters for leadership contenders to tap into.
This is still Justin Trudeau's race to lose, but Murray is quickly becoming the 'other one' to watch.
Suzuki open letter here.

Hervieux-Payette is the former Dion Quebec lieutenant, MP and chief Liberal organizer in Quebec during the '08 election, the last time the Liberal vote went up in that province.

I also note tea leaves like the responses to Martin Cauchon's "have your say" site that include many requests for consideration of cooperation and electoral reform.

Hearing that certain other Liberal offices have been flooded with emails on that subject as well.

Then, consider Andrew Coyne's column on electoral reform of the last 24 hours.

All adds up to intriguing developments in this race.

Carry on campaigning!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A theory of politics playing out in #lpcldr

This blogger has a lot of smart things to say.

A candidate with policy convictions proposing them and finding they connect with highly motivated Jove, I think she's on to something!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

David Suzuki announces support for Joyce Murray #lpcldr

Joyce Murray's campaign for Liberal leadership gets a nice boost today:

February 20, 2013

"An open letter to Canadians:

I am writing this as an individual citizen, not on behalf of any organization or political party. In fact, I do not belong to any political party. I will support candidates, platforms and policies of any party that move our country towards a more just and sustainable future.

I was delighted to see that the federal Liberal party allows any Canadian to participate in the choice of its leader. I urge everyone who is concerned about democracy, the environment and social justice to take part in this selection process and thereby register support for specific policies and visions for this country.

I am heartened by the platform laid out by Joyce Murray. Sustainability is one of the key concepts underlying her policy proposals from food to climate. She recognizes that Canada is one of the most vulnerable industrialized nations to the impact of climate change: as a northern country where warming is going on faster, with the longest marine coastline in the world threatened by sea level rise and the economic vulnerability of climate sensitive areas of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism and winter sports. Her proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes doing what Sweden, Germany, Australia and even China already do, namely, put a price on carbon, which is both an effective inducement to reduce emissions and a revenue source for much needed initiatives such as public transit, efficiency and renewable energy.

Gender equity is a critical issue today and her proposal to mandate targets for government organizations and committees is much needed. And finally, she calls for progressive elements to work together to avoid election of parties with a smaller proportion of votes. She is boldly pressing for electoral reform through proportional representation to get away from the tyranny of our first past the post system so that minority positions can be represented in government.

You can influence the policies of the Liberal party by registering to vote in the leadership race. For me, Joyce Murray presents a platform that I am going to support. I hope you will give her your support too, if you agree.

David Suzuki"
Nice to see a prominent Canadian stepping up to recognize the tremendous opportunity we have at this moment to change Canadian politics fundamentally.

Come on in, Canada, the water's warm!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Irresponsible Polling Developments on "Responsible Resource Development"

Interesting report from Canadian Press on the government's advertising campaign on "Responsible Resource Development" in more ways than one: "Light on facts, heavy on patriotism, focus groups help hone NRCan advertising." Two things here...

Natural Resources hired Leger Marketing to do some research on the government's advertising messages, as the report notes. OK. Further down, however, you read that CAPP, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, met with senior Environment Canada officials and provided them with a CAPP-commissioned poll by Harris-Decima that indicated how voters were receiving CAPP's own ads. Notably, the CAPP poll provided the government with a breakdown of how their ads were going over with voters identified along partisan lines, among Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats. So the government officials could see how partisan leaners would respond to certain advertising.

Why is this interesting? Government public opinion research must be non-partisan. But here, the government was able to access partisan-oriented research.

Second, Postmedia obtained this information via a federal access to information request. Guess CAPP's stuff made its way in there enough to be covered by the request.

All not appropriate. Some official types should look into this.

Wonder what kind of ads we'll see if Obama ties carbon legislation to approval of Keystone...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

GTA debate aftermath

Dan Veniez has a column up this morning worth noting:
Only three can legitimately claim to have earned the right to stay for the next rounds: Trudeau, Garneau, and Murray.
While I may differ with Joyce Murray on some of the content of her program, she has proven herself to be one tough cookie and a very serious candidate. Besides her track record of actually winning contested nominations and close elections, she has positioned herself squarely as an important voice on the "progressive" wing of the party.
Murray has a thoughtful, comprehensive, and cohesive set of ideas. And whether I like it or not, Murray has shown a lot of guts to be the lone voice and intelligent advocate for "cooperation" with other parties.
Read the whole thing, of course.

The above excerpt also mirrors a conversation I had early on in this campaign with one of those senior politico types - you know, the over 50 ones who have been around a bit and who you should listen to if you are smart - who has worked as an adviser in Ottawa, provincially and municipally. We spoke at the end of November. He told me that as the race goes on, Joyce will be even keeled and steady. A leader. Others will flail and be all over the place by the end of the race.

Campaigns matter. Having been elected repeatedly matters. That came through in many ways for many of the candidates on the stage yesterday.

Carry on campaigning!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday night

Too short but nice Deadmau5 doing a little Valentine thing this week. Very cool. Deadmau5 is in looooove. That's his fiance singing.

Have a good night! What's left of it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Liberals on cooperation

From a letter distributed to the leadership campaigns last week, some content of interest on the issue of cooperation that you may not be hearing in other channels. Ron Hartling ran for the party presidency last year and is the President of the Kingston riding association. Ron is neutral in this leadership race, to be clear, and has committed to his riding to his neutrality. Following his email is some data shared by one of his riding executive members.
From: Ron Hartling []
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 04:00 PM
To: David Bertschi ; Martin Cauchon ; Deborah Coyne ; Garneau, Marc - Personnel; Martha Hall Findlay ; Karen McCrimmon ; Murray, Joyce - Personal; George Takach ; Trudeau, Justin - Personnel
Subject: FW: Cooperation

Dear Candidates,

I am forwarding for your information some member feedback on your recent debate responses to the cooperation-with-other-parties question. It was sent to me by the Kingston and the Islands Outreach Director who has personally spoken with over 200 of our members in the course of our current membership renewal campaign.

Her findings are consistent with what I also hear from many of our members, who I have long assured that constitutionally they are the legitimate “owners” of the Liberal Party, which exists to advance their values in Parliament. That of course is a bit of a tough sell as they have seen precious little supporting evidence in recent years. From that perspective, eight out of nine candidates flatly rejecting electoral cooperation in any form is more than a little disheartening. There are many ways to approach electoral cooperation and the encouragement of strategic voting to lift from the majority of the electorate the spectre of yet another damaging Harper Government. Perhaps you could consider whether it is appropriate to close the door on all such options and how you as Leader would respond if it turned out that the majority of our members actually wished their Party to find a way to cooperate. Open-minded discussion could result in a solution which would include selecting 308 Liberal candidates and which would respect the right of EDAs to make their own decisions as to what they would do in their ridings. Arguably, with or without NDP cooperation, such a solution could result in more Liberal MPs elected than if we once again go to the electorate with the Ignatieff OLO’s position that the “Big Red Tent” is the only option for progressive voters. They obviously didn’t buy it.

Best wishes to you and your campaigns,
Ron Hartling
President, Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association
LPC(O) Eastern Region President

I think that the issue of cooperation is something that needs to be addressed and the public needs to be educated on the options, as well as the prons and cons of each option. The sentiments I've received from talking to people on the phone, as part of our virtual phone bank reminder for memberships renewal, and others at social gatherings are the following:

- some who watched the first debate thought it "arrogant" for all the leadership candidates, except Joyce Murray, to so quickly and definitively reject the possibility of cooperation with the other parties on the left

- some blamed the Liberals in particular for the lack of possibility of cooperation and saw this as "business as usual" politics, targeted at getting back into power than working towards any real sense of promised "renewal" and "what's best for Canadians"

- some used more colourful language to talk about the Liberal party, using words like "greedy", "power hungry" and "childish"

- some expressed frustration as they saw no real option of defeating Harper with the vote being split on the left

Clearly some of these statements lack a bit of sensible reasoning since it's not a one-sided issue, as any form of cooperation would require all the parties (or at least the NDP).

However, I think it's important that we are aware of what people are thinking and that we must do something to clear up this oversimplification of the issue, which posits the harmful view of "childish stubbornness" against the "logical" argument for cooperation.
Circulated here for interest's sake and to give some perspective on how some Liberals out there in the ridings are reacting to the cooperation issue.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Most viewed Ask me Anything on Reddit?

Interesting answer here! Joyce Murray's Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit this week is likely to be the highest viewed Canada Politics AMA ever, according to the Reddit people. The reason? Her answer to this question went viral:
Q: “Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 100 duck sized horses?”

A: "Well, my first thought is, do we have to fight? What are the demands of this tiny horse army? What does this over-sized duck want? Maybe we can find some common ground and cooperate on our shared problems.

I saw what happened to Romney when he tried to take on Big Bird, but still I’d rather take on the horse-sized duck. I was British Columbia’s Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection. That duck doesn’t have a chance."
Reddit gave the response this entry title, upon the response going viral, "[canadapolitics]joycemurray, a Canadian politician, gives the most Canadian answer to the question "Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 100 duck sized horses?"

Note that the Redditor mucked up the question. The question should reference "one horse sized duck" in order to be comparable to other responses by other pols on the same - now classic - question. Anyhoo.

People love them some ducks and horses questions and the politicians who have fun with them.

P.S. Obligatory link to picture of horse sized duck and tiny horses

Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday night

New Avicii that I've been listening to this week. A tiny bit on the cheesy side but that's ok. We all need some cheese here and there:) Think this is a free download too, so there you go.

Have a good night!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Liberal fundraising numbers

A fellow blogger asks a question: "Is the LPC Leadership Race Over?"

Hmmm. Do the New York Yankees win the World Series every year? I don't think so. It's not just about money. You have to play the games. So let's keep playing.

Carry on, people.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Last week in Tory patronage

Catching up here! It's hard to keep up with these porkers after all! Let's see..."Natural Resources Ministers Announce Appointments to the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board."

You know, I would like to think that appointments to such a board would bring competent, independent judgment with some experience in the field given the important subjects of oversight: "...the board’s key priorities of worker safety and environmental protection while providing robust regulatory oversight for the development of offshore oil and gas. " So who did we get?

Scott Tessier was "the Chief of Staff for the Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency." A ministerial staffer. And other things too, but that's big.

Edward Williams who is the brother of Danny Williams. "Williams has been heavily involved in the PC party, and travelled on Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s campaign bus during the 2011 general election."

Now are these the types of appointments governments should be making in this era? Persons appointed to that kind of board should be able to exercise independent judgment and not be beholden to political interests. Not feelin' it!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A view on the day's events #olpldr

From a wise politico via the email bag just a little while ago:
In no particular order...
1. Long game works...Wynne been at this for years.
2. Speeches matter.
3. Having a seat more important than sexuality.
4. Media today is very weak...pundits worse.
5. Take nothing for granted...not even the last ballot results...yet.
Very wise indeed.

I would add:

Authenticity combined with substance is a pretty fierce combination.

A poll that will make little difference #olpldr

"Ontario Liberals: No poll bounce for Grits after leadership campaign." This one shows Pupatello and Wynne and Kennedy in the same ballpark percentages, give or take a few more for Kennedy given his profile, going into tomorrow's voting. No gaps that would give any one of them a noticeable advantage. So, not helping.

Besides, it really shouldn't be polling that Liberals look to for this choice. Longer term considerations like personal qualities, vision and policy are likely to and should rank as more important factors in the choice.

Also noted in the report, this quote from Kathleen Wynne addressing the extra scrutiny that has been applied to her in recent days as the crunch vote comes:
“If we have a woman premier, if we have an openly gay premier, there will be a big conversation about that. But the most important conversation … will be about whether this person … has the capacity … to govern the province and to lead the party.”