31 May 2005

No fiscal imbalance, says AIMS head

Here's a link to comments by Brian Crowley of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies on the so-called fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provincial governments.

"Now, a case has been made, Mr. Chairman, by a number of commentators on provincial government that there exists a fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces, by which I think they mean there is a mismatch between what the two levels of government are called to do under the Constitution, on the one hand, and the fiscal resources that they currently enjoy to carry out those responsibilities, on the other. In other words, Ottawa has too much cash relative to its responsibilities, and the provinces too little, and furthermore, the excess of cash at the federal level is the cause of the fiscal shortfall at the provincial level.

Now, before we rush to find solutions to that problem, it's important to determine whether the premises that define that problem are in fact correct, and I intend to make the case this morning, Mr. Chairman, that those premises are faulty, that the provinces have adequate resources at their disposal, including room to raise taxes, that Ottawa's surpluses are the proper reward to the federal government for its fiscal virtue, and that Ottawa's improved fiscal position is in no way at the expense of the provinces." [Emphasis added]

30 May 2005

Hearn continues to fight his own party

No one should ignore the fact that Loyola Hearn's plan to have the finance committee separate the offshore revenue deal from the main budget motion basically puts him at odds with his own party's plan to keep the budget from passing by any means necessary.

Canadian Press is reporting the Connies plan a number of measures to slow the House and in the finance committee have talked of calling witnesses to slow review of the budget bills.

Mr. Hearn's position, therefore is nothing short of pathetic, not because of Mr. Hearn but because of his party.

Mr. Hearn is now so desperate to garner whatever votes he can in anticipation of an election, he is trying to break off whatever parts of the budget he needs in order to keep them from being crushed by the Connie rush to the polls. Or is it the lemmings rush to the precipice?

If the Connies would just stop playing procedural games, the money would be on the way by the end of next month.

National Conservative Lunacy

As the House heads back after a weeklong break, everyone who thought the confidence games were over in the Commons is finding out that the Connies intended to keep up their tactics.

The finance committee intends to stall the budget.

But for what purpose?

It is one thing to exercise power, but merely to become sand in the gears of government makes a political party look pretty lame. Their message is: "We want an election and we are prepared to pour crazy glue in every lock in the building to get our way. Oh yeah and we want to be the government, too."

Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

Then you have to look at the latest poll, this one by Decima.

Decima confirms other polls that show the Liberals decisively in front of the Connies nationally and in the battleground in Ontario.

The Decima poll also shows that almost half the sample have switched their vote choice in the past month. Look closely though, the biggest group of switchers are low-income women and they are moving between Liberals and NDP - NOT the Connies.

Decima concludes this is good for the Connies.

Only in the minds of the Connie game theorists. That level of volatility is hard to manage, but more importantly, it is highly vulnerable to the kind of messaging that normally causes the NDP vote to collapse and for those voters to stream to the polling booths in order to keep Stephen Harper out of 24 Sussex.

No matter how much low income women may find difficulty with Liberals, they have a much harder time living with Connies.

Roger Grimes: the genuine article

As CBC reported on Friday, Roger Grimes is expected to announce his resignation as provincial Liberal Party leader in a news conference at the Fairmont on Monday morning at 11:30 AM.

With an election about two and a half years away, Grimes' resignation gives the party the chance to hold a leadership convention quickly and thereby gift his successor with upwards of 24 months to get the party ready.

The one unusual feature is the speed. VOCM is reporting Grimes will vacate both his office as leader and his seat in the House effective Tuesday. This puts the party in the position of having to appoint an interim leader.

It also gives the government a chance to hold a by-election election and perhaps win Grimes' district before the Liberals can get properly organized. Under the revised House of Assembly Act, a writ of election must be issued within 60 days of a seat becoming vacant.

Grimes departure seems to have caught some people by surprise. It shouldn't have. Grimes was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1989. He served in every government since then either as a parliamentary secretary, minister and later as premier. That's a long enough time for most people.

Grimes showed himself to be an affable, competent minister. Under both Clyde Wells and particularly Brian Tobin, Grimes was given the tough portfolios and often won the co-operation and respect of those he dealt with who may have been opposed to one or another government policy.

He became premier after what turned out to be a bitter leadership contest. His biggest political problem came out of that contest. Beholden to all, he could do little to lead by force when force might be needed. Hence cabinet, and after afterward caucus, degenerated into more or less a loose association of people coasting along toward a vaguely defined common point.

The best example of what was wrong with the Grimes cabinet came over the Labrador ferry service. Cabinet minister Yvonne Jones broke ranks and openly criticized her cabinet colleagues for a tough decision on a tough file. Good for Yvonne's own interest; lousy for the government and the party. It cemented the view that the cabinet lacked sufficient cohesion to govern and far worse that, in some cases like Jones for example, cabinet was populated with too many people who simply didn't belong there.

As Opposition Leader, Roger Grimes demonstrated almost daily his considerable experience. His demeanor was measured and appropriate and often stood in stark contrast to the Peckford-esque ranting from the other side. He looked and acted like a premier.

But it has been past time for Grimes to go. He clearly had no interest in seeking another term as premier. In the meantime, the work needed to reinvigorate the party was definitely not getting done.

Grimes' speedy departure should be what people remember of him at this point. Recall not the speed but the effect: by going as quickly as he has and as unexpectedly, he is forcing the party out of its doldrums. Grimes' retirement to the links - where any of us would rather be anyway - is like being dropped naked into the Atlantic. The task now falls to others to see if they can mount a credible challenge to the governing party. Grimes' has given a dose of practical medicine as his last act as leader.

As for Grimes' long political career, people should remember not merely its length but the achievements. In education, health, tourism, labour and mines and energy, Grimes demonstrated time and again that he was among the most effective cabinet ministers ever to occupy a seat at the round table.

The Voisey's Bay deal, which some will ignorantly criticise, is actually an amazing achievement in and of itself. Don't even consider that Grimes' predecessor did all in his power to create a political climate in the province that made a deal all but impossible. That only makes the deal more noteworthy.

Grimes' didn't need to rely on flashy showmanship; he could do the job well and that was what stood out. He could explain himself easily to others as well and that too sets Grimes apart among politicians who rely too much on pat answers and cloudy verbiage. He was an effective political communicator; far better than the guy with the self-imposed title.

As for his interpersonal relations , Grimes' knew the value of a Christmas card for maintaining contact, which by its personal note long after such a note was required, conveyed the sincere connection intended.

There will be many words written and spoken about Roger Grimes in the next 24 hours. Doubtful that anyone can do him justice at this point; perhaps time will pass for the right words to emerge.

In the meantime, let this suffice, because in truth I can think of no higher a compliment to pay a fellow who has served his province as long and as well as has Roger Grimes:

He is the genuine article.

27 May 2005

The Parable of the Trees

"Two trees stood on a cliff, both buffeted by fierce winds. One remained rigid and cracked under the strain. The other moved as the winds grew strong or ebbed.
This tree grew to great height."

Don't be too surprised if you start hearing rumours that Stephen Harper is about to retire from politics.

After all, those rumours started originally back in March, not coincidentally just before the Conservatives decided to reject the budget, disrupt the House and ultimately force a confidence show-down in the House of Commons. Bear in mind that this whole thing came about despite polling that showed the Conservatives well behind the Liberals everywhere except Alberta and that Paul Martin remained the overwhelming choice of Canadians to be prime minister.

Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military strategist once advised that where one is weak, one should appear strong. The Conservative push toward an election can be seen as little more than offensive action designed primarily to avoid dealing with a number of internal party problems including divisions over substantial policy matters and the lingering doubts about Harper's ability or willingness to leader the party into the next election.

Questions of leadership were evident in the way Harper treated Belinda Stronach. His own account of the dressing down he gave her is littered with signs of an internal struggle for control of the party. Faced too with the weaknesses that still exist within his party, Harper's solution was to attack the Liberals and thereby force his supporters to rally around the Conservative flag.

Closer to home, Premier Danny Williams used the same approach last October. His polling numbers were strong on the surface but underneath lurked some weaknesses, as revealed by Corporate Research Associates polling obtained by The Telegram under the new Access to Information Act. The premier also had alienated a number of provincial premiers immediately before a major national conference that would discuss, among other things, federal-provincial financing arrangements. Their resentment of the offshore proposal - what appeared to them as a major dodge around the current equitable but imperfect Equalization program - would have led to a nasty confrontation behind closed doors.

Williams' solution was to storm out of the meeting, claiming that the federal government's offshore offer was an insult. His polling numbers shot through the roof and any doubts about him and his leadership disappeared both in public or in the privacy of the pollsters' telephone calls.

Sometimes the approach works, as with Danny Williams. Sometimes it fails, as with Stephen Harper.

The Labrador by-election and two recent polls give clues as to why the Conservative Party's - really Stephen Harper's - push for the writ didn't work.

Successful national Canadian political parties are coalitions. Both the Liberal Party for most of its history and the Mulroney Conservatives did not have an immovable ideological core. They could embrace diverse views of social, economic and constitutional policy. Political parties learn to manage the disputes that erupt between members, between factions or among members from different regions. The bargaining and horse-trading that people decry are actually the mechanisms by which people can advance their particular causes without resorting to violence.

It may not be pretty but it is democracy.

Unsuccessful national parties, like the New Democrats and the Reform parties either represent a particular region or, most typically, reflect some ideological yardstick used to measure the purity of their members. There is no small irony, therefore that the initials of two Canadian ideological parties are the same, even if they represent polar opposite political views. The Communist Party of Canada, the Moscow-oriented clan and the Conservatives both go by the initials CPC.

The Unite the Right movement held at its core a belief that Canada needed a political party which represented what are called right of centre views, but which was essentially able to embrace both the substantial differences between the red Tories - the Progressive Conservatives - and the Reform cum Alliance Party. This was an effort to create another coalition party which, truthfully, is the only type of political party that could hope to win an election in a country as diverse as Canada.

On the surface, the recent CPC losses in the House and in Labrador can be seen as communications failures; the party used messages about corruption which were not heard by anyone outside their own ranks. This is revealed in the Leger poll. In Labrador, the CPC hammered on issues that did not address the views of the constituents they were trying to court. They talked about defence spending, that would benefit one portion of the riding, even though that was by no means a core issue for the majority of voters. At the same time, the CPC
talked about defeating the government's budget that included money for community infrastructure.

By the same token, Stephen Harper pledged not to force an election if the public didn't want it. When poll after poll revealed no one wanted an election, the CPC merely shifted gears. Peter MacKay likened elections to root canal - painful but necessary.

Make no mistake: these were monstrous communications failures. They represent massive political failures.

Look closer to home, in eastern Newfoundland and you can easily see the effects of the charge of the political light brigade that go beyond the national polling numbers like the ones from Leger or these from Ekos.

Two stalwart Conservatives, one of them an architect of the new party have destroyed their political base in what ought to be safe Conservative territory. Loyola Hearn is now openly talking of quitting politics. His reputation is battered. He is alienated from the local Conservatives both by the actions of his party and by the workings of his own jawbone.

This poses a problem, however. The CPC is supposedly a coalition party. Its leader is reputedly a master political strategist. Some of its key people - like Hearn and MacKay have fought successful campaigns provincially and federally or at least have the political savvy to know how to run a coalition team.

How is it possible for this combination to make such glaring errors?

The answer is that the CPC is dominated by ideologues that come not from only the old Reform Party. This is not to give into the temptation to dismiss the views held by Reformers; rather it acknowledges them for what they are - a group with strong views that is more likely to look for purity of belief, to exclude those seen as impure, to look inward rather than outward.

Consider the language used to describe Liberals. The enemy - even that word suggest the depth of their feeling - is corrupt and immoral. They and their supporters are criminal - mafia and whores. They lack principle. Voters are cowered by the dastardly villains. One need only listen to Stephen Harper's language or browse the blogs of CPC supporters to find this singularity of perspective. The use of moral judgments is striking.

How does one legitimately compromise with - even live with - untermenschen?

Added to that ideological singularity is a leader who is also apparently unyielding. His dressing down of Stronach suggests a man with little tolerance for opposition. This is hardly the stuff of a coalition builder. Harper's detractors all point to his unshakeable belief in his own correctness. Comments by Preston Manning ring in one's ears. According to Manning, Harper saw no value in holding town hall meetings to discuss fiscal policy with people lacking the education to comprehend the sophisticated concepts involved.

One of the finest examples of Harper's inflexibility came at the end of the last federal election. His national headquarters issued a news release that accused Paul Martin of supporting child molesters. When he faced reporters, Harper refused to disown the release. Leading a party that spoke of integrity, Harper refused to admit that someone had made an error and by doing so made the focus of the story the obvious gap between words and deeds. Credibility suffered and with it went Harper's hopes for a majority government.

Stephen Harper appears to have surrounded himself with old friends who share his outlook. Some have brought their game theory approaches, and with it, the unshakeable belief that their numbers not merely model reality - they are reality. Game theorists in Vietnam fiddled with individual variables and got lost in the tactical movements at the expense of the strategic. Stephen Harper opposed C-43, then supported it, then opposed it and then supported it - all tactical manoeuvering. The CPC voted for one part of the budget and against another - more transparent manoeuvering. One suspects that the game theory scenarios suggested that these were the optimum tactical approaches at each point.

Genuine strategy would see that each step is part of a longer journey and that the optimum step at each discrete moment on the road may lead ultimately to the wrong destination. Strategy understands the need to give with the wind sometimes.

On the surface, the Conservatives have committed some readily apparent political blunders.

The question that must be asked is why this is so.

The answer lies in the leader and in the party itself.

For the future, the Conservative Party faces the challenge of having a leader who is a four- or five-time failure. Many may feel the need to find a new leader.

But consider the timelines.

The prime minister has committed to an election in January.

By the time the House closes next month, and even if Stephen Harper resigned immediately, the party could not hold a leadership convention and begin the process of internal revitalization that it would need to win.

The only way the Conservative Party could win in January is for the Liberal Party to collapse.

Consider that the tree which grew strong did not depend on the other tree for its success.

26 May 2005

Peter MacKay, DDS, reveals his strategic genius

There's a CP story running today in which Peter "I feel so used" MacKay, DDS, claims that Labrador voters went Liberal out of fear that government support would vanish if they voted anything but rouge.

For those who don't know, MacKay is deputy leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and former toy-boy of Belinda Stronach.

"There is fear among Labrador people that if they vote against the government, the government will not support that region," MacKay said just before giving a speech to a meeting of Quebec police union officials.

"I was there. It's a real fear."

The CPC also accused Liberals of buying votes in Labrador.

That was around the same time the CPC campaign was promising:

1. To renegotiate the Voisey's Bay deal to improve royalties for the province. (The feds have no legal ability to crack open the development deal since they weren't party to it); and,

2. To make the Goose Bay air base "operationally required", sending in a new infantry battalion to be based there alongside a squadron equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles.

The other stuff they promised was already in train.

In the actual result, every single person who voted Liberal last time voted Liberal again save for a few dozen. The CPC doubled its vote.

But here's the thing:

What was the major issue in Labrador?

Health care.

Other issues like transportation, the Inuit land claims agreement and water and sewer were also a big in the Big Land.

According to the Telelink poll for NTV, the Goose base was an issue for a mere 5% of those polled. Even if the poll was off by a certain amount it wasn't so far out of whack that the last place issue would supplant an issue that was reportedly getting eight times the level of support.

The Connies talked about defence, stuff they couldn't do anything about (Voisey's Bay) and a bunch of stuff that was coming anyway.

They are also on record as wanting to vote against the federal budget which includes, among other things, money for infrastructure projects like water and sewer.


The losing side accuses the winners of buying votes (despite their own blatant attempts to buy votes).

The losers say the voters were duped, were fearful or were otherwise not in their right minds when they case their ballot.

That speaks volumes about the CPC view of the electorate and democracy.

Personally, it looks to me like a combination of two things:

1. The voters weighed the options and made their choices. You don't have to like it but whatever they decided has to be accepted as valid. It can only be questioned if there is substantial evidence of massive fraud like one might find in Rhodesia or parts of the former Soviet Union.

2. The CPC message track was out of touch with what voters really want. That's because the CPC actually doesn't pay attention to voters' issues. After all, according Peter MacKay DDS, voters who chose someone other than his teammate must be acting under duress.

Arrogance, thy name is Peter.

Lampoon hits new low

Odds are high you'll enjoy this editorial cartoon from the National Lampoon.

Funny how the editors of the unofficial organ of the Conservative Party of Canada didn't hide it behind their subscriber wall so that only the people who shell out cash for this rag could see it.

Maybe it's a marketing ploy, a la Peg Wente.

Maybe it just reflects their ignorance of the country.

Maybe it reflects both.

Hearn ponders trouting over fishing for votes

Loyola Hearn may be fishing for trout in a big pond instead of searching for the possibly scarce votes he'd get in the next federal election.

Here's a bit of what Loyola Hearn told CBS about the pressure he felt during the past two weeks.

Note especially the reply to the question about his future in politics:

"How long more to you stay around? That's the point," he says. "Another year from now, I might decide that I might want to go trouting too, you know."

Meanwhile, Hearn's opponents in the last federal election said they are planning another run at the seat.

Liberal Siobhan Coady and New Democrat Peg Norman want another shot.

The thing is, though, will they be shooting at Hearn...

or Ed Byrne?

The Constitutional Fish

Meanwhile in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Appeals Division?), some enterprising lawyer is seeking a ruling on whether or not the Government of Canada has the right:

1. To regulate what is commonly known as the food or recreational fishery; and,

2. Even if it does, can the Government of Canada regulate the fishery within the province's boundaries, namely within the three mile limit.

While I am not a lawyer, I enjoy playing one sometimes in the privacy of my own blog.

The argument being presented on behalf of two chaps accused of breaching fisheries regulations hinges on the Terms of Union, which, as we all should know, is part of the Canadian constitution.

Under Term 2, the province is defined as including the same territory as at the date of union. Since Newfoundland and Labrador included a territorial sea of three miles, the province's boundaries extend that far out to sea. This was confirmed by the offshore decisions in the early 1980s.

Under Term 3, the British North America Acts, as amended, apply to the new province as to all others except as provided by the Terms of Union. The BNA Act is now known as the Constitution Act.

Still with me so far?

Section 22 of the Terms of Union specifically address fisheries matters.

22 (2) continues all fisheries laws of the former Dominion of Newfoundland for a period of five years from the date of union and from then on, as amended or repealed by the Government of Canada through the Newfoundland Fisheries Board which became a federal agency. While the NFB had powers over licensing it was created in 1936 to improve markets and the quality of fish exports.

Term 22 also provides that the federal parliament will assume appropriate jurisdiction to amend fisheries laws formerly in force in Newfoundland (before the date of union) but here's the key thing to bear in mind: sections 11, 12, 13 and 18 reinforce Term 3 in providing that the Constitution Act applies to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Under Section 91 of the Constitution Act, the power to regulate coastal fisheries rests with the Government of Canada.

There may be some case law and argumentation I am unaware of that can be used to back up the case being made by the appellant(s). I could also have misunderstood the brief description of the case given on radio this afternoon.

To be frank, on the face of it, this case is going to be a short one. The letter of the law seems pretty clear as to the intention of the framers of the constitution.

In any event, people should keep their eye on this case to see what comes of it once the learned justices of the Supreme Court hear the arguments and then render a judgment.

What goes around...

comes around and in a small province like Newfoundland and Labrador, it picks up speed on the way back.

Consider part of the argument presented in today's Telegram that points out the entire population of Labrador is around the size of a small municipality on the Avalon, and in a larger context is far smaller than a typical federal riding in Ontario.

Here's what the editorial said, in part: "If you take all of the people who voted in Labrador Tuesday, you'd have the equivalent of a population equal to roughly Portugal Cove-St. Philip's deciding the direction of an entire nation. In Toronto ridings with a much larger number of constituents, they might feel their individual votes are necessarily less valuable."

Well, editorialists might want to remember that the population of this entire province is smaller than, say, the City of Hamilton. During the constitutional discussions in the early 1990s, some mainlanders were fond of pointing out that small provinces carried too much weigh in Ottawa in proportion to the size of a province like Ontario or Quebec.

We should thank the Telegram editorial board for siding with an argument that usually winds up with calling on this province and its voters to bend to the will of Ontario. Its basically a variant of the argument John Crosbie used in 1990 to dismiss out of hand any suggestion that offshore revenues under the Real Atlantic Accord should be redistributed.

To paraphrase Crosbie's reasoning, a provincial government that got half of its income from Ottawa shouldn't be allowed to hold up major decisions like the Meech Lake Accord. Crosbie specifically linked the rejection of the Meech Lake Accord with his attitude toward revising the Atlantic Accord.

The major flaw in the editorial's argument, though, is that Labrador enjoyed some sort of popularity or influence beyond what it normally would expect with its one riding and one member in the Commons.

The Telegram mistakes media interest and the obvious interest of political parties in winning a seat with something more than it is: a desire to win the seat.

National media interest was driven by the recent efforts by the Conservative Party to force a national election despite the overwhelming view of Canadians that they do not want an election at this time.

National political parties mounted strong campaigns. The Conservatives were particularly interested in the seat since it would have given them a way of tipping a confidence vote the way they wanted it. But here's the kicker: Even in a majority parliament, the Conservatives would work very hard to wrest the seat from the incumbent party. The political value of that - the symbolic value - would be as great then as now.

Take away the Telegram's peculiar line of reasoning and you have nothing more than the conclusion: that Ottawa ignores rural areas of the country.

While it may be a popular and easily cynical sentiment, it really isn't borne out by evidence. The community editorial demonstrates that the folly underlying the main editorial as clearly as anyone ever could.

At least the community writer won't find his argument coming back to bite him on the backside anytime soon.

Lynda Calvert's hands

Yeah, I know it's a bizarre subject for a post but when you are in my business, the bizarre is normal sometimes.

Lynda is one of those TV reporters who doesn't routinely edit herself into her reports. We often don't get to see what she looks like. There doesn't seem to be any particular reason for it other than her personal preference.

During the national coverage of the Labrador by-election, Lynda got to do some live hits with whoever was hosting the news. You know the format: reporter stares into camera and gives a live comment on what is happening.

Well, every time Lynda was on air - looking very professional, smartly attired and giving some meaningful insights - I just couldn't stop noticing her hand movements.

They were jerky and a bit exaggerated.

I am not sure if they were the result of her being uncomfortable and nervous. Maybe she had just finished one of those training courses for on-air presentation and was introducing hand-movents into her presentation style.

Maybe it is just the way Lynda gestures when she speaks.

Whatever it was, it got very distracting.

and yes, I know. I need a life.

The Perils of Polls

It's interesting to notice the Labrador result in light of the Telelink poll done for NTV in St. John's a few weeks ago.

Telelink reported a 42% undecided/don't know/no answer rate, but among decided voters, the Liberals were ahead with 29% and the Conservatives came in with 23%.

Telelink spokesperson Cindy Roma said the results were "too close to call". As I said when the poll was released the results seemed a little bit off to me.

If you look at the actual numbers - not the percentages of decideds, what Telelink actually got was something like this:

Liberal: 13.92%
Conservative: 11.04%
Und/DK/NR: 42%

Essentially, the answer with those numbers was not that it was too close to call. Nope. The answer actually was: we don't have a freakin' clue what will happen because our poll results don't give us data on which to make any conclusions.

Since Telelink didn't probe the undecideds at all, they couldn't even get a sense of which way people were leaning and try to pick some sense out of it on that basis.

If you look at the provincial district breakouts Telelink did, their confidence interval jumped up to something like 10 to 12%. Those results are completely useless and should never have hit the air.

As you will recall, I did contact NTV to get a copy of the research report. I was advised my e-mail had been passed on to higher management.

To date, I haven't received a reply from NTV. I haven't had the time to follow-up on it, but I will do so because the whole thing just gets me even more curious the more I think about it.

There are probably good answers to what questions I do have and the answers might also help people who aren't familiar with polls to appreciate why MUN political scientist Michael Temillini wound up making some off-the-wall comments on Canada AM yesterday based on the Telelink data.

I'll keep you posted.

25 May 2005

Election preview

With the Liberal win in Labrador, here's a thumbnail sketch of the next election, as it stands right now.

Out of seven seats, five are safely Liberal. The Connies couldn't find contenders in at least two of them. In central, they have chosen a decent guy with no profile to carry the Big C into battle. Fabian manning has made it clear it won't be running, so unless Loyola Sullivan decides to try federal politics, Avalon is another safe Liberal seat if John Efford runs again.

If Efford doesn't run again, I'll toss Captain Sid Hynes name into the ring for consideration. He's tough, competent and agressive; just the dose of clear-headedness we need around here.

In St. John's, the Connies have a problem. Loyola Hearn sounded kind of wishy washy in Jonathan Crowe's interview this evening when he was asked about running again.

Ed Byrne may step up in St. John's South Mount Pearl.

But if Hearn goes again, he will have an uphill fight. He came with 750 or 800 votes of losing the last time. He did a lot of damage to his support with his backing of Stephen Harper instead of the province.

Ditto for Doyle.

Curiously enough, the only seats that offer any chance of a race the next time out are all on the Avalon peninsula. The CPC actually has a problem with the two they hold now.

Now, let me just seal this in a mason jar and bury it in the garden to be opened the day the writ drops next.

Libs take Lab

Undoubtedly, there'll be a lot of Wednesday morning quarterbacking and punditry but, I'll just leave it to the vote count.

Todd Russell of the Liberals took 51.5% of the vote with 83/85 reporting at around 2334 hrs Newfoundland Daylight Time.

Graham Letto of the Conservatives had about 32% with the remainder being spread across the three other candidates.

Turnout was up from the last election in 2004.

Count on the Connies to be playing up the fact they doubled their percentage of the vote. Fair enough, cause it is true. The growth in vote is all Connie. Basically the Liberal is virtually intact.

But don't stretch that too far. The Connies would have to count on pulling another couple of thousand people to the polls next time in order to barely squeak by in the seat. Given Labrador's historic turn-out this would be very hard to do. Look at it: everyone who voted Liberal last time turned out to vote Liberal again, with the exception of a mere 120 people.

The only way the Connies could win is to wipe out all the other parties, significantly collapse the Liberal vote or do some combination on the two.

That's a tall order for a seat that is basically Liberal and where voters don't change allegiance very much.

Now if you look to the northeast Avalon peninsula, you'll see a much bigger Connie problem.

They only won those supposedly safe seats by a handful of votes (relatively speaking) the last time out.

Voters on the northeast Avalon include a larger number of swingers - it would only have taken about 751 switched voters in St. John's South-Mount Pearl to have caused Loyola Hearn to head to the unemployment line last year instead of booking a return flight to Ottawa.

There's something to keep a Connie strategists in the province awake at night.

24 May 2005

Ghost of Joey in Labrador By-election

Check national websites today and the Labrador by-election is the lead story just about everywhere.

Comment by Labradorians though seems to reflect the legacy of Joe Smallwood. He dominated provincial politics between 1949 to 1972 to the point that people can't distinguish between things that are St. John's fault and the things Ottawa is responsible for. The same guy used to show up with both the local candidate and the one heading to Ottawa.

No surprise therefore that roads, water and sewer, and the Young Royal Commission are high on the list of things people in Labrador are supposedly ticked about. There is a feeling of being taken for granted that runs throughout all of Labrador. But hey, those are all provincial issues, not federal ones.

See this CTV story which, sadly relies on one lone reporter in Labrador for perspective. But the water and sewer is likely a bigger issue on the south coast, one of the four distinctly different regions within Labrador.

On the north coast, I'd venture the future of the LIA land claim is a hot topic as the Inuit people transition to self-government.

In western Labrador, it is the future of the mines.

The future of military training at Goose Bay is the dominant issue in central Labrador. The local citizen's committee has been sitting on its backside for the past decade waiting for Ottawa to fix its problem- low level training has had its day and few of the historic visitors to the base's facilities are coming back. The committee then blames government for failing to bring back the Nazis or the Commies or invent an enemy in Greenland to justify massive spending at Goose Bay "like in the old days" from someone like the Americans.

The committee moans and complains but has done nothing to look seriously at alternatives. Addicts have a hard time breaking a habit and the Connie promises are like OxyContin. No surprise therefore that the ideas floated by Gordon O'Conner - especially the ludicrous plan to base an infantry battalion at Goose - are being snapped up. Conservative candidate Letto's connections to the local committee didn't hurt on that score; it's also easy for the party out of power to promise the moon in exchange for votes.

The race is reputedly close - extremely close.

The irony of the vote today is that the future of the offshore revenue deal - highlighted in the CTV story as primarily benefiting the island portion of the province - might rest in the hands of Labrador's MP.

23 May 2005

Belinda Stronach Pictorial!

Bizarre things pop up when you google.

Like this Macleans photo slide show of Belinda Stronach from the Connie policy convention. Check it out here, under the title "On the trail of Belinda Stronach".

There's a striking picture of Belinda and Peter in which she is looking at him as he turns away. There really isn't much of a connection from his standpoint. His body language suggests he's already off to job two, although he is maintaining physical contact with his hand on hers. She, on the other hand, is looking at him as he goes, although there is something about that smile that makes me wonder.

My favourite shots are the ones of her hand (with a gorgeous ring), her pearl necklace and two shots of her shoes. They are favourites just because I can't figure out what in the heck the shooter is trying to show me - other than maybe his foot fetish.

Strange things turn up when you google.

Monte Solberg, MP

Flip over to Monte Solberg's little blog when you need a laugh and see his musings posted as he flew off to be with his family over the long weekend.

I don't know what this guy did before he got into politics, but this is as good a lede as I have ever seen:

"This week will long be remembered in Conservative annals as the week that truly sucked."

Yep. That's about the size of it.

Now, Monte, ask yourself why it sucked.

The answer lives at Stornoway. The guy who resides there may be an eminent political tactician, but, by definition, a guy good at tactics sucks when it comes to strategy.

I hope Monte had a good a weekend with his family as I did with mine. And, for the record, no, Dad, I did not get any gardening done.

Who needs comments sections on a blog when your own family is full of people who pick up on every little thing?

Loon magnet

A couple of weeks ago, I shut down the comments section of this collection of e-scribbles for two reasons:

1. The ones I got were from people who refused to sign their name to their comments. That's usually a sure sign of someone masquerading. Anyway, the short answer is no guts, no glory for those types.

2. There weren't many comments anyway.

Over at Andrew Coyne's little collection of way-more-popular-than-mine e-scribbles, seems he has had to shut his comments section down as well.

As Andrew notes: "But they [Ed. - the people with a brain and a sensible comment to make] have been drowned out by all the other crap -- low-brow, insult-filled, intolerant of opposing views, and unspeakably tedious. I have no desire for this site to serve as a clubhouse for hard-right wackos, usually anonymous, with way too much time on their hands."

Coyne's blog is one of the most widely read one sin the country and rightly so. Agree or disagree with him all you want, the fact remains his comments are thoughtful and insightful. Heck, Andrew even had the good sense to be the brother of a woman who would make a fine member of parliament. Her choice of party may rankle her brother's sensibilities, but hey, life's a bitch sometimes.

For those of us who read Coyne's stuff on a regular basis, it is annoying that Andrew has become the favourite site of a bunch of what he describes as "western separatists, Bilderberg conspiracy theorists and various other cranks."

At least he understands what blogs are about: "self-promotion and vanity."

Leave 'em with a laugh, I always say.

Hearn continues deceit

Personally, I am long since past the point of giving Connie Loyola Hearn, the pretend member of parliament for St. Johns-Mount Pearl, any consideration when it comes to telling - deliberately telling - falsehoods.

The man also known as Blarney the green dinosaur from up the shore has got to know that what he is saying is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts - a giant coprolite. You can't be around politics as long as Hearn and be as powerful and influential as he claims to be, without knowing when you spout garbage. The man is hoist yet again by his own petard.

Hearn even has the gall to call the prime minister a liar. Hearn is the Typhoid Mary of pinocchiosis. He ought to know a lie when he sees one.

Hearn will say anything - regardless of veracity or accuracy - in order to advance his partisan cause.

He proves it every single time he opens his mouth.

I am speaking here of an FAQ on Hearn's web page that tries to explain the parliamentary procedures involved in passing bills. All this is in aid of getting the heat of his backside over the offshore votes.

Anyone listening to the radio on Friday heard a nonstop litany of callers who told Hearn to back off plans to defeat the government before the budget bill passes. The heat is on, but apparently Hearn in unrepentant in his approach of putting Harper and Hearn before province.

Anyway, for the record, here is the link to the offending FAQ.

Hearn says the fastest way to get the offshore money is to split the bill or have an election.

1. Bill C-43 and a stand-alone offshore bill have to go through exactly the same seven steps to become law. There is no way to speed that process up without unanimous consent. Realistically, the budget has to be passed soon or the government lacks the legal authority to spend money.

The budget measures will likely be clear of the House before the end of June, barring another Connie-inspired confidence shakedown in the House.

2. Another election would delay not speed up the bill. Read Hearn's first question and answer: No money until the whole process is complete.

If we have to wait until after another election, who knows how long it will take for the money to flow? Incidentally, this nonsense about last year's budget passing last week is just that: nonsense. Here's the progress of bills section from the parliamentary website. I dare anyone to find a supply bill from last year that passed in 2005, let alone passed in May 2005. Bill C-33 is called a second act for good reason: it makes some amendments to last year's authorization for administrative and other purposes.

But make no mistake:

Budget 2004 was passed in its entirety in Fiscal Year 2004. Here's the link confirming that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget was tabled in March 2004 and:

Budget 2004 passed on May 14, 2004

Maybe Mr. Hearn can't remember what year this is.

I can assure you the current budget will be longer than the end of June, but only if Stephen Harper and Loyola Hearn get their way.

Given that this release was issued by Hearn's office this week, I think Kevin and the Fair Dealers need to target Mr. Hearn to make sure he votes for this province on the subsequent budget votes due to come before this province collects the offshore money from the Williams-Martin deal.

Let's see if a thousand e-mails an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three months gets the facts through Hearn's noggin.

Grewal cops to crime: admits to CTV he solicited bribes

Alright it's Monday and I am back.

CTV is reporting this morning that Connie member of parliament Gurmant Grewal is saying two things about the supposed offer from the government related to his vote:

1. That he wanted to prove how low the Liberals would go so he endeavoured to entice someone into an influence scam; and,

2. That while he has FOUR hours of tapes, he has only released a few minutes worth of tape at the request of the Connie comms department.

Now then, ladies and gentlemen, we are starting to see some interesting aspects of this little escapade.

First of all, to set about to enduce someone into what is, by any definition, a criminal act, is a criminal act in and of itself.

This is in addition to his solicitation of a bribe - if you accept his version of the story.

Second, as stings go, the intention to prove that people are corrupt, usually undermines the whole concept of a sting operation. If you plan to see how low someone will go, where is the line between a sting operation and, say framing someone? Grewal had motive and intention in his actions. I'd say that makes him suspect.

Third, the rest of the tapes are relevant to the entire accusation. Keeping them secret suggests the story we are getting is only a teensy bit of the whole thing. Under the circumstances, I think Grewal and the Connie comms people are hiding relevant information. I don't really care what the rest of the tapes say: let's get them into the open and deal with the whole mess.

Fourth, if Grewal is found to be telling whopping great fibs, then he needs to be sacked.

Fifth, any Connie party officials in on this caper get the sack along with Grewal.

and here is the biggest one of all:

Six - I think the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have sufficient evidence to begin an investigation into the matter. We have one member of parliament who has admitted to contacting other members of parliament to discuss obtaining some form of reward in exchange for his vote in parliament. The CTV interview is a confession. Let's get at it, Mountie detectives.

Here's the exact quote straight from the interview: "I wanted Canadians to know how low this government can sink, making these offers to members of Parliament to buy out their votes." The words you are looking for are prime facie.

Grewal's motivation is not relevent at this stage.

Let the Queen's Cowboys sort that out.

I am thinking it will wind up in criminal court.

The person or persons in the dock will not be Liberals.

21 May 2005

Play your bit in building this blog

As a last little comment before I shuffle off to tend the garden and other such relaxing stuff, let's have a look at the readership of this blog for a bit, in light of the Top Canadian Blogs postings that have been taking place on this site and elsewhere.

The audience is comparatively small, but incredibly faithful, from what I can gather. They have been spreading the URL and it is always a surprise to bump into someone on the street who reads this stuff and comments on it. Every once in a while I get an e-mail from some place like Qatar or on the mainland from someone who stumbled across the site by accident.

Anyway, for the faithful out there, here's are some ideas I have been kicking around:

1. Next week, send an e-mail to someone on your contact list who you haven't already told about the Sir Robert Bond Papers but who might be interested in it.

After a week or so, I'll report back on any changes in my stats.

2. In the meantime, I have also been considering some Robert Bond merchandise or, to use another marvelous word, tchotchke.

I haven't got any definitive ideas, but this might be something to distinguish you out there as loyal readers of these scribbles.

I'll keep you posted as the ideas flow.

3. Send me an e-mail or gimme a call if there is a subject area you'd want me to have a go at. Is there something in the Bond Papers that I have forgotten to get back to or is there something you'd like to see. A little audience feedback on the Papers would be welcome.

Just remember to flip the URL to as many as you can.

And on that note, I am off to ponder the drizzle of a typical May 24th weekend.

Dump Harper old news

Paul Wells is linking to a piece in the Toronto Star that raises the idea there is a Dump Harper movement forming.

Members of the cabal are reputed to be David Orchard, Sinclair Stevens and David Asper.

Wells rightly dismisses this as sarcastically as he can, not because it is untrue but because it is not very surprising.

A couple of days ago, I offered up the link to Stevens' new website called Bloc-Harper. Orchard is the guy Peter MacKay, DDS screwed by dumping him for Stephen Harper.

As an aside, Peter is understandable distraught that he has been screwed and then dumped in the recent defection of Belinda Stronach. He whispered through an interview with Anthony Germaine on Saturday morning, obviously emphasizing the level of his emotional angst over Belinda. [Shades of Warren the K at Gomery - whisper for dramatic effect - but I digress even further.] Maybe Peter is concerned about the way he was screwed and then dumped as opposed to screwing by dumping. That's the only difference I can possibly see by examining Peter MacKay's relationship management history.


The Star piece is a penetrating insight into the obvious. The only thing mildly amusing is the reminder that Peter MacKay's Dad, with whom the erstwhile Connie dentist sought solace in Belinda's wake, was at the heart of the Dump Joe Clark movement in the early 1980s.

Enjoy the weekend. Unless something truly inspiring occurs, you humble scribbler will be taking some much deserved rest for a couple of days.

20 May 2005

Vickers Vimy on the way to recreate historic flight

Here's the link to the official website of the team planning to recreate the famous trans-Atlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown from St. John's to Ireland in 1919.

The Vimy left California yesterday and is due to arrive in St. John's around the first of June. Plans are to attempt the ocean crossing in the second or third week of June.

The only model kit I can find of the Vimy is this one, available only by special order from Eastern Express.

Friday Funny

No, I don't mean John Crosbie getting yet more national airtime to work out his peculiar view of history.

Someday, I'll reprint his ancien bon mots about Stephen Harper.


For Friday before the Great Newfoundland Shiver in the Woods, I thought I'd generate a Team Martin sign of my own.

The Connies and Warren the K are using the site it for their purposes.

Here's mine. I figure the skid marks on the lawn were made by the Connie election bus as everyone fought over who was driving.

Go make your own sign at this spot.

The Why Incision

Over the past few months, readers of The Sir Robert Bond Papers have been treated to jabs aimed at Conservative members of parliament (MP) Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn.

They have heard about cases of pinocchiosis inflicting one or the other and of both of them scoring zero on the Cred-o-Meter (r) on several occasions.

All fine, humourous and undoubtedly as annoying as those comments were to Hearn and Doyle supporters, they are rooted not so much in partisanship as in an acknowledgement of the fundamental gap between what these gentlemen have said in the past and what they have done in the present.

The entire Fair Deal for Newfoundland campaign to pressure Hearn and Doyle, the calls to call-in radio shows, all have their origins in the vocal chords of the two MP.

Here are some samples of what they said on the issue of the offshore revenue deal and how a member of parliament should vote:

"I'’m there to look after Newfoundland, and the six other MPs also, and if we’re not we shouldn’'t be there."

- – Loyola Hearn, July 4, 2004

"We're sent to do a job; we'll stand up for Newfoundland regardless of who's for us or who's against us."

- – Loyola Hearn, November 13, 2004

"Never again do I expect to see the members from our province in such a position of clout. It would be a terrible shame if that clout were squandered by not using it at all."

–- Norm Doyle, October 26, 2004

"Why can we not, just once, stand united for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? Why can we not, just once, stand on guard for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?"

–- Norm Doyle, October 26, 2004

These two gentlemen never hesitated for one second to conjure the spirits of nationalism and populism when they could be directed against their target: John Efford. They reveled in the damage the demons inflicted inflicted, making a very difficult issue intensely personal.

Mr. Hearn, in particular, proved that perceptions of him as a kind and decent fellow were utterly false. His deeply personal remarks, at times, were nothing short of scurrilous. They were hardly becoming of a former provincial cabinet minister, let alone a member of our national parliament and a potential federal cabinet minister in waiting.

It should be no surprise therefore that some people took delight in his predicament over bills C-43 and C-48. No surprise, therefore that the populist was hoist with his own petard.

The problem for Hearn and Doyle, however, is not a partisan one.

The tragedy of Doyle and Hearn is that they represent an old-fashioned approach to politics which has past. These men learned their politics in the 1960s and 1970s, practiced it through the Peckford insanity and then stumbled into Opposition in the 1990s. They slipped back behind the scenes only to re-emerge in the federal legislature where they sat largely unnoticed until recently.

Events of the past six months have shown both Doyle and Hearn to be mere relics of a style of politics that took voters for granted, that treated them as ignorant, that saw no problem with saying one thing and doing another.

Consider Hearn's recent post office nonsense.

Consider Hearn issuing a constituency flyer before the last election saying that Equalization clawbacks were contrary to the Atlantic Accord, while the clawbacks that existed were exactly the ones he voted to support in 1985.

Consider Hearn's attack on a fisheries matter in another jurisdiction that did not affect this province at all, yet was whipped into an Open Line Crisis. The ship in question, leased from a foreign owner was subsequently bought by the Canadian company thus giving the lie to Hearn's accusation that a Liberal government in Ottawa was letting foreigners take our fish.

Consider Hearn lately explaining how one bill must go through six stages before cash could flow (there are actually seven) taking upwards of a year while another bill could seemingly float magically through the same process in mere weeks.

Consider just within the past week, Hearn and Doyle flanking their Leader as he explained that they had developed a confidence two-step which, as Stephen Harper admitted, was merely a device to prevent Hearn and Doyle from being accused of voting against their province. This sham did not last to see the light of the next day.

Did they really think people were so gullible, so completely stupid?

To be fair, parliamentarians serve many masters with different interests. It is unreasonable to expect that they always side with their constituents, their party or their leader. Our democratic system is built on the expectation that parliamentarians will learn to balance the competing interests and ultimately exercise their best judgment on our behalf.

But here is where the modern democracy differs from the version that Hearn and Doyle practice. Modern democracy is a dialogue. Voters expect that politicians will speak frankly and reasonably. They expect to have discussion and disagreement. They expect that a politician will tell them what he or she plans to do and explain why in plain English.

The jibes to one side, the main reason why these electronic scribbles have poked at Hearn and Doyle is because they failed to measure up, not to their self-imposed standard of populist nonsense but to the baseline for modern democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hearn and Doyle had ample opportunity to state exactly what they were going to do on Thursday and explain why they thought it best for the country and the province. Let their Leader be hysterical and angry. Seasoned politicians can be strong-minded but relentless in their explanations.

What we got instead from Hearn and Doyle was spin - misrepresentations, half-truths and in some cases contradictory answers from one question to another.

What we got from Hearn and Doyle was weak through and through and relentless only to the extent they both regurgitated their talking points over and over.

Not once did they even pretend to hold an intelligent conversation with their constituents.

To make matters worse, Hearn in particular picked fights - needless fights - with Premier Williams. His "neophyte" crack, if said in the heat of the moment could have been easily forgiven with an apology. Instead, Hearn made the matter worse with further insults, backed, a few days ago by the ever-charming Mr. Harper. To his credit, the Premier displayed restraint when asked to reply.

Hearn and Doyle together persisted in their implausible positions to the point where even their own supporters in the provincial Tory caucus were openly talking of deserting them. Whatever shred of credibility they had even with the most stalwart of Tory supporters, must surely be stripped from them by now. As some have said, how can they go door to door with these guys and sincerely ask voters to support them?

Taken all together, it would be very surprising if either Hearn or Doyle survived to the next election.

Both Hearn and Doyle barely won their seats in the last election. Hearn, in particular, had counted on an easy win in a safe seat; instead he found that a neophyte came within a hair's breadth of defeating him. His weak position in the riding has grown steadily weaker since the last election and in the past several days, one can see that whatever pillars served as his support have been demolished with his own jawbone.

When they stood to vote against the federal government's budget, Hearn and Doyle were seen as voting against their own province and their own people. Neither Doyle nor Hearn bothered to explain themselves to the very people whose support they needed. They left that perception to become reality and it has been their undoing.

Norman Doyle and Loyola Hearn represent a style of politics long since mouldering in the ground.

It remains now for someone else to write the epitaph.

This has been merely a political autopsy.

Liveblog: Dead Man Talking on CBC

Hearn continues to spin despite being politically dead.

1. First person to raise the offshore revenues clawback problem in Ottawa 15 years ago (not 5):

Clyde Wells

2. First National Leader to reject the Williams proposal:

Stephen Harper

This guy is absolutely amazing.

Proven wrong again and again and again and he still sticks to the same spin.

19 May 2005

Two "C"s to thank

Two members of parliament deserve the thanks of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian for helping push forward the government's budget bill:

Chuck Cadman and Carolyn Parish. The Two "C"s.

The other two C's, Conservatives Hearn and Doyle abandoned their province to side with their own personal and party interests. They followed their master's orders.

The Midnight Shuffle about voting for one bill but against the other never survived the light of the next day as commentator after commentator explained that it was procedural gobbledy gook. It was a pack of nonsense and easily seen as such.

Finance minister Ralph Goodale explained the silliness of the Doyle Hearn two-step to Open Line audiences next day.

And if that wasn't good enough, Premier Danny Williams made it plain how he viewed it.

So bad was the Doyle/Hearn position that, as stated here several days ago, the two local Connies had even alienated their base of local workers. Local Progressive Conservative friends of the pair have said openly that they will have a hard time knocking on doors for Doyle and Hearn.

So thanks, Chuck and Carolyn. If Conservatives live to their word, they will back off their plans to topple the government. The budget will be passed and offshore revenue cash will flow by the end of the current session - in June. For the record that is at least a full year before Stephen Harper's personal best estimate of when he might have been able to deliver something following an election.

In the meantime, Doyle and Hearn have shown their true colours.

Not pink white and green as Hearn likes to pretend, nor the red, white, blue and gold of the current provincial flag.


Norm and Loyola are deepest of deep blue.

They are true Reformatories.

Voters will remember who delivered the offshore revenue money.

That's why Norm and Loyola are still running scared.

The sad state of politics and journalism...

in this country is revealed by the excessive attention on The National and elsewhere over the relationship between Belinda and Peter MacKay, DDS.

I'd hate to see Pete go through the breakup of a relationship that lasted longer than a handful of months. Get a grip, man.

As for the journalists, try doing a series of stories on shallowness among the country's scribbling class as revealed by the reporting on the Stronach business.

Jane Taber, for example, is starting to sound like Joan Rivers without the wittiness of that decidedly unfunny bauble-hawker.

18 May 2005

Sinc the Slasher - Crusading Tory

While leisurely scrolling through the raft of news release on Canada Newswire, I came across this curious thing about something called Bloc-Harper warning that Stronach's defection was the start of something big.

Anyway, here's the full release.

Then you can find your way to the full site here.

The domain is registered to one Sinclair Stevens, former cabinet minister in the Mulroney government who has been fighting relentless against the assimilation of the old Progressive Conservative Party by the Borg-like Reformers.

He is apparently going to have merchandise to flog.

While mainstream media will likely never cover something like this, its sheer quirkiness makes it perfect for the land o' blogs.

Unlike John Crosbie, Sinc's old cabinet mate, Stevens knows the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada is dead.

Meanwhile on Crap Talk...

John Crosbie, former gauleiter of Newfoundland, and Bill Rowe, former envelope chucker and perpetual crank, are engaged in a mutual massage-fest dissecting current goings on.

Crosbie talks about a signed contractual document namely the offshore deal and why it should be a separate bill like the Real Atlantic Accord.

Simple answer, since John's memory is failing, is that the Real Accord represented some major policies that affected federal legislative jurisdiction. The bill took two full years to get through the House and Senate.

The current document is merely authority to spend money and doesn't amend any other legislation, the Accord implementation act included. Including it within C-43 is the fastest way to get it done.

Meanwhile, since John said he never turned his back on this province, I draw your attention once more to the vicious comments Mr. Bumble...err... Mr. Crosbie made in the fall of 1990 when the provincial government asked him if they might have the revenue portions of the Accord changed. Check out here and look for "John Crosbie and hand-biting".

It took a Liberal government in Ottawa (Paul Martin as finance minister and then Paul Martin as PM) to help people who Mr. Crosbie considered to be ungrateful wretches biting the hand that fed them.

Oh by the way, JC is Atlantic co-chair of the Conservative Party campaign, not the Progressive Conservative Party campaign. The latter was killed off in the Reform take-over that spawned the Harper party currently in Opposition.

Now come to think about it, that would make this John Crosbie's third political party, not counting the work he did for the anti-Confederate movement in the National Referenda.

Now it all comes back to me. Crosbie bolted from the Liberal Party after failing to win the party leadership in 1968. He then joined the Tories, became a cabinet minister, and boosted the deficit and debt to then-record heights through spending including buying up the Upper Churchill project before rushing to Ottawa in 1976.

Then he tried for the Tory leadership and hung around long enough to be a successful, albeit cranky, cabinet minister.

To paraphrase one long-time acquaintance of the former gauleiter, Crosbie has wanted to be leader of everything he has ever been part of since the Boy Scouts.

Come to think of it, ambition plus floor crossing makes Mr. Crosbie eminently qualified to comment on Ms. Stronach's recent actions. The only problem for JC is that the bricks he chucked via Bill Rowe's new show Crap Talk are likely to rebound against the glass walls of Mr. Crosbie's current abode.

Guess Norm thinks I am effective, but won't pay me

Here's the CBC Radio online version of the story featuring Norman Doyle.

I was struck by one line in particular:

"Doyle blamed 'Liberal spin doctors' in St. John's for creating the impression that the Atlantic Accord will be wrecked if the government falls."

Mr. Doyle is rather specific about where these nefarious people - Liberal "spin doctors" - actually live. He says St. John's, not Ottawa or even Aurora-Newmarket.


Norm said St. John's.

Now, truthfully, I don't think for a moment Norm would stoop to calling me anything. I have no reason to believe he knows I am still alive.

I just thought the line was cute.

Where do I send the bill, Norm?

Meanwhile, the other beleaguered Connie incumbent in this province, one Norman Doyle told CBC Radio that the offshore deal is agreement between two governments and is therefore safe no matter what happens.

Regular readers will recognize two things:

1. The fact that this date (May 18) marks the very first time Doyle has said anything even vaguely like this about the offshore deal; and,

2. The stunning similarity between Doyle's new position and the one I posted here on Monday, May 16 under the title "Norm Doyle: Connie talking points change.

Here's a snippet - "In the meantime, the Connies - for some bizarre reason - have been consistently avoiding the most obvious position:

"The Accord is a deal between two governments. Whether we implement the current agreement or replace it with a much better deal - the Harper Equalization changes - a Conservative government will deliver for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Ok, Norm.

Where do I send the bill for my consulting services?

I may have put that comment out there in a public forum but if you used it, you'd better pay for it. Since you only used half the comment, I'll only charge you half my usual rate.

Hearn pinocchiosis reaches terminal stage

In comments on CBC radio today, Loyola Hearn said that he could not stand for spending outside the budgetary process.

He might want to tell us what that is.

The agreement with the New Democrats is obviously within the budgetary process since a bill authorizing the expenditure is currently before the Commons.

Mr. Hearn either doesn't understand how our system of government works or he simply says whatever comes into his head to justify his actions.

Harper's rolling thunder of (self-)destruction

Speaking at a scrum in Ottawa, Conservative leader Stephen Harper has confirmed that the Conservative Party will vote in favour of Bill C-43, the budget measure containing the offshore revenue. However, they will vote against the second measure, which includes the agreement with the New Democrats.

As a result, the government would fall if it lost the vote on bill C-48.

The vote for C-43 - and the offshore money - in that context would be completely disingenuous. This new caucus manouevre is a cynical attempt at political manipulation of the likes the Conservatives have resorted to repeatedly.

The Conservatives and economist Stephen Harper are mired in a technocrat's argument, talking endlessly about process, often doing so as if they had no idea what the process actually was. Their arguments about separate bills for the offshore passing quickly or the absurd idea that the budget for 2004 was only passed last week are cases in point.

None of those arguments resonate in the public. Voters are are only concerned about results. Conservatives have increasingly been talking in terms that only they can hear or care about.

For the past six weeks Harper's Conservatives have sustained a shrill strategy focused almost exclusively on pushing up Liberal "negatives" in polling. They have done nothing to boost their own "positives". This explains very easily the persistent problem the Conservatives have been having in translating their approach into any meaningful gain in opinions polls.

Their latest effort - the radio spots - just reinforce a screeching message that people other than Connie loyalists started tuning out weeks ago. They continue an unproductive approach that had already begun to alienate voters by the time the spots hit the air.

Conservative references to mafioso and Liberals in the same breath are are part of same dog-whistling approach that appeals only to their own hard-core members. It does nothing to draw new supporters. In fact, it alienates a great many people the Connies would need to win.

Last week's antics in the Commons were seen by many as the childish tactics of those bent merely on destroying the Liberals, rather than presenting themselves as an alternative. The approach actually reinforced negative attitudes toward Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. It was a clear case of a series of self-inflicted wounds.

While national pundits could easily predict we will head to the polls if Harper has his way, what they consistently miss is that the Conservatives are stuck in the mud. Andrew Coyne's comments on the eastern edition of The National were a case of whistling past the political graveyard. The Connies, said Coyne, were building up in the polls from where they finished the last election. The problem Coyne avoided was that over the past few weeks, the Connies have been yo-yoing up and down. They are not on the way up.

For a party which has been engaged in an incestuous conversation with itself, today's defection by Belinda Stronach has produced even more damage, again, much of it self-inflicted.

Belinda Stronach's defection today highlighted all the worst things from the Conservative perspective:

- Obvious internal divisions over policy, reputed to be fairly significant, between the Reform wing and the Progressive Conservative wing.

- Internal leadership challenges and hence heightened speculation that Harper's push to the polls was motivated by self-preservation. Harper's comment to his wife said more about his own nervousness than about Belinda's overweaning desire.

- Harper's predictable reaction to the defection - as noted in Minister Stronach - was negative and at times catty and sexist. In every respect, the Conservative reaction to l'affaire Stronach pushed potential middle-of-the-road voters away from them. Sexist references by everyone from Harper on down reinforce the suspicion in the minds of many voters that the Connies are either not ready or not fit to govern or, worse, that they have a hidden agenda just waiting to be implemented.

- Stronach's defection was worth at least a five point boost in the polls for the Conservatives. With their margins close across the country and with their recent Ontario numbers looking dismal, going to the polls would be a case of political suicide.

- Expect the attacks on Stronach, like this one, or this one, or this one, to boost her worth by another five points. Consider, as well, these comments by a western Conservative who stops an inch short of calling Stronach a dumb blonde. This man is cabinet material?

The twisting approach - vote for C-43//vote against the NDP agreement portions - will only further damage Conservative credibility. It will be seen as a cynical and transparent effort to play games with matters that are fundamentally important to people. Stephen Harper is so genuinely concerned with what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians think that he will lie to their faces about what he is actually doing, let alone about what his intentions are. Stephen Harper the anti-democrat, the elitist, the sexist shines through his every word.

One need not take my word for it. As CTV is reporting, Harper wasted no time in his scrum announcing the budget two-step to lash out, as CTV puts it, at the Progressive Conservavtive premier Danny Williams. The budget dance may fool some of the provincial Conservavtives but the ongoing war of words with the Premier will suppress local party workers on whom both Doyle and Hearn will depend to vote for them and to get out their vote. For a man who won his seat by the thinest of margins, Loyola Hearn cannot afford to be alienating any more provincial Tories. [Note: If you missed David Cochrane's report this morning, here's a link to the full Harpoer scrum. It requires Windows Media Player.]

Doyle and Hearn have stood with their leader, but increasingly one must wonder what they are standing for. It surely is not the best interests of the country, let alone the province. Surely, they cannot seriously contend that Stephen Harper is the very best this country can produce to be prime minister at this time.

Pushing the country into an election the people of the country don't want was never a smart idea. It reflects the belief that politics is a game and that term has been bandied about with too much regularity lately by Conservatives. Politics as a game is explicit in Harper's reliance on game theorists to develop strategy. It is further evidence that they are fundamentally out of touch with the majority of Canadians.

The Conservatives may succeed in forcing an election now, after all that has occurred, and after doing a quick zig-zag for part of the budget and against part of it. One can only expect that the united right experiment will fly apart under the strains of running an election at full throttle. Debris will be scattered over a far greater area than an incoming Titan missile on the Grand Banks.

It will not be a pretty sight.

The rolling thunder you hear will be the disintegration of a political party glued together in an effort to gain power in Ottawa. The glue of individual ambition grows quickly brittle.

The Conservative party will have fallen apart as a result of a strategic approach as fundamentally unsound as the one used to develop the original Rolling Thunder.

Neither war nor politics is a game.

Stephen Harper defends Doyle and Hearn

Stephen Harper from his post-caucus scrum:

"What is the next thing [after passing the budget]? We are going to be asked to have a bunch of mafia people working for the government because it might get Danny Williams money a couple of weeks earlier?"

The effectiveness of the recent campaign by Fair Deal for Newfoundland can be seen by the presence of Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn on either side of Stephen Harper during the scrum. These guys have likely never been under such intense political pressure in their long political lives.

Neither Doyle nor Hearn looked very happy.

Guess what? This little budget fiddle won't ease the pressure at all.

More to the point, Harper's stupid remarks aimed at Danny Williams will actually ramp up the pressure on the lone Conservatives on the island portion of the province.

Incidentally, in French, Harper said that this plan was the Consewrvative attention all along. They kept it secret for undisclosed tactical reasons. Maybe their constituency offices needed practice handling gajillions of e-mails. Maybe Loyola and Norm don't sweat enough.

In English, Harper said this approach would prevent Liberals from saying that the Conservatives had voted against the provisions of Bill C-43. This is at odds with statements made by Conservatives, including Stephen Harper, over the past two weeks that they opposed the government and the budget.

Apparently, Harper is prepared to vote against C-48 which contains money for children and students, but in favour of money for children and seniors because C-43 conforms to the Conservative Party principles. That sounds to me like a convenient bit of spin as the Connies focus on process and tactical navigation rather than strategic thought.

17 May 2005

Minister Stronach - (updated)

In light of the move by Belinda Stronach to cross the floor and sit with the government, it is interesting to look more closely at the cracks appearing in the Conservative Party. [Update: Links added]

Update: For those who not know what Belinda looks like, here's a shot from Greg Locke's blog. Greg shot Belinda on several occasions for different publications and I wish he'd create a page of the shots. Notice the guy to the right in this one.

The Lampoon this morning caused Connie hearts to skip a beat with the possibility that Doyle and Hearn might cave under political pressure and vote for the budget.

Update II: Don't count on it. Loyola is doing the usual talking points on CBC Radio, calling the prime minister's comments "down-right lies". I'll leave it to you to judge who is saying things that aren't true. Loyola knows full well that if the government is defeated before any bill gets to the Royal Assent stage - stand-alone or budget - the offshore bill won't get passed and no money flows to the province until a bill is passed.

Update III: The Conservative House Leader is confident all his members will vote against the budget bill(s). The local boys are just being cagey.

Original post resumes: Now the woman reputedly involved romantically with the Connie deputy leader has abandoned the good ship Connie-pop. This cannot be good for Peter MacKay DDS, on any level.

The likely response of the Harperites (the Reformers in the party) will be to look more closely at the former Progressive Conservatives in their midst. Every word will be dissected for signs of disloyalty. There will be no room for dissent.

Therefore, the impact of Stronach's departure from the Connie ranks will be determined solely by the Connie/Harper response.

Criticize her as a self-interested whore - to use a popular Connie phrase - and, well, predictably her stock will go up and the Harper stock will, at least, not rise. Magnanimity is a sign of a leader. Meanspirited vindictiveness looks like the mark of a very small individual.

If the Connies pull the reigns tighter, then dissident members may well decide to join Belinda, not because they want to but because they are not being welcomed.

The situation for local Connies Doyle and Hearn just got much worse.

As national caucus chairman, the Harperites will be looking to Doyle to toe the line; he will need to be more zealously anti-Liberal than ever before. He cannot vote with the government on the budget without risking being pushed from caucus.

For Hearn, one of the architects of the Unite the Right experiment, the situation is equally dark. To buck the Harperites invites sanction. He has nowhere else to go. To buck the Harperites and open the division suggests that maybe his earlier action on bringing MacKay and Harper together was a mistake.

Politically, they cannot vote against their party and expect to move forward in glory as future Connie cabinet ministers.

Politically, they cannot buck the party line and expect to get re-elected. Over 13, 000 e-mails in a three day span and countless hours of Open Line and other media scrutiny is obviously causing the pair great difficulty.

Having insisted they are voting to bring down the government, they cannot suddenly switch positions and vote for the budget without damaging their credibility. The fact that Hearn and Doyle can argue any side of anything at any time really doesn't endear them to their constituents beyond the hard-core of the local Connie team.

If Hearn suddenly switches his vote - for the third time by my count, we have yet one more example of where Hearn said something emphatically that turned out not to be true.

Politics is always an entertaining sport to watch or to play.

Today's' events prove that to a tee.

John Crosbie - some background

As I headed off to work this morning, I caught the former imperial Tory governor of Newfoundland - one John Crosbie - defending the Connie cause by attacking Liberals.

Here are a couple of observations, since Mr. Crosbie found it necessary to blame the Liberals for the whole offshore mess.
1. John Crosbie negotiated and signed the original offshore deal in 1985 complete with the clawback - by one assessment - of 97% of offshore revenues through the Equalization program. [I am merely presenting the situation as Crosbie himself would have to admit it, given that he now believes in clawbacks.]

As provincial cabinet ministers, Loyola Hearn and Norm Doyle supported 97% clawbacks, too incidentally.

2. In 1990, Crosbie savagely opposed any changes to the clawback, arguing the provincial government was biting the hand that fed it.

3. In 1993/94, then-finance minister Paul Martin improved the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore revenues by changes to the Equalization protection offered.

4. In January 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin accepted the provincial government's proposal for changes to the offshore Accord as the basis for discussions.

5. In January 2005, Prime Minister Martin reached an agreement on behalf of the Government of Canada with Premier Danny Williams on offshore revenues.

John Crosbie might want to look at the record objectively before he starts spouting off.

He has a lot to answer for in the dock of historical judgment.

Doyle and Hearn caving?

The National Lampoon is reporting this morning that Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn are now waivering in their commitment to the Harper cause.

Here's the link to check out the story.

Wait 'til they hear the radio spots.

I can bet though that they won't be as negative as the Connie ones.

When will these guys learn that American style Connie anger just won't play well in Canada? Already the Connies have had to abandon their spoiled child tactics from last week.

Now they are trying radio spots.


So they have been pounding their messaging for something like six weeks now and as far as I can tell, every single national pollster is reporting that Harper's personal numbers haven't moved. Ontario is back in the Liberal camp and overall, the numbers are too close to call.

Here's a clue for the game theory dweebs Harper is relying on.

Politics is not game theory or economics.

It isn't Alice in flippin' Wonderland where a word shall mean what I want it to mean.

Winning means winning.

It is not, as the Connie "strategists" seem to think a case of merely making the other guy lose.

The result of goof-ball strategising by game theory dweebs has led to six weeks of utter political paralysis and all for nothing.

This is politics by the guys who brought you Vietnam.

Oh yeah.

Let's base our strategy on the losers.

USCGS Eagle - background

It has been nice neeing the United States Coast Guard Ship Eagle in port again. She visits here periodically although this time, there is a bit of a cloud with the accident at sea that injured four of her crew.

Nonetheless, it might be interesting to see some background on the Eagle.

Here's a link to the official profile.

The Eagle was war booty and represents rehabilitating a ship named after a Nazi thug and turning it into a proud vessel which is a fine symbol of one of the best natioanl coast guards in the world.

16 May 2005

Harper's motivation?

One of the persistent rumours floating across the country is that Stephen Harper is pushing an election out of fear that others are eyeing his seat as Leader Opp. After all isn't' this going to be his fourth or fifth kick at the election cat?

Take a gander at this little link to The Hill Times, courtesy of Bourque Newswatch.

Maybe the rumours are true.

Conservative supporters in Newfoundland play name that tune

Interesting to see a couple of Newfoundland Connies who keep blogs - namely Damian Penny and Barry Stagg - agree that voting for the federal budget and the offshore money is a case of being bought off. Or being welfare bums.

At least, they seldom use the word "explosive" or "whore" as most Connies seem to do. Maybe one day there will be a dog-whistle breakdown and these guys will run around calling everyone an explosive whore. I shudder to think what that would involve.

Back to the point, this is a complete turn-around for two individuals who last year were hammering away at the federal government to fork over cash to the province.

Here's a link to Penny's blog and here's a link to some comments by the transplanted Tory, Stagg. Read'em for yourself.

Barry Stagg is particularly adept at tossing around the anger words that seem to motivate Conservatives.

Stagg even seems to find Margaret Wente's views to be appealing:

"The Fair Deal For Newfoundland web site reveals a sorry tendency to traffic in welfarism by backing the Liberal nastiness."

That's from his own blog, "The Boswarlos Daily".

Norm Doyle: Connie talking points changed

Talk about holding two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time.

Norm Doyle told Peter Gullage of CBC Radio that if the budget passes the feds can't flow money right away to the province because of the lengthy process involved in passing federal legislation.

This contradicts the Connie talking point - up to now - that if the deal was done as separate legislation, the money could flow quickly.

Then, in another classic case of pot and kettle, Doyle accuses John Efford and others of "telling fibs".

As my daughter used to say when she first started talking: "Oh deeuh".

In the meantime, the Connies - for some bizarre reason - have been consistently avoiding the most obvious position.

"The Accord is a deal between two governments. Whether we implement the current agreement or replace it with a much better deal - the Harper Equalization changes - a Conservative government will deliver for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I think they are avoiding because it simply isn't the Harper/Connie plan for the offshore deal.

Are Norm and Loyola telling lies? Nope. That assumes a level of malice I just won't say without proof. There is no proof and - contrary to what Connie partisans have been saying elsewhere - I think both Norm and Loyola are decent guys trying to do the best they can.

I think they are sticking to a line because that's all they have. They know some of the things they say aren't true, but Leader Harper just has his own ideas and his own agenda.

What a hideous place to be in for any politician, let alone the two guys who played up patriotism as a way to hammer away at federal Liberal politicians from this province.

Go look up the word petard and the associated quote about being hoist by one's own clever device.

I just keep thinking the real issue here will be how high will these two gentlemen be hoist, or worse, how big will be the hole into which they might fall at the polls.

Cry havoc! And let loose from their nylon restraining devices the moderately-sized canines of annoyance

Guess what?

The offshore revenue issue is back with a vengeance.

When this site started I could count on a big spike in hits - people visiting the site - whenever there was something controversial on a given day or if people were really hungry for some background detail.

As I started posting at the Fair Deal site and some other bloggers started linking to me, I could see more people paying a visit.

Well, they're back.

Normally weekend hits drop by more than 40% whether I post or not.

Yesterday - Day Two of the renewed Fair Deal campaign brought me more hits on Sunday than I got on Friday, normally a busy day. My hit counter looks like a saw.

Oh well.

Once more into the breech dear friends.