31 December 2005

Blowing the whistle on Kathy Tomlinson

The CTV Whistleblower should be turning her reporting on her own news organization.

Heck, given her posting to the CTV election website, she should blow the whistle on herself for crap reporting.

The sum total of her talking to people on Bay Street amounts to this:

A bunch of people got e-mails, some as late as 5 PM saying there would be an announcement by Goodale that day.

She fails to mention three relevant facts:

1. She has NO evidence that anyone knew any - not just some, but any - details of the announcement. Insider trading requires advance knowledge of the content of an announcement. Having access to information which is generally available (see below) doesn't count. It isn't a crime to be well informed.

In fact the only way anyone could have done anything wrong here is if there was a leak of the details of the announcement. That's because...

2. A story from the Globe and Mail the morning of the Goodale announcement covered the fact there would be an announcement by Goodale that day. No one had any details. They just knew something was coming. Smart people figured it out. I bet there were others who bet the farm the other way. Don't counting on Kathy reporting the dorks who lost their shirt that day.

3. The media would have been alerted to a newser at around the same time as many of these e-mails she mentions. Taken to its logical conclusion, in future, public relations people will have to stop handing advance notice of newsers in order to prevent accusations of handing out inside information, or the days of the newser are over. Everything will be pumped out by release and reporters will have to hope they can get something to cover in time for their deadlines.

Everything else include in Kathy's whistleblowing amounts to blowing smoke instead.

If she wanted to make her mark on Canadian journalism, Kathy Tomlinson would report facts.

Peter Goldring: send kids to military jail and Newfoundland "an economy in disarray"

Bouquets of Gray has been waging a campaign outing Conservative candidate Peter Goldring's campaign manager as an Alberta separatist.

Don't expect to see Pierre Bourque or real news media trumpeting this one, but Paul Wells at least has taken up covering the story.

And Bouquets of Gray can claim credit for getting Goldring's campaign manager, Gordon Stamp, turfed. As CTV reports: *Gordon Stamp, who posts under the pseudonym "Psycho," wrote on Free Dominion: "I honestly see no benefit for Alberta to remain part of Canada. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing that Canada as a nation offers me."

He goes on to compare Alberta to "a battered wife who has not yet realized that being divorced is better than staying married." While he allows that the statement could be politically incorrect, he writes "that's how I feel."*

Well done, Gray.

In the meantime, flip over and check out Stamp's own postings to the freedominion.ca website. Stamp had all sorts of interesting things to say.

For example, he agrees with his wife 99% of the time because he sleeps with her, but if he found a candidate like Goldring, whom he agrees with 90% of the time, he's doing pretty good.

Stamp complains about being outed by a fellow who asked a question without disclosing he's a Liberal supporter. Stamp writes: "Honesty and integrity are NOT Liberal traits." Apparently, the psycho-guy never heard of Grewal, Anders or any of the misogynistic "Belinda the whore" brigade.

Incidentally, Goldring is a tireless campaigner against equal marriage. Check petergoldring.ca for that stuff. He also wants to send young gun offenders to the military detention barracks at Edmonton. Knowing something about that military prison, the idea caused my eyebrows to raise just a tad.

On the upside, Goldring wants to have the Turks and Caicos islands join Canada, apparently because they offer a secure retirement spot in the sun for snowbirds.

On the downside, Goldring displayed his ignorance of Newfoundland and Labrador in a 2004 interview with the Sun chain. Comparing the Turks and Caicos to this province, Goldring said:"No, no, no...There isn't the same question of an economy in disarray (like 1949 Newfoundland). The Turks and Caicos would quickly become a 'have' province."

Maybe Liam O'Brien could sort this guy out.

30 December 2005

Going negative - heading for the gutter

Despite all the predictions that the Liberal Party would be running negative campaign ads, it looks like the Conservatives are the first off the mark.

It's pretty slick by Connie standards, but it fits with their bitter, angry and personally negative campaign.

The gyst of the thing is this: "If you are a crook and a slimeball, how else can you campaign but by going negative?"

The noise you hear is the Connie strategy team coughing uncomfortably. Will their message boomerang?

There's an art to the negative and given that the Liberals haven't run a single negative telvision spot, this Connie one looks just a tad out of place.

Remember the word, boys: dezinformatsiya.

Not every "leak" is a real leak.


[via Calgary Grit]

Signs of fundamental change

As someone who has been around the Liberal Party of Canada in one capacity or another for a while, I find it odd that something seems to have escaped most people.

Like the Conservatives, for example, who are actually campaigning against Jean Chretien.

The Liberal Party under Paul Martin is not the Liberal Party of even three or four years ago.

In fact, there are two perfect examples of just how much has changed.

Two of Mr. Chretien's staunchest supporters - Sheila Copps and Warren Kinsella - are working to defeat the Liberals in this election and, in the case of Ms. Copps, providing strategic advice to a Conservative candidate.

What better evidence can one find that the Liberal Party has changed at its most basic level than that these two have decided to back other political parties, either directly or indirectly?

I say to you: the facts speak for themselves.

Two wrongs...

A check of the hit meter today revealed a surprising number of links from Conservative bloggers.

They didn't like the cheapening of Canadian politics post from earlier. In one instance, there was a mention of Warren Kinsella (and his purple dinosaur, no doubt) and, of course, Jean Chretien.

It's flattering to get noticed by the BlueBloggers, even if it generates the sort of e-mails that have been coming my way today; you know the ones that start out by insulting my intelligence for supporting another political party than the obviously correct blue one. In fact, to date, I have yet to receive a single e-mail from a Conservative supporter that didn't simply slag me personally.

Ad hominem attacks are no substitute for thought, but if that is all that is brought to the table of ideas, then we shall have a truly poor feast

More to the point though, I should make it clear: the cheapening of politics in this country didn't happen overnight. Waving around purple dinosaurs and lampooning a man's spiritual beliefs is no basis for informed public discourse.

However, two wrongs don't make a right, to borrow a hoary but accurate cliche.

One of things we have seen in the first half of this election campaign is a discussion of policy issues, largely separate from the sort of political stunts that pass for thought. What made Scott Reid's comments or Mike Klander's idiocy stand out is that they are two blips on an otherwise blank screen. In another campaign, say the ones most Conservatives might point to, these remarks would have been seen as amateurish and mild.

While it is fair game to tackle an opponent's comments and arguments, the sort of personal smear embodied in the Barney episode is just plain wrong.

So too were the anti-Chretien television spots foisted in 1993 by a Conservative party that was bereft of just about everything, including some shred of propriety.

What have seen in the past few days, however, is a return to the sort of unsubstantiated and excessive rhetorical attacks that further debase our political process. It started with Jason Kenney, but after a few days, mercifully, he vanished from the radar screen.

What is worse in the past couple of days, however, is that the verbal grenades are being tossed by a party leader, who presumably, would do things differently. I know full well Stephen Harper never specifically promised to be better; he just said despise the other guys.

But, there is a reasonable implication from all that he has said that somehow a Conservative administration would be better.

It isn't just enough to say the words. The words must be backed by deeds.

Unfortunately, the deeds have been sadly lacking, not just in this campaign but for the past 18 months. It is sadly too easy to rattle off the list of slimey personal attacks that have been visited on Liberals of Italian origin, a former Conservative who crossed the floor, or indeed, me personally by at least one local Conservative supporter.

Hence, my comment that no matter which party wins the next election, the fruits of the past two years or more and indeed the fruits of the past two days will be a parliament that is characterized by political animosity of the kind we have not seen in Canada for decades.

Surely, as Canadians, we can all decry the likelihood of this situation.

Surely, as Canadians, we can appreciate that if we slavishly follow the Old Testament dictum and pluck out an eye for an eye, it will not be too long before we are all blind.

The educational value of crap reporting

CTV meanwhile is providing an example of the sort of reporting that my public relations students can expect to see from even a good news organization when something other than fact is driving a story: shoddy research, half-baked presentation and relevant details buried.

This story purports to have copies of e-mail providing there was insider trading.

It has nothing other than confirmation people knew an announcement was coming. There's no sign they had details: that's what counts as evidence.

Meanwhile, CTV did report this relevant bit of information, namely that there was actually a lot of speculation in the trading but no sign of anything criminal.

But don't expect to see Tim Cadwell, securities expert, quoted very much, expecially in the expert "commentaries" plastered all over NewsNet and the national news:

Cadwell's analysis simply contradicts where the herd thinks. it's more important to fit in than to be right.

All of this has been in the public domain before.

All of it.

The only thing that has restarted the story is confirmation the police are checking everything.

There is still no proof of anything.

Unlike the guy who bugged his telephone calls and then leaked information in bits and pieces along with bogus translations.

Backed by his boss and his boss' staff in the deliberate deception.

RCMP trust probe could go anywhere

The Globe's story this morning, that the RCMP trust probe could investigate the Prime Minister's office is the kind of misleading reporting worthy of Berk Bourque that give journalists a bad name.

Truth is that the RCMP probe could go anywhere it needs to go: the offices of the Globe; Jason Kenney's teddy bear; the forensic trading accountant dude everyone is quoting; my grandmother's basement.

There's no reason to single out the PMO. The story is a selective reporting of facts to make the story appear to be something it isn't.

Meanwhile, CBC television's political panel featured a few people not friendly to liberals ever, intoning somberly that everyone Liberal is doomed. Sorry Chantal Hebert and Andrew Coyne, most of your comments, including the bits about ministers stepping aside were based on something other than fact.

A fair assessment would have noted that the closest parallel here is with Michael Wilson. He didn't resign over a budget leak since he was not implicated in it in any way.

By the same token, while everyone including Berkue are pointing at Judy Sgro, remember this: she was pilloried, forced to resign and was later exonerated.

Where are the political and journalistic mea culpas over that one?

Oh yeah.

I forgot.

Admitting publicly to a mistake is a sign of character that is sadly missing from too many people these days.

It's another reason why politics is cheapened and the nation lessened.

Right up there with overzealous political attacks and crap reporting.

29 December 2005

The cheapening of politics, the lessening of the nation

No matter which party wins the next election, we can expect the next sessions of the Commons to be characterized by vicious political battles of a kind rarely seen in Canada, let alone any place that can call itself civilized.

The reason is simple.

In politics as in life, what goes around, comes around.

The major difference is that in politics, the world is small so as it goes around, it picks speed.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have launched an investigation into the possibility that information on a government policy was leaked to certain individuals who profited by their inside information.

The police actions are prudent. They are doing exactly what we would expect police to do.

That said, the police caution in the matter is also prudent - there is no evidence of any criminal action by anyone.

There may never be.

Yet if you listen to the savage rhetoric of both major opposition parties, one of the most decent and honourable of men, namely Ralph Goodale, should be nailed to a cross and tortured for his supposed sins.

What crime has he committed? None.

Is he accused of any impropriety? Not even Jason Kenney in his wildest delusions has linked the federal finance minister to any wrongful actions.

Jack Layton calls for the minister to step aside while the investigation proceeds. He claims there are hundreds of precedents, yet when pressed by reporters could not name a single one.

There are none.

Having worked for one of the most scrupulously honest politicians in recent memory, I learned first hand what a genuinely fair approach to this sort of issue is. It would do others to ask a simple question, based on the few examples of alleged impropriety during the Wells administration: what would Clyde have done?

The answer in this instance is likely that he would have stood by his minister, against whom no allegations have been made. Wells did relieve ministers of their duties either temporarily or permanently, however in each instance there was a valid reason. In cases where ministers were relieved, either he or she was directly involved in the alleged infraction. In one instance, a minister remained in cabinet but was relieved of departmental responsibilities as justice minister and attorney general solely because there was the potential that some interference in the police investigation might be alleged. Such was his high standard of public integrity that even the potential of an allegation, no matter how baseless was cause for action.

In Goodale's case, none of these criteria can be applied. Hence, he should stay in place.

The answer is that Wells would ensure that the police are clearly charged to get to the bottom of the matter and report fully. There is no prospect of political interference in the current matter since the administration of criminal justice falls to the provincial solicitor general, not the federal one. Mr. Harper has already displayed his profound ignorance of Canadian criminal law during this election, but that is another subject for another time.

The answer is also that Wells would have given both Jack Layton and Stephen Harper a tongue lashing for cheapening politics with their excessive and abusive rhetoric.

No matter what the outcome of this matter, it is hard to excuse Layton and Harper for their crudities. The cynical Conservatives, angry and as bitter as they are, are likely relishing the chance to get to power by whatever means possible. Invention and gross distortion are legitimate means to an end in some minds; they are hardly appropriate in a political party seeking to govern a country.

Evidence from elsewhere shows that focusing so relentlessly on negative issues - pounding incessantly on allegations that politicians are criminals - only serves to diminish the view Canadians hold of politicians generally. Again, the cynical political operative would not care since the voters staying home in this case will mostly be Liberals and New Democrats. The hard-core, the committed Conservatives will flock to the polls.

Yet in the longer run, the Conservative (and New Democrat) approach to the matter of integrity in politics is ultimately a self-defeating one. On the one hand, they will engender ever deeper cynicism and distrust among the electorate already grown weary of shenanigans. Each misrepresentation, each distortion serves to undermine public confidence in the entire political system even more. It is a political system of which they, themselves, are an integral part.

When Mr. Harper accuses all Liberals of being criminals, he is perchance a few scant years away from a closet full of Guccis and rumours of a secret deal to buy foreign passenger planes.

On the other hand, the Conservatives have crafted for the Liberals a rod with which to beat every Conservative back all the time. Their actions have destroyed any prospect that the next parliament could be one in which integrity, civility and maturity will prevail. Expect that even the slightest misstep by a Conservative member of parliament will be an excuse to pile on. Decent and honourable men and women will be crushed without mercy, along with the truly guilty, just as the Conservatives are now slicing into Ralph Goodale. No allegation will be too outlandish. The Conservatives have set the bar and they have set it exceedingly low.

Nor will things be better in parliament if the liberals or New Democrats win. If the Conservatives lose this next election, we can only expect that their rhetoric, their verbal butchery will intensify.

No matter what the outcome of this election, the next parliament will make the Rat Pack and Tequila Sheila look like kindergarten antics.

Of course, were any of the Conservatives slurs about Gomery and Goodale even vaguely true, Liberals would be the first to agree with them.

Reid was publicly criticized for his silly remarks. Klander was denounced quickly, and as I have said elsewhere, one need only look at the number of Liberal bloggers who have criticized Liberal errors to see a functioning political party in which there is discussion and debate. There is a readiness to disown that which cannot be defended.

Flip to the Conservative blogger world and you will see bile and invective for Liberals, yet no sense of proportion or introspection for the Rob Anders of their party or the "Belinda the whore" brigade of misogynists who crawled over each other to see who could make the most hateful of comments.

There is no recollection of the Conservative Party operatives who engaged in extortion during the Mulroney regime and who were suitably condemned to prison for their crimes.

On the one side - the Liberal - we have seen corrective action and apology. On the Conservative side we find only silence, or worse still, churlish drools at the prospect of occupying government offices.

The allegations about Goodale and Gomery are not even remotely true, however.

And so Liberals across the country will bitterly resent the cheapening of politics we have seen from Conservative and, to only a slightly lesser extent, from New Democrats.

What has lessened the nation is not the actions of a handful in the case of the sponsorship mess or the possibility - not probability, but possibility - that someone committed a crime in the case of the income trust issue.

Rather what has lessened the nation, what has further debased political life in Canada, is the campaign of exaggeration and slander being mounted by the Conservatives and their associates.

Canadians should be saddened that our national political dialogue has been reduced to such vindictiveness.

We shall all pay a price for it in the very near future.

Layton meets his match

Despite efforts to turn yet another Liberal blog comment into some thing hideous, this time I suspect Jack Layton won't be able to play the ethnic slur card quite as easily as with the buffoonish Mike Klander.

Bourque the berk was playing this story up late yesterday and so is CTV.

But read the CTv story about industry minister Mike Emerson, referring to Jack Layton's insincere smile as being a boiled dog's head smile.

While Dippers are expressing outrage, turns out that Emerson's wife was born in Hong Kong and, as one might expect., tends to use Chinese idiomatic expressions in both her spoken Chinese and her English.

"Boiled dog's head smile" is apparently a translation of a Chinese remark about someone's insincerity.

Dippers said the remark is typical of Liberal arrogance. They didn't explain how. Seems that the word "arrogance" just comes up with the Dipper talking points and must get used a lot, irrespective of the context.

At some point today, some Dipper or Connie will claim this comment is related to the culture of entitlement. Again they won't explain how.

Meanwhile, Stephen Taylor is busily working on his next blog entry: how this statement is example of yet another Liberal conspiracy.

For the record, the last comment in the CTV story needs correction or clarification. Bourque claims to be the Canadian version of Matt Drudge. He isn't. On any given day, The Drudge Report highlights news stories from across the United States that while they are embarrassing are not skewed or slanted.

Bourque hammers Liberals. Every day. Repeatedly. And only Liberals. He sticks misleading headlines as links to stories from other places.

Drudge is an equal opportunity slagger.

Bourque just slags.

28 December 2005

Harper Christmas campaign: "Battalions for Everyone" continues

Campaigning during the Christmas season in British Columbia, Stephen Harper added to the number of infantry battalions he is promising to create once elected.

Yesterday, the number was three. Until Steve got to BC. Then the people of Comox discovered they'd be home to a new battalion of 650 soldiers. That makes at least four new battalions being promised across the country despite the fact the army can't support any manpower beyond the existing battalions plus one new one already being set up in Petawawa.

Harper is also promising to create new reserve units consisting of 100 regular soldiers and upwards of 400 reservists. These are to be set up in major centres like Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto to tackle natural disasters. Harper used the Toronto shootings for political purposes but stopped short of saying his Toronto composite unit will tackle urban gun violence.

Wait for it, though.

Harper also revealed his fundamental ignorance of military deployments and Canadian geography, saying:

"Canada's military capacity in this region has been allowed to age and deteriorate... British Columbia, which is in an earthquake zone, is now the only region of the country without a regular army presence."

No points there, Steve, at least if you think B.C. is a region but Newfoundland and Labrador is merely part of Atlantic Canada.

Taken altogether, Harper's defence announcement is yet further proof of two things:

- the most cynical vote buying attempt from a political party in decades; and,

- the complete inability of news media to subject Harper's announcements to any form of critical scrutiny. Perhaps they have been intimidated by the relentless Connie criticisms of the supposed bias in mainstream media.

27 December 2005

What is so important here?

There's a great scene in A bridge too far where a German general at Arhem wonders what is so important that thousands of British paratroops are dropping from the sky to capture?

Completely ignoring the bridge that would open the drive into Germany, Walter Model immediately concludes the paratroops are coming to capture him.

Stephen Harper better be careful.

Talk of deploying all sorts of new rapid-reaction, airborne battalions to Trenton and Goose Bay in addition to the one in Ottawa may start people wondering what he is really up to.

After all, the Arctic just isn't under threat and the entire crowd of people living up there are hardly likely to mount a separatist campaign. The Danes aren't about to come streaming across from Greenland.

So what gives?

It could just be crass electioneering. That's my bet.

But a conspiratorial mind, like say the kind of mindset that comes from the Conservative Party's blogging community, might lead one to dig out a book from the 1980s by retired General Dan Loomis. While there wouldn't be more glory now than there was before, the three rapid reaction battalions, in addition to the one already stationed in New Brunswick seem poised to look inward rather than outward.

That is, if the Charest government falls at the next provincial election.

Conspiracies are wonderful things to muse about but at least when they are offered here, my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek.

Of course, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be worthwhile pondering Mr. Harper's real intentions.

Battalions for everyone!

Paul Wells heard from an anonymous Conservative source that the Conservatives still plan to stick to their commitment to Goose Bay from last May.

Apparently, the "Promise 'em Anything" tour still plans to announce a rapid reaction battalion for Goose Bay. And yes it is suspiciously similar to the rapid reaction "airborne" battalion promised to Trenton Ontario before Christmas.

The Connie war room has been keeping some local reporters here at bay with the same promises of a battalion in every town needing some infusion of federal cash.

Take it at face value and it seems that the Conservatives expect Northern Canada to be a hotbed of insurrection and invasion, what with the two battalions it will need for "rapid reaction." That's two on top of the one General Rick Hillier is creating to fight instability in parts of the world that are actually unstable.


Enterprising and cynical people (especially reporters) should ask:

Why was this Goose Bay battalion previously omitted from Conservative Party announcements, even though common sense dictated it should have been included?

How will Gord O'Connor find the people to fill the positions for what appears to be now three new battalions (a total of 1300 new positions), when DND is falling short of its recruiting targets by about 1, 000 people annually?

Just so that everybody can see the similarities in the announcements, here are the relevant excerpts from the Connie media missives:

May 2005:

"Gordon O'Connor, a former army officer and the Conservatives' defence critic, said his party 'would establish a new rapid reaction army battalion in CFB Goose Bay' with about 750 soldiers – if it formed a government after the next general election." - CBC News 15 May 2005. The inner quotes are straight from Gordo. The actual Conservative news release said:

"Establish a regular force rapid reaction army battalion at CFB Goose Bay". [Emphasis added]

December 13 2005

"Creation of a new airborne battalion (650 regular force personnel), to be stationed at CFB Trenton and to be available for rapid deployment;" - Conservative Party news release. [Emphasis added]

December 22 2005

"Providing an army emergency response capability through the new airborne battalion and airlift capacity stationed at CFB Trenton to provide a rapid emergency response capability throughout the entire Arctic region." - CPC news release [Emphasis added.]

What Connies won't blog about...

Scandal fatigue.

Conspiracy weariness.

As Les Perreaux of Canadian Press writes, Canadians are getting just a wee bit tired of scandals and likely scandal mongers.

Now there's a big difference between scandals- genuine, deep -seated corruption or horrific corrupt acts - the kind of policies that annoy some people alot.

But if Mikey Harris - the Sun chain scribbler, not the golfer cum Premier - wants to understand how voters react to "Teflon Grits", then he just needs to think for a second. It seems Harris is a bit perturbed that Canadians are not turning on the "evil" Liberals who are evidently completely corrupt - everyone of them debased and immoral - simply based on the fact that Mikey just says the Liberals are bad people.

In that respect , Harris is hitting on not the problem with the public but the problem in the Connie campaign and in his own commentary.

Since last spring, the Connies have built an entire strategy around the Ken Starr-like philosophy that if you simply repeat over and over again that all Liberals are corrupt, criminal people, then people should accept it.

It clearly doesn't work since the evidence doesn't support it. An extreme claim must be backed some measure of evidence to be even partially credible.

The Connie corruption claim lacks even a teensy bit of evidence. Their conspiracy ones are sheer invention.

The Connies will make the same mistake about Mike Klander, as well. Apart from the few Coppsers who will relish Mike's self-imolation, most people will understand that Mike Klander is not a metaphor for all Liberals, no matter what volunteer post he held with the provincial wing of the Liberal Party.

Mike Klander will quickly be understood to be the kind of relative we all have in our families. The sort of obnoxious one we invite to gatherings because we have to.

Now compare Klander to say a Rob Anders, or even a Stephen Harper, and you can see the fundamental difference between Liberals and the Conservatives - the Reform-a-Tories - the Connies.

Klander resigns, likely before he was fired.

Anders? Well, the guy who still thinks that Nelson Mandela is a terrorist, the guy who was too chickenshit to take Mandela's phone, the guy who is spreading anti-gay propaganda in other ridings besides his own?

Anders is a star Conservative candidate.

And Stephen Taylor's blog is remarkably silent on the entire affair of Mr. Anders and his current campaign activities.

Compare that to the number of Liberal blogs that have denounced Klander.

Therein lies yet another example of something Connie blogs won't write about.

Klander's gone; now what will they blog?

Pierre Bourque calls it a scandal rocking the Liberal Party. So he exaggerates something negative about Liberals? No surprise there.

Stephen Taylor climbs on an extremely high horse about ad hominem arguments and anti-gay insults. I am astonished he didn't link it to a larger conspiracy.

Some idiot made stupid remarks on a blog.

Mike Klander made some of the dumbest comments imaginable on a blog and proved he can't spell. His remarks about Olivia Chow are unacceptable and the guy is history - he resigned.

I am hardly surprised on any of those counts.

I guess the only question is how many days of blogging will Taylor and his buds milk out of this?

24 December 2005

Christmas in the Land of Arctic Sovereignty

<----- Most of us think of Santa Claus as Kris Kringle, the character played by Edmund Gwenn in the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Kindly, gentle, slightly English. Living peacefully at the North pole (which is partly inside Canadian territory)

Little Stevie Harper seems like he grew up with this image of Santa, as a dastardly foreign invader on Canadian soil. ----------->

To make matters worse, Santa is not only anagram of Satan, he dresses in Liberal red and hands out presents, free of charge or GST (even at 5%).

Enough of the politically inspired - if not otherwise inspired - humour.

Only Stephen Harper and Maude Barlow seem to think it makes sense spending billions of tax dollars on new military forces to defend against Santa Claus or whoever else has evil designs on the frozen wasteland to our north.

Surely the alignment of those two political opposite poles - Maude and Steve - is a warning of the Apocalypse.

In any event, the children are finally settling down after a very hyperactive day. Grandpa Grandma and my sister have headed home stuffed full of an amazing Christmas Eve feast. Now, we just have to nestle into our beds to wait for Pere Noel, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus or whoever it is that drops presents to everyone tonight.

In far off Hong Kong, it is already Christmas morning. Peter, Karen and the boys are up, have their presents opened and are enjoying their first Christmas so very far from the snows of home.

It's Christmas morning in Afghanistan as well, where thousands of Canadian men and women work to restore stability in that beleaguered country. They are doing the really tough, but rewarding work of defending our country. The billions Harper wants to flow to Ellesmere Island would be better spent supporting them directly. Armed icebreakers aren't much good in the Khyber.

Some of the people deployed there and in other places around the world are people I know, friends of mine. Others I feel like I know having spent some time with others just like them. At Christmastime and at other holidays in the year, my thoughts and prayers are with them.

So when you sit down to Christmas dinner think about Corporal Paul White, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, currently serving in Afghanistan.

In the photo at left, Cpl White is receiving the Chief of Defence Staff Commendation from General Rick Hillier, Chief of Defence Staff. The photo was taken by Master Corporal Ken Fenner.

Cpl White was awarded the commendation for his actions at the site of a civilian vehicle accident where a young boy was injured and the crowd became hostile.

Or think about Sergeant Jo-Ann Bullied, from Newfoundland, a clerk with the Task Force Afghanistan National Support Element in Kandahar. She's shown here talking to General Rick Hillier during his recent visit to Canadian operations in Kandahar.

Merry Christmas to them all.

May God keep them safe and return them to their loved ones in Canada soon.

Santa might skip Norm's house this year

St. John's east Connie candidate and anti-equal marriage campaigner Norm Doyle has a slick new website.

It's a nice piece of work.

Except for the bits Santa might have some problems with.

The claim: "Norm Doyle stands up for Newfoundland and Labrador."

During last spring's efforts to pass the Atlantic Accord bill, Norm put Party before Province. Oh yeah, I know he pounded away at everyone else to do the same, but when push came to shove, Norm just couldn't shy away from Stephen Harper.

When given the choice, Norm, like his old pal Loyola Hearn put Harper before Hamilton Avenue.

In order to get some of the heat off, Stephen Harper came up with a two step, so that Norm and Loyola could vote for the Accord before they voted against it by bringing down the government.

So intense was the heat on Norm last spring that he even resorted to blaming the whole thing on unnamed "Liberal spin doctors in St. John's". You can find a lengthy post on Messrs. Hearn and Doyle and their offshore two-step in the May 2005 archives under the title "The why incision".

Things got so bad that Norm was running from spin point to spin point trying to escape the pressure put on him by the Fair Deal people. He claimed the offshore bill would have been delayed five weeks if Harper had forced an election in the spring.

At the same time, Harper himself said it would be more than a year to get the bill back on the table.

Even Danny Williams turned against Hearn and Doyle over the whole fiasco.

Norm Doyle stands up for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Except when Stephen Harper tells him to sit down.

The claim: That Norm attended negotiations between the Government of Canada (of which he is not a part) and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (of which he is not a part).

Specifically, Norm quotes his old pal, provincial finance minister Loyola Sullivan:

"I attended just about all the meetings in St. John's and Ottawa on the Atlantic Accord file and I can assure you that few people worked harder to make this a reality than Norm Doyle."

Now the Connie typing pool will quickly point out that Loyola Sullivan doesn't actually say that Norm was at the meetings. But ya know, for all Norm accuses other people of using "spin" - another word for lies and bullsh** - he sure can play cute with the English language when he wants to.

There's a pretty clear implication in Sullivan's words and, as they did back in May, Doyle is hoping people won't notice the truth as he spreads something other than the truth.

Norm didn't attend any of the official meetings on the Accord. He wouldn't be allowed in the room. Other than that all he did was wrant and rave about what a great job he was dooing standing up for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Then Steve told him to sit and he sat.

Truth is, Norm had nothing to do with getting the offshore money.

Not a thing.

His only role in the Atlantic Accord was in 1985. That's when he and Loyola Hearn voted in favour of the clawbacks contained in the original deal.

Everything else, as Norm would say, is spin.

I'd call it bullsh**, but then I'm funny that way.

23 December 2005

The polls that were secret...

apparently just got released as Danny Williams' Christmas present to Rob Antle at The Telegram.

How sweet of Danny to give Rob something to read over the holidays.

It's especially sweet since up until now Danny was insisting that releasing them would cause a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Real wrath-of-God type stuff.

I'll look forward to reading them in due course as well from Rob's story.

The last poll they released - also completed by Karen Ryan in early January this year - showed that despite her best efforts to lead respondents to an answer, when it came to the flag, most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were opposed to Danny's little stunt.

Widely known, but not reported...

Dave Salter, second fiddle to Krysta on Out of the Fog has a new job.

He's off to the Confed Building to become a communications director for the Danny Williams government.

Salter's wife already works as a comms director on the Hill, Dave already knows where everything is.

Dave joins John Tompkins, late of NTV, who packed it all in to work with Danny.

What is the most common qualification of comms directors in the Newfoundland and Labrador public service?

I'll let you figure it out over Christmas and I'll post my answer in the New Year.

It has nothing to do with being married.

It's actually really simple...

The Conservatives have moved the Goose Bay battalion promised in June to Trenton.

Inkless Wells over at Macleans has it right. Not a single report in this province has delved into the obvious crap being foisted by the Harper camp.

Here's the ultimate answer to the bullsh** being pushed by the Conservatives to someone who has asked about the Connie's phantom Goose Bay battalion. It's a simple set of logicial propositions.

1. Yesterday's announcement was about defending the North.

2. Goose Bay is in the North.

3. Goose Bay was mentioned in the release. It got promised something it's already getting.

4. The need for a rapid-reaction force was mentioned too. In June, the Connies promised that rapid reaction force to Goose Bay.

5. Now the Conservatives say the rapid-reaction force for Goose Bay will come out of Trenton.

So, I ask you, logically, why would the Conservatives be saving their battalion for Goose for an announcement to be made later?

It doesn't make any sense.

So if anyone has asked about this and been told the Goose bay promise is safe:

you are being bullshitted.

There's no other answer.

If the bullshit is coming from one of the local Connie incumbents, then you can tell one thing more:

Neither of them has any pull in Ottawa with Stephen Harper.

You might be on to a much bigger story than the one in Goose Bay.

22 December 2005

Sheila Copps abandons principles, backs Harper

From the Hamilton Spectator, the admission by embittered former Liberal cabinet minister Sheila Copps that she is helping elect Stephen Harper.

The woman who once resigned her seat on a matter of principle - and good for her for having the integrity then - is now helping elect all the guys who hate her guts and who worked against everything Sheila once stood for.

Yep, the woman who Rob Anders once described as the Hyena from Hamilton who shrieked and shrilled her way under people's skin, is now backing Rob's man all the way. Anders is the guy who called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and a communist. Anders then showed his courage when he refused to take a telephone call from Mandela, who only wanted to discuss Anders' concerns.

Rob is now one of Sheila's buds.

Let's just take a look at what Sheila once said and what she obviously backs now:

Equal marriage:

The former champion of gay and lesbian rights is now working to elect a prime minister who wants to turn back the clock.

Here's just one part of an interview she gave to a Toronto-based gay and lesbian online publication last year:

Copps: "...The people who are against same-sex marriage are motivated by their narrowness. Over the tendencies of the gay community which are more..."

Int: Open minded and left leaning?

Copps: "Yeah. If you'’ve been discriminated against the way the gay and lesbian community has, when you see progress as a minority you really think "‘great, that'’s it"’. And you might think there isn'’t much left to be done. Also, you don'’t want it to sublimate life. This is why I think this issue is like the women'’s movement. You get a bit tired of fighting and want someone else to pick up the torch. But the difference is, the uni-dimensional out there are devoted to the issue of being against same sex marriage and they don'’t get tired. They are single-purposed, and focused on religious values, period. And that'’s the template for their lives. On the other hand, if you'’re gay, your whole life isn'’t consumed by your gayness, you have other interests and you have a life. It'’s analogous to the ideologically motivated and they are passionate and stick with it. Pragmatists, who I think are the majority of the population, don'’t wake up thinking about their next political move. But the ideology of the zealots is more focused and concentrated."

When she ran for the Liberal leadership, Sheila agreed with Paul Martin on equal marriage. Egale welcomed her progressive position.

This year, Sheila has no problem with supporting the former Alliance leader.

On women in politics:

During last year's election, Sheila also found the lack of female Conservative candidates problematic: "Do you think that a party that couldn't find more than 11 per cent women candidates represents the country?".

Apparently, their new tally is acceptable to Sheila this year. The rough Connie tally of women candidates this time around? 11%

On Stephen Harper, himself:

Here's another great Sheila take on Stephen Harper from only a few short months ago. Holding a dead fish above her head, Copps told a political rally "See what's going to happen to Stephen Harper? This is Stephen Harper. This is Stephen Harper's social agenda."

On old vendettas:

Maybe, these past few weeks, Sheila's forgotten the $150, 000 Harper's old buddies at the National Citizens Coalition pumped into hamilton in 1996 in an effort to defeat her. They even ran radio spots that NCC said would "feature pig snorting sound effects and zero in on Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps...".

Now Sheila's happy as a pig in sh** to have Harper as Prime Minister.

But after all that, I am just wondering will Sheila shake hands with Chuck McVety, one of the "uni-dimensional" she used to condemn, at the Harper victory party?


Disinformation (n):

Information or material that is deliberately leaked in order to deceive an opponent or to discredit him.

I'll let you decide which way to take the stuff being peddled by Connie blog-typist Stephen Taylor. This is the same guy who was chasing down the idea that the whole confrontation with George Bush was carefully scripted by the Liberals.

Yep. Just like professional wrestling there, buddy.

Anyway, Taylor's posted a bunch of things that are supposedly planned Liberal Party "attack" ads planned for the New Year.

Here's the thing:

Before the campaign started some idiot who presented himself as a Liberal "strategist" was reported by the Globe as saying the Liberals would be going negative from the outset and that the television spots would be hard-hitting in the same negative fashion. That's not what was reported here, incidentally, although reference was made to the nonsense of the comments at the time.

Turns out this "insider' wasn't as inside as he wanted people to believe.

In a phrase: he was full of crap.

So now we have Taylor and his "leaks". He notes at the end of the post that Mike Duffy has confirmed from inside the Liberal bunker that the ads are real but that a couple are being dropped.

But take a close look at the ads. They are pretty clunky and heavy-handed. I'd venture they are pretty amateurish even. Heck, they might even be old, spare-time musing that's been laying about for a while.

The simple thing is that they just don't look like Liberal Party print ads at all. The layout is cheesy and the copy is clunky. Judging by the Conservatives' English-language advertising, they obviously can't tell sh** from shineola anyway, so it is no trouble to see how they could be fooled by substandard communications products.

Which just leads me to believe that somebody, somewhere was being fed some disinformation.

The purpose behind it is anyone's guess.

But Taylor took it and he's running hard.

Good for him.

The plan is working.

Harper on Goose Bay: national reporter gets the point

While the story has been completely ignored by local reporters, Paul Wells at Macleans blogged today about the shifting of the paper battalion promised by the Conservatives to Goose Bay in May to Trenton in this election.

Today's announcement from the Conservative Party is yet more pork reminiscent of the three uniforms one from 1983. The difference this time is that the Connies are promising equipment as opposed to clothes.

The similarity is that, like the clothes, everything from Trenton to the stuff heading to the Great White North under a Stephen Harper administration is something that doesn't fit with the strategic direction set by the senior leadership of the Canadian Forces.

Apparently games theory- lover Stephen Harper knows more than Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier and his colleagues when it comes to Canadian Forces operational requirements.

In light of the Conservative announcements, it's worth taking the time to review General Hillier's testimony to the senate national defence committee. For example, when identifying Canada's security interests, General Hillier is quite clear:

"What are the threats to Canada? I would say instability, both indirectly — global instability hurts us because it impacts on many things — and directly, because global instability directly causes threats to be manifested inside of Canada. All of that requires, either in whole or in part, a military response.

From Canada's perspective, our credibility as a responsible citizen of the world and as a member of the G8 is constantly being assessed by the rest of the world. We need to be able to play both in Canada and around the world, and a part of that, of course, is the military commitment of men and women in uniform.

When we go to address what I call instability, it is my belief that it is in failed and failing states where we get the biggest bang for our bucks at affecting all those threats and reducing instability. That does require some military commitment."

General Hillier clearly sees a greater threat to our security from instability, not from the off chance there's someone sailing under the ice in the Arctic.

Al Queda doesn't own submarines.

The last time I checked, while we may not like everything the Americans are up to, they are still our allies.

21 December 2005

The seance didn't work.

After weeks of searching, the Connies have announced the candidate in Labrador.

Their star candidate in 2005 is exactly the same guy who was their star candidate in 1988 (he lost) and provincially in 1975 (he won).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, stand by for the return of Joe Goudie.

It is absolutely amazing that the two parties who pushed for this election now, and who are trying to push the agenda for a change of government:

a. took forever to get candidates in place (The Dippers are shy a few here still); and,

b. did everything short of making golems in order to find people willing to run.

Joe Goudie was born in 1939. Yep. He was six months old when Hitler invaded Poland.

Goudie took his first crack at elected politics in 1972, but was finally elected as a Progressive Conservative with Frank Moores in 1975. He served as minister of rural development from 1978, with added responsibility for agriculture and northern development in the second Peckford administration.

In 1985, Goudie was defeated by Liberal Jim Kelland. Goudie took a crack at federal politics in 1988 but was hammered by Liberal incumbent Bill Rompkey.

So the Connie line up in Newfoundland and Labrador consists of some who are neophytes and who are just sorting out their campaigns now. One is a political staffer. One is a young provincial politician wooed with promises of something or other to try and head to Ottawa.

And the other three?

Retreads from the cabinets of Brian Peckford.

Goudie was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1975. Norm Doyle made it to the House of Assembly in 1979 and went into cabinet in 1982. Last but by no means least is Loyola Hearn, who made it to the House in 1982 and into cabinet in 1985.

But bear in mind, all of these guys started in politics at least 35 or 40 years ago. All three collect provincial pensions already. Hearn is just six months or so shy of qualifying for his second pension, this time a federal one.

Of the two incumbent Conservative members of parliament from this province who double dip from the federal and provincial treasuries, only Norm Doyle donates his pension to local charities. His federal salary and allowances are enough to sustain him.

Last time I checked Hearn pockets his provincial cash in addition to the $141,000 he collects as an annual salary from the people of Canada for his work in Ottawa for Stephen Harper.

On top of that, Hearn annually costs taxpayers more than $100, 000 in travel bills. I gather Loyola upgrades to First Class - a lot - on the run from Ottawa to St. John's.

Maude Barlow: CPC foreign policy braintrust

(Left Right: Conservative Party foreign policy advisor Maude Barlow)

First Stephen Harper pledged to start a trade war with the United States over softwood lumber. He even mused about making some other country our major trading partner.

Now Gordon O'Connor is foaming about the possibility an American nuclear powered submarine may (note the conditional language) have passed through Canadian waters on its way to the North Pole. (Gordo never heard of right of innocent passage apparently.)

There's even a badly written news release from the Connie campaign bunker ranting about protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

Of course, there's a hidden reason Harper and his party are talking tough toward the Americans. It's just part of their efforts to cover the close ties between the Canadian Conservatives and their American brethren. Harper wants people to think he is just an ordinary, middle class Canadian guy. They'd like you to think he will stand up for canada against Americans, separatists and anyone else. The truth on those is out there.

Heck the Connies even have a website - pierretrudeau.ca - that links directly to the Connie campaign site all in an effort to appear more Liberal than Liberal.

But this latest rant by O'Connor had me thinking.

And no, it wasn't that Gordo hit his head on the cupola one too many times.

Since the Connies had local talk radio maven Sue Kelland Dyer on the Harper advance bus and she's been turning up on local talk radio defending Harper but without disclosing her connections to the campaign, maybe, just maybe something bigger is at play here. Maybe they've found the national version of Sue to help out too.

Maybe Maude Barlow is actually the Connie foreign policy brain trust. Maybe Barlow is slipping talking points to Harper behind the scenes.

One can only ponder on the true conspiracies at play in this election.

The evidence is mounting.

Giving credit

While Liam O'Brien, the thin-skinned Connie blogger from Newfoundland and Labrador has a penchant for hurling personal abuse at those with whom he disagrees, his most recent post to the CBC blogger forum contains some thoughtful material.

"Canada's long history of debt and pork" discusses the Trudeau and Mulroney years and the amassing of public debt through the 1970s and 1980s.

Liam writes:

"[Author Colin]Campbell also pointed out that between 1964 and 1975, the federal civil service expanded 65 per cent, from 200,000 to 330,000. Some of this would almost seem normal given the new social programs created in the 1960s, until you remember that 99 per cent of that stuff is provincially-run.

So what accounts for the expansion? The short answer is pork. While their grandparents get treated in provincial hospitals and their kids attend provincial schools, most average Canadians only ever see their federal government on their tax returns or on the news, shuffling money from one place to another. With the exception of our proud but underfunded Armed Forces and RCMP, what does most of that central government bureaucracy really do? By 1984, the national debt increased tenfold -– from $20 billion in 1969 to well over $200 billion in 1984."

This section leaps out if for no other reason than Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador have been making a great deal lately of the supposed unfair decline in federal government jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador since the mid 1990s.

They have been crying loudly for commitments from the federal parties to address this problem by shifting more and more federal government workers into Newfoundland and Labrador.

Danny Williams letter to the three major federal party leaders includes at least one section directly linked to the whole issue of "federal presence" in the province.

But if you take O'Brien and Campbell at face value, the expansion of the federal public service throughout the Trudeau and Mulroney years across the country was due to one single cause, namely political pork.

I'll buy that.

But by the same token, one would also have to buy the point that the dramatic decline in the federal public service across the country after 1993 was an effort to tackle the federal debt and deficit to deal with the problem O'Brien is concerned about.

On just about every level, that puts O'Brien at odds with both local Conservatives and his federal leader. Stephen Harper is promising to restore federal jobs in places like Gander and to create new ones in Goose Bay.

O'Brien will undoubtedly try to rationalize this contradiction but it is a stark one. One the one hand, Liam points directly to a public policy problem, skips over the efforts under Liberals in the 1990s to deal with the concern he has, and then ignores entirely the current situation: namely that his political party of choice is determined to return to the very habits of spending for spending sake O'Brien criticizes.

And before he says anything about them again, my parents were married at the time of my conception let alone my birth and no, they were not first cousins.

Then again, even an inbred bastard could spot the fundamental, logical contradiction in Liam O'Brien the CBC blogger and Liam O'Brien's Conservative Party under Stephen Harper.

I will, however, give Liam full credit for posting a well written, thoughtful essay on the debt problem. It's good stuff and I'd recommend it to anyone.

There are no coincidences

The Bolsheviks, those guys who took conspiracies and political intrigue to a new level, always used to say that there are no accidents, there are no coincidences.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the Connie Blogsheviks live in the same headspace.

The latest piece of sheer drek coming from the Harper typing pool is the idea that the spat with the United States was a carefully scripted plot.

Take a trip to Liam O'Brien's RGL (also known to some of us as Reflexive Grit Loathing or Wretching Goo on Liberals) and you'll find your way back to a couple of other sites.

Yes, guys. You caught us.

That whole X-files stuff, which was filmed in Vancouver?


Yep that was us too.

Except, we just put the whole alien conspiracy plot thingy out there in public to throw you off the scent. It wasn't fiction. There really are aliens. And an international conspiracy of Liberals and Democrats and Socialists to hide it from the world. And all those guys you used to see meeting with the Cigarette Smoking Man? Well, that's the international Liberal conspiracy.

Best place to hide some things is in plain site.

Oh yeah. And John Crosbie has been a Liberal mole all these years. Remember the 1979 budget? We did that.

Just like Harper found out we organized the 1976 Rene Levesque win, the 1980 referendum and later on the really close 1995 one. Just so we could keep the country on the brink of crisis and our fellow Liberals in power.

It's just like professional wrestling.

It's all scripted.

Oops. Ya caught us.

Scroll down a bit through O'Brien's late-night, over-caffeinated utterances and you see yet another impassioned defense of his Fearless Fuhrer and the whole Quebec question. oddly enough, that too sounds just like the massive conspiracy theory being floated by other Connies on other subjects. Liam also refers to what is apparently the only book on Canadian politics he's ever read, or at least the only one that satisfied his hatred for Liberals and Pierre Trudeau.

Then, for some reason, Liam links to a CBC backgrounder on the Harper equal marriage stuff. For anyone concerned about the protection of individual rights, the CBC piece sure doesn't bolster their confidence in Harper.

Maybe now that I have pointed that out, Liam will drop the link and any future reference to it, just like he did with Gordon Gibson. Once I pointed out what Gibson said didn't support the Harper/O'Brien constitutional position.

And for my friends outside Canada, these Conservative Party hysterics are what passes for substantive political dialogue in our country.

Harper on Quebec

Follow this link to a realplayer file for Don Newman's Politics.

There's some decent commentary and my favourite bit, the Connie Ontario co-chair squirming about Stephen Harper's return to the national unity issue - definitely not Harper's strong suit. It appears about 45 minutes in. She actually just spouts a simple -and offtopic message.

Then Liberal John Duffy shows up and the thing gets really interesting.

Next they'll try a seance

The Connies don't have a candidate in Labrador yet.

Seems odd, given the promises from their campaign chair that Labrador would be a big race.

Oh well, guess that means a clean sweep will be out.

20 December 2005

Harper, the Conservatives and the constitutional question

Given his other writings, there is little surprise in Liam O'Brien's post about Stephen Harper's speech on handing more cash and power to Quebec.

Rather than actually reading Stephen Harper's comments, O'Brien resorts to holding up yet another of his convenient straw men, the "centralizing Liberal." He then tosses in a link to a piece by Gordon Gibson that speaks of changes in the Canadian federal system that are coming about or that need to come about.

These are two completely different arguments and it is hard to see how O'Brien glues the two of them together.

On the one hand, we have Stephen Harper who trots out a series of hoary old myths about Quebec and the 1982 constitution and appears to promise Quebeckers a full recognition of their distinct society in a fashion the Brian Mulroney tried during the entire Meech Lake mess.

On the other hand, we have Gibson. In a November 2004 article for the Institute for Research in Public Policy, Gibson argues that "most importantly, in Paul Martin we appear to have a new prime minister who is prepared to take the more conciliatory (and successful) approach of Lester Pearson, rather than the confrontational Trudeau/Chretien path." We can forgive Gibson for ignoring the different historical context of those two periods, but note that as Gibson writes, the Canadian federation is indeed profound, unstoppable and a joy to behold.

What Gibson is talking about, though, is decidedly different than what O'Brien and, apparently, Harper have in mind. O'Brien in particular holds to a view that there are only two sides to this debate. On the one hand are the vile ones, those who supposedly argue for turning Canada into a unitary state in which all power rests in the federal government.

On the side of Liam's Angels are those who would see provincial governments become independent or nearly so.

The flaw in O'Brien's construction is revealed by the rhetorical question he poses: "What's wrong with recognizing provincial autonomy?" Under the Canadian constitution, the provinces are sovereign - they are autonomous - in matters of a local and private nature. These are laid out in Section 92 of the 1982 Constitution Act.

By the same token there are other areas, outlined in Section 91, that are exclusively federal jurisdiction. There are others that overlap, and where, oftentimes there are differences of opinion between the two orders of government.

O'Brien's argument sees the entire matter of federal-provincial relations as being about transferring more of the Section 91 powers to provinces, as in the Harper/Mulroney approach. He ignores completely any discussion of any other rearrangements of federal provincial relations.

And in that, we reach the root of his point and find it rotten.

Harper and O'Brien only allow that Canadian politics is about 11 or so actors, namely the federal government and the various provincial and territorial ones. Ultimately, however, constitutional debates are about how the 30 million Canadians from coast to coast wish to be governed and, more importantly, how they wish to apportion responsibilities between two orders of government established in the Constitution Act.

As individuals and as a nation, we are shaped by what has occurred before. It is simply ludicrous to reject a criticism of Harper resurrecting Meech Lake simply because Meech Lake happened while some writers were still in grade school. Were he to take some time to read some history of these matters, O'Brien would discover that the same issues have been discussed, argued over and at times resolved many times in the past half-century and more. Perhaps he has; it just isn't evident in his arguments.

Were he to take some time and delve into some older writings, O'Brien would see that his characterization of the constitutional problem and some of the key actors is based on something other than fact or the words of those he would demonize.

For example, in a 1965 essay entitled "Quebec and the constitutional problem", Pierre Trudeau wrote:

"I do not consider a states political structures or constitutional forms to have absolute or eternal value....History teaches that diversity rather than uniformity is the general rule in this land....Even though our country is young, it has a history, and has lived through some profound experiences that have left their mark upon it, and which it would be vain and childish to ignore."

or later in the same essay:

"To my mind, neither Canada's present constitution nor the country itself represents an eternal, unchangeable reality. For the last hundred years, however, this country and this constitution have allowed men to live in a state of freedom and prosperity which, though perhaps imperfect, has nevertheless rarely been matched in the world...."

Pierre Trudeau, "Quebec and the constitutional problem",
in Federalism and the French Canadians, Toronto: MacMillan, 1968. p. 6.

So much for the idea that Trudeau and, some time later, Liberals advocate(d) a unitary state.

In fact, Gordon Gibson, who was an aide to then-prime minister Trudeau, is following much the same approach of his own boss in Gibson's comments on federalism under Paul Martin. The Canadian federation is evolving. Far better for us to adjust the relationship between the federal government and the provinces in some fashion than to ignore it or worse, tinker with it based on some simplistic notions.

Were we to go to the full extent of this constitutional evolution, we might consider giving municipalities some constitutional recognition rather than leave them as creatures of the provincial governments. We might consider in the course of our constitutional reform discussions that given the size of the country and the disparities among areas of provinces - Newfoundland versus Labrador, for example - we, as Canadians, and we, as Newfoundlanders or Labradorians, might be better served to create more provinces rather than fewer ones.

In the matter of fisheries, for example, we might consider doing something profoundly different rather than just shifting more power over fisheries issues to a bunch of provincial politicians and bureaucrats who themselves have proven no more wise in their actions than the federal ones O'Brien routinely accuses of perfidy and worse.

This an area into which O'Brien, and presumably Harper do not wish to go. It does not fit their world in which the constitution of our country involves only the dozen or so first ministers and the world is a better place when a Brian Tobin or Tom Rideout can head off to meetings at the United Nations.

The extent to which Harper's constitutional musings appear as mere vote-buying can be seen perhaps even more clearly in his proposal to elect senators than in his old Mulroney paraphrases. Harper simply wants to keep them as they are but let the provincial premiers decide whether or not to elect them and how they should be chosen.

By stark contrast, Harper's old party, the Reform Party, adopted a modest proposal to create in Ottawa a senate that was elected, equal in representation from all parts of the country and effective in its powers. This is the only sensible way to correct the political imbalance within the federal government since it recognizes that individual Canadians are ultimately those to be represented, not the 10 premiers. It recognizes that the response to regional frustrations is to balance the political powers within the federal government, as opposed to handing out more cash and power to provincial premiers.

Rather than recognizing that all provinces are equal in and of themselves as provinces, Harper's reforms would actually entrench the same political imbalance that sees the more populous areas of the country dominate the federal government. Rather than tackling the frustrations of Albertans and Manitobans and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Harper's cheap fix of electing senators on the existing basis merely gives Ontarians and Quebeckers and British Columbians a disproportionately larger number of elected representatives - and hence power - in Ottawa than they ought to have.

By the same token, Harper would condemn the frustrated to their current lot. Electing senators may be a simple thing, as Harper says, but simple is not always best or even good enough.

While it is sure to infuriate some, one cannot help but quote another section of Trudeau's essay from 40 years ago to find an elegant riposte to the constitutional dabblings of one national party leader during this election:

"And so I cannot help condemning as irresponsible those who wish our nation to invest undetermined amounts of money, time and energy in a constitutional adventure that they have been unable to define precisely but which would consist in more or less destroying Confederation to replace it with some vague form of sovereignty resulting in something like an independent Quebec, or associate states, or a "special status", or a Canadian common market, or a confederation of ten states, or some entirely different scheme that could be dreamt up on the spur of the moment..."

To paraphrase an earlier version of Stephen Harper than the one he is currently peddling, on constitutional matters, Canadians deserve infinitely better than what the Conservative leader has proposed.

[Liam O'Brien's lengthy addendum to his original post, at responsiblegovernmentleague.blogspot.com, adds nothing to the discussion. It's worth reading if only to see how difficult it is for Harper defenders to come to grips with the constitution and the challenges we face as a country.]

19 December 2005

Son of a Meech

From the sounds of Stephen Harper's latest speech on national unity, the man who once wanted to build walls around Alberta is taking constitutional advice from Brian "Diceman" Mulroney when it comes to Quebec.

According to Canadian Press, Harper "pledged to recognize provincial autonomy 'as well as the special cultural and institutional responsibilities of the Quebec government.'"

That sounds an awful lot like the Meech Lake Accord.

The Globe headline says it all: "Harper promises more money, power to Quebec".

Keep talkin' Steve. The votes are migrating away from you as the spectre of Mulroney rises out of the lake. The problem you'll have is not in Quebec, Steve - those comments are going to cause you problems in the rest of Canada.

Meanwhile, in the Toronto-Danforth riding, Deborah Coyne is reportedly feeling an intense case of the heebie-jeebies at the prospect of tackling another Conservative over the constitution.

Read on in the CP story and you come across this:

"Making a real change means having an honest government that can help Quebec be more than just a powerless spectator in the House of Commons or totally absent from the cabinet table," he [Harper] said.

From a man with no seats in Quebec and precious little chance of gaining any, Harper sounds here like he has lost touch with reality. Quebec is already well-represented at the federal cabinet table and has been for Canada's entire history.

Of course, it could be that Harper is promising to stick Gilles and some of his separatist buddies in a Harper minority government.

Of course, that would like almost exactly like the last Conservative government in this country: a bunch of western-based Conservatives in every sense of that word, a few Progressive Conservatives and another bunch of separatists co-opted into the caucus with promises of getting what they wanted - an independent Quebec or something damned close to it.

What will Liam think?

Someone has a sense of humour.

Follow this link to pierretrudeau.ca and see where you wind up.

My guess is that Liam is about to tear up his membership card.

Personally, I think the whole Conservative campaign is designed to present them as Liberals, but hey this is going a bit too far.

[via daveberta]

Rent-an-opinion ?

Heard on radio call-in shows:

Brain-trust of the Roger Grimes administration, former leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Party, advisor to the leader of the Progressive Conservative opposition and queen of the radio talk shows, Sue Kelland Dyer, spouting some inane political theory that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need a Harper Conservative minority government.

According to Dyer, the Conservatives would have a majority of their seats outside Ontario, and therefore the province would have greater influence. She obviously failed Politics 101. The party striving for a majority government will put its political weight to win seats where it doesn't have them. Hence, in the Dyer world, more Conservative cash and influence would flow towards Ontario and Quebec not away from it.

Then again, it's not the first time that Sue said something that made no sense.

Her sudden re-appearance on the political scene was as inexplicable as her argument was bizarre. Until...

Seen on a Conservative campaign bus in Petty Harper Harbour:

Sue Kelland Dyer. Several people have reported this in conversation, all with the same basic information: Sue's sitting on the advance bus and doing everything possible to avoid the media, all of whom know her and her unusual take on the world.

If Sue is working with the Conservatives in any way, then she needs to disclose it.

Otherwise, her calls to open line shows have been misleading in more ways than one.

18 December 2005

Arrow Air still flying

With all the media buzz about suspected private aircraft charters by the Central Intelligence Agency, it's interesting to see that Arrow Air is still operating.

In December 1985, an Arrow Air DC-8 carrying over 200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division crashed on take-off from Gander, Newfoundland with the loss of all souls on board.

Arrow Air was also one of the contract carriers reportedly used during the Iran-Contra weapons deals of the 1980s.

These days the airline seems to be a typical commercial carrier handling contracts for the united States Department of Defence. It's all pretty much routine.

As this is being written (2000 hrs, Eastern time), an Arrow Air DC-8 has just departed Gander en route to Miami International. At least two different Arrow DC-8s have been flying lately, sometimes through Gander ultimately en route to Capodochino in Italy, Travis Air Force Base, or Norfolk .

Meanwhile, as people search the skies and aviation records for the planes they suspect are involved, the Company at Langley has likely already changed planes.

Dyspepsia 101

Over at the Sun chain, the Conservative party campaign chair in Atlantic Canada still gets his column to spew his unique views about unfulfilled political promises.

That tells you something about the Sun's views on fairness and balance in its editorial pages. For the record, a dyspeptic former Liberal cabinet minister doesn't balance off an active campaigner like Crosbie.

John Crosbie, the former federal overlord in Newfoundland and Labrador, seems to forget his 1979 federal budget. There was no promise of a gasoline excise tax in the 1979 campaign, but Crosbie walloped taxpayers with an 18 cent a gallon excise tax on it just the same.

Stephen Harper - the guy who appointed Crosbie to the campaign chair job - called that stupid.

According to Jeff Simpson's The discipline of power, Crosbie originally wanted a 30 cent a gallon hike in taxes.

Meanwhile, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians continue to deal with the folly of Joe Smallwood at Stephenville and the subsequent folly of his successor Conservative government with Crosbie as finance minister that nationalized the Upper Churchill project and the Stephenville linerboard mill.

Was that short term political gain for long-term taxpayer pain, John?

NDP minor uptick: SES CPAC polling

Heading into the Christmas lull in campaigning, the Liberals remain ahead of the Conservatives, according to SES/CPAC's nightly rolling polls, but the New Democrats have scored a minor increase in their support.

"“Early results indicate that NDP support is moving upward from its low of 12%. Likewise, Jack Layton'’s daily performance index score improved the most last night (+11) largely driven on positive numbers related to trust. CPAC-SES tracking has the Liberals at 38% nationally, followed by the Conservatives at 30%, the NDP at 15%, the BQ at 13% and the Green Party at 4%."” - Nik Nanos, President, SES Research.

Overall, though, the Liberals remain in front at 38% followed by the Conservatives at 30%, with 17% of respondents undecided.

More people are unsure of who would make the best prime minister than chose Stephen Harper, while Paul Martin continues to score substantially ahead of Harper on the SES leadership index.

Bourque = berk ?

There are more links to anti-Liberal columns and stories in the Sun chain from website meister Bourque, that one ponders if Bourque is French for berk.

The Harper "Lock up yer brain" Tour

A battalion in every town.

Cash for children.

Cash for jocks.

Cash for everyone.

And now, the completely inane idea that if the Americans don't knock off being so difficult on the softwood lumber thing, Stephen Harper will replace the United States as Canada's major trading partner.

Since this story is printed in the National Lampoon Post, it's hard to take seriously, but apparently Stevie will promise Canadians anything, no matter how insane it is, if he thinks it will buy their vote.

I like to call it the Stevie Harper "Lock up your brain" Tour.

It should come as no surprise that the United States is considering a fence along its northern border, as Canadian Press is reporting. The goal is to apparently keep our right-wing mad cows from infecting their right-wing cows.

Given Harper's campaign, you can see the point.

16 December 2005

Harper: I'm with stupid!

(Left) Latest item from the Connie eboutique is inspired by Stephen Harper's recent comments on John Crosbie's 1979 budget. Like Crosbie and the two leading Harper candidates in Newfoundland and Labrador, the t-shirt is a throwback to the 1970s.

By the way, in case you didn't know, Harper said "You can be principled without being stupid." The Crosbie budget toppled the Clark government.

So far, no media outlet has sought out the dyspeptic former Mulroney strongman in the province to see how stupid he feels now.

My guess is Crosbie is feeling pretty dumb, having taken the job of Atlantic campaign chair for the Harper Conservatives just days before Harper kicked Crosbie in the crotch in front of champagne sipping reporters on Con-Air, the Harper campaign plane.

What Harper was talking about, apparently was the 18 cent per gallon excise tax on gasoline that Crosbie stuck in his budget to raise cash.

I guess Harper never read Jeffrey Simpson's Discipline of Power.

Crosbie originally wanted an excise tax that would have raised the price of gas 30 cents a gallon.

If 18 cents was stupid, I'd like to know what Harper would think of that.

15 December 2005

Double DARTed defence statement

Defence policy is one of my areas of interest so Stephen Harper's statement in Trenton the other day drew my attention for several reasons.

Harper talked of wanting to double the size of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and the purchase of at least three large transport aircraft, likely American-built C-17s.

The official National Defence backgrounder on the DART gives some idea of the unit's composition. Note that on the deployment to Sri Lanka it too five chartered Antonov AN-124 lift aircraft to move the unit of 200 personnel and equipment to the theatre of operations.


The AN-124 (left) is big aircraft. It carries a maximum payload of 330, 695 lbs in a cargo space that is 119 feet long, 20 feet wide and 14 feet high.

By contrast, the C-17 (right) has a maximum payload of 170, 900 lbs carried in a cargo compartment measuring about 85 feet long by 18 feet wide by 12 to 13 feet high.

Now, if it took five bigger aircraft to carry the existing DART to a mission, why would Stephen Harper speak of buying only three smaller aircraft to fly twice as many soldiers and equipment?
Just a rough guess is that it would take 12-18 C-17s to carry the DART without resorting to multiple long-range sorties. Each C-17 costs upwards of $300 million per aircraft to buy, not including the annual operating costs and the price for spares and additional support.

That looks like about $3.6 billion just to buy the aircraft, or more than double the amount Stephen Harper pledged for three new aircraft plus an infantry battalion, plus whatever else he lumped in there.

There's something else about the Trenton announcement that doesn't ring true.

Roll of the dice, part deux

Those who recall Meech Lake will remember Brian Mulroney's interview before the final votes in which he boasted of the scheme he had implemented to put the provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Manitoba in a hard spot.

It infuriated the public for its sheer arrogance.

Today's Toronto Star contains a similar episode from Stephen Harper. It comes in the same context: a federal Conservative leader, relaxed with news reporters and speaking freely in the context of his self-confidence.

Among the people indirectly slagged by Harper is our very own dyspeptic former federal gauleiter, John Crosbie. Speaking about the Crosbie budget that precipitated the fall of the Clark government in 1979, Harper said: "You can be principled without being stupid."

As much as I might disagree with Mr. Crosbie on a range of issues, stupid sure isn't one of the words I'd ever use to describe him

Scott Reid: your gaffe has been supplanted by one of infinitely greater implications.

Harper: There are more votes in Trenton, than Labrador

Stephen Harper unveiled his party's defence policy the other day at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

On the beautiful Bay of Quinte.

in Ontario.

Mr. Harper's policy is to do everything the Liberals are planning to do with a couple of exceptions.

Mr. Harper will double the size of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). This is really a bit of nonsense. The DART can be tailored to meet the emergency need; it's inherently a flexible concept. A group of soldiers is tasked to provide the main resources. If more are needed, the core group could be doubled or tripled in size from existing resources with the Canadian Forces.

Mr. Harper also plans to purchase three C-17 type strategic lift aircraft. He plans to do this even though they aren't really needed by Canada, are expensive to operate and, given the small number he plans to buy, really wouldn't do much more than Canada can already accomplish now at lower cost. Back in January, Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier said he was putting a stop to endless studies of aircraft that Canada couldn't afford.

Of course, these new planes will be based in Trenton, where the announcement was made.

He will continue with Liberal plans to buy new transport aircraft and new search and rescue aircraft. Some of these will be based in Trenton, of course.

Mr. Harper will also continue with plans to create a special operations battalion affiliated with the JTF 2 special forces battalion currently based at Dwyer Hill.

This is where the whole announcement appears to turn into a movable pork-fest.

Last summer, when there was a by-election in Labrador, Mr. Harper's defence spokesperson Gordon O'Connor promised the battalion would be headed for Goose Bay under a Conservative government.

He was pretty clear about it too back in May 2005, when he talked about creating a new rapid reaction battalion and basing it in Goose Bay.

The newly re-christened battalion of 650 soldiers were always likely to have gone somewhere in Ontario - Trenton happens to be where the Canadian Forces Parachuting Centre is and where the aircraft are located.

But that's not what Gordo said at the time.

Make no mistake about it:

The C-17s are pure political pork aimed at voters in the Trenton area.

Make no mistake:

The double DART is a hollow promise.

Make no mistake about it:

Labrador's battalion has been renamed and shuffled off to serve as electoral cannon fodder in the vote-wars around Trenton.

The question is: were Gordo and Stephen bullshitting the people of Labrador back in June?

My guess is yes. There are likely more Conservative votes in Trenton than there are in Labrador, where the Conservatives have yet to find anyone willing to challenge incumbent Todd Russell.

Oh yes, for anyone who thinks the Conservatives will create two battalions - just note this story from the Globe and Mail. It ran just a handful of days before Harper's announcement. Even in the most optimistic projections, Canadian Forces recruiting this year will fall over 900 people short of target. For those who want to do the calculation, that's the better part of two infantry battalions of people.

The Canadian Forces is running way behind in its recruiting targets, primarily having problems in finding recruits for infantry units like the one promised to Trenton.

or was it Goose Bay?

What election is this again?

Oh right.

It's the Stephen Harper "Promise 'em Anything" Tour.

The Ceeb's skewed sense of electoral balance

While I render a hearty Attaboy to Liam over at RGL for making to the CBC blogger panel, I do have a question about its composition.

There are five panelists.

There are five major parties running federally: Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat, Bloc and Green.

Why then do the bloggers on the panel consist of:

Two Conservatives
One Liberal/Progressive
One New Democrat
One unaffiliated


Mr. Harper's attitudes

Courtesy of the Globe and Mail, this reminder of Conservative leader Stephen harper's real attitudes toward social programs.

14 December 2005

Change the name, goal's the same

The raw materials sharing system for crab was attempting to deal with the oversupply of processing capacity (too many plants) and a relatively limited supply of crab by forcing the crab industry to share the crab around under a system of fixed prices.

Spread the resource as thinly as possible so everyone gets a piece of it, no matter how small.

After an admittedly quick read-through it seems to me that the Richard Cashin method of dealing with the same problem is to smear the limited supply of crab around to as many processors as possible so everyone gets some, even if it is just a little bit. There's a complex system to set prices.

He calls it "production limitation".

The name is changed.

The goal is still the same:

Pass the political buck to a future generation.

So much for a New Approach.