Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Ridiculous Tory Defence on Partisan Advertising

When David McGuinty stood in the House today and asked pointedly why the Conservatives had devoted 12 times more money to pseudo government, but really partisan, advertising, than to H1N1 awareness campaigns, John Baird offered up what I believe he thought was a conclusive response:

“Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals had their way, they would continue to spread the kind of misinformation and scare-mongering that they have been doing in recent days. Their health critic had to of course apologize earlier for making some rather regrettable comments and trying to make light of a public health emergency. We have an important responsibility. The Minister of National Revenue makes important pronouncements with respect to the tax credits available to Canadians. The Minister of Finance reports back to Canadians, as mandated by this House, on our economic stimulus plan. We are working hard to create jobs and opportunities. We are working hard to get that job done.”

However, search as you might, it's hard to find a convincing answer hidden in there. Who cares what John Baird thinks the Liberals would do if they were in power? That is not the question and he knows it. The Liberals are not the government and they are not the ones that have abused of public money repeatedly for partisan purposes. It is very easy to build up this straw man based on conjecture, and then seemingly defeat it.

As for what the Liberal Health Critic said, I have not seen the comment. Nonetheless, I do know that even if it was offensive, she apologized. However, what I am even more sure of is the total irrelevance of this comment. Once again, is it important to know whether a Liberal made a comment they had to retract? As far as I know, she did not use public money to issue this comment.

Finally, Baird mentioned two ministers who require money for their announcements. Once again, he addresses a completely new question, one that no one would dispute. All agreed on public money being used to make announcements, but not partisan ones. The question was concerned instead with partisan ads that have appeared on radio and television.


If only based on Question Period responses, one would have enough evidence of Conservative incompetence on which to base a refusal to vote Conservative.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conservatives Render Question Period a Disgrace

If you happen to look at Question Period, or even read summaries provided by the news sources, if you are not an ultra partisan Conservative, you become aware of one thing: Conservative replies seldom answer the question. In Fact, they are giving a good lesson on why it is called Question Period and not Question and Answer Period. Meanwhile, Stephen Harper shows contempt for examination of his government, letting John Baird answer more than double the questions than the PM addressed. Who has ever seen a Transport Minister so cognizant on every single issue. Actually, never mind, evasive and obstructive are more apt descriptors.

Here are some gems of virtually irrelevant answers from today's session alone:

Question: “When,” Mr. McGuinty wondered, “are the Conservatives going to clean up this ethical mess?”

Answer (Stephen Harper): “Mr. Speaker, this is a time of global economic recession,” he said, “but Canada’s performance exceeds that of many other countries and the measures of government are well-supported by Canadians and even the vast majority of provincial governments.” Continued with ‘When you throw mud, you lose ground.’

Question: David McGuinty: “Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have spent 12 times more on meaningless sloganeering than on real information on H1N1. At 12 times more, that is $100 million,” he reviewed. “The Prime Minister may think that it is his money, but it is not. Taxpayers should know that $100 million buys a year’s salary for 1,700 public health nurses. It buys 10,000 ventilators, or it buys 35,000 days of ICU beds. Why does the Prime Minister insist on wasting borrowed money on partisan advertising while Canadians struggle to deal with this pandemic?”

Answer (John Baird): “Mr. Speaker, I say to the member for Ottawa South that this government has an important responsibility to communicate our actions through Canada’s economic action plan,” the Transport Minister instructed. “We are focused on jobs. We are focused on fighting H1N1. We are focused on building industry and we are focused on supporting the unemployed. All we have is the sloganeering from the Liberal member opposite and that is too bad.”

As the Macleans commented on this response: Indeed, it is to their eternal detriment that politicians insist persistently in behaving like politicians.

Question: “Infrastructure money is dispersed like points in a Conservative rewards program,” Mr. McGuinty continued. “There are over 60 investigations before the ethics commissioner. There is a minister under investigation for improper ties with lobbyists and federal agencies. There is a Conservative senator linked to key players in an emerging scandal. Is this what Joe Clark meant when he said that these Conservatives were ‘a private-interest party in a public-interest country?’”

Answer: “Mr. Speaker, in September, all the Liberal Party had to offer Canadians was an unnecessary and opportunistic election,” Mr. Baird sighed. “In October, while this government focuses on jobs, the economy, the health of Canadians with H1N1 and the needs of the unemployed, all the Liberal Party can do is muckrake.”

Question: To do with Conservative senator

Answer: “Mr. Speaker, the outrageous comments made by the member opposite do not serve her or her constituents well,” he gasped. “They do not serve the Liberal Party well.”

The good news is that this outrageous behaviour on the Conservative side is unending. More entertainment sure to follow. That is, until we realize that the government is avoiding accountability to its people. Who knows what they're actually doing?
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Canada's Changing Under our Noses

In his recent article in the Macleans, Paul Wells shows how much of what Harper does is in secret, like eliminating state run child care in favour of per child benefits, is changing Canada. He is facing little opposition on many of these issues, the opposition and the media entranced by continual election speculation and stimulus package outrages.

While these are undoubtedly important, the changes that Harper is effecting are important, and as Paul Wells describes it, "threaten the social union of the country". This includes acts like his lack of interest in higher education and the diminishing role of the health and intergovernmental affairs ministers.

Instead Harper is pushing for a stronger national market, with an effort to prove the federal government's authority in establishing a national securities regulator, and with negotiations with the European Union on establishing free trade. Not necessarily all bad in themselves.

However, Harper is operating in near secrecy. Last Friday afternoon was when the government asked the Supreme court if it was allowed to establish a national securities regulator. Friday afternoons are not the time at which the press or the opposition parties, indeed the PM( who sits out Question Period along with Michael Ignatieff and the other leaders, are paying attention.

In this way Harper is seeking to avoid scrutiny. At the same time however, it behooves the opposition to pay more attention to the wide range of issues that the Harper government is addressing. They need to do so to, in a concerted manner and with contrasting policies, open debate on the actions of the government. If they do not, they are failing in their duty.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Conservatives Rewarding Conservative voters, CBC and G&M prove

It's been proven. Now, in addition to Liberal Party analysis of stimulus money distribution, the Globe and Mail and the CBC have each done some analysis of their own which supports the Liberal Party's claims. Seems all that bluster on the part of the Prime Minister about Toronto receiving so much stimulus was inane.

In the Globe and Mail's analysis of the Recreational Infrastructure in Canada program, it found that Tory ridings received $2.1 million on average, compared with $1.5 million for opposition ridings. If the numbers for these opposition ridings are broken down further, it emerges in clear fashion that the Conservatives are discriminating against the Liberals for the NDP on average receives $1.8 million, and the Liberals only $1.4 million.

An argument has been made by Ontario provincial minister George Smitherman that this is due to Conservative ridings being more rural, and thus having more municipalities, and more recreation facilities. In addition, he indicates that this analysis only reveals a pattern of partisan allocation of funding because of the narrow focus of the analysis.

However, the CBC analysed a separate stimulus program, the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, yielding similar results. Of all the government funding in this program, 60 per cent has gone to Conservative ridings, while 40 per cent has gone to opposition ridings. This contradicts the PM's claims earlier this week that opposition ridings received approximately 50 percent of funding.

The argument that the rural proclivity of Conservative ridings skews the analysis may yet hold, but for this fact. Ralph Goodale's riding in rural Saskatchewan only received $4.8 million, compared to the Tory riding adjacent that received $6.5 million. This shows that even in rural areas, there is a deliberate decision to award more money to Conservative constituencies.

All this goes to show that once again, the PM's facts are fiction, compounding the scandal. Thank goodness for an inquisitive media.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Defending the Indefensible, a Conservative Passtime

If you read Tim Powers' latest article on the globe's website, you will be duly amazed at his dogged determination to avoid the real matter of the partisan cheque scandal. Just like his favourite PM.

To say that the money is public money being payed on the public is true. But it completely avoids the fact that this money is being distributed in ways that ensure the Conservatives are awarded all the credit for the stimulus package. Apparently, according to Powers, the Conservative Party and government are synonymous.

Here is a gem from the article: "After years of having Liberals give our money to their friends I guess a period of adjustment is required." I guess Powers is proud of his genius here in deflecting all criticism by pointing to the Liberals' sponsorship scandal.

In fact, he's right, a period of adjustment is required: to the use of significant sums of government money as Conservative party ads.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Conservatives Silence Deafening on Partisan Cheques

In today's Question Period, Michael Ignatieff asked the following from the Prime Minister:

Would the Prime Minister now rise in his seat and admit what has been true all along, that his office is behind this scheme?

You would expect either an admission or a proper explanation of the scandal when it is this important. Instead, the House and Canadians got this:

“Obviously it is normal that the members who are championing those projects would want to take credit for those projects,” he said. “We insist that they follow the rules. Obviously we would encourage the opposition members to do the same thing. These are important projects for their ridings as well and they should be backing them and pushing them forward.”

Clearly, the PM is avoiding the question. And why? Because the answer is that he did know, and that this would certify the true extent of this scandal.

In fact, as Mr Layton further remarked, it is very much like the sponsorship scandal. Guess Steve never thought he'd be caught doing what he came into office to stop.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Doorknobs are Stimulus: Parliamentary Toilet Paper Next?

Amid all the controversy surrounding clearly partisan cheques allocating government spending, it has been revealed that the Conservative financial antics can stretch even further. Doorknobs are now part of stimulus for the economy. Replacing doorknobs in federal buildings in PEI deserves signage extolling the virtues of Canada's action plan. Never mind that, although this does give jobs for some people, it could be much better spent on something of lasting benefit to the economy. All money that goes to such stupid schemes could go to worthwhile things like developing green technologies.

What's next? Parliamentary toilet paper? It'd do a lot more good for society than new doorknobs. Especially in the Tory washrooms after Question Period, if you know what I mean.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Conservatives Attempting to Equate Ignatieff's Environmental Position with their own

In his blog post today, Norman Spector asserts that Michael Ignatieff's announcement that the environment will be a major plank of his platform, and the methods which he will use, indicate that Michael Ignatieff has given up on an international solution to global warming, and will instead pursue national measures. He points to the lack of mention of Kyoto and the focus on the development of green technology.

The point of is, even under Kyoto, there should be national targets. In fact there were. It was for 6% below 1990 levels, for all the signatories. Furthermore, if any international successor to Kyoto is agreed to in Copenhagen, investment in green technology would be one of the methods governments would use to meet their targets under this international protocol.

In no measure then is Michael Ignatieff abandoning international agreements and protocols as solutions to climate change. Rather, it is Norman Spector, a Conservative, who is attempting, through faulty reasoning, to equate Stephen Harper's approach to the environment and Michael Ignatieff's.

However, Norman Spector's opinion to the contrary, it is still apparent that only one leader in Canada does not believe in international co-operation on the environment. And it's not Michael Ignatieff.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Remember the promise of Accountable Government?

One of, among the few, of Stephen Harper's successes as PM is the Accountability Act that was the culmination of Harper's campaign for accountability in government, in the face of the blatant corruption of the sponsorship scandal. However, Harper's governments have gotten progressively less accountable and responsible. The difference between the controversy over conservative logos on government cheques and the sponsorship scandal is that the influence is indirect.

Conservative dye-in-the-wool partisans point to the sponsorship scandal at this time because it would seem that this was a worse transgression. It is possible to get philosophical and wonder whether insidious influencing of the electorate is worse than what the Liberals did, but I digress.

The point is that while the Liberals did grossly abuse their power in the sponsorship scandal, it does not discount what the Conservatives have now done. In fact, bringing these two events together reveals many similarities. Government money being used to influence citizens, in a manner that is not overt.

In addition, when seen alongside the long line of government ads that are really Tory ads, a disturbing trend emerges. Far from being accountable, the Tories may have equaled the sponsorship scandal's abuse of power.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Liberals Back on Course

Ignatieff announced in a speech today that the environment will be at the heart of the next election platform. He has also finally scheduled his thinkers' conference, for mid-January. These actions speak of a more balanced and reasonable Liberal party than we have seen the last few months.

The announcement that the environment will be at the heart of the next election platform is significant for two reasons. To begin with, it's good policy. The environment is, arguably, the most pressing issue of our time, on which many other issues are dependent. In addition, it is the area in which the Conservatives have proven to be the most inept. With the Copenhagen conference in December, it will also be a focal point of public attention.

Secondly, it shows that the party no longer has a phobia of being related, however remotely, to Stephane Dion. The environment was the central plank of Ignatieff's predecessor's platform, the Green Shift. With the announcement that this policy area will be central to the next platform, Ignatieff and the Liberals show that they are confident in themselves, something very important in politics, affecting the perception of a party by potential voters.

For its part, the thinkers' conference being scheduled for January shows that Ignatieff is finally paying real attention to policy. Policy, ideally, is what should win elections. With the schedule being set for January, augurs of a fall election are quickly disappearing. This is a sensible decision, as the election fear mongering has scared voters away from the Liberals.

And now that the Liberals are developing good policy, and as a result of election threats can really oppose, there is every reason that they will return, in more numbers than before.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why the Conservatives are wrong on the HST

If you have happened to be listening to question period from the last week, numerous battles have been fought between the NDP and the Conservatives over the HST. The NDP points out how the HST will harm Canadians, to which the Conservatives respond by citing the NDP's opposition to reducing the GST. They further point to their action on behalf of the working class in reducing this tax.

The Conservatives do have a point in that the NDP did oppose a reduction of the most regressive tax in our system. However, one could argue that they were so vociferously opposed because the Conservatives measures amounted to withdrawing significant state revenue without compensating in another area. Such policy shows foresight now that a deficit is ballooning thanks to the lack of sufficient revenue. It also shows a dedication to the principle of a government that can act for good, instead of the deprivation techniques employed by Conservatives with the aim of eventually nullifying government's potential for positive action.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives evade the question and in fact introduce a new inconsistency in their reasoning. If they are in favour of helping the working class, as their interpretation of their reduction of the GST would suggest, then why are they extending a tax to goods and services never before taxed.

Groceries used to be exempt from GST and form a significant percentage of the expenditures of a lower income family. Yet, under the HST, this spending will be taxed.

The NDP is perfectly justified in demanding an answer to the extension of a regressive tax, especially when the Prime Minister's own responses to their questions indicate that he should be adamantly opposed to this HST his government is promoting.

And as for it being a solely provincial manner, BS.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Magical Disappearance of the Deficit

"When our economic recovery is assured, Canada will return to a balanced budget without raising taxes or cutting transfers to the provinces like the Liberals did." Another gem from the CPC's party website, and a superb iteration of their policy.

The Conservatives criticize Michael Ignatieff for contemplating raising taxes, and vow to not cut transfers to the provinces. Instead, they have opted for increased taxes in all but name on EI premiums.

While the Conservatives argue that they oppose tax rises because they may hurt the lower and middle classes, they have proposed a policy which will hurt these same people much the same. The only difference is in the name. The Conservatives are essentially banking on the Canadian public letting them pull the wool over its collective eyes.

There is one other option left open between no tax increases and no cuts to the transfers to the provinces: cuts in the federal government's own services and expenses. This hypothesis may even be more satisfying than accepting that the Conservatives are intent on raising EI benefits, as it fits perfectly with the progressive erosion of the government that Stephen Harper has presided (in the full meaning of the word) over.

Either way, that the Conservatives believe that Canadians will buy into a magical disappearance of the deficit, without higher taxes or cuts, simply perpetuates the Conservative contempt for the government, and for Canadians.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Come Up With Some Policy

A Strategic counsel poll released today pegged the Conservatives at 41 and the Liberals lagging behind at 28. Disconcerting results as the gap grows ever wider and the Conservatives near majority territory. These results put into question the strategy that Michael Ignatieff has been using up until now.

One of the components of this strategy has been a vagueness surrounding policy. With Ignatieff's predecessor, the policy of the carbon tax was released months before an election. With the saddening disaster this proved to be,and a history of Conservatives stealing Liberal ideas, Liberals have become recluse on policy.

The argument goes that the Conservatives will steal the policies and thus get the credit for all our Liberal work. This argument should be seen in a completely different light considering the trends in the polls. It would be better at this point to reap as much of the benefits as possible from policy proposals, as this would hopefully narrow the gap somewhat.

Neither does any of the benefits from these policies have to go to the Conservatives. If they are truly Liberal policies, they need to be hard for Harper acquiesce to. They should be on such wedge issues as the environment and force Harper to watch as the Liberals go where he would never be able to.

The time now is for policy. A general haziness surrounding Liberal ideas on crucial issues has succeeded, as much in obscuring policy as ultimately driving down the Liberals polling. It is time to propose policy, generate public debate, and reveal to the nation what makes us Liberals different from the governing neo-cons.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Conservative Turn-Around?

The Conservatives have announced that Ottawa is going to waive gun registry fees. "Documents obtained by CBC News under access to information show the federal government's decision to waive fees for people licensing their firearms will cost more than $15 million this year alone. Should the fee waiver be extended for another three years, internal forecasts predict an additional $60 million in "projected lost revenue."

Contrast that value of $60 million with the $30 million that they were envisaging on saving in December with the elimination of federal subsidies for the parties. It's double. At the time, the Conservatives were adamant that the subsidies were a case of fiscal mismanagement. They needed to be eliminated in a time of economic frailty, as they were a case of unnecessary spending.

Now they're engaging in unnecessary and unwise cuts that fly right in the face of principles advocated in December last year. Seems that it's more the politics that are important.

Cutting the funding to political parties was popular with Harper's base. Scraping the gun registry, or making it ineffective, is another policy popular with it.

Clearly, Stephen Harper is using the finances of the nation for his own political gains, again, instead of for good policy.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Get Ignatieff to do a Troika

Stephen Harper broke out of his mould yesterday evening, playing a Beatles hit song well enough to earn a standing ovation. Looking past the quality of the signing and playing, which I have to say were pretty good, it may mean that we have an election on our hands. After all, Harper suddenly rid himself of a deep seated aversion to galas, which begs the question why? An election in the works is a convincing argument.

In light of this, the Liberals will have to respond with making Ignatieff doing something that shows another side of his personality, much as Stephane Dion did at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner:

What about troika with the national ballet? Ignatieff's got russian ancestry after all.

Or something else along those lines. As long as it's not an Isaiah Berlin lecture. I fully support Ignatieff giving such lectures. But now it is required that Ignatieff show that there is more to him than the professor. Stephen Harper has put the ball into Ignatieff and all the other leaders' courts. If they don't react quickly, he will have secured a noticeable amount of positive public opinion as a result.

And then he can get high with the help of the whole nation.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Harper has Company in Club of Canadian Leaders Flouting Democracy

Remember the coalition crisis last December? Remember the outrage felt in many parts at Stephen Harper's proroguing of Parliament, a most undemocratic move by a government avoiding a confidence vote that would have toppled it. Well, now Stephen Harper has company in Gordon Campbell as an undemocratic political leader in Canada.

Gordon Campbell, at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, suggested that he is considering granting municipal voting rights to industrial and business property owners. In other words, if you're rich, we'll listen to you.

Wonder if Harper will pick up on this new tactic to wrestle away power from the elected representatives of the people. It would be like the return of the Family Compact and Chateau Clique.

After all, who needs democracy when you can have oligarchy?
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

How COULD Anyone Have Confidence in this Government?

In his speech to the House of Commons tabling his no confidence motion, Michael Ignatieff enumerated all the reasons that the Liberals, and one assumes the BQ, have rightly lost confidence in the Conservatives and Stephen Harper.

Here they all are:

1. Conservatives lost control of the public finances of our country.

2.It jeopardizes our capacity to provide adequate health care for Canadians in the future. It jeopardizes our capacity to help seniors and guarantee a secure retirement for our fellow citizens. It jeopardizes our capacity to help the unemployed.

3. Conservative ridings have benefited disproportionately from this stimulus expenditure and we have the figures to prove it.

4. When we actually look at the stimulus funding that we can see on the ground, 12 per cent has gone out the door.

5.The government has used taxpayers' money and spent six times more promoting its own inaction plan than it has to promote the public health of Canadians and warn them about the dangers of H1N1.

6.We are still waiting for the vaccine.

7. Across the country there are cancer and heart patients waiting for nuclear medicine and diagnostics because twice on the government's watch over four years it has failed to supply an adequate amount of nuclear isotopes for the Canadian medical profession.

8. There has been no attempt to defend Canadian jobs and Canadian technologies.

9. It has failed to protect Canadians abroad.

10. the government, over four long years, has steadily diminished Canada's influence and weight overseas.

11. Who will actually listen to Canada on the climate change issue? We have had three ministers of the environment, three plans and no action. We have lost all credibility on this issue in the international area. Who would vote for Canada?

12. Who in China or India will take seriously Canadian entrepreneurship, Canadian technology, Canadian products if the Prime Minister of Canada cannot even bother to show up to lead trade missions to open those markets to our Canadian entrepreneurs?

13. The government works on one plan and one plan only, starve the beast, lower expectations of government so far until Canadians cease to have any expectations of the federal government whatsoever. This is an unworthy way to govern this country, and we stand against it.

14. All adversaries are enemies, all methods are fair and all public money is available for partisan purposes. This is unworthy of the political traditions of this country.

15. We actually receive lessons from the public. We do not give them to the public. We do not use an election to teach left wing judges a lesson. We do not use elections to teach women who help other women through the cycle of domestic abuse a lesson. We want to use elections to bring Canadians together, to arouse them to a higher purpose.

16. We believe we are looking for a government that actually thinks it can be leaders, not followers, in the great drama, the great challenge of global climate change.

17. We are looking for a government that believes in the compassion and creativity of Canadians and wants to stand with them, not against them, and build a great country together.

18. We are looking for a government that believes in telling Canadians the truth, a government that believes that growth does not just happen with a market miracle.

And Jack Layton abstains, implying confidence in the government?
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