Saturday, June 30, 2007

Greenpeace Arrives In Alberta

Greenpeace has hired its first staffers for the Edmonton office, opposing tar sands development:
Edmonton, Canada — Greenpeace has taken a dramatic step to expand its climate and energy campaign by opening an office in Edmonton to oppose tar sands in Alberta.

The arrival of Greenpeace in Alberta has already sparked widespread attention in the province. With foundation funding support, Greenpeace will hire at least one full time tar sands campaigner for the coming year. To kick things off, we are hitting the ground running with two talented and dedicated staffers on four-month contracts beginning in July. We welcome Mike Hudema and Geeta Sehgal to the Greenpeace team.

Mike is from Alberta, but currently on staff at San Francisco’s Global Exchange office, and will be returning to them after his sojourn with Greenpeace. Geeta has just graduated from law school at the University of Alberta, and has been active with a number of environmental and social change organizations.

I had a crazy idea, which I've passed along to Greenpeace Canada. I wonder if there is a way to setup a seperate donation system so that any proceeds go directly to this office? If that were possible, then maybe all the bloggers across Canada who are concerned could encourage donations to this particular cause. Good idea?


CBC ran a rather unflattering story that painted the Liberal Party as pandering to ethnic extremists to solicit support. To be fair, there were also references to the NDP and the Conservatives, but the focus was the relationship between the Liberals and dodgy elements within the Sikh community. Ethnic politics is nothing new in Canada, in fact I wondered if the story was nothing more than confirmation of the obvious.

The nature of Canada is such that pandering is a political necessity. Every party has traditional support bases which represent a narrow, and sometimes unattractive, viewpoint. In order to expand support, political parties much "reach out" to sub-sections which essentially operate as interest groups. The better politically organized and cohesive the group, such as the Jewish lobby or the Sikh community, the more you can see disproportionate influence.

No one can deny that the Sikh vote in the last Liberal leadership was a critical factor in deciding the outcome. However, to argue that what transpired represents anything more than the ordinary in Canadian politics is disingenuous- it might just be that the turbans provide the visual that eliminates the normal subtlety. My first political experience was as a 15 year old, wherein I was recruited as a "instant Liberal" to cast a vote for someone I had never met. Ethnic voting as a bloc has a long tradition in Canadian politics.

The Conservatives courtships are less obvious, probably due to the bland white on white imagery, but it still exists (are WASP's a voting bloc?). As a matter of fact, the Conservatives would love nothing more than to usurp the Liberals with ethnics (see Jason Kenney). I see no difference in the herd mentality of the Christian Right in the Conservative Party and the Sikh blocs within the Liberal Party. There are countless examples of pastors asking congregations to select the moral choice, organizing to "get out the vote" and all the other typical tactics. In other words, political parties are nothing more than a coalition of various interest groups at their heart. The NDP's traditional base of "union brothers" is another example of bloc voting.

I'm of the opinion that any support based on narrow cultural or ethnic lines is disturbing and seems to conflict with the notion of individual freedom. However, I see nothing in Canada's political circumstance to suggest that anything will change, anytime soon. So long as sub-sections of Canadians realize that there is power in acting as one, there will always be uneven appearances. Tribalism, it seems, is a Canadian staple.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Pressure Builds

I'm almost certain that there is no historical precedent for a theoretical candidacy garnering such support. The fact that Al Gore tops a poll of Democrats in New Hampshire is beyond impressive and only makes the draft Gore drumbeat louder:
A presidential election poll suggesting Democratic voters would prefer former vice-president Al Gore to any of the declared contenders, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton...

The poll, conducted in New Hampshire by 7News and Suffolk University, confirmed Ms Clinton's nationwide double-digit lead over her main rival, Illinois senator Barack Obama. The former first lady and New York senator attracted 37% support, against Mr Obama's 19%. John Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was on 9%.

But if Mr Gore were to seek the Democratic nomination, 29% of Ms Clinton's backers would switch their support to him, the poll found. When defections from other candidates are factored in, the man who controversially lost to Mr Bush in the 2000 election takes command of the field, with 32% support.

Clinton, the clear frontrunner, would see her support evaporate with a Gore entrance. This suggests many things, not the least of which is complete voter apathy. If Clinton's support is so soft, it doesn't say much about Obama that he lags so far behind, seemingly unable to capitalize.

Gore has already outpaced his rivals in recent Florida and Pennsylvania polls, despite the fact he isn't a candidate. The fact that he could parachute in to New Hampshire and immediately take center stage has to make a possible run all the more attractive. New Hampshire, moreso than Iowa, is ground zero for presidential hopefuls, which makes these poll results all the more relevant.

Conventional wisdom suggests Gore is already too far behind in fundraising and organization to make a late bid successful. With the new front loaded primary calendar, a candidate needs a well oiled machine to survive. However, momentum will play an even bigger role this season, which could well supercede traditional organization. On that score, a Gore entrance has the capacity to become an instant power:
While Gore has not been raising funds for a presidential bid, others have been raising money for him. An all-volunteer group boasting tens of thousands of activists is waging a grass-roots campaign to raise money online for him at sites like There, the senior counselor for Gore's 2000 campaign, David Moorehouse, is quoted saying, "Gore can wait longer than other candidates, because he can raise money on the Internet. ... Should he decide to run, he can raise $15 million in two days."

Whether or not you believe Gore could be successful, one has to admit that he is starting to cast a very long shadow over the entire Democratic field.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who Will Win The Barbeque War?

I can't remember another year where the summer break has received so much attention. The barbeque circuit is the political focus, as though flipping a few burgers can cure all ills. It's nice that the leaders are going to spend the summer rubbing elbows with the "people", but I find the whole idea largely irrelevant in terms of political fate.

In Liberal circles, a great onus has been placed on Dion's summer of the meet and greet. I'm not trashing the idea, in fact I think it is healthy, but I also don't have any faith whatsoever that the exercise will prove relevant politically. I'm calling it the "getting to know me" tour, but its reach is so limited that Liberal strategists had better hatch some other schemes to turn around public perception.

All the leaders will be doing the barbeque circuit this summer, which effectively cancels out any advantage. Dion can tour the country, but it's not like Harper won't be doing the same, with the added advantage of making an announcement here, photo-op with foreign leaders there, etc. If anything, the summer presents more opportunity for Harper, Dion and others will be hard pressed to make any news, now that the glare of parliament is gone.

In terms of fundraising, rallying the partisan troops and getting feedback, all good. When it comes to real political relevance, not so much.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Angus-Reid Online Poll

No movement in the horserace numbers for this poll, although compared to others, Angus-Reid clearly underestimates Liberal support:
Public support for Canada’s main political organizations remains virtually stagnant, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 34 per cent of respondents would vote for the governing Conservatives in the next federal election, while 27 per cent would support the opposition Liberal party.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) is third with 19 per cent, followed by the Bloc Québécois with 10 per cent, and the Green party with eight per cent. Support for the Tories, Liberals and Greens fell by one point since late May, while backing for the NDP and Bloc increased by the same margin.

Good news for the NDP, which has improved steadily since the winter. I attribute this to two factors, hesitation with others and the NDP finally training their criticisms solely on the government, instead of pre-occupying themselves with Liberal bashing- the NDP has been far more effective since they adopted the former.

Some interesting results in the internals, with "neither" outpacing both Harper and Dion:

Which of these two leaders would make the best prime minister of Canada?

Apr. 20 May 21 Jun. 15

Harper 36%..31%..33%

Dion 18%..17%..17%..

Neither 34%..41%..38%

Still waiting for Neither's environmental plan before I get on board, but no question he/she looks hard to beat.

Bad news for Harper's negatives:

Over the course of the past month, would you say your opinion of Stephen Harper has improved, stayed the same or worsened?

Apr. 20 May 21 Jun. 15

Improved 17%.. 20%.. 9%
Stayed the same 54%..53%..48%
Worsened 22%..32%..37%

Of note, Dion's numbers have stabilized, with less people having a negative opinion over time.

While the Conservatives stop the horserace slide, Harper's numbers continue to erode, which suggests softening support. Again, these internals show Harper weakening without a corresponding bump for the Liberals, which highlights a lingering hesitation with the Liberals.

Hot Potato

The most curious of all the Harper positions, was his unilateral embrace of the Afghanistan mission as the Conservatives own. Initiated by the Liberals, Harper could be a proponent of the mission, while still enjoying political cover, through lack of direct responsibility. Instead, Harper immediately seized on Afghanistan, wrapped himself in a militaristic nationalism and seemed to determine to cast the Conservatives as the pro-war option. Politically, Harper's zeal has always been questionable at best, because he relinquished an escape route without prompting, for no payoff.

Yesterday's press conference represents the Harper wakeup call. For the first time, Harper has suggested that the opposition will determine the direction of the mission. A far cry from the rhetoric heard just last month during the visit to Afghanistan, Harper essentially attempts to wash his hands and place the onus elsewhere. With support for an extension waning badly, this new posture is pure political calculation, which is noteworthy given the previous "we will not look at the polls" stance.

"Building consensus" means abdicating responsbility, neutralizing the issue as partisan consideration. Probably a wise move for Conservative fortunes, but one that deserves a cynical reading. I am willing to bet that internal polling shows a lack of appetite for open-ended combat even amongst soft-Conservative support. Make no mistake, despite the cries of principle, this seismic shift in tone is a finger in the wind scenario. Harper is trying to distance himself from the perception that this is his mission, which is where he was initially, prior to his self-annointed, misguided declaration as defender of Canada and the world.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Walk The Talk

The latest example of the Harper government's do as I say, not as I do approach. Actually worse than the Liberals? Shocking.

h/t The View From The Lake

Harper And The Constitution

Harper is saying it is "constitutionally impossible" for the government to comply with the Kyoto bill. Interesting that Harper uses the constitution for backing, because the early reaction from constitutional experts, Harper must comply:
If the government fails to produce a Kyoto plan within six weeks, the government could be taken to court by citizens or the opposition parties, said Lorraine Weinrib, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Toronto.

"There are ways of doing this that wouldn't involve expenditure," said Weinrib. "The idea that the government has no obligation under this bill, which seems to be the comment the prime minister is putting out, that's hard to understand."

Harper cannot ignore the will of Parliament, said Stewart Elgie, a professor of environmental and constitutional law at the University of Ottawa.

"A fundamental principle of democracy is that ministers are not above the law in this country. The thing about this bill is, it ends the debate about whether Canada should comply with Kyoto. Parliament has said yes.

"It's up to cabinet to decide if they want to use regulations or spending or some other combination," he said. "They do not have the option of not complying with Kyoto."

The bill's passage is good news for Canadian democracy, he added. ``It reaffirms that our elected representatives pass the laws in this country, even if the prime minister may not agree with them, and that's how a democracy is supposed to work."

Harper would be better served to stick to the economic cost angle, because he can make a stronger case appearance wise. I watched a roundtable today, and the point was made that Canadians are accepting of the fact that we can no longer meet our commitments. This emerging reality means the opposition can embarrass the government, but there is a risk of backlash if the costs look excessive.

An example:
But Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas later said the government was open to applying the bill if the Liberals would tell them how to do it.

"If the Liberals have a plan or a way to reach six per cent below 1990 on greenhouse gas reductions they should share that information with us so we can work together on achieving it."

I see risk for all sides as this debate moves forward, but Harper should stop drawing attention on the constitution because it might prove a political loser.

Canadians Want A Green

Canadians overwhelmingly want a Green member of parliament:

It is important for Canada to have a Green party member of Parliament?

Agree 58%
Disagree 30%

Relatively impressive potential with voters:
In the next federal election, would you consider voting for the Green candidate in your riding?

Definitely / Probably consider 25%

Definitely / Probably not 60%

The fact a quarter of the population would consider voting Green is quite a coup, considering the "fringe" factor, with no real representation. Findings such as the above should give May more ammunition in her battle to be included in the debates.

Someone Please Explain

Why is that the climate change issue is largely a partisan affair? I'm generalizing, but if you visit an aggregator like Progressive Bloggers, Blogging Dippers, Liblogs, the overwhelming majority of posters are sympathetic to the view that we need to take immediate action to a real problem. Visit a site like the Blogging Tories and you are sure to find someone debating whether or not the problem even exists, nevermind caused by humans? It amazes me that one's perception of a scientific question is largely based on political persuasion.

The same predicament exists in American politics, where almost every "denier" is a Republican. Is this a North American divide, because European political discourse doesn't show the same degree of disconnect?

If I write a post on the environment, almost universally any dissent is a Conservative supporter. Mars, solar cycles, flawed computer models, natural fluctuations, cattle, you name it, the alternative is presented. Blogging Tories write of "hysteria" amongst environmentists, much ado about nothing. Can someone please explain to me why this issue has produced such a chasm, based on partisanship? I don't get it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Indulge Me

One of my favorite environmentalists is John Bennett of Climate For Change. One of the main "go to" guys of the media, he is the preferred rational voice on climate change that sifts through the rhetoric. I noticed a couple hits from the Climate For Change website recently and when I went to the site I noticed they had linked to this blog. A minor thing, but it makes you feel good that your repetitive rants are acknowledged by people of whom you have tremendous respect. Anyways, no point here really, that just made me feel good for some reason.

Since this is a "all about me" boring post, I might as well show a picture of my 9 month old. Can you say cute:

My apologies.

Kyoto Bill To Pass Senate?

Last week, I proposed the idea of a deal between Liberal and Conservative Senators. Do we have an agreement?:
Conservatives and Liberals have agreed to quickly clear the legislative decks in the Senate, committing to vote Friday on a host of bills, including the federal budget.

In return for the speedy budget vote, the Tories have also agreed to vote on a controversial Liberal private member's bill ordering the government to meet the Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The Tories have long contended the targets are unachievable without destroying the economy and, until recently, had been filibustering the bill to prevent it coming to a vote in the Liberal-dominated Senate.

Under the agreement, all bills that are currently at third and final reading will go to a vote by noon Friday and then be given royal assent.

You can argue the merits of the Kyoto bill, and whether or not is it a good/bad thing politically for the opposition, particularly the Liberals, but there is no question this passage will be an issue.

Storm Warning?

Much of the talk in Liberal circles has been about the looming by-elections that could see Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findley elected to Parliament. For my money, the really intriguing, and possibly devastating, by-election will be the Outremont riding in Quebec. The NDP are positioning themselves for an upset, in one of the last remaining Liberal strongholds in the province. A high-profile candidate, with environmental credentials, Layton's Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair will be a force to be reckoned with:
Muclair said he believes the NDP is on the right track to win Outrement, which has been a Liberal stronghold most recently held by former transport minister Jean Lapierre.

"One of the messages that is being sent to us is that a lot of dissatisfied federalists are taking a good hard look at Stephane Dion and there's a reason why he's at 10 per cent in the polls personally and we're doing better than the Liberals right now."

Mulcair said the NDP, which now has no Quebec seats, is heading into a real race in Outremont, one that be won by "the ones who work the hardest and we intend to be that party."

He represented Chomedy riding in nearby Laval in the Quebec legislature from 1994 until he quit the provincial Liberals earlier this year. Mulcair, who had been a cabinet minister since 2003, left cabinet in late 2006 because he rejected a switch from his environment portfolio to be minister of government services. He joined the NDP in April.

In the last election, the NDP ran third, ahead of the Conservatives, with a very respectable 20% of the vote. The Bloc, which ran second, had a high-profile candidate, which won't be the case in this by-election. The fact that Mulcair is a former Liberal cabinet minister, who left politics over the highly contentious Mont Orford Park privatization scheme, means that the NDP has a formidable candidate, with impeccable credibility.

I've seen Muclair in a couple of interviews, and he is very aggressive, quite critical in his critiques and generally impressive. I have no doubt the NDP will make a major push in this by-election, and if they were to succeed it could serve as watershed moment for the Liberals in Quebec. The last thing the party needs is another relevant federal player on the scene, particularly one that has a more natural fit on many of the issues. This by-election has the potential to be a watershed moment.

Another example of the Liberals problems in Quebec:
Next, we’d like to ask you some questions about the federal Liberal Party. In the next federal election, would you consider voting for the Liberal candidate in your riding?

Would consider- 34%
Wouldn't consider- 52%

If you had to guess, which province would have the worst numbers from a Liberal perspective. Intuitively, you would think Alberta, but nope it's Quebec:

Would consider- 35%
Wouldn't consider -52%


Would consider- 20%
Wouldn't consider- 67%

Now, mind you, that is province wide response for an online poll(hey Scott), but I see this finding as another ingredient in the potential poison stew brewing.

I suspect Liberal strategists appreciate the danger in Outremont and we will see a concerted effort to ensure the party holds on to one of the last bastions. Otherwise, and we can't underestimate Muclair who looks the right person at an intriguing time, this little by-election could have serious ramifications moving forward.

New Poll

Most of the time, the regional numbers for the big polls are suspect at best, particularly in places like British Columbia, where the sample size is so small to render the results virtually meaningless. With that in mind, this British Columbia specific poll gives a better indication of where the parties really stand:
Federal Tory policies on the environment and Afghanistan have cost the party support in British Columbia, although the Conservatives are ahead of their political competition among decided voters, a new poll suggests.

The Tories have 33 per cent support compared with 29 per cent for the NDP and 28 per cent for the Liberals, according to the survey of 852 B.C. adults conducted by Mustel Group Market Research, and released yesterday.

Movement since last poll:
Liberal support has been stable since the last Mustel survey, conducted in March, but NDP support appears to have increased nine points. In March, the Tories were at 40 per cent support.

The poll shows growing disapproval of Conservative policy, as it relates to the environment and Afghanistan.

Liberal perspective:
Mike Witherly, a strategist for the federal Liberal party in B.C., said he took solace that the level of Liberal support held up in the face of Tory attack ads against Leader Stéphane Dion.

"Despite their best efforts, they really can't move the dial," Mr. Witherly said.

"It's like we had round one and they threw everything they have got and they got nowhere. If I were a Conservative strategist, I'd be saying, 'What can we possibly do to move our numbers?"

It would appear that the erosion in Conservative support is directly tied to the uptick in NDP support, with the Liberals simply bypassed. The Liberal numbers are static, which seems to mirror the national trend, draw you own conclusions.

If these numbers held in an election, the Conservatives would probably lose seats in B.C.. The list of provinces that show potential seat loss suggests nothing close to a majority, with the prospects of outright defeat more and more likely.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Apocalypse Called Off

Remember all the Conservatives howling about a carbon tax devastating the economy. It would appear the looming apocalypse has been called off:
Steep carbon tax could actually stimulate economy: report

It was denounced by Environment Minister John Baird as "the mother of all taxes," but a new report for the federal government says a $50-per-tonne carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas pollution would do little harm to the Canadian economy.

In an analysis of carbon taxes ranging from $10 per tonne up to $250 per tonne, the report, obtained by May through an Access to Information request, concluded that the $50-per-tonne carbon tax could even have a positive effect on the economy by 2015.

The study was produced by the consulting firm of Mark Jaccard, an economics professor from Simon Fraser University, who has been recognized by senior government officials as one of Canada's top climate policy experts. In a phone interview, Jaccard noted the study concluded a $50 carbon tax might not be high enough to honour Canada's international obligations under the Kyoto protocol on climate change. But the tax would start pushing the economy away from fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gas pollution without doing any major damage to growth, he added.

"If we're serious about reducing greenhouse gases, we have to have a carbon tax or its equivalent," said Jaccard. "So in fact, Elizabeth May is the only politician who's being honest to Canadians right now."

Jaccard said a tax never really translates into a loss of a region's gross domestic product - the size of the economy - since the revenues are re-invested elsewhere.

Is Mr. Jaccard right? What others are saying about Mark Jaccard:
Minister of the Environment John Baird:

"Hearing these facts, substantiated by some of our country's mostwell-respected economic experts...The economic costs are not acceptable. I look to Don Drummond, one of the most well-respected economists in the country; Christopher Green from McGill; Marc Jaccard from Simon Fraser; Carl Sonnen from Infometrica and Jean-Thomas Bernard from Laval. There is a considerable amount of concern over the contents of the bill."

Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn:

"Those are the facts. They are confirmed by independent economists such as Don Drummond, Mark Jaccard and others. Those members do not like the truth.

I stress that this is not the Conservative analysis. This analysis was done by some of the most respected economists in the country. They are saying what would happen."

Minister of the Environment Parliamentary Sec Mark Warawa:

"Professor Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University has been to the committee. I guess I'll quote him, and this is in relationship to the Kyoto target."

Conservative MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn:

"We wanted independent economists to analyze the situation. I would like to share with you the names of those who participated in the analysis. Mark Jaccard is a professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management"

Minister of the Environment John Baird:

"As such, we have had some of our government's leading economists look at the bill. We went further and had their work reviewed and validated by some of Canada's best economists outside of governments. They include Jean-Thomas Bernard, a professor in the Department of Economics at Laval University; Mr. Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University...The conclusions of our economists and outside of government experts are quite striking."

Like Mr. Baird, and the rest of the Conservative environmental team, "I look to the experts" for guidance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How Novel

I really like the recent initiatives the Ontario government has announced on the environment file. My impressions aside, it is nice to hear some expert opinion weighing in that reacts in a positive way. What a novel concept, a plan that actually finds support outside of partisan rhetoric:

David Suzuki Foundation:

First parts of province's climate change plans encouraging

June 18, 2007 Ontario's greenhouse gas reduction targets recognize what needs to be done to tackle global warming, but their credibility and effectiveness depend on the rest of the plan they're part of, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

"The targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are solid," said David Suzuki Foundation climate change policy analyst Dale Marshall. "Particularly the long-term targets. They're in line with what science dictates is required."

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - mainly carbon dioxide or CO2 - six percent by 2014, 15 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. Phasing out the use of coal for generating electricity is a key element.

As part of that effort, the Premier announced a regulated shutdown of coal-fired generating plants by 2014. "That coal-phaseout timeline is key," Mr. Marshall said. "Coal can be phased out within the term of the Kyoto Protocol, by 2012."

Public transit is another important aspect of the plan, with a large transit funding package for Toronto that includes $17.5 billion over 13 years, $6 billion of which Ontario hopes to get from the federal government.

"That's a significant proposal for public transportation," said Mr. Marshall. "Sustainable transit is crucial to tackling global warming and cutting greenhouse gases. Better transit means fewer cars on the road and less carbon dioxide in the air."

Pollution Probe:

Pollution Probe applauds the government of Ontario’s huge investment in public transit

(Toronto, ON) Pollution Probe congratulates the government of Ontario for its leadership in making a huge investment in public transit. A modern public transit system is a lynchpin for environmental sustainability and the centerpiece for tackling serious environmental issues, including climate change and smog.

“The Government of Ontario is demonstrating vision and leadership by investing in a long-term plan to reduce vehicle dependency and address its growing transportation and congestion problems,” said Dr. Quentin Chiotti, Pollution Probe’s climate change director. “Investment in public transit on this scale is really significant,” says Dr. Chiotti. “It is a watershed moment in Ontario’s transition to sustainable growth management.”

Pollution Probe urges the federal government to play their part in this initiative.

Many reviews are yet to come, and I'm sure I've missed some, but by my count the McGuinty Green Plan now has two more environmental groups onside than the Baird Green Plan. Yep, 0 + 2= 2 if my math is right. Experts, what do they know- on with the baseless, blowing in the wind, no context, detached from reality propaganda I say Mr. Baird.

More typical revelations.

Who Was That Guy?

If anyone missed Harper's speech today in Parliament, in reference to Bill Graham retiring, you should do yourself a favor and hit this link. Gracious, generous, personable, attractive, eloquent, classy, funny, Harper was barely recognizable. If we saw more of that person, the Conservatives would be in the mid 40's right now.

Actually, it was completely fascinating to watch the various leaders heap praise on Graham. The tone was so civil and impressive, that I couldn't help but think why we don't see this demeanor more often. If you want to engage Canadians, then the mature commentary on display today is the way to proceed. The Speaker even commented at the end of speeches that he hoped the members would bring some of that spirit back to Parliament tomorrow during Question Period.

It is strange that the discourse is so full of vitrol, that you are both shocked and impressed, when our MP's act like normal human beings. More of that, from all sides, and much of the disgust and apathy in the electorate would vanish.

Sword Fights

Interesting commentary from Nik Nanos of SES on the Conservatives targeted voter strategy. Trying to appeal to men with cars, hockey and war, might be a net negative:
What's puzzling some observers, however, is how all this heavily male symbolism, mixed with an aggressive, disciplinary governing style, is going to help the Conservatives get more votes in the next election, especially from women.

"It's definitely not a growth strategy. It's the opposite of a growth strategy," says pollster Nik Nanos, who says all this macho posturing may be part of the reason the federal Conservatives are stalled in the public-opinion surveys conducted in the past few months.

"It's reinforcing stereotypes that they're trying to get rid of – which is that the Conservatives appeal to a very narrow group of voters that tend to be very male and right-wing. ... They're creating their own glass ceiling."

Nanos has his own theory – he wonders if the Tories are focused more on appealing to their core, mostly male voters because they also tend to be the biggest financial donors. Nanos warns this may be wise in the short term but wonders about the long-term fallout of making the appeal so narrow.

"The thing is, you're going to have more money on the one hand, but no votes," Nanos says.

It is fascinating, that the Conservatives are pro-active in cementing "stereotypes" which they need to shed to expand support. In preaching to the choir, as Nanos points out, the Conservatives end up alienating people that are crucial for their prospects.

There is already a growing theme developing that easily attachs negative images of the Conservative government. Bullies, who act aggressively, a Prime Minister that prefers the jugular. In identifying themselves with "macho" pursuits, that simply feeds the perception.

A strange strategy to purposely alienate sections of the electorate, while concurrently shoring up the base. That equals a go nowhere condition and serves as another example of why the Stephen Harper "master strategist" thesis is more myth than fact.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

Spending money, so you can look bad on the environment. Put this idea in the "what were you thinking" category. The obvious reaction:
"Tories get the lead out; critics agog at sponsorship of gas guzzlers

OTTAWA (CP) - Government critics were agog Monday that the supposedly green-hued Conservative party is sponsoring a sport that burns leaded gasoline by the barrel.

The Canadian fuel exemption for competitive racing expires next January, and Environment Canada put out a discussion paper last month asking for submissions on whether it should be extended. Up to 40 per cent of the leaded fuel sold in Canada is used in stock cars, while another 40 to 50 per cent is burned by dragsters.

NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen noted that NASCAR vehicles get about two miles to the gallon. "In a 250-mile race, that means they go through 125 gallons of leaded fuel, per car," he said. "It's a stunt that could go very bad for (the Conservatives) if they don't think through what they're putting money into."

Green party leader Elizabeth May dryly noted that her party won't be entering a vehicle in NASCAR. "It reflects the fact there is more money than sense in the Conservative party right now," she said. "We would never be associated with the conspicuous consumption of leaded gas for the purpose of electioneering."

The Brown Plan?:
"Critics takes shine off new Tory car"

The latest advertising vehicle for the Conservative Party gets about five miles a gallon, a fact the opposition parties jumped on Monday to ridicule the governing party's decision to sponsor a Canadian stock car.

“Given all their talk of green, why weren't they supporting one of the bicycle competitions going on around the country? It might have presented a somewhat more legitimate message,” New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said.

“They'll now have their name on some of the [greenhouse-gas] emissions here in Canada, and I'm not sure that was necessarily the wisest decision,” Mr. Layton said.

Follow the logic. The Tory braintrust cooks up this idea to reach out to a targeted audience. Apparently, no one notices the apparent hypocrisy of claiming to "set an example" on GHG reduction, while simultaneously supporting frivilous emissions.

I actually think the inability to see the contradiction tells us a great deal. When I read the story, it took me about a nano second to see the appearance problem. The fact no one saw the issue, or choose to ignore it, is a testament to how seriously these people actually take GHG emissions. A genuine concern would see the obvious, a manufactured commitment for political consideration might miss it. This small item is actually a glaring example of how these people just don't get it.

It looks like the Conservatives are already running away:
Four Conservative cabinet ministers helped launch the unusual ad at a racetrack east of Toronto this weekend, but Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said "there's a difference" between the government and the political party.

"I don't think it's something that is related directly with the government of Canada," Cannon said. "It's a party initiative and I think that the officials from the party are the ones that should answer."

The Tories were criticized for the high-speed ad in the only North American racing league to have resisted the switch to green technology. NASCAR is only this year switching from leaded to unleaded fuel.

The party is different from the government, yet the government ministers rolled out the sponsorship. I understand completely. Damage control?

What Is A "Bad" Liberal?

A couple of months ago, the Daily Canuck put one of my entries in their blog roundup, and asked:
Is a Liberal who doubts his party’s leader current effectiveness a bad Liberal? If so, it seems there’s a lot of bad Liberals out in blog land. Far And Wide’s Steve V for instance.

That comment made me wonder, am I a "bad" Liberal? I tend to get a lot of resistance from other Liberals when I criticize the leader or the party direction. It as though any negativity is counter-productive, because energies should be directed at the real target.

In my mind, a "bad" Liberal is someone who spins every flaw, so much so that their commentary is largely irrelevant and predictable. Any problem is countered, any concern is downplayed. I appreciate why that mentality exists, but it I find that a dangerous attitude. That perspective conveys a complacency, a relative acceptance, that doesn't attach any urgency.

I have written many positive posts about Dion and the party, where I felt warranted. At the same time, my criticisms have been quite harsh when addressing the problems, that I feel exist. IMHO, it is better to admit you have a problem in a honest way, because through that recognition you are more likely to find solutions. Diagnose correctly, move forward. Criticism can sometimes be a positive, rationalization can be a hinderance to needed change.

In many ways, I think Harper's problems are masking the Liberal deficits. As the Conservatives fall in the polls, controversies everywhere, it provides a comfort level and the cup is half full. However, I don't think that reality should distract us from the other storylines, which are equally as persuasive. I want to point out those flaws, and if that makes me a "bad" Liberal, so be it :)

To Be Frank

When more Canadians pick the NDP leader over the Liberal leader, you have objective problems:
The Angus Reid polling firm surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians about their attitudes toward the opposition parties and found simmering trouble for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and his party.

More respondents – 37 per cent – thought NDP Leader Jack Layton would be a good prime minister, compared with just 25 per cent who preferred Dion.

On the issue that was supposed to be Dion's strength, green scarves and all, we find dismal numbers:
When people were asked to name the top environmental party, 67 per cent chose the Green party, 45 per cent chose the NDP, while just 22 per cent said the Liberals were the best on the environment.

People haven't forgot the past:
Even the old ethics cloud hasn't cleared – New Democrats were seen as honest and ethical by 45 per cent of respondents, while only 24 per cent said they would characterize Liberals that way. Only 28 per cent said the Liberal party had done enough to regain the trust of Canadians after the sponsorship scandal of Jean Chrétien's years in power.

Still, and perhaps paradoxically, more people are considering voting Liberal than for the Greens or the NDP, according to the poll.

Those who would definitely or probably vote Liberal total 34 per cent, while only 30 per cent said they would definitely or probably vote NDP. For the Greens, that figure was 25 per cent. The Greens netted only about 5 per cent of the popular vote in the last election

I'm of the mindset that you admit the failings, and through that admission you move forward in a realistic way. With that in mind, my criticisms of Dion aren't a damnation, more a wake up call. Many people argue that Dion is doing relatively well, when compared with other newly elected opposition leaders. I would counter, who was the last Liberal leader to lag FAR behind the NDP leader?

The environment numbers might be a reflection of past Liberal failures. However, if that is the case, it doesn't bode well for Dion, since he was Environment Minister in the past Liberal government. It will be very hard for Dion to distance himself from the legacy, and that circumstance allows for easy criticism from other parties. The poor showing also means that Dion needs other issues to make a mark, to date the environment has been his central, defining issue. The one caveat, the Greens have tremendous credibility on the environment, which means May's endorsement could prove incredibly useful.

Dion is the francophone from Quebec, who ran on the environment. The fact that Dion scores so poorly, the Liberals appear to be in apathetic disarray in Quebec, coupled with the low showing on the environment, paints a pessimistic picture. Right now, the Liberals greatest asset is Harper's failure, which implies we don't control our own destiny. While elections are often referendums on the government, I think that view is too convenient, it allows for a resignation of our own circumstance. Given the government's problems, I believe the Liberals should be doing much better, and the above findings serve as further evidence, that there are serious drags on support.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Conservatives Advertise On Nascar

Political parties advertising at sporting events, the Conservatives say varoom varoom:
The Conservative Party today announced a partnership with Whitlock Motor Sports unveiled at the Mosport Race Track in Bowmanville, Ontario.

The partnership will include the Conservative Party of Canada logo being placed on the hood and front side panels of car number 29* in the Canadian Tire NASCAR Series.

“This is a unique opportunity for the Conservative Party to reach out to Canadians,” said Conservative Party Member of Parliament Jim Flaherty. “The Conservative Party supports Canadians that work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules and those are the same Canadians that watch sports like NASCAR.”

What next, a picture of Stephen Harper in the corner boards at the Air Canada Center? I'm not sure if there is any precedent to this sort of advertising (please tell me if I'm wrong), but I don't like it. The implication, the Conservatives support NASCAR in Canada, while the other parties don't.

Flaherty's bullshit comment is just that. I'm pretty sure the NDP and Liberals support people that work hard, why does that concept become a partisan affair? Another example of the Conservatives hyper-partisanship, which is tacky and silly all at once.

Grading The Parties

Red Tory has a leadership report card poll, to coincide with the looming summer break. I would like to add a scorecard for the various parties, as they stand now. The general thesis, nobody should be happy:

Conservatives- D

You spend billions of dollars, in complete betrayal of the notion of fiscal conservatism, all in the name of a drive towards majority, and you end up with your support waning badly. I have never seen a government so consumed with re-election get so little for their trouble. A complete failure in convincing Canadians that Harper deserves a majority.

Even worse, the government has fumbled so badly in the budget aftermath, that a general perception is developing that these people are mean-spirited, divisive bullies, whose competence is in question. Harper has not only failed to connect with Canadians, he seems to be alienating great swaths of the electorate with his demeanor.

Liberals- D

The Liberals greatest asset to date is Tory ineptitude, and you could argue the Conservatives savior has been Liberal ineffectiveness. Despite a lengthy leadership, which was supposed to re-invent the party, it is still quite a challenge to understand where exactly the Liberals are headed under Dion. We're not Harper seems to be the rallying cry, but that notion is about as inspiring as the Conservatives penchant for Liberal bashing.

While the polls show a solid foundation, I subscribe to the idea that the Liberals have failed to capitalize on Harper's missteps. If not for Dion's uneven performance to date, coupled with a lack of focus, we would probably be looking at Liberal numbers touching 40%. While the Conservatives have fallen back, the Liberals have been stagnant for months, which is a curious historical circumstance. In fact, and this is just a hunch, I believe the Conservatives would be even lower, if not for hesitation with the Liberals, and lack of an alternative for many swing voters.


If it was simply a question of polls, then the NDP would get a D as well, but there has been a few areas where NDP supporters can crow about success. The NDP has been fairly effective in parliament, given their numbers and Layton deserves credit for getting the Clean Air Act to committee. In my mind, despite the fact that the revisions are dead, that coup by the NDP was probably the most significant event in this parliament. That committee has also been instrumental in bringing the opposition together, finding a commonality and focusing on the real "enemy".

The NDP has serious problems, not the least of which is the Green Party surge and their own concerning poll numbers. One caveat, recruiting Former Quebec Liberal environment minister Thomas Mulcair to run as an NDP candidate in a fall by-election may prove to be a major story for the NDP in Quebec.

While the NDP has problems, at least you know where they stand on issues, good or bad. The best thing the NDP has done recently is distance themselves from any idea of collusion with the Conservatives, and they are finally starting to hammer the government like ideology would demand.

Green Party-B

A few bumps in the road, but you have to give May credit for keeping the Green Party in the conversation. Despite having no official voice in parliament, May has managed to draw attention from the national media, which is quite the accomplishment.

The Greens are consistently hovering around 10% in the polls, and are challenging the NDP in a couple provinces. Still seen as an environmental party, there does appear to be some progress in expanding the Greens draw. If you are a Green supporter, there is plenty of room for optimism.

Duceppe made a serious error with the PQ leadership, but the fact of the matter, it hasn't hurt the Bloc in the polls. People don't agree with Conservative policy, the Liberals appear completely out of touch, which keeps the Bloc in the game, when actions should suggest otherwise.

Status quo for the Bloc, no momentum, but still relevant, hence the fair grade.

One fact appears clear, Canadians aren't particularly impressed with anyone at the moment. A general apathy, some disgust and a lack of inspiration all speak to the general failure of our political parties to resonate with Canadians. With that reality in mind, it is hard to give anyone a particularly glowing review. Agree or disagree?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Let's Make A Deal

Accidential Deliberations makes an excellent point on Harper's latest threats against the Senate. I particularly like this line offered by Harper today:
"So I think there'd be a sure lot of anger if a bunch of unelected guys decided they could block what the elected people did and what their constituents want."

"Everyone expects that the elected house's judgment will prevail," Harper said.

I agree, the elected house's will should prevail, because that is the legitimate voice of the people. However, as The Jurist points out, the Conservative Senators are currently engaged in the exact same practice that Harper criticizes, as it relates to Bill C-288. Passed by the elected organ of government, it is the Conservative Senators who are blocking the bill at every turn.

Now, you can debate the merits of the Kyoto bill, but that is besides the point, using Harper's argument (afterall, you can clearly debate the merits of this trainwreck of a budget). Harper is using the "Liberal dominated Senate" argument to change the channel from his own problems. I have little doubt the Liberal Senate will ultimately pass the budget, and I recognize that a budget bill is more of an issue than C-288. Having said that, there is a terrific opportunity for the Liberals to expose Harper's duplicity and neuter his favorite distraction.

How about a press conference, wherein Liberal Senators agree to abide by the "elected house's judgment", if Conservative Senators commit to the same principle? Let's make a deal, we won't stand in the way of the "people" if you won't. At the very least the proposal highlights Harper's convenient focus and puts the Conservatives on the defensive. I could care less if anything comes of the offer, but it would serve as an interesting way to focus attention on the "do as I say, not as I do" ridiculousness.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Peter MacKay Already Has A Portfolio

Maybe it's time for Peter MacKay to start focusing on his portfolio, instead of acting as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister- give Rona some face time. I'm reading the following, thinking to myself, don't you have an international crisis, that threatens to de-stabilize the middle east to keep you busy:
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said he and others within the federal government talked with MacDonald well into the evening.

He suggested some progress had been made and said talks would likely continue on the weekend.

"We've narrowed it down. Put it that way," he said.
MacKay said he's pleased the "lines of communications remain very open and everyone is committed to finding a resolution,"

The only reference to the crisis in Gaza that I can find from the Canadian government is this stale, terse statement from MacKay, issued two days ago:
The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, today made the following statement concerning escalating violence in the Gaza Strip:

“Canada is greatly concerned by the deteriorating security situation and loss of life in the Gaza Strip as well as reports of violence in the West Bank. Canada urges all parties to work together urgently to end the violence and focus their efforts on delivering responsible government and services to the long-suffering Palestinian population.

“We call on key parties to respect international humanitarian law, to protect civilians and to avoid damaging civilian infrastructure. It is especially important that parties work together to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers so that they can reach people in need.

“I want to take this opportunity to reiterate Canada’s strong support for President Abbas’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the current situation.”

If you read the myriad of stories on the international response to Hamas' actions in Gaza, you will find forceful positions from many sources, that speak to the importance of the crisis. Strangely absent from the international sampling is Canada, which seems content to release four outdated paragraphs, while the Foreign Affairs Minister occupies himself in an exercise to save his skin.

Will Canada release its aid to support Abbas? Does Canada agree with the European Union, the Americans, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia? In other words, Peter MacKay is dropping the ball, while he consumes himself with an issue that has no relationship to his responsibilities as the key figure for Canada on the world stage. Where is Canada?

Canada Well Liked

Another feel good poll, that puts Canada on top:
Out of a list of nine countries, Canada is the only one of which most people around the world have a positive opinion, according to the Voice of the People survey released by Gallup International. 53 per cent of respondents from 63 different countries see Canada with good eyes.

Japan, Britain and the United States are next on the list with 46 per cent, followed by Germany with 45 per cent, France with 42 per cent, Italy with 41 per cent, China with 27 per cent, and Russia with 26 per cent. More than 30 per cent of respondents hold negative views on Russia and China.

Methodology: Interviews with more than 59,000 adults in 63 countries, conducted from July to September 2006.

A similar poll was done in 2004, at which time Canada still led, but with 49% positive.

Canadians: Still Haven't Found What They're Looking For

Angus-Reid poll, that shows Canadians believe Bono over Harper:
48% off Canadians side with U2 singer’s accusation that
Harper blocked progress on global poverty at the G8

28% believe Harper when he says Bono’s charge is false

Three-in-five (60%) also agree with Bono’s assertion that
Stephen Harper is out off sync witth the Canadiian people

When it comes to party affiliation, Conservatives don't even support Harper:
More Conservatives felt Bono was telling the truth on the African aid deal (43%) than Harper (31%). And over half of Conservatives (52%) feel Harper is out of sync with the Canadian people.

Only Albertans were uniformly supportive of Harper, with more believing Harper, not Bono, was telling the truth about the African aid deal. Many Albertans also express disagreement that Harper is out of sync with Canadians. But Quebec and Atlantic Canada are particularly in favour of Bono’s views.

Unless you subscribe to the thesis that most Canadians are blinded by their love of U2, these numbers suggest something bigger at play- Canadians don't take their Prime Minister at his word.

Interesting numbers, given the fact Canadians are split on increased humitarian aid:
Canada should increase its humanitarian aid to poor countries, even if it affects domestic spending:

Agree 45%
Disagre 49%
Live under a rock 6%

Conclusion, even though Canadians are split on aid, they still side with Bono, which speaks volumes about Harper. I keep saying this, but more and more, Harper is being framed as dishonest and untrustworthy. This impression is taking root, ultimately it could represent the beginning of the end for Stephen Harper.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Most Over-Rated Politician?

According to CBC's The National political panel, the deserving winner is:

The National had a fascinating discussion, involving Chantal Hebert, Andrew Coyne, Allan Gregg and Rob Russo. Various questions, with Mr. Baird getting the nod from both Coyne and Gregg. Coyne basically described him as over the top, prone to bombastic rhetoric that rendered serious discussion meaningless. Gregg said Baird lacked the ability to deal with various stakeholders effectively, which bodes well for the "consultation phase" of the Green Plan. Rob Russo gave Baird another award, in the "most disappointing move" of this year, citing his replacement of Rona Ambrose. Congrats.

Why does this matter? Just the opinion of a couple talking heads, but it is interesting that Harper's preferred pick is failing to impress, in fact his act is wearing thin.

Another Satisfied Province

Finally, a Liberal Premier bashing the federal government:
Ontario's premier has joined the provincial gang-up on the federal Conservative government. Dalton McGuinty says Ontario's voice in Confederation will be severely weakened if parliamentary reforms proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper go ahead.

In a speech today, McGuinty said federal plans to add 22 seats to the 308-seat House of Commons would leave Ontario under-represented.

The province would have only 35 per cent of the seats despite having almost 40 per cent of the national population. He says Ontario is even more under-represented in the Senate, with 24 of 105 seats - just under 23 per cent.

And the premier fears the inequity will become a more serious problem if Harper proceeds with plans to create a process for electing senators, thereby lending democratic legitimacy to the upper chamber.

Why should Conservative Premiers have all the fun? McGuinty's complaints are completely justified, simple math doesn't lie. Once again, Harper' poorly thought out, bandaid solutions, are having the net effect of alienating. The government brought out the electoral and Senate reforms to deal with representation and disparity, but all they have done is highlight Ontario's poor representation.

I'm not sure this issue will get much play in the provincial election, since the Conservative leader agrees with McGuinty, but it could be a factor in the next federal election. These policies, coupled with the Quebec payoff, reveal a mindset that doesn't necessarily have Ontario's best interests at heart. In general, I think the people in Ontario are willing to accept current inequalities in the name of national unity, but Harper does himself no favors with initiatives that seem to cement disparity.

A few months ago, we heard musings about the government quietly approaching the provinces about limiting federal spending power. Given the gong show we have seen from Harper and company to date, no one could reasonably argue the federation would be in good hands with this team as national representative. As a matter of fact, lord help us all if Stephen Harper ever gets himself anywhere near the constitution.

"Level Of The Absurd"

The Prime Minister's response to the news that Saskatchewan is considering legal action over equalization:
The prime minister responded to the news by saying the debate had escalated "to the level of the absurd."

What an amazing statement. If the debate has become absurd, the fault clearly lies within Harper's reckless, divisive rhetoric. Does anyone actually believe all parties involved would be considering legal action, if not for the Prime Minister's "calling their bluff" threats earlier this week?

Harper raises the temperature, issues threats and challenges, then has the audacity to comment as though passive observer. I do agree though, it is absurd, and a sad state of affairs, that this debate has deteriorated to the point of legal action. When you issue a challenge of the sort Harper has, then you demand a response from the other side. Such a stark threat leaves little room for interpretation, you frame the argument into a sue me or shut up proposition. Is it any surprise that such a stance results in the challenge being accepted? Is Harper so delusional that he actually thought he was calling a bluff, and these Premiers would merely retreat and project defeat?

A Prime Minister, who possessed a basic understanding of diplomatic nuance would never have found himself in this position. The issue is largely an emotional one, which demands that the federal government move carefully, with sensitivity. What does Harper do? Harper reacts by attempting to bludgeon his "opponents" into submission. Never mind the fact that it's a lose/lose situation, Harper treats the provinces like an enemy, despite the fact the last time I checked we are all Canadians. That posture has no relationship to the role the Prime Minister should play, he sullies the office.

If we have entered the realm of the absurd, the situation is a Harper creation, inspired by his own words and actions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"The Aggressive Conservatives"

MP Dominic LeBlanc coined the phrase today, and it should become the new opposition buzzword. In the past few weeks, there has been an emerging trend in the rhetoric from pundits and partisans, which is starting to take shape. "Mean-spirited", "iron fisted", "aggressive", "bully", all slip off the tongue with ease, in describing this government, particularly Harper. There is ample evidence available, produced on a daily basis, to support the terminology and that fact represents pure poison for this government.

Everyone understands reputations, you earn them and they are hard to shake. Conservatives are quick to point out the effectiveness of constant references to leadership and strength in framing Dion. Equally relevant, the emerging trend that is starting to gel, that paints Stephen Harper in a decidedly unattractive light. A coherent theme, that draws on a multitude of examples, all of which support the idea that Canada has a government that appears thin skinned, belligerent, aggressive and heavy handed. None of those attributes will prove a ultimate winner with voters, which is why I believe great damage is being done presently. Constant references to mean-spiritedness, fleshed out in the actions, have an accumulative effect that can make it hard for the government to recover.

Harper has always been seen as a sort of enigma. Whenever the discussion turned to the idea of majority, the greatest challenge cited was Harper's need to "connect" with voters, because, despite the relative approval, people still didn't have a firm opinion of the Prime Minister. Who is Stephen Harper? A few months ago that was still largely a open question. However, in the past few weeks, a consistent definition has started to set in the collective psyche. Stephen Harper is a mean-spirited, aggressive partisan, who can't be trusted. A strong argument, show Canadians that the old Progressive Conservatives have been replaced by the "Aggressive Conservatives", supported by fact- simple and devastating.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

John Baird Finds Another Key Ally

Seriously, is there anyone who actually supports the Baird rhetoric? The C.D Howe damnation is particularly painful, given the fact that it comes from the same economist that the government lauded when Baird presented his "Kyoto the apocalypse" routine in committee. On the plus side, Baird still has Buzz Hargrove, who would be content to puke out gas guzzlers for eternity, and three oil execs, with tar under their nails. Anyways, back to the other 99.9% of "informed" opinion:
Based on comprehensive economic computer simulations, the study delivers a harsh critique of the government’s new plan, suggesting that pollution levels could rise slightly above current levels...

“The government is likely to miss its 2020 emissions target by almost 200 megatonnes,” said the study, prepared by Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers from Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. “Moreover, because of this gap in 2020 between target and reality, it is unlikely that a future government would be able to achieve the ambitious 2050 target.”

But Jaccard added only a carbon tax or an absolute cap on pollution would be effective in forcing Canadian industries and individuals to change their behaviour and shift to a low-carbon economy with less pollution.

I wonder if they just copy and paste this response now:
A spokesperson for Environment Minister John Baird dismissed suggestions that the government’s plan was full of holes.

I can't remember the last time an initiative was panned with such regularity (excluding the Clean Air Act). I admit I get excitable, because it is simply MADDENING to listen to Baird spew this rubbish, home and abroad, without any credible confirmation. It really has a delusional quality to it, like some energizer bunny that isn't fazed, no matter. Bang the drum, bang the drum, I can't hear you, I can't hear you. Listening to John Baird, is a frontrow seat to theater of the absurd.

Work To Do

A new Strategic Council poll asks the following question, which suggests there is work to do:
Would Canadians want to see Stephane Dion become Prime Minister?

Yes 20%
No 52%
Don't Know 28%

June 8-11 Strategic Counsel, MOE 3.1

Disappointing, concerning, sobering, some would argue not unexpected. Interesting finding, on the heels of the Decima Poll, which gives the Liberals a slight edge. This isn't the first poll to show Dion wanting in the leadership arena, having said that it doesn't diminish the implications.

Dion's leadership is acting as a drag on the Liberal numbers. I would argue that the only reason Harper isn't in complete freefall is due to the hesitation with Dion. Despite the Conservative erosion, the Liberal numbers have remained largely stagnant, with a slight uptick. Some support moving to the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc, as voters vaciliate. I assume that if Dion had made a better impression with Canadians, the Liberals would be in the mid to high 30's right now. Dion's leadership is clearly a check.

However, I don't see the present circumstance as permanent. What we see is latent opportunity for the Liberals, and what is required is that Dion seizes the moment. I think it objectively obvious that Dion has improved in the past weeks, both in deliver and confidence. That fact suggests Dion is starting to grow into the job, and that raises the possibility that his personal numbers can improve. As an aside, when Dion was presented with these numbers today, his response was a good one- it is hard for a new leader to make an impression, citing Layton, Harper and Duceppe as past examples.

Will Dion improve? Open question, but the fact that the Liberals are polling ahead of the Tories, or even tied, is a good foundation, given the net negative with Dion. It makes me wonder what might happen if Dion starts to connect.

Liberals Take The Lead?

New Decima Poll, which is the first to show the Liberals moving ahead:
A new poll suggests the federal Conservatives have fallen three percentage points behind the Liberals in popular support, still within the survey's margin of error but a trend the Harper government would no doubt like to reverse.

The poll by Decima Research, provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, placed Liberal support at 32 per cent, the Conservatives at 29 and the NDP at 18. The Bloc Quebecois and Green party were tied nationally at nine per cent.

The poll also put the Liberals ahead in Ontario, 39-33, and had the Bloc rebounding in Quebec to 38 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 23 and the Conservatives at 16 per cent.

Decima concludes the Tories have lost support in Atlantic Canada (shocker) and Quebec. Still within the margin or error, there is a psychological component that is good news for the Liberals, and further disappointment for the Conservatives. I can't remember the last time I say a poll with the Conservatives under 30%.


The above is a representative of the Conservative (Loloya Hearn NFLD MP), a species that once roamed free, in substantial numbers, throughout Atlantic Canada. However, the Conservative numbers have plummeted, mostly due to a rare virus, specific to this species, called backonyourworditis. This graph shows the devastating impact of this virus, with the population in freefall (h/t) Sir Robert Bond Papers:

Environment Canada officials are likely to invoke the Species At Risk Act, with the following classifications. In Newfoundland, enough evidence exists to use the following designation:

ENDANGERED: a species that is facing imminent extirpation or extinction.

In Nova Scotia, the following applies, although this could change later today, depending on the discussions between provincial and federal officials:
THREATENED: a species likely to become an endangered species if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.

Sources indicated that Environment Canada officials have also sent a team to Saskatchewan to conduct field and census work. Stay tuned.

Why should we care about the Conservative? The Conservative is a very important part of the east coast ecosystem. The Liberal, which is prolific throughout the region, has a very high rate of reproduction. The Conservative is the only natural predator for the Liberal, and has been quite successful in culling their numbers, maintaining ecological balance. Scientists fear that, in the absense of Conservatives, the Liberals population would go unchecked. This is of concern for other regions of the country, particularly Alberta, where they have been particularly successful in eradicating the Liberal, a non-native species to the region, that is known to do considerable damage.

It seems a shame, that visitors to Atlantic Canada might one day have to visit a musuem or zoo to see this species. I'm sure they will keep Peter Mackay well fed, with sizeable exhibit space and stimulation, but it's just not the same.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Captain, She's Taking On Water

Cabinet rift? MacKay defies Harper:
CTV News has learned a weekend letter on the Atlantic Accord dispute has left Prime Minister Stephen Harper facing a major cabinet split.

Sources say that Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay feels blindsided by the letter to the editor published Saturday that inflamed matters.

Insiders say that Sandra Buckler, the prime minister's communications director, instructed MacKay to sign the letter, which rejected any side deals with Nova Scotia.

MacKay, a Nova Scotia MP and the senior minister for Atlantic Canada, refused, say sources. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signed the letter.

Robert Fife, CTV's Ottawa bureau chief, reports that MacKay is trying to broker a deal with MacDonald and convince Harper that if he doesn't compromise, he could pay a high political price.


Canadians Don't Support Afghanistan Extension

Another poll, showing Canadians don't support any extension beyond 2009:
The survey by Decima Research, released Monday to The Canadian Press, found that two-thirds of respondents want Canadian troops to come home when the current mandate from Parliament expires in February 2009.

Only 26 per cent of respondents believed the military mission should be extended "if that is necessary to complete our goals there."

The results of the poll, conducted May 31 to June 4, were released as Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed an extension to the mission with his Dutch counterpart in Ottawa.

Harper has repeatedly hinted that Canadian troops may have to stay on in Afghanistan's troubled southern provinces beyond February 2009 in order to ensure stability...

A healthy plurality of respondents felt the mission was helping to rebuild Afghanistan for its people and fostering democracy. But respondents were more skeptical about the mission's goal of reducing the threat of global terrorism, with more people saying there's been insufficient progress than sufficient progress.

The key line:
Yet Anderson says the broad sentiment does not appear to be for an immediate military withdrawal, and Canadian reticence about an extension could change as the deadline approaches and the consequences of leaving become clearer.

Last weekend, Angus Reid also released a Afghanistan poll, with showed a majority favored withdrawal before 2009. That polling tended to favor the NDP position of immediate withdrawal. This poll seems to show a preference for the Liberal position of honoring our international commitment, without an open-ended commitment.

The problem with both polls, they only ask one "anti-war" option, which tends to lump everyone into one category. At the time of the Angus Reid poll, I considered that a substantial portion supported the early withdrawal option, because it was the only alternative. The same logic could apply to this finding, so it is hard to say which party has adopted the true sentiment of Canadians. What we do see clearly, no one supports Harper's musings about an extension.

It would be nice to see more detail in the questions. Dion recently said Liberals would consider maintaining a Canadian contingent beyond 2009, but in an entirely different capacity. Rotation to more stable areas and/or further re-construction and training. I would like to see if there is any appetite for that position, because I have a feeling that will be the ultimate outcome once we reach 2009. The only hint, in both polls, Canadians believe we are helping Afghans by our presence, although they doubt the "war on terror" angle. A extended mission, in a more traditional Canadian role, with heavy emphasis on aid might just fly with Canadians in the end.


I thought the Conservatives handled the detainee issue badly, but that looks like brillant competence compared to the self-inflicted wound that is equalization. Flaherty has managed to alienate everyone, please nobody, and receive nothing for his troubles. The Prime Minister, jugular mentality on full display, raises the temperature exponentially by threatening to go to the courts:
"Normally, I expect that if somebody says you've broken a contract, they're going to follow that up by going to court to make you to abide by that contract. But I don't see that happening. It's an allegation without substance."

Then, in French and English, Harper — who has long held that courts should not intervene in political decisions - said he would put the whole question to some kind of judicial review if the provinces don't.

"I don't think we can let this stand. At some point, we'll consult the courts to see if we've respected the contract," said Harper.

Harper's press secretary Carolyn Stewart-Olsen would not say later what options the government is contemplating, whether it would be a reference over the Atlantic Accord, or in fact a defamation lawsuit against anyone daring to challenge Harper's interpretation.

In a statement issued later, Stewart-Olsen said only: "This is an argument of fact. While we would prefer to continue talks, we are not willing to leave the accusation out there. Nova Scotia must either act on their accusations or drop them. We will wait and see what they will do."

Harper's threats are a NO WIN for the government. Tribunals? Daring the provinces to take you too court? Does this sound like a recipe for resolution, or a sure fire way to maintain animosity and continued focus?

Take today as a microcosm of what is wrong with Stephen Harper. For all the talk of master strategist, Harper doesn't possess basic political instinct. Whatever the situation, Harper seems to lack an understanding of nuance, tact, discretion and diplomacy. Transplant that mentality on a serious international crisis, and you see the potential dangers.

I could see making these recommendations in private, advising Nova Scotia to seek legal opinion. However, to make such a public display, that necessitates a hardening of positions, is unproductive, inflammatory and just plain stupid. Is Harper trying to guarantee that no Tory is left standing on the east coast?

In my mind, the government was already in a no-win situation prior to today's comments by Harper. The damage done, no matter the outcome, the Conservatives would pay a price. What Harper has managed to do is ensure the loss is that much more profound, because he has essentially pitted two governments against each other. I wonder who will win the battle of public opinion?

MacDonald raised the rhetoric today, Harper reacts with threats and escalation. Why through gasoline on the fire? Are these people naive enough to think that a legal struggle is to the feds benefit? Nevermind the fact that issue is muddled, which Harper admits through action:
"that's why we're engaged with talks to see if we couldn't narrow our differences within the context of the budget."

Talks to clarify the legally clear? I don't think so, which is why the threat is even more reckless. Everyday, the way the "team" handles this issue drives home the conclusion that in many ways, this bunch is clueless.


It gets worse:
A second Conservative MP from Nova Scotia could be headed for a showdown with his government over the controversial budget bill.
Gerald Keddy has told The Canadian Press he is meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday to discuss the concerns of people in his province over Ottawa's treatment of offshore resource agreements.

Keddy says he was shocked by the letter, and felt he was now between a "rock and a hard place."

Harper Vs Media Poll

Only 1 in 4 Canadians are aware of the feud between the government and the press gallery. However, according to a Innovative Research Poll, the government still comes out on the losing end in public opinion:
Mr. Lyle pointed out that among swing voters, or the "non-aligned" electorate, 53 per cent of those who heard of the dispute said they view the government as "more secretive than previous governments" and only five per cent said the government is "more open." Those who had not heard of the dispute responded more favourably, with 24 per cent saying they view the government as more secretive and 15 per cent saying the government is more open than previous governments.

Overall, 46 per cent of the 1,067 people polled said that the Conservative government is "more secretive" than previous governments, 34 per cent said the government is about the same, and 15 per cent said the Tories are "more open."

Of all respondents who had heard of the dispute–a sample of 272 people nationally–67 per cent said they place the blame on the PMO, 18 per cent blame the press gallery, and 15 per cent said they don't know.

66 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the media are the public's eyes on the government, and therefore the Prime Minister should be more responsive to the needs of the media," with which 16 per cent disagreed. Similarly, 57 per cent of all respondents agreed with the statement that the PM's "fight with the national media leaves me questioning whether he is really committed to openness in government," with which 18 per cent disagreed.

I would argue, that these numbers are more damaging to the government than first blush would suggest. You could conclude, the vast majority of Canadians aren't even aware of the controversy, so this is merely a "inside the beltway" issue. However, the 24% who are aware represent people that are engaged, people who VOTE. People with knowledge of the issue, are people who pay attention, are people who I would classify as likely voters. If you accept that premise, then the numbers suggest a real problem.

Looking at the numbers themselves, it is clear Harper has done himself no favors in his unilateral war with the media. The vast majority blame the government, and it is relevant that the government that ran on openness and accountability is seen as more secretive. Harper loses with Canadians impressions, and he loses again, through alienation of the medium which shapes the message.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You Know You're Good When

Jim Flaherty manages the impossible, in a few short hours. Saskatchewan Premier Calvert is hopping mad about a side deal for Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Premier MacDonald is fuming because Flaherty has said there will be no side deal. T

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert said Sunday that the federal government is negotiating a side deal on the Atlantic Accord - despite claims to the contrary by the finance minister.

"If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's a duck," said the premier. "They're in negotiations."

Our relationship with the federal government goes well beyond the accord, and it was in Nova Scotians best interests for us to pursue negotiations until now," he said. "Mr. Flaherty has slammed that door shut, and we must now do everything in our power to help everyone understand what he has done."

"Mr. Flaherty has turned his back on Nova Scotians, and our quiet talks are about to get a whole lot louder."

The premier is requesting a hearing before the Senate where the bill must go after third reading if it is passed.

"I will call for every Senator to delay passage of that bill until they've had a chance to understand our position and fully understand the impact of the budget on the Offshore Accord and equalization," said Premier MacDonald. "The province of Nova Scotia will not accept anything less that the signed Atlantic Accord."

The "end of bickering" has clearly passed. Flaherty has moved us to the "era of conflicting signals", wherein you accomplish nothing, but manage to alienate everyone involved because of your duplicity. Quite an achievement, to be criticized for making side deals, and refusing side deals, simultaneously. Kumbaya, Kumbaya.

Breaking: Society

One of the challenges for Canadian media, resist the import of tabloid journalism, which has infested the American media. When The New York Times decided to run a front page story on Paris Hilton, you know that American journalism is effectively dead. When you see our publicly funded broadcaster putting Hilton on the front page, in the news section, you see that as an alarming example of the move to triviality. Which "story" doesn't quite fit?:
Flooding eases but threat remains in soggy B.C.

6 people dead, toddler injured in Wisconsin shootings

Riots mark Bush's Vatican visit

Toronto shooting leaves 1 dead, 3 wounded

NATO soldier killed in southern Afghanistan

Hilton 'growing' from jail experience

More Taliban suspects allege abuse

Palestinian gunmen storm Israeli border
Who cares? Furthermore, you could justify this tripe in the entertainment section, but to put the Hilton embarrassment in the news section, is just disgraceful. I understand there is an audience for tabloid stories, but surely we can expect the CBC to hold some higher level of journalist integrity. The fact that the CBC apparently can't, speaks volumes about the state of the media and where we are headed as a society.

With all the issues the world faces, all the relevant stories that explode daily, we waste precious space and audience on, what amounts to, a spoiled airhead tramp that parties. It is beyond maddening, and completely irresponsible for Canadian broadcasters to facilitate the dumbing down of Canada. I understand the elephant next door, and people will be quick to point out that "we aren't that bad", but the trends are clear, the erosion remarkable.

You could argue public demand, and the media is merely responding, driven by ratings. That view effectively absolves media from any responsibility, any independent standards, both substantively and ethically. Media as passive player, acting as conduit, supplying what we demand, seems all too convenient. The problem, for people who aren't interested in this nonsense, you can't escape it. The other day, no matter which news source I choose, paper or television, the story was there. In other word, unless I lock myself in a cave, the reluctant viewer is exposed, whether they want it or not. Did Neilson pickup my viewership, and conclude I cared?

I see the struggle against triviality, and superficial media, as largely a losing battle. Having said that, I expect my public broadcaster to operate under a different set of rules, and uphold some semblance of "hard" journalism. The CBC should operate as a beacon, even if it toils in the sea of nothingness. Do you know, right now, some CBC reporter is in Calgary, on the phone, trying to determine if Prince Harry actually slipped the tongue to a waitress at a racy bar? I desperately need to know, the world waits for the crucial confirmation. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Converging On The Oilsands

Alberta is becoming the destination of choice for environmental groups:
Alberta's oilsands are in for increased worldwide scrutiny as international environmental groups set up shop in Edmonton to monitor the expansion and impact of the greenhouse gas-emitting mega-projects.

"There's a broad recognition that Canada needs to address the environmental problems with the tarsands. "I don't think there's any question that you'll be seeing civil disobedience in the future." Martin said Greenpeace plans to have an office staffed in the provincial capital within the next couple of months.

The World Wildlife Fund set up an office in Edmonton last December and is currently staffing it up. That office will focus on issues including the oilsands and the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline.

The Sierra Legal Defence Fund, which provides legal expertise to fight environmental battles in court and has just filed a legal challenge of Imperial Oil's Kearl oilsands project, also plans to open an office in Alberta within the next year.

A intriguing development, that could have impact in the post-Bush era:
The moves follow an effort by one of the most influential environmental groups in the United States to convince Americans that they should stop buying what it calls the oilsands' "bottom-of-the-barrel" energy.

A report by the Natural Resources Defence Council, to be released Monday at a symposium in Washington, D.C., says the U.S. should pass regulations to discourage the use of fuels such as oilsands-derived oil, which generates up the three times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil during its production and use.

That same message has been taken to Europe by the World Wildlife Fund, which released a report critical of the oilsands last week in the United Kingdom.

Canada may well prove to be ground zero, in the debate over greenhouse gases. The fact that various organizations have all committed resources and staff demonstrates that tarsand development will be a high-profile issue. Plenty of exposure, none of it flattering.

Time For A Check-Up?

Generally, I enjoy Rex Murphy's peculiar commentary. However, when it comes to the issue of global warming, I find Murphy's opinion both intellectually dishonest and irresponsible. I commented a few months ago on one of Murphy's columns, wherein he came across as part of the cranky, dinosaur fart crowd. Well, Rex is at it again, claiming that the entire climate change debate is more cause than science:
Global warming is the new Key to All Mythologies. It is a vast and total reading of our world, and because it is vast and total it calls up responses from changing light bulbs to rearranging the economies - and the politics - of the world. It pits the industrial countries against the developing ones, it "relates" a flight from Ottawa to Montreal to the future impoverishment of some Pacific island, it speaks in the doom-laden accents of pure certitude of what will happen in 50 or 75 or a hundred years from now - and, with the same ferocious certitude, demands decisions of immense consequence be made now to forestall its bleak and definitive projections.

There is so much of blind or casual acceptance of global warming as the crisis of our time, or its high "moral" essence, and such an overwhelming pressure to accept its tenets and claims as to amount to a stampede.

Global warming has some science at its core. But it has been overlaid with a vast engine of continuous alarmism, propaganda, relentless campaigning, facile projections, and not a little bullying righteousness by some of its celebrity proponents.

It is, for all that is shouted to the contrary, more a cause than a science.

Murphy grudgingly admits "some science at its core", which is complete crap. The overriding body of scientific study is driving the debate, unless of course the 1000 odd scientists who have issued the "alarmist" predictions are part of the cause.

Murphy acts as though urgency and passion somehow equates to propaganda and fear mongering. If that sentiment does exist, it comes from what the scientists are telling us- we must act now, we must act decisively, we can't accept delay. If, what the scientists suggest is true, then yes, this is the "crisis of our time" and for Murphy to flippantly, and sarcastically, scoff at that notion says far more about his personal anti-global warming bias, than it does a careful read of the proponets.

The use of the word "mythology" is powerful, and it reveals Murphy. The term implies a non-truth, a delusional quality that doesn't relate to the real world. Murphy is entitled to his opinion, but he ever so conveniently attachs the activist angle, to deflect from the scientific root. People are taking their cues from the science, people are not driving it.

There will always be stragglers, no matter the evidence. Reading stories on the Creation Museum, erected in Alberta, provides a excellent example of peoples ability to deny the objective reality, no matter what science says, no matter the certainty. Does science have all the answers on global warming, in terms of scope, severity and predictable models? Probably not, there is plenty of room for error and some debate. Having said that, this admission doesn't extrapolate into the idea of doubting the premise all together. In fact, people constantly operate and make decisions based on the best knowledge available.

Global warming is not a cause, but it would appear those that don't take the science seriously, heed the warnings and demand we act accordingly, are really the ones who operate in the realm of mythology. Murphy's commentary reads like a stubborn mule, flailing away in disgust, like a wanting rebel who needs a CAUSE.

Afghanistan Poll

Angus Reid poll on Afghanistan, with some interesting results. Taken immediately after the Harper photo-op in Afghanistan, the survey finds little support for the government:
Q. The Harper government has effectively explained the mission in Afghanistan:

Agree 23%
Disagree 55%
Don't know 22%
Of note, 52% of Albertans Disagree, as do 17% of Conservative supporters.

Canadians support the idea of early withdrawal:
Canada should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan before their mandate ends in February 2009:

Agree 50%
Disagree 32%
Not Sure 18%

By party:

NDP 64% agree, 18% disagree, 17% not sure
Lib 51% agree, 27% disagree, 22% not sure
Cons 25% agree, 61% disagree, 14% not sure

In what could be construed as a confusing finding, given the above, 43% of Canadians think Afghans are benefiting from our presence, 22% disagree and 36% unsure. Canadians also think we are shouldering too much of the NATO burden.

The fact this poll was taken in the aftermath of Harper's Afghanistan trip should be of particular concern. You would expect a slight uptick, with such a high profile, feel good visit. That there was no positive response, Canadians still don't show confidence in the government on this file, is relevant to the idea of view hardening.

I admit some surprise that so many Canadians would support the notion of early withdrawal. I would expect to see that opinion, if the question asked if we should stay beyond 2009, but it would appear Canadians are articulating Afghanistan fatigue.