Thursday, July 31, 2008

2nd Quarter Fundraising Figures

The second quarter fundraising totals are out for all the political parties. The Liberal totals are disappointing to say the least, fundraising remains a large problem. For April to June 2008:
$912 378.43 from 9556 contributors

For comparison, the April to June 2007 numbers:
$1 268 043.45 from 9951 contibutors

The fundraising is up slightly from the first quarter ($848 129.37), but the contributors are down from 10 169.

Very bad numbers, if one is being fair, primarily because you get no sense of any momentum, that the Liberals are starting to master the new fundraising techniques. Why? I would argue this is the downside of the abstaining strategy, clearly the grassroots wasn't motivated to give, while their leadership gave up. I'm not arguing the wisdom of the strategy, but if you looking for cause, the posture of the elected party representatives seems the most obvious answer. Of course, other factors at play, but abstaination doesn't bring inspiration.

The Conservatives remain a fundraising juggernaut, although their totals are down year to year. April to June 2008:
$3 525 352.31 from 33833 contributors

Last year, for this period:
$3 768 122.22 from 36794

A slight drop, an even bigger drop from last quarter, wherein the Conservatives brought in $ 4 954 550.22 from 44345 contributors. The trend line for the Conservatives isn't good, but then again the money still flows nicely.

The NDP, less than the Liberals, but more contributors. April to June 2008:
$711 637.28 from 11941 contributors

The same period last year:
$722 760.09 from 11 773 contributors

In the last quarter, the NDP raised 1 119 647.67 from 13329 contributors. Year to year, pretty consistent, down noticeably from the last quarter. Still, very good numbers.

What else can you say?

UPDATE

Graph heaven.

Out Of Step?

One of the chief criticisms, primarily coming from the NDP, Dion's carbon tax is largely out of step with the worldwide trend. Cap and trade is emerging as the global response to combatting climate change, a carbon tax not part of the mix. Relating to the disingenious either/or argument, it is interesting to note that today I read of two more countries considering a carbon tax, which just so happens to be entertained with a complimentary cap and trade component.

India:
NEW DELHI: The energy coordination committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has suggested imposition of a carbon tax on polluting power stations. The proposal would club India with a select group of countries that tax carbon emissions directly and boost the renewable energy initiative.

The ECC has also suggested that carbon tax should not be a standalone initiative and there was also a need for introducing a system of emission trading in order to avoid problems in the country’s negotiating position on climate change.


South Africa:
Cabinet has mandated the National Treasury to investigate the possible imposition of a tax on carbon-dioxide (C02) emissions as part of South Africa's voluntary commitment to climate-change mitigation, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday.
Speaking at a briefing in Cape Town held to outline South Africa's newly adopted strategic direction and framework for climate policy, Van Schalkwyk said that Treasury would examine the most appropriate fiscal measures to support government's long-term mitigation scenario (LTMS). These could include taxes as well as incentives to help place South Africa's economy on a low-carbon growth and development path.

"We will be looking at ways to increase the price on carbon through an escalating CO2 tax, or an alternative market mechanism," the Minister elaborated, indicating that the tax could initially be introduced at low levels, but escalate to higher levels by 2018 or 2020.

I mention these examples, because it counters this idea that the world is choosing one path, as people such as Nathan Cullen and Jack Layton suggest. The idea of a carbon tax is alive and well, gaining traction around the world, as countries contemplate what to do. It also suggests that many don't see the conflict with different approachs to combat emissions, working in tandem. As a matter of fact, when speaking of who is "out of step", it would appear the either/or crowd creates an unnecessary polarization, more political than practical.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do


Should we be surprised anymore?. I'm sure it was all a misunderstanding, or a Liberal plot.

Vote Grab Alert


One thing about this government, they don't publicly float anything unless pre-approved. With that in mind, what are we to make of these open musings from Conservatives, gathering to try and figure out some actual new policy:
Tories looking for ways to cut gas price

LÉVIS, Que. — The Conservative Party will look over the next two days for ways to bring down the price of gas even though there is no room for major tax cuts, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

Still, Mr. Flaherty said that the Conservative caucus will be exploring solutions to high gas prices at its current two-day meeting, including looking at a variety of tax measures that will be proposed by MPs.

Ottawa rakes in about 4 billion per year from the 10 cent/litre excise tax on gasoline. With a fall election likely, which really means little accountability on any surplus/deficit for this fiscal year, does anyone doubt the Conservatives would consider a token cut on this tax? Even if the government were to lower the tax, say to 8 cents, it would only mean a 800 million less in the coffers, something Flaherty could probably argue is doable. Forget how relatively meaningless this would be to the consumer, it would allow the Conservatives a talking point, heading into an election.

Lowering the excise tax would also allow for a nice contrast with Dion's Green Shift, which simply replaces the tax with a carbon tax, net neutral. Who wants to bet the Conservatives offer some token gas relief, to bolster their electoral prospects?

Where's The Obama Bounce?

I don't really take the polls too seriously at this point, but I must admit I expected to see an Obama bounce, coming off his foreign tour. Given the almost unprecedented news coverage, McCain relegated to an afterthought, it seemed entirely reasonable that Obama would benefit. The media fawned, the "rock star" at the top of the charts, under normal circumstances, it would seem a win/win for Barack.

With that in mind, I can't help but notice that the RCP tracking average today, now has the race the closest it has been since the beginning of June. Also, the two daily outfits, Gallup and Rasmussen, both show an Obama uptick during the tour, which quickly faded, the race tightening. I find that strange, given the little negative feedback for Obama, plus the fact McCain can't seem to get any traction.

What the numbers do suggest, Obama's foreign tour amounted to little in the end, which wasn't quite the plan. Now, I'm not getting excited, and I fully realize the state polls (although they get OUTDATED very quickly, with the infrequent findings), but a noteworthy development, that suggests this race is still wide open, a Democrat never a sure thing, no matter the circumstances.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Emerging Theme?

My NDP friends will surely disagree, but I can't help but notice an emerging sense outside of partisan considerations, that the NDP has it wrong in the climate change debate. Just one more voice, but a sentiment that keeps propping up as we move forward:
Most interesting though is the opposition from the NDP, a party that often touts itself as greener then the Green Party. In lieu of a carbon tax, the NDP has thrown its support behind cap and trade as a method of carbon pricing, causing unnecessary polarization of the climate change debate.

Though these models are not mutually exclusive, the partisan debate has degenerated into which model will achieve the 60 to 90 per cent CO2 emission reductions needed to curb the devastating effects of global warming

Here in Canada, Stéphane Dion has recognized the complexity of cap and trade and has boldly introduced a carbon tax. This is uncharacteristic for any politician, especially for one within the ranks of the predominately populist Liberal party.

Sadly, by denouncing the Liberal plan, the NDP chose to politicize a global threat that is intolerant to partisan politics. Climate change poses an unprecedented challenge to all; however, responsibility for change rests largely in the hands of current politicians who have the power to implement large-scale emission reduction policies. For once in this country the leader of a mainstream political party has put good policy above votes. Dion, it might be a hard sell, but kudos nonetheless.

Arf Arf

Below, the Conservative hopeful in Guelph (left) gets the daily talking points from a national party representative:



Free thought the enemy, when will the media clue in and let voters know??

What About Quebec?

As Dion tours the country, I can't help but wonder where Quebec fits into the Liberal strategy. Quebec has been largely absent from the cross-country sales pitch to date, and while the summer is still young (or middle aged as the case may be), I find the omission concerning. It's sort of my pet peeve, this sense within the Liberal hierarchy that Quebec doesn't offer many short-term opportunities for the Liberals, because ultimately, without the convenience of the former divided right, any hopes for the future of the Liberal Party will be a rebirth in Quebec.

IMHO, and I've said this before, this summer should have been about Quebec first, second and third, the focus on rebuilding the Liberal brand and Dion's image in his home province. Realism suggests the status quo will be the best the Liberals can hope for next election, possibly a couple of pickups, but nothing extraordinary. That reality misses the point in my estimation because it implies resignation. Armed with a new policy, which polls show might have more appeal in Quebec than other regions, I would view it as opportunity.

I had heard that Coderre was set to blitz all Quebec ridings this summer, a pledge I haven't really heard much on (anyone?). That's great, but for the Liberals to turn any corner, the perception of Dion is the starting point. Where are the sit downs with Quebec paper editorial boards, where are the television appearances, where are the townhalls, where's the buzz?

It's good to hear that Westmount is being taken seriously, the Liberals seem to be "in the game", a fact Conservatives seem prepared to acknowledge. It would be nice to sense that same seriousness elsewhere in the province, because at the moment the opposite is more evident. Now, of course this could all change, if Dion comes off his vacation with an emphasis on Quebec. It will be interesting to see the rest of the summer unfold, and the schedule will speak volumes about Liberal strategy moving forward.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Canadians Pissed

That "anger", according to Ipsos-Reid. Some of the findings are hardly surprising, particularly gas prices(ya figure). One point of comfort for the Liberals, the environment is another key area of discontent:
According to a new poll on the national temperament by Ipsos Reid, carried out for Canwest News Service and Global Television, 71 per cent of Canadians are “really angry or upset” about skyrocketing gas prices.

But consumer complaints aren’t the only thing making us hot under the collar.

Of the 1,022 people surveyed in the poll, 62 per cent say they’re angry about inaction on environmental issues, 53 per cent are angry about taxes, 51 per cent are upset about neighbourhood crime, and 47 per cent are upset by Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, 43 per cent are even angry about the Chinese government crackdown in Tibet.

In total, 55 per cent of all poll respondents say they’re angry or upset about one of these six issues, compared to only 26 per cent who say they’re content, or 18 per cent who aren’t happy, but are “resigned” to the current state of affairs.

The angry majority consists of two volatile groups: one - 20 per cent of the total - who are doing or planning to do something to show their frustrations, and another - 35 per cent - who are bottling up their anger because they can’t “do anything about it.”

The real shocker 29% aren't angry about gas prices, I thought for once unanimity ruled the land. Good to see some pent up frustration on the environment, another indicator that it will be a focus issue in the next election.

Not So "Special" Deal

Absolutely unbelievable title in the Ottawa Citizen, relating to the outstanding Liberal leadership debts. Special Deal:
Special deal

OTTAWA - Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has given several Liberal leadership contenders until the end of next year to repay their debts from their campaigns for the party's top job, but he has yet to rule on an extension request from party leader Stephane Dion.

In a decision made public Monday, Mr. Mayrand said the campaigns of Maurizio Bevilacqua, Scott Brison, Martha Hall Findlay, Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Gerard Kennedy have until the end of 2009 to make good on loans and other debts. Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff was given an extension until the end of June 2009, and MP Ken Dryden has until the end of June 2010.

Together, these losing candidates received extensions on $1.7 million in loans and other claims.

Scott Brison, along with Maurizio Bevilacqua, Martha Hall Findlay, Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Gerard Kennedy, now have until the end of 2009 to make good on loans and other debts.
Montreal Gazette

The extensions are certain to inflame Conservatives, who have suggested Mr. Mayrand has unfairly interpreted the elections law by singling out Tory candidates when he refused to certify election campaign expenses in the so-called "in-and-out" affair.

Oh, how the Conservatives will howl, especially with dishonest headlines from a supposed reputable source. Hey, Glen McGregor, instead of intentionally suggesting Elections Canada is giving preferential treatment to the Liberals, why don't you get off your lazy ASS and be a journalist for a few minutes. Sort of like this reporter:
Scores of Conservative candidates missed campaign debt deadline

By Joan Bryden , THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - Conservative election candidates have regularly missed deadlines for repaying campaign debts, indulging in the same supposedly illegal conduct for which the Tories are now denouncing Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.


According to a chart compiled by Elections Canada, 426 candidates - including 121 Conservatives - sought extensions to pay off loans after the 2004 election.

As well, 401 candidates - including 125 Conservatives - sought extensions to clear unpaid bills.

Elections Canada was not immediately able to say how many of those requests were granted but typically most candidates would have been given more time.

In a guide to understanding the rules for leadership debts, the agency notes that "under similar rules that exist for candidates during an election, the Chief Electoral Officer has normally authorized late payments as long as the sources of all contributions and details of all loan repayment schedules are disclosed."

Furthermore, Elections Canada's web site lists 19 candidates - five of them Conservatives - with loans that remained unpaid 18 months after the 2006 election.

It further lists 10 candidates - four of them Conservatives - whose unpaid loans were deemed to count as donations after 18 months. In five of those cases - three involving Conservative candidates - the donations exceed the legal maximum of $5,400 per donor.

Replace SPECIAL with STANDARD PRACTICE and the article might be fair. What a joke.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The False Choice

Despite the fact that Dion allowed for a cap and trade component with the Green Shift, certain quarters have chosen to ignore that, instead presenting the intellectually dishonest either/or proposition. This distinction, despite the fact most environmentalists see no conflict between a carbon tax working in concert with cap and trade. Politically motivated, it seems important for some to make the ideas mutual exclusive, because it ultimately provides a contrast for voters.

In the interest of clarification, I thought I would link to the latest Dion quote, wherein he speaks on cap and trade. Sounds reasonable enough:
All the experts are saying you need to do carbon pricing. There are two ways to do carbon pricing: cap and trade or a carbon tax. And I'm still a supporter of a cap and trade, but it will take some years to go there. The western initiative that your premier is now a partner in, they said they cannot start a cap and trade before 2012. Assuming you have an election this year, something I'm not confirming, 2012 is the end of the first mandate. That means it will be very difficult to start something meaningful during the first mandate. I want to start first year, first budget, and the advantage of carbon pricing through the tax system is that you start right now. Many experts are saying it's the best way to go.... And if you start with that, nothing prevents you over the years to build a good cap-and-trade system for the whole of Canada and hopefully with our American friends. And then to bridge it with Europe and to build this world carbon market. Start somewhere, and I suggest the best place to start is with the Green Shift.

So, as the NDP and their supporters present the false choice, it is important to realize that the Liberal plan doesn't require the either/or, it requires the now(carbon tax) and the future(cap and trade) working in tandem, an appreciation of simple practical chronology.

Risk Vs Reward

Many of the pundits are already framing the looming by-elections as a mini-referendum on Dion's leadership, woven with that, some sort of empirical feedback on the Green Shift. You can debate whether that is a fair representation, whether by-elections are really indicative of anything, but in the end it probably doesn't matter, because the media class will run with what they want, objections aside. With that reality in mind, Liberals really have nothing to fear, if you take the view that the supposed risk, also has the opportunity for reward.

The Liberals should win in Westmount, it's a rock solid riding, so a loss would rightfully signal problems, particularly if Outremont is shown to be more than a one off. From a distance, it appears that the Liberal brain trust understands the stakes and an urgency exists that was absent last time around, complacency not an issue. If people want to frame this riding as a "test" of Dion's leadership, I say Liberals should welcome it, because after all, it's a particularly friendly "test". If the Liberals hold the seat, then all those raising expectations, will have to concede a Dion "pass". In other words, the Liberals really have nothing to fear, an attitude of should and will, let's flex some muscle, should win the day. It's a test on one of our strongest subjects, pardon me if people shouldn't be confident. Let them raise the stakes, maybe you get more political mileage from a safe riding than would otherwise be evident.

As it relates to Guelph, again I prefer to see the riding as an opportunity, rather than potential land mine. The party has a very strong, well established, polished organization, with a well respected, well known candidate, who has more established roots in the community than an old oak tree. Yes, it's a fight, and all the parties are making a serious play, but that just makes a potential victory all the more meaningful. The Conservatives threw the kitchen sink at us, and we still prevailed, the NDP ran their "star" and it fizzled on the horizon. A win brings the party honest momentum, a nice preamble to a looming election.

If the Liberals succeed in these two ridings, then all the punditry frame actually works to Dion's advantage. Another signal that the once weak and ineffectual leader has found his voice, a sense that the Liberals have shored up their earlier fragility, a shot in the arm for the grassroots that the Liberal brand is alive and well. Whether the media is fair or not, what's wrong with a challenge, after all, it's not like the Liberals face herculian odds. Stakes raised on relatively friendly turf, I'm okay with that. Just win baby.

Fast forward to September 9th, and you see a scenario that is nothing but good news for the Liberals. Sure, there is the spectre of more "problems", but you could also see this nice storyline- Conservatives shutout in by-elections, questions about Harper's government, what now?/ NDP make major play and come up short twice, Outremont in the rearview mirror, Guelph more evidence of potential problems in Ontario. I'm speaking of the media again here, so the partisan defences aren't necessary. Remember the Toronto by-elections?

A robust party isn't afraid of challenges, it reacts with confidence and says "bring it on". Media fairness is an elusive beast, I'd rather pivot and embrace the storyline, all the while seeing a potential positive, should the Liberals meet the "test".

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bad Spin Meet Reality

Everyone plays the expectations game, and the Conservatives are predictably downplaying their chances in the looming by-elections. The media will largely frame what constitutes success or failure for the various parties, but through the fog of posturing, let's hope that reality pierces through. The Conservatives are making a MAJOR play in Guelph, and the proof is everywhere. In fact, the entire Conservative national appartus is focused on this riding, and has been for months. So, to the people in the media, come September 8th, don't allow the spin to undermine the real.

A quick recap of the big push. A who's who of major Conservative figures to visit Guelph in the past weeks:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan

Environment Minister John Baird

Health Minister Tony Clement

Secretary of State Jason Kenney

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley

Oh, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper

All this prior to the by-election call. How can anyone take the downplaying seriously??

The local candidate also had a campaign office open months ago, from a good source, apparently funded by the national party.

Further evidence of a national push to win this riding:
More than 50 youth volunteers from ridings across Canada will be in Guelph this weekend in support of candidate Gloria Kovach.

This is the second time that the group has been in Guelph. They were first in the City in mid-June.

The Conservatives can say what they like, but what we are seeing in this riding is actually unprecedented for a by-election run up. The Conservatives will pour money, volunteers and energy into Guelph, which rightly makes this a "litmus" test for them, as much as the onus is on Dion. You don't get to fight this hard, and get away with "we don't expect to win". Actions speak LOUDER than words, so the media needs to keep perspective.

On a side note, I had to drive through Guelph last evening and the amount of signage present on the streets, only hours after the announcement, was staggering to say the least. All the campaigns look ready to go, this will clearly be anything but your garden variety by-election.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Flaherty Magic Returns

Nobody in Ontario will be surprised, but the rest of the country is starting to get their first glimpses of the Jim Flaherty finance minister magic. Poof:
OTTAWA — The federal government says it began the new fiscal year with a $500-million deficit as new tax cuts introduced in January and a slumping economy cut into revenues and public spending rose.

The government said Friday that revenues fell by 4.1 per cent in April and May of this year, compared with the same period last year, while spending increased seven per cent.

Revenues from the GST tax plunged 20.9 per cent from last year, the Finance Department said, and revenues from corporate taxes fell 16.6 per cent. Many companies, especially manufacturers and forestry operators, have been reporting lower profits because of the slumping economy.

The small deficit to start off the year is in sharp contrast to the $2.8-billion surplus the department reported last year for April and May.

And, let's keep the chronology in tact. People will remember those warning Flaherty after his goodie filled mini-budget last October, signs of a looming slowdown the talk of the prudent. Potential vote grab trumped sound fiscal management.

At least Flaherty is consistent, but for the people of Ontario, it is starting to feel like groundhog day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Contradictions Much?

I'm reading this predictable editorial board piece in the National Post, essentially slamming Dion's idea of a carbon tariff. The piece is really a study in contradiction, first arguing that the Green Shift is toothless without a tariff, then attacking Dion for proposing what the board argues is required.

First, this point:
In other words, the Green Shift is likely to be a farce unless it is accompanied by some form of protectionism that prevents the replacement of relatively carbon-clean Canadian goods by dirty foreign ones.

The NP editorial board acknowledges that this is the other shoe to drop in this entire conversation, if the Green Shift is too actually succeed. But, then the NP contorts to criticize that which they view as logical:
It would be a shame if we responded by placing control of our foreign policy in the hands of an economic masochist who is not even content to wait for American political action before he tries to impose what he bizarrely imagines to be American environmental values — so like his own! — on Canadian businesses and taxpayers.

Following the tortured logic here, the NP seems to be arguing that Dion is wrong to make assumptions about what the Americans will ultimately do, there is no advantage in going "first", until we see how things shakeout stateside. First off, what Dion is saying is no different than what the Americans are starting to say, it is all theoretical at the moment, last time I checked the Liberals aren't in power, and beyond that we still would have 4 years of plan implementation. A carbon tariff is a distant idea, and everyone knows it, but Dion is merely reacting to an emerging reality, getting ahead of the curve, unless of course the American Congress is an empty vessel:
New York: The US Senate has passed a legislative amendment recommending imposition of carbon tariff on goods imported into the United States from countries like India and China, which do not have an effective emission program on the lines desired by the US.

Sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) and carrying bipartisan support, the Boxer amendment to the budget resolution was passed by Senate 54 votes to 41 last week.

Boxer said: “And when those imports come in at our ports, if those countries seeking entry into our country do not have equivalent programs, then they will have to get the allowances at the border in order to bring those goods into the country.”

Another example:
Buried within the 1000+ page Warner-Lieberman climate change act is a provision for something called “international reserve allowances” and what is quickly being dubbed a “Carbon Tariff.” Essentially the provision applies a cross-border, per ton, carbon tax on imported goods that are manufactured in countries that do not have limits on carbon emissions. If an item creates 2 tons of carbon dioxide in its manufacture and a 1 ton carbon credit trades for $30 - then the tariff would be $60 on that item.

How dare Dion process a growing sentiment, incorporate that idea into future plans. What nonsense for the NP to attack Dion on this angle, when in fact the idea is real and currently being debated by some of the most influential legislators in America. Shorter NP, hey Dion cut out the forethought, vision is a dangerous animal.

And, it isn't just the Americans, the discussion is more advanced in Europe:
LONDON (Reuters) - The European Commission is debating whether to push for a carbon tariff on imports from countries that do not tackle their greenhouse gas emissions, as part of climate change proposals due out this month.

Supporters of the measure say it would level the playing field for European companies facing tougher domestic emissions penalties. The new rules would be part of a raft of post-2012 proposals covering issues including national emissions targets and clean energy subsidies.

The NP spends the first portion of the article outlining why something would have to be done on the import side, then heaps scorn on Dion for addressing that point. The article is rife with logical inconsistency, which speaks to a politically motivated thesis, rather an a consistent argument. Somewhere a puppy awaits his training reading material. Let's hope it's a soaker.

Another Point Of View

This post should go over like a lead balloon, but given all the lofty praise, another perspective seems entirely appropriate. I remember listening to Barack Obama's victory speech in Iowa, entirely impressed with the verbal virtuoso, thinking a new era had taken flight. While I still believe Obama would make a good president, and he's this foreigners personal choice, I find my enthusiasm waning in one sense.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to listen to Obama's speech firsthand today, because the subsequent commentary shows no relationship to my perceptions. I should amend the above, I only listened to a few minutes of the speech, because to be frank, the lofty rhetoric left me cold, bored even. Soaring over the mountain tops, the linguistic gymnastics dazzling the masses, and yet it all seemed entirely dramatic, dare I say cheesy.

This isn't the 1960's, Kennedy's dead, and I really don't want to relive outdated romantic language that sounded Shakespearian, but really hardly illustrated any relationship to reality. I tend to be inspired by straight ahead, no bull, clear language, that is rooted in ordinary circumstance. This Moses on the mount routine tends to get old over time, so optimistic to be practically useless, so inspiring, doomed for failure. I'm not looking for someone to follow, and much of the time these speechs are almost intellectually pandering in their sermon style delivery.

Obama is great in low key interviews, Obama is excellent in articulating coherent answers to complex questions. Obama, on the mass stage, speaking before the rapt audience, delivering the biblical phrasing, over the top idealist jargon that touches the stratosphere, not so much anymore. I had a dream, but then I woke up and had a cold shower. Refreshing actually.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now We're Talking

In my mind, this is the endgame to the entire debate, what might get Dion's plan over the hump with a sceptical public, which speaks to a process which addresses this issue in totality. You make the commitment, then you can actually "lead the world", voluntarily or kicking and screaming:
Dion touts tariffs on countries that are ‘free-riders'

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Wednesday he would impose tariffs on imports from countries that Canada deems are not doing enough in the battle against global warming.

Mr. Dion's office said later that countries that have capped industrial emissions of greenhouse gases or who have imposed domestic carbon taxes would be exempt from the Liberal import tax, as would poor nations.

Trade expert Michael Hart of Carleton University's Centre for Trade Policy and Law dismissed Mr. Dion's carbon tariff comments as “bafflegab.” He predicted other nations would be furious with Canada.

“They'd quickly come to Ottawa and say ‘What the hell are you doing? Who came up with this crazy scheme?'” Prof. Hart said. “The environmentalists would all scream ‘the environment ueber alles [above everything else]!' [but] that's not enshrined in any trade agreement.”...

“I want Canada to be able to say ‘We are doing carbon pricing, are you?' And then, instead of being vulnerable, we'll be in a situation to protect ourselves,” he said.

To the professors "furious" comments, important to keep in mind that the idea of carbon tariffs are already being considered in Europe, namely the French and the idea has support with American politicians. As this process moves forward, countries that are making a sacrifice will begin to use that as leverage and, at the very least, the real threats will lead to concessions.

Future detail aside, politically, Dion introducing this idea says to Canadians that the Liberals will not put the country at a permanent economic disadvantage, this plan doesn't translate to unilateral suicide. I've commented on this idea before, but there is a school of thought which sees carbon tariffs as a future way to offset manufacturing flight, a economic disincentive.

In the now, the idea could be a bit issue within the entire scheme, but I find it attractive because it demonstrates a ultimate vision, it lays out a path to actually address the big picture.

"Our Legal Position Is Rock Solid" Stephen Harper

Or, maybe not so much:
Four-fifths of the cost of the Conservatives' 2006 election-campaign advertising in Quebec was funnelled through local campaigns in a financing scheme that Elections Canada alleges was illegal, according to testimony provided in a court case.

Ann O'Grady, until April the chief financial officer of the Conservative Party of Canada, said Quebec candidates claimed about 80 per cent of the roughly $1-million in Quebec campaign advertising costs as their own, although the party gave them the money to spend.

The way Tory ad expenses were treated varied greatly between Quebec - where, in the 2005-2006 election campaign, most Tory candidates were considered lost causes - and the rest of the country. Outside Quebec, local candidates only claimed about 7 per cent of Conservative ad costs as local expenses.

Newly filed court documents show that when she was questioned by Elections Canada's lawyer on June 19, Ms. O'Grady revealed that local candidates in Quebec paid about 80 per cent of the cost of all Conservative advertising in Quebec.

The national party paid the remaining 20 per cent.

The money the Quebec candidates "pooled" together paid for about $760,000 in ad production costs and air time, or 80 per cent of the $941,442 the Conservatives spent on ads in the province.

Bravado meets reality.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Let The Games Begin...

The rumors are true, and the summer just became much more interesting. No matter the spin, these three by-elections will bring intrigue and consequences for all the parties:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to call the by elections this week in the Montreal-area ridings of Westmount-Ville Marie and St. Lambert and the southwestern Ontario riding of Guelph.

Opposition parties expect the vote in the three ridings will be held Sept. 8 but Conservative insiders suggest Harper may opt for Sept. 2, the earliest possible date.

The Westmount byelection must be called by Saturday under Elections Canada rules, but sources say the three vacancies will be bundled together.

No matter what Ryan Sparrow says, the Conservatives do have much at stake in these by-elections. The Conservatives have already brought all the heavyweights to the Guelph riding, they've shipped in volunteers from other ridings for canvassing, they've even slammed the Liberal candidate in Parliament. You don't play that hard without expectations, so Guelph serves as a litmus test for all involved, Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Greens. The Conservatives are also playing in St. Lambert, so the frame of no expectations won't fly politically.

The NDP has a great deal at stake in Guelph, their star candidate Tom King making noise, the party clearly focusing in on the riding. Ditto for the Liberal fortress of Westmount, where another NDP star candidate, Anne Legace Dowson, looks to prove Outremont wasn't a fluke. A very credible showing in Westmount, the NDP presence in Quebec starts to really take hold, the polls proved correct.

The Greens have done well in Ontario recently, in Guelph their numbers for the last provincial election where very impressive, so there is some pressure to keep up the appearance of momentum.

The Liberals clearly have much on the line, the Green Shift moves from proposal to practical, as voters weigh in and serious debate begins. Agree or disagree, in a sense this is a litmus test for Dion, the Liberals need a good night or the dead narrative may get a reprieve. From all accounts, the casual attitude of Outremont doesn't seem apparent with Westmount, and that's a good thing, because a loss would be the ultimate disaster. In Guelph, the Conservative smear campaign will test the Liberals, although the real danger comes from splitting the environmental vote, which is sizable, allowing a less than impressive Conservative showing to translate into a victory.

With an election looming, these by-elections have all the attributes to congeal into a crucial night for everyone. Let the games begin.

Khadr Video Doesn't Sway Opinion

A new Angus-Reid poll compares reactions to Omar Khadr's situation, before and after the now famous video. It's an interesting comparison, results from the beginning of July, to one's done July 18/19 show some change in terms of sympathy, but not much else. Canadians are still divided:
38% want Khadr to face trial in Guantanamo Bay (=), 38% would repatriate him to Canada (+1), 24% are unsure (-2)

�� 32% (+3) believe Khadr will get a fair trial in Guantanamo Bay; 41% (-2) disagree

�� 36% (+5) feel sympathy for Omar Khadr's plight, 41% (-5) do not

Not surprisingly, Conservatives tend to have a different opinion than supporters of the other parties:
When the results are assessed by political allegiance, a majority of respondents who would vote for the governing Conservative Party in the next federal election want Khadr to stay in Guantanamo (62%), think that he will get a fair trial (55%), and feel no sympathy for his plight (63%).

Conversely, at least 46 per cent of supporters of the four main federal opposition parties believe Khadr should be repatriated, at least 49 per cent believe his trial in Guantanamo will not be fair, and at least 40 per cent feel sympathy for his plight.

It would seem the video has slightly increased sympathy for Khadr, but the change is hardly eye popping. I suppose I am slightly surprised, given this video was Canadians first real opportunity to hear Khadr, within an environment that would seem naturally supportive. The fact the overall numbers haven't moved probably gives the Harper government little motivation to change their stance, just one finding, but little evidence of mounting pressure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Calling Pierre

Pierre, did other parties do this?:
A former financial officer for the party confirmed last month in a court examination that expenses incurred by Public Works Minister Christian Paradis and former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier were assigned to other candidates.

NDP MP Pat Martin, a member of the ethics committee, said if the party did shift expenses from Bernier and Paradis to other candidates it would add an entirely new dimension to the controversy.

"I can't get (fellow NDP MP) Judy Wasylycia-Leis to put $5,000 of my expenses into her expenses," said Martin. "That's absolutely not allowed."

In a sworn cross-examination last month, the transcript of which was subsequently entered in the Federal Court file, McIsaac pressed O'Grady about advertising and ad production costs that were transferred from Bernier and Paradis to other candidates.

McIsaac challenged O'Grady's explanations that the expenditures were re-assigned because the candidates had been mistakenly invoiced for more than the amounts their official agents originally committed for the campaign.

"I'm going to suggest to you that Mr. Bernier was less than $2,590 from his spending limit and that he couldn't afford to put the additional amount into his return," McIsaac said to O'Grady.

"That would be total supposition," responded O'Grady.
"Who knows what else would have been going on at the time? I can't comment on how Mr. Bernier ran his campaign."

In the case of Paradis, O'Grady conceded the candidate had originally committed his campaign to a media buy totalling $30,000, was eventually invoiced $29,766 and subsequently received a "credit note" of $10,000 that was reallocated to another candidate, Marc Nadeau.

"Now, again, the reason for this was that Mr. Paradis had reached his limit with respect to spending as well, is that correct?" asked McIsaac. "He had to allocate some of his money to Mr. Nadeau, did he not, because he was close to his limit?"

"I would not know that," replied O'Grady, who replaced former Tory chief financial agent Susan Kehoe several months after the election.

McIsaac also questioned O'Grady over the fact that Bernier paid no production costs for his share of the advertising. Paradis paid only $233.93 for his share, even though McIsaac said other candidates paid $4,500 each for production costs.

It's actually pretty simple, candidates who reached their maximum allowable circumvented the rules by putting expenses onto other candidates returns, in uncompetitive ridings. I'd love for some apologist to argue differently, that smells more fishy than a plate of sun baked calamari.

Grading The Green Shift

It's been about a month since Dion released the Liberal Green Shift plan, so I thought it would be a good time for a progress report. If I had to grade the initial rollout period politically, I would give it a B to B-, which seems fair, all things considered.

On the plus side, the Green Shift has successfully changed the media narrative in totality (predictable sources aside). The biggest challenge for Dion, transforming his image, and I don't think anyone could argue that the adjectives haven't changed. Today's Lawrence Martin column is largely representative:
Moreover, an opposition leader once on the point of crumbling hasn't crumbled. Mr. Dion's Green Shift plan has changed the political dynamic, elevating his image from wimp to risk-taker, staking his party to a strong vision, putting the PM on the defensive.

Even critics use terms like "bold", the idea of Dion as weak and ineffective, a frame which was referenced in almost every item or story, has essentially evaporated. Given that the Liberals greatest challenge was the perceived albatross as leader, it is hard to underestimate this change as a positive. You don't hear stories about leadership squabbles, you don't hear about grassroots depression, you don't hear about months of abstaining and election fear, you hear about a man with conviction, whether it be deemed folly or genius. In many ways, it really is a remarkable transformation, at the very least, Canadians see someone armed with ideas and direction, someone who comes to the table with integrity. It is as if the media has come full circle, Dion re-emerging as the figure they once lauded in the days prior to the convention.

In my mind, weathering the intial storm of criticism is the key to any potential success. On this score, a combination of ineffective attacks from other parties, over the top Conservatives, transparent partisanship from the NDP, both combined to say more about the source than the message. The launch was a reasonable success, partly because the Liberals were not alone, the release was followed by prominent endorsements that cut across the political spectrum. This reality helped insulate Dion from the "crazy" arguments, because the discussion found weight outside of spin. All that mattered in the short term, get the plan out and create an atmosphere that allowed for a debate, nothing definitive, just an opportunity. I would say the Liberals have been successful on this front, much still to come, but the ideas are largely being taken seriously, this plan at the heart of any conversation, others mostly in reactionary mode.

In terms of political allies, it's a mixed bag for the Liberals. McGuinty's endorsement is clearly a plus, and it seems reasonable to put Campbell in the support column, given his own political survival. Charest has been largely silent, but Quebecers seem very open to the concept. The Maritimes largely a draw, Manitoba not really keen either way. The really concerning part for the Liberals, or maybe better stated, national unity, the reaction of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The reaction is entirely predictable, but some serious missteps from Liberal backbenchers have created unfortunate talking points. I don't think it wrong to say people like Turner and Boshcoff have really hurt the plan's credibility, in the sense that it fuels a paranoia, actually allows for talk of plots. In terms of seats, or electoral prospects, how Alberta and Sask react doesn't necessarily make or break the plan or Liberal success, but the level of anger should be noted, we are treading on fragile ground.

That brings me to another negative, real challenges in selling the plan. Dion's tour of Canada is a great idea, which seems to be going reasonably well. That said, as the days progress, it seems more and more talk about the tax hike is creeping in, without much consideration of the cuts. In terms of public perception, Canada's are still largely ignorant to the plan's finer points, only now coming to grips with the broad strokes, so there is a danger of allowing misinformation to sink in. I was under the impression that there was to be a ad buy after the plan's release, and while we had some cute online items, I think it a negative that we haven't seen a substantial push on this front. If there was ever a time for a cash strapped party to "go for it", this is it, absolutely imperative to tell the other side, in a strong and wide sweeping way. As the intial round of media buzz wanes, it will be left to independent ways to sell, the Liberals should be wary:
"There's no question the Conservative propaganda, and that's all it is, the Conservative propaganda has been getting pretty wide play and so [my constituents] are very much more aware, until you explain it to them, on the cost side, than they are on the benefit side, so there's a lot of messaging to be done there," said Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I).

Mr. Easter said the vast majority of people in his riding are not well-informed about the Liberals' Green Shift plan, and that Conservative Party workers there are currently distributing brochures attacking the plan.

Where are the Liberal brochures? Where are the ads? You can't compete with the Con smears, but at the same time, I'm not entirely impressed that we weren't ready to go straight away on this front.

You can't say anything conclusive at this point, it's all still pretty much in the infancy period. That said, my own bias aside, I think it fair to say the Green Shift release has gone fairly well. The plan itself is still an open question, but what tips it all in slight favor of the Liberals for me, the simple fact that the Green Shift has addressed, what I consider to be the chief weakness for the Liberals moving forward. The wimp is dead, now let's see what happens.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ed Stelmach Actually Said...

One of the main reasons I don't trust what Ed Stelmach says, Ed Stelmach seems to have a problem with the truth. The other day, it was the birdcage liner he penned in the NP, today Stelmach takes to QP and actually says:
"We are the only province to have actually seen real reductions, while others are talking about what policy they will implement by 2015, we've taken action. And, that's the real true fact around this whole issue."

Translation:

"real true fact"= "bald faced lie"

I mean if Stelmach wants to argue that it is unfair to expect reductions because of Alberta's circumstance, then that begins a real debate. However, to actually spew out nonsense about being the only jurisdiction to have seen "real reductions", not even will see, but already occuring, it speaks to intellectual dishonesty, it suggests someone trying to sell you a load, rather than a serious actor.

Stelmach doesn't even believe Stelmach:
"Alberta's greenhouse gas emissions will rise over the short term."


Stelmach's Environment Minister doesn't believe Stelmach:
Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner says the province's rising greenhouse gases -- fuelled largely by the oilsands' rapid expansion -- are expected to increase another 30 per cent within 10 years despite the province's new effort to regulate emissions."

"Instead the province's emissions, already 40 per cent higher than the Kyoto accord's benchmark of 1990, should continue to soar.

Indeed, government projections show even with anticipated reductions achieved through a provincial regulation taking effect in July, emissions could be 64 per cent above the benchmark by 2020.
"

Stelmach's own government reports don't believe Stelmach:
In 2006, there were 103 Alberta facilities that reported total greenhouse gas emissions of 115.4 megatonnes (one megatonne equals one million tonnes). There were four more facilities that reported emissions in 2006 than in 2005. Emissions from all facilities increased by six per cent from the 109.1 Mt reported for 2005.

There were 95 Alberta facilities that reported both in 2005 and 2006. Total reported emissions from these facilities increased by six per cent (from 108.5 Mt to 114.5 Mt).

Since the Specified Gas Reporting Program began, reported Alberta greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 12 per cent (from 103.4 Mt in 2003 to 115.4 Mt in 2006). The number of facilities reporting has also increased (from 97 in 2003 to 103 in 2006). There were 82 facilities that reported both in 2003 and in 2006. Total greenhouse gas emissions from these facilities increased by nine per cent (from 102.8 Mt to 112.2 Mt).

The sad part, there are legions willing to buy this crap, under the guise of some blind tribal loyalty. Stelmach has become a farce, and the fact he is reduced to twisting, presenting falsehoods, speaks volumes about his real intentions. Ed Stelmach is nothing more than a bad infomercial.

UPDATE

Stelmach's tax consistency.

"Resentment"?

I'm reading two seperate stories, both on the same theme, the emerging narrative that there is a mounting "envy" within parts of Canada against Alberta. I would argue no such thing, people guilty of confusing issues, but here is some of the sentiment:
"All of a sudden Alberta is not just prosperous, Alberta is off the scale, while many other provinces are struggling," says Peter McCormick, political scientist at the University of Lethbridge.

"That makes us a target. That makes us unique, unlike any other jurisdiction in the country, and therefore resented."

----

Peter Lougheed, Don Getty and Ralph Klein told the Calgary Herald that record energy prices - and the province's mounting billions in resource revenues - are feeding an "Alberta envy" in the rest of Canada.

"There's always envy when we're making money," added Klein, who led Alberta from 1992 to 2006.

We lived through that. There was a significant amount of -- the actual word is jealousy -- by citizens at large in other parts of Canada, particularly Central Canada and Atlantic Canada," Lougheed says.

"You're not going to overcome it completely. It will be there."

Lougheed's successor, Don Getty, believes jealousy is leading some political leaders in Canada to look for ways to siphon Alberta's petro dollars.

"There is a bit of targeting going on here," Getty suggests. "There are people looking at the wealth of Alberta and starting to talk about taxes. It started so innocently in the past."

First of all, if there is any criticism levelled against Alberta, from what I can tell, it stems from environmental concerns, rather than any jealousy about prosperity. I think people are confusing targetting a problem with targetting a province, or region. If you start with the premise, which is completely outside of economic consideration, that Canada needs to cut its greenhouse gases, then it is beyond obvious to look at the major sources. That isn't part of some plot, it's simply the reality, factually based, empirically sound, it is what it is. Now, when certain people spout off about transferring wealth, it feeds any paranoia, but for the most part, I don't see any economic consideration in environmental concern. People like Klein don't really see a problem, "dinosaur farts" and all, so obviously they reject the impetus, which leads to "alterior" motives. Those people can say what they want, but if you believe the environmental "cause", it's a natural concern.

I want a diversified Canada, the more "powerhouses" the better, no matter the set-up, we all prosper as a whole, when certain portions do well. It's a positive development, if the west's influence is greater, in the end balance may help deter all the regional tensions. Envy is the last thing on mind, and from what I can tell, it really isn't even on the radar in the supposed "resenting" regions. I keep hearing about it, but strangely the sentiment rarely comes from the supposed source.

This isn't the 1970's, which isn't to say we should ignore history. In 2008, Canadians from various regions have an unprecedented understanding of areas outside of their immediate jurisdictions. Rather than be a slave to the past, which by definition has nothing to do with NOW, people need to acknowledge the differences. Right now, on this blog, there are people from Alberta, people from all over Canada. In the age of interconnectedness, I find it outdated to cling to notions of misunderstandings, there are a million mediums to "learn" about opinions outside of your street, town, province, country. Heck, on satellite I can watch Vancouver newscasts nightly if I choose, another example of decaying "barriers". Canada is getting smaller over time, which is why I find the "distance" all the more confounding, and why people who cling to that really fly in the face of reality.

I'm not jealous of anybody, I want us all to succeed. The problems seem to stem from a lack of the "Canadian" dimension. If people want to start carving up the country, us vs them, pitting citizens against each other, then have it at, but I'll have none of it. It's merely a desire to see Canada actually "lead" on the environment, that's my bias, that's the starting point. It has nothing to do with envy, more like simple reality. The ironic part, if not for the tar sands, Alberta would probably be viewed as the environmental leader in confederation, some of the best innovation and forward thinking projects coming from that part of Canada, an example that others should follow. But, the tar sands are on the radar, and people would be wise to stop confusing environmental concern with NEP II, or plots to rob and transfer. Sure, you can always find a asinine comment, or examples of ignorance, to support the narrative, but let's look at things in totality, that provides a more honest assessment.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'd Like To Access Some Information Please

The Parliament website is a logistical labyrinth at the best of times, but one thing I find particularly bothersome is the lag between proceedings and public disclosure. The ETHI Committee met on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the "in and out" affair, and as of this moment, nothing, nada, zip, published on the website.

Generally, you can access things like Question Period the day after (which is still too long), but when it comes to Committee business, it can take forever to read the transcripts. Generally, much of what happens in Committee's aren't reported by the MSM, or we are just given soundbites, like the Ethics Committee this week. If it wasn't for Kady O'Malley, or the rare ability to sit home and watch live, you are pretty much SOL.

Now, I'm sure Canadians aren't generally drawn to the mundane proceedings, but that's not the point, we should have the ability to access our public business in short order. Whether this delay from the Ethics Committee is deliberate, which is possible, or just the "way it goes", it impedes one's ability to inform themselves (or blog about stupid things Pierre said, as the case may be).

It's time to update the Parliament website, so people can have almost real time information. As it stands now, by the time an ordinary citizen can access anything, it's already old news in a sense, particularly with something like Parliament business, which progresses daily. The Parliament website is a DUD.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pass the Visine

So, I was reading this story about the sad state of Pompeii, and for some reason it reminded me of a classic video. It's Friday after all:

Ouch

Pretty scathing editorial in today's Gazette, which rightfully exposes the Conservatives tactics against Elections Canada:
Tories' scurrilous attacks on election boss are ludicrous


The Conservative Party of Canada, starting with its leader the prime minister, should find the decency to knock off their scurrilous assault on the integrity of Elections Canada and its commissioner, Marc Mayrand.

If the Conservatives did, indeed, play by the rules, they should make their case by sticking to the facts of the matter. Instead they are resorting to the classic scoundrel's defence: Impute motives to others, deny everything and make wild accusations.

Scoundrels, that fits nicely. Actually, the fact that the Conservatives are "resorting" to the low road, speaks to weak factual arguments.

The best part, politically, the gang of nasties doesn't realize that their continual nastiness whenever challenged only serves to reinforce negative perceptions, further turning off the demographics they desperately need to survive in the fall(actually amazing that the "geniuses" haven't figured out this fundamental yet). Their arrogance and inate mean-spiritedness will be the ultimate undoing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Idea

No matter your opinion, it is reasonable that any potential illegal rebates should be in a trust until the courts decide. Afterall, as Harper repeatedly stated, the Conservatives have a very strong case, so as a show of good faith, entirely appropriate to put a hold on the disputed money until the ultimate vindication:
Conservative candidates who may have received inflated rebates before Elections Canada discovered the “in-and-out” scheme should be required to put the money in a trust fund until the Federal Court rules if they are entitled to it, Liberal Justice Critic Dominic LeBlanc said today.

“I am calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ensure that all of his candidates who received potentially inflated rebates due to the “in-and-out” scheme put these funds in a trust fund pending the Federal Court’s review,” said Mr. LeBlanc. “No candidate should have a political advantage by being able to spend funds they received as a result of a scheme which Elections Canada says may not comply with the Elections Act.”

“I’m sure Canadian voters would be concerned if the Conservatives permitted these candidates, who we now learn include three members of cabinet, from using these funds, while the Federal Court is reviewing Elections Canada’s ruling that the Conservatives had no right to claim this money,” he said.

The Liberals were also kind enough to provide a detailed list of the MP's in question:
Member of Parliament
Additional rebate received due to apparent “in-and-out” transaction

Hon. Lawrence Cannon
$3,685

Hon. Jay Hill
$9,000

Hon. Josée Verner
$5,618

David Anderson
$1,977

Maxime Bernier
$3,000

Steven Blaney
$14,785

Patricia Davidson
$7,290

Jacques Gourde
$14,785

Luc Harvey
$22,473

Colin Mayes
$6,000

Daniel Petit
$22,473

TOTAL
$111, 086

Surely, Conservatives can see the merits of this idea, until Elections Canada is rightfully exposed as the biased, unfair entity we all know it to be.

Pesky Facts

To hear the Harper government speak, Canada is in the midst of a crime wave, that only his government takes seriously. Relying on fear mongering and tabloid journalism, Harper preys on false perceptions for political gain. Too bad the facts paint a different picture:

Contrast the facts, with the rhetoric:
Canadians have always been proud of their safe streets and communities—something that long distinguished us from our friends across the border.

Today, however, crime is erasing the promise of our Constitution, the promise of peace, order and good government.

Canadians want their safe streets and communities back.

Under our government, the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property is once again becoming the top priority of our criminal justice system.

Stephen Harper Throne Speech 2007

"Crime is erasing the promise of our Constitution"?:



Violent crime: Decline in most serious offences

Property crime: Decline in break-ins and motor vehicle theft

Youth crime: Slight decline in the youth crime rate

Metropolitan areas: Declines seen in most cities

A responsible government takes its cues from the statistics, a political opportunistic government, takes its cues from SunMedia.

I do have one suggestion. If Harper really wants to see criminals behind bars, then maybe he could quit clogging up our courts with his petty legal actions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“His significant qualifications and experience will benefit all Canadians."

Important to remember, as Conservatives try to discredit an honorable man and an impartial entity:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pleased to announce the nomination of Mr. Marc Mayrand as the new Chief Electoral Officer.

A senior public office holder with the federal government, Mr. Mayrand currently serves as the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, where he has gained extensive experience in strategic management and organizational change. He joined the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in 1982 and, since that time, has held positions of increasing scope and responsibility, culminating in his current appointment in 1997.

“A strong and energetic manager with a proven background in operations and regulatory oversight, Marc Mayrand is particularly well-suited to take on this important position”, said the Prime Minister. “His significant qualifications and experience will benefit all Canadians. I am pleased that he has agreed to be nominated for this important role”, added the Prime Minister.

I agree with Conservative MP Goodyear, although not in the way he meant it:
“This is the most appalling parliament I’ve ever seen” are the parting words from Gary Goodyear.

Like a skunk complaining about the stench in the air.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

They Boggle The Mind

First, you need to go read, what amounts to a creepy post by this Blogging Tory. Conspiracy everywhere I tell you! Just imagine the odds, in the political backwater of downtown Ottawa no less. Coincidence, I think not.

When you come back, then this comment will make sense.

Is Kady O'Malley a Conservative mole?:




"Too friendly" I'd say.

UPDATE:

It gets worse. Who knew?

Everyone Doesn't Do It


Sorry Pierre:
Elections officials found no evidence that other political parties engaged in a scheme to circumvent spending limits as the Conservatives are accused of doing in the 2006 federal election, Canada's chief electoral officer said Tuesday.

But in his appearance before a Commons ethics committee Tuesday in Ottawa, Marc Mayrand told MPs he asked Elections Canada staff to review the returns of all major political parties in the 2004 and 2006 federal elections.

The review, he said, found no evidence of other parties directing money to local candidates who would then transfer the funds back to the party to spend on more advertising for the national campaign.

"Elections Canada has not identified any other transaction or group of transactions in which all of the other factors were in play," Mayrand said.

The only defence, Elections Canada part of another dasdardly plot to unfairly harm Conservatives. Good luck with that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Great Minds

Well, one great mind and then myself:
I can’t help but wonder - still - whether these calls “angry and threatening calls” just happened to start around the same time that word began to spread through conservative-leaning channels of the Canadian blogosphere that there was, in fact, another “Green Shift” out there; one that found the Liberals’ apparent imitation far from flattering? Perhaps it’s time to revisit the ITQ Online Outrage Tracker, which has the full timeline of a controversy that went from zero to headline news in just one day.

I just find it difficult to come up with a plausible scenario in which an ordinary, non-politically motivated person looking for more information on the Liberals’ Green Shift would be so outraged by a domain name collision that they would take the time to email, fax and even call up the company in question, just to lambaste the owners over a supposed “association” with the Liberal Party — especially after the squabble between the competing Green Shift-ers went public.

Me, a few days ago:
Does anyone really doubt the "deluge" of emails she received where not, in part, an orchestrated fake outrage campaign from Cons, maybe even some Dippers. I mean, sure we all know the details here, but most people just saw a headline, no real genuine motivation to feel inspiration for an email. No, the response she received, a good chunk of it, was from partisan Conservatives, the irony being they actually have no respect for tree hugger enterprises.

It's nice to see someone in the media can't understand why "casual" non-partisans would be so outraged, that they just had to email the company to vent. The great irony, she is trumpeting the "angry" calls to support the idea of damage, when in fact those calls and emails are predominately from people who believe the whole green movement is a fraud, perpetrated by lefty socialists, based on myths. I wonder if Jennifer Wright realizes she has become a pawn in a political dance, empowered by people who are really her enemy, attacking those that are the sympathetic.

Let Jennifer Wright know, that she is being played the fool:

info@greenshift.ca

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Waiting For The Outrage?

Hey, all you Conservatives from Alberta and Saskatchewan, talking about dasdardly plans to steal your money, Dion's "sinister" plot to transfer wealth from west to east, where are you now?:
Prentice was among 62 Conservative MPs who have put their names on more than 130 news releases in which they announced, re-announced or otherwise took credit for nearly $3 billion in spending announcements that have gushed forth since MPs broke for summer recess 24 days ago.

An analysis by Canwest News Service shows the bulk of these spending announcements have been made in regions and ridings where the Conservatives need to win new seats to gain a majority. But in those areas of the country that are already bedrocks of Conservative support, such as Alberta or Saskatchewan, the money is barely trickling in..

Conservatives know they need another five to 10 seats in Quebec for an electoral breakthrough. Quebec ministers Lawrence Cannon and Jean-Pierre Blackburn have been leading the summer spending in their province, where there have been 31 spending announcements so far totalling more than $1.1 billion.

Ontario, too, is another crucial political battleground for the Tories and the pace of handouts there has been almost as hectic as Quebec - 27 releases for better than $360 million.

But between Winnipeg and the eastern fringes of Vancouver, where Ralph Goodale's seat in Regina is the lone Liberal outpost, spending has been more muted.

In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined, there have been 25 announcements for funding totalling just $62 million.

That's right, a full 2% of the total spending announcements, less when you exclude Manitoba, has been spent on the regions where people are now crying foul. Talk about a transfer of wealth, and yet, not a peep. Once again proving selective outrage, as your champions do exactly what you see RED over. What a country.

Contradictions From Harper's "Experts"

Hardly news really, you can always find different "expert" opinion to present in court. That said, it is noteworthy that Harper's team actually used three experts to look at the Cadman tape, but only presented two initially, because the other "contradicts" their findings. I love the title:
Experts contradict each other in Cadman-Harper controversy


former FBI scientist hired by Stephen Harper's lawyer in the prime minister's $3.5-million lawsuit against the Liberal party has contradicted two other experts who said an audio tape at the centre of the legal action was doctored, court documents reveal.

Former FBI special agent Bruce Koenig – who lists expert evidence about former U.S. president Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes and analysis of gun shots in the assassination of John F. Kennedy among his accomplishments – said more evidence is needed to judge the veracity and integrity of the disputed tape recording.

concluded Zytaruk's original recording, his tape recorder and an external microphone if Zytaruk used one "are required to conduct a conclusive authenticity examination in a forensic audio laboratory."

That kind of examination is required to "scientifically" determine whether the original information is truly original, contains or has alterations, such as deletions or additions, Koenig said in the report he submitted with his own sworn affidavit.

So, this other "expert", with big credentials say you can't conclude anything with the current evidence, more is required for judgement. Why didn't Moore use this "expert" at his big presser, that "proved" the tape was a fake?

This conclusion is quite different from:
One of the initial two experts, the head of Owl Investigations Inc. in Colonia, N.J., said he concluded "with scientific certainty that this tape has been edited and doctored to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred."

Scientific certainty? And yet, Koenig, the man with the biggest pedigree, says you can't make scientific determinations based on what we know.

This conflict amongst Harper's "experts" highlights the disingenious presentation, made to Canadians, when they had full knowledge that there was no unanimious opinion, even with those PAID by the Conservatives. The two that were supportive are trumpeted, the other basically ignored, only coming to light through the court documents, only cited, because now the tactic has changed.

Gee, I wonder what the Liberal "experts" will say? Calling James Moore...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You Can Have Both

Sean in Sackatchewan, reacting to all the Liberals posting on another NDP defector:
Which is it? Are the NDP irrelevant on the federal scene, the voice of a vocal few? or are they a party that others should be worried about?

You can't have it both ways my Liberal friends. Make a choice, which I don't care. But the credibility of your arguements go out the door when one day you post about how the NDP is hurting the country and the next that it is irrelevant and headed for oblivion. I can deal with both, and I can argue against both, but you can't have both.

The quote in question:
"I've sort of given up on them. I think Layton is not the leader I expected ... He's no Tommy Douglas. He's sort of in bed with (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper half the time, (or so) it looks to the general public, and only interested in his own advancement."

Reid Scott

Credibility out the door? It would seem the above addresses both arguments, entirely consistent. Layton is hurting the country, which is why I'm leaving, which speaks to looming "irrelevance". The two arguments Sean posits as contradictory actually work in tandem, entirely connected, entirely logical.

I guess what Sean means, if the party is irrelevant, why does it matter what they are saying, nobody cares what a "few" think, so who cares? How can an irrelevant entity hurt the country, how can that doom Liberal fortunes?

I view today's comments as a SMALL sign, taken in isolation no big deal, people move between parties all the time. That said, the comments resonate for me, one because I came to that same conclusion on my own, and two, because it's not the first time I've heard it. In the last election I voted for the NDP, almost didn't after Layton's embarrassing debate performance, but still decided it was the best choice. Some argued that bringing down Martin was another example of opportunism, but I felt it was a tired, entirely bereft of ideas regime, that left little in the way of inspiration, or right to govern for that matter. I didn't fault Layton in the least, it seemed entirely justifable to have an election, under the circumstances. That changed in the first few months of this new government, when it became increasingly obvious that Layton was working tandem with Harper to hurt the Liberals, a naked example of ambition completely trumping philosophical leanings. Everyone has their own opinion, people can say that wasn't the case, but to me it was one of the most obvious political moves I can remember. It was there that I started to have some sympathy for the Liberals, squeezed on both sides, by two crazen politicians, so far apart on the political spectrum it was frightening, yet prepared to dance for mutual self interest.

You can point to the voting record now, but don't tell me that NDP headquarters wasn't getting some heat from certain supporters over this uncomfortable dynamic in 2006. They were, you know it and I know it, which resulted in a different approach, again based on self interest.

If you want to say the Liberal "weakness" over the past month had dampened enthusiasm in the ranks, caused disillusionment or outright hostility, you would be right. Everyone heard it, to deny otherwise is spin. However, it is equally true to say that certain people have lost their faith in the NDP in recent days, primarily as a result of their pre-occupation with attacking someone who actually takes climate change seriously, while mentioning the "do nothing" guy almost as an afterthought. This is where I get back to Sean.

The NDP has environmental credibility. It was the first, second and only reason I voted for them in 2006. Same for my 2004 Green vote, and again for my 2000 NDP vote. If there is an election this year, it will be the first time I vote Liberal in 11 years. The NDP is a coalition, but it is true to say they get considerable support from those who list the environment as a priority. This is where the distaste enters, and this is why we now see some people coming forward to criticize the NDP tactics. It's not just one old guy, it's another former MP, it's people that were once devoted allies on the green front. The reason, the NDP is not irrelevant on this file, so by targeting the only true alternative in a disporportionate way, if governing is your measure, it can cause harm. A debate about ideas, fine, that's politics, but to act as though the other plan isn't a serious one, cheapens the whole debate, and hence the blowback.

The NDP isn't irrelevant, but by harming the one party far closer ideologically (Harper the most right wing in history, Dion clearly progressive by any definition), which indirectly aids the arguments of the more natural philosophical enemy, it sets to undo it's well earned reputation. Pointing to the signs doesn't mean the endgame, it just means that you can see a path to irrelevance.

I think you can have both, because I know I'm not alone in my disillusionment with the NDP. That started when no one could accuse me of bias, in fact, my voting record serves as the spin resistent proof. The statements by Scott are spot on, which shows how a misguided perspective can lead to down times ahead for the NDP. You can have it both ways, citing examples of the damage now, based on current status, while also pointing to signs, as to why this approach could lead to eventual irrelevance. As a matter of fact, I see much of the "attacks" stemming from an internal calculation, although an entirely bad one politically, that this plan can't succeed because it has the potential to bring that irrelevance, or at least, put a central draw on the sidelines. It would seem Liberals aren't they only one thinking about possible obscurity. The irony, that "resistance" actually lends to the intial fear, which gave rise to the strategy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Poll

Good news for the Liberals, despite the spin of the pollster:
The poll also measured support for the Conservatives and Liberals if an election were held in the immediate future, indicating that the two parties were statistically tied at 33 per cent and 32 per cent respectively

Bricker mentions that the numbers haven't really changed much in the last two years, but if you look at the last pre-Green Shift poll by this outfit, you see the Cons were at 36%, the Liberals 30%. I would counter a 5 point swing, in such short order, ias noteworthy. Also relevant, the fact that the outfit which normally tends to overstate Conservative support, relative to others, now has a statistical tie. Hard to see that as a good sign for the Conservatives.

On the question of the Green Shift, the numbers are encouraging:
Of those who answered the Ipsos Reid survey of 1,002 adult Canadians, a slim majority, 52 per cent, said they either strongly or somewhat agree with Dion's approach. In contrast, 42 per cent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat oppose the plan, and six per cent were undecided.

A slim majority if you consider the undecided and no responders, but a healthy majority, a full 10%, with those that have decided.

Other findings:
While 62 per cent of respondents said they believed the plan - dubbed Green Shift by the Liberals - will reduce pollution in the country, about two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents felt the Liberals' proposed carbon tax would lead to a major increase in the taxes paid by families, and 62 per cent said they thought it's likely to increase tension between Western Canada, Ontario and Quebec

Interestingly, people believe this plan will reduce emissions, but also see a price attached. While this speaks to the hard sell on revenue neutrality, it does point to a willingness to embrace the plan.

I agree with Bricker that it's too early to judge, people need to see more details. From a strategic perspective, I will gladly take a non-committed electorate at this point, because a complicated policy needs time to be understood, the early days probably the most challenging, especially with the pre-launch attacks.

All this said, it is important to remember the source, which always demands an asterisk. The compelling part, the asterisk poll no longer offers delusional comfort for the Cons, in fact, it should be of real concern.

UPDATE

More detail here

Conservatives Playing Risky Game

It's supposed to be about the Liberals, but more and more, Harper's libel case is becoming a debate about the Zytaruk tape. Word yesterday, that Harper's lawyers plan to summon Zytaruk to testify in the defamation suit, primarily on the question of the tape's "authenticity". Today, Zytaruk pens an article in response to all the controversy. Once again, Zytaruk comes across as genuine, but he asks one question:
If ever there was a classic case of shooting the messenger, I'm it. Isn't this case supposed to be a legal case between Harper and the Liberals about something that appeared on the Liberal's website? If so, why is Harper's legal counsel systematically throwing kitchen sink after kitchen sink at me?

I think I can answer that question. In focusing almost entirely on this tape, the obsession is an admission of it's potential damage. One aspect that seems to be lost here, you don't throw the "kitchen sink" at something that is really much ado about nothing, as Harper's defenders have consistently argued. It really is a risky game for Harper, because the entire underlying premise of all the attacks is an implicit recognition that the tapes contents, if credible, clearly show Harper implicating himself. It's just common sense really, the tape must be savaged, because if it is left to stand as is, it raises serious questions, which apparently don't come with adequate answers.

If Harper really did make benign comments on this tape, which surrogates like Moore have repeated over and over, then the explanations are simple, nothing to worry about. If however, and the assault on Zytaruk speaks to this, the comments are quite suspicious, somewhat indefensible, then your only recourse is too "shoot the messenger". Focus all of your legal firepower on throwing the "evidence" into question, then the focus becomes a discussion of believability, rather than what the contents say. It's a dangerous tactic for Harper, because if Zytaruk is able to maintain his credibility, then it is the Conservatives who have elevated the contents to a higher level. It's an aggressive strategy, I see it as a desperate one, but it has real potential for blow back, because it essentially acknowledges what a huge PROBLEM this tape is for Harper, as it exists today.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Authenticity


I've never heard Stephane Dion speak in person before, which is why I made the trek to Guelph today. Dion was appearing to outline his Green Shift, including a townhall question and answer. The room allocated for the appearance was apparently too small, as they had to open up more space for the overflow crowd. Dion spoke briefly, followed by the q and a which lasted over an hour, then a scrum with reporters.

Dion smoothly walked through the questioning, demonstrating a good grasp on many issues, sprinkled with some timely humor. The overriding impression that I took from this appearance, Dion oozes sincerity and authenticity. Nary a hint of political calculation in his answers, agree or disagree, it's clear that he comes by his opinions honestly. Some of my unease about Dion's ability to "sell" his ideas has clearly waned, he came across as a very attractive, passionate advocate.


One angle new to me on the policy front, Dion is very much a free market orientated thinker. When asked about various alternative energy sources, whether it be hydrogen or geothermal, Dion was quick to say investment was important, but he didn't favor subsidies. The Green Shift would attempt to create favorable conditions for innovation to thrive, but ultimately the market would ween out the pretenders, decide the winners.




I stuck around to watch the media scrum. In typical lazy media fashion a reporter from the local paper asked Dion if the Liberals could afford to fight four by-elections simultaneously. Dion looked with amazement, clearly news to him, which means he doesn't read The National Post. I guess the scribe from the Merc does, then just parrots what she read. Impressive stuff.

Anyways, all in all a very good performance. I've always been pretty uncomfortable with Dion at the helm, although I've warmed recently. I'm glad I went, I feel much better about what Dion is all about, much better that this is the kind of leader Canada desperately needs. Authenticity is a rare commodity in politics these days, Dion has it in spades. I left thinking this guy would be a great Prime Minister, by all the measures that really matter.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Waiting On The "Honest Debate"

I don't mean to single out Cam, but this line is a common NDP argument these days:
Dion's plan doesn't have any actual targets and won't reduce emissions.

This attack line is uttered with increasing frequency, and the unsubstantiated logic is echoed by the leadership:
'So does it worry you to see Environmentalists say that it's a good plan?' , to which Mulcair replies, 'Well I haven't heard one single person say it's a good plan.'

Lots of TALK about an "honest debate", but when you keep seeing stuff like "Firm that helps the environment to sue Liberals over plan that doesn’t", you have to wonder. I mean, to actually argue that the Liberal plan does nothing for the environment is almost Rovian in its complete intellectual dishonesty.

I took me about 8 minutes to compile a few quotes, which includes some of the most respected experts in Canada. See, if you are to believe the NDP, all these people have been duped, the Liberal plan does NOTHING. Still waiting for that "honest debate":
Pierre Sadik – Policy Advisor, David Suzuki Foundation
“Well, it seems to be a solid plan. It's relatively straightforward, but it looks like it will cut greenhouse gas emissions quite effectively, and in that regard, it probably represents the kind of federal leadership on climate change that's been missing with this government and quite frankly with the last government as well. So what I find quite attractive about the plan is that it's broad based, it covers 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and perhaps even more importantly, it's going to get us going really quickly, unlike a cap-and-trade system, a tax can be up and running in a matter of months.”

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Environmentalist Stephen Hazell, executive director of Sierra Club Canada, said Mr. Layton's comments are regrettable because a strong climate-change plan would include cap-and-trade measures as well as carbon taxes.

"The carbon tax has a huge advantage over cap-and-trade in that it can be put in place very quickly and deliver results very quickly, whereas cap-and-trade, it's taken Europe decades to get that one figured out," he said. "It's just regrettable that he's focusing on the negative."

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"If it's implemented, I can see this plan making a tangible difference because it puts the machinery in place to reduce greenhouse gases," said Aaron Freeman, the policy director for Environmental Defence.

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Graham Saul, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.


"Putting a price on carbon will encourage conservation. So this is going to move us in the right direction in terms of sending the right signals."

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John Bennett – Executive Director, ClimateforChange.ca

“It's definitely an important part of what we need to do to combat the climate crisis, and it's great to see that we have a political party willing to put front and centre the climate change problem in its campaign proposals for the next election.“

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There was a similar positive response from the environmental group Équiterre.

"It's the type of policy that we would support," said Équiterre executive director Sidney Ribaux. "What they are proposing is close to what a lot of environmentalists are proposing."

Ribaux welcomed in particular Dion's idea of a "green fiscal reform," which would tax polluters but spare low- and middle-class Canadians of steep tax increases.

"That is socially responsible," Ribaux said.

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Arthur Sandborn – Quebec Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace

“Mr. Dion has gone one step further, maybe than even (New Democratic Party leader) Jack Layton's cap-and-trade thing.”

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Mr. Dion's proposed carbon tax is a good example of the kind of policy Canada needs to fight climate change…” - Marlo Raynolds – Executive Director, Pembina Institute

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Doug Porter – Deputy Chief Economist, BMO Capital Markets

“Carbon taxes are not a bad way to go in addressing global warming…I think most economists would probably be generally favourable to them. It's about as efficient a way as is out there.”

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"This Liberal tax grab called `Green Shift,' if it is fully implemented, Saskatchewan people will get the green shaft," said Saskatchewan Energy Minister Bill Boyd.

"We're going to see tremendous impact on the province of Saskatchewan and it will be a very, very negative impact."

Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans said the Liberal plan would cripple Alberta, while being less punitive for central Canada where millions of vehicles also create emissions.

"Clearly, Alberta has some very large emitters in the oilsands," she said. "What it says to them is that they will be penalized."

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"I've never met one (economist) who disagrees (with a carbon tax). They used to disagree with it because they didn't think that the climate risk was serious, and those days seem to be over," said Jaccard. "All the economists who used to sit on the sidelines, while those of us were out there, explaining what you needed to do for the last two decades, seem to be jumping in very rapidly now."

Won't reduce emissions? You want to debate which policy is better, FINE, you want to keep promoting complete falsehoods, then I think it says more about the messenger than the message. The NDP have jumped the shark.