Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dion threatens to expel MPs who oppose Harper

The strains are starting to show in Stephane Dion’s virtual coalition government with Stephen Harper.

In a fiery caucus meeting this morning, the party leadership brutally remonstrated against Liberal MPs who dared to suggest they follow the NDP's lead and vote against Harper’s mini-budget. Reportedly, Ottawa MP Mauril Belanger (pictured) was told he would be kicked out of caucus if he represented his constituents by voting “NAY”. Belanger didn’t show up for tonight’s vote at all.

It’s one thing for Stephane Dion to say “I don’t know what I believe in. I don’t know what I’m for or against, so I will roll over and let Stephen Harper’s agenda pass” which is precisely what the Liberals did with the Throne Speech last week.

But it’s a different thing altogether to tell MPs who want to oppose Harper that they will be punished if they do.

It’s not all bad news for Dion though. First off he gets to keep Harper in power, and secondly he ends up showing a lot more strength of will over his caucus than he ever did before the virtual coalition.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dion's Addiction: Liberals will support Harper's fiscal plan

Clearly Stephane Dion didn't read the warning label before he ordered his MPs to help Stephen Harper pass his Throne Speech last week ...

"WARNING: Propping up the Conservatives' Agenda can be Addictive."
Either that, or the patch isn’t working.

Because this seems soon, even for the Dion Liberals whose approach to opposition is the same as the guy without a parachute’s approach to sky-diving.

But it’s not that surprising really. Only a few weeks ago, Dion projected loudly and to the perfunctory and muted acclaim of Bay Street, that if the Liberal Party stood for anything, it stood for deeper tax cuts for profitable corporations.

While some (mostly life-long Liberals wondering what ever happened to their party) were confused, most everyone else saw the announcement for what it was: Dion’s cynical pre-positioning of his battered party to swallow whatever remains of their principles to vote in favour of Harper’s mini-budget.

And so it shall be.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The latest sign that Liberals have learned nothing from the Sponsorship Scandal

To distract from their own recent troubles, the Liberals have taken to attacking the Conservatives on the way they conducted their finances in the 2006 campaign. For a lot of people, the optics of Liberals hectoring anyone on ethics is just too much.

And here's the latest reason why.

Just so we are clear: Liberal MP Blair Wilson is being accused (including by his own father-in-law) of breaching elections financing laws in the last election -- an election in which Liberal candidates were shouting to the heavens that they had learned the lessons of the Sponsorship Scandal and that nothing like this would happen again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dion Liberals to Canadians: "We are weak and irrelevant"

Just like in medicine, politics has a Hippocratic oath to guide its practitioners: never do anything to worsen your weaknesses. You can be sure your opponent is going to attack you, so don’t hand them the stick with which to beat you.

It’s simple stuff. Yet the Liberal Party’s “Absent Opposition” strategy runs directly counter to it.

Rex Murphy laid bare the price the Dion Liberals can expect to pay for their forced irrelevance in his rant on The National last night:

“The House of Commons only exists for two reasons: for MPs to vote in favour of stuff they like and vote against stuff they don't. They can, incidentally and have been, whipped for both. But when a party has to flog its members to make sure that they don't vote at all: neither fishing nor cutting bait, then why are they in the House of Commons in the first place? 'Elect me to the House of Commons as your member and you can count on me to duck all the major votes.' Doesn't work for me.”

By effectively giving Stephen Harper his majority government by sitting out confidence votes, the Liberal Party is not only being irresponsible, they are also confirming ALL of their major weaknesses – that Liberal MPs are ineffective; that the Liberal Party is doesn’t know what it stands for; and that Dion is a weak leader.

When the time comes for Canadians to replace Harper, they will have a clear choice between a leader like Jack Layton who knows what he stands for and, peculiarly, actually stands up for it, or the discredited Dion Liberals who by their own admission can’t stand up to Harper.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Artificial Opposition: Dion and his absent 94 Liberals give Harper his majority

It would figure that the one thing Stephane Dion wouldn't flip-flop on would be his promise to help Stephen Harper.

In the last two elections, Liberals have begged ordinary Canadians to vote for them using the absurd claim that only they could stop Harper. What is clear from tonight's vote is that when push comes to shove the Dion Liberals neither have the leadership, nor the principles to oppose Harper.

Fortunately, Jack Layton's NDP are a united party that knows exactly what they believe in.

For the rest, over to the NDP's website, which does a fine job documenting this defining moment for the Dion Liberals . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Dion disapoints. Join the NDP in changing politics in this country": Layton

Don't hire Stephane Dion to finish your basement.

Everybody knows a bad contractor. We’ve seen them on the home-renovation disaster shows. He’s the kindly guy who breezes into your house with promises that go beyond your expectations. You believe this guy. You want him to succeed. Invariably he does a bad job with shoddy materials and lack of know-how. To make matters worse, when caught on it, he begs your forgiveness and promises to fix everything – just given a bit more of your time and money. At the end of it, the contractor takes off and the homeowner is left out of pocket and with a breakfast nook resembling an Iraqi checkpoint.

This week, Stephane Dion got caught on it. Given the choice of sticking to his principles or backing Harper’s agenda, he chose the latter. But now that he’s been caught backing Harper, he’s begging Canadians to believe that he’ll get it right . . . next time.

Jack Layton is having none of this. This weekend, the NDP leader has written a op-ed appealing directly to Canadians who have been let down by Dion’s Liberals.

“Mr. Dion cannot have it both ways. He cannot in good conscience complain about the negative effects of Mr. Harper's agenda one day and then see to it that it passes in Parliament the next. Increasingly, this is what is wrong with politics. More and more Canadians are seeing that this is what is wrong with the Liberal party.”

If the home reno shows have taught us anything, it’s that it's not good enough to take someone at their promises. You need to hire the person who not only knows what he’s doing, but who has principles and believes in what he does.

That job description fits a leader like Jack Layton a lot more than it does a unprincipled vacillator like Stephane Dion.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jack Layton: Leader of the Effective Opposition

The Toronto Star reports on Jack Layton's first public address since Stephane Dion announced that he would not be opposing Harper's agenda.

Layton is quoted:

"When Stephen Harper's wrongheaded policies come up for a vote, we will be standing and we will be voting against the direction that Stephen Harper is taking this country. When it comes to a vote, we're not going to be thinking about our own posteriors and whether they're going to be glued to the chair . . . We're willing to put our jobs on the line to do it whereas the Liberals ... are thinking about their own seats in Parliament rather than about the issues being faced out there, unfortunately," he said.

If the Dion Liberals aren't prepared to bring Harper down over a Throne Speech that puts the last nails in Kyoto and does nothing about the prosperity gap, then when can they be expected to? For the foreseeable future, the Liberals will be keeping Harper in power.

Liberals say they don't want Harper to get a majority, but they've effectively given him one by their absence.

In light of the Liberal's decision to put their posteriors ahead of their principles, Layton has staked an unassailable claim to the title "Leader of the Effective Opposition."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dion: I have a duty . . . to support Stephen Harper’s agenda

“If the throne speech is detrimental to Canadians, if it's not respecting the honour of our country, we will not be able to stand up and vote for it. There is no way.” – Stéphane Dion, CanWest News, 27 August 2007

So much for that kind of talk.

Stéphane Dion has given the Liberal Party’s endorsement to Stephen Harper’s Throne Speech.

He is going to give Harper a blank cheque to trash-can Kyoto, push forward the Afghanistan mission on his timeline and let the prosperity gap grow.

It’s a sad day for Canada, and a sadder day for the values that Liberals say they hold dear.

The most offensive part is that Dion has ordered his MPs to abandon their sworn duty to Canadians and not vote at all -- allowing the 125 Conservative MPs out number the 80 or so NDP and Bloc MPs to push forward their agenda.

If Dion thinks Canadians will be pleased with his new coalition with Stephen Harper, he's wrong -- yet again.

Elizabeth May sacrifices Kyoto to appease a desperate Dion

Anyone who remains unconvinced that Elizabeth May takes her cues from the Office of the Leader if the Artificial Opposition should pay careful attention to this:

As has been discussed here and elsewhere, Stéphane Dion is ready to give Stephen Harper the mandate he wants in the coming Throne Speech votes. The Liberals are too weak and don't know what their values actually are.

Here’s the wrinkle though: yesterday’s Throne Speech included a very definitive statement that Kyoto is now dead. How can Dion support that? Well, it makes it a lot easier if Kyoto suddenly doesn’t matter anymore.

That’s where Elizabeth May comes in . . . here, and here.

If it is written honestly, history will record Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper as those, who together by indifference or design, killed the Kyoto Protocol in Canada.

For her part, Elizabeth May will be remembered for having given Kyoto a hasty burial on national television.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Goodale has a melt-down explaining why the Liberals aren’t standing-up to Harper

Asked to list the hot-heads in the Liberal caucus, most would put Mark Holland, Joe Volpe, Mario Silva and even Ruby Dhalla close to the top.

But Ralph Goodale? Seems he’s due for consideration.

For a guy who has made a franchise of Ernie Eves’ hairstyle, the former finance minister made famous by his “I’ve learned nothing from Gomery” response to the income trust leak in the last election is considered generally unflappable.

But anyone who saw Goodale’s reddening, sweat-covered brow on CBC’s Sunday program this week would agree: Ralph had a melt down.

His troubles came in trying to explain why Liberals intend to prop up the Conservatives in the coming votes on the throne speech. He just couldn’t make the logic of not standing-up to a government that Liberals have called “Republican” and “extreme rightwing” work. His frustration built up to this foaming twaddle:

“Well, let me answer your question. The NDP are engaged in this short-term maneuvering and how is that standing on principle if, in fact, in the long-term it ends up playing into Stephen Harper’s pro-Republican agenda? That's exactly what happened in the last parliament when the NDP caused an election at that time and they ended up defeating climate change and child care and the Kelowna accord and they strengthened the hand of Steven Harper and they still finished last. How is that moving Canada forward? This is not the kind of game that the NDP want to play, there's serious longer term issues that need to be addressed. We are going to read that throne speech and make a judgment when we read it about what is good for Canada and not what's good for the NDP party.” – Goodale, CBC Sunday, Oct 14, 2007

In summary: Stephen Harper has a “pro-Republican agenda,” but Goodale still needs to read the Speech to know if it’s “good for Canada”. Er, o-k-a-y.

Ralph could have saved himself some embarrassment if he'd just said what we are all thinking: “the Liberal Party isn't standing-up to the Conservatives because we don’t know what we believe.”

PS: Ralph loves the bit about the NDP “defeating” climate change, child care, 25-cent pay phone calls, etc. But correct me, didn’t the Liberals have three majorities to get those things done and didn’t? And didn’t Paul Martin call an election that would have been only FOUR weeks after the one that actually came in 2006? If Liberals can't fake principle, they should at least muster honesty.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stéphane Dion: Leader of the Artificial Opposition

Stéphane Dion and his Liberal MPs are plotting to let Stephen Harper’s agenda pass.

The incredulous, gob-smacked expressions from progressive people (and even those who just care about integrity in public life) across the land are entirely appropriate.

Dion’s plan is to give Harper’s agenda a pass when the Throne Speech comes for a vote next week by ordering all or some of his MPs to duck out on the vote.

As this CBC story says: “Dion can allow the policy-setting throne speech to pass and expose himself to taunts about having abandoned his principles by propping up a government that ignores Kyoto.”

Today, the NDP issued a challenge to Dion to have all of his MPs sitting in place and voting next week. As Jack Layton says “Throne Speech votes are a time to show leadership, to make a decision. You either stand with or stand against Mr. Harper’s agenda.”

The Liberals appear more and more the Artificial Opposition – pulling out their hair and berating Harper at every turn but then supporting his agenda.

A poll yesterday showed that 70 percent of Canadians don’t think Stephane Dion will ever be prime minister, and that a full 57 percent of Canadians think that the fortunes of the Liberal Party have either stalled or are in decline.

Their scheming around the Throne Speech demonstrates that the problem is more than just Dion; it’s about a Liberal Party that doesn’t know what it stands for. Dion’s weak leadership merely puts a fine point on it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A place to grow . . . Ontario

The numbers say what a lot of people aren’t: Last night, the NDP were the only party to increase both their popular vote and their seats over 2003. It’s incredible!

It’s testament to the fact that Howard Hampton ran an honest campaign that stuck to the issues. In fact, if real issues that matter to everyday people – like tuition fees, property taxes, and the decline of Ontario’s manufacturing sector - were addressed and reflected in the media coverage at all it is due entirely to Hampton.

And while Dalton McGuinty wasn’t held to a minority as many had hoped, the results were far worse for both the Liberals and Conservatives who saw fewer Ontarians vote for them than four years ago.

The Greens should also be proud of increasing their vote from 2.8 to 8 percent. In large part, this was due to the MMP referenda. An unusual number of Green supporters came out to vote in this election in support of MMP.

But their Ontario result also shows what can happen when Greens campaign against the Liberal Party instead of being a compliant cheerleader as Elizabeth May is doing. Look at the recent Outremont by-election where the Dion Liberals actually used an endorsement from May in their campaign literature -- the Greens lost 2.8% of their vote and came a distant fourth.

Also interesting is that both the NDP and the Greens saw their vote share go up while the Liberals and PC's went down. Quite simply, the cliche that the NDP and Greens are fishing in the same pond is bogus. But don't try to tell that to University of Waterloo political scientist Peter Woolstencroft.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Stéphane Dion: Lost in the Barrens

First it was Jocelyn Coulon. Then Marc Garneau, Jamie Carroll, and Liberal candidates and activists Pierre-Luc Bellerose and Michel Joncas.

Now it’s Stéphane Dion’s ability to leave Ottawa that is the latest victim of the NDP’s stunning win in Outremont.

On Wednesday, Dion cancelled his scheduled three-day trip to the Arctic to cope with the growing crisis in his party.

Dion can’t talk about anything else, can’t build a cohesive team and now he can’t even do the simple things that a leader is supposed to do.

Compare that to Jack Layton who didn’t have any problems going to the Arctic. In August, Layton led an NDP delegation to the North to see first hand the challenges facing ordinary Canadians in the Arctic. The NDP Leader has called on Harper to protect Arctic sovereignty by taking on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing Northern families.

Meanwhile, the Outremont by-election loss has shaken the Liberal Party to its core -- prompting a degree of infighting and self-doubt that has essentially put Dion under house arrest.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ontario Liberals out to bury discredited McGuinty and brand

As of today, the days remaining in the Ontario provincial election are down to the single digits.

So far, the critical acclaim is with Howard Hampton’s NDP. He has run a solid campaign sticking to the issues that will actually help daily life – like raising the minimum wage, and ending McGuinty’s $450 health tax.

But for their part, the Liberals are running the classic “under siege” campaign maneuvering around their dreary record by going hard negative at every chance.

But it seems that burying their record isn’t enough for some Liberals. In their quest for re-election, some McGuinty Liberals want to bury their leader . . .

and their party as well . . .

Even in once-Red Ontario, the Liberal brand is getting stale.