Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Seriously, it's not you ... it's them.

There is a good reason why Tom King is one of this country's most celebrated story-tellers.

When he and Jack Layton sat down with the Guelph Mercury editorial board King treated them to an example by characterizing the relatonship voters have with the Tories and Liberals:

King likened the relationship Canadians have with the two main political parties to a woman who had two boyfriends. Like the Conservatives and the Liberals, King said, both boyfriends were good at making promises, but they didn't follow through.
"Here in Canada I think it's time for a new relationship," King said. "We've had these promises. We've got the chocolate and the flowers. They pay attention to us at election time, but as soon as the election is over, we don't see them.
"We need a new relationship with someone who is a bit more steady."

Yup, King pretty much nailed it. After years of waiting by the phone for them to call back, maybe it's finally time to put all of Jean/Paul and Steve's mixed tapes and toothbrushes in a cardboard box and move on, Canada.
UPDATE: Some pretty great endorsements on King's site too, including Stephen Lewis, Shirley Douglas, and childrens' writer (and Guelph resident) Robert Munsch!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who helped Harper make history?

History is only days away, Canada. This Friday will mark the 900th day of the Harper government.

Though, as momentous as it may sound, 900 days is just another meaningless milestone for Conservative malcontents, as Harper’s headboard is already notched with these achievements:

August 18, 2006: Surpassed Joe Clark’s pathetic 186 day minority.
September 9, 2006: Became the longest Conservative minority government, surpassing Arthur Meighan’s 207 days in 1925.
June 27, 2007: Surpassed Paul Martin’s 498 day minority from 2004 to 2006.

But the real history came on June 29th of this year when the Conservative cabal became the second longest minority government in Canadian history, breaking the record set by the 1966 Pearson government which lasted 866 days.

The Harper Conservatives have been allowed to go from electoral fluke to being on track to become the longest minority government ever. In that time they have gutted Ottawa’s fiscal capacity, lengthened and deepened the war in Afghanistan, ended our role in Kyoto, and politicized the immigration system, to name a few. That all this happened in a context when the combined opposition could have stopped them but didn't will remembered as one of the greatest scandals perpetrated against the centre-left in Canada.

And who helped Harper make history?

It wasn’t the NDP. As Jack Layton said yesterday, “his party used every tool in the parliamentary kit last spring to put an end to the minority Conservative government,” and they did, voting 43 times to bring to Tories down.

So, it begs more than credulity for Liberals to say they have been anything more than obedient lap dogs to Stephen Harper’s machinations. And Canadians thought kicking the Liberals out of office would end their spate of scandals.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leading advocate says Dr. Dion's carbon tax will leave people in poverty

It’s not just members of the Liberal caucus who are today expressing their doubts about Doctor Dion’s “Let the rich pollute” carbon tax scheme.

One of the country’s leading anti-poverty advocates is questioning the Liberal Party’s claims that their “Green Shift” is “the most aggressive anti-poverty program in 40 years” (that being the boast MP Ken Boshcoff made right before his more famous one).

As a prop in this most recent production of “Liberals Stand for the Same Things as the NDP,” the carbon tax is brilliant political theatre. Dr. Dion’s pitch to NDP voters goes like this: “Okay, you are right. A carbon tax won’t get us to our greenhouse gas reduction targets. But come on, you HAVE to play along with us because we’ve got all this great anti-poverty stuff in here too. Honest!”

But in an analysis of the plan, Rob Rainer, head of the National Anti Poverty Organization (NAPO) concludes that the carbon tax falls far short of Liberal boasts.

In his analysis of the tax measures, Rainer shows that individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet will still be deep in poverty were the carbon tax to go ahead.

A couple with two children scraping by with $20,000 would see only $1,150 in income tax cuts under Dion’s plan – still leaving them $12,800 below the poverty line. And a single person toiling for minimum wage at $15,000 would get the equivalent of a mere 3% back from Dion – still leaving them $2,500 below the poverty line.

Ranier’s analysis, emailed to anti-poverty activists this week, doesn’t even consider how increased prices due to the carbon tax will further worsen the state of those in poverty. It also doesn’t make mention of the fact that most people in poverty don’t benefit from the income tax system, as they don’t pay any taxes – except sales taxes, like the carbon tax.

But Rainer’s criticisms of the carbon tax aren’t just about those who don’t benefit. He rightly reprimands Liberals for having submissively hopped into bed with Harper’s agenda of gutting the public purse through tax cuts for corporations:

"By year four of the plan (~2013), the cut for the second highest marginal tax rate bracket and the corporate tax cut would remove $2.4 billion annually from the federal treasury – about what the AFB 2008 estimated to be needed in housing and homelessness supports ($2.3 billion) on top of current spending."

Despite all their earnest claims to the contrary, Rainer conclusion is that the carbon tax scheme is bad policy that won’t help people in poverty:

“the absence of a comprehensive approach to poverty reduction and eventual elimination; the unfortunate inclusion of tax cuts for corporations and relatively high income earners at the expense of further support for low-income Canadians; and most of all the absence of recognition of income security as a human right and right of citizenship, detracts not only from enthusiasm for Green Shift but ultimately its power of anti-poverty impact.”

So let’s review, shall we? The Green Shift can’t promise to meet targets and while it will increase costs for everyone, experts say it won’t help people out of poverty.

So, why is Dion offside when he could be working with Jack Layton and the premiers on a cap and trade system that will work?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Doctor Dion wows locals with common touch

While the NDP and rest of the country are focusing their efforts on putting a cap on pollution, Stephen Harper, Premiers Stelmach and Wall and Stephane Dion are off working on their own side projects.

For his part, Dion is now wowing Canadians from coast to coast to coast with his “Let the Rich Pollute” carbon tax plan.

A recent eight minute visit by the princely Dion to Stratford, Ontario, left one 15 year old and her father agape:

“I had no idea what the Green Shift was at the end of it,” the Central Secondary School student said.

“Copies (of the Green Shift) should have been handed out so people could ask good questions.”
Ms. Arkett said advertising the event as town hall discussion was misleading because there was not enough opportunity to ask questions about the Green Shift and other topics.

The biggest frustration was a quick handshake and photo with Mr. Dion. She was hoping to ask a few questions that she spent a fair amount of time formulating with her dad.

People are right to feel sorry for this girl. She actually wanted to talk about the policy, not just appear smiling in a crowd. But the incident itself shouldn’t shock. Dion’s tour isn’t to promote the carbon tax … a policy that even Dion admits won’t reduce pollution on targets.

No, it’s about rehabilitating Dion – a leader with 12% approval rating and a history of saying things like “I have been celebrated as a hero”.

Which is why it’s positively bewildering that in the past month, he’s been allowed to solidify Canadians’ impressions of him as an out-of-touch elitist boasting about his doctorate from a Paris university, or appearing indifferent to the new costs his plan would put on families, or in the Stratford case appearing aloof at a contrived event.

This tour is a double liability for Liberals: not only are people walking away with the same questions they had about the carbon tax, they are also walking away having Dion’s air of aloof disconnect confirmed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cap in hand.

Today NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen is slamming Stephen Harper for effectively putting up the "Gone fishin'" sign while the majority of premiers stare down Stelmach and Wall -- the only premiers still holding out against Canada adopting the regulated cap on pollution that Jack Layton has been calling for.

The NDP's release ends with this thought-provoking line:

“Regrettably, the prime minister’s failed leadership is ignoring that consensus, and Stéphane Dion’s latest position on carbon taxes runs counter to where the world is going.”

Intersting point. At a time when the majority of provincial governments and Jack Layton are for a cap and trade system why are Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion off-side promoting their own ineffective schemes?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Growing chorus sings: "Dion's carbon tax won't get it done."

It wasn't that long ago when it felt like only voice saying Dion carbon tax won't get the job done was Canada's number one equine-themed politics blog.

But now, after a closer look, a growing chorus is saying that the absence of any targets or emissions reductions numbers means the carbon tax is just window dressing if you actually care about meeting our post-Kyoto targets.

Some are saying it in the editorial pages:

"Nowhere in its nearly 50 pages do the Liberals actually explain how their proposed new taxes would stop global warming." - Editorial, National Post

And others are singing straight from the Liberal song book:

"Findlay said it's impossible to calculate the emission reduction numbers at this point, "because energy prices have gone up so much, we don't know how the shift will affect consumption," she said. " - Martha Hall Findlay, Cornwall Standard Freeholder

This weakness is precisely why our friends to the south of the border are busy putting the final nails in the carbon tax coffin.

In a piece in the Miami Herald this month, the head of the influential Pew Center on Global Climate Change endorsed cap and trade and flatly rejected carbon taxes as having "a snowball's chance" of helping stop climate change:

"In response to a carbon tax, many emitters will reduce their emissions rather than pay the tax, but that result is not guaranteed. With Alaska and Greenland melting, and with droughts and other weather extremes on the rise, environmental certainty would seem to be the more compelling imperative. Combine that with the fact that taxes are awfully hard to get through Congress, and the case for cap-and-trade is even stronger. Which just goes to show: We shouldn't let carbon-tax enthusiasts use false arguments to trash a politically feasible approach in favor of one with a snowball's chance in a warming world."

That's exactly why people who actually want lower emissions, not just higher prices are saying Jack Layton's is still the better plan for the environment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Layton details plan to clean up Western air (instead of cleaning out Westerners’ wallets)

Far from the party surrogates and columnists of record, Canadians are getting their first chance to get a unvarnished look at the two main carbon pricing plans and how they will work.

Western Canadians got the first glimpse over the weekend.

On one hand, Jack Layton’s plan will help ordinary westerners.

While on the other hand, Stephane Dion’s plan will hoop ordinary westerners.

Western Canadians deserve a leader who treats them with respect, not like ATMs. They deserve Jack Layton's NDP.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to school for Dr. Dion

So yesterday during the Niagara peninsula leg of his “Shift Happens '08” tour, Dr. Stéphane Dion called on a smattering of Liberal partisans to embrace his vision of “a greener, richer, more inaccurate Canada” intoning that a Liberal victory in the next election would mark:

"the first time in the history of Canada that the prime minister of Canada will have a PhD,"

A pitch sure to lock-up the allusive parents' basement post-grad vote ... were it not for the nagging existence of the late Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, P.C., O.M., C.M.G., B.A., M.A., A.M., LL.B., Ph.D.


Now to be charitable, Dr. Dion can be forgiven his error, as Mackenzie King was surely one of our more obscure Prime Ministers having only held the office for a mere 22 years!

One can’t help but imagine that the people who have advised Dr. Dion on his dubious carbon tax scheme are the same Mensa runners-up now whispering revisionist Canadian history in his ear.

Gilles Duceppe could not be reached for comment

The last people surprised by the news that Basil Hargrove plans to run as a Dion Liberal (and in a fitting twist of fate rejoin his arch-nemesis Today’s Bob Rae), are New Democrats who have literally had decades to become accustomed to Hargrove’s legendary infidelity.

However, the party likely to be left reeling from this flagarent backstabbing is the last one Hargrove lent his endorsement to.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Does it not matter that the carbon tax won’t work?

Reading BCer in TO today gives you some idea of how-hard-done-by Liberals feel about columnist Chantal Hebert.

For their part, New Democrats have reason to be disappointed with her column today in which she scolds the party for giving a voice to people who care about the environment but want a better plan than Dion’s clumsy carbon tax.

With the greatest of respect, Hebert’s argument has fallen head-long into the Liberal talking points which, to paraphrase, say “if you don’t want what we want, you are spooning with Harper and more than likely hate puppies.”

Does it not matter that the carbon tax won’t work? Is it not legitimate discourse to say “our plan is better than yours” and provide evidence as to why?

Imagine for a moment that instead of a carbon tax, Dion’s answer to climate change was to build a time machine so that he could go back to 1993 and convince the Chretien cabinet to reduce carbon emissions like they had promised in that year’s election.

Sure it’s a plan, and sure it’s different from what Stephen Harper will do. But if a New Democrat stood up and said “It’s expensive, incredibly risky and likely won’t work to meet the tough targets laid out in C-377, Layton’s Climate Change Accountability Act” does it then follow that this person is against the environment and playing politics? Of course not. Get real.

It’s the exact same with the carbon tax. For years the debate in Canada has been about how much to reduce carbon emissions and when – does it not matter at all that the Liberal carbon tax has nothing to say on this whatsoever? Of course it does. It’s critical.

Only two years ago, Stephane Dion was the leading critic of carbon taxes. He said, quite rightly, that they couldn’t be proven to work given 90 cent a litre gas at the time and would be an irrelevant “nuisance” to big polluters who would keep polluting through boom times. His points are even more correct with 150 cent gas today. Yet who accused him of playing politics or helping Harper? No one.

Canadians who care about the environment but want a better plan than an imprecise carbon tax to “stick” Canadians into getting new light bulbs while the big polluters continue business as usual – people like like former Liberal leader Bill Graham and Liberal environmentalist Désirée McGraw - deserve to have the NDP advocating on their behalf.

The clearest distinctions are not between the main two parties, but between Layton and the others. The NDP leader is the only one of the three who actually has a long track record of implementing green solutions – wind power, deep water cooling of buildings, as well as having secured $900 million for transit from Paul Martin while Stephane Dion sat as environment minister.

As he is on so many other issues, Jack Layton is a recognized leader on the environment and real leadership is what we need right now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Liberal environment expert rejects carbon tax

Stephane Dion’s efforts to sell his carbon tax are under threat by revelations that advice Liberals obtained from an environmental expert strongly advised the party against the carbon tax Liberals are calling for today.

With a new poll showing widespread public scepticism about Dion’s marquee plan to pass a $40 a tonne carbon tax along to ordinary consumers, his sales pitch is being undermined by a report commissioned by the party which outright rejects carbon tax as a solution to climate change.

Described as “a name to watch in Liberal politics,” Désirée McGraw advised the Liberal Party against a carbon tax as chair of the Environment and Sustainable Development Taskforce commissioned by the party’s renewal process in 2006.

An environmentalist and lecturer on sustainable development, McGraw concludes on page 69 of her report that a carbon tax wouldn’t be necessary to meet Canada’s global GHG targets, preferring a cap and trade system like NDP leader Jack Layton is calling for instead.

In the report, McGraw says she came to this conclusion in part because for a carbon tax to be at all viable it would have to be “high enough to … ensure emission reductions.” To that point, a report by economist Marc Jaccard for the David Suzuki Foundation concluded that even at a $100 a tonne - $60 more than the Green Shift plan - a carbon tax still wouldn’t be high enough to meet Canada’s Kyoto commitment by 2020 – eight years after the Kyoto deadline.

Based on this analysis, at $40 a tonne, Dion's carbon tax is just not high enough to ensure critical and long overdue emissions reductions (which is why Dion's plan has no emissions reductions targets at all). It won't get us to the Kyoto targets, and won't get us to 80% below 1990 level by 2050 which scientists agree is necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Instead of a carbon tax, the McGraw report says “Following extensive and intensive input from Taskforce contributors, this report opts for [a cap and trade] approach.”

Among the Taskforce contributors McGraw credits in helping her make her conclusion for cap and trade and against a carbon tax are the the late former Liberal environment minister Charles Caccia and then-Sierra Club head Elizabeth May.

Eight months ago, McGraw, who backed Dion for leader, was being touted as a potential candidate, saying the birth of her son “has deepened her dream since girlhood of becoming an MP.” And eight months ago, Stephane Dion was still dead set against a carbon tax.

Today, neither of those things are true.

Today, the Liberals find themselves in the inconvenient circumstance of having comissioned and accepted expert environmental advice in 2006, which is the same expert environmental advice which says Dion’s “Green Shift” won’t get the job done and Jack Layton’s plan will.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Firm that helps the environment to sue Liberals over plan that doesn’t

The brilliant strategists in the Liberal Party are at it again.

Get this: Stephen Harper is actually doing harm to our environment, but Liberals won’t lift finger one to defeat him.

Meanwhile, there is a little consulting firm that helps people do good things for the environment -- and the Liberals are gearing up to give them the fight of their lives!

Ontario-based company Green Shift announced today that it is preparing to go to court to defend its name against the Liberal Party of Canada.

“Jennifer Wright, the head of Green Shift Inc., told the Star today that her lawyers are drawing up a lawsuit claiming that the Liberals have stolen her company’s trademarked name and damaged the firm’s reputation.”

Less than the prospect of losing at least $2 million in damages, what hurts the Liberals most is that a company so closely associated with doing good things for the environment is claiming that association with the Liberals’ carbon tax scheme has “damaged the firm’s reputation”.

In the case of the People v. Posturing Environment Plan with No Targets to Reduce Emissions Whatsoever, the jury finds the defendant guilty of 15.5 billion counts of vacuousness and playing political games with the environment, your honour.

Monday's NDP web review

A couple of great NDP stories from this morning's quick review of the web ...

1) NDP nominates 40% women (so far): The folks who run the always thorough Pundit Guide are pointing to the fact that the NDP is now the only party to have passed the significant threshold of having 40% women candidates nominated for the next election (whenever Stéphane Dion is ready to start behaving like an opposition leader that is).

The current standings are:
NDP = 40.1% women nominated
Liberals = 37.3% women nominated
Conservatives = 17.2% women nominated

As is demonstrated here, each election since its founding, the NDP has run the highest number of female candidates of any major political party.

2) Steelworkers endorse Obama-Layton '08: La Presse reports that at their North American conference this weekend, delegates of the United Steelworkers of America made a joint endorsement of Jack Layton for Canadian Prime Minister and Barack Obama as US President.

Makes sense. The two are already sharing messaging. Who else noticed that Obama borrowed Layton's slogan for his Unity, NH rally with Clinton?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Corny" Teneycke has been handed the conch

Is it at all worrisome to Conservatives that after having his foreign minister felled by an amateurish tom-foolery scandal, that the man Harper turns to to give his government a grown-up ready for prime-time look is the same guy responsible for this?



Friday, July 4, 2008

Two more NDP stars come forward: Award-winning journalist and former party leader to run

The Canada Day fireworks are long over, but the NDP keeps coming up with stars this week.

First came the announcement on Wednesday that Michael Byers - the premier critic of Harper’s foreign and defence policy - has decided to run for the NDP in Vancouver Centre. Even cynics acknowledged the magnitude of Byers lacing up for the NDP, given his formidable intellect and relentless critique of the Harper Conservatives.

But the good news keeps on coming, with two more amazing star candidates uniting with Jack Layton to take on Harper in the next election.

Anne Lagacé Dowson – the popular host of CBC Montreal’s radio noon show has stepped forward to carry the NDP colours in the Westmount-Ville Marie riding vacated by Lucienne Robillard. While the riding is nowhere near a certainty for the NDP, the star power of Lagacé Dowson is out of this world for the NDP in Quebec, which is one part of the “Outremont formula” that sent Thomas Mulcair to Ottawa last September. The NDP will make an attractive pitch to people in this English-speaking riding as Quebec remains the one part of the country where the legacy of the Sponsorship Scandal continues to hold the Liberals’ heads underwater.

Ray Martin – the only New Democrat MLA to ever have been Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta is back to take on underwhelming Conservative backbencher Peter Goldring in Edmonton East. Martin remains very popular in Edmonton, having lost his seat by only the narrowest of margins earlier this year. Martin benefits from a few things: his strong name recognition, with Edmontnians having elected him four times; the strong campaign of Linda Duncan next door, who very nearly knocked off Rahim Jaffer in 2006; and the fact that Edmonton East is an Alberta seat the federal NDP has a history of having won. (Incidentally, a Martin win would finally give the NDP bragging rights over the Liberals as the caucus with the most “Martins” – Ray, Tony and Pat vs. Keith and some guy named Paul).

While the Jack Layton is building a stellar team to take on Harper in the next election, both Harper and Dion appear more focused on assembling their legal defence teams.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Harper-fighting commentator announces run with Layton’s NDP

The sycophantic sucking up to Guy Giorno by junior PMO staffers took a pause today as the Harperites shuddered with the news that their most credible critic on foreign policy and international law had announced his intention to be an NDP candidate in the next election.

(hat tip to Kady O’Malley, who notes with sarcasm the gallery’s obsession de jour with Giorno).

Within the too-thin ranks of Canadian thinkers, Michael Byers is a powerhouse – having unleashed a barrage of criticism on the Harper Conservatives by combining sharp intellect, recognized expertise on foreign policy as well as an appeal that has made him a frequent commentator on TV and print. Particularly at a time when the Harperites are floundering badly on foreign affairs, having Byers on the team is a huge boost for Layton’s critique.

Incidentally, the Byers announcement will also come as a blow to Stephane Dion. Not because Byers will be seeking the Vancouver Centre seat held by parliamentary underperformer and defective burning crosses detector Hedy Fry. And not because Liberals have been courting Byers with all the awkward deliberateness of the geeky kid in a John Hughes flick (note the Scott Brison joint in a recent National Post).

No, the hit to Dion came with Byers’ announcement that he’s joined the NDP becasue he disagrees with Dion’s targetless carbon tax:

"I’ve studied the various federal party policies on climate change. The NDP policy makes the most sense. And it respects individual citizens. The Liberals want to force Canadians to change their behaviour through taxes; the NDP wants to help Canadians to change with solutions."

Byers in short: if you don’t like Harper’s policies, and don’t think Dion should punish people who are already doing their part for the environment, your answer is the NDP.
Photo courtesy of UBC.

Harper Liberals go wild against Morgentaler appointment

No surprise that a few flat-earthers on the extreme right are upset over the announcement that pro-choice pioneer Henry Morgentaler has been named to the Order of Canada.

But has anyone else noticed just how many of them are so called “Harper Liberals” – Liberal MPs who share the same social conservative values as Harper’s backbench?

Hey, look, there’s Dan McTeague:

“Liberal MP Dan McTeague said Dr. Morgentaler is a very controversial person and if he is admitted to the order, it will polarize Canadians.” The Governor-General and the committee advising on appointments to the Order of Canada have always been careful in the past not to choose people who were controversial or who would not be unanimously celebrated by all Canadians, Mr. McTeague said. "It's more of a social statement rather than the usual apolitical decisions," he said. "There will be people who cheer what he has done. There will be others who fundamentally disagree with what he represents."

And there’s Paul Steckle (in a quote that appeared in the print edition, yet oddly missing from

“Liberal MP Paul Steckle said, “It diminished in my mind what we think the Order of Canada stood for.”

Now not all Liberals are "Harper Liberals" of course, but when you hear Liberals rail violently against Harper’s so-con agenda, is it wrong to expect all of them to sound like NDP MP Olvia Chow who said: “It's a great celebration,” she said. “We can be very proud that Henry Morgentaler after all these years of struggle for a woman's right to choose finally being recognized”?

Just like it was on gay marriage, when it comes to a womans right to choose, Liberal branding and Liberal reality can't exist in the same room.

Regrettably, the braying at the moon is destined only to get louder once reporters remember the fundamentalist and "I don't think a woman has a frivolous right to choose" agenda of Stephane Dion’s candidate in Central Nova.

Stay tuned.