Monday, March 31, 2008

RCMP didn’t play politics … but, who leaked the income trust announcement?

So, the RCMP has been cleared of accusations of having played politics in the 2006 election by announcing their investigation into a spike in trading of income trusts prior to then-finance minister Ralph Goodale’s announcement that there would be no change to the taxation of income trusts.

As many have rightly said, the RCMP would have faced perhaps worse criticism if they had hidden their investigation until after the election. Police can't be conducting secret investigations in a democracy.

So that's one chapter closed. But another question is still unanswered: who was the civil servant or Liberal political staffer that the RCMP had been ready to charge as the leaker?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Liberals call putting power-lust ahead of principles a “strategy”

What if you found out that your MP voted for something they had said they were against? Would you be upset?

And what if instead of voting for this thing your MP was just choosing not to vote at all?

And what if instead of one thing, it was 15 things (and counting)?

And what if your MP had voted that way for no other reason than because they figured it would help them get reelected?

And what if instead of one MP, it was an entire party?

And what if the best explanation they had for their dishonesty is “we can feel it when the fruit is ripe. And at that time - it's not up to me to tell you when; it's part of the strategy that we keep close to our chest”?

Like most people, you would feel deceived. You would feel that party had put themselves first, not you, not the issues they campaigned on, and not the national interest, but their interest. Narrow partisanship run amuck.

The Liberal Party is doing all that and proudly boasting that it’s their “strategy.”

For Stephane Dion, ordering MPs to collect $155,000 a year to skip out on votes, or vote with Stephen Harper so he can extend the war in Afghanistan for at least another three years, gut the public purse, continue to ignore the environment, effectively pull Canada out of Kyoto, and reverse a Liberal initiative to give tax credits for education is a “strategy.”

But of course, their “strategy” is a trap:

Their only goal is to win an election, but they know they can’t. So they let Harper get what he wants to avoid triggering that election. But stripped of the thin veneer of principles, their power-lust alienates progressive voters to the NDP. Meaning even less appetite for an election. Repeat.

People who voted Liberal in 2006 don't need Dion and his "strategies" -- they need something to believe in again. That something is Jack Layton and the NDP.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Absent Liberals have given Harper his majority

Liberals who once fretted over the prospect of a Harper majority government are singularly responsible for giving him one, the Ottawa Citizen reports today:

"The Official Opposition supported the government on extending the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, motions on its centrepiece crime bill, and on other parliamentary arcana, such as a bill regarding the settlement of international investment disputes … The voting records support the growing contention that the Liberals are not truly functioning as an official Opposition as they seek to avoid running an election behind struggling leader Stéphane Dion.”

In the election, Liberals claimed they were dead set against Harper’s “neo-conservative agenda.” They begged Canadians to “choose the Canada you want.” And just in case Canadians were considering choosing the NDP’s Canada, instead of the scandal-ridden and promise-breaking Grits, Liberals stooped to allege in a press release (now no longer on the Liberals' site, of course) that Jack Layton had no principles:

“We have to wonder what his real principles are. He would rather risk Stephen Harper's success than be faithful to his own party's principles. But even more than that, Mr. Layton has repeatedly pledged to work with a Stephen Harper government. You're either for progressive social and economic policies, or you’re not. Contrary to what Jack Layton apparently believes, you can not have it both ways.”

Oh, the irony. The Citizen article trashes that Liberal talking point: It turns out that when Stephen Harper has needed an ally, he's turned to the Dion Liberals more than anyone else.
Liberal MPs are the ones to have broken with their party’s principles and repeatedly worked with a Stephen Harper government -- voting more than 60 percent of the time to support the Conservatives, while the New Democrats voted with the government only 26 percent of the time.

The people who voted Liberal in January 2006 were sold a parcel of goods – and they deserve better. They deserve a party that stands for what it believes in, not what party elites think is better for an election they are scared of triggering.

Jack Layton and the New Democrats are the real opposition to Harper.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Liberal Leadership Race 2006: The do-over

Back from a 15 month hiatus, the War of Liberal Succession appears to have started afresh, following the Grits’ lacklustre by-election finishes in western Canada. (Oh come on, you knew it had never ended).

But in order to claim the throne, they must first kill the king.

When they were in government, Liberals could engage in their perpetual West Side Story routine with imperceptible effect on their robust agenda, yet now that they are in opposition, each knife twist and big Broadway number deals them out of the picture entirely, so that only the NDP is left to oppose Harper and call for his defeat.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting the Job Done (TM)?

Oh really?

Brenda Martin was waiting anxiously in a Mexican prison while the MP then handling her file mingled with Canadian expatriates at a private reception nearby in Guadalajara, The Canadian Press has learned.

Conservative MP Helena Guergis rubbed elbows in late January with Canadians as they nibbled on hors d'oeuvres, say sources who attended the social function.

Helena Guergis: Canada's hardliest working secretary of state.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The headline gap: “crumble” or “solid and widespread support” So, which is it?

It’s well known that headlines sell papers. And sometimes the reader’s eye is a more attractive target for the headline editor than remaining true to the content of the journalists’ story.

That appears to be the case with the article titled “The house that Jack built is beginning to crumble”. Are camps forming in the party? Are candidates stepping down? Are staff being let go? Er, no. None of those things. Not even close. (Um, you might be thinking of someone else).

In fact, the gulf between the headline and the story widen with lines like:

“Despite the polls, Mr. Layton enjoys solid and widespread support within the party and his caucus.”

Doesn’t sound very crumbly. How about this one:

“Lesser known, however, is his commitment to consulting every corner of the party's grassroots. From provincial leaders, to candidates, to political leaders on campus, Mr. Layton spends virtually every free moment canvassing NDP supporters. Further, he scolds his Ottawa staff if they have not shown similar zeal.”

Nope. That looks like a tight ship. But what about the critique from Allan Blakeney? What Mr. Blakeney says more advice than crumbling, and any part of it that could be otherwise contorted is tempered by:

“Former Saskatchewan NDP premier Allan Blakeney speaks highly of Mr. Layton's performance as leader.”

Well? What is crumbling then? Nothing it would seem.

Oh, and there’s also a factual hiccup of saying poll numbers for the NDP are “consistently lower than the 17.5-per-cent support in 2006 in the last federal election” when the most recent Angus Reid poll says 18 and the last Nanos poll said 19.


Connoisseurs of the perennial “the NDP is doomed” story will be disappointed to recognize this as a particularly weak impostor. Seems you can’t judge a story by its headline.

What a Globe we live in.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jack Layton takes on the National Post and wins

This week, Jack Layton met with the National Post’s editorial board about his recent meetings in with leaders in Washington DC.

Now that’s a tough room.

But Jack did incredibly well. (The audio of Layton’s answers – though strangely not the questions - is here.)

His answers are confident, rational, and clearly show an experienced leader who’s thought about the issues and knows what he stands for.

Among the topics they covered in 18 edited minutes: the need to stand up to entrenched interests so NAFTA can have some hope of benefiting ordinary people; why Harper should stop the sale of Canada’s satellite technology to protect Canada’s sovereignty; the constructive leadership Canada could be offering at the UN to achieve a sea-change in Afghanistan; and when it’s thrown at him, he also bats Dion’s favourite myth out of the park.

And to move seamlessly from the substantive to the aesthetic, Jack’s new glasses are also a nice touch.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Liberals can't defend their victim defence

Idealistic Pragmatist has got it goin' on.

Chief among the blatant falsehoods Liberal partisans tell each other (and unfortunately the media) is that "the NDP only attacks Liberals ... not Harper."

IP's challenge to Liberals is simple: put up or shut up.

Perhaps Liberals FEEL that it's true, just because after ignoring it for so long, they are super-sensitive to any attack on their atrophied left.

Or maybe because Jack Layton's attacks on their failures on poverty, tuition, child care and the environment echo precisely what their conscience tells them about 13 years of implementing the Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative agenda.

But hurt feelings and a nagging subconscious aren't evidence. They are, well, personal. And may be the kind of thing Liberals should be talking to these people about.

And hey, while you're at it, it might be a good time to bring up that victim complex too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Liberals to Canadians: “Settle down! You’ll get your say on Harper when we’re damn well ready to give it to you”

In explaining the Emersonian ethics behind his finking to the Liberals, Bob Rae has famously said that he has changed, while the NDP has not.

For most who have seen the party embrace balanced budgets and abandon old polemics, this explanation seems far too convenient.

Then along comes New-MP-Bob to tell us he doesn’t care if Liberal abstentions are helping Harper’s agenda, he doesn’t want Canadians anywhere near a polling booth until the Liberal Party is assured of victory.

Rae on the Newman show today:

“[Mr Dion has to] weigh these things carefully and choose the moment where you think you've the best chance of forming the alternative government because that's really what it's all about. We don't -- there aren't too many opportunities that come around to do this, and this is a very important moment for Canada as to what kind of a government we are going to have and so the leader has to exercise his discretion in saying, ‘I don't think this is the right moment so we are going to have to take whatever measures have to be done; swallow a little bit of this or that and get on with it.' The big issue is not what -- what goes on in the House of Commons is important. It's -- I’m not saying it's not important. But how is the election going to go?”

In short, Rae’s saying Canadians let us down last time, so we’re prepared to let them swallow the Harper agenda for a while, ‘till we figure out how to get back into 24 Sussex. And that’s the way it’s gunna be.

How about that? It turns out Rae really has changed. He’s become way more superior, self-serving and manipulative. Just what Canadians are crying out for.

Shorter by-elections: Stephane Dion will never be Prime Minister

Across the country this morning pundits and political junkies are reading the tea leaves of last night’s by-elections trying to conjure trends, or at least figure out why the Elections Canada results page refreshes every 90 seconds.

So here’s a tip. The only number worth knowing is 97.

Just over two years ago, the Paul Martin Liberals salvaged 103 seats from the rebuke Canadians gave them. And today, they have only 97 remaining.

As the result of four floor crossings and stunning by-election loses in Outremont and Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, the Liberal team is even lighter now than they were in 2006.

So here’s a puzzle: To elect Dion Prime Minister, Liberals will need to keep every seat they have (not a small challenge, evidently), and pick up at least 60 more. How?

Consider this: There have been nine by-elections since 2006. Of the six held in Liberal ridings, two now belong to other parties and another was very nearly lost in Vancouver Quadra last night. In the remaining three Bloc-held seats, the Liberals were humiliated, coming 3rd in Roberval and fourth in two others, behind the NDP.

So, what does that say? It says that in Quebec, Liberals can’t win new seats, or keep the ones they have in Montreal. It says they can’t keep seats they have in rural Canada, and that they can barely hold onto urban Vancouver seats they won in 2006. And growth? Well, that will come in GTA seats they already hold, based wholely on the occasional star power of their candidates.

It doesn’t take a Carville-esque strategic mind to figure out that losing seats you hold and failing to grow makes it tough for your leader to begin a sentence with “a Liberal government will . . .” without being greeted by polite eye-rolling and muffled guffaws.

Monday, March 17, 2008

“Don’t trust that Lando guy! Darth Vader’s in there!” (or why keeping four seats Liberal isn't momentum)

So this is a bit ridiculous.

We are talking about four by-elections in incumbent Liberal seats – seats Liberals won with votes in some cases near or over 50 percent only 26 months ago.

Liberals are virtually assured of winning all four of these seats. Trying to make a big deal out of them now is like rooting for the hero of a movie you just saw last night. It is at best insincere, and at worst delusional.

The NDP candidates in all four are truly amazing people. El Farouk Khaki, an accomplished human rights lawyer. Brian Morin, a municipal leader and respected aboriginal activist. Rini Ghosh and Rebecca Coad are both the kind of young women with impressive backgrounds in student politics you would want to have as your MP.

But in the end, Liberals can’t be expected to lose four Liberal seats. And for this same reason, it’s implausible to call keeping seats you won "momentum."

When it comes to by-elections, not losing is not the same as winning. Keeping a seat you’ve held for 2 years or 26 years is not the same as picking up in new territory. One elicits elation, the other relief.

But relief is what Liberals are desperate for. After months and months of keeping the right-wing Stephen Harper government alive, on the war, on his budget and on his environmental neglect, not loosing has become Dion's surrogate for winning.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bob Rae, meet John Gomery

Set-up: “Bob Rae is so new to the Liberal Party …”

The internet: “How new is he?”

Punch-line: “Rae’s so new, he’s apparently never heard of the Sponsorship scandal.”

The internet: “Ehn, a-heh-heh. Ugh …”

Yeah, Liberals may not know what makes a good joke, but they do sure know good timing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Liberals deliver a hat-trick for Harper

It’s baffling to read Liberals musing about bringing the Harper government down now.

What precisely would be the point of that, when as of this evening they have given the Conservative government the three things it wanted most:

1) To strip the federal government of its ability to afford new programs;
2) To kill the prospect of any real action to on climate change; and
3) To extend the war in Afghanistan for another three years.

Just moments ago, Liberal MP after Liberal MP voted to hand the third item in Harper’s agenda to him on a silver platter.

All three are things Liberal MPs said they were dead against. And all three are things a Harper minority government could never have accomplished without help from the Liberals.

Yet through their irresponsible abstentions, and now their disgraceful flip-flop on ending the war, Liberals have given Harper his hat-trick. They have handed him more than Conservatives dared to dream possible 26 months ago. The Liberal caucus has proven more useful in impliamenting Harper's agenda than any backbench Conservative.

Through two elections and their recent leadership race, Liberals have tried to convince voters they share the principles and strength of the NDP – yet they've proven so much the opposite.

That Harper’s agenda has been so victorious tonight is a shameful consequence of a party that has been allowed to fake values and integrity its leadership simply doesn’t possess.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is breaking even now a sign of momentum?

… it is if you want to believe the Liberal spin machine.

Embarrassed by their crêpe paper opposition to Harper and blistered from the heat coming off the phones and blogs - and even from Dion’s “friends” - Liberals are desperately spinning the four St. Patrick’s Day by-elections into a story about their rocketing momentum.

As one columnist notes, they have thus far managed only to convince themselves:

More positively, Liberals have convinced themselves they will gain momentum and a stronger team next month by winning by-elections in four seats they previously held in Toronto, Saskatchewan and Vancouver.

Allegedly "up for grabs” are four seats the Liberals won in 2006; with over 50% of the vote in 3 of them. Four seats where the Liberal MP chose to resign rather than run with Stephane Dion. Four seats where the Liberal Party has had the advantage of organizing in an incumbent riding for between 2 to 24 years.

Keeping these four seats in the Liberal column is not momentum.

If it were, then the hot shot who’s down $40,000 at one point, yet leaves the casino having broken even would be on a roll!

But since we are talking about it, how precisely do the 24 Liberal MPs who have left their party or announced their intent to leave register in the calculation of alleged Liberal momentum?

Just asking.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Liberals silence 6 million Canadians

Last night, on the very first opposition sponsored non-confidence motion of this parliament, Liberal MPs gave the Harper Conservatives a pass despite their abject failure to tackle climate change.

Only 10 Liberal MPs voted for the motion – the remaining 83 abstaining from the vote.

In doing so, Liberals stripped 5,861,776 Canadians of their democratic right to be represented in the House of Commons.

Nearly 6 million registered voters in 83 ridings had no say at all last night on whether the Conservative government’s agenda continues or ends.

If you live in PEI, or Yukon, or Nunavut you had no say. If you live in Scarborough, Brampton, Mississauga or Sudbury, you had no say. If you live in Cape Breton, Moncton, or Labrador, you had no say. If you live in North Vancouver or West Vancouver, you had no say.

In fact, it’s a good bet that if you have a Liberal MP you had no say at all on the Harper agenda last night.

All because Liberals are more fearful of voters than they are of Stephen Harper’s agenda.

The irony is there was a time, not long ago, when many of these same Liberal MPs were anguished because, they argued, as government backbenchers they lacked the tools and independence to represent their constituents. Remember the "democratic deficit"?

Yet today, in opposition, Liberal MPs are even less capable of fulfilling the most rudimentary functions of representative democracy than they were when they were complaining about having no voice under Jean Chrétien.

At least they had a plan to get rid of Chretien.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who was the leak in Goodale’s department?

All of Ottawa appears to have "leak-fever." Last week it was Conservative leaks. This week, it's new revelations about old Liberal leaks.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard that the RCMP was investigating the Liberal Government during the 2005 election. The sudden spike in trading that preceded then-finance minister Ralph Goodale’s announcement that there would be no change to the taxation of income trusts led market watchers to speculate on a leak from inside.

But Goodale flatly denied that his department bungled the hasty pre-election press conference. “There was no leak,” he implored.

And Goodale appeared to have been partially vindicated when a Finance department official was charged, not for leaking, but for allegedly using the information to enrich himself.

But today we learn that the RCMP was ready to charge another civil servant or Liberal political staffer as the leaker -- but were unable to lay charges because of a court ruling affecting the Security of Information Act.

So who had the Mounties fingered?

Some have speculated that it may have been Liberal MP Scott Brision who was found-out for his boastful email to a Bay Street buddy.

The Globe and Mail's revelation puts the whole scandal back on the table. A prospect Liberals may perversely welcome -- as being forced to answer for their past indiscretions at least spares them from having to explain why they are hell-bent on helping Harper today.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Halt climate change or help Harper: What will Liberals do?

Today, Jack Layton is setting up a clinic on how an opposition party is supposed to behave -- with a real confidence motion linked to a real issue: the environment.

Layton’s motion is to resurrect C-30, the Clean Air and Climate Change Act and have MPs finally vote to enact the bill which was re-written in an all-party committee. If the government refuses, Layton is saying the NDP are ready to go to an election over it.

The motion is designed to get the support of all parties, including the Liberals.

It was only a week ago that Dion was calling on Harper to bring the bill back:

“Mr. Speaker, on the issue of Afghanistan, the Prime Minister has shown a new openness, which we would like to see extended to other issues, such as climate change, one of the worst threats to humankind. The government killed the clean air bill, Bill C-30, a comprehensive plan to combat climate change. Could the Prime Minister not resurrect this plan and hold a debate in this House on the basis of this bill, to prove that his new openness will not be limited to the issue of Afghanistan?”

As a recent government report shows, the threat of climate change has never been more real or more serious and the need to get on the right track never more urgent.

Last night, the Liberals’ confidence motion against the NDP was soundly defeated. And it was entirely for a lack of trying. Perhaps recognizing the foolishness of attacking the NDP instead of Harper, only 57 Liberals showed up for the vote on their precious opposition day.

Layton’s motion gives the Liberals a chance to make up for it. Will they vote for the environment plan they say they support, or roll over to help Harper again?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Liberal motion offers satire, not opposition to Harper

With each passing day, the Liberal Party becomes more a caricature of its former self.

Take the motion Liberals have introduced in the House attacking the NDP which the media are reporting on today:

"They’ll introduce a motion condemning the NDP and Bloc Quebecois for defeating the previous Grit government in November 2005, thereby enabling Stephen Harper’s Tories to win power."

That’s right, instead of taking Harper on squarely – something people would expect from the Liberal MPs they elected - the Liberals have chosen to give Conservaitves yet another free ride so they can re-fight losing battles from two years ago.

And in doing so, they have ill-advisedly issued a gold embossed invitation to take a trip back to the happy days of Gomery, and contracts let without work, and Liberal staff getting paid by companies that got Sponsorship funds. (Had you already forgotten?)

By contrast, the opposition NDP has put forward five confidence motions attacking the Conservatives’ mismanagement of poverty, women’s equality, the environment and the economy.

Instead of offering help for people hurt by the Harper agenda, with their motion, Liberals are only offering more satire – akin to their musical chairs abstention routine.
Just like a 12:45am Saturday Night Live skit, the Liberal strategy is weak, badly thought out, poorly acted, and kinda makes you want to see what else is on.
UPDATE: Liberal bloggers have four words for the Liberal MPs who are using their parliamentary perches to refight the 2006 election: GET OVER IT ALREADY.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

“Does somebody need another time-out?”

Does anyone else detect a woeful insincerity to Dion ‘n the Gang’s hyper-inflated rants on the Cadman-file?

Recall that these are the same people who just last night suffered upon themselves the humiliating indignity of ordering only seven of their own MPs in the House to vote for their budget amendment out of the fear – God forbid - that the NDP and Bloc might vote with them and end the Harper government.

It’s like the high schooler raging against his parents “I hate you both and this #@*^ house and these #@*^ clothes you make me wear … I don’t want to live here anymore!” only to retire to the basement for Wii and microwave pizzas.

Is there something to the Cadman allegations? Maybe.

Is the party that has done more than any other to implement Harper’s agenda at all credible as its critic, particularly as they contort themselves daily to keep from having to meet Canadians in an election? Hardly.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Layton forces Harper to come clean on Obama interference

It's usually Canadian politics that ends up being sideswiped by US politics ... But not this time.

Today, Jack Layton came out swinging against Harper telling him to come clean on the alleged efforts by his office to discredit Barack Obama on NAFTA.

Layton landed one squarely which forced Harper to distance himself from the mess, saying "the Government of Canada does not not condone this and certainly regrets any implication."


Looks like the Americans noticed.

As did the Obama campaign.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cost of getting rid of Harper is too high: Liberals

The cost of getting rid of Stephen Harper is simply too high a price to pay, Liberals are saying.

Over here, Liberal MP Scott Brison makes the case:

"Whether it makes sense to have a $350-million election at a time when we are facing economic uncertainty and are teetering on the abyss of a deficit, whether it would make sense to have a $350-million election that the polls indicate really won’t have a big effect on the political landscape, is an important (question)."

Depending on which part of the country you live in, you should have by now received a leaflet from Stephane Dion informing you that Liberal MPs "have been working tirelessly to provide Canadians with a strong and principled alternative to Stephen Harper's ultra-right wing Conservative government."

Liberals want you to know that they are violently opposed to "Harper's ultra-right wing Conservative government" -- but if it comes right down to it, yeah, no, it's not worth the equivalent of $15 a voter to replace Harper.

It's better to have Harper extend a $5 billion war in Afghanistan (with the help of "strong and principled" Liberals) and blow $50 billion on corporate tax cuts instead of child care (with the help of "strong and principled" Liberals) than to spend money on something as frivolous as an election.

And Liberals call themselves an alternative? Really?

When it comes to producing fiction, the Dion Liberals are now more prolific than Stephen King.