Friday, November 27, 2009

How well do you know the Senator you never voted for?

Canadians already rely on Consumer Reports’ rankings to avoid taking home the cappuccino maker most likely to squirt searing milk in their eyes.

So isn’t it time we applied the same rigour to something far more expensive than tooth whiteners and Shamwow-knock-offs?

For instance, Canadians spend $81 million a year on 105 high-flying, canapé scarfing, unelected, unaccountable pretend legislators in the Senate. Shouldn’t we know more about them?

New Democrats think so …

Today the party awarded their second “Senator of the Week” award. This time to the Senator who charged the most in travel and perks for the least days worked.

The "winner"? Raymond Lavigne. The independent Liberal Senator, it turns out, charged over $50,000 for each of the TWO days he attended the Senate last year! But as the award notes, Lavigne “has a good excuse: the Liberal-appointed Senator is on leave while being investigated for 'alleged use of Senate resources for personal gain'.”


Incidentally, the Senator of the Week from last week – the most expensive overall - can be found right here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iffy still re-thinking Thinkers' Conference

Remember Michael Ignatieff’s big thinkers’ conference? You know, the one that is supposed to fill the chasm-like void in Liberal Party policy with ideas befitting the modern era?

Hey, wouldn’t it be funny - so as to put a poke-your-eyes-out like point on the problem plaguing Iffy and his team - if they couldn’t even settle on a date for the damn conference?

Well, um, here’s this then …

First there was this:

“Sometime this summer or fall, Ignatieff said he also intends to hold a 'thinkers' conference' that will address some of the 'big long-term questions' facing the country over the next 25 years, going well beyond the more immediate scope of the campaign platform."

Then there was this:

"A much touted 'Thinkers' Conference' expected this fall has instead been postponed until next year, possibly in January."

And, um, then this:

“The federal Liberals will hold their much-postponed 'thinkers' conference' in Montreal in mid-January, leader Michael Ignatieff says.”

And today, with all the fanfare owing a process resembling five pre-teen girls texting back and forth to decide when to meet to try out a new hair straightener, there’s this:

“I am pleased to announce today that the Liberal Party of Canada will host a special conference in Montreal, March 26 to 28, 2010, 'Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge'.”

So now, here's the obvious question: what does this say about Iffy’s willingness to defeat Harper when Liberals have now parked their scheduled and re-scheduled thinkers’ conference right in the middle of where a spring election is supposed to go?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Choice: Is the progressive wing of the Liberal Party readying to walk?

Janine Krieber appears to have signaled that a segment of the Liberal Party is readying to part ways with Michael Ignatieff and the party’s current leadership.

In her now widely reported Facebook message, Stephane Dion’s wife tells Liberals “the time has arrived to make a choice” between a party led by Ignatieff “that risks winding up in the dustbin of history” and “a dedicated party, one that doesn't challenge its leader with every dip in the polls.”

By now, it is no secret that the Liberal Party is more accurately two parties. In brief, one segment of the party is of a progressive-reformist bent, committed to thinking big thoughts on matters of the day and working towards the unfulfilled goals of previous generations. The other party – and the more influential of the two – is an establishment bloc based out of the cocktail parties of Toronto's social elite that is just as conservative in its tone and tempo as the Conservatives.

Perhaps tellingly, it was just about this time last year that the hopes of the “progressive” side were dashed as the “establishment” side reasserted itself. The hasty installation of Michael Ignatieff as leader confirmed that Stephen Harper would get his second chance. All the promise of the historic Liberal-NDP accord was over.

Since then, Ignatieff has overseen a collapse in Liberal support from 37 percent and a lead over the Conservatives to a miserable 24 percent in the most recent poll. Krieber’s diagnosis is that the illness which has stricken her party under Mr. Ignatieff is fatal.

The challenge to progressive Liberals looking at the future in front of them is whether they are prepared to stick with a party that has lost its heart and faces disaster in the next election under a leader plagued by his own contradictions, or as Ms. Krieber urges, are they ready to make another choice?

And is that other choice - “a dedicated party, one that doesn't challenge its leader with every dip in the polls” – a none too veiled allusion to Jack Layton’s New Democrats?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where’s Iggy?

The Conservative ranks are reeling today.

Richard Colvin’s testimony that senior officials tried to silence his warnings about Canadian government complicity in the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan is the most serious indictment the Conservative front-bench has faced in its four years.

In response today, New Democrats have rightly called for a public inquiry.

Peculiar though is the complete absence at this time of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff -- not just from the file, but from Ottawa.

According to the Canadian Press, the Liberal leader is about as far from Ottawa as you can get:

KENORA, Ont. _ Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff attends town hall with local Liberal candidate. (7:30 p.m. at Cascade Room, Best Western Lakeside Inn, 470 First Ave. S.)

THOMPSON, Man. _ Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff meets with students from the University College of the North, and then takes part in Q & A session. (11 a.m. at University College of the North, Room P4-100, 494 Princeton Drive)

At the time of unparalleled controversy in Ottawa and accusations of Conservative complicity in torture, why is Ignatieff not in Ottawa?

Liberals say Ignatieff is out of Ottawa reconnecting with Canadians. But the reality is that even Liberals realize Mr. Ignatieff has zero credibility to be appalled by torture given his own appalling position on the matter:

The Liberals and their leader can expect to be lost in the wilderness for some time.

Liberal sling mud over patronage straight from their own trough

The Ignatieff Liberals have decided that the Conservatives' patronage is the soft underbelly to erode their public support.

They may well be right. The names Husakos, Manning (Fabian that is), and Finley all speak to the growing pile of patronage in Stephen Harper’s fiefdom.

But have the Liberals really thought this through? Are they really in any position to credibly lecture anyone on using public positions to reward their partisans after their years of doing exactly the same?

These questions should be put to the strategists behind this line of attack ...

You know, brand new Chief of Staff Peter Donolo and his pal Director of Communications Mario Lague. The two former Liberal staffers who came back to the fold after cooling their heels as the Liberal-appointed Consul General of Canada at Milan and the Liberal-appointed Ambassador of Canada to the Republic of Costa Rica.

Your contractor is on the line, Mr Ignatieff. Something about cracks forming in your glass house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good ship Dono-OLO springs an early leak

It seems it’s plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose for the federal Liberals.

Peter Donolo’s mission to tighten-up the badly listing Good Ship Liberal took an early blow today.

Seems yet another chapter in the interminable feud between Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff was acted out in the Liberal caucus today. Caucus meetings are ultra-secret of course, yet we Canadians are privy to details of the Liberal bun-fight over Ignatieff's decision to not whip the gun registry vote courtesy of Jane Taber and a reliable anonymous Liberal source.

Some will argue that one leak on his second day is too quick to chastise Mr Donolo. But let’s face it, this one man's return to the ranks of Liberal staff has been more overhyped than the putrid final three Star Wars clunkers (even though the rumored Donolo collectors glasses at Burger King have yet to materialize).

In short, the criticism Donolo will face as Liberal fortunes continue to slide under Ignatieff comes in direct proportion to the hype that has accompanied his arrival.

And once again, Liberals only have themselves to blame.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ignatieff fails the better-than-Dion test.

First off, congratulations are due to Fin Donnelly, the newest New Democrat MP who won handily the New Westminster-Coquitlam seat vacated by legendary New Democrat MP Dawn Black.

But the story on E+1 is that Michael Ignatieff failed his first electoral test. To be fair, the nugget of truth in Liberals’ spin is that no one expected them to win any of the four seats. That’s correct. But no one expected Ignatieff to do worse than Stephane Dion either. Yet that’s precisely what happened. Ignatieff failed the “better than Dion” test.

In British Columbia, where the Liberals convened only six months ago to anoint Ignatieff leader, Liberals lost 9 percent of the popular support Dion had managed to collect – despite Ignatieff and no fewer than seven high-profile Liberal MPs campaigning there.

In Riviere du Loup, Ignatieff lost 14 percent of the popular vote Dion had eked out of voters there in 2008.

And in the Hochelaga riding in Montreal, where Liberals traditionally compete with the Bloc for seats, the Liberals lost 31 percent of their vote share, coming third behind the New Democrats.

Ignatieff has done the unthinkable. In these by-elections, he managed to do worse than the worst leader in the worst election in Liberal Party history.

Taken together, (with thanks to Pundits Guide) the election results look like this:

Con = 35.7%
NDP = 24.4%
Bloc = 20.8%
Lib = 14.8%

As the hacks and flacks say, the only poll that matters is on election day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Chamber costs explode 220% - 3 times more than program spending

You never hear from them (except as spam). No one ever cast a ballot in favour of them. And there isn’t a soul in the land who could tell you which one is supposed to represent their part of the country.

Yet we are all obliged to pay $81 million dollars a year to have partisan hacks in the Senate masquerade as legislators on par with elected MPs. Obliged because, unlike New Democrats, a succession of Liberal and Conservative Prime Ministers haven’t had the courage to say “enough.”

Today the NDP’s Peter Stoffer exposed the exploding costs of Canada’s unelected, unaccountable Senators. Anyone who believes in democracy will find the details appalling.

In the past 14 years, the overall costs of government program expenditures has increased only 73 percent and the cost of running the House of Commons has increased even less: 69 percent.

Yet Senators – including those appointed by Stephen Harper racked up $19.5 million in travel and office expenses – 219 percent more than in 1994.

Senators have no constituency offices, they have no case work, and they sat only 61 days last year. Yet Stephen Harper thinks it’s A-Ok for partisan hacks to spend an average of $187,000 each on travel and perks last year.

Stephen Harper used to say “An appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th Century.” But that’s before he gave up any shred of accountability in favour of doing politics just like Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien used to.

The full details of how 105 strangers are spending your money on their lavish lifestyle are here, courtesy of the New Democrats: