Thursday, March 29, 2007

Victory on climate change. Don't let them tell you it can't be done

In the past, it wasn't very often that the NDP would get to declare a clear legislative win. The numbers just didn't work for the smallest party in the House.

But following the NDP budget amendment, that appears to be changing in these minority parliaments.

The party's latest victory is the new environment bill that has emerged from the ashes of Stephen Harper's "Clean Air Act" (bill C-30). The bill is everything Jack Layton said it would be: the NDP got no fewer than 11 of its 12 amendments adopted in this new bill.

The NDP took a lot of heat for calling for this bill to be rewritten in an all-party committee. Mostly from Liberals who claimed the NDP was a bit player in "the vast right-wing conspiracy." Chief among the flames thrown was Michael Ignatieff's over-the-top rant to the Toronto Star in which he famously declared:

There's something nauseating going on which Canadians have to notice," Ignatieff told the Star. "Layton gets up and pretends to oppose a government that he's propping up. He's got to decide what the hell he's doing here.
Nauseating indeed and as evidenced by today's result, totally baseless.

But where the slinging of political heat has become far too common in politics, cleaning up the environment has become totally uncommon.

Here's to Jack Layton and Nathan Cullen for showing some leadership, and the other parties for coming to the table.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Anyone opposed to the union of Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion should speak now . . .

It looks like ordinary Green Party supporters are starting to notice that Elizabeth May is a bit too cosy with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, and they don't much like it.

Dion of course is the environment minister who invited the vice president of Imperial Oil to chair a panel on regulations to control pollution. Who made it easier for oil companies to conduct offshore drilling in marine ecosystems. Who voted against mandatory emissions standards for cars. And who weakened his own Kyoto plan, so big industry could pollute more.

Fed up, Green candidate Andrew Lewis has posted this criticism of May's "Red/Green Alliance" to his blog.

Lewis is getting backed up my no less than May's deputy David Chernushenko who told the press "What he is saying is something pretty much every one of us has thought about if not said."

May's strategy is this: defeat Harper by lending the Green Party's credibility to a wounded Dion. Among the huge flaws she ignores with this plan is that the Liberals have as bad a record on the environment as it is possible to imagine.

If this keeps up, Greens may find they have no credibility to lend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another practical idea from Jack Layton

This is a pretty good idea.

It's a bit absurd to think that the federal government has the ability to receive your tax return electronically for free, but expects you to buy software to send it. Meanwhile, each year the paper forms cost Ottawa big bucks to print and ship.

Good analogy from Layton: “It’s as though 40 years ago they gave you the envelope but told you to go to Eaton’s to buy the paper forms.”

Just like the ban on ATM fees, this is another practical idea that only the NDP is bringing to the table. Can you imagine Stéphane Dion making the case for giving ordinary folks a break on tax software? Unlikely.

Besides, they are too busy griping about how they aren't in government anymore to worry about your problems.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Margin of Error

There is a scene in the legendary documentary “The War Room” in which James Carville is arguing that the press is holding the Clinton campaign to a far higher standard than the Bush campaign. Exasperated, he exclaims “if we say 50 plus 50 is 104, and Bush says 50 plus 50 is 104,000, the press would say both campaigns are exaggerating their numbers.”

Which brings us to this article that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on the weekend (and was reproduced today in the National Post) which makes the absolutely unreal claim that the NDP is “lost in the wilderness.”

In summary: “the NDP is in trouble because: a) NDP support in the polls is inching downward; b) Bill Blaikie has announced he is leaving politics, and; c) Buzz Hargrove says the NDP is finished.”

The point about the polls is just unabashed fallacy. Every poll since the 2006 election has had the NDP in a band of +/- 4.5% from the 17.5% the NDP got in election. The latest poll has them at 15% - well within the margin of error of 17.5%.

Compare that to the Liberal Party who were polling in the mid-30s during Stéphane Dion’s honeymoon and have crashed back down to the 29% they had 16 months ago. Or Harper who was elected just shy of 40% and appears to have hit the ceiling in the same neighbourhood. But where are the articles saying that these parties are in serious trouble?

Sure, the NDP is losing one of its long standing MPs -- the longest standing, in fact! But after 28 years of service, Bill Blaikie deserves to leave politics without it being warped into a condemnation of the NDP. Can the same be said about the 13 Liberal MPs who have announced their departure in the last five months? Ask Jean Lapierre and Joe Comuzzi who walked out the door after tossing a hand grenade behind them. But where are the articles saying the Liberals have "suffered a blow”?

Writing an article on the future of the NDP by interviewing Buzz Hargrove is like interviewing the head of BellGlobemedia about the future of the CBC. Of course Hargrove thinks the NDP is finished. He got kicked out of the NDP for telling people to vote for the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. Yet this is the guy the media flock to for a bon mot on the NDP? Where are the articles interviewing Scott Brison on the future of the Conservatives or David Emerson on the future of the Liberals?

The NDP is no more likely than the Liberals or Conservatives to dry up and blow away. In fact of the three of them – with the largest-ever campaign war chest, the largest federal caucus since 1988, and with Jack Layton, a leader that people actually LIKE -- the NDP is in the best position of any party.

But that won’t stop anti-NDP stories being written by the thousands . . . of course, there may be some exaggeration to those numbers.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

For more information, contact Irony Canada

On the very same day that the Conservative budget divides the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party chooses this graphic for their splash page . . .

Proof positive that nobody does irony (or blind cluelessness) quite like Liberals. Nobody.

Political climate change: Without leadership, Liberals fracture

This morning, Canadians are waking to these headlines:

Comuzzi turfed from Liberal caucus for supporting Tory budget and
Grit bounced for backing budget and
Liberals oust Ontario MP for supporting budget

One can already hear casual Liberal supporters spitting-up their Cream of Wheat to exclaim: "What?? How could LIBERALS support this budget? Didn't they campaign against Harper?"

For the rest of us, the news is at best, unsurprising.

Joe Comuzzi's decision to prop up the Conservatives is entirely consistant for a guy who voted with Stephen Harper for the softwood sell-out, against a $10 minimum wage and who for years railed against equal marriage in the Charter. He's gone today not because he agreed with the Conservatives, but becasue he was vocal about it.

But Comuzzi is not alone, and the "Harper Liberals" are nothing new. Why, just last night, 52 of them voted with Harper against a ban on scab labour while Dion continues to say "social justice" is one of his three pillars.

The Liberals just aren't an effective opposition to Stephen Harper becasue so many Liberal MPs agree with him.

We are seeing and hearing more from the Harper Liberals now becasue Dion doesn't have the strong leadership (and the limos and perks of power) to keep them frozen. As a result, all eyes are on the Garth Turners and Tom Wappels.

It's fitting that the first day of spring should see another sign of the thawing of the Liberal Party.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dion like Dinner: Harper Liberals to support budget

More proof today that the Liberal Party isn’t a safe place for Canadians who want to stop Stephen Harper, because so many Liberal MPs agree with him.

There is a growing contingent of Liberal MPs who think Harper's budget -- that included no national housing strategy, no national transit strategy, nothing for Employment Insurance, no $10 federal minimum wage, no plan to end student debt, and less than half of what was promised to help recognize foreign credentials -- is worth supporting.

Well known "Harper Liberal" Joe Comuzzi has said he'll be voting for the budget. Same goes for "Harper Liberal" Keith Martin who on one hand calls the budget "uninspiring" but stil says he plans to prop-up Harper.

Conclusions:1) the Harper Liberals are alive and well in the Liberal Party and are flexing their muscles in Dion's face; 2) an "uninspiring" Conservative budget is still more inspiring than a vacilating leader like Stéphane Dion.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Elizabeth May(be) not.

Idealistic Pragmatist has a excellent piece here on Elizabeth May's soon-to-be-fateful decision to run in Central Nova.

All talk about May's political future begins and ends with this fact: May's one and only chance to get into the House was the London by-election.

The by-election presented the best of all opportunities for the Greens in terms of timing, resources and the state of the opposition. And they still blew it.

Timing: May still had the halo of winning the party leadership. Even though she's been in politics since 1980, she was seen as "new". That's gone now. Only 200 days since the becoming leader, May now has baggage on things like her controversial stance against abortion and supporting Alberta's intensity-based climate change plan.

Resources: The by-election saw Green activists from across Canada converge in London. In order to concentrate their limited ammo, the Greens deliberately didn't run anyone in the Quebec by-election. In a real election, scarce resources (volunteers, money, etc) will be stretched to 308 ridings. The luxury of having the entire party's resources concentrated in May's riding is gone now too.

State of the Opposition: The London by-election dumped misfortunes on the opposition parties that boosted the Greens. The Liberal machine was caught in Fontana's mayoral bid, and the party leadership race. The Conservatives were divided over Harper's office parachuting controversial former mayor Dianne Haskett into the riding. And even the NDP campaign suffered from early setbacks that they couldn't recover from. These coincidental circumstances won't come again.

This state of affairs should have been enough to push May into the House of Commons. But it didn't -- not even close. The hard reality is that if the Greens couldn't sail on calm seas with the winds pushing them along, then they can't at all.

Today, with an election nearing, May has chosen to run in Central Nova. It’s not premature to issue a small craft warning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Parliamentary Giant

Anyone who has ever muttered "all politicians are self-centred crooks" -- or any cliché of similar sentiment, for that matter – obviously never met Bill Blaikie.

The NDP MP for the Winnipeg riding of Elmwood--Transconna, and the Dean of the House of Commons surprised pretty much everyone today by announcing that he would not be re-offering in the next election.

No one was more a "Man of the House of Commons" than Bill. A passionate orator, a fearsome debater, as well as an effectively fierce partisan, Bill always seems at home in the House

He also has a wicked sense of humour -- putting down specious arguments as though to make their authors wish they had never thought of them. Today he serves as the Deputy Speaker of the House -- a role made for him (the same could be said of the giant chair that goes with the job).

But more than that, the guy makes people proud to be a New Democrat. In a party that prides itself on compassion, ethics, and looking out for ordinary folks, few embody it more than Bill. As an ordained United Church minister, he didn't need to choose public life. But Canadians should be glad he did.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mulcair to be NDP's star candidate in Québec?

It looks as though the NDP may be on the verge of landing a huge star candidate in Québec. That's right -- QUÉBEC.

Wags are wagging at Thomas Mulcair, the former Liberal MNA for Chomedey who was seen today at a Québec speech given by Jack Layton.

The notion that the outspoken former Quebec environment minister might go NDP was given polite but doubtful speculation last fall when he gave an impassioned speech on the environment at the NDP's policy convention in Québec City. It got more serious when Mulcair refused to stand for re-election in this month's provincial election.

As the story notes, Mulcair was courted by the Conservatives, Bloc and Liberals as well. If Layton lands him, it will be a huge boost for the party in Québec and should make it easier for the NDP to recruit other credible candidates.

The bad news (as most bad news is these days) is for Dion. All the green scarves in the world don't appear to have plied the former environment minister. It also demonstrates the lingering post-Gomery weakness of the federal Liberals in the province.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What's around Stéphane Dion's neck? (Hint: it's not a green scarf)

Who remembers Christine Stewart? Anyone, anyone?

You know, the affable Liberal environment minister who represented Canada at the Kyoto negotiations in 1997?

Don't feel bad. A lot of people have forgotten, including the media. Unlike her successor David Anderson, she has gone largely undisturbed since leaving politics.

That is until today.

A rural Ontario reporter tracked her down and discovered that Stewart isn't at all shy about throwing some blame at her former cabinet colleagues for their failures to meet our Kyoto targets -- including "Fossil" Dion.

She notes Stéphane Dion was the federal/provincial minister at the time and he was against Kyoto. "When the prime minister only gets crap from everybody, why is he going to be supportive?" asks Stewart. Today, she sighs, Europe is "way ahead of us. Way ahead." - Northumberland Today

That's gunna hurt the Liberal talking-points.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Hypo-Grits on partisan press releases.

Nobody does irony quite like the federal Liberals. Nobody.

It's amazing to imagine anyone purporting to have a freckle of integrity complaining about other people doing the exact same things they did for 13 years when they had the chance.

Case in point:

Today, the Liberals put out this . . . to complain about this.

I guess they already forgotten about this.