Thursday, August 30, 2007

Birds of a feather (or Liberals to stop hiding it)

The Liberal Party’s “brand” isn’t what is once was.

After their Sponsorship scandal and their broken promises on everything from education to the environment, the Liberal Party couldn’t be less popular if it was covered in lead-based paint.

But example shows there are ways of turning this around.

If they were a 1980s sitcom, they could add a cute-as-a-button, smart-alecky kid to the roster.

If they were a soft drink, they could change their formula to add a kick of lemon.

Or they could take Michael Ignatieff’s advice and adopt a mascot that embodies all that is Liberal – a mascot like the puffin!

Iggy makes his case thusly: “It's a noble bird . . . They lay one egg (each year). They put their excrement in one place. They hide their excrement.”

They hide their excrement?! THEY HIDE THEIR EXCREMENT?!?! (did he just say that?!)

Far from a slip up, Liberals are signaling a brand new strategy: brutal honesty.

Expect a follow-up announcement next week “Dion to hold special summit with ordinary working people: ‘Meeting them now will free-up time for frequent meetings with the well-connected later’.”

Looks like Oshawa could use a "official liaison to the federal government"

To sell their undemocratic “pod people plan” Conservatives have been boasting a lot lately about the raw, drop-to-your knees and rejoice efficacy of Conservative MPs. To get results for your constituents, the talking points go, you need to have the 24-hour “Mr. Prime Minister, Merv Tweed on line two” access that comes with being a member of the government caucus.

Of course, the now infamous clap-trap emanating from Conservative MP Dick Harris sets the gold standard:

"To have access to the ministers, realistically, you have to be part of the government. You want to contact the Prime Minister's Office or even the prime minister when you need to, it helps immensely to be part of the government."

But hold on, what’s this?

It looks like somebody forgot to tell Oshawa Conservative MP Colin Carrie about his added benefits and privileges.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Attack of the Conservative Pod People, Part II

Friday’s post about Stephen Harper’s plan to appoint undemocratic “official liaisons to the federal government” as a way to supplant democratically elected NDP MPs has gotten loads of blog attention, but very little in the mainstream press outside of northern BC, where NDP MP Nathan Cullen has been targeted.

That is until now. The whole stinking mess is written up today for the readers of the Vancouver Sun by Barbara Yaffe.

Yaffe hits the nail on the head when she says that Conservative MP Dick Harris’ explanation that NDP MPs are unable to represent their constituents becasue they aren't the government throws “in the waste bin the principles that make representative government in Canada function.”

But an altogether new revelation comes in Harris’ admission that the Conservatives have been willing to help out their pals in the Liberal caucus: “There seems to be a cooperation between the official Opposition and the government when it comes to riding issues, so we were able to get a fair amount done.” Just not for the NDP.

For his part, Cullen calls Harris’ reckless spin-job “ridiculous”, pointing out that his constituents in Skeena—Bulkley Valley are being better served now by his four riding offices, than they had been when the riding was Blue.

But, the greatest offence in the Harper / Harris “Pod People” plan remains the revolting notion that ordinary Canadians’ access to the resources of their federal government is being dolled out to “the friends of the regime” à la a banana republic.

When the Liberals acted this way, Canadians had a word for it: corruption. What makes it any different when the Conservatives do it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dion Flip-Flop #231 - "Newfound" support for the Atlantic Accord

It’s tough to get too bent out of shape about Stephane Dion’s flip-flops anymore.

The guy has made so many of them: letting Sponsorship scandal figures back into the Liberal Party (or not); being in favour of the Afghanistan mission (or not); opposing the extension of said mission to 2009 (or not); supporting a ban on scab labour (or not); being in favour of intensity targets for greenhouse gases (or not).

Dion’s “toggle politics” actually lend Paul Martin the retrospective comparison of a decisive man of action.

But Dion’s latest – his “new found” support of the Atlantic Accords - isn’t going unnoticed by anyone.

Jack Layton’s widely reported response says it best: "The ferocity of Mr. Dion's opposition to this whole approach to federalism from Day 1 should leave everybody with a significant measure of mistrust when it comes to whatever he says today."

A once-wise politician had it right when he said, the Liberal Party morphs like it’s a beanbag chair, it always "looks like the last person who sat on it.'' A good line from . . . wait for it . . . Dion’s error apparent, Bob Rae.

Yet another Liberal politician who would do well to keep track of the things he says.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Liberal Coulon admits voters unimpressed with Dion

Starved over the summer months, political junkies have been eating up any and all news emanating from the federal by-election in the Montreal riding of Outremont.

In any other time, a by-election in this Liberal stronghold would be a pro-forma affair – but not this time. Firstly, the presence of former Quebec Liberal environment minister Thomas Mulcair as the NDP’s star recruit has turned this into a real race. A NDP win here is by no stretch a given, but Mulcair is attracting support as he explained on CBC Radio’s “The House” this weekend:

“There is a strong social democratic base in Quebec. I come from the side of the Quebec Liberal Party where Claude Ryan was the leader. He was my political mentor. I have always had strong community involvement myself. And that is the type of experience that I am bringing to the job. And a lot of Quebecers identify with that. In the Outremont riding, the reaction we have been getting so far is great.”

Secondly, the race is being seen as a first electoral test for Stephane Dion as leader. A new leader holds the promise of reinvigorating and exciting supporters. But on this count, a sobering account comes from Liberal candidate Joceyln Coulon in The Hill Times as reported by Liberal Senator Jim Munson:

“Asked whether Mr Dion is receiving a war reception among potential voters in Outremont, Mr Coulon says they focus more on himself than the Liberal leader. They recognize him as a public figure and intellectual, and 'it’s very rare if they talk about Dion,' he said."

That’s right: the Leader of the Official Opposition comes to the door steps of Montrealers and their choice is to focus on the director of the university think-tank standing next to him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Conservatives begin replacing opposition MPs with the Pod People

Nathan Cullen is the NDP MP for the northern BC riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley. This is fact. The people who live in the riding elected him to that job in 2004 and reelected him in 2006. To remove any doubt, Elections Canada says so right here.

But it seems the Conservatives are unimpressed by the democratically expressed will of the people of Skeena—Bulkley Valley -- and they said so this week.

Three days ago, Dick Harris, the Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George announced that the Conservatives have named their local candidate Sharon Smith the “Skeena-Bulkley Valley liason to the federal government.”

That’s right, seems that after only 20 months of trying it, the Conservatives have decided that listening to MPs – particularly those from other parties – is way too onerous and distracting. The solution is obvious really: replace them with compliant and agreeable people who look like MPs, pretend to be MPs, but have absolutely no legitimacy.

Harris’ announcement is a new low for the Conservatives – and is being greeted as such by British Columbians. For any doubters, Harris even lets his partisanship show when he says “I know the constituents of Skeena-Bulkley Valley will derive a huge benefit from having direct contact with government, something that they have not had since 2004” Problem: until 2004 the riding was held by a Conservative – though the government was Liberal. Translation: you need to elect a Conservative – er, and don’t ask why.

Just like the Liberals before them, Conservatives are arrogantly putting their partisanship ahead of democratic principles. We all remember how that ended for the red team.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

If you are opposed to the SPP, Stéphane Dion thinks you are an idiot

Stéphane Dion may not think you are an idiot, but he sure is hoping you are.

Dion and Friends know that wherever people are angry with Harper, they have to be there -- even when the former Liberal government had been doing the exact same thing as Harper.

Which is what explains yesterday’s Liberal Party press release on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). In it, Liberals blithely mimic NDP demands that Harper should open up the SPP process to transparency, and oppose bulk export of water.

But the Liberals are talking into a tin can.

There’s absolutely no difference between the SPP agenda that Harper is pursuing than what was begun by Dion’s then-boss Paul Martin.

On transparency: It was Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin who BEGAN the SPP talks with the US and Mexico back in 2005, which, as the Council of Canadians notes, had no transparency whatsoever:

"In March 2005, Paul Martin, George W. Bush and Vicente Fox met in Waco, Texas to ratify the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which integrates recommendations from both the CCCE’s Security and Prosperity Initiative and Manley’s Task Force on the Future of North America. Despite a lack of public awareness or input, the three leaders agreed to take steps toward regulatory harmonization, a continental resource pact, and a North American security perimeter. Working groups were formed to put this “partnership” into action, and to date only industry “stakeholders” have been consulted."

On bulk water exports: it was the Manley task force which said “no item including Canadian water . . . is off the table.”

People who are concerned about the anti-democratic aspects of the SPP know that Jack Layton and the NDP have been raising alarm bells about the SPP and “North American Union” for years. It’s yet another file where Stéphane Dion can only offer mimicry of the NDP -- not leadership.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cabinet shuffle too light and too late to buoy Conservatives

Despite the bravado of the Conservatives and their attendant punditocracy, today’s cabinet shuffle is hardly the stuff of earth-moving political change.

Consider this: The last time the national poll numbers moved in a lasting way was 20 months ago with then finance minister Ralph Goodale’s refusal to investigate income trust trading that to the rest of the world looked like a leak from inside his department. The Liberals lost both the credibility they had in reserve as well as the election. Since then the polls have sat tight.

Today’s shuffle has all the significance of the day McDonald's hands out new uniforms. It’s still the same lame product being served by the same uninspired people with the same boss – they just happen to look a bit different. It’s unlikely to change the minds of urbanites, francophones and women who Harper can’t win over.

In fact, the shuffle goes some way to solidify the impression that Harper is stubborn and untrustworthy. It would have been smart politics to move disastrous ministers like O’Connor and Oda when their failings became evident – as he did with Ambrose this winter. Moving them now only serves as a reminder that he let incompetence go unchecked for months. Not smart for a party that needs to look different from the scandal-plagued Liberals.

So, what is the next event of “income trust scandal” magnitude that will move the polls in a lasting way? More and more people are looking to the Outremont by-election where a strong showing from former Liberal environment minister Thomas Mulcair for the NDP could signal the beginning of real change in federal politics in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Ploys of Summer: Liberals plotting le fin de Dion

The “happy place” for disaffected Liberals will always be the poorly disguised chaos of the undeclared leadership race.

They can’t be blamed. For the past 15 years, Liberals have grown old knowing only the reassuring skirmishes of internecine warfare between camps built on the substantive argument that “our guy is better than yours”.

The directionless Summer of Dion is dragging closer to fall. Some are saying that anything less than a convincing Lib win in Outremont will mark le fin de Dion. But at least two would-be sucessors appear to have prejudged the outcome.

In one corner, it’s tough to ignore the signals Ralph “Income-Trust-Me” Goodale is sending by spending his summer months polishing his francais in Chicoutimi (as was noted by John Ivison). Hmmmm. A six-term MP from Saskatchewan, who has already held five cabinet jobs is suddenly showing an renewed interest in the country’s other official language? Curious.

In the other corner is Michael Ignatieff who strangely went out of his way to give this interview on a article that will appear in Time magazine to polish something else: his record as having been the head Harvard cheerleader for Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. So desperate is Iggy’s predicament that his preferred alibi is “I make rash decisions which I later regret.”

Umm, isn’t that precisely the problem with the current guy?

And these guys expect to run the country again.