Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Flames fans burn Harper over Senate appointments

Stephen Harper’s decision to break his word and appoint the largest number of unelected Senators in history has made him unpopular everywhere – even in the Conservative heartland of Calgary.

Since it began, Harper has shown an incredible inability to relate to people’s fears about the economic downturn.

And like a reflex born of his discomfort having to hear ordinary folks bleating about their own insecurities, Harper’s reaction has been to retreat deeper into the comfort of his own parochial partisanship. Witness the now-infamous Economic Statement which addressed a sinking auto sector head-on by attacking unions, women and his political opponents.

It’s this exact same partisan impulse which allowed Harper to break his word to never appoint unelected Senators by appointing an obscene 18 of them at the cost of $6 million in the first year.
But people in his hometown of Calgary “get” Harper. Even though he wasn’t born here, the movement that sent him to Ottawa was. Like kindred spirits born of the seemingly-unending oil boom and mountain air, they understand him. Nowhere more so than at the Saddledome – the great hockey shrine, where might makes right and winning is what matters most.

So it’s no small surprise that Harper's visit at the December 23rd game against Anaheim was greeted with booing. Sources tell Canada’s Number One Equine-Themed Politics Blog that a large number in the crowd were visably – and audibly – in an un-Christmasy mood towards Harper and his day-old Senate flip-flop.

As we approach the season of resolution and renewal, Conservatives need to ask themselves if Stephen Harper really is the best they have to offer Canadians.

(Oh, and the Flames won 4-3)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Premier Darrell Dexter ...

... the rest of the country might want to get used to saying that in 2009.

Because Nova Scotians are already there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008: The worst of Stephen Harper's last good year

When he was running for the leadership of the party in whose name he just appointed a historic 18 unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic Senators, Stephen Harper said:

“I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent.”

Of course, this appalling reversal - on the very same day he appoints a judge to the Supreme Court with no committee vetting process as he had so often promised in the past - is how Stephen Harper ends his worst year since becoming Prime Minister.

But it's not Harper’s worst year just because of his election which failed to produce a majority and the promised ‘big Quebec breakthrough’.

It’s not his worst year just because the great economist has missed all the cues of a historic recession.

It's not even his worst year just because a fractured opposition has been forced into unity against him.

It's been Stephen Harper's worst year simply because he waited until 2008 to make all of his worst mistakes. He called a snap election at the wrong time, breaking his own fixed election law.

After kissing up to Quebecers for years he betrayed his tin-ear to the province with far-right politics like attacking cultural industries and a heavy-handed plan to lock up 14 year olds.

He promised cooperation with the opposition and to make the economy job one but instead tabled a Economic Statement which economists called a farce.

He hypocritically called the opposition parties "undemocratic" for planning to replace his government when he had made the exact same plans four years earlier.

And now in spite of his March 2004 promise to "not name appointed people to the Senate" he has done just that: appointing 18 to jobs-for-life on the $95 million gravy train.

When you stop taking the things you say seriously it’s usually a good sign that others should think to do the same.

In 2009, Conservatives should take a good hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if Stephen Harper really is the best they have to offer Canada.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Past Steve is coming back to kill future Steve!!"

It's official.

On November 28, 2008 at approximately 4:30pm Eastern, Stephen Harper finally became everything he used to hate ...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

“Pushing a corpse from a speeding vehicle”

As today’s events in Illinois show - or the more local example of Conservatives raising the ethical bar by fraudulently recording and broadcasting a confidential caucus meeting - politics sometimes attracts the wrong kinds of people.

So when Liberal leader Stephane Dion announced his hastened departure from Stornaway yesterday, it was nice to see these incredibly kind words from New Democrat leader Jack Layton.

Layton’s words are all the more generous given the non-reaction Dion’s announcement elicited from others. Somewhere between “see ya, ‘round” to dead silence was offered up in memory of the Liberal leader - including from Liberals who were said to be 100% behind their leader last week.

As Bruce Cheadle wryly put it: “On Monday, NDP Leader Jack Layton distributed a glowing tribute to the departing Dion that made Liberal send-offs, by comparison, appear as perfunctory as pushing a corpse from a speeding vehicle.”


Thursday, December 4, 2008

The headline that says it all ...

... "Harper wrong on democracy claims"

Just how valid is Harper's claim that changing governments without a new election would be undemocratic?

"It's politics, it's pure rhetoric," said Ned Franks, a retired Queen's University expert on parliamentary affairs. "Everything that's been happening [concerning the NDP-Liberal coalition] is both legal and constitutional."

Other scholars are virtually unanimous in their agreement. They say Harper's populist theory of democracy is more suited to a U.S.-style presidential system, in which voters cast ballots directly for a national leader, than it is to Canadian parliamentary democracy.

"He's appealing to people who learned their civics from American television," said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.

That said, one lesson we can learn from our American cousins in recent years is to beware of those at the heights of power who deliberately mislead ordinary people in order to expand that power.

Stephen Harper is unworthy to be Prime Minister

Presume for a moment that the Governor General agrees to Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue the House of Commons this morning.

If Stephen Harper continues as Prime Minister and continues trying “to make parliament work” in the adversarial and rabidly partisan fashion to which he is accustomed (everything we know about his character tells us he will) what prevents us from coming back to this precise moment weeks or months from now?

As Conservative MP Laurie Hawn conceded this morning on CBC Radio, "I will admit that there were things in the economic statement that were needlessly provocative."

Unfortunately it’s as easy for Conservatives to repent right now for this cataclysmic misjudgement as it is to seize the opportunity to do the exact same thing when the mood next strikes them.

Meaning that as long as Stephen Harper is in the Prime Minister’s office every economic statement, every budget, every throne speech and every vote of confidence will become another occasion to blackmail concessions from the opposition.

This is a moment in history to leave the politics at the door and yet Stephen Harper is a man overburdened with wiretapping, mean-spiritedness, regional divisiveness and deliberate misrepresentation in the disreputable name of parochial partisanship.

Stephen Harper has proven himself unworthy to be Prime Minister.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Serious words from a serious statesman. Broadbent calls Conservatives out for lying to Canadians

Proving it can be done, Ed Broadbent lowered the temperature but raised the debate.

Speaking today on CBC Newsworld, Broadbent leveled the harshest criticism against Harper yet over the crisis that he's created: "I'm concerned that I have a Prime Minister who lies to the people of Canada and he knows it. It's one thing to exaggerate. It's another to tell deliberately tell falsehoods."

Serious words from a serious statesman.

Harper stoops to telling the West one thing and Quebec another

In their desperate attempt to obfuscate and fabricate about the NDP-Liberal coalition's accord, the Tories have the divided the country by telling Westerners one thing and Quebecers another when it comes to the Bloc's role in the coaltion.

Today's story by Canadian Press exposes the Tory double-speak:

"And - at least in English - the Conservatives repeatedly stated that the Bloc will have a "veto" over every policy of the new coalition. In French, however, Public Works Minister Christian Paradis cited a Liberal MP to claim that "the leader of the Bloc has signed a blank cheque and given away his independence."

The Conservative message for Western Canada is that the coalition "gives a veto to the Bloc." and the Conservative message for Quebec is that the Bloc has "signed a blank cheque" to the coalition.

Clearly it can't be both -- and it isn't.

In reality the Bloc has agreed to support the coalition's legislative agenda for 18 months under the accord - neither initiating or supporting motions of non-confidence - a much more secure arrangement in fact than the bill-by-bill basis upon which Harper has bought the support of Bloc MPs over the years.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Working with the Bloc is wrong (when others do it)": Harper

If you are exhausted by the Conservatives' canned outrage and canned red herring towards anyone who would "work with the separatists", you aren't alone.

Hat tip to the Montreal Gazette's Elizabeth Thompson for ending Harper's latest vacation from reality with this.

That's right, it's SO utterly heinous to rely on the support of the duly elected Bloc MPs in Ottawa to get your agenda through that Conservatives could barely bring themselves to brag about how often they relied on the Bloc’s support in the last election.

Fact: the Bloc is not part of the coalition. They are merely supporting it. How is that any different than each and every time the Conservatives needed the Bloc to get their legislation passed?

It's not.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The leg Stephen Harper doesn't have to stand on

Under the Canadian system, the government needs the support of at least 50 percent of the House of Commons to govern. The Harper Conservatives lost that support when they tabled their empty and juvenile economic statement in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the 1980s.

Under our system, when a party fails to keep the support of 50 percent of the House of Commons, it falls to another party or parties to make the case that they can.

So despite all of his high dudgeon about “a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election” and “they don’t have the right to take power without an election” Stephen Harper understands all of this full well.

Just as he did when he wrote to the Governor General asking her to consider his coalition of the “socialists and separatists” in the first 73 days of the Paul Martin minority government in 2004:
So, why does Stephen Harper call it wrong when others do the exact same thing he did 4 years ago?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Serious times call for serious people

The coming days will forever cast the Conservatives’ November 2008 Economic and Fiscal Update as either the worst political miscalculation in Canadian politics in thirty years, or a forgettable contretemps.

The events unfolding right now recommend the former. By media accounts so far, Jack Layton moved with lightning speed yesterday reaching out to emissaries like Ed Broadbent to start the process of building what may be a historic change in government.

However, if the latter turns out to be the case, it will almost surely be because Stephen Harper summons his vaunted skills as a political chess player to once more deke-out his opponents. Yet one of the premier admirers of those skills is presently gob-smacked that the Economic Statement exposed Harper as politically rudderless:

Paul Wells' indictment is brutal:

“So, drawing his inspiration from Jo Moore, the Downing Street spin doctor who thought 9/11 would be a “very good day” to get some embarrassing news releases out, Harper decided an economic crisis would be an excellent cover to use for a little political kneecapping. What could be more clever? That’ll show them he’s a serious guy.

So the real outrage of yesterday’s economic “update” is not that it seeks to impose on most parliamentarians a change to funding rules that most of them would never ordinarily accept; it’s that it accomplishes nothing else. It’s that in the most dangerous economic times Canada has faced in 20 years if not far longer, this prime minister can’t wipe the smirk off his face and grow up a little."

It may be too late for Harper and his backroom chums to stash their toys and start behaving like the sober managers of a G8 economy.

Even if the Conservative brain-trust finally decode that they underestimated the importance of a real and dramatic stimulus to save jobs, and that this was no time for juvenile and petty changes to $27 million worth of political funding, it will almost certainly be too late.

The opposition parties, like a slumbering bear have woken in anger and are now aware of the shiny potential of the moment in front of them. What comes next for Layton and the other opposition MPs will be daunting, but they will have already shown more maturity in the face of a serious economic challenge than any of Harper’s playmates.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In defence of $85 million a year wasted

Anyone still resisting the now conventional view that the Liberal Party is without even a tangential relationship with the Canadian political zeitgeist, witness Exhibit A.

At a time when disengagement with our political institutions is at an all time low;
When Canadians are worried about their own job security;
And when a whiff of excess in public spending lights up talk radio call lines and exhausts gallons of ink in opinion pages …

This is the time Canada’s Natural Groveling Party has decided to waste precious bandwidth on the spectacular hope that Canadians could be convinced to see this undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable blot as something other than what it is.

In what other-worldy Tim Hortons can Canadians be heard resolving a problem by declaring “I’m going to call my Senator!” When was the last time anyone “friended” a Senator on Facebook? When has anyone other than Liberal and Tory political hacks seen the Senate as something other than an $85 million-a-year drain on the public purse and snoring-punctuated white-noise in our country’s debates?

It doesn’t happen. But Liberal MPs with no sense of where to go next are convinced that Canadians are crying out to hear more from the 57 Liberal Senators who collect $130,400 while sitting on corporate boards and charging private clients for more hours than there are in a day.

If this website is any indication, today's Liberal Party has figured out what it stands for: irrelevance.ca.

Oh, and isn’t it uncanny how much the Liberal Senate site resembles this, far more credible Senate tribute site?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh, did you need that stimulus now?

It’s clearer now than ever that Jack Layton was entirely right not to support Harper's throne speech over the Conservatives asleep-at-the-switch response to the economic downturn.

The old adage about the mechanic’s car being in the worst state of repair rings true when you look at how poorly the federal government is meeting the challenge of reassuring markets and stimulating the economy with economist Stephen Harper at the helm.
Exactly. Where is the sense of urgency?

In the US, hundreds of billions have been announced in bail outs and stimulus – with another $600 billion today. The Labour government in the UK announced $39 billion in measures yesterday. Yet in Canada, the finance minister wakes from his mid afternoon nap to tell a business audience that they shouldn’t expect a dime in stimulus in Thursday’s economic statement!

As though to demonstrate that he may have retained something he read in the Report on Business that morning, Flaherty adds that he might be open to taking the bold step of moving the federal budget a few days earlier in the spring … you know, if things get bad. Because a 40 percent drop in stock market and predictions of unemployment at 7.5 percent aren’t signs of “bad” at all.

The question is where precisely is the presumed economic credibility of the Harper Conservatives right now? It’s no where to be seen. Heck, the Tories can’t even see where consumers are getting gouged. (see the fourth last paragraph in Wheery’s blog here)

Layton and the New Democrats appear the only ones in Ottawa who get the urgency for a plan to get us to the other side of this mess.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The periodic table of parliamentarians

So this is pretty neat.

Tip of the hat to you, Flash animators at Canadian Press.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tone deaf

More than the responses of the chief economists, or the central bankers, or even those of the heads of governments, the interesting thing to watch in this economic crisis has been the responses of the other political players.

In the face of almost unprecedented economic uncertainty, collapsing credit markets, deepening job loses, and calls for government intervention of a magnitude to make even Keynes blush, the high dudgeon of political gamesmanship is passé. The name-calling, smear jobs, and histrionics played out for the camera that have been the currency of politics-as-usual appear as decadent as a diamond-encrusted chihuahua collar in this economic climate.

For opposition politicians and backbenchers, politics is now all about tone – the artful marking of differentiation in a way befitting the reality that Canadians are losing their jobs, retirement savings, investments and homes.

In the US, they’ve figured this out. Republicans - also humbled by this month’s drubbing at the polls – have mostly embraced the new tone, talking about helping the president-elect chart a course for recovery.

Here in Canada, Jack Layton got the tone just right. In interviews yesterday the New Democrat leader said he’s ready to take a cooperative approach with all parties to work on the economy, and urged the Prime Minister to put aside his “my way or the highway” tack of the past: "That's what we've heard for the last couple of years. I don't think Canadians liked it very much. I don't think it's what we need in a time of economic crisis."

Then there are the Liberals. In the earliest stages of their latest leadership race, they have already shown they are deaf to the new tone of politics. Both Michael Ignatieff and Today’s Bob Rae turned their first debate into an opportunity to snipe at each other over how debates should even be held. A party trying to understand why so few Canadians are listening to them can’t even be civil about how they will talk to one another.

Ordinary people worried about their pay cheques and their homes won’t have to strain much over the din of self-absorbed leadership contestants to know that the Liberal Party is still more concerned about their own problems than anyone else’s.

Monday, November 10, 2008


On the very same day its former president warns that the Liberal Party is virtually irrelevant to the majority of Canadians, the Liberal Party sets the price of entry to its leadership contest at an unbelievable $90,000.

Eighty percent higher than it was for the contest that elected Stephane Dion two years ago, the price to get a word in edgewise in the decades old grudge match between Michael Ignatieff and Today's Bob Rae is what your financial advisor might call "dangerously overvalued."

Which brings us back to Stephen LeDrew's point. The affect of the 80% increase is to keep the Hedy Frys and Martha Hall Findlays -- or even people who, God forbid, aren't one of the 77 remaining Liberal MPs -- off the stage.

Despite having called more leadership contests in the past four years than the Conservatives, Bloc and New Democrats combined, the Liberal Party is still struggling to renew itself for 2008. In terms of its fundraising, its membership and its policies, the Liberal machine is still humming the Macarena and fretting that its Tamagotchi may have died overnight.

Guaranteeing that the coming Liberal leadership race is a do-over of debates begun 40 years ago on the campus of the University of Toronto between two head-strong self-aggrandizers is sure to help the party through the relevance problem LeDrew has identified.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McGuinty Liberals credit only Layton’s NDP to help Ontario

Ontario it is said, is the one region of the country that dare not speak its name to the federal government. The symbolic cornerstone of the country and for so long the locus of wealth and population, Ontario has rarely if ever been credible as an aggrieved party in Confederation.

But things are different today. Ontario’s weakening manufacturing sector has dubiously dragged the province into “have not” status under equalization.

So Dwight Duncan is looking for allies. Ontario’s troubles should be on the agenda in Ottawa, he says. Yet he’s not finding help from the governing Conservatives with 51 Ontario MPs, or even the Liberals with 38 MPs, almost exclusively in the GTA.

No, Ontario’s Liberal finance minister credits only Jack Layton’s New Democrats for standing up for Ontario’s manufacturing sector:

"I see a federal Parliament that's ignoring Ontario. I see a federal Parliament that has not addressed the real scenario here in Ontario. I see a federal government that does not get the most important industry."

Praising federal NDP Leader Jack Layton for "having the guts to stand up and tell it like it is," Duncan added he expects more from Liberal and Tory MPs.

Even before the election, Layton has shown leadership on the manufacturing crisis. A New Democratic government would be taking action right now by investing in green technology and infrastructure and helping the transition of the auto sector. Yet the governing Conservatives and official opposition Liberals are invisible on this crisis in the estimation of the Ontario Liberal government.

It’s surely among the reasons the province rewarded Layton with the largest Ontario caucus in the party’s history.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The curse of Bob Rae has been lifted

A second read of Paul Wells’ election post-mortem singles out this detail of interest: all but re-elected in his institutionally-Liberal Toronto Centre riding, the mission of Today’s Bob Rae was to travel the country, presumably on the Liberal central campaign’s dime “to swing some NDP votes back to the Liberals.”

It would be both fair and exceedingly polite to describe Mr. Rae’s mission as a failure. Rather than depressing NDP numbers, the effect of Rae’s campaigning as a Liberal - or perhaps just his not having been a New Democrat - for the first federal election since his disastrous term as Ontario premier, revitalized his former party.

Born of the 2004 election, but carried faithfully ever since, Liberals from the party leadership all the way down to phone canvassers are wedded to the notion that voters who support Jack Layton are doing so solely out of some misplaced dissatisfaction with the Liberals. Like an angered lover, these voters can be wooed back with flowers, and a capable suitor promising to change.

But the NDP-held ridings Rae visited like Halifax all stayed comfortably with Jack Layton. And of the seats he visited in the Liberal desert of the west, like Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar and Burnaby-Douglas, Rae’s mission was to deny the NDP seats the seats it was targeting by handing them to the Conservatives, a perverse feat he accomplished in Saskatoon.

But where the Liberal strategy failed most interestingly is in Ontario.

New Democrats have been on a long climb back from the wreckage the party was left in after Rae’s four years as premier. It was impossible to be a New Democrat in Ontario without being admonished of the Rae government. More than Grant Devine Tories in Saskatchewan, or Glen Clark in BC, or Sponsorship Liberals in Quebec, Bob Rae weighed on the party like lead.

But after dogging the federal party through an incredible five federal elections in the province of Ontario, the hangover from Bob Rae finally broke in this election. Jack Layton’s NDP not only won as many Ontario seats as Ed Broadbent, he surpassed the 1984 highwater mark of 14 by winning more Ontario NDP MPs than ever before: 17 in total.

Futher evidence of the full-recovery of the New Democrats in Ontario are the results in Northern Ontario. If it could be said that any part of the province retained a nostalgia for the Rae years it was here. Yet the Layton New Democrats all but swept the region, keeping Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins and adding long-held Liberal seats like Sudbury, Algoma and the two Thunder Bay ridings.

Among the problems with the Liberals’ anti-NDP strategy were these two: first the false presumption that people who were in Jack Layton’s column were “dying to vote Liberal” and second that New Democrat supporters would be open to an opportunistic appeal from an opportunistic politician whose “curse” had dogged their party for over a decade.

Meanwhile, outside of the GTA, the Liberals won only two Ontario seats. The “curse,” it would appear, has found a new host.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where was this editorial months ago?

… because now this just seems ironic.

“In the campaign's final days, Ms. May shamelessly shilled for the Liberals, pleading with voters to cast ballots for Mr. Dion's party if that would stop the Conservatives from being re-elected. She turned her party into a false front for a competitor, in other words. It was a disgraceful move, one that made fools of all those (such as this editorial board) who argued she should be admitted to the televised debates.”

The Red-Green deal was dirty politics from the word go. Everyone who called it that was right and everyone who said otherwise was either naive or in on it.

Credit goes to these valiant soldiers: Ed Broadbent who from the beginning called it the kind of politics that is as “old as the hills;” Green partisan David Chernushenko who predicted May would turn the party into a Liberal cheerleading squad; Paul Wells, who astutely called May “Dion’s auxiliary backup party leader”; and New Democrats who responded to May’s pleading to be put in the debates by saying “the Liberals already have one leader in the debates.”

This is not to say that all, or even many Greens were in on this. Watching Claude Genest, the deputy leader of the Green Party here, you can see how May and Dion’s endgame maneuvering left a lot of niave Greens flat-footed.

What’s lamentable is how much uncritical time and oxygen was given by the mainstream media to build May up as a independent political player given how obvious her strategic voting scheme was.

The Red-Green deal did not “squeeze” the New Democrats, as it was intended. And it did not even deliver voters to the Liberals. After months of scheming to fatten up the Green Party the Dion Liberals were still too weak and tired to catch it and eat it themselves. The Red-Green deal backfired because once Liberal supporters left their former affiliation, they didn’t want to go back, no matter how much Dion and May begged them to.

This may not be the last we ever hear of “strategic voting,” but it should be.

Political parties owe it to their supporters, candidates, donors and adherents to fight to be heard and to win as many votes as they can based on what they stand for – not for what another party stands for. That’s what Jack Layton and the New Democrats did in this campaign, and Canadians rewarded them for it with near historic support.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Your choice in this election (in 19 seconds)

Still wondering what your choice in this election is all about?

Jack Layton sums it up in a neat 19 seconds ...

On Tuesday vote for a leader you actually believe in, not for one you can only suffer by holding your nose.

Friday, October 10, 2008

May’s strategic voting ploy backfires

So civil war has broken out within the Green Party over Elizabeth May’s attempt to turn her party into an official branch plant of supporters for the Dion Liberals in the final days of the 2008 election.

In the Globe, David Chernushenko, Green Party stalwart and second place finisher to May in the 2006 leadership race has blasted May for telling potential Green voters to vote Liberal instead.

Every candidate deserves to be fairly considered for a vote, and I don't believe in strategic voting and I don't believe that any Green candidate, volunteer or donor should be sold out," Mr. Chernushenko said in a phone interview yesterday.

Asked if that is what he believes Ms. May has done, his answer was yes.

"If you are encouraging people to run and then telling the voter to go, however they feel, and not vote for your party, then, that's not full support for your candidate is it?" he asked.

Chernushenko is absolutely right. Every person who decides to support a party, give money to it, and run as candidates, deserve a leader of that party who fights for every vote and every seat. That’s how our system works.

What May has chosen to do by meeting with Liberal strategists and boosting the Liberal Party is in a word dishonest to voters and to those who joined the Green Party in good faith. In the long run, it breeds precisely the kind of cynicism Greens said they wanted to change.

The good news is, she has been caught out on it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Do-over Dion cracks on television

Unless you have done it yourself – living five weeks on planes, busses and in hotels; being under constant exposure to a pack of 10 to 25 journalists who document your every move; having your every utterance scrutinized; and watching usually in bewilderment as good days turn bad – you can’t really understand what it’s like to run for prime minister.

It’s among the toughest jobs in order to earn Canada’s top job.

What makes it even tougher in 2008 is that the number one issue is the economy. Every one has an immediate stake in what happens next with the markets, interest rates, taxation and jobs – and they all want the politician in front of them to have the answers.

For Stephane Dion today on Halifax CTV, not having the answers on the number one issue wasn't entirely the problem … the problem was that he didn't have the question – not once, but three times ...

After weeks of repeating ad nauseum the same Liberal talking points about having a “plan to have a plan”, is it for real that Dion didn’t get the question put to him twice by the reporter and once by his own staff?

Who knows? But you can be sure of this: the only job tougher than running to be prime minister is being the prime minister.

Stephane Dion is just not the change we need.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peter MacKay frets loss to NDP’s Lorefice

The last week is always the real test of a campaign. All-candidates debates are ancient history, the last piece of literature is out the door, and canvassing is ramping down so that the only real question left is whether or not you have the marks so that if everything goes right, you can win.

In Central Nova, Peter MacKay’s campaign manager has asked himself that question and answered “No. No we don’t” which is why he put out a panicked letter to mobilize supporters – which has now landed in the hands of the media.

The defence minister’s manager writes:

“Despite the national attention, it is my firm conviction (and has been since the Liberals chose not to run a candidate), that the Green Party and Elizabeth may pose no serious threat to Peter. The threat comes from the NDP…”

New Democrat Louise Lorefice is poised to be a giant killer and MacKay knows it.

If this surprises some, including the Ottawa/Toronto media, it shouldn’t. There is the entire layer of provincial politics at play in this riding. The Nova Scotia NDP have a very real stake in ensuring that Central Nova doesn’t stay Conservative. They have a real stake in ensuring that MacKay can’t be a factor in the next provincial election.

In Nova Scotia, the NDP are the official opposition in a minority government. Darrell Dexter, the popular NDP leader is expected to be premier following the next election. But in order to do this, he needs to win in rural ridings like those inside MacKay’s federal seat. That’s why they are putting resources into the fight.

The NDP have a better shot at Central Nova. All they need is less than 40% of the now homeless Liberal vote to come to Lorefice and MacKay will be back to crouching in pasture cuddling his neighbour’s dog full-time! At best, the ill-conceived deal to have Liberals not run against May in Central Nova was only worth only 26% of the vote (coincidentally about the same that May eked out in the London North Centre by-election).

That’s why Dexter’s phone-canvassers and organizers are on the ground to ensure the win and why MacKay’s campaign manager is looking a bit ashen today.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Dion paradox: Attacking Layton by defending Harper on the economy

As the 2008 election nears its final week, Jack Layton is in uncharted territory for New Democrats: gaining support from a strong showing in the debate; holding huge energetic rallies targeted at ridings New Democrats think they can win; watching Harper’s party and leadership numbers slip below their 2006 levels; and tied with the Dion Liberals in popular support.

It’s that last point that has Liberals fretting and increasing their attacks on Layton from ridings like Churchill that Liberals are now fighting to save.

What’s most baffling are the barbs being thrown by Dion at Layton. When Layton talks about Dion, he points to the Liberal record of having kept Harper in power by abstaining on confidence votes for most of the last year. If Dion had had the courage of his convictions, Harper would have been gone long ago, along with his agenda for immigration, the economy and the environment. The differentiation is obvious: Layton is different from Harper because he would oppose him, unlike Dion.

For his part, Dion’s attacks on Layton are to say Layton’s pledge to eliminate Harper’s planned $50 billion in corporate tax cuts is a “job killer”. The differentiation is far less clear: Dion would oppose Layton’s attempt to reverse Harper’s economic policies -- thereby opposing Harper, how?.

If Dion is trying to appeal to the cente-left who like Layton’s strong leadership for the “kitchen table,” he needs a wedge. Inexplicably, the one he has chosen is to rush to the defence of Harper’s corporate tax cuts, thereby demonstrating he’s no different than the PM.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In which Erin Weir calls Harper and Dion's biz tax bluff

If one entertains the view of the Conservative Party / Bay Street establishment and their acolytes in the Fraser and CD Howe Institutes - as well as their new branch plant in the Dion Liberals - the knock against the New Democrats' platform is that Layton's proposal to return corporate rates of tax to where they were only last year is tantamount to shutting down the economy (proving there is sometimes more overacting among the economic right than in a grade 7 production of "Our Town").

So it's a good thing that Erin Weir over at Progressive Economics Forum has written this. In a phrase: "corporate taxes are but one of many factors that influence competitiveness."

Weir is absolutely right of course. Massive corporate giveaways since 2000 have given us the economy we have now: losing jobs, and delivering virtually zero wage growth. It hasn't worked in the US either. So Jack Layton is right -- if participating in a rush to the bottom on corporate taxes hasn't gotten us what we want yet, why keep doing it?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

If people are "dying to vote Liberal", then why today's panic event in Toronto?

Since the beginning of thre campaign, Jack Layton has been holding Saturday rallies in big cities. The televised rally from Vancouver yesterday was by far the biggest and best so far. The visuals were great with candidates and supporters all around energetically waving “Jack Layton - Strong Leader” signs. For his part, Layton looked relaxed and in his element after spending most of that week fighting Harper in BC where the two leaders are neck and neck.

On the other side, there is Stephane Dion, whose campaign frantically tacked on an event in Toronto to their normally low-activity campaign Sundays … that’s right, TORONTO - the city that has been giant red blob on virtually ever elections map since 1993. As CTV’s Graham Richardson reported yesterday:

Jacqueline: With more on why the Libs are "not" taking the day off -- I’m joined by CTV’s Graham Richardson. So Graham, the Liberals have usually been taking Sundays off. Why this event in Toronto tomorrow, all of a sudden? Is it because of what’s happened in the polls?

Graham: [Dion’s campaign] is very different from what you just heard from Jack Layton and different from what Stephen Harper does, gathering partisans around him as a show of force and support. We saw a bit of it last night in London, but generally we're not seeing a lot of that at all. The question is where are the Liberals? Where are they going if they are not coming here? This is the big story in the election campaign. If that Liberal vote is collapsing, where is it going and who is going to get it?


Jacqueline: Based on the latest polls it appears that the NDP are based to form the official opposition based on what we see right now, doesn't it?

Graham: Polls can change and if that happens it would be extraordinary, if Mr. Layton ends up in that seat. We're a long way from that. Clearly if momentum and surges are to be measured, it is not on this bus. Mr. Dion says that people are dying to vote Liberal, he is ignoring polls and he has scrambled to add a Toronto event to shore up what should be the safest place for Liberals in the country, this in Toronto.

Sure, with two whole weeks left to go there is a lot that can happen in the campiaign. But Liberals have cause to be wary. The last time Dion was lagging in the polls, the sollution he came up with was his carbon tax.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Game-changer: Layton's New Democrats enter second place

Readers of the Toronto Star will be surprised to wake this Saturday morning to read that - for the first time in recent history - the New Democrats are now in second place running right behind the Conservatives in this election.

The Angus Reid poll commissioned by the Star found not only that Jack Layton's party is picking up support across the country, but also, as the polling firm's Mario Canseco says, "as the campaign progresses, Layton is really gaining and seen as a much more interesting leader while Dion is struggling badly."

If this trend holds, the election will change fundamentally. Harper will increase his attacks on Layton - even more than what we saw in BC this week. And individual Liberals will continue to distance themselves from Dion, as MPs shift to run essentailly 90 by-elections just to keep the seats they have.

For his part, Layton should continue to make his pitch that is clearly working: Canadians who want real change, and not more of Harper's agenda, should vote for a strong leader and a strong team of New Democrats to deliver that change.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Up, up and away …

It’s old, fuel-inefficient, unreliable and prone to unexpected descent.

The plane the Liberals managed to secure at the last minute for this election - in spite of more than two election scares in recent years - has become something of a metaphor for the campaign Dion is running, or less charitably, the party itself.

So, it's serendipitous timing that that particular Boeing 737 (serial number 21928 LN:603) currently sitting in a garage in Montreal should have had it’s maiden flight today … 29 years ago

Showing they can put common courtesy ahead of politics, the New Democrats have offered this birthday card for the plane which first took to the skies this day in 1979 … when Stephane Dion was only 24 years old.

The old strong and the new dumb

This is a no-brainer: minister makes idiotic wisecracks in the midst of a health crisis he has seemed insensitive to from the start.

Ritz has to go -- if only to restore any sense that Harper has the chops to run a lunch counter, let alone a $260 billion operation like, oh, the Government of Canada.

But that's not how the new dumb and the old strong see it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Game changers: Tories shift to momentum-led New Democrats

Week two of the campaign begins very differently than week one, with the Harperites having decided Jack Layton’s New Democrats are the bigger threat to their re-election than the moribund Dion.

Layton is “beginning to challenge the Liberals as our primary opponent in a number of key areas," a senior Conservative campaign source said Sunday. "Not just during the campaign but in the lead-up to the campaign, the NDP has played the role of the principal opposition to the government while the Liberals were abstaining from votes and retreated in a number of issues, the NDP were standing firm and opposing the government vigorously."

Having the Conservatives focusing more and more on Layton’s growth and potential to grow is a significant game changer for the campaign. While Liberals will welcome not having to defend Dion’s carbon tax from both the governing party as well as from voters, they should worry about beginning to be forgotten so early in the campaign.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Angus Reid: NDP surges into statistical tie behind Harper

Polls are polls and a saavy politician knows not to talk about polls.

But you have to think Jack Layton and NDP candidates must be sorely tempted to talk about this one, which shows for the first time since Dion became leader, the NDP statistically tied for second place right behind Harper.

Fortunately, journalists have no inhibitions about musing on the latest polls, like Mike Duffy did on his show yesterday: "[The] Angus Reid national poll shows the Liberals and the NDP basically tied. Are we seeing a battle shaping up here between Stephane Dion, the wounded leader of the Liberals who has been under attack from even within his own party and the NDP, as to who is going to be the alternative government?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let the back-seat campaigning begin …

… first up, pollster Darrell Bricker who offers this analysis of all the leaders pros and cons today.

To Layton, who is running with both guns a-blazing against Stephen Harper, Bricker confirms that New Democrats are in the right place to pick up support from fromer Liberal voters in Quebec in this election.

In the last paragraph, he offers his free strategic advice:

So Layton should be in Montreal a lot, courting not only francophones but anglophones and allophones as well, he added.

And "he should be going after Liberal voters, not Stephen Harper."

Whaaaaa? In the last election people (mostly those in, or closely associated with the Red Team) boo-hooed because the NDP campaigned against the Liberals – the people who had just been in government. And now in this election, people are already saying “don’t go after the Conservatives -- the people who have just been in government!”


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Do you think it’s easy to put up a website?

Looks like the same people who got Dion’s campaign plane are responsible for this website.

Meanwhile, over at Jack Layton's site ...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Layton takes dead aim at Harper -- ignoring Stephane Who

An interesting bit on the New Democrats' strategy today in the Star:

Jack Layton is ready to talk about all kinds of campaign issues, from affordable medication to smog, but one topic he didn't mention yesterday was Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion.

"If you apply for a job, you don't normally talk about the other applicants," the New Democratic Party leader said yesterday, when asked why he had delivered an entire campaign-style speech without once saying the Liberal leader's name or bringing up his carbon tax.

It will be recalled, of course, that in the last election while they were crusing to their own defeat, Liberals bleated that the NDP was attacking them, not the Conservatives (imagine: criticizing a party for its record in office!). It's a line they have continued to stretch beyond its credibility ever since.

By taking dead aim at Harper, Layton is showing himself the real Harper-fighter as well as denying Liberals someone else to blame for their eventual flame-out when it comes.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Layton's NDP enters campaign with momentum for change

So yesterday, Jack Layton met for half an hour with the PM at 24 Sussex. At the conclusion Layton told reporters that Stephen Harper is set to quit his job -- and that when he does "I intend to apply for his job with a team of New Democrats and a set of ideas that will respond to the real concerns of Canadians."

But even before Harper incredibly inks his own resignation, Canadians are responding to Layton's prime ministerial leadership on their top concerns.
The evidence: Angus Reid's poll out today shows the NDP on an upswing. And sure, one poll is just that, but when you consider that all of the the latest Angus Reid, Ipsos, and Nanos polls have Layton's NDP increasing in support over the past two months, it's tough to argue that momentum isn't with the NDP.
At least for right now, Canadians appear ready to embrace change. Don't let them tell you it can't be done.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

All cuts, no trees

So, who didn't see this coming?

With only days to go before Harper incredibly votes non-confidence in himself and his government, Liberals are still kvetching about Dion's carbon tax.

Imagine: Liberals are finding that they can't sell a $15 billion tax increase that even Dion has admitted might not work to clean the environment.

The most amazing part: Liberal MPs like Wayne Easter aren't saying "make the carbon tax stronger by plowing its revenues back into sollutions like Finland and Sweden does" or even "scrap the tax and focus on a polluter-pays approach like Jack Layton and the premiers".

No, no. Easter is saying he wants more and bigger tax cuts!

One sign of a bad environmental program is when your own MPs are fixated more on what the carbon tax will do to hurt people, than what it won't do to help the environment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The latest from Dion's “Green by Association” Tour

The quickest route to reputation rehabilitation, your publicist will tell you, is association. In other words: be seen with the thing you want to be.

If you are a high school geek, be seen with the cool kids. If you are unethical, be seen at church. If you are Lindsay Lohan, be seen with … anyone who isn’t Lindsay Lohan.

That’s the advice the Dion Liberals are taking too.

Which is in part why whenever they talk about Dion’s carbon tax the first thing they mention the great success that carbon taxes have had in Finland and Sweden – forgetting of course to mention that revenue from carbon taxes in those countries are plowed into green investments, not pointless tax cuts.

But after years of “not getting it done” Dion needs to be seen with people / ideas / or giant power plants that do, which explains this entry in his itinerary today:

"TORONTO _ Itinerary for federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion: tours Enwave John Street Pumping Station, followed by media availability (11 a.m., corner of Rees Street and Bremner Boulevard, behind Rogers Centre)"

For those who don’t know, Enwave uses cool water from the depths of Lake Ontario to cool Toronto buildings instead of less efficient air conditioning. That Dion would want to be associated with this project makes sense. As a common sense local solution that cuts energy consumption and fulfils a need, it’s both brilliant and visionary.

The problem for Dion is, it’s just one of the “common sense local solutions that cuts energy consumption and fulfils a need” pioneered by ... NDP leader Jack Layton. As his official bio says:

"Ten years after work began on the first BBP venture, Robert Kennedy Jr. helped Layton cut the ribbon on its most eye-popping project yet. Engineer Ian Tamblyn had pitched the idea: instead of burning fossil fuels to air-condition buildings, why not use cold water from the bottom of Lake Ontario? Layton convened a series of meetings, chaired an Investigation Group, and his firm conducted the key study integrating the findings for the project proposal. Later, back at City Council, he shepherded the project through the complex approvals process with then-Councillor and current EnWave CEO, Dennis Fotinos. Today, EnWave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system is cheaply and cleanly cooling the equivalent of 100 office buildings in Toronto."

After years of inaction on the environment, when Liberals want to look green, they hug Jack Layton.

Which is kinda why New Democrats say people who want real solutions for the environment should vote for the guy with a solid record of delivering them, instead of the guy standing next to him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guelph: Tories attack Tom King with bogus poll

The Harper Conservatives want to win Guelph. They need to win Guelph. Winning Guelph, the strategy goes, opens up mid-size Ontario cities in the GTA shadows that they need to win in order to keep their minority in the face of loses they know are coming in other parts of the country.

Problem is, they aren’t going to win Guelph and their polling has to show that. With less than 20 days to go, the race is all but decided between Tom King for the NDP and the Liberals who first won the seat back in the days of Consumers Distributing.

So, aside from having Gloria Kovach stage a dramatic rescue of school children from a burning building, while arresting the arsonist, while also paying to personally off-set the carbon emissions of the fire (lets call that Plan B), the Conservatives need to create the impression that Guelph is a fight between them and the Liberals, not Tom King and the Liberals.

Enter, this poll from Allan Bruinooge and KlrVu Research which showed up today appearing to show exactly what the Harper team wants you to think.

If you haven’t heard of KlrVu Research, you are excused. If you have, it’s because you:

A) recall the only other poll KlrVu Research has EVER done. You know, this one from last month which was widely disemboweled by the blogosphere - which contradicted polls from actual firms - to say that the majority of Canadians opposed the Order of Canada for Henry Morgentaller; or

B) you are Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge, and therefore the brother of Allan Bruinooge proprietor of KlrVu Research.

So, the Tory Spin Machine has all their best guns aimed at defeating Tom King and this is what they come up with?

Which is the more shocking consideration, that the Conservatives would stoop to foisting a bogus poll on local and national media to make it look as though the NDP isn’t a factor in Guelph, or that they would do it in such an amateurish way as to be exposed with a simple Google search?

And they run the country. Shudder.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fry’s cooked

Hard to believe it was only a week ago that Hedy Fry went on talk radio and ably discredited the first adjective of Dion’s slogan that his carbon tax is as “simple as it is powerful” (the second adjective having been declared moot by Dion himself).

Coming off this stunning performance, the Liberal MP now has something else to worry about.

The irony is that given Michael Byers’ impressive resume as a scholar and talented commentator on subjects including climate change, Fry would be better served consulting her opponent on the finer points of Dion’s carbon tax, and why it won’t work, than asking the communications people in Dion’s office.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Robert Thibault shoud stay out of serious people's business

After its unfortunate sexist sentiments, and his failure to adequately apologize, the most regrettable part about Liberal MP Robert Thibault's attack on Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, is how unnecessary it was.

That’s right. Instead of stooping to insults and name calling, Thibault should be embarrassed he missed going after LeBreton’s obvious deficiency as a politician.

That of course is simple fact that she's a Senator.

As Stephen Harper's hand-picked emissary in the unelected, unaccountable Senate, LeBreton is in part responsible for wasting $80 million a year on a farce that neither Canadians nor Senators take seriously any longer.

But of course only Jack Layton and the NDP have the courage to point that out. Liberals won't because just like the Tories, they are addicted to having their bag-men (and women) and party strategists fed and housed on grandiose Senate salaries.

So in the absence of substantive criticism, Liberals must stoop to sexist insults that put them in league with the worst of Stephen Harper's gang.

In a related note, is it any wonder people don't know what the Liberals stand for anymore?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dion Liberals lose another

This just in: "Liberals Losing Candidates: Regina candidate added to list."

Gary Oledzki, who according to this article had already started campaigning before his abrupt volte face, follows close on the heels of Robert Morrissey who stepped down as the Grit candidate in the PEI riding held by Joe McGuire since about the time the earth started to cool.

So why are so many Liberal candidates choosing this week to take a pass on running with Team Dion?

Moncton MP Brian Murphy has a guess: "I'm not going to pretend that there is 100 per cent agreement among our electorate that The Green Shift is the best idea to ever come down the pike ... But when we're able to get through to people, there's acknowledgement that it's a thinking-man's position and it's a discussion issue."

Seems at least two Liberal candidates have decided they don't care to think about or discuss it any longer.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton promises $42 million in new investment, not new taxes, for Victoria transit from his cap and trade plan.

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.