Thursday, January 31, 2008

Layton invites Dion to join NDP opposition to Afghan mission

Jack Layton has a knack for pulling people out of their trenches at the 11th hour to get results. Think back to his surprising NDP Budget and the deal to re-write Harper's lousy "Clean Air Act".

So it shouldn't be unexpected that Layton met directly with Stéphane Dion yesterday to appeal to the Liberal leader to come to the NDP’s position to end the Afghanistan mission.

“Layton spoke briefly to Liberal Leader Stephane Dion outside the Commons to convince him not to support Prime Minister Stephen Harper's efforts to extend the mission beyond its current deadline of 2009.

"Just as Mr. Harper has extended a hand to Mr. Dion for his approach, so too am I extending a hand to Mr. Dion to embrace our approach," Layton during a speech the University of Ottawa on Wednesday evening. "Mr. Dion has some decisions to make and I look forward to a continued dialogue over the coming days and weeks."

As the issue heads to a critical vote in the Commons, Layton and the NDP are pulling at Dion from one corner calling for a changed approach: withdraw from the combat mission and lead a process for peace and stability.

Pulling from the other corner is Stephen Harper and John Manley calling for more of the same – more troops, more military spending, and more time for a mission that even the Manley report acknowledges is worsening.

So, whose side will Dion fall upon? Layton’s line about a “continued dialogue over the coming days and weeks” suggests that he may know before the rest of us.

Developing …

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"I'm beginning to wonder who the leader is.” Liberals go back to "playing dead"

In politics there are sometimes issues that erupt like wildfires. They flare-up seemingly out of nowhere, burn brightly, sucking-up political oxygen, shooting red-hot embers in all directions and imperilling anyone who approaches unequipped. Last year’s “Quebec-as-a-nation” motion is one such example.

But the mission in Afghanistan is not a "sudden" issue at all.

Canada’s involvement goes back seven years and this particular mission got its start with Paul Martin’s government in 2005. In short, there’s no excuse why after all this time and the $3.1 billion price tag that every party shouldn’t be crystal clear about where they stand. But it’s been over a week since the Manley Panel issued their report and the Liberals have yet to take a position.

According to one columnist, that’s because the Manley Panel has become a surrogate for the leadership race which has begun anew in the Liberal ranks.

"Mr. Dion, whose stance is said by one Liberal to be 'closer to Jack Layton than John Manley,' is standing firm on the party's long-held position that the combat mission in Kandahar must end in February, 2009, although he is open to a non-combat role after that date.

He believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper's embrace this week of Mr. Manley's recommendations on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan are "a design for a never-ending mission."

Then, there is foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, who seems to be on all sides of the issue at once, mainly so as not to alienate caucus members ahead of the leadership review he apparently expects if and when Mr. Dion loses the next election. He also talks about 'never-ending missions,' but at the same time accepts the "broad recommendations" of the Manley panel.

Lastly, there is deputy leader Michael Ignatieff, who is said to have moved beyond the February, 2009, commitment, by using the Manley report as a stick to beat the Harper government -- 'a scathing criticism of [the Prime Minister's] leadership,' he said in the House of Commons yesterday -- while, at the same time, backing its main recommendations.

Confused? You will be. "I'm beginning to wonder who the leader is," said one MP."

In Dion’s defence, the Liberals have been divided on this mission forever, with 24 of them having supported Harper’s decision to extend it back in 2006 when Bill Graham was leader.

It's just a symptom of the disease. Without a strong leader to give them direction or a sense of hope that they can win the next election, Liberals can endulge themselves while Harper governs with only the NDP opposing him.

As Chantal Hebert says, the Liberal Party is lacking “the fire in the belly to acquit itself of some of its most basic parliamentary duties. On Monday, the first day back in Parliament after a six-week break, more than 30 Liberal MPs were missing in action for question period. Given the diplomatic, military and political forces at play behind the Manley plan and their own listlessness, the Liberals may be in no shape to do more than roll over and play dead while Harper continues to attend to the nation's business.”

Without leadership, decisions don’t get made. And without decisions you can’t take a position. And without a position (on the central issue of the Harper Government) what’s the point of the Liberal Party other than issuing fundraising letters to pay for leadership conventions? Not sure.

And now for real leadership and real opposition, back to you, Jack Layton.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Canadians for Real NGOs

See, this is just dumb.

No wonder people don't trust Harper and his crew.

(But before the Liberal peanut gallery gets all indignant about phoney third parties parroting the party line, they first should explain their relationship with this, this, and oh yeah, this.)

This also speaks to the rife hypocrisy on accountability within the Harper ranks. The article says:

“Although [Jay] Hill is a member of the cabinet as a secretary of state, [his former staffer turned lobbyist, Josh] McJannett said he was not covered by the cooling-off rule because he worked in Hill's parliamentary office and not as ministerial staff. His move was approved by the ethics commissioner, he said.”

Weak enforcement of weak rules. How is this any more “accountable” than how the Liberals used to do things?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

May’s loose cannon is aimed at Dion’s judgment

As one of the most successful NDP premiers, Roy Romanow knows how to win and how to govern. One of his favourite political axioms is “when you are explaining, you are losing.” (H/T to Buckdog)

In other words, when you are still fixing the finer points of yesterday’s screw-up, you can't talk about what you need to today.
By that measure, Elizabeth May isn’t winning today.

Her foolish drivel equating Canadian soldiers to “Christian Crusaders” has again demonstrated her rhetorical recklessness and sent supporters and candidates fleeing.

But all eyes are now fixed on Stéphane Dion and his decision to bring May onto the Liberal family in the first place. The scheme was cynically designed to give the weakened Red Team an additional piece of ammunition blasting outwards at the NDP. Instead, since March, May’s cannon has been rolling loose inside the Liberal camp and is now aimed squarely at Dion’s judgment in allying with her.

With the Liberals so divided, how much longer can they afford this distracting charade?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Does Dion think Afghanistan is a Holy War?

There are a lot of criticisms against the current Afghanistan mission. The at-times confused report of the Manley Panel even added to them today. The mission lacks criteria to measure progress, a definition of success, and an exit strategy. It’s unbalanced. It lacks broad support in NATO. It lacks support at home.

But until now, one of those criticisms hasn’t been to equate the mission to a holy war “from a Christian/Crusader heritage.” But that’s before Elizabeth May spoke up.

Maybe May meant to say that more non-Western nations need to be involved. Maybe she meant something else entirely. But that’s not what she said. Instead she compared the Canadian Forces to a Caucasian religious army on a war to bring Christendom to the heathens.

This isn’t the first time May has shown simply awful judgment in choosing her words. One need think only of her recent Nazi quip, which she even waded back into in the new year. In politics, the way you say things is sometimes more important than what you are saying. May doesn't seem to grasp that.

No one knows why the Liberals didn’t comment on the Manley report today, but you can bet they wish they had now. Because tomorrow they will have to explain why they don’t agree with their coalition partner’s equating Canada’s army with an ancient Pope's holy warriors.

Reason #892 to abolish the Senate

If we had abolished the Senate long ago, today’s allegations of Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer's outrageous overbilling of a bunch of Roman Catholic nuns would be her own problem, instead of a national shame.

Say, is it too late to add Jaffer to this?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Conacher backs NDP credit card cap

Remember back in the ‘90s, when the banks told us -- via Bob Dylan -- that they were “a’ changin’ ”?

Well, if their reaction to Jack Layton’s call for a cap on credit card interest rates is any indication, they’ve a’ changed back.

The NDP has staked out issues like credit cards, ATM fees and cell phone over-charges precisely because consumers know they are getting shafted by companies who hike fees while profits grow. As their reaction shows, the banks don’t have answers, only denials.

Duff Conacher is in agreement with Layton. Today, the head of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition weighed in saying:

“No corporation has a right to gouge, especially when providing an essential service such as banking or trying to recoup self-caused losses like the banks are suffering from, so the least the Conservative government can do is protect Canadians from being gouged by requiring banks to prove their credit card interest rates and bank charges are fair.”

By denying that there is a problem with 29% interest rates and inexplicable fees, the big banks are right back to their patronizing best. Smug denials and haughty advice to “shop around to find the credit card” that hoses you least may wash with the National Post editorial board, but not consumers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Layton lays out smart, no-nonsense anti-gun plan

Over at CfSR, the allegation du jour against Jack Layton is that his five-point plan to crack down on gun violence is somehow inconsistent.

That's not true at all. Let’s take a look back to the 2006 election, shall we?

It will be recalled that Paul Martin called for a “total ban” on hand guns from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

But Martin’s plan had holes in it that you could fit . . . well, an entire province through. As Martin’s justice minister pointed out, a nation-wide ban held no hope of being enforced if any province didn’t want to enforce it.

Instead, Layton is supporting Toronto Mayor Miller’s call for a ban on handguns in the city -- which would involve federal support for tightening existing restrictions on handgun possession in Toronto. Layton is doing what Martin didn’t: working with jurisdictions who want change, one at a time.

Also, yesterday’s announcement is a full five-point plan which includes strengthening witness protection programs, support for crime prevention, a summit with US leaders on cracking down on gun smuggling, and finally getting Harper to fulfill his promise to fund more cops. The Toronto gun ban is just one element.

But no one should be expecting Liberals to come up with good ideas to fight crime. As Ontario’s Liberal justice minister Michael Bryant pointed out, when it comes to crime, the federal Liberals are “stuck in the summer of love.”

While the Liberals bicker among themselves, the NDP’s putting forward smart solutions.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ah, the times we live in (or the international business press calls Harper "reckless")

So, here's a headline you don't see too often.

Harper the reckless spender, baffled like Don Quixote in the face of the economic downturn -- all the while ignoring warnings that his policy of hemorrhaging the current account may lead Canada back into the red (warnings courtesy of left-wing think tanks, of course).

While Jack Layton is every bit the economic sage, calling for restraint and prudent economic management to protect jobs.

All this on the pages of Bloomberg business press, no less.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Democrat bloggers get their game face on

It’s never been a better time to be a New Democrat -- or as of now, a New Democrat blogger!

As has been widely noted here, here, here, here and here . . . New Democrat bloggers have moved to a new home at New Democrats OnLine, or NDO, as your favourite equine-themed politics blog is taking to calling it.

Not to speak ill of the almost dead, but NDO is both more attractive, and way more interactive than before (the voting feature is a nice add). Three cheers to Ravi and the others for all their hard work.

So whether the next election comes when Stephane Dion finally decides to start acting like an opposition leader, or on Harper's hand-picked date in October 2009, New Dem bloggers will have a shiny new launching point to fight for a Canada that's more about fairness, and less about pod-people and puffins.

Oh, and if you are wondering what that smell is, it’s the rank odour of atrophy over at BloggingTories and LibBlogs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Layton and the NDP are the obvious candidates of change.

Since the election, party polling numbers have been a snore. With the exception of a few blips, including the Liberal leadership race, they have hardly moved in two years.

But the “leadership” numbers (hat tip to Uncorrected Proofs for calling attention to them), are far more fluid and interesting.

Dion’s 20 point drop is massive.

And to add insult, you’ve got Scott Reid (you’ll remember him from such programs as “An Evening with a Paul Martin Government” and “Beer and Popcorn: ‘cause you can’t cram more crow in here”) publicly projecting the insecurity of Liberals with the hope that Dion will inherit the putative momentum of a party with no seats and no prospect of winning one.

Reid is right about this though: if the Barak Obama-style “change” winds start a'blowing in Canada, Dion, a cabinet minister since 1996, is even more sunk than he is now. But how sad is it that the once great "national governing party of Canada" is begging to be administered oxygen through their discredited backroom deal with Elizabeth May?

No, Scott, if the winds of progressive change carry northward it will be the NDP, the party of long-standing anti-status-quo credentials and a program for genuine change for the environment, for democratic reform and for cleaning up Ottawa, who are in the best position to benefit.

Change is what yesterday's NDP leader's summit and today's announcement of Jean-Claude Rocheleau as an NDP candidate in Quebec are all about.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Déjà vu: Fractured and leaderless, Liberals don’t plan to vote out Harper

The Liberal Party is still splintering over Stephane Dion’s disastrous decision to override party democracy in northern Saskatchewan.

The Regina Leader-Post reports today that people in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River are organizing a protest rally this Saturday telling Dion to reverse his decision to appoint the preferred candidate of Liberal godfather-figure Ralph Goodale.

Is it any surprise then that Liberal MPs elsewhere are speculating that Dion will, yet again, find another way to keep Harper in office for even longer?

Paul Steckle says “he doesn't foresee an issue in the near future that will unite opposition parties and topple the Conservative government, however. The parties may not agree with portions of the 2008 budget, but this likely won't be enough to force an election”.

In other words, the Liberals don’t foresee an issue, or a leader, in the near future that will unite them to stand up to Harper’s right wing agenda.

2008 is already starting to look a whole lot like 2007.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Choice: Four years of Stephen Harper or Jack Layton's NDP

Consider this: you go to your favourite restaurant to find the kitchen and wait staff fighting with each other -- hurling insults and occasionally dishes. Would you want to eat there? Probably not.

You go to an auto dealer and everyone there is trying to undercut your salesman -- calling him incompetent and suggesting he’s not giving you a square deal. Are you going to buy a car from them? No way.

For most of us, a precondition of trusting someone is that they are rational and dependable.

That’s the point Angelo Persichilli makes about politics today.

“The Liberals”, he says “have taken the leave of absence from their institutional duty to engage in an internal war, just like the Conservatives in the previous decade.” As a result of their self-indulgent turf war, they are, he says “keeping the government alive, and it is only being in government that keeps the Conservatives together.”

His conclusion:

"It's time for Canadians to make choices. What are the choices available? Well, of the four choices available, Canadians only really have two, the Conservatives and the NDP. The Bloc Quebecois has to be excluded for obvious reasons, and the Liberals have excluded themselves for the time being. That leaves us with the Tories and the NDP."

By abdicating the responsibility of a unified opposition and instead offering life-support to an undeserving Stephen Harper, the Liberals have already side-linded themselves for the next election.

Rather than trusting a party that has put its own petty squabbles (like the Beatty-Orchard affair), and its own survivial (like the numerous times they abstained to keep Harper in office), voters will have the choice of a united and disciplined NDP that stands up for what it believes in.

Persichilli may be the first to say what many more will, in time, conclude.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Liberal Arrogance Watch: Aboriginals decry paternalism in Beatty decree

Aboriginal leaders are comparing Liberals to old style "Indian Agents" for nixing a local nomination process and instead decreeing Joan Beatty their candidate in the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River by-election.

This schism, coming on top of the outrage of David Orchard supporters is once again demonstrating how Dion's weak leadership can't keep the party together.

And it's not like they weren't warned about this.

This latest "Dion Decree" seems like a déjà vu of the Outremont by-election (some bloggers agree) where Dion ignored the wishes of others and pressed ahead with his own appointed candidate.

And even before that, the key lesson from the Liberals' long forgotten renewal process following their 2006 defeat was that after 13 years in power and kissing-up to big money, party members felt isolated. Venerable partisan Tom Axworthy wrote a lengthy report (which has tellingly vanished from their website) urging the party to strike a new relationship to make activists and volunteers feel appreciated.

For a professor, Dion has seems to have the toughest time learning. As a result, the Liberal Party is behaving no different than it did when Canadians rejected it two years ago for its scandal, arrogance and broken promises.

Friday, January 4, 2008

To learn more about where your $650,000 went, call Stephen Harper

Charlie Angus actually had the temerity to do what the ad told him to.

To learn more about why you paid $650,000 for ads that provide no new information, call Stephen Harper at (613) 941-6900.

Hat tip to Accidental Deliberations.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Doomsday Dion: Another Liberal says “no way”

So on the very same day that Jack Layton announces that the NDP is going to run the strongest slate of candidates ever, another Liberal candidate says he’s not running under Dion's banner.

“I have not closed the door on anything. I’m leaving the door wide open” Paul Antle said only moments after having double-bolted and stuck a chair under the knob to the door to running for the Dion Liberals in the next election.

This is another bad sign for the Dion Liberals. Who is going to be with them when they can’t even keep a candidate in an urban Newfoundland seat that they lost by a few thousand votes, where the incumbent is stepping down, and the popular Premier is actively campaigning for people to vote out the Conservatives?

The Dion Liberals just don’t have it together to help Canadians who want to defeat Harper.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NDP to run strongest team of candidates ever

Jack Layton seems to be everywhere. He gave a series of interviews leading up to the holidays. But even through his so-called holidays he was in the news on everything from the political turmoil in Pakistan, to the GST cut.

And with baby New Year not even showing the early signs of diaper rash, Layton is back at it in this interview with the Ottawa Citizen. His message: in 2008 the NDP will be the party for Canadians who want leadership for real change.

Layton also dangled a tantalizing bauble in front of political junkies saying that not only has the party increased its donor base to take on Harper dollar-for-dollar in the election, but the party has readied “the strongest team of candidates we've ever had.”

And as if to make the point further, over here, Thomas Mulcair confidently predicts that the changing dynamic in Quebec will net the NDP between six to 12 seats there.

Layton also tells the Citizen that he's convening a historic summit of NDP leaders from across the country this month including Premier Gary Doer of Manitoba and former Saskatchewan premier Lorne Calvert.

It’s only a few days into 2008, and Layton has already got his party looking more and more like the serious challenger for power.