Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stephen Harper ends 2009 the same way he began it: on the run

Like most things that happen in Ottawa, this had been predicted.

The rumours of prorogation were rampant weeks ago. That’s when the New Democrats put out this release calling 2009 “Stephen Harper’s Year on the Run”. The clever release contains a few examples - like the PM skipping-out of questioning on detainee abuse to attend an apparently urgent photo-op with lacrosse players - that a lot of observers may have forgotten.

With only a total of 141 House sitting days, the first two sessions of Stephen Harper’s second parliament have been among the shortest in Canada’s history. Indeed, one has to go all the way back to Louis St. Laurent’s 1949 parliament to find two opening sessions of shorter duration.

But unlike St. Laurent, Harper is leading a minority parliament. And in this context, Harper has taken to overusing prorogation the same way sports teams are inclined to use up all of their time outs at the end of a losing period – to regroup and hopefully throw the winning team off their momentum.

The irony of course is that once upon a time, Stephen Harper was an avowed defender of the supremacy of parliament. He doted on every way in which the Liberals had weakened the ability of MPs to effectively represent their constituents. He loathed the concentration of power in the Chretien / Martin PMOs. When Chretien moved to prorogue in 2003, then opposition leader Harper blasted:

"What we are also learning once again is that the Liberals apparently want to prorogue the House … They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?'' - Stephen Harper, Canwest News Service, 20 October 2003

But all of that was before 2006 -- before Harper found himself in the Prime Minister’s chair and transformed himself into a power - and prorogation – addict, just like the Liberal leaders he once loathed.

But as we end 2009, there is some good news. Yesterday, Nanos put out their year end leadership numbers which show a larger number of Canadians are turning to the New Democrats’ Jack Layton. Honest, approachable, and the one leader with experience to work across party lines to get results, 2009 has solidified Layton’s position as the anti-Harper.

Happy new year, Canadians.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The narcissism of small Liberal and Tory differences

This kind of thing has become sadly predictable. But, reassuringly, not so predictable that it doesn’t merit the criticism it is receiving.

In fairness, let’s first acknowledge that Canadian politics has always been home to its share of baseless and tasteless attacks. But let’s also accept that recent years have also witnessed a spike in both the number and viciousness of childish political attacks – particularly between the Liberal and Conservative teams.

Who can forget these rhetorical high-points? ...

Conservatives forced to remove image of bird defecating on Liberal leader

Conservatives accuse Liberal MP of bring “anti-Israel”

Liberal MP apologizes for calling Conservative MP “fat”

Liberal MP calls Conservative an “idiot" who should "go back to making tea"

Liberals demand apology for Prime Minister’s slur (Incredibly, Liberals made this their lead in question period for about a week, if memory serves)

So, why has debate between the Liberals and Conservatives become so poisonous that a photo of the PM being gunned down is deemed “okay” by the professional communications staff running the Liberal website?

Consider this: Speaking about student politics at the University of Toronto, the Old Bob Rae once famously opined that “the reason it was so acrimonious and so divisive is because the stakes were just so low.”

In other words, when what you are debating are matters of such small difference – bringing in the HST tomorrow or next week; appointing 17 Senators instead of 18; torture versus “torture-lite” – the tone of the debate becomes the only thing you actually control.

Unlike New Democrats who can put real differences on the table between them and Stephen Harper, Liberals find relief in the ad-hominem. It’s all they have left.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Write Liberal Party Policy

If imitation is the fondest form of flattery, then what is the higher virtue in flagrantly ripping-off someone else’s ideas?

That’s the question being asked about Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s pension reform package today.

The man who haas spent his more productive years chiding hapless undergrads for not properly citing Heidegger ‘s Identität und Differenz has today passed-off as his own a re-tread of the ideas New Democrats have been pushing for months -- if not years.

But rather than throwing Harvard’s plagiarism policy at him, New Dems are instead having a bit of fun at Ignatieff and his top staffer Peter Donolo …


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where were these 28 Liberal MPs?

So this afternoon, Liberal MPs voted with the Harper Conservatives to pass the first stage of their unpopular HST legislation.

And while New Democrats could be counted on to oppose new higher sales taxes on BC and Ontario families, 28 Liberals failed to show up at all!

They didn’t vote with Michael Ignatieff in favour of higher taxes. But they also didn’t defy their leader to vote with up with New Democrats against the tax hike either.

These Liberal MPs - including 16 from BC and Ontario just didn’t show at all. If they don’t believe Ignatieff is right on the HST, shouldn’t they say so? And if so, shouldn’t they vote against it?


Scott Andrews - Avalon
Navdeep Bains - Mississauga—Brampton South (Ontario)
Mauril Bélanger - Ottawa—Vanier (Ontario)
Maurizio Bevilacqua - Vaughan (Ontario)
Gerry Byrne - Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte
Denis Coderre - Bourassa
Stéphane Dion - Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Mark Eyking - Sydney—Victoria
Hedy Fry - Vancouver Centre (BC)
Mark Holland - Ajax—Pickering (Ontario)

Marlene Jennings - Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Jim Karygiannis - Scarborough—Agincourt (Ontario)
Lawrence MacAulay - Cardigan
Gurbax Malhi - Bramalea—Gore—Malton (Ontario)
Keith Martin - Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca (BC)
David McGuinty - Ottawa South (Ontario)
Dan McTeague - Pickering—Scarborough East (Ontario)
Joyce Murray - Vancouver Quadra (BC)
Robert Oliphant - Don Valley West (Ontario)
Massimo Pacetti - Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Bernard Patry - Pierrefonds—Dollard
Yasmin Ratansi - Don Valley East (Ontario)
Geoff Regan - Halifax West
Michael Savage - Dartmouth—Cole Harbour
Mario Silva - Davenport (Ontario)
Michelle Simson - Scarborough Southwest (Ontario)
Paul Szabo - Mississauga South (Ontario)
Bryon Wilfert - Richmond Hill (Ontario)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ignatieff to help pass sales tax hike – rewarded with lame talking points

Never one to miss a chance to appeal to his well-connected friends, Michael Ignatieff announced yesterday that he will be backing Harper’s sales tax shift in Ontario and BC.

Liberal MPs from those two provinces are already greeting the news that they will be voting for higher taxes with predictable enthusiasm.

They are right to be worried. Consider that in the last election Liberals lost 16 MPs from Ontario and 4 MPs from British Columbia just for considering a tax hike. Imagine what it will cost them when they actually help Harper / McGuinty and Campbell bring this tax hike in!

But don't worry! Dalton McGuinty is here to help. In exchange for Liberals offering up their 38 Ontario seats and five BC seats to the New Democrats, McGuinty’s crack communications team has offered panicked Liberal MPs these 14 irrefutably lame talking points:

There, that ought to do it.

Subject: 14 Irrefutable Facts on the HST
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 15:25:58 -0500

14 Irrefutable Facts on the HST

1. We are implementing the largest tax cut package in Ontario history.
2. We are cutting income taxes for 93% of Ontarians starting January 1.
3. 90,000 low income Ontarians will be removed from the tax rolls on January 1.
4. We are cutting taxes for businesses to make them stronger, especially in the manufacturing sector, so they create jobs.
5. These tax reforms will actually cost the government money. $3.4 billion in the first four years alone. The HST is not a "tax grab." Individuals who refer to the HST as a “tax grab” are either playing political games, are uninformed, or they are insulting your intelligence.
6. 130 other jurisdictions have a single sales tax (value-added tax)and none of them have ever reversed it, including the NDP in Nova Scotia.
7. In the Maritimes, they saw a 12% increase in business investment after they brought in the HST.
8. Economists on both the right and left support our tax reforms.
9. Poverty groups and business groups support our tax reforms.
10. The Institute on Ontarios Competitiveness and Prosperity supports our tax reforms.
11. The Conservatives supported the HST just 7 months ago.
12. The Conservatives and NDP do not have a plan to turn the economy around and create jobs.
13. We have a plan that experts say will create 600,000 new jobs.
14. The opposition wont commit to undoing a single tax change in our package.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Horse is in the Running

The worst kind of blogging is blogging that is about blogging.

The very first post here way back set out that there would be none of that in this lonely corner of the internet. There's just too much else going on in the wacky and deadly-serious world of Canadian politics to get all self-referential and navel-relevant.

That said, excuse this tiny exception. Seems some nice soul has nominated BaDH for a Canadian Blog Awards '09, along with some other amazing blogs.

So, um, just sayin' is all.

Now back to regular non-blogging blogging.

Friday, November 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

New Democrats think so …

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

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


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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iffy still re-thinking Thinkers' Conference

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

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

Well, um, here’s this then …

First there was this:

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

Then there was this:

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

And, um, then this:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where’s Iggy?

The Conservative ranks are reeling today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberal sling mud over patronage straight from their own trough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good ship Dono-OLO springs an early leak

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

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

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

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

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

And once again, Liberals only have themselves to blame.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ignatieff fails the better-than-Dion test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ignatieff hits sour note with Canadians: poll

Less than a week on the job and already Peter Donolo’s supernatural powers are at work.

In response to news that Michael Ignatieff has plummeted to a miserable 15% approval rating among Canadians – 11 points below NDP leader Jack Layton - Donolo’s communications team are scrambling to put together their response.

So far, this may be the best they’ve come up with.

Friday, October 30, 2009


What if you held an Economic Action Plan and nobody noticed?

That's kinda what the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been asking. Seems to him you can't talk about what the stimulus is or isn't achieving, or where it is or isn't going (hear that Gerard Kennedy?) unless you can analyse the raw data.

Realizing that "the secretive Conservative Government" was beginning to appear "the paranoid Conservative Government", Harper finally relented by providing the data Page asked for in the paper format preferred by accountants of 40 years ago.

The New Democrats' finance critic zinged the Cons on their retro-style of transparency in question period today:

Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have the ability to secretly record another party's caucus meeting. They can get HD copies of the Prime Minister's audition tape on every government website. They have even found a way to turn Mike Duffy into spam.

However when it comes to providing the parliamentary budget office with details of stimulus funding they are still in the Diefenbaker era.

Does the minister realize that providing boxes containing thousands of pages of untreated information without so much as a synopsis, much less a spread sheet, is less than useless?

Even with all the brain tonic the Conservative front bench had consumed, they weren't able to provide much in the way of an answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hubris or narcissism? You decide.

Especially in light of today’s apocalyptic poll results that show Iggy reaching sub-Dion levels of popularity, no one will deny that Liberals really (like, REALLY) need a pick-me up.

But this is just way too much. He’s just a chief of staff, kids. You’d think Liberals hadn’t just churned through four of them in the past year.

Way to manage expectations, gang.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome to the abattoir, Mr. Donolo

It’s fair to say that Peter Donolo arrives to replace Ian Davey as Ignatieff’s Chief of Staff with expectations on him as high as those that were on … well, Ian Davey.

In recent years the Liberal leader’s office has become something of a political abattoir, as senior staff said to hold great promise one day are disposed of with a shrug the next.

So, in walks Donolo at a time when Liberals, tumbling in the polls, plagued by perpetual integral fights, and directionless on policy are openly asking “what happened to Michael Ignatieff?” In their rush to replace Dion, did they actually make matters worse for themselves?

This part of that Macleans story is telling:

"In March 2005, when Ignatieff, not yet a declared candidate for office, addressed the national Liberal convention, he was all potential. He was touted as another Trudeau—a dashing figure of intellectual vigour. He spoke then of liberalism, social justice, national unity and education. The subjects and themes were not far from what he touts now. Perhaps something has been lost."

It reveals more than Liberals intend that for many of them, the moment they set their sights on Ignatieff as a potential leader was his keynote speech to the 2005 Liberal convention.

Sure, just like then-State Senator Barack Obama, Ignatieff appeared to come out of nowhere with a great speech at a convention. Just like Obama, people began to expect great things of him. And just like with Obama, faced with a devastating election defeat, partisans, through their own despair and nostalgia, hoisted that speech to Churchillian heights to leverage the political future of a relative unknown.

Unfortunately, that’s where the comparisons end and Liberals are forced to face the superficiality of their choice.

While both men gave a fine speech, Ignatieff doesn’t have the benefit of 12 years running for elected office. It’s only been in the last three years that he’s had any experience of being challenged on his positions by ordinary people. Instead Ignatieff has the record of a man who, as a fine intellectual, has taken controversial positions on issues like torture and the invasion of Iraq. A man who has shown every appearance of having no interest in running to be Prime Minister of Canada.

So is it any wonder that within days of challenging Harper to a duel, the party Ignatieff heads disintegrated from its own internal turf battles while Jack Layton walked away as the parliamentary power broker on EI and now pension reform?

Michael Ignatieff’s problem is his lack of experience in politics. Yet he allowed himself to be convinced he was ready to be a party leader – a job he never prepared himself for and is proving inept at.

For its part, the Liberal Party’s problem is cohesiveness. With no consistent policy, and factions within factions posturing for advantage, it is a party that makes no sense unless those factions can be silenced, crushed together and held that way by a force more powerful than its parts.

The un-leader and the party that makes no sense. Welcome to it, Mr. Donolo.

UPDATE: Though with a funnier analogy, Paul Wells reaches the same conclusion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives: Two parties, same problem

How about that. It was only four years ago this month that the inquiry onto the Sponsorship scandal wrapped up its first report. A report that damned the Liberal Party as an institution for its culture of entitlement. For "clear evidence of political involvement" in the sponsorship program. For kickbacks and illegal contributions. For treating public money like their own.

The punch line is that Stephen Harper pledged to be different. He promised to do away with the old politics. But the second he became PM he jettisoned the very principles of accountability that got him there.

Liberals and Conservatives: two parties, same problem ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Voters giving Layton a closer look

While Iffy has had to fight back challenges to his leadership, the New Democrat leader has been making parliament work ... and Canadians like what they see from Jack Layton.

All that, as depicted by the Sun's Sue Dewar:

Are you kidding? Are we back to doing THIS again?

The last time we had political parties walking around town passing-off taxpayer money as if it was their own, it ended with a whole bunch of people going to jail and this guy getting involved.

Oh, and as for you, Gerald Keddy, "I would absolutely do it again," sounds awfully Jean Chretien of you don't you think?
Mr Harper? Alphonso Gagliano on line one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Liberal Party: Making family holidays even more awkward since 2008

Rocco Rossi’s got your back.

That is if you are one of the few Liberal supporters left who would dare to admit as much among family, let alone try to defend Michael Ignatieff’s spectacular flame-out of the past few weeks.

You see, Rocco knows better than most the new damage Ignatieff’s implosion on CBC Radio’s The House this morning was going to inflict on the flagging morale of paid up Liberals. Which explains this blog post in which Rocco writes:

”dinner table discussions are a great opportunity for you to cut through the spin and get to the meat of the matter (so to speak) with family and friends. In other words, don’t let recent headlines put a damper on dinner. Here are three things everyone at the table should know before dessert.”

Like handing a Shamwow to a tsunami survivor, Rocco’s thoughtfully prepared talking points are intended to defend hapless Liberals against even more eye-rolling, finger pointing and high-velocity bun throwing than most holidays, with such winning lines as “polls don’t matter” and “read Michael’s speeches”.

But the saddest part of all isn’t that anyone daft enough to heed Rocco’s advice will be eating their pumpkin pie on the stoop. No, no. It’s that Rocco’s predecessor sent out the exact same advice to party members last Thanksgiving as Liberal leader Stephane Dion was cruising towards the worst election result in Liberal Party history.

Witness ...
Date: 11 October 2008
Subject: Talking Turkey

Dear XXXX,

If you watch TV news programs, you will often see spokespeople advocating on behalf of their political party. Sometimes they will be engaged in one-on-one interviews, other times they are part of a panel discussion, with each party represented.

These spokespeople make use of what we call “talking points” – concise statements on the issues of the day, which they hope will effectively make their case in the debate.

This weekend, millions of Canadians will gather with their families and friends around Thanksgiving dinner tables. If you are one of them, and if your family is anything like mine, the conversation will turn to politics. And like mine, your family probably doesn’t always agree on everything.

So I thought you might like to have your own set of talking points, to help you be a Liberal spokesperson – at your dinner table, at least, if not on a 24-hour news channel. Who knows, though? If you do a good enough job around the dinner table this weekend, you might be ready to sit in on a network news anchor’s roundtable during next Tuesday’s election night coverage.

Have a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving.

Greg Fergus
National Director, Liberal Party of Canada

Er, Happy Thanksgiving, Liberals.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You stay classy, Gerald Keddy.

Fear makes people do strange things.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the Red Bull-fueled ramblings that Nova Scotians woke up to in their Chronicle-Herald this morning.

Rounding out four paragraphs of half-baked accusations against Jack Layton and the NDP, Conservative MP Gerald Keddy charges that New Democrat MPs abstained from the vote to give $1 billion in needed EI improvements for the unemployed last month.

Hmmm. That’s curious. Because the record shows every NDP MP was in their place and voted in favour of the $1 billion at second reading.

Keddy, who on occasion has been known to represent Nova Scotia’s South Shore riding, says he was there. You’d think he would have noticed the New Democrats voting in favour of the bill.

But fear makes people do strange things … like flying off the handle with attacks on your political opponents based on make-believe and fairy tales.

So why is Gerald Keddy afraid?

Likely because his South Shore riding, which looked like this in 2008:

Now looks like this following last spring's provincial election, which swept Darrel Dexter’s NDP to a historic majority government.

You stay classy, Gerald Keddy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Iggy Liberals wrong on human rights

Lately, the Ignatieff Liberals have invested considerable political capital on international affairs. They are banking on Canadians becoming so furious over fellow citizens being left to their own defences abroad, and the country's reputation being tattered and soiled on the world stage that they can transform Ignatieff's "just visiting" into "worldliness" to make him an attractive electoral alternative.

Regardless of what one may think of a advisability of strategy posited on making foreign affairs a vote determining issue, the Liberals have clearly not considered their own vulnerabilities on foreign affairs.

The Star's Linda Diebel points to one such example. In deciding to back the Conservatives controversial free trade deal with Columbia, the Liberals - led by a renowned (albeit badly flawed) human rights scholar - are deliberately glossing over horendous human rights abuses in that country.

Diebel takes issue with Liberal Scott Brison's assertion that "To say that paramilitary forces are murdering union leaders today is false."

Diebel in response:

"don't whitewash the actions of a government led by a president accused by Colombian human rights groups of sanctioning death squad activity when he was governor of Antioquia (where Apartado is located) in order to sell free trade. Rights groups claim workers trying to organize on [Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe's own family ranch were assassinated by the death squads. He is very well-known for his tirades against human rights organizations and the slick operations of his sales team."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Note to “Chainsaw” Kinsella: Keep up the threats - they are really working

Two weeks ago, one-time Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella offered this morale booster for fellow Liberals who dared to offer candid and unflattering details about Iffy’s flagging electoral prospects to the media:

“I intend to find out who you are, little Hill Times source weasel, and I intend to take a chainsaw to your political ambitions, however modest they may be."Warren

But rather than instilling a new sense of pride among the Red Team, “Chainsaw’s” berserk rant appears to have had the opposite effect, as Legions of nameless “weasels” appear to be lining up to air their leader’s soiled laundry:

"The people who thought that the Liberals were an alternative, a substantial number across the country, are saying, 'Well, Jesus, is that what we have for leadership?' [What happened in Outremont] impacts negatively on every Liberal candidate. It's a problem on a much wider scale for the whole party," - The Liberal who did not want to be identified, Hill Times, October 5, 2009

"We're going to hell in a hand basket. This is like the time just before the election of 1988, with [John] Turner," - one Liberal MP who spoke to The Hill Times on condition of anonymity, Hill Times, October 5, 2009

“The MP said Mr. Ignatieff's staff has limited political experience, which is why the dispute with Mr. Coderre was so clumsily handled, and the leader has done a poor job of reaching out to experienced people who know the ridings the party is trying to target.” - one Liberal MP who spoke to The Hill Times, October 5, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Democrats will match your party’s record on fighting sales taxes any day, Mr. Harper.

As the Globe and Mail reports, this week the federal NDP has taken dead aim at Harper’s plan to hike sales taxes in Ontario and BC.

Yet in response to a question from Jack Layton on the HST, Stephen Harper recounted this heart-warming childhood anecdote “when I was a boy, my father used to say that I should work on things that I am good at. The NDP is not good at fighting taxes.”

Well, that ends all that, doesn’t it? Um, no. Not really. Primarily because it’s not true.

Let's review the facts, shall we?

FACT: It was the Conservative Prime Minister who Harper had worked for in the 1980s who introduced the GST. It was New Democrat MPs who voted against it.

FACT: It was the Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan who signed a deal to harmonize that provinces’ provincial sales tax with the GST. It was the New Democrat Premier Roy Romanow who killed that deal dead.

FACT: It is the New Democrat Premier of Nova Scotia who today fulfilled a promise to take the HST off of home heating for families in that province.

FACT: What Jack Layton's NDP are fighting against today is a Conservative Prime Minister’s plan to pay $6 billion to the Ontario and BC Liberal governments so they will agree to hike the federal sales tax by 8% and 7% respectively. The very same Conservative Prime Minister who way back in December 1996 said:

“We need another way. This harmonization of the GST, this tax collusion between provincial and federal Liberal governments, is not the way to reverse the economic decline of this country.”

Far from being “not good at fighting taxes,” it’s been the New Democrats - and only the New Democrats - who have demonstrated the most consistency and courage fighting regressive sales taxes.

It’s a shame that the PM’s pater hadn’t also imparted the virtues of being correct on his doe-eyed progeny.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If he can’t run his own affairs, why should anyone expect Iffy to run a government?

Just when you think the Ignatieff Liberals can’t possibly stumble any further, they find a way to tear the floor out from under them and go crashing down yet another flight of stairs.

First, Ignatieff said EI reform was his top priority. But now that it appears that $1 billion in extra help will happen thanks to Jack Layton, Liberals say they want an election instead.

Iffy bragged he would go to China to fix the relationship Harper had messed up. Then he cancelled that because he wanted an election instead.

Then Iffy said he didn’t want Martin Cauchon to run in the NDP’s Outremont riding. Now he says he does -- and has lost his Quebec lieutenant amid charges that Ignatieff is being manipulated by the party’s base in Toronto.

Now Liberals have had to cancel a much ballyhooed $1.6 million Toronto-area fundraiser because it falls on the same day as their ill-fated vote of non-confidence.

Canadians were told in May that the Liberal Party was more united than it had been in history. Ignatieff along with Alf Apps and Rocco Rossi were the managerial dream team who would make the other parties tremble.

Instead as Jane Taber reports in blistering terms, the Liberal Party under Iffy is the one doing all the trembling -- still favouring its divisions and sorting out which end is up.

And we are supposed to believe these guys are ready for an election … let alone be able to win one? Get real.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More on the “media correction”

Sometimes it happens that the punditocrisy over-indulges on spin. In doing so it loses perspective and with it a certain amount of credibility. It’s easy to do so. Spin is often made to be more interesting than the real story.

When investment advisors and the market pundits on TV oversell a particular stock or fund only to have it bottom out on them the next week they call it “a correction”.

Siminarly, there is something of a “media correction” occurring right now, as pundits and columnists are being reminded – by each other – that they collectively over-bought and over-sold the Liberal party’s spin on the NDP of late. Columnist Ralph Surette makes such a case in the Halifax Herald ...

"The scorn heaped on Layton’s head, mainly by national media pundits, especially those on those TV talk panels, has been gleefully relentless. According to the narrative, Layton, the sanctimonious pinko and prototype of his ilk who was always berating the Liberals for propping up the Tories, is exposed as a hypocrite at last. The guy who piously preached making minority government work but two-facedly voted relentlessly against the Tories, is now back to co-operating because he’s freaked by the prospects of losing seats in an election. How juicy. But second thoughts have kicked in about the worth of Layton and his works, showing that maybe even the media are marginally redeemable. There’s the obvious, of course: that Layton spared the country an election it doesn’t want, and that there will be some improvements to EI."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Layton Unplugged: "It's not about us"

There are times when doing the right thing isn’t enough.

As Lawrence Martin reflected upon intelligently this week, nobody knows this better than New Democrats. Indeed, if political success was measured by how often our political leaders demonstrated sound judgment, New Democrats would be peerless.

However, the party’s decision to support $1 billion in new support for 190,000 unemployed workers has been different. Unlike in the past, the initial canned criticism from the Liberals, the elites, and the punditocrisy has been muted and short-lived. Indeed only the Liberals are still left griping.

The reason: unlike some other decisions the NDP has taken in recent years, the vast majority of the public is already on-side with what Layton and his MPs are doing. What the NDP has done in this instance is another demonstration of what makes Jack Layton the best leader Canadians have at the federal level. Better than any other leader the country has seen in a generation, Layton has a real passion and ability to bring people together to get results. At a time when name-calling, silly games and brinksmanship dominates our politics, genuine pragmatism right now is deserving of respect.

Layton provides some from-the-heart insights into his way of thinking in today’s Star:

In the end, as we debated whether we would support the $1 billion for the unemployed or give Harper the election only he and Ignatieff seem to crave, I kept coming back to the faces of the many people I've met who asked me to help them. For them, the financial support will make a big difference.

I feel anguish right now, but it has nothing to do with the criticism that has been levelled at us. No, it is that we haven't been able to help more hard-working Canadians who are in need. It's going to be a hard, hard winter for far too many of them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Liberals default to backstabbing and infighting

It may be time to update the old joke - something along these lines: “Conservatives come together to drink, New Democrats come together for pamphlets, and Liberals? Liberals come together to beat the living snot out of one another.”

Despite every real piece of evidence showing the contrary the Red Team persists in saying they have never been happier. All the while they are reaching towards Dion-era levels of discord and malice:

Leading Liberals openly praise the NDP and Bloc for crushing Ignatieff’s election strategy.

One-time Liberal strategist
Warren Kinsella goes berserk over “unnamed Liberals” for daring to tell journos that all is not well in La-la-Liberal land.

And now, because they’re getting rather good at it, Liberals are in
open revolt against Ignatieff for decreeing who shouldn’t run in the NDP riding of Outremont.

Less than a month ago, Michael Ignatieff boasted of how the party had turned a corner under his leadership …

“We’re more united than we’ve been in a generation. We’re ready to fight in every riding in the country.”

In less than 22 days, events have completely swamped his boasts of unity. Liberals are now literally on their way to fighting each other in every riding in the country.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Absent-Positioned Professor

It has been a bad week for the Ignatieff Liberal Party.

In a span of seven days, Michael Ignatieff has absented his MPs from ever casting a deciding vote on any matter in the House. Absented the Liberal Party from ever making parliament work for Canadians. And now, most stunningly, absented himself from the obligation to ever have a position on any matter of public policy.

In relation to his inconstant stance on the HST, Ignatieff told reporters that he, as leader of the opposition, “doesn’t have to have a position”. The implication being that if we lowly Canadians ever want to know what Ignatieff would do as Prime Minister, we would have to elect him Prime Minister first. (Fortunately, most aren't that interested.)

As Hill watcher Kady O'Malley rightly concludes:

Really, when you get down to it, it goes to credibility — Ignatieff’s, that is, and not just on the HST, but in general.

Who's got the hidden agenda now, Mr Ignatieff?

Friday, September 18, 2009

EXPOSED: Rift grows over Ignatieff’s puerile election posturing

The whispered suggestion that the Liberal caucus is fracturing over Ignatieff’s “show down” strategy is no longer a whisper.

Sources close to your favourite equine-themed politics blog report that Martha Hall-Findlay, for one, is quite pleased that Ignatieff’s stratagem has failed to produce the threatened election.

Following an Ottawa fete this week for the Hill Times newspaper at one venue, the high-ranked Liberal MP and one-time leadership aspirant, it is said, was heard at Hy’s restaurant praying with colleagues and hangers-on that Ignatieff’s scheme would fall flat.

Attendees to the impromptu after-party report Hall-Findlay telling assembled guests that she was praying there would be no election – loudly thanking the NDP and Bloc for standing up to make parliament work instead.

Shouldn’t the Ignatieff team be concerned that elements in the Bob Rae camp are publicly rejoicing in his first big strategic misstep?

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Jane Taber’s column in today's Globe confirms both the soiree at Hy’s (evidently it was in honour of MH-F’s 50th … er, happy birthday, Martha) as well as their being much rejoicing that the Ignatieff team failed to precipitate an election.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On “propping up” ...

If you go to the store and pay the $1.99 posted for a loaf of bread, are you “propping up” the store or just getting the bread you came for?

Similarly, if the NDP supports the EI reform don't they get something in return ... something called EI reform?

Most would see it that way, but it’s clearly in the interests of some to see it the other way.

It’s not propping up if you get what you came for. It’s not propping up if you make parliament work in the same way that parliaments work in every developed legislature on Earth: through principled pragmatism and collaboration to improve the lives of Canadians.

Jack Layton said it best on Monday: he spent the summer listening to the people for whom an extra five weeks of EI is the difference between losing their home, car and dreams. Not helping them if you can is irresponsible.

There is no parallel to what the Liberals did since the January 2009 budget. Under the questionable leadership of Michael Ignatieff, they passively handed over the votes of their 77 MPs for a shopping cart full of nothing.

Layton's caucus is making parliament work by getting results: $1 billion worth for the unemployed. For their part, the Red Team is buying time for a Liberal leader who still doesn't know what he's doing (see: Iraq, torture, Employment Insurance and Harper's HST on Ontario and BC families).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Say, does this looking like "propping up" to you?

Jack Layton weighs the second election in two years against $1 billion for the unemployed as depicted by the deft eye (and pen) of Globe cartoonist Brian Gable ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If Elizabeth May still mattered ...

... the overwhelming response to this story in the MSM and the alt-media, would be howling cries of hypocrisy based on this ...

But to be fair, it's not that May is entirely irrelevant. Clearly people voted for her and her party in the last election. It's just that her inexplicable antics, propensity for internal scraps and unsubstantiated claims have alienated many of those voters as well as many respected GPC stalwarts.

On that basis, the need to hold her to the same standard of seriousness and consistency as the other leaders is just not there. And in politics, that's as brutal a condemnation as you're likely to get.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Liberals put a man on the moon … and left him there.

Is an accomplishment still an accomplishment if you have to promise you will never, ever do it again? Federal Liberals are saddled with that question today, given John McCallum’s sharp repudiation of his party’s record on fiscal responsibility.

Since the late 1990s, the Liberal Party has hung their vaunted fiscal credibility on one thing: having eliminated the $42 billion deficit left to them by the Mulroney-era Conservatives. No matter what criticism they faced, Liberals could (and continue to) boast that they brought Canada’s fiscal house in order; and for that, we should be grateful.

But as accomplishments go, slaying the deficit the way Jean Chretien and Paul Martin went about it, is roughly equivalent to boasting of having put a man on the moon -- with no way of getting him down.

That’s certainly the way provincial premiers remember it. They (including Today's Bob Rae) remember the federal Liberals unilaterally hacking $25 billion out of transfers for health care, education and welfare beginning with the 1995 budget. Cutting these transfers had catastrophic impacts for provincial budgets which were still struggling from the recession of the early 1990s. The response in many provinces was to reluctantly pass Chretien and Martin's cuts along to hospitals, universities, colleges, and municipalities, who in turn passed the cuts along to patients, students and taxpayers through tuition fee hikes, hallway medicine, co-payment fees, municipal downloading, property tax hikes, and increased homelessness.

Happy to have enjoyed the parade, but ignorant of the mountain of tickertape in their wake, it has been the consequences of their having “slayed the deficit” which Liberals have steadfastly refused to acknowledge.

That is until now. By finally denouncing their having savaged provincial transfers as “a mistake,” Liberals are a decade later, a bit closer to finally recognizing that the way they “brought Canada’s fiscal house in order” was a hollow accomplishment.

As for their promise to never cut provincial funding again? It should sound familiar. Try page 80 of the Liberal Platform that preceded the 1995 budget.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Adding to Iggy's list of failures

So, yesterday Ignatieff told Stephen Harper: "You’ve failed to protect the most vulnerable. You’ve failed to create jobs. You’ve failed to defend our health care. You’ve failed to restore our public finances."

It's all true. But that's because Liberals failed to force him to.

"On probation" turned out to be "on vacation".

Liberals owe it to themselves, and the Canadians they are elected to serve, to examine closely why their strategy to prop Harper up in exchange for nothing but a set of worthless reports and a Blue Ribbon panel with Pierre Pollievre on it was such a failure.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Old Liberal Party

Lost in the coverage of the New Democrats' uber-successful convention in HFX09, is this very strange editorial that appeared in the Toronto Star on Friday.

The most baffling part comes in these concluding lines:

"Lately, the overarching strategy of the federal NDP seems to have been to destroy the Liberal party. To that end, the New Democrats have combined with the Conservatives to defeat Paul Martin's Liberal government (thereby consigning a national daycare program and the Kelowna aboriginal accord to the trash bin) and to demonize Stephane Dion's proposed carbon tax (thereby setting back the cause of containing greenhouse gas emissions).

The chief beneficiaries of this strategy have been not the NDP but Harper's Conservatives. Time for some new thinking, not a new name."

Really? Paul Martin? Are you for real? You mean the guy who was Prime Minister for a couple of weeks four years ago? Is anyone actually lamenting the loss of a guy who spent most of his life aspiring and conspiring for a job that he couldn't make any sense of once he got it? Anyone??

How is it precisely that anyone in the New Democratic Party should be responsible for rehabilitating the tattered memory of what is universally regarded as a hapless Liberal government / leader? Liberals still have their own soul searching to do.

It's rich for Liberals and their messengers at the editorial board of the Toronto Star say others are in need of "new thinking," when it is so clearly they who are living in the past.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

23 is the crassest number

Here’s a hypothetical: Imagine the next time you open your door, a neighborhood kid is there to ask you for money. You’ve seen him before and given before. Only this time there are no candy bars, no magazine subscriptions or even a chance to win a 50/50 draw.

The kid with the weird grin doesn’t know what the school will do with the money. He doesn’t know if it’s to fight a disease or to get a 108 inch flat screen for the teachers’ lounge.

He doesn’t care about that. This isn’t about you or some problem in the world that might need some attention -- it’s about him!

He HAS to win, he exclaims. He has to do better than all the other kids so he can get the awards and get the recognition! And he’s counting on you caring enough about that – about his ego and his bragging rights. So fork it over!

That kid at your door is the summer fundraising pitch from the Liberal Party. It is the crassest of all appeals: “give us cash so we can make our guy the 23rd prime minister in an election we have successfully avoided by propping up Harper over two-dozen times since the last election.”

Compare that to the New Democrats’ Blueprint for Change. It’s a lot easier to move people to donate to something they care about. New Democrats clearly get that. The NDP effort this summer is based on VALUES … getting action on your values, on delivering for everyday people being left behind in the recession.

The letter from party president Anne McGrath talks about the tangible benefits people can count on in the coming weeks when they make a donation to the NDP ... not just Michael Ignatieff's vanity project.

"you’ll help us build the biggest New Democrat campaign in history. This summer, we’ll train more campaign workers and engage more volunteers than ever. And at our Convention in Halifax, we’ll learn from winning New Democrats like Premier Gary Doer and Premier Darrell Dexter as well as key members of Barack Obama’s inner-circle, eager to lend a hand to those standing up for working families."

You heard it from Rocco: “Summer is no time to rest. As the Liberal Party's National Director, I know an election can come at any moment. That's why on July 23, I'll be launching our 'Up the Creek WITH a Paddle' fundraising expedition.”

Wha? Thanks anyway Rocco. We’ll wait for the kid with the chocolate almonds.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Harper v. Ignatieff: The fight for who has the better conservative ideas

At first they won’t admit it. But over time – and usually over drinks – Ottawa Liberals are starting to confess a deep concern that their current leader may be their most right of centre yet -- and that this will have a very real consequence in the next election.

His cosmopolitan and intellectual aura aside, on the environment, the Iraq war, violence as a means to an end and on things ordinary people actualy care about, Ignatieff's opinions are almost indistinguishable from Harper's. New Democrats have already begun to seize on the homogenization with this biting commentary.

Contextually this makes sense. The Liberal Party has been inexorably drifting to the right over the past 25 years. The Chretien-Martin era marked new low point for progressives. The governing Liberals slashed $25 billion from health and education and downloaded it to the provinces, they eliminated the federal role in social housing, they gave tens of billions worth of incentives to the oil and gas sector, they put us into a war in Kandahar without a clear mission, and they pushed through a reactionary anti-terror bill, complete with draconian security certificates. So, it is almost a given that whomever leads them now should necessarily be more individualistic, more laissez faire, more hawkish and less committed to basic notions of fairness than the one previous. Ignatieff fills the bill, and then some.

Another measure is this: the Liberal Party of Trudeau and Pearson was home to some of the most out-spoken, risk-taking progressives of their era -- like Tom Kent, Allan MacEachen, Warren Allmand, Paul Martin Sr., Monique Begin, and Pauline Jewett.

Yet where are these people in today’s Liberal Party? They aren’t there; or if they are there, they are so timid and neutered in a party that equates hacking away at health and education as providing tax “relief” that “social justice” is spoken of with the same mindless monotony as an advertising jingle.

None of this is to say that recent Liberals have not done or promised progressive things. It is just that on balance, the party is far more to the right than it’s ever been. The result is that given the choice of taking a decision favourable to Conservatives or New Democrats, one could safely predict today's Liberals would take the former.

In the desperate days of the 2004 election Paul Martin threw long and declared that Liberals and New Democrats “share the same values”. The snicker-worthy intonation being that if Liberals weren’t Liberals they would be New Democrats.

The move won him votes, but it also won Liberals much more scrutiny of their record by centre left Canadians.

Given the choice of an Ignatieff-led Liberal Party – a party that a month ago agreed to prop up the Conservatives for a 79th time in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to collaborate with Pierre Poilievre on a private members bill – or the New Democrats who are showing in Manitoba and Nova Scotia that progressive parties can govern with their values in 2009, it’s a good bet progressive Canadians will be attracted to the more hopeful choice.

The scrap over who has the better conservative ideas will be fought out by these two men.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Dead Chamber: providing over 142 years of embarassment ...

Oh, it was embarrassing LONG before this. (for a complete list of Senate embarrassments, visit here, courtesy of the NDP).

But thanks Senators, for using words like "embarrassment" and "childish" to describe what goes on in the unelected, undemocratic sandbox you reluctantly attend for 3 or 4 days a week for a tidy $130,000 a year.

Every Prime Minister - Conservative and Liberal - from Sir John A., to Trudeau to Harper have added to the democratic deficit (hey, remember that?) by rejecting change and preferring to let the Senate be. So that today we Canadians are saddled with a $95 million a year embarrassment of Liberal and Conservative Senators patting each other on the back - when they aren’t storing their knives there - and self-important appointees masquerading as legitimate legislators at the public's expense.

During December's crisis, Harper accused other parties of having an undemocratic agenda -- days before he plumped the Dead Chamber with 18 more Conservative has-beens and hangers-on. Deciet, make way for hypocrisy!

For longer than they have been new, the New Democrats have had this right: there is only one solution to the Senate: Let’s get RID of it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Liberals could have sat in cabinet -- instead they will sit with Pierre Poilievre

Every time you see him on TV, it's easy to remember that the only reason Stephen Harper is still prime minister today is because Michael Ignatieff left him there. Given the choice of Liberals governing in a legitimate coalition, or more of the same from Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff voted confidence in the latter.

The book end of Ignatieff's capitulation in January was the one earlier this month, in which Liberals patted their backs bloody boasting that their noble leader forced the Conservatives to agree to a "Blue Ribbon" panel to consider changes to EI for the fall.

Those fonder of reality have rightly pointed out that the "pound of flesh" Ignatieff walked away with was indeed far less than he said he wanted from negotiations: namely, help for the unemployed this summer and a 360 hour rule.

But none of this nonsense will move Liberals off their tales of heroic daring-do.

Well, this should: Harper's appointment to the Conservative chair on the panel? None other than Pierre Poilievre. That's right, the very same Pierre Poilievre whose singular role in the House of Commons and everywhere else has been to enrage Liberals by endlessly hectoring at them with mindless talking points about their leader's plans to raise taxes and his 34 year absence from Canada.

Far less than a victory, naming Poilievre is Harper's oh-so-subtle way of thumbing his nose (if not extending another appendage) at Liberals for playing politics for a week about a summer election they had no intention of forcing.

Well played, Iggy. Well played, indeed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


David Akin evaluates the comparative negotiation skills of Michael Ignatieff against those of Jack Layton:

"In 2005, Jack Layton won $4.6 billion in new investments in housing and transit in exchange for supporting the minority government of Paul Martin.

In 2009, Michael Ignatieff got a working group and an opposition day for supporting the minority government of Stephen Harper."

But it’s actually less than that. In exchange for voting in favour of the Conservatives' estimates on Friday, the Liberals have been given:

a) the opportunity to write a private members' bill on EI with the help of three Conservatives; and

b) An additional opposition day in at the end of September with which they can once again threaten to defeat the government, thereby beginning the ceremonial crying-of-wolf all over.

So, other than Stephen Harper, is anyone actually any better off today than when this soap opera began? Nope.

Even Michael Ignatieff can admit that:

“Let me be clear, we don't have an agreement here. We have an agreement to work hard, professionally, and seriously with top level officials to get a legislative proposal before parliament if we can. I give you no guarantees that we can get there, but I know in my heart I can look unemployed Canadians in the eye today and say I’ve done my darnedest for you.” – Ignatieff, CTV News, 17 June 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Michael Ignatieff is the new Dion

Yesterday's press conference by Michael Ignatieff was contrived by backroom Liberals to thrust their guy into the mold of "Big Time Leadership". The thinking being that if the coverage over the weekend and the remaining five days of this parliamentary session could be shaped by Ignatieff staring down Stephen Harper in a "just watch me" moment, Canadians may begin to visualize the two men as equals and rivals.

But instead of seeing a stand-off, most commentators are still stuck on just how hollow and irrelevant Iggy's press conference was. The result is that no one is saying the name "Ignatieff" in the same breath as Trudeau or JFK. Instead, he's being compared to Stephane Dion - and what's worse, he is coming up wanting:

“Stephane Dion may be gone from a leadership role, but his legacy of hysterical threats followed by ignoble climbdowns lives on, affecting our perception of his successor. This government is terrible, it is horrible, it is an abomination unto God himself – and we are totally going to do something about it, eventually, somewhere down the road, maybe spring-ish. But now we dance!”Scott Feschuck, Maclean’s blog, June 16, 2009

“Dion’s problem was that he had a vision; he just couldn’t find the right words to sell it. Ignatieff has managed to flip things around; time after time, he articulately ties himself into knots trying to get around the fact that he has very little to say.”Adam Radwanski,, June 15, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Premier Darrell Dexter

This, of course, is huge.

The first time a New Democrat government has been formed in Nova Scotia.

The first east of Ontario, and the first time a new party has had a breakthrough into government since 1990.

There will be plenty more firsts to come from Canada's newest government in the days to come.
For now, it’s time to congratulate Nova Scotians for their deliberate choice.

For weeks they were bombarded with baseless attacks about the "reckless" and "risky" New Democrats and warnings of doom, so often from come-from-aways.

Yet 46% of Nova Scotians put that garbage where it belonged to put their trust in the man and the party who had earned it.

Congratulations, Nova Scotia. Congratulations Premier Dexter.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to build a structural deficit (or where will we cut so Suncor can keep another billion?).

This is a no brainer.

At some point - likely with little help for the Conservatives' stimulus - the economy will begin to show signs of stabilizing.

And when it does the knives will truly come out for the $50 billion federal deficit.

You can already hear Ignatieff Liberals chortling that Canadians are dying to give the Red Team another chance to re-live their dubious "glory days" of the 1995-98 era in which they brought down a $42 billion deficit by heroically slaughtering transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social assistance.

Canada has already lost $140 billion in corporate taxes becasue of an unprecedented reduction of the business tax rate from 28.12% in 2001 to 19% today. Incredibly, both the Conservatives and Liberals say they are committed to lowering it a further 4% by 2012!

A cut of that magnitude will cost the federal treasury another $8 billion a year. A hole that size would leave precisely the structural deficit every party says they don't want. This will put health care, the CBC and countless other Canadian institutions on the chopping block. This suits the Tories just fine, but there was a time when Canadains could expect better from the Liberals.

It's like volunteering for a pay cut while you are trying to pay down the mortgage and take care of a sick family member. No sane person would agree to it.

Enter the Harper Conservatives and Ignatieff Liberals.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Note to Chantal Hebert: Read your own paper.

For the past few years, Chantal Hebert’s columns in the Toronto Star have ranked among the better federal political opinion pieces on offer. While not all of her points will be agreed with, her argumentation has been sound.

That’s why her recent twaddle in the key of “Jack Layton is a has-been” is just so disappointing.

Her argument, that Layton “is being squeezed out of a Bloc Québécois-Liberal duel in Quebec” and “is also becoming a mere bystander in a Harper-Ignatieff election battle nationally” is the stuff of a Red Bull fueled imagination.

There is, in fact, zero evidence to suggest Hebert is correct. At all.

In fact, as if to make that very point, today’s Toronto Star also contains a story about this poll.

That’s right, according to a poll commissioned by the same people who employ Hebert, the New Democrats are within the margin of error of exceeding their results from the last election, AND interestingly, are also at an incredible 17 percent in Quebec, up (not down) FIVE percentage points from the 2008 election.

Columns are generally better when they aren’t disproven by the part of the paper that reports news.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Check your stats: NDP has best record of balanced budgets - Gvnt of Canada

Reading this, anyone who knows anything about New Democrat governments would conclude that Janice MacKinnon was either (a) badly misquoted, or (b) the victim of a nasty spill off the turnip truck.

Though threadbare from over-use, the talking points that say “New Democrats equal deficits and profligate spending” are flat wrong. The fact is that since the mid 1980s, New Democrat governments have had the BEST record of balancing budgets of any party on average. The source for such blasphemy? Why, the shysters over at the Federal Department of Finance, of course!

The whole "spend us into deficit" racket is sadly more true of Liberal and Conservative federal and provincial governments. It's something you’d expect MacKinnon to have some familiarity with, given that she was an NDP finance minister responsible for a balanced budget or two herself.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Only 300 ridings left to go ...

Taking a cue from others, this corner of the internet has for some time observed a policy of not commenting on the musings of the leader of the Green Party, nee Liberal Party spokes-thingy.

The point having already been made, and nothing having changed, what’s left to say? But an article in the Owen Sound Sun Times does change things. For the worse ...

Coming off of this week's election in BC which saw Green support tumble 37% from their electoral high, Elizabeth May is now suggesting she’s looking at running in “seven or eight” ridings across the country.

For those keeping score at home, since re-entering electoral politics in 2006, May has now mused about running in no fewer than EIGHT federal ridings:

Central Nova: here

Cape Breton-Canso: “I’d love to be the Member of Parliament for Cape Breton--Canso. That's where my family home is.” – CTV Question Period, January 7, 2007

London North Centre: “I want to be the best MP London-North-Centre has ever had, quite honestly, I want to work really hard for the riding." - London Free Press, October 26, 2006

Sydney-Victoria: "One morning I wake up and think for sure I’m going to run in Cape Breton-Canso . . . Then I think maybe I should run in Sydney-Victoria by the end of the day.” – Halifax Chronicle Herald, February 21, 2007

Ottawa West—Nepean: "I love the idea of running against one of the cabinet ministers of this (Conservative) government. I live not that far away from where (Environment Minister) John Baird's riding is in Ottawa.” - Halifax Chronicle-Herald, January 18, 2007

New Westminster—Coquitlam: “Green Leader Elizabeth May says she would consider running for a seat in a soon-to-be-vacant riding out west but will not make up her mind until a by- election is called.” – Toronto Star, May 11, 2009

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley: “It depends on when and if a byelection is called because if there is a general election first, then there is no byelection opportunities. If a byelection opportunity presented itself, I’d be very interested.” – On running in Bill Casey’s former riding, CBC "Politics with Don Newman", April 28, 2009

And now, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

Honourably in the last three years, May has managed to eke out a shrinking share of the political space talking about the need for politicians to be straight with people. So it’s more than a bit revolting to find her ending her political comeback by packing-up her carpet bags after making this solemn promise to the people of "her riding" ...

Layton to help Obama become America's Tommy Douglas

The history of the fight for universal public medicare in Canada records that opponents to the CCF/NDP's plan in Saskatchewan were backed by US-based health care companies and doctors. In spite of this, Tommy Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd were successful, and Canada is the country it is in large part because of that victory.

So it's fitting that as the Obama White House seeks to make history again by transforming the notorious US health care system into a less costly, fairer, and more universal program, Canadians should return the favour: "Layton to help Obama in health care battle".

Monday, May 11, 2009

Polkaroo is not the only imaginary thing on TVO

People who live outside Ontario will have missed the panel on TVOntario tonight on “The Future of the NDP” which is too bad, because it was some of the more contrived programming ever offered by the basic cable superchannel (and that includes the Today's Special when Jeff's magic hat gets lost at the drycleaners).

Let’s run through:

On one hand there were the detractors: Buzz "Basil" Hargrove (best remembered for musing about running for the Liberal Party in 2008) and self-described radical Judy Rebick. These two firmly of the timeless opinion that New Democrats will only succeed when they sound less like your neighbour and more like hectoring 1970s anti-market crusaders -- Brother Hargrove intoning at one point that calling Employment Insurance “Employment Insurance” was tantamount to giving in to the man (the irony having clearly been lost on the Champion of the Working Class (TM) that it was his old pal and CAW jacket honoureee Paul Martin who changed the name from Unemployment Insurance back in 1995.)

Also on the panel was Globe and Mail columnist Adam Radwanski, who could most charitably be called, oh, cynical about the NDP and Jack Layton.

In the middle of this maelstrom of the imagination was NDP MP Niki Ashton who did a fine job at checking the sur-reality of having her party's obituary read to her by the detractors and occasionally by host Steve Paikin while the party, quite heathily, lives and breathes.

The only thing that appeared to be missing from the program was a ticker giving moment by moment updates about Michael Ignatieff’s feelings about puppies and his childhood crushes.

Come on. We get it. The Liberal Party membership had a new leader forced upon them and are therefore up in the polls from their historic low. Does it necessarily follow that the New Democrats are doomed, let alone even affected by this? No, but that's not stopping TVO from assembling a panel to suggest it.

Funny how the only people saying the New Democrats are down and (almost) out are the same people who say your favourite sports team sucks … non-supporters.