Thursday, January 28, 2010

Support growing for New Democrats' call for Senate abolition

The Toronto Star's Bob Hepburn has penned this well-argued piece today in which he aligns with Jack Layton and the New Democrats' long-standing call for the abolition of the unelected, unaccountable Senate.

In it, Hepburn points to the growing political will for this common sense reform that was first put forth by the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) back in the 1930s:

“Support for abolishing the Senate is fairly strong in Canada. Provincial governments in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba favour killing it and it has been NDP policy for a long time. Also, an Angus Reid survey last August found 33 per cent of us back such a move.”

In 2010 should Canadians still be forced to pay $90 million a year for the privilege of mainitinaing the jet-set lifestyles of party hacks parroting the party line while masquerading as legitimate legislators?

Canada's Senate: Don't fill it, kill it! ... and it's about time we got on with it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"I’ll see your proposal, and raise you Ned Franks"

Liberals badly misjudged the public mood against push-button prorogation. Appearing every bit as wedded to the old politics as Harper, Ignatieff declared last week that there should be no limits on the Prime Minister's prerogative to shut down the House of Commons whenever the mood strikes.

New Democrats on the other hand, directly addressed the public’s desire for change with a proposal to limit the prorogation power. The absent Liberal response did not go down well.

So yesterday, Ignatieff backtracked, jumping on the NDP’s bandwagon while exposing their nagging insecurity over the whole matter by suggesting to the media that their 7-point proposal had “trumped” the New Democrats’.

Enter, Ned Franks, Canada’s leading expert on constitutional and parliamentary procedure to take the air out of Ignatieff’s “Keep it Complicated, Professor” approach …

“Franks was not keen on the Liberal proposals, which he found unnecessarily complicated. He said history has shown that there's often good reason to prorogue after only a year or for longer than a month. He preferred the NDP's more straightforward proposal.”

But for his part, Layton has kept to his high-road approach, by welcoming Ignatieff's support and pledging to work with Liberals and the Bloc to put the breaks on future prorogations.

UPDATE: And then there's Coyne ... with a 369 year old word for the cynics.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Conservatives on party allowances: full coffers and empty words

Over at National Post, is this story about Harper’s oft-unhelpful former advisor Tom Flanagan. Flanagan is suggesting that the publicly funded political party allowances that the Conservatives have pretended to hate since November 2008 are now so entrenched in the system as to make them impossible to eliminate.

To prove his point, Flanagan need only look as far as his own party to find irrefutable evidence.

So convinced are the Conservatives that the $1.95 per vote allowance is the stuff of pure evil and “a waste of taxpayer’s dollars,” that they haven’t failed to cash all $40 million worth of these subsidy cheques since they became government. Seriously, has it not occurred to anyone in Harper’s HQ that it’s more than a little absurd to argue against the subsidies while gladly pocketing $2.6 million worth of them every quarter?

It’s not unheard of for parties to willingly disadvantage themselves to in the name of principle. There is no reason why Roy Romanow, Ed Broadbent or any other of a long line of New Democrat politicians shouldn’t have been appointed to the Senate. Past prime ministers have asked them to. Indeed the advantage of having sage NDPers organizing fundraisers and recruiting candidates from their perch in the Senate would be as big an advantage for the party as it is for Liberals and Conservatives. Yet, New Democrats, long opposed to the undemocratic Senate have denied themselves this perk. Indeed Harper’s Reform Party said they were so opposed to MPs pensions that several of them opted out in the 1990s … only to opt back in later.

So, where is this kind of principled opposition when it comes to the Conservatives and the $1.95 subsidy? Seriously, if they are opposed to it, when will they stop cashing the cheques? Until they do, they have zero credibility on the matter and are just playing the same old politics as the Liberals. Until they do, they should stop complaining about something they are as much a party to as any other.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No fair! Liberals were about to call for a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Democracy!

Paul Wells links to Liberals unhappy with their party's most recent example of being inable to stand for anything unless the New Democrats stand for it first.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A ray of hope for our politics: Peggy Nash to return to Parliament

Some welcome news for all Canadians this morning at former New Democrat MP Peggy Nash has announced she will be making her return to the House of Commons.

As the invaluable website reports:

“Nash announced this morning that she will run again in the next election and try to reclaim her Toronto seat of Parkdale – High Park from Liberal M.P. and former leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy, the Pundits' Guide can exclusively report.”

The accomplished and personable Nash narrowly lost her Toronto riding in the last election owing in part to the over-hyped campaign of the disappointing Gerard Kennedy. Sympathy from a dirty tricks campaign in the riding next door buoyed Liberal fortunes as well (Which reminds: cutting brake lines and vandalism are pretty serious charges. Whatever became of those charges? One can’t imagine they were just dropped after the campaign, now were they?)

Nash, who has made history as the first woman to negotiate across from the big three auto makers, will make a strong addition to a House of Commons that now perhaps more than ever is badly in need of strengthening.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Give your Hedz a shake.

Over on her "Hedz Sayz" Facebook page, Hedy Fry, the spelling-challenged Liberal MP has taken the unusual step of doing something. Unfortunately, her latest action since helping Gordon Campbell with his HST is to attack New Democrat Libby Davies who is on a hunger-strike against homelessness.

In assailing Davies, who is unquestionably one of the leading lights on homelessness in Canada, Fry makes the baffling suggestion that New Democrats are responsible for the absence of a national housing program.

Um, just one second, Hedz.

For the record – your record as a matter of fact - it was the Liberals who killed the National Housing Program that New Democrats built with Pierre Trudeau. Don't take this Horse’s words for it, read your own budget:

"Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will phase out its remaining role in social housing except for housing on Indian reserves." - Source: Paul Martin, Minister of Finance, Budget in Brief, 6 March 1996, p. 11

But buried in Fry’s spleen venting is enduring evidence of how little the Liberal Party has changed since Canadians sent them packing four years ago. The demise of Paul Martin’s clumsy and amateurish Liberal government came not at the hands of the New Democrats, as Fry insists. It came from the ballots of millions of Canadians who finally said “enough” to Liberal arrogance and their culture of entitlement.

Four years on, and Liberals at the highest levels still haven’t clued into that simple fact. That kinda says it all.

Liberals respond to prorogation with the same old partisanship

The Ignatieff Liberals have once again poisoned the well of cooperation among opposition parties by putting their tired partisanship first.

The Conservatives never counted on a reaction like this. Weeks after Harper turned off the lights on the House of Commons, not only has the outcry and criticism continued – but it now appears to be snowballing. From Tim Hortons to call-in shows, Canadians – particularly small c-conservatives - are venting their disbelief with how indifferent Harper has become towards our national institutions. Today, a group of academics are weighing in with 200 of them slamming Harper’s heavy handed decision to silence parliament.

Now it’s the opposition’s turn. For their part, the Liberals have decided not to work with the New Democrats and Bloc, but instead have planned to gather in Ottawa to hold hearings with “experts” this month on what House Leader Ralph Goodale calls “an agenda that would guide a future Liberal government”.

It’s so typical that it barely needs mentioning, but yet another national crisis is upon us, and the Liberals have defaulted to deciding that this about them and their nostalgia for government - not the broader public interest. Why on earth would New Democrat or Bloc MPs want to participate in hearings to "guide a future Liberal government”?

But Liberals don't care about that. On their chess board, their entitlement beats every other piece. Just like they did in the coalition period a year ago, Ignatieff has seen the opportunity to work with other opposition parties, but is rejecting that to instead focus on himself and tinkering with his broken political machine.

They are missing the point that it's precisely this hyper-partisanship that has been killing our federal politics. It is this this hyper-partisanship that has gotten us to where we are. It was Harper's own partisanship that resulted in the Conservatives shuttering parliament in the first place. How does Ignatieff responding with even more partisanship help?

It doesn't, which is why more and more, the Liberals aren't the answer to Stephen Harper.

Friday, January 8, 2010

"A culture of cover-up": Prorogation backlash sticks to Harper

Process doesn’t matter.

That’s the conventional wisdom in the Conservative backrooms. The strategists who whisper earnestly into the ear of Stephen Harper believe that Canadians aren’t inclined to remember how we got from A to B, only that “the Conservative government is delivering on B.”

And that’s certainly the lens through which prorogation must have been viewed at the planning stages. The strategic braintrust in the PMO collectively concluded that closing down parliament for more than 60 days would be viewed as a yawner for most. The majority of Canadians could care less about parliamentary procedure, or Harper’s weak-as-dish-water reasoning for it.

Those strategists seem to have miscalculated, as today's Angus Reid poll concludes.

The second prorogation in as many years isn’t the story. Instead, the story is that a majority of Canadians are growing into the perception that the Conservatives are being led by a uncompromising autocrat who routinely puts his political fortunes ahead of the country -- in the current example, engaging in a cover-up over what his government knew about detainee abuse in Afghanistan.

Much like the Liberals' "cluture of entitlement," a "culture of cover-up" is the kind of impression that can stick to a party.