Monday, December 31, 2007

Stephen Harper and the "Quebecois" nation

I was a bit alarmed to read this over at Paul Wells' blog. Stephen Harper apparently has been telling the Quebec media (in La Presse specifically) the following:

“Stephen Harper souhaite que la résolution qui reconnaît les Québécois comme une nation soit incluse dans la Constitution canadienne”

Translation: Stephen Harper hopes that the resolution recognizing the “Québécois” as a nation can be included in the Canadian Constitution!

I didn’t support this when Ignatieff proposed it (too divisive and not what we should be focusing on now), but this is even worse, at least Ignatieff was proposing to recognize Aboriginals at the same time, I seriously doubt Harper would do that.

But my main gripe here is that Ignatieff got hell over this proposal in the English media for weeks with countless editorials slamming it and saying the Liberals would doom themselves if they followed it.

Now when Harper proposes the exact same thing the only English journalist we hear from about this is the French (France) columnist from Macleans?

And people say we have a “Liberal media” in Canada?


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Note to Harper on the isotopes issue

I heard on CBC Radio that Newfoundland has not seen the isotopes they desperately need delivered to them in recent days so they have had to delay over a hundred people scheduled for different procedures that need them. Apparently this is because Air Canada can't make space during this busy holiday season (which I think is appalling), but I have an idea: Mr. Harper is your private jet being used right now? Why not put it to use for the public good of those people in Newfoundland?

Somehow I doubt he will.


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Top 10 Canadian News Stories of 2007

So the year is at its end, so before we ring in 2008 I thought I would chime in with what I thought were the biggest political stories in Canada this year. These are NOT in any particular order they are just the 10 that ranked highest for me. So here goes….
1) The inability of the Conservatives to increase their popularity: After multiple cabinet shuffles, a huge spending budget, huge public relations exercises to to make the government look “Green”, restoring Liberal tax cuts, slashing the GST, record spending on polling with our tax dollars, and numerous other attempts to increase their popularity, the Conservatives at year end appear to be worse off than they were on Election Day. They’ve had control of the agenda for almost two years, the Liberals were in the middle for a leadership race for a year and have had some internal struggles since, yet Harper hasn’t been able to take advantage. This is one of the huge stories of 2007. What will it take? Why can’t Harper gain any new support?

2) The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali: Canada has never fared so badly on the world stage: We were tied for the lead in fossil of the day of awards (and had the most first place finishes), we won the fossil of year award, and has Harper pasted in ads right alongside fellow obstructers Japan and the USA, Baird skipped most meetings and scheduled and Canada was essentially condemned by the head of the UNPCC. Never has Canada been so isolated in its stance on a major issue. When the final declaration was agreed upon even the USA signed on before Canada did (who only did so once Baird realized that Canada and Russia were the only hold-outs). It was simply an absolute disgrace for Canada on the world stage on an issue that is slowly becoming the most important for Canadians. Dion was smart to go to Bali and meet with many dignitaries and show that Canadians don’t actually support the approach Baird brought to Bali and I was impressed by how much blogging he did (http://www.liberal.ca/baliblog) while he was there (unfortunately the media didn’t give much coverage to his blog though).

3) The Afghanistan detainee scandal: Another disgrace for Canada on the world stage. This issue clearly showed the incompetence of the Conservative government (whose stories changed from day to day when this issue broke and ultimately led to Gordon O’Connor being shown the door) and their complete and total disregard for human rights. There are now confirmed reports of torture and all the Conservatives can say in response is to call their critics Taliban lovers. Never mind the fact that Canada has signed the Convention Against Torture that completely condemns torture of prisoners and may possibly be complicit breaking international law. It’s a disgrace plain and simple and Harper and Co should really be taking it more seriously because Canada’s reputation is at stake and if our soldiers get captured at some point we don’t want to give the Taliban license to torture (this is the same argument used by ultra Liberal John McCain by the way). It’s issues like this that show the true colours of this government and I think play a role in why they can’t get themselves anywhere beyond 2006 numbers in the polls for long.

4) The Elizabeth May-Dion deal: Praised and panned by different sides, but I think the fact that the Greens still sit at about 10-12% in most polls and that they got 8% in the Ontario election (with a leader no one had heard of) shows that the environment remains a key issue for many voters and come election time it will be very important to have Elizabeth May campaigning on the idea that Stephane Dion needs to be our Prime Minister. At the least a lot of parked Green votes have a good chance to go Liberal rather than NDP because of this deal and other potential Green candidates have flipped to the Liberals as a result. While it’s nice to run candidates in all 308 ridings, I think this deal will be an easy net win for the Liberals in the long-run.

5) The Quebec by-elections (Sept 17): I think the reaction to them was overblown in both the media and the Liberal party, but they still had an impact. They gave the Conservatives and NDP something to crow about with wins in Roberval and Outremont and sent some very short-sighted Liberals into a huge panic. I think those by-elections also contributed to Dion shaking up his office and bringing in some really good people who will help in the long run. They’ve also contributed to Layton’s ego and his deluded perceptions that he will actually be head of the official opposition (“surely we’ll budge from 15-17% in the polls sometime!”). Also the good side they were a blow to the Bloc. I still think there was huge over-reaction, as the Liberal vote stayed about the same as where it was in 2006 in those ridings, but it was an undeniable first defeat for Dion and I think he’s learned a lot from it and that’s why I think in part the Liberals are in much better shape now from an organizational standpoint as well as in the polls from where they were then.

6) The Ontario election: This was definitely fun to blog about at the time. Stephen Harper clearly wanted Dalton McGuinty out (why else would he attend a PC fundraiser and introduce John Tory as the next Premier of Ontario?), but instead Dalton cleaned house. The media had thought McGuinty would win a minority at best and might even lose to the “charismatic genius” of John Tory. Boy were they wrong. This election brought funding of religious schools in Ontario to the forefront and showed quite clearly that this was not a direction we wanted to go down in Ontario and John Tory clearly hung himself on this issue and had an even worse showing than Ernie Eves! The man even lost his own seat! He sure was the political master the media made him out to be. He focused the entire campaign on himself (everyone was a “John Tory candidate”) and in the end people didn’t like the John Tory they saw. McGuinty by contrast focused on all the right issues and framed himself well as the defender of the public interest versus John Tory as a defender of private interests. Dalton deserved another majority and I was glad to see he got it. In the end it shows that Ontario is still solidly Liberal and almost all of those Provincial Liberals who got elected will be out campaigning for the Dion led Liberals when the next federal election comes.

7) The Quebec election: What happens in Quebec always is of concern to the rest of Canada so there were many eyes on this one earlier this year. Jean Charest looked like he had returned from the dead and might be able to pull off another majority, but he didn’t live up to his legend of being the master campaigner and managed to pretty much kill much of the credibility behind the fiscal imbalance claims coming out of Quebec by turning Harper’s “fiscal imbalance fix” into massive tax cuts (thus making other Canadians pay to try to win Charest the election). It didn’t go over well. Unfortunately, this election also saw the rise of Mario Dumont and his somewhat bigoted stance on reasonable accommodation. Thankfully though it also saw the crushing defeat of the separatists. In the end now there is little to no threat of separation on the rise because of this election, as the new PQ leader basically pledged to not hold a referendum. So that’s good news for Canada. Also I’m glad to see the Dumont bandwagon has seemingly come to pass and he is now back in 3rd place. Good riddance because his attitude towards immigrants is something we really need a lot of less of in Canada. Anyways this election helped to change the landscape a little at the federal level as with the separatist threat gone for the foreseeable future it takes away a trump card Dion might have had from his days as unity minister when he took the fight to the separatists in a big way. Some people called it a win for Harper, but it seemed that Charest was really Harper’s boy and he didn’t win his majority so Harper did get the complete victory he sought to buy with his budget. Even so, Harper seems to be banking on Dumont a little more these days based on his meeting with him a few weeks ago, but he may yet regret that as 2008 may see Dumont go back to his 2007 poll numbers when nobody serious thought he could be Premier.

8) Canada’s backsliding on human rights: Ok so this somewhat overlaps with the detainee scandal, but this is an issue that hasn’t received enough coverage I feel form the media but yet I think was a huge story of 2007. Canada up until now was seen as a world leader on human rights and there have been several troubling new directions this government has taken us in that greatly threatening that reputation:
- Cozying up to Columbia (which has a terrible human rights record) on free trade
- Praising Barrick Gold (a mining company which has been cited for treating its workers extremely poorly and for multiple human rights abuses) while ignoring all the allegations against them and the complete lack of interest in enforcing standards for Canadian mining companies operating abroad
- Withdrawing Canadian support for the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people
- The shocking lack of concern for the possible torture of prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers (whom if actually tortured might make Canada complicit in breaking international law)
- Being the ONLY western country in the world that supports Guantanamo Bay and that has refused to lobby to have its citizens stand trial (even Harper’s ideological soulmate John Howard lobbied to bring his citizens home to stand trial and those people have now served their time in prison).
- Essentially endorsing the use of the death penalty by refusing to appeal for clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty in the U.S. and withdrawing Canadian sponsorship for a motion at the UN to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

Amnesty International even put out a report a few weeks ago noting that Canada has gone from leader to laggard on human rights. Meanwhile Peter Van Loan has the nerve to say this Government is “second to none” in the world on human rights? That’s one of the biggest flat out lies I’ve ever heard from this government. I hope this becomes a real issue in the next federal election, because it really should.

9) The scandal-plagued RCMP: From the pension scandal, Air India fumblings, continuing fall-out over the O’Conner report on Maher Arar (I know that was the fall of 2006, but close enough), the appalling handling of the taser scandal and so many more embarrassing stories, this year has not been kind the Mounties. It is increasingly clear they definitely need a substantial overhaul and hopefully that starts to happen in 2008.

10) Mulroney-Schreiber: This story I think will still be an important one is 2008, but Harper’s handling of it is as much of a story as Mulroney’s bizarre explanations for his behavior. First Harper was so full of bravado that he wouldn’t call and inquiry or do anything about this issue and slowly, as allegations came out, he folded like a deck of cards. The whole thing completely knocked Harper off his game and he went from confident to scattered and unable to control the agenda.

There remain serious issues here though with Harper’s handling of this as his office had been sent multiple letters spelling out serious allegations about Mulroney. Why did he only start listening to idea of an inquiry when these very same allegations showed up in the Globe and Mail? Harper has been advised closely by Mulroney for a few years now so I do think there’s a real chance that he may been have covering for him until he no longer could. Either way this story has been bad news for Harper and as he so thoroughly embraced Mulroney in the past few years, so he should still have to wear anything that sticks to Mulroney.

Mulroney’s appearance before the House ethics committee itself was a joke: with his claims of safety deposit boxes everywhere, that he would have liked a cheque instead of cash (if that’s the case wouldn’t that cheque had to have been deposited at a bank? Well then why not put the cash in a bank?), that all that money from Shreiber was all for expenses (but he has no receipts to back that up) and for some odd reason he wanted to claim it all as income so he could pay more taxes, that all the people he lobbied internationally happen to be dead and that he doesn’t think Schreiber had anything to do with bringing down Joe Clark (which ultimately led to Mulroney coming to power) all don’t pass the smell test so there really is a need to hold a full public inquiry to look at all this. In the end this touches on the integrity of the PM’s office and will be something to watch in the New Year, though a lot will depend on the terms of reference that David Johnson recommends on January 11th.

The isotopes fiasco was also big news, but we don't yet know all the details around it and just how incompetent the government really was in handling it. For now though the isotopes are hopefully being delivered to where they needed (except Newfoundland), but the situation/shortage I think could have been prevented, but maybe we'll know more in the new year.

So there you have it. Feel free to chime in on what issues you think should have made my list….


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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Some lessons and horror stories from an experienced traveler

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and/or (if you don’t celebrate) is otherwise enjoying the holiday season. Myself I almost never made it home to be with my family for the holidays! So I thought I would sure some lessons I learned earlier this week.

This past week I was spending some time in Champaign, Illinois. It is a university town (the University of Illinois there is about the size of the University of Toronto) about two hours outside Chicago. I flew on Air Miles, and as it was the same amount of points to fly directly to Champaign as it was to fly to Chicago (and then just take the bus from Chicago to Champaign) as I usually do, I opted for the Champaign via Chicago flight option to get the most bang for my hard earned points. The added bonus was that it would also easily save me at least two hours in travel time (it’s only a 45 minute flight from Chicago to Champaign and the lay-over is usually only an hour or two at most) and definitely get me in Champaign much earlier (as I wouldn’t have to go into downtown Chicago and then wait a couple hours for the Greyhound that takes another 2.5 hours to Champaign)..I know O’Hare has a nasty record as an airport: busy, congested, flight delays and cancellations all the time. Recently I heard they also laid off a bunch of employees which has also caused delays. But alas, O’Hare didn’t cause me near as many problems, as did Willard Airport in Champaign! In total, it took seven, yes SEVEN flights (there were six earlier flights I was scheduled on, all CANCELLED!) to get me back home finally over 2 days later than I had planned. I didn’t even end up leaving flying from Champaign in order to assure my return home for Christmas. As I vent some highlights of my journey to you, I’ll give you some pointers I learned from this winter experience. In the end, my seventh flight was 2.5 h delayed (from O’Hare) but I got home in time for the family time, which was much relief after a lot of hassles. Anyways this isn't the first time I've experienced such hassles and probably won't be the last, so I thought I would share some lessons with you all that I've learned for my travelling experiences.





1) When it’s a mechanical issue, as it was the first time I was supposed to fly, air line companies are very nice and try to do whatever they can. We were offered hotels, shuttles to O’Hare, taxi rides back to the city, and if possible, the option to fly on other airlines that would get us to our destination.



2) When your flight cancellation or delay is due to weather (as it was the next four times), airlines do nothing for you. It’s not your fault you can’t get on the plane, but it’s not theirs either they say! This time, those of us in this situation were offered nothing, no taxis, shuttles, hotels or other flights. We were on our own. I complained that the whole reason why I was there was due to the previous day’s cancellation which was due to mechanical issues, and that they should have at least made me come out even by paying for my taxis to and from the airport. When I proved to them that I had not enough money to pay for my own cab back into town, they broke the ‘rules’ and gave me my taxi. However, I highly doubt if I had needed a hotel they would have covered this.



3) On my sixth attempt, I was bumped from my flight. The issue: “Not enough fuel” to support the amount of weight of the people and their luggage that were booked for the flight. People were asked to volunteer and go on the next flight for a $250 flight voucher. I was bumped because I was one of the last people to check in. I explained to them that I booked my taxi from the company that they have a contract with (they only gave me vouchers for that one so I had no choice), and that I was supposed to be there much earlier. The reason for my late check in then thought was that my taxi shuttle decided (to save money most likely) to combine my pick up with the pilot’s pick up and we just happened to be on the opposite side of town. If not for the pilot/stewardess pick up I would have easily been one of the people on the flight. So again, I blame this on them and their choice of shuttle contractor.As I informed them that this was my sixth flight being cancelled, it was pretty petty for them to bump me knowing I would show up, and that they were not intending to offer me anything for my bump except to put me on the next flight out. They wouldn’t even give me the option of taking a $250 flight voucher that they were offering to other “volunteers” because I was apparently a late check in and that they thought that them putting me on the next flight going was compensation enough.

I certainly didn’t even want to chance waiting for the next flight out of Champaign, as the weather was very moody that day (which is also why no one else volunteered to give up their seat). So after ranting about all this, they gave me a $250 flight voucher and paid a direct shuttle to O’Hare ($50 US), as I knew flights were still more capable to leave from there than were the small regional planes from Champaign (the Chicago-Toronto plane is always at least 3-4 times bigger than the Champaign-Chicago planes). So eventually I got to O’Hare but just to go with the trend of how things went the past couple days, my flight there was delayed 2.5 hours so I didn’t get to Toronto till 2 AM on Dec. 23rd (The original bookings before all the cancellations was to get in at 8 PM on Dec. 20th).



FYI: If not enough people ‘volunteer’ to give up their seat when it is asked for $250, the randomly selected people will only be given $100. So in good weather when you know the next flight will make it out, I say go for it. In my case, the weather for anyone to volunteer was too risky after so many flights for the previous days were cancelled.



4) If you are flying on a small plane or to a small regional airport such as Champaign, then don't be surprised if even minor weather problems (e.g., a bit of fog or light snow) cancels your flight. If you really need to get home in a hurry, have a back-up plan in place for how you can get to the place where your flight connects. If there is a shuttle service to get you there, then try as hard as you can to get the airline that cancelled your flight to pay for it to take you there in time for your next flight.



5) From my limited experience with two shuttle rides with pilots and stewardesses, any stereotypes might just have a grain of truth to them. I was shocked to hear the stories that they were talking about. I was surprised they were so freely speaking with a passenger in the shuttle wit them. I later found that they thought I was a stewardess with another company and that was why they were so ‘unprofessional’. The pilot, upon learning this, apologized for his candour.



6) After check in, you can only go on stand by for an earlier flight if a) you have all your baggage with you (no checked luggage) and/or b) if you make your standby request well over 40 minutes before the flight you want is scheduled to board (so they can try to change your bags to the earlier flight).



7) In addition to mechanical problems, other times that airlines will be nice to you is when it involves such issues as fuel and weight and when the flight has been over booked.



8) Going further back in time, I was also on a previous flight which demanded to take my laptop bag from me at the entrance door to the plane (along with several other passenger’s carry on bags). I presumed because they were going to store the carry on luggage in a designated area in the plane as it was a much smaller plane and there was no room for my carry-on. When I got off the plane, I realized they had put the carry on luggage right beside the door. I felt compelled to check my laptop: yes it was smashed. I later learned that due to the size of the plane, they put people’s carry on items below. I was told I was out of luck because it was an electronic item, and if it were clothes etc lost or damaged, they would have covered it. I persisted as I was shocked they would do this for what obviously was an expensive laptop. The big airline didn’t take responsibility, as they sub-contracted other airlines to fly for them on regional routes (like out of Champaign like this particularly flight was). I was then informed I should have taken out all items in my bag and held them in my lap for the flight. Right, thanks for the head up after the flight. Makes me wonder how much other stuff from other people got damaged (as I wasn’t the only one who’s laptop bag was taken and put below). Three months later, after a lot of frustration and persistence, I got a cheque for the repairs of my laptop from the sub-contracted airline.



FYI: Demand on keeping all personal breakable items with you. If you did have something valuable checked under the plane and you have a connecting flight, check the condition of it (things checked under the plane at boarding rather than at the ticket couner get given to you right when get off) before you board your next flight. You need to know when the damage occurred so you know which plane (and which company) to blame (as the American Airlines have several sub-contracted planes).



9) You can bring more than the 3 ounce limit of liquid with you on a flight. But only if you need it (e.g., medication or things such as Pepto-Bismol).



10) If you book on points (Aeroplan, Air Miles, etc…) and miss your flight, they will almost always set you up with the next flight free or charge or points.


11) If you are going to the U.S. for an extended stay (like more than a week) on a one-way ticket, make sure you buy your return ticket BEFORE you leave. Otherwise, U.S. customs officials will take your fingerprints and photograph and treat you like a criminal and extensively interrograte you and refuse to accept all rational explanations (having a 12 month lease, a full-time job, etc..) as to why you will obviously still be returning to Canada). If you don't comply they won't let you fly period. I would say these guys have been given too much power to do whatever they want since 9/11 (technically finger prints should not be required of Canadian citizens travelling to the U.S. unless they are registered students over there or work there under a green card), but save yourself the hassles, just make sure you don't travel one-way to the U.S. without a ticket back already purchased.


If I remember any others, I’ll update this post.

Stay tuned for a year-end blogging bonanza of posts over the next 2-3 days as I get back into more regular blogging habits again.


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

NDP Following Conservatives Lead in Ousting Candidates

So when the Conservatives ousted their elected candidates Mark Warner in Toronto Centre and Brent Barr in Guelph for not being "team players" Jack Layton decries this as anti-democratic and being due to the close-mindedness of the Conservatives for not letting their candidates talk about important issues.

And when Jack Layton and his NDP do the same thing?

"Federal NDP leader Jack Layton was not available for comment Saturday but said in a statement he supports the committee's decision to “withdraw certain candidates.”
He called the committee “democratic” and said it must make decisions in the best interests of the party."


I see....

The NDP sure is the party of the grassroots it claims to be isn't it?


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mulroney's twistic logic

Mulroney from this morning: "... my biggest mistake in life, by far, was ever agreeing to be introduced to Karlheinz Schreiber in the first place."

The ethics committee really should have followed up with this:
Given that there are serious questions about whether Shreiber paid for a huge number delegates to go to the PC convention that brought down Joe Clark and ultimately lead to you being leader (and then PM), is it not possible that Shreiber played a small part in helping you becoming Prime Minister?

Is becoming Prime Minister another of Mulroney's "mistakes" that he regrets? I wonder...


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And the big news is...

Well the big news may not be as dramatic as I had predicted, but it is quite groundbreaking. For what may be the first time, a big time national politician (and future state leader) is himself blogging on a major world event that he is participating in. This I believe shows what type of person Dion is, as you'll be able to read his own words and thoughts without any interpretations by third parties. He'll get to go straight to the people. It also shows his 'hip-ness' as he embraces and welcomes new forms of media to get his message across to Canadians, and the world (unlike Harper's anti-media approach). I strongly doubt Harper would attempt anything similar - and rest assured what he would say would be fluff and by a staffer.

To read Dion's Bali blog, please visit:
http://www.liberal.ca/baliblog

I'm definitely looking forward to getting all the details directly from the horse's mouth on all the goings out in Bali. I also hope he keeps it up when he returns.

Talk to you all again in a week's time when this semester is done (unless of course something else huge emerges to distract me).


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BIG NEWS (Bali?!)

Well I'm up to my ears in essay writing and marking papers, but speculation is that some huge news is forthcoming this afternoon dealing with Canadian politics that warrants some attention.
What could it be??

Here are my guesses, thus far:

-John Baird kicked out of climate negotiations at Bali, Dion steps in to represent Canada, much to the appreciation of other states
-Baird formally walks away from negotiations in Bali, Dion steps in
-Baird (and by extension Harper) is put to shame by Dion on climate creativity and Dion steals the show
-Dion finds an accepted solution by states to global warming - we're saved!
-Baird refuses to meet with reporters (not so big surprise), Dion does, and Baird is then ignored as he is seen as the bigger leader
-Dion is a cool popular kid at Bali among other states, Baird left in the corner to himself, Harper and Baird jealous

I'm excited to hear what the deets are, but I hope they will live up to my expectations!!!


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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Harper’s world allies down to one

This could not have made Mr. Harper very happy. Australians have just given the boot to one of Harper’s biggest allies. After all, Mr. Howard was the first major foreign dignitary Harper invited to address the House of Commons and it’s well-known that Harper was even advised by Howard on election strategy. Just take a look at the Liberal Party press release on this and I think you’ll see that the new Australian PM doesn’t exactly share the same world view as our Conservative Government (something tells me there won’t be anything nearly as glowing coming from the mouth of Mr. Harper).

This is nowhere more true that on the environment. While Australia joins the Western world consensus on Kyoto, Canada moves away. While Harper blocks progress on the environment on the world stage, he will now find there is essentially no one in the Western world (except George Bush) to back him up.

How can you say you are “leading the world” when no one agrees with you? Care to answer that Mr. Harper?

Canadians want their country to be leading the way on issues such as human rights and the environment. Harper continues to take us backward instead. No independent group and now no other Western nation (except the U.S. who’s President who long ago reached lame duck status) thinks he’s doing a good job on these issues.

He’s certainly on pace with his track record to meet the same fate as his good friend Howard once his record goes under the microscope in the next election campaign.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

People Came for Trudeau, but Will Return for Banham

Monday night, federal Liberal Hamilton-Mountain candidate Tyler Banham hosted a town hall event. His guest of honour to respond to issues was Justin Trudeau, and I’d also include the Greek community who also served as very good hosts.

Quite honestly and obviously, most people came to catch a glimpse and get a photo with Justin Trudeau, who cannot avoid comparisons to his father and is beginning to work up a lot of fan fare. He definitely has a lot on his shoulders with high impressions to meet, and I think given the chance he definitely proves himself to be a candidate worthy to keep an eye on for the future. His ‘newness’ to politics, (and smile) is also what makes him a refreshing and approachable person. He is an idealist Liberal who hasn’t been burned by anything yet and with his background, he has a lot of reason to be an idealist. I think Justin is using his ‘star quality’ as well to expose himself to as many situations as possible to improve himself as a politician, and you can’t criticize that. The people at the town hall event definitely left satisfied with their expectations on Trudeau.

While the town hall attendees were definitely impressed with Trudeau, I think the real person who came out shining from the event was local Tyler Banham. This event gathered him a lot of exposure, and with a looming election, it’s never too soon for him to be getting out or too much exposure is probably a good thing for him. Furthermore, Banham I think impressed a lot of people with his ideas, but more importantly, he showed his ability to grasp and understand the issues of Hamilton for Hamiltonians. This is the number one thing people want in a representative, a representative who will act in their interests and an informed way. I learned for the first time that Banham is a life long Hamiltonian resident, which may explain his knowledge of Hamilton. Banham proposed that if he’s elected he would hold a minimum of 10 town halls a year for the electorate to meet with him, to discuss what they want and give him any constructive criticism. I think this proposal is excellent. It takes a lot of guts to do town halls once elected because it pits you against the masses and you never know what kind of questions will come your way. But town halls were originally key to new democracies and they are very useful and I think can help reverse the trend towards increasing apathy among voters.

Banham reminds me of a kid outside the window of a candy store: he has a passion for politics (candy) and will works as hard as it takes to be allowed in the store (House of Commons). I know Banham would be a good choice for Hamilton: he seems very committed and open to discussion from the people at the grass roots, and not just once every four years. If the NDP haven’t realized yet, this guy is a force to be reckoned with!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Conservative and NDP deception on poverty

Recently, BC’er exposed fabrications on the part of the NDP when it comes to Liberal record on poverty. They actually claimed poverty went up while the Liberals had surplus budgets which is a complete lie.

Now we have the Conservatives jumping on board parroting a similarly deceptive line :
Child poverty actually rose under the Liberal watch

They fail to update their website basically for 3 weeks (h/t Kady O'Malley) and this is what they come up with?

They provide a link to the supposed evidence at least, but what do we find at that link? Click to the next page and you see:

It is a positive sign that the rate of child poverty dropped for the fourth consecutive year

The same link at Campaign 2000 also provides a graph of child poverty rates from 1989-2000:




As we can see poverty was declining under the Liberal watch from 1996 on. So while the Conservative line was not an outright lie like what came from the NDP, it’s clearly meant to imply that child poverty was worse when the Liberals left office then when they came in.

But ok, let’s pretend the Conservatives really meant to say that poverty just went up until 1996 (3 years into a 13 year mandate before declining every year thereafter). Now why might child poverty have gone up in the first few years? Could it be because the Conservatives left behind such a mess economically that Canada was being referred to as a borderline third-world country and there were even calls for the IMF to be brought in? Could it be because some damn hard choices had to be made to clean up the mess Conservatives left behind? The link at the Conservative site also mentions that some poverty programs were cut during the deficit slashing days, but weren’t Stephen Harper and the reform party calling on the Liberals to go further at the time? That the cuts should be much deeper?


Let’s not get all revisionist here, the Harper Conservatives have never cared about the poor. Once we got back to surpluses again you can see child poverty did go down each year as Campaign 2000 notes and many social program cuts were restored (something a Conservative government would never have done). Child poverty continued to decline each year after 2000 and was 11.7% when the Liberals left office.

Clearly, the people who do research for the Conservatives and NDP need to give their heads a shake.

But I don’t want to sound like I’m white-washing the Liberal record, even Stéphane Dion says the Liberals did not do as well as he would have liked (the link at the Conservative site also gives us the shocking news that Ken Dryden said the exact same thing as Dion). But Dion has laid out a plan to achieve ambitious targets and he’s indicated that what gets revealed on the campaign trail will be the most detailed poverty plan Canada has ever seen and will be fully costed. He deserves credit for taking this issue by the horns and calling on all the poverty groups to hold his feet to the fire on it.

You might ask why is the only ONLY response from the NDP and Conservatives to mislead Canadians and set up a straw man to attack (the “Liberal record”) instead of discussing the plan itself? I think Canadians know Stéphane Dion was not PM in the last Liberal government and therefore couldn’t call all the shots, just like no one in the NDP holds Howard Hampton responsible for the decisions made by Bob Rae while Hampton was at the cabinet table. Even then, neither the Conservatives nor the NDP can even honestly attack the Liberal record because they just don’t want to admit that poverty went down on the whole over the course of the Liberal term in office.

You might also wonder why many poverty groups are praising Stephane Dion for his poverty plan, yet the other parties only attack him in a completely misleading manner for it?

Could it be that the Conservatives and NDP are afraid that Dion’s found the right approach on this issue and that his plan will resonate with Canadians? That they know that if given the chance, Dion would get the job done?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LPC(O) AGM and OWLC AGM

So this past weekend I went up to Huntsville for the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) AGM, which also includes the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission AGM on the final day. I thought the weekend was a huge success, but there's always few improvements that could be made for next time.

I always prefer to start with the bad and end with the good (which heavily outweighed the bad) so here goes. First of all, I was not very pleased with how some sessions were scheduled. I believe Aboriginal issues are quite important, yet the LPC(O) scheduled the Aboriginal Commission AGM for 5:30 PM on the first day (Friday). This was obviously at a time at which many people had not yet arrived in Huntsville yet so maybe people who might have attended could not. Secondly the OWLC AGM was scheduled up against a policy session on social justice hosted by Ken Dryden on the Sunday at the very end of the AGM. Issues of social justice have always been of extreme importance for many Liberal women and this kind of scheduling first of all meant that women had to choose between discussing social justice issues (and hearing a great speech by Dryden) and attending their own AGM. Also there were many people, particularly candidates and MPs who would have liked to have attended the OWLC AGM but had to be back in their ridings for events on Sunday so they couldn’t stick around for an AGM that only began close to 11 AM on the Sunday. Next time, I very much hope that either the OWLC AGM occurs as a separate event altogether or takes place earlier in the weekend and NOT up against an important policy session. I also hope the Aboriginal Commission gets to hold their AGM later in the weekend when more people are there. I hope that those of us who feel passionately about this will make their voices heard and that there will be better scheduling next time.

But that’s it for the bad, there are lots of great things to report. First of all, I am extremely pleased to announce that I am now officially the new VP Young Women of the OWLC. I greatly look forward to working on behalf of young Liberal women and female members of the Ontario Young Liberals (OYL). Feel free to check out my campaign website: http://www.danielletakacs.ca/ let me know what you think of my ideas.

I was also extremely pleased to see that my riding of Brant was awarded the top award for the South-West Ontario region (22 ridings) based on a combination of new memberships and fundraising. Congrats to Lloyd St. Amand, Joy O’Donnell (past riding President) and Andrew Hunter (Current riding President) for the award (and to my Brant Young Liberals for boosting the membership rolls and forming a new chapter that I founded earlier this year!). As for other elections, congrats to Jason Cherniak for his victory as the Central Region President, I’m sure he’ll do a great job for the region.

Then there were the events/sessions. The first night there was an excellent reception hosted by the OWLC which Stéphane attended and refused to leave until everyone that wanted a picture got one. The attendance at the event was massive and it was good to see some recognition for such a great organization. The next day Bob Rae gave a fantastic run-down of where the Liberals stand on the platform (we will be ready any time, rest assured) and some of the great ideas that will go on the trail. I know the Liberals will have an excellent platform to bring to Canadians. There were also some great policy debates on some of the more important issues of the day and other sessions on the policy process itself, campaign preparation and fundraising. All very worthwhile. Tom Allison’s’ presentation on campaign management was especially good, as always. He is definitely a person at the top of his game. The Liberals are vey lucky to have him on our side.

Of course one of the main highlights though was Stéphane Dion’s excellent speech to the 700+ Liberal delegates in attendance. It was the best speech I’ve seen yet. Made some good jokes, hit all the right issues and got us all fired to take the Liberal message to the people to win the next election. Saturday night there were some excellent parties held by different candidates and the one hosted by the OYL, all hugely packed.

To finish off the weekend was the OWLC AGM. We had fantastic speeches from National Women’s Liberal Commission President Nicole Foster-Woollatt, departing OWLC President Michelle Simson (the new candidate in Scarborough South-West), incoming OWLC President (Liana Turrin), MPP and Minister of Children Services and Women’s Issues Deb Matthews, MP Carolyn Bennett, and some excellent discussion for the year ahead. I am very excited for the first meeting of the new executive.


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Danielle Takacs: OWLC VP Young Women


I want to take this opportunity to announce that I am now the new VP Young Women of the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission (OWLC). I greatly look forward to working on behalf of young Liberal women and female members of the Ontario Young Liberals (OYL).
Feel free to check out my campaign website: http://www.danielletakacs.ca/ (or http://danielletakacs.netfirms.com/)
let me know what you think of my ideas.

I would just like to specially thank some of the great people who lent their support to my campaign:
Lloyd St. Amand (MP Brant) for his constant support, guidance and work that he has done to spread news of my campaign;
Jane Stewart (Former MP Brant, PC) for her words of support and promotion;
Mike Morrison (nobody of Liberal importance) for his web-site services;
Zac Spicer (President McMaster Young Liberals and the new OYL South-Central Regional Coordinator) for his assistance and words of advice (I’m sure one day soon he’ll make a fantastic campaign manager for a lucky federal/provincial candidate);
Joy O’Donnell and Nancy Smits (Brant Federal Liberal Association Execs) for their support and belief in me from the start;
Denise Brundson (YLC VP Organization), who has become a good friend and for welcoming me into the National Young Women’s Liberal Association;
Justin Tetreault for his encouragement and for being my first big supporter
As well as every other individual who lent me their support

Thank you!



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Sunday, November 11, 2007

On this day...

From the loss of one great Canadian...to those fighting today

and to those still struggling to be recognized and remembered

we say Thank You


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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dion Establishing Right Priorities

Yesterday, Stephane Dion gave us another reason why he would make an excellent Prime Minister (conveniently its getting buried under Harper’s news of a Mulroney probe). The plan Dion mapped out yesterday and the targets he is setting on reducing poverty levels in this country is exactly what stakeholders on this issue have been calling for and the plan is definitely worthy of high praise.

Putting out the clear target to reduce the number living below the poverty line by 30% over 5 years (and cutting child poverty in half over that time) are the kind of ambitious targets we absolutely need to make real progress on battling poverty (just like we need clear targets on the environment that Dion laid out in his Carbon Budget plan).

Some may say the Liberals did not do enough on poverty when they were in power, well Stephane Dion is clearly making this HIS issue and I have no doubt he would follow through on this plan. He’s even called on all the stakeholders to hound on him on it should he be PM. By Jack Layton’s own admission Stephane Dion is a man of honour and if he says something is a priority he follows through.

I think I can guess the other parties reactions to this though…..

Conservatives: “Helping the poor? How would that win us votes? I think this is sending the wrong message to Canadians. Stephane Dion is not a leader!”

NDP: “The Liberals had 13 years to do something about this issue! We're sorry, we can’t think of anything else to say when the Liberals propose good ideas. Please don’t vote Liberal! I'm sure we could convince a Conservative government to take action on this issue some day”

Bloc: “Does anybody listen to us anymore?”

Seriously though, I hope the opposition can at least can stand together on this plan and the targets Dion has laid out today for the sake of the people who would benefit from it .


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Harper does a 180 and calls Mulroney probe


I have to say I was quite surprised to read this in the news today. Still it’s about time Harper flip-flopped on this issue and established an independent probe looking into allegations against Mulroney. I tend to agree with Radwanski on this though that it is a bit too convenient that Harper announces this the day that Dion announces his excellent proposals on poverty (the subject of my next post). Still, I’m glad to see Harper has made the right call for once though it definitely took lots of noise from Liberals to make it happen.

However even though this is a good start in getting to the bottom of this matter, Liberals still have to make sure that the person chosen to lead the review is completely independent and impartial and that the findings of the review will be made completely public. Anything less is still unacceptable.

It will be amusing though to see all those Tories who so strongly argued against any kind of investigation on this matter to now have amnesia and praise their wonderful leader for having made the right call on this.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tories & Dippers, Sitting in a Tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G

The NDP have been going around town trying to keep up appearances and convince us that they’re behaving as an opposition party. They’ve even been accusatory towards the Liberals abstaining, allowing the Conservatives to continue their right wing agenda. While they complain, lately they seem very content with the arrangement. The NDP will not rock the boat. They like things they way they are now because they feel there’s opportunity there to show the public that they can be the official opposition or actually even govern one day. They are seriously mistaken though that this will bring them benefits of any kind. The reality is that the Conservatives are using them and are laughing all the way. Jack and his team need to wake up, smell the coffee and start acting like the opposition they want and claim to be (hint: the Liberals aren’t the government anymore).

The NDP have no right to criticize the Liberals anymore. Their silence on the issue of the death penalty is worse than the Liberals waiting to bring down the government on an issue brought to the floor that they disagree with rather than vote against a vaguely defined agenda or tax cuts they 95% agree with. The NDP’s “nays” mean nothing when they don’t have any real importance to change something, it just gives them blank excuses to make themselves seem principled.

Take a look at ndp.ca. What do you see? Any mention on the main page of the Tories abandoning Canadian’s human rights on the issue of the death penalty? No of course not, instead there’s bashing of the Liberals (who have been very vocal on this issue unlike Jack and his friends) and the NDP’s unfeasible idea to abolish the Senate (which requires a constitutional amendment which won’t happen).

You would have thought the issue of the death penalty would be an issue that the NDP would be up in arms about. The death penalty is a serious social issue, which discriminates against the poor who often don’t get proper legal access and end being the ones on death row. Not only is the new Canadian position abominable from a human rights perspective and turns back 30 years of Canadian foreign policy (and puts us COMPLETELY ALONE IN THE WORLD in our stance) as it stands now it is inconsistent in its treatment of Canadians over Americans, as Americans get protected by this government from the death penalty while Canadians don’t.

The Tories are turning their back on the UN, the Charter of Rights & Freedoms and Canada’s international reputation. Where’s the NDP criticism? NO WHERE.

Jack Layton has decided instead that the issue of senate reform is a much more important issue to the NDP than the UN Charter and the poor and potentially-wrongly accused Canadians who wind up facing the death chamber. And the Tories are all too supportive of their new found relationship. They can continue to bond over bashing the real opposition – the Liberal party, who I believe does the right things at the right time for the right reasons.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Harper: Standing up for Americans, but not Canadians on the Death Penalty

This Government Continues to Disgrace Canada. This story is getting more insulting every day. I’d love to hear Conservative supporters leap to defense on this one.

The Conservatives have now said that they will continue to uphold the traditional Canadian policy of not extraditing AMERICANS to the USA if they face the possibility of execution…and yet Harper will allow his fellow Canadians face the death chamber nonetheless!

The death penalty should be opposed on all grounds EVERYWHERE, but what the heck is wrong with these people? First of all, they won’t help Canadians sentenced to death in the United States or elsewhere. That was supposedly because the US has a “fair, democratic justice system” (one in which dozens and dozens of innocent people have been put on death row).

FURTHERMORE, the Conservatives decide that that stance isn’t good enough they have to go farther. So now they no longer sponsor a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty at the UN, something sponsored by 73 nations and that Canada fully supported until now. Apparently it’s too difficult for this government to raise a hand at a meeting to stand up for human rights abroad. I bet when the donoughts get passed out at meetings Harper has his hand up for one right away though.

Why the change of heart on this fundamental issue? Why the lack of debate in the House?

You wanna know what the difference is though with this latest episode on extraditing Americans? Well we happen to have a law on the books that forbids sending suspected criminals abroad to possibly face execution. The Conservatives want to kill any debate on this issue while they still have a minority, so the law still stands because they'd have to bring this to the House to change it. But talk about inconsistent, Americans can live, Canadians can die under this policy. A cowardly approach might I add too. One that cannot stand. PLEASE Mr. Harper just restore 30 years of Canadian foreign policy on this issue, OPPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY EVERYWHERE. If not, you MUST bring this issue to the House for debate.

With each passing day, Canada is made to look to the world like a chicken with its head cut off. How Harper can defend such an inconsistent approach that now stands up for one group of people and not another, especially his own, is beyond confusion. Is it too much to ask that Harper might actually stand up for Canadians' human rights abroad? DISGRACEFUL! Canadians deserve answers from the Conservatives on this issue and should really question what Conservatives next plan is. They have shifted Canada’s internationally renowned public policy position on this issue to one that is unclear and inhumane in an undemocratic, private way. He’s pushing his agenda down the majority’s throat who would disagree with him. He’s turned his back on Canadians, the right to life under the UN Charter and at the same time has stood up for Americans.

Canada’s reputation is going down the tubes the longer the Conservatives remain in power. With each passing day, Harper is giving us more ammunition. So continue Mr. Harper, giving us hints of your true right wing, American agenda and at the next election we’ll give your keys back to Stornoway.


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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Layton's Delusional Dreams

So from this article it seems Layton told his supporters out in Manitoba that he is planning on blowing as much money as possible on the next campaign. Because of course they’re due after all these years to this time finally get more seats than the Bloc! Oh wait, he actually thinks they can form the next government? Well ok Jack.... Or is it just that you want another Conservative government and you think these kinds of tactics might give you an extra 5 seats or so (which is after all, all you care about).

Aside form Jack’s dreams though, one of his delusions in this article caught my eye (or perhaps its a new shift in fed-NDP direction):

There is, however, a perceived distance between the Doer government and Layton's party, with Doer often described more as a Liberal in NDP clothing. Doer's centrist policies are one of the reasons the provincial Liberals have struggled to gain a foothold since he came to power. Some traditional NDP supporters have expressed disappointment in Doer, accusing him of selling out to tax cuts rather than sticking to helping the underdog. But Layton said he doesn't think there is a gap between the federal and Manitoba wings of the party. "Doer's policies are the same as ours," said Layton.

Ok so what are some of Doer’s policies? Do they sound like the latest federal NDP platform to you?
- Doer supports keeping our troops in a combat role in Afghanistan
- Doer supported the Clarity Act (Layton vowed to scrap it in the 2004 election)
- Doer opposes the federal gun registry
- Doer opposed Harper’s nation resolution (which Layton supported)
- Doer fully endorsed Tony Blair’s “Third Way” ("public-private parnerships") and supported
him as leader of British Labour (whose policies I would bet many NDP supporters have
trouble with)
- Doer supported Harper’s 2006 budget and his supposed “solution” to the fiscal imbalance
- Doer enacted and supports tax cuts for corporations (something Layton loves to rail about)
- Doer opposes legislation that would ban replacement workers in strikes (something
Layton put forth in the last Parliament and made lots of hay about)

Are any of these Jack Layton’s NDP’s policies? If so, his supporters must be surprised.

If not, with the blanket statement Layton made, he's clearly redirected his stance on some policies. There's some things Doer's done that I agree with, some not, but these don't sound like "the same" policies as Layton's NDP to me. Which is it Jack? Misleading info or a huge change of course? I suspect the former.

So how can you have any credibility when you tell the media such contridctory info? And why do you make such comments, when many members of your own party know they aren't true? And while you can hope to gain more seats, do you truly expect to form the government, especially when you’ve never been higher than 20% in the polls? And yes, there has been a lot of bad press for the Liberals recently, but there's been ZERO new support has drifted your way?

Well keep dreaming Jack, I’m sure that majority NDP government is just one election away….
Failing that, you can keep complaining about the Liberals and how they're somehow endorsing the Conservatives, so far it's brought you so much new power and influence.


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Friday, November 2, 2007

Harper turns Canada's back on (Canadians') Human Rights, snuggles closer to U.S.

Harper slowly turning Canada into an international pariah on human rights

This story is shocking. I guess their next desired step is to bring the death penalty back here at home. Why else would they reverse 30 years (both Conservative and Liberal) of Canadian foreign policy on this issue? They clearly believe the death penalty is a just and humane way of dealing with crime (of course there’s no evidence it works, but these Conservatives don’t listen to any real evidence so there’s no use trying to convince them).

This quote from Amnesty International-Canada really says it all:

It puts Canada in the unenviable position of being the only country in the world that's abolished the death penalty that now refuses to seek clemency on behalf of its death-sentence citizens abroad.

That’s right the ONLY country in the world. Add to that that Canada is the ONLY western nation in the world that refuses to lobby to have its own citizen in Guantanamo Bay returned home to stand trial. Even staunch conservative John Howard in Australia who supported the Iraq war and all lobbied successfully to have his citizens returned home for trial. This is not a Conservative-Liberal issue here. The Harper government is going against standards shared by every other Western country (Liberal or Conservative) minus the United States and wants to reverse decades of Liberal and Conservative foreign policy.

How can we be proud of this? (I'm sure Tory supporters will in their own twisted way somehow try to bash the Liberals over this)

So Canada now stands alone in the Western world next to the United States on both the death penalty and Guantanamo Bay.

This is scary and makes me wonder what is next…. For the sake of Canada’s reputation, Conservatives must be beaten in the next election.


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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pros & Cons of Flaherty Budget

Earlier this week Flaherty and Harper decided to defy convention by refusing to present the fiscal update to the finance committee and once again trying to control everything so the media gets the Conservative message and no one else's before the evening news.

As for what was actually in the budget, it was not near as bad as I thought it would be. The GST cut is stupid plain and simple and obviously no one thinks it's good policy. The Conservatives can take all the credit for that they want, there will be no benefits to the Canadian economy from it and it disproportionately benefits the rich. I question why the Conservatives went ahead with it anyway, I don't think it's really all that important to their base. I guess it was just to "Keep a promise" and a stupid one at that. But if they think they're going to run the next campaign on having kept all their promises they are sadly mistaken (the gutting of the "Acccountability Act", blustering on Access to Information, Income trusts and softwood lumber all come to mind) so if that was their only reason for doing it, that's poor judgment. This would have been the one broken promise they could have gotten praise all around (myself included) for.

As for the actual real income tax cuts. I liked these. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they stuck to the lowest income bracket (I was afraid they would eliminate the middle bracket or slash the top one or something along those lines) and raised the basic personal exemption. Both of those things were clear Liberal initiatives. Just like Harper did with the environment, he's initially slashed Liberal policies only to return to them later and take credit. The Liberals can't him do that on this one (Dion should be front and centre on this like he was on the environment, that Harper can't take all the credit for completely re-instating Liberal policies). Harper has only now just re-instated virtually the EXACT SAME tax regime vis a vis income taxes that existed before the last election.

The Liberals should ask Flaherty point blank "Do you now admit it was a mistake to raise personal income taxes in your first budget?" The Liberals have to not let Canadians forget that it was Liberals who lowered income taxes only to have Conservatives raise them again. Good to see they are back to where they were, but let's not let them claim all the credit (so far from reading the media coverate though it seems the Conservatives are getting more credit than they deserve).

As for the corporate tax cuts, I think these were what Dion was planning to do anyway, so again Dion should let the Conservatives claim this was their idea. Dion was out first about it.

It's funny how things change when the Liberal brought down these tax cuts before the last election, it was the Conservatives who voted AGAINST them, while the NDP and Bloc supported them (if memory serves me). Now the Conservatives apparently support these kinds of cuts, while the NDP rails against them, my how consistent these 3 parties are (who all have the same leaders as then mind you). I can understand the NDP ranting and raving about corporate tax cuts, but from the comments I've read it seems Layton opposes the income tax cuts in this mini-budget as well. Why did you vote for them last time then Jack? The NDP plainly just doesn't (or doesn't want to) understand the economy and it's why they can never be taken seriously as a plausible government in waiting.

The Conservatives and NDP can all rant about abstaining over this and that, but Harper abstained on the budget in 2005 which is the EXACT equivalent of what the Liberals are doing now so he's got no argument to make here. Meanwhile, Layton's numbers don't matter (so he's not in the position of where abstaining would make any difference) and his opposition to these income tax cuts doesn't jive with him supporting the very same cuts not too long ago. He just wants to pretend to oppose the Conservative agenda while hoping they get to stay the government for the next few decades, so maybe one day in his most ideal scenario he'll actually be, gasp, Leader of the Opposition! Some dream for all those Dippers out there, really making a positive difference to bring about a more progressive Canada.

So given that Canadians deserve these income tax cuts, I'm glad to see the Liberals did not vote against them. However, even though many other Liberals may disagree I think come election time, the Liberals should say that they are going to raise the GST back to 6% and in return, cut the lowest income bracket deeper (and raise the basic personal exemption subject to taxes higher), while also having a clear plan to combat poverty. As long as Liberals can make clear than the large majority of Canadians will be paying less overall (as only the richest would save more off a GST cut) it could sell. I know the media loves to claim that GST cuts are gold politically (and it seems many Liberals have bought into the idea that a GST raise is poison), but I don't think low and middle income Canadians care that much about saving 1 cent on every dollar as much as the media claims they do. If you're going to save several hundred a year off your income taxes that matters more. It wasn't too long ago that even Conservative supporters would have agreed with that, but if Harper says GST cuts are good, then of course the Tory supporters blindly follow.

If the Conservatives could win the last election on a campaign of cutting the GST while raising income taxes (by a full 1 percent no less which was a huge raise that in the end they didn't even go along with due to outside pressure), then the Liberals can win by raising the GST by 1 percent and lowering income taxes instead. Canadians will benefit more, the poor will benefit more (as long as the poverty plan goes along with it) and economists and the business community will praise it so I think that's the right approach even if it doesn't seem to be the "safest" politically. Liberals can't be afraid to stand up for good policy and defend it to the people in a campaign. Canadians would pay less under a Liberal government it's as simple as that. That's all that needs to be said between now and the campaign.

Though I think it was mistake for Dion to admit to considering raising the GST right now, it should be left for the campaign (and worked out with caucus in the meantime on how to sell it) when the Liberal tax plan can be compared against the Conservative one and all will see that the Liberal plan is better for the economy (on the taxes side) and better for Canadians as a whole (on the social spending side). The Conservatives were bold in the wrong direction on taxes last time (higher income taxes, lower GST) we can bold in the right direction (lower income taxes, higher GST) this time.

In the meantime as I've said many times before we should pick our time to go to the polls and this was not the one to go on.


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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Assessing McGuinty's New Cabinet

So overall I think it's a good cabinet. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised about a few of the appointments, and I think pretty much all political commentators and Ontarians were, as were probably some of the appointees themselves. That’s not to say that any of them don’t have the qualifications, as I think those appointed were qualified. But needless to say, I am also disappointed that Sandals, and especially Levac, were not given an appointment as they are more than due. It is also odd to me that Levac, who while opposition was a critic, and has not given the same due in government. He is a great guy who does a good job at whatever he’s given, cares about the issues and the people, and stands up for what he believes in. Perhaps his vocalness is why he is not in the cabinet which is unfortunate.

So here’s my rundown with the good and the bad, as the party can always benefit from some constructive criticism.

The Bad:
- Intergovernmental affairs should not have gone to McGuinty, he can carry on his fights for Ontario without that portfolio so someone else should have been given a chance to shine.
- Levac and Sandals - shafted again. They've paid their dues to the party, are very popular in their ridings and worked well in committees so what gives? It makes no sense to me, they could have easily gone in place of two of the newer faces. I understand McGuinty wanted to bring in new blood, but some people have been working hard a long time and eventually they deserve to get their shot. Especially when McGuinty takes Intergovernmental affairs for himself I don't get it.
- Didn't need to dump Ramsay from cabinet (the others I can understand), he had done a pretty good job
- The ministries of Democratic Renewal or Minister Responsible for Disabilities were dropped. I can understand the reasoning for Democratic Renewal given the massive defeat of MMP, but I don't understand why he would eliminate the file on disabilities, maybe it's just as oversight on the government website and someone did get it in addition to another portfolio. I hope that doesn't mean Mcguinty will bury these as priorities
- Only 9 females in cabinet (same as last time I think). I do think after having run so many more female candidates this time and given that 7 of 10 new Liberal MPPs were women he could have had more talented females added to his cabinet (I had 11 very qualified ones in my selections)

The Good:
- McGuinty obviously took my advice for Attorney General, Finance, Health, Education, Agriculture, Community and Social Services (and Francophone Affairs), Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Women's Issues. So that's the bulk of the top posts so it's hard not to be satisfied with that.
- I'm thrilled to see Deb Matthews in cabinet and that she not only got Women's Issues (the fact she got this was under-reported by the media) but Children and Youth Services as well. As well, she's been put in charge of putting in place targets for reducing poverty, a great focus for the government for the next session. Matthews definitely deserved it.
- I'm pleased Aboriginal Affairs was given its own portfolio and Bryant has the qualifications and background necessary to do a good job (Levac would have been great as well though, he could have also been the parliamentary assistant). I'm very pleased McGuinty is demonstrating that he is taking this file very seriously this session with this gesture.
- As I noted, both Gerry Phillips and John Gerretsen deserved promotions (even though I had a hard time finding a good place up the ladder for them) so I think it's good to see that they've both moved up to more important posts (Phillips to Energy and Gerretsen to Environment).
- Chris Bentley as well is going to make a great Attorney General and he was my pick so I'm glad to see he got it.
-John Milloy as Minister of Colleges and Universities, he’s from an appropriate riding to be given that ministry, and is a good choice. I can’t complain even though I pegged Sandals for this.

So in all, it's not a perfect line-up and I remain a bit disappointed about some people left out, but overall I know this team will do a fantastic job for the province, I know some of the new faces there really deserved it and I’m waiting to be wowed. I do hope a few more people will get their shot before the session is over though. But I do think the government has outlined the exact right priorities going in and I look forward to seeing them in action soon.


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Monday, October 29, 2007

My McGuinty Cabinet Picks

So with the new McGuinty cabinet being installed tomorrow, I’d like to give my picks for who should get the nods for each ministry. Given that my predictive abilities weren’t proven to be so great on election night (I predicted 62 seats for the Liberals), I’m not making any predictions this time. Rather this is a list of who I think should be given each position.

Given that I don’t have in depth knowledge about every candidate who ran in the last election, forgive me if I’ve left out someone who you think really should be listed.

I’d love to hear everyone else’s picks anyways (though Tories and Dippers: if you’re to give a go pick who you think would do the best job for Ontario not who you think would be good for your party).

So here goes…

Finance Minister: Dwight Duncan (previously Greg Sorbara). Duncan was another star from the last session that deserves a promotion. He did a great job as finance minister filling in for Sorbara in the last session so I think he deserves to get that post back.

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care: George Smitherman (No change). Smitherman has been praised by most of the stakeholders for his job in health and he has said personally that he wants to keep that post so he should get to stay where he wants. I’m sure he’ll do just as good of job this session.

Minister of Education and Deputy Premier: Kathleen Wynne (No change). After her resounding victory over John Tory and the excellent job she’s done at Education, Wynne deserves whatever she wants. I think she’s indicated that she’d like to carry on at education where some tough challenges lie ahead over the next four years. She enjoys strong support among teachers and has clearly proven herself so I think she’d be the best to carry on. If she doesn’t want this position, then it would be a toss up between Dave Levac and Liz Sandals who both have lots of experience in the area of education that would make them well-suited for the job. I also think Wynne should be made Deputy Premier as a reward for her previous feats.

Minister of Energy: Michael Bryant (previously Dwight Duncan). Both Duncan and Bryant deserve promotions and new experiences to build their portfolios after the last session. Energy will be a tough file to handle, but Bryant has proved himself a very able minister so I think he’d be up for the job.

Attorney General: Chris Bentley (Previously Michael Bryant). Bentley’s done a great job on the colleges and universities file in the last session so he deserves a promotion and I think he’s got what it takes to take over for Bryant.

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs: Aileen Carroll (Previously Marie Bountrogianni). Bountrogianni did a great job on this portfolio so with her having retired there’s some big shoes to fill. As a former federal minister and long-time Liberal MP I think Carroll has the experience necessary to do the best job here.

Minister of the Environment: Sandra Pupatello (previously Laurel Broten). Broten had encountered some controversy at environment so it makes some sense to move her somewhere else. This will be a very important portfolio for the next session so it makes sense to have someone in there with lots of experience to handle it. Pupatello I think fits the bill for that. I know some people had some misgivings about her after the Parkdale High-Park byelection but you can’t be punished forever, she’s shown herself to be quite capable as a minister so she should be placed back higher up.

Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities: Liz Sandals. I know that Liz Sandals has a strong background in education (see above), but I think given Wynne’s apparent stated preference for that portfolio, having Sandals focus on the post-secondary side of education might still be a good fit for her. I think she’d prove herself to be a great minister here and fill Bentley’s shoes well.

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs: Dave Levac (previously David Ramsay). I really think it’s about time that McGuinty adopt the recommendations of the Ipperwash Inquiry and make Aboriginal Affairs a stand-alone ministry. As well, while Levac is another great contender for education (see above), I can think of few better to fill the role of Aboriginal Affairs minister given that Levac lives in a riding so close to one of the largest reserves in Ontario and is very well versed on Native affairs. I think it’s well over due he gets into cabinet and I think this would be a great place for him to prove himself in a very difficult file.

Minister of Economic Development and Trade: Laurel Broten (previously Sandra Pupatello). Broten actually did a good job in cabinet, it’s just the controversies she encountered in her neighbourhood over the size of her garage and so on just didn’t play well with that portfolio so I think Economic Development and Trade would be a better fit.

Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues: Deb Matthews (Previously Sandra Pupatello). McGuinty has made great progress on women’s issues and was successful in meeting his promise to have one third women’s candidates. To go further, he should give the ministry for Women’s issues higher stature and make it a stand alone ministry. I think Deb Matthews would be the perfect fit for taking it over. I actually don’t think McGuinty will leave Women’s Issues as a stand alone Ministry but I think that’s what should happen and I do hope Matthews does find her way into cabinet as she’s paid her dues over the years to the party.

Minister of Northern Development and Mines: Rick Bartolucci (No change). Done a good job and the Liberals have maintained their popularity in the North, so why rock the boat.

Minister of Transportation: Donna Cansfield (No change).

Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal and Government House Leader: David Caplan (No change, promoted to House Leader). This remains an important portfolio in accomplishing McGuinty’s ambitious transit plan. Caplan can keep up his work there and I think he can also be promoted to House Leader (from deputy House Leader)

Minister of Children and Youth Services: Helena Jaczek (Previous Mary Anne Chambers: retired). This is a very important portfolio and someone accomplished has to replace Chambers. Helena Jaczek has gained tremendous experience outside of politics that would suit her well for many different portfolios, but I think this would be good place to put her mind to use. As well, it would be injecting some new blood in McGuinty’s cabinet and showing his commitment to boosting female representation.

Minister of Revenue: Michael Chan (No change)

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: Leona Dombrowsky(No change). Leona has had some tough battles over the last 4 years (like Randy Hillier sending her a dead deer’s head named “Leona” as a threat), but I think she’d earned the right to stay on.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: John Gerretsen (No change). I kind of feel like Gerretsen deserves a promotion but I can’t think of anyone higher up than him who deserves to be demoted so he can move up (I guess it depends on what you consider a “promotion” though). Still this is an important file and I think there’s much more work to be done on it.

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services: Monte Kwinter (No change).

Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal: Sophia Aggelonitis. (Previously McGuinty in Research and Innovation and Bountrogianni in Democratic Renewal). I think McGuinty can afford to pass off the Research and Innovation portfolio off to someone new. I also think the new individual can pick up where Bountrogianni left off on the issue of democratic renewal (electoral reform may be off the table for some time, but democratic renewal in the legislature is still important). Sophia has experience running a small business and as an entrepreneur and has great ties to the business community so I think she’s a great fit for research and innovation and she would be a new face to promote democratic renewal at the same time.

Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister Responsible for Ontarians with Disabilities, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs: Madeleine Meilleur (No change). These are all key portfolios in my book, and while I’m tempted to say Jaczek should be given Community and Social Services, Meilleur has handled the portfolio well and hasn’t had it long enough (has only had it since 2006) to be already moved on to something else so she should keep it.

Minister of Labour: Steve Peters (No change)

Minister of Government Services and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: Gerry Phillips (No change). Philllips is someone else who likely deserves a promotion, but McGuinty just happens to have a really strong team so I think he could just stay where he is, but I won’t be surprised if McGuinty does move him up the ladder.

Minister of Natural Resources Minister: David Ramsay (No change). Has done a great job in both his portfolios and given that I think that Aboriginal Affairs needs to be sectioned off then I think Ramsay can devote more of his efforts to his other file that he’s managed well so far.

Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Harinder Takhar (No change). Takhar handled transportation well and has managed this newer portfolio well too. It hasn’t existed very long so he can continue with it.

Minister of Health Promotion: Jim Watson. I think Watson enjoys this portfolio and has done a good job at it so I see no problems keeping him where he is.

Minister of Culture: Reza Moridi (previously Caroline Di Coco). As the first ever Iranian MPP and someone with a very accomplished background I think he’d be a great replacement for Di Cocco (who went down to defeat) in Culture. I think this would send a great message to put him in charge of Culture to show how McGuinty wants to keep promoting an inclusive Ontario (as opposed to the messy debate going on in Quebec which is moving unfortunately somewhat in the other direction). If Moridi doesn’t get culture perhaps he could get research and innovation given the awards he’s won in science.


So if these picks end up even remotely right the only logical conclusion is that the Premier’s Office must read this blog and took my advice :).

Here’s hoping…


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sorbara and Opposition Nonsense

So with McGuinty’s new cabinet being sworn on Tuesday, it’s back to Provincial politics. Of course the big news this week was Sorbara saying he wouldn’t sit in cabinet. He cited deep personal reasons and wanting to spend more time with his family, which is a reason we accepted for several female Liberals who recently left politics, so I take him at his word that has nothing to do with political issues or differences. At the same time, he can still serve his constituents (after all you don’t have to be unemployed to spend sufficient time with your family).

Though I’ve been disappointed with some of the coverage of this and the response from the opposition. Adam Radwanski usually has some great things to say that from time to time I agree with, but I don't buy what Radwanski is suggesting about this resignation. Sorbara has been one of McGuinty’s biggest allies over the past 8 years and has worked his ass off to help him. McGuinty in return repaid him with the top cabinet post. There was certainly no Chretien-Martin like animosity between the two whatsoever so suggestions that Sorbara is doing this to plot leadership ambitions I think is false given that this would not be the way to go around doing that anyway (you would stay in cabinet and continue to show yourself to a team player and strong performer). So again I think Sorbara has personal reasons to resign and probably would have actually wanted to return to Finance but was persuaded otherwise by his family.

But then there was the shameful response from John Tory and the NDP. First Tory:
“I think the average IQ around that cabinet table just crashed with his departure, and I’m concerned about that for the sake of the province,” said Tory ...I just wish he’d announced he was leaving before the election. I think people would have taken a different look at the McGuinty government without the brains of the operation being there.”

This is BS. First of all, was Tory saying this the last time Sorbara left cabinet? No Tory was insinuating that the RCMP had good reason to investigate Sorbara (of course the RCMP were strongly rebuked on this and Sorbara was completely removed from the investigation) and that McGuinty should distance himself as far as possible from him. Meanwhile, McGuinty’s cabinet carried on just fine and Dwight Duncan brought down a great budget. Don’t get me wrong, Sorbara was an excellent finance minister and would have deserved the post again, but the Liberals managed fine without him before and will again. It’s still a loss though for sure but not anywhere near the level Tory insinuates.

Then there was the even more ridiculous comment from the NDP:
New Democrat Rosario Marchese believes the resignation will be ``a huge blow to the Liberal Party,” and said Sorbara should also resign his seat if he really wants to spend more time with his family.
“If he wants to be a full-time granddad, then I think the riding deserves a full-time member,” said Marchese.


Ridiculous! So is Rosario saying that you can’t be a good grandfather unless you are unemployed? The ones that actually left politics it was to spend more time with their children. Has anyone ever left for grandchildren? Anyways, Sorbara is saying that his cabinet duties took too much time away from his family, so he is scaling back his work to spend more time with them. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still hold a job representing the citizens of Vaughn. Marchese should apologize. Like c’mon have a little class, Sorbara just resigns and the very next minute he’s out attacking him and making outrageous statements. He should really know better.
Shame on the opposition for trying to score partisan points out of what is a very personal matter for Mr. Sorbara. They’re not off to a great start this session, that’s for sure.

I'll be back later with a full list of who I would pick for McGuinty's next cabinet.

UPDATE: Radwanski takes it back. Says that he’s been informed that there were real personal issues that happened recently (death of Sorbara’s sister-in-law) that have led Sorbara to ultimately take this decision. Good for Radwanksi for correcting himself. This further bolsters my view that Marchese should apologize though, does he still think Sorbara should resign his seat?


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Liberal Halloween Party

The Judy Ball (in honour of the first female federal Liberal cabinet minister Judy LaMarsh) is fast approaching! Youth Tickets (under 26) are now available. After tax returns, YOUTH tickets are only $31 (therefore $125 upfront). Regular priced tickets are $250 each or $400/pair.

Ticket prices include drink tickets, food and a fun night to party along with the band of the evening, The Nylons (best known for such songs as “you and me, so Happy Together”)!

Costume ideas: Come dressed as your favourite politician or Canadian Personality! Prizes for best costumes!

When: Tuesday October 30th, 2007 @ 6:30 PM
Where: Sheraton Hotel, Dominion Ballroom, Toronto
Contact: Danielle at danielle.takacs@utoronto.ca

PLEASE RSVP ASAP & Share the news with your friends


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Polls and Shoddy Reporting

The polls these days seem to be a mess and media coverage of them usually pretty bad. Three polls came up this week showing the Conservatives to have a very narrow lead over the Liberals nationally and the Liberals having a solid lead in Ontario. (h/t to Scott: here, here, and here).

Meanwhile, Ipsos comes along for the second week in a row showing the Tories in “majority territory” . I’ve got some serious questions about this though.

Why is it ALWAYS Ipsos that has the Tories polling higher than the other polling companies? Is there something we should know here? I mean the last Ipsos poll of the 2006 Election (1 day before Election Day) had it as Cons 38 – Libs 27, pretty far off the mark of what happened the next day, I’d say.

Second, where does this magic 40% national number called “majority territory” really come from? It’s total nonsense considering a party could have 40% nationally just because they’ve got 90% support in Alberta for instance. So the overall national number means nothing without reliable regional breakdowns, which none of these polling companies really ever provide because the MOE for each region is too large, so you end seeing like 10% regional swings in the span of week (which is really impossible).

Basically this kind of coverage is just really shoddy reporting trying to make a poll sound more interesting and pump up the election hysteria (“oh Harper’s in “majority territory” he must be itching to go to the polls now!).

Finally, I’d like to call one particular deceptive article to account today that really twists things: "Fears of Harper majority waning: poll

Take a look at the article and you see that: “A majority of 58 per cent said the best outcome of the next election would be a majority government,” and “Fifty-eight per cent of those in favour of a majority would rather have Harper as the prime minister in such a circumstance, compared to 28 per cent who preferred Liberal Leader Stephane Dion”

What’s 58% of 58% CanWest? Is that actually slightly less (33.6%) than the percentage of Canadians that voted for Harper in the last election (36%)? How can you say fears of a majority are “waning” when you’ve got no baseline to compare it to. 33.6% is still not that high given that I'm sure the Conservative support in this sample is grossly inflated (definitely at least in Ontario). I don't have any faith in these numbers given Ipsos' history.

I think reporting of polls in the media has always been pretty shoddy in general (ignoring MOE's and so on), but at least report the straight findings of them correctly, don’t give us misleading headlines and torqued spin.

And that goes for Bricker (the Ipsos guy) too because lines like “When you've got the other guy hiding under the bridge like a troll…” don’t really come off like you don’t have an agenda here do they?

What gives with Ipsos and CanWest media that report on them?


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Speeches, Crime and Corruption

So with it being Saturday, I thought I’d give a little week in review.

So first of all there was the Liberal reaction to the throne speech. I’m glad to see we’re not going to the polls as I had advocated. I still think the Liberals should have done a coordinated voting down of the speech (with sufficient numbers absent to ensure it passed), but I’m satisfied with the Liberal response. We definitely need to pick our own time to go.

The reaction of the Harper Conservatives to the Dion’s response to the Speech was shameful though. When Harper’s party abstained on the budget in 2005, did the Liberals hoot and holler like children and mock them for it? When the Parti Quebecois voted for Charest’s budget in Quebec earlier this year, did he mock them for it? No in both cases they were commended for helping to make Parliament work and doing the job they were sent there to do. But Harper’s been about the worst Prime Minister in history in terms of civility now hasn’t he?

Then there was the crime bill. When I heard the throne speech I was afraid Harper would actually include the original crime bills in his omnibus bill (many of them were quite draconian and heavily amended by the opposition). Thankfully, he has not done so with at least four of the original bills they've been brought back with all the opposition amendments. So the Liberals should have no problems with the bulk of this crime package as they supported it before once their amendments were accepted. However, there is the dangerous offenders clause in there that could easily be seen as unconstitutional. I think the Liberals should just let this crime bill pass and amend the dangerous offenders clause in committee with a middle ground proposal (the Liberals have already suggested that rather than reversing the onus of proof, have a dangerous offenders hearing be automatic and increase the powers available to prosecutors).

Harper’s actions on this bill show he’s actually not gearing for an election. If he was he would have just brought back all his crime bills in their original form and said no amendments allowed. Instead, he’s actually given Parliament something that’s been largely supported by the opposition in the past. It's a bit of shame that the media don't report this fact though (instead supposedly Harper is "humiliating the opposition" with this crime package). I think in reality, the opposition can push back a little once this bill goes to committee on just the dangerous offenders clause. Harper won’t really want to have an election over a minor dispute over how someone gets classified as a dangerous offender. If he does put up a fuss then he’s the one that would come off looking petty to the Canadian people. So I think cooler heads will prevail on this one and Parliament will carry on.

Our issue to bring down the government will come, but it shouldn’t be this one.

Finally, good to see the Liberals are still keeping the heat on the Conservatives over their election fraud scheme. Also good to see that at least for once it seems the media covered it. Pretty rich of the Conservatives to call themselves “clean” in the Throne Speech, when they’ve got three serious ongoing investigations that have implicated members of their party.

I do think that with Parliament back in session the heat can be kept squarely on the Tories after Harper’s been given a free ride by the media all summer. The Liberals just have to keep up the heat, while drawing attention to our own ideas and then this session will be a success.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Throne Speech: Poor speech but let's pick our own time to go to the polls

So first of all, the night did not get off to a good start for Harper’s team as the throne speech got leaked to the media a couple hours before the speech. This is pretty serious stuff, not as bad as leaking a budget in advance, but still you have to wonder who was behind it. That’s two major leaks for the Conservatives in a short amount of time: first their environment plan, now their throne speech.

Of course the government House leader Peter Van Loan in typical fashion tried to claim it was the opposition parties that leaked it (the leaders get a copy before the speech), but as usual Van Loan was proven wrong as the speech was leaked before the opposition leaders got a copy.

Anyways as for the speech itself….

There was really not much new of substance in there. It seems mostly like they’re just going to repackage old policies. No new vision. A few good ideas, but otherwise same old story, weak policy and direction with a few petty jabs in there at the Liberals.

To be fair there were some things in there I agreed with.

The PM should apologize once and all for Natives for the residential schools issue as the throne speech suggested. It was vague whether it would happen this session but it must happen and it seems the Conservatives agree.

Canada also should be paying attention to the Arctic. I’m not near as gung-ho about it as others are and Harper often goes about it the wrong way, but it’s still an issue that shouldn’t be neglected. The plan for a research centre there is a reasonable one.

Also I agree that Canada should be working to eliminate trade barriers between the provinces. It’s true there’s too many walls put up and Liberals should be advocating this as well as it’s line with our view in support of a strong central government.

Finally, I support income tax cuts, but ONLY if they are geared towards the lowest income bracket like the previous Liberal tax cuts were (that were of course repealed by the Harper government).

Now for the bad….

Throwing all the crime bills into one omnibus bill is irresponsible policy and to make it a confidence bill to boot is really careless. It’s still vague how this big crime bill will look (what mandatory minimums will be in there, what bail conditions will be imposed, etc…), but the Liberals were on record as supporting the bulk of these before. If Harper really wants to govern he’ll just bring back the ones that already made it through the House and leave the rest at the door or for further debate in committee. Having an election on a crime bill would not really work to either party’s advantage in my view (Canadians are pretty middle of the road on the issue and won’t accept Draconian bills, but they still want something done so both parties would get fault) so Harper shouldn’t bother to force one over the issue. Anyways there will be room for debate in Parliament and the Liberals will get their say on the crime legislation, so that doesn’t make the cut for voting this speech down.

Another issue was he mentioned dismantling the Wheat Board. Also wrong-headed as it’s the US and other countries that are dying to see that happen. Sure some farmers will make more money, but most will lose big if the Wheat Board goes down in flames. But Harper said he’d bring the issue to Parliament so the Liberals will get their say. This is a big issue out West so the Liberals can't give up on this one.

Harper also wants to dismantle the gun registry. All he said was he would bring forth a bill though. So big deal, it would get voted down in this session and Harper won’t follow through anyway, it’s not a winner where he needs votes.

On Afghanistan, Harper hinted he wants Canada to stay till 2011 in a combat role. But again he said he’d bring it to Parliament. Of course the “non-partisan” panel (filled with partisans with the exception of Pamela Wallin) will likely back Harper’s preference, but the Liberals won’t be so easily goaded by that I don’t think. So no poison pill here either.

On the federal spending power, I strongly oppose further limiting federal spending power on social policy. However, it seems that what was described is already the case, Harper just wants to limit spending on new “shared-cost” programs by allowing the Provinces to opt out and be compensated. They can already do that, so I’m kind of confused what the advance is here. Certainly not as radical as had been mused about (limiting all government spending on education, child care, cities, etc…, none of that was mentioned).

On taxes, the further GST cut is dumb plain and simple and I don’t quite see why they are following through on it (it would be a promise worth breaking for sure). It saps up so much money for so little gain that could go elsewhere. As a Liberal though that’s good, the Liberals can propose to use the money the Conservatives want to allocate to the GST cut to poverty reduction and/or cities or towards a cut to the lowest income tax bracket.

The closest thing to a poison pill though was on the environment. Harper provocatively threw in a line on a decade of inaction (very false, Dion’s 2005 plan is better than the current one the Conservatives have put forth) and that the Kyoto targets are unattainable. The reality is that the way it was worded (that we can’t reach the target in the next 77 days was all was said) is accurate, but Dion can make the argument that if his plan stayed in place and wasn’t repealed (and then selectively re-instated) the Liberals would be on better track to make the targets and Harper has completely wasted two crucial years on this issue. Dion can say he has a plan to bring us as close to the targets as possible and in line with real international standards (20% reductions below 1990 levels not 2006 levels) by 2020. McGuinty’s plan is a good model and a realistic plan by just barely missing the Kyoto target but catching up to the rest of the world over the next decade. So letting this line go in this speech is not the end of the world. Dion can still credibly claim he has the better plan and that he will bring us into line with international standards, whereas Harper sides with Bush and John Howard (on his way out hopefully next month) and makes us an international environmental pariah while others move ahead of us.

Finally, there was terrible bluster on Canada being “back” (which is insulting given that Canadians has long been respected on the world stage), the country being as united as ever (tell that to Premiers Williams and Calvert) and the government is clean (but just happens to be under investigation for the second time over violating Elections law). But that’s just par for the course for Harper that kind of rhetoric isn’t worth having an election on.

So overall some ok ideas in here, but mostly poor ones and a very vague plan for the session on the key issues. They’ve got five new priorities, but how they heck are they going to have claimed to have met any of them? They’re more like directions to take Canadian policy than actual policies, but I guess they’re wedded to the priorities term, they may regret it later since it’ll sure be tough to say they’ve met such vague ideas.

Anyways as I've said previously, this speech if it passes will have no consequences for the lives of Canadians. The Liberals will have a chance to have a separate vote on all the negative aspects of this speech and we’re gonna have an election better on those individual issues than on a dull, vague speech that doesn’t really have anything other than short-term political consequences if it passes.

So as I argued before, the Liberals can just strategically vote down/abstain and move on to debating the real issues. The NDP and Bloc can whine and parrot Conservative party lines, but only one party can actually get take the Conservatives out of power and Canadians know that. The Liberals will show Canadians in the months ahead that they deserve the chance to govern again, but now’s not the time to go to the polls. We can pick our issue and make sure we’re ready to go to make sure we win.

We'll see tomorrow afternoon if Stephane and his caucus agrees.


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