Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Conservatives Vote No Confidence in the Fabric of Our Democracy

This government has shown no respect for human rights, no respect for our civil servants, and now they give a formal declaration of non confidence in the organization that ensures our elections are free and fair?

I don't think anyone can underestimate the magnitude of this. The international community puts enormous faith in Elections Canada and we send their officials overseas to monitor elections in developing democracies. Elections Canada has an impeccable international reputation and yet our government formally impugns them?

What message does this give to the world? That the government no longer trusts Elections Canada to keep our elections free and fair? Stephen Harper has A LOT of questions to answer now and I request for the millionth time that the media do its job in holding Harper to account.

But regardless Harper should be ashamed of his government's unprecedented actions today. Before the Conservatives came to office Canada was seen as a world leader on human rights and its democratic institutions were revered. And now we have reports like this showing our reputation on human rights has dropped to historic lows and we have the government doing a deliberate hatchet job on our own democratic institutions in an attempt to bring them down to a similar lower level.

This is a disgrace and Canadians won't forget just how much damage this government has done to our reputation and institutions.

When you don't have faith in the very fabric of our democracy you don't deserve to govern it any longer.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

More Clear Evidence the Cons Environmental Plan is a Sham & What Liberals Can Do

As if we needed much more evidence that the Conservative plan was a sham, but this report just adds more to the pile. On its surface the report may not seem positive but I think this report says quite a lot of why the Conservative plan will never work and that the Liberals accomplished a lot more than the typical narrative (or the media) ever gives them credit for. As well, in the spirit of this and Earth Week that is behind us, I'd like to give my thoughts on how I think the Liberals can own the environment issue in the next election (as I said earlier, we need to keep the pressure on In and Out but can't let other issues that play to our strengths fall off the radar).

So first the report. Of course it notes something we already knew, emissions went up over the course of the Liberals time in office. It's not something to be proud of, but it was never an easy task and greater progress was definitely made during the latter years of Liberal government. But this report does make clear one clear accomplishment: "greenhouse gases emitted per unit of economic activity declined 18 per cent."

Now this has been noted before, but not widely reported (and sadly the media paid little attention to that aspect of the report nonetheless), but I don't think Liberals should forget this fact as it poses two problems for the Conservatives: One, how do you claim the Liberals have a poor record on the environment when your own party's plan is based entirely on intensity targets? Two, doesn't the Stats Canada report clearly show that intensity targets are NOT sufficient for bringing absolute reductions in emissions Conservatives claim their plan will accomplish?

Can any Conservative answer these two questions?

Now this brings me to the larger issue. Liberals haven't been talking as much about the environment much lately and largely ingored this latest report. Even though the Conservatives are mired in scandal it doesn't mean we can't be reminding Canadians that the Conservatives have completely dropped the ball on the environment as well. And in return we need to be hitting back hard against the Conservative myth that the Liberals did nothing on the environment. In a way we missed an opportunity with this report (though it won't matter in the long run), but here's what I think the Liberals can do going forward and in the next election to ensure we do own this issue in the minds of Canadians. The issue won't go away so we have to be taking it on as strongly as possible (though of course while also keeping the heat on the Conservatives over their various ongoing scandals). So really this can be accomplished by three simple things, two of which the Liberals can be doing more of now and the third will have to wait for an election.

1. Consistently defend the Liberal record on the environment and Stephane Dion's record in particular. Some Liberals just don't talk much about their record on the environment, but I think it's absolutely crucial to not let Conservatives define that record for Canadians. I think the two videos below are a good start in casting the Liberal record (and Stephane Dion's) in a more accurate light, but we'll need to see more of this in an election campaign.

While the argument can be accepted that not enough was done to bring emissions below 1990 levels no Liberal should ever accept the argument that the Liberals did nothing or they didn't take global warming far more seriously than the Conservatives. In particular, it is well established that Stephane Dion in particular was an Environment Minister that was widely praised by many environmental groups, including by Elizabeth May herself (as a member of the Sierra Club) BEFORE she was even a politician. Stephane Dion had an instrumental role in bringing down the greenest budget in Canadian history in 2005, had a strong plan that would have definitely gone long way towards meeting Kyoto targets (had it not been scrapped by Conservatives) and he played a leadingl role in establishing an international consensus at the Montreal conference that was still a very important first step towards having a new global plan for global warming post-Kyoto. There's also evidence that emissions stabilized under Dion's years as minister. Therefore, let no NDP or Conservative or Bloc party member claim Dion was a do-nothing Environment minister. I think Elizabeth May sums it up well: "'If they try to say he was anything other than a very strong environment minister, they're making it up.''

Also one thing is clear about the overall Liberal record (and the latest Statscan report solidifies this): emissions went DOWN over the Liberal years in government at least in terms of intensity. Conservatives cannot put forth a plan based solely on intensity targets and claim that is all that's needed and then turn around and say the Liberals have a bad record when Liberals met strong intensity targets during their term in office. Liberals have now moved beyond intensity targets to realizing they won't be enough going forward but it only goes to show that they are more serious about addressing global warming than are the Conservatives. The Conservative plan had its place before (and its exactly what the Liberals were accomplishing), but we need to go much farther now. We now know that when you just bring down bring down emissions in terms of intensity emissions can still easily go up in absolute terms (which is the reality of 1990 to 2005). Which brings me to the second point.

2. Keep up the Attack on the Conservative Environmental Plan and Remind Canadians of the Bali Embarrassment. The plan is completely ineadequate for meaningfully decreasing emissions. Almost every independent group has assailed the Conservative plan noting how it won't even come close to decreasing emissions by 20% in absolute terms from 2006 levels (not to mention that that's still quite far from the Kyoto targets of 6% below 1990 levels). I haven't heard Liberals talk much about the Conservative plan in recent months but I hope that in the campaign they highlight the Conservative plan as the scam that it is and all the time they wasted in dealing with this issue (as they scrapped Liberals plans, did nothing for a year and then just re-instated them). It definitely helps when the plan has been so universally slammed, even by groups that are often friendly to Conservatives (like C.D. Howe) see here, here, here, here. This quote really says it all:

Baird has rejected all criticism of his government's plan from independent research groups, economists and environmentalists, insisting he would stick with a plan to limit the growth of pollution from large industries instead of forcing them to make absolute reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Now their joke of a plan isn't even their only blunder on the environment as Liberals can't let Conservatives off the hook for much they embarrassed Canada on the world stage at Bali. Really Canada has never fared so badly in an international forum: 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, we saw Harper pasted in ads right alongside fellow obstructers Japan and the USA, Baird skipped most meetings and Canada was essentially condemned by the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) . 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). The "you first" attitude Baird put forth at Bali is only a plan that guarantees failure and Canada can do better and Dion would do better. I hope Liberals have an ad in the can that reminds Canadians about this debacle and that contrasts it with Dion's leadership in Montreal. So the Conservatives have been abysmal on the environment but the Liberals can't truly own the environment issue without....

3. Putting Forth a Comprehensive Plan to Make a Canada a World Leader on the Environment. The Carbon Budget was an absolutely excellent start and already puts Liberals miles ahead of the Conservatives. The plan was widely praised by environmental groups (contrast that with the Conservative plan), but we need to go farther with a more comprehensive plan. I'm confident that such a plan is in the works (that could incorporate tax shifting, plans to encourage more green homes, etc..), I just hope that it is detailed enough so that environmental groups and Canadians at large will clearly see how the plan will get us to large absolute reductions in emissions while also being immune to criticisms that it will severely damage the economy (therefore it should be as thoroughly costed as possible and also have some economists that back it up). I think Canadians would much rather as taking on global warming as aggressively as the EU and not as weakly as the Americans, but I believe Dion will bring forth a plan that will take us in that direction we need to go.

I'm not one of those Liberals who believes we need to release our platform before an election (I don't know the last politician that benefited from that), so I don't mind waiting but I do think it's essential that the Liberals own the environment issue if they are going to win the next election. The environment isn't on the radar as much now as it was but I think it will be one of the main issues in the next campaign and Liberals need to be ready. If the Liberals are prepared to defend their record, not afraid to take the Conservatives to task on their environmental record, and put forth an extremely strong environmental plan then I'm certain Canadians will reward them for it.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Je Me Souviens

When I read stories like this (below), I do hope Quebecers (especially Quebec women) don't forget stories like this (“Harper and Dumont are playing political footsie”)

Once the rising star of Quebec politics, Mario Dumont's fortunes have fallen dramatically in recent weeks as the leader of the Action démocratique du Québec struggles to contain a series of damaging disclosures.
The latest came in a scathing letter of resignation on Sunday from a former member of the ADQ executive, Sylvie Tremblay, who said that she was the target of intimidation by an undemocratic party and disillusioned by Mr. Dumont's social policies, which would take women back 50 years.
"I hope the ADQ doesn't take power in the next election ... because the party scares me with respect to women's rights and the lack of democracy," Ms. Tremblay wrote in a bitter letter of resignation sent to the media.

Dumont's party is now firmly in last place in Quebec politics (down 12 points since September according to some polls) and frankly there are few politicians who deserved to have their star fall faster (I would rank Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, Peter Van Loan, Pierre Poilievre, Gary Lunn and some other Conservative ahead of him though). Dumont has long been someone I have wanted to see fail and I am glad to see he is. However, we can't forget that Harper established close links to him when his star was rising and we can't let Harper off the hook for associating himself with such a dubious figure who really just symbolizes division and setting Quebec back in terms of diversity and gender equality. We need to keep the heat on the "In and Out" scandal, but Harper has many more skeletons in the closet that deserve attention in the media as well.

Couple this Harper-Dumont alliance with Harper's past musings and retractions on the Canadian Constitution, his dismal environmental plan, lack of concern for human rights (as the Afghan detainee scandal and their tacit support of the death penalty laid bare), and a long list of other scandals and one thing is clear: Les Quebecois ne peuvent pas avoir de confiance en Stephen Harper.

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Was This the Last Conservative “Justice Week”?

Many bloggers (including myself) have noted that the “In and Out” scandal once and for all ends any chance of the Conservatives running on openness and accountability in the next election. However, I also think now that the scandal and the Conservative response will also mean that it will be very difficult for them to be running as the “law & order” party either. Kady (ITQ) has noted that Conservatives seem to have a habit of launching a "justice week" when they seem to be in trouble. Well I say that card is gone now for several reasons. First is the obvious fact that Conservatives being raided by the RCMP in them midst of their “justice week” doesn’t make for a nice association or make them seem like they are the party you can trust with fighting crime. Second, as Warren has mentioned you can’t be a crime-fighting party when you are smearing the national police force just for investigating you. I’m frankly surprised that no one in the national force (or at least a former member of the force) has expressed outrage with Conservatives smearing the RCMP for doing their job in carrying out a search warrant. I can only imagine what Conservative smears of the RCMP would come out if the RCMP actually formally launch their own criminal investigation of this scandal or the Cadman affair. However, I think the most important reason why Conservatives have no credibly on crime issues any more is that their actions this week have laid clear that the Conservative view of the law is “if we suspect you of crime we’ll lock you up and throw away the key, but if we are the ones suspected of crime, then ‘so what?’ no big deal nothing to see here, it’s all a PR stunt or an Illuminati conspiracy.”

Conservatives need to learn the law is the law (and that includes elections laws), if it’s broken or suspected of being broken it’s a very serious matter and yet Conservatives shown themselves to be complete and utter hypocrites on this matter. By trivializing what they are being investigated for and smearing those that are investigated them they are trying to undermine confidence in the investigators but in the end they are only undermining Canadians confidence in the Conservative Government itself. Liberals have even given Stephen Harper a chance to try and regain his credibility on the crime issue with some very modest proposals to get to the bottom of the In and Out Scandal, yet there has been a deafening silence in response. The latest Conservative justice week has laid bare that the Conservative have no claim any more to being the party of “law and order”

But in order for Conservatives to not manage to try and resurrect crime as one of their issues it’s very important that the Liberals do everything they can to keep the media’s focus on the “In and Out” scandal and how the Conservatives have dealt with it because it gets to the very heart of why the Conservatives are not a party you can trust on crime or really on anything for that matter. I’d say Liberal bloggers across the board did a pretty good job of covering the bases of this scandal this week. Jeff mentions how it sure does seem like the Conservative Party has nothing to hide. Jason discusses how star Conservative worker Ryan Sparrow quickly losing all credibility, how the RCMP have many avenues to investigate here, and what $1.2 million in extra spending could have bought for the Conservatives in the last election and the latest Conservative strategy is simply to act like whining children. Steve notes how curious it is that the in and out transfers seemed to operate almost entirely in losing ridings (at least outside of Quebec), how Peter Van Loan is once again being extremely deceptive as the Conservatives claim Democracy Watch supports their position on “In and Out” when actually the opposite is true, how Pierre Poilievre is once again full of it in his claims regarding this scandal, and how even former Conservative candidates don't believe the Conservative line (we can now add more to the list too). Scott discussed how Pierre Poilievre is the best spokesman ever (I agree promote him! Put him in all of the Conservative commercials and more interviews like this!) and how Conservatives have been engaging in a troubling pattern of undermining Canadian Government institutions. Finally, Dan gets to the heart of all the sinister forces perpetrating this massive conspiracy against the Conservative Party (though I note the Illuminati is missing from the picture when clearly they are involved as well).

We’ll need to keep this up next week and beyond so Canadians don’t ever forget about this. However, while “In and Out” is a major scandal that Liberals should be talking from here till Election Day, there are many other issues that we have to make sure don’t fall off the radar either. So let’s talk this scandal, but not forget there are so many other Conservative scandals to go on as well (like the latest investigation of Flaherty that I notice many bloggers mentioned) and many positive messages and ideas coming from the Liberals that we can be highlighting too. Either way, while the Conservatives lose some of their main talking points we can continue to highlight ours.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Poll: Who Do You Think Will be the Next Conservative to be Investigated?

In the spirit of the last post, I'd like to know what you think, who will be the next Conservative to be investigated? You can vote in the top right hand corner of this blog. Feel free to indicate in the comments what you think they might be investigated for and or even feel free to remind us what investigations are already under way for many of these fine Conservatives.

Is there a Conservative you think is next in line not listed? Feel free to nominate them in the comments.

Maybe it will be Van Loan, or Diane Finley, or Rob Anders or maybe there will be another investigation that names more than a dozen Conservatives all at once (like for "In and Out"). We shall see.

UPDATE: See who won!

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Can the Cons Sink Any Lower?

Yes They Can! Just add one more serious investigation to the pile.

Ethics watchdog to probe Flaherty office contract

The federal ethics watchdog is investigating a sole-source contract Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's office awarded to a well-connected Conservative. Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told Flaherty of the pending investigation in a letter Tuesday. Flaherty has admitted his office broke government contracting rules in hiring Hugh MacPhie to help write last year's budget speech and provide advice on how to sell the document. MacPhie, who had written speeches for former Ontario Tory premier Mike Harris, was awarded the $122,000 contract without tender. Treasury Board rules generally require a bidding process for contracts worth $25,000 or more.

So Flaherty kills the party in Ontario and now gets to be the next minister whose claims of being "holier than thou" proved to be a complete lie. I have little doubt there are many more Conservative scandals waiting to be uncovered, with this Government it's only a matter of time. They are well beyond 50 major scandals by this point, why not go for 100 or 200!

Which minister will be investigated next? The suspense is killing me.

It must be just so good to be a Tory these days....

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Is Harper Planning Another In and Out? And Other Thoughts on The Conservatives' Best Week in Office

So with the blog hiatus over I can now re-direct my attention back to where it matters most: Canadian politics. I gave my my thoughts on the RCMP raid the day it happened, but the story has only gained strength since then.

First of all though Harper's recent comments about the "in and out" scandal have me quite alarmed and I'm surprised the media hasn't jumped on this yet. This story notes that
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Conservatives followed the spending rules in the last election — but if the official interpretation of those laws changes, the party will adapt as well."
Ok so does this mean that unless an official ruling comes BEFORE the next election that the Conservatives plan to repeat the same creative accounting all over again?

Stephen Harper needs to give a very clear answer on this and he should firmly commit that no matter how they handled advertising next election his party will under NO circumstances go over the $18 million spending limit. If he can't commit to that then that's extremely troubling and essentially admits that they were planning to get around the rules when the next election came despite the fact that those rules are there for a very good reason. Elections don't operate on a level playing field when other parties stay within an $18 spending million limit and another goes $1 millon or more over it through some creative book-keeping. This should not happen again and Harper should commit to that.

Harper should also explain these comments of his former adviser Tom Flanagan who has had the current PM's ear for years:
"Even though there is a cap on national campaign spending, it is easy and legal to exceed it by transferring expenditures to local campaigns that are not able to spend up to their own legal limits"
(see here for more info on Flanagan's revealing musings), but it would seem that Tories just don't have any respect for the spending cap and they keep dodging this issue when asked about it. Again the media have to ensure Harper commits to respecting the rules that it seems everyone but him agrees to.

As for my thoughts on the farce that has been the Conservatives' official handlings of this scandal in recent days, I think two words sum it up: laughable and pathetic.

First they tried (and continue to try) to run down the organization that is tasked with making sure our elections free and fair. It's an organization that has an impeachable record and that is respected around the world. Yet solely because they are investigating Conservatives (and have busted them before mind you over the dispute over their convention fees) now this very proud institution is being smeared. It's just absolutely shameful and I don't think many Canadians will support many of the tinfoil hat theories coming out the Conservative caucus on this. The fact is no other party spent over $18 million and no other party did what the Conservatives are accused of. In fact this investigation is the most serious Elections Canada has ever undertaken (since its inception in 1974), so take off the tin foil hats Tories and start realizing that what you are being investigated for is quite serious. Meanwhile, I think Canadians will see that this is far from the only scandal you are dealing with, it's just part of one long shameful pattern.

Then there was another fine example of how a government should deal with the media. I think those who were there describe it best but whoever thought that holding secret meetings, picking friends (and making enemies) with certain media outlets and then sneaking out down the fire escape was a great strategy for handling this mess I just hope those same individuals have a high level role in managing their election campaign. While Warren suggests that some people be fired, I say no promote them!

And then the full warrant was released Monday (a day after snippets were given to handpicked media when Conservatives claimed a few days earlier they didn't have the warrant). I encourage everyone to read Aaron Wherry's Maclean's blog where he dissects the warrant in excruciating detail (I think there are more than 20 different posts on it) and this Globe article that does a good job of naming all the important players in the scandal. Suffice it to say I don't think there will be many smiling faces at the next Conservative caucus meeting that's for sure. One just can't be too happy when you see headlines that say "Tories Violated Elections Law" and it is alleged that you deliberately went over the spending limit, filed deliberately misleading statements, and there is evidence of doubts being expressed about the legality of the Tories' actions by members of their own party and media relations arm from the last election. Well this is what they get for running the last election pledging to be holier than any party in history and in the end they are exposed as party that has gone against honesty, openness and integrity at every turn.

As for whether an election will come soon, well if we get the June election many have mused about then I can just say that I will be very much looking forward to celebrating this year's Canada Day knowing we again will have a Prime Minister that will make Canadians so proud at home and respected abroad. Today we don't have that kind of leader at the helm of our country, but when the election comes I know Canadians will get the Prime Minister they deserve and that will be Stephane Dion.

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The Chase for Change 2008: Pennsylvania Edition After Thoughts - The Race Goes On

If you want to read my coverage of this primary as the results came in earlier tonight click here. So with the final results being a 10 point victory for Clinton my first thought is one I've been saying again and again: despite what many pundits have said Clinton is not finished. I mentioned a scenario back in March in which if she took Pennsylvania by a wide margin she would argue to superdelegates that Democrats are having "buyer's remorse" about Obama and that he's damaged goods. That indeed I'm sure will be her argument going forward.

So let's see where the race stands now from each campaign’s perspective.


The Good:
- She's got momentum and she got the 10 double digit lead her critics said she needed.
- She was dramatically outspent by Obama and he campaign much harder in Pennsylvania then he did in Ohio and yet he still lost by 10 points.
- I still think Michigan and Florida will be seated at the convention and even if Clinton has to compromise in some way (such as manybe spltting the Michigan delegation with Obama but keeping her Florida share) this will boost her delegate tally.
- Framing the race as 1988 all over again may have resonance with some superdelegates. If she successfully casts Obama as being like Dukakis that will spell trouble for him. People have to remember that while there is clear argument on the basis of fairness for superdelegates to vote the "will of the people" these are in the end the party establishment who have had a reputation for not being well in touch with grass roots. You may argue it's a foolish choice but nothing stops superdelegates from coming up with any argument they want to justify giving the race to Hillary such as (NOTE: these are NOT my reasons, I'm just saying what they could come up with as possible rationales): Obama can't beat McCain (in fact polls right now she her doing better on a state by state basis then Obama - see the front page of http://www.mydd.com/), Obama can't win working class voters the Democrats need to win, Obama can't win states Democrats need to win (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio), voters in all the earlier states would have voted differently (i.e., for Hillary Clinton) if they knew more about Obama and so on. All these arguments are dubious on some levels but they could be used to justify thwarting the popular will to give Hillary the nomination.
- The narrative may shift now to "why couldn't Obama seal the deal?" or "why can't Obama win working class voters?" away from "why won't Hillary drop out"

The Bad:
- She has no chance of winning the most pledged delegates and has extremely little chance of winning the overall popular vote in the end. (she may yet turn to the electoral vote argument as Clinton supporter Evan Bayh mused about, but I'm not so sure that will fly because it's been a very late tactic and seems all too convenient as the Democrats have a proportional system for a reason). Even though it will be the party establishment deciding the nomination there is no more powerful argument against doing so then they would be dramatically over-ruling the grassroots of the party (don't rule that out though).
-Voters are hungry for change and Hillary still does not embody that. I don't know how many voters will be impressed by her trying to co-opt Obama's slogan and make hers "Yes We Will".
Her speech had some good lines, but for the most part she still doesn't excite voters the same way Obama does.
- Personally, I am turned off by her negative ads (the same goes for any negative ads Obama runs but I've found Hillary's worse) and I hope she doesn't feel those were what give her a victory in Pennsylvania. They may backfire on her yet if they continue as The Democratic Party simply can't afford to have its two candidates continually digging up dirt and slamming each other at every turn - all it does is make for Republican campaign commercials down the line (the Liberals here in Canada should know that all too well). Clinton and Obama wining the nomination is worth nothing if they are too damaged for the general.
- Clinton needs a stronger positive message that resonate to the same level as Obama's change message. Even though her speech was mostly positive, I'm not sure she's found that yet ("Yes We Will" just sounds too much like she's imitating Obama to work).
- She's on pace to lose in North Carolina and may yet lose Indiana (though I think she'll win there by getting a bump from tonight's victory). That could stunt any momentum for her.

Overall, she's got to be happy tonight, but she's still the underdog, she still has a lot of work to do to convince superdelegates to overrule the popular will, but if she takes the lion's share of the remaining primaries (which by no means is a sure thing), her chances will get better. As I've said since New Hampshire don't count Clinton out easily.


The Good:
- Obama narrowed the gap from what could have been considered a blowout (15-20 points) to a 10 point loss. Not great (and I don't think he's happy at all with the results tonight), but no one will call this an absolute disaster for him.
- He's going to win the most pledged delegates AND the popular vote. He will be able to use that argument right till the very end and it fits well within his entire reframe of being the people's candidate who will stand up to the establishment.
- After 8 years of disastrous Republican policies his argument of a clear break from the past resonates very well. Voters in America seem angry with Washington in general and he fits best in the role of Washington outsider who's going to shake things up. Also someone who won't take money from lobbyists or PACS and yet who has raised more money then anyone in history is definitely an inspiring model.
- Clinton is trying to steal his message and co-opt his slogans. I think many people will see this as an admission that she realizes Obama's message is one that works.
- Going forward Obama will have more money to blanket remaining states with advertising. It's not enough at all (as tonight showed), but it certainly doesn't hurt to have this capability.

The Bad:
- Obama just can't seem to seal the deal. All those people who said Hillary just needs to step aside for Obama I think are going to go quiet now. The narrative I think will change to being about why Obama can't wrap things up and that's not going to help him. He's going to be on the defensive over the next week and how he handles that will be important.
- He has to combat the argument that he can't win among working class voters. He can't afford to be painted as Dukakis so he should make the case soon of all the ways in which that comparison is completely wrong.
- He needs new speech material. I'd say both speeches tonight were good and some good new lines, but for the most part were just repetitions of what has been said before. Each of Obama's early primary victory speeches incorporated new elements that made them more memorable, he needs to do that again or he runs the risk of being seen as having a somewhat stale message.
- Even though he actually has talked in depth about his policies on his website and in some past speeches there's still a common perception that all he talks about is "hope" and that he never spells out what he would actually do as President. It's not true, but I think Obama has to find a way to put this myth to rest perhaps by doing a policy focused tour because I think one thing preventing some voters from coming his way as that they think he lacks substance. His speech on race actually went a long way to impressing some of those voters, but that was just one major issue, he should be doing a whole tour about different policies in my view and use all that to frame out some new speech material.

In all, I still say Obama is the favourite, but he's been wounded tonight. If he lost by 5% things would have been different, but a double digit lost is a big symbolic blow for someone many thought had the race in the bag and who actually did campaign quite hard in Pennsylvania. He's got to re-group and re-tool somewhat in order to get his momentum back. Will he accomplish this? We'll see, but he still remains in better shape than Hillary Clinton is in.

I'll be curious to see if Obama agrees to the tentatively scheduled debate for April 27th (as far as I know he hasn't), but if he does I do hope the questions are a bit more substantive than the last debate (I mean 45 minutes until a question came on a legitimate policy issue that's pretty sad).

I say now I can't see how this race gets called before the end of June (for the sake of badly needed progressive change I do hope superdelegates heed Dean's call and end the race by then so Democrats can focus on the general). At the least the Chase for Change series won't have to wait so long till the next primary.

Till then there's lots to talk about in Canadian politics...

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: Pennsylvania Edition (Live Blog)

The Chase for Change returns and so do this blog from its hiatus! With school done now it will be back to business as usual here. So I’ll be live-blogging the Pennsylvania results as they come in.
An early prediction: I say Hillary wins by 7% (wait (9:10 PM): since it seems only Obama and Clinton are on the ballot I doubt 1% of Dems will spoil so a 8% spread makes more sense- wasn't sure if Gravel was still hanging around though I see Paul and Huckabee are still on the Republican ballot) and stays in the race. CNN says the race is close based on exit polls. However, we know how accurate American exit polls have been in the past so we will see… Anyways check back later at this link as the results keep coming in

I’ll also be doing a post later tonight on the past week in Canadian politics that has surely made Conservatives happier than they ever been.

8:40 PM: With less than 1% in (keep checking that link if you want the up-to date results), Hillary leads 65% - 35%. Strongly doubt this kind of lead will hold.

8:50 PM: According to exit polls (again I'm not totally sold on these) late deciders went for Clinton, but newly signed up Democrats went mostly for Obama. Interpret as you will...

8:51 PM: 3% in Hillary up 55% - 45%. This seems more like a number that could hold but early yet.

9:03 PM: According to exit polls (alas, the talking heads have little else to talk about right now), 40% of voters tonight were over 60, while only 10% were under 30. That's surprising I'd say...
Gap is narrowing though, 52%-48%. It's only 6% in, but the Clinton campaign might be getting worried right now.

9:05 PM: Ok Hillary has been pronounced the winner of Pennsylvania now by CNN. But what matters really is the spread, she needs to do better than a 5% win I'd say.

9:15 PM: Turnout was apparently almost 50% in this primary (compares with 18% in 2000). Bodes well for the Democrats in November anyway...

9:23 PM: The mood has gotten a lot better over at Clinton HQ I'm sure as she's up 53-47% with 18% in.

9:39 PM: The Clinton argument to come: She's won working class voters and Obama would lose them to McCain ending up like Dukakis in 1988 who lost Pennsylvania to Bush Sr because he lost working class voters to him. It's definitely true the Dems need to win Pennsylvania in November but we'll see if this argument has any traction.

9:50 PM: Clinton up by 10% now. Exit polls look like they were wrong again.

10:10 PM: Clinton up by 8% (close to what I predicted) with 55%. I think she's about to hit the stage. Governor Rendell is coming out now, I think he'll introduce her.

10:15 PM: Out she comes. She's looking happy. I guess Obama will speak later from Indiana. I expect her to mention more than once that Obama outspent her 3 to 1 and/or talk about how hard he campaigned there, etc....

10:16 PM: Bill Clinton is behind her this time for what I think is the first time in awhile for a victory speech. Not sure that's a great move, he just seems to be full of controversy this race.

- Talks about family roots in Pennsylvania.
- She's in this race till the end
- She'll stand up for the common people
- Compliments Obama and his supporters. Nice touch.
- Talks about women born before women could vote who could say to their granddaughters if Hillary were President: "see you can be anything you want." Good line.
- Ok so now she mentions Obama outspent her "so massively". Boos from the crowd.
- Mentions Obama's spending again: Obama spent more than anyone in history of the state. I was right she's hitting that point more than once.
- "America is worth fighting for, you are worth fighting for"
- Talks about the importance of the feminist and civil rights movement: "This generation will grow up taking for granted that an African American or woman could be President of the United States" Another good line. Somehow don't think we'll be hearing it from John McCain.
- "The question isn't whether we can, but whether we will!"
- So she's trying to make "Yes We Will" her slogan
- So she says Yes She Will change this country. "God bless" and she exits to "This is Our Country"...

10:36 PM: 75% in, Clinton leads 54%-46%, this looks like this might hold. Even though her speech made it obvious she wants to carry on, I think she will have enough of a claim to do so.

10:42 PM: Obama is being introduce now. LOL Obama enters to "This Is Our Country!" Guess Clinton and him aren't just getting closer in slogans, but theme music too.

- Congratulates Clinton
- Mentions people thought he was going to be blown out and he's closed the gap. So there's the two arguments - Clinton says Obama spent too much money and couldn't win while Obama says he still narrowed the gap substantially.
- Obama says he registered record number of voters and it will be those that bring victory to Democrats in November.
- "We aren't here to talk about change for change's sake we are here because our country desperately needs it, we can't afford to keep doing what we've been doing the last 4 years."
- Uses the same line he's used 100 times before "we can't send the same players to Washington and expect a different result"
- John McCain isn't offering meaningful change from the policies of George W. Bush (I notice now Hillary didn't talk about McCain very much)
- Another line used for the 1000th time: "A war that should not have been authorized and should not have been waged."
- Goes off about McCain's support of Bush
- John McCain thinks America is making progress but he's blind to the problems that exist.
- The question "isn't whether the other party will bring change to Washington we know they won't the question is whether this party will"
- "We can be a party that takes money from lobbyists, we can look the other way for 4 years as they prevent us from changing health care or we can rein in their power and take our Government back"
- "We can regain not just an office, but the trust of the American people."
- "We can continue to cut this country into Red States and Blue States or we can continue the movement we started in this campaign and bring all Americans together....mentions each American demographic" (Note: I still think Obama is naive to think Republicans will work with him or any Democratic President)
- "The status quo in Washington will fight as hard as they can to stop us from now till November but don't forget that you have the power to change this country - you can make this election about what you want"
- "If we're willing to believe in what's possible again, we won't just win this primary season, we will change this country and we will change this world and this country will meet it's promise in the 21st century, let's get to work" And that's it for him.

11:06 PM: 84% in, Clinton up 55% - 45%. It will be a strong symbolic argument for her if she lands that double digit win.

12:30 AM: 98% in, Clinton still up 55% - 45%. I think her supporters will be happy with that.

Be back soon with my thoughts on tonight's results (my Pennsylvania follow-up can be found here)....

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Final Nail in the Coffin of Conservative "Accountability"

With a government that has been so patently dishonest and lacking in transparency from the beginning it was only a matter of time before it came to this. Though when was the last time a party's headquarters’ were raided by the RCMP?

But really this is just another in a long list of lies, stonewalling and troubling secrecy on the part of a Government so unwilling to accept any criticism or have any semblance of accountability.....

- The gutting of their own Accountability Act and breaking their promises on Access to Information.
- Continued misleading of Canadians with regard to the Afghan detainee torture scandal and repeated attempts to block any investigation of this file that carry on to this day.
- Shameful and repeated censoring of Access to Information Requests.
- Censoring Government scientists to ensure only the “party line” gets heard.
- Firing independent regulators (like Linda Keen) for doing their jobs.
- Creating a manual manual on how to disrupt committees which they have used to block any investigation of the Cadman affair (where Conservatives stand accused of bribing Chuck Cadman to vote with them) and the “In and Out” Scandal that has been the source of today’s RCMP raid.
- And a long list of other troubling actions.

This from a government that pledged in the last election to be open, transparent and accountable?

So for those who thought the “In and Out” Scandal involving accusations that the Tories broke the law in allowing local candidates to claim $1.2 million in expenses for ads produced by the national campaign (thus going over the legal spending limit) was no big deal think again. You don’t see the RCMP raiding party HQ over a minor issue. But this should not be seen in isolation and with such a long pattern of shameful behavior on the part of this government if they ever tried to run a campaign claiming they were an honest and accountable government Canadians will either just laugh or turn away in disgust.

Canadians will instead be looking in the next election for a leader that embodies honesty and integrity and there is no federal party leader who has exhibited that more in his career than Stephane Dion.

Even Jack Layton has said that Dion is a “committed Canadian and a man of principle and conviction” as have so many others that have worked with Dion over the years. Canadians will see this clearly come election time as well. In contrast to the scandal prone Conservatives who mislead and stonewall at every turn, Dion will provide an honest government that is open and transparent.

Instead of a one-man show Government with the weakest front bench in Canadian history, a Dion led Government will have the strongest front bench in Canadian history.

Instead of demonizing and silencing our scientists and independent regulators, Dion will listen to them.

Instead of a government that governs at home and abroad based on ideology, Canadians will see in a Dion led Government one that governs based on reason and sound policy.

Instead of a government that is now seen as a pariah on human rights and the environment, under Dion, Canada will be a leader on both fronts.

Instead of a government that stands up for Canadians only when it’s convenient, a Dion government will stand up for all Canadians at home and abroad.

Instead of dividing people, Dion will show his capacity to unite them (like he did here).

Instead of always eyeing which policies will win the most voters or only paying attention to those voters that might vote for his party, a Dion government will provide Canadians with the policies needed to move Canada to the head of pack in the 21st century.

Dion will give Canadians the Government we can trust and the Government we need at this time in our history.

I for one look forward to a Prime Minister Dion so we can put this shameful era in Canadian history behind us and have a government we can proud of again not just at home but across the world itself. Today we move one step closer to that.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Conservative Logic: No One Has a Right to Criticize Us, Especially Those Most Affected by Our Bills!

So my hiatus will likely continue until next week (April 21 being the end date for all important school matters) and then it will be regular blogging again. But sometimes you read things so ridiculous that you just feel the need to comment.

So I haven't been following closely the discuss of Bill C-10, but from what I've heard some aspects of it sound like completely needless censorship and that the bill has the potential for stifling some good creative work by denying tax dollars to Canadian movie productions that would have gotten them in the past.

Bu today it's gotten more press as Sarah Polley (who is among many actors strongly opposing the censorship aspects of this bill) spoke out strongly against it.

Let's see what points she made:

Polley said that the bill's definition of "offensive" is "extremely vague and dangerous to be using."

"It's the job of artists to provoke and to challenge. Part of the responsibility of being an artist is to create work that will inspire dialogue, suggest that people examine their long-held positions and, yes, occasionally offend in order to do so."

"I know very few filmmakers that would risk trying to try to make a film that was controversial or pushed the envelope or was even interesting in any way if this bill was in place"

Polley said the whole concept of guidelines imposed by the government is dangerous.
"I guess the question here is: who has the right to decide what is offensive?" said Polley.

"In this case, I think it's really dangerous to lay that responsibility in the hands of the minister of heritage. I think we have arms-length organizations that make these decisions very rigorously."

She also noted that the bill includes a double standard when it comes to American films made in Canada. "American productions would actually not be affected and their tax credits would be safe," said Polley. "Which, I think, is pretty problematic and I think shows how sloppy this bill was."

So surely the Conservatives addressed each of Polley's points forthrightly no?

Well of course they did:

In the press release (in response), the Conservatives took specific aim at Polley. She has been a vocal NDP supporter and once lost a pair of teeth when the riot squad aggressively broke up an anti-Mike Harris demonstration outside of the Ontario Legislature.

"Individuals with vested personal and political interests should be honest with Canadians on what their true intentions are,'" said Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa-area MP.

"Hard-working Canadians are growing increasingly tired of special interest groups telling them what to do."

Seriously, does Pierre Poilievre ever think before opening his mouth? And what goes through Stephen Harper and Sandra Buckler's minds as they approve of him saying things like this?

Basically the message is "how dare you actors who this bill affects most speak against it! You're just a bunch of lefties so your opinions don't matter!"

By Conservative logic if there's cuts to education in the future, we don't need to hear from any teachers. If there's cuts to health care, doctors and nurses shouldn't be allowed to speak. They're all just a bunch of special interests (who are probably too left wing to be taken seriously). Very twisted logic by this Government indeed.

Can any Conservative please tell me how it matters in the slightest that Sarah Poley is an NDP supporter? Why is that worthy of mention in a press release? Are the Conservatives really saying that means her opinion doesn't matter? Is Sarah Poley not also a hard working Canadian who pays her taxes?

And how is Sarah Polley telling Canadians what to do as Pierre claims anyway? She's giving legitimate criticisms of a government bill and virtually all actors and movie producers seem to be behind her on this.

It just seems the Conservatives these days can't stand to be criticized for anything, especially by those who feel the brunt of their worst policies. And they have absolutely no shame in hitting back resorting to the most irrelevant of personal attacks. It's absolutely appalling.

Does it not make sense that those groups most affected by any bill would have a right to speak against it? Do they not have a right to receive a logical response from the government to each of their concerns?

But I guess common sense and decency has never applied to this Conservative Government since Day 1.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stephen Harper and the Quebecois Nation Part 2

My hiatus notwithstanding I couldn't resist this story about Harper wanting to "bolster" Quebec in the constitution.

When this last came up over the Christmas holidays this was what I had to say:

"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?"

So it seems the English language media is now finally starting to pay attention, but what I said over 3 months I think still applies equally as well. I would be extremely surprised to see the kinds of condemnatory editorials written about this topic when Ignatieff proposed it be written in reference to Harper's proposal. At the least, if Harper is criticized at all for this, the criticisms will be quite toned down from what Igantieff received because Harper essentially has the media his in pocket these days (I bet this week both James Travers and Chantal Hebert pen columns this week praising this latest gambit as "genius").

As it to why this is being raised again, I would guess it's another attempt by Harper to sow divisions amongst the Liberals and try to get them divided over this issue, while also trying to put them on the defensive in Quebec. However, I think Liberals can come to a consensus that we can't ignore the concerns of Quebecers by any means but that solutions can be found OUTSIDE the constitution and I think that view would be supported by a large majority of Canadians (and even a good chunk of federalists who remember how Meech and Charlottetown ultimately bolstered the separatist forces).

As well, I think we can't forget about Aboriginals here, why recognize Quebecers and not Aboriginals? Let Stephen Harper answer that question (I imaigne no one in the media will ask him though).

Also Harper should be asked, what 7 Premiers (governing provinces making up at least 50% of the population) will he be getting to support this? Would they even come to the table? If not, what's the point of this grandstanding? Because after all, I think that's all this is: Harper promising something he will never deliver - anything to try to get his majority (I hope in the end enough Quebecers will see through this).

That said, as I have indicated before, I think going back into constitutional discussions will be extremely divisive across the country and will almost certainly end up where we were the last time this was tried: negotiations collapsing and the country being more divided and Quebecers more angry at the rest of the country than they were before. So I hope Liberals aren't tempted to support Harper's latest proposal.

I just hope the media can do their job on this and be as critical as they should be of this.

Back to the books....

UPDATE: It seems Harper's ministers are contradicting each other now, so maybe the glowing revivews from Travers and Hebert will be put on hold.

However, this does mean that Harper should be asked pointed questions on exactly where his government stands. He can't get away with having one minister promise something and having another say "oh, maybe later". Harper himself has said he wants Quebec's demands recognized in the constitution so he needs to make his position clear one and for all and not be allowed to play all sides on this issue.

And while they are at it, why not ask Harper what Rona Ambrose is up to these days as the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister? As BC'er points out it seems she's been pretty busy on this portfolio of late.

Again I hope the media does its job here....

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I'm Not Dead Yet

Since some were starting to wonder about me, I thought I'd explain my recent absence from the blogging world. Well it's been rough trying to keep up with the blogging as the end of the term approaches and it's crunch time in every one of my Master's courses and I have a ton of papers to grade. Some of my earlier readers remember a brief hiatus this blog took in December when the last term was ending. Well after the end of next week things will be back to nomal at Galloping Around the Golden Horseshoe and upon my full return I'll probably even give my thoughts on what I've missed.

In meantime blogging will be a bit sporadic. But I'll be back in full force soon.

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