Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Weak Hand on Full Display

What does it say when the two main highlights of Harper's mini-shuffle include promoting the unelected Fortier and officially re-affirming in Foreign Affairs Emerson who could have never been elected as a Conservative? It's a real victory for democracy for sure, but it seems obvious Harper has little faith in his team that was elected in the last election. It's laid out pretty clear when Harper could not find a single person to fill the Secretary of State for Agriculture post and took the unprecedented step (has this ever happened before?) of leaving Christian Paradis in the junior portfolio while also giving him Public Works. Some real front bench strength here that's for sure.

Other thoughts:
- The war on Ontario and the environment continues as Flaherty and Baird stay in place. Good for the Liberals, but very bad for Canada and our reputation.
- James Moore's curse was finally broken. He's done an atrocious job as the Cadman spokesperson, but few can deny that he's not at least as qualified as some of the people who were already in cabinet.
- I know people have said Fortier is qualified for International Trade but shouldn't you only get a promotion in a job if you did well before? Who thinks Fortier was a solid Public Works Minister?
- Gerald Keddy is going to be pretty busy in the fall in the House as Parliamentary Secretary to Fortier. Does Keddy speak French? If not, who answer the French questions? I guess Peter Van Loan answers all the questions anyway...
-Harper has still done nothing to elevate any women in cabinet continuing to show he doesn't care about women's issues or gender equality. Very sad.

All in all the weakest cabinet in history lead by a PM cowering from debating the issues is what Canadians saw on display yesterday and seems to be what they'll be seeing all summer.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Green Shift: The Right Plan to Make Canada a World Leader Again

Yesterday Canadians saw a party leader willing to take the necessary steps to protect our environment and economy in the most fair and equitable way. The Green Shift stands miles ahead of anything else other parties have on offer as the most effective way to combat climate change, while transforming our tax system in a way that makes the most sense for stimulating work and investment in the kinds of technologies we want our companies investing in.

Opponents will continue to fear-monger and engage in semantic debates in an attempt to distract, but those who believe there could be a perfect policy that is painless for every Canadian are delusional really don’t have business being in government. With the Green Shift in place the ONLY people that will pay more will be those who pollute more than they should. The plan creates a strong incentive to be environmentally friendly and given the ample evidence that people respond to appropriate price signals will therefore decrease our greenhouse gas emissions and SAVE many Canadians money overall each year of this plan and that’s the bottom line. I think each of the arguments coming out against this plan are easily addressed and one can see this is about the most balanced plan you could possibly put forward to accomplish the goals it sets out to do.

The Conservative Arguments

It would seem the Conservative response is to pretend they didn’t praise Gordon Campbell’s revenue neutral plan and call Stephane Dion a liar who can’t be trusted when he says all the money collected from a carbon tax will be returned to tax-payers. I think Stephane Dion was good to call them out on this when he asked blatantly today “are they calling Gordon Campbell a liar too?” You can’t have it both ways Stephen Harper. B.C. showed it can be done and the Liberals will enshrine IN LAW that all dollars raised by a carbon tax MUST be returned to taxpayers. This is little different than Conservative promises to return all money saved on interest on Canadian debt paid off through future tax cuts (so any money saved on interest is returned to taxpayers). Liberals will similarly enshrine in legislation that added any added revenue must be returned to taxpayers. To say the Liberals would go back on such a central platform claim of doing just that is really hard to believe given Stephane Dion’s reputation for sound integrity that is recognized by ALL parties. And if Conservatives want to turn around and say tax credits are really spending programs and therefore the plan isn’t literally “revenue-neutral” well then the Conservatives are going to have to go back and re-write all their press releases on past budgets of theirs that called tax credits “tax relief” or even “tax cuts”: they may want to have it both ways but Canadians are smarter than that as we know the Conservatives were the kings of putting in place tax credits. The difference is for Liberals there is a compelling rationale for each one based on need and fairness and encouraging investments, while for Conservatives their tax credits come largely from focus-groups and polling in a bid for a few extra votes.

Also to act like Stephane Dion changing his mind on carbon taxes is some big sign of his dishonesty is a bit rich coming from the man who famously promised not to tax income trusts and then with no prior notice did so anyway: bankrupting many families’ savings in the process. I disagreed with the way that was done and prefer the Liberal plan on income trusts, but Harper did provide justifications for why he changed his mind and Stephane Dion has provided justifications for why he changed his. For Conservatives to accept one and reject the other is patently dishonest. People aren’t rigid automatons embedded with same beliefs for decades, Stephane Dion has observed what’s happened in Europe (where they have been problems getting a formal cap-and-trade system up and running and where some countries have had demonstrated successes with carbon taxes) and had lengthy discussions with his caucus on the best environmental and economic plan to put forward. Many politicians have also changed their minds on same-sex marriage in recent years, people can change their opinions and as long as they can justify the change of heart we should be fine with that especially if they have come around to the adopting the best approach (like allowing same-sex marriage and combating climate change with a Green Shift).

The reality is many small c-Conservatives and economists back this plan and deep down probably many members of the Conservative Party know it is the best approach as well. In opposing the Green Shift and calling it “insane” and “crazy” Conservatives have abandoned their principles in favour of pandering for votes based on a disinformation and fear campaign. When you have NO worthwhile plan (not a single independent group thinks it will come close to meaningfully decreasing greenhouse gas emissions) of your own I guess there’s little else you can do though.

The NDP Arguments

The NDP response I saw today from Tom Mulclair was just to say that you had to pick between cap-and-trade and carbon taxes and you couldn’t do both, that they can’t be complementary. Somewhat surprising to hear from a former Quebec minister of the environment since Quebec IS doing both, as is B.C. Not to mention that Kyoto is global cap-and-trade and many countries with carbon taxes participate in it. The NDP I think has many members who would favour a Green Shift in combination with cap-and-trade like the Liberals do, but Jack Layton has thrown down the anchor and therefore they have to make due with what they have. They claimed the Liberal plan would harm the most vulnerable and that’s clearly NOT the case. Now the NDP is left opposing a plan that goes to some length in combating climate change and does so in a very fair and equitable way. The Liberals have also made a clear commitment to both cap and trade and a Green Shift. Environmentalists are lining up to say the Liberals have the better plan and I think the NDP is just at a loss right now for what to do (I note that as of now they have no response to the plan on their website). As a party that seems to like using Conservative talking points against the Liberals I’m sure disinformation will be their ultimate chosen approach as well.

The Outside Sceptics’ Arguments

Now I know there are some people that are mostly supportive of this plan, but have some reservations. I think again that it is impossible to have a perfect policy, and any meaningful environmental policy will have some costs passed on to the consumer, but I think this has the best balance. If you stuck to the rigid idea that “revenue-neutral” must mean that all amounts raised must be literally returned through income and corporate tax cuts proper then you would be clearly creating a situation where those with low or fixed incomes, live in rural or northern areas or have more children in the home would be clearly disadvantaged by a carbon tax relative to other Canadians. Liberals believe in balancing social justice with the economy and the environment and this plan does that with the tax credits component and it is still giving the money back to taxpayers as promised. So this plan has very substantial personal and income tax cuts proper but it definitely needed more than that and I’m glad to see it does.

Each of the tax credits such as those for seniors, low-income Canadians, families and rural and northern Canadians ensures that there will be a level playing field so that if those individuals are just as environmentally friendly as other Canadians they will save just as much money. There will be no “grannies freezing in the dark” as some people liked to claim under this plan the most vulnerable are CLEARLY protected against losing money under this plan as they should be. The plan is also well designed to minimize any administrative costs as carbon is taxed at the wholesale level and rather than creating many new tax credits as Stephen Harper has done (which adds more administrative costs), the plan mostly enhances those tax credits that already exist.

We also need to protect our industries so having a carbon tariff would be important in ensuring we don’t face unfair trade conditions. France President Sarkozy proposed taxing countries that didn’t meet their Kyoto targets and I believe the WTO allows for you to impose duties when you can demonstrate you face an unfair trade environment so I don’t believe is something completely novel being talked about here.

Finally it is very important that we be creating extra incentives for individuals to green their homes and invest in green technologies because if Canadians did this on a large scale then we would see dramatic reductions in energy consumption and those same Canadians will save even more money as an added bonus. Liberals will be doing this as well.

The reality is that to leave out all these kinds of incentives and tax credits would be creating a flawed and unfair plan that would go against what Liberals stand for.

So this plan does as it should: encourage environmentally friendly behaviour and investment while re-structuring our tax system in a way that will make us more competitive in the global market. It also commits to returning all the money raised back to taxpayers and ensures most Canadians will reap large savings as a result.

With the Green Shift Dion has finally unveiled the perfect mesh of his three pillars of social justice, economic prosperity and social justice and I am very glad to see this come to fruition.

Now the real campaign begins: getting past the spin and lies of the other parties and vested interests against this and communicating to Canadians why this is the plan we need, why it is fair, how it gets the job done and how the Liberals are the only party that is serious about taking on the challenges we face ahead of us.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Choice is Clear: Only One Party Has a Real Vision for the 21st Century

One senior Liberal advisor put it well Canadians have two clear visions to choose from:


A 3 x 5 postcard and a website         Vs. A positive comprehensive plan that
full of lies and no plan of its own           will have us leading the way

For the REAL facts on the economic and environmental plan we NEED for Canada for the 21st century visit:

You can read more about the plan here

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Real Leadership: Stephane Dion

Today we will see what it means to be a real leader willing to bring our country to where it needs to be to meet the challenges we face.

Real leadership means the willingness to enact sound policy NOW, not at a more political convenient time (that will NEVER come) that the punditry thinks you should wait for.

Real leadership means balancing social justice, the economy and the environment, not pitting them against each other. The most prosperous countries that will be respected the world over will be those that see these as complementary.

Real leadership means telling the truth about where you stand and why we need go there instead of engaging in sound bites and fear-mongering because you're not willing to take any meaningful action.

Real leadersihp means taking on our most pressing challenges yourself rather than taking the easy road and leaving it for future governments to pass the buck as well.

Real leadership involves putting forth an environmental and economic plan that has support across party lines and is endorsed as sound policy by virtually anyone who doesn't have a political interest against it being put into place. One that combats poverty, enhances investment and productivity and helps make a Canada a world leader and role model to be followed on the environment.

Today we will see Stephane Dion embody real leadership and it will be clear from the response of the other parties that only Dion possesses it among the party leaders and is Dion is the only one willing to take Canada forward to be a world leader in the 21st century.

Stephane Dion is a leader not content to take the easy focus-group divisive approach or what the pundits think is "safe", but one who won't abandon our future generations, won't abandon the poor, won't abandon what's best for our economy, and won't abandon Canada's reputation on the world stage. His proposals today will show that he is the Prime Minister Canada NEEDS at this time in our history.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conservatives Are Toxic for the Environment

The Conservatives have never shown any interest in doing anything meaningful about protecting our environment, with their do-nothing environmental plan that was panned by every independent group and now they are enacting policies that will decimate our waters with their designation of 16 lakes across Canada as "Schedule 2" toxic waste dumps. And what about the ducks? The people carrying on the campaign so that the 500 that died at a toxic pond didn't die in vain, better continue their campaign because despite Harper calling that a national tragedy , his government's latest actions indicate the Conservative party doesn't really care about them, our water (that we drink and swim in) or really our natural environmental at all for that matter. Some "made in Canada" solution. Oily the Conservative Party environmental spokesman tells us all about it above.

How can anyone take these guys seriously when they claim to care about the environment? All they care about is votes and trying to lie, deceive and fear-monger as much as possible to keep power. No one should be of any illusions as to otherwise.

So the contrast will be clear when the Carbon-shift plan is released, a bold environment initiative taking the action we need to be a world leader on climate change and protecting our environment at home versus a party that is content in to be in last place on the world's most pressing issue while making our lakes a toxic waste dump at home. The best choice for the future of our country is becoming more clear by the day...

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Major First Step, but A Long Way to Go

Yesterday I watched the residential schools apology proceedings as they were taking place. While others can certainly find some fault with the proceedings, I really do believe the official proceedings all went as well as could be expected and I found it very moving to watch, especially as I was there watching it among people for whom it was so important and rightly so.

The fact is this was long overdue and I know from my discussions with many Native groups over the years it has been something they have been waiting for far too long. From my discussions with them, they have said that an apology would have been more meaningful to them than any sort of compensation. But a true apology is not just words, but the actions from the one asking forgiveness after the apology matter just as much if not more so. I hope that the apology will be a first step towards better cooperation, and even trust between the Canadian Government and Aboriginal Peoples going forward.

This much overdue apology really only began a short time ago, with the Chretien government when Jane Stewart was Indian Affairs Minister and continued with Paul Martin and the appointment of Frank Iacobucci and the Residential Schools financial settlement. However, the truth of the matter is, what means the most is the official apology from the Government of Canada by the Prime Minister, and it has taken far too long to arrive at. I applaud all the parties for stepping up and saying all the things that needed to be said in their apologies to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and also for allowing the Aboriginal leaders to speak with frankness from the floor of the House of Commons.

But while this is a major step in closing an extremely tragic dark chapter in our country's history let us not forget the troubles our Aboriginal People's still face today. This does represent a major step in opening up the ability of us to, perhaps for the first time, to really come together as equals and working on our futures together. Perhaps if an apology occurred earlier, we could have been a little further in our relationship with each other, but we must not let those thoughts enter flood either side with bitterness. There is much work to be done and I hope all parties can ensure that we will arrive at a day when we will be hearing Aboriginal groups from across the country saying "thank you for hearing our call - I am proud to consider myself both, an Aboriginal and a Canadian".

We still have a long way to go, but it is the duty of the government of Canada to ensure our First Nations are never again left behind and that they can enjoy the same standard of living and opportunities as all Canadians do. We must listen to their calls and we cannot fail them again.

NB: I will not be talking about the Poilievre scandal because I believe that regardless of any ill action, more attention should be paid to the historic value of the apology and what we will be doing as a nation to move forward in peace together. I hope all parties can focus on that much moreso going forward than we have in the past.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Conservative Party of Canada: Lying and Proud of It!

So when B.C. implements a revenue neutral tax shift John Baird goes to pains to say its not at odds with what the federal government is doing and says the tax shift “works for British Columbia”, but when Stephane Dion proposes something similar (and in a way that doesn’t add any new gas taxes unlike Campbell), it’s all a TAX TRICK! It’s a TAX ON EVERYTHING! You can’t walk across the street anymore without evil Stephane Dion taxing you for it if he had his way. I’m curious how a tax on EVERYTHING would really work, I hope to hear more.

Seriously they can’t even attack this without resorting to outlandish lies. This will work well in the debates I’m sure.

Then there is the timeline of "dirty tricks":
- 1917: Income taxes instituted. What a dirty trick let’s abolish them! Yet you raised them in your first budget and right now they sit exactly where they were when you came into office.
- 1932: Gas taxes instituted. Let’s abolish them! Oh wait you said you’d keep them as they are and they were important for funding infrastructure.
- 1941: Employment insurance instituted. Let’s abolish that too! Seriously though they are criticizing the EI surplus at the SAME TIME as they are DEFENDING it before the Supreme Court of Canada. If the Government of Canada lost that case it could owe as much $55 Billion: plunging Canada far into debt. Great way to undermine your own case Conservative Party!
- 1991: The GST! The people who put that into place were such liars! Oh wait a minute.... And every living breathing economist (including Stephen Harper privately I’m sure) agrees it is better to cut income taxes than the GST.
- 2004: The McGuinty health tax! Perhaps they should have mentioned that it was thanks to the likes of Baird, Flaherty and Clement that it was necessary and McGuinty won a larger majority after putting it in place.
- 2008: Gordon Campbell institutes a revenue neutral carbon tax in BC. Income taxes are cut to offset new taxes on carbon emissions. Plan receives widespread approval from economists, environmentalists, and even from the federal government.

Oh that last one wasn’t there? Curious that they felt the need to include McGuinty’s health tax and attack Ontario again but wouldn’t include Gordon Campbell’s filthy “tax trick”. I wonder why? Is it because this entire campaign is predicated on a lie? British Columbians know at least first hand that a revenue neutral tax shift can work and even Conservatives like John Baird gave faint praise to it. But these Conservatives have never been consistent, they’ve always been about just mindless attacks.

By the time the election actually comes (I think we can win now, but I think Liberals will wait till the fall and will win then) Conservatives will have thrown everything they had at this away and will have nothing left for the campaign.

Once Dion actually reveals his plan the Conservatives will be exposed as nothing but a party that wasted millions on a bunch of lies and juvenile attacks.

I’m still waiting on that first positive ad two and a half years later….You’d think a real leader could come up with something positive to say about himself by now don’t you?

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dion Furthers His Commitment to Women's Issues

I have heard from many Liberals who know Dion personally that he is more committed to women's issues than any past Liberal leader and I have certainly liked what I've seen so far with some of the most important commitments being:

- Commitment to one third female candidates in the next election (which they are on pace to meet) and gender parity in candidates within 3 elections
- 50% female appointments to Crown Corporations and the Senate
- Re-instating a national child care program
- Restoring the funding and mandate of the Status of Women Department
- 30/50 poverty plan

It is a dramatic departure from the regressive Conservative government in charge of the country right now.

I was therefore pleased to see two further positive commitments Dion has now made. I already knew for some time that Dion would not let Bill C-484 ("unborn victims of crime") pass, though it is very good to see him come out and make it official.

The reality is that the law ALREADY allows for increased penalties against those who would assault pregnant women leading to the loss of the pregnancy. Judges make sentences based on the severity of the crime and if the woman has been traumatized (as woman would be who lost her baby unwillingly) the penalty will almost be greater. But is extremely dangerous to be ascribing virtual personhood to an unborn fetus in legislation as once you have that in legislation it is a slippery slope. I respect people's personal opinions (especially as a Catholic) but I am strongly opposed to legislating one's religious views. Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephane Dion have all held the same view thankfully.

It is extremely telling that NOT A SINGLE anti-violence against women organization supports this bill and yet many pro-life groups do. It is my view that if this bill wasn't Ken Epp's attempt to re-open the abortion debate than I just don't think you would have the pro-life groups getting behind it. When Ken Epp actually says that he believes the bill will put pro-choice advoates in a greater position of having to justify to others why abortions are ever necessary, I think his intentions are being shown. As well, when not a single organization concerned with violence against women supports this bill you do have to question its necessity.

That said, I don't agree with those who have characterized those Liberals who voted for this at earlier readings as anti-choice. When you hurl such accusations at them in an attempt to get them to vote differently they are less likely to listen especially since the accusation is not true at all for a good many of the Liberal MPs who voted for this. I know some MPs legitimately believe that this bill (since it specifically says abortion won't be affected) won't re-open the abortion debate. I strongly disagree and I think the best approach is to lay out as clearly as possible without any personal attacks why those MPs who voted for this are wrong and why this legislation is not necessary to protect pregnant women against violence.

I want to commend the National Women's Liberal Commission and provincial Women's Liberal Commissions for taking exactly this approach in arguing against this bill to the Liberal caucus. I am sure they have changed some Liberal MPs minds about this legislation, but what's most important to me is that Dion has laid down the line and this will not become law.

The second commitment I was pleased to see is Dion's commitment to create a Commissioner for Gender Equality.

A Liberal government would create an independent Commissioner for Gender Equality to ensure that legislation and policies of the Government of Canada are examined with an equality lens.

This newly created office would be supported by enabling legislation which would mandate the Commissioner to report annually to Parliament. The Commissioner would also have the authority to audit federal government departments for gender-based analysis; examine existing programs and policies for their gender equality; whether those policies are in line with the Canadian government’s Federal Plan for Gender Equality as outlined
here; and to ensure international human rights commitments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), are honoured.

Combined with the legislation that would be introduced to give the Commissioner his/her mandate, Canadians would have genuine accountability about the effect of their government on the quality of life of Canadian women and their families.

In addition, Mr. Dion announced Ms. Marleau and the members of Women’s Caucus will tour the country over the next few months to hear from Canadian women about the issues they are most concerned about. “We want to reach out to Canadian women to hear what they have to say on a number of Liberal initiatives, as well as other issues they want to highlight,” said Ms. Marleau.

“It’s important to listen to what women have to say about some of the most pressing issues facing our country and we will report back our findings.”

I think it's a great idea and this would be in line with what has been done in the UK, Australia and South Africa. I hope the other opposition parties can get behind this idea as well. It is a shame that the major news media hasn't really picked up this proposal of Dion's focusing more just on his (also important) opposition to Bill c-484.

In the next election the female vote will be crucial and I'm glad to see the Liberals aren't neglecting the issues that matter most to women. In stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives. I had to laugh when I read this Don Martin article awhile back that implied that Harper is successfully winning over female voters with his policies. The reality is Harper has taken a few baby steps forward with product safety regulations which is a valid thing to be doing, but it pales in comparison to all the major steps background this government is taking. Martin seems to take women for fools saying that obviously Harper doesn’t care about women but women will basically fall for his half-hearted efforts to show he is female friendly. Never mind the cuts to status of women, removing the drive for gender equality from its mandate, killing the popular child care plan and failing to create any new child care spaces since they've come to government, failing on poverty, pay-equity and a host of other Harper is failing to address. Women haven't been blind this past two years and aren't now. Perhaps Don Martin should have talked to some more women to see their thoughts before penning that article.

If Harper really wants the female vote perhaps he wouldn't have spent the past two years gutting all the positive advances for women that past Liberal governments had made. He should have a real child care plan that actually addresses the need for accessible affordable child care spaces. He should show a real commitment to gender equality in the House of Commons by running more female candidates, having more females in cabinet and giving at least some of them some clout (name ONE female minister that seems to have Harper's ear). He should have a real plan for addressing poverty. He should get behind Dion's proposal of a Commissioner on Gender Equality. Harper shows his true colours by failing to take on such proposals and that's why women still solidly prefer the Liberal party to his.

I give the NDP credit for seriously addressing gender issues and gender equality over the years but women know we desperately need a better government and the NDP can't provide that, they simply can't. A Liberal government will provide the leadership we need and it is clear that the large majority of women in this country don't want a renewed mandate for Stephen Harper.

A Liberal government will be the most progressive on women's issues than any that preceded it and I hope the NDP will work with them to make this happen.

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The Chase for Change 2008: Hillary Clinton Endorses Barack Obama (Video)

I would say this was easily the best speech I've ever seen her give. She ran a very strong campaign and she laid out the stakes in this election and its historic nature extremely well. The speech was positive in tone from start to finish (no even mention of John McCain) showcasing the great message Democrats are bringing in this election. I think it's a great step in unifying the party and I know no matter what role Hillary Clinton is given, she can be a strong asset to Barack Obama's campaign. If Democrats are united that will defeat John McCain as America and the world so badly needs.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Native Groups Being Shut Out of Residential-Schools Apology Process

I can't see any justification for this (see article below). This apology is so extremely important in helping to close one of the darkest chapters in our history. Why those who were the most affected by it wouldn't be included in the process is beyond me. It is quite unfortunate and the Harper government still has time to change course between now and June 11th.

I seriously hope that the apology is not politicized in any way (like the Arar apology was).

I want to be able to applaud Harper for doing this right because there is only one chance and this should in every way transcend partisan politics. I want to write here on June 11th that Harper did this right.

So I hope Harper can realize how big of deal this is and is mindful that it is essential that his apology be well received by Natives across the country. They are the ones that suffered and this is an extremely important step to bring closure for them on this disgrace in our history.

Native groups feel shut out of residential-schools apology

From Friday's Globe and Mail

June 5, 2008 at 7:37 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will rise in the House of Commons next Wednesday to deliver an apology that former students of Indian residential schools have waited decades to hear.

But Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl acknowledged Thursday that no native leaders will get to see the apology before it's read in the House, and details surrounding the landmark day are being left to the last minute.

Further, many former students from across the country are upset there is no broad program to help them come to Parliament Hill to witness the historic event.

“I'd sure like to go,” said Fran Fletcher-Luther, 73, of Chapleau, Ont., who spent 10 years in residential schools.

She tearfully recalled Thursday how, when she was 15 and dealing with painful appendicitis, medically ignorant school staff fed her laxatives for two weeks until her appendix burst.
Thinking of her many classmates who are now dead, Ms. Fletcher-Luther said it would be a powerful event to witness, but she can't afford the plane ticket.

“It is a historic moment,” she said. “To be there at that time would be a tremendous uplift.”
Several aboriginal groups said Thursday that they have been flooded with requests like Ms. Fletcher-Luther's for assistance to get to Ottawa.

Mr. Strahl explained Thursday that former students are encouraged to gather at local events across the country to watch the apology on television. About 100 aboriginals, primarily board members of school survivor groups, will be flown in at federal expense.

“We're not going to pay for thousands of students to fly to Ottawa,” Mr. Strahl told reporters.

As for the wording itself, Mr. Strahl said he and his staff have been listening to aboriginal groups and reading their submissions, but he has no intention of circulating any drafts beforehand as the Assembly of First Nations would like.

His language in the House of Commons Thursday, however, suggested that Ottawa is ready to use words that it has long avoided – such as describing students as “survivors” of residential schools.

“There have been ongoing consultations. It continued this week with more survivors that the Prime Minister and I met with,” Mr. Strahl said Thursday.

Details regarding a reception or special event for those students who pay their way to Ottawa are still up in the air, he said.

“Some of this stuff will be decided right up to the last minute,” he said, suggesting a big screen may be set up outside Parliament so that people can watch the apology. “We have no idea of how many people are coming. And neither does the Assembly of First Nations. So we're doing our best, and we'll make sure that it's very appropriate.”

Ted Quewezance, executive director of the National Residential School Survivors Society, said Thursday that former students are being left in the dark as to what the apology will say.
“It's pretty secretive. It hasn't been shared with anybody,” he said.

Mr. Quewezance expressed disappointment at being unable to accommodate the requests he has received from elders who want to be in Ottawa next week.

“That's the advice I gave government: to bring in as many survivors as possible,” he said. “What that does for me is it questions [the] sincerity. If they're sincere about it, let's bring as many people out as possible.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton privately appealed to the Prime Minister's Office weeks ago to involve native leaders in the drafting of the apology.

“It's deeply troubling,” he said of the government's decision not to circulate a draft. “They run the risk of that kind of paternalistic attitude of ‘we-know-best and the first nations will just have to accept what we dish out.'”

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Deja Vu

The ad above is paid for by Republican Party (RNC).I warned this would happen, but I guess the Democratic leadership candidates didn’t pay attention to what happened after the Liberal leadership race. Even so turning down the negativity on Obama on all sides certainly couldn’t have hurt – it’s a lesson for all party nominations: stay positive and just watch you don't get too negative or else it will come back later. What was said in the Democratic race was actually far more negative than anything in the Liberal leadership race though (I still say the Conservative ads here were pretty weak).

I don’t think this will have large effect though just like in Canada the Liberals rebounded in the polls after a short drop. Obama would be wise though to hit back with an ad of his own and use his massive war chest to blanket the airwaves with it.

His ad should take the experience or “not ready” attack head on – perhaps it could contrast him to Lincoln who has the exact same political experience going into the Presidency while also noting the community work Obama has done in his life. So the ad could say he’s ready to bring the change we need on Day 1 whereas John McCain is only ready to carry on the same failed policies of the past. Or it could be similar to his previous ads that what is needed in a President is the judgment to make the right decisions and time and time again Obama has been right and McCain wrong.

Either way Obama will be able to combat this and there's no point getting upset about the past and stopping it from the party coming together, but I do hope lessons can still be learned to make sure the next race for the Democratic Party leadership(which I hope isn't till 2016) isn't this negative.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Conservatives Dig Themselves in Deeper

James Moore can put on shows for the media all he wants, but as others have noted Conservatives have still completely failed to explain the tape!

Just come clean Mr. Moore and Mr. Harper explain the following transcript:

From CityNews:
Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?"
: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"
Zytaruk: "This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book."
Harper: "Um, I don't know the details. I can tell you that I had told the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind, he was going to vote with the Liberals and I knew why and I respected the decision. But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues. There may or may not have been, but I said that's not, you know, I mean, I, that's not going to change."
Zytaruk: "You said (inaudible) beforehand and stuff? It wasn't even a party guy, or maybe some friends, if it was people actually in the party?"
Harper: "No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. I said don't press him. I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity and, you know, just, you know, if that's what you're saying, make that case but don't press it. I don't think, my view was, my view had been for two or three weeks preceding it, was that Chuck was not going to force an election. I just, we had all kinds of our guys were calling him, and trying to persuade him, I mean, but I just had concluded that's where he stood and respected that."
Zytaruk: "Thank you for that. And when (inaudible)."
Harper: "But the, uh, the offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election."
Zytaruk: "Oh, OK."
Harper: "OK? That's my understanding of what they were talking about."
Zytaruk: "But, the thing is, though, you made it clear you weren't big on the idea in the first place?"
Harper: "Well, I just thought Chuck had made up his mind, in my own view ..."
Zytaruk: "Oh, okay. So, it's not like, he's like, (inaudible)."
Harper: "I talked to Chuck myself. I talked to (inaudible). You know, I talked to him, oh, two or three weeks before that, and then several weeks before that. I mean, you know, I kind of had a sense of where he was going."
Zytaruk: "Well, thank you very much." ”

It’s already been admitted this is Mr. Harper’s voice, so if Conservatives are going to allege someone doctored the tape then the onus is on CONSERVATIVES to explain WHERE it was changed and WHO did it? The only people who had the tape that was analyzed were the publishers, the Conservative Party and the two experts the party hired. You can’t say the tape is doctored without saying who did it and what was changed. Oh you can’t answer those questions? Then your accusations can’t be taken seriously.

And you say the Liberals can’t use the tape, but the NDP, the publishers and the media still can? Does that make any sense at all? And the author says the tape was the full interview unchanged and offers an explanation for why the tape starts and stops at one point and the Conservatives aren’t disputing what he says? Even one of their OWN paid experts isn't at all sure any doctoring took place.

Well congratulations Conservatives you’ve just wasted people’s time and resurrected a scandal for yourself.

So yesterday Mr. Moore accomplished nothing in explaining the tape and I would be appalled if any court would take the Conservatives claim seriously.

Meanwhile I am disappointed that the NDP hasn’t helped to move the investigation of this in committee and we had Joe Comartin yesterday dismissing the tape as meaningless. It’s a bizarre point of view since obviously the Conservatives themselves feel the tapes to be quite meaningful as they wouldn’t have paid experts good money to look at them otherwise.

At least I will give Comartin credit though for making the point that if you were really serious about having an injunction go through you don’t apply for it to take effect in September you do it now and that if Conservatives were sure any of the actual relevant parts of the conversation (see the transcript above) were changed then James Moore would have certainly come out and said so. He did not.

So this whole fiasco is just another joke hatched I’m sure by the same people who orchestrated the "secret release" of the RCMP search warrant (for “In and Out”) and escape down the fire escape adventure.

Not only have the Conservatives failed to explain the tape, but it’s curious that not a single Conservative Party member has come forward that I know of to refute this story on the NAFTA memo leak.

“this one(investigation of the NAFTA memo leak) took nearly three months and more than $143,000 in private detective fees only to miss what the Star found in a few phone calls over a single weekend – that the leak was from Harper's inner circle. It wouldn't take much effort now for a determined administration to trace the leak from an official in the Prime Minister's Office to Republicans and then to the Associated Press. The names are known within government, as are the motives."

Why no libel suit against James Travers? Just like James Moore’s refusal to answer the most important questions re: Cadman, I expect no less re: NAFTA.

You would think though that the Conservatives would realize that providing no answers now only allows for these questions to be raised again in the next federal campaign. But I guess it’s too much to expect these guys to figure that out.

UPDATE: Kady O’Malley has more news on the story and more questions that need to be answered.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: Barack Obama for President of the United States

It's been a long hard and sometimes quite divisive campaign but it's finally over: Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee to go against John McCain. I know a lot of progressive minded people who are disappointed that Hillary Clinton didn't win and who are upset about some of the things that happened in the race, but for the greater good it's extremely important that all progressives unite up behind the Democratic nominee for reasons I've outlined before. Hillary was right to stay in until the last votes were counted and she come extremely close to being the first female Presidential nominee. Women ought to be proud of that and the 18 million votes she got and I hope in 2016 there are multiple strong female candidates in the race (with Barack Obama's VP being just one of those women). It may seem a long time to wait but the time will come and I know one day the Liberals will have a female leader as well. It remains important for women to know though that those who lead the Democratic Party and Liberal Party of Canada are committed to women's issues. I am certain Dion is and I am pretty sure Obama is as well and I believe they are both the right now to lead our countries.

I do hope all Clinton supporters can see that Barack Obama's platform was extremely similar to Hillary Clinton's and is committed to involving her in his administration (either as VP or in cabinet or perhaps endorsing her for Senate majority leader) and that Hillary's signature policies would become law under an Obama administration and she would receive the credit (I am also hopeful that a woman will be on his ticket whether it is Hillary or not). Virtually none of the changes that Hillary has called for would happen under a McCain Presidency and in fact women's rights would go backwards with McCain's next appointment to the Supreme Court.

It won't be an easy race but it would be dark days indeed to have another 4 years of a Republican Presidency and I believe in Obama's message so I'm certain the world and Canada would be much better off with him as President.

Be back later tomorrow tonight with my reflections on the race and thoughts about where it goes from here.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How to Make Enemies and Irritate People

Leaked from the PMO comes a new guidebook for everyone who always wanted to have more enemies and get on people’s nerves but wasn’t sure of the best way to do it. Now experts Stephen Harper, John Baird and Jim Flaherty will show you how! From wars with the press, discouraging investment in pesky provinces, picking fights on the world stage, to every witty insult you could ever fling your opponents way, this book has it all! Even includes more up to date advice on how when you have no plans to accomplish anything worthwhile of your own in life you can slam anyone who does! If you love knocking people down or your lifelong goal is to have as many enemies as possible then this guidebook is for you!

Already those who have gotten an advance copy have been raving…..

“Best read in years. Chapter 2 on linking on your opponents to terrorists brought a tear to my eye”
- Dick Cheney, United States Vice-President

“Really Stephen learned all this from me”
- Brian Mulroney, Former Prime Minister

“I am so so proud of how these guys have conducted themselves in Ottawa. I have to say I don’t feel sad about leaving public office as long as these guys are carrying on my legacy”
- Mike Harris, Former Ontario Premier

“Wars with the press and the Premiers, meddling in U.S. elections, muzzling a weak caucus, and daily character assassination in the House of Commons, reading this reminds me why it has been so hard to leave these great guys behind. Truly class acts.”
- Ian Brodie, outgoing Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper

“This guidebook is gold. Once again we see how Harper is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. The way I see it the more enemies Harper makes the closer he is to a majority!”
- Stephen Taylor, Conservative blogger

“I was thrilled to see the brilliance of my ‘small man of Confederation’ comment finally explained to me”
- Peter Van Loan, Conservative Party of Canada House Leader and Minister of Democratic Renewal

“My Question Period playbook finally laid out to all! Now the masses will finally understand!”
- Pierre Poilievre, Conservative Party of Canada MP

“It’s a shame the Liberals made the Conservatives do all these terrible things. Stephane Dion should be apologizing to Canadians for making the Conservatives act this way.”
- Jack Layton, NDP leader

“This will serve as an invaluable resource in my quest to be the leader of the free world. I thought Bush had great ideas for my campaign, but wow these guys can’t be topped!”
- John McCain, United States Republican Party Presidential Nominee

“I look forward to working for these guys in Ottawa – if you thought they were mean before, just wait for part 2!”
- Guy Giorno, incoming Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper and former Chief of Staff to Mike Harris

It's destined to be a best seller!

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: Many Democrats Losing Sight of Larger Picture Re: Offensive Supporters and Michigan/Florida

I know many Democrats and progressives have gotten very involved and committed to one side or another in this campaign, but when you are up against someone who will...

1) Set women's rights back 30 years through his promise to appoint a prolife judge to replace Justice Stevens - the most Liberal judge on the Supreme Court who WILL retire in the next term (he is 88 years old). Roe V. Wade would likely be overturned (it is 5-4 right now) and as many as 30 states would then criminalize abortion.

2) Wage a Mike Harris style war against the poor through his promise to balance the budget by "cutting spending dramatically" - remember he is NOT a moderate he has been rated as one of the most CONSERVATIVE Senators of all time by Conservative groups (see here and here - with a score over 70 points higher than Obama and Clinton and even 40 points higher than Republican Arlen Spector)

3) Undermine and slowly destroy the UN through his "League of Nations" (yes he did call it that) proposal to create a parallel organization that would exclude China and the entire Muslim world and also get to overrule the UN on every important world matter. Apparently McCain doesn't know how the first League of Nations turned out, repeating the same mistakes is a recipe for disaster.

4) Spending another trillion or more dollars on Iraq rather than putting that money into health care and education. Universal health care and quality public education once again denied to continue endlessly (because McCain has said they will NEVER withdraw without victory) a war that should have never been waged.

And a host of other problems it’s extremely important to focus on the bigger picture and ensure the Democratic nominee wins.

All of the above is in McCain's platform and public statements and it means we would see a President more dangerous on foreign policy (I'm disappointed no one in the media has really examined his League of Nations idea) and worse for the poor on domestic policy than even George Bush. If anyone can show me why I'm wrong on any of the points above please come forward. The media has done a real disservice by portraying McCain as a moderate.

The U.S. and the world desperately needs wholesale change after 8 years of George Bush not someone who would be even worse. Not to mention Obama’s and Clinton’s policy proposals 90% overlap with each other and hardly at all with McCain. So it troubles me when I see bloggers (yes this one has said she is a dual citizen so she can vote) and Democratic party activists musing about not being able to support the Democratic nominee.

The campaign has been brutally negative at some points with absolutely stupid and sometimes extremely offensive things were said by members of both sides. Geraldine Ferraro’s comments that Obama would be nowhere if it wasn’t black were extremely wrong and offensive. Samantha Power calling Clinton a monster had no place in the campaign, but neither did Hillary Clinton talking about how she is the choice of “white voters” (Clinton herself later agreed with a statement that it was “the stupidest thing she could ever say”) or talking about assassinations (I chalk that up solely to extremely poor judgment in choice of words but the example actually made no sense since the nomination was won in 1968 by someone who didn’t even compete in the primaries who a lot of historians think would have won no matter what, but any mention of assassination within the current election context is unacceptable) . The latest terrible insult was with Reverend Pfleger who basically inferred that Clinton and her supporters were racist and that her supporters were angry particularly that a black man might take the nomination from her (if that wasn’t what he was implying why did he keep invoking Hillary and Obama’s race in his sermon?). He has no place on any campaign and so Obama has denounced him, won’t have him involved with his campaign any longer and Obama is no longer part of the same church that invited this man and once had the even more offensive and bigoted Reverend Wright as pastor.

So while people on both campaigns have been hugely in the wrong on different occasions, the important thing is that these comments were later denounced and (when it wasn’t Clinton or Obama him/herself making the comments) the people involved were kicked off the campaign entirely. Sometimes you think you know someone well when you put them on the campaign, but if in the end you find out they hold bigoted or other unacceptable views there is no choice but to condemn their remarks and throw them off the campaign because these people don't belong in politics let alone a Presidential campaign. But its wrong to claim that Clinton or Obama must agree with the comments of their surrogates or that they must have known they held these views.

Now there is the issue of Michigan and Florida’s delegates.

I would say first of all the Democratic Party dropped the ball on this entirely. They should have done what the Republicans did and just say in advance the delegates would each only get half a vote and leave it at that. You don’t see any outrage on the Republican side on this so it’s clear that would have been best. But you can’t change the past so the Rules Committee had to do their best to repair this situation before more damage was done.

In the end the decision for Florida is EXACTLY the same as what the Republicans have done. Not to mention Terry McCauliffe is chair of Clinton’s campaign and said as DNC chair in 2004 that the appropriate penalty for moving up one’s primary is cutting the delegates from the state in half. So I find it puzzling to see a Democratic candidate say "If this is not resolved so that there is 100 per cent representation of every vote cast, I will never again vote for a Democratic candidate." So then he will vote for a party that did the same thing or stay home and allow that much worse party to win? Again losing sight of the bigger picture.

Michigan was the harder choice, but both Obama and Clinton’s camps were proposing completely unreasonable proposals. It would be ludicrous to split the delegates in half as Obama proposed since there is little evidence he would have gotten half the votes if he was on the ballot. At the same time it was ridiculous to give Clinton her share of delegates and leave the others as Uncommitted to be fought for at the convention when Obama wasn’t on the ballot and all the others campaigns have endorsed Obama now. So the Michigan Democratic Party proposed a compromise. Carl Levin, a Clinton supporter, backed the proposal. This WASN’T some 30 party hacks who came up with this idea it was the Michigan Democratic Party and the members of the Rules Committee endorsed the proposal.

I tend to think things would have been a lot easier if Obama was just given the 55 uncommitted delegates but you could certainly argue that more of his supporters would have turned out if he was on the ballot and some people who voted for Clinton wouldn't have if there were other candidates on the ballot. You can’t just pretend it’s no big deal that Obama wasn’t on the ballot, it’s hardly even a Democratic election when there is only one major candidate on the ballot so again the Michigan Democratic party tried to forge a compromise and I don’t think it’s worth dividing the party further to fight over 4 half-delegates (so 2 votes on the convention floor). I think Harold Ickes would have been better to just say “we respectfully disagree with this decision but it is more important for the party to be united” rather than going on a large tirade about how this doesn’t help to unify the party and it was unprecedented and so on. I do hope they can see the larger picture and realize that this wasn’t such an outrageous proposal and it is more important to unify the party. This kind of fiasco should never be allowed to happen again though.

So Democrats or other Clinton supporters can get all bitter and support McCain or stay home and see the country and the U.S. reputation destruct for another four years so you can say “I told you Obama couldn’t win!” but small comfort that will be to the millions more thrown into poverty and losing their health insurance and the women who would then have to travel across the country or to Canada to exercise their choice over whether to have an abortion.

People who would continue to wage old battles that would lead others to suffer just because they are angry that their preferred candidate didn’t win or angry at some things the opposing candidate’s supporters did is the height of narrow-mindedness and selfishness. If you supported Clinton’s ideas then why in the world would you help someone who has NOTHING in common with Clinton against someone who would do as President 90% of the same thing Hillary Clinton would?

So there are just a few primary contests left, it will all be over June 3rd and officially then or very soon thereafter. I really hope the Democrats can put these divisions and grievances behind and focus on the larger picture. Americans and the world can’t afford to wait another 4 years for change. Just like with the environment the longer you wait to change the more it will cost to fix and the more irreversible damage will have been done. So I think goal number one for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the next month and beyond HAS to be unifying the party.

With the party united John McCain can be defeated, but if they can’t unite, millions will suffer and it will have been a real opportunity blown simply because people couldn’t put their minute differences aside.

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