Saturday, November 29, 2008

Canada NEEDS a NEW Prime Minister

Ok so I've said this before, but I say it again now for much different reasons. We have a clear way forward and much to justify it (for an exhaustive list see below).

Our economy faces its worst crisis in decades and this calls for putting personal partisan interest aside and working in a spirit of inter-party co-operation to give Canada the BEST policies to help our country through these trouble times. It’s clear now we won’t get that from this Prime Minister who’s fiscal update was all about pandering to HIS party’s base rather than helping Canadians who are most in need. Using an economic crisis to try to bankrupt your opposition parties was bad enough, but Harper at least had an opportunity to try and propose real solutions for the economy. He failed miserably.

- Weakening pay equity and public service worker’s rights isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Claiming there will a razor thin surplus these next few years when EVERY economist says otherwise is not a solution to the economic crisis

- Promising massive cuts to social spending without specifying where those cuts are going to go isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Having a firesale on government assets isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

- Proposing NO stimulus for the economy, when EVERY OTHER world leader is, isn’t a solution to the economic crisis.

A much better solution to the economic crisis is a NEW government. This one recklessly managed mismanaged the economy for 2.5 years and when given another minority it has failed to change its ways. It has failed to act as all western governments have. It has failed to reach beyond its base as Canadians EXPECTED it to do.

It’s too late for death bed conversions, it will be obvious it’s just a façade. It’s time to bring this government down and give Canadians a better one.

I think the best, most practical and least divisive solution would be to have this government led by Stéphane Dion until the time a new leader is crowned and with the NDP receiving 7 or 8 cabinet posts in a trimmed down 26-28 member cabinet. To pressure Dion to resign would badly divide the Liberal Party when it needs to be united and, in particular, to install one of the other leadership candidates would be deeply resented by members of all other camps (and neutral Liberals like myself).

NO ONE can say Dion isn’t ready or fully qualified to lead as PM. He has over a decade in cabinet, he knows the issues this country is facing, and I think would work very well with members of other parties in this minority climate. If he is only to lead until May then no one can say he has ulterior motives other than what is in best interests of the country. We NEED that right now. McCallum and Goodale would be preferable to the current leadership candidates as PM, but as far as I understand they are each already committed to one of the candidates in this race (Goodale for Rae and McCallum for Ignatieff) so other Liberals would be more likely to question their motivations. Nor is it clear that either one of them isn’t one day interested in ultimately formally seeking the Liberal leadership.

For those that say Canada shouldn’t have a lameduck PM, the next 6 months may be the MOST crucial time in dealing with crisis and we need to have a PM who is willing to devote himself solely to bringing the BEST solutions foreward and that the public sees as having no ulterior motivations (e.g., positioning for the curren, or a future, leadership race or for the next general election). We won't get that from Harper, but we would from Dion. There are other countries that have tapped caretaker PM’s (usually with undeniably impecable qualifications) to deal with crises who later passed their job on to a successor and this would be no different and an orderly succession could be arranged in May to the next Liberal leader.

It is important to get all 3 leadership camps to agree to this though, but I would hope they would see it in their interest to be all now campaigning to be PM instead of opposition leader. If this deal falls apart due to the Liberal caucus unable to agree on who would be PM then whoever wins the leadership race would be certain to face a barrage of attack ads full of fear-mongering (e.g., “Bob Rae will ruin the economy”, “Michael Ignatieff is a Bush clone”, “LeBlanc isn’t up to the job”) that in reality could have been best countered by already being in government. If any of the leadership candidates could become PM upon winning the leadership then they would INSTANTLY be able to counter the smears (e.g., Bob Rae would bring in a competent budget, Ignatieff would show himself to be much more moderate, LeBlanc would show himself to be a sound economic manager as PM). This in turn would give that leadership candidate a much better chance of winning re-election as PM. So I hope cooler heads can prevail here and see how this works out best for ALL progressives, Liberals and NDP alike.

But what of all those who will howl that this is “undemocratic”? Well here are some facts:

- The Liberals and NDP together received 44.4% of the vote in the last election compared to 37.65% for the Conservatives. The coalition would be supported from outside by the BQ and Greens who received a further 16.76% of the vote.

- The Liberals and NDP may only have 114 seats between them, but opposition parties received more than 50% of the vote in more than half the ridings across Canada.

- The NDP and Liberals hold seats in EVERY region of the country.

- The first two Conservative budgets and the softwood lumber deal were ONLY supported by the Cons and the Bloc Quebecois so talk of this “aiding the separatists” is merely a sideshow. Conservatives had no problems being propped up solely by the BQ for the first two years of their government and NO ONE is talking about the BQ formally joining this coalition so this arrangement would be no different.

- In 2004, when Stephen Harper was opposition leader, he signed a letter with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton saying it would appropriate for a new government to be formed without an election should the governing party be voted down within a few months of the last election.

- Coalition governments that are decided after the election are the norm in countries with economies much larger than ours such as Germany, France, Japan and India. Coalition governments are also the norm in over a dozen other Western countries whose economies are doing comparatively well (e.g., the Scandinavian countries). Often these coalitions last several years so the argument that coalitions would necessarily be unstable or bad for the economy doesn’t fly.

Will there be a backlash if we get a Dion led coalition? Of course, but so would there be if there was a coalition led by someone else (in fact the Tory talking points already have adapted to that possibility of slamming a PM “voters never had a chance to vote on”). We can’t let a possible short-term backlash deter us here. Stephen Harper faced a large backlash over the appointments of David Emerson and Michael Fortier to his cabinet. It lasted a few weeks and (unfortunately) it blew over. Harper is facing a backlash now, but we can’t back down this time.

Any public backlash over a coalition will surely dissipate if we PROVIDE GOOD GOVERNMENT. The best way to counter way to counter all the fear mongering is provide the public with a dose of reality and the beauty is that, in government, we can do that. We will have a strong rational PM with a cabinet that puts the interests of Canadians ahead of their parties for once. The public will see that within a few months time and come to support what we’ve done. Let’s be prepared for some short-term opposition, but we can prove the skeptics wrong in the end.

So it’s my hope (and it may never come to pass I realize) we will see no backing down by the opposition and that ALL Liberals and ALL NDP members can get thoroughly behind our parties’ leadership here for the good of the country.

We will face an onslaught of opposition this week in the form of TV and radio eds, op-eds and anything else the Conservatives will throw at us.

Let’s be ready, we know what we are doing is right.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

When You’ve Run the Country’s Finances Into the Ground and the Economy is in a Tailspin….

Apparently Harper thinks it’s time to use an economic crisis for partisan gain! People are suffering all over the country and this is Harper solution? Absolutely shameful.

So it will be delays on fiscal stimulus to actually help the people hurting most, but moving right away to gut the opposition’s primary means of financing! The magic solution for the deficit from the biggest spending (while delivering the least results) government in Canadian history!

As Impolitical notes all this talk about “belt tightening” is straight out of the John McCain playbook: trying to make a cause célèbre of tackling supposed pork barrel spending that, in reality, amounts to an extremely tiny fraction of the federal budget. Yes there is room to cut back on some parliamentary expenses, but public financing is no pork barrel project and exists for a good reason: to create a level playing field so that all voices of the political spectrum are able to be represented by political parties.

There’s only one party on the right that gives the Conservatives an inherent fundraising advantage already that they’ve exploited to no end. But I’m sure Conservatives relish nothing more than to have a Canada with no one opposing the Conservatives. And let there be no doubt about their motives here. As Stephen Taylor, the top Conservative blogger, notes, “in this, the Conservatives aim to level a strategic blow to the Liberals as Conservative fundraising efforts”. So this is the new co-operative spirit Harper pledged to bring in? This is what Harper thinks Canadians are looking for in tough times?

Public financing brings far more benefits to the health of our democracy than what it costs. In the end the amount each party receives is ultimately earned by the amount of support each party gets in an election, so it’s not just free government handouts either. The federal treasury would be saved an insignificant amount and the health of our democracy would suffer far more if the per vote subsidy were removed. This is not a price worth paying, nor does it get us anywhere near getting the country's finances back in order.

For those that say “well Liberals will just need to do a better job appealing to Canadians in order to earn their money”, well I’d agree Liberals do need to do a better job at that, but there currently exists a dramatically unlevel playing field and if this were really about just “belt tightening” for the sake of helping the economy and not a means to crush the opposition why not, as a fellow Liberal blogger suggested, remove donation limits at the same time then?

Donation limits don’t impact the federal treasury so Conservatives should have no problems making it easier for parties to fundraise from private citizens if they think public funds shouldn’t be used to subsidized parties at all.

We will see how this plays out, but I'm hoping Liberals, and indeed all opposition parties, stand absolutely firm and call Harper on this for what this is: pathetic partisan gamesmanship when Canadians deserve, and expect, A LOT better!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Harper's

Below is a comparison of Stephen Harper and his party’s election statements with their post-election ones on a range of issues. What we are seeing with each passing week is a Stephen Harper slowly reversing everything he said in the last election. Yet amazingly he seems to have reversed himself on so many fronts without having to openly admit he was wrong or mistaken in his original view. In some cases he had the wrong position in the election and a better one now and sometimes the opposite, but is it too much to ask that the media actually call him to task when he contradicts himself so quickly? That Harper be forced to own up to the mistakes he’s made? So here’s just a small number of examples…

Election Harper Conservative Positions

Post-Election Harper Conservative Positions

On Deficits

"Stephen Harper, who's vowed to avoid a deficit in any circumstances – without raising taxes – says he considers questions about how he'd therefore cut spending to avoid going into the red as the economy weakens 'a ridiculous hypothetical scenario.' " (Oct 11 2008)

"it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget in the short term" (Throne Speech, Nov 19 2008)

[Canada – now faces] "the classic circumstances under which budgetary deficits are essential." (Nov 22 2008)

On the Seriousness of the Financial Crisis

"if we were going to have some kind of big crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now.” (Sept 15 2008)

"I think there's probably some great buying opportunities emerging in the stock market as the consequence of all this panic" (Oct 6 2008)

"The financial crisis has become an economic crisis, and the world is
entering an economic period unlike, and potentially as dangerous, as anything we have faced since 1929"
(Nov 21 2008)

"We may well be in a technical recession the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year" (Jim Flaherty, Nov 23 2008)

On Dion’s Proposed First Minister’s Conference

"Stephen Harper swiftly dismissed the proposals as a flurry of needless meetings" (Oct 1 2008)

“The prime minister called for the meeting the day after winning his second minority government on Oct. 14, adopting part of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's plan for dealing with the financial and economic crisis. During the election, Harper dismissed the Dion plan as an indication he was "panicking." (Nov 10 2008)

On Dion’s Proposed Accelerated Infrastructure Spending

"Leaders need to have a plan and not panic. You panicked, Stephane'' (Oct 1 2008)

"Stephen Harper said he's confident that billions of dollars in funding for big-ticket projects - such as roads, transit and sewers - will be accelerated in the next year." (Nov 10 2008)

On Dion’s Proposed Review of Canada’s Regulatory System

"It seems the Liberals are making it up as they go" (Oct 4 2008 - Conservative War Room mocking John McCallum saying that it would be due diligence to do such a review)

I have initiated, since the election campaign ended, a pretty comprehensive internal evaluation of Canada's own domestic systems of regulation in response to the international financial crisis” (Oct 30 2008)

On Afghanistan

"While there may be a few Canadian soldiers who stay on after 2011 as advisers, the bulk of the troops will be home by then, Harper said" (Sep 10 2008)

"We are in Afghanistan for the long term under a United Nations mandate for as long as we are needed and welcomed by the Afghan people." (Peter Mackay, Nov 21 2008)

Most of those were said by Stephen Harper himself (or his comments paraphrased by the media), but I’ve noted where it came from one of his Ministers or his War Room, but as we all know almost nothing comes from the party without his approval (bird poop incident notwithstanding). I’ll update this list over time as I discover new contradictions (please feel free to post more in the comments), or Harper unveils more for us.

There are surely many more (I hope the Liberals are keeping a running tab), but with it being not even a month and a half since the election what does this say about a man who reverses himself on so many fronts so quickly? How do his supporters defend this? Why should we believe anything Stephen Harper says in the future?

I wonder what Stephen Harper’s response would be if he were ever confronted with such a table. Thankfully for him the media have short memories and likely won’t call Harper on his all of these contradictions at any of his press conferences when they have the chance. It would be nice to be proved wrong on that count for once though.

UPDATE: BC'er also traces Harper’s “evolving” views on the deficit here.

UPDATE 2: More of the Harper government’s ever-changing views here, here, and here.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Time to Own Up Mr. Harper

Stephen Harper and his caucus were all too all too happy to take credit when the balance sheets looked good and the economy was strong. Stephen Harper was all too confident in saying “if we were going to have some kind of big crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now” and so sure of himself in the last election saying it was “ridiculous” to talk about there being a deficit anytime soon. Stephen Harper happily encouraged Canadians to tap into a “great buying opportunity” on the market when it was over 20% higher than it is now. Any Canadians who took his advice would have lost a fortune.

Well Mr. Harper, you want to set a new tone in this Parliament? To turn over a new leaf? Then take some responsibility for once in your political career.

You took credit for the economy when it was doing well, take some credit when it isn’t.

You took credit for your policy decisions in the past, now take some credit for the consequences of them now.

While I will say that outside economic forces are affecting the overall Canadian economy and leading to market crashes, lost jobs, etc… more than the actions of the Harper government (though Harper has done little to help), it is beyond dispute that the current financial situation of the Canadian government and its impending deficit is largely due to the decisions of THIS government. It’s been validated by any rational non-partisan observer that it was mainly Harper's policy decisions, not the current financial crisis, that is leading us back to deficit after a decade in the black.

So Mr. Harper, will you finally take responsibility for your own mistakes?

For spending the cupboard bare and GST cuts that had little to no economic benefit?

For squandering a massive surplus and putting us in deficit?

For doing little to prepare us for the current economic turmoil? For eliminating a fiscal cushion that could have been invaluable at a time like this?

If Stephen Harper is unwilling to for once, own up, then all this talk about a new tone in this Parliament from his government, is just that: talk.

Mr. Harper has done so little to give Canadians a reason to trust his word, and I’m afraid we’re just going to get more of the same in the months ahead.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting to Know Bob

So I participated in what is now “that infamous bloggers call with Bob Rae” (rundown of the call is below). Rae does gets credit for being what I believe, is the first leadership candidate to officially reach out to Bloggers in this race. I could be wrong, but I believe any Liblog who listed their contact email in their blog profile got an invite. And the invites seem to have gone out AFTER the call was made public in the G&M, which did cause some unnecessary panic in Liblog world. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure everyone who wanted to attend got to and that’s the important thing. And I have to say the conference call system was pretty effective and unique.

I’m beginning to notice how much blogs get attention - my stats show signs of Macleans, the Star, CBC, amongst others, and I’m sure we blogs are some good lunch time entertainment or a quick research for the media for inspiration, who are always looking for a good (or
pitiful) political fight. So it makes good sense the leadership candidates would reach out to us.

Anyways, Bob did say he would answer my questions that I previously posted (see the questions here), so I am gracious for that. I have gotten a similar response from LeBlanc’s camp as well, so only Iggy remains on that front (I’ll update this post when I hear from them). I’ll still give big props to whoever gets me actual answers first though. Below you will find out what was discussed on the call and Bob’s point of views on the issues.

Bob acknowledges that he has challenges in Ontario, but will be direct and honest on that front, and will prove that he is the right person for the job by talking about all of the experiences that he had the opportunity to participate in to make a difference in this country. He asks us all to pay attention to his Canadian Club presentation tomorrow, where he will dive more into this.

He believes the new Liberal leader and the Party must be physically much more present in all 308 ridings. This will help riding associations, and hopefully reach out to new voters and hopefully members. The party needs a systemic strategy based on where we can find new voters. It is going to take more than a fresh coat of paint for the leader to be able to really say they’re a leader.

Bob wants to support riding associations, and I believe he said that he supports some of the money from the per vote subsidy going to the riding associations so that they can use that to fund their activities and base. He supports the idea of a national, 308 riding strategy.

I really thought Bob got something else really on the nose, and it made me happy to see that people “high up” in the party like him realize that many of our members, perhaps those within it who already hold positions, suffer from “Title-it is”, that is, people want position, power and turf, rather than do the heavy lifting work needed and being an inclusive player in the party trying to build a broader base of support (without needing attention and glory to do it). So true.

Furthermore, the leader must be interested in fundraising and connecting with the public, and know about fundraising. I assume then Bob is inferring he has this expertise and experience fundraising and clearing his debts leadership race? I give credit for Dion for focusing his efforts on this as well.

Bob believes one issue that the Liberal party could have taken greater hold of during the last campaign, and can more in the future, is the issue of high drug costs, which I believe he said is a problem that is growing, particularly in the west. I think this definitely can be an issue we can use, along the lines of how the ndp used texting messaging and AMT fees are issues to mobilize voters. Bob also noted that he economy was the big issue, and while our platform was heavily focused and related in various ways to the economy, but we didn’t place emphasis on these specific economic planks. A party and leader must be able to shift focus in a campaign more effectively he said

Bob notes that the economy will still be an issue for some time to come. As a country, we must think about the future and how we can compete globally. While the Green Shift did focus on this last point, we must work towards the goal, and he doesn’t believe the Green shift can lead us to that goal. We must focus always have an end goal in mind with a strategy to get there and sales pitch to sell our plans. He used the example of Germany, a country known for its automobiles, which now has more jobs in the energy sector.

Lastly, he is in favour of one member, one vote (OMOV). This didn’t surprise me since he said this morning he supports free memberships. But free memberships can be threatening to a riding association, delegate selection meetings, and internal party races as insta-Liberals could play a larger role. Unless there are rules for how long you can be a member to invoke your membership rights and there is a very active join/renewal process or other membership requirements this may prove problematic.

And I have strong concerns about a strict one member, one vote system as I feel that would severely weaken the voices of youth (I believe the YLC officially opposed it last time unless a sub-amendment passed to allocate 25 out of 100 points per riding for youth), women, Aboriginals, and seniors unless there are measures to put in place to ensure their votes would count for a similar proportion to what they currently get in delegate spots. There’s also the concern that Toronto and other urban areas would always end up electing the leader (and the voices of rural areas, Francophone Quebec and the West where our membership numbers are weak would be severely diminished) without an appropriately weighted by riding OMOV system (I believe the proposal at the last convention that was voted down was at least a weighted OMOV system with 100 points given per riding). Personally, I also find something rejuvenating about going to a national convention, meeting Liberals from across the country who love their party and are dedicated, active members who want to be there with you. There may be exceptions (and I realize there are still cost issues), but for the most part I’d say the people who actually go to conventions are more committed on the whole than those who just attend the DSMs on Super Weekend. So one of my questions I’m following up with Bob on is exactly what kind of OMOV system he supports.

So thanks for having us Bob. I understand that LeBlanc will also be holding a conference call sometime soon for Bloggers, so I look forward to that one as well. My contact email is on the right, Dom. Same goes for Iggy if he chooses to do the same, I’ll be there.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Harper Scores Major Victory

Gets fired by his lawyer in the Cadman case! As everyone knows it’s tradition for lawyers to drop their clients when you have such a “rock solid” legal position like he has. I’m sure this is exactly what Harper wanted the day before the House returns. Take that Liberals, your goose is cooked!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Questions for the Liberal Leadership Candidates and Other Musings on the Race Ahead

Grassroots Outreach

- Each Liberal candidate has talked about a 308 riding strategy for the next election, but what specific steps would you take from an organizational, membership and fundraising perspective to actually turn this new catch phrase into reality?

Balance of Powers

- Do you believe this country should have a stronger central government (i.e., more national programs with uniform standards) or stronger provinces (i.e., federal government sticks to its own constitutional jurisdictions) than we have presently? If you had to choose between one or the other which would it be and why?

The Environment

- The Liberals have seen many bold plans proposed on the environment in recent years. I was very pleased to see Michael Ignatieff propose tax shifting (taxing pollution and cutting other taxes to compensate) in his last leadership platform and put that issue on the table and later see Stéphane Dion adopt a similar Green Shift for the last campaign (with a promise to institute a cap-and-trade system at a later point). I, along with many other Liberals still support this approach, but what do you believe is the best approach for meaningfully reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and being a world leader on the environment: a cap-and-trade system, tax shifting, or a mixture of the two? When would you aim for such an approach to be put in place and how would you sell it?


- What specific steps would you plan to take to improve the lives of Aboriginal Canadians beyond re-committing to the Kelowna Accords?


- What specific steps would you take within your first year as leader to see the Liberal Party achieve gender parity in its election candidates, MPs, and internal party positions?

- Will you pledge to keep the commitment for Commissioner for Gender Equality in the next Liberal platform?


- Will you commit to putting in place the 30/50 poverty plan (and finding the needed funding whether it comes from a carbon tax or not) contained in the last Liberal platform if elected Liberal leader and Prime Minister? If not, what you would change from the original plan and why?

Human Rights

- We all agree that Canada and its representatives should stand strongly for the protection and promotion of human rights abroad. Unfortunately, many Canadian mining companies operating abroad have been associated with human rights abuses in many countries in the developing world. I was heartened to see the Liberal platform contain a commitment on page 59 to “establish and promote a Canadian Corporate Social Responsibility Framework for all Canadian extractive-sector companies operating in developing countries.”

Will you pledge that such a commitment will remain in the next Liberal platform should you become leader? If not, why not?

Electing the Leader

As you know the way in which we currently elect our leader is through a delegated convention, in which approximately half the elected delegates are men and half are women, and one third are youth, and there are spots reserved for Aboriginals and seniors, in addition to ex-officio delegates. Do you support changing this system to that of one-member one vote? If so, how would you propose the system operate in a way that still protects the voices of youth, women, Aboriginals and seniors in the party?

Party Unity

- Should you be victorious in the Liberal leadership race, what specific steps would you take, upon assuming the leadership, to unite the party (and members of all camps) that were not undertaken by past leadership victors?

With the Conservative Convention wrapped up and my official blogging duties from the ground coming to a wrap up, it's now time to go back to familiar territory - the Liberals. And all the Liberal news is about leadership lately. While its important, I hope it doesn't overshadow the issues at hand in the House of Commons. So in case you are wondering, the questions I've sent to friends of mine working on each campaign in hopes that each leadership candidate will answer them promptly, and with honesty.

Gold star to the candidate who answers them first, and all! I will post the responses the minute I get them. But I strongly request that the candidate at least reads them, and answers them, and that its not staffers/volunteers. I do in all reality know that a staffer will probably proof, or go over the questions with their leader, which I just accept.

As for my thoughts on the race so far, I have to say I'm surprised (and just a bit saddened) to see so many Liberals rush to support one candidate or another without those candidates actually spelling out many of the things they would actually do as leader to rebuild the party or what kind of government they would lead. I do fully respect all those who’ve already come to a decision and I know they’ve done so for their own honest reasons, but I also know I'm not alone in wanting to make as informed of a decision as possible before endorsing anyone. I also know I'm not alone in NOT wanting to decide based on who has the least baggage (nor will I be talking about such negatives on this blog) or base it on who is supporting who - friends or big Liberal names.

And I know I'm not alone in wanting this race to be about which candidate has the best ideas and abilities for the FUTURE of this party and this country. We tried to make an election in 2006 about Stephen Harper's past writings and actions and it didn't work, if Stephen Harper wants to try the same strategy against us in the next election it won't work either. So while inevitably others will be tempted to trash competing candidates, I'll do my small part to try to make this race about hope for the future rather than fear mongering based on the past. I hope others will too (I'd say Steve V sets a pretty good example here, apologies if I’ve missed others like this promoting all candidates, feel free to put a link to your own in the comments). For me getting the answers to the questions above is just the start.

And I hope we'll see the discussion in the months ahead revolve around reasons to vote FOR each candidate rather than reasons to vote against another one. But if someone wants to remain neutral in the end let that not be held against them either, as everyone will be needed to chip in to bring us back to power after this race is over no matter who they supported. And finally we can't forget that the process of rebuilding the party financially and organizationally needs to begin NOW, aside from this race, so let's not let that most crucial task fall by the wayside either.

This race and its immediate aftermath could leave us more united and stronger than ever before or the opposite, so let's get this right.

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Rage in the ‘Peg: The Old Alliance is Reborn with a Brand New Right-Wing Agenda

So here is my exceedingly detailed rundown of the policy debates as they unfolded on the floor earlier this afternoon. (Kady’s other live coverage can be found here and the actual policy resolutions can be found here).

Started at 1:40 PM (CT) – Chairs are having a tough time controlling the crowd. They’re very rowdy. Seems they’re getting tired of policy talk and want to socialize.

Policy Plenary Resolutions

-Plenary Chair gives a warning that these plenary resolutions are making changes to things they may not like, and these amendments may end up changing them more to their dislike

These policies will brought forth today in order which was decided by a priority vote that was held yesterday.

RES 106 : Health Care: Encourage provinces to use more private health care
FOR: The Tories believe in the power of the ppl, that power is taken from the bottom. This resolution would be providing innovative ways of providing healthcare. They like the Quebec model of health care delivery.
AGAINST – this speaker asks the Chair to pls update us to the football game score in Montreal and walks away. Obviously that’s how serious they take the issue of healthcare, especially public healthcare.
AGAINST – lots of jives at Stephane Dion by Stephen Flethcher. He’s such a funny guy (or at least so he thinks). He thinks this isn’t necessary, Adam Smith “invisible hand” will take care of everything and this policy would hurt them..
FOR – this speaker claims the resolution doesn’t promote the dismantling of our public health care.
AGAINST – this is the type of policy that the Liberals and NDP want us to pass. It will help prevent us getting into office.
FOR – other OECD countries use this system, let’s not be like Cuba or S. Korea and adopt this resolution
AGAINST – this type of resolution is what the media wants us to pass. If this is to happen and work, the Supreme Court will let this occur.
*DEFEATED (I’m a tad surprise it was defeated, but some good arguments made were made for and against it, but on the whole I and other Liberals just don’t support buying your way to the front of line as happens in a private health care system)

RES 110 – protection of at risk workers from exposure to infectious diseases
FOR – the right of front line workers should transcend the rights of the infected person
AGAINST – no one will speak against
FOR – oops, the speaker approached the `no` mic had to move over a foot to the left to make his `yes` arguments from the `yes` mic. Argues that health workers do so much for us already, so let’s protect them.
AGAINST – he almost spoke from the wrong mic too, and he ``didn’t want to make the same mistake``. This is provincial jurisdiction, and this law is already in place in their province.
*PASSED overwhelmingly

-a football update is given to the delegates

RES 113 – Dangerous Offenders: 3 strikes and you are out
FOR – no speaker found from the riding that put it fwd
AGAINST – govt doesn’t issue sentences, and this asks the govt will then declare who is dangerous and dictate their sentences, hence it doesn’t make sense. Wow: a more rational Tory.
FOR – this resolution sends a msg to `dangerous offenders`
AGAINST – resolution would put in danger ppl who have in the past led dangerous lives and who have turned their lives around and have become upstanding citizens. The wording of this resolution is dangerous.
POINT OF ORDER - different meaning in French and English. The English text makes more sense apparently. But the riding assoc isn’t here to verify which is accurate. Chairman takes liberty to decide the English is right.
FOR – a passionate woman gets up in support of it, starts yelling about the ills of society
FOR – A Delta Richmond East delegate! The sponsoring riding association! But she can’t comment on which translation is right. But she gives a life example of why the resolution is important.
AGAINST – speaker doesn’t know if Canada can afford this resolution and build the associated prisons or if the party should support it. Perhaps money would be better spent rehabilitating ppl? (crowd gets very upset at these remarks, maybe this guy is from another party, he’s making more sense that a lot of others here).
*PASSES. Seems a small group of ppl in the corner all voted against it – maybe a block of 30 (maybe all from a province?).

RES 114 – removing faint hope clause, making sure criminals serve their full sentence
YES – rights of society and its citizens must be put first
AGAINST – the faint hope clause is misunderstood. It’s only for those who committed second degree murder or lesser crimes and only allows them to apply for parole by the 15 year mark and most applications are still denied, but this rules out any rehabilitation (boos from the crowd). The 3 strike resolution that was passed serves the spirit of this resolution he says.
*PASSES with big majority

RES 119 – Human Trafficking – proposed by caucus
FOR – seeks to improve the condition of life of those who will never have the opportunity to be in a setting like this Convention
AGAINST – none
*PASSED – with one against, the chair didn’t see it, he thought it was unanimous

POINT OF ORDER on RES 113 - difference in text is an issue. French ppl voted on the French text, not the English. If such a discrepancy occurs again, those resolutions should be held off until the next convention. That is not fair, because the French text was only provided to Quebec. The French text in this instance did not make any sense he said. Maybe they should hire better translators next time.

RES 202 – reaffirm Charter of Rights & Freedoms, specifically notwithstanding clause (sec 33)
-wants protection for democratic decision making
POINT OF ORDER – another technicality on English French translation. The submitter likes the French better, says the translator did a good job translating as a result. As a result, this resolution is to be continued until its sorted….

Res 203 – Remove ability of Canadian Human Rights Comissions to investigate hate speech complaints under Section 13
FOR – removing authority from Cdn Human Rights Commission to regulate, receive and investigate or adjudicate complaints regarding to Sec 13 of the Can Human Rights Act. FOR: one’s public opinion, freedom of expression and free speech could can be barred without this resolution becoming law. Goes on about how like these are like 1950s style Communist show trials (comments met with standing ovation!).
*PASSED overwhelming, maybe 5 votes against
Conservative Party of Canada: Supports weakening protections against hate speech! Minorities across the country must be thrilled!
Predictable, but still a shame. The was sooo misleading. I’m far from an expert on this issue, but from I know ost of these people section 13 has been used against are people who have expressed virulently anit-Jewish, anti-gay or Muslim hate speech. And despite what one of the speakers said in fact there have been people acquitted by the HRC so there were flat out lies said, everyone who has been convicted were of serious hate crime statements. This is a trumped up issue by the hardcore right. I had thought Harper would ignore this because he doesn't want to be defending the people this helps, but apparently the Justice Minister voted for this and will “look into it” so we’ll see. Sad.

RES 207 – oh the big one! Committing a crime against a pregnant woman, recognizing the unborn child as a victim of crime. The line of delegates who want to speak on this is huge!
Chair – says he doesn’t want to entertain all of the ppl wanting to speak, because there was enough discussion yesterday (away from the media).
AGAINST – taking away a women’s right to choose (met with boos, boos from their own to their own! Seems a pattern when anyone expressed a moderate viewpoint). This resolution is opening up the issue of whether or not a woman as the freedom of choice. She’s gone a bit over time and the crowd wants her to get down.
Chair – reminds the crowd that all people here are delegates and deserve respect, the delegates here are representatives of their community and represent different views which they’d like to welcome.
FOR – the only right way to vote on this resolution is to vote `yes`
AGAINST – this is another policy that the opposition wants us to pass to draw unwanted and unfair att’n to us.
About 20 ppl were not able to speak who wanted to. The chair wanted to close discussion. The crowd shouts `no`. Chair says it’s his job to close it because there is not enough time. Chair tries to move to the vote, but another Point of Order is called.
The delegate who called the Point of Order claims that debate yesterday was cut to 3 ppl on each side, hence, not enough discussion was held yesterday. The second plenary is where they can discuss it more and that are being prevented. The Chair responds telling the delegate that “incorrect and there will be no more discussion because there has been enough lobbying and discussion this weekend”.
Chair calls for vote again with much pride. It’s too close to call. An electronic vote is needed. (Oh I’m very anxious to see results…can’t wait…seems forever….). It passed with what I BELIEVE was 58% (stupid, they didn’t allow for the over all results to be shown more than 1.5 SECONDS!)
Conservative Party of Canada: Supporting efforts that could lead to the re-criminalization of abortion. Just the start of their campaign for the women’s vote!

So does this mean they will bring back Epp’s “unborn victims of crime bill” now? If so, I hope Dion still sticks to his commitment to whip caucus against it, because if not with the larger Conservative seat count even a small number of Liberals, Bloc and NDP would be enough to see it pass. But at least it would have to start back at Square One. Nicholson has said he’s going to introduce a modified bill that makes attacking a pregnant woman just an aggravating factor, we’ll see it deserves as much scrutiny as possible, the motives of this party were laid clear today….

RES 213 – caucus proposed. Elimination of support for full Gender equality and pay equity.. No caucus will speak to it. Seems no delegate will either.
AGAINST – it only says `women`, not `men`. If it said both, this guy would support it. Women don’t need any special privileged protection. As Tory`s, they don’t guarantee participation, but provide that opportunity, and women don’t need a guarantee. Apparently he believes women have it “too good” right now.
FOR – Smith, MP from Kidonan St. Paul – there are professions where women are not paid the same for equal work, makes it sound like they support pay equity when this would severely weaken it
AGAINST – political issues are not mentioned, only the `social realm`, it’s a bit backward in times
*vote is close, but they’re declaring it PASSED.
The Conservative Party of Canada: Against pay equity, against gender equality: How’s that for reaching out to women!

RES 218 – diversity principles (expects new Canadians to adopt “Canadian common values” such as respect for rule of law, etc.,)
FOR- This will assure that immigrants coming into Canada know and like and respect our values and this will keep Canada strong
AGAINST – issue with the wording of `common values` and `Canadian common values`, he thinks it changes Canada’s reputation of a mosaic to a melting pot (Boos)
FOR – a son of two immigrants, who doesn’t like ppl calling themselves `something-Canadian`, that shouldn’t be acceptable here, you don’t see Americans calling themselves “something-American”. But wasn’t that the point of the earlier speaker, we are the cultural mosaic and they are the melting pot, weren’t we supposed to be proud of that?
*PASSES, with only a few objections
Conservative Party of Canada: Against multiculturalism: How’s that for reaching out to new Canadians!

RES 222 – Immigration by Temporary Workers – proposed by caucus
FOR – protects interests of Canada’s companies and gives Canada a list of ppl who have already been here who we may want to see as Canadians
AGAINST – workers who are temporarily here from other countries are here because they’re unskilled, they’re paid little. They do work that Canadians wont do because of the little pay. This resolution may satisfy farmers and business workers, but these ppl are here because they have no skills and they can barely speak English.
FOR – 6% of GDP for Canada generated in this person’s riding (Calgary I believe). Can’t get enough workers to maintain the city’s productivity. So they need foreign workers. They’re future Canadians.
*PASSES, with only a few objections

RES P223 – Auditing Aboriginal programs
FOR – didn’t get what it was about
FOR – based on Conservative principles. First nations have been impressed with the Tory govt, and the MP from Vancouver Island North believes they helped him get his riding back from the NDP.
AGAINST – I couldn’t quite hear this Aboriginal delegate’s arguments, but she sounded quite upset wit this proposal, would make life harder.
Conservative Party of Canada: Making Life Harder for Aboriginal Peoples when they need the government’s help more than ever. Shame!

We get another football update.

RES 303 – reduce or eliminate capital gains to encourage savings and investment
AGAINST – someone doesn’t agree with the economics of this, says it can’t exist in reality. He suggests an alternative.

RES 305 – eliminate tax disadvantages for families and recognize the economic value of stay at home parents and intro tax fairness measures i.e. income splitting FOR COUPLES WITH CHILDREN (my capitals are italicized on the handout): Income splitting
FOR – We need more children in this country, we can’t bring in enough children via immigration.
AGAINST – a single mother can’t split her income and take the same advantages
*PASSES, it was like 60% “for”
I’m amazed no one brought up just how prohibitively expensive income splitting is especially at a time of economic turmoil and near budget deficit, but then again we’ve heard nothing about sensible fiscal or economic policy here form delegates today.

RES 306 – The Tory Party favours a simplification of the federal tax code, to reduce the complexity of tax calculations for ordinary Canadians.
FOR: reduce the size of the Can Revenue Agency
-no one to speak against it
*PASSES, only a couple of objections

*Media scrum – missed some of the floor debates watching this.
It was Rob Nicholson. Basically a lot of questions to him about the controversial resolutions, he’ll be looking into them all…. But I really find those media scrums a waste of time. Like they’re good if you’re working with visual media, and your audience likes to see an ‘actor’ read some scripted lines that are more than predictable. Just for TV, for that shot or photo. I don’t think I’d go to any in the future. Only good if you get one-on-one. But they never answer you. Makes me think anonymous sources are more worthwhile, if they can be trusted and used for the right reasons.
So while I was out...what did I miss?! What did they pass or say while the media was out?????
Sparrow informs us that that while we were out, the Common Securities Resolution passed with a big majority, which apparently Quebec doesn’t support.

So that was …RES 301 – Nat'l Securities Regulator
(didn`t hear arguments, I was distracted by the charisma that is Ryan Sparrow. Wanted to make sure the media had all the info they want. Asks me, “how’s it going”. He’s been quite polite this weekend to me, I’ll give him that. But the paid media do get preferential treatment. )
*PASSES, only about 3 against

RES P105 – Offshore oil drilling in the Arctic
-didn’t get any of the arguments unfortunately, but apparently no one spoke against
*PASSED, followed by loud chants of “Drill Baby Drill” (ok that was probably just going on in the delegates heads)

RES P111 – amend Can Health Act to permit funding of complementary health services which demonstrably improve ppl`s health (seems similar to a resolution from this morning, but I guess this has more to do with chiropractors and alternative medicine).
AGAINST – resolution doesn’t harmonize with the Canada Health Act

RES P122 – proposed by caucus – Provide best possible services to Canada’s troops
AGAINST – no one comes out
*PASSED, 2 ppl vote against. Chair chimes in that it would be very surprised if that failed within this party.

RES P205 – Arctic Sovereignty
FOR: let’s follow the philosophy of Sir. John A McDonald “use it or loose it”. Let’s make investment into sovereignty, based on `true, north, strong and free`
AGAINST – no one comes fwd

RES P208 –another change in the French version has occurred with this resolution. It deals with STUDENT LOANS – a student, youth policy!!! But alas, it’s clearly a Tory student policy: A conservative govt will revamp the federal student loan program to eliminate the inclusion of parental income and assets in the assessment of loan applications.
FOR – this resolution stands up for students, and removes bureaucracy so that students can get loans to be able to improve Canadian society
AGAINST – a kid with a millionaire dad shouldn’t get support
FOR – creates false assumption that rich parents support their kids
AGAINST – The govt has done a lot to help students as it is, the idea of excluding parental income is a good idea, but were also removing the fact of the difficulty that students have paying back their student loan debt and cant find work. We should help them as well.
*Going to electronic vote. 52% support it – PASSES.
Oh WAIT, apparently it was DEFEATED, because 6 provinces voted against and you need a double majority.

RES P209 – abolish employment insurance contributions paid by students when they have a summer job.
AGAINST – the exemption should go to senior citizens, and doesn’t make sense by not taking into consideration everyone in all walks of life

RES P307 – Tories will recognize the importance of innovation to create a flourishing Canadian economy. This means providing support for businesses by ensuring low corporate and small business tax rates and enhancing tax credits for companies who will flirt with R&D.
AGAINST – Tories are a party of low taxes, and this policy isn’t innovative in its self.
*Goes to electronic vote. DEFEATED with 66% against.

RES P311 – Arctic research - didn’t hear what it was about. Chair can’t find anyone to speak to it. Someone goes up to ‘nominate it’. Chair asks for any rationale, and the nominator has none. It goes straight to vote as no one will speak to it. While no one would speak to it, it passes and there were quite a few against. .

Chair announces problems that were discovered in their electronic voting of 307. So they’ll have to redo it in a few moments. Funny, because they were showing off earlier, saying `hey, US, this is how `electronic voting` is done.

RES 312 – clean nuclear with a diverse energy mixed future – I wasn’t really paying attention – blame flirtatious Christian Conservative

RES P316 – family farms and small family-business. Sets out to strengthen the visibility of family operations
AGINST – we shouldn’t be playing favourites and we should stay loyal with our Conservative economic principles: broad based tax cut approach to small businesses should remain
-this is providing subsidizes which they’re against, and it’s not fair to limit to the type of businesses that are listed in this policy.

RES 307 goes to revote due to that electronic voting error – 54% vote `No` so it’s now it's still defeated with a different result than before

RES 202 brought back – which was the one resolution with a difference in French and English about the notwithstanding clause.
AGAINST – speaker does a shout out to his `baby` whom he loves. Says this resolution may be manipulated by opposition saying that the Tories are taking away ppl`s rights.
FOR – can’t cherry pick the Charter on what we like and don’t like. Tories supported the resolution earlier today dealing with the Charter and that received a standing ovation. The Liberal Party of Toronto cherry picks, not the Conservative Party of Canada.
*goes to electronic vote. PASSES with 57% support.
Conservative Party of Canada: Striving to overrrule the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They sure are "Second to none" on human rights as Jason Kenney says!
Another football announcement.

Fletcher helps close the ceremonies and says that the Tory govt is “piped” and ready to go to work in the fall. On cue, a bagpipe corp. comes out and closes the celebrations. THANK GOD IT’S OVER!

But seriously these were some scary policies that will make life worse for women, immigrants, aboriginals, victims of hate crimes, while adopting Republican style energy policies.. Thank goodness Harper never won a majority or he definitely would have put them all into place after this convention. So the hidden agenda is no longer hidden this is exactly what I’m sure he would like to do.

As a pragmatist, he won’t go through with all the major right-wing policies that was passed today, but even to do some of them had better be staunchly opposed by the Liberal caucus.

So this officially wraps up my coverage from the ground. Thanks to all my new readers (especially the ones who read through super long posts like these), thanks to anyone who linked to me, and yes thanks for having me Conservatives!

Now I gotta catch a flight home!

But before I go I’ve got one more post ready giving my overdue thoughts and questions on the Liberal leadership!

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Cons Moving Far Right

Will have a more detailed run-down when this wraps up, but this party is moving FAR to the right with these policies passing - no to gender equality, no protections against hate speech, yes to assimilating all our immigrants, yes to bringing back Epp's "unborn victims of crime" bill, yes to making life harder for Aboriginals, and there's more to come.....Harper may veto some of these but Canadians are seeing a clear picture of his party today.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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Constitutional Fun

10:40 (CT) The Room has pretty well filled out. From an unbiased perspective I’m pleased to see that when it comes to policy and their debate, that their members/delegates come out to voice their opinions. Admittedly, I am always a little disappointed that only about half of Liberals, sometimes if that who are delegates to AGMs/Bienniels but don’t make it to the meat and important parts policy-wise of the weekend. I hope Vancouver will see a more solid showing of Liberals for the constitutional/policy debates like this.

10:45: Ppl have been reminded they’re on national TV – so respect the schedule *hint, hint, behave kids! Canada’s watching today!* (unlike yesterday)

10:50 The room is practically filled now.

10:55 They’re doing a practice test of who can make the most noise. By province. Alberta seems the loudest. OK Ontario is clearly the majority here, about 40%. I think the North has 2-3 delegates, about the same as PEI. When NFLD is called, the chair sends his regards to their brother, Danny Williams.

10:56 Another test run is going to be held, using the two Chair’s tie colours as the example (like red vote ‘yes’, orange, ‘no’). The orange is alluded to the NDP, and the NDP gets their first mention of the weekend, which is met by boos (seems Dippers get boos, the Liberals snickers), and the red tie is being taken FROM the Liberals.

Each table is given a key pad, and a person from each table counts who from that table votes “yes” and “no”, and enters that into the electronic controller. A computer tally’s the votes and you see a nice graph on the big screen of the results. And you can see how that vote broke down (I assume by province, I believe that a certain % of each province must support for it to pass overall). Exciting isn’t it?

So here’s the rundown of the Constitution Plenary & Results (Kady gives her own summary and thoughts here):

RES 102 – rules must be put in place to make new members must pay or their membership personally
*PASSED by wide margin.

RES 103 – the wait time limit for new members to exercise their party rights is 21 days. To prevent hijacking of groups, the wait limit should be increased to 60 days.
AGAINST – makes it hard to recruit members in the most crucial time – AGM and nomination time.
FOR (a Guelph delegate)– prevents a candidate being about who can sell the most membership which is lousy criteria. Apparently in his riding, Liberals were signing up to influence the nomination process. I think Guelph had bigger problems than that, like the party and Harper getting involved and kicking out a democratically elected nominee for the party. And Gloria is there too.
FOR – the Chuck Cadman example is made – this party was sad to see him lose the Tory nomination due to insta-members
AGAINST – Don Plett, CPC Party President takes the mic: “we have great MPs because of insta-members, like those backbench MPs from Calgary! They work hard for their money!” He refers to the evil David Orchard, Don Plett gives a “mark my words” he’ll never take over a nomination in OUR party! (I seem to recall he LEFT your party for very good reason after Peter Mackay broke his signed deal not to merge the parties). I’m sure it was all praise for the guy signing up members when he was one of them though, same with Stronach.
*DEFEATED, by a fairly wide margin.

RES 104 – there lacks rules for the identification of ppl when they participate in party events.
AGAINST – it’s redundant

RES 105 – making it mandatory for ppl who hold party positions to be party members
FOR -nothing in const that requires positions of authority in the party to be members, this is an oversight
AGAINST – no one speaks against!
*PASSES, with only about 5 voting against it (darn I can no longer be party leader!)

RES 110 – putting elected reps from diff regions of Canada on the party’s nat’l council
FOR - the Parkdale High Park riding assoc Pres Jason Hickman (who I believe has commented on many a Libblog before) says they will get that riding…one day. Anyways, claims that in future elections, allows for someone elected from each of Canada’s regions to their provincial council.
AGAINST - Hamilton East Stoney Creek delegate speaks – says lets pick the best ppl for the job of Nat’l council, not ppl based on regional quotas which is a Liberal thing.
FOR - in the Canadian Alliance days, the National Council had 3 ppl from Calgary, which wasn’t fair
FOR – ppl who usually get the positions are from the west and this delegate asked each of them how they could represent and serve the ppl of Canada, and they didn’t respond so obviously they didn’t know how
AGAINST – its addressing a problem we don’t have (a few shouts of ‘no!’ are heard fro the crowd)
*This is going to their electronic vote, b/c it seems a bit close. Seemed to pass. It did with 57% support

RES C111- Preventing lobbyists from serving on nat’l council. This follows the spirit of the Accountability
AGAINST – we as a party are a lobby group, we as members are here as a lobby group to get our policies to the PM’s attn.
*DEFEATED. (good to see their practise in their own party what they’ve preached in past elections)

RES 112 – preferential ballot for Tory nat’l council
FOR – national council to be elected by same process that they elect the party leader
AGAINST – no one. Apparently there was lots of discussion at this during workshop, so the chair is surprised at that.
*Heavily PASSES.

RES 113 – filling vacancies on nat’l council
FOR – replacement of a vacant provincial nat’l council should be done by the members, not the party
*PASSES with clear majority (interesting)

RES 115 – Re: Conservative Fund of Canada (CFC)
FOR – this resolution seeks to clarify relationship b/w the party, its members and the CFC. It will give direct contact b/w members and the CFC through their national council. Seeks to have the president of national council automatically become on the board of directors of the fund to help oversee them.
AGAINST – will give up to 12 delegate spots to the CFC. Creates more ex-officio delegates who aren’t elected. This is called machine politics in the US where unelected ppl effect party outcomes. In Canada this is known as Liberal politics.
FOR – it’s thanks to the CFC that we’re in the great state we’re in. They deserve to be delegates.
AGAINST – this is a referendum on grass roots politics, and is a slippery slope of unelected delegates. About half of NDP delegates are unelected, from unions, and that’s not we want.
*Vote goes to machine. An amendment is asked to separate the resolution. Amendments are apparently not allowed from the floor.
FAILS with 57% voting No.

RES 116 – Election of the Party leader
FOR - Scott Reid goes to the mic, says it deals with the problems from the last leadership race. To accommodate members who couldn’t reach holding station, faxed ballots were allowed. Stronach campaign asked for the campaign to be suspended b/c the faxed ballots fell apart, even though they advocated for it. It’s not safe or secure. The solution is to allow postal ballots which is what this resolution asks for.
AGAINST – no one speaks against.
*About 20 votes were against it, so it heavily PASSES.

Constitution Plenary Session Ends.

At 1:30 PM (CT) are the policy debates, let the pandemonium begin!

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Tory Financial Affairs Update

Ok the rumble is coming soon, first was Financial Affairs Update of the Conservative Party by Irving Gerstein! (the banker Irving referred to earlier in the opening night ceremonies that was supposedly referenced in Dion's resignation speech).

Here's a rundown on his report:

– Since Diefenbaker there have been the ‘best of times, and the worst times’, for the party, sometimes they needed an umbrella.

-but currently the party is ‘very solvent and in pretty good financial shape’. The bottom line is that the party is in compliance with its banking arrangements

-they spent the max on a $20 million campaign, not including the pre-writ spending they did. They’ll get approximately $10 million back for writ expenditures, and then they will have cash in the bank and have no debt.

-This is good news and the fact that the Liberals have been stifled with a large debt makes this even better news he says.

-In the Conservative party, they’ll be debt free but will do so without asking for transfers from local campaigns. In fact, the nat’l party has given minimum $4 million to local campaigns.

-The Tory’s must grow their grassroots donation base, as the Liberal leadership race will be a temporary quick fix for their fundraising efforts.

-The Conservatives have paid off $4 million in initial debt and have funded 3 elections, paid for daily operating expenses and invested in party infrastructure and have conducted pre writ advertising campaigns which even Liberal Dion has said are effective (much to the applause and snickers of delegates ) and have given $4 million to local debt, all with cash in the bank, are debt free and are ready for the next election.

-they raised $14.8 million vs. the $3.6 million the Liberals did in the first 3 quarters which not “just a small difference, but gigantic”

-Irving says yes they spent quite a bit of money, but it was worth it as they were “successful” during the election and won it (not as successful as they hoped, obviously)

- Irving complained that Elections Canada counted their paid fundraising efforts as campaign expenses. This was followed by boos and Irving says "yes boo Elections Canada!" Wonderful, they are back to form I see. Obviously still touchy that Elections Canada could rule at any time they broke the law in the 2006 election.

-Their campaign tools: they use direct voter identification pools to help get donors and members, they conduct “data mining”, segmentation, and data manage to move supports up the Conservative ladder to members, to donors.

-They received 175 000 donations with each at an avg of $150.

-They use a 2 pocket concept – a donation to the party and another to the riding (sounds similar to the Victory Fund)

-The Conservative Fund helps riding associations by:
-membership sales via phones, direct mail, internet where 50% of sale goes to the local riding assoc
-direct contributions via canvassers, which have exceeded 2 mill
-credit card processing for associations, which have had a very huge significant impact
-a revenue sharing program which has resulted in $4 million cash fundraised from fund to local association
-if riding associations wish, the fund will share their nat’l list of active and lapsed donors with them

The top three riding associations which fundraised the most this past year where:

-Calgary centre north
-Calgary south west

(Really I thought the top one would be in Quebec? Apparently they didn’t do so well there…)

What also helps is the fact that funds go to a war chest, not to pay down debt.

Laureen Harper then comes on stage to hand out volunteer and achievement awards. She says she that volunteering is the ultimate exercise of democracy, for when you volunteer, you say daily what kind of community you want to live in. She adds “the Titanic was built by professionals, the Ark by volunteers, and of course, they’d all want to be on the Ark.” Various people accepted awards and then to break….

Constitutional sessions coming up….

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Day 3: Get Ready to Rumble! Tory Smackdown 2008

The media has been released and allowed into view the last day of the Convention, including the last plenary, where the delegates will debate those policies that made it past the closed door debate process yesterday. I appreciate this opportunity, and feel very privileged to be here. To be inside the Tory process after the past few days, it’s as if I’m lucky enough to watch lions mate in the savannah.

They’ve filled the room with tables here, and the delegates have been divided into provinces (seems like the majority come from Ontario). It’s just been announced observers will be at the very back, and there are a few claps for that.

I’ve been here since just after 9 AM. For the first 25 minutes, during that entire time, Gordon O’Connor has stood in the same place, heavily concentrating on reading the policy package. He may be afraid to sit and do so in case his people don’t recognize him sitting.

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Paging Phil McColeman: where are you??

I have yet to meet my new MP, Phil McColeman. I was hoping to get the chance to say hello at this convention, as I thought the new MPs would be a big thing this weekend. But because I've seen so little human activity this weekend, I don't even know if he's here!

So Phil, if you're here and would like to meet one of your constituents who made the trip all the way out here to steep in Tory politics, pls email me at

Just a friendly hello or even a short little interview.

Otherwise I will have to crash your Christmas party I hope you'll throw as an open house for the riding, (maybe at your new constit office), and I'll end up drinking more than my share of warm apple cider...

UPDATE: Alas, myMP never e-mailed me back...

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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The Only Liberal Blogger Interviews the Only Liberal MP Present Here At Ice Shut Con Convention

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure to interview Marlene Jennings, the Liberal caucus observer (and current Deputy House Leader) here at the Tory Convention. She asked me to meet with her in one area of the convention centre, but I had to ask her if we could meet a slightly different location, because I, as “media”, was not going to be able to access that part the hall.

Jennings said that during this visit, she was expecting to watch the real Conservative Party in action – its grassroots membership - and watch the debate and discussion between the delegates and the Members concerning their policy issues and ideas, in the same way that she’s been able watch the said democratic process at Bloc, New Democratic and Liberal conventions. Instead, as an MP and an as observer, Jennings has been unable to do so due to the high security, paranoia barred access.

“The way we can protect our democracy is through openness and transparency, and when the important political debates take place in public. To close access completely to their debates on their policy issues, says that they are not proponents of democracy, and have no interest in being open and transparent, that their concern is controlling the message to the point of stifling democracy, even it is from within their party,” said Jennings.

Jennings went on to note that normally, the grassroots members are the true representation of the party, and that most parties try to reach out to all of their members in multiple ways, and that even includes the media to broadcast to the members at home. “Those that have not been elected as delegates, for whatever reason, even financial, have been able in the past to observe their party’s convention live on the TV or the web, or through accessing the news reports. They learn from these media sources what positions were on the table, the different arguments put forth for each of them, and for this convention, they are unable to do that, so the Conservative party is not reaching out to all of its members and doing so equally.”

As for the session of the House ahead it is no secret that the economy will play out to be a major issue in the House of Commons, and what will be important for Canadians to observe is what the government’s strategy is going to be to deal with the tanking manufacturing sector which has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Harper has said nothing is wrong with the manufacturing industry and that it doesn’t need assistance. It is actually in real danger of disappearing, along with many direct, and indirect jobs that go along with it. The Harper government must support Canadian workers to ensure social programs remain here and that they consider alternative scenarios.”

Furthermore, in two years time, Jennings believes that the conservatives will be shrivelling up even more when it comes to democracy, because democracy depends on honesty and transparency. The fact that there have been rumblings of disgruntled grass root members who want to see the party moved further right may be testament to that “Harper has a real problem on his hands. In order to achieve a minority government twice in a row, he has had to move the party more to the centre to achieve that. He has a tough balancing act on his hands, and he maintains power tenuously to do that. It’s interesting that while he’s moved his party more to the centre, he hasn’t succeeded to bring his party to a majority government since becoming party leader. The more mainstream the Conservatives become, the more the grassroots Conservatives will want to call that move into question, but they will not question his leadership because there are some deep divisions in the party that some people are afraid to let break through. They’re afraid for a leadership race because their division will break through and become known, the party will be seen for what it really is.” Jennings also added that the achievements that he cited on his Friday speech, such as the first woman MP etc., were all achievements of the previous old red-Tory party, the same party that Harper’s old party rejected for so long and did not see any pride in those accomplishments.

On the issue of leadership, Jennings said that the current Liberal leadership race may distract the media from Harper’s government actions in the House of Commons, but that she’s certain of her party’s ability to do their job effectively. “Today Dion announced his shadow cabinet, and we have an excellent team with strong players, some who are new and dynamic. Our team is effective and we’ll be able to drive the issues and maintain the media’s spotlight on the issues which really are important to Canadians.”

Many controversial resolutions that were on the agenda for the last session of parliament were being put forth at this convention as resolutions to give them new life. Jennings noticed this and said that if the Conservatives try to sneak them back in under the rug while much of the focus is on the turbulent economic situation, that that strategy will not work. “We Liberals are always paying attention, and will drive the media’s spotlight that way, especially when it comes to bills like Kenn Epp’s which found its way back to the floor today.”

Jennings is optimistic that in two years time the Liberals will be well on the road to being reinvigorated, with significant structural changes to its party, improvements to its capacity to fundraise (on that note please join the Victory Fund today!), recruit members and engage Canadians.

I thanked Ms. Jennings for her time, and I had to go outside and walk 2 sides of the block to go back to my area, because I could not walk the 10 metres that separated me from our meeting location to my media holding room.

Now get ready for some excitement as barring at last minute change of heart by the Conservatives starting at 9 AM central time, I’ll be covering the policy debates from the floor as the far right former Alliance wing of the party tries to take their party back! (and by back I mean 30 years!) Will they succeed, will they be trampled? Stay tuned!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 2 evening ceremony live at Con Convention: Toews, Kenney and Paul Brandt!

So they’ve let us into the main hall for tonight’s festivities. They’re running over 30 minutes behind, most likely because the room is practically empty. They’ve added more chairs to the room, which has proven to be a silly move, because there are far less people tonight compared to last night. Good to see the money they spent on Paul Brandt will prove a worthy Conservative investment.

They’ve made the room more user friendly to the media, and more comfortable. At the same time, I’m sure its also for their own purposes, as apparently there were a few media sitting amongst the crowd last night in the unused chairs.

The night begins with the welcomer saying that nothing gets Tories more fired up than politics – so tonight is going to be all about the greatest hits. Get your Vicks out ‘cuz Fletcher is going to introduce the first act – I just don’t get any of that.

Fletcher comes out to introduce Vic Toews and stresses that Toews is “SENIOR” – how drole.

I find all of these intros extremely boring.

Toews slams Liberals for holding 3rd leadership race in 6 years, and compliments his party for holding the Liberals back in two elections and taking away their strong majorities.

Claims the Tories were not to supposed to be a national party, but they’ve now shattered that belief.

Jason Kenney comes out, to the credit of running the Tory war room.

Kenney is proud that the Tories have elected the most of women in history....for their party, he adds (and as his voice diminishes as he adds that). Kenney says note to Liberals: these women didn’t need quotas to be elected, they did it on their own merit.

Harper has done a lot to promote women in politics – he has appointed the most women to a government cabinet – Please Steve, do not stop there I say (not to mention his record FOR women’s issues has been pretty bad and that also not accurate, Paul Martin appointed more)

The Tories are also apparently the real party of young Canadians – need proof? They elected the youngest person to caucus and many other individuals in their 20s. There’s no need for sand box politics in the Conservative Party, because the youth get to play with the big guys (and they don’t in the Liberal Party too? At least they have their own voice at the same time).

They’re happy about tapping into the immigrant population and getting votes from new Canadians.

The Tories anticipate being a serious challenger in the GTA in the next election.

So how’d they do it? How’d they attract new Canadians? Kenney says the secret was taking millions of small ‘c’ conservatives and transforming them into big C Conservatives. This is done by showing how much in common the two have. Align values with votes. And the Tories don’t feel that new Canadian votes are entitled to them, unlike Liberals he says. Unlike the Libs, they actively listen to new Canadian’s concerns, and act upon them. Please do tell Jason just exactly what you’ve done. Jason goes onto to say that quotas (re: 1/3 candidates etc) are not the Canadian way, therefore not the Conservative way, so the Liberals can keep those outdated means.

Tories don’t have to compromise on Conservative values to get new Canadian votes. They can show them that lower taxes etc., can and are new Canadian values….and more more more of the same speech he gave yesterday at the CDN Club which I already covered extensively.

Tories have treated immigrants and new Canadians differently than how the Liberals have treated them Kenney says. The Tories treat them thinking what they can do for them, as equals who can join the regular Canadians, and defend and participate in the values and laws of the land, in addition to enjoying Canadian rights.

Kenney is giving more of the same speech from yesterday….I’m impressed, he (or his staff) have clearly read my post on his speech from yesterday, for when it came to the part when he described witnessing the swearing in process of new Canadians, he replaced the part that one does so by swearing the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen with a list of great aspects of immigrants becoming a part of Canada and Canadian identity. Overall despite taking pointers from me, the man is still just as scary, smug and wrong in his attitudes.

Laureen Harper and her daughter are apparently Brandt’s biggest fans – so they get to do the introduction of him and his band.

Line dancing has begun!

Paul does a shout out to the Tories!! *swoon* I bet he just sold 10 CDs.

About a third of the floor is now doing line dancing!!! I’m tempted to go join my political frenemies…

Paul to the crowd: “some things are just worth fighting for, you know what I mean?” Like Tory policies????

He asked the audience to sing along – they don’t seem to know the lyrics.

In case you’re wondering how/why Brandt was chosen to come here tonight: Brandt says he agreed to go to Ottawa to perform on Canada Day to thank Harper for lowering the GST. And after that, he got the invite to come here for the Tory Convention.

Oh Brandt is a little P.O.’d that someone is talking on their cell during his concert. He asks them to hang up. Then he grabs the phone and called them back – how Tom Cruise!

Don't invite Paul to your wedding – you’ll get Tupperware.

Note: Later (likely tomr morning) I'll have up the interview I did with Marlene Jennings earlier this afternoon. Stay tuned for any new dirt as the night goes on, but failing that be back bright earlier tomorrow for all the excitement!

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Breaking: Policy Resolutions Going to the Floor

Finally some policy news. Straight fromm Dimitri Soudas' release to the media - here are the policies defeated and going forward. Of course he's making me track down the names of each one, so you'll just get their numbers for now but I'll update this post very shortly.

Advancing Constitution Resolutions

C-102 - personal payment of membership
C-103 - 60 day waiting period
C-104 - compulsory identification
C-105 - persons required to be a member (leader, national coujncil members,
C-110 - regional elections to National Council
C-111 - lobbyists can't be members of National Council
C-112 - National Council elections (preferential ballot)
C-113 - filling vacancies on national council
C-115 - not sure what this one is
C-116 - leadership voting - post and fax ballots (latter not allowed)

Advancing Policy Resolutions

P-106 – Allow provinces to experiment with private health care
P-110 - workers at risk of exposure to infectious disease (AIDS and
P-113 – Dangerous offenders: 3 strikes and you are out
P-114 - remove faint hope clause (jury decides if you can get out after 15 years) for second degree murder (it doesn’t exist for first degree)
P-119 - human trafficking
P-202 - Affirm the Charter: Parliament should override the courts
P-203 - This is the one seeking to essentially defang (ok abolish was too strong) Human Rights Commissions
P-207 – Bring back Ken Epp’s “Unborn Victims of Crime” bill
P-213 – Eliminate recognition of equal work for equal pay
P-222 - Temporary workers
P-223 - Audit of aboriginal programs
P-301 - National securities regulator
P-303 - Capital gains reinvestment
P-305 - Income splitting
P-306 – Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
P-308 – Minimize Right to Strike by Union Workers
P-321 - Agriculture support
P-101 - study and address climate change in the north
P-104 - energy from garbage
P-105 – Offshore Oil and Gas Development (aka Drill Baby Drill!)
P-111 – Health Sciences Research, and Innovation (more support for health research and other innovations in health care)
P-122 - veterans public awareness and memory
P-205 - arctic sovereignty
P-208 - student loans
P-209 - EI for summer students
P-307- innovation and research
P-311 - arctic research
P-312 - long term energy
P-316 - rural family business

Thanks to Kady O'Malley for beating me to labeling the bulk of these!

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The Media Lockdown in Winnipeg

That sign above is the sign that popped up this morning to greet reporters, in case we forgot during our night’s sleep that we’re not allowed to witness the true Conservative party – their grass roots.

Yes, the media has been shut out, as many of you you are all aware. The media is none too pleased about being it though, as this was also a shock to them. Yesterday the media filling room was packed, and today it seems less so. I swear some reporters just didn’t bother to show up this morning. I hear from Dawg that one reporter complained to Harper this morning that the media accessibility is similar to that of Beijing and Moscow, and Harper’s reaction was “so???”. One reporter even acknowledged that things have gotten so bad, that the bloggers have resulted into interviewing each other! It’s no wonder Liberal leadership news has gotten so much attention here. This should be a weekend of Tory news, you’d think the Tories would welcome that and welcome any news away from the potential next leader of the Liberals, but no…

What blows my mind is that this is a bad pattern from the Conservative side: during the recent campaign, some days Harper would not take any questions at all from the media. He had one media availability a day, sometimes none. And when he did talk to them he was extremely picky about questions. Contrast that to the media’s accessibility to the Liberals: media avails at least twice a day, free range on questions. And even through all that, I would argue that the media still favoured the Tories. This is the same government that years ago, the Toronto Star uncovered that they wanted to erect a multi-million dollar war style media room to replace the press theatre to attempt to control (or influence) the media.

It’s odd though because as I write this, delegates have been walking into the media room and even raiding our one perk – soft drinks. It seems they can go everywhere, do anything. We media may complain about our accessibility, or lack thereof, but at least we respect it our boundaries.

We have basically been life with no idea what is going on here. We are just waiting here hoping someone will tell us that “A Tory MP is going to walk by the doors, maybe you can get some questions”, in which the response will be the standard Tory press release. A Tory staffer came into the media room and said, “If you want Tony, he’s out there, go quickly to get him”. Tony sees us all coming and his eyes widen. We’re not going to run him over. He seems a bit flattered but he doesn’t have time for us, he’s late for a fancy reception. “Call my press secretary, she’ll arrange something”. A few moments later, Peter Mckay walks out to actually take some questions (maybe he was told to go out because he can he was told we’re bit annoyed at the bones we’re getting). I’ll have more on his “insightful” scrum later.

You have to be creative here, you have to aggressive to get some scoops and interviews with the people who know what is going in on the inside. I think the blogger’s here are at an disadvantage. All the big time reporters have contacts on the inside, and the name recognition to attract the odd interview (though it does seem that even the delegates are avoiding the press and are refusing to speak to reporters. I asked one delegate to show me the contact of his delegate pack, and he refused!).

Reporters are accustomed to rules and working around them. Most still like the traditional writing of pieces. I even just found out that the media have been getting a few tid bits from the PMO’s Press secretary. I’ve asked to be put on that list. But bloggers like writing off the cuff, and giving details of what’s being said and done. Blogs are to report from the ground directly out, with no filters. Well now we got more than filter going on here.

I went to a hospitality suite last night, which was hosted by the Canadian Private Copying Collective. I thought this was going to be THE hospitality suite of the weekend, considering who its being put on by and their support of the controversial Bill C-61. They were thrilled to have a media person attend their event, and I was happy to hear from them. They must have thought there was no media at this convention. By the Conservatives keeping us separate, these groups that are here and are even welcomed by the party, aren’t getting the publicity they want. And they should get it, both sides. The Copying Collective put on an expensive suite, and the media are no doubt paying a very pretty penny to be able to “cover” this event. Such groups are here helping to support the convention because they want to meet not only individuals, but the media to give their perspectives and get into a debate. After the convention ends, I’ll discuss a little what I discussed with the reps from the Copying collective, but I did find it extremely ironic that while this is the group that wants to ban the idea of copying music (free music) they gave out several artist’s CD’s to those who visited the suite, and I was glad to meet the artist of ONE of those CD’s. And of course their opponents in this debate don’t have the riches to put on such events to give their side either.

While we’re supposed to be having access to tomorrow’s floor debates, I hope that’s not all we have access to tomorrow. And I do hope that while we can’t attend the “serious” part of the convention, that they’ll at least let us attend the celebration with Paul Brandt. But hey, if I ever wanted to know what it would be like if I were to professionally take up journalism, I can only assume that these are the types of things I would be looking forward to right???

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