Saturday, July 29, 2006

What are they thinking?

This morning in the Star, I'm reading more about the Conservative's ham fisted attempt to draw more money from their supporters using the mid-East conflict, when I read this quote (from their fundraising letter):
"We must be ready for an election now because the opposition is blindly determined to drag the country to the polls, on any pretext they can contrive,"

What? You mean like the Conservatives deliberate under-representing themselves for the budget vote? Or making the NDP motion for Rona Ambroses resignation a 'confidence' matter? Or maybe they're referring to making the softwood lumber deal a confidence vote?

Isn't it the Conservatives who are blindly determined to drag the country to the polls?

You would think that after dropping/replacing-on-the-fly the most popular of their 5 priorities they would be more likely to want to bide their time.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Reading material

On a recent visit to BMV books, I had picked up a copy of Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chretien by Lawrence Martin. An excellent read, it fills in the blanks for those of us who aren't particularly connected to the inner working of the party at the time.

(Update: I finish posting this, and then notice that Jean there on the right was waving his fist at Bob... funny, and totally unintentional of course. Thought I'd point it out before someone else did.)

One of the parts that I want to mention in particular:

Just as they had in the 1997 campaign, the Liberals had one fear. When their caucus held its annual meeting, this one in Winnipeg, members reported hearing rumours that the Alliance was going to trim back the GST. They all knew, as one of them put it, that "we'd get killed on that." The Alliance strategist Rod Love favoured a cut in the tax, and he began pushing the GST issue on [Stockwell] Day and the party's finance critic, Jason Kenny. But mainly at Kenny's urging, they took a pass, letting the Grits off the hook.

No kidding, eh? Funny how these things can bite you in the ass.

Overall, the book is filled with other similar moments that have come back recently... one more concerns the compensation of Hep C victims, which the neo-tories have recently extended:

The issue divided the Liberals, who held only a slim majority in
the Commons. When the Reform Party presented a motion demanding compensation for all, the prime minister would not risk allowing his troops to vote with their conscience. There would be no free vote. ... (snip) As an M.D., Carolyn Bennett was especially affected by the drama. Favouring more compensation, she tried to lobby Rock and Goldenberg... (snip) It was left to Mike Harris, the hard-edged Ontario Tory, to come up with a better package. "A lot of the activists on this file ended up loving Harris,"
Bennett said. "The Tories used hep C to fix their image." Something else bothered her as well. "When you see $57 million going to lawyers on this file, it just breaks your heart."


Anyway... definitely an interesting summer read... and thanks again Carolyn for responding to my questionnaire (below); here's hoping your voice is more prominent in the next Liberal government.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Carolyn Bennett's response to my Leadership Questionnaire

Thanks to Carolyn Bennett for taking the time to provide an excellent response!

1. Why do you think the Liberal party is in the position it is now, having lost a majority, and then minority government?

I believe that we as Liberals were punished not for WHAT we did – a robust economy, the Clarity Act, early learning and child care, Project Green for Kyoto, Kelowna - but for HOW we did it. We were perceived as practicing ‘old style politics’, top down, not listening. Even life-long Liberals were upset with the way we were doing things.

2. How do you envision being able to bring Canadians back to the Liberal party, and in doing so creating a greater grassroots support base for the party?

Canadians will not give us back the keys to the car until we can show them that we have learned and have dramatically changed the way we do things.

I believe that my track record demonstrates a new style of politics from the bottom up - a politics that is about ideas, transparency and accountability, where citizens area treated with respect, and where leadership is being the centre of a circle and not the top of a pyramid.

In my riding, we have focused upon the idea of a ‘democracy between elections’ - town hall meetings, parliamentary clinics, neighbourhood checkups and MSN chats with young voters. It has paid off. St Paul’s was a bellwether riding, virtually always sending its MP to the government side. In the past election I won with a PLURALITY OF 14,000 VOTES. My riding is also the youngest riding in the country - the greatest per cent of voters under 35, and we were able to achieve a voter turnout of 75 per cent. I believe that my work between elections has attracted the youth, the more practical NDP supporters, who know I am a fighter for social justice issues, and the more progressive conservatives, who know I have fought to change the culture of boasting about how much we spend into a management based on accountability for real results.

We need to do this across the country. We will NOT beat Stephen Harper by being ‘blue light’. In Anne Mclellan’s riding, over 6,000 people voted NDP. We need them to feel comfortable voting for us. They now have a conservative Member and government. We need those who voted Green, and those who just stayed at home because they thought their vote didn’t matter.

Now that we are in opposition, we need the activists – the disability community, artists, seniors, children’s advocates, FN Inuit Métis, health, poverty and affordable housing activists, and researchers - to feel welcome in our party and help us shape the best possible platform. We need them to see their ideas there so they are able to endorse them.

We need to inspire Canadians to bring out the best in each of us - the exact opposite to Stephen Harper’s "What’s in this for me??"

3. What is your greatest strength as a leader? What would your leadership style be? (i.e., in dealing with the press)

I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it.

I believe I represent the end of old style politics and the opportunity for LPC to usher in a clear, clean, transparent and truly democratic style of politics - bottom up, listening, engaging Canadians in their democracy. I believe my leadership style allows people to know that they matter.

In opposition, as social development critic, I began the work of creating a ‘shadow caucus’ that would help ensure that we would be the best possible opposition and be able to hear from the un-held ridings, and especially the concerns that would shape our policies to better reflect the needs or rural Canada and Quebec.

In my campaign, my policy dialogues have become a real-time example of open source policy; listening, adapting, and listening again till we have real policies that are relevant and responsive. It can be done. We can have a modern party that doesn’t have to wait for permission for a policy convention in order to do policy.

My communication style is one of ‘straight talking’. I used to have to tell people that they had cancer or were on the wrong medication. I believe Canadians want that from a leader.

I can make tough decisions, but people will know that they have been heard and then why I chose a certain course.

4. What are your thoughts or ideas on how the federal government should address regionalism in Canada? (i.e., Western alienation, Quebec Separatism)

We have to begin by celebrating the regions of this country, their diversity, their strengths, their innovative approaches to their challenges.

From East to west, urban to rural English to French, we have to speak to the pride that Canadians have in their region and their heartfelt desire for real prosperity close to home.

We come from very different geography. From the Mountains in the West, to the big sky on the prairies, to the granite rocks and lakes and pine trees of central Canada, to the importance of the ocean in Atlantic Canada, to the majesty of their land in the North. We need every Canadian to better understand how their region shapes their identity as a Canadian.

We need to take a much more inclusive approach to the regions of Canada. Somehow every region has felt neglected, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, even Ontario, certainly the West, and up until recently The North. To be in Newfoundland last week and see their nationalist flags flying everywhere is sobering. They were the last into confederation and truly feel that they have much less now than they brought in.

The federal government has been perceived as far away, not listening and imposing ‘solutions’ that the regions know won’t work. In fact, the federal government is accused of not understanding the problems in the first place. It is next to impossible to find effective solutions if you don’t truly understand the problems.

We have to build a more respectful relationship with the regions and their citizens. But we also need to inspire Canadians to better understand that every region wants to be as good as it can be. We need to get away from the zero-sum game – when a region gets something it takes away from another region - to a real belief that the sum is indeed greater than the parts. We must evolve to a more mature approach in which we can all celebrate the history and the successes of every region.

Our schools, exchange programs, the CBC and all our cultural industries and institutions need to be supported to help us in this mission. I wish that every Canadian could be a leadership candidate for at least a day in some part of Canada far from their home.

In a ‘citizen-centred federalism’ Canadians from all regions would feel that they are part of a truly federal system that listens and acts.

The old fashioned top-down, ‘big brother’ approach of the federal government must go. We need real partnerships if we are going to achieve public policy that is relevant and responsive to the needs of Canadians. We need to articulate a strong common purpose and then demonstrate a respect for the local wisdom local knowledge to get the job done. That means that we must also build into our federation that is focussed upon transparency and results.

We all can learn from one another. In health and health care, the federal government has responsibility for aboriginal peoples, corrections, the military, veterans, the public service and the RCMP. We need to be accountable for these populations and should report in the same manner we are asking the provinces to do. We should be humbled that the population with the worst outcomes, our aboriginal peoples, are our responsibility. We do not have the moral authority to be telling provinces what to do. We need to engage them in this amazing project that is Canada.

They need to feel included. That means every Quebecker, every Albertan - not just First Minister to First Minister.

It is important that Albertans understand how much Newfoundlanders would rather have jobs at home than in Fort McMurray. That in Quebec City, the families would prefer that there were jobs there so that their children wouldn’t have to move to Montreal. Throughout Canada, the problems in the rural regions are more similar than different. We have to ensure that Canadians are able to face these common challenges together instead of apart.

Quebec, however, requires us as Liberals to truly apologize for having insulted them with the sponsorship program. Then we need to recognize that the new Quebec word ‘Bushization’ is a very important step in underlining for Quebeckers that George Bush’s buddy ‘Steve’ does not represent their values of social justice and rejects the leadership they have demonstrated on important issues such as child care, young offenders, pharmacare, and the environment.

5. What do you think Canada’s ideal role is in the international community?

I hope in my paper "Canada’s Role in a Healthy and Equitable World" I have answered your question

However, I would just like to add one anecdote. Apparently in 1990 there was an ILO conference in Turin. Canada sent 7 delegates. There were 23 working groups. Only 7 of the working groups came to consensus. They were the 7 with a Canadian in them. In each one, the group had asked the Canadian to facilitate, in each group, the Canadian had got to the board and listed the ‘common ground’ he/she had heard and then asked if the small differences outside that common ground really mattered. In the other groups, the leader had articulated the diverging opinions and then found it impossible to achieve consensus in the group. Bono was right - the world needs more Canada!!!

6. Anything you'd like to add?

I believe that we as Liberals have an urgent task to get our act together and build back the confidence of Canadians in a credible alternative to Stephen Harper and his republican agenda.

We MUST be able to do a better job explaining how his short-term tactics to win a majority are actually bad public policy – bad for the economy, anathema to true Canadian values of social justice and sustainability.

I believe that I can do that.

I ran provincially in 1995 and lost to Mike Harris, who also for a while was credited for doing what he’s said he’d do.

But the other things he had to do because of the lost revenue from irresponsible tax cuts meant the cancellation of art, music, sports, family counseling, and after-hours programs.

Ten years later we have a terrible problem in Ontario with guns and gangs. Without those programs we have youth who describe the first time that they ever felt they belonged was when they joined a gang. The first time they had ever been told that they were good at something was shoplifting.

Mike Harris initiated bad public policy that we are paying for 10 years later.

When I ran in ‘95 I had thought I was running to be a voice for the patients and the trenches to fix health care.

Yet, now I realize that as a physician a health system must do more than just patch people up and send them back into the same situation that made them sick in the first place.

We as liberals understand that the ultimate sustainability of our heath-care system isn’t adding more dollars in a private sickness care system. We must be committed to working together on keeping people well by ending poverty and violence, protecting the environment, providing shelter, equity, education and early learning, and the research that supports this agenda.

Now I am running to be leader of the Liberal Party because I want Canadians to be the healthiest people in the world. I know that the health of Canadians won’t be determined in the Ministry of Health.

In order to have healthy Canadians we need a healthy democracy, healthy environment, healthy communities that lead to a healthy economy and we must assure Canada’s important role in a healthy and equitable world.

I believe I represent the end of old style politics and the opportunity for LPC to usher in a clear, clean, transparent and truly democratic style of politics - bottom up, listening, engaging Canadians in their democracy – and focused on results.

I need your support. It is urgent. If we don’t demonstrate that we have truly learned our lesson and are determined to do things differently, it will be a long time before Canadians will allow us the chance to do all the important things that we know we need to bring this country together.

I know what needs to be done, I know how to do it. I need your help in getting our act together as Liberals so we can get on with the real job of earning back the respect of Canadians, so that together we can stop Steve from doing even more damage to our country, but mostly so we can put in place a Canada that celebrates and appreciates every region, every citizen… meegwitch.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Re-enter... the Grumpy Snail

A buddy of mine has resurrected his blog from the bizarre-white-screened-internet-purgatory which he managed to relegate it to... the Grumpy Snail is King Pengvin's own personal blog about politics (he prefers anonymity).

I just thought I would mention it, much as I tend to disagree with what he has to say (especially this recent post); still, it won't stop me from visiting it once in a while, much the same way I will go check out the Flogging Gories every once in a while when I want to remember why I'm a Liberal.

I'll recommend that he could always join their blogroll (If I want to get under his thick skin), or maybe he'd be better suited to the blogroll of the non-partisans.


Most people who are even remotely acquainted with the nature of combat understand that "collateral casualties" are at times unavoidable, and a fact of any conflict.

Still, if this is true, then it represents something worse than a simple battlefield error.

So what is Harper going to say about this? Is this part of the "measured response?" Is this justifiable?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When flag waving starts getting out of hand...

In Burlington, even the squirrels are getting in on the act.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wow, now that's what I call timing...

I didn't hear anything about this decision coming up, and considering recent events here at home you would have thought it was eagerly anticipated. Nonetheless, the U.S. Court of International Trade has decided in favour of the Canadian Softwood Lumber Industry.

I just read about this over at Grit Patriot

I find it amazing that the Conservatives are determined to move ahead, citing that they think their "deal in hand" is better:

"We are still moving strongly ahead with this (agreement)," said Robert Klager, director of communications in Emerson's office. "As far as changing anything, I am sure there will be a lot of commentary about it. But the government is still confident that the agreement we have reached guarantees money back into the hands of the industry and it brings the stability that years of litigation simply haven't."
Gordon Hamilton, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Conservatives have publicly stated that they won't let the Canadian Lumber Industry have a say in the matter, and it won't be re-negotiated; well, it appears that isn't necessarily true either...

Coleman [B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman] said despite Ottawa's insistence that the July 1 softwood deal is final, discrete talks are taking place with U.S. counterparts to reach an accommodation that would bring provincial governments and the industry on board. The Canadian industry is preparing a pan-Canadian package to present to the U.S. lumber industry and Coleman said he has been in direct talks with U.S. officials himself.
Gordon Hamilton, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, July 22, 2006

The downside of this is that this court decision doesn't get back all of the money:

On the basis of the decision, the group representing British Columbia lumber interests says that the Canadian lumber industry should get back $1.2-billion (U.S.), or roughly 26 per cent of the $4.6-billion in duties it has paid out since May, 2002.
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Thus the Tories have the spin built into the story, and a spin that unfortunately backs up their claim that their $4 Billion version of capitulation is better than nothing.

I find it amazing that the Tories could so flagrantly give up the legal recourse we have under the NAFTA agreement for a temporary deal.

Question: Under the Conservative agreement, are they paying us back in Canadian or US dollars? I know this sounds silly for a deal of this magnitude, but could it be relevant? The money lost in Canadian dollars is worth more now that it was when it was taken (illegally), while the equivalent in US dollars is worth less.

h/t to Cherniak_wtf for the links

Friday, July 21, 2006

The NSA wiretap case is going forward

A buddy of mine just sent me this, from arstechnica:

Apparently the Judge in the suit filed by the EFF against AT&T for the whole NSA wiretap thing has dismissed the governments motion to have the case dismiss on the grounds of state secrets.

This quote pretty much sums up the Judges argument.

Judge Walker disagreed, saying that if the government has been truthful in its disclosures, divulging information on AT&T's role in the scandal should not cause any harm to national security. And if it hasn't been truthful? "The state secrets privilege should not serve as a shield for its false public statements," he wrote. "In short, the government has opened the door for judicial inquiry by publicly confirming and denying material information about its monitoring of communication content."

h/t to Kaz

Sunday Bloody Sunday performed by George W. Bush.

Funny... h/t to Sasha Furlani for emailing this to me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Second class Canadians?

So what do you think, should 'non-resident' Canadians be given the same treatment/priority as resident Canadians travelling abroad when it comes time to evacuate people?

A friend and I are having this debate. Personally, I don't think there should be a distinction. If you are Canadian, then you're Canadian.

What are they saying to the Canadians who live in Lebanon?

"You have a passport? Good. Where do you live? Oh, sorry... come back tomorrow."??

but as my friend says:

It is a matter of practicality. The Tourist has the contents of his luggage and whatever cash they can pull from their accounts to live off of for the next few weeks and hopefully a place to stay while he waits, … The Resident has family and friends to work with while they wait not to mention the all important roof over their head. They have more means at their disposal to hold out a little longer.

This doesn't wash with me. What if their family, friends etc. live in an area being shelled? What if their home is destroyed?

It's probably worth noting that the 'tourist' is likely visiting some of the residents in Lebanon, and may even be family. What then? do you split up family?

I say no. What say you?

Starting my day

I have a daily planner that I use constantly for keeping track of my schedule and things to do etc. Every day when I get to my desk I start by opening it up and going over yesterday's tasks, looking at what is planned for today, etc. But even before I do these things, I read the quote that appears at the top of each daily notes page; in light of recent events, today's is especially poignant:

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. ...Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

I've always been awed and inspired by the Rev. King; he and Mohandas Ghandi are two of the shining lights of recent human history.

As much as this is the what I think and feel, I still can't help but wonder if their messages are of any practical use in the face of such callous, heinous violence (is there any other kind?) as we have seen of late. Of course, a part of me says, look at the success of ending colonial rule in India throught the "Satyagraha" movement led by Ghandi, in the face of similar brutality on the part of the British; it only took the fortitude and courage to resist resorting to violence.

Getting back to work and the tasks at hand, I count myself lucky that this is for me just a theoretical question, contemplated in safety.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bob Rae on the Situation in the Middle East

I just caught this this morning... I guess I'm a little behind on things... Red Tory was on top of this yesterday.

Ottawa (July 17, 2006) – Speaking today to a gathering of Liberal Party members in Trois Rivières, Liberal Leadership Candidate Bob Rae said that: “All Canadians share a sense of deep loss with the tragic deaths in Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza of innocent civilians. This is a time for all of us to express our strongest desire for peace and stability in a part of the world that is dear to Canada and Canadians.”

“But we also expect our government to go beyond words. The Canadian government must respond to the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.”

“Canada must live up to the spirit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lester B Pearson, who used his experience and understanding to defuse a crisis.”

“Canada should have used the last 72 hours to make the case for UN peacekeepers on the border between Lebanon and Israel, accompanied by a firm timetable for a ceasefire and disengagement. The G8 proposals provide a good framework.”

“The issue is not simply Israel's right to defend itself - it is how to police a border, how to reduce tension, how to create the preconditions for dialogue. Israel has a right to live in peace within secure, internationally recognized borders. At the moment this clearly requires the presence of peace monitors. Lebanon cannot and will not do it and has called for a UN presence on its soil to assist in this. The UN must respond.”

“Canada's further efforts need to focus on the refusal of both Hezbollah and Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. These radical groups, clearly fuelled by money and other assistance from Iran and Syria, point to the biggest obstacle to peace: an inability to accept Israel as a legitimate country in the region. Ideologies that cannot accept the presence of other people, with different religions, languages, and loyalties, are a profound threat to the peace of the world.”

Monday, July 17, 2006

Softwood and the possible Fall vote...

From the "Things that make you go Hmmm" dept:

The following is from the Hill Times piece on the possibility of a Fall election being triggered by the Sftwood lumber deal:

Mr. Harper, who called the deal "the best Canada is ever going to see," acknowledged the opposition to the softwood lumber deal from the Saskatchewan government and the forestry industries in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

"We've known all along that opinion isn't unanimous, but we're confident most of the industry wants to move ahead on this," Mr. Harper said.

(emphasis is mine)

Isn't unanimous? Who is in favor of this deal?? (besides Conservatives, that is)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Some opposition to the Brinksman

Well, a few other bloggers have already touched with the Star article where Bob Rae comes out against Steve's brinksmanship over the softwood lumber deal, and there isn't much I can add really.

I think its good that Rae is standing up to Harper, and opposing a deal that represents an awful capitulation:

“It should be a matter of confidence. It is a terrible, terrible deal and it sets an atrocious precedent for all of our trade negotiations with the U.S.”

I'm not an expert, but I'm inclined to think he knows what he's speaking about; his website lists his previous involvement with the issue:

Softwood Lumber
Bob's private sector work has involved various commercial mediation and arbitration issues, as well as participation on a number of boards of public companies. He has lectured widely on issues of company and non-profit restructuring and corporate governance.

For example, Bob joined the Board of Tembec - a large forest products company - in 1997. With the re-emergence of the softwood lumber dispute in 2001, and the deal set to expire, Bob became counsel to the Free Trade Lumber Council, an organization of companies dedicated to achieving free and fair trade between Canada and the U.S. in lumber and wood products.

In this capacity Bob met regularly with key stakeholders and governments in Canada and the U.S., and spoke and wrote frequently on trade issues.

So, he's not exactly wading into these waters for the first time, is he?

Did I hear correctly? Another confidence motion?

Listening to the news on the radio this morning I caught the news that Emerson and Harper are standing by the Softwood lumber treaty, and refusing to attempt any re-negotiation, period. The last part of the story I heard was that the agreement is going to be voted on by parliament in the fall, and that it will be a confidence motion. (I heard it on the radio, but it's in this National Post story)

Brinksmanship is really becoming a hallmark of Steve's style. Maybe he's finally found a way to have the opposition pull the trigger for him on that Fall election. Convenient time to use that tactic, since the Liberal party still won't have a leader.

Regarding the Softwood lumber agreement, nothing I've read or heard has been very positive, but is this agreement worth bringing down the government? Or is abstaining, while registering opposition to the use of bullying tactics for passing legislation an option?

Maybe the Liberal party will want to seriously consider an alternate time line and method for choosing the next leader; an added bonus would be that it would give the party a chance to avoid the maximum individual donation conundrum that has been created by Conservative legislation (perhaps we could look at having smaller, simultaneous regional conventions that all linked together, or Email voting?).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thoughts for the day

I'm noticing more and more Liberal party members threatening to walk away from the party if certain candidates (Volpe and Rae, to be specific) win the leadership; is this a common occurrence during leadership campaigns? Did this happen during the Chretien/Martin contest? 
While I can understand that people will be disappointed if their choice for leader doesn't come through, consider that there are going to be backers for 10 candidates who will be in this position... what if all of them decide it's all or nothing... their way or the highway?
The party is, or has to be greater than it's leader alone. Leaders come and go, and will have varying levels of success, but the people who make up the party are ultimately going to determine it's success and survival in the long run.
Meanwhile, my Leadership Questionnaire seems to have stalled. I had received several confirmations from candidates teams that they would send in their response, but have yet to receive them. Maybe it was a little too bold for a small-fry, average joe blogger like myself to expect the candidates to find some time for my questions? Perhaps it was. Ah well, I'll send out a reminder anyway, and we'll see what happens.
So, has the Federal Minister of Health sold off his stake in a pharmaceutical company yet? Anyone?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Steve: Our guy in Washington

Gosh its great that G.W. Bush is "impressed with his leadership style" and proud that Steve was there (bought him lunch too... Score!), and "proud to have allies like Steve who understand the stakes of the 21st century." George was soooo proud of Steve, he had to say it a couple times. We should put that in ads during the next election.

Still, it's nice to know that part of the US government thinks we're not a hotbed of terrorism, even if it is G.W. Bush:"It just goes to show how safe Canada is," and "people ought to be rest assured that Canada is on top of any plots." Can we quote him on that? I guess it probably doesn't mean much when its coming from G.W.. It's all just a bunch of fluff that won't count for squat with congress, or FOX news.

My favorite line from the Globe article:

"...both men managed to avoid uttering the word "Iraq," a first at a White House news conference for years and a lingering point of sharp difference between Ottawa and Washington."

Of course they didn't mention Iraq; it doesn't really fit in the 'Gratuitous Ass Kissing" category of topics, now does it?

HarperBizarro has a great catch from all this; he contrasts a quote that Steve makes during this press conference regarding 9/11 and Canada's reaction with a quote from Jean Chretien who actually was Prime Minister at the time... nice. Plus ça change, indeed.

Anyway, from now on, I'm calling him Steve.