Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Pssssst... Hey, Calgarians... did you enjoy your commute today?

I know *I* did. My normal 1-hour commute only took 2 and a half hours this morning - VERY exciting!

You know who else had a great time? The 300-or-so motorists who were involved in collisions in the past 24 hours.

"Oh, but it just snowed. Had a big dumping." And you're right - we certainly did. The last of that big dumping fell... oh, 108 hours ago. Or so. And in the time since, we've had "51 sanders and ploughs out to clean up the roads - then we sent out as many as 75 this morning".

Whoah... back that up a second...

We had ploughs and sanders in RESERVE?

The city, that wants to ticket me for not clearing my own walk within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall, is telling me that they were holding sanders and ploughs in RESERVE, rather than ploughing or sanding my street 4 days after the snow fell?

Folks... if you were in a collision on an unploughed road on Tuesday, I think you'd better call your lawyer and ask them why the city thought that saving you $0.48 by not ploughing your neighbourhood was good public policy.

While you're at it - go take a stroll through Pump Hill and Mount Royal. I wonder if THEY got ploughed and sanded...

I'm not saying that snow removal is an easy job - clearly, it's not. But I don't think that I , and my million friends, are out of line for wanting to know why we can't seem to keep up, EVER, with the snow fall that we all KNOW is coming. This last storm we had been hearing about on the nightly news for 2 nights prior - "don't forget, the big winter storm is coming Friday afternoon - be ready".

Clearly, city administrators don't watch the news.

Folks, I don't know what plough operators do in June, and I don't much care. I don't begrudge them the time off, if that's what they get. But in DECEMBER, in one of the most populous and northerly cities on the planet, I expect that we've got every single machine out on those roads, 24 hours a day, until we get the snow and ice dealt with. We've got hundreds of people driving into each other, while we keep machines in reserve 4 days after a major snowfall that we had 48 hours warning about, and still haven't caught up to?

Calgarians are calling their aldermen (403-268-2430) demanding better snow removal for their money. Given that we're fresh out of chinooks for the near future, according to forecasters, this is as good a time as any to call and ask why steep hills in residential areas and exits onto major arteries aren't priorities for sanding. Or, if they're priorities on PAPER, why they're not being repeatedly done, rather than a single, quick pass a few hours after the last flakes. And why they're holding machines in reserve 4 days after a snowfall, when they are nowhere NEAR caught up to the snowfall of 4 days prior.

Need a refresher on the numbers?

My pleasure.

Look at that... just about a year, to the day, since my last rant about snow removal in this city.

And I betchya that Ward8Guy STILL hasn't heard back from his alderman.

EDIT Dec.19

City clearing snowy, icy roads "appropriately".

Ah, okay...

Well, as long as YOU think you're doing a good job, I guess everything's okay. Should we even bother with that pesky, expensive election in October 2010, do you think, or are you doing such a good job we should just let that slide?

So, just to be clear, we've gone from "We're doing everything humanly possible", to "we're doing everything we can afford", to "we're doing everything that labour law will let us do", to "we're doing enough. Stop your whining and slow down - hey, look, the Calgary Police want to talk to you all over there about preventing youth crime!".

Hell of a job, Bronco. Tomorrow, we'll hear about how Ed Stelmach is stopping the ploughs from getting to the West end of Calgary with his mean, partisan, city-hating politics...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Alberta Liberals Get Their Man

... and that man is Dr. David Swann.

As you probably read elsewhere first, David Swann was the first-ballot winner of the Alberta Liberal leadership race.

I will admit to being surprised, here. While Swann is a great many things, "inspiring political organizer" wouldn't have been something I thought to put on that list. And yet, he beat the choice of most pundits, Dave Taylor, almost 2-to-1.

What this means for defeated candidates Taylor and Mo Elsalhy is unclear. What it means for the Liberals is... change.

What sort of change EXACTLY, we can't say for certain. Swann has said, though, that everything is on the table: Coalitions, name changes, reaching out to other parties, whatever it takes to encourage an effective opposition that speaks for more than just a small fragment of our province.

This, I think, is a good thing.

Nation, we all know that competition breeds excellence, and a lack of competition breeds complacency. Nowhere is this more true than in politics - particularly in Alberta, where you've got 2 parties fighting it out for scraps on the left, the Greens borrowing a little from everywhere, and the Wildrose Alliance praying for a coalition government in Ottawa so they can get back into the game.

To bring out the best in our politicians, they need to believe that their jobs actually hang in the balance. That what they say, and do, and how they govern themselves MATTERS, because it helps us determine if they'll be given our consent to govern US. In Alberta, this is often not the case. NDP candidates in Calgary can say whatever they want, because they know they're not getting elected, and won't have to follow through. PC candidates in rural Alberta can say whatever they want, because they know they ARE getting elected.

The opposition in Alberta has been disjointed and fragmented for a long, long time. Swann, even before announcing his intention to run for the Liberal party leadership, was holding open houses, to try and get a feel for how people wanted him, and all opposition MLA's, to proceed. The argument will be made that this shows a lack of vision. I respectfully submit, though, that taking the helm of a sinking ship with most of the crew already overboard and expecting it to blow the S.S. Progressive Conservative out of the water is going to take a collaborative effort on the part of everyone who's still on board.

Swann wants a bigger caucus. He'll have to earn one. He wants a mandate to govern. He'll have to earn one of those, as well. He's not a flash-and-dazzle politician, but neither is Ed. And parties can't hold up their leadership candidates to the "Obama measuring stick" for charisma and inspiration, because nobody's going to measure up.

David Swann is what he is. And what he IS, is the newly-elected Leader of the Alberta Liberals.

Now he needs to get to work presenting a united strategy against the Tory juggernaut in the Legislature. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, he needs to find an issue, one he can RAISE FUNDS ON, and drive it home again and again so Albertans can recite his talking points in their sleep.

Free advice to Dr. Swann: It's not going to be health-care. Not enough of us are mad about it. It's not going to be the environment. Too many of us earn a living in oil & gas or forestry. And it's not going to be anything that Laurie Blakeman ever, EVER asks about in Question Period.

David Swann has been tasked with presenting a viable alternative to the governing Tories. He's been handed the job of competing with the monolithic PC establishment that leftists see everywhere in the day-to-day lives of Albertans.

And I hope he does well.

Because, to co-opt and take liberties with a line from a mortgage commercial I hear ALL THE TIME...

"when political parties compete, we ALL win..."

Here's hoping Swann's Liberals can actually compete.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now Is The Winter Of My Discontent

Nation, I find myself in a completely unacceptable and unpalatable situation.

That's right... I'm defending Stephen Harper.

I've made it no secret that I'm less than enthralled with the Conservative Party of Canada. While the fiscal conservatism that comes from being an Albertan child in the early 1980's speaks to my pragmatic side, I've always felt less than comfortable with the social conservative element of the party - much as I did with the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties before it.

As a died-in-the-wool Red Tory, whose biggest single issue at this time is the environment (specifically, sustainability), I've got plenty of reasons to be uneasy about the CPC.

While I've met many great people involved with the CPC, I've also met a lot of great people who vote, work, and even run for the Liberals, NDP, and Greens. Stephen Harper, though, goes on my "favourite things" list right in between brussels sprouts and carpal tunnel syndrome. Other people whose opinions I value and respect absolutely LOATHE the man's policies - and I suspect, if I were more inclined to editorialize or pick a side on the issue of federal politics rather than build consensus, I'd probably lean in that direction also.

And yet, if there's a silver lining to be seen through my cloud of discontent at having to write this article, it can be found in the fact that I am reasonably sure that, were the shoe on the other foot and the Tories were trying to pull the rug out from underneath a 51-day-old Liberal minority, I'd be writing the same thing at this point.

Deep breath... here we go...

I understand Stephen Harper's Conservatives won less than 50% of the seats in the House of Commons. BELIEVE me when I tell you that he understands that as well. I firmly believe that the Prime Minister, in a minority government, has the responsibility to ensure that the considerations of the other parties and elected representatives in the House be taken into consideration. It's simple, basic math - if s/he doesn't, then the government will fall in a simple vote. In those instances, the Governor General will have to determine whether to send the people of Canada to the polls to select a new House of Commons, or to ask the Opposition to form a government.

Likewise, knowing that the possibility exists of being asked to form a government, the Opposition parties have to at least have a contingency plan and have held informal discussions about what they might be able to agree upon, in such circumstances, to advance a mutually agreeable agenda. The fact that such discussions happen and such common ground exists, however, does not give them an excuse to disregard the will of the people, and actively seek the government's defeat out of hubris. They have an obligation, just as serious as the Prime Minister's, to try and make parliament work before defeating the government that the people elected. Majority or minority, the people of Canada spoke, and elected the Conservatives lock, stock, and barrel. They elected them knowing their fiscal policies, their social policies, their foreign policies (or lack thereof)... the whole shmear. Whether or not you think Canadians SHOULD have elected them... they did.

NOT to a majority. Absolutely not. The people, in their wisdom, elected a strong enough Opposition that if the Opposition felt that the Tories were not governing in a responsible manner, they could defeat the Government.

The key there, is that the Opposition is only supposed to exercise this option if they feel that the Tories are not governing in a responsible manner. The Parliament has been in session for TWO WEEKS. We had an election 51 days ago, at a cost of $300 Million (in the midst of an economic slow-down - yes, I know, at Harper's request), and the people weighed the platforms and made their choices. Their choice was to put Harper - spare me the speeches about his lack of a plan, the people saw very well he didn't have a clear one, and they still elected him anyway - in charge, but on a short leash.

Harper may be a control freak, a blue-eyed devil, a sweater-vest wearing phony, and a real A-type jerk... he may have made a strategic blunder, he may be the most hate-able politician in Canada, he may have tried to cripple his opponents in a crass partisan move... but those are not reasons to disregard the will of the people. And the will of the people is that Harper's Tories govern the country - or, if proven to be incapable, be defeated. He hasn't broken any promises, or overtly refused to do anything he said just WEEKS ago, during the campaign, that he would do (including co-operating with the other parties - he has backed off on the vote subsidy issue and the right-to-strike issue). The people made what we have to assume was an informed choice - and they chose the Tory platform over any other singular platform or proposed coalition platform (there was none, just for the record).

The Liberals and NDP agree on a lot. The Bloc and Liberals likewise. Ditto for the BQ and the NDP. For that matter, so do the Liberals and the Tories. However, nobody went to the polls on the 14th of October and voted for a Stephane Dion-led coalition. Not 50% plus 1. Not 37, or 26, or 14%... nobody. Because that option simply wasn't on the ballot. And those who DID vote for Dion's Liberals did so presumably knowing he had stated, repeatedly, that he would not entertain the idea of a coalition government. They cast votes hoping for a Liberal government. This is not what they are getting if the coalition takes control. What they will be getting is a government made up of Liberals and New Democrats, propped up on matters of confidence by the Bloc Quebecois. What considerations the Bloc gets for its unconditional support on confidence matters, we're not being told.

And don't be fooled by the use of the phrase "the Bloc agrees to not vote down the coalition government on matters of confidence"... the numbers are clear: The Bloc can't simply abstain or not show up on a matter of confidence. They have to actively vote in favour of the coalition in order for it to survive. The people of Canada (remember them?) sent over 140 Conservatives to the House of Commons, and you can be darned sure they're not going to be showing a whole lot of confidence in the coalition.

Spare me, please, the moralizing that Harper would have done the same/tried to do the same/Stock Day's lawyer made overtures to the Bloc. This is politics, folks. Your guy is a rat, my guy is a rat, there are 99 rats for every decent one you're going to find. I can find you 500 quotes from Liberal supporters screaming bloody murder at how undemocratic the thought of defeating Martin's minority government was back in 2004, just like you can find almost the exact same quotes today - with the differences being that a) the new House had been in session for more than a fortnight, and b) Harper didn't have a signed agreement with Layton and Duceppe and a letter to the G.G. asking that she hand over the keys to the PMO at her earliest convenience.

The NDP in the past few days has been throwing the number 62 around a lot... that's the percentage of Canadians who didn't vote for Stephen Harper. Using Layton's Logic, that suggests to Jack that Harper does not have the assent of the people to be Prime Minister.

As I pointed out in my post immediately preceding this one, however - using that same math, Jack Layton should not be the Member from Toronto-Danforth, as he gained only 45% of the votes in his riding. Further, if we run those numbers federally, we see that Canadians from coast to coast to coast elected 118 MP's. Only in 118 ridings did any candidate receive the consent of the majority to represent them. 13 of those MP's are Bloqistes. Bill Casey, the Independent, is one of them. 17 are Liberal MP's. 7 of them are New Democrats. 80 of them are Conservatives.


Let's see that again.

Of the 118 MP's who met Jack Layton's "majority support" threshold, which he's using to justify defeating Stephen Harper, 24 would be in this coalition, propped up by 13 Bloc MP's. The Conservatives, whom Jack thinks nobody likes, would have 80 seats, and occupy the government benches in a rock-solid majority situation. Jack himself would be hosting "Good Morning, Toronto" on Channel 9 from 6 to 10 each morning.

Of course, we don't use Jack's Math to determine our leaders and representatives... we use REAL math. The guy or gal with the most votes, wins. In some private elections, such as for the leadership of political parties, if nobody gets 50% support, we knock off the bottom few vote-getters and vote again. This would, needless to say, be BAD news for Jack's party, looking at national vote totals.

Nation, perhaps the best reason that this can not be allowed to happen is the simplest one: Canadians (remember them?) voted on this already. They voted 26% in favour of the Dion-led Liberals, and 37% in favour of the Harper-led Conservatives. And yet, somehow, despite the fact that his OWN PARTY rejected him and prompted his resignation 6 weeks ago, Dion is primed to become our next Prime Minister, IN DIRECT CONTRAVENTION TO THE STATED WILL OF THE ELECTORATE.

Using Jack's Math, 74% of the Canadian public doesn't want to see Stephane Dion as Prime Minister (and 63% - the combined Tory-Liberal vote - were dead-set against having Jack himself anywhere near the Cabinet table) - yet this is what the coalition is foisting upon us.

At least the Bloc was clear from the beginning that they'd support anyone if they thought it was in Quebec's interest. That they choose now to side with the author of the Clarity Act is beyond me, but there is much I don't understand about Quebec politics. That the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau can in good conscience support and sit in a government propped up by those who wish to destroy his father's legacy is also a mystery.

Layton never completely ruled out working with the Liberals, but he was quite clear in the Leader's Debate when he zinged Dion with "you can't even run your own party, how do you expect to run the country?". And yet here we are, with Layton, straight-faced, telling us all less than 60 days later that he supports Stephane Dion for Prime Minister.

Now, nobody is disputing that what the coalition is proposing is legal - of course it is. But, this soon after an election, it's not RIGHT - and there's a huge difference there. Sleeping with your best friend's wife behind his back isn't against the law. It doesn't make you a criminal. But it DOES make you a bad, bad guy and a worse friend.

Nation, as I said at the outset of this post, I'm not at all pleased with the task I found myself compelled to take upon myself tonight. Truth be told, I feel like I need a shower. But many people who watch Canadian politics, from ALL sides of the aisle, have felt like that over the past week or so.

You and I know what this is about. If we cut through the spin, and we sit in silent contemplation of the people involved, and their personalities and motivation, we KNOW what this is about. Let's stop pretending.

Stephen Harper is a jerk and a political opportunist. He is not a nice man. And Jack Layton, Stephane Dion, and Gilles Duceppe hate him. HATE him, with a passion. They want to hurt him, and get him out of their lives, and know that by working together, they can do both.

If, however, the coalition TRULY feels and is motivated purely by the opinion that Harper isn't up to the task of being Prime Minister, despite the EXTREMELY recently expressed desire of the people for his party to lead government, then they should defeat him and send us back to the polls, to ask us if we're REALLY sure. Of course, Jack will have to tell us all before then whether he intends to follow the "Jack's Math" philosophy, and tell any New Democrat with less than 50% support to, in fact, concede defeat to his opponents en masse. Then, the coalition should commit to bowing to the peoples' will.

After all... these members of Parliament, from ALL parties, are elected to SERVE. And if they forget that, then they should have to answer to US - their bosses.

In an election.

Which we just had.

Like, yesterday.

Glass Houses


Jack Layton garnered less than 50% of the votes in his own riding in the 40th General Election...

Does this mean that if Sharon Howarth, Andrew Lang and Christina Perrault all sign a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, then Jack's got to give up his seat in Parliament?

Do the right thing, Jack... the majority of the voters in Toronto-Danforth said they didn't support Jack Layton's ultra left-wing ideology...

Sucks when the shoe's on the other foot, no?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Talking Points - The Informed, Non-Rabid Partisan Edition

Nation, while we as Canadians collectively hold our breath, take an extra shot of espresso and try to figure out exactly what the hell is happening in Ottawa, it behooves us to take a look at a lot of the things that are being said, by partisans and pundits on all sides, and do a bit of a "reality check".

Talking Point: "The Liberals and NDP have no right to take power."

Actually, as most of us now realize, they don't have the right, but they DO have the opportunity, should the Governor General decide it prudent. Anyone still opposed to my assertion that the GG should be an elected official, answerable to the people? Anyway, while the notion is LEGAL, it's hardly defensible ethically, this soon after an election.

Talking Point: "Harper is an idiot for not knowing that they CAN take power."

Harper KNEW they could take power - his argument that they "had no right" was, as above, an ethical argument, not a legal one. This is one of my biggest beefs with HarperHaters (who bear a striking similarity to BushBashers): They'll talk about the object of their disdain as a Machiavellian villain, with his sinister fingers in all sorts of complicated, convoluted plots - but also dismissively attack his basic intelligence or understanding of the workings of government whenever they get a convenient quote, to prove what an unqualified idiot he is. Harper's been in Ottawa long enough to know that an opposition coalition can take power in a minority parliament - he was the Leader of the Opposition IN a minority parliament. I'm sure the issue came up once or twice. Give the man enough credit to assume he knows as much about parliamentary procedure as your average Grade 11 Social Studies student.

Talking Point: "The 3 Amigos signed on the dotted line - it's all over but the crying, now."

Not true. Stephane Dion can talk about "MY government" all he wants, but the reality is that the decision as to what happens next rests entirely with the Governor General. She can grant a Tory request to prorogue (suspend) parliament (democratically unpalatable, but no more so than another election or the idea of a bait-and-switch government change 7 weeks after a Federal Election), she can grant the coalition her assent to form a government, or she can send us back to the polls (which is sounding more and more like the only way to fix this, one way or the other, once and for all).

Talking Point: "Harper himself mused openly about this sort of thing when he was the Leader of the Opposition."

Yes, he did. That didn't make it ethically right then, or now - and the schadenfreude that the HarperHaters are experiencing right now doesn't make this the best thing for the country, either. The Leader of the Opposition is the head of the Government-in-Waiting. Harper wrote the Governor General in September 2004, supported by Layton and Duceppe, to remind her (Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson) that the defeat of the Martin Liberals should not immediately result in an election, but that she should "consider all of your options." The word "government" did not appear, except in the context of "Liberal minority government". I'd submit, respectfully, that there is a BIG difference between writing the G.G. 12 weeks after an election to remind her to "consider all of your options" in the event of a defeat of the government on a confidence motion, and writing the G.G. 6 weeks after an election to "respectfully inform (her) that, as soon as the appropriate opportunity arises, she should call on the Leader of the Official Opposition to form a new government...".

Talking Point: "The coalition has the support of the majority of Canadians."

False. The parties that are agreeing to form the coalition won 54.42% of the popular vote in October. The biggest slice of that, though, is from a party whose leader had ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition. So, while the parties have the support of the majority, the question of supporting a coalition government has never been put to the Canadian people. As such, its level of support is unknown (although, one could safely assume many of the hard-line separatists are not exactly enamoured with the thought of their franchise being used to support a proposed Prime Minister who was the author of the reviled Clarity Act, and many fiscally conservative Liberal voters are scared to death of having Jack Layton and 5 other NDP members around the cabinet table).

Talking Point: "Harper won the election just 6 weeks ago with 37% of the votes - how is this possible?"

The Conservatives got more seats than anyone else, but not a majority. You can't really call it a "win". The fact that the election was held 6 weeks ago, and that the House has been sitting now, including today, for a period of 2 weeks makes it a hard sell that, in 2 weeks, the Harper Government has been so completely incompetent as to require replacement. What have the Tories done in the past 2 weeks that was so contrary to their stated plans that the opposition feels that the 37% plurality that gave Harper a (weak) mandate to manage the economy should be disenfranchised?

Talking Point: "The coalition lied to Canadians just a couple of months ago, during the election."

Not REALLY... well, not ALL of them, at any rate. Layton repeatedly refused to rule out a coalition. Duceppe, likewise, repeatedly said the Bloc would be willing to work with ANY party, provided they were advancing the agenda for the people of Quebec. So, neither of them really LIED. The only party leader from the coalition who ruled out a coalition deal was Stephane Dion who, when he thought he had a political future, said that the NDP wanted to raise business taxes, and the Liberals would never ally with a party that advocated such measures in economic times such as these. Now that he doesn't have to worry about raising funds from businesses for the next 4 years, Dead-Man-Walking Dion isn't all that opposed to the idea... but, reportedly, Ignatieff is beside himself at the prospect of inheriting the leadership of a party that sold out big business and the federalist cause for a brief stint back on the government benches before the impending 41st General Election.

Talking Point: "This is about the $1.95 per vote subsidy."

Not anymore - but it COULD have been. Harper's people could have stuck to the $1.95 as a "symbolic gesture that we in Ottawa have to tighten our belts just like everyone else". As I wrote before, it was a good political move but bad policy. Harper tried to bully the other parties, and they called his bluff. However, when the Tories foolishly took it off the table, they gave the Opposition no reason in the world (beyond ethical ones, that is) to keep them afloat. NOW, when the government is defeated in a confidence motion, the Tories will come out and say "this was all about the $1.95 per vote the other parties wanted", and the opposition parties can come out in from of the cameras and say "that's baloney - we knew we were going to get to keep that, they took it off the table - so this isn't about that, it's about bad fiscal management...". A strategic error on the part of the Tories. You make those a lot in poker, when you try to over-play your hand.

Talking Point: "This is about the Conservatives' lack of a fiscal plan."

It COULD be - if we were going through these machinations after the budget. But this isn't the budget, it's a fiscal update... a statement of where we're at currently, and what we're planning to do in the next 2 months, until the budget comes out (not that I'm enamoured even with that short, interim plan). If the opposition expects the Tories to come out with a radical fiscal plan NOW, completely ignoring the fact that our largest trading partner is going through a fundamental policy shift itself in a month and a half, they're insane. You have to see what direction the wind is blowing before you set your sails. The wind starts blowing on January 21st.

Talking Point: "Harper had the support on the Bloc on MANY motions - what's the big deal with the coalition doing the same?"

The big deal is that the Tories survived many confidence motions despite the Bloc's LACK of support, also (helped by the Liberals and their consistent "confidence motion flu"). The coalition, as proposed, requires the consistent and unwavering support of the Bloc in order to survive. This means that NO "money bill" can be passed without the Bloc's approval. Likewise with the NDP. In theory, this provides for better government. In practice, though, it means strongly whipped votes, partisan rancor, and a Government of Canada that is quite literally being held ideologically hostage by socialists and separatists. (I should point out here that, as a social progressive, I don't find the term "socialist" as offensive as some people - it's just not necessarily the best group of people to have managing your money when times are tough and businesses are closing down).

Talking Point: "The Governor General will probably send us back to the polls rather than give approval for a coalition."

Perhaps. The argument is that the Gov. General would never approve of a government that absolutely depended on the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois in order to survive each and every confidence motion. But, suddenly, this stuff seems to matter again, doesn't it?

Talking Point: "Ignatieff doesn't like this deal, and will kill it immediately if he's elected Liberal leader."

Maybe. Although, if he IS elected leader in May, Ignatieff will be given the keys to 24 Sussex later that day, and those are hard keys to hand back to the clerk. The reality is, if this deal falls through or the G.G. sends us back to the polls, the Liberals are going to be scrambling to run the election with a lame-duck leader, an interim leader, or a hastily-appointed new leader. Regardless of which scenario comes true, though, the party will be tarred by this deal. Their right flank and hard-line federalists are going to balk at the coalition. The only hope Ignatieff has in this is to distance himself from it IMMEDIATELY if he wins the leadership, and hope that the coalition is seen not as a Liberal move, but as a Dion move.

Talking Point: "This deal will tarnish the Liberal brand for YEARS, as being the "gateway drug" that leads to the NDP, and as the federalist party that handed over control of government priorities to the Separatists."

For a while? Yes. But on the whole, Canadians have a short political memory (not counting Albertans and Quebecois). AdScam was only a few years ago - some Liberals actually STOLE public money - and when do you really hear anything about THAT (other than from an Albertan or Quebecois) anymore? In practice, though, the coalition government doesn't get the unconditional support of the Bloc - just an agreement not to bring down the government. So the coalition can pass day-to-day policy without the Bloc (if they can get the Tories on board), or have those same policies fail, without having their government fall. The Liberals are, however, getting the same reputation that the "easy girl" at school had - "we're federalists, we love Quebec, we're socialists, we're greens, we're whatever you want us to be, we just want your love and your vote..."

Talking Point: "Alberta will get over it."

Maybe. Maybe not. Going from 5 cabinet members, PLUS the Prime Minister, to possibly 1 (if Linda Duncan were to get named as one of the 6 NDP ministers, otherwise ZERO)? For that matter, consider: In Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the total number of Tory votes was greater than the NDP and Liberal votes combined. How do you suppose those 4 provinces are going to feel about the Quebec separatists and the NDP/Liberals over-turning their election results? What do you suppose those voters might think about losing their cabinet ministers? How do you suppose they might react? And what might they decide they need to start talking about?

I not saying... I'm just saying...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dion Had Better Blink

The deed is done, and the Tories are going to kill the public funding of political parties.

OR, at least they will if they get the chance.

The NDP, Liberals and Bloc have all indicated they won't support the economic update from the government, which is a confidence motion. Nobody reading this blog needs to be told, if a confidence motion fails, the government is close behind, and it's election-time again.

A grand Harper plot to give Kirk Schmidt another shot at Calgary West? Unlikely... but, I suppose it's possible...

The NDP and Bloc, both feeling they have momentum and room to grow at the cost of the Liberals, will vote against the economic update.

That puts the ball squarely in the court of the Liberals - hemorrhaging money, in the middle of a leadership race. In a weaker position than at any time in the history of their party. But, they DO have options... and I say "they", because anyone who thinks Stephane Dion will make this decision by himself and have the caucus follow his lead is completely out to lunch.

Option 1: Don't show up. This is a tactic they mastered in the last parliament, and it can work here as well. If a dozen or so Liberals come down with the flu the day of the vote, then the party caucus can vote against the update without bringing down the government.

Option 2: Turn over the Prime Minister's chair to Jack Layton. If they decide to bring down the government over the issue, the Liberals can propose a coalition government for the consideration of the Governor General. Since their own leader is on the way out, the Libs would have to support Jack Layton for the leadership of the coalition - because, if they didn't, then the numbers game would result in the coalition selecting the leader of the 2nd biggest party within it as Prime Minister Gilles Duceppe.

Option 3: Amend, amend, amend. The Liberals have a strong enough caucus, and enough in common with the NDP, to make enough amendments to the update to make the Tories want to kill it themselves.

Overall, I suspect the Liberals will try to go for Option 3, and eventually settle for Option 1. But they have the most to lose, and so the onus is on them to figure out what to do to keep their pride without paving the way for their party's electoral annihilation.

Harper to Opposition: Go Fund Yourselves!

Nation, word today that the Harper government may, in an effort to at least APPEAR to be taking the economic slow-down seriously, announce their intention to cut off public funding for political parties.

Other, wiser bloggers have already hit on this issue, so I won't beat it to death. I will, however, add my voice to the chorus of "good politics, horrible policy".

Of COURSE the Tories are more than happy to take this step - they've got enough money in the bank to run another election TOMORROW, while the other parties are barely able to service their debts. And if the opposition parties cry fowl, that's a campaign ad waiting to be aired:
"While you were staying up at night trying to figure out how to stretch your paycheque, Jack Layton was in Ottawa, arguing it should go to him and his NDP buddies..."

So, politically, this is a master stroke.

Revocation of public funding for political parties, though, is a dangerous and slippery slope.

And, let's keep in mind, I've repeatedly gone on the record as being philosophically opposed to then entire party system, as a whole. I know, it's the system we've got, and you have to work within it, I get that... but still, I'm no great lover of the party system. This isn't about me sticking up for them.

This act, though, sets a dangerous precedent. What if, 5 years from now, the government still hasn't fallen? None of the opposition parties have forced Harper to go back to the polls, and (unthinkably) the Governor General has refused any requests by Harper to dissolve Parliament. Can the Tories look at the books, then turn around and declare that, because we're in full-on recession and the government has no money, that we're not going to HAVE an election? It's $300 Million that should be going to social programs, and Canadians seem pretty happy with the government, so we're not going to waste the money?

We'd be up in arms over such a pronouncement, and rightly so. We should be up in arms over this one, too. Democracy is not a luxury - it's a right, just like education and health-care in this country, and needs to be funded as such.

After all, we're promised "peace, order, and good government" in our constitution... that last one requires debate and an opposition that can hold the government of the day to account. And even if you voted for the government - you've got to believe in holding them to account, right? I like Big Macs, but I feel a lot better knowing there are health inspectors checking the place for rat droppings before I go in to chow down, and I don't mind paying to make sure that's the case.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

City Hall Shenanigans

Nation, I've made no secret of my utter disdain for the job that many of our elected officials are doing in Calgary's Municipal Building. For evidence of this, take a re-read of this post, and remember it when the next big dumping of snow hits (but we've already had the annual newspaper story quoting the head of the roads department about how "the trucks are out there after the first flake hits the ground", as though that makes their inability to do the job, or council's unwillingness to fund the job fully at the cost of their pet projects okay, because, well, they're trying their best).

Obviously, the big story as late has been the cowardly attempt by council to raise taxes by nearly 25% over 3 years, under the guise of "giving the ratepayers what they've asked the city to fund" (the cowardly part comes in when you figure that the lion's share of that increase was coming NOW, so it would be long forgotten by the time Calgarians are next asked to cast their ballots). If council feels strongly that the "we're giving you what you asked for" argument is a justifiable and tenable position, then they should show the courage of their convictions and run their re-election campaigns on a proposed rate increase.

Calgarians, against all odds, actually revolted at the proposed hikes, showed up in force, wrote letters, made phone calls, and forced council to re-consider the budget. Council instead trimmed a smidgen of the fat, and came back with a mere 19% increase over 3 years (the likelihood of my income, or yours, following suit is somewhat low). A proposal by Diane Colley-Urquhart to, quite sensibly, approve a one-year budget indexed to increase at the rate of inflation while council and city administrators worked out an acceptable long-term plan was shot down. The fact that it never should have COME to this is besides the point.


Dale Hodges, Ward 1
Gord Lowe, Ward 2
Jim Stevenson, Ward 3
Bob Hawkesworth, Ward 4
Ray Jones, Ward 5
Druh Farrell, Ward 7
John Mar, Ward 8
Joe Ceci, Ward 9
Brian Pincott, Ward 11
Linda Fox-Mellway, Ward 14
Dave Bronconnier, Mayor
Joe Connelly, Ward 6
Andre Chabot, Ward 10
Ric McIver, Ward 12
Diane Colley-Urquhart, Ward 13

"Calgary has one of the lowest tax rates in the world", we're told. "If we want world-class services, we have to be prepared to bite the bullet, and see our taxes rise to be on-par with those other great cities". There's logic in that, but it avoids the inescapable reality that what OTHER cities have their citizens pay is entirely beside the point... just because we're better off than those other cities, doesn't mean we're good. "Your house is getting broken into 5 times a year, sure... but don't expect the police to do anything about it, just be grateful you're not living next door, they get broken into NINE times a year...". It's a tough sell, politically.

Council lacks leadership. A lot of people think that the Mayor runs the city - and that's simply not the case. As outlined here, the mayor of Calgary's job description essentially boils down to:
  1. swinging the gavel at council meetings, and
  2. communicating with the people of Calgary.

Anything ELSE the office-holder may choose to do (steer council debate, present white Stetsons to dictators) is of their own volition. That said, though, the job of mayor is more important for its SYMBOLIC position as head of the city than for any legislated powers it imparts: The mayor can't push things through, but s/he CAN stand up in front of the microphones and say "I don't believe this is what the people really want, it's not good enough, they deserve better governance and I'm prepared to give them an outlet and talk to them about it".

The mayor may not be a chief executive in any formal, legal sense - but the mayor can still lead.

Calgary's mayor is NOT leading. He's following. When confronted, he's combative, indignant and defensive. He talks about the "hard work of the administrators", as though the fact that they're putting in a lot of (paid) hours excuses the poor job they did on the budget. He talks about how the city always comes in on-budget, as though it's a feat to come in on budget when you can set your own income through the tax rate. If I budget for a Porsche this month, and then tell the Government of Alberta that they're going to pay me $216,990 for the month of November, I'm not a great manager of my money (although I likely have a great future as an NHL player agent). He talks about how the budget includes "what the people said they wanted", as though it's our fault for having the audacity to ASK things of our civic government.
It's an abdication of leadership to hide behind any of those arguments, but especially the last one: The leader's job, when times are tough, is to look people in the eye and tell them "I know that you WANT this, but you can't have it right now, because we can't afford it". It's what a good parent does - but then again, if parents faced a mandatory job interview every 3 years, they might be more inclined to pull out the Platinum card for the Disneyland trip. The point is, Dave Bronconnier is NOT doing it. We need leadership in the mayor's office, and we're not getting it. We need a change.

In other City Council news...

Council votes to allow mail-in ballots. Wow... we're going to party like it's 1959. Mail-in ballots? We can file our taxes on-line, but we're spending time & money debating mail-in ballots? What's next - pottery shards (shout out to Ancient Greece!)?

Take the choice away from the people: Chabot. Alderman Andre Chabot, who scored big points with the E.S. Nation by voting against the budget, threw them away with THIS gem: He believes that the best way to re-organize City Council is to have the people of Calgary elect 15 Aldermen, and then have those 15 go into enclave and choose one among them to be mayor. Wow... just wow. The municipal level is the ONLY level of government in which we actually directly elect the head of government - even if the job is more ceremonial than executive. Taking that franchise away from the voters and putting it in the hands of aldermen elected by, in some cases, 10% of the eligible voters in their ward, is lunacy. A LANDSLIDE in a Calgary Ward is 20% (figuring a typical 20-30% turn-out), so all it would take under Chabot's plan to elect the mayor is the support of 8/15 (53%, assuming you even need 50%+1 support of council and not just a plurality) of a council elected by, generously, 20% of the electorate. That's 10% of the voters of Calgary, choosing (through their Alderman) the mayor. Even for a ceremonial head of government, that's low (for the record, Bronconnier got about 15% popular support of all eligible voters in 2007 - just over 60% of those who bothered to vote).

Nation, the City may not run the hospitals or get to make deductions off of your paycheque every 2 weeks, but never forget that the roads, buses, police, fire department, parks, leisure centres, and virtually dozens of constructions zones
and cranes you pass every day are managed or affected directly by the people in that big building across from Olympic Plaza, with all the windows. More than any other level of government, the things you do every day are affected by these people. And more than any other level of government, your interest, support, and vote counts. If only one in 5 vote municipally, then your vote is worth 5 times what you think it is. And the people at City Hall know that, too.

Take an interest. Hold your council accountable. Tell them you want Calgary to be better. And then tell them how - because when they don't get explicit direction from us, they start to assume we all want $25 Million pedestrian bridges and don't mind 25% tax hikes.

Survey Says...

Nation, the most recent poll on this website asked for what job the Enlightened Savage should stand on a ballot. The results indicated the belief of the E.S. Nation that I can best contribute to the public good as an MLA in the province of Alberta.

The riding has yet to be determined - I'm thinking maybe of contesting a nomination in Fort Saskatchewan - Vegreville. I understand that their current MLA is on shaky ground there... Plus, I could keep the monogrammed towels. ;)

My challenge to YOU, the stead-fast, dedicated and artistically-minded members of E.S. Nation, is to come up with a campaign logo for E.S. in 2012. Keep it classy, keep it stylish, and use whatever colours you wish. Submissions can be sent to:

amishbuggyracing (at) gmail (dot) com

The winner, and notable runners-up, may be awarded prizes, including campaign buttons or t-shirts (prototypes available through the "SAVAGEwear" link on the right-hand side of this page).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shut Out!

Nation, I want everyone to remain calm.

I know that voting has started for the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards. and I know, at first blush, it appears that, inexplicably, the juggernaut that is The Enlightened Savage has failed to garner any nominations, in any category whatsoever.

I'm very sure it's just a minor oversight - perhaps a clerical error. I want it made very clear that in NO WAY am I suggesting that the millions and millions of members of the E.S. Nation should rise up and in their righteous wrath smite those responsible for this oversight...

Because, well, a) it's not "righteous wrath" if it's not righteous, and b) it's as much MY oversight as anyone else's, for not sending in any nominations. Truth be told, it caught me completely by surprise - I didn't even know nominations had been open, and I wouldn't even have known that we were already VOTING for the awards if I hadn't read it on Facebook. I guess if I'm not NOMINATED, then I can't possibly LOSE, can I? :)

So there you go - this is my triumphant return from a "Future Mrs. Savage"-induced blogging holiday, the set-up for which went something like this: "You remember all those things you said you were going to get to as soon as the election was over...?"

Well, the "Honey Do" list is done, so here I am. 3 weeks... not too shabby. :)

GO VOTE, Nation! If I can't WIN, I'll at least be a King Maker. So... let's see... vote "Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying" for Best New Blog (you're welcome, jk and eh). And don't forget to support FOES (Friends Of Enlightened Savage) Calgary Grit, daveberta, Saskboy, and Dunkler (of Four Strong Winds) in their respective categories!

It's good to be back... and in the words of Mel Brooks' King Louis: "It's GOOD to be the King..."

- E.S.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When John McCain Surrendered, We All Lost

Nation, the dust has begun to settle on the spectacle that was the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. And while I'm not insensitive to the historic nature of the decision that was made last night, I'm afraid there's one particular aspect of this race that *could* have changed politics as we know it, if not for the capitulation of one man: John McCain.

The John McCain of 2000 was the true maverick of the Republican Party - with young George W. Bush all-but anointed, McCain still chose to run against him for the party nomination, in a fight he had to know he wasn't going to win. But fight he did nevertheless... he criticised Bush's inexperience, his ties to organized religion ("agents of intolerance", he called them), his very credentials... McCain offered instead a moderate, middle-of-the-road approach heavy on experience and light on political dogma.

The Bush machine, led by Karl Rove, crushed McCain handily.

I liked that John McCain. I'm a moderate by Canadian standards (so, a leftist by American standards), and I would have voted for that John McCain, over the AlGore-tron 3000.

Fast forward to 2008. McCain, having been judged to have "behaved himself" over the past 8 years, gets the nod from the back-room GOP strategists. He's already taken his best shot in 2000, and he's down on his luck in this nomination race. He's broken, and hemorrhaging money, but has name recognition, a compelling life's story and has lost most of his maverick tendencies. He's a "manageable candidate", who will do what he's told. So, the deal is struck: John, you'll be our nominee, but you follow OUR lead. Clearly, your way didn't work in 2000, and it's not working now.

McCain capitulates. And we all lose.

Nation, if Barack Obama had been running against the John McCain of 2000, the results of this election likely wouldn't have been all that different, on paper. Barack Obama would still have won, and possibly by an even larger margin (as McCain would almost certainly have alienated the religious right). He was going to lose, either way. But he sold himself out to win the party nomination.

If the John McCain of 2000 had been running, he would have picked a running mate who could actually hold a candle to Joe Biden. If the John McCain of 2000 had been running, he would have looked down from his podium last night and scolded, in the harshest tone possible, the idiots who were booing and screaming party slogans when he invoked the name of their next President. And if the John McCain of 2000 had been running, he would have elevated the debate.

We would have spent the past months listening to McCain and Obama debate policy. Talking about things that matter. Discussing how to fix the problems that America faces, and how to avoid more problems like them in the future. Maybe even our own "Santos/Vinick" debate. Instead, we got innuendo about William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, an aunt in the country illegally, and Obama's middle name. We got shouts of "terrorist!" and "kill him!" at Republican rallies when Obama's name was mentioned.

John McCain could have raised the bar for political discourse in this campaign, and in so doing, he could have changed politics forever. He could have been remembered as the man who went toe-to-toe with Barack Obama, always respectful and thoughtful, debating ideas and not personalities, and went down swinging. He could have run a clean campaign, free of the innuendo and half-truths that we in the west have come to just accept as an inevitability of the political process. And if anyone on his campaign, from his VP pick to local poll captains, had done or said anything to contradict McCain's message of inclusion and respectful discourse, he could have sent them packing. He could have done all that, and restored America's faith, indeed all of Western Civilization's faith, in the capacity of politics to be about something other than the avaricious pursuit of power for power's sake, by any means necessary. He could have done it.

But John McCain surrendered. He gave up the moral high ground, and control of his own brand, in an effort to win power, and failed spectacularly.

John McCain let us all down not by losing, but in HOW he lost.

We saw flashes of the old John over the course of this campaign... flashes that were, no doubt, stamped down as soon as he got behind closed doors with the party strategists. Had he "gone maverick", gone off-script, and reasserted himself, he could have pulled off a brilliant reversal - still ultimately losing, but doing so with honour and absolute dignity.

But, ultimately, McCain won't be remembered as the man who helped save politics by fighting valiantly and losing. He won't have his "Alamo" moment. He laid down with dogs, and got whipped like one. When he looks in the mirror today, I firmly believe that will be his greatest regret: Not that he lost, but that he did so only after first giving up on himself. He sold out his own legacy to appeal to the party's base. THAT is how John McCain will be remembered in the history books.

You let us down, John. And it breaks my heart to say it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Presidential Prediction?

Well, Nation, the day has come... the Yanks are lining up to cast their votes as we speak. The mainstream media has declared the race to essentially be over - however, the MSM is also responsible for "Dewey Wins!" and "NBC is ready to declare that Al Gore has won the state of Florida".

What I want to know from you all, is what do you predict will be the outcome of today's election? Specifically, I mean. How many electoral college votes will each candidate receive? The total number of points is 538 - it takes 270 to be elected President.

As a bonus, if you're inclined, take a stab at the balance in the Senate (100 seats) and the House (435 seats).

The pundits have had their say - now it's YOUR turn! Sound off!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Canada's Federal Cabinet

Nation, this isn't our first foray into Federal Cabinet analysis, so we'll revisit how this is going to work.

Each cabinet posting is going to be analysed on 2 distinct points. Firstly, pragmatically - can this person do the job they've been assigned? Secondly, politics - will having this person in this position help the Tories win when Jack Layton goads the next Liberal leader into pulling the plug?

And a-waaaaaaaaaaay we go...

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister - big shock there. I was SURE it was going to be MacKay. :) PRAGMATIC: He's shown himself to be an able enough manager so far, however he's steering through uncharted economic waters right now. Much depends on the team he has surrounded himself with - no man, economist or not, can run this entire government while we're at war and on the precipice of a recession. POLITICAL: Canadians are never going to LIKE Harper, and I think the Tories understand that. They're now just asking us to TRUST him... the economy, honouring the Afghanistan withdrawal date, and how he deals with democratic reform (centralizing all power in the PMO isn't the kind of reform Preston Manning was talking about) will be key issues that will make or break Harper's place in history.

Rob Nicholson, Justice - Nicholson retains the Justice portfolio. PRAGMATIC: He can clearly run this department, as he's been doing it for over a year now. POLITICAL: The public perception, right or wrong, is that judges are hamstrung by federal sentencing guidelines. Getting those guidelines changed in a minority parliament full of MP's dead-set against your justice platform, though, is Nicholson's big challenge. Something to consider, though: Most Canadians who bothered to vote (aka "the ones who matter") voted for a party that opposed the Tories vociferously on their justice platform. Nicholson has to tread carefully.

J.P. Blackburn, Revenue - Blackburn moves here from Labour. It's a lateral transfer, with slightly less responsibility. PRAGMATIC: The Minister of Revenue has very little to do with the actual running of their own department, so Blackburn isn't likely able to mess this up too badly. POLITICAL: Blackburn might not have distinguished himself as Minister of Labour, but Harper needs members from Quebec in the cabinet room if he wants to convince Quebecers he's not holding a grudge.

Greg Thompson, Veterans Affairs - Thompson stays put. PRAGMATIC: He's been at this post since Harper's first cabinet. He clearly knows what he's doing. POLITICAL: Thompson is a capable minister from the Maritimes. There's no way he could NOT be in this cabinet.

Marjory LeBreton, Seniors - LeBreton keeps the portfolio that no-one wants. PRAGMATIC: She's been doing the job for over a year, and has the added credibility of actually being a senior herself. No worries here. POLITICAL: The Ontario senator deals with the pressures of this portfolio well, which is really the most that a Prime Minister can hope for from his Seniors minister. LeBreton will also be a "point-person" on Harper's war against the Senate in this term.

Chuck Strahl, Indian Affairs & Northern Development - Seriously, it's 2008, and we still call this ministry "Indian Affairs"? Strahl keeps this posting. PRAGMATIC: Chuck's been at this job for a little over a year, now. He was instrumental in the Residential Schools reckoning. POLITICAL: Strahl was expected by many to take a less active role, due to his health issues. That said, he's a bedrock Reformer and very popular within caucus - not counting Stockwell Day's office. Strahl puts a serious face on the government's policies towards aboriginal peoples - the Tories are not, however, in a position politically to demand accountability from band councils. Cleaning up the reservations, especially relative to crime and water issues, will be Strahl's ongoing challenge.

Peter MacKay, National Defence - MacKay retains his post. PRAGMATIC: He's been the minister of this mercurial portfolio since August of 2007. Ironically, his mother is a peace activist - which isn't to say that MacKay enjoys war (although, rugby isn't exactly all hugs and giggles, either). POLITICAL: MacKay is a steady hand and a familiar face, which is what we need from a war-time Minister of Defence. He'll stay the course, and be a fervent supporter of the 2012 withdrawal date - his political future depends on meeting that deadline, and he knows it.

Stockwell Day, International Trade - This is a move for Day from the Public Safety portfolio, to a less visible but MUCH more important role, with the economic melt-down affecting most of the developed world. PRAGMATIC: Day has never really been tested in this sort of role before. If he uses the same approach he did as Alberta's Treasurer, he'll be fine. If not - well, Stock doesn't make friends very easily. POLITICAL: Day is a middle-aged, white male representing the interior of British Columbia. Keeping him in cabinet appeals to the SoCon base, which is useful if Harper steers the party further towards the centre in an effort to finish off the Liberals. The only way his appointment earns the Tories votes outside of the SoCon bloc is if he does a tremendous job, and the economy doesn't tank.

Vic Toews, President of the Treasury Board - Toews stays put. PRAGMATIC: Toews has done an able job in this position since early 2007, and the fact that he's a dead ringer for Jack Layton seems not to scare the hell out of the government accountants (I know it'd scare the hell out of ME). To the best of my knowledge, both men have been in the same room simultaneously. POLITICAL: Toews provides a Manitoban perspective around the cabinet table, and offers stability in this important position during the economic turmoil. His work on the Wheat Board seems like it's dragging on forever...

Rona Ambrose, Labour - Let "Rona's Rehabilitation" begin. She moves here from Intergovernmental Affairs. PRAGMATIC: This is Ambrose's "sink or swim" moment. She has long been considered a rising star in the party, however her performance as Minister of the Environment was underwhelming. Whether this was due to her, or due to poor policies, is still not universally agreed upon (I tend to believe the latter). If she performs well as Minister of Labour, her stock shoots up. If she doesn't, any hope of a major role in the future is all but dashed. POLITICAL: As a woman under 40, Ambrose gets check-marks for Harper under the "young" and "female" demographics. If she performs well and her stock rises, she'll be crucial in the attempt to win back Edmonton Strathcona (I still giggle every time I think of this - thanks, Dave).

Diane Finley, Human Resources - Finley returns to this portfolio, which she held before moving to Immigration in 2007. PRAGMATIC: She's done the job before, and did a passable job - no reason to doubt she can do it again. POLITICAL: Finley is an Ontario MP and a woman, which will keep some people happy. Perhaps most importantly, this keeps her husband - Harper's right hand, Doug Finley - happy. Like many of the economics-related portfolios, Finley's success (or lack thereof) at this job will go a long way to determining the future prospects not just for her but for Harper and the party as a whole.

Bev Oda, International Co-Operation - Oda holds onto her portfolio. PRAGMATIC: She's been doing the job since August of 2007. The hardest part of the job now might be getting along with Stock Day. POLITICAL: Ontario, senior, woman, visible minority. Jackpot. So long as she does a good job, Oda is a walking, talking rebuttal to 4 of the biggest accusations levelled at Harper in your average water-cooler chat.

Jim Prentice, Environment - Harper's "go-to guy", and arguably his most capable minister, gets the challenge of his political career, moving from Industry in a surprise move. PRAGMATIC: If ANYONE can put enough lipstick on the pig that is the Tory environmental policies, it is Jim Prentice. He's more useful, though, if his role includes MAKING policy, and not just selling the policies he was handed today. POLITICAL: Prentice is a smart man, but he's not exactly "warm and fuzzy", which seems to be what Canadians want in someone talking to them about the environment. The assertion has been that Harper doesn't "care" about the environment - Prentice's challenge, then, is to play to his strengths, and come out with policies, targets, and programs that convince the public otherwise. If Jim can't convince us he and Stephen care, he can still win by showing us he's capable of making meaningful progress on sustainability.

John Baird, Transport and Infrastructure - Baird moves from Environment. PRAGMATIC: Baird wasn't a particularly BAD minister, he was just in a ministry that he couldn't do anything with. In his new role, he'll be cutting cheques for new roads - which the provinces will love - and turning down requests for other funding, which the provinces will hate. I believe he's probably capable. POLITICAL: Baird is still under 40, although serving in Environment is enough to age anyone at least 20 years. He's a young Ontario MP, and Harper has much to thank Ontario for. If Baird drops the ball on this portfolio, though, it's curtains for him. If the economy DOES tank, this ministry will become more important, as public building projects become a way to try to try and perform economic CPR on the country.

Lawrence Cannon, Foreign Affairs - Cannon moves here from Transport and Infrastructure. PRAGMATIC: Cannon is one of the top "Red Tories" in Harper's caucus, and as such he is well suited to be dealing with representatives of foreign nations who don't share the ideological bent of the Conservative Party. He's a royal among Canada's elite, and knows how to talk and act around the "beautiful people". POLITICAL: Cannon is being held to account for the party's poor showing in Quebec. Even so, he's a Quebec minister in a caucus without many Quebec MP's to choose from. He has a chance to put himself back in Harper's good graces with a solid performance, here. If the Tories hope to win in Quebec, they need to put a face other than Harper's on the party in la belle province. It should be Cannon's.

Tony Clement, Industry - Clement comes to Industry from Health. PRAGMATIC: Clement is an able administrator and leader. The biggest question about his new role is, can he work with Jim Flaherty, a bitter rival from the Ontario PC days? Harper clearly thinks so. POLITICAL: Clement was put here because Harper knows he needs someone smart and focused, and Clement is both. He remains a strong voice for Harper in Ontario, and the recent Tory breakthroughs there ensured Tony's continued presence around the cabinet table.

Jim Flaherty, Finance - Flaherty doesn't need to change the letterhead. PRAGMATIC: Flaherty has held this post since early 2006, and we're not running at an annual deficit - YET. POLITICAL: Flaherty is inextricably linked to Clement, as result of their bitter Ontario PC leadership contest. In order to keep Jim in cabinet, you have to keep Tony in cabinet, and vice versa. Changing the minister here would have been a mistake, but Flaherty can't assume that he's been doing a bang-up job, or that nothing is wrong. There's a lot of heavy lifting to come for Jim Flaherty, and the future of Harper's government rests squarely on Flaherty's performance in the months to come.

Josee Verner, Intergovernmental Affairs - Verner moves here from Heritage. PRAGMATIC: The federal minister's job boils down to 2 essential tasks: Listen to the provinces whine, and know when to tell them (respectfully) to shut up. Verner raised 3 kids - she'll do fine. POLITICAL: Verner is rumoured to be Harper's new Quebec lieutenant, as result of the poor showing of the Tories in Quebec. If she performs well in this ministry, and the Tories improve their lot in Quebec, she'll be due for another promotion. As it is, the fact that she's a woman and a Quebecer already serving in cabinet pretty much guaranteed she'd be kept on in some capacity. Her performance in cabinet thus far has warranted the promotion.

Jay Hill, House Leader - Hill moves from Government Whip. PRAGMATIC: Hill takes on an extremely important role in this minority parliament. If and when this government falls, Hill will know about it before anyone else. His role as Whip prepared him for the task. POLITICAL: A rock-ribbed Reformer and strong BC MP, Hill's presence in cabinet will continue to help the Tories in rural British Columbia.

Peter Van Loan, Public Safety - Van Loan moves from House Leader. PRAGMATIC: PVL oversaw and shepherded a minority government for longer than anyone thought possible. If he shows the same ability as Minister of Public Safety, I feel safer already. POLITICAL: An Ontario MP and just 45 years young, Van Loan is upwardly mobile within the party - impressive, considering he was already one of "Harper's 12". He has tended to be more interested in the backrooms of politics than the front rooms, but Van Loan is whispered to be a contender to replace Harper someday. For now, though, he'll continue to be one of Harper's most trusted Ontario lieutenants.

Gerry Ritz, Agriculture - Ritz stays put. PRAGMATIC: Ritz made one of the most bone-headed statements ever, while joking about the Listeria crisis. While he had served as a capable if not outstanding minister up until that point, he lost a lot of public respect with the comments in question. He's going to have to earn that respect back. POLITICAL: Ritz represents a Saskatchewan riding, and will be the party's face in that province. If his poorly-timed joke was a one-off, he'll be fine. If it's just one of a pattern of attempts to be topically funny and instead come off as a complete knucklehead, though, his time in Cabinet won't last as long as he'd like. He's not important enough to Harper to be beyond reproach.

Jason Kenney, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism - Kenney gets promoted from Sec. State Multiculturalism. PRAGMATIC: Kenney was by most accounts a resounding success in his previous role, and it translated at the ballot box with New Canadians eschewing the traditional voting patterns, and choosing the Tories. This promotion looks good on him, and is in an area he's already familiar with. POLITICAL: Kenney is one of Harper's top attack dogs, and cuts the opposition apart with a lot of panache. While Harper doesn't need Kenney in order to win in suburban Calgary, having the fluently bilingual Kenney make the rounds in Eastern Canada certainly can't hurt. In speaking to a well-placed source within Kenney's riding, it turns out that a large bloc of voters actually supports Kenney because they find him "dreamy". That's right... Jason Kenney, dreamboat. Soak it in.

Christian Paradis, Public Works - Paradis is promoted from Sec. State Agriculture. PRAGMATIC: This is a mighty big portfolio, in a period of economic turmoil, for a junior minister. Whether Paradis is up to the task remains to be seen. POLITICAL: Paradis in a young Quebecer, which makes him completely inexpendable to Harper and the Tories. To win Quebec, they need Paradis to succeed in this position, and take a leading voice among the party's Quebec wing.

Jim Moore, Heritage - Moore moves up from Sec. State Languages. PRAGMATIC: Moore distinguished himself as Harper's point-man on the Cadman affair. Whether a young, white Anglo from British Columbia can be SOLD as a good Heritage Minister is in doubt, but he should do at least a passable job. POLITICAL: Moore is a rising star in the party, and this posting could be a gateway to bigger things for him. He needs to be careful, though, as his performance will very much affect the party's fortunes in Quebec.

Leona Aglukkaq, Health - Newly-elected Aglukkaq enters the House for the first time as a front-bench minister. PRAGMATIC: She has been the health minister for Nunavut. I imagine, though, the job might be a little bit more involved on a federal level. She may be fine - then again, she may be a nightmare. Jury's out. POLITICAL: This young woman is the first Cabinet member of Inuit descent in Canada's history. She's got all kinds of upside, and her election was a direct result of the attention that the Harper Tories paid to Nunavut in their first term. That said, the most that her elevation is likely to achieve is to maybe, MAYBE help them with the other 2 seats in the North. It is as a young person and as a woman, rather than as an Inuit or Northerner, that Aglukkaq can make the furthest in-roads for the party.

Lisa Raitt, Natural Resources - Lisa the Garth Turner Slayer enters cabinet fresh off her electoral victory. PRAGMATIC: Raitt has a background in environmental science, and a reputation as an able administrator. This is a big portfolio, but she SHOULD be able to handle it. POLITICAL: Raitt knocked off Turner, but her own political life is not without controversy. She'll need to make sure she walks the straight-and-narrow. She's a valuable "in" for the Tories with the suburban "soccer-mom" set.

Gail Shea, Fisheries and Oceans - Shea goes straight from "provincial politician" to "federal minister". PRAGMATIC: Shea served 5 years as PEI's minister of transportation and public works, and by all accounts did a good job. The challenging part of this job isn't the "fisheries" file, it's the "oceans" responsibility - the long-standing international dispute about mineral and maritime rights and borders isn't something that can wait forever. POLITICAL: The first Tory to be sent to Ottawa from PEI in 24 years, Shea was a shoo-in for the cabinet. Her performance here can help the Tories immeasurably on the East Coast.

Ministers of State tomorrow... ouch, my fingers...

New Cabinet Named

Right here.

First reaction? Stephen Fletcher is the Minister of State for "Democratic Reform". Hmmmmm... interesting...

Got A Hammer? I've Got To Build A Cabinet...

Nation, the glorious afterbirth of the Federal election is nearly upon us, when the victorious (sorta) Prime Minister chooses the 30-or-so people who will effectively run (or pretend to run, to the chagrin of senior civil servants) the business of the nation (Canada, not the E.S. Nation).

Much is being made, predictably, of gender and racial balance in this upcoming cabinet. Women's groups especially have come out swinging, suggesting that any less than 50% of the cabinet being populated by women will be proof that Stephen Harper doesn't like or respect women.

I've spoken on the issue of cabinet-making before, but I'm just going to touch on this very quickly, and then I'll be back later today with an analysis of the cabinet choices themselves.

If Stephen Harper names 15 women to this cabinet, just so he can say "See? I like and respect women!", then he's an idiot.

Do women make up 50% of Canada's population? Yes. Or near enough to not be worth wasting time arguing about it.

SHOULD women make up 50% of our elected MP's, and 50% of the Federal Cabinet? Yes. Absolutely.

But Harper's caucus, like ALL of the caucuses and all of the party slates, is overwhelming dominated by males. To try to paper over that fact by naming unqualified people to the cabinet just because they happen to lack the "y" chromosome is absolutely stupid - and Harper is many things, but stupid isn't one of them.

Nobody appoints a judge to the bench based on ethnicity. "We need an Asian judge, to balance out the demographics of our local jurists. Go find me a random Asian." The reason nobody does that is because you want judges who, presumably, know the law. Their ability is infinitely more important than their ethnicity. You want to hire them based on qualification, rather than demographic.

Likewise the Federal Cabinet - I don't want underqualified ministers who are serving for no other reason than demographics. You're not putting together a bubblegum pop act you're trying to market to the greatest number of "Tween-agers" possible: You're choosing the people who will make the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. Choose people who can DO THE JOB.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The Edmonton Oilers, greatest hockey franchise to ever grace the Earth, have to be bad at something.

Just my luck it'd be dealing with bloggers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T.C.C. Thoughts

Nation, I just got back from the Telus Convention Centre, the site of the Conservative Party's (sorta)-celebration. Having also been in attendance in January of 2006, a few contrasts caught my eye immediately:

Firstly, the crowd this time was a LOT YOUNGER - in 2006, I was in my late 20's and would have bet on being one of the 15 youngest people in the room. This time around, there were a LOT of people in their early 20's, and even a healthy smattering of children. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner, I guess.

Secondly, the security was vastly more complex this time. Security personnel, both uniformed and "non-uniformed" (wearing bad, non-matching suits with ear-pieces and death-stares, so as not to stand out - mission accomplished) were virtually everywhere.

Now, on to a few meandering observations of the event itself...

I saw FOES (Friend Of the Enlightened Savage) Naheed Nenshi on-stage (and, I presume on camera) with what appeared to be a cadre of CBC folks - good on ya, sir. There was, however, a gentleman off to the right at the table who looked like the blogger archetype: young, cute haircut, earnest, laptop spitting smoke and sparks... Are you cheating on me with another blogger, Naheed? ;)

I thought I sensed a disturbance in the Force... and I was right. The former independent candidate for Calgary Egmont was in attendance. As if to remove any doubt from my mind, I walked right past a low-slung domestic poor-man's sports car with the website stencilled on the trunk. CLASSY.

I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing staffers holding up tape recorders to MP's who are mid-conversation on their cell-phones. Best explanation I can come up with? They want their words on tape, so no one can come back and say they said something else.

It was disheartening to see the conservative voters of Calgary West send Rob Anders back to Parliament when they had a legitimate choice. That said, barely a third of eligible voters in Calgary West voted for Anders, so that's something. Also, HUGE props to independent Kirk Schmidt for obtaining 1,790 votes, for 3% of the popular vote. Every other candidate in the riding had a built-in base that was ready to vote for them the second they won the nomination - Schmidt built his support from scratch, and without access to party financing. Congratulations on a battle well-fought, sir. You are an asset to the democratic process.

Liz May gambled by running in Central Nova, and she lost. Her party increased its popular support by 50%, but it's still perceived as a single-issue party, whose leader was more focused on her quixotic quest to "hurt Stephen Harper" by running against Peter MacKay than on actually running in a seat she could win. 6.8% is good enough to argue the Greens should be in the debates again, but May herself has to do some soul-searching, and decide whether she wants to lead a political party, whose job is to get elected, or instead be an activist, rubbing the politicians' noses in it. You can't be both, and be good at either. The Greens, if they hope to get elected, have to take this "political" stuff seriously, starting tomorrow - when they should start accepting resumes for candidates for 2010 (thanks, Jack).

Harper has to be overjoyed (if he's capable of the emotion) at his results in Ontario, but utterly mystified by the result in Quebec. It's clear they're never going to accept the social policies of the former Reformers in Quebec, so Harper and the party higher-ups need to sit down and figure out exactly what, if anything, they can do to counter the Quebecois distaste for the CPC. Without a breakthrough in Quebec, the Tories will almost certainly never get the majority they so covet.

Not to beat this to death, but... this was NOT a good night for Stephane Dion. He looked like he had just gotten a call from his vet about Kyoto when he took the stage to give his speech. He snapped at a CTV reporter. His party LOST the popular vote in Ontario, which is the bedrock upon which Liberal governments have to be built. He's up for review in May, and I expect him to be gone, baby gone... replaced with Ignatieff or (dark horse) Dalton McGuinty (hey, if you want to rebuild from Ontario outwards, Dalton's not a bad choice...)

Final numbers are understandably still under review, but it look like we're sitting thusly:
CPC: 143 seats (up 19 from 2006)
Lib: 77 seats (down 26)
BQ: 49 seats (down 2)
NDP: 37 seats (up 8)
Ind. 2 seats

Just for the fans of MMP, here's how things would look by proportional representation (not sure how independents figure in, so not 100% accurate):
CPC: 116 seats
Lib: 81 seats
BQ: 31 seats
NDP: 56 seats
Grn: 21 seats
(leaves 3 seats to be determined by best 2-out-of-3-falls, in a steel cage)

Did Duncan Do It?

Nation, as of 11:42 Mountain Time, Linda Duncan (NDP) is ahead in Edmonton Strathcona by 459 votes, with 1 poll to be counted. A victory for Duncan would deny the Tories a clean sweep of Alberta - a fact that will no doubt stick in the craw of the vast majority of people who were in the room with me about an hour ago at the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Calgary.

Strategic voting? Vote-swapping? Complimentary coverage by daveberta and the Enlightened Savage (voted Best Looking Albertan Blogger Not Named Ken, Duncan, Dave, DJ, or Allie)? Who can say for certain... but if this result holds up to the inevitable re-count, then a lot of incumbent Tories will have to very closely examine their local campaigns in 18 months, when Layton forces us all to the polls again.


My apologies for the recent silence, all - and for my failure to cover the ridings I had intended. Computer issues, and real life, popup at the worst possible times. Rest assured, when Jack Layton forces us all to the polls again in 18 months to get the drop on the new Liberal leader before he can raise funds, I'll make up for it.

Tonight's results will be available from several sources, in as close to real-time as you can get without sitting in the Returning Office. Check out:

What I want to know, in the Comments section, is this:

Seat prediction:

Voter turn-out:

Here's mine.

Seat prediction:
CPC 129 (Harper's leadership comes into question within the party)
Lib 88 (Goodbye Stephane, hello Iggy)
NDP 38 (Jack tries to be the Unofficial Official Opposition)
Grn 0 (May stays on, but green message overtaken by activism for electoral MMP reform)
BQ 52 (Gilles stays on for another go 'round)
Ind. 1

Voter turn-out: 62%

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick Hits on Day E-5

I'm behind in those profiles, but I'm not going down without a fight, Nation. We will fight them on the beaches, and in the streets...

Here's some Enlightenment to chew on in the meantime.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
(aka "Fun with the Hill & Knowlton Projector")

Of the 3 polls released on October 8th, 2 of them (Nanos and CP/Harris Decima) show the Conservatives with a weaker majority than before the writ was dropped. The other (Ekos) shows the Tories picking up 12 more seats, and the Liberals dropping 31. The over-night numbers indicated a stop in the Tory free-fall, but with the release of the monetary cost of the Afghan mission today, expect those numbers to take a further hit.

Also of note is that the CP/Harris Decima poll released on the 8th, when run through the Hill & Knowlton projector, shows a GREEN being elected in Vancouver Quadra, the home of UBC (where Liz May should have run to begin with). Daniel Grice, the Green candidate in Quadra, blew away expectations in the March by-election by capturing 14 percent of the popular vote, and winning several polls. CP/Harris' numbers suggest Grice is positioned very well here, while DemocraticSPACE disagrees (h/t to daveberta for a fully addictive site). The H&K isn't perfect, of course, but Greens in the Vancouver area (I'd suspect there are quite a few) should be flocking to Quadra to try and get their guy over the top. The same poll suggests Linda Duncan is still very much in the race for Edmonton Strathcona.

Tories Release Platform

Stephen Harper finally deigned to bestow upon us great, unwashed masses his party's platform - only a week after his campaign e-mailed me, asking me to vote for them in an advance poll, without having seen the platform. I'm reminded of Sledge Hammer's "Trust me, I know what I'm doing" mentality.

I've read the platform, and there's not a lot of sexy promises in there. Bonus drinking game: Take a drink every time you read the phrase "A re-elected Conservative government led by Stephen Harper". Looking at pages 28 and 32, I suspect you'll want to book your ambulance in advance.

The Tories seem to have realized that it's a lot harder to come out with a bold platform proposing sweeping changes when you're the government of the day. Any great ideas you put in the platform to help average Canadians will be met with a chorus of "Great. That'll really help. Now, since you've been the government for the past 2 years, explain to me why you didn't think it was important to help us on this issue say, a year ago...". That said, the late release of the platform reeks of a political stunt, designed to hijack the last week of the campaign. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

The Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach, has chimed in on the federal election, saying that Canada can benefit from the stability of a majority government. Whether or not it's true (I suggest it is), it seems like poor timing for the leader of the Alberta PC's to be giving advice to the country when just last week-end his own party membership, the safest and most entrenched political party in the Western Hemisphere, voted against Fixed Election Dates at their AGM in Jasper. I'm willing to listen to the argument of why fixed election dates are bad for the people of Alberta, but if this decision was made for the sake of the party, I've got to ask "Why? Do the PC's think they have something to be worried about?"

I mean, Ed already announced the next election would be "around March of 2012" - what does it hurt to enshrine that in law? At least then Elections Alberta can have their website up and running properly, hire staff without political connections, and maybe - god forbid - enumerate properly, so campaigns aren't wasting precious time calling deceased people to ask for their vote.
At the same time, though, Ed sent a message to the federal Tories that the bitumen they're talking about in their platform doesn't belong to them or to Canada as a whole, but rather it belongs to the people of Alberta. Cue the Gilles Duceppe "greedy Albertans" ad here. Good on Stelmach, though, for being able to stand up for his province (through Deputy Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations Ron Stevens) without sending black roses, registering as a third-party political entity, and screaming at the top of his lungs about the evil, soul-sucking monster that is the federal Conservative Party (not mentioning any names, Danny).

Yukoners Hit The (North) Polls!

The advance polls were open for 3 days (most of the parties had released, you know, platforms by then), and the voters of the Yukon turned out in DROVES. democraticSPACE indicates it's a 2 horse race between the NDP and the incumbent Liberal according to their polling. Nobody's quite sure why Yukoners came out in such high numbers for the advance polls, but suffice it to say that the lack of a platform probably didn't help the Tory candidate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where's The Platform, Stephen?

We're going to hear a lot about this from the opposition parties in the next few days, we heard it brought up in tonight's debate, so let's get this out in the open right now:

The advance polls open tomorrow morning. The Conservatives will, presumably, want people to go to the polls and vote for their candidates. It would be helpful if, to assist Canadians in making this choice, the Tories would... you know... RELEASE A POLICY PLATFORM.

We're what, 4 weeks into the election? The advance polls open TOMORROW. WHERE is the Conservative platform? We all know there's got to BE one - they were the only party that knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an election was coming, and exactly when. I understand withholding it until the debates are over, so you're only getting attacked on your record, and not on your ideas. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. But the debates are over, and the polls are opening in a few hours. So, where's the platform the Tories want us to support with a majority?

Asking us to cast these early ballots before showing us a platform is asking Canadians to sign a blank cheque. "We don't need to know your policies, we trust you". Nice thought - but it's not how responsible democracies pursue governance.

It already looks bad, Tories. Don't let it get worse. Platform, please.

Live-Blogging the English Debate

Once again, all times Mountain.

I can't believe I'm going to miss to Biden/Palin blood-letting for this. It had better be good tonight... what do you think the over/under is on Liz May attacking Dion's policies?

Yeah, I wouldn't take that bet, either.

Scott Reid is concerned about the economy... running out of beer and popcorn money?

Good to see that CBC went to the trouble of actually inviting a Green to spin tonight, instead of asking the NDP to analyse Liz's performance like they did last night.

MY big question tonight, is do Harper and Jack take advantage of Dion's poor English to attack him, or do they ignore him completely and focus on each other?

The table is back... May to Harper's left. Fitting.

I hope tonight's question isn't to say something nice about the person on your right... what has Liz got left to say about Stephen?

Jack just tried to seduce me when he was introduced... I swear - I *know* that stare...

What steps would you take as PM to protect our economy?

May: The US is in a recession. First thing I would do is put a freeze on foreign ownership of our companies. Devalue the Canadian dollar.

Dion: For the first 30 days of a Liberal gov't, we'll hold a lot of meetings.

Harper: Last night, Dion, you panicked - you announced a whole new economic plan in the middle of a debate. Your plan is going to put us in a deficit, cost us jobs, and cause a crisis. We need to stay the course.

Layton: Another big tax cut like Harper wants, and another tax like Dion wants, are both wrong. We need to increase regulation, and ivest in the fundamentals of the economy. WORKING FAMILIES...

Duceppe: Harper/Bush share the same ideology. Laissez Faire. Invisible hand. Rich oil companies. Just read my comments from yesterday.

Dion: Steve, doing nothing is not an option. Canadians care, and all you're doing is distorting my plan.

Harper: We have not been following the same policies as the United States. We've made very different choices. Our budget is in surplus, we're paying off debt, creating jobs, our mortgage and housing sector is regulated. We're not bailing out big companies, we're investing.

May: Steve, you're offering nothing on the economy. Where's your platform? Every other party has released one (good point). Other people, who aren't me, think we should reduce income tax and tax carbon instead.

Layton: Steve, you're wrong, you ARE following the U.S. Either you don't care, or you're incompetent. Which is it? (good line)

Harper doesn't rise to the bait. We cut $200 Million is taxes overall, and three quarters went to typical taxpayers.

Duceppe: Rich oil companies suck. Manufacturers are in trouble. We have to help the manufacturing sector. Improve EI.

Dion: Steve, you're pissing away a good situation you inherited from a Liberal government.

Harper: We didn't keep a large amount in Ottawa, we put it back into the economy. I know there have been job losses, but there has been more job creation to make up for it. Putting taxes on companies penalizes jobs and hurts those invested in these companies.

May: Harper, you're out of touch if you don't know people are fundamentally worried. You're favouring one region over others (gee, which ones, I wonder?). Is this the same Liz May who accused Harper of inventing a crisis last night?

Layton: I don't know if you don't go to these factories, but I do. You want to give tax breaks to these companies? Take some responsibility, here.

Harper: We don't have a mortgage meltdown or banking crisis, here.

Layton's definitely on the attack tonight. He's coming across as a bit too much so for my apolitical company tonight.

Dion: to have a strong economy, you need a strong manufacturing sector. We'll make that happen.

Duceppe: Sustainable development. Heard of it, Stephen?

Harper: We're helping manufacturers buy equipment, we're investing in forestry, automotive, aerospace... we're doing a lot.

May: You said to Americans that the Canadian unemployed are doing just fine because of our EI programs (in 1997). People who aren't me think you're wrong.

Layton: May is right, I don't know who you're getting your advice from.

At this point, the "peanut gallery" (I think Duceppe?) says "Mr. Howard". Come ON, THIS is what I'm missing Palin/Biden for? A schoolyard mauling?

Duceppe: Manufacturing companies don't benefit from tax cuts - they're not making any money, so they're not paying any tax anyway.

Duceppe needs to stop interrupting people when they try to deal with his questions. He did this last night, too, and he's coming across as a badgering jerk.

Layton: Stephane, you support Harper's tax cut plan, and kept him in power for over a year. He wants to cut corporate taxes, and hope that fixes everything. We need to invest.

Dion: Economists like our plan. Jack, go to your room.

Are the manufacturing jobs gone for good?

Harper: Yes, the economy is evolving and we need to evolve along with it.

Duceppe: Who cares? Harper's ignoring me, and my feelings are hurt.

May: We need to bring them back. It's not good enough for people in Nova Scotia to know they can stay employed if dad goes to work in Fort Mac. TARSANDS REFERENCE.

Layton: I can't think of anything other countries can make with wood that we can't (read: mercantilism). You're giving tax breaks to banks and oil companies. If we invest and have a strategy, we can get those jobs back.

Dion: I care about your jobs. Look at me, I ooze caring. We've had a Prime Minister for 2 years who doesn't care.

Harper: It the U.S., they're bailing out the banking system. We're not. We're investing in individual sectors. This is hardly Laissez Faire. We're already doing what you're saying we should. I would say overall we're being successful, keeping the economy going, we have a slowdown but not a recession. I think there are some areas we can do better, but we're not in the same position as the U.S.

Duceppe: I think everyone should buy Canadian.

Layton: I agree. We just lost a plant in Ontario no one ever heard of, and it's your fault, Stephen. We proposed a Jobs Commissioner, and it worked in BC under an NDP government that the voters kicked the crap out of...

May: We're seeing a structural imblanaced shift under Harper's leadership. MAy's body language comes across as alternatively arrogant and dismissive.

Dion: We want to invest in R&D and infrastructure.

Harper: We have a Buy In Canada policy for military. Jack, you mentioned people lost jobs. That's terrible, I've lost a job, I understand. We're going to create jobs. You're all sincere, but you have bad ideas.

They're all talking over each other, but May is easiest to hear - it doesn't reflect well.

Layton: Where's your platform, under the sweater? (ZING!)

Dion: A Liberal government cleaned up Mulroney's mess, we'll clean up Harper's.

Layton: The Liberals off-loaded the federal deficit onto the provinces.

Duceppe: We were the ones who proposed the no deficit law.

How do you reconcile the environment and the economy?

Dion: Key question of the century. The countries that have energy efficieny will be the more competitive of the world. We want to decrease taxes on what creates the wealth, and shift it to pollution. We want the country cleaner, more energy efficient.

Harper: The Liberal plan has carbon tax increases double any of the cuts. We have to have a balanced approach.

Layton: A reduction from Harper's plan is a figment of his imagination. We should be making big polluters pay, and use every penny of those revenues to stimulate the new energy economy.

Duceppe: Kyoto. Kyoto kyoto kyoto. Each province should apply its own plan. Alberta and Saskatchewan are evil pooluters (DRINK!)

May: Bill Clinton is my friend. We need to get over this idea of the environment being a threat to the economy. We should be like Sweden of Germany.

Harper: The Liberal package is a tax increase. $26 Billion in tax cuts, $40 Billion in carbon tax.

Dion: You're lying. Countries that shift outperform countries that don't. Harper is a bad, bad man. Don't believe him.

May: We have a plan that would bring in $35 Billion. Dion's plan brings in $15 - I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying...

Duceppe: I know the NDP and Liberals support the territorial approach, don't know about the Greens... of course, the air follows provincial borders... the West is evil and pollutes... Steve, do you support that for Quebec?

Harper: We don't plan to impose taxes on people, we are going to have companies pay into an ingenuity fund if they don't meet targets.

Duceppe badgers him for an answer - AGAIN. Gilles keeps seeming like a schoolyard bully.

Layton: You, Exxon, and George Bush. (DRINK!). Tarsands. Canadians aren't happy, you're throwing away the opportunity to make these polluters pay.

Dion: I want Canada to succeed in the 21st century. If we avoid the issue, I'm very concerned for my country (presumably he means Canada, and not France)

Harper: The people who pollute the most, pay the most. They have to meet our targets and reduce emissions by 70%. We're limiting the exporting of bitumen (Ed Stelmach on line 2 from Jasper, Mr. Prime Minister...)

May: George Bush and you both don't like Kyoto, Steve. You're a bad man.

Layton: Steve, you're not telling the truth. Why did you approve one week after a court said you shouldn't, a huge development without any of these kinds of conditions?

Dion: Nobody likes Steve's plan, lots of smart people like ours. Richer, Greener, Fairer.

Harper: We've signed an agreement with the nature conservancy of Canada, we've expanded the parks system, created the largest marine park in the world, dealing with air quality.

May: You're lying about everything but parks.

Do you have any plans to alleviate the doctor shortage in Canada?

Layton: We've put forward a plan to increase by 50% the number of doctors we train in Canada, and nurses by 6,000. We'll forgive student debt if you agree to work for 10 years. Harper is off-loading the issue to the provinces.

Duceppe: Ottawa can't do jack. This isn't a federal issue. Just give Quebec their money, and shut up.

May: We lost 21% of our hospital beds (SAY it, Liz... who was the government, then?) from 1993 to 1996. She is going out of her way to avoid mentioning the Liberals as having done something wrong. The fix is in.

Dion: Our doctors and nurses are old. Our population is aging. Provinces are asking us to be part of the solution. We'll work with provices.

Harper: Liz is right. The Liberals cut all kinds of health dollars. We've been working with the provinces. Our approach has been not to attack them, but to work with them.

Layton: You're criticising the Liberals for cutting? Who was encouraging them to cut more? You ran a group whose main objective was privatization.

Harper: I use the public system, my family uses the public system. Other leaders use private clinics.

May: I don't.

Jack's pretty quiet just now.

Moderator mentions Layton's use of a private clinic. Jack is pouting about a "cheap shot". Being told your crap stinks is a cheap shot?

Harper: You just accused me of trying to kill the public health care system, but you used a private clinic, Jack.

May: The IMF told us we had to cut our hospital beds to maintain our credit rating in the 90's. The US is coming to ruin our healthcare system. SHE SAID 'LIBERAL CUTS'! Harper's job is the 90's was to destroy our heathcare system. How's that look on a resume? Would make for an interesting business card... She won't answer a question about nationalizing private clinics.

Duceppe: THIS. IS. NOT. A. FEDERAL. ISSUE. Give us our money.

Dion: We'll be involved, without infringing on provincial jurisdiction. We'll bring in catastrophic drug coverage.

Harper: Anybody who provides services must offer them to everyone, under the Act. We created a lot of health commissions...

Duceppe: That Quebec was against.

Layton: The Liberals promised the same sort of thing in 1997, and we never saw it.

What do the arts mean to you?

Duceppe: My father was a comedian (apple fell pretty far from the tree). Harper is a bad man for cutting the soul of the nation.

May: Arts and culture are neccessary. Gov't censorship is bad. There is such a thing as a creative class, which leads to community health. We need to protect our identity as Canadians.

Dion: Arts are fun. It's a way to be stimulated. It's a mistake to think of it as a luxury.

Harper: I enjoy the arts immensely. I play a bit of piano, my family on my dad's side was musical, my wife's family paints and draws, my daughter dances, my son is learning guitar. We've increased the arts and culture budget. We're creating a $500 tax credit for arts lessons for children.

Layton: My wife is a sculptor. I'm not talented, but I enjoy them. The average artist makes $10-12000 per year, and can't afford piano lessons for their kids, with or without a tax credit.


Dion: I think Harper considers artists as enemies.

Duceppe: Jim Flaherty answered this, when he said you make ideological decisions about the arts. When Harper says the budget was raised by 8%, the culture department took an 8% cut.

Harper: We increased funding to the CBC. We cut programs that were no longer effective, and moved the funding tot hings that were effective. That's the responsibility of government.

May: He killed 16 programs. I don't think they're barbarians, he has appropriated all the levers of government to increasing his own personal power - Steve is Machiavelli.

Layton: They talk about freedom as a value, but you're trying to censor expression of those who oppose you. Look at the programs that got cut. Foreign promotion of small and independent films.

Dion: Your government cut things on an ideological basis. We'll spend more on the arts, and have more fun.

Harper: We've increased a lot - there's no ideaological agenda, we're getting a bad rap. Duceppe is muttering about not being answered - zip it, Gilles.

Layton: Arts programs aren't sacrosanct, and should be up for review. Other countries are investing in the arts - we should be doing the same.

What are you going to do about the rate of violent crime?

May: It's not going up, the coverage is. We'll draw a line in the sand, we'll give judges more power, ban handguns, ban semi-automatics, rural Canadians need a less burdeonsome system of control for their guns.

Dion: Behind each crime there's a human tragedy. Government needs to choose a good approach to fight the root causes, such as poverty, addiction, mental illness.

Harper: There are some increases. Gangs, guns and drugs. We're bringing in tougher sentencing for young offenders, we'll put additional funding into drawing youth away from gang criminal activity, there's a disturbing increase in property crime. Our methods are targeted to specific areas.

Layton: People are killing my constituents. There's no reason for a handgun on the streets of a city. We need strong laws, but need to invest in young people. Harper didn't deliver on his previous $50 Million pledge, why would he now?

Duceppe: Quebec is doing it right, you all can go screw yourselves. Instead of punishing young offenders, we need to do something better. Let's punish the real, hardened criminals.

May: Literacy is an essential element in keeping kids out of crime. Harper killed $17 Million in literacy programs.

Harper: We didn't cut literacy. We cut a program that didn't teach people to read - that's why it was cut. When it comes to serious and repeat crime, there need to be serious penalties. Young offender sinvolved in murder, rape, and repeat occurences need to face real sentences.

Layton: We helped you pass these bills, Steve, and they died on the order paper because you prorogued parliament. Nobody knows what that means, Jack.

Dion: I trust judges, and you (Steve) don't. That's the difference between us. You want to put 14 year-olds away for life. This won't help our country to be safer. You want to take away house arrest for someone who takes mail from your mailbox?

Harper: You're wrong, Stephane, on both counts. 40% of those under house arrest in some areas violate the terms of their sentences. In this particular case, we're giving judges more discretion, so obviously we trust them.

Duceppe: Everyobdy in Quebec says our system works pretty well. We don't need an american philosophy in our system. There's less violence in Quebec than elsewhere in North America (yep, no gang crime in Montreal - good call, Gilles).

Layton: Stop putting Metis, First Nations, and Inuit in jail. Their lives are hard. It's a national disgrace.

Is that all his fault, asks the moderator.

Layton says the blame also goes to the Liberals.

Harper: The reality is the police and victims groups see terrible crimes and inadequate sentences. We all know it. They know it in Quebec, too. They're supporter our proposed changes.

Dion: This failed in the U.S., and will fail here. We need Liberals. The Kelowna Accord will sove the problem, but Jack killed the Accord with Harper.

Layton goes OFF on Dion for keeping Harper in power. "If you can't do your job as Leader of the Opposition, I don't know why you're running for Prime Minister."

Talk on Afghanistan 2011 date.

Harper: We'll have been there for almost 10 years. Parliament authorized it until then, and I think that's wise. If we're to truly pacify the country, we need to train the Afghan police. We won't achieve such a target unless we set a deadline and meet it.

Layton: Our party was the only party to say there should not be an extension of the mission. We believe we're on the wrong path. Canada's voice should be a voice for peace. We should go to the UN and propose a plan for peace.

Duceppe: Au contraire, mon frere. If Layton voted with us way back when, we'd be out 4 months from now. We need to invest more in forgein aid, less in military.

May: Bush and Harper are the same. (DRINK!) This is caused by a humanitarian failure. We need to turn the poppy crops into medicinal crops.

Dion: I admire soldiers. If I thought we were invading, I'd want us out right away. We'll do our best to provide security until 2011 in coalition with our NATO partners, and then we'll pull out.

Harper: 60 partners are there, it's a UN sanctioned mission. Afghanistan will need to take care of its own issues. May is muttering - she'll probably call him a liar again.

Layton: I don't trust you OR the Liberals. You're like George Bush, and Dion committed to 2009, then changed his mind to 2011.

Dion: Shut up, Jack. Harper, you said we'd stay until the job was done. First thing I'll do as Prime Minister is announce to our Allies that we're serious about leaving in 2011.

Duceppe: Afghanistan sucks because George Bush invaded Iraq. You copied a speech from Australia.

Harper: I made it clear - we're not going to Iraq.

Duceppe, AGAIN, is badgering for an answer. He's so unlikable in this role, it boggles the mind.

Harper: Afghanistan isn't a Bush mission, Obama has committed to increase U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Duceppe: If you were Prime Minister in 2003, we would have been in Iraq.

May: I know what's in your heart, Stephen. You're a liar. We need a U.N. mission with more countries. We're turning our back on Africa.

Dion: Harper is imprudent. He's like George Bush, he copied John Howard's speech. (We get it, guys.)

Layton: Staying until 2011 will screw other countries out of our assistance.

Harper: I appreciate the Liberal support, Dion's position changed 3 times, but at least he's right NOW.

Dion: YOU changed your mind - I always supported a pull-out date.

What's the first thing you're going to do when you get into office as PM?

Layton: We'll replace the $50 Billion tax cut with infrastructure, income security, job creation, and environmental investments. NDP Government (DRINK!)

Duceppe: I won't be Prime Minister, and I know it. 3 of you won't either, but you won't admit it. I'll ask the Prime Minister to do stuff for Quebec.

May: I'll help you build your shed. I'm a woman and single mom - vote for me, I have ovaries. I'll bring in proportional representation. Then we'll move forward with a plan to address carbon emissions. 80% of Canadians agree that it's a big deal.

Dion: I'll secure the economy, hold meetings, and prepare an economic update. Then appoint the best cabinet Canada ever had.

Harper: We'll keep the country in surplus, won't raise taxes, might reduce some, bring in a tax credit for first time homebuyers, reduce the tax on diesel, reduce small business taxes...

Layton: You haven't said you're going to protect the homes, savings and jobs of Canadians, Steve. You're giving Exxon and the banks a big tax break. Stephane, you said you'll be meetign with the premiers, but will you be LISTENING?

Dion: Shut up, Jack. I don't have to work with the provinces, a mandate federally trumps the provinces.

May: I'll defend the Green Shift, because it was our idea. It's exactly what we need to do. Now I'll spend 40 seconds reiterating Dion's plan. High five, Stephane... Cabinet post, please? Why don't we do income splitting, Steve-o?

Harper: We eliminated the marriage penalty. We brought in income splitting for the seniors of this country. We can't afford $5 Billion to do it for everyone in the country. I will not raise taxes. Moderator: EVER? Harper: I will not raise taxes (behind a glass of water).

Dion: Harper lied about income trusts - remember that when he talks about the Liberal plan. I care about this country.

Harper: We had a case where the entire corporate sector was converting, we gave 4 year's grace, no income trust has been taxed yet.

Basically: Why should Canadians trust what you say?

Duceppe: I think you need to watch what people say before the election, and what they do after. Now, let's talk about Stephen Harper. Don't trust him - he breaks his promises.

May: I used to be a lawyer, now I'm a politician. Nobody likes me. Vote with your heart and demand better between elections - you deserve better.

Dion: Your premise is all of the parties are the same. Wrong. Harper would have us in Iraq, Mr. Chretien didn't. Harper would have killed medicare. Liberals will start something great.

Harper: Voting is our fundamental democratic right. Take a look at our platform ("Where is it?", tosses in Liz) - look at all the good stuff we did over the past 2 years.

Layton: The sweater is nice, Canadians want to know what your promises are, even if you're going to break them. Canadians have an opportunity to put the issues of the kitchen table front-and-centre.

Shouldn't politicians change their minds when the information changes?

Dion: Yes, but you shouldn't break your commitments. Harper did. The Liberals have the plan we need. Trust us.

Layton: I remember the red book - you've got a heck of a record of broken promises, you Liberals. Harper is giving tax breaks to Exxon.

Harper: The government of Nova Scotia says we kept our word on the Atlantic Accord - gov't of NFL doesn't like us, but they didn't like the last federal government, either. We've limited donations to political parties.

May: You may have a minority premier in Nova scotia agreeing with you, but what does he know? She's talking to Harper like he's a 12 year-old. Arrogance and belittlement (word?) doesn't look good on her.

Duceppe: Quebec doesn't have a seat at UNESCO. Contradict me, so I can interrupt you.

Harper: Okay.

Dion: Jack, we had a child care plan in 2006, but the NDP and Tories screwed it up. I'm polite and don't interrupt anyone (DRINK!). Harper, you attack everyone who disagrees with you.

Harper: The farmers of Western Canada voted to have dual grain marketing, and western farmers vote for us.

The moderator tries to lighten things in the wrap-up with a comment that this is definitely better than Biden/Palin. May proves she can't take a joke, by insisting "it's our democracy, this is more important". Sigh...