Thursday, March 31, 2005

Clamming Down

Good on Canada for finally flexing our muscles a bit towards the US. However, since this is Canada, we're flexing our pinky finger:

OTTAWA: Canada is slapping-millions of dollars worth of sanctions on U.S. imports in retaliation for a lingering trade irritant.

The announcement of a 15 per cent surtax on cigarettes, oysters and live swine from the United States came Thursday, just as the European Union took similar measures.

The measures are expected to be worth about $14-million annually.

This begs two questions:

1. Are the United States going to notice a 14 million dollar tariff?
2. Oysters?

If we really want to get their attention, we'd threaten to legalize prostitution if they don't open the border to BSE and we'd send a married gay couple to Washington to make out on the White House lawn every day until the Softwood tariff gets lifted. That'd get Bush's attention.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Patience is a Virtue

Boy, the media loves election speculation, don't they? I mentioned this earlier and it appears the Tories will do everything to avert the crisis. But since everyone loves to speculate, here are 20 reasons Stephen Harper should do everything in his power to make sure the government doesn't fall on the budget supply bill:

1. Look at the polls: If an election were held today, odds are we'd get a parliament that looks a lot like the one we currently have.

2. Harper's neck is on the line: He got 84% support at their recent convention, but if he goes 0 for 2, I suspect his leadership is going to face major challenges. The common consensus among Conservatives seems to be Harper is gone if he loses the next election.

3. Vindictive Electorate: With all due respect to Warren, I'm of the mind that Canadians don't want an election right now. Maybe I'm only of that opinion because Alberta has had 3 elections in the past 10 months (federal, provincial, municipal...4 if you count the thrilling senatorial elections). Maybe with no hockey playoffs on, it will give Canadians something to follow. But I suspect if the Conservatives are perceived as having brought down the government, people will be none too pleased about it.

4. The Issue: An election on the environment would be interesting and likely good for Canada, but it's not an issue the Conservatives want to run on. Rightly or wrongly, they're perceived to be the least environmentally responsible party out there.

5. Kyoto: Very popular in Ontario. Not very popular in Alberta. Will allow Martin to hint at "Stephen Harper is a scary Albertan who cares more about oil than the environment". It’s how Trudeau beat Clark in 1980.

6. Offshore Oil: That deal falls through if the budget goes down. For a party desperate to pick up seats in the Maritimes, this likely isn't a good idea.

7. Mr.Dithers: The longer Martin governs, the worse he looks. Why let him off the hook with an early election?

8. Budgets: Generally, when the economy is booming, and the surplus is big, a budget is a pretty good thing for the government to run on. And, by consequence, a pretty bad thing for the opposition to run on.

9. Abstention: Harper ran to the microphone after the budget was announced and said it was "a conservative budget" he "could live with". He also said it "wasn't worth bringing the government down over". It's going to be very hard to run against this same budget.

10. Blackout: Gomery will go dark for the next month or two.

11. Scandal: From all the whispers being heard, there's still some explosive evidence to come in the Gomery Inquiry that's going to make the Liberal Party look very bad. Why not wait? This Inquiry was a gift to Harper and he'd be foolish not to use it.

12. The Issue: Likewise, if the non-confidence motion in the house is worded explicitly on Adscam, that becomes the issue. It may be the only issue the Conservatives can win on.

13. Quebec: Not doing great there now, but I suppose there's always a chance things will get better for the Tories. At the very least, it can't get worse. If Ducceppe leaves to lead the PQ, there's an opening there.

14. Cold Weather: With the Liberal Party divided and lacking enthusiasm, how many Liberals are going to get off their couches and go out in -30 degree weather to door knock for Paul in December. The Tories are hungrier so a cold weather election likely works to their advantage (Yeah, yeah, it’s a stretch, but when you produce 20 reasons they can’t all be brilliant).

15. Not Scary: The Liberals won the last election because Canadians were scared of Stephen Harper. Every day that goes by where Harper doesn't bite off kitten heads will only make him look less scary.

16. Romanian Strippers: Supposedly, there's a report from the ethics commissioner coming at some point. It might be good to wait and see what's involved in it.

17. Gay Marriage: Wouldn't hurt to have an actual vote on the issue in the house. It will show divisions in Liberal ranks and, despite what some people think, I think this is an issue that might actually help the Conservatives in rural Ontario.

18. Earnscliffe: The Public Accounts Committee will be probing Earnscliffe this April. Why not wait and see if they come up with something interesting?

19. Money: The Tories have a larger debt than the Liberals. They need time to fundraiser and get their $2.25 per vote cheques.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ralph's World

Welcome to this installment of the "Wacky Adventures of Ralph". First off, Ralph Klein was in Washington last week and took his opportunity on the world's largest stage to... call Mackenzie King a pervert. Yes, sometimes you can't make these things up. Mackenzie King was certainly weird, but a pervert?

Ralph is also upset over the recent Senate appointments. Here's his quote on it:

"For God's sake, find a way to appoint Bert (Brown). The reason I say Bert as opposed to the other three (elected senators) is that he was the first elected. He deserves it."

Now, here's a question: Why did we spend millions on Senate elections in Alberta if Bert Brown qualifies ahead of the individuals who "won" the election?

Oh, Ralph. How I'll miss you when you're gone.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bonus Advice

Steve; There's only one thing that could possibly be worse than triggering an election over the Kyoto Accord, a popular piece of legislation in Ontario and Quebec. And that would be triggering an election over a budget that you said wasn't worth triggering an election over. Come on! Even Joe Clark has better political sense than this.

Monday Morning UPDATE: "Liberals Fear Spring Election" says the Globe headline. Yeah right, Lap. You're telling me you'd rather run an election on sponsorship in the fall than on Kyoto in the spring? With any other strategist, I'd say they were full of it. For someone with Jean Lapierre's political savvy...hard to say.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Advice for Stephen Harper - Deux

One of the first posts I did for this blog last year was “Advice for Stephen Harper” so I thought I'd give it another go, a year later. Despite having so many things going for him, Harper has yet to give Conservatives any hope that he’ll ever be Prime Minister. A major scandal? A major scandal mismanaged? The Economist calling Martin Mr. Dithers? A government “adrift”? A party in power for 12 years? What else does he need? Harper seems to be banking everything on the hope that something truly horrific will come out of the Gomery Inquiry and that Canadians will hold their noses and vote for him. While that may not be a terrible strategy, there are so many others things he could be doing to get himself to 24 Sussex. So, for the second time, CalgaryGrit offers some hometown advice for Stephen Harper.

Dear Stephen;

I’ve going to cross party lines and offer you some advice, if only because it’s become so painful trying to watch you lead. It’s like watching a hockey team under-achieve because the coach only puts four players on the ice at a time. Here are six easy things to do that can make you Prime Minister.

1) Ellis Island Platform: Yes, yes, a lot of people in your party are big on Jim Crow but there’s a golden opportunity here. You’ve already gone ahead and targeted ethnic communities on the gay marriage issue – why not give them another reason to vote Conservative? Come out and say you’ll follow through on the long-time Liberal promise of “1%” immigration a year. It’s a good policy that would be good for Canada and any opportunity to bring up Judy Sgro and Romanian strippers will only help.

2) Joe Clark or Pierre Trudeau: Listen Stephen, there are two opportunities here – quit dithering and pick one. You can come out in favour of a strong central government and hit Martin with everything you’ve got on his ridiculous drive towards asymmetrical federalism. Quebec is a lost cause so why not swing a few people who believe Canada is a real country into your camp? Or, you can come out with a massive decentralizing platform to get some of the disgruntled Premiers onside. If you can find a way to sort out the equalization mess so to satisfy McGuinty, Calvert, Charest, and Williams all at once, that’d be golden.

3) Mr. Dithers: Say it loud, say it proud, say it often! Dithering did Diefenbaker in so milk it for all it’s worth. And Steve, it might be a plus if you looked like a decisive, strong leader. Just a thought. Heck, as a bonus, why not go by “Steve” – it’s a way cooler name than “Stephen”.

4) Pass the Puck: There is a lot of talent in the Conservative caucus. Look at your front bench and look across the isle. As a Liberal, it’s almost embarrassing to compare the two. Polls routinely show no one wants Stephen Harper as their Prime Minister. Fine. Remind them that Belinda Stronach, James Moore, Belinda Stronach, Monte Solberg, Peter MacKay and Rona Ambrose will be in Cabinet. While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to trot Belinda, Prentice and Moore around as proof that there are some social moderates in the party.

5) Mr. Big: Get an idea. I don’t know what it is. Maybe you can steal the Irish model of mixing tax cuts with free post-secondary education. Maybe you can propose full-scale Senate reform. Or you can think of something clever on your own – everyone keeps saying you’re a smart guy. Give people a reason to vote for you (other than your funky haircut). Failing that, you might as well promise “Liberal government, without Liberals”.

6) Smile: Try it. If you can make it look natural, that’s a plus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Headwaiter to the Provinces

Courtesy of Inkless Wells comes the news that Quebec has completed it's foreign policy review.


You know, I remember last fall when the joke being passed around by those against asymmetrical federalism was that Quebec would be deciding Canada's foreign affairs. I think Paul Wells even wrote a satire piece where the provinces were deciding foreign policy. "Ha ha ha", we all said. But it's gone from insane satire to insane reality.

So what's left for the federal government? Senate appointments? Oh yeah, we don't do those either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehn, good night...

Courtesy of Rick Mercer's Monday Report, Canada bids Adieu to Paul Celluci.

Burning Money

In case you missed it, Alberta is pumping more cash into fighting gay marriage - $110,000 and counting. You know, Conservatives whine and whine about Liberals wasting money but we've seen million spent on a Senate election which won't elect Senators and now more money going into a legal fight they know they'll lose. I can't wait until the multi-billion dollar project to try and prevent the sun from rising in the East. Here's what the Edmonton Journal has to say:

Source: The Edmonton Journal

Gay marriage may not be the slightest practical threat to the traditional heterosexual relationship, but it certainly seems to be straining the union between social-conservative Tory MLAs and Ralph Klein's more pragmatic cabinet.

On a week when you'd think that desperate ranchers and the extension of the cattle-export ban would be exercising the governing caucus, MLAs were putting all their energies into reversing a sensible decision not to seek a hopeless legal battle against the proposed new definition of marriage being debated in our federal Parliament.

The government's legal advice is that provinces have no constitutional jurisdiction over the definition of marriage, and that as a result, an Alberta attempt to use the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the subject would accomplish nothing more than waste federal and provincial tax dollars on lawyers and court time in a challenge Ottawa would surely win.

Apparently, scoring political points is a good use of public money for these backbenchers. What a shame Klein -- who doubtless remembers past legal lost causes involving gay rights -- couldn't convince them otherwise.

Even more perplexing is Klein's flip-flop on this issue. Last week, Klein admitted defeat, conceding that "There's a 99.9% chance that we would lose".

But after a caucus rebellion and pressure from the mighty Alberta Alliance (slogan: "Half as powerful as the federal PCs in 1993!"), Klein has reversed his decision and announced he will fight the decision. Now, I know Ralph is a gambler, but 999-1 odds are a little steep to be wagering this kind of money on. So, it's pretty clear that the social right is alive and well in Alberta and still has a lot of influence on the outgoing Premier.

Bottom line - watch out for Ted Morton in the PC leadership race. The moderates are still in the minority in this party and Jim Dinning is not going to coast to victory as every commentator in this province seems to believe.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Here’s what Conservative bloggers are writing about their convention:

Monte Solberg:
“Reports circulated through the Conservative Convention on Friday that Stephen Harper had "kicked" a chair sometime during the afternoon. PMO spokesman Scott Reid said that this is proof that Harper has a hidden agenda, "if Harper was elected Prime Minister none of your furniture would be safe. If he'll kick a chair he wouldn't hesitate to put his feet on your coffee table!"Sofa Chaise-Armoire, President of Women for Furniture said Harper's treatment of the chair was, "scary" and called on Harper to apologize for his "senseless attack" etc. etc.”

All Things Canadian:
“Watching the coverage, it struck me that Elsie Wayne, one of the two speakers opposed to the resolution, was so emotional and was attacking Morgentaler. She might have polarized the delegates and allowed that resolution to pass meaning P-94, a late term abortion resolution, did not see the floor. For people wanting to see some abortion legislation, having Elsie speak might have been a big mistake.”

Blue Perspective
“Although I wasn't happy with every policy that was adopted in Montreal, I was happy with the way things turned out at the CPC convention. The whole 'hidden agenda' rhetoric will not have any traction next time around, Harper got a resounding vote of confidence and I think he deserved it; he's accomplished a lot in a short period of time.”

Adam Dafillah
“Also, I very much felt that there were still two parties there: the old federal PCs and the Alliance. Votes on policy resolutions and constitutional amendments -- such as the one on the youth wing -- divived along the old party lines. You didn't see a lot of former federal PCs mingling with former Reformers/Alliance types in the hallways. The new party still has some gelling to do.”

Burkean Canuck
“The giant video screens and the dynamic graphic displays were a bold stroke, and the rest of the platform, though spare, made for a "clean" look that drew the eye to the podium and video graphics. Um, "Bravo!" (Well, we were in Montreal). And there were truckloads of money spent on hospitality suites by the Western Standard and the Renewable Fuels Association, Belinda Stronach, and several others”

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

OK, OK. Maybe it should read "avoiding armageddon". Irrespective, the Conservative Party can likely feel pretty good about how the convention turned out. Yes, there were lots of things that went poorly. Peter MacKay threw a hissy fit on Friday as old cracks showed. Stephen Harper kicked a chair. Harper gave an ugly press conference at the convention's conclusion where he looked defensive and attacked the media.


There was one thing the Conservatives had to do this convention. They had to put forward a moderate policy platform that nevertheless differed them from the Liberals. And that's exactly what they did. All the contentious resolutions were voted down - abortion, watering down of billingualism, referendum, recall, fixed election. Gone, gone, gone. This is going to make all the talk of a "hidden agenda" a lot harder for the Liberals in the next election and, if it's spun correctly, will help portray the Conservatives as a real, somewhat moderate alternative.

Nevertheless, they aren't just "Liberals lite". The traditional opposition to the gun registry and Kyoto are still there. As is support for tax cuts and the "2003 traditional" definition of marriage.

The policy house is now in order. It's only a matter of doing a competent job selling their party. But for Stephen Harper, that's a lot easier said than done.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Perpetual Opposition

Why are the Liberals Canada's "Government Party" and not the Tories? Here's a reason.

It's not too surprising. This PC/Alliance marriage always had a "Britney Spears wedding" feeling to it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Caught in the Web

A look around the net...

-I've updated my blogroll. One of the new blogs in the Alberta Politics section is Daveberta who has a great letter to Paul Jackson. Unfortunately, it's well thought out and logical so it'll pass right over Jackson's head.

-Scott Tribe, who I've always felt is the best blogger in Canada without a blog, has moved from the comments section to the E-Group.

While I usually agree with Scott, I think he's a bit off-base in his criticism of John Manley's Task Force report on North American defense.

A lot of people get upset whenever anyone suggests closer relations with the Americans but, to be honest, there are times we need to work with them. I think free trade has been very beneficial to Canada and anything we can do to strengthen and improve the FTA is a step in the right direction. As for defense, I was against missile defense, mainly because it will never work in a million years. But border and port security is a very real concern and it makes sense to work with the United States and Mexico to keep North America safe. Doing so would hopefully make border crossings from Canada to the US a lot smoother.

Scott is right that this report will re-enforce the notion that Manley is more right-wing than a lot of Liberals. But I tend to take issue with that. Manley was the first of the three leadership candidates to speak out in favour of gay marriage (even before Sheila) and has always been left on social issues. His one budget as finance minister was perceived as a very left-leaning budget with lots of spending. Admittedly, he favours closer ties to the Americans, but at least he's doing so from well thought out arguments, rather than being anti-American solely for the need to win votes in Quebec. As is so often the case, Manley gets in trouble for speaking the truth, albeit the unpopular truth.

-James Bow sticks up for my favourite provincial premier, Dalton McGuinty.

-Adam Radwanski and Paul Wells both defend Jean Lapierre. Wow. To complete this introduction to the opposite sketches, I'll stick up for the guy too. It's a free market system and there's nothing the government could do to prevent the demise of Jetsgo. Besides, if Lapierre resigned, we'd all lose a great source of entertainment.

Policy Wonks

I've been talking to a few of my Tory friends and have managed to get my hands on a few of the policy resolutions that will be debated this weekend in Montreal:

Be it Resolved that Party debt will be financed by selling TV rights to the reality TV event of the year – the Belinda Stronach-Peter MacKay wedding.

Be it Resolved that all future party name changes be forced to remain in effect for at least 2 years.

Be it Resolved that no one in this party ever again mention the word “abortion”, in any context, for any reason, no matter what argument they are trying to make.

Be it Resolved that all future CPC press releases refer to the Prime Minister as the Right Honourable Mr.Dithers.

Be it Resolved that God repay us for our support of the traditional definition of marriage by giving us some miracle…like a seat or two in Quebec.

Be it Resolved that Bernard Lord stop kicking himself for not running for CPC leadership a year ago.

Be it Resolved that Stephen Harper get some charisma…and we’re not asking for much here – John Manley charisma or Herb Grey charisma would be enough.

Be it Resolved that the government pay to spruce up Stornaway…we might be there a while.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Devil's Advocate

The general consensus among the pundits is that this was a very bad week for Stephen Harper. His mass abstention on the budget was ridiculed and he was criticized for his talk of closing down debate on social issues at the Conservative convention, before he reversed this decision. I'll stick up for him here, if only because he does such a poor job defending himself.

First of all, what choice did he have on the budget? The Conservatives weren't ready for an election and no one in the country wanted an election. That meant, they'd either have to abstain or vote in favour of the budget. They couldn't vote in favour of the budget, so Harper did the only thing he possibly could. If anything, he should be complimented for saving Canadians the stress and cost of another election.

The convention argument is a bit trickier and I think the problem is more on selling the issue than the issue itself. There's something to be said for deciding moral issues with a free vote in the house and not taking a party position on them. It would be consistent with Harper's Libertarian side and the Conservative mantra of empowering MPs. The problem is, it wouldn't end the talk of a "hidden agenda", so it was likely a poor political strategy, even if there was nothing wrong with it. In addition, from what I've seen, the moral resolutions up for debate are far from radical and shouldn't cause Harper much damage. Even the abortion topic is only to ban third trimester abortions, something almost everyone could agree with.

The ridiculous part of the criticism on Harper comes from Liberals who accuse him of "silencing the grass roots". The Liberals just finished a convention where we debated issues only to have the PM ignore them. There was a resolution passed to decriminalize prostitution, but the PM made it abundantly clear that he had no interest whatsoever in prostitution (at least from a policy perspective). It becomes fairly difficult to criticize a party for silencing their grass-roots when you let your grass-roots talk with the full intent of simply ignoring them.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Full Monte

The latest buzz to hit the blogsphere is of Monte Solberg's controversial post from last weekend which you can read here. Jim Elve and TDH Strategies both have well thought out takes on the "controversy". My view? I don't think the post in question is funny. I don't think it's clever. And I can see how it could be considered offensive. But I'm inclined to go easy on Monte for this one. For starters, every Liberal who has ever met him has nothing but nice things to say about the guy. And he generally comes across as being less...what's the word..."insane", than most of the neanderthals in his caucus.

But my main reason for going easy is that Monte is trying to write a blog worth reading. I'm sure everyone remembers the horrors of PaulMartinTimes, likely the most boring blog ever produced in the history of the Internet. It's pretty obvious that Paul's blog, and every other politician's blog, are all written by 17 year old staffers:

"It was a great day on the campaign trail today. I feel we're making momentum and the response has been fantastic! Everyone I go, people are encouraging me! It's tough, the long hours, I miss watching (insert hip TV show of day), but it's worth it to talk about the issues."

At the very least, Solberg writes his own blog, puts a bit of bite into it and he tries to be funny. The problem is, when you try to be funny, sooner or latter you'll piss someone off.

So, I for one hope Monte keeps blogging.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Useless Speculation

If there's one constant at all conventions, it's that it gives political hacks a chance to indulge in their favourite activity: mindless speculation. It always amazes me how confident political junkies are when they start speculating ahead. Be it on leadership candidates, election timing, or electoral results, everybody is always absolutely positive about exactly what is going to happen. But the thing is, politics are so unpredictable that this exercise is futile. Especially in minority governments. Who knows what's going to happen?

But, seeing as how I'm as guilty as anyone else, I might as well throw my useless opinion into the topic of the next election. The talk in Liberal circles is that Martin is going to bring in a tax cut budget next year and then engineer his own defeat. My hunch? There's no way we make it to the next budget. The Gomery Report is set to wrap up in November and I think it's a fairly safe bet we're heading towards a December election (And living in Calgary, the prospect of door-knocking in December has me giddy!). The Bloc is where they are because of the sponsorship scandal so it's the perfect issue for a campaign. For Harper, what else is he going to run on? Banning abortions? Corporate Tax Cuts? Pure Charisma? If the rumours of a tax cut Liberal budget in 2006 are to be believed, Harper would have a tough time running against that budget. And he'd have a tough time supporting the Liberal budget...again. Adscam is all the opposition parties have right now and they'd be foolish not to use it one last time.

And, I should add, this is all irrespective of what Gomery says. He'll come out and say, as we've known all along, that neither JC or PM knew anything or directed the file. He'll say the actual amount of money mis-spent was far less than 250 million, or even 100 million. But he'll say that some bad stuff happened, and that will be enough for the opposition to run an election on.

But, then again, like I said, speculation like this isn't worth the value of the paper it's printed on. And this speculation isn't even printed on paper.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Jean Lapierre Moment of the Convention

During his speech on Friday night he said, and I quote, word for word: “The Bloc won those seats in Quebec by accident”.

He’s No Bono…

I made sure to pay close attention to Michael Ignatief’s speech on Thursday, given some of the quiet whispers about leadership ambitions he might have. Right from the start, he teased the audience a bit by saying “Academics are smart, but they lack good, sound, political judgment”, before he went on to talking about how in 1968 Pierre Trudeau went from being “a great man to becoming a great politician.” Was he hinting that he might be able to hone his political skills on the job? Likely not, but given the number of people musing about his political future in the hospitality suites during the weekend, the intrigue is there.

On the style front, he clearly is not ready for the big time. He spoke well, but followed his text closely, reading off it quite a lot. This led to the embarrassing situation where he lost a page in his text and stumbled around looking for it, before trying in vain to recall what he’d said. I did find a striking resemblance between him and Dalton McGuinty in both appearance, speaking style, and speaking manerisms (they both like the hand gestures).

As for content, it was very interesting. You can tell the positions he crafts out are well thought out. He went against the party line on BMD saying Canada “needs clarity in defense policy” and that we “must be at the table”. He didn’t come out and say it, but it sure sounded to me like he was double guessing the government’s decision to stay out of BMD or, at the very least, it was a critique of the way the decision was handled. He also went against the current Mulroney-federalism we’re seeing in the Liberal party, talking about the need for a strong, centralist government which avoids side deals and promotes strong national standards. He did speak strongly in support of equal marriage and put forward the idea of a national federal post-secondary program, similar to health care.

Is he the next Trudeau? No. Is he a credible leadership contender? No. But if he did get involved in politics, he’d be a very intriguing politician and I do hope he considers jumping into federal politics.

Time for an Audit

As has been widely announced, 88% of Liberals voted for Martin on the leadership endorsement, as they called it at the convention. This is about what I expected since I talked to a lot of Liberals at the convention who said they would have voted “yes” for a convention if it wasn’t for the precarious state of the minority government.

What is interesting is that only one number was released. The Liberal party constitution calls for the leadership review to occur at both the riding level and at the national convention. Yet only one number was released. Did they simply average the two votes? Did they add them all together? Or did they only release the higher of the two?

The Big Guy Speaks

There’s not a lot I can add about the PM’s Friday night speech. By now, most Canadians have heard a few of Paul’s speeches, and this one wasn’t remarkable in any ways (but, then again, are any of them?). I did find it better than his acceptance speech when he won the leadership for a few reasons reasons. One, he emphasized the “team” aspect of the party. Right now, the PM isn’t popular so he emphasized out Brison and Dryden and Dosanj and Emerson and, gulp, Jean Lapierre. Also, we didn’t hear the wild promises about changing the very nature of government that would be impossible to keep. If the Liberals are going to make “promises made, promises kept” their slogan, then Harper just needs to run commercials with excerpts of Paul’s acceptance speech: “fix health care for a generation”, “politics of achievement”, “better US relations”, “fixing provincial-federal relations”, “making history”…

But most important was that he actually talked about the Liberal Party. In the past, it’s been all about the Paul Martin Party and it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that the big guy was embarrassed to be a Liberal. But he ended the speech with “I’m proud to be a Liberal” and I think that was nice. Like Warren said, we heard nary a word about Jean Chretien, but it’s not like that was a huge surprise. But saying he’s proud to be a Liberal and emphasizing the party’s rich history is a step in the right direction.

Dream Team

One of the interesting events of the weekend was the accountability session where the Prime Minister fielded questions from the floor and then picked on a lucky Cabinet Minister to answer the question. After a few laughable questions early on of the variety “I love what you’ve done Paul, Canadians adore this program but, if it were possible to be any greater, how could you achieve this greatness?”. But then we saw some very tough questions on the fiscal imbalance, asymmetrical federalism, private clinics in Quebec, and the Arar Inquiry. These questions were completely dodged, leaving the session as nothing more than a glorified question period. It’s no wonder that I swear a caught Reg Alcock snoozing on one of the camera shots on him.

As he was for much of the weekend, Ralph Goodale was the star of the show, with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet heaping as much praise as humanly possible on Ralph and his budget. This was a little surprising due to the amount of criticism we heard from Martin’s people that John Manley’s one budget had no vision and was too back loaded. If there is anyone out there who can tell me the theme of Ralph Goodale’s budget, please let me know.

During one of the questions to Goodale, he came very close to breaking the one major taboo of the convention. When talking about the string of balanced budgets, he gushed something along the lines of “Paul Martin as finance minister yada yada yada, because Paul Martin and (pause) the former Prime Minister yada yada yada”. You could tell Ralph had come about 2 seconds from saying the name of “he who is not allowed to be named” at this convention.

Promises Made, Promises Kept

Got back into town last night after what was a fairly uneventful Liberal convention. Despite this, I promised an update, and the theme of the convention was “Promises Made, Promises Kept”, so I’ll throw a few posts up. In general, it was probably lower attended than past policy conventions, but the general consensus seems to be it was a net gain for the party, so I’m sure the organizers are smiling this morning. We got some interesting policy debate but since the PM has made it clear he doesn’t particularly care about the policies passed, there’s not a lot I can say about that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bon Voyage

I'm off to Ottawa for the Liberal convention in about an hour. If I have internet access in my hotel, there will be frequent updates. If not, then, I wouldn't expect a heck of a lot. I've glanced through the resolutions being debated quickly and, among the highlights:

-Anti-BMD: Not sure if this one will be debated anymore. If so, then the most interesting (and potentially embarrassing for the PM) policy is out of play.

-Nuclear Power: This one could be interesting. It calls for nuclear plants in Saskatchewan. If you're pro-nuclear power, you'll vote for it, if you're anti-nuclear power, you'll say "who cares? It's Saskatchewan."

-Education: A ton of post-secondary education resolutions which is an encouraging sign, considering how this topic was completely ignored in the budget.

-Kyoto: One resolution calls for a firm Kyoto plan.

-Aboriginals: One calls for a guaranteed proportion of aboriginals in the House of Commons and the Senate. It also calls for the government to appoint five aboriginal Senators before the next election. Heck, I'd be shocked if Mr.Dithers appoints five Senators before the next election.

-Marijuana legalization: Apparently the leader of the marijuana party has joined the Liberals. Whether or not the 220 Canadians who votes for him follow is a mystery...

-Prostitution decriminalization: Well, I'm sure some MPs will be backing this one...

-Seniors: One calls for a Ministry of Seniors to be established. I imagine this Minister would be responsible to travel across the country and field complaints about how "my kids don't call me anymore".

-Health Care: Liberals like it. Now there's a controversial resolution.

-Same Sex Marriage: There are both anti and pro SSM resolutions up for debate. Most certainly, these will be the ones the media focuses on.

Since this blog might be inactive for the next few days, feel free to debate any of these in the comments section. There's also a good discussion going on in the liberal leadership post, so feel free to add comments to that one.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Taking One for the Team

Alex Himelfarb, whose job depends on Paul Martin’s good graces and therefore has no real reason to make the PM look bad, dropped this fun little tid-bit of news yesterday at round 2 of the Gomery Inquiry, which has now moved from Salem to Montreal.

Apparently, Chretien offered to take the heat over Sheila Fraser’s report but Paul decided not to take him up on the offer. Presumably Martin was worried that Chretien would not have the common sense to run across the country screaming “This scandal is outrageous! There was political direction! LIBERALS ARE TERRIBLE!”. He was also probably concerned that Chretien would not call a judicial inquiry, robbing Paul of the chance to appear before Gomery and spend 6 hours explaining how he solved the Mexican Peso crisis.

Or maybe he was just in a hurry to get to 24 Sussex Drive. Maybe, to quote George Bush, he “misunderestimated” the effect of the report. Maybe he wanted to show he was an agent of change, as Paul Wells speculates. Maybe he thought he’d look decisive by “getting to the bottom” of the scandal. Maybe he just couldn't stand the thought of asking Chretien for a favour.

I don’t particularly care about the reason. The reason this interests me is that there are still quite a few Martin Liberals in Calgary who insist the sponsorship scandal was a ticking time bomb left by Chretien, as pay-back to Martin. Oops – guess not.