Monday, February 28, 2005

Follow the Leader

It’s not surprising that Liberal leadership talk has heated up a bit heading into this week’s convention. No one is organizing to take Paul out (not enough MacBeth readers among leadership candidates) as most are willing to look past his disappointing tenure as PM and remember his years of undivided and unquestionable loyalty. Ha ha. No, seriously, I expect he’ll get a fairly good total at the leadership review since:

a) Most people who hate him are sitting on their hands and out of the party
b) Most serious leadership candidates were disgusted with the plotting to take out Chretien and won’t challenge him
c) The party is in an unstable situation with the minority government
d) I doubt they’ll even count the ballots. David Herle’s already picked the number in his mind and that’s what will be announced.

But, despite this, there will no doubt be a few whispers in the hospitality sweets about the “next one”. This week, we saw Peter C. Newman toot Michael Ignatieff’s name which is interesting because that's about a serious a suggestion as Justin Trudeau. We’ve also seen the leadership contenders snipping among themselves over John Manley’s “shocking” claims that *gasp* the best candidate, regardless of language, should be chosen.

For those handicapping the field, these would be the favourites, as I see it, with their Vegas odds in brackets:

John Manley (7-2): The Chretien team likes him and he’s had a wide range of Cabinet portfolios, having done well in almost all of them. OK, OK, so he’s not exactly Mr.Charisma and Paul’s inner circle is still aghast that he would have the nerve to question the Liberal party’s membership rules (Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta slogan: “There are too many Liberal Party members in Alberta!”).

Frank “We’ve already joined missile defense” McKenna (6-1): One blogger dubbed him “our very own Paul Cellucci”. But, hey, a lot of the Martinites like him and he could be the man to deliver those 2 seats in New Brunswick the Liberals are missing.

Martin Cauchon (6-1): Will definitely run. Believes it’s the turn of a francophone. Some delegates might feel it’s time for a candidate who can at least match Gilles Ducceppe’s English skills. His pro-gay marriage and pro-pot time in justice will make him a winner in Quebec.

Scott Brison (8-1): The sleeper pick of the field. I think Canadians will accept an openly gay Prime Minister. But I’m not sure they’d accept and openly Tory one.

Brian Tobin (10-1): Holds the record for most references to cod fish ever in a political memoir.

Joe Volpe (15-1): He’s a conniving little SOB who won’t be afraid to take over ridings, strong-arm the competition and have the mafia “disappear” his rivals. Will do well in the GTA which could make him a king-maker.

Maurizio Bevilacqua (15-1): Maurizio Who? Don’t underestimate this guy.

Ken Dryden (15-1): Paul Wells’ description of this guy as an Ent is all too fitting. If he’d run 5 years sooner and surrounded himself with political advisors, he’d be unstoppable. He’s been deflecting shots from right-wingers from years and who else can bring Habs and Leafs fans together? Besides, it’s almost unbelievable that Canada hasn’t had a hockey player as Prime Minister yet.

Others: Pierre Pettigrew (nice hair, but too incompetent), Dennis Corderre (see Pierre Pettigrew comment, minus the nice hair), Sheila Copps (remember her?), Anne McLellan (could be the token female and token Western candidate), David Emerson...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Perpetual Opposition

Here's a press release from the provincial Liberals. Lots of good ideas in the bunch. Heck, if the federal Libs can steal Tory and NDP ideas, maybe Klein can peg off a few of these. The province would be better off if he did.

Liberal Opposition Committing to Alberta’s Future

Edmonton - A commitment to Alberta's future will top the Alberta Liberal's legislative agenda for the spring session. Alberta's Legacy Act would establish, in law, how the government will invest surpluses in Alberta's future.

"The Alberta Liberals are committed to turning non-renewable resource wealth into something permanent," said Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft. "So we're proposing a bill based on our election platform, to stream surplus oil and gas revenues into savings accounts for the benefit of generations to come."

"Albertans want their government to have a vision for the future," says Taft. "Since the Klein Tories don't have a plan, we will push legislation to ensure some visionary thinking is brought to the table."

Bill 203, sponsored by Hugh MacDonald, would see the government commit 35% of the surplus to a Post-Secondary Education Endowment Fund – to improve accessibility and excellence at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. Another 35% of the surplus would go into the Heritage Fund to transform fleeting resource revenues into a permanent revenue source. Twenty five per cent of the surplus would go to the Capital Account to eliminate Alberta’s $8 billion infrastructure debt over 10 years and the remaining 5% would be invested into an Endowment Fund for the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts to increase funding and encourage exploration in these fields.

Other opposition bills to be brought forward this session include an act to protect people in long term care. The Provincial Standards of Care Act, sponsored by Bridget Pastoor, would set standards for long-term care facilities in areas such as staffing to resident ratios, refusal of treatment rights, and nutrition and food safety.

The Alberta Liberals will also present legislation to ensure Alberta's water supply does not become a commodity to be traded like oil and gas. A draft proposal of the Water Protection and Conservation Act, sponsored by David Swann, also contains provisions to eliminate the use of fresh water for oil well injection.
Deputy Leader Dave Taylor will sponsor the Electoral Reform Act which would establish a Citizen's Assembly to recommend and implement democratic reform measures such as fixed election dates, and proportional representation.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

20 Questions

First of all, I think we made the right call on Star Wars, for the reasons previously discussed. But the PM’s handling of this has been a little awkward, to put it mildly. Now that we finally know Canada won’t be a part of missile defense, a few questions need answering. The first three are either asked or hinted at by Paul Wells.

20 Questions for Paul Martin

1. Did you try to telephone George W. Bush with the news?
2. Is the president taking your calls?
3. Was this handled better than Chretien’s decision to not send troops to Iraq which your advisors heavily criticized? If so, how?
4. As Stephen Harper asked in question period today, what exactly are we saying no to?
5. Can you specify what aspect of BMD led you to reject it?
6. Were there any conditions under which you would have joined BMD?
7. Paul Cellucci says that Canada has given up its “sovereignty” and will no longer have a say on missiles coming towards Canada. Is this true?
8. When did the government arrive at this decision?
9. Earlier this week, government MPs said the House would be informed when a decision was made. However, Codi Rice and Cellucci were called two days ago with our decision. Phrasing this in the form of a question: What the hell?
10. I hate to use the f-word, but you’ve previously been very much in favour of BMD. I know on same sex marriage you were previously “divided” but on this one you were squarely in favour. Is this a flip-flop? If so, please explain the reasons for flip-floping.
11. Bill Graham, the Minister of Defense, has said there would be grave consequences if Canada didn't join missile defense. Do you still feel these consequences will happen and, if so, what will they entail?
12. Has Bill Graham changed his position on missile defense too?
13. Did Frank McKenna’s announcement on Tuesday that we’ve joined BMD have anything to do with the timing of the announcement?
14. Speaking of which, now that we’ve said “no”, what did Frank McKenna mean?
15. Why didn’t you wait a week to see what the Liberal Party’s grass-roots had to say about the issue at their policy convention next week?
16. In the throne speech amendment, you agreed to hold a vote on missile defense. Why isn’t this vote being held?
17. How did you let Jack Layton lead the national debate on this issue?
18. I take it George Bush likely won’t be cheering on the L-20 idea, right?
19. It’s worth asking again: What exactly did we say “no” to?
20. Mr. Martin, how did you solve the Mexican peso crisis? (courtesy of Neil Finkelstein)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A New Strategy

It was very interesting to see the opposition parties react to today's budget. In the past you could count on the "Progressive Reform Alliance of Conservatives" to scream the budget was too far left and the "Nouveau Bloc Democratique" to complain the budget was too far right. The end result? Everyone sees the Liberals as the party in the middle. This time, the story was completely different.

You had Stephen Harper coming as close to happy as he's physically capable of looking. "A marvelous budget! Just smashing!" he gushed. "Monte couldn't have done a better job himself!"

Then, Gilles Ducceppe and Jack Layton got up and huffed and puffed about the Liberals not working with them. Now, Gilles Ducceppe hates Canada and would scoff at the budget if Goodale announced a 10 billion dollar transfer to Quebec. But Layton's talking points were very interesting. He talked about how Martin convinced left-wing voters to vote for him last election and that he's now betrayed them.

So what does this all mean? Well, to me, it looks like an absolutely brilliant strategy from the opposition parties. I think we can all agree that Martin "won" the last election by convincing voters that Stephen Harper was a scary, scary man. I think it's also not a stretch to say that the few times the Conservatives have had success since World War 1 has been when they've offered "Liberal Government without Liberals". With Martin set to move left on Same Sex marriage and Missile Defense, it's imperative that the opposition parties convince Canadians that there's no difference between him and Stephen Harper. The Conservatives need this if Harper ever wants to become Prime Minister, and the Nouveau Bloc Democratique needs this so that their voters aren't scared into voting for Martin to stop Harper.

When the attack adds against Stephen Harper start next election, Jack Layton will be able to stand up and say that the Liberals gave Canada a Conservative budget and that there's no difference between Martin and Harper. Harper meanwhile will be able to subtly imply that there's little difference between him and Martin. I think voters are looking for an excuse to boot Paul, and if Harper doesn't look too scary, they'll make the switch.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

So Where Does Ann Coulter Fit on the Scale?

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph and an astute reader of this blog, comes this absolutely hilarious story about the US judicial system. Here's the lead:

Psychiatrists devise 'depravity rating' to help courts decide on death sentences
By Charles Laurence in New York(Filed: 20/02/2005)

A "depravity rating" that measures evil and will help courts decide whether convicted murderers should face execution or just imprisonment has been drawn up by American psychiatrists.

For decades, doctors shunned the use of the word "evil" on the grounds that it crossed the line between clinical and moral judgment.

Now, however, two studies of the criminal personality have concluded that "evil" should be used to describe the most vicious criminals – and that it can be measured.

In the first study, Dr Michael Stone, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, examined the biographies of more than 500 killers in New York's Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Centre and developed a 22-level "gradations of evil" list.

"After years of study, we have learned to recognize the traits of these people: what they do and why they do it," he said. "It is time to give them the proper appellation – evil."

We go on to learn that this "will become part of our system of law within a few years" to help decide if killers get the death penalty.

You can see the full chart here. Among the highlights of the 22 point "degrees of evilness" scale:

1. Those who have killed in self-defense but do not show psychopathic tendencies.
7. Highly narcissistic, but not distinctly psychopathic people, with a psychotic core, who kill those close to them.
8. Non-psychopathic people with smouldering rage who kill when rage is ignited. (ed: So, I guess the Hulk would qualify in this category)
10. Killers of people who were "in the way". Egocentric but not distinctly psychopathic.
12. Power-hungry psychopaths who killed when they were cornered. (ed: So, in other words, most politicians)
14. Ruthlessly self-centered psychopathic schemers. (ed: David Herle?)
17. Sexually perverse murderers.
18. Torture-murderers with murder as the primary motive.
19. Psychopaths driven to terrorism, subjugation, intimidation and rape. Short of murder. (ed: Any readers into really kinky sex better be careful.)
20. Torture-murderers with torture as the primary motive, but not psychopathic personalities. (ed: torture-murders who aren't psychopathic? How many well adjusted torture-murderers are there out there?)
21. Psychopaths concerned with torture to the extreme but not known to have committed murder. (ed: I assume those in the US military are immune)
22. Psychopathic torture-murders with torture as their primary motive

I'm Mad as Hell!!!

Not surprisingly, Warren is all over this under-reported story. It appears that the public accounts committee is going to start digging around in PM2's private little government contract machine, Earnscliffe. Now, I'm sure that the Department of Finance would never in a million years have dreamed about giving a special contract to a firm where every single member of the Martin leadership machine worked, but the implication is worrisome. I mean, special favours to a Liberal-friendly firm? Millions of dollars at stake? Political direction?

I'd say it's time for another mad as hell tour.

Another Episode of Star Wars

There's a good discussion going on in the comments section on BMD so I thought I'd elaborate a bit more on the topic. Paul Wells got a great cross-section of comments on the topic last month - feel free to check them out here.

This is an issue I can see both sides of. I can respect the "it's retarded, but who cares?" position. Basically, if it doesn't cost us a cent, why not go on board to help US relations, right? Mind you, I don't think this will have a huge impact in US relations. People keep pointing to softwood and mad cow, but I suspect that these trade tariffs are in place to please interests in the US. I can't imagine tariffs suddenly going up because of Canada's non-decision on Star Wars. You also have to look to Iraq. What if the US agreed to pay to send 200 Canadian troops there? It wouldn't cost us a cent. Yet many would still be against it if it's perceived as "wrong".

Is this as bad as Iraq? Well, no. But Martin has said that his government is against the "weaponization of space" and that's the road we're heading down. There have been numerous quotes from people in the Pentagon that the long-term goal of missile defense is to weaponize space. I know some people say we'll have a "seat at the table" but I can't imagine the US listening to Canada on this in a million years.

Even without the weaponization of space, it's a terrible idea. Every test done to date has failed miserably. It's like shooting down one bullet with another bullet. And it's costing billions. And for what? What nation in their right mind would send a missile to the United States, knowing they'd get obliterated 20 minutes later. No state is going to take the US on. The real threat comes from terrorist groups who will smuggle dirty bombs into the country or sail ships full of explosives into harbours.

All this program serves is a way to appease the neo-cons and weapons programs. It's an utterly stupid idea. If the US wants to do it, then fine. But I can't see any benefits to Canada joining.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Star Wars: A New Hope

According to Question Period today, it looks like the Liberals will back out of missile defense. This will mark a sharp contrast (notice the avoidance of the term flip-flop) to Martin's position during the leadership race when Sheila Copps shouted about missile defense and Paul said we "had to be at the table". This was significant since Paul's time during the leadership "race" consisted of grandiose statements such as "I support puppies, sunshine, and lollipops...except without the skin cancer, rabies, and tooth decay." In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the only two concrete promises made by Martin during the leadership race was that he'd say "yes" to Star Wars, and "no" to Bob Nault's very good Native governance bill.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very glad we'll be backing out of missile defense - it's a stupid idea that will never work. But for a guy who promised better relations with the provinces and better relations with the States, Paulie's not exactly coming through.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dithers! Release the Hounds!

Often enough, it's not policy decisions or broken promises that destroy politicians. It's stupid little things like dropped footballs and purple dinosaurs. Perception is everything.

And this, is not good.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Skating Off Topic

I generally like to stick to politics on this blog because, as Stephen Harper says, it’s a slippery slope. One day I talk about music, the next day sports, the next day you’re getting weather reports (5 bellow and snowy) and men are marrying their toasters. But, I’ll quickly mention in passing how Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow are ruining a lot more in Canada than any offshore oil deal ever could.

The fact that the two sides were a mere 6.5 million apart but couldn’t make a deal is mind-boggling. The fact is, with the roll back, only 7 teams would qualify under a 42 million dollar cap. Surely they could have met in the middle at 45 million and tweaked out the details, right? I know these negotiations are a bit more complex than federal/provincial talks where the head waiter, err, Prime Minister, basically cuts a deal to give the provinces whatever they want, but still. With only 6 or 7 teams in cap range, the 3 million each side would have to give means we’re talking about 20 million dollars. Do the two sides even have a remote idea of the damage that will be done to the league by canceling a season? We’re talking about a 30% drop in revenue when the league gets going again, bare minimum. That works out to a lot more than 30 million dollars. It’s become all about crushing the other side and claiming victory, rather than working out a fair deal everyone can live with. Now, we’re going to get replacement players, court challenges, and maybe even the players trying their own league.

Blame the owners, blame the players…it doesn’t realty matter. Both sides have been completely pig-headed this entire time. The fact that they waited until February to start real negotiations, 48 hours before the season was to be cancelled tells you the nature of this dispute.

And, in honour of Gary and Bob, since I feel I should throw something political into the discussion, I present, in my humble opinion, the five greatest blood feuds in Canadian political history:

1. Pierre Trudeau vs Rene Levesque: Two political titans who squared off on the very existence of the country.

2. John A MacDonald vs Louis Riel: They probably never met, but anyone who has ever taken a Canadian History course knows all about them. I swear, Louis Riel and the Manitoba School crisis are all history textbooks seem to know about this country's history.

3. Jean Chretien vs Paul Martin Jr: The best rivalry of this generation. The weird thing is, they worked great together in government.

4. Dalton Camp vs John Diefenbaker: Heck, in Diefenbaker’s mind everyone was his rival.

5. Mackenzie King vs Lord Byng: If you thought Adrienne Clarkson got criticized a lot…

Feel free to add some more in the comments section…we aren’t going to see Oilers/Flames or Habs/Leafs this year so we may have to settle for McGuinty/Martin and Brison/MacKay.

Drinking Game

Paul Wells speculated about Paul Martin's speech on Same Sex Marriage here. The gist of Wells' question:

The question at hand isn't "How do you like that Charter, eh?" It's: "Is it right and proper that Parliament endorse equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians?" The elementary test for a prime minister who believe the answer is "Yes" is that he say the words.

Well, I read through Martin's speech. Here's a fun drinking game: Every time Martin explicitly says that it's the right thing for gays and lesbians to marry, take a drink. The fun thing about this game is that you can still drive home afterwards and operate heavy machinery.

Now, the more dangerous game would be the one where you take a shot every time Martin mentions "minority rights" or the "charter". I'd make sure you're drinking some watered down American beer for this one because I counted 29 references to these two topics. 29.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia

Courtesy of Lysiane Gagnon , we get some revisionist history in yesterday's Globe:

“In the years after the referendum, the sovereigntist forces were in disarray, and then Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard had turned his energy toward reducing the province's deficit. He was actually so lukewarm toward the idea of renewing the fight for independence that the hard-liners in his party were beginning to see him as a traitor. If he had been foolish enough to call for a referendum, he would have lost it.

Where was Mr. Chrétien at the time? Didn't he realize that when Mr. Bouchard said he would call a referendum if there were "winning conditions," it was mere posturing? Didn't he look at the polls, all of them bad for the separatist camp? There were no "winning conditions." And this was not due to the host of federally sponsored activities. Simply put, most Quebeckers didn't want to break with Canada, and the exceptional conditions that had led to an unexpected surge of nationalistic fervour in the last two weeks of the referendum campaign were now absent. Mr. Bouchard was no longer a hero embodying the nation; he had become a dutiful, often- criticized premier -- a politician like so many others.”

Now, anyone who hasn't gotten the latest press release from the Ministry of Truth knows this isn't true. So, I did a quick google search of "quebec separatism 1996 poll" and come across this interesting Ekos poll:

"When the same question was asked in April, 1996, on the heels of the razor-thin 1995 referendum victory by federalist forces, 45 per cent felt separation was likely within five years and 62 felt it likely within 10 years. "

Sounds like a real threat to me, eh? Luckily the threat was addressed with the Chretien government's unity strategy. And unless Jean Charest calls a referendum in the next year, I'd say it's a safe bet the 62% will have been proven wrong. As I've said before, the sponsorship program wasn't the greatest idea in the world but it was part of a larger plan. And the results of that larger plan? Well, if you were paying attention to that last quote, you may have noticed it was talking about the past. Let's take a look at the rest of this 2001 poll:

When Quebecers were asked about the likelihood that Quebec will separate from Canada within five years, only 13 per cent thought it likely. Only 20 per cent thought it likely within 10 years.

When Canadians outside Quebec were asked the same question last month, 10 per cent felt a separate Quebec likely within five years and 14 per cent within 10 years.

Now repeat after me: "Separatism was never an issue...separatism was never an issue...Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia..."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Poll pourri

A few interesting polls have come out over the past few days that deserve attention. First off is bad news for the Liberals from SES:

LIB - 38% (-3)
CP - 29% (+3)
NDP -17% (0)
BQ - 11% (0)
GP - 5% (-1)
*12% were undecided (-2)

In short, nothing at all has changed since the last election. Yawn. But regionally, since the last poll, the Liberals are down 10 points in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Why?

Well, perhaps the reason can be attributed to this poll in the Toronto Star. It shows that Canadians favour same sex marriage by a razor thin 42-40 margin. Interestingly, Ontario is right behind Alberta in the intolerance field with a shocking 48% opposing equal marriage, and only 35% in favour. Given that the Tories are up in Ontario, it seems pretty self-evident to me that the rural Ontario vote is sliding towards Harper on the Same Sex issue.

Everyone in the media has been slamming Harper’s stance on SSM. But consider a few things:
1. The country is fairly split on the issue
2. Bloc and NDP voters overwhelmingly support equal marriage
3. The Conservatives are the only party opposed to it
4. There are more Liberals than Conservatives out there

Do the math in your head and it becomes clear that Harper stands to gain a lot more votes than he’ll lose on this issue. The Globe & Mail yesterday mentions an internal Conservative poll that said the party could gain 6 percentage points from the Liberals on the issue and only lose 2 percentage points. Given the Liberals only won by 7% last June, that’s quite significant. It won’t help Harper break Quebec or the GTA but those seats in rural Ontario and the Maritimes are ripe for the taking.

Also in the news is missile defense. More and more Canadians are strongly opposing the idea which is going to put both Martin and Harper in difficult situations. I’m not sure how this will play out, but nuclear missiles brought down Diefenbaker so it’s not surprising that this is turning into a major issue. Much like equalization, this is an issue Martin has brought upon himself. By dithering on this, it's turned from a non-issue into an explosive one.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

On The Attack

Also getting in on the Gomery discussion is Mike Brock, a very deserving winner of the Conservative blog of the year. Brock takes issue with the context argument so I’m going to try and clarify why it was important for Chretien to establish the context behind the program. Basically, the perception in the public is that this scandal was about the Liberal Party giving kick-backs to their friends. And because of the sensationalization of this inquiry, a large segment of the population is under the mistaken opinion that Chretien was the mastermind behind this. It didn’t help when Gomery had his brain fart before Christmas or when Martin said their was “political direction” a year ago. It was therefore necessary to explain why the program was brought into being. It was not created as a way to money launder, it was created to save the country. Yes, a lot of bad things happened but Chretien admitted as much when he testified on Tuesday.

The point is, this program was one part of a greater unity strategy that worked. Brock points to the Bloc’s recent success to try and paint this unity strategy as a failure. Yes, the Bloc is doing well, but separatism is still polling way down. Jean Charest is Premier of Quebec, Chretien made huge seat gains in 1997 and 2000, and Lucien Bouchard never got to call another referendum. In addition, we have a Clarity Act that will make it very difficult for Quebec to separate in the future. The situation is A LOT less serious than it was back in 1996. That’s what people forget. Jean Chretien has spent his entire career fighting for Canada. For him, it was a war. Sometimes, the general makes a bad decision, but it’s ridiculous to skewer him over the mistakes people bellow him may have made when every other decision in the unity plan worked. Neither the PM nor the Minister of Finance micro-manage every single decision that occurs in government and painting them as culprits in this is disingenuous. I think the reason Brock and a lot of those on the right don’t like Chretien is the same reason I can’t stand Klein – he’s a winner. Like it or not, Jean Chretien is arguable the most electorally successful Prime Minister in the history of this country. He had every right to tee off against those who were trying to destroy his name. Yes, I’m biased, I like the guy. But I’d defend Brian Mulroney’s right to clear his name if he got unfairly blamed for something occurring under his watch. With Bernard Roy and Gomery Pyle ambushing and degrading Chretien, just like Mike, Chretien had every right to go "on the attack".

And heck, the golf ball gag was the funniest political stunt since Barney the Dinosaur and Doris Day. Regardless of your political stripes, you've got to admit that.

Sponsorship Idol

I've been getting some interesting feedback on the last few posts about the Gomery Inquiry so I'll spill a bit more virtual ink on this topic (since I think this story is now going to get very little attention outside of Quebec until the final report is published).

First up is TDH who has a very good blog I encourage everyone to check out. From what I've seen of it, the guy is ten times more effective at attacking Martin than Stephen Harper will ever be.

TDH rightly points to the puffball questions Mr.Finkelstein lobbed the PM's way. Don Martin compared the questioning to "watching future federal court judges filling out their job applications". I'd personally compare it to Ben Mulroney interviewing contestants on Canadian Idol. This is quite surprising considering Chretien got treated like he was in Nuremburg on Tuesday. Not that JC would mind - I'm sure he was itching for a fight and he gave a lot better than he got.

TDH brings up a previous statement by Stephane Dion which draws Martin closer to the program. I'm also surprised that we heard very little of letters by Akaash Maharaj and Terrie O'Leary drawing Martin closer to the program. Instead, we got a series of questions of the sort:

"Mr. Martin, tell us how you rescued Canada from economic ruin."
"Mr. Martin, of all your budgets, which was your favourite?"
"Mr. Martin, when writing a budget, what font do you prefer?"

Don't get me wrong, it was sort of interesting to learn everything accomplished by the Department of Finance between 1993 and 2002, but I'm not sure it was worth 60 million dollars and the spectacle of seeing two Prime Ministers testify. And for the record, I believe Martin when he says he was out of the loop on Quebec. Mainly because Paul Martin would be the last person Jean Chretien would trust on Quebec. Martin messed up badly when he spoke during the referendum (he was ridiculed for saying a yes vote would cost Quebec a million jobs), he opposed the Clarity Act, and he associated with separatists (Chretien likely feared that if Martin were Prime Minister, he'd do something stupid like name a separatist as Minister of Transport). Of course he was out of the loop on Quebec.

I do think Martin's painting himself to be a bit naive as to when he actually learned about the program. But he has to get re-elected and both him and Chretien likely didn't find out about how bad things were until it was too late to do anything. Well, except bring in campaign finance reform which Jean Chretien did (over the protests of a certain Lasalle-Emard MP). But Mr.Finkelstein was too star struck to ask the tough questions so instead we got Ryan Seacrest.

No, No, This Is Too Much Fun

This is priceless

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Grudging Credit

I have to admit that Paul did a fairly good job at the inquiry today. I wasn’t wowed by his performance like I was by Chretien on Tuesday (everyone I’ve talked to, even people who hate Chretien, agree the golf ball stunt was one of the all-time great performances of political theater) but he’s coming from the much more difficult position of needing to get re-elected. He was relatively clear and consistent, and distanced himself from the program as much as he could. All in all, a solid performance – I’d been expecting a lot worse. And that is one thing Paul Martin has going for him now, I think. Last year, the expectations were so high that he inevitably fell short. After seeing him as Prime Minister for over a year, I think it’s safe to say that Canadians now have very low expectations for him so he can only exceed them.

And I’ll say that the other favourite target of this blog, Ralph Klein, came out with a fairly solid State of the Province. His support for post-secondary education and an increased minimum wage is long overdue. His post-secondary support does not come even remotely close to the Liberal platform promises but it’s a start.

Gossip Mongers

I do love Pierre Bourque's site, but at times the "breaking news" insider rumours of his can be a bit over the top ("Bernard Lord ready to run!!!"). According to his latest update, "persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin are looking for ways to put the kibosh on the long-running Gomery Adscam Inquiry".

Now, as politically inept as "persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin" are, I can't believe that "persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin" would be this stupid. If persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin were to "kibosh" the inquiry, we all know that the next day there would be a non-confidence motion in the House of Commons and an election where the Bloc and Conservatives would have the campaign issue of a lifetime.

That said, I think there may be some truth behind Pierre's rumours in that persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin are likely having some regrets about the inquiry. Given the heaps of money burned by the inquiry, the performance of the Judge, and the lack of new information that's been unearthed, Martin and friends are finally starting to realize what an incredibly stupid idea it was to set up the inquiry in the first place. Hell, it didn't even succeed in embarrassing Jean Chretien - that was likely its main purpose in the eyes of many in the PMO.

But, right or wrong, Gomery is here to stay. Persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin set it up, and persons close to Prime Minister Paul Martin are going to have to live with the consequences.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ballsy Performance

Wow. People have underestimated Jean Chretien his entire career. His success has been written off to weak opposition. But, love him or hate him, everyone who watched him today saw why he’s one of the most successful politicians in Canada’s history. Regardless of what you think of the guy, it’s impossible not to have been impressed with his performance today.

Right from the opening statement, he set the tone. THIS is how the scandal should have been handled in the first place. One year ago when Sheila Fraser dropped the bombshell, Martin panicked and changed his story every day. First, it was "rogue beaurocrats". Then there was "political direction". He claimed he was "out of the loop" on Quebec but vowed to "get to the bottom of it". Then the Mad as Hell tour started with Martin going across the country with a clear message:


Contrast that to Jean Chretien's defense today. First of all, he admitted that mistakes were made. There's no hiding from that. This was a huge waste of government dollars and taxpayers have a right to be annoyed. But context was given for the program. Remember, this Prime Minister was accused relentlessly (somewhat unfairly) of being too passive during the 1995 Referendum so he had to do something. Maybe it wasn't the most brilliant idea and had flaws, but in 1995 and 1996 the threat of separation was very real. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t remember the power Lucien Bouchard held over Quebeckers. And that's why this program was set up. Chretien also offered up the very reasonable explanation as to why "Liberal-friendly" firms got contracts: The contract is either going to a Liberal or a Separatist firm. If you're promoting national unity, you don't give the contract to a separatist firm. Well, duh. There aren’t a lot of NDP-friendly firms in Quebec.

And then there were the golf balls. Sheer brilliance. I won’t say much about that because every paper in the country will lead with it tomorrow, but the way they were used, the lines he delivered, the subtle shots at Gomery’s ties to Ogilvy Renault and Bernard Roy…it was political theatre at its best. The fact that he held off defending himself until he knew it would have the greatest impact was also a very wise move. Westmount cheap.

And since all of his enemies were feeling blows on Tuesday, there was also a parting shot or two at Martin. I quote:

"During the course of my administration, the minister of finance and I always agreed to set aside $50 million a year for expenditures related to national unity that would be decided upon during the course of the year,"

Now, contrast this to what Martin has said:

"I had no idea what was going on here." – Prime Minister Paul Martin after the release of the report

"It is no secret that I did not have an easy relationship with those around the prime minister. In short, my advice was not routinely sought on issues related to Quebec." – Paul Martin

Should make Thursday even more interesting! As always, Martin’s got a tough act to follow.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Next Chief?

The domination of the Liberal Party in the 20th century has been remarkable. It’s obviously not just a series of a flukes or the fact that John A MacDonald hung Louis Riel. Since the Great Depression, the Conservatives have had only two breaks from Liberal rule (or, as they say in Alberta, “Liberal oppression”). Well, Joe Clark had a week or two, but I think that was more because Pierre Trudeau needed a vacation and people across Canada needed comic relief.

John Diefenbaker won in 1957, and Brian Mulroney won in 1984. In both cases, they ran to the left of the Liberals or, at the very least, in the same general vicinity of them on the political spectrum. One of the main reasons Diefenbaker succeeded in ’57 was because he indirectly promised people “Liberal government, without Liberals”. He was a Red Tory, in every sense of the word. He was seen as progressive because he was the only Conservative to vote in favour of family allowances when the Liberals brought it in. Sure, he was a paranoid ditherer, but he was a left-leaning paranoid ditherer.

So why is this relevant? Two reasons. First of all, there’s this head-scratching article in the Globe and Mail (slogan: “No headline too sensationalistic!”) under the headline “Harper faces split in party”. Apparently, Harper is trying to pack their leadership convention with right wing conservatives. I’m going to assume this is sloppy journalism because Stephen Harper is a lot smarter than this. I know some people feel Harper can win with a clear, right wing platform, but I don’t buy it. That might work for Bernard Lord or Belinda Stronach, but Harper is still associated with his reform-alliance days and if he doesn’t look moderate, there’s no way Ontario (or Quebec for that matter but we’re more likely to see Liberal seats in Calgary than Tory seats in Quebec, so why even worry about it?) will ever elect him. The absolute worst thing the Conservatives could do would be to say anything about abortion at their policy convention or in their platform. I don’t care if it’s a reasonable policy against late-term abortions than 70% of Canadians would agree with if they took the time to think about it. We saw what happened last time they mentioned the a-word: “STEPHEN HARPER WILL TAKE AWAY A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE! CHARTER OF RIGHTS!!!! OVER MY DEAD BODY!!! COME HELL OR HIGH WATER!!!! LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR – HARPER IS GEORGE W BUSH!!!!” That will happen again, if they so much as touch the issue.

Despite this, we saw Calgary MP Jim Prentice announce he’ll vote in favour of Same Sex Marriage. I don’t think Jim Prentice will ever amount to much politically, but keep an eye on Belinda Stronach and James Moore. If we only get 3 or 4 Tories supporting the bill, the few who do will be see by Canadians everywhere as “moderates”. You don’t think when gay marriage has been around for a decade and the fabric of society hasn’t collapsed that those who opposed it will look backwards in the eyes of the majority? Just like Dief made a name for himself supporting family allowance, Stronach and Moore will be launching future leadership campaigns of theirs when they get up to vote for equal marriage this spring. Belinda’s a tough one to predict, but I’m absolutely positive that James Moore is going to be a future Prime Minister of this country. Maybe in 10 years, maybe in 20, but it will happen.

Gomery Pyle? Or a pile of…

I haven’t commented much of the Gomery inquiry so far on this site, mainly since Warren’s written enough on it for the entire blogsphere combined over the past month. So I’m just going to rapid fire out a few comments:

1. I’ve read a lot of opinions from people who feel Chretien shouldn’t be questioning Gomery or pressing forward on legal action. To be clear, I’m not sure Gomery’s comments to date, as stupid as they were, are justification for him to recuse himself from the trial. Butsurely Chretien has a right to ask him to. A judge who is going to decide much of his legacy, and who should be impartial, called the guy “small town cheap”. If I were on trial and I got even so much as a hint that the judge might be biased against me, I’d certainly raise a stink about it. Anyone who says Chretien should just bend over and take it wants to see blood rather than a fair trial.

2. Allan Greg was right all along. He’s said from the beginning that the cost of investigating this scandal will cost more the amount of money that was misspent. Now, we find out, the tab is 60 million and counting.

3. The choice of Bernard Roy as counsel is stupefying. As others have said, it would be akin to having Eddie Goldenberg as counsel the next time (since, of course, there will be a next time) Brian Mulroney goes on trial. Or akin to a Montague trying a Capulet. Or, you know, having Jerry Falwell tried by SpongeBob SquarePants.

4. If you are a delegate to the Conservative or Liberal conventions in March, I’d hold off another week before buying a plane ticket. Given the federal budget will come down a week after Chretien and Martin testify back-to-back, if something bad comes out of their appearances, you can bet we’re heading for an election. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s a possibility.

5. And if the Liberal government should fall on this, or if Martin Jr. should look bad on the stand, remember who called the inquiry. I honestly think this may be the worst managed scandal in Canadian history. From a political perspective, calling the judicial scandal was a huge mistake. And the consequences are now being felt.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Trimming Government Fat

This story caught my eye, if only because it was one of the policies debated, and defeated on the final day at the Liberal convention last weekend.

This is the type of thing I’ve been in favour of for a long time. I really believe the tax code should be modified to reward healthy and environmentally sound choices and to punish poor ones. But after listening to the debate on the topic, I’m now firmly against tax breaks for gym memberships. Why? Because it would amount to nothing more than a tax break for rich, white people. Let’s face it, how many low income single mothers buy gym memberships? The best exercise can sometimes be a jog around the block (or, from my personal experience, running away from a mob of angry gun owners who’ve spotted that Liberal sign on your front lawn).

A fairer way to go about things would be to bring in a “fat tax”. Tax junk foods, fast foods, and fatty/unhealthy foods. I think this is a far better solution than rewarding those who (somewhat ironically) drive across town twice a week in January to walk on a treadmill for an hour.