Friday, November 30, 2007

Nomination Watch

A few updates on provincial nominations across Alberta, courtesy of the good people at Daveberta and Alberta Tory. The full updated list can be found here, but I present a few highlights since I don't feel like blogging about Brian Mulroney today:

-In the south side of Calgary, a trio of candidates were nominated this week for the Alberta Liberals. Former journalist and, most importantly, calgarygrit reader, Laura Shutiak will be carrying the torch in Calgary Fish Creek. A good friend of mine, local lawyer John Roggeveen, will be going again in Calgary Shaw; John has a lot of good ideas about how to improve Alberta-Idaho relations so he should be a formidable foe for Cindy Ady. Lori Czerwinski will be going against Dave Rodney in Calgary Lougheed.

-In Edmonton, the PCs have nominated Naresh Bardwaj, Carl Benito, and a pair of federal Liberals, Andrew Beniuk and Raj Sherman. The ALP will put up former Catholic School Board Chair Debbie Cavaliere against Dr. Sherman in what should be a very competitive race.

-Back in Calgary, Lindsay Blackett will go for the Tories in Calgary North West. btw, Lindsay is a guy.

-Meanwhile, in Calgary Egmont, Craig Chandler ally and riding President David Crutcher has been impeached out of the presidency. In the words of Alberta Tory, one down, one to go...

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You know what your nickname is, Mr. Bigot

Just because I probably won't have the opportunity to take shots at the nominated PC candidate in my home riding past Saturday, I thought I'd toss out a few gems from the best of Craig Chandler courtesy of today's Globe & Mail:

Earlier this year, a settlement arranged by the Canadian Human Rights Commission forced [Chandler] to publish an apology for comments made on a radio program that he co-hosts - among them, reportedly, that "God sees murder as equal to homosexuality." As part of the settlement, he agreed to "cease and desist" from posting information on the Internet claiming that "homosexuals are conspiring against society" and that they are "sick, diseased or mentally ill."

His homophobia appears to know few bounds. On the website of Concerned Christians, he approvingly pointed to a letter by Calgary pastor Stephen Boisson charging that "[w]here homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds." When Belinda Stronach ran for the Conservative leadership, he suggested the presence of gay activists on her campaign team meant "a takeover from the militant homosexual movement" was at hand.

I should point out that all of this was public record when the PCs decided to let him run for the nomination in the first place...

(sorry on the obscure Chandler from Friends reference in the title - it narowly beat out, "Could he BE a bigger homophobe?")


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

If Only They'd Invited Colbert...

I happened to catch the second half of the Republican YouTube debate tonight. Safe to say, Canadian parties could learn a thing or two from this about how to make many-candidate leadership debates interesting. Here are a few random observations:

-Duncan Hunter: "Most army recruits are conservatives with deep judeo-christian values – that’s why we can’t have gays in the military". Whaaaaaaaaaa? Come back Daily Show! Your snark is needed!

-Huckabee on putting an American on Mars: “Maybe Hillary Clinton should be on the first rocket to Mars”.

-Huckabee on What would Jesus do on the death penalty: “Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office.”

-John McCain says the US didn’t lose the Vietnam War. I guess he also believes that John McCain didn’t lose the 2000 Republican nomination.

-Mitt Romney believes nothing he believed 10 years ago…

-When asked about the crumbling infrastructure in the United States, Ron Paul says there’s too much government so…uhh…privately owned roads anyone?

-John McCain says it was Ron Paul’s strategy that allowed Hitler to come to power. It's never a good sign when you're a Republican and running plays from Elizabeth May's strategy book.

-Ron Paul says he had 5,000 people show up at a rally “with flags and Hispanics”. Wow. Flags and hispanics - that must have been quite the organizational feat!

-Giuliani has trouble defending himself on immigration, guns, and...wait for You think he'd have a snappy comeback for his Red Sox rooting by now but he's still stumbling around on that one. My suggested answer for the next time he gets asked the question: "Not rooting for the Red Sox would mean the terrorists win. 9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" It doesn't have the Huckabee witt to it but at least it fits in with his overarching campaign theme.

-Kudos to Fred Thompson for skipping his 120th birthday celebrations to attend the debate.

-Thompson’s youtube video goes after Romney and Huckabee on abortion and taxes. It’s a bad sign when your campaign feels that Mike Huckabee is worthy of an attack add.

-According to the pundits, immigration is the number one issue in Iowa. Go figure.

-A CNN commercial calls this debate “one for the history books”. That may be a bit of a stretch.

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Godwin's Law

Due to our non-aggression pact, I’m unable to criticize Elizabeth May for, yet again, comparing climate change to the Nazis. Instead, I’ll give her some friendly advice in a new blog segment entitled “How Not To Say Stupid Things In Politics”. Given her past comments, I suspect this might turn into quite the lengthy post series.

1. Never ever compare things to World War II, the Nazis, Chamberlain, or anything even remotely connected to Hitler. Like Jon Stewart says, you know who was as bad as Hitler? Hitler.
2. When you say something that gets you into hot water, don’t try and bring it back up six months later. That’s why you don’t see Scott Reid going around saying "you know, I was technically right on the beer and popcorn thing". And that’s why you don’t see (or hear) Tory backbenchers.

3. If something has been compared to "the political equivalent of a kamikaze mission" (again with the WW2 references...) and you were skewered for saying it the first might not want to call your original remarks an "understatement". Again, I hate to use Scott Reid as the role model, but he hasn't said anything like "you know, beer and popcorn was an understatement; single moms could spend the cash on crack and NDP memberships".

Hat Tip: The greatest political organizer in the world

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House Arrest

Well, this should be fun.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Random Stuff

-Saskatchewan tosses out the NDP then takes a Grey Cup a few weeks later - no surprise given the NDP jinx. It was interesting to see Jim Flaherty and Peter MacKay there to present the Grey Cup. I can understand why the Minister of Defense was there when the player of the game had three interceptions but the Finance Minister?

-Speaking of the aforementioned Flaherty, why is Peter Van Loan trying to pick a fight with Dalton McGuinty after Flaherty ended the era of provincial bickering this spring?

-It's great to see Stephen Harper leading on the world stage at the recent Commonwealth meetings. Harper's courageous fight against climate change action this weekend brought back memories of Brian Mulroney bringing the Commonwealth onside with Canada to fight apartheid in South Africa. Bravo Mr Prime Minister!

-For those following the Craig Chandler saga, it sounds like the PCs will be deciding to disqualify his nomination at a December 1st meeting which, one imagines, Chandler will not take sitting down.

-Mike Huckabee has a great add with Chuck Norris endorsing him. In Republican circles, Chuck Norris is third only to Jesus and Ronald Reagan for endorsements, so this should help.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bart's Books - Straight From the Heart 2

After finishing up the Mulroney tome, it was time for another round of prime ministerial memoirs - Jean Chretien’s My Years as Prime Minister. Reading the two back to back means this review will likely feature a lot of comparisons between the books which might not be fair because the two are vastly different.

Mulroney approached his almost as a historical essay on his time in office, going into lengthy detail on most decisions and arguing his case vociferously with as much supporting evidence as he could find. Chretien’s book, meanwhile, is ghostwritten in the same folksy style as Straight from the Heart and you get the sense that he didn’t approach it with the same intensity that Mulroney did. From the start, he’s frank that his book isn’t a weighty account of his time in office since that “should be left to the historians and scholars”. The result is a book that is written at a lower political reading level than Mulroney’s; it’s clearly targeted more to the mainstream population than to political junkies. Elections and “inside baseball” government decisions are glossed over and content is grouped by subject rather than chronologically.

Because of this, My Years as Prime Minister cannot be considered the defining book on the Chretien years – there’s probably more meat in the Eddie Goldeberg, Lawrence Martin, or Susan Delacourt books. Where Chretien's memoirs excel is by treating the reader to very personal recollections of events like the break in to 24 Sussex, the “Shawinigan handshake”, and non-political conversations with the likes of Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth, Tiger Woods, and Fidel Castro. On the downside, major accomplishments of Chretien’s government like Same Sex Marriage recognition or the innovation agenda seem glossed over. Contrary to Peter C. Newman’s review, Chretien does use a considerable amount of ink on the various “gate” scandals that hit his government, although he does dismiss Adscam rather off handedly. It is a shame that the book ends with his resignation as Prime Minister, if only because Chretien recounting his “golf ball” testimony at the Gomery inquiry would have been quite enjoyable.

Chretien admits in the introduction that he couldn’t bring himself to write a “warts and all” recap of those close to him although he is certainly willing to point out the warts on Paul Martin. In his review, Cherniak concludes that Chretien’s jabs are uncalled for because Martin wasn’t planning a putsch. Well, maybe. And, if you’re in the 4% of the population who believe Martin wasn’t organizing against Chretien, you’ll probably find Jean a bit vindictive in this book. But really, he doesn’t dwell on it, he’s a lot nicer than Sheila Copps was, and, with the exception of his Afghanistan jab, you don’t get the sense that Chretien is going out of his way to smear Martin in this book the way Mulroney set out to attack his enemies. Instead, he tries to get his revenge by pushing hard on the story that he wouldn’t have run for a third term if Martin hadn’t been organizing against him – true, or not, (and I have some doubts) it is somewhat fitting to think of Martin’s over ambition as being the cause of his downfall.

Apart from Martin, the only former Cabinet Minister getting a noticeable amount of attention is Stephane Dion, who Chretien says nothing but good things about. This is probably partly to help the party out but you really do get the sense that Dion was his favourite Cabinet Minister. It was Aline Chretien who suggested he bring Dion into politics and the two men worked closely together on the unity file which was near and dear to Chretien’s heart. Like Mulroney, this was probably the issue he felt strongest about, even if his view was vastly different from Brian’s. Reading the two books back to back, it’s amazing just how different their recaps of the constitution repatriation, Meech Lake, and Charlottetown accord were…the two didn’t agree on much except from their disdain for Lucien Bouchard. It was also interesting to hear of Chretien’s frequent behind the scenes discussions with Trudeau on unity topics – although Trudeau appears to have influenced his former Cabinet Minister’s view of federalism, the two did disagree at times on the more pragmatic side of politics.

If you’re looking for a detailed recap of the Chretien years, then there are probably better reference sources. But Chretien has injected so much life into his memoirs that it will certainly make for an enjoyable read, even for those who aren’t huge political buffs. Because of that, I imagine Chretien’s book will find its way into more stockings this Christmas than Mulroney’s (also, it would take a really big stocking to hold Mulroney’s book).

Recommendation: Certainly worth asking Santa for it, even if you only have a passing interest in politics.

For more Chretien goodness, be sure to check out Jean and Rick's return to Harveys.

A copy of the book was provided by Random House for review

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Orchard Jumps In

David Orchard has tossed his toque into what I imagine will be a hotly contested Liberal nomination for Gary Merasty's old seat. Not a huge surprise considering he played a major role in delivering the Liberal leadership to Dion.

While I could restate my view of Orchard, I'm not in the mood to read through the swarm of angry e-mails from his army of zombie followers this would generate. So, instead, I'll bite my tongue on this one.

Hat Tip: Grumpy Voter


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Data Game

For those who missed it last night, The National’s report on how political parties use personal data should be mandatory watching for anyone in the Liberal Party’s head office. Despite some talk of renewal during the leadership race last year, it’s abundantly clear that the party is still eons behind the Tories structurally and it puts us at a huge disadvantage going into the next election. So far this year, the CPC have raised over 12 million dollars, versus 2.6 million for the Liberals…and the NDP. When you can’t even beat the NDP, something is terribly wrong.

And it’s not just fundraising – the CPC are going to start the next campaign with more identified voters and sign locations than us, and they’re going to start the next campaign with their massive fear factory. And, between now and then, they’ll keep softening the Liberal support up with their hokey, but effective, attack ads. Let’s face it – despite some communication weaknesses, Dion hasn’t actually had an awful first year as leader but the perception that he’s a weak leader has set in, mainly due to the Tory ads.

So what needs to be done? Well, rather than cry about the massive Conservative database of voters as being an infringement of privacy, get your own. The CBC piece featured the Liberal Manage Elect program but the problem with that system is that the data gets flushed after every campaign (at least in Alberta it does…it is possible that the party is more organized in Quebec Ontario). To the best of my knowledge, there’s no central database with donations history, voting patterns, volunteer records, and demographic data that could help the party tailor messaging directly to voters.

On the fundraising side, the LPC needs to take a close look at what those people named Barrack, Hillary, and Howard have done in the states and they should just bite the bullet and hire someone who knows what they’re doing to take over fundraising for the party. Get volunteers or hire people to phone every party member asking for a donation. Go through the list of party and leadership donors from last year and make sure they donate again this year, and next year, and the one after that (hell, if you keep good enough records, you’ll be able to hit up the Volpe kids legally in a few years). The LPC needs to get Liberals into the habit of donating to the party – and it needs to bluntly tell people that Stephen Harper is going to be Prime Minister for a long time unless average Liberals cut the yearly cheques to the party. Even the ALP have a fairly large direct deposit list for donations to the party but I’ve never seen anything like that for the federal party (again, Ontario may have it, but it just shows how the party needs to centralize more since there’s a ton of money to be milked from Alberta, if not votes).

Another good idea I heard from someone a lot smarter than I am is to structure field worker pay on an incentive system. If you’re going to hire party staff, why not make a couple hundred fundraising phone calls part of their job description, with a large chunk of their salary being determined on how much they can raise? Ideally, you’d also include incentives for membership renewals and other firm benchmarks that help grow the party.

The bottom line is there’s a lot of work to be done. There needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to build a database of comparable size and detail as the Tories’ and to get the LPC to the point where they’re raising at least half as much money as the Conservatives every year. At this point, the party’s financial and structural health is a lot more important than some of the policy and strategy debates no doubt going on inside of it.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Resistance is Futile

Last spring, there was the non-aggression pact with the Greens. This weekend, the exodus of the Progressive Canadians to the Liberals. It's clear now that the Liberal plan is to assimilate the fringe parties one by one (hell, David Orchard probably counts as a fringe party by himself), growing Liberal support 0.1% at a time.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the other fringe parties in Canada and if we can expect them to join the Liberal fold anytime soon:

Christian Heritage Party (28272 votes): This will be a difficult one - especially with JC no longer the party leader. But with the Liberals wandering aimlessly for at least the last 40 days, there may be some synergy.

Marxist-Lenninist Party (9289 votes): Admittedly, Jack Layton probably has the inside track here, and Ignatieff's family background in Tsarist Russia could make a reprochement hard.

Marijuana Party (8266 votes): This one should be a sinch. Just invite their executive over to Stornoway, light up a reefer or two, and they'll be in the bag, so to speak. But, be careful, this party's membership has a reputation of being even more poorly organized than the LPCQ.

Canadian Action Party (6201 votes): With former Liberal leadership contender Paul Hellyer in charge, it's shocking that a merger hasn't happened yet. I'm even willing to do my part and toss in the dozen Paulberta t-shirts I have laying around to get the deal done. Sure, his UFO conspiracy theories are odd, but Dennis Kucinich is onside so his views are growing more mainstream by the day. At the very least, it will help the Liberals with the Omni subscribers (note to Jason Kenney: hold the press release).

Communist Party (3127 votes): Due to the bitter feud between the communists and the Marxist-Lenninists, we should be able to get one of them onside.

Libertarian Party (3103 votes): At first glance, a party that believes in smaller government might not seem compatible with the Liberals. But hey, there have been 95 no shows in the House for all confidence votes this fall so that sort of qualifies as less government, I suppose.

First Peoples National Party (1340 votes): God, given that Tom Flanagan is influencing Stephen Harper's First Nations policy, I imagine these voters already have joined the Liberals.

Western Block Party (1094 votes): Who can resist a block party? The Western Block Party want to create an independent country in Western Canada. Given that this would assure the Liberals perpetual majority governments, it seems that a merger would be quite beneficial for both parties.

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada (72 votes): They have "environment" in their name. I imagine the OLO has already cut a deal with them of some sorts.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Saga of Craig Chandler

When the saga of Craig Chandler broke this fall, I didn't blog about it. As much fun as it would have been to skewer Craig (and after reading this post, you'll fully appreciate just how much fun it is!), the fact was he was just some guy going for the Tory nomination and I didn't think comments of his, no matter how ridiculous they sounded, were really newsworthy until he became an official candidate.

Luckily for us, that day has arrived.

For those unfamiliar with Craig Chandler, as they say in Pushing Daisies, the facts were these:

-If you're from outside Alberta, you might remember Craig Chandler as the guy who showed up with between zero and six delegates (depending who you ask) at the 2003 leadership race and threw his support behind Jim Prentice, much to the dismay of the Prentice team. In the words of wikipedia:

The night before the PC leadership convention, Chandler delivered a platform that the Canadian Press described as homophobic, fundamentalist and "neoconservative to the bone." James Muldoon, a fundraiser for front runner Peter MacKay, described Chandler as "the true black face of neoconservatism. He could live to be 100 and he'll never know the meaning of, I am my brother's keeper." [1]. Chandler's statements were called "bitter and resentful" by MacKay, whom Chandler criticized for supporting of the passage of Criminal Code of Canada amendment Bill C-250 that added homosexuals to the list of groups protected by hate crimes legislation.

-You may also remember Craig as the guy who organized a fundraiser where you could pay to shoot guns at Liberal logos.

-Craig has been a member of the Reform Party, Social Credit Party, Progressive Conservatives (federal and provincial), and Canadian Alliance. He the campaign manager for the Alberta Alliance candidate in Calgary Egmont last election. I remember him showing up at the all candidates debate and asking an abortion question last time.

-In August, Craig got headlines by posting the following online:

To those of you who have come to our great land from out of province, you need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservative. You came here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns, or leave. Conservatism is our culture. Do not destroy what we have created.

-You can watch the CTV recap here, featuring a great closing tag by Darrell Janz: that Craig has the nomination, I think it's fair to ask a few questions that have been on my mind for quite some time:

1. Ed Stelmach responded to Craig's initial comments by saying "This province has welcomed newcomers and we will continue to welcome newcomers.” Why then, did his communications director use the same talking points as Craig to blame Stelmach's plunging poll numbers on new Albertans?

2. If people have to "adapt or leave" to the political culture of where they live, does that mean that Craig needs to leave a "left of centre" country like Canada? Should Conservatives be forced to leave Redmonton? Or does Chandler's advice only hold true for provinces?

3. If it only holds true for provinces, should Conservatives who move to Ontario be forced to "adapt or leave"? Is that why Craig left Ontario in the 90s?

4. Do current Albertans need to leave too? 53% of Albertans voted against the PCs last election. In fairness, Craig has clarified his comments to say that he meant small "c" conservatism. Still, 42.2% of voters voted for the Liberals, NDP, or Greens last provincial election in Alberta. Should they "adapt or leave" or is it only newcomers who need to? And what of the 60% of Albertans who didn't vote last election? If they didn't feel strongly enough about the PCs to take 15 minutes to vote for them, should they "adapt or leave" too?

5. If "Conservatism is Alberta's culture and we don't want it destroyed", should the culture be protected? But...if conservatives believe culture shouldn't be protected (damn the CBC!) isn't that a contradiction? How should we protect Alberta's conservative culture? Subsidize the Western Standard? Build more statues of Peter Lougheed? As a big culture guy, I'm open to ideas.

6. Chandler says newcomers should adapt to Alberta's "voting patterns". But, if over half of Albertans didn't vote last time, isn't our "voting pattern" just not voting. So, should newcomers simply not vote, then? Or, if he means historical voting patterns, Alberta's historical voting pattern is to kick the incumbents out after 30 years or so...if that's the case, we're due for a government change.

7. Does Chandler feel we should do something to restrict entry into Alberta? Should people take a test in conservatism before they are allowed to move here? Or will defacing a Pierre Trudeau portrait be enough to grant them residency?

8. How does Chandler reconcile these two statements?

Media Release: "Some in our party have become complacent and think we have the natural right to govern because we are conservatives."

Website: "Craig Chandler is seeking the riding nomination for the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. We all know that whoever wins the nomination will surely become your next MLA."

The obvious conclusion is that Craig Chandler is among the "some in our party" but I don't quite think that's what he's getting at...

9. On Chandler's website he talks about putting Alberta's democratic house in order. Is telling people how they should vote part of this?

10. On CTV, Chandler talks about the conservative philosophy of "not spending, and not going into debt". Given that the Tories increased spending by 17% in their spring budget and are intent on going into debt with a wide range of P3 projects, do they really represent Alberta's culture of conservatism? What does Craig think of the front page "Alberta to take on debt for deal?" headline he no doubt read in the Herald yesterday?

11. If Chandler explains the drop in Stelmach's Calgary support from 59% in January to 30% in August as being because of these foreigners moving to Alberta, wouldn't it mathematically stand to reason that Calgary's population has at least doubled in the last 9 months? If so, how come no one else has noticed?

12. Chandler discounts the poll because it was conducted by Cameron Strategies who poll for Dave Bronconnier. But didn't Cameron Strategies also poll for Lyle Oberg during the PC leadership race?

13. Was Chandler's September 19th press release intended to be satircal or was that just a delightfully enjoyable typo?

> Wednesday, September 19, 2007
> Record Membership Sales After Media Attacks

14. Why did Chandler edit his blog post and "than" lie in a Herald Op-ed about what he'd said originally on this blog?

15. Will Ed Stelmach support the will of a local riding association and sign Craig's nomination papers or will he oust his democratically nominated candidate?

As a constituent in Calgary Egmont, I'm a little torn about this one. Having Craig Chandler as my MLA is a scary thought but, at the same time, it puts a riding that was never going to elect a Liberal MLA before into play. The Alberta Liberals have nominated former Catholic school board trustee Cathie Williams in the riding - quite the catch. Cathie is an accomplished woman who is smart, politically astute, passionate about policy, and not Craig Chandler. These four qualities of hers should make Calgary Egmont a riding to watch during the upcoming provincial election.


Adapt or Leave

Craig Chandler comes through in Calgary Egmont!

I'll go into quite some detail on the saga of Craig Chandler tomorrow for those who haven't been following it. To put it into perspective, this is akin to Randy Hillier losing a nomination which he is the more moderate candidate. This is going to be fun, fun, fun!

UPDATE: More nomination news for the Tories. The scud stud takes the Calgary Currie nom, pitting him against deputy ALP leader Dave Taylor. Meanwhile in Calgary Buffalo, it's Sean Chu who gets the nod, setting up a battle with Kent Hehr. Given that Sean has been quite active with the federal Liberals before, it just goes to show how ridiculous the lumping of the ALP and LPC in together is.


Friday, November 16, 2007

It beats watching late night CBC...

With the Writers Guild of American (or, NAMBLA) on strike for two weeks, the Daily Show, Colbert Report, and other late night talk shows have been on reruns. While this does open up the opportunity for spending your nights doing more productive things like reading or...sleep, I know a lot of people are missing the soothing sound of Jon Stewart's voice.

Well, there's no fix for that, but the Daily Show and Colberts writers have youtube videos up that are fairly funny and presents the issue of the strike in a completely non-biased manner.

Hat Tip - ABCer

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Poll Parade

The poll numbers seem a bit all over the place over the past week, with the Tory lead ranging from 14 points Here's the average of the Decima, Ipsos, SES, and SC numbers that have been published over the past seven days:

CPC 35.75
Lib 30.75
NDP 17.25
Green 9.5
BQ 8.5

In other words, we're right back to where we were last election. Tax cuts may push the Tories up a bit and Mulroney may drag them down but, apart from some troubles for the Bloc in Quebec, there doesn't seem to be any sort of major shift in the lay of the land.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

On The Take

One imagines this blog will be quite interesting over the next few months...

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He's A Real Boy Now

In QP today, Harper said he couldn't answer questions on the possible extradition of Schreiber because it's the Minister of Justice's decision.


The Prime Minister who won't let his Ministers choose long distance carriers without vetting their choice through the PMO isn't going to get involved in managing the biggest scandal to hit his government?



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mulroney's Waterloo

Coming this spring to CBC, the explosive sequel to "Gomery" takes a no holds barred look at the Brian Mulroney Airbus Affair. The excitement of the Gomery Inquiry will be re-lived and, while the cast is different, like any good reality show we've got the same endearing stereotype cast you've come to know and love - the ex-PM out for revenge, party infighting, envelopes of cash, shady businessmen, splashy headlines, an opposition out for blood. Who knows how it will end? Who will get voted out this time?

Wow. It's been a busy few days. When we last left you, Stephen Harper was set to call a probe to investigate if an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair was necessary.

Then, late Monday night, Mulroney himself came forward demanding a full blown inquiry. I know Mulroney wants to clear his name and is probably looking forward to a chance to settle some old political scores but it's hard to see how this ends well for him. There was a great 22 Minutes skit after the Airbus settlement. When asked to explain the 2 million dollars that were "wasted", the "mounties" answered "when I think about the look in the eyes of the average Canadian at the thought that maybe, just maybe, Brian Mulroney would be going to jail - well, you just can't put a price tag on that kind of happiness." We all saw how the Gomery inquiry, which found no wrongdoings by Martin or Chretien, stuck to them; Even if Brian is cleared, between his reputation and the fishy business of cash transfer, it's impossible for his reputation not to take a personal hit.

Following this, on Tuesday, Harper stunned everyone by calling the "extremely dangerous" inquiry he had warned against just a week prior.

As one might imagine, there's a ton of coverage on this in today's papers. Maclean's has a good round-up of the Mulroney/Harper friendship, the QP fireworks, and the media coverage. The Globe has a series of articles where we learn, among other things, that "Because Mr. [Frank] Moores is dead, he can't be a witness at the public inquiry."

The big news today is that University of Waterloo President David Johnson will draft the terms of reference for the inquiry.

So, the big question is, will all this help or hurt Harper? Well, it certainly won't help him, that's for darn sure. Given that the Conservative Party has disintegrated and reformed itself since these events took place, it really shouldn't be impacting Harper, but one imagines he'll take a hit on this, in the short term at least. The Liberals are certainly going to try and use this to burn the bridge on the ethics issue since it's one of the areas where the Tories currently have the upper hand on them. With the "in and out scandal" going nowhere, this might be their chance to neutralize the CPC on ethics. There are enough open questions about letters to Harper that, at the very least, they can try to drag him and his party into it.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Bart's Books - Mulroney's Memoirs

It’s been interesting reading through Brian Mulroney's Memoirs over the past two weeks, especially given the whirlwind of controversy that has enveloped him. Although the book is over a thousand pages long, it’s a great source of information and fascinating enough that I could probably have read another couple hundred pages. And even though Mulroney is arrogant, spiteful, and incredibly self-biased throughout the book, I can’t help but feeling a little bit sorry for him over the Schreiber stuff. And that sympathy alone is proof enough that he has injected some personal humanity into the book. In short, Memoirs is one of the best political books I’ve read in years.

Unlike Bill Clinton’s equally lengthy autobiography, Mulroney doesn’t dwell on his childhood and plunges into content that will appeal to politicos within 30 pages. Mulroney’s recap of young Tory events, political conventions, and his early encounters with politicians of the day like Diefenbaker or Paul Martin Sr. are as interesting as the stories from his time as PM. Mulroney also manages to tie early events to later ones by including journal entries from his time as PM throughout the book.

As for the man himself and his record? Mulroney was one of the most successful Prime Ministers on the international scene in Canadian history. He led the charge against apartheid in South Africa, negotiated Acid Rain and Free Trade treaties with the Americans, and certainly appears to have managed G7 politics with finesse – at least by his accounts. Given the amount of ink he uses to recount his many fights with Margaret Thatcher on apartheid, it’s clear that Mulroney regards it as his finest accomplishment as Prime Minister and he certainly deserves full marks for moving Canada into a leadership role internationally on the file.

That’s the good. As you might expect, Mulroney glosses over the black marks on his government. The parade of ministerial resignations is casually ignored and some clever accounting numbers are used to paint his lackluster economic record in a positive light. However, Mulroney does anything but ignore his largest failing – instead, the national unity struggles of the day are centre stage throughout the book.

Mulroney’s university thesis was on Quebec politics and he won the PC leadership on a promise of a Quebec breakthrough. For Mulroney, this was really his raison d'être in politics and, because of that, he considers the end of Meech “a death in the family” that has left him with “a throbbing sense of loss for one of the greatest might-have-beens in Canada’s 140 year history”. It’s truly remarkable just how many references Mulroney makes to Meech throughout the book and how virulent and vindictive he becomes when discussing the deal which was “suffocated in a cruel act of political infanticide by the premier of Newfoundland.” That’s just one of at least 20 or 30 pejorative references to Clyde Wells throughout the book. And Wells got off easy compared to the man who haunts Mulroney still.

When Memoirs was first launched, there was a big brouhaha over its attacks on Trudeau. Mulroney is a vicious critic of the 1982 constitutional repatriation in the book and takes every opportunity to belittle Trudeau and his accomplishments. The weird thing is, the journal entries pre-1987 where Trudeau is mentioned are mostly positive – it's clear that Mulroney can’t forgive Trudeau for having the audacity to speak out against a constitutional deal that P.E.T. (and many Canadians) clearly could not accept on an intellectual level. Just as it was Trudeau’s right to attack Meech, Mulroney certainly has the right to fight back in his memoirs but he loses all credibility when he resorts to ad hominen attacks, trying to discredit Trudeau because he didn’t serve in the military 40 years before the Meech affair (and, in that sentence, the “he didn’t serve in the military” refers to Trudeau, although it should could just as easily apply to Brian). It appears Mulroney himself would agree with my assessment in a deliciously ironic passage, just 12 pages after his attack on Trudeau’s military record:

I may well be wrong, but I think [Trudeau] mitigated whatever value his arguments might otherwise command by such a violent and vicious diatribe against so many people –living and dead – that he appears unhinged.

But these are just the sort of fun contradictions that make the book an enjoyable read, even for Liberals. How can you do anything but chuckle when Mulroney attacks the Liberals for their free trade flip flop when he railed against Crosbie’s free trade proposal during the ’83 PC leadership convention? Or when he attacks Joe Clark for allowing provinces to opt out of a federal program? That’s all to be expected in a memoir and when I move on to Chretien’s after this, I wouldn’t expect it to be any different. After all, this is Mulroney’s version of events, not a historical dissertation. A historical dissertation might say that criticism of Mulroney over his lack of experience in ’76 was fair game. A historical account might conclude that the Tories ’88 victory was not solely because of Mulroney’s soaring popularity. A historical account might not quote hundreds of positive newspaper stories about the PM and then dismiss all criticism as being part of media bias.

That said, as a historical document this book is incredibly invaluable. Appendices at the end recap behind-the-scenes conversations between the PM and Premiers about Meech and Charlottetown. And, having written a history essay or two on this time period during my years at University, I would have loved to have a resource like this book to get the official Mulroney position on such a wide range of topics. Beyond that, Memoirs works as popular political literature too. Getting a glimpse of private conversations between Mulroney and the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev makes the book worth its sticker price ($50 in Canada, $40 in the US). And the chapter where Mulroney recounts the betrayal of Lucien Bouchard has everything you could want in a political book. Compared to current hot topic political debates on Senate abolition and 1% GST cuts, the content of this book is quite riveting.

So, despite his flaws – or maybe because of them – Mulroney has written a truly impressive memoir.

Recommendation: Get a hard cover copy. Personally, I'm very glad to have a signed copy.

Other Reviews: Jason Cherniak, Pample the Moose, Kerplonka

A copy of this book was provided by Random House for review.

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Monday News

1. ABCer had the exact same thought I had after reading Jay Hill's attempt at spin in the Hill Times.

2. It got a bit overshadowed by the Mulroney saga but Dion's poverty plan is an encouraging sign that the Liberals won't be going green 24/7 during the next campaign. The reviews so far have been quite positive.

3. While Ipsos seems to be generally a bit bullish on Harper, a 14 point lead is mighty impressive. More worrisome for the Liberals should be latest "best PM" numbers from SES.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

We Used to be Friends

After seven pages of coverage in today's Globe, I'm sure everyone has already heard about Harper's call for a probe into the Mulroney airbus affair by an independent third party (maybe they'll bring Bernard Roy back due to his experience at the Gomery inquiry...).

I'll give Harper credit for doing the right thing here. Given that Mulroney is a bit of a mentor to him and that many in his party are still loyal to the former PM, this certainly wasn't an easy decision for Harper to make.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Inform Enlighten Entertain

Thanks to the alert readers who sent in a few recent links from the Calgary Herald that, I think, illustrate some of the problems with journalism in Canada these days.

First up, comes their Wednesday editorial:

For example, we have always suspected the integrity of polls in which newspaper readers tell us they are more interested in stories about equalization than a reported sighting of Brad Pitt at a popular city watering hole. They know the one is important, and should be read; the other actually engages them, and is read -- we suspect -- more widely.

Long time Herald readers will know how the paper tends to shy away from the "issues" whenever possible (Standard Headline: "OMG - Prince Harry!!! Flirting!!!") and I think this is true of most local dailies. However, the Herald has now explained why they do this. In spite of survey and focus group results that say people want hard news and more news, the Herald Editorial board has decided that they know what Calgarians want - stories about Brad Pitt!

Another long time habit of the Herald which I think (hope) hasn't become the norm across Canada is their frequent citing of wikipedia. The latest example of this comes from a story on their favourite topic - Celebrities visiting Calgary!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, Ohio because of Joel, reports Wikipedia. A total of 15 artists were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, which hadn't yet found a home and was going to be built in either San Francisco or Cleveland. Seven artists voted for San Francisco, and seven favoured Cleveland. Thus Joel was asked to make the tie-breaking vote. He chose Cleveland since he considers it one of his favourite cities to play in.

I know it's quite taxing to do proper sourcing but a quick google search of "rock and roll hall of fame" will give you this factoid:

Since its opening in 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has established itself as the preeminent home for the celebration and study of rock and roll music.

I know Billy Joel trivia isn't life or death but the Herald's constant wikiciting is driving me a little up the wall, and it just shows how a little laziness will eventually lead to mistakes.

Remember. Just because you don't want to report real news, it doesn't mean you can't cite real sources.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

That'll Buy A Lot Of Gucci Loafers

Mulroney adviser asked Schreiber to transfer Airbus funds, affidavit alleges

I think it's important to remember that these are just a very shady individual. But it's certainly going to have the opposition shouting even louder for some sort of re-opening of the file. Because if it's

In far less sexy news but probably a lot more relevant from a public policy perspective is this story:
OTTAWA - More than 12,000 refugee claimants are stuck in a steadily growing backlog as the Harper government continues to dawdle on filling vacancies at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Despite a flurry of recent appointments, the IRB reports that there are still 43 vacancies in its 127-member refugee-protection division, which adjudicates claims for asylum.

The backlog of claims is swelling by about 1,000 each month and reached 12,414 by the end of September.

Each claim is taking an average of 14.3 months to process.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power 21 months ago, there were only five vacancies on the board and the backlog of claims had effectively been reduced to zero for the first time in a decade.

Yup, the questions in the House will be all about Brian on Monday but I'd sure like to see Diane Finley try to explain why her government has dropped the ball on this.

[Hat Tip: EFL]

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007



Sask Party: 52.2%, 37 seats
NDP: 36.2%, 21 seats
Liberals: 9.3%, 0 seats
Greens: 2.0%, 0 seats

And, for those paying attention, the Progressive Conservatives (812 votes) edged out the Western Independence Party (569 votes), and the Marijuana Party (508 votes) for fifth. Yet again, the Marijuana Party fails to mobilize it's vote...

So, for your "2007 Election Watch" wrap-up, that leaves three freshman governments who were all re-elected (albeit with Charest on academic probation) this year. Sophomore Gary Doer was also awarded a much deserved third term. However, a pair of long time governments with few faults were tossed out despite the good economic times.

Barring a surprise, that should do it for 2007. For 2008, expect Alberta to vote in mid-to-late March and keep an eye on the minority governments in Nova Scotia, Quebec and, of course, Ottawa.

As for Saskatchewan, this was clearly a case of "change for change's sake". Lorne Calvert has accomplish the rare feat of being defeated at the top of his game and he can certainly be proud of all he accomplished and the prosperity he leaves his province in. Brad Wall deserves full marks for moderating the Sask Party and running a solid campaign. The man clearly is the new "golden boy" of provincial politics, although he should remember that the last "golden boy" was run out of town in New Brunswick last year after two terms in power. As for the provincial Liberals, major soul searching is clearly needed after a result that is impossible to spin positively.


The results are coming in from Saskatchewan and if one or two seats shift, the PR people are going to be going apesh*t!

Pop Vote:

SP 51.5%
NDP 36.2%
Lib 9.9%
Green 2.0%


SP 30
NDP 27

The NDP are up in a few tight races so I'd expect the final win margin to be by a good half dozen seats.

UPDATE: As for the Liberals, David Karwacki is in a tight 3 way race...still too close to call.

UPDATE: Both the CBC and Globe have projected a Sask Party majority. Not a massive majority by any means, but a majority nevertheless.

And good on Brad Wall. Even though my leanings would certainly be towards the Liberal or NDP camp in Saskatchewan, he's done a good job as leader and is a very talented politician. He's fully deserving of the win.

UPDATE: 33 to 25 now, with the popular vote holding steady. Might I just say, it's quite interesting to see a long term prairie government tossed out in the midst of an economic boom. Quite interesting indeed...


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Second Thoughts

I know there's no rule that says I have to post every few days here but I kind of feel I should put something up. Unfortunately, the only real newsworthy story out there right now is...gulp...Jack Layton's musings on the Senate. So it is with great reluctance that I link to Layton's call for a referendum on abolishing the Senate. Apart from Harper tossing a bone to his base ("I'm sorry about the Quebec nation thing but look! Bert Brown!"), I can't see this being a real vote mover for anyone. I'd be surprised if the question of Senate abolition gets on a referendum ballot anytime soon.

As for me...meh. I think there's something to be said for having the Senate as a check on the House and they do a lot of good committee work, adding needed amendments to more bills than people realize. It's abundantly clear that the current system is deeply flawed but I think an elected Senate would be far worse. Once you elect Senators, you're giving the institution legitimacy and inviting activist decisions which opens up a whole can of worms, especially if you have unfair regional representation.

So, yeah, it's kind of a non starter for me. But for all of you out there who love talking Senate reform, go nuts!


Sunday, November 04, 2007

You're Fired!

The Tories have been quietly nixing candidates from running for them in the next election. Now, don't get me wrong - Bill Casey voted against the budget and there should be consequences for that. He knew what he was getting into so it's hard to shed too many tears for him...especially considering he's got a good chance of getting re-elected as an independent.

However, the case of Mark Warner is quite interesting. At first glance, Mark sounds like exactly the type of candidate the Tories need. He's an international trade lawyer with a fantastic bio who obviously cares enough about his party to be willing to lose to Bob Rae. Considering some of the questionable candidates the Tories have let run for them in recent by elections, this one seems even weirder.

But, you see, there are some major problems with Mark. For starters, he attended an international AIDS conference in Toronto last year - a big no-no considering some of the questionable characters who attended.

Mark's also been talking about Toronto centric issues. You know, things like poverty, housing, and Andrew Raycroft's poor play. Given that real leaders set priorities and that these are not in Harper's top priorities, it would have been insane to allow a Conservative candidate to talk about these issues for fear of people getting the wrong idea that they mattered to the Conservatives.

Makes sense. Given the bedrock of Tory support that exists in the GTA, why on earth would you want a strong candidate talking about issues that matter to Torontonians?

UPDATE: I know Stephen Harper is a smart guy but I don't really think every move he makes is part of some master Machiavellian plan. Today's Star suggests that these moves are intended to boost the NDP in a gambit to defeat the Liberals.

First of all, Toronto Centre is a safe seat. And not the same way Outremont is a safe seat. The Liberals got twice the votes of their nearest competitor last time out - the real battle there is for second and I fail to see how it figures into Harper's master plan for his party to finish behind the NDP in a city they would hope to, one imagines, one day win some seats.

As for Guelph, where Brent Barr was forced out it's even more perplexing. Here are the 2006 results:

Lib 23,662
CPC 18,342
NDP 13,561

Even though the NDP have a good candidate running, I fail to see how the second place party self-sabotaging would help defeat the Liberals. And, unlike in Toronto Centre where there may be an anti-Rae vote, I tend to seriously doubt the hypothesis that the second choice of soft Tory voters is the NDP.

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On the Attack

The Tories have pounced on Dion’s somewhat misguided GST musings with a new attack ad. Apparently Dion has made "billions of dollars" in spending promises which is news to me because, outside of the environment, I haven’t really heard any promises. We also learn in the ads that 5 4 3.5 10 a nebulous number of priorities beats 3 pillars.

As for the ads themselves, yeah it looks like Ben and Rachel put them together, but it's still smart politics. With Dion down, might as well keep punching. And for the Tories flush with cash, they can certainly afford to run them.

I’ve been saying for a long time that the biggest problem with the Liberal Party isn't the leadership, MPs, policy positions, or recent baggage. The biggest problem is the structural inability of the party to fundraise. And the most discouraging thing is that there doesn't seem to be any sort of plan out there to turn things around.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


Kady O'Malley has the full run down of Halloween in Ottawa (including Harper's witty "man in the brown suit" costume). Although he dressed as Laurier, Dion did did provide a big scare to Liberal backbenchers by musing about raising the GST. It's probably not a smart thing to go around talking about something like that unless you're going to do it, but I do think it would be interesting to see a Liberal campaign plank calling for a restoration of the 7% GST, with all the revenue raised either going to income tax cuts or income splitting. Dion's got to show he stands for something next campaign and it would certainly be a bold position to take.

In other news...

1. As a big V for Vendetta fan, I enjoyed the Wingnutterer's look back on the "Income Trust Treason".

2. Stockwell Day has announced that the Canadian government will no longer oppose death sentences for Canadians abroad.

3. I don't really get the full gist of his criticism, but the man who could have been Premier is going after Stelmach hard on his royalty review compromise.

4. Jack Layton may have an ally in his quest to end ATM fees across Canada. It appears that Brian Mulroney was so sick of ATM fees back in 1993 that he needed to get $300,000 from Karlheinz Schreiber in cold, hard cash. Yes, it looks bad that he didn't declare it on his taxes either but I'm sure there's a logical explanation for everything. Unfortunately, I'm only at page 376 of his memoirs but I'm sure Brian will explain everything fully by the end of it!

5. And a big round of congrats for Andrew Coyne - the new national editor of Macleans!

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