Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spend and Tax

Yesterday's Quebec budget was one of the most toxic I've ever seen. Among the highlights:

-Health Care taxes and user fees
-A pair of 1% increases to the provincial sales tax
-An increase to the fuel tax


Those can't have been easy decisions to make, but given the debt load facing the province and a stubborn desire to not cut services, they were necessary.

There's a belief that any government who dares raise taxes will be hoisted upon their own petards and run out of town. Because of that, watching how this budget is received will be make for a fascinating case study.

The 6 Billion Dollar Question

As I mentioned briefly on Sunday, Ignatieff's proposal to cancel the corporate tax cuts should form the main ideological fault line of the next election campaign. That's not to say it's all the election will be about - let's not kid ourselves, we're still going to get "Harper's a dictator" and "Ignatieff's just visiting" attack ads. But when it comes to policy, we may finally have found an answer to the question "what would Ignatieff do differently from Harper?".

Is it good policy? Well, I'm not an economist. Most economists like corporate tax cuts, but Canada is already quite competitive in this domain, and even executives recognize that corporate tax cuts may have to wait until the economy improves. On the whole, I tend to think the cuts would be good for the economy, but investing the 5-6 billion in early learning or post-secondary education will also help us in the long run.

Besides, as we all learned during the Green Shift Self Destruction Tour '08, good policy doesn't always make for good politics. So how will this play out politically?

For the Tories

We've already seen them refer to this as Ignatieff's "job killing tax", and that seems like as good a way as any to message it. Corporations don't vote, so Harper absolutely has to connect this to individuals, and "job killing" is a whole lot easier to talk about than the nuances of international competitiveness and trickle down economics.

They'll try to frame the election as the "tax and spend" Liberals up against Harper, the sound and stable economic manager.

For the Liberals

This gives them some wiggle room to propose new programs and/or promise deficit reduction. In effect, it's their chance to differentiate themselves from the Tories and the success of this gambit is ultimately going to rest on what they propose to do with the 6 billion.

I personally don't think there's a lot of sympathy for corporations out there, so expect them to frame the campaign as the Conservatives in bed with big business, against a Liberal Party who will actually do something to make your life better.

For the NDP

Overlooked in the early analysis of this move has been what it means for the NDP. As is often the case when the Liberals take an idea of theirs, this isn't good news for our Dipper friends. Because really, if you care about the issue, why vote for the guy who can't do anything about it? And if Layton tries to out do Ignatieff and promises tax hikes...well...that just pushes him further away from the mainstream and makes Ignatieff's position look more centrist, by comparison.

In effect, NDP ads against big business and corporate tax cuts would now become de facto third party advertising for the Liberals. Jack's either gonna need a new wedge issue, or a convincing narrative that turns NDP/Liberal swing voters off Ignatieff.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The 411 on 150

For those of you who weren't glued to the online webstream this weekend, Jeff Jedras provides an excellent recap of the weekend at Canada 150.

The media reaction to the conference has been (predictably) mixed. All I'll say is that if people are going to knock the Liberals for not knowing what they stand for, you can't knock them for trying to figure that out.

UPDATE: Andrew Potter slams the media.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two Paths

The big news out of Ignatieff's closing speech from the Canada150 conference is his pledge to overturn scheduled cuts to the corporate tax rate.

I'm trying to find the exact figures, but I believe that would boost government revenue by 10-15 billion a year 5-6 billion a year (not taking into account any lost productivity). That's not small change, and it answers the question of how the Liberals will be able to promise program spending and deficit reduction. And it's certainly a lot easier to sell than an income tax or GST hike (or, ahem, a carbon tax).

So there you have the crux of the next election. The Conservatives will promise they're good for business and the economy. The Liberals will promise spending initiatives and deficit reduction. As far as ideological clashes go, that's not a bad debate to have. If we're lucky, we might actually get an election that's about something for a change.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Shale Gas Changes Everything: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the upcoming demographic shift

A guest post by Kyle Olsen from Can150 Montreal - If anyone else in Montreal wants to share their thoughts on the conference, flip me an e-mail ( and I'll post them here

Not enough retirement savings, out of control healthcare costs, a lack of skilled workers, the uneducated unemployed, the future of Canadian content in the Internet age, inaction on climate change, Canada being excluded from new international alliances in international affairs – there certainly is a lot of soothsaying at Can150 and most of it is of the doomsday variety.

One participant indirectly alluded to this during a discussion on Canada’s energy future – looking back on long term planning based on predictions surrounding the dual energy crisis’s of the 1970s. The predictions of high priced oil forever and the plans for making this the foundation of our national economy collapsed soon after the plans were implemented when oil prices collapsed. In this context I don’t know if we should hope that our experts are wrong and their prognostications won’t come to pass.

The seeming theme of the conference – that the only solutions to these problems are so politically unpalatable that we are doomed to failure - might seem familiar to participants of the Aylmer Conference (huge debt, pension collapse, constitutional change).

While journalists and MPs might be searching for ‘magic beans’ that would make measures talked about popular (ahem, Green Shift 2 – Back to the Future) platform writers and pollsters may look back at the conference as an exercise in agenda setting on a massive scale.

Setting the theme leading into a probable fall election as doom and gloom (but not directly linked to the immediate economic situation) may do the most to recalibrate the playing field. It is possible Liberals with a prescription of bitter medicine contrasted to Tory denials will reconnect them with Canadians as competent managers.

And believe you me – this is a media exercise. The party is educating the media on the storms ahead while immersing them in an environment full of ‘senior liberal sources’ and Canadian opinion leaders. This is the closest thing to a post debate spin room I have seen in Canada (and it is lasting 3 days). When else has the media been corralled for an entire weekend on one holistic subject – challenges to Canada’s future.

So will this conference change the agenda, setting up the Liberal Party for a coherent election campaign in the fall? As I sit in the foyer, a CBC reporter conducts a stand up where she reports on the seriousness of the challenges and the Liberal Party’s openness to take on the tough challenges - I would say the mission may be half done. We will see if the Ignatieff front bench will be able to capitalize on this brand of seriousness in the weeks and months ahead.

Will Ignatieff ask about the issues of the day in question period over the next weeks or will he build a wedge in the approach to Canada’s serious problems – only time will tell.

McGuinty's 2011 Playbook: Mr. Freeze versus The Joker

It's hard to boil a 224 page budget down to one line item. But the early reaction to Thursday's Ontario budget has been all about McGuinty's pledge to freeze public sector wages.

Is it good policy? It seems reasonable enough to me given the tough economic times, but then again, I might have a different opinion if I were a public sector employee. And that's why this budget could compound McGuinty's problems. Because a wage freeze is something people will feel, it impacts a lot of people, and it impacts a lot of people who I would guess vote Liberal in higher-than-average numbers.

But this fits into McGuinty's modus operandi of late. He's clearly trying to brand himself as a man capable of making tough decisions - as a serious politician. It's not a bad narrative to run with when you're up against a young, inexperienced leader who offers gimmicks over substance. And it doesn't hurt that Hudak's MPPs routinely do less-than-serious things like getting banned from the legislature and suggesting that Toronto separate from Ontario.

As for the rest of the budget, there's good and bad. An 8 year plan to balance the books is asinine - that's two elections down the road and the province will change dramatically during that time. It would be like an 8 year plan for the Leafs to win the cup - yes, you can't promise to do it any sooner, but it's not so much a plan as it is wishful thinking.

The good, in my opinion, in the increase in post-secondary spaces, and McGuinty pushing ahead with his all day kindergarten plan. These are the sort of things that will benefit Ontario in the long run. The sort of things serious politicians do.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Tough Crowd to Impress

With little movement in Canadian polls, let's gaze to the south, where a new poll shows us just what Republicans think of Obama:

-67% agree he's a socialist
-57% agree he's a secret Muslim (And he can't be doing a very good job of keeping it secret if half of all Republicans are on to him)
-42% believe he's a racist
-38% agree he's "doing many of the things Hitler did"
-24% agree Obama might be the Antichrist (No word on how many respondents answered "Might? He damn well IS!")
-Most offensively of all, 22% believe he "wants the terrorists to win"

It's hard to know just how solid the methodology behind this poll is. But it's certainly something to keep in mind for some of the pundits who have spent the week bemoaning how disrespectful left-wing Canadians are. Let's face it, every part of the political spectrum is littered with morons.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Clowns Playing Chess

From Jane Taber:

How not to run an effective opposition. “It’s raining frogs across the aisle,” Industry Minister Tony Clement said.

It was a gong show last night in the Commons for Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals; one Liberal MP is even calling it “clown city.”

First, the Liberal motion on the Harper government’s maternal health initiative, aimed at stirring up the Tory bench over reproductive issues, such as abortion, failed. The Grits lost the vote after three of their own MPs opposed it; others abstained and some Liberal MPs, who are pro-life, were told to stay away from the Commons, according to sources.

Now, before people get too worked up over this, let's get a little perspective. The number of Canadians aware of this vote pales in comparison to the number aware of this week's American Idol vote. And, for good reason. Unlike on Idol, this was a non-binding vote, so the end result would have been the same whether or not the motion was carried. The point of the motion was to get people talking about abortion and, for better or worse, the Liberals did just that.

But even though voters won't notice what happened, it was a bit of a mess-up, and it will push the media narrative against Ignatieff. It illustrates extreme disorganization and disunity, and it's another example of Ignatieff's willingness to get a little bit too cute at times - what with probation report cards and EI deals and the sort.

Everyone else is guilty of the same - the prorogation fiasco is an example of Harper falling flat on his face. Even Duceppe's opposition day motion on the Quebec nation didn't exactly turn out the way he wanted it to. And in fairness to Ignatieff, he's looking for a wedge issue, and Liberal strategists have dreamt for years about fighting an election on abortion.

But with all the talk of certain politicians "playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers", it might do some of these guys a lot of good to recognize that maybe, just maybe, they actually are playing a game of checkers. The ultra-clever strategy is fun to talk about over beers at Darcy McGee's but the point of the game is really just about giving people an easy-to-understand reason to vote for you and communicating that.

There's nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Especially when you have this much trouble with the complicated stuff.

Let's just ignore her and hope she dissapears

That's all I've got to say about that.


Wells v. Coyne: How conservative are the Conservatives?

Well worth reading:

Paul Wells on just how conservative the Conservatives are. And Andrew Coyne on how they’re not.

I think this exchange really illustrates Harper’s strategy. In short, own the centre and govern like Liberals, but toss a few symbolic conservative/reform gestures to the base to keep them and their chequebooks happy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Montreal Conference

The predictable media reaction to this weekend's thinkers conference has begun, with Greg Weston attacking the Liberals for:

a) Not "articulating an alternative other than the fact they are not Stephen Harper and the Conservatives".

b) Holding a policy conference to find this alternative.

*CG smacks head on table*

Expect more of that over the next week - in fact, Susan Delacourt gives us a preview of what to expect, via this 1991 Toronto Star coverage of the Aylmer Conference:

Liberal well runs dry at policy conference
By William Walker TORONTO STAR

AYLMER, Que. - The Liberal plan was to bring together thinkers and policy experts for a non-partisan conference to gather up all the brightest and best ideas for the 1990s.

But many delegates left the Liberals' weekend Aylmer conference concerned that no great new ideas had emerged.

I'll go out on a limb and suggest the press wasn't too kind to Lester B. Pearson either after the Kingston Conference, just two years removed from the worst shellacking in party history.

So, to ensure we're all on the same page, let's clear a few things up. Michael Ignatieff isn't going to walk out to his post-conference news conference with a pair of stone tablets with the Liberals' election platform transcribed on them. This conference is about generating ideas, some of which will make it into the party platform, some of which will be ignored.

I know it isn't sexy stuff. I know it lacks instant gratification. Yeah, it will be a bore to cover. But it's important. Perhaps, dare I say it, more important than airport temper tantrums or mischievous opposition day motions.

I for one, would dearly love to see the Liberals clearly articulate their long term vision for the country, and to explain just what they stand for. This conference is an important part of that process.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bring on the Death Panels

Obama's Health Care package passes 219-212.

You know, despite all the talk we get about guns, foreign policy, and abortion, Health Care remains one of the largest value divides between Canada and the United States. Because the "leftist" and "socialist" Health Care bill the US passed doesn't even come remotely close to the "two tier" Health Care system the Liberals accused Stockwell Day of secretly wanting a decade ago.

So it's a step in the right direction, but it just illustrates the large differences between the two countries.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Moments in Abundantly Obvious Irony

Mike Duffy says some students ‘brainwashed’

Senator Mike Duffy isn’t backing down on his criticisms of the University of King’s College and other Canadian journalism programs, saying he “dared to show a little spotlight on some of the bias in the media.”

Last weekend, Duffy delivered a speech to local Conservatives in Amherst criticizing journalism schools for teaching critical thinking and Noam Chomksy’s book Manufacturing Consent. He also said students aren’t being taught to be fair and balanced.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The End of 10-Percenters?

It may be the end of an era in Ottawa, as MPs have voted to trash 10-percenters. Sadly Canadians may need to turn to other sources to find out about Michael Ignatieff's secret coalition plans, and what who Stephen Harper is trying to kill.

MPs have voted to put a stop to the practice of mailing taxpayer-funded political flyers to voters outside their own ridings.

In a surprisingly close result, MPs passed Tuesday a Liberal motion to scrap the so-called ten percenters by a vote of 140-137.

New Democrats, who had argued in favour of retaining the right to communicate with voters all across the country, ended up supporting the motion, which included several other proposals aimed at saving the government more than $1-billion annually.

The Bloc Quebecois also supported it while Conservatives, who've made the most use of the mailouts, were opposed.

Even though the Liberals are trumpeting this as a binding motion, in reality, we've descended into the kind of procedural grey water that only Kady O'Malley, and maybe 1 or 2 of the party whips actually understand. From what I've read, it appears a super secret all-party committee will be discussing this on Monday. Complicating the issue is that Stephen Harper has shown a willingness to respect the vote he lost, while Jack Layton is suffering some buyers remorse on the vote he won:

In fact, the NDP, which voted for the Liberal motion, may be the party that gets the Conservatives off the hook on the bulk-mailing issue.

NDP Leader Jack Layton launched a blistering tirade against "King Stephen Harper" only to waffle when it came down to whether his party would actually support the ten-percenter ban behind the closed doors of the Board of Internal Economy meetings.

"There were some (measures in the motion) where we would have done it slightly differently and so we'll have to take those issues up at the Board of Internal Economy," Layton said when pressed on the ban.

His party House leader, Libby Davies, indicated the ten-percenter vote may be the jumping-off point for a negotiation over bulk mail.

"We believe we've got to focus on the abuses and not rule out what is a legitimate use of ten-percenters by members outside of their own ridings," Davies, who sits on the board, said in an interview.

So they voted for it, even though they're against it. O...K...

And no one, not even the Liberals, seem to be pretending that the rest of the motion - which calls for the government to slash a billion dollars in partisan advertising and consultant expenses - has a chance of actually happening.

But, just to toss a nutty idea out there - what if the Liberals agreed to a 5 year phase-out of the public vote subsidy? They're closing the fundraising gap on the Tories, and losing the subsidy would hurt the NDP, Bloc, and Greens more than the Liberals. Here's the percentage of revenue each party generates from the subsidy:

CPC 37%
Lib 43%
NDP 55%
Green 62%
Bloc 82%

In exchange, the Conservatives would agree to trash the billion dollars in partisan expenses the Liberal motion calls for. Because I'd wager the Conservatives are getting more value from that than they are from either their subsidy or fundraising dollars.

I doubt it would happen, but it's something to think about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drugs are bad...Marijuana's bad...mmkay....

Michael Ignatieff shows he can relate to the kids these days:

"If I had to tell you as a parent or as someone who has spent his whole life working with young people, the last darn thing I want you to be doing is smoking marijuana," the federal Liberal leader said.

"I want you to be out there digging a well, digging a ditch, getting a job, raising a family ... doing stuff, instead of parking your life on the end of a marijuana cigarette."

Coincidentally, S-Harp was also trying to show he's down with the young ones by doing a YouTube interview and, wouldn't ya know it, the topic of marijuana cigarettes came up there as well. While Harper didn't come out for a national ditch digging program, he too was adamantly against pot legalization.


Remember when Canada was all set to decriminalize marijuana 7 years ago? The Economist put the moose with sunglasses on its cover and called us "cool". It made sense to most people, even stodgy old senators and stodgy old writers - after all, criminalizing the stuff clearly wasn't curbing its use, and it's hard to enforce a law which, if properly enforced, would saddle millions of Canadians with a criminal record.

But for a variety of reasons, those plans went up in smoke. And judging from the comments above, it doesn't look like things will change any time soon. Which is a shame, because the current laws are asinine - the stuff should just be legalized outright.

Because once you legalize, you can tax and control it - you don't see a lot of rum runners these days, do you? You think we'd have learned our lesson from alcohol prohibition, but I guess not.

The arguments being put forward by our leaders are so weak, I have a hard time believing they actually believe what they're saying. First up, is Mr. Ignatieff:

Noting he likes an occasional drink and having a good time, Ignatieff didn't seem concerned if his anti-weed stance made him appear conservative.

"Given the things we need to do together [ed note: ditch digging?], that's what I think," he said, adding that legalizing marijuana would create problems in dealings with the U.S. because the drug would remain illegal there.

I won't even touch the "I like an occasional drink" comment, but when you consider the relative effects of alcohol and marijuana on human beings, well, that kind of tells you how we should be handling this issue.

As for his second point, over 20 states have gone ahead and decriminalized marijuana. And, as someone quite familiar with border crossings, I'm sure Michael is fully aware that you can still prevent legal items from crossing the border - so just treat marijuana like we treat oranges. Problem solved.

Harper, meanwhile, goes the emotional route in his YouTube interview:

I have to say young children, I guess they’re now…Ben and Rachel are now getting pretty close to 14 and 11, but maybe they’re not that young, but they are at the age where, you know, they will increasingly come into contact with drug use, and I guess as a parent, you know, this is the last thing I want to see for my kids or anyone else’s children.

Agreed. But the thing is, under the current prohibition system, Ben and Rachel are able to get marijuana. Easily. However, if we legalize it, you could ban sales to minors, just like we do now with non-marijuana cigarettes, or dozens of other things. I know some will say it's about sending a message that we don't condone it, but anyone who thinks teenagers will avoid something because it's condoned by society has never been a teenager.

But his heart is probably in the right place on that comment. So go on Mr. Prime Minister:

Now, I also want people to understand what we’re really talking about here when we’re talking about the drug trade. You know, when people say focus on violent crime instead of drugs, and yeah, you know, there’s lots of crimes a lot worse than, you know, casual use of marijuana. But when people are buying from the drug trade, they are not buying from their neighbour. They are buying from international cartels that are involved in unimaginable violence and intimidation and social disaster and catastrophe all across the world. All across the world.

And, with that, Stephen Harper gives the best argument I have ever heard in my life...for legalizing marijuana. Because the second you legalize it and decide to sell it in LCBOs or licensed stores/restaurants/etc, you drive a stake through the heart of organized crime and drug cartels, both inside Canada and around the world. By controlling who sells it, you move the industry above ground and choke off a huge source of revenue from organized crime.

Maybe Iggy and Harper do believe the talking points they're dealing. But if they were being completely honest, I suspect their answer to the kids would go something like this:

"Yeah, I don't have a problem with legalizing the stuff. It just makes sense. But let's be honest. The second the media and opposition gets wind of that, I'll be faced with daily questions, ridicule, attack ads, and 10-percenters on the subject. I'm sure legalization will happen one day - probably within your lifetime. But until enough of us old fogeys die off and the public attitude on this shifts enough, I'd be crazy to go near this one. Next question."

This post is supported by the National Pardon Centre.


Somewhere, Stephane Dion is smiling

Harper's pre-taped YouTube interview is late getting started - now 15 minutes and counting...

UPDATE: And the video is up!

Harper goes with the suit and tie, which strikes me as a bit formal for a YouTube video. Yeah, yeah, I'm not expecting torn jeans and a Hannah Montana t-shirt, but maybe he could have gone with the Ahmadinejad-casual look.

So far, tough questions on deficit and foreign aid. Harper dodges them. But still, good on him for doing this interview. I wouldn't mind seeing this sort of thing from all the party leaders on a semi-regular basis - it gets Canadians engaged, and we'll get more substance out of this than from 50,000 question periods.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Provincial Uprising

Angus Reid has updated their Premier approval numbers from November and it's not rosy - only 2 of the 10 Premiers crack the 30% approval barrier.

And suddenly, Stephen Harper's underwhelming poll numbers start looking a lot more whelming by comparison. The man has struggled of late and may spend his life chasing an unobtainable majority, but at a time when voters are P.O.'d at governments coast-to-coast, he's still Canadians' top choice for Prime Minister.

The Premiers

Danny Williams 80% approve, 11% disapprove
Brad Wall 56% approve, 24% disapprove
Greg Selinger 27% approve, 28% disapprove
Darrel Dexter 23% approve, 53% disapprove
Gordon Campbell 23% approve, 60% disapprove
Jean Charest 22% approve, 53% disapprove
Dalton McGuinty 21% approve, 52% disapprove
Ed Stelmach 16% approve, 62% disapprove
Shawn Graham 15% approve, 62% disapprove

Despite his American vacation, Danny Williams towers over the field. 80%? Crap, I'm not sure Sidney Crosby could get that. The scary thing is, 80% is on the low side compared to other recent polls.

More and more, Danny is looking like this generation's Ralph Klein - he could choke 101 puppies to death in the Legislative Assembly and voters would shrug and say "that's just Danny being Danny". Because, after all, even puppies don't get 80% approval ratings, no matter how cute they are.

What's remarkable is that Williams has done it without the same partisan foundation Klein stood on - it's not like Newfoundland is an ultra-Conservative province, after all. I don't know how he does it, but if you could bottle Danny Williams, a teaspoon of him a day would turn anyone into a contender.

The news is less good for Danny's fellow Atlantic Canadians, who could certainly use a teaspoon or two of the Williams magic.

The biggest loser since November is Nova Scotia's Darrell Dexter, who has seen a 20 point swing in his numbers, most likely due to a series of expense claim scandals. Let this be a cautionary tale to all you kids out there on the dangers of experimenting with NDP governments.

Shawn Graham is now less popular than Ed Stelmach, which tells you all you all you need to know about how the New Brunswick Hydro sale has gone over. The weird thing is, you can't count Graham out in the upcoming election (likely this September) - a recent poll has him just 6 points down. The same holds true for equally unpopular McGuinty, Charest, and Stelmach.

No matter how cruddy the job of "Premier" has become, it still beats "opposition leader".

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Friday, March 12, 2010

This Week in Alberta - The Toboggan Ride Ends

Environics released a new poll yesterday, similar to their numbers from October:

PC - 34% (nc)
WRA - 30% (+2%)
ALP - 23% (+3%)
NDP - 10% (+1%)
Green - 2% (-6%)

So no real changes - my suspicion is the now-deregistered Greens were prompted as an option on the October survey but weren't in this one.

This is, of course, less cataclysmic for the PCs than the Angus Reid poll from December that had the Wildrosers up by 14 points. When deciding which numbers to go by, a good rule of thumb is to go with what feels right, and these new numbers do feel right. Danielle Smith is in the game, but to form government she's going to have to do more than smile and say "aww shucks" when someone asks her about climate change and what services she'd cut.

And what does a competitive political landscape mean? Well, it means we'll see a lot more moves like yesterday's decision to slash royalty rates. One week, Stelmach and Ted Morton are lecturing Albertans about getting a runaway deficit under control. The next, they're giving away 800 million dollars in annual revenue.

Sure, they'll say it's all about jobs and economic growth. But the reality is, political donations have been flowing straight from the oil patch to the Wildrosers over the past year. The next election will be a bloody one, and Stelmach needs to get the PC war chest filled - this was the easiest way to do just that.

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Gilles Duceppe Woos the Ethnic Vote

"That means that Canada can continue to impose its multicultural ideology, the old Trudeau ideology, on Quebec."

-Gilles Duceppe, in the House of Commons yesterday.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Maybe his assistant can play him in the movie...

I don't have a lot of time for MPs who run attack ads against their opponents during elections for being soft on drugs, then get busted for possession of white powdery substances.

But I tend to agree with Misters Radwanski and Steele on this one - Jaffer got off easier than he should have, but there's certainly no conspiracy here and I don't think Jaffer, let alone Stephen Harper, owes anyone an explanation on this.

That said, the poster above, sent to me anonymously, was just too gosh darn funny to not post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Heaven forbid we find out Michael Ignatieff doesn't like beavers

Responding to accusations that maybe Jim Flaherty shouldn't have spent $3,000 for a double-double hours after talking about belt tightening, John Baird shot back:

[Baird] also accused Mulcair of having something "against Tim Hortons" which he called "un-Canadian."

This is in addition to other positions deemed "un-Canadian" by this government, such as wanting to know exactly what's going on in Afghanistan and proposing campaign finance reform.

You know, this made me think back to a simpler time. A time before "just visiting" adds. Here's Stephen Harper on the opening day of the 2004 election campaign:

Harper answered the criticism minutes later, accusing the Liberal Party, which has governed the country since 1993, of creating a campaign of fear. "You know, in this country," Harper said, "you can be Canadian without being a Liberal."


But heaven forbid you have something against thousand dollar donut photo opps.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Always got time for Tim Hortons

Jim Flaherty's budget speech:


Canadian families and businesses have accepted the need for restraint. Fairness requires that government too should have to keep costs under control.

Later that day...

OTTAWA — A day after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promoted government restraint to balance the budget, he reportedly spent $3,100 of taxpayers' money to fly to London, Ont., in a private jet for a photo-op at Tim Hortons.

That's one expensive cup of coffee.


Only Mavericks Use Socialized Health Care

It's not good enough for Danny Williams, but the Canadian Health Care system does have one supporter:

Palin notes irony of using Canada health care

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sarah Palin has been no friend lately of socialized health care.

She has criticized Canada's system, saying it should be dismantled in favor of free enterprise. And she has denounced President Barack Obama's health plan as being socialized medicine.

But during a weekend speech in Calgary, the former Republican vice presidential candidate acknowledged her family used medical care in Whitehorse, the capital of Canada's Yukon Territory, decades ago.

Well, at least she's aware of the irony. But hey, let's cut her some slack. We all did wild and crazy things in our youth we're not proud of.

Palin's just lucky her brother's burnt ankle never came before a death panel, or who knows what those socialist Canadians would have done...

Also, for a recap of Palin's Calgary love-in, check out Colby Cosh.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

He voted for it before he was against it

John Baird, on the Ottawa West-Nepean by election:

“We got the message out on the impact of HST,” Ottawa West-Nepean Conservative MP John Baird said. “With 28 days, no one gave this party, no one gave Tim Hudak, and no one gave Beth Graham a chance at winning.”

And which message would that be John?

Because, you know, just three months ago John Baird voted in favour of the HST...

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

We Saw This Coming

From Jim Flaherty's budget preamble:

A year before the crisis, we saw the risk of a slowdown. It originated outside our borders, but we knew it would eventually affect us.

I guess you just had to read between the lines:

September 15, 2008: "My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of big crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now." - Stephen Harper

September 26, 2008: "All the fundamentals of the Canadian economy are good. It's not the time to do anything new, wild or stupid." - Stephen Harper

October 10, 2008: "This country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G7 countries." - Stephen Harper.

Budget Day

Yesterday's throne speech was merely the appetizer for today's banquet dinner. Throne speeches are by their very nature vague (as are opposition parties when they vaguely criticize throne speeches for being too "vague"). The main objective of a throne speech is to illustrate the government's direction, but this becomes far less important when we get them every friggin' year, and the direction seems to be "full steam ahead".

So that explains why we're talking about Seniors Day, volunteerism awards, and re-writing the Canadian anthem. Inspirational stuff indeed.

But budgets are not vague, and they provide a much more concrete look at a government's priorities and its focus. So what to make of today's budget?

Well, as with the throne speech, it appears to be a case of "full steam ahead". There's very little sizzle in this budget - no spending cuts, no tax hikes, no tax cuts, no surprises.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. The mood of the nation seems to be one of cautious optimism - "we're on the way out of the recession so let's not do anything rash to mess this thing up". So that's what the government did.

And politically? Well, this isn't an election budget full of popular goodies. It's an election-avoidance budget. I don't think any of the opposition parties are particularly eager for an election and, at first glance, there isn't a hint of controversy in here that will tempt them into one. Yes, the Tories have again flipped the bird at the environment, at foreign aid, at education. But I just can't see one measure in this budget that, by itself, would repulse enough voters to justify an election. Are the Liberals going to run on higher taxes or higher deficits? I doubt it.

So, on the whole, it's a bit of a snoozer. There are some welcome moves - cutting tariffs, closing tax loopholes, and at least acknowledging that innovation is, you know, important. But just as there's nothing to scream at, there's not a lot to get super excited about. And I suspect that holds true on all sides of the political spectrum.

Which begs an interesting question - if nothing has changed, why on earth did we need a three month prorogation to "recalibrate"?


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

After months of recalibration, refocusing and consulting with Canadians...

...Stephen Harper is offering Canadians...wait for it...SENIOR'S DAY!

From today's throne speech:

• In recognition of the contributions seniors make to society, our Government will support legislation establishing Seniors Day.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. And we never legalized same sex marriage.

Immigration Minister pulled gay rights from citizenship guide, documents show

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked any reference to gay rights in a new study guide for immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship, The Canadian Press has learned.

Internal documents show an early draft of the guide contained sections noting that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969; that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation; and that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2005.

But Mr. Kenney, who fought same-sex marriage when it was debated in Parliament, ordered those key sections removed when his office sent its comments to the department last June.

Senior department officials duly cut out the material - but made a last-ditch plea with Mr. Kenney in early August to have it reinstated.

"Recommend the re-insertion of the text boxes related to ... the decriminalization of homosexual sex/recognition of same-sex marriage," says a memorandum to Mr. Kenney from deputy minister Neil Yeates.

"Recommend the addition of 'equality rights' under list of rights. Had noted earlier that this bullet should be reinserted into the list as a means of noting the equality of all based on race, gender, sexual orientation etc ..."

In the end, however, Mr. Kenney's view trumped that of the bureaucrats. The 63-page guide, released with fanfare last November, contains no mention of gay and lesbian rights.

For those who don't think Sidney Crosby saved Canada...

The Mark publishes a cross-partisan look at 14 ways to save Canada.

I'll give a thumbs up to David Suzuki's plea for a comprehensive strategy to tackle climate change (hell, even a half-ass strategy would look good by comparison to what we've seen over the past decade) and Michael Geist's plea for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the digital era.

And I can't argue against the need to ban heckling, boost watchdog powers, hold more free votes, or to make committees mater.

Nicholas Gafuik wants Canadians to be nicer to each other so that government won't have to spend as much on social programs. That's all swell and good, but I'm not sure how he exactly expects to bring this about, and unless we can find some way to alter thousands of years of human behaviour, I think it's still up to government to help those in need.

Oh, and Robert Huish thinks we should stop paying attention to hockey. I'm not sure this week is necessarily the most opportune moment for Robert to be advancing this idea...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Calgary Grit Live From Vancouver

I went to a riot and a street hockey game broke out...