Tuesday, January 31, 2006

General Disgust

Active generals don't tend to speak out against their political masters, past or present, publicly while still serving. So it's quite surprising to hear CDS Gen. Rick Hillier condemn the infamous "soldiers with guns" Liberal attack ad, even if he waited until after the election.

Just how badly were relations poisoned between the military and the government during the Liberal regime? Gen. Hillier's response is answer enough.


The race to run from the Liberal leadership has become attracted a third official non-contestant as Brian Tobin announces his intention to stand back.

Lest we think that the race is turning into a stampede, remember that the three who have bravely fled the field--Frank McKenna, John Manley, and Brian Tobin--have all retired from public office to the comforts of Bay Street boards and/or law practices.

Prolonged exposure to same tends to dull the political reflexes and appetites. Witness the collapse of John Turner's once-promising legacy.

If potential candidates still in Parliament start declining, then we'll know that the party is in real trouble.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Frank Withdrawal

The coronation has been cancelled because the heir apparent has refused the throne:

Frank McKenna has become the second high-profile Liberal to bow out of the race to replace Paul Martin.
McKenna’s decision today followed last week’s announcement by former deputy prime minister John Manley that he won’t be a leadership candidate.

And Brian Tobin may soon follow suit.

A source close to the former Newfoundland premier said Tobin is not “chewing at the bit” to return to politics either.

“(He is) consulting family and friends and asking himself many of the same questions as McKenna.”

The reluctance of the three, all considered among the frontrunners to succeed Martin, suggests the leadership of the Liberal party is not the prize it once was.

Frank McKenna's withdrawal highlights two significant problems for the Liberal Party in its bid to be restored to what it deems its rightful place as Canada's natural governing party.

First, its domination by the left wing of the party. McKenna and John Manley would both have had to run the gauntlet of fiscal and social liberals who would have attacked their records of fiscal conservatism, their close corporate connections, and especially in McKenna's case, perceived social conservatism on the two issues that have become litmus tests for progressives: abortion on demand and homosexual civil marriage.

Second, the debilitating effects of the Chretien-Martin civil war on the party. Both men are gone, but their proxies live on. McKenna was the Board's great hope; for that reason alone, the Chretien people would have sabotaged him. So will it also be for any Chretienite leadership hopeful. Which may also explain Brian Tobin's reticence.

We could be looking at a race full of second-tier candidates and turncoat opportunists, the weakest and most crowded field since the 1968 convention. Hardly an inspiration for the serious reflection and renewal the party must go through if it wants to see government again any time soon!

Source: Toronto Star

Noted Abstention

Pro boxers abstain from the act before the big fight to save strength and energy. So, apparently, do some politicians:

ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is famous for his ambitious promises, but he is unlikely to be called to task if he breaks his latest pledge: not to have sex before the April 9 general election.

At a party rally in Sardinia yesterday, the media tycoon received the blessing of television preacher Massimiliano Pusceddu, who thanked him for opposing gay marriage and defending family values.

"Thank you dear Father Massimiliano, I'll try not to let you down and I promise you two and a half months of complete sexual abstinence until April 9," Mr Berlusconi replied.

Imagine if Stephen Harper had gone on 100 Huntley Street to make such a pledge. The MSM would have been torn between laughter and outrage.

But at least that's one campaign promise no one wants to bother checking on.

Source: Melbourne Herald-Sun

Chopper Claim Crash

The outgoing Liberal government will be leaving many unpleasant messes behind for the Conservatives to clean up, including this one:

Stephen Harper's new government could face a $1-billion legal penalty after a European aerospace firm filed a claim for damages citing political interference by the Liberals during the 2004 purchase of naval helicopters.

Aerospace giant Agusta-Westland recently filed the $1-billion claim for damages in Federal Court, alleging its EH-101 helicopter didn't win the competition to provide Canada's military with a maritime chopper because of political interference by the Liberal government. The company is also asking for $1-million in punitive damages. Some Conservatives have privately voiced concerns their government will get stuck with the bill if the company wins its case.

Agusta-Westland contends the Liberals designed the $5-billion program to buy 28 maritime helicopters in such a way as to prevent the selection of its EH-101 chopper. The firm lost out to its U.S. rival Sikorsky, which was awarded the contract in 2004 to provide a replacement for the military's ageing Sea Kings.


In its statement of claim, Agusta-Westland contends the Liberal government wanted to ensure the EH-101 didn't win the Sea King replacement contract because it wanted to avoid political embarrassment. The firm alleges the Liberals were worried that if the EH-101 did win, the government would be accused of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in cancelling the first deal.

The company also claims the government made serious errors in evaluating the bids and knew in advance that Sikorsky would not be able to deliver choppers on time.


Agusta-Westland also alleges the government reduced the performance criteria of the new helicopter in order to allow the Sikorsky aircraft to be selected. Agusta-Westland has complained over the years the helicopter program was rigged to favour any aircraft other than its EH-101.

The Sea Kings have become symbolic of the predecessor government's studied neglect of, if not outright contempt for, its national defence responsibilities. After more than 40 years in service, they have become almost impossible to maintain and keep in the air. Airmen practically expect to crash every time they fly one, and not without reason, as a dozen have crashed, killing ten airmen.

Read more about the bid process and the technical problems with the Sea Kings, the EH-101 and the new Sikorsky H-92 here.

You'll be disgusted to find out the lengths Jean Chretien went to keep this one campaign promise to cancel the EH-101 contract when he blithely broke so many others.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vellacott: A Modest Refusal

Speculation, informed or otherwise, did not have Maurice Vellacott going into Cabinet. But now he's gone public asking Stephen Harper not to put him in it lest Cabinet solidarity should force him to shut up:

It's not unusual for members of a new government to publicly seek their desired roles as the cabinet is being built, but Vellacott has taken it one step further by putting his requests on paper and distributing it publicly.

In his two-page letter, Vellacott says he'd prefer to be appointed either a vice-chair or chair of the human resources, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs or health committees.

He also says he's concerned that if he were appointed to a senior cabinet role, he would be prevented from speaking his mind on certain issues, such as "ethnic outreach, marriage, family and life."

"Because I'm an avowed fiscal conservative, but also a social conservative ... I don't know to what extent a more senior role would tie my hands on certain foundational issues for our country," Vellacott writes.

Does Vellacott fear that a Harper cabinet will be whipped on contentious moral issues the way that the Liberals whipped their cabinets? Probably not.

Does he suspect that so-cons will be expected to hold their tongues a little longer until a majority, or a working day-to-day informal coalition, can be secured? Perhaps.

Does he believe that backbench MPs will be given greater liberty than Liberal backbenchers were? Very likely.

How the more outspoken MPs get treated will be an indication of whether the heavy hand of the whip and PMO really is going to be relaxed.

Source: Yahoo

The Price Of Powerlessness

Pierre Trudeau once quipped that MPs are nobodies 100 yards off the Hill. Once their party falls out of power, however, they're nobodies even when they're still on the Hill:

The MP who spoke most often to the media about Canadians abroad said he was frustrated about being left “out of the loop” regarding a videotape featuring Canadian hostages in Iraq.

Dan McTeague blamed the transition to the new Conservative government.

Mr. McTeague, the Liberal parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said he officially lost his title on election night and learned about the new video of the hostages only when he turned on his television Saturday morning.

When contacted for information about the case, he said he was “out of the loop, regrettably” and “I have no formal role as a result of the election.”

Yes, Dan, but what about the hostages? You just became history, but they aren't.

Source: Globe & Mail

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Out Of Power, Not Out Of Money

Rumours about the Liberal Party's impending financial collapse under the weight of massive debt may have been greatly exaggerated, if this TDH Strategies report of a recent Liberal conference call is to be believed:

° Paul Martin participated in the discussion

° David Herle accepted blame for the failure of the campaign

° The party is about $4-5 million in debt, a figure that is far lower than most were expecting

° Tom Axworthy has been tasked with writing a post-mortem report on how the campaign went so terribly wrong

° The outgoing caucus and cabinet will meet for the last time next week

° The following week, the new caucus will assemble and choose an interim leader. The early favourite still remains Bill Graham

° The party is obligated to hold a biennial convention (which is separate from the leadership convention) by the spring of 2007

° Most agreed that a leadership convention will likely have to take place in the late fall or in early 2007

° If it is held in October or November, the cutoff for signing up new members will be mid-June

And it looks like the taxpayer subsidy may cover even that reduced amount:

With voter turnout up from the last election, the Liberals will get an annual Elections Canada subsidy of about $7.8 million, which the party says is "a manageable" $1.3 million or so less than it received before.

Every vote the five mainstream political parties attract is worth about $1.75 to them each year in federal subsidies under rules that govern election financing.

The Liberals received 4,477,217 votes in Monday's election, according to unofficial results from Elections Canada.

If the Liberals' financial shape is better than believed, it may make sense for the party not to rush a leadership vote if they don't need the money raised from it to keep the wolf from the door.

The real threat to their finances may be ahead of them with a proposed ban on all corporate donations. If they don't adopt the Conservative strategy of encouraging grassroots donations first, then they really will be in trouble.

So it appears that the Liberals are not financially bankrupt, just morally so.

Pallister's Ploy

Every seat counts in a thin minority government, but apparently that news hasn't reached Brian Pallister, who's thinking of jumping ship to take over the Manitoba PC leadership barely a week after his re-election.

How gracious of him to pull his name out of cabinet consideration while he awaits the call from back home. If he leaves, the voters of Portage-Lisgar get forced into an unnecessary early by-election, and even if it's a safe Tory seat today, who knows how they might react to Pallister's untimely departure?

If he doesn't, he more or less assures himself of never being put into Cabinet, not after pulling a stunt like this.

Now is not the time to start making noises about quitting for greener pastures. In six months or a year, maybe, but not when the government hasn't even been sworn in yet.

Situation Report: Toronto Blogfest

It was the highlight of the social calendar in Toronto, and the usual suspects were there talking politics and getting pissed.

Bob Tarantino and Jason Cherniak were there, of course. As were Greg Staples, Damian Brooks, The Last Amazon, North American Patriot, Kathy Shaidle, The Wingnuterer, Section 15, The Accordion Guy (with accordion, natch) and others whose names I cannot recall but ask not to take offence, because without them, the event wouldn't have been half as successful.

Many thanks to Andrew Coyne, Warren Kinsella, and Antonia Zerbisias for gracing us amateur hacks with their presence.

Thanks to the good folk at Fiddlers Green for hosting the event.

And thanks again to everyone who was there.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


John Manley has decided that there isn't enough room in the Liberal leadership race for two bland, right-leaning corporate lawyers with their best years in office long behind them.

Too bad. He struck me as being one of the few truly decent members of the old Chretien regime, and perhaps even more competent in reality than Paul Martin was long touted to be.

He was also the only leading politician to publicly espouse one of my preferred constitutional reforms: replacing the monarchy with a republic headed by an effective president instead of a do-nothing vice-regent.

Of all the Liberal leadership hopefuls, Manley was the only one who might have made me seriously consider voting Liberal. Maybe.

Source: CBC

Talking To Americans

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, still searching for the missing Florida votes and the relevance that eluded his grasp five years ago, has demonstrated that like the House of Bourbon, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing:

Canadians, Gore said, should vigilantly keep watch over prime minister-designate Stephen Harper because he has a pro-oil agenda and wants to pull out of the Kyoto accord -- an international agreement to combat climate change.

"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."

The oil industry is to our era what the Jews, Jesuits and Freemasons have been in centuries past: the insidious conspiracy to blame for all the world's ills, the power behind the throne that controls us all.

What's more, if you can't blame the oil industry, you can always blame some other natural resource or industrial lobby to suit your audience's needs. If Al Gore had been talking to the local progressives in Nauru, he'd have blamed the phosphate industry's lust to mine bird shit.

You'll recall, of course, that the tar sands project was the hot topic of the election. Sandwiched in the Tory platform between the Accountability Act and the GST cut. Paul Martin's promise to invoke the notwithstanding clause to stop the project before abolishing it. The attack ads about soldiers with oilwells. In our cities.

Fortunately for Al Gore, his audience, being American, would naturally have been completely uninformed about matters happening in Canada (we know because Rick Mercer tells us so) and would have been equally as ignorant about this:

The federal Elections Act limits how much money individuals, corporations and unions can donate to political parties. Individuals are allowed to give as much as $5,000 a year, while companies and unions are capped at $1,000 a year.

In their election platform, the Conservatives promised to further limit individual donations to a maximum of $1,000 and ban all donations from corporations, unions and organizations.

Parties and candidates are required to make public any contributions exceeding $200.

But why let facts get in the way? If he couldn't bring down George Bush, maybe he can bring down George Bush Lite.

Source: Calgary Herald

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Embassy Row

Frank McKenna has just resigned as ambassador to the United States, leaving him free to be called upon for the not-entirely-inevitable coronation as Liberal leader.

The hope is that as someone untainted by the Chretien-Martin civil war and the Adscam corruption that rotted the party in Quebec, he might be able to put a good face on the Liberals in time for the next election, with the help of some inevitable Tory screwups along the way.

The fear is that he might be like John Turner: his prime years spent on Bay Street, a decade out of elected office, and his best days behind him when everyone expected them to be ahead of him.

In any event, his quick exit saves himself and the incoming Harper government serious trouble. Harper doesn't suffer any blow-back from firing him, and he doesn't have to worry about him sabotaging Canada-U.S. relations as a prelude to running for the Liberal leadership.

And it gives him the chance to set a positive tone for relations with the U.S. with a friendlier ambassador. Preston Manning and Michael Wilson have been named as possibilities, as has Derek Burney for a second go-round, but former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan can't be discounted. Nor Mike Harris, or even Major General Lewis Mackenzie.

With Allan Rock about to quit the UN, one poster at Andrew Coyne's site suggested Joe Clark. And that may not be such a bad idea. It would demonstrate the reconciliation of the last old Red Tory holdouts, and it is a position where he can do little harm, if not much good. It will also keep him from being a thorn in the government's side.

Arms Across The Border

What a pathetic footnote to 12 years of Liberal indifference and disdain for national security issues: unarmed border guards forced to abandon their posts when gun-toting crooks head their way!

Here's one campaign promise that can be acted on quickly to show that our new government means business about defending our borders.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Road Ahead

So here we are, then, after one of the longest election campaigns in recent Canadian history, with a Conservative minority government facing a Liberal opposition which has staved off complete collapse, the Bloc Quebecois weakened somewhat, and the NDP strengthened a little.

How did we get here? What happens next?

Governments tend to become tired and accident-prone after a decade or so in office. Unless their opposition is severely divided or completely inept, the incumbent government is usually not able to resist an inchoate but growing sense in the public mind that it has been in power long enough and that it's time for a change.

To some extent, each of the major parties' election strategies succeeded and failed.

The Conservative strategy of putting forward a well-defined centre-right policy platform, and regularly releasing parts of its platform, allowed Stephen Harper and the party to define the debate before the Liberals could define him.

If he had had only anger at corruption and Adscam to run on, as the Liberals were hoping, all of the subsequent Liberal gaffes and mid-campaign scandals would still not have been enough to win.

People want change, and they hate corruption, but they still need some reason to be for a change in government. The Conservative five-point platform gave them enough of a reason.

The Liberals prevented a complete collapse with a re-run of its 2004 fear campaign, which did shift enough soft votes in the Toronto area away to save seats. But by then, Stephen Harper had made himself enough of a known quantity to reduce its effects significantly.

The "hidden agenda" card has been taken out of play. However, the Liberals will be able to point to an actual record and attack it, with some cogency, at the next election.

Equally, the "corruption" card will be taken out of play for the Conservatives as Liberal scandals recede in the public memory. But if it handles government well, it can point to its record and run on it.

The Bloc Quebecois still stands athwart either major party's hopes for majority government. But for now, its position has become more precarious. The Liberals hoped that the Tories would run on nothing but Adscam and people would tire of it. Instead, the Bloc did, and when Tory promises to respect provincial jurisdiction and work to correct the fiscal imbalance struck a chord with voters, it had nothing to counter with to keep soft nationalist voters in the fold.

The NDP won more seats, returning to its position as the populist voice in British Columbia previously held by the Reform/Alliance parties. But it finds itself with less influence as a result of proving itself ready to sell out to the Liberals to hold off the Conservatives at all costs. It never misses the opportunity to miss the opportunity to squeeze out the Liberals' left flank. Unless the NDP holds firm against Liberal blandishments, it will always find itself used, abused, and thrown away.

Where next?

Yes, the Tories hold only a thin minority, dependent for survival on brokering deals on an issue-by-issue basis.

But at this point, the Liberals will not be willing to bring down the government until after the party has selected a new leader and replenished its coffers. Even if the Liberal party distances itself entirely from the corruption of the past couple of years, it will still need to stand for something and not just against the Tory government. Running on a vague platform of defending Canadian values just isn't going to cut it if the economy should remain reasonably healthy and the Tories appear to be governing halfway competently.

The Bloc may itself be looking for a new leader, now that Gilles Duceppe has failed not only to produce the clean sweep he was expected to, but also has to fight a Tory federalist threat it never saw coming.

The NDP must now figure out how to exercise influence in this Parliament. Although it is the Tories' least likely ally, on issues such as the proposed Federal Accountability Act, the GST cut and lower-class income tax breaks, it could be a source of support.

But all of this is to extrapolate today's situation over the next 18 months.

The Conservatives could prove to be incapable of managing a minority government and making the necessary compromises without compromising themselves in the bargain. Stephen Harper's track record of exceeding low expectations will be put to the test as never before.

The Liberals could remake themselves so well that everyone will forget what a disaster they were just a short time ago. Paul Martin's quick departure may help the Liberals reunite after a long civil war between the Chretien-Martin factions, or it could instead lead to a proxy war between its left and right wings.

The Bloc could find new purpose fighting the Tories as vigorously as they have the Grits. And the NDP could find new ways of making itself irrelevant.

For all of the problems that the new Conservative government will encounter, it is well to remember that its election itself represents a fundamental change in the Canadian political scene.

For the first time, a politician whose career was one of rising through the ranks of Western conservative protest parties has become Prime Minister.

The Conservative Party is not the Progressive Conservative Party of old, an Ontario party with a Western wing. It is a party whose Western wing will be equal to, if not predominant over, its Ontario wing.

Canadian political power will now revolve around two axes: the old Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal axis, and the new Western axis.

The old political deals that made up Confederation will have to be adjusted to recognize the reality of a West that is as powerful as Ontario or Quebec.

A new political order is taking shape. It will not do so overnight, and there will be some reverses along the way.

But the old Confederation is making way for the new.

Regime Change

It wasn't a sweeping victory, but it is a victory nonetheless.

I will have more reasoned analysis later today.

Tonight, however, I am overjoyed to see Canada follow the example set by Ukraine in standing up against a corrupt and incompetent power-hungry oligarchy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Swan Song?

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver, with every paper I delivered,
Bad news on the door step, I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside, the day, the music died.

The People's Choice

This country has been in the grip of leftist and socialist leaders for a long time, and people are getting tired of the government.

The voters are going to the polls, and if predictions hold up, they'll elect an economist whose depth of public policy experience and knowledge more than makes up for his less than charismatic personality.

He'll be helped by a split on the left between a hardcore socialist and an aging politician long past his prime.

Even his opponents are admitting that the only question to be settled is whether he will win a minority or majority on the ballot.

But that's enough about the presidential election in Portugal.

Ford Vote

Ford is expected to announce that it will cut up to 25,000 jobs and shut down as many as ten plants in North America as part of a restructuring plan to keep it from facing the point of near-bankruptcy that GM has reached.

Naturally, Buzz Hargrove has to put in his two cents (and grossly overpriced, at that):

"Ford has asked me for an early morning meeting tomorrow, which indicates to me they wouldn't call us into a meeting unless they had some bad news for us," Hargrove told CTV Newsnet on Sunday.

Hargrove said he isn't worried about the Oakville, Ont., plant, which employs about 3,770 workers. There is a billion-dollar investment going on there, and Ford confirmed earlier this month that Oakville will assemble the new Ford Edge crossover vehicle.

However, the fate of the Essex plant in Windsor, Ont., and the assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., is less certain, he said.

There are 2,500 employees at the St. Thomas plant, which builds big rear-wheel-drive sedans. There are also two engine factories in Windsor. More than 2,000 people work at the Windsor engine plant that produces V-8s and V-10s, while 730 work at the Essex V-6 plant.

The cuts will be part of a five-year restructuring plan, suggest reports, that will see thousands of blue-collar workers, salaried workers and top-level executives get pink slips.

This could swing a lot of undecided votes in a few key Ontario ridings, but who knows which way? The Liberals will likely not benefit because the announcement is happening on its watch, but where the votes fall will depend on what particular idea seizes people's minds most.

If it's saving the jobs for the men on the assembly line, expect an NDP swing. If it's fixing the economy to keep the plants going, that could favour the Conservatives.

The one guy who won't be helped either way is Buzz.

Source: CTV

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Unrehearsed Testimony From Important Celebrities

Remember the celebrities who said they would flee the United States if George W. Bush were re-elected President?

Remember the mass exodus of liberal Democrats fleeing imaginary oppression that was supposed to be streaming north of the border?

Wonder where these Canadian actors will go to flee a Tory government, if they've already left?

The prospect of a Conservative election victory Monday is sending chills into liberal Hollywood -- especially for two of the top Canadian-born actors on American TV shows.

Eric McCormack, star of NBC's Will & Grace, and Donald Sutherland, co-star on ABC's Commander In Chief, both seem spooked by Stephen Harper's lead in the polls.

McCormack says he hears "horrible, horrible things about a Conservative government coming in. If I can get back and vote, I would."

Sutherland, who was once married to actress Shirley Douglas, NDP founder Tommy Douglas' daughter, fears a Conservative victory.

"I'm just praying it will be a minority government," he said yesterday.

If Canada is no longer a safe haven for so-called progressive refugees, where will paranoid Canadian lefties seek refuge? The Netherlands? France? China? Cuba? North Korea?

I Come To Bury Caesar

It really must be all over for Paul Martin if Toronto Star Liberal apologist nonpareil James Travers is writing his eulogy:

Whatever the final outcome, Martin is irreparably damaged. Even if Liberals snatch victory from defeat a second consecutive time, a party that now understands the importance of renewal won't fight another campaign with this leader.


What's self-evident now is that the seeds of Martin's failure were sown by success. In dividing Liberals to topple a sitting prime minister, Martin and his clique so weakened the Western world's most successful political party that a Conservative revival became inevitable.

Some men are better at seizing power than exercising it. Paul Martin spent nearly 15 years undermining Jean Chretien's leadership, taking the party out from under him one member by member, riding by riding.

And he is still fighting for the Liberal leadership right up to the point when he is about to be forced out of it.

His reaction to the sponsorship scandal--screaming that he was "mad as hell" about the worst scandal in recent memory--can only be explained by the desire to weaken Jean Chretien even further, even when he was out of office. After all, didn't it happen on his watch?

Unfortunately, Paul Martin could not make the electorate believe that he was an innocent bystander in a scandal involving fraudulent abuse of public funds by the Quebec wing of the federal Liberals. Not as finance minister, and certainly not as a senior Quebec minister.

His ruthlessness in forcing out his leadership opponents assured that he would never enjoy the loyalty of their supporters in an election campaign. Moreover, he has set the precedent for the same sort of palace coup that will remove him presently.

Paul Martin ran the most effective party leadership campaign in Canadian history.

And it left him with no energy or idea to actually govern.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Freaky Friday

Is it just me, or did everybody seem to lose their cool today in the media and both major parties?

The Globe and Mail's fearmongering, the Toronto Star's hysteria about the "religious right", Paul Martin's rants about the Calgary cabal and Stephen Harper's imaginary anti-abortion extremism, Ed Broadbent's farewell blast at the Liberals, , and Peter MacKay's "stick to your knitting" jibe at Alexa McDonough--all of these were just the highlights of a very angry day.

Win or lose, everybody wants this election campaign to be over. People are tired, everyone's on edge, nerves are fraying, tempers are short.

Today just seemed to be the day when everybody, no matter their political stripe, had had enough and couldn't take it any more.

And the effect of all this ranting and raving on the public?

Marginal, if the current polls are any indication.

The public wants this campaign over too, and maybe they tuned out today's sound and fury signiying nothing.

Stampeding Calgary

Paul Martin's latest comments, when added to Buzz Hargrove's, demonstrate a palpable hatred in Liberal ranks for Alberta, its people, and its values:

Nova Scotians can’t trust Peter MacKay to look after their interests in a Conservative government, says Paul Martin, because scary right-wing Albertans will be running the show.

"Peter MacKay doesn’t really count," the prime minister said in a phone interview from Ontario on Thursday.

"All of Stephen Harper’s advisers come from Calgary. They come from where he is. Peter MacKay is not going to be the person who’s going to be deciding."

Mr. Martin is a desperate man saying desperate things at the end of a losing battle, says Mr. MacKay.

"It’s more of the same fear-mongering, diminishing, insulting, distracting behaviour that has become the hallmark of Mr. Martin in this campaign," he said.

The hatred of Alberta arises out of fear. Fear that the Upper Canadian establishment's hammerlock on power might be weakened, if not broken entirely. Fear that the cozy arrangement between Ontario and Quebec elites that constitutes the so-called Canadian political consensus might be eroding. Fear that the economic centre of Canada might be shifting from Toronto to Calgary as surely as it once did from Montreal to Toronto.

Paul Martin is very much a man of the establishment, from his pedigree to his business success. Stephen Harper represents a threat to that establishment.

The nobility has always feared and loathed the rising bourgeoisie, mocking it for its driving ambitions, its unseemly pursuit of material wealth, and its refusal to extend proper deference to its social betters.

What is unfolding in Canada is not unlike the decline of the British landed aristocracy, living off its legacy and rents, in the face of an energetic new class empowered by its industrial and commercial wealth.

The ugliest class struggles are never between the rich and poor, but between a declining nobility and a rising bourgeoisie.

Fear And Loathing In Ontario

The Liberals are going all-out to frighten Ontario voters back into the fold with dark hints of theocratic social conservatism holding sway under a Conservative government warring against the courts and the Charter:

Citing Harper's statement that a Conservative government, even if it was a majority, would not have "absolute power" because of Liberal-appointed judges and senators, Martin said the Tory leader's attitude toward power is cause for grave concern. "Who talks that way? Who thinks that way?

"He (Harper) spoke of the courts as his political opponents, he described them as an obstacle, a barrier between him and his agenda," Martin said, describing his opponent's priorities "as the most socially conservative agenda that has ever been this close" to being carried into power in Canada. It is an agenda inspired by "the extreme right in the United States," he added.

And now "he's criticizing the independence of our judiciary, saying he's worried about the social activism of some judges," Martin remarked. He said it was the courts' role in protecting individual rights that upsets the Conservatives.

The fear campaign will work with some voters, no doubt. A great deal of mythology has been built up around the Charter and the judiciary, not simply as protectors of inherent rights, but as the creators and grantors of such rights.

And there are too many powerful groups with vested interests in the fruits of the social engineering revolution to fight all at once. A lot of people in business, the professions, government, academe and NGOs stand to lose money, power and prestige at the merest hint that laws and practices geared towards replacing family and community independence with elite power and state control might be changed.

Unrestricted abortion, corporate welfare, unlimited immigration, and high taxes are just a few of the things that keep our governing elites in power and controlling the people. Stephen Harper may be much less of a threat to them than he once was, but he remains a threat nonetheless.

All the stops will be pulled out this weekend to stop him.

If the fear campaign fails, you can be sure that it will continue all throughout a Conservative government.

Source: Toronto Star

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lotto M.D.

Lotteries should be for multi-million dollar jackpots that hold out the dream of telling the boss to take this job and shove it. Or for that shiny new sports car you've always thought it'd be cool to have. Not for the privilege of having one's own family doctor:

It will be the luck of the draw that determines who gets in to the new family clinic in Yarmouth.

The Ocean View Family Practice is scheduled to open in March with three family doctors and one mentoring physician. It won't be a walk-in clinic; Patients will have to win a random draw.

"This is an attempt to experiment to see if we can solve a very long-standing problem in our district that's growing progressively worse as our current population of physicians begin to retire," said Blaise MacNeil, CEO of the South West Nova District Health Authority.

In a phone survey last fall, about 8,000 people in the district said they didn't have a family doctor. With no one to refill a prescription or check their blood pressure, many turned to busy emergency departments.

Usually it's up to doctors to advertise their practices and patients to phone to get in. But with so many residents without a family physician, health officials wanted to try a lottery to ensure a fair process at the Ocean View clinic.

This is what we get for not pursuing real choice and reform in health care: rationing schemes that make us equal only in our sufferings. What a way to pit people against each other, because you can be sure that someone who lost the draw will complain that their neighbour who won had an in with the health authority.

Tommy Douglas wept.

Source: CBC

Four Days To Go

A few observations as we enter the last days of the election campaign:

Polls seem to be settling around a six to eight point lead for the Conservative Party, with a tie in Ontario and a continuing rise in Quebec.

Certainly, Tories can't be complacent about holding this lead right through to Monday. And it's not entirely unreasonable to fear that the lead might evaporate over the weekend if things go terribly wrong.

But election campaigns never repeat themselves exactly twice, even if the Liberals and their friends in the media are trying their best with a last-ditch fear campaign.

Paul Martin still had a lot of goodwill in 2004, even in Quebec. The full extent of Adscam corruption had not been made public, nor had Paul Martin's general incompetence and desperation to cling to power at any cost been fully manifested, as they were during the spring confidence crisis.

The Conservative Party had barely stitched itself together; a year earlier, the prospects of a united right had never been more remote. A campaign and platform had to be thrown together almost on the fly, and it led to a resulting lack of discipline and message co-ordination.

Most of the gaffes have been coming from the Liberal side, unlike last time, and they seem to be fairly continuous.

The mood for change was not as strong; SES's own national polls on the question never got much above 55%, while current polls are around 67%.

Nor had the Conservative Party's lead in 2004 polling even been as high as was in 2006, or as enduring. Most of all, Quebec was not even on the radar screen for the Tories in 2004, whereas it has now become the leading federalist alternative, and even picking away at Bloc support.

All of these factors in the Conservatives' favour were not present in 2004.

One major factor--media suspicion and hostility--has remained and will always remain, although it has been tempered somewhat.

And there will always be an irreducible bedrock support for the Liberal Party of about 30% of the national electorate, even in the face of complete disaster, because of the party's dominance in Toronto, and amongst hardcore social liberals, the intelligentsia, and constituencies dependent on government largesse.

The Conservative Party is in a much stronger position than it was in 2004, and the Liberal Party in a much weaker one.

But as in every election, it comes down to getting out the vote.

Stay the course.

Flagging Spirits

Canada's elite athletes are getting a bit of a rough ride in the press because so many have publicly refused to carry the flag in the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Torino next month.

But it's not just a matter of selfishness or laziness, but the athletes' desire not to risk anything prior to their competitions:

We just can't afford to waste any energy on anything," Canadian cross-country coach Dave Wood said Wednesday. "The opening ceremonies (on the Friday night) is, in a way, a gruelling event in itself.

"We have an event on Sunday and she felt, and we totally support her, that she's got a finite amount of energy, and she wants to put it into the competitions. Our sport is incredibly physically demanding. You just have to have everything at your disposal."


Involvement in the opening ceremonies takes up the better part of the day and the time commitment is even greater for athletes living at sub-villages in far-flung towns.

"There are also many extra demands placed on the flag-bearer that potentially take away from the preparation (for competition) and which can be a distraction," said Holmik. "A number of athletes choose not to take on that added responsibility because they believe their first responsibility is to perform at their absolute maximum."

Holmik admits there is pride in carrying the flag and representing your country.

"But all that has to be balanced with how it affects the athlete," he said. "Some say participating in the opening ceremonies is an uplifting experience and take the position that, 'I'll benefit.' Others decide that taking part, standing for so long, having to change schedules . . . that maybe that will affect results and they choose not to participate."

This seems fair. Why take a chance on anything that might cost you a medal, just a few days prior to the event you've spent four years, even a lifetime, working towards?

I wouldn't question their patriotism or their enthusiasm for begging off. It's not as though someone won't be carrying the flag on the team. And who really cares who does it, as long as someone does?

Source: Yahoo

Mood For Change

For all the talk about polls, for all the joy and fear partisans feel when the numbers go up and down, there is only one poll that counts. Besides the one on election day:

The federal Tories appear to have successfully framed the question Canadians will ask when they head for the ballot box on Monday, as an overwhelming two-thirds of voters now say it's time to change the government.

The finding comes as the Conservatives continue to hold a double-digit polling lead despite some tightening and apparent resistance from the Liberal stronghold of the Greater Toronto Area.

The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail-CTV News, shows that 66 per cent of those surveyed say it's time for a change and a new government needs to be voted in, a number that has jumped from 54 per cent at the beginning of the campaign.

By contrast, only 24 per cent of Canadians say now is not the time for a change, down 15 percentage points during the same period.

This is the number that counts the most. When two-thirds of the electorate wants a change in government, there's going to be a change in government.

And this, despite the strongest economy and relative prosperity in years. What should have been the Liberals' trump card has become their joker.

Incumbent governments can turn back any challenge except this one. Even the most incompetent government can be re-elected if the electorate doesn't feel the need for change; the most capable government cannot survive if the electorate is raring to throw the bums out.

And look where the mood for change is strongest and weakest:

The desire for change has grown most in Quebec, where 83 per cent say it's time for a change, up from 59 per cent when the election was called.

"That's public opinion unanimity, for all intents and purposes," said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.

The desire for change is up across the country. However, the most resistant voters are in Ontario, where 54 per cent say it's time for a change, up just five points since the November call and flat since Christmas.

Ontario continues to be the Liberals' last bastion as voters in the Greater Toronto Area continue to support Paul Martin's party over the Tories.

Here's another element of an electoral realignment that only now is becoming apparent: the Toronto area is becoming as rigidly Liberal as much of Quebec used to be, and as solidly Liberal as Alberta is Conservative, no matter the consensus in the rest of the country.

Toronto's changing demographics have produced a changing attitude. A city full of immigrants, welfare recipients, criminals students, double income-no kids professionals, and what Richard Florida terms the creative class is going to naturally gravitate towards anyone who keeps the welfare flowing and rewards moral and ethical corruption.

Toronto is as alien from the rest of Ontario as San Francisco from inland California.

Don't expect this to change any time soon.

Source: Globe and Mail

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where's My Money?

You'd think that for all the hard work I've done on this blog, either talking up the Conservative Party or offering necessary criticism, that I'd get my fair share of the illegal third-party financing the Blogging Tories are supposed to be getting.

All this money supposedly backing us--from anonymous right-wing American donors no doubt, fundamentalist Christians oil millionaires to a man--and I haven't seen a penny.

I'm not even asking for much. Just enough to cover my high-speed internet bill for the past two months.

One month?

A two-four of Guinness?

12 Moosehead?

A six-pack of Lakeport?

A double-double from Tim Horton's?


Buzz Cuts

Buzz Hargrove's mad rant about voting Bloc to stop Quebec separatism has both Paul Martin and Jack Layton running away from the CAW boss at top speed:

Harper said Hargrove's comments were "shocking," and suggested Martin distance himself from them.

"I don't think any federalist leader should be urging people to vote for the Bloc," Harper said, while in Toronto.

Martin said he doesn't agree with the characterization of Harper has a separatist. "I have large differences with Stephen Harper but I have never doubted his patriotism," Martin said at a news conference in London.

Hargrove also took a swipe at NDP Leader Jack Layton, saying he has spent too much of his campaign time going after the Liberals rather than the Conservatives, "as if undermining Liberals was going to strengthen the NDP."

Layton, in Halifax, said Hargrove is out of touch with the vast majority of Canadians.

How do you even start to spin away Hargrove's statement? Paul Martin tried to turn the vote in Quebec into an unofficial separation referendum, between the Grits and the Bloc. How does he even begin to reconcile Hargrove's non sequitur with his loud declaration to Gilles Duceppe in the leaders' debate that he would not let him take away his country? Who has questioned Stephen Harper's patriotism more than Paul Martin with repeated insinuations that he's an American quisling at heart?

How do you claim to be the only true voice of national unity and then call Alberta an alien, un-Canadian element in our society?

Mr. Harper doesn't have a sense of Canada and its communities,'' the union leader said.

"His sense is about Alberta. The wealth of Alberta everybody recognizes is much greater than it is anywhere in Canada. Those principles that he is brought up with and believes in coming out of there don't sit well with the rest of Canada.''

"National unity", in the Liberal lexicon, has too often meant "appeasing Quebec." Now it apparently means "driving out Alberta," since Quebec has passed beyond appeasement by the Liberals.

Jack Layton must be relieved to see Hargrove tanking the Grits' campaign and not his. Buzz arranged the brief marriage back in the spring to keep the NDP on side during the non-confidence vote; for Layton, it's become a match made in hell.

Just keep Buzz out there campaigning. The more he speaks, the worse for the Liberals.

Stephen Harper Comes To Town: The Report

The Granite Brewery was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic Tories as Stephen Harper ventured into the heart of Liberal darkness to convince Torontonians to break free from the chains of fear bound around the city by the Chretien-Martin government and embrace the possibilities of regime change.

From my spot near the back of the main dining room, right in front of the TV cameras, I could see the big names: Peter Kent, whose riding the Granite Brewery is located in; Bill Davis, Michael Wilson, Barbara MacDougall, Senator Consiglio Di Nino. Even Dave Broadfoot was there. (Yes! The honourable member for Kicking Horse Pass himself!)

Christie Blatchford was standing next to me as well, chatting away about the campaign.

David Asper gave a rousing speech damning the media as "Liberal apologists."

Stephen Harper came in a little after nine to loud applause. His speech was full of promises to sceptical Toronto voters: gas tax revenue sharing, infrastructure funding, public transit pass tax breaks, tougher sentences for gun crimes, and of course, the child care tax incentives.

I haven't seen a crowd of Tories in Toronto this enthused. Ever.

Let's hope it's a sign of good things to come on Monday.

Stephen Harper Comes To Town

Stephen Harper will be at the Granite Brewery at Eglinton and Mount Pleasant in Toronto at 8 a.m.

Remember last election when he took a day off a week before the end of the campaign and retreated to Alberta for the last few days, while Paul Martin made a mad dash across the country?

He isn't repeating that mistake.

I'll be at the Granite Brewery.

And if you're already up and reading this, you should be there too.

Checks And Unbalances

Stephen Harper doesn't fear the Liberal parliamentary party opposition to a potential Conservative government. He's spent enough time riding the opposition benches to know just how impotent opposition MPs usually are in a system in which the PMO controls the entire legislative and executive branches.

But he does realize who his real opposition is: the civil service and judiciary which, in the absence of a truly powerful parliamentary opposition, can do much more harm in the long run:

Stephen Harper moved to reassure wary voters yesterday that a Liberal-dominated Senate, judiciary and civil service would provide plenty of checks and balances should his party walk away with a majority next Monday.

"The reality is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service -- at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals -- and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals," Mr. Harper said.

"So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government."

A parliamentary opposition can play procedural games and ask embarrassing questions in the House, but that's about all it can do in the House these days except under a minority government.

The most powerful opposition will exist outside Parliament, beyond the reach of the voters to rein in.

The Senate will be Liberal controlled for years to come; expect it to become suddenly more active in obstructing and defeating legislation. The civil service can frustrate any government's boldest ambitions through its control of administration and inertia; expect it to slow down real government reforms that imperil its position. The judiciary is almost entirely drawn from the ranks of lawyers and academics who despise conservative philosophy, especially on social issues; expect them to be ready to strike down legislation at the first opportunity.

The Tories know where their real opposition lies.

So should we.

Source: Globe and Mail

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poll Panic (Or Pride)

People are panicking (or crowing) about SES and EKOS polls showing about a 7-point lead for the Tories, and crowing (or panicking) about a Strategic Counsel poll showing an 18-point lead.

Before we break out the cyanide (or champagne), I suggest we take heed of the analysis offered by Ipsos-Reid president Darrell Bricker:

Unless there's a couple of other serious polls (including ours - we're always serious) confirming a shift, then there may be some shifts around the margins, but they won't be huge.

I was just going over the diagnostics on our voter panel poll (very likely/certain to vote), the one that was in the CanWest papers today. Here's the responses (from a sample of 8,256) who said they could change their mind before election day:

Very likely - 2%
Somewhat likely - 11%
Not very likely - 35%
Not likely at all - 51%

Only 8% of Tories say they would consider switching. The most likely switchers are...wait for it...Grits at 18%. Dipper switchers are about 15%. I don't see a big rush in this do you?

What you're looking at are a couple of tracking polls. Both are surveying the general population, as opposed to likely voters, and both have small sample sizes. I'm not saying they're wrong, just limited. They are what they are.

The good news (or bad news) is that there are only five days left in the campaign. Media reports showing enthusiastic crowds at Tory rallies and big-name endorsements in Quebec, scandals and leadership revolt plotting in the Grit ranks have been flooding the news for the past week. There will be some ups and downs in poll numbers--there always will be, from day to day--but five days is not enough time to sink (or raise) the ship.

We cannot be complacent (or resigned) in the face of what appears to be strong victory (or crushing defeat). In the next few days, we must all put in our best efforts on the campaign to seal the deal (or limit the damage).

That is all.

Goodbye, Goofy Toque Guy

Here's a blast from the past: the man in the goofy toque who Jean Chretien famously manhandled at a protest rally 10 years ago, Bill Clennett, is hanging up his earflaps:

Frustrated by what he sees as the failure of Canadians and their political parties to treat the poor fairly, Mr. Clennett has resigned as the head of the Association for the Defence of Social Rights, a Gatineau group that promotes the rights of the poor.

Mr. Clennett said yesterday he will never again demonstrate in front of a Canadian prime minister, wave a steak in a parliamentary hearing at Quebec's national assembly or picket NDP headquarters because of what he regards as the party's failure to help the poor.

After 20 years as an anti-poverty organizer in Gatineau, Mr. Clennett wants to spend his time thinking about what should be done to change the way Canada treats poor people.

That picture makes me feel almost nostalgic for the bad old days of Jean Chretien's government. Almost. It was one of the few actions he took in government that I respected him for.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Sans Peur, Sans Reproche

More evidence that while the Liberals remain stuck in 2004, the electorate has moved on:

Most voters say they think a Conservative Party majority government would be a good thing for Canada, according to a new survey that suggests Liberal efforts to build anxiety about Stephen Harper are falling on deaf ears.

The poll, conducted for The Globe and Mail/CTV News by the Strategic Counsel, finds that 55 per cent of voters say sending a Conservative majority to the House of Commons on Jan. 23 would be a healthy outcome. And even in Quebec, where the Tories have been essentially moribund for 12 years, 64 per cent of voters say a Conservative majority would be good for the nation.

The general lack of concern about a Tory majority suggests the party has an opportunity to increase its current lead in the polls, said Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg. He said that 60 per cent of Bloc Québécois voters appear unafraid of a Conservative majority, a number that indicates federalist voters who have parked their support with the Bloc are open to being wooed by Mr. Harper.

"If I was Harper right now, I'd go right into Quebec and hold big rallies," Mr. Gregg said. "Big balloons and marching bands and just feel-good stuff."

The Quebec numbers are nothing short of miraculous, when you consider where the Conservative Party was starting from at the beginning of the campaign--indeed, where it was during the summer.

Some old political myths are being dispelled as a result.

Quebec voters can warm to a federalist party leader from outside Quebec, even when there is a Quebec alternative.

The Conservatives can replace the Liberals as the federalist option in Quebec.

And no longer is the party seen as naturally intolerant of Quebecois and French-language rights. That old legacy, hanging over our heads since the days of Louis Riel, the Manitoba schools question and Regulation 17, has finally died.

Another more favourable myth is also unfortunately being dispelled: where Quebec voters go, so does Ontario (or more specifically, Toronto). Toronto voters are still holding firm behind the Liberal Party despite the surge in Quebec, perhaps because of changing demographics and interests. The Ontario-Quebec link may be weakening and about to break.

This could be the beginning of a political realignment, the kind that comes along once every few decades.

Source: Globe and Mail

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hidden Agenda Exposed!

Paul Wells has finally discovered the Tories' hidden agenda:

Oh, one more thing: the third bus is also where they keep the spare hidden agendas. There are cases of the things back here. They're bound in black leather sewn together with real human hair, and when you get too close to them, you can hear an ominous humming. I'm just saying.

This can only mean one thing: the hidden agenda is in the Necronomicon!

Stephen Harper is going to call up the terrors of the Old Ones!

Yog-Sothoth! Cthulhu ft'hagn! Cthulhu ft'hagn!

Vote Borrowing

If you're a disgruntled Liberal, Jack Layton wants your vote. Well no, not actually. He'd like to borrow it if you're not doing anything else with it right now:

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton put a new twist on attempts to siphon votes from his opponents Monday, begging disaffected Liberals to “lend” him their votes while their party “regenerates.

“Vote for us just this once, in this election, so there is a strong voice in the next Parliament that is standing up for the priorities progressive people believe in,” he said.

Layton added the Liberals will be “going into the repair shop for a while” to work out their ethical issues, and will thus be thinking about themselves and not voters' priorities.

This is the electoral strategy he should have adopted from day one. It would have dashed Liberal hopes of another ad hoc coalition and made it harder for them to scare soft NDP voters back in line with fears of a Conservative government. It would also have put the NDP in a stronger position to squeeze out the Liberals on the other side of a pincers movement, with the Conservatives pinching the Grits' right flank.

It would have also made him look less like the grubbing opportunist he was in the spring when he saved Paul Martin's bacon for a few billion dollars in pork.

But it may still work for Layton and the NDP. The Liberals left their attack ad campaign just a little too late. When the Tories were up by two or three points, the fear that their lead would grow might have frightened off soft NDP votes. A ten point lead is too great an obstacle for even fear to overcome.

And who knows? Left-leaning Grits who might be parking their votes for now might decide to leave them there, if the NDP looks like it has its act together, and the Liberals don't, a year or two down the road.

The NDP has been given a second chance to become the dominant voice of the left.

Let's see if they can capitalize on it.

Source: Global TV

Bloc Head

Jean Lapierre almost had us all forget that he was one of the founding members of the Bloc Quebecois. Now he's trying to have us forget that he's a Liberal:

Growing support for the Conservatives in the province of Quebec is actually "good news," says Transport Minister Jean Lapierre.

Speaking on CTV's Question Period Sunday, Lapierre -- Martin's Quebec lieutenant -- said that anything that will prevent the Bloc from gaining enough support to bring in another referendum on sovereignty is good.

"This was the first place where the Bloc wanted to have 50 per cent plus one, and wanted every federalist to disappear from the scene," he said.

"At least, that is not happening. And this is the first good news. And the rest, we'll fight it out."

Perhaps, just perhaps, a Liberal or two might come up the middle in a three-way race outside Montreal.

And perhaps, just perhaps, Jean Lapierre is right about the weakness of the Bloc vote.

The Liberals' assumption going into the race was that Stephen Harper try to ride Adscam for 56 days, to his detriment. Instead, it appears that Gilles Duceppe tried and failed instead. His stupidity for thinking that he could hold all those federalist protest votes just on the strength of Adscam outrage, instead of offering them reasons to stay with the Bloc.

And that was always the Bloc's greatest weakness. As long as there was no credible federalist alternative on the scene, the Bloc was a safe place to park votes. But once the Tories began to rise, the Bloc had nothing to offer them. A Bloc vote would have been a mere exercise in disgust with Liberal corruption, but a Tory vote could also offer a Quebec voice in a new government.

Source: CTV


According to CTV , scientists are working on a pill that will ease the pain of bad memories.

Unfortunately, it will not be available in time for testing on the Liberals.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Most Hilarious Blonde Joke Ever

And it's not Belinda Stronach.

Earnscliffe Joins McKenna

Cyberpresse , whose Google translations from French to English amuse as much as they inform, reports that Frank McKenna has started to launch lines to water as soon as Paul Martin draws his reverence:

"Everyone made of the calls. That splashes much, it is obvious. There are already organizers who have a knife between the teeth and which wait until only on January 24 to show the door with Paul Martin ", a liberal organizer under cover of anonymity entrusted.


Of all the candidates, Frank McKenna seems to have a certain length in advance. But several factors play against him. It was one of the grave-diggers of the agreement of the lake Meech, which would have made it possible Quebec to reinstate the constitutional bosom "in the honor and enthusiasm". Moreover, its French is only passable.

What has not been lost in translation is this stunning announcement: after 15 years of faithful service to Paul Martin, the Earnscliffe crew have all but quit on him publicly one week before the election. No Liberal leader has been so completely and cruelly abandoned by his own people this way in living memory. Not even John Turner.

No less stunning: the Liberals have effectively abandoned the practice of alternating between anglophone and francophone leaders. That's how badly the Liberal Party in Quebec has been damaged, and by extension, the party's reputation as the only truly national party capable of dealing with the Quebec question.

No less important: will Frank McKenna do more harm remaining in Washington to undermine a possible Conservative government's plans to rebuild damaged relations, or back in Canada free to campaign full-time for the Liberal leadership?

Stebill Hardavis

Toronto Star readers woke up this morning to a big front-page picture of Stephen Harper tinted red asking "Is He Redder Than You Think?"

The related article claims that Harper has transformed himself into the very model of Ontario's favourite Tory statesman.

Yes, that's right, Stephen Harper has become Bill Davis:

As the Conservatives have swept higher in the polls, with the prospect of winning grown suddenly very real, those around leader Stephen Harper have started saying something previously unimaginable.

No, it's not the likelihood of a majority government, nor talk of a transition team —Harper's big mistake in the last election. Nor does it have anything to do with who might fill which cabinet post.

The words that have crept into senior Conservative parlance are more subtle than that, a beguiling allusion dropped so easily into conversation it might pass unnoticed at first: Stephen Harper, late of the Reform party and the right-wing National Citizens Coalition, is really just like — wait for it — "Bill Davis."

"I think Harper probably is closer to a traditional Progressive Conservative," says one senior Conservative. "I actually think he's more in the tradition of a Bill Davis."


This new Harper, insists one Conservative, is actually closer to the real Harper, the one lost amid compounding Liberal attacks in the last election. "He's not trying to be Mr. Charisma or Mr. Warmth, because he really isn't. But he's a decent guy and he's smart and he'll work damn hard, and the fact that he's got the party right-side up and unified is not a small accomplishment."

He certainly looks more comfortable in his own skin this time out, agrees Nelson Wiseman, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. "I think he made peace with himself before this election, because he got so badly mauled (last) spring when he was over the top and telling Martin his government was going down the toilet, which seemed too strong and strident."

Perhaps this is the price of power in Canada: to become as mild and inoffensive as possible in manner, to offer change, but not too much change, to promote a dogmatic and inflexible centrism.

The problem, of course, is that the centre invariably shifts to whomever defines it. The Liberals took hard-core statism and moral relativism--far removed from anything that could be defined as classically liberal or even classically red tory--held fast to it, and made it the centre.

The Conservatives have the opportunity to move the centre again, as the right did in the United States and Britain, back to the right. Perhaps the party will do so. But it will all the courage of its members' convictions, in the face of unrelenting hostility.

Is Stephen Harper's transformation into Bill Davis one of style, with conservative ideals expressed in a positive and friendly manner, or of substance?

We will know more, hopefully, throughout 2006.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Where's Joe?

Have you noticed that Joe Clark hasn't appeared anywhere in the media during this election campaign?

I've been waiting for him to pop up and repeat his "better the devil you know" endorsement of Paul Martin from 2004.

He'd be foolish enough to wait until this week to do it, when it would do nothing except finish off his credibility.

Or maybe he'll give a tepid endorsement of Stephen Harper that will be equally as ineffective.

Or just maybe, he'll remain out of sight.


Jack Layton Drives The Stake In

Jack Layton has put fears of a Liberal-NDP coalition to stop the Conservatives in the last week to rest, a sure sign that the poll numbers and trends will make one impossible:

NDP Leader Jack Layton says Paul Martin deserves to be defeated after having bungled the election campaign and his time in office, appealing to disillusioned Liberals to back his party instead so it can play a strong opposition role in the next Parliament.

The New Democrats are preparing for the strong possibility of a Tory victory in what a party strategist called a "significant change in . . . message" yesterday.

"Paul Martin's Liberal Party needs a timeout to heal itself, clean itself up, decide what it believes," Mr. Layton said during a campaign stop in Victoria. "I want to say this to those who have voted Liberal in the past: If you have supported the Liberal Party in recent elections, I suspect you have been increasingly dismayed by Paul Martin and his team of Liberal supporters. More and more Canadians have come to the conclusion that Paul Martin has failed the test of leadership."

This is the message Jack Layton should have been delivering from day one of the campaign, even while the Liberals enjoyed their traditional soft early lead.

He had the opportunity to break off the left wing of the Liberals, a wing which never really liked Paul Martin and his fiscal conservative reputation but which couldn't coalesce around a single leadership candidate to stop him in time.

He may still do so, but his public willingness to pander to the Liberals for a few extra social spending dollars has damaged the NDP's potential to solidify the left vote.

Jack Layton's endless pursuit of ad hoc coalitions and deals may have served him well in Toronto city council, under an officially non-partisan system; it has not served the NDP as well in Parliament.

But good to see him shooting down the coalition trial balloon.

Source: Globe and Mail

Globe & Mail: 1 1/2 Thumbs Up For Harper

The Globe and Mail has given Stephen Harper and the Conservatives a grudging endorsement, much as it did to Paul Martin and the Liberals in 2004, both of which amounted to the same thing: we don't like him that much, but he can't do any real harm:

The argument against change essentially amounts to this: better the devil you know than the new devil. After all, the devil you know has been mediocre, not disastrous, and lies closer to that ephemeral Canadian consensus sometimes called values. Many on the centre-left of the political spectrum remain not unreasonably suspicious of Mr. Harper's election-hour shift to the political centre. They continue to think the erstwhile neoconservative harbours a hidden agenda.

Then again, Mr. Martin himself has shifted all over the map in recent years — on ballistic missile defence, on same-sex marriage, on the Clarity Act. In the run-up to the election in June of 2004, we wrote: “We wish Mr. Martin had afforded himself the opportunity of an 18-month tryout before going to the polls. Now the voters have the opportunity to impose a probationary period themselves.”

Mr. Martin did not pass that 18-month probation. He doesn't deserve the public's opprobrium, or an electoral wipeout, but neither has he earned the right to a fifth Liberal term. A spell out of power would give the Liberals the time they so clearly need to renew themselves.


There is greater reason to feel comfortable with Mr. Harper today. He has shown himself to be an intelligent man and one, in this campaign at least, who has learned to master his emotions. He has gained control of a party inclined to fly off in all directions, moved it to the centre and proposed a reasonable if imperfect governing platform. His targeted tax measures are measured, his defence policies are sound, and his approach to waiting times is worth experimenting with.


It is hard to endorse him and his party unreservedly. We worry about his seeming indifference to the need for a strong central government in a country so replete with runaway centrifugal forces. We worry about him teaming up with the Bloc Québécois to weaken the federal government's tax-raising capacity and its advocacy of national programs. We worry that he might have to strike retrograde compromises with social conservatives in the party's midst. We worry that he may prove heavy-handed in wielding the considerable powers of a prime minister.

But we also know that public opinion in an information-enriched society provides a natural check on immoderate policies and behaviour. Political parties are in the business of currying public favour; a governing party, even an unnatural one, will not stray too far, too frequently, from the social consensus. The dynamic of democratic change keeps competitors for power within reasonable bounds. So it will be for Mr. Harper and his Conservatives.

This editorial is a signal to the middle to upper-middle class voters of Toronto and area: it's all right to come out of the closet and vote Tory, because it's become acceptable to enlightened opinion.

It is not the full-throated roaring endorsement we would all like, but Toronto-area voters need to be spoken to in soothing tones.

It's still better than what the Star will say.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Voters Behind Bars

You can take the measure of a man by his friends, and by his enemies:

Advance polls opened across the country Friday, including at the Stony Mountain Institution, north of Winnipeg, where inmates cast their ballots in the federal election.


(I)nmate Jeff Power had a red "L" for "Liberal" painted on the side of his head. He was jailed for drug trafficking and robbing two pharmacies.

He said he would not vote for the Conservatives because they've talked about tightening up parole rules.

Honour among thieves, indeed.

Source: CBC

Illegal Jeans Dealer Busted

"We've all thought about counterfeiting jeans at one time or another, but what about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy. These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, "Me too!" --Homer Simpson

What about the victims, indeed.

Jack Layton: Out Of Line

Jack Layton, that great defender of Canada's public health care system, heir to the noble vision of Tommy Douglas, the man who said he would gladly let his wife suffer waiting for a hip transplant on the waiting list to defend the principle of one-tier health care, wouldn't stand on principle himself when he had a hernia:

NDP Leader Jack Layton acknowledged yesterday he visited a private Ontario medical clinic to treat a hernia in the mid-1990s, but dismissed suggestions it undercut his credibility as a public critic of corporatized health care.

Mr. Layton said he would think twice before returning to the Shouldice clinic if he needed hernia treatment again.

"I think now I would question, because of the controversy about the growth of private health care . . . I would actually ask my doctor, 'Is it possible to do this any other way?' " he said. "At the time, everybody was going to Shouldice."


Mr. Layton said he didn't know it was a private clinic. "I frankly wasn't aware."

Shirley Douglas, the daughter of medicare pioneer Tommy Douglas, defended Mr. Layton's actions, saying the clinic existed before medicare began and was grandfathered when public health care was launched. "Shouldice clinic has been there for a long time."

Jack Layton might not have known that Shouldice Hernia Centre is a private clinic, but his doctor certainly did, as it's the world's leading clinic for hernia treatment and surgery. The most effective method of hernia surgery is called the Shouldice method for a reason, after all.

And why should Layton have denied himself the best treatment? Such suffering is neither noble nor necessary, and it's rather silly to claim solidarity for the principle of one-tier health care by stoically suffering the pain of a hernia.

Nice touch to have Shirley Douglas offer absolution on behalf of her late father, though.

Source: Globe and Mail

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Idiot Proof

"Some idiot inadvertently sent out an ad that was not approved and not supported by the party with the 11 (ads) that were supported."-- Keith Martin (LIB--Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca)

In an interview Thursday morning on CTV's Canada AM, (Paul) Martin said he approved every one of the harshly critical ads -- including one that suggested the Tory Leader would use the military to occupy Canadian cities.-- CTV

Feel the love and harmony in the Liberal camp.

Man And Wives: Coming To Canada?

All the advocates of same-sex marriage kept telling us that redefining civil marriage wouldn't lead to legal recognition for polygamy. Not in a million years, never.

Guess again:

A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

“Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,” says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.”


Chief author Martha Bailey says criminalizing polygamy, typically a marriage involving one man and several wives, serves no good purpose and prosecutions could do damage to the women and children in such relationships.

“Why criminalize the behaviour?” she said in an interview. “We don't criminalize adultery.

“In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society ... why are we singling out that particular form of behaviour for criminalization?”

Granted, the report does not call for the outright legalization of polygamy, and it still deplores polygamy as a repugnant practice that victimizes the women caught up in it, many of whom want out.

But decriminalization removes a great deal of social stigma from the practice, just as it did with homosexuality. If people think that it's wrong because it's a crime, and not a crime because it's wrong, once it ceases to be a crime, people will start to tolerate and accept the practice thereof.

And it is not just radical Mormon sectarians and Islamic zealots who practice polygamy in Canada: polyamory , or polygamy for secular progressives, is already in the avant-garde.

And all the claims about same-sex marriage promoting equality and polygamy promoting inequality will become quite irrelevant. For if sex is considered irrelevant to civil marriage in law, of what greater significance is number?

And if capacity to consent is the issue, why assume a priori that the participants, if otherwise capable of consenting to a monogamous marriage, cannot offer informed and valid consent to a polygamous marriage?

For the time being, this report will be shelved and its recommendations not acted upon. But pressure will inevitably mount from an unlikely coalition of civil libertarians and Islamic zealots, whose numbers may not be large, and whose reasons for pursuing decriminalization and legalization varied quite opposed, but who will be well-organized and committed to the cause.

Legalized polygamy is not immediately around the corner, but the idea is no longer so far-fetched.

Source: Globe and Mail

Undeclared Difficulties

Derek Zeisman's troubles with Canada Customs will not cost the Conservatives the election, though it will finish him off in Southern Interior and hand the riding to the NDP.

But it will hurt the national campaign for a while because it leaves the party exposed to charges of hypocrisy after spending the whole campaign highlighting more significant Liberal misdeeds.

He should have stepped aside when it became clear that his injuries in December would have left him unable to campaign and to serve effectively as MP for some months after the election. Another candidate could have stepped in and the charges--failing to declare a new Mercedes and the 112 bottles of liquor (five flats of beer?)--would have been irrelevant to the campaign after that.

Zeisman lied to the party by not disclosing these customs charges. Granted, the maximum penalty includes a stiff fine and six months jail, though he wouldn't be left with a criminal record, and the likelihood of being fined more than the cost of a speeding ticket is fairly remote in these cases.

But we can't afford the perception of being no different than the Liberals when it comes to corruption. I expect, as do many of us in the party, that Zeisman will be cut loose, even though it is too late to replace him on the ballot.

Better to write off one riding than risk a dozen.

Toronto Star Obit

There are few journalists as predictably friendly towards the Liberals as James Travers of the Toronto Star , so when he pulls the knife on Paul Martin, it's a sign to stick a fork in him as well:

What's wrong with a Liberal campaign now free-falling toward a jolting landing is what's wrong with Paul Martin as prime minister.

Contradictory, inconsistent and still searching for a focus, this Liberal tour and Martin's leadership reflect the dangers of power exercised without discipline.

Even the most desperate attack advertising — and new Liberal television spots shout panic — can't hide that this election isn't about Stephen Harper. It's about expectations Martin couldn't meet, a pinball government that ricochets bumper-to-bumper and a ruling party so accustomed to privilege that skimming public money to pay friends is just taking care of business.

In retrospect, the expectations placed on Paul Martin were simply far too high. He was publicly expected to sweep the country, eliminate the democratic deficit as he did the fiscal one and restore harmony with the U.S. all without breaking a sweat.

People mistook his success in gaining absolute control over the Liberal Party for superior leadership ability.

But Paul Martin never stopped running for the Liberal leadership. His war against Jean Chretien and his supporters never ended; so many ministers, MPs, senior officials and advisors were forced out or destroyed politically without an olive branch being extended. He is still fighting his predecessor even as the party prepares to elect his successor following a likely defeat.

Paul Martin just didn't know that he'd won.

And now he may lose because of it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Liberal Ads: From Tragedy To Farce

The infamous "soldiers with guns in our streets" Liberal attack ad is attracting both outrage and derision.

The first reaction is to be expected whenever attack ads are aired. Usually, the greater the outrage expressed by the target, the more likely the ads have touched on an uncomfortable truth or weakness.

Usually. But not in this case, where the target has turned out not to be Stephen Harper but our servicemen, who rightly take great offence at the suggestion that they would willingly turn their guns on the people they serve.

Perhaps the bright boys and girls in the Toronto ad agency that cooked up this ad have never actually known any servicemen, or learned anything about the military except fashionably progressive anti-military cliches about baby killers and armed goons in Iraq and Vietnam.. Nothing else could explain how otherwise well-trained advertising people could have come up with such an offensive message and let it go as far as it did.

The second reaction will probably prove much more deadly to these ads, and to the Liberals' hopes on which they were pinned, than all the denunciations by the military lobby and Tory MPs combined.

The style and tone of the ads, especially the "soldiers with guns" ad, lent themselves to easy parody, from the choppy incomplete sentences with pregnant pauses in between to the ominous martial snare drum and timpani rolls, right down to the killer "We did not make this up" line (which suggests that maybe, just maybe, the whole thing is, to quote Susan Murray, bullshit.)

The sting has been taken out of the whole negative ad campaign because of the fast and wide spread of parodies in the press and online. Get people mad or scared and they might listen. Get people laughing at you and you've lost them.

It couldn't have come at a worse time for the Liberals: it's buried Red Book V under a pile of one-liners.

And that, quite frankly, is beyond parody.

Fear Factor Failing?

Lorne Gunter offers a word of caution about the polls and the effects the Liberals' current over-the-top negative TV ads may have on apathetic, undecided voters:

But my guess is most current undecideds are people paying only half attention, who have good intentions of getting informed before they vote, but who won't manage to find the time. They'll vote anyway, because they think they should, but when they do they'll have little more than a superficial understanding of what's at stake.

And as a result, they'll vote Liberal.

Liberal is the safe vote. It's the status-quo, stay-the-course vote. And the Liberals know it. They are counting on the one-eye-open voters' support. That's why they launched a new round of Stephen-Harper-is-really-scary ads today. They know that if they can introduce even the slightest fear of change into last-minute voters they can spook them into remaining Liberal.

There will always be an irreducible number of voters who can be frightened into voting Liberal, no matter how badly the Liberals are trailing or their public image is suffering.

And to be fair, the same tactics Gunter describes worked the last time.

Those ads would have led Martin to a majority in 2004.

But this is not 2004. The Liberals have overplayed all of their hands--the "hidden agenda", the "scary" theme, etc. etc.--through overuse.

The buzz about the ads on the street is not what they say, but that the Liberals had to pull one because it was so insulting to the armed forces. One tainted ad will taint all the rest and reduce their effects accordingly.

The Liberals learned nothing from the 2004 campaign except to congratulate each other on their tactical and strategic brilliance. Hence their repeated campaign missteps.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, retooled everything from top to bottom.

Now we're seeing the difference.

Spaced Out

Another mysterious leak from the Liberal war room has it that the Liberal platform will promise to seek a permanent weapons ban in space.

The announcement has come as a complete surprise to everyone. We didn't even think the Liberals had a platform. Except one with a trap door beneath the condemned man's feet.

But think about it: the CBC and other major media outlets probably already have leaked copies of the platform, and instead of playing up major domestic policy announcements to make the Liberals look good, the CBC picks one which the current government has no ability to influence, because it lies well outside our current technical and political capability.

A promise to nag the spacefaring powers in general and the U.S. in particular about Star Wars just isn't going to make people change their minds.


In outer space.

Spacemen with guns.

From outer space.

You can't make this up.