Friday, April 29, 2011

Dear Steve ... It's Not HarperLand

This business of a "personal" gift to the royal couple from PMSH is offensive on a dozen different levels.

First of all is that Harper is doing it 'in his capacity as Prime Minister':

Taxpayers will pay for the Harpers' personal gift since it is given "in his function as prime minister," she said.

WTF? If he's doing it "in his function as Prime Minister", shouldn't he be presenting the gift on behalf of Canadians, rather than as a "personal" gift. (If it's "personal", then it should damned well not be paid for by Canadian tax dollars - it should come out of his own money, dammit!)

I cannot believe that this man has the arrogance to act as if he is the "supreme leader" (or whatever other title despots like to adopt these days - I'm not sure what's in fashion among such people any more), and use Canada's resources and image to try and aggrandize himself.

The second thing that I find deeply offensive about this is the way that Harper is trying to build some kind revolting cult of personality around himself. It's another piece of his repeated attacks on democracy in Canada in an effort to ensure his own grip on power.

On May 2, get out and vote against this overweaning egomaniac before he turns Canada into something that would horrify all of us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No, Craig ... Western Separatism Is More Fiction Than Fact

I was wondering where Craig Chandler had gotten to - especially in the run up to the current election - a time that usually draws him out to comment on something.

Well ... apparently he's been nursing his inner western separatist back to health after the 'flare-and-fizzle' of David Crutcher's Western Business and Taxpayers Association in 2008.

“Western Canada will not tolerate a purposeful slap in the face if the government they chose is rejected by Canada’s Central Canadian parties. The threat of the West organizing to separate is real and reared it’s head in a serious way last time the coalition threat occurred. Unlike Quebec, the West can afford to leave and even pay its share of the debt on the way out” stated Craig B. Chandler, Executive Director of the PGIB.

What people like Chandler don't seem to understand is that the idea of separation from Canada has been tossed about from time to time for decades. I first encountered it in the late 1970s when the Western Canada Concept party came into being. It didn't exactly go anywhere then, and in the thirty years since, entities like the WCC have flared up and died out repeatedly - usually led by a bunch of loudmouths who have no real idea what they're on about and gaining absolutely no real traction with the public as whole.

Why? Unlike Quebec, where separatism has its roots in the cultural history of the province and is deeply influenced by the colonial wars between England and France, the concept in western Canada is rooted solely in political and economic arguments with little or no grounding in our cultural identity as Canadians.

Simply put, most Western Canadians are quite happy to be Canadian first. We know that economic and political upsets happen from time to time - and we've likely as not lived through a few of them. The idea of separatism is a fantasy that gets played with occasionally, but really doesn't have any traction with people's sentiments.

Mr. Chandler seems to take great offense at the idea of a coalition being formed in our parliament and then governing. Sadly, his sense of offense is rooted in his blindness to the subtleties and workings of the Westminster Parliament system that we use in Canada.

Far too many people these days assume that we are voting "for the party leader" that we want as Prime Minister. In fact, we are electing our local representative to Parliament. It is up to the members of parliament to form a workable government that has "the confidence of the house". That may or may not be led by the party with the most seats, and if a couple of parties band together to form a government that is in fact perfectly legitimate - in spite of the lies that Harper has told the public about coalitions. (Perhaps, Mr. Chandler would like to muse a little bit on Harper's past dalliances with the concept of coalition as well)

Rather than fuming about Western Separatism as an alternative, Mr. Chandler would be better off focusing his energies on trying to understand why it is that voter turnout has been declining for so long. Why, for example, did 22% of the electorate decide 80% of the seats in the last Alberta provincial election? Why did over half the voters just stay home that day? (Of course, an engaged electorate generally doesn't bode well for today's conservatives, who know damn good and well that most people would object violently to their policies - if they bothered to look)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Unstated Agenda Of The CPC

I've said it for years on this blog, and I'll say it again - Harper's base wants to impose their religiously driven morality on women and minorities in Canada.

They've been signalling this repeatedly with a series of ugly little bills like Jake Epp's Bill C-484, which attempted to create legal recognition of a Fetus as a person by the back door of our criminal laws or Rod Bruinooge's Bill C-510 which attempted to criminalize "coercion" with respect to an abortion. (and was so atrociously written that even providing a woman information about abortion could be construed as coerci and Vellacott's Bill C-537 which tried to establish bogus "conscience" rights so that

Make no mistake about it, Harper's enough of a control freak that if he didn't like something his backbenchers were doing, it would have long ago been stifled. Consider for a moment what happened to Dianne Ablonczy for daring to channel funding to Toronto's Pride Festival a couple of years ago. By allowing his backbenchers to table those bills, Harper is tacitly supporting them. (and I'd that he voted for each of them ... if he happened to be in the House the days that they were voted on ... he certainly voted against C-389 on its third reading)

So, when Brad Trost brags about defunding Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail, it comes as no big surprise. (In fact, it was Mr. Trost who seemed to act as party mouthpiece when Ablonczy was muzzled - interesting) For those of you not paying attention, Planned Parenthood is an organization focusing on reproductive health - including, but not exclusively, safe access to abortion. Trost is busy bragging about his petition campaign against Planned Parenthood in 2009. This because Planned Parenthood has the temerity to actually advocate that safe access to abortion is a legitimate part of women's reproductive health.

Stephen Harper himself refused to include abortion - or even contraception - in the so-called Maternal Health Initiative he put before the G8 in 2010. So, when MPs like Trost start flapping their gums about something, chances are pretty darn good that there's more unwritten policy being executed than it appears on the surface. I shudder to think what will happen if Harper gets anywhere near majority territory in the House Of Commons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

About That VoteCompass Thing

Over at CBC, they have a rather interesting tool called Vote Compass which is intended to help voters understand how their own values line up alongside the four major parties that are competing for electoral support this election.

Of course, Conservatives are whining loudly that it is "biased" because so many people come up considerably left of the CPC.

This is quite interesting, since the accusations of bias are quite strident, and I'm not so sure that the loudest objectors have really paid close attention. The basis for each and every answer is clearly provided in the detail analysis part of the poll, and it's quite clear that the poll designers have been very thorough in their research.

Let's go through the questions, and the answers for the CPC, shall we:

Defence: All Canadian troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan immediately

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Ministers Cannon, MacKay and Oda Announce Canada’s New Role in Afghanistan

Defence: Canada should increase its military presence in the Arctic

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservatives are Defending Canada's Northern Sovereignty

Defence: How much should the government spend on the military?

CPC Answer: Somewhat More
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
The True North Strong and Free: Stephen Harper's Plan for Canadians

Economy: When there is an economic problem, government spending usually makes it worse

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Harper Government Priorities: Low Taxes and Fiscal Prudence

Economy: The federal budget deficit should be reduced, even if it leads to fewer public services

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
PM Replies to Speech from the Throne

Economy: Canada should seek closer economic relations with the USA

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservatives Take Action to Strengthen Canada-US Trade

Environment: The environmental damage caused by the Alberta oil sands industry is exaggerated

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Peter Kent's Green Agenda: Clean up oil sands dirty reputation

Environment: Canada should adopt a carbon tax

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Carbon tax 'foolish and unnecessary': PM

Environment: Environmental regulation should be stricter, even if it leads to consumers having to pay higher prices

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Killed climate change bill flawed: Harper

Government Programs: How much of a role should the private sector have in health care?

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Government Programs: The government should fund daycare instead of giving money directly to parents

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree:
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

Government Programs: It should be easier to qualify for Employment Insurance

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Budget 2010 - Leading the way on Jobs and Growth

Immigration and Multiculturalism: Speaking English or French should be a requirement for immigration to Canada

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Improvements to proof of language rules will increase fairness, reduce delays, says Immigration Minister

Immigration and Multiculturalism: How many new immigrants should Canada admit?

CPC Answer: About the same as now
Source: PM reiterates commitment to crack down on human smugglers who abuse Canada’s generous immigration system

Immigration and Multiculturalism: How much should be done to accommodate religious minorities in Canada?

CPC Answer: About the same as now
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Law and Order: Violent young offenders should be sentenced as adults

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservative Action to Strengthen Justice System

Law and Order: The long gun registry should be scrapped

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

Law and Order: Possession of marijuana should be a criminal offence

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Conservative Government Plans to Fight Crime

Moral Values: The government should make it easier for a woman to get an abortion

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Moral Values: Marriage should only be between a man and a woman

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Moral Values: If they so wish, terminally ill patients should be able to end their own lives with medical assistance

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Parliamentary Reform: The Senate should be abolished

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Parliamentary Reform: Political parties should no longer receive government funding

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
PM targets party subsidies

Parliamentary Reform: Only those who speak both English and French should be appointed to the Supreme Court

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree

Quebec: The federal government should have a say when it comes to decisions about culture in Quebec

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Prime Minister Harper and Premier Charest sign historic agreement establishing a formal role for Québec in UNESCO

Quebec: Quebec should be formally recognized as a nation in the Constitution

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Duceppe demands Harper enshrine Quebec nation status in constitution

Quebec: Quebec should become an independent state

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Prime Minister Harper outlines his government's priorities and open federalism approach

Taxes: Workers should contribute more to their government pension plan (CPP/RRQ) so that it can offer bigger pensions

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Securing Retirement for Canadians

Taxes: How much should wealthier people pay in taxes?

CPC Answer: Somewhat Less
Source: Budget 2010 - Leading the way on Jobs and Growth

Taxes: How much tax should corporations pay?

CPC Answer: Much Less
Source: How Canada Got It Right: Prime Minister Harper Speaks to New York Business Leaders About Canada and the Global Recession

I've copied the list above of answers and sources straight from the VoteCompass site. In my own experiments on the questions, I have answered them both as I believe things should be, and using other perspectives. In all cases, I came up with results that were consistent with the kinds of answers that I fed to the survey. (This was spread over about ten iterations of the questionnaire)

It is possible that the weighting in the scoring system is questionable - I don't have access to the scoring software needed to understand that, but my own testing of the platform suggests that it is nowhere near as biased as the CPC faux media have been claiming.

I think that the real question that people should be asking themselves is whether or not the CPC positions as they are stated in both word and deed truly represent the kind of Canada that they want to see.

Go to VoteCompass and give the party platforms a close look compared to your own stated values. You might be surprised at where your views really land.

Remember that as a voter, the most important thing you can do is make an informed vote on May 2.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Abolishing Corporate Taxes

Writing for the Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders is arguing that we should abolish corporate taxes.

But corporate tax, by its nature, has a reverse Robin Hood effect: It is regressive. Big corporations have no trouble avoiding it. They can do any number of things, including acquiring other companies or shifting profits to overseas divisions, that make their balance sheets legally register zero profit. So small- and medium-sized businesses end up paying the full burden – a situation that chokes off entrepreneurship, reduces competitiveness and damages economic growth.

So ... in essence, Saunders is arguing that because of a swiss-cheese legislative approach to corporate tax law that we should abandon the idea entirely. I disagree with Mr. Saunders entirely on this.

There are a dozen things wrong with Saunders' reasoning here.

First of all, his comment about a "reverse Robin Hood effect" is a very narrow view of the situation. I will agree that there has been a growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy. I do not agree that you can meaningfully place responsibility for that concentration at the feet of corporate taxation policy.

The real issue is that governments have allowed multinational corporations to become a law unto themselves over the last thirty years. Additionally, the multinationals have become very skilled at playing the governments off against each other by playing up fears of job losses and infringements upon national sovereignty. What really needs to happen is for the governments to get together and start creating agreements that tighten up the loopholes that the multinationals are using to sidestep the taxation laws in various countries that they operate in.

There is another strong argument against corporate tax: It gives businesses far too much power in politics, law and society. As “taxpayers,” corporations are given citizen-like rights in court and legislatures; as financiers of the state, they are given far too much lobbying power and influence over legislation

Again he's partially correct and grossly incorrect. The first point I have to make is that the notion of a corporation as citizens is a construct that has its roots in far more than taxation policy. I doubt that even if you were to offer to abolish corporate taxes that the corporations would accept having their voices relegated to the back seat any more.

The rise of corporate influence - especially in democratic countries - has severely weakened democracy. There is no doubt that it is necessary to take steps to curtail the abuses of power that are resulting from this. However, the solution to such ills as influence peddling, excessive lobbying and so on are not to be found in removing the taxation burden. These areas must be addressed with greater accountability on the part of both lobbyists and politicians. Essentially there must be double blind, audited records kept by all government officials who have decision making powers.

Lastly, if Mr. Saunders thinks that eliminating corporate taxes will somehow magically increase corporate investments in long term jobs and other related tasks, he is sorely mistaken. All it will do is make it still easier for the already wealthy to get even wealthier, and to do so entirely at the expense of middle and low income citizens. His fundamental point starts and ends with the dubious notion of trickle-down economics as practiced during the Reagan years - it wasn't terribly successful then, and I doubt that there is anything in place now that would change the outcome of such a structure today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You've Got To Be Kidding

Apparently, the latest catalogue from J. Crew has the wingnuts all up in arms because it shows a five year old boy with his toenails painted hot pink.

Let's start with one Dr. Keith Ablow who posted this screed on Faux News' website:

Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?

Why should we hold dear anything with which we were born? What’s the benefit of non-fiction over fiction?

For someone who is supposedly a mental health professional, Dr. Ablow is profoundly ignorant about the nature of transgender people and the treatment protocols for them. Worse, he clearly hasn't even bothered to read the DSM-IV (much less the working material for the DSM V on the subject. If he had, he would have a much different understanding things. (Of course, he is being published on Faux News, so it's not as if I expect much here)

Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what they’re up to. That’s why the photograph of Jenna’s son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe.

No, Dr. Ablow, it is you who fails to understand that gender is much more flexible than the rigid boy/girl binary that you are propounding. Transgender people all over the world show up the lie in your assumptions every day - just by existing.

Even more ironic is that it is well enough established that painting a little boy's toenails pink (or giving a little girl a toy gun) isn't going to make anybody transgendered. This is another little fact that had Dr. Ablow been paying attention to the research work in his field at all he would have been aware of.

... and of course there's always the predictable outrage from one of the religious "research" think tanks:

J.CREW, a popular preppy woman's clothing brand and favorite affordable line of first lady Michelle Obama, is targeting a new demographic - mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.

Really? That's "propaganda"? First of all, what's wrong with painting toenails or fingernails? Why is that a "girls only" activity in the first place?

The upshot of this is that it's much ado about nothing really. However, once again it is being used by the wingnuts to attack transgender people by repeating the same tired old lies that are trotted out at every opportunity.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Something's Rotten Here ...

If DrDawg is correct, then Harper's goons are violating democracy in some pretty vile ways.

There's more ... and this is looking distinctly like a Conservative attempt to suppress student voters - who are less likely to vote Conservative.

[Update #2]
... and the Con$ lose their first gambit to subvert voter rights to Guelph students.

Ha Ha Ha

Apparently a bunch of secular people questioning and calling out the denizens of No Apologies is enough to get them to shut down comments for the time being.

Given the persistent unwillingness over there to even consider an argument on its own merits if it disagrees with their preconceived notions ... especially if that argument came from a "secularist".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Welcome ...

I've noticed a real spike in traffic from the Twitterverse this week.

I may be guessing here, but I think a good bit of it is coming from Nicole Hankel, Liberal Candidate in Alberta - Macleod.

Thanks for the linkage!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The HarperCon$ Lexicon

After hearing Canada's Auditor General boxing Harper's ears for quoting her out of context, I thought it might be a good idea to review the abuse that the english language is taking at the hands of the Harperites lately:

"Misquote" - Taking something another person said completely out of context and putting it in another unrelated context entirely.

"Accounting Error" - A money laundering scheme which rightly leads to criminal charges being laid.

Procedural Matter - Better known as being found In Contempt of Parliament - a more serious charge than being found "In Contempt of Court" in a Parliamentary Democracy.

Fraudster - A person likely to become an adviser to the PM.

Balanced Budget - Sorry. That one's not part of a Conservative lexicon - haven't seen it happen yet.

I'm beginning to think that Harper's government might actually succeed in redeeming Brian Mulroney's reputation ... by sinking lower.

That Credibility Thing

Who are you going to believe - members of a governing party which has been caught out in more lies than any other in recent memory or Auditor General Sheila Fraser?

The confidential draft by Sheila Fraser concludes the government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on questionable projects in Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding. And it suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal.

How shocking. The Contempt Party of Canada was lying to Parliament...again.

Then there's attack dog Baird's comments:

Conservative cabinet minister John Baird reacted quickly, saying the contents of the final report are different from the draft report. Specifically, he said the final report doesn't say the government “misinformed” Parliament.

Hmmm...really - you've seen this report already, Mr. Baird? Even if I believed that, I still think that Ms. Fraser's draft is closer to the truth when it accuses your government of lying.

... and just to add to the outrage, why did we spend enormous amounts of money upgrading public washrooms 20 km away from the conference site?

The draft reveals that a local “G8 summit liaison and implementation team” – made up of Mr. Clement, the mayor of Huntsville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort which hosted the summit – chose the 32 projects that received funding. It says there was no apparent regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government.

Among the questionable projects funded were:

» $274,000 on public toilets 20 kilometres from the summit site.

» $100,000 on a gazebo an hour's drive away.

» $1.1-million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 kilometres away.

» $194,000 for a park 100 kilometres away.

» $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 kilometres away.

That's one hell of walk for conference attendees to take care of the morning's coffee, don't you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The MSM Wakes Up A Bit

Someone at the Globe and Mail wakes up enough to start asking if the Con$ are engaging in voter suppression.

What we don’t know is whether there is an ulterior motive to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s incessant claims that, unless he wins a Tory majority, the Liberals will form a coalition with the NDP supported by the Bloc Québécois. Canadians objected strongly to such a proposal in 2008, which is why all three opposition parties deny having any such plans this time.

The Conservatives might be calculating that, even if the coalition bogeyman doesn’t win voters over to their side, the prospect might discourage some Liberal supporters from voting at all–a second-best result.

This may be a conspiracy too far. In all likelihood, no party is engaged in an overt campaign to depress voter turnout. But both the Liberals and the Conservatives may be hoping that, if they can mobilize their vote while discouraging voters

It might be conspiracy ... but Harper's pattern to date has been one of surprisingly long range, destructive plans. (anyone else forget Harper's little book on disrupting parliamentary committees?, abuse of prorogation of parliament and other nastiness...) I wouldn't put anything past him myself.

Dog Whistling To The Base

So, the HarperCon$ want to emulate G.W. Bush once again - this time by creating an office for religious freedom.

The Tory platform, unveiled Friday, calls for the creation of special office of “Religious Freedom” within the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa.

The function of the new office would be to “monitor religious freedom around the world, to promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy.”

The new office would ensure that Canada protects “vulnerable religious minorities” abroad and would target them in refugee resettlement, or other programs through the Canadian International Development Agency.

I'm going to disagree with Ignatieff's apparent endorsement of this proposal. Not because I necessarily disagree with the concept of evaluating fundamental freedoms in foreign lands as part of our foreign affairs platform, but because of the longer range implications of this "special office".

First of all, I think for this to be a meaningful part of our foreign affairs platform we need to take steps to ensure that we are talking about all of the fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not just Freedom of Religion. I do not accept the supposition that freedom of religion deserves special status or profile in our foreign affairs.

Second, this is a play to "the base" of extremist religious lobbyists in Canada who have squawked and complained for several years now that their "freedom of religion" at home is being unreasonably constrained by a series of human rights rulings.

I suspect that this "office" will be given a mandate that will oblige it to evaluate the "Freedom of Religion" in foreign lands with respect to Canada's practices. Conveniently, it will have to "measure" freedom of religion in Canada in order to create a meaningful benchmark. You can pretty much bet that the "findings" of said measurement will be used to argue that Canada's Human Rights system is "not adequately safeguarding" religious freedoms - [particularly where "christian" beliefs about sexuality are concerned. Just about all of the cases involve "christians" discriminating against GLBT people]

This "initiative" is actually the HarperCon$ setting up yet another "wedge issue" - in this case, it is intended to be used to begin the process of undermining Canada's human rights law and the agencies that enforce it. The only people who have been squawkingabout this are the fundamentalist religious right wingnuts who seem to believe that it is their right to insist that they be able to project their moral code onto others who do not share their beliefs - and thereby forget the interesting paradox of the very notion of Freedom of Religion - namely that it includes Freedom _from_ Religion as well.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes (reprise)

So, Harper's promising all kinds of spending on various programs ... with a catch:

Election pledges have a poor reputation with voters to begin with. But the prime minister's pledges practically scream "buyer beware" this time because they're dependent on a "what if" world that may never come into existence.

Harper was at it again Thursday, promising to double the limit on annual contributions to the popular Tax-Free Savings Accounts, to $10,000.

The catch: "We will of course do this once the budget is balanced."

It was the same contingency with his $2.5-billion promise to allow income splitting among families; to double the fitness tax credit for children; and to introduce a new fitness credit for adults.

That adds up to about $3 billion in contingent promises, with almost four weeks of campaigning left.

Hmmm...given Harper's fiscal track record since 2006, I can't say I'm optimistic that they'll even start to fulfill one of those promises by 2015. The HarperCon$ had spent us into a deficit position before the recession hit in 2008, and it's only gotten worse since.

In essence, Harper's promised less than nothing. Probably the only promise that he stands a chance of delivering on.

Birds Of A Feather ...

The Carson affair is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now we find out that Carson's choice of call girl came with an extra helping of criminality - including keeping a common bawdy house and money laundering.

... and Mr. Harper had the poor judgment to have this man as an advisor? Really?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Eek! It's A Cap And Trade System!

Cap and Trade

So, the Liberals are proposing a Cap and Trade system for greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Predictably, we find the fearmongers in Alberta playing Chicken Little and calling it NEP 2.0.

Of course, one has to take this kind of hysteria with a grain of salt (or an entire salt flat, perhaps).

I'm not going to bother trying to defend the NEP - that was thirty years ago and the political and economic landscape in Alberta were dramatically different then than they are today.

I find it ironic that the "free market" types are all about "opportunity" without accountability - in spite of the disastrous results of such situations in the past (anybody else remember Enron, WorldCom and Lehman Bros?). As soon as it might affect the oh-so-precious oilsands industry in Alberta, their hackles go up - in spite of the fact that a cap-and-trade system will actually create a very interesting open market opportunity in the economy - while requiring a certain level of accountability on the part of all industry in Canada.

Considering that one of the big things I hear todays "conservatives" rattling on about is individual accountability, I find it amazing that they get all up in arms over that accountability when it applies to the megacorporations that are profiting from our resources.

In terms of the actual impact of this kind of policy, I'm going to have to agree with Andrew Leach, and say that we need to know much more about the details before we can make any kind of concrete assessment of impact.

Would I like more details? Yes. But I'm also realistic - a cap-and-trade system is a complex beast to design and implement - I doubt that level of detail exists with any of the party platform topics that have been put forward in the last 2 weeks from any party.

In Harper's Canada

... it's inquisitive voters out and fraudsters to the front row:

A Toronto businessman and self-described campaign volunteer who circulates in Conservative circles is facing a criminal charge for allegedly fraudulent credit and debit card withdrawals — a background that did not prevent him from sitting right behind the Harper family at a rally last week.

Snover Dhillon met with Tory MP Patrick Brown, of Barrie, Ont., at an event in the Punjab region of India in January and attended a Tory convention in Halifax a month later, appearing to violate bail conditions set in December that barred him from leaving Ontario.

Stephen Harper's campaign has come under fire for its strict vetting of rally attendees. The prime minister is also facing questions about how a former senior adviser, Bruce Carson, was able to work in his inner circle despite fraud convictions in the 1980s and 1990s and a bankruptcy in 1993.

Dhillon landed a plum seat in the second row of Harper's rally in Brampton, Ont., on Mar. 27, right behind Laureen Harper, her children Rachel and Ben, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and local candidates.

In short, if you are an undecided voter and openly explore all of the voting options out there, you better not let the Harperites find out that you have been to a *gasp*- Liberal or *GASP* - NDP or *SHOCK* - Green party event, you could well find The Party ... and the RCMP ... have opened a file on you.

Meanwhile, we see the "Tough on Crime" party giving the red carpet treatment and plum patronage appointments to fraudsters.

All this from the party which ran on "more open and accountable government" and "getting tough on criminals" - the cognitive dissonance in their warroom must be positively crippling!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Right ... Who Gave What Orders To Whom

Assuming that the RCMP's story is even partially true, there's still a serious problem here.

Who gave the RCMP members instructions to provide partisan checks on attendees at Conservative party events? I find it more than just a little bit strange that these same kinds of things haven't been happening at other parties' events, just the Conservative's.

Come to that, just what kind of democracy is Harper's party promoting when only the anointed members of the party are allowed into an event? These are election rallies for crying out loud, not party strategy sessions! Why would you throw anybody out that wasn't causing a disturbance? Anybody there is a potential vote.

Frankly, I'm not buying the RCMP's story - there are just too many gaps in the overall picture. Especially when we have Mr. Harper trying to avoid questions that he finds "inconvenient"; and his MPs are trying to dodge engaging in debates.

Boris over at TGB nails it.

Corrupt, Wilfully Blind, or Both

Given the track record that Bruce Carson has in his life, one has to wonder about what was going on when William Elliott did his background check.

What kind of Prime Minister accepts a man as an advisor who has not one, but multiple convictions for fraud against his name? Come to that, how trustworthy would that man's advice be in the first place? (One conviction, I might let go, but multiple? Really? - that's a pattern)

But looking a little further, we have to ask ourselves another equally prickly question. Why did Elliott sign off on what is obviously such a dubious candidate? Was he being deliberately blind to the shady past? Or was there more to the picture - what was in it for William Elliott? (and it's hardly as if Elliott's performance as RCMP commissioner has been stellar, come to that)

It seems as though every time we turn around these days, there's more signs of corruption and dishonesty in the Conservative ranks - and some of those are disturbingly close the PMO.

Can you trust someone's judgment who keeps hiring convicted criminals as advisors?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Peevish Stephen

So, after his "campaign staff" eject a bunch of people from campaign events we find Stephen Harper denying any involvement.

Here's one of the many problems that Harper's style of leadership - he, and his party, are unwilling to take responsibility for anything. It doesn't matter what the issue is, Harper and his goons are willing to point the finger at anyone else and claim that it (whatever it may be) is somebody else's fault.

However, we have to recognize that Harper's leadership style is precisely what has given rise to this thuggish, uncivil approach to campaign management. It's Harper who has the media being kept a goodly distance away from him; it is Harper who insists that he will only answer questions that he wants to answer; it is Harper who gave the directives to his people to disrupt parliamentary committees (remember, they wrote the book on it - literally!). Remember, it is Harper who has suspended parliament repeatedly to save his political hide from the flames.

Ignatieff has it nicely summarized:

Ignatieff also pulled Harper's former relationship with Bruce Carson into the screenings debate, saying Canadians are in a bad place "when you have got a prime minister who does a background check on his audience at a democratic crowd and doesn't seem to do a background check on the people he hires in his Prime Minister's Office"

Should we be surprised that Harper's campaign staff are acting like thugs? No. Should we be worried about it? Absolutely. I've argued for a long time that there's a totalitarian streak in Harper - and it keeps on coming to the surface. The man's behaviour is closer to that of many totalitarian dictators than it is to any democratic leader.



Letting Your Biases Get In Front Of You

Yesterday, I ran across this essay on X(itter), and it annoyed me because the author makes all kinds of errors of both fact and reason.  Si...