Posts from our progressive community

Why Is the Con Clown Joe Oliver Missing In Action?

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 22:06

The economy is teetering on the edge of disaster. The stock market is on a wild roller coaster ride. The loonie or Harper peso has fallen to its lowest level in eleven years. Thousands are losing their jobs.

But Joe Oliver, the alleged Con FInance Minister, is nowhere to be seen.

He has held no newsers, issued no reassuring statements to worried Canadians. He has been missing in action. 

And it seems the only Canadians he's willing to talk to are the rich old guys at private men's clubs.
Read more »

Owe-lympic Myths: Health and Fitness Legacy

Dammit Janet - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 13:13
There are many myths about Olympics among the millionaire hucksters' talking points. On the NoTO2024 website, the Top Ten are listed.

I'm going to take a few of these on, not necessarily in order.

Myth 8: The Olympics will make us healthier
Studies have shown that hosting the Olympics has no measurable impact on fitness and sports participation levels following the Games. There is, however, evidence that funding gets pulled from other regions in the country, causing cutbacks to sports funding that hurt participation.
The claim that Olympics would bolster a healthier, more active population figured large for the London Olympics (with, note, state-funded healthcare like Canada). But a comparison of activity levels pre- and post-Olympics concluded: "no Olympic legacy yet apparent."

I know. You're shocked that two weeks lying around on their couches watching professional-turned-amateur-probably-doped-up athletes doing odd things didn't turn the UK into a nation of svelte, kale-gnawing overachievers.

Furthermore, from London again -- where, unlike Beijing, the media closely monitored claims and outcomes -- money meant for "good causes" was pulled from other areas of the country.

In the UK, they have Camelot, similar to Ontario's Trillium Fund, that distributes lottery dough to good causes. For the Olympics £425 million was diverted to the Olympics.
Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative shadow culture spokesman, said the diversion of lottery money to the Olympics and the public bodies administrative spending meant that 1.1 billion Lottery tickets will be sold this year before the good causes receive a penny.That's a lot of lottery tickets.

Where does that dough go? The Good Causes award categories are arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport and voluntary.

Here's sports.
From building new sports venues, to inspiring future generations to participate in sport, lottery funding is helping to grow grassroots sport across the UK with new facilities and coaching that are helping communities to stay healthy, fit and active.
So, the London Games literally sucked money out of grassroots sport for elite sport.

But the London Games were so profitable they paid it all back, right?

Three years on from the end of London 2012 and £425 million in raided lottery cash owed to charities and communities across the UK has not been repaid, and the new Government has gone silent on the issue.
Now, this bit should sound familiar to students of Canadian sports history.
However government ministers have continued to drag their feet on the issue – repeatedly suggesting that repayment may take until 2030 or beyond. Despite repeated requests the new Conservative Government has refused to make a statement on this issue. The Directory of Social Change (DSC) has led the Big Lottery Refund campaign, supported by over 3800 charities, which aims for an immediate return of the lottery cash.Well, heck, that would be only 18 years to repay Olympic debt. We've come a long way from Montreal, eh? They took 30 years to pay off $1.5B even with new taxes.

Donald Trump anounces his candidacy for the president of U.S

LeDaro - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:03

I don't understand what is he saying. :)

On biased decisions

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:05
It shouldn't come as much surprise that the Duffy trial has revealed that the Harper Cons sought to make the Senate as subservient to the PMO as the Cons' trained seals in the House of Commons:
Mr. Rathgeber said the PMO staffers’ handling of the situation was all too familiar and speaks to a “culture of invincibility” among some of the PMO staff.

“It’s shocking, but it validates everything I’ve ever said about their modus operandi. They have no ethical, or sometimes legal, boundaries and I would say without any doubt that a Senate report into expenses is a higher level of improper interference but that level of micromanagement goes on in House of Commons reports all the time,” he said.

Opposition members have long alleged that since the Conservatives have had a majority on every committee since 2011, no committee report is tabled until the PMO signs off on it.

“There is no part in the Ottawa bubble that they think is beyond their reach or their ability, quite frankly, to manipulate or control,” said Mr. Rathgeber.

“The fact that Parliament is supposed to be independent from the government and is supposed to be a check on the government is completely perverted in their view. They don’t see Parliament, either the House of Commons or the Senate, as being a check on executive power. They see the government caucus as an extension of PMO communications and their rubber stamp.”
Mr. Beardsley said that near the end of his time in the PMO he could see a shift toward the office “tightening up” and becoming more proactive in its “micromanagement” of issues. He has looked through the emails himself and considers them proof of what was speculated about the change in management under the succession of chiefs of staff leading up to Mr. Wright.Nor should it come as much surprise that the Cons' political direction has been based on developing excuses to reach a desired outcome, rather than actually applying rules as they stand.

But it's worth highlighting what that combination means for one of their primary attacks on the NDP.

Remember that the only decision-making body which has claimed to find a problem the NDP's parliamentary offices is the uber-secretive Board of Internal Economy - a committee of MPs with a Con majority.

The NDP has gone out of its way to have somebody evaluate its actions other than MPs acting as puppets for the PMO. And the Cons have refused any such neutral assessment.

So let's ask: is there any reason to think the BOIE's Con members operated under anything other than the PMO's instructions in sitting in judgment of a political opponent? And if not, shouldn't the Duffy scandal tell us everything we need to know as to whether that judgment is based on anything more than Stephen Harper's politically-motivated orders?

Great line of the day

Cathie from Canada - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 10:32
From Sun Media parliamentary bureau chief David Akin, on Facebook, as quoted in a Sandy Garossino tweet

Embedded image permalink

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 10:30
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich discusses the unfairness of requiring workers to take all the risk of precarious jobs while sharing few of the rewards:
On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified “employees” as “independent contractors,” resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whatever party – contractor, client, customer, agent, or intermediary – pays more than half of someone’s income, or provides more than half their working hours, should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

Presumably that party will share those costs and risks with its own clients, customers, owners, and investors. Which is the real point – to take these risks off the backs of individuals and spread them as widely as possible.

In addition, to restore some certainty to peoples’ lives, we’ll need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.- Max FineDay writes that while the work structures which are increasing stress on workers may be new, the principle of ensuring that everybody's basic needs are met has is anything but. And Sean McElwee discusses how different our public discourse would look if we heard about the plight of people living in poverty as regularly as we're informed of stock market fluctuations.

- The Star reminds us that the Cons' useless "tough on crime" rhetoric is as empty now as it's ever been.

- Meanwhile, Chinta Puxley reports that Canadians continue to be at risk due to the Cons' cuts to food inspection and other health and safety services.

- Steven Chase exposes the secrecy behind the Cons' plans to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

- Finally, Bill Tieleman writes that nasty, negative politics only survive because they seem to work - while recognizing that the only way to change that reality is to demand better in numbers which ensure that appeals to the worst in people don't sway enough votes to swing elections.

Stephen Harper getting ready for Thanksgiving and October 19, 2015 elections

LeDaro - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:52
It is hoped that after October 19, 2015 he will have a lot of time to dance preferably in Calgary, Alberta.

Free This Country from the Scourge of Harperism

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:44

These days you might get the impression that this election is all and only about the economy.

The economy that Stephen Harper has helped drive into the ground.

But today two very different Canadians sum up what it's really all about.
Read more »

Wishful Thinking. Oh, to Dream.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:39
Got an email this morning from the Green Party. It spoke of an "independent poll" that showed the Greens in second place on my home turf, Vancouver Island.

No information about the poll itself but I can say this. While travelling around my own town I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of Green Party lawn signs, second only to NDP signs, and the dearth of CPC signs. I have yet to see a LPC sign anywhere.

You Drylanders watch out. When we become the Province of Vancouver Island, we'll be a Green bastion floating serenely beyond the orangish-red wasteland to the east.

Why the Far Right is Always Wrong

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:32

Neoconservatism of the type practiced in the U.S. and worshiped at the secret shrine in the closet at 24 Sussex Drive is a mental infirmity. That's why since it was spawned during the Clinton years (the Project for the New American Century) to its rise to power during Bush/Cheney and its tenacious grip on survival under Obama, it's been consistently wrong. The Iraq disaster was its crowning achievement but there's been so much more and all of it wrong, dead wrong.

Harvard prof. Stephen Walt dissects the neoconservative malfunction in "So Wrong for So Long, Why Neoconservatives are Never Right."

Living (Usually Broke) in Harper's Petro-WonderLand

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:20

Shifty Harper constantly blames setbacks to Canada's economy on problems abroad. It's his "heads I win, tails you lose" ploy and it usually works with the gullabillies who form a critical part of his base.

With almost two months remaining in the election campaign, we can expect China's market meltdown to send Harper squealing like a porker about how the economic blowback hitting all petro-states isn't our fault. Blame China.

Me, I'll blame Comrade Shifty for his "oilfields first" policy that even had his minions changing "tidewater, tidewater, tidewater."  China's ship may be sinking, so to speak, but it was Harper that lashed Canada's dinghy hard alongside.

The perils and pitfalls that beset petro-states have been well chronicled, especially the boom and bust cycles.  I'm sure the lessons haven't been lost on Alberta's sophisticates but, since Peter Lougheed left this mortal coil,  Alberta hasn't been burdened with a surplus of intellect.

Norway is Alberta's constant shame. They listened to Peter Lougheed's caution. They adopted Plan Lougheed. They're rich. They have the largest sovereign wealth fund on Earth. Alberta rejected Plan Lougheed, even though it was written just for them. Alberta doesn't have Norway's sovereign wealth fund. Alberta has debts and deficits.  And if the last three petro-busts have taught us anything, if and when the good times return, Alberta will do it again.  Kind of makes you wonder why we should trust those obvious mental defectives to run bitumen pipelines across our province.

For what China's meltdown could mean to Canada, there's this handy piece from - "China's Meltdown Spells Even More Peril for Petro-States."

The (un)fortunate Luck of our Oligarch. . .

kirbycairo - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:17
The widespread belief that Stephen Harper is some kind of political genius does not even vaguely conform to anything in reality. In fact, I suggest that like most petty oligarchs he is not even above the average intelligence of a ambitious and driven political opportunist. However, people often mistake focused devotion to a cause, or extreme ambition for intelligence.

Instead of being a political "genius," Harper has built a political career out of a very fortunate (for him) confluence of events. The first, and most obvious, of these fortunate occurrences was the fact that Harper won the leadership of a newly united rightwing party at a time when the Liberals had been in power for a long time and were widely perceived as scandal ladened and politically out of gas. Furthermore, almost his entire time in power has been spent at a time when the Liberal Party, which was for so long thought of as the "natural" party of power, has been through a difficult time of trying to rebuild itself, a process that it hasn't been particularly successful at accomplishing. Harper succeeded on the backs of two rather hapless Liberal leaders neither of which resonated with the public. And perhaps more importantly, the second of those leaders (Michael Ignatieff) was arguably so rightwing that Liberal Party ceased for a time to have any real reason for existing. Then, more recently, Harper had one of his greatest strokes of luck of his entire career when Trudeau made what I think may turn out to be the single greatest political mistake in Modern Canadian history (outshining even Hudak's one hundred thousand layoff promise and Prentice's stunning effort to blame average Albertans for his Party's financial mismanagement). Trudeau's support of Bill C-51 (regardless of how you feel about the bill itself) could be, I believe, the undoing of the Liberal Party itself. For years the Liberal Party was perceived by people on the left and in the centre as being little more than a rubber-stamping committee of Harper's government. Under Dion and Ignatieff the Liberals voted over and over to support Harper's legislative program. Whatever the reasons for this support, it turned out to be, I think, a colossal mistake that made the very existence of the Liberal Party seem meaningless to many. Then the Liberals got lucky: Harper won a majority and Trudeau took over the leadership of the party. The Liberals could look forward to a period of stability for their rebuilding and Trudeau, for a change, did seem to resonate with the public and he had a chance to rebuild the party as something distinct from the Conservatives. Sure he made some gaffs but what politician, particularly young ones, don't? Things were basically going well until Trudeau made a fatal error. In supporting Bill C-51 Trudeau suddenly reiterated all the negative feelings that had caused the real decline of the Liberal Party in the first place - he rubber stamped a Conservative bill, and not just any bill but one that is a fundamental and profound attack on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a bill that former PMs, constitutional experts, international rights groups, and almost every jurist in the country have said is dangerous and wrong-headed. Trudeau essentially handed the head of the Liberal Party to Harper on a plate. It wasn't a genius move on Harper's part, most rightwing politicians would have tried this. Rather, it was just a very blatant mistake on Trudeau's part. Harper must have been elated at his luck.

But Harper has enjoyed other political good fortune that has kept him in power and made him seem like a political master-mind to those who don't pay enough attention. Perhaps Harper most unexpected good fortune was that he has faced what I would argue is the most compliant media of all Western Democracies. Harper has a dark and troubling past that has never become an issue with the media. Perhaps more importantly, he has treated the media and public with absolute disgust and disrespect with almost no blowback for over ten years. I have lived in both the US and England during turbulent times and it is almost impossible to imagine the media of those countries giving a leader a continual pass on so many things. Harper has also been lucky in the sense that our proximity and close cultural association with the United States allowed much of the rightwing extremism of that nation to creep into our own culture. This has helped Harper take advantage of a wing-nut base that has increased as the Tea-Party wackiness in the US has gained more power.

On top of all this political good fortune, Harper has engaged in good-old-fashioned political corruption, fraud, and illegality to maintain his power.

But here is where all of Harper's luck coalesces: Harper is often been said to be a master of "message control," but this is a misunderstanding of Harper's underlying strategy. The idea of message control is only a part of Harper's real political cause which is the continual limiting and destruction of information at every level. Harper's political efforts are always centred on undermining the free flow of information. End the long-form census, muzzle civil servants, muzzle his own MPs, refuse to reveal basic financial information to the House or to the People, stop funding adult literacy programs, don't talk to average Canadians, never talk to the media in a meaningful and unvetted way, undermine the freedom of information; these are all part of Harper basic strategy - destroy the life-blood of democracy: information.

Let me make this clear - this is NOT political genius, it is just the basic program of all dictators and oligarchs throughout history. It is a strategy which all effective politicians are aware of, but which only those afflicted with a fundamentally anti democratic spirit are willing to take advantage of.

The only constant being change, Harper's cabal must eventually fall. It is just in the nature of things. You can't limit information forever, particularly in a technologically driven society. Furthermore, I believe that the supremacy of Neo-Liberalism is coming to an end. Like capitalists always do, they let their greed destroy the basis of their power. People have been surprisingly willing to tolerate unequal political systems in modern times as long as they seem to be in a process of gradually generalizing the wealth. But over the past forty years as the wealth of the system seems to be doing the very opposite of this and concentrating in fewer and fewer hands, the system itself is generating dissatisfaction that will eventually lead to real change.

When Harper finally does fall, and when the younger generation begins to rebuild, one thing we have to hope above all others is we can put in place very basic protections of information so that a future maniac like Harper will not be able to cripple our system by keeping the nation in the dark.

In Which The Globe And Mail Continues To Service Its Ideological Master

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 07:34

Were it possible for a corporate entity to be appointed to the Senate, I am sure that The Globe and Mail would now be making its presence felt in the Red Chamber. Ever-constant friend to Stephen Harper, the paper with its cadre of ideological sycophants, John Ibbitson consistently leading that particular pack, it has proven itself time and again as the Tory newspaper of record.

The paper's latest genuflection at the altar of Harper came on Monday in an article written by Konrad Yakabuski entitled Harper hysteria a sign of closed liberal minds. In it, said scribe suggests that we all calm down and see the Harper record in the kind of light that only a true believer could entertain:
Just what it is about the Conservative Leader that sends reasonable people into such fits of hysteria is best examined by historians, or better yet, psychiatrists. But it surely can’t be evidence, for Mr. Harper’s political style is not particularly novel, nor have his reforms been that transformational.Two words in that paragraph are ample indication of the blinders Yakabuski donned for the premise of this piece: style and reforms. More about that in a moment.

Incredibly, he asserts that Harper largely
governs from the centre, upholding the long Canadian tradition of middle-of-the-road pragmatism.I guess in order to try to reassure readers that his is not a satirical piece, Yakabuski admits his lord has perhaps made a mistake or two along the way but really, twas nothing:
Yes, the Conservatives have made some questionable policy choices in the name of stroking their base. Killing the long-form census was one. The form had been a long-standing bugaboo among conservatives who felt the state has no business knowing the granular details of their lives. Its demise has inconvenienced some researchers, but it has hardly led to a “subtle darkening of Canadian life.”But what of all the criticism directed at Harper? Tut, tut. Nothing to see here. Move along:
...because elites in the media and academe have deemed Conservative supporters a less evolved species than the progressive subclass to which they themselves belong, they are beside themselves at the loss of their own influence.And about the prime minister's obsessive micromanaging?
Autocratic, Stephen Harper? Well, yes, like just about every other successful prime minister from John A. Macdonald to Mackenzie King to Jean Chrétien. The centralization of decision making in the Prime Minister’s Office is a phenomenon much bigger than Mr. Harper and it would take wholesale parliamentary, if not constitutional, reform to reverse the trend.The Duffy scandal, according to Mr. Yakabuski's bible, is much ado about nothing:
The questions raised at Senator Mike Duffy’s fraud trial about the conduct of Mr. Harper’s closest staff in the PMO, and the Conservative Leader himself, are not flattering. But in the annals of Canadian political scandals – a fairly tame volume to begin with – this is a footnote.Getting back to his qualifiers of style and reforms, informed readers, of which there appear to be growing numbers, will be aware that much of what Harper has done has nothing to do with legislation. Rogue appointments to the National Energy Board, the muzzling of scientists, the egregious contempt for Parliamentary traditions are just three from a long list of abuses that have been well-chronicled and documented over the years and need no repetition here.

They are all part of the public record.

The Harper base may exult in propaganda organs like the Globe and Mail. All those who embrace critical thinking should be duly insulted.

Recommend this Post

No Ordinary Election

Northern Reflections - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:08

This is no ordinary election. Ralph Surette has been around quite awhile and he's seen a lot of governments. And, he writes, the Harper government is no ordinary government because of

its bewitching power, now installed in the Canadian psyche, capable of leaving even the opposition parties afraid of its power over public opinion, and functioning beyond the grasp of the mass media that have, to date, been incapable of telling the real story about Harper. For those who go on, sometimes in awed tones, about how Harper has "changed Canada," this is mainly how he's changed it -- by snuffing open debate. 
Mr. Harper's propaganda machine is "a thing of manipulative genius:"

It functions over the heads of both the opposition and the media, which have failed to bring him to book on the big issues and have, to date, served his purposes -- especially the big TV networks -- despite the snarling of the Tory base about the "liberal media."

Harper's right-wing radicalism -- especially the rich store of extreme statements from when he was head of the right-wing National Citizens' Coalition -- gets a pass. Another instance of this emerged recently in the dispute with Ontario, in which Harper refuses to dovetail the Canada Pension Plan with Ontario's proposed plan. It turns out that Harper once declared both the CPP and Old Age Security to be "tax grabs" that should be done away with.
That machine is now firmly ensconced in Ottawa. The only way to get rid of it and the rot that has infected Ottawa -- rot which has been publicly on display at the Duffy trial -- is to thoroughly fumigate the place:

What's needed is not just the defeat of a government, but a cleansing of the broader scourge of a corrosive ideology.

in which i help a skunk and it kind of says thank you

we move to canada - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 04:30
My apologies to wmtc readers who saw this on Facebook, but this story must be recorded on this blog!

Yesterday morning the dogs were barking at the back door, really going nuts, and not settling down. Checking to see what was going on, I got quite a surprise. A skunk with a container stuck on its head was running in circles, frantically trying to get the thing off. What to do?? I wanted to help it, but I'm not keen on getting skunked! Our dogs have been sprayed many times over the years; our suburban landscape is full of skunks.

Watching this poor creature run wildly around the lawn was so horrible. I called Allan to lure the dogs away from the door, then ran outside with a broom. I thought I could knock the container off the skunk's face from a distance, then get inside before he could hurt me. I hit the container with the broom several times, but it wouldn't come off. The whole time I was muttering, please don't spray me please don't spray me please don't spray me...

Finally I trapped the little guy in a corner with the broom, grabbed the container and pulled - but it was tightly wedged around the skunk's neck and would not budge. I realized the poor thing might have been stuck in the container all night, or even for days.

There was only one thing to do. I took a deep breath, held onto the container, and lifted the skunk in the air. We use an ex-pen to keep the dogs away from one part of the yard, and I held the container on the other side of it, shaking the container over and over, with the skunk dangling from it!

After maybe 10 shakes, the skunk finally fell out. I ran in the other direction... and promptly tripped over the garden hose, falling on my hands and knees on the patio. Ouch! But I got in the house unsprayed. I'm guessing the poor creature was weak and disoriented, dehydrated and hungry, so it had no defense left.

Some people found this story comical, even hilarious. Believe me, it didn't feel funny at the time.

British Columbians Say It's Time to "Heave Steve"

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 17:01
The headline in the paper's largest newspaper, The Vancouver Sun, says it all - B.C. Voters planning to push Harper's Tories Out of Office.

The new Insights West online survey of 815 British Columbians suggests a strong animosity in the province towards the notion of a re-elected Conservative government.

The online survey of 815 British Columbians said 75 per cent of decided respondents, including close to half (43 per cent) of those who voted Tory in 2011, say it’s time for a change.

“In addition, 60 per cent of British Columbians say they would be ‘very upset’ if the Tories form the government again. The level of animosity towards a possible victory by either the Liberal Party or the NDP is significantly smaller (36 per cent and 33 per cent respectively),” according to Insight West.

The four-day online poll, which concluded Monday, said 41 per cent of decided voters would vote for the New Democratic Party if an election were being held now.
That compares with 24 per cent favouring the Liberals, 22 per cent the Conservatives, and 12 per cent Elizabeth May’s Green Party.

If valid, the results would confirm University of B.C. political scientist Richard Johnston’s recent comment to The Vancouver Sun that “there’s a B.C. thing going on about Harper.”

The poll is consistent with recent data from various firms collected by CBC poll analyst Eric Grenier.

If those numbers held up it would result in an all-time best performance for the federal NDP, which took a record 37 per cent of the vote and the majority of B.C. seats in the 1988 election.

Grenier’s seat projection model suggests that these numbers would translate into an NDP landslide, taking 25 of the province’s 42 seats.

The Liberals would be second with 11 seats, the Conservatives third with five, and the Greens fourth with May’s Saanich-Gulf Islands seat.


Conservatives Have a Big Decision in this Election. What'll It Be - Canada or Harper?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:59
I backed into what became an argument today with an old friend and I did not feel very good about it at all.  We both knew Duffy way back when and naturally the conversation turned to the trial.

Trev is one of those guys I mentioned this morning who doesn't think that the Duffy trial is a big deal that undermines the Harper government. He just thinks it falls short of being significant in deciding how he'll vote. He is unhappy at how the Harper government has treated veterans but, again, it won't keep him from voting Tory.

Trev has it in his 75-year old mind that Harper has done a pretty good job with the Canadian economy. He can't say why that is, it's just the way he feels. He had no idea that Harper has turned in 7 consecutive deficit budgets. He had no idea that Harper has swollen our national debt to the tune of $150-billion.  He still thinks Harper has done a pretty good job.

I told him that, in this election, he'll have to choose. Will it be Harper or will it be Canada?

In every election since Trudeau first led the Liberals I have never felt that any party leader was less than dedicated to our country. Sure they had differing views, irreconcilable ideologies in some respects, but that didn't negate their commitment to the country and the Canadian people.  All of them would respect our democracy and do nothing to degrade it.

In no way can I find any of that in Stephen Harper.  As Harper cheerleader, John Ibbitson, recently wrote:

The Conservatives’ autocracy, secretiveness, and cruelty, critics accuse, debase politics to a level that threatens the very foundations of Canadian democracy. “Hardly anything in this world hints of Putinism more than Harperism,” columnist Ralph Surette of the Halifax Chronicle Herald opined.

Michael Harris, no fan of Harper to be sure, nonetheless put it both fairly and accurately when he wrote:
The hallmark of the Harper era has been an attempt by the government to take ownership of all federal human assets in a degrading and political way. Civil servants have been used as props in fake TV news items. The justice department has drafted a string of unconstitutional legislation reflecting the CPC’s ideological agenda. Federal scientists have been muzzled like unruly dogs.

But one of the most disturbing elements of this tyrannical capture of every aspect of the machinery of government is the increasingly partisan behaviour of the RCMP. The Force has been used against Harper’s political enemies, often without a shred of real misconduct on the table.

Then, today, long-time Harper booster, Andrew Coyne, captured the culture Harper has bred within his own Prime Minister's Office, one that would befit The Sopranos:

...It is noteworthy that, almost without exception, no one at any point raises any objection to what is going on: not the public deception, not the attempts to tamper with the audit, not the whitewashing of the committee report. The lies are so habitual, so instinctive, so much a part of the normal run of things that no one seems to think them even unusual, let alone unacceptable. It matters, in the end, because the things that should have mattered to them, like honesty and integrity, didn’t.

Harper, like a monarch rather than a prime minister, has indeed taken "ownership of all federal human assets in a degrading and political way."  For years I've lamented on this blog how Harper has corrupted everything he touches in a blatant coup to subvert parliamentary democracy by transforming our public service, our state police apparatus, even our armed forces into his personal, partisan agencies.  What he has truly degraded, with clear contempt, is our democracy - the same democracy that our veterans for so long fought and died to defend. Harper has instituted illiberal democracy. In my view that's nothing short of treason.
It should make no difference - Right, Left or Centre - we should all be Canadians first regardless of our partisan affiliations. Canada comes first. Our fellow Canadians come first. Any leader who places himself above the country, above our people, who treats our government as not ours but his and our 'federal human assets' as his property is not a leader but a malignancy. 
Harper is solely responsible for making Conservatives choose between Canada and their party.  Through four successive elections they've empowered this betrayal of their country, our Canada. Now they've had four years of majority rule to see what Harper is, his true face and now they've seen it, they have to choose.

The Duffy Trial Adjourns But a New Poll Shows it Has Hurt Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:52

The Duffy trial has adjourned and won't get going again until after the election.

So you might think that Stephen Harper would be letting out a giant sigh of relief.

But sadly for him, the trial may be over.

But as a new poll shows the damage has been done. 
Read more »

Lessons learned

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 13:56
As I noted here, it's well worth comparing what's happening in any given election to any recent precedents. While past performance never guarantees future results, we can tell both what lessons a party has drawn from experience, as well as how strategies change when they don't work out as planned. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the choices which have shaped recent elections where provincial NDP parties were competitive - and how they've been applied at the federal level.

Staying Above The Fray

Let's start with two examples from the leading example of the NDP falling into the traps of a strong opposition party: the 2013 election, where its campaign was seemingly based on the expectation that the best course of action was to avoid doing anything that might stop the Clark Libs from losing the election out of sheer voter fatigue.

On that front, Adrian Dix' party ran a campaign which explicitly branded itself as "positive" at the expense of developing a clear line of criticism of an unpopular incumbent.

Now, any leader wants to be seen as positive to the greatest extent possible, and Tom Mulcair is no exception. But the federal NDP hasn't shied away from directing tough messages at the Harper Cons based on their record - and the result is that the NDP has been doing its part to remind voters why they want change.

Playing It Safe

That said, if the federal NDP has learned a lesson from B.C. about allowing the dangers of failing to present a strong case against the incumbent, it's been quick to shift to other elements of the front-runner strategy which proved fatal for Dix' chances of victory.

For all the mostly-contrived hullabaloo over the NDP's handling of federal leaders' debates, there's one strategic point which should override all others. While there may be rare exceptions (with the possibility of a multi-party ambush in a debate skipped by Stephen Harper looming as a real if minor danger), Mulcair's experience and knowledge should give him a strong likelihood of coming out ahead in debates, particularly those where topics are discussed in detail going beyond Justin Trudeau's first set of talking points. And with the polls showing two other parties remaining competitive, it's hard to see the  case for trying to diminish the impact of debates, rather than pressing what should be a meaningful advantage and taking advantage of the air time and attention.

Likewise, a hair-trigger response to candidate controversy may serve to cut off a story immediately. But the larger risk of alienating supporters should also be taken into account - particularly when star candidates are being rejected for dubious reasons. 

Positioning To The Centre

Another familiar dynamic is playing out in Ontario in particular. There, Kathleen Wynne managed to win a majority in the 2014 provincial election in large part by telling voters that she was the most progressive option, while Andrea Horwath did relatively little to fight that characterization based on a gamble that it would help as much with centrist voters as it would hurt on the left.

At the federal level, Justin Trudeau's claim to the "progressive" title is even more laughable than Wynne's (which has itself proven illusory). But we can see the same line of attack being developed by the Libs. And while the federal NDP has plenty of progressive policy in its platform, I'm not sure we've yet seen as strong a response as will be needed to avoid the same fate.

Sticking With What Works

Finally, while the most recent B.C. and Ontario elections ended in disappointment, Rachel Notley's breakthrough victory in Alberta offers a shining example as to how the NDP can expand its reach beyond what might be seen as possible even at the start of an election campaign. But what's most worth taking away from Alberta's result is that Notley didn't have to substantially change course from the NDP's longstanding beliefs to achieve that result.

Rather than sacrificing ideas like a royalty review, a fairer tax system, action on climate change or an increased minimum wage to political expediency, Notley stuck with a progressive platform consistent with the NDP's values. And whatever backlash there was from the corporate sector served mostly to bolster the message that it was time for change.

Similarly, the federal NDP has made it this far by running on principles, not running from them. (Surely anybody pointing to C-51 as the source of many of the Libs' troubles can't ignore the risk - and reward - involved in Mulcair's fierce opposition to it.) And we should thus expect the NDP's push for its first federal government to feature a strong and distinct statement as to the progressive direction Canada should take.


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