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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Paris in Spring Time


I am off to Paris today on business - the real one like in France - not the plastic one like in Hilton. Gone until Thursday. My postings will be more sporadic than usual this week but I will no doubt have something to say while I am away.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Polls Show Canadians Prefer None of the Above for Prime Minister

The polls continue to point in every direction as to the wisdom of a spring election. The policy issues are not making any difference in poll results because the polls are not asking about them. They are focused on the "beauty contest" aspects of the leaders only.

Leadership is a driving value for citizens today but there is so much more on our minds these days that will also have a significant influence how we will actually vote when an actual election is called and it all becomes serious and meaningful. These beauty contest polls are mere media fodder and mostly serve as PR for polling firms. Much ado about nothing when it come to the real world concern of citizens.

So for the "entertainment value" lets look at some of the more interesting findings of recent polls. An SES poll showed Harper’s Budget actually can best be described as having a lukewarm impact in Quebec. It showed only 27% seeing him more favourably, 33.5% not changing their minds and 36.6% thinking less of him.

Charest was not the benefactor of the Harper Budget largess either in Quebec. Only 20.9 improved their opinion of him, 38% were the same and 37.8% say him in a less favourable light. No big confidence booster the for the Charest leadership. The Quebec election results showed the consequences of these numbers in spades.

This poll is important because it focuses on something that is really framing the one of the dominant value drivers for elections right now. It is the quality and character of leadership as well as trust and respect. The overwhelming policy issue is the environment (except for Quebec where health care still runs #1) but leadership is also very important.

SES deserves serious consideration because it was the only pollster who called the 2006 election results accurately. The rest of the polling industry embarrassed themselves with just how far out of touch they were with the voter reality on election day. Could this be happening again given the wide range of results emerging from the various polling firms?

Ipsos Reid yesterday concluded no bounce for Harper out of the Budget last week and commented “…the numbers should stand as a warning to all major parties that an election is not in any of their interests.”

Angus Reid, on the other hand, a day earlier claims Harper’s Cons have a 17 point lead and the Dion Liberals “plummet to 22% nationally.” Harper apparently has a 49% post budget approval rating in Quebec. Given the cash he promises to pour in there what do you expect? Will he sustain these numbers is the question.

This poll is being touted as another proof Harper should go to the electorate now. His approval ratings reflect a tepid support for his leadership also found in the SES poll.

The real interesting number in the Angus Reid poll is the fact that a full 43% say they are Not Sure or that Neither Dion or Harper is the right guy. Couple that with 64% saying the country is on the Wrong Track or Not Sure you have a recipe for volatility and change. The volatility is everywhere too from a high of 71% in BC to a low of 54% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Leadership, character, respect and trustworthiness are key considerations. Given an earlier Ipsos Reid poll showed about 65% of Canadians still feel they don’t know what Harper stands for as a person and you can see why he wants to wait and not be facing the country any time soon. Dion is in no better shape in earning the trust and confidence of Canadians yet.

Campaigns matter and it is not time for Harper to go yet. So it looks like the Cons will settle for calling Dion names in another round of attack ads instead. Proving once again they are good at political tactics but deplorable at good governance.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Let's Hope That Somewhere, Somehow, Harper Sill Has an Agenda

It is a rare but valued occasion when someone you know to have significant philosophical differences with you seems to express themselves in ways that converge and align with you rather than diverge and divide you. The cynic in me would conclude in such circumstances, one of us simply does not understand the issue. That is not the case this time with Link Byfield.

Link Byfield is a staunch conservative and I am a pure progressive. We have little in common other than a respect for democracy and a high regard for our freedom of speech and a distrust of power structures. His recent Commentary on what Stephen Harper is doing is ironically almost totally consistent with my point of view. I just wanted to share it with you.

So with his permission, I give you Link Byfield and his take on the federal budget, the Quebec election and what the hell Stephen Harper is doing:


Let's hope that somewhere, somehow, Harper still has an agenda
There appear to be two very different views of last week’s federal budget and this week’s Quebec election.

One attitude could be labeled “let’s go,” and the other “let them go.”

The “let’s go!” crowd is saying, “The budget worked, the Conservatives have reached majority territory at 40% in the polls, and Quebec separatism is dead. Let’s have an election.”

The other is saying, “The budget was a ridiculous Quebec spending spree, it won’t work, and I’d rather let Quebec go.”

They’re angry that Quebeckers got more than anyone else in this budget, and always do.

No, actually, Maritimers and Manitobans get far more than Quebeckers per capita, for equally dubious reasons and with even worse effect.

So why is nobody complaining about them?

More to the point, why are conservatives not upset that this budget drives federal spending to its highest and fattest level in history?

In constant dollars per Canadian, Harper is spending more than Trudeau, Mulroney or Martin ever did (see Andrew Coyne at http://andrewcoyne.com/columns/2007/03/flaherty-biggest-of-big-spenders.php).

“Overall, no plan to address the productivity and demographic challenges facing the Canadian economy over the long term,” observed Jack Mintz, highly regarded former CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute. “This budget marks a turning point – major tax relief seems impossible, even from this government.”

Harper must do this, say the “let’s go” people, to get a Conservative majority.

Oh? And what will he do with it when he gets it? Will he then cut taxes and transfers? Tell the have-not provinces to pull up their socks and get to work? Tell Quebec to get in or get out?

If he can’t do these things now because he’s in a minority, and can’t discuss them during a campaign for fear of losing votes, what makes us think he’ll do them ever? Maybe he has a master plan. But how would we know?

At what point could we reasonably conclude that his overall objective has changed from fixing federalism to staying in power?

It’s hard to blame Harper, but in so many ways – fiscal federalism, climate change, the Quebecois nation – he is saying or doing one thing while (we hope) meaning and intending another.

While it may be necessary, do we not run a terrible risk that having started, he will be unable to stop? That having enmeshed himself in contradictions, he can never untangle himself?

This is why we at the Citizens Centre are organizing a People’s Parliament – a parliament without parties and politicians, just regular citizens interested in the public welfare.

Most Canadians are not cynical, and wish well for their country. But as a nation we are quite confused – and apparently in disagreement – over what federalism is about and how it should work.

Is it about preserving “social and regional equality” and “two founding nations,” as we are now so often told? Or is it still about ensuring the older values of freedom and prosperity at home, and supporting them abroad?

These two objectives are plainly in direct collision, but it takes a long discussion for people to understand why, and to decide which one matters more.

Canadians need a national assembly free of the cynicism, invective and dishonesty of our existing political institutions.

To find out more about this urgently needed project, visit www.ccfd.ca

Link Byfield

Link Byfield is an Alberta senator-elect and chairman of the Citizens Centre. The Centre promotes the principles of personal freedom and responsible government.


Thanks Link!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What If Borat Came to Film Mario Dumont's View of Quebec?

It occurs to me that Borat may be searching for a sequel to his cult flick “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Where better to go than have Mario Dumont take him on a road trip to make a movie based on the ADQ's view of Quebec! The funding would, no doubt, come from Canadian government sources, all in the name of national unity, so what is the risk?

What about this for a working title: “Mario Treats Borat to a Cultural Learning of the Glorious Autonomous State of Quebec.” Just substitute Celine Dion for Pamela Anderson, and have Mario do a quick script adaptation. He could write himself in as the new Asmat, the Producer and could use most of his election speeches and media comments as background and research.

I think a moose instead of the bear and a maple syrup truck works better in a Quebec context. How about a duet? Mario and Borat singing "Mon Pays" to the tune of "O Canada"! They could sing it from the Hotel de Ville balcony in Montreal in honour of Charles deGaulle's famous "Vive Quebec Libre" pronouncement. What a fitting tribute to the essence of the Dumont goal of renaming the province to "The Autonomous State of Quebec." As for the naked wrestling scenes, they could happen just about anywhere.

How much would have to change from the original movie? Just some minor adaptations and reasonable accommodations to fit the ADQ perceptual context and voila - you have a hit sequel.

The Polls Tell Us Why Harper Will Not Be Going to the Polls - at Least Not Now.

The continuing volatility amongst Canadian's and our feelings about our federal government is showing up in the to-and-fro opinion polls results for the past many months. Flux and frustration are the political realities in the country today and Harper knows it. Do not hold your breath for an early election under the circumstances.

Harper is dancing as fast as he can, trying to catch up to the new rhymes and rhythms of the Canadian consciousness. He has made moves to change his framing from GST tax cutter and baby-bonus boy into the "thoroughly-modern vert-nouveau man." In the process has has been- seriously testing his credulity with Canadians. We just do not believe him nor do we seem to believe in him.

He breaks promises. He chases butterflies like Quebec "nation" without understanding the concepts and consequences. He panders and poses and under performs even on his tepid Five Priority Policy Agenda. Then he compounds the problem with cheap shots about parliamentarians loyalty and the Taliban, and makes unwarranted and unfounded personal slurs around the Air India tragedy, just to name a few.

Every time he sees the light and does something right and not just mean he get a 5 point bounce in the polls, for a day or two, moving from 35% to 40%. The mainstream media immediately goes into a rhetorical overdrive printing headlines about the Cons flirting with majority government territory and salivating over election fever. Then they retreat as the cold light of day emerges in follow up polls and we find that Harper has fallen back to earth, yet again.

The latest iteration of Harper’s up again and down again toilet-seat political fortunes happened over the March 19th Budget. The bounce to 40% territory happened in the first 2 days after the Budget. By the end of the week he was down to 35% again as people reflected on the Budget's political implications and realized Harper' s personal intentions.

Now we have to wait and see what the fallout is going to be for Harper out of the Quebec election. We all can see the consequences of his Budget bungling and interference in the Quebec election. He bet billions of our tax dollars on the Charest horse who turned up lame, in more ways than one.

The fiscal pain inflicted on the rest of us Canadians increased our frustration when Charest decided to use the Harper largesse for enhanced equalization money purely for personal tax cuts to Quebecers. We all understood the extra funs were intended to address the mythical fiscal imbalance for Quebec. The rest of Canada got no tax relief from the federal Budget and we are not amused. Especially Saskatchewan and Newfoundland who are legitimately angry with Harper. He screwed them royally in the process of paying off Quebec to purchase a personal power base.

Harper has essentially shown no progress in earning the trust and confidence of Canadians in the 14th months he has had control of the government. Do not be fooled, even with a minority government Harper has had de facto control. The Liberals spent most of 2006 finding a new leader and all of 2007 figuring out where they want to go with him so they have not been a force.

The major reason is after 5 years in federal leadership politics 65% of Canadians say they do not yet “know Prime Minister Harper any better as a person.” Those numbers are the same for all of Canada – expect for Quebec where a mere 59% say they don’t know him. This is not the stuff of long term viable political leadership.

I remember the headlines "Joe Who" immediately after Clark was chosen Progressive Conservative Party leader. Five year after Harper was chosen Reform/Alliance/Conservative party leader and over a year since he was chosen Prime Minister, we are still asking ourselves "Who is Stephen Harper?"

That is the real problem Harper has going int the next election, whenever it happens...we simply do not know who he really is after all these years.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blog Survey Show Harper Budget Did Not Increase Support for a CPC Majority Government.

UPDATE: MARCH 27 - DECIMA POLL AGREES WITH MY BLOG

The survey trends on this site about if you want a Harper majority government has been interesting. It has been running since late February. Originally the No side was way ahead but by early to mid March the respondents were almost 50/50 and then a slight majority said Yes. They said they were ready for a Harper majority government, for a few days, just before the federal Budget came down.

Ever since the Harper Budget on May 19th the activity on the survey has increased dramatically and the ratio has shifted. Now it is running 80/20 against a Harper majority government. As you can see the net result is a 60/40 over the time this survey has been running.

I will keep this survey alive for a few more weeks to see how my Blog readers react to the Quebec election and the level of desire they have for a Harper majority government given the Quebec election results.

This is not scientific by any means but it is interesting to see what self-selecting folks who come to my site and who take a second to answer the poll questions are thinking.

How Will Harper Respond to the Changes in Quebec?


It is difficult to know what to make of the Quebec election results from way out here in Alberta. Understanding the implications for Canada is even more challenging. Here is what I think but I can assure you, we are now living on moving ground. The dynamics are so different that I feel know nothing for sure these days.

The pundit in me says that last night the electorate in Quebec sent a shot across Charest’s bow, sent a direct hit into Boisclair’s bow and let Dumont take a bow. It is a good sound bite but not helpful in understanding the implications of the Quebec vote last night.

So where are we, after having had some time to sleep on the Quebec election? Well there will be a raft of recounts so we are not yet sure of the final result but the popular vote was a three-way tie notwithstanding the final seat results. That three-way vote split should not be forgotten because it has serious implications for any minority government which has a short fuse by definition. I expect the dynamic, timing and outcome of the next federal election will have a lot to do with determining when the next Quebec election will happen and what it will be about.

The Quebec population shifted away from deciding who governs based on federalists and separatist criteria. It has not reverted to deciding government based on traditional left versus right criteria either. If you are to trust the observations on seasoned reporters from the province, the rise of the ADQ was more about identity politics and many Quebecers decided who to vote for mostly on that criterion. Dumont tapped the angst of rural and socially conservative Quebecers over accommodations around immigration, family values, and the distrust of elites and a fear of an erosion of the francophone identity. He also benefited significantly from the disenchantment of the old Liberal and spent PQ party hierarchies. Even as the second party Dumont is the undisputed winner from last night.

M. Dumont’s campaign comments have been characterized as “a more prudent kind of nationalism” allowing him to play both sides of the federalists-separatist fence. This so-called “autonomist” approach is repackaged sovereignty association to my mind. If it is about demanding Ottawa respect provincial jurisdiction and that strong provincial governments add to the strength of Canada, I am all for it. We shall have to wait and see what he means by an “autonomist” Quebec.

I see Dumont today as a three-legged man. He has one foot with the federalists, one with the separatists, and another planted firmly with the social conservatives of Quebec. Can the “real” Dumont stand up in this situation for very long? Time will tell but he has to shift his political weight one way or the other, sooner than later, or else he will look indecisive and ill-defined.

Harper clearly now needs a new best friend in Quebec. Charest is not “the man” any more. Boisclair is likely on his way out and never was in the running for Harper’s new best friend in Quebec anyway. Enter Dumont as the great Harper hope for victory in Quebec. Dumont's support for Harper will come at a price in both dollars and devolution of powers to the province. He will force Harper to spend and look like a profligate Liberal who is bound and determined to buy Quebec for power and peace, no matter what it takes. The last budget is a mere foreshadowing of this Quebec-centric spending spree Harper will have to embrace to win a Quebec based majority government I expect. The rest of Canada will will not be amused and tensions will rise.

Dumont’s Quebec base is also the old time-religion type so-cons that are reminiscent of the original western Reformers. That is a group that brought Harper to minority status but who he has abandoned as of late. Consider their growing disenchantment withHarper and his "set up" loss on the SMS vote, his reversals on Income Trusts, and the recent giveaway budget to Quebec. He is now seen as being all about a quest for personal power and abandoning the very principles that got him elected party leader and Prime Minister in the first place.

This means that the Dumont demands of Harper will force him to say one thing in Quebec and another in the ROC if his romancing of Dumont is going to work to win Quebec as the means to a CPC majority. Not an easy game to play.

We live in uncertain times with minority governments in Canada and Quebec now, and with Ontario on its way to the polls this fall. Alberta is a year away from an election too. Who knows what those elections will decide.

Citizens all over the country are expressing dissatisfaction about how they are being governed. Quebec is just the most recent and most dramatic expression of this discontent. If it keeps up we may have to declare old fashioned politicians as endangered species all over Canada. That may be a good thing come to think of it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is There a Pattern Forming Around the Harper Cons?

I hear the CPC is appealing the Court decision overturning the Rob Anders nomination in Calgary West. There is an interesting pattern that is forming here for the Conservative Party of Canada what with the events around Anders, Day and the last Ottawa race for mayor candidate involvement. Altogether they are either under investigation, pending investigation or under appeal from the courts. Real confidence and trust building events don’t you think?

I wonder who Harper called first tonight to congratulate them on the results of the Quebec election. My money is on Dumont first and Charest next. More on the Quebec election and what it means for Canada in a posting tomorrow.

Looks to me it is very much like a result that is close to what M. Leger said Quebecers wanted. they effectively have Dumont’s leadership, Charest’s MNAs and Boisclair’s policy.

I am glad Charest survived, party-wise and personally. It was nip and tuck for sure…on both counts.

Ontario Police Launch Investigation Around Allegations of Federal Conservative Buy Off of Ottawa Mayoralty Candidate.

Not another one! First Stockwell Day now this! According to CTV the Ontario Provincial Police have launched an investigation based on an affidavit that says some “senior Tory close to Prime Minister Harper was involved in an alleged bid to buy off an Ottawa mayoralty candidate.”

I think the CTV piece speaks for itself and citizens need to read it and follow this drama also as it unfolds. Tip of the Hat to BCer in Toronto for this link.

Big Changes Coming in Quebec Tonight

On February 19th my posting asked “Could the Week of March 20-26 Change Canada.?” I was out by one day when the federal budget came out on the 19th. The Quebec election was not yet set for the 26th but I got that date right at least.

It is interesting to reflect on what I thought then and what has happened since. I predicted the Cons budget “…is going to be as bountiful for Quebec as you can imagine…and designed to ‘ensure’ a Charest victory.” Truer words were never spoken, except it did not work for Charest and Harper!

My intuition on February 19th was Dumont would be the big political winner out of the election when I predicted “…that Dumont and the ADQ are going to spoil the party for Charest and Harper. He is not going to win but he is going to be the winner. Quebecers like to make favourable federalist deals but they don’t like to be bought off overtly nor played for fools.” That has proven to be true too.

I said then “It is going to be a fundamental and future changing week for Canada, never mind the shenanigans of Harper and Charest. My guess is Quebec will take the money, Charest will win, the PQ Boisclair will be a bust and told by his party to hit the road and Dumont will hold the balance of Quebec power at the end or the day.

Then I predicted Dion will force the federal election on the Harper Budget and the future of Canada as a nation will once again be at play. We will not have an election over the Budget but we may have it over the Cons environmental package - but I don’t see it happening now until the fall…and that is a good thing.

As for the Quebec election outcome tonight I have another "what if" scenario. Recent media reports attribute this insightful analysis to Pollster Jean-Marc Leger who said, “Essentially Quebecers want Mario Dumont as Premier, they want the Liberal team and they want the PQ platform put into effect.”

So true, but is that going to be the outcome? I think it is entirely possible that the Leger observation of what Quebecers want can become a reality. Consider if Dumont forms the minority government and then the Charest team is in the catbird seat in supporting his minority government, then they can institute PQ policy. The PQ will be too are busy burying Boisclair by forcing a new leadership race. Quebec can have it all. The ADQ's real friends in the Harper government will be receptive because it can mean more CPC seats in Quebec. And Quebec can still have the luxury of using the tried and true referendum threats to extort more power and cash from Canada. Harper has already proven himself to be obliging to Quebec's perceived needs - even without extortion.

Quebecers have signalled through poll results that they are changing, and they want real change and they not prepared to be trifled with. A message is about to be sent in this election to the status quo federalists (read Liberals) and the status quo separatists (read PQ). The last time Quebecers decided to send a ballot box message that they wanted some real change was 1976 when they voted in the separatist government of Rene Levesque. It was a shock to the province and the nation because it seemed to happen out of nowhere particularly to those conventional wise men who thought tomorrow was a mere extension of yesterday. That made them blind to the signs of the serious change that was coming.

If the conventional wisdom today is correct that the two tired old-line parties are found to be wanting of trust and respect, it might just happen again. Are we seeing a sea-change in the politics of La Belle Province? What would be the consequences if the collective, but quite wisdom of Quebecers, decided today, impulsively and intuitively right at the polling station, and at the very moment of putting down their “X” they wanted once again to send a strong message to the "politics-as-usual" crowd?

What if Quebecers en masse decided the ballot question today was to reject the tired old line federalist-separatist lens of Quebec politics and they voted strongly for the ADQ, the so-called "third party?" Could we have an ADQ minority government emerge later tonight? It is as realistic as any other possible outcome under the current circumstances.

What ever the election outcome in Quebec today, some folks in the ADQ will be partying like it is 1976 again. All this in the face of a pending federal election of uncertain timing and outcome too. I smell real democracy and big time fundamental change in the air, not only for Quebec but for Canada too.

Fasten your seat belts Canada; we are flying into some serious turbulence no matter who wins the Quebec election.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nova Scotia Warns of "Delusional Calgaria"

Good for the Bluenosers of Nova Scotia…(I know where else would they be coming from!) They have a very clever and pointed website using humour and facts designed to lure their ex-pats from Calgary. They are warning their “people” that they may be suffering from a disorder (if not a fully functioning disease) they have called “Delusional Calgaria.” I think the point is this is a social disease that is fiscally transmitted and results in homesickness and culture schlock...a Calgary essence. I am from Edmonton, if you couldn't tell. Anyway check it out!

Alberta is great place with a warm and welcoming ambiance - but it is crazy busy, with not enough people to do the work and it is becoming EXPENSIVE too. Inflation is a fact in Alberta’s major centres in particular, due mostly to housing costs. The fact is we are just now catching up to Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa housing prices but we shoulda, coulda and woulda seen it coming and have done something to better control it.

Unfortunately we were so damn fixated on eliminating the debt and deficit at breakneck speed in the 90s we forgot to plan for the obvious growth and infrastructure demands it would place on the place. If you were here “before” then you are doing well in practice and on paper. If you are a newbie and you can afford to stay to get established, you will love the province and you will do very well too. The price of admission today is a factor - for housing in particular is getting to be very high…even if you can find it. It is kind of like the dreams and hopes of the original Europeans who settled the west all over again. This time it is energy and high tech, not cheap land that is the new attraction.

So we need you and your skills and your spirit out here. But make sure you know what you are coming for and getting into. So Nova Scotia, don’t just ask your folks to return. Ask them to send work and contracts home to Nova Scotia too. We need the help out here and I am sure you can do much of what we need right there in Nova Scotia and share in the wealth we are creating out here…right from there!

Harper's Giveaway Budget Will Not a Majority Government Make

I see the MSM poll interpreters and headline writers are up to their tricks again. Space, time and depth of analysis are all limited so the consequences are misleading and shallow reportage. The Strategic Counsel poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV on post budget results is a case in point. It was conducted over the 2 days immediately following the Harper Budget and put in the context of…did the Budget give Harper enough to call (and win???) an election?

Of course the MSM media wants an election because it is good copy, good for business and, let’s face it, elections are good sport for MSM too! The electorate on the other hand is not supportive of a spring election and the opposition parties save and perhaps except for Jack Layton, are not keen to go now either. We do not need a federal election right now, especially if Quebec is going to become volatile again with its own election results coming tomorrow.

Nevertheless, based on post budget polling, the MSM media screams breathless headlines that Harper is approaching “majority territory” with 40% and a commanding lead on the Liberals. This is of course, based on data collected during a total news blitz coverage on the Budget that was a giveaway to provinces where 2/3 of the population live. What else would you expect but a bounce in the first 2 days afterwards?

It was also polling data collected before Harper insulted the country with his Dion likes the Taliban more than our soldiers bleating, before Defense Minister O’Connor’s expose about “misleading of Parliament” (a euphemism for lying) and the disclosure of damaging documents that his Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day electoral activities may have breached the Criminal Code and Harper’s utterances. This past week Harper also said he would not acknowledge a separatists government if that was the choice of Quebecers…as if he has such a choice in a democracy. This all happened last week to but after the polling data was collected so the context of the MSM presentation of the poll results from the Cons Budget is lacking if we are to be kind about it.

Let’s look at some serious analysis of the Strategic Counsel post-budget poll results anyway. First the Budget gave the Cons a bounce (39% positive and 21% negative), no doubt that would be the result given it was the largest spending budget in the history of the country and a cash giveaway akin to game show prize winnings in Quebec. Underlying this fact was that an equal number of Canadians were “neutral” on the budget. Hum! Maybe the 38% of citizens who were neutral wanted to also think about it and understand it before they jumped to conclusions.

I wonder where they have they evolved in their thinking and in their opinions now that the implications of this budget are better understood. It is now seen in a cynical light to be mostly a budget about political positioning and less about sound economic planning.

A full 55% of Canadians and 67% of Harper’s western base saw the budget as a gift to Quebec. Ironically only 37% of Quebecer saw it that way and 34% of them are “undecided” but, get this, 51% of Quebecers do not yet believe they have gotten “their fair share” from the Budget. This is not a winning formula for nation building Prime Minister Harper. Thanks a lot!

Besides we know the budget is not the ballot box question in any pending federal election anyway – the environment is. So why does the MSM think the budget matters as a value driver as to how people will actually vote when the question will be real? Well the poll asked an environment question too. I did not see a single report on that aspect of the poll.

Well gentle reader – here is some more context for you about what this poll may be telling us. When asked if “Canadians were more concerned about the environment than the Harper government” a full 67% said yes, indicating the Cons have not achieved lift-off velocity on the main issue in he country and the one that will likely decide the next federal election. Even more interesting is that in Quebec and Ontario, where Harper is and has to go to get votes for a majority government, they say he “does not get it” about the environment at the 72% and 70% levels respectively. Ouch!

Harper resonated on the tax surcharge on gas guzzlers with 68% support and only 28% against; the West, by the way, was slightly more supportive than the national averages. But that was before we knew he exempted trucks and was actually playing market maker with a poorly thought out policy that preferred only selected manufacturers but was quickly “fixed” to also include cars made in Flaherty’s neck of the woods.

The big sleeper and potentially the most explosive finding out of this survey got absolutely no coverage in the MSM. It was the results of the question of “Should the federal government be involved in areas of provincial jurisdiction?” A whopping 67% agreed. Even 51% of Quebecers agreed and even more interesting was that 72% of the West was on side with this proposition. The Premiers will not be amused and the Prime Minister will be bemused. Will it embolden Harper to become more Liberal than Trudeau in occupying provincial political territory and jurisdiction? Time will tell!

So we should not get all excited from the MSM headlines and stories coming out of this poll that it might trigger an unwanted election. It has much more substance than the reporting but it tells us that nothing has been decided and no trends have been identified…yet. One thing is for sure though, these are going to be exciting and unnerving times in this quite little part of the universe we call Canada.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Will the RCMP Investigate Their Boss, the Honourable Stockwell Day?

With new evidence around the 2000 by-election circumstances surrounding the then newly minted leader of the Reform/Alliance Party, Stockwell Day we can only wait to see how Prime Minister Harper, handles the situation. Stockwell Day is,after all, his Minister of Public Safety and the Minister responsible for the RCMP. How Orwellian!

How comfortable are you as a citizen with the RCMP considering an investigation about criminal charges around political events of the Minister to whom they must ultimately report to? Are the RCMP going to decline to revisit the Stockwell Day by-election events of 2000 for criminal wrong-doing given that it directly involves the Minister to whom they report? What if an investigation were launched and criminal charges laid over the by-election of Stockwell Day and Harper had exercised his new political influence and control over the appointment of the Judge who was to hear the case? How comfortable are you with that? It could happen!

You have to marvel at the irony that the documents the Liberals are relying on were found in the files of the Leader of the Opposition Offices and were left behind by the former Conservative Leader of the Opposition, one Honourable Stockwell Day. The irony is even sweeter when you consider how hard Harper's people dug into the old files of the Martin Liberal government. They were looking for other potential Adscams they could use for political and purging purposes, but alas, to no avail.

How reassured are you that Harper and Day are skating and obfuscating around the Cabinet resignation issue under these circumstances? Do you believe the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety of all things, should step down from Cabinet until this is resolved? Former Cabinet Minister Michael Chong resigned Harper's Cabinet over less critical, and less potentially damaging matters, but just as significant as to matters of principle. Michael Chong has proven himself to be a man of principle and character.

The RCMP were quick to jump into an investigation on supposed Liberal government political malfeasance around Income Trust leaks. That investigation was based on innuendo and hints but they announced it publicly just prior to the last election, only having to admit, many months later, there was no evidence of any wrong political doing. They ended up laying only one charge against an individual - a Finance Department bureaucrat who allegedly used insider Income Trust information for personal gain.

We are not yet in an election and only have mere media musings, hints and allegations that one is even remotely pending. So the RCMP do not need to worry about influencing an election outcome, this time any more than they did last time. It is not their concern as to timing of investigations and politics should not be a deciding factor. Speaking of the politics of the last investigation, it was strange the RCMP broke their usual silence about criminal investigations and let it be known publicly they were investigating the former Liberal government. Will they revert to traditional silence about these matters this time or will they boldly go again into the public political fray - if they even start to investigate their boss!

They might be able to get to the bottom of this Stockwell Day by-election matter well before an next election is even called. Perhaps Parliament is mature enough to actually forestall an election while this investigation is going on…presuming the RCMP actually decides to undertake it in the first place.

Where is the sharp wit and sound wisdom of former RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli now that Canada, and Public Safety Minister the Honourable Stockwell Day, could really use him?

Now for something completely related.
What if I am right about the “republicanization” of the pro tem Prime Minister Stephen Harper and that his is eerily modeling and mimicking George W. Bush. I have been watching the “republicanization” of Stephen Harper as a variation on a theme for his style and substance of government all year. While I don’t think Harper is in the “Bush-league.” Let’s face it, when it comes to being “bush-league” Dubya is in a league of his own. You have to wonder if we can we expect what Stephen Colbert is showing us in this clip about the current Bush leadership reality to be somewhere in our Canadian equivalent?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Delving into Alberta's Democratic Deficit

There is a growing democratic deficit in Canada. Alberta has a particularly significant set of experiences in this regard. While the new Premier Stelmach has taken some initial steps to reform these matters the recent history of this province in this regard is not particularly sterling. It is not that anything illegal is being done, it is just that the system is not very accommodating of fundamental issues of fairness nor encouraging of informed debate and discussion. We are not getting the best service and outcomes of our legislative processes and institutions with outdated policies and practices.

Public Interest Alberta is a group of Alberta volunteer citizens who have engaged in a process to address these concerns. They have developed a very interesting discussion paper on Democratic Renewal in Alberta and are holding public forum all over the province for citizen input on the issues.

I recently interviewed Larry Booi, the Chair of Public Interest Alberta on the organization and its efforts around democratic deficits and renewal in Alberta. My conversation with Larry is on Policy Channel and I invite you to give it a boo!

As an aside, I spent a couple of days with former Prime Minister Joe Clark this week whiile he was in Edmonton. There is the text of a very interesting speech given by the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark given this week at the Univerity of Alberta on Policy Channel too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Charest's Actions Show Quebec's Fiscal Imbalance is a Scam and a Sham

So Charest versions of overcoming the so-called fiscal imbalance is to take equalization money from the hard earned taxes paid by all Canadians and then using it - not to improve the level of government services to Quebecers as it is intended in the Constitution - but rather apply it to personal income tax cuts.

Quebec has a huge debt, spends more on social programs than Ontario and subsidizes everything from day care to university tuition at unsustainable levels and that do not provide effective outcomes. What does Charest do to get real about these chronic problems created by the parade of past provincial politicians…nothing! He is using federal equalization funds that are intended constitutionally to improve government services in health, education and so forth and instead using them for pure electoral political purposes with a tax break to boost his election chances. Disgusting!

Other bloggers have picked up on this and have pointed out that based on this cynical tax cutting action by Charest one can only conclude that since Quebec did not need the money for remedying any fiscal imbalance- it it fair therefor to conclude the "so-called" fiscal imbalance must not exist.

When Flaherty was Harris’ Minister of Finance in Ontario, that province did the same thing with federal funds. They took federal funding grants intended for improved government services and used it for tax breaks - and then borrowed the money to improve services...not arguing they too have a "fiscal imbalance" because of high debt. Charest has been taught this trick by a past master of obfuscation. Character and integrity are lacking in these politicians when they will do such crass and conniving things with the better purposes and stated intentions of the Canadian taxpayer's money.

Prime Minister Harper, a few questions sir! Wasn’t this type of pandering and political manipulation between Ottawa and Quebec City the original reason the Reform Party split from Mulroney and started in the first place? Has nothing changed except your opportunism and thurst for power sir? How long do you think you can alienate your base in the west and take advantage of, on one hand, and concurrently try to buy-off, on the other hand, the hard working, just-trying-to-get-ahead- middle-class Canadian swing voter with such disingenuous politics?

Good government is always good politics sir. The opposite is rarely true!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ander's Nomination Ouster by the Courts for Breach of Party Rules

Ok on the Ander’s case and the courts setting aside his acclamation nomination, I have read the judgment and it speaks for itself. Some of you will not want to read it all but your roles as responsible and engage citizens will push you to do so. It is an interesting legal analysis but a very important decision and the facts shows how political party processes can be used to create unfair and incorrect results.

We all need to be vigilant to better understand how Mr. Anders "nomination" unfolded and who was involved and how they conducted themselves. Constant vigilance is the cost of freedom.

Council for the Party also was the person who defended Stockwell Day in Alberta when he defamed a Red Deer lawyer and school trustee. Defending that case on behalf of Mr. Day, now a Minister in the Harper government apparently cost the Alberta taxpayers over a $1M in legal fees and costs. It became the subject of a review of the government of Alberta’s risk management system. A review that I did along with my consulting firm for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature at the time.

The bottom line of that review and the Court’s decision on this nomination process for Mr. Anders confirms the first and most cardinal rule for citizens in a democracy…Be careful who you elect!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ten Reasons Why We Should Not Have a Spring Election

There are many reason why we should not have a spring election. Here are my top 10!

1 There are too many pieces of Harper’s 5 point plan in still in the legislative process. They have not had the time to get passed into law like his crime and punishment, health care wait times, accountability and the policy flux around child care spaces. He had a modest agenda and has not had time to deliver. We will have wasted the past year if we have an early election.

2 None of the parties are really ready to go because they are still all finding their policy footing. The Cons have the money, even though they are pitching the party faithful for emergency funds for a pending election. The Cons are currently so busy reintroducing and repackaging prior Liberal polices they need time to convince Canadians they are still the “new” government and not just a lighter version of an old-style Liberal government.

3 Candidate selection is in process for all parties and there is plenty of posturing, including candidate colleges in some parties. But thoughtful and quality candidates need more time to consider running or not. Rushing this process ensures we will have less than optimum candidates offering their “talents” to serve in governance.

4 Party leaders are all ill-defined in the public mind. Polls show we don’t really know nor do we have a clear sense of who Harper is after 5 years back in leadership in the federal political scene. His recent election promises breaches and his epiphany over the environment from a climate change denier to becoming the new super hero “Eco-man” is causing even more uncertainty as to who he really is. Dion is a known environmentalist and federalist but an unknown as a leader even within his party. Layton is seen as an issues broker but undefined and unfocused and still an unknown as a political leader. May is too new and untested and leading a party that is more unknown than even she is but that will change when the next election happens.

5 The national political agenda is too vague and amorphous so we don’t know what this election would be about other than Harper trying to get a majority. Polls are telling us Canadians are unclear if they even want a majority government, of any stripe, as yet. The environment has turned into a lightening rod and all parties have the poll results that have them crowding to the middle ground and bumping into each other like a Keystone Kops comedy. None of this is helping to gain the confidence of the Canadian voter for any political party right now.

6 Volatility and uncertainty in the mind of the voters is apparent in the polls as of late. Except for about 65% saying they do not want spring election and the environment as the #1 issue, nothing is certain or even ascertainable as to exactly what the public wants of its government today. Canadians are not yet over their “test drive” attitude towards the Cons from the last election. In 2006 Canadians elected a minority government on purpose and those purposes have not yet been served. Anyone who causes the election for superficial reasons will be punished in the polls. Any spring election will not be perceived as being about the wishes of the people but about the egos and thirst for power of politicians.

7 We need time to see if Harper will be serious about his budget promises and just how authentic he is about his conversion and version of vert-nouveau. Announcements of program funding and rhetorical political promises are one thing, action and outcomes are entirely different matters

8 We need to wait for some provincial elections to happen and the implications they hold for the future nation to be understood. For sure we will need time to digest the Quebec election outcomes and especially what a minority government in Quebec might mean. We need to understand those implications and even perhaps wait for the elections in Ontario and Alberta to go first because they would be helpful to set some political agendas for the nation and give the federal scene time to focus and define.

9 There needs to be time for the actual outcomes of Harper’s promise to deal with the perception within Quebec of a Fiscal Imbalance and how he will deal with it in fact, and not fiction. We need time to see the real Stephen Harper and his actual execution of policies around equalization and per capita transfers to provinces and how he will actually proceed to decentralize governance to favour the provinces.

10 Finally why are we wasting the time and money for an election when there is no pressing need and no clear issue demanding a mandated resolution? We have yet to see significant real results from Harper and that is not because he has not been trying. He has.

We as Canadians need more time for Harper to prove himself to be worthy of the al powerful position of Prime Minister in a majority government. He wants to afford us less time for that to happen and that is why he is pressing for an early but pointless and likely inconclusive election this spring.

Harper is worried that over time this summer, Dion will become better known, more defined and respected as a political leader. Layton has the same fears over the emergence of May and the Greens who might eat even more of his lunch with more time to become known, defined and respected.

Dion and May need more time to become established and organized so they will not be anxious to go early and they will hold their noses and vote for the budget. Besides they can benefit by seeing the Harper budget and green plan and taking time to comment on the merits and question the Cons actual commitment to the policies they propose. Past actions tend to show the Cons are just that; con-artists on policy and political promises.

Consequently, I expect Harper will try to engineer his demise this spring and if Layton is nervous enough about the Greens and May he will oblige the Cons and force an election. It will not be on the Cons budget but rather on their environment proposals that Layton will see the reason to cause an election.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Courts Kill Rob Anders Conservative Acclamation Nomination in Calgary


I will do a more thorough posting on the Rob Anders court decision over his recent Conservative constituency nomination process in Calgary West once the decision is on line and I have read it. That should be early next week I expect. In the meantime media reports do not auger well for the CPC in being an open and transparent organization.

Political parties have so much influence on our politics in so many ways, it was nice to see a group of party members take their complaints about the propriety of the Anders acclamation nomination to the Courts for rulings. Political parties are so very unrepresentative of the general population and are too often run like private clubs, especially at the constituency level.

They should be, and be seen, more as fundamental democratic institutions and therefore they must have more transparency and accountability then currently is the case. This is a glaring democratic deficit in our system that may need a culture shift towards more citizen engagement instead of a strictly legislated solution.

The Anders “acclamation nomination” reported comments from the Court decision underscores this need as Judge Hawco says:

“The party did not follow its own rules with respect to setting the date for the nomination meeting or with respect to conducting a fair and effective candidate selection process,”
“I am satisfied that the decision of the panel was not correct and that its decision must there be set aside. As a result, the acclamation of Mr. Anders also must be set aside and a new nomination meeting and process must be set in place.”

At least the Judge didn't say "they broke every rule in the book" although I have not yet read the decision so I can't say what the full implication of this judgement is yet. If this Party cannot be fair and reasonable within its own ranks to its own members, can we trust them to be fair and reasonable to dissenters? Can we trust them to be fair and resonable at all especially since they want to rig the judicial selection process in order to politicize the courts? They disbanded the Court Challenges Program because they could not see any reason why a government would pay for lawyers so people could challenge them on Constitutional and other issues. That attitude is dangerous to democracy and devastating to dissent.

Is that the kind of party and the kind of elected representatives we want in a free and open democracy? Is this the kind of political culture that Canadians will consent to be governed by? Character counts. Quality character and a competence to govern for the benefit of the people is not being well demonstrated by the Harper Cons these days. Instead we see the Harper Cons overwhelmingly preoccupied with positioning for power.

Good government is about meeting the needs and preserving the rights of the citizens’ and not about partisan pandering for power Mr. Prime Minister. Good governance starts at the political party level. I expect Leader Harper will want to be sure this nomination mess in Calgary West is cleaned up and quickly.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stelmach Goes to Albertans for Ideas on GHG Reduction

The Stelmach government now goes to Albertans and is looking for new ideas on how to reduce green house gasses. The government and industry can have expectations placed upon them but so can individuals play a role in making a difference.

Informed citizen engagement is the key to any positive policy change. This effort to engage citizen on climate change is broadly based and looks to be an aggressive outreach to engage Albertans.

Lots of ideas are emerging on how individuals can make personal changes have to be understood and acted upon if the challenge of climate change is going to be tackled effectively.

Will it all be about making the other guy change towards doing the right thing and I can avoid change myself?

The environment is the #1 public policy issue and with a high level of commitment compared to other issues, including health care. Will we start to see people making personal changes in lifestyle because they understand the nature of the finite system we have on our planet. Garth Turner has a Handbook for individual actions on climate change posted on his website and it is worth a read.

One can not only hope – but we can get involved, get informed and become actively engaged. Citizenship has its rights and its responsibilities. I will be fascinated to see how this initiative unfolds and am optimistic that it can make a real difference.

Quebec Welder Firing is About Safety and Literacy, Not Discrimintion

The recent “firing” of the Quebec Ironworker for failing to pass a safety exam in the English language is being misinterpreted as to what is really about and what is really going on.

This is not an example of a human rights abuse. Nor is it the old chestnut of the west being anti French language. I am old enough to remember the mantra about bilingualism as being French being shoved down our throats. The ghosts of those old attitudes seem to emerge out of this incident. This situation is nothing to do with any of that.

What this is actually all about is safety and literacy. If the reverse were true, say in an iron oar mine in rural French speaking Quebec, and a unilingual English speaking worker could not pass a safety test in French, in that setting, he ought not to be hired either. If you are working in a complex and dangerous environment and you can’t read the safety procedures or the operations manuals to deal effectively with emergencies and other non-standard events, then you are a danger to yourself and to co-worker.

The media stories in defense of this worker has been that he had worked for the same sub-contractor in the area but not on an oils sands site for a few months before without supervision, problems or incidents. We do not know what he was doing and have no reason to doubt his work ethic and skills. If he was doing straight non-critical welding in standard circumstances that did not involve integration with other large project aspects or inherently dangerous circumstances, I see no problem. I also see no comparison to that circumstance to the complex and dangerous Suncor work situation, which he was trying to qualify for n passing a safety exam. We do routine drug testing and criminal checks and why not literacy competency testing of employees for safety purposes?

The working language at Suncor is English but that is not the only determining factor. I understand another project has a significant number of Chinese workers on site under a subcontract with a company from the Peoples’ Republic of China. I understand they are working on installing specific projects parts that were manufactured in China. The working language for them is undoubtedly going to be Mandarin. They can be held responsible for site safety requirements for all their workers because there are enough of them and they are involved in a specific aspect of the overall project. Same will likely be the case for the Synenco project and their Upgrader because they are 40% owned by the PRC. Sufficient numbers of Mandarin speakers working on specific identifiable project aspects will justify safety testing in that language.

The real issue here is the dirty little secret that in Canada our low literacy levels are astonishing. We have statistics to show our literacy rates are so low in the nation, (Alberta actually being marginally the highest in the country), that some 40% of Canadians are still learning to read instead of reading to learn. Can you believe it? It is true.

This is not only a competitiveness and productivity killer; it can be a human killer too. Work crews with insufficient literacy skills are a danger to themselves and co-workers.

Premier Stelmach has recognized this issue and has delegated the challenge to improve literacy in Alberta to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. A good start to a serious problem! Literacy Alberta has developed a proposal for a literacy policy for Alberta that is working its way through the political policy making process. It is worth going to their site to give it a read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stelmach Moves to Stop Misuse of the Courts

You want some intelligent responses to a law and order political policy agenda? Look at the changes being implemented in Alberta to get rid of vexatious litigants by Premier Stelmach.

Streamlining the court process and eliminating inappropriate intimidation through initiating costly and inappropriate law suits will save money and time and enhances real access to justice.

This is in contrast to Harper's court related policy is all about trying to manipulate the appointment process so someone he likes, get to be a Judge. Whereas Stelmach is empowering the Bench and enabling the Judges to be Judges.

Smart move by Alberta's Premier Stelmach. a good governance model for Prime Minister Harper. I don't expect the Prime Minister will pay much heed though.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Boot Scooter Libby!

First Michael Jackson exiles to an Arab country. Next we see Halliburton’s head office moves from Texas to Dubai. If Scooter Libby doesn’t get a pardon from Dubya, will he and Vice President Cheney likely be the next exiles to an Arab nation? Just asking!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Worth a Read

I know a lot of people who wish they had written this - it comes from a friend who knew I would be interested! I trust many of my Blog readers will find it interesting as well!


The Great Moral Issues of Our Time
By David Michael Green03/10/07 "ICH" -- --

You liberals are such losers.Like His Holiness Reagan used to say, “There you go again!” Even after a quarter-century of us regressives running the country, you still don’t get it.

You can’t tell the difference between what is truly important for this country and what is not. You still can’t distinguish the great moral issues of our time from your petty bleeding-heart concerns.

Oh, I know how you guys think.You’re probably sitting there right now whining about how the massive carnage that is consuming citizens and soldiers in Iraq by the hundreds of thousands is a big deal. Wrong.

You probably think that the ongoing failure of the president to provide adequate armor for the troops he sent to fight in this four year-old war is important. Wrong again.

Or maybe you got yourself all worked up when the horrific treatment our wounded soldiers are receiving at Walter Reed Hospital and elsewhere proved that Bush couldn’t care less about the troops. Still wrong.

I bet you think it’s a big deal that al Qaeda and the Taliban – you know, the folks we said did 9/11 – are regrouping in Afghanistan, and that Osama bin Laden remains a free man five years later. So?

Are you upset again about the loss of jobs in America and the growing pressures on the struggling middle class? We’re not.

How about all the corruption scandals and gross incompetence of George Bush’s crony government? Get over it.

I’ve heard you guys ranting on and on about the mountain of debt we’re leaving for your children to pay off, plus interest, in order to finance our twin extravaganzas of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and a useless war costing $1-2 trillion. What’s wrong that?

Ah, then there’s healthcare! All you whack-job lefty clones seem to think its important to provide decent healthcare for our country, especially the 50 million people who have no coverage whatsoever, a large bunch of whom are children. No doubt Hillary told you to think that, so you did. We say, “Let them eat Band-Aids!”

And don’t go getting a bee in your bonnet just because so many people are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases that could be prevented and treated if only stem cell research was permitted. Do you really think the health of millions is such a big deal?

Please don’t go off again about the destruction of American civil liberties. Man, I hate that. You’re always spouting all those goofy ideas from the Bill of Rights – habeas corpus, right to trial, right to an attorney, protection against torture, search warrant requirements, and everything else you learned about in your fifth grade civics class. Who cares?

And then there’s the Constitution itself – all that stuff about separation of powers, checks and balances, and so on. So you’re all in a lather because the president has secretly appended close to a thousand “signing statements” to congressional bills, declaring all by himself how he interprets those laws, and which parts of them he intends to ignore. But what country can’t benefit from a good stiff shot of monarchism every now and then?

Oh, and please don’t play that tired Katrina card again. You think that the failure to protect, save and restore one of America’s great cities from the ravages of a hurricane is a pretty big deal, don’t you? Christ, you liberals are so sanctimonious! Yadda, yadda, New Orleans. Yadda, yadda, Schmew Orleans.

Or maybe it’s the economic polarization of America that’s got your undies all in a bundle. What’s the difference if the top one percent of the country grows fantastically rich while the rest are stagnant or sinking? That just shows your failure to understand the beauty of our capitalist free market system! What next?

You’re bothered that the Mid-East is in flames? That North Korea has gone nuclear, and that Iran is doing the same while growing in power because we destroyed its rival, Iraq? Typical liberal appeasement naiveté about tough foreign policy questions. Stop talking French, wouldya?

Don’t tell me you’re ashamed that genocide is occurring again while we stand by and do nothing? So what if the same government that moved heaven and earth to “bring democracy to Iraq” can’t be bothered to lift its little finger for Darfur after 400,000 people have been slaughtered?
Enough with the bleeding-heart routine already.

Okay, so it must be global warming, then, right? Ozone Man gets an Oscar and you think that saving the entire planet from vast, lethal and massively expensive environmental destruction is one of the great moral issues of our time, eh? Well, that’s where you’re especially wrong.

See, if you really want to know what matters in the moral universe, you should take your cues from us conservatives, especially those of us from the religious right. We can tell you.And what we say is that the great moral issues of our time are not war, peace, protecting our children, fiscal responsibility, caring for our soldiers or defending the constitution. And especially not pulling the Earth off the planetary grill.

No, the great moral issues of our time are: Your genitals. Yeah, you heard me right. Your genitals.Surprised? You wouldn’t be if you’d been following the news during your lifetime. And especially if you heard what happened just last week.Seems that one of our own by the name of Reverend Richard Cizik strayed off the reservation and got himself in some unexpected trouble.

Unexpected because he is a longtime advocate for the Christian right, now serving as Vice-President for Government Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.But when the good reverend made the mistake of fretting in public about your so-called global warming, well, we came down on him hard.

No less than those great moral arbiters of our time, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins and Paul Weyrich called for Reverend Cizik to resign if he “cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals”.What are those views? What did they identify as the “great moral issues of our time”? I thought you’d never ask. Opposition to abortion and gay marriage, of course. And “the teaching of sexual abstinence to our children”.

In short, everything to do with your genitals.And I do mean, of course, YOUR genitals. Not ours.

Reverend Cizik was actually supported during this controversy by Reverend Leith Anderson, the new president of the association. Why new?

Seems the old one – a certain Ted Haggard – loved to preach about your sexual morality but had a slightly different agenda when he found himself inside hotel rooms snorting drugs with gay prostitutes.

Kinda like Newt Gingrich, Robert Livingston, Henry Hyde and the others who chased Bill Clinton down for chasing down Monica Lewinsky, while they themselves were fathering children outside their marriages, having serial affairs, and dumping their wives for new ones, as the old ones lay in the hospital, post-cancer surgery.

Kinda like the Catholic dioceses across America that are declaring bankruptcy so they can avoid paying legal claims for all the damage caused by the sexual predators they hired, ignored and protected for decades.Dummies! Don’t they know you’re not supposed to get caught?

Listen, you get a sixer or two of Coors in me and even I’d admit it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that anyone who is publicly obsessed with your sexuality is actually totally freaked out (at least) about their own. But, hey, what’s the point of being a conservative if you can’t be a hypocrite?!

Y’know?You liberals, though – you’re hopeless. You keep thinking that hundreds of thousands of deaths from war and genocide are more important than dudes marrying other dudes.

You keep thinking that preserving democracy is more important than preventing premarital sex. You keep thinking that saving the planet is more crucial than discouraging masturbation.

You keep thinking there are greater and weightier moral issues than what you do with your genitals.But you’re wrong, and our country is falling apart because of all those misplaced priorities Satan got you to believe in.

And Hillary.It’s time to restore the moral greatness of America again. We need a new campaign of sexual authoritarianism to purge this country of our evil influences. We need to purify our precious bodily fluids and refocus our priorities.

Only then can we safely turn to lesser national priorities. Only then can we plot for our next invasion, our next raid upon the treasury, our next abandoned city, our next ignored genocide, our next assault upon the ecosphere.

Sure, all that stuff’s important. But none of it can happen until we first get our moral house in order.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (mailto: dmg@regressiveantidote.net ), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, http://www.regressiveantidote.net/

Alberta and Quebec are in the Same Fight

Here is our monthly column published March 11, 2007 in LaPresse.


Influential Albertans are following the Quebec election with an especially keen interest, because many of us know this is an axial time in Canadian politics.

Other Canadians provinces need a Quebec government that strongly defines and articulates Quebec’s aspirations, and maintains the robust defence of Quebecois jurisdiction in the face of federal encroachments.

The remarkable political skills of Stephen Harper, the Machiavellian élan with which he ravaged the opposition Liberals – leaving Stephane Dion stunned and defenceless against a barrage of half-truths and innuendoes – shows a prime minister who will do anything necessary to achieve his ends.

And if that means pushing the boundaries on jurisdiction, elbowing aside the legitimate interest of the provinces, who will stop him? Historically, it has been Quebec and Alberta. And that alliance must endure, no matter who forms the next government of Quebec.

We are learning in Alberta that the political stripe of the prime minister doesn’t matter, and it’s not even relevant that he is elected from an Alberta riding. We understand as Quebecers do, that just because the prime minister is from your province doesn’t mean that he will advance your province’s interests. This is still a bit of a shock for us, but we have seen enough to know that Harper is indeed a Canadian prime minister who will relentlessly, even ruthlessly, push the limits of federal power.

Consider the Harper government’s five priorities. Two of them – child care and guaranteed wait times for health care – are purely in provincial jurisdiction. And it’s not as though the priorities were just campaign rhetoric. In February, federal Health Minister Tony Clement tried to force the provinces to committing to guaranteed wait times. Informed of this last-minute effort to coerce a meeting of federal provincial and territorial health ministers, Alberta decided to stay home.

In a similar vein, Harper’s noisy law-and-order agenda, complete with a crude effort to appoint compliant judges, misses a basic point. Federal judicial appointments don’t affect the great majority of cases that come before the courts. In every province, all but the most serious criminal code offences are the jurisdiction of provincial courts, whose judges are appointed solely by the provinces. Moreover, if Harper succeeds in enacting longer mandatory sentences for a broad range of offences, provinces will be left with the cost of building prison space and providing the prison staff. The federal government makes a decision; provinces get stuck with the tab.

Similarly, Harper has been acting directly against Alberta’s interests with his confused approach to China. First Stockwell Day insists Canada is over-run by Chinese spies. Then David Emerson drums up business in China. Just as Alberta is trying to find market alternatives to the United States for its energy supply Harper hints that Chinese investment in Alberta’s energy sector is undesirable and unwelcome. Then he sends Jim Flaherty to go drum up business in China. All the while, Harper declares he will not sacrifice human rights in China to the almighty dollar. A noble sentiment. Yet Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin brought up human rights with Chinese leadership, secured a Canadian role in training judges and improving the rule of law in China, and involved Chinese and Canadian senior officials in monitoring the advancement of human rights. While doing this they expanded the China trade to Alberta’s benefit. Why would an Albertan prime minister throw all of that away?

Alberta has spent three decades of constructive engagement with China, building a patient, careful enduring relationship. This has finally led to the point that China is Alberta’s second largest trading partner. When a fall on the Shanghai stock exchange can cause global markets to dive, when the U.S. continues to borrow $1 billion each day from China to finance its Iraq war and its tax cuts for the richest Americans, we have clear proof of China’s power and influence. Albertans value the adroit and nuanced relationship we built – and the positive influence we have acquired as a result. Now it is imperilled by the Harper government’s reckless grandstanding.

All this has happened with a Harper minority. If he gets a majority, of which he is perfectly capable, who will limit his exercise of federal power? Once again Quebec and Alberta must stand at the ramparts. We ardently hope your election will provide a strong, clear-sighted partner to resist the centralist and centralising impulse of a controlling national government.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stelmach Wants a Triple-Bottom Line Government in Alberta

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2007: There are some interesting comments on this posting on the Blogs Canada site for the E-group section. Many of my postings are also posted there - and all of them are on the Progressive Blogger site too. They are in the link on my Blog.

The First Stelmach Throne Speech is a vast and refreshing departure from the Klein consciousness. Even a quick read of the document shows that Ed really sees a positive role for planned government engagement and his progressive social and environmental credentials shine through. His conservative fiscal values are there too but in the context of conservation and a future forward focus. That in itself differentiates him form the Klein days.

He has embraced that the government has to take an integrated triple-bottom line approach and spirit that shows the environment, social and economic concerns are all interwoven throughout the document. They all tie together and interrelate and the Stelmach Throne Speech illustrates this admirably. This is a very encouraging change to my mind. Yes I am a partisan and a Stelmach fan so what would you expect, I would applaud the speech…right? This speech is such a shift in the right directions that it also makes me feel there is now some real leadership who “gets it” about what a modern government is (and is not), in a comprehensive way I have some reservations and even some criticisms but will detail them in subsequent postings.

The Stelmach social aspects come from concern over integrity and transparency form a Lobbyist Registry to a governance review of Agencies Boards and Commissions. A concern for citizens tied to quality of life around improving primary education and better access to secondary education comes through. The focus on literacy is huge because it excludes people and also undermines our productivity and competitiveness not to mention the safety of workers. The wellness and prevention focus on health also factors into productivity and sustainability of our system and makes individuals more accountable along with the “system.”

The environment is all through the speech and again in an integrated way. The relationship between land, air and water are tied into growth pressures and the need to better steward the environment for government to be active and create certainty through a legislated basis. I was not wowed by the retreat to intensity target for GHG but it is a current reality but it has to be seen as an interim measure not the end goal. I was pleased to see the point taken than government industry and INDIVIDUALS all have to step up their game and commitment levels towards protecting the environment and incentives are in the plans.

The economic aspect was characterized by active government engagement too. The Royalty Review, land-use consultation, with the renewal of the Climate Change efforts, tied to the Water for Life Strategy being deployed are linked eco-econ efforts that add to the economic opportunity in the province within an ecological stewardship. The focus on diversifying the economy and our energy sources, (a link with the environment and the economy too) plus the commitment to address the need for municipal infrastructure ties in the economy the social and the environmental elements. Developing a comprehensive energy strategy that looks are renewables and alternatives including electricity from wind and bio-fuels shows a broader perspective about the future of Alberta is forward thinking and invites innovation. Reducing consumption, conservation and energy efficiency in an Alberta Throne Speech heralds a new consciousness in the province too.

Then you get a long term focus on sustainability and a surplus management policy and a long term strategy for technology commercialization and economic diversification with stated priority areas on energy, information and communications technology plus life sciences shows Ed is pushing adaptation.

The typical trite criticism around “lack of specifics” in throne speeches drives me crazy especially when it comes from politically sophisticated people. Throne speeches are intended to be a philosophical document about what the government sees as important and where it will put its focus. This one is no different but it is a much better document than Alberta has seen in quite some time.

Stelmach has to clean up lots of messes and bad habits left over from the last third of the Klein government. This throne Speech shows he is not only doing that but he has his own ideas and his own vision for the next Alberta. There are going to be some very interesting and exciting times in our Alberta.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some Speculation on Stelmach's First Alberta Throne Speech

Alberta’s new Premier Ed Stelmach gets to put his fingerprints all over the Alberta government in his first Throne Speech this afternoon. I will do a review and tonight on the speech itself.

I expect there will be a much more activist Alberta government than has been the case for the past five years of the Klein regime, other than Klein’s penchant for record levels of unbudgeted spending.

What can we expect then? Here are my guesses. The environment will be predominant including a commitment to new GHG emission standards for industry…I bet there will be legislated absolute limits not just volunteer intensity targets. Expect a fed-prov and industry collaboration on a new pipeline to transport captured CO2 and a major sequestration initiative. Mountain Pine Beetle is a new concern that can have devastating impacts on the boreal forest in Alberta so I expect it will get some very serious attention and resources to mitigate and adapt to the new reality.

The social agenda will be important too. I hope for a reference to support for a province wide smoking ban in public and workplaces will be referenced. The social services sector is in dire straits, especially the not-for-profit and private agencies. They can’t recruit, retain and trains staff to meet demands in the full range of needs form day care, children’s services, long term care and disability services. More money to raise wage levels and show a long term commitment to community based delivery of services needs to be identified in the Throne Speech.

A commitment to new technology and innovation supports will be highlighted with some of the surplus funds being dedicated to long term approaches through current and hopefully some new endowment funds.

Health will shift to an emphasis on wellness and prevention and restructuring toward better outcomes.

A new municipal funding model and a more mature intergovernmental relationship between communities and the province will be heralded based on the $1.4B on fresh funds into the infrastructure needs. An aggressive immigration policy to deal with the labour shortage is needed and will have a political commitment from Stelmach.

In summary – I expect an emphasis to show concern over managing growth but not by interfering in the marketplace. Expect to see a new relationship with industry in dealing with the environment in a planned and strategic basis, new money to deal with the public facilities infrastructure deficit at the municipal level mostly but not exclusively. I see a new commitment to dealing with the realization we also have a serious social infrastructure deficit now too that demands more money but also a new relationship with government to deal with problems.

The new Alberta as the nation's economic powerhouse with the related environmental challenges plus the consequences of growth on peoples lives will make for an interesting place to watch and wonder about. It will also be a most interesting place to govern. The next ten years of government dealing with change and growth will make the last ten years of a debt and deficit government look like child's play.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alberta Is Expected to Do Better on Emissions

Let's Make Alberta Obey!
Another new Ipsos Reid poll begs some interesting questions. We see 68% of Canadians want stricter emission standards for the oil and gas industry in Alberta despite it resulting in “significant increased costs.”

The question is a tad loaded but that is not the big deal. What is a “significant increased cost” mean to Canadians? What will this apply to beyond the obvious of gasoline, home heating oil, and increased airfares to name a few. How much tolerance is there for significance? Is a tripling or quadrupling of costs acceptable? Are those cost burdens necessary to achieve the GHG reductions needed?

What does “stricter emission standards” mean? Could a lessen overall fossil fuel production and therefore less energy? We have seen supply problem for gasoline in the East recently. Perhaps a formal rationing of gasoline where the population is the highest and the densest should be part of the solution.

This question sets up the old paradigm that the environment and the economy are mutually exclusive and in a zero sum game. What is “good” for one has to be “bad” for the other.

We need to revisit this mistaken belief and understand we can have a sustainable economy with enhanced environmental outcomes and do so in a profitable capitalist system based on stewardship as a basis of profitability.

We need some serious research into jsut what the tolerance for GHG emissions and addtional costs for people means to them. What are the value tradeoffs here? Are we on a susatainable course when we find out what this really means?

"I Think I'll Go Out To Alberta, Weather's Good There in the Fall."
The other recent Ipsos Reid poll says about a quarter of all Canadians would move to Alberta for a 25% pay increase. Am I the only one to see the irony in this attitude? Some advice – we welcome you in Alberta if you have a trade or other skill set - and happen to also be a turtle. If you are not bringing your own house it is tough to survive. We are building houses as fast as we can in Alberta but not fast enough…and prices are still soaring.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Blogs Wary of Harper Majority - Polls Are Back to a Con-Lib Tie

The level of analysis and the conversation on the Blogs about the implications and complications of a Harper majority government are showing this new medium at its best.

There are so many great postings and rich and enlightening comment threads on this issue I hesitate to do much by visit other sites and watch it unfold.

I recommend the Prairie Wrangler and Far and Wide as good places to start but wander around the Blogs and make up you own mind about the wisdom of a Harper majority.

The polls of late have been generating more heat than light. The Decima “on-line poll” – gave the Harper Cons a substantial lead and the Dion Libs a sobering sense of sliding. Looking to any sign of a trend or momentum the MSM and right wing Blogs jumped all over this. Speculation over an early election bubbled to the top again. We really need to look seriously at what is happening in the March 19 Budget and the March 26 Quebec election before anyone can really make any strategic decisions about the timing and wisdom of any election call.

In the meantime, I hope Decima made some serious attempt to cull and categorize their on-line poll participants to be reflective Canada in terms of the regional population distributions, gender, education income and all other traditional criteria. I am a big fan of on-line surveys but they are nor necessarily reflective of the collective wisdom of the country. They have a more serious purpose but that is a subject for another posting some other time.

New Poll Shows Cons and Libs Back at a Statistical Tie:
Ipsos Reid is out with a new poll that puts the major parties back in a statistical tie. The context of this poll is the Conservative negative ads about Dion are gone, the Quebec election is on and Harper is buying votes in Ontario. Key findings from this poll – beyond the statistical tie are the Cons still stuck at 36% as at Election night and Dion is up 2% now that the negative ads are off the air.

In Quebec the Dion Liberals are up 4 points (at 29%) and the Harper Cons are down 3% (at 18%) even with the gifts and fawning Harper has been doing for Charest. Even in Alberta Harper is down 6 points but still at a commanding total of 55% support.

Not many undecided folks overall but the largest concentration was in Sask/Man at 18% and Ontario at 15% undecided, refused or didn’t know how they would vote.

Campaigns matter and these various poll results taken when there is no election going on are like mood rings. The “colours” of the opinions and the moods of the participants can change very quickly - but they are not decisive. That will not happen until there is a real election happening.

All we have now is a fluid punditry, a volatile voter base and a voluble blogisphere. Not the stuff to risk an election over yet.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Are You Ready For a Harper Majority Government Next Time?

I have been running these "survey" questions on this Blog for a few months now. I call them survey questions because they are not scientific and not even close to the reliability of the results you would get from scientific polling.

What the blog survey shows is the sentiment of a group of self-organizing readers of this site about the various questions I pose from time to time. I sense there is a tend toward a decentralizing and fragmenting diverse range of opinions in society today. That said, engaged and influential people are also now coalescing, clustering and becoming activated around issues of importance to them.

All of this shifting and clustering gets easier and amplified by the Internet through Blogs, Chat rooms, Discussion Forums, sites like My Space and so forth. These Blog based survey questions may show that this self-organizing clustering around an issue is actually happening...or not! Could be just plain fun.

So I wondered if my readers are ready to support and accept a Harper Conservative majority government? Hence the "survey" question posted now. With the recent surge of Harper's support in the real polls and a possibility of an election in the offing, the question has definite currency.

One source says we are ready to accept a Harper Conservative majority government. From a recent SES poll, Nik Nanos finds we are comfortable or somewhat comfortable with that possibility. Nation wide 55% are ready for that possibility versus 45% who are not. The SES results show Harper has gained momentum for a majority government especially in Quebec and in the West, but the idea has lost support in the East and Ontario.

What do you think? Is the test drive of the Harper government over? Are Canadians now ready to "buy" the Conservative Party approach to governance and give Harper a majority in the next election?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Something’s Happening Here!

Pubic Interest Alberta is at it again. They have done some very interesting work on education and the challenges of low income levels that many have to cope with in Alberta.

Now they are digging into the democratic deficit issues in the province. I urge you to check out their site especially the topic of “Democratic Renewal.” They are holding pubic meetings on the concerns over how well our democracy is functioning in Alberta. It will be worth your time to take an evening and engage with some fellow citizens on the health of our democracy.

We have to do something to overcome the serious cynicism of the citizenry (and to annihilate abstract alliteration ;-). PIA is a group of interested citizens who are volunteering time and talent to create a place and space for this important conversation to happen. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity.

I will be video taping an interview with University of Alberta Political Scientist, Dr. Steve Patten and former Alberta Teachers Association President, Larry Booi about this initiative this coming week. The videos will be posted on Policy Channel later next week at http://www.policychannel.com/.

"We Live in Exponential Times"

I continue to track a few names on the WWW, including “Dave Hancock.” As a result I came across the link to Chris LaBossierre’s Blog. While he has some good thing to say about Dave I was also attracted to a YouTube link in one of his postings he called “Shift Happens.”

It frames an absolutely fascinating perspective on how fast and furious our world is changing. It is 6 minutes so the typical ADHD blog surfer may suffer some minor DT’s from “mouse” withdrawal having to stick to a single page for that long. I assure you it is worth the time to watch the whole thing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

PC Leadership CampaignDisclosure Doesn't Cut It!

The disclosure of PC Leadership donations just does not cut it. Larry Johnsrude of the Edmonton Journal has a good analysis and he closely reflects my sentiments. The Progressive conservative Party has not done itself “proud” by having no rules around campaign contribution limits and disclosure. The candidates have done the best they could under the circumstances but the fact remains the PC Party created the circumstances.

Anonymous donations of any size are inappropriate in an open and transparent modern and mature democracy. Now put this under the pressure of a very competitive campaign context of a political party leadership. The system assured that nobody really knows anything about what is going on in the campaign and there is no obligation to account.

Under the circumstances what can you expect except what Stelmach and Hancock did by way of disclosure? Dinning is on board and Oberg will fess up shortly. Norris says he has disclosed already but needs to do it formally as a final wrap up if he expect to run again. Dr. Morton is a no show on campaign contribution disclosure and that is simply not acceptable in this day an age.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, (PCPA) of which I am a proud member, blew it. Instead of giving Albertans a sense of openness and transparency in the process this time, we have cast suspicion on the participants. In 1992, when we last selected a leader, the one person one vote model was a shining example of how we were an open process party inviting citizen participation.

We did not have very stringent fund raising rules around political donations in those days. Now we do. The PCPA ought to have adopted the same rules for political contributions applicable at election time and applied them to the 2006 leadership campaign. We did not change with the times and we should have.

After all we (including me) made big deals that we were not just electing a party leader but also a Premier. We (including me) made a big deal about how open, inclusive and accountable we were being as a party. We were letting any citizen who wanted to vote on our leader and for their Premier “in” on the PC Party's decision for a $5 spot to join the party.

We would welcome risking the loss of control over the selection of “our” party leader to the general population for the good of democracy. Damn we were being good. Right? Over 140,000 ordinary Albertans bought into that reality and showed up, ponied up and voted. Special interests formed and many showed up. Many more who were rumored to be “showing up” didn’t, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well that good will the party earned and deserved, has been squandered over the lack of adequate campaign contribution disclosure rules.

Now we have a pall over the process and the participants because of the immediate cash needs of many campaigns, including late comers like Stelmach and Hancock. They needed to collect money, lots of it and very quickly. So anonymous donations were accepted, simply because they were allowed and the need was great. Not good enough but that was the reality.

Here are the key questions we have to come to grips with on the level of disclosure from what we have seen, so far, and on a voluntary basis. Hancock has 7 no-names and one for $10K. Stelmach has about 80 individual contributions plus other unidentified sources amounting to about 1/3 of his total campaign budget. We don't know the distribution of the anonymous contributions. Are they all in the $1000 range or are their some big whoppers in there too? We need a breakdown to be as least somewhat reassured no one is apppearing to try to buy access and influence.

Hancock, Stelmach and others benefited from significant “fundraising” events that are reported as anonymous too, including the events in Edmonton and Calgary to cover some candidate’s campaign deficits. For the record, I am in for $500 of that “fundraising” group. My $500 ticket had a stub with a place for a name, which I filled out and turned in at the door on the evening of the event.

I fully expected that as a condition of attendance I would be seeing my name disclosed on a contributor list. It has not been so I am telling you my contribution now. I made no other financial contribution to any campaign, including Hancock, but donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time to the Hancock campaign over 6 months and about 60 hours to the Stelmach campaign in the last week.

I am not usually on the fund raising side of campaigns but I have picked up a few of the "realities" over the years. Most anonymous donations come from four main sources. First those who belong to other parties, usually higher profile types, who will support another party’s candidate on the quality of his or her character but they don’t want the publicity that would result from disclosure.

Secondly we have people who have made an “undying pledge” to support one candidate but given the nature of their business, often the government portion of which is significant, they feel they have to "hedge their bets" and support virtually anyone else they think will have an outside chance. The “also rans” contributions are almost always anonymous.

Thirdly are true benefactors, usually individually wealthy citizens. They make larger donations but do not to want to be hounded by other charities or fundraisers, including those outside of politics, for money. They don't need to buy access or influence, they already have it.

Occasionally you get some “rube” who thinks they can buy access to power this way by a big anonymous donation, but they are few and far between. That, however, is the central problem. They can’t buy the access and influence in reality, but we tend to think they can and therefore all anonymous donors all fall into the latter scuzzy category in the public’s mind.

I don’t blame the candidates for this fiasco, but they deserve some of the brunt and they are wearing it now. I mostly blame the PC Party of Alberta, my party, for this mess. We are supposed to be the good guys who are best able to manage and govern the province and be the best group to deserve and be granted the Alberta citizen’s consent to be governed.

Well we fell way too short on the issue of campaign contribution disclosure this time. I will be looking for the new legislation Premier Stelmach has promised to clean up this stupidity and it best be done sooner than later…and it better be good!.