Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harper: Call Me "Mr. Bungles"

The HarpoCons insultingly attacked a speech inflection that Paul Martin had and dubbed him "Mr. Dithers"... Mr. Martin's "hems", and "ums" were quite noticeable and did impact his effectiveness as a leader - it made him appear to waffle or dither... It's poetic justice that Stephen Harper is now being besieged by the greatest number of scandals in such a short time in Canadian political history. Call him Mr. Bungles.

The Conservative scandals are numerous, and all so serious that they warrant serious public attention. Much of what has occurred really just points to the complete lack of talent in the Conservative Caucus. The ineptness of the Harper Government has reached "biblical" proportions - to use a typically Alberta Conservative phrase.

We all recall "Cadscam". We are still awaiting Harper's answer as to what he knew in the way of "financial considerations" - you know, the one's all of Canada heard him discuss on tape.

Then there is the fiasco surrounding income trusts. Once again Stephen Harper used his "great political judgment" and appointed a totally inept Minister (Flaherty). Income trusts were not the only thing Flaherty/Harper bungled. They shamelessly talked up the Canadian dollar (good for their conservative friends who all want to invest in American blue-chips on "Teh Wall Street", or in US big oil... or just their retirement home down South in their "promised land"). The dollar's "Flaherty-shock" has bounced it up to high levels that have laid waste to Canada's manufacturing sector.

There's the scandal involving election financing, and the potential that the Cons won the last minority with a little "illicit funding". This scandal is STILL wide open, and is being investigated.

There are other scandals, flubs, and signs of an inept government, but the one that really stands out is "NAFTA-gate". What was the Conservative government of Canada doing in appearing to help their equally conservative Republican friends South of the border? Were they attempting to discredit the odds-on favorite to be the next President of the US? It's funny that Maxime Bernier's name seems to pop up there again - as the minister who gave the nod to hire the son of a senior elected Republican - the same kid who apparently was the courier for the scandalous (and false) info going to the US media. The facts on this huge international incident remain to be uncovered. The next government of Canada needs to ensure there is a detailed investigation, as it is pretty certain that using your elected post to try to influence the elections of another country HAS to break some sort of rule... We know Harper's government is pretty adverse to investigating itself...

Mr. Bungle's government is beginning to be known for their lack of talent. They have put their best feet forward - and it appears they are "smelly" and "hammer-toed"... The extreme lack of talent in the Conservative camp is amplified by the fact that all the "good" people are staying on as provincial PROGRESSIVE Conservatives (Danny Williams, Bernard Lord, etc.). The provincials that did decide to climb the federal ladder are the same ones who bungled Ontario's economy under Mike Harris's "common-sense revolution" (what a misnomer THAT was). Of course it took the "political genius" of Mr. Bungles to give them starring roles in his cabinet. One only has to look at what Jim Flaherty has done (with Harper's direction) to lay waste to Canada's manufacturing sector, and our surpluses, and our tax-roles, AND income trusts, etc., to see how poor a team Harper has - or how poor a judge of character and skill he is.

The Conservatives can't misdirect Canadians away anymore. They are a party filled with extremely incompetent MPs, and "Mr. Bungles'" insistence in being in FULL CONTROL of each MP means that he has been fully aware of what they have been up to. I mean, c'mon, this guy reads their House notes before they speak. Mr. Bungles is the most anally-retentive, control-freak PM Canada's ever had. And he used to joke about "Chairman Jean". What a joke. Harper/Mr. Bungles knows what's going on around him - we have to admit that. If not, than his whole "cool operator/political genius" ruse was just that - a ruse. Most certainly a media concoction. Harper must have been intimately aware of details surrounding these major scandals. People who share time (and beds) with top cabinet members do have their backgrounds checked. People who attend state functions (like dinner at 24 Sussex, or the White House) are watched carefully, AND have their backgrounds checked. Ms. Couillard's admission - in her recent interview - that "they must have known", is blatantly accurate. She - a most politically "un-savvy" person knew the protocols - yet the Cons and Mr. Bungles actually believe they can Con Canadians into believing otherwise?

History will show Mr. "Bungles" Harper's regime to be one of slack-jawed, incompetent henchmen, and a leader who was aware of every move - yet lied to the populace, and stood behind his own incompetent appointees.

Time to give Harper his new "title"... He's earned it: Mr. Bungles. If someone else has already had the wit and foresight to christen him thus, my apologies, and my congratulations - at being a master of nomenclature.

Edit: And tonight, Mr. Bungles royally bungles his meeting with Italian PM Berlusconi... That's what happens when you are "anti-elite", and don't want the best of the best representing you abroad. Sheer incompetence. The sooner this government is over, the better for our international reputation.

The Truth About Polls, Polling Companies, And "Consulting Firms"

Much is always made about polls and who the polling companies are "biased" toward. A recent poll shows approval of Harper and the Tories waning BEFORE the Julie Couillard/Maxime Bernier affair. Some have questioned the intermittent timings of polls by this company, when they seemed to be polling a lot more when the Cons were riding high. There are also the usual barbs about this firm leaning towards the Cons or the Libs.

Most polling firms have done work for both parties - while IN AND OUT of government. This is a key point. Polling companies and "consulting firms" can gain a lot from lucrative government contracts. One clear observation is that they tend to "nurse" the party in power up to the point it seems that they shouldn't - due to genuine voter angst or mistrust. When the party is "going down" they quickly start finding friends in the soon to be government. You often see former advisers and "hangers-on" of governments seeing themselves potentially losing their Hill jobs, then opening political polling/consulting firms to try to appear "unaffiliated" or "neutral". Working on the Hill for a while generally nets you a few friends on the "other side" (most partisan voters would be shocked at how many friendships there are between party staff on the Hill - although the Cons seem to be a bit further removed - you need to show some real ideological leanings before you can be their friend).

Polling firms tend to favor the results they want to see: When you hear "a whopping 42% of Canadians do not disapprove of the government", what do you think? If you confuse that with the 40%-plus needed to be in "majority" territory - or if the pollster makes the distinction "hazy" for you, you may be led to believe the government is ready for a majority. The same number, however, also implies that 58% of voters DISAPPROVE of the government. Taking a closer look at the 42%, you may also find that 32% may ACTUALLY approve, while 10% may simply think that they "haven't enough evidence to disapprove", or are "undecided". If you break it along partisan lines, someone could interpret the numbers to mean that the government is in majority territory, but that the opposition is split with numbers in the 20s, or lower.

Bottom line is that you can play with numbers, or a biased media (who usually pay for these polls) can choose to headline what they want from a poll, cherry-picking what suits their needs at the time. It's best to take polls with a grain of salt. The Julie Couillard/Mad Max scandal is currently being polled... We will see if the various media, pollsters, "consultants", etc., start opening up their allegiances a little bit to include a little more disapproval of the ineptness of the Harper government...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Julie Couillard Had Dinner With Harper

According to Julie Couillard, she and Maxime Bernier had dinner with Stephen Harper in a private residence, AND she visited 24 Sussex Dr.  She further adds that the Conservatives MUST have known who she was (background, etc.), as they allowed her to such occasions AND even had her meet President Bush (as evidenced by a picture).  More interestingly, apparently she was also courted by the Conservatives as a potential candidate. So much for Harper's claim that he was not aware of details about this woman, or what her past was.  She was also very clear about the fact that she let "Max" know about her ex's at the start of their relationship.

Judging by her demeanor - and apparent lack of in-depth general knowledge - it is quite easy to believe what she is claiming.  It was really sick to hear her "dress story" - how Bernier used her to get publicity for himself when she attended his swearing in.

One very frightening point brought up during the interview was that she had evidence of her home - even her box-spring of her bed - being wiretapped - while she was seeing Bernier.  There could be some serious repercussions.

We'll see where this latest Conservative/Harper scandal ends up...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Education Is Conservatives' Greatest Enemy: Goodale Comments On Conservative Attack On Education

Received another one of Ralph Goodale's Weekly emails today. In it Ralph discusses the Harper Conservatives' attack on education in general, and their stopping the Millenium Scholarship Foundation after it expires next year. Thousands of Canadian students have benefited from this great Liberal program...

I guess Conservatives would rather students don't attend University... After all, you don't want them to turn into "elitist" intellectuals now, do you? We always knew Conservatives don't give a hoot about education, and have always been adversarial to what they term the educated "elite". This move by Harper simply reflects the Conservative fear of the "elite". We know they'd rather have a "dumbed-down", US-style population fed a constant barrage of "action movies" and "action TV", interspersed with lots of sports and advertising, that they can simply manipulate with "Fox-like" news and "hot-button" politics.

It's all part of the Conservative "action-plan" - coming directly from their neo-Con Republican buddies, and their partners in the "New American Century" bunch... For Conservatives/conservatives, educated citizens are dangerous. You can't simply let the "television culture" and their religion drive them. They ask questions. They "think" for themselves. Education is the conservative's biggest fear, and greatest enemy.

Here's the complete Goodale write-up... Worth a read:


By Ralph Goodale, M.P.


In the late 1990’s, the Government of Canada decided to mark the upcoming “turn of the millennium” in the Year 2000 with a new federal investment in higher education. Thus was born the “Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation”.

Fully transparent and at arm’s length from the government, the Foundation was endowed with $2.3 billion. Its mandate was to provide outstanding young Canadians with meaningful financial assistance in pursuit of their post-secondary studies.

The Foundation has offered a wide variety of bursaries, scholarships and other awards based upon each applicant’s achievements in leadership, social innovation, academic performance and community service. To date, more than 800,000 students have received support.

The selection process is guided by an independent board of distinguished Canadians drawn from across the country.

Saskatchewan young people have been major beneficiaries.

During the Foundation’s nine-year tenure, close to 3,000 students in my Wascana Constituency have received over $8 million in Millennium funding. Across Saskatchewan, more than 32,000 – from every walk of life – have benefited from nearly $92 million in Millennium awards.

But despite this program’s proven success, it has only one year left to run, and then it is being cancelled by the Stephen Harper’s Conservatives – with no replacement.

The “new” money which Mr. Harper claims to be investing in post-secondary education is not “new” at all. It is taken from existing programs like the Millennium Foundation and others.

So in absolute terms, there is little incremental federal support for higher learning across Canada. Mr. Harper is just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Such an approach is extremely short-sighted. Additional federal Transfers to provinces, a more sensitive student loan system, and new direct grants to students should not cause the Millennium Foundation to be killed.

All of these tools are, in fact, needed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Conservative Anti-Immigrant Antics Continue

There was an "apology" announced a few days ago... Anyone recall it? Hear about it? It wasn't like the apology to the Chinese for the "head tax". It wasn't like the apology to interred Ukrainian Canadians (during WW2). It wasn't like the apology to Japanese Canadians. Somewhere a lone messenger from Parliament Hill sneakily spoke to Indian Canadian groups (mostly Sikhs) and indicated there would be an "apology" for the Komagata Maru incident.

For those unfamiliar with this episode in Canadian history: After serving in the British Imperial Indian Army Indian soldiers returning from serving were channeled across Canada to begin their trek to India via the Pacific. These soldiers saw the beauty and potential of Canada and wanted to return. The (Liberal) government of the day had bowed to conservative perception and pressure and caved in to allow for a law which - at the time - prevented anyone from immigrating to Canada, who could not make it with one "continuous journey". This law basically dis-allowed anyone from Africa or South Asia from immigrating to Canada. It was carefully worded, so as not to appear to discriminate, because the Commonwealth was supposed to be "open" to immigration between it's member nations. The law was fought and overturned in court. When this happened, a group of enterprising Indians chartered a Japanese ship - the Komagata Maru - and sailed it laden with Indian passengers, from Hong Kong to Vancouver. By the time the ship arrived in Vancouver, the government had hastily reworded the law to circumvent the court ruling, and sent police/troops to keep the unwanted Indians from landing. Onboard the Komagata Maru, many became sick... some died. Eventually the ship set sail back to India, where - to add further insult to injury - British police beat and imprisoned many of the passengers.

One has to understand the prevailing mood of the country - and of the world - in those days, to understand how this law would have been taken. Conservative opposition members were angered that the law did not go far enough, and that the wording had to be clearly anti-immigrant. They also apparently wanted to go further - against Eastern Europeans, etc. It was difficult for any party to stand up for the rights of immigrants or would be immigrants. Immigration was also a fairly recent concept worldwide - so it wasn't a "worldwide norm" to welcome foreigners with open arms. Societies also tended to fear and ridicule foreigners. This was the case worldwide - not just in Canada. So, while the measures seem draconian, they are looked back upon now the same way that segregated washrooms in the US are looked back on, or how some peoples' views on same-sex marriage may be perceived 80 years from now. Here are the words of the BC Premier of the day:

To admit orientals in large numbers would mean in the end the extinction of the white peoples and we have always in mind the necessity of keeping this a white man's country. -- Sir Richard MacBride, Premier of British Columbia at that time.

Here is an excerpt from a book by noted Indian scholar Kushwant Singh regarding the Komagata Maru incident:

"The leaders of the Keep the Indian Out school were members of the Conservative Party, notably Mr. H.H. Stevens, Member of Parliament for Vancouver, and members of provincial legislature, Messers C.E. Tisdall and Dr. Maguire, and the Mayor of Vancouver, Mr. Baxter. They provided the solid citizen backing to the Immigration Department headed by Mr. Reid, who had equipped himself with special staff to deal with Indian immigrants.

Reid's right hand man was William Hopkinson, who had served in the Punjab police and had a smattering of Punjabi. Hopkinson had in his payroll group of Indians who kept him informed of the immigrant organizations. The chief informer was an ex-soldier, Bela Singh from Hoshiarpur. By virtue of his association with the immigration department Bela Singh was able to influence them to deal with each case individually. For some time before the arrival of Komagata Maru, Bela Singh and Hopkinson had been able to augment their income by charging regular fees to have the applications of the immigrants favourably considered.

In this hostile atmosphere the Indians were persuaded by their Counsel, Mr Bird, to go to a Canadian court and try out the validity of the new Orders in Council. On May 28, a full bench of Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the new Orders of Council effectively barred the courts from interferring with the decisions of the Immigration Department. (In re Munshi Singh No. 20 of 1914 British Columbia Law reports, p243)

The doors of justice was thus finally slammed in the face of the Indians.

The next step was to order the ship out of Canadian waters. The passangers committee took control of the ship from Capt. Yamemoto and his Japanese crew. On July 4th, an armed Canadian police force of 120 men aboard the tugboart, Sea Lion, tried to overpower the passengers committee. Mr Stevens accompanied this force. The passengers kept the policemen at bay fighting with nothing better than rock-coal and staves made out of driftwood floating in the Burrard inlet. The failure of Sea Lion picqued the Canadian police, particularly Mr. Stevens, who used his influence to get the cruiser, Rainbow, and the army brought into operation.

On the night of July 21st, the Rainbow with 150 blue-jackets on board, slipped into the Burrard inlet alongside Komagata Maru. In the morning the helpless passangers woke up to find guns of the warship trained on them from one side and the entire harbor lined with local militia and units of Irish Fusiliers and Seaforth Highlanders on the other."

Societies modernize their values over time. 100 years ago most Christian Canadians would have looked in scorn upon someone who didn't show up at church on a given Sunday... Women were treated as "chattle"... and lynchings occurred openly in the US South - while the KKK roamed the Canadian prairies and actually had input into government policy in Alberta. The most conservative elements of society then - as now - were the most vocally anti-foreigner. Some took it as far as violence. So... the world was a different place back then, and one cannot compare the actions of the government of the day with today's standards. You can, however, request an apology for the actions - especially an honest, heart-felt, and well-explained and vocalized apology coming from the most conservative elements of society - as it was people of their ilk who created the draconian conditions of the past to "conserve" their "lifestyle".

For years South Asian groups have worked on getting an apology from successive Canadian governments. Mulroney didn't care because he had very little South Asian support. Cretien's people probably looked at two factors: 1) South Asians by and large supported the Liberal Party, and 2) They were worried about all apologies due to the worry that after a formal apology (which they wanted to make) the groups would ask for financial reparations as well. We saw that debate occur with the "head tax" issue, and the Ukrainian incarceration matter - as well as the Residential School debate. The biggest hold back was reparations (or potential reparations) in a climate where funds were being slashed from programs (the 90s), while a very populist and anti-immigrant opposition could easily play on people's fears and play up a government cutting programs, while "paying" a minority group for something that happened almost 100 years ago. Mr. Martin's government had very little time to meet with groups from the community - let alone act.

Along come Harper's NeoCons. They have a background of stirring up anti-immigrant hostility. They were known to back the campaign against Sikhs wearing turbans in the RCMP (some openly - like particularly well-known "law-and-order" Calgary MPs). They were guilty of numerous anti-immigrant statements during election campaigns. Jason Kenney - a current Minister - went as far as to comment about "hot-headed" Sikhs "playing the race card" because of his anger at potentially losing control of a nomination battle in Ontario.

The Harper-cons are pretty open about their "courtship" of the "minority vote" (the word "vote" is critical here, as this is all they're after - they don't really believe in any minority issues). Polling has shown Stevie and the boys (and it is mainly "boys") that they need to break into the South and East Asian vote to have a hope of gaining a majority. They need that vote to break into the "cities". They've tried a lot of measures to do so. They have courted community leaders with promises of "grandeur" and "recognition". Some have succumbed. The Cons understand what it means to have a few community leaders in their pocket. They are aware of the networks that extend from that. More recently the Cons have talked up "immigration changes" which are supposed to increase immigration, when they are actually a veiled way to limit family class immigrants and permanent immigrants (because conservatives don't want them), in favor of "temporary workers".

So how does Harper approach this attempt at taking some of the vaunted "minority vote" without angering his "base" (hard-right)? He does it so quietly that no-one notices. It's not an apology - no - it's a bloody insult! What's the purpose of an apology if the entire country doesn't know, and more importantly, does not know WHY? While millions of Canadians know about Japanese interment, hardly anyone knows about the Komagata Maru. That knowledge is part and parcel of any REAL apology. The government's duty is to make the public aware of the grievance, as the origins of the grievance were publicly driven.

And how does Harper present his apology? To add insult to injury, he sends Jason Kenney - yes, the same Jason Kenney of the "hothead Sikhs/race card" comments to quietly convey the message to affected communities. He came out here to Surrey, BC. to meet with Sikh leaders. He also went elsewhere across Canada speaking to small groups of South Asians. No big media blitz. No explanations. Just a quiet, basically hidden apology.

Stephen Harper can keep his apology - or apparent lack of it. When you ask a child to apologize, you ask them to say it with meaning. To apologize and MEAN IT. Also, to recognize WHY they are apologizing. Here we have a government that is apologizing for votes, while forgetting why, and more importantly, destroying any reason "why" by continuing to push policy that is anti-immigration and anti-minority.

What a sham. Mr. Harper, you know where you can stick your apology.

WesternGrit - on behalf of a large and vocal contingent of South Asians from Greater Vancouver.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Conservatives Continue With Their Not-so-secret Agenda

Looking at this story coming out of the committee rooms on Parliament today, it becomes pretty clear that the Conservatives are continuing in the same anti-immigrant bent they began as Reformers and the Alliance.

The immigration minister HAD to admit today that, "In terms of dealing with the backlog, the first thing we have to do is limit the intake before we can reduce it." That statement alone still makes it sound like they're focused on reducing the backlog - as long as you don't talk about the "limit" on the intake. When you take into account the following facts, it becomes even more certain just what the Conservatives are attempting to do:

"In 2006, the Conservative government admitted 10,500 fewer permanent residents than the previous Liberal government, and 25,500 fewer in 2007 when only 236,689 permanent residents came to Canada. The Conservative government has actually cut the total number of permanent residents that would have been admitted to Canada over the last two years by 36,000.

However, in an attempt to cover up these facts, the Minister misled the House of Commons on March 14, 2008, when she stated during Question Period that "this Conservative government welcomed more immigrants to Canada than has been done in almost 100 years."

The Minister went on to mislead the House of Commons again on April 4, 2008, when she claimed: "That is why we were able to welcome 430,000 new Canadians last year to this country, the highest in over 100 years."

In fact, when testifying before the House of Commons Finance Committee on April 28, 2008, the Minister admitted her government is “deliberately blurring the line between permanent and temporary so as to meet the needs of our economy.” (LPC Newsfeed)

The facts speak for themselves. These Conservatives are being extremely conservative (as usual) in their approach to immigration. Facts like these will find their way into the ethnic media. Good on Minister Findlay for actually being honest about something. It took an appearance before a Parliamentary Committee before she did it, but she did come clean.

Whatever Happened To "Support Our Troops"?

To illustrate how shallow and political the Cons are, one just has to look at how they constantly use the military to justify their own ends ("Support The Troops", etc., etc.), yet pilloried one of Canada's most distinguished Generals and experts on child soldiers yesterday. To say you "support" the troops, then to disparage the man who - being a senior officer - knows more about the military, war, fighting, insurgencies, and child soldiers. In addition to his many years of leadership in the military, General Dallaire was actually ON THE GROUND with a very skeletal group of soldiers defending innocent civilians in a civil war. He - along with his troops - actually had their lives threatened many times. He had his sleeves rolled up, and was "in the trenches" with his troops - not some "corporate pencil-pusher" General who was simply looking for the media spotlight (as some are known to do).

Mr. Dion has to ensure that Sen. Dallaire WILL NOT be censured for anything the Conservatives are trying to make the media perceive as being "out of place". The general spoke very openly and honestly about Canada abetting the breaking of international laws in covering up the illegal detention and torture of civilians - including our own.

As for Jason Kenney's yipping, as Liberal Hearts and Minds put it, the Cons like to invent their own outrage. General Dallaire is an exemplary Parliamentarian and was an exemplary soldier. For the General to say something disparaging the military would be to criticize himself. How idiotic are these Cons to believe that they can push that one over on the public?

Time to Support Our Troops - especially a soldier who understands the inner workings of the military better than anything any politician or civilian - or even front line soldier - would ever know.

Wanna Win An Election?

Forget a "carbon tax". We can keep the gas tax (and divert it to cities as we had promised in 2006). The bottom line is: oil companies want to (read: HAVE to) operate in Canada. We have them by the figurative "short and curlies". There must be a price for them to operate in Canada. A price that the Saudi's extract, the Kuwaiti's extract, heck, all of OPEC extracts... Cheap gas for their residents.

The Liberal promise should be this: We will control gas prices domestically. We've a population smaller than the state of California. We can be granted this by Big Oil - in exchange for access to (read: "exploitation of") resources which BELONG TO THE CANADIAN PEOPLE.

If the foreign oil companies don't like it, there are plenty of smaller CANADIAN companies ready to earn billions exploiting our resource.

Yes, we would still regulate pollutants - and ensure that along with the provinces we extract fines and fees associated with VERY STRICT federal pollution standards. The KEY however will be the control of gas prices. Oil companies will still profit (hell yeah, we know how much they make on a barrel or liter). It will be the price they pay to access our resource.

What would the political fallout be? Well, some oil companies MAY not donate to the federal Liberals anymore - but we're trying to get away from corporate donors anyway. A lot of people working for Big Oil won't vote for us... Yeah right - like they do right now anyway! We may lose a seat in Alberta... Oh wait! We DON'T HAVE ANY SEATS IN ALBERTA! Besides, we may earn votes from those - particularly in urban areas - who don't work for Big Oil. We could actually GAIN seats in urban Alberta!

What other political ramifications would there be? How about cheaper gas EVERYWHERE in Canada. Guaranteed by the federal government. Real action for a real problem. Our transport industry would be ecstatic. Commodity prices would come down, as the cost to transport them across this land would come down.

What is the purpose of "owning" a resource IF OUR PEOPLE DON'T BENEFIT? It is the DUTY of our federal governments to ensure resources are mined/drilled/extracted with the benefit of the population in mind - not to line the pockets of mega-billionaire industrialists from the US. We have greater oil reserves than the US. We have almost what the Saudis do - some say even more... Know what the Saudis pay at the pump? It'll sicken you. Go to Bahrain, Dubai, UAE, Kuwait (yeah, the country where the man and material cost of drilling is WAY higher than Canada - I'm talking about the cost in lives and military hardware). All these nations benefit from ridiculously low gas prices.

What about the environment? With the economic stimulus provided by cheap fuel, the gov't will be awash in funds... These funds would be used to provide strong incentives to be green. REAL tax breaks for buying fuel efficient vehicles (which would also stimulate the auto industry). Levies on "gas-pigs" - SUVs (which are not "work vehicles"), while ensuring that pickups (the lifeblood of farms and small business) are made more fuel efficient (We could ban the sale of non-hybrid, or non-clean-diesel pickups, and tax-rebate back the cost difference of hybrids to consumers). Tax breaks or grants for retrofitting your home with better insulation, solar, or geo-thermal heat. This would immediately benefit the construction industry (which is seeing a home building slow-down). Some of the federal funds (all the fuel tax funds) would be channeled to urban areas, and would have to be earmarked for REAL fuel saving projects, such as: transit systems which people can actually use to get to work, transit-only lanes, more car-pool lanes. All these incentives and levies would have the same (or better) net effect of higher fuel prices - without the associated slow-down in the economy.

So... do we want to guarantee an election victory? Are we bold? Do we want to join the ranks of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other OPEC countries in receiving the benefits WE DESERVE for our resources? Resources OWNED BY THE CANADIAN PEOPLE? Let's see what the voters think. We should be pleasantly rewarded.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Testing The Empathy Of The Harper Cons

Another day, another global disaster. We've already seen the painfully inadequate response by the West to the disaster in Myanmar - simply because of the orientation of the Myanmar government (yes, they're a bunch of evil "dick"-tators, we all do agree). It will be interesting to see if Harper and his angry band of haters do anything for China that amounts to more than a token. Jimmy Karygiannis, Liberal MP, is leading the charge with Canadian Chinese groups to see if the Harpocrytes will increase funding for disaster relief - or if they will cling to their anti-Chinese policies.

It is wrong to play with human lives simply because you disagree with their government's ideology. To do so is just as evil as the evils that government perpetrates.

The NeoCons have demonstrated time and time again, that they value angrily adhering to their ideology more than they value human life - particularly Developing World lives. The Harper/Reform motto of course has always been: "If you're brown, yellow or black, you better step back, Jack..." These clowns have never been humanitarians, carers, or "givers". It's just not in their conservative - particularly NeoCon - philosophy. The believe in the "everyone takes care of themselves approach" - "no hand up, that's too much like a hand-out". They shamelessly use their ideological bent to attempt to marginalize anyone they don't like, or who disagrees with them. Unless, that is, there's something in it for them - like oil, or financial investments/gain.

I'm hoping I'm wrong, but we're all probably right... Getting real action on these global disasters from this government will be like pulling teeth. Remember, these are the very same Reformers who used to lambaste the Liberal governments of Cretien and Martin for their foreign aid, CIDA, and aid to Africa. Door-knocking in Sask and AB, I remember the repetitive Reformer refrain of, "what the hell are we doing sending money to Africa... Keep it here". These people never understood the repercussions of NOT sending foreign aid: famine, crime and terrorism, and eventually, refugees - who we have to take care of anyways. Small-mindedness or narrow-mindedness has never allowed the conservative thinking to evolve beyond their "me first" mentality.

Here's to hope.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Myanmar Relief - Western Altruism Lacking?

I'm astonished at how the West seems to be playing games with the Myanmar government on the disaster relief issue. Anyone else feel the same way? When the tsunami struck most of Southeast Asia, we had an immediate jump to support the nations. In particular, nations like Thailand (long time American allies) were quick to get aid... no matter how corrupt local officials are in those nations (and, yes, they certainly ARE corrupt). Ditto for Sri Lanka... extreme corruption. Since these nations operate under the "guise" of democracy, or at least have "friendships" with Western nations, the US and others were very quick to pump in the aid.

Before going any farther, I do have to say that Burma/Myanmar has a deplorable regime. Something needs to be done about it. The point is, however, many other nations who openly receive our aid cannot account for where the aid goes, and STILL receive it. We send billions of dollars of "foreign aid" and disaster assistance to shady African and South American governments. The thing is, very often, we are either sending to "friendly" governments, or we are trying to curry favor.

So what's with the hold-up for Burma? Why let food aid rot on the docks? Yes, we all understand they don't want our people in there distributing the aid. Why would they? Like any relatively closed nation, they are afraid that they would be spied on - in particular with nations who don't consider them as allies. Still, wouldn't it be a kind gesture - to help break the ice - if the West were to say, "we will provide assistance". We say we fear that the government will use the aid to control it's population. Wouldn't they be committing political suicide if they withhold the most basic human necessity? Starving people would topple the regime quickly... Even military regimes have to fear their people - perhaps even more so.

To truly reach out to dying and suffering peoples of the world, we should not hold ideology, or religion, or race, or nationality stand in our way. We should show our Western piety and altruism, and deliver the goods. An act of kindness would certainly wake people up - even in that closed government... Maybe we need to rethink our "conditional" aid...

New Harper Defense Plan

So the Prime Minister is deciding to re-announce his 1-2yr old running defense plans today. Good for him. I guess when conservatives run out of ideas they either a) steal them from the opposition, or b) re-issue old plans.

While a concerted plan of replacement and augmentation of the forces is a good idea, there are serious concerns as to the dubious nature of the (current) government's intentions for the military. The long-term plan has to be looked at seriously. Militaries tend to like "capital" equipment (ships, tanks, airplanes - the jet-fighter variety). They like "sexy" toys that make them feel military-like.

What the Forces actually need today are tools to help fight insurgents, quell uprisings, and maintain urban combat for protracted periods. They need tools for mountain combat, gear for infantry to be operational in hazardous conditions (gas, toxins, etc.). The military also needs tools to keep the peace - including better education (in particular, in how to deal with local populations), better psy-ops, better training in counseling victims of war and disasters.

While maintenance of our forces, is a good thing, as the Opposition, we have to question attempts by Harper to "marry our forces" to the US equipment. As it stands right now, a LOT of the new hardware the Conservatives are buying is inextricably linked to American weapons platforms and systems. While Harper claims: "Harper said having a long-term plan for stable funding will create jobs and opportunities for tens of thousands of Canadians who work in the defence industry and communities with military bases", we have to be concerned that these contracts are going to mainly end up with American firms and American workers.

It is quite apparent that the Cons want a "macho" army, with all the "cool toys" they can get their hands on. We need to make sure they invest in what the army needs - not what looks cool and lets them play with the big boy they want to play with (the US Army). Careful investment - especially in this time of economic uncertainty - is very important. It is also perhaps not quite the time to add even more funding to the military - besides what is required for the job they are doing right now, and to maintain for yearly turnover. It appears the conservatives are trying to sneak some spending by - using the excuse of "our troops need it" - even though the stuff they are buying is "long term". Not sure if this falls in the domain of "fiscal prudence". I think many of us would prefer to see money saved for the "rainy day fund", or spent on shoring up infrastructure and economic assistance measures... at this point. Once we're clear of the US recession, then by all means, move forward.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"People's Private Lives Are None Of Your Business" (Bernier)

Maxime Bernier, on answering questions about his "biker gang-linked" ex-girlfriend:

“People’s private lives are none of your business,” Bernier told the House, garnering a standing ovation and chumly pats on the back from Conservative members around him.

Ahead of the debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed the reports as irrelevant to government business, calling Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe "gossipy old busybodies."

"I hear one of my cabinet ministers has an ex-girlfriend," Harper said. "It’s none of my business. It's none of Mr. Duceppe's business. It's none of Mr. Dion's business."

Remember that line when the Cons come asking to ban abortion, or religious rights of minorities, or continue to use "racial profiling" at border crossings, or choose to smoke pot in the confines of their own homes, etc., etc.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More Accountability, or More "Invisibility"?

Stephen Harper came to power (along with some other MPs, who we don't see or hear much from) on the pretense of more accountability than previous governments. Two years under Harper rule, or "Harper Rulz", we are not seeing any of the accountability promised. We are actually seeing secrecy, closed doors, and the death of freedom of information itself. What went wrong? Or, for Mr. Harper, what went right?

NeoCon/Republican campaign experts brought Harper to power through the magic of a buy-able media. Never has Canada seen as inept a group of yahoos try to run the nation. Ill-qualified, uneducated, and without creativity (sworn to the mantra of the NeoCon "bible"), the massive ad campaign and smear of innocent Liberals (see the bogus attempts to discredit Cretien, Goodale, etc.) was able to bring these "less than the best for the job" people to the big show.

It is becoming apparent now, that Conservative strategists were told by their foreign advisers that "playing more righteous" can come back to bite you in the ass. Instead, the strategy became to HIDE everything and anything from the public eye. Your MPs are a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice bumpkins? Gag them. You are quoted attacking Canada, and calling it a "Northern European Welfare State"? Deny it. Confuse the public with Quebecscam/Adscam. You talk about immigrants living in ghettos in Western Canada... Say you were "mis-quoted", or better, try the new-fangled, "I misspoke"... Yeah... that's the ticket. You want to break election laws, and all rules of Parliamentary accountability (mailers, spending, patronage appointees, etc., etc.)? Just create the "Accountability Act"... The very fact that you created it will make everyone think you're all about accountability and integrity. Don't want people to find out what you've done while in power? Get rid of the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System (CAIRS).

You can't be called "unaccountable" or "dishonest" and "lacking integrity", if no-one can find out you were. The old Liberal government of Cretien, then later, Martin, were very open, and becoming increasingly more open. Being so open led to the visibility of the whole "adscam affair". Sure the PMO had power, but it was different power. It was power to exercise party discipline (a good idea when wanting to present a CLEAR MESSAGE to voters). Harper's PMO is more about power itself. It's about breaking down Canada's traditional institutions, about attacking and destroying the bureaucracy. It's about making sure MPs hide the party's true feelings - not say things the party doesn't agree with. Most importantly, Harper's PMO is all about hiding information from Canadians.

Harper's strategy is simply to "not get caught". If you don't get caught, they think, no-one will know you lack accountability and integrity altogether.

Lucky for Canadians, someone is calling attention to these facts. We just hope the media doesn't continue to turn a blind eye, while they continue to dub Harper the "master strategist". To be honest, the "master strategist" mis-nomer is probably in place because the media is as shocked as anyone else about Harper's ascent to power - after being written off only a couple of years ago. Goes to show, the public will buy it, as long as tons of money, foreign advisers, and a media looking for sensationalism and creating stories (rather than just reporting the news) are around.

Keep up the good work fellow bloggers. At some point the "so-called" journalists will turn on their "owned" corporate masters, and actually begin practicing their profession. Journalists have "clubs", however it is too bad they don't have some sort of authoritative body like the Law Societies, Medical Boards, etc. For a group that can change so much in the public forum, and can impact so many lives, it's a wonder there isn't a professional body that helps them maintain integrity better. Before I get skewered by my reporter friends, I just want to point out that I'm referring mainly to journalists who get hoodwinked into "editorializing" then have their "owners" paint the piece as a "news" story...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Why Not Now: Hon. Ralph Goodale Presents A Succinct Perspective

A lot of us have been going back on forth on these blogs, debating the right time for an election. I've been on both sides on the issue. It would be good to wait a bit to hear more about Conservative scandals and corruption, but it would also be good to pull the plug on the matter of the immigration secret agenda Harper has tried to slip into law.

James Curran has a very interesting take on whether there will be an election this Spring, or not (well worth reading)...

I received one of Ralph Goodale's "Weekly Commentary" emails today. I was going to "quote" from it, but decided to just post the whole thing lock, stock, and two smokin' barrels... Ralph does a really good job verbalizing the Liberal position, and highlights why having A strategy, is more important than firing off "non-confidence" votes like the Dippers. A party that aspires to power has good reasons to employ some strategy, and also has to realize that the public trust is more important than just a "media-attention-grab" vote of non-confidence.

Here's the Hon. Ralph Goodale's take (put succinctly - as only Ralph is known to do):


For more than a year now, Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government has been trying to engineer its own defeat on a long string of “confidence votes” in the House of Commons.

They clearly want a fast election – before voters become more familiar with the worsening scandals that are exposing Conservative corruption, and before the economic slowdown in Ontario and Quebec becomes an outright recession, exposing Conservative incompetence.

But to date, the government’s trickery has failed, because the Liberal Official Opposition has exercised disciplined, strategic patience. We have refused to be suckered into every technical opportunity to vote “no confidence”.

Why? Because we want to make sure that the issue and the timing ultimately selected for an election will line up with what Canadians want – not just reshuffling the status quo, but actually changing the government. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That’s how Liberals in this Parliament are different from the NDP.

We don’t want a permanent role in Opposition, while such a role is all the NDP can hope for. Unlike the NDP, the Liberal strategy in Parliament will not only force the Harper government into an election, but also result in that government being replaced. Liberals can do that; New Democrats cannot.

Three factors are coming together to create a compelling rationale for change.

First, there’s that disturbing pattern of unethical Conservative behaviour which reinforces a strong feeling that this government cannot be trusted.

Secondly, Mr. Harper’s short-sighted and ideological mismanagement of the economy has destroyed Canada’s fiscal security and is bringing the nation to the brink of an unacceptable deficit.

Third, Liberals are laying out a generous, ambitious vision for Canada’s future – all within the bounds of fiscal responsibility – providing powerful reasons to vote for a new government, and not just against the old one.