Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gomery Throttles PM's "Record of Accountability"

John Gomery says "Stephen Harper seems to have abandoned any commitment to transparent government" according to TorStar. Gomery indicates that most of his recommendations were rejected outright by the PM and the Conservatives. He claimed most of his recommendations fell into a "black hole".

Gomery's report on some improprieties by a handful of Quebecers who happened to be members of the Liberal Party (although some were also involved with the federal Conservatives), was what caused the downfall of the Liberal gov't - and it was all the Conservatives had in the way of a policy platform ("blah, blah, blah, Gomery, blah, blah, blah, accountability" was all they had to say - meaning it, or NOT). Now it seems the Conservatives are doing the very same things (see election funding investigations), and beyond (see PMO knowledge of Schreiber-Mulroney affair, Gurmant Grewal resignation, interference in the bureaucracy, Prisoner Transfer-gate, nuclear safety, etc.).

According to Gomery: "The government was saying at the time that transparency was very important and that they wanted to improve the transparency. In practice it's been an exact reverse". Coming from a man who the Conservatives held to be a "mini-god" when they were in Opposition, this means a lot. Especially since they can't criticize him for being biased.

In the past few days Sheila Fraser has also come out with very serious concerns about the secrecy and lack of transparency of the Harper Conservatives. In a recent television interview she talked about her views on the two-faced nature of the Conservative gov't on matters of accountability and transparency.

Time for Opposition MPs to start hammering the Conservatives on their lack of accountability, and their fear of adopting Gomery measures. What are the Conservatives afraid of?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Greater Vancouver Blizzard - "Global Warming Doesn't Exist" (Random Reform-Conservative MP)

Woke up this morning thinking I was back in Saskatchewan again. Well... err... okay... maybe not in Saskatchewan, but the Lower Mainland and Greater Vancouver were starting to look a lot more like home this morning. The pics above include a shot out my front door, my drive past Tynehead Regional Park (near home) on a snow-covered road, and a shot of the traffic jam on the Trans-Canada Highway - just East of the Port Mann Bridge (where it crosses the Fraser from Surrey to Port Coquitlam).

So... I just slapped my Tacoma into 4x4 and had some fun - being very careful of Vancouver drivers in their Priuses and Hybrid Civics on summer tires. What's interesting out here is that you get some "not so bright people" driving around in SUVs with 20" wheels with basically racing slicks. These geniuses think just because they have a 4x4 they can drive their "gansta-mobile" (usually an Escalade, Hummer, or Lincoln) like it's on skates. Funny to see so many of them in ditches.

Folks around here can't remember the last time there was snow like this, or like what we've seen the past couple of years. Sure it will melt in a day or two... but it's just not "normal". Go figure. Climate change is real. There is an expectation of more frequent and more powerful storm systems. While last night's storm in Vancouver was nothing for a flatlander like myself, it certainly caused some angst for 'Couverites.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Harper's Anti-City, Rural-Based Party Is Still Anti-City

Stephen Harper came to town (wearing his stetson backwards, with an "under-sized" vest), and launched "Canada's New Government". Two years later he is still sticking it to the city dwellers. Harper's and the Conservatives' disdain for cities is pretty obvious in his party's stance on urban issues. His dumping of Liberal urban initiatives is a symptom of the Conservative Party's disease: They are mainly a rural-based, Prairie-powered party. Even their "urban" ridings are centered in Prairie cities OR lie on the fringe of cities in the rest of Canada.

PM Harper is a perfect example of one of those concerned conservatives who despises city life so much he chooses to live on the very outskirts of suburbia... call it "sub-suburban". The PM chooses not to live in Calgary - in the riding he represents (my old riding of Calgary SW), but in a small town outside of Calgary - about 35km from his riding - in the town of Cochrane. Like conservative opinions I've heard in the past (Conservative MLA/Minister Grant "X" in Sask), there is a need - no- a desire, to live as far away from "those people" as possible. The former Sask. Minister made a comment about foreigners in his neighborhood, and commented about "the smell of their cooking". Typically conservative.

Ultra-cons tend to distance themselves from the city with purported fear of crime (on the decline, in reality - while small towns are hotbeds for drug activity, and drug crime), their disdain for things different from them (immigrants and minorities), their need to live the "no trespassing, private property, two Pit-bull, gun-toting, lifestyle". How can these narrow-minded people represent anyone from a truly urban riding?

The rural-urban split is fairly typical of the differentiation between conservative and liberal. Anywhere you go liberals tend to hail from urban, or more progressive and changing areas, while conservatives tend to be more rural - and more aptly, isolationist in thought (still, there are many liberals living in rural areas, just as there are conservative supporters living in urban centers). The ideologies tend to have their "heartlands". For the Cons, in Canada, it is the rural prairie. For Canadian Liberals, it is pretty much urban centers coast to coast - Calgary being the one conservative nut the libs haven't cracked (yet), and Eastern rural areas. The Liberals do have a significant rural backing, but it is in the less populated Northern ridings (which have traditionally benefited from Liberal gov'ts more than any other).

With the voting pattern of the urban and rural areas, it is fairly clear that the Conservatives will continue to kowtow to rural issues and demands - gun "freedom"; perceived crime; "corporatization" of farms; traditional family appeals (since rural families tend to be more traditional than urban ones); etc., while continuing to ignore urban demands. Being of a more closed-minded, conservative (ie: resistant to change) ideology, Conservatives will never be very likely to adopt policies which broadly appeal to urban Canada. Unlike Liberals - who will try (at least) to reach out to the other's bases (on left and right - hence our power/political center growing or shrinking), conservatives typically don't like to reach out to, or appeal to people unlike them, or to anyone who would require them to change their own ideology.

Harper Got What He Needed From Manley; Notes On The Afghan Mission

(Thanks to the Globe&Mail - Canada's National Newspaper [note gratuitous plug] - for this image).

While Stephen Harper didn't exactly get what he wants from John Manley, he got what he needs. Harper would have liked a rubber stamp on the Afghan mission. Instead Manley gave him some choices.

What it amounts to, however, is exactly what Harper needs to continue the mission. Now he steps onto the public stage - pre-election - and praises the report, indicating he will accept the recommendations.

What Harper got, was this: Indefinite extension of the mission - with the one "parachute" any "war-time" leader needs - an "opt-out clause". That's right. Harper got what LBJ didn't have in Vietnam - the ability to luck across conditions which would let him pull the plug without losing face. In Harper's case he can call his American Overlords to drop in some Marines, pretend that the helicopters that come with them are for our use, and stay as long as he looks good. Harper the "war-time PM". We know he just loves that image. If Harp sees things start to go badly, he'll just "cut and run" - of course, then he'll call it a "calculated withdrawal".

The one thing the Manley Report seems to miss the plate on, is this: NOTHING replaces troops on the ground. That is classic military doctrine. The public - and especially our non-informed media - seem to think the troops will just magically fly over those nasty insurgents and road-side ambushes. Yup - that's just great. Especially when we are looking to actually WORK ON THE GROUND and win the hearts and minds of the locals. Helicopters are great when coordinating an invasion to take out a fixed enemy and points of control that are clearly defined. The typical modern blitzkreig of jets, gunships, artillery, and overwhelming land force works well in these traditional scenarios. Afghanistan (or Afghanisnam, as some bloggers have called it) is not such a textbook campaign. We are fighting insurgents who are intimately familiar with the terrain, and have fought numerous campaigns there - against even better armed enemies (the old Soviets came with a huge force - bigger than anything NATO has brought). I hope that the Manley group made this recommendation on their own accord - and not at the advice of our generals, as this would show some deficiencies.

Our job in Afghanistan is to ensure we "secure the ground", and flying over potential trouble spots won't do it. Sure the choppers will help move troops around quickly, but don't let the media - or Harper's gang - tell us that the added helicopters will miraculously stop casualties from ambushes and roadside IEDs. We need to engage those threats DIRECTLY and ensure the security of both our troops and innocent local civilians. That will require continued ground action, and continued jaunts across the deserts, through mountain passes, and treacherous city streets.

One more thing: I support a UN-sanctioned action in Afghanistan. I'm not happy that NATO is carrying the load, as it causes a perception of "the WEST" against the locals. A real UN rapid reaction force (of the kind that is needed in a lot of world hot spots) would include forces FROM that part of the world - maybe even Iranian, Pakistani, and Uzbek forces. People who hail from the region are useful in two ways: 1) they understand the conflict and the locals better, and 2) they help keep the mission from looking like a "Western invasion". We need to help the Afghani people find peace, but we need to do it the proper way, rather than a random NATO mop-up force riding in on the coattails of an unsuccessful US man-hunt.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Little About Canada's Reform-A-Tories

So let's review what these wolves-in-sheep's clothing, neo-Con, Reform-a-Tories are all about...

We all know about the Cons' climate change denial - it's been a political reality for them for years. They constantly talked about not believing in the "science of climate change", and the "science of Kyoto". Later - once needing a majority became important - their position became one of bashing a former government for not doing enough (while continuing to do nothing - nay, even fighting solutions - themselves). They also started to vocalize for a "solution" which put any efforts into the distant future - much more distant than anything Kyoto offered - and also a much lesser effort (practically going backwards from gains already made).

War-mongering... What can we say about that? Well, in typical Conservative fashion, the Reformers/Alliance MPs supported the US's illegal (war crimes anyone?) invasion of Iraq. Instead of the right solution: taking the Saudis to task on 9/11, and taking out Afghan's Taliban Regime (well that partly succeeded) and their Pakistani supporters, they supported the trillion dollar (FROM the gov'ts TO the defense industry) light show known as Iraq II. Now, almost 500,000 civilian casualties later (all Iraqi), the neo-Con chicken-hawks are admitting it was an abject failure. Sorry - let me correct that last line: the chicken-hawks NOT earning anything from sitting on defense contractor boards, or future/past lobbyist roles are admitting failure.

Sexist bent has always existed in conservative movements. It is part and parcel of the definition of "conservative". One who believes strongly in the male-dominated "old ways", and wishes for a return to the "good old days". Current federal Conservative policy is geared to keeping women at home. In a very real effort to get all "old school biblical" on Canadian Society, Harper's thugs have unleashed legislation to support stay-at-home moms (nothing wrong with that), at the expense of programs that helped poor mothers and single moms (something really wrong with that).

In the past day or two we've learned that the federal Conservatives support torture (seemingly so, based on their tossing aside of internal documents indicating the certain allies' use of torture). The Foreign Affairs Dept. had a pretty detailed document expressing concern of the use of torture in allied countries (including our Southern neighbor). On Saturday Maxime Bernier decided to ignore this report to prevent any "bad pub" for these allies. The statement has angered Amnesty International's Canadian Secretary General. It has also infuriated Maher Arar's lawyer - Lorne Waldman, as well as human rights advocates everywhere.

What scares me... and I've started to accept the potential inevitable conclusion, is that these right wing ideologues may successfully hide their true feelings from the Canadian public until they are successfully ensconced in a majority. As a party WE need to get our act together. We need to go on the attack. We need to express our thoughts on the issues CLEARLY. We need to voice the liberal opinion - which is the MODERATE, center-of-the-road Canadian way. We need to speak to voters on the benefits of liberal ideology. We can't let platform politics stunt voter education. When voters have nothing to look at but a platform, a "current" election promise-list, and the latest 7 second news clip of our leader trying to get an idea out, we miss our mark.

I believe - as Liberals - we need to clearly post our ideals on the FIRST page of our website. A clear statement of worldwide liberal ideology - which won't change, no matter whom we chose to lead us, or what the current "issues" are during an election. This manifesto of ideas should become public knowledge so voters know exactly WHO WE ARE, and what our GUIDING PRINCIPLES are. When Canadians see clearly who we are, they will, once again, begin to see us as the only truly moderate choice in Canadian politics.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BC's Homeless - Canada's "Problem"

Walking down East Hastings in Vancouver, or through one of the many other main drags in cities in the Lower Mainland, something curious strikes you (besides the colorful scenery and sometimes foul odors)... These people aren't "from" here... Sure a lot of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island homeless are from parts of BC. The thing is, walking around and asking where they're from, you'll get a lot of interesting stories... "I'm from Calgary", "I'm from Edmonton", "I'm from Fort MacMurray", "I'm from Winnipeg"...

I was not that shocked to find that so many of the homeless were from "somewhere else". After all, the warm climate, accessibility to (cheaper/abundant) drugs, and excellent social services (did I say warm climate?) makes a huge difference. It really helps if you don't freeze to death outside. Add to this certain Prairie Premiers from oil-rich provinces providing free bus fare to Vancouver...

Citizens of the Lower Mainland and the Island end up paying huge sums to house, cloth, and feed a lot of these homeless inter-provincial immigrants. The typical Vancouverite pays a huge sum annually in property, local, income, and sales taxes. Guess where a lot of this money goes? Yes, that's right - trying to stick a finger into the dyke of homelessness.

What's wrong with this picture? How do we justify BCers - mainly in the Lower Mainland, and on the Island - being yolked with the burden of caring for Canada's homeless?

Now before I go much further, I assure you my heart bleeds for my homeless countrymen/women... I just feel that: 1) enough is not being done about the causes; 2) enough is not being done by other provinces (in comparison to BC, and maybe Ontario and Sask); 3) BC should not be taking on this challenge alone.

What exactly am I saying? The cities in the Lower Mainland, & on the Island, need higher levels of gov't assisting in resolving this problem. Victoria alone cannot solve and/or fund this issue. Mr. Campbell needs to start asking Mr. Harper that, now that they've killed all the federal Liberals' "City Initiatives", what does he intend to do (in way of funding) to help BC's homeless? This issue HAS to be brought to the national forefront. Harper is doing nothing for homeless people or the poor in Canada (including the working poor).

If Harper and the Conservatives refuse to help Canada's poor and homeless, then Mr. Campbell needs to approach Mr. Dion and the Federal Liberals - as well as the Federal NDP - to ensure that the homeless problem becomes a part of the national debate.

BC, being Canada's only "fair weather" province, needs to have additional support from the Federal Government in dealing with the homeless situation. Mr. Martin's "City Initiatives" would have been a welcome help, but we know the results of the last election. Too bad.

I can probably write an epic about what to do to combat homelessness, but suffice it to say, throwing money at the problem won't fix it. A concerted effort has to made at federal, provincial, and municipal levels to curb the social, mental (yes mental), and urban challenges which cause homelessness. We know that lack of beds in hospitals, drug treatment facilities, and mental institutions are a key part of the problem. We suffer at the hands of a gov't. which would much rather jail drug abusers, than try to wean them off the substances. Conservative types would rather spend billions on extra policing, than investment in the critical urban infrastructure (like treatment centers and hospitals) required to get people off the streets. While everyone out there doesn't suffer from a substance abuse issue, most do. Bringing back the urban support infrastructure would help.

The next step would be addressing the lack of opportunities in rural areas. Too often the homeless start out in small towns, either being abusers, or involved in situations of abuse - or bordering on abuse. Rural joblessness needs to be addressed.

Finally (well, maybe not "finally"), more needs to be done to ensure youth have "something to do". This also has to be a priority, and a national effort. Too many problems in today's society have to do with youth, and today's culture of "gansta hero". Federal Liberal university assistance programs (promised in the last election) - including paid tuition for 1st and final years - would have been a huge help. None of us like the conservative "fear mongers" talking about "increasing crime", when rates are down to record lows when compared to rates over the past 30 to 40 years, BUT, the fact is crime rates ARE all DOWN. Only youth crime seems to be on the rise. There are solutions - but they need to be national.

Time to get some national focus on local urban matters. Upcoming federal election(s) may just be the right venue for airing these concerns at a national level. Trying to get them airtime along with the "cool" issues like the environment, and Afghanistan may not be that easy...

Harpo and Mularkey: Just A Reminder...

We always want to remind ourselves that these two clowns are possibly involved in the biggest scandal in Canadian political history - the pay-off of a PM and/or sitting MP (one getting the payoff, and the other one trying to cover up the scandal, and the inevitable link to his party and perhaps Foreign Affairs Min.).

Now we are seeing the ruling Conservatives gleefully clapping their hands as the Opposition parties push the inquiry through a hurried-up process. Canadians demand to know the truth, and want to know what Harper/Harper's office knew, and when they knew it.

Let's get back with the program. Polls show there WON'T be an election. We need to call all the witnesses and evidence forward and have a fair inquiry. Rushing to get through it is not the way...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Edwards To "Pull A Dion"

Rumor has it John Edwards will mimic Canadian liberal politics in the next few months... It may seem early, but old Johnny is going to go from 3rd/4th to 1st. He may even get a hand from a Kennedy along the way...

As the US electoral process trudges along for the next several eons, voters will continue to jettison thoughts of a Hillary White House... Obama will surge, but like bright, savvy, upstarts before him (even in Canada), he will invariably attract the "Anything but Obama" vote (remind you of something?). Bright young Barack - he of the "fresh face" - will go down to defeat... Who's left? Why, the "safe" choice - John Edwards - of course!

This blogger has written good things about John Edwards previously, and I do continue with my support. His quest for an end to corporate greed has piqued my interest.

; )

Thursday, January 03, 2008

John Edwards: Promising To Be Tough On Corporate Greed

A great excerpt from John Edward's blog tonight: "You have the power to decide whether we will continue to let corporate greed run our country, or whether we take a stand on behalf of working people and the voiceless. Whether we take a stand for our Constitution."

Democratic Primaries - Thoughts

So tonight our friends and neighbors to the South will embark on the process to clean out the White House. I'm not going to touch on the Republican side, as I don't think any of us really care what the American Religious Right will pass along as a "passable" conservative representative. Our passion is liberal democratic politics, and that is what I've looked at on this blog today.

There are three fairly solid candidates seeking the Presidency: Hillary Clinton; Barack Obama; and John Edwards. All three have been darlings of the Democratic Party faithful at one time or another. That's basically where the similarities end. Here is WesternGrit's take on the candidates, and what they may represent...

Hillary Clinton: Hillary was an "uber-feminist", and rights advocate for many years. Even while in the White House with Bill, she was the mind behind many good ideas - including the push for better health care (although a Republican-dominated House, and strong Medico lobby killed it). Sounds like she is a great choice, right? Sure, if she didn't sell out all her principles. The only way she has stood up for women recently, is by BEING one. Sorry Hillary, that's not enough. Then, there's the invasion of Iraq. Hillary stood up and endorsed this illegal war, not once, not twice, but multiple times. She supported the Bushies, even though the World, and any logical, moderate person could see the war was misdirected. Hillary also caved in to the Big Drug Cos. and softened her stance on universal healthcare. Sorry Hillary, you're a sell-out.

Barack Obama: I like Barack. He's young, he's extremely intelligent, he's articulate - beyond any of the others, and best of all: he's African American, and it's about bloody time. Barack seems (on first look), however, to be a little too cozy with the big corporations, and is the benefactor of almost as many corporate dollars as Hillary. We have some questions about his "working with the insurance companies" on healthcare approach. Yeah, the American people need to be robbed by insurance companies and drug companies any more than they already have...  We hope this is simply a way for him to deflect any right wing criticism until he is in the White House.

John Edwards: Yeah, the middle aged "mainstream" male. How cliche'. Yet, John is the most progressive of any of the candidates (in the big three). He is charismatic (perhaps not quite as charismatic as Obama), and he is intelligent too. He is the only candidate who closely resembles true liberal democrats around the world (ie, Canada and Europe). He has not been heavily bought out by corporate donors. He has, in fact, spoken out against the big corps. Now these are refreshing words coming from a politician in the US - heck, even in Canada: "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy." Never even heard one of our Liberal leaders utter these very true - and frightening - words.

John Edwards seems to clearly be the consummate liberal. He is outspoken - and not afraid to speak. It's about time we saw more politicians who weren't afraid of big corporations. Edwards has actually said he will go after the big oil and drug companies. Bravo. In Canada it seems our politicos are busy currying favor with private interests - especially on the conservative side of the spectrum. P3s are all the vogue. Nice to see some of our neighbors to the South claiming a new political reality.

Government "for the people" - what a concept. We need more politicians like John Edwards, and Barack Obama.  If not Edwards, then Obama for sure (as long as he rethinks his healthcare plan - which I'm sure he will).