Monday, February 28, 2005

Liberals, Natural Governing Party or Something Worse?

Marc-Boris St-Maurice led the Marijuana Party from its inception in 2000 until last December, but is planning a formal announcement for tomorrow that he is now a member of the Liberal Party. St-Maurice made the decision for a simple reason - the Marijuana party is meaningless and it's easier to create change from within.

"Obviously the Marijuana Party is not going to be drafting legislation and passing it through the House of Commons any time soon, so that's where that decision came from," he told globeandmail.com."
St-Maurice ran against Paul Martin in the Quebec riding of Lasard-Emard and received only 0.8% of the vote.

The issue of legalizing marijuana will be further discussed at the Liberal convention this weekend, but St-Maurice's decision reflects a larger problem in Canadian politics. The Liberal Party has become an institution of power.

They have moved beyond the stature of being the 'natural governing party' and taken on a position of being the permanent political authority in the country. In order to effect change, you must work from within the Liberals. Our entire political system is now based on this dynamic, the Liberals are the party in power and always will be. Whether or not it's a majority or minority is meaningless, the Liberals run Canada. Every other party is seen simply in terms of their relationship to the Liberals.

Such a position of power is incredibly dangerous. It leads to stagnation, corruption and an 'old boys club' mentality. Prime Minister Martin is the ultimate failure of years of slow decline. A man who has been waiting in the wings for a decade to assume the position of ultimate of power and is showing himself to be an incredibly poor leader.

The real problem is that the situation shows no indication of improving. The Conservatives and NDP will never be successful in Quebec which completely hampers their ability to form the government. Until another truly national party emerges, the perception of Canadian politics will continue to be that the Liberals are the source of all power and they will, in turn continue their corrupt politics.

Gay Marriage Debate

A week or so ago me and Andrew from Bound by Gravity and me had a little exchange on gay marriage. We exchanged a few comments followed by emails. At that point, we could have gone the usual blogosphere route and just flamed eachother on our respective blogs. Instead, we decided to do something more intelligent and mature.

The gay marriage debate has been pretty inflammatory thus far. It has consisted or a large number of blog entries which almost universally ignore the points raised by the opposing side. In an effort to change that, Andrew and I agreed to conduct a debate on our respective blogs. I'll post here, he will reply on his blog and visa versa. We're going to get this started pretty soon, so keep your eyes open for what will hopefully be an intelligent debate on the matter.

In an effort to facilitate a better conversation on the matter, I'm going to try to turn comments back on. I've had them disabled for ages because of a bug with blogspot. In the past, when people comment the majority of my template is deleted and the page doesn't work. I've talked to blogspot about it a few times and the recently suggested that their new comment system would fix the problem. I'm willing to give it a test, so in that spirit I'm going to turn comments back on tomorrow at some point. I've backed up the template, so if anything does go wrong I'll be able to fix it quickly.

Conservatives and BMD

Despite the fact that the Conservative Party abandoned BMD, Republican North Bloggers still seem to be backing the system. Andrew from Bound by Gravity has taken this to a new level, launching a point by point rebuttal to left wing complaints about BMD. Unfortunately, his rebuttal fails to address the core flaws of the American plan.

Andrew raises six points some of which I really take exception to:

It is Star Wars
When people claim that BMD has nothing to do with the militarization of space I grow concerned about the feasibility of discussing the matter with them. On a basic level, the DoD currently has no operations in outer space. BMD will be run by the DoD and thus will involve giving the DoD a role in outer space. In the minds of many, that's an incredibly dangerous proposition. For me, I don't see it as one of the major complaints. Still, there can be no doubt that BMD = Militarization of Space.

It Doesn't Work
Andrew compares BMD to AIDS research and that's simply preposterous. American involvement in AIDS research does not require disregarding international agreements. Even worse, AIDS is not countering American investment with massive spending of their own in an effort to defend themselves against the vaccine. The analogy is simply illogical and incorrect.

Feasibility of it Working
Andrew suggests that the new Russian missile will one day be able to be stopped, that just because it can't be stopped by the unfinished version of BMD does not mean it will never be stopped. In truth, BMD can't even stop missiles from the early 90s. BMD's tests have been staged in situations where it was rigged to succeed. Real missiles launch balloon dummies to trick interceptors, BMD tests do not use such devices. Further, tests are always done in good conditions when weather is not an issue. Andrew seems to think the system is near to working. In truth, it's at least a decade away from anything even resembling adequate defense against mid-90s missile technology.

It Has Sparked An Arms Race
In by far the most baffling part of his rebuttal, Andrew suggests that since the Russians have already invented a new missile an arms race is inevitable. I'm not sure whether or not he's implying that BMD isn't responsible for that missile, but it's irrelevant. The simple fact of the matter is that the United States has decided to invest in a new weapons system and in retaliation other countries have beefed up their own military research.

Andrew further suggests that as long as the US has enemies then there will be an arms race. That suggestion is simply incorrect. By the early 80s the arms race had all but concluded, yet nobody would dream to suggest that the USSR and America were anything but enemies. During the 90s there was no arms race, but America still had plenty of enemies around the world. The increased focus on American defense spending has led to reciprocal behaviour from the rest of the world.

Andrew further suggests that the list of US enemies is growing rather than shrinking, and that somehow this suggest BMD is needed. I'm not too sure what kind of missiles Osama bin Laden has, but they sure as hell aren't getting anywhere near North America. Even North Korea's missiles pose little threat to our continent. Americas new enemies are terrorists, who would be using a backpack bomb. Not nation-states armed with ICBMs.


The last two points I am willing to concede. Financial matters have no impact on Canadian involvement, this is an argument raised by concerned Americans. As to the last, that seems to be a more radical interpretation of Andrew's first point which I've already entirely disproven.

BMD is a matter of cost-benefit analysis. Do we want to be involved in a program which is decades behind the weapons it is designed to protect us against? A program which has angered the rest of the world? A program that involves tearing up international agreements? A program which would make us a target for the enemies of America? A program which could never defend against the preferred method of attack of the new nemesis of the 21st century?

Paul Martin's government made the right decision. They made that decision in a terribly ineffective and embarrassing way, but they still made the right decision.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Fahrenheit 911 Wins Razzies...In a Good Way

I really don't care about the Oscars too much. The Rasberries on the other hand, those are lots of fun.

The Razzies are the opposite of the Oscars, given out annually to the worst films of the year. This year, some glamour was added to the usually tame ceremony by the presence of Halle Berry. The Oscar winner showed up to receive her Worst Actress Razzie for her performance in Cat Woman. It marked the first time since 2001 that a winner actually showed up to receive their award.

Of more interest to politicos, however, was the numerous wins by Fahrenheit 911 -- not for Worst Film, but for poor acting performances. President George Bush took home the award for Worst Actor, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld won for Worst Supporting Actor and Britney Spears took home the award for Worst Supporting Actress.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also took home a prize, the lifetime achievement award for having received the most nominations during the first twenty-five years of the awards.

Chris Rocks mocking of the President may not have received the laughs it deserved, but at least one award show is still a part of the reality based community.

BC Election

When the party in power starts campaigning, the time has come to start talking about a forthcoming election. This weekend, Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals came out swinging so now it's time to start talking.

It's tradition in BC to start spending money in the weeks before elections. Forty years ago, the government built roads all over the interior, today they build schools in Surrey. Yesterday, Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon announced the construction of a new $6.1M elementary school which will be able to hold 330 students and opens in September 2006.

Premier Gordon Campbell also launched a pre-emptive attack on the NDP. The right-wing Liberal leader went on a tirade about his opposition's tax policy:

"They don't talk about it before elections but after the elections they add taxes and more taxes and more taxes," said Mr. Campbell.

"If it works, they say regulate it. If regulations don't work, tax it. If it's dead, subsidize it. That's NDP economic policy," Mr. Campbell said.
Yesterday, Mr. Campbell took the stage at the meeting of BC Liberal Executives to chant of BC's back and exclaimed that the Liberals would win because they have turned the economy around.

Expect a lot more news about this race ahead of the May 17th election. In the mean time, keep an eye on a couple of good sites from BC: Rush the Vote and Election Prediction's BC page. Also take a look at the STV issue, perhaps the most important part of this election. I'm a huge proponent of it as are most left wing activists. There are several great sites on the matter, but this is my favourite.

Update on Arash Sigarchi

Earlier this week Arash Sigarchi was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for espionage and insults to various leaders. The charges stemmed from Arash's blog which spread the truth about the Iranian state. The site has been removed, but it was formerly at this address.

Tuesday became an international day of action for bloggers, Free Motjaba and Arash Day. Now, it appears that America may be responsible the arrest of Arash, as a letter from Sigarchi indicates that he was 'outed' during an interview with American funded Radio Farda.

"In truth the biggest portion of the accusations against me pertained to Radio Farda. You will be interested to know that some of it had to also do with the sounds broadcast during the time of my interview. I was doing the interview with a pen name and then suddenly they would announce that they were doing an interview with Arash Sigarchi. Believe me I placed no hope in them [Radio Farda] and I still don't ... I don't expect anything from radio stations, but it might not be a bad idea if a movement developed that familiarized them with their responsibilities to those of us who face a thousand dangers in Iran."
Sigarchi's letter is available in the original Farsi here. The above is a translation taken from DailyKos.

Visit the Committee to Protect Bloggers to get a better understanding of what is going on with the persecution of bloggers across the world. This is not something limited to Iran, it has spread throughout the world and is something we should all be concerned about.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Truth About Canada-US Relations

In the aftermath of Paul Martin's refusal to participate in missile defense, critics of the Canadian left have suggested the decision is emblematic of a knee-jerk rejection against all things American. While it may be politically beneficial for conservatives to make that claim, it's far from true. In truth, the Canadian left's discontent is not with America as a hole, but rather with its current neoconservative leadership. Far from growing further apart, Canada and the 'Blue' States are developing an ever closer relationship.

While there can be no denying that Federal relations between Canada and the United States have reached a nadir, a series of regional groups have grown in power and represent a new avenue of relations between our two countries. PNWER (Pacific Northwest Economic Region), the NEG/ECP (Council of New England Governors and East Coast Premiers) and the Council of Great Lake Governors have linked our two nations in ways that our leaders have been unable to do.

Jeremy Rifkin recently published an article in Walrus Magazine (no link, they don't publish feature articles online) suggesting that ties between Canada and the Blue States will continue to grow stronger. The article, however, largely ignores the already strong relationship and strong accomplishments of these transnational organizations.

PNWER covers five Western states in addition to two Canadian Provinces. Their website boasts that if a nation they would have the world's tenth largest economy and covers a landmass roughly the same size as Australia. The group lobbied hard for President Bush to remove the ban on Alberta beef and also backed Vancouver's winning bid for the 2010 Olympics. The organization boasts twelve working groups designed to foster cooperation and find solutions for regional problems.

The Council of Great Lake Governors includes eight states as well as Ontario and Quebec. The group controls 1/5th of the world's fresh water and is responsible 60% of North America's steel and automobile manufacturing. Based on their mission of promoting economic growth while respecting the environment, the Council has enacted several environmental measures to protect the region"s environment. The group also has shared trade offices around the world, fostering economic cooperation between the Great Lakes region and foreign nations like Brazil, South Africa and Australia.

The NEG/ECP was established in 1973 and is perhaps the most effective of all the groups. The group has created internal climate change legislation which has effectively put many New England states in line with Kyoto. Additionally, they have created strong economic ties and trade agreements.

The 'Blue' States are involved in heavy trade with Canada, particularly in the realm of energy. New England gets a large portion of their electricity from Quebec hydroelectric plants, while Washington receives the same from similar facilities in British Columbia. Along the same lines, BC provides water to west coast States and Alberta exports millions of barrels of oil south of the border annually. Detroit is no longer the sole hub of the auto-industry, but rather a link in a chain that runs up to the suburbs of Toronto. We're also seeing an explosion of intellectual cooperation, as professional schools develop joint programs. From the Osgoode Hall - NYU join degree in law to the Kellogg-Schulich joint MBA, academic institutions in Canada and the Northeastern States are showing an increasing level of cooperation.

Canadian conservatives have been complaining of the left's hatred of the US, while Republicans claim Canada is becoming increasingly irrelevant. We on the left must ignore their rhetoric and spread the word of the increasing levels of cooperation between our two great nations. This is not an issue of Canada's dislike of the United States, but rather Canada's dislike of George Bush and his policies.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dithers Fires Back

Paul Martin is so desperate to escape his new pseudonym that he's willing to risk our relationship with the US to do so. Today, Martin responded to suggestions that Canada would lose control over its airspace in the event of an incoming missile, and he did so with conviction:

"This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission."
Conservatives and American officials foud the Prime Minister's suggestion laughable. Foreign Affairs critic Stockwell Day openly mocked Martin's claim, wondering if the Prime Minister thought the Americans would dial a 1-800 number in the midst of a national emergency.

As usual, NDP leader Jack Layton did his best to tone down right wing rhetoric and bring the debate back to reality.

"These are the kind of hypothetical questions that (George) Bush has tried to create in the minds of people to elevate a sense of fear.

"The fact is that if Canada is a part of a program like this, then we become a target."
Why is it that the Liberals can't bring themselves to say that? Why is it that they completely ignore facts and bring up the talking points of right wing fanatics?

Canada is not in any danger of a missile attack, and it is our duty as a sovereign nation to voice our displeasure with the foreign policy of the Bush administration. They have violated countless treaties, engaged in unjustified wars and attempted to overthrow democratically elected governments. Now Stephen Harper and the so-called Liberal media want us to endorse that behaviour by legitimizing the latest in their long string of follies?

Plea For Help

I've been trying to code the HTML for the new site myself, and it's really not going well at all. I'm not very good with computers, I do the HTML in posts by rote. If anyone who's decent would be willing to donate a few hours to helping me out I'd really appreciate it. You can email me at gracchi@starmail.com.

Thanks a lot.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pope has a Tracheotomy

Pope John Paul II was admitted to hospital for the second time in a month this evening, and this time the situation is worse than before. The Pontiff had an 'elective' tracheotomy to assist with his breathing. The procedure took roughly half an hour and involved cutting a small hole in the Pope's throat and inserting a tube to help him breath.

According to a spokesperson for Italy's Prime Minister, the Pope is conscious and "serene".

Elena Curti, editor of a London-based Catholic publication, is quoted by the CBC as saying that it was "painful" to hear the Pope speak on Wednesday. She added that "This pontificate has been in its twilight for some time now, for a year or more."

Curti also suggested that Vatican officials have begun to look at possible successors to the aging Pontiff. The leading candidates are thought to be Dionigi Tettamanzi, a Conservative Italian Cardinal favoured by Opus Dei, and Francis Arinze, a black Cardinal from Nigeria. Outsiders include an American, a Jew, an academic who's under 60 and a Brazilian.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. I'm not a religious person, but my girlfriend and her entire family are practicing Catholics. If for no other reason than that, I truly hope the Pope pulls through this. He's done a phenomenal job in most regards and has brought the church into the 21st century.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Budget Falls Short

Paul Martin's minority government delivered its first budget today amidst great fanfare and ceremony. For weeks it had been known that the government would have to compromise in order to get the budget through commons. Ralph Goodale held dozens of meetings with opposition MPs in an effort to reach an agreement. And that they did. The Liberals made a deal with the devil.

Paul Martin's government needed twenty votes from outside the party for the budget to pass and the government to survive. That number could have easily been met from the NDP and the Bloc, but instead Canada's left will be voting against the Liberal budget en masse. Paul Martin will pick up the votes he needs from the Conservatives.

"There's nothing in this budget that would justify an election at this time," Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said before Goodale had even finished reading the budget speech in the House of Commons.

"In fact, I'm a lot happier than I thought I'd be. The major priorities in this budget are Conservative priorities."
That's definetly what I want to hear, that the priorities of the Liberal budget are Conservative priorities. The left is, obviously, furious:

"A lot of money for the army but nothing for the unemployed," groused Gilles Duceppe, leader of the 44-MP Bloc Quebecois.

"We can't support that. We'll be against that budget."

NDP Leader Jack Layton said corporate tax cuts "came completely out of the blue," while money for cities is being rolled out painfully slowly.
The highlites of Ralph Goodale's budget read like something from the Conservative platform: $7B in tax cuts that only provide an $400 to middle income families. $13B in new military spending, a 2% corporate tax cut, increased RRSP limits etcetera etcetera.

Well that's excellent. Let's hand some more money over to the wealthiest Canadians and huge multinationals. And let's give the military more money, that way we might be able to stand up to an invasion by Luxenbourg. Let's not spend money where it's needed, let's not make sure Kyoto is enforced properly, let's not give real money to the cities, let's not give a real tax cut to our poorest citizens, let's just throw away the surplus.

On top of that, much of the new spending is backloaded, not actually coming today but promised for the future. This is the first budget in years that includes spending to occur five years from now. Of particular concern in this regard is municipal spending which will be handed out at a snail's pace over the next half decade. The vaunted $1B 'Clean Fund' actually only gets $10M of funding this year and $50M next year. Spending on Kyoto is only $86M this year and $166M next year before jumping to $511M. All of this spending is, of course, tied to the promise of the Liberals being re-elected, because a Conservative government would certainly want to create their own financial targets. Therefore, this budget is more of a campaign promise than an honest attempt to use our surplus to make the country a better place.

In the end, it was Jack Layton who best summed up the feelings of many Canadians tonight.

"There's a certain sense of betrayal right now setting in."
You're telling me...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Now Canada is Out of BMD

Earlier today incoming Ambassador to the US Frank McKenna claimed that Canada was already part of the missile defense plan. Minister of Defense Bill Graham spent the next few hours defending the party in commons saying that no decision had been reached. Looks like Bill's out of the loop, because the CBC's reporting that Paul Martin informed President Bush that Canada will not take part in the continental Missile Defense program.

CBC's french language network reported late tonight that the Prime Minister will make the announcement as early as Thursday. The decision is a huge change of direction from Martin, who pledged support for the program during the leadership race.

The US has been putting significant pressure on the government to join the program, but the CBC's sources indicated that domestic concerns - namely polls indicating the public is massively against participation - outweighed foreign concerns.

Federal officials apparently told the Canadian Press that the Prime Minister informed President Bush that Canada will not take part at the NATO Summit in Brussels:

"[The Americans] were told we will not participate," a federal official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the agency.

"It is a firm 'no.' I am not sure it is an indefinite 'no.''
The Liberals had been expected to debate the issue during their policy convention in two weeks time.

The question now is what was happening this morning and when exactly did Martin tell Bush? Was it after this morning's mess? Why is our top ambassador so far out of the loop?

Canada Signed on to Missile Defense?

Frank McKenna made his big splash, and not in a way most Canadians will like. The country’s next ambassador to the United States appeared before the foreign affairs committee in commons today, then went outside and told reporters that Canada has already signed on to George Bush’s controversial missile defense program.

Asked directly if Canada is already part of the program, McKenna responded: “We are. We’re part of it now and the question is what more do we need?”
At first, this appears to be a serious issue and it still may be. But we need clarification. The media has already jumped all over the issue, with the Globe, The Star and Canada.com leading with the story. But the question remains, just how have we signed on? Is this the full level of our planned involvement?

NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough raised a key point during her comments before reporters:

“But of course we know what else the Americans want is Canada to be the fig leaf — Canada to give the aura of credibility and respectability to the U.S. decision to go ahead with this missile-defense madness.”
Canada has clearly not yet done this, and polls indicate the public is overwhelmingly against the Prime Minister giving the plan such strong endorsement. The question now is whether or not the Liberal grassroots will carry enough power at the party’s policy convention to prevent that from happening.

If not, Bush may soon find the aura of legitimacy he seeks and the Canadian people will likely be overruled again, as Mr. Dithers and his band of fools cave in to the militarization of space.

[Update 2:35] - Bill Graham just got hammered during question period. He argued that McKenna was talking solely about the NORAD ammendment which discussed BMD and that our participation was not yet a done deal. However, the NDP and Bloc jumped on the issue in a huge way. Both the Minister o Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister were not in Commons today, but I would expect the fuss to continue tomorrow. At the very least, this will likely bring the issue back to the forefront in the weeks before the Liberal policy convention.

Michigan Considering Raising Dumping Fees

Normally it's not an issue that would be a much import: a state in a foreign country raising the price of dumping garbage within it's borders. But when Michigan announces they're considering increasing dumping fees by 3,500 per cent, Toronto residents get a bit jumpy.

Toronto ships one million tonnes of garbage a year to Michigan landfills, and the state's Democrats aren't too pleased about it.

We don't hate Canada, we just want our state to be a Great Lakes state, not a Great Waste state," Democratic Representative . Kathleen Law, a leader in the battle against out-of-state garbage, said yesterday.
Toronto has pledged to stop sending garbage south of the border by 2010 and has already made great strides with recycling program which diverts 43 per cent of garbage away from landfills.

Still, the Democrats are the minority party in the Michigan state legislature (although Gov. Jennifer Granholm is a Democrat) and the motion may not pass. Even if it does, it is unclear whether or not Toronto's dumping costs would increase. The city has a contract with an American company which handles garbage transport and dumping for $52 per tonne -- a level at which the company could likely still turn a profit even the prices were increased.

However, even if the situation is not a guaranteed calamity, the mere threat of drastic increases in the city's dumping fees should be enough to encourage Torontonians to continue to take advantage of our city's fantastic recycling program. For those who are still confused about the new Green Box program, take a look at the city's site for a full explanation. Remember, recycling saves the city tens of millions of dollars per year in addition to keeping the planet clean. Take the time, it's worth it.

Free Motjaba and Arash Day



Motjaba and Arash are two Iranian bloggers who have been arrested for simply telling the truth on the internet. Arash Sirachi is to be sentenced today, while Motjaba is currently free on bail. There only crime is speaking out against the Iranian government on their blogs. The Committee to Protect Bloggers has organized today as the international Free Motjaba and Arash Day. I implore bloggers from around the world to do whatever they can to raise awareness about this issue.

Update: 10am - fourteen years, are you kidding me?

Monday, February 21, 2005

McGuinty has a Point

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has been complaining about the Offshore Energy deal for weeks. In his mind, the Prime Minister’s side deal with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia is only the tip of the iceberg in a series of inequalities. The media hasn’t been giving him to much credence, but the fact of the matter is that he’s got a point – Ontario is getting a raw deal.

The Premier has made a big deal of the fact that Ontario receives $23B less in transfer payments than the province pays out without making an impact in the media. Perhaps if he used other numbers his case would be better received.

Ontario is second to last in per capita transfer payments, getting $1,322/resident. Quebec receives $1,757, Manitoba $2,428, Nova Scotia $2,445, Newfoundland $2,449, PEI $2,930. Only Alberta receives less (by $1) and they’re constantly livid with Ottawa and the birth place of the new Western separatist movement. On top of that, part of the transfer payments are specifically earmarked for post-secondary education; Ontario has eighteen major universities, Alberta has three. Even worse, Alberta posted a $4.1B surplus in 2003-’04 while Ontario ran up a $5.4B deficit.

The situation is replicated when it comes to immigrants. Ontario receives $864 per immigrant who comes to the province, while Quebec gets $3,252. The national average is $1,200 and 60% of all immigrants end up in Ontario.

The citizens of Ontario have no problem with helping out the other provinces, but there is a line between generosity and being taken advantage of. Giving money to PEI so that they can get 39% of their provincial budget from transfer payments because they have a tiny population and no industry is crossing the line. There’s no problem with giving money to a province so that they won’t be impoverished. It’s quite another to continue to give money to provinces that have abundant natural energy reserves and great potential for future growth.

Ontario accounts for 39% of the country’s population and 41% of the GDP. The province’s GDP of $494B makes Ontario’s economy roughly equal to those of nations like Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland. If our economy goes in the tank the entire country goes down with us. If we do well, the country does well.

So why is Ontario getting screwed?

Fun with Polls

Ipsos-Reid and the Globe and Mail have released a new poll, one with dizzying contradictions and no clear indication of the country's direction. The poll was conducted on February 15th and 17th in anticipation of the Federal Budget and is accurate to within 2.2 percentage points. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense...

Eighteen percent more Canadians think the Liberals deserve to be re-elected (47%) than did so last year, but the same number actually plan to vote for them (37%). The Liberals have almost returned to their previous levels of support in Atlantic Canada in the aftermath of the Offshore Energy deal, pulling in 48% support compared to 33% for the Conservatives.

In Ontario, the Liberals have the support of 43 per cent of the population and the Conservatives 28. In Quebec, the population seems to be ignoring Gilles Duceppe's excellent work and the Gomery Inquiry, as the Bloc's support has dropped from almost 50% on election day to 39% today, while Liberal support has remained relatively steady at 34%.

Of course, the confusion doesn't stop there. 56% of Canadians think Mr. Martin is a good leader, but 39 per cent say their opinion of the Prime Minister has worsened since he was elected.

So, another week, another poll and more confusion. Overall, the consensus of the last three polls seems to be fairly steady: Canada doesn't like Martin so much, but they like Stephen Harper and the Conservatives even less.

More SSM Debate

Conservative MP Jason Kenney went on CTV's Question Period last night and suggested gay people should not be allowed to get married because they couldn't have children.

"I think most Canadians recognize that there's something about the complementarity of the sexes, a man and a woman together which creates a setting for, an ideal setting for the regeneration of society, and there's a social interest in that"
Thankfully, NDP MP Bill Saskay, who's openly gay, was also on the show and pointed out the obvious flaw in Kenney's argument.

"I hope that Mr. Kenney isn't suggesting that people who choose not to procreate, or who can't procreate, have any less than a valid marriage than other Canadians"
The Conservatives are desperate for a winning angle on this debate. They have tried religious grounds, protecting the rights of other minorities and now they are suggesting that procreation is the basis for marriage. And still opposition to SSM is polling below 50% and the public views the issue as unimportant. One can only wonder what they will come up with next...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Psychology of Discrimination

In recent weeks the topic of gay rights has become one of the dominant issues on Canadian blogs. Until now, the question has been whether or not same sex marriage should be legalized. However, critical to that discussion is whether or not preventing homosexuals from getting married would be a form of discrimination. Critics of the legislation have claimed that since they would still be granted human equal rights, it does not represent a form of discrimination. Recent research into the psychology of discrimination suggests otherwise.

While the public only knows one form of discrimination and racism, psychologists have long been aware of a second and even more dangerous form of prejudice: averse (or ambivalent) discrimination. Gaertner and Dovidio did the most famous study on averse racism and the findings were presented in the book Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism.

People who display averse discrimination are not the kind of people we generally view as prejudiced. They value equality and their prejudice is hidden almost all the time, only appearing when there is a non-prejudiced explanation for their actions or when social norms allow for it. That is, they will act in a discriminatory manner when around others who are acting the same way, or when they can blame their discrimination on other factors. Dovidio and Gaertner performed numerous experiments which showed that a large part of the population displayed racist (their experiments focused on African-Americans) tendencies under these circumstances.

Marilyn Brewer of UC Santa Barbara authored another study which is critical in this situation, In-Group Bias in the Minimal Intergroup Situation. Brewer found the tendency amongst prejudiced people was not towards out-group bias, but rather in-group favouritism. In other words, bigots do not try to take away rights from subordinate groups, but rather seek to give themselves privileges that the subgroups don’t enjoy.

Opponents of gay marriage have reasons to justify their beliefs and they have supporters across the nation. They can even claim that they’re offering gays the exact same rights as they have, just with a different name. They can say whatever they want, as far as psychologists are concerned they’re prejudiced bigots.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

No Hope

Obviously there was no deal today. Rumours are flying as to what happened, I won't repeat any of them here. If you want to read them go to Eklund's blog. If I thought Wednesday was bad, this is a thousand times worse.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Game On?

Ever since the cancellation of the season, there have been rumblings that the players were unhappy with union leadership. This response is entirely predictable, especially given the fact that Bob Goodenow lied for months, claiming there was no way he would ever accept a salary cap then caving at the last moment. Had he made that concession earlier the season could have easily been saved. From all indication, Ted Saskin was the only person on the players' side truly interested in a deal. There have been suggestions that the players would fire Goodenow and make a deal without the union, the Gretzky and Lemieux were huddled up and making a deal which they would present to both sides and a myriad of other suggestions. Today, these conspiracy theories appear to be on the verge of becoming reality.

Earlier today, Bill Guerin was supposed to appear for an autograph session in Dallas. That event was hastily cancelled as Bill Guerin told AM 1310 (the organizers of the event) that he had to leave town immediately and could not explain where he was going. Though initially reported only on Eklund's questionable hockeyrumors blog, this has now been confirmed by other media sources. Bill Guerin is a member of the union player executive, and if any last ditch effort was being made to save the season he would certainly be involved.

Further, TSN and Sportsnet had both downplayed rumours earlier this week. However, they both jumped on the bandwagon today, as did the Canadian Press. All three ran stories about the possibility of a deal being struck this weekend and the season being saved.

Meanwhile, Eklund's blog is now reporting that Ted Saskin and three high profile NHL players, including two executive members (Guerin would be one) are en route to NYC to present an offer to Gary Bettman. He suggests the league will accept it by Sunday at the latest. Eklund has been a figure of great controversy throughout the lockout, offering unsubstantiated rumours at his blog and generally having a positive outlook on the chances of a settlement. After the season was cancelled the site was swarmed with negative comments by people who felt lied to, and he's since turned off comments. Take anything he says with a grain of salt, but he has been right about a lot of things.

The strong suggestion before Wednesday's deadline was that an offer of $45 million would be acceptable to both sides. If the rumours are true, and where there is this much smoke there's almost certainly fire, we'll probably know soon.

For all my rage on Wednesday, I could definitely find myself forgiving the league and the players if it turns out that they were led astray by their leadership. Gary Bettman claims the league would lose a great deal of money with a $49M cap. I'm tempted to believe him. If Ted Saskin and the players come to NYC with a real offer to save the season and enter in to a reasonable cooperation with the owners...well let's not count our chickens before they hatch, but it'll be a whole new ballgame.

Conservatives' Gay Mantra

Liberal-minded Canadians have wondered for years just how crazy Stephen Harper is. This week, he answered that question -- he's absolutely batshit.

With his recent speech in parliament on gay marriage, Mr. Harper has identified himself not only as a dangerous fanatic, but also as someone so desperate for an advantage that he's willing to say and do anything.

The Conservative leader delivered a fifty minute speech during the second reading of the Liberals' same sex marriage act. Harper has consistently claimed that he is the only tolerant leader on the gay marriage issue. And he set out to prove it:

"Let us not forget it was the Liberal party that said none is too many when it came to Jews fleeing from Hitler. It was the Liberal party that interned Japanese Canadians in camps on Canada's West Coast, an act Pierre Trudeau refused to apologize or make restitution for, leaving it to Brian Mulroney to see justice done."
Harper's logic is perfect; the Liberals used to be racist, therefore they are being prejudiced today! That makes sense right? Or maybe he means something else...

Prime Minister MacKenzie King's actions during World War II were deplorable, but Harper is horribly misinterpreting the importance of those actions. The Liberals made a terrible mistake half a century ago, but rather than try to learn from it, the opposition seems determined to use that as an excuse to repeat the mistake.

Half a century ago, the Liberals restricted human rights, treated a certain social group as sub-human and were proud in doing so. That era became the shame of the party, a black eye which we are stuck with sixty years later. The Conservatives seem determined to repeat the mistake, and with Stephen Harper at the helm they are leading the charge of hatred and bigotry.

Now, the have found their battle cry, a phrase that should be repeated far and wide, across the country for all to hear: The Liberals used to be prejudiced, therefore we are allowed to be prejudiced today!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Economist Rips in to Martin

The prestigious British magazine has joined the ever growing hoard of Canadian citizens who are disappointed in Paul Martin. And they're not mincing words:

"Mr. Martin, a successful finance minister for almost a decade until 2002, cannot quite shake off the impression that Canada's top job is too big for him," says the Economist in its Feb. 17 edition.

"His faltering leadership has earned him the sobriquet of 'Mr Dithers.' "
Obviously, the Prime Minister is taking exception to the article. But the Economist is right on target with their list of complaints, which places incredibly weak federalism at the top of their list of complaints. They even site the offshore energy deal with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia as a serious problem.

Martin must be happy, now his incompetence is getting international attention. Well done Paul...

McGuinty Continues the Attack

Back from my self imposed exile over the hockey lockout. Well, more accurately I've sobered up enough to post, and the news didn't stop during my exile.

Premier McGuinty came out on the attack about the inequity in the equalization program again yesterday. This time, he included a few not so subtle jabs at Newfoundland and Premier Danny Williams.

"We will not lower the Canadian flag. We will not stamp our feet and hold our breath. We will do this in the Ontario way," McGuinty said on his way into a Liberal cabinet meeting.

"I'm not going to go away on this."
The simple fact is that Premier McGuinty has a point. Canada has climbed out of a fiscal catastrophe on Ontario's back, they've built a strong economy on our back and now we need a chiropractor. Ontario is running a huge deficit, largely because of the inept Conservative government, and we need help. We helped Ottawa, now it's their turn to help us. Or at least treat us fairly.

Quebec is given $3,800 for each immigrant who comes to the province. Ontario gets $800. That sound fair?

Even Joe Volpe (MP, Eglinton-Lawrence...my MP and a nice guy) admits that's ridiculous:

"Well, nobody wants to justify disparities like that," Volpe told CBC Radio.
There are countless other examples of inequities in the system, this is just the most obvious, and the time has come to fix them. If Paul Martin is going to give special treatment to Newfoundland he had better do the same for us or he will feel it at the polls.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Game Over

Gary Bettman began his press conference by apologizing to the fans. Bob Goodenow didn't apologize until he was prompted to do so. They will both be sorry soon.

I am the kind of fan that the NHL is counting on coming back. Saturday night is a religious experience for me, I haven't missed a Leafs game in years. I haven't missed a playoff game in years, I've paid hundreds of dollars for scalpers tickets, I've lived and breathed hockey for most of my life. And I will never watch another NHL game.

The fans have moved on. We've found other things to focus on, other things to do on Saturday nights, other people to love, other teams to follow. TSN's ratings haven't plummeted, neither have Sportsnet's. Hockey has been gone for five months and the sky has not fallen, the sun's still rising and Canada is still functioning. Hockey has lost it's place in our hearts.

Bob Goodenow claimed the players were sorry they could not entertain the fans this year. What a crock of shit. Gary Bettman said they were doing this for the good of the fans. What a fucking liar.

Did they learn nothing from baseball's strike? It took a decade and juiced-up players breaking records to win back the fans. And there is no end in sight here. The players have seen the best deal they will ever see -- and they turned it down. Next year the pie will be much smaller and the players will be lucky to come away with a $35 million salary cap.

I wouldn't bet on us getting hockey back next year either. Both sides took their last offer off the table in the aftermath of the season being cancelled, so we're back to square one. The owners win by simply dragging this out indefinitely and the players have proven they can't get the WHA off the ground. If the league does call an impasse and use replacement players then they are putting all their chips in and the strike will be over quickly. Either fans come see the replacement players and the PA has to cave, or they don't and the league has to cave.

Either way, one fact has become apparent: these people are not worthy of our admiration, they are not worthy of our money and they are not worthy of our time. These people are not worthy of their fans, and we've finally realized it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

NHL's Final Offer

Gary Bettman has made a final offer to the NHLPA: $42.5 Million hard cap, with a luxury tax at some level below that. Bettman claims they are unwilling to negotiate off of this number. He has given Bob Goodenhow an 11am deadline to respond to the offer. The NHL's press confrerence to announce a deal or cancel the season is set for 1pm EST in New York City.

Here's the text of Bettman's letter to Goodenhow.

Dear Bob:

We attempted to reach out to you with yesterday's offer of a team maximum cap of $42.2MM ($40MM in salary and $2.2MM in benefits) which was not linked to League-wide revenues. As Bill told Ted, "de-linking" a maximum team salary cap from League revenues and total League-wide player compensation has always been problematic for us, especially since we cannot now quantify the damage to the League from the lockout. This presents the risk we will pay out more than we can afford. As you know, if all 30 teams were to spend to the maximum we proposed, and if the damage to our business is as we discussed at our meetings in New York, then the League would continue to lose money.

I know, as do you, that the "deal" we can make will only get worse for the players if we cancel the season – whatever damage we have suffered to date will pale in comparison to the damage from a cancelled season and we will certainly not be able to afford what is presently on the table. Accordingly, I am making one final effort to reach out to make a deal that will let us play this season.

We are increasing our offer of yesterday by increasing the maximum individual team cap to $44.7MM ($42.5MM in salary and $2.2MM in benefits). This offer is not an invitation to begin negotiations – it’s too late for that. This is our last effort to make a deal that's fair to the players and one that the Clubs (hopefully) can afford. We have no more flexibility and there is no time for further negotiation.

If this offer is acceptable, please let me know by 11:00 A.M. tomorrow, in advance of my scheduled press conference. Hopefully, the press conference will not be necessary.

Sincerely,
Gary B. Bettman
Commissioner




Talk about the 11th hour...

24 Hours for a Deal

Gary Bettman's press conference to cancel the NHL season will begin in exactly 24 hours. Not only is the NHL season in danger, but the very future of the league and the sport is at risk. But now, finally, we are seeing some progress.

Last night Bill Daly and Ted Saskin met in secret in Niagara Falls. There, for the first time ever, Saskin made an offer which included a hard salary cap. The NHLPA made a huge concession, offering a hard cap of $52M. The offer also included a series of luxury taxes, beginning at 25% for $40-44M, 50% on $44-48M and 75% on payrolls from $48-52M. Teams would also be allowed to go over the cap three times during the next six years, but would have to pay a 150% luxury tax on payrolls over $52M.

The league rejected the proposal, countering with their own offer with a hard cap $40M. The offer also included a luxury tax of 50% on payrolls fro $34-40M.

TSN reported that there would be more talks today, and Eklund claims he has information indicating talks resumed at 11am today.

TSN is also reporting that the NHL is unwilling to negotiate the $52M figure unless the league puts forth a revenue sharing plan. Meanwhile, the league may not be willing to go much higher than the $40M figure they proposed.

The simple fact of the matter is that after months of complete failure, we are now very close to a deal. Twelve million dollars apart. Twenty-four hours to negotiate. A league and a sport on the line. A nation waiting with bated breath.

Let's get this done.

Martin and McGuinty Trade Barbs

Prime Minister Martin has replied to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and he didn't do so favourably. Martin claimed that the Premier was complaining out of purely political reasons, seeking an advantage against Queen's Park's powerful Tories.

"It is the essence that every province be treated fairly and Ontario is certainly being treated fairly...Sometimes provincial governments think the best way to get re-elected is to run against the federal government; that goes back 150 years."
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were recently given incredibly generous equalization deals which guarantee the provinces $2.6 and $1.1 billion respectively. In addition, they will not lose any of their offshore energy income.

Premier McGuinty has complained that the deal violate the principles of the equalization program. He has further pointed out a series of injustices Ontario suffers for the benefit of the rest of the country. The province contributes $23B more to the Feds than it receives in return and also gets significantly less money per immigrant than the other provinces get from Ottawa.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence), my MP, recently spoke with the Premier and attempted to explain to him other ways in which the feds help the province.

"I pointed out all of the advantages to Ontario of federal government decisions in the course of the last 10 years, the kind of decisions that have helped Ontario prosper and to make the kind of contributions that everybody envies."
74 Liberal MPs come from Ontario, and they have unanimously backed the Prime Minister.

Byron Wilfert, MP Richmond Hill, exclaimed that "The time to raise it is not after the fact ... We're not an ATM machine".

BC Premier Gordon Campbell suggested that his province will expect the same kind of deal should they ever discover offshore energy resources. Meanwhile, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams repeated the suggestion that McGuinty was doing this for political gain.

At this point, it appears as though the situation can only escalate. The Premier cannot back down and this point and now the Feds cannot either. Once again, the Prime Minister has backed himself into a corner with no safe way out. Congrats Paul, well done.

Monday, February 14, 2005

State of American Journalism

The past year has seen an unprecedented wave of media scandals south of the border. Beginning with the Jayson Blair fiasco at the New York Times in 2003, the media has been rocked by lies, corruption and plagiarism. With the latest round – the Gannon / Guckert affair – American news media seems to have reached a new all time low. In fact, some are beginning to question the very future of information distribution.

This latest affair must be put in context, so here’s a brief rundown of the media scandals of the past twelve month:

March 2004 – USA Today star reporter Jack Kelley is caught plagiarizing articles. The paper’s editor is forced to resign as a result.

September 2004 – CBS ‘memogate’ over Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. Independent investigation reveals that CBS did not adequately research the memos. Dan Rather resigns as news anchor largely as a result of the flap.

October 2004 – Sinclair broadcasting airs a blatantly anti-Kerry documentary in the weeks leading up to the election. They force local stations to air the show and gain most of their information from Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth. Thousands of complaints are ignored. Information later shows that Sinclair executives made massive contributions to the Bush election campaign.

January 2005 – Propaganda month arrives! Three journalists are caught on the government’s payroll. Armstrong Williams was paid $240k to support ‘No Child Left Behind’, Michael McMannus was paid $10k to support traditional marriage and Maggie Gallagher was paid $21.5k to promote the administration’s tax cuts.

February 2005 – CNN’s Eason Jordan resigns as the station’s Chief News Executive because of inappropriate comments made at a party.


The James Gannon / Jim Guckert affair is the latest in a long line of media problems, and by far the most embarrassing to the government. Gannon served as the Talon News White House Correspondent, and was famed for lobbing soft balls at government officials when they got in trouble. Gannon’s only journalism training was two days of training at the right wing “Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism”. Gannon was denied a congressional press pass, and was thus denied a permanent White House press pass (as the former is a requirement for the latter). Instead, Gannon was given a steady stream of daily passes so that he could pursue his unique brand of journalism.

So why exactly was Gannon given daily passes? Well, there’s no proof of that, but there’s plenty of reasons not to give him one. He owes $20k to the state of Delaware in back taxes and he’s a former gay prostitute. On top of that, he’s lied on the record about both problems. In an era of such tight security where nobody is supposed to be able to get close to the President, how exactly does a gay prostitute with a criminal past a no qualifications get daily White House press passes?

Just what is his involvement with the White House? Gannon was given exclusive access to secret information naming Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. That information was later made public and an investigation was launched into how exactly this happened. Gannon was called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the matter, but his testimony remains sealed. Further, Gannon is famous for being a right wing propagandist. His questions during press scrums often saved administration officials from difficult situations. His articles were full of outright lies and he tried to organize partizan protests during the election.

What is truly concerning is the fact that the so called liberal media was not involved in the Gannon investigation at all. It was led by SusanG of Propagannon and various other bloggers around the world. Only through them has the mainstream media picked up the story, although they are now starting to report it in earnest. The situation mirrors the events of the November election, when the media ignored inconsistencies between polls and results as well as election problems occurring in Ohio. Only after a torrent of emails did Keith Olbermann of MSNBC begin to report on the problems.

These incidents point to the new role of the media in the 21st century. They have become naught but tools for propaganda, sources of biased information. Instead, bloggers have become the investigative journalists of the 21st century, filling the shoes of Bob Woodward and the real reporters who proceeded him. Undoubtedly we will soon see more instances of blogs discovering the news and having to convince the media to report it.

In today’s world, the mainstream media is of increasingly little import while the people rise in power. Welcome to the information age. Welcome to democracy.

Captain Obvious

Dene Moore of the Globe and Mail wrote one of the most ridiculous pieces in recent memory today, informing us all that maybe the Offshore energy deal wasn't a good thing for the federal government! He even found a brilliant Professor from Dalhousie who said that the deal "diminishes the power of the federal government".

Big story in tomorrow's Globe: Sun Rises in the East

Thanks guys.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Support for BMD Drops

Looks like Martin's government won't be able to join the missile defense plan without being severely punished for it. A new poll conducted by the Toronto Star and EKOS shows that support for the plan has fallen to an all time low. More importantly, unlike gay marriage, the population feels this is an issue worth fighting an election over.

54 per cent of the population is now opposed to the plan, up 1 per cent since October. However, support for the plan has dropped three points to 34 per cent. 12 per cent remain undecided.

Frank Graves, President of EKOS, claims support for the plan have fallen by 20 per cent in recent years. In his mind, the issue has become a referendum on the Bush Presidency:

"I don't think Canadians feel that intensely about missile defense, in and of itself. I think it's become a proxy for deeper anxieties about what the American administration (is) doing"
The Bloc and the NDP are almost unanimously opposed to the plan and are supported by a vocal minority within the Liberal caucus. While the government doesn't need parliament's support, pushing it through without a vote might make the matter even more troublesome for the Liberals.

Paul Martin is, once again, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Martin's people are largely opposed to the plan, but President Bush is all but demanding Canadian support.

Defense Lobbies have suggested that Canada must join the plan in order to have some 'input' into how the system operates.

The simple fact of the matter is that Martin has, yet again, managed to put himself in an untenable situation. If he refuses to join he loses all leverage with our neighbours which will undoubtedly lead to worsening relations and lower numbers in the polls. If he joins, the public will be livid and the Liberals will be guaranteed to drop in the polls. Net result? Liberals drop even more in the polls.

And the hits just keep on coming...

Liberals in Serious Trouble

Twelve months ago the Liberals were a powerhouse, holding over 170 seats in the House and poised to win another strong majority. Months later, Paul Martin had derailed the train and the Liberals limped across the electoral finish line with 135 seats and a minority government. Now, things are getting even worse.

The Liberals are fighting a war on two fronts, and have been taking a beating on a nearly daily basis. Both gay marriage and the Gomery Inquiry have proven catastrophic for the party. The Liberals look like fools in Quebec, as the population is told daily how Prime Minister Chretien tried to buy the province’s support. On the other end of the spectrum, social conservatives have found a rallying cry and unified under the banner of traditional marriage.

At the same time, a series of regional issues are also doing incredible damage. The Offshore row caused great damaged to Martin’s reputation in the Atlantic provinces, problems with beef exports have continued to plague the Liberals in Alberta and the party has gained a bad name in BC thanks to the legislature raids. And to make matters worse, other provinces are now angry about the Offshore deal and clamouring for their own handout.

Common sense would dictate that the party should have been plummeting in the polls for the last year, but the Liberal aura seemed to protect them. Polls continued to show them holding strong, but now a new SES poll shows that aura is wearing off.

The Liberals are down ten points in Ontario, ten points in Atlantic Canada and three points nationally. Even worse, the Conservatives are picking up most of the Liberal support, gaining six points in Ontario, eight in the Atlantic provinces and three nationally.

The poll was taken January 28th-February 2nd , before Gomery turned extremely negative and before same sex marriage went south. In fact, the poll shows the Liberals up in Quebec, and that almost certainly won’t be true when Gomery is done with his witch-hunt.

Sure, SES uses small samples, but this poll fits with media coverage of politics and fits with what one assumes should be happening.

And the bleeding hasn’t even stopped. Today, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty threw down the gauntlet. The Premier exclaimed that Ottawa’s equalization deal with the Atlantic provinces was the last straw in a string of unfair moves by Ottawa. The province has simply had enough:
Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said the 74 federal Liberal politicians in the province will pay at the ballot box if the Martin government doesn't listen.

"If we don't get the money from Ottawa, there will be a significant political price for Liberal MPs"
Paul Martin has created a completely untenable situation and it can only get worse. The Conservatives need an eighteen seat swing. If the Prime Minister does not get his act together he may be remembered as the Kim Campbell of the Liberal Party.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Look Who Was Right

Last week I complained about Martin's pathetic federalist attitude. I pointed out that the provinces were going to push him around, specifically citing the Offshore deal, Saskatchewan demanding similar treatment and rumblings from Ontario. Well now those rumblings have gotten louder, and Dalton McGuinty is starting to threaten the Prime Minister.

"If we don't get the money from Ottawa, there will be a significant political price for Liberal MPs. We have stretched the foundations and principles of equalization to the limit."
Ontario Finance Minister Brian Sorbara could not be more clear, the simple fact of the matter is that the Provinces have seen that the Prime Minister is a weakling, and they're going to take advantage of him.

Where we go from here is anyone guess, but damn near anything is starting to look better than the Paul Martin fiasco.

Same Old Boring Mistakes

Martin's testimony before the Gomery Pyle Commission was predictably lame, falling under the "I Didn't Do It" banner. Still, some of his ridiculous lines about the role of the Minister of Finance should provide great fodder for the opposition during our next election.

The simple fact of the matter is that Paul Martin has woefully misunderstood this scandal. The problem is that he is trying disassociate himself from the scandal, all the while neglecting the fact that the entire Liberal Party is embroiled in it. As long as the Prime Minister persists in this strategy the opposition and the so-called liberal media will continue to hammer away at the very principles of the program.

Jean Chretien has the right attitude and the right defense - admit mistakes, but defend the ideology of the program. His tactic shifted the commission into a fact finding mission rather than an inquisition. Only because of the efforts of one of the greatest politicians of the 20th century have Gomery and his Inquisitors been forced to look for who is at fault rather than condemning the entire party.

The man who ran one of the worst campaigns in Canadian history and is one of the weakest Prime Ministers in Canadian history has pulled yet another one. And apparently he's going to get 90% approval at the Liberal policy convention. What in god's name is wrong with this picture?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Great Cartoon

Saw this over at Warren's, and it's just too funny.

NYT Has a Classified 9-11 Report

The New York Times has managed to acquire an unedited version of the 9-11 report, and it's incredibly critical of the FAA. President Bush has kept large portions of the commission's findings classified for over five months -- against the wishes of the authors. Now, we get our first glimpse at the reasons why.

From April 2001 to September 10th, the FAA received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch indicating a potential threat from Osama Bin Laden. Those represented half of the total intelligence reports during that time. Perhaps more damaging was the content of the individual reports. Five indicated specifically dealt with Al-Qaeda training in hijackings, while two focused on suicide operations.

The report was exceedingly blunt in its assessment of FAA policy in the months leading up to 9-11:

Throughout 2001, the senior leadership of the F.A.A. was focused on congestion and delays within the system and the ever-present issue of safety, but they were not as focused on security
The question at this point becomes what else is locked away at the President's request? What other damning information has he kept hidden from the public eye? How else has he, his administration and their appointees failed the American public?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Gomery Updates

Unfortunately, I'm incredibly busy right now and haven't been able to pay nearly enough attention to the blog, especially when so much great stuff is going on in Canadian politics. Since I don't have time to post anything thoughtful right now, I'm going to link some of the better blogs rather than post something half assed.

CalgaryGrit has by far the best analysis of Chretien's testimony at the Gomery Pyle Commission. Brilliant.

TDH has a good post with pictures.

Not surprisingly, right wing blogs like Brock on the Attack didn't post anything about Chretien's powerful testimony.

On a sad note, the countdown to the end of the NHL season can officially begin. The players rejected another offer today, and a drop dead date has been set for the end of the weekend.

Hopefully things will quiet down for me soon.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Standing Up

This morning Jean Chretien began his testimony at the Gomery Pyle commission - and he came out swinging. If only our esteemed Prime Minister had showed such fortitude and conviction this would have never been an issue. Congrats to Chretien, Gagliano, and anyone else who has the balls to stand on top of a mountain and shout to the world that they did the right thing.

Complete text of Mr. Chretien's statement:

Mr. Commissioner,

I welcome the opportunity to appear before you today. Government is serious business and democracy requires that the trust that citizens confer on those they elect must always be respected. I have been looking forward to this occasion because it gives me the opportunity to try to put certain things in their proper perspective for you and the Canadian public, and to set out clearly on the basis of 40 years in Parliament, 27 years around the Cabinet table, and 10 years as Prime Minister of Canada my views on how government works in practice.

The sponsorship program was not created in a vacuum and cannot be understood in isolation. Any serious examination of it must take full account of the circumstances in Québec when it was created and the climate of political uncertainty in Québec during the entire time it operated.

When I became Prime Minister, the official opposition in the House of Commons was the Bloc Québecois, a party dedicated not like normal opposition parties to forming the next Government of Canada, but a party dedicated to the separation of Québec from the rest of Canada. Then in September 1994, Jacques Parizeau was elected Premier of Québec. He pledged to hold a referendum within eight to 10 months of taking office and he acted quickly. There was the draft law on Québec independence tabled in the Québec National Assembly on December 6, 1994. Article one said, "Québec is a sovereign country".

The draft bill was sent at public expense to all homes in the province. Then a Committee of the National Assembly crisscrossed the province, at public expense, to promote separation. And there was the constant subliminal advertising of the Québec government and its agencies to promote separation. We learned subsequent to the referendum about Mr. Parizeau's plans if the answer to his ambiguous question on October 30, 1995 had been yes, which only reemphasized the gravity of the issues at hand.

Most of all, you will recall, as we all do, watching your television set on that night of October 30, 1995 where only a few thousand votes separated us from a crisis of incalculable proportions and then, the announcement the next day of Mr. Parizeau's resignation as Premier and his replacement by Lucien Bouchard shortly thereafter.

There was the concern that Monsieur Bouchard would quickly use what seemed to be his immense personal popularity to hold and win another referendum. It is amazing that some say today that the Québec government after 1995 turned its attention away from preparing another referendum. Have they forgotten Monsieur Bouchard's pledge to hold the referendum whenever he determined "winning conditions" were present? My government took that pledge of Monsieur Bouchard very seriously.

I am certain that you recall in the aftermath of the referendum, the criticism, justified or not, of the federal government for having been too complacent, too absent, that I was sleepwalking, that I had almost lost the country. You remember the gloomy period after the referendum, the despair of the federalist forces, the omni presence in Montréal for years of "for sale" and "for rent" signs, all the boarded up windows you saw every morning as you drove through the streets of Montréal from your home to the Court House; you recall the sense among some of the inevitability of another referendum, this time with a different result.

I can tell you, Mr. Commissioner, that we as a federal government realized that whatever we did before the referendum to promote Canada in Québec was not enough. For the next eight years, the unity of Canada was my number one priority as Prime Minister. It was never an issue of party; it was always an issue of country. I was determined that there would be no winning conditions for the proponents of separation. I had a personal commitment as a Canadian to the country I love and a duty as Prime Minister to keep it united. I was not prepared to be guilty of inaction.

My Cabinet was united in its determination to do what it takes. Canadians expected their government and their Prime Minister to act decisively on a whole range of fronts. Our whole post-referendum strategy in Québec was much more than simply advertising and sponsorship. No one in government believed for a moment that federal sponsorship of community events alone would convince Québecers to remain in Canada, but we were certain that the absence of a visible federal presence hurt the cause of Canada. Federal visibility was merely one element of a very comprehensive approach.

We acted quickly. Before Christmas of 1995, we introduced a resolution in the House of Commons on the distinctiveness of Québec society, and we introduced legislation providing a veto for each region of Canada including Québec on constitutional change. Both were approved by Parliament. I committed to negotiate a delegation of jurisdiction over manpower training to Québec.

Right after the referendum, I asked Marcel Massé, then Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, to chair a Cabinet committee to make recommendations to me on an action plan for national unity. Mr. Massé was well known as a proponent of rigorous expenditure controls in government. The Massé Committee made many recommendations which covered a variety of issues that included but went well beyond federal visibility in Québec. His report was discussed in detail in Cabinet on the 1st and 2nd of February 1996, and the recommendations, including increased federal visibility were all approved unanimously. We acted on all of them over the next days, weeks, months and years.

The committee said that "a good government agenda which includes fiscal responsibility is essential to achieving the objective of defeating separation". So our whole economic strategy over the next years to put the books of the nation in order was also an integral element of our national unity agenda.

In January 1996, as part of a national unity strategy, I brought in two new ministers, to strengthen Québec's representation and give new focus to the promotion of federalism in Québec. Mr. Dion played a particularly important role in succeeding years with his famous letters to Premier Bouchard to set the record straight, with his promotion of the need for a secession reference, with his arguments for clarity, and with the introduction of the Clarity Bill.

So you can see, Mr. Commissioner that the sponsorship program was only one part of a comprehensive strategy. The whole machinery of government did not revolve around all the minute details of that one program, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I expected the senior advisors in my office over the years to focus on all our priorities such as, amongst others, jobs for Canadians, budgets, research in universities, Kyoto, Iraq, reform of political party financing. I obviously expected my most senior advisers to be heavily involved in Québec strategy because it was the most important priority. But they focused on all elements of the Québec strategy, not just federal visibility.

For example, the Prime Minister's Office worked closely with Department of Justice lawyers and outside counsel in preparing and drafting the factum which federal counsel presented to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Secession Reference despite the fact that the Prime Minister's Office did not normally work on Supreme Court cases.

While the Prime Minister's Office was only peripherally involved in the negotiations of manpower delegation to other provinces, my office was directly involved in the negotiations with Québec on the delegation of manpower training.

Because of the absolute need to promote a federalist message in all parts of Québec, my office was fully involved in preparing ministerial tours which crisscrossed Québec. We wanted to show that there was a national government committed to serving the interests of the citizens of Quebec.

Because of its overriding importance to our national unity strategy, the Clarity Act was drafted in conjunction with my office; drafting sessions took place between my staff, Department of Justice lawyers and outside counsel.

Much of this could be described as unusual, but it was necessary and essential in the circumstances.

I now turn from the overall context to the purpose of the sponsorship program in Quebec.

The visibility in Québec of the Government of Canada had been significantly reduced from the mid-1980s until I became Prime Minister. The visible face of the Government of Canada had even been removed from post boxes, from the airport in Montréal, even from immigration courts. There was a vacuum and the vacuum was being filled by the Québec government, with constant subliminal messaging. Our approach particularly after the referendum was very clear. We would ensure that the threat of a new referendum was would be removed and that "winning conditions" would never be allowed to develop.

We were going to restore the visibility of the Government of Canada in Québec. Whatever Québec's Parti Québecois government was doing, which, in our view, directly or indirectly promoted separation, we, as the Government of Canada would at least match to promote a united Canada. If they were putting up billboards, and they did, the Government of Canada would put up billboards, and we did; if they were advertising on radio and television, and they did, the Government of Canada would advertise on radio and television, and we did; if they were sponsoring community events, and they did, the Government of Canada would sponsor community events, and we did.

Sponsorship is much more than just billboards, flags and word marks. It is involvement with organizers of community events, people who are often opinion leaders in their communities, letting them know that there is also a Government of Canada that relates directly to citizens, that the Government of Canada does more than just collect taxes while the Québec government delivers programs. This type of federal presence amongst community leaders was part and parcel of our overall strategy. That is why we committed to spending a significant amount of money every year to be part of community events. And we did not restrict the program to Québec because the Government of Canada should be present in communities across the country.

I regret any mistakes that might have been made in the course of this program, or any other government program. As Prime Minister, I take ultimate responsibility for everything good and everything bad that happens in the government. Those mistakes that were made in good faith can be excused. Any that were made in bad faith are inexcusable. If some people acted in bad faith for personal gain, they betrayedthe Prime Minister, the government and the country. They should be identified and punished, subject, of course, to due process of law. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it would have been a totally unforgivable mistake to leave the field of sponsorship of community events in Québec to the Parti Québecois government alone.

I knew that if we did all of that and, if we governed well, Québecers would take pride in being Canadian. By the end of 2003, support for Canada in Québec had increased substantially from where it was in the immediate aftermath of the referendum.

Mr. Commissioner, I signed a number of Treasury Board submissions when I was Prime Minister, normally for expenditures relating to the Privy Council Office and other organizations for which I was directly responsible. I also signed Treasury Board submissions to fund national unity initiatives, including sponsorship. I wanted to give a clear signal to ministers on the Treasury Board that this element of the national unity strategy, like all of the strategy, was a priority and needed to be funded despite the fact that very few new spending initiatives were being approved in 1996 as a result of our determination as a government to get the finances of the country in order after years of deficit spending, The Treasury Board submission which I signed was clear that all the rules, regulations, and guidelines had to be followed. It said:

"Public Works and Government Services Canada will ensure that the creative services, media buys, sponsorships, promotions and any other marketing initiatives conform with established Treasury Board policy and guidelines and that they provide added value to the Crown. In addition, they will continue to ensure that all communications services, including advertising and public opinion research, are competitive as required and subsequently that appropriate contracts are issued."

I insisted on that because, regardless of the context or purpose of any government program, there is no excuse and no justification for wasting money or using taxpayers' money for personal or partisan gain. There is no excuse for breaking rules and regulations in a manner that results in the misspending of taxpayers' money. As the Prime Minister whose government balanced the budget for the first time in decades by taking very painful decisions, and then paid down twelve percent of the national debt, I was always particularly preoccupied with controlling spending. I was entitled to presume that the language I put in the Treasury Board submission that contracting be in compliance with all the rules and regulations, and guidelines would be carried out to the letter. I could not have imagined that anyone at any level in a department responsible for contracting could come to the conclusion that he should stay out of the way and not ensure rigorous administration of the sponsorship program simply because I was committed to taking measures to increase federal visibility in Québec. When problems were identified by internal audits, we asked the Auditor General to conduct an investigation, we changed the administration of the program and we referred files to the RCMP.

Mr. Commissioner, I want to clear up misunderstandings about the source of funding for some sponsorship and other national unity related initiatives. There are a number of reserves established every year in the fiscal framework by the Minister of Finance at the time of the budget. They are for expenditures that will likely be made during the course of the year, but which are not necessarily easily identified at the beginning of the year. For example, there is money set aside in a reserve for natural disasters, but no one can predict in advance whether it will be a hurricane in Halifax or a flood on the Red River. There is money set aside in a reserve to pay court judgments against the Crown without knowing in advance what they will be. In the case of national unity, the reserve existed under Prime Ministers Trudeau and Mulroney. During the course of my administration, the Minister of Finance and I always agreed to set aside fifty million dollars a year for expenditures related to national unity that would be decided upon during the course of the year. As Prime Minister, I considered it my duty to determine the priorities to which those funds would be allocated. I was prepared to answer and take full responsibility for those priorities in the House of Commons. Once the priorities were determined, the actual spending of the money by departments, like in the case of all reserves, became the responsibility of the departments and were subject to normal Parliamentary appropriations and Treasury Board procedures.

The sponsorship program was not partisan. It was not about the Liberal Party. It was about promoting the visibility of Canada in Québec. A conventional wisdom has nonetheless been created about "Liberal friendly" advertising agencies. We have to be very careful about labels. In Québec, there are basically two types of advertising agencies - those who are "separatist friendly" and those who are "federalist friendly". Federalist friendly agencies tended to support the Conservatives when they were in power and the Liberals when they were in power. I do hope the Government of Canada used "federalist friendly" agencies to promote the visibility of Canada in Québec, not because the agencies contributed to the Liberal Party until we abolished corporate contributions, but because the only alternative in practical terms was to use "separatist friendly" agencies. If unscrupulous people used that program or any other program of the Government of Canada to line their own pockets or for inappropriate partisan ends, I repeat what I have always said. They should be found out and punished.

If anyone thinks that we were making decisions based on the financial interests of the Liberal Party, how do they explain our decision to turn down bank mergers or to support the Kyoto Agreement even though we received significant contributions from banks and from the oil and gas sector?

Mr. Commissioner, the question is not whether some action is unusual. The question is whether it is necessary and whether it is right. I am firmly convinced that our national unity strategy was necessary and right. Were some mistakes made in everything we did? I am sure they were. After all, we are all human. Mr. Commissioner, you and I are both trained in the civil law. One of the first things we both learned at law school was the article of the Québec Civil Code that provides a presumption of good faith. I have explained that the sponsorship program was conceived in good faith. Its objectives were noble. When there is a presumption that a program is designed for sinister or corrupt partisan reasons, it is easy to draw all sorts of conclusions about ulterior motives of anyone associated with it particularly when there are hazy recollections of long ago meetings or memos.

A presumption of good faith leads to very different conclusions. For example, there has to be a recognition that people who every day for years dealt with dozens of memos on a whole variety of important issues and who attended sometimes dozens of meetings every day on every conceivable subject may not have total recall about any of them. There is one other important point. As Prime Minister, I received many memos from the Privy Council Office providing advice on every conceivable subject. Most often I accepted the advice. Sometimes I questioned it and my officials convinced me they were right; sometimes I convinced them that my judgment was right. Sometimes, like every prime minister, I did not accept the advice I received. The job of a prime minister, or a minister or a chief executive officer is not to rubberstamp every memo he receives.

In all my years, I never ceased to marvel at the professionalism of the public service of Canada, at the dedication to country of public servants and those in all political parties who operate at the political level. The public service and those on political staffs who work on government programs do so in good faith and for the best of motives. Like all of us in all sectors of society, they may make mistakes in the course of their work. Their good faith should not be doubted unless there is solid evidence to the contrary. But if you find any wrongdoing, Mr. Commissioner, I hope you allocate individual responsibility and do not tar our entire institutions with the inappropriate actions of the very few.

Mr. Commissioner, you have heard a lot about the role of ministers and prime ministers and political staffs and their relationship with the public service. With respect to some who have testified, some of what you have heard is highly theoretical and impractical andwould make governing impossible in any parliamentary democracy. Governments are elected to govern. Ministers and prime ministers are there to make decisions and set policy directions. Public servants are there to implement policy decisions. But in practice there are no watertight compartments. Elected officials and their staffs work with public servants on a daily basis. They talk to each other. They seek advice from each other. They exchange views and opinions, they debate issues, they transmit representations. Sometimes they do so formally; sometimes, informally.

Unless staff in ministers' offices or the Prime Minister's Office and public servants can walk in and out of each other's offices, call each other on the phone, seek advice and counsel from each other, the job of government simply does not get done. I urge you not to make recommendations that unwittingly will make it difficult for governments to function and to serve Canadians, difficult for ministers to do their jobs, for members of Parliament to pass representations on behalf of constituents onto public servants, for public servants to work seamlessly with elected officials and their staffs.

I would just conclude in saying that a prime minister has heavy responsibilities and must make decisions that no one else can make, not even auditors general. The single most important priority of every prime minister since 1867 has been to preserve the unity of the country. We all may have been criticized at some time or another for our approach to national unity. But in the case of the unity of Canada every prime minister from Sir John A Macdonald to myself has always put country ahead of anything else.



Monday, February 07, 2005

New Iraqi Government Demands Islamic Law

You won't read it in the New York Times, you won't see it on CNN, it won't be reported in Newsweek or the Washington Post, but the Iraqi election didn't go quite as planned. Initially it looked like a slam dunk for Bush and his cronies. 60% turnout with minimal casualties, a smooth election after months of chaos. But now, as the results pour in, that image is starting to change.

With 3.3 million votes counted, Grand Ayatollah Sistani's Shiite United Iraqi Alliance is beating Washington backed candidate Ayad Allawi and his 'list' by a 5:1 margin. Even more startling, al-Sistani and his top deputies are demanding that the koran be the sole source of law in the new Iraqi state.

Last month's election were to form a national assembly to draft a constitution for the country. Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani is the figurehead for the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, and the leader of the marja al-taqlid (the country's five most important clerics). The marja had presented a more moderate stance prior to the election, but when victory became clear their tune changed rapidly. Yesterday, the marja made they opinion public in a statement released by Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq al-Fayad:

"All of the ulema (clergy) and marja, and the majority of the Iraqi people, want the national assembly to make Islam the source of legislation in the permanent constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam"
A fundamentalist Iraq is completely contrary to the wishes of the United States. This past year a public conflict emerged between US administrator Paul Bremer and Iraqi officials over the language of the interim constitution drafted under the US-led occupation.

The latest American rationale for war was that Iraq presented a threat to American security. President Bush constantly suggests that Iraq is the focal point in the war on terror, an assertation which is frequently challenged by the rest of the world. However, an Islamic Iraq still reeling from the savage US occupation would become a massive breeding ground for terror.

The United States has suffered 1,449 casualties in the conflict, and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have perished.

No Troops in Iraq: Pettigrew

After a weekend which saw headlines warning of the possibility that Canadian troops might be sent to Iraq, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew came out swinging.

"Prime Minister Martin has always been very clear that our contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq would not bring boots to the ground"
Pettigrew commented from Jordan in the midst of his journey to the Middle East. Canadian officials are expecting the US to press NATO to aid with training of Iraqi forces at the group's summit February 22nd in Belgium.

Pettigrew did raise the possibility of training forces in a neighbouring country, but pledged that Canada would not place troops inside Iraq.

The opposition had a field day this weekend when word leaked that Canada might yet send troops to Iraq. However, Conservative Defense Critic Gordon O'Connor voiced support for training Iraqis in a neighbouring nation.

A group of twenty Canadians are already stationed in Jordan where they are training Iraqi police in Western law enforcement techniques.

1,449 Americans have been killed in Iraq, while over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have perished in the conflict.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX

A truly fantastic game, exciting from beginning to end. Andy Reid deserves to be fired for his terrible coaching though, that was some of the worst time management I've ever seen. Donovan also choked in a big, big way. Deion Branch won the MVP award, undoubtably the biggest accolade of his career. The wideout set a Super Bowl record with eleven receptions, but didn't score a touchdown.

The dynasty is now sealed. This is the Pats' decade.

Tomorrow politics...today, recovery from a day of drinking and football.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Last Man Standing

While the official vote is still a week away, there won't be any other candidates -- Howard Dean is the new DNC Chairman. Several days ago, Martin Frost dropped out. The following day, Simon Rosenberg threw in the towel. Today, Donnie Fowler, Dean's last foe, officially withdrew from the contest.

"Today it became clear that Howard Dean has the votes to become DNC chairman.

I got in the race because I wanted to see change in the Democratic Party. I know from experience that local people know better and that strong state parties and successful elected officials should teach the rest of the Party their best lessons. I want to see the DNC get back to its real mission: to help each candidate and assist state and county parties to achieve new standards or performance.

With Howard Dean as its next chair of the DNC, the Party will have someone who not only understands change, but knows how to make it happen."
Finally the party can undergo some changes. Finally it will be led by a reform Democrat. Finally they will join the 21st century.