Thursday, March 31, 2011

DAY SIX: Ignamentum!

Okay, so I've coined a silly word and am probably jumping the gun on this. Michael Ignatieff has only a smidgen of momentum but it's a good start for a guy who has been unable to get any for almost three years now. According to pollster Nik Nanos, Iggy's improved Leadership Index Score, a compendium of responses measuring voter attitudes toward trust, competence, and vision among the party leaders, is only really significant if it continues down this path. Leadership scores Nonos says are a leading indicator of momentum. “When a leader’s numbers start going up or down, there’s usually movement in the poll after that.”

 Right on cue we see poll numbers reflecting that today with the most recent poll showing the Liberals within 6 points of the leading Tories -- 39.1% for the Conservatives to 32.7% for the Liberals. Unfortunately the Liberals look to have won the bulk of their new found support from the NDP and the Green parties -- Nik Nanos' rolling poll has them at 15.9% and 3.7% respectively. A sure sign that this election is up for grabs is the undecideds in this poll were at 21.7%!

For the first time Ignatieff's numbers are moving in the right direction and he looks to be comfortable with the narrative and plank that he's advancing out on the campaign trail. Today he added to that by announcing, in keeping with what he calls his family oriented platform, that a Liberal government would create what's being called the “Early Childhood Learning and Care Fund” and invest $500-million in its first budget to create new daycare spaces. To top off the Liberals Ignamentum, they are boasting about fundraising gains that have them raising $1 million dollars in the first four days of the campaign -- something that took them fully three weeks the last time around with Stephan Dion at the helm.

Jack Layton was in Montreal today where he said his party wants to eliminate $2 billion in subsidies for the oilsands, and put the money toward clean energy, an idea that has been endorsed by federal Finance Department officials, the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation, and the G20, but has been rejected repeatedly by the Harper government.

Harper continues to have to play defense on the trail -- today he was still denying former talk of a coalition, even as a 14-year-old video surfaced. And the media is now reporting that he's backing out of a one on one debate with Michael Ignatieff. These are what are now called "bad optics" in politics. Harper looks weak and has been running as if he were behind as he calls out for "majority or bust." Something he may well regret he ever said.

The Toronto Star reporting on Harper's campaign stop in Halifax where he was voicing strong support for the Lower Churchill River hydroelectric project to deliver electricity across Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, said that while Harper stopped short of pledging Ottawa’s financial backing for the megaproject but left little doubt that his government was onside, calling it a “very important project” for Atlantic Canada. “It is a big chance to shift an entire region of the country toward greener energy and away from large-scale greenhouse gas emissions,” Harper said. To show how badly things are starting out for Mr. Harper, even when he's on the right side of an issue he still gets slammed, this time by the Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe who says that the PM is wooing Newfoundland voters with Quebeckers money.

Elizabeth May is getting support from around the country to have her included in the leaders debates including from Jack Layton and Joe Clark but without a sitting member in the House of Commons, she's going to have a tough time getting in. They are a party that offers up interesting ideas and that's something our democracy needs more of not less. Go sign the petition.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Conservatives Finally Admit The Truth

DAY FIVE: Trying To Keep Up

With five parties vying for Canadians votes -- the Bloc of course restricted to the province of Quebec where they will likely to retain or at least be in contention for approximately one sixth of the seats available in Canada -- there are a lot of narratives to pay attention to.

Starting with Michael Ignatieff who today will offer more money for middle-class families as he announces the third major plank in a platform he is funding with the $6-billion he says will be saved by reversing corporate tax cuts. This announcement, at a pharmacy in Vancouver, follows his $1-billion pledge Tuesday for the so-called “Learning Passport.” He is also expected to make two more significant announcements this week which will form the five major planks of his platform, all involving help for middle class families.

He also announced on Wednesday morning a new program that would allow Canadians to top up their retirement savings through the Canada Pension Plan. The Liberal Leader is calling it the “Secure Retirement Option” and it would, according to a Liberal background document, allow Canadians to save an extra 5 to 10 per cent of their pay in a retirement fund “backed by the CPP.” Since 75 % of Canadians in the private sector do not have pension plans this... would serve as a new, tax deductible public savings option and would be in addition to what they already put in CPP. The program would be portable and individual will be able to put money into the Secure Retirement Option with the limits the same as what is now allowable for RRSP contributions.



In addition the Liberals would increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $700-million which is aimed at helping low-income seniors; especially women and those with disabilities. And the Liberals said they would enhance and improve basic CPP benefits.

The Liberals were clearly ready for this election and are in the midst of rolling out what is clearly an ambitious and so far, impressive platform. Good for them!

The NDP are busily rolling out their platform as well and Jack Layton said while visiting Oshawa that he wouldn't reward companies that ship jobs to the States or overseas but instead target investment to create jobs at home and reward the job creators. Further, he announced that he intended to cut the small business tax rate to 9 per cent from 11 per cent. To pay for tis he said he'd boost the corporate tax rate to the 2008 level of 19.5 per cent from its current 16.5 per cent.

There was some surprising news for the NDP in southwestern Ontario where Ryan Dolby, who was running for the NDP in Elgin-Middlesex-London, announced his decision Wednesday morning to drop out of the race and support the Liberals saying a vote for Michael Ignatieff’s party was the best way to prevent the Conservatives and Stephen Harper from winning a majority. Layton was nonplussed by it all saying they would have a candidate to replace Mr. Dolby in 48 hours.
 
The Green Party has what it calls a Smart Economy plan that calls for... a sustainable and resilient economic model based on conservation and renewable resources, a model that advances the common good and ensures quality of life for all Canadians. Sadly, Ms. May has so far been excluded from the debate but she does have the support of Jack Layton who says he wishes he knew what the criteria for participation are as the decision is made behind closed doors and the rules, so far as he can discern, are arbitrary. If you want to support her right to participate, go sign the petition.
 

 
Harper continues to have a rough time as yet another questionable campaign worker has sent Harper scrambling to distance himself from a tainted political organizer who found a home in a local candidate’s campaign. It was announced the Guilio Maturi was no longer a volunteer on the campaign, Mr. Harper said during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. Then Conservative officials announced Mr. Harper would no longer take questions on local campaigns. Can't you feel the democratic process at work when the Tories speak?

Harper was sticking to the rock-bottom price estimate for the F-35 Stealth Fighters that the GAO says are vastly under-priced. Perhaps Harper is hoping endless repetition of the low-balled price will convince Canadians to ignore what Canada's parliamentary budget watchdog, Kevin Page, has said was a far more accurate estimate of the price. Some $29.3-billion over 30 years to reflect what he considers the full life cycle of the new planes.

As for the Bloc, so far Mr. Duceppe has spent the first five days of the campaign hanging in and around ridings in Montreal behaving like he has hardly a care in the world. It’s not entirely clear the Bloc was ready for the election call. The buses weren’t rolling until Monday, and much of Tuesday was spent shooting ads. Maybe they don't feel as urgent a need as some others. It's hard to know whether to describe this as confidence or arrogance. We'll soon know.

DAY FOUR: Things Get Interesting Early

I have had my heart set on going to the polls since last year when Harper, our Evangelical Christian PM, reverted to form once again and started cramming his beliefs into Canadian policy. For me it began when he and his party decided to deny  funding for maternal health care to organizations that included abortion services in their health care options. This program was for women in the developing world who are often the victims of war, rape, extreme poverty and incest. This is a reversal of what has been Canada's position on maternal health in poor countries for almost three decades. But no matter, his highness had spoken: if we couldn't all agree on something then we shouldn't do it. No fair counting how many people support it you liberal elites with your fancy numbers.

Sadly that was essentially Mr. Harper's response to the revelation the price of the F-35 Stealth Jet Fighters was underestimated by some 70%. That's some crazy tax-bracket you live in where you can be off be 70% on a $16 Billion dollar deal with Canadian taxpayers money and there are no consequences? So the price for these jets that don't really suit our national needs but are more for first strike capacities and turns out they actually are going to cost us $30 billion? And still no money to fix health care and you want our trust? You are desirous of a majority? It's majority or bust? I'm not a religious man but I'll be on my knees praying for bust.

Bust for lying about Statistics Canada being on board with changes to the long form census and then undermining  its' effectiveness as an organization. Bust for lying and being autocratic about it... industry minister, Tony Clement, has acknowledged the census decision was made by cabinet without broad public consultation. Because who cares what the people think when it's not in keeping with what you want to do? And bust for those lies being the reason Munir Sheik felt he had no choice but to resign

 No matter that other spoken falsehoods about the long census form complaints which he claimed... when he was industry minister in 2006, when the last survey was taken, his office received about 1,000 email complaints a day. Surprise surprise! Turns out the truth is very different as Stephen Harper's so-called Conservative government made the decision to scrap the long-form census on the basis of fewer than 100 complaints from Canadians. And for this they rendered ineffective an important and valuable Canadian institution? Considered the gold standard worldwide. And it's not just me who thinks so -- at last count there were more than 400 groups, including municipalities, experts and individuals, opposed to the Harper government’s decision to replace the mandatory form with a voluntary long-form census, arguing that the information won’t be have any credibility.

They must be proud of their alchemy turning useful data into useless data -- soon they'll use this as an excuse to scrap the whole institution altogether! Stephen Chase of the Globe and Mail couldn't help notice that with this bit of policy change there was some real pandering taking place... the concerns the Tories seek to mollify are similar to the sentiments that drove the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States to call for a boycott of the 2010 U.S. census. Tea Party North folks!

In the end the decision was as Liberal Marc Garneau described it, “a triumph of ignorance over common sense."

Then there was last year's American style omnibus budget bill where you couldn't vote against certain provisions without voting non-confidence and triggering an election that was truly not wanted. The Tories dared the Liberals to defeat stuffing all manner of long-wished-for Conservative goodies into the package. And while they didn't bite I was champing at the bit.

But I have to confess that up until the campaign got under way that I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about the possibilities of the opposition parties to collectively unseat the Tories. That has changed in a few short days. It begins with Ignatieff's choice to bring down the government over the issue of parliamentary contempt instead of over Jim Flaherty's election budget. This frames the issues and the election neatly for Canadians who have been disengaged from politics since the last election and haven't been paying close attention to what the Conservatives have been up to since the last election.

So as this thing starts to chug along and every time the election is mentioned there's will likely be a reminder that the election is being fought over contempt of parliament and when people ask what the contempt was there's a long laundry list for the opposition leaders to choose from. And I didn't even mention imprisoning more Canadians by instituting mandatory minimums like the kind seen south of the border that have been the cause for so many to find themselves trapped in the US penal system. And then hiding the costs of the prisons that need to be built to accommodate more prisoners at a time when crime rates have been in decline in Canada by the by. This is hard core ideology at play here. There's no pragmatism or genuine forethought... and with only 33% of the national vote in the last election they didn't really have Canadian's say so but they went ahead anyhow.

Then there's shutting down Parliament twice and the Afghan detainee issue and Omar Khadr and now that it's contempt and not a budget so lets hope Canadians decide to have a closer look at their record...

Harper's desperate campaigning for a majority government is off-putting says Nick Nanos and his hypocrisy over the so-called threat of a coalition was so obvious that even a compliant media couldn't just gloss over the issue. The already repetitive television attack ads are not resonating in any real way and what does it mean when the say in ominous tones that "Michael Ignatieff has been out of the country!" This is supposed to be a concern? Teaching at Harvard is bad? Help me here. I want to be frightened by this but I'm finding it difficult.

Meanwhile, Michael Ignatieff is already busy launching his own platform which he says is less expensive than the Tory plan and it will be rolled out as this weeks unfolds and it started today with money for education.

Happily I can say I've never seen Jack Layton look better and more on message and their party rolled out ads talking about our broken health care system and Harper's unwillingness to do anything about it. It's right on point -- go see for yourself.



Here's Jack on the campaign trail hammering away at Conservative corruption:



Elizabeth May's Green Party has a great idea for high speed trains in four seperate corridor. From their website: The Green Party is proposing a national project to establish separate high-speed rail lines on the Windsor-Quebec and Calgary-Edmonton corridors, as well on the Halifax-Sydney and Regina-Saskatoon routes. These lines will as much as halve the travel time between major centres. With downtown-to-downtown service and no airport security delays, it will make taking the train faster and easier than flying. And let's hope they change their minds somehow and manage to include her in the debates this year. Her ideas would be a refreshing addition to the discussion.

The leader of the Bloc, Gilles Duceppe, has the best gig in Canadian politics this month: he has a very comfortable perch from which he can take well aimed shots at Mr. Harper and not really have to worry about what Harper says in response. All in all not a good beginning for the incumbent with the opposition in possession of all the momentum.

Just to emphasize the point, yesterday for Stephen, it was more of the same dull attacks and demagoguery.

Monday, March 28, 2011

DAY THREE: Elizabeth May Advocating Jobs Programs For Youth

I'm a fan of Green Party policies and sincerely wish for their sake that they capture a seat or two as they deserve a seat at the table. Have a listen and maybe go check out their site:

DAY THREE: Tory Promises?

When observing the Conservative ideologue performing its' ritual mating dance (on the campaign trail making stuff up), it's important to keep in mind the a lot of the promises made during the dance will never come to fruition. For example, today on the hustings Harper promised a $2.5-billion tax break pledge aimed at parents of children under 18 -- a measure that would allow parents to split, or share, up to $50,000 of household income for tax purposes providing tax relief for almost 1.8 million families who would save on average $1,300 per year.

But there's a catch: It won't take effect until the deficit is eliminated – a date that is at least four years in the future. So essentially, Harper is promising nothing!

  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff couldn't help but note and said, “It’s like you come to a family and say, ‘I’ve got good news. First, I’m going to cut taxes for the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country and then maybe in five years, if you take a ticket and you’re patient and you vote for us a couple of times, and we’ll do something really great for you."

Pollster Nick Nanos doesn't think the Tories talking about a majority is a good idea saying that Canadians are not comfortable with the idea of a Conservative majority. Hopefully the idea scares the crap out of people!

A reminder from elections Canada that keeping track of Tory malfeasance has cost them one third of their budget since 2005, fully $1.3 million dollars -- this includes the "in and out" investigation which has been put off until after June.

Looking around at newspaper editorials from around the country, it's hard to find those who agree with Harper's assertion that the election is unnecessary. The Ottawa Citizen also mentions that Harper shouldn't be taking too much credit for Canada's outperforming its' G-8 partners economically noting that, Had Canadian banks lent in the same fashion as their U.S. counterparts or had former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin not got the books in order years ago, Flaherty might not have had the stimulus money to spend.

Ignatieff goes further and says the Conservatives are responsible for driving Canada into a record deficit position and gives the government no credit for economic policies which he says favours already wealthy corporations. "Tory spending on fighter jets, crime and punishment and corporate tax breaks are robbing Canadians of important social programs," he added.


And lastly for now, a bit of fun as Misty Harris over at the Calgary Herald grades the party leaders on their twittering -- as an added bonus she also lists the twitter accounts of all the leaders as well so you can follow along. Ignatieff by the by scores the highest, at a B- for his incorporation of other social sites into tweets, extensive reach, and valuable content but limited participation. Harper scored an F due to his limited engagement, canned writing style and limited use of site tools. Seems to reflect more than just their social media know-how doesn't it?

Monday Mayhem

Here's the links to American wankery and International news that were covered on this morning's radio show to help you get the week started.

Beginning with the Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman and his thoughts on what he calls the 'Austerity Delusion.' That is tax monies to help bail out corporations but austerity in all its forms for working people in Europe and North America under the guise of fixing the economy... and surprise, it's not working!

The xenophobes in US politics can now count the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza (Herman Cain) as being one of them, and he swears if elected president he'll never appoint a Muslim to his cabinet.

Another potential Republican candidate for the presidency, Newt Gingrich, swears that his philandering affairs were patriotic. It's remarkable that he thinks he can get away with his hypocrisy by pretending he was saluting the flag the entire time he dicking around on his wives.

President Obama is included in today's list of wankers because last week his administration announced a massive coal mining expansion... that threatens to increase U.S. climate pollution by an amount equivalent to more than half of what the United States currently emits in a year.

In Arizona, a House panel approved a bill to let anybody bring their guns into “public establishments” and “public events.” Under this bill events without alcohol would likely have to allow firearms without restriction. Such public places would include “major events such as Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Suns games or rock concerts.” Or, as one major concert promoter noted, “Sesame Street Live” and “Disney On Ice”




Bob Herbert's last column for the New York Times is spot on on its' description of the current state of US politics and his voice will be missed over there. The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

RIP Ms. Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to ever be on the presidential ticket as the nominee for the Vice Presidency.

Rebels are attempting to seize control of Muammar Gaddafi's hometown, but government forces are gathered to stop them. The rebels, backed by international coalition air strikes, have advanced largely unchecked since Friday but claims in Benghazi, the rebel's eastern stronghold, earlier on Monday that Sirte had also fallen were premature.

Germany's Greens are expected to take charge of the key state of Baden-Wuerttemberg after a humiliating defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel's party.

Japan on Sunday faced an increasing challenge of removing highly radioactive water found inside buildings near some troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, with the radiation level of the surface of the pool in the basement of the No. 2 reactor's turbine building found to be more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour.Exposure to such an environment for four hours would raise the risk of dying in 30 days. Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for the government's nuclear safety agency, said the figure is ''quite high'' but authorities must find a way to pump out the water without sending workers too close to push ahead with the restoration work. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said early Monday the concentration of radioactive substances of the puddle was 100,000 times higher than that usually measured in water in a reactor core, correcting its earlier analysis of 10 million times higher.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

DAY TWO: Things That Should Be On Iggy's `To Do` List

Michael Ignatieff deserves credit for political bravery this week for forcing an election while trailing in the polls. In fact they have trailed in most every snapshot poll since the last election, their best numbers only getting them to within the margin of error a handful of times. By any measure in politics that takes courage but especially in an era of 10-15 second sound bites. It`s short-attention-span theatre out there in voterland. A factor that makes it far more difficult to talk about policy differences and their impacts on everyday life in a meaningful way.

 Now it turns out that even the right leaning Globe and Mail agrees with me that the Tories should not be using the adjective "unnecessary" and the noun "coalition" when discussing the election. I risk repetition here but today on day two of the campaign Harper gave a speech in Brampton Ontario and according to the Calgary Herald, The word coalition was used more than 20 times during the 10-minute talk, even though Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on Saturday ruled out forming such a government.

It's all he's got!

And that's a criticism Mr. Ignatieff should level at his opponent. The hypocrisy of Harper having maneuvered towards something  quite like a coalition back in 2004 when he was leader of the opposition has been properly picked up and noted by Canada's media because Mr. Duceppe waved it in their faces in a way they could not ignore -- and let me add a hearty thanks for that! That's a direct blow on Harper's integrity in the campaign's opening salvo. That's the kind of thing that could leave a mark or start a trend.

The very fact that Harper wants to start this election season with nothing but personal attacks and attack ads is very like the Republicans and tea party types to the south and the parallels should be drawn. Tory policy and Tory campaigning look and sound more American than they do Canadian. That applies to the tenor of the attacks as well. Do we want our national discourse to descend to those depths? Not likely that the answer to that is yes for most Canadians.

There was clearly some strategy in voting non-confidence over the issue of contempt of Parliament as opposed to the recent Conservative budget bill. It's an effective way to call into question the integrity of the Conservative government but that shouldn't stop the Liberal from campaigning against the Conservative budget. It's just that they should let Canadians know what Harper stuffed into that omnibus budget bill C-9. It that was chock full egregious overreaches like for example allowing the Environment Minister now has the right to unilaterally sign off on drilling, mining and logging projects without study or consultation.

And that would be my final suggestion to Mr. Ignatieff. When asked about why another election now, tell them you wanted to do it last year when the Conservatives, even though they were in the minority, were shoving their very right-wing agenda down the throats of Canadians. There was however appreciation for the  idea that Canadians were tired of heading back to the polls but another full year passes and still the same contempt for how the majority of Canadians feel about issues and outright contempt Harper's crew has shown for Parliament and valued institutions like Statistics Canada it was high time to bring all these issues to Canadians.

DAY ONE: Duceppe Calls Harper Out For Lying

The 2011 Canadian election campaign is off to a predictable start with Harper calling the election "unnecessary" and trying to raise the spectre of governance by a coalition that includes "socialists" and "separatists," as something Canadians have to keep in mind when voting.

 So let's do that. Let's face the supposedly frightening prospect of a coalition. Why is it such a terrible idea for these three parties to form a coalition and what evil might befall the Canadian people? Mr. Harper's criticism is that the Liberals and Bloc would be at loggerheads and nothing would get done other than raising your taxes and spending your money. That's as deep as it's going to get for this Prime Minister this campaign. There will be invective, insults, smearing and demagoguing, if the first campaign day is any indicator. All this from a man who is spending $30 billion of Canadian taxpayer money on a sole-sourced contract for stealth jet-fighters that don't fit Canada's current military needs.

As for the dreaded coalition, the three parties who would form this coalition as being either center or left of center on the political spectrum so they're natural allies and altogether including the Green Party they just happen to represent (at least by the last election's overall vote percentages) sixty-seven percent of the voters. Fully two-thirds of the Canadian electorate are voting for centrist or left of center policies. Are their voting rights being trampled?

Do two-thirds of the Canadian public not have the right to see policies that they advocate and vote for come to pass? Are they supposed to abandon the multi-party system that is far more expressive and reflective of the differing political views held by Canadians so that they can defeat one autocratic, fear-mongering man? That would be terribly short-sighted and ultimately a loser for those of us who cheer on and advocate for progress and progressive policy.

The issue is absurd on its' face in that having been in the minority these past five years, Harper could not have governed without the assistance of socialists and separatists and liberals. It's how Parliament functions in a minority government. What makes this doubly absurd is that Harper actually tried to form a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc back in 2004 and while he says only the party that gets the most votes has the right to govern he was clearly thinking something else back in 2004. Today, Mr. Duceppe presented the evidence and proof positive that PM Harper is being two-faced about coalitions.

His duplicitous actions here in what is his campaign's first thrust should be important to voters. It speaks to how he governs and it is illustrative of what kind of man he really is under the veneer of quiet calm. In his very next move he launches more attack ad fantasies about coalitions and impugns Mr. Ignatieff in carefully orchestrated attack ads. This along with his arrogant assertions that he deems this election unnecessary all the while a compliant media pretends that these are real issues but the PM's blatant double-standard and fear-mongering as he launches his campaign are unimportant.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back! Blogging The Election

I should have hung a "Gone Fishing" sign on the little blog but for some reason couldn't bring myself to do it. My thinking was that any day the burnt out feeling that had come over me in late December would wash away and I'd be able to pick right up where I left off. Well, I was partially right. I was just wrong about how long it would take until I started feeling better.

 Things aren't where I left them nearly three months ago. Impossibly they are worse, but here in Canada we have an opportunity to make them infinitely better by unseating the goddamned Tories from their undeserved perch  in Ottawa. It boggles the mind how a nation that votes by a margin of 2 to 1 for parties that are center or left of center, can find itself being ruled by a cadre of hard right-wing ideologues that have been fittingly named 'The Harper Regime.'

They might not run around with misspelled racist signs and openly carry weapons but make no  mistake about it, Canada's tories are exactly the same as the crazed teaparty types down south. They have the same agenda and the same beliefs and are only interested in democracy so far as it suits them. The fact that PM Harper could call this election "unnecessary" says all you need to know about him and his party. The only other kinds of officials who deem elections unnecessary are generally working for autocratic regimes... and that's exactly how the Canadian conservatives have governed these past five long years.

I will do my level best on this blog and on my radio show to cover the upcoming election while keeping the focus on issues the Canadian MSM ignores. I will also post up podcasts of the best of my radio show at least once or twice a week.

Off to the races!