Saturday, June 10, 2006

Important steps

CBC reports that Russia will write off $700 million in third-world debt. While reducing the debt load alone is only one element in what's needed to improve third-world living conditions, it's certainly a necessary part of the solution. Kudos to Russia for joining the other G8 states in the effort.

Meet the new ethical standard, just like the old ethical standard

Joe Volpe hands all the non-Lib parties an early Xmas gift with his response to calls that he drop out of the leadership race:
As he prepared for the latest Liberal leadership forum in Winnipeg Saturday, Volpe said he's setting a new ethical standard that others should meet "or bow out of the race."...

On Friday fellow candidate Michael Ignatieff came close to calling on Volpe to bow out of the leadership contest, saying he has hurt the party's reputation. Volpe responded, saying he doesn't need to take lessons from anyone on how to serve the Liberal party.
Now, there's certainly reason to doubt that some of the other remaining candidates are also above criticism for their fund-raising and staffing so far. But the longer Volpe continues the Libs' tradition of dealing with dubious situations only grudgingly, after the fact and without admission that anything should even have been questioned, the less likely any eventual winner in the leadership race will be able to overcome the Libs' reputation once a general election rolls around.

Rank decisions

The Cons' full flag-lowering protocol has now gone public, and it's interesting to note just how much the Cons appear to think the Canadian public will value the lives of different people:
"Given that such flags are recognized as paramount symbols of their nations, the act of half-masting is a dramatic visual statement that speaks to the sense of loss that is shared by all their citizens," state the new rules...

The new protocol effectively limits full half-masting honours to the Queen, her immediate family and her representatives in Canada, sitting and former prime ministers, sitting cabinet ministers and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Privy councillors, sitting MPs, sitting senators and top foreign diplomats get the Peace Tower flag lowered only on the day of their funeral, rather than from the time of notification of death until the service...

The Canadian Heritage website noted that the Peace Tower flag was lowered to half-mast on Monday morning, from 9 a.m. to noon, "to honour former parliamentarians who passed away in the last year."

There are also special days honouring workers killed on the job, police and peace officers killed on duty, Remembrance Day, violence against women and Vimy Ridge day.

The prime minister maintains broad discretionary power to have the Peace Tower flag lowered "in exceptional circumstances," say the new rules, including the deaths of foreign leaders, prominent citizens at home or abroad, and federal employees.
In other words, the Cons apparently consider the loss to Canadians as follows. If Bev Oda has a fatal allergic reaction to caviar at a CRIA fund-raising dinner, the protocol will reflect a greater loss than if every MP in Parliament aside from the current Cabinet and ex-PMPM were to perish at once. And if Maurice Vellacott chokes on his own bile, the Cons figure the country should mourn that event more personally than if Canada's entire military contingent in Afghanistan is wiped out by a surprise attack.

Of course, there's always the PM's discretion. But then, we know that the Cons have no tolerance for ad hoc decisions. So if you want to hold your breath waiting for the PM to take such an action, at least do so at work so you can share in one of the days seen as worthy of mourning.

Friday, June 09, 2006

On failed plans

The theory once went that the Cons' plan to win a majority was to be seen as an effective government that could be trusted to keep its promises. Needless to say, if that was the Cons' theory, they're headed in the wrong direction due to Harper's newfound contempt for his party's commitments on equalization:
During the last election, Harper promised to remove non-renewable resource money from the equalization formula, a change that would have added hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Saskatchewan's coffers.

However, during an interview with Calgary radio host Dave Rutherford on Friday, Harper described his election pledge as a "preference."...

Harper also disputed the notion that Conservative MPs were elected on the promise to take non-renewable resources out of the formula.

"I think what MPs have been elected on in places like Saskatchewan is to improve the functioning of equalization and of the federal government for the province of Saskatchewan," Harper said...

A number of Saskatchewan Conservatives talked about changing the equalization program during the federal election campaign earlier this year, including Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre MP Tom Lukiwski.

"If we are elected into government, we will be revising the equalization formula, remove the non-renewable natural resources, which would result, of course, in Saskatchewan retaining 100 per cent of its oil and gas revenues," Lukiwski said Jan. 6.
It's hard to say which is a worse excuse: to say that the promise is irrelevant because Harper is entitled to tell voters they shouldn't care about it, or to blatantly ignore the facts as to what was promised in the first place. But neither one is anything close to a reasonable backing for the Cons' new stand.

Interestingly enough, now that King Steve has taken his current stance, I'm not sure that it matters at all if Harper eventually decides to turn around and remove non-renewable resource revenue from the equalization formula after all. It's now glaringly clear that what the Cons have promised directly can be reclassified as a "preference" or as completely irrelevant based on Harper's whims. And knowing that the Cons couldn't make it through a single session of a minority Parliament without pretending never to have promised what they promised, voters have plenty of reason to make sure Harper never gets a longer leash in the future.

Making a bad deal worse

The Globe and Mail has an update on the Cons' softwood lumber capitulation, featuring two new details. First, Canada's concessions apply to some productions which were never subject to an export duty even when the U.S.' illegal tariffs were at their worst:
(L)umber remanufacturing companies who make everything from siding to flooring are upset that some of the products previously exempt from duties are now captured by the agreement.

“This deal is a terrible deal,” said Michael Wiggin, who operates century-old Wynndel Box and Lumber Co., a family-run sawmill and remanufacturing operation in the southern B.C., Interior.

“There has been virtually zero meaningful consultation with industry. They're hanging the remaners out.”
Second, having already sold out once, the Cons are now trying to push to impose another artificial deadline this Sunday which should lay the groundwork for even more concessions:
Sources say Ottawa has told the U.S. government it wants the text in hand by Sunday because it needs to pass legislation enabling it to impose a border tax on lumber exports destined for the American markets before the House rises June 23...

One source said the Canadian timetable plays into U.S. hands, allowing American negotiators to hold out until Sunday, then make some last-minute concessions on marginal issues so Canada can argue it got the best deal it could.
To the extent that the Cons are using the end of the legislative session as such a deadline, it's not hard at all to call BS for a couple of reasons: first it surely shouldn't be much tougher to pass a bill enabling the government to set any relevant terms through regulation later on rather than having to pass the specifics immediately, and second because it shouldn't be the end of the world to extent the Parliamentary sitting long enough to avoid any additional giveaways.

But then, it's been clear all along that the Cons are more interested in being able to claim they've brokered a deal than in getting a reasonable outcome for Canada. And it shouldn't be much surprise that the excuses are no better now than they were than when the first agreements were reached.

Great stuff

For those not yet acquainted, Alison at Creekside is perfecting the art of snark.

A continuing culture

So much for the Libs trying to clean up the party after the sponsorship scandal, as the CP reports that multiple Lib leadership candidates are using their publicly-funded MP offices for the leadership race:
Supporters of at least eight of the 11 leadership candidates have used MPs' offices on Parliament Hill to distribute partisan campaign material, according to e-mails obtained by The Canadian Press.

During parliamentary business hours, offices have churned out invitations on campaign letterhead to meet candidates, attend leadership launches, or get together with campaign staff.

One Liberal MP called the practice unethical and said it runs deeper than just e-mails.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," he said. "There are interns being used to do (campaign) work, there's the odd phone call to twist a colleague's arm.

"But that's not traceable."...

A spokeswoman for Elections Canada said MPs' staffers are ineligible to work on campaigns while being paid for their time from the public purse...

"If a member of an MP's staff engages in leadership campaign work for the MP or for any other leadership contestants during normal working hours, then a proportionate share of that person's salary . . . must be included as a leadership campaign expense," she said.

"The same applies to the use of the member's office facilities or supplies."
In fairness, an MP could theoretically comply with the Elections Canada requirements by tracking all use of the office and reimbursing the public purse for the difference. But given last week's report that leadership candidates appear to be anticipating that Elections Canada won't enforce provisions requiring repayment of candidate loans, it seems all too likely that the same type of attitude will prevail when it comes to the use of MP offices for the leadership race. And even if the plan is to try to fix matters later, it's hard to see how any advantages to using public resources outweigh the damaging perception that the Libs haven't changed a bit.

Whatever the reason

John at Dymaxion World points out the bad news that Canadians as a whole have a poor understanding of Canada's fuel situation. But the good news is that whatever the public's knowledge level, Canadians consumed less fuel last year than the previous one:
Canadian gasoline sales decreased last year for only the second time since 1994, likely thanks to surging pump prices, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.

Canadian drivers purchased 39.8 billion litres of gasoline in 2005, down 1.4 per cent from 2004, according to preliminary data.

It was the first decline since 1994, except for a marginal 0.1 per cent reduction in 2001 when terrorist attacks on the United States disrupted the transportation industry.
It remains to be seen whether the drop will be a permanent effect, or simply a one-time reaction to higher-than-usual prices. But it's still a plus to note that consumption levels at least started heading in the right direction last year...whether or not the drop is based on a full appreciation of where Canadians gas comes from and what we pay compared to the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Just wondering...

Due credit to those in Iraq who managed to hunt down Al-Zarqawi. But does this mean we'll never find out who his top lieutenants really were?

A strong debut

While the CMA continues to insist on health-care privatization, the newly-formed Canadian Doctors for Medicare points out just how far off base the CMA is:
(W)e face challenges similar to those in many, if not all, developed countries, whatever their mix of public and private health care. Most of these countries are struggling to ensure that their citizens have better access to primary and preventative care (including a family doctor), and to improve wait times for diagnostic tests and treatment.

Vocal advocates of privatization use these challenges to advance their views that private insurance will somehow make things better. That couldn't be further from the truth...

Health care is expensive, and it's going to get more expensive. But if we follow the private insurance road, we'll end up losing the efficiencies that make our single-tier system more cost effective than the two-tiered alternative, not to mention the higher quality and accessibility of our single-tier model.
It remains to be seen whether the new group will be able to cultivate as high a public profile in the debate as CMA has received. But if nothing else, it's a boost to all Canadians who want to see a universally-accessible system to know that a movement of doctors shares their view. And if the CDM is able to help sway the debate, then maybe we can get past the "gridlock" of perpetual talk of privatization in order to shift the discussion to policies which actually help the health-care system.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On ill-fated plans

Michael Wilson apparently has some time to kill as he waits for the U.S. to get back to him on border security. And after his suggestion that top Canadian officials go on a "myth-busting" tour through the States, I'll suggest that he spend at least a bit of that time studying the American political scene enough to know just what kind of treatment any dose of reality tends to receive.

On bad investments

Let's check in on how the Cons' closer ties with the U.S. are working out these days:
The American government wants anyone crossing its border to carry a secure piece of identification by the end of next year, but Canada's ambassador in Washington says he still doesn't know what that means.

Michael Wilson told a Senate committee Wednesday that despite the looming deadline, there is no information about what Washington wants when it comes to identification.

"There is a sense of frustration at not being able to find out information," Wilson said. "We don't know how much has been done. Some of the questions might have moved past what we think the answers are."...

Wilson repeatedly had to tell senators with questions about the law that he didn't have any answers.
In other words, the Cons' plan to put Canada/U.S. relations on "a more mature wavelength has predictably resulted in nothing more than static headed Canada's way, despite our modest billion-dollar investment in the U.S. softwood lumber industry. And it appears the Cons' current idea of maturity is simply to grin and bear a complete lack of cooperation from Harper's ideological allies, even as other American politicians (largely made up of Bush's opponents) are also doing their best to deal with the border.

Ever changing

At least a few MPs have an excuse for not being particularly focused on the budget, as the CP goes into more detail about the number of possible amendments to the Accountability Act:
A special legislative committee is embarking on a virtual rewrite of the Conservative government's centrepiece Federal Accountability Act today with plans for more than 100 amendments to the bill.

By the end of a line-by-line review of Bill C-2, almost one in three of its 370 clauses are expected to be altered by an ad hoc committee dominated by the opposition parties.

Major amendments expected from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois include the elimination of a proposed $1,000 reward for whistleblowers, stricter limits on political donations from minors, a ban on corporate loans for candidates, a floor-crossing law allowing for the recall of politicians and even altering the French title of the proposed law.
It doesn't look like the bulk of the proposed amendments should be overly controversial. But I still wonder whether the Cons will follow through on passing an opposition-influenced Accountability Act and which can be seen to embarrass at least a couple of high-profile Cons, rather than using the number of amendments as an excuse not to do anything without a majority in Parliament.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On unintended consequences

The CP reports on the latest machinations surrounding the Accountability Act. Most of the changes seem relatively minor: the floor-crossing provision sounds sufficiently watered-down not to have too much effect (though it is news to have the Libs onside), and the NDP's call to combine contribution limits between parents and children doesn't seem likely to have too strong an effect on anybody besides Joe Volpe. But a much larger potential amendment is buried at the bottom of the coverage:
One element of the act requires anybody who lobbies the federal government to file reports every time they meet with public office holders. The Canadian Society of Association Executives has called on the government to exempt charities and non-profits from the requirement.

"We are also concerned that increasing this compliance requirement will prove to be a more onerous, time-consuming burden that will result in a loss of productivity for many not-for-profit organizations currently facing resource constraints," the society said in its submission to the Commons committee.
On the surface, this would seem to be a reasonable suggestion - and certainly it's tough for any party to be seen taking a stand against non-profits and charities.

The only problem is the small matter of what would happen if such a rule were to pass. It's not hard to see that the exemption of charities and non-profits from lobbying rules would offer a ready opening for astroturf groups to lobby on behalf of anybody based on a single step worth of separation. Not only would that utterly undermine the purpose of imposing greater transparency on lobbyists, but it could also easily result in the newly-formed astroturf groups using their organizational resources to shape the political playing field when they're not busy lobbying.

The article doesn't indicate which parties (if any) are looking to include the exemption. But hopefully enough MPs will recognize the dangers behind the seemingly innocuous suggestion, and ensure that an act which is supposed to improve transparency doesn't instead spur the promulgation of artificial interest groups.

On mistakes

Needless to say, this is an embarrassment for the opposition parties.

Assuming a Con would bother showing up when scheduled to speak? What could they have been thinking?

A credit-worthy idea

The Daily Bread Food Bank has made its suggestions on how to put an end to hunger in Toronto and elsewhere:
The plan, which was outlined in the agency's annual profile of hunger in the GTA, recommends the creation of a new Ontario Child Benefit up to $92 per child per month for low-income families. It also suggests Ottawa establish a new refundable tax credit for the working poor and low-income earners.

That federal credit would consist of two parts – a working income benefit of up to $2,400 a year or $200 a month for the working poor and a basic refundable tax credit of $1,800 a year or $150 a month for all low-income earners including the working poor...

Other highlights of the action plan include: a request that all levels of government to continue to invest in affordable housing and rent supplement programs and the federal government reverse its decision to end the national learning and child care program.

The report provides a stark snapshot of poverty in the GTA. Thirty-eight per cent of people relying on food banks are children. A total of 894,017 people used food banks in the last year. That’s up only slightly — 1.3 per cent — from the previous year, but up a whopping 79 per cent since 1995.

The annual report also found that 22 per cent of children go hungry at least once a week while 45 per cent of adults say they go hungry at least once a week. And 24 per cent of households using food banks have at least one person working. The median income of food bank households is $954 a month. The net income of the average size family is $11,448 a year.
While the suggestions on housing and child care don't appear likely to be positively received by the federal government, it's worth seeing whether Harper will consider extending his favoured tax-credit idea to the task of helping Canada's poorest workers. Such an idea could be a winner from both a political and a policy standpoint, likely softening up the current and well-deserved perception that Harper isn't interested in helping Canada's worst off while helping to alleviate poverty in a cost-effective way.

But if (as seems all too likely) Harper isn't interested, then it'll remove all doubt that his concern isn't so much with relieving harmful tax burdens as with buying votes. And even those who are currently benefitting from the Cons' largesse shouldn't have much trouble seeing the longer-term problems with that type of mindset.

On growing recognition

An AP/Ipsos poll suggests that despite apparent crackdowns against immigrants (accompanied by inevitable anti-immigrant rhetoric) in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, public acknowledgement of the contributions of immigrants has in fact improved over the past two years. And Canada leads the way in its enthusiasm for immigration:
Public acceptance of immigrants has grown in Canada, the United States and several European countries over the last few years despite outbreaks in some countries of immigrant riots and heated debates aimed at limiting migration.

AP-Ipsos polling found more tolerance for immigrants now than two years ago in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In the U.S. and Australia, just over half said immigrants are good for their country. In Canada - where immigrants are actively recruited - three-fourths said immigrants are a good influence.
Of course, the nearly-even splits in most of the countries aside from Canada suggest that there's still a lot of nationalist sentiment in play. But the wider trend is at least headed in the direction of recognizing the important roles immigrants play in any country's well-being...and Canada should be proud to be leading the way.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Winning policy, winning strategy

As promised, I'll take a few minutes to discuss the NDP's plan to release a greenhouse-gas reduction plan this week:
Opposition parties will step up their attacks this week on the Conservative government's increasingly unpopular environmental position, with the pro-Kyoto New Democrats going so far as to release daily elements of a plan for the government to tackle climate change.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said this weekend his party will roll out "key elements" of that plan "virtually every day" this week...

"We can at least show that there are things that the government could be doing now as we head into smog season," Layton said at a conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Montreal. "Are we just simply going to twiddle our thumbs for six months and reneg (sic) on commitments we've made to the rest of the world? It's not where Canadians want to go."
From a policy standpoint, obviously it's a plus to try to highlight the options available to address global warming, particularly at a time when the Cons are supposedly collecting ideas for their plan this fall. But the political reasons for the NDP move strike me as ultimately more important than the likelihood of any action being taken, or even the content of the plan.

After all, the NDP has had a thorough Kyoto strategy available for public viewing for ages already. It doesn't seem all that likely that the NDP's philosophy has changed too much since the existing plan was drafted, though a few new ideas may work their way into the mix. And while I'd like to think the current wave of Kyoto support will force the Cons into action, there still isn't much chance that a government determined to undermine Kyoto will adopt much of a platform explicitly aimed at meeting the Kyoto targets.

But as things stand now in Parliament, the NDP is making the right move in differentiating itself by promoting policy first, particularly in an area which has often been in the public eye. The Cons have the machinery of government to keep themselves in the news, hampered only by their ideological bent against government getting anything done; the Libs can count on their leadership race to draw media attention to at least the party's personalities. That leaves an all-too-typical void in the department of presenting innovative policy options, and it only makes sense for the NDP to fill in the gap.

Mind you, that always leaves the danger that the NDP may be seen as overly interested in developing policies for other parties to co-opt. But in the wake of the last election, there's a rare opening for policy to be seen as more of a strength than a liability. After all, much of the media narrative from the past election suggests that the Cons succeeded by putting their policies in the public eye early and often. And with that mindset dominating the current political CW, it can only help the NDP in the eyes of the punditocracy to get the jump in the midst of the perpetual campaign that is a minority government.

On external causes

Michael Byers theorizes that foreign policy will prove to be Harper's downfall in the next federal election:
It is a basic tenet of Canadian political science that foreign policy doesn't matter in elections. In fact, it hasn't mattered since 1988 when Brian Mulroney used the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement to drive a wedge between his Progressive Conservatives, on the one side, and the Liberals and NDP on the other. Foreign policy issues are usually too complex, under-reported or distant in their implications to register with most Canadians.

Stephen Harper adheres to the view that foreign policy lacks electoral significance and, for this reason, feels safe following the Bush administration's lead. He made a lousy deal on softwood lumber, allowing U.S. forest companies to keep $1 billion in illegal gains. He agreed to share surveillance information from the Northwest Passage with the Pentagon without receiving recognition of Canada's sovereignty claim in return. He has moved towards participation in missile defence, taken sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and failed to protect Afghan detainees from torture. But how many people know this? And how many really care?

Still, three foreign policy issues could soon achieve unusual degrees of prominence. When the "new" Stephen Harper lets the mask slip on these issues, exposing his neo-conservatism, Canadians will notice -- and they likely will care.
I don't share Byers' view that Afghanistan is likely to be one of the defining issues of the next campaign - with the most recent vote in Parliament there doesn't seem to be much prospect of Canada's role ending or changing anytime soon. But there seems to be at least a reasonable chance that global warming will be kept in the news enough to grow in importance and take a bite out of the Cons' support. And if the U.S. does decide to provoke a war with Iran, that could prove to be a back-breaking blow for Harper's government whether or not it actually declares public support for such a war (since the opposition parties will be able to easily point out the danger of an even more pro-Bush policy if Harper were to win a majority).

Mind you, the last time an election was decided primarily on a foreign-policy issue, it was a split vote that allowed Mulroney to remain in power. And depending on who becomes the next Lib leader (and whether the Canadian public decides to forget about the Libs' woeful record on global warming), a similar split might at least dampen the effect of the key foreign-policy issues next time out.

But it does appear clear that factors bigger than the usual domestic issues may have a huge impact on the next federal election. And Harper's attempts to micromanage everything taking place within Canada aren't going to help him in the least when it comes to what's going on outside our borders.


I'm curious to see whether Anonymous Law Firm LLP is funny only to lawyers, or to people generally. But for this lawyer at least, it's a classic.

Monitoring the revolving door

The issue certainly hasn't gone without discussion in the past. But the CP reminds us about Harper's about-face on lobbyists since he took power:
As the much-vaunted Accountability Act gets closer to passing the House of Commons, critics say Harper's disdain for lobbyists is really nothing more than an elaborate media line...

Indeed, lobbyists represent an important component of the Conservative political machine.

Consider a recent memo sent out directly from the Prime Minister's Office concerning the ongoing battle with the national media. It was sent to top party strategists, including members of the lobbying world who appear on talk shows, suggesting they portray the media as lazy when asked about the spat.
So clearly Harper is comfortable having lobbyists speak for his party - perhaps more so than some of his own MPs.

Meanwhile, in case there was any thought that Harper was doing all he can without a majority in Parliament, think again:
Harper has also repeatedly decried the "revolving door" between government and government consultants, promising during the last election to slam it shut. The Accountability Act proposes that public office holders be barred from lobbying government for five years after they leave office...

But that principle didn't seem to stand for Elizabeth Roscoe, a member of Harper's transition team following the election. She went on to become a vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

Conacher said Harper could have prevented this by amending the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, a set of rules that is under the immediate control of the prime minister and would have come into effect right away.
Again, none of this should come as too much surprise. But it's worth highlighting one more example of how Harper's message is directly contrary to his own actions. And I'll look forward to more members of the media proving Harper's talking point wrong by checking such hypocrisy at every turn.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

On obstacles

I won't pretend to know exactly how to solve Canada's military recruiting woes. But I think we can safely assume that more intense fighting in Afghanistan won't do much to help matters.

A growing movement

Another influential group has thrown its weight behind the need for Canada to follow through on its Kyoto commitments and more, as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has committed to reductions far beyond those set out in Kyoto:
At its annual meeting in Montreal Saturday, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing 1,400 municipal leaders across Canada, adopted a policy statement supporting Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

"Municipal governments commit implementing policies and operational changes that will achieve a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 30 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 levels," the statement reads...

Lloyd Hines, chair of the FCM's standing committee on environmental issues, said the FCM hopes to be consulted on Harper's climate change plan, promised for this fall. He said FCM members are concerned about the environmental message the Harper government has sent so far.

"They are concerned that there may be some lessening of commitment on Kyoto and other environmental issues," Hines said.
For those wondering whether the mayors in fact receive the chance to make their concerns known to the federal government, rest assured that they'll get just as much direct interaction as most groups who inconveniently disagree with a Con position:
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was to address the FCM's meeting today but has cancelled, citing a schedule conflict.
But even with the Cons trying their best to pretend that no meaningful action needs to be taken, the combined force of the FCM, the provinces who plan to meet or exceed their Kyoto reduction levels, and Canadians generally who recognize the need for action is something that the Cons will have trouble ignoring. Kudos to the FCM for keeping the momentum going.

Update: I'll deal with the substance of this article later, but take a look at the laughable excuse for Ambrose's cancellation:
Officials with Ambrose and in the Prime Minister's Office said her appearance was unnecessary after Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to open the conference with a speech last Friday. They could not, however, explain why the official agenda had the two federal politicians speaking at different times.
Now, given Harper's commitment to stifling his cabinet ministers, it may well be true that Ambrose would have said absolutely nothing that Harper hadn't covered in his address. But even conceding that Ambrose had nothing useful to say, it would have made a lot more sense to plan for the consequences of a "one Con only" policy, rather than to leave the conference to deal with a last-minute cancellation.