Saturday, July 11, 2009

Deficits Forever

There isn't much solace to be taken from Stephen Harper's statement that he doesn't think it's worth bothering to try to fix Jim Flaherty's long-term budget deficit. Indeed, can anybody remember as firm a declaration of a political leader's intention to refuse to make any tough decisions indefinitely?

But if one at least wants to look for reason not to take Harper seriously, it could be noted that the last time he spent years insisting he'd never act according to a timeline was on Afghanistan. And he's at least nominally agreed to one since - though the smart money is on that changing before his newfound commitment to red ink.

One more for the historical record

While the Saskatchewan NDP convention may have taken place over a month ago, video material from the race continues to find its way online. So for those interested, here's Ryan Meili's nomination speech.

Not good

Most of the commentary on Stephen Harper's interview with the Globe and Mail has focused on Harper's declaration that as far as he's concerned, any taxes are too many. But maybe even more remarkable is interviewer Eric Reguly's response to exactly that point:
Reguly: Do you regret cutting the GST now?

Harper: No, not at all.

Reguly: No?

Harper: No, it's ... First of all, I believe cutting all taxes is good policy, okay? I... I'm of the school that... You know, there's two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I'm in the latter category. I don't believe any taxes are good taxes. It's important to remember when we cut the full two points of the GST, the budget was still in surplus. Anyone who says we put the budget in deficit by cutting the GST is wrong. I also think cutting the GST had some important effects. I think it's important to say why it was a good policy, besides fulfilling an electoral commitment to cut the GST, um... besides being a tax cut which as I say is good in and of itself. The problem at the time we cut the second point of GST was making sure we sustained consumer spending during what appeared to be a recession elsewhere. And all the evidence is that that was actually pretty effective, that we sustained consumer spending pretty late in the game. In fact consumer spending didn't drop in Canada until very near the end of 2008. So I think it was good policy. And I also think as well it was fair. I mean part of our tax cut package is to make sure you cut taxes for everyone. The GST is the one tax everybody pays. And cutting the GST, cutting a highly visible tax like the GST, was a strong sign of credibility to the population at large that we were serious about cutting taxes.

Reguly: Good.

Harper: Yeah.
Now, I can think of more than a few ways that this answer invited serious followup questioning. And that goes well beyond the most obvious response of "No taxes are good taxes? So your bottom line is that government should pay for and do absolutely nothing?"

One could challenge the assertion that the GST cuts were completely unrelated to the Harper government's mounting deficits when at the time of the January budget, they perfectly matched up with Canada's projected red ink. One could listen to the CAITI company line (however single-minded that may be) to point out an example of taxes being increased under Harper. One could point out that even Harper's chief of staff has admitted that the GST cut was an asinine move if one cares about "economic evidence" rather than political calculation. Or maybe point out that between the second GST cut and the recession which it was supposedly intended to plan for, Harper spent the better part of an election campaign pretending that the recession which he now claims the cut ws aimed at forestalling was utterly impossible (at least as long as he kept power). Or if one's preference is simply to talk about underlying phliosophies, the nature of the GST would also seem to be ripe for questioning: is it really as universal is Harper says, and more importantly should it be if that means adding to the costs associated with the necessities of life for Canadians who can't afford it?

Any of those would actually offer a prospect of actually inviting some genuine give-and-take about Harper's policies and prior statements - you know, what one might have called "journalism" a few decades ago. But instead, Eric Reguly's followup was..."Good".


Not even with any apparent sense of "Okay, let's move on to another more important topic", as Reguly apparently left enough time interject a cheer for himself in response. Instead, the exchange reads with an underlying tone of "That's enough for me to put a check mark next to 'taxes'. Thanks for continuing to insult the intelligence of our readers".

Which of course fits nicely with Harper's usual PR strategy of counting on being able to sell his own message, secure in the knowledge that even the most compelling refutation won't receive enough play to move the needle of public opinion as far as his own messages. But the more the corporate media keeps playing right into Harper's hands, the less credible it's bound to become.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Musical interlude

Delerium - Truly (Wise Buddah Radio Edit)

Challenging assumptions

A reader points out the news that the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a policy banning political messages on transit advertising (a policy which was replicated in Regina around the 2007 provincial election).

Now, I agree entirely with the view that there's absolutely no reason why a political message shouldn't be permitted where a commercial ad would be - and on that basis there's no problem with the Supreme Court's decision. But I'd see the deeper issue as one which dovetails nicely with the question of whether the Canadian left is doing enough to offer a real alternative to the corporatist philosophy: namely, is there any good reason why public transit should serve as a commercial billboard both inside and out?

The buck stops anywhere but here

While there's been no lack of discussion about Stephen Harper's use of the international stage to launch a completely ill-informed attack on Michael Ignatieff (since he probably can't find any difference on anything of substance), I haven't yet seen anybody point out the fact that it happened in the same speech where Harper offered up this mock outrage:
"Sombody running an unsubstantiated story that I would stick communion bread in my pocket is really absurd and I think it's a real, frankly, a low point, this is a low moment in journalism, whoever is responsible for this. It's just a terrible story and a ridiculous story and not based on anything as near as I can tell."
So in summary, he's all about the accountability for anybody who gives mainstream life to utterly unsubstantiated stories. Except when they come from his own mouth, in which case it's all Dimitri's fault.

Update: CC has more.


Never mind that he went voluntarily to a socon news outlet to pitch the story that one of his partymates had been punished for failing to discriminate against the gay community. Now that the whole incident has proven an embarrassment, Brad Trost is outraged that anybody would have any follow-up questions:
After the interview was over, Trost accused the StarPhoenix reporter of "ambushing" him with questions about the issue and pressed the stop button on her voice recorder.
Update: BigCityLib has more.

Roots, not stars

Murray Dobbin has started an interesting discussion as how much room there is for improvement in the development of a meaning-oriented progressive community. But while noting there's still a long way left to go, one has to like the philosophy being followed by the main voice for that movement, as the NDP looks to build on its developing strength in Quebec:
Questionné à savoir si une seconde victoire en sol québécois ne passerait pas plutôt par la présentation d'un autre candidat vedette, le chef néo-démocrate a réitéré sa position selon laquelle il cherchait avant tout des personnes connues et impliquées localement.

"On ne cherche pas des vedettes, on cherche des racines, a-t-il lancé. Ça prend du temps, changer les choses."
Or roughly translated:
Asked whether a second Quebec victory will only happen with another star candidate, the NDP leader reiterated that above all he's looking for candidates who are known and respected locally.

"We're not looking for stars, we're looking for roots," he said. "It takes time to change things."
Not that it hurts matters to have a few big names in the mix - and the NDP did better in that department in 2008 than it had in decades.

But the longer-term outlook of a party is bound to be based primarily on its deeper connections to the broader public rather than on the presence of a few stars within its ranks. And hopefully the NDP's development of roots in Quebec and across the country will bear fruit in the form of a more engaged and involved movement to boost both the party and its progressive ideals across the country.

(h/t to Pundits' Guide.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Deep thought

My first reaction to somebody with a reckless habit of playing with fire wouldn't be to keep him in charge of the matches.

What Simon said

The CCPA's Simon Enoch takes on the Sask Party's push toward a flat tax:
Economic modeling of flat tax proposals in the United States demonstrates that flat tax proposals shift the tax burden predominantly to the middle class. Similar results have been identified in Alberta. In essence the middle class pays more and receives less, particularly as former exemptions and reductions are eliminated in the name of “simplicity.” Not exactly the model of “tax fairness” that flat tax proponents claim.

Of equal concern is the effect such a tax would have on income inequality. Saskatchewan is already experiencing growing income inequality as the CCPA’s Growing Gap Project demonstrates. Reducing the amount of tax that the richest among us pay would only exacerbate this troubling trend. The economic and social costs of reduced social cohesion that income inequality generates are immense. According to British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, the bigger the income gap, the worse the rates of mental illness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, homicide, incarceration and reduced life expectancies. Conversely, more equal societies tend to display higher levels of trust, reduced levels of stress and greater attachment to community.

Your daily debunking

Jim Harding eviscerates the spin applied by the UDP and the pro-nuke contingent as to the direction of the industry around the globe:
The Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), however, wants to perpetuate the “nuclear bubble”. What it calls “potential new nuclear capacity additions by 2020” is based on very tardy and manipulative “research”. It lists only 31 plants actually under construction, anywhere, and if you check the “Nuclear Status Report” you’ll find 11 of these have been under construction for more than 20 years. This is called “stacking the statistics.” The UDP then combines “anticipated” with “planned” reactors, a very unreliable category, to squeeze out 173 more possible plants. This includes 35 for North America, which is very farfetched, and an extreme example of the “400 % exaggeration factor”, for a recent assessment in the wake of the credit crunch and growing U.S. opposition to further nuclear loan guarantees, has only 3 new plants by 2015.

In small print we find the UDP’s sources include “press releases” and “nuclear industry publications”. We should rightly ask how, with $3 million funding from the public, the UDP was able to avoid doing original research prior to making recommendations now being brought to public “consultations”.
Of course, by the "count anything that's even been suggested" standard, the UDP would figure to have included roughly five new reactors in Saskatchewan as part of its list.

Meanwhile, ScruffyDan points out that there are serious reliability issues associated with nuclear power generation - particularly for inland reactors which rely on river water for cooling purposes. So it's lucky for us that the Wall government is willing to give the province such a great deal on its oceanfront property near Lloydminster to avoid that problem.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One day, this could all be ours

We'd sure hate to miss out on the chance to have stories like this coming from Saskatchewan's largest city:
AECL officials said Wednesday the Chalk River leak itself is a tremendously challenging engineering problem.

For one thing, it is at the bottom of the tank nine metres below the nearest access point and that access point is nothing but a small hole just 12 centimetres in diameter. AECL must design special tools that can squeeze through that access point and then navigate to the bottom of the reactor vessel — a vessel filled with a tangle of tubes, wires, and the reactor core itself — and then complete a tricky welding and repair job in a highly radioactive, dangerous environment.

The cone shaped vessel that houses the reactor's core is about 3.5 metres tall and 3.5 metres in diameter. The vessel itself is encased in a larger structure.

"I've heard it described as . . . trying to change the oil in your car from your living room," said David Cox, the director of the NRU repair project. "We're faced with conducting remote investigations in a radioactive environment with high radiation fields, conducting the examinations and inspections through small openings in the top of the reactor and accessing, over great distances. So it's technically challenging."
And all this with a minister responsible agitating to get the unit back in service as quickly as possible even though it's already had to be shut down twice in a year and a half.

In fairness, of course, that's not the only possible outcome: a new isotope reactor could just flat out be unfit for service to begin with after a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away. So what's not to like?

Strong public opposition vs. weak private government

Shorter Brad Wall:

Why, of course I'll take into account any dissent that I hear against my plan to force an isotope-generating reactor on the province without the slightest bit of public consultation. But for some reason, I can't make any out over the sound of my own cheerleading.

On overheated rhetoric

Shorter National Post editorial board:

BREAKING: A single overstated phrase in a Sheila Copps column proves conclusively that everybody to the left of Ted Morton hates Canada and considers it hell on earth without any supporting evidence. We now return to our regularly-scheduled column on how human rights commissions are worse than Hitler.

Liberaservatives for Voldemort

In case there was any doubt where Republicans for Ignatieff originates (particularly in the face of the server-based evidence), one need look no further than the text on that site which comes straight from the Cons' talking points about Stephen Harper. (Exactly how many New Democrats would one expect to hear praising the fact that Harper is "charting Canada's own course" to oblivion on the international scene?) In contrast, this nicely points out the fact that actual Republicans are probably equally happy regardless of whether it's Harper or Ignatieff in charge.

Planning for failure

While Canada's political scene is abuzz with discussion about the Cons' most recent wave of reckless and chaotic spending as epitomized by the Marquee Tourism Events program, Stephen Harper is apparently determined to make sure that any future wave of stimulus is similarly rushed rather than allowing for any intelligent planning:
Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper downplayed the need for a second round of stimulus spending, as suggested by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, saying the priority should be to ensure countries are meeting their initial pledges.

"My own thought is before there's talk of additional stimulus, I would urge all leaders to focus first on making sure the stimulus that's been announced actually gets delivered," said Harper. "That's been our focus in Canada and I would encourage the same priority elsewhere."

Harper's government believes a recovery will take hold in 2010, and with the recession turning a corner, it's time for leaders to work through coordinated actions to wind down some of the extraordinary spending programs.
Now, it would be fair enough if Harper's position were simply one that the federal government should be planning for all possible contingencies. But contrasting his statement that we shouldn't even talk about additional stimulus with his government's public push for an "exit strategy" from the current round, it's clear that Harper's aim is something different entirely.

Instead, Harper's position looks to be exactly the same one which forced his government into its current panicked and ineffective stimulus package in the first place. Rather than making any effort to be prepared for any further economic downturn, he's stubbornly proclaiming that the recession which he said could never come is now over - and concurrently refusing to lay the groundwork for additional stimulus which might actually have some greater prospect of accomplishing anything positive than his government's current haphazard efforts. And it shouldn't come as much surprise if a few months down the road, we end up with an even worse excuse for a stimulus package as Harper tries to compensate for being proven wrong once again.

A theme worth repeating

Paul Wells:
While Colleague ITQ tries to make head or tail of the Ablonczy/Pride fiasco, here’s a little background on the miserably ill-conceived, comically shoddily administered Marquee Tourism Events program from which the money to Toronto Pride flowed.
In the end, as one furious Citizen columnist pointed out, this particular Marquee Tourism Event ended up producing an Event That Cannot Possibly Have Attracted Any Tourists, because one simply doesn’t wake up in, say, Cleveland and say, “You mean Terence Blanchard is in Ottawa tonight? By God, if I hurry I just might make it.”

The point of the Marquee Tourism Event, as with the veritable bazaar being run out of Canadian Heritage these days, is to buy back some of the peace and quiet the Harper government lost last year with all that unfortunate business about cuts to assorted arts programs on the eve of the federal election. That led to unpleasant electoral consequences. So this year, James Moore and assorted substitutes have been shovelling money off the back of a truck in a bid to win back the affection of people who want taxpayer money to support arts and culture. But the really big money is over at MTE, in Industry. I had an executive at one of the program’s biggest recipients tell me he was not entirely sure how to spend all the cash that had been dumped on him, because — at the risk of repeating a theme — he hadn’t been given enough time to make many intelligent decisions.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On family matters

One more side of the Diane Ablonczy demotion which doesn't seem to have received much attention yet is the potential for the incident to inflame rifts among the Cons themselves as well as confirming the party's intolerance to outside observers. And David Akin neatly wraps up plenty of internal problems in one paragraph:
More than a dozen Conservative MPs responded to questions from Canwest News Service about Trost's criticisms but most either did not want to comment or did not want to be identified. Two MPs, who requested anonymity for fear of being disciplined by the PMO, said the issue was discussed at a closed-door caucus meeting in June and that Ablonczy was criticized by several MPs about the grant.
Internal bigotry? Check. Abject fear of the leader in place of any respect for the decisions made? Check. Anonymous backbiting? Check.

So will the always-tenuous marriage of convenience between the Cons' bigot wing and their image-conscious pols be the first one to actually suffer due to GLBT pride?

This here Facebook thingamabob may just be a keeper

Not surprisingly, Noah Evanchuk's campaign for the federal NDP's nomination in Palliser is looking to build on the online support mechanisms used effectively by the Meili and Pedersen campaigns in the provincial leadership race. And all signs are positive so far - as a page which just went live last night already boasts 120 supporters and counting.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan NDP as a whole has also unveiled a new page in the last month. And for those keeping track, the NDP has accumulated 396 supporters so far - compared to only 172 for the Saskatchewan Party caucus page which has been around for months.

Update: Jason rightly points out another Saskatchewan Party group with just under 600 members - which oddly seems to be in a state of disuse compared to the caucus page with a third as many followers. But nonetheless, let's take this as a challenge: how long will it take the NDP's new page to overtake that number?


Stephen LaRose rightly notes in comments that my earlier post didn't focus on the reason for Diane Ablonczy's now-confirmed demotion. And there's certainly no doubt that to the extent Ablonczy was punished for daring to fund Toronto's Pride Parade through the Marquee Tourism Events Program which has been removed from her portfolio, that would seem to reflect the worst possible fears about the Cons' most bigoted voices having full control over the party.

But it's worth noting as well that even to the extent some other explanation is forthcoming (and the Cons' first attempt at spin is being met with due derision), there are still serious issues in the facts which the Cons have already conceded to be true. At the time of my earlier post, the odd part was the inability of Ablonczy's department to speak to what responsibilities it actually held.

And that issue is only amplified based on what's come out since. Now, by even the Cons' own account, the Harper government transferred ministerial responsibility and authority for a nine-figure program without informing the public.

Mind you, there's never been much doubt that Harper's ministers tend to lack any real freedom to make substantial decisions. But that doesn't mean they don't still bear an obligation to answer publicly for their responsibilities. And there would seem to be serious potential for fundamental breakdowns in accountability if the Harper government is actually changing those responsibilities behind the scenes and refusing to let Canadians know who's actually in charge of any given part of the federal government.

Which means that as important as the Cons' anti-gay bias is as an issue (as thoroughly documented elsewhere), the incident also highlights a separate problem with the Cons' continued disdain for responsible government. And both factors look to me to offer strong evidence that it's long past time to remove the Harper Cons from power.

In title only

Leaving aside the sheer hilarity of the appointed spokeshill for the Cons saying only that Diane Ablonczy hasn't been fired as Tourism Minister "as far as he knows", doesn't it speak volumes that Ablonczy herself is deferring to a Tony Clement staffer rather than being allowed to answer questions about whether she's still in charge?

(Edit: fixed wording.)

On outreach

One more follow-up note on last night's Douglas Park nomination meeting as discussed here: while LRT is right to note that Dwain Lingenfelter's public message hasn't changed much from the leadership campaign, it's worth noting that under his direction the party is making plenty of efforts to reach out to different groups including the blogging community. And the first indication of that can be found in Buckdog's newly-posted interview with Lingenfelter.

On turnout

LRT has already nicely covered the Regina Douglas Park nomination meeting last night where Dwain Lingenfelter was formally nominated for the upcoming by-election. But I'll take a moment to expand on one of the points reported in LRT's post.

Included in the crowd of 200 was a who's who within the NDP across the province: a strong majority of the current caucus was in attendance, along with a lengthy list of former MPs and MLAs and a strong contingent from Saskatoon featuring Saskatoon Riversdale candidate Danielle Chartier. Which means that the good news is that there's no concern at all about unity among the party's stalwarts - a fact which was reinforced by the presence of Brendan Pyle (one of Ryan Meili's Regina co-chairs) as one of Lingenfelter's nominators, as well as a reference in Lingenfelter's speech to the party's priority of achieving gender balance in the NDP's candidates and MLAs as championed by Deb Higgins in the leadership race. (And yes, Higgins was one of the MLAs in attendance.)

But there's somewhat of a flip side to that distribution of audience members. While it was undoubtedly a plus to see plenty of bigger names and out-of-riding members in attendance, it was noteworthy that the actual Douglas Park numbers seemed relatively low: only a handful of riding members moved or seconded motions (often after some prodding), and a minority of attendees raised their hands to vote when that was required.

That distribution within the crowd may be understandable given that there wasn't too much concern about a challenge to Lingenfelter, and the slightly larger numbers at the Saskatoon Riversdale meeting might reflect the fact that more members will be inclined to turn out in a riding which is seen as more likely to face a contested nomination. But I'd still think the high proportion of household names and imports to riding-level members signals that there's plenty of work to be done in developing a broader base of support to go with the top-level turnout - and that seems just as true in longtime strongholds like Regina Douglas Park as in the rural areas which Lingenfelter is rightly concerned with rebuilding.

(Edit: Revised wording of second paragraph - see comments.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nettie returns

After posting about possible Regina nominations this morning, I'd planned to deal with the situation in Saskatoon over the next few days. And the latest set of nomination notes from the Pundits' Guide include one excellent piece of news for the NDP on that front, as Nettie Wiebe is planning to take another shot at Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar:
A reader writes to say that three-time NDP candidate Nettie Wiebe is set to give it one more try in the forthcoming election. The former president of the National Farmers' Union had increased her vote share from 26% to 44% between 2004 and 2008, and came within just 262 votes (the 12th closest race of the last election) of winning the seat...

At public expense

It's no great surprise that there's more to Jim Flaherty's use of public resources to direct money toward a right-wing think tank than meets the eye. But Joe Kuchta has uncovered a few details that I wouldn't have seen coming.

In particular, there's the fact that Crowley was getting paid out of federal coffers at exactly the time when he was founding the propaganda machine which Flaherty is now pushing:
On November 7, 2006, Rob Wright, Deputy Minister of Finance, announced that Crowley had been appointed the 2006-2007 Clifford Clark Visiting Economist in the Department of Finance.
And in case there was any doubt that Crowley was in the position for the balance of 2007, Crowley's own current think tank proudly proclaims that he held the post until 2008:
Dated: 20/3/08

Halifax – Brian Lee Crowley, the founding president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), has returned to head the public policy think tank.

Crowley was seconded a year and a half ago to the country’s most prestigious economic policy advisory post in Ottawa: the Clifford Clark Visiting Economist in the federal Department of Finance.
Which makes it highly significant that he was working for the Cons' government at public expense at the time the Macdonald-Laurier Institute was officially founded:
Corporations Canada records show that the Macdonald-Laurier Institute was incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act - Part II on March 12, 2007. The directors at the time of incorporation or as indicated on the last annual summary as of March 31 of the year of filing were: Brian Lee Crowley, David McD. Mann, and Allan Gotlieb.
So to the extent Flaherty is now using his office to shill for the Institute, it wouldn't appear to be the first time public resources found their way into backing the group. Instead, Crowley set up the group while he was personally paid to work for the public.

Not surprisingly, Joe also digs up details about contracts directed toward another Crowley company, as well as donations from Crowley to the Cons. But it seems most damning that the the public isn't just paying for Flaherty to promote the Macdonald-Laurier Institute now, but apparently bore the cost of getting Crowley to set it up in the first place.

On deep benches

Since I posted last week about Noah Evanchuk's intention to seek the NDP nomination for Palliser, there's been a flurry of discussion about impending nomination possibilities. So let's take a closer look at what we might see in Regina's other ridings.

To start with, it's worth noting that at least two of the three other local ridings have strong 2008 candidates who (to my knowledge at least) haven't ruled out running again. In Regina Qu'Appelle, Janice Bernier held onto the 32% share of the vote won by former MP Lorne Nystrom in the previous two elections, and won nothing but accolades as a committed and adept campaigner. And in my home riding of Wascana, Stephen Moore likewise earned nothing but praise personally in holding the NDP's share of the vote at 15% despite a fevered battle between the Libs and Cons over Ralph Goodale's riding.

I'll assume for the moment that Fred Kress won't take another shot at Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre after stepping in at the last minute for Moe Kovatch in 2008. But even there, his success in similarly holding the NDP's share of the vote - despite his starting late, and facing a Liberal star candidate who crashed and burned - should make him a strong possibility if he does want to run again.

From that starting point, the question is how much turnover there might be before the next set of nominations. And more than a few people are tossing out suggestions.

Yens Pedersen in Regina Qu'Appelle? Doubtful, as everything I've heard suggests that he'll stick to the provincial scene, and I'd expect him to want to run in either a riding with a strong prospect of success or one where coming up short won't be seen as a mark against him. (In that respect, in an ideal scenario where the NDP made the federal scene its sole priority, it might be interesting if Pedersen were to say "yes" to Wascana: would a high-profile three-way race finally push Goodale to his tipping point, or even open the door for him to be beaten without going voluntarily?)

"Meili folks" in Regina Qu'Appelle and Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre? While I don't see Buckdog's post as actually making this suggestion, it could reenergize the party's Regina base in a hurry. That said, though, I wonder whether the Meili movement might be best focused on a couple of adjacent ridings rather than spreading itself into most or all of the ridings - allowing for the Meili supporters to put in a concentrated effort in the west or south of Regina, while freeing up the NDP's existing support base to work the other two ridings.

Putting all of the above together, the ideal scenario based on the names and ideas now in play might be something along the lines of Evanchuk in Palliser, another Meili stalwart in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, and Bernier and Moore each taking a second shot at their respective ridings. But there's every possibility that other top candidates might surface from among Dwain Lingenfelter's personal connections, or be brought in thanks to the federal party's increased organizing efforts.

The question then would be how to fit that kind of talent into an already-strong slate. Which, needless to say, is not a bad problem for the NDP to face going into the next federal campaign - and hopefully it's one that will only get more complicated next time out thanks to the addition of incumbencies to the mix.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

On rightthink

It shouldn't come as much surprise that Jim Flaherty's misuse of public resources to push money toward a corporatist think tank is far from the Cons' only recent propaganda move. So here are a couple of other developments worth noting.

First, the Cons are planning a "monument for the victims of Communism" - with the National Post of course cheerleading and demanding that they increase the proposed scope, rather than recognizing the slightest reason for concern at the state effectively declaring war on an idea.

And as already noted elsewhere, the Cons have rewritten federal websites to delete positive references to Vietnam-era draft dodgers and war resisters. Which probably makes a lot more sense as a matter of deleting any history which calls into question the view that anything and everything was justified to fight the Commies, rather than a legal strategy against current Iraq resisters.

Update: Dr. Dawg, Chrystal and Jennifer have more.

(h/t to @tidewaters on Twitter.)

On missed opportunities

According to the CP, Conservative MPs are rushing to take responsibility for sponsoring bills originating in the Senate in order to control their passage (or lack thereof) through the House of Commons. And the result is that even on bills like Mac Harb's proposed seal-hunt ban which the Cons spent months bashing and which didn't even find a seconder in the Senate, it's the Cons alone who have attached the names of actual elected officials as formal supporters.

Now, it would seem to me that there's an obvious response available to the Libs which would both expose the tactic and create substantial public leverage against the Cons. For each controversial bill already put forward, the simple answer would be to focus attention on the Cons' sponsor as supporting any the bill and let that MP explain to his or her constituents how the connection is only the result of the Cons gaming the system. And for an added bonus, the next step would be to put forward some bills designed to make the Cons squirm to see if they're reckless enough to keep rushing to sponsor the Libs' Senate legislation as a procedural tactic.

Instead, the Libs' response has release a Dion-style complaint that it's all unfair. Which both fails completely to attach any cost to what Con MPs have done already, and gives the (correct) impression that the Cons are running circles around the Libs when it comes to turning the rules of procedure to their advantage. And that outcome only figures to reinforce the Libs' weakness when it comes to dealing with Harper's political tactics.

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

The first game of the season was definitely a positive one for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who put a few of my worries to rest while beating one of the team's Western rivals. But while the 'Riders did what they needed to win on Friday, let's take a look at what the opener might say about the team's chances later on.

The main story in coverage of the B.C. game was the 'Riders' defence, and with good reason. So much for my theories that Omarr Morgan may have lost the quickness to disrupt an opponent's passing game or that Stevie Baggs might not hold his own on the end, as the two led a dominating performance featuring multiple interceptions and fumble recoveries to go with a jaw-dropping 9 quarterback sacks.

But there's one serious problem with trying to read too much into the 'Riders' defensive performance. By choice early in the game and out of necessity following Ian Smart's injury (leaving them only a banged-up Martell Mallett in his first CFL game at running back), the Lions effectively abandoned any attempt to run the ball - despite the fact that they were very successful when they tried, with their running backs averaging a combined 9.3 yards per carry.

Of course, the 'Riders could only defend against the offence facing them, and definitely rose to the challenge against the Lions. But Friday's game doesn't do anything to answer the questions surrounding the team's rush defence. And it stands to reason that the pass rush will have to be somewhat less aggressive when the 'Riders need to make adjustments in response to a team which sticks with the run.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan offence had serious turnover problems of its own throughout the game, leading to a bizarre disconnect where a team with 388 yards of offence didn't score a single touchdown on a series longer than 29 yards due primarily to turnovers at the end of what would have been long drives. But the good news is that there doesn't seem to be much about its performance that can't be repeated and improved as the season goes on.

In particular, while Darien Durant showed some inexperience in serving up three interceptions and two fumbles, he also managed to engineer plenty of impressive results - including five passing plays of 30+ yards to three different receivers. And while he'll need to work on ball control and consistency, those would figure to develop naturally as he gets more time at the controls. Though a healthier offensive line would certainly help, as the 'Riders finally seemed to hit their breaking point when Belton Johnson went down against B.C.

As for Durant's playmakers, running back Hugh Charles also showed his inexperience at times but had a few breakout plays of his own. And the receiving corps was stellar: while Weston Dressler was the obvious box-score standout, nearly every ball which was anything close to catchable seemed to find its way into the receiver's hands (which the 'Riders have seldom been able to take for granted in the past, and the Lions couldn't count on in this game). So while wasn't yet in top form, it gave every indication that it's capable of getting there as the season develops.

Finally, the special teams were largely nondescript aside from one blocked Jamie Boreham punt. Boreham and Luca Congi were otherwise solid, and while returner Eric Morris didn't manage to break any returns and may have trouble doing so as long as he relies on spin moves rather than being able to build up speed, he took good care of the ball and didn't do anything to hurt the team.

In sum, the 'Riders probably can't claim to have been fully tested on defence and aren't yet ready to get a top-of-the-class grade on offence. But in addition to gutting out a win, the team did show hints that it has room to improve as the season goes on - and particularly if the offence can move toward the upside it showed in the first game while cutting down on its giveaways, the 'Riders may well be on track to place near the top of the West.