Saturday, May 29, 2010


Needless to say, it's shocking that anybody would have the nerve to suggest using the combined votes of the majority of MPs as leverage to ensure that the Harper Cons can't impose their dumpster budget on the country. And this is what makes Jack Layton a much less Serious(TM) leader than Michael Ignatieff.

Update: Though Impolitical does have a point: if Layton wanted to signal his desire to cooperate with Ignatieff, clearly he'd have been better off launching a dishonest ad campaign against him.

The reviews are in

While B.C.'s successful HST petition and rumoured recall campaign have understandably focused attention at the provincial level, Charlie Smith nicely summarizes the effect that the continued debate over the HST might have on federal politics:
After the 1993 federal election, McGill University political scientist Elizabeth Gidengil demonstrated that the federal NDP lost much of its support to the Reform Party, which was seen as the party of protest that appealed to populist voters.

It was a counterintuitive argument because the Reform Party was adamantly right wing, whereas the NDP was a left-wing party. But in their heyday, each embodied the sense that they were against corporate and government elites who were trying to shove unpopular policies down the public's throat.

With their support for the HST, the Harper Conservatives have yielded this ground to NDP Leader Jack Layton, who is a shrewd observer of political trends.

Don't underestimate the NDP in the next election. With his opposition to the HST, Layton just might outlast both Harper and Ignatieff as a federal party leader.

In other news about Con transparency...

After negotiating down an order to produce Afghanistan torture documents in full to a process allowing them to be examined by a small group of MPs under an oath of confidentiality, the Cons are once again looking for excuses to declare unilaterally that their choice of documents can't even be examined by the group that's sworn to secrecy.

Needless to say, the only reasonable opposition response would be to say that if the Cons are planning to withhold documents through the agreed process, then full enforcement of the original order is back on the table. But more likely the sneak attack will be quietly removed (or worse yet, used as the basis for other concessions to the Cons), and the lesson about Con "cooperation" once again forgotten.

(Edit: fixed wording, added parenthetical.)

Double standards and cover-ups

Following up on yesterday's post, I'll offer one final note about Jason Kenney's lies about calling political staffers before Parliamentary committees. And this is a factor that should be absolutely devastating toward the Cons' base to the extent any reality manages to reach them.

Even today, the Cons' reflexive response to any concern about their ethics in government is to shriek "Adscam!", which their supporters take as reason enough to forgive and forget all Con sins in favour of a round of Lib-bashing.

But Kenney's earlier speech in Parliament about the need to call staffers as witnesses of course involved...Adscam. Which means that the Cons' new policy would serve to prevent Parliament from carrying out some of the same steps which were pursued to expose the Libs' wrongdoing.

As a result, when the Cons say "Adscam" now, it should only serve as a reminder that if their new-found principles in government had applied while they were in opposition, Adscam itself might have been swept under the rug. And that would seem to establish conclusively that the Cons are no less a party of double standards and cover-ups than their predecessors in office - not to mention raising questions about what kind of misuse of public resources they're trying to hide.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Musical interlude

Esthero - Heaven Sent

Grassroots growing

In case there was any doubt that it's still possible to get large numbers of people involved in a political effort, the B.C. HST petition should put that to rest - having reached the required threshold of obtaining signatures from 10 per cent of the voters in every single one of B.C.'s provincial ridings with over a month to spare.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the petition will manage to force a near-term change in policy, government or both. But the fact that it's cleared what was once seen as an insurmountable hurdle should signal that it's not a good idea to bet against the anti-HST movement - and provide a positive example for efforts to get citizens engaged on other issues as well.


I'll be hoping to see the site expand from its current content-distribution format to build links between concerned citizens as well. But for those who haven't yet found their way to SGEU's If You Love Saskatchewan site, stop by and lend some heart to the effort to save and strengthen our province's public services.

(Edit: fixed labels.)

Can't be trusted

Following up on Jason Kenney's lies about never asking political staffers to testify while in opposition, let's take a somewhat closer look at the factors (aside from the fact that it's been caught on tape) makes this particular dishonesty so damaging compared to the Cons' usual garden-variety lies.

The first point worth noting is that Kenney doesn't simply present his false version of history in the Cons' usual style of idly reciting talking points or provoking an obviously fabricated shouting match. Instead, he manages to summon plenty of apparent emotion and outrage in support of his lies.

And that's only amplified by the second point, which is that Kenney's Power Play appearance includes plenty of the types of personal details (e.g. about his own aggressiveness) and even seeming attempts to remember past events which would normally provide some indication of genuine recall as opposed to fabrication. Rather than simply reciting a party-based message, his words are tied to a personalized time frame and his own supposed memory of his time in opposition:
I was in Parliament as an opposition member for nine or ten years, and I was a pretty aggressive opposition member. I don't ever recall, in that decade, current political staff members of the government being called before committees to testify.
Now, it's one thing to be caught giving false information when there's some argument to be made that a minister was simply misinformed about something beyond his or her control. And that tends to be the territory where the Cons normally operate, bolstered by their strategy of covering up any information that would indicate what ministers actually knew at the time they answer a particular question.

But it's another matter entirely to be caught saying with the fullest possible conviction that one's own documented history never happened - having had one's fake sincerity laid bare for all to see. And that's where Kenney now stands.

Which is to say that Kenney has effectively been drained of all credibility. He can't pretend to speak with passion on anything, or to have any useful content to offer from his personal experience, because he's shown himself to be able to put on a blatantly false facade in both of those areas.

Of course, the Cons generally consider that kind of performance to be grounds for promotion rather than reason for concern. And they still get taken far too seriously on far too many subjects despite their track record of dishonesty. But the gap between what Canadians can see with their own eyes and what the Cons pretend to passionately recall and believe is bound to reach the point where Harper and his spokesparrots are answered with nothing but derision and mistrust - and the sooner that response becomes the norm, the better.

Well said

Joe Kuchta takes full advantage of a chance to rebut a poorly-informed Star-Phoenix editorial on the WEPA, boiling down both what the agreement actually does and how dishonestly it's been peddled:
Those who claim the new agreement is not TILMA are not being entirely honest. The format is exactly the same and the content nearly identical. The new agreement retains the worst elements of TILMA, such as the right of private parties to challenge government entities. The New West pact provides for financial penalties of up to $5 million if a government is found to be non-compliant with its obligations.

Agreements like TILMA and the New West Partnership are meant to pressure governments to reduce standards and regulations to the lowest common denominator or abandon them altogether. They are by intent, design and structure no more than instruments for deregulation.

The reviews are in

Plenty of voices are chiming on the Cons' billion-dollar G8/G20 boondoggle - and none looks to be buying the Cons' spin for a second. Here's Don Martin with his own list of what could have been funded with the Cons' wasted billion:
No amount of righteous government bluster about living in post-9/11 protection paranoia, last week's bank firebombing in Ottawa or the precedent of hosting two back-to-back summits can explain how an $18-million security tab for the G20 in Pittsburgh last September, which involved 4,000 police, must balloon to a billion dollars in Toronto requiring 10,000 cops on the ground.

This is Canada, not Kandahar. In a London that has seen subway and bus terrorist bombings, the official security tab for its G20 gathering last March was $30-million.
The tab for this security overkill could cover a third of the estimated international cost for the African family planning initiative, or pay two-thirds of Canada's 10-year humanitarian assistance program in Afghanistan.

A government that still hasn't delivered on its promise to beef up police forces could hire 2,500 officers for five years, buy a million advanced Tasers, pay a year's salary for 23,000 soldiers, procure a total of 366 LAVs or purchase five Black Hawk helicopters for every hour the leaders are yakking.
Jeffrey Simpson focuses on the Cons' needless siege mentality:
This siege mentality has now been used in preparing for the G8 and G20, with everyone fearing some major terrorist attack against the leaders, or against one of them. A corner of Muskoka is being turned into a militarized zone, downtown Toronto shut off, baseball games moved out of town, thousands of police and security agents mobilized, to say nothing of helicopters, planes and, for all we know, submarines in Lake Ontario.

The siege mentality then joins the explosion of staff that now accompany leaders to such events to create events of nightmarish bureaucracy. Canadians officials have been camped out in Toronto for almost two months working on the myriad of logistical details to make this extravaganza happen.

The whole thing is over the top and way too expensive for three days that bid fair to be a non-event in substance.
Alec Bruce nicely boils down the issue with a comparison to family expenses:
There is something almost poignant about federal office holders who believe they have to periodically buy their way into the good books of the international community. It's a little like watching a hardscrabble kid-made-good, but from the wrong side of town, cutting a fat cheque to a country club.

Oh, he's a member, alright. But, he'll never really belong.

Meanwhile the kids stay home wondering whether daddy's super-ego will forever eclipse their own social, educational and employment aspirations as the household debt mounts and the deficit between fond ambition and brutal reality widens.
And the Star features several strong letters to the editor, including this gem from David Hague:
If I challenged anyone to spend $1 billion with the proviso that once the money was spent there can be no evidence of the expenditure, the winner of the challenge would probably have hosted a G20 summit. Once the summit is over the billion dollars will have evaporated. Oh well no big deal as we just borrow the money from our children and grandchildren and let them pay the bill.

A moratorium on logic

Shorter Jim Prentice:

If BP's disastrous spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taught us anything, it's that we can consider offshore drilling to be risk-free everywhere except the Arctic.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shocking. Absolutely shocking.

No, not the fact that Jason Kenney lies:

But it's remarkable that it's only now that people are rightfully noticing what's been obvious for ages.

(Edit: added links, fixed formatting.)

Wasted breath

Shorter Kevin Carmichael:

If you assume that the G20 is the lone organization whose discussions can possibly result in improvements to the global economy, then it's worth any amount of money to keep it running smoothly. And it's not as if anybody's standing in the way of consensus on further progress, right?

By way of analogy

Following up on this morning's post about Tony Clement's dishonest attempt to pretend that a Canadian DMCA would somehow help the people whose choices would be limited by new Con legislation, let's consider briefly whether there are any other areas of public policy where the Cons might want to eventually follow Clement's approach.

So where else might there be...
...a current vacuum of federal law resulting from past court decisions...
...leading to choices being made in the absence of any enforcement of outside values on individuals...
...raising an opportunity for the Cons to argue that they need to pass new legislation to officially sanction those choices...
...and concurrently allowing the Cons to use the "need" as an excuse to impose limits on personal freedom of choice where none currently exist?

Not that I have any such areas in mind, of course. But let's just say it's worth being careful about letting Clement's form of argument go unopposed on copyright lest it turn up again.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

I suppose that works too

I'd still think that the best possible comparison for the Cons' ridiculous billion-dollar G8 and G20 expenses is the amount of democratic participation we could fund at home for the same amount of money - linking the amount of money spent on foreign politicians to a domestic equivalent, and providing a counterattack against what's going to be one of the Cons' key attack lines in the next election campaign. But the NDP's list - with more of a focus on obvious policy impacts - is worth a look as well to see just how much money the Cons are frittering away.

On false confessions

Lest there be any doubt based on the Cons' track record, if Tony Clement thought he was in any real legal jeopardy over format-shifted content, he'd have denied the very existence of iPods, blamed a random staffer for transferring the music without his knowledge, claimed that the Canada Evidence Act and national security interests actually require him to have his favourite music available in case of an emergency, and started a smear campaign and lawsuit against Thomas Edison claiming that the recording of music is all a conspiracy against his party. So take his pathetic attempt to soften the ground for the Cons' impending DMCA for what it is.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Failure in action

Thomas Walkom's evisceration of the Libs' ineffectiveness has received plenty of well-deserved attention. But why settle for a column pointing out the Libs' ineffectiveness when we can see it being lived out before our eyes?

As I've noted before, the Cons have managed to make themselves look silly and isolate themselves internationally as the lone voice fighting a coordinated tax to make the financial industry responsible for the costs of insuring against its own failures. Which would seem to make for an ideal point of contrast for any competent opposition party.

So naturally, here's the Libs' position:
"I think it's a diversionary tactic to take attention away from subjects they regard as unpleasant on which the Harper government has been isolated," said Liberal Finance critic John McCallum. He did, however, say he also opposed a bank tax.
That's right: given a chance to paint the Cons as irresponsibly standing in the way of global financial stability, the Libs...are quibbling about process while agreeing with the Cons in substance.

Which hints at another reason why they've been missing in action on the Cons' omnibus bills and other manipulations of government. For all the bluster in both directions, there just isn't much difference between the Libs and the Cons when it counts - even when that leaves them united arguing against the world.

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Once again, a few odds and ends which I haven't had a chance to comment on in a full post...

- The issue of Afghanistan torture documents seems to have mostly faded away since a deal was reached in Parliament. But it's worth keeping in mind the uncertainty as to whether the documents provided to the reviewing committee will actually include all the material that matters. And considering that the Cons fought for months against a binding order, there's little reason to think they'll act in good faith now if there's any chance to keep damning evidence under wraps.

- There's been plenty of talk about possible cooperation among the federal opposition parties, with a strong assumption that the talk has to find its way upward from the grassroots. Which makes for an interesting comparison to what's going on in Alberta, where the Libs have become the first party to nominally vote for some cooperation with other parties - even though the NDP's members had already spoken to say they weren't interested.

- It sounds damaging enough to point out that the Cons are actively monitoring any unfavourable expressions of opinion online. But let's take it a step further: Stephen Harper wants to trample on your happiness since it threatens his government.

- After taking an early lead in the "most blindingly orange website" contest with fellow Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre candidate Brian Sklar, Don Hansen has apparently conceded that race in favour of a more sleek and readable site. You can express your gratitude (or disappointment) at a meet-and-greet this Friday.

- Finally, the Cons seem to be trying to flood Canada's limited number of information experts with regressive legislation in hopes that something will sneak by unanswered. Fortunately, Michael Geist is up to the task of taking them to task on copyright and privacy protection alike.

The reviews are in

Murray Mandryk rightly calls out the Sask Party for politicizing labour negotiations, and places the blame for the resulting fallout where it belongs:
What is bothering many workers, however, is articulated in the CUPE/SGEU/SEIU (Service Employees International Union) newspaper ads you saw on the weekend that talk about SAHO and the government "playing favourites" by "giving some health-care workers better treatment than others."

One of the reasons the Sask. Party wanted SUN (the public sector union with the best public image) on its side going into the 2007 election was the pure political one of softening the Sask. Party's image with urban voters and women. More problematic was the Sask. Party government's eagerness to cement this relationship with its extraordinarily generous offer to SUN.

Simply put, the government stuck its nose in the SUN negotiations, resulting in SAHO doing the political bidding of the Sask. Party rather than doing its job of getting the best possible deal for the Saskatchewan taxpayers.

Now, the other health-care unions are miffed and refusing to settle and SAHO is again doing the political bidding of the Sask. Party by cutting off negotiations and embarking on the current campaign to convince us the wage offers are fair and equitable.

Perhaps, the offers are fair and equitable, but the treatment of the other unions isn't.

Well said

John Moore reminds us of the purpose for the Cons' selective presentation of carefully-staged images of Stephen Harper, as the media is far too readily being used to distract from the reality of who currently occupies 24 Sussex:
What’s being sold, as so often happens in TV advertising, is the aura that surrounds the product, not the merits of it. And it is being deftly done. The trick in selling a politician and his policies on TV is to offering a commercial that looks like a news story. And in the instance of the rock ’n’ roll dad, what Our Glorious Leader’s handlers are doing is taken from the Ronald Reagan era in U.S. politics – allowing the cameras to film the leader often in his R&R time to show he’s a regular guy, not a professional politician.

We all know, intuitively, that this is a marketing campaign. We all know intuitively that it is timed to distract from the reactionary, hard-line, ideological PM who emerged through his position on maternal health and the abortion issue. We all know that the scary reactionary is being softened into a regular dad with a missus mad about the gardening.

While we know it intuitively, it needs to be said, aloud and often. That short piece of media analysis on Canada AM was one of the very few times recently when the selling of Our Glorious Leader was laid bare.

On spending decisions

There's plenty of justified outrage about the price tag for the Cons' choice of G8 and G20 venues. But let's put the number in context by comparing it to the Cons' plan to defund democracy in Canada.

For the cost of a few days worth of international photo-ops where Harper and company actually plan to hold up most meaningful discussions, we could afford 30 years of the per-vote party funding that the Cons want to slash. So what do Canadians think is a better use of their tax money: providing a temporary elite international forum where their own government will try to ensure that nothing much gets done, or decades worth of stable funding to ensure democratic diversity in Canada?

On openness

With talk about transparency for MP expenses dominating the federal scene for the past few weeks, it was inevitable that similar questions would start to get asked at the provincial level. And it's a huge plus to see the Saskatchewan NDP take a stand in favour of improved disclosure from the start, particularly with the Sask Party going down the route of its federal cousins by making a fool of itself trying to defend the status quo.

Here's the Sask Party's response to a question about disclosure of caucus expenses:
Morgan, the (Sask Party) government's justice minister, struggled to explain why (caucus funding) has remained hidden over the years even while transparency has increased on other aspects of provincial spending.

He suggested details of caucus spending would provide information to political opponents and raise questions about "motives."

"I think by its nature, caucus is . . . very reluctant to release information that they feel could effect their ability to deal with issues in the house when they want to bring things up," said Morgan.
Sask Party. Hiding. Questionable motives. Can't deal openly with issues. Check.

In contrast, the NDP has nothing to hide, and is willing to disclose its caucus spending accordingly:
But (NDP MLA Kevin) Yates said he could not think of any aspect of caucus spending that would be problematic to release publicly.

He said it was probably time for the board of internal economy to review all rules around expenditure and disclosure.
Needless to say, that looks to be a difficult position for the Sask Party to argue against. So thanks to the Saskatchewan NDP, we should be well on our way toward improved disclosure on the provincial level without the waiting game being played federally - at least, unless the Sask Party thinks it'll do itself more damage by letting the truth get out than by arguing alone for keeping the public in the dark.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Off message

I should have known there would be a twist to make the Cons' latest attack on accountability even worse. And sure enough, they unveiled a doozy this morning: apparently "ministerial responsibility" means having their choice of uninformed ministers answer questions about departments or decisions which have nothing to do with their knowledge or authority.

But while the Cons have surely managed to offer up a creative new form of unaccountability, I have to wonder whether the messaging around it really fits what they're trying to get across. Does a party whose base is committed to personal responsibility actually think that there's no problem with making "ministerial responsibility" referable only to a cabinet hive-mind? And is Jay Hill's extended waaambulance ride the best pitch for a party which normally tries to portray itself as strong and in control?

A test of responsibility

Kady has already pointed out one of the obvious corollaries if the Cons had any actual belief in ministerial responsibility, as Stephen Harper would then be responsible to explain and justify the policy personally rather than forcing the likes of Dimitri Soudas to serve as the public face of an anti-accountability strategy. But let's note that there are other areas where it'll be easy to test the Cons' commitment to the principle.

For example, a government actually intending to encourage ministerial responsibility would have to allow the minister responsible to answer the opposition's questions about any matter within the scope of departmental responsibility - and to actually discuss what the department is doing, rather than attacking the questioner or changing the subject in accordance with centrally-driven talking points. So will we see the Cons abandon their strategy of sending up the likes of John Baird to serve as all-purpose spokesparrots in favour of having ministers actually allow themselves to be held to account?

This is where we pause for laughter.

On strategic planning

I'll agree generally with Brian Topp's take on the NDP's best strategy for the near future now that the idea of a coalition is receiving some more public discussion. But it's worth pointing out one crucial difference between today and 2008.

Back then, all indications are that the NDP was the lone party with anything resembling a plan for a coalition. And the Libs' lack of advance planning presumably played a substantial role in their being unprepared to discuss a coalition immediately after the election, or to publicly defend one following Deficit Jim Flaherty's subsequent FU.

Now, there may not be much reason to think a formal agreement is in the cards in advance of any election - and indeed neither party has expressed much apparent interest in any pre-election non-aggression pact. But the fact that the Libs' elders have already negotiated one coalition agreement and are keeping up high-level talks about future possibilities would seem to ensure that they won't be caught completely off guard when the opportunity arises again. And that can only help the prospects of a coalition developing and succeeding after an election - even if the campaign looks an awful lot like the one that preceded it.

Surprise, surprise

Let's see how the first test of the Cons' New Era of Ministerial Accountability is working out:
Ms. Oda’s spokeswoman, Jessica Fletcher, said in a e-mail that the minister wouldn't comment on the contents of the briefing notes.

Requests for an interview with CIDA representatives went unanswered.
But don't worry: the Cons will surely find their commitment to ministerial responsibility again just in time for the next photo op.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just wondering...

...but since nobody seems to have thought to ask even as Brad Wall has used it as his pretext for a trip to China, there are a couple of questions crying out for answers about the Wall government's relationship with B.C. and Alberta.

If the goal in establishing a "partnership" is simply to brand Western Canada's resources on a regional basis in travelling abroad, then why in the world has membership in the club been limited to those provinces willing to sign away their right to democratic government? And isn't it downright negligent of the Campbell, Stelmach and Wall to have refused to invite, say, Manitoba to participate as well if the primary goal involves building links for the region?

A line of spin is born

The Hill Times previews what's sure to be the Cons' argument about the role of the Governor General just as soon as they've had the chance to install their nominee in the role:
Meanwhile, as the possibility of the Liberals winning the most seats in Parliament in the next election becomes more and more remote, many in the party are saying they are more open to the possibility of forming a coalition with the NDP.

"What they've decided to do [in the U.K.] is exactly what I think we should be doing in Canada, everyday in the House of Commons," said Mr. McGuinty. "We should be working together to make sure we put the interests of the Canadian people first above all else."

A coalition government agreement would require the consent of the Governor General, however, and there is speculation Mr. Harper will name a replacement for the current GG by July 1.
Needless to say, the proper response is that despite the unfortunate precedent set in 2008, the GG doesn't have the authority to withhold consent to a coalition government approved by the majority in the House of Commons.

But it shouldn't come as much surprise if the Cons are setting themselves up to argue otherwise. And any NDP and Lib supporters trying to lay the groundwork for a coalition will need to make sure the Cons can't once again pretend to own some presidential entitlement to stay in office after losing the confidence of the House.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

On limited rulings

Dr. Dawg is right to note that the Cons have apparently drawn their latest anti-accountability strategy from the words of the ruling on Afghnistan torture documents which they once denounced. And there's certainly a lesson there for Peter Milliken and anybody else who may have to decide about any future Con argument as to the dangers of attempting to offer the Cons any rhetorical middle ground.

But it's worth noting that Milliken doesn't say for a second that committees can't seek answers from political staffers - only that staffers may face some conflicting pressures if they see themselves as bound primarily by their ministerial loyalties, and that committees should be willing to recognize limits on what a staffer is entitled to say where a particular answer might reveal advice to a minister. And that issue is discussed as a matter of what committees should do as a best practice, not a limit on what they have the authority to do.

Of course, the Cons are all too eager to eliminate any trace of context from Milliken's words in order to suggest that no staffer should ever testify about anything. But Milliken's ruling is clear that any reason for caution is based solely on the issue of whether a staffer's testimony might disclose advice. And that leaves no reason for committees to be shy about having staffers testify as to facts or decisions made at the staffer's level, nor for the Cons to launch an assault on the authority of committees to call their choice of witnesses.

Pop quiz

Here's the NDP's readily-available public position on MP expense audits since last week:
Based on public feedback I feel confident the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) will consider further discussion on this issue, reflecting public concerns, to seek a mutually agreeable solution to the auditing of MP expenses.

I am certainly not opposed to having the BOIE continue the dialogue with the Auditor General to improve public scrutiny of MP expenses
Today's assignment: explain how the above passage results in the NDP being classified as "officially opposed to the Auditor-General's request" in comparison to two other parties also calling for "further discussion" between the A-G and the BOIE. And for bonus marks, explain how the NDP's agreement with the Libs' position constitutes evidence of some kind of backroom deal with the Cons.

Now, it might seem ridiculous to try to distort reality so painfully. But your future in Canada's corporate media may depend on it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Under cover of cynicism

Following up on this morning's post, it wouldn't be at all surprising if at least part of the Cons' goal in announcing their new policy of full executive control over answers to Parliamentary committees is to make use of the aura of "they're all the same" surrounding the issue of MP expense audits to try to grab a bit more room for the government to operate outside the public eye. But that should only create an incentive for both the NDP and the Libs to push for accountability in both areas, while leaving Harper and his party as the lone group arguing for secrecy.

Just so we're clear...

The Cons' new policy is that all committee questions must be directed toward the lone group of people who can't be subpoenaed to testify. So all answers will be granted solely at the Cons' convenience.

And when cabinet ministers do deign to appear, they'll be free to answer that all decisions were made at lower levels, with the staffers responsible under strict orders not to provide any more information.

If there was any reason at all to think the opposition parties could keep a united front favouring even the most basic accountability, it should be about the easiest win possible to shut the Cons down by continuing to require that information be provided from the staffer level. But at this point, I'm not optimistic.

And now, a rebuttal from the Conscience-Free Party of Canada

Shorter Tim Powers:

Principles? Values? Conscience? It's an insult to suggest such trivialities could have a place in motivating political action. Truly, the only valid principle is that politics must include none at all - and I'm proud to have helped the Cons live up to that vision.