Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cabinet experience: Saskatchewan

As a follow-up to this post, here's a quick look at Saskatchewan NDP cabinet members (under Romanow and Calvert) who could conceivably run federally. (From the Blakeney era I'm not sure that anybody besides Elwood Cowley, William Knight or Don Mitchell is young enough to realistically run again, though I'd be curious to see what would happen if Blakeney himself took a shot.)
I'm working from some very rough bios, so any added information would be of use.

- Doug Anguish, MP (1980-1984, lost election), MLA (1986-1996, resigned), Minister of Energy and Mines, then Minister of Labour. Now an entrepreneur residing in Calgary (at last notice). Can't say that I know much about him, and from all indications he's thoroughly involved in the business world now...which would make him unlikely to run, but also a great addition if he did.
- Judy Bradley, MLA (1991-1999, lost election), Minister for Highways and Transportation and Minister for the Status of Women. At last notice teaching in Milestone, SK.
- Dwain Lingenfelter, MLA (1978-1986, lost election; 1988-2000, resigned), portfolios included Deputy Premier and House Leader. Now an oil executive, would be a great name...but if he wanted to be in politics he'd be Premier right now.
- Janice MacKinnon, MLA (1991-2001, resigned), portfolios included Finance Minister. Now a professor and author, she's been rumoured to run in several recent elections but has rebuffed advances.
- Jim Melenchuk, MLA (1999-2003, lost election), Minister of Education then Minister of Finance. A former Saskatchewan Liberal who formed a coalition with the NDP then crossed the floor. Party bona fides are uncertain, and I'm not sure what he's up to now.
- Bob Mitchell, MLA (1986-1999, resigned), Minister of Justice and other posts. Not sure where he is now, but have to doubt whether he'd be interested and he may not be the best example of Cabinet experience (as Minister of Justice he released the name of a young offender on a radio show).
- Ron Osika, MLA (1995-2003, lost election), Speaker of the House and other posts. Tons of legislative experience, but likely wouldn't fit terribly well with the federal NDP (he was another Liberal defector, and in fact ran for a federal Reform nomination in '93).
- Roy Romanow, MLA (1967-1982, lost election; 1986-2001, resigned), Premier (and of course Royal Commissioner on Health). Would love to see it happen, but it probably won't.
- Ned Shillington, MLA (1975-1999, resigned), assorted posts including deputy House Leader. At last notice a consultant in Calgary.
- Louise Simard, MLA (1986-1995, resigned), Minister of Health and Minister for the Status of Women. Now CEO of British Columbia's health umbrella organization after holding a similar role in Saskatchewan. File under "great candidate, but too busy elsewhere".
- Ed Tchorzewski, MLA (1971-1982, lost election; 1985-1999, resigned), Minister of Finance among other posts. Here's the one we're looking for: he was the Finance Minister who balanced the budget in '93, and has recently served as federal NDP president, chief of staff to Alexa McDonough and a special advisor to Lorne Calvert. Might be the second-best name after Romanow, and he's still involved in politics. Plus isn't there an upcoming vacancy in the "senior member and fountain of knowledge named Ed" department?

Thus ends the list. I'm not sure that there's one person on here who's actually interested in running, but there are some who could go a long way to proving that an NDP ideology can fit with a track record of good management.

Cabinet experience

A very interesting discussion between Greg and some commenters on the current status of the NDP. The most interesting point to me is that the main objection to the NDP's forming government seems to be a lack of experience in power, rather than any profound objection to party policy.

While I agree with Josh's E-Group post that there isn't a large experience gap between the NDP and the Cons, it would be a plus if we had a few more MPs with governing experience. With that in mind, which past or current provincial cabinet ministers might be interested in running for the federal NDP, particularly if it seems to have a legitimate chance to form the government?

For the moment I simply toss out the question without having much by way of an answer; Saskatchewan obviously can't spare a single MLA at the moment, and I doubt the previous set of cabinet ministers (Romanow? Lingenfelter? MacKinnon?) is coming back to politics anytime soon.

(Edited to add title.)

Middle ground

For those who find the news too negative, some welcome relief:
Two months ago, the Muslim lawyer from the biblical town of Nazareth took it upon himself to do what no Arab has ever before dared — he launched a museum dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.
As museums go, it isn't much. Working with a little help from Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Mahameed transformed the waiting room of his law office into an abbreviated yet highly disturbing and historically accurate gallery of Jewish suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
But as symbols go, Mahameed's efforts have been hailed as a watershed moment in Israeli-Arab relations. In a conflict that trades on mutual exclusion, perceptions of hatred and the denial of pain other than one's own, he appears to have risen above it all.

Not much to add, other than that this kind of empathy is far too often lacking in public discourse. Kudos to Khaled Kasab Mahameed, and to the Star for covering the story.

You're with us or you're with the pirates!

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, in the midst of trade discussions with China:
Gutierrez said earlier this week it was the global trade in fake and pirated goods, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says costs the American economy $250 billion each year, that was the top issue bedevilling trade ties.
"Intellectual property rights violations are a crime and we don't believe we should be negotiating crimes with our trading partners."

Just so we're clear, Gutierrez's position in sum:
Intellectual property is the most important trade issue facing the U.S. and China.
And because it's such an important issue, the U.S. doesn't want to talk about it.
Isn't diplomacy beautiful?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Sticking to the vital issues

I'm not sure if anybody keeps track of the most pointless use of the floor in Parliament, but we have a serious contender here.
Conservative Maurice Vellacott used his member's statement yesterday to argue that Paul Henderson should be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada(!) for his goal in the 1972 Summit Series.
So what factors make for a complete waste of time? A few suggestions here, and Vellacott's statement is virtually unmatched in all of them.
(1) Is the issue utterly irrelevant to constituents? Check.
(2) Is it a dated issue which could have been brought up at any number of times before the present session? Uhhuh.
(3) Does it demand action that the House has no authority to take? That it does.
Of course, I'm open to nominations for more useless statements. But this has to at least make the shortlist.

Friday news dump

This timing should come as no surprise:
The U.S. Pentagon confirmed Friday a list of abuses involving the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, by American personnel at Guantanamo Bay, but said the incidents were relatively minor...(The latest confirmed abuses) include splashing urine on a prisoner and his Qur'an, stepping on and kicking the Qur'an, throwing water on it, and scratching an obscenity on the inside cover. (N)one of the abuses can be said to be as severe as the unfounded allegation...

Let's put aside for the moment (1) that although flushing of the Qur'an is not yet confirmed, that doesn't mean the allegation was unfounded, and (2) that there's no credible evidence to suggest that the riots were caused by the Newsweek article rather than by other factors.
From that starting point: is there any reason to believe that a group which believes that a guard's flushing a Qur'an merits a deadly riot would react peacefully to the now-admitted fact that guards "splash(ed) urine on a prisoner and his Qur'an"?
If Bush's minions (and the echo chamber) were capable of apologies, they'd have a lot of apologizing to do.

(Edited to fix a typo.)

Marshall Plan for Africa

Gordon Brown's plan to help Africa, featuring:
- 100% debt relief
- increased direct aid
- increased funding for immunizations, and
- elimination of first-world trade subsidies which hurt African exporters.

There's no reason for Canada not to be on board for this. Of course, the program won't get full approval from the G8 thanks to Bush's "let's avoid doing anything" approach. But at least it'll be a plus to highlight just who's actually trying to build a more stable world.

As long as he's there anyway...

Wayne Easter testifies that CSIS played no role in Arar's deportation. But it looks like CSIS figured it would be easiest to leave Arar in Syria:
A draft Foreign Affairs memo says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service "made it clear to the department that they would prefer to have him remain in Syria, rather than return to Canada."

I wonder if they were worried about being embarrassed on Arar's return.

By the way, what actions did Easter take?
Easter steadfastly maintains he presumed Arar's innocence throughout the episode, but felt it was outside his jurisdiction to formally correct the record with his counterparts in Washington and Damascus.

I for one feel much better knowing that our government will privately presume innocence, while allowing torturers to presume otherwise.

Focus on the Internet

SSM opponents once again demonstrate their respect for the rights and priviliges of others, this time through wholesale cybersquatting. While Don Boudria may be using the wrong means of redress by going through Parliament rather than the courts, this should make it all too clear that SSM opponents are much more interested in being a nuisance than in actually having a public debate.

Fun with Hansard

Highlights from yesterday:
- The NDP uses its opposition day to bring a motion to implement one recommendation of the EI subcommittee. Liberals suggest that unemployment insurance leads to unemployment. (An interesting idea - imagine how much safer we'd all be from car accidents, fires and natural disasters if we didn't have insurance against them.) Conservatives complain that a 36% reduction in EI premiums since 1994 isn't enough. The Bloc argues that the proposed change doesn't go far enough.
- Some people just don't know when to sit down and be quiet.
- Ed Broadbent goes to town on corporate predators.
- Jack Layton schools Ujjal Dosanjh on private clinics. They're still allowed to talk about policy in Question Period?

More to come, as once again the measures of SSM opponents deserve a separate post.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Look again, Tom. It is the bottom.

Thomas Friedman had seemed nearly reasonable in a few of his more recent columns. In a sense, it's a relief to see nonsense like this:
The dirty little secret is that India is taking work from Europe or America not simply because of low wages. It is also because Indians are ready to work harder and can do anything from answering your phone to designing your next airplane or car. They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.

Friedman's definition of "racing to the top"?
The Indian state of West Bengal has the oldest elected Communist government left in the world today. Some global technology firms recently were looking at outsourcing there, but told the Communists they could not do so because of the possibility of worker strikes that might disrupt the business processes of the companies they work for. No problem. The Communist government declared information technology work an "essential service," making it illegal for those workers to strike. Have a nice day.

Huh. So some corporations are a fan not only of low wages, but also of blatant anti-union government action. And these corporations will relocate to areas which have both. Who knew?
Of course, the example given involves a government decree rather than worker choice. And indeed the workers themselves presumably don't agree (otherwise why would the law be necessary?). But according to Friedman, union-bashing is a miracle of individual achievement leading to "the top" for those workers who now have no bargaining power. And Europe should be trying to emulate this pattern for the good of its workers.
A left-wing paper indeed.

EDIT: If only.

NDP Bloggers work quickly...

Only two days on the blog and I've already been tagged. Without any further ado...

Number of Books I Own: Probably a few hundred, spread through a house and an apartment. An eclectic collection of university textbooks (mostly political science, philosophy and law), sports commentary, humourous novels (prominently featuring Douglas Adams, Carl Hiaasen, and Bill Fitzhugh among others), and other random tomes.

Last Book I Bought: I don't often buy books in light of other options; the most recent one purchased was a how-to book on written advocacy. Maybe I should read that one before posting.

Last Book I Read: I'm currently reading Freakonomics, by Steven J. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. A fascinating application of economic principles to unexpected situations.

5 Books that Mean a lot to Me:
To start, this is a surprisingly tough category, as I'm not sure that I've kept track of the sources of a lot of the ideas that have influenced me most. In any event, off the top of my head...
1. Spider Robinson's Callahan series. A combination of solid sci-fi plots with relentlessly positive messages about the values of friendship and cooperation.
2. Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which mixes more philosophical discussion than I got out of my first three years of university with intriguing characters and plots. Not an easy read, but it's worth the effort.
3. Will Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy, the one university textbook that I go back and read again every year or two. A surface view of pretty much any political philosophy that can claim to be viable. While I disagree with some of the conclusions, the discussion is nonetheless worth a read.
4. Betty Crocker's Casserole Cookbook. A surprisingly deep exploration of the human condition, accompanied by the authoritative explanation of the origins of law, plus the Ham 'n Cheese Bake is great.
4. Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, one of the main incubators for my absurdist sense of humour.
5. A recent addition: The Efficient Society by Joseph Heath. An excellent analysis based on the twin theses that efficiency (broadly defined) is itself the most important end to be pursued through public policy, and that Canada is the world's most efficient society. What's not to like?

And for tag time, I don't see posts on this from CathiefromCanada, Canadian Cynic, No More Shall I Roam, My Blahg, or Trickle Down Truth.

That good old CanWest balance

A brief summary of the Leader-Post's current story on SSM:

Vic Toews complains that the Conservatives can't stop C-38 from passing.
A pressure group spokeswoman criticizes Toews, saying that there is a "game plan" to bog the legislation down with amendments.
Anonymous Conservative sources suggest that passage of C-38 could help the party.
Pat O'Brien criticizes both Toews for agreeing to limit committee hearings, and Paul Martin for moving to limit the hearings in the first place.
Toews criticizes O'Brien for failing to work with with the Conservatives to slow down passage.
Another pressure group spokeswoman says it is "offensive" for the government to state its intention to pass the bill before the end of committee hearings.
Finally, yet another pressure-group spokesman warns of "dire consequences" if the bill passes quickly.

My only concern is that they didn't give quite enough space to SSM opponents. Wasn't Bill Whatcott available for comment?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Program Transcripts

There isn't much for which CNN deserves a lot of credit these days, but there's one lesson which I'd like to see Canadian networks take to heart. CNN is particularly vigilant about putting transcripts from its news programs online with free access, enabling viewers and non-viewers alike to get the full story from each broadcast. And if bloggers get to peruse the transcripts for material, all the better.

At CBC, access is somewhat more limited:
A transcript of a television program is $35 for a ½ hour segment or $45 for 1 hour. Turnaround time is 2 weeks.

In my view, the availability of transcripts is all the more important for a publicly-funded broadcaster. While the CBC could itself benefit from making the its broadcasts accessible in this additional medium (particularly if the blogosphere then makes more use of CBC's site), the CBC should also carry a stronger obligation toward the public good of making added information available - particularly where the relative cost of transcribing is much lower than the initial cost of production. While the analogy isn't exact, I'd liken the CBC's transcripts to the weather data which U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wants to hide. If public money is flowing in, then the most information possible should flow out.

CTV also sells transcripts rather than making them available. As best I can tell (searching for the word "transcripts", "transcript" returns even fewer results), Global makes very few report transcripts available, with no apparent rhyme or reason to what makes the cut. Naturally these networks lack the public-interest motivation to make transcripts accessible. However, they could stand to follow CNN's calculation and decide that better access to their information is a smart means of attracting viewers and web-surfers alike.

Never mind the cost of flights...

How much more fuel will be unnecessarily burned, and greenhouse gases released as a result, if two-thirds of Canada's flights are forced to take an artificially long route?

Not that giving effect to a U.S. no-fly list for intra-Canadian flights is a better option by any stretch of the imagination. Just wondering if American policymakers are paying any attention to the unintended consequences.

Technical changes

Blogspot comment format has been removed, replaced with Haloscan which includes trackbacks. Enjoy!

So true

The Ambler on Rachel Marsden.

Rachel Marsden might not be a good person, but that hardly disqualified her from writing a good column for the National Post. True, her track record was not encouraging, but writing is a craft that rewards persistent application, and Marsden is nothing if not persistent. But now, having read her first column, I can stop being polite.

As well he should. Read it.

Focus on the Parliament

As far as I can tell this isn't getting any media coverage, and I can understand if there's a desire not to give any more attention to Focus on the Family than can be avoided. But surely it's a problem if MPs are unable to communicate with their own constituents.

Hon. Don Boudria (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.):

Over the last 29 hours, my office has received no fewer than 828 faxes here on Parliament Hill...In the case of my office, whereby we normally receive 40 to 50 faxes from constituents in a day, we have been able to receive a grand total of five over the last two days. The rest of the time the equipment is completely blocked. A group calling itself Focus on the Family, which has the website, is making it such that our telephone systems have been rendered inoperative this way.

(T)he letters are all identical. They are all generated from the same place in a systematic way. Some of them have been produced by way of someone clicking on a machine dozens and dozens of times. In other words in some cases there are dozens of identical letters coming out in sequence on the fax machine. No one legitimately contacts a member of Parliament by transmitting an identical message produced by someone else by way of a computer generated system in Vancouver to someone in Sarsfield, Ontario, which is where I live, or a member of Parliament from the other end of the country or anyone else.

Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ):

I have received more than 1,000 faxes in 36 hours...We have also received more than 2,300 e-mails since Monday morning.

Of course, the propriety of this mass mailing wasn't entirely doubted in Parliament. Conservative MP Jason Kenney, ever defending efficiency in government, suggests that the answer is simply to add more phone, fax and e-mail capacity solely to deal with the influx of identical messages:

If there is a logistical need for additional means to contact us so that lines are not clogged, then perhaps the House administration should explore those logistical issues. However, the solution to receiving too much input from Canadians is not to find that democratic expression of opinion constitutes harassment, or an attack or a violation of the privileges of members of the House. If a logistical solution needs to be made in terms of additional or overflow fax lines or email accounts, I am sure that solution can be found.

Just in case you thought the Conservatives weren't standing up to James Dobson.

That other inquiry

According to Senator Pierre de Bané

"The Americans told our Canadian services that they were ready to hand over Mr. Arar on the condition that you commit yourselves to arresting him and putting him in prison and charging him...
"And the Canadian services said to the Americans following that, 'We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms here in Canada, and we do not have sufficient evidence that would allow for his arrest, for charging him and for putting him into prison."

Canada's options: unconstitutionally lock up one of its own citizens in the absence of evidence, or allow him to rendered to Syria. Imagine how much worse a choice the U.S. would have offered if it wasn't "promoting freedom around the world".

Statements by Members

Most media coverage of parliamentary proceedings seems to focus on question period, which is undoubtedly the best source of partisan sniping. But equally interesting in my view are the statements by members, since they show just what a given member will talk about with free range to discuss any topic. So what did one of our good MPs have to say yesterday?

Russ Hiebert (South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, CPC) presented an argument well-suited to losing a junior high school round of debate:

In 2003, when Ward last pleaded guilty to a string of sexual assaults, the crown sought dangerous offender status to help keep the serial predator locked up. “No way,” said the judge. These crimes did not meet the threshold for dangerous offender status.
Now this Scarborough rapist has struck again, according to a woman who says that she was his victim on Friday.
How many more women will be victimized before the Liberal government introduces mandatory minimum sentences for violent and repeated offences? How many more women will be victims before the Liberal government acts?

Are we following closely here? The proposed policy (minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders) relates in no way to the supposed need for change (a judge's refusal to order dangerous offender status). I'll deal with the merits of minimum sentences sometime in the future, but shouldn't each MP at least have a speechwriter who can point out this sort of inconsistency?

Save this quote

From Saskatchewan Party MLA Dan D'Autremont:

"If they want ... more revenue for the government, then tax us".

Leaving aside the fact that D'Autremont's complaint was against a SaskPower rate increase which was plainly based on increased input costs (shall I dredge up a quote about costs naturally being passed along to consumers?), this should make for added fun next time the Sask Party demands tax cuts before anybody's even held a review to figure out where tax cuts make sense.

One More Voice in the Cacophony

Welcome to Accidental Deliberations, a young (soon-to-be-)lawyer's foray into the world of blogging. This blog will deal mostly with Canadian and Saskatchewanian politics, with some discussion of international politics, legal issues, and whatever else finds its way onto the page.

Accidental Deliberations. 100% less hype than TPM Café, only 99.8% less content.