Saturday, December 10, 2005

Expensive trade

While the fact that past trade agreements have often been biased toward richer countries shouldn't be news to any great degree, the AP's report on the plight of Mexican corn farmers provides a valuable reminder:
While the tiny, marginally productive farm plots have been in trouble for decades, the plight of many was worsened by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which cut tariffs on U.S. government-subsidized corn, allowing it to pour into Mexico.

In 2008, the last limits on U.S. corn will be lifted under NAFTA rules. The trade pact doesn't regulate the generous U.S. farm subsidies. Researchers said some U.S. crops are being sold in Mexico at below their already-advantageous U.S. production price.

That combination - subsidies and advantages of scale at larger U.S. farms - has led to millions of dollars in lost income for Mexican farmers and the loss of over two million farm jobs since 1993.
It should be kept in mind the status quo (both within NAFTA and in wider trade bodies) reflects developed states' choice as to which trade they want free far more than it does true free trade. It's that fact, not any problem with genuinely free trade, that has done so much to prevent developing countries from making up any ground. And until developed countries take the lead in eliminating the factors which artificially benefit their domestic industries, any lectures as to the value of free trade can do nothing but ring hollow.

A consensus of sorts

The "Iraqi Declaration of Independence" has been signed by most of the major political forces within the country. And the content explains in large part why it's been wilfully ignored in the North American media:
(T)he "Pact of Honor" that was adopted consists of 14 points, among which the following demands and agreements are the most important...:

• "withdrawal of the occupiers and setting of an objective timetable for their withdrawal from Iraq"; "elimination of all the consequences of their presence, including any bases for them in the country, while working seriously for the building of [Iraqi] security institutions and military forces within a defined schedule";...

• categorical rejection of the establishment of any relations with Israel;...

• "to activate the de-Ba'athification law and to consider that the Ba'ath party is a terrorist organization for all the tyranny it brought on the oppressed sons of Iraq, and to speed up the trial of overthrown president Saddam Hussein and the pillars of his regime"...
In sum: the most powerful people within Iraq want a solid withdrawal timetable to enable them to speed up their reprisals against political enemies, and to express their dislike of Israel on the international scene. While there may be some more positive agenda in the points not yet reported, it seems all too apparent that the main unifying factors in Iraq at the moment are exactly the problems that newfound democracy was supposed to eliminate.

(Edit: Via Daily Kos.)

A worthy effort

Good news for those wondering when Canada would have an active EFF-type organization: it's now getting publicity, and not a moment too soon:
Online Rights Canada, dedicated to protecting citizens from invasions of privacy, excessive surveillance and such, was launched Friday with support from the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa and the U.S.-based Electronic Frontier Foundation...

The petition asks Canadian lawmakers to protect citizens' privacy rights when the new government convenes after the late-January election. Other important issues for ORC will include revisions to Canadian copyright law, access to information and freedom from censorship, the group says.
It's about time to have some serious pressure on behalf of the public against intrusion into important means of communication. Give ORC's site a look, and help out how you can.

Friday, December 09, 2005

On longer memories

Naomi Klein points out that for all the well-deserved concern over Bushco's insistence on allowing torture, the biggest difference between it and prior regimes is the fact that torture has gone public:
Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring "Never again!" Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current torture crisis by crying "Never before"? I suspect it stems from a sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this administration's crimes. And its open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented.

But let's be clear about what is unprecedented: not the torture, but the openness. Past administrations kept their "black ops" secret; the crimes were sanctioned but they were committed in the shadows, officially denied and condemned. The Bush administration has broken this deal: post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame, legitimised by new definitions and new laws...

The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the torture debate is that in the name of eradicating future abuses, past crimes are being erased from the record. Since the US has never had truth commissions, the memory of its complicity in far-away crimes has always been fragile. Now these memories are fading further, and the disappeared are disappearing again.
Not that any current openness is entirely by choice, as Bushco has tried to push the "few bad apples" defence even while trying to make sure that such apples have the chance to grow. But as impressive as Clinton or his predecessors may seem compared to Bushco's overall mismanagement, it's worth remembering that they too had blood on their hands. And the more that fact is suppressed, the more likely future administrations may be to successfully push torture back underground rather than facing due pressure to eradicate it.

A very poor choice of message

Needless to say, this isn't the way to make federalism work in Quebec:
A prominent Liberal candidate in Quebec City apologized yesterday for saying that Quebec was a poor province dependent on Canadian federalism to keep itself afloat.

Hélène Chalifour-Sherrer, Liberal leader Paul Martin's former principal secretary and now candidate in the Quebec City riding of Louis Hébert, said this afternoon that contrary to popular belief, the province of Quebec "was a very poor province."

"People still have the impression that the province of Quebec is the milking cow for all of Canada. That is not the case. The province of Quebec needs equalization payments and money from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, otherwise it couldn't make ends meet," Ms. Chalifour-Sherrer said.
Of course, Chalifour-Sherrer moved quickly to try to retract the comments. And I'll readily acknowledge that it's not fair to hold parties to too high a standard for every word out of the mouth of every candidate over the course of a campaign.

But a different standard has to apply when the words come from a member of the Prime Minister's inner circle, and when the quote goes to the main issues at play in Quebec. The retraction aside, this is the type of comment that could completely undermine the Liberals' claim to be able to speak for Quebec; it's not difficult to hear the echoes of Harper's past insults toward Atlantic Canada, and all the more bizarre for Chalifour-Sherrer to have made such a comment about her own home province.

That, of course, leaves one federal party which hasn't seen prominent members go out of their way to insult wide swaths of Canada. And with any luck, Chalifour-Sherrer will help push more voters to give that party a closer look as the voice of federalism in Quebec.

Unringing the bell

There are few safe predictions within an election campaign. But here's one: what Buzz Hargrove actually means...
Anyone with a progressive bone in their body rejoiced at the important measures taken by the minority government during its 17-month lifespan. More new social spending than any other government in the last quarter-century (all the more so thanks to Jack Layton's amendments to the 2005 budget). A long-awaited national child care program. Crucial new rights for workers — most recently including protection of collective agreements against the unilateral dictates of bankruptcy judges. Affirmation of same-sex marriage. A historic deal to address horrendous living conditions among aboriginals. Measures to reduce poverty among seniors and families with children. Other initiatives on housing, immigrants and the environment.

After two decades of hard-nosed, pro-business rule (under Conservative and Liberal majorities, alike), this is an incredible change. Obviously, this didn't all happen because Prime Minister Paul Martin had a conversion on the road to Damascus (though his leadership has been important). No, it happened because his party had to appeal to others to stay in power — both in the Commons, and indirectly to a broader range of interest groups than the powerful and well-connected ones who usually call the shots around Ottawa...

The best the left can now hope for is a re-creation of another Liberal minority — this time, we hope, with the NDP holding a clearer balance of power, and the two parties negotiating a more stable and lasting way of working together.
...will receive far less attention than what he's believed to have said last week.

A good chunk of the blame has to go to Hargrove for apparently failing to understand the optics of last week's speech by PMPM. And he'll be duly punished if the effect of last week's events is to push the Libs into majority territory and another business-first policy package. But at least as much blame has to go to the same media which (aside from the Rabble link above) seems to have done precious little to correct the Liberal spin.

War without discussion

It may not be anything approaching a hot-button issue, but this should nicely point out the parallels between what the Libs are actually doing, and what they're bound to accuse the Cons of wanting to do.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

On role models

Thankfully, it's probably too late for Harper to emulate the example. But the leader of the Cons' UK counterpart is putting on a clinic on how to win over moderates without losing his base:
David Cameron will today reveal his determination to embrace green politics, including the threat posed by climate change, when he appoints three environmentalists, including Zac Goldsmith, the multimillionaire editor of the Ecologist, to lead a rethink on environmental issues.

Mr Cameron, who spent yesterday completing his shadow cabinet reshuffle, also appointed John Gummer, the former agriculture minister, and Peter Ainsworth, chairman of the environmental audit select committee.

In an article in the Guardian, ahead of a meeting with green groups today, Mr Cameron says he wants a new group chaired by Mr Gummer to "formulate a long-term strategy that will make Britain a better place to live without constraining economic growth".
It's difficult to imagine Harper (or any of the current top Cons) having the foresight to make that type of move. But if the Cons had taken that type of initiative, they'd almost certainly win a ton of the support now parked with the Greens, and likely take away more than a few NDP votes as well. And that ability to appeal across the spectrum would then utterly deflate PMPM's attempts to paint Harper as an extremist.

Mind you, the UK Conservatives don't have Alberta to try to appease, and it could be that any willingness to be environmentally responsible would be taken as sacrilege by Harper's current base. But if Harper was really interested in trying to take power based on a positive vision, Cameron's idea would have been a far more viable one than one which leaves out "a better place to live" as a priority.

Cheap publicity

Not that the actual policy was a bad one. But sometimes a good point can be made proven by PMPM today:
Martin then asked (a middle school assembly) about...guns. Earlier in the day, he'd announced an election proposal of $325 million for the RCMP and a "ban" on handguns for everyone but law enforcement and some target shooters.

The prime minister and campaigning Liberal leader then asked the auditorium full of youngsters: "How many people think the government should say, 'You just can't have (guns)?' "...

Hundreds of hands eagerly shot up.
In related news, a federal Department of Candy, Video Games and Chore Prevention is to be announced as part of the Libs' platform next week.

Long-term thinking

Yesterday, there was plenty of bad news about the increased cost of health care. But one of the obvious solutions is to ensure that the health care system isn't forced to take care of issues that can be dealt with elsewhere...which makes this a stroke of genius:
The NDP's plan to spend $1.5 billion a year on long-term care and home care would begin to address the needs of seniors and help hospitals reduce waiting times, party leader Jack Layton said on Thursday...

The money for home care, Layton said, would be "an important practical first step to getting seniors out of hospital when they don't need to be there."...

The money his party would earmark for long-term care could create 40,000 spaces in long-term care facilities, Layton said. But provinces would be allowed to use it in other ways to meet local long-term care needs, he said.
While child care may have received more attention thus far in the campaign (and in the previous Parliament), the issue of care for seniors is at least equally urgent...both for the health-care providers whose resources are taken up when seniors lack anywhere else to go, and for the seniors and families themselves who should be able to expect better care than is currently available. And that's a problem that deserves far more attention than Harper's ongoing crusade to force every cabinet minister to resign several times over.

Still ahead of the curve

SaskPower is looking at building a "near zero emissions" coal power plant over the next few years:
By 2011, Saskatchewan could be home to a $1.5-billion coal-fired electricity station that would be a world's first – it would put virtually no carbon dioxide into the air...

If...research shows the 300-megawatt project is feasible, SaskPower will go ahead and build it...

Not only would CO2 be virtually eliminated with the new design, smoke, ash and other forms of pollution would also be slashed using "clean coal" technology.

The timing is good for SaskPower, because it was already looking at phasing out of one its existing coal plants around 2013.
Naturally we'll have to wait to see if the design meets expectations. But it's great to see Saskatchewan looking for newer and better ways of generating clean energy for itself, even as other provinces refuse to move past traditional power sources.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Moving health forward

If there's room to discuss policy during an election period (and so far it looks relatively possible), this suggestion deserves plenty of attention:
Canada must implement a national catastrophic drug plan to help diabetics, whose out-of-pocket expenses for medicines and supplies vary widely across the country and jeopardize their ability to control the potentially life-threatening disease, says a report by the Canadian Diabetes Association...

More than two million Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes, a number that's expected to rise to at least three million by 2010. This year's price tag for controlling the disease and treating its complications - among them limb amputation, kidney failure and vision loss - is projected to reach $13 billion.

But with half of those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes not meeting targeted blood-sugar levels, the proportion of those with complications is sure to rise, said Philp. "Our concern is this threatens the sustainability of our health-care system if we don't do something about it soon."
Predictably, the Lib take on the issue seems to be to wait and study a glaring problem, just in case diabetes happens to miraculously disappear before next June. But the idea should be an easy one for the other parties to pick up on in the interest of showing just how far the Liberals have let important parts of the health system lapse...and to show that a commitment to health care means more than just the status quo.

Optimistic assumptions

Peter MacLeod writes about New York's 311 system as a means of ensuring responsive government. But while his article provides some interesting discussion about how government can best serve its constituents, MacLeod glosses over an assumption which can seriously undermine the strategy's effectiveness:
With 311 in place, road crews now take their marching orders from incoming calls. Sophisticated software plots those calls onto computerized maps, highlighting the most efficient paving schedule while allowing administrators to see problems as they occur. In effect, 311 provides those crews with real-time intelligence they could never afford to collect, allowing them to offer better, more efficient service.

New York's 311 users are becoming the eyes and ears of the city. By scrupulously tracking the incoming flow of data, the 311 system is helping government officials to set and reset their priorities. In this way, 311 is quietly becoming a force that stretches well beyond what advocates of more direct forms of democracy have dreamed: a permanent plebiscite on an almost infinite number of city issues...

As long as 311 is used in an uncoordinated way by citizens, it serves as a fairly accurate mirror of genuine need. Think of it as real-time petition or market. The greater the demand, the greater the likelihood of the city responding.
The problem which isn't addressed by MacLeod, however, is the potential that the assumed lack of coordination (and equality of involvement) may not reflect reality. And that may simply replicate existing iniquities among influence groups.

On one side, it's inevitable that some concerns will go underrepresented within the 311 system. Some groups will face more difficulty in accessing the system than others, while others will simply see less reason to put their trust in public authorities to address their concerns. And the latter presents a particularly difficult problem: a group which perceives the government as less likely to respond to its needs is bound to be less likely to make the effort to get involved in the 311 system...and if that system is then applied as the main basis for government action, then the lack of trust only becomes all the worse.

The flip side is, of course, that for somebody able to calculate the costs and benefits of calling in, there may be every incentive to engage in coordinated lobbying through the 311 system...again distorting the actual needs of the city.

Not that this means the 311 system lacks plenty to offer in connecting a government and its citizens. But its obvious vulnerabilities should also be kept in mind...and accordingly they should be used as a supplement to other inputs into the government's knowledge base, not as the primary means to evaluate what a population needs.

(Edit: typo.)

On the upswing

It's a plus to have some new Saskatchewan polling results. But some useful analysis would be helpful as well...and the Star-Phoenix falls somewhat short on that count:
An early election poll is signalling that Saskatchewan may be heading toward 2004's federal election result -- majority support for the Conservatives and a near split of the remaining vote.

An Ipsos Reid poll conducted for CanWest News Service and Global News from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 has found 36 per cent of Saskatchewan respondents say Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are the leader and party most capable of dealing with the most important election issue. The Liberals and NDP are tied at 26 per cent, and 12 per cent don't know or refused to respond...

The poll's findings reflect the 2004 federal election results in the province, where the Conservatives garnered 41.8 per cent of the vote, the Liberals 27.2 per cent and the NDP 23.4 per cent.
Let's leave aside the seemingly obviously distinction between a majority and a plurality. Also note that the poll only includes 250 Saskatchewan voters, so drawing conclusions is a dicey proposition.

Those issues aside, neither the reporter nor Ipsos-Reid hesitated to conclude from the numbers that nothing much had changed since 2004. This despite the fact that the NDP is up 3 points in the poll even without taking the undecided voters into account. More importantly, the NDP's numbers trail the Cons' provincially by only 10 points now, as opposed to over 18 in 2004.

It shouldn't have required too much effort to examine the actual results, which strongly suggest that a shift between the NDP and Cons of 8+ points would have substantially affected the election's outcome. Contrary to the article's take, if the new polling numbers show anything, it's that the NDP is well-positioned to put the 2004 disappointment far behind it.

Butchering the art of the deal

Unfortunately, the Montreal conference has proven that there's only one Canadian party capable of building a consensus and negotiating a difficult agreement. And it's certainly not the Libs:
(Stéphane Dion 's proposal) calls only for two years of discussions on "long-term co-operative action to address climate change."

It was designed to be vague enough to appeal to the U.S., which adamantly rejects any hint of a move that might require it to accept mandatory targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It makes no reference to targets and carefully refers only to discussions, with no mention of negotiations.

Even so, the United States said it was inappropriate, because discussions could lead to negotiations...

"This is extraordinary. The (Dion) proposal was absolutely meaningless in the first place," said Phil Clapp, president of the New York-based National Environmental Trust.
Not that the official U.S. delegation escapes blame for refusing even to talk further about the climate change issue. But given that Canada was selected as host based largely on the hope that it could sway the U.S. to at least cooperate to some degree, the lack of movement also reflects a failure on Dion's part. And unfortunately, that's completely in keeping with the Liberals' track record on climate change.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Free publicity

It probably won't be overly successful as an electoral strategy, but one Green candidate at least deserves points for originality:
A Green party candidate in Saskatchewan intends to run his federal election campaign without spending a cent.

"We're not using money," said Larry Zepp, a candidate in the Prince Albert riding. "We're running a campaign with zero money. That's our plan. No money."...

Instead of an expensive campaign for the Jan. 23 vote, Zepp plans to deliver Green ideas through the media.
Of course, the usual difficulty for the Greens is to try to get media attention to begin with. But even if this is his last major media coverage, at the very least Zepp has managed win national notice for his strategy. And for a party all too often left out, that has to count for something.

Child careless

CUPE points out that as comical as it is to describe the Libs' child-care promises as "doubling" the current commitment when it really reflects a decline in funding, the bigger issue is the Libs' complete lack of attention to the real cost of child care:
Today the Liberals say they will create 625,000 new spaces ($1,600 per space). In 2004, the Liberals estimated they would create 100,000 new child care spaces at about $9,000 per space, which is closer to the real cost. How the Liberals would create 625,000 new spaces with less money on the table doesn't add up, said Moist.
Plenty of bloggers have rightly slammed the Cons for claiming that they can provide a meaningful child care allowance for the cost of bus fare. But it's not really any better to allocate only the same woefully inadequate amount of money toward creating a public system, with the result being some combination of poor quality care or added burden on the provinces. And that leaves just one major federal party with a chance to propose a child-care system that'll actually work.

Clearing the air

The NDP unveils its environmental platform, and there's an awful lot to like:
The NDP Leader unveiled pieces of his party's environmental platform today, which include:

A new "Clean Air Act" -- legislation aimed at fulfilling Canada's responsibilities to reduce air pollution under the Kyoto Accord.

A new "Clean Water Act" -- to establish national standards and protection for drinking water, including standards for solid waste disposal, mine site operations and rehabilitation, forestry and farming practices, and pesticide use.

A new "Polluter Pay and Toxic Pollution Reduction" -- aimed to overhaul Canada's national pollution law, replacing what the NDP calls the "the current emphasis on voluntary action with mandatory pollution prevention measures."
And best of all, Layton made clear that the environmental benefits can be attached to economic ones:
When asked to elaborate on the expenses attached to his plan to cut Canada's emissions by a quarter, Layton said his plan wouldn't necessarily involve great costs.

"Quite a few of the initiatives can be very profitable for Canadian companies and individuals," Layton told reporters following his announcement.
So how does the NDP's sensible, forward-looking environmental plan compare to that of the incumbents? Glad you asked:
Liberal Leader Paul Martin, meanwhile, is promising to devote more money to clean up Saint John harbour -- a project that has been in discussion for at least 15 years.

In Saint John, N.B. on Tuesday, where he announced details of the Liberal day-care plan, Martin said Ottawa has already allocated $44 million towards the Saint John harbour cleanup. He said he was "dumbfounded" to learn there still isn't a deal in place to start the cleanup.
I'm quite curious as to who Martin will find to blame...both for the fact that he's still trying to re-make promises that predate even Chretien's election, and for the fact that he hasn't even bothered to keep track of the complete lack of progress under his watch. In any event, today's events neatly highlight the contrast between a party dedicated to preserving the environment, and one committed only to preserving its own hide.

Opportunity knocks

While there's ample reason to doubt the expected voting numbers among 18- to 24-year-olds suggested by this poll, the party numbers among a politically interested group of respondents offer some very interesting fodder for discussion:
Among young adults outside Quebec, the Liberals hold a slim lead with 28 per cent support. The NDP sits at 24 per cent and the Conservatives at 23 per cent. Eleven per cent of respondents plan to vote for the Green Party. Ten per cent are undecided.

In Quebec, 49 per cent of voters under age 25 intend to vote for the Bloc Québécois. The NDP has 18 per cent support and the Liberals 11 per cent. Eight per cent of respondents plan to vote for the Green Party and 7 per cent for the Conservatives. Five per cent are undecided.
The national numbers aren't all that surprising. But the NDP's 7-point lead over the Liberals in Quebec suggests that there's plenty of room for growth among younger voters, and even if a lot of those votes are protest-based now they could easily set down a base for future NDP gains. That potential is something that the NDP needs to highlight and build on to cement its status as a genuine national alternative to the Libs...even if it'll take another election or two for those votes to translate into seats.

Monday, December 05, 2005

On keeping one's own house in order

No wonder the Cons feel the need to push as many policies forward as possible - they need something to distract attention from the fact that they apparently can't even avoid serious controversy over the nomination process in prominent ridings. And this is supposed to be a government-in-waiting?

Not that the Libs have done any better at times. But surely an opposition party should be able to run its own internal affairs relatively competently before it can be considered fit to run the country.

Strategic calculations

I'm never a big fan of strategic voting - at best it's a great way to lend one's support (and electoral funding) to a party that one considers less than deserving, and at worst it can backfire completely by electing the last candidate one wanted to see in office. But if for some reason you can't avoid it, Idealistic Pragmatist nicely spells out how to avoid the most harmful effects.

Shifting sands

While Buzz Hargrove's non-endorsement of the Liberals was front-page news most of the weekend, a potentially far more important development gets buried within a more general election article:
The NDP was told today that it will have the support of The Muslim Canadian Congress.

Spokesman Tarek Fatah said the congress is endorsing the NDP because Liberals have taken Muslims for granted for far too long.

Fatah says stringent federal security measures aimed at Muslims also played a role in the decision to back the NDP.

He says New Democrats have fought to ensure detained Muslims get fair treatment.

It’s the first time the congress has endorsed a party.
As with the CAW, it'll ultimately be for individual members of the MCC to decide whether they agree with the leadership position. But unlike Hargrove's move, this announcement reflects a principled statement of party support rather than a (misguided) strategic calculation. And if the MCC's endorsement helps to remind Canadians of the Liberals' general lack of concern for individual freedoms, then it could work wonders in winning NDP support among voters concerned with civil rights.

Bias by omission

I'm not quite sure how it's possible to write an article this long about extensive, nationwide polling without so much as mentioning the NDP once (let alone the Greens or other non-dichotomy federal parties). But Tu Thanh Ha and Jane Taber pull it off.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Poll position

A Decima Research poll which plans to track the same pool of voters throughout the campaign suggests that as consistent as the numbers have seemed so far, there's still an awful lot of room for change:
43 per cent said their vote is decided and won't change; 20 per cent said they're leaning toward one party but could change; 28 per cent said they are certain to vote but don't know for whom...

Among unsettled voters, the tendency is to lean toward the Liberals (32 per cent) and the NDP (24 per cent) rather than the Conservatives (23) or the Bloc (7)...

Among those who are decided or leaning, the Liberals had 34 per cent support, the Conservatives 26 per cent, the NDP 19 and the Bloc Quebecois 13 per cent. Those numbers are comparable to Decima's weekly random telephone poll.
There's obviously some downside for the NDP in the relative lack of voters committed already to the party. That said, the 28 per cent of voters with no current leaning represent enough to swing an awful lot of seats. And if the pool of completely undecided voters looks anything like the leaners to this point, then the NDP has a chance to win a lot more votes than they're credited with under most of the polls to date.

It's no surprise that the Cons' base gives them a starting advantage over the NDP. But so far, the Cons are apparently doing the worst job of any national party in swaying undecideds. Unless Harper can change that pattern, the Libs don't appear to face much challenge to a continued minority government, and that in turn should leave the NDP in a position of strength rather than on the wrong end of an anti-Harper stampede.

Speaking to the members

Brian Masse's speech to the CAW may not have received the same attention that PMPM's did. But Hargrove's personal views aside (and even Hargrove still favoured voting NDP in any riding where the NDP wasn't supposedly out of the running), Masse leaves little doubt why the interests of working-class Canadians are best met by the NDP rather than the Libs:
I stood up in the House of Commons and voted to implement anti-scab legislation in federal jurisdiction...

And I watched every single Liberal Cabinet minister – including some of the ones who were in this hall yesterday – vote to kill that legislation.

I was proud to stand next to David Christopherson when he introduced a law to put pension payments at the front of the line if a company goes bankrupt.

And I was proud to join our NDP team in taking on Liberal Minister David Emerson when he said that measure was bad for business.

And I’m proud to be in Windsor – fighting to get our air cleaned up. Fighting pollution that is causing some of the highest cancer rates in Canada – in Windsor – the place Paul Martin calls home.
Ultimately, the word of Buzz Hargrove should play far less of a role in determining how CAW members vote than the parties' actions. And for the CAW as for so many others, there's no comparison between the NDP's focus on the interests of Canadians in general, and the Libs' determination to disproportionately benefit their friends and funding sources.


Shorter Condi Rice: the only problem with secret prisons is that people haven't been taught to appreciate them.

Health care's last stand

When it came to income trusts, the Liberals avoided dealing with a legislative loophole for ages, then ended up with such widespread use of that loophole that they claimed it would be impossible to fix it.

Now, the exact same process is taking place with respect to health care:
One of the pioneers of private medicine in Canada said yesterday he plans to open a for-profit surgical hospital in Ontario by 2007 and called the spread of such private health care a necessary and "unstoppable" force.

The announcement by Dr. Brian Day of Vancouver's Cambie Surgical Centre comes after all four major party leaders have spoken out against allowing a parallel tier of private health care. Dr. Day's plan also appeared to set the stage for a lively political and legal battle in Ontario, where the Liberal government has said it is deeply committed to protecting the medicare system from private incursions.
The response of each federal leader to Day and other announced private clinics should put to rest any doubt as to who's interested in protecting public delivery of health care. Harper has already indicated that he not only wouldn't shut Day down, but would be willing to jump the queue. And of course, PMPM precipitated the election by refusing to do anything to prevent Day and his ilk from expanding their presence.

The article notes that at the very least, Dalton McGuinty plans to fight Day's clinic as best he can. And unlike PMPM and company, he's backed that position up with legislation to prevent private service delivery. But without a federal government willing to ensure that the Canada Health Act is actually applied across the country, there'll be little chance of showing Day that credit card health care is neither desirable nor unstoppable.