Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy holidays!

Light blogging over the next couple of days. Season's greetings to all, and all the best in the new year.

The reviews that matter

For all the talk about how effective Harper's campaign has been so far, the latest Strategic Counsel poll suggests that the Cons not only aren't winning over voters, but are in fact seen by less and less voters as having run the best campaign:
According to the survey conducted by The Strategic Counsel, 25 per cent of Canadians say the Liberals are running the best campaign, up six percentage points from Dec. 5-6. By contrast, 23 per cent think the Tories have the best campaign, down from 26 per cent, while 16 per cent of Canadians think the NDP is making the best effort, up two points. The survey also found that the number of Canadians who think the country is on the wrong track is declining.
Presumably, part of the problem is that voters who have paid only casual attention will remember the Cons' amateurish TV spots which have been rightly decried by pundits and voters alike. And for those paying closer attention, unveiling a policy a day doesn't necessarily do that much good when the policies aren't all that popular.

Not that there's ever a lack of reasons to be skeptical about the Cons. But the poll suggests that Canadians are remembering those reasons for themselves rather than listening to what's often been a fawning media response to the Cons. And it's tough to think a lot of voters will consider the Cons the best choice to run the country if an ever-declining number consider them able to run even the best campaign.

Friday, December 23, 2005

On general accountability

I'm by no means always a fan of Democracy Watch, particularly when it seems focused on trying to politicize the judiciary. But sometimes it comes up with ideas which strongly deserve public backing...and it's tough to see any apparent reason why the NDP wouldn't be eager to sign onto at least the bulk of Democracy Watch's proposed corporate accountability rules:
Key General Corporate Responsibility Changes
1. Require corporate directors to consider stakeholder interests (represented by workers, customers, communities, social justice and environmental groups) in making decisions, and to account publicly for the extent to which they do.
2. Require corporations to disclose their records of compliance with environmental, criminal, competition, human rights, labour, health and safety laws, and set up an on-line database so that the public has easy access to the information;
3. Establish an effective system to protect, from any form of retaliation, so-called "whistleblower" employees who disclose corporate wrongdoings to the public or to the government.
4. Prohibit corporations that violate laws from receiving grants or contracts from government for a specific period of time (e.g. 5-10 years).
5. Lower the barriers to holding corporations and corporate directors, officers and executives liable for crimes committed by managers or employees working for the corporation.
6. Require corporations to send a flyer to individual shareholders inviting them to join a nation-wide corporate watchdog group.
7. Allow stakeholders to apply for dissolution of a corporation that repeatedly violates laws.
Particularly in the context of the NDP's strength as a voice on ethics with respect to government, it seems to make plenty of sense to ensure accountability in the private sector as well. Hopefully the NDP will take (or has taken) a strong look at the proposal, and will eventually integrate at least the social-responsibility, whistleblower and watchdog-awareness provisions into their platform.

Revealing answers

The Toronto Sun asked the federal leaders several questions from their readers...and a couple of the answers are particularly interesting. First, Stephen Harper apparently refuses to acknowledge that other parties could possibly have any good ideas to offer:
4. What's one of your opponents' proposals that you agree with?

-- Gary Wilcox, Crystal Beach

MARTIN: The Conservatives have proposed a Canadian Strategy on Cancer Control, and the Liberal government absolutely agrees that Canada needs to do more to address chronic diseases, including cancer.

LAYTON: The Conservative democratic reform plan has some good aspects -- like stopping parties from imposing "parachute" candidates on ridings. That shows some respect for local democracy, something that still eludes the Liberal Party.

HARPER: We are focusing on our own proposals and plans and have spent the first three weeks of the campaign presenting these to Canadians. We did agree with Prime Minister Martin and the Liberals on UNESCO until the prime minister changed his position.
Much has been made of the Cons' supposedly positive campaign. But it's telling that Harper's focus is on his own party's views to the point where he refuses to find a single policy worth complimenting in any other party's current platform. One has to wonder how Harper could possibly function as a minority PM if he's not even willing to consider whether the other parties have good ideas to offer...and it's probably beyond wondering whether a potential Con majority would give so much as a second thought to anything but pandering to its base.

Meanwhile, PMPM continues to show his lack of willingness to put himself on the same level as most Canadians when it comes to health care by refusing to answer a simple question about making use of the system:
10. When was the last time you or a member of your family had to spend hours waiting for medical care in a hospital emergency room?

-- Roger Goldson, Hamilton

MARTIN: Did not respond.
Both Layton and Harper were able to cite recent examples of trips to the emergency room - Layton noting that the health professionals did a good job, Harper merely sounding unimpressed with the system generally. But the man who's trying to claim to be a defender of public health care apparently can't even be bothered to remember the last time he made use of the system.


The Globe and Mail discusses the case of Haiyang Zhang, who was first fired from the Privy Council office, then excluded from consideration for the vast majority of government positions based on her having worked for China's national news service a decade ago:
Ms. Zhang was fired by Alex Himelfarb, the Clerk of the Privy Council, Canada's most powerful civil servant. She was also told that it would be almost impossible for her to work anywhere else in the federal government. While the department acknowledged that her dismissal had nothing to do with her work and that there was no proof she had ever been a spy, it stood by CSIS's conclusion that she was a threat to national security...

She said she has no idea how CSIS came to its conclusions. According to a letter sent to her from the Privy Council Office, CSIS concluded that as a former employee of the Chinese news service "you may have engaged in intelligence collection activities on behalf of a foreign state. Secondly, we are concerned that you appear to maintain regular contact with foreign representatives who may be involved in intelligence collection activities."

Ms. Zhang said she worked at the news service from 1989 to 1992 and did routine stories. She said her only contact with "foreign representatives" is helping Canadian businesses develop markets in China.
I'll grant that the Privy Council office probably has more need than almost any other body to err on the side of caution in ensuring the loyalty of its employees. But there still doesn't seem to be much reason to assume that the mere fact that an immigrant to Canada maintains contacts at home means that CSIS should presume disloyalty. And there's certainly no basis for applying what should be a higher Privy Council standard to government positions which aren't closely associated with national security or particularly sensitive information.

Fortunately, Zhang's willingness to pursue the issue has resulted in an order from the Public Service Board that the government seek to find a suitable position for her. But the apparent default position on applicants such as Zhang is doubly harmful, both in sending a message to immigrants that Canada will apply unfair standards if they seek government jobs, and in depriving the public service of well-qualified applicants based on sheer speculation. And any party truly dedicated to the interests of immigrants (not to mention taxpayers in general) should be eager to make sure that position changes.

Unintended effects

For all Harper's blustering over Quebec, the latest polling data suggests that if anybody's winning over disaffected federalist votes in Montreal, it's the NDP:
In Montreal, the Liberals have the support of 27 per cent of respondents, down from 44 per cent on election day. The Bloc Québécois is up eight percentage points to 49 per cent, while the NDP has almost doubled its support to 12 per cent. The Tories are stable, bumping up two points to 8 per cent.
Not that it's likely a large enough sample to prove much. But it's still noteworthy that Harper's attempt to become Captain Canada hasn't pushed his party anywhere near a level that could result in seats this time out, while Layton's more genuine campaign seems to have connected better at least with the voters reached by Strategic Counsel.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Expensive overtime

Wal-Mart finally faces some of the music for its violations of workers' rights, as a jury has awarded California workers $172 million for Wal-Mart's failure to offer required lunch breaks. It's anybody's guess as to whether or not the punitive part of the award ($115 million) will stand as awarded, but even the $57 million in general damages should give Wal-Mart an important reminder that it can't put off the consequences of its actions forever.

On allocating entitlement

Pat MacAdam stakes out some unusual turf as one of the few people who thinks the biggest problem with Canadian politics is that voters have too much choice. Funny, though, that in complaining about federal money allocated to the NDP and the Bloc, MacAdam doesn't seem to see any problem with larger amounts handed over to the Cons and the Libs.

Missing the point

James Travers almost gets it:
Canada's current reality is that it has a Liberal prime minister who thinks like a conservative and is only kept from behaving more conservatively by public opinion and the fear of losing power. Instead of doing what he believes, Martin does what's politically expedient.
So far, so good. But Travers' apparent conclusion that the lack of difference between the two parties should result in a Con victory neglects the fact that the view of Canadians generally isn't in line with the Martin/Harper consensus. And it's the presence of another party which genuinely does agree with the Canadian public on the key issues that makes it both politically expedient and politically necessary for Harper and Martin to pretend to be more in tune with Canadians than they really are.

On clear statements

Lest anybody think that the apparent temporary agreement between Jack Layton and Ralph Klein went any further than both seeing through the empty promises of Martin and Harper, Jack took the opportunity to set the record straight:
NDP Leader Jack Layton today delivered a blunt warning to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

“Back off. You are not going to destroy public health care,” Layton said. “New Democrats won’t let you.”

Layton was responding to the Alberta government’s decision to spend $1.5 million on a consultant’s study on how to introduce private, for-profit insurance companies into the province’s health care system. Layton also had harsh words for the failure of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper to defend medicare in Canada.

“The Liberals are avoiding the responsibility of standing up for Canada and Canadians – with action – not election rhetoric,” Layton said. “And the Conservatives? They’ve become today’s Liberals in a hurry.”
Of course, Klein's acknowledgment that Layton should be taken seriously on health care is probably still awaiting use in a future Liberal attack ad. But those people paying attention will know better than to believe a word Martin's war room has to say - as they already should when it comes to the Libs trying to lump Layton in with Harper and Duceppe.

Better late than never

The Star notes that Toronto's public housing authority is finally replacing older appliances with new, energy-efficient ones:
Toronto Community Housing Corp. expects to spend about $30 million by the end of 2007 to replace about 75,000 appliances. About 25,000 have been replaced this year at the public housing company, Canada's largest with 58,500 units.

When finished, the shift to new efficient appliances is projected to reduce electricity demand by 10 megawatts, saving enough juice to power 10,000 homes.
It's a shame it took this long for the housing authority to make a full move toward more responsible resource use - while the extent of last summer's strain on Ontario's power grid may have been relatively new, surely nobody could be surprised that it's possible to avoid a lot of unnecessary waste by replacing such a large number of outdated appliances. But at the very least, the authority is starting to set a positive example now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Good Copps

The conventional wisdom this campaign said that Tony Valeri was relatively safe as the backlash against Sheila Copps' ouster subsided. But Copps herself isn't letting Valeri off the hook just yet:
Former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps is helping out the Tory and NDP candidates in the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding in a bid to unseat her former Liberal colleague and political rival Tony Valeri.

Copps told the Hamilton Spectator that she is advising the campaign of Conservative Frank Rukavina and encouraging supporters to back the NDP's Wayne Marston in the Jan. 23 federal election...

Copps said Valeri does not deserve to get re-elected "because if you win your nomination using stealth, you don't deserve the confidence of the people."
It's all the more striking that Copps is apparently doing her best to back both of Valeri's opponents. For the future, I have to figure that makes Copps doubly unlikely to run again for the seat...both because I can't think many principled Liberals (if such creatures exist) would take kindly to somebody who's been willing to fight the party on multiple fronts, and because the Cons would now have access to some of the same knowledge which made Copps so successful.

Evidently, Copps is willing to hurt her own future chances at office to make sure that "anybody but Valeri" takes the seat. And if Copps can get as many of her supporters as last time to back the NDP, one of Martin's top lieutenants may yet receive his rightful reward for PMPM's meddling.

Wind in the sails

CBC reports on the latest in SaskPower's move toward renewable energy, as 13 wind-power projects are currently being considered:
Over the next decade, SaskPower is looking to purchase up to 45 megawatts of electricity from companies with small, environmentally-friendly power plants.

In the latest round of proposals – designed to generate 32 megawatts – SaskPower recently received 17 applications and 13 of them are for wind power stations...

An independent auditor is now looking at the 17 ideas to generate "green" power. Three of the non-wind projects would use heat recovered from other industrial process to drive steam turbines. One "biomass" project involves burning waste materials such as wood chips to generate power.
The new possibilities aren't as big as the current Swift Current project, and they're hopefully only the beginning of an expanded move toward wind power sources. But nonetheless it's a plus both to see so many groups interested in bidding on green energy, and to see the government keeping its promise to move toward environmentally-friendly power generation.

Keeping positive

Amidst the bickering between the Cons and the Libs over who supposedly supports the Bloc, the NDP continues its focus on positive steps rather than personal attacks:
NDP Leader Jack Layton committed to the full implementation of the Kelowna agreements as an essential next step in repairing Canada’s relationship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people...

“These platform commitments are different than many election platform planks,” Layton said. “They are not promises about what New Democrats will do for you. They are what New Democrats will do with you.”
(Emphasis in original.)

While the goals set out today don't yet include the policies designed to achieve them (those are to come in more detail in a later policy announcement), the NDP's focus shows that the Dippers will make sure that regardless of which party takes power, the next government won't be able to forget the needs of Canada's First Nations. The main danger now is that that message itself will get lost amid politics as usual.

(Edit: typo.)

Liberal, Tory, same old pyromaniacs

Apparently in the view of the Cons, the only problem with PMPM's effort to turn the election campaign into a separation referendum is that Stephen Harper couldn't get any publicity as a result. But given the chance to pick his own unnecessary fight over separation and pretend to speak for Canada in the process, Harper seems glad to oblige:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is willing to debate one-on-one in French with Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe on a Quebec television network, CBC News confirmed Wednesday...

Sources say Harper's campaign team will contact the TQS TV network in Quebec on Wednesday to make the offer.
Apparently Harper doesn't see any problem with his claim to be the voice of Canada in the absence of any mandate to take that role. But I suspect a lot of Canadians would prefer to have federalism defended on the basis of the good a federal government can do, not on the basis that under a Conservative government so much power would be left with the provinces that there'd be no need for Quebec to separate.

Granted, Harper's voice should be at the table as well...but only along with the competing vision of a Canada with a more effective federal government. And it so happens that there's a forum where a variety of federalist views were placed in contrast to the Bloc's separatist position to reflect the diversity of Canada's political scene...and where Harper failed to make a dent in the skepticism of Canadians both inside and outside Quebec.

Hence Harper's willingness to play with fire in order to try to move past the Cons' core support level. But the result looks to be a "sovereignty debate" where Harper raises his own profile while misrepresenting Canada as a whole. And if that has the effect of handing yet more seats to the Bloc and stoking the fires of separatism, there won't be much doubt who's left holding the gas can.

(Edit: cleaned up wording.)

More toxic policy

The public outcry over Kashechewan may have at least drawn some attention to the issues facing First Nations reserves, even if it's unclear just how many of the problems facing even Kashechewan have been dealt with. But the Globe and Mail points out that there's an awfully long way to go on one reserve in Manitoba:
Pukatawagan's woes date back to the 1950s, when Manitoba Hydro established a diesel generating station to heat the nursing clinic, the school and the nunnery where missionaries lived.

The tanks and fuel lines were poorly installed and leaked thousands of litres of diesel into the ground. For 30 years, the spill was not discovered, while locals say members of the community grew sicker and sicker...

After the spill was found in 1989, the band office and the school were evacuated and closed. Dozens of houses were condemned because fuel had seeped into their soil...

An independent Edmonton company carried out an environmental study in 2000 for the band and Indian Affairs.

The study found about $18-million was required for a full cleanup. Band leaders say Indian Affairs provided less than a quarter of that amount...

The houses condemned and knocked down because of the fuel spill have not been replaced, leaving only 299 residences for 2,600 people, with an average of nearly nine occupants per house.
Unlike the situation in some of the other reserves, there isn't even any argument at Pukatawagan as to who's responsible, since the federal government took a payment from Manitoba Hydro in 1996 in exchange for its agreement to clean up the spill. But DIAND's all-too-typical response has been to promise less money than needed to solve the core problem, dispense less money than promised, and fail completely to pay attention to the reserve's interim needs. As a result, over half of the condemned houses on the reserve are still inhabited for lack of any other available housing.

Once again, it may take the glare of media exposure to induce any change at all. Hopefully the Pukatawagan story will likewise result in greater public attention to the conditions on reserves...and maybe cause DIAND to start dealing with such problems on its own before they make the national headlines.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On making progress

Based on Decima's latest polling numbers, the electorate may be less stable than one would assume from the consistency of past polling numbers, and the NDP is in a position to gain from that fluidity:
One in five respondents to Decima's online survey of more than 6,000 people had changed their opinion since the federal election campaign began three weeks ago.

Yet on a national level, overall public opinion has barely budged, suggests the poll provided exclusively to The Canadian Press.

This week, Decima found the Liberals led with 35 per cent of committed support, followed by the Conservatives at 25 per cent, the New Democrats at 21 and the BQ at 13...

Decima CEO Bruce Anderson says the national numbers obscure some interesting movement, including New Democrats drawing above their weight with undecided voters and soft NDP supporters as likely to switch to the Conservatives as the Liberals.
The polling of swing voters suggests that a good number of Canadians are managing to defy the media's coverage of the election: rather than buying into the Lib/Con dichotomy, it appears that substantial numbers of voters are looking primarily at a Lib/NDP or Con/NDP choice. And based on the NDP's better standing in soft support than in committed support, plenty of the voters looking at those choices have liked what they've seen from the NDP so far.

Not to say that the NDP isn't doing well with its base in the survey as well, as the Decima numbers for committed NDP voters are already higher than those in most other polls to date. But if Anderson's conclusions as to the current swing vote are anything close to accurate, then there's ample room for even more growth through the rest of the campaign.


The NDP's Rapid Response points out that the Liberals' slate of election promises includes policies that the Libs specifically refused to agree to when opposition parties brought them up just a month ago:
The Liberals are promising to raise the lifetime capital gains tax exemption for farmers (from $500K to $750K). They say this will help families transfer farm operations to their kids.

(In Parliament,) (t)he Liberals opposed an opposition motion (M-225) to raise the lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers. They said that's not needed because the Liberals are doing enough for farmers. The Liberals denied unanimous consent on November 25, 2005. The motion died on the order paper.

Crash and burn

More news comes out about the Libs' bungled bidding process for military transport planes:
Last month, after a plan to buy $12.2-billion worth of 50 military aircraft was criticized by industry insiders and opposition politicians for perceived unfairness of the bidding process, the Defence Minister announced an abridged plan, for transport planes only. Of the total $4.6-billion cost, $3-billion is directly related to procuring the aircraft, with $1.6-billion for servicing costs over 20 years...

Interviews with industry and government insiders -- all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of missing out on future government work or suffering other reprisals -- confirm that the transport contract, whatever it may evolve into in future, has not been designed to produce a competition...

DND officials have also privately conceded that a requirement that the new aircraft be "certified to aviation certification standards" by the expected contract award date effectively rules out Airbus's A400M transport...This condition on certification is a first in Canadian military procurements. In the past, the department has required certification by the delivery date.
The article notes also that also the bidding specifications set out a delivery date of 2008, internal documents anticipate delivery only by 2010 - by which time Airbus is expected to have added capacity to build planes which would suit Canada's purposes.

It may be necessary in times of genuine emergency to bypass some elements of competitive bidding even on such large contracts. But the need for transport planes isn't a new one, so that argument always rang hollow when it came to this purchase. And there's never any excuse for building artificial requirements into the bidding process for the sake of reaching a preordained outcome...particularly when the reality seems to be that the situation is less urgent than the government has claimed.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cause and effect

Remember UK Conservative leader David Cameron's strategy of embracing "green politics"? Two weeks after that idea hit the headlines, Cameron has already overtaken the governing Labour party in the eyes of the British public:
The poll finds that the Tories are ahead of Labour by 37% to 36%, with the Liberal Democrats on 21%, compared with Labour's five-point lead a month ago. Minor parties have also been squeezed from 10% to 7% by the David Cameron-led Tory revival. It is the first time in five years the Tories have been ahead - the last was during the fuel crisis - and the second time since 1993, after the pound crashed out of the European exchange rate mechanism. It suggests that a solid majority of voters, 55%, is now dissatisfied with the job Tony Blair is doing as prime minister, though he remains overwhelmingly popular (82%) among Labour voters.
Note also that much of the bounce appears to be coming from votes previously parked in the Liberal Democrats, as Cameron's environmentally-responsible stance wins over voters who oppose Labour but don't want to see a hard-right alternative take power instead.

Fortunately for the NDP, nobody in Canada's Cons has yet had the same bright idea as Cameron. And with Harper still in charge for another election and Layton's popularity still finding ways to improve from the high levels already reached after the last session of Parliament, the NDP looks to be a long ways away from facing the same problem as the Lib Dems.

When in doubt, promise anything

The CP's Trail Tales focuses on Stephen Harper's misinterpretation of a reporter's question...but the more telling part is Harper's ultimate answer:
Quebec City reporters asked the Conservative leader where his party stands on helping repair the Quebec Bridge.

One of the longest cantilevered steel railway bridges in the world is rusting and needs $60 million in repairs

As Harper answered in his second language, it became clear that he had misunderstood the question.

"A Conservative government would be willing to spend whatever is necessary to make the Jean Lesage airport a modern facility," he said.
Now, the Cons' website isn't searchable and doesn't turn up any results for a few related search terms - the closest was the Cons' security policy which includes upgrades to airport security. (If there actually is some backing to a promise of general airport upgrades at any cost, feel free to post it in the comments.)

As best I can tell, Harper's immediate reaction to the question he thought he heard was to promise whatever the reporter seemed to want, without either any party policy to back it up, or any consideration as to the costs or benefits involved. And that's open to only two interpretations: either Harper is so determined to win the election that he'll happily spend money without reason in order to win, or he's reflexively making promises with no intention of keeping them. Either way, that's not somebody who Canadians should want to see in control of the levers of government.

When Pat Fiacco attacks

Regina's municipal election campaign doesn't even start until later in 2006, but Pat Fiacco is already going strongly negative against somebody:
Mayor Pat Fiacco had some strong words for those he says are "getting in the damn way" of attempts to improve life in the inner city.

"We know there are things that we can do differently, so we'll do them. But we're not going to stop," the mayor said Saturday at the release of a progress report on the Regina Inner City Community Partnership (RICCP).

"You're either part of the construction team or you're part of the demolition team. This is the construction team. If you want to be part of the demolition team, get the hell out of the way," Fiacco said.

Asked afterwards to whom he was referring, Fiacco would say only: "I think that the individuals know who they are."
Not surprisingly, the Leader-Post finds several quotes roughly agreeing with Fiacco and nothing by way of a contrasting view. But one can draw a hint from this quote:
Fellow board member Morris Eagles, who has lived in north central for 30 years, said community residents need to take ownership of the issues. "They also have to be the ones that act as a catalyst for change. We're the residents here. We're the ones who have to identify what the real issues of the community are," he said.
In other words, the dispute seems to come down to individual residents of the north-central area who don't agree with a renewal plan, and Fiacco's efforts to implement that plan. If that alone were the question, it's hard to argue with need for some change. But there's still the small matter of how to win the approval of the people most affected.

On that count, telling people to "get the hell out of the way" rather than listening to their concerns only serves to make the process unnecessarily adversarial. And even if the rebuilding program is successful, it's hard to see how the area will be much better off for the resentments that are bound to result from Fiacco's explicit desire to impose it against the will of residents.

While Fiacco's image as a plucky boxer may have served him well so far, there's no benefit to picking unnecessary fights. And it won't be long before a lot of people who he's managed to drag into battles with City Hall will get their chance to deliver a knockout blow.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

On cover-ups

The CP reports today that Harper's infamous 1997 speech was brought to the press' attention by a Martin employee and a Liberal member who tried to cover up their partisan affiliation:
News organizations receive tips or leaks from partisan sources all the time. It does not disqualify the newsworthiness of the leak. But everyone in politics has an agenda, and recognizing the agenda is part of the critical appraisal any news organization brings to its assessment of a story - even if a news tip's provenance is not always conveyed to the public.

Munter asked to remain anonymous as the source of the tip. Contacted by CP's election desk, he also vigorously denied acting with any partisan direction...

The Canadian Press (later) learned that Munter was in Vancouver with the Liberal team, working with Martin on debate preparations.

Munter, contacted again Thursday, was repeatedly asked whether the Liberal party had any connection to his suggesting CP look for the story.

Each time, Munter evaded the question...

Munter eventually offered that the speech was found by a friend "who is something of a whiz on the Internet."

He was asked if his friend had any connection with the Liberal war room. He said he didn't know, but finally conceded: "He is a Liberal."
As the article notes, it should come as a surprise to nobody that the people involved in publicizing the article had partisan motivations. But there's no reason why they needed to lie to the CP in order to bring the story forward.

So far, the Liberals' war room is apparently refusing to comment...which is somewhat understandable given its efforts to avoid any association with the initial story. But the longer Munter is the Liberal voice associated with this story, the worse Martin and company will look in their implicit endorsement of dishonest campaigning.


Balbulican points out an effort by Con bloggers to build an aura of "Harpermania". And to think some people claim the campaign hasn't been all that funny yet.

On metaphors

(I)n Regina, Paul Martin and the Liberal campaign thought they had the perfect Christmas election campaign photo opportunity lined up today.

Though it was -27 C in Regina, Martin was to take the reigns of a horse-drawn sleigh for a little ride for the cameras. Unfortunately for the Liberals, the back wheel on Martin's sleigh blew a flat tire that no one could miss.

Northern lack of exposure

The CP points out some of the unintended consequences of Canada's federal campaign financing rules:
Reforms passed in 2003 resulted in a $1,000 limit on the amount of money corporations can donate to any one candidate. That killed a practice by northern airlines of giving free or discounted plane tickets to candidates - the only way for many of the 58 communities in the Nunavut and the Northwest Territories ridings to get a look at the men and women asking for their vote.

"The new campaign laws mean that airlines can no longer donate tickets to candidates, even thought they've done it for all candidates in the past," said Jack Hicks, an agent for Nunavut NDP candidate Amanda Ford-Rogers.
From the sound of it, all parties agree that the reduced capacity for travel in the North is a significant problem. Hopefully whoever wins the Northern vote this time out will be able to get Parliament as a whole to ensure that campaign finance rules don't harm representative democracy in areas where the normal costs don't apply.


The agreement may be far from perfect, but it's a relief that the WTO has hammered out a deal to eliminate farm export subsidies over the next decade:
Trade negotiators approved an agreement Sunday requiring wealthy countries to end farm export subsidies by 2013, a support system that poor nations say puts them at a competitive disadvantage...

The way was opened to an agreement when delegates managed a last-minute breakthrough on farm subsidies, with wealthy countries agreeing to eliminate their payments to promote exports like cotton and sugar by 2013. Developing countries say the subsidies make it hard for poor farmers to compete.

Poor countries had pushed for the farm subsidies to end by 2010, while the EU held out for 2013. But the accord includes a provision that a substantial part of the subsidies should end by "the first half of the implementation period" to set at a later date...

The agreement also calls on wealthy countries to allow, by 2008, duty-free and quota-free trade privileges for at least 97 per cent of products exported by the least developed countries, those with per capita incomes of less than $860 Cdn a year.
While an ideal agreement would have seen more subsidies included in the cuts and a shorter time frame for reduction, it's at least a plus to have complete agreement to move in the right direction. And the principals involved rightly note that this deal will help generate momentum for more talks in the future.

For too long international trade has been based on a framework which only made trade more difficult for the states which most needed it. And even if there hasn't been as much progress as hoped, at the very least the 149 WTO members have now acknowledged that that needs to change.