Saturday, December 09, 2006

Deflating the hype

Erin points out that while the oft-discussed costs of the B.C./Alberta TILMA could be potentially huge, any benefits are likely to be slight - in contrast to the implausible claims of the governments involved:
(T)he Government of BC claims that TILMA could add $4.8 billion to provincial GDP. A Government of Quebec report, updated last month, indicates that BC’s gross exports to Alberta (goods and services) were $8.8 billion in 2002. Since BC’s total inter-provincial exports grew by 22% between then and 2005, its gross exports to Alberta might have increased to somewhere around $10.7 billion. It seems wildly optimistic to imagine an Alberta-BC free-trade agreement raising BC’s GDP by an amount equal to about 45% of its current exports to Alberta, especially since gross figures significantly overstate the contribution of exports to GDP.
It's hard to say what trade benefits (if any) would actually appear as a result of the TILMA. But with both parties involved going so far out of their way to pretend the agreement is something that it's not, there's ever less reason to think that the truth about it would earn a positive reception. And that should serve as a warning flag for any other province wondering whether to sign on.

Out of curiosity

Since I first saw Stephane Dion's Wikipedia entry shortly after his selection as leader of the Libs, I've been curious about the implications of the following passage:
Dion has often been described as a Trudeau centralist due to his strong defence of Canadian federalism, most particularly in his "open letters" to former premier of Quebec Lucien Bouchard. However, his position on federalism is far more nuanced. It would be most accurate to describe him as a federal autonomist. While Dion supports cooperation, flexibility, and interdependence in the Canadian federation, he unequivocally argues against jurisdictional intrusion by stating that "the Constitution must be respected. We must do away with the all-too-convenient excuse that a given governmental initiative responds to a need that is too urgent to be stymied by issues of 'jurisdiction.' Infringement of jurisdiction creates confusion which damages the quality of public policy." Dion's position on provincial rights is not only the result of respect for the Constitution of Canada, but also to prevent the "joint decision trap" in which the capacity of a government's ability to act is restricted by the need for approval from the other constituent governments.
Since nothing I saw on Dion's own website seemed to explicitly confirm or deny such a position, a couple of questions for those more familiar with his views than I. Is the above passage an accurate depiction of Dion's past or present view of federalism? And if so, would Dion support PMS' desire to constitutionally prohibit new federal programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction, or oppose such a measure only based on the politics of opening constitutional issues rather than on its merits?

On choices

Murray Mandryk weighs in on the ever-more-public debate over the Cons' equalization promises. And if indeed Harper has gone back on his plan to remove non-renewal resources from the equation, Mandryk clearly sets out that the price is the Cons' own self-declared reputation for honest government:
You can argue that it was stupid politics for former prime minister Paul Martin to offer Newfoundland and Nova Scotia their own separate deals excluding non-renewable resources and that it was even stupider politics for Harper to promise the same thing.

What you can't argue, however, is that this is exactly what the Tories promised.

Calvert is being purely political -- and, frankly, a bit nasty -- but there's really no reason to believe that his assessment of his meeting with Harper is anything but accurate. In fact, given the duplicitous and mealy-mouthed displays we continue to see from the Saskatchewan Conservative MPs whenever the equalization file comes up, there's every reason to suspect Calvert is completely justified in now playing the political card.

For example, in an interview with James Wood of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on Friday, Skelton had the audacity to scold Calvert for this poor "negotiation" tactic.

"There are still negotiations going on," Skelton aid. "When you negotiate -- and the premier of all people should realize -- when you negotiate you don't go out babbling to the media. If I was dealing with someone I wouldn't be kicking them in the shins, shall we say."

But Ms. Skelton, you promised the $800 million in the election. There are no negotiations here. Either you're an honest politician who keeps a promise or not. Which is it, Ms. Skelton?
It remains to be seen whether Harper can be shamed into carrying out his commitment to Saskatchewan. But it should be without doubt that a clear promise from a government which has listed federal/provincial funding as a top priority represents Saskatchewan's best chance to secure the deal that other provinces have received. Which indeed means that there's every reason for Saskatchewan's government to directly confront PMS as Calvert has - and just as much reason for Saskatchewan's voters to ensure that any attempt to back out of the promise is thoroughly punished at the polls.

Friday, December 08, 2006

All too true

Any time one can mix Monty Python and politics, it's worth doing - and Cranford at Babble sums up the Libs' place in progressive politics nearly as well as can be done. (I'd only quibble slightly with Cranford's mapping of characters: the Libs seem better placed as Lancelot, with the MSM and non-party groups all too consistently playing the Swamp King role.)

Chemical brothers

Due credit to the Cons for what looks to be a step forward in dealing with toxic chemicals. But is there any doubt that if they had anything more than a tenuous minority government, Harper would take every opportunity to follow Bush's lead in trying to undo past environmental successes?

Losing support

Politics Watch reports that it isn't just the public at large that's had it with PMS, as the Con caucus is more fractured than was publicly known to date:
(A)lready private grumbling about Harper's style has become more and more public in recent weeks. The fortress around what goes on behind the scenes is slowly being penetrated with non-flattering leaks from inside.

PoliticsWatch has learned that regional caucus meetings have become weekly venting sessions for MPs and even cabinet ministers frustrated at the centralized control of Harper's PMO.

One cabinet minister has complained to his colleagues about a two-week delay he faced in delivering a straightforward, positive speech because he had to wait for PMO approval.

Discussion at Alberta caucus is said to be dominated in recent weeks with complaints about the government's income-trust flip-flop.

MPs are more reluctant to voice complaints at national caucus in front of the prime minister. That could be due to past heavy-handed tactics from Harper.

According to sources, when the government announced $1 billion in spending cuts in September, caucus learned about it after the cuts had been made. Harper then told MPs that specific MPs would be designated to speak about the cuts and any MP that publicly voiced criticism about cuts affecting their riding would do so at their own peril.
It won't be the least bit surprising if PMS manages to crack down even more on his caucus in the near future to stem the current public airing of discontent (while trying to spread the Cons' own spin about how the caucus is entirely united on absolutely everything that hasn't gone public). Indeed, if he didn't already have moles in his party's regional caucus meetings and any other current hot spots for venting, I presume he'll make sure to do so from here on in.

But whether or not the details of the current dissent become public before the next election, it's clear that Harper isn't doing much better at keeping together his current base of support than he is at winning the approval of Canadian voters who are turning against him. And one has to figure that the moment his grip loosens (whether or not voluntarily), the result will be for the MPs and other party members who already have complaints about his leadership to go public and end PMS' hold on his party for good.

A simple diagnosis

The Globe and Mail reports that effecive two-tier health care is making inroads across Canada due to the reluctance of provincial plans to add high-cost cancer drugs:
For the first time, cancer patients across Canada will be offered what the public health-care system has been unable to deliver: intravenous drugs not covered by medicare for those who want to prolong their lives or fend off a recurrence -- for a price.

In what could be likened to one-stop shopping, patients can buy cancer medicine not paid for by their provincial governments, and in some cases, receive financial assistance. Medication will be administered by a nurse, under a doctor's supervision, in one of 18 infusion clinics across Canada...

For the first time, cancer patients across Canada will be offered what the public health-care system has been unable to deliver: intravenous drugs not covered by medicare for those who want to prolong their lives or fend off a recurrence -- for a price.

In what could be likened to one-stop shopping, patients can buy cancer medicine not paid for by their provincial governments, and in some cases, receive financial assistance. Medication will be administered by a nurse, under a doctor's supervision, in one of 18 infusion clinics across Canada.

The drugs don't come cheap: Price tags range from $22,000 to $40,000 for a course of therapy, depending on the medicine. A financial-assistance program can mean a discount as long as patients subject themselves to a means test...

The inability of the public system to cover the drugs comes as a surprise to cancer patients, who have long believed Canada's health-care system is based on the principle of equal access. But equality has never been the case when it comes to drugs, a vexing reality that often unfolds in the oncologist's office.

That is creating two types of cancer patients: those who can afford the best treatment and those who cannot -- what many would construe as two-tier care.
While the problem resides largely in a lack of both uniformity and consistent drug evaluation at the provincial level, the most obvious solution plainly lies at the federal level. A national pharmacare plan would both result in improved buying power to drive down the costs of the treatments which provinces now deem too expensive, and ensure that Canadians' access to prescription drugs isn't limited either by where they live, and how much they can afford.

Unfortunately, the Cons have shown absolutely no interest in such a move, even with all provinces onside. And even with the lone direct provincial challenger to equal access to health care removed from his post, it looks all too likely that PMS and the provinces will continue to allow equality to erode rather than taking readily-available steps to improve the situation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Good news, bad news

Congratulations to the House of Commons as a whole for finally putting the wider issue of same-sex marriage to rest.

But for those wondering whether the Libs will be able to test the riding support (or lack thereof) of their handful of socon MPs before any future attempt at gay-bashing in Parliament, the unfortunate answer is "no".

The next contestant

Rona Ambrose takes another turn on the ever-popular Con game show, "Wheel of Specious Excuses":
Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell asked Ambrose for any studies to support the government’s contention that (the One-Tonne Challenge and Energuide) programs weren’t working...

Ambrose denied that any overall assessment of the climate programs had been done.

“There’s never been a comprehensive audit or review done of the climate-change programs across government, ever.”

Mitchell asked how, if there had been no review, the government could know the programs were ineffective.

Ambrose then said an assessment had in fact been done, “We did a comprehensive review, by PCO (Privy Council Office) of all these programs.”

The meeting ended amid jeers before the apparent contradiction could be resolved.
While the show may have some dark comedic value, that's wearing thin after repeated viewings. Which means that we can only hope that the routine gets put out of its misery before too long.

On misguided requests

I'm sure Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara thinks he's accomplishing something positive in claiming that the federal government should offer Ontario more funding in order to allow him to cut provincial taxes:
Finance Minister Greg Sorbara says underfunding from Ottawa is keeping Ontario from cutting taxes.

Sorbara told a finance committee that Ontario would like to cut taxes, but needs the federal government to fix the way the province is funded first. Sorbara says Ontario has trouble every year making ends meet, while Ottawa is awash in a surplus.
But then, there's a plain problem with Sorbara's position. Given Flaherty's well-established position that he considers "tax room" to be a sufficient contribution to the provinces' coffers, it should be obvious that at best, the request will be ignored.

And what's worse, Sorbara's message seems all too likely to offer Flaherty political cover for yet more federal tax cuts (with resulting reductions in program funding) - both by raising the idea that more cuts are needed generally, and by allowing him the argument that he'd might as well do at the federal level what the provinces would be doing on their own in any event. Which means that rather than securing needed funding, Sorbara is only amplifying the Cons' anti-government position - and making it tougher for him and other provincial politicians to defend and fund good government in the future.

A misplaced defence

While the NDP can fairly be criticized for its recent tendency to take aim at relatively small deficiencies among the Libs, surely the Greens are going much further toward the opposite extreme by declaring that Stephane Dion's record as environment minister is above reproach:
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is leaping to the defence of her newly elected counterpart from the federal Liberals, insisting she can work with Stephane Dion to challenge the policies of the Conservative government....

(S)aid May in an interview on Wednesday, "If they try to say (Dion) was anything other than a very strong environment minister, they're making it up."
That would be the same "very strong environment minister" whose Project Green was set to fall well short of Canada's Kyoto commitments while costing far more money than budgeted (see July 27 entry). But the Greens seem entirely focused on winning the Libs' praise, even if it means needlessly accepting failure on what's supposed to be their core issue. And that can only undercut their own credibility in the race to translate Canadians' concern for the environment into votes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dual considerations

There's been no lack of talk about Jack Layton's comment in response to Stephane Dion's dual citizenship. But there's a need to both set the record straight about what Layton actually said, and ask some larger questions about the NDP's strategy.

Let's start by contrasting Layton's actual words against some of the more radical comments about them. The quote which caused so much furor was:
"I would prefer that a leader of a party hold only Canadian citizenship, because one represents many Canadians, and for me that means that it's better to remain the citizen of one country," Layton said.

"But for a person that isn't in a position of representing others, holding dual citizenship is fine with us."
Note first what's plainly lacking from the statement (unlike the Exra Levant column that put the issue in the public eye): Layton doesn't try to demean Dion or anybody else based on their country of origin, and doesn't question Dion's loyalty to Canada. Nor does he claim that dual citizens are "second-class citizens" or "less Canadian". Instead, the central question is whether dual citizenship may affect one's position as a civic leader in one of one's countries of citizenship. Which, contrary to so much of the outcry today, is an entirely reasonable position if one takes a closer look at the issue.

In order to see why this is so, let's ask a simple question about citizenship: is it a relative virtue to participate in the civic affairs of the country or countries in which one is a citizen - and thus a relative vice to fail to do so?

I won't get into a full discussion of the answer to the question (for those who must know, I'd answer "yes", with the proviso that such participation or lack thereof is unlikely to trump many other elements of one's character in evaluating a person generally or as a political candidate). But I'd think on any fair analysis one has to at least accept that it can reasonably answered in the affirmative - particularly given how meaningless any definition of "citizen" must be if it's entirely detached from one's civic participation.

Once one reaches a "yes" answer, then one of two things must be true, using Dion's case as an example. Either:
(1) Dion declines to participate as a French citizen, which is a relative vice at the best of times, and can be seen as a particularly problematic example in a person hoping to become the leading political figure in his other country of citizenship, or
(2) Dion does participate as a French citizen, and due to that participation has proportionately less time and attention to devote to Canada's political scene, which again is amplified as an issue for a person facing the demands placed on the leader of a political party.

(Interjecting my own view one more time, every indication seems to be that (1) is true in Dion's case. I'd ultimately take the view that it's probably not an important enough factor to merit substantial mention in Dion's case or that of other past or present Canadian politicians - especially when weighed against the lengths to which Dion in particular has gone to be fully involved in the important political debates facing Canada over the past decade-plus. But it's far from unreasonable for any observer to bring up as a potential concern.)

Of course, Layton's words only hint at this type of breakdown rather than presenting it in detail. Which is to be expected when the view has to be summed up in a soundbite rather than presented in detail. But once one takes a reasonable look at what lies behind the issue, it doesn't seem that Layton's comments should give rise to an overly angry response.

Needless to say, that hasn't stopped commenters from flinging slanders at Layton ranging from xenophobe (twice) to gutless castrato. And all, apparently, in an effort to improve the tenor of Canada's political debate.

So much for Layton's most vehement detractors on the issue. But while the extreme anger at Layton's position isn't anywhere close to being justified, there's also the question of whether this was a fight worth picking for Layton and the NDP. And here, Idealistic Pragmatist says it best (albeit referring to Pat Martin's more dubious comments among other examples, rather than Layton's):
We know you've got a great alternative vision, but right now we can't wait until you go back to presenting it so that we can stop cringing. You look like you're flailing. Quit it already.
It's understandably frustrating for the NDP's strategists knowing that the party's positive substantive message often doesn't make it through the media filter. For example, the Dippers managed to receive virtually no public attention for their Kyoto plan at the same time as pundits bleated about the NDP's alleged lack of comment on the issue. And it might well be that if the NDP had received even reasonable coverage at the time, Dion wouldn't have been able to win the Lib leadership by pretending there was a void that needed filling in the area of federal environmental policy.

Which must certainly make it tempting for the NDP to want to make sure to appear in as much coverage as possible, particularly when there's the political benefit of tossing a (however minor) negative at Dion himself.

But then there's the bigger picture to consider. The NDP's greatest strength is its credibility in presenting progressive policies - in being the party that's most often above the fray while the Cons and Libs throw steady streams of hypocritical accusations at each other. And while there's no avoiding some level of politics when more important considerations are at stake, it can only hurt the party's longer-term efforts if Layton takes on a reputation for being too busy commenting on the fad headline du jour to deal with serious policy issues...even if that image is based on the media seeking playing up only the stories where there isn't much to say.

Ultimately, the more severe criticisms levelled at Layton today can't be seen as reasonable ones. But the federal NDP would benefit from a change in its strategy: rather than seeking any chance to challenge a Con or Lib in the press as seems to be the case, Layton and company would be better off cultivating the Dippers' reputation for keeping their focus on the needs of Canadians. And if the NDP can do that, then both it and Canada's political discourse in general will be better off for it.

Hypothesis confirmed

A new CCPA study compares higher-tax countries to lower-tax ones, and confirms that current higher-tax regimes correlate not only to greater income equality and social justice, but also to greater savings, education, research and development as well. Now if only the Libs and Cons weren't so determined to keep undermining Canada's competitiveness...

It starts at the top

One would figure that Sheila Fraser testifying before the Public Accounts Committee about the Accountability Act would be a huge boon for the Cons. But rather than offering any support for the move to provide statutory whistleblower protection, Fraser rightly points out that the Cons are headed in exactly the wrong direction where it matters most:
Strong, ethical leadership from senior managers will do more to stop mismanagement and wrongdoing in the public service than the Conservatives' much-touted whistleblower legislation, according to Canada's spending watchdog...

She conceded there is no stopping the drive for the law, but questioned whether it will encourage people to come forward with complaints.

"I have always felt that to resort to whistleblower legislation, where people feel they need that kind of protection, is an indication that the system is not healthy and people can't freely bring forward cases of wrongdoing with the confidence that it will be dealt with confidentially and also that appropriate action will be taken."

Fraser's reservations about whistleblower protection came out when repeatedly pressed by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre on how the government could stop spending abuses without such a law. Poilievre is an outspoken champion of whistleblower legislation, which is the key piece of the Harper government's prized accountability bill.

"Why is it when someone sees abuses, no one sounds the alarms and cries out in the name of taxpayers for something to be done? ... Do you have any idea why you have to be the one who finds the fire that has been burning for years?" asked Poilievre.

Fraser pointed to her recent report into the ethical conduct of the Mounties, border guards and prison guards who overwhelmingly said they would report suspected cases of wrongdoing, but they didn't think their co-workers would and said they wouldn't be respected by their colleagues if they did. A significant number also doubted management would do anything about it...

She said legal protection against reprisals wouldn't ease fears of bureaucrats who fear personal consequences of exposing problems.

"If there is only legal protection, it takes an awful lot of courage to do that and I think a lot of people would rather say 'this isn't my responsibility, I didn't sign off on those documents, and I am not going to get involved rather than assume the risk of ... (personal) consequences,'" she said.
Now, there can be little doubt that Fraser herself has pointed out many areas where the system is indeed unhealthy, including the Ron Stewart case, such as to create a need for some statutory protection. But the more important message is that a whistleblower law is a poor substitute for a management structure which actually values critical input rather than seeing it as a threat. Which can only serve as a direct slam against a government notorious for expelling, firing and/or ostracizing anybody who dares to question the party line.

As an added bonus, Fraser also agrees with the NDP's criticism of the leaks surrounding her recent reports:
The committee is also considering a motion, initiated by NDP MP David Christopherson, to find out who leaked Fraser's reports. Details of last spring's gun registry report and her latest audit into the huge relocation contract to move 15,000 RCMP, military and bureaucrats were leaked to the media before they were tabled in Parliament.

Fraser said she would welcome a probe by the committee.

"I am annoyed that these things are getting leaked ... and we have gone as far as we can go. Physical control over the documents is one thing ... but the issue is how do you keep people from talking and how will you ever know whom it was?"
While Fraser's effectiveness in rooting out Lib abuses made her a darling of the Cons for a long time, it looks like the tables have turned. Which comes as no surprise when an impartial watchdog for good government comes face to face with with PMS' culture of information abuse - but which could easily be the final nail in the Cons' coffin as the harm done by their management style becomes public.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Invalid criticism

Of all the potshots that Lib supporters have leveled at the NDP, "(conniving) with the instigation of (an RCMP) investigation" has to be one of the more bizarre ones. I can only wonder how long it is before Dana starts directing similarly-misplaced accusations at other organizations who do the same on a regular basis.

On flip-flops

Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is now criticizing the Libs for seeing the light on anti-scab legislation. Which is particularly amusing coming from someone who has himself reversed course on the issue, only in the opposite direction:
This time, the so-called "anti-scab" legislation has received the support of about a dozen Conservatives and almost unanimous support from the opposition parties, including the Liberals. Ironically, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the Labour Minister, was one of four Progressive Conservative MPs to vote with the Bloc against Brian Mulroney's government when the legislation was proposed in 1990.
Presumably we'll never get to find out how it is that what's worth voting for under Mulroney is no longer so under Harper, as Blackburn now seems stuck in a rhetorical loop about "balance" without any indication why a slight rebalancing would (in his words) "paralyze" the economy. But as weak as his point would be in any event, it's doubly so when he himself has seen the merit of anti-scab legislation in the past - meaning that it shouldn't sway any Libs as they decide whether or not to keep up their support for the bill.

Manageable costs

The CIHI has released its numbers on Canadian health spending for 2006. And based on the CIHI's data, health-care costs are well under control - though you'd never know it from the CP's coverage:
The Canadian Institute for Health Information says Canadians will spend $148 billion on health care this year, more than $4,500 per person.

The statistics agency says 2006 health spending is expected to exceed inflation and population growth for the 10th straight year. The trend to increased funding began after deep cuts in the 1990s precipitated a crisis throughout the health system.
In fairness, the CP at least recognizes part of the reason for the trend. But on a closer look, its analysis misses entirely one of the stronger themes of the CIHI's findings, which is that this year's growth is levelling off compared to previous years:
Health care spending in Canada is expected to reach $148 billion in 2006, an increase of $8 billion over last year, according to figures released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) in its annual report on health care spending. National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975–2006 projects that total health care spending in Canada will increase by 5.8% in 2006 over the previous year. This increase is slightly lower than the estimated annual growth rate of 6.4% in 2005, and lower than the average yearly rate of increase (7.8%) from 2000 to 2004. After adjustment is made for inflation, health expenditures in 2006 are expected to grow by 3.7% or reach $120 billion in constant 1997 dollars.
In other words, a substantial amount of the raw-dollar total is attributable to inflation rather than real spending increases. And once population and economic growth are taken into account in addition to inflation by shifting to a percentage-of-GDP basis, health spending has levelled off almost entirely over the past 3 years:
CIHI’s estimates also reveal that while health care spending as a share of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to stay relatively stable this year, it remains at its highest level in 31 years. Health care spending as a share of GDP is expected to reach 10.3% this year, compared to an estimated 10.2% in 2005 and in 2004. Health care spending as a proportion of GDP was at its lowest (6.8%) in 1979, climbing to a 10.0% peak in 1992, before dipping and rising again to its current high level.
In sum, the story surrounding the CIHI's findings isn't that health-care spending is unmanageable, but rather that it's entirely under control as the deficiencies of the 1990s are worked out of the system. Which means that the real danger to Canadian health care isn't the actual cost of the system, but rather the ideology of those who would take the raw numbers out of context to pretend that our current expenses are unsustainable.

On limited debate

Surely the Cons' anti-SSM crowd which spent years crowing about the need for thorough study and debate about the issue - back when that would have meant putting off same-sex marriage legislation - won't be happy with this. But we'll see whether the groups bother getting as publicly angry as they did when it wasn't their favoured party moving to get the issue dealt with.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Making lemonade

I don't buy Jack Layton's explanation that his slip-up in Question Period today was planned. But am I the only one who suspects that "no more big-ass subsidies" could nicely follow in the NDP's proud tradition of criticizing the Libs and Cons for gratuitous corporate giveaways?

A litmus test

It was only after the Libs were banished to opposition that they suddenly saw the value in federal anti-scab legislation in large enough numbers to help push a bill through two readings. Now, with business groups launching their public attack on the bill, we'll find out whether the Libs are willing to follow through on giving workers in areas of federal jurisdiction a reasonable bargaining position - or whether they've had enough of a whiff of power to revert to their governing ways.

On contributing factors

Duncan Cameron notes that for all the talk about relatively minor influences on the Libs' first-ballot leadership results, Stephane Dion's strength (and arguably his subsequent victory) may be traced in substantial part to another controversial source:
Dion got ahead of Kennedy from the start because he had some secret first ballot support organized by a former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate, the man whose support Peter MacKay betrayed by merging the party with the Reform/Alliance, the legendary anti-free trade campaigner David Orchard.

Though it was little noticed at the time, Dion had introduced Orchard as a supporter last summer. By convention time Orchard claimed 100 delegates elected to back Dion. On the first ballot Dion received 856 votes, a crucial two more than Kennedy. Despite announced support greater than Dion (820 delegates coming into the convention, compared to 753 for Dion) Kennedy turned out to be behind him after the first ballot.
It's debatable whether Orchard had quite as much influence on the balloting as he claims. But it doesn't seem unlikely that Orchard's presence could have been decisive in pushing Dion's campaign forward.

Now, the benefits of having taken on Orchard's machine may not stop at any delegates added to the fold, as Orchard's supporters may provide the most obvious constituency to expand the Libs' vote in Western Canada with Dion at the helm. But it's also worth wondering whether Orchard's presence will force Dion to take on some baggage that he'd probably prefer not to have to deal with...and whether Orchard has imposed any price on his support which will now come due.

For the sake of consistency...

...I wonder whether any Con MPs will get booted out of caucus for releasing details about the party's internal discussion on the Quebec nation motion?

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The Tyee's Richard Warnica has a couple of interesting post-mortem posts on this weekend's leadership races.

First, he draws the comparison between the voting procedures at this weekend's leadership races and the FPTP system that still rules general elections - highlighting that in both races, the long-declared frontrunners eventually lost out to popular will (whether of members as a whole in the case of Alberta's Cons, or at least of the delegates at the federal Lib convention) due entirely to the presence of preferential balloting. Which leads naturally to the question of why we're stuck with a single FPTP electoral vote when the parties themselves understandably insist on at least some form of majority approval for their leaders.

Second, he highlights the fact that for all the portrayal of Stephane Dion as an outsider, his campaign was far from an independent movement, and featured more than a few well-known (and in some cases infamous) Lib insiders. And moreover, it's worth wondering as well what promises he made to secure the momentum he won at the convention.

(Edit: completed post.)

On expectations

The CP discusses Stephane Dion's plan to play the low-expectations game ala Jean Chretien. Which certainly makes for a nice change for the Libs compared to the hype surrounding ex-PMPM's supposed juggernaut-in-the-making, and probably makes for smart politics in the long term. But if the Libs' lowered immediate expectations manage to intersect with the NDP's growing ones, the door may be opened in the short term for the NDP to put to rest the false Lib/Con dichotomy and turn federal politics into a true three-party race for government.

Flimsy fabrications

More than a few other bloggers have already pointed out the Cons' trickery surrounding the Lib leadership convention. But one part of the story seems to demand more attention, as the Cons are also bragging that they fabricated "internal documents" to be leaked to the media:
One Conservative aide took pride in pointing out that his party fabricated an internal party memo suggesting their troops were most afraid of Michael Ignatieff - and most anxious to face Rae.

The ersatz memo was leaked to a pair of English-and French-language newspapers and ran under headlines that cast it as a behind-the-scenes peek at Tory strategy.

The name of Tory campaign chair Doug Finley, the supposed author of the memo, was stamped on the document as an afterthought.

The Tories then made arrangements to get the memo leaked through a third party to English and French newspapers, Tory sources said.
Not that the tactic is much of a surprise in from the Cons - even if some less canny Libs seem to have been taken in entirely. But if it's expected that the Cons would see fit to lie to the media, their willingness to gloat about it afterward speaks volumes about the Cons' contempt for both the media and the Canadian public. And it would only seem appropriate for the media to take at face value the Cons' proud declaration that they shouldn't be trusted.

Indeed, in light of the Cons' public admission that they've fabricated documents for media consumption, one would think that any responsible journalist would now have to call into question everything emanating from PMS and his party. That added scrutiny could take multiple forms - whether in terms of declining to publish stories in the first place when they're particularly suspect, or simply putting a proviso in each article to alert the public to the Cons' history of fabrication. Which would allow the Cons to still get their message to the public, while at the same time highlighting the obvious need to doubt anything the party has to say publicly.

Granted, the U.S. press has shown no such inclination when faced with years of similar manipulation, and it's possible that the same attitude will spill over into Canada. But Canada's Press Gallery has already shown somewhat more of a spine than any portion of the U.S. media. And given the chance to both put the Cons in their place and give a more accurate picture of each story by noting admitted facts about the Cons' past actions, it would seem an obvious choice to make sure that the Cons' pattern of deception doesn't go unmentioned in future reporting.

Update: Robert has more.

A familiar standard

Throughout (and indeed ever since) the 2006 general election, Jack Layton and the NDP have been pilloried by Lib supporters for allegedly treating PMS with kid gloves. We'll see if that view changes now that the Libs' new leader has taken virtually the exact same line on the Cons:
We do not believe that the Conservatives have bad intentions, we simply believe they lead to bad results...
Needless to say, the statement echoes the NDP's consistent "wrong on the issues" campaign position against the Cons. And this declaration from Dion comes after nearly a year of secrets, scandals, lies and coverups which provide us with far more evidence upon which to doubt the Cons' intentions than existed at the time of the general election.

Of course, Dion will likely end up ramping up the rhetoric in time, and it's entirely possible that the Libs will simply overlook Dion's position rather than spending months demonizing him as they have Layton. But if so, that only shows just how empty the Libs' criticisms of the NDP have been for the past year...and provides plenty of reason to doubt how seriously anybody can take their ongoing anger as well.

(Edit: typo.)