Saturday, December 08, 2007

On hot air

Shorter Lorne Gunter:
This just in: if climate change can be combated through common-sense means like managing driving patterns and eliminating unnecessary appliances, then it isn't worth bothering with at all. Now back to our regularly-scheduled rhetorical program, "WE CAN'T REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS WITHOUT DESTROYING OUR WAY OF LIFE!"

Promises, promises

What a relief that the Cons promised a non-partisan public appointments commission to keep watch over federal hirings. Without it, they'd surely be in the midst of a veritable orgy of patronage by now.

Speaking of which, is anybody else curious as to what kind of instructions the new appointees might be receiving before taking over their roles?

After all, it seems clear that the Cons' governing strategy relies heavily on both politicization and patronage. And it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the same party which wrote the book on turning every available forum into a partisan battlefield would have similar tactics in mind when it comes to its patronage appointments - even if they might not be subject to the same internal party sanctions.

Friday, December 07, 2007

On dishonesty

I'm at least a little bit surprised that Murray Mandryk seems to have been taken off guard by the Sask Party's speed in throwing its campaign promises out the window. But based on Mandryk's latest column, it appears safe to say that Brad Wall's electoral honeymoon is over:
The oath and affirmation that Saskatchewan Party government MLAs swore to on Tuesday required them to bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors.

Unfortunately, it didn't specify that they were required to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is an oversight perhaps in need of addressing.

Ironically, the day government members' swore the above oath happened to be the same day that we caught the government in its first two blatant incongruities:

Contrary to the Saskatchewan Party's Prince Albert Carlton candidate's election commitment that "a vote for a Darryl Hicke is vote to keep the mill open" we listened to Hicke's rationalization of how the cancellation of the $100-million Domtar memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the former NDP government to try and reopen the mill has virtually no relationship to that commitment.

And we also heard from none other than Premier Brad Wall that the government would impose some form of essential services legislation -- this despite repeated assurances from Elwin Hermanson and Don McMorris (the latter a mere 10 days before the election call) and Wall himself that the Saskatchewan Party saw no reason to legislate essential services and that the unions and governments could work this out at contract time...

(T)here is a bigger principle at work here -- a principle about as simple and basic as principles come in politics: You have to be honest and forthright with the voters.

Wall, McMorris, Hickey and now Advanced Education and Labour Minister Rob Norris simply aren't being honest with the voters on these two issues.
While I don't agree with Mandryk's analysis of the actual policies at stake, it's still important to note how little the Sask Party's word has meant so far during its stay in government. And hopefully Mandryk and others will take the latest reversals as a cue that - as the NDP has warned all along - there's little reason to take Wall's assurances at face value.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hey, Adam Radwanski...

James Moore's Parliamentary indiscretions have already received plenty of attention. But perhaps more remarkable than Moore's actions is the shoot-the-messenger reaction from Adam Radwanski:
Hey, Jack Layton...

Do you think maybe it's time to have a little talk with your MPs?

In nationally televised committee hearings, one of them has become the poster-boy for overtly partisan, self-aggrandizing and generally embarrassing attempts to question Karlheinz Schreiber. Now, in the House of Commons, another is behaving roughly 50 years less than her age - tattle-taling on one of Parliament's more likeable MPs for supposedly looking at a "scantily clad" woman on his laptop.
So what's wrong with Radwanski's take? From my standpoint, there are two obviously-flawed assumptions which are necessary to his conclusion.

First, in order to minimize Moore's action, Radwanski shows an utter lack of awareness about sexual harassment issues. It would seem to be relatively common knowledge that displaying an offensive picture may give rise to concerns about sexual harassment - and indeed the federal Treasury Board says the same thing.

But as far as Radwanski is concerned, MPs in Parliament are to be held to a lower standard than workers in any other Canadian workplace rather than a higher one. And indeed, behaviour which could give rise to a sexual harassment complaint in any other workplace is seen to be above reproach when it's done by a "likeable" Con MP.

Second, there's Radwanski's concurrent portrayal of Mathyssen as a "tattle-tale" engaged in childish conduct for calling Moore on his behaviour.

Again, it would seem that if there's ever a place where one person should be expected not to let another's questionable actions go without challenge, it's when the opposition holds the government to account in the House of Commons. Instead, though, Radwanski is apparently of the view that the NDP's job is to look the other way and merely let Cons be Cons.

Which would certainly serve Harper's purposes in this and other areas. But it would also make for a glaring dereliction of the NDP's duty to Canadian voters.

Needless to say, there's no reason for Layton to want to take Radwanski's advice. And on the list of those who deserve to be taken less seriously as a result of the incident, Radwanski isn't far behind Moore.

Update: Unfortunately, it looks like Mathyssen is now going to apologize for even bringing up the subject based on Moore's declaration that the pictures were "of a friend" or of his girlfriend (depending on the explanation one listens to). That may well make the pictures less offensive than some other possibilities - but it still it doesn't offer any reason for Mathyssen to apologize for pointing out what she saw.

Update II: Oddly enough, Moore is now denying that he was looking at any image fitting Mathyssen's description to begin with. This after it was Moore who told David Akin that "the pictures were of his girlfriend" (see the CTV link above), which would seem to suggest that Moore knew what pictures were involved and recognized enough similarity to Mathyssen's claim to warrant explanation. File this under the Cons' habit of serial denial...

Undue influence

Shorter Brian Day:

If I've repeatedly abused what's supposed to be a universal-access public health care system, that's the system's fault rather than mine.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sustained pressure

Shorter Fraser Institute on health care costs:

If Saskatchewan's government does absolutely nothing to make the province's health care system more efficient in the meantime, it could end up spending half of its revenues on health costs thirty years down the road.
Or if it follows our advice on tax slashing, it can get there by the middle of next week.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Battle tested

A few quick questions for the Libs who are planning to turn the next federal election into "an ideological battle" against the Cons.

Wouldn't anybody who actually favours a national prescription drug plan prefer to support a party which didn't proclaim that health care had been fixed for a generation without one?

Wouldn't anybody who's concerned about financial support for seniors look first at the party which is already fighting for just that?

And wouldn't anybody who wants to see action against poverty have to take at least some look at the previous Lib government's failure to make it a priority?

Of course, it's a plus that the Libs are once again co-opting the federal NDP's longtime issues. But when it comes time for a vote, surely Canadians are better off with a party which actually believes in the cause leading the charge for a more progressive country.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Declining investment

I'm surprised that this hasn't received more notice when Kyoto and Bali have both been receiving ample attention. But as NDP MP Nathan Cullen pointed out in Thursday's Question Period, the "strategy" of both the Libs and the Cons since Canada ratified Kyoto seems to have been a miserable failure.

Here's what Cullen had to say about investment in emission reductions by Canadian industry:
Statistics Canada reports that spending by industry on capital investments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions actually dropped by 35%. Oil and gas slashed its investments by 46%, while the power industry cut its investments by 96%. The government ensures that Canada will fall further and further behind.
Now, it's worth noting that the numbers in question are from 2002-2004 - meaning that they pre-date the Cons' stay in power. But it's not hard to draw a link between factors which likely led to the decline, and ones the Cons are seeking to entrench as a long-term policy.

Remember that in 2002 Canada actually ratified Kyoto, signalling an apparent commitment to international reduction targets, with a concurrent intention to require substantial emission reductions from industry. And it only makes sense that Canadian businesses would have sought to get the jump on their likely obligations when there was some prospect that the required reductions would actually be enforced.

After 2002, however, the Libs chose not to take their own government's commitment seriously. By 2004, Canadian industry seems to have figured out that the Libs weren't going to actually put any teeth behind the targets - and naturally reduced its investment accordingly.

At the same time, though, it seems clear that the earlier commitment to an internationally-enforceable target did serve to drive investment in emission reductions. And the Cons' current stance of holding out for the lowest common denominator can only send an equally strong signal in the opposite direction: when Canada's government is looking to avoid any real commitment to emission reductions, there's no reason for industry to bother investing in reductions of its own.

It remains to be seen whether the current cycle of neglect can be reversed. But it appears plain that with Canadian industry plainly taking its cues from the federal government, neither Lib-style dithering nor the Cons' state of denial is going to lead to any progress in the fight against climate change.