Saturday, June 07, 2008

On alien concepts

Introducing the Libs' next generation of star candidate: not just a space cadet, but also wrong in law (warning: PDF).

Go figure

While it's always tempting the Cons' constant partisanship in kind, the most sure way to embarrass a government which is focused entirely on its opponents is to highlight its corresponding lack of basic knowledge about its own responsibilities. And as Aaron Wherry points out, Paul Dewar's request for information about the cost of the Afghanistan mission looks to have done just that when picked up by reporters:
Reporter: So can you give us a figure? How much is it costing us, say per month?
MacKay: Well, I’m not going to get into the specifics because we have added, as you know, additional equipment and there are additional procurements happening now in response to the recommendations of the Manley Committee that were endorsed by the House of Commons.
Moderator: One more question, folks.
Reporter: They’re saying you don’t have a cost, you don’t have a figure.
MacKay: Well, we do. Of course we do.
Reporter: Well what is it?
MacKay: Well, we have all kinds of figures.
And so they surely do - with different ones brought out at different times depending on whether their partisan goal for the moment is claim credit for pouring money into the military, or to minimize the cost of the war in an effort to reduce opposition to continued combat.

But what the Cons plainly lack - in assessing the cost of Afghanistan, as in far too many other files - is any basis in reality for their partisan puffery. And that's why when asked for a simple, accurate figure about the cost of their main foreign policy priority, the Cons can't even begin to answer the question.

Of course, the Cons are sure to strategize over the weekend about what number will reflect best on them, and put that forward that in an effort to defuse the immediate issue. But the even more fundamental problem is a government which doesn't see any value in basic, objective knowledge. And that can only be solved by removing the Cons from office at the earliest opportunity.

(Edit: fixed label.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Choosing the messenger

Following up on yesterday's post about some of the more important remaining questions in Cadscam, I'll briefly take issue with one of Scott's underlying assumptions. While James Moore may be the talking head currently assigned to the file, there's no reason why he should be expected to deliver any of the relevant answers; instead, it's Stephen Harper alone who can actually provide any useful information if he chooses to do so.

After all, Moore isn't the plaintiff who's seeking to suppress Tom Zytaruk's recording of his conversation with Harper, and thus making the strategic choices Scott wonders about.

Moore wasn't privy to the conversation between Harper and Zytaruk, such as to be able to provide any explanation as to what context could possibly provide any justification for Harper's recorded words.

And Moore isn't the party leader who has apparently chosen to close ranks rather than ordering any investigation into his own candidate's sworn statement that two party representatives tried to bribe her husband.

Aside from anybody who can shed light as to who actually made the million-dollar insurance policy offer on May 17, 2005 that Dona Cadman has sworn to hearing about, nobody from the Cons other than Harper himself can possibly pretend to have anything relevant to say about the matter. And the more the Cons choose to present people who obviously have nothing useful to say as their public voices on the topic, the more reason there'll be to wonder what those in the know are hiding.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open questions

While Scott has listed a few questions worth asking in light of Stephen Harper's injunction motion, the area I find particularly interesting arises from Dona Cadman's affidavit:
Prior to my meeting with Mr. Harper on September 9, 2005, I told Mr. Zytaruk that on May 17, 2005 my husband told me earlier that day two Conservative Party representatives had offered him a $1 million insurance policy. My husband never revealed the identities of these two people to me...It is my clear recollection that the date that my husband told me that he had received the offer of a $1 million insurance policy was May 17, 2005 and not May 19, 2005.
With that paragraph, Harper himself has put before a court sworn testimony to the effect that Chuck Cadman was offered an insurance policy by two Con representatives on May 17, 2005, and informed Dona Cadman of the offer that same day.

Now, it strikes me as highly doubtful that two Con representatives acting in concert would have approached Cadman without at least somebody else having some idea what was going on. But even if that's the case, Harper would be in the best position to encourage his party's operatives to speak up as to who offered what when. And he'd seemingly have a strong incentive to do so - lest his party otherwise continue to be represented by individuals who had in fact tried to bribe Cadman.

So who was it that made the visit on the 17th at which an insurance policy actually was offered (which Cadman so clearly remembers hearing about at the time)? Who else, if anybody, has known about the visit and said nothing about it? And why doesn't Harper seem the least bit concerned with figuring out who it was that made the offer on behalf of his party?

(Edit: fixed typos.)

Definitely one to watch

So let's get this straight: the single minister now being hyped as the Cons' last hope for competence in a major portfolio like Finance or Foreign the same one currently accomplishing so little in Industry that his department has nothing better to do than to repeatedly turn his personal Wikipedia page into fan fiction.

I suppose that might play well to Stephen Harper's obsession with image over substance. But for those of us who don't see Con self-promotion as the lone goal worth pursuing, is there any possible conclusion other than that the Cons would be in over their heads trying to run a lemonade stand?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On timing

So much for my theory that Stephen Harper might have wanted to get his injunction application out of the way quickly to ensure any damage was done with long before a possible election campaign, as the motion documents (posted by Stephen Taylor) indicate that the motion won't be argued until September. But if the motion wasn't enough of a long shot already, the delay figures to make it even less likely to succeed: how can Harper try to argue that an injunction is needed to prevent irreparable harm three months from now if the lack of one isn't a problem in the meantime?

On scofflaws

Taking yet another cue from their Bushco mentors, the Cons have announced that they believe themselves to be entitled to ignore laws which they don't like. In this case, it's Jack Layton's climate change bill, which has passed in the House of Commons, and looks set to become the law of the land soon:
The Conservative government says it will not be bound by a new climate change bill passed Wednesday afternoon by the House of Commons.

The private members legislation by NDP leader Jack Layton calls on Canada to set greenhouse gas reduction targets that are considerably deeper than what the Conservatives have proposed. Wednesday's vote came as Canada is engaged in international negotiations toward new global climate change targets that will kick in when the current Kyoto Protocol expires less than four years from now...

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said his government's 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels is an aggressive yet realistic goal that will not change because of today's vote...

Mr. Layton's bill calls on Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and more than 80 per cent by 2050. It also calls on Ottawa to spell out interim targets for every five years between 2015 and 2050.

The bill passed the final House of Commons vote Wednesday afternoon 148 to 116. Mr. Layton signalled his thanks to the Bloc and Liberals afterward for sending the bill to the senate.
Now, it would be one thing if the Cons had tried to argue that the bill should be considered a confidence matter in its challenge to their weak reduction plans. And it's safe to say C-377 would never become law in that case - not just because the Libs would likely back down, but because in any event the resulting non-confidence vote in the House would presumably provoke an election before the Senate could pass the bill.

But rather than trying to use dubious-but-legal parliamentary tactics to determine whether or not the bill passes, the Cons have instead declared that they believe they're entitled to simply pretend it doesn't exist even when it's been passed democratically. Which offers yet another indication that the Cons' dedication to law and order stops when the law would be applied to them.

Risk and reward

While others are understandably scratching their heads as to what the Cons could possibly have been thinking in reigniting Cadscam, my impression is that there's a relatively obvious explanation. But that doesn't mean for a second that the move speaks anything but poorly to the Cons' motives.

In essence, the Cons' application for an injunction against any use of the tape looks like little more than buying a political lottery ticket. The cost of the effort falling on its face is likely relatively low: by choosing their timing in applying for the injunction, the Cons are betting that even if they take a momentary PR hit, the application will be long forgotten by the time any election rolls around.

(Note that the Cons' perception of safety may be just one more side effect of the Libs' telegraphing their political strategies, as a credible threat of a summer election might have made the risk far higher.)

In contrast, the Cons obviously recognize how powerful a message they might face based on Harper's words being used against him. And if the Cons were to hit the jackpot in their application, then they'd be able to go into the next election campaign without any fear of the Libs being able to make use of the recording.

Moreover, if Harper were able to successfully argue in the injunction application that the tape should be seen as unreliable, that would likely help to strengthen his position if he keeps up his lawsuit against the Libs. Indeed, strong enough language in an injunction decision might make it extremely difficult for the Libs to make use of the tape within the litigation - which could remove what otherwise looks to be a virtually inescapable need for Harper to personally testify as to the contents of the tape to have any hope of succeeding.

In sum, it seems relatively reasonable for the Cons to conclude that the chance to bolster their position when it counts made the application worth trying now. But what about the Cons' decision to call a press conference about it?

Well, that's entirely consistent with Harper's obsessive need to manage public appearances. The injunction application would almost surely be reported either way, and with the Cons making the first public announcement, they at least briefly placed the focus on alleged "doctoring" of the tape rather than either their attempt to stifle opposition, or the plain truth of what Harper was recorded saying.

Of course, it's in those two factors that the Cons' action - even if explicable based on the political risks and rewards involved - is itself a serious problem. If Harper genuinely sees himself as entitled to edit out of existence even his own words when those prove politically damaging, then it's hard to imagine what limit there could be to his willingness to suppress reality in the name of his political interests. And even in the face of the Cons' parade of scandals and gaffes, that may make for the single most important reason why a change in government is long overdue.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On market adjustments

Having already declared that they wouldn't be bothered to do anything about high fuel prices caused by "market forces", the Cons are now using the same excuse to deflect responsibility for yet another round of manufacturing job losses.

Now, it's not hard to see how the message might seem like a relatively easy way to escape a dangerous issue, particularly for a party which likely assumes that nobody will think to question the answer. But it's worth wondering whether the Cons may only encourage a stronger progressive counterbalance in the long run: if Canadians hear often enough that "market forces" are eroding their standard of living, won't there be all the more reason for them to conclude that they're best off challenging the all-too-common conventional wisdom that the market should trump all else?

On contempt

David Akin reports that the Cons are apparently refusing to allow any of their MPs to testify about the circumstances of Maxime Bernier's departure. But while the Cons are going to ever-more-comical lengths in trying to stonewall against investigation into what they've done wrong, this particular refusal to answer questions to looks to do far more harm than good for the Cons unless there's significantly more to the story than has gone public so far.

After all, however unlikely the Cons would be to offer any full account of what happened from their perspective, any appearance would at least allow them to try to repeat their own spin a few more times. But rather than taking the opportunity to rag the puck, the Cons are instead avoiding the whole process - meaning that the entire focus for now will be on the testimony of Julie Couillard, who's presumably not the first person they want put in the public eye.

And it's worth seeing as well whether the committee will seek to fill out its witness list with others who can provide insight into what happened without being under the Cons' partisan control. Presumably civil servants who don't hold the MP privilege being claimed by the Cons would be in at least as good a position as the cabinet ministers to describe both what's supposed to happen, and what actually did happen both during Bernier's tenure and at the time of his departure. And the more the opposition is able to get that story in front of the public, the more the Cons may end up wishing they'd taken the committee's invitation to appear.

Monday, June 02, 2008

On budget busters

Since its announcement in 2007, the Cons' auto feebate program has served as a monument to the Harper government's incompetence and warped sense of priorities. Ignoring both public and internal advice that the program was a woefully inefficient means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Cons not only pushed ahead with the program but loaded it up with pork for maximum inefficiency.

Then, when it came time to actually pay out the promised rebates, Canadians found out that the Cons hadn't actually bothered to put their announcement into practice. Which means that when the Cons axed the program for years after 2008, it might have been tempting to breathe a sigh of relief that the damage was at least done with.

Unfortunately, though, the Cons can always find some way to make things even worse than they may have appeared. And the CP reports that the bad news is still rolling in, as the program managed to go far over budget for 2007:
Internal estimates from Transport Canada forecasted the federal eco-rebate program would go over budget by at least $37 million – and by as much as $65 million – in its first year alone.

The Conservative government's 2007 budget earmarked a total of $160 million over two years for the program.

The estimates show the department expected to spend between $117 million and $145 million in the first year of the two-year scheme.
It remains to be seen just how much worse matters get. But it speaks volumes about just how ludicrous the Cons' management of the feebate program has been that the best-case scenario may be if their earlier bungling (particularly in failing to pay out the rebates in 2007) pushes consumers to avoid making use of the rebate such as to limit the damage to the 2008 budget.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Following hot on the heels of John Baird's attack on any attempt to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Cons are apparently confirming that their theme this week is "Screw The Environment". Shorter Con proposal to excuse companies for killing or maiming migratory birds:
The real tragedy in incidents like the death of 500 birds in a Syncrude tailings pond this spring is that somebody might be held responsible. But we're doing everything in our power to prevent that from happening.

On hot air

If the Cons were looking to draw fire for their neglect of the environment, they could hardly have done better than John Baird's message today. As the rest of Canada debates the relative merits of cap and trade systems and carbon taxes, the Cons have apparently decided to signal their distaste for either means of actually reducing emissions, instead picking a fight with both Ontario and Quebec over their efforts to put the former together.

Of course, the problems with the Cons needlessly attacking Ontario in particular have already been well documented - and adding Quebec into the picture can only help to lose the Cons votes in the two provinces where they most need to try to pick up seats to have any hope of a majority. But Baird seems to have taken the image of bashing central Canada several steps further by coupling his unwarranted criticisms of cap-and-trade with inexplicable praise for Alberta's no-cap, no-trade, no-tax, no-meaningful reduction excuse for a greenhouse gas emissions strategy.

As a result, Baird's position not only shows just how far the Cons are from the real debate over Canada's choices in dealing with climate change, but also reinforces the image of Harper's government as firmly in the pocket of the oilpatch rather than willing to even look at national interests. And the opposition parties will be happy to have that example to point out as an indication of why it's long past time to end the Cons' stay in power.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Leftdog and Steve V, among others, have taken the time to point out that Lukiwski didn't even bother to respond to an invitation to this year's gay pride parade. But if we take a closer look at who Lukiwski may really have been apologizing to, his refusal to do anything to engage with the gay and lesbian community makes a lot more sense:
Let me conclude by saying that there is absolutely nothing I could say inside or outside of this assembly that would be an adequate apology to those people whom I have hurt. I deeply regret and I have deep remorse for my words of 17 years ago. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues in this House that I will spend the rest of my career and my life trying to make up for those shameful comments.
Now, it's fair to say that if Lukiwski intended to make amends toward the gay and lesbian community, then he'd reasonably be expected to go out of his way to attend events like the gay pride parade - to say nothing of showing the common courtesy of responding to invitations or otherwise making the effort to talk to some of the groups who have reached out to him.

But note how careful Lukiwski was to avoid naming "those whom I have hurt", or saying what exactly he'd do to make up for the offence. If one looks at the "hurt" as referring instead to the political damage caused to the Cons by having part of their party's real mindset revealed, then Lukiwski has been a model of remorse - indeed, what better way to show one's penitence for allowing careless honesty to surface on tape than to hide away and keep one's mouth shut?