Saturday, August 22, 2009

Deep thought

Since Peter Van Loan is avoiding responsibility for tornado relief by saying any emergency response depends on a mathematical formula rather than anything within his control, we can surely count on the Cons not being so crass and dishonest as to try to take credit for the application of that formula if money ever gets paid.

One down, many more to go

There's seldom much doubt that the causes of tying Canada to the U.S. and handcuffing government in the name of corporatism will always emerge in some new format as soon as the last one falls by the wayside. But Stuart Trew is right to note that the official demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership still calls for at least some celebration - if only to help build energy for the next battles to come.

Update: Of course as Alison points out, the successor to the SPP is already in the works.

Feeding the grassroots

For quite some time, I've wondered why many political parties have seemed reluctant to build up online support networks for themselves, using their websites as self-contained messaging devices rather than trying to develop a network of supporters. But it's great to see that the Saskatchewan NDP is apparently breaking out of that pattern with its caucus website, sending interested readers to this and other familiar blogs which have commented on the Wall government's fiscal mismanagement.

Of course, that along with a successful venture into Facebook and Twitter makes for only a start in trying to build online capacity for the Saskatchewan NDP - and hopefully the next little while will see a concerted effort to encourage member-generated content and discussion in addition to pointing toward existing sources. But it's certainly a step in the right direction for the party to be building connections to its grassroots supporters - and both the NDP and the blogs themselves figure to benefit in the long run from the move.

By necessary implication

Cameron has answered the latest attempt to pretend that opposing the Cons is the same as supporting the Libs with due mockery. But let's go a step further and ask what it means if the Libs' logic is taken at face value.

The claim is based on the following pattern of reasoning:

1. Canadian voters have only two choices for government, the Cons and the Libs. (False, but let's keep going to see where it leads.)
2. Because Canadians have only those two choices, any statement or action related to one of the Libs or the Cons constitutes an endorsement as between the two.
3. Included within (2), any statement that the Cons should be removed from government is then taken to constitute an endorsement of the Libs.

But there's just one glaring problem from the Libs' standpoint if that reasoning is accepted.

Assume that it's true that any declaration that the Cons ought to be removed from power constitutes an endorsement of the Libs as against them. Isn't it then equally true that any declaration that the Cons ought to be kept in power constitutes no less an endorsement of the Cons as against the Libs?

And by that logic, haven't the Libs been endorsing Stephen Harper against their own leaders for the better part of two years?

Again, there are obvious flaws in the argument to begin with (if ones which the Libs have gone to great pains to avoid noticing). But Steve V and other Libs might want to take a closer look at what they're saying in stating that each party can choose between Con government or Lib government, full stop - because they've made a rather damaging choice in that department themselves for the past 79 confidence votes.

(Edit: fixed title, typo.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Musical interlude

Electrostatic - Electron Gun


Anybody else remember how the purpose of the CRTC's do-not-call list was to provide telemarketers with a handy list of people who care enough to sign up to avoid being harassed, then protect them from any public attention when they break the rules associated with the list? Me neither.

Evading responsibility

In case there was any doubt, Brad Wall lets us all know his party's philosophy when it comes to accountability for such trifling errors as budgeting based on potash revenues three times what they'll actually be:
I don't hold anybody responsible for that. It is what it is...
So keeping in mind that Wall doesn't think any responsibility exists for a $1.3 billion hole in the province's budget, who wants to put their money on the Sask Party accurately estimating the costs or benefits of any of their policies?

Deep thought

If my goal was to move past a gross distortion of a party's position by its opponents, my first reaction wouldn't be to encourage several more rounds of he-said, she-said as to what the position actually is.

Mercy, mercy, mercy

The federal Cons have predictably started pointing fingers at the nearest available target after reaching the shocking realization that citizens of Ontario and B.C. might not appreciate Stephen Harper's choice to pay off their provinces to raise their tax bills. But the CP helpfully provides the answer to a burning question: would any MP be punished for parroting the party line?
Harris said he did not approach Flaherty, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his caucus colleagues or their staff for guidance on how to handle his constituents' concerns about tax harmonization.

Sources say none of the MPs will be punished for speaking out.
Of course, this isn't the first example of the Benevolent Dear Leader showing his extreme compassion in matters of Conservative advantage. When cabinet ministers have ever so carelessly inserted party messages into what's supposed to be government business, or regional chairs have usurped the role of elected MPs by naming Con "liaisons" to do their jobs instead, Harper's forgiveness has been so obvious that nobody's even thought to wonder whether any punishment might be forthcoming. And he's likewise shown nothing but patience in dealing with Con MPs who succumbed to their party's pressure to participate in Conadscam.

But of course, even the most generous of compassion has its limits. For Harper, those apparently end when the same (or lesser) offences are committed by anybody not wearing Con blue. And let's not even speak of the unpardonable crime of travelling while brown.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The field expands

Regina's Ward 3 race this fall was already shaping up to be lively enough with John Conway challenging incumbent Fred Clipsham. But there's now another strong candidate taking her campaign public, as Shirley Dixon has gone online with a Facebook group in support of her own challenge to Clipsham.

Dixon's supporters already include both SFL president Larry Hubich and Ward 6 contestant Brenda Mercer, and there figure to be plenty more yet to come. Which means that while we're still waiting for challengers to a stale slate of incumbents in most of the city, Ward 3 voters will once again have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to progressive options.

Blowing in the wind

The fact that the Wall government's refusal to develop wind power within the province is now costing Saskatchewan workers their jobs certainly deserves plenty more attention:
News of 150 layoff and work-share notices being issued for this October at the wind tower department of Hitachi Canadian Industries in Saskatoon shows that the Wall government’s inaction on wind power expansion is costing our province both economically and environmentally, NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said today.

“Hitachi’s layoff notices were sparked by a lack of orders this fall for towers used in wind power projects. In other parts of Canada, the problem is arranging financing for wind power projects in an economic downturn. In Saskatchewan, the problem is a lack of political will and leadership on the part of the Wall government,” Lingenfelter said.

After almost two years in government, the Sask Party has yet to produce a single megawatt of new wind power in Saskatchewan. Between 2002 and 2006, the former NDP government built 172 Megawatts of wind power capacity — enough electricity to power more than 73,000 homes.
Of course, Wall himself has spent much of the last year talking about a supposed economic "booster shot" to avoid exactly the kind of job losses currently being suffered at Hitachi. And given the province's obvious need both to preserve jobs in the current downturn and create them in expanding industries for the longer term, there surely can't be any excuse for his government's choice not to invest a reasonable price in an industry which serves both purposes, while wasting time trying to shove nuclear power down the province's throat.

But apparently Wall's government is so committed to making nuclear the only choice for power generation that it's willing to throw away jobs rather than investing in an obvious opportunity to develop wind power. And the province as a whole stands to lose out in the long run.

Running scared

There's good reason why the federal Cons are trying to escape responsibility for their choice to bribe provinces to shifting sales tax costs onto consumers. But let's take a quick look at just how much involvement the Harper Cons have actually had in pushing harmonization.

Of course, it started as early as the Cons' first budget after they took power, where the Cons made clear that harmonization was high on their priority list:
(T)he Government is committed to working with remaining provinces that want to enhance their economic competitiveness and productivity by harmonizing their retail sales taxes with the GST.
The Government invites all provinces that have not yet done so to engage in discussions on the harmonization of their provincial retail sales taxes with the federal GST.
Every budget since has also included a section demanding that provinces go along with harmonization. But the Cons' push to make individuals pay more in sales taxes didn't stop there.

In 2007, the Cons apparently figured that provinces might be more likely to go along if there was a pool of money waiting to be doled out. As a result, they set aside a $5 billion fund for the sole purpose of paying off any province willing to go along with the plan.

And needless to say, the Cons have been anything but silent on the issue in the meantime. Take this from an April 2008 Jim Flaherty speech:
We will continue to raise this subject, certainly looking for more stimulus in the Ontario economy in particular. We've done our stimulus at the federal level but we really needed the province to do its part, and of course we're also calling on the remaining provinces that have not harmonized their PST with the GST to work with us to accomplish that goal of harmonization.
Indeed, after Dalton McGuinty signed on, Flaherty was eager to take credit:
I really am quite encouraged today by the fact that the Government of Ontario decided to harmonize their PST with the GST. This is significant. We have a group of provinces in Canada that are still not harmonized—Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. With Ontario deciding to harmonize, this is a tremendous boost for business in that province. It means that 75 to 80 per cent of Canadian businesses will now be able to do business in a harmonized way with the PST and GST.
This is good economic policy, which we've been encouraging the non-harmonized provinces to do since 2006. So I am encouraged by that.
Of course, it's entirely in character for Larry Miller, Dick Harris and others to spend much of their time trying to point fingers elsewhere. But let there be no doubt that the federal Cons have done everything in their power to push the provinces toward harmonization - and while each of Ontario and B.C. had an opportunity to decline, neither would be where they are today if it wasn't for Jim Flaherty's single-minded determination to shift costs from business to consumers.

Update: More from BicCityLib and impolitical. Good to see some Lib bloggers pointing out the Cons' duplicity - though it's also worth wondering where their party will come down after initiating the first wave of harmonization in the '90s.


Is it just me, or were the Cons rather less concerned with the misuse of elected positions as a launching pad for federal office when they appointed a sitting mayor as a "government liaison" to bypass an elected NDP MP?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Systematic misdirection

Shorter Robert Ouellet in his final shot at public health care as head of the CMA:

Opponents of privatized health care should support privatized health care, lest a failure to privatize health care now result in privatized health care later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning Abbreviated Rider Blogging

Defence: superb, particularly in shutting down the run.
Offence: still developing, though the yardage totals may understate just how effective virtually all of the backs and receivers were once they got the ball.
Special teams: pitiful.
Outcome: victory.

We'll take it.

And now back to radio silence for a couple of days.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On choosing sides

It's no particular surprise that a ridiculous proportion of the coverage of #HFX09 in the media and blogosphere has focused on a single proposal that didn't make it to the floor rather than the dozens of policy resolutions that were discussed. But it's interesting to note one other element of the convention which has also seemed to go unnoticed despite fitting nicely into the type of issue that normally occupies plenty of attention: namely, the unveiling of "On Your Side" as a theme and backdrop for Jack Layton's keynote speech.

Of course, the phrase is far from a new one either for the NDP (which has made use of it provincially in B.C. and Ontario) or for the federal political scene (where it was presented as a Con slogan in 2008, but was then de-emphasized as the campaign's focus turned to the economy). But it would seem to suggest a couple of noteworthy priorities for the federal NDP, particularly to the extent the party's actions match the theme (unlike the 2008 Cons).

First, the message draws a more stark division compared to the other federal parties.

While the "New Kind of Strong" theme in 2008 presented a positive NDP message, it didn't raise a great degree of implicit criticism of the other parties, who could be seen at worst as either "weak" or "old strong" by comparison. In contrast, "On Your Side" effectively brands the NDP's opponents as fighting against the best interests of Canadians - calling at least for an explanation as to how that view is wrong, which figures to keep the debate on friendly terrain for the NDP.

Second and more importantly, the theme also seems to hint at a concerted effort to build connections with and among voters in keeping with Marshall Ganz' message. In effect, voters will be invited to think more closely about what their "side" actually involves, with at least some reason to expect that the NDP will then work toward listening and responding to the answer.

Mind you, it remains to be seen how well "On Your Side" will work in the end. But it has potential to both better define the dividing lines in federal politics, and encourage the NDP to stay on the right side of them - making it one of the elements of the convention which figures to reverberate for some time to come.

NDP Convention - Constitutional Resolutions

And now the constitutional committee's resolution which is first on the agenda (and which took 15 minutes just to read) has been split into six component motions. Let's officially call the name change debate as not happening.

NDP Convention - Party Name Update

We've just finished the first set of resolutions this morning. But barring some surprising developments (i.e. far more smooth progress through the party affairs resolutions than we've had for any of the other topics), it doesn't look like the party name resolutions will come up for debate when the final set of resolutions is discussed.

The resolution on consultation about the party name was placed reasonably high on the priority list in advance of the convention, but there are a few other significant issues ahead of it (including one on the establishment of a constitution for the Participation of Women Committee which was bumped ahead in the priority list in panel). And the resolution for an immediate change is well back on the list.

Of course, that's a matter of delegate choice, as there was an opportunity to change the order in the panels on Friday. But it would appear that there's less appetite for a name change than some might have thought - with the result that the subject might not even be dealt with on the convention floor.