Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- We can say this much for Bev Oda's KAIROS forgery: it ranks up there with the census debacle and the 2008 fiscal update crisis as one of the moments which has launched the best commentary on Stephen Harper's government. For sheer outrage, it's hard to top Stephen Whitworth:
It’s past time to say it: it is no longer possible for any informed, intelligent person of sound mind to vote for a Conservative candidate as the party is currently constructed. Voting Conservative automatically indicates the voter is either uninformed (which this paper’s staff and writers will work harder to help correct), or a demented ideologue and possible sociopath.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne is somewhat more restrained, but makes up for it in style points:
In times past — not under the last government, but in any previous — a minister who lied to Parliament, even once, would be gone, immediately: if not out of any genuine sense of shame or remorse on the part of the government, then certainly out of a sense that it could not afford to be publicly associated with such deceitful behaviour. But this government, and this Prime Minister, seem instead to be bent on riding this out. They do not deny that she lied. But neither do they acknowledge that she did. They simply do not address the issue at all. Instead they make another point altogether: that the minister was within her rights to overrule her bureaucrats.

Yes, of course she was. She may even have been right to do so, though that is something that can be debated. What cannot be debated, what she had absolutely no right to do, was to misrepresent her bureaucrats’ views, alter documents, and lie to Parliament.

WHICH IS to say: it is the government’s defense of her, more even than the minister’s misconduct, that is now the issue. Ministers in any government will screw up from time to time. Some will even lie. That is fallible humanity. But when they are caught, when the jig is up, when there are no longer any lies to be told, it is to be expected — it has always been expected — that consequences should follow. At the least, one could expect the government to acknowledge that what she did was wrong — or at the very least, to acknowledge that she did it.

If it then tried to keep her on, arguing that the sin was not so great as to warrant a resignation, that would be objectionable enough, and a denial of all previous precedent. But it would at least be a tacit concession that ministers should not lie to Parliament. If it had tried to pretend there were some doubt about what she had done, that would be graver still, since it would be to deny facts that were not capable of dispute, and thus to cast into doubt the very possibility of fact and evidence as guides to public debate. But just to ignore the charge altogether, to carry on as if nothing had happened, takes us into the kingdom of dada.
- Alex Himelfarb's post on the shifting of the Overton Window is well worth a read. But I have to wonder whether his conclusion matches his analysis: if it's true that the most substantial impact of the right's well-funded push over the past few decades has been to shift the terms of political debate, isn't it more important to develop and amplify a competing narrative than to spend time and energy denouncing the current one?

- Finally, Stuart Thomson makes a good point about the Cons' targeted political stimulus which looks to be worth some follow-up on the national level:
A year after the Citizen published its stimulus story, it occurred to me that maybe 30 smaller, $1 million projects were more effective than a single $30 million project. Maybe even 30 times more effective.

The government would seem to agree. Re-sorting my stimulus spreadsheet by the number of projects, rather than the amount of money spent, produced some startling results.

Vaughan, the so-called battleground riding that recently switched from Liberal red to Tory blue, received funding for a whopping 136 projects. That’s 136 billboards for the government. It’s at the top of the list for all of Canada, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. It has 60 more stimulus projects than the second-place riding. It has more than six times the average for Ontario. If you look at the results on a bar graph, Vaughan shoots into the sky, towering above every other riding. It looks not unlike the Toronto skyline, with the bar representing Vaughan mimicking the CN Tower.

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the second riding on the list also tells a story: Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, home of NDP MP Carol Hughes, who found herself high on a Conservative hit-list after she voted to scrap the gun registry. She changed her vote, but not before attracting a series of attack ads.

How do you tell if a riding like Hughes’ is coveted by the Conservatives? Look around at the 76 stimulus signs dotting the landscape. It’ll tell you all you need to know.

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