Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nowhere Man

                                                http://www.musicstack.com/

Yesterday, I wrote that Stephen Harper's refusal to deal with Kathleen Wynne could have significant electoral consequences. Martin Regg Cohn writes that those consequences are being felt now with the alliance which Wynne has established with Quebec premier Philippe Couillard:

There’s a reason the Quebec-Ontario summit turned into a meeting of minds and ministers: Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard are simpatico both in style and substance.

Beyond the good will, there are good works on offer:

Ontario and Quebec signed an unprecedented deal to swap 500 megawatts of electricity during peak periods by way of bartering. They compared notes on climate change. And they celebrated Ontario’s francophone face in a way that touched, viscerally, the visiting French Quebecers.
At ground level, it is a federalist fantasy come true. Together, they are laying the groundwork for a Central Canadian axis of power (sharing) that is both political and electrical — with environmental and electoral benefits.

Harper's policy is to not attend meetings of the Council of the Federation. He claims he prefers to meet with premiers individually. But, in Wynne's case, he prefers not to meet at all:

On the eve of the Toronto summit, Harper delivered a bizarre snub to Wynne by refusing her overtures for a federal-provincial meeting. With her request unrequited, the spurned premier went public with their correspondence — pointedly asking why Canada’s biggest province, with 13 million people, can’t get federal face time.

Then she got down to business with Couillard — showing that where there is political will, there can be policy headway.

And that is the point. Mr. Harper lacks the political will to do all kinds of things. In fact, the only thing he wants to do is balance the budget. And, because he has chosen to remove himself from the stage, others will take his place. Cohn writes that there will soon be a third member of the alliance -- Alberta premier Jim Prentice.

Mr. Harper may indeed discover that he resides in Nowhere Land -- a real Nowhere Man.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ontario Is Ground Zero


http://thelasource.com/
                                                  
Stephen Harper won his majority by convincing enough Ontarians to vote for him. But those same Ontarians now have a premier who is not a Harper ally. Far from it. Tim Harper writes in the Toronto Star:

There’s simply too much at stake for both sides for d├ętente, certainly not heading into a federal election campaign and the electoral riches available in this province.
The Harper Conservatives remember how Wynne campaigned against them last spring, they know they are dealing with aggressive adversaries in Ontario and they remember well Wynne’s characterization of the Harper “smirk” during that campaign as she recounted a previous, private discussion about pension reform.

But it's not just Wynne who the Conservatives see as their adversary:


When Conservatives look at Kathleen Wynne, they see Justin Trudeau. Their instincts tell them to fight and discredit, not to sit and discuss the big issues of the day bedeviling the country’s two largest governments.
They saw Trudeau stumping for Wynne last spring and Wynne returning the favour, appearing on behalf of Trudeau’s candidate in this week’s Whitby-Oshawa byelection.

And Harper hasn't helped his case in Ontario:

The list of Wynne’s grievances is real and long. They are not all meant to be distractions or wedges for the 2015 federal vote.
Wynne’s agenda would include infrastructure spending, inter-provincial trade, federal transfers, employment insurance and training, her go-it-alone pension plan and the lack of federal action on missing and murdered aboriginal women. The two governments have previously clashed over refugee health care.

For the Harperites, this is personal. Ontario voters, however, are likely to believe that it is more than that.  By now they may have understood that the Cowboy from Etobicoke is working for someone else.

The next time around, Ontario is Ground Zero.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Meaning Of Silence

                                             http://markcoakley.wordpress.com/

There has been nary a word from the Conservative Party since Michael Sona's sentencing. What are we to make of that? Michael den Tandt writes:

Keep in mind, key questions that emerged on the very first day the story broke in 2012, courtesy of Postmedia’s Stephen Maher and the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor, are still outstanding. Does it make any sense at all to think that a 22-year-old planned and executed this scheme, which required access to the party’s Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database, on his own? And would he have participated had he thought such actions were antithetical to the values of his party and his bosses?

The Conservatives have made no attempt to answer those questions. Harperites don't like to answer questions. After Joe Oliver's budget speech the other day, there were no questions. That's why the speech was given outside the House of Commons, where questions are inevitable. Questions might lead to an attack of humility:

We’re long past the moment when anyone could reasonably expect humility or remorse from this prime minister. “Never apologize, never explain,” appears to be among Stephen Harper’s guiding principles. It’s always worked for him before.

But, really, a little humility is in order:

There’s Dean Del Mastro, the former Peterborough, Ont., MP and parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister convicted of over-spending and filing a false document to cover that up, who is now awaiting sentencing. And there’s the Ol’ Duff, arguably still the greatest single threat to the Conservative legacy, whose 41-day trial is set to begin in early April.

Beyond all that, there’s the miasma of tawdriness that hangs over so much of this Conservative party’s political tool kit; personal attacks on the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; tactics that, since the in-and-out affair in the 2006 election, have skirted the edge of legality and sometimes crossed over; and an advertising strategy that, though legal, routinely, deliberately quotes Conservative opponents out of context.

For this prime minister, humility is a sign of weakness. Eventually voters will reach a different conclusion.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Yesterday's Man -- Again

                                                 http://news.nationalpost.com/

There is a lot of florid rhetoric coming from supporters of the Keystone Pipeline these days --  both north and south of the border. But, Tom Walkom writes, Keystone isn't as important as its shills claim it is:

The truth is that even if Keystone fails, a pipeline from the tar sands to tidewater will be built. The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats disagree on many things. But all agree that the so-called Energy East pipeline — from Alberta to New Brunswick — should go ahead.

Similarly, a world with no Keystone will not much affect carbon emissions. As long as there is some method of getting Alberta heavy crude to markets — by train, truck or pipeline — tarsands production will go on.

The United States has found energy reserves in North Dakota, so Alberta bitumen is no longer the prize  it once was. And, if Alberta oil finds its way to the Atlantic, it will make its way to world markets.

The truth is that Keystone is an idea whose time has passed. And its chief shill has proved -- once again -- that he is yesterday's man.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coming Home To Roost


                                              http://www.huffingtonpost.ca

The Canadian Press reported yesterday that former Conservative MP Bill Casey wants to run for the Liberals in his old riding:

Former Conservative and Independent MP Bill Casey says he plans to seek the federal Liberal nomination in his Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

Stephen Harper threw Casey out of the Conservative caucus after Casey voted against his government's budget because it altered the terms of the Atlantic Accord, which governed cash transfers  between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador. Casey said that Harper had betrayed his constitutents and Casey felt it was his duty to speak for them. The Harper spin machine declared Casey persona non grata .

Mr. Casey says his motivation for running is not revenge:

Casey says there are several reasons why he wants to re-enter politics, but primarily he wants to "raise the alarm" about the declining state of the parliamentary system.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming federal election. Mr. Harper has betrayed lots of people on his way to power. Those betrayals are coming home to roost.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Change Is In The Air

                                            http://www.threehundredeight.com/

The Harperites won both by-elections yesterday. But it's instructive to focus on the number of eligible voters who tramped to the polls. In Oshawa-Whity, only 30% of those who could vote bothered to vote. But in Yellowhead -- that Tory stronghold -- only 15% of eligible voters bothered to show up.

The big shift came in Oshawa, where the Liberals tripled their numbers. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

They didn’t win, but they increased their share of the vote in spectacular fashion. Caesar-Chavannes received over 13,000 votes, though only one third of eligible voters cast a ballot. In 2011, voter turnout was nearly twice as high — and only 9,000 souls voted Liberal. Impressive.

The NDP vote collapsed:

Their vote in Whitby-Oshawa declined by two-thirds from 2011, to a dismal eight per cent. Since they ran the same candidate, name recognition was not a factor — which means something else was. That could have been the anybody-but-CPC vote: Whitby-Oshawa has a sizeable chunk of union voters who should have been backing the NDP, but they may have switched their allegiance to the candidate they thought could upset the Tories — ie, the Liberal. 

Last time around, Stephen Harper won his majority by dividing the opposition. And, if there is any lesson to be taken from Oshawa, it's that the opposition now refuses to be divided.

Change is in the air.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Time For A Walk In The Snow?


                                            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Conrad Black observed last week that the Harper government had "run out of steam." And Stephen Mahar suggested that Jason Kenny was ready and willing to fill the prime minister's shoes. Michael Harris writes that the Conservative base has tired of Stephen Harper for several reasons -- but, most particularly, two. The first is his lack of integrity:

Harper came to power promising to do things differently than the Liberals of the Ad Sponsorship era. The base expected a new integrity reflecting the best conservative values — integrity, frugality and respect for Canadians. Instead, Canadians have been fed a steady dose of behaviour out of the prime minister’s own office that redefines unethical and, in some cases, verges into the criminal.

Harper’s former parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, has been convicted of election fraud, including exceeding spending limits, failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000, and knowingly submitting a falsified document. This came on the heels of an earlier election-related sleight of hand — the in/out scandal — that saw the party plead guilty to election fraud.

Then there’s Arthur Porter, the man Harper appointed to oversee Canada’s spy agency, who is in jail in Panama fighting extradition to this country, where he faces a bevy of criminal charges. Finally, one of Harper’s closest former aides, Bruce Carson, is facing influence peddling charges. Carson was hired by Harper despite the PM knowing of his previous criminal record for fraud.

And lest we forget, there’s the whole Wright/Duffy mess and the murky robocalls business and self-serving rejigging of Elections Canada’s abilities to promote voter engagement and prosecute wrong-doing.

Harper also sold himself as a frugal manager of the nation's pocketbook:

This prime minister blew close to a billion dollars on the G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto and Muskoka. He blamed the debacle on “thugs.” He wasted $28 million on commemorating the War of 1812 when he was closing veterans centres to save a paltry $3.8 million. And he has doubled the cost of the PM’s personal security to a whopping $20 million and climbing. The once ostensibly cost-conscious politician now thinks nothing of spending a cool million to fly his own limousine to India for a state visit or burning $45,000 of taxpayers’ money to attend a Yankee game.

When it comes to matters that go directly to the Conservative soul, Harper's most fervent supporters have found him wanting. And they are encouraging him to take a walk in the snow.