Da Legal Stuff...

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Now, with that out of the way...Let's Web Talk.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween from Canada's Official House of Horrors

Halloween is upon us again. This year, if you’re in the neighbourhood, you might want to pay a visit to Canada’s official House of Political Horrors, or as it's sometimes pronounced in the often quaint dialect of Newfoundland and Labrador, the "House of Whores".

Sitting high atop Parliament Hill the House of Horrors is a place where vile acts often disgust even the most hardened among us.
Canada’s Official House of Horrors is a place where, over the years, thousands of strong willed individuals have succumbed to the will of the most horrific of brainwashing entities known only as “the party”. It is not fully understood if this “party” refers to some sort of mind numbing creature or if it’s perhaps a cult like group that despises any independent thought.

Visit the “Red” chamber, where the ghosts of former politicians and patronage appointees roam aimlessly. These spirits are responsible only to their political masters, but don’t fear them, for they are weak and essentially harmless. Just remember, you may have to look closely to spot one as many of the creatures known as "senators" only appear in the chamber on rare occasions.
The red chamber is a place where men and women who once fought valiantly for their people willingly relinquish their credibility, sense of reason and have their very hearts ripped from their still moving bodies.

If your will is strong, and your nerves don’t “give up the ghost”, you might also want to stop by the lower chamber.

This area is known as the “House of Commons” referring to the “commoners” who are rarely allowed inside its cavernous maw, is a place where after endless tortured debate, the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of taxpayers die a horrible death or are corrupted to match the will of the hollow spirits that dwell within.

The terrible acts that take place in the two main chambers of the House of Horrors are not for the faint of heart but they are nothing to those acts committed behind the closed doors of this massive stone structure. Whatever you do, do not cast your eyes beyond the most public of areas or you may never be the same again.

In the deepest recesses men and women, who in public appear almost normal, quietly make plans among themselves that the average mortal can only imagine in their worst nightmares. Decisions are made to send men to their deaths in war torn countries. The wanton destruction of entire industries and the livelihoods of thousands are gambled away as if with some unholy deck of cards. It is here that the coldest and most calculating of decisions are made on which of Canada’s people will prosper and which will whither away and die.

As you wander the corridors keep your eyes open for such strange beings as the “back bencher”, the “whip” or the rarely seen but much talked about “usher of the black rod”. At all costs, beware of the ultimate unholy power lurking inside the House, the PM.

Since the beginning there have been many powerful leaders of those who spend their time in Canada’s House of Horrors. The latest all powerful Master is one whose true motives are as yet unknown. He is a spectre who can strike his minions mute by the shear power of his presence, is quick to banish anyone who disputes his omnipotence and relishes preying on the weak.

Canada’s Official House of Horrors is a must see this Halloween but one word of caution, don’t bring your loot bag hoping to receive some special treat. All treats are reserved for those living in the closest proximity to the House and for those who come dressed as some indefinable entity referred to as a “nation within a nation”. All others are the beneficiaries of only the most terrible of tricks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russian Bombers Challenge Canada's Air Defences

For years the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been calling on the federal government to make the military base at 5 Wing Goose Bay a fully operational and integral part of Canada’s defence.

During the last federal election Stephen Harper promised to station a 650 member rapid response contingent at the base but since taking office there has been little talk of the issue. Now residents of the area are expressing concerns after Russian bombers arrived in the area unexpectedly on several occasions in recent months.

5 Wing Goose Bay was once a key installation in protecting Canada’s sovereignty. Geographically located on the eastern and northern approaches to Canada it is ideally situated for such a mission. Since the end of the cold war the base has largely been used as a training facility and in recent years has been all but forgotten by the Canadian government.

Canada’s Eastern and Northern air defence in the area is now managed from a base at Bagotville Quebec, nearly a thousand kilometres further inland than the 5 Wing base.

Recently Russian planes have made several forays either to the edge or, according to some reports, even inside Canadian airspace without permission. There are also unconfirmed reports that on several occasions the pilots of those planes refused to identify themselves when directed to do so by military personnel.

During the first such incident, in August, Canadian forces CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled from the Quebec base however witnesses say that by the time they arrived in the area the Russian plans had already reached Labrador. Since that time six F18s have been temporarily assigned to 5 Wing in order to respond to any potential infractions by the Russian military.

One of the people strongly in favour of renewing the role of 5 Wing is Liberal Senator George Baker, who said in the past that CF-18s are sometimes scrambled from Quebec and are forced to touch down in Goose Bay to refuel before continuing out over the Atlantic to complete their missions.

In response to the latest incidents Lt. Col. Brian Bowerman, acting wing commander for the squadron, said he believes the Russian bombers have been testing North American air defence response, and although he does not consider their actions hostile the Canadian forces are indeed on alert.

The stationing of 6 CF-18s in Labrador, in response to this move by Russia and the apparent ability of foreign aircraft to reach, or even enter, Canadian airspace, has led to renewed calls on the federal government to live up to its obligation to Canada’s air defence and to the Labrador base. So far there has been no response from either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence.

Meanwhile, Dean Clarke, a town councillor in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said he believes the presence of the CF-18s at the local base proves 5 Wing still has strategic importance. This sentiment is echoed by Newfoundland and Labrador Transportation Minister, John Hickey.

According to Hickey, “Goose Bay is as important to our military, the defence of our country and North America as it was back in the '40s and '50s and this is evidence of that".

"It makes sense to position aircraft here on a permanent basis."

In his recent throne speech Stephen Harper indicated that Arctic sovereignty was a key issue for his government yet the lack of a military response team in Labrador has left some wondering just how sincere the Prime Minister really is on the issue and how secure our borders truly are.

There has been no confirmation of whether or not the Russian bombers might have been carrying any offensive weapons when they approached Canadian airspace.

UPDATE - October 25, 10:30 am:

Canadian military officials are saying today, that dispite claims to the contrary, at no time did the Russian bombers off North America actually enter Canadian airspace.

In addition, a military spokesperson delivered the offical government position that the CF-18 jets now at Goose Bay are stationed there because of renovations underway at the Bagotville base. There is some speculation that this official line has been carefully crafted to avoid what might be considered a major international incident in the area.

Is Williams on a Cross Canada "Good Will Mission"?

The Hill Times is reporting that the national press gallery will be holding their annual dinner this Saturday evening. It should prove to be an intersting time.

Stephane Dion and Jack Layton will be there for the event but as of last report Stephen Harper was not planning to attend and apparently has "encouraged" his cabinet ministers and back benchers to avoid the dinner as well.

Could it be that Mr. Harper is a still afraid of the national media or could his abscence be attributed to avoiding one high profile guest we all know very well, Danny Williams?

It seems Williams has been busy getting his name and face out there in an all out effort to become a household name across Canada. First he appeard on two of Canada's most popular humorous programs, This Hour has 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report, now he plans to rub elbows with reporters and editors from all of Canada's major news services.

According to the report in the Hill Times,

"...the Premier–maybe that should be Emperor?–of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams (will attend). The evening promises to be anything but dull. Meanwhile, I am told that despite reports that Cabinet ministers and Conservative backbenchers have been "encouraged" by the PMO not to attend, several will be there. So it just might turn out to be a very interesting evening after all."

Indeed it should and who knows, with the Premier planning to go head to head with Stephen Harper during the next federal election, building up a friendly and ougoing image across Canada might be very helpful. Especially since polls show most Canadians still don't trust the PM and find him "Cold", "Distant", "Calculating" and any number of other adjectives anyone might want to heap on the pile.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

23% of NLers No Longer Eligible to Vote in Canada

If a federal election were held tomorrow, would you vote? Don't answer too quickly, you may not even have the right to cast a ballot anymore.

According to Elections Canada, thanks to an amendment to the Elections Act introduced by the Conservative government four months ago, over a million Canadians no longer have the right to vote.

The legislation requires all citizens to present a residential address that includes a street name and number in order to qualify for a ballot. The problem is that many Canadians living in rural areas use postal boxes or receive their mail through general delivery at a postal outlet. Those people, as things now stand, wouldn't qualify to vote if an election were held today.

According to a report issued to Parliament by Elections Canada, nation wide 4.4 per cent of otherwise eligible voters do not have the proper address now required by law.

That percentage is far higher in areas with large rural populations like Saskatchewan, the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, where more than 23% eligible voters in the province have been left without a voice.

The Conservative government and opposition parties say they are trying to rectify the problem but don't hold your breath for a quick fix. Remember, these are the same people who passed the faulty legislation in the first place. Though in all fairness an NDP spokesman was quick to point out today that his party had identified the problem from day one but the other parties refused to listen.

This is another in a string of flawed acts by Canada's goverment and a clear example of the lack of foresight and care MPs exhibit on a daily basis.

Legislation passed by the former Liberal government that allows potential terrorists to be held indefinately without trial and without being told the reason for their detention has been found by the Supreme Court to be in conflict with the charter of rights and freedoms. The legislation is now back before the House for amendment and reintroduction. It's expected to pass.

The Conservative Accountability Act, brought in after the Liberal spending scandal and intended to ensure that politicians were accountable to the public, has been amended 75 times since being introduced just over a year ago. It's unclear how many of those amendments were made to fix flaws in the legislation or how many might have been implemented to protect politicians from their own laws.

Now government has actually cut over a million voters from the voting lists and if the government falls before this flawed legislation is corrected and passed by the Commons the only hope those voters will have is if the Chief Electoral Officer is prepared to ensure that the voices of those voters are heard. This can be done by invoking what is known as his "adaptation power to ensure that no Canadian loses their right to vote." Of course it's at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer whether to invoke that privlege or not.

If the federal government can't even figure out something as simple as the fact that not everyone has a civic postal address what hope is there that they really understand the what was done to the Atlantic Accord or the complexities of something as complicated as the Atlantic fishery?

At the risk of repeating myself, Vive le Canada once again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Vive le Free Trade.

Vive le Canada!!!

What a wonderful country we live in. Today we can all see how Canada's wonderful free trade agreement works for everyone except the average consumer and hard working taxpayer.

The Canadian dollar is now worth almost $1.02 American yet:

A Cadillac Escalade in the U.S. goes for about $40,000, in Canada $80,000

Vive le Canada!

A GMC Yukon sells in the U.S. for about $50,000, in Canada $69,600

Vive le Canada!

You can get a Nissan Altima in the U.S. for about $24,430, but in Canada it will cost you $31,182

Vive le Canada!

But I'm sure there must be a bright side somewhere, there always is right?

What about gas prices? Surely Canada, as a major producer of oil and gas, must have better prices at the pumps than they do south of the border.

Sorry, gas prices in the eastern U.S. avg. 2.80 per gallon, in east coast Canada they’re closer to $4.00 per gallon. That's $4.00 Canadian not in American pesos.

Vive le Canada!

Are you into the latest technology? Well you can always buy an iPod Touch in the U.S. for $399, or in Canada for $449.

Vive le Canada!

Like to read? You can now get the latest Harry Potter book for U.S. $35 but in Canada it’ll cost you $45.

Vive le Canada!

Not to worry though. In defence of Canadians from coast to coast to coast the Federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, plans to “speak with manufacturers and retailers” and ask them to try a little harder if they don't mind too much. I'm sure that'll shake them up and the photo op for the Minister should really get his point across.

Vive le Canada!

You’d think Flaherty would have a little more influence, what with free trade being such a feather in the cap of a former conservative government. Isn't there something in that agreement about "Free Trade"?

Can't Ottawa even exert some influence over the Auto sector in Ontario or Bombardier in Quebec. After pumping all those Canadian tax dollars into keeping them afloat for decades can't they at least pressure them to treat Canadian citizens fairly.

Sorry, but no.

Don't even consider going south of the border to buy a car or truck at a rock bottom price. The dealers there are being told not to sell to Canadians. If you decide to give it a try, beware. If you actually manage to find some desperate dealer willing to sell, you might come back with a nice new vehicle but your warranty won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.

Vive le Canada!

With winter coming on maybe you’re interested in a new snowmobile. Well Quebec based Bombardier makes, ships and sells a long line of summer and winter recreational equipment in the U.S. In fact if you want to purchase their Renegade X 800 snowmobile in the U.S. it will run you about $10,000. In Canada expect to pay at least $13,000 to $14,000 for the same machine.

Until the recent rise in the Canadian dollar Bombardier's standard policy was to impose a 7.5 per cent surcharge on sales to Canadian customers in the U.S. The same Canadian consumers/taxpayers who bailed them out countless times.

Just this month Bombardier expanded their policy to charge 7.5 per cent or $1,250 – whichever was higher. Later they raised the rate to $3,000 and now, taking a cue from the highly subsidised Canadian Auto industry, Bombardier is telling U.S. retailers not to sell to Canadians at all.

Vive le Canadian tax bailouts!

Welcome to Canadian free trade folks. You’re on your own.

Vive le Canada!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Loyola Hearn & John Crosbie - A World Apart Politically

Recently former federal fisheries minister, John Crosbie, has, believe it or not, been the voice of reason in the equalization battle between Ottawa and Newfoundland and Labrador. He has asked both parties in the dispute to find a way past the current impasse and resolve the issue. Not bad advice and if anyone is questioning Mr. Crosbie’s motives, an article written by him in this weekend’s Independent should put those questions to rest.

In case you missed it, it’s a great article. Here are a few excerpts:

“Is the future of NL one of prosperity and self-reliance achievable within Canada today or not? Can the present pattern of confrontational federalism be changed and improved upon? Is the Government of Canada going to continue to be the beneficiary of 75-80 cents on every dollar of government royalties and taxation revenues generated by existing oil projects in NL or not?”

“How can we expect to build a long term sustainable and growing economy as predicted by both levels of government during the long negotiations over the Atlantic Accord when the “principal beneficiary” of its only foreseeable non-sustainable natural resource revenue is Canada?”

“We were told that after we became a “have” province, the sharing of benefits with other Canadians was to start. But that sharing of benefits started long before NL became a “have” province because of the unfair application of the equalization program, which has prevented the achievement of the objectives and purpose of the accord.”

“…the economic and fiscal disparities among the 10 provinces and three territories are an ever increasing threat to our political, social and economic survival as a nation. We are all citizens of the same nation. How can our country permit provinces such as NL and Nova Scotia not to receive the benefits from their own depleting resources while most other provinces were given the right to their natural resources by Canada and so prosper as they receive and enjoy the benefits...”

“…With the apparent change to the commitments made by Stephen Harper… the stage is set for the next battle to erupt over the Atlantic Accord. It is 10 years since first oil was produced at Hibernia. How many more decades must pass before a lasting settlement is reached to this bitter and disruptive national unity issue?”

Well said John. I’d also add that the province has a limited number of decades left before the oil is gone. This is why the people of NL are so determined to find a solution to the problem sooner rather than later.

The article by John Crosbie is an informative, interesting one that’s well worth the read if you get the chance.

Also interesting, but quite sad, is the clear difference in attitude between Canada’s former fisheries minister, John Crosbie, and its current one, Loyola Hearn.

While Mr. Crosbie is standing firmly behind his province, in another article in the same edition of the Indy, Loyola Hearn responds to calls for the province to vote against the Conservative’s in the next federal election by saying, “It’s extremely important for our province to be represented around the cabinet table in Ottawa. If not, who’s going to look after us?”

Interesting point Loyola. I mean where would we be on Custodial Management and the Atlantic Accord if you weren't at the cabinet table?

Here’s a news flash for you Loyola, Newfoundland and Labrador can look after itself without keeping you gainfully (or otherwise) employed. We don’t need you or anyone else in Ottawa to “look after us”. All we need, and are fighting for, is to have the federal government treat us fairly and to stop tying our hands behind our backs at every turn.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fledgling Federal Party Steps Into Ottawa - NL Dispute

There has been a new turn of events in the ongoing dispute between Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

This week the leader of the fledgling Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, Tom Hickey, informed the media that his party intends to field a full slate of candidates in the province when the writ is dropped for the next federal election. Hickey also indicated that he is hoping Premier Danny Williams will throw his support behind those candidates if the Premier is serious about shutting out the federal Conservatives in the Province.

It’s an interesting idea and clearly some pretty solid planning has gone into this move by the new party. If the Premier is serious about campaigning against the Harper government he might want to consider the offer extended to him by Mr. Hickey.

Ever since the Harper government backed out of its promise on non-renewable resources and unilaterally changed the Atlantic Accord contract, Williams has been telling everyone in the Province to vote ABC “Anybody but Conservative”. The slogan may be catchy but how valid is the ABC campaign? Where does it leave the voters?

The outcome of the recent provincial election proved beyond doubt that the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are firmly behind the Premier in his battle with Ottawa and in the direction his government is taking locally. The overwhelming percentage of the popular vote Williams received speaks volumes about his ability to “encourage” the people to take a stand and to follow his lead. Now a Newfoundland and Labrador centric party is challenging the Premier to step up to the plate and use that popularity to help send 7 independent voices to Ottawa for the first time in the Province's history.

For Liberal, NDP or Green party supporters William's "ABC" campaign does’nt present much of a problem, they can simply continue to support the party of their choice in the next election, but what about anyone who would have traditionally voted Conservative? How many of them will feel comfortable casting a vote for one of the other parties? How many will be willing to do that and how many long time voters will be satisfied to simply stay at home?

What about the average person who is not a traditional conservative supporter but who feels, for whatever reason, that this time around neither of the other options available is a valid one for them? Where should they park their vote?

The NL First party is hoping to fill the void left in the wake of the Premier’s battle with the fed and are asking him to support their efforts.

The party is lead by a former, and well respected, provincial MHA and cabinet minister who represented the PC party for several years. The party itself espouses many of the same ideals and principles as the Williams government does and the party appears eager to take on the task of tackling a federal campaign.

For disenfranchised Conservative voters, or even the common Joe with no party affiliation, the NL First party might be the answer to their current dilemma, and to the Premier's. If Williams hopes to make his anti-Harper campaign a succesful one he may have found a way.

I’m not out to promote the NL First or any other party, but under the present circumstance NL First may indeed present an option in the next federal election if they do indeed field a slate of candidates answerable only to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and can gain the Premier's support.

NL First is saying, as many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe, that the seven federal MPs the province traditionally sends to Ottawa have never had a strong voice. This they say is because those MPs are part of a large national party answerable to the majority of voters in just about every other province except their own. In other words, national parties, no matter the stripe, will respond to the wishes of the majority in vote rich provinces like Ontario and Quebec, even if those wishes are in direct opposition to the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s hard to deny the truth in that.

The NL First party has positioned itself, not as a Bloc style separatist movement, but as an independent voice for their Province.

Mr. Hickey recently noted that his party has no intention of being obstructionist if elected. They intend to support or fight each piece of federal legislation on its own merits but always with an eye to how it might harm or benefit Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada has reached a point in its history where minority governments are likely the norm rather than the exception. With the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc and Green parties all vying for voter support, and with the latter two parties becoming increasingly popular all the time, the odds of winning a majority government are not what they once were.

The thinking behind hte NL First party is that by electing candidates who are not answerable to anyone outside the province, especially at a time when minority governments are likely, Newfoundland and Labrador will have a better chance of getting its message out, its needs met and perhaps, in the case of a close minority, even holding the balance of power when it comes to voting on key pieces of legislation.

As far as Premier Williams is concerned, he might want to give the NL First a good long look. This new party could provide him with the solution he needs if he hopes to address the concerns of anyone looking for a place to park their vote.

It’s often difficult for voters to stand behind a negative election campaign. If Williams chooses to do so, supporting the NL First party would allow the him to seamlessly and easily move from a negative, “Anybody but…” campaign to a much more positive and constructive one that supports a locally focused party and candidates.

Will Williams get onboard? Only time will tell, but it’s definitely a new twist in the battle between Williams and Harper and one well worth keeping an eye on.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Democracy or Dictatorship - Canada's "New" Government

One of the most important actions of any successful dictatorship is to control the masses.

The easiest and best way to accomplish that task is to control the news media.

By controlling what the public hears and sees, always being seen in the best possible light dictators around the world protect their place of power and limit any potential for uprising or dissent.

Why did Saddam Hussein plaster giant pictures of himself around Iraq?

Why did Hitler hold mass public cult like rallies with hundreds of thousands in attendance?

Why did the former Soviet Union allow only the state run news service to exist for decades and why are journalists being murdered in Russia even today?

Clearly the reason is to control the public and retain power.

Unfortunately, for anyone with dictatorial aspirations in a Country like Canada, the state can’t just shoot dissident reporters, take over commercial media outlets (with the exception of the CBC) or arrest people for speaking out against them. But perhaps there is no need for such an extreme approach when a more subtle one can work just as well.

Perhaps, for example, if you were leading the Canadian government you could simply refuse to talk to certain “unfriendly” reporters and, by using them as an example, force the rest to fall in line.

Of course if that tactic is not fully accomplishing the task and government spin is still not getting enough air time or stories that show your party in a bad light just won’t go away, it might be time to move to plan B.

Today Stephen Harper is already working on plan B and in doing so is removing one more road block on the road to gagging the press, blindfolding the masses and manipulating voters.

According to recent reports Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been working on a secret project for over a year that would see a $2-million government controlled media centre built in Ontario.

According to the Toronto Star, documents obtained through the Access to Information Act prove the PM is working on a plan, code-named the Shoe Store Project, that would see government build a new media centre. The centre would provide his government with easier control of the media and of the messages the public get to hear from Ottawa.

The documents show that this new centre would replace the 47-year-old National Press Theatre, a venue where government news conferences are moderated by members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association, a group of newspapers, broadcasters and other media outlets. The new government controlled media centre would instead be managed and moderated by hand picked individuals answerable only to government and not the press gallery.

One document obtained by the Star shows that the media centre is part of efforts by the government to "put in place robust physical and information security measures to protect the prime minister and cabinet."

The preceding quote may not appear very ominous but it certainly raises a lot of questions and concerns.

If the physical security of the PM is what’s in question here then perhaps a new press venue is indeed in order, but why would a simple change of venue require the government, rather than media itself, to control and moderate press conferences and events?

What exactly does “information security” mean anyway?

Is the PM looking for physical protection in an age of terrorists and assassins or is he actually seeking protection from the press, the public and the truth?

“The Shoe Store Project” calls for complete government control over which journalists are allowed to attend news conferences and which are not. In other words, those who don’t play along or are seen as being perhaps “troublesome” could, and probably would, be barred. They would be denied the ability to ask questions that might not suit the government agenda but might truly inform the public.

The “project” would give the Harper government the ability to do its own filming at all media events, and to provide government approved footage to journalists, instead of allowing those journalists to film the events themselves. I’d love to see the design for the new building because I’m willing to bet the editing room will be nothing less than state of the art.

Does this plan make anyone else uncomfortable?

Not only is the Harper government planning to take full control over which reporters can or cannot ask him and his ministers questions but he is also making sure he has full control of the video and sound bytes the public are able to see on the evening news. I hope this bothers everyone because it sure as hell gives me a cold chill.

It doesn't always take a political upheaval to turn a democracy into a dictatorship, sometimes all that's required are a series of small baby steps.

In Canada today Big Brother is already deciding who can or cannot travel by air and this is being done without even informing denied individuals of why they are on government’s no-fly lists.

According to recent news reports certain Jewish citizens, and perhaps those of other faiths as well, have begun mysteriously appearing on mailing lists compiled by the PMO, even though those individuals have no idea how the Prime Minister’s Office knows about their religious affiliations.

Canadian citizens have had misinformation about their actions and character handed over to foreign officials without their knowledge. In at least one well publicized case an individual was deported while traveling in the U.S. and tortured for over a year in a foreign country because of government misinformation passed to U.S. authorities.

Now the PM, who has always controlled which reporters he will or will not take questions from, has put the entire country on a very slippery slope. A slope that allows government to have far more control over mainstream news media than at any time in the past and gives him the ability to control what the public is made aware of in print, television and other media.

Welcome to the other side of looking glass people. For those who have long wondered who Big Brother really is, wonder no longer, he lives at 24 Sussex Drive.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Newfoundland & Labrador, De-Confederation?

In what might be termed as a twist of fate, a quirk of history, or perhaps more accurately, as a major political shift, the two most popular leaders in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador appeared on the scene nearly six decades apart and represent completely opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Occasionally political leaders appear who naturally galvanize the spirit of an entire people. Newfoundland and Labrador has borne witness to two such leaders, in just under sixty years, in the form of Liberal premier Joey Smallwood and PC premier Danny Williams.

In their time both men captured the overriding sentiments of their people in a way few can, yet their actions and ideologies are so diametrically opposed that the support they each garnered speaks volumes about changing attitudes of voters since the Province entered Confederation.

It’s a fortunate fact that both leaders didn’t arrive on the scene at the same point in history. The fallout of such an event, the very impact of two such strong wills colliding and the flash that most assuredly would have resulted might have irreparably blinded every man, woman and child in the province, if not the Country itself.

Joey Smallwood, known to many in Canada as the last living Father of Confederation, is said to have led Newfoundland and Labrador into Canada kicking and screaming. Whether this is accurate or not, most assuredly he accomplished his objective by the shear power of his will and by the slimmest of margins.

Joey Smallwood was the most popular of leaders in his time but, make no mistake, the province’s entry into Canada was by no means a given. It was a bitter dog fight all the way and even today many open wounds remain. There are still those who question the validity of the referendum result and the very legality of the event itself.

In his day perhaps no leader on the face of the planet was more popular with his people than “Joey”. He reigned supreme in a time when the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador was at a low point and when the perceived benefits of entering Confederation could easily be trumpeted as manna from heaven, especially to those living under the worst of circumstances. Even so, the final tally on referendum day saw only a 2% majority opt into the Canadian experiment.

Fast forward sixty years and we find the people of Newfoundland and Labrador on the cusp of the brighter future espoused by Joey and his supporters so eloquently back 1949.

Generations have grown up, Smallwood himself has long since shuffled off this mortal coil, and still many in the province patiently await the dream their beloved leader spoke so generations ago. Even after sixty years the province still lags behind the rest of Canada in many ways but finally a glimmer of light has appeared on the horizon, thanks largely to resource revenues from the offshore and years of stubborn tenacity.

Many of the old scars from long ago, including those incurred during the tumultuous referendum battle, have yet to heal and many people blame the outfall of entering Canada as a major factor in the province’s painfully slow and very limited turn around.

Today oil revenues are flowing like a mighty river, the economy is leading the Nation but the Newfoundland and Labrador still has almost no voice on the federal scene and the highest unemployment rates in the Country.

Over the decades the federal government has presided over the collapse of the world’s greatest fishery, the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador for five centuries. Ottawa promoted the removal of the province’s island wide railway and it left a land once recognized around the worlds as an international crossroads for shipping, military positioning and air travel with almost no international presence.

Ottawa refused to support Newfoundland and Labrador during the development of the Churchill River power project, in deference to Quebec, and in doing so allows the Province to struggle, until 2041, under a lopsided contract that sees billions flow to Quebec while Newfoundland and Labrador barely manages to keep the turbines turning and the dollars flowing westward.

Even today, as offshore oil flows like water and as the provincial economy leads the Nation, Newfoundland and Labrador finds itself battling Ottawa to gain much needed value from the resource.

The federal government refuses to allow the province to set time limits on oil developments, time limits that would prevent companies from sitting on valuable finds for decades. Ottawa has also remained silent on the future of the new Churchill River hydro project now in the early stages of planning. The federal government has yet to confirm whether or not it will support the development or even help ensure that Quebec does not hamper the transmission of this much needed power across the Country.

Joey Smallwood believed that Confederation would see a new and prosperous future visited upon his people. Today, generations later, thousands remain unemployed and thousands more leave every day, to work in the oil fields of Alberta or the factories of Ontario, splitting families apart. The fishery is a pitiful shadow of what it was in 1949 and most of those who still cling to it for survival do so for a pittance. Newfoundland and Labrador struggles under a crushing provincial debt and its crumbling infrastructure is costing provincial coffers hundreds of millions each year to maintain.

Enter Danny Williams. Like Joey Smallwood before him Newfoundland and Labrador’s newest Premier is a household name, every bit as popular as Smallwood himself. Unlike “Joey”, “Danny” does not spend his days extolling the virtues of Mother Canada, not by a long shot. Instead he has tapped into the long standing resentment and feelings of distrust that have stewed in the former Nation of Newfoundland ever since that oh so close vote six decades ago.

Williams, to all appearances, is nobody’s “federalist”. In fact he is not the least bit shy about attacking the actions (or inactions) of the federal government, of politicians and even of the Prime Minister himself. It’s an approach that has solidified his support and, while opening up many old wounds, appears to have also had a healing effect on many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

No longer is it acceptable in many circles when the term “Newfie” is flippantly tossed into the conversation. No longer are the people of Newfoundland and Labrador content to wait patiently for Ottawa to “do the right thing”. Today a renewed pride and sense of strength that has begun to emerge among a people long used to standing quietly on the sidelines with hat in hand.

By openly tossing out terms such as, “Autonomy” and “Masters of our own house” or by describing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as “nation”, Danny Williams is sending a clear, direct and unmistakable message to Ottawa.

The message:

Newfoundland and Labrador was brought into Canada just an instant ago in the great expanse of history. It was delivered at the hands of a strong, focused and determined leader. Today, for better or worse, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are once again standing firmly behind a new leader with the same sort of strength, focus and determination. Like Smallwood before him Williams’ message is resonating in the hearts and minds of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Unlike his predecessor however, this Premier appears to have a very different view of the Canadian federation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Harper's Big Election Gamble

With Wednesday’s announcement of a compromise deal over the Atlantic Accord, Stephen Harper sent another clear signal he plans to force an election in the coming weeks. The question is whether the gamble to shore up support in Atlantic Canada will actually help him or cost him in the long run.

Although the deal will provide additional funds to the province, the amount will be far less than Nova Scotia had been fighting for. The move could, and likely will, be seen as an attempt by Harper to buy off the province before an election and to shore up a weak Conservative governemnt in that province.

Some analysts believe Harper wants to continue to govern but based on recent events it’s far more likely that, even with less than perfect polling numbers, the PM sees the time as ripe to make his move and force an election.

All sorts of scenarios are being tossed around by strategists and party insiders. Anything and everything that could possibly help or hinder the party’s election chances are being examined. Correction, almost everything. Clearly something has been overlooked in Harper's quest for glory.

What has not been considered is a factor outside the control of Stephen Harper and his party. An intangible that has the potential to do some serious damage to the Conservatives in light of recent events, and one that has once again moved to the forefront with Wednesday’s announcement.

That uncontrollable and indefinable factor is none other than the outspoken Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams.

It may sound a little odd that the Premier of one of Canada’s smallest and poorest provinces, one with only 7 federal seats, might somehow be able to throw a monkey wrench into the PM’s chances for re-election, but odd or not, the possibility exists and Stephen Harper is not giving that possiblity the attention it deserves. It's an oversight that could prove far more expensive than he knows.

Williams has already verbally attacked the PM over back peddling on equalization promises and for making unilateral changes to the bi-lateral Atlantic Accord agreement. At the time of those changes Williams complaints were easily brushed aside as those of a premier with limited political experience but my how times have changed.

Today the Premier is viewed in many parts of Canada as a bit of a giant killer, a leader who isn’t afraid to fight with anyone standing in the way of his province’s future. Simply put, he's a street fighter that Stephen Harper has just poked with a very big stick.

Williams has already told the people of Canada that the PM can’t be trusted to keep his word. He warned them that by breaking a written promise to Newfoundland and Labrador Harper proved he was not above doing the same thing to them. Now, with the Nova Scotia agreement in place, Harper has done just that.

The PM would have been better off if he had simply done an about face, for whatever "technical" reason, and honored the Atlantic Accord. At least then he could have claimed he was bound by a contract signed by the preceding Liberal government and that his hands were tied. Instead he has opted to do something he told the Country he would never do.

Whether you support the fight over equalization or not, yesterday’s agreement, with Nova Scotia, is clearly a new side deal for that province. When Harper brought down the equalization formula in March, the one that got him into this mess in the first place, he told the Canadian people there would be, “No more side deals”.

All Williams has to do now is lock and load for an attack that will surely resonate with Canadian voters. On Wednesday Stephen Harper provided the ammunition he needed and he also gained the scrappy Premier an even more emboldened ally in the form of the normally reserved Saskatchewan Premier, Lorne Calvert.

The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is often accused of picking fights for the sake of fighting but that’s a misperception that has come back to haunt several of his opponents. In reality he more often picks fights he feels he should, and can, win. Stephen Harper is aligned squarely in his crosshairs and Williams' finger is poised on the trigger.

Since first elected Williams took on former PM Paul Martin over the very same Atlantic Accord contract. He won.

He fought big oil over an improved royalty regime and a provincial equity position. Big oil closed up shop and moved away. A year and a half later they quietly returned and agreed to an enhanced royalty regime and the very equity position he wanted. He won.

Williams, while in his first term, took a hard line by legislating over 40,000 public sector employees back to work, laid off highway staff after shutting down a number of depots, sent the provincial oil industry association into hysterics by walking away from Hebron development talks and completely alienated two federal governments. This week he sought re-election from just over 300,000 voters, most of which were impacted in some way by his previous actions. He won in a landslide vicory with the largest percentage of popular vote in the province’s history.

Williams is now much more widely recognized across Canada than he was even a few short months ago. His exploits have led to a re-evaluation of oil royalties by the Alberta government. He has emboldened provinces like Saskatchewan - which is now tackling the federal government in court and threatening to campaign against Harper- and his fighting persona has even led some in Nova Scotia to jokingly muse about him leading their province as well.

When he walked out on meetings with Paul Martin and he proved he doesn’t pull his punches.

When he waved goodbye to oil companies, as they packed up and left the province over stalled negotiations, he proved he doesn’t pull his punches.

When he went on a media tour and took out full page ads across the Country criticizing Stephen Harper he proved he doesn’t pull his punches.

When he told the electorate in Newfoundland and Labrador to vote “ABC” (Anyone but Conservative) during the next federal election he proved he doesn’t pull his punches.

And when he won his second mandate on the day before Harper's Accord announcement, with a majority that even the first Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and late father of Confederation, Joey Smallwood, would have been envious of, Williams greeted the crowds by saying,

"There's a message here, Steve. If you want to take me and my team on, you have to take on all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Once again, he proved he doesn’t pull his punches.

Any federal election will naturally center on the issues and personalities directly involved but who really knows what kind of chaos one very determined premier can create when he puts his mind to it.

It’s one thing to force an election when you’re sporting minority level numbers but are in control of the agenda. It’s a completely different game when you're faced with an unknown and volotile variable like the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unfortunately for the PM he has no control over which issues the public ultimately decide to latch onto, especially when a wild card like Williams is waiting in the wings stockpiling his ammunition and patiently preparing to fire.

I don’t know about Stephen Harper, but if I were planning to go to the polls any time soon I’d sure as hell be looking for some way to neutralize the Williams factor first.

Editor's Note: As an aside, Both Harper and MacDonald claim this deal was in the works for months (and not just a quickly engineered election ploy) there may be some evidence to the contrary.

The announcement of this deal (also offered to Newfoundland and Labrador) was made on October 10th, but as late as October 5th someone at the department of finance in Ottawa was spending a little time investigating the numbers involved. Check out the following link to another article on my site a few days ago:


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nova Scotia Signs Deal - Resolves Atlantic Accord Dispute

The Canadian Press is reporting that Harper has reach deal with Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald over offshore revenues.

Just in case anyone has trouble reading between the lines here's my humble analysis:

In essence Premier Rodney Macdonald sold out his province in order to help Stephen Harper win the next election and to protect the career of Federal MP (and Defence Minister) Peter MacKay.

The "deal" does nothing to address the fact that Harper promised to leave 100% of non-renewable resources out of the equalization formula and didn't.

The "deal" allows the province to either take part in the new equalization formula or keep the accord using the old and less valuable 2005 formula any time they choose. Essentially the same choice offered by Harper when he first left the accord in tatters but over a longer period.

The "deal" doesnt allow Nova Scotia to participate in the current equalization formula and keep the accord, even though the accord clearly states that is what should be happening.

The only value of this "deal" for Nova Scotia may be in finally getting some kind of settlement on royalties already owed by Ottawa for decades but never actually paid. No doubt it won't be the full amount owing however so whether that's actually a plus is questionable.

The timing of this announcement is interesting as well, coming the day after a big election in NL, on the day Ontario is at the polls, within a day or so of an election in SK and while the House of Commons is not sitting. It almost seems as if the PM wanted this to slip through without anyone paying too much attention to it. It didn't work.

Are You on One of Big Brother's Lists?

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting today that several people of the Jewish faith are very concerned and perplexed at receiving an unexpected greeting card from the Prime Minister’s office.

According to the Citizen, when Michelle Kofman found a Rosh Hashanah greeting card from Prime Minister Stephen Harper in her mailbox last month, she was left with one puzzling question: How does he know I'm Jewish?

Ms. Kofman was one of several Jewish people who have expressed discomfort with the colourful greeting card sent out by the Prime Minister's Office. She is wondering how she got on the prime minister's mailing list and found it unsettling that the address line of the card included her middle name.

"The only time I use my full name is for government stuff -- social insurance number, driver's licence, passport," she said.

But Ms. Kofman said she is not a member of any Jewish organizations and, to her knowledge, isn't listed in any directories catering to the Jewish community.

"I don't belong to a synagogue and I don't give to Israel," said Ms. Kofman, who notes she is not a Conservative party supporter.

Josh Keshen, who also lives in Thornhill, said he was surprised by the card, addressed to his entire family.

"At first I was a little shocked," said Mr. Keshen, who works in the insurance industry. "It seemed very odd. How did they know my whole family is Jewish?"

He also doesn't think he is listed in any directories.

The same Rosh Hashanah greeting sent to Thornhill also went to at least one recipient in the riding of Winnipeg South Centre. She said it was possible she was listed in a Jewish directory at one time, but she wasn't certain.

"I didn't live through the Second World War, but I've read enough and heard enough to know that the thought of a list of Jewish people makes people cringe", said the Winnipeg recipient.

Though an unamed source denied that the PMO makes use of official government documents for such purposes, the cards have people wondering what information source Stephen Harper’s office is using to uncover such personal and detailed information about Canadian citizens. It also begs the question of who else might be on some as yet unknown list and for what purpose their name could be kept on file.

I believe it was Pastor Martin Niemoller who said of Germany’s government during the war years:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew."

"Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist."

"Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist."

"Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tidal Wave Rolls Over Newfoundland and Labrador

It may not have been a tsunami, but the big blue wave that swept over Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday will certainly be felt for years to come.

The provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador was expected to be an easy win for the reigning PC party and that’s exactly how it played out with the conservatives capturing 70% of the popular vote.

Going into the election the PC’s held 34 seats, the Liberals 11, the NDP 1 and there were 2 vacancies. When the ballots were counted Danny William’s PC government increased its majority to 43 seats, the Liberals dropped to 3 and the NDP retained its lone seat.

Immediately before the polls closed former federal cabinet minister, John Crosby, predicted the result when he said to Liberal senator George Baker, “The only safe Liberal in Newfoundland and Labrador tonight is one with a senate seat.”

In addition to the 47 members elected, there remains one vacancy. The voters of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans did not go to the polls in the general election as a result of the untimely passing of Liberal Candidate, Gerry Tobin. Tobin, 41, passed away during the campaign leaving only the PC candidate on the ballot. A special by-election will be held in that district on November 6.

The election results, as much as at any time in the province’s history, serve as an example of how the will of the people can and was expressed in shaping government. Throughout the weeks leading up to the vote 3 key factors were easily recognizable across the province and they were clearly reflected in the final results.

1) The Williams government’s popularity throughout the Island portion of the province led to an increase in seats and a stronger mandate from the people;

2) A chronic lack of organization displayed by the Liberal party ever since losing the previous provincial election resulted in a lack of confidence among the electorate and a loss of most of their districts, including that of the party leader, Gerry Reid by a mere 7 votes. An automatic recount will be undertaken in that district.

3) The calm yet effective leadership shown by NDP party leader Lorraine Michael and displayed during the provincial leader’s debate resulted in a small, yet important, gain for the perennial third party in their capturing of second place, over the Liberal, in several districts; and

Leading up to the election there was some talk of the need to ensure a strong opposition in the province in the wake of Williams’ popularity. That concern appears to have been a non-factor in the election outcome. The enhanced mandate given to premier Williams indicates that a desire for strong local opposition was outstripped by the desire to present a strong united front to the province’s true opposition in Ottawa.

UPDATE - From the Edmonton Sun today:

Harper said he planned to call Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams last night to congratulate him on what was expected to be a resounding electoral victory.

"I still think notwithstanding the differences he and I have had, he is the best choice for Newfoundlanders, so I wish him well," said Harper, despite the fact Williams has urged Canadians to vote ABC -- anybody but the (federal) Conservatives.

"We have to do unto others as we wish they did unto us -- though I'm not necessarily counting on that," he said with a laugh.

"Not from anyone. We're ready for anything."

At the end of the day he never did call the Premier but instead gave his congrats to the media. He also chose the next morning to announce a deal with Nova Scotia over the Atlantic Accord standoff thus dividing the two provinces on that issue and leaving NL to fight on alone.

Thank-you Mr. Harper. Your actions won't be forgotten.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Atlantic Accord Revisited

Hi all,

I know that just today I told everyone I wouldn't be posting anything new until after the provincial election, but I just found something in my own web site statistics that is too curious to overlook. It may mean nothing but then again...

You see I sometimes check my site's statistics to see how many visitors have come by, what part of the Country they hail from and so on. Don't worry, the statistics don't tell me who you are, just a few general facts that are somtimes interesting, especially today.

With Stephen Harper posturing for a federal election rumors surfaced last week in Nova Scotia that Bill Casey, the Conservative castaway who had the cubes to stand up to the PM over the Atlantic Accord, might run for the party again, if they are willing to make amends over the issue.
Of course we all know the Harper government has about as much support in Atlantic Canada as a spanish trawler on the Grand Banks, so with an election looking more and more likely the question is if the Conservatives taking another look at the Atlantic Accord debacle in the hopes of regaining some ground.

Maybe they are.

Today in my statistics I found two very interesting entries.

The first was the recording of a visitor who came to us via the parliamentary server and stayed on for nearly 3 hours. This isn't that odd since Big Brother usually stops by for a visit, but the length of the visit was a little out of the ordinary.

What was a even stranger was the following entry.

As you can see, some industrious little beaver at the Federal Finance Department also paid Web Talk a visit and interestingly they stumbled on the site while searching Google for: Cost Wade Locke Equalization Cap.

Go ahead and perform that search for yourself and see what you get. Essentially, for the most part, it's a bunch of material on economist Wade Locke's assessment of the damage done thanks to Ottawa's callous actions on the Atlantic Accord.

It would seem that months after side stepping its obligations on the Atlantic Accord and dismissing the concerns of the provinces involved, with an election looming, someone at the Department of Finance is, for whatever reason, clearly interested in the situation and the numbers.

It may mean nothing but it certainly falls into the category of -

Things that make you go Hmmmmm......

A Thanksgiving Message

Well folks, the long Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. As always, this is a time for people to get together with family and friends, share in some good times and give thanks for the blessings of the past year. This time around it also affords many of us with a few days to ourselves, away from the hustle and bustle of the work week, to consider our political future.

Immediatly on the heals of this weekend we'll be heading to the polls to pick the party and the premier that will manage our province and our future for the next four years. No doubt there will be a lot of last minute campaigning by all parties between now and Tuesday and with that a lot of issues to discuss and consider.

I believe at this point in time we should all try to step back, absorb what has been discussed in the campaign, give some thought to the candidates and reflect on our hopes for the province going forward, without arm chair analysts like myself playing a part in the process.

With this in mind, unless some major event takes place, I won't be posting to Web Talk until after the election is complete. Before signing off though I'd like to ask everyone to do a couple of things over the next few days.

First and formost, if you are fortunte enough to have familiy and friends around please spend some time with them and appreciate how lucky you are. Also, take a few minutes to reflect on others less fortunate who do not have things as good. Perhaps even make some small gesture to improve the life of a less fortunate individual. You'll feel a lot better in doing so.

Finally, on the political side of things, no matter which candidate you support, make sure you go out to the polls on Tuesday. Make sure you understand the positions of the various parties on issues of importance to you and vote accordingly.

At the end of the day your candidate may or may not win, but at least you will have done your best. Besides, imagine how you'll feel the next day if you don't get out and your preferred candidate loses by a single vote.

Remember, as with any election there will be winners and losers, but if you abandon your voting franchise everyone loses.

Have a great weekend and I'll be back after the election.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Need a Job? Walter Noel Knows The Best Employers

While most of the provincial MHA’s caught up in the recent spending scandal are keeping their mouths and billing files firmly shut, former Liberal cabinet minister Walter Noel is defending himself against the findings in the Auditor General's report.

Noel, who served under former Liberal premiers Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes and has recently announced his intention to run for the Liberals in the next federal election, says he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong.

According to the Auditor General, while holding provincial office Noel spent over $12,000 of taxpayer’s money on everything from perfumes to women’s clothing, wine to beer and luggage to electronics. Noel is insisting the purchases were legitimate. His reasoning is that because the expenses were approved they must be valid.

Now that’s what I call circular logic at its best.

In a recent interview Noel is quoted as saying, “I know taxpayers don't find it acceptable and the current auditor general doesn't (approve), but we're not dealing with the current situation. It's the kind of thing that's done by most businesses.”

All I can say Walter is I’d like to know which businesses you’re talking about. They sound like a great bunch to work for. Why don’t you drop me a line with the names? If I ever find myself in the market for a new job I wouldn’t mind sending out a few resumes.

Conservative Smoke and Mirrors

Does Stephen Harper really think he has anyone fooled?

No matter what he might say about wanting to govern under his current mandate the Conservatives are clearly in election mode and Harper himself is practically salivating at the idea of going to the polls.

The timing for an election couldn’t be better for the PM and his rhetoric to the contrary is nothing more than Conservative smoke and mirrors.

The recent elections in Quebec were proof positive of waning support for the Bloc and Liberals there. The Liberals have yet to recover from the sponsorship scandal. Stephane Dion is floundering around with no focus or direction and, as one pundit recently put it, the Liberal party is so screwed up they’re actually stabbing each other in the front instead of the back.

For over a year and a half the Harper Conservatives have been playing to the masses by presenting themselves as a middle of the road party. As a result most people are beginning to forget their far right philosophy. It’s an image that has been carefully cultivated and one that will serve Harper well in an election. It’s doubtful however that the hard line conservative views of the party are really very far under the surface.

As comedian and political satirist Rick Mercer pointed out recently, since taking office the Conservatives have moved much further to the left than most of their bible thumping financial supporters ever thought they would, yet those supporters are still donating to the party in a big way. It’s enough to make one wonder if those supporters know something the rest of us don’t.

Harper can drone on all he want’s about not wanting an election, he has to say as much after having set an election date in 2009, but that doesn’t mean the PM won’t engineer a non-confidence vote over the Throne Speech this month or over its contents at a later time.

In a press conference held this week, apparently for no other purpose than to “chat” with the media, Harper noted that even if the Throne Speech passes, a Commons vote relating to any of the initiatives it contains would constitute a vote of non-confidence. He also said he was not impressed with the demands of the opposition parties. In other words Harper is setting up the demise of his own government at the time most beneficial to his personal goals.

One of those goals, beyond any ambition he may have to win another mandate, is clearly finding a way to resolve the ongoing political stalemate over the Afghanistan mission.

For months the PM has said he would seek a consensus of Parliament before extending Canada’s combat role in the war torn country. Now, after flying in the president of Afghanistan and the Minister of Education to talk with the media about how well the mission is going, Harper is saying he only requires a vote of 50% + 1 to extend that mission. A far cry from the sort of consensus spoken of in the past.

Harper's actions and words are those of a man hell bent on maintaining Canada’s combat role no matter what his government's official line might be.

In the current political environment, with the Liberal party in tatters and the Bloc severely weakened, Harper’s strategists clearly see an opportunity to form a majority government. With a majority firmly in hand you can bet your bottom dollar Canadian troops won’t be trading in their artillery shells or rifles for aid packages and blankets in February of 2009. In fact it’s doubtful they’ll be doing it for a long, long time after that.

If it's any consolation though, should Harper be successful in his bid to extend Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan, with the war machine in the U.S. in full swing the PM may be able to save a few dollars by getting a good deal on body bags from his friends down south.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Defending the Defender

Though Defence Minister Peter McKay is denying the rumors, federal Conservative insiders have leaked information to the media that Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, will be replaced as Canada’s top military commander when his current three-year term expires in February.

Normally the top post has a set term but until recently many had expected an extension to be offered to Hillier. The prevailing logic being that with a combat mission underway in Afghanistan and with Hillier being so popular among the troops, for his actions to date, removing him from the position would be a step backward and perhaps jeopardize the mission.

Replacing the top military leader in any Country during a time of war is not something most national leaders enter into lightly. The decision is made only as a last resort when it becomes clear that the commander is incapable or inept at performing his duties.

So what is the word coming out of Ottawa and from some senior military analysts regarding Stephen Harper’s reasons for wanting to relieve Hillier of his duties?

1) Hillier made former Minister of Defense, Gordon O’Connor, “look bad” when O’Connor’s department failed to ensure that the families of deceased soldiers were fully reimbursed for the cost of their loved one’s funerals.

2) Hillier is popular with those he leads.

3) Hillier is popular with the Canadian public.

4) Hillier has shaken up the military establishment by promoting achievers and solid performers rather than routinely promoting individuals based on years of service or for political reasons.

5) While his political handlers are determined to source as much military equipment as possible from inside Canada, Hillier has fought to ensure that the men and women in the field are provided with the best equipment available regardless of where it comes from.

So, to recap, Stephen Harper believes General Hillier should be replaced because he stood up for the rights grieving families, is popular, is finding the best people to fill key military roles rather than making politically motivated appointments and is doing his best to protect the troops at a time of war.

I guess from that perspective it’s understandable why Stephen Harper would want to get rid of Hillier. The two men have absolutely nothing in common.

According to military and political insiders Hillier will likely be replaced by Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk. The reason Natynczyk is expected to be the choice of the PM is simple, “…because the prime minister likes him.”

As a final note, for anyone keeping score, upon Hillier’s dismissal one more Newfoundlander will be out of work thanks to ongoing efforts by the federal government. I believe that now puts a very low ball estimate at something well over 60,001 doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Parties Use Undercover Bloggers to Spread Propaganda

Here are some excerpts from an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen. The story says a lot about how certain internet Blogs are intentionally used by political parties to manipulate the public.

The article identifies a Tory blog but this tactic is becoming more and more popular with all parties. As a matter of fact, the tactics spoken of in this article will probably ring a few bells for anyone who has visited at least one local NL political blog lately. Can you guess which one?

It's something you might want to keep in mind when visiting your favorite political blogs in future.

Outspoken blogger received Tory contract
Opinionated Conservative paid up to $20,000 for consulting work

Glen McGregor,
The Ottawa CitizenPublished: Monday, October 01, 2007

The Harper government gave a contract for communications consulting on Parliament Hill, worth up to $20,000, to an outspoken Conservative Internet blogger.

Privy Council Office records show Joan Tintor, author of a popular weblog or "blog," in June received the one-year contract for "communications professional services not elsewhere specified."

...She was contracted to provide writing and other communications work on an as-needed basis to the office of government House leader Peter Van Loan.

..."She has helped us out with various things," Mr. White said.

...Ms. Tintor did not return an e-mail requesting comment and, when reached by telephone, she said she would have to call back. She did not.

Her strongly opinionated blog focuses on provincial and federal politics...

Unlike most journalists who work in the mainstream media -- the "MSM" in blogger parlance -- bloggers are not constrained by ethics rules that would keep them from taking contracts from the government they write about.

...But news of Ms. Tintor's contract comes at a time when the relationship between partisan bloggers and political parties is under increased scrutiny.

Some Liberal strategists grumble that the Tories use sympathetic bloggers to provide political spin that the party cannot or will not, by circulating information that may be misleading, with little accountability. (Myles' comment - I'm sure the Liberal party would never do such a thing LOL)

In his new book, Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, party strategist Tom Flanagan notes the Tories' innovative use of blogs in the 2006 election campaign.
He cites in particular two members of the Blogging Tories, Steve Jank and Stephen Taylor, who write highly partisan blogs on federal politics.

Mr. Flanagan writes that campaign manager Doug Finley "appointed people to monitor the blogosphere and to get out stories that were not quite ready for the mainstream media."
These bloggers "amplify and diversify our message," he wrote.

(Note: I'm sure there will be accusations about this site by some folks out there. I can assure everyone that I have never, and will never, knowingly work as a shill for any political party, no matter the price. It's too bad others are all too willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder.)