Da Legal Stuff...

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strategic Voting Impacts Harper Campaign Hopes

Strategic voting, or vote swapping, seems to have become more prevalent during this election campaign than during any other in Canadian history. Whether all this talk about casting strategic ballots actually translates into an impact at the polls remains to be seen but by all indications it just may.

The question is why? Why has strategic voting become such a major issue this time out?

The answer could well be that voters have finally begun to understand Stephen Harper’s strategy of splitting the left and sailing up the middle to a majority victory.

Most vote swapping sites and strategic voters have one thing in common. It isn’t making sure the Liberals win. It isn’t holding back the NDP, Greens or others. It’s all about stopping Stephen Harper by any means possible.

This is something new in Canadian politics.

Never before have so many voters been this galvanized or determined to remove a PM from office.

In the past many people have disliked a party leader or didn’t agree with some party position and simply voiced their opinion at the polling station but it seems this time out there is a real undercurrent of fear and even hatred being focused directly at the Harper Conservatives and their ultra Republican attitudes on the issues.

It seems that a great many individuals who are very concerned about the thought of what might happen to Canada if Mr. Harper were to win a majority are beginning to run a grassroots campaign of their own.

As a result of this, and a string of public “insights” into the possibly true character of the man and his supporters, the latest polls are showing the Conservatives slipping in Quebec and beginning to stagnate in other areas of the Country.

The potential power of self organized and widespread strategic voting has not been lost on the rarely seen but often felt Conservative war room. Their latest strategy has been attacking the concept of strategic voting as somehow undemocratic or foolish.

Lately, in a bid to shore up support, Stephen Harper, has begun to publicly speak out against what could prove to be one of the most effective and truly democratic movements Canadian voters have been a part of in some time, strategic voting.

During the last days of the 2004 and 2006 campaigns thousands of voters, concerned with the what might happen if Mr. Harper and his merged Reform/Alliance/Conservative party actually took office, independently voted to block his ambitions and in doing so caused him to lose one election and eke out a minority in another. This was before anyone even thought to organize or publicize the strategic voting process and before anyone ever considered actually swapping votes to ensure a Conservative loss in specific ridings.

Mr. Harper is finally beginning to look in the rear view mirror and realize that a large segment of the population simply doesn’t support another party over his but are actually aligned against him. His greatest fear is that the left may not actually be as divided as the number of parties would suggest.

Mr. Harper and his handlers are finally beginning to see that deep pockets, political spin doctors and access to traditional media are not enough to control public sentiment any more. The intenet now allows a single voter in BC or Manitoba to swap their vote with someone in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador with a few clicks of a mouse.

Politicians have always been slow to recognize the power of technology. Blogs, social networking sites like Facebook or Youtube and traditional web sites cost little or nothing to access and allow individuals to counter the spin and work together like never before.

It’s nothing new for voters park their vote with a “second choice” candidate in order to make a point but this time around the idea has caught on like never before and it's getting more organized by the day.

The proof can be found in web sites like the "ABC" campaign of Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Danny Williams and the increasing number of vote swapping sites on the internet (which have been declared perfectly legal by Elections Canada and are attracting thousands of members) .

When you consider that Mr. Harper won the last election with only about 40% voter support doesn’t it say a lot about how much he really represents the views of most Canadians?

With eligible voter turn out averaging somewhere around 65% in the 2006 federal election and with only 40% of those who actually voted supporting Mr. Harper it’s hard to make the case that he truly represents anyone but his die hard supporters.

Harper's campaign strategy is and always has been about keeping the other 60% of Canadian voters, those who support centre and left leaning parties, split at the polls and allowing him to sneak up the middle.

The Conservatives are now beginning to see a potential problem with that strategy and that's why Mr. Harper has recently begun to turn up the rhetoric and begun to attack the concept of strategic voting as somehow being a bad thing.

On a campaign stop in BC last Wednesday Mr. Harper said, "We're asking voters to vote for the party they have confidence in to govern the country.”

The PM didn’t say vote Conservative.

He didn’t say it because he knows roughly 60% of voters have no intention of doing so because they don't believe he is the best choice.

The Conservatives have already written off those votes and those voters and they don't really care what they do as long as they don’t organize and keep them from winning.

Mr. Harper knows he has enough support to win at least a minority government if he can just keep support for the other parties split as it has been over the past few years and he is doing whatever he can to encourage that without admitting that he has a large segement of the population that doesn't support him.

In Western Canada for example Mr. Harper recently asked voters not to waste their ballots on the NDP because Jack Layton has no chance of becoming Prime Minister yet in Eastern Canada, he warned voters to be careful because Mr. Layton could end up being elected Prime Minister.

The messages may sound contradictory, and they are, but they are being put forward for a specific reason:

To allow Mr. Harper to achieve his ambitions of gaining a Majority government while having the support of less than half of the Canadian voting public.

The Conservative strategy may be politically sound and it may even work but it strikes me as more than a little underhanded and sleazy that anyone would want power so much that they would aspire to win an election without caring if they actually win the public’s support.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Atlantic Accord Made Bill Casey a Star

The following appeared today in the Nova Scotia Business Journal and speaks to the position held by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and a large segment of the Province's population when it comes to both the Harper government's actions and those of Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey.


Bill Casey is taking nothing for granted. “I would be very honoured to again represent my constituency,” says the 63 year-old incumbent MLA for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. “However, in this job, that is a trust that must be earned each and every day, one individual at a time.”

Casey has done well to gain the confidence of his community in recent years, and – aside from a small blip in the mid 1990’s when the riding was held by Liberal Dianne Brushett – has represented his riding for the past two decades.

“I had no idea when I first got involved that I would have been so fortunate to have enjoyed the career that I have,” he says.

And while he admits that political life hasn’t been an easy ride at times – with both professional and personal challenges having taken their toll – Casey is ready for another round in Ottawa should members of his riding choose to re-elect him when they go to the polls in the October 14 Federal Election.

“I guess I’m just a sucker for punishment,” he laughs.

Casey has found widespread support as an independent MLA in recent months - both here in the Atlantic region and across the country - for his outspoken stance on issues surrounding the environment and the economy, and for his criticism of his former party.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has gone public with his backing of Casey, and Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald recently announced that he would not be campaigning against Casey out of sheer respect for the man.

As well, a recent endorsement from Green Party leader Elizabeth May also came as a pleasant surprise when she also announced that her party would not field a candidate in Casey’s riding for the upcoming election.

"I think Bill is as Green as they come," she told the local media last month. "He’s an honorary Green anyway, because he’s the kind of representative the people of Nova Scotia need to fight against Stephen Harper."

“Well, I appreciate her support,” chuckles Casey, “but I am still going to run as an independent. Really, the most important thing for me is that I have the trust and respect of the constituents of my community. They have been wonderful to me.”

The sentiment, it would appear, is mutual.

“Bill has been a real blessing for this community,” says long-time Truro resident Margaret Hull. “He knows his roots, and has done a marvelous job representing the people of this area for a long time. I wouldn’t want anybody else.”

Amherst native Michael MacInnis agrees. “He has become a bit of a local legend in these parts, especially the way he stood up for us here against his own party. It is a mighty rare thing these days to find an honest politician who is willing to stand up for his own beliefs.”

Casey says he wouldn’t change a thing about the experience.

“I have absolutely no regrets,” he says of his decision to vote against the 2007 Tory budget which effectively axed the Atlantic Accord.

“I hired two lawyers to get to the bottom of the whole complicated issue and what I discovered was that it wasn’t right then, and it still isn’t right today. Our people were deceived and dishonoured, and as an Atlantic Canadian, I won’t stand for it.”

He says that he is grateful for all the support that he has received.

“I have worked very hard to represent the people of my community,” says Casey, “and want to express my gratitude by continuing to represent their best interests in Ottawa.”


Sky-high fuel prices have seen a 30-percent rise in fuel surcharges for the Newfoundland ferry since July 2007.

By Colin Woodard Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
September 29, 2008

North Sydney, Nova Scotia - It's mid-afternoon at the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal and long rows of commercial trucks are waiting to drive aboard the MV Caribou, their trailers packed with all the things the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador needs from the rest of North America: groceries, automobile parts, medical supplies, plywood.

But getting anything or anybody on or off the island of Newfoundland – where 95 percent of the province's half million residents live – has become alarmingly expensive. Sky-high fuel prices have triggered one fuel surcharge after another – a cumulative 27.7 percent since July 2007 – on the ferries that serve as the province's lifeline to the rest of the world.

Provincial authorities are angry, with Newfoundland Transport Minister Diane Whalen calling the surcharges "outrageous."

"It's getting harder and harder for many manufacturers to justify sending their products to Newfoundland just because of ferry costs," says Peter Nelson, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association in Dieppe, New Brunswick. "If things keep going this way we'll soon see the $8 head of lettuce in Newfoundland."

In this part of the world, ferries have long been regarded as essential infrastructure, extensions of the railroads and, later, highways, that connect Atlantic Canadians to one another and the wider world. Many communities in Newfoundland – and most in Labrador – are so remote that they are not connected to the provincial road network and people rely on local ferries to get in or out…

For full story visit http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0929/p04s01-woam.html

Friday, September 26, 2008

Province Reaches Agreement with Innu on Lower Churchill Development

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has reached a tentative deal with the Labrador Innu over development of the Lower Churchill hydro project.

Premier Danny Williams said today that the agreement, which must still be ratified by the Innu Nation, also allows for redress for the development of the Upper Churchill project in the 1960s.

"The Innu Rights Agreement will bring tremendous new benefits and opportunities to the Innu people of Labrador, and signals a new era of partnership and co-operation between their people and our government," Williams said in his statement.

The agreement is expected to be voted on by the Innu Nation in early 2009 paving the way for further progress on the project plan and development.

"Today, Newfoundland and Labrador is substantially closer to finally seeing this project developed and in the North American context this further positions us as a major player in the energy industry."

The tentative agreement includes an impact benefit agreement with the Innu people, something that has been a stumbling block to the project to move forward, recognizes the location for Innu lands and establishes components of the project where the Innu are assured of economic participation.

Deputy Grand Chief Peter Penashue is confident that the agreement will be ratified.

In his address to the media Chief Penashue sad, "Once it's approved we will be able to turn our focus, energy and resources to addressing the internal issues impacting our communities and building a safe, healthy and productive future for future generations."

Ed Martin, president of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, said the agreement is a "major milestone" for the development of the Lower Churchill mega-project.

"Step by step we are obtaining the certainty necessary to move forward with our project planning and further investment," he said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NL-First Party Achieves Official Standing with Elections Canada

The Newfoundland Labrador First Party has received official confirmation on registration with Elections Canada after meeting all required guidelines and fielding candidates in the current Federal election.

The following is an excerpt from a letter to party leader Tom Hickey by elections Canada.

Mr. Thomas V. Hickey
Leader Newfoundland and Labrador Fisrt Party
PO Box 21423
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

A1A 5G6

Dear Mr. Hickey:

I wish to inform you that the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party had at least one candidate whose nomination was confirmed for the October 14, 2008 general election. Pursuant to subsection 370(1) of the Canada Elections Act, your party became a registered political party on September 13, 2008. The registration of your party has been recorded in the Registry of Political Parties.

Your party now has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a registered party under the Canada Elections Act...

Since the election writ was dropped the NL-First party has nominated two other candidates and are now running in 3 ridings, St. John's East (Les Coultis), St. John's South-Mt. Pearl (Greg Byrne) and Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte (Wayne Bennett).

The NL-First party is running as a local party with national interests. The belief is that in order for Newfoundland and Labrador's 7 seats to have any value in Ottawa those elected must speak for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rather than taking their marching orders from the leaders of a nationally controlled party system.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vote Swapping OK Says Elections Canada

Recently Web Talk ran an article about online vote swapping at "Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada", a facebook group which is encouraging voters to swap their votes in an effort to defeat the Harper government.

There has been some speculation that the process might not be legal however an Election Canada spokesperson now says there is nothing illegal about the activity.

The purpose of the site is to match up voters in ridings where the Conservatives are in tight races and to encourage people to vote for the party most likely to upset the Tory candidate.

Think of it as a match making service for the electorate.

If you live in a riding where one party stands a good chance of beating the Conservative candidate, you simply agree to vote for that party (regardless of your own allegiances) and let the folks at the Anti-Harper site know that you will 'swap' your vote with someone else in another riding who is willing to lend their support to your party.

For example, if you are an NDP supporter in a riding where a Liberal has the best chance of beating the Conservatives all you need to do is let the other members of the group know that you are willing to strategically vote Liberal if someone else is willing to vote NDP on your behalf where they have a better chance of winning.

"Under the Elections Act, encouraging a voter to vote a particular way is not prohibited nor is the invitation to participate in strategic voting," Grace Lake, Elections Canada spokesman, said.

Other vote swapping sites have popped up across Facebook and the Internet after news that Elections Canada has no problem with online strategic voting. The Anti-Harper site , though, remains the largest, recently surpassing the 7,000 member mark.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper Promise Could Cost Fishermen Millions

Stephen Harper, while on a recent campaign stop in Newfoundland and Labrador, promised that under his government fishers could look forward to a 2 cent exemption from the federal excise tax on diesel fuel.

His candidate, Fabian Manning, in the riding of Avalon trumpeted the announcement as a great thing for the fishing industry.

Both Fabian Manning and the Prime Minister failed to mention one important point.

According to Earl McCurdy of the FFAW, fishers are already exempt from the entire 4 cent excise tax so this promise means nothing.

But is Mr. McCurdy correct when he assumes there will be no impact to fishers?

It's possible that if Mr. Harper actually keeps this promise, and introduces a 2 cent exemption on deisel fuel it will replace the existing 4 cent exemption and result in fishers actually paying 2 cents more per litre than they do today.

The result could see millions of dollars flow into federal coffers off the backs of fishers across the Country.

This is either an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of voters, an attempt to slip a new tax grab in via the back door or a stupid conservative gaffe (not that we've seen any of those lately), which would show how little the Prime Minister, or Fabian Manning, actually know about the issues facing the fishery.

Either way it's certainly pause for thought.

The Art of Campaign Brainwashing

At the risk of being dismissed as one of Danny Williams’ minions, brainwashed by the NL premier’s ABC (Anything but Conservative) campaign or being all too willing to “drink the kool-aid”, as they say in these parts, I've reached a point where it simply amazes me that the federal Conservatives remain as high as they are in the polls.

In the latest in a series of disgusting comments from the Harper camp, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, during a conference call at the height of the listeriosis outbreak, decided it would be fun to crack a few jokes while all across the Country people were dying of the deadly bacteria.

“This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts," Ritz joked during the call. After being informed that another death had just occurred in PEI Ritz’s only response was to say, "Please tell me it's (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter."

Totally disgusting.

There are those who might be willing to attribute Ritz’s comments to the cold and uncaring nature of a single individual, I might have been one of them myself, were it not for a series of similar incidents coming out of the Harper camp.

When taken in conjunction with other statements and actions by Conservative members recently I believe the crude comments made by Minister Ritz are actually a symptom of a party culture that by its very nature promotes this behavior.

As with any team the rank and file look to their leadership for guidance on how to behave, what direction to take and how to succeed. It is through example that leaders lead best. The action, or lack of action, by Conservative party leader, Stephen Harper, when members of his party have crossed the line sends a strong signal to his followers, intentionally or not, that this sort of behavior is acceptable.

It’s not and Mr. Harper's quiet acceptance of such actions by his followers is not the stand a "strong leader" should be taking.

When a video tape of Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski surfaced showing him drinking and crudely pointing out the differences between himself and “homosexual faggots with dirt under their fingernails who spread disease…” Mr. Harper felt a public apology was enough to end all discussion of the incident. No further steps were taken against Mr. Lukiswsk and after the apology read to the press by Gerry Ritz last evening the PM now considers this issue put to rest.

I'm sorry Prime Minister but reading a prepared apology is not enough.

It’s not enough for those who have been the target of statements like Lukiwski’s, the families of those who have suffered or died during the deadly listeriosis outbeak or the Father of a slain soldier who was accused by a senior party strategist of invoking his son’s name for political gain.

And an apology isn't enough to show strong and effective leadership to either your followers or to the nation itself.

Every day the perception is mounting, or at least it should be, that there is something seriously rotten at the core of the new Conservative brand, yet somehow they still manage to retain voter support in key ridings. I have to admit to being totally thrown off balance by the situation.

This is a government that has cut funding to arts programs and women’s rights groups. A government that clearly lied about income trusts and fixed election dates. A government that destroyed the court challenges program. A government that on several occasions has abandoned Canadian citizens incarcerated in foreign lands, including one being held illegally at Guantanamo Bay and a government that handled the Maxime Bernier affair, not by addressing the national security concerns it clearly raised, but by desperately trying to sweep the entire matter under the rug.

Yet the polls show they still have more support among voters than any other party.

Isn’t there something wrong with this picture or am I missing something completely?

The Harper government has claimed that, thanks to their efforts, Canada has never been more united than it is today and that the relationship between the provinces and Ottawa is stronger than ever.

The reality is that the people of at least three provinces, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland & Labrador feel as if they’ve been robbed by Ottawa over natural resource revenues.

Ontario feels it is still not getting its fair share of revenue in the federation, has had the Conservative Finance Minister state publicly that it is the last place on earth anyone would want to invest and its premier has been called the “small man of confederation” by the Conservative government.

Does this sound like a Country that is more united than ever before?

Meanwhile, as the economy is tanking in the U.S. and the impact of the collapsing U.S. economy is beginning to be felt in Canada, the surpluses that used to exist have been spent and are no longer available if needed during a recession. Job losses in the manufacturing and forestry sectors are mounting and all the Prime Minister can say about it is, “The Canadian economy’s fundamentals are strong” or that anyone who loses their job in the pulp and paper industry can simply move to Fort McMurray.

I've never seen a party survive an election campaign in Canada with so many strikes against it yet the Conservatives still remain strong in the polls.

It makes me wonder exactly who is being brainwashed here. If it's those who have been dismissed for taking an anti-Harper stance by supporting ABC or if it's those who still plan to vote for the Harper brand of Conservatism.

UPDATE: 3:23pm

The disgusting attitudes of members of the Conservative movement in Canada are coming in so fast and furiously it's getting hard to stay on top of them. Here's another just hitting the news services.

The Conservatives have issued another apology, this time for comments caught on video Wednesday by an assistant to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Mr. Cannon was campaigning in Maniwaki, Que., Wednesday when a group of protesters from the divided native community of Barriere Lake showed up to outline their demands.

Mr. Cannon listened to their speech and then left, but his constituency assistant continued an exchange with the lead protester, Norman Matchewan.

The exchange was caught on video and broadcast as the lead item Wednesday by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

“If you behave and you're sober and there's no problems and if you don't do a sit down and whatever, I don't care,” said Mr. Cannon's assistant..."

Monday, September 15, 2008

What do the Leader's Promises Really Mean?

It’s week number two of the federal election campaign and the promises are beginning to pile higher than dung in a cattle yard.

The mainstream party leaders (Harper, Dion, Layton and May) are crisscrossing the Country looking for four more years of employment at the taxpayer’s expense.

Meanwhile, the newly minted Newfoundland and Labrador First party has named a second candidate in its bid to elect representatives who aren’t constrained by a federal party machine controlled in the larger provinces.

In an effort to shed some light on the truth behind all the promises I’ve compiled a few from each of the party leaders and humbly offer them in conjunction with my take on what they really mean to us mere mortals. Not that they actually matter a great deal since party leaders hold their election promises about as well as a fork holds water.

To start, the Conservatives, or as I like to call them the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party, CRAP for short, are promising a two-cent-per-litre cut to diesel and aviation fuel taxes. The projected cost of this promise: $600 million a year.

What they won’t tell you is that the actual savings to individual truckers, airlines, fishers, farmers and others will be very minimal at best. When you consider that a two cent a litre swing in fuel prices, either up or down, can and does happen on an almost daily basis anyway these days, there is no real gain to be had here.

The other side of this coin is the fact that the $600 million dollar cost of the Harper promise will have to be made up somewhere along the line, either through tax increases or program cuts and that's something that might have a deeper impact down the road.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, not even in Ottawa.

Another Harper promise is the “near-complete” withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan in 2011.

What does that mean exactly? Will there be troops there or not? How many will be left, if any, and exactly where will they be posted if they are there?

A motion passed in the House of Commons not so long ago said the troops would be out of Kandahar by 2011, it said nothing about taking them out of Afghanistan completely.

The Conservatives can try to dress this dog up as simply reaffirming their commitment but it isn’t. This is something completely different but thanks to the ambiguity of the statement itself nobody but Stephen Harper is sure exactly what it does mean.

Whether or not you support the reason Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan the fact remains that they are there and more of them are dying all the time. To make an announcement about troop deployments in an off the cuff press briefing, for pure political advantage during an election campaign, is the lowest form of self serving crapulence I’ve ever seen a politician stoop to and believe me I’ve seen them stoop pretty low.

Finally, before moving onto the next gang of federal job candidates, the Liberals, the Conservatives have also promised to ease foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian firms by increasing the allowed level of foreign investment in airlines to 49% from the current 25% and allowing foreign companies to own Canadian uranium mines.

It may seem like a good idea when you think about the potential job creation that might come with all that foreign investment but consider that even a 49% stake in an airline will allow those investors to have a great deal of say in how things are done, from outside the borders of Canada, and without regard for whether customer needs here are truly being met.

Do I even need to go into the possible problems that might occur by allowing a foreign entity to own vast quantities of Canadian uranium?

Moving on…

The Liberals are next on the list.

A key promise of Stephane Dion’s is a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles outside of the military.

Not a bad move, in and of itself, but we’ve all seen the boondoggle of the gun registry and how much of our tax dollars were sucked down that sink hole. I don’t have a problem with banning semi-automatic weapons but in reality the biggest problem with guns in Canada comes from illegal weapons entering from the U.S., not those locally purchased, and this law will do nothing to curb that illegal trade.

No discussion of Liberal promises would be complete without a look at the much talked about and often maligned Liberal "Green Shift".

According to the Liberal party their plan would place a tax on fossil fuels in an attempt to cut emissions. The complete opposite of a conservative promise to cut taxes on diesel which, I can only assume means the Conservatives want to increase emissions.

The Liberals claim this new carbon tax will be revenue neutral in that consumers will get “much” of the added cost back through personal and corporate income tax cuts.

It’s an interesting concept but just how revenue neutral can the “Green Shift” be when you consider that the Liberals, who have apparently abandoned any talk of former PM Paul Martin’s national child care program, are also promising to pay parents more money out of those carbon revenues simply for having children.

That’s right folks, Stephane Dion has promised to extend the $1,200 child care allowance brought in by the Harper government as a bribe to anyone who had hoped the national child care program would actually more forward. Dion says he will add an additional $350 a year to that amount plus another 1,225 a year for low income families, all of which is to be paid for with funds from the Carbon tax.

That doesn’t sound too revenue neutral to me.

It also sounds like the tax cuts that are supposed to offset the carbon cost for all of us are going to be a far lower than promised since a large chunk of them will apparently be going into this child care plan.

The Liberals have also promised to spend our tax dollars on (among other things) a $50 million upgrade to Canada's food safety system, no doubt in an attempt to highlight the problems that recently took place there during the Conservative watch. Never mind that $50 million is a drop in the bucket to an agency that size and will accomplish nothing in the long term, the promise has been made.

They’ve also promised $600 million in energy retrofit tax breaks including up to $10,000 in tax breaks for home retrofits and another $10,000 in interest-free "green mortgages" to help homeowners fund environmentally projects. All of which will have to be paid for through the "Green Shift" carbon tax that is supposed to be so revenue neutral.

Oh, by the way, if you’re planning to build a new home then you probably already realize how expensive building materials are these days. Even a modest home will cost you as much today as a larger one would have just a few years go. So, if you plan to build you might want to get on with it right away just in case the Liberals actually win.

If the Liberals take this election, and actually keep their election promises, they plan to change Canadian building code standards for energy efficiency, a move that may be in the best interests of the environment but is also guaranteed to hit you right in the wallet when you start that new home.

Moving on once again…

So, what are the NDP and Jack Layton up to you may well ask?

First of all Jack and the dippers plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 80% by 2050.

I’m not sure how possible that is but it’s a worthy goal.

The problem is that it makes me wonder what it will mean to daily life 40 years from now if Canadians can only emit 20% of the CO2 we pump into the atmosphere today.

I truly hope such a plan is possible but I suspect success would see everyone living in log cabins, growing their own food, walking everywhere and going to bed at sundown to conserve power.

That actually doesn’t sound too bad to me but I’m not so sure everyone else will be as willing as I am to live an eighteenth century lifestyle in the twenty-first century.

Mr. Layton has promised to help Canada reach this lofty goal by placing a moratorium on expansion in the Alberta tar sands, spending 8.2 billion to foster the growth of “green collar” jobs in manufacturing, and creating a cap and trade program for corporate emissions.

What Jack doesn’t tell you is that stopping the growth of the tar sands is not a move that is likely endear him to many Alberta who work in and around that industry or to the Alberta government which is highly dependent on tar sands royalties. It's a good move Jack, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure how popular it will make your candidates out that way.

On the subject of “green collar” jobs, I’m sure Jack will be more than happy to tell the good folks in central Canada, if not those in the Atlantic region, that when he talks about the $8.2 billion dollar investment in manufacturing that this money will be spent almost exclusively in Canada’s manufacturing hub, Ontario and Quebec. Don’t expect to see any hybrid car plants springing up around Harbour Breton, Newfoundland any time soon.

Next on the list comes the Green Party of Canada.

The Green Party promises to tackle poverty with:

A “Guaranteed Livable Income Supplement”;

The creation of a national student loan program that would forgive half the cost of loans for those who get a degree or certificate; and

Making locally grown organic produce available to food banks at no cost.

As a side note, this last promise makes me wonder why no locally produced products containing any traces of beef, poultry or pork were included in Ms. May’s plan. Either she hopes to turn the poorest in our society into a vegan army under her complete control or there is something else behind this omission.

Likely Ms. May decided to avoid the subject of supplying meat or dairy products because of her longtime friendship with Sea Shepherd Society leader Paul Watson and her days as a member of the board for that animal rights group.

Whether you agree or disagree with the annual Atlantic seal harvest, you might want to consider how Ms. May will likely affect the annual event, or other issues that impact the cattle, poultry or other similar industries should she win support.

Where was I, oh yes...

In their very own version of the “green shift” the Green Party promises to gradually raise consumption taxes on products and services such as fossil fuels and toxic chemicals;

Provide more money for post-secondary institutions with a focus on renewable energy and conservation; and

Cut corporate taxes by $50 for each tonne of carbon-emission reduced, which, when combined with the carbon tax avoided by the cut, would mean a savings of $100-a-tonne for those corporations.

So what’s the end result? Who the hell knows?

No costs have been provided in connection with implementing any of these promises, either to fight poverty or protect the enviornment but you can bet your bottom dollar (and under any of the federal party platforms it just might be your bottom dollar) they won’t be cheap.

Can you say “new taxes” boys and girls because that's what we'll be in for. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than willing to pay taxes, even high ones, if I feel like I'm getting fair value in return but when was the last time anybody actually felt like they were getting their money's worth when they checked out their tax bills?

Last, but by no means least. The fledgling Newfoundland and Labrador First party has a list of promises of its own. Not that a party based solely in Newfoundland and Labrador can claim any hope of forming government (a reality that someone should try to explain to the NDP and Greens parties as well). Instead the NL-First say they are running on the premise that they can leverage a handful of seats to the Province’s advantage should a close minority government be elected in Ottawa.

In a close minority situation, something that seems highly likely in this election, even a single vote in the House of Commons can potentially hold the balance of power and untold political influence. For anyone who doesn’t believe me let me just respond by invoking the name of Chuck Cadman. Enough said.

If elected the Newfoundland and Labrador First party has, among other things, promised to fight for:

The 8.5% stake in Hibernia to be turned over to Newfoundland and Labrador;

To have the Marine Atlantic ferry service officially considered an extension of the Trans Canada Highway system and have fares lowered to a level that would be the equivalent of the price of gas if you could drive your car the 90 miles or so the ferry covers from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia;

A power corridor through Quebec;

Extending Canada's 200 mile economic zone, custodial management of the Atlantic fishery and placing the fishery off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast under Provincial control.

I know this won’t sit well with some of my readers and indeed it would be nice to have the 8.5% Hibernia stake flowing into provincial coffers rather than the federal one, but just how reasonable is this request abnd how important is the issue today?

Indeed the federal government has already recovered far more than its original investment in Hibernia. Yes, the Atlantic Accord calls for the province to be the primary beneficiary of its resources, not Ottawa. That aside, in all fairness, Ottawa stepped up and invested millions of dollars to gain that 8.5% stake at a time when other investors were pulling out believing the project wasn’t feasible. That was a critical decision that affects Newfoundland and Labradro profoundly today, as most of the decisions made in Ottawa tend to do.

Without Ottawa's investment at the time the oil industryas we know it would not have started in Newfoundland and Labrador when it did and we would not have the thriving industry we have in the Province today, at least not at this point in our history.

Perhaps, just perhaps, under those circumstances, the investors (all of the taxpayers of Canada) deserve to reap the rewards of that sound, wise and timely investment.

As for Marine Atlantic, if the NL-First succeeds in having it recognized as a part of the Trans Canada Highway we all better pray the fleet doesn't end up in the same sad condition as much of the TCH is today. Holes in a road are one thing, holes in a ship are another thing altogether.

When it comes to the fisheries, custodial management is a step that should have been taken decades ago but no federal party will do it unless forced. Good luck on that front.

As for the placement of the fishery itself under Provincial control that’s an idea that might need a little more thought.

Successive provincial governments have shown us that they are not the best managers of fisheries issues. In fact there is nothing to say that they would be any better than the federal government and that’s not a very hard target to aim for.

Provincial control of fish processing over the years has led to the building of enough fish plants in Newfoundland and Labrador to process the entire world’s catch several times over. This was done to appease voters and win elections, plain and simple.

The large number of fish plants and resulting numbers of fish plant workers has led to generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians subsisting on low paying, seasonal jobs that are highly dependent on the EI system as a crutch rather than in the creation of a more efficient fishery that provides more work for less plants all year round.

A lack of fish to fill the large number of plants has also led to a great deal of pressure being placed on federal fisheries ministers to keep quotas high or even increase them as the stocks continue to suffer. This doesn’t bode well for what could happen if local politicians actually controlled the issuing of those fish quotas.

I wish the NL- First Party all the best in their first run at federal politics because I know the folks involved are a bunch of straight shooters who have nothing but the best of intentions (which is perhaps one of the reasons the party has not prospered), but if I may offer a few words of advice to those involved in the Party.

Don't expect too much this time out but don't stop battling either;

When it comes to all things political, pick your battles wisely by focusing on only the ones you can hope to win;

Take your time and conserve your energy, political climates change and political fortunes do as well; and

Be careful what you wish for or one day you may actually get it;

This election day every adult will be asked to vote for the candidate (or party) of their choice. Let’s hope we all make the most informed decision on that day, not necessarily the easiest one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A New Twist to the ABC campaign

Oh what an intersting time we live in. This election is shaping up to be one for the history books no matter what the outcome.

In a creative twist on Premier Danny Williams' ABC campaign (Anybody But Conservative) a new Facebook site has taken the concept digital and raised the stakes to a whole new level.

Electoral reform is something many in Newfoundland and Labrador have talked about for years. Though we may never see a truly fair electoral process in Canada or a democracy that gives everyone an equal voice (whether they live in seat rich Ontario or have only 7 seats like Newfoundland and Labrador) at least one person has found a way to have some influence on who gets elected right across Canada.

In a novel approach to strategic voting one Facebook user, Mat Savelli from Ontario, has started a new online group dedicated to defeating Stephen Harper in the upcoming October 14th general election.

The premise is simple.

Anyone who wants to make sure the Conservatives lose in a particular riding can swap their vote with someone else in another riding. The bonus is that they can do it without actually going against their conscience since they can can still show support for their normal party of choice (as long as it isn't Conservative).

Think of it as a match making service for the electorate.

The Facebook group, titled “Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada” allows voters to swap their vote with someone in another part of the Country.

If you live in a riding where one party stands a good chance of beating the Conservative candidate, you simply agree to vote for that party (regardless of your own allegiances) and let the folks at the Anti-Harper site know that you will 'swap' your vote with someone else in another riding who is willing to lend their support to your party.

For example, if you are an NDP supporter in the riding where a Liberal has the best chance of beating the Conservatives all you need to do is let the other members of the group know that you are willing to vote Liberal if someone else is willing to vote NDP in a riding where they have a better chance of winning.

It’s an interesting and novel concept and as of Friday morning, just two days into the experiment, the group had over 700 members across the Country.

It's amazing what a motivated electorate can do when they are mobilized. Just look at how fast Stephen Harper and Jack Layton changed their tune about letting Elizabeth May participate in the leader's debate after the public started to take action.

In Newfoundland and Labrador things are becoming more interesting as well.

Just this morning I was speaking with a life long Conservative supporter who would like nothing more than to support the ABC campaign but can't bring himself to vote for either the Liberals, NDP, Greens or even the NL-First party (should they run a candidate in his riding). He also doesn't want to sit out the election.

The solution, he told me, came to him just last night. He plans to show his support for ABC, and get his message across, by going to the polling station and simply writing ABC across his ballot.

I believe there's a lesson in there about the art of compromise.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Will History Repeat itself in this Federal Election?

-------------BREAKING NEWS:--------------

OTTAWA — Conservative communicatins director, Ryan Sparrow, was suspended by his party today over comments about the Father of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Jim Davis, who recently lost a son in Afghanistan, complained on Thursday that Harper's surprise announcement that he would completely end the Afghan mission in 2011 was "irresponsible." Mr. Davis said his son will have died in vain if Canada does not complete its mission and pulls out prematurely.

Sparrow, who was in the news late last year after being caught sneaking down a hotel's back stairs after a secret press briefing with "approved" reporters, accused Mr. Davis' of making the criticisism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for political reasons.

In an email to a reporter, Sparrow said that Davis was a supporter of deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. The inference being that Davis was complaining because he was a Liberal.


Will History Repeat itself in this Federal Election?

They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

While surfing the web this morning, in search of my daily dose of political intrigue, I ran across something that reminded me of a past election and how, no matter what the polls might show, sometimes voters actually have the last say when it comes to the winners and losers.

At the outset of the 1993 federal election, not one pundit, reporter, strategist or commentator predicted that the Conservatives would be nearly wiped off the electoral map and end up reduced to just two seats in the House of Commons, yet it happened.

That election also ended the career of Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

During the election campaign Campbell toured the nation in an all out effort to win. At one point her personal popularity far surpassed that of Liberal leader Jean Chretien and support for the Progressive Conservatives increased to just a few points behind the Liberals in the polls. It was a far different story when the ballots were counted.

So what happened?

Why did the Conservative campaign self-destruct?

The reason why many voters turned away from the Conservatives, the crushing blow one might say, came as a direct result of a single campaign attack ad aimed at Liberal leader Jean Chretien and his unusual speaking style.

Chretien's speech problem, the result of having had Bell's Palsy during his childhood, resulted in him speaking from one side of his mouth. The Conservatives saw this as a weakness and decided it would be to their advantage to ridicule and attack the Liberal leader's physical handicap.

The tactic backfired.

As a result of widespread public outrage the PC party ended up paying the ultimate price. They were nearly obliterated and the Liberals went on to win that election and successive races for well over a decade.

When it comes to campaign tactics not a lot has changed inside the Conservative party in 15 years.

Recently we’ve seen the same sort of negativity from the Harper campaign as was witnessed in the Campbell campaign of 1993.

Months before the current election was even called the Conservative party began airing television ads depicting Liberal leader Stephane Dion as weak and ineffective, someone who is too much of a risk to elect as a Prime Minister.

These attacks have been followed by a constant barrage on the Conservative party web site. A site that often features more pictures (unflattering though they may be) and more discussion about the Liberal leader than it does about Conservative policies or the Prime Minister himself.

The most recent negative attack,one that finally raised the ire of some voters, depicted Mr. Dion being circled by a puffin (Newfoundland and Labrador’s official bird) as the bird repeatedly defecated on Mr. Dion’s shoulder.

The image, as disgusting as it was, was also quite ironic.

With the current campaign against the Harper Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador one could easily suggest that Harper himself should have been the candidate depicted under such dire circumstances, but I digress.

There appears to be no end to the level of mean spirited negativity the Conservative party is capable of when it comes to winning, and it gets far worse.

The Conservatives appear to be so determined to crush their opponents that they will stop at nothing.

Regardless of what recent news reports may suggest, the former head of the television consortium which manages the leader's debates told the Globe and Mail yesterday that he was informed in 1997 that Prime Minister Harper would not participate in a public debate if the leader of the Green party was included.

Smear campaigns, half-truths and strong arming news services are one thing but when a party is willing to actually put lives in jeoparty in order to cripple their opposition they have stooped to an entirely new low.

There is a saying among journalists that under the tight control the Prime Minister's office has on his MPs there is no such thing as an unauthorized leak. The evidence of this is apparent in the current election campaign where Conservative candidates in certain ridings have been warned not to talk to the press.

With the sort of control Mr. Harper has over his MPs it caused great concern about a year ago, shortly after Mr. Dion assumed the leadership of the Liberal party, when one Conservative member of Parliament from Ontario informed the media of precisely where and when Stephane Dion would be touring during what was supposed to be a top secret visit by the Liberal leader to war torn Afghanistan.

This "leak" not only put Mr. Dion's life at risk but also the lives of countless members of his military escort and it caused great distress among military planners on the ground and around Canada.

Is blind political ambition really worth stooping so low?

Will Canadian voters, at some point in this campaign, finally reach their Campbell / Chretien threshold as they did in 1993?

This remains to be seen but the Conservatives, like their Republican counterparts in the U.S., appear to believe that by running a non-stop negative campaign they'll easily storm to victory.

Perhaps they will, but history has shown that their approach can be a very risky gambit North of the border.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Party Leaders Pressure Networks into Undemocratic Decision

UPDATE: Thanks to the voices of thousands of people across Canada the party leaders who opposed Ms. May's participation in the televised debates have seen what a motivated public can do to their political aspirations and have backed down. It now appears that Ms. May will be a part of the process. The outcome is good but it does nothing to change the realities that exist in Canada when a handful of political leaders and corporate executives can essentially hold the democratic process and freedom of speech hostage whenever they decide to do so.

Monday September 8, 2008 was a dark day for freedom of speech in Canada and an even darker day for democracy.

On Monday the top executives of Canada’s major television networks, including the CBC and CTV, jointly announced that the leader of a legitimate federal party, the Green Party, which has candidates in over 300 ridings, a member sitting in the House of Commons and which captured the support of over 600,000 voters in the last election, would not be allowed to participate in the televised leaders debates.

The decision was made, according to an official press release by the networks, in the “best interests of Canadians”.

What gives the management of a handful of television networks the right to decide what’s in the best interest of Canadians?

Why doesn’t open debate, freedom of speech and presenting all the candidates to the voting public qualify?

Personally I’m not a supporter of the Green Party any more than I support any of the national parties in this election but that doesn’t change the fact that a blow has been struck to democracy as a concept and in practice.

The reason the major networks made this decision wasn’t because the Green Party leader, Ms. Elizabeth May, isn’t qualified to participate or because she doesn’t represent a legitimate party. The decision was taken for much more nefarious reasons.

The decision was made because the leaders of three other parties, the Conservatives, Bloc and NDP, who are in direct competition with Ms. May for voter support, let it be known that they did not want her included. The Prime Minister himself, Stephen Harper, strongly hinted that he would not participate if Ms. May were on the stage.

Buckling to the will of the more established parties, and fearful that no debate would be possible, the networks decided that they would become the assassins of Canadian freedom and shut the door on Ms. May in the name of protecting all Canadians.

If the networks were truly concerned with what was in the best interests of Canadians they would have allowed Ms. May to debate the issues with the other leaders face to face.

If a party leader decided that he did not want to participate in this open dialogue and if the debate had to be cancelled because of it then so be it. At least the voting public would have been given a clear understanding of the character of those involved. Instead the networks have permitted themselves to be dictated to by buckling to backroom pressures and intimidation in the most anti-democratic way.

Is allowing large influential political parties to effectively shut out their opponents really in the best interests of democracy, of the people of Canada or of any supposedly democratic Country?

Over the past several years we’ve heard the mainstream party leaders speak of the reasons young Canadian men and women are fighting and dying in Afghanistan. Unwaveringly that reason comes back to the need to bring democracy to the region. What kind of democracy does Canada’s leadership hope to bring to Afghanistan when they are so opposed to allowing a political opponent to debate them on the political issues facing Canada itself?

As I have often said, the mainstream media is no longer independent and unbiased in Canada. Far too often they are dictated to by their commercial supporters and their reporters have become too accustomed to the perks inherent in remaining cozy with the subjects of their political stories. As a result nobody knows who they can trust any longer and who is actually delivering the truth or serving to further undisclosed interests.

Currently the Green Party is considering legal action against the networks and has filed a grievance with the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) however it is unlikely that any decision from that body will take place in time to reverse the current decision before the debate takes place.

The Green Party is also running a petition on their web site at http://demanddemocraticdebates.ca/ for anyone interested in speaking out about the very undemocratic action taken by the networks and forced by certain federal party leaders upon the Canadian voting public.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Where Will You Mark Your X on October 14th?

In January of 2006, just prior to the last federal election, I wrote an article outlining the responses of each party leader, to a letter written by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, asking each what their position was on several key issues of importance to the province.

They say that in politics a day is like a week and a week can be a lifetime. They (politicians being they) also say that the public has a short attention span and an even shorter memory when it comes to issues. With this in mind, and with Premier Williams actively campaigning against the Harper Conservatives, I thought a look back at exactly what each party’s position on those issues was just a little over 2 years ago might be in order.

A note of caution:

Recall that at the time the Liberal party was led by Paul Martin so it may be a little unfair to tar the current leader, Stephane Dion, with the same brush on these issues. Then again many of the same old party faithful are still in place in Liberal land so there may be some comparisons to be drawn.

One might also want to take Jack Layton’s responses with a large grain of salt since, at the time anyway, he was clearly not in a position to become the Prime Minister or even the leader of the official opposition and as such knew he would never have to act on his promises.

That said, if Mr. Layton's tactic was to simply make promises he knew he wouldn’t have to keep, and I’m not saying it was, that would tell voters a lot about the true character of the man.

It seems that in this election the character of the leaders is about the only real issue being debated.

The history:

Just prior to the 2006 Federal election Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams sent a letter to the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties identifying 17 key priorities for the province and asking each leader to respond with their level of support for each item.

The Responses:

As a disclaimer, my understanding of the content in each response is open to interpretation but having studied the precise wording, phrasing and tone of each response has led me to the following conclusions.

My analysis of course is no substitute for reading the details yourself (available at http://www.gov.nl.ca/) but if you’re not inclined to hunt the letters down and read them yourself here is the straight story. The Coles Notes version you might say.

Do you support cost sharing an early retirement program in fisheries workers:
Liberals – NO, Conservatives – NO, NDP – YES

Will provide a northern shrimp allocation to the Province:
Liberals – Evasive, C – Evasive, NDP – YES

Will you take Custodial Management on the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – YES

Will you adopt the Northern Cod Strategy and not List cod as endangered:
Liberals – YES, Conservatives – YES, NDP –YES

Will you support a comprehensive federal/provincialAquaculture Agreement:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – Evasive

Will you assist with the Lower Churchill hydro development:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – Evasive

Will you sell the Federal share of Hibernia to NL:
Liberals – NO, Conservatives – NO, NDP – YES

Will you re-open Gander Weather Office:
Liberals – NO, Conservatives – YES, NDP – YES

Will you increase the Federal presence in Newfoundland and Labrador:
Liberals – YES, Conservatives – YES, NDP - YES

Will you undertake Equalization Reforms:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives - Evasive, NDP – YES

Will you cost share Trans Labrador Highway:
L – Evasive, Conservatives – YES, NDP – YES

Will you make 5 Wing Goose an operational requirement (with troops):
Liberals – NO, Conservatives – YES, NDP – Evasive

Will you create a reserve at Sheshatshiu by June of 2006:
Liberals – YES, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – Evasive

Will you stabilize Marine Atlantic services and cut fees:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – Evasive

Do you support bilateral cost sharing for economic development:
Liberals – Evasive, C – Evasive, NDP – YES

Will you ensure federal contracts for Marystown and Bull Arm shipyards:
Liberals – NO, Conservatives – NO, NDP – YES

Will you participate in costing sharing of a waste management strategy:
Liberals – Evasive, Conservatives – Evasive, NDP – Evasive

Final Tally: Liberal: 5 NO, 3 YES and 9 Evasive
Final Tally: Conservative: 3 NO, 5 YES and 9 Evasive
Final Tally: NDP: 0 NO, 12 YES and 5 Evasive

Of course there’s a certain level of subtlety to each of the evasive answers that might allow them to be interpreted either a yes or a no, but I thought it best to simply label those as evasive and be done with it. We all know it doesn’t pay to read between the lines with political types and unless a promise is spelled out in great detail, and sometimes even if it is, what does it really mean anyway?

There’s nothing a politician loves more than a good loophole he or she can crawl through when the time comes to deliver the goods.

In all fairness, a few of the evasive answers may have been valid and perhaps the Premier himself should have been aware of potential problems prior asking the questions.

For example, how could anyone support a shrimp quota for a community until ensuring stock viability and availability prior to allocating it? I believe it was moves like handing out quotas willy-nilly that helped lead us to the sorry state of a fishery we have today.

In another response it would have been difficult for a government leader to promise contracts to a specific shipyard when a little annoyance like the public tendering act is in place.

Those realities lead to another interesting point. Some of the questions NDP leader Jack Layton responded affirmatively on should perhaps have elicited a more evasive answer than was given, including the aforementioned question of shrimp quotas.

So, what does all of this mean to the average voter today?I guess it means that when you get right down to it we all have to do some soul searching and hard thinking before we step into that ballot box on October 14th. How many promises were met and how many were broken, who stands for what and who deserves your support are all important questions.

Whether Stephen Harper, or any of the leaders for that matter, can be trusted will likely play a big part in the decision of where to mark your X, or at least it should.

In Newfoundland and Labrador in particular the impact of Williams' ABC (Anyone But Conservative) campaign and the string of broken promises left behind by the Harper government, as well as previous federal leaders, both locally and nationally will no doubt be on people’s minds as will the very structure of the Canadian parliamentary system and the province's lack of voice in it.

For those of you with the kind of short memory politicians love to talk about (and who are not yet tired of reading this lengthy review) here is a short list (certainly not all inclusive) of the broken promises given by the current Conservative government (some of which were given in writing).

Taxing Income Trusts after saying he wouldn’t tax them and in doing so encouraging thousands to invest and lose their savings.

Promising to remove of non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization calculation and then including them anyway.

Promising to station a 650 person rapid response battalion at 5 Wing Goose Bay and a military contingent in St. John’s and walking away from that promise. Nothing has been said about the issue since the 2006 election.

Passing a federal fixed election date law and setting the date of the next election for October of 2009, in an effort to prevent a ruling party from timing elections when it is most favorable to them politically, and then disregarding that law and calling an election anyway.

Campaigning on a platform that included plans for the election of senators and providing a government that would be truly accountable to the public. In his first days in office the PM appointed his campaign manager to the senate, and put him in charge of public works by making him cabinet minister, a cabinet minister who is not really accountable to the public since he does not have to face questions in the House of Commons.

And the list goes on…

Monday, September 08, 2008

Harper Campaign Portrays Softer Image

Leading up to the federal election the Harper Conservatives were, not surprisingly, the first off the mark with a national advertising campaign. Their media onslaught did not highlight their record or their plans for the future, as most election advertising tends to do but instead make an all out attempt to soften the Harper image.

The Conservative media blitz is now fully underway in an all out attempt to frame the Prime Minister as some sort of warm and fuzzy family man rather than the often talked about characterization of him as a cold hearted George W. Bush style Republican.

The ads, featuring the PM in an arm chair or wearing a vintage “Mr. Rogers” sweater, rather than serving to define him as a warm family man clearly portray a politician desperately hoping to bury his biggest disadvantage, his ultra right wing conservative views.

Anyone who has followed Stephen Harper’s career need only recall some of the less than fuzzy statements he’s made in the past. Statements you definitely won’t hear in any of the party’s current campaign advertisements.

"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on ourfundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society…" (BC Report Newsmagazine, January 11, 1999)

In 1997, Harper bragged that he was opposed to government programs to eliminate child poverty:

“…billions … for social assistance in the name of “child poverty” and for more business subsidies in the name of “cultural identity”. In both cases I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects.” (The Bulldog, National Citizens Coalition, February 1997)

“If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away…” (National Post,December 8, 2000)

“Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion…” (National Citizens Coalition, 1994)

"There is a dependence in the region (Atlantic Canada) that breeds a culture of defeatism," (CBC News, May 30, 2002)

"You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society." (Stephen Harper, Report Newsmagazine, January 22, 2001)

“I don't know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans.” (Report Newsmagazine, March 25 2002)

NL-First Nominates First Federal Candidate

NL First Party .... It's Time
News Release
Bennett Declares for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte

Pasadena NL - Wayne Bennett, recently retired from Canada's Navy, will bethe NL First Party's candidate in Humber-St.Barbe-Baie Verte for the October14th federal election. Bennett, the son of Ivy (Perry) and Ernest (thePepsi Man) Bennett, served for some 32 years in the Navy and with the RoyalNfld Regiment. He is the founder and CEO of WRB Enterprises Limited.

WRB EnterprisesLimited is in the early stages of two developments in the Howley area. When elected, Wayne will be donating his $45,000 military pension to theRoyal Newfoundland Regiment, in concert with Senator Bill Romphey, for the purpose of the erection of a caribou in Gallipoli for the 100thAnniversary in 2015.

Wayne is single and lives in Pasadena, the crown of the Humber Valley. Isactively involved in both the Pasadena community and the town of Howley,where he spent many of his early years. He is the Grand Knight of the localKnights of Columbus Archbishop McNeil Council 8555 and is actively pursingthe formation of an Historical Society in Howley.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tory Pre-Election Spending Spree

And so the great Canadian tradition of vote buying begins again, part of our shame based heritage...

Tories slammed for $8.8-billion pre-election spending splurge.

Associated Press - OTTAWA

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the Harper government's pre-election spending is out of this world.

The group says the Conservatives have doled out a whopping $8.8 billion since June - including a $2,000 grant to commemorate a UFO sighting.

Federation director John Williamson says there have been almost 300 pre-election commitments, adding up to about $94 million a day, or almost $4 million every hour.

Williamson says the spending binge is exactly the kind of pre-election splurge Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized the Liberals for in the run-up to the 2006 federal election.

Among the big-ticket Tory commitments: $1.1 billion for a so-called "road map for linguistic duality;" $350,000 for an ice cream company in Prince Edward Island; and $297,000 for a ski club in Newfoundland. (Web Talk note: Let's not forget the bailout of the Ontario Ford plant, something Harpo said he wouldn't do)

Canada's faltering economy seems likely to be a dominant issue in a federal election campaign that's to begin Sunday, and Williamson says Ottawa should be showing the same spending restraint as Canadian families.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Witness to Political Suicide

With an election looming in mid October the swords are beginning to rattle and the battle is heating up to shut out the federal conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

After backtracking on written promises to exclude non-renewable resources from the equalization formula, walking away from a commitment to custodial management of fish stocks on the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, stonewalling on a promise to station a battalion at 5 Wing Goose Bay and reportedly telling Premier Danny Williams, “…I don’t need Newfoundland and Labrador in order to win…” it’s no surprise the wheels are beginning to fall off Stephen Harper’s Conservative bandwagon in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shortly after helping to pass the budget that is estimated to have cost Newfoundland and Labrador $10 billion in resource revenues Conservative MP Norm Doyle was the first to read the writing on the wall and quickly announced that he would be retiring from politics when the next election was called. The Conservative’s other two MPs in the Province, Loyola Hearn and Fabian Manning, were not as astute in their assessment of the impact supporting the Prime Minister would have on their careers and continued in spite of a growing wave of anger against them. This week, for one of them at least, the attempt to weather a pending storm has finally come to an end.

Before the writ has even been dropped reports are beginning to surface that long time Conservative MP and Federal Fisheries Minister, Loyola Hearn, will not be seeking re-election. No doubt the reality of his situation has finally dawned on the Minister and he now realizes that by crawling into bed with Stephen Harper, at the expense of his constituents, he has written his own death warrant and, like Liberal John Efford before him, he has hurled himself onto the political dung heap of Newfoundland and Labrador history.

With two of the three Conservative incumbents in the Province no longer running and with reports of total disarray and disorganization inside the local Conservative election team the possibility of a Conservative shutout in the Province is becoming more of a possibility every day.

With Fabian Manning, who gleefully sat by Stephen Harper’s side clapping and smiling as the PM ridiculed statements that the Province had been wronged by his decision on equalization, the only incumbent running this time around things are not looking good for the Harper team. Party organizers are now admitting that they are having trouble finding anyone to run in several ridings and that they can’t find enough volunteers to run a solid campaign.

The road ahead looks pretty bleak for anyone willing to put their name forward on a Conservative ticket this time out.

The question now is whether Fabian Manning, like Doyle and Hearn before him, will opt out of the fight and simply fade into political oblivion.

My prediction is that he will not.

Fabian Manning, unlike Doyle and Hearn, is a one term MP. He doesn’t have the ability to simply retire with a fat federal pension, an option another term would afford him. As much as Manning would likely love to move out from behind the bullseye directly aimed at his career he’s caught between a rock and a hard place.

Having hitched his future to Stephen Harper’s wagon Manning has burned his bridges on the Newfoundland and Labrador political scene, undermined those who elected him to federal office and in in doing so allowed us all to witness his political suicide.

His short time in office has left Manning with no pension to fall back on, no real influence or connections inside the party and little hope that conservative insiders, either Federal or Provincial, will even return his phone calls should he decide not to run or if he loses this election bid. Not an enviable position to be in but one of his own making.

Fabian Manning’s only hope of avoiding a future that includes regular trips to the local food bank is to soldier on in the hope that by some miracle his constituents will overlook his betrayal and give him a second term. All is not lost though and there may still be one ray of hope flickering for the Manning campaign, however dim.

With the feud between Danny Williams and Stephen Harper raging and Williams’ ABC (Anyone But Conservative) campaign moving into full gear Stephen Harper will be inclined to pull out all the stops to ensure that he is not completely shut out of Newfoundland and Labrador, a situation that would allow Premier Williams to claim victory.

Winning just one riding, Manning’s, will give Harper the ability to spin the result as a clear indication that William’s ABC campaign was a failure because his party simply lost in ridings that didn’t have experienced incumbents running.

There is little doubt this strategy is already being planned inside the Conservative election machine and that all possible resources will be poured into making it happen.

With the mood in Newfoundland and Labrador these days the possibility of this tactic actually succeeding are slim but it’s about the only hope Manning or Harper have of holding onto any kind of foothold and saving face. Then again, it may just work. Who knows how much money and how many promises will be heaped on the voters of the Avalon riding in an effort to buy them off between now and polling day.

Who knows if they’ll fall for it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Sad Commentary on Canadian Politics

By the end of the week federal election campaigns will be moving into high gear thanks to Stephen Harper's decision to go to the people in mid October. Never mind that the Conservative government has already been running American style attack ads for weeks. I guess that's just "reaching out to the electorate", isn't it?

In fact it's the sort of approach Newfoundland and Labrador Conservative MP, Fabian Manning, has taken to like a duck to water.

It seems good old Fabian has been taking full advantage of taxpayer funded programs that allow him to send out regular mail updates to his constituents. The problem is that little Fabian hasn't been filling the pages of his newsletters by updating the public on all of his good work in Otawa, likely because he has nothing to talk about on that front. Instead he's been using the paper, ink and postage you and I pay for as a political tool to bash the other parties and promote big daddy Steve. Tsk, Tsk Fabian. That's not really nice is it?

When it comes to the Conservative party in general and Fabian in particular, it's just the sort of underhanded (even if technically legal) move that should come as no surprise to anyone. Fabian clearly sold out his principles a long time ago. As a matter of fact I believe I know exactly when it happened. It was in May of last year.

That was the day Fabian, who was sent to Ottawa to represent the people of Avalon and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, gave up his last shred of morality and human decency in order to curry favor with his Conservative boss by mocking his home province and his people on National television.

I wonder just how many of you out there remember the scene as Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to ridicule and mock Newfoundland and Labrador over the equalization debate. How many remember as well how Fabian, inexpicably sitting in Cabinet Minister Jim Flaherty's seat at the PM's right hand, smiled broadly, applauded on cue and cheered on his boss as the venom spewed from Harper's lips.

I remember.

Not to worry Fabian, more influential and well seasoned political figures than you have sold out in the past.

Let's take Loyola Hearn for example, now there's one who really knows how to spin a story while sticking the knife in and giving it a good twist.

When running in the last federal election in January of 2006, Hearn clearly stated, "Our party initiated the idea of custodial management. We had a resolution to that effect passed in Parliament. In our policy statements we commit to taking custodial management if we become government."

Fast forward a couple of years and it's a completely different story from Mr. Hearn.

These days custodial management is a dirty word in the Hearn vocabulary and one he avoids at all costs. Instead Mr. Hearn is telling everyone that his policy of having foreign patrol vessels off our shores keeping an eye out for their own countrymen is actually working so well we don't need to protect our own fish stocks. His reasoning is that arrests for infractions are way down so it must be working. Really Loyola?

It's a sad commentary on Canadian politics when a voter's main options include a party that has, and continues to, lie about issues of such importance to voters (Blue), another party that has done their own share of lying in the past and plans to introduce new taxes that will shift wealth into Ontario & Quebec from resource producing provinces (Red), a third that is a perennial afterthought (Orange) and one that has yet to prove itself anything more than a single issue party (Green).

It's also a sad commentary on the state of political activism in Newfoundland and Labrador that even when faced with such sad prospects we have yet to find it within ourselves to abandon the status quo of voting for a party with national interests (and control) and instead throw our support behind local candidates that are willing to place Newfoundland and Labrador's interests first.

For several years now the Newfoundland and Labrador First party has struggled to find the kind of support it needs to make inroads on the federal scene. This is a party that, working on a shoestring budget, is trying to make sure that Newfoundland and Labrador's concerns are not drowned out by the noise of a national party structure controlled by the large number of representatives from Ontario & Quebec.

Over the past few years the Newfoundland and Labrador First Party has grown far beyond its original platforms and is now poised to run candidates in the upcoming election. The belief is that while the province's 7 federal seats are of little value when occupied by members of a national party, if locally controlled they could be.

With so many minority governments expected in the coming years a locally managed party that can elect a handful of representatives to fill those seats could actually weild a lot of power and influence on Parliament Hill. The possiblity actually exists, especially in a close minority, that such a party could potentially hold the balance of power in Ottawa. Something Newfoundland and Labrador representatives could never hope to accomplish otherwise.

The question now is whether the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are about to prove the old adage that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result", or if they are willing to take the William's campaign of "Anyone But Conservative" a step further and throw their support behind local candidates that are answerable to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians only, not to a National party.