Friday, June 26, 2009

Every tool has a use

And it appears to be that Steve Murphy is good for inadvertently making Harper squirm. As a reward for his help during the election, this dog of a reporter got the bone of an interview with old dead eyes himself. There have already been several good posts on this article.

All I have to add is that the subtext to the dreck that is the two attack ads campaigns the Harpoids have inflicted on us is that his opponents are ineligible to be Prime Minister because of their hamartia. Whether it is because of a projected awkwardness and difficulty with a second language or having had the temerity to successfully pursue an international career the implication is that they are disqualified by these "fatal flaws". In the case of Ignatieff, it is a function of the Rovian "attack your opponents strengths" doctrine. But it also points to Harper's unattractiveness. They are really saying: "I know you don't like me, my policies or my candidates but you can't vote for my opponents because of (insert contrived flaw here). So you have to vote for me or just as good, not vote at all." It is as much about suppressing the vote as anything else.
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Romeo LeBlanc provides Ignatieff some guidance

Warren Kinsella has a tribute post to his friend and mentor, Romeo LeBlanc. There is a quote in it that will help the Liberals defeat the government much more effectively than brinkmanship on any particular issue of the day (My emphasis in bold).
When the debate appeared to have run its course, LeBlanc held up two fingers. “Two things,” he said, arching his eyebrows. “First, we cannot be seen to be manipulating all of this. Canadians are very mad at the Tories, and we cannot risk them getting mad at us, too. They do not want to see us taking political advantage of this situation. Secondly, we need to remind them – without it looking like we are reminding them – that these Tory ads are un-Canadian. We need to take them to a place, a room, where they look around, and say: ‘I don’t like where I am.’ Do you understand what I am saying?”
I do your excellency. Pinning our hopes for the defeat of the Conservatives on a particular policy such as EI reform leaves us open to being outflanked when the policy is neutralized by Harper making a meaningless announcement. We need to find a way to let people know how much of an ogre Harper is, how he wants to destroy Canada and how he is ruining us in the eyes of the world. That will inspire Canadians to come out and vote when the time comes. And voter turnout is the key to victory.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

the-progressive-pamphleteer - 1 new message in 1 topic - digest

The Progressive Pamphleteer

Today's topics:

* The Progressive Pamphleteer #1 - 1 messages, 1 author

TOPIC: The Progressive Pamphleteer #1

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Mon, Jun 22 2009 6:58 am
From: Neil Watson

*Some of the best progressive articles from the past week. Please pass
this on to others you think might be interested. To find more posts of this
nature, visit Progressive Bloggers <>.*
*Braidwood Inquiry*
Newly Disclosed RCMP Email Shocks Dziekanski Inquiry On What Was To Be The
Final Day!<>
*Conservative corruption*
* Auditor General working this
*Shamocracy - The Toronto Star series on the problems with Canadian
democracy *
*A progression of tiny cuts make democracy a

Deborah Coyne on how to reverse this
The descent of national politics into irrelevance and insignificance: Can it
be reversed? (Part One:
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Pamphleteer by visiting the home

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Never do something you are ashamed of

I usually focus on federal politics but the internet ineptitude by Tory MLA Doug Elniski touches on a federal/provincial phenomenon. The tendency of Albertans to elect even the most ridiculous buffoons as long as they carry the Conservative banner has long amazed other Canadians and warped our politics.

Whether the news concerns this or the Iris Evans blooper last week or anything Ed Stelmach utters a standard problem arises. Few people are willing to admit voting Conservative. We know they are in the majority but try and find one. Go to Calgary West and see who will be proud to say they voted for Rob Anders. Can't blame them.

They vote conservative by rote not out of conviction. If the opposition can break through that habit the conservative Fortress Alberta could all come crashing down
Recommend this Post

Monday, June 22, 2009

A concrete example of sham-o-cracy

It is almost as if the Conservatives agree with the tenets of the Sham-o-cracy series and wanted to highlight it. From Part 2 (My emphasis in bold):
Turned-off Canadians tuning out

At the time it was hailed as groundbreaking. Fill out a one-page form, pay a $5 fee and Canadians had the right to ask for any federal government record. The introduction of the Access to Information Act in 1983 put Canada on the cutting edge.

"We were amongst the leaders in the world," says Robert Marleau, the federal information commissioner.

But the leader has become the laggard after 26 years of "static decline," Marleau says.

"Since then it's been the same song and dance, no effort by any government to have this legislation or these processes keep pace with time, change and technology," he said in an interview.

Today, the access to information system is collapsing from a combination of neglect and bureaucrats foiling citizens' right to know through foot-dragging and fees.


University of Toronto political science professor Lorraine Weinrib charges that Harper has an "extended track record" of showing disdain for the principles and practices at the heart of Canada's constitutional system.

"While Harper touts the democratic principle as his ideal, his actions align with another principle – an all-powerful executive authority that makes his own rules," she writes in an essay for a book titled Parliament Democracy in Crisis.

To make it clear this is the case, the Conservatives take another slice from the carcass of democracy:

Tories withhold future war costs, citing national security concerns

In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country’s taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security, Canwest News Service has learned.

The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under Access to Information by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada’s military participation in the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned military mission to Afghanistan.

When the NDP asked for the identical figures last year, the military made them public. Canwest News Service was able to disclose in April 2008 that the yearly incremental cost of the war would top $1 billion for the first time since Canada’s military became involved in Afghanistan in 2002.

The Taliban doesn't lack all measure of sophistication but the spending estimates are not crucial to the mission in Afghanistan. The need for a society to be appropriately informed of it's own affairs is paramount over the need for security in matters of this information.

Recommend this Post

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Harper can't open his mouth without insulting Canadian democracy

Harper's comments today were insulting to Canadians and the concept of democracy. I haven't been able to find a full transcript but this CBC article has the most egregious parts (My emphasis in bold).

But the prime minister warned a fall election that he said "nobody wants" would bring "pretty dangerous results" for the country which is already struggling with a recession.

Harper also raised the spectre of the Liberals forming another proposed coalition with the NDP and supported by the Bloc, despite Ignatieff's repeated assurances the coalition idea was "dead."

"Nobody wants to see the opposition coalition we had at the end of last year," Harper said. "I think everybody in the public recognized the dangers that presents to the country."

He said his minority government has operated in an environment of "constant threat" of an election, which he didn't welcome or think was "useful."

"But when we're faced with them, we make sure we're prepared," he said.

His first comment carries the implication that an election that does not return him to power is a dangerous result. This is unconscionable for the leader of a democracy. I may detest the unfortunate fact that this creep is the Prime Minister of Canada but unless there is evidence of fraud I respect the results that put him there. Harper makes it evident that he does not believe anyone else should be Prime Minister. The only person facing a dangerous result in a Conservative defeat is this woefully unqualified imbecile.

Secondly, lay off the misrepresentation as to how our system works. The coalition, regardless of it's faults, was an entirely legitimate structure. A democrat would not work to erode understanding of the foundations of parliamentary democracy.

And finally the threat of an election has been very useful. That is how minority parliaments work; you fool.

If you can stomach listening to him, here is a link to the video. You can hear Harper misrepresent democracy beginning at 1:25

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Unlike Lady Macbeth, I will eschew sleepwalking

Lady Macbeth:
How now, my lord, why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done, is done.

Macbeth Act 3, scene 2, 8–12
So Ignatieff in his office as Leader of the Liberal Party, has stayed true to his word to try and make Parliament work. Is this what I wanted? No. Do we still need to get rid of Harper? Yes.

All that is left to do is this. Enjoy the summer. Rebuild the party. Document the attrocities. Keep an eye on September 28.

MI didn't listen to my advice over the last week so he probably isn't listening to this. But in my experience, if you are circling around a bully on the ice, staring him down and saying things like this, you had better barely have your gloves on and be ready to start swinging when the opportunity presents itself.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Working on the Harper personality cult with our tax dollars - again

It must be tough working with such a lump of clay to build a personality cult around but Susan Delacourt highlights another attempt to equate Harper with Canada and it's government. It is a bit futile given how his popularity has fallen in the last two months. You ahve to admire that stick-to-it-ativeness.Recommend this Post

The Progressive Pamphleteer

Back in November of last year, I speculated on ways to get the Progressive message out beyond the echo chamber of political bloggers. The imperative to attempt something like this is again apparent after the farcical "interview and open house" Harper had with Duffy last week. This was reinforced by reading Andrew Cohen's review of The Dion Tape (see my previous post).

I dislike the idea of carping about a problem and not trying to correct it. So I have set up a Google Group called The Progressive Pamphleteer. Bloggers are sometimes thought of as the Pamphleteers of today. But there is a missing link in the blogging process. Thomas Paine and other pamphleteers would physically distribute their ideas and criticism by handing out pamphlets. Bloggers only get read by people who know about their blog. Aggregators such as Progressive Bloggers, New Democrats Online and Liberals Online help but they are mostly talking to the same pool of politically motivated people. The vast majority of Canadians are unaware of these aggregators. Case in point, I found out about Progressive Bloggers through the relentless commenting by Scott Tribe on DailyKos. Each one ended with an encouragement to check out Progressive Bloggers. If not for those trailers, I doubt if I would have heard about the site. We need a way to send out the cream of our work to the majority of Canadians who are poorly served by the current media.

This is where The Progressive Pamphleteer comes in. It will allow for an email summary of the week's best progressive posts to be distributed to members of the group. These emails can then be forwarded to friends and family who are interested in the big picture of what is going on. Automatic posting to your blog can be facilitated by contributing the mail to blogger email address. I am trying to find out if this sort of automatically available with Twitter. If not people could add the address a weekly Tweet. Anything to help the truth go viral.

Initially, I will post my favourites from the previous week. You may contribute suggestions by emailing the title and link to I will not contribute any of my posts unless they have been strongly recommended by several others. I can see there being categories for the Post of the Week such as The Economy, The Environment, Equality Issues, Politics, International Affairs. Eventually, I would prefer if others who specialize in these topics take over the selection process.

I have no idea if this will work but it is worth a try. You may sign up for the group by using the box shown below. I have added this promotion box to the sidebar of my blog.

Google Groups

Subscribe to The Progressive Pamphleteer


Visit this group
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Enemies of Canadian Democracy

"Don't think that things of this sort don't happen in Canada."
While the media is focused on the apparent fraud in the Iranian election, it is interesting to reflect on the integrity of our process. Andrew Cohen, professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, reviews the travesty perpetrated on Canadian democracy by Steve Murphy, Mike Duffy and CTV last election. He also touches on the tasering of Ralph Goodale by the RCMP during the 2006 election. Both stories aren't covered enough.

The only aspect he hasn't covered is the amazingly short period between the Duffy embarrassment and the impromptu press conference put on by the Harper campaign. Very suspicious. If we are willing to make a link between the Dion Tape and a Senate appointment we have to consider the possibility of a more complete collusion between the Conservatives and CTV.

Read the article and keep it in mind when the topic of the Iranian, Ukrainian or American election processes come up.
Recommend this Post

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Constant Vigilance offers strategic advice

When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil.

Through BCINTO (he had a chance to blog on it first since Steve V is on R&R), we learn that Harper, once the Conservatives strength, is now their anvil. That the Liberals are obliged to bring down the Manyberries Machiavellis is more than clear. The may yet be held back by Nervous Nellies in the caucus or calculations by strategists.

If the Liberals wait, the Conservatives will have time to repair Harper's image. And this advantage will be lost. Very few people actually like Harper or the Conservatives. Many voted for them because they like backing who they perceive to be the eventual winner. Now that he is seen as a loser the pile on will begin. The joiners will move to the Liberals. This election has the potential to reshape the political landscape by forcing the Calgary Cretins back under their rock. Don't throw this away.

I began this with a quote and I will end this with a quote.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative ( and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now".

- J. W. von Goethe

Recommend this Post

Friday, June 12, 2009

The other side of a summer election

I have been ending recent posts with calls for a non-confidence vote. The imbecility of the Harpies is beyond the worst we could ever have imagined. So when the decision is based solely on the best interests of Canada a summer election is demanded. Triangulation and focus groups be damned. Fight the good fight. Bring down the government now so that Harper can't retire before the next election and can be defeated in the polls. The humiliation of a resounding defeat for Harper is the best way to force the troglodyte demographic back underground for a decade or so.

I have only one concern regarding a summer election. The key to victory is enhancing voter turnout. I addressed the Conservative strategy of suppressing the vote in this series. The key factor in the present situation is this post which highlights the pattern by which governments tend to change in Post WWII Canada. In short, minorities elected at the nadir of voter turnout tend to be replaced by majority governments on a wave of higher turnout.

A summer election may induce a low turnout. This is Harper's best chance since his crazies will come out regardless of the timing. So if we do the right thing and head into a summer election, we must do everything possible to enhance voter turnout. The campaign must inspire passion about the country and it's future. This is doable.

Make the Motion Monday.
Recommend this Post

The definitive summary of the Isotope Crisis

all in 780 words. It isn't a point by point recap. It impresses upon a newcomer to the topic the incompetence, mendacity and disaster federalism the government has applied to this file. From this post the entire failure of the Conservatives and conservatism could be extracted.

Lies which cost lives around the globe demands a non-confidence motion.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The consequences of a political party that has lost it's way

One of the themes I have gnawed on like the Opposition has chewed on the bones of Raitt's Cabinet career has been the morphing of Reform from a policy focused organization to a Conservative Party that is primarily concerned with fundraising. This field of inquiry has lain fallow for a bit while I pursued other topics. But it is time to resurrect it. At the end of post I linked to I asked for a heads up if anyone got wind of an incipient fundraising initiative. A big s/t is owed to Penlan who gave me a nudge, nudge, wink, wink to check out this post at Canpolitico.

In it we read the latest letter aimed at squeezing money from the rubes. It is key to note that it again follows the pattern of reaching out on a bi-weekly schedule 4-5 days from payday. What is also important to notice is that with all that is going wrong with the economy, Chalk River and pretty much everything else the Conservatives have touched; leveraging these manifold crises to maximize their revenue stream remains a priority.

The efficiency of the Conservative Party fundraising apparatus has been widely lauded. But this success comes at a price. No person or organization can effectively focus on more than one or two priorities at any one time. The fundraising fixation means they have less organizational bandwidth to put towards fixing power plants or inspecting meat or implementing stimulus. In this way, the Conservative fundraising machine is as much a root cause of the fiasco their government has become as the ludicrous ideology they cleave to.

Incompetence leads to a lack of confidence.
Recommend this Post

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ghost of Conservascandals past

While the focus is on sexier scandals, we shouldn't lose track of the method the Harpoids used to place Canadians in mortal peril last summer.
New inspectors not dedicated to meat plants
None of the 57 newly hired inspectors at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are dedicated to meat inspection, despite a promise by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at the height of the deadly listeriosis crisis that they would be on the "front lines."...When Ritz announced the new positions last August after a definitive link was made between tainted meat produced at a Maple Leaf plant in Toronto and the deaths of 22 Canadians, he said the government was "targeting another 58 people to be on the front lines."

The CFIA was responding to a request from the NDP's food safety critic, Malcolm Allen, who asked for a status report on these new hires, and whether they were "doing meat inspection or are they doing other things."

Allen said the revelation shows Ritz wasn't being forthright with Canadians.

"The minister left the impression with Canadians that all the inspections that were hired in the last little while were meat inspectors, and now we know this is untrue," he said. "The CFIA has unequivocally said to us this is not what they're doing.

"So the difficulty we have, Canadians have, how do you have confidence in a minister who tells you ... 'This is our remedy, we will hire people to do meat inspection,' and then they hire people and they don't do meat inspection."
Incompetence requires non-confidence.Recommend this Post

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Express your opinion on non-confidence

In my previous post, I expressed the need to introduce a motion of non-confidence in the Harper government. Here is your chance to have a say.

Is the incompetence of the Harper government as currently manifested in Raitt-Gate in conjunction with the Listeriosis outbreak and their history of inept financial management reason enough to move non-confidence?

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Meanwhile across The Pond

While the rats, I mean Raitts, of the Harper cabinet are distracted by their careerism, the rest of the world wishes that Conservative Canada would disappear and that the real Canada was back:

Officials at the main European reactor that produces medical isotopes have their fingers crossed the shuttered Chalk River facility will be running by early next year, when they must close their own operation for five to six months.

"It would be pretty difficult to see how the medical community could manage to cope if we have to go out for a long period before the (Canadian) reactor gets back," said Kevin Charlton, commercial manager of isotope supply at the Petten HFR reactor in the Netherlands.

The phenomenal incompetence of the Harper government is having a global impact.  It is too late for calls for the resignation of Lisa Raitt or (John Baird for that matter).  Notwithstanding the relative merits of EI reform as a pretext for a non-confidence vote there are no valid reasons to not move non-confidence based on the ongoing Chalk River fiasco.  This is worth fighting an election over.

Recommend this Post

Monday, June 8, 2009


That is the word that came to mind as I got caught up on the China Syndrome that is the Lisa Raitt and Jasmine MacDonnell gong show.  I am literally at a loss for words that government members would think about rolling the dice with people's lives.Recommend this Post

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Conservative burn rate is even better than I estimated

Better for the Liberals that is.  On Monday, I took a stab at estimating the cost of the attack ads and came up with $2,250,000 (decimal confusion notwithstanding.) and I must admit to be egregiously wrong.

While enjoying another of Steve V's poll deconstructions, I read a Penlan comment stating of a Stephen Taylor claim that the attack ad campaign cost 5.5 MILLION DOLLARS.  I quickly went  for my first (and hopefully last) visit to his eponymous monument to himself.  And I found out that Penlan was possibly understating the cost.
a $5-6 million Conservative pre-writ ad buy defining the Liberal leader
They spent more than their first quarter fundraising on a lead balloon.  Add this in to the high fixed costs and these guys are burning through the cash.  Think about the monthly cost for the media centre, hairdressers,  and remittances through proxies to bloggers such as Taylor himself.  Even support for lousy news aggregators drives your costs up.

One of the most difficult tasks for a manager is to prevent the development of an unsustainable cost structure.  The real world inexperience of Harper is showing.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

I have the wrong paradigm for dealing with Conservatives

As in the third definition (highlighted in bold).
par·a·digm  (pr-dm, -dm)
1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories: the paradigm of an irregular verb.
3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.
In this post, I extraploated on James Morton's musing on whether or not Raitt-Gate was a ministerial leak or a mistake.  I asked a bit of a rhetorical question becuase I felt Raitt was sent on a suicide mission.

I expected Raitt to step down because I am proud to say that it would never have occured to me to allow a 26 year old to take the fall for something that is my responsibility.  Beyond this prima facie evidence that I am ill suited to serve as one of Harper's ministers, it also means we must ponder on the morale of Conservative staffers cum scape goats everywhere.

Update (4:42 Bat Time): Warren Kinsella further catalogues the reasons for low Tory staffer morale.  The Langevin Block had better mix up a lot more kool-aid to keep the winglets in line.
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It must be free metaphor week in Ottawa

First it was the metaphor for their general incompetnce.  Now we get an allegory for the Conservative take on "managing" the economy.Recommend this Post

A perfect symbol of their incompetence

No.  Not the Raitt fiasco.  That one is too obvious.  This.

Canada is a great country with a compelling and unique history.  Harper and his Orcs can't reconcile this with their small minded dogma.   As a result the Conservatives need to try and  undermine the roots of this nation.  Selling our silverware was symbolic of that hatred of Canada.

Even more so than a massive deficit.  Or a predilection for losing secret and sensitive documents.  More than another Chalk River shutdown or Listeriosis jokes.  Selling the Queen's property by mistake is a fitting metaphor for these losers.
Recommend this Post

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leadership matters

If you are led by a coward, you act like a coward.Recommend this Post

How does that make you feel Lisa?

James Morton muses that the documents weren't left at C(onservative)TV by mistake.  He feels this was done as a leak by an underling.

But what if it was a leak but one hatched at the PMO?  As in, "Lisa, take these with you to the interview and leave them behind for CTV to have a look at".  This would have been a suicide mission give the sensitive nature of the documents and the consequences that befell Maxime Bernier last summer.  Talk about your cannon fodder.  Talk about taking one for the team.

This is a far more likely case than a civil servant chancing a leak that might land him in jail.

What gets me is; why would anyone still accept such directives from Harper and the Manyberries Machiavellis?
Recommend this Post

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Disaster Federalism - The Con job that just won't go away

"Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable". - Milton Friedman

I was saddened but not surprised to read of the Conservatives plans to sell off assets to "battle" the deficit (Ottawa considering asset sales and CBC, Via Rail flagged for possible sale: files. )
A lot of people were thinking that the Conservatives had placed economic concerns into second place behind developing the attack ads.  In reality both of those issues have always been behind Harper's true modus operandi: Disaster Federalism
In November, at the end of my first post on the neo-con strategy, I asked a series of questions:
Will an extremely right wing prime minister leading a government elected with the lowest ever level of popular support be able to hold a pillow over the programs that helped make this the best country in the world?

Will the infrastructure built up over generations be taken away from our descendants so that a discredited dogma can have one last kick at the cat?

Will an economic event that has been needlessly and purposely exacerbated be used to justify converting Canada into a neo-con dystopia?
It looks like, if Harper has his way the answers are yes, yes and yes.
It helps this goal when even generally good journalists miss the big picture and thereby give Harper some cover.
The rest of the series can be found here.
Recommend this Post

Monday, June 1, 2009

Attack ad burn rate estimation

I have mentioned in the past that the relative fundraising numbers are only part of the comparison of the financial health of the main parties.  The burn rate is the other part of the equation.  Having lots of revenue always puts pressure on the expenditure side of the balance sheet.  Especially for poor managers.  And we all are painfully aware of the managerial competence of the Conservatives.  Particularly in financial matters.  But I have not been able to take a stab at quantifying this until now.

From Far and Wide we can find the Conservatives Q1 fundraising totals
Here's a rundown, year to year differences:
Conservatives 4,361,540.04 (39,432 donors) 2009
Conservatives 4,954,550.22 (44,345 donors) 2008
Note that the year over year total is off a bit.

And, from today's Rocco Rossi email, we can guess the cost of the attack ad campaign (in bold).

Friend --

Following a week of bad news for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, today it gets even worse. His one hope to divert attention away from his government’s incompetence—the personal attack ads against Michael Ignatieff—can be completely neutralized. We need your help to do it, it doesn’t take much effort and it won’t cost you a penny.

An independent Angus Reid study published today finds that Stephen Harper’s strategy is backfiring and that Michael’s honest and personal response to the attacks resonates strongly with Canadians. Stephen Harper is spending an estimated $750 000 dollars a week on this campaign, but you can help beat it with nothing more than a few clicks of your mouse.

Watch Michael's response to the attack ads and share it with your friends
Watch Michael's response to the attack ads

Let’s take this message Canada wide. Forward it to everyone you know and show Stephen Harper that Canadians won’t be distracted from the real story—the economy—and are ready for a new kind of politics.

Rocco Rossi
National Director, Liberal Party of Canada

As of today, the ads have been running for just over 3 weeks with no end in sight. So let us say the attack ad campaign has cost $225,000.00.  Give or take.  And this doesn't include the cost of the chairs for Angry Steve to kick now that this ad foolishness appears to be a flop.

So the Conservatives have spent approximately half of their first quarter fundraising on an ad campaign that has been about effective as their fiscal stimulus.  During a time of apparently declining revenues.  Last year they may have dropped a million on legal fees for the Cadman litigation.  To what end?

One of the most difficult managerial tasks is controlling expenditures.  The Conservatives have champagne tastes.  If they find they have to get by on a beer budget there is a lot of hurt coming their way.  There is some talk from the Liberals of limiting pre-writ spending.  The Liberals should  encourage the Conservatives to spend more.

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A comment from a Malawian on Canada's foreign aid changes

My post from earlier today on the changes the Harper government is making to foreign aid and the effect this is having on Malawi prompted this gracious comment which I have reproduced in full below.  As an individual Canadian, it is humbling to read such sincere gratitude for what my government has done on behalf all of us.  It is also gratifying to think that Canada has made a difference in Malawi and I am hopeful that we can do so once again upon an overdue change in government.
Hello, I am a Malawian and a Christian minister. I would like to comment on your post. I am saddened by this development and pray that the Canadian government will rescind its decision to pull out of Malawi as they plan to do - or at least explain to the Malawi government why they are doing simply as a matter of courtesy. Hopefully, the Harper government will remain committed to the cause of development work not just in Malawi but in that whole region of Africa where the needs are great and the ground is "fertile" for development. As a Malawian, I am very proud of my country especially at this time after the successful and peaceful elections that we just had - the cleanest and most civil election we have had as a democracy. That makes me very proud to be Malawian. I have never been more proud to be Malawian than I am now. I thank God for the President that we have now, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika. He is a man of vision and sound economic principles. With or without Canada's support, I have every reason to believe that as Malawians we have the capacity to pull ourselves out of poverty, grow our economy, change our political landscape and take our place in the world as a nation that loves peace but takes our lives seriously. We are thankful for the support that we have received from Canada so far and we wish the Canadian government and people God's blessing. We will continue to move on with faith for we know that the best is yet to come for Malawi. Maybe someday, the Harper government will wake up and realize that there is really no justification for withdrawing support from a thriving economy and young democracy.
Recommend this Post

Diminishing Canada abroad, impacting the world's poorest

Further to last week's post on a multitude of Conservative sins that were impacting Canada at home and abroad, I would like to draw your attention to this Geoffrey York article in today's G&M: Banned Aid.  It brings home the effects the Harper changes to foreign aid is having on one of the world's poorest countries and how it is damaging our international reputation. Excerpts follow with my highlights in bold.  Read the whole thing.  Not because it is funny or there are pictures of kittens or some such.  Because it deserves to be read.

In the fall of 2004, when Paul Martin was prime minister and Irish rock stars were chattering ceaselessly about the need to help Africa, Canada raised the flag on a shiny new embassy here in the capital of Malawi.

It was the culmination of a warm and close relationship that has sent $440-million in Canadian assistance to the small republic wedged between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique in southeast Africa over the past 45 years.

Optimism was in the air. Malawi was making progress – it was holding democratic elections, its farm output was improving dramatically – but it was still one of the world's 10 poorest countries, heavily dependent on foreign donors. And Canada was one of the most faithful of those donors.

Today, the mood has soured. In late September, barely five years after the opening, a small band of diplomats will watch morosely as the Maple Leaf is hauled down and the embassy closed for good.

There has been no announcement, nothing but a discreet notice buried deep in a government website, unnoticed for weeks. One diplomat in a nearby country called it a “stealth closure.” With staff at the embassy (technically a high- commission office, as both countries are in the Commonwealth) prohibited from talking to the media, Canada seems to be sneaking away in the night.

Sneaking away in the night.  Isn't that just like Harprorogue.

“It's very abrupt and sudden, and no proper reason was given,” says Emma Kaliya, chairwoman of an independent Malawian organization that had worked on women's-rights issues with Canadian aid. ... The real reason for the shift, of course, is a new calculation of Canada's business and geopolitical interests. Instead of Malawi and the seven other African countries, where most people are so desperately poor that they earn less than $2 a day, a bigger share of Canada's foreign-aid money will flow to middle-income places such as Peru, Colombia, Ukraine and the Caribbean, where Canada's commercial interests are more attractive. Canada's foreign aid seems to have become an instrument of its trade policy.

Ottawa insists that the “established need” of recipient countries was one of three main factors in the new priority list. But when eight of Africa's neediest nations are dropped – in favour of places where incomes are much greater – most observers find it hard to believe that “need” mattered much. ... Yet Canada's aid often works very well, making a crucial difference in the lives of the poor.  ...  Before the Canadians arrived a few years ago, the maize and banana farmers of Njale took their water from a dirty stream below their village. They hauled the buckets up the hillside to their shacks, knowing the dangers of the tainted water, yet having no choice but to drink it. Cholera was the inevitable result, leaving villagers sick if not dead.

Then the Canadian International Development Agency launched a $13-million water-supply project for 243,000 people in more than 500 southern villages. Today, the people of Njale take clean water from a tap, and cholera deaths have stopped.

“It has helped us so much,” says Esnat John, a 42-year-old farmer who sells her bananas from a tiny roadside shop. “There were a lot of cholera cases before, but now there are none. This project has allowed us to live. We will always be grateful to Canada. Without it, we would be dead by now.”

Ms. John's story is powerful evidence that Canadian aid saves lives among the poorest of the poor – and is deeply appreciated. “I'm getting a lot of heartfelt thank-yous when people hear that I'm from Canada,” says Owen Scott, a development worker in southern Malawi for Engineers Without Borders, a Canadian group.

The villagers are hoping that CIDA will expand the water project. Ms. John points to a hill in the distance, where a woman recently died from cholera because her village was too remote to qualify for the Canadian project. “Please assist those people,” she begs.

Yet the project – now in its final weeks of completion – is almost certain to be the last of its kind in Malawi. Under the Harper government's new policy, CIDA is unlikely to fund something so ambitious in a “non-priority” country. ... Across Malawi, people sing the praises of CIDA – and express bewilderment at the Harper government's decision to axe their country from the priority list. “All of us rejoiced and celebrated when Canada established its high commission here, a fully fledged embassy for the first time,” says Mavuto Bamusi, national co-ordinator of the Human Rights Consultative Committee, an independent group in Malawi that relies on CIDA for 20 per cent of its operating budget.

“What concerns us most is the reclassification of Malawi as a non-priority country. It makes little sense – it's ridiculous. Here is a country emerging from political dictatorship, and it has a democracy which needs to be nurtured. This is a time when Malawi needs support.”

With funding from CIDA, his human-rights group was working with Malawi's parliament on a program to make politicians more accountable. Now, he fears that he'll have to scrap the program. “We're not just laying people off – we're laying off the whole concept of parliamentary accountability,” Mr. Bamusi says. “This is about democracy surviving in Malawi. It sends a wrong signal to other countries – they could do the same as Canada.” ... The shift in priorities has been a disaster for Canada's image in Malawi. “Canada closing embassy,” blared a headline in The Nation, a leading national newspaper, which told its readers (wrongly) that Canada was terminating all of its aid to Malawi. ... More than three years after taking office, the Harper government is still floundering in its search for an Africa policy. In 2005, Paul Martin and the Liberals promised to double Canada's aid to Africa to $2.8-billion by this year. The Conservative government said it would still meet that goal, but redefined the base year, so that the new target was only $2.1-billion. It also gave no clear goal for what happens after the lower target is reached.

In late February, after years of ruminating, the government unveiled its new aid-priority list. It had 20 countries, versus the Liberals' 25, with the number in Africa chopped in half, from 14 to seven. “The surprise and shock were palpable,” reports Embassy magazine, which follows diplomatic issues in Ottawa.

International Co-operation Minister Beverley Oda has said little, telling parliamentarians that “this step recognizes the criticisms directed at CIDA of trying to do everything, for everyone, everywhere.”

But a deeper motivation seems to be the government's distaste for the celebrities who promoted the Africa obsessions. “What I will talk about is not something that aims to please Irish rock stars,” Ms. Oda sniffed in one speech.

Her announcement triggered an angry reaction around the world. Even CIDA's field workers were upset. Nobody from headquarters had consulted them before the decision, and nobody had consulted the African countries themselves. When the drastic shift was unveiled, African diplomats in Ottawa had to read about it in the newspapers. They calculated that CIDA would be sending only 35 per cent of its bilateral aid to Africa, down from 70 per cent previously.

Maybe the government should put on some blue sweater vests when they try and explain this one overseas. 

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