Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog clean-up, poll results and a quote

My blog is like my desk. Cluttered with half finished work that is moving its way to a conclusion. Such as the Poll:

WHEN WILL REVELATIONS OF THE BIG CONSERVATIVE SCANDAL COME TO LIGHT?

Before the end of 2009
15 (41%)
During the 2010 Olympics
11 (30%)
During the election campaign
10 (27%)
AdScam, AdScam, AdScam!!!!!
4 (11%)


Given the news, I think the first choice is eminently sensible. Only 4 people screamed "AdScam? I must not get too many Conservative readers.

Time to delete the poll and other junk.

A pertinent quote from a previous spending scandal from John Gomery:
“A general lack of transparency about government spending and a reluctance by the public service to call attention to irregularities because of the increased concentration of political power in the prime minister's office are weaknesses in the present-day system of Canadian government.”
Update: Oh, yeah. I added a QOTD widget. I have been looking, unsuccessfully till now, soon after I started blogging just over a year ago.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Truth will out on the stimulus program

LAUNCELOT: Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son
may, but at the length truth will out.

Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare

I believe that Harper and the Goon Squad have never had their heart in the stimulus program. The court of public opinion seems to have decided that the primary focus has been on partisan goals.
A new poll suggests the Harper government's multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded ad blitz to promote its stimulus plan doesn't seem to be having the desired effect.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey also suggests most Canadians believe Liberal claims that stimulus spending favours Conservative ridings.

Less than a third of respondents to the poll said they were aware of any stimulus projects underway in their areas.

Now the Harperians (N.B.: Harperite would be a mineral) are scrambling to maintain the opacity of their government.

The parliamentary budget officer got a welcome surprise Thursday when the federal Transport and Infrastructure Department submitted a list of infrastructure projects for analysis, even if it was two months after they were requested.

The only problem? Instead of receiving a spreadsheet via email, public servants at Transport delivered four boxes, with 4,476 pages of paper documents, which means the accountants and analysts in the parliamentary budget office will have to figure out a way to turn the paper back into an electronic file.

"We were expecting to get a spreadsheet," Kevin Page, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer, said in an interview Thursday.

Desperate times call for self-incriminating optics. Back in February, the Conservatives displayed an unseemly eagerness to have a free hand to spread out $3 Billion dollars. They would have loved to have been given a carte blanche with all the CRAP (Canada's Risible Action Plan). They resent having to be accountable for the taxpayers money. But I don't predict much success for this latest shell game.

Mr. Page’s staff will now set about turning the printouts back into an electronic file, likely with scanners and character-recognition software.
"We got some really smart guys here, so we’ll figure out how to do it in a hurry," he said.

To quote Shakespeare again:

In the poison'd entrails throw.—

Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!
A
LL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
There is no direct evidence for it (yet), but I get the feeling that we will soon find out that the Toad is massive misappropriation of taxpayer money. Once Page digs the amphibian out from under the cold stone and boils it up in his computer cauldron there will be loads more toil and trouble for the worst Prime Minister in history.

How did things turn out for MacBeth again?
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Conservative gynophobia on display

Gynophobia
n.
  1. Fear of or contempt for women.
  2. Behavior based on such an attitude or feeling.
Lots of people have commented on the embarrassing display by Conservative frontbenchers in response to a question by Carolyn Bennett on H1N1. I would like to make mine by deconstructing a sentence in Aaron Wherry's post: 'This isn't funny':
For whatever reason, Ms. Bennett regularly draws enthusiastic heckling from the Conservative side.
Assuming that my interpretation of Mr. Wherry's sentence is accurate, he is implying that Ms. Bennett is a particular target of abuse. This may seem odd at first. She is an educated woman. A doctor and, therefore, particularly qualified to ask this particular question. She is an M. P. and so as the democratically elected representative of her constituents she deserves some respect on their behalf. Respect the uniform if not the man and all that. But the gender expressed in that last sentence is key.

Why would a well educated professional M. P. be the butt of such heckling? It is most likely because she is a female well educated professional M. P. Not only that; she was addressing the concerns of pregnant women. Taking their lead from Harper, these Ministers of the Crown did more than display callous disregard for pregnant women. They were expressing their contempt for women daring to be more educated, qualified and competent than they are. A woman like Ms. Bennett frightens them. Intense abusive heckling is a punishment for being uppity.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Returning respectability to Political Science

The exposition of Political Science in the main stream media has has been dominated of late by the space inexplicably donated by the Globe and Mail to the Unctuous One. This has resulted in a regrettable degradation in the image of this discipline.

Thankfully there are some real Political Scientists left. Such as Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto. He recently delivered the eighth Templeton Lecture at the University of Manitoba. And, like me, he is still upset at the craven depths Harper was willing to go to save his government from defeat. Or at least that is the impression I get reading this Frances Russell piece:
The constitutional positions taken by the Conservatives during last fall's parliamentary showdown could plunge Canada into a serious constitutional crisis, one of Canada's leading political scientists warns.

Peter Russell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, believes any one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's three key public statements last November would change Canada from a parliamentary democracy into a populist democracy.

During that climactic week, Harper said the opposition "does not have the right to take power without an election." Then he said all coalitions must first be presented to the electorate during an election campaign. Finally -- and in Russell's view, most troubling -- Harper claimed the Governor General cannot exercise the Crown's traditional reserve power to call on another party to form a government should an existing government fall on a vote of confidence and must instead automatically grant the prime minister dissolution and another election.

That final declaration "raises the most serious problems for Canada's parliamentary democracy," Russell said in Winnipeg Oct. 15. He was delivering the eighth Templeton Lecture sponsored by the University of Manitoba political studies department.

"Mr. Harper's view that only the electorate can effect a change in government across party lines would, in effect, take away Parliament's role in the formation of government."

...

Canada, one of the world's oldest parliamentary democracies, "is fast becoming a basket case -- the banana republic of the parliamentary world," Russell continued.

He urged Canada to follow New Zealand's example.

Canada's parliamentarians, he said, should strike a parliamentary committee and seek all-party written agreement on the principles of responsible (to Parliament) government, the role of the Governor General and the calling of elections.

In contrast to the presidential/congressional model, where the president's mandate comes directly from the people, as does that of Congress, voters in parliamentary democracies do not elect either a government or a prime minister. They elect a popular house, "the peoples' house of parliament," Russell said. And the licence to govern rests in "commanding the confidence" of that house.

Canada's parliamentary dysfunction arises from three factors, Russell continued. Citizens are poorly educated about their parliamentary government while swamped daily with blanket media coverage of the U.S. separation of powers system. Politicians are hardly better informed. They all regard minority governments as "unfortunate and temporary interludes" between majorities.

Finally, Canadians and their politicians cling to a "first-past-the-post" electoral system that rewards regionalism and sectionalism in an already dangerously regionalized nation....

Perhaps the most unfortunate casualty of last fall's crisis was the very idea of coalition government itself, Russell said. And Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff shoulders equal blame with Harper. Ignatieff dropped the coalition "like a pair of smelly socks" after he became Liberal leader.

Canadian parliamentary democracy cannot afford this "smearing" of coalitions, Russell continued. "A country like ours in which no single political party is very popular and voter choice is divided among five or more parties is likely to produce parliaments in which no party has a majority. In minority parliaments, alliances between parties are essential to make Parliament functional."

Noting that the distance between the parties on most issues is not huge, Russell said combining with other parties does not mean "selling the soul of what a party stands for."

Rather, it enhances democracy, creating "policies that can be supported by parties representing a majority of the people," he continued. "And isn't that what democracies should be all about?"

Isn't it refreshing to hear a political science professor eager to teach about politics rather than use a bully pulpit to advance an agenda inimical to Canada and it's history?


I often wonder which of the travesties Harper has imposed on Canada has been the worst and will cause the most long term damage. Quite often I come back to the Prorogation Crisis as the most calamitous. My thanks go out to Professor Russell for trying to mitigate the damage by speaking out and educating people about the nature of our political structures.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The party is not the government

Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa, lays out the ethical conflicts the Conservatives have created here. It is a very good piece and there is not much to add. But there is a juicy quote (MEIB):
The most important principle at stake in the allegations is to reinforce the point that governing parties, even though they control the levers of governmental authority and taxpayers' monies are still private interests. If we come to accept that such parties can be regarded as one and the same as the government of the country, we are heading for a very disturbing undermining of Canadian democracy.

The countries that have conflated the governing party with the government of the country include the People's Republic of China, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

Something to think about for anyone out there considering switching their vote to Harper based on a poorly sung Beatles cover. You might have to hear it all day every day.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

You have to figure the Conservatives will try to blame Logo Cheque on the Liberals

And this is the narrative they will advance.

The Liberals forced Harper to come up with a stimulus plan. A form of action he has always been opposed to:

Still, Atkins is aghast today at how some are interpreting Harper's new talk of running a budget deficit and going along with a G20 pledge of "additional spending" as part of a global economic stimulus package.

"No, no, no, no. He's not discovered John Maynard Keynes," Atkins says, referring to the 20th-century economist, and adding that Harper's thesis was "adamantly anti-Keynesian thought."

"I don't see that he's fundamentally undergone any kind of a change."

But the Liberals had to go ahead and force Harper, on pain of losing office, to come up with a stimulus plan. But since he never really had his heart in the project he was, by the logic of Conservative apologists, fully entitled to use the money for something he did believe in. Total and complete unbridled partisan excess.

So there you are. It is all the Liberals fault.

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The pervasive Conservative internet presence

I signed on to Progressive Bloggers this morning to see what witty and insightful things had been posted and one of the first I saw was this one by Big City Lib posted at 7:34 A. M. Good point says I. So I continue on to the comments. At 8:26 A. M., Canadian Sense left a rambling very partisan comment. This isn't too surprising in itself since this person often "contributes" to the discussions in the comments sections of significant progressive bloggers.

Canadian Sense also had a rapid fire response to a post by Calgary Grit. Given the time lag between posting to a blog and it showing up on an aggergator, the alacrity of these rebuttals is amazing. It leads me to wonder if Canadian Sense and other similar commenter's are Conservative Party operatives scanning the internet for disagreeable posts and randomly generating Harper Talking Points to clog up the comments sections. While they rarely if ever make a coherent telling point, these commenters do get in the way of the conversation. THat is likely the entire point of their comments.

It would be a lousy job and a poor use of Party funds but this would explain the phenomenom of the Conservative Commenter Brigade.

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Stephen Harper is inspired by great literature

Yann Martel has posed the question; "What Harper has been reading? I can answer the question.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Photographs of Mr. Harper in various poses, at various sites, are hung throughout the private and cosy government lobby of the House of Commons. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran. Since April the PMO has sent 143 photo releases to the Parliamentary Press Gallery, not including exclusive pictures given to specific outlets. Last month, Hill reporters were sent 33 images of the Prime Minister, and as of publication 24 have gone out this month. Photographers from past administrations said the practice is unique to the Harper-PMO.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. When the party last year unveiled its election campaign war room, Mr. Harper stared out from campaign posters on every wall. The blackmoustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. "I'd say between every window, in every available space of the wall, at eye level, every available space has a photo of Stephen Harper."
"You've got photos of Stephen Harper, but not of previous prime ministers," she added. "Photos of Stephen Harper in different costumes, in different settings, dressed as a fireman, in Hudson Bay looking for polar bears, meeting the Dalai Lama, even the portrait of the Queen had to have Stephen Harper, but in a candid, behind her." There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at streetlevel another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC.The prime minister's official Christmas card last December portrayed Mr. Harper looking out a living room window adorned with 24 photographs, small to large, of Mr. Harper in various poses.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Sequential karma

Steve V outlines the trouble John Baird created for himself by throwing muck into the strong wind blowing against the Corrupt Conservatives.
It was pretty hard to see the photos, what with Baird waving them and the smoke coming out of his forever flaring nostrils. However, we find out later that the Conservative war room has really come up dry, because said photos actually demonstrate that Conservative practice is unprecedented, NO party logos, NO MP names in big lettering, just the standard big cheque. So, in some misguided attempt to hurl mud at the Liberals, Baird actually highlighted the Conservatives singular behavior.

The fact Baird was reduced to elevating NOTHINGNESS is telling. The fact the Conservatives have scoured years of previous government photos and come up with this weak effort is just sad. The fact the Conservatives didn't realize that offering such a weak presentation only served to further magnify their slippery slope, well that's just amusing. Way to go Mr. Baird, you just proved by OMISSION that your hyper-partisanship is without peer!
Mmm. Karma.

If you haven't voted yet, you might want to give strong consideration to "Before the end of 2009".
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

It is a bitch

Political karma that is. It tickles my funny-bone that the narrative of political excess will be inadvertently fed by the Conservatives own billboard campaign to highlight the CRAP (Canada's Risible Action Plan).

Looking forward to the next few polls.
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It never occured to me..

To add "Before the end of the weekend" as a choice for the poll. But with word coming out of Harper ego fluffing costs in excess of $100,000 per episode and Conservative Senator Payolaitis in Quebec that might have been a good idea.

BTW, credit where credit is due to Gerry Nicholls. He hasn't shied away from blasting Harper on this issue regardless of their past affiliation. I may not agree with his philosophy but I have to respect him standing by his principles.

% days left in the poll. Pretend you are a Conservative. Vote early and vote often.
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I love the smell of an accelerated burn rate in the morning

Do Conservative Web Elves get paid overtime?

If so, this will be costing them plenty.

P.S.: Don't forget to check out the poll. Vote for when you expect the details of the Big Conservative Corruption Scandal to break out.

Update: Link fixed (Thanks Penlan!)
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Learning from Dear Leader

What do Conservative MPs do when they are afraid Harper will throw them under the bus?

Throw the civil service under the bus. From Stephen Taylor by way of Aaron Wherry.
When we formed govt the crats stopped bringing cheques to announcements & we were FORCED to cough up the $ to buy our own. Specifically, at [a government department I was involved with] the crats used to like to be in the photo ops giving out chqs, as though it was coming from them. They detested Conservatives being photographed handing out chqs, so they stopped bringing the chqs – when they even bothered to show up for announcements. They’ve screwed up dates for announcements so badly (trying to schedule announcements while the House is in session) that we don’t even bother to include them, thereby saving taxpayers thousands of $s in travel claims from the crats.
Definitely a Reformatory MP given the low level of literacy displayed. So let us get this straight. The bureaucrats bullied the Conservative MPs into performing unethically and breaking all of the standards for respecting the use of taxpayers money.

Sorry but it doesn't pass muster. The base might believe that but not sentient beings.

P. S.: don't forget to vote in the poll.
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Where there is smoke...

Bumped so more people are aware of the poll.

There is likely a scandal. A scandal so large it will make Mulroney look like a strong candidate for Ethics Commissioner.

that from Andrew Coyne no less.

The focus to date has been on the crass electioneering by the Conservatives using Government resources and programs. If they believe that taxpayer funded programs are fair game then what about the funds themselves? They have been ceded a clean slate thus far. But if you feel the public's money is their own, what is to prevent them from skimming some off for their own purposes?

It may be for personal use or to help offset an unsupportable cost structure within the party. Given the Conservative disdain for propriety, graft will surely follow. It may be derived from a slice carved directly off the stimulus program. It may have come from encouragement not to stand in the way of foreign acquisition of Nortel assets or from a pending sale of AECL.

The big question is; when will the revelations surface? You can state your guess in the poll on the left.

In the words of Jasper Friendly Bear: "Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs"

*I like referring to it thus, despite the non-traditional reference, since it will tie the dirt to him
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Excellent Fact Chequing Questions

Some aren't as far along the road to perdition as others

Such as Susan Delacourt as shown here (MEIB).
In July, Dimitri Soudas, the PM's spokesman,was remarkably vague -- and not at all contrite -- when I talked to him for this story, which was written after constituents in Peter Van Loan's riding complained about the minister passing off government cheques as his own, or as Conservative party benevolence.

In fact, the federal Treasury Board investigated whether it was proper and in the face of that, all Soudas could tell me was that he was "proud" of the big cheque given to the good citizens of Innisfil.

Tonight, I heard Soudas telling CTV's Tom Clark that it was "NOT appropriate" for MPs to be slapping party logos and MPs' signatures on government cheques.

So, my questions are:

1. When did the PMO decide that Van Loan and others were off side with their carnival-sized cheques? They've known since at least July that this was going on.

2. And, since when did MPs start doing anything independently in this government? Did all these MPs and ministers just head to to the copy shop and get these cheques printed up themselves, by huge coincidence?

If Mr. Soudas would like to answer these questions, in light of his comments to the Star last July, we'll happily print them here.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good WFP editorial today

Reading Frances Russell is always a nice break from the Harper Hagiographers out there. I wonder what she has written today?Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper's Big Bus Conservative Party

I is often said that to be successful in politics your party must pitch a tent big enough for all manner of people to fit in. For Mr. Angry, he needs a big bus. It is getting pretty crowded now that another flunky has been thrown under it.Recommend this Post

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The PM who would be Queen

Lost in all the furore over the Conservatives being caught politicizing the stimulus program (again), was this article: 1 or 24: Which comes first?

This is a shame because it touches on an important point (MEIB).

But last week's frosty public exchanges between the lord of 24 Sussex Drive and the lady of 1 Sussex Drive -- or, more properly, between their delegated spokespersons -- has observers simultaneously bewildered and transfixed by a bizarre spectacle: blunt words whizzing between the capital's two most exclusive addresses over a fundamental fact about Canada's system of government.

The unresolved "head-of-state" debate between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaƫlle Jean -- sparked by a Canwest News Service story about Jean's controversial use of the phrase to describe her job during a Paris speech -- has also ignited a lively, nationwide discussion about who truly personifies the Canadian state, and whether it's time to recast that symbolism and redraw the boundaries between the Queen, governor general and prime minister.

...How the two most recognizable faces of Canada came to engage in a stare-down over the definition of head of state is baffling.But behind the unprecedented public disagreement between PM and GG are suspicions -- which await archival confirmation decades from now -- that the debate is linked to last December's drama over whether Jean would grant Harper permission to prorogue Parliament, thus preventing a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition from taking the reins of government.
She eventually agreed to Harper's request, but observers have been left to speculate about whether the decision followed arm-twisting by the prime minister, hard bargaining by the Governor General, or threats from one side or the other about calling on the Queen herself to help resolve the potential impasse.

For this highlighting this issue, Randy Boswell is awarded recognition for taking a baby step towards redemption. He does, however, miss the big picture.

The panel -- devoid of the words "de facto" or "Queen" -- is now a flashpoint in this unseemly and un-neighbourly struggle, a symbol of the strange clash between Canada's top two officeholders over symbolism itself.

This is not an issue of mere symbolism. There is a fight going on over the power at the heart of our government. Harper is laying the ground work for any future confrontations with the GG. His minions openly challenged the authority of Jean during the prorogation crisis. He has assumed and publicly yearned for some of the perquisites of the Office of the GG. His lack of respect for the Office Jean holds weakens it. By challenging her, arguably correct, assertion he further erodes Jean's authority in a future crisis.

This suits Harper's modus operandi perfectly. He often seeks to foment a crisis to force an issue to his benefit. This is what disaster federalism is all about. By challenging her authority, assuming portions of her role and challenging her authority he is actively seeking to weaken her for when the next, inevitable, confrontation comes about. The fact that the idea of recasting her role is in the media shows he has had a considerable measure of success in this endeavour.

I am no monarchist but seeking to undermine the authority of the Crown seems a bit seditious to me.

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If their logo is on the cheque

The money should be drawn from their bank account.Recommend this Post

Monday, October 12, 2009

Conservatives hanging fire


I have been cogitating on a point Impolitical made with regards the Conservative by-election slogan in the Hochelaga by-election.
Quite the "electoral" slogan they've got going on in the Hochelaga by-election. "De l'action, pas d'elections." They're running a by-election on an anti-election platform. That's quite the slogan for a political party. I think my head just spun about 360 degrees.

A test run for a national campaign?
"De l'action, pas d'elections." or "Action, not elections." The ties to the taxpayer funded Conservative advertizing campaign are obvious. Just another reference to the ridiculous Harper talking point that an election would derail stimulus funding. So are the hues of the revised campaign colouring scheme. They tie in nicely with the Action Plan shades of Blue.

Two things come to mind. First off, given the well documented sloth in actually getting projects started, a person might conclude that the entire focus of the Conservatives since they were forced to initiate a stimulus program was to work up an election plan. They don't believe in Keynesian economics and we are fools to think they have had a conversion akin to Paul on the road to Damascus. Way more like our home grown goons to pretend to set up a stimulus program, let the rest of the world re-inflate the economy and focus on ways to work the fictitious stimulus to their advantage.

The second observation is that they have put a lot of work into the coordination of the "Action" Plan with their campaign strategy. Winning the non-confidence was counter to their vision. The propaganda won't work if they get fingered for triggering the election. They had to call these by-elections and didn't have another slogan ready. They went ahead with the one for the anticipated national vote.

Armies can't keep getting ready for a battle that keeps being put off. The Conservatives have been at Def-Con 1 since 2005. This pre-mature broaching of the national slogan is a hang fire moment. Each time they have to go back to the drawing board for a new strategy places a huge draw on their resources.

The Conservative Party is a top heavy dictatorial organization. A strength is that given time they can coordinate a cohesive messaging campaign. Keeping them off balance and forcing them to re-work and re-invent the plan weakens them by attrition.
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A gold star in economics reporting

During the last election, I nominated various Harperphile journalists for for Blue Seater Vest Awards and congratulating those cutting through the Blue Haze for taking baby steps on the path to redemption. After this post, I was thinking it was time to resuscitate the "attaboys".

Well seek and you shall find because The Star had an excellent piece on Conservative Financial Incompetence for people to read on a holiday Monday (MEIB).
Any day now, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government will acknowledge a grim watershed – last year, for the first time in more than a decade, Ottawa spent more money than it collected from taxpayers and wound up with a budget deficit on its hands.

When the final calculations for 2008 are released, that shortfall is expected to come in at $5.8 billion.

That's nothing, however, compared to the $55.9 billion annual deficit the Conservatives predict for 2009 as they flood the country with money in a bid to offset the impact of the recession.

Presiding over the first deficit since 1996 will be a glaring embarrassment for Harper, who told voters during the election campaign last fall Ottawa's finances were fine.

"We are not running a deficit," he said during a television interview a year ago. Only two months later, a re-elected Harper warned Canadians in a prime-time interview the days of balanced budgets were over....

"The Conservatives ran through the surplus of $13 billion that they inherited before we even got into the recession," said John McCallum, Liberal MP and former chief economist at the Royal Bank.

"We certainly don't object to fiscal stimulus during a recession – that's the appropriate thing. But we do object to the Conservative practice of spending like crazy when times were good," he said....

...

"They're not just putting their toe in the water, they've leapt in up to their neck," Kevin Gaudet, director of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, said of the expected deficits.

The Conservatives' Sept. 10 budget update was unable even to say when the fiscal bleeding would stop, indicating only that it would be some time after 2014-15.

...

In fact, the government's current forecast of Ottawa's deficit financing would be much worse had Flaherty not snuck a hefty payroll tax increase into his calculations. Without fanfare, the Conservatives signalled their intention to raise payroll taxes in 2011-14 to generate $15.5 billion in extra revenue.

So how did Harper, who arrived at 24 Sussex preaching government restraint and blasting the Liberals for their free-spending ways, become Canada's deficit king?

Part of the answer, of course, lies with the unexpectedly deep recession. But it's not that simple. The record shows the Conservatives were flirting with a deficit well before the recession hit. And, by ratcheting up expenses in good times, the Harper regime ensured the size of those deficits would be a lot larger when things went bad.

... Even before this year's economic rescue package, Ottawa was poised to overspend its budget by $15.7 billion, according to Finance Canada documents. So the federal government would have run a hefty deficit in the current 2009-10 fiscal year even without the stimulus spending.

This situation results from the Tories' decisions to sharply reduce sales taxes and lower personal and corporate income taxes while simultaneously allowing a relentless upsurge in Ottawa's spending.

...

Besides lost GST revenue, the government as of this year is also foregoing $15.3 billion as a result of personal income tax cuts and $7.1 billion from corporate income tax reductions. In all, Conservative tax measures have trimmed Ottawa's revenues this year by $33.9 billion – equal to three-fifths of the expected budget deficit. And, by 2013, Finance Canada says Ottawa's business tax revenues will be reduced cumulatively by $60 billion.

BTW, other bloggers may feel free to make their own "Baby Step" Awards.

Update: Post title added and font fixed.

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