Despite the continuing national press blackout about UDP policies and activities...
Harper Now Hiding From 19-Year Old Coeds
Already taking heat for being afraid to take more than five questions per day from the press, being afraid of questions AT ALL during his bordering-on-desperate, spectacularly over-cliched photo-ops, and being afraid to meet Michael Ignatieff in the one-on-one debate that Harper himself proposed (after it became clear that Ignatieff was entirely willing to take part, "Anytime, anyplace"), it now appears that the once and probably future Prime Minister is also afraid of the spectre of non-sycophants at his daily rallies.
Reports in the last few days include a volunteer who helps homeless veterans being turned away from a Halifax rally, a man ejected from a London appearance because of an NDP bumper sticker on his van, and a pair of UWO coeds who were told to leave because Conservative organizers 'creeped' their Facebook pages and found a picture with the Liberal leader.
Previously known but now achieving higher profile, there is also the fact that Conservative rallies -which are staged to depict 'ordinary Canadians' supporting the Conservative leader- are invitation only, and prospective attendees must register online before each event. (Another tactic evidently learned from their Republican mentors to the south.) Meanwhile the other parties forgo such restrictions, and publicly invite voters of all stripes to attend, and imaginary but revealing and self-righteously irritated Harper staffer, Lance Dinglefeather explained why the Conservatives take a slightly different approach.
"Look, these people may have IDEAS!!! And worse, they may VOICE them. We require registration for our rallies specifically so we can filter out any free thought. I mean, what would happen if they ASKED the benevolent father a QUESTION?!?!? We can't have that sort of thing happening during an election -or after one for that matter- and if these 'citizens' want to go around 'experiencing democracy,' they can go do it in their living room and stay the hell AWAY from the Conservative Party of Canada!"
When asked about a Conservative spokesman offering to arrange for the coeds to meet Harper during his next stop in London, Dinglefeather calmed down a bit and responded, "Well, a photo-op is a photo-op, isn't it?"
The only question that remains is how long it will take Conservative faithful with a 'plausible deniability' distance from the home office to start trying to make the other parties regret their open rally policies.
Layton Shows That "Different" Is In The Eye Of The Beholden
As the leader of the party whose primary reason for existing is that 'the OTHER guys are all the same,' Jack Layton again showed a real affinity for the other guys' point of view on the question of the obscenely fat MP pensions - as he dodged the question at a Monday appearance announcing pension reform for us little people.
The MP pensions in question grew by 10 percent during the same global recession that diminished private plans by an average of 21 percent and the CPP by 14 percent, because they gain their money not through wise investments (this is the government after all), but by taking it directly out of the taxpayers' pockets (this is the government after all).
These are pensions which recipients can start claiming 10 years before regular citizens, after only 6 years of service, and pay a minimum of $27,000 per year (in 2010 dollars), as opposed to the CPP's maximum of $11,000 per year.
Pensions that in 2010 were indexed at three times the inflation rate, for which Canadian taxpayers (many of whom don't have or can't afford a private plan of their own), pay 4 dollars out of their pocket for every dollar paid by the MP (whose base income places them in the top 2% of wage earners in the country).
Pensions that can pay MPs roughly half their working income, while private plans and RRSPs are limited by law to 18 percent of annual income.
Pensions which will pay Stephen Harper in excess of 178,000 per year when he starts collecting, and give Jason Kenney (who successfully campaigned against the fat Alberta MLA pensions in 1993) a solid potential for his own six-figure retirement income - which he apparently has no problem with, now that he's on the receiving end of the people's picked pockets.
So when asked about MP pensions during his announcement about increasing the CPP and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Layton had a real chance to show he wasn't like 'the other guys,' and agree that the MP pensions are an insult to working Canadians that should be reformed to set an example to the rest of the country…
When asked about the non-response, Undecided Party of Canada leader, J. Harvey Fink was not surprised. "This was, after all, not some abstract pie in the sky social policy touted by a candidate with no risk of ever being in power. This was self-interest - so naturally, he dodged the question like Captain Kirk dodging phaser fire. Now don't think for a second that the other leaders would be any different -and I encourage voters to ask the question of every candidate that knocks on their door, especially the incumbents, just for a laugh- it's just that Jack blew an opportunity to show that he really is different from Harper and Ignatieff in some real and concrete way."
As for the often cited rationale that MPs are given higher pensions because of the work they do, or that such compensation is the only way of ensuring that Canada's best are attracted to the positions, Fink replied, "Do you WATCH the House of Commons proceedings on TV? Do you READ the news? Thank GOD we were able to steal Rahim Jaffer and Maxime Bernier away from the private sector, right? Anyway, if candidates are TRULY as anxious to serve their country as they all claim to be during campaigns, they wouldn't need to be bribed into running."
Though the MP pensions would certainly be an interesting grenade to throw into the middle of the upcoming leader's debate, and give Layton a second chance at being different, it is unlikely to appear during either the English or French language broadcasts.
Transcript of a Typical
Reporter 1 - Mr. Harper … Mr. HARPER! … can you HEAR me?
Harper - That's one.
Reporter 1 - WHAT?!?
Harper - That's two. And you used up number two's question. Over to three.
Reporter 3 - But you haven't answered the other two reporters' questions yet!
Harper - Stupidsayswhat.
Reporter 3 - What?
Harper - That's three. Number four?
Reporter 4 - You're going to try to trick me…
Harper - No I'm not. Go ahead and ask.
Reporter 4 - Won't.
Harper - Seriously, I'm the accountability leader. I've run on it before, and as long as you keep falling for it in the face of all the evidence, I'll KEEP running on it, so go ahead. Ask your question.
Reporter 4 - Alright, but it's going to be a TOUGH one.
Harper - Glad to hear it. I knew you were a hard hitting journalist despite what your colleague said.
Reporter 4 - WHAT did he say?!
Harper - That's four. Now for the specially picked local (air quotes) reporter.
Reporter 5 - What do you think about the Maple Leafs?
Harper - Well that's a very good question and I'll be happy to answer it....
Harper Uses British Columbia Family as
After a weekend of having his 'coalition is evil' mantra thrown back in his face by reporters and leaders of the three other major parties (not to mention the existence of his signature on a certain document from 2004), Conservative leader Harper retreated to a Saanich, B.C. kitchen - to use a local family as props for the announcement of a tax cut that likely wouldn't take effect until after at least one more election.
The 'warm and fuzzy' attempt resulted in a photo op that looked as natural as a visit to a day care centre by Muammar Gaddafi, but there is little doubt that the other party leaders are already pricing families for hire in case they need similar political cover in the weeks to come.
And the Award for First Day
The reporter from CTV/GlobeMedia-owned CP24, who, when Harper was giving what other reporters (judging from their shouted questions) deemed a less than forthright answer to a question about his change in attitude about coalitions between 2004 and 2011, and the handler sought to extricate her leader from the unwelcome scrutiny by saying "One more question" and apparently looking for a friendly face to close the proceeding, asked a question about ... the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Just ... WOW.
Harper Party of Canada Aiming To Set New Scandal Record
As one party insider, Lance Dinglefeather (not his real name (not a real person)), put it, "Look, despite everything we've done over the past few years, we're still at the top of the polls. We've come to realize that the current Canadian electorate is showing the potential to out-obtuse even the Americans - who not only elected, but flying in the face of all logic and intelligence, RE-elected George Bush Jr. It's clear that no matter WHAT we do, the voters will return us to office, so we figured we'd have a little fun and see how many times we can kick the dog and still have it come back."
In the last few weeks alone, the party has offered;
- Four senior members charged with willfully exceeding spending limits in the very campaign that brought the Tories to power on a campaign of transparency and accountability. (At least it cant be said that the Conservatives lack an appreciation for irony.)
- The PMO telling "Government of Canada" departments to use "The Harper Government" on official documents and releases.
- International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, and the "not" document - with Oda at various times stating that she was merely supporting a CIDA recommendation, then claiming in front of a Commons committee that she didn't know who inserted the offending word, and then recently admitting that it was added at her instruction. (Though increasing speculation points to the decision actually coming from the PMO - under the reasoning of, why in the first place would she sign a report that closed with “Recommendation that you sign below to indicate you approve a contribution of $7,098,758, over four years for the above program,” if she was against it from the start?)
- A half-million dollar severance (complete with gag order) for an 'integrity' (and in this case, that word can only appear in ironic quotes) commissioner appointed by Harper - who received 228 whistleblowing complaints, investigated a grand total of seven, and found against all of them.
- An Immigration Minister (who is also part of an outreach program geared to gaining ethnic voters for the Conservative Party (can we all say conflict-of-interest together?)) using the ministerial letterhead to raise money for the Conservative Party, while increasing the Immigration Office's spending by 35% during his tenure - last year shelling out a half million dollars above the Treasury Board's ministerial office guidelines on staff, travel and research.
- Two rulings of breach of Parliamentary privilege in a single day, one for Oda misleading MPs about the alteration of an official document, and the other for refusing to provide documents about the costs of corporate tax cuts and prison expansion. (These two in addition to a similar ruling last year over the government's refusal to let MPs see documents related to the alleged torture of Afghan prisoners - meaning that Harper and Co. have already set a record in this category.)
- Especially relevant in light of the second ruling above, and the upcoming budget, the release of a report by the parliamentary budget officer that the cost of the F-35 stealth fighter program would be between 23 and 29 billion dollars, as opposed to the government's claim of 14-16 billion. The PBO's numbers coming from a 64 page document, peer-reviewed by independent experts in several countries, and the government's coming from … well, uhum, the company trying to sell them and, ahh…. well …
Harper's response? "I'm not going to get into a lengthy debate over numbers." (Reminiscent of Kim Campbell's claim that an election was no time to talk about important issues.)
It's difficult to imagine what other ways the party might still have ready to show their contempt for Parliament and the Canadian voter, but rumours include naming Bev Oda to replace Christiane Ouimet as the next integrity commissioner, bringing down a budget that merely says, "Whatever," and having the entire government side of the House standing up and, as one, mooning the Speaker.
Dinglefeather was still laughing too hard at 'integrity' to either confirm or deny the rumours.
Conservative Party Solicits Feedback
As is so often the case with the Harper administration, someone apparently either made an inexcusable error, or anonymously expressed their opinion about the change by placing the Harper flag upside down in an international sign of distress. The sacrificial underling, traditionally chosen to protect the minister responsible, should be named soon.
As the Vancouver Olympics draw to a close, and with them, chances to harvest a popularity contact high from the lifelong dedication of Canadian athletes, the Conservative Party has dispatched Stephen Harper clones to every TV-covered venue in the hopes of getting 'spotted' in as many crowd shots as possible.
"Obviously, the P.M. can't be everywhere at once," said a party insider who begged not to be identified, "so it was decided years ago that if the home-country Olympics were going well, we'd need multiple Harpers to maximize the time spent basking in the glow of other peoples' achievements. The unknown fact about the Own The Podium program is that it was primarily created to hide the expenditures necessary for the development of these duplicates, and as the Canadian team started living up to expectations towards the end of the Games, the clones were released from their pods and put into action."
(Though no documents have been uncovered to date, evidence indicates that the clones' programming for "action" consisted of;
The program is not without its risks, however, and the source tells us that the party is now having difficulty picking the real Harper out from among the emotionless hatchlings at the end of each day's appearances. Asked if there is any danger that the Prime Minister might get too fond of his doppelgangers, and use them to replace his Ministers with these carbon copies incapable of independent thought, the source was unconcerned. "Apart from physical appearances, how would that make things any different than the way they are now?"
Check the PMO's Media Downloads for late February
Democracy is Bad for the Economy!
Cowardly Lion explains why we really don't want him at work.
After unsuccessfully trying the, 'nobody cares, it's no big deal,' and the, 'we can't walk and chew gum at the same time' "time to recalibrate" excuses, absentee Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now attempting an economic argument to explain why he used prorogation to stop the embarrassing investigation into Afghan detainee abuses. Claiming that "the government can take time now to do the important work" (while there aren't such pesky distractions as opposition MPs asking embarrassing questions and demanding accountability), Harper made his case using logic that any dictator would be proud of - and claimed that financial markets don't like the "kind of instability" that comes with a functioning Parliament. With the obvious implication that a return of Parliament would threaten Canada's economic recovery, the nation now knows that if they love democracy, they hate Canada.
AND the soldiers.
Meanwhile, proving that the Alliance/Tory caucus will be hard at work during the break, all government MPs are required to return from across the country to Ottawa on January 22nd for a … two and a half hour meeting … before flying out again until after the Olympics - and the PMO released a clearly staged, silent, 13 second, video clip, showing the PM and four of his best-trained cabinet ministers looking very ministerial. (Well, all except for Peter Van Loan, who apparently isn't allowed to sit at the cool kids' table.)
Now that three imaginative attempts have been made to explain Harper's phobic fear of accountability, the nation waits in rapt anticipation to see what excuse the PM might use next.
Democracy Kills Puppies!!!!
Search Parties formed to find
"No leader would be this quiet unless there were something wrong"
"If Iggy were alright, he'd be leaping into this with both feet" observed observer Sheldon Bunsen, "Harper's thumbing his nose at Canadians and giving them the finger with the same hand - and no able leader … hell, no SENTIENT leader would let this pass without finding TV cameras and raising bloody, blue, screaming murder. After the cock-up job he did last year and then his assuring us all that he's learned how to be a better leader, our Michael is either unconscious at the bottom of a crevasse somewhere or he's a complete incompetent. I prefer to believe the former."
Some more cynical pundits are theorizing that Ignatieff may simply be leaving the expressions of official indignation to mailed-in op-eds and lower party members, while saving his energies for more important tasks like positive imaging exercises and collecting motivational posters, but loyal followers have already begun covering telephone poles and community bulletin boards with "lost" posters, and until the leader surfaces, his well-being and political acumen remain in doubt.
Update: Ignatieff Found!!!
Reports have the leader of the opposition starting a cross-country university tour planned to encourage students to "get involved in politics."
The party waits in hope that he might also take his own advice.
“The government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record.” Stephen Harper referring to Liberal plans to prorogue Parliament in 2003.
To quote Monty Python's King Arthur...
"Run Away!!! Run Away!!!"
For the second time in less than a year, the Cowardly Lion of Canadian politics has asked permission hide behind the skirt of the Govenor General and prorogue Parliament - this time to kill an investigation into the torture of Afghan detainees that was in danger of uncovering some actual facts, not to mention dismantling the government's pathetic attempt to discredit one of their own senior diplomats.
Smirking his way through a holiday interview with CBC journalist, Peter Mansbridge, Steven Harper declared that his second proroguing of Parliament in less than a year was "nothing unusual" and told the Canadian people that the Afghan detainee issue was of little or no interest to the Canadian people. (Though apparently the government was afraid of it becoming of interest to the Canadian people, and so prorogued Parliament for the second time in less than a year.)
Meanwhile, the Facebook page, "Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament" appears to have passed the 140,000 member mark - though, given the PM's unequivocal proclamations, those people are clearly nothing more than figments of their own imaginations. Meanerwhile, PM press secretary Dimitri Soudas tried to blame the whole thing on climate change activist, Steven Guilbeault.
Read J. Harvey Fink's
As Tasteless Gaffes Continue,
With a Conservative-animated puffin shitting on Stéphane Dion's shoulder, revelations of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz joking about the listeriosis outbreak and wishing his Liberal counterpart dead, and an assistant to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon telling native protesters that they could meet with the minister "...if you behave and you're sober..." the wannabe Warm and Fuzzy Conservatives have found their campaign personas banging headfirst into the wall of their true natures.
In an apparent attempt to put the proper 'spin' on these events, and lay some groundwork for inevitable future incidents, the Tories have launched a new ad campaign...
Conservatives take the Warm and Fuzzy Harper to YouTube
(But just how much can a sweater vest hide?)
(In this screen capture from the Conservative campaign ad
Jack Layton wants to be a Prime Minister ... just like Stephen Harper
Green Party party leader Elizabeth May will now be allowed to participate in the televised leaders' debates, thanks to the national public outrage over an NDP-Conservative coalition that believed democracy should only go so far.
Even as the debate about the debates was in its earliest stages, it emerged that the TV consortium's decision to red light the Greens was the result of the networks caving in to a bluff by the other two parties. Layton (terrified of losing votes to the Green Party, and proving again that the 'I'm not like the rest of them' leader can be just as manipulative and underhanded as Stephen Harper when the chips are down), and Harper (terrified of being trounced in the debates by an energetic opponent who speaks articulate english and won't be spending all her allotted time regurgitating two-bit and two bit slogans), both threatened to boycott the debates if May was invited.
However, as news spread that the two were working together to deny the Canadian people the chance to make up their own minds, the leaders decided they were more afraid of the public backlash than May at the table (though probably not by much) and reversed their positions - the NDP folding first, and their partners soon following suit, with a Harper spokesman declaring that the Conservatives were "...not going to stand alone on a point of principle." (An odd statement, when one would think that principles would be the kind of thing that principled people would stick to even if they stood alone.)
To date, there is no solid evidence of the new BFFs planning to get together again for more high-spirited hyjinx (like TP-ing Stéphane Dion's plane, or perhaps making english-only prank phone calls to Gilles Duceppe's home), but the election is still in its early stages, so don't be surprised if some Liberal, Bloc, or Green candidate shows up to a press conference with a Kick Me sign taped on their back.
In other debate related news, it has also become evident from the consortium's proposed seating plan for the broadcasts that the Undecided Party's advice about giving these embarassing spectacles some actual informative value has once again been ignored. It would appear that the sound proof booths and electrical enhancements will have to wait until the next election.
Here we go again ... again
To the surprise only of those who actually expect politicians to keep their word, Stephen Harper called an election today for October 14th. In an apparent attempt to have his name entered into the Oxford English Dictionary under the term "hypocrisy," the leader dissolved Parliament while using opportunistic timing to ignore a law that he instituted less than 3 years ago to prevent government leaders from calling elections using opportunistic timing. (To solidify his chances of appearing in the next OED, Harper, who castigated the Liberals for past pre-election spending sprees, and is presenting his government as the "steady hand" necessary for troubled economic times, managed to obliterate his credibility on both positions at once by doling out of six billion dollars in pre-election spending in the last week before the call.)
In addition to the Harper=Hypocrisy angle, the P.M. also seemed intent on using this latest bald-faced reversal to remind voters of other broken promises from his only term in power, such as the commitment to immediately extend the Veterans Independence Program services to all widows of Second World War and Korea veterans, to protect income trusts from taxation, to honour the Atlantic Accord, and of course, to bring in an "open and honest" government.
Asked about UDP election strategies, campaign manager Gerry Mander said, "We'll be sticking with the approach that worked so well in our previous campaigns, which is essentially sitting back while mainstream candidates make idiots of themselves, watching the other parties demonstrate what unattractive prospects they represent, and then encouraging a revolted electorate to demonstrate its disgust by either staying home on election day or writing 'Undecided Party' on their ballots."
So, as the nation prepares for six weeks of empty rhetoric and several hundred million dollars of their money down the drain, their choice of mainstream leaders, while distinct, seems decidedly less than inspiring:
One national leader, possessing all the charm of Darth Vader with a toothache, trying to present himself in pre-election election ads as warm and fuzzy - while displaying a smile that's only missing a handlebar moustache and a diabolical stage laugh.
Another whose english is so ... well, let's just say 'a work in progress,' that the Liberals could be excused for wishing they had Gilles Duceppe explaining their policies.
A third who is presenting himself with a straight face as a serious contender for Prime Minister, and then expects the electorate to take anything else he says seriously.
And a fourth who is fighting to get into the debates (a questionable goal in any case) with the reasoning that hey, a Liberal defected to us too!
If the nation is lucky, it will at least be interesting.
Layton Wastes No Time In Showing He's Just Like The Rest
Just hours into the new campaign, Jack Layton, the leader whose main selling point has been that he's not just another leader like Harper and Dion, dodged a simple yes or no question from CBC reporter Andrew Nichols with a determination that demonstrated that 'different' is in the eye of the beholder.
The only leader who didn't take questions after his campaign launch address (an address full of the typical hackneyed NDP sloganeering style so reminiscent of a high school student council campaign), Layton appeared on CBC Newsworld with a clear intent to do nothing more than repeat the same talking points covered just minutes before. However when Nichols asked if the NDP leader thought that Green Leader Elizabeth May should be included in the televised debates (obviously not an attractive proposition for the NDP), Layton refused the question like a horse at a water jump - even crassly repeating his talking points over Nichols' attempts to bring him back to the actual point. In a manner that would have made Karl Rove's chest swell with pride, Layton even dodged Nichols' eventual conclusion that he wasn't going to answer the question, and ended the interview looking more than a little peeved at the insolence of the inquiry.
This hasn't been Layton's first display of the stereotypical political behaviour from which he tries to distance himself. His refusal to acknowledge the party's dismal showing in the March 18th by-elections displayed a spectacular capacity for denial of the undeniable that was worthy of the Flat-Earth Society (or the Inside-Out-Fluorescent-Bulb-Spiral-Earth Society for that matter). But this most recent episode on the very beginning of a federal campaign might have potential voters wondering exactly how the NDP isn't like the Liberals or Conservatives - other than the fact that it's never been in power.
The Fine Art of
In a spectacular demonstration of how fear can make you do stupid things, the Conservative Party held an invitation-only press briefing in Ottawa on the weekend. Under the you-had-to-be-there 'logic' that such a move would somehow mitigate bad press from the release of an Elections Canada search warrant, the act merely added another layer of absurdity to a party that rivals the Bush Republicans for their inspiring detachment from reality.
After spending the previous days implying that Elections Canada, an organization recognized and respected nationally and internationally for its impartiality, and an organization led by a Harper nominee, was nevertheless pursuing a vendetta against the party, the Conservatives apparently thought they could 'get ahead' of the story by telling their tale of woe and persecution to select (presumably in their minds, friendly) members of the press.
Shut out were such insignificant, unreliable, and mean outlets as CanWest, the Canadian Press, and the CBC, while the Toronto Star, CTV's Mike Duffy, and other reporters and organizations apparently not concerned with abandoning the appearance of journalistic impartiality were welcomed to the Sunday spin session with open arms ... albeit behind closed doors. Other trusted sources like the Conservative fanzines, SteveBeat and Harper Hair Quarterly were also invited to the talking points gala, but had to decline due to a big chemistry test on Monday.
When members of the uninvited press learned of the event, party organizers switched hotels, blocked doors, and provided yet another video montage of Conservative officials running from questions like a 2 year old running from a hot bath. Reports that the party officials tried to escape by appearing as clowns appears to have been accurate only in the metaphorical sense.
The Streak Continues
(March 18) While the Liberal Party may be claiming a 'three out of four' record in yesterday's federal byelections, the numbers of votes cast as compared to eligible voters tells the real story - that the vast majority of the electorate in all four ridings chose not to choose.
The Numbers? Two of the four races, Willowdale and Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, had voter turnouts of 25 per cent or less. Toronto Center reached 27.9 per cent, and Vancouver Quadra was the winner among the losers with a 33.9 per cent turnout. In total, the four byelections attracted just 27.8 per cent of the eligible vote. (The lowest for any set of federal byelections in the last decade.)
"This means that the Undecided Party represents more than twice as many voters as all the other parties put together." said UDP campaign manager Gerry Mander, "And as with the Quebec byelections, we didn't have to lift a finger to get those numbers - as always, the mainstream candidates and parties go out there for us and supply the most compelling arguments against voting."
Even the one-time default alternative party, the NDP, found itself struggling along within a single percentage point of the Green Party in three of the four races - as voters apparently came to the conclusion that the NDP is, after all, just another bunch of politicians. And leader Jack Layton reinforced that impression during a post-election interview on CBC Newsworld's "Politics" program, as he danced around repeated questions about the drubbing his party had taken, expressed confidence that -for some unfathomable reason- the voters would somehow suddenly come to their NDP senses in a general election, and took pains to point out that the New Democrats came second in the Toronto Centre race - leaving the host to point out that 'second' in this case represented 13.8 to the Liberals' 59.2 percent of voters.
"It's sad, really," said UDP founder J. Harvey Fink from his home in Valley Heights, "Layton tries to present himself as something different from the other leaders, and then acts just like every other politician by dodging any admission of even the most blatant problems in his own organization while trying to steer critical scrutiny towards any party other than his own. Either that, or he is in a truly astounding, staggering, mind-boggling state of denial - and neither option is particularly attractive to the potential voter."
Whether Layton's next rationalization will be to claim victory because he's the leader with the best moustache remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the numbers show a continuing movement towards the views of the Undecided Party. A situation unlikely to change until the voters are given someone -or something- to vote for.
Will SOMEBODY push me
After campaigning on fixed terms and passing a law against governments pulling their own plugs, the Harper Conservatives are desperately seeking assisted suicide.
With the new year less than two months old and 'Canada's New Government' stumbling from one self-inflicted embarrassment to the next, Stephen Harper seems to be regretting giving up the power to call his own election dates as his government cranks out confidence motions like Apple cranks out iPods.
"It's an interesting corner he's painted himself into," said Undecided Party of Canada leader, J. Harvey Fink, while attending the Ban Winter Festival in his hometown of Valley Heights, "Presumably he must believe that his chances of winning a majority -or even a minority- will only be getting worse as time passes. And he's probably right, given recent events."
These events include;
- The backlash over the late night firing of the head of the 'independent' Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for doing her job (and exposing the government to accusations of incompetence).
- John Gomery, chairman of the commission that the Conservatives made full use of while bringing down the Martin Liberals, declaring his disappointment with the new government's lack of progress towards the very promise of transparency that they campaigned on. ("The government was saying at the time that transparency was very important and that they wanted to improve transparency. In practice, it's been an exact reverse.")
- The embarrassing -though many would argue accurate- inclusion of the United States in a Foreign Affairs training manual as a nation that engages in torture.
- The Dance of the Afghan Prisoners. From saying they were all being handed over to Afghan authorities, to admitting Canadian troops weren't handing over all prisoners due to concerns about abuse, to trying to blame the 'confusion' on the military not informing the PMO of the change in policy, to having to backtrack on the 'mispeaking' when the military refused to wear it, to trying to cover up any future details about prisoners under claims about security - despite the fact that British, Dutch and American governments routinely release information about their prisoners.
Fink continued, "Add to all this the likelihood of more of the same coming down the pipe in the months ahead, the potential of an economic downturn, and the Mulroney-Schreiber affair reminding voters of how much they hated the last Conservative government, and you'd have to think that any hopes of the Canadian people eventually warming to this government and its leader are gone.
"So now we're in a scenario where, in the past, a leader might choose to call an election as damage control before things get worse. But the best this government can do is play a political variation of solo Russian Roulette - and even though they're constantly adding more bullets to the revolver, they have to convince someone else to pull the trigger."
Some of these confidence motion 'bullets' are already stretching the bounds of logic - such as a vote on the Afghanistan mission before a NATO meeting with a direct impact on that mission, and a call for the Commons to tell the Senate (over which they have no control) to hurry up and pass the same crime bill the Conservatives cut off when they prorogued Parliament last year. Rumours are flying around Ottawa that if these tactics don't succeed, future attempts might include suicide-confidence motions to claim the Moon as Canada's 25th province, to pass a law against the use of split infinitives by left-handed massage therapists named Gert, and to make an as yet unspecified declaration about Stephane Dion's mother - perhaps relating to army boots.
Who Won The Quebec
(Sept 18) On the morning after three high profile Quebec by-elections, the NDP was crowing about its 'historic' victory over the Liberals in Outremont, the Conservatives were slapping themselves on the back for beating the Bloc in Roberval, and the Bloc was counting its blessings for managing to keep Saint-Hyacinthe out of Conservative hands.
Yet none of the 'winning' parties was able to convince even a third of the eligible voters to cast a ballot for their candidates. In fact, ALL the parties together couldn't manage to draw half the voters to the polls in ANY of the contested ridings.
Score three out of three for the Undecided Party.
According to Elections Canada, Smilin' Jack Layton's front page breakthrough was ...extrapolated... from less than 18% of the eligible voters. Four fifths of the electorate either didn't want the NDP to win the seat or couldn't be bothered to support them.
This, the NDP proclaims, is a major victory.
(Similarly, the Bloc garnered a less than 18% result in winning Saint-Hyacinthe, and the Conservatives took Roberval with the support of less than 29% of eligible voters.)
There have been no official responses from the leaders or their parties about why the MAJORITY of voters chose not to choose.
Of course, the majority knows why.
(June 11) Today in Ottawa, Stephen Harper, the leader of the party that exists because of a broken contract, the leader of the party that broke international law and an international contract by walking away from the Kyoto Accord (and is reminded of that broken contract on a daily basis), addressed the growing backlash over the Atlantic Accords with the breathtakingly divorced-from-reality statement, "We don't break contracts. We respect contracts."
The leader was temporarily pulled in a spectacular vortex of irony, but re-emerged, protected as always by his impenetrable cloak of self-absorbed obliviousness, and followed up his staggering declaration with claims that lions are vegetarians, the Eiffel Tower is constructed entirely from popsicle sticks and duct tape, and the shortest distance between two points is a pineapple. (ed.; The events in this paragraph have not been independently verified, but it sounds about right.)
Returning to the scandal at hand, the Prime Minister then adopted the favourite 'playground bully' technique as he disregarded his own long-standing position against courts intervening in political decisions and, after daring the defenders of the Atlantic Accords to take him to court, made threats about taking the provinces to court himself. "At some point, we will consult tribunals ourselves if that's necessary to get a ruling on our respect for the contracts, because we will respect them." The vortex of irony reappeared at this point, but when it saw who had made the statement, left the gathering in search of a friendly bar.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that before last week's budget vote Bill Casey, living proof that integrity has no place in the Conservative Party, was taken to a locked ante room minutes before the vote in an attempt, by (senior Atlantic Canadian minister) Peter MacKay, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and a staff member from Stephen Harper's office, to either change his mind or make him miss the chance to put his dissent on the record.
"They were just throwing stuff at me so fast, at $100 million an item," Mr. Casey later recalled. He also noted that, "In that meeting, in the room, there wasn’t a piece of paper for me to look at. It was ‘We might do this’ and ‘We’re probably doing that.’" - though, given the party's record with keeping promises whether or not they were committed to paper, this probably wasn't a pivotal omission.
When Casey refused to accept anything less than the already signed Atlantic Accords, Lunn actually blocked the door to try to stall the member for Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley from leaving the room for just a little bit longer. Casey told Lunn to step out of the way and unlock the door, and perhaps thinking of the public relations impact of an unlawful confinement charge, Lunn allowed Casey to exit in time to represent his constituents.
Stephen Harper's comment on this last ditch attempt at bribery and arm twisting? "Fat puppies grow into elephants." (ed. again; See above.)
May 2007 - Peter MacKay states;
"We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience.
Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey is thrown out of the Conservative caucus for voting his conscience against a budget which broke a signed agreement and multiple Conservative campaign promises to maintain the Atlantic Accord.
Separated At Birth:
In a week that saw a minister in "Canada's New Government" fleeing in terror from reporters and opposition questions like a turkey from a Thanksgiving Dinner, only standing still long enough to make proclamations about agreements that didn't exist, one of the most striking but least reported aspects of the O'Connor/Geneva Rights debacle was the striking parallel to the Gonzales/Judicial Firings soap opera simultaneously taking place in Washington.
As U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared before a Congressional Committee and demonstrated himself to be either a shameless perjurer or spectacularly incompetent (to the point that even prominent Republicans are calling for his resignation), Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor appeared before a Parliamentary Committee, and turned in a performance that befuddled even his own party peers when, after continuing pressure over the treatment of Afghan detainees, he claimed that, “Within the last few days, we have basically made an arrangement with the government in the Kandahar province so that we can have access to our detainees." Unfortunately, no such agreement existed - though the assertion nicely bookended a previous (also patently false) claim by O'Connor that the International Committee of the Red Cross was monitoring the welfare of detainees. Soon after his dramatic ad-lib, the Minister was seen running from some more than usually curious reporters, eventually taking refuge in an elevator (perhaps expecting that it had a secret back door or chute to aid in his escape). In the House the next day, O'Connor shifted from the flight to the 'freeze' defense - staying absolutely still and hoping to seem invisible as Harper and other ministers answered questions addressed to him.
This ... unforeseen ... declaration (four members of the foreign affairs committee were seen to execute spit takes in reaction to O'Connor's statement), also followed earlier assertions that prison conditions were being observed by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission - an organization which publicly said that it wasn't able to do the job. The AIHRC claims came after Canada's New Government (which had made a mantra of "Accountability" during the election campaign), first denied the existence of a 2006 Foreign Affairs Department report on prison abuse, and then, after admitting that it did exist, blacked out every reference to abuse or torture in the document before releasing it to the press. Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter MacKay, admitted that he hadn't read his own department's paper until after it had become front page news.
And as the Conservatives' week unfolded in the best traditions of farce, political insiders and citizens alike were hardly able to keep up with what not to believe. (A late week rumour that the Conservatives would next suggest that monitoring was being done by the Lollipop Guild did not pan out - but judging by events to date, the claim may still manifest itself in the coming days.)
"It really is becoming Bush Lite up here," said Undecided Party of Canada leader J. Harvey Fink, while appearing at the 3rd Annual James MacIntyre Conference on the Lost Arts of Cheese Poetry and Mending. "We have a government that has already demonstrated a preference for personal attack and sophistry over actually answering uncomfortable but legitimate questions from press and politicians. They've demonstrated with Kyoto and now the Geneva Conventions, as Bush did with the ABM treaty and the Geneva Conventions, the willingness to to have our nation break whatever legally binding international laws they consider inconvenient. This week effectively highlighted the Harper government's growing affinity for Bush Administration's method of simply saying whatever, making up whatever, or denying whatever they think will get them out of trouble without considering the possibility that someone might actually check to see if they're lying. And now with O'Connor's performance prompting voices on the left and right to call for his resignation, just as Gonzales' performance has both sides calling for his resignation in the U.S., Harper is ignoring the obvious and placing perceived loyalty over competence, just as Bush is doing down south.
"These Bush Administration wannabees are getting more like their idols every day. It's only a matter of time before Peter MacKay shoots a friend in the face while out hunting captured quail from a car."
Fink paused a moment to autograph a delegate's cheese mending apron, then continued. "But perhaps the saddest factor in this parallel existence is the one significant difference - unlike Bush, Stephen Harper is not a complete idiot, and the fact that he makes these decisions knowing what he is doing may well make him an even greater embarrassment to the country he claims to represent than G.W.
"Granted both leaders freely use the 'any dissent is against the troops card,' but when Harper, who knows better, actually tries to dodge responsibility by claiming the opposition parties are attacking the soldiers ("The real problem is the willingness of the leader of the Liberal party and his colleagues to believe to repeat and to exaggerate any charge against the military as they fight these fanatics and killers that are called the Taliban"), when in fact, they're the only ones trying to make sure that Canadian troops can't be charged with violating the Geneva Convention, it goes beyond the cowardly and into the obscene. It's beneath politics, which is a depth almost impossible to imagine. The fact that he also assumes that every person in custody is guilty by the mere fact that they're in custody, shows yet another circumstance in which the protege is following the mentor's lead."
It is likely that the government will try to redirect the attention of the nation next week, but the most probable alternative subjects would appear to be MacKay's ministerial negligence, the high profile public disdain towards the new environmental plan, or perhaps the Conservatives' attempt to launch a party-biased sponsorship program eerily reminiscent of the one that took the Liberals out of power. Unnamed sources predict that the only chance Harper has of completely distracting the opposition from more damaging scrutiny is to have the entire government side come to the House of Commons wearing early Saturday Night Live era Killer Bee costumes. It is generally agreed on the Hill that the tactic 'couldn't hurt.'
(Click on image to download PDF - c. 400kb)
Oh, and he broke a promise.
After years of promising to, " ... remove non-renewable resources from the equalization formula."* After putting that promise in letters, in his own party's campaign platform literature, in Hansard, and in a pamphlet mailed to the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador. and after saying that, "There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept," he broke that promise.
And Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams seemed surprised. So much so that he took out an ad in newspapers across the country and bluntly reminded Harper and the nation of that promise and his failure to live up to his word.
But seriously, Danny, you can't be that surprised. After all this is a party that owes its very existence to Peter McKay’s broken (and signed) promise. A party led by a man who last year broke a 'solemn' campaign promise not to tax Income Trusts. Who said during the last election campaign, "we should get back 100% of duties since we have won all softwood victories," and then handed 1 billion dollars of those duties over to George Bush and US lumber companies. ‘Open Government’ ... Emerson ... Fortier ... 'nuff said?
This is a man who will say whatever he needs to get into power, and will do whatever it takes to stay there. In other words, a politician. And he's certainly not the first to do this (have a look at the inaugural Citizen Fink essay for just a few examples), but if you were genuinely surprised by the fact that a politician broke a clear, unequivocal campaign promise, perhaps we should share a few other shockers with you.
- Winter in Canada is cold.
Of course, while no doubt disappointed and outraged, we doubt that you were really that shocked by Harper saying one thing and doing another. Certainly we weren't, and the regularity of such behaviour amongst our "Honourable Members" is exactly why the Undecided Party represents more voters than any other political organization in Canada. (And why, in the case of so many MPs, "Honourable Members" qualifies as an oxymoron.) But we applaud you for calling a spade a spade and a fraud a fraud. Since integrity clearly isn’t a factor in making politicians keep their promises, perhaps the threat of public embarrassment might make them just a bit more likely to stick to their word in the future.
Hey, it couldn’t hurt, right?
Meanwhile, don’t forget to keep your promises, Danny.
(* Not, “a formula,” or “one of several possible formulas,” but “the formula,” clearly referring to the entire equalization formula subject.)
Accountability If Necessary,
Tories 'revise' their 2005 Elections Canada financial report
Taking advantage of the Christmas media downtime, when MPs are away one one of their oh-so-many breaks and reporters are lining up their year in review specials, the Conservative Party filed a revised financial report with Elections Canada, admitting that it had previously omitted reporting delegate fees collected for the 2005 national convention as political donations as required by the Canada Elections Act, and as done by every other national party.
This "reclassified revenue" included $539,195 in unreported donations, $913,710 in suspiciously unspecified "other revenue," and $1.4 million in also unspecified "other expenses." So while the government elected on promises of Accountability still can't seem to remember where roughly 80% of the newly declared money originated or went, it has admitted that more than 2.8 million dollars were left off the original declaration.
But, as they say on TV, "That's not all." The party's accounting do-over also added almost $700,000 in previously ...'overlooked'... transfers from riding associations, and revealed that at least three delegates, including Mr. Accountability, Stephen Harper, had exceeded their legal annual limit for political contributions. (Liberals estimate there are roughly 200 other delegates who may have also exceeded their limits, but if that's the case, they haven't been Accounted for.)
Since first spilling the beans about the money last June before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Conservative Party has vehemently denied that the convention fees qualified as donations, despite the fact that the law has been on the books for years and had been honoured by all of the Conservative Party's predecessors the Reform, Alliance, and Progressive Conservative parties. In addition, the Harper government tried to change the pesky law in November, but was prevented by its minority status.
Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated event, the head of Elections Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, has announced that he will be resigning some two years before his mandated retirement date, in a completely unrelated event.
Referred to by the pre-Prime Minister Harper as "more like a state policeman than a civil servant," Kingsley would give no reason for his resignation and was not returning phone calls though he may have been out at the Boxing Week sales.
Kingsley tendered his resignation a completely unrelated event on December 22nd, but the Prime Minister's Office did not disclose the news of the completely unrelated event until the 28th, in a release where Harper praised the leader of Elections Canada (an organization the PM previously referred to as a bunch of out of control jackasses). Like Kingsley, the Conservatives would not discuss the reasons for the chief electoral officer's early departure, other than to assure Canadians that it was a completely unrelated event.
Grapholigists are currently studying the career suicide note to see if was written in Kingsley's or Harper's hand.
Living And Dead,
Having already been forced to return 27,000 dollars in campaign donations from underage supporters who were coincidentally related to former and current executives of Canada's largest pharmaceutical company, Apotex* (two of the donors were 11-year old twins who must have been receiving exceptionally generous allowances from their parents in order to have each made the legal limit of a $5,400 donation), the campaign to elect Joe Volpe as the new leader of the Liberal Party is now facing allegations of recruiting members who did not pay their own fees, did not know they had been recruited in the first place, and in at least two cases, did not know anything - on account of being dead.
(Hardly a new phenomenon, the practice of recruiting the dead has a long, if not honoured, tradition in the political process the most recent high-profile example being the Alliance leadership campaign of 2000 when Tom Long's team resurrected voters in Gaspe, Quebec, to fight for the cause. Unfortunately for Long, the transgression was discovered before his zombie minions could carry him to victory. In the 1983 Conservative leadership race, the Brian Mulroney team demonstrated its enthusiasm by producing a surprising number of delegates gathered from the Old Brewery Mission, a homeless shelter in Montreal not previously known for its political activism but by all accounts, those recruits were at least alive.)
Despite the allegations, and polls that give him little chance of winning the leadership, Volpe held a press conference on Monday to announce that he would remain in the race, and implied that his campaign was under attack because he was an immigrant (though this theory doesn't explain why Michael Ignatieff’s campaign is also being faced with similar accusations). Volpe chalked up any technical aberrations to "the hurly burly of recruitment" and, in announcing his intention to stay in the race, declared, "I won't let them down" not specifying if "them" included the deceased delegates.
(*At press time it was not known if Apotex manufactures a drug to combat voter irregularity.)
The party that ran on the mantra of "accountability," the party that recently 'suggested' that bad things could happen to the Senate if it didn't pass the rather selectively focused Accountability Act wthout delay, the party that spent the entire session before the last election condemning the Martin Liberal government's ethics and the illegal fundraising practices of the previous Chrétien Liberals, seems to be displaying many of the same ethical shortcomings that, in the opinion of the party that was going to clean up government, rendered the Liberals unfit to govern and unworthy of power.
On Tuesday, Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley dismissed the Conservative's admittedly imaginative reasoning that they didn't have to disclose up to 1.7 million dollars in donations from the party's 2005 policy convention, because the convention 'didn't turn a profit.' This rather sizeable violation of the Canada Elections Act, had opposition members in the House wondering what happened to Harper's crusade for ethics, with NDP MP Pat Martin declaring that the Conservatives made the Liberals "...look like pikers when it comes to sleaze."
In fact the non-disclosure was only disclosed this past June, presumably by mistake, when Treasury Board President John Baird (Harper's 'point man' on ethics) spilled the beans during an appearance before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. When Kingsley then requested the convention books for further investigation, Conservative executive director Michael Donison first told the Senate committee that the party had delivered the documents, but later said that the party decided not to hand the books over to the Chief Electoral Officer, claiming that the matter was being handled by the commissioner for Canada elections - who, for those who may find such details relevant, reports directly to the Chief Electoral Officer.
(Donison didn't elaborate on how he managed to go back in time and undeliver the documents that he had said had been delivered some two weeks before. But while cynics are calling the first statement a simple and outright lie, optimists are holding out hope that the Tories are about to announce the discovery of North America's first temporal rift. Others are wondering if the delay reflects the government's attempts to do to their account books what they did to the Grewal tapes in 2005.)
"Of course, there's nothing new here," said Undecided Party of Canada leader, J. Harvey Fink, currently attending the Dingus McGuffin Memorial Pro-Am Tennis Ball Golf Tournament in Chilblain, Saskatchewan. "One of the fundamental characteristics that causes Canadians to see their politicians as spoiled six-year olds is the concept that 'the rules apply to everybody but me.' The Conservatives could hardly have been considered ethical role models even before they attained power, and the Liberals will be no different whenever they regain that power, but there's always a twinge of disappointment when events first confirm that the new government is no different than the old one.
"But, that's why the UDP exists, and that's why we represent the largest portion of the electorate every time we run."
(Fink scored a first round, 2 over par, 51 - and advanced to the full-contact, round robin stage on Friday.)
Health Minister Clement blames AIDS activists for delay in funding announcements
Appearing at a grab-and-grin photo-op in Nova Scotia, federal minister of health, Tony Clement, blamed activists and "so-called experts" at the International AIDS Conference for politicizing the event to the point that the government cancelled a previously scheduled funding announcement - presumably because they could no longer be sure of receiving an appropriate level of fawning and gluteal osculation in return. Meanwhile, as AIDS kills thousands of people per day worldwide, the Harper government will wait for a more optically beneficial opportunity to demonstrate its compassion.
Apparently dismissing the fact that the "politicizing" only hit full stride when the Prime Minister of the host country didn't think it worth his while to make even a brief appearance at an event dedicated to fighting a disease that has killed more than 25 million people, Clement claimed that the conference wasn't a place where one could "have a rational discussion"- citing a delegate's call for the South African health minister's resignation. (The demand in question was made when some of the "so-called experts" felt that the S.A. minister's "rational" policy of promoting garlic, lemon juice, and beetroot over antiretrovirals as AIDS treatments was costing untold numbers of innocent lives.)
While he didn't elaborate on how his extensive knowledge of AIDS (which presumably exceeds that of the "so-called experts" who have only dedicated their careers, if not their lives to fighting the epidemic) led him to the conclusion that they were wrong in wanting to see the end of such homicidal incompetence, there is little doubt that the removal of a cabinet minister for mere ineptitude would be setting a dangerous precedent in the eyes of Clement and his colleagues.
Whether the delegates have learned their lesson, and will attempt in the future to stop their whining about all those dying people, remains to be seen, but it seems likely that the Harper government will be willing to teach it again whenever they feel it necessary.
(Find more old news in the