Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Response to an image of entitlement

In a recent Huffington Post article, Eric Grenier questions whether 2013 will “be remembered as the beginning of the end of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.”

Grenier complains that the Conservatives are creating an “image of entitlement” through the scandals of Peter Penashue, Dean del Mastro, Rob Ford, and the ongoing Senate expense debate.

Unfortunately, Grenier disproves his complaint in his very list of “scandals.”

Peter Penashue resigned as an MP altogether – not just from Conservative caucus - when it was revealed his campaign accepted ineligible donations.  Voters elected a Liberal MP instead.

Dean Del Mastro resigned from the Conservative caucus amid 2008 campaign over-spending allegations and says he is looking forward to addressing Elections Canada’s allegations.

According to Grenier, Rob Ford’s antics as Toronto Mayor somehow reflect poorly on the federal Conservative government because of their “relative silence” over Ford’s drug use.

The ongoing Senate expense debate is one that involves several players and both parties represented in the Senate.  However, both Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy – the most publicized of those involved – have both been severely punished.  Wright resigned from his position and is being investigated by the RCMP; Duffy was booted from the Conservative caucus and is also being investigated by the RCMP.  Unfortunately, Grenier leaves out that the only Senator to resign amid this debate is Liberal Senator Mac Harb, who took over $231,000 in ineligible expense claims from Canadian taxpayers, or more than double Duffy’s housing claims.

So what is the Conservative record for entitlement? Well, quite simply: when you break the rules, you pay the price.  These individuals’ alleged wrongdoing – and it is only alleged – was swiftly met with censure and punishment.  This is not inconsistent with what Prime Minster Harper has been saying all along, both in the House of Commons and to media reporters.

How a culture of entitlement could exist when such a culture is quickly punished and quashed is a paradox.  Grenier proves this in his own list of Conservative “scandals,” yet forgets to name the punishments.

Troubling 2013 for Trudeau's Liberal Party

For the Huffington Post Canada

Parliament has risen for its Christmas break and won’t sit again until January 27, 2014.  In true Christmas spirit, it’s a time for reflection on the good and bad of 2013, and how that record may be updated in 2014.

Unfortunately, the record for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has been overwhelmingly negative, leaving significant room for improvement in 2014.

Since being anointed – er, elected – Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Trudeau has been entirely devoid of any policy ideas.

Within the first week of being elected, controversy surrounded Trudeau.  He tried rationalizing the Boston Marathon bombings by blaming society for the terrorists’ actions.  Then he complained about the temporary foreign worker program, only to be instantly revealed as a hypocrite who petitioned in favour of foreign workers in his riding.

In a video uploaded in 2010, infamous drug user Marc Emery claimed he smoked marijuana with Trudeau.  Trudeau confirmed he had smoked marijuana, and one of Trudeau’s first (and only) policy declarations has been that he favours of the legalization of marijuana.  This, of course, only after Trudeau voted with the Conservative government to increase punishments for drug crimes.  Hypocrisy count: 2.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where Trudeau’s policy record ends.  In fact, Trudeau has been completely unable to define the Liberal Party or Trudeau brand under his leadership.

Trudeau has failed to distance his Liberal Party from former Liberal cabinet minister Joe Fontana, who is being criminally charged for using taxpayers’ money on his son’s wedding.

Trudeau supported Liberal Senator Mac Harb, the only Senator to-date to resign from the Senate after he repaid $231,000 in ineligible Senate expenses.  Up until Harb resigned, Trudeau was adamant he would “welcome him back into caucus.”

Trudeau promised accountability and transparency of his MPs and Senators by proactively disclosing their expenses and posting them online.  Unfortunately, that service is already available through the Parliament of Canada website.  MPs such as David McGuinty have yet to post anything – meaning either McGuinty runs his office for free (we taxpayers thank you!) or he’s refusing to follow his boss’ orders.  The latter seems more likely.

Somehow, Trudeau’s focus on transparency somehow missed the fact that he was charging enormous speaking fees – up to $20,000 a pop – to speak at private events.  While he was a sitting MP, Trudeau could have collected over $288,000 in speaking fees, or more than three Wright-Duffy deals.

In the weeks preceding the Labour Day long weekend, Trudeau’s communications staff let this gem slip, claiming that religious people were less intelligent than atheists.  Trudeau has still not held his staff accountable, nor has he been held publicly accountable.

By August, even Trudeau’s media friends were getting antsy, craving something, anything of substance.  Trudeau said they would have to wait until 2015 before he revealed his ideas.  Oh, but convicted terrorist Omar Khadr should be compensated for the inconvenience of being jailed for his crimes.

Maybe when Parliament returned in October Trudeau’s team could rebuild.  Wrong.

Instead, he hosteda patronizing women-only event, charging them $200 each to “get to really know” Trudeau by asking women about their “favourite virtues.”  At that event, he extolled his love of Chinese dictatorship as the preferred method to get things done quickly. Seriously.

Also in November, it was revealed that Trudeau was either kept out of the loop or purposely stalled a sexual harassment complaint by a Liberal staffer against a Liberal Senator.

Sure, in four byelections held the Liberals held the two ridings in Toronto and Montreal they had already held.  But maintaining the status quo is hardly indicative of Trudeau’s positive effect as leader.

And finally, as Parliament was about to rise for this season’s Christmas break, Trudeau attempted to justify his part-time two-days-a-week attendance record.  And a few days after that, long-time friend of Jean Chretien and former Liberal Party Vice President Jacques Corriveau was charged with fraud.

On second thought, in Trudeau’s first eight months as Liberal leader, he has said a lot.  He just hasn’t said the right things to make him worthy of leading this country.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Crime is enveloping Ottawa South - where are our elected leaders?

For the past several weeks, Ottawa South has been enveloped in a serious crime wave.

Since Halloween there have been 11 robberies in the South Keys area, many of them involving a perpetrator threatening to use a handgun.  On November 25 a woman disembarking a bus at South Keys station was grabbed and had her personal belongings stolen.

Gun crimes are rampant.  On November 11 8 to 10 shots were fired near Lorry Greenberg and Hunt Club.  On November 19, at least 12 shots were fired near Montreal Road.  On November 26, shots were fired into the high rise apartments on Cedarwood Drive.  And on December 2, at least 10 shots were fired at a man sitting in his car on Industrial Ave.

Where are our elected representatives?

To her credit, city councillor Diane Deans held a community town hall meeting at the Lorry Greenberg Community Centre.  On November 27, councillor Deans asked the Ottawa Chief of Police to join her in quelling residents’ fears and explaining the way forward.  Unfortunately, any form of minutes, press release, or general information on the substance of that meeting has yet to be released.

And what about provincial Liberal MPP John Fraser and federal Liberal MP David McGuinty?  Both have been completely mute about the crime wave sweeping through their ridings, terrifying residents in all corners.

Fraser has lots on his website about his party's plans to raise hydro rates by 42 percent, but nothing about this crime wave.  McGuinty hasn’t used social media since being re-elected in 2011 – not a single tweet in over 2 and a half years – and rarely updates his website.

Now more than ever, Ottawa South needs competent and responsive provincial and federal leaders.  In this desperate time of need, we’re not getting either from Fraser or McGuinty.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

11 questions to be answered in House of Cards season 2

(Spoiler alert: season 2 predictions will include recaps of what happened in season 1. If you haven’t seen season 1, get over to Netflix and watch it!)

 Netflix’s House of Cards was nominated for four Golden Globes just hours before they launched their season 2 trailer.  They were also nominated for nine Emmys and took home three.  Indeed, the part-political thriller, part-drama, part-social science experiment starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright was an incredible hit in its first season.  Unfortunately, season 2 will be the final season for House of Cards, citing the actors’ and producers’ preferences to do movies over a television series.

Here are 11 questions about House of Cards season two:

1.      Reporter and former Underwood mistress Zoe Barnes is onto Frank Underwood’s (Spacey) murder of Representative Peter Russo, and she confronts Underwood by saying “I need to know I wasn’t a part of someone’s… murder.”  How close has Barnes come to the truth, and with whom has she shared this information?  (The trailer suggests at least her fellow colleagues Janine Skorsky and Lucas Goodwin.)

2.      Underwood suggests “the road to power is paved with hypocrisy… and casualties.”  Who will those casualties be in season 2?  In season 1, casualties included union bosses and members, Congressional staffers, reporters, unions, business owners, Congressmen and women, Democratic Party officials, and even the life of a sitting Congressman.  Some of those characters were “fired,” killing them out of the series.  But what about those who remain: reporters Zoe Barnes, Lucas Goodwin, and Janine Skorsky?  Lobbyist and former Underwood employee Remy Danton?  Personal friend of the President Raymond Tusk?  Underwood’s chief of staff Doug Stamper?

In the season 2 trailer, we see Underwood tell Stamper “we need to invite a full frontal attack.”  Stamper tells Underwood “I don’t think that’s a good idea, sir.”  We see a white hood removed from a man’s head, as if he had just been kidnapped.  We also see a white powder come out of a manila envelope Skorsky opens in her office.  What sort of response is Underwood hoping to accomplish?

3.      Underwood feels he needs to prove “what the Vice President is capable of.”  Well, what is the Vice President capable of?  The man whom Underwood is replacing, Jim Mathews, left the job as Vice President for a run at Governor of Pennsylvania because he complained being Vice President was only about shaking hands and signing autographs.  He complained he had little value in advising the President on policies and courses of action.  Now that Underwood is in the Vice President’s chair, what does he want to prove?  Will he use the seat to quickly punish those who disobeyed him as Majority Government Whip (e.g. Representatives Abrams and Vanderberg)?

4.      How will the relationship between Barnes and Goodwin progress?  In season 1, once Barnes finally ends her affair/fling with Underwood she seems to come to her senses and begins to settle down in a relationship with Goodwin.  The two are beginning to become a power couple-journalism team as they begin to learn about Underwood’s house of cards with Skorsky.  Yet, we also see Barnes passionately kissing another female in a bed.  Is Barnes back to her old ways of sleeping around to get a story?  Or is she still confused and full of father issues?

5.      Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) continues to stand by her ruthless husband, saying “I know you’ll do what you think is best.”  However, in season 1 she was not against plainly sabotaging her husband’s political plans when she felt her own politics were more important (for her non-profit water filtration organization).  Will Claire be pushed to a breaking point, or will she continue to stand by her husband?  Why does Underwood appear to be burying his wedding ring?

6.      Who will take office in the upcoming elections?  As we left season 1, Vice President Mathews was leaving the office for what was thought to be an easy win to be re-elected as Governor of Pennsylvania.  Paul Capra, the shipbuilders’ union leader and childhood friend of Russo, was approached to run as the Democratic candidate to replace Russo after his death.  Capra declined at the time, but will he change his mind?

7.      Did Doug Stamper, Underwood’s chief of staff, cause Underwood public humiliation and embarrassment over Stamper’s use and bribe of Rachel the prostitute?  In season 1, Stamper bribed Rachel to say she was never in the car when Russo was arrested for driving while intoxicated.  That bribe came back to haunt Stamper when Rachel blackmailed him, saying she knew who Stamper was and threatened to take down Stamper’s boss (Underwood).  This caused Stamper to put Rachel up in a new apartment and help her start a new life for herself.

Stamper’s generosity came to help Underwood, when Stamper needed Rachel to get Russo drunk and do a radio interview on Russo’s run for Governor while still drunk the following morning.  In the season 2 trailer, Underwood says to Stamper “I did my part, now put it to bed Doug.  I won’t submit myself to this sort of exposure again.”  How much of Stamper’s actions are known, and did Stamper’s actions hurt the Vice President, or was Underwood able to contain it? Will Stamper be fired?

8.      How influential will Raymond Tusk be in season 2?  I season 1, it was Raymond Tusk who was secretly vetting Underwood for his suitability as Vice President while Underwood thought he was vetting Tusk for his suitability as Vice President.  To make Tusk reveal his hand and potentially feel more loyalty to Underwood, Underwood attempted to shake up a few of Tusk’s nuclear energy investments by approaching some oil and gas companies to engage in insider trading.  The plan didn’t work, since Tusk was tipped off and sold his investments.

In the season 2 trailer, we hear what sounds to be Tusk telling the President “you would be making a disastrous mistake.”  We also hear Tusk telling Underwood, “the tip of your ice berg is melting,” suggesting Tusk may also be on to Underwood’s house of cards.  Finally, we see Tusk on the phone telling someone “yeah, hit him now.”  What sort of repayment will Tusk expect for supporting Underwood’s nomination as Vice President, what sort of power does Tusk wield to retaliate against Underwood, and how will the President view the Tusk vs. Underwood conflict?

9.      Who will replace Underwood as Majority Government Whip?  Underwood, being promoted into the Vice President’s chair, will have an enormous influence over who is chosen as his replacement.  Will he choose a lapdog, a loyal and friendly Representative?  That seems unlikely, since there were few Representatives with whom Underwood was friendly in season 1.  What seems more likely is that Underwood will nominate someone he doesn’t like, either so he can later cash in on favours or so that person can be humiliated and eventually thrown aside when a better replacement can be found.

10.  In a news interview, we see the title “dirty laundry” on a television as a reporter asks a female “so this goes all the way to the White House?”  She responds “it might.”  But the voice does not sound like Barnes’ or Skorsky’s – who is this new person?  Further, is this the same dirty laundry from season 1 (Russo’s death, Barnes’ affair), or is this new dirty laundry?

11.  How much will the President stand for?  Remember, Underwood’s house of cards started because Underwood felt he was passed over by the President for a Secretary of State spot.  One could think now that Underwood has the Vice President’s chair he would rekindle any hard feelings he has, but that would be wrong.

In season 1 Underwood admitted he wanted the Vice President’s spot so he could run for President in 2016.  That means he will be a very active and visible Vice President, as he seeks every opportunity to put his face on the positive government accomplishments and hide from the negative.  That’s why the trailer shows Underwood in front of the cameras or being interviewed by reporters several times, whereas in the first season very rarely did he make media appearances.  We see the President tell Underwood “I told you to stop back-channeling,” to which Underwood replies “I can turn this around, sir.”  The President responds with “you are out of line, Frank!”

And finally, with season two being the final season, how will it end?  Will it be 2016 with Underwood having announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for President?  Will it end in present-day with Underwood remaining as Vice President?  Will Underwood have resigned?

These are just a few questions that will surely be answered throughout season 2.  Season 2 is to be released on February 14, 2014 on Netflix, with all episodes being immediately available.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A first look at the “Reform Act”

The Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (Reforms), already dubbed “The Reform Act,” was only introduced in the House of Commons today, but that didn’t stop preceding week’s worth of speculation and gossip about what “might” be in the bill.

Now we know.

Bill C-559, introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong, would, as Andrew Coyne rightly points out, fundamentally change Canada’s Parliament forever, drastically reshaping Canada’s parliamentary system, the party system, and electoral processes.

The bill proposes:

·         Creating a “nomination officer” “who is appointed by the electoral district association of a political party to endorse the prospective candidate for the party in that electoral district.”  This removes the ability of the party leader to certify candidates, and instead brings it down to the EDA level.
·         Legislating that nomination contests are initiated at the time and place of the EDA’s choosing.
·         A leadership review upon the written request of 15% of caucus.
·         A member may only be expelled from caucus if a majority of caucus agree to it by secret ballot, after being requested by 15% of caucus.
·         A member may be re-admitted to caucus if: a) they win re-election where they ran as that party’s candidate; or b) if a majority of caucus agree to it by secret ballot, after being requested by 15% of caucus.
·         The caucus chair may only be removed as caucus chair if a majority of caucus agree to it by secret ballot, after being requested by 15% of caucus.

The bill raises a number of questions: does the bill aim to combat systemic issues affecting all political parties, or are they aimed at enacting legislation to correct the (right or wrong) behaviour of a single political party?

Why are internal party policies insufficient?  For example, the bill proposes that the Canada Elections Act state that every political party must have a leadership review clause in their party’s constitution.  The three major parties already do, and it didn’t take a law to force them into compliance: for the Conservatives it’s section 10, for the NDP it’s section 3(a), and for the Liberals it’s section 61.

The Reform Act places a lot of emphasis on EDA-elected nomination officers.  Just think about it: the authority of Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau, and Stephen Harper and their headquarters staff to choose their 308 (or 338 in 2015) candidates would be suddenly delegated to 308 (or 338) nominations officers.

If these nominations officers are to be paid staff, can that cost be borne?  If they are to be volunteers, can they be relied upon to exact the same judgment and utmost discretion as would be expected of a party leader choosing his slate of candidates?

All three party leaders should rightly be concerned about this: national campaigns require national branding, a national platform, and a national message.  Like it or not, politics is as much now as it ever was about selling a brand: we constantly hear about the Harper Brand, the Trudeau Brand, and the Mulcair brand.  Each have created these brands through careful coordination of marketing, events, announcements, speeches, and proposals.  This coordination occurs at the national level, in the leaders’ offices, because they’re selling a national product.

Just imagine if tomorrow Coca Cola decided that each distributor would be allowed to create its own brand image while still using the Coca Cola name.  The brand reputation and reliability would suffer instantly.

Unfortunately, the party leader needs the ability to ensure the success of his brand, and remove potential candidates who don’t fit the bill.  Instantly devolving the authority to approve candidates into the hands of 338 volunteers would seriously harm every party’s ability to wage a national campaign.

This doesn’t mean party leaders should parachute in star candidates or refuse to listen to their grassroots: they already do listen by signing the nomination papers of the candidate who was successful in the riding’s nomination contest. But it does mean that party leaders need to have the final say in whether a particular candidate fits the party’s brand.

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative MP from Calgary Centre-North and minister for Western Economic Diversification, took only a cursory look over the bill and had several questions she shared on Twitter.  Here’s a relatively simple example of how this legislation could go terribly wrong: a special interest group hijacks an EDA and elects its nomination officer from the same special interest group.  The nomination officer refuses to sign the nomination papers of any candidate who refuses to support Policy A.  What power does the central party have to boot the nomination officer?  What power does the EDA have to regain its power and elect a new nomination officer?

Or how about this example: A group of NDP members overthrows a Liberal EDA and elects an NDP member as its nomination officer.  The nomination officer purposely approves an NDP member as its Liberal candidate, who proceeds to act like an idiot and embarrass the national brand.  Is the national party expected to sit idly by?

The power being invested in each individual nomination officer is simply too great, which is ironic considering the purpose of this bill is to defuse and decentralize power.

Fifteen percent is all that’s needed to trigger a leadership review.  What would stop just 25 of Harper’s MPs or 15 of Mulcair’s MPs from engaging in perpetual leadership reviews to harass the leader or prove a point? Is there a time limit between such reviews?  One month? A year? Five years?

Furthermore, why is caucus given the final (and only) vote on firing the party leader?  It would seem if this bill is focused on increasing the involvement of grassroots EDA-level members, then a leadership review should be decided upon by party members at large, not just sitting MPs.  Certainly, some parties could further describe the circumstances in which they would like to engage their leadership review or leadership selection processes, but this business should be left to party members to decide, not government.

The Reform Act would enact fundamental changes to Canada’s parliamentary and political party systems.  It creates government regulations that delegate authority from party leaders’ offices and places that authority in the hands of 338 EDA-elected officers.  The question is firstly whether these reforms are needed at all, and secondly, if they are, if the government is the right body to address them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Former Liberal cabinet minister pocketed $8 million from charity

Audit finds Joe Fontana, the same former Liberal cabinet minister being charged for using taxpayers' money to fund his son's wedding, and his friends pocketed $8 million from his so-called charity. Outrageous.

And where is Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to publicly distance himself from the disgraced former Liberal cabinet minister?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Letter praising McGuinty's bill came from known Liberal donor

Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty recently introduced a private members’ bill to combat “partisan government advertising.”  The Ottawa Citizen’s editorial board praised McGuinty for his bill, even though the proposed legislation is redundant and neither McGuinty nor the editorial board can name even one instance of “partisan government advertising.”

The Citizen also published a letter to the editor congratulating McGuinty, from who you would expect is your average citizen happy their MP is actually doing something. (McGuinty only showed up to work for 63 days in all of 2012, and he’s aiming to beat that record in 2013 with only 39 days so far.)

Except it’s not.  The letter is Astroturf.  The letter is from a known Liberal supporter.

Taymaz has personally contributed to McGuinty’s riding association.  He’s hardly a neutral commenter when it comes to praising McGuinty’s work.

Here’s the donation data from Elections Canada:

Why did the Ottawa Citizen fail to include this information in the original letter to the editor?

Update: here’s the Ottawa Citizen in some more hot water, this time for publishing an op ed by someone who “worked for” minister Peter Kent, when actually they may have been a volunteer.  Maybe.

Letter to the EMC Ottawa South

Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty has introduced a private members bill to combat "partisan political advertising masquerading as vital government information."

Unfortunately, McGuinty fails to name even one instance of federal government advertising that is inherently partisan.

Surely we can agree that the federal government has a duty to communicate with Canadians on where the government's roughly $300 billion annual budget is being spent.  Even if we accept McGuinty's figures that the federal government spent $548.6 million between 2006 and 2012 on government advertising, that's only 0.03% of the $1.8 trillion the federal government spent in that same time frame.

Many of those ads were indeed advertising the Economic Action Plan, the federal stimulus package aimed at combating what is now known as “the Great Recession.”  Since our federal government was plunging Canada into deficit spending, didn’t they have a duty to communicate with us on where the deficit spending was going?

I found it refreshing to see signs throughout Ottawa that demonstrated the federal government was investing right here in our communities: in roads, community centres, seniors programs, jobs training, and more.  Those signs provided a vital service.  Not once did they communicate a “partisan” message, even though we know the government’s Economic Action Plan was routinely voted against by NDP and Liberal MPs, McGuinty included.

What’s more likely is that McGuinty, threatened by being defeated in the 2015 election and only having shown up to work for just 39 days in all of 2013, felt the need to actually do his job once in a while – even if it means producing a redundant private members bill.

Daniel Dickin
Ottawa South Resident

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Trudeau hides sexual harassment complaint

Justin Trudeau was either out of the loop or purposely covered up a sexual harassment complaint against Liberal Senator Colin Kenny.

This just in

"Relevant and resonating across the country" = retaining two seats you already held in Toronto (for the past 20 years) and Montreal (for the past 16 years)...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Like father, like son

"The philosophy of the Liberal Party is very simple - say anything, think anything, or better still, do not think at all, but put us in power because it is we who can govern the best."

- Pierre Trudeau, Cite Libre, 1963

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kinsella agrees it's wrong for Wynne to be supporting federal Liberal byelection

Back in the summer during the Ontario byelections, former Chretien Liberal staffer Warren Kinsella complained federal Conservative staffers were helping provincial Conservatives.

And yet, now in November during the federal byelections, here are some provincial Liberals helping out the federal Liberals:

Will Warren Kinsella show the same outrage?

Update 12:45pm: yes, yes he will.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

That small little detail on the Senate everyone seems to be missing

The Opposition and media parties were at it again today, once again trying ever so desperately to pin any Senate issues personally on the Prime Minister.

Their latest comes from a production order filed by RCMP Cpl Horton, which the Opposition and media are using to claim that the Prime Minister had first hand knowledge of the affair.

But perhaps they missed this part:

"I have seen no evidence the Prime Minister was involved in having Sen Duffy's legal bills paid" (page 70)

Oh, right. Well... what's next?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mayoral powers removed by Council

The laundry list of powers removed from the Toronto mayor's office yesterday includes:

  • Office budget slashed by 60%
  • Staff likely cut back from 20 to 8
  • Deputy mayor now controls staffing
  • Ability to speak first, last at agenda
  • Right to designate key items
  • Ford no longer chair of own executive committee
See here for Council's voting records.

Justin Trudeau opens up about policy

Justin Trudeau has finally opened up about something other than legalizing currently illegal drugs.

... Oh... well that wasn't exactly what I had in mind...

Oh, hypocrisy


Statement by PM regarding Rob Ford allegations

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office responded to the Rob Ford allegations currently seizing Toronto's every waking moment.

Trudeau's Ladies Night

One organizer of Justin Trudeau's "ladies' night" is complaining about the "ugly politics" spearheaded by an "aggressive, Conservative partisan agenda."

Apparently, this was a rude wake-up call to a previously non-partisan citizen about how patronizing women can quickly backfire against your own party and its Messiah.

Wynne loves running

I found it odd when the Ontario Liberals released an ad that started with Wynne admitting "I love running."

And sure enough, here's the Ontario PC's slight tweak to the Wynne ad:

Bring Back Merry Christmas

A worthy cause with the simple goal of proving that it's okay to say "Merry Christmas."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Conservatives gearing up for 2013 convention

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and the Huffington Post

The Conservative Party grassroots are gearing up for the party’s bi-annual national convention this year at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
The three-day convention is broken down into a mixture of information sessions, speeches, and debates on policy and constitution resolutions, concluding in votes on these debates. Debates either involve thepolicy declaration or the national constitution. The policy declaration serves as the Conservative government’s mandate to implement the policies desired by the Conservative grassroots, while the national constitution governs the operations of the party.
Up for discussion are 199 policy proposals and 67 constitution proposals, not including those that may be introduced as motions from the floor.
Proposals to amend the policy declaration include allowing income splitting for married and common law couples. Although this policy was pledged by Prime Minister Harper to be implemented once the federal budget is balanced, it’s not a policy that appears in the policy document.
Another proposal would create a “workers’ rights” section, which states that workers should be allowed to “organize democratically… collectively bargain…and peacefully withdraw and withhold services.” This proposal also calls for legislation that requires public service unions to disclose the amount of membership money that goes toward “political donations, donations to media organizations, and to political activism and campaigns.”
A third proposal would create a “National Sunshine List” for all Crown corporations and federal agencies where employees make more than $120,000 per year. Such a proposal was tabled by MP Brent Rathgeber as a private members bill, and would have applied to anyone making more than $188,000, but the bill was effectively killed when the minimum salary to be included on that list was raised to $445,000.
Other proposals include:
  • Stating that the Government of Canada “must continue to defend the democratic countries of the Middle East and the right of Israel to exist.”
  • Developing a plan to criminalize the purchase of sex as well as those profiting from the purchase of sex
  • Creating a “National Transportation Strategy”
  • Amending the Criminal Code so that “harassing telephone calls” include harassing text messages
  • Proposing that, following a balanced budget, the federal budget remain frozen at $300 billion until 2021
  • Ending supply management

Proposals to amend the constitution focus more on the internal operations of the Conservative Party itself. For instance, making sure candidates for nomination are not allowed to take cash for membership purchases. This would require anyone purchasing a membership from the candidate to do so by personal cheque or credit card.
There is also a proposal to create an “ethics committee” that reports directly to National Council on the party’s “compliance with ethical best practices in its fundraising and campaigning activities.” It would presumably act as part-watchdog, part-research and advisory committee to ensure that they remain focused on ethical best practices.
Furthermore, the proposal to switch from an equal-weighting to a membership-based process for electing the next leader is back for debate. Currently, each Conservative riding association gets an equal number of “points” to elect the national Conservative leader. The proposal is to keep these points, but also give additional points to riding associations with large memberships. It would give a larger voice to those associations with more memberships, while smaller associations would have a smaller voice.
The same proposal was introduced in 2011 and failed. To combat this, a proposal has been submitted that would not allow failed convention proposals to be re-introduced at the following two national conventions. If not a mandate that silences defeated ideas, it would at least give a six-year grace period before they could be raised again.
Other proposals include:

  • Ensuring Conservative members are at least 14-years-old
  • Ensuring National Council communicates “legislative initiatives and government policy” that has been implemented
  • Proposing that national conventions not be held in the same year as federal elections
  • Capping policy and constitution proposals at 10 per-province
  • Ensuring the power to elect a riding candidate rests with the EDA rather than the national party headquarters
This convention will see Conservative grassroots give their leadership their mandate, a crucial one since it establishes the operating rules, policies, and groundwork until the next national convention, which will be just months before the October 2015 election.
It offers a unique and truly grassroots experience for Conservative members, unlike any other federal political party. Here delegates have the opportunity to sit right next to Conservative MPs, cabinet ministers, and Senators, and directly discuss Conservative policies.
Those attending the convention are broken into a few different categories.
Delegates are elected by their local Conservative riding association (EDA) and serve in an official voting capacity on behalf of that riding association. Alternates also attend the convention, but cannot vote unless they do so in place of a delegate. Finally, observers are allowed to observe the convention, but cannot take part in the debates. There are a limited number of observers, usually Conservative members who were not elected as a delegate or alternate for their EDA as well as members of the media.
Registration costs between $475 and $1050, depending on the category.
You can follow the Conservative convention by using #CPC13.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Best PM we've ever had

Letters from the National Post

I’m very happy with Stephen Harper. He has remained focused on the most important priorities for Canadian families: cutting over 150 taxes since 2006 and creating over one million net new jobs since July 2009. In the face of the NDP’s relentless demands to raise taxes and the Liberals’ reckless calls to legalize the use of harmful drugs, Mr. Harper’s steady hands can guide our country.
Daniel Dickin, Ottawa.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Response from the CBC re: Access to Information Reforms

After reading this article, the CBC's "media and issues management" department felt it necessary to reply:

I am writing in response to your Access to Information Process Needs Reforms article that appeared in The Prince Arthur Herald and in the Huffington Post on October 21st.  In it, you express the opinion that CBC/Radio-Canada “is infamous for skirting ATI laws and doing the bare minimum to get by”. I would like to share with you and your readers some highlights of the Corporation’s more recent performance under access to information. Though it is true that CBC/Radio-Canada was given an 'F' grade by Commissioner Legault soon after we were subjected to the Act in 2007, the Corporation has since worked very hard on multiple fronts to fix the initial challenges we faced in responding to the flood of Access to Information requests that we received. In recognition of our commitment to openness and transparency, in December 2012 the Commissioner awarded CBC/Radio-Canada an ’A’ grade for “outstanding” performance. 

And our progress continues. In her most recent annual report, tabled last week, the Information Commissioner states: "In just two years, senior management at the CBC had transformed that organization into one committed to meeting its obligations under the Access to Information Act''.  We regret that this information was not included in your column, and trust that you will see fit to provide your readers with the most up to date information regarding CBC/Radio-Canada’s performance under the Act.
  • Received a total of 1,789 ATI requests;
  • Released over 118,000 pages of information; and
  • A deemed refusal* rate of 1.1%, down from 80.47% in 2007-2008.
Though we are proud of the progress we have made in becoming a more open, transparent and accountable public broadcaster, we continuously seek to improve. We think Canadians are entitled to know the facts about our work, and we endeavour to not only disclose information proactively, but also to reply to requests in a timely manner. Below are some indicators of this ongoing commitment. As of September 30th, 2013, CBC/Radio-Canada has:* Requests for information not responded to within statutory time limits are deemed to have been “refused”. More information is available on our corporate website at:
Michel Hachey  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Extreme veterans group threaten to assault Prime Minister, vandalize MP's offices

What was once a respectable non-profit advocacy group for veterans has taken a turn for the extreme in advance of the 2013 Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Founder and President of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mike Blais posted late on October 18 that some ideas for "what veterans might do on R[emembrance] Day" include booing the Prime Minister when he speaks at the National War Memorial; spitting on the Prime Minister (read: assault him); egging MPs (read: assault them); and egging MP's offices (read: commit vandalism).

Unfortunately, simply by threatening violence against elected officials (including the Prime Minister) and vandalism against public offices, this group has lost all credibility as a non-partisan, professional advocate on behalf of Canada's veterans.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Access to Information process needs reform and improvements

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald and Huffington Post Canada

Canada’s access to information (ATI) process needs improvements, says Canada’s information commissioner, Suzanne Legault.

Legault notes the original ATI legislation was passed over 30 years ago, and is in desperate need of updates and improvements.

In the time since, computers, emails, and cell phones have made the ATI process more complex and harder to track, and the legislation needs to reflect this.

Legault notes most complaints her office receives are generally systemic issues regarding:

  • Extensions, where the government department says it will take longer than the mandatory 30-day timeframe
  • Delays, where the government department simply does not respond within the mandatory 30-day timeframe
  • Fees, where the government department says they will require more than the $5 processing fee for a particular request
  • “Refusals,” where the government refuses to answer the request for information because it does not feel it has to do so.

These problems could be addressed through legislative updates, for which the President of the Treasury Board is responsible.

Legault also notes the ATI process is being used more and more by average Canadians rather than politicians, professionals, and academics, further demonstrating a requirement to update the laws to make the process easier to understand and navigate.

This legislative update should also demonstrate a shift in terminology.  As Bob Fife pointed out at a recent conference during the Right to Know Week hosted at the University of Ottawa, even the term “access to information” suggests the government has information that we Canadians can access.  But this is the wrong way of labelling the process: in other jurisdictions, including Ontario, it’s known as freedom of information, not access to.  The information the government has deserves to be free, transparent, and known to Canadians – not “accessed” upon request.

There are three instances which I think highlight the need for access to information reform:

1.      Elections Canada

In early 2013 I submitted several ATI requests to Elections Canada regarding their handling of the “robocalls” investigation.  The questions were simple enough: who’s doing this investigation?  How much will it cost?  When will it be done?

The information they did reveal was shocking: the investigation had been contracted out to private contractors; those private contractors had been given large contracts in odd amounts; and those contractors had a history of giving political donations to the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.

But there were many questions that went unanswered without justification: salary amounts were hidden, even though the value of the total contract was known.  Why contractors were given extensions was exempted for “privacy reasons.”  Updated ATI legislation should balance individuals’ right to privacy with the public’s right to know, and side with the public’s right to know unless there are specific circumstances otherwise.

2.      Locating Budgets

In July 2013 I submitted an ATI request to a federal government department that will remain nameless.  Again, a simple request: a tabulated list of that department’s annual budgets from 1980-present.

Here’s what I expected:

1980-1981: $x billion
1981-1982: $x billion
… And so on.

Yet they couldn’t do it!  They claimed they were under no obligation to “create new records” since, apparently, never before had they bothered to create a table that showed their department’s historical budgets.  But they would send me all of the encompassing federal government budgets for the timeframe requested, if I reimbursed them for an analyst to compile these budgets and send them to me over 35 hours.

When I refused, the department stated they would forward my request to Library and Archives Canada, where perhaps they instead could help.  Commissioner Legault calls this “playing ping pong” with information requests.  Updated ATI legislation should provide a remedy for people on the receiving end of ping pong.

To-date the request has not been fulfilled.

(Note: I knew the budgets were already available through the Treasury Board here and here.  But those are the total budgets for each department and are not broken down into the sub-units of that department.)

3.      The CBC

Canada’s $1.1 billion state broadcaster is infamous for skirting ATI laws and doing the bare minimum to get by.  Simple information, like how many vehicles the CBC owns or the salaries of star CBC personalities like David Suzuki or George Stroumboulopoulos, should be readily available for as long as the CBC remains a government-owned agency.  They were given an ‘F’ grade by Commissioner Legault for incredibly poor response times, the second-worst for a federal department.

When they were asked how many vehicles they owned, they claimed one: a 2007 Ford 500.  They were later embarrassed when a House of Commons committee revealed the CBC actually owned 728 vehicles.

Updated ATI legislation should provide punitive measures for departments that outright lie in information releases, or abuse the process because they think the information released will be embarrassing.

Canada’s 2013 Throne Speech noted Canada’s government would continue to find cost savings while focusing on transparency and accountability in our public service.  One of the main areas of change should be our access to information laws.

Throne Speech offers juicy policies for conservatives, moderate promises for all Canadians

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

On Wednesday afternoon, Governor General David Johnston took his seat in a packed Senate and read Seizing Canada’s Moment: Prosperity and Opportunity in an Uncertain World.

The 2013 Throne Speech comes at the half way point of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority mandate, re-energizing Canada’s conservatives and refocusing his government’s priorities.

The Throne Speech, divided into 3 parts, offers juicy red meat policies for conservatives and moderate promises for all Canadians.  The focus, notably, remains on Canada’s jobs and the economy, but this Throne Speech also offers important policies in terms of a consumers’ first approach.

Creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians:

  •   Balanced budget legislation – the requirement that the federal government balance its books

  • Debt-to-GDP ratio of 25 percent by 2021
  • Freeze the overall federal operating budget, continuing to restrain hiring
  • Further targeted reductions to internal government spending
  • Reform the federal government’s spending management
  • Sell federal assets and, when in the best interest of Canadians, sell them
  • A lean, competent, and committed public service.  Public servants’ pay benefits will be reasonable, responsible, and in the public interest.  Disability and sick-day entitlements will be reformed.  The Public Service Labour Relations Act will be amended to ensure the public service is affordable, modern, and high-performing.
  • Increase performance accountability in the public service
  • Moving from 63 different email systems to one
  • Ensuring youth, aboriginals, and under-represented groups of people have the opportunity to participate in the work force
  • Stronger, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems for aboriginals
  • Reform the Temporary Foreign Worker program to ensure Canadians always have the first chance at available jobs.
  • Protect Canada’s environment and natural resources, by enshrining the Polluter-Pay system
  • Introducing higher safety standards for companies operating offshore as well as those operating pipelines, and increasing the required liability insurance
  • Transforming the National Research Council
  • Targeted investments in science, innovation, and technology
  • Further cutting red tape for small businesses by introducing into law the one-for-one rule
  • Small businesses will be provided further tax relief once the government returns to balanced budgets
Supporting and Protecting Canadian Families
  • Reducing wireless roaming costs
  • Requiring that television channels be unbundled
  • Continuing to enhance high-speed broadband internet for rural Canadians
  • End pay-to-pay policies so customers don’t have to pay extra to receive paper bills
  • Expanding no-cost basic banking services
  • Cracking down on predatory “payday lenders”
  • Introducing a Victims’ Bill of Rights
  • New legislation to give police the tools they need to combat cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images
  • Ending sentencing discounts for child sex offenders
  • Ending automatic early release for serious repeat offenders
  • Introducing legislation that makes a life sentence a life sentence
  • Renewed efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women
  • The vigorous defence of Canada’s existing prostitution laws
  • Introduce Quanto’s law
  • Strengthening Canada’s food inspection regimes
  • Improving nutritional information on food labels
  • Introducing patient safety legislation to ensure drugs are plainly and clearly labelled
  • Make adoption more affordable for families
  • Ensure people have a say before drug injection sites open in their communities
  • Build on the Housing First approach
  • Create a new National Conservation Plan to further increase Canada’s protected areas
  • Increase safety measures surrounding the transport of dangerous goods
Putting Canada First
  • More tooth and less tail in Canada’s military
  • Providing the support veterans need
  • Building on the “Helmets to Hardhats” program
  • Finally completing the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean
  • Continuing to defend the seal hunt
  • Continuing to promote the Office of Religious Freedom
  • Ensuring money spent on foreign aid produces real results
  • Granting honourary citizenship to Malala Yousafzai
  • Ensuring early and forced marriages do not occur on Canada’s soil
  • Reforming the Immigrant Investor Program
  • Introducing comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act
  • Building a memorial for victims of Communism
  • Restoring military traditions
  • Continuing to partner with aboriginal communities to create healthy, prosperous, self-sufficient communities
  • Reforming the Senate upon receiving advice from the Supreme Court
  • Reforming Canada’s elections laws to ensure the integrity of the voting system
In all, Prime Minister Harper’s 2013 Throne Speech promises to fulfill cornerstone conservative policies while implementing a moderate plan for all Canadians.  Consumers, small businesses, and all Canadians can be proud of Canada’s direction to remain a world leader.

To read the full Throne speech, visit

Take part in the Twitter discussion on the Throne Speech at #SFT13