Friday, December 07, 2007

"A date which will live in infamy"

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The following day, on December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his declaration of war to a joint session of congress.

This speech is one of the most famous of the 20th century.  FDR made a deliberate decision to deliver a brief, uncomplicated appeal and decided against a thorough recitation of Japanese perfidies, as his Secretary of State urged.

After delivery, normal procedure was for him, or a staffer, to take the speech back to the White House for filing.  On that day, the speech was left behind and presumed lost.

That speech was composed by FDR himself, first in his head, then dictated to a secretary and then revised from typed copy.  It was truly a product of the man himself.

In March 1984, an archivist located his reading copy among the Records of the U.S. Senate.  It turned out that when FDR left his copy behind, it was picked up by a Senate clerk who took charge of it, endorsed it "Dec 8, 1941, Read in joint session," and filed it.

Delivered at a pivotal moment in history, it is clear, unambiguous, elegant, forceful and appropriate.  You can see from the scans below that he revised right up to the last draft.  The famous line "a day that will live in infamy" was revised by him by hand from the original " ... live in history."



Mythbusting - What if NL did the same?

Then a few scattered blogs here and there would vanish from the ether, I'm sure.  As would some newspapers.

On the other hand, others have been doing yeoman's service in carefully and systematically demolishing longtime received "truths".

When you base choices for the future on myths of the past, don't be surprised when things go awry and others look askance at you.

Simpson's column today covers another province looking hard at myths of their past.  We are overdue in doing the same.


Hard sell: What if Quebeckers turned their backs on false history?

In the dream palace of Quebec's existential politics, articulate and forceful federalists are at a premium.

Provincial politics has evolved into a competition among secessionists (Parti Québécois), autonomists (Action Démocratique) and federalists who seem chronically unhappy with most aspects of the Canadian status quo (provincial Liberals).

Federally, politics plays itself out among secessionists (Bloc Québécois), asymmetrical federalists (NDP), Quebeckers-are-a-nation (Conservatives) and Stéphane Dion Liberals. That the Liberals are now third or even fourth in Quebec says much about the leader, and attitudes toward federalism.

Federalism is a devotion in Quebec that often dares not speak its name. That it might be an excellent form of government, and beneficial, is an argument seldom advanced, except in cold mechanical terms in which Quebec's financial "gains" are recorded, then quickly forgotten in a welter of fresh demands.

It is, therefore, refreshing (although likely not consequential) that a group of federalists recently produced a collection of essays defending federalism. That the authors are swimming against the tide of elite opinion in Quebec makes their enterprise the more laudable, since they represent the few voices ready to state their federalist credentials clearly and largely without equivocation (although the contribution from the ADQ representative is as muddled as the party's attitudes toward Canada).

Reconquérir le Canada was the brainchild of André Pratte, editorial pages editor at La Presse. It brings together academics, political organizers, past candidates for the Conservatives, Liberals and ADQ, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benoît Pelletier and former federal Liberal justice minister Martin Cauchon.

Even among these redoubtable federalists, however, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction exists with current constitutional arrangements. Most of them say further constitutional changes (at some point) will be required to "satisfy" Quebec by way of allowing the province to sign on to the Constitution that the PQ government did not accept in 1981.

The time is obviously not right to reopen constitutional discussions (will the time ever be right?), but many of these authors suggest it must come.

Mr. Pelletier observes, correctly, that politics in Quebec is driven by identity over language, institutions and other manifestations of the "nation."

History, too, indelibly shapes the collective sense of the "nation," and that sense is exceptionally strong in Quebec. It is also a received sense, in that it is handed down in a certain way, largely as a trail of tears for Quebec within Canada, offset by ephemeral triumphs by provincial politics to "defend" the interests of Quebec.

Mr. Pratte's essay, therefore, is the bravest and most interesting because it is the most iconoclastic, for he takes issue with some of the received assertions of Quebec history.

The Conquest, for example, was a trade of one colonial master for another, and it allowed francophone Quebec to join the winning team in world affairs for the subsequent century and a half -- which meant the Industrial Revolution, parliamentary government, rule of law, and huge export opportunities, all while retaining its language and religion.

The Second World War is presented in Quebec as a doughty struggle against conscription wanted by les anglais, whereas, as Mr. Pratte points out, francophone Quebec's Pétainist preferences and its cultural/religious elites' disengagement from the fight against Nazism left too much of the province on the wrong side of history. To this day, Quebec has not faced up to that sad chapter in its "national" history, preferring the self-comforting saga of valiantly opposing conscription.

Mr. Pratte also takes issue with the premise that the Quiet Revolution turned a backward society toward modernity. Quebec, he argues, had an entrepreneurial class and spirit long before the 1960s.

Quebeckers, he urges, should be more outward looking, more embracing of the idea they can succeed in Canada, and less reliant on the clutches of false history that lead them toward the comforting but inward-looking options of secession and disengagement.

This is the book's most important idea. It will not be an easy one to sell, given the intellectual forces, conventional wisdoms and political choices ranged against it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dirty politics

It's all over but the nastiest politics has to be about candidates and their religion.

It's bad enough when you think certain candidates might be questionable but when God tells you they are bad, well, you get something like this video aimed at Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann.

Evel Knievel makes last jump

Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, Jr. recently passed away on November 30, 2007.

It's hard to describe who and what Evel was but this comes close:

Evel Knievel was kitsch. He was an Elvis who couldn't sing. He was a stuntman without a movie. But none of that mattered.

As my friends cheered, I saw that Evel Knievel was a visionary. Decked out in his Captain America jumpsuit, he created the first and perhaps the greatest reality show of all time. He embodied the American dream: getting paid to take risks, and getting famous along the way. In less than 10 years, he made $60 million in exchange for 40 broken bones, multiple concussions and a coma.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hypocrisy unbound

From today's Telegram's jeers and cheers:

Jeers: to a reality check. Wednesday, the province's Liberal opposition party asked the board that oversees the affairs of the House of Assembly for more money than the rules would normally give them, saying they needed the funds to be an effective opposition. They asked for $450,000 - the ruling Conservatives offered $100,000, saying they had to protect the taxpayers. Here's some of the comments: "You can't always get what you want. This is the people's money. We have to spend it wisely." - Finance Minister Tom Marshall. Cost of operating Marshall's ministerial office last year: $283,900. Cost this year: $339,100. Single-year increase - $55,200, or 19.4 per cent. "I would think that the request before us now is pretty rich. I don't see how we can deal with it as it is." - Fisheries Minister Tom Rideout. Amount budgeted to operate Rideout's cabinet office last year: $264,000. Amount budgeted this year: $354,000. Increase: $90,000, or a single-year increase of 34 per cent. Thank goodness they're standing on guard for us taxpayers.

Maybe we should just peg the budget of the Opposition office to the budget of the Finance Minster's office.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Antonio Lamer

This column from Greg Weston of the Ottawa Sun puts a new spin on the life and habits of Justice Antonio Lamer.  Lamer always had the reputation as a person with a hardcore work ethic.  This, however, really goes above and beyond the call of duty.

I can assure you that I would never advise a client, nor would I ever permit myself, to conduct an interview while in the midst of a heart attack:

Turns out he had called us to do the interview after his wife had dialed 911.

His pulse had dropped to near-coma levels, and she was terrified her husband was having another heart attack like the one that had stopped his ticker for a full three minutes a couple of years before.

Throughout most of the interview, he later confessed, the voices we heard in the background (and assumed were office staff) were actually ambulance attendants impatiently wanting to put an oxygen mask where the phone was, and get him to hospital under full siren.

It's worth reading the whole column to learn how rare this gentleman was.

(h/t to my old friend RF for the link)

Poker face

The look of a real negotiator who gives nothing away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Constitutional conflict resolved

It's rare that you see a true and genuine constructional conflict in the political realm with as many interesting qualities as this one.

In case you missed it, Karlheinz Schreiber, in custody of the crown, is now under subpoena to appear before a House of Common committee.  The Speaker of the House issued a “Speaker's warrant” to force his appearance.

Bet you didn't know a parliamentary committee could do that!

This rare procedure was forced by the actions, or inactions by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.  He insisted he lacked the ability to prevent Schreiber's deportation on Dec. 1. 

Experts directly contradicted Nicholson's claim that that he has no power under the Extradition Act to stay Schreiber's removal, and furthermore, that Schreiber is being held in an Ontario jail.  According to the Globe, Nicholson was pilloried:

"It ought to be straightforward," Mr. Walsh, the impartial Commons legal counsel, told MPs on the ethics committee. "It's within the power of the Justice Minister. It's his call. It's his judgment."

Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff accused Mr. Nicholson of "defying the will of Parliament."

"He refuses to delay extradition, claiming that he has no such authority. But he is wrong, the minister has the power to choose the date Canada surrenders Schreiber to Germany," Mr. Ignatieff said.

Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said he was "astonished" by the minister's comments, given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has said the "ultimate decision" in extradition matters is political.

"I'm not sure if [the minister] really understands the extradition process," he said.

Mr. Schreiber's lawyer, Edward Greenspan, accused the Harper government of wanting to get the lobbyist out of Canada, despite plans to hold a public inquiry into his past dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Nicholson's uncooperative stance set in motion a rush to secure the first Canadian Speaker's warrant issued 1913.

According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice (edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit):

Censure, Reprimand and the Summoning of Individuals to the Bar of the House

On a number of occasions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, individuals were summoned to appear before the Bar of the House. The Bar is a brass rod extending across the floor of the Chamber inside its south entrance beyond which strangers are not allowed.

Individuals who are in contempt of the House — that is, are guilty of an offence against the dignity or authority of Parliament — may be formally summoned by the House to appear before it, if the House adopts a motion to that effect. When summoned, the individual stands at the Bar. The House has ordered Members to attend in their places in the House and has summoned others to the Bar of the House, to answer questions or to receive censures, admonitions or reprimands. Although, at first view, this may not appear to be a punishment, the summoning of a Member to attend in his or her place or of an individual to the Bar is an extraordinary event which places the Member or individual under the authority of the House vested with its full disciplinary powers.


In 1913, R.C. Miller, a witness before the Public Accounts Committee, refused to answer questions. This was reported to the House, whereupon it adopted a motion summoning Mr. Miller to appear before the Bar and answer questions. Mr. Miller made two appearances before the Bar and on both occasions was permitted to have counsel. He was directed to withdraw after he refused to give the information requested by the Committee. The House then adopted a motion stating that Mr. Miller was in contempt of the House and that he should be imprisoned. Mr. Miller was again brought before the Bar and the resolution was read to him. [212]

At that time, apparently, Montreal businessman R.C. Miller of the Diamond Light and Heating Company was called before a committee to explain $41,000 in grease money related to heating contracts.  He refused to say who he gave the money to and ended up being consigned to the county jailhouse for the duration of the parliamentary session.  You can read about it here.

Schreiber is being held at the Toronto West Detention Centre, where he's awaiting extradition to Germany on charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

A full-blown crisis was averted Tuesday evening when Nicholson allowed the negotiation of logistics of escorting Schreiber from that jail cell in Toronto to the parliamentary hearing 500 kilometres away in Ottawa and the Speaker's warrant was drafted and sent to Toronto.  Schreiber will remain in the secure escort of police and the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms and will spend his nights at a local detention centre if he needs to remain in Ottawa for more than a day.

It's not everyday the House of Commons issues an order to pluck a person from the custody of the Crown in order to extract information.

In a showdown between the crown and the people, the people prevailed.

Now let's see if this all comes to pass.

Aluminium poisoning

Aluminium poisoning in the body manifests itself with progressive dementia, bad judgement and hypersensitivity.

Aluminium poisoning in governments manifests itself in the same way.

This starts when normally rational governments suddenly get the idea that running cheap electricity to aluminium smelters automatically presents great development opportunities.

Because the jobs are high paying and numerous, these are tempting plums to bring into hardpressed areas.  I'm sure that was in the Premier's mind when, announced today in the Telegram, Premier Williams said he is pitching for an aluminium smelter in Labrador.

And smelters do present great development opportunities.  Sometimes.   But many times they don't.  For smelters to work out for people and government (jobs, taxes), you need to have specific and clearly definable conditions in place.

And because these facilities are huge energy consumers, one of those conditions is a large and reliable source of energy.

Iceland is a great example.  It has energy that is surplus to their needs and cheap to produce (geothermal energy).

But more important than cheap is that it is stranded energy.  Stranded means what you think it might mean - it's pretty well stuck in one place because it's too expensive to move around because it's isolated from end-user markets.

So Iceland generates power for cheap and then feeds it into smelters.  And except for the fact that the country itself has taken on substantial debt to make it all happen, Iceland appears to have been reasonably successful with that.

Because they do appear to be so success, other jurisdictions with cheaply generated energy figure it's smart for them to do that too.  Like Quebec.

In Quebec they take cheap hydro power and feed it into smelters and are planning more soon.  Except in their case, the power they are using is not stranded power.  The power they use has lots of potential alternative markets nearby in the US and Ontario.

Because these markets will pay far more for the power than the smelter does, government ends up subsidizing the power to the smelters through forgoing the difference in the electricity rates they could get elsewhere.

So what, you might say.  Isn't that subsidy worth the jobs created?  Maybe.  It depends on how much you want to pay in subsidies.

Would it make sense to pay, say, $300,000 per year per job?  Most, I think, would consider that level of subsidy ridiculous.  After all, at that level, doesn't it make more sense sell the power elsewhere, pay off each potential jobholder $100,000 year and then government can pocket the other $200,000 year and use it for services for everybody else?

Yet in Quebec, the ridiculous is actually happening.

In recently announced projects, to create 740 jobs, the government is giving up $2.7 billion in revenues in exchange for a $2-billion investment by Alcan.

The total cost to the government of the subsidy to Alcan equals nearly $274,338 per job each year for 35 years.

But the government calculus is that a $2.7 billion subsidy stretching out into the the future is worth the political benefit of having jobs in place today (or very soon).

The government of Quebec has aluminium poisoning.

Now we have to watch for signs of aluminium poisoning here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NL exports

This Telegram article triggered by this news release about this report notes the latest NL export figures.


According to the report, international exports from Newfoundland Labrador will surge 17% this year and a further 5% in 2008.

This year is being led by higher energy and ore shipments, and to a much smaller degree, transportation equipment. Next year, a weaker Canadian dollar will help give exports a kick. Seafood will moderate slightly but energy, forestry and industrial goods should rise.

Because the forecast covers international exports only, most Voisey’s Bay and some other mining activity does not show up their data.

The NL section of the report notes:

EDC is forecasting a 16% increase in energy exports this year and another 7% increase in 2008. We forecast total production of 130 million barrels of crude this year with about half destined for international markets. Next year, production is expected to rise to nearly 150 million barrels on higher output from White Rose and Hibernia.

With no planned production increases slated for the Come-by-Chance refinery, we expect export receipts to move in line with refined petroleum product prices. EDC Economics is forecasting WTI crude to average US$64/barrel in 2008, down slightly from 2007. The longer term outlook for energy is positive, with possible consideration being given to construction of a second refinery and the go-ahead given for Hebron.

Seafood exports rebounded slightly in 2007, but are expected to drop modestly in 2008. Higher prices for crab are the principal driver this year and could surprise on the upside. Shrimp exports to Europe should improve as the autonomous tariff rate quota for that market was increased from 10,000 tons to 20,000 tons in July 2007. While there are no major quota reductions expected for next year, consumers in the US, Japan and Europe appear fatigued, leading to lower seafood prices and a 2.5% drop in agri-food exports in 2008.

Competition from overseas, a strong dollar and high energy costs are hitting the bottom lines of paper manufacturers. Demand is also suffering as North American newspapers get 10% of their revenues from real estate classifieds.

Newfoundland paper often goes to European markets, so exports could fare better for the province than was previously expected. While lumber prices are expected to increase slightly in 2008, this comes after significant price declines in each of the previous 3 years. Regardless, lumber will have little impact on the forestry sector as it accounts for only 6% of the sector’s exports. In sum, forestry exports are expected to rise 5% in 2008 after dropping 13% in 2007.

Exports of industrial goods posted a massive increase this year, as summer shipments of nickel and copper totalled $400 million. This ore is normally processed within Canada but was instead sent to customers in Europe, so while the impact on international exports will be large there will be no extra kick to the province’s real GDP. With respect to iron ore, even with global economic activity slowing, Asian steel demand should remain fairly high, supporting iron ore prices. This, along with a lower C$ and higher production levels, are expected to boost exports of iron ore by 14% in 2008, after a healthy increase in 2007.

Transportation equipment surged in 2007. Increases came from shipbuilding activities and aerospace parts manufacturing, which could hit $60 million this year versus $15 million in 2006.

Next year is difficult to gauge, with growth coming from only a few companies and information scarce. Either way, the gain is impressive and bodes well for future exports of higher valueadded manufactured goods.

So let's see how it all works out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Whores and politics

As Lawrence Martin writes today:

"Politics," in the immortal words of former Liberal MP Stan Keyes, "is a whore's game." A shell-shocked Stéphane Dion has just spent a year learning what he meant.

In Ottawa, the teams march out on the field, the media referees take their positions and the shout that goes up cannot be said to be one that suits him: "May the best whore win."

I'm not sure the implications of that.  Does that mean the party needs a leader who is more whorish?  Or does that mean Dion needs to become more whorish?

Or does that mean that whorishness is necessary for success?

Is non-whorishness a bar to success?  I'd hate to think so.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekend political news

Yesterday, the Russian police detained opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov when they broke up an anti-Kremlin protest. Organized by the opposition Other Russia group, they accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of destroying personal liberties and the freedom of the press.

Scuffles broke out between police and protesters in central Moscow after around 3,000 people tried to march to the central election commission's headquarters.

It's one week to Russia's parliamentary election.

Last night, a Moscow judge sentenced Kasparov to five days in jail for holding an unauthorized march. City officials argued they had given Kasparov permission to conduct a rally but not a march.

Rally versus march: that might seem like a negligible difference around here but in Putin's Russia, that distinction lands you in jail.

Mr. Kasparov said the court proceedings had been “a choreographed farce from beginning to end ... It was a symbol of what has happened to justice and the rule of law under Putin.”

Friday, November 23, 2007

Your (Lame) Slogan Here

A year ago last summer, the blogs and media were abuzz with MUN's new name, logo and slogan.

Gone was Memorial University of Newfoundland and the red shield crest.

In came a truncated  Memorial name accompanied by a rock-like logo and the cryptic slogan, Become.

A year later it attracts little comment anymore although I still think it looks and sounds silly.  This article on college slogans will reopen old wound by noting:

A good motto is hard to find.

Just ask the University of Idaho. Last year it dropped its motto "From Here You Can Go Anywhere" for a new marketing theme dubbed "No Fences," with the accompanying tag line "Open Space. Open Minds." The words were intended to evoke both the romantic landscape of Idaho and the boundless intellectual opportunities at the university. It was perfect.

Except no one really liked it. So recently both slogans were scrapped in favor of "A Legacy of Leading," which has tested better with alumni and parents. A spokeswoman says the new campaign, expected to cost $900,000 a year, will be "more impactful" with the institution's various audiences.

Political health

Politics is not just economics and public policy and ethics and other such stuff on a high abstract plane.

Sometimes, issues facing politicians are simple and personal.  Things like whether or not to use hand sanitizer when you're shaking hands all day.

On a similar theme of political health comes this story in the New York Times on the hazards of campaign food.

The misconception is that politicians on the campaign keep trim and fit merely by "running".  Most politicians I know get grossly out of shape during campaigns and many of them gain lots of weight.  And they have no choice.  As the Times notes:

The candidates are “for all intents and purposes out of control of their diets,” said Walter Scheib, former White House chef to the Clintons and the Bushes. Many big events on the preprimary calendar — the Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa; the Clyburn Fish Fry in South Carolina; the Iowa State Fair, an everything-fry — seem as likely to produce heart attacks as votes.

Those wanting to be president must never, ever refuse or fumble the local specialties, lest they repeat the sins of John Kerry (dismissed as effete when he ordered a Philly cheese steak with Swiss in 2004) or Gerald R. Ford (on a 1976 swing through Texas, he bit into a tamale with the corn husk still on).

Downing a regional delicacy with aplomb, Mr. Scheib said, tells voters: “I’m one of you. I’m part of this area. Vote for me.”

“There are few things more personal than eating,” he said, “and if you reject someone’s food, you kind of reject them.”

This is not just an American phenomena.  In Canada too there are the regional delicacies politicians have to indulge in for the cameras.  Most every national politician I've ever I accompanied around this city schedules a stop into Ches's.  In Montreal, it's smoked meat, poutine and anything drenched in maple syrup.  I'm not sure what it would be in Ontario (although beaver tails comes to mind) but on the prairies a politician is sure to face a plate of perogies sooner or later.

I never ate so much fish and brewis before I was assigned the semi-regular duty of accompanying Clyde Wells to one Sunday church luncheon or another; haven't since either.

All foods that are high fat or high carbohydrates or high salt or high sugar or some combination thereof.

It's a wonder more politicians don't die in office.

February election

Bring it on.

Peckford on equity

It's hard to remember a time when oil project equity was generally considered to be a good idea.  It used to be that when discussed at all, it was only discussed in terms of it being a bad idea.

Only in the most crypto-nationalist cabals or radical NDP workers-should-own-the-means-of-production economic circles was the notion taken seriously.

So if anybody was going to be in favour of it at the time or in hindsight, you would think it would be the recent father of the NL nationalist movement, A. Brian Peckford.

Consider this, the NL Heritage website (generally non-political though sympathetic to the nationalists) describes the Peckford regime this way:

He tapped into a resurgent provincial nationalism and successfully won several elections by arguing that he was going to fight  for a better deal within Confederation for Newfoundland and Labrador, and end the province's "inferiority complex".

But if you expected him to launch a drive  for equity, you would be mistaken.  As the Telegram writes today, Peckford says of equity:

"I was never in favour of it."

The province had considered equity in the late 1970s, studied it carefully and abandoned the notion in favour of less risky benefits - royalties, technology transfers, education and infrastructure.

With any offshore project, Peckford says the end-goal is money.

"The issue becomes how do you get that? You can get that through royalties just as easy as you can through equity.

"And the royalty situation means there's no downside in the sense that, (with an equity stake) if something goes wrong with the project, you've got to take your 10 per cent or five per cent hit."

Mark this day: OffalNews and former premier Peckford are on the same page.

As a side note on his personal relationship with Prime Ministers, he says:

"In my worst days with Mr. Trudeau, he was  always the prime minister and always Mr. Trudeau ... . When I was attacking the federal government, I was attacking the government.

"I always respected the office and the person, but I disagreed with them and I always said that."

How times have changed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Province suffers 'democratic deficit,' says political scientist

According to CBC today, MUN political science professor Chris Dunn says we are suffering a 'democratic deficit'.  That would be in this article published in Policy Options referenced in this post.

Roman origins

The origin legend of Rome says the city was founded on the Palatine Hill (one of the famous seven hills on which the city was built) in 753 BC by the twin sons of the god Mars and priestess Rhea Silvia.

According to mythology Romulus and Remus were nursed by a she-wolf and raised in a cave after being left on the River Tiber's banks.

Now the archeological department of the city of Rome have announced  the discovery of the cave in which the twins were raised.  It is right under the Palatine Hill where it is supposed to be.

It was very close to the palace of the Emperor Augustus who was keen to be associated with the location as he used ancient Roman myths as support for his regime.  The cave itself was ornately decorated and likely used as a place of worship. 

The discoverers were reluctant to enter the cave due to fear of collapse but they did insert a camera.  The images are impressive and amazing.

Augustus was supposed to have decorated the cave with a white eagle.  The camera shows a white eagle in the centre of the cave's ceiling.

If you are keen on more information on the ancient city of Rome, you can check out this digital reconstruction.

Now if I could just find a package tour company who could take me back there . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


VOCM has this story today on Hearn's response to overfishing ("concerned") in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.  Remember that I noted before that tuna are on their way to commercial extinction unless and until somebody takes charge of the issue and takes concrete action.


As it turns out, that won't be Canada.

Liberals - A way out of the woods (III)

It's easy for an organization to turn in on itself and go wobbly in times of trouble.  It happens to all organizations at some time or other.  But when it happens to political parties, it's in the public eye and far more visible.


For political parties, there's a term coined for that; "Opposition Syndrome".  Academic George Perlin coined the term in his 1980 book on federal PC politics about the federal Tories but it applies locally just as well.


Perlin argued that when a political party is excluded from holding office, the party members tend to indulge in internal politics on the basis of motives that make conflict difficult to resolve.  Political self-interest and other conflicts trumps communal party interests.  Members fight among themselves for greater influence over smaller spheres of activity and responsibility.  Internal conflicts come to dominate, and then hinder, party activity.


These conflicts generate and harden factions.  The factions make it hard to achieve organizational cohesiveness.  Factions focus on other internal factions, instead of outside factors, as the main obstacles to the party taking power.


Internally, parties in opposition syndrome reject desperately needed reforms and cling to obsolete tactics and ideas.  The party look inwards instead of out, backwards at old grievances instead of forward to new opportunities.


This undermining and display of organizational ineffectiveness, with some played out in the glare of media and others safely away in the backrooms, leads to further electoral defeat.  Those defeats maintain, reinforce or even intensify the internal warfare.


Thus the cycle deepens.


To the public eye, the party looks unstable and that undermines public confidence in the party's ability to govern.  The party can't attract new volunteers and sheds whatever public support it has left, down to a floor.  Donors abandon it.  The leadership positions are occupied by a string of short-term and interim leaders.  Labradore has generated a great graphic showing the leadership eras of both main provincial parties.


The Liberal party experienced this through most of the 70's and 80's under a string or leaders.  It was only when Clyde Wells took over in 1987 and worked diligently for 2 years to quell the internal warfare, impose peace, focus and discipline on the party structure to win electoral victory in 1989 was the cycle broken.


If the Rideout PCs had won that very close 1989 election, Liberal history would have been very different; Wells would likely have been dumped as leader and the cycle would have gone on for one or several more terms.


The PCs had two eras where they suffered from Opposition Syndrome.  The first was 1949-1972 barely broken by a combination of an exhausted and unpopular Smallwood government facing a new and energetic PC leader in Frank Moores.  The second era was from 1989 to 2003 (partially documented here).  That stretch was broken by the entry of another strong personality who imposed his will over warring factions to lead his party to victory over another spent and unpopular government.


Both the Liberal and PCs had their periods in Opposition Syndrome and both eventually snapped out of it*.  How did that happen?


 *The NDP are in a permanent and persistent variation of the state of Opposition Syndrome; no change expected soon.


From William Safire's column in the past weekend's New York Times:

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe asked Senator Barack Obama about the response of Senator Hillary Clinton to a question about releasing her First Lady papers. Obama’s choice of a word: “inadequate.” Newsweek: “So is she being honest?” Obama: “I think she was being disingenuous.” Newsweek: “What’s the difference between disingenuous and dishonest?” Obama, sticking with his euphemism to avert an excessively harsh charge: “You’ll have to ask her.”

Synonymy is my business. To define the difference, first drop the dises. Honest we all know means “truthful; sincere.” Ingenuous was coined in 1599 to mean “noble” and came to mean “frank; candid; straightforward.” Today, dishonest means “fraudulent; possibly criminal,” while disingenuous is considerably milder, meaning “unfair; slippery; lacking in candor.” Score one for Obama in avoiding a lexical trap.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not just in Quebec

From the Globe and Mail today, Lysiane Gagnon's column:

And finally, francophone federalists tend to keep their heads down because they know that, as soon as they become identified as federalists, they might become the target of vicious verbal attacks. For true believers among sovereigntists, there is no such thing as a francophone Quebecker who honestly believes federalism is the best option. Federalists are traitors, mercenaries or poor colonized souls who haven't seen the light.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Remittances revisited

Regular readers will be familiar with previous posts on the idea of remittances in general and into this province in particular. From our own government, we are still awaiting hard statistical data on the amount of money flowing into this province to replace the guesses out there now.

But in the meantime, the world marches on and the New York Times today has a piece on international remittances. They estimate international remittances at US$300billion saying:
People who track remittances have been starved for basic data. It is difficult to say exactly how much money is flowing and even harder to say where to, exactly. Sums large and small travel informally, through the mail or in the care of friends. The World Bank, the main tally keeper (in the form of a careful economist named Dilip Ratha), only counts transfers recorded by central banks. Last year’s sum came to $208 billion. Bank officials estimate that the global total is about 50 percent higher — $300 billion or more.
They also include this fascinating interactive graphic showing the money flows.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Paranoid delusions

It looks like an adjustment in medication dosage is in order.

NL in Policy Options

If you have any interest in public policy (and I know readers of Offal are very keen on the subject) then the magazine Policy Options is part of your reading list. As the country's premier public policy magazine, it encourages informed debate on the important current and future public policy issues.

A frequent contributor is MUN political science professor Dr. Christopher Dunn. Anyone who has passed through that department in the last 10 years or so will have been educated by him in the intricacies of public policy formation. He was also a consultant to Justice Green for his report on the House of Assembly spending scandal.

His most recent published article is called The Williams effect: election 2007 in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's a fascinating perspective on the events of the fall and concludes with:
With such a majority, one would think that the future belongs to Williams. In fact, that is what he said: “The future is ours,” read the PC election material, sounding a bit like Germany in the 1930s (“the future belongs to us”). However, it is a vague future. The Premier was the centre of the advertising material, but all it promised of a concrete nature was strategic planning and “greater control of our resources.”

There are many implications of the Williams effect. Megaprojects, schools and roads are likely to preoccupy him for the next four years — the politics of concrete.

But the future should not be taken for granted. Williams is unlikely to pay attention to a significant challenge facing him: support for the regime. What he should do is to establish another review, one that focuses on the quality of democracy in the legislature and in society. Because there is no significant opposition, the public should be encouraged to play this role. A multipurpose legislative amendments committee open to public hearings on most legislation, a committee on federal-provincial relations, a stance on e-democracy and a review of the electoral system should also be considered. Newfoundland’s legislature is under-developed, and democracy has suffered as a result. It doesn’t have to be that way. Despite the imbalance, there is still hope that there can be meaningful reform.
Of interest is another of his recent articles in Policy Options from February 2005 called Why Williams walked, why Martin balked: the Atlantic Accord dispute in perspective. The precis says:
In a province where no premier ever lost votes by standing up to Ottawa, Danny Williams has become the latest in a long line of provincialist champions from Newfoundland and Labrador. When he walked out of a First Ministers’ Meeting last October, he had carefully chosen his fight with Paul Martin over the Atlantic Accord, which allows Newfoundland and Labrador to keep 100 percent of its offshore revenues. Yet 70 percent of those revenues are clawed back by Ottawa under the equalization formula.
In the election campaign, both Stephen Harper and Jack Layton promised to end the clawback. Martin made a similar campaign promise, but balked when federal finance officials turned stingy. From St. John’s, Christopher Dunn appraises the political landscape, and fallout, from the Atlantic Accord disaccord, and finds Martin between the Rock and a hard place.
Both of these articles are available online in PDF form, convenient for downloading, printing and weekend reading.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

November 11

The First Two Minute Silence in London (11th November 1919) as reported in the Manchester Guardian, 12th November 1919:
The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.

The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.

Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened.

It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Massive offshore oil discovery found

Brazil joined the ranks of the world's major exporters with the discovery that the "ultra-deep" Tupi field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro could hold as much as 8 billion barrels of recoverable light crude. This is about 16 times larger than Hibernia was thought to be when Hibernia was first discovered.

Initial production should exceed 100,000 barrels daily but full-scale extraction is unlikely until 2013 and will likely be very expensive to develop.

The Tupi field lies under 2400m of water, almost 3300m of sand and rocks, and then another 2,200m thick layer of salt. The company drilled test wells that lie under 2300m of water, 283km south of Rio de Janeiro.

This compares to the Grand Banks (Hibernia) where the water depth runs about 80-110m and the Orphan Basin where the water depth ranges to 2500m.

Media reports on the Tupi field are available here and here. The story of a previous large discovery can be found here.

Saskatchewan withdraws from battle

Premier-designate Brad Wall of Saskatchewan has adopted a conciliatory tone in the province's long-running feud with Ottawa over equalization payments. He says he will look carefully at the legal basis for the equalization lawsuit launched by the NDP government shortly before the election and suggested a compromise with the federal government is possible.

Why hasn't Premier Williams excoriated him as he did Rodney Macdonald?

Fastest web in the west

The Clinton campaign machinery is renown for being tough, thorough, effective and fast.

Consider this: with all of Bill Clinton's dark secrets, personal weaknesses and questionable history, only a brilliant campaign issue response system could have elected him dogcatcher. Remember bimbo eruptions?

These are the people, after all, who brought the term and concept of war room into the campaign lexicon. These days, war rooms are everywhere from the Conservative Party to Wal-Mart. You can even hire a war-room-in-a-box if you have the cash and the need.

So you would expect the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign organisation, trained and tested in her husband's two presidential campaigns, updated in her own senatorial campaign and fueled by more money than any candidate in the western world, would sharpen those concepts to new, sharp and sparkly points. They would take things to the next step.

And they have.

The New York Times today reports that Hillary has a new web site, The Fact Hub, devoted to instantly countering any kind of misinformation, disinformation or political attack.

This site is separate and distinct from both her regular campaign site and her breaking news hub site, both pretty impressive on their own.

After the John Kerry debacle of 4 years ago, Hillary will take no chances in being swiftboated and become a helpless victim of a nasty and relentless ad hominum attack. This site gives her a tool to instantly defend from attack.

The Times reports that:

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said her campaign felt the need to have such a Web site because much of the news about her tends to “spread like wildfire” online.

“There’s just been a proliferation of news reporting on the Internet,” Mr. Singer said. “As such, you’ve got a much faster echo effect when something hits the political zeitgeist, and it’s becoming increasingly urgent to have a mechanism in place that allows you to respond.”

Something to look out for on the local and national levels in the next campaigns.

Oil in waters troubling

In the go-go economy of northern Alberta, we hear of infrastructure problems and we hear of social problems. We don't hear about the environmental problems often enough.

Today's New York Times reports that high levels of carcinogens and toxic substances have been found in fish, water and sediment downstream from oil sands projects. The article goes on to say that:
Like Dr. Timoney, scientists who have reviewed his report say further studies are necessary to determine the cause and extent of the problem. But they also expressed concern about what his research had already found. “This could actually be worse, in some respects, than the Exxon Valdez,” said Jeffrey W. Short, a research scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center who has studied the tanker accident that spilled 11 million gallons of oil off the Alaska coast in 1989.

Most disturbing, said Dr. Short, was the finding that from 2001 to 2005, concentrations in sediments of a group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons rose.

“These are substantial increases over and above the natural levels,” said Dr. Short, adding that the hydrocarbons “are notorious carcinogens,” found in tar and tarlike materials. In some cases, they were more than four times recommended limits in the United States. (Canada has no guidelines.)
You'll read more about this issue.

End of a bad week

It's been a while since any party in the province experienced a week as bad as this one. Certainly I can't remember one in the last 20 years. The current activities and the future direction of the Liberal party has enjoyed more media (press, radio, web) attention and public discussion than any party has for a long time.

Turns out there is such a thing as bad publicity.

First there was the debacle of the deferred election in Grand Falls-Windsor Buchans on Tuesday and the sparkling candidacy of John Woodrow. The fact that his selection as candidate was publicly rued by 1/3 of the elected caucus as being worse than no candidate at all demonstrated refreshing honesty and was a perspective well-received and obvious in this corner.

Then there was the final pronouncement that Gerry Reid was laid-off by the people of his district. This was on top of the story that the final court recount process was officially completed without anybody from his party there to perform or even witness the final rites of washing and wrapping the political body.

Surely that final respect deserved to be performed. Gerry did yeoman's service under difficult circumstances in stormy times; his political career deserves better than an unmarked grave in potter's field.

Capped off the week was a scathing editorial in the Telegram. A penetrating insight into the obvious, it says:
There's only one thing the province's Liberals should be thinking about right now: cleaning house. Cleaning house completely.

Somewhere out there in Liberal-land, there must be someone with enough skill, smarts and sense to run a capable opposition.

Here's a message to the Liberals. Hurry up and find that person. Right now, you're a political joke.
Yes. There is. And we know.

The challenge now is in how to act on that.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Off message

Premier Williams must have been on a hunt for errant messages today because he caught two of them.

The first was Minister Shawn Skinner in his wandering way off message in a scrum yesterday when he told the province that Premier Williams' dispute with Ottawa wasn't going to get in the way of him doing his job.

Today, after an apology to the Premier, Skinner was running about telling everybody that he didn't say what he said and didn't mean what he meant. You can hear the VOCM Open Line chat here.

The second was his very public correction of his close comrade, Dean MacDonald. Yesterday, MacDonald said about bypassing the Quebec route for Lower Churchill power in favor of the NB route:
When you look at what the impediments are in front of us, we really have no alternative.
Today, Williams was telling media outlets that MacDonald didn't say what he said and didn't mean what he meant.

I wonder what will be said, and then taken back, tomorrow.

Saskatchewan election - results and local impact

As predicted, the Sask Party has taken the government and the new Premier is Brad Wall. This CP story says:

Throughout the campaign, Wall tried to look like a premier by communicating his party's plan clearly and without caveat. He wasn't overly negative and, for the most part, he stayed out of the gutter.

Those qualities won Wall - a fresh-faced, smooth talker who is quick on his feet and good with a joke - the job of party leader in 2003. His first step was to move the Saskatchewan Party toward the middle of the road. Now he must guide his province through an economic boom that is luring people home with the promise of jobs and a bright future.

This table provides the latest election results. Those who care about such things will note that the Liberals have been shut out again.
PartyElectedLeadingTotalVote Share
SP 37 0 37 50.6%
NDP21 0 21 37.4%
LIB000 9.5%

Although Premier Williams has expressed the hope that the new government will continue as a stalwart ally in the fight against the federal government on Equalization, he's likely just whistling in the dark. The subject was not raised in the election and it looks like it's been moved to the backburner. Besides, that new government has better things to do than indulge in fights it can't win.

So with Lorne Calvert gone and Rodney MacDonald cutting a side deal, it looks like the big cheese stands alone after all.

That leaves Premier Williams limited options: make new friends among the premiers (a vanishingly remote possibility), start a process of rapprochement with the Harper federal government (difficult in light of Williams' election night attack) or just keep up the war in the hopes that he will outlast Harper or wear him down; none of them are easy options.

Shameful performances & distorted priorities

This morning Minister Shaw Skinner called to "clarify" his previous remarks made to the media yesterday. For the record, here's the remarks Skinner felt he had to clarify:
CBC TV, Jonathan Crowe: But I mean, your boss is saying "Anybody But Conservative" in the next election. That's gotta be difficult when you meet Minister Hearn out in the lobby and shake hands.

Hon. Shawn Skinner: Not for me, it isn't. My boss can vote for who he wishes. He can mark his 'X' where he wishes to mark it. From my perspective, I have a job to do. I'm elected by the people of St. John's Centre. I'm in cabinet representing the people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and I have a job to do. And I'm going to do that to the best of my ability.

If and when there is a federal election, we all as individual citizens can make up our own minds what we want to do. I'm here today as a provincial minister and I'm carrying out my duties as a provincial minister.
Sounds abundantly clear to me. I'm not sure what really needed to be clarified. And not only that, these views reflect what other ministers, I hear, have said privately.

And in the end, what do these remarks really indicate other than what most people believe: that it's time for the two levels of government to get along and that the Premier's Ottawa jihad should not get in the way of normal federal-provincial cooperation on essential issues of importance to NLers.

When I heard Skinner's statements of yesterday, I was impressed. In a cabinet with a reputation of obsequious bowing and scraping to the boss, here was an honourable gentleman who had the courage of his convictions in speaking out.

I've crossed paths with Shawn Skinner on more than one occasion and always found him to be sharp, articulate, well-briefed and knowledgeable, combative when need arose (and sometimes even when there was no need) and never one to back off when he felt he was in the right.

So then Minister Skinner called Open Line this morning. Though the host, Randy Simms, wanted to talk about yesterday's announcement of the older workers' adjustment program, Skinner had another agenda.

His goal for the call was to perform a lightspeed backpedal from his statement of the previous day thought an abject bow and scrape on province-wide radio to make it clear that all the media reports of what he said were gross misinterpretations. He said there there was no light between he and the Premier and of course he totally and wholly supported the Premier on every position and in every way.

He even felt obligated to include the fact that he issued a private apology to the Premier for any confusion his remarks caused in the minds of others.

Wow. How can you describe this kind of public action of a minister of the crown of swallowing his dignity and performing this sort of public bow and scrape as anything other than shameful? On a personal level, it's uncomfortable to listen to and it really makes me wonder what kind of regime requires ministers of the crown to behave that way.

But beyond that, there is a more important public issue at hand. When Skinner called, he felt obligated, and considered it important, that this craven activity in trying to work himself back into the warm glow of the Premier's approval take precedence over what really should have been the most important matter for him to deal with today - the announcement of the older workers' adjustment program.

When an administration forces a minister of the crown to choose between deals with what is really a very minor political matter over addressing an important issue of public policy upon which hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the province are depending for their future livelihood, then we have a government with a truly distorted set of priorities.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's a mess - part 3

You would think that this theme would be running it's course but apparently not; the Liberal Party is still tripping up over it's own feet all over the news.

I don't generally agree with much of what Prof. Temelini has to say but he's right on the money this time in his remarks on the Grand Falls-Windsor/Buchans election; I would say bizarre is putting it kindly.

And Yvonne Jones was quoted in the news today as commenting that the Woodrow candidacy was a mistake that that the Liberal Party would have been better off with no candidate at all.

No argument from this corner.

Meanwhile, in the Isles of Notre Dame, either the ball was simply dropped or some people just don't care anymore. Either way, somebody in an official position has not done their job. Surely a gap of 7 votes is worth fighting to overturn/narrow considering the stakes.

Death penalty

There are few fundamental issues which really agitate me but the death penalty is one of them. When I was attending school in the US, my stubborn and determined point of view on the subject left bruises and scars on those who felt that it was a justifiable form of punishment.

It was my opinion then, and it's my opinion now, that they were wrong on every conceivable level.

This video dramatises the Conservative government's weak position on the death penalty through their unwillingness to intercede on behalf of Canadians facing capital punishment in other jurisdictions.

I don't really believe there is a covert agenda of this government to bring the death penalty back in the Canada. The mainstream of Canadians won't allow it.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that this government is using this issue to pander to that minority that do. As Jeffery Simpson noted today:
You either oppose the death penalty, or you don't. If you oppose it, you don't want it befalling a Canadian wherever he or she is. You work to get the Canadian home, behind bars.

Unless, of course, you really favour the death penalty, but don't want to risk a debate in Canada. And you've got a bunch of hang 'em high backbenchers for whom the death penalty there is the next best thing to having it here.
Of all the issues which a government can use to pander for votes, there is a low moral ickiness to any government willing to use this particular one for political gain. Add it to the list why Harper should be denied a majority.

Election day in Saskatchewan (and videos)

It looks like the SaskParty (a rebuilt and re-branded Sask PC party which imploded after sending virtually every member of their last government caucus to jail) is heading to a romp over the NDP. Predictions from John Murney indicate seats of 38-48 for SaskParty, 12-22 for the NDP and the Liberals of 0-2.

On the web and on television, all the parties have been merrily churning out videos for both media. From the looks at these two ads, I can only assume it's been a mean and nasty campaign.

This SaskParty video is a pretty classic attack style video:

This NDP response video, while pretty standard, has some Monty Pythonesque features that catch the eye:

Meanwhile, there's also this guy, Voice of Saskatchewan, who seems to be carrying on a campaign of his own.

Good luck to all the candidates!

Dean MacDonald going south

This brief article in today's Globe and Mail has Dean MacDonald reiterating that lower Churchill power is going to bypass Quebec to go through New Brunswick instead. It reports that:
His government has already investigated the technical feasibility of shipping power south when the Lower Churchill hydroelectric power project comes on line in 2015, Mr. MacDonald told a meeting of the Ontario Energy Association. "I think a lot of people thought we were bluffing. We're not," said Mr. MacDonald, adding that even "if it costs us an extra billion to go north-south, we'll be the masters of our own destiny."
For this government, being masters for a mere $1billion is cheap at twice the price.

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From Steve Paikin's The Agenda comes this episode on this province.

If you are not already familiar with Steve Paikin, you should be. He's a journalist and the author of three books on politics and politicians (the third is a well-received biography of Ontario premier John Robarts).

His show, available on TVO, practices what Paikin calls "long-form" journalism. It is a good example of what a current affairs show should look like. It's too bad we have no equivalent here.

In this episode (after an interview with Nasir Islam on the latest events in Pakistan) his guests are Lana Payne, Lorraine Michael, Craig Wescott, Wade Locke and Tim Powers. They discuss oil money, provincial politics, Premier Williams, the fisheries and the province in general.

It's well worth watching.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New tax - just pretend it's not there

When was the last time any level of government created a way of collecting money which never increased into a source of revenue of it's own sake?

In other words, St. John's City council might not make money off this today but they will make money off it tomorrow.

Prairie winds of change

In yesterday's Globe and Mail were two interesting articles pointing to political upheaval in two otherwise politically stable provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In a CTV interview, Preston Manning predicts rocky times ahead for Premier Stelmach. His compromise on royalties may have been a perfect one thus pleasing nobody. Manning expresses doubts that the decades long Progressive Conservative regime will be reelected saying that:
I think it's becoming increasingly unlikely unless, say, the government demonstrates a capacity that it hasn't shown thus far. I don't see votes going to the Liberals or the NDP. I think their biggest danger is another 150,000 people staying home who voted Conservative the last time and then that puts dozens and dozens of seats up for grabs.
Meanwhile, in the adjacent province of Saskatchewan, another longtime government, this time NDP, is also in jeopardy.

In this column, Janice MacKinnon, a former NDP finance minister argues that the Calvert government is out of touch, tapped out of ideas and that it will cost them. She argues:
The lesson to be learned is that when designing future social policies, political parties cannot merely return to the traditional idea of universal social programs. Instead, they must be more imaginative. They should build upon targeted programs, such as the National Child Benefit, which links benefits to income and is affordable in the long-term.
Another point made was the dearth of discussion in the election over Equalization. She notes that:
Equally revealing in the campaign was the role played by equalization - or rather non-role. Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert had been the most outspoken ally of Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams in attacking the federal Conservatives for breaking their promise on equalization. For several months before the campaign, the NDP government focused on how the province had been shortchanged in its equalization entitlements. Yet during the election, equalization was hardly mentioned. Why? In part, the call for $800-million more in equalization funding at a time when the province is booming is at the very least confusing. Just as important, many voters do not understand or care about equalization. It is not a program that affects them directly.
Her final observation has as much to do with this province as it does with Saskatchewan:
The final campaign development of note has been the very transformation of Saskatchewan itself. In the past the province was called "next year country," reflecting the eternal optimism of a province that has seen its share of tough times. But with high commodity prices, an extensive research infrastructure centring on national facilities like the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and an influx of people from Alberta, there is a feeling the province is on the cusp of a new era. Rather than fighting with federal governments over entitlements rooted in the past, people in Saskatchewan want to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities of the future. They sense what economic forecasters have predicted: Saskatchewan is joining Alberta and British Columbia as a major economic force in Western Canada.
How far are we from that point?

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's a mess - part 2

Just when you thought things might have hit rock-bottom, a new sub-basement is discovered.

This man is loopy and somebody needs to take the gun away from him before he shoots himself in the head yet again. He should never have been let near an election campaign or ballot box except as a voter; he has no idea what he's doing to himself nor to the people who ever thought his candidacy might be a good idea.

Better off with no candidate than this candidate. He harms and embarrasses not only himself but many others.

It's a very big mess.

A question on Harper and Rove

The column today by Martin Lawrence in the Globe and Mail recounts a luncheon with Ken Dryden in which Dryden crystallised the idea that the Harper government will generally take the political road to win over groups of Canadians at the expense of Canada as a whole.

Lawrence quotes Dryden as saying:
"Politics divides. Government connects." As the leader of the country, "you have to know the difference between the two."
Lawrence then offers his own example of Harper's "recognition" of Quebec as a nation:
If he wanted a case in point, he might have offered Quebec. The Prime Minister's granting of nation status to the Québécois, everyone agreed, was a masterful political stroke - a vote-getter for him among Quebec nationalists, a temporary snookering of Gilles Duceppe's Bloc.

But did it divide or did it connect? Quebec, as some feared, now seems to be taking its cue from Mr. Harper's very liberating words. In keeping with the nation blessing is a burst of exclusionary fervour in the province. Uniculturalism on parade.
In the November issue of Atlantic Monthly, a similar criticism is leveled at President Bush's political alter-ego Karl Rove. One particular example used by the author:
In ways small and large, Rove has long betrayed his lack of understanding of Washington’s institutional subtleties and the effective application of policy, even for the rawest political objectives. The classic example is Rove’s persuading the president in 2002 to impose steep tariffs on foreign steel—a ploy he believed would win over union workers in Rust Belt swing states, ordinarily faithful Democrats, in the next presidential election. This was celebrated as a political masterstroke at the time. But within a year the tariffs were declared illegal by the World Trade Organization and nearly caused a trade war. The uproar precipitated their premature and embarrassing removal.
This was just one case where Rove/Bush would placate one subsection of society after another for the purposes of building a permanent Republican majority in the US. Many more cases are raised in the context is this long and exhaustive argument.

Reading the Rove article and looking at the operations of the Harper government makes me wonder if there's more than a casual connection of themes and operating procedures. Can the the clue to understanding Harper and the operations of his government be found in the thoughts of Karl Rove and his White House record?