Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

“I didn’t know!” – the death throes of a desperate squirmer

The Conservatives are losing their favourite, time-tested tactic to reset public opinion: just say the word “sponsorship.”

For seven long years, anytime they could be criticised for ethical lapses, for cronyism and corruption, for pork and for secrecy (in a word, umm, always), they could simply refer back to “sponsorship” and be assured that the public would growl at horrific memories of Liberal sleaze, and we’d remind ourselves how grateful we should be that things are, at the very least, not that bad.

Except that they are. And you know that they are when a Prime Minister not only refutes something, not only ignores something, but says he “didn’t know about it.”

Paul Martin “didn’t know” about sponsorship. Jean Chrétien “didn’t know” either. The entire scandal was supposed to come down to the over-zealous shenanigans of backroom functionaries, whose fealty to their Party blinded them to fair play – and, in their fealty, they also knew better than to even tell their Party leaders anything about it. To protect them.

People see this as squirmery. For a leader to say he “didn’t know” about something, anything, absolutely reeks of it. Any politician volunteering that he is both ignorant and a poor manager will damage him, but he does it to protect him from the greater damage that the truth would inflict. And that missing truth is all that people see. 

No one believed that Chrétien “didn’t know,” or that Martin “didn’t know” about the actions of their own office. The Reformer/Conservatives didn’t believe it! For them, though, it’s now become nigh on impossible to trade on their old 2004 outrage, having themselves now sunk to having today’s Prime Minister, in all his micromanaging obsession, through his hawk-eyed economist’s lens, have to come out and say that he just “didn’t know.”

Outrage for sponsorship is no longer a tradeable commodity, desperate though Harper is to revert to familiar tactics. His TV address was effectively the very same speech he liked to give when he was Leader of the Opposition, eight, nine, even ten years ago: he’d like the Senate to be reformed, and believes Ottawa needs to be more transparent. 

After seven years in power, the Senate is worse, and transparency is markedly, shamefully poorer. And so, Stephen Harper’s ethical conundrum: the more he repeats his old adage about” demanding better,” the more Canadians actually will.

Advertisements

Filed under: Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Omnishambles: the Brits dump the F35s

It’s contagious

The Brits have made just as big a dog’s dinner out of the F35 file as the Harperites have.

Whereas Canadians are fond of the word “boondoggle” to describe the government’s hopeless mismanagement of money and priority, the term in the UK right now is “omnishambles.” Both are beautiful in their own special way. 

Boondoggles and omnishambles aside, the biggest difference in approaches to this file, unsurprisingly, is that Westminster have now admitted that the programme is simply not viable, and they’re now pulling a difficult u-turn. Ottawa, in contrast, hedges and hides and lies and pretends all is well, when it is blindingly obvious they have already gone much too far down this broken road.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18008171

How long will it be till the F35 programme itself is wound down? And will Peter MacKay still be posing in the cockpit when they fill it with mothballs?

Omnidoggles.

 

Filed under: Canada, Politics, UK, , , , , , ,

The Coyne chrysalis

‎”This isn’t about the planes, in other words, or costs, or accounting. This is about accountability. This is is about whether departments are answerable to their ministers, and whether ministers are answerable to Parliament — or whether billions of public dollars can be appropriated without the informed consent of either Parliament or the public… And it is about whether we, as citizens, are prepared to pay attention, and hold people in power to account when they lie to us.

Which is to say, it is about whether we live in a functioning Parliamentary democracy, or want to.” 

Andrew Coyne, National Post, April 11, 2012.

Thanks to EnoughHarper for highlighting this

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , ,

MacKay: We’re just as dodgy with our accounting as Sponsorship-era Liberals

Duhhhhr! Ooonnggg... errrrggg....

Out of the mouths of babes.

It’s been an awkward delight watching Conservative spinmeisters trot out Plan A through Plan W in their Catalogue of Flimsy Excuses over the F-35 affair. Blaming bureaucrats didn’t cut it, even blaming the other parties hasn’t cut it. One waits with bated breath for Harper to find a new Guergis-figure he can throw under a bus and hope to be done with it.

Until then, Peter MacKay’s latest delicious position is that the $10 billion difference in Tory cost estimates and actual cost comes down to a simple “difference in accounting” between the DND and the government.

A difference in accounting. Ten. Billion. Dollars. The very act of stringing these words together with a straight face ought to be grounds for dismissal. What is gross misconduct if not forgetting to count Ten Billion Dollars? Or worse yet, remembering to, but not caring?

You just can’t square the idea that “sober stewards of the economy” can shrug off Ten Billion Dollars as a blip in accounting practices, and MacKay knew it. The argument was more than simply flimsy, it was damaging.

And, what’s the Conservatives’ default damage control strategy again? Oh yes. Blame The Liberals.

Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it leaves the Opposition enfeebled and dumbstruck. But, this time, the strategy has the ring of the truly surreal. Peter MacKay has been marched in front of national television to argue that, because the Liberals once excluded staff, maintenance and fuel costs in procurement of military equipment, the Tories are in their rights to do it too.

The Conservatives, in turn, pointed to a 2004 Liberal government announcement about military helicopters as proof that excluding salary and fuel costs has been common practice for years.

This is precisely how low the Conservatives have sunk. In the midst of ballooning scandal, Peter MacKay has had to come out and announce, with a certain air of righteousness, that his government maintains the same accounting principles as the Liberal Party. And not the Liberals of today – but the Liberals of 2004.

The Liberals of 2004 who, like the Conservatives of 2012, found themselves subject to a damning Auditor General’s report. A report that ultimately vaporised any remaining public trust in the government, liquified the Liberal Dynasty and ushered in The Republic of Harperland.

What did Sheila Fraser say in 2004 again, when the government “wasted money and showed disregard for rules, mishandling millions of dollars”?

“I think this is such a blatant misuse of public funds that it is shocking. I am actually appalled by what we’ve found.”

“I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen in the first place. I don’t think anybody can take this lightly.”

In 2004, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets were enough to fuel and fan the Conservative rise.

In 2012, though, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets seems to mean there is a perfectly acceptable precedent for the Tories to do the same.

Precedents being precedents, though, it’s becoming difficult to see how Harper can ever fully reclaim the trust of a public he has taken for stupid for far too long.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s so wrong with the rough and tumble?

From Canada’s blushing outrage at Brigette DePape’s stop sign, to the House of Commons’ brand-new heckle-bans, it seems there’s little more important these days than the skin of respectful politesse. Any concern, though, for the health of the deeper corpus?

The British House of Commons, for example, is not a place characterised by decorum, but most would say it works well. It is indeed a raucous chamber of loud hoots and heckles, brazen browbeatings, laddish one-liners, and disparaging quips. Teasing “yeas!” and “whoas!” are bellowed from the backbenches, in support or in attack, of leaders’ proclamations. Each session of Prime Minister’s Questions truly feels like trial by drunken fraternity, and both Labour Leader Ed Miliband and PM David Cameron dish out, and receive, the kinds of bruising blows that would absolutely liquify Stephen Harper et al.

Watch yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions for a sample.

But what’s telling, and it came up in yesterday’s session, is that, in both the Canadian and British Parliaments, one thing you cannot do is accuse another member of lying. Because that’s impolite. Cameron made the mistake of accusing Miliband of “misleading the House,” which led the Speaker to demand a retraction.

Cameron said median (hospital) waiting times had gone down and claimed Miliband had misled the house about the issue two weeks ago, prompting an intervention from the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, who urged him to withdraw the remark in line with protocol.

Cameron said: “What I meant, of course … he gave an interesting use of facts in terms of waiting times, which are down in the NHS (National Health Service).”

Miliband responded: “The whole house will notice he didn’t withdraw that, and obviously he is rattled about the health service.”

“After a year, he’s proved the oldest truth in politics – you can’t trust the Tories on the NHS.”

Such protocol is one component of a broad effort to maintain a some semblance of dignified decorum in the House, and fine. But I do find it a cruel irony that, while a Parliamentarian can be admonished by the Speaker for accusing another of lying, they are not similarly admonished for doing the actual lying.

John Baird earlier this year claimed, in the House of Commons, that allowing Emirates Airlines three more landing slots at Canadian airports would cost “tens of thousands” of Canadian jobs. Remember that? Tens of thousands! Jeez Louise, John. There really aren’t more than 90,000 Canadians employed in the Canadian aviation industry all told, so far as I can figure, so any labourers counted in the plural units of 10,000 implies up to a quarter of the sector. They were all at risk of unemployment? Because of Emirates? Three landing spaces? If our aviation industry is so imperilled, then let’s get talking about that!

Decorum, deschmorum, Baird deserved a routing for peddling patently vacuous lies in the House of Commons, but even in the 40th Parliament, for all it’s “roughness,” he didn’t get one. He should have been mocked and hollered at, torn a new one, politically discredited and accused – indeed – of lying. Because that’s what he did, and that ought to be considered the greatest affront to good government.

The self-policed Parliamentary politesse that everyone seems interested in is a skin-deep solution that does not cure the rot in politics. It’s never been the roughhousing that turn citizens off politics – we’re hockey fans, remember? No, it’s the lies. Brazen dishonesty, without reprimand or consequence, is the real sin that’s ailing our politics.

Civility is nice, and there is nothing to admire in personal attacks or irrelevant insults. But the tone of Parliamentary debate is a secondary concern to the substance of it. The real game misconducts should be reserved for outright lies.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, UK, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blasphemy, paper tigers, and the Senate

Traditions of civil disobedience are responsible for democracy’s every last advance. This isn’t to overblow the consequence of Brigette DePape’s Senate protest, but it is to congratulate it. Canada’s going nowhere without the kind of gutsiness and strength-in-conviction she showed by stepping out like that.

I’ve been a bit amazed by some of the discourse I’ve read about it, leading me to realise that Sarah Palin and I agree profoundly on at least two things: 1) the mainstream media is, well, lame, and 2) it’s fun to ride in helicopters. Though I’ve never shot anything from one before.

Evan Solomon got the chance to interview Brigette DePape, and I found him extraordinarily defensive of the inviolable holiness of Senate and of Parliament. Democracy, that most ethereal and ungraspable of human endeavours, made real in towers of Parliamentary stone! Do not sully its grandeur with petty pranks, little Brigette! How dare you blaspheme in the very crucible of our sovereign liberty! Horrible girl!

Indeed, yes, quite. I’m less concerned about Senate having been violated by a 21-year old page with a paper stop sign, and rather more concerned about the abuses to our democratic institutions meted out by the Prime Minister himself. To use the Red Chamber, as he does, as a personal Infantry of Losers, failed MPs, sycophant journalists and barons of friendly enterprise, is to truly piss on the rug of our democracy. To politicise independent commissions, to rubbish their findings, to fire the civil servants who head them because they do not conform to the political agenda of the government – that is the proverbial Bird-Flipping in the face of institutional democracy that worries me more.

Even Elizabeth May tutted DePape, saying it was a protest in the wrong place and time. This is Elizabeth May we’re talking about, whose Green Party only ever achieved anything like mainstream status by standing on the shoulders of unpopular and untactful movements that came before it, which helped to slowly raise and then normalise public discussion around the environment, which slowly led to where they are today. Ordinary people, no matter how subservient they “ought” to be, speaking truth to power, fully cognizant of the personal sacrifice that involves. And the Green Party is tutting?

Anyone tutting and complaining that DePape showed a tactless contempt for Senate should slap themselves (with my eager assistance) until they sort out the none-too-subtle difference between contempt, and CONTEMPT.

Tragedy being, while she got fired for her “contemptuous” display, Harper got an expanded mandate and more power over our democratic institutions after his.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Arithmetic shocker: Majority oppose Conservatives

Smack my gob. A revealing CBC investigation has exposed an electoral arithmetical travesty, hitherto unseen. Apparently, only two-fifths of Canadians support key CPC policies, whilst a clear majority of people oppose them and don’t want them implemented.

Key Conservative policies lack clear support

A majority of Canadians don’t support corporate tax cuts and are opposed to buying the F-35 fighter jets, two major pieces of the Conservative government’s plan for the country, a new poll suggests.

In a new poll conducted for CBC News following the May 2 federal election, 53 per cent of people surveyed said they were opposed to dropping the corporate tax rate from 16.5 per cent to 15 per cent. About two-fifths — 39 per cent — agreed with the cut and eight per cent weren’t sure.

Just more than half — 52 per cent — said Canada should not go ahead with the purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets, while 37 per cent polled said the government should buy the planes. Twelve per cent said they didn’t know.

So, roughly the same number of people who voted Conservative support Conservative policies. While roughly the same number of people who didn’t vote Conservative don’t support Conservative policies.

The mystery clearly doesn’t lie here. Indeed, there’s a weird relief in seeing that, in the absence of a sitting parliament, voters’ views haven’t done a lot of capricious shifting.

No, the mystery is why we tolerate a voting system that generates majority governments with less than 2/5 popular support.

I’d like to “blame Canada” and say, well, you got what you voted for. But you didn’t, did you?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

Some summit perspective

G8 times are here again! And France gets its day in the sun as host, which clearly heralds the ascent of a new French Order in Europe and the world. It will inevitably send their newspapers and TV chat hosts into a month-long tizzy of neurotic self-congratulation and overblown patriotism. Nicolas Sarkozy will almost certainly cite this as evidence that France has matured into a really, really respected power – respected, and loved, and more than capable of organising big dinner parties. Right? Right??

Or is that kind of parochial identity anguish a particularly Canadian phenomenon? Sigh.

We remember it well. Last year, the Canadian media universe (i.e. the Globe and Mail), and the Harper Government together, each treated our hosting of the G8 as though it was the victory in a highly competitive popularity contest. It was the culmination of years of leadership on the world stage. That ill-founded conceit was hyped not only directly from the PMO, but also in copy-and-paste form in the columns of that critical eye, that investigative journalistic powerhouse, Jane Taber. Canada had suddenly become a strong, bold, respected international player, because, well, it was our turn to host a big dinner party. One which happens every year, somewhere in the world.

Harper is still talking about it as though it’s some kind of lasting evidence of his global leadership. Let’s compare world leaders on this – does anyone think Nicolas Sarkozy (and Le Monde) are so insecure about France’s accomplishments in the world that they’ll weep tears of joy this week because they’re in the international news? Equally, will the world look to France as being somehow “bolder” because they’re hosting the thing?

If the answer is “no” there, then sadly, it was always “no” here too.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , , ,

The little blue fortress

It’s a funny way to run a campaign. Stephen Harper is talking up the need for his coveted majority, but his campaign approach – banning, and forcibly kicking out, undecided voters and non-partisan onlookers from his Conservative rallies – seems very strange. What are rallies for, if not to generate new party enthusiasm? And what use is any such enthusiasm if it doesn’t reach contagion in the wider world? Hard-core CPC cheerleaders won’t get to vote twice – how much more excitable do they need to be?

It seems like a dumb approach, but it’s of course a tactical decision. Harper wants his majority, not through bringing new votes onside, but through simply getting his entire existing base out to vote on 2 May. He wants to whip up all the sworn-allies into such a state of anti-Ignatieff frenzy that they’ll simply out-participate the majority of Canadians – you know, non-Conservatives – on election day.

Canny, if only the Canadian arithmetic worked in his favour. Regardless of whether 100% of Harper’s hard-base come to vote, it’s probably not enough. In Facebook speak, Stephen Harper simply doesn’t have enough friends.

This is not, of course, a new thing for the Cons – it’s at the heart of how they communicate and conduct themselves. Last summer, in effort to be a little better informed (about communication styles, if not about actual policy!) I thought I’d subscribe to all the federal parties’ online newsletters (except, to my shame, the Greens. Sorry Elizabeth!).

It’s a simple process – you visit the party website, you register the email address to which you prefer receiving what I call “useful spam,” and rub your eager hands in anticipation of lots of new political bumpf to fill your inbox.

And so it is that I get lots of emails from Michael Ignatieff and team – today, he says:

How Stephen Harper’s Conservatives decide to do a Facebook background check on everyone at their rallies, while ignoring the criminal past of a senior advisor like Bruce Carson is a mystery to me.

But I’ll tell you what. We’ve had thousands and thousands of Canadians show up at Liberal rallies from Vancouver to St. John’s. And all they hear at the door is “Come on in to the Big Red Tent.”

I also get messages from Jack Layton and team. Tons, in fact. Today, he says:

For years, your priorities have been pushed aside in Ottawa.

Your life is getting more expensive. Your health care services are being ignored. And the Liberal-style scandals are pushing your family’s priorities aside.

Ottawa is broken – and it’s time to fix it.

I have a team that’s ready to fight for you.

And yes, I get messages from Gilles Duceppe and company. The Bloc is apparently so excited to communicate with a voter registered at a B.C. postal code, that today, they even bothered to email me about their new campaign theme song:

Le Bloc Québécois a récemment dévoilé la ritournelle de sa campagne électorale. Écrite et interprétée par Jason Hudon, les arrangements musicaux sont l’œuvre de Mike Sawatzky, le guitariste principal du légendaire groupe québécois Les Colocs.

Anyone want to wager a guess how many messages I’ve received from Team Harper?

*crickets* *sagebrush drifting over the arid valley bed*

I always found this odd. Here I am, a Canadian voter, signing up to their website, asking them to spam me with all manner of propaganda, and they never so much as said hello. The only reason I could deduce, given that they cannot be accused of being relaxed and disorganised on the PR front, is that they inferred through running my email address against Facebook and what have you, that I was not a serious Conservative voter. I was an imposter. I might use their newsletters in dark socialist rituals of some kind. In short, they wrote me off.

In a manner, they were right. I am more likely to grow bat wings out of my shoulder blades than support a CPC candidate in the year 2011. But the fact they simply do not give a rat’s ass about seducing new, moderate, curious Canadians into their fold, speaks to me of a single-minded (and, frankly deluded) get-out-the-base strategy, and nothing more.

Have at it, I say. But, as David McGuinty told them so recently: too bad, so sad – you don’t got the numbers.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Battle Royale, Twitter style

I smile when people call this the Twitter Election. It has the air of revolution about it, doesn’t it? As though the normal political condition of the Canadian citizen is ashen-minded apathy – but now, with Twitter, we will magically become transformed into eager and fearless critics of an oppressive double-helix state-media establishment! Just like in Egypt!

Perhaps a blogger should watch his trap when it comes to balking at citizen-generated comment. But, at least for me, it seems difficult to use 140 characters to say anything more useful than “Here’s a link to something much longer and more interesting.”

I can’t guarantee this is more interesting, but it certainly is longer. I’ve decided to draw up a second instalment of an experiment last week, with 140-word reviews of each party’s performance to date. It’s like Twitter, but Mega.

Conservatives: I honestly wonder how often senior Conservatives look each other in the eye, shrug, laugh, and admit: “I have absolutely no idea how we’re staying ahead.” Indeed, enjoying a 14% lead, according to Nanos? It absolutely beggars belief. Harper does himself no favours. Antagonising the press with “five-questions-a-day” is needless and feeds into the control-freak narrative. Criminals in the employ of the PMO should be a scandal: that Harper shrugs it off is just a scandal further. They’ve been reactive and uninspired, trotting out old chestnuts on gun freedom, and dispensing with billions in dubious spending promises. Ontarians seem especially enthusiastic, which may be a consequence of the departure of Day and Strahl, and the pronounced Mike-Harrisification of Harper’s senior team? I’d like to threaten to leave the country if Harper wins a majority, but, dang it, I’m already gone.

Bloc: Duceppe’s biggest problem (if there is such a thing as a problem for the Bloc, who certainly enjoy milking our broken electoral system for every last drop) is deciding how to define the threshold of his outrage. He can turn red and scream bloody murder about Lower Churchill. He can rage that Ottawa is an anti-Quebec, imperialist, nefarious hell-spawned engine of neverending betrayal that shackles the potential of all Quebeckers. But he can not go so far as to get deep into sovereignty talk anymore. That just alienates his soft base. How do you escalate the outrage far enough to suck in wavering federalists, without scaring off wavering nationalists? He doesn’t really know. And maybe he doesn’t care. He could spend the whole campaign peeing in the road and shoplifting from corner shops, and still vacuum up 50-odd seats. Sigh.

Liberals: Still super impressed with the performance, but slightly anxious they’ve peaked too soon. Releasing the platform early is good, but it kind of gets lost in the noise of the fact they had a surprisingly solid week previous, and had introduced the heaviest-hitting policy points already. I’m sensing one of two things: either Canada is drunk, or pollsters are drunk. Why aren’t the Liberals winning? The LPC have reached dizzying highs of 32% but, as a natural consequence of their left-leaning strategy, none of this has hurt the Conservatives. There isn’t much more of the soft-left vote for them to poach, which is where LPC emphasising ethical scandal is important. They need to say “Fraud and contempt are not conservative values. Conservative voters, like all Canadians, need to punish Harper for abusing our trust and taking the country for granted.”

Greens: The biggest coverage the Greens have had so far has been through the Debate Debate, which, however bad the news is for them, it’s been an opportunity for them to feature in a fair amount of press. It’s a great shame that they’re excluded, and also that a broadcast consortium has such power to determine the format of the debate (not that any of the HoC leaders protested very hard). It’s an arbitrary logic – the GPC have no seats in the HoC, but then, the Bloc don’t have any candidates anywhere in the RoC, and have zero capacity to produce a new Prime Minister. The Greens have an opportunity to use this to their advantage. Turn the campaign into one of “the status quo,” implicating every other party as complicit in an Establishment Massive, versus the suppressed, undervalued, solitary change-makers.

NDP: I’m feeling for the NDP. Their policy points have underwhelmed, and it seems the Liberals’ collective verve has taken wind out of their sails. Jack Layton has responded as well as he could to a range of questions, but he’s stuck watching the perennial NDP nightmare unfold – Liberals campaigning like the NDP, but with the added barb of “No one can stop Conservatives but Liberals.” It happens every election, but as Harper is a particularly nasty form of Conservative, perhaps the ABC vote is a bigger factor than normal – and, in more cases, it’s gravitating to the Liberals. Ridings where NDP have been second to CPC, Layton’s employing Liberal approaches: “Only NDP can beat Harper here.” O.K. But it muddles their overall message of “strategic voting is for dupes. Vote with your heart for the Canada you want.” Oh dear.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Calendar

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 41 other followers