Saturday, December 31, 2005

Winning friends, admirers...and prizes

The Globe and Mail has rightly named Ed Broadbent its Nation Builder of the Year for 2005:
Farewell, Honest Ed, the best prime minister Canada never had. In an era of contemptuous, mean-spirited public discourse, Mr. Broadbent is an oxymoron -- a decent Canadian politician...

"People always say there're no honest politicians," says Lowell Green, a right-wing commentator in Ottawa, who holds the record for North America's longest-running talk show. "I say, 'What about Ed Broadbent?' That shuts them up."...

Some think that he might have been prime minister if only he had led another party. Had he ever thought of attaching himself to the Liberals or Conservatives?

He stops smiling. "For me, it's just a non-starter. I am who I am. My first objective was not to have power, but to fight for what I believe in. And have power."

Goodbye, Mr. Decent. Canadians will miss you.
The entire article contains an interesting review of Broadbent's career, and deserves a read. While nobody can blame Broadbent for retiring in order to take care of his wife, there can be little doubt that Parliament will be worse off for his departure...or that there are some mighty big shoes to be filled in the NDP caucus.

On second chances

While there's been much talk about the developing gang problem in Saskatchewan, a dangerous indicator of the sway of gangs seems to have flown largely under the radar:
A prisoner who died hours after arriving at Saskatchewan Penitentiary last week was once a high-ranking member of a street gang, but later renounced his gang life, CBC News has learned.

James Ronald Taylor, 28, died Dec. 22 after being stabbed three times while in a gymnasium in the high-security area of the Prince Albert prison. He had been transferred from an Edmonton prison earlier the same day...

(I)n 2004 when Taylor applied to be released, he said he had turned his back on gang-related crime. The (National Parole Board) said he appeared sincere in "denouncing" his gang membership.

"Your violent offending has been influenced and driven through your gang activities," the board said. "While you explained the serious implications to your own safety in leaving the gang and your own vulnerability, you were able to remain steadfast in your decision."
The article notes that there's been no definitive link between gang retribution and the killing. However, the effect of Taylor's death is surely to send a message to others that the prison system won't do much to keep them alive if they try to end their gang affiliation. And that can only force anybody who's already been recruited to keep up a role in the gang structure.

The ideal result would obviously be to prevent more people from joining gangs in the first place. But a full strategy to deal with gangs needs to also recognize that some people who join gangs while young and immature may well make a legitimate decision to change - a decision that society should be eager to encourage. And such decisions won't likely be made if the perceived outcome is death due to a lack of protection against the gang.

Positive matter

While prominent members of the other major parties make waves with their shockingly thoughtless and/or tasteless writings, MurkyView notes that one of the NDP's star candidates is instead contributing meaningful and interesting content to the political sphere:
To be a responsible citizen in a world where nonrenewable fossil fuels are put to ever increasing and "ever faster track" depletion requires that ultimately citizens band together to demand reanalysis and redirection. We used to say that good citizenship requires literacy and that democracy requires a literate population. That remains true but it becomes obvious that to understand energy and environmental sustainability in this Modern Era now also requires a pervasive numeracy...

The essence of the energy and environmental policy dilemma is not whether we must change policy direction but rather how soon can we start. We must put practical renewable energy capacity in place. There are two reasons why we must insist that no more time should be wasted as has been wasted this entire past decade. Some may argue that almost half of world oil reserves are now depleted while optimists (forced or otherwise) may insist that almost half of ultimate reserves remain to be exploited.

They both happen to be right. That is not the point. Does it really matter so much if the cup is half full or half empty? The far, far more important thing we must do is to accept the real possibility that beyond a certain point, global capacity to produce will decline and fail to meet demand. Prices will soar as supply becomes erratic and undependable month to month. We will either be ready with a rational plan of practical alternatives (that are also non-greenhouse gas emitting) or we will witness a deterioration in environmental balances and sustainability, even while misery escalates in the face of decline in the production of the necessities of life.
(Emphasis in original.)

Reading Schreyer's piece, it's easy to understand the reason why Ignatieff once appeared to be a rising political star rather than a liability: it's tough to overstate the value of a candidate with both a strong vision and the ability to express that vision eloquently. But unlike Ignatieff, Schreyer offers both a vision that most Canadians can easily share, and a candidacy that isn't tainted by political interference. The only great danger for both him and the NDP is that any positive message might get lost amid media reports of campaign sniping...but if that happens, it won't be for lack of merit in Schreyer's writing.

On truly contentious relations

The Globe and Mail points out a set of war plans from the 1920s and 1930s involving both the U.S.' strategy to invade Canada, and Canada's planned response (featuring attacks on the northern U.S., and possibly an attempt to conquer Alaska). Both the Washington Post and a current Canadian spokesperson rightly laugh at the suggestion the past plans would be of any significance today. But is it time to start taking bets as to how long it'll take a U.S. neocon to use Canada's 80-year-old plan of counterattack as reason to invade preemptively?

Friday, December 30, 2005

On choosing the right alternative

Since I've spent plenty of time recently addressing the Libs' indiscretions and cover-ups, I'll take a moment to point readers to Bouquets of Gray, passim, for the latest insanity emanating from the Cons. Prominent Libs have shown all too often lately that they don't deserve to be taken seriously when they claim to stand up for multiculturalism or ethics in government. But there are also plenty of indications that the Cons would be all the worse, and Buckets does his usual thorough job of pointing those out.

The upcoming election shouldn't be an exercise in replacing one flawed government with another, but rather in making sure that power lies with a party which actually stands a chance of improving matters. And the Cons couldn't be further from fitting that bill.

Well pointed out

From the NDP's Rapid Response:
Today, Liberals rely on the example of Michael Wilson, Mulroney's Finance Minister who did not resign during a police investigation in 1989. Liberal Party talking points circulated on the Internet say "In May, 1989, Global News reporter Doug Small leaked Michael Wilson's Budget; a police investigation ensued and Finance Minister Michael Wilson did not resign during investigation."

That's a fact.

Now here's another one: in 1989, Liberal MPs argued that a finance minister who leaked information that could give an advantage to a few investors was not fit to hold that office...

Mr. Paul Martin (LaSalle-Émard): "There is only one question before this House. You are bringing this House into disrepute. Why the cover-up?" [May 19, 1989, Hansard pg 1969]

So how 'bout that apple cart?

Assorted quotes from Bay Street analysts on the income trust fiasco:
''It certainly doesn't help our image,'' said Patti Croft, vice-president and chief economist with Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management Ltd.

''We, after all, are a developed economy,'' she said. ''Investors usually invest in those stock markets with a great deal of confidence in the clarity of the rules and regulations and that hasn't been the case with the income trust issue.''...

''The whole way the tax leakage situation was handled by the Department of Finance was not particularly tight or professional,'' said Gavin Graham, vice-president and director of investments at the Guardian Group of Funds, a major player in the income trust market. ''The general impression left was that there had not been a great deal of time or thought put into the whole process.

''Therefore, if there was some leakage, and the jury is still out on that, it would not be surprising given the way in which other aspects of the whole process were handled ... ,'' Graham said.
Regardless of the outcome of the RCMP investigation, it's worth remembering that either way, Goodale's department's disregard for even its own processes helped to set the stage for whatever the RCMP may find. And granting that there may well not be any criminal implications, I for one still look forward to an "Incompetent, but not criminal!" campaign the rest of the way from the Libs.

One to watch

It's anybody's guess as to how much will be accomplished as a result, but the issues facing Canadian agriculture will get a public hearing during the campaign:
Gone are the farm protests on prairie highways and screaming headlines about the mad cow crisis.

Agriculture officials are focusing instead on the urban palate to gain attention in the campaign leading to the Jan. 23 federal election...

A debate on issues facing the industry will be held in downtown Toronto on Jan. 13, featuring Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell and critics from the other parties...

Frustrated that the first two debates by the federal leaders ignored farm and food issues, many agricultural groups have urged their members to flood debate organizers with agriculture questions via e-mail.
Many of the most obvious solutions (particularly international subsidy reductions) are far beyond the reach of the Canadian federal government. And there's always reason to be leery when a party promises a reformed Canadian farm support system given how many such efforts have failed to have any real effect in the past.

But if nothing else, it's a plus to see the importance of agriculture and the plight of Canadian farmers as subjects for discussion and debate during the campaign. We can only hope that at least some of the ideas discussed on the 13th are still remembered once the campaign is over.

Edit: typo.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Giving people a chance

I'm not quite sure how the U.S. was first seen as a Safe Third Country for refugee purposes a year ago, but three humanitarian agencies are doing their best to give refugee claimants a chance to settle in Canada if they can't avoid passing through the U.S.:
The Canadian Council of Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches opposed the Safe Third Country Agreement even before it took effect a year ago.

They will ask the court to find that the United States does not meet the criteria of a safe country because it has not respected its obligations under the Convention Against Torture and the Refugee Convention.

They will also argue that, by returning refugee claimants to the United States, Canada is violating its international obligations as well as the claimants' Charter rights...

"We are asking that there at least be an opportunity for individual applicants to show why they would not be safe in the United States," said Ms. Dench, adding that she does not dispute the fact that the United States is a safe country for some refugees.

"Our concern is that it is not safe for all."
My initial gut reaction is that the lawsuit doesn't stand much chance of success given the deference usually given to departmental decisions, particularly ones with a political component as this one seems to include. But kudos to the humanitarian groups for at least calling attention to the department's willingness to put the lives of refugees in the hands of the U.S. government. And with some luck, maybe the action will result in more refugees getting a fair chance to stay in Canada than they'll get as long as the agreement is in force.

Edit: typo.

The bigger they are...

It's been a long time since my home riding has faced much of a race - but thanks to the income trust leak, CBC speculates that the Goodale machine may run into greater barriers than it can overcome:
While the income trust controversy plays out on the national scene, opponents of Liberal candidate Ralph Goodale predict it will be a part of the local election campaign in Regina as well...

Conservative Brad Farquhar, who is challenging Goodale in the Regina riding of Wascana, said his campaign is already benefiting from the questions about the finance minister.

"We had people calling to say, 'Listen, I'm so mad at Mr. Goodale, I want to make a contribution,'" he said. "Now that there's a criminal investigation, Mr. Goodale should just step aside and let that take place."...

(NDP candidate) Helen Yum has taken a Christmas break from campaigning and won't be going door to door for another few days. However, she's sure it will improve the NDP's chances of taking the seat.

"This must raise further questions in people's minds about the Liberal government," she said.
With the seat seeming to be up for grabs far more than it's been in some time, it'll be interesting to see whether the opposition parties can put in enough of a push to topple Goodale. And if nothing else, one has to suspect that Goodale will be limited largely to defending his own turf rather than being able to help other Liberal candidates in the province.

Minority report

Peter MacLeod writes about some of the big ideas that helped to shape 2005, including this passage on the minority Parliament:
The funny thing about minority governments is that constant squabbling aside, they have a habit of producing surprisingly good legislation with real options and debate. Without the legislative monopoly that majority government ensures, parliament regains its vitality as a genuine marketplace of ideas and alternatives. Sure the politicians might hate it, but Canadians, especially centrists and those on the left, have been well served by the 38th Parliament and should be sad to see it go.
It's tough to disagree with most of MacLeod's sentiment, though it's worth keeping in mind that the end of the Parliament unfortunately came about as a result of a Liberal refusal to keep the marketplace of ideas going.

In any event, it won't be long before Canadians have a chance to decide again whether they'd sooner continue that genuine marketplace, or spend the next 4+ years stuck with policy from either Harper's House of Tax Cuts or Martin's Broken Promises Emporium. Let's hope they make the right call.

Goodale grief

One of the Prog Bloggers says directly what Goodale hinted at indirectly last night: that the income trust leak is under investigation solely due to public outcry and political reasons. But what does that say about the commenters' views on the RCMP itself?

There's no doubt that Liberal for Life must have an awfully low opinion of the RCMP based on the ridiculous analogies to other grounds for investigation. (To answer what seems to be the Lib response so far, note the distinction between "direct evidence of wrongdoing", which hasn't been discovered by the initial review, and "a basis upon which such evidence might be found", which presumably must be present for the investigation to continue, and wouldn't be present in Lib for Life's proposed crank calls.)

But does Goodale himself honestly believe that the RCMP has so many spare resources that it can extensively investigate issues where nothing in its initial review found a basis for further investigation? Or is this more a case of Goodale standing in front of a house with smoke billowing out every window, claiming that since he's satisfied there's no fire, the fire department must be responding only to his cranky neighbours?

Update: Or, to put it more formally:
The RCMP makes it clear that they do not investigate all complaints. On their website they explain the criteria for conducting an investigation:...

"Any referred case is given a weighted score based upon a set of
criteria that ensures that the most important cases relating to our
investigative mandate receive the attention and resources they deserve. Cases with higher scores are more likely to be selected and investigated."

The RCMP is pursuing this case because there are serious grounds to believe that average investors were hurt by insider trading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The hits just keep on coming

It looks like the Greens' campaign may test the limits of the idea that any publicity is good publicity, as yet another complaint from a formerly-prominent member has gone public:
A second complaint to Elections Canada of alleged electoral-law violations by Green Party officials has been made public by a former party member, even as the party threatens legal action against the initiator of a complaint reported last week.

B.C. activist Dana Miller, who served in the party's shadow cabinet with responsibility for human rights issues, provided The Canadian Press with a copy of her April 15 complaint, alleging violations of federal law and the party's own constitution.

Miller had hoped to run for the party in the riding of Delta Richmond-East. She said in an interview she had been expelled from the party, without due process, after filing the complaint.
The article also cites several more sources for past complaints, featuring an alleged lifetime ban based on one derogatory comment about party leadership (would the Liberals have had more than half a dozen members left if they imposed that policy during the Chretien/Martin transition?), as well as more apparent concerns about the party's financial oversight.

I'll accept the point of the Green official cited in the article that most groups have at least some internal dissent. But it can't be a good sign for the Greens that the dissent seems to be have far more staying power than its positive contributions to the campaign.

More to the story

Remember how Ralph Goodale managed to satisfy himself that there was no need to further investigate any potential leak on income trusts? As it turns out, the RCMP disagrees:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli has written to NDP Finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis to confirm that that the RCMP has launched a criminal investigation into the Liberal government, related to the income trust issue.

Mr. Zaccardelli confirmed that the RCMP has launched a criminal investigation "regarding a possible breach of security or illegal transfer of information in advance of the federal government's announcement of changes to the taxation of Canadian corporate dividends and income trusts November 23, 2005."
There's no guarantee that the investigation will lead to any charges. But it's still noteworthy that Goodale was willing to declare the matter closed within two days of its coming to light, while the RCMP has determined that the issue is likely enough to give rise to criminal charges to be worth investigating now. One has to then wonder just how little oversight the Liberals generally conduct over their own affairs...and what else has gone completely unaddressed when there hasn't been any outside investigation.

The voice ignored

One of the less-discussed aspects of the Klander scandal has been the second way in which Klander's blog went off the Liberal message. Not only did the posts in question completely undercut the claim of senior Liberal staffers to hold anything but complete contempt for racial and gender equality, but they also showed that Liberal higher-ups in Ontario see the NDP as a far more immediate opponent than the Cons. To anybody paying attention, that would surely indicate the relative irrelevance of the Cons in the region, and thereby undermine the usual Lib entreaties to vote strategically.

Fortunately for the Libs as well as the Cons, the CP does its best to undo the damage on the second point, giving Stephen Harper a separate article in response to Klander's resignation based on his close connection to the incident as...well, another person involved in Canadian politics. Meanwhile, no such courtesy has apparently been extended to Layton and/or Chow: the NDP's reaction cited by the CP is limited to a spokesperson's response in the original story centred on Klander.

It struck me as amazing that anybody would conclude that the effect of Klander's blog would be to lead to increased Con support - particularly given the propensity of many Con members to issue equally outrageous statements. But that result seems much more plausible as long as media outlets feel free to decide that the actual injured party doesn't deserve to be heard, and that even a wrong against the NDP should be taken as a reason to support the Cons instead.

Update: In fairness, I'll note that the CP eventually did give coverage to Layton's response - albeit while giving additional publicity to Harper on the issue as well.

Subverting diplomacy

To my recollection, most of the talk of moving the U.N. away from its current U.S. base comes from neo-cons ranting about how nothing should place a limit on the U.S.' power. But yet another ridiculous application of U.S. power may offer plenty of reason for the U.N. itself to pack up and move elsewhere:
Disclosure of the wiretaps and the monitoring of U.N. members' email came on the eve of the Iraq war in the British-based Observer. The leak -- which the paper acquired in the form of an email via a British translator -- came amid a U.S. push urging U.N. members to vote in favor of a resolution that said Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolution 1441, asserting that it had failed to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.

News of the NSA spying on the U.N. received scant coverage in U.S. newspapers at the time. But with the explosive domestic spying report published in the New York Times last week, a closer examination of pre-war spying may shed light on whether the Bush administration has used the NSA for its own political purposes, as opposed to tracking down communications regarding potential terrorist threats against the U.S.

The leaked NSA email detailing the agency's spy tactics against the U.N. was written Jan. 31, 2003 by Chief of Staff for Regional Targets Frank Koza. In the email, Koza asked an undisclosed number of NSA and British intelligence officials to "pay attention to existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms (home and office telephones) for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations."
It's surprising that the North American media hadn't paid much attention to the story yet, since the spying on the U.N. would obviously be an early example of spying for purely political purposes. But it never hurts to be reminded of Bushco's complete disregard for the interests of anybody but itself - particularly when the effect is to show that neither the world's top diplomats nor any ordinary American can trust that their communications are free of interference.

(Via Canadian Cynic.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nicely timed

While nobody should be surprised to see PR getting some talk from Layton, it's all the better to see it as the NDP's first public message coming out of the holidays...with a nice slap at the Libs to boot:
Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin brushed Layton off earlier this year, after an initial promise to pursue electoral reform, the NDP leader recalled with some frustration and a hint of anger.

"He said, 'You're two votes short,' " to make any demands, said Layton.

"And that was the story of this Parliament. Arrogance. 'You're two votes short, you haven't got enough power to keep me in power, so to heck with you.' "
The interview nicely explains why the NDP wasn't able to get PR on the agenda last time out...but also highlights that if the party has enough opportunity to do so, it'll keep PR at the top of the list following the 2006 election. Now if only the NDP can make up the two votes to fit PMPM's bill for a party worth listening to...

Legitimizing discrimination

Awhile back, a couple of comments on this blog dealt with Maher Arar's inability to find regular work after his return to Canada, despite his training as a computer engineer. At that time, Mike and I agreed that something smelled fishy about the lack of employers interested in Arar's services. But especially after recent news about the scope of U.S. surveillance (and Canada's complicity in some of it), the decision not to hire Arar may well make perfect sense from an employer's standpoint.

After all, Arar is both an outspoken critic of Bushco and the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the legality of his rendering which the U.S. claims could be harmful to national security. Meanwhile, U.S. has refused to admit that it was wrong to subject Arar to torture, based presumably on its continued belief that the available evidence on Arar justified the rendering. Based on the continued suspicion going both ways, one has to figure that whatever Arar does in the future, he's likely to live under every bit of surveillance the U.S. can muster.

And there shouldn't be much doubt that the surveillance on an employer could have harmful effects to that employer's interests. Even if a given piece of surveillance wasn't immune from all review, there's no apparent way to trace the way information obtained in a Patriot Act request which is then misused to undermine the company's economic interests.

According to the link on Echelon above, there's already speculation that a system in which Canada willingly participates has been misused for commercial purposes. It's far from sure that any information obtained under surveillance would be misused, but why take the risk?

What's worse, the harm could go beyond the firm's information to the well-being of its employees - both for business and personal purposes. Remember that Arar himself was rendered for his association to people alleged to have terrorist links, and not based on any real evidence against him personally. Assuming that Arar is still on U.S. watchlists, the act of hiring Arar could then put both the employer and any other co-workers on watchlists as well.

No matter how highly valued Arar should rightly be for his skills, it's probably fair to say it's not worth an employer's while to add those skills at the cost of preventing everybody involved in the company from flying to or through the United States, particularly if anybody could potentially face Arar's fate.

Mind you, it's far from clear to what extent any of the above risks would ultimately materialize. But while it would be nice to see a private employer take the risk, it's difficult to blame anybody for believing that the potential downside of hiring Arar could exceed the upside by far too much to be worth the danger.

That type of equation is unfortunate enough in a single case such as Arar's. But what if the same type of decision-making also affects a wider range of corporate hiring or promotion decisions? The effect could well be that individuals seen as likely to make a watchlist would be systematically avoided by employers...with the result that many entirely innocent people could be shut out of positions which they would win on merit alone. This in turn would both reduce the ultimate productivity of employers, and create a class of people rightly frustrated with a system that discriminates against them.

Even if employers are relatively blameless for the reasons pointed out above, there's plenty of blame to go around for those who have allowed this type of situation to develop. Naturally, Bushco should bear the brunt for its insistence on claiming that all's fair if it claims national security as the justification. And to a somewhat lesser degree, Canada's government also deserves blame for its cooperation in the U.S.' actions, and for its apparent acceptance of Bushco's position when it comes to civil rights in Canada.

Something fishy is indeed afoot, but it could well be less a conspiracy among employers so much as a reasonable response to known government policy. And any discussion of the proper response to terrorism should acknowledge the discriminatory effect of both increased surveillance and a "guilt by association" standard.

Positive PR

The CP points out that Fair Vote Canada and other PR proponents are far from giving up on proportional representation. But perhaps more significant is buried in a CanWest article on Harper's refusal to form an official coalition if he wins a minority government:
(T)here is a growing sense that Canada needs to make a fundamental break with the past.

Rick Anderson, a senior advisor to former Reform leader Preston Manning, has become so disillusioned with the prevailing political culture that he has founded the Fireweed Democracy Project, which aims to promote democratic reform in federal politics.

"If ever there was a country needing a coalition governance model in its democratic institutions and culture, it is 21st century Canada," he says. "[The political system] remains stuck in the past, better suited to excessively partisan combat than to legislative co-operation. This needs to change."
Anderson doesn't refer to PR directly. But the principle that a coalition can be more effective than a majority in representing the interests of the country as a whole is one that lends itself readily to a PR-type system. And the website for Anderson's project includes PR among a bevy of possible improvements to the status quo.

As far as the election is concerned, the Fireweed Democracy Project seems to have limited itself to informing voters about party policy rather than making endorsements. But it's noteworthy that the NDP is not only the largest federal party looking to PR as a solution, but that it's also posted the most content on democratic reform during the course of the campaign.

Based on the Fireweed project as well as the continued efforts of Free Vote Canada, it should be clear that PR isn't going away as an issue...and that there's a strong populist undercurrent whose policy interests are aligned with those of the NDP. If enough of those voters cast their ballots for the best chance of change, then the NDP could end up with enough clout to make PR a reality within the next Parliament.

On reasonable responses

The Vancouver Sun reports on how the Libs' stance on compensation for the head tax on Chinese immigrants could be a campaign issue. But can anybody even pretend that the issue should run in favour of the Cons, as theorized by one community leader?
"With the Conservative party and the Liberal party taking diametrically different positions on this, that could have an effect," former Vancouver councillor Tung Chan said...

In November, the Liberal government announced a $2.5-million plan to recognize the historic injustice of the head tax, but it did not apologize or offer individual financial redress to victims and their families...

While campaigning in Ontario earlier this month, Conservative leader Stephen Harper changed his position on the head tax issue and joined the New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois in condemning the government's $2.5-million plan as inadequate.
The article also cites another Chinese community leader who avoided any mention of specific parties in criticizing the Libs' policy - which seems like a better-grounded take on the issue. But there's no apparent reason why a group concerned about the Libs' unfairly-imposed settlement would show its discontent by throwing its support to a party that was utterly disinterested in the issue until the campaign was underway.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Lending a hand

Rosie O'Donnell's citizenship may have prevented her from donating money to Peg Norman's campaign - but the publicity surrounding O'Donnell's offer should help to put Norman on the political map. And that may be far more valuable to Norman than any amount of money O'Donnell could have donated.

Outrage fatigue

I'm no fan of the Martin Liberals generally, and there are plenty of reasons for voting the party out of power. But the CP's article on "scandal fatigue" is still far off base in its apparent conclusion that it would essentially take a disease to cause a voter to support the Libs:
Scandal fatigue may be the malady of the modern media age.

From the United States, where the term was likely coined, to the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the Czech Republic, scandal fatigue has been a handy diagnosis for a lenient public unwilling or unable to summon the outrage to throw governing bums out.

In Canada, the main symptom of scandal fatigue may be the persistent reluctance of Canadian voters to dump their Liberal government, despite the well-documented ethical breakdown of the sponsorship scandal.
The rest of the article does at least consider the possibility that something other than reaction to past scandals should come into play in determining one's vote. But there's surely no reason to start an article from the position that the public should allow its outrage to completely override its ability to make rational calculations as to which party is best capable of governing - no matter how much one disagrees with the resulting calculations.


It's bad enough that PMPM went out of his way to win political points by proposing a "ban" on weapons which are already illegal without a license. But the Globe and Mail discovers that in response to Martin's proposal, people are now stocking up on handguns in hopes of either fitting into the "target shooting" exemption, or getting the benefit of any grandfathering in the proposal:
Gun shop owners and distributors across the country say handgun sales have increased since the Liberal Leader promised to ban them if his party wins the next election. Buyers are stocking up on coveted models before it's too late and hoping the ban would not be retroactive by including guns already owned...

Phil Harnois is a former police officer who now owns one of the biggest gun shops in Western Canada. Handgun sales at his Edmonton store, P&D Enterprises, have skyrocketed since the Liberal announcement.

“In a week we've done about 60 handguns, where we'd normally sell about 15,” Mr. Harnois said. “It's certainly driven sales and we didn't try and assist that at all. People just came on their own.”
It's far from clear that Martin's promise will ever become reality. And if the next government doesn't follow through on Martin's promise (whether due to a Liberal government typically forgetting its platform, or shift to Con government), then PMPM will have managed to do nothing but increase the number of guns on the same streets that he supposedly sought to protect.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

One has a political future. One doesn't.

The blogs and discussion boards are abuzz about the first huge gaffe of the campaign, namely senior Liberal organizer Mike Klander's smear of Olivia Chow. As a public service, let's fix Klander's most egregious post:

Chow................and Ciao.

Edit: Klander's resignation is now official.

Against the odds

The CP reports on two of the candidates fighting campaigns against party leaders, including the NDP's candidate running against Stephen Harper:
In 2004, the previous NDP candidate trailed Harper by more than 32,000 votes.

But (NDP candidate Holly) Heffernan, a nurse who was first recruited by the NDP to run in the 2004 Alberta provincial election, brings a hearty sense of humour and unflagging optimism to the doors she knocks on.

"I get 'Go for it!' and 'Kick some Conservative butt!' and I also get - well, they just look at you and laugh. I get a lot of that," Heffernan admits...

With 30 years of experience in the health-care system, Heffernan agreed to run so she can warn voters about the dangers of increasing privatization - something only the NDP has flatly rejected.
The article notes that neither Heffernan nor the other candidate discussed (the Cons' challenger to PMPM) is able to get away from work for all of the campaign, making the odds all the more difficult. But a candidate can do plenty of good for a party merely by doing well as an also-ran - particularly when that candidate presents as strong an issue-based message as Heffernan.

Kudos to her for her efforts in the campaign, and hopefully she and many of the other NDP longshots around the country can at win at least enough votes to make even the top Libs and Cons know they can't take their seats for granted.