Saturday, November 21, 2009

On insider trading

Cathie was the first to point out the connection between Brad Wall's decision to throw away the $800 million per year once promised by Stephen Harper in order to accomplish nothing on more friendly terms with the federal Cons and the Sask Party's subsequent fiscal meltdown.

But the reminder is particularly striking given how Wall spent the week when his government was officially called out for blowing a billion-dollar hole in the province's budget. While the province was coming to terms with his government's gross incompetence in abandoning money promised by his federal counterpart, Wall was using Saskatchewan's public funds to buy access to U.S. politicians in hopes of pushing them to invest a fraction of that amount in a carbon-capture project - and picking up utterly undeserved national attention in the process.

Now, for those who see politics as nothing more than a way to further one's personal interests, the tradeoff of giving away billions of dollars which might otherwise flow to one's province in exchange for an excuse to seek photo ops south of the border might seem like a brilliant move. But Saskatchewan citizens have to be seriously wondering how much the province has already lost in the exchange - and how long it can afford to be run by a politician who's far more interested in boosting his own profile in Washington than in what's going on back at home.

Not taken on faith

Gerald Caplan pipes up on the long gun registry weeks after the most recent vote in Parliament actually made the issue relevant. But someone who's still presented as an NDP insider falls into one of the same glaring mistakes as others who dealt with the topic at the time:
hich leaves the NDP, where a full third of MPs broke ranks with party policy and voted to abolish the long-gun registry. It's clear that many NDP loyalists and many others sympathetic to the party were bitterly disappointed both by the number of breakaways and the failure of Layton to rein them in.
So let's see if Caplan can answer the question which seems to have been glaringly ignored by others:

Exactly what party policy requires the NDP to vote uniformly in favour of the long gun registry?

I've already pointed out that the historical position of the NDP was actually primarily against the registry. It surely hasn't escaped attention that some NDP MPs (notably John Rafferty) campaigned on a promise to vote against the registry, with the party offering at least tacit approval at the time. And as an added bonus, I've taken a quick run through the party's most recent set of policy pronouncements - and not only does the policy book presented at this year's convention not mention the gun registry, but the gun registry wasn't even so much brought up as a resolution (in contrast to, say, handgun smuggling, which was at least raised as a point of debate).

Mind you, it would be fair enough if Caplan wants to make the case that the NDP should change its longstanding position allowing MPs to vote their conscience on the gun registry (both as a government bill and a private members' bill) - and the fact that there is some frustration among some supporters is certainly a relevant data point on that question. But I'm not sure one can plausibly make the case that the NDP should rush that kind of decision before the next vote on the bill in any event. And that position would be a far cry from trying to pretend that there's some existing policy that's being violated by an entirely consistent position.

In sum, I'd invite Caplan to provide some of the currently-nonexistent evidence that the NDP's "party policy" is or has ever been what he claimed it to be. But if his main goal is to change the current path of Bill C-391 rather than taking inaccurate potshots at the party he's given column space to speak for, I'd argue that he's far better off pressuring the Cons to actually explain how their unanimously whipped bloc can be squared with a demand for a free vote - rather than criticizing the NDP for the fact that it hasn't whipped its votes in keeping with his every whim.

The reviews are in

Bruce Johnstone:
A nightmare is another way of describing the sickening feeling of seeing $1.9 billion in projected revenues plummet by two-thirds to $638 million in the first quarter, then plunge another 83 per cent to $109 million by mid-term.

A sickening slide also describes what happened to the finance ministry's projected potash production, which fell 62 per cent to 4.4 million tonnes, the lowest level in 37 years.

The ministry's miscalculation on potash shaved two percentage points off the province's projected economic growth of 2.1 per cent in the 2009-10 budget. Economic growth is now expected to come in at negative 2.9 per cent -- a full five-percentage-point drop from the budget projection.

For its part, the NDP Opposition called Gantefoer's gaffe "the biggest example of fiscal incompetence in the history of Saskatchewan." In absolute dollar terms, it may be.
At the time, then-NDP finance critic Harry Van Mulligen warned production cuts announced by potash companies could easily derail the budget's revenue and economic projections.

"Bottom line," Van Mulligen said, "shaky economic and revenue assumptions, plus runaway spending, equals a potential fiscal trainwreck."

As it turns out, Van Mulligen was remarkably prescient, unlike his counterpart in the government benches.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Musical interlude

Matthew Sweet - Sick of Myself

The reviews are in

Murray Mandryk:
What was most disturbing about Thursday's mid-year Saskatchewan budget update wasn't the bungled $1.8-billion miscalculation of potash revenue, nor was it necessarily the throw-caution-to-the-wind decision to wager the equivalent of 20 per cent of our annual spending on a volatile resource at its apex and likely to face some level of decline.

It wasn't the startlingly unwise decision to spend the one-time sale of Saskferco assets to cover off the day-to-day operations of a government, nor was it the lack of anything vaguely resembling an austerity plan to deal with what might be another year of decline.

What was most disturbing wasn't even Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer's view through his rose-coloured, half-full glass that we can't have another year like we just had -- despite warning signs in his own mid-term report that things could be as bad in 2010-11 as they now are in 2009-10.

What was truly most disturbing was the complete and total lack of humility we saw from this Saskatchewan Party government, which should damn well be embarrassed by its own incompetence right now, rather than celebrating. Yes, celebrating.

We just witnessed Thursday a Saskatchewan finance minister present a mid-year budget update revealing that a surplus he forecast last March was now an overall $1.05-billion deficit. It's the biggest deficit since 1991-92 ($1.3 billion), when the provincial government was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and the second-biggest deficit ever.

And Gantefoer gets two standing ovations from his caucus colleagues in Thursday's question period? Are you kidding us? What is it about running government that you don't understand?

For more information...

Following up on my earlier post, here's the official information on the Saskatchewan NDP's policy renewal process (including tomorrow's meeting in Regina):


On renewal opportunities

For those wondering when the Saskatchewan NDP's much-anticipated policy renewal process would officially get underway, the answer is: tomorrow. The first phase will consist of two public meetings to be held:

- in Regina from 1 PM to 5 PM November 21, at Tommy Douglas House (1122 Saskatchewan Drive); and
- in Saskatoon from 1 PM to 5 PM December 5, at UFCW Local 1400 Hall (1526 Fletcher Road).

These meetings will focus on finalizing terms of reference for the rest of the policy process to follow, as well as compiling ideas for topics and experts to be discussed. For now, the expectation is that a first round of reports and public input will be completed in time for the NDP's provincial convention in 2010, with a broader public engagement and consultation process to follow before final debate over the policies at the 2011 convention.

In other words, there will be plenty more chances to have your say as the process plays out. But for those eager to help develop the NDP's next wave of policy ideas (whether or not you're currently a party member), now is your chance to get started.

Someday, this could all be ours...

The Leader-Post:
Nuclear facilities and power plants are contaminating local Canadian food and water with radioactive waste that increases risks of cancer and birth defects, says a new report to be released on Friday.

The report, Tritium on Tap, produced by the Sierra Club of Canada, warned that radioactive emissions from various nuclear plants across the country have more than doubled over the past decade. The figures were based on statistics compiled by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which measured pollution coming from the plants.

Although Canadian guidelines have suggested that the existing levels of tritium in the water are safe, the report cites recent peer-reviewed studies, including a recent review by the UK’s Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters, that suggest the opposite.
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has confirmed a “controlled release” of tritium into the Ottawa River from December 2008 to February 2009 but said this leak did not pose any risk to the environment because it respected the existing regulations. However, the Sierra Club said tests of the water done by a lab at the University of Waterloo revealed tritium levels that were five times higher than in water at other locations without any nearby nuclear plants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Far off the mark

Most of the commentary on the Sask Party's mid-year declaration of failure has focused on the fact that the Sask Party has managed to rack up a billion-dollar deficit two years after taking over the strongest Saskatchewan economy ever. But if such a thing is possible, there's another part of today's announcement which looks even more disturbing:
The province has also downgraded its projections on the state of the provincial economy.

In the budget, it was projecting real growth in the economy this year would be 2.1 per cent.

Now, it's saying the Saskatchewan gross domestic product will decline by 2.9 per cent.
Keep in mind that the initial projection was made at a time when even the likes of the federal Cons had been forced to acknowledge that there was an international recession afoot. At that time, the Wall government stood alone in somehow pretending that its province would be immune from the effects of the global downturn. And the result is that by the end of the year, the Sask Party's projections now figure to be a full 5% off the mark in determining the size of Saskatchewan's GDP.

That means that the Wall government's incompetence goes beyond merely mismanaging Saskatchewan's books, and extends to having no clue what's actually going on in the province around it. And while either would be reason for a change ASAP, the combination of both makes it all the more clear why Wall can't be left in control any longer then can be avoided.

On standards of proof

Shorter Lawrence Cannon:

My main concern about the apparent reality that the Con government is complicit in torture is the quality of evidence supporting the accusation. And I've got self-serving hearsay to prove it.

The blame game

It's still not clear exactly what it will take to either put the brakes on the HST or turn it into a decisive issue in favour of the NDP as the lone party which has taken a consistent stand against it, But this kind of development would appear to be a major help on all counts:
The federal Tories pushed, prodded and ultimately paid Ontario to adopt the harmonized sales tax and any effort to disown those actions smells like a rodent, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said yesterday.

"There are always rats in these debates," Duncan said, without naming any names.

"It's always funny to watch those individuals who are trying to deny the $4.3 billion their government is giving us. It's fun to watch."

Owen Sound-Bruce-Grey MP Larry Miller raised the ire of his provincial seatmate and fellow Tory Bill Murdoch earlier this year for disavowing his government's role in the tax, and Sarnia's Pat Davidson has been quoted as encouraging seniors to fight against the HST as well.

But Duncan said Ontario wouldn't, and couldn't, merge its retail sales tax with the federal GST for a 13% HST without plenty of encouragement and $4.3 billion of federal money.

"The feds certainly pushed us," Duncan said adding any doubt about where the federal Conservatives stand on the HST should be erased when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduces enabling legislation sometime before this coming March.
Of course, both the federal and provincial levels of government will have to try to justify the HST enough in order to pass legislation to implement it. But with both now engaged in finger-pointing as to who's to blame for tax harmonization (and at least some apparent concern within both governing parties), there's a significant possibility that Duncan and Flaherty will end up having far less attention to direct toward the task of convincing citizens to accept a tax hike for corporate benefit. And the more the ministers who signed onto the deal send the message that they don't want to take responsibility for the HST, the easier it'll be for HST opponents to convince the public that it's an indefensible choice.

On double standards

On Monday, the Sask Party "notified the media" that RCMP officers would be entering the NDP caucus office at the legislature - insinuating that the opposition as a whole was somehow under police investigation. And the RCMP did indeed turn up - to invite the opposition to participate in a fund-raiser. The media reaction: a verdict of "boys will be boys".

On Wednesday, the NDP raised questions about the effectiveness of legislation on criminal record checks by pointing out an actual incident involving a Sask Party cabinet minister which would have slipped through a crack set up by the government's bill. The media reaction: a sudden case of the vapours about the incivility of pointing out such matters.

So is the problem that such talk is a "low blow" only if it actually has a basis in reality? Or is the issue that in CanWest's world, such attacks are only allowed from the right?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


About the only problem with Paul Wells' description of the bucket defence is that he only applies it to the Cons' handling of Afghan detainees rather than to...well, pretty much everything. So let's make the appropriate amendment:
The goal of (Stephen Harper's communications strategy) is not to suggest a single, coherent, (analysis or position on any point). It is to throw up such a fog of confusion and contradiction that the entire (political) process is discredited or spectators are discouraged from continuing to pay attention.

On unsustainability

Most of the discussion about this week's developments in Saskatchewan's legislature has focused on the question of whether the Wall government is actively looking to sell off Casinos Regina and Moose Jaw. But I haven't yet seen any pickup on the more important question of whether they generally see selling assets as part of their future budget plan - and there's reason to worry on that front:
Mr. Wotherspoon: — As an article said this weekend, Mr. Speaker, again that minister is being disingenuous. This opposition has been crystal clear from day one that this budget was tabled as it relates to our concerns around potash revenues.

Mr. Speaker, about a year ago the government sold its 49 per cent interest in Saskferco. The sale provided a net profit of $783 million for Crown Investments Corporation. That was money Crowns like SaskPower and SaskEnergy could have used to help maintain and build their provincial-wide networks while keeping rates low, Mr. Speaker.

Can the minister confirm that by the end of the current budget year virtually all of the $783 million profit will have been squandered to try to cover up the mistakes of his irresponsible budget?
Hon. Mr. Gantefoer: — Mr. Speaker, implied in the member’s question is that we have introduced a lot of spending that isn’t needed or wasn’t appropriate or wasn’t appreciated by the people of Saskatchewan. And I would like to know which kind of things would the opposition have suggested we not do. Would they suggest that we not raise taxes? Would they suggest that we shouldn’t have tax relief for our citizens . . .

In the past, the opposition’s answer to any of these challenges was to raise taxes. Mr. Speaker, what we have done is important to the people of Saskatchewan. What we have done is the biggest property tax decrease in the history of the province. What we have done is $300 million of real savings for people who pay taxes in the province, mostly the most vulnerable. Which of those things would you suggest we not do in order to meet the budget targets?
Now, it would seem that Gantefoer had a fairly easy out if he wanted it. After all, he's already acknowledged having completely misread the potash market for the year - and while that's obviously problematic as an indicator of his judgment, it would seem to provide at least some basis to argue that this year might be considered an exceptional circumstance where some capital income might need to be redirected toward ongoing expenses.

But Gantefoer's answer suggests just the opposite. In effect, rather than making a case that a billion-dollar hole in Saskatchewan's budget is a single-year problem, Gantefoer is trying to make the case that it isn't a problem at all - such that he doesn't see any reason to bother meaningfully cutting costs or increasing revenue in order to balance the books.

At first glance, that might raise concerns about running a long-term deficit. And that too might be a serious problem as time goes by. But for now, it's equally clear that Gantefoer is perfectly happy to use Crown capital sales to try to keep budgets nominally in the black even as his party depletes Saskatchewan's public trusts.

As a result, the most important issue surrounding the Sask Party's budget management isn't so much that of what public bodies are next on the auction block. Instead, it's the fact that Gantefoer genuinely sees no problem with selling the fridge to keep caviar on the table - leaving only the question of how long Wall and his party can go on convincing Saskatchewan citizens to demand the unsustainable rather than seeking a government which is actually willing to make responsible decisions.

And there's the answer

In comments here, pogge notes that at least some of the Cons' publicly-funded ten-per-centers have served to drive traffic directly to partisan websites:
The last couple of ten percenters I've received from my Conservative MP have encouraged me to provide my feedback by filling out an online survey -- at the Conservative Party website. I checked one out and discovered that name, mailing address and email address were required in order to submit my answer to the single survey question. It's just another way of using a taxpayer funded mailing to build a Conservative Party database.
So while there's plenty more to be discovered about exactly what the Cons have done with the material they've received by mail, there doesn't seem to be any room for doubt that some information derived from Con MPs' publicly-funded mailers has been entirely for the benefit of the Conservative Party rather than having any pretense of trying to listen to constituents.

Meanwhile, burlivespipe has an excellent suggestion as to how to respond in order to thoroughly smoke out the Cons' misuse of public resources:
Next time I get one instead of recycling it, or as I've occasionally done, sent back with a snide comment, I am going to put down some faint praise and my info. It would be a privilege to see if this does 'track-back' in terms of a financial plea... That would make a pretty impressive post and possible legitimate news story.

On unreasonable collection

While impolitical has largely covered the Globe and Mail's report on the Cons' use of ten-per-centers, there's one piece of the story which cries out for followup:
The mailers serve a more sophisticated function than just spreading a political message. Many of them include mail-back coupons, which are used to compile vital mailing lists on which political parties depend to solicit votes, volunteers and money – and that's hard, expensive work.

The Tories typically ask recipients to choose which party leader they like, and mail the coupon back.
Now, one might remember a couple of weeks ago when the Cons tried to raise a stink over fund-raising links on Lib MPs' websites. And one might well be able to make the case that publicly-funded MP resources shouldn't be used for partisan purposes.

But the Cons' ten-per-center scheme would seem like a far more blatant abuse of MP resources for partisan purposes. It directly takes advantage of both MPs' free mailing privileges and constituents' ability to mail material free to MPs, but by all accounts turns the entire transaction into an information-gathering effort for the Conservative Party.

What we don't know for sure is how (if at all) information from the returned ten-per-centers crosses the line from MPs' offices to Con party databases. And that looks to me to be the area crying out for some more research: surely it's worth putting some pressure on the Cons to tell Canadians exactly what they're doing with their publicly-funded survey results (including whether they're finding their way into the Cons' partisan database). And even if they won't say there's bound to be somebody involved in the scheme in the past who can answer the question.

Garbage in, garbage out

Shorter Leader-Post editorial board:

Sure, polls may say that the vast majority of Reginans are entirely willing to pay for improved recycling programs. But we're positive that the city's residents will develop sticker shock if the city actually listens to its citizens. Please? Can we get some tax rage over here?

Update: For those interested in letting the city know their preferences on improved waste management, its questionnaire is still available here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Filed under "don't give them any ideas"

Apparently the Cons' attempt to sidestep questions about Leo Housakos by rewriting his biography has failed miserably.

But as long as Housakos is entirely malleable about changing his public face to suit Stephen Harper's interests, I'm sure he can get out of trouble by making one more change to his biographical information. After all, who in the opposition would dare to point out any concerns about corruption if he was named, say, Terry Fox?

The reviews are in

John Geddes:
Environment Minister Jim Prentice’s remarks today to the effect that it will be years—years!—before the Canadian government implements regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions have to be crushingly discouraging for anyone who regards climate change as an urgent problem.
It’s fair enough to point out that Canada is part of a big, complicated world. But what’s stopping the Canadian government from proposing decisive measures on the international stage, even implementing some bold ones at home, to prove its seriousness? Instead, the tone of the Conservative government is passive to the point of being inert.

In the run-up to next month’s global climate change summit in Copenhagen, Prentice continues to repeat the government’s pledge to cut emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020. But what does that commitment (tepid as it is by world standards) mean if all the details around how to achieve it are left to the leadership of other countries?
I'll quibble only with the description of the Cons' policy as "passive" or "inert" rather than actively obstructionist. But it seems beyond doubt that while three consecutive ballyhooed environment ministers have claimed to want to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, the Cons' track record looks far more like that of a party run by climate change denialists than that of a government which saw a problem worth solving. And it's only getting worse as time goes by.

Winning the race to the bottom

Congratulations are in order to Con Environment Minister Jim Prentice. I didn't think anybody would be able to make his party's legacy of "wait 'til next year" for greenhouse gas emission regulations look good in comparison, but his "wait 'til global unanimity (which we're preventing)" definitely does the job.

On bravery

Dr. Dawg has thoroughly debunked Terry Glavin's attack on Afghan MP Malalai Joya. But it's worth pointing out that the absurdity of Glavin's column can be more neatly summed up by looking at what he thinks makes others "brave" in contrast to Joya. Shorter Glavin:

The true mark of bravery is to demand that others risk their lives for your benefit. Chickenhawks Forever!

Shocked... what I'd be if the Cons weren't regularly taking private positions siding with corporate interests over Canadians in general despite their public pretense to the contrary. Which means that their dishonesty on airline passengers' consumer rights comes as no surprise at all.

On outsourcing

I'll start off this post by noting that there are few more tiresome refrains in Canadian politics at the moment than the Cons' line that Michael Ignatieff is about to run back to Harvard at the drop of a hat. So take the below as a point about what Ignatieff is doing while he's in Canada, not a reason to claim that he'll be teaching classes by next semester.

That said, there's reason to wonder whether Ignatieff is checking out of a seemingly vital part of his role as Lib leader. From yesterday's Hill Times:
In the past month there have been operational changes to try and make things run more smoothly. For instance, Mr. Ignatieff's so-called "Kitchen Cabinet," comprised of senior Liberal MPs, has stopped meeting every morning for half-an-hour and instead now meets weekly for two hours. Also, responsibility for preparation for the daily Question Period has been moved out of the OLO and is now overseen by Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale's (Wascana, Sask.) office.
Now, one could argue that Ignatieff's choice to farm out responsibility for question period would be consistent with the theory that he needs to focus less on Parliament in general and more on travelling around the country. But even if that's the reason for the switch, it looks to me like a highly questionable move.

After all, I've mentioned before the disproportionate amount of attention that question period receives in Canadian political reporting. And that only seems to be getting worse now that question period regularly the subject of live Tweeting from multiple sources, as well as near-instant reporting through two major media outlets.

Of course, there's no indication that Ignatieff will ever be able to get meaningful answers out of Harper or his government anytime soon. But the themes raised in question period still form the basis for most reporting on developments in Parliament. And even in the absence of any prospect of actually finding out anything new from the Cons, it's still the lone time when Ignatieff gets the chance to challenge Harper in direct wit-to-wit combat rather than having to fight the Cons' PR machine - not to mention a chance for many MPs to show their mettle in front of a national TV audience.

Based on that background, I'd expect question period to at least be included as a component of the messaging strategy being carried out by an opposition leader's office. Instead, though, Ignatieff has apparently washed his hands of it, leaving Ralph Goodale to manage it separately from the Libs' party-building work.

That might result in the Libs developing stronger direct challenges to Harper in the House, as Goodale presumably has far less qualms about the kind of oppositional politics which seem to have tripped up Ignatieff. But it also figures to raise far more likelihood that the Libs' questions will operate solely as temporary pokes at the Cons, rather than as part of the party's work on a longer-term narrative. And the Libs have to be wondering whether Ignatieff's decision to offload a major part of his and his party's work might be a sign of more flagging interest to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Now that's reassuring

Sure, the fact that the Sask Party hasn't given workers or the general public any input into two waves of anti-labour legislation might seem like reason for concern. But take heart, working Saskatchewanians: the Wall government will make sure you're taken care of just as soon as you're dead.

I stand corrected

My apologies to Stephen Harper for suggesting that he'd follow in the footsteps of Pat Fiacco and Brad Wall as a wannabe radio deejay. Instead, he's obviously using his time in office to assemble a demo tape for a future television variety show - which of course fully explains why he doesn't have time for such trifles as the Copenhagen climate change conference that his government has worked so hard to undermine.

On political considerations

The latest study on stimulus spending from the Citizen and Chronicle-Herald should make it clear that there's no inherent reason why infrastructure money would end up flowing disproportionately toward government ridings - as Ontario provincial ridings actually showed a slight tilt in the other direction.

That makes it all the more worth questioning why such a consistent pattern of government favouritism has played out in federal ridings. So let's consider a few of the possibilities as to how money could be simultaneously funnelled to favour the Harper Cons without any similar effects provincially.

First, let's note that federal stimulus money was earmarked for "shovel-ready" projects - meaning that projects with a greater degree of previous planning would be more likely to be prepared to receive funding. That means that the stimulus funding may prove to have been the Cons' payoff for setting up a Department of Pork a couple of years ago: it would only make sense that the Cons' efforts to seek out ways to spend in their own ridings then would result in there being more projects planned and ready to go this year.

And the Cons' publicly-known focus on pork-barrelling also doesn't seem likely to have escaped the notice of provincial and municipal governments, which leads to the second important possibility: it may be that provincial and municipal governments looked at the Cons' track record and concluded for themselves that their projects had a better chance of being approved if they could be linked to Con or swing ridings. Needless to say, that would result in the Cons effectively being able to rely on the other levels of government to establish a partisan tilt for them, as more marginal projects were submitted (and presumably approved) from Con ridings.

Finally, it also seems clear that the Cons have made sure that opposition MPs were kept in the dark when it came to helping their constituents with funding application. That too would create an obvious source of possible bias without the Cons having to actually reject applications from opposition ridings.

(Of course, all of this is in addition to the documented bias in the approval of some projects at the federal level.)

Now, I'd be particularly interested to see if Ontario actually serves as an example of the converse on the provincial level: if the McGuinty government sent signals that it intended to be even-handed and actually provided MPPs from all parties with equal resources in putting infrastructure projects forward, then those would seem to be fairly clear distinguishing factors between the two levels of government. And if Ontario does serve as an example of how stimulus spending can be doled out fairly, then the federal Cons have even more to answer for in their complete failure to make that happen.

On closed doors

Shorter Con government:

Not that we intended to listen to the likes of the Canadian Wheat Board anyway. But we think it'll be easier for everybody if we make it illegal for them to even try to get our attention.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On priorities

When it comes to diplomats performing their duties trying to build Canada's reputation and make connections abroad, the Cons apparently aren't the least bit interested in making sure they have enough resources to do their jobs. So if a Canadian embassy is reduced to begging for food to promote Canada in the world's most populous country (and all for want of less than $10 million in slashed program money), that's entirely in keeping with the Harper government's view of diplomacy.

But that's not to say at least some of Stephen Harper's international priorities won't be thoroughly funded. Turn the discussion to the international community's desire to cooperate to fight climate change, and the Cons apparently have unlimited resources to dedicate to throwing wrenches into the works (and deflecting any PR fallout from that course of action).

So cooperation and reputation-building are beneath the Cons' funding, while blatant obstructionism is seen as worth whatever public money the Cons can think to throw at it. And while there's unfortunately been far too much return on the latter expense as the Cons seem to have succeeded in spreading the view that the potential for a new climate change deal in Copenhagen will go unrealized, it's certainly worth asking whether many Canadians actually share Harper's choice of priorities.

h/t to impolitical.