Pettigrew shakes finger at Iran

The front page of the Globe and Mail today outlined the injuries of Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian photojournalist who suspiciously died while in Iranian custody.

An Iranian doctor who had examined Kazemi, while she was unconscious, noted the following strange injuries:

  • Bruised from forearm to ear
  • Skull fracture
  • Two broken fingers
  • Broken and missing fingernails
  • Severe abdominal bruising
  • Evidence of ‘very brutal rape’
  • Swelling behind the head
  • Burst ear membrane
  • Bruised shoulder
  • Deep scratches on the neck
  • Broken ‘nose-bone’
  • Evidence of flogging to the legs
  • Crushed big toe

Pierre Pettigrew, Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs, maintained the government’s soft power approach as he said:

“Iran is continuing to not respect the most fundamental human rights, and this must stop… This new evidence only strengthens our position and confirms that this was not an accident. It does not change our position. Quite the contrary. The family wants answers. Canadians want answers, and we will be pursuing this until justice is done.” — Pierre Pettigrew

I doubt Iranian officials have taken notice.

Conservatives are calling for political action, not simply obvious yet vacant words. Stockwell Day, foreign affairs critic for the Conservative Party of Canada issued this strong statement:

“The federal government must acknowledge that its strategy of soft diplomacy towards the brutish Iranian regime has been an utter failure.” — Stockwell Day

Day continued to press Pettigrew and the Martin Liberals to withdraw our ambassador from Tehran to protest Iran’s inaction concerning the determination of the truth surrounding the death, and now confirmed torture, of one of our citizens.

Senate appointments and the erosion of Canada’s representative democracy

When the Fathers of Confederation assembled to hash out a representative system, most would agree that they were quite aware of the idea of checks and balances as a senate assembly could trump the wishes of the cabinet, and by doing so, would protect the voice of the political minority in the House of Commons. Therefore in principle, those that argue for the abolishment of the senate and those who would champion a system of unicameralism, do not wish to protect the voice of the political minority as they may claim, but rather would wish to consolidate rule from the top down. For this reason, I find the NDP’s calls for senate abolishment particularly troubling. Similarly, Layton’s calls for proportional representation are an insult to representative grassroots democracy and to the wisdom and vision of the Fathers of Confederation and the system that they had envisioned.

The latest insult to the Fathers came most lately from our current Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Our Prime Ditherer’s appointed another six Liberals to current Liberal senate caucus of 47 appointed by Jean Chretien reconfirms a majority of Liberal seats in our upper chamber merely by appointment. Martin’s announcement last week allowed the appointment of two Progressive Conservative senators but this merely served as a poke in the eye to the Conservative Party of Canada as the PC Party no longer exists and instead sits opposed to the Conservatives. Paul Martin is not acting as a Prime Minister with a minority government.

The upper house cannot merely be an echo chamber of the House of Commons. In fact, in 1865 Sir John A. MacDonald advanced a similar opinion:

“There would be no use of an upper house if it did not exercise, when it thought proper, the right of opposing or amending or postponing the legislation of the lower house. It would be of no value whatever were it a mere chamber for registering the decrees of the lower house.”

Paul Martin and Jean Chretien have essentially appointed a majority in the Senate and in his precarious position as the leader of a minority government, Martin is at least protecting his popular political minority by maintaining an appointed majority in the upper chamber.

If only it were so.

Unfortunately, John A. MacDonald would have shaken his head if he could have witnessed this current crop of Liberals who have ruled Canada with Commons majorities (and with appointed Liberal senator after Liberal senator) for the majority (and then some) of the past 100 years. The protection of the political minority, one of the fundamental advantages of the bicameral system, has been ignored by the Liberals and this irony is maintained in Paul Martin’s current slate of senators.

Most Canadians believe that the senate, as it has become, requires reform in one sense or another. Proponents of change in Alberta have even taken a grassroots democratic approach by electing their own senators. Unfortunately, Paul Martin has chosen to ignore these elected (and therefore representative) senators of the West in favour of maintaining his own party’s grip on power. Ideas such as an elected and representative senate are Conservative ideas which are well intentioned (for the mitigation of western alienation, for example). Sadly, these ideas, supported by a broad section of the political minority, and indeed by most Canadians, fail the Liberal test.

Indeed, bicameralism, as intended by the Fathers of Confederation, serves as an appropriate model to ensure checks and balances, protection of minority political opinion, and regional representation. Unfortunately, the Paul Martin and Jean Chretien Liberals have molded this vision of the Fathers of Confederation according to their own purposes at the expense of all Canadians.

Convention wrap-up

The last day of the convention, Saturday was the most interesting day (at least business wise) of this “most successful gathering of conservatives in 20 years”.

Going on about 3 hours of sleep I arrived at the convention hall after checking out of the downtown Montreal luxury hotel known as the “Econolodge” by most and as “home away from home” by cheating spouses, high school lovers, thrifty travelers and students like myself. A relatively clean place, at a relatively cheap price… and what’dya know… just across the street from the Cool Blue Belinda dance party.

I was pleased to find out that I could check my luggage for the day at the convention centre. The Palais de Congrès is definitively world class and I was very much impressed by the extensive facilities loaned out to the Party last weekend. Toronto’s convention centre is on par with Montreal’s, however, Montreal’s convention centre was a lot more colourful while Toronto’s is drab and more ‘starched shirt’. In short, the Palais de Congrès reflected the fun, youthful, and yet professional tone of the convention.

The plenary session was progressing pretty well until the issue of the definition of marriage came up. “We’re going to reinitialize” the Chair said in a dry tone while, in contrast, the room’s attention peaked to the ‘hot button’ issue that was before them. Reinitialization is the process by which delegates must be sitting at the tables in order to be counted incase the vote is so close that it goes to the keypad vote. On the issue of traditional marriage the “yays” beat the “nays” clearly but for some reason they went to the keypad vote. 75% in favour of maintaining the traditional definition, 25% opposed.

This result was particularly surprising, in my opinion. Not that I expected a different outcome, but the numbers suggest that 1 out of 4 delegates (25%) are in favour of the redefinition of marriage, while 4 out of 99 CPC MPs (~4%) share the same sentiment. Are the MPs not representative of the delegates or are the delegates not representative of the MPs? The answer lies somewhere in between, I believe.

On the issue of abortion, another surprising result. 55% of delegates favoured the party not supporting legislation on abortion while 45% want our MPs to support limits on abortion. Perhaps social conservatives are simply more vocal on this issue than the silent majority of conservatives.

A cameraman and a reporter from CPAC rushed over to us (we were standing at the back, instead of sitting at delegate tables) and asked “Can we get your comment on this result on camera?” It didn’t take me any time at all to add up the situation. Speaking on camera about my reaction to a highly polarized issue? “No, I don’t think so” I said. Even Stephen Harper didn’t go on record about abortion until his speech Friday night. I certainly wasn’t going to that day.

The other interesting moment of the plenary was the youth wing debate. The best moment was when the Chair told the crowd that enough points were heard for option A (youth wing) and asked for someone to speak for option C (no youth wing). Tony Clement takes the microphone, (I’ll paraphrase) “I’d like to speak for option C”. I thought this was odd as Clement was the former president of the conservative youth at the University of Toronto. He went on to speak on option C labeling it the wrong option and he then brazenly encouraged the delegates to vote for option A. The ‘Yes for Youth’ crowd went crazy and I chuckled to myself having found new respect for Tony Clement and his sneakiness. The youth wing was voted down by perhaps the smallest margin seen that day.

The plenary session allowed me to meet some more interesting people including Amy Leindecker who marveled at the hawtness (yeah, that’s the ticket) that is liveblogging from the convention floor. She must have been inspired because she now has a blog of her own (check it out). In fact, she took a picture of me and Queen’s CPC club president Bryan Cowell, and sent it to me today. I’m liveblogging and he’s um… live surfing.

Thus, dear reader, I do now present liveblogging from the convention floor:

Blogging from the CPC policy convention – Click to enlarge

Perhaps next convention, we’ll have special credentials like our American blog brothers (and sisters) who blogged from the GOP and Dem conventions last year.

After the votes I had another chat with Peter Mackay. We found ourselves talking about the Belinda Dance Party(TM) and he told me about a party he was having that evening.

I laughed, “You’re tempting me away from my graduate thesis!”

Mackay replies, “Bah, what’s another night?”

It wasn’t to be. The Econolodge and I had already parted ways and I was able to score a ride home early anyways.

So, there you have it. The first successful policy convention of the Conservative Party of Canada. T’was a great time!

Conservative Dance Party

After the vote on the National Council and on Stephen Harper’s leadership had concluded, a leader’s cocktail party reception was held on the 7th floor of the convention hall. Most of the 2,900 delegates must have been there as the hall was absolutely packed.

The food consisted of cold cut platters with bread, while the drinks were $5.75 per bottle of beer / glass of wine. I also met a couple more MPs including two members of the young caucus of tories. Helena Guergis is the MP from Simcoe Grey and is very nice to talk with in-person. I asked her if she had heard of Blogging Tories. She had. Helena told me somewhat wryly that “It had been brought to [her] attention”. Of course, I thought this was great until I later ran the incident over in my head and speculated that she might have been referring to Anthony’s posting on the Meatriarchy. Uh oh.

The other member of the young Tory caucus that I met at the leader’s reception was MP for Desnethé, Missinippi and Churchill River, Jeremy Harrison. Jeremy also blogs, however, he complained that he hasn’t updated in about a month. I’ve added him to the Blogging Tories blogroll and encouraged him to keep it up.

Since the party was winding down, since there wasn’t any free booze and since Mr. Harper was still absent from his own ‘reception’, we decided to go to the Western Standard party at the Intercontinental Hotel and tear it up with Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant. With drink names like “Harper Collins”, “Stronach and Tonic”, “Same Sex on the Beach” and “Rona, I wanna”, you knew it was going to be a good party. The festivities were held on an ‘indoor street’ where the alley between two buildings was completely closed off by a glass ceiling and walls at either end. I circled the party a couple of times and met Ezra. “Stephen! Love the blog so much that we linked you a couple of times from the Shotgun!”. Ezra was having a blast as he was working the room greeting everyone at his party. Word is Laureen Harper stopped by to tell Ezra how much she loves the magazine. Good job Ezra! I also met David Frum and MP from Essex Jeff Watson whose business card includes Braille impressions.

Stockwell Day (who I met at Thursdays CIJA hospitality suite), Monte Solberg and James Moore were also in attendence. I joked with James that had read once that he’s still trying to drop Simpsons references into House debate. He admitted he’s tried but that it’s difficult to do. (I can’t help but think of this Simpsons exchange)

The other fete that everyone was looking forward to was Belinda Stronach’s “Cool Blue” party. It was held a short cab-ride away at the Godin Hotel. The party was very much of what you might expect from Belinda. Very hip and trendy. A cool… um… blue light permeated the reception area where revelers feasted on mini-hamburgers, french fries and chicken wings served in single serving cartons. The drinks were citrus martinis served with flashy blue LED ice cubes which were enjoyed by those who donated to the ‘Yes to Youth’ campaign. Next to the reception area there was a large heavy door that led into the other half of the party, the dance club.

I walk up onto the balcony of the club to survey the crowd below only to realize that Tom Cochrane is playing a set below and that the crowd is loving it. I enjoy the music for a couple of minutes and then go back to the reception area to get my friends and tell them Cochrane is playing in the dance club that I had just discovered. By the time we get back into the club, Tom’s done his set and the Belinda dance party is underway.

Working my way through the crowd is a somewhat surreal experience as hill staffers, MPs, members of the press, young delegates and Preston Manning are all hanging out, dancing to Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot. So, this is where I meet, for the first time, one of our most influential political minds and greatest democratic reformers in Canadian history, Preston Manning.

I met Preston Manning in a dance club.

CTV’s Craig Oliver is hanging out in the lounge area flanked by some young Tory women engaged in conversation, and I hear that Don Martin was at the bar tearing off drink tickets.

Kiss’ I want to rock all night (and party ev-er-y day) blasts over the club’s speakers and I look over and see Tony Clement. I call over and get his attention “Hey Tony!”. He looks over, with a big smile and throws up the horns. I laugh, and do the same and then work my way over to the stage area.

Belinda Stronach and Peter Mackay were hanging out on the floor as well, chatting with people as they passed by.

It was getting late and the party started to thin out but that didn’t stop the most dedicated of us from keeping the party going. However, when it was time to call it a night — when the club owners were ushering us out — MPs that closed the club with us included Rahim Jaffer and Monte Solberg. These two guys were partying all night.

Three o’clock rolls by and my friends and I decide to wrap up the evening and I head back to the hotel to get some sleep before the dreaded wake-up call that would come at 7am.

Best. Party. Ever.

Stephen Harper’s speech

Brian Mulroney introduced Harper via video (he’s recovering from lung surgery).

Harper’s speech was very well written and kudos are in order for his speechwriter(s). I’ve been told that Harper writes many of his own speeches, so if this is true, he represents an oratory double-threat (he can write it and he can speak it).

He also brought it. The text and delivery had numerous hallmarks of a great speech. The use of contrast, the rule of three and the use of audience participation to reinforce and legitimize the message all contributed to make for an incredible speech.

“Promise made, promise broken” was said in unison by about 2,900 (delegates) and hundreds of observers. The outlining of Liberal silliness and broken promises one-by-one was quite effective as the line was repeated after each and every broken Liberal promise.

“They [the Liberals] promise to help us raise our children”,

Harper remarked and paused as we, the audience, erupted in laughter and then he joined with us laughing.

“So they’re creating a bureaucratic daycare program so expensive that young couples won’t be able to afford children”

“Promise made. Promise broken”

and so it went…

and then this:

“As prime minister, I will bring forward legislation that, while providing the same rights, benefits and obligations to all couples, will maintain the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

“And, while I’m at it, I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.”

Bye-bye hidden agenda. That loud thud was the collective thud of Liberal strategists losing consciousness. Finally, an explicit declaration of Harper’s position on abortion. I didn’t expect it.

He continued…

“And I will tell you this. That, as your leader, if you disagree with me on these matters, I will not call you stupid or label you a threat to Canadian values.”

“As leader, I care less about your views on these matters than whether you are prepared to respect the views of those who disagree with you.”

“And that’s why I will always allow all of your MPs to vote freely on matters of conscience.”

I believe that Harper struck an appropriate balance between respect for people’s polarized opinions and respect for the rights and liberties of Canadians. The status quo was maintained concerning rights on marriage and abortion plus he offered an extension of equal rights with married couples to gay unions.

Inclusive, respectful and electable.

Harper then continued to outline his plan for government and delivered it as if the writ could be dropped tomorrow. He pumped up the crowd and ended the speech with a lot of energy.

And on that… delegates exited the hall to vote for national council and on Stephen Harper’s leadership.

[Text of speech]

My friend Peter and I made our way towards the stage as the delegates filed out. A crowd had surrounded Preston Manning and Peter lined up to meet him. I chatted with MP Diane Ablonsky while the people in the small crowd otherwise tried to get a few words in with Preston. Then I chatted with Peter Mackay and thanked him for getting me involved during our chat at Ottawa’s Terry Fox run. We also talked about riding equality in order to build the party across Canada and received his encouragement for the formation of a youth wing for the party. I then received a text message from fellow Blogging Tory Lanny Cardow because they needed help upstairs scrutinizing the Harper confidence vote.

As an non-voting observer I met up with Lanny to see what I could do to help out. I manned the Quebec ballot box for a while and delived my “separate your ballots and fold twice instructions” in English and French a number of times. Fun stuff.

Even better times were had at the leader’s cocktail reception and post-speech parties. Stay tuned.

Solberg, Taylor and other blogging Tories!

Slept in. (See previous post about hospitality suites before and… hey, I’m an observer and I don’t need to attend delegate votes at 8am).

Lunch time: cab it into the congress centre.

Pop into a policy debate concerning economic development and prosperity. Belinda Stonach spoke about stopping the export of water before it can be fully reviewed. Then the real debate gets started… on agriculture. Apparently supply management is a contentious issue between it protecting against explicit subsidies for farmers and a viable economic model.

(Caution: shameless self-promotion ahead)

A handful of people approached me to tell me that they’re fans of this site and of bloggingtories! I was happy to meet Luc from Hacks and Wonks and Aaron Lee Wudrick. Then I see the de facto blogging tory, Monte Solberg walking by. I entend my hand to introduce myself as he passes and I introduce myself. “Hi Monte, I’m Stephen Taylor, with Blogging Tories”. He replies enthusiastically “HEY! I read your blog all the time!” His voice changes from cheerful to concern, “Stephen, I do have one complaint… your site is great but you don’t update it enough”. I’m humbled and somewhat embarrassed. I give him the meager exuse about having a MSc. thesis in biochemistry to work on but then concede that Monte’s probably quite busy too with his day job. We continue to have a great conversation about the blogging experience and I extend a personal invition to blogging tories. We chat some more about Monte’s adventures in blogging and, in particular, the PMO and National Post reaction to his recent blogging controversy.

My conversation with Monte Solberg brings up a particular point that perhaps political bloggers should consider. We do not, by any means, represent ‘traditional’ media, in any form as bloggers. In my experience with the traditional media, and in particular with interviews and conversations, it becomes somewhat clear when one is ‘on the record’ and ‘off the record’. Bloggers are becoming ubiquitous; they could be your neighbour, your brother, sister, or your dentist. Since a blogger does not represent the traditional media and is generally untrained in media relations, the on and off the record courtesy becomes somewhat lost as bloggers are sometimes too eager to publish the minutia of their experiences without regard for what was perhaps intended to be a private conversation between two people.

Given, Solberg knows who I am as a blogger. However, nobody’s life is an open book, even that of politicians. Private conversations are just that and thus I should only report the conversation as it related to the blogging of politics. However, I will say that Monte’s is a veritable class act and, because of his blog, he is now the undisputed king of Canadian political geek chic.

The agriculture debate was much too interesting for me and I needed a breath of fresh air, so I left the room and met some other national candidates. Of course, this would include Mr. Whatittakestowin Vi(c)tor Marciano. Vitor’s an animated guy and very intent on becoming one of the national councillors from Alberta. The policy debate on agriculture wraps up and supply management was accepted as part of the party’s policy.

Stephen Harper’s speech is next.

Live blogging from the convention (sort of)

I arrived in Montreal yesterday for the convention registration and immediately bumped into a few people I knew from the leadership race and people with whom I went to school.

First impressions?

You can’t turn around without bumping into an MP or somebody running for national council. In fact, you couldn’t get away from any the campaign teams for the national council candidates.

One of the first people that I met yesterday was BC lower mainland MP James Moore, to whom I introduced myself. “Oh, hi Stephen. I read your website”.

Wow. Great start to a great day.

There was some sort of protest outside the hall with people dressed up with pigs but it looked small and somewhat silly. I would find out later that night that it led the CPC policy convention story on CTV news with Lloyd Robertson. Talk about taking things out of scope!

The opening ceremonies were similar to a pep rally and included great speeches from Rona Ambrose, Peter Mackay, and Rahim Jaffer, John Baird, and Nina Grewal. The most memorable line from the event came from Mackay: “We must never again let another party define who we are or what we stand for”.

Then the hospitality suites…

So, there are these people running for national council and they want the delegates to vote for them, so they rent out hospitality suites and bribe us all with alcohol. Life is good. Best suites of the night go to the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy group (free booze and great Kosher food) and Susan McCarther (free booze and more free booze). Least popular suite of the night: Lois Brown (cash bar).

It was a great night filled with meeting a lot of interesting people.

Convention sidenote: everybody here is connected through cellphones. People who are actually connected use Blackberrys.

The Revolution will not be televised, it will be blogged

Why are there so many conservative writers in the blogosphere? I’ve been asked this a couple of times over the time that I have been blogging. Are we better writers? Is the left full of luddites? Are we just merely better motivated?

Political motivation is rooted in the need to change the status quo; the desire to shake up politics as usual. Therefore, while an extreme moderate may sound like a contradiction, a person so driven to maintain the message as handed down from on high is generally rare in the collection of us that populate the blogosphere. Non-conservatives represent the political status quo in Canada.

Blogs provide a medium in which we express our message, unregulated by the CRTC, the FCC, or the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Many of us who blog with a conservative angle do so because our voices aren’t heard in the mainstream media and, as of late, bloggers have held this very institution to account for delivering the wrong message or even falsities. While bias is presented constantly by the media, it is validated by the very fact that it is labeled “mainstream”.

Yet there are members of the mainstream media who blog. These bloggers are generally conservative-minded and Andrew Coyne and Adam Daifallah are two examples. Why would these columnists blog to hundreds while their columns are read by a hundred thousand? Freedom without an editor, freedom from the filter and freedom to experiment outside of the mainstream draws these journalists as they put away the press credentials and practice citizen journalism (known popularly as blogging). Would Peter Mansbridge ever write a blog? He wouldn’t need to. The Brits have the Queen’s English. As Canadians, we have Mansbridge’s Message; Peter Mansbridge is probably the reference by which “mainstream” Canadian opinion is measured. For Mark Steyn, an internet blog provides a no-holds-barred soapbox. For Peter Mansbridge, a blog would provide an audience of those who just happened to have missed the National that night. (I use Mansbridge merely as an embodiment of “mainstream” opinion as he generally doesn’t opine on the news — his copy is crafted by the CBC bosses)

The CBC is worried about the advent of competitive opinion in the form of cable news. While news organizations operate top-down to deliver or offer opinion, the blog media — as it stands — offers its opinion bottom-up, from the grassroots. Competitive opinion offered by citizen journalists? The CBC now can only complain of the inconvenience.

A political party that controls the state broadcaster through appointment of fervent supporters will have a competitive advantage in the definition of the range of Canadian versus “Un-Canadian” opinion. The Liberal party, in essence, defines the range of Canadian “mainstream” opinion and wields this dynamic to their electoral advantage.

The blogosphere presents the decentralization of news and opinion. The speed of news dissemination by bloggers is beaten by no other group. One can tell the difference between a blog reader and a person who exclusively watches broadcast news: the blog reader generally has a couple days lead-time on certain developing news events. As blogs increasingly become more of an “estate” in their prevalence and audience as news outlets, traditional news organizations will take notice and either compete in the actual rather than the implied range of public opinion or they will become irrelevant and veritably outside of the newly defined mainstream.

Blogs have and will continue to change the way that we receive news. In the future, news will be presented and commented upon by these citizen journalists who rise to their own blog fame through respect based in merit and accurate reflection of the audience to which they write and of which they (and we) are all members.

Family Circus: still not funny

Most everyone is familiar with Bil Keane’s daily comic which can be found in most widely published newspapers in North America. Family Circus has been around for as long as I can remember and it’s always been one of the comics that you either skip, or read and then become angry because hacks that aren’t funny are for writing for the funny pages and are making more money than you are (see Marmaduke, Cathy, and Garfield for more examples — Marmaduke thinks he’s people, Cathy fights that urge to eat that chocolate cake and Garfield, well Garfield sold out a long long time ago — there, I just saved you 15 seconds off of your daily routine for the rest of your life).

This is a political blog and now it has a commentary on a daily comic. One might even suspect an analysis of Doonesbury. But not today.

family circus wtf.jpg
Ha, ha. Uh, what?

For a while I didn’t even know what to say. I saw this one on Tuesday; I ripped it out of the newspaper and put it aside until I could fully recover from the shock. Well, not really… I’ve just been busy.

A common past-time where I work is to save Family Circus comics and ‘remix’ them; we recaption them towards the offensive and absurd. Bil Keane’s March 8th creation did it all on its own.

I guess Billy and his friends, moved by current world events, decided to spice up the classic game of cops and robbers simulate the efforts to secure Iraq from those whom, more often than naught, decapitate their hostages.

Awkward laughter? Perhaps.

Unintended absurdity? Yes.

PS – For a truly imaginative masterpiece of a daily comic strip, check out Calvin and Hobbes