Anne McLellan interview

Yesterday, I bumped into Anne McLellan at the Liberal leadership convention. I sat down with the former deputy Prime Minister to ask her about the convention, Maher Arar and the Alberta PC leadership race.

Ted Morton supporters will want to watch the video the full way through. Fans of the professor will be cheering by the end.

Blogging from the lion’s den

I’m here! Right now I’m sitting in the media pit at the Palais de Congrès in Montreal. After a bumpy registration process, I received full media tags and proceeded directly to find restricted places to try and get into. This media pass works wonders.

James Travers is filing a report a few desks over, Jane Taber arrived and Gloria Galloway and I caught a momentary glance across the room.

Also, great news! Mike Duffy will make his triumphant return to MDL at the convention.

The buzz in the hall and among my media colleagues (now, I’m milking it) is Howard Dean’s address to delegates tonight. Who would have thought that an NRA-endorsed anti-SSM american would be so well received among Liberals?

BYAAA!

Chong resigns cabinet

They’re still sorting things out in Ottawa, but here’s what I’ve been able to scrape together from contacts on the Hill.

Michael Chong, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs resigned from cabinet today in a press conference after Question Period. Chong resigned rather than voting for the Prime Minister’s nation motion tonight.

The first sign of trouble was during Question Period when a Conservative MP rose to ask a softball question to Chong and Chong wasn’t there. Minister Cannon was seen to high tail it from question period to likely talk some sense into the junior cabinet minister from Halton Hills. Garth Turner, smelling blood in the water asked a question of the Prime Minister concerning Chong’s possible resignation from cabinet due to the nation resolution. The PM gave a dodge answer about the nation resolution and Bill Graham sought to clarify. Mr. Harper grimaced and said that “we’ll see who votes for the resolution tonight” (or something to that effect).

An embarrassing day for the government indeed. House leader Rob Nicholson had to get up in the House to answer Minister Chong’s question.

The London North Centre by-election is today and this issue, let alone the nation issue, will be on voters’ minds.

I hear that western Conservative MPs are outraged. It was toughest for them to accept the nation motion and now Michael Chong has given their constituents an inconvenient question to answer:

“Why didn’t you stand up against this nation resolution when an MP from Ontario did?”

The Conservative Party’s common front on this just met a wrecking ball.

The silver lining at the moment is that Chong’s still part of caucus.

UPDATE (6:59pm): Who will replace Chong in cabinet? There are a couple of possibilities. The PM will either spread Chong’s responsibilities to a current cabmin to shorten the news cycle on this embarrassing event. Or the PM will appoint an MP to cabinet.

I think that Peter van Loan would be a good choice.

UPDATE (8:57pm): Peter van Loan promoted to cabinet. MSM breaks this at 8:22pm. Maybe I’ll play Pro-Line this weekend.

Van Loan makes sense. Replace an Ontario MP with another Ontario MP. Van Loan’s also a highly experienced MP.

No surprises here

OTTAWA, Nov. 27 /CNW/ – Canadian stars including Wendy Crewson, Sonja Smits, Fiona Reid, and R.H. Thomson spoke out today about the Canadian TV drama crisis during the first day of CRTC public hearings. ACTRA has been sounding the alarm about the crisis in Canadian television drama for years, and demands that the CRTC fix its disastrous 1999 Television Policy.

“Our culture defines us as a nation yet we can’t hear or see ourselves when regulations encourage Canadian broadcasters to show American drama series and movies,” said ReGenesis star Wendy Crewson. “Canadian broadcasters are filling their prime-time slots with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S.-made drama programs. We’ve been shut out of our own home.”

The CRTC commenced its review of the regulatory framework for Canadian over-the-air television on November 27, 2006. ACTRA formally presents before the CRTC on December 4, 2006.

Stakeholders of the state complaining about their stake? No news here.

However, to say that our very culture is at stake? Canadians indeed have a culture of frontier survival, competition and innovation don’t we? Wouldn’t a freer market not only improve Canadian television, but maybe also help me identify names listed as “Canadian stars”?

This reminds me of daycare unions claiming that their interests in the childcare funding debate are founded primarily in “the children” instead of their own benefit.

Government stakeholders will always decry the optimization of services and label it a threat to either children, sunshine or Canadian culture.

Something doesn’t add up

CP published an article yesterday that quotes Garth Turner’s recollection of a debate he had with Charles McVety of the Family Action Coalition.

Earlier this year, Turner took part in a TV debate with Charles McVety, an evangelical leader who has been a driving force in the fight against same-sex marriage.

The MP says there was a telling moment in that debate when McVety looked at him and said: “You know what? I can pick up the phone and call Harper and I can get him in two minutes. It’s going to take you a month.”

Turner paused.

“I think he’s right.”

Apparently the leader of the “Righteous Right” (as Garth calls him) was upset by this and published a press release just hours ago:

Canada Family Action Coalition president and Senior Director of Defend Marriage Coalition, Dr. Charles McVety is calling a quote attributed to him by MP Garth Turner “a figment of his imagination.”

The alleged statement, reported in a Canadian Press story November 26, was supposed to have been made during a televised debate between McVety and Turner. According to the CP story, Turner related that McVety looked at him
and said, “You know what? I can pick up the phone and call Harper and I can
get him in two minutes. It’s going to take you a month.”

“I never made this statement,” said McVety. “It’s a complete fabrication by Mr. Turner from start to finish. It’s really quite sad.”

McVety also expressed surprise that a respected journalist and news service would see fit to publish quotes attributed to him without verifying their authenticity.

“I’ve been interviewed by John Ward before as well as many of his colleagues at Canadian Press so they must have my cell phone number somewhere,” said McVety. “It is unprofessional for a journalist to not have interviewed me before reporting Mr. Turner’s yarn as fact. It seems a bit incautious.”

I can understand that any good person would want to clear up false information about events surrounding themselves and their acquaintances whenever possible.

Yet… Garth’s alleged falsehood isn’t exactly bad press for McVety. If I was a lobbyist, policy advocate, or political constituency representative, if some media magnet was going around and telling the press that I had the Prime Minister on speed-dial and could get our country’s leader on the phone in two minutes, clearing that up wouldn’t be exactly be on top of my list of priorities.

You think he’d wait at least until the weekend was over, or that he might write a letter to the editor.

But no, McVety sent out an urgent press release ($) late last night, just hours after that damaging story was published in order to clear up the horrible (horrible!) “fabrication”.

“Did you hear that Dr. Charles McVety can get the PM on the horn in two minutes?”

Wow, that would be impressive. If true, it would show that McVety has a lot of influence and this isn’t exactly damaging to his job function.

McVety should probably straighten out Garth’s “fabrication” if untrue, but he might wait until, oh say, someone cared enough to ask him if those rumours are true. Why go so far as to spend cash to clear this up?

Why is McVety so eager to clear the air?

Economic update

Here are the main points of Flaherty’s economic update:

  • Eliminate the net debt by 2021
  • Reduce debt to 25% of GDP by 2012-13
  • inflation target at 2% until at least 2011
  • GST at 5% by 2011
  • Working Income Tax Benefit for low-middle income Canadians
  • Income tax reductions based on interest that would have been paid on the debt. Debt reduction will result directly in income tax cuts.
  • Establish lowest tax on business investment in G7.
  • Large investments in the knowledge and training economy

Here’s the executive summary of Advantage Canada.

Income splitting, but just for seniors. No GST cut yet.

VERDICT: Nothing too exciting. A good direction forward.

UPDATE: David Akin sends me a correction live from the finance committee! It’s NET debt that’ll be gone by 2021, not the debt.

UPDATE: NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis is decrying the Conservative plan to put so many surplus dollars against the debt. A sound endorsement!

UPDATE: Liberal finance critic John MacCallum isn’t impressed and believes that this doesn’t change anything. Underlines the distinction of “net-debt” and calls it a gimmick. Net-debt is a valid OECD measure though.

UPDATE: reaction from stakeholders (the ones that do press releases!)…

The Canadian Real Estate Association
(CREA) and its more than 88,000 REALTOR(R) members across Canada welcomed the
federal government’s identification of tax, fiscal, and infrastructure issues
as key elements to improve the quality of life for all Canadians. The three
were among the five Canadian Advantages outlined in the Fall Economic
Statement delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty today.

One of the proposals outlined by Minister Flaherty in the Advantage
Canada document was the reduction of taxes on savings, including capital
gains, to make Canada’s tax system more competitive. REALTORS(R) have been
calling on the federal government to implement a capital gains rollover
provision for small investors when the proceeds of the sale of real property
are reinvested in another real property investment within a set timeframe.

Certified Management Accountants:

CMA Canada is encouraged by the direction of
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s economic and fiscal update and looks
forward to the government accepting its recommendations to achieve economic
objectives.

“We are pleased that the economic groundwork laid out by the Finance Minister today is aligned with our recommendations to the government,” said Michael Tinkler, CMA Canada’s public finance analyst. “However, the proof will be seen in the specific measures delivered in the next federal budget.”

Canada’s life and health insurers:

Canada’s life and health insurers strongly commended the government’s Advantage Canada economic plan. CLHIA President Greg Traversy said, “The combination of tax reduction, debt reduction and paper burden reduction will position Canadians to compete effectively and prosper over the years ahead. Life and health insurers particularly welcome the commitment to foster a dynamic and globally competitive financial services industry and look forward to continuing their own efforts towards that goal in the context of the improved business environment set out in Minister Flaherty’s plan.”

Greg Sobara, Minister of Finance of Ontario:

The federal government’s economic update
contains a few positive signals that Ottawa may be listening to Ontario’s call
for fairness in federal transfers, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara says. “What I don’t see – and this disappoints me – is any detail on anything except tax cuts and debt reduction,” Sorbara said. “There are no specifics on how they’re going to invest in infrastructure. There are no specifics on how they’re going to address the fiscal imbalance. There are no specifics on how they’re going to invest in post-secondary education.”

CUPE:

“Today’s Fiscal and Economic Update shows
that Stephen Harper’s government is trying to buy the votes of Canadians with
the promise of more tax cuts that could lead to deep spending cuts in the
future,” said Paul Moist, national president of Canada’s largest union – CUPE.

Certified General Accountants:

The Certified General Accountants
Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) is pleased with the federal government’s
plan to boost Canada’s productivity and global competitiveness. Of special interest to CGAs are the government’s policy commitments relating to: Program spending, the Canadian economic union [and] the business environment “We welcome the government’s policy commitments. The plan to reduce taxes, streamline the regulatory environment, reduce the paper burden and remove internal trade barriers will address Canada’s competitiveness”

Federation of Canadian Municipalities:

“We welcome the reaffirmation of the Government’s commitment to work
toward a comprehensive infrastructure plan that includes long-term and
predictable funding. The extension for two additional years of the federal gas tax transfer is an important first step as we transition toward a longer term effort to erase Canada’s municipal infrastructure deficit. This also signals the Government’s long-term commitment to vibrant and competitive cities and communities.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation:

“Since 1997, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has called for Ottawa to implement a legislated debt relief schedule and eliminate the debt in a generation,” said CTF federal director John Williamson. “Today, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the Government of Canada will do just that.”

Williamson continued, “We applaud Mr. Flaherty for embracing and adopting policy advanced by the taxpayers’ federation, but for this policy to be meaningful the Conservative government must table legislation to make it the law of the land. Otherwise it is an empty promise. With the national debt standing at $481.5-billion, lawmakers cannot afford to not take debt repayment seriously.”

“In the May budget, Minister Flaherty reported program spending would grow by 5.3 per cent this year yet today he reported the annual spending increase will instead be 7.1 per cent,” observed Williamson. “The government has already betrayed its commitment to keep program spending below the growth rate of the economy. Economic growth is estimated to be 2.8 per cent this year. It is disappointing the Conservative government’s spending is already way off target. And if spending targets are missed, meaningful tax relief in the next budget can’t happen and debt repayment just isn’t possible either.”

Quebec a nation?

So today, on an imminent challenge from the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservative government tabled a motion today that defined Quebec as a nation within Canada but one that would never been independent of it.

Predictably, western conservatives are upset with their adopted son who now governs from Ottawa. Predictably, Gilles Duceppe is upset with the rug that’s been pulled out from beneath his feet.

Stephen Harper has been playing with the notion of Quebec nation since at least the time that his caucus met at the Citadelle in Quebec City. Some say the Bloc forced federalists into this resolution, however there are political factors to consider as well.

First, this puts Harper’s preferred Liberal candidate Michael Ignatieff in a good position. Ignatieff will get some credit for being the Liberal leadership contender to “initiate” this latest round of discussing Quebec’s nation status.

This also bodes well for Stephane Dion who could split the delegates firmly into his camp if he chooses to continue to adamantly defend his position that Quebec is indeed not a nation (at least constitutionally), not within Canada, not independent. Ignatieff of course wanted to define Quebec as such in a constitutional sense. The Prime Minister (and the HoC’s) declaration of Quebec as a nation is merely a sociological distinction.

Has the Prime Minister, in essence, shifted the Liberal leadership race off the axis of Ignatieff-Rae to Ignatieff-Dion? And in doing so, has Harper forced the Liberals to pick his preferred candidate?

Does Harper’s play today also appeal to the true notion of asymmetrical federalism? Will we see a western nation, a northern nation?

Does this also play into a model of reform for the Senate of Canada, a model which would emphasize regional and cultural minorities (such as Quebec)? This track of reform has been discussed for over 100 years.

Constitutional measures are not supposed to be taken on a whim so does this fall into a pre-planned larger redefinition of the Canadian dominion? Then again, this doesn’t appear to be Ignatieff-envisioned constitutional measure, but merely a sociological distinction to recognize the Quebec people as a people.

The question remains… does this have constitutional repercussions for Canada, or is it a subtle position that means nothing of the sort but appeases the desire for some in Quebec to be recognized if only as a concept? If Harper were to form a majority government, his planned legacy may be to put Canada’s constitutional house in order. But, if this is merely a sociological distinction, is today’s news non-consequential to any type of reform?

This, of course, raises many questions for debate in the future. Many of which are unanswered at this early stage.

UPDATE: No news release yet from the Ignatieff camp on today’s news. Is he refining his position again?

UPDATE: After watching a few more press conferences, I’m starting to rethink Dion’s chances here. This will take a huge bite out of Dion if the Liberal caucus buys this nation business wholesale. One thing’s for sure, Dion is up tonight thinking about how next week can unfold. Will Dion fight the nation resolution or could he even drop out of the leadership race as early as tomorrow? How on Earth can he run to lead a party that will wholeheartedly support this motion?

UPDATE: Looks like everyone is treading lightly even Dion:

Harper’s proposal also won the approval of Stephane Dion, the lone Quebec contender who has fiercely criticized the Liberal approach on the issue. He said Harper’s motion is “very close” to a compromise he’s been floating among Liberal leadership candidates.

Dion said Harper’s recognition of Quebecers as a nation, is more in keeping with the sociological sense of the word, whereas the Liberal resolution is more ambiguous, suggesting Quebec is a “nation-state.”

Looks like Dion’s still going to fight on. He’ll certainly lose delegate support on this though. Warren Kinsella also looks at the man that now finds himself tied in a knot.

Of red-state herrings and out-of-the-blue pro-american Liberals

Captured from the Liberal Party website:

liberal-party-usa.jpg

What would Paul Martin say?

Well, during the last election he said this:

“I guess the only thing I would say to Mr. Harper in this discussion is that America is our neighbor. It’s not our nation, and we have our own set of values, and that’s why we’re so strong in this country.” — Paul Martin, former Liberal Prime Minister

Media bias on climate change (updated: see below)

Much ink has been spilled on the “fossil of the day” award which was given to Conservative environment minister Rona Ambrose at this year’s U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Activists complain that the Canadian government deserved the dubious distinction for its inaction on addressing greenhouse gases.

As one of my readers points out, this is not the first time that Canada has earned the “fossil of the day” award. At last year’s UNFCCC conference in Montreal, Mr. “gavel banger” himself, then-minister of the environment (a Liberal), received the “fossil of the day award” too! (do an inline search for “fossil”) (Liberal environment minister Stephane Dion won the “fossil of the day” award in 2004, not 2005… see update below)

News stories on (Conservative) Rona Ambrose receiving the fossil of the day award: 193
News stories on (Liberal) Stephane Dion receiving the fossil of the day award: none

Let me make a graph too!
media-bias-graph.jpg

Both ministers of the environment “earned” the award. Why is the media only interested in the one that slags the Conservatives? Consider too that Dion won the award (in 2004) during the last federal election (a time when the smallest political news becomes a amplified for consumption by the electorate). Remember too that Paul Martin’s campaign plane was less environmentally friendly than Stephen Harper’s.

Dion claimed victory over a 30% increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 and banged that gavel (gavel banging must be Dion’s favourite talking point). Now Dion makes the virtually the same 2050 GHG reduction projection as the Conservative government’s Clean Air Act.

Why is it that after 13 years of inaction on the environment, after producing the lion’s share of a 30% increase in GHGs since 1990, and after failing to act on reducing environmental pollutants do the Liberals get a pass in the media?

This while Ambrose receives the same dubious distinction for the Liberal record. This while the Conservatives propose a real plan for reduction of environmental pollutants (and the same pie-in-the-sky 2050 GHG reduction projections as Dion).

The media should look at the facts surrounding the Conservative and Liberal records on environmental issues and not rely on their preconceived biases.

Aside: This prejudiced bias on behalf of the media occurs on many other issues too: such as sexism. Peter MacKay gets two weeks in the MSM’s doghouse while sexist comments about Rona Ambrose are left to stand. She may have nice hair but it’s irrelevant to her worth as a Minister of the Crown. Not to mention calling Deb Gray “a slab of bacon”. For shame…

While Liberals and the Conservatives may be equally sexist, the Conservatives get the media attention because of preconceived bias.

UPDATE: The link to the environmental activist website above contains an anecdotal account of the 2005 climate conference and seems to be in conflict with other information. While the “fossil of the day” awards website is still not fully-functional and does not currently list previous winners of the awards, reader Nbob has pointed me to another website which contains the proceedings of the Climate Action Network, the activist group that hands out the “awards”. According to Climate Action Network press releases from the Montreal UNFCCC of 2005, Canada did not receive a “fossil of the day” award that year.

However, digging deeper, Liberal environmental Minister Dion did receive a “fossil of the day” award from the UNFCCC in Buenos Aires in 2004. (News stories written about this by the Canadian MSM: 0).

Also, Liberal environmental Minister David Anderson received three “fossil of the day” awards at the UNFCCC in New Dehli in October 2002. (News stories written about this by the Canadian MSM: 0)

Canada also received two “fossil of the day” awards at the UNFCCC in Marrakech in 2001. (News stories written about this by the Canadian MSM: 4)

Those are the numbers for the Climate Change conferences from 2001-2006. Four MSM news articles for six “fossil of the day” awards given to Liberal governments. This is compared to the 193 articles written up about the Conservative government receiving two of these awards!

My deep news search application only goes back to Jan 1, 2001. However, proceedings of the 2000 conference detail that Canada won the “fossil of the day” award more times than any other nation at the UNFCCC in The Hague.

Here’s a new graph showing the “fossil of the day” awards won by each minister, and the number of MSM news stories that results from those wins (since and including UNFCCC in 2001).

media-bias-graph2.jpg

Now, when you hear that the Liberals try and claim that they’re champions of the environment and when you hear that the Conservative plan is a bunch of hot air, please consider this data not provided in those 193 news stories. Ambrose was not the first Canadian environment minister to win the “fossil of the day” award. But, reading the MSM, you’d be led to believe that she was. The Liberals have a trophy case full of “fossil of the day” awards. Is this an example of media bias?